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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

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Tim Chesterton

Nice one, Ken.

Just one slight caveat. You say, 'I am not saying that other religions could not have started a scientific revolution. I am saying that they didn't'. In actual fact, Islam was more advanced scientifically than Christianity in the Middle Ages (see here).

Mr. Bob

How come no one has ever come to faith in Santa as an adult who didnt know santa when they were a child? How come no one has ever witten the 'Santa Delusion'? How come no one ever takes Santa name in vain. "Oh Santa It anyway" ... "Oh my Santa!"

BroKen

Mr. Bob, those are pretty good questions, too. I have another question for my atheist friends coming out tomorrow. Look for it.

Tim, thanks for the encouraging words. I appreciate your objection but I stand by my statement. My stance hinges on the definition of "science" or "scientific revolution". See here "... the dawn of modern science is generally traced back to the early modern period, during what is known as the Scientific Revolution that took place in 16th and 17th century Europe."

Still, the development of science requires faith in an ordered universe. That comes from faith in God (whether Christian or Muslim is not relevant to my post), so, atheists sort of tag along for the ride without acknowledging Who's driving.

tim aka The Godless Heathen

I must have missed the news that we’ve gotten out of the colossal amount of debt we’re currently suffocating under. That we’ve finally come to conclusion that we don’t have a tax problem but rather a idiotic, burdensome spending problem.

And I’m ashamed to admit I somehow didn’t hear about the millions of unemployed folks finally getting jobs. Geez, I didn’t realize we’re in the mist of a true recovery, that us hard working folks can pay our bills now and have a little something left over? That happy days are here again.

Huh? Thought I was pretty good at keeping up with current events.

And how could have I have missed the Middle East finally coming to it’s collective senses and finally decided to live in peace instead of perpetual chaos and blood letting. Did Iran recently allow nuclear weapons inspectors in to show them their really just trying to build some innocent power plants? Did Al Qeada declare itself irrelevant, decide to disband and give up it’s murderous ways?

And speaking of that, if these concerned Atheists were truly brave and sincere they’d turn their attention to the cult of “The Perpetually Outraged” instead of Christianity.

Maybe these atheists live a different world than you and I. If they have the inclination to devote the time and energy to the truly trivial, well good for them. Life must be truly great for them. Congratulations.

I however, could give a rats a$$ about arguing over religion. Hell, I’m seeing a truly effed up country and world right now, and someone’s belief, or non belief, is so freaking far down the list of importance to me, and I suspect to others, I have nothing but contempt and pity for these dregs of society.

You don’t speak for this Atheist. I don’t espouse to your worshipping at the alter of hate and divisiveness. You’ve managed to create a religion of being against something rather than for something. You’ve missed the whole point. If you want to be left alone then you do the same.

BroKen, please don’t take my rant the wrong way, I don’t place any blame on you for responding. They need the push back, and hard. For there is no finer example than this to point at as to why I’d rather hang out with you folks of the pious tribe, I like your company a whole lot better than theirs.

Kris, in New England

I am always so curious about the Atheist obssession with religion and the belief in God. For a group that doesn't believe in God, they certainly do expend quite a bit of time and energy on the subject.

Fact is - if you want to be an atheist, that's fine. It's your choice just as it's my choice to be Christian (and, gasp, Catholic). I don't ridicule your lack of belief in my God and I'm getting tired of hearing atheists ridicule my beliefs.

BroKen

tim, to be honest, the atheist friend who sent me the video might have been reacting to my pushing him to think about his atheism. He has unfriended me on facebook, though he did that before sending the video. Anyway, he might not recognize himself in your rant. Personally, I see arguing over religion as a way to learn and grow, when it is done civilly. It does often digress into a shouting match, though, doesn't it.

I am greatly pleased to call you my friend and that you like to hang out with us pious (well, we try sometimes) folk. I like your company, too.

Rick

tim... have I mentioned lately how glad I am to have you return to this site time and again?

And as an aside... when you write:

I however, could give a rats a$$ about arguing over religion. Hell, I’m seeing a truly effed up country and world right now, and someone’s belief, or non belief, is so freaking far down the list of importance to me, and I suspect to others

I would posit to you that it is our belief systems, or lack thereof, or what they've become, that is at the heart of why this country (and the world) is so 'effed up'.

It is why my focus on the blog has changed. It is why that focus must remain (as tempting as it is to go back to one political post after another).

Dynan Candon

I do give a rat's ass. My question is who amongst us can make a rose from scratch? My mother used to claim she made a cake from scratch but I noticed she bought the flour at the store, not fair, Mom.

Catholicism is against nothing but evil. God has told us the way and we trudge that road. When everyone believes, Jesus will return. Only He can make a rose from scratch.

In the meantime, your thoughts begat your words. Your words begat your actions. Repeated actions become habits. Good actions begat good character, evil actions begat poor character, and YOUR character determines your destiny, in Heaven or on this earth.

How many millions of years has it been since the saga of Genesis? How many millions of years before Christ returns?

tim aka The Godless Heathen

Rick,

First of all, thank you for the kind words. It’s my pleasure, sincerely.

Maybe I should have made my statement a little more clearly. I don’t feel the desire, as unfortunately some of my fellow atheists, to attack anyone’s beliefs.(Leaving Islam a side.) I’m on record here many times as supporting Christianity and all the good you folks do.

The problems I was referring to you certainly can make a good argument that they are result of a lack of a solid belief system. I dunn’o, nor am I qualified to make that call. I simply meant the age old debate of atheism versus religion, in a general discussion is of little concern comparatively, at least to me. There a too many fish to fry right now.

I certainly, and I apologize if it came out that way, didn’t mean to belittle religion, or more specifically Christianity.

I’m just tired of my fellow atheists, especially this time of year, unnecessarily tearing down and attacking religion. I see it as hypocritical and beyond the whole “separation of church & state” boondoggle. It’s “I’m gonn’a be an a-hole ’cause I can”. Just get on with your life, let everyone else go on with theirs. No harm, no foul.

Ed Hawkins

Ken’s original posting is interesting to me as a former Catholic and former Franciscan friar. I’ve thought about the issues discussed here—faith and the possibility of knowing that God exists—since I was a small kid. Some thoughts on the original post and some of the replies:

Ken argues the existence of God using one of St. Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs of the existence of God: “ Omne autem quod movetur, ab alio movetur.” “Everything that moves is moved by something else.” Nothing can come into existence by itself. Therefore, there must be a Prime Mover, and that Prime Mover is the Being believers call God.

If St. Thomas actually had “proved” God’s existence using modern standards of proof, then we would not be discussing or debating God’s existence. If there were a way, in other words, to subject the existence of God to scientific analysis, in a way in which the result of the analysis could be replicated by anyone performing the same analysis, then everyone would know empirically that God is, and faith would be unnecessary. Faith is needed only when the object of faith cannot be proved.

The order in the universe that Ken uses to support his faith in God has other putative causes, the most alarming of which for me as a 21st century human is random chance. In a universe that is infinite, some scientists claim, the development of a rigidly and predictably logical universe is likely to develop over infinite time because it is the only possible development, out of an infinite variety of possible developments, that would produce a self–sustainable universe. That theory makes as much cerebral sense to me as St. Thomas’s theory of the Prime Mover.

Medieval Christians, and, more specifically, Catholics, were indeed great scientists. They weren’t really the “early scientists” that Ken claims them to be. The really “early” and great scientists were the Mayans, the Incans, the Aztecs, the Greeks, the Muslims. Each of these cultures produced great science that modern science admires and has built upon. None of these cultures believes in the Christian theology, and only one of them, the Muslim culture, shares Judeo–Christian monotheism. There is no correlation between Christianity and early science. The early Christian/Catholic scientists, Galileo and Copernicus among them, almost invariably produced their findings at great personal cost because the Christian culture of their time rejected the truths they discovered, condemning the science as heresy that was dangerous to and incompatible with Christian faith.

Non–believers do much good in the world. To reject atheists as non–caring and non–contributing people is simply wrong. I once volunteered in a group that delivers meals to people very ill and dying with diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS. The group was founded by two gay men, both of whom were athesists, and many of my fellow volunteers also were people who rejected the idea of God. The modern Hospice movement, while admitting that dying people may have specific religious needs, is not a religious movement but, rather, an expression of secular humanism. I consider it one of the great charities of the modern world. Human beings are motivated by compassion as part of our make–up. Whether or not a person believes in God, almost all of us will respond instinctively and charitably when we see a sick baby, a young man dying of cancer, or an old woman who is alone and lethargic and emaciated from lack of love and lack of food.

Finally, I have to say that I find a life of faith, especially Christian faith, intensely difficult to live. I always suspect Christians who have easy specific answers to all the world’s problems. I always reject the attempts by American Christians to force their unique and inaccurate understanding of Christian teaching and tradition upon the secular American society.

I believe that Jesus teaches only one thing: love.

From love all else flows in Jesus’s commandments.

Anyone—and I mean anyone: Pope, evangelist, preacher, priest, politician or simple believer—who teaches or believes in rejection, unkindness, incivility, Christian worldly entitlement, public moral judgment, or any other non–loving, self–promoting, self–satisfied belief or behavior is, in my view, not acting as a Christian. Love is the highest human vocation and the hardest human challenge.

St John writes, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence. . .” (1 John3/16–19, NIV)

“Little Children, love one another.”

Rick

Thanks Ed...

Would love to know one day what in particular caused you to leave Catholicism...

Zoe

Well put Ed.

I would admit, there are a lot of false dichotomies and just plain nastiness done in the name of non - belief. Sadly, they make these types of posts easy to put a face on atheism. And to paint atheists with a broad brush.


The way I see it, Science can give us objective explanations for the world, not subjective ones. And Spirituality can give us subjective explanations for the natural world not objective ones.

BroKen

Thank you, Ed, for you thoughtful comment. I appreciate it greatly.

Let me say that I do not think I was making a proof of God's existence. I was merely citing evidence. I am convinced that you can't prove it. Even if God were to write your name in the clouds, Ed, you could find an alternate explanation. "My friends were playing a trick on me." "It was all a dream." etc. I think there is lots of evidence which converges on a picture, but you do still have to connect the dots.

To your response about the "prime mover" (a phrase I don't use, but I don't object to it) I'd ask you to consider how many assumptions are being made in the theory that makes as much cerebral sense to you as Aquinas. Infinite time, development, predictability, etc. None of those are a priori. How much faith would it take to accept that theory?

About the history of science, none of the cultures you mention are atheistic. That supports my main point. I am not arguing for the Judeo-Christian God in this post, just that there probably is Something out there. Still, as I point out in my comment to Tim, there are reasons to set the "dawn of science" to the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. The fact that pioneers were suppressed by powerful people shouldn't surprise anyone. That is part of human nature, isn't it? Shoot, even people vying for the core of the faith (Luther, Tyndale, Wesley, etc, etc, etc,) like Jesus Himself, ran into opposition from church leaders. The fact remains that Christianity birthed modern science.

You say, "Non–believers do much good in the world." and I don't doubt it. Then you say, "To reject atheists as non–caring and non–contributing people is simply wrong." and I agree. I am not doing that in this post. I am asking people to compare the amount of good done in the name of religion, to the amount of good done in the name of atheism. Specifically I say that atheism has no unifying principle that spurs good works. You seem to think that individual compassion is sufficient. I'm sure it is for many. But the evidence seems to indicate that the mass of people need something more. Why is that?

Finally, I hope you didn't find my post unloving or think that I think I have all the answers to the world's problems or that I am trying to force my understanding of Christian teaching on anyone. Still, our secular American society owes a great deal to the Christian world view. Wouldn't you agree?

Again, thank you, Ed. It is clear to me that you spent quite a bit of time thinking about my post. I am grateful.

Zoe

There is a lot of evidence that could draw one to a picture, as well as much evidence to draw one away from such a picture. I think that was the point that Ed was making.(and if I am mistaken Ed, please correct me) That is how probability works. It can work either in favor of your position or against it.


The other point was on the Dawn of Science. Yes, these were brilliant Christian scientists, with very inspiring bodies of work, who simultaneously failed to acknowledge any other group of people's science or discoveries because these were not particularly Christian nor European for that matter. At that time it mattered little if these non Christian (or European) people believed in a god or not. It was based on who or what the 'correct god' was. That is how much of the 'science' in the Americas was lost. Sometimes the prevailing interpretation is a function of power and not 'truth.'


I would say that a good number of people, need 'more' as you say, than good works. For ages, people had psychological needs to be more than a limited, mortal being. For answers to that age old question, 'is this all there is?', So quite a few legends and stories were borne from that, and for some it is a very deep driving emotional need to believe this wholeheartedly. But not for everyone.


Now you may dismiss that as so much psychobabbling hog wash, but do keep in mind, you are, to the core, an emotional being. We all are.

BroKen

Yes, Zoe, there is evidence to draw one away from the picture. In other words, the signal to noise ratio is pretty low. Lots and lots of noise. Still, I think the signal is pretty clear if you look for it, but you do have to be looking for it. When there is lots of static, you have to listen carefully.

Where is the signal? In the Iris DeMent song she sings "I believe in love..." and that is a very good place to start looking. As far as I can tell, galaxies don't love. Stars don't love. Planets don't. Rocks and bacteria don't love. Trees and insects don't. Some mammals perhaps do. Humans certainly can, but don't very often. Hmmmm. Could that be a signal in the midst of all the noise?

Love is not the only signal. All the things we find most valuable, Beauty, Justice, Reason, even Consciousness, are signals in the chaotic static of the universe. They all point to Something. They begin to make a picture if you connect the dots. Personally, I think it takes a bit of determination not to connect those dots.

I think it is Richard Dawkins who defines biology as "the study of complex systems which appear to be designed but aren't." Think about that. He sees the design. It is apparent. But he refuses to acknowledge that it is a signal. It is all just noise! From whence comes this reluctance to hear or see or connect the dots?

You know SETI is spending a lot of time and effort looking for an intelligent signal in the noise from space. I understand that their computers output six letters that could have the characteristics of a signal. Six letters in a row among the reams of output made the scientist write "Wow!" next to those letters. Could it be? We'll have to wait and see.

Well, here are some letters that comprise a signal and it still amazes me that so many don't acknowledge where it comes from. The letters are, GATTACCAAGGTTACAAG... etc

What do you think?

Zoe

I think it is still a game of probabilities, and in psychology it is a well known fact that the mind will try to find order where there is none.

We will try to find it in a desert, a windowless room, anywhere there is no clear input and our minds fill in the gaps. And our minds will fall to pieces when it doesn't.

At this point I would be speculating that your answer for this ingrained bit of instinct is that it is placed there by god, however it would still not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is factual nor that your god specifically is the right one, out of many gods, now would it?

Unless you are a Unitarian Universalist. But from your take on atheists, I suspect that you are not.

And let us not forget there are also a lot of bizzare and disordered things in the world, that would indicate an opposing picture for all those admittedly wonderful things you previously mentioned. Would that also not indicate a universe that is in fact, indifferent as Dawkins and many other scientists seem to agree upon?

As I previously mentioned, I am not an anti-theist as Dawkins is, nor any one of those so called 'four horsemen' but I still hold that religion and science to be two very different takes on the natural world. Either one can serve its purpose and there is no need for one to subject itself completely to the other. What purpose would that serve aside from dividing folks?

As far as SETI goes, We will have to wait and see if there are other beings in other worlds. That may just prove the notion that we were not specifically created by one any sentient being as stated in the bible. Or that these other beings in fact may have created us in a lab. There are just as many ridiculous hypothesis out there that could be true, not just one.
Don't you think?

BroKen

There are indeed many possibilities out there. There's deism, dualism, pantheism, pantheistic dualism, "You can't imagine the power of the dark side, Luke!" Etc. I brought up SETI as an example of searching for a signal in a bunch of noise. There is excitement in the possibility of a signal in 6 letters. But billions upon billions of letters and complex machinery to interpret the signal is given just a yawn. "Can't be a signal in that."

I have never thought you were anti theist. I brought up Dawkins merely to illustrate one who can see the signal and yet refuse to acknowledge it. Seeing, they don't see. Hearing, they don't hear. True science and true religion should never conflict. They have the same Author!

The universe does seem indifferent. It is bizarre and disordered. But there is this signal. I think the atheist needs to explain these "admittedly wonderful things" in ways that do not reduce them to mere patterns of atoms, or, in the case of Justice and morality, reduce them to personal preference. Can you explain to me how you do that?

I am a United Methodist pastor, conservative both theologically and politically.

I have not been arguing for my particular God or even theism in general. I am just saying that there must be Something. And I do not understand how others cannot see that there must be Something. Can you help me understand? I would be grateful even for an attempt.

Yes, we are able to put meaning on things that have none, like a face in a potato or a grilled cheese sandwich. But there ARE faces which we then in project onto the potato. Aren't the "admittedly wonderful things" on a higher order than a grilled cheese sandwich? If there is no meaning in these signals, Life, Love, Beauty, Justice, Reason, etc., isn't this a sad and small universe?

That's what I think.

Zoe

I can't imagine why there would be no excitement in that..perhaps the fact that these scientists did not readily assume some deity to that hypothesis is what is upsetting to you? I don't think I am quite clear on that...

I agree with Dawkins only to the point that a gap in knowledge is not to be readily assumed to be god or gods or what have you as a solid explanation. I still hold that to be a hypothesis, out of many, not fact.

I do not agree with Dawkins theory that religion is the cause of harm in the world. I think people's own shortcomings are to blame for that. Religion is merely a successful platform for such a shortcoming at times. But so are a great number of things. We will probably agree on that.

The universe and nature are random and indifferent, yes. If there were such a thing as 'Intelligent Design' and/ or validity to the Teleological argument, then it would have to explain why humans as well as animals would have to adapt to their environments from the start. Most of our planet is covered in water, water we would not naturally thrive in,so we had to evolve. Also the world works against our favor from the time we are born till the day we die. Our bodies are bombarded with microbes and bacteria that our immune system tries to keep at bay daily.

And yes, nature abounds with beautiful things, but it abounds with very sinister and bizarre creatures as well. Right now as I type this on here, there is a child in Africa, playing by a stream with a parasite slowly boring its way into his eye, reducing his eyesight and gradually sealing his fate of being blind for the rest of his life, due to the fact that his family may not have the knowledge to take him to a hospital or afford the medicines to keep this creature at bay.

If we are to accept that all of this beauty was part of a creation plan or a design of love then would we not assign love and admiration to this parasite as well? by that logic we would certainly have to.

I think that emotions are part of our biological, chemical, and psychological make-up. There is ample evidence that would suggest that animals also possess emotions of similar sorts to our own, and I am sure we both agree on that.

If emotion is a function of a non - corporeal spirit, a soul, then why do physical and chemical things affect emotions to such an extent? And despite the fact that these physiological events occur the way they do does not make them less intriguing or spectacular, in my opinion.

I personally do not believe in a moral compass, per se, I find that society is the prime mover in regards to what people find acceptable or repugnant. Hence the reason why a man in India would think it was bad for a widow to eat fish more than once a week whereas in the States that is a non issue (the reason being that fish is considered an aphrodisiac and a widow eating such a thing would be tempted to cheat on her dead husbands spirit, thereby offending him and endangering her rise to a higher plane of reincarnation.) Therefore it is safe to assume that morals are a cultural artifact.

You say you are a United Methodist pastor and conservative both theologically and politically.
So by that alone I can assume that for you there is only one God, whose only begotten son was sent to Earth to redeem mankind from their sinful and frail natures, and this can be accomplished by accepting his sacrifice and his message of salvation to those who are repentant. Am I close?

Then you state that you are not arguing for your own god or theism in general, but yet you argue for the existence of Something, with a capital S, as opposed to openly stating who or what it is that you already decided that Something to be? Why be cryptic?

I understand the vantage point that you have of thinking that it must be better to believe in Something as opposed to 'nothing', but where and when does that Something become, in your mind, the Correct thing?

Would it matter then if I discovered that Shiva or Krishna or the Flying Spaguetti Monster is in fact the One True God?

Would my new found faith in the validity of any of these deities matter at all then?
Or if they are determined to be 'false' gods would that not be equal to no god?

Those are some points I found in that video your friend sent you that you seemed to circumvent in your blog.

I think that may be at the root of why skeptics and/or non believers have a hard time wrapping their heads around that logic. Because it is fallacious and contradictory to a great many of them. That ecumenical approach that the theologically liberal sects hold as admirable of all beliefs 'coexisting' makes no sense.

Each group or belief is set aside due to major theological differences. And they also manage to do a great job of alienating non believers while they are busy doing this type of hand holding.

The fact that many like myself believe very strongly that this is it, and it is our best and only shot in the universe, is not something to be sad over or feel 'small' about. It means we are then compelled by the notion that we are to enjoy life to the fullest, to enjoy what we can and to deal with whatever fate has dealt to us to make our time here a positive one, for others as well as ourselves.

Our deaths mean more room for others to get a chance to live on this tiny blue dot and for our energy to reverberate through this vast universe that we have limited knowledge of.

Something ephemeral, like a cherry blossom does not make it less special or meaningful because it does not last for an extended time nor forever. I do not find this 'fatalistic' or 'nihilistic' as I have heard time and time again. It is simply realistic. Anything beyond that to me is highly idealistic and as I made special note of previously, am not suggesting it to be harmful for an individual to feel that there is something higher or an afterlife.

I just do not feel that this thought exists beyond wishful thinking. I do not feel that it is damaging per se for someone to have wishful thinking, but only in regards to them not attempting to impose that belief on anyone who does not share in that belief.

That's basically what I think as well.

Rick

Zoe, what are your thoughts on the historicity of Jesus Christ the person? The logical argument, and the assumption is that you've heard this, is that first and foremost, he is indeed a person of history but more importantly, either who He says He and his followers say He is or a lunatic or a liar...

Where do you place Him or do you think He was not a historical person?

BroKen

Zoe, I'm not trying to be cryptic. But it seems I haven't been clear. I don't always argue for everything I believe. I am asking you to consider a baby step, not what might be for you a giant leap. It doesn't seem prudent to me to talk about squirrels and acorns and the rest of the forest to someone who is doubtful about the existence of trees. So I am asking you to examine closely the bark and twigs and leaves. Yes, they are brown and brittle. But they are consistent with a thing called a tree. Replace bark, twigs, and leaves with love, justice, and reason, then perhaps you'll see what I am asking you to consider.

Zoe

I might not have been clear either

I was raised in a conservative home, both theologically and politically, and no one could answer the questions posed in this video your friend sent you.

I think it would only be fair for you to admit that there is just as much of a possibility that you are not correct in your beliefs as anyone else that does not share your beliefs could be incorrect.

Don't you think so?

BroKen

How sad that no one could answer those questions for you when you were younger. I told my friend who sent me the video that most us grow out of the ideas it critiques when they are ten or twelve years old. I didn't try to answer all of them in this post, but do you think I answered the ones I attempted to answer, that is, "cultural conditioning is irrelevant to the truth of God's existence" and "God is BIG, therefore different ideas about Him are to be expected." Do those answers make sense to you? Would you like me to go on and answer some more of the video?

Of course, I could be wrong. That is what conversation, discussion, and argument are so important. You seem to be a case where the cultural conditioning didn't take. That might be because it was merely cultural conditioning and not a rational explanation. Rational explanations of faith are out there. I am asking you to consider them.

BroKen

Zoe, did you never read the chronicles of Narnia? Many of the questions of the video are dealt with in those wonderful children's books. For example, in The Silver Chair the children journey long underground in search of Prince Rillian. When they find him, the witch, with magic and reason, tries to convince them that all their experience of life under the sun are merely fantasies.

"What is this sun that you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?"
"Yes, we jolly well do," said Scrubb.
"Can you tell me what it's like?" asked the Witch (thrum, thrum, thrum, went the strings).
"Please it your Grace," said the Prince, very coldly and politely. "You see that lamp. It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room, and hangeth moreover from the roof. Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter. It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky."
"Hangeth from what, my lord?" asked the Witch; and then, while they were still all thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: "You see? When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be you cannot tell me. You can only tell me that it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream, and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children's story."
"Yes, I see now," said Jill in a heavy, hopeless tone. "It must be so." And while she said this, it seemed to her to be very good sense'

Finally, the hyper-realist Puddleglum stomps on the magic with this speech.

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire limping because of the pain. "One word. All you have been saying is quite right. I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there is one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made-up all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's the funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

The "made-up things" are a great deal more important than the real ones, Zoe. Read The Chronicles of Narnia. Or read them again with an open mind.

Zoe

It was sad, yes that most were unable to satisfactorily answer the most difficult questions for any believer to answer, which are asked later on in the video. I also do not think it was so much a case of being unable, but rather unwilling. That in itself is telling enough for me.

And that is a commonality I find with most believers. They do not ask questions in regards to understanding in so much as to negate the positions of others, particularly those who do not conform to their own positions.

Cultural condition and tribalism are an important factor in the belief in gods and religion. It is why we still do this in many types of secular groups. Think of a pep rally at a football game. The pep rally does not guarantee success on the field, nor do the pep rally make anything happen to the ball directly. They simply guarantee cohesion. In this regard, the pep rally does what it is supposed to do. And that is what makes religion so effective as well.

The 'god is big so there are different ideas about him,' reminds me of the story of the elephant and the blind men. This is a favorite story particularly among Eastern and pluralistic religions and it is entertaining up to the point that it leaves out the very real differences between assertions and arguments. It also leaves out the fact that the elephant is mute (which god has been claimed to not be)
then you have inductive vs deductive reasoning. Then you have an indifferent king on a balcony (who sees the entire elephant) that says nothing in terms of correcting the blind men as that is beneath him. I think this parable says a lot about humanity and their quest for absolute truth.

I have read those stories you speak of, in fact, thanks in no small part to my family alluding that the stories were 'witchcraft' and 'Un Christian' so I set out to find this out for myself. Mr Lewis is a splendid author, no argument there, but I feel he has reached a conclusion and spent more time afterwards on building edifications around that conclusion rather than seeking out any further possibilities. The 'made up things are more important than the real ones' comment would lead me to that conclusion.

I don't know how old you are but I wonder if you have ever seen that old Jimmy Stewart movie entitled 'Harvey'? to me that is a perfect analogy of humanities need for fantasy in psychological ways and our innate need for tribalism vs a lone belief or delusion.

Nothing wrong with a placebo, but at the end of the day, you must differentiate between a sugar pill and a real medicine.

Rick

I'll accept that my question was ignored purposely, perhaps because it's deemed out of bounds with the post or it would interrupt what has been an excellent back and forth on this thread... but... eventually, I think it goes to the heart, at least in my mind, of the issue and reveals how seriously (or not) faith has been pondered... so... in that light, I'll cut and paste my question again:

Zoe, what are your thoughts on the historicity of Jesus Christ the person? The logical argument, and the assumption is that you've heard this, is that first and foremost, he is indeed a person of history but more importantly, either who He says He and his followers say He is or a lunatic or a liar...

Where do you place Him or do you think He was not a historical person?

BroKen

Zoe, it's been awhile since I reviewed the video. Could you tell me what those most difficult questions at the end are? I'll take a look at it again but I want to be sure I know which questions you are referring to.

Let me just say that the tribal mentality isn't just a religious trait. I think it is a human trait which, perhaps, Christianity seeks (among others) to overcome. Aren't atheists, I mean the militant ones, also guilty of that kind of thinking?

I'll watch the video again. You tell me which questions you find difficult and I'll try to answer them. Deal?

Oh, I turned 55 last week. Yeah, I know Harvey. It happens to be my favorite name!

Zoe

I apologize Rick, I was not intending to ignore you, as I had to scroll up and see that you had indeed asked that question. I am glad that you tugged at my attention this time, truly am.

To answer your question, I found that the historical veracity of Jesus Or Yeshua Bar Yosef is rather conflicting evidence wise.
Some of that may have been due to the poor ability of folks to safeguard information in those days, or for important facts to be rearranged and/or omitted based on politics and the tribalism I just mentioned.

And the claims of divinity attributed to him are as varied as the people who claim them. So in that regard I cannot conclusively say that you are correct or incorrect. I don't think that is knowable and in such, is relegated to a matter of 'faith' as Ed succinctly put it in his response.

Ken, You just have to go past the references of childhood indoctrination and go from there. I am sure you will review them again more earnestly. I don't think I have difficulty understanding those questions insomuch as believers have a difficult time answering these questions. so I am going by the assumption that your aim is to understand and not be understood. I think I may have quoted ST Thomas of Aquinas there..:)

I am not suggesting that tribalism is an exclusively religious trait. I am suggesting that it is a product of such a trait. That a single belief, however real to the believer, is not as effective as a tribal, communal belief. That is as fair an assertion of religion as any, about as fair of an assertion that the behavior of a hive is best studied by studying the hive itself as opposed to the lone bee. Does that make sense?

So in that regard, yes, the militant atheists are exactly that. They seek to group themselves in clusters claiming to champion 'reason' and 'logic' despite a great many of them not having hands on experiences with the Scientific method or world religions, but on the snippets of a few intellectuals and Scientists, declare that they already, 'know' what the world is about.

Without hands on knowledge of either could we not assume that they are going on 'faith' alone? I would be very inclined to say YES. This is the problem I have with the New Atheism movement. They ignore core human traits to espouse another promising, yet unrealistic solution to a perceived problem. They engage the symptoms of an ailment and not the ailment itself.

And not that I feel that religion or religious beliefs are an ailment, just that these Militant folks seem to perceive that it is one, outside of themselves.

I mentioned the movie 'Harvey' because I have not seen the plays..I may just do that soon..

BroKen

You were right, Zoe. I went back and watched it again. In my discussion with my friend who sent the video to me, I summed up those last questions under the term "historical bias". We know more than the ancients! Really? About what? About the things that matter? We know how to split an atom. Do we know how NOT to? The power we've gained with technology is usually used against those not of our tribe, isn't it? If we use some understanding of ourselves, psychology or genetics, to alter ourselves (accelerate evolution, as some would say) then we are wielding that power over generations to come. I find those possibilities terrifying rather than hopeful, but I am rather pessimistic as regards to human nature. I pretty sure there is clinical evidence for original sin! We are not that different from Egyptians or Babylonians. We just have faster chariots and longer swords.

Here is a story you might find interesting. A professor of comparative religion at a British university would invite professors from other religions to present their religion to the class. A Muslim to present Islam. A Hindu to present Hinduism, etc. The Hindu was an English professor from India. Every year she would discuss what she called the "scandal of particularity." That is, a Hindu has no problem with the incarnation of God, but with so many problems, why do Christians insist that He came only once? Hindus believe God has come again and again to help us on our path. One year the English professor said she could not come to present Hinduism because she had been baptized a Christian. "Well, why?", asked the other professor. She said, "I looked at the cross of Jesus Christ and I saw there God taking on all the evil of the world on Himself to eradicate it. I don't find that anywhere else."

So, why am I a Christian? In a word, Grace. Every other religion has some form of "The Scales". You know, Good you've done weighed against the Bad. The good better be heavier. There is a lot of truth in that image, and we are a better species because people are afraid to do bad. But, when you think about it, we've all done bad and there really is no good thing we can do to undo what we've done. Even if we pay back what we've stolen (a very good and noble thing to do!) it doesn't change the fact that we stole it.

The only ERASER that I am aware of in any world religion (or other world religion, either) is the blood of Christ Jesus. It is unique. God taking evil on Himself to eradicate it. If you know of another, I'd love to hear about it.

Now, my friend who sent me the video, when I mentioned the uniqueness of Grace in Christianity said, "Well other religions have 72 virgins and that is unique to them." Perhaps I should have called him on such a flip remark, but, as I have admitted, I was pushing him pretty hard to think deeply about atheism. It seems he didn't want to go there, so, I let that one pass.

As I hinted above, Christianity tries to overcome the tribal mentality. There is no longer Jew or Greek, Rich or Poor, Slave or Free, Male or Female, but all are one in Christ.

And then there is the fact that Christianity birthed the scientific and technological revolution that, according to the video, shows we've outgrown our need for Spiritual Realities.

All that, I think, can be summed up in the word, Grace. Don't you find it unique?

BroKen

Zoe, you said that "They (militant atheists) engage the symptom of an ailment and not the ailment itself." So, what is the ailment and what would you see as the cure? I think those questions get to the heart of this post and perhaps the whole dispute between believers and non-believers. What is the ailment? What is the cure?

Zoe

I think you may be understanding a bit more of the questions provided and that is a good step.

I can also see how your pessimism of humanity would make you yearn emotionally for an all powerful, all knowing, all good sentient being. It makes perfect sense.

But despite that longing, along with those prehistoric notions of invisible deities, we evolve. Albeit slowly and clumsily.

This is why I believe that human civilization grew so rapidly after the first plants and animals were domesticated.

Religions and righteous minds alike had been co evolving, both culturally and genetically for tens of thousands of years before the Holocene era, and both kinds of evolution sped up dramatically when agriculture presented new challenges and opportunities.
Only groups whose gods promoted cooperation, and individual minds responded favorably to those gods were ready to rise to those challenges and reap the rewards.

I do not think the video was implying that we know everything now, just that we are slowly in the process of knowing more. That may help us or hinder us. I don't know. I don't think anyone does.

Hence why I like my mystery. I don't think knowing everything would make me happier. I think that too is an illusion.

Are we still Babylonians and Egyptians with faster Chariots and longer swords? of course we are. Those cultures did not disappear. They evolved. The question is of course did they evolve for the better or the worse. I think its a good mix of both. That's my optimism splashed with some idealism.

That is an interesting story about conversion, but just as many stories abound about similar conversions from Christianity to other faiths - or none. I know of several. Each as compelling and heartwarming as the next.

I am glad you know what your reasons for being a Christian are. And I can see from your adherence to the word Grace that you are definitely a C S Lewis fan (which shows me you have good taste).

But I was not arguing against Christianity being unique nor even that any other religion has less of a unique gift to bestow whomever truly studies it with an 'open mind' and an 'open heart.'

I lack belief in a personal deity. I am an agnostic/atheist on that matter. I don't claim to 'know' nor do I claim to 'believe'. The further anyone start expanding their definitions, the more agnostic I become (meaning I really don't know) and yet I still retain my atheism (I still don't believe). But just because I don't believe doesn't mean I'm not open to the belief somewhere down the line.

I also consider my self a freethinker. That may have broad implications for a great many people, but for me narrowed down, a freethinker is not so much concerned with "What is believed" as "Why it is believed."

In other words, what is the reasoning behind your beliefs regarding politics, religion, philosophy, and culture? Did you come to your beliefs through employing logic, the scientific method, rational thinking? Or did you come to your beliefs because your parents and grandparents believed similar things (tradition), because your parents, teachers, or preacher told you what to believe (authoritarian figures), or the most popular: do you believe what you believe because it makes you 'feel good' and gives you the 'answers you seek'?

My overall point is that whatever a person is predisposed to believe in their heart that is where their head will go and they will construct post hoc reasonings to justify said beliefs. That is a common thread within most religious groups (and many other non religious groups in general). I also acknowledge that religion has been binding our ancestors into groups for tens of thousands of years. And that binding usually involves some blinding. Once any person, book or principle is declared sacred then devotees can no longer question it or think clearly about it.

Christianity may well attempt to overcome tribal mentality but it still has a ways to go. It's just too inherent in the core of its very human believers. It starts with this mix of people vs another mix of people who do not believe in god. Then it becomes the mix of people in both groups battling over whom the real god is. Then it becomes the mix of people battling over whom has the true interpretation on the true god. And on and on and on..

I am not trying to convince you away from anything that you have already convinced yourself of, and I don't need that from neither you nor any other believer in terms of what my beliefs (or lack of) are.

So I hope that is somewhat clear. And I wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday.

BroKen

(Somehow this got posted over on another thread. Sorry about that. You can delete it over there, Rick!)

My exposition on grace was more a response to the video than it was to you, Zoe. It is why I stand where I stand.

I think I would call you more an agnostic than an atheist. You don't believe, but the atheist believes the negative; there is no God. You allow for the possibility and have an open mind.

I did ask a couple of questions in my last post. Could you take a stab at answering them? I would appreciate it.

Blessings to you and yours during this holiday season.

Zoe

An honest response is a good one, I think.

You can call me anything you like, and I have found that most atheists would believe if they had overwhelming empirical data to prove the claims that they are presented with.

If asked again tomorrow if I believe in god, the answer will still be, 'no'

I feel that I already did answer those questions in my previous post, and don't feel like being redundant in my responses.

Also be safe this holiday..forgot to add that at the end.

BroKen

I reread the post and I'm still struggling to see your answers to the questions. Is the ailment that evolution is "slow and clumsy" and the cure is more evolution? Is the ailment ignorance and the cure is knowledge, but still with room for mystery? Is the ailment a lack of freethinking and the cure is more reason, scientific method and logic? I'm sorry. Can you help me see what you are saying?

You be safe, too.

Zoe


I think I just might take one last stab at making myself clear.

I believe that when people get irritated or downright nasty towards others (for whatever reasons) they are discontent with traits they themselves possess.

This is what I find true in regards to those self proclaimed militant atheists. If things are wrong in the world, I think the answer lies in each and every one of us. Whether people are willing (or able) to accept that is the tricky part.

I don't think that science is a favorable replacement for religion as that would simply perpetuate the things in zealous religious beliefs that the militant folks claim to detest.

I also do not think we have stopped evolving, in regards to physiology nor mental capacities. That could be for the better, that could be for the worse. That part I do not know.

I don't know what the answer is, all I know is that I have the here and now. You may feel that you know what the cure to humankinds ills are and I have no doubts that belief in that brings you comfort. It just fails to bring me comfort and honestly, I am ok with that.

Hence my mystery comment. I will enjoy the here and now a lot more if I know less about the end.

I can cross that bridge when I get to it.

Thank you for giving me much to think about and teaching me a thing or two, insofar as this blog and many others you have posted.

Good night.


Rick

Zoe... I've appreciated your tone, your comments, your respect... it's refreshing. Thanks to you and to BroKen for a great thread.

And by the way... Catholicism embraces mystery.

The existence of theological mysteries is a doctrine of Catholic faith defined by the Vatican Council, which declares: "If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called (vera et proprie dicta mysteria), but that through reason rightly developed (per rationem rite excultam) all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema" (Sess. III, Canons, 4. De fide et Ratione, 1). This teaching is clearly explained in Scripture. The principal proof text, which was cited in part by the Vatican Council, is 1 Corinthians 2. Shorter passages are especially Ephesians 3:4-9; Colossians 1:26-27; Matthew 11:25-27; John 1:17-18. These texts speak of a mystery of God, which only infinite wisdom can understand, namely, the designs of Divine Providence and the inner life of the Godhead (see also Wisdom 9:16-17; Romans 11:33-36). Tradition abounds with testimonies that support this teaching. In the Brief "Gravissimas Inter" (Denzinger, "Enchiridion", ed. Bannwart, nn. 1666-74), Pius IX defends the doctrine of supernatural mystery by many citations from the works of the Fathers. Numerous other patristic texts that bear on the same question are quoted and explained in Kleutgen's "Die Theologie der Vorzeit", II, 75 sq.; V, 220 sq.; and in Schäzler's "Neue Untersuchungen über das Dogma von der Gnade" (Mainz, 1867), 466 sq. The manifold excellence of Christian revelation offers many theological arguments for the existence of supernatural mysteries (cf. Scheeben, "Dogmatik", I, 24).

Zoe

To my understanding,

the term mystery in Catholicism is that the 'mystery' or 'mysteries' in question are regarded as revealed truths that go above and beyond the powers of a person (or animals) natural reason.

Not things that are unknowable or incomprehensible, per se..but rather, a supernatural truth that superceeds human intelligence, reason, or logic..

Am I correct?

Rick

Zoe,

I seriously identified with you when you wrote:

I do not think the video was implying that we know everything now, just that we are slowly in the process of knowing more. That may help us or hinder us. I don't know. I don't think anyone does.

Hence why I like my mystery. I don't think knowing everything would make me happier. I think that too is an illusion.

Here's something that I think adequately defines Catholic mystery:

In the Catholic sense, mystery means something that is known by divine revelation, which makes it beyond human understanding and thus must be accepted with faith because reason fails to define it alone. The word is from the Latin Mysterium which means the same thing as Sacrament which is Greek in origin.

To a Catholic a sacrament is a time when God touches ones life in a fundamental and personal way. We as Catholics live a sacramental life in that we believe that God is a personal God who touches our lives often. The Church has defined seven particular times in a person's life when God's touch is so intimate that those times are elevated to a "capital S" sacrament. These times are so important that they are celebrated within the Faith Community and leave a mark on the person that cannot be taken away. The seven sacraments are Baptism, First Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick/Dying. Most Sacrament are so important that they can only be received once by a Catholic. Eucharist, Reconciliation and Anointing are the three that are repeatable.

The other time one hears the term mystery in the Catholic tradition is when someone is speaking about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. While historically we can know that these events actually happened, there is a point where our reason and intellect fail in understanding the import of the events. At this point we must rely on our faith to accept the truth of these events. This is living in the Divine Mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of souls.

As these two examples are times when humans try to understand the action of God which cannot be done with reason alone, then for a Catholic the term mystery is meant to explain those actions and interventions of God into our world that we must accept on faith coupled with our reason which is also a gift from God.

Where you and I likely differ is how we might define faith. I think, and I believe BroKen thinks similarly, that it takes a decent amount of faith to be agnostic. What it is we have faith in is where there's a chasm. My only reason in bringing up the notion of Catholic mystery is to communicate that one can have faith and be firm in that faith while still embracing the unknown.

BroKen

I like all that about mystery, Rick. I think I responded to Zoe's invocation of mystery by saying that answers do not solve mysteries as much as open up new mysteries. That is true in science and in the spiritual life as well. A favorite song of mine is by Michael Card and called Could It Be. A pertinent line is, "Could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?" and then the clincher, "Could it be the only answer that means anything is You?"

Zoe

ah, ok, that does explain a bit more in detail what I had previously learned.

I may not have explained further that my upbringing was of the conservative Protestant type.

This led me to not have any first hand knowledge of other denominations, religions and/or viewpoints until I left home to pursue a higher education. So I looked into a bit of everything, the kind of everything that was until that moment not allowed.

I realized (and please forgive me for not remembering who said this) that Catholicism is disliked by folks who think they know what it means as opposed to what it really means. That, I found to be very true.

However it rings true for a great many things as well, even agnosticism and atheism. Because as I stated previously this happens to be a very human failing.

Regardless of how much a person aspires to be 'rational' or 'logical' they will still have their emotional, irrational, dreamy side lagging behind, not completely cut off.

Unless they have the power to become something not human. But that is not exactly an appealing trade off for most of us, is it..

Merv

I could not leave this site without any guilt if I didn't comment. The sad fact is that your entire logic is flawed and your letter to unbelievers is filled with wrong conceptions.

Let me go through the points one by one.

Your first colossal mistake was comparing the many different religions with many different sciences. Chemistry, biology, physics and math are all BRANCHES of science. None of them are actually separate from one another. In simpler terms, biology is applied chemistry, chemistry is applied physics, physics is applied math. They are all under the umbrella of "Science" in that they each explain the universe in a specific way. That does not mean that they are independent from one another. The different religions, on the other hand, CONTRADICT each other, each religion claiming to be the truth. That is where the "which is the right religion?" question arises. None of the sciences (and that includes physics) ever claimed to have all the answers. We are eternally seeking the truth because the universe is infinitely bigger than us. There is no relation with God and religion, because the latter has no evidence to support its existence.

You say that everything that exists was brought about by something greater than itself. True to a certain extent. We come from the planet. Planets come from stars. Stars make up galaxies. If we are going to logically continue this pattern, then the next step would be to conclude that galaxies are part of a larger system of many systems. Intuitive logic does not say that we must throw in a God or any intelligent higher power. Stars are not intelligent. Galaxies are not intelligent. Why would the system that galaxies are a part of be intelligent too?

So where did the universe come from? We don't know! That is the answer we have and that is why we have science. There is no shame in admitting that you don't know. It is intellectually dishonest to throw in a God to answer something that you don't know. We will not know where the universe came from until we have definitive proof. All things are possible, logically speaking, but realistically speaking, the chances that an intelligent, human-like God created the universe is about as infinitesimally small as the chance that Zeus made the universe.

Lastly, science is not rooted in faith the way religion is rooted in faith. The big difference is this: Science works! It has worked for thousands of years. It's like a person with good credit. Because science has a history of working, we can comfortably have faith that it will continue to provide the correct answer as long as we put in the research. Religion has never worked. It has never produced a right answer. It has never correctly predicted an event. It has never been a definitive answer for something unexplained, and above all, it has never succeeded in predicting something that science could not. Therefore, to have faith in religion is ridiculous. The laws that we currently understand are obeyed by the universe because that is what we observe. We did not tell the universe to have gravity, we simply created a formula that matched the behavior of gravity. We then put our faith that certain scenarios would work if we strictly adhere to said formulas and when we put those scenarios to the test, lo and behold! We get exactly what we predicted with zero margin of error. That is what physics is. God or religion cannot, and will never be able to accomplish that. Just because many scientists were christian does not mean that Christianity is to credit. The credit goes to the society that placed importance on science. As it happened, many eons before the Renaissance, it was Islamic societies that were the most scientifically advanced. It's not the religion, it's the society's priorities.

And to answer your last question, there are hundreds of non-profit groups that are not run primarily because of religion. Many philanthropic groups that happen to be secular are doing good for the sake of goodness. That is the unifying principle. If anything, doing good solely for a reward after death is quite selfish.

BroKen

Thanks for the comment, Merv. Don't have time to respond in depth, but if you'd like me to, let me know and I will.

Zoe

Merv,

You have brought up some good points, but I am afraid that we are dealing with a case of 'special pleading' here.

You would have to understand that our friend Ken here views the world through a theological lens that is deeply rooted.

I am in some sense, flattered that this thread has continued to spur Ken to think, and somewhat relieved that others have picked up where I left off. I think it is good to engage more people in this regard.

BroKen

Thanks, Zoe. Let me take the opportunity of your response to address some of the good points that Merv makes.

First, I agree that the analogy of different sciences and different religions was a bit of a stretch, but only a bit. There are times when branches of science contradict each other. And scientists contradict each other all the time. They are always arguing over the meaning of the data and whether it supports this or that hypothesis.

Still, a better analogy might have been a scholarly argument over the meaning of, say, a text of Shakespeare. The text is clear and almost universally acknowledged. Yet, the meaning is always up to debate, isn't it?

Now, Merv shows some prejudice in his comment. For example, he says that religion has "no evidence to support its existence." Really? No evidence at all? An exaggeration which is unworthy of Merv's obvious intelligence.

Merv asks, "Why would the system that galaxies are a part of be intelligent too?" That is an excellent question. Why? Because Merv is a part of that system and he is intelligent. And there must be some reason for that intelligence of Merv's besides the stars and galaxies which do not seem to be intelligent. That, my friends, is some evidence for religion.

Yes, Merv, science works. But why does it work? Why is the universe orderly? Does it have to be? Couldn't it be that the gravitational constant changes every three weeks, or randomly, so that we could never deduce its value? Ask yourself the reason for the assumptions that science makes. Why should they be true? Isn't there something deeper that science? Of course there is. We can't use science to find it, though. Still, science does tell us something, just not the most important things. THings like what is goodness and why should one be good for goodness sake? You do realize that, don't you?

Zoe

Where would any of us get proof of god, Ken?

Simple, straight answer.

BroKen

Simple, straight answer... There is no Proof. There is evidence. There is external evidence, "The heavens are telling the glory of God..." and "since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." There is also internal evidence, "The Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God..." and even "Indeed, when Gentiles (or you might say Atheists!), who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them."

But everyone must weigh the evidence for themselves and decide. OF course, if I'm wrong and you're right, it doesn't really matter. But if I'm right, or even partly right.... what then?

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