On having proof

I am dizzied by the fascinating discussions that are still going on in the last few posts. Until I have time to sort through all these great thoughts and offer a coherent response, I will note one high-level takeaway that I keep coming back to as I follow these discussions:

As I read these detailed back-and-forths about one Bible verse vs. another, examples of bad Christians vs. good Christians, whether or not this or that event really happened, I think of how odd this would all seem to people like my grandfather.

My 92-year-old grandfather is a kind, humble man and a brilliant engineer. He worked his way through his college by shoveling coal during the Great Depression. After receiving his civil engineering degree he went on to oversee the construction of large refineries throughout Mexico and South America for most of his adult life. Everyone who knows him remarks first about what a wonderful, generous soul he is, and this compliment is usually followed by noting his keen intelligence.

He’s never been much of a church-goer and we’d never talked about God or religion, so I’d always assumed he didn’t believe in God. One day back when I was still an atheist but starting to actually listen to the Christian point of view without being in “attack mode” every time, I casually asked him over dinner if he believed in God. I was surprised when he said yes. “But he’s so smart!” I thought.

When I asked him why, he thought for a moment and said it’s just always seemed obvious to him that there’s a purpose to all this life that surrounds us, that it came from somewhere. As an engineer, he said, he could appreciate the grand system that is the universe, that the order to it all struck him as something that was intended. When I asked him some tough questions about his faith he would answer, occasionally only with “I don’t know,” but through it all he seemed undisturbed, maybe even a little amused, by all my questions.

I realized he’s one of those people to whom God has always seemed “so obvious”. The notion that God might not exist would be, to him, like saying gravity doesn’t exist. Whereas to me it had always been “so obvious” that God was nowhere to be found, his “existence” nothing more than a mental crutch to help people avoid thinking about their own meaninglessness, it intrigued me that someone so intelligent and reasonable would find God’s existence so…obvious.

I thought about the great men of science like Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle and all the others who believed in God. Even Socrates and co. believed in “gods” in some form or another. When I read about these men and their personalities they often reminded me of my grandfather. They didn’t cry about Jesus or shout about hellfire and brimstone, but rather they struck me as calm, reasonable men of great intellect to whom the existence of God just seemed to make sense.

But why?

I always assumed that the reason I didn’t believe in God was because I was a more scientific-type thinker. My mind simply demanded proof before it would believe a theory to be true. And as nice as it would be to think that God and Mr. Jesus love me and want me to hang out with them and the pretty angels in heaven, the Christian story just seemed so bizarre and, really, absurd. These were some wild, often nonsensical claims that these Christians had, and I had not seen any proof that they were true.

But what, I thought, about these great men of science? What about my grandfather? Would I really be so bold as to say that my mind is more scientific than that of these men? Did they not also demand proof for their beliefs? I was perplexed.

That question has remained in my mind over the past few years as I’ve gone on this wild ride of discovering faith. And now, I think, I finally understand.

When the question of confirmation bias arose in the comments the other day I thought it was a fair point. I took a moment to examine my beliefs and see if perhaps I was “seeing” the results of my faith only because I want to convince myself that I have made a good decision here. I can say with complete honesty that I don’t think this is the case. Of course perhaps my mind is playing another trick on me and I don’t even realize what’s going on, but I am being honest when I say that I don’t think this is a mere psychological mechanism at work here.

But in the process of examining my situation one thing did strike me as odd: I still don’t believe in the same way a lot of Christians seem to. I don’t “feel” God, I usually feel like I’m talking to myself during prayer, a lot of times I’m really just going through the motions. (And, boy, “going through the motions” of being an orthodox Catholic is quite an endeavor.) So why do I do it?

It was then that I realized: because I’ve seen proof. It’s not the sort of proof that I could demonstrate in a laboratory but, to me, it is proof nonetheless.

When I first started reading works by Christian apologists I was quite surprised at how reasonable they were, that their arguments in favor of God and Christ his Son were more involved than the one’s I’d always heard (mainly “Shut up,” and the old standby “You’re going to hell”). I decided to take Pascal up on his wager, to follow St. Augustine on his advice to believe so that you might understand, and to just live my life for a while as if God did exist.

The results were striking.

There was no big “come to Jesus” moment, and even few times that I could say I “felt” that God was there, but it was as if some deep, powerful magnet had been activated within me that began pulling me in one direction.

This mysterious, powerful force was a compelling data point in favor of God’s existence, but it wasn’t proof enough. After all, it is hard to say objectively whether all the amazing “coincidences” that kept happening, all the doors that kept opening were from Something outside of myself or just the sorts of things that had always been there but I’d overlooked.

But something else started happening as well. The more I went through the motions of believing in God, the more the world started to make sense to me. The more I started to make sense to me. The picture of the world I’d had based on science alone now seemed incomplete. I still believed everything I’d learned from studying chemistry, physics and other sciences, but I now saw a whole other dimension to the world around me.

It was like the difference between looking at a picture of a double-fudge chocolate cake and actually having one in front of me to smell, touch and taste. Everything I knew before was still there, but I was now experiencing it at a whole different level full of wonder and richness.

I’d considered my life before this God experiment to be wonderful and full of happiness, but it now seemed disordered, confused and flat in retrospect. Little lingering “issues” faded away; parts of life that had seemed overwhelming were diffused and put in their proper place; I saw the psychological harm that certain actions that seemed totally innocuous in my atheist worldview had caused me; I was finally able to put a name to the deep stirrings within my soul I’d experience when listening to a profound piece of music or hearing about an act of evil; I understood why Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, what drove the efforts to build the great cathedrals; for the first time I felt the staggering depth of my potential as a human, a woman and a mother.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Also, there’s no reason to detail every single thing that fell into place in my life when I lived as if there were a God since it’s proof only to me. I cannot empirically demonstrate that any of this really happened, that it was real and not imagined.

All I can say is that I am not intentionally stating an untruth when I say that my life changed in a radical, profound way, inside and out, when I began giving God’s existence the benefit of the doubt, and that I am certain it came from something outside of myself. When I have acted as if God exists, setting aside cynicism and approaching it with humility and an open heart, I have seen the results that you would expect to see if he did exist. When I have followed the prescription that it is said the Perfect Doctor has prescribed, it has indeed worked to heal, even when I was sure it wouldn’t.

And I now think I realize how this mysterious God could seem so obvious to so many of the great minds of science, to brilliant men like my grandfather, whose intellects also demand proof. The laboratory in which the God experiment takes place is within the confines of the individual soul, and others can only observe the results, and not the mechanisms behind them. I cannot speak to the experience of former believers who saw no fruits of their belief in God other than to say that, based on my own experience, I have to wonder if they were conducting the experiment correctly, approaching it with humility and an open heart.

Because for me, and perhaps for all those believers among the ranks of the great minds of history, we also demand proof. And we have seen it.

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129 Responses to “On having proof”
  1. SteveK says:

    Wow!

    That’s about all I can say after reading this. Such insight, such profundity, such maturity. You are a real thinker.

    You get it, Jen. Just like your Grandfather, you get it. Blessings to you.

  2. Dennis says:

    This reflection is EXCELLENT. I’m tempted to steal large chunks of it for a homily one day.

    Ready for the advanced questions?

    Now that you’ve had this necessarily personal experience, what makes you think it has anything to do with “church?” And why the Christian formulation of things rather than the Hindu?

    Yes, you’re right, but why are you right?

    Why is it that personal experience is not enough? Maybe it’s enough to get a person moving, but it’s not enough to sustain the relationship, I don’t think. Every theology I’ve ever heard of that relies solely on personal experience has led to schism.

    What makes Truth objectively true and not just a subjective phenomenon?

  3. Jennifer F. says:

    Dennis -

    Well, when I speak of “living as if God did exist” and the results that followed, I am mostly referring to following the teaching of the Catholic Church. It has proven itself to me to be a conduit of some greater, objective truth. Steve G. once emailed a Chesterton quote that encapsulates this perfectly:

    “This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden.”

    Does that answer your question? If not, I’d be interested to hear what your answer is.

    Thanks!

  4. Stevek says:

    Every theology I’ve ever heard of that relies solely on personal experience has led to schism.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but what other kind of experience can I have? Can I have an impersonal experience? I don’t even know what that means. If I experience what you have experienced am I not experiencing it personally?

  5. Mike J says:

    I read it. Now I’ve printed it to read again.

    I’ve been going through my vocabulary of exclamatory terms. Whoa! Wow! OMG! Awesome! Beautiful! Profound! They all fail me.

    Jen. You are amazing young lady. If I ever meet you, you get a big hug.

    I ….. am at a loss for words.

  6. Jim McCullough says:

    Jen–could I have permission to print this post and your response to Dennis for our RCIA? Each week we give them a different writing of some sort to reflect on at home (we call them “Articles of Faith”) and your reflection would make a wonderful addition, and an especially helpful one for our more skeptically minded.
    Jim McCullough, DRE
    Our Lady of Grace Church
    Greensboro, NC
    You can email me at jmccullough(at)olgchurch(dot)org

  7. Anonymous says:

    I actually got shivers down my spine at least twice while reading this!

    Amen, Jen, Amen!

  8. Dennis says:

    SteveK,

    The key to my question is the word “solely.” Catholic experience is the experience of an authoritative interpretive community that, together, now and through history, has had and continues to have an experience of the risen Jesus Christ.

    People have their own personal experience apart from the community usually run off to apostacy or schism. That’s what I was kind of getting at.

  9. Tony says:

    Jen, to quote from a title of a book, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.

    When I look at a beautiful cathedral, I ponder the architect, when I look at a masterpeice of art, I ponder the artist. When I look at creation, I ponder the creator.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great post. I wanted to add Francis Collins, to your list of prominent scientists who also believe in God. He is a genetist who was a part of the Human Genome Project. His book, Language of God, was published recently. I haven’t read the book, just a review in First Things though.

  11. Eric says:

    Jen, my reaction isn’t as powerful as some to this post, only because I know exactly what you mean. While never a ‘hostile’ atheist, I was agnostic for quite a while. I also did grow up officially Catholic, but personally unconvinced.

    I’m involved in the same experiement as you. Keep going. Never give up. It’s likely that trials will come. Atheist questions will bother you more than they should, especially since you don’t often get the ‘feeling’ that you long for. These are your opportunities to begin to step further away from your reliance on intellect and reason and further into the beauty of faith, hope and love. I don’t mean that you should throw away reason, just realize its limits. Read Fides Et Ratio, if you haven’t.

    I have come to God as a man with no faith, but desperate for peace. I still struggle. I still fight with God over who knows best. My intellect understands a lot, but my heart understands little. When trouble comes, I’m often like Adam & Eve, running and hiding. But, I can see clearly that God is turning my heart from a ‘heart of stone into a heart of flesh’. And I am happier because of it. The peace I seek isn’t always there, but it is sometimes.

    The other post on confirmation bias is very important in my opinion. It is true that, we often look for the ‘good things’ to try to see proof of God. But don’t forget that even those things that we see as bad, are a part of God’s plan. Look at Job. The devil had to ask permission of God to do anything to Job. And in the end, from these trials Job came to know God face to face, where before he had only heard of Him.

    The life of a Christian is like the life of Christ. His was a life of poverty and suffering, as well as normal joy. But in all these things He had the joy of knowing that He was within the will of the Father and that the Father loved Him. Remember this when the trials come and you too can have joy even when all seems lost.

  12. SteveK says:

    Dennis:
    I see what you’re getting at.

    After thinking about it some more, I think we do have the ability to have an “impersonal” experience in the form of rational / logical thought.

    We humans are a mixed bag of irrational / subjective emotions and faults but one thing is sure, we have the common ability to reason and actually know something as fact despite all those faults. Another important factor is we can know something without relying on modern emperical science.

    If reason and logic don’t result in accurate knowledge then I suppose I’m free to doubt everything we claim to know. But nobody claims that.

    We experience reason and logic personally but in a way that seems different than the other, flawed, personal experiences we have. This difference gives us the ability to know something without being able to prove it empirically or even explain it with words to the satisfaction of others.

    If I manage to successfully explain it to others, what on earth compels the other person to even agree with me if not reason coupled with personal experience?

    For me, reason, personal experience and, of course, church history tell me that God in fact exists. To doubt that fact would be like doubting that I love my family or doubting that I have free will.

    Modern emperical science may try to tell me I don’t really love my family or have free will. It may try to tell me that God doesn’t exist, however reason and personal experience tell me that emperical science doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

  13. Christian says:

    As someone who loves reason, but loves God even more, I have to say I’m touched by your post. As a freshman in college, I feel like I’m constantly bombarded with messages against my God. And many of these messages seem to base their argument on reason!

    Because of this influence, I find myself questioning God’s existence at times. No longer can I simply just “have faith” and be content. But when I investigate my faith, reason always seems to point me towards God. To me, His existence is the only answer that makes sense.

    But I still struggle. I’m so young and I know so little about God and about faith and about reason. I’m often confused. I feel ignorant and completely unable to articulate any of all this God stuff. Your post seems to do what I cannot: express all this in a reasonable, articulate, easy-to-understand way. So thank you for the spectaculr post.

    God bless.

  14. BroKen says:

    Rick from Brutally Honest sent me. Wonderful post. Keep it up.

  15. J dave G says:

    Maclin Horton sent me. Beautiful stuff – thank you and God bless

  16. Lady Lovas says:

    Jen: I’m here via Barbara (mommylife) and I find your blog very interesting and touching.

    I’ve been reading it eagerly since yesterday and I can get your words out of my mind. You are a very good writer and is very easy for me to understand you and to identify with you.

    I’ll be here, lurking around very often. I hope you don’t mind my questions, as I have many.

    I hope to get to know you more, as time goes by. Perhaps I’ll send you an e-mail with a bit of my background, just so you know where I’m coming from with my questions. Would that be ok with you?

    Thanks for sharing your life.

  17. Lindsey says:

    This is a wonderful story.

    God bless.

  18. Pete says:

    What a load of nonsense.

  19. JD says:

    “I was finally able to put a name to the deep stirrings within my soul I’d experience when listening to a profound piece of music or hearing about an act of evil”

    Theology is quite simple actually, and its true nature reflects very well on these things you have mentioned, among others.

    Theology is the ideal-ization of the human mind and/or body (I include body because gods have had human-like forms in many religions, including OT Judaism on which Christianity is based).

    You’ll notice that those subscribing to theology have always striven for great achievement, whether it be in terms of art, architecture, morality, health, quality of life, etc.

    God is the ideal, and we are to strive for it. After that, things started getting muddled up with various stories, prophets, etc.

  20. Brian Zuelke says:

    I am an electrical engineer and *was* a fallen-away Catholic for about five years before seven months ago.

    It’s been a real struggle to hold on to what originally brought me back to my Catholic roots, but mainly it was exactly what you’ve described in your blog post. Admittedly, I never took to atheism, but agnosticism — i.e. saying it’s just “too big to deal with so it doesn’t matter” — really kept me in a state of rebellion for a long time.

    Thank you for writing this piece. A lot of it sounds exactly what I’ve experienced, but I’ve never been able to place it into a concrete form like you’ve done.

  21. M3 says:

    Of course everything makes sense with a God, as you say, but only because it provides a convenient explanation for the unexplained (and there’s a lot of that around).

    To me, I think only a human being could create such an evil, divisive, and fear mongering thing like religion.

    A God with control over the universe wouldn’t create such hate, horror and tragedy that is and has been the hallmark of human existence throughout history.

    But I’ll agree, it is much easier to get by when you can blame everything on a higher power.

  22. madcap says:

    In terms of personal experience, I assure you that I can perfectly well enjoy a profound piece of music, and am also affected by stories of depravity and horror, and yet I do not hinge such emotional reactions on belief in supernatural and capricious beings.

    Indeed, I find such experiences all the more moving with the consideration that we have evolved to experience such beauty (and horror). Sometimes, of course, our wires get crossed, and our emotions are raised at seemingly innocuous events. Most of us have a natural aversion to insects, for instance, but not to kittens. Covering someone with a bunch of cuddly kittens does not seem to carry the same sort of moral weight as covering them with beetles (assuming, of course the person is not allergic). Belief in the Almighty as a source of morality does not seem to offer an explanation for these sorts of reactions, in the way it explain most people’s reactions to romantic embrace or to rape and murder. The source, however, seems to be the same… we find insects repulsive because it was at some point in our distant past an evolutionary advantage to be repulsed by insects, just as it was an advantage to be repulsed by acts of wanton murder. (One expects further back it was an advantage to be attracted to insects as a bountiful source of protein.)

    Whereas theists claim awe at the thought of an all-powerful deity having designed and created all things, I hold that it is evermore awesome to consider that these things arose from fundamental forces constrained by natural law, and evolved from them is our ability to appreciate the world and reflect upon it. We do not just represent individual beings looking upon the world… but also in a sense, we represent the evolved world looking upon itself.

  23. Chris A says:

    Wow! I found your blog, looking up a phrase in Google. You are quite an interesting read. I hope that comes across as a compliment in Blog-speak. Good for you! I too have a young one. We have an 11-month old Gabrielle, who has not let her daddy sleep much lately, Nevertheless, I shall stay updated as often as I can. God bless you and your little ones.

  24. tamsyn says:

    Whilst I appreciate that you have had a personal experience, and only you can decide for yourself that this is good enough proof to know in your mind that there is a God, this changes nothing at all for anyone else or even yourself.

    When ever I meet a person who has faith I honestly feel sorry for them, in my opinion (and it is only that) faith is a cop out. Faith is, after all believing with out any evidence. It is so much easier for people to invent a god to provide answers and solutions, it is far more difficult to assess the world for ones self and come to a judgment based upon what one knows about the world and then what one can logically suppose. It is even harder to accept that we are going to die, decompose, we won’t go on and it all meant nothing. Human beings like logic, narratives that have a purpose, what is the point in a human story that counts for nothing. Believing that there is a god avoids the problems that existentialist thinkers faced, that drove Nietzsche insane. It’s far easier to believe in God than face what he did, but by believing in god you are moving further and further from the ‘uber-mansche’, why go back to the dark ages?

    What troubled me the most about what you said was that you have chosen to follow an organized faith. Whilst your experience might have convinced you that there is some god like force, this should not have convinced you that the bible is correct? Why not believe in the Qur’an? What makes the bible’s stories more valid than the stories of Jesus in the Qur’an? In fact I would argue as an Ba Hons English Literature graduate that the Qur’an is probably more accurate than the bible when it comes to Jesus. After all the church had very good reasons to promote Jesus as a God, it made him more than a profit, but a living God, and this is something that they have used in their ‘sales pitch’. I can not align the stories of Jesus, the humble man, who had no possessions, who preached love, with the hierarchal catholic priests, draped in robes, in extravagant cathedrals, who need gold. It isn’t just the Catholics’ of course but all religions that put on a show. What they are selling you is something that they are only offering you after death, no insurance company in the world has ever managed to pull off that!

    In my opinion once you have disregarded one aspect of a religion, you have to question it all. It is either all correct or it is all called into question. So is the world 6000 years old? Is God up there listening in on our thoughts like a telephone operator? Did a ghost impregnate a virgin? Did lord Xenu bring the souls of the Thetans to the volcanoes of Earth?

    I doubt it.

    I am not an atheist however, at least not today; this is me on an open minded day. I shall call myself an agnostic, I don’t know if there is a meaning to life. No one knows for sure. Of course faith is a personal thing, everyone is free to believe as they wish, but I can not stand when faith is presented as fact. I don’t know, nor does anyone else, and it is clear that no faith has got it correct yet, or we would all be joined up, coughing up our cash to that church and we would all be very happy and safe and liberated. We will only find out after we die, or we will find nothing at all.

    Please do not take this as an attack on your faith, you have put your opinion out there, and as a public discussion I am just voicing an opposing view.

    All the best.

  25. Anonymous says:

    For atheists and agnostics, please read most of the major documents of Catholicism, as well as various histories of Roman Catholicism, before asking questions. I could just as easily question many of the conclusions of modern science if I never examined a science book or had a degree in physics.

    My parents are both scientists, and they are both faithful Catholics. My mother has her PhD, and she said her study of science (microbiology) only made her faith stronger, not weaker. What usually makes people doubt religion really has nothing to do with its tenets but perceived hypocrisy–notice I said perceived hypocrisy. There’s a reason for all of the whistles and bells of Catholicism, but it would take a good, fair study of it before you could truly understand it.

  26. John C. Hathaway says:

    tamsyn,

    You say it is not an attack, yet you say you feel sorry for people who have faith and that you think faith is a “cop out”. You contradict yourself by saying that faith is illogical and at the same time that faith is an attempt to find logic in an illogical universe.

    Religion is not an attempt to explain anything. That God exists can be proven without any reference to divine revelation and has been done so over and over.

    Faith is not believing without evidence. There is plenty of evidence. Miracles happen every single day. Agnostics and atheists look at evidence that other people see perfectly clearly and find contorted ways to discount it.

    Look at Padre Pio: his stigmata were medically documented, filmed, etc. Any honest person admits they were real phenomena and not hoaxes. But “skeptics” would rather say they were psychosomatic manifestations than admit the idea of a miracle.

    Your fundamental problem is an errant definition of faith. Faith is about *trust*. Faith is about trusting God. People of faith find that, by trusting God, He always looks out for them.

    You say that it’s an “easy out”. In fact, you are admitting you’d rather have a lowest common denominator. It’s easier to justify your own sins and your own mental illness by totally discounting the happiness of those who have religious faith.

    Some of the most atheistic psychologists and psychiatrists (e.g., Meninger and Jung) admitted that Catholics had something they couldn’t even touch, that Confession and exorcism were far more effective than anything they did.

    Studies have shown that patients who are prayed for–and do not know they are being prayed for–heal better than those who are not.

    The *evidence* is there. The evidence is there in why a bunch of fishermen and other “blue collar workers” would suddenly become sophisticated preachers, knowing multiple languages and intimately knowing both the Hebrew scriptures and Greek philosophy, and that those same fishermen would willingly give up their lives for something so many people around them claimed was a hoax.

    There is far more historical amd archaeological evidence to prove the accuracy of the Bible than to document the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Josephus or Plutarch.

    Lastly, are you aware that studies have shown that there is a part of the cerebral cortex that lights up on EEGs when a person of faith has a “God experience”? And that, when exposed to the same stimuli, an agnostic or atheist’s brain does not have that response?

    If 90% of human beings have a function in their brain that atheists and agnostics lack, doesn’t that indicate that the atheists and agnostics are mentally ill?

    In any case, you don’t see the evidence only because you refuse to see it. Anyone tells you a story that proves God’s active participation in their life, and you dismiss it as that person’s “personal experience” that has no bearing on you. Anyone provides you with the evidence for the truth of Christianity, and you dismiss the evidence. Yet if that same person were to turn around and challenge the “evidence” you claim for Darwinism or some other atheist theory, then you’d call that person unscientific.

  27. Samuel Skinner says:

    You are wrong. Sorry.

    God has never been proven to exist- heck, if he was there wouldn’t be atheists.

    Miracles happen in all religions- even mutually exclusive ones. Do you expect me to become a Hindu because they have the best track record?

    But God has to exist before you can trust him… and believing he exist IS the faith definition atheists attack.

    Yeah- because standing on your own two feet is SO easy.

    Nope- remember the Templeton prayer study?

    How could a bunch of middle class Russians who lived in apartments and worked in the service sector suddenly take over a sixth of the planet? It must be the Will of the People! They were even ready to die for the revolution- more proof that their cause is just.

    Actually, the other stories have more backing. We have the locations for the bible- but miracles? Not so much.

    The area lights up for atheists and believers (although you sound like a Calvinist). They “feel” a presence just like believers do. The more rational ones blame the machinery- the less rational ones think it is a ghost.

    Making up science doesn’t count for point making.

    Because the evidence for evolution exists in reality? You can dig it up or catch it (blasted germs)? By contrast the evidence for belief… exists for every religion. Yes, Hindus and Muslims claim the same divine blessing- looks like random chance to the more rational.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Jen, I am disappointed. I wouldn’t call myself an atheist but an agnostic, desperatley searching for enlightenment. I would like very much to believe and have faith. I was excited to have stumbled across your post, but again let down. It was a topical skimming of the questions at best. You suspend your doubts and magically blind faith comes to you? I have tried that to no avail. If there is a God is his creation formulated under a divine plan or did he/she give us free will? That is the question where I get stuck. If it is a divine plan (pre-destination) then why would a loving God have planned to have children molested or the Holocaust? You seem like an intellectual person, how is it you can suspend your higher thinking when it comes to all of the ugliness within religions or the glaring contradictions within the Bible? Help. K

  29. MC says:

    To k:

    Well, Jen is living as a Catholic. Catholics believe that we were given free will. I think you are only questioning predestination, am I right?

  30. Fry says:

    I strongly doubt you were ever an atheist. You not only display a complete ignorance of any atheist arguments but you post here with anecdotal feelings and emotions as if that were proof of anything.

    I’m waiting for you to start advertising your book and getting in on the Ray Comfort band-wagon. In the mean-time why don’t you just drop the “former atheist” act and preach to the choir like the apologist you are.

    If you have any actual evidence or any argument that are not the same recycled appeals to emotion then atheists will listen. Until then all you have done here is preach to the choir.

  31. Aunt Chrissy says:

    Ah, Fry, the ol’ “no true Scotsman” argument! Jen didn’t know everything you know, therefore, she was never really an atheist!

    Hey – if that makes it easier for you to deal with her reversion to theism, that’s fine. But it sounds kinda like solipsism to me.

  32. Diane L. Harris says:

    Samuel Skinner said above, “God has never been proven to exist- heck, if he was there wouldn’t be atheists.” Huh?!

    I suppose 86% of U.S. citizens are overweight because the benefits of healthy eating and exercise have not been proven.

    Diane L. Harris
    http://www.steppingintothelight.net

  33. Anonymous says:

    Ok, First off to those who say there is no evidence for God is either a liar or has never looked. I went on scientific evidence and found proof everywhere. All the way from the genetic code and Dna being so highly complex, its digital, error correcting, redundant, overlapping storange and retreval system just for starters. I suggest to anyone who says “science” sees to evidence of God, check out papers written by the late Dr. A. E. Weildersmith. He had SIX earned DOCTRINES 3 FULL PROFESSORSHIPS all in chemical, molecular biology. It would take a book for me to write out hear all the Evidence for a God. I mean all the way from the obvious common sense things like “Order doesnt come from disorder” like they claim the big bang happend out of nothing then just exploded. Or the obvious things like your brain has more wiring then all the wiring in every electronic component on earth COMBINED, it calculates in Petaflops, (billions x billions) of calculations a second. Taking a CRAY supercomputer 10 years to do what are brain does just to see for less then one second. Running at 98 degrees F, and runs on potatoes or whatever you eat. Not to mention the hundreds of thousand of subsystems working together just to maintain life for that one second! I could go on and on, Even the odds of life happening by “Random Molecular MovementS” is calculated at 10 to the hundred billionth power! It goes on and on. I will spare you for now but dont say there is no evidence for a God.
    And as far as the Atheist or Agnostic willful blindness of proof, and fear of what they might find if they do look is textbook to those who dont want to know the truth.
    If I told you I was Deaf, I said that there is no proof Music exists scientifically, I would actually have more of an arguement than that against God. You claim Music exists yet, I can not see it. You say it exists yet I can not touch it. It cant be weighed or measured. Those who say it exists claim it can be felt. I dont feel music. I know Noise exists but music to me being Deaf does not. What makes music different than noise, Scientifically? So if I told you who has ears that hear, “music doesnt exist” you would think I was nutts. Just so you know, Most deaf people believe it exists not because those who hear tell them, but because we see the effect it has on those who claim its existance. I think you get the point. You want evidence its everywhere. its either on purpose, or ALL and accident. That would also mean that this website and me writing this is a miracle freak accident of the universe. Then if that is the case even Reason, Conciousness, every single thing including this computer is an accident from a explosion. Everything. Now I dont know about you but the whole accident theory sounds not only irrational but not even remotely sane or honest. You believe that just remember you better be right. I may cost you your soul if not. Good luck and God Bless if the Truth is what you seek. Your actions will be judgement as to your intent. If you go on claiming there is no evidence and dont even look the conciquence might be infinitely fatal. Here are somelinks to get you started if you really want to see evidence.

    http://www.creationsafaris.com/crev200809.htm

    http://www.geocities.com/worldview_3/mathprfcosmos.html

    http://www.reasons.org/

    http://www.christiananswers.net/creation/people/wilder-smith-ae.html

    http://www.halos.com/

    It goes on and on. If you really want more email or post it and i will send you thousands.

  34. Fonk says:

    To those like the last anonymous poster, you have to come up w/ a greater argument than “the universe is complex”. Complexity isn’t proof of God just because you don’t believe there’s another explanation. You need to separate the ideas of proof and belief.

    I’m not trying to dissuade you from your faith, but I hate it when people try to use belief as a substitute for knowledge/proof. Subscribers to any given religion can believe strongly that theirs is the way, but no one can know until death comes. Then we’ll all either find out what’s what, or we’ll all find out nothing and that’ll be that.

  35. Anonymous says:

    To the Last poster… Yes complexity is proof. The more complex, the more impossible. For example, The chances of a explosion to make a cross out of 2 x 4’s is not impressive given chance…But for chance to “Create a living organism with Blue prints (genetic code) which is digital, error correcting, overlapping, redundant, storage and retrevial system to CREATE a living orginism and living system, not to mention the entire construction, and SO highly complex body in which it lives is impressive. In fact its so complex that with all of the scientific knowhow, and knowledge, combined since the begining of man, Man cannot duplicate it in the lab. So how is it rational to think that an accidental explosion out of nothing, did it?
    Like the scriptures say,,, Even if they saw someone raised from the dead they still wont believe.
    Not to dissuade you from your “Knowledge” but if an accident created life and all its astronomically complex orginizations, etc., Surely then if we gave you a head start with a complete all ready made body, right in front of you, you must be able to make it come alive, right? A simple accident like a lightning bolt or something could just kickstart it into being, right? I mean, if a accident did it, surely with all your knowledge, and with everything already made, (a human body) Making it come to life should be as easy as…?
    I would love to hear how complexity doesnt mean proof. Your turn.

  36. Gillian says:

    This spoke to me, 2 things in particular.

    1. You said you feel like you’re talking to yourself in prayer, I feel that way sometimes too. Not always but sometimes.

    2.In your conversion story you talked about just trying to live your life as if God existed. I am now trying to do this. Unlike you I am doing this after becoming a member of the church, but when faith is fleeting and cynicism and doubt rear their ugly head, what have I got to lose? Very soon after I made this self-declaration, as I was mulling over it in my head and convincing myself, I suddenly felt a wave of joy. I just thought, it’s all true. There is a God, a loving God, and there is the opportunity for salvation! For the first time I truly felt like praising the Lord. I’ve never felt that kind of true Joy before. So thank you. Of course it’s a slow process, but even a baby step is still a step in the right direction. And if I keep it up, I can see myself just coming to actually believe it through the repetition. Whatever works right ? :)

  37. Jennifer F. says:

    Gillian -

    Oh, OK, I had seen your comment, I’d just forgotten which post it was to. I liked this part in particular:

    but when faith is fleeting and cynicism and doubt rear their ugly head, what have I got to lose?

    I’ve found that to be such an important attitude. I think that cynicism can be such a block to faith.

    Anyway, thank you for your comment!

  38. Kate says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I grew up in the Faith. And I grew up loving Science. And I never did understand how people who study the Sciences can believe that God does not exist. For me, Science proves to me how great God is – for Him to create such magnificent, complex creatures. It boggles my mind at how neurons talk or cells signal to one another. God thought of it all. He is an awesome Creator!

  39. bluelinchpin says:

    How sad.

    Simply emulating the great scientists is not being rational. Neither is believing in a simple experience which any rational person would realize may be their imagination or desire for something more. We’ve all been irrational of course and assumed or wanted to see things which later we look back upon and blush with shame at having simply assumed it was what we wanted to be. This happens all the times in social situations–we jump to a conclusion so we can feed our desires and irrational opinions.

    Further, let’s be honest here? Following a church? Surely you realize that as a rational person you can judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong, rather than handing your morality over to an old book which advocates human sacrifice, among other things?

  40. bluelinchpin says:

    Further: Pascal’s Wager? How can you think yourself rational and have turned to Christianity –not just god but Christianity–due to this?

    Pascal’s Wager is incredibly illogical. It assumed that there can be no other possibility but a Christian God, and no possibility but a god which punishes any who do not believe in ‘him’.

  41. Anonymous says:

    I would like to comment about this quote, “bluelinchpin said…

    “Further, let’s be honest here? Following a church? Surely you realize that as a rational person you can judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong, rather than handing your morality over to an old book which advocates human sacrifice, among other things?

    November 25, 2008 5:05 PM”

    Man Bluelinchipin.
    Do you actually hear yourself?
    You said,
    “Surely you realize that as a rational person you can judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong,..+
    With your logic and Godless Universe how do you say what is rational, logical, right or wrong with nothing to compare it too? No Higher Power or Authority means logic is what YOU say it is. I say its not. Which would be right? Unless you are a God where do you get your standards for Judgeing right and wrong? By the way, 2 more things, 1 you sound like a child thinking he is wise enough to decide and know what is good for him and both his parents are wrong and just want to control him. Forgetting and foolishly ignoring facts and willfully failing to see them. Like, its because there way are greater then the childs way, Or that the child fails to consider the love of his parents who would never lead his astray, or that his mind refuses to acknowledge this and many more turths, to his own consiquense.
    Why am a even trying to explain this too you, if you read this entire post and dont even acknowledge that this great “Accident” which makes the miracle of life even more miraculous, is so insane… Just tells me you havent even heard both sides of the arguement. Nor do you want to know Truth. And finally,,, God doesnt want you to follow any church. He wants you to follow Him.

  42. ernie says:

    I stumbled upon this blog and this wonderful post. I know exactly what you are talking about. Obviously, I was led here. Thanks.

  43. CrypticLife says:

    *sigh*

    The hazards of growing up atheist.

    For those who claim she was never an atheist, you’re clearly wrong — a standard atheistic claim is that we’re ALL born atheists. While difficult to directly investigate, this is most likely true. So Fry, you’re wrong. Aunt Chrissy, note that it wasn’t a “reversion to theism”.

    Atheistic does not necessarily mean rational or logical.

    “Most of us have a natural aversion to insects,”

    Humans do not have a “natural” aversion to insects. It is learned. In many places, insects are food.

    “The more complex, the more impossible. “

    This is bluntly false. Suppose I hit a sheet of car window glass with a hammer. It is far more likely I’ll have a highly complex pattern of cracks than a simple break into two sheets or a simple starburst pattern.

    Man cannot exactly reproduce any explosion that has ever occurred in history.

    As to the probabilities of life arising, you have no idea what they are. You are relying on judgments that are biased and go on assumptions the originators of which have no basis for assuming. You don’t know if the existence of life was a freak accident or if it was inevitable.

    Just because you don’t know how something happened, it’s not a reason to posit an intangible, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, abtemporal entity with interests in hymenal status to “explain” it.

    You’re right, though. If someone dead *did* walk again, I wouldn’t suddenly start believing in a deity. I’m not sure how you make the logical connection between zombies and deities.

    “If 90% of human beings have a function in their brain that atheists and agnostics lack, doesn’t that indicate that the atheists and agnostics are mentally ill?”

    No. I’d get further into the argument, but frankly if you start with this assumption I don’t think going through things will be very profitable.

    ” Unless you are a God where do you get your standards for Judgeing right and wrong?”

    So, Christian standards for right and wrong have remained consistent over the centuries? It seems to me like a lot fewer Christians are beating their children, purchasing slaves, or killing people for blasphemy.

  44. Little eye says:

    I was raised Catholic but stopped believing when I was 14, when I found out about the existence of other religions that were incompatible with Christianity. If one of them is right the rest are wrong and I saw no more validity in any one religion over the others.

    But within the past 3 years I’ve seen an proof of an agency that’s not contained within a brain. It blew me away because I was also an active writing atheist who didn’t believe in the supernatural.

    However, my views on religion haven’t changed at all. All the proof showed me was that my materialist assumptions were wrong. I’ve written (found here) about what I speculate is true but know that it’s speculation and will remain that way without actually passing over to the other side.

    Faith (belief which requires a no-thinking leap) is irrational by definition. If we are expected to be without without reason god could not expect us to function at all, let alone say the 10 hail marys.

  45. paladin says:

    Hi, Jennifer!

    I came over here, via Sarah’s blog, and I’m very glad I did! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and God bless you and yours! (Merry Christmas [for 11 more days], and blessed Feast of St. Stephen!)

    Samuel Skinner wrote: God has never been proven to exist- heck, if he was there wouldn’t be atheists.

    Speaking as a high school math teacher, I can vouch for the fact that the proof of a theorem and the belief in (or comprehension of) a theorem are two very different things. :) I’d also gently suggest that there are at least two different types of “proof”–intrinsic (e.g. proving the quadratic formula to be true), and extrinsic (e.g. proving that George Washington was, in fact, the first president of the United States). Most atheists with whom I’ve spoken, who claim that “God’s existence has never been proven”, seem to insist on some sort of mathematical, intrinsic proof by which all other possibilities are proven impossible, a priori. Is that the case with you?

    Miracles happen in all religions- even mutually exclusive ones.

    Aside from the fact that your initial claim (“miracles happen in *all* religions”) is most likely false, I’d caution you against a too-broad use of the phrase, “mutually exclusive”; certainly, some elements of religion [x] are likely to be flat contradictions of elements in religion [y], but it’s rather sweeping to say, “these two religions are mutually exclusive”, as if there are *no* parts which can co-exist!

    Case in point: let’s suppose that miracles happen in Christianity, and they also happen in Hinduism. To be sure, the claim, “miracles, in and of themselves, prove that the religion which contains them is the only true religion!” is absurd… but no religion (at least, none of which I’m aware) makes such a claim. I don’t claim that the following examples are right–or even very likely–but they certainly disarm the “both claim miracles, so thet cannot both be true” argument:

    1) one religion’s miracles might be genuine, while the other’s might be frauds (or vice versa)
    2) one religion’s miraces might be worked by God, while the other’s might be worked by demons (or vice versa)
    3) one religion’s miracles might be the work of God, Who had mercy on thus-or-so adherent of the other (false) religion and helped him/her
    (etc.)

    Do you expect me to become a Hindu because they have the best track record?

    That depends. The best track record of *what*? Miracles? Then no, for the reasons stated above (e.g. the possibility of false “miracles”, preternatural activity by demons, etc.). But if Hinduism could prove itself (in the extrinsic sense) to be genuine–and beyond all sane objection–then yes.

    CrypticLife wrote, in reply to Anonymous at October 10, 2008, 10:09 PM:

    “The more complex, the more impossible. “

    This is bluntly false. Suppose I hit a sheet of car window glass with a hammer. It is far more likely I’ll have a highly complex pattern of cracks than a simple break into two sheets or a simple starburst pattern.

    I think you’re using two different definitions of “complex”, here: “having many parts”, and “being intricately organized”. Anonymous almost certainly meant the latter, while you seem to mean the former. Consider: if the same windshield impact formed a spectacular array of cracks in which any unbiased bystander would recognize the bust of, say, George Burns, I would find that rather hard to explain… wouldn’t you? If a tornado pulled all of my fenceposts out of the ground and left one of them propped up against my doorstep, I’d be bemused at the coincidence; but if the same tornado took all 120 posts and stacked them neatly, in perfectly aligned rows of 12 each, I’d suspect more than mere happenstance… despite the fact that no one could prove the latter case “mathematically impossible”. Do you see the difference?

    Also: you still haven’t answered the earlier question: by what standards do *you* judge right and wrong? Pointing to the bad examples of others is not only a red herring, but question-begging (i.e. how do you know that child-beating and slave-owning, or even hypocrisy, are wrong at all?)…

  46. paladin says:

    Little Eye wrote:

    Faith (belief which requires a no-thinking leap) is irrational by definition.

    One problem: you have an incorrect definition of “Faith”. Faith is simply reliance on a trustworthy source–no less than that–and you do it, every day! (Example: trusting a good friend who says, “I washed the car” or “I took out the garbage” doesn’t require you to throw your brain out the window, does it?) There’s a natural version (which we usually call “trust”) and a supernatural version (which we usually call “Faith”), but both involve an act of the free will, by which we choose to believe someone whom we deem to be trustworthy.

    What you’re describing (i.e. “an unthinking leap”) is called “credulity”, and it’s not at all the same thing; credulity is a “bad” thing to practice, since it ignores our God-given intellect… while true Faith *requires* the use of our intellect.

    If you doubt, perhaps you could skim some of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas? No one has ever accused *him* of “taking a mindless leap of trust”…

  47. Little eye says:

    Paladin -“Faith is simply reliance on a trustworthy source”

    I understand that aspect of the word. That’s why so many skeptical people, those who reject any form of credulity, naturally gravitate to the empirical materialistic world of science and atheism.

    I do have faith in the friend who claims they “took out the garbage” because they have “no reason” to lie to me. Well circumstance could instill a level of doubt (lack of faith), depending on the circumstance, say, we share an apartment and the garbage is mounding up.. yadda yadda…

    But looking back at organized religion, “they” have many reasons to lie to the populous, religion being historically and intrinsically tied to politics and the control of the masses. Therefor, I don’t automatically have faith in what they say, but rather, what I experience personally with the “supernatural”. Within that, nothing has pointed me to one religion over the other. And the more selfish que bonos within the dogma of the religions, the more skeptical I am at their claims. ie. complete absolution of transgressions via the acceptance of christ or 72 eternal virgins for martyrdom.

    I have little faith with things that are too good to be true.

    I believe in consciousness outside of the brain, which is a huge “leap” for me. But I wouldn’t expect anyone who hasn’t gone through the experiences I have to have faith in me. Ironically, my ethics haven’t changed a bit since I went from being an staunch atheist to a confused Deist. And understanding ethics is the driving force of the adherents to the religions. Most of us want be the “good ones” but unfortunately most look in the wrong place for the answers.

  48. paladin says:

    (To start: sorry about the length of this one, Jennifer! Few people have accused me of being too brief! :) )

    Little Eye wrote:

    “Faith is simply reliance on a trustworthy source”–I understand that aspect of the word. That’s why so many skeptical people, those who reject any form of credulity, naturally gravitate to the empirical materialistic world of science and atheism.

    Well… I can understand the sentiment behind such a decision, but it’s also a symptom of being rather careless about starting assumptions. The atheist (and even the agnostic, depending on the variety) is usually content to say, “I’ve no idea how all of this got here, but so long as no one else has what I take to be a satisfactory explanation, I’ll assume the ‘real’ explanation is either nonexistent, unknowable, or irrelevant.” If they took that same chevalier attitude toward their careers, they would very likely be unemployed in rather short order!

    I do have faith in the friend who claims they “took out the garbage” because they have “no reason” to lie to me.

    True (although there are other “trust inhibitors” besides lying–such as forgetfulness, etc.)… but that presupposes a good many things, already: that you’ve met the person (which means that they exist!), that you’ve gotten to know and befriend them (which is a staggeringly complex process, even looking at it from the standpoint of mere sociology), that there’s such a thing as garbage, that taking it out is a good thing to do, and so on. Do you see the wealth of starting assumptions that the atheist is willing to take “on faith”, even before the request for garbage removal takes place?

    But looking back at organized religion, “they” have many reasons to lie to the populous, religion being historically and intrinsically tied to politics and the control of the masses.

    Half a moment, here. It’s true that some unscrupulous people have perverted religion to serve their own ends… but that’s no fair standard by which to judge the rightness or wrongness of a religion, any more than it would be fair to condemn kitchen-knives because many are used in murders of human beings! Religions must be judged on their content, not on the character of those who fail to live up to them; one can be an excellent Satanist, and be worthy of condemnation (quite easily), but one cannot be a good Christian and be justly blameworthy at the same time, I think.

    Therefor, I don’t automatically have faith in what they say,

    No reasonable person would ask you to have “automatic” trust in any such thing; but is it so unreasonable to examine the religion itself, rather than its least trustworthy members? At very least, could you not go to the *best* representatives of any given religion and examine *them*? An examination of the life of Pope John Paul II, for example, would tell you far more about a “Catholic life rightly lived” than would an examination of, say, an adulterous, alcoholic usher at the local Catholic parish…

    but rather, what I experience personally with the “supernatural”. Within that, nothing has pointed me to one religion over the other.

    For my own information: how do you judge? By what standards? Is it based on your feelings, or on intellectual criteria, or something else?

    And the more selfish que bonos within the dogma of the religions, the more skeptical I am at their claims. ie. complete absolution of transgressions via the acceptance of christ or 72 eternal virgins for martyrdom.

    I’ll have to plead ignorance, here: could you explain “que bonos”? It sounds vaguely Spanish…

    And again, no one will fault you for being skeptical, especially in the face of extraordinary and contradictory claims. But I’d say this: your first task is to settle, in your own mind, that God does in fact exist, and that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect Him to be concerned with the progress of the universe (and children) He’s created, and whom He holds continually in existence. More on that, below.

    I have little faith with things that are too good to be true.

    For things that are *literally* too good to be true, you and I should have *no* faith in them… and not because they’re good, but because they’re not true! I would, however, separate such things from others which only “seem” to be too good to be true; many such things prove to be quite true, indeed.

    I believe in consciousness outside of the brain, which is a huge “leap” for me.

    I can understand that; the “jump” from materialism to non-materialism is a staggering one.

    But I wouldn’t expect anyone who hasn’t gone through the experiences I have to have faith in me. Ironically, my ethics haven’t changed a bit since I went from being an staunch atheist to a confused Deist.

    Well… two responses to that:

    1) There’s no special reason why atheists must be unethical hoodlums, if only because they’ve inherited the “moral fumes” from their ancestors (who were, as a general rule, far more religious), or because their natural reason is clear enough (on that point, at least) to show them how ill-advised “moral destructiveness” truly is.

    2) The “seams” in an atheist’s sense of ethics start to show when the “hard cases” start showing up. For instance: not many atheists regard the murder of a child to be a positive good; but many atheists consider embryonic stem cell research to be a positive good, and others feel the same about “a lack of laws prohibiting abortion”, and many others find no moral problem with sexual intercourse with someone to whom they’re not validly marrried. Some ethical standards are very difficult to attain, without a correct understanding of the God-given dignity of the human person–and such understanding is gotten either through Divine Revelation (which the atheist rejects) or through a staggeringly difficult climb over the mountains of natural reason.

    And understanding ethics is the driving force of the adherents to the religions.

    It’s a key element, yes… but the standards by which “ethical vs. non-ethical” is judged can be a sticky problem. Example: if God truly exists, then a deliberate refusal to honour Him (or even to investigate whether His claim to our honour is valid) would be unethical, yes? Ethics cannot be “flattened out” to include only what we normally call “social justice”.

    Most of us want be the “good ones” but unfortunately most look in the wrong place for the answers.

    True. But that begs an excellent question: how will you recognize the “right place” when you encounter it?

  49. Little eye says:

    Paladin – The atheist is usually content to say, “I’ve no idea how all of this got here, but so long as no one else has what I take to be a satisfactory explanation, I’ll assume the ‘real’ explanation is either nonexistent, unknowable, or irrelevant.” If they took that same chevalier attitude toward their careers, they would very likely be unemployed in rather short order!

    I assume you are referring to Jesus’ claim, that to escape the fiery pits of hell, one must have faith that he is the one and only son of god, be baptized – born in the spirit. While I think it makes one’s life richer to research theology, think about the metaphysical and apparently unanswerable questions, I don’t think that one’s job of life would be considered any less important to any sort of god without a thought of Her. I believe that it’s almost an insult to think that the average human mind should be able to have a relationship with the God as “he” is commonly known.

    Epicurus – Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    Paladin – Do you see the wealth of starting assumptions that the atheist is willing to take “on faith”, even before the request for garbage removal takes place?

    No. If you want to dive into the matrix / solipsistic world, I have to have faith that even I exist. I think, therefore I am and so are my friends.

    Paladin – Religions must be judged on their content.

    That is exactly how I judge them.

    Paladin – “Catholic life rightly lived”

    Oh my.

    Paladin – how do you judge [one religion over the other]? By what standards? Is it based on your feelings, or on intellectual criteria, or something else?

    Please excuse me. I don’t judge the religions relativistically. If any of them were sound I would join. And I’ve been to numerous churches, synagogues, mosques, mandirs, zen temples and scientology centers. The best church I’ve ever seen is in the middle of woods.

    Paladin – I’ll have to plead ignorance, here: could you explain “que bonos”? It sounds vaguely Spanish…

    I spelled it wrong. Cui bono, “who benefits”.

    Paladin – For things that are *literally* too good to be true, you and I should have *no* faith in them… and not because they’re good, but because they’re not true! I would, however, separate such things from others which only “seem” to be too good to be true; many such things prove to be quite true, indeed.

    Indeed.

    Paladin – …God-given dignity of the human person–and such understanding is gotten either through Divine Revelation (which the atheist rejects) or through a staggeringly difficult climb over the mountains of natural reason.

    I don’t think that self ownership and equality are staggering mountains.

    Paladin – …that begs an excellent question: how will you recognize the “right place” when you encounter it?

    When I’m dead, of course.

  50. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote, in reply to my post:

    I assume you are referring to Jesus’ claim, that to escape the fiery pits of hell, one must have faith that he is the one and only son of god, be baptized – born in the spirit.

    Not in the above instance, no; my point was referring to the fact that a universe composed entirely of limited and contingent things cannot possibly contain the reason for its own existence, and that it requires an external (and uncaused) cause. I hadn’t come within a million miles of the Gospel, which can only be known sufficiently through Divine Revelation (i.e. not by natural reason alone).

    While I think it makes one’s life richer to research theology, think about the metaphysical and apparently unanswerable questions,

    Such as?

    I don’t think that one’s job of life would be considered any less important to any sort of god without a thought of Her.

    (“Her?”)

    Why, exactly, do you assume that? If God cared enough to create us (and no one forced Him to do so) and to sustain us continuously in existence, then is it such a stretch to believe that He cares what (or whether) we think of Him? If you had a son or daughter, would you be content to “give him or her existence”, and not care whether they gave tuppence for your existence (to say nothing of loving you)?

    I believe that it’s almost an insult to think that the average human mind should be able to have a relationship with the God as “he” is commonly known.

    It’s rather bizarre to assume that He *wouldn’t* wish that; even as a Deist, you do believe that God created us, yes? If He was under no compulsion to do so, and if He stood to gain nothing from that creation (since He is infinite, and infinitely happy, without us), then it can only have been for *our* sake that He created us… and it is only through Him that we can hope to gain anything beyond ourselves (since we cannot give ourselves what we don’t have).

    Epicurus – Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    I challenge all three of your starting assumptions, in fact.

    Do you remember the old saw, “Can God create a square circle?” The answer, of course, is “no”… but to think that this is any limitation of God is to misunderstand the entire affair. In human language, we (as limited creatures) need to break our languages into “bite-sized pieces”–some of which only make sense when arranged properly. If I were to say that “Can God bleeble-de-squirg?” (I made up the “word”, and it’s completely meaningless), or “Can God rotate purpleness 90 degrees clockwise?” (which is nonsense), it’d be understandable for you to be puzzled–since I’m saying nothing intelligible at all, and it’s only an accident of our limited language that I can string such letters, syllables, or words together in nonsense patterns at all! As such, if God “cannot bleeble-de-squirg” or “rotate purpleness”, it’s no bad reflection on Him, since my statements are equivalent to saying nothing at all! Just so, with God allegedly creating “square circles”, “married bachelors”, and the like (all of which are logical nonsense, meaning nothing).

    Now, consider the idea of freedom–true freedom, and not just a pretense. Can God force someone to obey Him of his/her own free choice? God could certainly empower someone to love or obey Him, and God could certainly force someone to obey, but it’s logically nonsensical to say that a “free choice” could be “forced”… since the very definition of “freedom” requires a lack of coercion/force. Thus: no, God cannot maintain free will while, at the same time, eradicating all free choices to do evil.

    Perhaps this might help: there are two types of wills in God (similar to the wills in man): a perfect (or “positive”) will, and a permissive will. For example, I might will that my students (I’m a math teacher) sign their names to the tops of their papers… but I’m willing to permit printing, cursive, or even ornate “illuminations” (read: doodled-up!) of that signature. My desire for a signed name was positively willed by me, while cursive was permitted (but not required) by me.

    Now, consider God: God certainly never “positively” wills that anyone should sin–since He forbids us to do so, and warns us against it in innumerable ways; but God’s permissive Will allows us to sin, because He holds our moral freedom to be sacrosanct (and true love–for which we were all created–would be impossible without that freedom, since love is a free choice to sacrifice of oneself for the best good of another person). For God to eradicate all evil choices would be for God to eradicate all freedom, which would destroy all possibility of love in us… which He will not do. God cannot compel us to choose freely to stop sinning, no.

    [Paladin]
    Do you see the wealth of starting assumptions that the atheist is willing to take “on faith”, even before the request for garbage removal takes place?

    [Little eye]
    No. If you want to dive into the matrix / solipsistic world, I have to have faith that even I exist. I think, therefore I am and so are my friends.

    I’m not quite sure how that last statement logically follows… but my main point was to alert you to the fact that you *must* use starting assumptions in order to “reason” at *all*… and that the choice of such starting assumptions isn’t simply a matter for personal taste.

    [Paladin]
    Religions must be judged on their content.

    [Little eye]
    That is exactly how I judge them.

    Well… do you remember when you wrote this? “But looking back at organized religion, ‘they’ have many reasons to lie to the populous, religion being historically and intrinsically tied to politics and the control of the masses.” This sounds very like a condemnation of religions because of how they were *used*, not what they *teach*.

    [Paladin] – “Catholic life rightly lived”

    [Little eye]
    Oh my.

    Um… :) could you “unpack” that answer, a bit? You’re leaving me in suspense…

    I don’t judge the religions relativistically. If any of them were sound I would join.

    Out of curiosity: what about Christianity (or Catholicism in particular) led you to think that it was “unsound”? By what standards was it judged?

    And I’ve been to numerous churches, synagogues, mosques, mandirs, zen temples and scientology centers. The best church I’ve ever seen is in the middle of woods.

    Were you simply “sampling the experience of being/worshipping at them”, or did you truly examine their doctrines? The most emotionally fulfilling religion in the world is of very little use, if it’s not true, after all.

    [Paladin] I’ll have to plead ignorance, here: could you explain “que bonos”? It sounds vaguely Spanish…

    [Little eye]
    I spelled it wrong. Cui bono, “who benefits”.

    Ah. Thank you! (I *do* know some Latin, if that helps at all…)

    [Paladin]…God-given dignity of the human person–and such understanding is gotten either through Divine Revelation (which the atheist rejects) or through a staggeringly difficult climb over the mountains of natural reason.

    [Little eye]
    I don’t think that self ownership and equality are staggering mountains.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “self-ownership”… but I was referring to the fact that many aspects of ethics are fiercely hard to deduce by natural reason alone. For example: is it always wrong to torture others? (What about if it’s the only way to get the code to defuse an atomic bomb that’ll kill millions?) Is abortion always wrong? Is the use of contraception always wrong? Is sexual activity outside of marriage always wrong? Natural reason finds these sorts of questions rather difficult (and many atheists, etc., simply “go with the flow” of their personal tastes, in such cases).

    [Paladin]
    how will you recognize the “right place” when you encounter it?

    [Little eye]
    When I’m dead, of course.

    (!!) Won’t that be a bit late, if you’re wrong? That strikes me a bit like saying, “I’m not sure if this contains soda or sulfuric acid; oh, well… I’ll find out after I drink it!” Don’t you think there might be a better (and less fatal) way to find out such things… especially since there’s no logical reason to assume that we’ll be given more than “one chance”?

  51. Little eye says:

    Little eye said – “While I think it makes one’s life richer to research theology, think about the metaphysical and apparently unanswerable questions”

    Paladin said – “Such as?”

    Little eye said – Why does god (the ultimate consciousness) exist and can it grow without us? How can god know everything and free will exist? We observe that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so why do most assume it had a beginning just because we can not know what was before the beginning expansion of our universe? Why do physicists assume that just because we can’t know how fast something is going and know where it is at the same time, that it exists as a smeared out probability? Why can I multiply by zero but not divide?

    Little eye said – “I don’t think that one’s job of life would be considered any less important to any sort of god without a thought of Her.”

    Paladin said – “Her?”.. Why, exactly, do you assume that? If God cared enough to create us (and no one forced Him to do so) and to sustain us continuously in existence, then is it such a stretch to believe that He cares what (or whether) we think of Him? If you had a son or daughter, would you be content to “give him or her existence”, and not care whether they gave tuppence for your existence (to say nothing of loving you)?

    Little eye said – I actually think “it” is a better pronoun than he or she. Why do you assume that it sustains our existence when we have to feed ourselves? Why do you think that it created us when the evidence for evolution is so strong? Why should I believe it cares for us when it “lets” the innocent suffer? I don’t think that it has the same kind of relationship we have with our children. I think that the ultimate consciousness cares how we treat the other consciousness we have conscious contact with. And not everyone has the gift of communication with the spirit world. If I had a blind child I would not care if they couldn’t see me.

    Paladin said – I challenge all three of your starting assumptions…

    You’re not challenging my assumptions; you’re challenging your definition of god, Omnipotent, Benevolent and Omniscient. My definition of god is that it is incompresable to the human and perhaps the spiritual mind.

    Paladin said – Out of curiosity: what about Christianity (or Catholicism in particular) led you to think that it was “unsound”? By what standards was it judged?

    Little eye said – The fear based methods of controlling people. Catholicism in particular uses ritual and repetitive devices to brainwash people. Flocks are for animals, not individuals.

    Paladin said – Were you simply “sampling the experience of being/worshipping at them”, or did you truly examine their doctrines? The most emotionally fulfilling religion in the world is of very little use, if it’s not true, after all.

    Little eye said – I examined their doctrines and experienced them from the inside out. I’ve seen how emotionally fulfilling the religions to the parishioners. But believing I have a million dollars worth of gold buried in my backyard is also emotionally fulfilling, but isn’t even of very little use, quite the opposite. I would stop working.

    Paladin said – I’m not quite sure what you mean by “self-ownership”… but I was referring to the fact that many aspects of ethics are fiercely hard to deduce by natural reason alone. For example: is it always wrong to torture others? (What about if it’s the only way to get the code to defuse an atomic bomb that’ll kill millions?) Is abortion always wrong? Is the use of contraception always wrong? Is sexual activity outside of marriage always wrong? Natural reason finds these sorts of questions rather difficult (and many atheists, etc., simply “go with the flow” of their personal tastes, in such cases).

    Little eye said – If an action doesn’t violates another individuals consent, hurt anyone explicitly, or the environment we all own, I have a difficult time finding that action bad. Is it always wrong to torture others? Yes. Is abortion always wrong? No: a rape victim or when the baby threatens the mother’s life. Is the use of contraception always wrong? Never. Is sexual activity outside of marriage always wrong? No.

    Paladin said – how will you recognize the “right place” when you encounter it?

    Little eye said – When I’m dead, of course.

    Paladin said – (!!) Won’t that be a bit late, if you’re wrong? That strikes me a bit like saying, “I’m not sure if this contains soda or sulfuric acid; oh, well… I’ll find out after I drink it!” Don’t you think there might be a better (and less fatal) way to find out such things…

    Little eye said – Ahh gottah love the fear. I can taste the soda to see if it’s acid or not. There is no way to test the afterlife. I’m afraid we’ve reached the end of our debate. You believe in Papal infallibility and that the bible is the word of god. I can’t argue with someone who has assumed that.

  52. Richard says:

    Jennifer,

    Thank you for sharing this. I happened upon it from Broken Alabaster and am impressed that discussions have continued for over two years.

    I used to see science & religion as antipodes. But lately, the similarities have become more compelling. Both seem to seek order, completeness, and control. While science tends to seek this for the material & physical, religion tends to do the same for the spiritual & metaphysical (for lack of better terms).

    Well, there it is. No big revelation. I'm neither scientist nor theologian so I probably don't know what the __ I'm talking about. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the conversation and hope it continues. Take care on your journey.

  53. paladin says:

    Little eye,

    You’re certainly welcome to end the discussion at any time (though I’d find it a pity), but you wrote:

    I’m afraid we’ve reached the end of our debate. You believe in Papal infallibility and that the bible is the word of god. I can’t argue with someone who has assumed that.

    I do indeed believe these things… but since I didn’t mention them at all, I don’t understand why you’d find them to be sufficient cause to end our discussion! Could we not have a discussion about the topics at hand–things which are not at all specific to Catholicism, or even Christianity in general? Most of my points hadn’t even assumed that the “uncaused cause” was personal, intelligent, or even conscious! I hadn’t come within a million miles of Divine Revelation, in my main points…

    Why does god (the ultimate consciousness) exist and can it grow without us?

    This will be a woefully short and incomplete answer, but: God exists by His very nature–His “essence” (i.e. what He is) and “existence” (i.e. the fact *that* He is) are one and the same. And God (in His Divine Nature–I’m not now speaking of Jesus Christ in His human Nature) cannot grow, since He is infinite and utterly complete, lacking nothing.

    Do note: you’re touching some questions which many don’t bother to ask: “what does it mean to grow?” To speak of “growth” at all, you need an unchanging standard of measure; how would you know, for example, that a plant is growing, if all your rulers, yardsticks, etc., constantly changed size? As such, what would it mean to say that God ‘grew’?

    How can god know everything and free will exist?

    Pardon me if I guess wrongly, here, but I assume you’re referring to the supposed “If God knew everything in advance, and He created every last detail of the universe, then how is anyone free to do otherwise?” riddle? Two answers to that:

    1) God is eternal–which does not mean simply “living an infinite number of years”; “eternal” means “completely independent of, and outside, time. God is ageless, and does not change, and does not “wait” for anything, and does not “know anything ahead of time”; He simply knows everything, and He’s eternally present to all ages (and places). We (humans) have to wait for the year 2010 to arrive; God is already there, encompassing the whole of it. Does that clarify?

    2) Think of your question this way: in scenario #1, God created a universe without human freedom; in scenario #2, God created the universe with human freedom. Now, since God is omniscient and eternal (i.e. all-knowing, and outside of time), God would certainly know the “end results” of a deterministic universe, but God would also certainly know the “end results” of a free universe. Given only that God “knows the end results”, however would you tell the difference? God’s absolute knowledge would be the same, in either case.

    We observe that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so why do most assume it had a beginning just because we can not know what was before the beginning expansion of our universe?

    Well… as an introductory side note, did you really expect to “observe” the creation of the universe, given that you’re part of it? It’s a bit like expecting to observe your own conception; one cannot observe anything, if one doesn’t yet exist…

    But see what you’ve done: you’ve taken an observation (i.e. a “physical law”), assumed it to be absolute and without exception (i.e. a “mathematical law”), and then asked for an explanation of its mathematical certainty! Try the same logical experiment as above: in scenario #1, God created a universe and sustains it all in existence; in scenario #2, the universe (whether it’s created by God or not) has always existed. Given that you (and I) have arrived on the scene “already in progress”, how could you possibly tell the difference? The “matter can be neither created nor destroyed” is a conjecture (albeit a very reasonable one, in the natural order) based on sense-data; it’s not “absolute” in the sense that the multiplication table is absolute.

    Perhaps this would help: if God created this “stable universe” in which matter and energy seem unable to be created or destroyed, would it not be possible for God to have created that “law of stability” at the same time? How would you know, one way or the other?

    Why do physicists assume that just because we can’t know how fast something is going and know where it is at the same time, that it exists as a smeared out probability?

    If the physicists are being reasonable at all, they said (or at least meant) that “for all practical purposes”, we can only give a probability “field” for an object’s existence… but that’s a function of the limits and uncertainty of our observation, not of the object itself. I’m aware that some physicists go further, and say that “all is probability, there is no absolute ontological reality”, but such people have stumbled away from physics (their presumed specialty) and into metaphysics (which is probably not their specialty).

    Why can I multiply by zero but not divide?

    :) Admit it: you put this in here just to get on my good side, didn’t you? (I’m a math teacher.)

    Multiplication is simply an algorithm (a step-by-step logical sequence) for repeatedly adding the same number; “5 times 3″ is an archaic way of saying “5, 3 times”, or “5 + 5 + 5″. (Old English syntax was often in the opposite order from our modern syntax: “Do you have any wine?” was rendered, “Have you any wine?”. Thus, to say “4 times 0″ really means “4, zero times”, which gives an answer of zero.

    Division, on the other hand, is an algorithm for repeatedly subtracting the same number; “23 divided by 7″ really means “repeatedly subtract 7 from 30, until the remainder is less than 7 but also greater than or equal to zero”, like so:

    23
    23 – 7 = 16 (temporary remainder) = one “7” divided out
    16 – 7 = 11 (temporary remainder) = two “7’s” divided out
    11 – 7 = 2 (FINAL remainder) = three “7’s” divided out

    If you try to divide thusly by zero, you’ll find that (by trying to subtract zero repeatedly) the algorithm never ends–the remainder never decreases, and the “FINAL remainder” becomes impossible (i.e. a number less than zero, but also greater than or equal to zero)

    I actually think “it” is a better pronoun than he or she. Why do you assume that it sustains our existence when we have to feed ourselves?

    Because I was speaking of “sustenance” on a far deeper and more universal level (i.e. not just physical life). Consider: food is certainly needed to sustain life… but so is water, air, sufficient pressure, and a dizzying number of other things. But above and beyond that, it’s simply a fact that we don’t just “blink” out of existence at a moment’s notice. Our existence is maintained throughout our lifetime; that’s what I meant. I wasn’t suggesting that we couldn’t bring about the end of our earthly lives (through suicide, neglect, stupidity, etc.).

    And “it” wouldn’t do for a Personal God; “it” certainly captures the neuter sense (which only imperfectly applies to God, I’d add), but the English language uses “it” to describe “things”, or impersonal objects… not persons.

    Why do you think that it created us when the evidence for evolution is so strong?

    The two have very little to do with each other, at their cores; I asserted only that we–as limited objects–did not exist from eternity, and we obviously could not bring ourselves into existence… and likewise, for all physical objects in the universe. A “first cause, that did not itself have a cause” is absolutely necessary. What happened *after* the universe was created (i.e. whether it developed slowly, over time, or not) is a completely separate issue (which I didn’t touch).

    Why should I believe it cares for us when it “lets” the innocent suffer?

    Because you (assumably) still believe that mothers and fathers care for their children, even when they say “no” to a child’s innocent (but dangerous) desire (say, to touch a hot stove), which brings about significant (though hopefully temporary) emotional pain in the child… and it’s reasonable for me to expect you to be consistent, and not hold God to a double-standard to which you wouldn’t hold those parents (or even yourself). In other words: the existence of pain does not militate against the existence of a caring God, in the least.

    I don’t think that it has the same kind of relationship we have with our children.

    At the risk of being blunt: is this a raw opinion, or do you have reasoning to support that idea?

    I think that the ultimate consciousness cares how we treat the other consciousness we have conscious contact with.

    (??) This seems to contradict what you said, above; if you believe that “a god who lets the innocent suffer” cannot care for us, then how can you simultaneously think that it cares about our social interactions with others? Why, in your mind, would this “generic god” care if (for example) someone tortured other humans to death? (Your position would seem to allow for someone to slit the throats of sleeping neighbours, since they’re not conscious…)

    And not everyone has the gift of communication with the spirit world. If I had a blind child I would not care if they couldn’t see me.

    I think you mean, “I wouldn’t *blame* them if they couldn’t see me”; I do think you’d *care*, in the sense that you wish they *could* see you, right? I’d offer the possibility that this is key to understanding God’s approach to our sin: He hates it, because it’s bad for us–it leads to our sickness and death and damnation, and He loves us, and He doesn’t want us sick, dead, or damned!

    Think of it this way: if your child became lost, and wandered around in the woods–sick, sad, and alone–perhaps until he/she died, would the fact that the child didn’t “deliberately run away” make you feel any better? That might give you a glimpse of God’s approach to those who are ignorant of Him.

    Also: leaving aside the “communication with the spirit world”, for the moment: wouldn’t you care if your child had functioning eyes, but refused to look at you… or if he/she deliberately gouged out his/her eyes simply to avoid seeing you ever again… or even if he/she looked at you, but freely chose to disbelieve that you were real (and not an hallucination)?

    More in the next message; this is getting rather long! (Sorry again, Jennifer!)

  54. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    You’re not challenging my assumptions; you’re challenging your definition of god, Omnipotent, Benevolent and Omniscient. My definition of god is that it is incompresable to the human and perhaps the spiritual mind.

    I don’t quite follow, here. You say that I’m “challenging my own definition”… but all I said (earlier) was that Epicurus (whom I assume you quoted correctly) was mistaken. He assumed that the three statements: “God is all-powerful”, “God is all-good”, and “Pain exists” cannot all be true at the same time… and I flatly deny that claim. I fully embrace the fact that God is all-powerful and all-good, and I certainly know that pain exists in the world; but I deny that there is any logical contradiction therein.

    Re: the incomprehensibility of God: that’s partially true (in that our finite minds can never grasp the infinite God, fully), and partially false (we can still know *some* things about God, even if we don’t know everything… and even if the things we know are incomplete). I might temporarily forget a friend’s phone number, but I’d still know that it consists of seven digits (excluding the area code), yes? I might even remember that the first 3 numbers are “555” (or whatever), without remembering the rest.

    [Paladin]
    what about Christianity (or Catholicism in particular) led you to think that it was “unsound”? By what standards was it judged?

    [Little eye]
    The fear based methods of controlling people.

    You’ll have to explain those… since I’ve been a Catholic for my entire life, and I’ve yet to experience “fear-based control” from the Church. (I’ve met some cranky people who were Catholic, of course, but that can happen in any walk of life…)

    Catholicism in particular uses ritual and repetitive devices to brainwash people.

    You’ll need to explain your reasoning for that one, too… since ritual (I assume you put your clothes on in the morning, brush your teeth, read the paper, or other daily rituals without having been brainwashed?) and repetitive devices (how many husbands and wives consider it “brainwashing” for their spouses to say “I love you”, over and over?) need not be put to such nefarious purposes… and you’d have to give evidence that “brainwashing” was truly the intent.

    Flocks are for animals, not individuals.

    :) This is a curious thing for you–a supporter of evolution–to say! Are humans not animals? And do you not assume that they evolved by purely natural means? Then why would “flocking” be any less dignified for humans, than for sheep? (I agree that “flocking” in that sense *is* beneath human dignity… but I don’t see how you could come to that conclusion, while still maintaining the naturalistic explanation of the universe that you hold.)

    [Paladin]
    Were you simply “sampling the experience of being/worshipping at them”, or did you truly examine their doctrines? The most emotionally fulfilling religion in the world is of very little use, if it’s not true, after all.

    [Little eye]
    I examined their doctrines and experienced them from the inside out. I’ve seen how emotionally fulfilling the religions to the parishioners. But believing I have a million dollars worth of gold buried in my backyard is also emotionally fulfilling, but isn’t even of very little use, quite the opposite. I would stop working.

    Well… that’s partially my very point: it’s *not* enough for a religion to be “emotionally fulfilling”; it has to be true, as well, in order to merit belief! And note: no one would have a gun to your head, forcing you to stop working; plenty of millionaires still work furiously…

    (By the way… you’ve begged a question: if you truly *did* have a million dollars worth of buried gold in your backyard, wouldn’t that make a difference?)

    Little eye said – If an action doesn’t violates another individuals consent, hurt anyone explicitly, or the environment we all own, I have a difficult time finding that action bad.

    Well and good (though I’m curious about what you mean by “hurting explicitly”)… but are these mere opinions of yours, with no more solid basis than my opinion of what hairstyle looks best on me? Or do you think your positions are actually *true*, and not simply your personal tastes?

    Here’s what I mean (I’ll ask questions that illustrate the point):

    Is it always wrong to torture others? Yes.

    Why do you say that? To the millions of people who will die if the terrorist doesn’t give the “disarm code” for the bomb (see my earlier post), it might seem pretty “right”! Or do you think it’s “okay” for millions to die, millions more to grieve the dead (and slowly die from burns, radiation poisoning, dehydration, starvation, disease, etc.)? Mind you, I agree with you… but I don’t see why your position isn’t simply an “I prefer chocolate to vanilla” opinion, rather than a moral truth, to you.

    Is abortion always wrong? No: a rape victim or when the baby threatens the mother’s life.

    Can you explain why the innocent baby should be put to death for the crimes of the father? That seems flatly unjust, to me… and I don’t think you’d tolerate it with *born* children, would you? Or should we hunt down all the people conceived in rape and born only because the mothers didn’t have “legal abortion” available, and put them to death *now*?

    (I’ll address the issue of “threat to the mother’s life” in a separate message, on request; it’s pretty involved, and this message is long enough as it is!)

    Is the use of contraception always wrong? Never.

    And you reason…?

    Is sexual activity outside of marriage always wrong? No.

    Why do you believe this? Is it personal taste, or do you have a moral basis for this belief?

    Little eye:
    [I’ll] recognize the “right place” when [I] encounter it When I’m dead, of course.

    [Paladin] said – (!!) Won’t that be a bit late, if you’re wrong? That strikes me a bit like saying, “I’m not sure if this contains soda or sulfuric acid; oh, well… I’ll find out after I drink it!” Don’t you think there might be a better (and less fatal) way to find out such things…

    [Little eye]
    Ahh gottah love the fear.

    Oh, piffle! Fear has nothing especially to do with the matter; this is simple common sense. Even a fearless man won’t necessarily throw his life away on a foolish gamble; there’s such a thing as preserving something because it’s good! (Note: fear of throwing one’s life away uselessly is by no means bad, by the way…)

    I can taste the soda to see if it’s acid or not. There is no way to test the afterlife.

    All right… the analogy was weak. If we assume the alleged “soda” might contain a deadly poison, from which even a taste would prove lethal, would you be so chevalier about your choice? My point was that some situations don’t allow for second-changes, or for a “let’s test it without committing myself” type of choice. No one’s asking you to swallow the Gospel–lock, stock, and barrel–simply from a *possibility* that death might bring you face to face with God… but is it so unreasonable that the possibility could motivate you to *investigate* the possibility that the Church’s claims might be true?

    Be honest, here: the fact that you might not *like* the Church’s teachings–or anything involving a personal God Who is concerned with (and makes demands on) your moral conduct–is completely beside the point. I have a multitude of diseases (some of which are life-threatening), and I don’t like them at all… but there they are, all the same; my likes and dislikes don’t change the cold, hard facts. A child might dislike the fact that he got his sums wrong on an arithmetic test… but he did, all the same, and the laws of arithmetic won’t simply move aside out of respect for his wishes! Just so, with your case (and mine, and that of all humans who have ever lived): the fact that someone might hate the fact that abortion is always immoral, or that contraception is never morally justified, etc., can mean simply that our wants and hates are not in line with reality. As such: if someone asks us *why* we believe what we do, and we ultimately reply with “I just do, and you can’t stop me!”, then honesty demands that we have some serious thinking (and soul-searching) to do…

  55. Little eye says:

    Little eye – I’m “ending” the discussion because at this point we will start chasing each others tails. I know you didn’t mention divine revelation or the bible but those assumptions are implied in your arguments.

    To continue debate I would have to humor your assumptions and thus only confuse you in my explanation. For instance, you say that god is lacking nothing and is utterly complete. If that were true why would He have created us as children? I’m pretty sure you have an answer to that but it’s going to be based on your assumptions about god, not mine. Your answer, “God exists by His very nature–His “essence” and “He simply knows everything”, is nothing more than an embellished, “Just because”. I’m not claiming to know what god’s nature is, and even if I did I’m willing to state it as pure speculation and admit the most likely no language would be capable of conveying it properly, anymore than the word “zero” and “infinity” accurately convey what they actually mean.

    Does it clarify to say, “God is ageless, and does not change” and at the same time assume that he, thinks or wishes anything? No, it does not clarify. It is contradictory. Epicurus could see it in your definition of god and all I can guess is that you *want* to believe so badly in the all loving, all knowing, all powerful, everywhere god, that you will accept duality. I can not argue against, “He simply knows everything” because there is nothing to argue against.

    …We observe that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so why do most assume it had a beginning just because we can not know what was before the beginning expansion of our universe?

    paladin – But see what you’ve done: you’ve taken an observation (i.e. a “physical law”), assumed it to be absolute and without exception (i.e. a “mathematical law”), and then asked for an explanation of its mathematical certainty!

    Little eye – No I didn’t. I’m content knowing that it is unknowable. And my speculation of its absolute nature is because the light that’s reaching us from billions of light years away hasn’t changed in all that time. I’m well aware that nothing can be claimed to be absolute because we would have to be absolute to support that claim. There is only one thing I’m sure of absolutely: absolute zero can never be.

    All math is based on the number one. Show me a one, and you’ll be directed back to the world of physical law (or god is math). Your attempted explanation for why we can multiply by zero and not divide was eloquent but not an answer. I can divide 1 by 3 and get an answer without a final remainder, that is, assuming we’re willing to arbitrarily cut off the infinity.

    …I don’t think that it has the same kind of relationship we have with our children.

    paladin – At the risk of being blunt: is this a raw opinion, or do you have reasoning to support that idea?

    Little eye – My reason is that a child and a parent are both the same thing, human beings. “god” and us (in our current state) are obviously not the same. Our relationship is even more remote than the relationship between a kid and his ant farm.

    …I think that the ultimate consciousness cares how we treat the other consciousness we have conscious contact with.

    paladin – (??) This seems to contradict what you said, above; if you believe that “a god who lets the innocent suffer” cannot care for us, then how can you simultaneously think that it cares about our social interactions with others?…. and it’s reasonable for me to expect you to be consistent

    Little eye – We are having problems because I’m arguing against you using your definition of god and then argue with my concept of god. Why I think it cares about how we treat other people/animals/environment is because we have a choice about that. I don’t think god has a choice about a group of children that get burned alive in a forest fire. Which actually could be interpreted as us being more powerful than “he”. And if “he” does have the power to stop the torment of innocent people and doesn’t do anything, anti-god help us all.

    paladin – “He hates it, because it’s bad for us–it leads to our sickness and death and damnation, and He loves us, and He doesn’t want us sick, dead, or damned!”

    Little eye – This is why I brought up the Pope and Bible. I can not argue against someone who has assumed this as fact. And birth is what leads to death, not our lack of seeking god or sin.

    paladin – “or if he/she deliberately gouged out his/her eyes simply to avoid seeing you ever again”

    Little eye – It is your very own Jesus who suggests the gouging out of eyes. I say leave your eyes in. You’re eye is not what causes you to sin, lack of them is.

    paladin – “but I deny that there is any logical contradiction therein.” / I’ve been a Catholic for my entire life, and I’ve yet to experience “fear-based control” from the Church

    Little eye – Then you are blind. Now say the Nicene Creed, let the church in your bedroom, and give 10% of your income to us or you’re going to burn in hell.

    paladin – (By the way… you’ve begged a question: if you truly *did* have a million dollars worth of buried gold in your backyard, wouldn’t that make a difference?)

    Little eye – Yes. I would brake out my shovel and find it. I’ve been using the god shovel my whole life because I enjoy the art of big questions (god being the ultimate) and want to put effort into understanding what good and bad is. I dig and dig and dig until I’m exhausted; when I wake up the next morning there’s new dirt in the hole. I’m happy that I’ve finally been contacted by the supernatural because I feel as though I didn’t waste my life looking for nothing. But all I know for sure is that something enjoys watching the dance of my dig.

    I didn’t want to get too involved into the abortion issue because I still struggle with it. All humans intrinsically have human rights, based on principle of equality. The answer to the abortion question should be simple then, at what point after fertilization does it become a human. I acknowledge that the body begins when the DNA connects to make the first cell, but a human being is not just one cell. A human is more than two cells. A human is body and mind, thus to have human rights one needs an active brain. That happens at 7 weeks and can be proven. I struggle because I would much rather see a fertilized egg grow into a human but can’t see any ethical reason to think terminating it before it has a mind is wrong. And if you claim that a human is body/mind/spirit, the “spirit” can not be killed so abortion pre-mind is meaningless. (I believe our spirit is born when we become capable of making decisions, several months after birth)

    I partially agree with you on the rape issue. It would be wrong if the mother waited for 7 weeks to find out whether she was pregnant or not and then chose to abort. Very unfortunate, because rape causes mental instability and denial, which the female shouldn’t be held accountable for. As far as the baby threatening the mother’s life: It, like rape, is a loose/loose situation, similar to that of the terrorists who has the code to the bomb. We’ve already lost if the terrorist got the bomb and the baby already lost when it threatens the mother life.

    …Is the use of contraception always wrong? Never.

    paladin – And you reason…?

    Little eye – It doesn’t hurt anyone. It controls population, the world’s biggest problem. I know that your leaders would rather us use the futile rhythm method of birth control. You need to tell me why contraception is wrong without using the pope’s revelation.

    ….Is sexual activity outside of marriage always wrong? No.

    paladin – Why do you believe this? Is it personal taste, or do you have a moral basis for this belief?

    Little eye – It doesn’t hurt anyone. Some couples don’t want to get married. What could possibly be wrong with people enjoying each other physically?

    paladin – if someone asks us *why* we believe what we do, and we ultimately reply with “I just do, and you can’t stop me!”, then honesty demands that we have some serious thinking (and soul-searching) to do…

    Little eye – You are the one who bases your beliefs off of “the bible as truth and the pope is the substitute of Christ – so I just do, and you can’t stop me!” You say, “my likes and dislikes don’t change the cold, hard facts.” but there are no cold hard facts about god or Jesus’ life. It is elusive and not at all obvious, regardless of Jennifer’s brilliant grandfather’s assumption that their must be a designer behind something that appears designed. At least he was able to say, “I don’t know”. The one thing that is obvious is that there must have been an un-caused cause, because nothing could ever come from zero. But why that un-caused cause must be a loving, all powerful and all knowing consciousness that supplies eternal paradise for the “people who are baptized and get their Jesus spirit on” is based on a patriarchal mystic societies self proclaimed holy book.

    My speculation, based solely on personal experience, scientific observation and a hope for eternal justice, is that the substance of the universe is infinite and out of that consciousness develops from natural causes. That there is no forgiveness of sins. I think that after we die we will see our transgressions through the eyes of those who we transgressed against with knowledge and understanding that surpasses anything we could physically achieve as living beings. When we’re born into the spirit (after death) we join a finite collective human consciousness which is what actually interacts with us (bending the laws of physics/probability) in our lives. The ultimate consciousness controls what the collective human spirit may do via veto power (a special form of Deism), so to allow free will to exist. (otherwise the human spirit would tell us everything we needed to know without any ambiguity) The human spirit interacts/guides us, because when the last human dies, if the majority of our collective consciousness can live for eternity with the knowledge of our sins, we will lose our separate identities and will become part of the ultimate consciousness. If the majority of us can not live with our sins we will all be deleted, never actually existing in the first place (incomprehensible to us beings locked in time). That’s why it’s important to live life to its fullest, encourage people to search for the supernatural independently and cause as little harm as possible.

    My beliefs are admittedly speculative on circumstantial evidence. But the outcome is a human who seeks true individuality, continuously examines their assumptions, one who rejects the group think of flocks, embraces the differences in their fellow human beings without judging their sexual or artistic preferences and to strive to do as little harm as possible. I do not judge you in this public forum, I judge the claims you make resulting from Catholic dogma. And the dogma is twisted Jewjew. Within my beliefs it’s not important whether you believe me or in god. The only thing that matters is having compassion for life on earth. It’s good to keep your ear to the supernatural ground and work to pry open that little eye, but it’s not for everyone.

    PASCAL’s wager was missing one important consideration. What if there is no separate god who wants to be believed in to satisfy some bizarre Divine ego trip. Pascal’s only other option was that you lose nothing if you believe and you’re wrong, but what if you did lose if you believed in something with certainty without sufficient reason. What if “god” wanted you to embrace life and all the secular joys it has to offer, to respect and have compassion for each other and nothing more? What if wasting your life saying meaningless prayers, kneeling, buying rosaries, standing, buying wooden crosses, sitting, indoctrinating your children, kneeling, standing, sitting and supporting an imperious colonialistic church was ironically part of a path to eternal regret and shame or even worse, deletion. I don’t mean to be a fear monger but sometimes I have to fight hell fire with literary fire.

  56. paladin says:

    Hi, Little eye,

    Thank you for the significant time and thought you (obviously) put into your reply; and I don’t want to tax your patience. We obviously disagree–sometimes wildly–on many things, but I’ve really appreciated out discussion; and I respect the fact that you’ve made every effort to answer me head-on (though I’m still waiting for an “unpacking” of the “Oh, my” statement… :) ). As such, I’ll offer another reply or two, for now, in respect for your answers, and for the seriousness of these issues… which affect more people than just you and me.

    (…or, possibly, until Jennifer gets the bill from Google caused by my extra bandwidth-usage, screams in fully justified exasperation, and tosses me out on my cyber-space ear! :) )

    You wrote:

    I’m “ending” the discussion because at this point we will start chasing each others tails. I know you didn’t mention divine revelation or the bible but those assumptions are implied in your arguments.

    Strictly speaking, I don’t think so; there’s a great deal we can know about God without even touching Divine Revelation. Of *course* I embrace Divine Revelation… but I’m quite willing to abstract from that, for the sake of meeting you on something approaching a common ground. That’s what I’m trying to do, in fact: to argue these points with as little reference to Divine Revelation (i.e. the Bible, and Sacred Tradition) and to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church as I can. Would you be game for that?

    To continue debate I would have to humor your assumptions and thus only confuse you in my explanation.

    :) Try me. Even if you’re right, confusion isn’t fatal… or I’d have been dead, untold millions of times over, by now… (and that’s just from one hour of teaching calculus!)

    For instance, you say that god is lacking nothing and is utterly complete. If that were true why would He have created us as children? I’m pretty sure you have an answer to that but it’s going to be based on your assumptions about god, not mine.

    :) You’re perceptive!

    But I think I can at least try to do an “end-run” around our difficulty, and go back to the beginning. Humour me, for a moment:

    1) If “cause” can be used in the sense of “that which brings something into existence”, can you see how no “thing” can be its own cause? An object has to exist in order to act, and one cannot give what one does not have, so it’s impossible that a non-existent thing could bring anything–much less itself–into existence, right?

    2) Every single “change” in the universe–which means any gain or loss of potentiality or actuality (ask me about that, if you want specifics or examples)–requires a cause, since nothing can cause itself. But it’s logically impossible to have an infinite regression (i.e. “chain going back forever in time”) of “causes”, any more than one can have an infinite string of movie-goers pass by the ticket window, point to the person behind him/her saying “he/she’ll pay for me”, and still expect the ticket-taker ever to get paid! Thus, all “chains of causation” must trace themselves back to an ultimate cause that is not, itself, caused (i.e. it exists by its very nature, and not because it was “brought” into being by another thing).

    In summary: if change exists, then there must exist an uncaused cause which brought all the other “dynamics” allowing that change into existence.

    Your answer, “God exists by His very nature–His “essence” and “He simply knows everything”, is nothing more than an embellished, “Just because”.

    I hope I’ve shown, at least in part, that this is not true; *something* has to exist by its very nature, by logical necessity, since change exists (and the changes could not cause themselves, and there cannot be an infinite string of causes back forever into time); and, as St. Thomas Aquinas says: “this we call ‘God’.” I didn’t bring up the “existing by very nature”, for fun. But I haven’t even gone that far, as to call the first cause “God”, yet.

    I’m not claiming to know what god’s nature is, and even if I did I’m willing to state it as pure speculation and admit the most likely no language would be capable of conveying it properly, anymore than the word “zero” and “infinity” accurately convey what they actually mean.

    I think you mean to say, “[…] *completely* convey what they actually mean”; the definitions of “zero” is quite accurate, and infinity (which, admittedly, comes in an infinitude of forms) can still be well-defined for the purposes of this-or-that problem.

    Does it clarify to say, “God is ageless, and does not change” and at the same time assume that he, thinks or wishes anything?

    It’s an oversimplification, certainly… because we are temporal creatures (i.e. within time) with limited understanding, and we’re forced to speak of God, infinity, and the like by analogy and by negative phraseology (i.e. what it’s “not”). But don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water; the fact that a concept can be simplified for a given audience doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, after all.

    No, it does not clarify. It is contradictory.

    It is not contradictory in the least, and you mistakenly assume that the words “think”, “wish”, etc., must be equivalent in meaning to merely human “thinking” and “wishing”, instead of being analogical descriptions. Even you use words in these “different senses”, I’m sure: when you say, “I love my favourite food”, do you use “love” in the very same sense that you use it in the sentence, “I love my mother/father/child/best friend”? I certainly *hope* not… so why do you hold God (and those who speak of Him) to a standard that you’re not willing to follow, yourself?

    Epicurus could see it in your definition of god

    I’m afraid not… since the definition of “god [sic]” that Epicurus was using was not mine.

    and all I can guess is that you *want* to believe so badly in the all loving, all knowing, all powerful, everywhere god, that you will accept duality.

    Oh, come now… this (accusing me of being either self-deluded or dishonest) is a sheer appeal to the gallery! I could just as easily say that you reject the “Correct Catholic definition” simply because you *don’t* “want” to believe it, and because you want so very much for your own ideas to be true! But that would be mere debate theatrics… and I think we can both do better than that.

    I can not argue against, “He simply knows everything” because there is nothing to argue against.

    You’ll note that I never used any argument of the sort. You mentioned God’s omniscience in the context of trying to prove it contradictory to free will; it was an “if, then” statement: “If [a God exists Who is omniscient, etc.], then free will does not exist.” I merely showed that such a statement was false–that a “hypothetical” omniscient God would not be any argument against free will, at all. Nowhere did I (yet) claim that God was omniscient as a point of fact.

    Again, I’m happy to try to defend what I actually *said*; but I can’t reasonably be expected to defend what you might “predict” or “presume” my position to be.

    paladin – But see what you’ve done: you’ve taken an observation (i.e. a “physical law”), assumed it to be absolute and without exception (i.e. a “mathematical law”), and then asked for an explanation of its mathematical certainty!

    Little eye – No I didn’t. I’m content knowing that it is unknowable.

    That wasn’t what I meant–I wasn’t addressing your emotional stance re: “creation ex nihilo” (which you suggested was an apparent violation of the “law of conservation of matter/energy” (it isn’t, really). When I asked for examples of so-called “metaphysical and apparently unanswerable questions”, you wrote:

    “We observe that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so why do most assume it had a beginning just because we can not know what was before the beginning expansion of our universe?”

    This certainly involves metaphysics, but it isn’t an example of an “unanswerable” question… nor is it even “unknowable”, in the basic sense. That which changes (and is thereby limited) needs a cause, and causes cannot forever trace themselves back to other finite causes, so an ultimate cause (which was not itself caused) is necessary. There’s at least one answer to your original “Why do people assume a beginning?” question.

    And my speculation of its absolute nature is because the light that’s reaching us from billions of light years away hasn’t changed in all that time.

    Not meaning to nit-pick, but: how do you know that? It’s not impossible, certainly, but you seem to be claiming it as an established fact… and I don’t know how you could make such a claim with certainty.

    I’m well aware that nothing can be claimed to be absolute because we would have to be absolute to support that claim.

    …including the claim that the light from billions of light-years away hasn’t changed in all that time? :) (Sorry to tease, but the point is a valid one.)

    There is only one thing I’m sure of absolutely: absolute zero can never be.

    (??) That’s a rather esoteric (and metaphysically unprovable) choice! Are you not sure of the fact that 1 + 1 = 2, or that a non-trivial statement and its opposite cannot both be true at the same time (i.e. the “law of non-contradiction”), or that a^2 + b^2 = c^2 for all right triangles, for example?

    To be continued…

    (…and Jen, I’ll send you my internet rent check at the end of the month! :) )

  57. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    All math is based on the number one.

    Somewhat, and partially, yes; I’ll let that slide, for now.

    Show me a one, and you’ll be directed back to the world of physical law (or god is math).

    I’m not entirely sure what your wording means, exactly… but if it means what I suspect it means, you’ve stumbled into an ongoing debate in the philosophy of mathematics: “is physical reality dependent on numbers (“Mathematical Platonism”), or are numbers dependent on (and mere abstractions from) physical reality (“mathematical Materialism”), or something else entirely? You seem to have come down on the side of mathematical materialism… which is fine, as an opinion, but you shouldn’t expect to treat it as a “proven fact”, just yet.

    Your attempted explanation for why we can multiply by zero and not divide was eloquent but not an answer.

    I don't know about "eloquent"… but it was certainly an answer, and an accurate one (which I didn't simply "make up"–it's the standard and canonical definition of "division", put in paragraph form).

    To restate (using "<=" as "less than or equal to", etc.): given two whole numbers, m (the divisor) and n (the dividend), the division algorithm uses the following definitions:

    1) The remainder R is defined as that number resulting from zero or more subtractions of m from n, such that 0 < R <= m.

    2) The quotient Q is defined as the largest number of subtractions of m from n that can be performed without yielding a non-positive remainder R.

    This might (to those who don't care for this sort of thing) seem dry and boring, but it's sufficiently well-defined and accurate. If you'd like an even more detailed explanation, I can e-mail it to you (from one of my old college "number theory" textbooks).

    Now, let's consider your example:

    I can divide 1 by 3 and get an answer without a final remainder, that is, assuming we’re willing to arbitrarily cut off the infinity.

    I’m not quite sure how you mean “arbitrarily cut off infinity” (were you imagining a decimal approximation of the quotient, where you write the answer as a decimal, rather than as a mixed number?), but your example *does* have a final remainder:

    1 divided by 3 = 0 (subtractions of 3), with a remainder of “1”, which can be written as “1/3″

    If you’re trying for a decimal approximation, that requires a sort of “artificial rewriting” of the dividend… replacing “1” with “1.0”, or “1.00”, or “1.000”, or whatever accuracy you wish; in reality, you’re running the division algorithm with 3 dividing into 10, or 100, or 1000, etc., and then placing a decimal point at the proper place. The division algorithm, by definition, only works with whole numbers (i.e. {0,1,2,3,…}).

    Does that clarify? I don’t want to bore you (or anyone else… especially Jennifer, our long-suffering host!), but I did want to make clear that division by zero (as compared to multiplication by zero), as such, is not an “unanswerable enigma”. One might take the *implications* of division by zero in all sorts of fascinating and mystical directions… but that’s a free choice of the mystic in question, and it has nothing especially to do with the clear definition at hand. I suggest, in fact, that a great many of your proposed “enigmas” do have equally clear answers… and the ones that don’t have comprehensive answers can at least be shown to be reasonable and non-absurd (i.e. non-self-contradictory), as well as plausible.

    My reason [for not thinking that God’s relationship with us is the same kind of relationship that we have with our children] is that a child and a parent are both the same thing, human beings. “god” and us (in our current state) are obviously not the same.

    I suspect you meant “not the same type of being”… which is certainly true, but you’d need to show how this “vast difference” somehow “negates” God’s ability to relate to us. For example: a mother’s understanding of relationship is usually far deeper and more complex than an infant could possibly share; but the relationship is no less real (and fiercely strong), for all that; is it not quite possible for God, Who understands relationships far more than we ever could, to care about us *even more* that we might care about Him (or anyone else)? You seem to think that God’s infinite understanding forces Him to love us *less*, rather than *more*… and that’s a perplexing thing to suggest! More on that, below.

    Our relationship is even more remote than the relationship between a kid and his ant farm.

    Do you notice that you chose an example in which the “kid” would be very unlikely to have an emotional attachment to his “ants”? A “kid” is far more capable of understanding a relationship with a kitten or puppy, too, but I personally know of many cases where the child would be quite willing to *die* to save that beloved pet. And *that’s* where the creatures aren’t even “persons”, in that sense (of having self-aware intellect, radically-free will, and memory); can you not imagine that a “personal” God (in the sense of being a “Person”, with intellect, will, and memory, capable of love) could love us human persons even *more* than that? You needn’t believe a scrap of the Bible, in order to see at least the possibilities, here…

    I’ll leave my response(s) there, for now (since a full point-by-point would get rather enormous!), but just as a final reply to your closing idea:

    I don’t mean to be a fear monger but sometimes I have to fight hell fire with literary fire.

    This illustrates one of my key points, and perhaps the most important point of our exchange: you seem to work from an unspoken assumption that the Catholic Church is irrevocably linked with "fear, terror, domination, fire and brimstone", and the like… and I have to say that you seem to be arguing largely against an imaginary Church. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen (who would eventually become the well-known "Archbishop Sheen" of radio & television fame, once wrote:

    "There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is of course, quite a different thing."

    I propose to you, as gently as I can, the idea that the "target of your fight" might not really exist… and that the Catholic Church, as She truly is, is innocent of the charges which you bring (which have been handed down to you by others who were equally misled); I also propose that this "acquittal" can be proven rather decisively… if you truly resolve to be fair-minded, and to give the Church as much benefit of the doubt as you would yourself, or anyone else. That's the case I ask you to consider, now.

  58. paladin says:

    Whoops! Sorry… I caught an error in my last post:

    2) The quotient Q is defined as the largest number of subtractions of m from n that can be performed without yielding a non-positive remainder R.

    …should be:

    2) The quotient Q is defined as the largest number of subtractions of m from n that can be performed without yielding a negative remainder R.

    :) So much for my claims that the definition was “accurate”…

  59. Little eye says:

    Sure, why not…

    paladin – if change exists, then there must exist an uncaused cause which brought all the other “dynamics” allowing that change into existence.

    little eye – We agree. If we ever reached absolute zero Kelvin, a state were whatever this stuff is that the universe is made all stood perfectly still, there would have to be something to shake it up. You label it a loving god who “constantly” wills it’s existence even though he’s outside of time, chooses clans and designed his own torture; I label it being beyond our abilities of comprehension as a human beings.

    paladin – The definitions of “zero” is quite accurate, and infinity can still be well-defined for the purposes of this-or-that problem.

    little eye – true zero is busted by definition and infinity is more than just a little problem. I don’t view either in the math sense. 0 in mathematics is the empty set. Zero to me is total nothingness which blows my mind. You can simplify infinity to get an answer to your problem but you can’t simplify infinity.

    paladin – …because we are temporal creatures (i.e. within time) with limited understanding, and we’re forced to speak of God, infinity, and the like by analogy and by negative phraseology (i.e. what it’s “not”). But don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water; the fact that a concept can be simplified for a given audience doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, after all.

    little eye – We agree again! But I am not the one who is stating what god is (even via analogy). The only thing I’m willing to claim is that there exists an intelligence/s which can read my mind and has powers I don’t understand. You are the one who implies it’s a he who’s disappointed I don’t support the church.

    paladin – The division algorithm, by definition, only works with whole numbers (i.e. {0,1,2,3,…}) ——— 1 divided by 3 = 0 (subtractions of 3), with a remainder of “1”, which can be written as “1/3″

    little eye – So what you’re saying is, 1/3 = 1/3. I should have said “a real whole remainder”, the decimal point and fraction are one in the same. (I’m aware that the infinity develops because of our base ten number system. Perhaps I should have used pie) I really don’t think you cleared up the seemingly unanswerable question of why we can get an answer for multiplying by zero and not for dividing.

    paladin – I’m not entirely sure what your wording means, exactly… but if it means what I suspect it means, you’ve stumbled into an ongoing debate in the philosophy of mathematics: “is physical reality dependent on numbers (“Mathematical Platonism”), or are numbers dependent on (and mere abstractions from) physical reality (“mathematical Materialism”), or something else entirely? You seem to have come down on the side of mathematical materialism… which is fine, as an opinion, but you shouldn’t expect to treat it as a “proven fact”, just yet.

    little eye – I was unaware of the philosophical debate about “mathematical platonism” and “mathematical materialism”, and that I have an apparent materialist bias. And it’s ironic I fall on the materialist side, seeing as though I now accept the existence of nonmaterial spirits. But my point was simply that some questions are unanswerable, unless the fabric of our existence changes, especially the god question. .333 and perfect circles, where will the questions end?

    And my speculation of its (the universe’s) absolute nature is because the light that’s reaching us from billions of light years away hasn’t changed in all that time.

    paladin – Not meaning to nit-pick, but: how do you know that? It’s not impossible, certainly, but you seem to be claiming it as an established fact… and I don’t know how you could make such a claim with certainty.

    little eye – For someone who enjoyed going at a few esoteric questions with seaming certainty you bite me on this? I know this because we have eyes and faith in scientists with even more sensitive electronic sensors. The light actually has “changed”. It’s shifted into the red spectrum which indicates that the universes expansion is accelerating. However, the part about light that hasn’t changed is it’s speed. Even after all that time zipping across the universe it’s still traveling at 186 thousand miles a second. I would say that’s a good ancient constant to go buy. And if we can’t be sure of that, we can’t be sure of anything.

    paladin – Do you notice that you chose an example in which the “kid” would be very unlikely to have an emotional attachment to his “ants”? A “kid” is far more capable of understanding a relationship with a kitten or puppy

    little eye – The reason I used ants was not because of a lack of connection with the fascinating critters, it was because we’re less likely to anthropomorphize and ant, just like we anthropomorphize a being most assume exists but can’t be seen and refuses to show up in any lab experiments. I believe we made god in our image, not the other way around.

    I was unaware that the Catholic church didn’t define God as the omniscient, omnipresent, benevolent creator and ruler of the universe. I looked up the definition in the New Advent and indeed found no reference to the big three. Along with a lot of goobily gop was the simple definition: God n. the perfect immutable being… Things are looking good. We will all become God! After my death I will have accomplished the task of creating the perfect little eye which will thus be immutable.

    What really baffles me is where Jennifer came from, recognized coincidences revealing an intelligence and then became Catholic. Where I was raised Catholic, was an alter boy who aspired to be a man of the cloth, lost all belief and then latter came to believe in a greater power because of coincidences. The reason the Catholic Church is a little bone of contention in my throat is because I recognize no more validity in it than the other religions but have felt weak at times, complete with fazes of fear of hell, with a desire to think a clear path is true. I know the only reason is because of my 15 years of indoctrination (and a culture that constantly shoves it in my face). It makes me feel like I was made a robot, that I’ve had to fight to get my own mind back, which sickens me when I see all the religious schools and parents doing the same thing to billions of other children.

    At any rate and whatever the numbers, I wish you the best. Out of all the religions I’ve sampled the Catholic service is still the coolest (and creepiest), with Eastern Orthodox a close second.

  60. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    You label [the “uncaused cause] a loving god who “constantly” wills it’s existence even though he’s outside of time,

    Constantly wills our existence, yes. (He doesn’t need to “will” His own existence.)

    chooses clans

    Yes, and no (if you really want to get into Biblical things… which I thought you wanted to avoid, at present); God “chooses” in the sense that He *offers* grace to everyone, but He can only *give* grace to whomever will accept it (e.g. Abel, Abraham, Israel, etc.).

    and designed his own torture

    Planned to lay down His own life, so that we might not die, yes. Word choices can make a very big difference, when considering these things. Jesus certainly didn’t “plan His own torture” in the sense that He “sought it out as a positive good”.

    I label it being beyond our abilities of comprehension as a human beings.

    Again, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we can never plumb the depths of the infinite God; no, in the sense that we can know a great deal about Him, and that we can keep learning more and more, without end, about Him. It isn’t the case that we’re somehow “stuck with complete ignorance” about Him.

    (I’ll keep my math- and science-related replies to another time, or perhaps to e-mail; I’m *really* trying to be good, and not write 10-page replies all the time! ;) )

    [Paladin]
    […]the fact that a concept can be simplified for a given audience doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, after all.

    [Little eye]
    We agree again! But I am not the one who is stating what god is (even via analogy).

    As is your right; I was only arguing against your suggesting that *no one* could say anything intelligible about God; they most certainly can, though within limits.

    The only thing I’m willing to claim is that there exists an intelligence/s which can read my mind and has powers I don’t understand.

    (I’ll suppress my curiosity about details!)

    I suppose I’d add this: are you assuming that this selfsame intelligence is the “prime mover” in question? Given only that “it” has preternatural powers, that leaves open a whole host of other possibilities (e.g. limited “gods”, such as the ancient Greek gods; or demons; or aliens; or what-have-you).

    You are the one who implies it’s a he who’s disappointed I don’t support the church.

    If the “intelligence” whom you have in mind is truly God, then yes.

    I was unaware that the Catholic church didn’t define God as the omniscient, omnipresent, benevolent creator and ruler of the universe.

    Actually, She (the Church) *does* include that in Her definition of “God”…

    I looked up the definition in the New Advent and indeed found no reference to the big three. Along with a lot of goobily gop was the simple definition: God n. the perfect immutable being…

    :) Um… I think you’ve glossed over quite a bit of necessary “garbledy-goop”, in your summary! I read the New Advent article, and it says considerably more than that… and the rest is quite important!

    Things are looking good. We will all become God! After my death I will have accomplished the task of creating the perfect little eye which will thus be immutable.

    Okay, you’re *really* going to have to explain that one to me! I plead complete ignorance…

    What really baffles me is where Jennifer came from, recognized coincidences revealing an intelligence and then became Catholic.

    She was open to the divine gift of Faith, and her reason was open to logic; from what I’ve read, that’s a reasonable summary of the reason why she ultimately embraced Catholicism.

    Where I was raised Catholic, was an alter boy who aspired to be a man of the cloth, lost all belief and then latter came to believe in a greater power because of coincidences.

    At the risk of prying: what (you needn’t be specific, if it’s too private) triggered your loss of faith?

    The reason the Catholic Church is a little bone of contention in my throat is because I recognize no more validity in it than the other religions but have felt weak at times, complete with fazes of fear of hell, with a desire to think a clear path is true.

    Ah. Well… I’d gently offer the possibility that you (perhaps helped on by bad example from certain Catholic priests, religious, and lay people) may already have had something of a morbid fear of Hell, but had neither the experience, the good guidance, or the background necessary to put that fear into perspective (rather than let it paralyze you). It’s very reasonable to fear damnation in Hell; but that fear need not be present as an active emotion, all the time… any more than one needs to fear a rabid wolf (which is also a reasonable fear) if none are threatening you! If you’re in a state of grace (i.e. not in a state of mortal sin), then “fear of hell” can fade into the background and “go offline”, so to speak.

    Please… do believe that it’s possible for Catholics–and all Christians, for that matter–to live good lives without living in stark terror of one’s imminent damnation! I assure you, I don’t… nor do any of the other faithful Catholics whom I’m blessed to know. In fact, some of the holiest people I know are those whose lives radiate a *joy* that few others can show! The Gospel isn’t about a life of fear; the only ones who need to fear are those who have done something fearful, if you like, and whose consciences are convicting them of whatever wrong they’ve done.

    I know the only reason is because of my 15 years of indoctrination (and a culture that constantly shoves it in my face).

    That’s odd! Not meaning to make light of your painful story, but: in my experience, the culture at large is one of the *last* places capable of “indoctrinating” anyone into Catholicism! The culture hates the Church with a passion, frankly.

    It makes me feel like I was made a robot, that I’ve had to fight to get my own mind back, which sickens me when I see all the religious schools and parents doing the same thing to billions of other children.

    At this point, I honestly don’t know whether you brought your own errors to your Catholic training, or whether the training you received was appalling (which is all too likely, given the state of the Church in the United States for the last 50-75 years). I grieve the fact that you suffered so much; but I ask you to consider–intellectually, if nothing else–the idea that the Church is more than even the most exquisitely heinous sins of Her members… just as fatherhood is more than the abuses of various fathers throughout the world, and government is more than the political machinations and abuses done in its name.

    God bless your journey! I ask only that you not slam the door shut, to the Church; She is far more than you’ve experienced… and I know this from experience of my own.

  61. Little eye says:

    P – The culture hates the Church with a passion, frankly.

    You must live in the wrong place.

    I grew up in Central PA. The Protestants burnt crosses in the back of my grandfathers house because they hated Catholics so much there… But that’s what you get when people organize into clans and declare their speculations and about god as fact.

    I can understand believing that the culture hates the church if you live in San Fransisco or Seattle but I live in New Orleans. We have church a walking tour once a year. And people camping in churches so the Vatican wont sell it off to pay for lawyers. St. Patrick’s even has a Latin mass. The St. Louis cathedral is smack center of the French Quarter and there’s two other churchs in that little section of town. Our most expensive collage is Catholic and is set in the best location of Uptown, across from Audubon park. We have Spanish services at some. Our arch bishop has his own TV show and is a celebrity (complete with heads of state dinning) Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Saints, etc… The Catholics are beloved here.

    Of course New Orleans has been called the most northern Latin American city, not really a “part” of the US. We have one, out of place, evangelical mega church on the outskirts. They use rock-n-roll and big screen tv’s in their enticing approach. It just seems so plastic and gimmicky compared to the gold and grandeur of “The Church”.

    It’s a culture I chose to live in. But there’s so much more to the culture than the Church. I hate the Church (The dogma and politics) but love the Architecture of the Churches, the incense and the festivals (talk about a personal paradox). I kill myself before living in Salt lake City or Colorado Springs.

    Food, music and art is god for many of the church goers here! I still think this is the coolest place to live in the smoldering south.

  62. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote, in reply to my comment:

    [Paladin]
    The culture hates the Church with a passion, frankly.

    [Little eye]
    You must live in the wrong place.

    Let me clarify: this means that the Culture hates the Catholic Church *as* the Catholic Church–it’d be perfectly happy with Her if only she’d “shut up about sexual morality”, “keep Her nose out of our private [sic] business”, and the like; it doesn’t necessarily mean that all members of the Church experience such hatred immediately and explicitly. In fact: if a Catholic is merely a “cultural Catholic” (i.e. not taking Church doctrine seriously, especially on sexual matters; “live and let live” types who might darken the door of a Church twice a year), their chances of experiencing persecution are very low!

    But consider your own “hatred” of “Church dogma” (which is nothing more than authoritative Church teaching… i.e. what’s actually *true*); do you really think you’re in some sort of minority, in that respect? Perhaps your emotions are inflamed more than average… but I challenge you to find 10 secular people who have absolutely no problem with the Church’s teachings (e.g. that abortion is always an inhuman crime, that contraception is gravely sinful and quietly destructive, that homosexual activity is always gravely evil (even though the participants might simply be confused, or addicted to their passions, or simply misled). You can get the idea from that “thought experiment”, I think.

  63. Little eye says:

    Paladin – i.e. what’s actually *true*

    I view Catholic dogma and Sunni dogma in exactly the same light.

  64. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    I view Catholic dogma and Sunni dogma in exactly the same light.

    That sounds rather like you’ve based your views on emotions and personal tastes.

    Case in point: could you “hold your nose” and entertain a defense of the Church’s teaching re: human sexuality (which is usually the arena where Her teachings suffer the most rejection and abuse), if I tried to offer one? I assure you, a very sound defense exists… and it’s probably more of a relevant issue to anti-Catholics than are the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, the Trinity, and other less “earthy” topics…

  65. Little eye says:

    I’ve held my nose and entertained 4/5ths of the world’s population my entire thinking life. Your reason that free sex is wrong is the same reason pork is dirty, life is suffering, class is genetic and women shouldn’t show their face in public. But if you want to entertain yourself, have at it.

  66. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    Your reason that free sex is wrong is the same reason pork is dirty, life is suffering, class is genetic and women shouldn’t show their face in public.

    (??) Um… I think you know, full well, that this is nonsense. I need to caution you: it’s a strong temptation to dismiss one’s opponents with sweeping (and even outrageous and cliched) criticisms, gathered by the handful from tabloid-level sources (or worse), especially when you’re feeling hostile to those opponents… but let’s be fair, here. Your accusations are more suited to Islam, Hinduism, or whatever else you might have had in mind… not to the Catholic Church.

    If I might offer some personal evidence to the contrary: I am a devoted Catholic (and daily communicant), and yet: I ate a very tasty ham dinner this past Monday eve, my life (which does include quite a bit of suffering–does yours not?) also includes a great deal of joy, I have no class (so my friend tell me… :) ), and my wife’s beautiful face is quite open to the public, thank you.

    Again: is there any chance you could entertain the Catholic Church for *Who She is*, rather than a grab-bag of garbled preconceptions, urban legends, and other such canards? Whatever opponent you have in mind, you’re not currently criticizing the Catholic Church… because She bears virtually no resemblance to anything like the make-believe Church that’s guilty of your litany of “crimes”…

  67. Little eye says:

    paladin – (??) Um… I think you know, full well, that this is nonsense.

    Indeed… And so is the Koran, Talmud, Tipitaka and Śruti… The proof that the Koran is the word of god is the Koran itself. Isn’t it obvious that only god could write something so perfect?

    My reference to the Catholic Church was in regards to her laws against free sex, not pork, or fishyness on Fridays. Tabloid level knowledge of her sweet magistery is about all that’s needed for criticism. But have definitely dove a little deeper. I even made my own dogma while being raised in the Church. And my mother teaches the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to this day.

  68. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote, in reply to my post:

    [Paladin]
    Um… I think you know, full well, that this is nonsense.

    [Little eye]
    Indeed… And so is the Koran, Talmud, Tipitaka and Śruti…

    I think you’ve mistaken my meaning. I meant that your particular statement:

    “Your reason that free sex is wrong is the same reason pork is dirty, life is suffering, class is genetic and women shouldn’t show their face in public.”

    …was nonsense, because it lumped a great many different religions together, and then condemned them all on the same basis (which seems very much to be, “I don’t like them”). Earlier in this thread, you said, in reply to my post:

    [Paladin]
    Religions must be judged on their content.

    [Little eye]
    That is exactly how I judge them.

    In this particular case, at least, that can’t possibly be true… since the contents of those religions are wildly different, but you still treat them as if they were virtually identical! (“Aah, those organized religions are all the same… to blazes with them all!”) This is not being intellectually honest, my friend.

    The proof that the Koran is the word of god is the Koran itself. Isn’t it obvious that only god could write something so perfect?

    You’re being sarcastic, of course… but it’s true that a book’s claim to “prove itself as the Word of God” simply won’t do, since anything/anyone can make that claim. But would you be surprised to find that the Catholic Church does *not* use that fallacious argument to prove the authority of the Sacred Scriptures? Again, it’s not exactly honest of you to criticise the Catholic Church because of the supposed flaws in Islam, Hinduism, etc.; it’s really far more fair if you judge Her based on *Her own* teaching… right?

    My reference to the Catholic Church was in regards to her laws against free sex,

    This (the Church’s prohibition of “free sex” [i.e. free lust, having sex with whomever or whatever, wherever, for whatever trivial reason]) was precisely what I was hoping to explain to you, earlier; I still wish to do so, but you don’t seem to want to entertain it. I’m hoping you could be just a bit patient, and hear me out on that point, sometime…

    or fishyness on Fridays.

    You seem to assume that this is just a meaningless, dogmatic, “because I said so!” ritual, right?

    Tabloid level knowledge of her sweet magistery is about all that’s needed for criticism.

    Correction: tabloid knowledge of Her Magisterium (I think that’s what you meant to say) is about all that’s needed for tabloid-level (i.e. logically incoherent) criticism. If you want your criticism to be right, you’ll need better information. Think about it: if you reject the Church based on a collection of half-baked distortions (or even outright lies) handed/taught to you by others, then your rejection is no more reasonable than that of someone who hates African-Americans because “daddy said they were all bad!”. That’s simple prejudice.

    But have definitely dove a little deeper. I even made my own dogma while being raised in the Church.

    Could you explain what you meant, here? You might not be using the word “dogma” in the normal sense of the word… since no one, not even the Pope, can “make their own dogma” and expect it to be Catholic (much less *true*)!

    And my mother teaches the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to this day.

    With all due respect to your mother: teaching CCD is no guarantee that your information is correct (especially if you were teaching in the 70’s, or received your training in that era). Likewise: even if a CCD teacher knows his/her subject matter flawlessly, a student might still misunderstand… or even reject it outright.

    From what you’ve shown (and this means no disrespect to you!), I suspect that your training in the Faith was extremely poor (as was mine–most of what I know, I learned well after college, on my own), and you’re working on flawed ideas and information. Again: if you want to be honest, you need to *know* what the Church teaches (and *why*), before you can make an informed choice about whether to accept it or reject it.

    Are you game? It may not be easy for you, emotionally… because I’ll probably challenge the majority of your beliefs and parts of your worldview… but I assure you, it’s worth your time!

  69. Little eye says:

    It’s true that I have far more knowledge of the ritual side of the Catholic Church than of it’s logic. I was an alter boy for 3 years and washed away a fair amount of sins. Unfortunately, the priest I grew up with jumped off a bridge a few years back, after he was accused of child molestation. He never laid a hand on me but I assume he got down with some of my childhood friends in what by any secular standard would be considered “sinful”. So it looks like you’re right, perhaps I didn’t have the best instruction. BTW – my mom started teaching CCD at the turn of the millennium so I assume her resources are fairly up to date.

    More drama in my neighboorhood – “One person from the crowd asked loudly about an earlier statement from archdiocesean officials that those participating in the vigil would not be disturbed as long as they remained peaceful.”

    I do have a vague idea of how the church operates. But I had no idea the NOPD was part of it.

    P – But would you be surprised to find that the Catholic Church does *not* use that fallacious argument to prove the authority of the Sacred Scriptures?

    This will be fun; I am game. How does the Church prove the validity of the Bible?

  70. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    It’s true that I have far more knowledge of the ritual side of the Catholic Church than of it’s logic.

    That’s roughly where I was, a few years ago; my training (which included 11 years of CCD and 2 years at the seminary, studying for the priesthood) was nearly worthless… and sometimes worse than useless (i.e. I was taught things that flatly *contradicted* Church teaching).

    I was an alter boy for 3 years and washed away a fair amount of sins.

    I assume you’re speaking figuratively; service as an altar boy doesn’t wash away sins, per se.

    Unfortunately, the priest I grew up with jumped off a bridge a few years back, after he was accused of child molestation. He never laid a hand on me but I assume he got down with some of my childhood friends in what by any secular standard would be considered “sinful”.

    Most definitely. The kindest thing you could do, at this point, would be to pray for the salvation of that poor man’s soul; he desperately needs it (if he can be saved, at all)!

    So it looks like you’re right, perhaps I didn’t have the best instruction.

    I daresay… though sinful and sexually addicted men are not necessarily stupid in doctrine (though they don’t live up to it, certainly). I certainly wouldn’t blame you for refusing to trust whatever he taught you, however.

    BTW – my mom started teaching CCD at the turn of the millennium so I assume her resources are fairly up to date.

    I was more worried about her materials being heterodox (i.e. detached from true teaching); to put it bluntly: there’s a lot of “junk” out there, masquerading as “true CCD material”. I taught CCD for some time (and I currently teach RCIA, with my wife), and I’ve seen some of the banal, heterodox, heretical, and even flagrantly immoral material that sometimes (or more often) creeps into the CCD systems…

    (I can’t comment on the NOPD example; but it sounds like a sad case!)

    This will be fun; I am game. How does the Church prove the validity of the Bible?

    :) Not meaning to be coy… but I’ll need to save that until my next post; work calls!

  71. paladin says:

    Okay… this may have to come in pieces, since the whole case is fairly involved. A few starting notions:

    1) There are two types of proof: intrinsic (100% certain, not dependent on data, a.k.a. “a priori”; e.g. proving the Pythagorean Theorem), and extrinsic (not mathematically certain, data-dependent; certain enough that a denial of it would entail a violation of sane reason; a.k.a. “a posteriori”; e.g. proving that George Washington was the first president of the United States). Since the Bible and its contents describe historical events (and other things which require external data to confirm or deny), the type of proof needed for the Bible’s authenticity is extrinsic. As such, I won’t entertain any objections of the type: “You can’t prove that there wasn’t some other possibility! Maybe aliens came and brainwashed everybody into believing that story, and then “beamed” Jesus’ body out of the tomb, and… (etc.)”. I’m only “on” to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt.

    2) This case will be restricted to the Bible’s *contents* and any history which pertains directly to that content; in no way am I (or any other Christian) “on” to explain/defend what any given person has *done* with the Bible since its appearance. So objections such as: “The Bible has been used to justify [evil #1, evil #2, etc.]” will be considered completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    Now, then: piece by piece. Do you accept the idea that our Bible of today is a substantially accurate and reliable copy of the original (i.e. hasn’t been substantially distorted through recopying, translation, etc.)? We’ll need to establish that, before we go further… since if today’s version is corrupted (by accident or by design), then there’s no point in defending it at all.

  72. Little eye says:

    The “Original”? It’s a Compilation. There was no original. But I’m willing to entertain the idea that the books written, even by a 120 year old sailor who taps water our of rocks and dudes 30 years after Jesus’ death have not been significantly altered since stylus was put to papyrus.

    ps – the word verification was “thotrust”. Kinda coincidental Jen. ;)

  73. Little eye says:

    After I posted the new word is “rabie”… Even stranger!

  74. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    The “Original”? It’s a Compilation. There was no original.

    Well… right; I should’ve said “originals”. (It’s finals week; be merciful to an equation-weary brain! :) )

    But I’m willing to entertain the idea that the books written, even by a 120 year old sailor who taps water our of rocks and dudes 30 years after Jesus’ death have not been significantly altered since stylus was put to papyrus.

    “Sailor?” Avast thar, mate… methinks ye gave ol’ Moses th’ wrong occupation! :) (He was a shepherd… and part-time prince, earlier on, and part-time mountaineer, later on.)

    Okay. Given that we’re assuming the text to have been transmitted reliably (without significant distortion/corruption), are you willing to believe that the characters described in those stories were actual, historical, ontologically-existing people (i.e. not just fictional)? Are you willing to admit the existence of a real man named Moses, a real woman named Judith, a real Man named Jesus of Nazareth, a real man and woman named Adam and Eve, and so on?

    ps – the word verification was “thotrust”. Kinda coincidental Jen. ;)

    :) Count yourself lucky; mine was “unfat”! Given that I’m a scrawny scarecrow as it is, that was uncanny…

  75. Little eye says:

    P – ‘Am I willing to believe that the characters described in the stories actually existed?’

    Even the fact that one has to ask the question indicates something about the agent in question. Depending on the character I have varying levels of confidence of their existence and the validity of their story. I have very little doubt that Mark existed. But I do question his rationality. The more unbelievable the story, the more difficult it is for me to take it on faith. It’s been said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof (the proof would be extraordinary by it’s very nature). Abraham living to 175 and god requesting him to cut off his foreskin is hard for me to swallow. The astrological similarities of Jesus’ story and the parallels between Horus are enough for me to be skeptical of his actual existence. I know how much people want to believe The Christ is going to show up on earth now, it wouldn’t be difficult for an urban legend of his appearance and vanishing happening now to take place. Well… we’d have to lose our cameras for I don’t think even you would take a cult on their word.

    Adam and Eve? Are you serious? While I know that within the definition of god, he can do anything (but mutate according to Catholicism), but why would he create the massive evidence for evolution and then violate that with a completely impossible biological event? How could any sane educated person believe the story of the ark? What follows from that, because the existence of a boat the size of Texas with all of earth’s ecosystems is obviously false, and not doubt Noah’s existence.

    If I believed that the characters described in the bible actually existed and did what was written of them, why on earth would I not be Christian? I’ve even have natural law breaking events happen in my own life and I have a “difficult” time excepting that they happened, Mr. unfat. If you’re going to criticize me for believing Caesar existed and not Jesus, they are not equivalents. I have no doubt of Ceases existence but do doubt the written history of the period. It’s nearly impossible to determine the validity of the claims from the past, especially when those who commissioned the writers had their own agenda’s, many of which involved creating illusions for the public. I don’t doubt the existence of ancient Christians any more than I doubt existence of the pyramids, what I doubt are the intangibles surrounding them.

    If you don’t think the religious have an interest in creating illusions, turn on CBN and listen to the preachers speak about the economy and the answers for it. I know that it’s not proof that your Mother Church is wrong because evangelicals on cable are obviously full of lies. I’m not trying to prove you wrong; you are the one that has to do the proving. I mentioned the Koran, Talmud, Tipitaka and Śruti not to prove the invalidity of the Bible but to convey my equal mindedness of all “divine” text. Quite frankly if the message contained in any of the books were logical and just I wouldn’t need proof.

  76. paladin says:

    Little eye,

    You bring up a host of questions (and–if I may gently add–you beg a great many questions, as well) which can’t yet be answered; you’re jumping quite a bit further ahead than I meant to go, so far.

    I didn’t ask if you believed that all the events and details *surrounding* the people in question were all literally true; I asked whether you believed that the people in question existed *at all*–i.e. whether the Biblical accounts of “person [x]” referred to some actual, original person by that name, in the first place (despite any hypothetical additions of “fantasy” in the stories). For example: there’s very little point in discussing Abraham’s age if you don’t believe he ever walked the earth! There’s a difference between thinking, “I don’t believe that all those things happened to Abraham–his biographers got a little carried away with their piety!”, versus “The story of Abraham never had a really existing protagonist at all; Abraham was made up of whole cloth, just like Paul Bunyan, or Zeus.”

    So… specifically speaking, do you believe that the humans (I’ll leave aside the angels and devils, for the moment) portrayed in the Bible actually existed? I’m not so concerned with what they did, at the moment… but whether they existed or not. If, for example, you think that Abraham existed, but the stories about him are either exaggerated or false (e.g. he never met any angels, never encountered Pharaoh, and died at the ripe young age of 35), so be it; we’re going one step at a time, here. Likewise with Jesus of Nazareth; do you believe that Jeshua “bar Yosef”, of Nazareth, walked the earth in the 1st century (with or without miracles), even if you might also believe that His story was “contaminated” by Egyptian, etc., folklore?

  77. Little eye says:

    I thought I answered your question. I have varying levels of confidence on the existence of the characters in the Bible depending on the story. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Adam and Eve existed. I accept the existence of mitochondria Eve with ease, but she’s not quite the same as the woman from the bible. I think that Moses and Abraham are Jewish folklore gone wild. As for your holy family, I don’t know weather they existed or not. I don’t find it hard to believe that a radical Rabbi named Jesus existed and was set up to be crucified by disgruntled conservative Jews. However, there is reason to be very skeptical of his actual existence. The Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge wrote, “The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death…In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child.”

  78. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    I thought I answered your question.

    Yes, and no; in some cases–especially in the case of Jesus of Nazareth–you seemed to be “blurring” the details with the person Himself, to the extent that you doubted His actual existence. You wrote: “The astrological [I think you meant to use a different word, here?] similarities of Jesus’ story and the parallels between Horus are enough for me to be skeptical of his actual existence.”

    I’ll address the “Egyptian” connection below.

    I have varying levels of confidence on the existence of the characters in the Bible depending on the story.

    That sounds very much as if you’ve taken either a “miracles are impossible by definition” approach, or you’re judging largely on your personal tastes; more on that, below.

    I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Adam and Eve existed.

    Just for the sake of discussion: why not, specifically?

    I accept the existence of mitochondria Eve with ease,

    “Mitochondria Eve?” You’ll have to explain that one to me; mitochondria are organelles of *eukaryotic* cells, so any “evolution from a mitochondrion” simply makes no sense…

    I think that Moses and Abraham are Jewish folklore gone wild.

    Do you have any reasoning for that position, or is that raw opinion?

    As for your holy family, I don’t know weather they existed or not. I don’t find it hard to believe that a radical Rabbi named Jesus existed and was set up to be crucified by disgruntled conservative Jews.

    Well… let’s put it this way: the “raw” story, so far as I’m currently concerned (i.e. so far), is that Mary and Joseph were biological and legal parents (respectively) of Jesus of Nazareth, Who preached and taught in the early 1st century, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate. It sounds as if you’re willing to accept that.

    However, there is reason to be very skeptical of his actual existence.

    Hm. I’ll need a more solid answer than that, before we can go much further; to say “I don’t find it hard to believe”, followed by “there is reason to be very skeptical” leaves your views rather muddled, to me.

    The Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge wrote, “The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death…In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child.”

    With all due respect to Dr. Budge: that’s sheer nonsense. I’ll dissect the details, if you wish, but perhaps you could go here, for the “Horus theory” and here, for general “pagan versions of Christ” ideas? Sorry to foist you off on someone else, at the moment… but Mr. Latar and Mr. Porvaznik have done a great deal of “footwork” on the multiply-discredited (and almost universally rejected) “Egyptian Connection” criticisms of Christianity, and I’d like to avoid re-inventing the wheel (as well as help their web-site stats! :) )… especially since I’m in the middle of finals week, and I’m rather swamped, at the moment. But if you do want more specific comments from me on the matter, I’ll be happy to do what I can, when I have a spare moment.

    I’ll tell you what: go and research what Mr. Latar and Mr. Porvaznik have written, and then come back and see if you still hold the specific “Egyptian Connection” criticism of Christianity to be credible; and we’ll take things from there; fair enough?

  79. Little eye says:

    LE- I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Adam and Eve existed.

    P- Just for the sake of discussion: why not, specifically?

    Because there is no reason to believe in spontaneous species generation other than the first time it happened on earth. And that species certainly wasn’t as complex as a mammal. I believe this because of fossils and genetics.

    P-“Mitochondria Eve?” You’ll have to explain that one to me

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

    LE- I think that Moses and Abraham are Jewish folklore gone wild.

    P- Do you have any reasoning for that position, or is that raw opinion?

    Yes it is raw opinion that I don’t believe Moses the circumciser existed. It is also raw opinion that I don’t believe that Cronus the castrator ever existed. This part of the thread is wasn’t to be why I don’t believe the Bible is valid, it was to be why you believe it is, specifically why the Catholic Church proves it.

    P- Hm. I’ll need a more solid answer than that, before we can go much further; to say “I don’t find it hard to believe”, followed by “there is reason to be very skeptical” leaves your views rather muddled, to me.

    I don’t have a hard time believing Pontius Pilate existed because his existence isn’t hard to believe. And it’s not hard for me to believe that a deluded Jew with a common name existed and was oppressed by his kinfolk who had connections to the state. The reason I’m skeptical is because of his unbelievable story and of the Egyptian and “astrological” coincidences found within the Bible. If you take out the Christ part of Jesus’ story, then he is a nobody. I believe in countless nobodies.

    With all due respect, it’s nonsense to counter my reference (Budge, “Egyptian Religion”,Ch2) of a Cambridge educated Egyptologist with a Software Engineer in regards to the “Egyptian Connection”.

    Your points are irrelevant. I’m willing to entertain the idea that all the characters I’m familiar with in the bible existed, except for Adam and Eve because they can’t be separated from their story. What I wanted was your reasoning for believing the Catholic Church validates the stories surrounding the characters.

    P- That sounds very much as if you’ve taken {-} a “miracles are impossible by definition” approach…

    I, like Jen, know that miracles happen. We know that an agency outside of the human brain exists with powers that we can’t comprehend (I still speculate who and why even though I do have assumptions). And the irony is that I know it through coincidence. I also know that when I explain the coincidences to people (even a Christian ex-girlfriend who believes in miracles) no one believes me. I’m fine with that. The stories are unbelievable or are considered delusions. I know I’m not crazy and that the agency is un-provable.

  80. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    [I disbelieve in Adam and Eve] because there is no reason to believe in spontaneous species generation other than the first time it happened on earth.

    This is a side-topic, I realize–and you needn’t answer right away (I *do* want to get back to the topic of the Bible and its reliability)–but do you mean to say that you have no problem with “spontaneous species generation”, so long as it doesn’t agree with the Genesis account? In other words: what, exactly, is your substantive objection to the Bible’s account of “spontaneous generation” if you already believe in it?

    And that species certainly wasn’t as complex as a mammal. I believe this because of fossils and genetics.

    As another side-note: my wife is a Ph.D geneticist, and–by her own account–the amount of “fudging” and “secular faith” used by non-theist geneticists who seek to prove “complete evolution of life from non-life” (or even “modern species from a single molecule”) is absolutely staggering. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence… but then again, so is theirs.

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

    Ah. Interesting. Thanks for clearing that up for me, anyway!

    Yes, [my belief that Moses and Abraham are Jewish folklore gone wild] is raw opinion that I don’t believe Moses the circumciser existed. It is also raw opinion that I don’t believe that Cronus the castrator ever existed.

    (??) The fact that the first two are claimed to be as human as you and I, and the third is claimed to be an immortal titan, doesn’t affect your judgment? It does, mine…

    This part of the thread is wasn’t to be why I don’t believe the Bible is valid, it was to be why you believe it is, specifically why the Catholic Church proves it.

    True enough… but part of that process is an attempt (by me) to figure out what starting assumptions you accept. If, for example, you refused to accept the idea that ancient Babylon ever existed (after all: where’s the modern proof? Can you read cuneiform, and double-check the claims of the archaeologists and such? I can’t…), then any reference to King Nebuchadnezzar would be rather pointless. Just so: I need to find out what you take to be true (and you’ve offered some surprises, such as a skepticism about the very *existence* of Jesus, Abraham, and Moses), before I can attempt to build any sort of case.

    I don’t have a hard time believing Pontius Pilate existed because his existence isn’t hard to believe.

    I assume this referes back to your “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” idea (which is a reasonable one, if rightly understood). Well and good… but I’d ask you to be fair, and not reject stories merely because they “feel” unbelievable, or because they describe phenomena outside your normal experience. In other words: there’s a difference between doubt (anyone can have that) and *reasonable* doubt.

    And it’s not hard for me to believe that a deluded Jew with a common name existed and was oppressed by his kinfolk who had connections to the state.

    Somewhat to the point: can you explain how and why so many people, of very diverse backgrounds, surrendered everything (and gaining only ridicule, ostracism, torture, and death) in order to follow this “deluded Jew”–and often while isolated from one another, being tortured hideously for years, while in solitary confinement (without the “mass hysteria” phenomenon to help their “resolve”)? The answer to that isn’t as simple as many dismissivists make it out to be.

    The reason I’m skeptical is because of his unbelievable story and of the Egyptian and “astrological” coincidences found within the Bible. If you take out the Christ part of Jesus’ story, then he is a nobody. I believe in countless nobodies.

    Given that there are over a billion people who follow Him (at least in name), that our entire dating system is oriented around the presumed year of His birth (before the multiple corrections of the calendar, anyway), that His teaching has survived 2000 years worth of attempts to eradicate and/or distort it, and that His doctrines have completely transformed the majority of the world (certainly the Western world, but also great portions of the east), I’m not sure how you could call Him a “nobody”… even if you were judging from effects alone!

    With all due respect, it’s nonsense to counter my reference (Budge, “Egyptian Religion”,Ch2) of a Cambridge educated Egyptologist with a Software Engineer in regards to the “Egyptian Connection”.

    (*ahem*) My dear fellow, you might look up what’s known as the “ad hominem fallacy”, before you take that point much further. “He’s a software engineer, so he can’t possibly know anything about the matter at hand!” Balderdash. And you and I are theologians, I suppose? (I’m not, at any rate.) The better approach would be to read the content, and judge from there… rather than dismissing their work because their “day jobs” doesn’t fit one’s expectations (or personal tastes).

    As to Dr. Budge’s credentials: does it not impress you that a great number of people with equal or greater credentials disagree with him? (Cf. Richard H. Wilkinson, George Hart, etc.) The mere fact that he’s a scholar at Cambridge may certainly imply that he’s intellectually gifted; but it says nothing especially about whether his theories are correct, or not. A mere appeal to credentials won’t gain much, I’m afraid.

    Your points are irrelevant. I’m willing to entertain the idea that all the characters I’m familiar with in the bible existed, except for Adam and Eve because they can’t be separated from their story.

    And Abraham, and Moses, and (to a large extent) Jesus, if memory serves…

    But I explained this already: I was trying to discern the limits of your private beliefs (since I can’t be expected to know them, without asking), so as not to waste your time with (a) arguments that you already accept (such as the existence of the super-physical world), or (b) arguments based on axioms that you flatly rejected (such as the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

    What I wanted was your reasoning for believing the Catholic Church validates the stories surrounding the characters.

    Right. But as I mentioned earlier: that’s an involved process, and I see no reason to rush, pell-mell, without first being certain of the axioms which we both share.

    I, like Jen, know that miracles happen. We know that an agency outside of the human brain exists with powers that we can’t comprehend (I still speculate who and why even though I do have assumptions). And the irony is that I know it through coincidence.

    …and personal experience, if I understand you correctly. You know that an agency outside of the human brain exists because you’ve “met it”, so to speak.

    I also know that when I explain the coincidences to people (even a Christian ex-girlfriend who believes in miracles) no one believes me.

    Sorry to go off-topic again, but: what don’t they believe? Do they disbelieve that the events happened at all, or do they disbelieve that such events are miracles, or somethign else altogether? I’m quite interested in your personal account (again, without meaning to pry)…

    I’m fine with that. The stories are unbelievable or are considered delusions. I know I’m not crazy and that the agency is un-provable.

    If it makes you feel better: even without knowing your story (or the details) much at all, I see no reason to question your sanity (you seem very sane to me) or your honesty (you’ve been nothing but straightforward with me, so far as I can tell). To be sure: I also admit that miracles are not only possible, but provably (in the extrinsic sense) real, which helps… but if nothing else, you have something of a sympathetic audience in me (despite our wild differences of position)! I suspect I’m not the only one on this thread who’s sympathetic, either…

  81. Little eye says:

    P- Do you mean to say that you have no problem with “spontaneous species generation”, so long as it doesn’t agree with the Genesis account?

    No. I have a problem with any origin story that is nonsensical. Pun intended: nonsense -n. a DNA sequence that does not code for an amino acid and is not transcribed.

    P- my wife is a Ph.D geneticist, and–by her own account–the amount of “fudging” and “secular faith” used by non-theist geneticists who seek to prove “complete evolution of life from non-life” (or even “modern species from a single molecule”) is absolutely staggering.

    Evolutionary Biologists will never have a complete fossil record with testable DNA. And do to that I expect that many of the details of the complete story will forever remain speculation. But that’s to be expected with the incomprehensible amount of life that’s existed on earth in the past 4 billion years and the relative rarity of fossils. But the belief that complex life arose from a miraculous self replicating molecule compared to the spontaneous generation of a mammal are two completely differently things.

    Evolutionary biologists have mountains of “stratific” evidence complete with radio metric dating. You have the words of an ancient people who believed the world was the center of the universe and was flat. You’re wife is able to determine who is related to whom in her analyzation of genes. Why would one assume that it’s fit to use those methods to determine blood relationships in people and not or animal cousins?

    P- The fact that [Moses and Abraham] are claimed to be as human as you and I.

    Humans do not live to 120-175 years old.

    P- Not reject stories merely because they “feel” unbelievable

    Walking on water? Talking to burning bushes? Trading a Ram sacrifice for your son’s? Tapping water out of rocks? Feeding thousands with a couple loafs of bread? You think it’s just a “feeling” I get about the unbelievability of the stories? Is Muhammad flying on a horse is believable?

    P- can you explain how and why so many people…

    No. But the promise of eternal bliss is a powerful idea which surpasses any earthly reward.

    P- Somewhat to the point: can you explain how and why so many people ——– The answer to that isn’t as simple as many dismissivists make it out to be.

    (*ahem*) My dear fellow, you might look up what’s know as the argumentum ad populum.

    P- I’m not sure how you could call Him a “nobody”

    Luke Skywalker is somebody but Mark Hamill is a nobody. (Sorry Mark, may the force be with you)

    P- (*ahem*) My dear fellow, you might look up what’s known as the “ad hominem fallacy”, before you take that point much further. “He’s a software engineer, so he can’t possibly know anything about the matter at hand!” Balderdash.

    I wasn’t attacking his character, I was attacking his credentials in regards to Egyptian history. Especially his ability to determine what “scholarly” and “non-scholarly” books about the subject are.

    P- And you and I are theologians, I suppose?

    No. And I never claimed to be. I am astonishingly ignorant of history; there’s just so much of it. But one shouldn’t have to be a theologian to determine whether the “safe guard from eternal damnation” is true or not.

    P- The better approach would be to read the content, and judge from there… rather than dismissing their work because their “day jobs” doesn’t fit one’s expectations (or personal tastes).

    I’m skeptical of any apologist, Catholic or Atheist. They tend to fall victim to the excluded middle fallacy. But you make it sound like the idea that Jesus was the incarnation of god was something totally new. It’s a theme that existed in ancient Egypt with the pharaohs and other cultures outside of the near east. You can not deny that Horus, god of the sky with a body of man, concurred the evil Set and carried the aunk, a cross shape that symbolized eternal life. If you can’t see the similarities, you are seeing only what you want.

    P- A mere appeal to credentials won’t gain much, I’m afraid.

    You are the person who believes your leader is the substitute of Christ. Shit man, I don’t even believe half the things I hear come out of Steven Hawkin’s voice box.

    P- Sorry to go off-topic again, but: what don’t they believe?…

    There are only three things that people don’t believe. 1. I was camping just outside of Albuquerque when I spotted a satellite. But this was no ordinary satellite because it stopped, changed directions, increased it’s brightness by about 10X, accelerated and then vanished. 2 I woke up one morning and my paintings in my room were turned upside down. 3. A sheet of lightening cracked in front of my face right while I was driving to Los Angeles after I assumed all of the dead are living in our brains and it didn’t scare me at all. Then an hour later I saw a slow motion falling star.

    A couple strange facts that need no believing. My father put a hand gun to my head when I was 14. 14 years later my dad took my 14 year old nephew to the range to shoot that same gun. He did and the bullet ricocheted off the target and hit my father’s good eye…. My step father is Robert Francis George. My name is Robert Francis Sutton. Years before my mother met him he had a son who died, named Robert Francis George Jr. I got a very strange feeling in New Orleans one month. I sold everything I had and bought a minivan. No small task for a broke artist. I drove everything I owned to PA and put it in storage. Two weeks later the city was under water.

    P- do they disbelieve that such events are miracles.

    Most of the “miracles” are coincidences. Things I think or write and then immediately hear something on the TV, Radio, the order of song on my play list, anything with words, people chatting in passing which relates to what I just thought in a highly scyronistic manner. Clicks and pops in my house that occur when I have a profound thought or a good idea, etc. etc.. Timing is key. Most of the people I tell just think it’s my over active imagination. I would too, however it’s the frequency and violation of probability that indicates to me that there’s an agency behind it. They aren’t miracles in the classic sense. Becoming used to it has been torture and terrorizing. But over all, the main effect has been that it helps me, help myself.

    P- I see no reason to question your sanity… To be sure: I also admit that miracles are not only possible, but provably (in the extrinsic sense) real…

    I question my sanity. What’s happened to me goes against every rational bone in my body. That’s why I found Jen’s claim on proof so interesting. I know that I can’t prove the miracles (effects of an agency outside of the brain) exist because the cause is inaccessible.

  82. paladin says:

    [Apologies–yet again–to Jen, and everyone else, for the length of this!]

    Little eye,

    As an introductory note: apologies for the heavy editing; many of your comments (and mine) are deleted in the interest of space (ever my nemesis, in blog conversations–this reply is certainly long enough, as it is!), not as any attempt to ignore them! If I’ve passed over any point that you particularly wanted me to address, please let me know.

    You wrote:

    But the belief that complex life arose from a miraculous self replicating molecule compared to the spontaneous generation of a mammal are two completely differently things.

    They are; but one cannot “explain away” the miraculous by appealing to simplicity (e.g. “It’s easier to create a speck of dust out of nothingness than it is to create a human out of nothingness”). Think that through: if something is capable of creating something from nothing, then why especially would you find it more probable for it to create a mote, rather than a universe? Are you concerned about some hypothetical “amount of energy” needed? Creatio ex nihilo has nothing whatever to do with any “starting energy” (since matter and energy are mere variations of the same “physical stuff”–and no amount of energy can create matter or energy from nothingness). Your assumption that “a miraculous molecule” is somehow easier to explain than a “miraculous mammal” has no basis in fact or in logic; it’s a “common-sense instinct” gone wrong.

    Evolutionary biologists have mountains of “stratific” evidence complete with radio metric dating. You have the words of an ancient people who believed the world was the center of the universe and was flat.

    You do have a habit of using sweeping generalizations to dismiss your opponents, wholesale (blurring the intelligent and the simple, the philosophically astute and the ignorant, the technologically trained and the rustic, all in one extraordinary sweep of a phrase or sentence), and that simply won’t do; you’ll need to address your opponents as they are, not as “straw men” of your own design. When I see you dismiss the Church in the same sentence that you dismiss “flat-earth-believers”, for example, it makes me wonder whether you know what, exactly, you’re rejecting (which is a requirement, for anyone who wants to be intellectually honest).

    Let me make this clear, once and for all:

    First: you seem to have a great many disparate “issues” with a great variety of religious people–many of whom hold mutually exclusive views. It would be reasonable for you to say that not all of these views can be true; but it is patently unreasonable of you to condemn Catholic doctrine because of the deficiencies of the teachings of, say, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Muslims, miscellaneous fertility cults of Mesopotamia, and the like (on the basis that “they’re all religious, they all make unbelievable claims, so they must all be ‘nuts'”; and you’ve done just that, numerous times, on this thread alone.

    Second: in your dichotomy between “evolutionary biologists” and “hidebound ancient primitives”, you seem to fall into the mindset which says, “You [ancients] didn’t even know about heliocentricity, so you couldn’t be expected to recognize whether or not a man rose from the dead after four days in the tomb (cf. Lazarus).” “You didn’t even know about germs, so we can’t expect you to have recognized any miraculous cure from leprosy.” “You fishermen didn’t even understand the spherical shape of the earth, so we can’t expect you to know whether a man walks on the surface of the water, or not.” Come, now! An appeal to their lack of technology doesn’t make such people all idiots, lunatics, or liars. Would you need an advanced degree in biochemistry, in order to recognize someone being raised from the dead? It’s only the most base (and even arrogant) sort of provincialism which would view the people of the past as being some sort of “homogenous group of gullible, wide-eyed, credulous dupes”, as if skepticism and rational thought were somehow the exclusive privilege of modernity.

    [Paladin]
    Somewhat to the point: can you explain how and why so many people […] The answer to that isn’t as simple as many dismissivists make it out to be.

    [Little eye]
    (*ahem*) My dear fellow, you might look up what’s know as the argumentum ad populum.

    :) Cute. (What do they say: “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery”?) But do note the reason (and context) for my comment: you’d suggested that Jesus was a “deluded Jew” who was killed by His political enemies, and that was that; I was offering evidence to suggest that this was highly improbable… since such a widely disparate collection of people (some of whom were initially hostile) followed him, unto torture and death, for no apparent earthly reason. I wasn’t trying to prove the truth of Jesus’ Divinity by an appeal to the number of His followers (i.e. the fallacious appeal to consensus); rather, I was giving evidence to show how your claim far outstripped its own evidence. Since you appeal to probability in your objections to 175-year-old men (which are by no means logically impossible) and the like, how can you then take the opposite tack, and assume that untold millions of people (some of whom were avowed enemies of Christianity), of all levels of intelligence and schooling and temperament, would–even when bereft of the expected reinforcements of “mass hysteria”, “conspiracy”, and the like–lay down their lives (and watch their families raped and tortured and murdered before their eyes) for the sake of “pie in the sky”? That strains *my* ability to believe, at least…

    [Paladin] […] you might look up what’s known as the “ad hominem fallacy”, before you take that point much further. “He’s a software engineer, so he can’t possibly know anything about the matter at hand!” Balderdash.

    [Little eye]I wasn’t attacking his character,

    Ad hominem fallacies aren’t limited to character assassination; they include a dismissal of a person’s argument based on the supposed deficiencies of the person (apart from the argument itself). If a pest exterminator were to tell me that it’d be a good idea for me to take the nearly-empty pot of boiling water off the lit stove before it boils dry, should I dismiss his claim based on the fact that he’s not a cook, a stove repairman, or a physicist? Wouldn’t it be more logical to examine the claim and see if it holds, apart from the impressiveness (or lack thereof) of the presenter and the letters behind his name?

    I should add that even ignorant wonks such as I (and the fellows who’d written the material to which I pointed you) can *cite* competent authorities; I’m sure Dr. Budge did!

    I was attacking his credentials in regards to Egyptian history.

    Without so much as reading the content? And again: you might find that the two gentlemen might have cited experts in Egyptian history, to support their claims… as is reasonable.

    Especially his ability to determine what “scholarly” and “non-scholarly” books about the subject are.

    Do you not see that you’ve done the very same thing? By attaching yourself to Dr. Budge and his claims, you’ve declared his book to be the “gold standard”, you’ve dismissed all other Egyptologists in the world who do not agree with him, and you’ve simultaneously absolved yourself of all responsibility to check *his* accuracy. He’s a Cambridge Egyptologist–well and good. Is he the only one? Is Cambridge unanimous in his support? Is Cambridge a haven of academic infallibility? If an Egyptologist from Harvard, or UCLA, or Heaven-knows-where, says otherwise, are they guaranteed to be in the wrong? Why do you attach to this particular author, save perhaps for the fact that his conclusions agree with your own, and resonate with your personal tastes?

    To your point: I did not mention the multitudes of Christians, or the hosts of Egyptologists who flatly reject the theories of Dr. Budge and company, in order to appeal to consensus, etc.; I mention them, in this instance, only in order to dislodge your own fallacious appeal to the apparently unassailable authority of Dr. Budge.

    […] I never claimed to be [a theologian]. […] But one shouldn’t have to be a theologian to determine whether the “safe guard from eternal damnation” is true or not.

    I’ll address that issue later (when time permits), but note: I wasn’t addressing the “eternal damnation issue” in this particular part of our conversation, at all; I was still addressing the “Egyptian Connection” idea, and your refusal to entertain any positions except that of Dr. Budge. You’d apparently refused even to consider the references I cited, on the basis that the writers were not Egyptologists (though, had you read the references, you’d have found their claims to contain meticulous citations of their sources–which include well-established Egyptologists-a-plenty).

    If I offer a source (from those who’ve already done much of the “footwork”–since I have neither the time, nor the skill, to re-investigate the Egyptological case from the ground, up) which highlights the errors in reasoning of Dr. Budge and company, that does not require vast knowledge of history, theology, or the like… true? And that is precisely what the article does.

    Honestly: I do wish I had the time, resources, and skill, to become an Egyptologist myself, to gain access to all necessary materials, and demonstrate my case to you that way; but that simply isn’t possible.

    [Paladin]The better approach would be to read the content, and judge from there… rather than dismissing their work because their “day jobs” doesn’t fit one’s expectations (or personal tastes).

    [Little eye]
    I’m skeptical of any apologist, Catholic or Atheist. They tend to fall victim to the excluded middle fallacy.

    Well… fairness *does* require you to *examine* their argument first, rather than pick an accusation (e.g. “fallacy of the excluded middle”, etc.) and throw it, willy-nilly; I really don’t understand why, if you find Dr. Budge’s reasoning to be sound, you wouldn’t feel confident enough to examine arguments to the contrary.

    But you make it sound like the idea that Jesus was the incarnation of god was something totally new.

    (??) I know of nothing that I’ve ever said, in this conversation, which would have given that impression at all… nor do I believe that the general idea of “gods coming to earth” didn’t predate Christianity.

    It’s a theme that existed in ancient Egypt with the pharaohs and other cultures outside of the near east.

    Of course. Very few worldviews were capable of entertaining the “eternal, supremely perfect being” Who was revealed to the Hebrews (“I AM WHOM AM”) and Whose existence was deduced by some of the more brilliant Greek philosophers (Socrates, especially).

    You can not deny that Horus, god of the sky with a body of man, concurred the evil Set and carried the aunk, a cross shape that symbolized eternal life. If you can’t see the similarities, you are seeing only what you want.

    I do not deny similarities, in the least. What I do deny is the causality that you attribute to them; and I deny that the similarities are nearly so strong as you seem to suppose. Look at the ones you mention, one by one:

    1) Horus, like virtually all of the Egyptian Gods, was represented as part human, part animal (Thoth had the head of an ibis, Anubis had the head of a jackal, etc.), as were many of the gods of Babylon, Assyria, and the like. I admit that freely… and I wonder why you think that’s any sort of criticism of Christianity. “Egyptians portrayed gods with human bodies (albeit with animal heads–something conspicuously missing in Jesus), and Jesus was claimed to be God with a human body, so the latter must be a copy of the former, and both are false!” Do you not see the weakness of that claim?

    2) “Horus conquered Seth”; well and good… but you claim that “goodness conquers evil in both cases, so neither can be true?” The struggle between good and evil is as old as life itself; do you really imagine, even if the Jews had wanted to “invent” a human messiah, that they would need to plagiarize Egyptian folklore for that?

    3) “Horus carried the ankh, which was the symbol for life” (and I’d add that it wasn’t Horus alone who carried the ankh). But to say that the ankh was “cross-shaped” enough to imply plagiarism is fantastic; crucifixion was invented (probably) by the Persians, exported to Greece and Carthage (and other places), and adopted by the Romans… so why, exactly, would the shape of a Roman cross (on which Jesus died) require an Egyptian “template”–and a vague one, at that (a sort of “tau” with an oval/circle atop it)?

    Those who sought to discredit Christianity via the “Egyptian plagiarism” theory often went farther than you did, and tried to stretch even more tenuous connections; there were claims that Horus was “born of the virgin Isis” (which is absurd–the old stories uniformly describe Horus as the fruit of the sexual intercourse of Isis and Osiris–albeit an Osiris who was reassembled after his dismemberment by Seth, and whose male organ needed to be replaced by one which was artificially-constructed and animated by Isis), and more.

    Do you see what I mean? Mounding up a wildly scattered pile of seeming coincidences (some of which are extremely far-fetched) does not serve the idea of demonstrating Christ’s passion to be some sort of Egyptian “redux”. The wish (to prove Christianity wrong) is father to the thought (that Christianity was a rehashed version of Egyptian mythology), here.

    [Paladin]
    A mere appeal to credentials won’t gain much, I’m afraid.

    [Little eye]
    You are the person who believes your leader is the substitute of Christ.

    Not only is that a woefully inaccurate description of the Holy Father, but that has nothing at all to do with the specific point at hand; I was referring to academic credentials (of Dr. Budge and co.), and to your apparent insistence that his theory is the final word on this matter, partly because of his specialty and tenure at Cambridge. You didn’t seriously think that we revere the Holy Father as Vicar of Christ because he holds many advanced degrees, do you? :) Credentials or not, Dr. Budge’s theories can be tested for logical soundness–and by those (such as you and me) who know very little about Egyptology. That’s what I propose, here.

    I’ll try to answer your more personal points in a separate e-mail; they deserve exclusive treatment, I think.

  83. Little eye says:

    P- Your assumption that “a miraculous molecule” …..

    No Evolutionary biologist would claim that the first life form, which we probably wouldn’t even acknowledge as life, came from nothing. I personally think the conditions are extremely rare in the universe. But I don’t see how I can argue with you if you can’t recognize the difference between a molecule that did nothing other than copy itself as apposed to plants and animals. Who’s “common sense instinct” has been corrupted and what does this have to do with proving the bible via the Catholic Church? And Neanderthal… There, I said it.

    P- You do have a habit of… (blurring the intelligent and the simple, the philosophically astute and the ignorant, the technologically trained and the rustic, all in one extraordinary sweep of a phrase or sentence)

    Thank you. I think it’s an art form.

    P- “they’re all religious, they all make unbelievable claims, so they must all be ‘nuts'”; and you’ve done just that, numerous times

    Look brother, I’ve made unbelievable claims and I don’t think I’m nuts.

    P- “hidebound ancient primitives”

    I don’t think you quoted me correctly. I think that in general people of the past used more of their brain power potential than most modern humans. They were perfectly sound in believing in the geocentric universe according to the proof they had. However, I was the victim of genital mutilation because of the Catholic church’s primitive beliefs. I don’t believe the explanation for slicing off my foreskin off because it makes it easier to keep clean makes much sense. It’s a pain to keep my fingernails clean but I wouldn’t want them ripped off as a baby so I wouldn’t have to bother with a clipper.

    P- …followed him, unto torture and death, for no apparent earthly reason…. That strains *my* ability to believe, at least…

    Oh my.

    P- By attaching yourself to Dr. Budge and his claims, you’ve declared his book to be the “gold standard”

    I am in no position to declare anyone the gold standard on Egyptian history. I’m sorry I even said that their was reason to believe that Jesus didn’t exist. I question things. But it’s not hard for me to believe that an ancient god-man was created out of thin air by people who desperately wanted to believe in the existence of a living(dead) savior. I actually had a conversation with your Jesus. I question whether it was my imagination or not. It torments me because I don’t know what to believe. I don’t think I’m crazy but one doesn’t want to admit having conversation with the dead to doctors. Read it, it’s short: click here

    P- Of course. Very few worldviews were capable of entertaining the “eternal, supremely perfect being”

    Hidebound ancient primitives!

  84. paladin says:

    Little eye,

    First of all, many thanks for the invitation to your blog! (It was surreal, but intriguing…) Perhaps this is a way for us to focus on the “demonstration of biblical authority”: I’ll write about that here, and dump all my answers to the “rabbit trail tangents” on your blog! ;)

    I’ll try to write two responses, here: the first, to reply to key points of your last message, and the second, to try to start the main point rolling again.

    [Paladin]
    You do have a habit of… (blurring the intelligent and the simple, the philosophically astute and the ignorant, the technologically trained and the rustic, all in one extraordinary sweep of a phrase or sentence)

    [Little eye]
    Thank you. I think it’s an art form.

    Well… you also know that it’s not a good thing to do, right?

    Look brother, I’ve made unbelievable claims and I don’t think I’m nuts.

    Understood. But I do think that should make you at least a bit more patient with claims which disagree with your views… even if they come from the Catholic Church, against Whom you’ve apparently stockpiled a great deal of anger. One can accept the resurrection of Jesus without accepting any alleged “okay-ness” of a mentally ill priest acquaintance who allegedly molested children in your parish, for example. I don’t want to minimize the significant effort necessary to work around the (understandable) emotional baggage of that (I’d likely have it, too, I think, under those circumstances), but I do want to be sure truth, as truth, isn’t an innocent casualty of emotional fights.

    I don’t think you quoted me correctly. I think that in general people of the past used more of their brain power potential than most modern humans. They were perfectly sound in believing in the geocentric universe according to the proof they had. However, I was the victim of genital mutilation because of the Catholic church’s primitive beliefs.

    At the risk of dropping a bombshell: are you aware that the Catholic Church does not, and has never, mandated–or even formally recommended–circumcision? Such a mandate would fly in the face of the first Council of the Church (in Jerusalem–see Acts 15), among other things. In the United States, circumcision done as a matter of course–no matter whether the doctor is Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, or atheist–unless the parents request that it not be done (which is certainly an option).

    I’m familiar with the history (and tremendous symbolism) of circumcision for the Jews (especially since my mother is Jewish, and the heritage means a great deal to me, aside from the fact that I’m Catholic), and I see nothing especially wrong with it, myself–but I agree that circumcision shouldn’t be mandatory (and isn’t, so far as the Church is concerned.) Did someone (your mother, or whomever) tell you otherwise?

    [Paladin]
    …followed him, unto torture and death, for no apparent earthly reason…. That strains *my* ability to believe, at least…

    [Little eye]
    Oh my.

    :) Okay, fun’s fun, and coy’s coy… but ‘fess up. What on earth do you mean by “Oh, my?” What’s behind that tiny phrase, apparently pregnant with understated meaning?

    I’ll try (when time permits) to reply to your personal story on your blog, if you’re amenable; there’s a great deal there, and I don’t want to short-change it by summarizing too mercilessly, here.

    [Paladin]
    Of course. Very few worldviews were capable of entertaining the “eternal, supremely perfect being”[…]

    [Little eye]
    Hidebound ancient primitives!

    (LOL!) Just so. Some, however, had the benefit of Divine Revelation (“I AM WHO AM”), and didn’t have to deduce it for themselves.

    And now… the time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things: of clues and texts and exegetes, and archangelic wings; and why Gehenna’s flaming hot, and whether Christ was King… :P

    To be continued.

  85. paladin says:

    Now, then… back to the main point.

    Here’s a summary of the steps I’d like to explore, when examining the claims of authority for the Scriptures:

    For the sake of speeding things up, let’s restrict ourselves to the New Testament; that way, we won’t force the issue of 900-year-old men and talking serpents, just yet.

    1) The Scriptures of today are substantially accurate reproductions of the original texts.

    2) The original texts were all reasonably proximate to (i.e. written within 100 years of) the events described–which allowed the authors and audiences access to the original events, or to eyewitnesses of those events, or to those who received the accounts immediately from eyewitnesses. (I may also press the point that many of the NT texts were written within 30 years of Jesus’ death.)

    3) The authors of the texts gave a sincere and honest account of what they experienced and/or heard from eyewitnesses of the events (i.e. they did not deliberately invent miracles, gloss over difficulties, etc.).

    4) Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Messiah of God (i.e. the Christ, the Anointed One foretold by the Hebrew prophets), the Son of God (in a unique fashion that other men didn’t share), and God Himself. The texts clearly describe how it was largely these claims which supplied the pretext for the Jewish leaders’ efforts to put Jesus to death (i.e. for blasphemy).

    5) Jesus demonstrated, to those who witnessed Him, extraordinary authority over the natural order (calming storms, turning water into wine, healing diseases, etc.) and the preternatural order (expelling demons, uncanny knowledge of the future, raising people from the dead, etc.).

    6) Jesus, after predicting His own death in some detail, was reviled, beaten, subjected to scourging, was crowned with thorns, was forced to carry His Own cross to Golgotha, and was crucified by the reluctant order of Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea–after his hand was forced by the hostile members of the Jewish leadership. The texts state unequivocally that Jesus truly died on the cross, and that His death was confirmed beyond reasonable doubt.

    7) The texts claim that, on the third day after His death, despite several precautions taken against a simulation of resurrection (e.g. disciples stealing the body, etc.), Jesus rose again from the dead, and appeared to literally hundreds of people over the course of forty days–going so far as to eat and be touched in their presence, so as to prove that He was physically alive, and not merely a ghost. The texts also describe how His Body still bore the nail-marks and spear-thrust wound from His crucifixion.

    8) The texts claim that Jesus ascended into Heaven again, leaving the disciples confused and aimless in Jerusalem, until the day of Pentecost, when (empowered by the Holy Spirit) the collection of men–who had previously ranged from timid to rash to doubting to prideful to apostate–took the city by storm, and spent the rest of their lives in fearless, bold, and powerful efforts to spread the news that Jesus was the Christ, that He was raised from the dead (and had conquered the curse of sin and death thereby [I’ll explain the background for these later!]), and that eternal life was accessible (for the gentiles as well as the Jews) through Him.

    9) In the decades that followed, the apostles and other disciples preached, taught, worked their own miracles (not always producing adulation and wonder from the crowd–some of the miracles brought near-death to some of them, from hostile crowds), and–in turn–suffered an array of tortures, persecutions, and martyrdoms that would leave most people sick if they tried to visualize them. In all of these situations, not once did any of these “evangelists” admit to inventing (or otherwise dishonestly perpetuating) the story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, etc… and nowhere is it recorded, in profane or Sacred history, that any of the characters described in those stories objected to the accounts of Jesus’ life, in their lifetimes.

    10) For 2000 years, what started as a tiny “rebellious faction” in a backwater corner of the Roman empire eventually grew, despite a mind-numbing array of persecutions and attempts to blot it out, into the single largest religion in the world. (I refer only to the following of Christ as a whole, at the moment; I do not yet address the issue of differences between denominations.) In that time, this Church has demonstrated, aside from the miracle of Her continued existence, miracles too numerous to count–many of which were given before some of the most hostile and unbelieving audiences ever known to history. (Some were convinced and converted; others were not.)

    That being said, here’s the general line of defense of the authority of the Scriptures: I seek to claim that the Scriptures accurately present the life and words of Jesus of Nazareth, Who claimed to be the Only-Begotten Son of God (and God Himself) and Who proved His claim to His audience(s) through His miracles, His sinless life, the clear wisdom and consistency of His teaching, and most especially by His conquest of death and the fulfillment of His promise to protect His Church from conquest by the gates of Hell (cf. Matthew 16:18), to this very day. Those Scriptures, whose contents are in harmony with what we know from secular sciences (archaeology, profane history, etc.), are pronounced by St. Paul (one of the original Apostles, albeit a latecomer) to be “inspired by God” in a way that no other writings are (cf. 1 Timothy 3:16ff), and this testimony is confirmed by the very same 2000-year-old Church of Christ, Who has held to one substantially unchanging and unchangeable body of doctrines since Her beginning.

    Summary: why are the Scriptures reliable? Because they are accurate copies of honest accounts of events that cannot be reasonably explained by natural means; they contain a self-consistent explanation of those events that fits the facts (both internally and externally) in a way that no other explanation does, and which no one has been able to refute without recourse to fallacy (or sheer emotional prejudice); and (though this is admittedly subjective-sounding) their Author has revealed Himself personally and immediately to innumerable readers of those selfsame Scriptures.

    Rather than anticipate objections, I’ll just let you reply to the above. Do remember, I beg you, that I can only answer a limited number of questions at a time. I may also, in the interests of time, refer you to resources which I have not compiled myself; I ask you, in all fairness and courtesy, not to scorn them simply out of a lack of ambition, a distaste for the authors, or mere petulance.

  86. Little eye says:

    Yes, I’m aware that most Christians do not require the Brit milah. [Acts 15:10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke (a curious description when talking about the penis) that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 19It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.] Sounds to me sounds like the first council were pansies who couldn’t do the snip and wanted to make becoming a Christian easy as possible. Therefore they chose to invalidate Genesis 17:10-27 21:4-14.

    My interpretation of Jesus’ message is not that circumcision isn’t required to be one of god’s chosen people, but rather, it doesn’t matter what day it’s done. [John 7:21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. 22Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision, you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. 23Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?] I believe Jesus was implying that circumcision heals the penis and that it’s ok to do it on a Saturday.

    Jesus may have used his baptism as a demonstration but he was born with a forskin which apparently needed removal. [Luke 2:21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. 22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed…] At any rate, within my search I found the word circumcise dozens of times in the bible. Nothing’s changed in all this time; the penis is still the center of unwarranted attention.

    [Paladin]
    …followed him, unto torture and death, for no apparent earthly reason…. That strains *my* ability to believe, at least…

    [Little eye]
    Is there any apparent earthly reason why people fly airplanes into sky scrapers? Does that strain you ability to believe that Islam isn’t true? When a person believes that an ultimate non-earthly reward actually exists (conveniently un-testable) many people will do anything. Even your Christ said that you should pluck out your eyes and cut off your feet and hands, if they cause you to go against the laws of Moses. It shouldn’t strain your ability to believe that people who believed in flesh eating worms that never die would do anything their leaders told them.

    P- …in a way that no other writings are…

    That is the same reason all other religions claim that their books are the truth. The “perfection” of the book does not prove its validity.

    P- why are the Scriptures reliable? Because they are accurate copies of honest accounts

    I don’t care if the whole book was written by Jesus himself and perfectly photocopied for the past 2000 years. Testimony is nothing more than proof of what the testifier believes. Our courts may consider a (living) witness proof, but they really aren’t. However, a witness in a court can have a background check, conflicts of interest investigated, their character examined and their mental health evaluated which usually pushes them past the “reasonable doubt” threshold. No such thing can be done for any amount of dead second eye witnesses.

    People who share a belief tied with a reward have a conflict of interest. They are invested in believing because they have their treasured belief to lose. The early Christians were either Jews who already believed the ridiculous stories of the old T or pagans who were given the choice between believing in frightening gods or a story about a recent god-man who promised to conquer death for them. Ironically the story of Jesus is full of him pleading his case, almost begging to be believed and scorning people for not taking him at his word. It creates guilt in the skeptical empathic reader who compares their self to an authoritative witness who doesn’t believe. Then if the reader can surmount his doubt he compares himself to the written witness who had the benefit of being there, looking the savior in the eye and disbelieved, and the righteousness flows from every pore.

    When I lost my belief in Catholism, albeit at a young age, I felt embarrassed for spending so much time praying, studying and practicing the rituals. The “a great deal of anger i’ve stockpiled” is because people I trusted my parents, nuns and priests feed me a line of bullshit from the time I could breath. The religious authorities who push a doctrine which revolves around submitting to authority have their authority to lose. Submitting one’s trust to authority is hard wired into young animals who are dependent on their parents for survival. Thus, if you give us the boy till he’s 7, we’ll give you the man who believes. Imagine how children’s behavior would change if presents were only given on Christmas so long as they believed in Santa. We would have elected councils in high school who worked out the evidence, proving the virtue and validity of faith in Santa.

    P- they contain a self-consistent

    The book is not consistent. I’m no expert but within the past week I’ve read inconstancies regarding water from rocks to the foreskin of one’s slaves.

    P- of events that cannot be reasonably explained by natural means.

    What about the natural means of urban legend, insanity (the Jews, Paul and Q) or group dilution.

    P- One can accept the resurrection of Jesus without accepting any alleged “okay-ness” of a mentally ill priest acquaintance who allegedly molested children in your parish, for example.

    I never said there was any okayness in the church in regards to child molestation. Damn near touching one’s own penis is a sin. But I’m surprised that you reveal skepticism of a guy who couldn’t live with the public guilt of his gross misconduct. His leap to death isn’t proof that he had sex with children but according to your standards should be. All in all, it isn’t difficult for me to believe that Father G. was a butt pirate. But it is difficult for me to believe: [Mark 16:11When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. 13These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. 14Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.] As if believing the unbelievable is the greatest of all virtues.

    On an interesting side note, the Vatican has reviled the sins that only the pope can forgive. A priest who has sex with someone and then offers forgiveness for the act is actually worse than murder.

  87. paladin says:

    Little eye,

    Sorry for the very brief and piecemeal reply; final exams have attacked in force, and I have a mountain of them to grade! But here’s the first part of a reply, for now:

    Yes, I’m aware that most Christians do not require the Brit milah.

    Then, I’m rather confused: why, exactly, did you say that you were “the victim of genital mutilation because of the Catholic church’s primitive beliefs“, when you knew that was patently untrue?

    Acts 15:10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke (a curious description when talking about the penis) that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?

    St. Peter’s use of the term “yoke” was referring to the entirety of the Mosaic Law (all 600+ commandments, including dietary restrictions, etc.), not just circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant, but there was more to the old covenant than that; it was necessary, but not sufficient. (This is one of many reasons why one can’t just “pluck” Biblical verses out of context, and consider them in isolation.)

    Sounds to me sounds like the first council were pansies who couldn’t do the snip and wanted to make becoming a Christian easy as possible. Therefore they chose to invalidate Genesis 17:10-27 21:4-14.

    Surely even *you* don’t believe that! These same so-called “pansies” cheerfully submitted themselves to expulsions, whippings, persecutions, and horrifying deaths, and you’re seriously suggesting that they were frightened about cutting a foreskin–which every father of every household in that culture had done, usually many times over… and a practice which had been ingrained in the public consciousness for well over 1500 years? It’s one thing to accuse the Apostles of being reckless, or even of being cowardly… but it makes no sense to accuse them of both at the very same time! Forgive me, but this sounds more like an ill-tempered, unthinking “swipe” at Judaism (and Christianity, by association) than a reasoned critique…

  88. Little eye says:

    Please forgive me. Sometimes I get The 10 commandments (Exodus 20: 3-17) and the The 613 commandments confused. They both come from the same “self-consistent accurate copies of honest accounts” after all. I personally like the commandment in Exodus 21:24 Thou shale take a Little Eye for a Little Eye.

    I enjoy plucking verse from the bible for my own personal use. That seems to be what the
    first Council did.

    Lev 18:4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. 5Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD. 6-29Thou shale not…. 30Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.

    I know, I know… “Jesus and the council disagreed with the God of the bible and made everything better”. I’m done arguing against the bible with the bible.

  89. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    Please forgive me. Sometimes I get The 10 commandments (Exodus 20: 3-17) and the The 613 commandments confused. They both come from the same “self-consistent accurate copies of honest accounts” after all.

    Sarcasm aside, it should be noted that the decalogue (10 commandments) and the rest of the Mosaic Law are quite consistent with each other, and complement one another. The difference is that the Mosaic Law, which dealt with culture- and era-dependent regulations, were surpassed and fulfilled by the New Covenant, as Matthew 5:17-18 and Hebrews 8:13 make rather clear. If a temporary law prohibiting near approach to a toxic-waste dump is rendered obsolete by successful efforts to clean up the dump, you wouldn’t say that the old law was pointless and contradictory to its necessary expiration, would you? The Old Covenant was good and necessary, and it served its purpose–but it was the means to an end, which was then fulfilled (not contradicted) by the advent of the New Covenant through Christ.

    I personally like the commandment in Exodus 21:24 Thou shale take a Little Eye for a Little Eye.

    (*wry look*) …whose original purpose was to be sure that someone whose “little eye” you took didn’t take your life in revenge, yes.

    I enjoy plucking verse from the bible for my own personal use. That seems to be what the first Council did.

    Not out of context, they didn’t. Plucking verses is fine; but one can’t be willy-nilly about verse use, ignoring its context and purpose.

    I know, I know… “Jesus and the council disagreed with the God of the bible and made everything better”.

    (??) Where on earth did you get such an idea? Jesus and the “God of the Bible” are One and the same Being!

    I’m done arguing against the bible with the bible.

    I should hope so! It’s neither necessary nor logical.

    N.B. I hope this conversation isn’t annoying you too badly; I certainly expected to reach controversy, but I don’t want it to spill over into ill-will…

  90. Little eye says:

    Jesus, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

    I’m not going to argue points within the bible. But lets at least admit the original the Jews think Jesus was destroying the laws of god and the Muslims don’t think he fulfilled the bible.

    So far the only thing you’ve presented in your claim that Catholicism validates the bible is that it is a “honest account”. I know you believe it’s a honest account. The question was why you know the Catholic Church proves it.

    And what I want to know from Jen is why our personal proof, which sounds very similar, led us to two very different beliefs.

  91. paladin says:

    Little eye wrote:

    I’m not going to argue points within the bible.

    I’m afraid that’s exactly what we must do; we’re trying to establish the reliability of the New Testament as a “data set”, and that can’t be done by ignoring its contents! Also, you’d implied that you rejected the “self-consistency” of the Bible, and I was trying to show how that rejection was unfounded.

    But lets at least admit the original the Jews think Jesus was destroying the laws of god

    Some thought so, certainly; but: (a) we only know that specifically by the data gained from the Bible (and somewhat sketchy descriptions by the Jewish scholar Josephus), which emphasizes the importance of knowing whether the book is an accurate “data set”, or not; and (b) there is the “small” matter of discerning whether those particular Jews were *wrong*.

    and the Muslims don’t think he fulfilled the bible.

    The Muslims object to much more than that; but that’s true, so far as it goes. However, Muslim attitudes toward the New Testament are not to the point, for determining that Testament’s reliability.

    So far the only thing you’ve presented in your claim that Catholicism validates the bible is that it is a “honest account”.

    I presented a good deal more than that. I asserted that the Bible (though we’re limiting our discussion to the New Testament, for now) is substantially free of contradictions (i.e. it’s self-consistent), which would negate any attempts to reject the Scriptures based on alleged “self-contradictions”. I also asserted that the Scriptures are in harmony with what we know from secular historians, archaeology, etc., which would challenge anyone seeking to reject the Scriptures based on alleged “myth-making” or “unrealistic delusion”. I also appealed to the miraculous survival of the Church Who has compiled, preserved, taught and defended those Scriptures for 2000 years (and—since She saw them written and compiled, Who can testify as to their authenticity), and the willingness even of the earliest Apostles to die for the Gospel (which challenges the idea that the disciples were “lying conspirators” (who perhaps “hid the body of Christ” to “perpetrate a hoax that He had risen”), which excludes “Al Qaeda-esque brainwashing” as a factor in those free choices to accept death–and death without retaliation or violence, at that). There were other points, as well; see the previous post.

    I know you believe it’s a honest account. The question was why you know the Catholic Church proves it.

    Here’s a sort of summary: I aim to show that the resurrection of Christ did, in fact, happen; and that anyone seeking to deny it would need to violate all sane reason (and the standards by which they accept other historical truth) to do so.

    And what I want to know from Jen is why our personal proof, which sounds very similar, led us to two very different beliefs.

    I wish I could answer that–and I have guesses–but I have no clear idea, on that point. One possibility: you’d experience bad example (what the Church would call “scandal”–from the Greek word for “causing to stumble”) when you were young, and the subsequent anger and feelings of disillusionment led you to run away from anything even remotely like Catholicism (at its core)–and I can imagine how that would “redirect” any investigations of “coincidence-explaining” in as non-Catholic a direction as possible. If I remember correctly, Jen grew up as a sort of “neutral” atheist, without specifically harboring anti-Catholic sentiments (or any great attention to Catholicism, at all).

  92. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed reading this…even if it is late! Thank you for sharing it and I pray God will continue to reveal Himself to you and bless your family.

    I wanted to read the comments, but that would take a looong time! Plus, I don’t want to read the rantings of all the “atheists” and “agnostics”. It’s funny how they come out of the woodwork to “defend” themselves or their beliefs or lack of belief, yet where are they when tragedy strikes? I don’t here them yelling from the rooftops when things aren’t going so well. When the really tough things happen they are suddenly quiet…hmmmm..maybe becaue they do not offer the hope that can only be found in God!

  93. Eren O'Del says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I appreciate the rationality with which you approached your decision to give God the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, the way the universe works (gravity, planets orbiting stars, the complexity of all micro-organisms) is not a bad reason to believe that there was a “designer” at the beginning of time. For all intents and purposes I am an atheist, but I qualified my beliefs by saying I am an atheist with respect to the standard definition of God: all knowing, all powerful, loving father who watches over us and answers prayers. As far as some sort of being that created the universal laws of physics, logic and math, I contend that it impossible to prove or disprove the existence of this particular model of God. However, it is important to note that this version of God does not actually watch over us, nor does he care what happens to us. The reason I believe that God doesn’t care is because of all the senseless suffering in the world; God being who he is should be more than equipped to make sure all of his children have at least the bare necessities. If this God exists, he (or she or it) simply put everything into motion.

    Having said that, I wonder not why you chose to believe in God, but rather why you chose this particular definition of God. Why does believing in the existence of a God necessarily mean agreeing with what Christians or Catholics believe? If the definition of God were open to debate, then I think most militant atheists would be mild-mannered agnostics. If the only God up for discussion is the one in the Bible (or the one Christians and Catholics believe in), then most agnostics would be atheists.

    Why do all (or most anyway) theists believe in such a specific model of God? The more specific the model, the easier it is to disprove. All that an atheist would have to do is disprove one of the parts of the definition – all knowing, all powerful, loving father who watches over us and answers prayers, take your pick – and he or she would disprove the existence of a God entirely.

    I think that your deeper understanding of the meaning of it all has more to do with your being older and wiser; the fact that you attribute it to God seems, to me, to be a mind trick or coincidence. This is not meant to be insulting; this is just how I see things. It’s been my experience that Christians will derive whatever meaning they want out of their everyday experiences to support their beliefs. For example, if you are suffering from cancer, and the cancer goes into remission, you (as a Catholic) will be more likely to believe that it was God who saved you rather than medicine. Know what I mean?

    I don’t know why every comment I leave on someone’s page turns out to be an essay. Sigh. Wish I knew how to be pithy. Anyway, I’d love a response from you.

  94. Richard Mayhan says:

    Thank you for your ministry. I am a former Bible church minister just returning to Christianity after 25+ years as a prodigal.

    During that time, I was an outspoken agnostic, but I continued to have spiritual moments, though I fought them.

    I’m an illustration of how far the Shepherd will go to retrieve one lost sheep. I think we may have this in common.

    Check out my story on http://prodigaleye.org and you’ll see me expressing my feelings of being an “outsider” though a believer.

    I also have a blog at http://debatechristianity.blogspot.com.

    I’ll keep following you. God bless …

  95. Richard Mayhan says:

    I don’t think we have to understand everything about God, including the Trinity or the reality of a being that is omniscient, ominipresent and omnipotent.

    To borrow a metaphor, if I land on the moon and spy another craft, I know someone else has been there and that there is design to the craft. I don’t have to know who designed it or why to know there was design based on the results of design.

  96. Brent Crouch says:

    Hi Jen,

    We think so much alike! I was raised to believe in God. Matter of fact, our family was at church no less than 6 hours a week. Some weeks it would be considerably more.

    I grew up to be an analytical thinker that doesn’t take anything at face value. I believe in things I can touch, test, replicate, and take apart. I never really lost my belief in God, but it has been something I have struggled with at certain times in my life.

    For the most part, I’m past that now. It wasn’t an overnight revelation for me, it’s been a journey of sorts. Here are two excellent resources I think you will appreciate.

    The Creator and the Cosmos – Hugh Ross PhD. This has been an excellent book. Dr. Ross shares his story of finding Christianity and running it through his scientific filter. He talks about recent discoveries, one of which was described by Steven Hawking as the greatest discovery of the 21st century, and how these discoveries show clear evidence that God does exist. It’s an excellent book.

    Another great resource is a site run by a fellow internet marketer Perry Marshall. Perry has some really great and scientific information that I think you will find interesting as well.

    http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Brent Crouch

  97. Pies says:

    I’ve read your explanation, but it doesn’t really explain anything for me. I too consider myself a logical thinker, but the arguments, both yours and your grandfather’s certainly aren’t enough to sway me :)

    Belief in the supernatural is, well, a belief. I have reasons to believe there are no gods, angels, devils etc. And my atheism is a belief like any other.

    One could make an argument for why would an educated, logical thinker start believing, but I assume you’ve heard all those arguments already. Let’s just say that if I started believing in God all of a sudden, I’d first try to explore all the medical reasons that could cause it to happen.

    But whatever makes you happy, I guess :) The only thing I’m actually lamenting with Catholics is that they usually start teaching their children to follow their faith at the age when they listen to their parents without any criticism, so they’re not given any choice in the matter of faith. Maybe try to balance that somehow, let them explore their spirituality without limiting them to a specific mindset.

    Anyhow, I wish you very well, and thank you for the posts. It’s actually refreshing to read a humble Catholic Christian. There’s certainly not enough of you guys :)

  98. Greg Reich says:

    Do you want to know something funny? Many of the feelings you had after beginning to live your life as though the Christian god exists are the same as the feelings I had after leaving the Catholic faith. I had always felt out of place and lonely with my doubts about the religion, but when I became an atheist, I felt free. I made my own purpose and my own goals, and I no longer felt lost, alone, and mechanical. When I was part of the faith, I felt like an actor; I felt like everything I did was a facade to make myself look like a good Catholic. I, too, read Augustine (have you read “City of God”? I have an interesting theory on that book), Aquinas, and Pascal, as well as C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and a great many other apologists from different faiths. Their arguments all required a leap of faith–and faith was empty to me. It still is. When I lived as though the Christian god existed–and oh, boy, did I–it always felt like an act, but now I feel like I know who I am, and I’m happier for it.

  99. Elizabeth Mahlou says:

    Jennifer and post-ers,

    It is wonderful to see a site where theists and atheists can talk to each other politely, sincerely, and with insight. It is the first I have stumbled across where opinions are exchanged without animosity.

    It is also wonderful to see so many conversions shared. I was an atheist for more than five decades, and my experiences parallel yours in many ways. You are blessed to have found God at a young age — I wish I had not had to wait so long. But then, I was a hard nut to crack, and it took a cosmic nutcracker to get me to see that not only was my life blessed but that it was filled with miracles (including the miracle of surviving years of extensive abuse of all kinds: sexual, physical, emotional). I wrote about it in a book called Blest Atheist [Jennifer, there is no need to include the name of the book if you do not wish to]. I think perhaps you should write up your story in a book, too, Jennifer. You have much to share, and, from what I can see on this blog, you do it well.

    I think Dennis asks a good question: what makes you think your personal experience has anything to do with church? I thought that my relationship with God, once I admitted that God does exist, was separate from church, but God showed me otherwise — almost literally pushed me in the church door. (The first time, I did not move from the door — I spent the entire mass sitting in the pew right beside the door. I have now moved a few pews closer to the front!) The way I figure it is that the church did not bring me to God; rather, God brought me to the church. For that reason, I believe that God does consider community important.

    Blessings to all of you on this blog; you, too, are members of a community (Jennifer’s blog community).

  100. Anonymous says:

    There is always two sides of a coin. One who believes and one who doesn’t. If they can not prove that God Exist? Then prove to me that God doesn’t exist. All I can say is the most intellect man is just a mere ignorant to GOD.

  101. Blackbird says:

    On the point you made about religious scientists, alot of them in the past were not quite “religious”, that classification was given to them by other people. There are 2 types of God in science: The God of order, and the personal God. The god of order, is the belief that there is pattern in the universe, that, although things may come about by chance, it is all beautiful and majestic. The garden of the universe is made of finest marble.
    This is what einstein believed, not a deity but the way the world fitted together. The personal god is the god of religions which many did not believe in.

  102. angela michelle says:

    Love it. I too feel my faith is empirical in that I tried it and it worked. I love your description of the qualitative improvements of a life with faith.

  103. JCS says:

    I would be genuinely interested to know if anyone can get me over this hurdle. I have tried with some pretty smart people and gotten every illogical response possible and been told that I have a demon and whatnot but I'll let fly here in the hopes that someone can make sense of it or show me where my math is wrong (figuratively speaking).

    The physical universe disagrees with the Creation story as a whole but that is another discussion.

    The Creation story puts Adam and Eve at anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 years ago (particularly when we take into account the details about Adam's age and the age of those after him).

    All of the scientific evidence points to the conclusion that homo sapiens have been around for some 200,000 years, this in stark contrast to the Garden of Eden story. Indeed, all the physical evidence supports evolution on every level whether biological, geological, or astronomical. The only rational conclusion is that the Adam and Eve story is, well, a story.

    And this is the problem. If it is just a story then there never was a singular event called "the fall of man" and therefore all this business of killing bulls of sacrificing a human virgin on a cross is entirely baseless.

    But even if we assume that the Garden/fall of man story is true, the conclusion that we draw is that the God of the Bible is not, in fact, very good at all. There is not one human being who would kick his/her toddler child out of the house for disobeying them (certainly not on a first offense!) or (if they had the power) alter that child's core being so that every one of her decendents would be born "in sin" and under a curse. This would be akin to a prisoner conceiving a child during a conjugal visit and then ensuring that the child was raised in prison since the parent had committed an offense.

    Moreover, the very nature of forgiveness is such that it does not require sacrifice. If your child steals from you, you don't tell them that they have to sacrifice Rover before they can be at peace with you. And if your neighbor offends you, you do not reconcile to them by allowing them to kill your infant son. Either you forgive or you don't.

    The entire thing is not only irrational but if any one of us behaved in a similar fashion, we'd be imprisioned. And rightly so.

    I too believe that there is a God but there is absolutely nothing about the Judeo-Christian story that seems to me to be good or loving in any sense, much less historically accurate. If you are going to believe in God, believe him to be better than what the Bible teaches.

    I am willing to listen to anyone who can correct me where I have erred here – so long as your argument is not ethereal or nonsensical.

  104. JCS says:

    Pies said… "The only thing I'm actually lamenting with Catholics is that they usually start teaching their children to follow their faith at the age when they listen to their parents without any criticism, so they're not given any choice in the matter of faith."

    It is not such a strange thing that parents take great pains to ensure that their children have answers to the "spiritual" questions long before the children are aware that there are questions. It is not like politics where we do not even bother trying to explain things until they are of an age to understand the difference between conservatives and liberals, moderates from left-wingers, and Republicans from Democrats. After all, when you have eternal damnation hanging over your head, you want to be sure that your children avoid the fire, right?

    That one never questions the character of a God who would even invent a Hell or who would impose a curse on an entire species because of a single action of the first two members of that species or who is unable to simply forgive an offense without requiring a bloody sacrifice (and how physical blood affects the spiritual realm has never been reasonably explained to me) is far more troubling than the fact that people indoctrinate their children with their particular religion.

    In all honesty, if someone really does believe all that stuff and isn't determined to save as many souls as possible then they are, to my mind, far worse that the people that do. To believe in Hell and feel no pain at the thought of a single human being entering the place is worse than remaining a silent observer in Nazi Germany.

  105. ED says:

    JCS – your last paragraph definitely caused a pang for me.

    "In all honesty, if someone really does believe all that stuff and isn't determined to save as many souls as possible then they are, to my mind, far worse that the people that do. To believe in Hell and feel no pain at the thought of a single human being entering the place is worse than remaining a silent observer in Nazi Germany."

    O My Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy. (Fatima Prayer, generally prayed as part of the Rosary these days)

    As for Hell, God is not believed to have created it by Catholics who pay attention to such things; that seems to be mainly an idea that arises from confusion over what Hell is. Rather, God has allowed Hell to exist, much like other evil things He did not create. Hell is not primarily a place, but is rather the state of being permanently seperated from God by sin, with all that entails.

    Here are some links from Catholic Answers' apologists forum. It's a great place to search for answers to these and other hard questions about the Catholic faith. They explain better than I do, and go into a bit more detail. The forums are searchable, if you want more info.

    Why did God create Hell?
    Is Hell 'external motivation'?
    Is Hell good?

  106. Mary from Berks says:

    You probably won't read this because the post is so old but I really touched me…you see my father who was 87 when he pass away dec 19, 2008 was also an engineer. He designed bridges, highways and water treatment plants throughout south and central america. He too was a man of deep and great faith who understood that if basic things had to be engineered then it would be an utter impossibility that this complicated beautiful universe was an accident. My husband is a convert…and he has deepened my faith. thanks and God bless for your conversion story.

  107. Jennifer @ Conversion Diary says:

    Mary – just wanted to let you know that I do still read comments to old posts. :) Thanks so much for your kind words!

  108. Reckless Divinity says:

    Impressive story. As an atheist, I have total respect for your experience, I am glad you have found your truth, and often long for that type of feeling myself.

  109. Edward Elkins jr. says:

    I believed in Jesus my whole life that I can recall. As a child I recieved the Holy Spirit not from any formal service but from just learning who Jesus is as I was learning to tie my shoes or what the grass is or sky. Yet I did have parents not catholic and who where not really complete athiest but luke warm backsliders of heart. Not being from a catholic family it wasnt until I was 22 that I ventured into a parish one saturday and was invited to baptism class. I have battled the unbelief of my own family as well as coworkers and the community for years. I have a blog at http://www.edwardelkins.blogspot.com . also http://www.myspace.com/clubmasterproductions I dont like many things about the catholic institute. The greek orthodox church bought my grandmothers house and made it into a church I went to a few masses and was comfortable a little because I had grown up in the house but when they moved their church to the Grange because they had new members and needed a bigger place. I felt not as comfortable. Which is how I feel about most catholic services. There is something about it. So I have been writing my opinions on a blog about modern times and my views about our covenant with the Lord in modern times. I dont know what it is like to come from the darkness as an adult. Yet battling the darkness as a youth was quite an experience. Welcome to life in the spirit. If you would have faith communing with the saints and angels would do wonders for youre life. Seeking the Prayers and intercession of saints like Moses, Elijah, David, Daniel, Noah, Even seeking to commune with Adam and Eve is all possible in the Lord. Learning from Angels in the spirit is also a fellowship of our baptism. Life in the spirit is mystical and can be very exciting yet our trials and tribulations are also perilous and I pray you stay faithfull to the end

  110. Leigh says:

    It's quite a stretch to think that because men who lived in societies hundreds of years ago that oppressed non-believers accepted God then there must be a God. They had no choice – they were brainwashed from the start and would have been alienated if they had professed to be non-believers. Thankfully today we can choose the truth and not be afraid to speak it. And the vast, vast, vast majority of the greatest scientists of today know that truth – that God is a delusion.

  111. Karen says:

    This is beautifully written, your path to finding God is very inspirational. Although I have always believed in God, there has been times that the “why this”, “why that” and the “ifs” have come to my mind, but I have never waived in my belief. Science only strengthens my beliefs, the world is too perfect for it all to have “just” happened for no reason. You have a lot of depth and I am glad that you dug down and searched through it. I love your grandfather's logic and would have loved to have met him.

    Roots and Rings led me here, Thanks Chelsea.

  112. Paulistiskt says:

    Thank u =)

  113. Shelley says:

    Hi! First time visitor. I heard about you via the Moody Chicago website after your interview with them today.

    I am confused by the logic in your post here on two accounts.

    First, how is this reasoning different than the flawed logic of "I do not know what this is, therefore, I DO know what it is" and then claiming "it" to be God? You write you feel like there is something else in the world besides science but you don't know what it is; then you go on to say you've decided it is God. How do you get from "I don't know what it is" to "I know what it is, it's God"? There is a step or two missing in that logic for me.

    Second confusing aspect for me is why you have chosen to discount science as playing a part in your newfound feelings of contentment. Is it possible neurochemical reactions in your brain are creating these emotional experiences in the same way neurochemical reactions create all other emotional experiences? Our brains are amazing, outstanding puzzles. Is it possible there is a testable scientific reaction going on in your brain as a result of your choosing to "act as if God exists" that is creating the pleasurable sensations you are experiencing? As a person who accepts scientific facts in other areas of life, what is it that leads you to believe there is a supernatural, external, omnipotent being causing you to feel good in this instance instead of the workings of your own amazing human brain?

  114. Rev. Fr. Jessie Somosierra,Jr. says:

    Good post!
    Keep up the good work!
    May the risen Christ bless you and your family always.

  115. Laura says:

    That your life made sense to you after you became christian is NOT proof of a supernatural god.
    It is important to distinguish between proof and your personal theories.
    If I'm sick, I might have an idea of why. I might have evidence for my theory. Maybe I'm even convinced of it.
    That is NOT proof of my theory!
    Similarly you do not have proof of god. You believe because it worked for you. Don't dress up that stark fact with claims of proof. You abandon intellectual integrity in doing so.
    I don't like to hear religious people abuse reason. We will do better in the end if we don't make excessive claims of certainty. It is important not to armor yourself against new thinking by making such excessive claims.
    I've been convinced of things and found out they weren't true. It was important to have that recognition.
    The word proof should be reserved for things that ARE proved. If you've proved god, claim your Nobel Prize in something. Otherwise, please don't misuse that word "proof".

  116. Anonymous says:

    Laura:

    Certain truths do not have proofs. They are intuitive. That is why she uses the word ''obvious'' sometimes.

    For an example, you do not have proof in your sense of the word that someone other than you exist apart from your imagination. But you have an ''intuitive'' proof that they do.

    God is one such proof. You know its true because when you believe there is a God, you see the absurdity of life without God :)

  117. Crowhill says:

    ISTM that most people who convert — into or out of faith — do so because the new perspective has more explanatory power. It makes more sense of life and the world.

    That seems to have been your experience.

    If this is so, why do so many apologists spend so much of their time focusing on arguments and evidence?

  118. tytalus says:

    This seems an interesting contradiction, having viewed one of her videos, where it's claimed that believers have a reasonable basis for their faith. At the same time, it's said here that it cannot be empirically demonstrated or shown to be anything more than imaginary.

    My skepticism towards the ex-atheist trope continues to be well founded, based on the poor quality of evidence ex-atheists seem to settle for.

  119. Anonymous says:

    Well, God, in principle, cannot be directly proven or shown. Otherwise, He would not be God. There are many anecdotal, empirical, experiential, existential, philosophical, etc. proofs which point to God, but never quite touch Him.

    Jennifer has probably examined some or all of the proofs, but what I think she is saying in THIS post is that, in the final analysis, Christianity is most persuasive in how its truth affects your life.

  120. tytalus says:

    Although I disagree about the baseless assertion that a 'proven' god is not a god, and any skeptic can understand that anecdotes etc. are not credible evidence…Jennifer does seem to fixate on the personal experience.

    It's a shame that she has to conclude with an attack on the sincerity of an ex-believer, like myself. But backed into that illogical corner, she is obliged to do so.

  121. windfish says:

    Notice, tytalus, I said that God cannot be *directly* proven. He can be proven, but not *directly.* In other words, I cannot bottle Him up in a test tube for lab analysis or photograph Him, etc. In principle, any proof for Him could only point to Him, but not quite touch Him. It is kind of like approaching a limit in Calculus.

    By the way, I don't think you should call yourself a skeptic. I mean, you can question evidence if you have a rational basis for doing so, but if you question evidence only on the basis that you are a skeptic, then you're really not after the truth. I was conversing with a skeptic and he was bending over backwards to come up with conspiracy scenarios that would explain away the evidence I presented to him. What kind of B.S. is that? :p

  122. Anonymous says:

    I find your article interesting, but lacking in details. You mention some abstract coincidences and other things, but are never specific, and this leaves me wondering what changed your mind? I am quite the opposite of you, I would put myself in the category of of your Grandfather, I was raised staunchly Southern Baptist, with all the trimmings that come with it. But then I by serving my country I ended up all over the world (As a United States Marine) and eventually in Iraq. As my own eyes have seen, religion is the ultimate evil in the world (and that includes Christianity) Seeing the world for what it really was, my belief was ripped out from under me, much as if you suddenly turned off gravity, and it was this struggle, to come to the realization that everything I have known in life has been a lie, and the steps towards rebuilding a life not infiltrated by religion and its poisons, that truly strengthened my new found Atheism. I'm sure you have heard most of the arguments for atheism, and I'm not trying to be offensive, but it seems you have gone christian because of the lack of work it takes. It takes considerable effort to use ration and logic and reason to decipher the world around us, and to me, faith is the very suspension of logic. Even if I were to somehow "re-believe" in god himself, the very institution of religion is a farce, a conglomeration of ritual and tradition spun to keep those in high power at their positions. I humbly would ask you, that someday when you find yourself bored, to add up the number of people the catholic church has killed in its quest for god. Are you willing to be associated with an institution that plainly sees women as inferior, and will more than likely commit more atrocities in the future in the name of god? Again, I am not trying to be smug or condescending, but I truly hope you come back to your "senses" one day.

  123. windfish says:

    I am sorry for your experience, Anon, and it's one of my frustrations that this topic is not conducive to writing (at least in my opinion it isn't). I hope that you don't harden your heart just yet.

  124. Nicholas says:

    Having read this and numerous replies (I admit to skipping to the end after reading through most of the exchange between Paladin and Little Eye), I found Jennifer’s “arguments” wholly unconvincing in any manner.

    I found this blog via a post about abortion in a catholic magazine linked by a Facebook friend, wanting to get some background on someone who claimed to argue from an “ex-atheist” standpoint. From reading, it appears that you were not, as you claim, an atheist (as the term is currently most commonly used, by the likes of Dawkins and Myers and Harris), but instead simply a more common, run-of-the-mill non-religious person.

    For those of you who are believers who actually wish to converse on these subjects with personally avowed atheists, there are a few things to keep in mind.

    1) At least in America, there is still a bit of a stigma attached with not only being a non-religious person, but going the opposite end and being an atheist. Those of us who have “come out” as atheists have a sense of personal involvement with being so, and claiming that anyone who is merely non-religious is the same as someone who is positively atheistic (not passive) would be the same as an atheist claiming that someone who attends Sunday Mass every week and actively thinks about scripture in their life is the same as a holidays-only churchgoer.

    2) It is not, as an early commenter claims, a “No True Scottsman” argument to claim the above. I’d love to hear any arguments otherwise, but please at least explain any difference between an active churchgoer and a holiday attendee fits within your definition.

    3) Most current/modern atheists claim to be so due to being skeptics or rationalists. If you are going to claim that you are an ex-atheist, but you did not come to that conclusion via skepticism or rationalism, please be sure to mention that. This is where Jennifer’s story falls apart – she does not appear to have been anything close to a skeptic or a rationalist, seeming to give her personal experiences no deeper reflection due to her newly assumed biases. That’s fine and dandy, but you were either not a skeptic, or very poor at overcoming personal bias.

    4) I realize this has been mentioned already, but seriously? Pascal’s Wager? I had a lifelong Catholic Priest (I think he is a step or two below a bishop, I don’t remember) who taught a course on the philosophy of religion. Pascal’s Wager came up in class, and he thoroughly eviscerated it, pointing out innumerous flaws, the most glaring being that any God who was not a complete imbecile would not be fooled (and likely would even be insulted) by the idea of someone simply choosing to believe in him because “it was a safer choice”. Pascal’s Wager is entirely about completely disregarding intellectual honesty – it’s saying “I don’t care about determining what is actually true about the world, I simply want to think nice, happy thoughts.” I realize (hope, at least) that this was likely simply a throwaway phrase, but at least realize how intellectually foolish even mentioning this makes you appear.

  125. Andres says:

    So apparently people have psychological transformations when they start considering seriously the possibility that a certain metaphysics is true. For instance, I gave the benefit of the doubt the idea that “we are all One.” Amazing things happened afterwards. But the same happens when you seriously consider whether Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Scientology, etc. is true. So picking up on these psychological transformation as evidence of the reality of the *object of thought* does not hold. Why? Because then every person’s transformation would count as evidence, but for different things. It is, as you considered, confirmation bias. A form of confirmation bias that is so common and prevalent that allows you to believe in pretty much any metaphysics if you put your mind to it for the simple reason that any metaphysics you consider will change the way you perceive the world.

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  1. […] thing that’s missing from the sidebar here at the newly-designed blog is my Why I Believe in God post. I used to keep it up there to give new readers a high-level explanation of what convinced me […]

  2. […] He seems to be of the same mindset as Jennifer Fulwiler was: I always assumed that the reason I didn’t believe in God was because I was a more scientific-type thinker. My mind simply demanded proof before it would believe a theory to be true. And as nice as it would be to think that God and Mr. Jesus love me and want me to hang out with them and the pretty angels in heaven, the Christian story just seemed so bizarre and, really, absurd. (Conversion Diary) […]

  3. […] of her pieces on this topic are How I researched my way into Christianity, Love and conversion, On having proof and Why I’m Catholic.Jennifer is but one of several atheism to Catholicism bloggers listed in […]

  4. […] POSTS: On having proof; Love and […]