So I’ve decided to start some discussion posts as well as my normal blog posts to see what people think. I’m hoping people will find these as a useful forum to discuss ideas and beliefs, and just to provide an open forum for debate.
The questions that I ask by no means reflect my personal beliefs, but they do reflect conversations that I’ve had with people and questions that have been raised in those conversations. So the first question is this:
The assumption when thinking about atheism is that atheists want to learn and progress. Therefore, is it illogical to be an atheist seen as no one has disproved God and there is a possibility that he exists? Surely any logical human who didn’t have religious belief would be an agnostic?
Dean is an Ordinand training for ordination in the Anglican Church. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about
That’s because the (ahem) people asking the question don’t understand atheism. Or agnosticism.
I am an agnostic atheist, meaning that I don’t believe(atheist) God exists but I don’t know(agnostic) for sure. That would be silly; I don’t know the entirety of the universe. Before anybody gets ideas about “wouldn’t it be better to believe in case you’re wrong”, Pascal’s Wager has been discredited for a very long time now.
Thanks for the reply 🙂 Why would you say that it’s been discredited, and why would you say that ‘lack of evidence’ for God is a valid reason to be an agnostic atheist, when you could be the other way and be a theist due to lack of evidence against God?
Because it doesn’t work like that. Atheism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If there weren’t any theists around, atheism wouldn’t exist. Atheists don’t go around screaming “There is no God! There is no God!” to an uncaring universe, you know. Theists, on the other hand, proclaim, “There is a God! There is a God!” with absolutely nothing to back such an extraordinary claim than a few dusty old books written either in languages that have been dead for thousands of years or by cultures that, today, we simply don’t understand.
I am an atheist, but I am also an agnostic, also. See other discussion for a description of what that means. Provide me with perfect, verifiable proof that God exists and I will believe that said God exists. Why wouldn’t I? I am an atheist, not an idiot. I may not find said God worthy of my worship, however, but that’s a different discussion.
So there you have it. A challenge. Be warned, however, that I do not accept holy books, personal revelation or reports of miracles of any sort as any kind of proof. Nor do I accept holes in our and my own current understanding of the universe as proof of God’s existence. Techniques used on primitive people from the jungle or the desert are not acceptable today.
I get where you’re coming from, but aren’t we just losing any notion of faith in the whole thing?
I mean, if people can be innocent until proven guilty, then surely God can exist until proven otherwise?
But what about if people disprove God. How could that possibly accurate if people have tried to outsmart God, when it was God who created them as mere mortal beings, how could we get our mind around God?
I’ll never be able to give you a formula to prove God, because some things you just have to accept by faith. Of course, I could point to lots of ‘evidence’ for God, but you’d discredit that as being part of the big bang and all sorts of things.
I mean, I know you don’t accept the Bible as any proof, but Jesus’ claims as being God. Surely they must count for something seen as these texts have survived and outlived every other human who’s ever lived. If people didn’t think he was God, then why would they be willing to die for him? – I’m not using this as proof of God, but you do have to think about these things.
It just seems illogical to me that you would demand proof of God before believing in him. It’s a futile argument I think, the one you’re putting on the table, because we both want things that neither of us can give eachother, if you see what I mean?
Christian faith isn’t what we’d call blind faith, but nonetheless, it is a faith, and that means believing in some things without solid facts, such as A + B x C /43 = God if you understand…
Hi “The Other Wierdo”
You also said:
Provide me with perfect, verifiable proof that God exists and I will believe that said God exists.
I have a few starter questions.
a) My understanding of “The scientific method” is that it does not reply on perfect, verifiable proof. Instead theorems are put forward that appear to fit the evidence and are then tested/challenged. You seem to be requiring a much higher level of “proof” in this field. Have I misunderstood?
b) In what sense do you not accept “holy books”? As ancient literature the Bible (particularly the New Testament) is unique in terms of the number, consistency and age (as in close in time to the original manuscripts) of the manuscripts. Do you accept the reliability of the transmission of the manuscripts through the ages? Do you accept the reliability of the translations? As one example it would provide a clearer base for discussion if I knew what it is you do not accept about “Holy Books”?
c) I am left wondering whether you are simply determined to not believe and not be challenged. You have ruled out so many different ways of being convinced that I wonder what you think is left.
You haven’t misunderstood. Then again, this isn’t about the scientific method. Scientists use the “scientific method” because they are people and are therefore totally fallible. Though not always successful, it is the best way we have of learning about the world that results in real, verifiable knowledge.
What we’re discussing here, however, is not science. It is God, the supposedly first-cause of the Universe itself, the main(some would say the only) driver in the seat of our lives. Something like that should be knowable without double-blind taste tests and performing experiments. Apparently, it is not, and that’s what I’m looking for here.
Holy books are “holy” only because they rely on the uncritical assumption that they were indeed written(or at least inspired by) the very being that is discussed within their pages. Since that assumption hasn’t been proven yet, holy books are not useful as anything other than ancient literature.
The ways I ruled out rely on emotional manipulation and uncritical acceptance of the printed word. They are also some of the most common ways that Christians use to convert unbelievers and non-believers.
Hi “The Oher Wierdo”,
Thanks for your reply.
Something like that should be knowable without double-blind taste tests and performing experiments. Apparently, it is not, and that’s what I’m looking for here
H’mm, you have left me confused. You appear to be rejecting the scientific method as being unnecessary while also rejecting anything else as being emotional manipulation.
I think there are other options and it seems to me that you end up missing both the support that the scientific method gives to Christian Faith (particularly the analysis of manuscripts) while rejecting as emotional manipulation the evidence of historical research and literary criticism (as two examples).
I do not believe that Christian faith can be fully proved purely logically/scientifically (obviously then it would not be a matter of faith). However, I do find there is a weight of supporting evidence (that to use someone else’s comparison is entirely lacking for tooth fairies).
Holy books are “holy” only because they rely on the uncritical assumption that they were indeed written(or at least inspired by) the very being that is discussed within their pages. Since that assumption hasn’t been proven yet, holy books are not useful as anything other than ancient literature
Unsurprisingly enough I disagree. I am very happy to discuss the Bible without assumptions about it being written by or inspired by God. When looked at without that assumption it is still powerful and challenging. As historical literature it is incredibly well attested to in many ways (far more so that say Julius Ceasers Gallic Wars).
The Bible is incredibly useful beyond a label as “ancient literature”. For example this year being the 400th since the publication of the King James Bible it has been a time when the immense cultural significance of the Bible in understanding much literature & art as well as many newer forms of art such as films has been highlighted .
I am afraid that to claim that the Bible is just another piece of ancient literature is to put your head in the sand. In terms of the text itself as well as the impact it has had that is obviously not true.
As I said above. I disagree, you have ruled out way more than just ways that “rely on emotional manipulation and uncritical acceptance of the written word”. I am happy to engage with critical (in the technical literature sense) readings of the Bible, they do not worry or frighten me.
While I recognise that Christians are far from perfect and we frequently get things wrong my own experiences do not support your claim that these are common ways of conversion.
You are always welcome to come and meet the people in the Churches I serve and ask them about their conversions and whether they have been manipulated or forced to accept things uncritically.
I wish you could have been at the ladies meeting I was at this evening. Mostly pretty elderly (I guess average age over 70) we had a great discussion about Holy Communion with freedom to criticise & challenge. They would laugh at your claims of conversion methods.
is it illogical to be an atheist seen as no one has disproved God
Why is it that you feel the burden of proof should be on atheists to prove the non existence of god? Experience has taught me that it is impossible to prove something doesn’t exist. So, I would think rather than ask an atheist to disprove god, would it not be more logical to present evidence for one?
There is a fine distinction between what atheists believe about god and what you think we believe. We do not believe “there is no god”, what we believe is that we have not seen sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of god, therefore no reason to assume there is one. It is simply a default position to say there is no god.
What atheist get from someone who pursues this approach to the conversation is that they are avoiding the elephant in the room. It’s not that we can’t prove there is no god, we know that, we will all admit it, that’s not the issue, the issue is, can you provide any verifiable evidence that there is one, that’s the issue.
Why is your default position “there is no God”? Shouldn’t it be I don’t know?
Also, please see above for my further questions leading on from your rather similar points…
What would be the point. I don’t say, I don’t know if there are unicorns. Why? Because there is no evidence for them. Why should a non provable god be provided special status just because people have labeled some mythical being god?
Do you say you don’t know if the tooth fairy exists?
But we’re not talking about unicorns and tooth fairies are we? We’re talking about God. And if God does exist, then that has a damn sight more bearing on your life than a unicorn or tooth fairy doesn’t it?
Also, and on a side note, Christians would suggest that there is evidence, and then give you it; but the problem is that the evidence isn’t acceptable to you.
if God does exist, then that has a damn sight more bearing on your life than a unicorn or tooth fairy doesn’t it?
That’s correct. However If the same amount of evidence is available for each one, which is none, then each is equal. irrelevant. If there is no god then you have devoted yourself to a life of slavery to an idea. One that robbed you of the only thing of real value you have, time. When all along you could have dedicated yourself to things of real importance, like the betterment of mankind. Instead you chose to focus your life on a wing and a prayer, In hopes that something for which there is no evidence for, is true.
Suggesting evidence and producing it are two different things. I spent many years as a christian, I am very familiar with the evidence. I know the only way you can settle for the evidence is to accept it with out question. It just seems strange to me that if a god existed he would hide himself within inconsistencies and confusion. So your right it isn’t acceptable to me.
Well I don’t think the life would be wasted, actually. I love that you think that we are enslaved. That’s not at all right.
And, to be honest, a lot of the Christian life is trying to help out humanity.
As far as the evidence goes, what evidence do you mean? What would be acceptable evidence to you? It doesn’t seem like there is any sort of evidence that would be.
And inconsistencies – the atheists who have commented on my blog so far have banded this word around like there’s no tomorrow, yet fail to produce even one inconsistency that they have come across themselves. And, if God had made it too confusing, then none of us would be Christians, would we. We’re talking about an all knowing mind over the mere mortal here. And I actually think the gospel message is the simplest thing in the world.
Yet, ironically, the hardest thing in the world for someone who doesn’t want to believe…
There are people for whom unicorns have more bearing on their lives than your god. If you don’t believe in God, then he has no bearing whatsoever. Just because he might exist and other think that he does is not a reason to be concerned. If I believe that unicorns possess the key to heaven and salvation, that still doesn’t mean anything to you just because it’s possibly true and I believe that it is.
I’m not any more concerned that unicorns hold the key to heaven than I am concerned about God. Both are possibilities, but I don’t believe either one is true. To you, it’s a situation with tremendous bearing on my life, and that’s fine. But to those who aren’t believers, it’s just another fictional story – like unicorns and tooth fairies. I think that’s what Renshia was trying to get across. At least I hope it is 🙂
The gnostic\agnostic question is one of knowledge. Do you know that gods exist? We do not, or at least anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty would not claim knowledge of gods’ existence.
The theist\atheist question is one of belief. Do you believe in one or more gods. I do not.
I am an agnostic atheist. The term agnostic isn’t some middle ground between atheism and theism. It is an entirely different question. I am agnostic because I claim no knowledge of gods and I am atheist because I lack belief in gods. It really is as simple as that.
The way that you use atheist as someone who believes that your god does not exist is one small part of the spectrum of atheism. It is equivalent to dumping all Christians into the same definition as Fred Phelps or Mike Stahl. That would be a fallacy of composition and nobody wants to be accused of that.
Also I think it is worth turning this question around to see how it plays out: “Is it illogical to be a theist given that no one has proven the existence of a god there is a possibility that no gods exist? Surely any logical human who agnostic.”
Do you see how this same question works when applied to your beliefs? Do you now see the flaw in the question and how it is stated in such a loaded manner?
But I don’t think you can assume that someone isn’t intellectual just because they believe that they know that there is a God, whether that’s because of the creation they see around them, a miracle that they may have experienced, or near death experience, or just a gut feeling.
Because God can’t, like I’ve commented up there ^ be proven by formulas and other things. There has to be an element of faith. That’s why it’s called the Christian faith.
But I mean, I study theology and the Bible and I just can’t help but notice all the fulfilled prophecies, and hear the stories of missionaries who I’ve met who see people being raised from the dead daily, and all these things.
To me, those are just some things that point towards there being a God. Like, just even the universe, how big it is. We believe that the universe is eternal… but so many find it hard to believe in an eternal God. Even if you reached the end of the universe, one would want to know what was the other side. What if the other side was God?
Like I’ve also said – we’re looking for things off of eachother that we can’t give. But I personally feel that it’s more logical to believe.
And may I just add that the job of the Christian isn’t to try and prove to people with facts that God exists, even though many try, it’s simply to preach what Jesus (who we believe is God) told us. And the message that Jesus told us to preach is just simply amazing. And I know it sounds silly to you, even foolishness, but I just love Jesus. I can’t help it! Like, people go crazy over celebrities and worship them. I do the same, but to Jesus. And that’s all I can tell you. But the Bible says that to those who don’t have the desire to know God, then they won’t listen, and this will all seem like foolishness.
I don’t know whether you want to believe or not. But I think if you think long and hard about the question, I don’t think you want to believe enough. Because surely, if you wanted to believe enough then you would?
I know my arguments may be flawed, but I’ve tried to be as honest and as personal as I can. I’m not here on a mission. My blog is simply to blog about Christian things, theology, current affairs and to just open up for discussion, which I think this is achieving. I hope you understand 🙂
Dean, I respect your posts and your thoughts. But, your arguments are extremely self-centered. To you, everyone is either right (a Christian) or they have some problem that’s preventing them from being right like you (like not wanting it bad enough).
So I feel compelled to ask – why is it that you don’t “want it bad enough” to believe what I do? Why haven’t you accepted that you’re performing the ultimate sin by shirking responsibility for your own sins and placing them on Jesus’ shoulders? What is preventing you from coming to the correct conclusion?
I guess if you wanted to believe enough then you would.
Or maybe you’ve just gotten used to being able to make self-righteous accusations to people who are humble enough not to counter with equally arrogant remarks.
You’re just some guy with some beliefs, just like everyone else. The difference is, not everyone feels compelled to make sweeping, arrogant assumptions about complete strangers. Please try to understand that.
Well I don’t believe your first statement. Because the sentence immediately after it knocks that ‘compliment’ right on it’s face.
To you, everyone is either right (a Christian) or they have some problem that’s preventing them from being right like you (like not wanting it bad enough).
Have I said that? No. By being right, what do you mean? Morally? Or about God? Well of course I’m going to think I’m right about God. Just like you think you’re right about atheism. Do I think they who don’t believe have a problem? Kind of. I would say it’s sin – but we all have sin (thinking from a Christian point of view).
Or maybe you’ve just gotten used to being able to make self-righteous accusations to people who are humble enough not to counter with equally arrogant remarks.You’re just some guy with some beliefs, just like everyone else. The difference is, not everyone feels compelled to make sweeping, arrogant assumptions about complete strangers. Please try to understand that.
In what way are they self righteous? I don’t think they are. You don’t want to believe, I do. I see evidence to help me with the faith that I have. You don’t accept that evidence and don’t believe.
This whole comment is completely childish. You’ve taken one little line that I’ve said, and twisted it into a huge vice which amounts to nothing, I’m afraid. You’ve completely ignored the rest of my comment, and focussed on this one thing. Which, if we’re honest is a perfectly true thing to say. I mean, it’s not me who’s saying it at the end of the day. It just says it in the Bible. I’m merely quoting what I believe God has given me to get to know him more.
I was completely honest in my comment up there. There was no self righteousness at all. But I do have to say that any atheist who challenges me on an issue and doesn’t like my reply gives me the self righteous chestnut. I’m sure you’d hate it if I did the same to you every time you replied to a question that I posed to you.
If you’re going to reply on here, then please don’t just start lashing out and making deeply personal remarks. To say that you don’t want to believe enough is a completely valid statement to make. Because if I asked you, you would answer, “No, I don’t want to believe enough”.
I never said you weren’t honest. I said you were self-righteous. I believe that you’re honest.
You’re self-righteous, and that’s okay. I’m being confrontational, but that’s okay too.
I can be open and honest without being disrespectful. I’m sure you’re called self-righteous all the time, when you’re just saying what you feel. When I say what I feel, Christians tell me I lash out and I don’t respect them.
So it goes.
I’m not sure why you think I’d answer “No, I don’t want to believe enough”. And I’m not sure what the question was. Was that my answer to your question “Why don’t I believe in God” or my question to you?
If I’m honest, I don’t know! I get what you’re saying…
But I wasn’t being self righteous in my argument. I was simply stating what the Bible says about people who don’t want to believe.
Anyway, I’ve said all there is to say for this part of the discussion. I’m glad that we can get along, and whilst I don’t agree with your comments, I do enjoy reading them and interacting with you 🙂
Your approach Dean, seems very christian centric. I recommend readin up on John Loftus’ outsider test.
You ask why we atheists don’t believe, is it because we don’t want to? This assumes that we have a choice between Christianity or atheism, but its far bigger than that. We are presented with a vast array of faiths, and a vast array of denominations within those faiths and none of them seems to have any really solid evidence behind them.
You state in some of your posts the long legacy of the church but you must realise this has far more to do with historical causes than the contents. What if Constantine hadn’t adopted it as state religion. Do you think it would still be the biggest faith on earth? Sure you can say it was faith that motivated him and maybe it was, but it was his secular power as emperor that made christianity powerful, not his believe in its contents. You’ve also mentioned in posts that people are willing to die for christianity, people are willing to die for all kinds of causes. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism all have their heroic martyrs. Even democracy, homosexuality and communism have their heroic martyrs. People have always been willing to die for their ideals and christianity is not proved any different by its own. Not to mention of course that throughout history there have been no oppressors of christianity as vicious and thorough as other christians. The albigensian crusade, inquisition and Europes protestant vs catholic religious wars to name just a few.
The fact of it is that currently lacking faith, an atheist can find no really solid reason to believe in any faith. Nor do we feel any particular need to suspend our critical faculties to ignore that need for evidence when formulating our world view. Christianity offers us nothing we desperately need, it offers no evidence that it is real or that it is more real than other faiths and indeed its history reads exactly as if there was no god.
When you realise that the evidence Christ existed at all is so extremely thin, that messianic jewish prophets were common back then and that the bible itself is a cobbled together book written by unknown authors, well after the event and put together by committee, then you lose all respect for the authority it claims. The bible you read did not exist for hundreds of years after Christs death and the faith you follow did not exist for over a millenia.
The majority of atheists are agnostic atheists. We can’t be sure of gods existence (as it is impossible to prove a negative) but we given the quality of the evidence we see no reason to believe.
If you are honest about it, this is exactly why you don’t believe in Hinduism, or Islam. You can’t be sure they are wrong, but there is no evidence that you find convincing to make you follow their faiths. We just treat your god the same as we treat theirs.
Hi Dean! Thank you for sparking these interesting debates here!
I just want to pick on the fact you think it’s illogical to assume there is no God when God can neither be proved or disproved. By that same logic, it is illogical to assume there is a God when God can neither be proved or disproved. So using that logic, neither atheism nor Christianity has anything above the other. However, as a child is born without religion, it is surely a more logical stance to not believe in God, since religion must be either indoctrined or learned – religion is not the natural stance to take; atheism is.
I also saw you had a problem with atheism talking about inconsistencies. As it happens, there is a reason you hear this word a lot – because the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of inconsistencies within the Bible. I could give you so many examples but you will probably just tell me I either don’t understand or have taken it out of context,so there doesn’t seem to be a lot of point. I have read the Bible and know that I haven’t misunderstood the contradictions I found in it, or taken them out of context.
And lastly, you say that you present atheists with evidence, which gets rejected. I daresay that if the only ‘evidence’ for evolution was a 2000 year old scripture you would laugh evolutionists down – let alone the scientific, paleontological and geological errors in it. I have seen no evidence at all for Christianity – in fact the converse, I have seen far more compelling evidence for evolution. You say that the evidence you give would not be accepted as evidence by atheists, and the reason for that is that the evidence you give isn’t really evidence. If we define evidence as ‘the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid‘ – I think you will agree that the Bible, personal experience, and ‘the world around us’ is quite blatantly not evidence.
And since we’re talking about evidence, Christians reject the wealth of evidence there is regarding evolution. I’m sorry but I completely fail to understand how you want atheists to accept the Bible as proof for a God, yet won’t accept radioactive dating, fossil evidence and genealogical evidence as true. No wonder you have different ideas of evidence, Dean, because if you had the same ideas of evidence as atheists you wouldn’t be a Christian. I would say you know that by your comment earlier up the page where you say Christianity is based on faith. And that is true, it is based on faith alone. Not facts.
Re: Dean: I’m glad that we can get along, and whilst I don’t agree with your comments, I do enjoy reading them and interacting with you
Do you believe in Zeus, Ra, Thor, Uranus, Shu, Bochica, Boraro, Inti, Danu, Tlaloc, or any of the other 3,700+ gods other humans have believed in or do believe in? If not, why? Can you disprove their existence? How can you be so illogical?
Atheists don’t believe in your god or any of the other 3,700+ gods dreamed up by humanity for the same reason. There’s no evidence for them. When you figure out why you don’t believe in all of the gods you don’t believe in, along with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and Bigfoot, you’ll understand why we don’t believe in your chosen god. You might also want to look up “Burden of Proof”. You have it. We don’t.
But the God I believe in became a man.
Yes, But can he become a woman with the head of an elephant! Many gods and goddesses supposedly have manifested in more impressive physical forms at some point or another than your “man”. Many a man has professed to be a god too. So what’s your point?
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