Church Visit #1 and Nice Surprises

I, along with some heathen buddies at the UChicago Secular Alliance, are taking a tour of the many religious services around the Chicago-land area. We plan on going to Christian churches, Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues, and more. We started our journey today at Living Hope, a small Presbyterian church that has its services at one of UChicago’s buildings.

First of all, the music was excellent. It was much more lively and eventful than the last church I’ve been to; a Jehovah’s Witness sermon literally bored me to yawning tears.

Most admirable was the community’s concern with violence and injustice in the local community. Though I don’t agree with prayer as a treatment for a serious problem, people at the church demonstrated that they were very aware of the insane amounts of shootings and criminal activities on our own streets. Inspired by this, I hope to speak to this topic and/or raise awareness at an SSA meeting.

After the sermon, the Pastor gave us a chance to have a Q/A session which was quite productive. We got to ask questions like, “how does faith impact your life?” and “Why do you pray?”

The first question I got to ask related to the service because there were quite a few instances when people prayed for people to get well in a hospital. I was wondering if people actually thought that their prayers would have an effect on the outcome. The answers I got, frankly, really surprised me.

There was a young lady who said she knew prayer worked because she or one of her friends (these things are always anecdotal, so bear with me here) had a miracle cure that was inexplicable. One day, a person didn’t need crutches anymore. The pastor also referenced a few examples in his life when people suddenly got better. I had no idea in this day and age, much less in an environment like the University of Chicago, people still subscribe to these superstitious beliefs about faith-healing. Of course, there was some discussion about scientific studies about the (non)influence of prayer, but few seemed to understand that virtually all the scientific literature pointed to the fact that prayer has no medical effect. Someone briefly mentioned this study which showed that only when patients knew that they were being prayed for was there an effect (and the effect was negative because of performance anxiety).

Anyways, the more interesting part of the discussion came when we discussed topics like morality and “finding hope as an atheist”. Nothing surprised me here, and the arguments on both sides were pretty standard. We got very very good questions from the Christians there too, like “How do you define good?” and “Where did we develop the ability to empathize?”

Of course, I’d be surprised once again. The pastor talked about how great it would be to survive one’s death and live into an afterlife. After all, we could do so much more than just try to leave a legacy here on Earth. My response was simply that, yes, although I find Hell an appalling concept, the idea of Heaven–the idea that one could survive death–is very appealing. It would be great if it were true.

The pastor then replied, “Oh. So you simply don’t see that the Resurrection shows that there is an after-life.”

“What? Did you say that the Resurrection proves that there is an after-life?” asking for clarification when I couldn’t believe my ears.

Do you see where this is going? Even if one could demonstrate positively that there was a Resurrection, there is no possible relevance to the question of whether there is an after-life.

I commented that I myself could be Resurrected, and everything I say could be nonsense. After all, there were many Resurrections in the Bible. Clearly, there was something terribly wrong with his argument.

So the pastor clarified that the Resurrection demonstrated the existence of an after-life because of who Jesus was. He was supposedly an exemplary moral figure, a man who made spectacular claims about the Universe, and performed many many miracles. He even predicted his own future. I found it quite odd that he admits that the Resurrection itself isn’t sufficient; it is only sufficient when it is couple with even more spectacular non-sequitur claims about being related to God, predicting the future, and performing miracles.

But how does that show anything? First of all, I can easily conceive of a (fictional) person who made the spectacular claims that Jesus did, did all the miracles, acted perfectly moral, and fulfilled many prophecies. Yet, he could still be the Devil’s assistant, sent here to trick men into believing an after-life.

But that’s not even the main problem with the argument. The most surprising thing is that this is a pastor advising people on what he believes based on a widely fallacious argument from authority.

Suppose Jesus said something demonstrably true like “for all right triangles, side one squared plus side two squared equals the hypotenuse squared”. It would seem like the pastor would like us to believe that the theorem is true because Jesus said it. I, and most atheists, on the other hand, think that propositions are true or false based on the properties of the thing being referred to (in this case, a right triangle). We believe therefore the only proper way to know if something is true is to study the thing itself (through geometry) and not by listening to authority.

Similarly, answers to questions like “is there an afterlife?” beg for study of the existence of the afterlife itself. We can try to study consciousness to see if it can possibly survive after death. We can refer to cognitive philosophy. We can look at studies of near-death experiences. Maybe the endeavor is futile, and we can’t know the answer.

But too many religious people say they already know, and that it is true because a figure in a desert said it was so, and because he:

i) had a mom who never had sex
ii) could turn water in wine
iii) claimed to be the Son of God
iv) was a perfect moral figure
v) etc. etc. etc.

If we imagine this list going to infinity, would that convince us? Would that convince you?

Always looking for surprises. Until next time, don’t keep the faith.

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Posted on October 10, 2011, in Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Would that convince me? No, the picture-books that are the Prophesies were never explained to me by anybody. The Book is misunderstood by both the religious believer in the existence of God and the religious believer in the non-existence of God. Both the Christian believer and the atheist believer convinced me of little else other than their beliefs are little boxes limiting Sight and that they’ve got a lot more in common with each other in that particular area than they realize.

    What convinced me as a lifelong Agnostic who never believed, never went to church outside of a couple of months in 2nd grade where I determined that the Baptists couldn’t find their asses from their elbows if you gave them a road map, never went back to church unless it was a funeral or wedding or a couple of times with a friend while growing up to be polite, never understood the concept of beliefs at all or understand those who Pridefully believe that they’re “all about science” as they’re clearly not, and who is still an Agnostic to this day, was a series of Divine Revelations that stretch all the way back to December 17th 1986. (How is that for a run-on sentence, eh? My goodness, I think I hear an English teacher crying somewhere.)

    After June 17th 1999’s Revelation visit to the Battlefield of Hell, I was curious about this picture of the controlling energy of Wrath that I had received as well as how perfectly the whole setup was in regards to location down to street names, people I was with, what time it happened, and etc. After meeting Beings whose faces floated over my friends of Jame & Jeremiah, David & Paul, I was wondering why I was thinking “this feels Biblical” when it happened. After all, I’m not a believer such as a Christian or an atheist. I am an Agnostic who endeavors to be open to what may be while accepting truths received. (i.e.: One can be an agnostic all he or she wants about something like gravity, but

    After Thanksgiving Day 2000’s November 23rd Divine Gift of NO MORE REGRETS while at the “Stubborn Mule” in Canada with my girlfriend who also witnessed the Light (no, we weren’t drunk and weren’t on anything more than turkey), I was curious about how I had so many regrets and now had them no more. I have not felt regrets at all since that day almost eleven years ago.

    After December 17th 2006’s Divine Revelation where I saw that familiar weird and almost underwater face appear over my friend Matthew’s whereupon I then visited Outer Darkenesse and stared mesmerized at this cube of light while in an outer space of no stars. This brilliantly bright light coming from a somewhat small cube was New Jerusalem. That was weird I thought, before heading off to talk to my friend King James about it.

    After October 17th 2009’s temptation to be one of the …don’t even want to say…, I still couldn’t believe. Let me just say that no military recruiter men who contacted me in high school around the time I signed that Selective Service card that all American men are required by law to sign were ever that annoying. I can sum up my actions as such: “GOD DAMN IT, I said no!” I didn’t actually say that at the time, but it fits as a literal description.

    After March 17th 2011’s view into the Eternal Powers (Guidance over temporary force and Influence over temporary control) where I heard, “you’re figuring it out” and turned to see a Cherubic face floating over my friend Michael who was IMMEDIATELY knowable got my attention. NO NO NO OH! was about how I replied. Mr. 6 syllables said, “this what you wanted.” NO NO! I was scared. Mr. 6 syllables offered one more 6 syllable reply before he branched off, “this is what you asked for”. WHO WAS THIS? “I am God of this World. I have ruled for four thousand years.” My first thought: “Huh. The Christians say six thousand. And “God of this World”? Never heard of that one.”

    I could go on and on and on with ALL kinds of details about what I’ve experienced, seen, and been through in the almost seven months since. I had decided that, while I still didn’t believe any of it, I also didn’t want to take the chance. I knew that going to some church in fear to seek help from those who judge, condemn, offer hate, whisper accusations, and point fingers wasn’t going to do any damn good. Hell, I’ve LITERALLY been to Hell and have also met the one they call “Satan” and you know what? I found out that all of those judgments that I thought I was making for others were ALL for me. Even those judgments for truly heinous things such as mass murder or for the condemnations I spent a lifetime making onto those who hurt little children. Discern the action, but judge not the person as one who is evil. I didn’t want to go to a church, that is to say go to those who have ALL of the supposed characteristics of the God of this World, because I knew that it wouldn’t do me any damn good. I decided one thing – you’ve got to build Love. What happened next is…

    It appears that you may have already made up your mind. Are you really searching for the Truth? It’s found in the Divine Light of Grace bringing Liberty that may be acquired not by forcing belief (which usually delivers one to the Image of the beast in any regard), but rather by 1. Loving 2. Forgiving 3. Laughing in Joy 4. Being thankful of what you have and by calling up what you’re thankful of after a death of a loved one (for example) 5. Practicing Patience. There’s the Path that will, over time, Deliver The Truth to you. Or do you just want to mock others over shared misunderstandings? Because I could share more, but perhaps I’ve said enough for right now. All that I ask is that you BELIEVE ME NOT. Perhaps give it some consideration and then discover the Truth for yourself. Also, bear not those who take the Bible and beat you over the head with it as if it’s a law book! Those who do that do not know the way and are selling falsities.

    Everything I’ve said here is 100% true, albeit incomplete.

    I’ll leave you with this…

    QUESTION: “What do Christians do when they first get to Heaven?”
    ANSWER: They say hello to the atheists. Then they turn around and say hello to those who are “gay”.

    I hope you smile at that one. Keep your head up. Eyes open. Carry on (what you’re doing here by giving this so much good thought is EXACTLY what you’re supposed to be doing). Bless you. The Path is before you and you’re already walking on that Good Path.

    PS: You’re not a “heathen”. You’re an Eternal Child of Light.

  2. interested_fellow

    You say you can easily conceive of a fictional person who made the spectacular claims, but can you fathom a real person that could? So what does it mean that Jesus was able to? How can you explain all that the Bible records (miracles, his resurrection, etc) if there was no God? Do you believe that the Bible is accurate, why or why not?

    What would it take to convince you that God does exist?

    • Hello interested_fellow,

      I appreciate all the comments. Let me try to answer your questions as well as I can.

      “You say you can easily conceive of a fictional person who made the spectacular claims, but can you fathom a real person that could?”

      Yes, I could imagine a million different “real” prophets, sages, wizards, witches, sons/daughters of god, etc. It doesn’t mean they are actually real.

      “So what does it mean that Jesus was able to?”

      If I came up to you and said that my mother never had sex and that I was actually dead yesterday, and if it were really true, then that would be quite odd. But that does not mean that anything else I say is moral/correct. It does not prove, or even suggest, that there is an afterlife. All it suggests is that something very odd happened.

      “How can you explain all that the Bible records (miracles, his resurrection, etc) if there was no God?”

      The same way you explain why there are so many Koranic records.

      “Do you believe that the Bible is accurate, why or why not?”

      The Bible (New Testament in particular) is probably a genuine historical document that was written decade(s) after the supposed events it describes, just as the Iliad is a genuine document. To have the Bible be generally true (or inerrant), one has to first explain why it contains tons of factual errors, historical inconsistencies, scientific contradictions, and moral outrages. The Bible is not accurate. It is not even accurate from the first page, where it gets creation all wrong.

      “What would it take to convince you that God does exist?”

      It would take much more than a book (Bible, Koran, etc.). It would take direct, testable, and verifiable communication with this deity. I don’t mean “praying” and not really hearing any audible voice. A God who really wants to communicate with us can write his messages on the moon or have a voice talk in my head. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      • interested_fellow

        Hello Mike,
        Thank you for responding. Sorry I have not been prompt with my own thoughts!
        I would like to hit on something you mentioned earlier: that Jesus’s resurrection does not imply he has knowledge of the afterlife. I would like to show you from the Bible why it is reasonable to say that Jesus does have knowledge of the afterlife.
        I agree that being brought back to life doesn’t mean that one would have knowledge of the afterlife. There have been other instances in the Bible where people have died and been brought back to life (Lazarus in John 11: 38-44, Jairus’s daughter in Mark 5:35-43). Yet, the people in these cases did not have knowledge of the afterlife. Jesus’s case, though, is unique. First, in the two cases listed above, the dead did not resuscitate themselves- Jesus did. However, Jesus raised himself form the dead (John 10:17: “I lay down my life—only to take it up again.”). Also, Jesus started in Heaven. He then came down to earth, lived, died, rose again, and then returned to heaven. His heavenly origin would give him knowledge of the afterlife.
        Also, I would like to touch upon how you substantiate truth – through “direct, testable, and verifiable communication”. Would it be safe to summarize that as you can’t take something to be true unless you know for 100% certain (as through experiments)? Take for example a mom’s love for her child. She says she loves you, but how can you be certain? She spent time raising you, feeding you, paid (partially or fully) for your schooling- yet she could be lying to you – treating you well only for good karma. You don’t know because you can’t get inside her head. Can you experiment? She could just be a good actress. However, you could just take her words, actions, and sacrifices over the years and accept it as true when she says she loves you.
        Perhaps a more scientific approach is the Big Bang theory. Scientists have evidence for it, so you take it as true, but can you be for certain? Can you test this? In fact there are things in science that aren’t 100% provable, but because there is a plethora of evidence that points towards it (indirectly), we take it as truth.
        I believe it is acceptable to believe something that cannot be 100% proven through repeatable experiments. A mother’s love is one example. Taking the word of Jesus on the afterlife is another since He is uniquely qualified to speak on this matter. I believe “secular-type” scientists accept this sort of thing as with allowing the experts and best evidence to lead them to accepting things like the Big Bang. What are your thoughts here? Is it acceptable to believe something that can’t be 100% proven like this?

  3. “However, Jesus raised himself from the dead (John 10:17: “I lay down my life—only to take it up again.”). Also, Jesus started in Heaven. He then came down to earth, lived, died, rose again, and then returned to heaven. His heavenly origin would give him knowledge of the afterlife.”

    I reject your premise because it is still not established, given that everything he did was true (which I do not believe) whether Jesus really was the Son of God and/or came from Heaven. If you cite the Bible to prove that the claims of the Bible are true, then your reasoning is circular.

    “Would it be safe to summarize that as you can’t take something to be true unless you know for 100% certain (as through experiments)?”

    Experiments can’t show things to be 100% certain. Scientific theories do not involved 100% certainty. So no, justified belief does not require 100% certainty.

    “Take for example a mom’s love for her child. She says she loves you, but how can you be certain? She spent time raising you, feeding you, paid (partially or fully) for your schooling- yet she could be lying to you – treating you well only for good karma…..
    Perhaps a more scientific approach is the Big Bang theory. Scientists have evidence for it, so you take it as true, but can you be for certain? Can you test this? In fact there are things in science that aren’t 100% provable, but because there is a plethora of evidence that points towards it (indirectly), we take it as truth.”

    Right, in both of your examples, there’s a lot of evidence that DIRECTLY RELATES to the phenomenon at hand. I believe very strongly that my mother loves me because I can experience the product of her love. Every experience with her counts at evidence, but nobody can be 100% certain. Likewise, we know the Big Bang to be true because we can see it; we can observe lots and lots of evidence.

    Both of these claims are FALSIFIABLE. If new evidence comes along, we can change our mind. If my mother suddenly started cursing at me all the time and refused all kindness towards me, then I can change my opinion. If we somehow started seeing through our telescopes that in fact there was no Big Bang, we’d have to come up with a new explanation/theory.

    We do not know the afterlife to be true because we cannot observe it. We cannot experience or know anything about this realm. Saying “Jesus says so” and that “he died and rose again” does not demonstrate his divine origin. His Resurrection is therefore not proper or relevant evidence for the afterlife. The argument from Jesus is therefore a logical fallacy called an Appeal to Authority and is thus invalid.

    Finally, the claim of the afterlife is NOT falsifiable. The unfalsifiability of a claim is not a testament to its strength but to its extreme weakness as an argument.

    • interested_fellow

      Hey Mike!
      I am aware that saying ‘the Bible is true because it says it is’ is fallacious. Forgive me; that was not at all my intention at all! I was under the impression that we were discussing the logic of believing Jesus has knowledge of the afterlife from a Christian perspective. For example, when His resurrection was cited at the church you visited. You allowed the premise and discussed how that premise alone does not prove knowledge of the afterlife. As such, I was under the impression that you were tackling this from a Christian worldview and would accept claims from the Bible for the sake of this argument. Hence, the resurrection combined with the other claims about Jesus in the Bible show that He would have knowledge of the afterlife (if, of course, those claims are true). However, as it seems we are not, perhaps our focus should turn to the truthfulness of the Bible.
      Also as for your statement: “The unfalsifiability of a claim is not a testament to its strength but to its extreme weakness as an argument.” I agree that the unfalsifiability of a claim is not a testament to its strength, however, I disagree that it shows weakness. Theories about the composition of the sun were un-falsifiable for ages before telescopes and other instruments were invented to investigate it further. That didn’t make theories about it being a burning ball of gas wrong or less true; they were just un-falsifiable. Likewise, the un-falsifiability of the afterlife does not make it untrue. (Furthermore, it is only un-falsifiable in this lifetime. There will be a day we know the answer or cease to know anything at all.)
      As to your disdain for appeals to authority: do we not all do this every day- when we listen to our professors, when we learn from textbooks, children to their parents, etc. ? I accept that they know more than I do on the subject. Listening to authority becomes a questionable practice only when that authority doesn’t really have authority. For example, if my dad told me to build a plane using his ¬¬-methods I would question whether it would really work. He has no knowledge on the subject. The nature of many claims in the Bible makes them unverifiable, yet that doesn’t make them untrue. I may have very well had a bunny cross my path the other day when I was taking a stroll through the park by myself, but can you verify that? Just because you can’t doesn’t make it untrue. My trustworthiness, though, would probably play a part in your decision of whether to believe me. So now the question in our discussion becomes “is there significant evidence that the Bible is trustworthy authority (specifically for the afterlife, for the sake of our discussion)?”
      Would you like to direct this particular discussion? Or should I just toss some points up so we can get started?

      • “Theories about the composition of the sun were un-falsifiable for ages before telescopes and other instruments were invented to investigate it further.”

        Your definition of falsifiability is not correct. Falsifiability is not the “technical” ability to falsify claims; claims about the composition of the Sun have always been falsifiable because a natural experiment can be performed to disprove it, even if the technology doesn’t exist yet.

        For example, we may not be able to falsify the claim that there is life on Planet X yet because we don’t have the capability to travel there. However, the claim is still 100% falsifiable.

        On the other hand, the claim that, after death, your consciousness will be transferred to the realm of the invisible pink unicorns is not falsifiable because an experiment can’t be performed. You can’t die and come back.

        We know quite well that brain damage will destroy an essential part of who you are. The death of cells in certain parts of the brain can cause you to lose all your memories, to lose the ABILITY to have memories, to lose the ability to speak English or recognize your family members, or to have emotions. Brain cell death causes all sorts of weird behavior, and the more the brain dies, the less functional you are.

        Are you telling me that once all the cells in the brain die after death that somehow in another dimension you can then talk to Grandma in perfect English with your memories fresh and intact?

        There is no evidence that the Bible is a trustworthy authority. In fact, it gets many facts of science wrong. It contains moral outrages like slavery, murder, genocide, and rape that are called for either by God or by prophets of God. It contains the horrible idea of Hell.

        Many of your non-arguments like “unfalsifiability does not prove it is untrue” and “unverifiability does not imply that the Bible is untrue” is saying the obvious. But you are not making any arguments. If you want to make claims that knowledge about the supernatural is possible (and that you somehow have it), you should give justifications. This is why these arguments are weak.

        I can make all sorts of unfalsifiable arguments. Allah wants us to pray 5 times a day. You’ll be reincarnated after you die. The flying spaghetti monster is invisible, but he exists. Fairies are the ones pushing/pulling objects according to the laws of physics? See? This is what I mean by weak.

  4. Maybe i missed it in the post, what prompted you to visit the churches, synagogues, mosques or other places of worship? Please forgive me if you already addressed this. It just seems like an atheist going to different places of worship would be the same thing as me (as someone who does not believe in unicorns) going to forests in search of what I am convinced I will not find. I dont mean this in a critical way I am genuinely curious.

    • Thank you for your question. It is a very good one.

      The goal of the visits was to get a better understanding of religion and to allow religious people to better understand atheists. We do not live in bubbles. We live in a world where religion significantly affects the human condition. Religion affects things from taxation to social policy. It is a factor in the wars we fight, the rights we give to our citizens, and the overall culture that we build.

      Religion is also important because it is a truth claim: it makes a hypothesis about reality. For people who care about truth (like me), the truth of religion matters, and it is therefore a good idea to engage with people who make such claims, especially when they do it on the basis of faith and not on evidence, reason, or logic.

  5. You say that you want a better understanding but can you get one (or did you get one)? Wouldnt your bias prevent you from doing so? If you are already going into a church (or place of worship) with an analytical, factual, scientific point of view how can you ever be open to the concept of faith? Also, why does the “truth of religion matter”? And when you say the truth of religion what does that even mean? I am asking because you said that but then you added they reach truth differently (by way of faith, inspiration from God, audible message/instruction from God, the Bible, etc.) than how you perceive is the proper way to reach it (scientific evidence, human logic, human reason). So do you hope to engage them in order to reassure yourself they are wrong or are you truly open?

    Thank you for responding its quite interesting.

    If you are interested in faith I invite you to read some posts I have written on the topic…

    http://reignoffaith.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/your-faith-gods-kingdom/

    http://reignoffaith.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/obedience-the-fruit-of-faith/

    http://reignoffaith.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/faith-is-the-portal-leading-you-to-promise/

    • Thank you again for your questions. Let me try to answer them to the best of my ability.

      “You say that you want a better understanding but can you get one (or did you get one)? Wouldnt your bias prevent you from doing so? If you are already going into a church (or place of worship) with an analytical, factual, scientific point of view how can you ever be open to the concept of faith?”

      One can get an understanding of something without agreeing with it. For example, I think creationism is a bunch of pseudoscientific nonsense, but I’ve talked with creationists many times to get an understanding of their thought processes.

      To your second question, you are right, I reject faith as a valid way to discover truth because with faith, any religion or belief can be believed. (Look at how many religions there are; look at how many different forms of Christianity there are). But I think you’ve proven my point. The “analytical, factual, scientific point of view” is incompatible with Christianity and faith, is it not?

      “Also, why does the “truth of religion matter”? And when you say the truth of religion what does that even mean? I am asking because you said that but then you added they reach truth differently (by way of faith, inspiration from God, audible message/instruction from God, the Bible, etc.) than how you perceive is the proper way to reach it (scientific evidence, human logic, human reason).”

      The “truth” is what actually exists, and this is independent of what we think or believe in. http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_RealityIsAbsolute.html

      The “truth” matters because by knowing what is real, we can use it to our benefit. Knowing the “truth” and helping others correctly find it makes us all happy.

      Yes, I think scientific inquiry, human logic, and human reason are much better tools to try to get at truth than faith and poorly defined concepts like “inspiration from God”. Audible messages from God would be amazing if they actually happened. The Bible does not appear to be divinely inspired any more than the Koran.

      “So do you hope to engage them in order to reassure yourself they are wrong or are you truly open?”

      I am not open to unjustified beliefs, I am not open to fallacious arguments and poor reasoning and contradictions of science. Nobody should be, and I hope that you are not. But of course, if there is a good argument for Christianity or any other religion, I will believe it.

      I used to be a Christian, so I understand a lot of what you are talking about in your posts. But I eventually realized that faith didn’t lead me to Christianity any more than it led me to Hinduism and Islam.

      Perhaps I should pose the question back to you: What would convince you that you were wrong? Are you open to Islam and/or Hinduism? Are you open to agnosticism? Or does faith give you so much assurance that you won’t ever change your mind?

  6. I could tell you had been Christian before just by reading this post. Perhaps that is why i was so intrigued. Thank you for responding. I hope you didnt take offense to my questions nor feel badgered by them. I also hope that nothing painful, trauumatic, or negative occurred that caused you to move away from God. I hate to hear of people who had to endure such things.

    There is nothing that would convince me that I am wrong. That probably discourages you but I have to be honest. I am not open to Islam or Hinduism because I believe whole heartedly that Jesus is the way, truth, and life and no one can come to the Father but through Him. I am familiar with Islam and recognize parallels as well as differences. I am not open to agnosticism for me personally but I do believe that atheism doesnt truly exist. I think deep down everyone believes in a higher power.

    Its not even just faith that gives me assurance. I have established a personal relationship with God. I understand you do not feel this way, but the Bible, God’s Word, is Truth and the only reality that is reliable is the one that is accessed through faith and supported by His Word. In addition, there has been too much evidence of God in my own experiences. These experiences cannot be explained by science, human reasoning or human logic. I personally view science as more limited than faith. To accept as truth only something that a human being has validated through experiments seems sad to me. Especially since most of these experiments cannot be validated by or understood by the average person. Its almost as if science has become a religion in itself.

    I dont want to make this response too long but I am open to any questions you may have. Thank you again for responding.

    • I hope you read most of my response on this page: https://inspirationalfreethought.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/take-atheism-seriously/

      But here’s more.

      “Its not even just faith that gives me assurance. I have established a personal relationship with God.”

      Okay, the Muslim claims he/she has a relationship with Allah. Why should I trust you over him/her?

      “I understand you do not feel this way, but the Bible, God’s Word, is Truth and the only reality that is reliable is the one that is accessed through faith and supported by His Word.”

      Okay, but why is that true? WHY is the Bible true? WHY is faith (in Christianity) good, but faith in Islam not as good? And if the Bible says something that contradicts science (like idea of Adam and Eve actually existing), why should I believe it rather than what we can observe in the natural world as revealed by science?

      “These experiences cannot be explained by science, human reasoning or human logic. I personally view science as more limited than faith.”

      The problem is that these experiences often CONTRADICT human reasoning, human logic, and science.

      Science and rationality is more limited than faith indeed because it doesn’t accept claims that people make up (like Muhammad, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Virgin Mary) unless there are good reasons to believe it.

      Don’t you agree that science is more likely to arrive at something that is actually true? The Standard Model, for example, is very testable, robust, and falsifiable. If you look at faith on the other hand and look at all the different religions and faiths in the world, how can you be sure that you have the right one without any evidence?

      “To accept as truth only something that a human being has validated through experiments seems sad to me.”

      First of all, there are some truths that can arrived at through logical deduction. But the big problem is that you mischaracterize science by claiming that it is only “experiments”. Any serious philosopher of science (or scientist) would take a lot of issue with that.

      “Especially since most of these experiments cannot be validated by or understood by the average person. Its almost as if science has become a religion in itself.”

      Not true. A lot of science can be understood by the nonscientific community. Many popularizers of science like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, etc. have explained complicated scientific theories in easily understood terms.

      Also, even if something isn’t easily understood, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. If you care about what is true, you should strive to understand it and not dismiss something because it is “too complicated”.

      Science is not a religion because it doesn’t make claims about the supernatural, which Christianity, Islam, and other popular religions do.

      Hopefully this clears up a lot of what seems to be confusion and unclear thinking on your part. Best, Mike.

      • Hello Mike. It does not “clear up a lot of what seem ti be confusion and unclear thinking” because I am neither confused nor unclear. There is, however, a difference in perspective.

        I said experiments, but even deduction, reasoning, logic are included. When I say it cannot be evaluated by the average person I mean this: I am going to use a non science example so you dont focus too much on the science rather than the point. Lets take the news as an example. You have an event, which occurred, and you have journalist who cover this event. A journalist is trained, usually has a degree in journalism, he/she is a professional or expert (I use that term loosely) in journalism. The journalist goes in, evaluates the event and writes or reports it through a chosen vehicle. The receiver of that message (viewer, reader, listener) comes in contact with the event through the report of the journalist. Lets say the viewer watches the news and hears and sees the story. Most viewers accept what is given to them because they trust the source. Even though they can research the event, what they will find is goibg to be skewed, not all of the facts will be presented, etc. Thus a conclusion can be made but not a well informed one.

        The scientist is the same way. I cant go into outer space and validate anything because I do not have a spaceship lol. I cannot go back and evaluate whether life evolved from a single cell organism. I still have to have faith in the scientist that he/she is giving all of the facts, not manipulating data, etc. This is why I say science has become a religion, with the scientist as the god.

        Thanks for your response!

  7. interested_fellow

    Hello Mike,

    Happy New Year to you too! As to your thoughts:

    “Are you telling me that once all the cells in the brain die after death that somehow in another dimension you can then talk to Grandma in perfect English with your memories fresh and intact?”
    Yes, essentially that is what I am saying. On judgment day we will all have to give an account of our actions on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10 and other various places).
    In Romans (Romans 6:5 although i’m probably using this verse incorrectly), Paul points to how our resurrection will be like Christ’s. Christ’s resurrection included Him having His memory. He remembered his disciple’s name, the purpose of his own coming, etc.

    I think the confusion involves what the resurrection body will be like. When we talk about the resurrection of the body, we do not mean that you will get the same body. 2 Corinthians 15:35-49 points to there being a spiritual body opposed to the natural body that we have now.

    However, the truth is that the Bible doesn’t give us these details and it doesn’t care to answer questions like “If our brains are gone how do our souls remember things?” It doesn’t attempt to answer all of our questions because at the source is God and if He says that our souls will live in and rejoin our bodies someday, we can just trust that it WILL happen and leave the HOW for Him to handle.

    You have to understand that the biblical worldview starts from the position that God is. From that position, it is not inconceivable to think that God could have created man with both body and spirit and that when the body perishes the spirit can still maintain memories whether by some property of the spirit itself or by some act of God Himself until the day our spirits are given renewed and restored bodies. The question again comes back to whose opinion can I trust? Which is by I say we turn our attention to the evidence for the Bible

    “There is no evidence that the Bible is a trustworthy authority. In fact, it gets many facts of science wrong. It contains moral outrages like slavery, murder, genocide, and rape that are called for either by God or by prophets of God. It contains the horrible idea of Hell.”
    It sounds like you are saying that a person or people group with an opposing view to your’s can’t be trustworthy. That line of thinking would imply that your stance on ideas is always correct. Perhaps you get your rights and wrongs by your moral compass? What guides that moral compass – experience, media, peers, family, role models? All are imperfect, which would mean our moral compass is imperfect, and we must be open to the idea that it has flaws.

    Also, I’m not sure specifically what ‘facts of science’ you are referring to (perhaps you could tell me?), but here’s some evidence I would like to bring to your attention:

    In the 1970’s, with the help of deep diving submarines, scientists discovered that there are springs in the ocean floor. Job 38:16 says that the ocean has springs. 2 Peter 3:5 also states how the earth formed out of water, which goes along with scientist’s research on how the conditions necessary for life are met by deep sea hydrothermal vents. Also, even though in the late 1440’s many people believed the world was flat, the Bible says in Isaiah 40:22 that the earth is a sphere. Job, Peter, and Isaiah didn’t have the instruments to know this scientifically, but the Bible gets right.

    As for slavery, murder, genocide, and rape. This is a lot to cover in one response, I will cover the first two and if need be I can cover the latter two in another response. One thing to keep in mind: In the Bible there are many examples. Some are positive – showing how we ought to live/ what we should strive for- and others and negative – illustrating how not to live and what to stay away from. (Rape for example, it was never encouraged and always ended up in folly either in that generation or generation to follow) The inclusions of negative examples gives weight to the fact that God has inspired this writing. Who would willingly put their shameful stories for display?

    The Bible is clear that we were all made in God’s image (Genesis 27). Thus, all people are created equal. The view that African Americans were inferior to White’s was errant.
    That being said, there is no doubt slavery in the Bible. It was common practice back then that if people could not pay their debt, they would sell themselves and/or their family into slavery(Matt 18:25). It is also true that there were many chances for Jesus to blatantly denounce slavery, but he didn’t. BUT, look at the difference in the way the world does slavery and the way Christ wants us to approach it. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, charges slave masters to treat their slaves with the same compassion, love, and mercy that Christ treats them (Matt 23-34) and in Ephesians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 6:1-3 orders slaveholders to stop their threatening as God judges slaves and slaveholders the same and ultimately God is everyone’s Master.

    As a side note: the slavery of African Americans is actually NOT the slavery in the ancient world. There were few laws that governed slavery in America and even fewer that were actually enforced. In the ancient world, every culture had very detailed laws on the treatment of slaves and how they could buy their freedom. The Bible goes far above even those as well. Basically, you can’t judge the slavery in ancient times by our disgust for slavery in America. It’s a different thing.

    Murder: The Bible is very clear that God is against murder (Ex 20:13 You shall not murder). God also emphasizes to Noah in Genesis 9: 5-6 how precious human life is and how He will demand an account of those who murder humans.
    The Bible, however, is also very clear that the wage for sin is death (Romans 6:23) Those who oppose God will perish. (ithought perhaps i could relate this to how there are wars in the Bible…??against those who harm God’s people..idk.)
    In the end, one must understand that we are all God’s creation and thus life is God’s to take and give…God has (Cain) and willpunish people for murdering….

    I’ll be honest with you Mike. Some of what the Bible says is hard to swallow. BUT just because God does things differently than me does not mean He does not exist. Again, the question isn’t “Do I like what the Bible says?” but “Does the evidence show the Bible is God’s Word?”

    Sorry it took me so long to respond,
    I hope your school semester/quarter/trimester is off to a good start!

    -Interested Fellow

    • If you want to prove that the Bible is inerrant, why don’t you support your own claim? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      On the topic of “bad things in the Bible,” it is simply not true that evil things are in the Bible only to show how they aren’t good in the long run. That’s because it is God, the supposedly perfect being, who commanded many of the atrocities in the Bible.

      For example, do you support the slaughter of an entire ethnic tribe called the Amalekites? Do you honestly think it was moral?

      Do you think it is moral to have the full intention to kill your own son like Abraham did?

      Also, I did not say that American slavery was the same as Biblical slavery. That’s just an assumption you made to make a straw-man argument to distract me. However, the idea that people can own other people for money is still WRONG. The idea of buying/selling one’s family is WRONG.

      “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” (Exodus 21:20-21)

      “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.” (Leviticus 25:44-45)

      I find it sad that I have to do research on the Bible that YOU should be doing.

      • interested_fellow

        Hey Mike!

        Sorry I haven’t presented evidence for the Bible yet. I will soon. However, I thought I would address some of the other points you brought up first.

        As to the Amalekites: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” 1 Samuel 15:2-3
        Reading those verses alone, God does seem to be unjust. However, we must consider the context.

        In Deuteronomy we learn more about their attack of the Israelites: “17 Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God.” Imagine walking home from a long day of hard labor (the people had been walking in a desert) – back sore, legs aching, and feet blistered- and people start attacking you. If this was a TV show or the news, viewers would be on the side of the Israelites. What the Amalekites did was wrong, and God punishes them for it. Exodus 17:16: “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the LORD, the LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

        I am not saying this is a happy event. God is not fist-pumping at their demise (Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”), BUT it is just. The remembering of the kindness of the ancestors of the Kenites at the time God was punishing the Amalekites for their actions, supports the righteous dispensation of judgment from God. Also, the Amalekites had a lot of time to repent. God is patient. You may not like that they died, it weighs on my heart too when I hear of a mass slaughtering, but the fact is that we all deserve death.
        When you’re dealing with a holy, righteous, just God, and you’re just repeatedly absolutely defying and mocking him, there comes a point with many people where He’s just done because sin leads to death. And if you keep sinning, you’ll either die in your sin, or he’ll kill you for your sin. But either way, you’ll die.
        This is one of those scary texts that are supposed to get us to see the real God, not the inactive sky fairy that gets portrayed on TV who never judges sin, never brings justice.
        The real God is a God to be dealt with, taken seriously, and respected. It may be troubling, but you’re supposed to be troubled! You’re supposed to be so troubled that you start to take God seriously. So many of us take God lightly and ourselves very seriously. Somebody offends us. “Oh, how dare they,” – because we’re very important. And we offend God all the time, and it’s like, “Well, he’s the big hippie in the sky. He can put up with me forever.” For some of us, the day is close, and a sense of urgency would be most prudent. For the Amalekites it’s too late, but for the living it’s not. One take-away from their story is that it is dangerous to be found in the company of God’s enemies.
        —-
        As for Abraham and sacrificing Isaac: God commanded it, so yes. Do you think it is moral to look the Creator of the universe (and you) in the face and tell Him that you will not obey because you know better than Him? In Matt 10:37 Jesus says to love Him more than family. The First Commandment says to worship no other gods before ma (being God). Saying no to God and yes to anything or anyone else is effectively making that other person or thing your god. Abraham understood this. Abraham had such great faith in God that he knew that God could actually raise Isaac from the dead after the test (Hebrews 11:19)! Finally, God didn’t actually let Abraham go through with it. This was a testing of Abraham’s faith, I believe for the sake of Abraham and Isaac as God already knew, and a foreshadowing of the future for when one day a greater Father would sacrifice a greater Son.
        —-
        I am well aware of those verses. In what way have I not done my research? Are you getting angry? Let me know if you’d rather just discontinue this conversation. I could be wrong though, as it is difficult to tell someone’s mood through text like this.
        Again, you are making absolute moral statements. “Slavery is WRONG” and saying that the events that the slaughter of the Amalekites was amoral atrocity are an absolute moral statement. You are making yourself the sole arbiter of what is acceptable and that is quite arrogant.

        I would like to ask again, where are you getting your morality? To what moral standard are you appealing to show that they are wrong/evil and your view is right/good? You can claim that you don’t “like” the slaughter of the Amalekites, but you can’t claim it was evil because that’s just your opinion versus that of the Israelites’ or mine. Our opinion simply has no authority to stand on. As an atheist, I don’t see how it could be anything other than your opinion. And if I have to take either your word for it or the Word of God, I don’t even consider that a contest.
        ——-
        Also, my apologies for bringing up that American slavery is different than slavery in the Bible. By no means was I trying to distract you. It crossed my mind that you might think that they were one in the same, but I didn’t know for sure, so I included it just in case. I’m sorry if it looked like I was assuming or if I offended you.

  8. interested_fellow

    Hey Mike,
    Here is some evidence in support of the Bible being the Word of God.
    First, know that the Bible is unique. It is made of 66 books written by over 40 different authors in 3 languages over the span of 2000 years, and yet has a unified message: that there is One God, and Salvation comes through Christ. The coordination in that is amazing.
    The Bible is historically accurate:
    – The names of rulers and nations and dates given in the Bible have been shown to line up with ancient historical records
    – Before the 1900’s many people attacked the Bible by saying that the Bible frequently mentions a group of people called the Hittites, yet there are no historical records that show the Hittites ever existed. In 1876, an ancient city called Charcemish was discovered and records and stones in the city proved that this was the capital of an ancient people called the Hittites
    – In 1929, the ancient city of Jericho was discovered and unearthed. Not only did the archaeologists discover the city once had massive walls as described in the Bible, but they also discovered that the people of Jericho used to live in the walls which matches the biblical account of Rahab. Finally, it was discovered that the walls of Jericho had collapsed before the destruction of the city. Evidence showed that the walls had fallen outward or away from the center of the city. If the walls had fallen during war (like from a battering ram) they would have fallen inward or toward the center of the city. The fact that they fell outward indicates that they collapsed during some sort of violent convulsion like an earthquake. This matches the Bible’s account as well.
    There are also many prophecies in the Bible that have already happened. These prophecies weren’t the type of “Oh, it will rain tomorrow…” or “Oh I will see my cousin next month and eat a supreme pizza at pizza hut…”, this is more like: “It will rain in 2058 for 10 minutes…” or “That random lady across the street from me will own a hut off the coast of Haiti in 20 years…” The prophecies in the Bible are those that the prophet would have no reason to believe will come true, and might not even see happen in their lifetime and thus couldn’t possibly self-orchestrate. This leads us to know that God is the driving force behind these prophecies, that God is real, and that when He says the Bible is His Word, it is. Here are a few examples:
    Concerning Babylon (Prophecy in Jeremiah 25:8-14, 29:10-11, 51:11,28)
    In 626 BC, Jeremiah prophesied that King Nebuchadnezzar would attack and conquer the people of Judah, hold the people captive in Babylon, that Babylon would later be defeated by the Medes as punishment, and that God’s people would return home 70 years after capture.
    What happened in history?
    In 606 BC, Nebuchadnezzar attack Judah and captured its people
    In 595 BC, the Medes conquer and take over Babylon
    In 536 BC, King Cyrus releases the Jews

    Concerning the city Tyre (Prophecy in Ezekiel 26)
    Around 588 BC, Ezekiel prophesied that the city of Tyre would be destroyed by many different nations, King Nebuchadnezzar would be the first to attack them, the mainland city would be leveled to bare rock, the destroyed cities rubble will be thrown into the sea, the city would never be rebuilt, and fishermen will cast their nets where the city once stood.
    What happened in history?
    585-573 BC – Nebuchadnezzar attacks the main city of Tyre and claims the city. However, most of the people in Tyre had fled to their nearby island city during the siege. Nebuchadnezzar tore down the city of Tyre in 573.
    Later, Alexander the Great, who led an empire made of many nations used the rubble of the mainland to build a half mile bridge to the island city. After he destroyed the island city, the bridge collapsed into the sea. Today, fishermen spread their nets to dry where the city of Tyre once stood
    Concerning Alexander the Great’s Empire (The prophecy in Daniel 11:2-4)
    Around 600 BC, Daniel writes that four more kings will rise in Persia. The fourth will be very mighty and launch an attack against Greece. Then an even mightier king would arise and will rule with great authority, yet as soon as he has arisen his kingdom will be broken and divided into four kingdoms and neither the great king nor his children will rule them. Those four will then merge into two, and then those two will become one.
    How did it happen in history?
    After Daniel wrote, four successive kings arose in Persia. The fourth was Xerxes who launched a massive attack against all of Greece (this is the guy from the movie 300 and all that jazz). Then around 320 BC, Alexander the Great emerges and expands the empire greatly becoming the most powerful king in his era. Then he quickly dies in his 20’s and his empire is divided into four pieces which are ruled by his four generals. Those four kingdoms eventually merge into the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires. Those two finally become the Roman Empire.
    Let me know what you think.

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