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Comments

Sharmin

Hi, Greta.

I really like this piece. It does seem a bit weird that God (who wants to be worshipped, according to the Bible and the Qur'an) would create humans capable of questioning his existence.

If the God of the more moderate religious believers exists and is loving and kind, why wouldn't he want to communicate with all of us? Why would he show favoritism to some of his creations over others, if he's so loving and kind?

Maria

I thought we were put here on earth by Satan, to test their faith :-)

Paul Crowley

I'm pretty sure the believers I know wouldn't go for either of the answers you tackle - they'd go for the "something something free will something" angle.

Greta Christina
I'm pretty sure the believers I know wouldn't go for either of the answers you tackle - they'd go for the "something something free will something" angle.

Paul, are you psychic or something? That is exactly what people are saying. Oy.

themann1086

To borrow a meme from other websites... I'm not getting out of the boat. Alternet's trolls make me sad.

David

I found your article very interesting. As a Christian I think God "talks" to everyone and by that I don't mean like a cell phone call or a voice from above. Frankly, I think most if not all Christians who believe this are a little touched but I digress. I am a Christian and a scientist and I choose to believe that there is some higher power working in the background and has been forever. I choose to call this power God. I hope I am safe in saying you as an atheist see this same power but you choose to give it some other name or explanation, fine.

I guess the point I would like to make is that the question is itself ridiculous to me. If you are an atheist then why ask why something you don't believe in allows you to exist? I am a Christian and I have my beliefs as to why God allows you to exist that I am OK with so why ask the question? I'm OK with your lack of belief and all I ask is that you be OK with my belief.

floslib

A very interesting piece. I want to point out, though, that not all religious believers actually feel the presence of God. Many agnostic believers believe for other reasons, such as what their intuition tells them, or because they think there must be a supernatural first cause, or many other possibilities.

I also have another possible answer for your question, though I think it might still sound unfair to you in terms of who gets to know and who doesn't.

The purpose in God being unclear about his existence is to force us to develop and use the reason he gave us and to learn tolerance and love for those different from us.

Basically, he wants us to grow up, and for that to happen, we have to learn how to accept those who are different, and we also have to learn how to think for ourselves instead of swallowing whatever any one group tells us.

So basically, atheists exist to force us to think about the world without relying on the supernatural or explanations that rely on God. Even if God is real, for too long, we relied on explanations give God credit for everything good and bad. Sometimes, Satan gets credit for the bad instead, but it still boils down to us blaming the supernatural for everything. So, in order to make us understand the world around us, God has us all following different paths so we have to search for and find the truth, instead of just swallowing whatever story we're told.

Naturally, he could just reveal himself to us. But really, what good would that do? If Christianity is correct, he tried that around 2000 years ago. If Judaism is correct, he tried that around 5000 years ago. If Islam is correct, he tried that around 1500 years ago. Now, let's say he actually revealed himself all three times. What happened? People still don't believe, or they fight each other over their perceived differences in each revelation. So, revelation causes more human conflict because of the way we perceive it. What's a deity to do?

Stop revealing himself. Make us learn on our own, use the gifts he gave us, and find the truth ourselves. Force us to cooperate with each other because that's our only option. We might not manage to pull that off.

Yes, this does assume a slightly less than omnipotent and omniscient God, but such a God could still have vast amounts of power and knowledge. Just so long as he doesn't completely understand humanity, it works out.

Rotten Johnny

Thats simple, so he could send us to eternal damnation!

DSimon
I choose to believe that there is some higher power working in the background and has been forever. I choose to call this power God. I hope I am safe in saying you as an atheist see this same power but you choose to give it some other name or explanation, fine.

David, what you're describing is called deism, or the belief in a non-interventionist deity. Most atheists would not describe themselves as having this belief. Atheists generally don't believe in any sort of gods, supernatural occurrences, or higher powers.

What evidence led you to this belief in a "higher power"? If it was simply a feeling or an intuition, how is that any better than people who claim to directly feel the presence of God? Either way, it's an argument based on an information that's unverifiable, unfalsifiable, and highly affected by personal subjective biases.

I guess the point I would like to make is that the question is itself ridiculous to me. If you are an atheist then why ask why something you don't believe in allows you to exist?

Because the fact that there's no good answer to that question supports the conclusion that no gods of the sort that want people to know about them exist.

I'm OK with your lack of belief and all I ask is that you be OK with my belief.

What does being OK with someone's belief mean? If it means respecting another person's right to determine their own personal beliefs, I'm entirely cool with it. But if it means that certain beliefs should be immune from comment or criticism, then I have a problem with it.

DSimon
Naturally, he could just reveal himself to us. But really, what good would that do?

It would do a great deal of good! It would answer a lot of pressing questions like "How can we avoid this whole death thing?" and "Is there a purpose behind the universe, and if so, what is it?", the sort of questions religion tries to answer but can't give any good evidence for.

All the supposed appearances so far have been infrequent, to very small groups of people, and left no good lasting evidence. If this is an all-powerful deity we're talking about, it wouldn't be much trouble big deal for it to show up at regular intervals and to everyone simultaneously.

David

DSimon - I should have used a different phrase than "higher power". What I meant is there are some things about the world that we just don't understand. I think that there will always be things we don't understand and it is there that I place God. I don't know how an atheist rationalizes or interprets these things.

Second, there is a big difference between saying God does not exist and saying that "no gods of the sort that want people to know about them exist". This is placing human characteristics on a higher power which could very well be beyond understanding. I choose to think that God is beyond human understanding.

Feel free to comment and criticize but if my final explanation comes down to faith in something outside my realm of understanding don't treat me like an idiot anymore than I would treat you like a second class citizen for your beliefs. You can feel you are right without trying to make me feel like I am wrong.

Thanks for the conversation. It is not often I find someone who I can disagree with on such amicable terms!

Joshua Zelinsky

I'm OK with your lack of belief and all I ask is that you be OK with my belief.

If someone believed that 1+1=3, would you be ok with their belief? What if they believed that they were bulletproof?

What I meant is there are some things about the world that we just don't understand. I think that there will always be things we don't understand and it is there that I place God. I don't know how an atheist rationalizes or interprets these things.

The atheists don't bother labeling what they don't understand, and especially not with terms like "God" which have all sorts of unjustified connotations. Calling the unknown "God" lacks an explanatory power. If I label what I don't yet understand "God" I don't have any new information. I could just as well label what I don't understand "Ooogabooga." So why bother?

econd, there is a big difference between saying God does not exist and saying that "no gods of the sort that want people to know about them exist". This is placing human characteristics on a higher power which could very well be beyond understanding. I choose to think that God is beyond human understanding.

Why? What evidence do you have justifying you to "choose" this? If this deity never intervenes and never does anything, why assume it exists?

You can feel you are right without trying to make me feel like I am wrong.

Why do feelings even come into this? One would not accept that sort of view if one was talking about say whether electrons have a positive or negative charge, or whether 101 is a prime number. So why should this be different? Whether anything resembling a deity exists is an important question. Aside from the issue that we're talking about a very fundamental aspect of how the universe is, there's also a lot on the line. If for example the evangelical Christians are correct then you and I are both going to burn in hell for eternity. Whether that will occur or not is independent of our feelings. We cannot change reality simply by wishing for it to be different.

floslib

DSimon, I did specifically say that part of my explanation, at the very least, assumes God is simply very powerful and not omnipotent and omniscient. Namely, his power might seem limitless to those who he revealed himself to, but in fact has limits, as does his understanding. More specifically, it assumes he can't reveal himself to everyone on earth at regular intervals and doesn't understand humanity well enough to offer the proof needed to make people believe in him.

The other parts of my explanation, that he would like us to grow up, requires only that he's decided it's best for us to learn how to make our own way in the world rather than him handing us all the information on a silver platter. We need to be self sufficient, so he's trying to teach us to be so by making sure our beliefs are challenged, which makes it so we have to keep looking for the truth.

Please bear in mind, I don't believe people go to Hell, and I especially don't believe that God would send anyone to Hell for choosing the wrong beliefs, so according to my beliefs, there's no spiritual consequences for choosing the wrong belief system, or none at all.

Joshua Zelinsky

Floslib, if you deity is so weak that it can't intervene regularly and can't understand humans after thousands of years, why label this entity a deity? What is divine about this "God"? Why worship this being? Why give it any credence whatsoever? And of course, why think it even exists?

David

Joshua - If someone wanted to believe that 1+1=3 fine with me. They are wrong and it can be proven so. God is not a math problem.

So atheists don't look too understand what they don't understand? The first step in looking for understanding in anything is to give it labels we can try and rationalize. That is true regardless of the existence of non-existence of God. If science had not decided to label "electricity" how could we learn anything about it?

You apparently think God never intervenes and never does anything, I don't. I drop a ball and it hits the ground. Why? Gravity, but what causes gravity? What causes what causes gravity? This is where, maybe a million layers deep, I put God.

So what you are saying is that if we can't understand it don't label it? If you can't prove its existence why bother believing in it? Might as well flush most of modern science right down the proverbial toilet because we would no very little of what we do with people searching for answers not assuming that because I can't prove it that it is not worth labeling or searching for an explanation or simply accepting without proof. I think atheists will always fall back on lack of proof for a lack of existence and Christians will fall back on faith for their belief. There is no coming together on this one. You believe what you do and I believe what I do and that is that.

Maria

I did specifically say that part of my explanation, at the very least, assumes God is simply very powerful and not omnipotent and omniscient. Namely, his power might seem limitless to those who he revealed himself to, but in fact has limits, as does his understanding. More specifically, it assumes he can't reveal himself to everyone on earth at regular intervals and doesn't understand humanity well enough to offer the proof needed to make people believe in him.

Human beings have invented ways to communicate with the majority of the world's population at the same time through technical inventions. It would be tricky, but not impossible to speak to pretty much the whole world at the same time - for us! God isn't even that bit more powerful than us that he could take advantage of TV, radio and Internet?

The other parts of my explanation, that he would like us to grow up, requires only that he's decided it's best for us to learn how to make our own way in the world rather than him handing us all the information on a silver platter. We need to be self sufficient, so he's trying to teach us to be so by making sure our beliefs are challenged, which makes it so we have to keep looking for the truth.

I thought you said above that he doesn't understand humans well enough to offer proof of his own existance - but he understands us enough to know that this is what we need?

Please bear in mind, I don't believe people go to Hell, and I especially don't believe that God would send anyone to Hell for choosing the wrong beliefs, so according to my beliefs, there's no spiritual consequences for choosing the wrong belief system, or none at all.

What of all this is different from you simply making things up that you think sounds like a god you'd like?

floslib

Joshua, I said very powerful but not omniscient or omnipotent. I still believe he created the world, at least as a first cause and perhaps giving the first order to the universe. However, people can't always control those things that we create. In this explanation, I'm proposing it's the same for God, that he can't always control that which he creates. For instance, people. Consider him on a level of power more like what the Greeks envisioned of their gods if that's an easier way to envision divinity without omnipotence.

As for why think this God exists, you won't like my answer, and I know it isn't scientifically valid, but because of a combination of intuition and reasoning about the time of creation/beginning of existence. In the end, it comes down to there needing to be a first cause, and a gut feeling that first cause would need to be something outside the bounds of the physical world. If you could prove definitively either that there is no first cause, or that there was a definitive first cause that is not supernatural and could happen without a cause before it, it would probably seriously shake my belief.

Maria, these are separate possible explanations. I wasn't saying they are the case, I was saying one or both could be the case, and there could be others as well.

Now, for your first question, it depends on what you mean by power. Assuming God isn't omnipotent, what does it take out of him to manifest? Can he physically manifest, or only in the minds of people? Without knowing that, it's hard to say what would work and what wouldn't. For an example of what I mean, let's imagine that God created the universe, but can't interact inside of it. This is kind of like the way people have created computers, but can't directly interact inside of computers. So we make our presence known within the computer in different ways instead. In the same way, God makes himself known through indirect methods rather than direct.

As for your second question, it depends on how you're looking at it. If you assume the first is true as well, than that means this is the next thing he's trying to get us to grow up and more fully develop. Think of it like parenting, or even like a friend trying to get you to better yourself. Since other methods didn't work, he's trying something else that he thinks will.

If you consider only the second explanation, disregarding the first, then he could indeed know what we need and be going about giving it to us by forcing us to develop independently of him.

I can't give you a completely satisfactory answer, because I don't know what the answer is. All I can do is speculate and go on intuition, which I understand is unsatisfactory to atheists. I'm not trying to offer The Explanation, I'm trying to offer plausible explanations.

As for your final charge, I'd say you're looking at it from the wrong perspective if you seek to understand where believers are coming from. It isn't completely logical. But logic doesn't always change belief. People don't just up and decide to believe one thing or believe another. Beliefs are shaped over the course of a lifetime, and it's a combination of logic, fact, intuition, faith, gut instincts, and quite likely some falsehood as well. But belief is complex, and you can't just change it. At least, not everyone can, though there may be some people who can do so. Usually, the only thing that can change belief is direct evidence contravening that belief. Even then, it will quite likely only change the beliefs it contradicts, not necessarily the entire belief system. But when it comes to people changing their beliefs, it really comes down to how each individual person interacts with the world and their beliefs when determining how much of a shift they will make.

Joshua Zelinsky

David, you don't seem to understand the point. There's nothing wrong with trying to understand things. That's a good thing. But if your notion of "God" is just a place-holder term then it isn't at all helpful. It doesn't advance our understanding at all.

You apparently think God never intervenes and never does anything, I don't. I drop a ball and it hits the ground. Why? Gravity, but what causes gravity? What causes what causes gravity? This is where, maybe a million layers deep, I put God.

Ok. So a million layers deep your deity intervenes? How can we test this? How does anything look any different? Would we expect gravity to behave differently if if your deity was a a million and one layers under? That's the problem in a nutshell- there's no content here, you are just taking some vague level at some point far back in the causal chain, somewhere you aren't even sure where it is, and labeling that God. That isn't a useful model for anything at all.


So what you are saying is that if we can't understand it don't label it?

No. If you have actual evidence of a phenomenon then feel free to label it. We label things that we have evidence for it. I can label gamma ray bursts even though we don't understand them.


If you can't prove its existence why bother believing in it?

Please don't use the word "prove" or "proof" when you don't mean that. Proof is for alchohol and mathematics. Everything else is evidence. And yes, if I have no evidence for something then my default is that it doesn't exist. And that's your default too for leprechauns, and unicorns, and Zeus, and a thousand other things.


Might as well flush most of modern science right down the proverbial toilet because we would no very little of what we do with people searching for answers not assuming that because I can't prove it that it is not worth labeling or searching for an explanation or simply accepting without proof.

Huh? I don't follow this at all. It seems like this may be connected to the misunderstandings above. Labeling something that we don't have any defined quantities for isn't helpful. There's no missing explanation here that is advanced by the use of the word "God".



I think atheists will always fall back on lack of proof for a lack of existence and Christians will fall back on faith for their belief.

So are you saying that there really is no evidence for your deity? It is a curious thing that some religious people are very sure that their deities exist and that there's evidence for it. And others are not. The Bible as far as I can tell supports an evidence-based approach. Elijah at Mount Carmel is shown to be correct and the prophets of Baal are shown to be incorrect because God performed miracles for Elijah. This is not unique to the Old Testament. In Romans we see the same thing. The writers of the Bible thought that evidence mattered.

Will you change your mind after we get a million levels of the causal chain for gravity? A million in one? 10^10? 10^300? If you believe your God intervenes, then your God should be subject to evidence. So why pick a million levels? When people do this sort of thing, it seems like they are trying to model the universe like their deity doesn't ever intervene, like, dare I say it, it doesn't exist. So, let me ask, if there were no God, how would you expect the world to be different? What prediction about reality would change for you?

And if it is just about "faith", this "feeling" does it not strike you as odd, and a bit arrogant to believe that you happen to have faith in exactly the correct deity? The Jew has faith, the Muslim has faith. Each brand of Christianity has faith. And yet each is sure that his faith is correct. How do you interact with a member of a different faith? What makes you think you are more likely to be correct?

There is no coming together on this one. You believe what you do and I believe what I do and that is that.

Does that mean you have no interest in actually talking and investigating and trying to find out the truth? Either the atheist is correct or the atheist is incorrect. You seem concerned about people not trying to understand. Do you have no interest in trying to understand whether or not there's a deity?


Joshua Zelinsky

Consider him on a level of power more like what the Greeks envisioned of their gods if that's an easier way to envision divinity without omnipotence.

So what makes such an entity divine?

I'm also curious why do you think there needs to be a first cause? Why not, for example, have an infinite chain of backwards causation? And why assume that your first cause acts in the way you've described it as acting. You seem to assign the first cause properties such as sentience that only arise because they are being smuggled in by the common connotations of the word "God."

Maria

Again, floslib, I ask. What separates all these speculations from purely making stuff up? And what I would really like to understand about believers is why they bring this made up stuff to blogs like this, expecting us to discuss it seriously? I don't care about changing your mind, or make you an atheist, not in the least. I was pointing out stuff in your comments that didn't make sense. You answer to that by simply making more things up to explain it.

This sort of discussion would be fine if you were writing a fantasy book with a magical system in it, or a science fiction novel. But now we are discussing the real world, and, sorry, but then you do need to back stuff up if there's to be any use in discussing things at all.

DSimon

David, I think Joshua's done a better job than I could expressing what my response would be. However, I want to reply specifically to when you wrote this:

You can feel you are right without trying to make me feel like I am wrong.

If our positions differ in key ways, then no, I can't do that!

It's totally legitimate to expect civility in discussions like these... but it is absolutely not reasonable to expect that people will never tell you that they think you're incorrect.

If we both had to pretend that our two contradictory positions could both be right, we'd be reduced to talking past each other, unable to engage in a real discussion.

DSimon

Floslib, the difference between naming a new scientific discovery (like quarks) and naming an unknown variable "God" is that the word "God" already has lots of associated attributes; it doesn't mean the same thing as "an unknown", it means lots of other things as well, and worse it means many quite different things to many different people.

On the other hand, when we discover things in science, we come up with new names for them, names that don't already have meanings attached. Then, through further experimentation, we figure out what properties belong under that name.

floslib

Joshua, I do understand it's possible there could be no first cause, but that's not something I can get past intuitively. Second, my main assumption is such a first cause is supernatural. Sentience is indeed something that comes in with preconceived notions. I also understand I could be mistaken on either point, but it is what feels right and what I'm working with.

As far as what makes such an entity divine, I would say it's ability to create the universe and life (both, not just one, I know humanity is close to being able to create life) qualifies it in the divine category.

Maria, originally, I was putting together some hasty speculation to try to get a starting point on a couple possibilities to answer Greta's question on why God would allow atheists to exist if he existed. The speculation was to provide possible answers to that question. No, it was not completely thought through, but that is where it started. I thought since the question was there, it was appropriate to broach ideas on the subject. If not, my mistake. However, religion is speculative. We don't have proof. I'm not trying to convert anyone with my speculation either, but I was trying to throw out some ideas that might make some sense and fit with what we currently know. It's not rigorous, and it wasn't intended to be. It was intended to provide a possible starting point on why God, if he does exist, might want atheists to exist, since that was the question asked.

Also, to answer your question on what I'm doing here, I actually found this blog through topics unrelated to atheism. However, I enjoy discussing this kind of thing, and Greta at one point said (if I remember correctly) she does invite civil discussion from believers, so I figured that was enough.

As far as what separates this speculation from making stuff up, it really depends where you draw the line. The way I see it, I'm looking at what we know, then fitting things together that fit what we know. The way you see it, it may very well just be making things up. But what I'm trying to do is get inside God's head and think what he might be thinking or trying to do, the same way you might try to read your boss to figure out what he might be thinking, or why he did something a particular way. Same idea, grander scale, and the person who's mind I'm trying to get a read on may not exist.

DSimon, I'm not approaching this purely from a scientific perspective. If science clearly eliminated the possibility of a belief I held, then I couldn't say much against it. But my religious beliefs are specifically in areas science hasn't been able to find answers yet.

Furthermore, I do understand how science works, and yes, you described it quite well. I'm not contradicting any science I know of with the beliefs I hold. If I were, they would have to change to fit the new knowledge I came across. But I also know my beliefs are not scientific. That's fine. They wouldn't be religious if they were.

Maria

Also, to answer your question on what I'm doing here, I actually found this blog through topics unrelated to atheism. However, I enjoy discussing this kind of thing, and Greta at one point said (if I remember correctly) she does invite civil discussion from believers, so I figured that was enough.

I did not say you can't be here, and I did not say that Greta does not invite civil discussion from believers. I did not say you aren't civil, and I did not say you can't say what you want around here.

I said I don't understand why you expect us to take what you are welcome to say seriously, when there is, in fact, no way for us to really discuss these speculations in a meaningful way.

No matter how many times I would point something out as not making sense, I'd be met with "but what about this, and what about that then - it would take care of your objection!" But no, if it can't be backed up in any way, it does not take care of it!

It's like if I claimed I had a leprechaun in an airtight jar, and you would object with 'but how does he breathe?' and I would reply with 'oh... but after a lot of thinking I've come to the conclusion that leprechauns don't have lungs, they don't need to breathe'. And if you had objections to how that could work, or make sense, or be plausible, I'd just keep making stuff up about the traits and workings of this leprechaun that would answer all your questions and objections.

The discussion would soon be meaningless because I can't show any evidence that what we are discussing even exists in the first place, and therefore it's rather meaningless of me to start making up (specualate) how it works, what it wants and so on. And yeah, if that amuses me, I can do that. But why would I start throw these leprechaun speculations of mine out there, and think people would take it seriously?

themann1086

David,

I want to focus on one thing you said, because it's very near and dear to my heart:

So what you are saying is that if we can't understand it don't label it? If you can't prove its existence why bother believing in it? Might as well flush most of modern science right down the proverbial toilet because we would no [sic] very little of what we do with people searching for answers not assuming that because I can't prove it that it is not worth labeling or searching for an explanation or simply accepting without proof.

What? This is nonsense of the highest order! The whole edifice of modern science is built on data and proofs! I'm going to use dark matter as an example because it's very apt. Working with what we knew of stellar matter and relativity, we made predictions on the rotation of our own galaxy and found that it was rotating too fast. There was not enough matter for it to move that fast! Something was really, really wrong.

There were three likely explanations: one, someone screwed up the math. That's always a good place to start: assume you f'd up. But that wasn't the case, so we looked at the two other possible explanations. Either general relativity was wrong, very wrong at that, OR there was another source of matter, spread diffusely throughout the galaxy, that did not interact with the electromagnetic force or photons. Not knowing anything about its composition, or if it even existed, we dubbed this "dark matter". We also looked into the possibility of relativity being wrong, and came up speculative, alternative models of gravity that tried to mimic relativity in cases we knew it worked, but also matched our observations regarding galaxy rotations. I won't bore you with the maths, as they're irrelevant.

These modified gravity theories have largely been discarded thanks to a few observations where we got to test the predictions of both. A couple galaxy collision (and I think a cluster collision as well) that we were able to monitor bore out the predictions of dark matter near exactly. We're still not entirely sure what it is, but we can predict its presence and how it interacts with other matter relatively well.

My point is that modern science is based on making observations of phenomena and seeking explanations for them. When phenomena don't match predictions, we change the explanations. What phenomena does "god" seek to explain? How does it interact with the universe? What would the universe look like without it? Better, does the universe as we observe it match what we would expect if the god hypothesis were true? These are all important questions when examining the unknown and pushing the limits of our knowledge.

I wrote this up an hour ago and other stuff was already posted, some dealing with what I wrote. Oh well, I liked it.

floslib

Maria, if you question religious beliefs, you are going to get speculation from those who believe and denial from those who don't. This is because there is no objectivity in religion. But this particular question, to me, sounded like it invited speculation. If it didn't, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

So, basically, I expected to be taken seriously because it sounded like a question that invited speculation. More specifically, speculation about God's motives and reasons for acting a particular way. I understand it was primarily a device for saying God doesn't exist, but I thought it was still open for the speculative answers it invited. If not, my bad there.

Maria

but I thought it was still open for the speculative answers it invited. If not, my bad there.

I didn't say it wasn't. And you have to take that up with Greta in any case. It doesn't matter though what you thought about what the original post invited or not. You made your speculations openly, and other people than Greta can reply, and take it seriously, or not!

I pointed things out, you replied with more speculation to ME! And I said that *I* think it's meaningless to keep on discussing with you about those speculations. That's all. You can keep making comments and discuss with other people all that you want.

I would still like to know what the difference is between this and pure making stuff up? And why you think making things up adds to your further understanding of things? And if you would do this with other sort of questions as well?

You keep hiding behind religion not being objective, but your speculations make claims about objective things that would have an effect on our real objective world. One would therefore think you would want to know if what you speculate is actually true or not! Now, that IS me taking what you say seriously to some degree when I ask you if you do actually care if your speculations are true or not, and how, if you do care, you mean to find out if they are - what method to find this out will you use?

And also, you can reply to anything with making up stuff about how it could be and what might explain this or that, but that does not free you from backing them up when questioned about what you say - not if you do want to be taken seriously!

Speculations are only the first step, then these speculations are meant to be scrutinized and checked if they actually line up with reality. The kind of "speculations" you bring to the table can't be falsified and adds nothing to our understanding of anything.

More specifically, speculation about God's motives and reasons for acting a particular way.

When it can't be tested and confirmed in any way, how is this any different at all from "speculating" (making things up) about the motives and behaviour of fairies, leprechauns, unicorns, Zeus, Loke, and the Loch Ness monster? And would you take me seriously if I did that?

but I thought it was still open for the speculative answers it invited.

I thought your speculations invited some questioning!

floslib

Maria, you are certainly welcome to question me. But I honestly don't know what you're going for anymore.

I replied with speculation to you because you asked more questions of a speculative topic. That's what we have to work with in the absence of scientific evidence. If science proved me wrong today, I'd say good show. It hasn't done so yet.

As far as my claims having an effect on the real, objective world, yeah, at some point, they do. But really, not for quite a long time back. I'm not saying God is active in the world today, or even that he was particularly active in the world at any time past creation. Which basically means that the only time you would see evidence of his presence would be at creation, or possibly the times he revealed himself to humanity, assuming he did so. In short, you aren't likely to find evidence even if it is true.

As far as wanting to know if what I claim is true, I would love to know, but I don't expect I ever will while alive. Once dead, I'll either cease to exist, as atheists claim, or I'll know, if there is an afterlife.

So basically, while I do care, I don't expect to find any scientific test that will let me verify the truth of what I've said. If that isn't satisfying, well, I don't expect it to be.

Also, as you say, my speculations are generally unfalsifiable. That's actually the point. To you, this is a bad thing. To me, this is the domain of religion, a domain it should not escape lest it try to infringe on what we do know.

As far as adding to our understanding, the goal in this case wasn't to add to understanding of the physical world in a direct sense. It was more intended to provide some possible answers that provide consistency to some religious beliefs. There's a difference between providing consistency for a religious belief and trying to provide a scientifically rigorous test.

As far as the difference between believing in God or any of the other things you mentioned, objectively, which is what you care about, there isn't any. What determines that belief isn't objective evidence in the first place, though objective evidence can overturn that belief. The difference is simply a matter of intuition, feeling, and interpretation. As for whether or not I'd take you seriously, it would really depend on if you earnestly believed in one of those things or were just tossing them around in a manner to discredit other beliefs. I wouldn't share your beliefs, mind you, but I wouldn't hold them against you so long as you keep them to the domain of religion and don't try to make claims that have been proven false, or that have the risk of causing harm to people if untrue.

DSimon
Also, as you say, my speculations are generally unfalsifiable. That's actually the point. To you, this is a bad thing. To me, this is the domain of religion, a domain it should not escape lest it try to infringe on what we do know.

So what you're saying is that a defining trait of religion is that its claims are generally unfalsifiable, right? I agree with you there.

But I don't understand why you stop there, treating that definition as a justification for religion. It's the exact opposite; it's a great reason why religion shouldn't be used as a source of knowledge, because it has no good method of verifying itself.

The difference is simply a matter of intuition, feeling, and interpretation.

Intuition, feeling, and subjective interpretation are notoriously bad at finding objective facts. Why do you trust them to do something they're not good at?

David

What? This is nonsense of the highest order! The whole edifice of modern science is built on data and proofs!

I think you missed my point or maybe I didn't make it very well. The whole of modern science is based on data and interpretation of that data to what science calls a proof. I think Einstein was asked about a book published titled something like "1000 Theories Against Relativity" (or something to that effect). His response was along the lines of "if I was wrong, one would be enough." All I am asking is show me the definitive 1 because I am not interested in the 1000's of maybes.

Science has not ever provided any evidence against the existence of God or a higher power or whatever someone chooses to call it yet atheists keep trying. Lack of evidence to existence does not mean lack of existence.

And I know the next question will be show me the proof. I can't and no one can. It's in a mindset. I don't need proof and that is where the atheist's argument falls apart. You are demanding proof to believe in something. But I do not require proof nor do I require you to believe it. So feel free to not believe, question, prod, whatever but just understand until there is that 1 thing I will continue to believe.

DSimon

David, so you require evidence in order to not believe in God, but you don't require evidence in order to believe in God?

Why does the concept of God warrant this special treatment?

David

DSimon - I see evidence of God all around me. An atheist does not or chooses to label it something else. I cannot believe that everything we see around us and us for that matter came about by pure chance. I feel there is a driving force or a creator and that is where I put God.

Do you believe in gravity? Do you have any idea how it works or even if it exists? Or do you accept it and wait to see if someone can prove or disprove it?

DSimon
I see evidence of God all around me.

Then let's talk about that evidence! Evidence is important to empiricists like myself; telling me that I'm just "choosing" not to see evidence is frankly a little aggravating when it's not combined with a specific description of the evidence you claim I'm missing.

Do you believe in gravity? Do you have any idea how it works or even if it exists? Or do you accept it and wait to see if someone can prove or disprove it?

In order:

1. Yes, because it has been demonstrated to exist by copious evidence.
2. Somewhat; I know the basic formula for determining gravitational force between two masses, but I don't know much about the physics behind gravity.
3. No, because that would be the wrong order. First I wait for something to be demonstrated to exist, then I accept it, not the other way around.

Also, please avoid using the word "proof"; to steal a great phrase I heard somewhere, proof is for math and alcohol. In science, there's a spectrum of confidence about whether or not something is true, and nothing can be 100% proven, because any hypothesis or theory can be overturned by sufficient counter-evidence.

themann1086

If you're seriously interested in the evidence against God, I'd recommend God: The Failed Hypothesis. But you seem to flipping between "I don't need any proof to believe in God; prove to me He doesn't exist!" and "the existence of the universe is proof of God".

As I said before, things that exist have observable, predictable (and "postdictable") effects. Usually, we notice the effects before we discover the thing, like with electricity, magnetism, or dark matter. The biggest problem with your argument is the utter needlessness of it. "The Universe MUST have been created by something with intent!" Well, no, it need not have. There's no need to suppose that there was even anything before the big bang (except in some cosmological models, which postulate an inflationary event preceding the big bang; or multiverse models). Further, you insist that the universe have a cause, but God itself does not. Um, why? Because you said so? There's no reason to insist that the very existence of reality has to have a cause, but the "being" that does so is exempt. The universe could be uncaused; we know of plenty of "uncaused" phenomena within our universe as it is (there are probabilistic reasons for their creation, and their existence can be explained, and we can give you a time-and-space-dependent probability-density predicting when/where the event will occur, but it has no cause)!

Maria

Maria, you are certainly welcome to question me. But I honestly don't know what you're going for anymore.

How can I put it any clearer. The sort of speculation you are offering is meaningless because it is indistinguishable from making things up. And if I want made up stuff I’ll read some fiction.

I replied with speculation to you because you asked more questions of a speculative topic.

No, I pointed out some things that didn’t make sense with it, and you replied with moving the goalposts.

That's what we have to work with in the absence of scientific evidence.

We haven’t even established that it’s even remotely likely that there is anything at all to work with in the first place. When you speculate on the nature of something that is not likely to exist, and of which you therefore can’t know anything – pointing out where these speculations doesn’t even make sense, even within their own context, is only one way to point out that the speculations in themselves are meaningless. We can speculate all that we want on the nature and traits of all the things that probably doesn’t exist and for which there are no evidence whatsoever, but… why? There’s no use in it, outside of writing fiction and such things, since there is no way to know anything about things which existence hasn’t even been established. And if we can’t then separate imagination, fantasizing and making things up from the real things – then what’s the bloody point? If you should, by pure chance, one day actually stumble onto the truth in any of these things you are saying, you would never even notice, and would never get to know!

If science proved me wrong today, I'd say good show. It hasn't done so yet.

Shifting the burden of proof!

It’s useless to believe in all things that have not yet been proven false, and things that could not be proven false, which is why I brought up all those other creatures. There’s no way to prove for 100 % sure that there are no such things like fairies, leprechauns and gods. We can’t visit every place in the whole universe, and search every planet in existence to see if their might be such things somewhere. But that is no actual reason to believe in every possible concept that the human mind can think up. These things are highly implausible and unlikely, and there are no reason whatsoever to believe in them. Most people do understand this and in fact do not believe in all fantastic concepts ever invented by humans. Most do not believe in unicorns and ancient gods and so on, even though science hasn’t actually 100 % proved they don’t exist. I bet you don’t believe absolutely everything either and you sure don’t waste time speculating on the nature and intentions of the millions of other gods and supernatural creatures out there. You’re making an exception for your god, even though there’s no reason to do that.

And I can keep pointing out that this behavior is inconsistent and irrational, but then you’ll only go back to saying that it’s “its nature to be that way” or something like that, and think that that will excuse your shifting the burden of proof unto us. It doesn’t! It’s not our job, or the purpose of science, to disprove your pet fantasy for you. It’s your job to show us good enough evidence to take the claims you do make seriously!

As far as my claims having an effect on the real, objective world, yeah, at some point, they do. But really, not for quite a long time back. I'm not saying God is active in the world today, or even that he was particularly active in the world at any time past creation. Which basically means that the only time you would see evidence of his presence would be at creation, or possibly the times he revealed himself to humanity, assuming he did so. In short, you aren't likely to find evidence even if it is true.

This too is only more of the meaningless speculations I talked about above, it’s more of moving the goalposts, and simply only more of describing the nature of something you can know nothing about, and for which you have no evidence at all that it even exists in the first place – don’t you realize that? You are, again, just making stuff up to explain away an objection to something made-up you said before.

As far as wanting to know if what I claim is true, I would love to know, but I don't expect I ever will while alive. Once dead, I'll either cease to exist, as atheists claim, or I'll know, if there is an afterlife.

Then why speculate on things you don’t ever even expect to ever be able to know anything about? I mean it’s your right to spend time on anything you want, but why expect other people to care?

So basically, while I do care, I don't expect to find any scientific test that will let me verify the truth of what I've said. If that isn't satisfying, well, I don't expect it to be.

Then go ahead, whatever rocks your boat, but don’t expect that your speculations will be taken seriously – as you obviously do expect!

Also, as you say, my speculations are generally unfalsifiable. That's actually the point. To you, this is a bad thing. To me, this is the domain of religion, a domain it should not escape lest it try to infringe on what we do know.

Look, if you want to sit at home and make stuff up I have no moral opinions about that. (Though thinking like this is seldom as harmless as it seems to be since people often do act from beliefs like this. Thinking that you know the nature and motivations of a god has created quite some suffering in our world after all). You are surely totally benign, what do I know. And personally I don’t much care about how your thinking goes, and what you think is the “domain of religion” and so on. But if you want to have a meaningful discussion with someone then yes, these things are “bad”; they are logical fallacies and flawed thinking.

It’s like if you would insist on redefining the words in the English language to all mean something else. You’d decide that in the domain of… whatever, words don’t have to mean what they mean. It’s the nature of ‘whatever’ that you can do that. So, now you arbitrarily decides (based on your intuition and feelings) that ‘red’ from now on means ‘blue’, that ‘cat’ means ‘tractor’ and that ‘chair’ means ‘cloud’. You can do that, no one can stop you. You’re probably still a nice person; you are probably not harming anyone. But yeah, you would come to a blog with all that and try to discuss with people and insist on your own definitions and still expect people to take you seriously – in that aspect your ‘re-defining-words-stuff’ would be ‘bad’.

As far as adding to our understanding, the goal in this case wasn't to add to understanding of the physical world in a direct sense. It was more intended to provide some possible answers that provide consistency to some religious beliefs. There's a difference between providing consistency for a religious belief and trying to provide a scientifically rigorous test.

And yet, when it was pointed out that some stuff was not consistent with other religious beliefs, or even was internally consistent, you just made more stuff up to explain it away. Possible answers? How could you ever even tell if these answers are possible or not?

As far as the difference between believing in God or any of the other things you mentioned, objectively, which is what you care about, there isn't any. What determines that belief isn't objective evidence in the first place, though objective evidence can overturn that belief.

Again… as long as it isn’t directly disproven, you’re justified in believing anything you want, right? And again, sure, you can do that, but don’t expect that anyone else will accept these justifications.

The difference is simply a matter of intuition, feeling, and interpretation.

Or as it’s also called… Making stuff up! And don’t get me wrong. Imagination is a wonderful thing, when it’s acknowledged as such. In fact, I don’t know why so many people seem to degrade and put down the human ability to imagine stuff by simply claiming that a vivid imagination and a skill of making fiction up is not good enough – there has to be some sort of claim of it being true, possibly true, ‘will see it as true, until someone shows me otherwise’, or it’s not good enough, or…?

As for whether or not I'd take you seriously, it would really depend on if you earnestly believed in one of those things or were just tossing them around in a manner to discredit other beliefs.

I would say that you would do yourself a disservice if you took things seriously on people’s sincerity in their beliefs. How much someone believes in something is in no way a good measure of how plausible their beliefs are. All it would take then for someone to con you into something were to appear sincere enough in their belief. And despite your trust in things like intuition, humans are demonstratively bad at judging other human’s sincerity, and when they are lying or not.

I see… since you have decided I am just being disrespectful and only out to discredit people’s beliefs, you can safely simply dismiss all my analogies that compare your special pet belief with other, less common, beliefs. Since I don’t actually believes sincerely in leprechauns, any analogy, no matter how valid, where I would use such a creature to show how your reasoning is flawed, can simply be ignored. How very convenient! You want other people to take you seriously, but it seems you are not even trying to return the favor. You can just dismiss what people say if they think differently from you.

I wouldn't share your beliefs, mind you, but I wouldn't hold them against you so long as you keep them to the domain of religion and don't try to make claims that have been proven false, or that have the risk of causing harm to people if untrue.

Says the person who claims to know enough of what a god wants with us all, and think it’s likely and plausible enough to decide it’s worthwhile to inform people of it.

timokk

Dear themann1086,

Interesting you should use gravity as an example. I think God's love as kind of gravity that will eventually pull all creation back to Him/Her...we will not be prodigal sons/daughters for eterninty :^)

It is interesting because the two scientists who have contributed more than anybody else to our understanding of gravity were spiritual men.

In between his study of the bible (his favorite activity he spent most of his time on), Newton somehow had the time to discover laws of motion, develop the differential and integral calculus, write Principia and dabble in alchemy.

Einstein was a man of reason....and intuition.

In an interview published by Time magazine, this is what he had to say about Jesus:

"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."

When asked if he accepted the "historical existence of Jesus," he replied, "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

He is famous for the quote: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind".

In "The World as I See It", he wrote: "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms, it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

themann1086, perhaps we disagree on the existence of God. I hope we agree that believing in God is not necessarily irrational.

DSimon

timokk, a smart person saying something is not, by itself, an argument for that thing being true. No matter how smart, people are far from infallible.

To figure things out, we have to face them head-on. We cannot just rely on other people, no matter how intelligent, to do our critical thinking for us.

timokk


DSimon,

That was not my point. My point was that believing in God does not necessarily mean a person is irrational, lacking in ability to reason.

God has given me reason and a free will to use it as I choose. I have used it for critical thinking, which in my case has led me on a journey from a Christian to an atheist to an agnostic to a believer in God. The God I believe in is not the conventional Christian one, as I believe in the validity of all true spiritual paths, not just Christianity.

There is no compulsion in my religion. I respect an atheist more than a blind believer (one who believes because he/she has been told it is so).

DSimon

Timokk, I agree that just because a person is religious doesn't mean that they're irrational... but religious belief itself isn't rational unless it's based on good evidence.

floslib

First, to DSimon, you said this to me:
"So what you're saying is that a defining trait of religion is that its claims are generally unfalsifiable, right? I agree with you there.

But I don't understand why you stop there, treating that definition as a justification for religion. It's the exact opposite; it's a great reason why religion shouldn't be used as a source of knowledge, because it has no good method of verifying itself."

I think we might actually be able to find common ground there. I agree that religion isn't a source of knowledge. I don't want to equate religion with science. And I don't want people to take religion as fact.

Because I don't use it as a body of knowledge, I don't see the issue in relying on intuition, feeling, and subjective interpretation.

Yes, I do understand there is a little inconsistency in these statements because I believe God was the ultimate first cause of our universe. In this instance, call me irrational, but that's still what I believe. Aside from that, I really don't think I'm stepping on any toes when it comes to objective knowledge though.

Maria, to preface this, I would like to know if you think we're getting anywhere or if you're getting anything useful out of this. If so, I'm happy to continue this discussion with you. If you think we're both just spinning our wheels though, it might be best we drop it. I will answer your last post, and then you can let me know what you think about continuing the discussion. Whether you have anything else to say about my response either way is, naturally, your call.

In any case, I'm not asking you to share my beliefs or even take them seriously. I'm not asking you to believe or take seriously any beliefs I've presented. I'm simply throwing them out there, and leaving the rest up to you.

I do think you're taking the idea of redefining terms way out of context though. When I say that unfalsifiable ideas are the domain of religion, I say that because if it's falsifiable, science will one day be able to gather evidence for it one way or another. If it's unfalsifiable, science isn't going to have an answer for it in the future (unless we only think it's unfalsifiable). In short, if science can test it, we'll eventually know if it's true or false with a good degree of certainty. If science can't test it, then why not speculate and think about what could be, so long as we don't try to pass it off as fact.

And to be clear, I am not trying to pass off anything I've said about God as fact. If you think I am, I'm sorry for not being clearer.

As far as taking people seriously based on how earnestly they believe in something, I said I would take the person seriously. I would not treat their beliefs as fact, just as I don't treat mine as fact. There's a difference between taking a person seriously and thinking their beliefs are true.

Also, I did not say you were being disrespectful. And I did not mean to say or imply that I wasn't taking you seriously, so I'm sorry if that's what you took away from that. What I meant was, as an example, you obviously don't believe in leprechauns, so I would have a hard time taking you seriously if you acted like you did. Even the same if you acted like you thought God existed, since you obviously don't believe he does. Honestly, now that I think about it, I guess it didn't even really bear saying, given how obvious it is someone wouldn't do that, but nothing I can do about that now except explain what was going through my head.

Finally, I don't claim to know what God wants with us all. It would be nice to know, but I certainly don't. However, given that I believe, and that I don't forsee that changing, I think it's worthwhile to think about what he might want of us. If he exists, I will most certainly get some of it wrong. Maybe most or all of it. But, when in the context of a discussion something comes up, I think it's worth presenting those ideas and speculations. My idea of plausible enough and your idea of plausible enough are very far apart. My idea is it's possible. Your idea is it has a certain level of supporting, physical, objective evidence.

So, I wasn't saying "hey guys, I know what God wants and it's this."

I was saying, "hey guys, maybe this is what god wants out of us. It's a possibility." In the very broadest meaning of the term possibility.

timokk

DSimon,

In my case, the evidence is both direct and eminently logical (through the power of yoga meditation, like Paul said "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?").

For me, there is no evidence more powerful than direct personal experience.

Maria

Maria, to preface this, I would like to know if you think we're getting anywhere or if you're getting anything useful out of this.

No, I don’t think so! Which is what I have been saying for a long time now!

In any case, I'm not asking you to share my beliefs or even take them seriously. I'm not asking you to believe or take seriously any beliefs I've presented. I'm simply throwing them out there, and leaving the rest up to you.

I haven’t said anything about sharing beliefs. I only said things about taking certain premises for a discussion seriously! Your original premises for a discussion – the possible motives, behavior and traits of a god whose existence is unlikely – I do not take seriously the way it was presented, no, and see no use in discussing at all. And again, you throw things out there, you might get replies, how you handled those replies is what we are discussing now!

I do think you're taking the idea of redefining terms way out of context though. When I say that unfalsifiable ideas are the domain of religion, I say that because if it's falsifiable, science will one day be able to gather evidence for it one way or another. If it's unfalsifiable, science isn't going to have an answer for it in the future (unless we only think it's unfalsifiable). In short, if science can test it, we'll eventually know if it's true or false with a good degree of certainty. If science can't test it, then why not speculate and think about what could be, so long as we don't try to pass it off as fact.

And again, I tried to explain why I think it’s not rational to believe things only because it has not been disproven. I’d ask you: WHY speculate on things before we don’t even know if it exists or not? Because it might not do harm? As I said, if it doesn’t, speculate all you want, I don’t care. But if you speculate in the open I will point out that I think this is fallacious thinking.

And to be clear, I am not trying to pass off anything I've said about God as fact. If you think I am, I'm sorry for not being clearer.

I saw that you didn’t, and I didn’t say that you did. I said you claim it is plausible enough and possible, based on things like intuition and so on. I am saying it’s not nearly plausible, and especially not on those basis. You don’t have to pass it off as fact for me to be able to say that it is in fact meaningless to speculate like that. And for not being able to actually know anything about this unlikely god’s motives and traits, you were very specific in your speculations. So specific that you also thought you could use it to explain away the pointed out inconsistencies. You’re right, we are not discussing facts, or even possible facts then, we are only discussing fiction that you’ve made up. That could be interesting to me if it actually was, for example, the plot of a novel we were discussing. In this context though… not so much.

As far as taking people seriously based on how earnestly they believe in something, I said I would take the person seriously. I would not treat their beliefs as fact, just as I don't treat mine as fact. There's a difference between taking a person seriously and thinking their beliefs are true.

That’s a true.

Also, I did not say you were being disrespectful. And I did not mean to say or imply that I wasn't taking you seriously, so I'm sorry if that's what you took away from that.

You did heavily imply I was ‘tossing’ these things around only as a mean to ‘discredit’ people’s beliefs, and those word choices do imply disrespect on the person’s part who does that. But okay.

What I meant was, as an example, you obviously don't believe in leprechauns, so I would have a hard time taking you seriously if you acted like you did. Even the same if you acted like you thought God existed, since you obviously don't believe he does. Honestly, now that I think about it, I guess it didn't even really bear saying, given how obvious it is someone wouldn't do that, but nothing I can do about that now except explain what was going through my head.

You obviously understand that these were all analogies and examples used to show how the same arguments (yours) would sound if we replace one fictional character (your preferred one) with another. So, of course it was obvious. You knew what I meant.

Finally, I don't claim to know what God wants with us all. It would be nice to know, but I certainly don't. However, given that I believe, and that I don't forsee that changing, I think it's worthwhile to think about what he might want of us.

If it’s worthwhile for you I have no arguments against that, which is what I have been trying to say all along. You have your own justifications for believing this stuff, and I do not care about them, or what you do with your life! But if it is to be discussed on a blog such as this, then if I chose to respond, I can do nothing else than to point out the inconsistencies, the fallacies, and the logical flaws, the weakness of the justifications and so on, that I think I can spot! What else am I suppose to do? You chose to express that belief here; I replied with some things that I thought were flaws in your comments. And yeah I’M sure not infallible, so I can most surely be wrong every time I point something like that out, but you are not showing me where I am wrong in pointing these things out if that’s the case, you are just trying to show me that it’s no use in pointing it out at all because you are operating in domains where these things don’t apply. I am saying it does apply!

If he exists, I will most certainly get some of it wrong. Maybe most or all of it. But, when in the context of a discussion something comes up, I think it's worth presenting those ideas and speculations.

So, you did! And I responded with the things I did. You still seem to want make me say that you shouldn’t have done so in the first place, which is not the point. You are welcome to, but when you do, I can point out what I think is flawed with the whole thing. I can say that I don’t understand your motives, and I can say that I don’t think your justifications for believing these things, or think them plausible are even closely good enough to keep discussing them.

My idea of plausible enough and your idea of plausible enough are very far apart.

Obviously!

My idea is it's possible.

And I pointed out that a hell of a lot of things are possible. There are literally million of things that can’t be disproven. Obviously you don’t believe in all of those, so there must be another reason for you to believe this than just that it’s possible, why else would you chose this speculation above the literally thousands and thousands of other possible ones? To take it seriously enough to discuss further I would need to hear a good reason to why you choose this particular belief.

Your idea is it has a certain level of supporting, physical, objective evidence. So, I wasn't saying "hey guys, I know what God wants and it's this."
I was saying, "hey guys, maybe this is what god wants out of us. It's a possibility." In the very broadest meaning of the term possibility.

So broad as to render it completely meaningless! Which is what I have been trying to say all along!

themann1086

I so love it when Einstein gets misrepresented.

Via Wikipedia: "In a 1950 letter to M. Berkowitz, Einstein stated that "My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.""

Or, in 1954... "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These [...] interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

There's more, but I'd rather leave it there. Einstein was an agnostic, borderline animist/pantheist at times. He did, however, believe many irrational things. Or rather, disbelieved them. To his dying breath, Einstein refused to accept the legitimacy of quantum physics... something he had helped lead the scientific community to! He did not like it because it conflicted with his view of what the universe should be like. But the universe is how it is, regardless of our wants or desires.

timokk

themann1086,

'I so love it when Einstein gets misrepresented"

Please tell me which quote in the post is not accurate.

DSimon

"I agree that religion isn't a source of knowledge. [...] I believe God was the ultimate first cause of our universe."

Floslib, this seems highly contradictory to me. Why do you believe something to be true based on a method that you agree is not a useful source of knowledge?

DSimon
For me, there is no evidence more powerful than direct personal experience.

Timokk, I don't think that's justified. Personal religious experiences are not very good objective evidence because they're unverifiable and highly subject to personal bias. Psychology and neurology have found numerous ways in which personal religious experiences can be explained by physical phenomena within the brain.

Greta covers this much more lucidly than I could here.

themann1086

You cherry picked quotes from Einstein that seemed to imply he believed in God, despite ample evidence that he did not. He wasn't an atheist, but he wasn't a believer, either.

floslib

DSimon, you are correct. As I acknowledged, that part is the exception to what I said about religion involving objective knowledge. I also acknowledged there isn't much of a rational basis for it. The reason is simply that I can't imagine the non-supernatural explanations are true. I can logically understand how they could be true, but I can't bring myself to think that way, if that makes any sense at all.

DSimon

Floslib, it makes sense, but I don't think I would call it rational. If you cannot understand, say, the physics behind the Big Bang, then you and I have that in common. :-)

However, that doesn't imply that we therefore need to default to a supernatural explanation for the beginning of the universe. If we don't understand something, then we should simply say "I don't understand that thing".

themann1086

Argument 52!

ARGUMENT FROM INCREDULITY (II)
(1) How could God NOT exist, you bozo?
(2) Therefore, God exists.

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