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AC Grayling

Gotta have faith?

The repetition this week of the weary old canard that atheism is 'a faith proposition' shows that our archbishops need a lesson in semantics.

November 10, 2006 9:10 AM | Printable version

In the foreword to the confused document produced by the religious thinktank Theos this week the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster, in a joint statement whose very existence does the latter great credit given that he officially thinks the former is damned (it is official Roman Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the church), iterate the claim that "atheism is itself a faith position". This is a weary old canard to be set alongside the efforts of the faithful to characterise those who robustly express their attitude towards religious belief as "fundamentalist atheists".

This is classified in logic as an "informal fallacy" known as a "tu quoque" argument. We understand that the faithful live in an inspissated gloaming of incense and obfuscation, through the swirls of which it is hard to see anything clearly, so a simple lesson in semantics might help to clear the air for them on the meanings of "secular", "humanist" and "atheist". Once they have succeeded in understanding these terms they will grasp that none of them imply "faith" in anything, and that it is not possible to be a "fundamentalist" with respect to any of them. I apologise to those who know all this of old, but evidently if our archbishops remain in the dark about such matters, there must still be a need for patient iteration of - what else? - these fundamentals.

Secularism is the view that church and state (religion and national government) should be kept separate. The first secularists were medieval churchmen who did not wish the temporal power to interfere in church affairs. Temporal government of religious affairs produces emasculated and feeble latitudinarian religious bodies like the Church of England (so this, if any religious body has to exist, is a good thing), whereas religious interference or, worse, control of government has a ready tendency to degenerate into what we might revealingly call Talibanism, as history and current affairs overwhelmingly and tragically attest.

If religious organisations had any sense they would embrace secularism as their best chance of survival, because a secular dispensation keeps the public domain neutral with respect to all interest groups within it, including the different religions and their internally-competing denominations, allowing them all to survive - which they would not do if one became dominant and had the ear, or the levers, of temporal government. As this shows, it is possible (and even wise) for religious people to be secularists too.

Humanism in the modern sense of the term is the view that whatever your ethical system, it derives from your best understanding of human nature and the human condition in the real world. This means that it does not, in its thinking about the good and about our responsibilities to ourselves and one another, premise putative data from astrology, fairy tales, supernaturalistic beliefs, animism, polytheism, or any other inheritances from the ages of humankind's remote and more ignorant past.

It is possible for religious people to be humanists too: though not without inconsistency or at least oddity, for there is no role to be played in humanistic ethics by their (definingly religious) belief in the existence of supernatural agencies. Perhaps they need to believe in such agencies because they cannot otherwise understand how there can be a natural world - as if invoking "chaos and old night" (in one Middle Eastern mythology the progenitors of all things) explained anything, let alone the universe's existence. Doing so might satisfy a pathological metaphysical need for what Paul Davies calls "the self-levitating super-turtle", but it is obviously enough not worth discussing.

"Atheism" is a word used by religious people to refer to those who do not share their belief in the existence of supernatural entities or agencies. Presumably (as I can never tire of pointing out) believers in fairies would call those who do not share their views "a-fairyists", hence trying to keep the debate on fairy turf, as if it had some sensible content; as if there were something whose existence could be a subject of discussion worth the time.

People who do not believe in supernatural entities do not have a "faith" in "the non-existence of X" (where X is "fairies" or "goblins" or "gods"); what they have is a reliance on reason and observation, and a concomitant preparedness to accept the judgment of both on the principles and theories that premise their actions. The views they take about things are proportional to the evidence supporting them, and are always subject to change in the light of new or better evidence. "Faith" - specifically and precisely: the commitment to a belief in the absence of evidence supporting that belief, or even (to the greater merit of the believer) in the very teeth of evidence contrary to that belief - is a far different thing, which is why the phrase "religious thinktank" has a certain comic quality to it: for faith at its quickly-reached limit is the negation of thought.

So despite the best efforts of religious folk to keep the discussion on their turf, those who do not share their outlook should repudiate the label "atheist" unless those who wish to use it are prepared to say "atheist and afairyist and agoblinist and aghostist" and so on at considerable length, to mark the rational rejection of belief in supernatural entities of any kind. As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, since Christians and Muslims do not believe in Thor and Wotan, or Zeus and Ares and Hermes, or Shiva and Vishnu, or the Japanese Emperor, and so endlessly on, they too are "atheists" about almost all the gods ever imagined.

Without the commonplace and dispiriting facts of history which show how religious organisations are in truth political, military and economic ones that exist for the sake of their all-too-human beneficiaries, it would not be easy to see why, eg Christians believe in the volcano god of the Jews (the pillar of smoke by day, the burning bush on the mountain top), and why they choose the Jesus story out of all the many in which a god (Zeus and Jaweh are hardly alone in this) makes a mortal woman pregnant, who gives birth to a son, who engages in heroic endeavours, often involving suffering (think of Hercules and his labours), and therefore goes to heaven. For this tale is a commonplace of the old Middle Eastern religions, and it is arbitrary to pick this one rather than that one to kill and die for.

And on that subject: the sufferings attributed to Jesus, involving torture and an unpleasant death, all (so the putative records say) within less than 24 hours, are horrible enough to contemplate, but every day of the week millions of women suffer more and for longer in childbirth. Longer and worse suffering is also experienced by torture victims in the gaols of tyrannical regimes - and in the gaols of some democratic ones too, alas. Why then does Christianity's founding figure have a special claim in this regard? Flagellation followed by crucifixion was the form of Roman punishment particularly reserved for terrorists and insurgents in their Empire, and many thousands died that way: after the Spartacist revolt one of the approach roads to Rome was lined on both sides for miles with crucified rebels. Should we "worship" Spartacus? After all, he sought to liberate Rome's slaves, a high and noble cause, and put his life on the line to do it.

GK Chesterton, one of the Catholic faithful, sought to discomfort non-religious folk by saying "there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don't know it." He is wrong; there are three kinds of people: these two, and those who know a dogma when it barks, when it bites, and when it should be put down.

Even some on my own side of the argument here make the mistake of thinking that the dispute about supernaturalistic beliefs is whether they are true or false. Epistemology teaches us that the key point is about rationality. If a person gets wet every time he is in the rain without an umbrella, yet persists in hoping that the next time he is umbrella-less in the rain he will stay dry, then he is seriously irrational. To believe in the existence of (say) a benevolent and omnipotent deity in the face of childhood cancers and mass deaths in tsunamis and earthquakes, is exactly the same kind of serious irrationality.

The best one could think is that if there is a deity (itself an overwhelmingly irrational proposition for a million other reasons), it is not benevolent. That's a chilling thought; and as it happens, a quick look around the world and history would encourage the reply "the latter" if someone asked: "If there is a deity, does the evidence suggest that it is benevolent or malevolent?" Some theologians - those master-wrigglers when skewered by logic - try to get out of the problem by saying that the deity is not omnipotent; this is what Keith Ward attempted when debating "God and the tsunami" in Prospect magazine. A non-omnipotent deity, eh? Well: if the theologians keep going with their denials of the traditional attributes of deity, they will eventually get to where common sense has already got the rest of us: to the simple rational realisation that the notions of deities, fairies and goblins belong in the same bin. Let us hope, in the interest of limiting religion-inspired conflict around the world, that they hurry up on their journey hither.

And then perhaps we can have a proper discussion about the ethical principles of mutual concern, imaginative sympathy and courageous tolerance on which the chances for individual and social flourishing rest. We need to meet one another as human individuals, person to person, in a public domain hospitable to us all, independently of the Babel of divisive labels people impose on others or adopt for themselves. Look at children in nursery school: a real effort has to be made to teach them, later on, how to put up barriers between themselves and their classmates on the basis of gender, ethnicity and their parents' choice of superstition. That is how our tragedy as a species is kept going: in the systematic perversion of our first innocence by falsehood and factionalism.


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GBR

It will never be possible to prove or disprove the existence of God using science or mathematical logic (read John D. Barrow's "Impossibility" for a fascininating description of the limits of science). So, you place too much "faith" in the abilities of science and mathematical inference.

Perhaps you are badly informed of the limitations of the scientific experimental method. I suggest you get better informed of the subject in which you place so much faith.

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GBR

Nice article Antony, but i have one question. How are we going to keep our generation of atheists going?

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=380

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IRL

Andrew

I think AC Grayling is writing about the misunderstanding of atheism by the religous and the irrationality, and contradictions of faith, and, as usual, it seems pretty well-informed, good writing to me.

Also, it will never be possible to disprove or prove the existence of Thor, or Zeus, or my imaginary friend Tom either? So should you believe in them? Is that rational?

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GBR

andrewthomas100, Did you read Grayling's piece?

He wrote: "Even some on my own side of the argument here make the mistake of thinking that the dispute about supernaturalistic beliefs is whether they are true or false" - that is, it is not "possible to prove or disprove the existence of God using science or mathematical logic".

He's not arguing that you can disprove the existence of god(s), simply that their existence has not been proven, there is a lot of (very good) evidence to suggest they don't exist and no more evidence of one god's existence than anothers.

He states explicitly the difference between faith and evidence-supported reason. A whole paragraph is devoted to it. Non-believers rely, not on faith, but on evidence; believers rely on faith, even in the face of contrary evidence.

Science does not rely on faith: as soon as an assertion is made based upon faith, it becomes unscientific. AC Grayling makes no claim that science has anything to say on the subject of the supernatural, as you seem to be suggesting.

Before telling him that he should "get better informed", perhaps you should re-read his article and make sure you understand it.

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Beautifully, brilliantly argued, AC Grayling: but as andrewthomas100's comment shows, you might as well bang your head against a brick wall. A rational argument, however intelligently made, will have no success at all in winning round the wilfully stupid.

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yeah but andrewthomas you believe in god.

I have faith; I have faith in human nature, that we will one day emerge out of this mire of fairyism into a world of understanding and general empathy, whereby we care for all irrespective of colour or species. We may not make it however, because deism has taught us we are above the animals, that we can do what we like with the planet for our own gain, and look where that's got us.

There is no god, please understand that, believers prove the existence of god, and do not see the sacred texts as proof for they are not.

We have religion inculcated into us from an early age; we are brainwashed to believe in god. It is hard-wired into our brains, and very difficult to remove.

Subject/object distance, super positionality: the further you are removed from your species the more superstitious you become. The further you are from understanding the tighter your orbit to a belief in the supernatural.

That is the truth, believe it.

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GBR

The term "fundamentalist atheist" is, as far as I can tell, usually used to denote someone who positively denies the existence of a god(s) and who seeks to convert others to their way of thinking.

The definition of atheist needs revising, in my humble opinion. I'm an atheist, yet I can't say that there absolutely is no god: that would be a faith position. I'm, in addition to being atheist, also an agnostic. But, logically, so are the two archbishops, so it's meaningless (not to mention absurd) for me to describe myself firstly and foremost as being an agnostic. (Which is the common refrain from religious persons, "actually, you're not an atheist, you're an agnostic.")

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NLD

Compelling, articulate and rational analysis.

Thanks!

Here's a question for the faith-brigade: how does George Bush square his belief in the death sentence and the consequences of his actions in Iraq with the so-called Christian ethic of love for fellow man?

As someone who gives a bit of a toss about the welfare of other people, I don't believe I could sleep at night if I was responsible for the death, mayhem and misery that he is.

This is the perfect example of how the faith delusion is so dangerous to humankind. It doesn't matter whether it's Christian extremism or Islamic extremism; it's essentially the same murderous ideology.

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GBR

Excellent stuff.

I liked "Calling atheism a faith is like calling 'bald' a hair colour". Can't remember who came up with it though.

I like the concept of "fundamentalist atheism". When accused of this, I normally admit to it explaining that the god I don't believe in is a vengeful interventionist (probably a PNAC member) rather than a namby-pamby "benevolent spirit" sort of god.

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GBR

Sorry, i meant to post a link to this study in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, titled "Atheism", by William Sims Bainbridge 1(2) 2005. It's free access once you've registered.

Here is an extract:

"The relevance of the fertility collapse to secondary compensation is that a failure to reproduce means fewer social relationships carrying family obligations. This tendency could be magnified in societies with a welfare state or where at least many of the former nurturance obligations people have had with each other are taken over by the state or by such things as health maintenance organizations, extensive public education, and the mass entertainment industry. To reduce secondary compensation, the state does not need to fulfill the obligations it takes on; it merely needs to take those obligations away from its citizens. I am suggesting the possibility of a pernicious feedback loop, in which a decline of religion leads to reduced fertility, which in turn reduces the secondary compensation that is at least partly responsible for religion�s strength."

The demographic statistics speak for themselves. In a largely secular Europe, the fertility rate has fallen. In the US which has the same standard of education as Europe, birth rates are slowly rising, most likely due in some way to religion.

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GBR

bigwardy: as the great prohpet Hicks one observed, Christians have to be in favour of the death sentence. Otherwise there would be no Easter.

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GBR

"atheism is a faith proposition"

Well, only in the same way that my saying that there are no goblins in my kitchen is a "faith proposition".

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GBR

I love the way that this guys gets up religious people's grubby little noses.

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NZL

AC Grayling should have another read of what Kant had to say on the existence of God before he writes about this sort of thing again. He should also dig out his copy of Bertrand Russell's Sceptical Essays (now back in print, if he's lost his) and read what Russell had to say about the intellectual background of the "sciences". His argument is built on very shifting ground indeed.

Religion is not a matter of obfuscation and incense as he seems to believe, but rather a concern with "good conduct" as Derrida puts it. Perhaps he should also find the time to read Adieu � Emmanuel L�vinas while he's in the mood?

The crass materialism he embraces is nowadays seen as a busted flush, as are the Marxist Hypotheses taken as a whole; AC Grayling's views on the world are a delightful atrefact from another age when the Morning Post was the newspaper of choice and Virginia Woolf was delightfully avant garde.

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GBR

People who do not believe in supernatural entities do not have a "faith" in "the non-existence of X" (where X is "fairies" or "goblins" or "gods"); what they have is a reliance on reason and observation.

That really is not true. What they have is reliance on OTHER PEOPLE's oberservation, which is a form of faith. For example, how many of those who accept the basis for evolution have studied fossil records for themselves and done some sums to find out of the timescales are realistic? Not many, I suspect. They assume that the books they have read are well edited and peer-reviewed, but that is a kind of faith. To find out even the simplest facts about our world, including whether the Earth goes round the sun, are extremely difficult. If science ever build a good model for the big bang, it will be extremely complicated, understandable to as many people now who understand quantum mechanics (let's say 1%, at a push). What does everyone else do? Take it on faith.

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GBR

Grayling defines faith as 'the commitment to a belief in the absence of evidence supporting that belief'

Well, wouldn't Christians argue that Christ's resurrection, say, or any of his miracles somehow 'prove' him to be the son of God?

Personally I think that all religion is complete baloney, or even with Kant that it is a sign of 'immaturity', but just a thought.

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GBR

An excellent, well-argued article!

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GBR

Good article. I'd been thinking of saying something like it myself! It serves as a antidote to Andrew Brown's article here. ACG misses out though the chance to rebut Brown's assertion that 'religion ... is an approach to knowledge." Can't see that myself; can't see any connection between belief, the assertion that something is true, to knowledge that it is.

Whilst I agree with much of the thrust of this argument, I do think it (and others like it) miss out a fundamental point: viz. the psychlogical function of belief, the need people have to foster beliefs.

It seems to me that we are genetically disposed to believe, it is how early learning takes place; if we did not believe what we were told when young, we would largely be unable to learn as quickly. ACG will have heard of 'the principle of credulity' and will know more about it than I do. Second, psychologists know that people choose to exercise 'belief' mainly as a means of stabilising emotional/mental disequilibrium; and that therefore 'belief' fulfils an important psychological function. The fostering of 'positive illusions' can promote emotional and social well being.

The problems arise when belief becomes pathologised or when it assumes a disproportionate importance, or when, following the principle of credulity, positive illusions become assumed to be truth.

It will be hard to eliminate belief by means of rational argument, when it is psychologically inbuilt, but I would hope there is much that can be done to prevent or reverse its pathologising effects.

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MYS

When the religious talk about atheism being a faith, they are mixing up two different senses of the word, to score a rhetorical point.

In its religious sense, faith means a deliberate choice to believe in some proposition (such as the existence of God) despite a lack of evidence. It is defiant. It's used to silence doubt and to end arguments. "You just have to have faith, that's all."

In this sense, it's ridiculous to call atheism based on a rational scientific process "faith", since this choice to ignore evidence is explicitly outlawed by the scientific method.

In it's more normal sense, faith is a synonym for trust. Of course, we all have to trust things that people tell us of events outside our direct experience. We also have to trust our own perceptions and judgements. This is trust on the basis of evidence, and it's rational.

Every judgement involves this kind of trust, eventually. It's a tenet of quantum physics that we can never obtain comprehensive information on any phenomenon we might try to measure. At some point we have to stop gathering evidence, and reach a conclusion, based on what is reliable. In this sense, a rational scientific conclusion regarding the existence of God does involve faith, just like a conclusion that the Republicans lost the mid-term elections involves faith.

The first means deliberately ignoring evidence, while the second acknowledges the primacy of evidence. It's very disingenous to conflate the two meanings, but it's apparently a convincing argument for many people.

While the second type of faith does acknowledge that there can be no such thing as exhaustive evidence, this is really just a technical point about the nature of information, and in no way implies that we are free to *choose* which evidence to accept and which to ignore, based on emotional convictions. Probability is very real, and it matters.

Of course it shouldn't be necessary to assert that probability matters: the most religious person in the world makes use of it every time they cross the road. The selective ignoring of probability when it comes to arguments about religious matters just shows how dishonest this particular argument about the "faith of atheism" is.

Posters here have already started talking about the limits of science. This is an important topic, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Not every aspect of human life reduces to the scientific assessment of the truth value of various beliefs and concepts.

However, the existence of God is inescapably a scientific question. If you want to say that there is no way to prove God's existence, but you still believe it nonetheless, then you have the *first* kind of faith. Your belief is not scientific but more like poetry or something, and you should not expect anyone to be rationally convinced by it, nor should you expect it to be taken as a basis for public policy.

It is perfectly possible to argue ethics in a non-relativist, scientific way, provided we take the time to convincingly explain some basis of morality in a rational moral calculus of happiness, or a related concept such as freedom.

Hope Ann Coulter is reading this page.

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GBR

I just think the average man in the street is unaware of the fundamental limits of what science can ever tell us about the universe. That, plus a reluctance of some scientists to come clean over those limits (resorting to "multiverse" theories to explain things we cannot yet understand such as the apparent fine-tuning of the physical constants resulting in a universe amenable to life).

For example we can learn about the orgin of our universe by looking deeper into space (we're actually looking back in time at galaxies in early stage of their formation), but we can never see beyond the "visible universe" (the distance which light has travelled since the origin of the universe). This is not due to a limitation of our telescopes - it is a fundamental limitation on our knowledge of the conditions at the origin of the universe. We will **never** know these things. Like I said earlier, John D. Barrow's "Impossibility" is excellent on explaining these limits of science.

So why and where did the universe originate? Science can **never** provide those answers. Instead, perhaps we leave behind our rigid devotion to the scientific experimental method - it's been useful up to know, but it can be useful no more. Instead, let's use our brains a bit more. Let's look at our own behaviour. We like making simulations of intelligent life (computer programmes like "The Sims"), and we enjoy watching closed environments of intelligent life (in programmes such as Big Brother). Might not an intelligence greater than ours have created us for, well, entertainment purposes? Makes sense to me. Maybe be analysiing our own behaviour we can go beyond those limitations of the scientific experimental method.

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IRL

I think the "atheism is a faith" proposition is an example of The Two Step Guide To Religious Propaganda in action.

Step One: Tell a lie.
Step Two: Repeat Step One ad infinitum.

If atheists begin, out of weariness perhaps, to accept the proposition, that is a sign that those atheists are now ready for conversion. At this point, believers are advised to crack open their skulls and eat their brains.

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FRA

It seems likely that human beings can't live without stories. Some stories are very powerful, some achieve power; the story of Jesus is powerful in itself - which is why it is told in many slightly different versions - and became even more powerful when it was adopted by Empire.

Most stories have potential for both good and bad; the story of Muhammad is not in itself more dangerous than the story of Jesus, or than the songlines of the Australian. Stories may constrain, but they also are malleable and usable.

There is a story behind Mr. Grayling's piece. It has to do with a coming-together, in innocence and nakedness, stripped of our uniforms and our wands. It is a story of the nursery, an echo of "The Wind in the Willows". It is a pretty story, but it is not without its own dangers.

Atheism is that one step beyond monotheism. When you have cut awa

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GBR

Does "faith" actually require belief in a religion? I believe that this does not always necessarily need to hold true. If I have belief in myself that eventually I will run a 4-minute mile, given my ability and endurance as an athlete, what has religious orientation to do with my belief in aspiring to such a goal? I may have a belief that I wish to think differently by seeking out alternative remedies and solutions to life problems. Again, what has my belief in feeling confident about searching out alternatives to do with any kind of religious belief?

The author of this article asks, as many do, of the terrible evil that the world has, is and will face in the future. Certain branches of Christianity - for example, Presbyterianism - along with Islam are adherents to the doctrine of 'Predestination'. This theological concept brought to Christianity by John Knox under the Reformation is akin to accepting, that the world and everything in it is predetermined to some degree. An earthquake will happen, floods will be violent and other exogenous forces created by man's mishandling of the earth will, at some stage, create mass emergencies. Is "God" angry with how he, entrusting the earth and all its resources to the people, has abused that privilege? Is the life-force - yet unexplained - beyond such actions predetermined by God who knew everything before it even happened? Can God prevent a major catasphrophe from happening? How could He intervene when such geographical forces are directed, in many cases, from the earth's core? Disasters are nothing new and have been around since life on earth existed. Does the hand of God actually defer and limit the damage that could have been done without his intervention.

Describing "God" is never easy. However, I believe one of the strongest definitions is defined under the Articles of Faith of the Church of Scotland. The shorter catechism accepts a "God" that is not necessarily visible or immediately acting. It refers to God as being a spirit, manifested in varying and different ways: working for the common good. The Celtic religions of old accepted God as being anything that was a given a life-force that had, in someway, existence and creation. The flowers, trees and every animal and living thing under the sun had, in someway an inspired creation directed and ultimately predestined in a world that is 'owned' by God.

In Scotland, society is most certainly secular. In England, the same rule cannot be strictly applied. The Church of Scotland - Scotland's National Church - is not connected to the State as the Church of England clearly is. Parish ministers are not allotted to parishes with any kind of Royal or Governmental interference, but merely on the basis of being selected by local congregations. What does this say about the faith by which local church people in Scotland have? Does it suggest they are any less than a religion which has a catalogue of abuses on its record? What does this say about the inspiring actions of God? God was the maker of people (the life-force behind creation) and gave each one of us, I believe, morality that was inscribed upon our hearts. It is for parents and guardians for example, in nurturing that morality. Without the morality inscribed by God, how would we ever know the difference between right and wrong? How is it when someone pleads guilty in a court-of-law? He or she must have known what was right in pleading guilty to wrongful actions. Does an atheist, a humanist or a religious believer differ in how their very existence came about?


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DEU

bigwardy

"Quote: "I don't believe I could sleep at night, if I was responsible for the death, mayhem and misery that he (Bush) is", unquote.

Lenin, Stalin and co-atheists seem to have done fine - so what's your point? That atheists are the more caring humanitarians? lol

The sad truth behind it all is that atheists just swap Buddhas for Graylings.
And who knows, they might be known in 50 years' time as the sect of the Graylingos and get battered themselves by future atheists who haven't found their guru yet.

Time Graylingos got off their mighty high horses and had some whiff of humility.

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IRL

A great line from episode 7 of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip":

In case you don�t know, Studio 60 is a new show written by Aaron Sorkin, he of "The West Wing" fame. The show is based around the background of a Saturday night Live type satirical show:

Harriet Hayes, the sexy, talented, and ultra-religious lead comic actor in the show is arguing with Matt Ailbe, an atheist, and the main writer for the show. They are having a argument about her religious views when she says something like, �Why do Atheists and the religious hate each other so much?� (or something like that) and he says:

�You hate us because you think that we think you're stupid, and we hate you because we think you're stupid.�

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GBR

'Temporal government of religious affairs produces emasculated and feeble latitudinarian religious bodies like the Church of England (so this, if any religious body has to exist, is a good thing)'

Nice to see that Grayling has finally accepted the positive role that the CoE plays in our society. People need something to believe in and the CoE is a good outlet for this desire. If people are left with nothing to believe in they often end up being far more extreme and fundamental in their faith. You only have to look at born again Christians to appreciate the fact that people born and raised in the faith tend to be more rounded individuals.

Having a moderate and benign religion like the CoE is far better than leaving people open to more fundamental movements like theistic religions such as Papism or Islam or atheistic movements like communism, facism, PCism, etc.

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GBR

I believe a lot of things. But I try to avoid having faith in anything - by which I mean having beliefs that I'd be unwilling to change if the evidence pointed the other way.

When I say "I believe that...", some people tell me that because I say that I am taking up a faith position. But in fact I mean the reverse. I say "I believe that..." rather than "I know that" because I admit the possibility that I could be wrong - the complete opposite of faith.

Some of my beliefs are supported by much more evidence than others. Sometimes there's so little evidence that you have to go with the best guess. If I'm honest, there probably _are_ things that I have faith in - hey, I'm human. But I try to open up these areas of faith to rational argument based on the evidence - because I don't regard faith as a valuable attitude for someone who wants to understand the world.

The scientific method isn't flawless, but one of the things I like about it is that it doesn't claim to be... it requires constant cross-checking with the world and with your peers, and there are incentives for challenging the existing model which have resulted in several paradigm shifts.

On the other hand, the religious "method" includes strong disincentives for challenging the existing model, rarely if ever goes through paradigm shifts. Oh, and the main evidence is historical secondary sources many centuries old.

For these reasons I believe that the scientific method is more reliable than the religious method. This is not a faith position - I am willing to change it. But I have yet to see an alternative that is anything like as coherent.

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GBR

The point you seem to miss about science, andrewthomas100, is that it will happily put up its hand and say "we don't actually know" when it reaches a point beyond which we are as yet unable to travel. What it DOESN'T do is then go on to say "since we don't know, we'll stop trying to find out and we'll assume that some beardy guy up in the sky did it all but would rather we didn't probe his motivation or existence too closely..."

As history shows anyone who cares to look, we really don't know what might be possible next week, next year, next decade... imagine the equivalent of somebody inventing the telescope or microscope today...imagine the information about the universe which, though as yet unknown, might become known? Your problem is you're not interested in knowing - you've closed your mind to these possibilities (apparently we should "leave behind our rigid devotion to the scientific experimental method - it's been useful up to know, but it can be useful no more")

Good for you, and I hope you are happy, but don't criticize those who are interested in knowing more...

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GBR

Of course, of course.
Hating cricket doesn't make me a sportsman.

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GBR

I believe a lot of things. But I try to avoid having faith in anything - by which I mean having beliefs that I'd be unwilling to change if the evidence pointed the other way.

When I say "I believe that...", some people tell me that because I say that I am taking up a faith position. But in fact I mean the reverse. I say "I believe that..." rather than "I know that" because I admit the possibility that I could be wrong - the complete opposite of faith.

Some of my beliefs are supported by much more evidence than others. Sometimes there's so little evidence that you have to go with the best guess. If I'm honest, there probably _are_ things that I have faith in - hey, I'm human. But I try to open up these areas of faith to rational argument based on the evidence - because I don't regard faith as a valuable attitude for someone who wants to understand the world.

The scientific method isn't flawless, but one of the things I like about it is that it doesn't claim to be... it requires constant cross-checking with the world and with your peers, and there are incentives for challenging the existing model which have resulted in several paradigm shifts. (The fact that I haven't replicated the experiments myself misses the point - one of the strengths of the scientific method is that it pools the experience of thousands of people put together.)

On the other hand, the religious "method" includes strong disincentives for challenging the existing model, and rarely if ever goes through paradigm shifts. Oh, and the main evidence are historical secondary sources which are many centuries old.

For these reasons I believe that the scientific method is more reliable than the religious method. This is not a faith position - I am willing to change it. But I have yet to see an alternative that is anything like as coherent.

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GBR

Thank you for another great article AC Grayling. Keep up the good work in lighting up the darkness. I myself am agnostic (we annoy both aethists and the 'faithful' tee-hee), but leaning heavily towards aethist - I leave open the possibility that there could be a god, but I doubt it v.much indeed.


I can't remember which particularly bright ancient Greek came up with the following, and apologies for paraphrasing;

There is unimaginable suffering and pain on earth.
If there is a god, he would know about said suffering.
Said god neither can not nor will not do anything to alleviate the suffering, which leaves us with two possibilities:
1. If he can not stop the suffering he is not omnipotent, therefore not a god - or at the very least a very crap one.
2. If he will not stop it then he is a vengeful, spiteful, nasty god - in which case he can just f*** right off back to the metaphysical hole he crawled out from.

Oh, and if anyone says that he allows suffering because he moves in mysterious ways - then you get minus 10 points for fatuousness.

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I applaud AC Grayling's definitions of secularism and humanism, agree with his upholding of secularism, and share the ethical values he proposes in this article. Where I disagree with him is in the way that he characterizes religion as merely a defect of rationality. Religion fulfils a human need, as Marx recognized, when he called it "the opium of the people, and the heart of a heartless world", and as Freud also recognized in writing about the Future of an Illusion. Neither Marx nor Freud were believers, but they understood the powerful psychological and social forces that motivate and sustain religious belief. AC Grayling simply fails to understand how religion brings both personal meaning and a sense of community to the lives of millions. I fear he also worships at a rather outdated altar himself, that of scientism. Of course science is a product of human rationality, but it is also a social institution embedded in the other institutions of capitalism, and which wields a power of cognitive authority, not unlike the spiritual authority wielded by the medieval church. AC Grayling's critical faculties seem to falter at this point.

All societies have belief systems which are in some sense beyond rationality (belief in democracy is one such: if you read Aristotle's politics he by no means considers democracy superior in every respect to the other known modes of government). Even belief in rationality can be irrational in some circumstances (for example if you believe that you should always believe the pronouncements of scientists, even though you know that science is based upon fallibility). AC Grayling seems to believe that there can be a society without ideology, or that there can be individuals (himslef perhpas) who are "beyond" ideology. This is not possible, since we are socially situated and embodied, suffering human beings.

What commends secularism, in my view, is precisely that it insists on a public space in which religions have no authority to predetermine outcomes of debate, though they are all free to participate in such debate. It is not a kind of holding tactic until everyone becomes a "modern" atheist, since religions show no sign of diminishing.

I am not a believer in any faith, though for my own enlightenment I have participated in worship in Hindu temples, Mosques and Churches of different denomination, and would do so again to express my solidarity with humanity of all faiths. Like the philosopher who inspires my webname, I would not however call myself an atheist, a name which suggests a kind of superior wisdom to that of believers. And my scepticism towards science, and hostility to scientism, is grounded in scientific work.

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GBR

andrewthomas - "We like making simulations of intelligent life (computer programmes like "The Sims"), and we enjoy watching closed environments of intelligent life (in programmes such as Big Brother). Might not an intelligence greater than ours have created us for, well, entertainment purposes? Makes sense to me. Maybe be analysiing our own behaviour we can go beyond those limitations of the scientific experimental method."

Makes sesne to you??! You're beginning to sound a little desperate. Even if we *were* created in that way, what follows? The whole lunatic superstructure of religious dogma?? Why???

From 'Brief History of Time':

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the Earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."

"The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"

"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."

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GBR

the point can easily be missed here, and frequently is being.

andrew thomas presents a fairly abstract theory about us being a big brother experiement. Well, maybe, it is certainly impossible to disprove, but does that mean you believe it?

This piece is about the atheist belief, based on reason and evidence, that there is no good. No atheist can ever tell you that that is an absolute truth (though some will try admittedly), which is what AC Grayling is clearly saying. That is the fundamental difference between atheists and theists, and why there is no such thing as a 'fundamental atheist'.

Science can never explain all the answers, of course - i have never heard anyone claim it can, but it does inform and help us to rationally understand, instead of relying on fanciful stories.

I personally don't think it is right for an atheist to claim some kind of moral superiority (though i would check your facts before labelling stalin and hitler as atheists), and i know our local churches do a lot of great work for the vulnerable groups in our society.

But, this argument will never end because it consists of one person taking a position that says, look, rationally, and in all probabality there is no god and the other saying, ah yes, but we don't need proof and rationality because we have faith, and that is equal to reason.

The latter position seems absurd to me, but we shouldn't deny the right of people to have faith in something, as has been mentioned some of us need a narrative to explain things (in all walks of life, not just faith, some people need stories to understand, some people need facts).

Surely the important thing is how we use our relative positions and what our moralities are. the frustrating thing for me here is that people of faith are more likely (ie. not all people of faith), to take a bigoted, irrational, vengeful etc opinion and explain it with their religion, and hold that this is as valid as an argument on, say, the morality and efficacy of the death penalty.

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GBR

"There is unimaginable suffering and pain on earth."

Related to this, there's a good dialogue, can't remember who by:

"I am in pain. There can be no God. God created so much pain in the world."

"But God created all the love in the world as well, do not forget that."

"But love is the reason I am in pain".

I like that. The point being people just seem to detract from a "God" when there is any pain, but give no credit when there is any joy. Doesn't seem fair, somehow! It's like you like a fabulous happy life until you're 40, then you get cancer and die. And people say: "There can't be a God, what a terrible thing to happen", but they've forgotten about the 40 fabulous years they had. Seems like a thankless attitude.

You've got to have "bad" and "evil". Without it there can be no "good" or "love". You need the two flip sides. You need to create that distinction. It's like you need positive and negative in electricity to create a current. It's impossible to define one if the other does not exist.

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MYS

readerj: "For these reasons I believe that the scientific method is more reliable than the religious method. This is not a faith position - I am willing to change it. But I have yet to see an alternative that is anything like as coherent."

You don't need to worry about this paradox of someone potentially using the scientific method to show that the scientific method doesn't work. It kind of seems like it leaves science open to a charge that it's unfalsifiable, which is a characteristic of pseudoscience. It's a mind bender.

This paradox shows that there are boundaries to science, but it can't reach within those boundaries to discredit science itself. The ultimate basis for its validity is found in the nature of consciousness, and statistical physics, but there's no room to go into that here.

But just try to imagine how life could be possible if there was no such thing as evidence or probability! Not only can one not imagine it, the thought-experiment itself can't be posed without using the things it's trying to question.

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GBR

Very good article, well argued. HAving said that, it is fascinating to see how many of the religious out there (in the ecumenical spirit, i will refrain from describing them as 'credulous arseholes') wilfully ignore and twist the arguments as they go along.

Chrish, you are a classic example! Grayling points out that it is a good thing that the cofE has been emasculated by temporal government, and you thank him for 'accepting the positive role that the CoE plays in our society'. He said nothing of the sort.

AndrewThomas: so because science cannot tell us everything immediately about the universe, we should just make up stuff to believe in? You believe what you like mate, if it makes you happy, but don't try and impose it on more honest people than yourself, and don't expect any respect for your beliefs.

catswhiskers: thought you'd gone off in hissy fit? For your information, I have not 'swapped a Buddha for a Grayling', although if i had it would be agood swap. No. I simply hold beliefs in proportion to the evidence. I do not believe in God. I do not believe in pixies. How many gods do you disbelieve in? On what grounds? The sound of high horses being saddled appears to be coming for your direction, if anywhere.

Consider this: if i told you your spouse was having an affair, what would your reaction be? I think everyone, religious or atheist, would demand to see an awful lot of evidence before believing me. Or if i told you that gravity had been switched off, and it was now safe to jump from the London Eye? Again, a certain amount of evidence would be demanded. The difference between religious folk and atheists, is that atheists are consistent in their demands for evidence, and religious people are not.

Let's test that theory. JohnR, gravity has been switched off. You may jump from the highest building in your town and not be hurt, in fact, it will be fun! Let us know how you get on, won't you?

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GBR

There are good arguments for atheism and against theism. Alas, this is not one of them.

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GBR

Catswhiskers, "The sad truth behind it all is that atheists just swap Buddhas for Graylings",

Wrong. Plain wrong. Buddhists accept the teaching of Buddha because of who he is and his purported divine wisdom. Christians believe there is a place for them in heaven because Jesus is supposed to have confirmed that. Muslims fast at Ramadan because Mohammed instructed them to. Moses gave the law to the Jews and so they follow it.

The followers of religions do not follow the tenets of their religion because they're convinced that there's reliable evidence and sound reasoning to back-up the commandments. They do so because they have faith.

Non-believers do not accept arguments based upon the authority of the speaker/writer. Anyone making a claim that they hope to have accepted by rational thinkers needs to supply evidence to support their claim and then demonstrate the reasoning they have used to arrive at their conclusion. If they don't do that or if their evidence or reasoning are found wanting, then their claims are discredited immediately - no matter who they are.

Atheists don't 'believe' that god doesn't exist - they simply don't accept that there is evidence that he does.

It's not a question of lack of humility. Believers are humble before their gods - because they believe those gods exist. Non-believers are humble in the face of evidence and reason - not because they 'believe' in them but because they are the best tools we have to interpret the world around us.

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GBR

Catswhiskers wrote;
"The sad truth behind it all is that atheists just swap Buddhas for Graylings.
And who knows, they might be known in 50 years' time as the sect of the Graylingos and get battered themselves by future atheists who haven't found their guru yet.

Time Graylingos got off their mighty high horses and had some whiff of humility."

So, rather than agreeing or disagreeing with a man (Grayling) who we consider to be our equal, we should elevate this man to an immortal deity, worship him and learn to hate ourselves a little too.

Nice suggestion but too late Catwhiskers, someone's already invented catholicism .... ;)

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GBR

Another good piece, Mr Grayling, and although many of the responses on both or all sides get a bit repetititous, it's worth coming at this issue from many angles. I like the rewrite (in intensified Scottish) of Johnson on Macbeth as 'inspissated gloaming', but the introduction reads a bit more like abuse than argument.

Having tried to do away with the idea of atheism as a 'faith', it may have been more helpful to focus on the notion that the 'stories' of religion may be damn good stories, but that they live in the category of Culture, rather than Nature, and that this is where Dawkins (if he could stop being so angry) is strongest. You sound a bit angry too, and I suggest that satire and ridicule are the best ways forward for the convinced secularist.

Often enough, posters in Cif assert (cf Chrish above) that people need something to believe in, and maybe it doesn't matter too much what it is. Many of the old stories are still pretty good, but often they are batty. It is the category errors that seem most important to me: what is cultural, soft, flexible and open to interpretation, and what is natural, available to scrutiny and obedient to hard rules of evidence? In the first area, faith is perhaps necessary, but not very different from opinion or taste, and it harms people little if such ideas are held. In the second, where evidence is crucial, faith shouldn't play a part. I don't want a surgeon to open me up if he only has a vague belief that I may have swallowed a foreign body.

You are right to make the distinction betweeen the C of E and the Taliban; your definitions seem to hold good for a number of sects. The Taliban of the Outer Hebrides is only now being dragged into the modern world, as British Airman above is clearly aware, and there is a good article to be put on here about some of the idiocies surrounding predestination and freewill, that should be designed to challenge Islamophiles as well as Wee Frees.

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GBR

AC : "what they have is a reliance on reason and observation, and a concomitant preparedness to accept the judgment of both on the principles and theories that premise their actions."

I see. No "faith" but "reliance" and "preparedness". he he.

I think Chesterton had it right, Anthony.

"If a person gets wet every time he is in the rain"

You give this example and so far, so good. As mathematicians have found out (Russell's paradox), there's some tricky propositions out there and your example does nothing to improve matters.

The trick is in knowing the limits of reason and realizing that a degree of faith, even provisional, is essential to a functioning mind.

And yes, it's clear that God is either malevolent or incompetent. My money is on the latter, this universe has the smell of an 8-year-old's "experiment" gone wrong and left, forgotten, to fester in the garden.

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GBR

We seem to be getting an awful lot of definitions of what God is and what religion is 'all about.'

However, different people only ever give one definition of the scientific method.

I wonder why that is?

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GBR

diotavelli: "Atheists don't 'believe' that god doesn't exist - they simply don't accept that there is evidence that he does."

Not true - atheism is a belief in the non-existence of god. Don't get it mixed-up with agnosticism. Atheism is a hard-core belief in the non-existence of God (despite the fact that science cannot disprove such a thing). As such, atheism could be considered "unscientific".

Kokomo: "andrew thomas presents a fairly abstract theory about us being a big brother experiement. Well, maybe, it is certainly impossible to disprove, but does that mean you believe it?"

I would say that by when we examine our own behaviour - that we like creating simulations of intelligent beings - that forms "evidence-of-a-kind" that an intelligence greater than ours (individual or civilisation) would be interested in creating similar situations (in which we find ourselves). You can't prove it, no, because of course the "simulator" would hide the mechanism from the beings being simulated - you wouldn't want to give the game away! Hence, you would impose fundamental limits on the scientific knowledge of those beings - the situation in which we find ourselves! An like I say, there's more "evidence-of-a-kind" about this when we examine our own behaviour.

I think it's weird, but bizarrely the more you look at it the more it makes sense. And these ideas are starting to make headway in scientific circles - see the Simulation Argument of Nick Bostrom:

http://www.simulation-argument.com/

Great quote from Alan Turing: "An unwillingness to admit the possibility that mankind can have any rivals in intellectual power occurs as much amongst intellectual people as amongst others: they have more to lose."

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GBR

The author is correct that whereas science is always prepared to adjust or abandon existing theories (beliefs, if you will) when presented with new arguments and evidence, the essence of religion is that it is not. Biblical or Koranic or whatever inerrancy is the foundation of their faith.

Of course, in practice various religious ideas are indeed modified, when the evidence is overwhelming (such as the earth orbiting the sun rather than vice versa), though it can take a while. Even those in the source material are quietly ignored if they conflict too strongly with modern morals (the bits about stoning people to death in the Bible (of which there are a lot), for example). But the fiction of Biblical inerrancy remains.

I don't object to people holding any beliefs so long as they don't impose them on others or use them to justify harm on others. And I acknowledge that much of modern morality was derived from Christian teaching. But here I have a problem with those continually trying to source morality in religion. Suppose we, at long last, do find the one, true religion. Suppose that it requires us to devour every third born children and says that all men are entitled to choose three wives under the age of 12, and so on. We would, I hope, disdain such a religion as a source of ethics. If you agree, then it follows that our ethical beliefs are not, contrary to so much of what religious adherents say, dependent on religious authority. If only we would abandon trying to find ethical standards in ancient texts and concentrate on debating them in a modern context, then perhaps we'd have a better chance of agreeing on universal standards of behaviour.

In any event, I don't know why religious sorts so fear a separation of church and state. America, for example, has a rigidly applied doctrine of church/state separation yet a far higher church attendance (at least in some states) than, say, the UK.

http://cricketandcivilisation.blogspot.com

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GBR

Because the scientific method is a procedure, a recipe to be applied on phenomena that repeat. You might as well ask why is long division easier to master than topology.

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DavidOHilbert

There is more than one usage of the word "faith". These are not different "Kinds of faith" but the same word used to describe quite separate things.

My dictionary shows the following definitions

1. Trust
2. Belief without proof
3. Religion
3. Promise
4. Loyalty

The "kind of faith" involved in the scientific process is the first. I.E. If I wanted to I could spend the time and effort to reproduce any scientific result, reproducibility is a key scientific concept, I could. But I trust (have faith) that someone has already done this and there is no conspiracy to falsify results.

This is distinctly different from the usage of �faith� in the religious context - belief without proof.

Five pounds of potatoes is not the same as five pounds of potatoes.

�5 of potatoes is not the same as 5 lbs of potatoes

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GBR

andrewthomas - what exactly is the connection between the "computer simulation" thesis and the existence of God?

Surely there is quite a difference between being created by an advanced species, and being created by an omnipotent, etc, loving God, whom we must worship...

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NLD

@Catswhiskers:
"Lenin, Stalin and co-atheists seem to have done fine - so what's your point? That atheists are the more caring humanitarians? lol"
The point is perfectly simple, how did you miss it? We're not talking about non-religious monsters who committed crimes against humanity, we're talking about the religious ones (Bush for example) who commit the same atrocities and balance it by praying every night and listening to the voice in their head that tells them what they want to hear. My conscience couldn't live with what Bush has done, yet he manages it by getting answers from himself. It's called delusion.

"The sad truth behind it all is that atheists just swap Buddhas for Graylings. And who knows, they might be known in 50 years' time as the sect of the Graylingos and get battered themselves by future atheists who haven't found their guru yet."
You're confusing deification with intellectual respect. I don't consider myself to be Graylings intellectual equal; that's not a position of obsequious deference but just a fact of human biological disparity. He's brainier than I am and I'm comfortable with that, but if he espoused something I disagreed with, I'd argue the point with him so where's the religious parallel there? Like all religious dogma your assertion is pathetic.

"Time Graylingos got off their mighty high horses and had some whiff of humility."
So now you add hyporcisy to the list. You can't explain how your god exists but you scorn anyone who articulates anything that challenges the belief. That's not humble is it?

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MYS

andrewthomas100:

I can accept that there is no good without also having bad. But isn't it a bit of a coincidence that the *proportions* of good and bad on Earth are just the same as if there were no God? I can accept that God wouldn't be able to create consciousness without also creating suffering, but what's to stop him *mitigating* that suffering a bit more? Here is where the religious meaning of "faith" comes in: you are going to have to fine-tune your arguments about God so that his presence is indistinguishable from his absence.

Being a benevolent type, when I play the Sims 2, I make things as good for my little Sims as I can. I'm sure they'd be able to tell they have a God (me). If we ourselves have a benevolent God, he should be doing the same thing. It's not like he has to worry about a budget deficit or something. Santa is really more benevolent than God.

In the Sims 2, I could use cheats and get infinite money and make their lives even better, but that would break the rules of the game and it would be boring for me too. So the suffering that they do experience is kind of a product of my need for entertainment. (Seems kind of convincing somehow doesn't it...?)

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GBR

Behead those that insult Grayling!

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GBR

I agree with the first part of the article - I don't think it's valid to say that an atheist has "faith" in the non-existence of God and understand why it irritates atheists to hear this. What I find annoying is the way every A C Grayling article quickly descends into insulting those who do have a faith and trying to persuade them that they are in the wrong. It's just completely pointless. If a person with faith is able to hold on to this faith - which according to Grayling requires an absence of thought - then would he or she really have a change of heart after being a) insulted, b) met with arguments they've heard hundreds of times before? This second part of the article seems be to here just to please the vast majorty of CiF readers, ie preaching to the converted (sorry to use religious language - probably similarly irritating).

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GBR

andrewthomas100, "Not true - atheism is a belief in the non-existence of god. Don't get it mixed-up with agnosticism. Atheism is a hard-core belief in the non-existence of God (despite the fact that science cannot disprove such a thing). As such, atheism could be considered "unscientific"."

I'm not getting atheism mixed up with agnosticism, you're misrepresenting atheism. Agnosticism is a belief that there can be no proof of the existence or non-existence of gods (narrow definition) or that all claims to ultimate knowledge are uncertain (broad definition).

Atheism means without-theism: a lack of belief in the existence of gods. It does not mean, as many of its opponents (and you here) suggest "a belief in the non-existence of god".

There's a reason for this. Belief in the religious sense of the word means a conviction in the truth of something regardless of or in spite of the evidence. Atheism is a conviction that god does not exist precisely because of the evidence. It may be that there are atheists out there who would continue to deny the existence of gods' even if the evidence proved otherwise but I've yet to hear of any.

Were god to appear in Trafalgar Square at midnight and proclaim direct divine rule of the planet, there would be evidence of his existence. Atheists wouldn't 'believe' in him, though - they'd just accept the evidence. Same as I don't 'believe' Jeremy Paxman exists, I just accept the evidence.

It's not a faith position and it's not a "hard-core" anything. Your faith requires you to believe in something even if the evidence indicates that it is untrue. Atheism is the exact opposite of such an approach: it is a position held because the evidence we have indicates that it is true.

marrakesh, "I see. No "faith" but "reliance" and "preparedness". he he" - sorry? Where's the funny?

Grayling defines what he means by religious faith: "specifically and precisely: the commitment to a belief in the absence of evidence supporting that belief, or even (to the greater merit of the believer) in the very teeth of evidence contrary to that belief".

Are you suggesting that relying on evidence/reason and being prepared to make judgements based on them is in some way comparable to religious faith? Or are you making a cheap shot by confusing religious faith with faith in the sense of trust? Or can you simply not accept atheism is not based on belief, despite the fact that this is the case?

Not a good idea to mention Chesterton when you walk straight into the same trap he did.

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GBR

CJCJC: "what exactly is the connection between the "computer simulation" thesis and the existence of God? Surely there is quite a difference between being created by an advanced species, and being created by an omnipotent, etc, loving God, whom we must worship..."

Well, yes, that's really a different question. I'm just considering the existence/non-existence of God, certainly not saying anything about the **nature** of God. Surely it's quite possible to believe in God but not to love or worship him? In fact, you could quite possibly believe in God and not like him at all / think he's made a mess of the world. That's all a separate issue.

I'm trying to treat the subject from a rigidly scientific perspective. As soon as you start bringing in traditional religion into the mix I'll agree you really can't treat the subject scientifically. That muddies the argument. But atheists are all too quick to quote science to bolster their arguments (the fundamental limits of science are conveniently ignored). As a result, their arguments are actually frequently unscientific. I was just trying to present the other side of the argument from a rigidly scientific perspective.

Mujokan: "I can accept that there is no good without also having bad. But isn't it a bit of a coincidence that the *proportions* of good and bad on Earth are just the same as if there were no God?"

Well, you could say that the person who has lived for 40 years and then dies of cancer has had plenty more good than bad in their life. Like I said earlier, people are too quick to see the bad, and they give no credit for the good.
But, yeah, it's not the strongest of arguments I'll admit! Like I say, I'm not really trying to say anything about the "nature" of God. Persnally I've had a great life so God is cool with me!

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GBR

***I don't think it's valid to say that an atheist has "faith" in the non-existence of God***

It depends on what the atheist (count me in) actually says. It's quite easy to find "faith" in most sane atheists. And the rest live in the Fulchester Community Housing For The Differently Tempered.

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Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ...

Mr. Grayling, I am too hung over to check your credentials, so I don't know who you are or what you do other than write pedantic lightweight gibberish on religion for this paper - sorry, I don't mean to be rude, it is only my hair pulling frustration at continually reading your twisting sophistry that makes me less than polite in giving a response.

Theism and a-theism are both based on the same premise of evaluating evidence to form a judgment. Since no evidence exists to either prove or disprove the notion of a supreme being in absolute terms, both sides can only hold an opinion based on their individual interepretation of the available evidence, which is faith in their judgment. To say that an atheist would become a believer, if shown concrete evidence is no different than a theist becoming a non-believer, if shown concrete evidence to the contrary. Where you go wrong is to assume that the evidence exists to prove the non-existence of God (or your condescending description of "fairy") for which you supply some feeble and unconvincing examples based on the benevolence or malevolence of God. Where is it? Those only describe traits, in emotive terms, that a God might have and does not disprove his existence. Therefore both position are based on faith - two sides of the same coin - as opposed to agnosticism, which is non-faith. It alone leaves either faith position up for grabs while adhereing to neither, depending on eventual - if ever - concrete evidence. It differs from atheism in that atheism makes a stand against the existence of God without being able to prove His non-existence. Atheism, therefore, is a position of faith as much as its counterpart. To state otherwise is purely semantic trickery, or you are confusing it with agnosticism.

Furthermore, while natural law can explain how things came to be, it cannot explain WHY. The atheist will believe that everything was caused by coincidence - a random phenomenon - and not by design. Therefore no need for a why - or why? just because.

And to say that faith is a "negation" of thought is profoundly asinine not worthy of a lengthy retort. There is a great difference between faith and blind faith. Faith can be the product of thought and reinforced by it. Neither side has a monopoly on rationality. To think otherwise only demonstrates the worst kind of conceit.


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GBR

DavidOHilbert (290159) "What they have is reliance on OTHER PEOPLE's oberservation, which is a form of faith...[paraphrasing] how many have studied for themselves and done some sums? It is a kind of faith...What does everyone else do? Take it on faith."

Not so. What science books do that the bible doesn't, and what writers and lecturers do that your priests do not, is, at the end of each lecture or paper, tell you how - if you choose - to examine that evidence for yourself. They tell you the method and process they used that led to the results they got. They invite you to repeat the experiments and show you how they did them (so you can decide if it was a valid experimental model and decide if the results are of value). They tell you where and how you can examine the same evidence.

And you can, if you wish.

While many choose not to do so, they do not have to take the results or the conclusions on faith. To say they do is a misunderstanding of scientific writing and education. When people go to such lengths to make their thinking transparent, they are often trusted, but not accepted without evidence, two different meanings of 'faith'.

andrewthomas100 (290185) So, we're a Big Brother TV show for your god? Crikey, If he does turn out to exist, I don't think I'd like to worship a chav anyway!

I've been waiting to encounter ernoleadpencil on a thread like this. On the thread http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1928712,00.html ernoleadpencil made the following comment, sadly the thread was closed before I could respond. As he was so woefully unaware of the way atheists view Dawkins work (drawing, no doubt, on his experience of the way the religious view works they quote) and it is pertinent to the current thread I'd like to respond now, in the expectation thats/he is likely to be involved in this thread. I hope no-one minds.

______________________________
ernoleadpencil said on October 24, 2006 at 9:59 PM
"Humanzee: "[Dawkins] went on to say that he did like the advertising C4 did. A picture of the New York skyline with the tag 'Imagine a world without religion.' The skyline was pre-9/11. A potent mix of words and images."
Potently illustrating that Dawkins knows nothing of the politics of terrorism nor, by extension, world affairs. Yet these are temporal matters, easily verified by simple research like, say, reading the papers. So why has the great scientist not done that? What other reading has he skipped?
And you fellows hang on his every word?"
______________________________
I'm quite sure Dawkins is fully aware of the politics around terrorism and world affairs. You seem a little unaware yourself.
Dawkins (for it is his state we're discusing) in an article reproduced in "A Devil's Chaplain" written within (I think) 48 hours of the atrocities, described the events not as caused by religion, nor as expressions of faith. He explains clearly, so that even someone as intellectually gifted as W could understand, that religion was the weapon that the organisers used to pursuade young men to kill themselves. He knew that at the top of the organisation the motive was political, not religious without your benefit of hindsight. He didn't develop the advertising, that was channel 4, He said he found it a potent expression.

"Kill yourself for my political gain, even though it will heap opprobrium upon your family and there is nothing after you're dead, it will be your end."
"Kill yourself in pursuit of gods greatness! Strike a blow against the infidel empire and you will be rewarded with entry to Paradise and the eternal attentions of 72 willing virgins!"

Religion was the weapon, the enabler.

Incidentally, we don't hang on Dawkins' every word. We read and listen to him because he consistently shows he is insightful and clever: he consistently shows he is worth listening to. As with the example above, his analysis was several years ahead of most observers, and still ahead of the political powers that be, but was based only on the information available to everyone at the time. He'd thought about it, rather than just leapt to a conclusion.
We all listen and read Dawkins and others, think about what we've heard or seen and decide for ourselves if it is worth adding to our armouries for when we fight ignorance and bigotry. It almost always is with Richard, which is why you hear so much of his stuff being quoted. It's there, not because he said it, but on the merit of the piece.

I know in religion you're trained from birth not to critically analyse what you're told by your priests/imams/rabbis etc, so you would assume we just hear, absorb and regugitate without thought, like you- but that's not how it works for us. I'm sorry you didn't understand this, perhaps if you applied the same rigour to the things you hear and read, you would have done, and we wouldn't be in such a mess discussing religion. But then, in essence, that's Dawkins' message.

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GBR

For the record, I would consider myself agnostic. What I find so amusing about atheist writers like AC Grayling moaning on and on about religion is the ridiculous idea that if we could only give up belief in God, somehow we would all become better people. I don�t believe for a second that the world suddenly will be a better place without religion. There is little to suggest in our human history that we are getting any better at being nicer to each other for a change, despite the huge leaps in knowledge we have made since the Renaissance. �God told me to� was always the last resort in the past of a tyrant justifying his actions, which had baser motives. Aren�t we so much more enlightened now we kill each other out of patriotism instead � oh and preventing the spread of �terror�.

What I find so annoying about the conversation between atheism and religion is the total lack of any insight into the other�s point of view. Both simplify the others point of view. The idea that religious people are incapable of independent thought from dogma is a particularly good example of this. A cursory glance at the enormous number of different denominations in the church alone would provide the counter-point.

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Couldn't have put it as well, never mind better.
It's all as reasonable as insisting that monotheists are actually apolytheists, which depending on how we felt that day
could be argued is a form of atheism or form of paganism.
Or that if non belief is a 'form of belief', then belief must be a 'form of non belief'.

Lacanian
http://www.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=ijrr
without that laborious signing in ritual.

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GBR

God,Atheists,Atheists,God.
Every bloody week we are getting the same old tired and boring arguments,'I'm right' 'No you are not' 'yes I am.'
It is all so pointless.
We don't know ANYTHING for certain,we are savages with a modicum of brain power.
Discuss something else:alleviate the tedium.

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GBR

With a bit of luck God is an atheist. All the heathen believers will be consigned to eternal damnation while we atheists will be able to romp about in arcadia for all eternity.

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GBR

I was contemplating the creation of an alter-ego who would pose as a believer and undermine his own case with arse-clenchingly stupid posts but I see that andrewthomas100 has beaten me to it.

The faithful continually tell us to stop asking questions and accept that "God did it by magic" and prophesy that we will **never** understand the human mind, emotions such as love, how the world was formed and so on.

**Never** is a very long time and its a foolish person who makes predictions about what can and cannot be achieved in 100 years, let alone 100 million.

One prediction that I am confident will stand the test of time is that there will **never** be a proof of the existence of a 'God'.


DonFancisco : "I don�t believe for a second that the world suddenly will be a better place without religion."

Really? Think about Iraq. Do you really believe that the recent suicide attacks on Mosques and Weddings are not making the world a worse place than it need be?

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MYS

Whitesox: Your points on atheist "faith" have already been countered in the main article and in the comments.

"The atheist will believe that everything was caused by coincidence - a random phenomenon - and not by design. "

This is another very common misconception (along with the one about atheists having religious faith). Randomness plays a pretty small and uninteresting role in the current scientific picture of the advent of life and other complex phenomena.

There are many popular science books on complexity theory that can enlighten you on this topic. Two I have within reach are "Deep Simplicity" by John Gribbin and "Ubiquity" by Mark Buchanan, but there are many others.

Complexity theory covers not only evolution, but topics like the operation of markets, predicting earthquakes, the way forest fires burn, the origin of traffic jams, topics in astrophysics such as pulsars, snowflake formation, and all sorts of other interesting things.

Randomness has almost nothing to do with any of it.

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

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GBR

toggy : "With a bit of luck God is an atheist. All the heathen believers will be consigned to eternal damnation while we atheists will be able to romp about in arcadia for all eternity."

Yahweh is not an atheist, he is a pantheist and he commands his followers to respect all gods, not just himself. See Exodus 22 verse 28 "Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people."

So lets have some more respect for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Baal, Minerva, Odin and the rest from you god-botherers or your Sky Pixie will torment you for eternity in his kindness and mercy!

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GBR

Charlie1411: "God,Atheists,Atheists,God.
Every bloody week we are getting the same old tired and boring arguments,'I'm right' 'No you are not' 'yes I am.'
It is all so pointless."

I do agree we do seem to get the same topics over and over again. How many recent threads were posted on global warming? I wish we'd get a few more varied topics on these forums.

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GBR

andrewthomas100: "but we can never see beyond the "visible universe" (the distance which light has travelled since the origin of the universe). This is not due to a limitation of our telescopes - it is a fundamental limitation on our knowledge of the conditions at the origin of the universe. We will **never** know these things."

"We" defined how? There is absolutely no way you can be sure that these things are unknowable. "We" don't know enough to know that.

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GBR

DonFansisco "What I find so annoying about the conversation between atheism and religion is the total lack of any insight into the other�s point of view".

Yes, I agree. This is a really interesting article and I learned from it. But AC Grayling undermines his argument with some fairly basic theological errors. For example, Christ's separation from God on the cross was the element of suffering that Christians consider important, howevever graphically Mel Gibson may choose to portray his physical torture. So worshipping Spartacus isn't the same thing at all. Similarly, Jesus is different from Hercules because he's not really *worshipped* for his actions on earth, but because his death means believers can go to heaven even though, by being human, they deserve to go to hell - in other words, because he sacrificed his life for every person on this planet. As far as I know, Hercules didn't make any equivalent promises.

I'm not saying for a minute that religion is a rational life choice. But it really annoys me when people argue against it on the basis of a completely inaccurate understanding - particularly when they pick religious people up for doing exactly the same thing in relation to science. I've managed to pick up this fairly basic theology in the course of a not-very-religious education. With these inaccurate rhetorical flourishes, AC Grayling's argument has lost a bit of its credibility - with me at least.

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DEU

Georgeat4

as to your comment at 11:23 am .....

"Consider this....." George, I wouldn't give a toss about any man-made evidence (as this can be forged) IF I'd believe my spouse to be faithful. I would need to hear it from the very person concerned and then, as we all know, there is still the possibility of being lied to - so what DOES remain? Belief!
As to gravity.... if you let me throw down an apple of London Eye before I jump - we got a deal!

Now consider this: you are about to die and a man presents you with two cups of wine. One is denying God exists and the other contains the possibility of a God existing, after all. You lack EVIDENCE for both - which one makes more sense to take?
If a believer (after being dead)finds out there is no God - he is no worse off than any atheist - IF, however, there IS a God he would be so much better off than doubting Thomas, wouldn't you agree? Thus, to call religious folks 'fools' doesn't really cut it, now does it?

bigwardy

Since you seem to have an issue with Bush, jr., let me answer you with the gospel "by the fruits of their works they will be known (i.e. Christians)" - if Bush (or anyone else for that matter) thus, acts in Jesus name he would NOT consent to killing. "Thou shalt not kill" {although Christianity does accept self-defense - but in its legal context, i.e. to use appropriate means - for example, if you are being assaulted and you manage to knock down the aggressor you MUST leave it at that and not keep on knocking him until he's dead - that would be excessive and no longer appropriate). Thus, a Christian cannot condone the death penalty and object to abortion, at the saame time. By doing so, he would lose his credibility. But it would be fair to all concerned if Bush wouldn't be used to stand for Christianity, per se. This is ridiculous.

Quote: ".... but you scorn anyone who articulates anything that challenges the belief", unquote.
I do not scorn, I criticize Grayling for his intellectual arrogance. Who is he to say who is right? The man lacks the same evidence as any believer does - he, in fact, could not give any evidence that God does not exist - so what is his claim to superiority?
Come off it mate, just because there is no proof either way doesn't prove or disprove anything - it's down to belief! You believe there is no God, because you can't find any evidence - religous people believe there is a GOd, because they have no evidence, either, but faith that there is. So what do we have in actual fact? A group of pessimists and a group of optimists BOTH lacking evidence for their claim.

Finally, I assure you, bigwardy, that I do not confuse deitification with intellectual respect, but I recognize 'cult' when I see it.

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here's an old joke for y'all;
A flood came and a man had to climb onto the roof of his house. As the waters rose a neighbour in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof, "the Lord will save me." Then a firefighter appeared in a speedboat. "Climb in!" shouted the firefighter. "No," replied the man on the roof, "The Lord will save me." A helicopter appeared and the pilot shouted that he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof, "the Lord will save me." Well, eventually the man drowned and went to heaven, where he asked God why He hadn't helped him.
"I sent a neighbour, a firefighter, and helicopter," said God. "What more do you want?"

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AUS

Where are the children of yesteryear
Gone with the fairies and elves
the slate is wiped clean of fables
and now we have practical things.

The child is embraced to maturity
as soon as it learns to talk
it is greeted with facts and not fancies
and its life is not sparked by dreams.

It lacks the notion needed
to develop a thoughtful being
to enthuse the world with images
and aspire to better things.

From a private collection and as true to-day, as it was when it was written 30 years ago.

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GBR

Freia wrote;

"I'm not saying for a minute that religion is a rational life choice. But it really annoys me when people argue against it on the basis of a completely inaccurate understanding - particularly when they pick religious people up for doing exactly the same thing in relation to science."

and earlier

"But AC Grayling undermines his argument with some fairly basic theological errors. For example, Christ's separation from God on the cross was the element of suffering that Christians consider important, howevever graphically Mel Gibson may choose to portray his physical torture."
"With these inaccurate rhetorical flourishes, AC Grayling's argument has lost a bit of its credibility - with me at least."


Freia

Crown of Thorns - still commonly used expression to indicate humiliation and pain, indicating the importance of these stages in Christ's passion

Staions of the cross - series of 14 (usually) paintings in catholic churches designed to remind catholics of all stages of christ's "passion" i.e. the torture, pain, struggle and attempts at humilation suffered by christ, who still manages to show grace en route, despite his suffering.

There is a clear, an important, analogy between christ's passion and the life journey of the pious, who are also promised ressurection at the end. Why do you think it IS the cruxification, and NOT the resurrection which provides the cxentral image of christianity? Why is the body and blood of christ offered to the faithful, if not to remind them of his sacrifice of his earthly existence? The suffering of christ is essential to the christian faith because by lauding christ's indefatigability, grace and belief in the face of torture and humiliations, believers may draw sstrength from his example in face of strife.

You know, the strife experienced by the dfaithful when people ask offensive questions like - why didn't Jesus just behead a chicken, jump over a broomstick, or wear a goat mask and dance around a fire for a while, instead of getting himself crucified? I mean, that was the previous fashion in appeasing paternalistic "higher-power" icons ..... ever think christianity was pretty clever at upping the torture ante? Blockbuster religion! I suppose Jesus was pretty lucky dad didn't send him down to save everyone by dieing horribly (way to go pappy!) when boiling in oil was the preferred torture.

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GBR

Bobdoney: ""We" defined how? There is absolutely no way you can be sure that these things are unknowable. "We" don't know enough to know that."

Good question! Not sure - I suspect you're just adding an extra layer of "unknowability" - it just further reduces what we can know for certain about the universe. Anyone?

At the end of the day - if we were all "living in the Matrix" part of a computer simulation then we would have absolutely no way of knowing. So, with that in mind, absolutely **all"" truth is unknowable for certain. We might just be in the Matrix!

Unless one day the mathematicians discover a method which we could use to prove whether or not we were "living in the Matrix" I suppose. But I can't see how that could be so because of the loose way we define what physical reality actually is - we're completely dependent on our senses. If you can fake that sensory input then you can create any reality you like.

We just can't know anything for certain, can we?

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GBR

Catswhiskers, "Come off it mate, just because there is no proof either way doesn't prove or disprove anything - it's down to belief! You believe there is no God, because you can't find any evidence - religous people believe there is a GOd, because they have no evidence, either, but faith that there is. So what do we have in actual fact? A group of pessimists and a group of optimists BOTH lacking evidence for their claim."

There is a very simple approach used to handle this sort of dilemma. Burden of proof. It is impossible to prove something's non-existence. Don't take my word for it. Have a check if you wish. Ask around. Or just think: how would you prove the non-existence of goblins? Or unicorns? You can't.

Back to gods. One side (atheists) claim that, because there is no evidence for the existence of gods, we should consider the case for their existence to be unproven. The other side (theists) claim that, despite their being no evidence for the existence of gods, we should still accept that they exist.

These two positions are not the same. Both parties use the same evidence to make a case but one argues rationally from it and the other argues irrationally. Anyone who considers themselves a rational thinker would have to accept the greater strengthen of the first position.

A simple analogy: I tell you there are blue dinosaurs all over London; someone else tells you that there are no blue dinosaurs in London. You ask us for evidence. We both admit we have no evidence that there ARE blue dinosaurs but the second person confirms that there are no reliable reports of blue dinosaurs being observed in London, despite the fact that this would be highly unlikely if they were really there. Would you think it reasonable to say that we each had equally strong positions?

So why is it different with gods? The atheist case against gods is not that they couldn't exist or that their existence has been disproved. It is that an awful lot of time and effort has been expended in trying to prove their existence without any success whatsoever. On this basis, it is rational to assume that it is unlikely gods exist.

This is not unusual. The same sort of process has been used over the years to decide on whether all sorts of things exist. Gravity, magnetism, atomic and sub-atomic particles, the ether, the four humours, ghosts, fairies and trolls - they've all been subjected to a study of the evidence and a rational debate of that evidence. And, from that, we've informed our picture of what does and doesn't exist.

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GBR

As Voltaire so eloquently put it:

Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense.
~Voltaire~

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GBR

easyrecall: sorry, yes, I should have said 'most important' element of Christ's suffering - and perhaps said for many Christians rather than all. I think the pain is a quick way into peoples' consciousness - 'blockbuster religion' as you put it: and Christ's grace during physical suffering is one of those 'heroic actions' that Christians should admire and try to emulate. But the point I was making was about AC Grayling's disingenuous focus on the physical suffering, implying that Christianity hasn't got any further than picking one physically strong man from among the thousands who suffer every day and worshipping him irrationally.

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GBR

Brings to mind a section of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy:

In this hitchikers guide universe the babel fish is a fish that feeds off mental output of those around it and excretes the same to anybody near-by. The upshot of this is that it acts as a universal translator.
The book/radio play and TV seris (but not the film) contain the following joke about God and Faith:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

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As the poststructuralists of the 1960s realised the problem with A C Grayling's brand of tub-thumping humanism is that it starts from a conception of man as a rational being and then labels anyone who does not concur 'ignorant' 'irrational' 'backwards' and so on. This position completely lacks the 'imaginative sympathy' and the 'courageous tolerance' which A C Grayling sees as the unique feature of his own particular beliefs.

Moreover, the belittling, arrogant tone of such atheists as Grayling and Dawkins suggests that they themselves are completely unwilling to enter into a genuine, open-minded dialogue with those people whose faiths they reject; a common humanist error which ironically ends up dehumanising these others as beings so ignorant that their viewpoints are unworthy of discussion. In this respect Grayling and co are indeed fundamentalists.

Grayling needs to move on from the enlightenment opposition of religion and secular humanism and wake up to the postmodern reality of a world in which the 'courageous tolerance' of those people whose views he may instinctively have little sympathy with is an increasing necessity.

May I suggest, then, that Grayling branches out from analytic philosophy and engages with poststructuralist thinkers such as Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard who have actually succeeded in forging new, interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of differences in belief, rather than just repeating over and over again that people with religious beliefs are wrong.

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GBR

diotavelli: ***So why is it different with gods? ***

If it isn't, why is it different with "reason"? Isn't it rational to conclude that reason is unlikely to exist?

***time and effort has been expended in trying to prove their existence***

Even in lowly arithmetic, Goedel showed that there are true, unprovable statements.

To conclude, we've seen that reason is a good tool but it has its pitfalls. Like the eye, it can be fooled. We should make sure we don't put too much faith in it (ha!).

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MYS

The idea of "absolute certainty" is incoherent: that is, it rests on a mistaken conception of what certainty is. Knowledge is always a representation of something else. It's not the same thing as its object: it has its own nature. And comparing knowledge with its object is yet another form of representation. You can never get to the "bottom", due to the nature of the process. To imagine that there is a "bottom" to get to is to misunderstand the nature of knowledge.

These points have nothing to do with the probability of the existence of God.

With regard to the Matrix, we can say that it is provably impossible to construct a perfect Matrix within a universe that has the same characteristics as our own, just due to constraints on processing power. Whether there could be a Matrix that is "up a level" from the closed system of what we take to be the universe is a pretty difficult question, and probably is unanswerable, because we don't exactly know what it is we are asking. Kind of like "42".

It is true that there is a lot we tend to take for granted about the nature of our experience of the world. Most people are "naive realists". But there is some doubt in physics circles as to whether we can even prove the world has four dimensions or just three, or whether the Universe is composed of matter and energy or just "braided" space-time. The arrow of time may be an artifact of our consciousness. I dunno if teaching philosophy in high school would solve this problem, or maybe just increase the rate of mental illness... :)

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NLD

@Catswhisker:
"Since you seem to have an issue with Bush, jr.... ....But it would be fair to all concerned if Bush wouldn't be used to stand for Christianity, per se. This is ridiculous."
Agreed that's ridiculous but I use Bush as the most recent and obvious example. I'll make the point one last time: how can he reconcile his own christian faith with the slaughter carried out at his behest? He does so by (a caricature perhaps but the principle stands) going to bed each night after kneeling at the foot of his bed and talking to himself. This is an extreme example but exemplifies the vacuousness of religious belief: anyone can convince themselves they are right if they talk to themselves for long enough.

"I do not scorn, I criticize Grayling for his intellectual arrogance. Who is he to say who is right? The man lacks the same evidence as any believer does - he, in fact, could not give any evidence that God does not exist - so what is his claim to superiority?"
He does not claim superiority and this assertion exposes your delusion of criticism for the scorn that it is though. He does not have the evidence that god doesn't exist, but he does has the evidence of human history that totally contradicts the foundations of religious belief. It's physical, tangible evidence. If god's so bloody caring how has the human animal spent it's time ripping itself to shreds - a lot of the time driven by faith in god?

"Come off it mate, just because there is no proof either way doesn't prove or disprove anything - it's down to belief! You believe there is no God, because you can't find any evidence - religous people believe there is a GOd, because they have no evidence, either, but faith that there is. So what do we have in actual fact? A group of pessimists and a group of optimists BOTH lacking evidence for their claim."
Refer to paragraph above. There's millennia of evidence saying there can't be a god.

"Finally, I assure you, bigwardy, that I do not confuse deitification with intellectual respect, but I recognize 'cult' when I see it."
That really is the most preposterous and perhaps telling thing you've said so far. Grayling is a respected author, philosopher and intellectual, but I don't even know the man. There is no messianic relationship between him and those who read his work. There is no unswerving subservience to any perceived mantra. There is no cult. Get a grip.

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GBR

You are right you can't prove faith. But you can know it's real and it's great when you do.
By the way-Jesus's suffering was not only physical-he under went something much worse-seperation from his Father, God.

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GBR

You are right you can't prove faith. But you can know it's real and it's great when you do.
By the way-Jesus's suffering was not only physical-he under went something much worse-seperation from his Father, God.

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GBR

JohnR suggested that religion is not a matter of obfuscation and incense, but rather a concern with "good conduct". I don't think so. I think AC Grayling is right. As for the suggestion that AC does not understand Russell, I refer JohnR to http://www.amazon.co.uk/Russell-Very-Short-Introduction-Introductions/dp/0192802585/sr=1-14/qid=1163168162/ref=sr_1_14/026-4729342-5418828?ie=UTF8&s=books

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Whether or not atheism is a �faith� is merely a question of semantics, and as such is not terribly important. Much more important is Grayling�s assumption, along with that of Dawkins and all his groupies whose rants fill these threads, that �God� is no different in principle from �fairy� or any other supernatural concept. The whole point about God is that, unlike anything else (whether real or not), His existence is necessary rather than just contingent, otherwise it would not be God. It can be easily and logically proved from this that, if atheists (or whatever word Grayling prefers) are correct, if God doesn�t exist then His non-existence is also necessary, in other words He CANNOT POSSIBLY exist. Is this Grayling�s position? If so, where is his evidence?

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GBR

fairly quickly:

Morality is entirely possible without god. In fact, it's much simpler because the problem of evil doesn't exist leaving the atheist to reason about moral behaviour based on experience and logic.

alanpav: "His existence is necessary rather than just contingent, otherwise it would not be God. It can be easily and logically proved from this that, if atheists (or whatever word Grayling prefers) are correct, if God doesn�t exist then His non-existence is also necessary, in other words He CANNOT POSSIBLY exist. Is this Grayling�s position? If so, where is his evidence?"

Why is his existence necessary though? You've haven't shown any evidence that we should accept his existence as such either. Given the two possibilities; believing in the existence an omnitpotent being, and not believing in the existence of an omnipotent being, why bother at all with the first? That's not *necessary*.

The answer to this question then, leads us to assert value judgements for which there are no good epistemological foundations either. Great. Over to you alanpav.

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MYS

With regard to post-modern thought, Grayling's argument kind of applies in a similar way.

There is no human culture that does not have rationality as a component, even if they don't put the same value or status on rationality as we do. That is, every conscious human being spends some part of their time engaged in practical activities that observably rely on evidence and deduction.

You might find a tribe somewhere that believes the Moon is a god, and therefore you can't walk on its surface. According to some post-modern academics, we cannot say that this view is mistaken. This phenomenon is covered by Grayling's complaint about the way the religious shift the goal-posts around with the definition of "faith".

This tribe will certainly have a rational concept of being able to go to another place and walk there (say on the surface of the local beach). It's not that they have *no use* for evidence, it's just that they do not have all the possible evidence with regard to the Moon, or their faith will cause them to disregard it.

Post-modern arguments to the contrary will pretty much always be couched in ethical terms about "doing violence" to beliefs, or talk about colonists and the oppressed, because they are more a form of moral outrage than anything else. They will tend to emphasize the difference between the tribe and its Western observers, and attempts to point out that the tribe does rely on evidence and deduction in other practical circumstances will usually be countered by some un-disprovable assertion of some fundamental difference in our respective world-views. That's not to say that some groups don't have very different world views, but even tribes that don't have words for "right" and "left" or don't use numbers will still use rationality.

That's not to say that we should go and laugh at this tribe, or put them in a rocket and take them to the Moon, etc. As I've said before,there are limits to rationality, but these limits don't affect the applicability of rationality within its own domain.

I will agree that hard-core philosophers like Grayling or Dawkins could be much more open-minded about the possibilities of mysticism. It might be easier for them to achieve that if anti-rationalists didn't insult and demean rationality so dishonestly.

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GBR

Catswhiskers (290434) asks "consider this: you are about to die and a man presents you with two cups of wine. One is denying God exists and the other contains the possibility of a God existing, after all. You lack EVIDENCE for both - which one makes more sense to take??If a believer (after being dead)finds out there is no God - he is no worse off than any atheist - IF, however, there IS a God he would be so much better off than doubting Thomas, wouldn't you agree? Thus, to call religious folks 'fools' doesn't really cut it, now does it?"

As god doesn't exist, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference which cup you were to take, however, following the original in making no assumptions as to his existence or otherwise...

This argument presupposes a number of things:

First that your choice of cup is instrumental in the actual existence or otherwise of god. If taking the cup of belief makes god exist, then indeed that is the sensible choice. If he were to exist then by taking the cup of denial he would still (being a christian god) forgive you your foolishness and welcome you to his kingdom anyway - assuming you had lived a decent life.
Second that there is only one possible god. In reality you would find yourself with a choice of thousands of cups, each marked with the name of a different god, except one cup.
When you choose your cup marked [God, Christian, New Testament, CofE] for example you are not only believing in him but denying all the others.
When I choose my cup [Atheist] I am treating all the gods the same, and should I be wrong and find myself entering the afterlife, be it by escalator to the pearly gates or ferried across the Styx by Charon, or shouted through the gates of Valhalla, I will have to explain only why I didn't believe. "I had no evidence for you. Now i see I was wrong, but at least I didn't believe in any of the others either!"
You will have to explain why you believed in your god, despite there being no more evidence for him than there is for Odin, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, or any of the others.

Choosing a belief cup makes you more likely to choose a cup for a god that doesn't exist, thereby upsetting a probably wrathful, vengeful god who does.

This is a thing that confuses atheists a great deal. We stand in open mouthed wonder when people choose one entity that lacks evidence over another that lacks evidence then believe wholeheartedly in one rather than the second. We illustrate this with the references to fairies, goblins and unicorns. If I asked you to believe one of these and not the other two, how would you choose?

alanpav: your ridiculous contingent argument has been disasembled comprehensively at least twice on these pages, why do you persist with it?

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GBR

alanpav: oh, no, wait, I just remembered. There is no reasoning with the faithful, is there?

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GBR

marrakesh, No, it is irrational to conclude that reason doesn't exist. For precisely the reasons I imply: we should look at the available evidence and draw conclusions from that. Unless you can think of a single good reason to question the existence of rationality? Oh, of course: if you can think of a rational explanation, you'll have proved that reason exists.

I'm not sure what your point is about Goedel, either. I didn't suggest that reason is a complete system with no weaknesses - just the best system we have and one that has proven extremely useful.

If you can explain why the question of the existence of gods is the sort of weakness in reason as a system that Goedel identified, I'll be happy to be corrected.

If, on the other hand, you're simply trying to apply a valid criticism of reason in an inappropriate way in order to confuse the discussion, I'd hope you'd be prepared to recognise that that's the case.

alanpav, if it can be "easily and logically proved" that atheism requires the necessary non-existence of gods, please provide the proof.

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USA

Several posters bring up the argument that most people in most societies have, most of the time, felt the need for some kind of faith...so A.C. is simply banging his head against a brick wall. Moreover, the limits and limitations of scientific knowledge at the very least provide space for equal-opportunity doubt (agnosticism).

The saving grace of the scientific method is its examination and re-examination of theories in the light of available evidence. Ditto agnosticism. By contrast, the cardinal falings and weakness of faith are its disregard for evidence contrary to its premises and predictions. This is simply cultural baggage handed down the generations and the point has been made on these threads several times (perhaps even by A.C., I forget exactly by whom) that the very concept of indoctrinating children as Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc from an early, and therefore susceptible and defenceless, age is obscene. Such indoctrication ("traditional uprbringing") in principle smacks very much of what communist regimes tried to do for atheism. Depending on the degree of religious totalitarianism in various countries, this can range from something in essence indistinguishable from communism to a "market for ideas". Where such markets exist, however imperfectly they may function, I would suggest that the school of thought best placed to win in the long run - if a victory is ever possible (we must stay the course, not cut and run, no matter how grim the prospects may seem from time to time) -would be one of Monty Python variety: religious people can hardly hope to make atheism seem ridiculous (evil, in their eys, yes, but not comically absurd) while non-believers have a much better shot at satirizing the inanities of religion and thoughtless faith. This culture war should be fought in the trenches of comedy. Atheists of the world unite: you have nothing to lose but your ratings.

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DEU

diotavelli

as to your comment of 01:53 pm

Quote: "How would you prove the non-existence of goblins? Or of unicorns? You can't"

I agree one can't but there is more to it.

We have established that both parties can't come up with proof - ok, so let's take it one step further, back to the times of Galileo Galilei, for example:
One group of sailors believes that the earth is flat and refuses to sail beyond the 'known world'. The other group says although we heard that the world is flat (but lack proof) we will venture beyond the known world. BECAUSE: as it isn't a proven fact, we might be pleasantly surprised (and don't fall off).

Faith doesn't need proof to take the first step. It is independent of man-made circumstances. Its scope is wider. Atheisim relies on man's limited efforts of comprehension. It's a bit like: although I see two legs, I don't know if I can walk (until I actually do it). Gosh, any believer has been around the block ten times, before an atheist gets going, at all. It's in the nature of the two groups.

I feel that since atheists NEED proof, they make such a big fuss about it - believers don't need proof.

The joke by Bethersonston at 01:31 pm is perfect. Because any true believer would have taken up the help of the neighbour, the firefighter and the helicopter because he would have acted on his faith (i.e. that the Lord helps me). As a matter of fact, the help he received would have been seen as 'proof' for the believer.
Come to think of it, the so-called "believer" in Bethersonton's joke could actually stand for the classical atheist, i.e. "I got no written and signed instruction from God to get in the boat of the neightbour - THUS, I refuse to accept it".

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GBR

What a beautiful mind, A.C.Grayling. I enjoy this guy's essays.

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AUS

10moreyears - 290531
YES!

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GBR

***Unless you can think of a single good reason to question the existence of rationality?***

There is a very good reason why reason is not good enough: evolution. Reason evolved out of a myriad of competing factors. It's only yardstick, by definition, is the success of the species. Bacteria are more successful, viruses even more so. So what's so great about the illusion of reason?

***If you can explain why the question of the existence of gods is the sort of weakness in reason as a system that Goedel identified,***

I'll try. Again, in evolution terms, it is extremely implausible that reason evolved in order to settle questions like the existence of god. Reason evolved so that we can deceive each other and ourselves more effectively. It's like an arms race gone mad, like elephant tusks. The very nature of reason makes it exactly the wrong instrument to answer questions like the existence of God. I don't believe in the bugger myself but it's not because of reason, it's because I simply can't be arsed.

Rest assured that I do not desire confusion in the least.


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GBR

alanpav

are you seriously saying that:

For a being to be God he needs to be necessary for the existence of the universe.

I, as a nonbeliever, don't believe that such a being exists, as there is no evidence for his existence

therefore, according to you, I must logically be arguing that God CANNOT POSSIBLY exist, and must have evidence for this.

in this way lies madness my friend

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GBR

alanpav

are you seriously saying that:

For a being to be God he needs to be necessary for the existence of the universe.

I, as a nonbeliever, don't believe that such a being exists, as there is no evidence for his existence

therefore, according to you, I must logically be arguing that God CANNOT POSSIBLY exist, and must have evidence for this?

in this way lies madness my friend

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GBR

***What a beautiful mind, A.C.Grayling. I enjoy this guy's essays.***

That's right! My pet conspiracy theory is that Athenians invented reason in order to seduce young boys. All the old philosopher codgers were pretty successful at it too.


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10moreyears, finally someone sounds reasonably positive;)

diotavelli v alanpav; 'atheism requires the necessary non-existence of gods'
alanpav, that's missing the boat just a wee bit again, which is the point of the article. Only theism requires 'the necessary existence of gods'. That's it. Anyway 'Proving negatives' is what you do when you want to invade a country.
It's friday, have a good one.

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GBR

I think there is something very naive about the aetheist position, represented here by AC Grayling. It assumes that, in the absence of organised religion or religious belief, people will 'do the right thing' by their fellow humans and the planet. He articulates this in defining humanism:

"Humanism in the modern sense of the term is the view that whatever your ethical system, it derives from your best understanding of human nature and the human condition in the real world"

Yet while there are aetheists who live very moral lives there are many, many people for whom religion provides a vital moral compass. Grayling's own adherence to the power of observational evidence and rational deduction would surely lead him to notice that among communities of religious believers, there is generally far less crime, dishonesty and selfish behaviour than among those where there is little belief (even if there is a token religious identification). What's more, among aetheists there are few if any moral codes that command widespread observance.

Whether or not we can prove that God exists, belief in God does provide millions of people with leadership in how to live their lives that aetheism does not offer.

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AUS

Catswhiskers 290585

Well said!

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GBR

How about a God that demands of his followers that they repudiate his existence? Of course Grayling would deny that he believes in such a God but then, he would, wouldn't he?

this is fun!


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GBR

Catswhiskers said "One group of sailors believes that the earth is flat and refuses to sail beyond the 'known world'. The other group says although we heard that the world is flat (but lack proof) we will venture beyond the known world. BECAUSE: as it isn't a proven fact, we might be pleasantly surprised (and don't fall off)."

Of course that's not what happened. Ptolemy of Alexandria had calculated the Earth's circumference around 100BC, and many educated people believed him to be right.... The knowledge that the world was round coexisted with the mistaken belief that it was flat.

So the sailors who set out to find Idia by sailing west from Europe were not going blindly off the edge of the world. They were acting rationally and pushing the boundaries of knowledge....

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GBR

Another good article
bethersonton - liked the joke

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GBR

As an agnostic I would like to make a couple of 'observations'.

The problem of evil. "To believe in the existence of (say) a benevolent and omnipotent deity in the face of childhood cancers and mass deaths in tsunamis and earthquakes, is exactly the same kind of serious irrationality."

In a 'perfect' world I don't think one could have free will.
One {I think} would have to believe in a benevolent diety.
With the certainty of a diety then this would constrain one's actions. Todays {true} believers in god have their actions constrained {by their beliefs or their holy books}.
Only in the world as it is now can a semblence of free will be said to be possible?

Existence. I would have thought that the default position was 'nothingness'. As I exist {I don't know about you lot!} I can {nearly} believe in anything {I did say nearly}. To be a sentient being in this fantastic universe is {on a good day} a .............. thing {put in your own adjective - mine is wonderful/amazing}.

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GBR

gkit: "I, as a nonbeliever, don't believe that such a being exists, as there is no evidence for his existence"

Whenever I hear this from atheists ("I see no evidence of God") I just find it very surprising: isn't the existence of the universe ample evidence for the existence of a creative force? I mean, if you saw a pottery mug you would treat that as evidence for the existence of the potter. Why should it be different for the universe?

I just don't get it.

I would seriously like to know what your answer is, and the answer of atheists generally. Have you considered this question fully? Because I have, pretty much. Have you researched this, and found a way to ignore the evidence around you? Serious question.

In quantum physics there is a method called "tunnelling" whereby elementary particles can "appear out of nothing" apparently. Is this your answer to the existence of the universe? If so, your reasoning is flawed: tunneling does not explain how to get something out of nothing - there has to be an initial quantum state. Physics has NO answer as to how you get something out of nothing.

So - serious question - how can you say there is no evidence for the existence of God when that evidence would appear to be all around you?

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GBR

andrewthomas100 (290629) "the existence of the universe ample evidence for the existence of a creative force?" All well and good, but then there is a bit of a leap to say with credibility that the creative force was a tickle in the nose of the great green arkleseizure. (hello DNA fans). This theory is as credible and has the same evidence base and deductive basis as your god theory. We know of no other way of getting a mug, so it is rational to posit a potter. But there are several theories of origin for the universe. Some more credible than others.

I see a hole, therefore there must be a hole maker. Could be a spade, a landslip, a rabbit, could be the gap was already there and something built the sides rather than dug the hole. You need more to go on before you can decide.


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GBR

andrewthomas100 (290629) incidentally, hyperdimensional theory does solve the problem of how to get a universe from nothing. by having four sapito/temporal diemnsions apparent and I think seven dimensions folded the other way- in on themselves as a counterbalance. I'm not a cosmologist, but tunnelling isn't posited as a solution.

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GBR

I'm sorry about the spelling on that last post, I had my 1 year old daughter 'helping'!

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AUS


nhoj 290626 I quote: "In a 'perfect' world I don't think one could have free will."

In a 'perfect' world where each had 'perfect' communion with the other, than free will would be mutual and co-joined.

I liked your last paragraph. By the way my old dictionary notes - rare, a sentinent person or thing.


andrewthomas100 290629
OF COURSE!

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DEU

bigwardy

as to your comment at 02:22 pm

Quote: "If God's so bloody caring, how has the human animal spent its time ripping itself to shreds.....", unquote.
Simple: it's down to individual choice! For example, would Bush, jr. really act on the gospel, he would behave differnetly BUT he has freedom of choice like anyone else.

With the freedom to make a choice comes the responsibility of choice and that usually gets lost in the euphoria - otherwise people would be more conscientious about their choices.

With regard to 'cult' ..... cult also stands for HOMAGE which, in turn, implies: devotion, allegiance, fidelity, respect, deference, adoration. Thus, my use of the word 'cult' was appropriate.


Humanzee

as to your comment at 02:43 pm

Quote: "If I asked you to believe one of these (fairies, goblins, unicorns) and not the other two, how would you choose?", unquote.

Simple. I would choose the one which is most compatible. For example, were I the streetfighter type, I'd probably go for the goblin, were I the gentle, dreamy type, however, I'd probably go for the unicorn. The same applies to the fairy.

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Lacanian (and others) - The reason why, if God exists, His existence must be necessary is that, if it were merely contingent, He would be dependent on something else, which is impossible for God. For me, while God's "necessary existence" is perfectly feasible, His "necessary non-existence", which true atheists should accept, is ludicrous. This is a modern form of the Ontological Argument, which many have tried to disprove and have failed, and which eminent modern philosophers like Malcolm, Hartshorne, and Plantinga accept.

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ESP

Atheist, theist, agnostic...what am I? It seems that a lot of this argument revolves around sometimes pointless semantics.

Thiests have faith in a supreme being without firm evidence because, I suspect, they want it to be true.

Agnostics are not convinced but they, at least, wouldn't be unhappy about the existence of a god. Many of them might welcome it.

Athiests either are convinced that god does not exist or have not seen any evidence to change their minds BUT they would not be pleased about it. Well that's my definition anyway.

I describe myself as an agostic and an atheist. From my observance of organised religion, I would hate the god-worshippers to have been right after all.

If it turns out that god does exist, the faithful and (possibly) god him or herself would expect worship and obedience...sod that! We don't need religion to try to make good prevail over evil. Rational humanists with goodwill for the planet can work this out for themselves.

Am I expected to go along with rules which I am deeply & morally opposed just because god says so?

If it turns out that god exists, which gang of worshippers will take their place at god's side in heaven? Looking around me, there are an awful lot who I would go out of my way to avoid. Who fancies spending eternity in the company of Bush, Blair, Cliff Richard, John Paul II, Billy Graham et al? I'm sure posters can think of many more.

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GBR

Humanzee: "hyperdimensional theory does solve the problem of how to get a universe from nothing. by having four sapito/temporal diemnsions apparent and I think seven dimensions folded the other way- in on themselves as a counterbalance."

?? Fair enough, you've researched it! Well done. Respect. You mean string theory? I think string theory says that time is infinite so there is no "beginning" to explain, but I'll admit I've never seen anything in string theory to explain how you get something out of nothing, but a link to anything you have would be welcome.


http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=1&articleID=00042F0D-1A0E-1085-94F483414B7F0000


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GBR

Catswhiskers (290671) "I would choose the one which is most compatible. For example, were I the streetfighter type, I'd probably go for the goblin, were I the gentle, dreamy type, however, I'd probably go for the unicorn. The same applies to the fairy."

OK, so now you've decided to believe in the thing it suits you best to believe in, will you argue (with believers of the other two) the case for its existence to the exclusion of the possibility of the exisitence of their chosen fictional entity? (Please note, your argument may get messy and involve pain and bloodshed for you and them.)

Incidentally, I was asked this question when I was 11, and I answered, "Why should I have to believe in any of them when we know there's no such thing?"

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GBR

andrew thomas
serious answer to your serious question.

you suggest that because something exists there must be a creator, but also say that nothing can appear out of nothing. So where did God come from?

If he just "is", for all time, then why can this not apply to the universe?

Explanations of existence that invoke God merely push the questions of where things come from and why they exist back a "stage".

So - serious question - who or what created God? how can you say there is no evidence for the existence of a creator of God when that evidence would appear to be all around you?

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GBR

andrewthomas100 (290709) I may have researched a little, but it seems I still can't spell 'spatio/temporal' so not too much respect due, I think!

The reference isn't a web one I'm afraid: Hyperspace, by Michio Kaku, apologies for the long amazon link.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hyperspace-Scientific-Parallel-Universes-Dimension/dp/0192861891/sr=8-1/qid=1163175241/ref=pd_ka_1/203-4646381-9507925?ie=UTF8&s=books

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AUS

tarelli 290707

I would think you have heard the story of the marriage feast.
The guests that were invited did not accept.
The beggars and sundry others became the invitees.

The trully repentant sinners will attend.

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GBR

AndrewThomas10: "So why and where did the universe originate? Science can **never** provide those answers."

Why not?

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GBR

AndrewThomas100:So - serious question - how can you say there is no evidence for the existence of God when that evidence would appear to be all around you?

OK Einstien, who created/made god?

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GBR

"Why not?"

because we can't do experiments with creating universes. Maybe one day we will be able to and then we'll be gods. and scientific gods at that.

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"Here's a question for the faith-brigade: how does George Bush square his belief in the death sentence and the consequences of his actions in Iraq with the so-called Christian ethic of love for fellow man?" This doesn't, I think, have much to say about the existance or non existance of God (whatever that is - surely not some being who brought the entire Universe about in order to produce George Bush. Surely the ultimate definition of failure). What it tells us is that Christianity, like every other faith, has failed to influence the way that humans think, feel and behave for the better. While it is fashionable, at the moment, to lambast Islam as a uniquely violent faith, it's clear that Christianity is just as aggressive and bloody - and hypocritical as well in its refusal to accept that the slaughter of 655,000 Iraqis (for instance) cannot be excused by the fact that Christian governments and armies have been responsible. This neither proves nor disproves that God is a reality - it instead demonstrates that human nature is just as capable of acting out of cruel brutality and self interest regardless of the faith professed by the culprit in some desperate attempt to impart meaning, significance and some kind of justification for his or her life.

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GBR

PowerCat: "So why and where did the universe originate? Science can **never** provide those answers. Why not?"

Because we cannot see back in time far enough. As we look out with our most powerful telescopes we see the universe it was just a (relatively) short time after the big bang (because the light we see from those distant objects was emitted many billions of years ago - just after the big bang). But we will never be able to see beyound the "visible horizon", ie., the distance light has travelled since the big bang. That will always place a limit on our knowledge. Good book about this: "Impossibility" by John D. Barrow.

atheist: "OK Einstien, who created/made god?"

Dunno mate. At a guess, maybe the rules of causality that apply in our universe (every action needs a cause) need not apply to the environment in which "God" exists. "Creation", after all is a verb, and a verb implies time. If "God" exists outside of time (likely - as "God" would have created time) then there would be no time, no verbs, and the principle of "creation" would be very different to our limited concept. No verbs in God's world. Maybe our minds have been hard-coded by evolution to expect every action to need a cause, and it's very hard to break out of that mindset.

But who knows. That's just something maybe we can never understand.

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DEU

Humanzee

"Why should I have to believe in any of them when we know there's no such thing"

Aha, but DO we know? Or just merely assume?
BTW, no-one should HAVE TO believe - to be authentic it has to be an act of free will/choice.

"Will you argue (with believers of the other two) the case for its existence to the exclusion of the possibility of the existence of their chosen fictional entity?"

1. I would state my case and tell the other two WHY I feel
like that - but I would leave it up to them to accept my
explanation or not
2. the word 'fictional', though, pre-supposes that there
aren't really any entities - so I would refrain from
using it - even with regard to their choice of entities


"Please note, your argument may get messy and involve pain and bloodshed for you and them"

1. Again, according to temperament. In times of conflict,
e.g. the fairy would fly away, the unicorn would run
away, which would leave the goblin alone to swing the
axe on his own. Thus, it wouldn't get messy, just
leaving an angry goblin dissatisfied. Would I have qualms
about that? Nope!

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GBR

Catswhiskers, As allygally pointed out, it was known that the world was round way before Columbus sailed. The Hellenic Egyptians worked it out from the evidence of differing lengths of shadows at different points of longitude and applied reason to work out not only that the world was round but also its circumference.

Also, the Basques had already made it across the Atlantic before Columbus ever sailed. Given that they made up a large chunk of his crew (including his chief navigator, I believe), I suspect they had a fair idea what was going on.

Your example of walking is confused. You seem to be under the misapprehension that people who rely on evidence and reason are unable or unwilling to do anything unless they have proof that it will work. This is clearly not the case. The whole recent history of science demonstrates this.

Your analysis of Bethersonston's joke is wrong. An atheist wouldn't have been looking out for assistance from god. He would have been looking out for assistance. He'd therefore have taken the first offer he got. Only a believer would have sat around wondering if he should accept the evidence of his own eyes - that assistance was available.

marrakesh, Your idea that reason can't work on certain things because it didn't evolve for those purposes is an interesting one. Presumably that's why humanity has never invented music - since none of the attributes we'd use to make or listen to music evolved for those purposes, they wouldn't be suitable, would they?

Reason might not work on metaphysical questions due to the way it evolved but there seems to be no obvious reason why it shouldn't.

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GBR

So andrewthomas to repeat - serious question - who or what created God? how can you say there is no evidence for the existence of a creator of God when that evidence would appear to be all around you?

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GBR

Andrew, who's to say what scientific advancements humanity will make in the coming centuries. It may be inconceivable to you presently that we might explain how the universe came into being, but it's somewhat arrogant to state that we'll never know and that therefore god must have created it.

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AUS

Andrewthomas100
I note Humanzee comment no. 290724.

To facilitate there is an interview on BBC.co.uk Science and Nature. Space 10th November 2006 with Michio Kaku where he expostulates his THEORY; as yet unproven and sorry that still would not eliminate an unseen Spirit/Force. After all there has to be movement even in this proposition.

Who created God - Isn't it strange that two thousand years ago encompassed in the Bible and transcribed by a somewhat uneducated man, who would hardly have thought to have answered this question, God said "I am the beginning and the end."

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GBR

thanks for engaging, diotavelli*** Presumably that's why humanity has never invented music - since none of the attributes we'd use to make or listen to music evolved for those purposes, they wouldn't be suitable, would they?***

Actually, I think music is a mystery for now. I'm confident that science can do a lot of the explaining there.

***Reason might not work on metaphysical questions due to the way it evolved but there seems to be no obvious reason why it shouldn't.***

I'm not saying it shouldn't. I'm saying, after Bill Hicks, "what are the f***ing odds!". You'd not expect to be able to use an octopus sucker to lift a ten-ton truck, would you? I'd go as far to say that if that mushy stuff between our ears is a reliable instrument to use to decide whether some entity created the universe billions of years ago, then, damn, that's soo unlikely that it is as close to being a proof of the existence of god as we'll ever find.

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GBR

alanpav: "Lacanian (and others) - The reason why, if God exists, His existence must be necessary is that, if it were merely contingent, He would be dependent on something else, which is impossible for God. For me, while God's "necessary existence" is perfectly feasible, His "necessary non-existence", which true atheists should accept, is ludicrous. This is a modern form of the Ontological Argument, which many have tried to disprove and have failed, and which eminent modern philosophers like Malcolm, Hartshorne, and Plantinga accept."

I'm sure we've been here before. Look, i don't think anyone is going to refute Plantinga's ontological argument on the Guardian comment site, but i accept your point.

In a similar vein, this is much like the argument Mark Balaguer makes when he discusses whether mathematics is a Platonic system. No final case can be made either way, but most Mathematicians intuitively err on the side of Platonism.

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USA

I have seen an awful lot of comments asserting that Christians et al believe "against all evidence" / "without any evidence" / "contrary to reason" etc.

Certainly there are a number of less thoughtful Christians who "just take it on faith" (whatever that means), and there are indeed unbelieving demagogues who exploit religious language in order to discourage thinking on the part of the masses in order to increase their own influence.

But there are plenty of thinking people among those of the various religious faiths, including Christians. There are many Christians who believe because of the evidence, in the face of overwhelming evidence, in accordance with reason.

To all those of making the argument that Christians believe without any evidence:
You are clearly making this argument without personally having made an effort to see if there is such a thing as a thinking Christian -- which is to say, you have not yourselves made more than a cursory examination of the evidence. Instead, you have relied on your preconceived notions. Isn't that what you are accusing Christians of doing?

I would challenge you to read a book or two by N.T. Wright or C.S. Lewis, and perhaps also converse at length with a professor of theology before making this sort of claim.

By "converse at length," I mean ask questions about why they believe, ask if they have any evidence, ask them what is the place of reason in their beliefs, ask follow up questions, present your arguments and ask for their response -- and actually listen! I hope that you have that kind of restraint. Gathering evidence demands patience.

By the by, I myself have taken the challenge of reading atheist material -- Dawkins, Russell, etc. And I have attempted to engage atheists in conversation. So far, I have found their arguments a bit thin -- I have rejected them because, to my mind, they do not adequately address the evidence, and they do not stand up to reason. However, I would never insult the great atheist thinkers by suggesting that they were writing contrary to all reason. Simply because I disagree with the flow of their argument / think I detect flaws in their reasoning does not make them unintelligent or lunatics. But then again, besides shrilly attacking me as an idiot without taking the briefest moment to listen to a word I have to say, what has an atheist ever done to me?

Perhaps there is some underlying personal vendetta that underlies the arguments of a few of you? Perhaps someone who has claimed to be behaving on behalf of the church / their faith has hurt you in some terrible way?

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USA

A great comment from AeilnntioA - alot of undeconstructed thinking in these posts really only returns us to a dogma of thinking that a person does good for thinking x while a person does bad for thinking y.
In comparsion to mythological thinking the cognative element of much monotheistic religion is really pretty simple - belief in a single transcendental figure - the human desire to elaborate through practise on this simple figure is the complicating element.

By applying a modified Benthamite perspective we can ask whether cruelty is increased or decreased depending on the beliefs you espouse and whether being a humanistic rational individual is essentially to be a person who will be less cruel to other people, behave better. This criteria of cruelty is surely the only reason why in a liberal society we should worry about what our neighbours might be believing. Does more rationality in the system lead to less cruelty against people and their bodies? It seems we have to establish a connection first between religious practise, experience and belief, what Grayling would call 'illusionary thinking' and the fact of cruelty and oppression in the world - that the latter causes generally the former. We have to establish that this link is by no means conincidental - that there are necessary consequences mostly bad, for people who hold religious beliefs, and the people who are unlucky enough to be around them. Then we have to claim that the pursuit of rationality can be established within the kind of bounds that Grayling formulates, then we have to demonstrate that this practise of rationality will lead to less cruel results than 'faith based' practises. All of these can be argued for but they are all 'debatable' and that the opposite might also be true cannot be so easily dismissed.

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GBR

marrakesh: "because we can't do experiments with creating universes. Maybe one day we will be able to and then we'll be gods. and scientific gods at that."

Actually, we may not be able to:

http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html

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GBR

"Plantinga's ontological argument" is merely the point where he/she stopped thinking.


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USA

The argument for the existence of god that "the creation is evidence of the creator" is simply a tautology. It effectively means "the existence of a thing is proof that it was created by some process." Fair enough, I agree. I conceed that there is some force and process by which the world came to be as it is.

But this fact is not relevant to any religious debate. What's at stake is whether the particular Judeo-Christian god exists and wants us to kill each other. Saying that some force or entity created the universe is NOT AT ALL evidence that we should kill or even annoy each other because of it. Religion likes to cite the unknowable as evidence of its convictions, but it is really insane to think that the fact that we don't know everything implies the truth of everything in the bible. For example "some force greater than ourselves created the universe, therefore eating pork is wrong."

andrewthomas, you persist in treating science as if it were merely another religion with a differing set of beliefs. The idea that science cannot know everything does nothing to discredit science, becuse science doesn't care whether it can know everything. It will happily admit that it doesn't know everything, and keep trying to find out more. The limits of science and logic (for example Goedel's incompletenes theorem, as another commentor cited) do not imply that all of rationality is flawed.

In fact, broadly construed, empirical science never asserts truths at all. It merely presents a variety of explanations, each weighted according to the amount of evidence supporting it.

The idea that atheism is a faith position is based on the claim that when there is no evidence for some proposition X, it is equally irrational to "believe" it true or false (since there is no evidence either way). But this isn't really the case. If a proposition seems outrageous and inconsistent with our experience, it is more reasonable to guess that it is false, even if there is no direct evidence. As Dawkins has put it, the fact that you can't disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a reason to believe that it exists. But hey-- believe in it if you want, just don't hurt or berate others, or narrow your child's mind because of it.

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CAN

I feel that atheism could, in some people, be defined as an absence of faith.

I am not getting into the philosophical issues here.

But I have known a few atheists who have told me that they wished they could believe in God. But for scientific or rational reasons they were unable to believe.

I have also encountered atheists who flatly told me that there is no God. There was no sense that they wished they could believe in God.

And then there are the agnostics. A genuine agnostic should have an open mind on the issue of the existence of God, I would imagine.

One of the correspondents said it is impossible to prove the existence of God. I agree. But I wonder whether atheists can come up with a satisfactory explanation for the evidence for design in the universe without positing the existence of a creator or master designer?

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GBR

presumably andrew thomas has left work and gone home for his tea, but oh dear how typical of the relgious mind he is: he claims at various points that he is arguing from a strictly scientific perspective, that he has thought deeply about the subject of the existence of god, he asks pleadingly for reasoned answers to his simplistic questions, but in return he comes up with rubbish - "i don't know, maybe we are all being watched by a god that is out of time and causality and we can't tell anything then can we?"
Oh well, I suppose that is always going to be the problem in trying to have a rational discussion about religion with believers - by definition they are not rational thinkers and cannot cope with a reasoned discussion.

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NZL

LyleGorch: what you and AC Grayling both, don't seem to understand is that the basis for hsi originnal argumennt isn't supported by a reading of the literature on this subject. I think he doesn't understand the nature of scientific enquiry ((I have a post graduate degree in this subject, unlike him), and his undestanding of the nature of religion is essentially non-existent.

If you read some of the books I pointed you to you might come to understand some of the gaping deficiencies in his positions. You should certainly read Derrida's essay on the nature of religion (in Derriad and Vaitimo Religion, Stanford University Press). I don't apprciate being sent to a crass summary on a bookshop's site for a book I both own and have read myself many times. Russell would regard Grayling as a fool, I am quite sure.

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DEU

Briar

" How does George Bush square his belief in the death sentence and the consequence of his actions in Iraq with the so-called Christian ethic of love for fellow man"

Although nobody can read Bush's mind, I would assume (since you posed the question) that he might muddle up the Old and the New Testament - which would be "faulty" thinking on his part - providing, of course, this is the case.

As to the cruelty of human nature ..... in my comment at 01:31 pm to bigwardy I made one or two points that may be relevant.

Diotavelli

as to your post at 04:47 pm

I did understand Bethersonton point, but turning it around was just too tempting.

With regard to my example of the two legs, I'm willing to make amends. Shall we say a believer turns the block 5 times (instead of 10 times) before the atheist has set up his little science lab to 'test the case'? I mean, you must admit, the believer IS less burdened.

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CAN

I feel that atheism could, in some people, be defined as an absence of faith.

I am not getting into the philosophical issues here.

But I have known a few atheists who have told me that they wished they could believe in God. But for scientific or rational reasons they were unable to believe.

I have also encountered atheists who flatly told me that there is no God. There was no sense that they wished they could believe in God.

And then there are the agnostics. A genuine agnostic should have an open mind on the issue of the existence of God, I would imagine.

One of the correspondents said it is impossible to prove the existence of God. I agree. But I wonder whether atheists can come up with a satisfactory explanation for the evidence for design in the universe without positing the existence of a creator or master designer?

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AC You demonstrate a lot of faith in your readers with an article of this length that starts with a factual inaccuracy.

Your faith is touching but misplaced.

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GBR

catswhiskers wrote;

"Come to think of it, the so-called "believer" in Bethersonton's joke could actually stand for the classical atheist, i.e. "I got no written and signed instruction from God to get in the boat of the neightbour - THUS, I refuse to accept it". "

Quite astonishing.
Atheists/agnostics do not desist from making decisions because an external force hasn't proven to them the veracity of their decision, which is I think, what you are trying to imply.
They desist from beliveing in a god that others say exist.
Much the same as you desist from believing in (pick god of religion you are not a member of), despite the fact that other maintain this god exists.
I am not writing this.
Poke yourself in the eye.
God says so.

By the way, what's a "true" believer and a "classical" atheist?
True believer, indeed!

i wonder if you meant to conflate optimist with believer and pessimist with non-believer in your earlier post, as it read? If so, billions of "optimists" in major religions must have disapointed to learn that they spent their lifetime worshipping a false god, whether there turns out to be a god (of another religion) or none at all.


My guess is that organised religion has waned (and how!) as literacy has increased. Literacy has enabled people to educate themselves and inform their own morality. Those who want to follow the letter of their holy texts will find they are self-contradictory; the new testament, the koran ......no doubt why so many people claim that it is "dangerous" to take one's own interpretation of a holy book (so god didn't reveal the WORD then, he wrote riddles, hmmmmmmm).

I think a lot of people are scared to throw off the comfort blanket despite their discovery as a n adult that their are holes in their belief structure and consequently move to a more comfortable place where they take the "word" and the pronouncements of their religious leaders with a pinch of salt, much as they do the highway code book. Pretend you believe 100%, then treat the contents as applicable to shifting circumstances, whilst broadly sticking to the major priniciples. And I don't see any problem with that and I'm happy for people to build their buildings and sing their songs and do their kind deeds in the name of Odin or Isis or Jesus or whoever they want to.

Just one thing - is it seriously offensive to compare gods of major religions to fairies?

Is it less offensive to liken a catholic's faith in Jesus to a an ancient Greek's faith in Apollo? or the worship of Satan?

Here is a list of Greek and Roman gods, which may make interesting reading for those who do not, like me, suspect that a belief in god is driven by the need to externalise man's understanding of his existence and experience. Look at gods all over the planet - so many have the same archetypes.... young strong male figurehead (the Messenger or warrior), the daddy bear, the non-whore like lovely pious lady (who you ought to treat with respect as long as she doesn't get too uppity), the births, the floods....variations on a theme.

Do people believe all this lack of variety is still the work of the devil? The false gods thrown up to distract from the one true ring, sorry, I mean god?

http://www.geocities.com/athens/troy/2774/mythgods.html

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USA

marrakesh -

I think that I would call that position 'Job'(as in the Biblical character).

In the book of Job, God says that Job was the one who was right to complain that the world was unjust, and that his insufferable "everything happens for a reason" friends were dead wrong, and in serious need of prayer -- especially prayer from one who knew at times what it was to want to punch God's lights out!

A good resource on the book of Job is Ellen Davis' _Getting_involved_with_God_

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AUS

alkemistO 290863

I quote from your post in part: "What's at stake is whether the particular Judeo-Christian God exists and wants us to kill each other..."

Now there are the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament from memory No. 6 - THOU SHALT NOT KILL.

There is also - "Judgement is Mine," said the Lord.

and again .."Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord,Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?' and yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness. Matthew 6 22,23.

Again, (from memory) "Not everyone saying Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of God, but only those doing the work of the Father."

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GBR

andrewthomas - "creation" is a noun. hope this helps clarify your thoughts.

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GBR

Well, if it ever came to that, the only way I'm prostrating myself and licking God's boots is because he's threatened eternal hellfire (which I find a bit over the top myself) and I'm sure he knows it. So what's the bloody point?

yeah, god, sorry, god, don't know what i was thinking, i know, i know, you are a cool dude, we are cool, we are cool, right? respe' man.

f** that.

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USA

Guardianlover, I don't know if you will find my explanation for the evidence of "design" in the universe satisfactory, but I can try.

First of all, recognize that humans don't have intuition about what is and is not possible through natural processes. And when I say "natural processes", I don't just mean those on earth or in our universe, but rather ALL possible abstract, mechanical, autonomous processes. For example, we would assume that the computer is an ingenious, highly complex invention of man that could never be produced "by
accident". But in the last few decades it was discovered (as elaborated by Stephen Wolfram and others) that general computation is a rather easy phenomenon to come by, and that some systems that first appear totally trivial and simple are actually universal, i.e. able to emulate any other mechanical process. Although nobody yet knows the details connecting this to the creation of earth as we know it, once you see this fact it is easy to imagine atoms "randomly" banging into each other to produce such a system.

The simple, surprising (maybe even disturbing) computational fact is that you can get high complexity and ordered structures starting with very little, or possibly randomness, and applying simple processes. Human-like agency is not required to produce "interesting" things.

Note that I haven't even needed to point out the kind of fallacy in asking "why does the universe appear to be designed?" On one level, this is just a question about our perception. Of course the universe appears designed for us, because we evolved within it. On another level: Why are there interesting structures like galaxies and bacteria in the universe instead of just random stuff? The answer is that this is what "random" stuff looks like. It might seem that all this cool stuff couldn't "just exist", but really why not?

Then you want to ask why there is something instead of nothing. Now THAT is a hard question.

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GBR

God/s were invented by cavemen because they didn't understand natural phenomena like thunder, rainbows and eclipses.

This is so stunningly obvious that anyone who 'believes' otherwise must be considered deluded to the point of insanity.

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USA

"Atheism is itself a faith position" - well yeah -you "believe" there is a god - or you "believe" there isn't a god. I am of the latter school of thought - ie a non-believer & I also wish god wasn't brought into everything! I find AC Grayling's writings v interesting. Liked his biog on William Hazlitt too.

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GBR

@PastorX
Your argument would have more force if you said what you think the evidence is for God's existence.

@alanpav/ Lacanian
The various forms of the ontological argument have been refuted countless times. Can't we just say, pace Kant, that existence is not a predicate and leave it that?
These days it is just wheeled out as a brain teaser for first year philosophy students. Putting a modern modal spin on it doesn't make it any more convincing. Even Plantinga
concedes that it doesn't prove God's existence. He merely makes the (still dubious) claim that it shows it is not irrational to believe God exists. There are some modern maverick analytic philosophers that believe some pretty loopy things but I'm certain you would get an overwhelming consensus that the ontological argument is a merely an interesting curio.

@catswhickers
what actually happened was the believer tied their shoes together and fell flat on his face. He only thinks he went round the block 10 times. The atheist drove.

forgive me, couldn't resist.

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USA

I am allergic to the word god.

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DEU

Saint Sebald

how nice of you to join this debate!

Why, I always appreciate a man with a sense of humour - and knowing you're a gentleman, too, I can truly say: it's good to be crossing swords with you once again - lol

I can well imagine the atheist driving ..... after he checked out the car, matched the keys, tuned the motor, etc. ....... which means the believer would have been round the block already, since "that sort" always runs barefoot. You see, dear adversary, your thinking is by far, too complicated - (shoelaces, nice, but irrelevant).

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USA

sapient, unfortunately I still don't approve of religion even as far as it can be used to bring good to people's lives and the world. The idea that people would only do good things because a man in the sky told them to and/or because they're afraid of going to hell is truly frightening. People should do good because of the positive results it brings, not for fear of hellfire. Good works are much more productively motivated by rational humanism.

When we have pastor Becky Fischer saying "I want to see young people [in America] laying down their lives for the gospel," I have a problem. I imagine you would agree with me that she's one of those who say "Lord, lord" but will not enter the Kingdom of God. Religion might not ultimately condone her actions, but it causes them.

Isn't it destructive to allow this to exist, relying on "God" to sort out who was actually doing his works?

If you want a religion with the good parts and not the bad, look at something like Taoism.

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USA

Saint Sebald - I see your point. Reading over my post, it is a bit oblique. I ought to have been more clear that I was making a conscious choice not to present the evidence -- there are some arguments that are worthwhile enough not to reduce to a maximum 5000 characters. Which is why I pointed you all to Lewis and Wright. If there are those here who think that it is a worthwhile use of time to monitor 9 hours worth of comments on a website, then perhaps there are those here who think it could be a worthwhile use of time to spend 9 hours reading a truly thorough account of an intellectual Christian's reasoned analysis of the evidence.

That was my point -- that if those who had casually disregarded Christians as unreasonable actually invested time in investigating the matter, they might not be so certain that all Christians are mindless fools. I am not particularly interested in engaging in reductionism in order to cater to the lazy tendency to find all of one's information on the internet between classes or while presumably working. Instead I suggest: Invest some time in the matter, dig a little deeper! Research! Or admit that you aren't really engaged in more than self-aggrandizement.

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GBR

Catswhiskers (290782)?"2. the word 'fictional', though, pre-supposes that there aren't really any entities - so I would refrain from using it - even with regard to their choice of entities"

Yes, I was trying to slip 'fictional' past you. Consider me suitably caught out!

"the fairy would fly away, the unicorn would run?away, which would leave the goblin alone to swing the?axe on his own. Thus, it wouldn't get messy, just?leaving an angry goblin dissatisfied."

Sorry, I mean gory and painful for you and the fairites and goblinnis, the entities would feel no pain on account of their now legendary fictional status.

PastorX (290845)
Like so many, you talk well, but I notice in your protestations, declaring the embarrassment of evidence you have for your god, you don't actually cite any. I'm also now quivering with anticipation, I can't wait to hear what this evidence is. Always it is mentioned and never is it produced.
I assume it is proper evidence? Evidence that cannot be interpreted in another way? Evidence that isn't of the class "Behold the beautiful rainbow, how could such beauty be anything other than god's work.", or That daft Banana/Coke Can comparison, or the 'irreducible complexity' nonsense that so impresses some of your less well educated countryment.

Lets examine your evidence. Its pretty easy to say "Oh, I don't have space in 5000 characters" For something as earthshatteringly important as this?

Because I have as you say ""conversed at length," I mean ask questions about why they believe, ask if they have any evidence, ask them what is the place of reason in their beliefs, ask follow up questions, present your arguments and ask for their response -- and actually listen!"
But never has anyone said anything remotely pursuasive. Never once have I heard some 'evidence' that stands up to even the most rudimentary of scrutiny.

While you're at it, consider the tale of doubting Thomas, or that one where the chap takes his son to the mountain to sacrifice him and ask yourself if you should even be thinking about evidence.
Haven't you been trained not to think about it?

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GBR

I agree with Grayling's fundamental contention: religious belief and atheism are not the same thing, and "atheistic fundamentalism" assumes this false equivalence. Reason and observation have a special status in human thought.

It's ironic, then, that Grayling's article demonstrates that atheists, while not fundamentalist, can prefer inaccurate diatribe to the rational argument they claim to espouse:

1) Catholic teaching makes no claim that all non-Catholics are damned. In fact, it makes no judgements on the damnation or salvation of anyone.

2) Jesus' divinity is not due to any alleged uniqueness of his suffering.

3) The problems of suffering and evil are difficult for religious belief. But Grayling is not exactly the first to spot this. Atheism is one rational response. Those who have wrestled with the issue and reconciled suffering with a loving God are not automatically idiots.

Bashing Christianity is all good fun, of course, as Tom Paine's classic The Age of Reason demonstrated. When Paine spells out his own beliefs, though, he looks rather foolish and naive. Grayling is similar. Look at that last paragraph! Do people really think that all we need to do is let the babies grow up in harmony and human innocence, free of religious indoctrination, for all to be right with the world? And, apparently, we need to move away from "divisive labels." Whatever Grayling is, conciliatory is not it. Of course, if only we all shared his worldview, we'd all be at peace.

It's not fundamentalism to think so, but it is pig-headed, and not very rational. You can see where the "atheist fundamentalism" misconception comes from.

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USA

As a Christian, I'm always perplexed when an atheist argues that he doesn't hold to any faith, let alone a fundamentalist faith, yet then proceeds to prove exactly that -- i. e., atheism is a fundamentalist faith. Let's examine some tenets of this faith:

* Supernatural revelation and experience is impossible or at least improbable, therefore people of faith are essentially liars.

* Life must have arisen through a combination of natural processes, random chaos, and time -- despite a lack of convincing evidence thereof -- because supernatural design is out of the question.

* Human morality can be boiled down to a need for mutual survival and personal fulfillment -- even though most human behavior is inexplicable on such a deconstructionist basis.

* People's need for spiritual meaning and relationship is simply a matter of uneducated ignorance -- despite the fact that some of the most famous and influential Christians of any age (including our own) have been deeply learned men (and some atheist to begin with!).

* Christianity as a worldview should not be part of the public square and cultural dialogue -- despite the fact that there is no logical reason its validity as an outgoing expression should be perceived as any less reasonable than an atheist expression.

I could go on, but you get the point. Now, I'm not claiming any kind of opposite argument here -- i. e., that atheists in the public square shouldn't be respected -- but what I am claiming is that it's highly egregious for atheists to deny Christianity a place at the table based on a philosophical platform that could easily be used to deny atheism as well. Consider this.

Cheers,

Jared

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PRT

And lo, God so loved the Universe that He sacrificed Himself in the Big Bang to create It.
Extheism. You know it makes sense.

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AUS

alkemistO 290987
From your post "People should do good because of the positive results it brings, not for fear of hellfire"
-----Agreed.

I do not know what pastor Becky Fisher teaches but would wonder whether the Pastor means this in the sense you appear to be taking it. It can also be taken in the sense of denial of self.

AlkemistO I have stated a number of times I belong to no organised religion - a lot of harm has been done.
From your post "Isn't it destructive to allow this to exist" - I value my free will, as I'm sure all contributors here do.
By the way is that the American spelling for alchemist?
Hopefully the O does not stand for 'no gold!' Or perhaps you are after that richer prize - the elixir to prolong life indefinitely.

Catswhiskers 290966 - I thought there were only two combatants in Fencing.
Anyrate you have nine lives and they haven't even trimmed your whiskers yet!
Like to remain watching the parry and thrust but must away.

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USA

No, indeed, I have not been "trained not to think about it." And I would hope that anyone who has been to a reputable seminary would say the same.

But let�s take the story of Thomas, as you say. At first, Thomas does not believe because he does not see the Risen Jesus. And then he believes because he does. And what does Jesus say to Thomas? �You f****ng c***, what�s the matter with you?� No. He says, �Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.� He offers the evidence Thomas has asked for.

People get hung up on the part where Jesus then says �Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen me, and yet have come to believe.� But note that Jesus does not say �who believe for no reason whatsoever.� He just says that they have not seen his risen body. But that does not mean that they have no reason to believe.

The first generation of Christians believed because of first hand testimony of a number of people, all of whom claimed to have personally seen and talked with Jesus after his death. Not a ghost Jesus, but an actual physically embodied Jesus. These eyewitnesses proved themselves trustworthy in other ways, which led others to trust them that they had indeed seen the Risen Christ as well. That, and the fact that it was not just one person telling the story, but dozens. And this was not just the story of some long mythical event, but the story of �this guy who lived here in this city, and was killed here for sedition just a few months (years, decades) ago.� Which is, by the by, the way in which the Jesus story is different than the Osiris / Tammuz / other �dying and rising god� stories � this story claimed to be very recent history. And the people telling this story were insistent that it was the truth, in spite of the fact that there were a good number of people wanting to kill them for it.

So in John 20, Jesus is not chastising Thomas for needing evidence, but for not accepting the evidence of eleven people (Mary Magdalene and 10 disciples) whom he had lived with for a couple of years saying that they had all seen Jesus. Jesus was saying, �not everyone is going to get this kind of evidence, Thomas. You are going to be in the position of telling people you don�t even know to believe because you have seen me, and here you are not even believing your closest friends and companions. What a fix you are in now.�

That is by no means any sort of thorough argument. It is a sketchy, reduced retelling of a clue that some people take to be evidence. Contrary to what you imply, Humanzee, it is exactly the most important arguments that demand more than a five-minute knee-jerk response.

Thank you for taking the time to engage Christians in debate. Sadly, it is true that there are many who are not very good at articulating why they believe what they believe. In much the same way as atheists or anyone else.

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GBR

Jared: [* Supernatural revelation and experience is impossible or at least improbable, therefore people of faith are essentially liars.

* Life must have arisen through a combination of natural processes, random chaos, and time -- despite a lack of convincing evidence thereof -- because supernatural design is out of the question.

* Human morality can be boiled down to a need for mutual survival and personal fulfillment -- even though most human behavior is inexplicable on such a deconstructionist basis.

* People's need for spiritual meaning and relationship is simply a matter of uneducated ignorance -- despite the fact that some of the most famous and influential Christians of any age (including our own) have been deeply learned men (and some atheist to begin with!).

* Christianity as a worldview should not be part of the public square and cultural dialogue -- despite the fact that there is no logical reason its validity as an outgoing expression should be perceived as any less reasonable than an atheist expression.]

replace "supernatural revelation", "supernatural experience", "supernatural design", "human morality", "spiritual meaning", "Christian", and "Christianity" with "Odin, Thor, Venus, Mars, Zeus, Shiva, Vishnu, Hirohito, the flying spaghetti monster, the invisible pink unicorn, Allah, Yahweh, Xenu, The Force, System Lord Apophis, pixies, the Abominable Snowman, Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, the Duracell Bunny or Robbie christing Fowler" and you would actually be agreeing. DON'T YOU GET IT YET?

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SVN

I am nearly 50 years old and I grow up in atheist family. My late parents did not have faith in any supernatural force. They loved each other ad us, their kids. They believe in basic goodness of human nature, hard work and better future and they taught as the same. They provided me me with beautiful and exiting childhood and invited me to think with my own head. They never provided me with any kind of confessional education, but they did not oppose when my aunt when she tried to include in catholic religious education. It was me who decided that I do not want to go there.
Later in my life there were moments when I wanted to have faith. Once it was political, I lived in communist country and being religious was way of rejection of governing ideology. Later again in times of lines and losing loved ones, I wanted faith to give me consolation and psychological support. I started to study religions and made myself familiar with holy books of all major religions and with portion of theological thinking.
But as I tried I just couldn't start to believe in god. It seemed to me a little bit silly. Of course, I can not know for sure that there is no supernatural power, but with all I know, the possibility that it actually exist is very, very, very small. And to be sure, which of gods, my search provided me with informations about, is real thing, seemed to me completely impossible. So I am not believing in any of them and I am sure that this position of mine is not some kind of religious faith.
I have nothing against religion or religious people, my personal experience taught me that faith of people can not tell me anything about his/hers personal qualities. That is why I consider religion as personal issue of people and not of my particular interest. I am looking for other qualities in people.
But I have to ad that sometimes I am shocked by aggressiveness of some religion people, who are prepared to do nearly anything to force others to start to think like they or to live in accordance with their religious standard. That is also reason that I thing that secularity should be in base of any state organization. Than can ensure me and people of different faiths to live and work together.

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I don't call myself an "atheist". I call myself a "non-believer". That was suggested by Sam Harris in his book "Letter to a Christian Nation". If someone asks me if I believe in Zeus, I would say, "no, I am a non-believer", not "I am a non-Zeusian". I think that there is a subtle difference. I think that Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have done very commendable jobs of debunking religion in general, and Christianity in particular. In our day and age, it takes incredible "shove your head in the sand and ignore all the evidence" "Faith" to still believe in God.

Just my opinion.

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USA

Jared- When Christians have to resort to arguing that a supernatural being designed the universe, and that people have a need for spiritual meaning, it proves they've already lost. Why? Because these are not distinguishing characteristics of Christianity. Christianity is centered on the divinity of the bible and Jesus.

I won't ask for evidence for the existence of a supernatural being that made the universe. I'll agree that it exists. What I want to see evidence for is that the specific book known as the Bible was written or dictated by this same supernatural being. Because that is precisely what is at stake. I don't think anybody seeks to drive spirituality from the world, and nobody objects to use of the word "God" to describe whatever force/process made the universe.

So show me the link between the ultimate force that created the universe and the bible, a text written on a tiny blue planet in human language several billion years into the universe's existence, and I'll be impressed.

Other than that:

* There is lots of exciting and growing evidence that life can arise naturally. See my earlier post on universality in simple systems. It isn't that supernatural design is out of the question, it's that it isn't interesting. If you're allowed to posit an all-powerful designer you miss out on a lot of interesting theories and observations that end up revealing much more detail.

* Human morality can be explained without the bible. There are many good people who have never read the bible or heard of it. Psychology will continue to reveal information about the origins of human behavior but of course we don't have all the answers yet.

* I don't connect spirituality with ignorance. I connect belief in the literal truth of the bible with ignorance. Other religions, such as Taoism, are compelling to me even though they also have spiritual components.

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GBR

Jared (291011)
"* Supernatural revelation and experience is impossible or at least improbable, therefore people of faith are essentially liars.
* Life must have arisen through a combination of natural processes, random chaos, and time -- despite a lack of convincing evidence thereof -- because supernatural design is out of the question.
* Human morality can be boiled down to a need for mutual survival and personal fulfillment -- even though most human behavior is inexplicable on such a deconstructionist basis.
* People's need for spiritual meaning and relationship is simply a matter of uneducated ignorance -- despite the fact that some of the most famous and influential Christians of any age (including our own) have been deeply learned men (and some atheist to begin with!).
* Christianity as a worldview should not be part of the public square and cultural dialogue -- despite the fact that there is no logical reason its validity as an outgoing expression should be perceived as any less reasonable than an atheist expression."

Point by point...
=Not liars, they may be misguided, mistaken, deluded. There are lots of reasons why someone may say something that isn't true. If they believe it, they're not lying. I don't think you're liars and you don't really think that of us.
I think you're trying to adopt a victim posture to gain sympathy for your argument.
=Evolution is not random. Mutation is Natural Selection is not. At best you have read about evolution and now make this willful misinterpretation, at worst you've listened to creationists, not found anything out for yourself and this is pathetic ignorance. I'm sorry, but it's true.
=It is perfectly explicable. 'Mutual benefit', 'Altruism' and 'Societal Norms' are perfectly reasonable basis for morality. Although my previous posts suggest (mischeviously, admittedly) that the religious cannot behave morally.
=We don't say a need for spiritual meaning is ignorance. We say it is an emotional need. One that some choose to sop with the false comfort of religion while others choose to find a true home for.
=Christianity denies the beliefs of others. If you take it into the public sphere you make clear your contempt for other people's beliefs. Keep it at home. I don't take my atheism into the public sphere. I am a secularist.

Atheists and the religious can be respected or otherwise in the public sphere, just not for their beliefs or their atheism.

We can deny Christianity a place at the table as a consequence of its philosophical platform, because, despite your contention atheism is not based upon a philosophical platform, but a rational platform.


PastorX (291031) But the clear implication of the phrase "those who sought no proof are blessed," is surely that "If you seek proof, yes you're still one of us, you're still coming to heaven, but you're not blessed like the others. Just take my word for it."

I spent time in my early teens and then again a couple of years ago, both times through necessity not searching behaviour, in the company of vocal evangelists. My experience of them, sadly informs my opinion of other religious people. It's not a fair impression of course. Many are quite sane and sensible. You can construct an argument well and know your stuff, but many simply can't and don't. They do your cause more harm than good, of course they are the vocal ones and any of these columns and the ensuing threads are the reactions to these more aggressive christians. All most atheists want is a secular environment, not an atheist one.

One day someone will posit the "Helium Proof" in these pages and I'm going to have a field day! I find it to be the epitome of unthinking regurgitation of 'proof'.

But for now it's bathtime for the children and then I'm off to the pub for the village fathers' monthly night out . So any further responses will be tomorrow. (and possibly not before the afternoon, you understand!)

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GBR

Mr Grayling makes a number of errors of fact in his piece.

1. Christians believe on the basis of historical evidence, not 'blind' faith.
2. The story of Jesus is not the same as Heracles, or Isis or Dionysius or whatever warmed over recollection of Frazer Grayling had in mind. Jesus is set in an historical context, validated by evidence as to its historicity. Uniquely, Jesus was reportedly 'resurrected' in a transformed physical body. Nothing like this was expected by contemporary Jews, or had ever happened in Greek ( or any other) mythology. For more detailed references you should refer to N.T. Wright's book 'The Resurrection of the Son of God'.

The arument about God either being omnipotent and cruel or not omnipotent, because of the existence of pain or evil has been addressed by Christian (and Jewish) theologians before. A simple way is to say that this world is one where free will is permitted. That means actions have consequences and people are responsible for their actions. That also means good people suffer bad things.

Atheists tend to see the bad things happen as definite proof of the absence of a loving God. But Christians, who, after all, believe, on the evidence of the Resurrection, that this life is not all we have, but an interlude in eternity, don't see death as the end.

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USA

alkemist0, I appreciate that you aren't hostile to the idea of the supernatural as some others might be. I don't agree that Christians "lose" by talking about the philosophical implications of a spiritual relationship or concepts of universe/life origins -- but you know what? I actually agree that it often obscures the greater point: how do we know that Jesus is God and the Savior of mankind?

I think there is a wealth of textual analysis out there that can answer that better than myself in this setting. One of my favorite books (easy reading too) is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. It provides an exciting, journalist approach to discovering the veracity of Jesus' claims and historical evidence of the New Testament.

But, even more importantly than intellectual knowledge is experience. There is power in testimony, and my testimony is this: I have experienced the overwhelming Love of the Father. I have experienced the guilt of sin removed from my life by Jesus. I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit fall on me. I have heard prophecy spoken over my life by someone who had no idea what skills I possess yet encouraged me in those skills. Psychic? No, just an example of someone listening to the word of God in real-time. I have seen people in family become reconciled to each other because of a greater love for God. I have seen lives transformed in my church, lives that once were full of drunkenness or despair or pride or anxiety or remorse, but are now full of joy and peace.

No logical analysis of the Bible can take away what I've seen, heard, and experienced. And that's my testimony.

Jared

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AUS

alkemistO 291043

Had meant to go to bed. It is early morning here, though I did have a sleep late afternoon yesterday.

I'll work backwards - your second last paragraph quote:
"Human morality can be explained without the bible...."

From the bible (I've already posted this some time ago on another thread) "for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
For when the Gentiles, who do not have law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shows the work of the law is written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts meanwhile accusing or excusing them."

If you have this Spirit at work within you, then you can begin to understand the Bible.

I cannot give the Spirit of Understanding.

However I don't think you have the resistance to the opening of your mind that many posters appear to display.
To be fair though I think that they have been given wrong information along the way.

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SVN

Jared said:
*But, even more importantly than intellectual knowledge is experience. There is power in testimony, and my testimony is this: I have experienced the overwhelming Love of the Father. I have experienced the guilt of sin removed from my life by Jesus. I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit fall on me. I have heard prophecy spoken over my life by someone who had no idea what skills I possess yet encouraged me in those skills. Psychic? No, just an example of someone listening to the word of God in real-time. I have seen people in family become reconciled to each other because of a greater love for God. I have seen lives transformed in my church, lives that once were full of drunkenness or despair or pride or anxiety or remorse, but are now full of joy and peace.*

I respect your personal experience. I also respect personal spiritual experiences of shamans in Amazon jungle and of Muslim believer in Tehran and I respect profound religious experience of Hindu holy people � Naga baba in India. I also respect spiritual experience of people remembering their past lives and of those who believes to communicate with spirits of their dead friends.
And because I respect all of you and your experiences, I am atheist.

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USA

To alkemist0:
Christians believe in the divinity of Christ? Yes.
Christians believe in the divinity of the Bible? Not exactly.

It didn�t take 19th century atheists to point out the internal inconsistencies in the Bible -- that had been noticed by Christian thinkers back into the middle ages and beyond. And these weren�t just ignored, either. It is possible to believe in the Trinity, the atonement, the Incarnation, etc, and still understand that the Bible is a document written by human beings -- albeit human beings who had an extraordinary experience of God, and were doing their best to express it within their cultural constructs, and with the language at their disposal.

Some of the Bible is meant to be taken as history. But some of it is meant to be taken in other ways � as poetry, for example, or as symbolic. Is the poetry of e e cummings not true because he doesn�t use punctuation 'correctly'? Is a political cartoon false because 'Rumsfeld is not really the tooth in an elephant?'

So depending on what you mean by �belief in the literal truth of the Bible�, a lot of Christians would find that to be an ignorant position as well.

To Humanzee:
Yes, sadly I do appreciate how much damage evangelicals have done. Among their more egregious misdeeds has been the damage they have done to Christianity itself.

Contrary to what many may think, given that I am a Christian in the U.S., I am not a big fan of theocracy, and prefer a secular environment, myself. I would rather have some say in whether to pray, what to pray, and who to pray to, than to have the President make that decision for me. Heaven forbid. And the way I see it, if I force you to say a prayer you don't believe, then I have cheapened my own prayer. So perhaps we can find some common ground in a committment to secularism.

I know you said that you were going to sign off, and I feel awkward giving a counter argument that you will not be able to answer for another day... but in any case, since this is a public forum, and others will be reading what you wrote, I did think that it was important to answer just one matter that you spoke about:

You quoted that "those who sought no proof are blessed" -- in order to refute it, but this was really a straw man. Nowhere does the Thomas story say that those who seek no proof are blessed, and neither did I! That was your own interpretation, a phrase that invented. Instead, the story reads that those who have not *seen* are blessed. That does not mean that they had *no proof*. Just that they lacked a particular piece of evidence that they would have no access to. There is a lot that I have not seen that I believe. For instance, I believe that Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft of the Declaration of Independence. I wasn�t there to see it -- but that doesn't leave me entirely without proof.

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Anti-God missionaries like Grayling invariably misrepresent religious believers as people who blindly follow the dictates of a �holy book� or whatever. The truth is that ALL of us form our beliefs, including atheism, based on our total life-experience, of which our early upbringing is one constituent, and not necessarily the most important. Other elements of our life-experience are our reading, our friendships, listening to what others have to say (especially those we trust), our understanding of science, and so on. Rationality tries to make sense of all this, and it is outrageous to suggest that those of us whose reason leads us to the conviction that the claims of Christianity are true are somehow raving idiots or fundamentalists. The whole point of the Pope�s recent much-publicised (for the wrong reasons) lecture was to emphasise that religion and reason go hand-in-hand. Why won�t the Graylings of this world at least have the courtesy to acknowledge this?

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AUS

PastorX

Christians believe in the Trinity, three in one co-equal?

No!

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USA

Jared, I'm glad for you that you've found a spirituality you find empowering.

However, I didn't ask how we know that Jesus is the savior of mankind. That one's easy: just as you said, it is true de facto because many people like yourself find belief in him to provide meaning and happiness in their lives. But Christianity is not the only philosophy that can effectively provide this. For example, I gain my power through an intellectual and meditative striving to see the world as it truly is, using observable truth to cut through distractions to solutions and ultimately happiness.

I don't see any evidence connecting the creator of the universe to Jesus. Look at the Hubble deep field image:
http://www.astro.uio.no/ita/nyheter/HUDF_0304/HUDF_IR_full.jpg
All of the 3000 objects in the image are galaxies, each with millions of stars. Look at Voyager's image of earth as a tiny speck of dust against the cosmos. How can you be so arrogant as to think that the force that created all of this interceded to inform somebody about your skills? Isn't it far more likely that some people possess a talent for insight into others?

It is silly to point to the concept of the greatest creative force that exists to explain every little strange occurrence. Doing this seems to indicate a serious lack of perspective. Even something as dramatic as a purported resurrection doesn't really come close for me.

However, this quandry goes away if you accept that "god" is really just "the laws of physics" (whatever the true ones are). Then, of course, the very same process that created the universe causes every other little thing in our world, and we are all part of something big and wonderful. But then you have to give up the idea of a personal god with human-like agency who we can "talk" to or any such thing. Also out the window would be any individuals who claim to be closer to god than others, and all of the specific provisions of the bible such as prohibitions on certain arbitrary acts, etc.

PastorX-- I appreciate your well-written comments. If all Christians and Muslims were as well-informed about their faith as you are, the world would be a far better place. From your obvious intelligence I'm not surprised that you "prefer a secular environment" :)

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USA

There is definite proof of the existence of God:

Here I am

PS.: Sorry, I can't make myself available to you all to touch me, but I am.

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USA

alkemist0 - Thank you for your kind remarks. I do think that everyone benefits from a regular and rigorous examination of their beliefs. And the people around them benefit, too, if for no other reason than because the more informed we are, the more humble we become, and the less likely to think that we need to go around killing people (or even thinking they're idiots) because we disagree with them. But of course there are lots of other reasons.

That's it, I'm out for the evening -- I have delayed writing Sunday's sermon long enough. But I do appreciate the opportunity for dialogue, and will be interested to check back in tomorrow.

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GBR

PastorX - without evangelists there would be no Christians.

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SCG

"there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don't know it"
philosophically this is close to truth: there is at least one dogma you are (not) aware of. of course, you have right (and obligation), not to be philosopher if you find it necessary.

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USA

Just a couple of comments:

| alkemist0: |
"It is silly to point to the concept of the greatest creative force that exists to explain every little strange occurrence. Doing this seems to indicate a serious lack of perspective. Even something as dramatic as a purported resurrection doesn't really come close for me."

I don't think any serious-minded Christian automatically invokes "God did it" for some little occurrence here and there that seems unusual. If two different people make the same joke from a movie to me in one day, I don't think "God put it in their heads!" But at some point, when there are too many coincidences, too many obvious miracles, too many evidences of purpose and design, it becomes increasingly hard to have "faith" in mere physical un-direction. BTW, can you explain to me how being seen alive after a mutilating death is just a strange little occurrence? Seems pretty big to me. :)


| bostjan: |

You mention a number of different spiritual traditions in your post. I think many Christians wouldn't deny those experiences -- but they would argue that those experiences are a result of a connection with dark spiritual forces that are actively against God. I've read some interesting accounts of people who have quit various pagan practices and become Christians (including one who was a Voodoo priestess in South American and another who was a Native American shaman), and they all have a similar story to tell about the web of evil deception by which they found themselves increasingly controlled. Some pretty scary stuff happened to them before converting, in fact.

Anyway, thanks for the ability to discuss these topics. It's been very interesting to me to see so many different opinions.

Take care,

Jared

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SVN

Jared said:
*You mention a number of different spiritual traditions in your post. I think many Christians wouldn't deny those experiences -- but they would argue that those experiences are a result of a connection with dark spiritual forces that are actively against God.*
So, if I understand correctly, many Christians would see Mahatma Gandi was inspired by dark spiritual forces that are actively against God?
I would be nice if I just say that I think this is arrogant position which express hypocritical righteousness. Can this Christians express at least respect to people with different fates without hard insults? I imagine that accusation of connection with dark spiritual forces can be deeply offensive for religious person. Probably more than anything ever written by Richard Dawkins.

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GBR

BTW, can you explain to me how being seen alive after a mutilating death is just a strange little occurrence? Seems pretty big to me. :)

How about either
a) It (the resurrection) didn't happen or
b) It didn't happen

Has it ever happened again? No.

Is there any expectation that it will happen again No.

The odds are fairly heavily stacked that it didn't happen as described in the bible.

Is there any evidence in the historical record apart from the bible that it happened in the way described in the bible?

You are of course free to believe 10 impossible things before breakfast but the mere assertion that the resurrection occurred is not good enough for those of us who require just a little bit of independent evidence

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MEX

I've not had time to read all the posts yet, but I don't think anyone has pointed to a letter written by that man D*wkins that was included in his book "A Devil's Chaplain" and is here and lots of other places.

In it he does a decent job of addressing the objection of DavidOHilbert that if you believe in evolution it is because you have faith in the people who have written the books, examined the fossils, etc.

Go on, have a read David. You know you want to. Noone's watching...

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IRL

AC Grayling; you are a Rational Fundamentalist.

This latest line by the God botherers is very akin to Yankee fad equating creationism with scientific theory.

To say that because evolutionary theory might not be true that therefore the Biblical tales are factual history.

Personally if Darwin doesn't explain human evolution than the seeding of apes by aliens is far more plausible than this seven days gibberish.

They should teach that at school too.

OK, I haven't read this thread. Life is too short.

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ESP

diotavelli posts -

"Non-believers do not accept arguments based upon the authority of the speaker/writer. Anyone making a claim that they hope to have accepted by rational thinkers needs to supply evidence to support their claim and then demonstrate the reasoning they have used to arrive at their conclusion. If they don't do that or if their evidence or reasoning are found wanting, then their claims are discredited immediately - no matter who they are."

Well, that�s not wholly true.
I have thinking friends who have simply observed that scientists seem to accept Darwinism, so that�s good enough for them.

I tend to agree that we are getting a bit too much of this God debate on the Guardian blog pages. And whenever it does, inevitably Darwinism crops up too!

Or maybe that is indicative of the massive interest in the subject, and therefore that the time is ripe for Dawkins and his ilk to come out of the bunker and engage in open debate with those who attempt to expose Darwinism to scientific critique?

The best such critique is here -
http://www.alternativescience.com/shattering-the-myths-of-darwinism.htm

And Milton does NOT believe in any God....

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IRL

Oh and just one more thing Grayling.

"the simple rational realisation that the notions of deities, fairies and goblins belong in the same bin."


I take grave exception to fairies being binned with imaginary beings.

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MEX

Ho hum. It appears to have eaten the html tags in my post. Could anyone tell me how to get that to work? Do we need to quote the delimiters or something?

If anyone is desperate for that article it's at

http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/dawkins2.html

Does that turn into a link automagically? Sorry about this.

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it's not something i would ever do myself, but can anyone tell me why walking naked from lands end to john o' groats is illegal? have always wondered whether laws against naturism are based on secularism or religion.

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GBR

Yes, to secularism and to humanism, we all can be good after all� and in the comfort of our homes and/or with our friends either pray to god(s) or discuss a good book�

In both sides we always have those that want to come out, what I found strange is that careers are made out of God and others out of ideas without having any experience of what they are talking about. Only verbal diarrhea...

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GBR

JamesPlaskett:

Mr Milton is wrong. Very wrong.

"It was the absence of transitional fossils that first made me question Darwin's idea of gradual change. I realised, too, that the procedures used to date rocks were circular. Rocks are used to date fossils: fossils are used to date rocks. From here I began to think the unthinkable: could Darwinism be scientifically flawed?"

Carbon dating is one of the things used to date rocks, not fossils.

Evolution can be seen at work when a predominantly white moth population evolves into black moths over a short period of time. The whites are killed by predators, the blacks survive and reproduce to produce a predominantly black population.

andrethomas100: So a potter created the mug. What conclusions can you draw from that?

Why worship the potter? Why pray to him? Why assume the potter is still around? Why deduce that the potter will be our salvation - whatever that means?

A God may have created the universe, but that God may have died in the process. There's no evidence of this God now.


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MYS

It's nice to see a couple of Christians rejecting the religious definition of faith as "believing in something despite of the evidence", and asserting that they believe in God on purely rational, evidence-based grounds. I'll argue on those terms any time.

But that's not what Grayling was commenting on - if you reject that kind of evidence-less faith yourself, you aren't going to be saying "atheism equals faith too".

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MYS

Carbon dating can be used for dating whatever has carbon in it, usually life-forms. If you have doubts about it, I encourage you to look into it in more detail. Remember that fossil evidence is also supported by analysis of DNA.

The whole "if you find a ceramic mug" argument was nuked into fragments by Richard Dawkins in his book "The Blind Watchmaker" many years ago. Since then, those fragments have been reduced to their component molecules by complexity theory. Whether it turns up in arguments about evolution or complexity theory, this kind of example no longer holds water (let alone coffee, ha ha).

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AUS

Have you ever been present when someone dies?

What is the difference. The body still looks the same, but the spirit has gone. You can't see it!

God is a Spirit.

Christ prayed "not my will but thine be done". He subdued his spirit and allowed his body to be used by God's Holy Spirit.

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GBR

sapient: The body is not the same when someone dies, even though it might look like it from the outside. The way the body functions as death approaches is an interesting, ongoing scientific study.

Another 'mystery' that does not need some silly explanation.

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GBR

Andrewthomas, i understand where your coming from with the Sims bit, but if you are correct, the fact that some greater being created the universe and us for sheer entertainment, why on earth would you waste your time praying to him and living a life devoted to his pleasing? If we learnt to take sims a step further, giving us the power to create and control mini life forms, and everyone had their little pet 'world' which they tended to, if your little characters prayed to you and carried on like religious people do, murdering and killing in your name, and frankly behaving like total morons, you would find their stupidity breathtaking, you would not cease laughing at the notion that you were an all powerful deity. Your point was a good one against religious belief, not for it.

For those still trying to argue what a faith position atheism is and how science is faith, please just give it up, it is painful to watch. Using someones example already, if i tell my brother that i have a friend called Dave who no one can see, or has ever seen, but i assure him he is there in the room with us, if my brother were to state that he didnt believe in the existence of my friend, his stance is not comparable to mine on the issue of faith. His position, and the position of the atheist, requires no faith. It simply requires reaching concolusions on actual experience, rather the word of a single man who lived 2000 years ago.

Strange that we dont seem to have these sons of god visiting us anymore, if someone now claimed to be the son of god, they would be sectioned within minutes. These silly little stories rely on the ignorance and primitive understanding of the people they were originally inflicted upon. Like the gods of Olympia, they must at some point or other been given up to mythology. They are silly little stories that cause untold grief arond the world.

On the example of the belief that there is a little cup and saucer quietly orbiting the earth, if someone does not think the cup is there - that is a position of reason. To believe the cup is there is a position of faith because it is not backed up by evidence, proof, common sense, logic, plausibility, like religion, it is an extremely stupid belief.

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MYS

Erm, sorry to admit, but since I am often pretty drunk while posting...

My comment: "Whether it turns up in arguments about evolution or complexity theory..."

should have read "Whether it turns up in arguments about evolution or cosmology..."

That said (though I am still pretty drunk), there is a difference between the evolution and cosmology versions of this point. The evolutionary one had been fully discredited, while the cosmology "how is it that our universe can support life?" argument is not yet decided to the same extent. A couple of good commentators on this question are Martin Rees and Lee Smolin. All ye men of good faith please look into these commentators.

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GBR

The most interesting thing about this thread is that the religious/deists - JohnR, PastorX, AndrewThomas - constantly cite the works of others whereas the atheists/sceptics prefer to rely on their own arguments.
Argument through evidence/logic on the one hand, an appeal to authority on the other.

Says it all, really.

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Mujokan - Martin Rees? You mean the guy, who together with his Buddy S. Hawking are peddling the multiverse belief (faith) around? Hmmm .... Oh yes, I think they've also recruited one, Mr. Dawkins on that little flight of fancy. Personally, I'm with the fairy brigade - makes more sense.

Enjoy the booze! I'm off to get a bit of the "hair of the dog" myself. Cheers!

P.S. Sorry I didn't get back to you on your previous response to me, but I didn't realise this thread would be going for this long.

The answer is no Mr. Grayling did not counter my points in the article. The main point is that his accusation on the think tank as applying semantics to call atheism a "faith" is precisely what he has done in the article - whiffed it with his own brand of semantics.

Love to discuss the complexity theory with you from the CSI (complex specified information) perspective, however the beer awaits.

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AUS

Dr.Jazz 291562 ----

As you well know that is not a silly explanation!

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GBR

I do believe in Zeus, Dionysos, Krishna, Thor and all gods except the one god. And they're not 'supernatural'; they're in the universe, not outside it (there is no creator-god in Greek mythology). If you want to get rid of religion (might be a start to make distinctions between monotheism and polytheism, faith and ritual) fine, so long as you're prepared to kiss goodbye to art, music, poetry and cinema too, since they all spring from the imagination. No doubt the fact these things are all 'made-up' and illogical is enough to damn them in the cold eyes of computer-heads like Grayling.

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MYS

Aw jeez Whitesox, what happened to "Win Or Die Trying"? I'd love to argue about multiverse theories or complexity with anyone who has even heard of such things.

The fact that we are both on the sauce puts all such abstract arguments into a totally friendly perspective.

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FRA

Ac Grayling,
excellent article.

Saintloup,
" fine, so long as you're prepared to kiss goodbye to art, music, poetry and cinema too, since they all spring from the imagination. No doubt the fact these things are all 'made-up' and illogical is enough to damn them in the cold eyes of computer-heads like Grayling." I can't see what one has got to do with the other? I am a scientist but I love painting and designing. I also love listening to music, going to the cinema and reading poetry. Otherwise, Olly84London has expressed my position superbly.

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USA

georgeat4:
That is an interesting dichotomy that you have set up -- but ultimately a false one.
1) The atheists on this thread also appeal to authority: Dawkins, Russell (often uncited - eg, the teacup), and Grayling himself.
2) The "evidence" cited by the atheists on this thread is often also an appeal to authority, in that they are leaning on the work of scientists -- work that they may not themselves understand, or have even read deeply about outside of the popular press -- and often this evidence is not even rejected by the Christians on the thread.
I do recognize that readerj writes above: "The fact that I haven't replicated the experiments myself misses the point - one of the strengths of the scientific method is that it pools the experience of thousands of people put together." However, Christianity also pools the work and experience of thousands of people. When Christians cite this body of work, it is called an appeal to authority. When atheists appeal to a body of work, it is called citing evidence.
3) To agree with the work of one authority over another (Dawkins over Lewis, Lewis over Dawkins), usually involves the reader applying reason to what they have read, and making a judgment based upon the reason and evidence of the one who claims authority.
4) Ultimately, none of us has sprung forth fully formed without any influences -- simply because many of the atheists on the thread are choosing not to cite sources (or are unreflective, and unaware of what their sources are), does not mean that they are not leaning on an underlying authority. To quote alanpav, above:"The truth is that ALL of us form our beliefs, including atheism, based on our total life-experience, of which our early upbringing is one constituent, and not necessarily the most important. Other elements of our life-experience are our reading, our friendships, listening to what others have to say (especially those we trust), our understanding of science, and so on. Rationality tries to make sense of all this..."
5) So while the difference you note is, I believe, superficial, I would like to suggest that it is best to be aware of / acknowledge who you accept as authoriative -- otherwise, how can you subject your authorities to reasoned analysis?

Mujokan: It would be flattering to consider that I was not the kind of Christian that Grayling was talking about, but he seems not to recognize more than one way of arriving at religious beliefs. Nor does he seem to recognize more than one way of arriving at the self-identifying label of "atheist."
Ultimately, I'm afraid that I would say that there are some atheists, just as there are some Christians, who believe what they believe because they want / need to, and who do not rely on reason to get there. I would not suggest that all atheists believe irrationally -- most in this thread have examined their reasons for not believing closely, and argue it well. (Not convincingly, to my mind, but the threads that they choose to follow, for the most part, follow a logical chain.) But there are other atheists, both off this thread and on it, who are simply defensive, holding their hands over their ears and loudly singing "lalala" in stereotypical "fundamentalist" fashion.

carlweathers:
I was not referring to evangelists, I was referring to evangelicals.
But that was probably unfair, and I should really have said "fundamentalism" -- there are handfuls of reasonable evangelical Christians.
Evangelists are Christians who tell other people about Christianity (or who purport to do so). Evangelists practice evangelism.
Evangelicals, depending upon whom you talk to, are either Christians who are indistinguishable from fundamentalist Christians (who believe in such things as Biblical infallibility), or are Christians who believe that the Bible is the most important witness to Christianity, but not necessarily a literally infallible witness. Evangelicals practice evangelicalism. My apologies to anyone who self-identifies as evangelical, but who rejects fundamentalism.
Evangelicals and evangelists both encompass broad spectrums of beliefs. Fundamentalism is more narrowly defined, and would have been the better word choice.

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GBR

The problem with articles (and discussions) of this nature is in defining what is meant by God, and what is meant by Atheist.

An atheist can be somebody who does not believe in God's existence (a non-admitter) or somebody who actively believes in the non-existence of God (a denier - I do not use the word pejoratively, merely descriptively).

Similarly, "God" could mean anything from the Jewish/Greek/Rooman active interveners in human affairs to the Hindu/Bhuddist sleeping consciousnesses.

One common theme amongst the deniers, however, is an assumption held by some that unless something can be proved to exist, it can be presumed not to exist (ie, that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence).

This used to be called "logical positivism" and was quite fashionable during the 1920s and 1930s: but it hasn't really stood the test of time - primarily because some things are known to exist but which could not be proved to exist to somebody who has not experienced the phenomonon for himself.

I therefore pose an example I have put in a different thread:

If I were a blind man, and asked you to prove to me the existence of the colour red (or even to describe its properties to me), you would find that impossible to do. It being a phenomenon whose existence cannot be proved, or even described, to somebody who has not experienced it for himself.

Would that inability (on your part) to prove the existence of the colour red mean that I would be entitled to assume the non-existence of the colour red? And if I did thereafter assert that there was no such thing as the colour red (because it could not be proved (to me) to exist), would that not simply be a statement of belief?

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GBR

So, if a God were necessary to explain the existence of the universe, what explains the existence of God? Or is it suddenly okay to assume that he came "out of nothing", unlike matter and energy, which require an act of creation.
It has been said before, but simply because my knowledge has gaps, it doesn't mean that it is alright to fill them in with any old story.

I guess what irritates me most about believers is the assertion that their faith offers them moral guidance, which "atheists" are supposed to be lacking. Doing something or not because "God says so" is just intellectual laziness; it requires little insight and very little application of moral reasoning. That there is such a thing as moral reasoning and that man has an obligation to apply it, has been abundantly argued by humanist thinkers over hundreds of years. That many professed non-believers are too lazy or too stupid or too selfish to use moral reasoning in guiding their actions, and thus commit crimes, is no argument against the humanist position. The many crimes committed by believers over the millenia right up to those upright Christians Tony Blair and George Bush, has presumably not persuaded them to give up their faith. It is a matter of taking full responsibility for one's ethics and therefore one's actions.

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] "Have courage to use your own understanding!"--that is the motto of enlightenment" (from What is Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant, 1784)

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Madhatter - "How about either
a) It (the resurrection) didn't happen or
b) It didn't happen
Has it ever happened again? No.
Is there any expectation that it will happen again No.
The odds are fairly heavily stacked that it didn't happen as described in the bible."
So what you are saying is: if resurrections were a fairly common experience, the resurrection of Jesus would also be likely and you would become a Christian?? The whole point is that Jesus'resurrection was unique! If they were a common experience, Jesus would be nothing special.

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GBR

redshrink

"So, if a God were necessary to explain the existence of the universe, what explains the existence of God? Or is it suddenly okay to assume that he came "out of nothing", unlike matter and energy, which require an act of creation."

The ancient Egyptian creation story (taken and re-written by the Hebrews) was of a state of chaos without form or substance which (or part of which) became self-conscious, thereby enabling "order" (the physical universe) to be created out of chaos.

(It is a story which chimes surprisingly well with modern Quantum Theory - which requires a conscious observer to collapse "chaos" (quantum indeterminacies) into "order" (the physical universe).)

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FRA

WheatFromChaff,
"If I were a blind man, and asked you to prove to me the existence of the colour red (or even to describe its properties to me), you would find that impossible to do." Of course one can prove the existence of the colour red or any other colour to a blind man. But he needs to understand a bit of physics. Without that understanding it truely is impossible.

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WheatFromChaff
Good post, ...the colour red.
Taking the analogy literally, 'filled with holes' as it may be, am no scientist:
None of us can see much anyway, we only see through the 'optical window' as far as i know, what passes though the atmosphere fairly neatly ( 'neatly' is technical term )
we don't see ultraviolet though, we are all blind to that, to assert that there is no such colour as 'ultraviolet' or even 'radio' is not the same as saying there is 'no such frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum'.
Taking the analogy quixotically:
What any of us think about red or ultraviolet matters not a jot to a bumble bee.

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GBR

WheatFromChaff : "If I were a blind man, and asked you to prove to me the existence of the colour red (or even to describe its properties to me), you would find that impossible to do. It being a phenomenon whose existence cannot be proved, or even described, to somebody who has not experienced it for himself."

This is utter nonsense. The colour red is a real thing that actually exists and like all non-imaginary things is relatively simply to describe. A blind physicist can understand the existence of light, presumably by reading braille versions of physics texts.

This is the difference between thinking people like the 100% atheists and the witless 99.99% atheists like you who twist and turn but have nothing but empty rhetoric to support their weird sky pixie delusions.


PastorX : "The first generation of Christians believed because of first hand testimony of a number of people, all of whom claimed to have personally seen and talked with Jesus after his death. Not a ghost Jesus, but an actual physically embodied Jesus. These eyewitnesses proved themselves trustworthy in other ways, which led others to trust them that they had indeed seen the Risen Christ as well."

Actually we know nothing of the sort as I suspect PastorX is in fact well aware. We know almost nothing at all about what the first few generations of Christians believed. What we know is what later generations wrote down hundreds of years after the events they purport to describe. These texts appear to be based on earlier texts that were themselves written a couple of generations after the events by people who had not even met these alleged "eye-witnesses".

The supposed testimony of the alleged eyewitnesses would not impress a court of law. You can imagine a barrister cross-examining the "Mary" character about how she failed to recognise her own son.

Only a religious person who has been conditioned to believe and is willing to suspend their critical faculties could possibly take this stuff seriously. That and young children or the educationally very subnormal of course.

They are no more plausible than the myths about King Arthur, one of which has a character called the Green Knight who magically comes back to life. This miraculous resurrection is observed by reliably eye-witnessed in the well educated court of King Arthur.

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GBR

One of the earlier theories was that the universe first consisted of body parts and bits of plant life etc, and that God cleverly put it all together like a jigsaw.

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GBR

icas

"Of course one can prove the existence of the colour red or any other colour to a blind man. But he needs to understand a bit of physics. Without that understanding it truely is impossible."

Assume that I am a blind man - present your proof. (You could firstly try describing it to me.)

bethersonton

"Good post, ...the colour red"

Thank you.

"we don't see ultraviolet though, we are all blind to that,"

But we only started looking for an ultraviolet (or infrared) because we are aware of colour. Suppose we had no concept of colour - would we even have *looked* for an "ultraviolet"?

"Taking the analogy quixotically:
What any of us think about red or ultraviolet matters not a jot to a bumble bee."

Prove it:-)

WoollyMindedLiberal

"This is utter nonsense. The colour red is a real thing that actually exists and like all non-imaginary things is relatively simply to describe."

Go on then. Describe it.

"A blind physicist can understand the existence of light, presumably by reading braille versions of physics texts."

I see. And would the fact that he can likewise read the Bible in braille prove to him the existence of God?

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Pastor X

"However, Christianity also pools the work and experience of thousands of people. When Christians cite this body of work, it is called an appeal to authority. When atheists appeal to a body of work, it is called citing evidence."

There's a crucial difference though - science generally pools the work and experience of people who are encouraged to challenge the status quo. Religion excludes or censors the work of those who challenge the status quo.

I don't think all believers are irrational or deluded. There are still mysteries left - in the subtle emergent properties of the human mind, and in the unknown prior to the big bang. Where there's no evidence, you can believe what you like so long as you let me do the same.

What I do argue with is insistence on the literal truth of sacred texts in the face of evidence to the contrary (from the sciences and other spiritual texts). And despite the contributions of some people on this thread who seem to be thinking believers, there are still far too many people out there who take the bible literally.

E.g. believing that the grand canyon has to be 6000 years old rather than 2 billion years, because that's when the bible says the earth was created.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/06/science/sciencespecial2/06canyon.html?ex=1286251200&en=100194700c0c7d2c&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

(My favourite bit of that article is the "biologist's ditty about the amphioxus, a fishlike invertebrate in the human evolutionary line, to the tune of "It's a Long Way From Tipperary":

It's a long way from amphioxus - it's a long way to us.
It's a long way from amphioxus to the meanest human cuss.
Goodbye fins and gill slits,
Hello lungs and hair!
It's a long, long way from amphioxus,
But we come from there."

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USA

Woolymindedliberal wrote:
"We know almost nothing at all about what the first few generations of Christians believed. What we know is what later generations wrote down hundreds of years after the events they purport to describe. These texts appear to be based on earlier texts that were themselves written a couple of generations after the events by people who had not even met these alleged "eye-witnesses"."

This is not actually the case. For example, there is a great deal of evidence that most of the letters attributed to Paul were actually written by Paul, who said that he was an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ. These would have been written about 20-30 years after the experiences he describes. In one letter he refers by name to a number of eyewitnesses which he says are still living, which would have allowed his first readers to check it out for themselves.
The Gospel attributed to Mark, for another, is generally dated between 65-75 AD, which is to say only about 30-50 years after the resurrection. Which is not a particularly long time -- the author could have been in a position either to be an eyewitness, or to have personally known eyewitnesses.

Now, it is true that we do not have any autograph (first, original) copies of these manuscripts to carbon date, etc. Neither do we have any autographs of Plato, eg. So in that sense, we do not actually have anything written by Plato, either. The dearth of 2000 year old paper and parchment is not a particularly new insight. Neither is there anything unique about the fact that manuscripts of Biblical books were copied by hand for generations. That was the only way to get any kind of book for centuries. What is unique is the immense number of early manuscripts that we have for Biblical books. Many classical works are attested to only by one or two copies made hundreds of years later. However, there are many early manuscripts of New Testament books. If you have several copies of a book dating to the early 3rd century, all painstakingly reproduced by hand, then it isn't possible that the book was written the day before.

There is much more to this argument, but I cannot agree with woolymindedliberal's suggestion that we know very little about the early church.

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GBR

WheatFromChaff : "Go on then. Describe it."

Its clear to see who was at the end of the queue when brains were being handed out. The analogy of separating good wheat from useless chaff is rather appropriate in your instance Mr Chaff. No blind man is going to have much trouble seeing through your rhetoric.


WheatFromChaff : "I see. And would the fact that he can likewise read the Bible in braille prove to him the existence of God?"

There are none so blind as those who will not see. A work of fiction is still a work of fiction whether it is in print, braille or by word of mouth.

A blind man unable to understand the physics of light couldf reassure himself as to the existence of red light. He could find eye witnesses who could testify as to the existence of light and confirm they were seeing it. He could cross-check it with other witnesses and compare their testimonies. Lastly he could test the veracity of his test subjects with a series of "double-blind" (what else?) trials to confirm that they were reporting upon the same phenomena.

Thats the thing about reality, its not all that hard to explore and discover things that really exist. Its those non-existent mythical sky pixies that defy proof.....

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USA

Hearkening back to an earlier comment, the peppered moth argument for evolution was debunked, like, 20 years ago by creationists. Can you explain to me precisely what NEW genetic information was created by beneficial mutations in order to create a black peppered moth from a white one? Answer: there was none. The fact is that there were both black and white moths in circulation, and the population percentage thereof simply adjusted to the environmental conditions. And even if that weren't the case, a mutation resulting in a LOSS of genetic information could have precipitated a color shift. Virtually all genetic differences between related organisms in the wild are a result of a loss of genetic information from a common ancestor -- proof for "devolution", not evolution. All the different types of cats, dogs, cows, finches, etc. -- they're all "specialized" organisms which have descended from an original common family, or "kind". This is totally consistent with a creation theory but not an evolution theory of origins.

Likewise, all the "superbugs" causing major headaches for antibiotics manufacturers are also routinely trotted out as proof for evolution, but again, devolution is what's occurring. These superbugs are in many ways defective and don't assimilate incoming materials properly -- thereby counteracting the work of antibiotics. In certain respects, they aren't as heathly as the original bacteria, but that just happens to pose a major health problem for us.

Anyway, I'm all for a hearty discussion of the latest proof for evolution, but talking about ancient, debunked arguments is rather silly. :)

Cheers, Jared

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GBR

WoollyMindedLiberal

"Go on then. Describe it [the colour red]."

"Its clear to see who was at the end of the queue when brains were being handed out. The analogy of separating good wheat from useless chaff is rather appropriate in your instance Mr Chaff. No blind man is going to have much trouble seeing through your rhetoric."

I didn't think you would be able to.

"I see. And would the fact that he can likewise read the Bible in braille prove to him the existence of God?"

"A blind man unable to understand the physics of light couldf reassure himself as to the existence of red light. He could find eye witnesses who could testify as to the existence of light and confirm they were seeing it."

No doubt, especially if he happened to live in certain parts of the US, he could also find witnesses who could testify as to the existence of God, and confirm that they were full of the holy spirit.

Would that constitute proof of the existence of God?

"Lastly he could test the veracity of his test subjects with a series of "double-blind" (what else?) trials to confirm that they were reporting upon the same phenomena."

And how would he (by himself) be able to devise or set up an experiment to do that? (And even if he could - suppose some of his subjects were likewise blind? or, indeed, colour blind?)

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GBR

PastorX : "This is not actually the case. For example, there is a great deal of evidence that most of the letters attributed to Paul were actually written by Paul, who said that he was an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ. These would have been written about 20-30 years after the experiences he describes. In one letter he refers by name to a number of eyewitnesses which he says are still living, which would have allowed his first readers to check it out for themselves."

As even you admit, 'Paul' himself had never met 'Jesus' which explains why he was such a fervent believer. The experience which is reported as convincing him would seem a lot like an epiletic seizure to a modern reader.


PastorX : "The Gospel attributed to Mark, for another, is generally dated between 65-75 AD, which is to say only about 30-50 years after the resurrection."

Interestingly the earliest versions of that Gospel contained no account of the resurrection as I'm sure the good Pastor knows. Sadly we do not have the original versions of these documents which might tell us a lot about the beliefs of the early church.

But even assuming that the copies we have a reasonably accurate copies of the originals they were only set down long after the events and by people who were not there. This is not even hearsay 'evidence' let alone any form of 'proof' of anything.

Even in this information rich society where facts are easy to check and detailed written contemporary histories abound we still find myths. In the UK there is a persistent myth about the children's TV show "Captain Pugwash" that even those who saw it as children believe in. The science of memory is well understood and it is simple to implant false memories into people. In the traumatic times of the Jewish uprising against the Romans and their supression of the revolt its hardly suprising that people's recollections of longago events would be muddled and coloured by their experiences since.

To claim that the Gospels provide 'proof' or 'evidence' of what really happened rather than what some people believed happened is bizarre and foolish. I can understand your motivation but its hardly dictated by a dispassionate interest in history.

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GBR

WheatFromChaff : "No doubt, especially if he happened to live in certain parts of the US, he could also find witnesses who could testify as to the existence of God, and confirm that they were full of the holy spirit.

Would that constitute proof of the existence of God?"

Like your 'reasoning' these witnesses would be unlikely to survive much critical questioning. Other witnesses could be found to testify that their Sky Pixie is indeed fictional. Convincing witnesses for the non-existence of the colour red are thin on the ground even in places of worship!

A scientifically inclined blind man could study the theories of Hooke, Newton, Einstein and Plank to learn the nature of light. He could study the field of electronics to learn how LEDs work and he could build a light detector.

WheatFromChaff : Go on then. Describe it [the colour red]."

Electromagnetic radiation with a frequency of 428570 GHz which is a wavelength of 7 x 10-5 cm.

Happy now?

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WoollyMindedLiberal - Your scepticism regarding the writings of St. Paul should be weighed against the eminent historian H. von Campenhausen, an expert in interpreting ancient documents, who wrote that the Resurrection account in I Corinthians 15 "fulfils all the requirements of historical reliability". Are you an expert historian? If not, I suggest you respect the opinions of one who is.

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GBR

" So what you are saying is: if resurrections were a fairly common experience, the resurrection of Jesus would also be likely and you would become a Christian??"

OK I will, but do let me know when the next one happens!

"The whole point is that Jesus'resurrection was unique! If they were a common experience, Jesus would be nothing special. "

This depends on accepting that there was a resurrection. I have said there is no evidence of the resurrection of Jesus nor of resurrections in general.

You are of course free to assert that it happened but absent of any evidence that it did I think I'll stick with the Scots verdict...Not Proven.

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MYS

There's both an absence of evidence for God, and also evidence of absence (such as the extent of suffering we have to deal with). However, religious types often resort to defining God so that no evidence either for or against His existence is possible.

With regard to evolution and "devolution"... There is no such thing as "devolution" in evolutionary theory, since evolution just means change in response to changing circumstances, and doesn't mean things are getting "better". That's a value judgement from a human point of view. It's true that almost all DNA or RNA changes are going to take the form of a shifting around of information, rather than the actual number of genes increasing, because such increases in the number of genes are pretty serious changes, and therefore will only rarely be viable.

But you can write a computer program to simulate natural selection and see it at work. We can breed animals by hand to have certain characteristics. I don't know why God would take the time in the natural world to constantly intervene and somehow make sure all changes were "devolutionary" from a human point of view. What's his incentive? Why not just let the process follow its natural mathematical course? If you have a mathematical proof that all evolutionary algorithms result in some kind of loss of information, please present it to a mathematics journal and you may win the Nobel Prize.

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

The "describe the colour red" thing is an interesting philosophical puzzle, but not relevant to the existence of God as described in major religions. I think Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations" is the best place to go for discussion of this topic. The conclusion is (sort of) that you can't know what someone else sees as red; but it doesn't actually matter in any practical sense. Kind of different to the existence of God, since supposedly we have to kowtow to him on topics such as gay marriage.

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Jared - "All the different types of cats, dogs, cows, finches, etc. -- they're all "specialized" organisms which have descended from an original common family, or "kind". This is totally consistent with a creation theory but not an evolution theory of origins."

Why is this not consistent with evolution?

Is your argument that there is something special about the original common family other than being the shared ancestor? In the case of the finches, the original common ancestors are the finches that arrived at the Galapagos islands and managed to breed. But there's nothing intrinsically special about them apart from the fact that they made it to the different islands and managed to breed. They're not cookie cutters, they're just cookies that got put back on the dough and traced round, and then this was repeated over several generations.

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USA

To respond to the argument that evolution is simply change over time, that isn't what Darwinian evolution entails. Darwinian evolution requires genetic information to increase over time, new structures to form, existing structures to morph into different structures that are equally or additionally useful, more complex bodily functions to arise, etc. There is no solid proof that random mutations can produce such a "progess" of complexity over time. Hence my description of what we actually observe to be devolution -- i. e., a loss of broad complexity into a combination of specific information and "noise" (genetic load which over time will cause a lack of population robustness and eventually genetic death).

On another topic, the veracity of the New Testament is one of the most verifiable facts of history. Within a single generation of Jesus and his followers, manuscripts depicting his divinity and resurrection were to be found all over the Roman Empire. The idea that those concepts arose much later in time has been shown to be patently false. If you want to argue that Jesus and his followers were deluded nutballs, you can certainly do so, but the argument that the New Testament was written by people after the fact with no eye-witness accounts and records just doesn't hold any water.

Cheers, Jared

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SVN

Jared said:
*Darwinian evolution requires genetic information to increase over time, new structures to form, existing structures to morph into different structures that are equally or additionally useful, more complex bodily functions to arise, etc.*
Where exactly Darwin said that?

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Madhatter - you say there is no evidence of Jesus' resurrection. The eminent historian H. von Campenhausen concluded that the resurrection account in I Corinthians 15 "fulfils all the requirements of historical reliability" (see his book Tradition and Life in the Church). You may as well say that there is no evidence that the Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C.; do you need to see it with your own eyes?

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MYS

From Scientific American magazine:

"Another misconception is that increasing complexity is the necessary outcome of evolution. In fact, decreasing complexity is common in the record of evolution. For example, the lower jaw in vertebrates shows decreasing complexity, as measured by the numbers of bones, from fish to reptiles to mammals. (Evolution adapted the extra jaw bones into ear bones.) Likewise, ancestral horses had several toes on each foot; modern horses have a single toe with a hoof.

Evolution, not devolution, selected for those adaptations."

http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=00071863-683B-1C72-9EB7809EC588F2D7

If you were to take any undergraduate course in biology, you would discover that evolution has no particular preference for increasing or decreasing complexity of phenotype. Both are quite possible, and fully supported by evidence, I'm afraid.

Also, while mutations involve random changes, the broader process of evolution is not random, but rather a self-organizing system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organization

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GBR

I'm not a believer myself, but I still think that you would have to count the works of the new testament as evidence (of the ressurection and certain miracles at least), even if that evidence is not particularly strong.

Its easy too dismiss ancient works as pure fiction, but they often prove to have a greater degree of historical truth than many would expect.

Homer's works were thought by may to be pure fiction, after all they lacked writen versions for far longer than the biblical accounts, but a surprising amount of the information held with in them has been proven by the archaeological record. E.g. the location of many of the cities mentioned within it, even though they had disppeared by the time it was finally writen down. Of course no definitive proof of the trojan war itself has yet be found.

This is also true of many other mythological accounts which were once dismissed as pure fiction, but are now deemed to have some basis in fact and indeed are important in our understanding of ancient history. And the bible story comes from a much later period, indeed many years after the first great histories were writen.

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GBR

@alanpav

Do you also believe in the resurrection of Elvis Presley?
The evidence is more compelling - thousands of people have
claimed to see him after his death whereas only a few claimed
to have seen Christ. Determining whether someone was dead or
simply in a coma was actually quite difficult before the advent of modern science. So we can say with more confidence that Elvis actually was dead than we can for Christ. Given the evidence for Elvis's resurrection is stronger we are logically committeed to believing one of the following a) Both Elvis and Jesus were resurrected b) Elvis was resurrected but not Jesus or c) Neither was resurrected.

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MYS

oh, btw, if anyone bothered clicking the self-organization link in my previous post...

Though that page does talk about increasing complexity, it's referring to the way self-organizing open systems can beat the second law of thermodynamics, rather than meaning all evolutionary changes must increase complexity. Anyway, I'm going to bed.

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GBR

Jared your earlier suggestion that some evolutionary examples have been debunked by creationists is, I'm afraid to tell you, jst plain wrong. They amount to straws that have been grasped by those who want evolution to be wrong and either lack the analytical skills or knowledge to see how they are being misled.

I am happy to comprehensively expose what you were saying a couple of hours ago. Right now, I'll not regres the discussion and take apart your most recent post.

Evolution is not change over time, it is better describes as the effects of natural selection generating modification on the opportunity of descent. Darwin specifically had no knowledge of genetics and to suggest that his theory is linked to genetics exposes that you have received your understanding of evolution from those who want you to reject it. Likewise the strange idea that evolution requires an increase in information. This is used as the basis for the supposed 'information paradox', an entirely nonsensical attempt to contradict evolution that is trotted out again by those who either don't understand what they're saying or who choose not to analyse it. A simple, and rather obvious rebuttal is that genetic change takes place - an A-T pair switching with a C-G pair for example. There is no change in the quantity of information, just the type of information. This means a change in protein production in the organism, leading to changes in physiology or anatomy. Likewise genetic drift, where as a consequence of environment, the organism may over several generaions change colour. There is no reduction or ingrease in information, merely a change in the rates of occurence in the gene pool. You also confuse simplification of phenotype with reduction in quantity of information in the genotype.

There is solid proof of that random genetic changes cause phenotype variation that can be acted upon by environmental factors (variation in predation, for example) that over time can produce changes in a population. This is evolution. Mostly the changes are small, occasionally large, sometimes composite over many dozens or thousands of generations, sometimes rapid.

What you describe as 'devolution' is a regressive form of inbreeding. It is bad, and does often lead to extinction. It what we're worried about with endangered species, the gene pool is so small that negative, regressive traits become more apparent.

The New Teatament is not verifiable unless you use wilfull interpretation of circumstantial evidence. You could use the same process to 'prove' the existence of Sherlock Holmes. There was a city called London and a time called 'Victorian'. There is a road caled Baker Street, and we've all seen violins!

If you are writing a story, and want to make it believable, you seed it with historical references. The specifics of the story have no supporting evidence. No tradition of freeing a prisoner at passover, no wedding documents from Cana, no census, and no requirement in other Roman cencuses (censi?) to go to the city of your birth. I could go on.

There were hundreds of accounts of a godman in the Roman provinces, notably Judea in the first century AD., of this you are quite correct. Of course there were the same stories in circulation in the firt centruy BC as well. Indeed all the components of the New Testament predate Judea and the Roman invasion. The Christian churches have always recognised this and have alweays relied upon the "Satan knew Jesus was coming and sought to sow doubt by telling the stories centuries before in the forms of Dionyius, Horus (for the many other godmen who follow the same patterns and stories, please look at earlier posts)."

So to say "...the New Testament is one of the most verifiable facts of history." Is just wrong and daft and as it so easily shown to be wrong makes you look as if you are unable to analyse an argument for yourself. But then the other things you said about evolution shows that, too. I think you listen to people who want you to believe them, and you want to hear things that support your beliefs. They're saying things that aren't true (either deliberately or because they, too, are misguided or incapable of critical analysis) And you are swallowing it all without question.

It's a shame you're not more like PastorX. I disagree with him, too, but at least he thinks about what he believes and doesn't trot out nonsense that can be taken apart by the average high school student - though possibly not one in the bible-belt I fear.

alanpav. however much you wish it to be otherwise, there is no historical evidence of the crucifiction of Christ, no account of it outside of the bible. Of crucifictions, yes.

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GBR

Incidentally, Jared, H. von Campenhausen was not an historian he was a theologian. He was a true believer. He would say that, wouldn't he. He found what he wanted to find. And you quote him because he seems to support your beliefs, You accept his statements uncritically.

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GBR

I apologise, my last comment "Incidentally, Jared, H. von Campenhausen was not an historian he was a theologian. He was a true believer. He would say that, wouldn't he. He found what he wanted to find. And you quote him because he seems to support your beliefs, You accept his statements uncritically." should have been aimed to alanpav

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MYS

Oh yeah, one more thing...

The Bible account of the resurrection of Jesus is a piece of evidence in its favour. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of such evidence, you are not "taking it on faith" but have rational reasons for your belief. This doesn't have anything to do with the argument Grayling was talking about, whereby religious types say that atheists have irrational faith in the non-existence of God (of the same sort as the faithful have in His existence). So it's off-topic :) Pot calling the kettle black here of course! Just wanted to make that point.

(As to the strength of that evidence, well, your mileage may vary.)

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MYS

Well, they are "taking the resurrection on faith" if they say that the biblical evidence is weak, but they don't care about that, they're believing it anyway... The point is that there's a difference between rational and irrational belief in God. Atheists don't (or at least don't need to) have an irrational belief in the non-existence of God. We get there via the evidence, which is what Grayling was trying to say in his debunking of "the faith of atheism".

Anyway I really need to get to bed I think...

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GBR

i find the argument that religion is the cause of all the world's problems extremely weak. Stalin and Mao were total atheists but it didnt stop them being the two most evil, murderous men in history. Why can't fundamentalist atheists just accept that some people believe in a God and that doesnt make them the spawn of Satan (who doesnt exist of course) and that it is entirely reasonable to delude yourself in this way. As long as religion doesnt infringe on the rights of others I think people like you should devote your energies to more pressing concerns such as global warming and poverty. After all only atheists care about these things right?

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GBR

Quite right, Anthony. I can still remember my own RE teacher, an RC priest, saying that atheists are against God, and you can't be against someone who doesn't exist, so atheists are not really atheists. QED. I got very angry about that 45 years ago. The false argument is still alive. I have lost hope that it will ever die.

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WheatFromChaff, some people seem to be 'seeing red' with your ontological hypotheticals, you could have had us smelling of roses if we had synesthesia.
red is 'S'
have a good one!
can't sit here content with a belief in the existence of pubs.

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GBR

Here we are on our little overcrowded planet, who are we, where did we come from and what happens when we die? The questions will continue. We cannot agree if God exists or not. Religion was a method of control, the powerful God at the head of religious doctrine was manufactured to frighten and bring the population into the arms of the growing power of the church. OR ELSE. Religions cannot agree amongst each other and so much blood has been spilled in their name. We created a God and put our labels on him.....I say him but how do we know?
We are capable of so much more than we currently display and within our cynical, egoic shells there is something that existed before our births and will exist forever beyond our deaths. The source of this is the entity we call God, that makes us all part of this God. What is this God, it is neither man or woman, has none of our senses and cannot speak....what we see between each other is not the image of God. God is not vengeful, does not judge us and will not intervene in our 'play' on this world. Our tough, cynical outer self that argues and fights is our human aspect, our inner aspect is of God, untouched by the human experience we created and totally loving but covered up by our outer mask of who we think we are. Religion tries to explain itself and justify stories told by simple people, written by men and re-written by men in the persuit of power and control.
How do I know of God? I know.. It existence is proven to me, I am a healer, I have been healed myself, I have been beyond this world and met with 'dead' people...this is objective to me and subjective to you, but there are many thousands of others who have had the same experience. There is one thing that re-connects us to the entity we call God, that is love because love is the only thing that truly satisfies. Of course the scientists, theologans and cynics will dismiss this as rubbish or new age fluffy nonesence...I am nobody but I know and am happy with what I know. I am not religious but I believe in God, the discussion will rage on, but in the end we all find truth. Ah well......

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USA

bostjan:
I was not accusing you of going off the rails. Sorry if it seemed that way. I was just wondering what had happened.

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GBR

AS Catswhiskers wrote (290585)
"Faith doesn't need proof to take the first step. It is independent of man-made circumstances. Its scope is wider. Atheisim relies on man's limited efforts of comprehension. It's a bit like: although I see two legs, I don't know if I can walk (until I actually do it). Gosh, any believer has been around the block ten times, before an atheist gets going, at all. It's in the nature of the two groups."

I think in actual fact the problem is that while the believers may have walked round the same block 10 times the atheists will actually have crossed the road, walked down a few other streets and headed off into the park (or a pub) rather than just spin round and round and round getting nowhere

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SVN

Leila-
I can see that. Thank you again.

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USA

bostjan, I didn't mean to insult anybody when I discussed how Christians view spiritual experiences people have apart from interaction with the Judeo-Christian God. I was simply stating what Christians believe including ones who have left their former spiritual traditions. I apologize if it came across as an insult.

On the evolution argument, I'm not really interested in playing the semantics game. And the high-school biology/bible-belt (I live in Northern California, BTW) quips are funny but irrelevant. Evolution DOES require a total increase in complexity -- i.e. molecules-to-man. Talking about evolution as simply horizontal "change" with no requirement of increasing complexity is a clever way of obscuring the real problems: how did we get here at all from some dead molecules billions of years ago? How did DNA arise? How did biological machines (gears, motors, transports, etc.) get put together and why? How did several different and unrelated eyes arise independently in the animal kingdom? How did a blood clotting mechanism come to be? And so on and so forth.

Your human body is a bewildering array of extremely complex machinery, communication infrastructures, and free agents all working together in a cohesive, disciplined, programmed manner. Any time any of these bits start malfunctioning, there's a problem, and we all know the problems -- heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, sickle-cell anemia, etc. The evidence in front of our eyes is that life starts at a place of expertly-designed purpose and then, left to its own devices, begins to deteriorate. Evolution requires an opposite trend over time -- something we have yet to see actually occurring, or in fact that it ever occurred at all.

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GBR

" You may as well say that there is no evidence that the Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C.; do you need to see it with your own eyes? "

What apart from the Roman artefacts that have been found, accounts by Roman historians which back up the archaeological evidence?

The only 'evidence' you can provide is assertions by members of a religious cult as to the truth of their own cult

Is there single shred of evidence from any source, other than the bible, for the resurrection?

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GBR

chrish: [I'm not a believer myself, but I still think that you would have to count the works of the new testament as evidence (of the ressurection and certain miracles at least), even if that evidence is not particularly strong.

Its easy too dismiss ancient works as pure fiction, but they often prove to have a greater degree of historical truth than many would expect.

Homer's works were thought by may to be pure fiction, after all they lacked writen versions for far longer than the biblical accounts, but a surprising amount of the information held with in them has been proven by the archaeological record. E.g. the location of many of the cities mentioned within it, even though they had disppeared by the time it was finally writen down. Of course no definitive proof of the trojan war itself has yet be found.

This is also true of many other mythological accounts which were once dismissed as pure fiction, but are now deemed to have some basis in fact and indeed are important in our understanding of ancient history. And the bible story comes from a much later period, indeed many years after the first great histories were writen.]

thoughtful words, thankyou. the new testament (and many of the documents later removed from it) does indeed constitute evidence of a kind - but not of Christ's actions or divinity.

you mention homer and rightly state that much of what he wrote has been substantiated by archaeological findings even though the cities involved no longer existed at the time he wrote. however, while archaeology might one day confirm the existence and sacking of troy, what it will never do is prove that achilles was dipped in the Styx (let alone the existence of the Styx), that he was immortal if not wounded on his foot, that the war was started because paris took helen, and so on. that is the crux of the mythology, as opposed to history, that homer wrote about.

there may be archaelogical and archival evidence of the places and (some of the) events in the new testament - what archaeology (or anything else for that matter) will never prove is that jesus walked on water, that he fed the five thousand, that he turned water into wine, that he raised lazarus, that he healed lepers, that he died on the cross, that he was resurrected, that he argued with the lenders, that he drove out demons, and above all, that he was god made man and/or the son of god.

if that is not necessary for the christian faith, then the christian faith really is as nothing - any more than ghandi's pronouncements constitute a faith for those who agree. and if it is necessary for christian faith, then the "evidence" offered by the bible is essentially irrelevant to the basic "truth" of christianity.

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GBR

A question for the Faithful:

A person walks up to your house and knocks on the door. You open the door and the person says "I am the Lord your God and I want you to give me �5 for a taxi."

As your belief is based on faith and not evidence and you have no knowledge of God's infinite wisdom do you give God a fiver? If not, why not? After all, you can't require proof, which is the thinking of an atheist.

By the way I am the Lord your God and I'll shortly be asking for your bank details. As my son told you "It is far easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." so I'd like to help you, the Faithful, to enter my kingdom by making you a little less rich. You've probably met my sales team in America "The Holy Church of please give generously for my hooker and cocaine fund".

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GBR

AndrewThomas: Grayling's points are pretty standard debunking stuff. Philosophy of religion has met them all before and dealt with them - in a civilised, balanced spirit which is not (of course) returned. What's behind this incredible, almost pathological, anger he and Dawkins go in for? Of course there's no conclusive proof of the existence of God, but there are strong indications. New discoveries in science (some of which you mention) do seem to lend support to some of the classical 'proofs', e.g the teleological argument that the universe appears to be structured as if waiting for consciousness to evolve. Randomness, which is part of that structure, far from making this less likely, might help to explain how it is that consciousness should be accompanied by free will. Grayling et al of course dismiss religion as a prop - their intellectual hatred leaves them with no time to reflect on the terrifying meaninglessness of a life without the possibility of faith - but it is not fear that actuates most people with a religious faith, it's the flow of positive feeling towards others and the world that comes with the conviction that at the heart of everything is the creative and healing power of love.

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GBR

I haven't read through all the comments on this blog - far too many, so apologies if i'm repeating.

Isn't faith itself some kind of proof of an existence of god? It isn't something that can be measured or quanitified other then by the measure of the sheer amount of people who have faith. All these people passionately believe in some kind of higher entity or creator and I find it hard to militantly denounce this as superstition or fairy tales.

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Jared - "Your human body is a bewildering array of extremely complex machinery, communication infrastructures, and free agents all working together in a cohesive, disciplined, programmed manner."

Including the appendix?

I'll grant you the human body is complex, and it works pretty effectively, but it's rather a jury-rigged system. It's more like a game of consequences than a shakespeare sonnet. If a God designed it, he must have been a bit distracted... or constantly tinkering with the blueprints between one generation and the next to find out what worked best.

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GBR

evilpooky: [I haven't read through all the comments on this blog - far too many, so apologies if i'm repeating.

Isn't faith itself some kind of proof of an existence of god? It isn't something that can be measured or quanitified other then by the measure of the sheer amount of people who have faith. All these people passionately believe in some kind of higher entity or creator and I find it hard to militantly denounce this as superstition or fairy tales.]

this argument is absurd. it is not the possibility of a "higher entity" or "creator" that that is the problem, it is the specifics. the differences between the beliefs of Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc are not superficial. they are substantial. even between denominations we find unreconcilable differences. what exactly is the faith that these people share? it is an illusion. their faith is entirely subjective and personal and cannot be shown to be a collective experience. even two people from the same branch of the same branch of the same branch of the same branch of the same church of the same denomination of the same religion will have different views on their "faith".

yes, they all believe in some kind of higher entity, but it's perfectly reasonable to describe it as superstition or fairy tales because even the faithful - calvinists, for example - would and do denounce the beliefs of others - catholics for example - as superstition and fairy tales.

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GBR

@Opalbugleg

If you believe that Graylings points can be easily be refuted then you would do us all a service by actually refuting them.
Personally I find it bizarre that you infer 'pathological
anger', Brisk, robust, perhaps a trace of impatience but
angry? You seem to be reading a different article from
the one I am.
A life without religious faith is neither terrifying nor meaningless. In my view it is the very finitude implict in a non-religious viewpoint which is the condition for the possibility of meaning. It is an everlasting life in which nothing has any final consequence which strikes me as meaningless not one shaped by an awareness that one's death really is the end. Anyway I'm sure you would not that say an atheist's love for their children and the efforts they make to ensure their flourishing are in any sense meaningless simply because the atheist doesn't happen to subscribe to your metaphysical beliefs.

btw, if you think science can provide support for your theology I suggest you don't have a very clear conception of either science or theology. Both perhaps have their value but they are incommensurate in principle.

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GBR

in fact, further to my earlier post:

atheists do not need to refute the specifics of theism. every single atheist refutes every single deonomination of which they are not a part simply through their own doctrine. there is nothing that is agreed upon by theists other than a belief in the existence of a God. without concensus on the nature of that god and the rituals which go with it, as well as the laws which should accordingly be followed, then all that is left is god. and as atheists, all we ask is evidence of god.

not the truth of the message of jesus.

not the truth of the message of mohamed.

not the truth of the message of abraham.

you all refute each other's truths. we don't need to bother.

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GBR

"every single atheist refutes every single deonomination of which they are not a part"

should read:

"every single theist refutes every single deonomination of which they are not a part"

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GBR

Science consists of hypothesis;experiment;conclusion. I do not see how it is possible to devise an experiment to test the hypothesis of the existence or otherwise of a being defined as omnipotent. Consequently, I do not see how it is possible to arrive at a conclusion with regards to the existence of a deity on the basis of science. What religions talk is about is not how, what or where, but why we are here. About what is our purpose. Theism advances a rational explanation for there being a purpose: God. Atheism advances the opposite explantion: life is purposeless. Theism requires faith since proof that God exists would remove the purpose from life. Atheism should not require faith per se, but seems to require it in order to avoid a descent into existentialism. I do not see a way to prove either case. However, as the majority of Earth's population are theistically inclined, and evolution is survival of the fittest, then it follows that theism confers evolutionary advantages. Consequently, I do not see that it should be discouraged.
The following, incidentally, is a classic: "Look at children in nursery school: a real effort has to be made to teach them, later on, how to put up barriers between themselves and their classmates on the basis of gender, ethnicity and their parents' choice of superstition." In other words: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

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AUS

The NuclearOption - 292064

No, I would not give $5; you see with Faith in God comes discernment.

Faith, as I have stated before it there in all at birth, it is a natural quality. It can disappear for various reasons. It is as simple as believing that the sun comes up to-morrow. It, (again as I have said on other threads) in to-day's terminology can be referred to as 'positive thinking.'

A child can be taught about God, can be inducted into their parent's religion as they can be told and believe in Santa Claus. This is the kind of 'faith' that many on here question.

You need more than this natural Faith. You need to be blessed and then you have a true conscious belief in God. To get to that point is a long hard road. Christ gave the path, it was the path of self-denial and most do not wish to follow it; after all it is against 'self.'

But it is the road of 'agape' (brotherly love) as disveteran kept repeating on post after post.

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GBR

Alanpav: 'Madhatter - you say there is no evidence of Jesus' resurrection. The eminent historian H. von Campenhausen concluded that the resurrection account in I Corinthians 15 "fulfils all the requirements of historical reliability" (see his book Tradition and Life in the Church). You may as well say that there is no evidence that the Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C.; do you need to see it with your own eyes?'

Well, I hate to cast doubt upon the credentials as a historian of Mr Campenhausen. But would that be the First Letter to the Corinthians which was written by St Paul, a man who never met Jesus, and was nowhere near the place when the latter was supposedly resurrected?

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GBR

Thenuclearoption - haha.

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AUS

PS I made a mistake I should said 'as disveteran said on thread after thread.' No post on this thread!
That one knows the true path, may he/she receive the fullness of God's blessings.

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AUS

PS I made a mistake I should have typed 'as disveteran said on thread after thread.' No post on this thread!
That one knows the true path, may he/she receive the fullness of God's blessings.

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GBR

[Atheism advances the opposite explantion: life is purposeless.]

utterly unsubstantiated and hateful lies. this is about as offensive a statement as you could possible make. you are a hateful person.

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GBR

The reason Grayling is at odds with Church leaders is that they are using different definitions of the word 'faith'. Grayling is using it to mean belief without evidence. Unfortunately, this definition seems to have been invented by atheists (Dawkins?) for rhetorical purposes - it's not the meaning of the word as defined in dictionaries or how its been traditionally understood by religious believers.

The primary meaning of the word, e.g. in Chambers dictionary, is trust or confidence. In fact Chambers has nothing to say about evidence or proof at all - but a secondary definition that sometime appears, mentioned somewhere up this rather long thread, is belief without proof. This really just follows on logically from faith being trust - if I can prove something to be true then I don't need to exercise trust in it.

So by the usual definition of faith (which is surely what the Archbishops would have been using) if I believe something to be true, can't prove it, but have confidence I'm right, then I'm exercising faith. For instance, I believe science will eventually show how life got started from inanimate matter. I can't prove that science will, but I have confidence in science to answer scientific questions. I have faith in science.

So for an atheist, if you believe that God doesn't exist and can't prove it, you are in fact exercising faith. Sorry. The good news is that faith can be a good thing - nothing wrong with well placed trust or confidence.

I think an atheist might want to reply that since there is (supposedly) no evidence for God they can not believe in his existence by default. They don't actually need to believe in any propositions. This is true, but the position it describes is really one of agnosticism. If you simply don't have any evidence for God one way or the other then the logical position is to be neutral about his existence. As soon as you start to come up with reasons why he doesn't exist e.g. the problem of evil, then you are making a claim to knowledge, which requires justification and does in fact involve beliefs. If these beliefs are short of proof then they require trust or faith - but again there's nothing necessarily wrong with faith - it's not synonymous with irrationality.

Anyway, time for bed, or I'll be falling asleep during the sermon.

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GBR

"Theism advances a rational explanation for there being a purpose: God. Atheism advances the opposite explantion: life is purposeless."

False

"Theism requires faith since proof that God exists would remove the purpose from life."

So God is the 'explanation' for purpose but having evidence for this explanation means this explanation then somehow invalidates itself. What a curious idea.

"Atheism should not require faith per se, but seems to require it in order to avoid a descent into existentialism."

Descent? Existentialism is merely an attempt to describe human's ontological situation. What existentialism says is that we are 'condemned to freedom' i.e. we can never evade responsibility for our actions by appeal to authority because appealing to an authority is in itself a choice freely made. They therefore reject the idea that we can use God as an 'alibi' for our actions but it is certainly not impossible to be a Christian existentialist. You might think existentialism is wrong but it isn't some sort of doctrine of immorality that needs to be avoided. Nor do atheists need faith in order to live ethically.

"However, as the majority of Earth's population are theistically inclined, and evolution is survival of the fittest, then it follows that theism confers evolutionary advantages. Consequently, I do not see that it should be discouraged."
You don't understand the implications of the theory of evolution but never mind. Consider this - at one time the majority of the earth's population believed the earth was flat. Therefore believing the earth was flat conferred evolutionary advantages. We should therefore encourage the belief that the earth is flat.

@Landru - you are right about Chambers but other dictionaries do indeed define one of the main meanings of faith as belief without evidence. See Webster online or dictionary.com. Anyway Grayling's target is clearly
faith in the sense of belief without evidence not other senses such as trust, confidence or fidelity.

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MYS

Landru, let me just grab my Penguin English dictionary... "Faith 1. complete confidence or belief in something, esp without objective proof". If you look into the argument people use that runs "atheism requires faith", they are saying that both atheists and the religious believe in certain things without objective proof.

I don't get the argument that one cannot prove that God doesn't exist. I can prove that there is no elephant inside my fridge. I'm not restricted to saying "I can see no reason to believe there is an elephant in my fridge, and I can't believe it by default, so I am agnostic about the proposition". I can easily say "Elephants are too big to fit in my fridge" or "There are no footprints in the butter". These observations are not compatible with the presence of an elephant, and so I can say "I don't believe there is an elephant in my fridge".

Now, you could redefine the concept "elephant" and say "some elephants are really small" or "elephants move in mysterious ways". But we can cut off that route by observing actual elephants. Likewise, God is very well-described in the various texts of the religions. There are plenty of reasons to believe that those Gods don't exist as described and didn't do the things they are alleged to have done.

Of course, that doesn't stop folks from saying "the stuff in the Bible is just metaphors" or "in fact, God has to allow our great suffering due to XYZ", and basically turn God into a hyper-dimensional silent and invisible elephant in the fridge. There's no way to argue with someone who says "God exists, but whatever experiments or other observations you might make, you can gain no objective proof of his existence" ("for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing" as Douglas Adams put it).

The problem is that once you've made such a case, there is no reason to definitively take the existence of God as determining specific public policies like disallowing gay marriage or whatever. And some religious people really do want others to act as though their particular religious beliefs should determine what those others do.

Anyway, the point is that atheists don't believe in the non-existence of God without objective proof.

There are many religious people who don't need the above definition of faith either, and who believe in God for rational reasons (by their lights), such as reported testimony in the Bible (just like I rely on reported testimony in Scientific American) because they believe it is objectively trustworthy. Other religious people really do say "there is no good evidence for God, but I believe in him anyway". The archbishops say atheists also do this, but they are mistaken.

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AUS

To follow up on what Landru has outlined re definition of faith, I will give you my Dictionary's version:

1) strong or unshakeable belief in something esp. without proof.
2) a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
3) Christianity. trust in God and in his actions and promises.......I will not bore you further as there are 10 points of reference except number
5) complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy etc.

By the way does an atheist wish their partner to believe that they are 'faithful' without proof?


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NZL

Atheism is not a religion. The term merely denotes an absence of belief in a god or gods

Secular humanism is a religion,in that it deifies humankind.

Most religious people and most atheists share broadly similar ethical stances in that most people in both groups believe in working for the good of humanity.

Humanistic atheists acheive this position by ignoring the ethical nihilism implicit in their lack of belief.

In contrast, most religious believers acheive the same position by selective reading of their sacred texts.

Neither group is wholly logical or rational and neither is in a position to yell "idiot" at the other.

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FRA

WhetFromChaff,
"Assume that I am a blind man - present your proof. (You could firstly try describing it to me.)"
I have neither got the time nor the inclination to teach basic physics to you. Just one tip: humans are trichromatic, some fish (eg. goldfish) are tetrachromatic. Hence, only because we cannot see the colour spectrum that fish can, doesn't mean that these colours do not exist.

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GBR

Jared (292039) No one was arguing semantics about evolution. You didn't understand the basic definitions of the processes. It is not semantics to clarify those definitions. It is essential. The points put across was also substantive, not nit-picking over definitions. I am sorry you choose not to see this. I don't believe you are too stupid to understand, your posts show you are certainly bright enough, I can only conclude that you either didn't read what was written, or you chose not to understand as to do so would challenge your continuing faith in your creationist teachers, as they are obviously either telling you things they know to be untrue, or are peddling ignorance. How sad that you are not in the bible yet, yet still hold these antidiluvian ideas.
But onto your points. Evolution does not require an increase in genetic complexity. Again you conflate molecular and genotypic complexity with phenotype and specifically anatomy. You argument also suffers from anthropocentricism. The idea that Man is the pinnacle of evolution. We are not. We are no more highly evolved than any other animal or plant. The earthworm is just as highly evolved as we are, just in a different environment. Some animals and plants reached their current form a long time ago and have been very successful in their niche, I suppose we could argue they are very highly evolved, the woodlouse for example, but then we would be arguing semantics. Sometimes the tRNA will miswrite a strand of DNA and reproduce it twice. This is very rare but has been reproduced in the lab (it just needs a simple addition of one enzyme). This increases the amount of genetic material available for variation. It is even more rare that such a change is compatible with life, so for it to take hold is almost too unlikely for words, but evolution has had 4.5 billion years for these improbabilities to accrue. Your list of questions (how did we get here at all from some dead molecules billions of years ago? How did DNA arise? How did biological machines (gears, motors, transports, etc.) get put together and why? How did several different and unrelated eyes arise independently in the animal kingdom? How did a blood clotting mechanism come to be? And so on and so forth) all have one answer: Over vast periods of time, variation in the molecular structure of the genetic material produces phenotypic variations, some of which are more favourable to their owners than others and so they have a higher probability of survival and passing their genetic variation into subsequent generations. In other words, Evolution.

Malfunctions, as you put it. Disease or degeneration as I would characterise it, but your definition is just as good. Actually, though the body is remarkably adaptable to these problems occurring. Yes they are sometimes catastrophic, too much of the heart tissue is destroyed for example, but often if only, say 40 percent dies and you can survive on the rest. Likewise we have redundancy of kidney, liver, vertebral artery, lung, brain tissue. But you forget when the catastophic events happen. Almost exclusively in middle age or later. If they happen before you have children then you can't pass your genes on to the next generation. But conversley, the trait for 'heart attack' can't be selected out by natural selection if the genes that carry the trait have already been passed on to the next generation, before they kill you. That's why these things still happen. They have yet to be selected out of our species, which brings us neatly back to not being the pinnacle of evolution. We're just an intermediate species (all species are) between what came before and what we will evolve into in the future. Everytime you hear about or se on the news some poor unfortunate who is dying in their childhood because of some genetic disorder: behold evolution at work. Those genes will not be transmitted to another generation. It isn't god moving in mysterious ways. It's evolution doing exactly what you would expect. And you can see it happening. One of many examples of us seeing it happen, despite your apparently not knowing any of them!

No, the evidence before your eyes tells of evolution, not degeneration from ideal. You just need to think about it rather than leap to the intellectual cop out conclusion of "god did it."

Incidentally one of your examples of 'malfunction', is no such thing. The Sickle Cell Anaemia gene is a positive evolutionary trait, not a negative one. Its existence is often trumpeted by creationists as a point in favour of the 'descent from ideal' theory, but again when it is thought about it turns out to be a positive trait. But then creationists look for supporting evidence, not look for what the evidence supports. That's the difference.

There's no semantics here, nor any necessary increase in complexity at gene level. lexity at gene level. There is a change in complexity, but that is what you would expect if you were seeing random error in tRNA efficiency.

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FRA

Jared,
"Talking about evolution as simply horizontal "change" with no requirement of increasing complexity is a clever way of obscuring the real problems: how did we get here at all from some dead molecules billions of years ago? How did DNA arise? How did biological machines (gears, motors, transports, etc.) get put together and why? How did several different and unrelated eyes arise independently in the animal kingdom? How did a blood clotting mechanism come to be? And so on and so forth." Only because we do not yet know the answers to a lot of questions does not mean that we need a supernatural being to explain them. Considering that we have been at it (ie. making scientific discoveries) only for about 500 years or so it is not surprising that there are huge gaps in our understanding. Give scientists another 500 years and a lot of answers will have been found (and a lot of new questions will have arisen, too).

"Evolution DOES require a total increase in complexity -- i.e. molecules-to-man."
Defining evolution:
"In biology, evolution is the change in the heritable traits of a population over successive generations, as determined by shifts in the allele frequencies of genes. Over time, this process can result in speciation, the development of new species from existing ones. All contemporary organisms are related to each other through common descent, the products of cumulative evolutionary changes over billions of years."
Where does it say that there must be a total increase in complexity? Moreover, you forget epigenetics.

evilpooky,
"Isn't faith itself some kind of proof of an existence of god? It isn't something that can be measured or quanitified other then by the measure of the sheer amount of people who have faith. All these people passionately believe in some kind of higher entity or creator and I find it hard to militantly denounce this as superstition or fairy tales."
I would love to believe in an almighty, all-knowing, and
all-loving god. Life would be a lot easier. But I can not do so. It just does not make sense to me. It never did. Even when I was 6 years old, I realized that there were inconsistancies in what people believed and what they did.
Maybe there really is a preposition to religious belief in the brain. Some people have it and some do not.
BTW, someone once said, even if 50 000 people say something stupid, it is still a stupidity. History has shown that 50 million people and more saying something stupid is not an isolated event.

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GBR

PastorX (291094) Im sorry to have taken this long to get to your point.
John 20:29, I know you'll know it, but for anyone else I've put up the NIV then the KJV, which I personally prefer.

NIV: Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
KJV:Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.

This Doubting Thomas story is interpretable. I have always (since before my teens) interpreted it as Jesus saying:
"You've seen me [sought proof], blessed are those who haven't seen me [sought proof] yet still believe. [so you, Thomas, as we have established sought proof, therefore you are not blessed as they are, QED.]

I concede this is not necessarily the only, or even the best (it is certainly not the most charitable) interpretation. It is, though, the one I just can't shake. It is the one that prompted me to request of my housemaster that I should no longer go to church on a Sunday, because I felt I could use the time more productively.

I also am happy to accept on your word that this isn't the usual interpretation, if you are happy to accept that it is understandable that I came to this interpretation (even if it says more about me as an 11 year old than it does about the Thomas or Jesus characters).

I hope your sermon goes/went well this morning. Where in the US your church?

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GBR

icas

"Hence, only because we cannot see the colour spectrum that fish can, doesn't mean that these colours do not exist."

Exactly so. Thank you for making my point for me: namely, that things exist notwithstanding that they cannot be proved to exist - nor seen (whether directly or indirectly) by humans. That deals with the fallacy of logical positivism.

Now let us advance and suppose that a small number of humans may - whether through a birth "defect", training or even drugs - have extended sensory abilities so that they can "see" something which other humans cannot (the proverbial seeing man in the Kingdom of the Blind).

How would they go about describing what they have seen to their fellow men?

WoollyMindedLiberal

"WheatFromChaff : "No doubt, especially if he happened to live in certain parts of the US, he could also find witnesses who could testify as to the existence of God, and confirm that they were full of the holy spirit."

"Would that constitute proof of the existence of God?"

"Like your 'reasoning' these witnesses would be unlikely to survive much critical questioning."

So your answer is "no it wouldn't" then? So if witnesses would not supply proof - what would?

"Other witnesses could be found to testify that their Sky Pixie is indeed fictional. Convincing witnesses for the non-existence of the colour red are thin on the ground even in places of worship!"

If witnesses are insufficient for this purpose, then no amount are going to suffice for this purpose - otherwise you would be left with the absurd position that God used to exist in the Middle Ages (when *everybody* believed in him) - and still exists in the Middle East - but no longer exists in Britain.

"WheatFromChaff : Go on then. Describe it [the colour red]."

"Electromagnetic radiation with a frequency of 428570 GHz which is a wavelength of 7 x 10-5 cm. "

I hate to say it - you being so polite and all - but well done. This is the first attempt at an answer I have had in the years of posing this question. As for its adequacy as a description (as opposed to a definition), I shall let others judge.

Mujokan

"There's both an absence of evidence for God, and also evidence of absence (such as the extent of suffering we have to deal with)."

This could only be evidence against the Christian version. The Judaic/Roman/Greek versions positively revelled in violence, whilst (aiui) the Hindu/Bhuddist consciousnesses take play any part in human affairs.

I say "could" rather than "would" because even here there is some inconsistency in the argument. If (as is said by all relgions) the mortal coil is simply a temporary physical form taken by souls/spirits etc with eternal life, and if (as is also said) the mortal life entails being cut off from God (absent certain disciplines/rituals/meditations etc designed to reunite you temporarily with the (neutral phrase) universal consciousness whilst still alive), why would such a God consider a mortal death to be a bad thing?

And if such a God would not consider a mortal death to be a bad thing, why would the fact that people die be evidence of the absence of such a God?

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GBR

WheatFromChaff : "Exactly so. Thank you for making my point for me: namely, that things exist notwithstanding that they cannot be proved to exist - nor seen (whether directly or indirectly) by humans. That deals with the fallacy of logical positivism."

Nonsense, you have as usual completely avoided the point. You are either very very stupid or totally duplicitous. Maybe both.

I cannot see X-rays but since they are real it is possible to detect their presence.

I cannot see fairies at the bottom of my garden but since they are fictional it is not possible to detect their presence.

If you can show me a way to detect your fictional sky pixie then we will try it out and prove whether or not it does not exist. Since neither you not anyone else has any such test we know beyond all reasonable doubt that you are an idiot!

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GBR

WheatFromChaff : "I hate to say it - you being so polite and all - but well done. This is the first attempt at an answer I have had in the years of posing this question. As for its adequacy as a description (as opposed to a definition), I shall let others judge."

Thats probably because it is one the the stupidest questions ever posed and I'm amazed that I even bothered to answer it.

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GBR

WoollyMindedLiberal

"Nonsense, you have as usual completely avoided the point."

Whilst I can't imagine what point you believed yourself to be addressing, the point which *I* was making appears to have been understood perfectly well by everybody except your good self.

Of course, if you were to pull your head out of that part of the body from which you appear to derive most of your intelligence, then perhaps you also would have got the point.

Given, however, the evidence of the meandering and vaguely insulting platitudes which which post in the apparent belief that they contribute to a grown-up debate, I do not hold out much hope of that ever occurring.

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CAN

I agree that not believing impossible things is a faith proposition, or rather propositions, after all, there are so many impossible things to not believe in! You could never list all the very many things that one is an unbeliever of, even if one was aware of them. Plus, let's remember, aside from some Unitarians, that every believer of every religion is an unbeliever (atheist) of a dozen others. Which means, if unbelief is a faith proposition, that we are all incredible religious pluralists! I find that reassuring!

The only way to solve this is to start believing as many impossible things as possible! Starting with believing that it is possible to believe in things one believes are impossible! Like so:

"'Now I'll give you something to believe. I'm just one hundred and one, five months and a day.'

"'I can't believe that!' said Alice.

"'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'

"Alice laughed: 'There's no use trying,' she said; 'one can't believe impossible things.'

"'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'"

�Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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GBR

WheatFromChaff (292463) "Whilst I can't imagine what point you believed yourself to be addressing, the point which *I* was making appears to have been understood perfectly well by everybody except your good self."

We all understood the point you were trying to make, we also understand it to be a logically flawed argument and a failed point, something understood perfectly well by everybody except your good self. It was this point that WML was making. But of course you couldn't imagine it.

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wheatfromchaff, you could have pushed that to the point where 'red' could be descibed as the stuff leaking from my brain:)
quite appart from the wave/particle properties of EM radiation with a frequency of 428570 GHz which is a wavelength of 7 x 10-5 cm, remember we also describe something as red becasue that defined part of the EM spectrum makes it to our eye,
it's been reflected or hasn't been absorbed, the conceptual part is where it gets interesting, to get to the brain
the photoreceptor cells on the retina have to absorb that wavelenght so, through a whole heap of vitamin A derivatives, electrical discharges, things called action potentials,axons and proton pumps ( believe it or not! ) the optical nerve gets a signal gets to the brain, what the brain then does is for you to tell me.
many things happen though; it gets processed as an abstract noun, there are a pile of associations we get to play with and and contextually it can correspond to heat, passion, anger, danger, ripeness and on and on...
isn't science amazing. there is more to red than meets the eye.

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AUS


The atheist view reminds me of my first chemistry book (mentioned in another thread some time ago) it stated
'the atom cannot be split!'

Now if everyone had believed this, then it would never have tried. (Mind you a bad example in to-day's climate.)

Why the continual reference to a belief of a flat earth. For goodness sake start using some independant thought as an example.

There would never have been any discoveries with the confirmed atheist, they learn only. They would ask for proof before examining.

Sky pixies? How often do I hear this term. What book did that come from?

'Forever learning and never aspiring to accurate knowledge'

An agnostic fine. An atheist.........
I was about to get extremely derogratory!

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GBR

sapient : "There would never have been any discoveries with the confirmed atheist, they learn only. They would ask for proof before examining."

This is nonsense on stilts, pretty much par for the course with 'sapient' I am sad to say. In the realy world a quick examination of the historic and scientific record shows that atheists have discovered many things - the helical structure of DNA for example.

Orbeliani : "I hate agnostics, we used to beat them up in school."

There is no such thing as a 'believer' or an 'agnostic' there are only shades of atheism. I'm 100% atheist whilst my deluded chums like Mr Chaff believe in a pantheon of about 5 fictional Deities. But like me he is atheist about 100,000s of other fictional Deities which makes him 99.999% atheist.

Claiming to be 'agnostic' is a form of intellectual laziness and cowardice. Agnostics tend to smugly hug themselves and congratulate themselves for their principled 'doubt'. They need to be taken out of their comfort zone and made to do some thinking. I envisage the scene from "A Clockwork Orange" with the razor-blades holding their eyelids open whilst the works of Dawkins scroll past their unblinking eyes.....

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AUS

Wooly please give the details of the confirmed atheist (ie. one who stated a conscious denial of the existance of God before such discovery) of helical structure of DNA and any other such examples!

What is it if you can't win an argument you denigrate?

Note your companion.

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Orbeliani
typical neo-batherist empiricalism; there can be no tangible certainty in any positional certainty within a proposition.
hope you're good.

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FRA

WheatFromChaff,
"Exactly so. Thank you for making my point for me: namely, that things exist notwithstanding that they cannot be proved to exist - nor seen (whether directly or indirectly) by humans. That deals with the fallacy of logical positivism." You do not get my point (or you do not want to get it). We do not need to believe in facts. Colours exist which we cannot see. We can prove this (how else would we know that they exist). Therefore, it is not necessary to believe. If we believe in them or not will not change or affect their existence in any way whatsoever.

"Now let us advance and suppose that a small number of humans may - whether through a birth "defect", training or even drugs - have extended sensory abilities so that they can "see" something which other humans cannot (the proverbial seeing man in the Kingdom of the Blind)." Yes, I can see your problem. How would someone having a temporal lobe seizure explain to someone without the same seizure what he/she is experiencing? But being able to explain this or not does not make it real. The religious experience caused by the seizure is still only in his/her brain and not in the real world.

"I hate to say it - you being so polite and all - but well done. This is the first attempt at an answer I have had in the years of posing this question." That really frightens me (and I do not mean that in a patronizing way, it really is extremely worrying). Why didn't you just google it yourself? You could have had the answer years ago. I just tried it and typed in 'red colour'. The first link is 'Red-Wikipedia' and there is your answer.

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GBR

Certainly seems pretty baren, rigid, bit stuffy and unfriendly in Richard Dawkins mathematical logical universe and i wouldn't want to live there(or do i?). Richard Dawkins and his chums whilst claiming to be down to earth, rational, free thinkers, have to admit that they do not have all the answers by a very long stretch. They may only know 0.000001%, which is being generous, of what there is to know. Therefore to claim there is no god, creator, designer, alien harvester(very likely) is just as irrational as claiming to believe in some old book - its just at the other polar extremity. Surely being agnostic is the best we can hope for and leaves a little bit of mysticism in the world?

Orbeliani - at least i know there's a chance that your little tootsies may be slowly roasting above a slow burning fire in the next life after stealing my lunch money.

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GBR

evilpooky : "Certainly seems pretty baren, rigid, bit stuffy and unfriendly in Richard Dawkins mathematical logical universe and i wouldn't want to live there(or do i?)."

Whether your like it or not you do actually live in the real world where maths works and religion doesn't, and no matter how hard you pretend otherwise it won't go away. If you were a thinking and rational sort of person you might actually read some of Prof Dawkin's published books before criticising him but you deluded types aren't big on 'facts' or reality are you? Finding out what he really thinks would rather ruin your argument I suppose.


sapient : "Wooly please give the details of the confirmed atheist (ie. one who stated a conscious denial of the existance of God before such discovery) of helical structure of DNA and any other such examples!"

Few scientists bother with announcing to the world their non-belief in the fairies at the bottom of my garden or the myriad non-existent Sky Pixies. So far as I know James Watson is an outspoken atheist as was Francis Crick. Whether or not they made any statement of atheism before their discovery of DNA I don't know or much care.

According to wikipedia Crick rejected his parent's sky pixie worship when he was 12 but I don't know how accurate that is, its known for its errors after all! We real world people call them 'errors' by the way and not 'allegorical' or 'poetical' like the deluded do when they talk about their silly texts.


icas : "Why didn't you just google it yourself? You could have had the answer years ago."

Doubtless he's been down on his knees imploring his fictional sky pixie to reveal the answer. Questioning rhetoric and finding out answers for oneself is anathema to the deluded 99.999% atheists of course.

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GBR

Humanzee

"We all understood the point you were trying to make,"

I'm glad to hear it - the point, of course, being that there are very real (and known to be real) phenomena the existence of which cannot be objectively proved to somebody who has not subjectively experienced it for themselves.

And that, conversely, those who cannot and/or have not experienced the phenomena (the blind man and colour being my example - but it could have been something else: such as the state of being in love) must take its existence on faith from what he is told by those who can and have.

"we also understand it to be a logically flawed argument and a failed point, something understood perfectly well by everybody except your good self. It was this point that WML was making. But of course you couldn't imagine it."

If he did address that point, I must have missed it amongst the verbiage and abuse. He appeared to me to be labouring under the delusion that I was seeking to prove the non-existence of the colour red.

bethersonton

Your very succinct explanation (with tongue no doubt firmly in cheek - or should that be iris firmly in retina?) would not, alas, be particularly helpful to a person with no concept of sight.

icas

"You do not get my point (or you do not want to get it). We do not need to believe in facts. Colours exist which we cannot see. We can prove this (how else would we know that they exist). Therefore, it is not necessary to believe. If we believe in them or not will not change or affect their existence in any way whatsoever."

We only "prove" it, because we believe it to be there in the first place - otherwise we would not bother even looking for, let alone trying to measure the phenomenon. All known phenonena - whether it can be directly perceived by human senses or not - is only known because it is either closely related to, or has impacted upon, phenomena which *can* be perceived by human senses.

"Yes, I can see your problem. How would someone having a temporal lobe seizure explain to someone without the same seizure what he/she is experiencing?"

Only by seeking to relate it to things which other people can perceive - traditionally (in the case of those sufficiently literate) by means of allegory, metaphor and poetry.

"But being able to explain this or not does not make it real. The religious experience caused by the seizure is still only in his/her brain and not in the real world."

Whether or not a person who claims to perceive different or additional things to other people is necessarily experiencing a delusion or may be experiencing a different (or additional) reality has plagued philosophers for centuries.

What (for example) of the sighted man in the Kingdom of the Blind? Would the colours that he sees be the result of a temporal lobe siezure? Would those colours be any less real because nobody else was capable of perceiving them?

We may well now have advanced sufficiently to state with confidence that every single such person (even those eastern mystics who claim to be able to turn it off and on at will) is delusional - and that our five senses are capable of (directly or indirectly) detecting and measuring anything that can possibly exist - but would that not amount to a huge leap of faith in the infallibility of our current state of knowledge about the mind?

"I just tried it and typed in 'red colour'. The first link is 'Red-Wikipedia' and there is your answer."

I followed your suggestion. Which of those descriptions (in Wikipedia) do you say does not depend (for its descriptiveness) on the reader already having seen colours in general, and the colour red in particular?

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AUS

WoolyMindedLiberal 290392

I refer to your quote in this comment stated to be ----- from Exodus 22 verse 28. You state that it reads "Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people!"

I'll leave it to your own religious people to deal with you.

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GBR

Woolly - i've seen Dawkins documentries, but have not read the books and i've heard all about the teapot. You don't think you're limiting yourself somewhat by declaring there is no higher entity or entities that may have had a hand in our creation?

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GBR

WheatFromChaff : "the point, of course, being that there are very real (and known to be real) phenomena the existence of which cannot be objectively proved to somebody who has not subjectively experienced it for themselves."

Which is of course nonsense on stilts as we have repeatedly demonstrated. For example I have not subjectively experienced X-rays but their existence can be proven to me.


evilpooky : "You don't think you're limiting yourself somewhat by declaring there is no higher entity or entities that may have had a hand in our creation?"

No I don't. Living in the real world is not in the slightest bit 'limiting'. I enjoy fiction and read many novels but do not suffer from my ability to tell fantasy from fact. I don't declare an absolute certainty that the Flying Spaghetti Monster did not create the Universe with His Noodly Appendage but I do regard it as a somewhat unlikely and uninteresting answer.

The details of how things really work is much more interesting than the Chaff approach of "God did it by magic" and allows me a fuller and deeper appreciation of the world than you deluded types can aspire to.

I recommend you read some good science books, whether by Dawkins or not, and take out subscription to Science and/or Nature magazines. The real world is a fascinating place and I invite you to join me there. Even old Chaffie is welcome!

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AUS

Following on from WoolyMindedLiberal and the discovery of helical structure of DNA I draw attention to the work of Rosalind Franklin and her purported discovery of the helical structure before her death!

To the young cyber warriers?

Beware the one that holds the gun and asks you to press the trigger.

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AUS

G.Tingey 292622

Backup forces called in?

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GBR

Woolly - how can you claim to be living in reality if you don't let your mind succomb to some flights of fancy - considering there is a great deal that science cannot explain to us - all we have to fill in these VAST gaps is best GUESS and our imaginations. I think you are blindly following science and your mind is in fact shackled. Where's your spirituality? I have read some good science books, but they are not my gospel and neither is anything else.

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GBR

sapient : "Following on from WoolyMindedLiberal and the discovery of helical structure of DNA I draw attention to the work of Rosalind Franklin and her purported discovery of the helical structure before her death!"

Well she was hardly going to discover anything **after** her death was she? Do we take it that you now withdraw your rather silly claim that no atheist ever discovered anything?

Perhaps you should learn to use Google and Wikipedia then you might be less prone to making a fool of yourself in public.

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

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GBR

sapient : "The atheist view reminds me of my first chemistry book (mentioned in another thread some time ago) it stated
'the atom cannot be split!'"

The last I heard it was still impossible to split an atom using chemistry so its not suprising that a Chemistry book might contain a simplification like that.

Without a copy of your text book to hand we cannot be sure if this claim is accurate or not. I shall assume that it is another of your silly fabrications unless you can produce this book's ISBN because I don't trust a word you say.

But so what if it did? School books are there to help you pass the exams rather than to reflect the current scientific consenus.

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

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AUS


WoolyMindedLiberal 292654

What is the purpose of your post?

Are you implying that Rosalind Franklin was an atheist?

and stop twisting my words!

Or did you think I did not know that she was a Jew?


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AUS

Wooly what are you between twenty to thirty years old!

Propounding knowledge and make believe and being paid for it?


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GBR

My fellow atheists, we may have a problem!
http://blog.wired.com/tableofmalcontents/2006/11/flying_spaghett.html

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GBR

sapient : "There would never have been any discoveries with the confirmed atheist, they learn only. They would ask for proof before examining."

To prove your claim you would need a complete list of all discoveries ever made along with the names of all those involved and a complete biography of each individual.

I suspect that you possess no such evidence and are making unsubstantiated claims. I think that this is typical behaviour by the Deluded who imagine that magical Sky Pixies cause rain to fall or whatever your particular insanity might be. This is just my personal opinion based on your posts in this thread by the way!

As they say at the Royal Society "Nullius in Verba". I don't believe you and it is up to you to provide evidence that you are correct. Good luck with that!

http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_Society

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WheatFromChaff
prove it :)
you know you could just ask someone who is blind don't you?
appreciate your parable is strictly allegorical
of spiritual blindness, atheistic and empirical
but a parable comparable, fecundly and profoundly so
to religiousness, faith, belief or simply bein in the know?
from conceptual awareness, a priori and/or doctrinal,
teetotalaciosly it seems to me it's all quite optional
leaves ontological arguments not a leg to stand on so,
that you believe in god, i dont, and on that note i have to go.


Humanzee
that looked more like noodles

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GBR

bethersonton

What an excellent response. You don't get many rhyming couplets on CiF.

Did you have the tune of the Major General's song (in the Pirates of Penzance) in mind when you wrote it?

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"Why then does Christianity's founding figure have a special claim in this regard?"

Because Christ gave his life without retaliation, without hurting another soul. This is the revelation of the "The Life, The Truth and The Way". By examining Christ's life and death, we are faced with probably the ONLY logic that can acheive everlasting peace between people. It is the same logic espoused by Ghandi and other great spritiual leaders. To have peace, be peaceful.

.

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SVN

Evilpooky said:
*Woolly - how can you claim to be living in reality if you don't let your mind succomb to some flights of fancy - considering there is a great deal that science cannot explain to us - all we have to fill in these VAST gaps is best GUESS and our imaginations. I think you are blindly following science and your mind is in fact shackled. Where's your spirituality? I have read some good science books, but they are not my gospel and neither is anything else.*

I am not answering for Wooly, here is some of my own thinking about relations betwen mystery, science and spirituality.
There is so huge part of reality we do know anything about. So huge part of everything we do not understand and science do not gives us any answers about it. I fell little in front of universe or multiverse or whatever. There are some thins science will explain in the future and majority which will remain mastery for us.
It is obviously difficult for humans if they face unknown. Human mind have a funny characteristic to create answers and give meaning and sense to things it does not understand. It do it with help of fantasy. The function of religion is to give this kind of fantastic answers to that kind of questions. I actually see religion as a very limiting and without any spirituality, because it is expression of escaping from *not knowing*.
The old religions, Christianity is one of them, are even more limiting. They are forced to reject notions of modern knowledge � however little par of everything they cover, to protect literally reading of thousands years old holy books with fantasy answer compatible with knowledge available at the time and not compatible with new knowledge.

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AUS

WoolyMindedLiberal 292688 - you did this one in 292520!

Wooly 292659 - I consider this a nonsense post.

I've asked you further questions since then - having trouble?

Don't bother I'm sick of the nonsense.

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GBR

evilpooky : "Woolly - how can you claim to be living in reality if you don't let your mind succomb to some flights of fancy - considering there is a great deal that science cannot explain to us - all we have to fill in these VAST gaps is best GUESS and our imaginations. I think you are blindly following science and your mind is in fact shackled."

Firstly lets be clear that there are levels of uncertainty associated with all science and that carefully assessing and expressing this is an important part of science. Science itself progresses through a combination of an awful lot of hard work and checking details combined with acts of imagination inspired by carefully checked and assessed knowledge.

I do not "blindly follow" anything but have reasoned that science has proven itself useful and capable of helping me to understand the real world. If some other means to this end became available and could be shown to be more useful then I would be interested in that also. So far no superior alternative has been shown to exist. Superstition and religion has never been useful for understanding the real world, rather it acts to obscure it and discourage discovery. Luckily it has not been successful in this!


evilpooky : "Where's your spirituality? I have read some good science books, but they are not my gospel and neither is anything else."

Since there is no such thing as a "spirit" there is no such thing as "spirituality". So the answer is that its in the same place as everyone else's - nowhere because it doesn't exist!

Here is a definition of "spirituality" ... �An ambiguous term invented to cover a range of emotions that most of us experience, but which we do not all attribute to supernatural sources.�

You might find the following links helpful.

http://www.secularism.org.uk/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirituality

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GBR

bethersonton (292689)
noodles, yes, but entirely more pursuasive than the religious 'proofs' - which is to say, not at all.

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GBR

OK last post...

Woolly: "Flying Spaghetti Monster did not create the Universe with His Noodly Appendage but I do regard it as a somewhat unlikely and uninteresting answer." Really? I think this is a fairly interesting answer, but hey I get your point.

Woolly: "I do not "blindly follow" anything but have reasoned that science has proven itself useful and capable of helping me to understand the real world."

Hmmmm.......but a metaphor like a blinds man walking stick would be a good one would it not, given the limitation of your sight....I simply say given these large blind spots, atheism is irrational.

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AUS


WoolyMindedLiberal 292720

I can't let this pass - your comment: "Since there is no such a thing as a 'spirit' there is no such a thing as 'spirituality.'"

What moves your body?

Are you dead!

Well robo man tell us who programmes you!

Truthfully though; your computer will know.

To the other clones with the steel vests, maybe God's avenging angels can light their matches on you.

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GBR

sapient : "What moves your body?"

The last few hundred years have passed you by havent they? There is a thing called a brain that passes signals down things called nerves to things called muscles.

You might find this link to wikipedia helpful. Its about a thing called a "central nervous system". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain

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ESP

WoollyMinded Liberal: i HAVE read Dawkins�works.
I think he is completely mistaken.
I am not greatly bothered!
Nobody knows what the truth is and one thing is for certain about Prof. Dawkins. he is no threat to anybody.
So let you and he have your Darwinism, if it should help to get you through your lives.
Darwinism is not a topic one should get worked up about.
It just amazes me that anybody believes in it...

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ESP

WoollyMinded Liberal: I HAVE read Dawkins� works.
I think he is completely mistaken.
And I am not greatly bothered!
Nobody knows what the truth is and one thing is for certain about Prof. Dawkins: he is no threat to anybody.
So let you and he have your Darwinism, if it should help to get you through your lives.
Darwinism is not a topic one should get worked up about.
It just amazes me that anybody believes in it...

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AUS

Wooly

Press the green button again.
....See the brain needs the spirit of life to work.

Now number 2 button coloured blue; it will relay to your system the definition of spirit - "the force or principle of life that animates the body."

I keep expressing the need for something more stimulating than robots or zombies for dialogue.

I am a human being that unfortunately needs sleep.
So Good Morning - ah! must get my computer fixed.

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GBR

Yes spirit - something else that can't be proved or disproved, as we don't know enough about the human brain. You atheists do like beating everyone else over the head with your blind man's stick, just like bible bashers!

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Humanzee - no evidence for the crucifixion of Christ, you think? I suspect even Grayling and Dawkins would disagree with you on that!
As for your assertion that Campenhausen was (is?) a theologian and therefore "he would say that (viz. that I Corinthians 15 proves the resurrection of Christ) wouldn't he?", you are effectively accusing him of dishonest thinking. If you have that kind of attitude you end all argument. Incidentally he was a historian also. I am not, by the way, saying "Jesus was resurrected, therefore he was God", I am merely pointing out that the historical evidence is very strong for his resurrection. Whether or not this "proves" Christianity is another question.

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GBR

Sapient : "See the brain needs the spirit of life to work."

Well if you can show me some proof for the existence of this "spirit" then I'll take your claims seriously. Until then I will mock them for the pathetic nonsense they so clearly are.

I note that you are insulting a huge number of earnest and hard working scientists who have painstakingly researched brain function in detail by ignoring their findings.


evilpooky : "Yes spirit - something else that can't be proved or disproved, as we don't know enough about the human brain."

This is poor thinking even by your low standards. If it exists then there must be some way of detecting its presence or absence. If it can't be disproved, even in theory if not in practise due to technological limitations, then that is a strong sign that it doesn't exist.

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SVN

Evilpooky said:
*Yes spirit - something else that can't be proved or disproved, as we don't know enough about the human brain. You atheists do like beating everyone else over the head with your blind man's stick, just like bible bashers!*

You are right in one point, there really is incredibly lot that we do not know about the human brain. But actually there is nothing but clear * maybe nice and worm and comforting* fantasy that could suggest us existence of something you call spirit.

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FRA

I have heard it said that if atheism is a 'faith proposition' ( as referred to here) then
'my not collecting stamps is a hobby.'

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GBR

Its a question of language rather than faith. Once we realise we are an integral part of everything that exists (both know nad unknown) we realise we are a part of God. God is just a word that describes everything. This is when we realise we are a part of God, not separate, but a part of ALL.

This is why institutionalised religion fails. It requires man to have faith in the istitution rather than have faith in themselves as a part of God. Ironically, when you actually look at the teachings of the original spiritual masters such as Christ, Buddha etc.. you see there teachings are rally systems to hlep the individual develop self-awareness, systems which ehlp the individual understand how incredible they are, justby the fact that they are alive, can think and breathe. This realisation leads the individual to want to help awaken this understandinhg in others, symply because the fact of knowing you are ap art of life, all that is really is incredible and there is adesire to share and help others realise for themselves.

Institutionalised religion is concerned with the numbers of the congregation. Ironically if a religion (like a charity) has understood its reason and purpose, it should see a diminishing 'need' as a good thing and not something to be frightened of and then project that fear onto others to give them cause to sign up as a member. The latter is cultish behaviour and someone human is benefitting. All the original spiritual masters shared their knowledge freely and expected no gain. Religion should be concerned with the liberation of the soul, the essence of the individual rather than converting others to following blindly someone else's higher wisdom for someone else's profit.

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People choose what to believe.

Their choice is subjective.

It is influenced by 2 things that militate against objectivity. Fear and Greed.

When people hope the stock market will rise they buy shares. Greed makes buyers believe the market will continue rising well past the point when shares are over valued.

When people fear a market crash, they sell shares. Very few people buy at the bottom because they fear shares will continue to fall, even when they are undervalued.

Fear and Greed blind investors to the fundamentals. The only truly objective investor would be a disinterested one, and there aren't many of those.

The more we are governed by self-interest, the less likely are we to listen to anything other than what we want to hear.

Nobody wants to believe that the world is ending because of global warming, because it is not pleasant.

Consumers don't want to believe that by giving up luxuries and living less materialistic lives, they could save the planet, because that would mean denying themselves ... something they aren't accustomed to.

Those who wish to squander their lives in an orgy of self-indulgence while the rest of the world starves or is bombed into oblivion don't want to believe in God, because they don't want to give up their greedy lifestyles, and because they fear God's Justice.

Those who believe in a loving God choose to do so, for a reason. They want an end to Injustice and they hope for Mercy.

In this way, faith is not so much a position assumed on the basis of the current evidence, but an expression of one's most deeply held hopes and fears. The oppressed hope for justice. The guilty hope to escape justice. The merciful hope to obtain mercy. Faith is in this way a judgement we pass on ourselves.

And the judgement is this:
though the light has come into the world
people have preferred darkness to the light
because there deeds were evil.

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CAN

Dawkins quoting Bertrand Russel:

"Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own."

pp. 354-5, The God Delusion

Let us indeed tear off that black burka and shake off that heavy cross and be eternally strong...

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Fresh air? What planet are we talking about? Warmth... Hmmm.

Eternally strong?

Dawkins actually said that?

What a load of tosh.

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GBR

Wheat from Chaff,

Bloody hell, zillions of folk debating you. And I just gave up on you. You have a talent, there is no denying that.

Alanpav,

Could you point me to your evidence on JC being crucified. I would really like to see it.

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GBR

sapient

"No, I would not give $5; you see with Faith in God comes discernment."

That explains the killing of the Salem witches then.

"Faith, as I have stated before it there in all at birth, it is a natural quality. It can disappear for various reasons. It is as simple as believing that the sun comes up to-morrow. It, (again as I have said on other threads) in to-day's terminology can be referred to as 'positive thinking.'"

Ah, so it is similar to buying a lottery ticket and the 'positive thinking' that I will win. I think I've got it now. There is a guy over here called Noel Edmonds who follows your teachings.

"A child can be taught about God, can be inducted into their parent's religion as they can be told and believe in Santa Claus. This is the kind of 'faith' that many on here question."

Not so much can, but will be taught about God. There are few children who escape not being taught about god. But how exactly do these teachers become experts in God? Did they read his Biography? Or is it based in hearsay?

"You need more than this natural Faith. You need to be blessed and then you have a true conscious belief in God. To get to that point is a long hard road. Christ gave the path, it was the path of self-denial and most do not wish to follow it; after all it is against 'self.'"

This being blessed and self denial thing, I take it that it doesn't include not driving a 15 mpg SUV because you may drown fellow blessed people living in low lying islands. Also, it is OK to invade Iraq and allow genocide of the Christians of Iraq because their path to being blessed wasn't quite hard enough? It sure is harder now. But strangely it is not atheists who are the problem. Go figure.

"But it is the road of 'agape' (brotherly love) as disveteran kept repeating on post after post."

I tried that road; it led to a dead end. Then I took to the open road, there are a lot of beautiful things out there to be seen if you take off the blinkers.

I take it I still do not get my $5 for the taxi. But you still did not answer my question "How would you recognise God, if he presented himself to you?�

How about trying this question:

"A stranger comes to your door and asks for $5 for a taxi."

Do you give him $5 because it would be the Christian thing to do?

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Religion seems to be 'in' Prospect Magazine this month devotes its entire issue to claims and counter-claims that religion and conservatism are on their way back ...
See "www.prospect-magazine.co.uk"

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GBR

evilpooky: "Richard Dawkins and his chums whilst claiming to be down to earth, rational, free thinkers, have to admit that they do not have all the answers by a very long stretch. They may only know 0.000001%, which is being generous, of what there is to know. Therefore to claim there is no god, creator, designer, alien harvester(very likely) is just as irrational as claiming to believe in some old book - its just at the other polar extremity."

evilpooky: "I simply say given these large blind spots, atheism is irrational"

Dawkins himself states that, technically speaking, he is an agnostic, as he does not believe that the existence of a god is an impossibility. However, in a practical sense, he is an atheist. Similarly, he does not believe that it is impossible that a tea pot is orbiting the outer reaches of our solar system, but he does not believe that it is.

The statement 'Oogaboogaboo, Queen of the Fairies, created the universe because She thought it might be funny' cannot be disproved. If someone believed that it was true then it is perfectly possible that they could be the equivalent of 'a man who can see in the land of the blind', but it really doesn't seem very likely.

Not being able to disprove the existence of something is not a good reason for believing in its existence. It is possible that something that we would call a "god" does exist, but I see no good reason to believe that it does. Just like Dickie Dawkins, I am both an agnostic and an atheist. This atheism is pefectly rational, just as it is perfectly rational not to believe the notion that there is a lone tea pot orbiting the sun.

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GBR

alanpav (292825)
No evidence for the crucifixion of the lead character in your stories outside of the bible, that's right.
None at all. Not a jot.

I don't know if Grayling or Dawkins would agree, although they will also have heard people like you claim there is evidence and will have challenged them to produce it and like you, they will have been unable to. Because there is none. There is, in fact no evidence that your Jesus chap was an historical figure at all. Outside of the bible. But as I said before the book "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" says that Sherlock Holmes is real, but that doesn't make it so.

Historians seek facts then try to fit an historical interpretation to those facts. Theologians Start with the interpretation they wish to support and seek comment in its favour, ignoring or choosing to discount (or more likely simply not finding) comment that doesn't support it. Theologians start with the premise that the bible is an historically accurate (within limits) biographical account. This is their starting point. Is that dishonest? No. Is it the same as an historian? No. All Theologians study history. It allows them to borrow the credibility of historians, but they are two different disciplines, with different processes at work.

You came back to your first point to finish, so I will to. There is no 'ex-bible' objective evidence for the crucifixion or the resurrection (treating the two as separate occurrences). You say there is, but there is not. If you think I am wrong about this, don't come back with "Yes there is, yes there is!" Just state where we can see this ex-bible objective evidence. It must be to the standard we seek in science (which many of your friends on this thread think is low). Lets have it.

There is none at all. Not a jot.

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GBR

douglasclark

"Bloody hell, zillions of folk debating you. And I just gave up on you. You have a talent, there is no denying that."

I shall take that as a compliment. thank you.

In the end, people are going to believe what they want to believe. Had most of the posters here been born into a different time or place they would be just as fervently have been arguing the exact opposite of what they are now saying.

I take the view that if somebody gets annoyed, or abusive, at an awkward question directed at their beliefs, then they can't really hold it as strongly as they believe themselves to do.

Should I not, therefore pose the question?

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GBR

WheatFromChaff seems to be getting a lot of stick here, but could somebody tell me how the hell you are supposed to prove the existence of colours to people who can't see. Surely you can't.

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GBR

My comment:
[Atheism advances the opposite explantion: life is purposeless.]
A. N. Other's observation:
utterly unsubstantiated and hateful lies.

Evolution is the effect of random chance (mutation) combined with the exigences of the environment on the development of living beings. When evolution occurs, the product is the best suited to the changed environment selected from the available mutations. The new species has no purpose though; ie a reason for their existence; anymore, than a sum of 11 rolled on two dice has a purpose per se. They simply both happen.

My comment:
"Theism requires faith since proof that God exists would remove the purpose from life."
A. N. Other's observation:
So God is the 'explanation' for purpose but having evidence for this explanation means this explanation then somehow invalidates itself. What a curious idea.

I think it's clear from the gospels that this life is regarded as a test. Now if there were indisputable evidence of the existence of God , such as a 100 mile tall colossus bestriding the Earth, flaming the occasional errant atheist, then it would not be much of a test. We'd all be scared crapless and far too busy saying "Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir". The only test involved would be whether you had more than the two necessary brain cells required to work out on which side your bread was buttered.

My comment:
"Atheism should not require faith per se, but seems to require it in order to avoid a descent into existentialism."
A, N. Other's reply:
Descent? Existentialism is merely an attempt to describe human's ontological situation. What existentialism says is that we are 'condemned to freedom' i.e. we can never evade responsibility for our actions by appeal to authority because appealing to an authority is in itself a choice freely made.

Existentialism says that each human being exists as a free individual, with responsibility for their own actions, in a world otherwise without meaning. What I have noticed though; and please correct me if I am incorrect; is that most atheists try to develop a moral code where they are not free of responsibility for their fellow man or the results of others' actions on their fellow man. It seems to me that this must assume some meaning to the world and a recognition that a social approach, rather than an anarchic one, is a necessity.

My comment:
"However, as the majority of Earth's population are theistically inclined, and evolution is survival of the fittest, then it follows that theism confers evolutionary advantages. Consequently, I do not see that it should be discouraged."
A. N. Other's observation:
You don't understand the implications of the theory of evolution but never mind. Consider this - at one time the majority of the earth's population believed the earth was flat. Therefore believing the earth was flat conferred evolutionary advantages. We should therefore encourage the belief that the earth is flat.

In days of yore, when many believed that the Earth was flat, voyages to prove that it wasn't, were very often fatal for the participants. Dying is not a very good way to pass on your genes. Discovering new lands which you can populate is. So once the survivors have come back to tell the tale, then the flat Earthers can discard the notion as silly and rush off to take advantage. There is a balance between boldness and caution here as regards evolutionary advantage.
Now it may be that religion will go the same way, but its omnipresence makes me suspect not. Evolution is survival of the fittest genes, and by "fittest" we do not necessarily mean biggest, toughest, fastest etc. We mean those who reproduce the best in the prevailing circumstances. I suspect that "life is meaningless" is not a family friendly motto.

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AUS

There is sunlight here and it is past 10am.
It is summer perhaps that is the advantage - more light!

Wooly - 292849
Try a good dictionary and look up the word 'spirit'.
If not visit a specialist your machinery may need an overhaul. (I don't wish to keep knocking my head against the steel wall.)

TheNucearOption 292917
you ask "do you give him $5 because it would be the Christian thing to do?"
Actually a taxi here to anywhere would cost more than $5 and if I believed he was trully in need, I would likely give him the money for a room for the night and a feed.
But don't come calling, I do not access you as needy.
You seem to be confusing the term 'christian'; there are those who are nominally so by speech and those who are motivated by the heart.

Creginho 292999 - you stated "WheatfromChaff seems to be getting a lot of stick here, but could somebody tell me how the hell you are supposed to prove the existance of colours to people who can't see?"
Put another way - 'there are none so blind as those that cannot see.'

Actually Creginho it is more likely that they do not wish to see.
In the most part the 'blind' that you come across here are likely those that do know, and have turned their back. They are not blind at all.

NuclearOption - you said you had tried! So you found it hard! Your choice, but don't damage the path of another!
The punishment is not enacted because of your choice, you are free, but to lead another and damage them.......

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GBR

Wheat from Chaff,

Of course you have the right to ask your question. And you have certainly set the cat amongst the canaries. It is actually a valid question.

My difficulty with the question is the assumption that the godly have an additional sense if you will, an ability to tune in to something denied the rest of us. Having been indoctrinated in religious belief as a child, I do not recall this other sense. It does still seem to me that it is an internalised thing, not something external and true.

And, as I said on the other thread, even as a sighted person, I could not realistically explain to you what 'red' is without simply pointing you to something that is red. Which is a bit of a cheat, really.

Best wishes

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WheatFromChaff and Humanzee lets all just avoid turpitude,
'wasindeed' an example of plagaristic inexactitude
don't get the need for bloody confrontational bad attitude
what is the point of bickering instead of dishing platitude
seems to me we have a long long long long long long way to go
before anar-chy, decency, egalitie informs us so.
ps.
this temporary sylla-balic affectation ends tonight.
a good nights sleep and sob-er-iety will surely end this plight.

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USA

Picking up on a common fallacy I'm seeing espoused here: it seems that atheists (and some Christians unfortunately) are under the impression that religion is a way to explain that which science has (yet) to explain. That impression is certainly an understandable one, but in essence is a false one. The reality of science is that the more we discover about the nature of the universe, the composition of life, the fabric of space, and the capabilities of mind and emotion, the more we discover evidence of a creator God's hand at work. And thus the rich irony of the postmodern age: the very thing that atheists place their faith in, science, will support a great shift back towards belief in an intelligent designer. In fact, the great shift is already well underway.

Cheers, Jared

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AUS

bethersonton 293070

Talented - is it yours?

Use it for the Good - not anarchy!

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AUS

solarsentinel - 292887

Good post.

Doubt if you will have any comments though - nothing to attack.

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GBR

Jared

"The reality of science is that the more we discover about the nature of the universe, the composition of life, the fabric of space, and the capabilities of mind and emotion, the more we discover evidence of a creator God's hand at work. And thus the rich irony of the postmodern age: the very thing that atheists place their faith in, science, will support a great shift back towards belief in an intelligent designer. In fact, the great shift is already well underway."

...and we are part of that designer, not separate, integral.
Our potential to love the Earth is enormous. In the whole cosmos, there is nothing yet discovered that resmembles the uniqueness of Earth. We have looked deep and nothing else. It stands to reason that even if we ever do find something similar, as we look even deeper into infinity, that at distances beyond most people's imaginations, we would never reach it. It stands to reason therefore, that despite our petty arguments and squabbles about who is right and wrong, we had better do something about preserving what we've got, or we wont even be able to have these arguments. Still, that may be no loss in the end.

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sapient,
anarchy in the charity or tom paine-ish sense, not the pejorative 'chaos' :)
postscript:
some apology, but you can get carried away after listening to the pirates o'
nestled in a graham wallas quote is the quote;
" how can i know what i think till i see what i say"
it's more like that, it's later than i imagined, have a good night sapient

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GBR

solarsentinel - 292887

A self-satisfied and offensive post. My atheism is not a "faith" based on my deeply-held hope to "escape justice", it is a judgement based on observable evidence. I can assure you that I do not "fear God's justice" any more than I fear Ming The Merciless. The idea that all atheists "wish to squander their lives in an orgy of self-indulgence while the rest of the world starves or is bombed into oblivion" is really quite laughable. I most certainly do not wish to do that. The suggestion that all religious people are highly virtuous is similarly false. I see religion as just being something that helps people feel more at ease with life, I don't think it really informs their morality too much. The morality found within religions reflects the morality found in humanity, not the other way around.


Sapient

I was making a literal request for someone to explain to me how the existence of colours could be proved to someone who lacks the ability to see. I was not making any analogy - just because something is possible, that doesn�t mean that it�s true.


Jared: "The reality of science is that the more we discover about the nature of the universe, the composition of life, the fabric of space, and the capabilities of mind and emotion, the more we discover evidence of a creator God's hand at work."

What "evidence of a creator God" has scientific study uncovered? Please explain yourself.

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AUS

bethersonton - 293099

Have a good night's rest - you did not enlighten me though regarding the author! Maybe to-morrow!

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NZL

Professor Grayling, you write:

"perhaps we can have a proper discussion about the ethical principles of mutual concern, imaginative sympathy and courageous tolerance on which the chances for individual and social flourishing rest. We need to meet one another as human individuals, person to person, in a public domain hospitable to us all, independently of the Babel of divisive labels people impose on others or adopt for them"

I am not a Christian, but (having read several of your polemics)I cannot help but think: "Physician, heal thyself!"

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AUS

creginho 293110

I quote in part from you post: ".....just because something is possible, that doesn't mean it is true."

Another one of you?

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MYS

Evilpooky: "Certainly seems pretty baren, rigid, bit stuffy and unfriendly in Richard Dawkins mathematical logical universe and i wouldn't want to live there.... Surely being agnostic is the best we can hope for and leaves a little bit of mysticism in the world?"

Theism, atheism and agnosticism all involve taking positions on certain facts. Unfortunately, facts are rather barren and rigid things. Mysticism isn't about facts (in my opinion) but experiences, and so has nothing to do with any of the three. I think it's a shame that religious people often confine themselves to arguing about facts, which renders their religions barren and rigid. The reason they do this is (of course) that without facts you can't really participate in politics and other arenas of worldy power. Mysticism has nothing to do with worldly power.

Atheism is really more amenable to a mystical outlook than theism, because you can just leave factual questions to the tried-and-true realm of science, and then get on with exploring your own personal mystical experiences without needing to draw dodgy "factual" conclusions from them. You aren't tempted to drag mysticism into the political arena. You can appreciate it within its own domain. Science takes good care of the factual stuff for you.

Jared: Maybe you noticed that last year's concerted attempt to push for intelligent design ended with a whimper. The "scientific" case for God is a perfect example of the saying "to paint oneself into a corner". You pick something that science can't yet explain, and say "we can't explain this, therefore God exists" (without explaining how God exists, of course). Then as science progresses, and that point is properly explained, another brick is removed from the foundation of the "scientific" case for God.

You will find that anyone who makes "the argument from personal incredulity" for the existence of God (i.e. "I can't believe X happened by itself, therefore God exists") will very likely understand nothing of complexity theory. Complexity theory is progressing at very great speed across a whole spectrum of scientific disciplines, and mowing down these arguments like wheat at harvest time.

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CAN

Although beliefs can support each other, they cannot justify each other as at some point a belief must be anchored to reality in order for a belief structure to have any merit at all. Examining religious beliefs is like peeling an onion: after stripping layer after layer there is absolutely nothing at their core.

Although some folks simply claim that they �know� that god exists - and then with absolute certainty - we can do little but take their word for it as they are unable to clarify what they mean by this assumption. Over the centuries people have attempted to put a rational basis to the claims of religion. The best known early attempt is perhaps the Ontological argument as once presented by St. Anselm (1033-1109), and another version of it by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) - and represents the claim that god must necessarily exist because he is the greatest being imaginable (!) Another and more sophisticated yet equally fallacious argument is the Argument from Design that has more recently surfaced as �Intelligent Design�. The world in all its complexity, so it is claimed, clearly shows evidence of having being designed by an advanced intelligence, therefore, it would be a reasonable hypothesis to assume the existence of a powerful being which possesses such intelligence, (and that would be god, presumably ...)

There is an attractive side to this line of reasoning, because it is true that the world as an organized entity appears to work remarkably well, and it would be difficult to accept the premise that all this is the result of random and accidental interaction between atoms and molecules. Well, at most one might be able to conclude that it is within the nature of the material world to reach some functional state of equilibrium given it has the conditions that make it possible, as evidenced here on earth, but it would be an unsubstantiated logical leap to conclude from it that there is or are beings of some kind that can be said to be the designers or creators of this phenomenon. That would be nothing more than the logical fallacy of concluding a cause from an effect.

Faith means not wanting to know the truth. (Nietzsche)

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NZL

Paranoid and others

It may well be that all we have and know is the result of
"random and accidental interaction between atoms and molecules"

If so, notions such as good and evil are totally meaningless. And if that is so, one is under no obligation to seek the truth.

And if that's so, one might as well believe in a god, particularly if it is the case that people with beliefs are generally happier than those without them.

Besides, it may be that the deity one has chosen to believe in actually exists

"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders"

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MYS

The problem with that argument being that interactions between particles aren't random. Otherwise the universe would be a cloud of hot gas. And no, CiF doesn't count as evidence for this.

The connection between this point and the factual existence of morality (defined in terms of suffering and happiness) is far from simple, but exists nonetheless.

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MYS

Maybe He's thinking "I shouldn't have smoked a bowl before creating that"... Like that Afroman song: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Pfa8OKw3o2w

Which reminds me... we were talking about Al Gore's grades in another thread. Back in the 2000 election, the press got hold of Al Gore's poor grades for his last year of college. If you recall, another thing back then was this idea that Gore said he'd "invented the Internet" (actually he just said he was one of the main guys trying to get funding for the "Information Superhighway" as it was called back then, which was quite true).

Anyway, Gore was supposed to use a joke about his bad grades: "That was also the year I invented the bong."

Not that there's anything wrong with that :)

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NZL

Mujokun

I apologise for misrepresenting your position in my previous post. I should have read yours more carefully.

You subsequently wrote:

"The problem with that argument being that interactions between particles aren't random. Otherwise the universe would be a cloud of hot gas. And no, CiF doesn't count as evidence for this.

The connection between this point and the factual existence of morality (defined in terms of suffering and happiness) is far from simple, but exists nonetheless."

Would you care to expand on this. It would be interesting


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GBR

Creginho : "WheatFromChaff seems to be getting a lot of stick here, but could somebody tell me how the hell you are supposed to prove the existence of colours to people who can't see. Surely you can't."

This has been answered before in this thread and more than once. Consider how we can prove the existence of radiowaves, magnetism and x-rays despite not being able to see them : we use the science of Physics.

People who cannot see light in the 'visible' spectrum can understand it and have its existence proven to them in the same way that we all can with light not in the 'visible' (to humans) spectrum such as infrared or ultraviolet.

Real things are provable. Fictional things are not. Its really quite simple!

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GBR

Why do you think that ethics are impossible in a purely material universe? Why do you require a supernatural deity standing over you with a big stick to recognise that there is merit in goodness? Is goodness not even more 'good' if it is done without expectation of heavenly reward? Or is your argument that, in fact, there is no 'good' except in expectation of reward?

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GBR

Fascinating quote from another guardian article this morning http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1946370,00.html

"The museum's research scientist, Dr Jason Lisle, has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He realised he was a Christian while he was an undergraduate, but didn't spread it around: "People get very emotional about the issue. I don't believe we should ever be obnoxious about our faith. I just kept quiet." And how did he pass the exams? "I never lied, but if I was asked a question about the age of the universe, I answered from my knowledge of the topic, not my beliefs."

This for me is a prime example of blind faith. I don't have a problem when people disagree with what they are studying on the basis of their faith. If Lisle had sought to produce rational arguments to support his faith, arguing that the evidence should be reinterpreted somehow, I would probably have argued back, but I'd have respected his intellectual integrity and search for truth. But keeping your faith and your knowledge in two separate compartments strikes me as intellectually dishonest.
_____________________________________

Solarsentinel - you seem to be claiming that atheists have a monopoly on greed, self-indulgence and unwillingness to take care of the planet. What is your evidence for that claim? As an atheist, I want an end to global injustice - main difference being that I'm working to try and achieve it in this world rather than hoping that it will all get sorted out in the afterlife. On the other side, there are many counterexamples of self-avowed Christians who are greedy and actively block efforts to protect the planet - e.g. GW Bush. (sorry to bring Bush into a non-international politics thread, but he is the obvious counterexample!)

_____________________________________

Finally, several posters have suggested another type of God - one who is compatible with, indeed supported by, modern physics. Or a god which is really the whole of the universe in all its diversity and wonder. And others have suggested a new sort of spirituality, one that helps people to grow and use all their faculties rather than just believing blindly.

It's always interesting in these debates that the idea of god proposed by advocates of god becomes less and less like any currently worshipped/followed god. The debate starts to advocate a god that did not require worship, which did not lay down moral rules that are not affected by changing circumstances, a god that favours rational enquiry rather than blind faith. A god that is compatible with science and philosophy. A god that is just a word for the universe itself, or for our sense of wonder as we look at the universe. But when is a god not a god? If you stretch the definition far enough, you end up with a god that atheists could believe in...

Maybe we can finally agree on something!

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GBR

douglasclark

"My difficulty with the question is the assumption that the godly have an additional sense if you will, an ability to tune in to something denied the rest of us. Having been indoctrinated in religious belief as a child, I do not recall this other sense. It does still seem to me that it is an internalised thing, not something external and true."

That isn't quite the assumption. The question was posed because some people - not all or even most - have claimed to have had direct experiences of "God". And some people - particularly those from eastern religions - have said that it is possible to train the mind and body to enable it to "see" (or rejoin) "God".

If somebody has, genuinely, obtained this ability, and there was something to "see", would he not be in the same position (vis a vis the rest of us) as a seeing man who can see colours which other people cannot?

(And would that be any more of an "internalised" thing than the ability to see colour?)

Of course - the reality of my "Kingdom of the Blind" example is that the person who claimed to have an additional sense, and proclaimed the existence of something indescribable which he called "colour", would probably be treated as a loony with a frontal lobe disorder and have the two strange objects at the front of his face removed - so as to cure him of his hallucinations.

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CREGHINO. I didn�t say that all atheists are self-indulgent. I said that self-indulgent people are likely to be atheists. Nor did I say that all religious people are virtuous. I implied that the virtuous have no personal incentive for disbelieving in God. As to your observable evidence, see below.

DOGMAN. Creation isn�t over yet.

In evolutionary terms, survival of the fittest kicks in after there is a change in the genetic make up of the organism, or after a change in the environment that exposes differences in fitness between existing members of a species.

Mutations in DNA are random, and nearly all lead to the death of the cell and therefore the organism. As to the remainder, it is very unlikely that a single mutation will confer an immediate benefit in survival terms. It is much much more likely that it will remain dormant as a potentially beneficial or detrimental characteristic at some future time.

Generally therefore it is the CHANGE in environmental conditions rather than genetic mutations that provide the selection pressure which drives evolution. Now think of the changes that have taken place in mankind�s environment in the last 2,000 years, and consider how the rate of change is speeding up, and one will see that the selection pressure on mankind is enormous and growing.

Just as Neanderthal man could not have begun to understand the world we inhabit today, so are we incapable of knowing what the future holds for us.

We got where we are today by being clever, but in a world full of clever people, being clever is no longer enough. Let�s not be too clever for our own good.

WOOLLYMINDEDLIBERAL�s discussion of belief in things we can�t see overlaps with the evolutionary approach. Cats only see in black and white but a bee with the same limitations would be severely disadvantaged. We see what we need to see to survive and that is all. There is a world out there that is invisible to us. The inferred presence of cold dark matter tells us that the universe is for the most part invisible. If you look at the sky tonight you will not be seeing what is there now, but what was there light years ago.

Blessed are those who do not see and yet beieve.

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CReaderJ. True Atheists and True Monotheists share one very important characteristic. They do not believe in false gods.

It is however as difficult for a materialist to be a true atheist as it is for them to be a true Monotheist, since it is not possible to live a value free life.

In the West, for monotheists and atheists alike, the main false value system to be rejected is consumerism, because it promises that you can have everything you want if you get enough money, which simply isn't true.

Consumerism is based on worship of money. In consumer societies, both religious and non-religious alike tend to accord too much respect to those with money, and tend to spend too much time trying to acquire more money.

Many hypocritical monotheists claim to worship God, but in fact put money first in everything. The true monotheist recognises that as a problem called sin.

Many hypocritical atheists claim to have no God, but also put money first in the same way.

True Monotheists decide what is sinful according to scripture, which they believe to be the word of God. Those who believe only those bits they like are not true monotheists, since they cannot reject any of it if they believe it to be God�s Word.

Those monotheists who do not at least TRY to keep the first commandment, which prohibits worship of money and all false gods, are hypocrites.

An atheist can be an atheist without trying, but in a consumer society, without trying, it is hard to be anything but a consumer, and a happy consumer is not a true atheist.


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MYS

I think one direction for evolution must be reduction of the tendency to obesity... except that biotech will no doubt deal with the problem first.

This thread is off the active list now, so time to say goodbye.

Just in addition to my previous post:

The arrow of time link should have been http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy_%28arrow_of_time%29

I left out one link, which should go under the complexity theory one.

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


If you want a hint to start along the path from physics to morality, think about this question: "What is the connection between entropy and freedom?"

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There is no freedom without order, since where disorder reigns, you cannot begin to predict the consequences of your actions. Without any idea of the likely consequences of your decisions, there is no point deciding anything, and so no freedom of choice.

A completely mechanistic universe would be deterministic and leave no room for freedom.

A completely quantum universe would be chaotic and leave no room for freedom.

God may not play dice, but he made a universe in which we can play dice.

We shoukl therefore be very careful about how we place our bets.

James Baldwin once wrote, 'Be careful what you set your heart upon, for it will surely be yours'

Nobody sets their heart on something unless they believe it is of value.

We get what we believe in.


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MYS

Sounds like part of the argument about "why did a loving God create Hell?" Nice Christians say "atheists choose to go to Hell, and God can't stop them. Nasty Christians say "because those f---ers deserve what they get". The nasty view seems more intellectually honest, somehow.

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Where true atheists and true montheists agree that what is of ultimate value is true Love, then what we can disagree over is firstly whether we are going anywhere, secondly, if so, have we reached our destination. Thirdly, if not, how do we get there.

In other words, which is the way? We can't find our own way because we see only what we need to see in order to survive physically, and Love is the one thing that can't hurt us,

Anyone travelling blind into the unknown needs a guide, and the best guide is one who has already got to where we want to go, but who started where we are starting from. The only way you could prove the existence of colours to a blind man is to give him the gift of sight.

Wandering around without knowing where we are going gets us lost. When we see that we are lost, we turn around, go back and find the way.

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GBR

alanpav, you've had over 24 hours. Can't be that hard to find a single piece of this much vaunted evidence? I'll pursue this on other threads if you like, just in case this one gets shut down. OK?

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GBR

I see that this is not the firstthread that has come to an end without your response to the challenge.
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/mike_ion/2006/10/post_552.html

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EVIDENCE, from videre, TO SEE

There's none so blind as those who will not see.

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GBR

**Creginho : "WheatFromChaff seems to be getting a lot of stick here, but could somebody tell me how the hell you are supposed to prove the existence of colours to people who can't see. Surely you can't."

This has been answered before in this thread and more than once. Consider how we can prove the existence of radiowaves, magnetism and x-rays despite not being able to see them : we use the science of Physics.

People who cannot see light in the 'visible' spectrum can understand it and have its existence proven to them in the same way that we all can with light not in the 'visible' (to humans) spectrum such as infrared or ultraviolet.

Real things are provable. Fictional things are not. Its really quite simple!**

We know of the things of which you speak because we can observe their effects (eg. Herschel discovered infrared light when he detected an increase in temperature beyond the red part of the spectrum). How can a blind person observe the effects of colour? I don't see how there's any way it could be proved to them, they'd just have to take people's word for it.

However, although it is possible that all of the religious people here are the equivalent of sighted folk in the kingdom of the blind, that is no more likely than me being the Queen of Sheba and everyone else just lacking the ability to realise it.

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It is not so much that you may or may not be the Queen of Sheba, but that whoever you are, we cannot recognise you because we are in the dark.

We have no way of seeing into one another's hearts.

The ones with their eyes open know that they are in darkness.

That is why they give others the benefit of the doubt.

In a dark room, only the people with their eyes shut can claim not to be blind.

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GBR

Humanzee - I never referred to "extra-Bible" evidence (though I believe there is something in Josephus). But your attitude seems to be: let's discount the Bible as historical evidence for anything, and resort to all other writings. Why do you assume that the Bible should be ignored as historical evidence? No need to answer, because I know. One may as well say: let's ignore Julius Caesar's writings as evidence for anything, and then demand evidence for his invasion of Britain.

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GBR

Humanzee - I should also mention that, for me, even more powerful evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus than the Bible is the existence of the Church, years before the Gospels were written, with its many thousands of members. What on earth would motivate people to change their lives in that way on the basis of a fiction?

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GBR

solarsentinal

Yes, we are cut off from one another: we can only ever know people through their outward actions. So what's your point? How does that in any way suggest that there is a god?


alanpav

If you take the Bible as evidence for the actions of Jesus, do you also take (what are now known as) Greek myths as evidence of the actions of the gods of ancient Greece?

As for why people started believing in Jesus to begin with, perhaps someone told them a story and they took it literally. Or perhaps the early church didn't take the story literally and this only happened later.

An absolutely massive number of religions have existed in human history. All of them must have started at some point. The fact that they did start is no evidence for their stories being true.

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GBR

@alanpav - you may find this essay useful:

http://www.nobeliefs.co/exist.htm

Earl Doherty wrote an excellent rebuttal of Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ called Challenging The Verdict, it is well worth reading. Doherty has a website at www.jesuspuzzle.com
Good matererial on Josephus and much, much more.

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GBR

That link should read:

http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm

And it is good material on Josephus...

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GBR

creginho - You are saying in effect that, because the world has seen many religions, therefore all must be false. Is it not possible that one is true? The (very) early Church started because witnesses (among whom I would number Paul)had seen the risen Jesus, and this was transmitted orally at a time when oral memories were far better than today. The Gospels were written because the first generation of Christians was about to start dying out. Reflection on these events helps to show how reasonable and, indeed, truthful it all was. I Corinthians 15 is the best written evidence, according to the historian Campenhausen.
Incidentally I do not argue that "the resurrection happened, therefore Christianity is true". It is perfectly possible to accept the resurrection of Jesus as no more than an inexplicable event. There is far more to it than that.

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GBR

alanpav

You said that you view the existence of the early Church as being powerful evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. So it seems to me that you're saying that the fact that the religion started is evidence that its stories are true. I then wondered if you therefore view the fact that there was a start to all the other religions that have existed throughout history as being evidence that all of their stories are true.

I was not saying that because the world has seen many religions they therefore all must be false. That does not follow. However, to me, they do all seem equally unlikely.

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GBR

Do you not understand, alanpav, that none of that is evidence (and your analogy of julius ceasar's writings a red herring)?

Assuming this thread isn't closed before I've had time, I will explain why here. If this thread closes, don't worry, I'll explain on another, at the earliest opportunity.

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ITA

Though it appears not possible to actually disprove the existence of a god on the lines of perfect being theology (temporally and spatially infinite, perfect, omnipotent, benevolent and necessary) it is certainly possible, using simple common sense, to present plausible probabilistic arguments against such a being existing. As faber says further down, it may never be possible to prove or disprove the existence of his friend Tom, but most of us who are rational know that Tom's imaginary existence is highly unlikely, since the reported occurrences of Toms is rare and of those ever reported none have been demonstrated (to the rest of us extant doubting Toms). Similar arguments from common sense and experience can be constructed by even the laziest of us with regard to the existence of a deus omnipotens.

Having said that much, it is still not beyond the bounds of credibility to argue for the existence of some type of god. Indeed, we may one day become gods ourselves because of the possibility - still theoretical - of our one day being able to create universes by causing quantum mechanical big-bang events in the laboratory. The universes so formed might then subsequently evolve life forms, and we will be their creators. Nonetheless, we will not constitute anything more than creators who are themselves subject to the laws of nature and who have themselves evolved in accordance with those laws.

It is in such a sense, though perhaps an unlikely one, that a creator-god might exist for our universe. He will not be described by perfect being theology since he would, like us, be subject to the laws of nature, which rule out the existence of deus omnipotens as described by perfect being theology. Moreover, and more importantly, there is no guarantee that this creator-god will be benevolent (though there is an argument, based on the evolution of morality as the shortest route to efficient reproduction of advanced beings, that shows that such a being will more than likely possess significant benevolent traits, much as we do).

As a matter of interest, there is something further to note in any discussion about a god on the lines of perfect being theology. There may exist a necessary being (indeed, the universe itself may be necessarily existent) but it cannot be almighty. Necessary being and almightiness are necessarily mutually exclusive as the following simple reductio ad absurdum shows:

1. God is an almighty necessary being
2. An almighty being can do anything [definition of deus omnipotens: able to do anything and everything to any degree]
3. An almighty necessary being would be able to cause itself to cease being necessary [from 2]
4. Ceasing to be necessary is impossible [definition of necessary being]
5. Therefore god is necessary but not almighty.

This reductio shows that if god exists as a necessary being then he cannot also be almighty, since it is beyond his power to cause himself to cease being necessary. Though it does not prove that god does not exist, it clearly shows that he must remain firmly within the bounds prescribed by general relativity and quantum mechanics in that he cannot possess infinite potentials. Further, it is clear that almighty beings are impossible, and a further reductio can be constructed that shows this.

As an aside, though one can disagree with much of what Grayling says � particularly his inconsistent perspective on the General Mystery of Things (especially truth, historical fact and the Bible) one can nevertheless support his efforts in trying to make more plane the absurdity of believing in something that is not only beyond the realm of possibility, but is also quite useless to us.

Habeeb Marouf
Elea, Cilento, Italy

Ps. Humanzee: Bede Rundle�s �Why is there something rather than nothing?� is a good read. Take a few weeks off before you start though.

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Cregimho The best evidence for the historicity of Jesus is the existence of the Jewish faith, which predates him, but does not deny his existence.

You said, Yes, we are cut off from one another: we can only ever know people through their outward actions. So what's your point? How does that in any way suggest that there is a god?

We are cut off from one another yet we believe in one another�s existence because of what we can see. We are cut off from God, but we do not believe in his existence, in spite of what we can see. Our believing and disbelieving is inconsistent, because it is based on the desire to preserve our physical bodies.

The same applies to belief in our own selves. We perceive a coherent unity and defend it to the death, but much of the time we are a mass of contradictions, lacking in integrity, rather than a person.

The word person is derived from the latin persona, which means mask. In our relations with one another and with our own selves, we believe the mask, and don't bother about the reality that lies beneath the mask.

Most of creation is veiled from our sight, as is the Creator. When our bodies die, we lose our masks. As Mark Twain said, The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Jiha007, when scientists try to analyse what happened just after Big Bang, they find that the normal laws of physics break down. Why should we expect the normal laws of logic to apply to God himself?

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When you can't take any more
when you feel your life is over
put down your tablets and
pick up your pen and
I'll put you together again.

If your faith withers away
if God can't bring you your answer
write me a letter I'll read it and then
I'll put you together again.

Put us together
together again
put us together again
when things look hopeless
just write me and then
I'll put you together again.

If there's no light anywhere
and you've got no one to turn to
I'll lead you out of the darkness and then
I'll put you together again.

Put us together
together again
put us together again
drop me a few lines
telling me when and I'll
put you together again.

When things look hopeless
just write me my friend and
I'll put you together again.

Hot Chocolate
� I'll Put You Together Again

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Creginho - the difference between the origin of Christianity and that of most other religions is that it is rooted in historical events (whether or not you believe them). Islam, for example, originated from the writings of one man, and the Far East religions from the moral precepts of particular individuals. Only Christianity (and of course Judaism) shows God acting in history.
Humanzee - I think you are confusing "evidence" with "proof". Of course we can't "prove" the Resurrection of Jesus, or even that he existed, any more than we can "prove" the existence of Queen Victoria. But the evidence is very powerful.

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GBR

No, I'm not confusing evidence with proof.
If you'll do me the courtesy of waiting for my comments you will recognise the difference yourself. I'm taking my time beause I don't want the comments to be misunderstood and I'm trying very hard to present them in a way that is not biased to our specific debate, yet addresses the specific things you cite as evidence in your posts 294200, 294269 and 294360
In addition I work (hence my somewhat higher postage rates on Friday afternoons and the weekends!). The period from now until new year looks to be extremely busy, but you'll have a response long before then.

After my challenge above, I'd look a bit silly if I left this hanging too long!

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USA

I agree with alanpav -- Christianity is fairly unique in that all of the major events in the Bible (both Old and New Testament, in fact) that deal with divine intervention in the world are historical and earth-space-time in nature. People didn't believe that Jesus was the Son of God because he told them so and illustrated nice spiritual concepts. They believed because he performed miracles and prophesied over people's lives, then purposefully offered himself to be tortured and killed (a fate he could have easily avoided had he chosen to), and then appeared to many disciples resurrected in the flesh, radiant and healthy on the third day. I find it rather absurd to suggest that a bunch of folks got together to "invent" a religion and then get persecuted and killed for it KNOWING it was all false. As apologetics experts like to say, people will die for their beliefs, but people will rarely die for their made-up lies.

Jesus must be an historical figure, and an astounding one at that. Deny he is God if you like, but denying he existed or that he had a truly mystifying and monumental impact on the world around him is simply a refusal to understand the nature of his life, his claims, and his followers.

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GBR

Jared your argumant is one from personal incredulity:
"I find it rather absurd to suggest...", "Jesus must be..." But you would feel that way. (I don't say this as a suggestion that you're biased- of course you are, this is the nature of religion. To speak of bias in this context is not a criticism, it is a fact to be recognised and worked with/around.

I'm trying to avoid bias, but will address the issues you raise as well in the comments I'm preparing for alanpav.

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ITA

solarsentinel, �normal" laws of physics and �normal" laws of logic??

I�m not so sure that it is the laws of physics themselves that break down at a big bang singularity and not simply that our theories as they stand at the moment aren't able to deal with what happens at a singularity. Moreover, it is not a logical or physical impossibility that there are other space-times with other sets of laws of physics different to ours. I think it is fairly clear that the laws of physics are in fact contingent.

But things such as the truth of Pythagoras� theorem for Euclidean space-times and 2 + 2 = 4 and the impossibility of square circles are mathematical necessities that are immutable and eternal and which not even God could negate. Think about it: even though Euclidean space-times are contingent, if there do happen to be Euclidean space-times then Pythagoras�s theorem is true in these space-times. It is an absolute truth about right angled triangles in Euclidean space-times that will be true always, for eternity and nothing can change that fact. Also, squaring the circle is not only physically impossible; the proposition itself is logically incoherent. To dredge up some more jargon from logic, the proposition �Square circles are impossible� is an analytical a priori truth that is almost too trivial to warrant explanation. Not even an all (everything you could possibly imagine) powerful God could substitute possible for impossible in that proposition and be expected to be taken seriously.

Another point: what do you mean by the normal laws of logic? It is a fallacy to assume that there are any �alternative� or "additional� �laws� of logic that can negate the �normal laws� of logic. In fact the phrase �normal laws� implies that the laws in question are normative, which is a bit of a tautology. I think �standard laws� is better, though again there is only one �set� of laws that describe logic, unlike the set that describe physics.

In a nutshell, the laws of physics are contingent but the laws of logic are necessary. Even god, as A J Ayer once said, must obey necessity. (I think it was Ayer).
HM
If you�d like to discuss this at length please email me. hm@ezurl.eu

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