Michael Battalio


Sunday, August 31, 2008

This I Believe (part 4)

This is part four of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I hope to figure some of it out here.

This entry into the series will focus on “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, specifically a critique of some the more ambiguous points. A kind of editor’s note: these are undeveloped ideas and just about each paragraph is a separate thought. If I have more time, I will explore these ideas more thoroughly later.

Dawkins argues that a free, omnipotent God controlling every atom and answering every prayer usurps the role of science. He feels that science must be able to explain everything, and that a supernatural power that is not ruled by science lessens the meaning of science. In effect, the argument defines science as something that can have no holes, that must be omniscient, that must explain everything without any supernatural causes (GD 147-8). That argument is no better than making Science a kind of God. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the wording he uses is what bothers me. It is almost as if he is making science a religion, which is a bit worrisome in itself.

Dawkins argues that a grand designer would be so complicated that he would need an even more grand designer to design Him. He has something there, but he’s trying to constrain religion, which is difficult to do. Religion has God conveniently boxed up as an omni-present, omnipotent, omniscient being. By definition, there is nothing greater than He. If he's everywhere, he's always existed. He doesn't need a creator. If he is all powerful, it doesn't matter how complicated He needs to be. He's all powerful. If he's all knowing, it doesn't matter how much knowledge it took to create the universe. But his argument does reveal that argument by design can be a circular argument, i.e. if the world is so complex that there is no way it cannot be designed, then there must be some complex being that designed it, but if there is a being more complex than the universe, who designed Him. Et cetera. (See the paragraph on the Kalam Cosmological Argument in part 3 of this series.)

Dawkins is also unnecessarily hostile towards religion. Several times throughout the book I found myself feeling insulted by his derogatory comments on religion, and here I am reading the book because I might agree with him. He is correct in saying that I only am so easily insulted because I have been raised religiously, and I should try to remove the chains of thought that a religious mindset had lock me to. But that does not change that the feelings I have toward religion are there now. There's nothing I can do about those preconceived notions, much less the preconceived notions of others who are merely reading his book out of curiosity. If his goal is to make atheism more accepted and make theism seem less ominous, he is being self-defeating. He would do better trying to cater to those individuals who are being introspective instead of being belligerent.
However, his hostility might serve a purpose. By attacking God, Dawkins is attempting to cut down the barriers that many, including me, have against crossing God's infallible commands. Although I felt resentful occasionally, every once in a while I did have to step back and say, "Wait, he does have a point." The God of the Old Testament is, to quote Dawkins: "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." Turning one into a pillar of salt just for turning one's head around out of curiosity seems a bit harsh of a punishment. I do have a hard time combining the God of the Old Testament to that of the New.

There is an element of the straw man in the book as well. Dawkins tries to take the best elements of science to dispute the worst elements of theology. To quote Marilynne Robinson, "If religion is to be blamed for the fraud done in its name, then what of science? Is it to be blamed for the Piltdown hoax, for the long-credited deceptions having to do with cloning in South Korea? If by 'science' is meant authentic science, then 'religion' must mean authentic religion, granting the difficulties in arriving at these definitions." One cannot defeat the egregious errors of religion and ignore the errors of science. While true that science did eventually uncover the Piltdown hoax and the fraud of cloning in South Korea. Religion is also attempting to flesh out the inconsistencies in its own beliefs.

One of Dawkins most interesting propositions is that of the "meme." A meme is a gene of culture essentially. It's a bundle of cultural beliefs that are passed on, so to speak, from generation to generation. A key distinction between genes and memes is that memes don't necessarily help the holder of that meme survive; it is just the meme itself that is surviving. Dawkins supposes that memes are why religions have remained so strong despite the lack of proof. For example, a religion is aided in it own survival if one of its beliefs is that God or some other higher power punishes disbelief. The religion will survive if punishment is sufficiently awful. Hence why Christianity and Islam have become so prevalent. Who would want to be thrown to the eternal fire? Or who wouldn’t want 72 virgins when they die?

I believe Dawkins’s largest fault is his bias. Dawkins does not speak with a single theist; just as Strobel did not speak with a single atheist. Many of his critics, both agnostic and religious alike, point out that Dawkins does not take on some of the greatest writings of religion, instead focusing on dismantling it from the edges, as opposed to facing some of its best literature head on.

Confused by my logic? Leave me a comment. Next, a comment on the lack of respect in the argument over religion.

63 comments:

Wesley said...

Let me try to clarify what you now believe in an effort to speed your arrival to atheism (once you start trying to reason about your religion, it's only a matter of time).

Let's immediately get it out of the way that you no longer believe in what Dawkin's calls a "personal god." That is, a god that interferes in the physical world for your sake. After all, you don't expect miracles to happen today. You wouldn't recommend a cancer patient to stop chemotherapy and pray instead. You also don't believe that the miracles in the world's religious texts are true. If you doubt this, ask yourself: Which is more likely? Is it more likely that a supernatural force actually bent the laws of the universe to impress a moral code upon some goatherders that only applies to society on a single planet among the trillions? Or is it more likely that the accounts are false, either because the original witnesses were mistaken or tricked (because of their limited understanding of the physical world) or because the text was mistranslated or deliberately falsified at some point in the innumerable recopyings?

Partly because you don't believe in a personal god, you also do not believe in Catholicism or any other of the world's major monotheistic religions. In additional support to this, you recognize the fact that 70%-90% of religious adults believe in the religion of their parents. You know that although you have a strong devotion to your Catholic beliefs, you would have an equally strong devotion to a Muslim morality if you had been raised in Pakistan or Indonesia. You have recognized that the main method of perpetuation of religion is through childhood indoctrination. You know that if no more children were raised religious and religious membership depended solely on adult conversions at a rate proportional to their number of members and similar to historic rates, in 2 generations religous people would make up < 1% of the population.

Since you do not believe in a personal god, you also understand that all of the moral codes espoused by various religions were created by men and not some omniscient god. As a consequence you may still believe in an afterlife, but you do not believe that you will be going to heaven or hell based on these moral codes which were thought up by men far less reasonable and knowledgable than you and with myriad ulterior motives that you do not share. You recognize that nobody in this universe knows any more about any afterlife than you do.

Your dilemma comes down to whether or not you believe that an intelligent entity created the universe. This is an interesting philosophical question, and I applaud any examination of the matter. But let's put that on hold a second and think about what you've already accomplished. You've already decided that you do not believe in a personal god or Catholicism or a heaven/hell-oriented afterlife based on religious teachings. However, I suspect (though I'm not in Starkville to verify) that much of your entire life is still based on your beliefs of several years ago. You probably still attend church, you probably still pray, you probably still do not have premarital sex with your girlfriend, etc. Furthermore, you are now experiencing a "crisis of faith." No doubt it is putting you through at least a little emotional stress. But why? You've already determined that the religious convictions that tell you not to "doubt your faith" are wrong. You've already made all the decisions towards renouncing your religion, but you still act and think like a religious person.

// begin opinion
Continuing to live this way is negative not only because you're hiding yourself from your friends and family (in-the-closet, if you will), but because keeping your views secret furthers the idea that your beliefs are shameful. You could, instead, stand as an example for other in-the-closet people. I think the more people come forward as non-believers the better. This is because I view religion as a dangerous and destructive force. Most people would list the following examples: the crusades, the inquisition, witch trials, sectarian violence, burning of churches, bombings of abortion clinics, etc. I, however, shy away from these examples, because there has been plenty of non-religious violence (though there would obviously be a lot less total violence without religion). I think the real danger of religion is the mindset it inspires: namely, that it's ok to ignore reason and logic. This is why there are people that, in the name of religions, continue to believe many things which disagree with overwhelming evidence (the Earth is flat, the Earth was created 5000 years ago, evolution is not true, women are inferior, blacks are inferior, Jesus will descend from the sky any day now and take everyone home, prayers and spells affect the physical world, etc.) Our children are growing up to learn that opinions should be based on the beliefs of primitive superstitions instead of on science and reason. This is why we have not yet been able to harness the power of stem cells and myriad other scientific advances that fly in the face of religion, but not reasonable morality.
// end opinion

In any event, how you live your life after you have determined that your religion is false is something nobody can help you with. It may turn out that you decide it's better and easier to continue to live a lie, and you may be right. After all, how would your parents feel about a non-religious son? How would Elaine feel? Plus, you may enjoy going to church and singing and playing the piano and hanging out with Fran. Of course, I would think that you could still do these activities and be open about your non-belief, but I might be wrong.

As for the postponed discussion of whether or not the universe was created by an un-personal god, definitive proof is going to be hard to come by. But you might want to re-read Dawkin's chapters 3 and 4 about the liklihood of the existence and non-existence of an omnipotent creator. In any case, you've already turned the corner. Whether or not an un-personal god exists is not going to affect your behavior to the extent that the existence of a personal god and following a religious system would. And if you choose to come forward with your non-belief, you will, for all practical purposes, act approximately the same as someone who believed in the non-existence of an un-personal god.

-Wesley

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness...we now have two absolutely idiotic people chatting about something about which neither one have no valid viewpoints...Have either one of you tried to give over your questions to God and to lay them at the foot of the Cross for Him to figure out...the Bible clearly states to "ask for wisdom, and it will be provided"...it would be so sad if Jesus Christ Himself were reading these posts...you both really need to come to a place where you put ALL your faith in Jesus Christ...until then, there's really no hope for either of you...You'll be searching forever, and then you'll die...what a fun life!!!...and let me guess, you guys are probably voting Obama in the election as well...you guys sound like intense liberals who really have no intelligence, just intelligent stupidity!!!

mbat said...

To anonymous,
If you are trying to remedy my doubts and convert my friend, you are doing an awful job. Still considering myself a Christian I know that you are supposed to love all people, regardless of their "stupidity." Calling me an idiot is not very loving.
And politics has nothing to do with this. Actually, I'm an independent; I don't really know who I'm voting for yet. And the reason nothing useful ever gets done in the government is because radical conservatives, such as yourself, and extreme liberals hate each other simply because you disagree. If we could all take just a little bit of constructive criticism, we would reach compromises everyone could agree on in a much more timely matter.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it...the truth hurts sometimes, doesn't it? Sometimes Christians must be "tough" in their presentations because we are being blasted by folks like you and your friend. It's time, my friend, for Christians to stand up for their beliefs, not giving in to narcissistic atheists or agnostics. We are loving, but we don't want our unborn murdered! We are loving, but we don't want our values thrown into the air! We are loving, but we also don't want leaders with an "anything goes" mentality, completely side stepping God and His will for our nation. Think about that when you are so deep into figuring out Darwin. Have you ever tried picking up the Bible to read instead of Darwin's crap? The Bible may provide some of the answers you are longing for...

--jam said...

Interesting stuff, Michael. Fun conversation, too. From the Been-there-done-that camp, I want to jump in and offer my input.

Wes, I'd suggest reading John Paul's encyclical Fides et Ratio. To say that religion is causing people to ignore science is a blanket statement that is not necessarily true. People may USE religion as an excuse to ignore science, and some religions institutions may try to tell their people that science and faith are opposed, but it's people - not the core beliefs of the religions - that choose to remain ignorant. Also, trying to pin the reason "we have not yet been able to harness the power of stem cells" on "beliefs of primitive superstitions instead of on science and reason" - nope, I can't let you get away with that one either. People hear that certain religious beliefs are opposed to the use of discarded embryos for reesearch and they shout, "The won't let us do stem cell research!!!!" Ludicrous. There are plenty of sources for stem cells that don't involve discarded human embryos. I don't think this is the work of primitive superstitions here.

Anonymous, the Bible is just another book to someone without a foundation of faith. To tell someone to read the Bible and that will give them faith is just silly. And to call someone who is in an honest search for faith and idiot is a sure fire way to turn them from whatever house you worship in. WWJD? I don't know, but I don't think he'd call Michael an idiot for trying to work it out.

Finally... Michael... No, I'm not going to let you go either. :) I'm going to throw out a challenge to you... You're calling this series, "What I Believe", but so far, I'm reading lots of "What Other People Write About Beliefs And My Learned Essays About Them" I'd love to see Part 5 be a sidestep and read a from-Michael's-heart version of "What I Believe", in plain language, without references and footnotes. Don't quote other people. At the core, there are some things that you believe. What are they? When I went through a similar exercise years ago, at one point I put the books down and just went for a walk in the woods, trying to figure out what _I_ believed. I believed there was something bigger than me. That's about it. But it was a starting point.

I really enjoyed reading the series. It's good stuff and I like where you're heading and how you're handling it. MORE!

John

Wesley said...

John,

First let me say that there is no doubt that Catholicism (at least in recent history) has led the way in religion accepting and integrating science. In fact, in my Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right, Catholics are listed under the "Sinful Denominations" for tempering religion with reason. What's more, the Vatican's science-related proclaimations often appeal not only to religion, but morality. The only reason I use the Catholic church in any example is because it is one of the hardest cases to make - examples of ignorance and unreasonable belief are much easier to find in many other denominations and religions. Also know that I am familiar with JP2's Fides et Ratio. I find it an artful act of diplomacy with the glaring flaw that it presupposes the necessity of religion to morality. Nonetheless, it was a great step forward.

I think the paragraph you devoted to me would have been much better spent addressing the thrusts of my argument - not one of the examples I provided. Let me repeat my three assertions:

1. Religion is in opposition with science.
2. Religion is not required
3. Religion is, in fact, negative

Religion claims the truth of ideas that cannot currently be proven (the immortality of the soul, heaven, hell, the protocols that must be followed to enter these supposed places, etc.). Religion does not require evidence of the (mostly outrageous!) claims it makes; science does. By its very nature, religion is opposed to science.

Religion imposes restrictions on the lives of its followers that are not required by science or morality. Why are Catholics instructed not to use birth control? Why must Catholics go to confession? Why must Catholics take mass or be baptized or pray or believe in transubstantiation or not be homosexual or take part in any of the dozens of rituals and beliefs required by their church? These are doctrines invented by men who were, by today's standards, woefully unaware of the laws of nature and their place in the universe. The idea that these ceremonies and concepts (which were dreamed up by men centuries dead) will provide us any benefit in this life or any possible afterlife is entirely fiction (or at best, a random coincidence that seems astronomically unlikely considering the specificity of the ceremonies and the number of possible permutations). The restrictions of religion are unnecessary and not required.

In the best case as described above, religion is a waste of time but otherwise benign. However, in the much more often worst case, religion is negative and destructive. By asserting the truthfulness of its claims without any evidence, religion reinforces (in the minds of billions of people) the idea that claims do not require evidence. Regardless of what claims religion makes, it is destructive to teach people what is, in effect, the opposite of science. What's worse is that the claims themselves (and not just the fact that claims are being made without evidence) are often negative. Some examples include the belief (whether implicit or explicit) that women are inferior, that Holy War against the infidels will get you laid in heaven, and that the rapture is imminent so there's no need to worry about the environment.

Lastly, as a matter of accuracy, there are not plenty of sources for stem cells that don't involve discarded human embryos. There are, in fact, practically none. Stem cells from umbilical cords are called cord cells and are different and not as useful as embryonic stem cells. And while there are several active areas of research on procuring stem cells without destruction of an embryo including creation of stem cells from somatic cells and harvesting stem cells from amniotic fluid, they are so far impractical. Regardless, the suppression of embryonic stem cell research is another example of unnecessary restriction imposed by religion - why is it necessary to go through such pains to procure stem cells with there is a clear and abundant source in discarded embryos?

-Wesley

--jam said...

Wesley, not meaning to start an argument, just offering a different view.

Comments on your last comment:
First off, my ears always perk up when someone uses terms like "always" and "fact". For instance, "Religion is, in fact, negative," would be more accurately written, "Religion is, in my (your) opinion, negative." I just think a lot of what you're saying about religion is opinion, not fact - certainly not fact as in the scientific sense. Which brings me to -

"Religion does not require evidence of the (mostly outrageous!) claims it makes; science does" - actually, science doesn't. It has these things called "theories" that are to be taken on faith (although science would certainly never use that word). Take for instance the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution. Neither of these can be proven. Sure there's some evidence to suggest that the theories are correct, but they can not be proven as true. The existence of God can be thought of as a theory, by the way, because there seems to be sufficient evidence that it's at least possible, if not true. "Religion claims the truth of ideas that cannot currently be proven" - So does science - it doesn't make it false.

"Religion imposes restrictions on the lives of its followers that are not required by science or morality." First off, most of them ARE required by morality. Second, the Constitution of the United States imposes restrictions on the lives of its citizens that are not required by science. Can science prove that the only restrictions that should be placed on a society be those that are required by science?

Again, I assert that it's not religion itself that is is negative, but some of the misuses of it. Look at the travesties carried out in the United States in the name of Democracy. It's not Democracy that did it - it was people misusing their power granted to them under a Democratic government.

Finally, (as a matter of accuracy,) there ARE plenty of sources of stem cells besides human embryos. I don't claim to be an expert on the matter, but I've been following this debate for years. As a recent cancer survivor, this is a very important topic for me - one I don't take lightly. I try to understand it from a medical and scientific, as well as moral and legal, standpoint. Here's just one of many, many, many examples of information available from a neutral source: here

Wesley, I really appreciate your comments. I love a healthy debate. :)

Wesley said...

John,

I'm as anxious to not argue as you, though I enjoy discussion. And while I can't say I love the adversarial nature of debate, every once in a while my "adversaries" acknowledge that I'm right - and I do love that!

In science, the word theory is used differently than in everyday conversation. A theory is an explanation of a phenomenon that is supported by physical evidence (please do a Google search on the difference between theory and hypothesis if you plan on disagreeing). The theory of evolution and the big bang theory both have compelling physical evidence to back them up. There is no physical evidence for God (unless you believe in miracles). The existence of God cannot be viewed as a scientific theory. It is what's called a hypothesis (or someone's best guess explanation before any physical evidence is found). The fact that it is possible is not the same as evidence in support.

But in any event, it doesn't matter whether we call God's existence a theory or a hypothesis - the difference is that science makes no claims as to the truth of its theories. Scientific theories are constantly being rewritten and thrown out in favor of newer, more plausible theories. Scientists do not say "This theory is true." Instead, they say "This theory is the most plausible explanation we have right now." This is different from religion. Religious people do not say "God is the most plausible explanation right now, but we'll revise our theory if more data comes along." Religious people say "God exists and that's true and I'll believe that no matter what data comes along because I have faith." I would see it as a gigantic step forward if all the religious people on the planet began thinking of God's existence as a theory. This Sunday, why not try asking a few members of your congregation if God's existence is just a theory? I'd be very interested to know the results.

Next, you claim that most of the restrictions imposed by religion on its followers ARE required by morality. For some basic beliefs of Catholicism, let's start with the Apostle's creed. According to it, Catholics are required to believe that there is a God who has a son who was born of a virgin who died and went into a place called hell (which is implied to exist) and then came back from the dead and will judge us after we die (implying an afterlife). They also must believe in the Holy Ghost, the communion of saints (and transubstantiation), and the resurrection of the body. Furthermore, Catholics are required not to engage in homosexual acts. Catholics are required not to use birth control or to have premarital sex. They are required to be baptized and take communion and confess their sins and be confirmed. What does any of this have to do with morality?

The tiny morsel of morality at the heart of Christianity can easily be condensed onto a 3x5 index card. This card would have on it commandments 5-10 and the "Golden Rule" from the Sermon on the Mount. Everything else is ritual and myth created by men now millenia-dead who believed animal sacrifices affected crop yields.

Lastly, on the matter of stem cells: not to dismiss your struggle, but I would think a recent cancer survivor would be more informed. The information from your "neutral source" is incomplete and inaccurate. Also, your "neutral source" has the following links on the same page: "Nostradamus Prophecy", "How can I grow with God?", "Who is Jesus?", "Does God exist scientifically?", "When you die will you go to Heaven?". Please try the following truly neutral sources:

National Institute of Health
International Society for Stem Cell Research
International Society for Stem Cell Research
ReasonOnline

Once you have read these, you will know that the other stem cell sources which were mentioned in your link (bone marrow and cord blood) provide cells which are not as useful and are much more difficult to work with than embryonic cells. These cells can only be used to replace certain tissues in the body. Embryonic cells have the capability to be used to replace ANY cell in the body. Furthermore, bone marrow is difficult and often life-threatening to harvest. Also, rejection rates with embryonic cells are much lower than with bone marrow and cord blood. Lastly, embryonic cells have the highly desirable quality that they continuously divide and, consequently, can be cultured in labs (this is what's known as a stem cell line).

--jam said...

Wesley, you got me on one point - the link I provided. Not the one I intended, but the information is correct, nonetheless. About as "neutral" as Reason Online, so we're even. ;)

I think we're at a point where a text conversation is just not adequate. Perhaps we can catch up in person sometime to continue. Lots of good points on either side. The language is just breaking down (in my opinion).

Thanks again. I have a feeling we'll be taking over MBat's blog if he's not careful.

Wesley said...

Just to end the thread on an accurate note: We're not "even" because I posted three other links to reputable scientific organizations, and the fourth link I posted (ReasonOnline) is to a prominent libertarian online newspaper. Libertarian is not synonymous with atheist - in fact, most libertarians are Christians. It's funny how no matter what you say about science not being in opposition with religion, when you see the word "reason" you immediately jump to the idea of atheist bias.

As to your belief that further text conversation is pointless, I don't agree but I understand. Most of my conversations with believers end with them leaving (I can never get those acknowledgements of defeat from them that I love so much). I actually prefer text communication, because I can get down all the points in writing and rebut them one by one. Verbal arguments have a natural bias toward quick-thinking people (not me) with lots of experience arguing (not me) who are willing to change their story if they start losing (not me). In written arguments, all that matters is the validity of points. Consequently, I believe written arguments have a higher probability of finding truth.

As to taking over Battalio's blog - I don't think it will be a problem: you can have it. I posted because Battalio is my friend and I care very much that he sort his beliefs out. I was not posting to convert you or any other of his readers (who are not my friends). Henceforth, my comments to him will be made in private via email.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of idiotic people you all are with nothing else to do but debate atheism and whether or not God exists...GET A LIFE! Instead of debating, why don't you go help someone in need instead of debating and satisfying your own self-interests!

--jam said...

Hey Anonymous (if that's even your real name), how about you going out and helping someone in need instead of spending your time reading idiotic debates about atheism and whether God really exists and trying to pump up your own ego by berating the people who are having the debate?

mbat said...

Anonymous, I've got to agree with jam; at one point I actually found your commentary useful, but I don't anymore. Please just go away if you aren't going to say anything useful.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is laughing now because anonymous has caused you all to actually get a little agitated...It's so funny listening to a bunch of narcissistic morons disagree on stupid issues that are not even significant. Try homelessness--that's a signficant issue to debate about!

Anonymous said...

Still laughing...HA HA HA

mbat said...

You have to try to get the last word in don't you? I find it sad that you feel accomplished in making us angry. (Although, not quite as sad as you referring to yourself as anonymous in the third person.) I'm actually not aggravated at all; that's just you projecting. And that's because you're the one resorting to name calling because you cannot come up with a sound argument, or at least you certainly haven't made one yet. To mention a comment you made before, what you are doing now is not "tough" love. It's just anger. That gets nothing done. See part five of this series of posts. I await your scintillating retort about how stupid and narcissistic we all are, because that's all you're saying anymore.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I find it very amusing that you actually responded. This simply means that I did aggravate you--as well as your other friends who issue this nonsense gobbledygook to the world...What I am actually trying to do is for you to see the pointless never ending train on which you and your friends are actually riding. You will actually solve nothing debating whether or not God exists or whether there is a point to life. What you and your friends should do (only a suggestion) is to assist those in need. Assisting others WILL focus your attention ON OTHERS, and force your debates to dissipate about whether or not there's a point to life. My God, please!!! There is a point to life when you are visiting the ill or giving to a charity for ill children. Life is really not about us. It's about others. Think about that over your toast in the morning! It's not about whether our lives make no sense at all OR make complete logical sense. Try talking about a debate that's actually worth writing about...homelessness for example; or the injustice to the unborn--to name just a few. Not whether or not you believe in a personal god (referring to Dawkins). Who cares? Really, have any of you come to any conclusions yet? I think not...

mbat said...

Think what you will. Of course I responded, aggravated or not, its my blog. (I still find it sad that you think aggravating people means you win.) You still haven't said anything you haven't said half a dozen times already.

So you'll stop making the same point over and over again, I do serve others, every week actually, and you're right, I do find meaning in that (already talked about it, read part six). But, I cannot go through life with that as my only purpose. I want to know about the world around me. And that can only be decided by reasoned introspection and then intelligent discourse with others (which you are participating in). Through this process, I have figured out a great many things. One of those conclusions is helping others. At least on this we can agree.

Lastly, I care if I believe in a personal God. If you don't care if I believe in a personal God, then again I say, go away.

--jam said...

"Actually, I find it very amusing that you actually responded."
Wow, you're very easily amused, aren't you?

I have a question for you - when do you find time in your day to help people with all the time you spend putting other people down?

Do you actually have anything of real substance to add here? Here's something for you to ponder - if there isn't a God, why bother helping anyone at all? I went through a real struggle in my own faith years ago and came to the very dark conclusion that if there isn't an absolute truth/morality/standard, then the whole notion of helping others because it's "good" is just plain silly. So, yeah, it makes a lot of sense to try to figure out if there's a God. For me, it was a matter of life or death.

For you, it just seems to be a matter of self-righteousness. We're so proud of you that you know everything and am just in awe of your ability to articulate it. Before hitting that keyboard again, why don't you try to offer something meaningful or just go help someone else.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I'm not a narcissist who posts such CRAP! No sense in debating with you all; your ears are closed.
Over and out...

mbat said...

(You'll have to reply again to get the last word.) I counter by saying you are the narcissist. I'm open to other ideas; you decided we were wrong before your first post. Narcissism is assuming you are always right and everyone else is always wrong.

Sir, there never was a debate. A debate is where I say something, call it "a." You then say something in response to refute "a," call it "b." I respond with "c"; you then respond to "c" with "d." That is not what happened with us though. In our case, I said "a"; you said "b" in response. I replied with "c." You then said "b" again. Trying to prompt something useful, I then said "d." Not having anything better to say, you then said "b" again and so on. A debate also uses evidence and logic to counter another's argument. Saying something is not right and calling someone a derogatory term does NOT make you right if you have no argument, which you do NOT. This never was a debate. This was half a debate, me present thoughtful ideas and you responding with name calling. My ears aren't closed; you just aren't saying anything useful. So yes, over and out.

Anonymous said...

Got you agitated again, huh?
So funny I had to laugh.

mbat said...

I'm pretty sure I'm laughing harder at you, because I am absolutely kicking your butt in this argument. You are playing into exactly everything I'm saying; you just can't stand not having the last word. I dare you to write something, anything, that doesn't attempt to mock other participants in this conversation or devolve into name calling. Go ahead, please. Surprise me.

And yes, I'm agitated that out of all the people looking at things on the internet, you're the only person I don't already know who actually continues to comment.

Anonymous said...

We are Anonymous.

We do not espouse the beliefs and writings of the person here abusing our name.

Anonymity is a tool that we use to convey a powerful message. What we see here is cowardice.

So, anonymous, before you post again under our name, consider the disservice you do to us, who are working for the good of humanity.

We are Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Anonymous 1 has to be given a little credit. This person actually has a point.

Sometimes, trying to reason existence of God points us nowhere, and what is the point of faith anyway if you reason all the time?

Just a thought from new Anonymous 3.

Wesley said...

"what is the point of faith anyway if you reason all the time?"

Actually, when you put it like that, I guess I agree completely with you and Anonymous 1.

mbat said...

It appears the original anonymous has finally left, so now we can have an intelligent conversation again. Here's how I deal with both reason and faith. I think you'll get much farther with both faith and reason than with just faith. (Not saying anything about how far you will get with just reason. That's not something I'm sure of yet.) If you blindly accepted everything in the bible without reasoning some of it out, we'd all still have nine wives and would still stone adulterers etc. Faith is a lot about accepting what cannot be proven, but it is also about getting as far as you can with reason first before you start accepting things. If you reason as much as you can first, there's a smaller chance you'll be accepting things on faith that are wrong. However, at some point in religious belief, reason will not help you anymore. I admit that; by definition that's what faith is about, accepting some things without logical proof. I'm not there yet, so that's why I'm reasoning.

Wesley said...

Faith is defined as belief in the truth of something without logical reason or physical evidence. Where did you learn that it was a good thing to accept something as truth under these circumstances?

The method you're espousing for minimizing the possibility of "accepting things on faith that are wrong" is as follows:
1. Figure out as much as you can with reason.
2. Begin believing things for which you have no evidence (or even evidence of likelihood) and call it "faith."

The method I espouse is:
1. Figure out as much as you can with reason.
2. Leave everything else as an open question to be investigated with reason as evidence becomes available.
3. Do not try to explain away mysteries with fairy tales or by erroneously accepting facts for which you have no basis.

It is almost infinitely improbable that God exists. It would require mountains of evidence to even begin to point to the existence of an omniscience omnipotent God that simultaneous monitors and controls every atom in the universe. Even if you found some such evidence, it would almost certainly be explained by a simpler solution in the form of some theory of natural law (such as universal gravitation) which doesn't involve such an infinitely complex super-being with intent.

But we don't have these mountains of evidence. In fact, we have no evidence at all - NONE! The best evidence we can come up with is some alleged miracles in a very old book. If events even remotely corresponding to the "miracles" even happened (which is a serious stretch, considering the repeated translations and recopyings of this book over the course of millenia by men with their own myriad agendas and the innumerable contradictions in this book) then it still proves nothing. From a likelihood standpoint, it is far more likely that these primitive tribal witnesses were tricked, deliberately falsified their accounts, or simply misunderstood some natural phenomenon.

Lastly - even if the miracles did occur exactly as they are depicted in the Bible and even if we had video footage shot from 4 different angles of each event, belief in God STILL isn't warranted. There is no need to invent an omnipotent and omniscient being to explain away all our mysteries. The proposal of this theory is a SEVERE over-reaction. It's as if Rutherford, when conducting the gold-foil experiment, had jumped to the conclusion that there was some invisible man inside the plum-pudding atom who intercepted alpha particles and fired them back at the originator.

So I ask again - where did you learn that it was not only acceptable, but GOOD to belief as fact incredibly improbably things without any evidence whatsoever? I'll save you the trouble of answering: you learned it as an impressionable child. Before you were old enough to learn about reason and logic and evidence, religion got a foothold in your mind and prepared powerful defenses such as "you need to take things on 'faith'" and "if you stop taking things on faith, you'll be punished severly in the fiery pits of hell."

ADVICE: You are wasting your time trying to mesh reason with "faith." The two are fundamentally at odds - one says you need evidence to believe something, the other says you do not. Instead, ask yourself if you want to remain religious. If the answer is yes, then accept that you are being unreasonable. If you continue attempting to apply reason to your faith and you're capable enough to do it correctly, you will reach the inevitable conclusion that God almost certainly does not exist.

mbat said...

Let's pause a moment Wesley. It has taken me 23 years to get this far, to get beyond all the Catholic School indoctrination. I still am not to where I can say all of religion is nonsense. Perhaps it is inevitable that I will eventually get there, perhaps I won't. The point is I'm much closer to some sort of conclusion than when I just blindly accepted whatever my Theology teacher, priest and parents told me. A lot of what you say is a tough thing to swallow, even for someone who is trying to be open to such things, so I will merely say that I will remember this post as I continue dealing with what has been indoctrinated into my psyche.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your intelligent comments Mr. Wesley; Original anonymous is back. I would have to agree with you, Mr. Wesley; you, in fact, are the only one that makes any sense on these posts. Yes, how can you mesh reason with faith? Mbat, you are not anywhere near coming to a distinct and precise conclusion on what you believe. You will be searching forever, sir. It's as if you're an airplane circling the airport, but never landing. Being consistently indecisive on what you actually believe displays no faith at all. So, in essence, you either lack faith or refuse to accept any faith. And by the way, mbat, sir, you are not the only one who can compartmentalize thought and divulge into intellectual conversation. Millions of people in the world would disagree with your so-called "logic"--chew on this for a while.

Wesley said...

Rember, Battalio: just because a fundamentalist agrees with me on one point doesn't mean I'm wrong. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Also, on a re-reading of my previous post I realize that offhandedly using the phrase "you're wasting your time" was flippant, inaccurate, and sounded harsh (though I didn't mean it that way when I wrote it). I would have better said it as follows:

The attempt to mesh reason and faith is doomed to fail from the beginning due to the fundamentally opposite nature of these ideas. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean it's necessarily a "waste of your time." Sorting out your world-view through introspection and rational discourse does not seem like time wasted.

mbat said...

Okay, this is really just enough now. Anonymous you really have nothing better to do but insult. You have once again said nothing new. I implore you, for the sake of saving time on both our parts, go away and just start you own blog if you are so opinionated. This is getting us no where except proving you have such a large ego that you can't just leave.

mbat said...

And it's fine Wesley, I know what you mean.

Anonymous said...

Oh okay, if you can't take on differing viewpoints with a "cool" logic, then you will still be circling the airport with what you do or do not know about whatever you do or don't believe. I'm just spouting off my opinions, which is what you are in fact doing. None of yours is research-based; none of mine is either. I have faith; you seem to not. But you're the brave one; I wouldn't want to be you on a plane about to crash.

mbat said...

Several posts ago you agreed with Wesley in saying that reason and faith cannot be reconciled, yet you now want to discuss faith with a "'cool' logic?" I'm really confused. Or did I just catch you BSing?

I would go say something about science being based on research, but I'll allow Wesley to dismantle that statement. He'll do a better job than I.

And please, stopping trying to give me your fake pity so that you can feel good about yourself. It was quaint at first, now it's just sickening.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm not even allowing any pity...I'm just trying to assist you in coming away from your secular viewpoint. That's what fundamentalists do I assume (as I've been labeled). Fundamentalism seems to have such an ambiguous meaning. It sounds as if Christians are "hyper-mental" or "extremists". No, I don't share the gospel as Jesus did because there are people like you out there. If you think I'm giving you any pity, you are sadly mistaken.

mbat said...

No response to me calling you out on a contradiction?

This conversation has devolved into nonsense. Go away. When people like you call people genuinely trying discern things idiots and morons, it doesn't help your case. Keep that in mind for the next person you harass.

Anonymous said...

If you think you are calling me out on a contradiction, you are sadly mistaken. Why don't you come away from your self-absorbed pessimistic attitude into the land of optimism, where others matter more than yourself. No point in talking to you anymore. I wish you well on your self-discovery or whatever it may be. I hope you find the faith that has been the guiding point in my life. If I have offended, I apologize, but please remember that without faith it is "impossible to please God"-from the scripture, not myself. To find faith, you must surrender your whole being to the One who created you, your mind, your body, your intelligence, etc. Surrender will lead you to optimism, and that mr. mbat, is the best life anyone can live.

mbat said...

I believe what you just posted was the definition of being a hypocrite. You call me self-absorbed but then apologize for it two sentences later. You call what I think crap, and you call me an idiot but now you say you're sorry. That's pathetic if all you can do is denounce what other people think instead of just trying to persuade, which is actually what this blog is about. I'm rather tired of tolerating you, so I hope you actually mean it this time when you say you're leaving. Good bye and thanks for leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth for whatever religion you profess, because by attacking and name calling instead of merely discussing, that's all you've done. Congratulations. If there is anyone else who would actually like to discuss religion instead of pass judgement, please comment, because I'm actually trying to discern instead of defend myself.

Anonymous said...

This is a new anonymous talking, I believe I posted a couple of wks ago. Not sure. Although I don't agree with Wesley's beliefs, he issues his argument with a bit more spice than M bat. Actually he makes much more sense in his arguments, and he does not become offended at the anonymous who is I believe very fundamental. But this fundamental anonymous has every right to believe what he/she wants to and to post it on a blogg. For you to tell him/her to go away actually allows him/her to win. That means he/she has gotten under your skin a bit. At least try to carry on a positive conversation with him/her. These posts by you and Wesley seem to be very one-way and biased against Christians, however, I don't agree with all of the first anonymous's statements. Wesley has every right to issue his/her statements, just as you do M Bat. Who is the one who is offended here? Perhaps M Bat? Just a thought.

mbat said...

Sigh, perhaps everyone is right and I'm wrong. Oh well. I'm tired of people accusing me of things instead of trying to discuss stuff. Anonymous comments are being turned off, as much as I did not want to do this. To the second anonymous, your acting just like the first anonymous. Perhaps I am offended, but who are you to make the accusation, and for that matter why do you care and after reading all of this, can you blame me?

mbat said...

And what does getting offended with being insulted have to do with anything? I'll leave anonymous comments on for a few more days, so either of the anonymouses can reply, but after that I'm really tired of this tread; all it is doing is wasting my time. The point of these posts is to get the opinions of my original posts not to be judged at the ease of my offense. Yes, the original anonymous has finally agitated me as he triumphantly put it, now I am ready to give up and move on.

And lastly if anyone is going to question my "spice" and inability to make sense, provide examples so I can at least defend myself/clarify. I certainly my not be as smart as everyone else commenting proclaims to be, but at least give me a chance before passing judgement.

mbat said...

There's one other thing bothering me. I'm having to defend myself, (for not holding a positive conversation, which I tried at first, for becoming irritated when something I'm genuinely trying to do is being called stupid, for not making much sense, and for allowing the fundamentalist to "win") I don't care about winning and losing; I care about trying to figure out if I believe in God, and neither of the anonymouses are helping me with that. So yes, if you aren't helping me, I feel I can ask or tell you leave; it is my blog. If you don't leave then fine stay. I should be able to ask you to leave.

At the end I was trying to be as offensive as I could to coerce the first anonymous to leave (believe me or not if you like). So if neither of the anonymouses have any comment on God or anything else even remotely relating to what I originally had to say, both of you may go away, with your chins held high and a smile on your face for winning no less. But if instead of the character bashing in which we have all taken a part of the last ten posts, anyone has something productive to say, please say it.

Hopefully that's it now.

Anonymous said...

This is second anonymous again. It's not about winning or losing. When anonymous 1 tries to relay any opinions, you immediately take offense, as you frequently do with Wesley. Some advice, you are not always right ( I hate to say this, but will anyway ). Wesley is not always right. Anonymous 1 and myself are not always right, but at least give everyone some credit for what they are relaying to you (which is what they firmly believe). From the sound of these posts, as well as your posts, which I have read thoroughly, you frequently use your intelligence to insult people. Not a mean insult, but a "subtle" insult, as if you know all of life's questions. Of course, no one knows if there is a higher presence (God); I don't. You don't. But I have faith, like millions of others. I don't agree that all believers are fundamentalists, as Wesley characterized anonymous 1. Some are just more fundamental and outspoken than others, but they genuinely are searching as you are, but believers have found what they are looking for. Just another thought.

mbat said...

I'll comment on things one point at a time. One, if it's not about winning or losing why did you bring it up when talking about me asking the first anonymous to go away? You said it actually allows him/her to win.

Two, yes I am not always right; that I know. I figured out a long time ago I'm not always right. I was very religious at one point in my life, and now I'm not. I was wrong then (I think.), and I'm very probably wrong now. The reason the blog exists is because of my own apprehension. I'm not trying to sound pretentious either. Sorry if I do. I am only saying what I believe, not that anyone else is wrong. Hence why the last several posts have been called "This I Believe," not "This is What's Right."

Third, I think many are now taking the defense of my ideas as if I am offended by what everyone else is saying. While I was occasionally offended by anonymous 1 (certainly not the entire time though), I was never offended by Wesley. I am good friends with him. I know him personally. Part of the reason I'm question religion is because of him. I do however, find overarching, general statements that are not backed up with examples or proof lacking.

For the record I accepted anonymous 1 at first because he had insightful things to say, but when he began repeating the same thing over and over again, that was annoying, that was when his posting become pointless, that was why I wanted him to leave.

You're reading too much into my posts. There is no implied insult. It says just what it says.

Anonymous said...

Original anonymous is back again; and shocked at M bat for finally making a little sense. Good job! I will provide you a bit on the subject of atheism. Atheism is a gigantic thorn in the side of the faith believer, perhaps we could say an agenda for those who simply desire to disagree, or outright reject Jesus Christ. Because atheism has never qualified as a distinct or precise science, atheism has little validity. In a paper I had the opportunity to read a couple of times, I came across the following and I quote..."As good science, it avoids saying anything about God’s action in the world. Because science tells us how creatures act with regard to one another, we do not expect science to say anything directly about the creator. For a scientist to conclude that there is no God - which is the conclusion of the atheist - is simply unwarranted by the science. Atheism fails to be scientific, because science deals with the world of creatures, not the realm of the creator." I would suggest, mbat, that you throw out Dawkins' books. What a total nutcase Dawkins is and will be forever. There are so many holes in his argument for atheism, and he has actually referred to Darwin as a "genius". Oh my god, please, come on Mr. Dawkins. To read his "trash" is to waste time spending on the faith life, which exudes positive energy and has been researched to improve one's mental health. Atheism is too blunt an instrument to use at moments like this. It's as though we have a landscape of human ignorance and bewilderment—with peaks and valleys and local attractors—and the concept of atheism causes us to fixate one part of this landscape, the part related to theistic religion, and then just flattens it. Because to be consistent as atheists we must oppose, or seem to oppose, all faith claims equally. This is a waste of precious time and energy, and it squanders the trust of people who would otherwise agree with us on specific issues. Hope to gain your comments soon.

Anonymous said...

One more thing. Mbat, this is original anonymous again. I would suggest to you to purchase a study by Beth Moore entitled "Believing God" or anything by Beth Moore. Very informative. Mrs. Moore is a scripture teacher and believer who explains her journey of faith on life experiences and assists others who may divulge into doubt or other issues.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 speaking...
I would totally agree with first anonymous. Haven't read any Dawkins, but atheism is an agenda. An agenda being pushed by the liberal media as well as the new liberal rejectors of faith.

Wesley said...

I will try to address what I believe to be Anonymous's main points (it's difficult to find them in his largely irrelevant and sometimes nonsensical posts):
1. atheism is not science
2. Dawkins and Darwin are stupid
3. atheism is an agenda of the liberal media and the new liberal rejectors of faith

Point #1 is entirely correct. Atheism is not a science. A science is a body of knowledge concerning a subject. Since nobody has any knowledge of the veracity of God's existence or any afterlife there may be, atheism is not a science. Atheism and Christianity are both philosophies. The difference is that atheism is based on reason, while Christianity is not. Reason is a tool used in both philosophy and science which dictates that beliefs should be based on evidence and probability. The atheist philosophy sees no need to invent an omniscient omnipotent being for which there is no evidence. Atheists prefer to leave questions unanswered and continue pursuing them via rational inquiry, rather than simply make up an answer (as religion does). If you are religious, you are, by definition, unreasonable about a large set of your values and beliefs (though you may be reasonable in some areas of your life).

Point #2 is incorrect and irrelevant. Dawkins and Darwin are/were both highly educated and respected intellectuals. And while Dawkins is often branded (sometimes rightly so) a sensationalist, Darwin was a private and initially religious man. In fact, he set out on the Beagle a devout Christian who believed in the literal truth of the bible; he was searching for proof of creationism. This fact only multiplies his already obvious academic achievement. Despite early indoctrination, he was able to see the evidence of evolution for what it was. His theory explained away the apparent design of Earth's creatures, and removed the necessity of a creator (and resulted in his conversion to agnosticism). Few would point to Darwin as a shining beacon of human excellence; but any who would deny his intelligence are deluded. However, this whole paragraph is academic; it does not matter if Darwin was brilliant or not. All that matters is that he was right. The character of Dawkins and Darwin is irrelevent to the truth of their respective words. If Hitler were to be reanimated as a zombie pedophile and leader of the KKK and begin reciting geometric facts, that doesn't mean the whole of geometry is suddenly incorrect. Also, a word on evolution: if you do not believe in evolution despite the overwhelming evidence, you are exhibiting an extreme capacity to ignore reason.

Point #3 is self-centered and ignorant. Atheism is not new. Although it is unclear when mankind invented religion, it is clear from the earliest recorded history that atheism has existed alongside religion. Please read up on Diagoras of Melos, early Buddhism, Jainism, and Epicurus. All of these examples are from centuries before Christianity was in its infancy. Furthermore, two thirds of the world are non-Christian and, as Anonymous put it, "outright reject Jesus Christ." The attitude that all people are by default Christians and that those who aren't are "rejecting Jesus Christ" is inaccurate and would likely be offensive to a majority of the world's population. Despite what Anonymous may think, people are not born Christians and then later choose to reject Jesus Christ. Take, for instance, feral children. In such cases, these children are far from any detracting influence, yet they (unsurprisingly) are not Christian. Furthermore, 70%-90% of religious adults believe in the religion of their parents. This does not point to the universally natural belief in Christianity. It points to childhood indoctrination, which is a well-documented and observable psychological effect.

I am glad to relieve ignorance with knowledge and discourse; one of my life roles is that of an educator.

Anonymous said...

First anonymous speaking here...First Mr. Wesley, I have to give you credit for responding, and I'm sure you know everything and are very biased as well. So allow me to defend what you propose as three main points (which there were more, for your information). Point one, no point in discussing. You theoretically agree with my opinion. Point two, my impatience with Dawkins and others is that they stray outside their field of expertise and think they can pronounce on subjects they have no expertise in. The Bible is a human document of people's experience with Deity as they understood their experiences. There is an entire branch of theology that deals with these questions of God's "accusers". Richard Dawkins presents a prejudiced, unbalanced, and incomplete view of the Bible's own description or revelation of the Deity's self-disclosure. Aleistar McGrath knows Richard Dawkins and has refuted his views. Dawkins and others have an agenda they are advancing, and a worldview to promote and they are not unbiased! So, in a nutshell, Dawkins is a "nut" straight from the shell. In the third point, atheism is an agenda for those who incessantly desire to blatantly reject, to go against. We will call you a "hippie" for a clearer picture.
As hippies rejected mainstream values, atheists reject God and our founding principles of morals, ethics and eternal spirituality. Perhaps some atheists will agree to the existence of alien life, but deny the God of the Bible; however, how do they know that? Was the Bible written by men alone? The Bible came about by absolutely impossible circumstances. How could 40 men, over an extended time period of 1,500 years, with differing personalities, from different nations, write 66 separate Books that all perfectly harmonize in meaning and Biblical prophecy? The only answer is Divine intervention. Could not an alien life form be God, man's creator? Recent TV shows and movies have alluded that alien gods constructed the Egyptian pyramids, and millions of people believe this nonsense. I say "nonsense" because there is NO evidence whatsoever of such radical claims. Yet, the same people who believe such nonsense, absolutely refuse to even consider that there is a Holy and Just God in Heaven, who authored the Bible, and created mankind for His own pleasure (Revelation 4:11). Nature itself is solid proof of the existence of God (Romans 1:20). The Bible is God's Word (2nd Timothy 3:16). Only a willingly blind fool would dogmatically deny the existence of God, or that the Bible is God's Word. Atheists like to shift the burden of proof from themselves to their debating opponents; in short, the believer in God must prove God, but the atheist will not defend his position that the universe is either eternal or accidental. Often this tactic works, the believer will then try to make an argument for God, only to have the atheist demand that the believer first define God in some clear manner. Once the believer makes this mistake, he loses the debate. We are still in the process of understanding the painting, so trying to define the painter is doomed to failure; the believer must recognize this tactic and avoid it. Deists should feel free to openly state that there is absolutely no evidence against a creator being, or a creation, and that all skeptics have to offer is scientific speculation on very limited data. Believers believe there is something more; that is not unreasonable, it is very much human and rational. That "more" is God. People who believe in God are willing to wait for the answer and are keeping an open mind on the matter; it is the atheist, who fears waiting. Simply put there is no evidence against God, nor is there evidence against a Creation design. The burden of proof does not lie on the open mind, but on the closed dogmatic mind which assumes that we already know all there is to know. So in short, Mr. Wesley, I think you're the one who may be struggling with ignorance here.

Wesley said...

1. When Dawkins speaks on the existence or nonexistence of a god or gods, he is just as qualified as any other person on the planet - nobody has any more (or less) evidence of the existence or nonexistence of such beings than him. As to Dawkins being outside his field of expertise when it comes to the bible, that may be - but it is irrelevant because, as I said, it doesn't matter how wrong he is about bible verses. If he repeats something that happens to be true (that god almost certainly does not exist), that doesn't make it false no matter how many previous times he's been wrong. Also, I have no great love of Dawkins and he is truthfully irrelevant to the conversation.

2. Again you mention atheism as some sort of rebellion from the norm. Atheism was around before Christianity - how do you explain the atheists of 1000 BC? What were they "rebelling" against? Christianity showed up millenia after atheism - it is ridiculous to call it a reactionary philosophy (or do you not ascribe to the forward progression of time?). Furthermore, 2/3 of the world is non-Christian. Are those people rebelling as well? Doesn't one have to be in the minority in order to rebel from the norm? Can I begin wearing suspenders to work every day, and then start accusing everyone at work of rebelling against the established doctrine of wearing suspenders?

3. As I have outlined in another post in another thread on Battalio's blog, Christianity is not one of the "founding principles" of our nation. Practically none of the founding fathers were Christians; most (including all the big ones like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Allen, Madison, and Monroe) were Deists or Atheists.

Jefferson said, "There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites." Jefferson also said "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise."

When the constitution was penned, many ministers of the time were outraged at God's exclusion. One said, "When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the Constitution or not, and after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted out of it."

Article VI, Section 3, of the constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Why would Christians establishing a Christian nation put that in there?

Article 11 of the Treaty with Tripoli declared in part that "the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion..." Again, why would these allegedly Christian founding fathers put that in there?

4. You ask, "Was the Bible written by men alone?" The answer is... YES!!! The "evidence" you give for the Bible being God's word is that the various books "all perfectly harmonize in meaning and Biblical prophecy." You don't even seem to know anything about the false religion to which you ascribe. Take the following examples of the Bible's perfect harmony (they are only a few of innumerable contradictions):

God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
* Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)
* Three (I Chronicles 21:12)
How many pairs of clean animals did God tell Noah to take into the Ark?
* Two (Genesis 6:19, 20)
* Seven (Genesis 7:2). But despite this last instruction only two pairs went into the ark (Genesis 7:8-9)
Did Joshua and the Israelites capture Jerusalem?
* Yes (Joshua 10:23, 40)
* No (Joshua 15:63)
Who was the father of Joseph, husband of Mary?
* Jacob (Matthew 1:16)
* Heli (Luke 3:23-38)
In the count how many fighting men were found in Israel?
* Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
* One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
Jesus descended from which son of David?
* Solomon (Matthew 1:5-16)
* Nathan(Luke 3:23-38)
Did Jesus bear his own cross?
* Yes (John 19:17)
* No (Matthew 27:31-32)
Who killed Goliath?
* David (I Samuel 17:23, 50)
* Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19)
Does the Earth spin around in space?
* No (1 Chronicles 16:30)

5. Atheists do not, in general, believe the pyramids were constructed by aliens. Some atheists might - they are, no doubt, in the extreme minority.

6. Atheists are not trying to shift the burden of proof to religious people; that's where it actually is and always has been! Religions make outrageous and unnecessary claims that require at least some evidence that they're more than the fantasies of the goatherders of 2 millenia ago. Try to grasp the following (very famous) analogy (to quote Bertrand Russell).

"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense."

The point is that the burden of proof for outrageous and unnecessary ideas lies with the believer. Also, to extend the analogy, imagine that I began scheduling weekly services to worship my celestial teapot. Further imagine that I began to start wars, bomb abortion clinics, burn scientists, hunt witches, and sacrifice humans all in the name of my teapot. Don't you think that these acts merit a little bit of proof?

Also, before you attempt to say that atheism is outrageous please contemplate this. When asked where did the universe come from, most Christians will reply that God made it. Then, when asked who made God, the Christians will say something like "he's always existed." Well, if we're going to take the leap of faith and loudly proclaim that something has always existed, why not make it one step simpler and just say that the universe has always existed? The extra step is a needless complication. The pre-existence of God is also far less likely than the pre-existence of the universe, since (as complicated as the universe is), a being that could simultaneously monitor and control every atom in the universe would have to be orders of magnitude more complicated.

7. Lastly, you stated that there is no evidence against God or creationism. It may be that there is no evidence against God, but there is plenty against creationism (fossils, carbon dating, cosmic radiation, optical telescopes, etc.). Also, even if I were to concede that there was no evidence against creationism, there certainly isn't any evidence for it. There is, however, plenty of evidence in support of evolution. Given the choice, why would you accept an explanation with no evidence either way in favor of an explanation with mountains of evidence in support? Also, as I said, the burden of proof is on the religious - the actions that are carried out in the name of God are so heinous that we should not accept less than definitive proof (let alone the complete lack of evidence that we have now).

Anonymous said...

Allow me to refute your points, which are mostly nonsense and thrown together simply for the sake of argument:

1. Dawkins is not an authority on this subject, neither are many who speak or try to speak or write on the subject. Richard Dawkins is one of the world's most recognizable and influential intellectual figures. His books on evolutionary theory and modern science have sold millions of copies, and he is one of the most quotable thinkers in modern science. Of course, he is also one of the most aggressive secularists of the age--and that's what makes him an important focus of Christian interest. Last October, Dawkins participated in a meeting sponsored by the New York Institute for the Humanities. As a participant on a panel dealing with spirituality and science, Dawkins drew clear and unmistakable boundaries between science and theism. The only spirituality Dawkins can respect is a science-based spirituality that simply recognizes the wonder of the universe and the imponderables of its complexity. Dawkins associates this kind of spirituality with Albert Einstein, and he argued that this science-based form of spirituality is not "somehow less than supernatural religion." Christians should pay close attention to Dawkins at this point. Dawkins warns that when many scientists speak of God, they are actually speaking of nothing more than a scientific sense of wonder. Dawkins is well known as an intellectual adversary to all forms of religious belief--and of Christianity in particular. He is one of the world's most prolific scientists, writing books for a popular audience and addressing his strident worldview of evolutionary theory to an expanding audience. Put simply, Richard Dawkins aspires to be the "devil's chaplain" of Darwinian evolution. All this is what makes Dawkins' denial of a confrontational approach so ludicrous. It is simply false at face value. This is a man who has taken every conceivable opportunity to make transparently clear his unquestioned belief that the dominant theory of evolution renders any form of belief in God irrational, backward, and dangerous. There are few surprises in The God Delusion. Dawkins is a gifted writer who is able to popularize scientific concepts, and he writes with an acerbic style that fits his purpose in this volume. His condescending and sarcastic tone set the stage for what he hopes will be a devastating attack upon theism.
Dawkins admits his "presumptuous optimism" in hoping that his book will cause persons to set aside their faith. "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down," he asserts. Time will tell. Since Dawkins considers the existence of God to be nothing more than a scientific hypothesis--just like any other--he presents his case that "the factual premise of religion--the God Hypothesis--is untenable." In other words, "God almost certainly does not exist." So why do so many persons believe in Him? Consistent with his evolutionary worldview, Dawkins must offer a purely naturalistic interpretation for the origin and function of religion. In the end, Richard Dawkins will surely fail in his quest to turn theists in to atheists. His book represents nothing fundamentally new--just the same old arguments repeated over and over again. Dawkins is quick to label his intellectual adversaries as fundamentalists, but he conveniently redefines the term so that it does not apply to his own position. He claims to live life solely on the basis of scientific evidence, but is so fundamentally committed to the theory of evolution that we cannot take his protestations to the contrary seriously. So in other words, Dawkins is still the "almond" in almond joy, or a "nut" in layman's terms. He has little authority on this subject.

2. Yes, atheists are agenda-seekers. You can't argue with this one. Just as you believe we fundamentalists are the same way, you are as well. So that makes you a hypocrite. What Dawkins and others--along with the other New Atheists--really demand is that society must place itself in the hands of a new and militant atheistic priesthood. Science as defined by these new priests, would serve as the new sacrament and as the means of salvation. Atheism is an agenda, and it's becoming a new pushing order. Really Dawkins has no use on this earth but to spread his agenda. Christians are the majority, Mr. Wesley, not atheists.

3. I really have no earthly idea where you got this crap, explaining that our nation was not founded on intrinsic moral values, especially a Judeo-Christian ethic code. But, you may be right to an extent, however, it depends on how you define a "Christian Nation." If you mean a theocracy like some Muslim countries, the answer is no. If you mean a country that was founded on Christian principles by Founders who were primarily Christian, the answer should be yes. But then, that's not always the case. There are those among us who strongly contend that there is no evidence or basis for such a belief. In fact, in recent years, it has become popular for secularists and humanists to claim that our Founding Fathers were not Christian at all but were deists, atheists or secularists. Not true. It is a matter of record that of the 55 men who wrote and signed the U.S. Constitution of 1787, all but three were orthodox members of one of the established Christian communions. America was not founded to be a "Christian Nation" per se, but was created by Christians, influenced by their deeply held Biblical beliefs and structured to provide maximum freedom to worship and practice their religion. This included tolerance and freedom for those who choose not to be Christian and not to worship. Although a small minority, secularists have in recent years, begun to strip every vestige of America's Christian heritage from our public life. In great part, using the very freedoms and tolerance that was established by Christian virtue.

4. You have no authority to tell me that the Bible was written by men alone. I will not buy this argument. Who are you, and did you live in a past life? How do you know? Research can refute you on this.

5. Actually probably only atheists are the ones that believe the pyramids were constructed by aliens. I actually don't believe this, but it's worth researching. Most Christians refute this belief.

6 & 7. Actually, atheism is outrageous and is outrageously unproven and not sound in its research. Daniel C. Dennett is one of the world's most influential evolutionary scientists, and unlike many of his colleagues, Dennett doesn't run away from Darwinism's logical conclusions. Instead, he describes Darwin's theory of evolution as a "universal acid" that completely reshapes reality, destroying those truths previously held to be enduring and unchanging. Nevertheless, Dennett believes this reasoning to be profoundly wrong. Interestingly, he suggests that the idea of Intelligent Design, at least in its fundamental form, may be even older than the human species. He offers the suggestion that what he identifies as earlier species of hominids might have created objects and then "had a sense of being more wonderful than their artifacts." Then, Dennett simply suggests that Homo sapiens, capable of creating a seemingly endless array of objects, would assume that they, too, were the products of an intelligent creator. Amazingly, Dennett, along with his colleague Richard Dawkins, uses the reality of complexity and apparent design to argue against a designer. In one sense, Dennett simply turns the idea of design on its head, arguing that greater design means, in effect, less proof of a designer. As Dennett claims, "not only can you get design from un-designed things, you can even get the evolution of designers from that un-design. You end up with authors and poets and artists and engineers and other designers of things, other creators--very recent fruits of the tree of life. And it challenges people's sense that life has meaning." Well, of course it does. Committed to a radical form of naturalistic materialism, Dennett understands belief in God to be nothing more than an artifact of the evolutionary process. The death of God, Dennett explains, "is a very clear consequence" of Darwinism. On this point, we should at least be thankful that Dennett is more intellectually honest than many of his evolutionary colleagues. He allows that belief in God may be culturally acceptable, but only insofar as this God has nothing to do with our origins or our lives--past, present, or future. Atheism is a thorn in our society, and it is time for Christians to speak out against it in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wesley said...

1. Most of what you said about Dawkins is just a statement of fact (although I'm sure that in your mind it sounds like a bad thing). He is an intellectual, he does believe in evolution, and he does want all of religion destroyed. Nobody is denying that. These three things are true of me as well (though I don't always agree with Dawkins or his methods). As I said, this is irrelevant to the main discussion.

2. I have never claimed that atheists do not have an agenda. All groups of shared ideology have an agenda (Christians, homosexuals, atheists, the tobacco industry, etc.). The erroneous point of yours that I corrected was that atheism was a reactionary philosophy to theism. You claimed that atheists are hippies simply trying to reject Jesus Christ (what you believe is a mainstream value). You are clearly incorrect due to the fact that atheism existed before Christianity. As far as the agenda that you claim atheists have (for to society to align itself under a new and militant atheist priesthood), so long as you mean "militant" as aggressively opposing, then you are correct. If you mean to somehow imply that atheists support war, you are laughably incorrect. In fact, the war and violence caused by religion is one of the things atheists wish to eliminate. Lastly, you continue to claim that Christians are the majority - I say again, approximately 2/3 of the world's population is non-Christian.

3. I am certainly not claiming that the founding fathers did not approach the authoring of the Constitution from a western perspective, which has of course been influenced by Christianity and Judaism. But Christianity was never a founding principle of our nation. The founding fathers purposefully excluded religion from our country's founding principles and erected a barrier between church and state. As to being "founded on Christian principles," you are wrong. Nothing in the Apostle's Creed (God, Christ, Holy Ghost, resurrection, ascendance, communion, and everlasting life) is mentioned in the Constitution. Neither was our nation founded on the Ten Commandments; only three of them are related to current U.S. law (homicide, theft, and perjury). The Sermon on the Mount (Jesus's greatest sermon and perhaps the definition of Christianity) is commonly seen in six parts (beatitudes, new testament laws, the Lord's prayer, advice on fasting, advice on money, and warnings) practically none of which are related to the founding of our nation. The beautitudes are not present in any of our founding documents. Of the new testament laws presented, only 2 of the 7 (again, homicide and perjury) have anything to do with our laws. The Lord's prayer has nothing to do with our founding, nor does fasting. The advice on money consists mainly of "don't be concerned with money or material things - they do not matter as much as richness in God"; this clearly is unrelated to our founding and is actually in opposition to our capitalist society. Of the warnings, only 1 out of 7 (the Golden rule) has anything to do with the founding of our nation.

So to recap, the only supposedly Christian principles which have anything to do with our nation's founding are three commandments (homicide, theft, and perjury) and the Golden Rule. Unfortunately (for your point), these are not actually Christian principles so much as human principles. The three commandments I mentioned as well as the principle of the Golden Rule were first codified in the Code of Hammurabi (1760 B.C. - about 2 millenia before Christianity). They can also be found in the Code of Lipit-Ishtar, Roman law, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism (all of which were around centuries or millenia before Christianity). These principles are found in many ancient secular and religious laws, and were certainly not invented or popularized by Christianity.

4. Stating that "research can refute [me] on [the bible being written by men alone]" is not the same as research actually doing so. I await a more reasonable response on this. In the mean time, please consider your position. You claimed that the Bible could not have been written by men alone, citing as evidence that the various books "all perfectly harmonize in meaning and Biblical prophecy." I pointed out numerous contradictions in the Bible, effectively refuting the evidence you provided. The burden of proof is on you to provide more evidence.

If you do not believe that the burden of proof is on you, please consider the following scenario. Suppose I spent a few days writing down a fictional history of the world and a moral code I thought all men should live by. Suppose that I then came to you and said that this was not written by a man (me), but instead by God. Now ask yourself, where would the burden of proof be? Would it be up to you or up to me to prove the true author of my text?

5. Just as most Christians refute the belief that aliens built the pyramids, so do most atheists. It was a silly point (for you) to bring up in the first place. I don't think it's necessary to pursue this part of the discussion any further.

6. You said nothing to prove (or even imply) the alleged outrageousness of atheism. You merely described the beliefs of one atheist. These beliefs are not self-evidently unreasonable. Please provide a breakdown of what you find unreasonable about atheism. While atheism certainly is a "gigantic thorn in the side of the faith believer," it is only so in the way that a light is a "thorn in the side" of darkness.

7. Lastly, thank you for grouping your points into numbered bullets. It is extremely helpful in discerning the main thrusts of your argument and the points to which you would like to see a response. It makes your posts easier and more enjoyable to read. Where appropriate, I will also try to adopt this format.

Anonymous said...

Where are you getting all your facts, sir? Perhaps pro-atheism texts or articles? Mostly all of what you have stated can be refuted by pro-science researchers as well as religious scholars. And where did you come up with the figure about Christians only comprising 1/3 of our population? Please reference this in your proceeding post.

Anonymous said...

And also let me know what you believe what an atheist believes will occur immediately after death...

Wesley said...

The 2001 Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia puts the global Christian population at 2.1 billion (33% of the world population in that day). This is a Christian publication.

In 2002, the U.S. Center World Mission put the Christian population at approximately 33% of the world population. This is a Christian publication.

In 2006, the Christian Post put the world Christian population again at 33% and noted that the Christian population was growing slower than the Muslim and Hindu populations. This is a Christian publication.

Furthermore, according to the 2001 Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia, the growth rate of Christianity over the last century has been approximately the same as the growth rate of the world population. That is, Christianity has comprised approximately 33% of the world population since the early 1900s. This is a Christian publication.

Also, these numbers include all Christian denominations (including Catholics, who make up approximately 50% of all Christians - see the CIA World Factbook). If you only count as Christians the Evangelicals (or the "born-again" variety of Christians), which I suspect you might, then Christians are only 1/9 or 11% of the world population according to Ralph Winter's Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. This is a Christian publication.

One last note on population: some secular statisticians believe these numbers reported by Christian organizations are inflated, and that Christians actually comprise significantly less than 1/3 of the world's population (see the 2003 Encyclopedia Brittanica Book of the Year).

Lastly, you asked me what I believe happens when I die. There is no evidence or indication of anything after death, so I do not invent it. I do not believe anything besides the obvious happens. At the moment of my death, I think the physical processes that drive my consciousness will stop and I will forever cease to be. I don't think I will wake up in some magical fairy-land. If future evidence of an afterlife arises, I would be thrilled to change my opinion on this matter. But as with the existence of gods, it is currently unreasonable to believe and not in any way necessary for the explanation of the physical world around us.

Wesley said...

Also, you stated that "Mostly all of what [I] have stated can be refuted by pro-science researchers as well as religious scholars." I would like to reiterate (since you didn't seem to understand the first time I said it) that stating this does not make it true.

If such research exists, I would be thrilled to be informed so I could adjust my beliefs appropriately. But, as I have not been presented with information indicating that I am incorrect, I must continue to follow the most rational path - disbelief.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wesley, you will never alter your beliefs or adjust your beliefs appropriately. You will always argue with someone. The reality is that you will never come to a conclusion as I will never come to one either, but I have faith, something more powerful that your reasoning. Faith supercedes you, Mr. Wesley. Jesus Christ supercedes you, Mr. Wesley. If Jesus Christ appeared to you today and revealed to you all His knowledge and power, you would still disagree with Him on some aspect of what He proposes to you. I feel regret and I feel sorry for your soul. Jesus told us that if we reject Him, He would reject us when we stand before Him. I would rather die with faith than without any at all. I hope you find Him, and that takes faith, not reason.

Wesley said...

You are incorrect about my never altering my beliefs and always wanting to argue. Presented with sufficient evidence, I am willing to believe anything. In fact, I have already proven my willingness to change my beliefs when I became atheist - I was raised Christian, but stopped believing because of lack of proof. It is you who refuse to change your beliefs in light of all evidence. All scientific data points to evolution as truth - yet you refuse to believe. I also suspect that you continue to follow the religion in which you were raised (Christianity). So while we have proof that I am willing to change my beliefs to be consistent with evidence, we have no such proof for you (and in fact have significant evidence in the opposite direction). If either of us is unwilling to change, it is you.

As to always wanting to argue, you are incorrect. I do not enjoy argument. The reason I respond is to generate discussion for my friend and to avoid allowing you to propagate inaccuracies. As I said, one of my life roles is that of a teacher (at the university level), and I try to improve the world by spreading knowledge and stopping the spread of bad data. In the smallest part, I always hope to convert people like you; but this hope is so tiny that it would not have generated enough interest for me to respond without the above reasons.

Notwithstanding your judgmental tone and baseless assertions which I have refuted in the preceding paragraphs, your last post is precisely the admission I was looking for. To recap:

-I began asserting that atheism was reasonable and faith-based religions were unreasonable

-You eventually responded attempting to say that religion is more reasonable than atheism

-We went back and forth, you sometimes presenting feeble "evidence" that atheism is unreasonable and that Christianity (if not all religion) is reasonable in addition to being the correct choice based on faith. I continually rebutted your posts and presented you with strong evidence for the argument that atheism is reasonable and religion is unreasonable.

-In light of my overwhelming reason, you retracted your assertion that Christianity is reasonable and instead began to say "faith... [is] more powerful that [my] reasoning," and that "faith supercedes [reason]" and that "finding [Jesus] takes faith, not reason."

Reason and faith are extreme opposites. If you follow reason, and only accept beliefs for which there is evidence, you will arrive at atheism. If you follow strictly faith, you will accept whatever beliefs you have faith in (70%-90% of the time these will be the beliefs of your parents). People like me take the pure reason approach. People like you take the pure faith approach. Some people attempt to take a median approach; take for instance someone who believes in evolution yet still believes in the figurative truth of the Bible.

Nevertheless, we have distilled the problem down to its basic specification. I believe that a person should live his/her life based on reason. You believe that a person should live his/her life based on faith. We are both living our lives correctly based on our respective core values (reason in my case, faith in yours). If you agree with this, then the original argument is concluded.

Assuming you agree (as is indicated in your last post), we could now move on to a completely different argument. We could discuss whether reason or faith is the correct core value as judged by a certain criteria (maximum benefit for society, perhaps?).

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Mr. Wesley, I will never agree to or side with the atheism agenda. Who cares if you are a college instructor? Ted Kaczinski was a college professor--he also was referred to as the unibomber. I would make a seasoned bet that your entire life, you have always made a point to argue with those who may be happy or content, even those Christians who seemed to possess an internal joy you couldn't explain. I can say this in certainty because I run into people each day in my life who mirror you exactly. They really don't know what to believe. They really aren't comfortable with their personal belief systems. As a result, they frequently argue with others who may have something they do not possess. Come on, Mr. Wesley. You're not fooling anyone but your own self. You're not fooling God either. Perhaps you have your own insecurities. And if you were comfortable with your own beliefs, you wouldn't have responded with the long post you did in the last post. I do agree with you though in some aspects of the last post. I choose faith; you choose atheism. We can agree to disagree. But in contrast, you won't make me stop trying to convert you to the faith life. It's a life full of joy and contentment. The hole you have in your heart can only be filled with the love of Christ, not scientific gobbledygook!

Wesley said...

Aside from your further attacks on my character and comparing me to the unibomber, it seems we are in agreement. You no longer maintain that Christianity is reasonable, instead saying that reason is unnecesary and faith is far "more powerful." To quote, "[You] choose faith," you won't stop trying to convert me to your "faith life," and you think science is "goobledygook". At that, I'm willing to let the original discussion rest.

As to you wanting to convert me to the "faith life," I welcome it. Discussion has never hurt me, and I am always seeking further insight into the minds of believers. If you no longer wish to carry this on in a public forum, please feel free to email me at j.wesley.rec@gmail.com (although I'm sure Battalio doesn't mind us having this discussion on his blog). Since I now know that you do not value reason above faith, I have no argument to present for atheism that can sway you (as my arguments are all based on reason). Similarly, please be aware that arguments based on faith will not sway me (though I still enjoy hearing them).

mbat said...

Actually, I do very much enjoy reading what you two are posting. I do agree though that you've both reached an impasse regarding how to convert each other. Wesley will only argue and be swayed with reason, and anonymous will only argue and be swayed with arguments based on faith. This is the biggest problem reconciling any argument between faith and reason. It comes down to this: even though infinitesimal (or great, depending on philosophy), there is still a chance God exists, even though everything can be explained without him, so a person of faith can hold onto that. A person with sufficient faith needs nothing else. The core of anonymous's argument is that Wesley and I lack that sufficient faith, and I completely agree with that. The problem now is, despite who has the burden of proof, there is no way to logically prove any philosophy. So what do you do now?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wesley, I appreciate your comments. You have impressed me (and an atheist has never previously done this before). I would rather stay anonymous if that's o.k. with you and m bat. As for you m bat, no, Wesley and I have not reached a logical conclusion. As I posted earlier on your latest post, I would simply request that you both pray this simple prayer: Lord, in your power, reveal Yourself to me. Holy Spirit, provide me with the knowledge that supercedes me. Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. I accept You through faith.
Of course you have free will to accept this faith or not. But the Lord said Himself in the holy scripture that He will stand at the door and knock, and if you allow Him to come in, He will come in and "dine with you". But He won't knock forever, for forgiveness only comes through the movement of the holy spirit (and that's through conviction).
That's really all it takes to live the faith life. It's up to you how much faith you accumulate over time. But knowledge won't ever come without asking Him for it. Scripture teaches that He will provide knowledge to you if you ask for it. Wow! The knowledge and power that exists in the faith life. Thanks Wesley and mbat for the last few posts. Very interesting and worth reading.

 
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