Sunday, July 22, 2007

Does god exist?

The difficulty in debating whether or not “God” exists in any form (Allah, Jesus, Buddha ect….) is very difficult to take on. Even more difficult is the position that such a being does not exists. The arguments for God are typically from emotion and introspection rather than from any sort of empirical evidence. It is understandable that past generations needed something to fill in the void of knowledge that our highly overdeveloped frontal lobes have a constant need to accumulate. So ancient civilizations created these sky creatures to explain phenomena such as thunderstorms, earthquakes and anything else that did not make sense to them. As science emerged we became more informed about our surrounding world and had less of a need for the superstitions of the past. But just because a scientific breakthrough is made doesn’t mean that the entire world is immediately brought into the loop. Governments especially, utilized religion as a means of controlling the population. Many that would be willing to resist facing punishment in this life would be unlikely to disobey someone promising torture for eternity in the next life and so the meme of religion was carried on. It is used to justify horrible actions, explain away difficult topics to children and keep entire populations of people under control. Although science has no vendetta for the institution of religion, it appears to be attacking it simply because it’s findings often contradict the Bible. While religion tends to change slowly or often be very static, science tends to discard theories that are proven untrue in the place of theories that hold truer. But what does this have to do with the topic of the existence of God?

As many people before me, who are much more intelligent than I am will tell you, the topic of whether or not god exist is nearly an impossible question to tackle. You are being asked to disprove the existence of something that has absolutely no proof for its existence in the first place. If there is no real proof on either side then even to have someone win a formal debate on the topic would still stand to prove absolutely nothing. In cases like this I need to point out that it is important to understand that THE BURDEN OF PROOF RELIES SOLELY ON THE PERSON MAKING THE FANTASTIC OR OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM! I know that this is seen by many as a cop out, which is why I have agreed to this debate. My hope is that I will have an opportunity to field some questions. I might even possibly be proven wrong and come to find that Jesus is the one and only true God. It might be a powerful conversion story. All that I demand in order for this to happen though is to be shown evidence of God’s existence.

Unfortunately it seems that the majority of things that Christians consider evidence are passages from the Christian Bible. I spent this winter reading Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that demands a verdict. This was supposed to be the” tell all” book of empirical evidence to prove that God exist. The book spends about 120 pages pathetically trying to clear up the ever so clear discrepancies in Biblical passages. Then it spends another 500 pages or so citing the Bible as “empirical proof” of the validity of God’s existence. It seems that it failed McDowell’s logic that this is what is commonly referred to as circular reasoning.

Christians like to explain away Biblical inconsistencies by implying that since God is above human understanding that we don’t have the ability to see the bigger picture. Yet there are so many things in this world that are in such conflict with the type of God that the Christians try to present to the world. For example, if Christianity is the only true religion and the only true path to heaven, then what does God do about the millions of people that were born in regions of the world where Christianity will never even be heard of? Are those people doomed to hell simply through their geographical place of birth?

The countless biblical inconstancies are hard to reconcile as well. There are so many clearly violent and horrific acts in the Bible that it makes one wonder where the idea of a loving and forgiving God came from. If the Bible is proof of god’s existence then it would certainly be reasonable to assume that the god the Bible would prove to be real would certainly not be the god that the Christians are trying to present to us.

The facts remain that every religion, including one’s that were in existence before Christianity have similar types of myths. These range from creation and flood stories to virgin births and ressurections of their saviors. It seems that there is not much to set Christianity apart from other religions of the world, past or present.

I believe that religion can be of value to societies. It gives people with subpar intelligence the motivation to keep living, working and producing for their society. It has some vague moral values with a punisher that will be watching you even when no other person is. The idea that God is necessary for moral behavior is not necessarily true. The basis for what we refer to as moral behavior was developed through a meme as a means of survival.

One of the most important evolutions in man’s history was our ability and willingness at some point to come together and live in groups. This offered protection and safety. New rules had to be established though. It is unlikely that these rules were established by a council, or a meeting or a mythical book that was found. More than likely these rules were established through evolution. If you look at what we call moral behavior, it is nothing more than actions that make survival of a group more likely. If you don’t kill members of your own group, don’t sleep with their mates (adultery), don’t lie, do share your food, and protect your children then your group’s genes and your own have a much better chance of surviving into the next generation. A group of humans that did not adopt this sort of behavior would be more likely to be dispersed and die due to their significantly smaller numbers. There we have moral behavior without god.

So if that is true then we go to the ultimate question. Where did we come from? Christians have a clear answer. They say that god created us. Well considering the lack of sufficient evidence it is another claim that cannot be easily refuted. Christians figure that since science can’t seem to prove it, then that means their argument must hold up by design. All arguments for the creation of our world are ultimately flawed. The true difference between science and religion is that science is willing to say “this is our best theory, and we are willing to research it and change if need be” were as Christians tend to say “This is the truth, you are either with us or against us.”

If it can be proven that Jesus is the one true god, then I would have no choice but to follow him. Unfortunately all I have found in the followers of Jesus is fanaticism, a lack of willingness to seek knowledge or reason, hate, un-acceptance,name calling and bigotry. I understand that it is an exclusive club, but if you want to leave everyone out then you need to stop insisting that everyone comes in!

9 comments:

Frank Walton said...

Here's my opening statement, you suck.

tina said...

At last, a simple person like myself understood this! Thank you. I didn't want it to end.

Bnonn said...

Hello Angels. You say,

The arguments for God are typically from emotion and introspection rather than from any sort of empirical evidence.

However, you then proceed to introduce your topic by making an introspective and obviously passive-aggressive commentary regarding the history and motivation of religion, without citing any kind of empirical evidence for your various claims. Your little dissertation sounds rather like a conspiracy theory, starting with an obvious falsehood ("the arguments for God are typically from emotion and introspection"), moving directly into implicit and unjustified premises (that arguments for God should be empirical in nature; and that empirical arguments are sound), and then proceeding on to provide a speculative, unsubstantiated, and frankly bizarre explanation of the topic at hand. You don't lend yourself any credibility by being a hypocrite.

the topic of whether or not god exist is nearly an impossible question to tackle. You are being asked to disprove the existence of something that has absolutely no proof for its existence in the first place.

Firstly, it amazes me that you would enter into a debate on the existence of God, but start it by assuming your own conclusion. The very question at hand is as to whether there is any proof for the existence of God! Are you not concerned that, by taking such a simplistic and childish approach to the topic, you will be exposed as a fool when your opponent offers some proofs for God's existence?

Secondly, what relationship does the alleged lack of proofs for God's existence have with the possibility of proofs for his non-existence? To offer an empirical analogy, there is no proof that light has mass; yet there is plenty of proof that it does not.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF RELIES SOLELY ON THE PERSON MAKING THE FANTASTIC OR OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM!

Accepting this for now (though it is not a law of logic, but rather a convention of debate), how do you know that it is the Christian who is making the fantastic or outrageous claim, and not yourself? It is my contention that atheism is a claim so fantastic and outrageous that the Christian need not offer any proof for his position; but rather, he need simply destroy the atheistic worldview and leave the biblical one standing in its place, to be assumed by merit of its obvious truth. If you wish to assert that your claim, that God does not exist, is reasonable, and that the Christian's claim is unreasonable, then you must actually demonstrate this instead of just assuming it without proof. Since you have already accepted a formal debate on the topic, you have implicitly acknowledged in so doing that both positions require equal scrutiny.

The various assertions you've made so far seem basically to undermine the entire formal debate process. This leads me to the suspicion that you are simply unequipped from an intellectual and/or argumentative point of view to actually engage anyone in such a debate.

Then it spends another 500 pages or so citing the Bible as “empirical proof” of the validity of God’s existence. It seems that it failed McDowell’s logic that this is what is commonly referred to as circular reasoning.

What is circular about citing historical records in support of a premise? Is it circular reasoning to cite Plato's Apology in support of the existence of Socrates? Certainly, our single extant copy of that work, separated in origin from the events it describes by over half a century, is far less reliable than the hundreds of accurate biblical records we have, which are further corroborated by secular records and archeology. You are assuming the consequent again; your reasoning essentially is: God does not exist; the Bible attests to God's existence; therefore the Bible is not an accurate record. But again, this is the very question at hand, and if the Bible is an accurate record, then it does constitute empirical evidence for God's existence. The precise nature of that evidence should probably be debated, but to simply dismiss it reveals a strong prejudicial assumption which is completely contrary to the intent of the debate. If you are going to refuse the Bible as an empirical proof, then you must explain why. Since its accuracy can be established extremely strongly, I would suggest that you will have to appeal to historical skepticism, which makes any historical proof impossible—but that could have unfortunate consequences for your position as well, as I will mention below.

Yet there are so many things in this world that are in such conflict with the type of God that the Christians try to present to the world. For example, if Christianity is the only true religion and the only true path to heaven, then what does God do about the millions of people that were born in regions of the world where Christianity will never even be heard of? Are those people doomed to hell simply through their geographical place of birth?

Yes they are. Where is the inconsistency which you claim exists in this example? If you are going to claim that inconsistencies exist between the biblical worldview and the state of the world, or within Scripture itself, then you need to actually show it. But you have simply made some kind of vague assertion, which suggests more about your ignorance of biblical doctrine than the possible inconsistencies therein.

The countless biblical inconstancies are hard to reconcile as well. There are so many clearly violent and horrific acts in the Bible that it makes one wonder where the idea of a loving and forgiving God came from. If the Bible is proof of god’s existence then it would certainly be reasonable to assume that the god the Bible would prove to be real would certainly not be the god that the Christians are trying to present to us.

Firstly, let us be done with the "what Christians are trying to present to us" line, and stick carefully to what the Bible presents about God. Many people claim to be Christians but have utterly no idea who God is. So, secondly, can you please explain the inconsistency you perceive between God's actions toward man, recorded in Scripture, and God's character, also recorded in Scripture? God is certainly loving and forgiving, but he is also holy and righteous, just and jealous, and wrathful toward sin. Your argument appears to hinge upon a misrepresentation (or at least a misunderstanding) of God's character. A correct understanding of both theology proper, and anthropology, will reveal no inconsistency whatsoever. Rather than engage in an extensive detour so as to educate you to the point where you are competent to engage in a debate which you have already accepted, I would direct you toward a series I have written titled 'On Strawmen', which should adequately correct your misconceptions about biblical teaching.

The facts remain that every religion, including one’s that were in existence before Christianity have similar types of myths. These range from creation and flood stories to virgin births and ressurections of their saviors. It seems that there is not much to set Christianity apart from other religions of the world, past or present.

This is a large area of study, and one in which you are apparently ignorant if you are seeking to use it in defense of the secular position. The existence of flood myths in various cultures constitutes a compelling proof for the actual occurrence of the flood described in Genesis. You are presupposing that all these myths are simply invented, which is clearly a far more extraordinary claim than to suppose they all have a common basis in fact. As for virgin births and resurrections of saviors, these are neither strong similarities, nor proof that Christianity copied other religions (I presume this is your implicit allegation). The causation could be completely opposite that which you suppose: ie, these other religions could have copied Christianity. Indeed, in cases where copying does appear evident (such as in the oft-cited example of Mithraism), archeological and historical evidence shows clearly that the copying was from Christianity to the other religion. Of course, this argument you're making relies on the possibility of proving anything from history, which in turn gives us leave to examine the powerful evidence for the accuracy of the Bible as an historical record, which I mentioned previously.

I believe that religion can be of value to societies. It gives people with subpar intelligence the motivation to keep living, working and producing for their society. It has some vague moral values with a punisher that will be watching you even when no other person is. The idea that God is necessary for moral behavior is not necessarily true. The basis for what we refer to as moral behavior was developed through a meme as a means of survival.

You seem to think that Christians are always of subpar intelligence. Yet, I have shown so far that your opening statement is replete with logical fallacies, errors, and unjustified assertions, and virtually devoid of any genuine logical reasoning whatsoever. So, at best, you would appear to be on the same level as you allege for these Christians. That said, this is an obvious example of argumentum ad hominem, and, even if true, proves nothing whatsoever about the truth of Christianity. Certainly there are some stupid Christians (at least by your measure of stupidity); yet equally you will be forced to acknowledge that there are many stupid atheists (yourself included, as I have shown). However, given the abundance of believers in the high ranks of academia, past and present, it is simply absurd to claim that Christianity is applicable to only those of subpar intelligence. I would offer that John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Gordon Clark, or Vincent Cheung are not the sorts of people anyone could call stupid without being mocked.

Further, how do you know that Christianity has some "vague moral values", and that "the idea that God is necessary for moral behavior is not necessarily true"? What moral standard are you using to make such an allegation? What proof do you have that moral behavior was "developed through a meme as a means of survival"? You are again begging the question, thus basing your argument upon the very conclusion you are trying to prove. This would appear to be a very embarrassing thing for you to be doing, considering the way in which you lambast Josh McDowell for that exact fallacy (worse, in fact, since it is far from clear that McDowell actually commits that fallacy in the way you claim!)

If you look at what we call moral behavior, it is nothing more than actions that make survival of a group more likely.

Firstly, in order to draw the conclusion that this shows that moral behavior evolved, one would first have to assume evolutionary theory—at which point, you're effectively begging the question. It could, of course, equally be the case that the causality goes the other way: that is, that killing, raping, stealing and so on are evil because God has given human life a certain value, and these things are destructive to life.

Secondly, neither your own view of morality, nor the biblical one (and they are quite different) comports with evolutionary theory in any case. For example, in your case, from an evolutionary point of view survival of the group is the ultimate good, and there is no means which is not acceptable to this end. Therefore, there is no reason for individuals to not suffer, or for other groups to not be entirely destroyed, if it furthers this end. At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, an evolutionist can certainly not criticize Stalin or Hitler (or war in general), since they were simply working to achieve the end of the survival of their groups, at the expense of others. Evolutionary theory, in fact, makes the concept of morality quite unintelligible, and one of the approaches I would take in refuting your worldview would be in showing this at more length.

The biblical view of morality also does not comport with evolutionary theory; or, more precisely, it comports far better with a state of affairs where God actually exists. Consider, for example, the first three of the ten commandments: to have no other God, to make no idols, and to not take the name of God in vain. These are the first of the commandments—what survival advantage do they convey? The only possible answer I can see is if you suppose that it is to encourage the cohesion of the group under a single religion. But if this is the case, then you have no basis to criticize this system of morality (yet atheists frequently do). If it is an evolutionary system, then an evolutionist ought to approve the actions of the Israelites in destroying other cultures, and killing those of their own people who disobeyed the commandments. Strangely, few evolutionists take this position. This highlights an inconsistency that belies the real state of affairs, and puts you in a catch-22: either you should accept biblical morality, or you should come up with another theory about how morality works. Secular humanism asserts the equal rights and inherent value of all human beings—which is a decidedly un-evolutionary sort of moral assertion. It also relies on some kind of concept of "rights" and "value" which simply doesn't exist in a materialist, evolutionary worldview.

The true difference between science and religion is that science is willing to say “this is our best theory, and we are willing to research it and change if need be” were as Christians tend to say “This is the truth, you are either with us or against us.”

But what does this prove? Your statement seems to suppose an implicit moral judgment, which is that science is superior to Christianity by reason of its ability to admit when it is wrong. But consider:

Firstly, you are supposing that Christianity is wrong, and that it refuses to admit it. Again, this is really the very question at hand, so you are again question-begging.

Secondly, you are supposing that science's "flexibility" makes it a superior method of discovering truth. But the very basis for this supposed flexibility is the fact that, so far, it has always been wrong, and has had to revise its theories for this reason. In other words, you are claiming that a method which openly results in error, and which can never prove that it is right even if it is, is a superior knowledge-acquisition process to that of divine revelation, which is never wrong and never needs revision!

If it can be proven that Jesus is the one true god, then I would have no choice but to follow him. Unfortunately all I have found in the followers of Jesus is fanaticism, a lack of willingness to seek knowledge or reason, hate, un-acceptance,name calling and bigotry. I understand that it is an exclusive club, but if you want to leave everyone out then you need to stop insisting that everyone comes in!

What does the behavior of Jesus' followers have to do with the truth of his claims? I have personally met a lot of Christians, and most have been moderate, intelligent people with an enthusiasm for knowledge and reason—an enthusiasm informed by a proper understanding (albeit often an implicit one) of the underlying issues of epistemology, which are critical to any pursuit of these things. They are certainly not hateful (unless you mean they hate sin), unaccepting (except, again, of sin), and neither name-call nor engage in bigotry. They do not insist on everyone becoming a Christian. Perhaps you are thinking of extreme Muslims. A Christian preaches the good news because he is commanded to in Scripture, and desires to see souls saved rather than damned in hell. But he does not insist on people becoming Christians, and indeed he knows that they cannot apart from God's sovereign work in their hearts.

So, not only have you misrepresented Christians, but you've engaged in another ad hominem attack. If this is the most powerful argument you can muster by way of closing, I don't hold out much hope for your further statements in this debate. That said, I understand that Frank is not planning to respond, since you have not chosen to pursue the debate on the terms he originally requested (ie, a formal and moderated forum). However, I am not concerned about moderation, and I am happy to continue to engage you on his behalf. If you have a response to my comments here, by all means let me know by replying below, or emailing bnonny at gmail dot com. I am happy to formalize the debate somewhat by posting this on my own blog if you wish to proceed further.

Regards,
Dominic Bnonn Tennant

angelsdepart said...

Bnonn

Thank you for your intelligent, insightful and massive response. I am happy to have a discussion with you regarding this post. It may take me a day or two to respond to your points though due to my work schedule.

Thanks again

Bnonn said...

Hi Angels

I'm glad you're able to continue the debate. Please note that I am not representing Frank in any way; I have merely offered to defend the affirmative since he has opted not to. My approach may differ from his, and I cannot know whether he will endorse my responses or not.

In order to structure the debate somewhat, I have reproduced on my blog the response I wrote above. Obviously, as it stands now, this response is not a strictly formal opening statement, since I was replying already to specific points you had made. I hope this is not a problem; I would suggest that, for the sake of expediency, we continue along in this format, but if you would prefer to start afresh with each of us posting new, simultaneous opening statements, I am happy to accommodate you.

I look forward to your response.

Regards,
Bnonn

angelsdepart said...

Bnonn

To simply have a discussion regarding my post is fine. I should be able to take a closer look at your response in the next couple of days.

I don't think that you should worry whether or not Frank "endorses" your responses.

Thanks again

angelsdepart said...

Bnonn

I read your remarks on Franks page. You do not need to worry about comment moderation. I tend to allow everything. Usually I don't even have it on. It was only recently turned on in response to Franks highly energetic attacks, harsh language, and deceitful tactics. I enjoy these discussions but will not tolerate such abuse. It doesn't seem that this will be an issue with you. I prefer to keep things civil.

tina said...

Does god exist?

Does this question really matter?

He does exist..
He doesn't exist...

I prefer the question..

Does religion belong in politics?

Seriously.

angelsdepart said...

Tina

It is an important question. If it could be proven that god exist then it would only be rational to include him in the political process. Since their is no proof, "god's will" is subject to the interpretation of humans, who as we all know, are far from perfect.