If we evolved and religion evolved - what’s actually true and how would we know?

A lot of people here say “God used evolution to create us”. I personally find that idea repugnant- as evolution is such a slow and blunt tool (it is and those who argue otherwise should maybe think about all the horrible and completely unnecessary suffering involved - there’s little beauty to a masterpiece painted in blood).

Cody - God mightn’t be as all mighty and wonderful as you think. Do you believe he used evolution to create?? Have you thought about that? Have you thought about the untruths in the Bible (and there are many)? A lot of people have gotten so good at the smoke and mirrors game to try and explain away all the inconsistencies in the Bible and I’m just sick of that - and a lot of others just hold on to their beliefs and are scared to honestly question them cause it’s all they really have. I’ve been there in both places … but it just gets old and tired and depressing. It’s a real shame the whole thing.

RICHARD CARRIER’S ARGUMENT SUMMARISED:

  1. History in the bigger picture disproves the idea of a single God - what we see is people making stuff up according to their local culture and the happenstance of history. If there was only one God, surely all cultures and all history would show that the same God was sending the same messages to every people group every where, from as far back as we have any evidence of religion. This is not what we see. Even when we look at written records that go back to about 2000BC, there is no evidence of this having occurred. To the contrary - there are contradictory local religions and local deities and stories.
    The earliest religion dates to 40,000BC- with shamanistic cave paintings and burial rituals. The first priesthoods are around 10,000BC after the emergence of cities. This means there was 30,000 years between religious beliefs and Priests. Of note, there is a further 8,000 years before Yahweh claims he is the one true God. Of further note, He does this in one very small geographical location. He does not mention that he exists to anyone in other regions. For a further 1,000 years after that, he does not mention Jesus. Dr Carrier argues that a cosmic deity would have been revealing the gospel way back from 40,000BC

“So when you look at history, this Yahweh based religion, even Christianity, just looks like one among many - it makes no sense from the perspective of a Cosmic deity who would, of course, be revealing the gospel from the year 40,000BC”.

  1. Judaic religions appear to combine concepts of other regions near them into their own form. Zoroastrianism and it’s significant influence following the Persian conquest on Judaism. The belief in an evil God, in a final judgment by fire, resurrection and a perfect heavenly place were all adopted from Zoroastrianism which Judaism adopted into their religion (Jewish texts before the Persian conquest do not mention the above concepts but do afterwards). Allegedly, the Greek/Roman gods Osiris, Adonis, Romulus, Zalmaxis and Inanna are sons (and a daughter) of gods that have resurrection cults. Allegedly with Osiris, those baptised into his death and resurrection were saved in the after life. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are virtually the same resurrection cult at its root which says the world will end, the dead will be raised and the loyal be saved.
    Critique of Christianity’s core beliefs being based on the power of blood to remove a curse and require telepathic communication with an unseen entity (also involving mystical impregnation). The words Dr Carrier uses are more blunt.
    There are failed prophecies across many of these religions - e.g. of Israel becoming the master race that the rest of the world will now down to.
  2. The argument of evil.
    Is God willing to stop evil, but unable?
    Then he is not all powerful Is he able but unwilling? Then he is not good?
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then how can there be evil?
    Is he neither able or willing?
    Then why call him God?

The lack of actual intervention from God in response to horrible things done by people who follow him - ie horrible treatment of slaves before the American civil war ended is hard to explain away. Nice humans with the power to speak unharmed would be held to account for not having taken action if they could. Any valid excuse not to say or do anything in the face of atrocities is hard to fathom. The question - what is God’s reason (or excuse as Carrier puts it) for not intervening?
Examination of the origin of morals strongly supports atheism rather than theism. Atheism’s prediction of morals is that moral rules will only come from human beings, begin horribly flawed and will gradually improve over 1000s of years. Theism predicts a universe directly governed morally right from the start where the correct moral laws are disseminated correctly from the beginning and nature itself reflects morality. None of this is seen.

  1. God has never revealed key information that could have saved millions of lives. For example, take the issue of washing hands. In Mark 7 Jesus derides the washing of hands and utensils before eating, saying this is a man made rule and not necessary to follow. Unfortunately, Jesus did not take the opportunity to say “this is a man made rule but still a really good idea and you should keep doing it and even do it more” and therefore save millions of lives. God could have revealed knowledge like this but never did. Mankind has to figure it out on their own. Notably, the various rituals in Leviticus stated things such as not touching a woman for 7 days after her period, they were not a reflection of actual facts but if anything more so guess work around cleanliness.
  2. Carrier then moves to the concept of making excuses or reasons for the presence of certain elements in a religion to fit with actual reality. He says that the need to even make excuses in the first place should be a sign something is amiss. He then says that many of the excuses themselves have no evidence or basis to them and are very improbable anyway “If you have to use an improbable excuse to explain your theory - the improbability of the excuse then attaches to the theory”. The more excuses the less probable the theory.
    Think of the innumerable excuses we make to continue justifying our current beliefs - for example,
  • Adam & Eve didn’t exist despite Paul and Jesus speaking of them as real people but the rest of the Bible is mostly historical or
  • The Bible doesn’t mention evolution and gives another version of our origin because God accommodated his message so the original audience would understand , or
    Ancient cultures didn’t understand the true God because they worshipped demons who revealed themselves and lies instead (and God didn’t intervene?) or
    Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible because there was no reason or
    The Bible and Yahweh are not xenophobic because the Ammonites, Canaanites and also the Philistines … [enter excuse here] and the origin stories about Canaan and the Ammonites were anachronistic because that’s just what ancient cultures - doesn’t mean it was false testimony as such*

In response to all this, Carrier points out that a general rule of thumb for humanity progressing forward through the ages has been that when a phenomena has either a natural or supernatural explanation, the use of a natural explanation always bears out as accurate and useful whereas the supernatural explanation is eventually disproved/false

  1. When you look at the natural world and examine how life came to be - the idea of a God behind the long process is bizarre and doesn’t make sense. For example, we are aware that life has existed for billions of years however approx 2.4 billion years of that time, it was just single celled life. Animals have only been around for around 600 million years in comparison. God would seem then to be more focussed on single cells than multi celled organisms? Carrier asks what was God doing for the billions of year time period where only single celled organisms existed? (sure, God’s view of time is different to ours but c’mon, this is a bit weird). Then God creates algae and that lasts about a billion years before cells can differentiate on their own. Then, (Carrier talking) God takes 500 million years to come up with apes. Just apes. Then it takes 4 million more years before people. When you look at this - the idea of a God behind it doesn’t fit. It’s odd. Instead, this is what you would expect to happen if life is the result of random evolution.

Taking this argument even further - Carrier notes that the universe is generally hostile to life. The universe trudged along for 10 billion years before we see life on earth. Also, the universe is filled with matter and circumstance that makes the existence of life extremely difficult and unlikely. Why these features? All these actual facts fit much better with the idea of there being no creative God behind it all but it all being a random, non planned occurrence. Specifically, Carrier says that 99.99999% of the universe is a lethal radiation filled vacuum. Of that tiny tiny fraction of actual matter existing in the universe - 99.99999% of it is stars and black holes upon which nothing can live. He then says that 99.9999% percent of all the rest that exists - planets, asteroids and moons etc is either barren of life or inhospitable to life - only 0.00001 of that material has the potential, as a guess, to actually harbour life “That’s an extremely bizarre thing to observe for an intelligently designed universe that is meant to be hospitable to life”.
Carrier then shows a picture of a large room inside a house and says, by way of describing the above - that if the house represented the whole universe, the amount of volume inside it that would be hospitable to life is the size of one proton (not a bacterium, a proton in an atom inside a bacterium):anguished: He asks, if you saw that, would you think that universe was created by an intelligent force focussed on life? He then notes that Aristotle’s understanding of the universe and how it worked was 10 to the power of 30 times more hospitable to life than our own universe. Carrier rebutts the argument that the probability of life requires so much fine tuning that it had to be God who made it … saying that the idea of God requires more fine tuning.

So, that’s my summary of what Dr Carrier says. He makes some very strong points. It would be really, really interesting to see someone debate him.

Maybe God uses death to show the repugnance of sin.

And the precision in evolution to bring us to where we are is amazing. I believe in intelligent design, lowercase ‘id’ – evolution itself is designed and guided, not that that is scientifically detectable. (I don’t believe that the Designer wants to have his existence proven scientifically, as the ID movement is attempting to say that it is.) You may have noticed elsewhere that I use an epithet of ‘evolutionary providentialist’ – I believe that God is omnitemporal and always involved and immanent in his creation, including the lives of his children.

He uses his people. Christians were major influences in the abolitionist movements in both England and the U.S., John Newton and William Wilberforce, for example.

Maybe lots of things but we just don’t know. You’re essentially suggesting God wants us to be confused and just forget trying to work it out and just ‘trust’. Trust what?? The thing is, by your way of thinking - what are we to do with the untruths in the Bible - did Abraham’s 300 men really pursue those armies in Genesis to rescue Lot or is that just a construct to make the Hebrew hero look tough? Maybe. Did Ham really curse Canaan or is that just a construct to explain that the conquered Canaanites were cursed? Maybe. It’s hard dealing with all the maybes. Probably it’s just all human constructs … and we don’t understand or haven’t been collectively disciplined enough as a human race to try and figure out what we can about the spiritual world.

You can hardly blame people for packing it in and walking away when ‘maybe this maybe that’ is all we can offer.

I’m pretty bitter about it all right now and no doubt that is coming out in my manner. I’m just tired with all the mental gymnastics - surely one day we have to realise the ridiculousness of all that.

Peace

Mine was a rhetorical maybe.

I will again appeal to the closing of Tim Keller’s book, The Reason For God. It seems appropriate since you appear to be in a dark time (not uncommon these days!):

During a dark time in her life, a woman in my congregation complained that she had prayed over and over, “God, help me find you,” but had gotten nowhere. A Christian friend suggested to her that she might change her prayer to, “God, come and find me. After all, you are the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep.” She concluded when she was recounting this to me, “The only reason I can tell you this story is—he did.”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p.240

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Thank you - a kind and thoughtful reply :heart:
I’m definitely stuck in a thicket … and I can feel the vultures swirling

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No argument here. It is almost as if the most common Christian conception of God’s might is essentially at least more than anything I can possibly imagine. But I don’t buy that for a minute. I think creation is much harder than we can imagine and that blood and gore is the only way it could possibly have been done. To imagine God as apart from creation either indifferent or complicit in the blood or gore misses the point. The only way I can imagine God as a creator is as something entirely distributive across all that is and transforming right along side all of creation. I don’t really think of this distributive God as a being in its own right. But I do think it shows up alongside ourselves in consciousness. It is as much there as anywhere else, but more accessible to us there.

I’m starting to think the same. Maybe God is consciousness itself, or something like that. Who knows - but I hope to find out, slowly overtime.
I still remain disillusioned that whatever God is didn’t have enough gazpacha to actually communicate truth to humans around our origins via the Bible or other means (except us having to figure it out alone without him - pretty cold hearted for a child (representing humanity collectively) to find out how they came to be. I reference the Netflix Movie “Mother” in this regard with the jawbone scene. But I’d say we haven’t had a mothering presence along the way - maybe we have I don’t know). Whatever the case we’ve just been making it along through history as best we can, one atrocity to the next with whatever the (beep) is actually supervising it all at a bloody far off distance, or so it seems and feels for so many in the world anyway.

History would show us we probably do best when we use logical rationale combined cooperative thinking, with kindness. Religion - particularly Christianity I’d argue - helped us get there but in a way, maybe we’ve some our outgrown it all now. The religious clothing doesn’t fit humanity well anymore - it’s small, uncomfortable and makes us look and act childishly.

I have no intention of giving up on finding out what actually is spiritual reality - I haven’t invested 20 years of my life into a spiritual pursuit for it to be wasted. It’s just taking a massive turn now, away really from formal religious constructs. May God/reality/the power have mercy on my soul in the process cause I’m bitter and angry about a lot now - I just wanted God the Father but knocking on the door gets so tired and disillusioning after a while … and then I walked around the building to see inside the room of the door I was knocking on - I think it’s empty … I’ve tried to leave a note in case an occupant wants to find me while I have a look around elsewhere

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I agree in many ways (I think you mean the Arctic :slight_smile:). Have you read Pete Enns “The Sin of Certainty”? It’s not so much a criticism of us, but a reminder that God doesn’t necessarily mind if we don’t get it right. “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him…for He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Rachel Held Evans’ “Faith Unraveled” and Greg Boyd’s “Benefit of the Doubt” also helped (I may have written about that last one before; sorry if so).

Justin Barrett wrote on the cognitive science of religion in Cambridge, and how we develop faith from our own makeup. I wonder if it’s part of our need to reason abstractly.

Thanks.

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I thoroughly agree here in some ways, but I think that Dawkins argues himself into a corner when he says we don’t need the spiritual or even imagination to apprehend reality. We are necessarily abstract, and can’t reason without reference points. I remember someone describing the his Soviet Union as “70 years of humiliating atheism.” Why would that be?

I’m reading a book by Randal Rauser, “Conversations With My Inner Atheist,”

https://randalrauser.com/2020/10/should-you-have-a-conversation-with-your-inner-atheist/

I grew up in a church in which the status of your Christian faith was measured by the strength of your conviction. The serious Christian knew all the answers and had no doubts. And so, when I began to have doubts and to wrestle with questions, I largely kept them to myself. Sharing a nagging doubt or an unanswered question was equivalent to asking other people how to control dandruff or constipation: you just don’t share that kind of thing. Instead, you keep those issues to yourself. The good Christian quietly believes and that’s it.

However, the BBC movie God on Trial presents a very different picture. The film is set in the prisoners’ barracks in Auschwitz. As Jewish men face their own mortality, the question arises of whether God has been faithful to his covenant to bless his people. As they ponder this question, the men begin to talk about whether they should place God on trial to decide once and for all whether he has been faithful to his covenant with Israel. But then one man stands up in their midst of the group and fiercely reprimands the very notion as blasphemy. For a moment it seems as if the trial will not go forward. Then another man stands up and offers the following reply: “He gave us the Law. And to debate the Law even on such a terrible subject … is a kind of prayer.”

When all we can do is doubt, because, as George Macdonald wrote, “You doubt because you love truth”–I will keep doubting–because, as the concentration camp inmate said, doubt is a kind of prayer.

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Regarding the fact that 99.99…% of the universe is lethal to life [as we know it], Carrier has noted…

I’ve heard this argument from at least one other atheist before, but I’ve never heard a Christian argue for the opposite [that the universe must be designed for humans and humans alone.] I guess one could infer the latter from what Design proponents argue … that if something is designed for a purpose, then the focus of that purpose (whether a being or an object) ought to be manifestly comfortable being present all across the entire process of orchestrating anything so-designed (both spatially and temporally). But that fails at every level (and I’ve never heard a Christian defend such a proposition, much less come up with any convincing biblical support for it.) At the very get-go, the notion that the entire universe was created for our pleasure and to bring us about, is unsupported. Maybe some Christians think that, but that hardly makes it any kind of sound Christian doctrine. All of us will understandably think in those sorts of ways for the purpose of carrying on our daily lives; e.g. if you searched my house, you might find family trees and histories about my own family that led to me and my own children. I’m interested in the history that led to me. But that is hardly the same as me insisting that all the billions who ever lived, lived only for the purpose of bringing me into the world. It only means I have a particular interest in my own history. Humans have an interest in hearing about their own place in creation, and so we pass on the narrative that features us. That hardly means there are no other interests at all for the Creator.

But even if we did grant that we are supposed to be the singular crowning glory and only purpose of the entire cosmos, the argument still fails to stand. Even in our own little engineering worlds we lavish all sorts of effort on behalf of a relatively tiny (but important) end point. Huge rocket ships carry tiny payloads (a few humans strapped into a few special-made seats) into space. If a human was randomly displaced anywhere else into that monstrous contraption, it would almost certainly be lethal to them as they would be in some cryogenic fuel tank or in an airless cavity or bulkhead not at all hospitable to their continued life. So on Carrier’s logic, we must conclude the rocket ship cannot have been designed for humans. Or on the temporal side, we accept the idea that some things may only come (or appropriately exist) at the end of a long painstaking process. The fact that the end-result isn’t around for most of that process doesn’t mean the process cannot have been carried out with that end-result in mind. Even if our ratios of “whole effort” to “end result” are only 99 to 1 instead of a yet more extreme 99.999… to 1 makes no difference. The conceptual flaw is already there, and heaping on more magnitudes won’t rescue it. One might as well go on trying to argue that big people are more important than small people because the big ones occupy more space.

But back to where the argument tried and failed to get off the ground in the first place … if we allow that the crowning glory of a universe is to have free and conscious beings to can look on and enjoy that universe along with their Creator, then I think one finds firmer ground to at least speculate on something. For one thing, there is no insistence that humans are the only beings in the cosmos that meet that criteria. Whether it’s billions of years or billions of parsecs, there is plenty of room to speculate that all of that may have been full of some really amazing things that, while beyond our scope of attention, may not be beyond the attention of something else - and certainly not beyond the Creator’s attention. If rocks, trees, and hills can provide delight for a creator, stars and planets can too.

I don’t know if this would be helpful to you or not… okay, that was rhetorical. I think it would be helpful to you. :slightly_smiling_face: A Muslim man in Iraq became a Christian because of it. It starts out with the author’s toddler sister being killed in their farmyard by a delivery truck when the author was only five… and it is about being thankful!: One Thousand Gifts.

(Her poetic prose style takes a little getting used to – she is very literate and has a tremendous vocabulary – but it’s worth the very little effort. BabylonBee did a piece on her, and I’m sure she thought it was a hoot. :grin:)

One of the things she says it that the opposite of trust is not doubt, but fear.

Hi Randy,

Thanks for your reply - always enjoy reading what you have to say.

Pete Enns is someone I credit to showing me - honestly - how human the book of the Bible is. And I use the word ‘human’ instead of other words. I’ve read his book ‘Inspiration and Incarnation’ and listened to his podcast. I find his discussion approach very informative but it certainly raises more questions than anything. Swimming in a sea of uncertainty just gets tiring - and there’s nothing to hold onto there. For me personally, I struggle to maintain it (I suppose I could just lay on my back and try to float - I guess there’s not much point in moving from A to B anyway (resigned chuckle)

Those books sound good. I have a preemptive fear though they won’t answer my questions and say something akin to ‘we just need to trust’. I find myself regularly thinking to myself ‘c’mon Chris, the Lord is obviously real because of A and B scenario’ and I feel better, then I remember about evolution, nothing being said about this, the Bible contradicting evolution and about the things not true in the Bible, ask a depressed ‘why?’ and kind of just settle again into confusion - it’s like swimming in that sea.

I still have the book ‘The believing primate’ on my bedside table - I haven’t read it in a few weeks but it talks all about this, mainly from non Christian perspective but Justin is in there

Wow, well there you go just looked it up and I’m surprised polar bears don’t live in Antartica- you’d think but no. Obviously they didn’t walk quite as far then from Turkey - that was obviously the Emperor Penguins then, those two had an extremely long way to waddle (and presumably would have waddled there before the Flood too). Poor things might have just wished to be taken out and become extinct when they realised they had to waddle all the way back after PS I don’t mean to be facetious to anyone reading but it’s a bit of a ‘do I really believe this’?’ kind of question - I’ve been having lots of those lately and they can make you a little jaded. Heck, maybe God have those penguins supernatural power to waddle all that way and back … but …

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Thanks for the laugh. I have often wondered why there are no penguins in the Arctic, for that matter…guess it was just different creatures evolving into similar niches in isolation from each other.

I have always analyzed things multiple ways. As a teen, I kept my godly, patient dad listening for hours to my doubts and questions. My dislike of some of the more (to me) scary aspects of fundamentalism (literal anti scientific YEC ism, penal substitution, original sin, and Calvinism)was one of the reasons I gravitated with relief to Enns and Lamoureux with evolution. However, my father’s love for the truth encouraged confidence in asking the hard questions. I often would get tied up knots about some of them, to the point I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I can say with confidence that my consciousness is still quite atheistic at various times. And I think, given that God has not made the truth clear to at least 2/3 of humanity (assuming Christianity is true), He is OK with that.
Dad told me that it’s really life that gets us to know God more. I would say that of all authors who exemplify that to me, George Macdonald is the most real. Keller and Piper dismiss him because of his universalism, but his apprehension of common grace most clearly show me how every one of us can relate to God by loving our neighbor. “Doing the will of God leaves me no time to dispute about his plans,” he wrote. In reading “The Boyhood of Ranald Bannerman” with my kids, I was able to illustrate to them how helping their sister was doing God’s will…without consciously thinking of it. I think @Mervin_Bitikofer could give you more good examples.
God bless. With prayers,
Randy

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Hi Randy,

Good to read about your journey and glad you had a dad like that. My son is only very young now but I hope to be like that for him when he is older and has questions.

Having read both Enns and Lamourex now to at least some extent, I love their intellectual honesty but personally find they open up so many more questions than give answers. Some people would say that’s good but I’m not so sure (nervous laugh). I must say, I respect the guy but I was bitterly disappointed with Lamourex’s “I think God hasn’t made his existence clear so people have to believe him by faith” explanation. Using this as a reason as to why the Bible is not a document to be relied upon as historical and why God didn’t make his use of evolution clear etc is a sad state of affairs. In no other arena in life would someone like such a character be trusted - not in business, in family, in international affairs, in politics - only maybe in a poetry comp but not when the rubber hits the road which it needs to. Being asked to trust a God like that seems contradictory to Proverbs’ advice of taking only paths that are secure. I know the rebuttal to this - but I still think the point stands. People have done all kinds of mad and disturbing things because of blind faith. Lamourex’s conclusion that blind faith is essentially all we got and that’s how God designed it - so people who chose to follow him have to do so by faith and not from being convinced by the facts … my goodness, it’s shocking. It’s intellectually sinful and just makes me want to roll up in ball

Life and nature - and history - paint a pretty bleak and depressing picture, in my view, of what kind of God would be overseeing it all. For some reason a story of a group of travelling nuns that were apprehended in the Middle East by pagans (sometime in approx the 500s) and sacrificed to false gods reminds me of how on purpose God seems to so often not intervene. I don’t know how the spiritual world works but why God apparently intervenes sometimes and not others - even when babies are thrown into fires (Canaan) for 100s of years - it just unsettles me in a deep way … would not a parental figure to humanity intervene to stop an older and stronger child severely hurting a younger one? The ‘God is like a parent’ paradigm certainly does not apply when history is examined. The ‘God is like a far off God who occasionally intervenes only according to His purpose and not in response per se to human or animal suffering’ paradigm fits better. I guess I struggle with that when God is presented as compassionate, kind, all knowing etc in the Bible. The argument that he works through us’ can only go so far.

Anyway, good sharing

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When? Where?

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Good question … I guess the answer is very much in the eye of the beholder. Jesus and the cross would certainly be the most striking example

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And ironically enough, Dr. Enns is quite certain about his position on that topic, and he comes across as even more certain that those who disagree with him (including many Bible writers) are categorically wrong.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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