What is the best argument for belief in God?


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #41

But Christians believe that Jesus was the Old Testament God also, correct? Luckily for those Christians who are very serious about their faith, Jesus really scaled the violence down from his past edicts (i.e. the Old Testament).

Now, Christians are discouraged from raping women and paying 50 shekels to their fathers, so their victims can become their wives.

Deut. 22: 28 “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.

Luckily, Jesus did not (as far as we know) practice what he preached/proclaimed previously. I would agree that it is a good thing he did not follow his prior commands. However, I think one can make a case that a secular morality, based on human reasoning, is much more superior to what we find in the ancient books, including the Bible.


(Walter D Huber) #42

There is absolutely no proof there is a God and no proof there is not a God. Human beings get to choose whether we believe in God or not. And for those of us who choose to believe in God, we then get to choose what we believe God is like and how our supreme creator interacts with us and how our personal and spiritual lives are influenced by God.

So I choose to believe in God because doing so enriches my life and makes it more fulfilled. I value the camaraderie and support of belonging to the fellowship of my church.


(GJDS) #43

You take a very odd position - you say you began as a Christian, and yet you now come up with statements on behalf of all Christians. You should reflect on why you think you initially believed you were a Christian (and what denomination you were with), and then why you decided you were wrong. This is what makes no sense - if you changed, you must have been wrong before this change. You need to find out if you made mistakes followed by more mistakes.

This somehow underpins the complete turnaround you seem to display - if you think you were wrong before, what makes you think you are not wrong now?

And you certainly cannot speak on what Christians believe. :frowning:


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #44

Human authors tell the truth about the experience of Israel with YHWH.

If you have any specific ideas about morality and ethics, please share.

From where do our culture and society originate and how can they be changed?


#45

So says another human.

From one of my previous posts:

I would put forth empathy, logic, and reason as the pillars of how we determine morality. The tough part is figuring out how those concepts interact in specific situations.

As to our society and culture, it gets most of its influence from Europe. Philosophers like John Locke and early forms of constitutions like the Magna Carta had a strong influence on how we view government and each other. I’ve never delved very deeply into sociology or anthropology, so I’m not sure what the prevailing thought is on how cultures and societies change. The biologist in me sees it as an emergent property of humans interacting, sort of like schools of fish and flocks of birds organizing themselves into moving swarms. I also see people leading by example, and that seems to be one of the better methods for changing society for the good. A good example would be the peaceful marches led by Martin Luther King which really changed the way the country viewed segregation.


(Jennifer Thomas) #46

Although the idea of a secular morality seems logical – perhaps even appealing – to our modern “eyes and ears,” there’s little evidence from the long years of history to support the idea that secular morality is superior to the moral reasoning offered by major world religions.

Western society, which is the kind of societal model we’re talking about here, is still deeply infused with the morality of the Judeo-Christian tradition. So Western democracies don’t provide a clear-cut model of a society that operates from the perspective of a purely secular morality (even in Toronto, where I live). To get a better understanding of the positive and negative outcomes that arise from a purely secular morality, you need look at societies that consciously chose secularism as the “root” from which all morality was to grow. Two excellent 20th century examples, of course, are the Soviet Union and Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China. If you have time to watch the Jordan Peterson video posted at the top of this discussion, you’ll see he talks about these examples.

Judeo-Christian morality developed over a long period of time, but certain moral norms became entrenched – so deeply entrenched, in fact, that they created a strong foundation for later intellectual and scientific developments that we like to imagine were separate and distinct from Judeo-Christian morality, but were in fact completely dependent on these norms.

The reason the norms of Judeo-Christian morality had such a powerful effect on later thinkers lies in the way the brain can be wired when it’s exposed repeatedly to certain belief systems.

As more and more recent research has shown, the brain operates with two major thought processing systems that are quite different from each other but are also interdependent. It’s possible for an adult brain to end up with one of three major configurations (I’m simplifying for the sake of argument, so please bear with me): (1) a brain where System 2 logic predominates; (2) a brain where System 1 empathy predominates; or (3) a brain where System 2 logic and System 1 empathy are in balance with each other.

Judeo-Christian morality, for all its mistakes and faults along the way, has a long tradition of trying to balance logic with empathy. When you grow up with this kind of balance, it eventually becomes natural for your brain to think it’s supposed to balance the needs of logic with the needs of empathy. (But not all belief systems teach this balance, so not all brains learn it!) There are also long Judeo-Christian traditions that build and strengthen the theory of mind network in the brain, which helps you accord agency to other people. (Learning to put your trust in God is a form of agency that helps the growing brain learn that other people have their own thoughts and feelings, too, thoughts and feelings that need to be taken into account when you make your decisions.)

When the brain reaches maturity and is able to balance logic (mind) with empathy (heart), it’s because a number of important networks (connections that link brain areas to each other) have slowly been built over time through ongoing challenge. It`s these networks which create the foundations for highly advanced learning.

It`s no accident that a majority of Nobel laureates have been people of faith.

One of the most important contributions to the human brain from Judeo-Christian morality is the insistence on humbleness (which isnt the same thing as humility). Its very hard for a person raised with Judeo-Christian morality to believe he or she is the most important thing in Creation next to sliced bread. You get the idea that youre clever, but that on the whole youre really not quite as clever as the God who is creator and guardian of a vast and wondrous universe. It`s this wonderful sense of being important but not too important that helps keep the System 2 circuits of your brain from getting too big for their britches.

The examples given to us by the purely secular morality of the Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution show us in a pretty convincing way that although wed like to believe were clever enough to keep a harmonious balance between logic and empathy without God, without faith, and without religion, we actually don`t seem to be able to do it. What always seem to emerge in the absence of God is a morality that starts with simple logic (is there really such a thing?), which then breeds strict laws, which then fosters the hubris of authoritarianism and ideology, which then may erupt into full-blown totalitarianism (which tries to suppress all System 1 empathy, intuition, creativity, individuation, and faith, as numerous writers and artists have already pointed out). When was the last time you saw any empathy in a totalitarian belief system or societal structure?

This isnt to say there havent been problems over the centuries with various world religions (and subsets of those religions). Our religious leaders have often made mistakes and caused harm. But Judeo-Christian morality also gives us the tools to recognize mistakes, learn from mistakes, and most importantly forgive mistakes.

Forgiveness is so completely at odds with pure logic that its almost impossible to describe how badly the brains System 2 circuits mangle the challenge of trying to forgive ourselves and each other as Jesus taught us. Forgiveness isnt a cognitive skill (though Ive seen attempts to describe it as such). Forgiveness – the great emotional, spiritual, psychological, and intuitive call to courage that so daunts us – is the place where the rubber meets the road in our relationship with God. It`s part of Judeo-Christian morality, and it also transcends that morality.

Ive yet to see anyone who has mastered the forgiveness Jesus taught without first feeling the wonder of Gods loving presence in their lives.

God bless.

Edit: P.S. When I posted this, I discovered some strange formatting glitches. Don`t know what I did. Sorry about that!


(Bill Wald) #47

Since you asked, “God” is the best solution because the alternative is a universe with no intrinsic value. Or maybe our universe only exists in some sort of computer game in a universe that “believes in” God. Or like the old story ends, “It’s elephants all the way down.”


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #48

@T_aquaticus

Your example goes against your theory. I am witness that Dr. King’s activism was inspired and motivated by faith in Jesus Christ… The people who followed him were inspired and motivated by faith in Jesus Christ.

You cannot prove something is real and right by using hypotheticals when all the realities argue against your theory. Maybe Christianity is not perfect, because it is practiced by imperfect humans, but until you at someone else can come up with something better, it will have to do.


#49

Not sure about the “best”. I think that 1) the beginning of the universe and fine-tuning, 2) the historical fruits of Christianity in the world, and 3) the evidence for the historicity of the resurrection are significant. Especially number 2 is something to think about, given that Christianity is probably one of the best things to happen to civilization in almost every way: politically (almost all human rights), economically and scientifically, medically, etc. As Jesus said, you will know the truth of something by its fruits.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #50

I agree that Christianity has caused many good things to our civilisation. I’ve mentioned before how Ancient, Pre-Judeo-Christian civilisations did not give human life the value we give it today. The ideas of John Locke were also derived from the Bible. Christians also played a large role in ending slavery.

But it goes both ways. I’ve yet to see a rational excuse for the crusades. As Tim O’Neill explains here:

https://www.quora.com/Did-the-Crusades-save-Europe

This revisionist thesis is clearly wrong. Plenty of solid scholarly work has been done in the last 60 years on the real motivations behind the Crusading ideal - millennial ideas about the coming apocalypse, idealised visions of Jerusalem not as a place but a mystical concept, the increasing alignment of knighthood with religious ideals, the outward expansion of western Europeans in all directions etc - but there is no evidence that they were ever seen as defensive wars against enemies encroaching on Europe, as the Spanish example clearly demonstrates.

The slavery thing seems to cut both ways as well.

So whilst Christianity has done much good, it hasn’t done good enough to prove itself true.


#51

The crusades? Well, that’s a good way to complain about medievals for behaving like medievals. The death toll caused by the crusades is also fairly tiny - a couple few thousands perhaps. And it isn’t like I can see how you can attribute the crusades to Christianity – following Christianity would cause the crusades to be just about the last thing you would’ve done. This is just political leaders using religion for political purposes.


(John Dalton) #52

If you follow that kind of logic, you can very easily eliminate anything bad associated with Christianity while preserving the good things, but you won’t be making a strong argument.


#53

Fair enough. I find myself on the right track, though. Do you think a strict following of Christianity could have lead to the crusades?

EDIT: I must add on that even conceeding the negative things unjustly done in the name of Christianity, the good remains to vastly outweigh the bad.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #54

The crusades were a mistake. The redeeming element is that the Church and the West learned from this mistake and gained from it. The West learned about other countries and cultures. It cultivated trade and economic development.

The Islamic world did not develop and grow. It concentrated on military strength, not economic strength. The high water of the Muslin thrust into Europe was the Siege of Vienna in 1683. The end of the Ottoman Empire’s control of Serbia was World War I.


(John Dalton) #55

I don’t think that matters. The argument goes back to “the historical fruits of Christianity in the world”. It seems to me that what Christians of any stripe actually have done has to fall into that. If you insist on a “strict following of Christianity”, you’re not talking about the historical reality anymore.

I don’t know. It seems to me the record of Christian individuals and organizations is decidedly mixed, and difficult to tease out from the overall picture of Western civilization. I think you can rightly point to various contributions, but it’s much less clear to me what greater significance can be gleaned.


(Jennifer Thomas) #56

I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this question in a general or universal way that would apply to all Christians during all the time periods when Crusades were launched. (Don’t forget the Church in Rome also launched Crusades against European Christians who were deemed “heretical,” not to mention the horrific Fourth Crusade, which saw European Christians sacking the Christian city of Constantinople, starting in 1204 CE.)

But, as in any major world event involving political goals, military goals, economic goals, religious goals, and scientific goals, it’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about the “inner experience” of individual men, women, and children during these events. And it’s the inner experience that’s of interest to God.

So during an event such as a Crusade, there will always be some people who have no interest at all in their relationship with God; they’re interested in the status and the money and the power and so on. That’s their motive for going on a Crusade. They may say they’re fighting for the glory of God, but, as recent events in the Syria have shown us, I think it’s usually pretty easy to tell the difference between a person who has a loving relationship with God and a psychopath who’s flying a religious banner to justify horrific abuse against others.

Then there will be people who are forced into participating in a Crusade against their will and against the voice of their own conscience. This is often the largest group during a major political-military-economic event. There are people on both sides of the conflict who don’t want to fight but see no other way to protect their families and communities.

And, of course, there will always be a group of people who, for various personal reasons, find ways to distance themselves from a Crusade, perhaps by fleeing or refusing to fight or being conscientious objectors or some other means of protesting the event.

At the end of the fighting and major turmoil, when the long process of rebuilding begins, some people will have learned nothing at all from the Crusade about healing or forgiveness or faith or relationship with God; some people will have learned about the futility of violence, though not necessarily much about forgiveness; and a few people will have learned the most powerful lessons a human being can learn about the journey of redemption as Jesus taught it. (One of the greatest 20th century teachers from the latter group was Dr. Viktor Frankl.)

The evolution of Christian thinking, and the evolution of Christian morality, has been – and, I suspect, will continue to be – a long, slow, non-linear process where some people learn nothing from the Christian experience during their human lifetimes and other people learn vast amounts, with most people lying somewhere in the middle. But in each generation there are always some Christian thinkers and doers who manage to seize hold of Jesus’ core teachings and pull others along with them as they expand on what Jesus taught us about our relationship with God.

The evolution of Christian morality is not often thought of as something that grows and changes and strengths over time. We’ve long had an unfortunate tendency to assume that Christian morality is a simple black and white set of laws that any idiot can and should follow.

The pages of history, however, prove that Christian morality has never been a simple part of the human experience. In fact, its evolution over the centuries has been in lockstep with the evolution of our scientific understanding. The two have been mutually intertwined. Scientific theories have evolved, changed, and strengthened over time (with many false starts and fresh beginnings as we uncover previous errors in our scientific theories). The scientific theories have brought new questions to our moral understanding, which in turn undergoes further changes as previous errors in our moral understanding are uncovered (for example, the Crusades). And then our moral evolution helps us ask new questions in the expanding fields of pedagogical and scientific inquiry.

There’s nothing so complex as understanding all the colours and musical notes and healing layers and scientific questions and languages and stories that are part of our relationship with God. No one person can grasp it all, and God knows this. But each person has the capacity to grasp part of it. It’s our Christian morality – our foundation of cognitive and emotional and spiritual beliefs – that demands we ask certain kinds of questions about our relationships with ourselves, each other, God, and all Creation (questions involving empathy, forgiveness, learning, and transformation).

As Jesus tried to teach us, it’s the journey that counts. As Christians, we all make mistakes along the way. We all misunderstand parts of the message. We all misapply some of the teachings in our daily lives. But as long as we’re willing to keep trying to recognize our mistakes and learn from our mistakes, we’re still on the path and still trying to deepen our relationship with God. This is where Divine Forgiveness helps keep us strong and helps us find the courage to keep trying to turn our lemons into lemonade.

This is all anybody can do.

And it’s fair to say, from an historical perspective, that many, many Christian thinkers and doers have brought some pretty amazing lemonade into the world, one scientific and moral lemon at a time.

God bless.


#57

Are you saying that atheist black people didn’t mind segregation? Are you saying that if you didn’t believe in God then there was no argument against segregation?


(Steve Buckley) #58

Best argument for belief in God?
God can be known. Jeremiah 24:7, and John 17:3.
Another would be— the existence of the Jewish people is definitive proof that God is real. Jeremiah 31:35-37.
Another would be— God inhabits eternity, yet dwells with the humble and contrite. Isaiah 57:15.
And…
How can you possibly know God is not real, when he holds the entirety of the cosmos in the span of his hand? Isaiah 40:12.
Although… I think my favorite is— by doing the commands of Jesus, we can actually KNOW. John 14:20-24. Jesus said by our keeping his teachings, we will demonstrate that we love him, and both he and the Father will come and make their home with us.
This results in a two-fold situation.
1- by his coming to live with us, we learn he’s real.
2- in this, we come to actually experience, and know him.

There are many others, but it seems to me that this is a far simpler situation than many are willing to consider.
Do you possess the faculty to know the infinite and eternal God, without the infinite and eternal God making himself known to you?
Eg., God inhabits eternity.
I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked… I’ve never been to eternity. I’ve never even left earth (aside from flying in airplanes). So, since the cosmos are so huge, and I’m stuck within the confines of time-- how could I know, unless I’m actually shown?
God dwells with those who are contrite, and humble.
Right here we’re told that there are those with whom God hangs out. The concept of to dwell with someone means extended stay. Not some one night ordeal, or hotel room deal, but years, indeed, an entire lifetime.

We then have the idea of God holding the cosmos in the span of his hand. How large is your span? Mine’s 9 inches. It’s the distance between the pinky fingertip to the tip of the thumb.
Let’s stick with the idea of a single universe. According to Wikipedia, the universe ranges somewhere between 50-200 billion light years (bly).
Let’s stick with 150 for ease of calculation… yes. I’m going to do some math here…
So… 9 inches, breaks down into how many spans for a 6 foot man? 72/9 = 8.
I’m selecting 6 foot, for ease of comparison.
So, a 6 foot man is 8 spans in height.
Keep in mind, God was compared to being able to hold the entire heavens in the span of his hand. Isaiah 40:12.
so… the easiest way to do this is to multiply 8 spans, times the size of the universe. This is solely for discussion’s sake, as I think God is far more humongous than scaling a 6 foot man to his scale.
8 x 150bly = 1.2 trillion light years (tly).
2 x 150 = 300, x 4 = 1200 bly.
Ever calculate the size of single light year? 5.88 trillion miles.
so, 5.88 tm x 1,200,000,000,000
According to my ti89 calculator, we’re talking upwards of 1.135 x 10^28 meters, or 3.25 x 10^28 feet. Needless to say, we’re talking a number/height which is in all practical terms— unfathomable, beyond #'s on a piece of paper.
I.e., God is incomprehensibly humongous. And unless he were to become a man, and introduce himself to us, we’d not be able to comprehend him.
Thankfully, he actually did exactly that— in the person of Jesus Christ.
I’ll let you tinker with that for a while.


#59

I don’t think that matters. The argument goes back to “the historical fruits of Christianity in the world”. It seems to me that what Christians of any stripe actually have done has to fall into that. If you insist on a “strict following of Christianity”, you’re not talking about the historical reality anymore.

That’s not what I was talking about. I was just asking: do you think a strict following of Christianity could ever lead to the crusades?

As for the fruits, you say that it is “less clear” whether or not Christianity, overall, overwhelmingly was good, even taking into account the few thousands who died in the crusades. I don’t think it’s unclear at all. The founding of the hospital. The university. Hundreds of billions of donations every year. How many more would have died without these? You will know something by its fruits.


(GJDS) #60

The situation is much more complicated than that put by atheists. Many counties in Europe were declared Christian by their king, and few if any were brought to the faith through a personal calling by Christ. The king in these countries ruled by decree (mostly), and he set up institutions modelled on what he wanted, and to create useful relations with other Christian countries, adopted policies that furthered his ambitions.

This show that while some people may have repented and turned to God, many simply obeyed the king and participated in his politics.

The crusades typify this complexity, as they included fanatical religious figures, naïve peasants, authoritative moves by Rome, and personal motivations by kings.

This is not a case of Christians living by the teachings of the gospel, even if many were persuaded that the crusades were correct.

However, as a move to counter the expansion of the Islam empire, I think many powers in Europe saw the crusades as necessary.