1 - I find it hard to see how the laws of physics could have come into being.
2 - There is good evidence for a large amount of evil on the world around the time of the (regional) flood of Noah, the Mesopotamians did not know this, how did the Hebrews?
3 - I am a fan of Aristotlean philosophy, and I believe that religion more so than atheism helps one to achieve a eudaimonic state.
4 - I agree with St Thomas Aquinas that in order to say that things a truly good or bad, there must be an ultimate good which we can weigh it against, whom is God.
5 - Religion offers the best source of morality, with Natural Selection alone, one could potentially justify racial genocides, or the slaughter of the handicapped as they would be detrimental to human evolution, the only morality which could prevent this in my opinion is one which rises above natural laws, ie one given from the most high.
1 - I find it hard to see how the laws of physics could have come into being.
I like these thoughts. I admit I have never taken a philosophy course, so my arguments in this vein tend to wind up wandering around into the “should be, wish it could be, humanity would be better off with” a God, rather than actual proof for a God. #1 appears to me to be the strongest (but also the one I’m weakest on assessing). The rest are presumably, in my opinion, very helpful for societal cohesion, but not necessarily for why God exists, unless you can elaborate?. So–while I’m a Christian and a theist, I don’t have any good arguments to support these. Thank you.
3-5 are reasons to believe rather than evidence, but number 2 is evidence, because the Biblical writers knew something about the flood which is confirmed by population genetics, which the Mesopotamians did not know.
Hm. Sorry, I must have missed something. How is evil or the Flood confirmed by population genetics? Thanks! I thought that the Flood story was different from Atrahasis and Gilgamesh strongly in that it’s sin, not noisiness/annoyance that caused the Flood. This would be a good evolution of society that puts emphasis on rule of law rather than haphazardness.
I’m interested. Thanks.
I agree with most of this. In the end it’s the person who either see’s the world better with God, Or the better without. I still subscribe to most of the arguments pro God. But this is what it comes down to in the end!
Since all evil is evil how do you quantify that there was more evil here than elsewhere in the world. I am sure there were other places that were just as evil that the Hebrews knew nothing about.
No one understands how the universe and the laws which govern it came into being. The Big Bang theory is a description of what followed a putative spontaneously generated singularity, but this theory depends on our current understanding of causality and the flow of time*. Since time and causality lead inevitably to the problem of infinite regress, our current understanding of reality must be fundamentally flawed. But our current inability to fully understand the nature of reality is not evidence for God. God is not an explanation but rather a means of avoiding the question. It presumes a causal supernatural world and therefore does not address the problem of infinite regress without making the ad hoc pronouncement that God had always existed and requires no cause - but then this could be said of the universe itself without adding the extra step of an agent. The only reason to prefer an eternal uncaused agent to an eternal uncaused universe is that we experience ourselves (incorrectly as it turns out) as free agents and, in a nod to anthropomorphism, we find it easier to relate to an agent. Shifting the explanation to a supernatural venue has the added convenience of placing the discussion beyond the reach of facts, but this makes the claims unfalsifiable, and what is unfalsifiable is also unprovable. The problem with the supernatural argument is that, being beyond facts, it must rely only on reason, and reason untethered to facts is notoriously unreliable.
You don’t need to have a hostile attitude towards religion in order to have little regard for its poorly conceived ideas. It is not a battle between two ideas (God vs atheism) but rather a battle between the fairness of fact-based thinking and the inherent bias built into any system of belief that depends for its defense on claims for which evidence cannot be forthcoming. Such systems of thought, free of the burden of evidence, are atavistic, incapable of modification except in the face of social pressure, indisposed to compromise, tend towards autocracy, are hostile to free thought, and are often rife with demogoguery.
Religion has long proclaimed moral superiority to secular philosophies. Considering the fact that religion has been among the leading causes of strife between groups and has been responsible for some of the bloodiest conflicts and ghastly human rights abuses in history, it is difficult to see how this preening can be done with a straight face. In reality, humans are by nature both loving and hateful. Without social solidarity (love) to bind us together in hunter-gatherer groups, and without the disposition to commit violence towards other groups in the competition for resources, our prehistoric ancestors would not have survived. If we were by nature evil and only made good by religion, it begs the question how man could have survived so long with out the Ten Commandments. Necessity and not religion is the source of both our good and bad moral traits.
Religion offers a reinforcement to cultural bonds but for the same reason it is a reinforcer of intergroup rivalry. The less we seek ways to differentiate ourselves the more we are likely to cooperate. This is why political secularism, which found its first expression in the American experiment in pluralistic democracy, has been so successful. It should be no surprise to us that Trump’s tilt towards autocracy, demogoguery, vitriol, and isolationism is enthusiastically supported by the religious right. Democracy and fundamentalism have always been uneasy bedfellows.
*The Theory of Relativity, the world’s first deeply counterintuitive explanation of reality, describes the universe as a “spacetime continuum”. According to this theory (whose accuracy has been proven over and over by experiments conducted over the past one hundred years), space and time are not separate things. In our experience at conventional velocities, they seem entirely separate. The length of time it takes to traverse a given distance is provided by the formula T = D/S where S is speed. But as velocity approaches the speed of light, time slows down. As a result, you could be younger than your twin after taking a trip in space at speeds approximating the speed of light. You will have travelled into your twin’s past, and your twin will have travelled into your future. To do this, these times must be accessible, just like locations to which you might travel. One implication of the Theory of Relativity, then, is that time does not flow as it seems to us to do, but that all times are present always, just as all locations are present always. This is what is called the B Theory of time. The universe from beginning to end all exists at once. This does not mean that causality is abrogated. Causal relationships still define temporal relationships between events, but all events from the beginning to the end of the universe all exist and are theoretically accessible to me now (subject to the rule of causality) just as all locations in the universe are theoretically accessible to me now. In such a universe, where time does not flow and all time and space simply “is”, the idea of the universe coming into existence at a point in time may not be an accurate description of reality.
Good and evil are not universal qualities - like dry or wet, hard or soft, loud or quiet. These latter characteristics are intrinsic properties of nature. But good and evil, just as truth and beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. They are judgments and therefore have no reality of their own. As Shakespeare has Hamlet say: " . . nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
So we can’t consider the holocaust evil? Or someone sacrificing themselves for others good?
A 100 billion lightyear-sized physical entity that produced conscious, intelligent life is evidence for the existence of an intelligent, all-powerful entity that exists outside of the physical realm. It’s not proof, but it is evidence. Atheists in these arguments tend to conflate evidence with proof. Proof is for mathematics, best-fitting explanations for the data is science.
No, that is merely your opinion. Theists prefer an eternal, uncaused agent because, regardless of our inability to, “fully understand the nature of reality”, because it is a much better explanation for existence, and the nature of this existence, than that we are the result of an happy accident that defies the laws of known science.
You seem to think that people only started believing in God after development of the Big Bang theory. However, every culture has recognized the supernatural to explain a world displays intelligence, love, beauty, justice, morality, order and complexity.
And claiming that the universe popped into existence from ontological nothingness is also unfalsifiable.
You make it seem like atheism is proven. In fact it is a faith-based belief system, because it is only by faith that one can hold that matter, energy, space and time came into being on their own, with laws perfectly shaped to allow life to form. That is faith-based, because, since we can never test outside of space and time, we will never have a, “scientific” explanation for the universe.
God has the moral superiority, not, “religion”. Religion is the practice of following God by sinful men, many of whom claimed to be Christians but abandoned the teachings of Christ, admittedly creating many dark moments. But you seem to forget about atheist leaders who showed no value to human life and butchered millions of their own people like Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao and Stalin.
- Re good and evil. I did not say that good and evil don’t exist, I said that they exist only in the minds of men. That doesn’t mean that moral judgments are irrelevant. On the contrary, they are vital to our survival, but they are an expression of human values and not some transcendent statement about the universe. It is anthropomorphic to think otherwise, which, incidentally, is why mankind created God in the image we have of ourselves - as an agent with feelings.
I believe I understand your difficulty with this, Richard, but not only is it possible to live a principled life without an imagined supernatural overseer and set of directives, it is, in my view, much easier to do so. I love my fellow man because I value my fellow man, not because I’m directed to do so by a greater power using inducements and sanctions. I have always considered that idea a little debasing and offensive.
- What is a " 100 billion light-year physical entity"? Do you mean something really big (a light-year is a measure of distance) or something really old (which would be misunderstanding a light-year as a measure of time)? In either case, I don’t see where it matters.
Now, on to the meat of the matter. You say: “An entity that produced conscious, intelligent life is evidence for the existence of an intelligent, all-powerful entity that exists outside the physical realm.”
You are correct that this is not proof, but nor is it evidence. It is an example of circular reasoning.
You begin by assuming what it is you must demonstrate (show evidence for) - that God exists.
Now if you had begun your sentence without assuming that an entity produced conscious, intelligent life, then you would not be guilty of circular reasoning. For example, if you had said: “The existence of conscious, intelligent life is evidence that there is a conscious, intelligent agent that created it” your argument would be free of logical fallacy, but it would still be incredibly weak. The creationist argument has been debunked countless times. Nothing in the natural order suggests that there is some supernatural force pulling the strings. What is worse, an appeal to a supernatural force or agent is inherently incapable of producing evidence since, by definition, it is not of the physical world, and evidence is only of a physical nature.
I had a discussion about this a few years ago with my brother who is also a fundamentalist (a religious literalist) and I believe he and you both have the same mistaken idea about what constitutes evidence. A strong conviction or persuasive argument are not evidence. Evidence must be a fact that can be produced by anyone without reliance upon opinion.
You say that I am conflating proof with evidence, but I never mentioned the word “proof”. I only mentioned evidence. You brought it into the discussion, perhaps so that you could launch your patronizing and unmerited broadside about the problem atheists have with logic. Let’s just confine the discussion to our personal views, shall we, and not labor to tar and feather a whole population.
It is ironic that you chose to take this dodge with me since it is science and the skeptics who understand that all truths are contingent on the evidence and subject to revision while it is theists like yourself who consider their beliefs proven beyond doubt.
You say that theists prefer an eternal, uncaused agent because “it is a much better explanation for existence than that we are the result of a happy accident that defies the laws of known science.” Why is it a much better explanation? You are merely positing the existence of this uncaused agent but offer no explanation for the happy accident that this uncaused agent was around to be so convivial as to make the universe for us. It is no explanation at all, and certainly no better than a “happy accident”. And no theory of the origin of the universe defies the laws of known science because the laws of known science are limited to what we can observe in this universe. Until we have observation, it remains speculative, but that is what is so refreshing about science. It admits its limitations and corrects its errors.
You say: “You seem to think that people only started believing in God after development of the Big Bang theory. However, every culture has recognized the supernatural to explain a world displays intelligence, love, beauty, justice, morality, order and complexity.” Come again? The Big Bang was first theorized by the Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer Georges Lemaitre in 1927. You seriously believe that I believe that people didn’t start believing in God until 1927? Richard, what are you thinking?
Yes, every culture has recognized the supernatural to explain all manner of things about the world they they didn’t understand. Primitive cultures still imagine gods behind all manner of natural phenomena. Fortunately for mankind, Galileo ultimately won the argument with the Church (spending is last days in prison as the price) and we are his beneficiaries living in a modern world which would have been impossible without shrugging off the shackles of churchly oppression to free the mind of man to pursue his endless curiosity about the world.
Interesting that you chose these characteristics to describe the world: “intelligence, love, beauty, justice, morality, order and complexity”. It reminds me of Candide and the best of all possible worlds. The satire of Voltaire. Worth a read if you haven’t already.
- You say: “And claiming that the universe popped into existence from ontological nothingness is also unfalsifiable.” Well, first of all, I never made such a claim. It is you who are doing all the claiming. Second, I have no idea what “ontological nothingness” is. Do you? What science does know is that space is filled with a quantum foam produced by the fluctuation of spacetime due to quantum uncertainty. This foam is manifested by pairs of virtual particles that spontaneously pop into existence and then immediately annihilate. This spontaneous foaming action is due to the inherent uncertainty of reality at very small distances.
If you are not aware of this fact, you may be tempted to consider it speculative nonsense. Happily, we have EVIDENCE. In 1948 the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir predicted the existence of these particles, and in 1996 an experiment was conducted by physicist Steven Lamoreaux that demonstrated the physical effect of these particles on two metal plates suspended side by side in close proximity. Are you familiar with this experiment and its results?
- In claiming that atheism is a faith-based belief system you seem to tarnish your own position in order to bring down the opposition. I think all faith-based belief systems are equally foolish. We have brains for a reason, and that is not to put them in a box so that we can accept ideas on faith.
While there are some atheists who may indeed fit your description of being like theists in their belief, most atheists I know are thoughtful skeptics. They do not make the claim that “God does not exist” because they know that this is just as much an assertion of a supernatural condition as saying that
God does exist. It is the absolute certainty which continues to be religion’s downfall. What a right-thinking atheist will say is that there is no evidence for the existence of God and so the likelihood that God does exist is too small to worth seriously considering. In the same way we all agree that the theory of gravity is only a theory, but few of us would be willing to test it by walking off a bridge.
Language does fail us here, however. Conventional usage does tend to associate atheism with the same brand of hard certainty as theism. The only other term available is “agnostic”, but the problem with this word is that it sounds like one is sitting on the fence, which gives theism too much credibility. Perhaps it is best to ditch the loaded term and just use “scientific skeptic”, but I doubt that will fly.
- You said: “since we can never test outside of space and time, we will never have a, “scientific” explanation for the universe.” How do you know this? How do you know we will never be able to test outside of space and time? Our understanding of space and time changed profoundly with the Theory of Relativity. Few even today, a hundred years later, appreciate the implication of what the spacetime continuum is. Think for a moment about time dilation. It is time travel, subject to the laws of causality. It is not the Newtonian universe that most of us intuitively imagine. So I suggest you not be so sure about what science will and will not be able to tell us in the future. I may not have faith, but I have optimism.
There are a number of reasons why I believe in God and His spiritual world. First the scientific reasons:
- The scientific studies done by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jim Tucker on reincarnation.
- The lifetime studies of Dr. Carl Wickland and Dr. Edith Fiore on ghosts and there interaction with humanity.
The next reasons I believe in God and His spiritual world are philosophical reasons bore out of wisdom and reason. These come from the culture who gave us Euclidian geometry, the Pythagorean theorem, Aesop’s fables, democracy, the Hippocratic Oath and Plato’s dialogs:
- They believed that the material world was created as restoration path for all those (1/3 of Olympus) who revolted against Zeus and were cast out.
- They believed that the restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) was an unperceivably slow process requiring many lifetimes. That this was the only way all fallen could be recovered with all of their virtue, and none of their malcontent.
- They believed that all the gods would eventually come home. They named their capital after the fallen goddess Athena, who had broken away from Hades and was making her way back to Olympus.
- They have revered Aphrodite, who had also emerged from the bitter sea, ruled by Poseidon (Hades), and starting her incarnations on earth as human, during her restoration process.
The final reasons are religious reasons. For me, the only way to believe in a Good God, is to believe in reincarnation. It is the only way I can reconcile both the suffering in the world, and the huge difference in enlightenment of humanity.
- How can we all expected to meet the requirements set down by Jesus in one lifetime, given the various conditions that we all live? How else can Jesus be the only way to Heaven if 2/3’s of the world never even hear his name in their lifetime?
- The bible clearly teaches restoration - Not one sheep will be lost! (Luke 15:4-5) and even the prodigal son [Lucifer] will eventually come home. (Luke 15:11-32).
Richard: Hitler’s birthday was celebrated by the Catholic Church until the end of WWII. Much of the hatred towards Jews that resulted in the holocaust was the result of hundreds of years of antipathy and oppression towards Jews at the urging of the Catholic Church. Stalin was once a seminarian and was on good terms with the Eastern Orthodox Church. I don’t know about Mao and Pol Pot, but what all dictators and monotheistic religions have in common are an absolute and uncompromising insistence on having things their way and a willingness to do almost anything to get it. I challenge you to name one secular humanist who ever acted like this. I count the Founding Fathers as the prime example of secular humanists. The had various and mostly moderate religious views and were inspired by Enlightenment values to create the first government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. What had come before was government of, by, and for the church and monarchy and the people suffered centuries of persecution and war for it. The American Revolution was inspired by the idea of a country governed by the dual priorities of human rights and the rule of law. Republicans and many fundamentalist Christian leaders have placed a bet on Trump, the most craven man ever to occupy the office of the President, thinking that this willingness to eviscerate the rule of law, victimize non-nationals, destroy the international alliances so painstakingly built up and maintained since the end of WWII - all this just to retain power in the hands of the powerful few who now control our elections - this, they believe, will ultimately work for them. I think that they underestimate the wisdom, integrity, and determination of the American people.
Is medicine not science? Are the beliefs of the founders of science irrelevant? This is the interaction of Science and Religion.
Erwin Schrodinger’s Nature and the Greeks documents this Nobel Prize winner’s search for wisdom that he did not find in physics. He rediscovered it as Galileo did before him in the works of Euclid, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Socrates and Democritus. These greats believed in the spiritual world, but not as blind faith. They applied the same logic to the study of the natural sciences as they did to the study of the gods.