Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To God-Believing Michael:

(I'm not even sure anymore what's been covered in the Believing-Michael debates - but this is me throwing in my two cents...)

Earth appears to be a very rare place. Earth has conditions on which to
support life, and allow life to evolve and flourish. Lots of events
seem to have been necessary for this: a magnetic field, a moon, a
meteor bombardment at just the right time, continental drift, etc. How
did life get here? It could have been floating through space. It could
be that the chemicals to produce life occur when certain elements are
in place.

And, it could have been implanted here by a God. What do you think is more likely?

If you look back on the history of human's search for answers to natural phenomenon, each time there is a groundswell of support by the religious that it is God who did it. And the scientists say, “No, there is an answer to this.” And every time the scientists find an answer, the religious take up their fight again
on the next question that is unanswered.

So, wouldn’t it be arguable that the most likely answer to the question of how life arose on Earth is that there is some natural, scientific answer? Crick is
right, it IS miraculous (in the sense that it is has a small chance of
happening) that life arose on earth. The conditions had to be just
right.

But we don’t even know how many chances there really are out there for life. If the Universe is as big as it appears to be, and there are as many stars as we calculate there are, and as many planets and moons and so forth, it seems that – even with an
infinitesimally small chance of life taking hold on a planet, there is
still room for that to happen.

So, wouldn’t it be more prudent to go with the conservative answer? Not leap to God, but to instead assume that life arising on earth is a natural phenomenon?

Personally I have no problems with the panspermia hypothesis. Sounds
reasonable to me. I think that the seeds of life are ubiquitous in the
Universe, and that this is a likely way that life began here on Earth.

I don’t know exactly what this has to do with God, frankly. Or more specifically, what it has to do with a God that wanted us to exist (and knows our thoughts
and feelings, cares about us individually, sent his son to die for our
sins, etc.)

Do you deny that evolution is the way that nature creates species? I can’t remember if you are a young earth creationist or not. If you accept evolution, don’t you see what a horrifying and uncaring process it is? Even if God cared about human beings, why wouldn’t God care about all the other animals that lived, struggled, and died along the way? Why would God create human beings through the method of evolution, a
process that inevitably caused inestimable heart-ache and pain for our
species, people, human beings just like us?

For example, one of the costs of humans having a large brain is that females have a hard time giving birth. Their birth canal cannot accommodate such a big
brained baby easily. Think of all the mothers with narrow hips who died
in childbirth! Millions, probably. Women who were smart and cared
deeply about their babies. But still – killed off, the horrible
by-product of evolution. Why would your God do that to these women?
What had they done to deserve this?

For me, evolution and life as a natural product of the Universe is the most conservative and reasonable answer I can give in the face of this evidence. This allows me to feel compassion for those women and feel enormously lucky that I
am not one of those women. I get to have a full life. I get the luxury
of being able to love my friends and family for a very long time. Even
if I died tomorrow, I am still the lucky recipient of being born at
just the right time to live a long life.

But what would I feel like if there were a God who decided that those women should die in childbirth and that I should not? What a horrifying, uncaring,
maniacal, diabolical creature that would be! Fortunately I do not have
to hate God. Because science has given me a reasonable answer to these
complex realities. And that is the view of earth and our Universe as a
natural landscape, filled with accidents and natural selection.

So I ask you, Michael, “Why do you believe what you believe? What is the God like that you believe in?

40 comments:

Rebecca said...

I hope Michael will answer the question you ask at the end of your post. I want to read what he writes! I perhaps should have put this comment at the end of your last post, but I wanted to urge you and your readers to consider Alan Watt's The Wisdom of Insecurity. Yes, Bookeraptor, that was for me too a life-changing book, and, unlike many other books which were important to me at one time, remains as valuable to me today as it was when I first read it. There is no book--none--which describes so well the state of being open to truth, which for me is what atheism really is.
And what Christians routinely try to negate when they project onto atheists the traits like "faith" and "fear of finding they're wrong" like the Nov. 27 NYT editorial (Atheists Agonistes) Anonymous wrote about.
And bookboy, I now have my own blog...such as it is. See you there!

fun2bfree said...

...and why does it always have to be ONE GOD that "did it?" How about several gods? Seems like the work of a committee to me...Why always is the reference to a SINGULAR Intelligent Designer? So maybe there are many Designers....and are they really "designing" what we have? Is there anything complex that might illuminate the situation? Let's look at something that is decidely a product of an intelligence that was NOT always there at the beginning and is complex and beautiful. I am talking about the English language. This language is not the same as the language it arose from-it has changed over time-- there is no single designer that can lay claim to it's design and to this day it is altered and EVOLVING into it's present state under the influence of MULTIPLE forces and people randomly interacting...complex and designed and yet without a master plan or a master planner..
Intelligent Designer or Designers?
And why call it a designer?--that is so presumptively anthropomorphic...How about just call it a force? Instead of one force maybe the complexity seen in life is the result of multiple forces. And the current state of life just like our language has been created- by random and undirected interactions of multiple forces --.sound familiar?

marta said...

Your point about the women who died in childbrith reminded me of when I began to have real problems with the god thing. Now, I was not a good Catholic to begin--at eight years old I didn't understand why if God was everywhere and knew everything why we had to go to church and to pray. But for a long time I thought, okay, maybe there is something, I just don't know what.

THen I read about militias in Algeria going into homes and swinging babies by their feet to crash their heads into the nearest wall. What--this is some kind of lesson? Some mysterious way of the lord? Forget it.

And if that weren't enough to send all shreds of belief packing, the death of my mother certainly did the trick. And when someone is lucky enough to die surrounded by loved ones, and someone says, "God was calling them home" or some such and implies that this person was so good and loved that of course God made sure they were indeed with their loved ones, I get furious. The implication to me is--God didn't care enough about your mother to do the same.

I feel more solace knowing that life is the random way that it is--that it is magical and horrifying all in and of itself. If I actually thought there was a God designing this, I would go mad.

ShellyD said...

Your reference to giving birth reminds me of the old belief that women shouldn't take analgesics when giving birth, because the pain was supposedly mandated by God in Genesis 3:16. (That type of stuff made me secretly suspect, as a girl in Lutheran grade school, that God was no fan of females.)

Atheism Quotes said...

Stephen Roberts said it best:
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

Every religion that believes its is the only true religion have the same reasons for discounting the other religions as atheists do for discounting ALL religions.

The number of people who believe a falsehood is irrelevant. "Billions of people can't be wrong" is a favorite.

OF COURSE THEY CAN! It happens all the time.

It seems like every major culture throughout history has needed to explain the unexplainable with some sort of primitive supernatural explanation. The difference with Christianity is that it took hold in powerful empires (Rome, the United States) What the Christians seem to forget is that they're the minority in the world. And even with witnessing, they have little chance of converting the entire world without the use of force.

And for those who say "Prove to me God doesn't exist," we still have to come back to "that many people can't be wrong." Just because their are millions of people who follow a Christian god doesn't make it any more imperative for me to prove their god doesn't exist than it does for me to prove Odin doesn't exist, or for that matter, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You cannot prove something does not exist.

Christians scoff at Mormoms, saying Joseph Smith was a kook. But honestly, why is the story of Joseph Smith any more ludicrous than the core of the bible?

Isaac Asimov summed up why I'm atheist rather than a (technical) agnostic:

"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say that one is an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or agnostic. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."

ben turk said...

i'd add one question to Julia's questions (and i've asked it already)

What benefit do you get out of beleiving in that god?

crabbydad said...

I don't know if this video of a talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson will help Michael sort things out, but it sure does call in to question just how "intelligent" his designer really is:

http://sciencenet.vo.llnwd.net/o16/
beyondbelief2006/Day%201/S2wBug-
MPEG-4%20300Kbps%20Streaming.mp4

Anonymous said...

Ben,

Clearly there are lots of benefits. Just because it's not true doesn't mean that belief doesn't help people. It allows people to be optomistic and to avoid thinking too much about death, etc. It can also help societies be more cohesive.

Of course, the list of down-sides is extensive, but you can't say religion itself (or belief in "god") doesn't have any positive influence in people's lives.

bookboy said...

So I ask you, Michael, “Why do you believe what you believe? What is the God like that you believe in? There it is in a nutshell. Why? That disarming word which peels away all the self imposed layers of meaning. And not to put words in your mouth Julia, but the second question could be “Why is your God like that?” The choices we make, make us. I have always been fascinated by people with strong believe systems “projects” the absoluteness in there pronouncements is almost mesmerizing. At the core of my being there is an unknowing, anytime I try to hold on to a belief there is assembled around it a constellation of distracters jostling for my attention. And many of them make valid points, leaving me in a quandary. Yes, I do make choices but mostly in bad faith. Lacking absolute conviction. So yes Michael, Why do you believe in God? And Why is your God like that? Curiously waiting to hear. And Rebecca I can’t get to your blog when I click on your name.

“I do not remember who first said to me, if anyone did:
Not everything is possible;
some things are impossible,

and took my hand, kindly,
and led me back
from wherever I was.” Mary Oliver

Susan S. in Spokane said...

I prefer the theory from an old Twilight Zone, where our world is just a toy hidden under the bed of a child from another universe. That would certainly explain the "God" who doesn't care about women dying in childbirth or babies being bashed in the head or any number of other horrific acts of man on man.

marcel Cairo said...

Thank you for your post, Julia. At least now I understand that the debate here is far less complex than I had assumed... I think.

Is the debate really just "is there a diety (God) that miraculously placed man/woman on Earth and is now working behind the scenes to give meaning and direction to our lives?" Is that it? Is that the God you are letting go of? The archaic diety sittting on the throne looking down at his creation? Well then, I'm with you on that one.

I had assumed that by "God" you were referring to anything existing beyond our own physical limitations.

Are you denying all evidence and research being coducted that points to the untapped power of the human mind, near death experiences, and yes, survival of consciousness past physical death?

In addition to the afterlife experiments by Dr. Gary Schwartz at the Univerisity of Arizona, there is a slew of university experiments and study being done on consciousness survival. Institutions where such studies are being done include, Texas A&M University, UC Berkley, Princeton, UNLV and many more. That's just in this country. Across Europe there are others as well.

Perhaps, you can try to dismiss these studies as pseudo-science, but that would be a convenient cop out. Could you please help me understand what "God" or theories you are negating. I have yet to read your book, but from this blog, the argument seems pretty limited in scope, almost cartoon like. If I am mistaken, please enlighten me (I'm sure Sheldon or one of the other athiest elite here might enjoy this one).

Matthew said...

Hi, Julia

You asked:

So I ask you, Michael, “Why do you believe what you believe? What is the God like that you believe in?"

I doubt that you will get a satisfactory answer to your questions, even if he does answer. There can be a lot of vagueness is answering this question, especially when most people don't know, or care to know, why they believe what they believe. A more telling question to ask is the negative of what you asked.

What are the gods like that you don't believe in? Why don't you believe that?

Julia, you have described the gods that you don't believe in (all of them ;-) and why. It would only be fair for Michael to do the same. I would guess that this is a much more difficult question for Michael. It shouldn't be, but it is for a believer.

If you have read Daniel Dennett's book 'Breaking the Spell', he covers this question in the chapter 'Belief in Belief'. For many people there is something sacrosanct about the belief in a supernatural being. Even if you don't believe it one yourself, there is a cultural taboo in criticizing someone else's belief, even if you think that belief is completely unfounded. Somehow the belief in god, even if that god differs from yours, is special and shouldn't be criticized, or is held up as something good, when that is not necessarily the case.

-Matt

Ben turk said...

anonymous-

I guess I just don't see how self-delusion for the sake of complacency as a benefit. I also don't see how it can really be sustained.

As soon as I recognized that the reason I was beleving in Santa Claus was because I was scared to stop, I kinda automatically stopped. That goes for god too, somehow it's easier to remember my loss of faith in Santa though, it must have been more important.

Coby said...

Atheist quotes,
Your point well taken. I was in Greek class the other day at my Seminary and somebody made a joke about the Mormon faith. The remark had something to do with Coke appearing on a new gold plate. Regardless, he laughed at the absurdity of the Mormon religion. By listening to Julia's monologue and by engaging in conversations with some of my atheist/agnostic friends I have realized that Christianity sounds just as absurd.

I remember growing up reading National Geographic and thinking how silly "those uneducated natives" look worshiping their fire god or whatever. Then, this past summer I was at a prayer retreat and I was participating in this thing called a Prayer Labyrinth. It hit me, how silly I must look walking in these little circles murmuring words to an unseen being.

As a Christian, I'm saddened by the arrogance and the harsh words that many (including myself in the past) have said about people of different faiths or of no faith. We all should learn to critique our own views as harshly as we critique others.

Atheism Quotes said...

coby,

Thank you for a great point of view on the topic. I went through 12 years of Catholic school, including a Jesuit high school. I really think the foundation of my atheism came from a fundamental lack of faith (I really didn't know you were supposed to *feel* it because I *never did), and more importantly, having classes in the Jesuit high school on comparative Christian and world religions.

With seeing how many people over the centuries have believed in different things, I came to realize that all are as valid as any other, which then led to none being valid.

But in all of that, even from the Jesuits, I was taught that if there is a god, being a good person is what matters.

Oh, and add to the list of religions classes in Greek and Latin with all their gods. I love mythology :-)

michael said...

Julia,

Thank you for at least acknowledging there are issues with the concept of spotaneous creation. I appreciate your honesty about that.

Now, to answer your questions. I write this with a little trepidation because I know that it will be jumped on by many, but, you asked an honest question and I will provide an honest answer. I don't expect that it will be a satisfactory answer to most, but it is at least a contrary viewpoint from a believer to a non-believer.

The short answer to your question of why do I believe what I believe is that I believe that God loved me so much that He voluntarily came to earth and became human. He endured incredible suffering of physical and spiritual pain and torture for the redemption of my sins. He was humiliated, mocked, laughed at, and killed because of that love. Yet, he was resurrected. I cannot escape his love for me and I, in turn, love him. Boiled down to its core, love is the essence of my relationship with God.

I feel his presence in my life. I have joy, peace, and contentment trusting in him even in very difficult situations. God has been faithful to me even when I have not been faithful to him. He has answered prayers and provided guidance with difficult decisions. Without Him in my life, there was a gaping hole in my being that only He could fill.

Now, the longer answer. There was a time in my life when I questioned whether there was a God "up there." But, in doing so, I had to acknowledge that the universe had a beginning at some point. It likely started with a singularity and rapidly expanded from there. Why would that have occurred? What would have caused it? How could matter be created out of nothing? In the words of the old Billy Preston song, "nothing from nothing means nothing." Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it. An intellect and power beyond anything we can comprehend or even imagine in this dimension would answer that dilemma. It makes much more sense to me that a being created the universe than believing that it just happened.

Secondly, there is the question of where did life on this earth come from. Life on this earth also had a beginning. How did it begin? Evolution is one attempt to answer that question. An atheist friend I used to work with tried to show me how clear evolution was. He provided me with some books, one being from Gaylord Simpson. As I read it, I noticed how many assumptions, speculations, and holes there were in the whole theory. Why should I abandon my faith in God for a theory that required my faith to accept. (I acknowledge that there are many Christians who accept evolution as being God directed; however, I personally don't buy macroevolutionary theory).

The more I've learned about evolutionary theory, the more incredible it is for me to believe. I've touched on only a couple problems I have with it. I don't accept these assumptions that have to be made. For example, creatures more advanced than apes supposedly led up to man in a string of transitions. Those creatures would have been at that time the most advanced creatures on earth. Where are they? Why aren't they still around? Oh, I know that we have a few bits and pieces of bones here and there which are subject to interpretation. But I'm talking about the living, breathing creatures. Why would the most advanced creatures on earth ALL disappear except the last in the line? It doesn't make any sense. Therefore, again, the Bible supplies the answer for creation of the species that makes much more sense. A creator created that life.

I also have found that the Universe, the beauty of nature, and the incredible complexity of life from cells up to humans displays not randomness but design. Design implies a designer. One may make patterns out of a cloud, but the cloud is not the object you see. I wouldn't expect to come across a sculpture and wonder what windstorm or firestorm caused some hunk of bronze to fashion itself into the replication of a horse. Rather, I would wonder who created the sculpture. Yet, atheists see an incredibly designed, perfectly complex universe and all that is in it but believe it just happened on its own by chance.

Fourth, why are humans so different from all the other creatures. The Bible says man was made in God's image. There is a quantum leap in intelligence between humans and animals. Furthermore, isn't it odd that all peoples throughout history have believed in a God. Now, you can chalk that up to ignorant superstition, but if that's the case, why do doctors, mathematicians, lawyers, CEOs, and, yes, even scientists, etc. in the year 2006 also believe in God. It would appear that there is some connection between being human and believing in God. It is not unreasonable to believe that God has given us the ability to find Him.

Next, I had to consider the life of Jesus. He clearly lived on this earth. He clearly claimed that he was God. Reliable witnesses saw him perform miracles. He was crucified, died, and was buried. There is no question that the tomb was subsequently empty and many witnesses saw his resurrected body. His ministry lasted only 3 years in an insignificant country in the middle of nowhere. Yet, within a short time, his message had spread and is now one of the world's dominant religions. The mention of his name provokes reactions like none other. His disciples went from being afraid to even admit they knew him to boldly preaching his word and being willing martyrs rather than deny his deity. You ask for proof of God? Jesus Christ was that proof.

I have seen people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol turn their lives 180 degrees after accepting Jesus as their Lord. I have seen people who have been homeless for years completely turn around after becoming a Christian. I have seen individuals who have attempted suicide because of depression and failed lives be healed of that sickness. Christ offers redemption and hope to those who are suffering or in pain, which is most of us at one time or another. I'm not sure what atheism has to offer those individuals.

Finally, God offers the promise of eternal life to those who believe and that's no small thing.

I have explained in part above what the God that I believe in is like. He is an intellect far beyond my comprehension and understanding. I may wonder why some women die in childbirth. However, to say that I cannot imagine a God who would allow that is to say that I know everything God knows, and, knowing that, I conclude that a true God would not allow such things. Job had the same debate with God and God's responses were instructive.

I hope this answers your questions.

Coby said...

atheist quotes,
Reading through your experience helped me to realize/reminded me that both (all) sides misunderstand each other. While there are bad eggs in every belief system, there are also many good people with good intentions. Many times when we don't have friends who think differently than we do (politically, theologically, philosophically) we can be trapped into assuming the worst about others eventually make them into enemies.

Recently I was reunited with one of my best friends from high school. At one time we would study the Bible together. Now he is agnostic borderline atheist. He has thoroughly researched his position and is well versed in the art of rhetoric. My faith has actually be strengthened by his critique. He has taught me a lot and I am grateful that we can be friends.

It sounds like you learned some beneficial things from the Jesuits in the midst of some things that you would probably consider myths. Likewise, even though you and I would probably not see eye to eye, I'm sure you could teach me a thing or two about love, beauty, and dare I say, truth.

Thanks for the conversation! :)

Pontifica. said...

Greetings -

I'm not Michael, but I've appreciated his comments and if I may, Julia, I'd like to respond to your post and question.

At the risk of drawing a blizzard of withering attacks from sheldon, mcglk et al, I again offer the idea that a belief in evolution AND an openness to "god" are not incompatible. Rather than "god," I'd prefer to say "an ineffable unifying force of consciousness/creativity/infinite abundance of which we are all an indivisible part," because "god" is so polarizing and minimizing a term. The Agape church here in LA, which is part of the Science of Mind, metaphysical, "new thought" spiritual movement, much like the Unity church in which I was raised, calls god "the love-intelligence that governs the universe."

I can see the scorn on the faces of the above-named folks, and I'm not trying to incite a heated debate about how pitiable and delusional I am, I'm simply trying to answer Julia in good faith (er, uh, pun unavoidable), in the spirit of dialogue, not harangue.

I believe that humans have free will. Therefore, in my view, to blame "god" for bad things that people do to each other, themselves and the planet is profoundly misguided. If we were already all perfect, we wouldn't need to be here.

Why do we have free will? I believe that humans are here, embodied on our planet, because we have things to learn. I know: such a linear, enlightenment view of things! Anyway. Much of why and how we're here is lost to us while we're here. I certainly don't understand it all: what's on the other side of the universe, how can the universe be infinite, what happens when we die, etc.

So. I think that we (each part of, not separate from the universal cosmic field of awareness/creativity/wisdom) choose to incarnate as humans to evolve on a spiritual level as well as on a physical level. Combine that with a belief in karma and reincarnation - and evolution - and the bad things that happen to "innocent" people don't seem so mindlessly cruel. Yes, it's awful and tragic that so many women and babies have died in childbirth, but I don't jump from that to "there can't be a god, or god must be diabolical." There's no good and bad in nature. So many people, including me, have lost loved ones, but to "hate god" for something we can't understand is wrongheaded.

I believe that Jesus was one of many teachers who came to show us what is possible for all of us. Rather than the singular "son of god," he was like an elder brother. "Made in the image and likeness of god" means, to me, that we all have within us the entire universe, all that wisdom and compassion and power if we only go within and connect with it. All the contemplative traditions encourage this. I don't believe in "original sin" that must be "forgiven," but rather that we are capable of a whole spectrum of behavior and should try to live by the golden rule.

I think it may be impossible to pinpoint the ineffable and unmeasurable with our scientific measuring instruments. Perhaps the answer to how life came about is both scientific and "spiritual." Why couldn't they go hand in hand, and how will we ever know?

And finally, as to why I believe what I believe, it's just right for me. I know it's not right for everyone else. I've had many personal experiences, including before and after the death of my sister from cancer, that made me feel that my belief system works for me. I believe with every fiber of my being, for instance, that love is the most powerful, eternal, indestructable force in the universe.

I'm sure many of these ideas will be familiar to you from your own experience, but them's my two cents.

And in response to your post about Christmas, I can relate. Though I used to rail against Christmas as "cultural imperialism," I finally accepted that I have a strong emotional attachment to it, even though I don't believe a lot of the dogma (for instance, about god being male, of all things).

Thanks for your blog. I love reading it.

Yours,
a fellow traveler

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Michael, for your well-composed response to Julia's inquiries. I have one question as a follow-up--

You said "Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it." Question: Where, then, did God come from? Who was his creator?

I have heard that "God always was" but this is meaningless to me.

BEN said...

So, this is long, but i tried to make it entertaining as well. At least i had fun writing it. Enjoy!

Michael, you say: Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason if causa sui cannot logically apply to the universe, why apply it to your god?

you said: as I read it, I noticed how many assumptions, speculations, and holes there were in the whole theory. That's because it's a theory, that's how theories work. How science works (for the umpteenth time) is to try to fill those gaps with more reasearch. so far science has an amazing track record, it makes no sense to assume that this is the stumper, they'll never figger this one out.

i've discussed what might have happened to the between species (remember, a few days ago, about the bats) in totally unscientific terms, off the top of my head after ten minutes of seriously thinking about the problem. I'm sure mclgk or sheldon know of scientific evidence to support either that theory, or another (if not them, then an antropoligist type person) and my ten minutes of thought just plain makes sense. the only animals existing on the planet today would have to be ones that found a niche and then weren't replaced by superior animals fighting for that same niche. Pre-humans were replaced by humans, but couldn't get by the ape way as well as the apes could. also, it's what is supported by archeological evidence. god has no such support. why does it make sense to beleive in the thing with no physical evidence or support.

On beauty: if what you're saying is true, then god is a pretty lousy artist. he made a lot of ugly stuff to, like women dying in childbirth cuz they got narrow hips. Thing is what you're saying isn't true, can't be true because values like beauty are ascribed, not intrinsic. My understanding of beauty is i'm sure totally different from yours. Try and assume for a minute that everything was randomly generated. there's a lot of stuff in the universe, what's the likelyhood that you wouldn't think any of it was nice looking?

You'd have a better argument if everything was consistantly beautiful, or ugly or at least mediocre, but this guy is all over the map! That much inconsistency and diveristy of skill and technique, over just seven days time, it just doesn't make sense that one person, or god, creative force, whatever, did it. And outside of aethetics, there's some serious design flaws going on here. For example: sugar tastes yummy, but it rots my teeth. Heroin makes us feel good, but it's bad for us. I'd be more receptive to your loving creator speil if the guy would set things us so i could have a good time without killing myself, you know?

I'll leave your forth point to the scientists, but i'm guessing they'll tell you, we aren't really all that different.

you said isn't it odd that all peoples throughout history have believed in a God. people beleive in god for the same reason you do. they've got a hole to fill, so they make up a god and stuff him in there, then they feel good. problem is, we've evolved (our communications and libraries more than our biology) to the point where we (us, not you, apparently) recognize we've been inventing something and choosing to fill that hole ourselves. Once you reach that point, there ain't nothing can fill your hole anymore.

it sucks. it's hard. but the fact that i can see that you are only beleiving in god because you need to beleive in god to fill your hole prevents me from being able to fill my hole that way. Don't think i haven't tried and failed. Now i'm gonna learn how to get by with this hole.

on jesus' history: you are nuts! Sorry, but nobody can say what 'clearly' happened 2000 years ago unless they are proceeding from beleif, not evidence. Come on man, there is no such thing as a reliable witness 2000 years after the fact! You'd need a LONG chain of reliable witnesses of witnesses of witnesses, and you ain't got it. What you've got is a text that was written and rewritten so many times by so many people.

Your assertion that jesus' popularity proves god makes me think of that famous John Lennon quote, "we're bigger than jesus now" What do the beetles prove?

What atheism has to offer: the truth. it's hard and it's dirty and it's scary, which is why we know it's true. it leaves a lot unanswered, but what it does answer, it answers directly. The fact is, we are no longer satisfied with your god, and his promises. I'm sorry, but i bet eternal life SUCKS! Your children will not be satisfied with your god, just as some people in the middle ages were no longer satisfied with the pagan gods, so they created yours (and then slaughtered the people who had been satisfied with the old gods) Hey, at least The Beetles got popular on their own merits, not by killing their critics, right?

fun2bfree said...

michael-

first I realize there is little point in trying to educate you much less change your mind because you don't want to be educated...if God himself came to you and told you that evolution happened just the way the evidence all says it did (which is how the Darwinist's describe it) you would not accept it--you don't want it to be true. You NEED your God belief because that belief has done so much for you. Even if turns out that you believe imaginary things it does matter to you...

how can we tell the difference between what we imagine is true and what is real? If we really believe that the lucky rabbit's foot makes us a better softball pitcher and we pitch better- is it really the rabbit's foot? Or the belief in the rabbit't foot? How can we tell?

as for your doubts about evolution - I am afraid you are so badly misinformed by reading information that is demonstrably false..made by proven liars...and you repeat their lies and distortions like that SJ Gould quote--why don't you actually read what Gould has to say instead of letting the liars mislead you and then you compound the lie by repeating it: "it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms." http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html and even more transitional evidence has been found since Gould died 4 years ago...meanwhile your sources like Behe and Johnson make the same tired disproven claims ignoring that their claims are simply not supported by the evidence-- and you have swallowed it hook line and sinker because it is what you WANT to be true...rather than the truth which is there for anyone to see --to discover-like all scientific facts -no revelation needed..
The things we do know about the world are not compatible with the Bible's story of creation...there are tons of bones, not little fragments of thousands of creatures that are no longer around anymore. Those animals are no more for the simple reason that their way of surviving did not cut it anymore in this cruel world... Interestingly the older the bones (dated in multiple different independent ways that all come to the same date) the older the bones the simpler the creature...never do we find a complex creature out of order--explain how that happened...explain all the other life forms and why they are no longer found..I don't recall if you are one of those who calim dinosaurs and man co-existed--but explain how the cave paintings never ever depict dinosaurs, are they just too hard to draw?

fun2bfree said...

-theory.html

the url for the Gould info got cut off it is as written in my post and then as above--or just do a google search for stephen gould quote transition and it will come up...

Anonymous said...

Michael said, "For example, creatures more advanced than apes supposedly led up to man in a string of transitions. Those creatures would have been at that time the most advanced creatures on earth. Where are they? Why aren't they still around? "

Answer: They are around. All around. You and I are they.

There are no "transitional" species.

I once had a difficult time convincing a friend that a human and a cockroach are equally "evolved". He had great trouble getting beyond the modern myth of "higher" and "lower" organisms, the belief that humans are "more advanced" than apes, who are more advanced than turtles, etc... The truth is, every living thing today is equally advanced, as evidenced by it's ability to have stayed alive for the past 3.5 billion years or so. The cockroach is a survivior just as you are.

In a million years it will be interested if someone finds your fossilized bones and wonders what a strange "transitional" creature you were, Michael.

Coby said...

Fun3bfree,
Sorry to call you out like this, but please refrain from condescending speech that presumes Michael or any other Christian for that matter to be uneducated. You can make your same points without the harsh words. Michael was asked to tell his believes and he chose to be vulnerable, knowing that he would probably be criticized for said thoughts.

Feel free to disagree with this statement, but it seems as though many individuals on all sides tend to believe what they want to believe. I'm not saying you do not have valid reasons to believe what you believe. I am simply trying to make the point that objectivity is impossible once a person makes up her mind on this issue.

At the end of the day, if we are honest, we all have to admit that we just don't know. You think you know that there is no god. I think I know that there is a personal God named Jesus. Again, we simply will never be able to prove it one way or the other.

So, let us continue to think these things through together, but in a respectful way. I hope you receive this well and I hope you understand that I respect your position on this matter (even though I'm not sure what your position exactly is).

ben turk said...

Coby- the interesting thing about all of this is we're functioning in two different paradigms. Your statement:

At the end of the day, if we are honest, we all have to admit that we just don't know. You think you know that there is no god. I think I know that there is a personal God named Jesus. Again, we simply will never be able to prove it one way or the other.

confuses these paradigms. You and Michael are coming at things from the approach of beleif and faith, others are coming at them from the approach of science and discovery. First you include us in your method: that we beleive in not-god. Then you exclude yourself from our method: that you don't have to prove god. You cannot have it both ways.

So, really the question here isn't "does god exist" the question is, which approach is preferable. Our approach, which assumes not-knowing and pieces things together as best as possible, or your approach, which assumes god is the answer to all questions.

ben turk said...

oh and...

you're on the internet. snotty remarks and zingers are almost hardwired into the medium.

i respect the hell out of michael for coming on here and "making himself vulnerable" i try to write from an honest open and "vulnerable" perspective as well... well, that and a cruelly entertaining perspective.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Work with me here for just a minute… What if you're wrong? What if there is no God who loves you? What if Jesus was just another Jerry Falwell? What if humans don’t have souls that survive our death? What if this life on this earth is all there is? What if you devote your entire life to a god that does not even exist? What if in the end you simply engaged in a life of self-deception? Your Christian morals teach that self-deception is a sin. I encourage you to continue your journey of exploration and try looking at your faith skeptically. I also suggest attending religious services of other, non-Christian faiths. When I was still a practicing Christian, it was enlightening to witness devout non-Christian believers who held beliefs that I found absurd. It was only when I wrestled with the absurdity of their faith and their devotion that I began to hold the mirror up to my own beliefs.

just my $0.02

Coby said...

Thanks Ben,
I'd agree we are functioning in two different paradigms. Heck braw, its as though we are on different planets:) So what is the best way for people from two different "planets" to communicate?

Perhaps "belief" was not the best word to use. I should have known better after reading countless comments demanding that individuals NOT refer to atheism as a faith.

The two main points I was trying to makes were that a) Both systems leave questions unanswered. b)The best way for two very different ideas to be shared is through dialog where both parties are students as well as teachers. Degrading another person will more than likely make that person unwilling to listen.

michael said...

To anonymous who asked:

"You said "Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it." Question: Where, then, did God come from? Who was his creator?

I have heard that "God always was" but this is meaningless to me."

Good question. And, let me say that I obviously do not know the answer to that question. However, I have a thought about it.

Time is one of the components of our universe as we know it. Hawking and others have asserted that time itself was created when the universe began. Therefore, it seems logical to conclude that prior to the beginning of the universe, time was non-existent. Without time, things just are. Because we are so bound by the nature of time, our minds cannot really comprehend existence not marked by time. However, if time began with the beginning of our universe, then we must acknowledge that prior to the universe, time did not exist.

It is interesting that thousands of years ago, when Moses asked God for his name, God told Moses that his name was "I AM". To me, that is very profound. God simply is; he simply exists.

Now, if he created a universe bound by time, a universe that always has beginnings and ends, creations and deaths, then that universe itself had to have a beginning and a creation. However, in another dimension, an entity that exists in a different dimension not bound by the physical constraints of the universe as we currently know it, would not be bound by the concept of creation and time. It simply is. Science has only relatively recently began to explore the concepts of extra dimensions and there is currently not alot to support the concept apart from math. But, it is a concept. For example, NOVA ran a series on the elegnt universe and made the comment: "The extra dimension of space required to unify string theory suggests that we may be trapped on just one tiny slice of a higher-dimensional universe." The spiritual realm may be that "higher dimensional universe."

That's my best explanation. I assume others have thought more about it, but you do raise a good question.

BEN said...

Michael-

What I don't understand is how you can't see the GIGANTIC double standard you are applying here.

You'll accept such a convoluted and unverifiable theory to explain your god's existance, but you don't think the supporting evidence for evolution is rigorious enough. c'mon!

I mean, I know why you do it. I just don't know how you can stomach it. How does one swallow such BS?

Tell me, do you seriously not see the inconsistancy here? I'm not asking you to deny god (that's a few more steps down the road) just accept that you aren't approaching the question with anything like objectivity.

Anonymous said...

I am the "anonymous" who asked Michael where his God might have come from, and I thank Michael for sharing his thoughts on this. Michael is a thinker. While he doesn't share my thoughts, and while I would come to different conclusions, I would not be too quick to dismiss him.
Before I continue--apologies to Michael if I have misinterpreted him. He has my permission to put me in my place if I have.
So--
Make no mistake--I am an atheist. I do believe that scientific methodology is the best tool available to us at this time to look for the "truth" of our existence (though I doubt we will find it). I also think Michael has been too quick to dismiss some scientific evidence.
But--I am willing to consider that there may be things in this universe that cannot be observed, measured, and quantified by scientific means. Could there be other ways of "knowing"? Other kinds of evidence besides our treasured empiricism? Maybe. I have tremendous respect for Science, but is it the only way to "know"?
I think perhaps Michael feels that he has other ways of knowing.(Excuse me if I jumped to a conclusion here). While I question the validity of this other type of knowing, I try to remain open to the possibility that my way of knowing (science) is not the only way.
I do hope Michael can also be open to considering that his way of knowing may not be the only way.

michael said...

Ben,

Yes, I am aware of the potential for a double standard by relying completely on one scientific theory while dismissing another. You're right on the mark on that one. That's why I tried to be careful by saying that it is just a "concept" and that there was not much to support that concept currently apart from math. Therefore, I do not think I have validated that concept as proof of God, only that it was a concept worth considering.

I will also grant that macro evolution is a scientific concept. I will not, however, grant that it is a fact.

I obviously do not disagree with many scientific facts, such as gravity, properties of electricity, etc. However, it would seem odd to require that one must believe ALL scientific theories or believe none.

michael said...

Anonymous,

I appreciate your comments and the respectful tone given. And, there may be areas in this debate where we can agree and be open to other ideas. As to those areas where we cannot, good natured discussion in a respectful manner is always welcome. Some of the questions I raise are really not rhetorical but designed to get to the basis for an assumption made or conclusion reached. I am open to being educated in those areas.

ben turk said...

It's not a potential double standard, it's an absolute double standard. The evidence that leads you to doubt evolution is SO MUCH more developed and thorough than the evidence you use to support your beleif in god.

Your statement:
it would seem odd to require that one must believe ALL scientific theories or believe none. misses the mark, because scientific theories aren't supposed to be believed they're supposed to be verified, tested, and supported.

Wouldn't your life and your faith be a lot easier for you if you just let go of science? I mean, i'm assuming here, that you don't have the typical creationist adgenda, (faking religion as science in order to slip it into our public schools) but that you're taking from an honest personal perspective. From that perspective, what use is scientific justification for something that is CLEARLY a simple set of beleifs that you hold? The definition of a beleif is something that you hold to be true even though there is no real support for it's truth.

Anonymous said...

Michael –
Some things for your consideration…
(1) Astronomers do not say that the universe came out of “nothing”. Big Bang Theory explains the changes of the universe since its beginning. The cause of the beginning is “unknown” but they’re working on it.
(2) The Theory of Evolution is not intended to explain the origin of the first life form. It explains the evolution of life since its beginning. The explanation for first life (abiogenesis) is still mostly unknown to science. Lots of good research is ongoing.
(3) Evolution does not proceed linearly as you imagine (in your example of transitional human species), nor are they “more advanced” (although they may be better adapted in a particular ecosystem). And where are all the transitional human species? Well, they WERE here several thousand years ago (Neandertals about 35,000 years ago and H. floresiensis about 12,000 years ago). They went extinct for some reason (still being studied). H. sapiens may have out-competed them.
(4) The Theory of Evolution is not based on random chance. Although chance is involved, many evolutionary mechanisms are decidedly non-random (e.g., genetics, natural selection).
(5) Re: the “quantum leap” in human intelligence. As previously noted, there were transitional intelligences, but they are now extinct.

Beverly said...

As a non-believer in organized religion, I would like to have a concensus as to what is acceptable behavior for an atheist at this time of year.

For example, do we erect a Christmas tree & deck the halls, do we buy & exchange gifts and sing carols, do we get together with loved ones and feast on the holiday bird? What is permissible for a non-believer?

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