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Feb 13 2014

“Coincidence” is powerful “evidence” to many people

Observation:

I was closing a spreadsheet, and the moment I clicked on the “X” to close the window, a dialog box popped up on my other monitor, and I thought “Oh, what did I just do?”

The dialog box was simply an alert, letting me know that I have to attend a meeting in 15 minutes. And so I then thought “Oh, OK, it’s not connected to me closing the spreadsheet.” And I went on about my business.

But note what happened.

I saw two events close in time, that initially appeared to be related. Sometimes when you close windows you get a dialog saying “do you want to save?” or some other helpful suggestion related to what you just did, or are doing, with the window you’re working in.

In the background, my brain is aware that such things are sometimes related, and without conscious thought, I knee-jerked to check to see if there was a connection between the dialog box and closing the spreadsheet. My brain is used to this pattern. And it checks to see if this pattern is in play, when it recognizes something that resembles this pattern. If it recognizes no connection between the two events, it notes that they are just unrelated events occurring close in time. And I go on, and give it no relevance.

But sometimes the events are related. As noted—maybe I would click the “X” to close, and the dialog would come up saying “Do you want to save?” It’s a reminder that is triggered by me trying to close the spreadsheet. And I am consciously aware that such reminders occur—and I’m also aware of it in part of my brain that isn’t conscious. In fact, it’s the non-conscious neural map that informs “me” (the conscious aspect of the brain) that “Hey, these things may be related.”

But sometimes we have two events, closely related in time, that have no such trigger—no such causal connection—but our brains find a pattern, anyway. This is what we call “coincidence.” The difference between what happened to me this morning, and a coincidence, is that with a coincidence, the brain is able to identify a pattern—but it’s not a pattern based on causal link. The two events aren’t actually objectively related—they simply have related meaning in the brain of the person observing.

So, you are going home after your mother’s funeral, and you find yourself behind a car, and the numbers on the plate happen to match her birthday month and day—and your brain says “that’s related to mom—who just died.” On another day, you might see that same tag and assign nothing meaningful to it. But today, mom is on your mind, and so, these DMV assigned numbers are “mom’s birthday.” And to some people, additionally, “a message from mom.”

It’s stunning how powerful coincidental meaning can be in the minds of observers. I would say that it’s a pattern in TAE e-mail for people to describe a coincidence and ask us “how do you explain this?” Above, is how I explain it. But that’s not what they’re asking. What they honestly mean is “how did my mom’s birthday end up on this tag right after her funeral?” They want an explanation of the objective event–they want to know objectively how the events are related. The problem is that, objectively, there is no reason to think they are. They are connected in the subject’s mind. And that is all the connection anyone can reasonably derive from that observation. But some people simply cannot accept this. It’s a difficult thing for many people to accept.

338 comments

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  1. 1
    A Masked Avenger

    I think that’s a reason that logical fallacies are so seductive. Post hoc doesn’t imply propter hoc, but it’s a pretty damn good initial hypothesis. And although knowing Q and P => Q doesn’t tell you anything about the truth of P, it’s also a good hypothesis: the first question one ought to explore is whether Q => P is also true. It’s always the first question a mathematician asks: “Is the converse also true?”

    There’s survival value in learning to avoid behaviors that have bad consequences–and there’s no survival penalty, usually, in avoiding a bunch of benign behaviors as well. Type I errors are much more costly than type II errors.

    1. 1.1
      Narf

      Type I errors are much more costly than type II errors.

      It depends upon the incidence of false positives and the cost of a type I error.

      Animal sacrifice, for example, doesn’t have a very high cost, at least with my understanding of the practice. I think people got to eat the animal, afterward, after they ritually sacrificed it, in most forms of the practice. No huge loss.

      Human sacrifice carries a much higher cost, if it was anyone you cared about … say the children of your own tribe. If you’re sacrificing the warriors that you just captured from a warring tribe, and you’d prefer them dead anyway, then that isn’t much of a loss to you, either.

    2. 1.2
      corwyn

      Post hoc doesn’t imply propter hoc, but it’s a pretty damn good initial hypothesis.

      No, its not.

      Because EVERYTHING* that happened before the event in question fits the bill for a cause. You have to start narrowing done possibilities. That process is where the biases creep in.

      * – in the past light cone.

  2. 2
    Charity Benham

    Fantastic description, and in the field of psychology we call that “ideas of reference.” It is a symptom used to clinically diagnose paranoia, such as when a person hears something on the radio and “believes” it is a reference to him/her. Interesting that this is a sign of mental illness, but seems completely logical when referred to as a “miracle” or “sign.”

    1. 2.1
      heicart

      Yes, when I reply to these letters with “There’s really nothing there to explain–you have just describe a coincidence”–it simply does not generally go over very well. Sometimes it does. But when it doesn’t, it’s amazing, the level of tenacity the person has to the thought that one event has to have caused, or has to be related, to the other in some objective fashion.

      1. Matt Gerrans

        Yeah, I think perhaps the problem is that people get an emotional jolt out of the coincidence experience. They get no emotional jolt out of the rational explanation of how you probably experience thousands of “coincidences” a day, but your brain gives you the jolt for those where your brain finds some pattern (as in Russell’s example) where it finds significance (often emotional).

        Even those of us who immediately suss out the logical explanation still feel that emotional jolt at the coincidence. While we don’t chalk it up to astrology or magical beings, we still are tickled by it. I think the more superstitious people can’t just enjoy the fun of it, but “feel” that the feeling must indicate some sort of magical providence.

        1. Matt Gerrans

          Oops, sorry Tracie, for some reason I thought the original post was by Russell. So the above should be “(as in Tracie’s example)”.

          1. heicart

            LOL…I was thinking someone named Russell must have posted on the thread and given an example. :)

        2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

          mom is on your mind, and so, these DMV assigned numbers are “mom’s birthday.” And to some people, additionally, “a message from mom.”

          Clearly mom has become a time-travelling ghost who went back and preordained that specific plate years ago to one day appear on a nearby vehicle, carrying a vital message from beyond the grave: some numbers you knew already, with no context.

          1. heicart

            What if you found out later your mom was adopted and that they don’t really know when her birthday was? Would you then be wondering, every time you saw a license plate, “Is THAT mom telling me her birthday?!”

  3. 3
    Monocle Smile

    There’s a bit of Texas sharpshooter fallacy in letters like the ones you describe. In the example, the person could literally drive behind that same car every day on the way to work, but only notice it the day after their mother died.

  4. 4
    Curt Cameron

    Once when I was in college, I was studying in the evening, and suddenly, for no reason, I thought of my grandmother, and wondered if she was OK. I thought about how she was old, and something could possibly happen to her at any time.

    Right then, the phone rang.

    It was a wrong number. End of story.

    I’ve told this story to people, in the context of talking about coincidences, and most people don’t understand the point right away. They think I’m just clowning with a pointless tale as a gag, so I have to explain. The reason they thought it was a pointless gag is that stuff like this happens all the time, and it’s not notable when it does. Who cares? But if that call HAD been about my grandmother, it would have been an experience that many people would attribute to something superstitious. The point is that out of the million things that happen, we don’t take note unless there’s a coincidence.

    1. 4.1
      Jasper of Maine

      The reason they thought it was a pointless gag is that stuff like this happens all the time, and it’s not notable when it does. Who cares? But if that call HAD been about my grandmother, it would have been an experience that many people would attribute to something superstitious. The point is that out of the million things that happen, we don’t take note unless there’s a coincidence.

      I’d add that this easily leads into confirmation bias.

      When a coincidence does happen, we’re more likely to notice than when it doesn’t. That notable event is registered in long-term memory, while the non-notable events aren’t.

      So when one then does a mental audit, remembering what they can over the past decade, they’ll remember all the eerie events, and none of the misses. They simply aren’t even aware that the rate of these events happening is actually very low. From their perspective, these notable events happened almost nonstop.

      Their world view then formulates around this homogenized and filtered perception of past events, and for people like us trying to address their claims, we’re arguing about a whole set of “personal experiences” that they think they had.

      We try to explain coincidences to them. My late CS professor would say “There’s so many possible coincidences that can happen on a daily basis, that it becomes inevitable that some will.” But trying to explain this to the believer comes across as a lame cop-out, us trying to explain away what’s clearly profound experiential evidence for the divine/supernatural.

      Trying to debate these people is like sitting down for several hours, trying to untangle a box full of cords.

      1. heicart

        Of course. A person will say “This happens to me all the time…” and they describe maybe half a dozen times they’ve had dreams that in some way corresponded to reality–not really recognizing that we have many dreams in one night, multiplied by number of nights…and those “hits” are very rare occurrences….just notable to the subject. So, they simply ignore all the ‘non hits” and see the “hits” as numerous, even though they’re ridiculously rare. The fact is, coincidences are sometimes going to occur. If they never occurred, in fact, THAT would be very strange.

        1. corwyn

          That happens to me a lot. I get a feeling that what is currently happening was foretold by that ‘important’ dream i had a while ago (and numerous times before that). That feeling even makes predictions, like that next event will ‘feel’ like this next thing that happened in the dream. Which it does. The trouble is that the event itself may not match at all the remembered dream event, but it feels the same.

          I wish I knew what was going on, or at least had a label to throw on the experience.

      2. Narf

        I amazed a room full of my coworkers, earlier this week, during a conference call, with a bit of memory that was aided by confirmation bias.

        We had a printing problem on a set of patient stickers that weren’t properly spaced for our sticker sheets. When I reported the issue, the person in charge of the formatting asked me to get the name of one of the printers the following day, so she could check for driver conflicts that might be causing the issue.

        At that point, I just rattled off, from memory without looking at any notes, “V141, with a NetBIOS name of MCMAI02PACUPR04.” It wasn’t really all that impressive, since I had been fighting with the damned thing all afternoon while working on computers in the department for which it was a departmental printer. The V-number was mirrored and easy to remember, and the NetBIOS names are all patterned and mean something to anyone who knows what each chunk of it means. The only thing I had to remember was the V-number and the 04 at the end of the NetBIOS name. The rest I reconstructed from the location of the printer, which was easy to remember since I had spent half of the day there.

        On top of that, there have probably been a dozen times in the past few weeks when I could have popped up with some similar string like that and didn’t. No one made a note of those times when I didn’t immediately jump up with the information, because it wasn’t expected of me, as it wasn’t in that particular instance. The visible lack of notes helped cement it in people’s minds. Seemed a lot more impressive than it was.

    2. 4.2
      heicart

      I love that story.

  5. 5
    corwyn

    “What do you suppose are the odds against that happening?”

    Littlewood’s law of miracles says that 1-in-a-million ‘miracle’ should occur to you about once per month.

    http://rationalblogs.org/rationalwiki/2013/03/20/littlewoods-law-of-miracles-why-million-to-one-chances-happen-6-3-times-out-of-ten/

    1. 5.1
      heicart

      Well, my transcendental dice model covered that as well. If you fill a big container with dice, and then dump them all out–what are the odds they would land HOWEVER they land? What if you actually numbered the dice so that they each had a specific location and quantity showing–to be counted? The “odds” of them landing precisely as they did, could become astronomical in a hurry–but who would say it was anything note worthy?

      1. corwyn

        I was trying to make a different point than your transcendental dice (which analogy I love, by the way). The dice show that any particular arrangement is very unlikely. The law of miracles says that even coincidences that the viewer honestly evaluates at a 1 in a million, should be expected to happen quite often. A slightly different take on it. Perhaps a better phrasing is:

        “Is that your expected one-in-a-million chance for this month?”

        1. heicart

          I guess I’m looking at it this way:

          Let’s say I take a vacation to France on the fly. While there, I take a side street to a small cafe and have coffee. Just as I’m leaving, I run into my best friend from childhood. I would consider that an amazingly rare event. But the odds of running into THAT person coming into the cafe, no matter who they are, would be about 1 in however many adults are mobile on the globe at any given time. The fact it’s my friend may blow my mind, but is really unimpressive.

          But maybe you’re talking about some other sort of event?

          1. Narf

            Corwyn is referring to a more seemingly-deterministic, meaningful event. Many people are going to have highly-patterned, aligned events (say like your dice all landing in a line, in contact or near-contact with each other) every month. When you allow for experience with such events in secondhand or thirdhand proximity, the odds of someone having experience with such an event should be a fairly common occurrence. Even firsthand experience with that sort of event should be fairly common, if a bit less so.

            To go back to my job again, as I did up the page a way, our inventory labels are composed of a letter determined by the equipment type, followed by a string five numerical digits. I see a significant pattern on about every 20th or 30th label that I look at.

            Basically, Corwyn is just taking it a step beyond your jar of dice, including the incidence of “meaningful” patterns … which doesn’t cut the rate of occurrence by nearly as much as we might think, since the pattern-seeking nature of our brains throws up false-positives constantly. Add in a little confirmation bias, and you’ve turned a regular, expected occurrence into something mystical and meaningful.

  6. 6
    michaelbuchheim

    You really hit the nail on the head there.
    I remember a conversation I had with a theist that went nowhere quickly. One of the hurdles he wanted me to account for was just this sort of coincidence. I started explaining how common these things are and how we remember only those unusual events while discarding hundreds of near-misses, but I could see he wasn’t with me. He really couldn’t believe that coincidence wasn’t supernaturally important\ ordained.
    So I dropped my analysis of the event and said: “Okey, let’s assume this was a supernatural event, what does that tell us?” Was it a message? From who? What was the message? Why did we receive it? Why did we receive it at that time? What can that event teach us about the divine?
    At the end he honestly concluded that he had no idea. There was no information to be gleaned from that coincidence -save that it made the coincidence itself -important. And since the coincidence had a vague association with his religion- that must mean that his religion had some truth in it. (although again, he freely admitted he had no idea what that truth was.)
    Sometimes our ability to recognize patterns everywhere is our greatest weakness.

    1. 6.1
      heicart

      That sounds incredibly frustrating.

      1. Matt Gerrans

        Yeah, for theists, that’s my question (if your god engineered this coincidence, then what is the purpose or meaning of it?).

        For new-agers/astrology, my question is, what is the mechanism? I mean, if I accept that somehow the position of the planets (not including the ones discovered more recently, apparently) and stars have some magical effect based on when I was born (what about conception?), including the time, not properly accounting for time zone, how does that work? Is it some slight gravitational effect? (If so, the time zone thing should be overwhelmingly important, since having the Earth between you and say Saturn when you are born would be a huge difference compared to having Saturn above). How would that work to cause major personality traits and why would it be more powerful than genetics and environment? I guess this ends up being just as frustrating, because people who believe in magic are not too interested in how it works and are always happy to punt on the details.

      2. michaelbuchheim

        It was actually one of the least frustrating discussions I had. While he was embroiled in the importance of coincidence, he was an honest guy. So we reached an impasse where I just had to say: that the events he put forward were not good enough to be considered as evidence for the divine in my estimation. He had a much lower bar for what he would consider as evidence. And that was that.

        I think the most frustrating argument I had with a theist followed more in the lines Matt Gerrans described. In essence it was an hour-long discussion about the morality of the bible, evolution (naturally), the burden of proof and other familiar topic. The woman I talked with jumped from topic to topic (a familiar tactic), but I engaged each argument in turn. And then I called god’s miracles- “magic”. She was outraged and I was confused. I asked her: what else would you call conjuration of physical things by will alone? And it turned out that the problem was that she believed in magic. She thought that witches and warlocks and spells are as real as you and me. How can you even hope to talk reasonably with a person who thinks real life is a D&D game? That really frustrated me.

        You believe in a nebulous and distant god? Fine, I can understand it. You misinterpret coincidences as divine intervention? I can reason with you about that. But how do you handle a person that sees witches next to buses and dark magic practiced as often as jogging?

  7. 7
    Matt Gerrans

    I think people use this same weak understanding of coincidence and probability to believe in prophecy. Some time ago a theist told me about the uncanny accuracy with which The Bible predicted the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. When I asked where it says in The Bible “The state of Israel will be formed in 1948,” he sent me two pages of small print that pieced together many disparate clips of Bible text from all over it, out of order, with lots of reinterpretations (“here year means 360 days because…” and “here a month means a lunar month…” and “in this case day means year because…”) that comes up with some ridiculously cobbled together post-hoc result of 1948. To him, it was amazing prophecy, even more than just coincidence.

    The weird thing is people believe this stuff, even if you painstakingly demonstrate its silliness. They might stop telling you about it, but they will foist it on the next person they meet as if they’ve never heard any refutation.

    1. 7.1
      heicart

      Yes, I’ve found with prophecy the first order is to make sure the section of the text containing prophetic language is even dated close to the text around it. Much of it is added content to older material. When I used to go to church they would teach us that scholars were biased against prophecy, and that is why when they see a prophecy, they immediately assign it as a forged piece of material. It wasn’t until later that I learned how many methods are used to gauge the content of a text and how ways to determine forged material include way more than “it’s prophetic.”

      Fundamenalists: Forging conspiracy theories to inoculate their youth against honest criticism since their inception.

  8. 8
    Narf

    In this particular example, there could even be a correlation. You might have closed the program because you were getting ready for the event that the reminder was reminding you of. This just muddies things even further, when you have a solid correlation with absolutely no direct causative link.

  9. 9
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Coincidentally, this appeared today…
     
    Comic: SMBC – A Rock Fell

    1. 9.1
      AhmNee

      Surely is a sign! A sign from the Weiner!

      Or Zach, if you prefer.

  10. 10
    ChaosS

    I had an experience once that fits in the whacky coincidence category. I woke up once with the song “Suicide Blonde” (by INXS) in my head, turned on the TV and it happened to be turned to MTV playing that exact video (this was the early 90s when MTV was still a thing). I’m glad I’m not a more credulous person because I’d make a terrible blonde. I’m doubly glad that I know what the song is talking about and didn’t take it as a sign to off myself, heh.

    1. 10.1
      heicart

      Can’t even count how many times I or my husband have said something just as someone on TV was also saying it. And I think almost everyone has the song experience as well. It just “means something” to some people–in their minds.

  11. 11
    chris lowe

    To me there is a strong connection between religion and solipsism, which is required to make the connection of “coincidence” between otherwise unrelated events.

  12. 12
    TxSkeptic

    I just took a crap, and immediately got a cold call from a local church. Explain THAT Socrates!

    1. 12.1
      Narf

      Well … you’d just unburdened yourself of a load of shit, so the universe brought you some more with which to fill the void in your life.

  13. 13
    unfogged

    I read this post early this morning. This afternoon I had to take the cat to the vet and as I was driving down the road listening to the caterwauling from the carrier I noticed the car in front of me had a license plate that read “meow”. Not only did the plate match the experience I was having, it was a coincidence involving a license plate on the day I read a post about a coincidence involving a license plate. Sort of a meta-coincidence. Coincidence can be a freaky thing but if there really were a god trying to communicate I hope it could do better than “meow” on a license plate or a vague face shape on a tortilla or any of the other piddly crap that theists try to pass off as evidence of something more.

    1. 13.1
      heicart

      Ceiling Cat sends these messages so that all may know Him.

      1. Narf

        Her!

        The Wiccan ceiling cat is the true form of the divine feline!

    2. 13.2
      Matt Gerrans

      One day at a park, I came back to my car and the car parked next to mine had the same letters in the same order as my license plate, with the same numbers, but in slightly different order. I took this as a sign from God that the Department of Licensing issues license plate numbers in a sequential manner, rather than randomly generated. Since then, I’ve noticed several other license plates that are quite similar to mine (as well as noticing other patterns of plates that are similar to each other — these usually catch my attention when the letters spell something, or the numbers mean something (eg. “1984″)). Now the only thing I need to figure out is what important message message God is trying to communicate to me (or maybe it is a message for someone else and I’m just a bit too egocentric? Eureka! That must be the message God is sending me!).

      It is kind of pathetic that the All Powerful Creator of the Universe, Walker on Water and Fig Tree Witherer must resort to obscure coincidences and toast to communicate to us. Can’t He afford an iPhone, for Christ’s Sake?

  14. 14
    oCaptainmyCaptain

    I think this entire thread is a bit disingenuous. You guys are trying to trivialize profound experiences that people are having by comparing them to mundane events, such as seeing a license plate that matches your deceased grandmothers birthday. This is not what sincere theists mean when they speak about seeing a message from God. At least not according to the believers that i’ve encountered.

    Let’s take a more significant event. I’ll use a fictional person named “John” to illustrate the point.

    John is a Christian who has spent his entire life believing in God, and practicing, to the best of his ability, the things that Jesus taught. The evidence in his life has proven to him that God is definitely real, and has a hand in everything he does.

    But one day, his “faith” is tested in a big way.

    John is diagnosed with a rare disease, and the prognosis doesn’t look good. The doctors tell him that he has a very short time to live, and that there’s not much they can do other than ease his passing. They tell him, in no uncertain terms, to get his affairs in order. But instead of resigning himself to his fate, John decides to do something else.

    He believes that all the power is in God’s hands, so he prays. And he prays hard, not just once, but day after day.

    As the days go by, seemingly random but significant events start to come together in his favor.

    A doctor of the highest eminence happens to stop and talk to him as he’s shopping in the supermarket. As they start talking, John reveals his terminal disease. The doctor becomes animated and enthusiastically tells John that he is very experienced with this type of disease and is currently working closely with several other doctors on a cutting edge operation that could potentially cure him. But it’s going to cost some serious money. $400,000.

    John doesn’t have that kind of money.

    He walks out of the supermarket feeling grateful for meeting the doctor, but a bit depressed that he can’t afford the operation. But he remains hopeful that God will work things out in his favor. As he’s walking to his car, he notices something unusual.

    There’s numbers on the concrete written in chalk (probably by some kid). He takes note that they weren’t there a moment ago and decides to write them down.

    He gets in his car and turns on the radio, only to hear that a power ball is coming up for $568,870. The exact amount he needs for the operation (after taxes). He rushes to the closest gas station and plays the numbers he just wrote down. The next day he waits anxiously by his TV.

    The power ball comes on and he sits in disbelief as his numbers slowly reveal on the screen. He’s won!

    He calls the doctor immediately. And they schedule a time for the operation without a moments delay. John successfully has the operation and it cures him of all traces of the disease. But something else happens…

    Because all the doctors careers have been so elevated by the new and successful operation. And because they all agree that John is a great guy, they decide that they should have done the operation pro bono. John doesn’t owe a dime for the operation and he keeps all the winnings he made on the power ball.

    John takes the winnings and uses them to start a society aimed at helping people with similar terminal illnesses.

    Now even though i made this story up. It’s not far fetched. I’ve heard similar stories such as this, with even more extreme and seemingly random events taking place. But the question that you have to ask is How much coincidence does it take before it’s no longer coincidence?

    The probability of the events occurring here at random are pretty slim. Isn’t it rational then to assume that there’s a possibility they weren’t random?

    More over, John’s faith in God allowed him to do something very practical. It allowed him to make predictions. He believed that if he prayed and stayed faithful, that he would be cured. And he was. Doesn’t it then make it true that in some way his prayers cured him? And doesn’t that give him at least some grounds for believing that these things where more than just pure unguided coincidences?

    1. 14.1
      dutchdelight

      You guys are trying to trivialize profound experiences that people are having by comparing them to mundane events, such as seeing a license plate that matches your deceased grandmothers birthday. This is not what sincere theists mean when they speak about seeing a message from God. At least not according to the believers that i’ve encountered.

      To the contrary, people here are actually taking peoples claims seriously.

      I don’t know what kind of stories you are hearing but they seem consistently underwhelming to me. Not only that, but i think most theists know that too, because they usually don’t come across as very comfortable when detailing these stories in any kind of setting that is not among their fellow believers.

      1. oCaptainmyCaptain

        That says nothing about wether its true or not. Most people would be uncomfortable telling any story to people who where predisposed to scrutinize and criticize every word they uttered. But the fact that they are still willing to tell the story, even when they know that they probably will not be taken seriously, shows that they at least believe somewhat in it’s validity.

        1. unfogged

          But the fact that they are still willing to tell the story, even when they know that they probably will not be taken seriously, shows that they at least believe somewhat in it’s validity.

          Their belief in the validity of the claim is not in question. The claim itself is. Believing something to be true and wanting something to be true are not the same as it being true. Any claims of a message from god that could be rationally expected to occur given random chance or as examples of pareidolia should be dismissed out of hand.

    2. 14.2
      corwyn

      Your story of John sounds a lot like my niece’s story. She died at age 12, after battling cancer for a year. Does that cause your belief that prayer works to diminish? If not, then you by definition don’t hold a rational belief. If your belief in the efficacy of prayer goes up when you hear John’s story, it should go down when you hear my niece’s story.

      So what do we do with a situation of dueling anecdotes? We collect more data and apply statistics to that data. And here are the predictions. Hypothesis 1 (There is a prayer answerer): Those that receive prayers, should have a higher likelihood (for an all-loving prayer answerer the likelihood should be near 1) of recovering than those who don’t. Hypothesis 2 (there is not prayer answerer): Those that receive prayers should have about the same likelihood of recovering as those who don’t.

      Are you willing to abide by the results of a properly designed test of this sort?

      1. oCaptainmyCaptain

        I’m really sorry to hear about your niece.

        To answer your question though, no it doesn’t make my belief in prayer diminish. There’s a huge misconception about prayer that really needs to be corrected. Where did you get the idea that if there’s a God and you pray, your prayer will be answered? Did modern Christianity give you that view? Because it’s no where in the Bible. In fact, when Jesus comes to the pool of Bethesda it says there “lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.” He skips over every single one of these hurting people and only heals one. When he finishes reading the book of isaiah in front of all the jews he says;

        “But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian”

        The people wanted to kill him for this.

        Wether you believe any of this stuff actually happened doesn’t matter. It shows that the Bible presents a view of prayer where only very few people actually have their prayers answered. Sometimes it was because they had the most faith of everyone else praying, and sometimes it was because God just decide to heal them, no explanation. So if prayer is actually real, and exists as the Bible describes it, then I would expect that only 5% or less of the people praying are actually healed.

        There’s a high chance that your prayers will never be answered. Someone very close to me is battling cancer right now, and he prays all the time, and we all pray for him. So far it looks like its working, if for nothing else than to boost his spirits. But I’m under no illusions, there’s no promise in the Bible that just because you pray God will answer you.

        1. LykeX

          But I’m under no illusions, there’s no promise in the Bible that just because you pray God will answer you.

          Really? Matthew 18:19:

          Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

          Call me crazy, but that sounds like a promise that prayers will be answered, but I’m sure you have some explanation for why it isn’t.

          1. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Yes, a very simple one actually. It helps to read things in context. The very next line says,

            For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them

            That “in my name” is probably really important here. Otherwise you could just assume that you can pray for the death of somebody you don’t like and the prayer will be answered. Or you can rob a bank, and pray you will get away with it. There’s obviously conditions here. On top of that, he was speaking directly to his disciples. The chapter starts by saying:

            At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said

            He made many promises to his disciples that do not extend to the rest of the human population.

    3. 14.3
      Narf

      I have yet to hear an example that wasn’t an obvious case of confirmation bias, Captain. There’s a reason that rational people throw out anecdotal evidence. In any sufficiently large population, you’re going to have freak events on both sides of the statistical scale pop up on a regular basis … assuming that the anecdote isn’t made up completely, as can easily be the case. If you only pay attention to the extreme edge cases, which are always what anecdotal stories focus upon, you can demonstrate any insane crap you would like.

      The only way that anyone should accept an anecdote of any sort is if you have some ridiculously solid causal evidence. It’s impossible to establish a causal chain for prayer, because of its very nature, so the sort of thing you’re speaking about is automatically tossed out as worthless in demonstrating anything.

      1. oCaptainmyCaptain

        I don’t think it’s important to prove that prayer works. It’s only important when you trying to convince somebody thats unconvinced. But let’s be honest, no amount of statistics, no amount of data on prayer (positive or negative), is going to change your view about wether a God exists or wether prayer works. And for the people that believe they where healed through prayer, I really don’t think they care or should care about wether s study disagrees with their conclusion.

        1. Narf

          Bullshit. If you could demonstrate that there is a repeatable, statistical effect of prayer, we would have to accept that there’s something there and analyze the causal mechanism to see what’s going on. A positive effect would sure as hell give us a starting point.

          Sadly for you, people have done experiments on the efficacy of prayer, and they fail, any time that the experiments are set up with a properly double-blinded protocol. Prayer only “works” when you’re allowed to subjectively pick and chose anecdotes that don’t prove a damned thing, because they’re just random, statistical noise. That’s the entire point of this blog post, and you haven’t said a damned thing that counters a bit of it.

          What do you do to counter statements about coincidence? You bring up a coincidental anecdote. Freaking brilliant, man. What the hell?

        2. EnlightenmentLiberal

          What Narf said. oCaptainmyCaptain, what you said is so brazening idiotic and just wrong, I do not have words. Of course I would change my mind if you show me good evidence. Of course we should really care if something works or not. Go to a panicked mother – I dare you – who is about to lose a child to sickness, and tell her that she shouldn’t care about which methods of treatment will work. (I hope you get slapped in the face if you do.)

        3. oCaptainmyCaptain

          It really doesn’t seem to me that that’s how prayer works at all. I’m not talking about the general en vogue view of christianity. I simply read the Bible in totality, and I’m forced to come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible does not answer everyones prayers. He doesn’t even answer most people’s prayers.

          When Jericho fell, only Rahab was saved. When sodom and gomorrah was burnt to the ground only Lot was saved. when Jesus came to the pool of Bethesda only one man was healed. There where many people starving in Isreal when Elias was walking around, but he only healed one women. Even Jesus asked that he not be crucified, and his prayer was denied. Paul who wrote almost half the new testament, asked that one pain be taken away from him, and his prayers where not answered.

          Wether you believe all these stories happened, is completely irrelevant. The point is that prayer doesn’t work the way you think it works.

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Does it [prayer] ever work (beyond the placebo effect et al)? And how did you come to that conclusion?

    4. 14.4
      kosk11348

      Now even though i made this story up. It’s not far fetched. I’ve heard similar stories such as this..

      So, strings of coincidences like this aren’t that uncommon then.

      But the question that you have to ask is How much coincidence does it take before it’s no longer coincidence?

      But people of different faiths and no faith can list similar stories. That’s the point. People die in unexpected, unpredictable ways and people survive in unexpected, unpredictable ways. It’s all chance. But only the survivors are around to tell their stories, so it seems like divine providence. If the dead could speak, you’d get a more balanced view of the topic.

      1. oCaptainmyCaptain

        Please read what I wrote above. Nowhere does the Bible say that prayer is a 50/50 outcome. In fact, the Bible presents it as more of a 5% or less. Sometimes much less.

        1. corwyn

          In fact, the Bible presents it as more of a 5% or less. Sometimes much less.

          “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

          –Matthew 7:7

          “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

          –Matthew 21:22

          Care to try again?

          1. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Corwyn, you’re not going to refute things I’m saying about the Bible by cherry picking scriptures. Unless you plan to just bore me into submission.

            There is context around these verses. A lot of freaking context actually. hundreds and thousands of words of context.

            What you’re doing is tantamount to walking into a movie, hearing one line, and walking out thinking you understand everything about that scene or the movie.

            I don’t even have to educate you on these specific verses. Instead let’s do an honest thought experiment. Let’s pretend somebody kills somebody without justification, and prays to get away with it. Do you really think that Jesus is saying that his prayer will be answered, simply because he prayed. Or do you think there’s probably some conditions and context to these verses?

    5. 14.5
      LykeX

      How many people do you think are diagnosed with a disease, pray and not miraculously saved by an unlikley string of events? Because each one of those cases act as evidence for John just being lucky. If god was helping John, then why didn’t he help all those other people? All the millions of people who have, in the course of human history, prayed sincerely and with all the fervor they had for salvation? If we check up, we find that john is a single rare hit in an ocean of misses; exactly the kind of thing we’d expect if it was just a coincidence.

      Moreover, you admit to making the story up. Let’s try this with one of the real-life stories. In my experience, miracle stories are often hugely overblown and leave out loads of important details to make it seem more impressive.

      E.g. I’m reminded of a woman who once called into the show and said that she had been cured of breast cancer by prayer; she said that she had cancer, prayed and the cancer went away, without any simultaneous medical treatment. It sounded very impressive.

      However, as the hosts questioned her a bit, it became clear that she had never been to a doctor at all. She had no official diagnosis of breast cancer. She had felt something in her breast, jumped to the conclusion that it was cancer without getting it checked, prayed, and the next day the lump was gone. Praise Jesus!

      This is not a unique case. This is, in my experience, the way it always goes. The stories sound impressive at first, but careful questioning reveals that you haven’t gotten the full picture. Of course, when believers tell each other such stories, they never get around to the questioning. They just accept it on face value. I put it to you that if you were to seriously investigate some of these remarkable stories you hear, you’ll very quickly find that the gold paint rubs off.

      1. oCaptainmyCaptain

        I don’t pretend to know why God does what he does. I don’t even pretend to know for certain that a God exists or not. In this case I think that John is more than lucky. And my point was to show that even if he was just lucky, his conclusion on faith and prayer is reasonable. It shouldn’t be important to him that the other 100 people who had his disease weren’t healed. It should be far more significant that he WAS healed through an abnormal and almost impossible series of events.

        Moreover, as I’ve outlined in my response to corwyn, prayer is not presented in the Bible as having a 90, 50, or even 10 percent chance of working. It’s presented as only being answered for a very small amount of people.

        As far as the women that called in, yeah that is an example of an irrational belief. But even if I presented you with a story whose “gold paint” didn’t rub off. You would probably call it chance and a “one off” thing. If I could present you with hundreds or thousands of similar concrete examples, would you be in any way convinced that prayer works?

        1. Narf

          And my point was to show that even if he was just lucky, his conclusion on faith and prayer is reasonable. It shouldn’t be important to him that the other 100 people who had his disease weren’t healed. It should be far more significant that he WAS healed through an abnormal and almost impossible series of events.

          And our point is that you’re wrong, and you haven’t demonstrated anything of the sort. Anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence, and it’s the only kind you have. Unless you’re willing to accept every wild story that someone comes to you with, you don’t get to use your own anecdotes … and it’s dishonest of you to expect us to accept them.

        2. corwyn

          And my point was to show that even if he was just lucky, his conclusion on faith and prayer is reasonable.

          Nope. This is exactly wrong. If he was just lucky, then BY DEFINITION his conclusion on faith and prayer is wrong. That is what ‘just lucky’ means.

          1. corwyn

            By the way, you might want to look up Baye’s Theorem which will allow you to put numbers to your claims.

        3. AhmNee

          Moreover, as I’ve outlined in my response to corwyn, prayer is not presented in the Bible as having a 90, 50, or even 10 percent chance of working. It’s presented as only being answered for a very small amount of people.

          So, since we have studies that show that prayer works as often as random chance, the reliability and efficacy of prayer is so small as to be negligible. And you accept that by your own words. 5% or less you say above. So what’s the point in praying? It sounds like you’re as likely to win the lottery as have a prayer answered. More likely even. At least we can statistically say some people win the lottery.

        4. oCaptainmyCaptain

          So, since we have studies that show that prayer works as often as random chance, the reliability and efficacy of prayer is so small as to be negligible.

          I have not looked at these studies enough to really speak on them. Could you point me to the ones you’re referring to?

          I said above that it only works for a small amount of people. For some people, prayer might work all of the time. In the Bible, the persons level of faith usually determines wether their prayers are answered or not.

          Praying is a demonstration of faith. It’s basically saying to God, that I believe you will perform this in my life. You can also pray without actually asking for anything. Sometimes you just pray to be thankful for the stuff you do have.

          It’s also not a statistical thing. I put statistics on it, to articulate a point to you guys, since you don’t actually believe prayer works. But to a Christian, Muslim, or Jew they don’t think about the statistics of prayer. Nobody says, “Hey, Jo didn’t get his prayer answered yesterday, so the probability of me getting my prayer heard has gone down.” You go into prayer expecting that what you’re praying for will be fulfilled. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

          I would like to point out that I understand from an atheistic perspective it’s irrational. But to a believer, you trust that even if God doesn’t answer your prayer, ultimately he’s doing it for a reason, and that things will work together for your betterment. And even if it doesn’t work together for your betterment, you trust that somebody else will benefit down the line, or that some greater good will be accomplished.

          As I’ve said, I’ve been traveling a lot, so I meet people from all different walks of life, all different cultures and backgrounds. The thing I call faith, some people just call hope and good fortune. That guiding force that I call God, others just recognize as destiny or ‘life’s calling”. The things I’m speaking on are really universal. Atheists and Christians have more in common than you probably think.

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I would like to point out that I understand from an atheistic perspective it’s irrational. But to a believer, you trust that even if God doesn’t answer your prayer, ultimately he’s doing it for a reason, and that things will work together for your betterment.

            For the umpteenth time: How do you know that?

          2. AhmNee

            You go into prayer expecting that what you’re praying for will be fulfilled. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

            Precisely. And the chances that your prayer is answered happens to be the same chance you would have had if you hadn’t prayed. It’s just like a quote from comedian Jeff Stilson about how in sports “the winners give credit to god while the losers blame themselves”. When you pray, it’s human nature to take note of when our prayers are answered and discount when they aren’t.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer

    6. 14.6
      changerofbits

      Let’s say your story were true, would it be proof that god did it? What about the story is so miraculous that it’s obviously god’s hand? What about the thousands of other people in John’s shoes (terminally ill, good Christians) who don’t win the lottery and happen upon cutting edge, life saving procedures?

      Crazily lucky stuff happens all the time, to a few people, and it eventually happens to us all over a long period of time. Numbers align, help arrives in the nick of time, close calls in traffic, someone thinking the same obscure thing you’re thinking. But, there’s also a lot of instances where it doesn’t happen. We don’t remember those so much when thinking happy thoughts of the seemingly miraculous instances. Some people jump out of airplanes and there parachutes don’t open, and once in a while someone survives. What a miracle, right!?!? I can remember the first time I read about it, I was blown away. But, that doesn’t mean god intervened. Some people get lucky, most don’t. Religion/god doesn’t seem to factor into it as far as I can tell. Undeserving people get lucky as often as deserving people get shafted.

      1. oCaptainmyCaptain

        This may very well be how the world works. But you could also be wrong. You can be wrong in assuming that prayer is this dependent engine that works just as well for some as it does for others. You could be wrong in assuming that if there are 1000 christians praying to be healed, God is suppose to answer the majority of them. You could be wrong in assuming what God thinks certain people deserve.

        I can completely agree with your first sentence though, and that’s what I’ve been trying to argue to Corwyn below. Just because prayer worked in one instance, or a thousand instances, or even a million instances. Doesn’t prove God. That’s why I’m asking atheists for a method they would accept that could objectively verify God.

        1. changerofbits

          Yep, I could be wrong about prayer. The core issue is how to tell if prayer worked vs just random extremely lucky coincidence. A single data point, while interesting and sometimes a good reason to investigate, just isn’t how you tell if it works or not. I haven’t seen any reputable, repeatable study saying prayer does anything beyond the random luck we experience with or without prayer. Here is one famous example (which you’re probably aware of):

          http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          I lost my mother to cancer and it looks like you’re going through the same with your dad, so I understand the helpless grief, where you want to do something, anything. It’s a tragic thing, this thing we call life. My only advice is that you spend time with your dad. Do, say or write something that you’ve always wanted to do. Nothing can take that away and you can always do more of that if you have more time with him.

          RE, your second paragraph: I’m willing to accept that if prayer worked, meaning produced results above a non-prayer control that we could scientifically measure and repeat, I’d have to go back and analyze my beliefs. But, even a bunch of anecdotal data points just doesn’t show that prayer works and just isn’t going to convince me.

          1. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Due to the nature of prayer, I don’t really know how to perform a statistical analysis on wether it works or not ( and let me switch into a pure Theistic view for a second) … I hesitate to even do so.

            If there is a God, it must be unbelievably offensive to ask him to come down and subject himself to our primitive tests and analysis in order to prove his existence. Imagine creating an entire universe, and then being demanded by your creation to prove that your actually real, and not according to methods that you’ve outlined, but according to their own primitive methods. I’d have to imagine that this would be pretty insulting.

            That aside I read the article and it’s definitely interesting. I’ll have to look more into this and other studies.

            I’m sorry about your mom. Cancer is one of the worst things, and I hate that the treatment seems worse than the actual disease at times. I was 10,000 miles away when I got the news about my Dad, but I came home to be close to him. Thanks for the advice.

          2. changerofbits

            You might want to look up James Randi, too. His foundation has a million dollars to give to anyone who can demonstrate something supernatural (or other magical, spiritual claims) under scientific controls.

            I will give you that there could be a god who randomly grants prayers (that don’t violate natural laws), for whatever reason that we can’t comprehend, that would look like random people getting lucky. I don’t think that we could ever tell the if god is there doing it or if there is no god at all and it’s just luck.

            Another proof of god I’d accept would be if the god did things that obviously violated natural laws. For instance, if a huge hand appeared directly in front of the World Trade Center towers moments before each of the two planes hit and gently grabbed them and set them down at JFK airport. Unfortunately, if god exists, it isn’t much into the theatrics of the Old Testament anymore and seems to require people to do all things heroic and evil (again, not sure we could say if god/devil is there pushing them along or not).

            Best of luck to your dad.

          3. corwyn

            I will give you that there could be a god who randomly grants prayers (that don’t violate natural laws), for whatever reason that we can’t comprehend, that would look like random people getting lucky. I don’t think that we could ever tell the if god is there doing it or if there is no god at all and it’s just luck.

            On the contrary, that would look like *people who pray* getting lucky. Easily determinable from statistics. We can easily detect dice which are only slightly biased. What we actually see is no correlation between praying and improvement. Which is inconsistent with the hypothesis of a prayer-answerer. And everyone rational who believes in a prayer answer should be less confident after each such study. Which is way people like oCmC must reinforce their belief *in advance* by sabotaging their own rational faculties.

          4. changerofbits

            Corwyn, I agree that a correlation between prayer and increased luck is by definition statistically detectable. But, what if prayer doesn’t increase the total amount of luck compared to those who don’t pray (meaning, that in the end, praying people and non-praying people, as groups, get the same proportional amount of luck)? Assuming god knows this, and purposely doesn’t give the group of people who pray more luck than the group who don’t pray, then god could have all the fun it wants with the allotted amount luck for those in the praying group to answer the prayers he deems worthy. Of course, god still has to make sure that it’s not statically detectable within the group that does pray. For instance, of the lottery players, let’s say 75% pray to win the lottery, god could make sure to still let non-praying people win 25% (to thwart us pesky atheists), but god also has to be careful to not let only Presbyterians (or some other category that we could discover) win the 75% allotted to the praying people, because that would also be detectable. My point is that god could be redirecting luck, via prayer or for any other “unknowable” reason, in a way that isn’t statically detectable, which would render a universe with this god the same as a universe without that god. Of course, I don’t think that people advocating prayer to garner god’s attention think god works this limited way, they think that he is doing extra stuff for the people who pray (to the right god) over those that don’t pray (or pray to the wrong god), and that would be detectable.

          5. corwyn

            My point is that god could be redirecting luck, via prayer or for any other “unknowable” reason, in a way that isn’t statically detectable,

            He could be redirecting ‘luck’ to some who pray, and *away* from others who pray. But not in any way that is even remotely based on merit (or any other definable characteristic). Does this sound like an all-powerful god to you?

            The point of personal praying is to improve someone’s life. It can NOT accomplish that without providing evidence for a prayer answerer.

          6. changerofbits

            He could be redirecting ‘luck’ to some who pray, and *away* from others who pray. But not in any way that is even remotely based on merit (or any other definable characteristic). Does this sound like an all-powerful god to you?

            Here’s my “oCaptainmyCaptain’s pure Theist view” answer: “God works in unknowable ways. How silly of you to even begin to think that your morals have any significance to the ultimate plan of the creator of everything.” :o)

            The point of personal praying is to improve someone’s life. It can NOT accomplish that without providing evidence for a prayer answerer.

            Well, lets assume for the sake of argument, that prayer was scientifically correlated with having greater luck. We don’t need to know what the mechanism behind the phenomenon is to accept that it is real. Of course, to we atheists, that would just be the beginning of the process of understanding what the cause is, rather than the theists who will be jumping up and down saying: “My god did it!”

  15. 15
    Jasper of Maine

    The probability of the events occurring here at random are pretty slim. Isn’t it rational then to assume that there’s a possibility they weren’t random?

    Sure, it’d be rational to think that something was an influence. The irrational part is attributing it to an invisible sky wizard with no evidence.

    This degree of sequence of events doesn’t happen. What we’re talking about is the perception of events, many of which are actually unrelated, into a narrative in the person’s mind.

    Out of all the cancer patients there are, most of them are going to be praying. A small percentage of them are going to have their cancer spontaneously go into remission. That’s biology. Of those people, a small percentage are going to spontaneously get some help with their medical bills. That’s just living in a society.

    With the sheer number of available people, statistically speaking, we’re going to get a number of “high coincidence” examples.

    More over, John’s faith in God allowed him to do something very practical. It allowed him to make predictions.

    They’re predictions in the same sense that one can consult a Magic 8-ball repeatedly until the answer matches what John was asking about – and the hit is registered as notable, while all the misses are forgotten.

    Just like the person would make up a rationalization as to why he/she didn’t get what he/she wanted with the Magic 8-Ball, those praying constantly makeup rationalizations as to why their prayers go answered. They’ve literally come up with a model for prayer that cannot lose, regardless of whether it actually is real.

    And he was. Doesn’t it then make it true that in some way his prayers cured him?

    No, because the mechanism is not demonstrated. At best he’s established a correlation (not causation). It could be that he wanted the cancer cured so much, that he was also taking initiative on some other approach that did the trick.

    We’re not even talking about a consistent pattern, by the way. We’d have to demonstrate that cancer rates, over the entire population of cancer-diagnosed people have a significant improvement in cure rates, over those who don’t, controlling for other factors, such as whether those who pray also have healthcare (or other factors)…. all before one can even establish that there’s any correlation at all.

    And doesn’t that give him at least some grounds for believing that these things where more than just pure unguided coincidences?

    No, because like you, he doesn’t know how to approach investigating these things. Like you, he’s leaped from a coincidence to something “profound” with little more than highly fallible intuition. My statistics example above should make that clear.

    1. 15.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Bah, reply fail.

    2. 15.2
      Jasper of Maine

      those praying constantly makeup rationalizations as to why their prayers go unanswered.

      Correction

  16. 16
    Edward Kushnerov

    How is it that you relate this occurrence? Is there anything that points to a conclusive relation, other than a mental fabrication? If your sole justification for gods existence is an insubstantially cognitive conviction which is based only on experiential claims, then how’s that an objective validation of god?

    1. 16.1
      oCaptainmyCaptain

      There are no objective validations of God. Nor is it possible to have one. Even if God descended right now, and appeared simultaneously to everyone on earth. This would not prove that he was God or that God existed. the problem is that we don’t have anything to compare it to. How do you evaluate a being who has all power? Even if that being started creating things out of nothing, some would simply say that it was a highly advanced life form. I don’t like it, but I think that if there is a God, then we can’t rely on our five senses to affirm his existence. There has to be something else. Maybe it’s faith? I don’t know.

      1. Narf

        Faith is the most useless excuse you could have given for anything. You need to have some sort of evidence to point you to what you should have faith in, before faith can even enter the equation. Something has to give you the idea in the first place.

        Faith is worthless on top of that initial issue, though. You instinctively know this. Can you tell me anything else in the world for which you think faith is a good thing, without committing an equivocation fallacy? Is there anything else that you believe with the same sort of faith … which is to say belief in something without confirming evidence or in the face of disconfirming evidence?

        1. oCaptainmyCaptain

          Absolutely! I could easily write a thesis on why I think faith is not just useful, but the most useful thing we have as sentient beings.

          I have faith that my Dad will recover from his cancer even though statistics say he will most certainly not. This faith allows me to spend quality time with him whenever I come to visit, and not act as if he has a death clock hanging over his head. While still recognizing that life is inherently fragile, and tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

          I have faith that I can travel across the world, and go into countries that many would consider dangerous, and still be ok. I act cautiously and use common sense, but I never feel afraid because I believe somebody is looking out for me, and that the prayers of my family and friends actually do help.

          I have faith that doing the right thing will ultimately bring about good in the long run, even when I lack the foresight to perceive how this will come to be so.

          I have faith that when I work on new businesses and set new goals for myself, that I will ultimately be successful even when a positive outcome seems unlikely to most people. Nobody can be an entrepreneur without faith. Especially since, 80% of all small businesses fail. With those kind of statistics it seems irrational to even try. most people fail in their businesses many times before seeing a glimmer of hope, but they have faith that through all the troubles they will ultimately succeed.

          All the great leaders, all the most well respected inventors and athletes of our time, are men and women of great faith. It takes faith to stand up when you’ve been counted out. Michael Jordan was told that he would never be any good at basketball. Everyone has heard the story of how Edison failed 1000 times. Steve Jobs never took surveys or conducted focus groups before he made an invention, he built what he believed was a great product, and he had faith that it would be successful. JFK pushed the american people and it’s brightest minds to get us to the moon first, by making one faith statement; ““We choose to go to the moon!” Even though it had never been done before. Martin Luther king helped end segregation through faith, even though he was convinced in the end that he would never see his work fully completed. His last speech ended with these words,

          Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

          I could go on for days, months, or years. I could trace every single momentous movement in our culture and in the cultures that preceded us down to men and women who had great faith. Without faith it’s impossible to move towards the unknown when you have no evidence that the unknown will welcome you. Without faith how could you make any important decisions that lacked a large set of data and evidence, to show that your decision was correct?

          How could you even get married without faith that you’re making the right decision? There’s no surveys you can consult that will show who is the right women for you. They may be able to give you an idea, but ultimately, like all the other major decisions you have to make in life, you have to take action without knowing what the outcome will be.

          Without faith you would be in a perpetual state of paralysis scared to move and try new things until somebody else proved that it could be done. Faith isn’t a weakness. I believe it’s the greatest strength we have as human beings.

          1. Narf

            Dude, what you’re describing is willful ignorance and wish-thinking. What of someone’s faith when the father dies of his cancer, as often happens? What of the faith of people who go into dangerous countries and are killed?

            You’re describing delusion, which is a horrible, dangerous thing. If you’re not capable of getting through life without deluding yourself, you have my pity. Some of us get along just fine without it, and most others would do just fine if they tried it.

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Narf, I said above that statistics say my Dad will die. I also said, that I understand this is a strong possibility. But my faith that he will get better not only benefits me, more importantly it benefits him. Believing you will make it through something. even in the face of overwhelming odds, is superior in every respect to believing that the stats are right and you’re going to die. My father faces all the challenges he has to with bravery because of the people with faith around him that surround him with love and hope that he will pull through. For a person with cancer, I’ve never seen someone look so optimistic.

            Are you telling me that everyone with cancer and terminal illness should just lay down and die? Have you ever in your life pushed for something that people told you you couldn’t succeed at? Have you ever tried at something where others have failed? Or do you sit in your room scarred to discover new things and scared to step outside of your comfort zone because you don’t have charts and graphs supporting you? Without faith you’re either a coward, dead, or so dulled and apathetic to the world around you that you never venture outside of your cushy reality long enough to experience new things.

            I don’t mean to be hostile, but you completely ignored almost every single example I gave above. If my Dad is to die from cancer, then I will know that the life he had while he was still alive was better then if everyone just gave up and started writing eulogies.

            If the people that go into new countries are killed, then they died having faith in a cause. Sometimes you don’t get to see the outcome, as I outlined with MLK. You don’t always get to touch or realize the thing you have faith in. Sometimes the most virtuous thing you can do in life is committing to a cause that will have to go on without you. The faith in it’s final outcome drives you, even when statistics do not.

            Think of every soldier that has died in war (I personally know a few of them). if they didn’t have faith in their cause, their country, or the oath and ideals they stood for, then they died for nothing.

            If you consider these things delusions, then I truly truly feel sorry for you. And I mean that with all the sincerity I can convey through a computer screen because you will obviously never reach your full potential as a human being. How can you, when your too scarred to try something that isn’t peer reviewed and studied?

          3. Narf

            I didn’t say that delusion couldn’t be effective in a very small number of cases. What you’re describing is the placebo effect and positive thinking. That doesn’t require the use of delusion, though.

            I ignored your examples because you demonstrate anecdote and confirmation bias, the very focus of this thread. Are you hard of thinking or something?

            That’s rich, you saying that I’m scared … although that isn’t how you spelled it … to try delusion and wishful thinking. I’m just not stupid enough to rely upon it. You can go through life relying on emotional crutches, like a scared child. I prefer to deal with reality, as an adult.

          4. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Narf, I really don’t know what to say to you man. My teacher use to say that “you can’t help the unhelpable”. If you truly think that all the people I just outlined, from MLK to Steve jobs, where simply deluded individuals… than fine. I guess living life deluded is to live it to it’s fullest.

            I also did not demonstrate confirmation bias, these weren’t one off stories of these individuals. They lived there whole lives through faith. Having faith doesn’t necessarily mean having faith in God.

            And yes, I think you are scared. I don’t often say things that I don’t mean, and believe me I wasn’t trying to be funny when I said it. If you think that venturing into the unknown without evidence, is nothing more then a “Stupid” delusion then yes you are scared. It’s not an emotional crutch it’s the backbone of everyone that has ever attempted to live life to its fullest.

            Civilizations have been built and conquered at the hands of these “scared children”. Trust me, you’re not as brave and “adult” as you think you are, if you truly hold the views that you’ve presented.

            Maybe you should stop looking at things through a hardened atheistic perspective, and then you would realize that religion does not have a monopoly on faith. Maybe then you wouldn’t have so much disdain for it.

          5. Narf

            Right, this is one of the times when I stop wasting my time talking to an asshole, because I have nothing further to gain. You don’t even understand what words mean. I’m still waiting for you to differentiate faith from wishful thinking and delusion. Judging from your examples, I’m pretty certain you’re not capable of it.

          6. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Sure, just for you Narf…

            Wishful thinking : “interpretation of facts, actions, words, etc., as one would like them to be rather than as they really are.”

            Delusion : “a false idea or belief that is caused by mental illness”

            Faith : “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 (yes, I’m arguing from a Christian perspective, so I’m going to use a Christian definition of faith)

            Wishful thinking means that something

            is most likely

            a certain way, and I wish it to be another way. Delusions are believing something is a different way when in

            fact

            it is another way. Faith is having confidence that something

            will be

            a certain way, even though we can’t see any outcome at the moment.

            Now you might think these three words mean the same thing, but they are worlds apart. Let’s use a few examples to illustrate the differences:

            Wishful thinking : A building an art collector owns is burning. Inside is a rare painting worth millions. His staff comes out and tells him that the fire started burning in the same location as the picture. The art collector still decides to run in and attempt to save the painting even though there’s a 95% chance that it’s already been destroyed. He hopes and wishes that maybe the fire didn’t actually get to the painting and the staff saw wrong.

            Delusions : The same art collectors building is burning but he arrives too late and the entire building has almost been consumed. He runs in believing that there’s no actual flames and the staff are just making up stories that its on fire.

            Faith : The art collectors building is burning, the staff doesn’t know wether or not his prize painting was near the fires origin. It might be ok, or it might not be. The art collector decides to run in, with the hopes that he will save it and his million dollar painting won’t be lost in the fire.

            In the first example, theres a large amount of evidence suggesting that the painting has been destroyed. But the art collector hopes that the facts are incorrect or misrepresented. In the second example, the painting has definitely been destroyed but the art collector believes that their are no flames and completely ignores reality. In the third example, the outcome isn’t clear. But the art collector reacts in the hopes that the outcome will be good even though the situation looks grim.

            The difference between faith and delusions is that with faith all the evidence is not in yet. There are no hardcore established facts. There’s probabilities but the outcome is not yet certain. In fact, you still have a large chance of determining the outcome through your actions.

            Hopefully you understand now.

          7. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Sorry for the block quote’s, I meant to use the tags

          8. Narf

            So, how do you differentiate between wishful thinking and faith? The way you used the word faith in all of your examples, it’s impossible to differentiate between that and wishful thinking. As I said, that’s exactly what this blog post is about. You get lots of happy coincidences all of the time. You also get lots of unhappy coincidences. That’s the nature of statistical variation.

            Grabbing the happy outcomes and holding them up as evidence while ignoring the unhappy outcomes … the people who had a happy outcome aren’t any more justified in their faith than those who died. What you’re doing is the purest definition of confirmation bias.

            I didn’t bother to address any of your examples because they’re all easily dismissable with a simple, “Bullshit. Plenty of people are perfectly capable of coping without your religious nonsense.” Something asserted without evidence can be just as easily dismissed without evidence.

            It’s just like the claims that religion makes people more moral and makes society better. Then, we examine the situation scientifically, statistically, and we discover that the opposite is actually true. The less religious societies enjoy a greater level of societal health.

            Why should I believe your unsupported claims about faith being helpful for grieving people, any more than I do the other lies that preachers have been telling the gullible masses for centuries? What happens if we find out that people who are raised without religious brainwashing are better at dealing with their mortality and other down sides of reality?

            You have this major problem with your vocabulary. You keep saying things like, “It’s reasonable for John to assume that his 1/100 chance outcome was divinely guided.” I don’t think you know what the word reasonable means. When you can’t connect from the premises to the conclusion without committing half a dozen logical fallacies, that isn’t reasonable.

          9. AhmNee

            Narf, I said above that statistics say my Dad will die. I also said, that I understand this is a strong possibility. But my faith that he will get better not only benefits me, more importantly it benefits him.

            No. Your faith benefits no one. Believing someone will get better means you’re not making preparations in case the worst comes to pass. That’s infantile and irrational. What I think you’re trying to describe is actually hope. You have hope that your father will get better despite the odds. With hope you hope for the best while you prepare for the worst. That’s a mature and rational approach.

          10. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Wow man, I really don’t know how much clearer I can get with you. I’ve just taken the time to clearly outline the difference between faith, wishful thinking, and delusions. I’m glad that you see there’s a clear difference between delusions and faith, and because of that, I’ll take one last stab at making you understand the difference between faith and wishful thinking.

            In wishful thinking, the facts are already in. It’s most likely certain that one outcome will be true regardless of your actions. In this example, the fire is burning in the same spot as the painting and the art collector hopes that the staff are incorrect in their facts. He hopes and wishes that the facts have been misrepresented and that he can still save his painting. This is wishful thinking.

            Faith is not having a clear idea of the facts. We don’t know yet. The painting could have been burnt to a cinder or it could be fine. There’s a high probability that it was burnt considering the building is on fire, but nobody knows for certain. His faith allows him to take action and hope that he can still receive a good outcome even when the situation looks grim.

            When somebody is sick, there’s so many different variables. There’s hundreds of factors that make each case different from the last. We have statistics that might give a general outcome, but we don’t know for sure. And because of these variables, we still have the chance to form a positive outcome. That’s the difference. The facts aren’t in. I’m not working against what is. I’m working towards what will be.

          11. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Now onto my examples that you clearly dismissed as wishful thinking. Let’s address those quickly.

            I’ve already outlined illness above, so I’ll move on to traveling. When I travel, there’s a possibility that I can be hurt in certain countries, and in some countries that probability might be quite high. But there are also plenty of people who travel all over the world and never suffer more than a stomach bug. You see? The facts aren’t completely in. Nothing is certain. I’m not working against what is, I’m working towards what I want something to be. I want it to be a good experience, so I push towards making it one, by recognizing the odds but not being paralyzed by them.

            When you start a new business, there’s a high probability that you will fail. But there’s also the chance that you could be hugely successful as many have. My faith puts a different perspective on the statistics. I don’t look at it as 80% of people fail so I will too. I look at it as 80% of people failed, so only 20% is my actual competition. Good odds! And if I where to be perfectly honest, I don’t care much about the statistics at all. If you believe that something is a good idea, you’re going to push towards it’s success regardless. And unless you’re doing something the same way as others who have failed, there’s still a chance that you could be hugely successful. The facts aren’t in. Nothing is certain. You’re pushing towards what you want the outcome to be. Faith!

            I’ll stop here. If you believe I’m demonstration confirmation bias, then please explain how? I clearly have a different understanding from you on what confirmation bias is, and maybe my view is incorrect. I come here to learn just as much as I come to debate.

            I’d also like to point out that I’m not necessarily talking about religion here. Faith obviously goes hand in hand with Christianity, but as I’ve said before, religious people don’t have a monopoly on faith. Some of the people I gave as examples weren’t christians, but they had strong faith.

            Also I never said people can’t cope without religion. I don’t think I even alluded to something like that!

            In the case of John I would argue that it was reasonable FOR HIM. Yes, somebody looking from an outside perspective would think it’s nonsense. But if John has lived his entire life through faith, and the outcome has always been good, and then when he relied on his faith the most, all the right variables came together to produce a good outcome. I would say yes, it’s reasonable for JOHN to assume that based off HIS experience, faith works.

            It’s like if a lady goes outside and does a rain dance every time she wants it to rain, and every time she does this it rains. It shouldn’t matter to HER that 90% of other people aren’t able to produce the same results. It ALWAYS works for her, so it’s reasonable for HER to assume that it works for HER.

            Many people aren’t as rich as Oprah, but that doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable for her to assume that what she does works, even when it doesn’t work for everyone else.

            I think your view of faith is that it’s somehow a dependent variable. It isn’t. It’s independent. Faith is by it’s very nature, different for every single person. So statistics don’t matter.

          12. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @AhmNee

            No. Your faith benefits no one. Believing someone will get better means you’re not making preparations in case the worst comes to pass. That’s infantile and irrational. What I think you’re trying to describe is actually hope. You have hope that your father will get better despite the odds. With hope you hope for the best while you prepare for the worst. That’s a mature and rational approach.

            Prove it. Prove that just because I have faith that absolutely means I’m not taking the proper preparations in case the worse comes to pass. I think 10 seconds with my Dad and asking him what he’s doing to prepare for the worst case, would show that you’re not only wrong, but you’re incredibly wrong. The only thing infantile and irrational is making assumptions without any evidence to support what you’re saying.

            Faith encompasses hope. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Or I like it better in the KJV, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith encompasses both hope and evidence.

          13. AhmNee

            I think 10 seconds with my Dad and asking him what he’s doing to prepare for the worst case, would show that you’re not only wrong, but you’re incredibly wrong.

            In that case you have contradicted yourself. My evidence is that you’re logically inconsistant. If you believe your father will get well. Then why make plans in case he does not. Unless you don’t believe he will get better, but you hope you do.

            You don’t get to redefine faith and belief to mean what you want it to mean and then expect others to understand what the hell you’re talking about. It’s not my fault that you don’t understand how words work.

            Aaaand now we’re using the bible as a dictionary. For chrissake. You do know that the bible wasn’t written in English, right? The likelihood it says what your translation actually states is improbable at best.

          14. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Ahmnee, It’s clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about, so I’ll be as gentle as possible.

            I have not contradicted myself. Read what I wrote above on the differences between faith, delusion, and wishful thinking. The only contradiction is that you have a view on faith that you’ve either heard from the media, other atheists, or Christians who never actually read the Bible. My view on faith is simply from reading the Bible in it’s totality and coming to a view of faith that is very well defined inside.

            I do believe my father will get well, but you make plans in case he doesn’t because the Bible does not present prayer as an immediate and magical thing. It doesn’t teach you to just sit and pray and do nothing. Instead, it teaches the opposite. God also works through people. “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13. When I pray, I don’t expect the sky to open up and God to descend from on high. Instead, I expect that he’ll put people and events in my life that will come together for my betterment.

            Also, of course I’m going to use the Bible as a dictionary when defining what faith means in the Christian world view. Doing anything else would be stupid. Quantum Physicists don’t use the lame-man definition of nothing when defining nothing. They have their own. Different definitions are used for the same words within different professions or schools of thought.

            And I think it’s very likely that it says what my translation says. It’s these peoples professions to translate both greek and hebrew. It’s not some kid who just decided to write whatever. They spend their lives doing this stuff, so if you can’t trust them, then there is no one you can trust to translate anything.

          15. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Now faith is confidence in what we hope for

            Wishful thinking : interpretation of facts, actions, words, etc., as one would like them to be rather than as they really are.

            What the hell does it even mean when you say “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for”? I know what most of those words mean in other contexts, but I don’t know what it means when you put it together like that. The short version from Merriam-Webster for “confidence” is: 1- a strongly held belief that something is true, and 2- a strongly held belief that someone or something is capable of succeeding in some way. #1 seems to be the relevant usage. Thus, your definition of faith resolves to something like: Faith is the strongly held belief that the things we hope for are true. Equivalently: Faith is the strongly held belief that the things we want to be true are true. Which is equivalent to the textbook definition of “wishful thinking” straight from Merriam-Webster:

            : an attitude or belief that something you want to happen will happen even though it is not likely or possible

            Which also happens to match your own definition of “wishful thinking” quoted above.

            Thus, by your own definitions, faith and wishful thinking is exactly the same thing.

            Unless, of course, you wish to demonstrate that the specific things you hope for are something other than “not likely”, because from where we’re sitting, it is “not likely” that prayer does anything at all (beyond placebo effect et al).

            Got evidence?

          16. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Prove that just because I have faith that absolutely means I’m not taking the proper preparations in case the worse comes to pass.

            Then you are irrational, or hugging the line of a pedantic argument.

            Rational people take actions on the expected futures and expected consequences of their actions. I believe that I don’t have cancer. I am not taking the actions proper to the scenario where I do have cancer, such as going to a doctor.

            In some cases, even though we have confidence that some outcome will not happen, we recognize the odds that it may happen as unlikely as it is, and we also take actions to prepare for the unlikely cases. I have yearly check-ups at the doctors.

            If you believe that prayer has a 0.01% chance of working, then maybe you will pray to cure an illness, but with proper risk assessment and planning you will also go see the doctor. If you believe that prayer has a 0.01% chance of working for you in this case, it is intellectually dishonest to shorten that to “I have confidence that prayer works”. It would be just as dishonest to say that “I believe playing the lotto is a great way to make money.” We both agree that there’s a 0.01% (approx) chance that I will make lots of easy money by playing the lotto, but neither of us would say that we believe it’s a great way to make money. This is the dishonest pedantics you are hiding behind.

            In honesty, you don’t believe prayer works. You believe that prayer generally does not work, and only in a rather extremely small – and unknown – set of scenarios do you believe that prayer works. It would be more accurate to describe your position as “I believe that prayer generally does not work, although it does work in extremely rare and unpredictable cases.” Which then means that you believe you should not pray because it almost never works, or you are behaving irrationally in this case. Do you play the lotto expecting to win? Do you pray expecting for it to do anything?

          17. AhmNee

            Also, of course I’m going to use the Bible as a dictionary when defining what faith means in the Christian world view. Doing anything else would be stupid. Quantum Physicists don’t use the lame-man definition of nothing when defining nothing. They have their own. Different definitions are used for the same words within different professions or schools of thought.

            He uses the Bible as a dictionary, EL. So I’m going out on a limb and say he has faith that his definitions for the words he’s using mean what the thinks they mean.

            Have you read the bible and torah in their greek and hebrew? If not, how can you be so certain as to what your bible says is accurate?

          18. oCaptainmyCaptain

            What the hell does it even mean when you say “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for”?

            EnlightmentLiberal, I’m officially done talking to you. If you’re going to take my definition, rip it in half. Then construct a different definition because you don’t understand the first one. All while criticizing me based off your new definition, then you have to be one of the most dishonest people I’ve ever spoken to. I could show just how wrong you are, but I’m not even going to bother. It’s pretty disgusting what you just did.

            I’ve clearly articulated the difference between wishful thinking and faith. I’m not going to waist time explaining to you further, if you’re just going to reword what people say to fit your own self interests. I’m done.

            As far as your analysis on what you think I believe about faith. I’m done their also. You obviously can’t read, or you ignore what you read to make yourself feel better.

          19. oCaptainmyCaptain

            AhmNee, don’t be so obtuse. This is the definition Christians are referring to when they talk about faith. Even if the definition was somehow different in the Greek it was written in, (which it’s not) It wouldn’t matter. Words and definitions only mean as much as we agree they do. If everyone agrees on one definition, within a school of thought, then that’s the definition that matters.

            Right now we are arguing over semantics. And trust me you don’t want to go there. Otherwise your position is irrational from the onset. Because Atheism in it’s original form does not mean ” I don’t believe there is enough evidence for a God.” It’s greek (atheos) and it’s the explicit position that “there is no God(s)”. Which makes your position irrational by default because you can’t possibly know that.

          20. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I’ve clearly articulated the difference between wishful thinking and faith.

            You are alone in that assertion. It seems everyone else here fails to see a difference between your definitions.

          21. EnlightenmentLiberal

            The central point of contention seems to be this: You think the difference between “faith” and wishful thinking is that wishful thinking is for those things which are likely false or implausible. You have “faith” that prayer work, in spite of all evidence which shows that it does not. To any reasonable person, this is the belief that some thing is true which is also likely false and implausible.

          22. AhmNee

            This is the definition Christians are referring to when they talk about faith.

            You assume.

            Even if the definition was somehow different in the Greek it was written in, (which it’s not) It wouldn’t matter.

            Really? Have you checked the different translations alone to see how much they differ? Let me grab a few examples.

            NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

            ASV Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

            ERV Faith is what makes real the things we hope for. It is proof of what we cannot see.

            GNT To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

            AKJV Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

            TLB What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.

            YLT And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not seen a conviction,

            Words and definitions only mean as much as we agree they do. If everyone agrees on one definition, within a school of thought, then that’s the definition that matters.

            And what on earth makes you think christians agree with each other on the bible?

            Right now we are arguing over semantics. And trust me you don’t want to go there. Otherwise your position is irrational from the onset. Because Atheism in it’s original form does not mean ” I don’t believe there is enough evidence for a God.” It’s greek (atheos) and it’s the explicit position that “there is no God(s)”. Which makes your position irrational by default because you can’t possibly know that.

            Actually it means “to be godless” or “being without a god” and it says nothing about one’s knowledge. The same as how atheism is the rejection of the assertion there is a god. I can’t know for certain there is no god. But I see no good reason to believe there is. There’s more evidence out there that points to no gods than there is that points to one.

          23. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @AhmNee

            Well, since the definition is pulled straight from the Christian Bible, I would hope that this is the definition they would use.

            All the translations you posted, mean virtually the same thing. In every single definition, faith is described as hoping with confidence for things that are not yet seen.

            What evidence do you have that points to there being no God?

          24. EnlightenmentLiberal

            What evidence do you have that points to there being no God?

            Which god? The allfather Odin? The mighty Thor? Zeus or Jupiter? The juju of the mountain? Krishna? You have to be more specific here. If you mean the Christian god hypothesis, then say so.

            Don’t you dare say “God as in the big and only god”. That idea on its own is not testable. It’s entirely consistent with a god which doesn’t do anything. You don’t have that god belief. Don’t be dishonest and say that. Don’t be dishonest and drop your Christianity. Defend your Christianity.

            What evidence do I have that the Christian god doesn’t exist? All of the evidence that prayer to the Christan god doesn’t work. All of the evidence that large and important portions of the bible are entirely fiction, including basically all of the books of Genesis and Exodus. All of the evidence of the obvious mythmaking and false details of the stories of Jesus, such as Eclipses that never happened, zombie invasions that never happened, clearing of moneychangers from the temple square which never happened, and so on.

            What evidence do I have that some undetectable clockmaker god does not exist? None. I do not believe that such a thing exists, and I do not believe that such a thing does not exist. I am undecided on that proposition. I do not know. Furthermore, I am not even sure if such a proposition is well-formed (in the usual sense of logical positivism and post-positivism).

          25. AhmNee

            Faith encompasses both hope and evidence.

            Well, since the definition is pulled straight from the Christian Bible, I would hope that this is the definition they would use. All the translations you posted, mean virtually the same thing.

            The fact that some of them mention evidence and proof while others mention assurances, I think, is a big deal. Evidence and proof, if you care anything at all about what is actually true, requires more than just guesswork and wishful thinking. Evidence and proof needs to be testable, falsifiable, repeatable by others because humans are amazingly fallible and prone to the inaccuracies of our senses and our personal biases. Even when we’re certain we’re not being affected by these things, it’s been shown that subconsciously, we are.

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Evidence

          26. AhmNee

            Here’s some more of the failings of the human mind/subconscious.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias – How we favor the things we believe to be true despite the evidence.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideomotor_effect – How our brain tricks us into believing that what we expect to happens is really happening.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect – How the less we know about a subject, the more likely we are to be convinced that we know more about it than we do and how the more you know, the less you think you do.

            These are all reasons why science uses peer review to check it’s findings. It’s the same reason why editors exist. Because it’s more likely a second or third set of eyes will notice things our subconscious will gloss over.

            Fast VS Slow Thinking (Short video from ASAPScience)

          27. AhmNee

            Crap! I grabbed the playlist instead of the specific video.

          28. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Which god? The allfather Odin? The mighty Thor? Zeus or Jupiter? The juju of the mountain? Krishna? You have to be more specific here. If you mean the Christian god hypothesis, then say so.

            Don’t you dare say “God as in the big and only god”. That idea on its own is not testable. It’s entirely consistent with a god which doesn’t do anything. You don’t have that god belief. Don’t be dishonest and say that. Don’t be dishonest and drop your Christianity. Defend your Christianity.

            EnlightenmentLiberal, you have a very bad habit of creating arguments for the person your discussing with and then attacking your own imagined arguments. Obviously we where talking about the Christian God, as that’s who I mentioned about 3 lines before the one you quoted. Grow up. And No need to get all emotional either.

            You keep saying that you have all this evidence that prayer doesn’t exist. Let’s be honest here. The studies posted on this forum where hardly exhaustive studies, there where numerous variables, and so many things that could of gone wrong. The studies themselves admitted that much more testing needed to be done. So stop pretending that you’ve somehow “proved” that prayer doesn’t work. It’s simply not true. It’s not even close to being true.

            Now let’s run down the line of some of your other contentions.

            Show me proof that “basically all the book of Genesis” isn’t true. I hope you know that Genesis is more than the first 3 chapters.

            What evidence do you have that the book of Exodus isn’t true? And don’t give me an argument from ignorance, like we haven’t found egyptian records that say “the nation of Israel was here”. Show me proof.

            Show me concrete proof that any of the stories about Jesus weren’t true. I wait anxiously for those.

            Nowhere in the Gospels does it say there was an eclipse, only that there was darkness.

            I’m going to suppose you’re talking about the book of Matthew when referring to this “zombie invasion”. Hard to believe? I agree, but show me proof that it didn’t happen.

            Show me proof that Jesus never went into the temple and purged it of it’s money changers. ( This is definitely a new one? I don’t even know why you would contest this? )

          29. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I’ll ignore your irrelevant pedantics (darkness vs eclipse, etc.) which does not matter to the discussion at hand.

            As I said elsewhere, absence of expected evidence is evidence of absence. It is evidence. If those things actually happened, we should expect a great many things to be true of the historical record, which are not true, and thus those things did not happen.

            Similarly, the evidence is overwhelming that there is no dragon in your garage.

            http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

            If you understand the lesson of that parable, then you understand everything you need to about atheism, skepticism, and rationality.

            For specifics:

            The Earth simply was not created as described in Genesis. It’s a complete fiction. There was no Adam and Eve, and thus there is no original sin. The order of creation is all wrong too. It says trees came before stars. It gets the order wrong too on the evolution of many animal and plant groups.

            There was no Noah. There was no boat. There was no global flood. There was no extinction of all land life except for the things on the boat. There was rain before there was humans.

            If there was a massive exodus of the Jews, and if the Jews lived in the desert for 40 years, we should expect at least some shred of corroborating historical record. We find none.

            If hundreds of zombies did come into Jerusalem with Jesus, this would have been recorded. It was not. There was no such zombie invasion.

            Do you understand how big the temple square was, where Jesus was purported to have thrown out the money changers? It was 30 square acres. There was also thousands of Roman troops stationed nearby to prevent exact this sort of shit from happening. If Jesus took in a small army to accomplish this feat, this would have been recorded. If Jesus came in as a one-man kung-fu army, this would have been recorded.

            If there was a darkness across all the land, this would have been recorded. There were multiple astronomers in that day and age which recorded all unusual astronomical phenomena. No darkness was recorded. There was no darkness.

            Similarly, if prayer worked, we would have expectations of there being at least one actual confirmed case, such as an amputee having his leg grow back or some other actual verifiable case. However, that never happens.

            That is my overwhelming evidence.

            PS: Do you know why there are 4 canonical gospels? Because the Earth has four corners, and it is held up by 4 pillars, and 4 other pillars hold up the firmament, of course! That’s what the records of the early church leaders thought at least. This is laughingly stupid.

      2. Edward Kushnerov

        My opinion is that faith is simply wishful thinking. If there is no objective validation for god, then why pretend it exists? Subjective experiential claims only perpetuate the possibly fallacious proposition that there is a god. In that sense, god exists only in the minds of those that create it. Visualize a world without scripture; how would anyone be able to imagine such a character?

        Basically, I can come up with anything and claim that it takes faith. Why wouldn’t anyone have faith in my belief? Maybe because there aren’t numbers backing up my claim? If you were the only person on this planet that believed in the scripture, would you still faithfully believe? I honestly think that your faith would diminish after only a few months of being the sole believer. Without agreeing parallel views, you would lose any indication or reassurance of gods existence you might now have. I think that the despondent outlook you think you’ll have is the sole reason for anyones belief in god. People are just too scared to let go of what they think they know.

        1. Narf

          That’s a very good comparison, yeah. In many instances, faith = group-think … or social reinforcement of childhood brainwashing … or whatever you would like to call it.

        2. oCaptainmyCaptain

          Faith is not wishful thinking. Read what I wrote above this reply.

          There’s different degrees of faith. blind faith is you telling me something extraordinary, like aliens just landed in your backyard, and me believing it without having met you before or without any evidence to support your claim.

          But faith isn’t some stagnate unchanging thing. It grows or shrinks over time. I might have faith in the beginning that a business idea I have will succeed. There could be a number of setbacks in the beginning, but then something I do might work, and my faith in the project will grow. I become more confident, more convinced that my initial decision to start was justified.

          Your faith in people can grow as well. You might think somebody is useless and lazy. But over time, they can slowly convince you otherwise. You can never completely know their true thoughts or their true character. But your faith and trust in them grows every time they do something you deem positive.

          The reason people wouldn’t believe your new belief is because contrary to popular belief, faith does require EVIDENCE. I know atheists believe it doesn’t, but I don’t know any theist who holds that contention. The reason people believed that Jesus was God is because he showed them EVIDENCE for his claim. Wether you believe the evidence was good or not, isn’t important at all. It was good enough for the people he was trying to convince, and it’s been good enough for the billions that have been convinced over the last 2000 years.

          People forget that Judaism was founded by making the greatest religious faith claim of all time. It claimed that the entire nation of Israel witnessed God speak to them from a mountain. Unlike Islam, the claim wasn’t that one man talked to God and the rest should listen. It was that God spoke to everyone, so everyone should listen. People forget this though because we are so used to seeing cecil b demille’s movie “The Ten Commandments”. Where Moses speaks to God alone.

          When trying to establish a religion or a new belief, you have to be able to convince people that what you’re saying is true. And for that you do need evidence.

          1. Narf

            Dude, what you described was wishful thinking. Get a dictionary.

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I don’t think so. You must be using an unusual definition of the term “wishful thinking”, so you’re going to have to define it because I don’t understand what you’re talking about.

          3. Edward Kushnerov

            Yes, people change and that’s faith you can witness yourself. We’re talking about faith of the unknown, that can’t be observed. Tell me why you know there is a god?

          4. Narf

            You’re wishing for something to be true and being confident that it will happen, when you have no good reason to think so. That’s the basic definition of wishful thinking. How do you define the term, then? I’d love to know.

          5. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I don’t KNOW that there is a God. I’m not convinced we can “know” anything. We make reasonable assumptions and draw reasonable conclusions based off the evidence we have. There might not be a God. The natural world may have very well caused itself, and that may very well be all there is. consciousness and life itself might simply be a delusion. I don’t know. But it doesn’t benefit me in anyway to believe these things.

            Since the greatest questions I have about life, don’t currently have answers, then I have to go with the best answers I have available. Otherwise you go crazy trying to rationalize the seemingly irrational. If someone provides a better explanation, then I will evaluate it and come to a proper conclusion. But until then, I’m going to live life using the philosophies that correspond with my experiences and the experiences I wish to have.

          6. EnlightenmentLiberal

            @oCaptainmyCaptain
            Sorry. Evidence or go home. I don’t have time for your bullshit. Take your “faith” elsewhere.

          7. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Since the greatest questions I have about life, don’t currently have answers, then I have to go with the best answers I have available.

            NO NO NO NO NO
            When you do not have good answers, do not latch onto the “best” shitty answer of the available shit. Instead, proudly say “I do not know”, and optionally work to find the answer.

          8. oCaptainmyCaptain

            What if the question has no answer? Or what if we can’t currently establish an answer through the methods we have? For example, Science isn’t concerned about “why” questions, it could care less about why we exist. Scientists want to know the “how”. But the why questions are all I care about, so what should I turn to for answers to these questions?

          9. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Again, if you recognize that you don’t know, don’t then say “It must be aliens from another planet” or “it must be an very-powerful creature which created the cosmos”. That’s what we call an “argument from ignorance”.

          10. oCaptainmyCaptain

            So how do you assume we should go about answering these “why” questions, when science has nothing to say on them?

          11. AhmNee

            You’re making the same argument from ignorance as saying Science has nothing to say about morals. Which is simply not true.

          12. EnlightenmentLiberal

            So how do you assume we should go about answering these “why” questions, when science has nothing to say on them?

            What “why” questions?

            How should we go about answering the question “what is the square root of a pork chop”? I’m pretty sure science will not help us answer that question. Maybe your “why” questions are just as nonsensical and also lack answers.

            The fundamental problem is that you are arguing for the realism of “purpose”, which simply is not true. “Purpose” and “meaning” are not substances of our shared reality. The universe where they exist and the universe where they do not exist are indistinguishable, which means that their existence is indistinguishable from their non-existence, which means that it has absolutely no possible impact on your life, which also means that you have absolutely no possible way of answering it which isn’t inventing bullshit.

          13. oCaptainmyCaptain

            EnlightmentLiberal, Did somebody hijack your account? You just said meaning and purpose are not part of our reality, and then ended by saying that my life is unconcerned with meaning and purpose. Ok. fine. you’re an idiot.

            I almost never call people that on discussion boards, but you most certainly fit the bill as well as anybody else ever has. As I said above. I’m done with you.

          14. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I honestly have no clue what you’re talking about. I think that mass and length are “substances” or “properties” of things in our shared universe. When I say that, I mean that I can describe to you a coherent universe with minds where these substances and properties do not exist. For example, I can imagine a universe without color.

            It makes sense to say something “exists” only if the alternative is coherent. Otherwise, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

            When you start asking “why are we here?”, “what is our purpose?”, and so on, the questions presuppose that there are meaningful answers. From where I sit, there aren’t. It’s exactly like asking “what is the square root of a pork chop”. A better example might be “what is the universe’s favorite color?”. It’s just incoherent.

            and then ended by saying that my life is unconcerned with meaning and purpose.

            I don’t understand what you are saying.

      3. corwyn

        There are no objective validations of God. Nor is it possible to have one.

        So, every single claim made about any god is a lie? Since the Universe would be an objective validation of a creator god, the universe therefore could NOT have been created by such a being? No god that exists can ever do anything to change reality?

        That’s even more of an atheistic claim than I am prepared to make.

        1. Edward Kushnerov

          So, every single claim made about god is a lie?

          No, but we don’t know if it’s truth either.

          1. corwyn

            That doesn’t match with his claim. His claim is that it HAS to be a lie.

        2. oCaptainmyCaptain

          Corwyn, I think your smart enough to read my comment in context and understand what I was saying. It’s not possible to objectively affirm God’s existence because we have no mechanism with which to do so. Are you going to subject an omniscient and omnipotent being to some lab tests? Are you going to demand that it performs a series of tricks for you to demonstrate that it’s really God? Let’s get real.

          As I said, God could come down and theoretically create an entire universe right in front of your eyes. All you would be able to say is that somehow he just created a new universe, it wouldn’t prove that he was God Because we have nothing to compare God to. Nor is it possible to equally compare God to anything. Because one qualification for being God, is that he is above everything. Clear enough?

          1. corwyn

            Corwyn, I think your smart enough to read my comment in context and understand what I was saying.

            I certainly am. So if you are noting some disjunction between what you write, and what I respond to, you must be saying it incorrectly. :-)

            It’s not possible to objectively affirm God’s existence because we have no mechanism with which to do so.

            Only if he never does anything. If he does *anything* in reality, I should be able to confirm it. You are claiming that he is completely unable to do anything which is in the slightest measurable. Like cure your imaginary friend of cancer for example. Which means that he isn’t omnipotent. QED.

            All you would be able to say is that somehow he just created a new universe, it wouldn’t prove that he was God

            This is just you not wanting to be able to falsify your claims of god. Quite frankly, if a being came down in front of me and created a universe, I would be willing to concede the god title to them. The likelihood of that happening is small enough to easily overcome my current confidence in the proposition. What is the point in having a confidence level if you don’t update on infinitesimal likelihoods, after all. The fact that you wouldn’t just means you are afraid of anything that might upset your belief, even the actual existence of the thing you claim to believe in.

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            haha funny :p

            No, God could technically do a lot. But as soon as he interacts with the natural world, it would become a natural event. Therefore it would enter into the realm of science, and we could just say that God didn’t actually do it. It happened naturally.

            Even if God cured somebody of cancer, he wouldn’t do it magically. It would be done using natural causes. At least that’s how the Bible presents most miracles. Take the parting of the red sea for example. Most people just think that the Bible says God magically parted the sea. It doesn’t say this at all. It says that “all night” God blew back the sea by a “strong east wind”. Which was actually tested, and it’s possible for this to have caused a divide in the sea great enough for the Israelites to walk across. Point is that we have no way to affirm these things where done by God, no matter how spectacular they are.

            I’m glad you concede this point. Some atheists would not be convinced of a God even if the being did create universes Ex nihilo, as I’ve given this example before. But the fact that it would convince you, doesn’t mean it would convince everyone, or even most skeptical scientists, so it wouldn’t be an objective fact.

            Why do you say that I wouldn’t update my confidence level? I’m saying that I couldn’t prove it to EVERYONE else. This says nothing about my confidence in it. Truth be told I wouldn’t need God to create universes in front of me. If I simply heard an all encompassing voice while fully awake and in broad daylight, and saw a light, I would be convinced that God was speaking to me. If for no other reason, then the acknowledgment that I think I’m clinically sane and have never heard voices or seen strange lights.

          3. Edward Kushnerov

            Captain, you’re hiding behind the idea that god cannot be objectively proved, yet still hold the notion that uniting numerous subjective claims can be conceived as an objective truth. Can you see how silly that is? Maybe what I previously mentioned about hiding behind numbers is true?

          4. corwyn

            Even if God cured somebody of cancer, he wouldn’t do it magically. It would be done using natural causes. At least that’s how the Bible presents most miracles.

            Dude, if you are going to keep talking about what is in the bible, you really ought to read the thing. Because otherwise, I will have to keep laughing. Seriously, it says he parted a sea. That he made it rain at a rate of 5 cm per second for 40 days. He stopped the sun in the sky. He raised the dead.

            But no, you say that he can’t even save his own faithful pray-ers from cancer because those heathen atheists will notice that more of them were saved, than the atheists, and be able to increase their confidence that he exists. Sounds like a weak god to me.

        3. oCaptainmyCaptain

          How does this in any way refute what I said? Even if God made it rain at 5cm a second (which the Bible doesn’t actually say, you just inferred that ) it would still be a natural event. It might have been an extraordinary natural event, but a natural event none the less. And you still wouldn’t be able to OBJECTIVELY affirm that a God did it.

          This is not a problem with God’s power, it’s a limitation in your understanding. You and I can’t comprehend an all powerful being, and we have no mechanism on which to test it’s existence. I believe he does exist. But I’ve been arguing for a while now that it’s currently impossible to prove this objectively.

          The scientific method is virtually useless when it comes to searching for the existence of God, and a useless method has to be discarded if it can’t possibly test the hypothesis. Since God is outside the abilities of the current methods we have, it’s ridiculous to expect Theists to prove his existence within the limitations of those same methods.

          Also, stop putting words in my mouth. When did I ever say he can’t save people from cancer? And when did I ever suggest that it’s because Athiests would notice? I said he doesn’t save everyone. He chooses not to. That’s completely different from not being able to. There’s a lot of homeless people I pass by in some countries I visit. Some I give money and others I don’t. I can afford to give some money to all of them. I choose not too. That doesn’t mean I can’t.

          1. corwyn

            How does this in any way refute what I said? Even if God made it rain at 5cm a second (which the Bible doesn’t actually say, you just inferred that ) it would still be a natural event. It might have been an extraordinary natural event, but a natural event none the less.

            I did the math. Look at what the bible says (you might have to read it). How could what is described possibly happen naturally. Raining 5 cm per second for 40 days can NOT happen naturally. It would require 3 times more water than exists on the planet, and then that water would need to disappear.

            I stopped reading your post at the first absurdity.

          2. Raymond

            All I can say is this. You continually spout things you believe about god, while simultaneously suggesting that there is no way we could possibly know it. It’s so ridiculous I don’t know why it isn’t blatantly obvious to you. If there is no way we can use our five senses to learn anything about god, how do you know anything about god?

            And “ancient book” is just a cop-out. It should be blatantly obvious even to you that “the right god” is the one that is most socially acceptable in the region where you live. It is becoming more muddled as our ability to move around the world and interact with people anywhere increases; but even now, a person is far more likely to adopt whatever religion was predominant in their environment when they were growing up.

            All that is to say that you have no means to justify one “ancient book” over any other “ancient book” since you cannot possibly know anything about god. So if you wish to say that your “ancient book” is “the right” book, you must provide some methodology to explain how you came to that conclusion. But remember. We can’t learn anything about god with our five senses, so you are out of luck.

            If you care to admit that, even if god works only through natural means, using the frequency of natural coincidence is a valid way to determine the efficacy of one specific deity, then we can move on to actually looking at those frequencies to see what they yield. If you don’t care to admit that, then you must admit that you have absolutely no basis for believing in whatever god you believe in.

          3. Narf

            No, Raymond, he has faith … which is totally a valid way to know things and isn’t synonymous with delusion.

          4. oCaptainmyCaptain

            No corwyn, you didn’t do the math. Somebody else did it for you, as I’ve heard this argument before. Some scientists say that Mars use to be full of water. Now it’s not. You seem to think that the same amount of water is required to stay on a planet indefinitely. This is absurd. It’s even more absurd when you consider the fact that scientists aren’t completely sure of the mechanism that brought all the water to earth in the first place. Sure we know how it forms, How it arrived is still a mystery. But I guess you have all the answers.

            Either way, what the heck does this have to do with wether it’s possible to prove God or not? We can debate the veracity of the Bibles claims all day, people have been doing it for 1000′s of years with little headway. It still doesn’t get around the fact that you haven’t provided me with a solid method on which a Theist should use to prove God.

            And another thing. I highly doubt you have read the Bible. Most of the stuff you’ve presented… no all of the arguments you’ve presented, are common soundbites passed around like chips between atheists.

          5. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Narf, I think I’ve outlined to you in significant detail why I believe faith is a good thing. You didn’t refute any of it. You simply called it delusions, without providing evidence as to why, even conceding that some of these “delusions” might be useful. I don’t really know what to say. I guess the most inspiring people in the human race are simply deluded. I’m fine with that. I’d like to continue to share in that delusion as it seems to be the most effective way to live life to it’s fullest. We are, after all, emotional beings and not rational ones.

          6. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @Raymond

            Well I’m sure you didn’t use your five senses to determine that x-rays exist. This was established through another method. You understand that just because our five senses can’t detect something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist? I’ve presented a Christian view of God because it keeps the discussion from descending into complete abstractions. where people just say God is “everything” and in “everything”, which means nothing.

            I don’t truly “know” anything about God. But I have to present something, in order to have something to discuss. My argument is that if there is a God, by definition their has to be some attributes that he has, and because of these attributes it would be impossible to affirm his existence using the methods we currently have available.

            To be honest, this entire discussion didn’t even start out on wether a God exists. What I was really arguing in the beginning is wether it was reasonable to believe in prayer when you only corroborate it through experiential evidence and not through the scientific method. But I’m happy to change course.

            I wish people would stop passing along this Richard Dawkins soundbite. It’s simply not true anymore that the God you believe in is only determined by where you live. Thats just ignorant. I’ve been to many countries and I often see churches and mosques across the street from each other. Even in countries that identify as muslim.

            The methodology is what I hope to gain out of this discussion. You are the ones asking theists to provide evidence for their claims. I’m asking you, by what method should I provide this evidence??

          7. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Well I’m sure you didn’t use your five senses to determine that x-rays exist. This was established through another method.

            What the hell are you talking about? Of course we used our five senses to establish that X-rays exist. AFAIK, at first someone observed – that’s with sight – that uranium ore or something brought near unexposed film would cause a reaction on the film without touching, and even with intervening walls. Then, later we built other apparatus, other experiments, which confirmed that X-rays exist in many many different ways. In each of those ways, there’s a metaphorical or literal – red light, where if the red light turns on, then X-rays are confirmed. Of course we confirmed the existence of X-rays with our five senses. How else would we do it?

            Air isn’t visible, but it can have visible effects. X-rays are not visible, but they can have visible effects. Same thing.

          8. EnlightenmentLiberal

            The methodology is what I hope to gain out of this discussion. You are the ones asking theists to provide evidence for their claims. I’m asking you, by what method should I provide this evidence??

            Anything which would allow me to distinguish between
            1- the objective material truth of our shared reality, and
            2a- someone who is making shit up, or
            2b- someone who is honestly mistaken.

            You say prayer works. I say that astrology works. What kind of “evidence” could I present to convince you that astrology works, or homeopathy works, or acupuncture works, or that some mystics can survive on light only without food nor water? If you are at all reasonable and honest, then your answer is an acceptable answer the question you just asked in the above quote.

            On the other hand, if you are willing to accept that those pseudosciences are true on the same flimsy bullshit that you are proposing for prayer, then you are an ignorant fool, and I just heard that a Nigerian prince died and left you a million dollars in his will, but only if you send me a thousand first in order to clear up some tax forms.

          9. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Ummm… I think I said that it was established through “another method”. It doesn’t seem like “other apparatuses” are part of our five senses. We might use our five senses as where using other machines. But you can’t “prove” the existence of x-rays through your five senses alone. Just as I don’t believe you can “prove” God’s existence through the five senses alone. We need another method. I’m waiting for someone to suggest one.

          10. EnlightenmentLiberal

            But you can’t “prove” the existence of x-rays through your five senses alone.

            What do think scientists in a lab do? Divine the future via their ass? Of course it’s done through the 5 senses. Just because it’s not some naive idiotic variant like you’re proposing doesn’t make it something else. Everything a scientist does in a lab is taken in through his five senses, whether a light turns on or off on his gadget, and so on.

          11. Raymond

            All I’m asking for is what methodology you used to determine you got the right answer. Stop dodging. Stop turning the question around. Just answer the question please.

          12. corwyn

            Also, stop putting words in my mouth. When did I ever say he can’t save people from cancer? And when did I ever suggest that it’s because Athiests would notice? I said he doesn’t save everyone. He chooses not to. That’s completely different from not being able to.

            Once again, I just did the math. If he saves his people who pray from cancer, then we will notice that people who pray are more likely to go into cancer remission, than people who don’t (which is NOT what we see by the way). Atheists would notice this (since we are currently doing that experiment). Thus we would have objective evidence for the existence of god. Which you claim is impossible. This is a proof by contradiction; the original premise (or one of the other ones) MUST be false.

            Seriously, if you are going to invent your own characteristics for a universe creator (and make no mistake you are not following a common belief system, you have invented your own), it really helps to make sure it is logically consistent before parading before atheists and telling them to pick holes in it.

          13. corwyn

            We need another method. I’m waiting for someone to suggest one.

            Let’s use the one that convinced you.

            Either you have evidence for the existence of your god, which you acquired through one of your senses (there are more than 5), or your belief is wrong. So what convinced you?

          14. oCaptainmyCaptain

            corwyn, maybe I gave you too much credit at first because now your just starting to sound silly. How in any way would people praying and being more likely to go into cancer remission PROVE God? That’s ridiculous. Are you that naive to believe that all your fellow atheists, would be convinced of God just because they saw evidence that prayer worked? No, all it would say is that somehow prayer has an effect. It would say nothing about God from an atheistic perspective, or a scientific perspective. For theists it would be heralded as absolute confirmation of a God, but that wouldn’t make it objectively true.

            The argument from atheists would go something like this. “Just because prayer works, it’s silly to believe that the most likely reason for it working is that some God did it.”

            Also please, I urge you, show me how I’ve invented my own belief system. I’m really waiting to here this one!

            Let’s use the one that convinced you.

            The one that convinced me, is useless to you Because it convinced ME. It’s based off of evidence from my own experiences. I didn’t run down the street and collect data before forming my belief about God. You suggest that I should. I’m saying that no amount of data could get you to God. You disagree. I say show me an independent method that I can use to objectively verify God to other people. If we can get that, then I think we’ll have made more progress than any other thread on the internet.

          15. AhmNee

            How in any way would people praying and being more likely to go into cancer remission PROVE God?

            It wouldn’t prove god, no. But it would prove the efficacy of prayer, though the point appears moot with you because you seem to believe that prayers are answered so seldom that it’s indistinguishable from random happenstance.

            Also please, I urge you, show me how I’ve invented my own belief system. I’m really waiting to here this one!

            You act like you’re the only theist we ever hear from or that some of us weren’t believers at one time or another. Your interpretations of the bible are not mainstream and fly in the face of what many would claim. Your claim that prayers are seldom answered is atypical. Your claim that your god’s miracles are enacted through natural processes is atypical.

            Your claim that your god is all knowing and all powerful may not be atypical but it’s paradoxical and something most apologists have abandoned.

            You don’t seem to want to be pinned down as to whether your god interacts with his creation because if he does, that’s something that can be tested. But you want to maintain that your god cannot be tested. That’s a contradiction.

            Honestly, it’s almost been amusing to watch you play word-games and waffle back and fourth.

          16. EnlightenmentLiberal

            The rest of us are still waiting on you to explain how you came to the conclusion that the Christian god exists. We’re also waiting on you to explain how you came to the conclusion that prayer to the Christian god does anything at all (beyond the placebo effect et al). We’re still waiting.

          17. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I don’t know many Christians who don’t believe that God is all knowing and all powerful?

            ““With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

            “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” – Isaiah 40:28

            “As for God, his way is perfect: ” – Psalm 18:30

            Your claim that your god’s miracles are enacted through natural processes is atypical.

            Fine, I will grant that. I didn’t say all miracles, but I was pointing out that in the Bible some of the miracles are explained as using natural elements, and not just happening.

            Your claim that prayers are seldom answered is atypical

            You might be right. But according to the Bible, it’s true. Not my fault that Christians don’t read their own book. Once read, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that God does not answer all or even most prayers. But this also depends on the person. With some people, God answers almost all their prayers, no matter how large or how small. That’s the thing about being God, I guess, you have ultimate choice over everything.

          18. oCaptainmyCaptain

            You don’t seem to want to be pinned down as to whether your god interacts with his creation because if he does, that’s something that can be tested. But you want to maintain that your god cannot be tested. That’s a contradiction.

            I’ve already said he does. But my argument is that this can’t prove he exists. You can test the event and even if you came to the conclusion that something unusual was happening, this would not in anyway prove God. I’m opening to proving God. This entire discussion I’ve been asking for a method with which to do so.

          19. oCaptainmyCaptain

            *open to proving God.

          20. corwyn

            Well it seems that getting back into personal insult territory didn’t take long.

            The one that convinced me, is useless to you Because it convinced ME. It’s based off of evidence from my own experiences.

            The fact that you won’t even say what it was, leads me to conclude it must be pretty weak.

            You keep talking about PROVING god, which you claim is impossible. And I agree (anything short of mathematics shouldn’t even talk about proof). But you won’t even give the slightest evidence that he is even possible. That is a long way from even worrying about proof. Your point of insisting on proof rather than merely evidence is a ploy to avoid noticing that not only can’t you give proof, but you can’t even give *evidence*. It is a complete dodge. And I have said that I use Baye’s Theorem to calculate my confidence, which means that essentially EVERYTHING can be considered evidence. And you claim that NONE of it is evidence for the existence of your god. If even believers admit that ALL evidence points AWAY from the possibility of existence of a god, then the discussion would seem to be over.

          21. AhmNee

            I don’t know many Christians who don’t believe that God is all knowing and all powerful?

            Then you haven’t been keeping up with modern apologetics. An all powerful being is in itself a contradiction. You’ve never heard the question “can god create a rock so big that he cannot move it?” A being who can do anything cannot defeat itself. And that means it cannot do anything.

            Can your god lie? Can he be immoral? Can he be evil? Can he murder? Can he lust? Can he get stoned? Can he fornicate? Can he rape? Can he torture? Can he be will fully deceptive? Can he be creepy? Can he be boring? Can he be stupid? Can he be petty?

            If there’s any of those things he cannot do by your definition of god, he’s not all powerful.

          22. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Of course I’ve heard that nonsensical question. It’s an illogical question to begin with. It’s equivalent to saying can something all powerful create something that is more powerful than itself. Doesn’t make any sense because then it would no longer be all powerful, and the thing it created would be.

            More importantly, there is no reason to assume that an all powerful and infinite being would be bound by the same laws of logic as the finite creatures it created.

            The words lie, immoral, evil, murder, lust, fornication, rape, torture, deceptive, creepy, boring, stupid, and petty are all words that we have created to describe our reality. There’s no reason to assume that they exist outside this present reality. And there’s even less reason to assume that a being such as God would have to be beholden to them.

          23. AhmNee

            You have nonsensical confused with paradoxical. It’s a valid question. If an entity is all powerful cannot do something, it’s not all powerful. If that being cannot create something greater than itself, then that being has limitations. Simple really. The idea of an omnipotent being is self contradictory.

            There’s no reason to believe that a (less than) all powerful being isn’t bound by the same laws of logic. As a matter of fact, if that being is real, it’s bound by reality. Reality being necessary first. There’s no such thing as ‘our present reality’. Anything outside of reality, by definition, isn’t real.

            Your god concept can’t exist. It’s logically inconsistent and contradictory. Which is why apologists have given up on the omnipotent/omniscient god concept. Because it can’t be logically defended.

          24. corwyn

            No corwyn, you didn’t do the math. Somebody else did it for you, as I’ve heard this argument before

            No, I actually did the math (as have others). It is not hard, look up the height of Everest, the diameter of the Earth, and the formula for the volume of a sphere, and you might be able to do it as well. Why do you feel the need to lie?

            You seem to think that the same amount of water is required to stay on a planet indefinitely.

            No, but I know the mechanism for loss of water on Mars. It would not have work to reduce the water on Earth by 72% over the course of a year, and then suddenly stopped. It also took millions of years. If nothing else the amount of energy that would be lost to the Earth would render the remains, a snowball. Physics just doesn’t allow a global flood, and subsequent return to the status quo. The more you argue that, the more ignorant you are going to appear.

            Is that really the level of ridiculousness that you are willing to claim in order to maintain your delusion?

          25. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @corwyn

            It’s not me whose being ignorant right now. You’re arguing that a God, with limitless power, couldn’t do something because it goes against your understanding of physics. Do you see how silly that sounds? It’s like when a Christian tells somebody they believe Jesus is God, and then during the course of the argument they’re asked “Do you really believe he walked on water?”. This type of thing always demands a face palm. If I think God exists, and I think God has all power, it seems to me like a very very insignificant thing for him to make water cover the whole earth and then subside.

            But I’m not hear to argue the truthfulness of the miracles claimed in the Bible. I’ve done that before, it goes no where. In the Bible it claims that people where living almost a millennium, so I would assume that if this is true, physics and the conditions of the earth where a bit different.

            Once again, what does this have to do with proving God?

          26. AhmNee

            You’re arguing that a God, with limitless power, couldn’t do something because it goes against your understanding of physics. Do you see how silly that sounds?

            A being with limitless power makes absolutely 0% logical sense. Such a being couldn’t exist and you’ve admitted as much above. Because your god concept cannot defeat himself/create something greater than himself, his power has limits, ergo. Not limitless. Do you see how silly your god of limitless power concept sounds?

          27. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Oh wait, you’re defending young Earth creationism now? This just makes my life better. All of the evidence is on my side. None of the evidence is on your side. You want overwhelming? How about this?

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evidence_against_a_recent_creation

            You have two options. (1) Your god does not exist. (2) Your god did Noah’s flood et al in just the right way as to make it look like it never happened. This would make your god a trickster god, a lying god. Why else would it go so well out of its way to leave so many different evidences that the flood never happened, that evolution is true, that the world is billions of years old, and so on? Is your god a liar?

          28. Narf

            Oh wait, you’re defending young Earth creationism now?

            Yup, that’s the sort of intellect we’re dealing with here. He doesn’t understand what words mean. When he talks about reason and evidence, we have to remember that he doesn’t use the words the same way as people who use reason and evidence as a basis for their worldview.

            I was out after he said that it was reasonable for John to assume a miracle, because John had a result that fell somewhat near an edge of a bell curve, because … well, you know how the edges of bell curves only exist because of Jesus miracles and Yahweh smiting. It just took me a few posts after that to give up on him completely.

          29. AhmNee

            I suppose I shouldn’t be feeding the troll theist. But it’s been fun watching him bounce of the solid rebuttals he’s been given like a steel ball off a bumper. You notice how he’s been ignoring the actual articles we’ve linked and repeating his debunked arguments like a child in a corner, rocking back and forth chanting his platitudes of comforting.

          30. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I’m going to go on for a while. I still want to see if I can wring out of him why he actually believes this shit. Seems unlikely, but I’ll try for a while longer.

        4. oCaptainmyCaptain

          Well it seems that getting back into personal insult territory didn’t take long. The fact that you won’t even say what it was, leads me to conclude it must be pretty weak.

          I don’t mean to be insulting, but I can’t tell wether you’re asking me these questions out of sincerity, or just so you can pick apart my belief as irrational. In most conversations I get into with atheists, the later seems to be true. And even if It’s not true here, I don’t see how me answering this question provides “evidence” for anything?

          Even if I told you that God descended in a bright light, and ten other people standing around me saw it, and are willing to corroborate the event. Would this give you any evidence at all that a God actually existed? If all ten of the people with me where highly respected neuroscientists, would that increase the credibility of the claim enough for you to consider it evidence?

          There’s been 1000′s, possibly millions of people throughout history that have attempted to provide “evidence” for the existence of God. I could show you videos of Muslims that have claimed to see Jesus in their dreams, converted, and set up churches. I could point you to scientists that claim to have seen visions of God. You can look throughout all of history and find no end to these Theistic claims. But someone who is convinced that he doesn’t exist, or see’s no reason to believe that he does, is simply going to dismiss this evidence if they can’t test it’s veracity.

          I guess if my intention was to come in here and convince you guys to become Christians or whatever, then I would have no problem talking about my own experiences for believing in God. I would have no problem copy/pasting all the “evidence” I could find. But it’s not. Right now I’m only concerned with discovering methods to test what’s actually true. You said you use Baye’s Theorem to test your confidence level. How so?

          1. oCaptainmyCaptain

            … I meant to block quote the above. HTML fail

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Here’s my counter:

            Even if I told you that God aliens descended in a bright light, and ten other people standing around me saw it, and are willing to corroborate the event. Would this give you any evidence at all that a God aliens actually existed?

            You seem to think Christianity has the monopoly on such visions, hallucinations, frauds, and other things. You are mistaken. All religions have them, and non-religions have them too, like alien abductees, those who believe in the reptilians running the world government, and so on.

            Right now I’m only concerned with discovering methods to test what’s actually true.

            Again, think what it would take to convince you that reptilians are secretly in charge of the world’s governments, or that homeopathy or acupuncture or astrology works. That’s how we’re thinking for your god claims and your prayer claims.

            I’ve repeated these points many times. Read please.

          3. corwyn

            I don’t see how me answering this question provides “evidence” for anything?

            It gives me an idea what YOU consider evidence. If you don’t think what convinced you is evidence, perhaps it isn’t, but that doesn’t say much for your beliefs.

            You said you use Baye’s Theorem to test your confidence level. How so?

            Here is an introduction to Baye’s theorem

          4. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Again, think what it would take to convince you that reptilians are secretly in charge of the world’s governments, or that homeopathy or acupuncture or astrology works. That’s how we’re thinking for your god claims and your prayer claims.

            All that it would take for me to believe that acupuncture works, is for me to personally be healed using acupuncture. It would only take one significant and personal experience. That’s it. I wouldn’t give a damn if it didn’t work for anybody else in the world. If it worked for me, then I would be convinced that it worked for me, and nobody could tell me different.

            It’s like that movie shallow Hal. When he asked his friend if he would care wether everyone in the world thought that his idea of “the hottest girl” was ugly, he said no “because I would know that they where wrong” (or something like that). It’s the same deal here. When it comes to things that involve personal experience, of course I’m going to place my own experience over all the charts and graphs in the universe combined and multiplied to the nth degree.

          5. AhmNee

            All that it would take for me to believe that acupuncture works, is for me to personally be healed using acupuncture.

            And that’s why P.T. Barnum would have loved you.

            How would you determine if acupuncture healed you? Lets say you have a migraine and you go in for acupuncture. The session starts and 10 minutes in the migraine subsides. Was it the acupuncture that did it? Was it you relaxing? Did the migraine go away on it’s own? How could you be certain? Or just because acupuncture happened, that’s what fixed you?

          6. oCaptainmyCaptain

            It gives me an idea what YOU consider evidence. If you don’t think what convinced you is evidence, perhaps it isn’t, but that doesn’t say much for your beliefs.

            What I consider the strongest evidence, is the things that I experience. Throughout my life I’ve always been a “go with the flow” type of individual. I’ve never had much of a “medium” switch and I always tend to lean towards extremes in whatever I do. Because of this I’ve found myself in all kinds of situations, but whenever I pray or somebody prays for me, I’ve always managed to come out fine every time.

            More importantly, I’ve looked at my life and seen the values that my parents imposed on me, being Christians, and then I look at my cousins and uncles who weren’t brought up with the same values. I see a crystal clear difference. I love them, but we’re worlds apart in thoughts, actions, and lifestyles.

            I see evidence of God in some of the people I admire most. The few people who I’ve met that I felt where better than me in every single important way. I never have to ask if they believe in God because it’s evident (and I find out later that they do). They have a strength and integrity of character that people are just drawn too.

            You’ve probably seen this. Think of the Pope. Even non religious people people are drawn to him en masse. Why? I think it’s because his actions are in line with how people believe Jesus would have behaved. People see congruence between him, and what we recognize as being good.

            There could be other people like this who aren’t Theists. But I would argue that they would still be embodying the same characteristics so it wouldn’t change my view.

            I find evidence for God, not just in the interpretation of Scientific fact like the big bang, but mostly in relationships. Relationships in nature and in humanity. I can grasp how all these things came to be through natural processes. What I can’t understand is why those natural processes exist at all. This might be an argument from ignorance, but combined with everything else, it paints a picture that is counter to the idea that the world has no inherent meaning or purpose.

            The things that I read about God and his relationships with people in the Bible, seem to be congruent with how the world actually is. I see no ontological contradictions. It can be ugly, chaotic, and cruel, but there’s also a lot of good, selflessnes, and hope. Things that wouldn’t make sense inside of a meaningless world.

            But I’m getting too philosophical, so I’ll stop there. Basically, a universe that I can conceive which has no God in it. Is either A) non existent or B) absolutely chaotic and completely uninhabitable.

          7. Martin Wagner

            Basically, a universe that I can conceive which has no God in it. Is either A) non existent or B) absolutely chaotic and completely uninhabitable.

            In case you hadn’t noticed, the vast majority of our universe is completely uninhabitable. Too full of gamma radiation, too full of just plain old death-inducing hard vacuum. You need to do better than this. You need to cite distinct differences in God-created universes vs. non-God-created universes, give examples that are scientifically falsifiable (eg. “In a non-God-created universe, we should expect A, B, C, and not X, Y, Z”), and suggest experimental protocols for testing your hypothesis.

            I have a question for you to consider. Why — if ours is not only a God-created universe, but one created by the Christian God in particular, a vindictive, jealous, angry being who demands worship and fealty above all things — is the Earth the only world (to the best of our knowledge) in our solar system that supports life? I mean, considering the solar system as the result of natural, physical processes, it makes sense that we are flying solo in the life support category. Goldilocks zones and all that. But tell me that the Abrahamic God made all this to redound to his greater glory, and then none of it makes sense. Why wouldn’t such an all-powerful being fill every single world with potential worshipers? Especially massive globes like the outer gas giants? All that real estate, just sitting millions of miles apart, doing nothing but looking pretty.

          8. oCaptainmyCaptain

            How would you determine if acupuncture healed you? Lets say you have a migraine and you go in for acupuncture. The session starts and 10 minutes in the migraine subsides. Was it the acupuncture that did it? Was it you relaxing? Did the migraine go away on it’s own? How could you be certain? Or just because acupuncture happened, that’s what fixed you?

            It wouldn’t matter. If the process of me going in to get acupuncture and then relaxing, healed me of my headache, then I would still argue that acupuncture worked. It doesn’t matter that it was simply the idea of getting acupuncture that healed me. That idea was only formed because I was getting acupuncture.

            Now you might be able to deduce that relaxing was what healed me. In this case, we could find something else that would relax me and it might have the same effect. But it wouldn’t make acupuncture not true. It still did lead to the effect of curing my headache, regardless of wether there was other agents at work.

            I think this is the disparity between Theists and Atheists. I get the feeling that you guys like to separate the agent from the result. You look at prayer and say it wasn’t prayer that cured him, it was the placebo effect of believing that prayer worked which did the trick. It wasn’t God that created the universe, it was a violent explosion of compacted energy. Just because we can show how something happened, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t something significant that started the process.

          9. AhmNee

            It wouldn’t matter. If the process of me going in to get acupuncture and then relaxing, healed me of my headache, then I would still argue that acupuncture worked.

            And placebo pills are strong medicine.

            Now you might be able to deduce that relaxing was what healed me. In this case, we could find something else that would relax me and it might have the same effect. But it wouldn’t make acupuncture not true.

            No. You are wrong. If I could show scientifically that everything about the setting where you had acupuncture was enough to relieve your migraine, it calls into question the effectiveness of the practice.
            If a study is done with the proper scientific controls and sample size and it shows that symptoms were relieved with acupuncture at the same rate as people who didn’t receive acupuncture in the control group. Then acupuncture doesn’t work.

            You look at prayer and say it wasn’t prayer that cured him, it was the placebo effect of believing that prayer worked which did the trick. It wasn’t God that created the universe, it was a violent explosion of compacted energy.

            What you’re doing is adding unnecessary complication. The origin of the universe took place through an incredibly complex mechanism by any stretch. So what you’re trying to do is simplify what happened by adding on an even more complex and unnecessary god. If prayer doesn’t change the outcome, then why complicate the process. If aspirin will ease your headache, why would I suggest you should stand on one leg and chant while you wait for the aspirin to work?

            You have to appease the gremlins in your car motor before you can start it in the morning. Make sure you sing softly to them so they don’t get angry. If your car doesn’t start, you probably sang the wrong song. Sing a different one next time.

          10. LykeX

            All that it would take for me to believe that acupuncture works, is for me to personally be healed using acupuncture

            It’s fascinating how you can say that and apparently not understand what a perfect admission of gullibility that is.

            Fact is that this approach leaves you open to believing things that simply aren’t true. This is not a reliable method for distinguishing true beliefs from false ones. We know that because there are people who believe completely contradictory things who all have used that exact same method.

          11. EnlightenmentLiberal

            All that it would take for me to believe that acupuncture works, is for me to personally be healed using acupuncture. It would only take one significant and personal experience. That’s it.

            Then you are a gullible fool.

            Think of the Pope.

            Horrible monsters.

            The last one was personally responsible for the orders to protect child rapists, and that anyone who cooperated with the police would be excommunicated. That’s Roman Catholic speak for: don’t cooperate with the police or we will send you to hell!

            All of the recent popes have also been against condom use, which I have no doubt has been responsible (along with the rest of the catholic church) of millions of deaths from AIDS. It’s borderline genocide what is happening in Africa because of the bullshit of the Popes and the Roman Catholic church.

            Basically, a universe that I can conceive which has no God in it. Is either A) non existent or B) absolutely chaotic and completely uninhabitable.

            WHY? HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS?

          12. corwyn

            Basically, a universe that I can conceive which has no God in it. Is either A) non existent or B) absolutely chaotic and completely uninhabitable.

            Thus refuting your own thesis, that god does thing such that there is no evidence for his existence.

          13. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Thus refuting your own thesis, that god does thing such that there is no evidence for his existence.

            Ok, either your just making up stuff, or I’m simply not being clear enough. Please show me where I ever said that God does things for the expressed purpose of leaving no evidence for his existence. Please show me where I said that God leaves no evidence for his existence? I don’t think I ever said that.

            All I’ll I’ve ever said is that we don’t have a good method in which to test the evidence he does leave. Propose a method!

          14. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @EnlightenmentLiberal

            Once again, I was responding to somebody else and you go off on an unrelated tangent.

            I think it was obvious to the person I was speaking to that I was talking about the current Pope. As he’s the one in all the recent headlines and news articles. When I say “The Pope” It should be simple to infer that I’m talking about the current active one. Just like if i said “The President”, you wouldn’t assume I’m talking about Bush.

          15. EnlightenmentLiberal

            And the current pope is still part of the effective genocide of millions of people in Africa because of the whole condom bullshit. And the current pope doesn’t seem to be doing much about the child rapists either, making him again partially complicit.

          16. AhmNee

            I think it was obvious to the person I was speaking to that I was talking about the current Pope. As he’s the one in all the recent headlines and news articles. When I say “The Pope” It should be simple to infer that I’m talking about the current active one.

            Oh, bull. You’re going to attempt to say that it’s this current pope who’s the real pope but the previous ones were douchebags?

            Even non religious people people are drawn to him en masse.

            Cite your source. What non-religious people are “flocking” to the pope?

          17. AhmNee

            Don’t suppose that would have anything to do with him siding with secularists on things like contraception and abortion, tolerance of homosexuals, etc.

      4. EnlightenmentLiberal

        How do you evaluate a being who has all power?

        I’d settle for a demonstration that there’s some creature with any amount of power which matches your god description. Got one? Yes, speaking to everyone on the planet would be a great start to convincing me that you’re not just making shit up.

        1. oCaptainmyCaptain

          So if a being could demonstrate that it could heal somebodies sight just by touching them, you would be willing to accept that this being was God?

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I’d want some professional magicians to verify whether any funny business was going on. If that could be done, and it could be done repeatedly, especially under laboratory conditions, sign me on.

            Note that you can convince me that your god exists. You can never convince me to be a Christian. If you convince me that a creature which matches the description of your Christian bible exists, I would seek to destroy it for the betterment of all of us. If Stargate SG-1 has taught me anything, it is that the proper response to evil gods is not to bow down and worship, but to blow them up. Nuke god!

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Would you also be willing to accept that if this person claimed to be sent by God, that there was a God?

            I’ll take your last comment as hyperbole. Because obviously if we did prove a God, it would be irrational not to worship him. Seeing as he has all power, and seeing as it would be impossible to “blow him up”. I did use to like Stargate though!

            Also I think that if you did come face to face with God, you would most likely see that he has infinitely more wisdom and foresight on the actions he takes. Maybe once you recognized human beings utter ignorance on almost everything, you would no longer be so quick to judge.

          3. AhmNee

            I’ll take your last comment as hyperbole.

            Hello, Pot. Meet Mr. Kettle.

          4. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I’ll take your last comment as hyperbole. Because obviously if we did prove a God, it would be irrational not to worship him. Seeing as he has all power, and seeing as it would be impossible to “blow him up”. I did use to like Stargate though!

            No. I mean it absolutely, literally, and straightforwardly.

            Who is to say that your god is all powerful? The goa’uld of Stargate seemed all-powerful to their followers, but they were not. The Ori of the last seasons are quite close to what I can conceive of a nigh indestructible enemy, but even they were not indestructible. Why should I believe that your god is all powerful? Because it says so? The goa’uld and the Ori said the same thing. What happened to them? We blew them up. Nuke god!

            Even then, this country was founded on the values of the European Enlightenment. A pithy rephrasing of those values can be found in Patrick Henry during the time of the American Revolution who said “Give me liberty, or give me death!”. Even today, “Live Free or Die” is the official state motto of New Hampshire.

            Remember the villagers in SG-1 in the Ori galaxy who worked to preserve evidence that the Ori were not what they seemed, in spite of all evidence that working against the Ori was doomed to failure? Remember how these rebels were the heroes and the Ori were the villains? You seem to have this backward. Your god is the villain of the story.

            This is part of the fundamental values of the Enlightenment which pervades western thought and morality. I would rather be dead than be a slave. If your god exists, I spit in its face, and I seek its destruction. If it smites me, then at least I die knowing I am morally superior to that thug. “I die free!”

          5. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Would you also be willing to accept that if this person claimed to be sent by God, that there was a God?

            Refer to my previous examples of homeopathy, acupuncture, and such. Would I accept that someone is an alien just because they say so? Hell no. And aliens at least do not conflict with known physics like your god would. The answer to your question should be obvious.

          6. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I’m so tempted to respond to your points using Stargate analogies, but your dishonesty in the previous post has forced me to stop responding you, other then to tell you why I’m not responding to you.

          7. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Consider this. Everyone else here agrees with me and disagrees with you. Everyone else here has been saying more or less exactly what I’m been saying. Is it likely that I’m being dishonest? Or perhaps you’re simply wrong? Or perhaps your communication is severely lacking on several points? Do you think there’s a conspiracy going on? That the other posters are all my sock-puppets? Or perhaps we’re all just simultaneously dishonest?

          8. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Thats funny because I currently have no problem discussing with anybody else. But that might be because they didn’t take my definition of faith, cut off the last half of it, reword it into something that fit their own argument, and then criticize me based off their own reworded definition, as you so aptly did here.

          9. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I fail to see how this is dishonest. I fail to see how the second part about “assurance of things not seen” affects my interpretation. I fail to see any rebuttal of my point. I see only name calling and a refusal to engage in discussion. As you defined faith, it is functionally equivalent to wishful thinking – minus the potential requirement that it must be likely false or implausible. Now, we have lots of evidence that prayer likely does not work, and thus any belief in prayer is faith, wishful thinking, and delusional. Unless, of course, you wish to present some evidence or reason into the record which we do not yet have. Similarly, anyone who practices homeopathy or acupuncture similarly has faith, wishful thinking, and is delusional. And again, I’m willing to revise that assessment as soon as someone presents some evidence into the record which overcomes the currently available evidence that it’s a crock of shit.

            All of your complaints about “dishonesty” not-withstanding.

            I again ask you, how did you come to the conclusion that the Christian god exists? How did you come to the conclusion that sometimes prayers to the Christian god are answered?

          10. corwyn

            Because obviously if we did prove a God, it be irrational not to worship him.

            Hahahaha…

            What a weak-willed person you must be. The first god that comes along you are all drop to your knees and worship. The devil would have any easy time with you.

            Any god that wants MY worship had better show that they have a higher moral sense than I. No god in any mythology has ever passed that test (for me). And then show that worship is a reasonable response to their existence (which seems unlikely given the first test).

          11. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I erred in using the term “a God” in my sentence. There is only one. But if we could prove this God, I see no reason not to worship him. I would have to assume that any judgment it made would be perfect, no matter how cruel it may seem to finite beings like us.

            I’ve engaged in this argument before though, and my position is this; By definition, whatever God does has to be good. Even if he was capable of doing “evil”, it would still have to be considered good. If we proved there was a God, and it commanded us to worship it, then not worshipping it would be evil/immoral.

          12. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Reply: standard Euthyphro dilemma.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma

            In my ontology, I understand what it means to say something is, and I understand what it means to say that something should be or that we should act in a certain way. I understand the word “good” as defined as “if we should do some thing, then that something is good”.

            Do you understand the word “good” as defined as “Whatever is in god’s nature, it is good”? Or do you understand the word “god” as defined as “Whatever is in god’s nature, it is good”? You can’t have both. That’s circular. Either you have a standard of good independent of your god which you then use to judge god to determine that your god is good, or you assert that god is good without examination of your god’s character.

            For example, how did you determine that the Christian god is the good guy of the story and Satan / the devil / Lucifer is the bad guy of the story? Did you merely decide to define “good” as “whatever the Christian god character says”? Or did you judge the Christian god’s character and Satan / the devil / Lucifer and come to the conclusion that your Christian god is the good one?

            Put another way. Right now, there must be a set of circumstances which could convince you beyond all reasonable doubt that you are talking to your Christian god. Suppose that happened, and your Christian god explicitly and literally ordered to rape and kill for its amusement and for no other purpose. Would you? You cannot dodge this by saying that “god would never do that” because you are a finite and fallible human being, and your Christian god is all-powerful and infallible. If you try to dodge this by saying that it might be the devil tricking you, then you might have already been tricked and your bible might be the product of the devil, and thus you have no useful knowledge of the characteristics of your Christian god. So, would you kill and rape for your god’s pleasure or not? There’s only one answer that is consistent with being a decent human being, and that answer is to judge commands according to an independent standard of humanism and human well-being.

        2. oCaptainmyCaptain

          “The assurance of things not seen”, or “the evidence of things not seen”. Is central to the definition. It implies that I don’t see anything yet. I don’t know the outcome. I’m walking into the burning building without facts on wether the painting is destroyed or not. I have to gather evidence as I move forward with my actions. Wishful thinking is, wishing to change whats already established fact. Faith is hoping that the facts you uncover, or even alter as a result of your actions, will eventually align with your hopes. That’s why it’s dishonest to rip off the last half of the definition, and then re create your own. I’m sorry you don’t see this.

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Then you’re just ignorant, optionally with some wishful thinking, delusion, and willful ignorance.

            A famous skeptic once said “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. He was wrong. If you look, and you find an absence of expected expected, then that is evidence of absence.

            You put forward the possibility that prayer sometimes works. In the kind of world of world where prayer works, we should expect that someone has working prayer, and that they should be able to step forward and demonstrate it. We should expect things like amputees who have been cured and their limbs regrown. We should expect that someone should have been able to claim the million dollar prize. We expect that this person should be on national television and end all of these questions of which is the right religion. Instead, we do not see that. We never see anything like that. This material fact of the complete absence of corroborating evidence in spite of us looking very, very hard is in fact very, very strong evidence against prayer working.

            Funnily enough, the very same person who was completely mistaken about “absence of evidence” also wrote the best rebuttal to that position. See:
            http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

            Oh, what an interesting man you were Carl Sagan. I salute you.

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            You still have not acknowledged that you misrepresented and altered my definition of faith simply because you didn’t understand it, or because you where looking for a definition that better fit your argument. You just insist on incessantly calling it wishful thinking and delusional. On top of that, you’re now engaged in “word soup” where you say a lot without really saying anything at all. I don’t really see the point in discussing any further, until you acknowledge the former.

          3. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I didn’t purposefully misrepresent it. You were unclear, and I snipped something I thought irrelevant. Again, everyone else didn’t see a distinction either.

            Seriously. Pull your head out of your ass. You have no intellectual high ground here, nor any moral “honesty” high ground. You’re just being embarrassing now.

            PS: I’m still waiting for you to answer how do you know that your Christian god exists? And how do you know that prayers to your Christian god sometimes work? If you can give good reason and evidence which can overcome the massive wealth of evidence against prayer and your purported god, then maybe I’ll stop thinking that you are delusional and willfully ignorant.

          4. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I think I’ve answered that here. I don’t claim to “know’ anything. I don’t “know’ if God exists. I don’t “know” if prayers work. I don’t “know” that we’re not all brains hooked up to a supercomputer.

            Please show me this MASSIVE amount of evidence against prayer and God because that’s definitely news to me and I’m sure most Theists. All I’ve ever heard is that the burden of proof isn’t on atheists to prove or disprove anything. I’ve never heard of this Massive amount of evidence that you claim refutes God.

            Plus I don’t care what you or anybody else thinks about me. I care about what’s true, and the methods we can use to test truth.

          5. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I said I have massive amount of evidence against prayer to the Christian god. I will even volunteer that I have a large amount of evidence against the mere existence of the Christian god. Note that I do not need these things, because that is not atheism and skepticism. That is a step beyond atheism. Atheism includes “I do not know” and “I believe there are no gods”.

            However, I have no evidence that refutes all god claims in general. That’s just silly. The best I might possibly be able to do is argue that if there is a god-like creature, it’s subject to physics like the rest of us, because thus far we haven’t seen a violation of physics. That still leaves open the possibility of a clockmaker god which never interferes.

            I care about what’s true, and the methods we can use to test truth.

            You’re being an asshat. You’re dodging the question because of this pedantic asinine quibble over “know” vs “believe”. Fine asshat. Do you accept as true that prayer to the Christian god sometimes works? Do you believe that prayer to the Christian god sometimes works? If you answered yes to either, then how did you come to that conclusion / belief / whatever you asshole? (If you answered no, then what the fuck conversation are we having?)

          6. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Hey, hey let’s not degenerate this discussion into constant name calling. Ok? You did say that you had a massive amount of evidence refuting God:

            If you can give good reason and evidence which can overcome the massive wealth of evidence against prayer and your purported god

            Trust me. I’m not being sarcastic at all when I say that I really want to see this evidence!

            Your claim that God is somehow subject to Physics makes no rational sense. If a God exists who supposedly made everything that exists, other than himself, how can that same God be bound by the laws he created? That’s like a video game creator being suddenly bound by the rules of the game he created. The rules only exist inside the game, and the creator can change or suspend the rules with impunity.

            To answer your questions. Yes, I believe it to be true that God hears prayers. But I’ve tried to illustrate that I don’t believe prayer works the way you think it does.

            I don’t believe that God answers prayers for everyone. I don’t believe we have a good method, which could differentiate between those who pray and those who don’t. The Bible says that, “he causes it to rain on the just and unjust”. I believe that God is God and answers the prayers he feels like answering, from the people he feels like answering. I believe that God isn’t fair, and that he doesn’t have to be. Somebody might never pray, and God might still give them all the things they want.

            If the Bible is anything to go by, then God uses people to do his work. It doesn’t matter if they are a Christian or not.

            Christians have invented this narcissistic idea that it’s all about us. I don’t think this is true. I think God had an overall plan long before any humans where around, we’re just allowed to be included in it.

            All that said, I admit that everything I believe could be absolutely false. I don’t know. I look at the world, I analyze my experiences, I study the facts we have available, and then I form my beliefs. The facts we currently have, and more importantly my experiences, lead me to believe that there is a God, and that he has revealed at least some things about himself.

          7. AhmNee

            I’m not being sarcastic at all when I say that I really want to see this evidence!

            I linked the wiki article to the studies done on prayer above. The most recent even suggests that people that know they’re being prayed for fare worse than average.

            The other evidence that I personally mentioned above is not conclusive and couldn’t be as you cannot prove a negative. But in all practicality:
            1. In 2000 years, not a shred of evidence that supports the bible.
            2. The best scientific models for the creation of the universe show no need for a god for the creation of a universe.
            3. Numerous biblical inconsistencies and contradictions.
            4. The more we learn through science the more places we find that the bible simply had it wrong.
            5. The outright immorality of the bible.
            6. Studies find that the less religious a society the healthier the society.

            I could go on. It’s not conclusive by any means but surely suggestive that if there is a god, and there’s no good reason to think that there is, that god has nothing to do with his creation.

            That’s like a video game creator being suddenly bound by the rules of the game he created. The rules only exist inside the game, and the creator can change or suspend the rules with impunity.

            How do you know that’s an apt analogy? If I build a cage around myself, am I not confined by it? There’s no evidence I built a door. Likening the cage to reality, then there’s no evidence a door could be built. At the very least, if there is a god, your definition of it is wrong.

            I don’t believe that God answers prayers for everyone. I don’t believe we have a good method, which could differentiate between those who pray and those who don’t.

            It appears that if there is a god, he doesn’t answer the prayers of anyone.

            I look at the world, I analyze my experiences, I study the facts we have available, and then I form my beliefs.

            What facts are you studying that lead you to believe there’s a god? At best your standards of evidence are so low that any facts you’ve stumbled across surely must have been by accident.

          8. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @AhmNee

            1) You don’t truly believe that do you? I can think of numerous ones off the top of my head. We use to not believe that the Romans crucified people, as the Bible says, until we found a foot with a nail going through it that exactly matched the depiction of a Roman crucifixion. we use to believe that Pontus Pilot was a fictional character, until we found an inscription baring his name. We use to believe that all the kings in the old testament where made up, until we found Cylinders in Babylon with the names of some of Jerusalem’s kings. In actuality the Bible is the most authenticated ancient book of all time. There isn’t even a close second. I think people forget this.

            2) That’s funny considering we have no model that describes how the universe came to exist in the first place.

            3) Yes, I’ve seen these erroneous and incessantly long lists, and 90% of these supposed contradictions are due to not actually reading the Bible in context. 5% is due to a failure in understanding the way people 4000 years ago actually recorded events. And the other 5%, people might have a legitimate point.

            4) This simply isn’t true. There’s been hundreds of places and people that the Bible describes, that we know today where real. In fact you can take the gospels, and create a list of all the places mentioned, what you find is that they sequentially match up with the actual places of that time. This is one of the reasons they where able to tell which Gospels where real and which where fake. The fake ones didn’t have the correct names and locations.

            5) That’s way to broad. You’d have to give a more specific example.

            6) I would expect this to be true. Nobody said religion in it’s current state is always a great thing. Most of the times the Bible talks about religion, it’s in a negative light. But I highly doubt that an atheistic society would be more healthy. The few examples we’ve had of these, doesn’t look at all promising.

            How do you know that’s an apt analogy? If I build a cage around myself, am I not confined by it? There’s no evidence I built a door. Likening the cage to reality, then there’s no evidence a door could be built. At the very least, if there is a god, your definition of it is wrong.

            True, but there’s also no evidence that God’s cage would be this universe. And seeing as he’s all powerful, there’s no evidence that he couldn’t break in and out of any imposed cage.

            It appears that if there is a god, he doesn’t answer the prayers of anyone.

            There’s no reason to believe this. Unless, you think that the people praying should have a higher chance of getting the things they want. But as I’ve said earlier, this is not necessarily true.

          9. EnlightenmentLiberal

            There’s been hundreds of places and people that the Bible describes, that we know today where real.

            I can provide lots of evidence that New York is in fact a real place. You can go and meet actual living people from New York. You can even go there. None of this has any significant impact on whether there is a Spider-Man.

            In fact you can take the gospels, and create a list of all the places mentioned, what you find is that they sequentially match up with the actual places of that time.

            One of the gospels has the geography so bad that it’s impossible that it could have been written by an actual Jew from the area (or be the account of a Jew from the area).

          10. EnlightenmentLiberal

            There’s no reason to believe this. Unless, you think that the people praying should have a higher chance of getting the things they want. But as I’ve said earlier, this is not necessarily true.

            That’s the goddamned definition of “work” you dipshit. If prayer ever works, then by definition people who pray have a higher change of benefiting in some way.

            What? Are you saying that for every prayer your god answers, it also goes out of its way to undo some good luck of those people as well? Because that’s the only way that what you said makes any sense at all.

            I’m sorry. If your god interacts in our reality, then it is detectable by science. If your god interacts in our reality in any way, then we should have detected it by now. We should have had a confirmed case of an amputee growing back his leg. Instead, what we find is a universe indistinguishable from the universe where there is no Christian god.

          11. AhmNee

            1. Captain, I thought you’d be smart enough to know that I speak of the bible’s supernatural claims, not mundane historic tidbits. Even so, what a complete load of tripe.
            .
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Bible
            .
            “At the end of the 17th century few Bible scholars would have doubted that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, but in the late 18th century some liberal scholars began to question his authorship, and by the end of the 19th century some went as far as to claim that the Pentateuch as a whole was the work of many more authors over many centuries from 1000 BC (the time of David) to 500 BC (the time of Ezra), and that the history it contained was often more polemical rather than strictly factual.”
            .
            According to one of the world’s leading biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever,”Archaeology certainly doesn’t prove literal readings of the Bible…It calls them into question, and that’s what bothers some people. Most people really think that archaeology is out there to prove the Bible. No archaeologist thinks so.”From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. William Albright, the great father of our discipline, often spoke of the “archeological revolution.” Well, the revolution has come but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that’s very disturbing to some people.”
            .
            2. To quote Wikipedia. “The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the early development of the Universe.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/bigbang.html
            .
            3. You are just so very wrong. In the new testament alone, there are no contemporary records of the life of Jesus. Nothing was written by eye witnesses and most if not all was written decades to centuries after the fact. The only source that could be considered contemporary (even that’s not certain) is Paul. And he expressly states that his information is derived by revelation and not via any human being.
            .
            Biblical inconsistancies are not simple context. I’ve noticed you bring up context before as if that’s valid for anyone other than politicians. If it’s out of context, and you can’t explain how it’s out of context or correct the context, then you have no valid claim to it being ‘out of context’.
            .
            http://infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html
            .
            4. By “places” I meant places/passages in the bible that are simply wrong. But I’ll rebut your point with some of the geographical errors in the bible.
            .
            Gospel story of the Gadarene swine, which rushed down a steep cliff and were drowned in the Sea of Galilee, the Jewish scholar Joseph Leidner points out that because Gadera is actually several kilometers away from the sea, the whole incident is evidence of either ignorance or total lack of concern with veridical history.
            .
            Mention of specific location near the sea are either unknown sites, such as Dalmanutha (8:10), or are patently inaccurate, as in the designation of the eastern shore of the lake as the country of the Gerasenes (5:1)”. Gerasa is more than thirty miles southeast of the lake, too far away for the setting of the story which demands a city in its vicinity, with a precipitous slope down to the water.
            .
            http://www.answering-christianity.com/abdullah_smith/historical_errors_in_the_gospels-3.htm
            .
            5. The bible specifically condones slavery (Exodus 21:1-11). God commands genocide (Deuteronomy 3; Joshua 6), infanticide (Hosea 13:16 & Psalms 137:9) and the taking of sex slaves(Judges 21).
            .
            http://www.evilbible.com/
            .
            6. “The data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developing democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.”
            .
            http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2005/2005-11.pdf
            .

            It appears that if there is a god, he doesn’t answer the prayers of anyone.

            There’s no reason to believe this. Unless, you think that the people praying should have a higher chance of getting the things they want.

            The STEP project in particular had people praying for others, not praying for themselves.
            .
            “The experimental and control Groups 1 and 2 were informed they may or may not receive prayers, and only Group 1 received them. Group 3, which tested for possible psychosomatic effects, was informed they would receive prayers and subsequently did. Unlike some other studies, STEP attempted to standardize the prayer method.”
            .
            “Major complications and thirty-day mortality occurred in 52 percent of those who received prayer (Group 1), 51 percent of those who did not receive it (Group 2), and 59 percent of patients who knew they would receive prayers (Group 3). Some prayed-for patients fared worse than those who did not receive prayers.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer

          12. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @EnlightenmentLiberal
            Why do you always respond to my posts when I’m talking to somebody else? He said the Bible got a lot of places wrong. I simply refuted that. Your ad hoc spiderman argument attack, has no baring on this conversation. Plus it’s logically flawed. You assume that hardcore jews recording historical fact 3000+ years ago, would write the same as a 21st century fiction writer. This is simply ridiculous.

            That’s the goddamned definition of “work” you dipshit. If prayer ever works, then by definition people who pray have a higher change of benefiting in some way.

            Now your just being annoying. There’s no reason whatsoever, as I’ve repeated ad nauseam, that someone praying necessarily has to have a higher chance of getting what they want. it could be that only certain people have a higher chance of getting their prayers answered, and if the Bible is anything to go on, then this is most certainly true. You just refuse to accept this possibility. Not my problem.

          13. EnlightenmentLiberal

            it could be that only certain people

            And that would still have a statistically detectable effect! You are the one who needs to learn to read.

            Also, this isn’t just a conversation between you and someone else. If you don’t like the format where anyone can jump in, you’re welcome to leave. Let the door hit you on the way out.

          14. LykeX

            @oCaptainmyCaptain
            It seems like you’re not quite getting it. If even 0.1% of people got their prayers answered, it would be detectable in a clinical trial. We’d be able to see that the prayer group get a slightly better outcome than the control group. The criteria for who had their prayers answered (amount of faith, denomination, good deeds, complete randomness) would be irrelevant if there was proper randomization and blinding. If the sample size is big enough, any small effect would be statistically verifiable. We’ve done those studies and we’ve found no effect. None.

            So, this is the point where you come up with yet another reason for why you still believe in some effectiveness of prayer, despite all available evidence. Ready? Set. Go!

          15. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Also, this isn’t just a conversation between you and someone else. If you don’t like the format where anyone can jump in, you’re welcome to leave. Let the door hit you on the way out.

            I have no problem with people jumping in and out of the conversations. What I do find slightly annoying is when you rip things out of context and then give unrelated arguments.

            And that would still have a statistically detectable effect! You are the one who needs to learn to read.

            . If even 0.1% of people got their prayers answered, it would be detectable in a clinical trial. We’d be able to see that the prayer group get a slightly better outcome than the control group.

            The problem here is that you have zero way of determining which person God would be more likely to respond to. It’s a bit arrogant to even assume that you could. The best you could do is find somebody who claims to “always” have their prayers answered, and get a large group of people together who made the same claim. Once you do this, you might be able to form some kind of determination on wether prayer works. But there’s still so many factors here that could cause this study to go wrong.

            I would also doubt that a person who truly believed God answered all their prayers, would feel the need to subject themselves to some sort of test.

          16. EnlightenmentLiberal

            The problem here is that you have zero way of determining which person God would be more likely to respond to. It’s a bit arrogant to even assume that you could.

            Do you not understand the basics of science and statistical surveys? We don’t need to. We should not try. We should take appropriately controlled random samples of the population. If there are such people with magic powers, then they will show up in the statistics.

            I would also doubt that a person who truly believed God answered all their prayers, would feel the need to subject themselves to some sort of test.

            So, you’re saying that all people who have prayer answered are self-interested jerks? I know that if I had magic powers, knew there was a hell, and knew people are going to hell, I would do everything in my power to spread the truth in order to help my fellow human beings. It seems that the people you are referring to are self centered bastards for not trying to save me from hell with just a simple demonstration.

            Of course, this is also a problem with your god. It’s just one thing in the huge list of reasons why we would need to destroy it if it existed.

          17. LykeX

            The problem here is that you have zero way of determining which person God would be more likely to respond to

            No, it isn’t. We don’t need to know that. If we have a group of people who pray and a group of people who don’t, it doesn’t matter if 99.9% of the people who pray get no response at all. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know which ones get healed and which ones don’t. It doesn’t matter if one person gets healed one time and every other rayer they make is ignored.

            If prayer has an effect, even if only for some people, even if it only works sometimes for each person, even if you can’t predict for who or when or why or how; if there’s any effect at all, we’d be able to tell. And yet, we see no effect.

            If any prayer is answered, we can tell. The only way we have a problem is if god also answers prayers for people who don’t actually pray, in which case, the effect isn’t really due to the prayer, is it?

          18. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Do you not understand the basics of science and statistical surveys? We don’t need to. We should not try. We should take appropriately controlled random samples of the population. If there are such people with magic powers, then they will show up in the stati

            I’m familiar with statistics. If what I’m saying about prayer is true, then these people would merely show up as outliers. But I’m completely open to a fair test. For example, people speculated that certain books in the Bible where written by different authors, namely the book of Isaiah. But when they did the statistical and linguistic test, it was clear that this wasn’t true, and that the book was almost certainly authored by a single person.

            But these people had a sound and proven method for mathematically testing a books authorship. I’m skeptical of wether we currently have such a method for conducting a fair test of prayer.

            So, you’re saying that all people who have prayer answered are self-interested jerks?

            No, what I’m saying is that when you know something is true, you don’t seek to prove it. For example, I wouldn’t subject myself to a test to see if I loved my Mom or not. I would consider such a test insulting, as I know it to be true, and no Scientific study would change my mind. When you “know”, or think you “know” something to be true, you don’t tend to be bothered by people who say you’re wrong.

            Plus, prayer is personal. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean that it will work for you, so there’s no point in me waisting my time proving that it works for me.

            This is only my opinion though. There might be people who know prayer works with absolute certainty, and they might be willing to have their view tested. Personally, I just wouldn’t waist my time.

            And you keep saying you would destroy God. This shows me that you have a very childish view of God. Probably a “man in the sky” view, where you think God is somehow an old man sitting on a throne. Using the heaven for his canopy, the earth for his footstool, with a bunch of winged angels flying around his head fanning him and feeding him grapes. I don’t recognize a God like that.

          19. oCaptainmyCaptain

            The only way we have a problem is if god also answers prayers for people who don’t actually pray, in which case, the effect isn’t really due to the prayer, is it?

            Then we have a problem. I said here that if the Bible is anything to go on, then God does fulfill the wishes of people who don’t pray.

            You would have to imagine that he would have to, as even in the 21st century, not everyone has been exposed to the idea of monolithic prayer. Imagine how fewer would have been exposed in the time when the Bible was first being written.

          20. oCaptainmyCaptain

            *monotheistic prayer

          21. LykeX

            So, you’re saying that whether you pray or not is completely unrelated to the outcome. If god feels like it, he will give you something, whether or not you pray. If he doesn’t, he won’t, whether or not you pray. Your prayers do not change the likelihood of god blessing you (nor apparently does your actions, denomination or any other metric, since those would also all be testable). God’s favor is indistinguishable from random chance.

            Sounds to me like you’re admitting that prayer is completely ineffectual.

          22. EnlightenmentLiberal

            You completely dodged all of my criticisms. I said that anyone who believes that their prayer to the Christian god does anything but does not seek to share this knowledge is a self-centered prick. We all have a minimum moral obligation to help each other out, and that would include offering me the chance to avoid hell by convincing me that such a place exists.

          23. AhmNee

            He said the Bible got a lot of places wrong. I simply refuted that. Your ad hoc spiderman argument attack, has no baring on this conversation. Plus it’s logically flawed. You assume that hardcore jews recording historical fact 3000+ years ago, would write the same as a 21st century fiction writer. This is simply ridiculous.

            And you have yet to respond to my rebuttal.

            Your bible is a work of fiction. Just because it has some places in it that are real and talks about some things that have happened says nothing about the veracity of it’s supernatural claims. There’s just as much evidence for a real spiderman as there is for a real jesus. Which is to say none at all. The bible is simply not a historical document. It’s literature.

          24. oCaptainmyCaptain

            You can’t just blindly say things, and then get mad when I don’t recognize your arguments as credible. Some of the things you say are so erroneous, that I don’t even know how to respond. Show me proof that the credibility for Jesus existence is so lacking that it equates to the fictionality of spiderman.

            I’ve done a lot of research into Jesus, and only the most wild crack pots share your opinion.

          25. unfogged

            Show me proof that the credibility for Jesus existence is so lacking that it equates to the fictionality of spiderman.

            You are missing the point. A common argument for believing the bible, one you have made yourself, is that the places it describes exist and that history and archeology bear that out. Given that the places described exist it makes sense to accept that the events described actually happened, including the water-to-wine, miracle cures, resurrection, and other miraculous claims.

            New York exists and the Spiderman stories mention real places and real events so by the same logic it makes sense to accept that a radioactive spider gave special abilities to a young man. I’m sorry if Christians find that insulting but it illustrates the problem. If you want a more mundane example, Dickens describes places in and around London in great detail but that does not mean that an orphan named Oliver Twist ever existed and did what the story says. No single source is sufficient to prove that something actually happened and the bible may be a “collection of books” but it is more in the line of fan fiction than independent accounts. Later writers extended the stories that already existed.

            The problem on the Christian side is that there are no accounts of Jesus or any of the miracles outside of the bible. There were historians at the time who wrote about events which is why the existence of Herod and Julius Caesar and others isn’t in serious question. The Romans kept records and they don’t support the claims. The earliest writings date to at least 30 years after the events and those are incomplete. The documents were copied and translated repeatedly by believers with a vested interest in making their beliefs stand out. Many of the stories in the modern version don’t appear in the earliest manuscripts (the ending of Mark, the whole “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” story, and others). Decisions were made along the way to retain some parts, with revisions to support doctrine, and discard others and different factions had different canons and still do.

            The question of whether or not an itinerant rabbi with a handful of followers preached some ideas that the political leaders of the time disliked is largely irrelevant. If he did exist he was apparently a minor nuisance at best since nobody outside his small band of followers deemed him worthy of notice.

  17. 17
    Joshua

    oCaptainmyCaptain:

    Faith is a really weak idea and almost everyone knows this. Because of this it is extremely common for those who try to defend it to just co-opt a bunch of other stuff and call it faith. Your favorite seems to be “hope.” In most of the instances where you use “faith” or “have faith” you could replace it with “hope” and the meaning of your statement would not change one bit.

    You diverge for a bit and try to conflate faith with evidence based reasoning. You use the examples of success in business strengthening your “faith” in the success of the business and a person’s behavior strengthening your “faith” in their character. However in both of these examples you are misusing “faith.” In both of these examples there is evidence: something you did worked, and the person’s pattern of behavior.

    1. 17.1
      oCaptainmyCaptain

      In both of these examples there is evidence: something you did worked, and the person’s pattern of behavior.

      Faith consists of both evidence and hope. That’s why I hesitate to agree that hope is interchangeable with faith.

      “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

      You have to understand that it’s very hard to convey a proper definition of faith when the secular world has been heavily steeped for decades, even centuries, in this idea that faith = blind hope + no evidence. This view is simply not true. It’s never been true. The Bible never talks about faith as having no evidence. In fact, Paul writes hundreds of words on how faith is strengthened by evidence.

      If you believe that faith is the same as pure hope (which isn’t true, but for the sake of argument I’ll concede for the moment), then do you believe that hope is irrational? Do you believe that hope is a “weak idea”?

      1. AhmNee

        Faith consists of both evidence and hope.

        You argued this with biblical definition above, too. Yet, as I showed, not all translations mention evidence. So it seems your biblical definition doesn’t put as much importance on evidence as you do.

        Not that you have very good standards of evidence.

      2. Joshua

        Faith is believing without evidence. Of course the belief can be strengthened when, by chance, evidence seems to confirm what was already believed.

  18. 18
    Joshua

    “The assurance of things not seen”, or “the evidence of things not seen”. Is central to the definition. It implies that I don’t see anything yet. I don’t know the outcome. I’m walking into the burning building without facts on wether the painting is destroyed or not. I have to gather evidence as I move forward with my actions. Wishful thinking is, wishing to change whats already established fact.

    This directly contradicts your original “painting in a burning building” examples. In your “wishful thinking” example the fire started in the same location as the painting and you even give it a probability, 95%, that the painting is destroyed. 95% is not established fact. The only difference in your original examples between wishful thinking and faith is the degree of uncertainty.

    1. 18.1
      oCaptainmyCaptain

      I think the degree of certainty, or the amount of established fact, is all that separates the sane from the delusional. If you’re delusional, you ignore the established fact that the building is burning. If you’re using wishful thinking, then you seek to reinterpret or ignore the great amount of evidence suggesting that the painting is already burnt. If you’re using faith, then you have evidence that the building is on fire, but there’s no determination yet on wether the painting has met the same fate. It’s not a certainty, you could still save the painting from being expensive ashes.

      Not to preach or anything, but one story that comes to mind in the Bible, is when King David’s son is dying because he angered God by killing Uriah and taking his wife Bathsheba. In this story, David lays on the ground for several days without eating or washing. He fasts and has faith that God will change his mind and allow his son to live. When his son dies, his servants are scared to tell him because he already seems so depressed. But as soon as David here’s the news, he immediately gets off the ground, gets dressed, and gets something to eat.

      His servants are baffled by this. They ask him why he was crying and fasting while the child was alive, and why he ate and got dressed after it died. David’s response was this:

      While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

      I think this perfectly illustrates what I’ve been trying to say. Faith comes when something isn’t completely certain. David didn’t know if God would decide to allow his son to live or not. So he did the things, that would give him the best possible outcome. As soon as he realized that his faith wasn’t rewarded, he stopped having faith in what he hoped for.

      If he had continued to lay on the ground, then that would have been wishful thinking or delusions. It’s almost like when that girl was declared brain dead, and the family still tried to keep her on the machine in the hopes that she would come back to life. That’s delusional/ wishful thinking.

      1. Raymond

        **shakes head sadly** I must admit that someone who is completely unable to address a simple question honestly has little room to expound his philosophy as valid. How many times have people, myself included, asked you to answer the simple question of how you came to your conclusion? And three days later, you still refuse to answer. All this other fluff that you are going on about is completely moot unless you can provide some methodology by which you came to your conclusion. “Ancient book” is not an answer for reasons I explained above, and “you wouldn’t understand” isn’t an answer in any sense. Please stop dodging the question and answer it please.

        1. oCaptainmyCaptain

          Come to what conclusion? That faith is a good thing? That the Bible is really the word of God? I’ve been engaged in numerous different discussions, so you’ll have to be specific. I’ll answer either one.

          1. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Pick one. Any one. I think most of us are interested in your reasoning as to 1- why you believe the Christian god exists as opposed to any other god hypothesis, 2- why you believe the Christian bible is a reliable message from that god, 3- why you believe that the Christian god is good e.g. has our best interests at heart, e.g. is a humanist. Alternatively, your reasoning as to 4- why do you think that your Christian god is all-powerful and not susceptible to being blown up like the Goa’uld and the Ori ala Stargate SG-1. I hope you have something better than “because it said so”.

          2. EnlightenmentLiberal

            For example – how do you discard the possibility that there is a god which exists, but that it’s not the Christian “god”? For example, the Christian “god” and the Christian bible could be merely the record of some less-than all-powerful evil creature similar to the Goa’uld and Ori.

      2. Joshua

        I think this perfectly illustrates what I’ve been trying to say. Faith Hope comes when something isn’t completely certain. David didn’t know if God would decide to allow his son to live or not. So he did the things, that would give him the best possible outcome. As soon as he realized that his faith wasn’t rewarded hopes weren’t realized, he stopped having faith in what he hoped for hope.

      3. Joshua

        I think the degree of certainty, or the amount of established fact, is all that separates the sane from the delusional. If you’re delusional, you ignore the established fact that the building is burning. If you’re using wishful thinking, then you seek to reinterpret or ignore the great amount of evidence suggesting that the painting is already burnt. If you’re using faith, then you have evidence that the building is on fire, but there’s no determination yet on wether the painting has met the same fate. It’s not a certainty, you could still save the painting from being expensive ashes.

        In both examples you gave there is “no determination yet on wether the painting has met the same fate.” In both cases the building is on fire. In both cases the person is outside without confirmation that the painting has burned. The people relaying the information about where the fire started didn’t see the painting burn. Only that in one case the fire started closer to the painting. In both cases this person hopes the painting has not burned, and due to the extreme value of the painting, is willing to risk his life on the off-chance that it hasn’t burned yet.

        Still, I don’t see how either of these examples shows faith. Or, if they do, how this “faith” is in any way different than hope. Having faith would be, in either of the examples, to actually believe that the painting was ok, just because, before going into the burning building to confirm it.

        To me it seems that you just want to redefine everything in such a way that you can call faith a laudable thing. Redefine faith so that it equals hope and evidence based knowledge (which most people find laudable) and then put ridiculous restrictions on the definitions of those things (hope must exclude evidence!?!?) so that you can claim they are somehow different from “faith.”

        It seems clear to me that no matter how long this goes on you will continue to shift goalposts and try to confuse the issue with a bunch of word salad. However, your obfuscation and dishonesty wont convince anyone here.

        1. oCaptainmyCaptain

          I think if you really look at all the things I’ve said about faith, I have remained consistent. I never said that hope excluded evidence, but I don’t think it necessarily includes it either. Faith does.

          You say that I’m redefining faith. I’ve showed you examples as to why that’s simply not true. I didn’t invent the definition. I pulled it straight from the Bible, which is the optimal source for defining things as they relate to the Christian world view. It seems to me that you just really want faith to not include evidence, and you won’t accept any definition that says it does. You have an idea of faith already made up in your mind, and no amount of reasoning is going to change that. I don’t really know what to say.

          If you believe faith is synonymous with hope, then please answer the question I asked above. Do you believe that hope is irrational? Do you believe that hope is a weak idea? Why?

          1. Joshua

            I think if you really look at all the things I’ve said about faith, I have remained consistent. I never said that hope excluded evidence, but I don’t think it necessarily includes it either. Faith does.

            You have not. I am not going to bother to exhaustively lay out every time you have failed to remain consistant, but I will give you one example:

            “The assurance of things not seen”, or “the evidence of things not seen”. Is central to the definition. It implies that I don’t see anything yet. I don’t know the outcome. I’m walking into the burning building without facts on wether the painting is destroyed or not. I have to gather evidence as I move forward with my actions. Wishful thinking is, wishing to change whats already established fact. Faith is hoping that the facts you uncover, or even alter as a result of your actions, will eventually align with your hopes.

            In the above example you clearly state that faith is not informed by evidence. You are walking into the building “whithout facts.” This directly contradicts this statement:

            I never said that hope excluded evidence, but I don’t think it necessarily includes it either. Faith does.

            You say that I’m redefining faith. I’ve showed you examples as to why that’s simply not true. I didn’t invent the definition. I pulled it straight from the Bible, which is the optimal source for defining things as they relate to the Christian world view.

            No, you are taking a lot of information from the bible, running it through your personal interpretation matrix and then from that constructing a “definition” of faith. So, drop your personal interpretations and provide me a direct quote from the bible that provides a coherent, complete definition of faith.

            It seems to me that you just really want faith to not include evidence, and you won’t accept any definition that says it does. You have an idea of faith already made up in your mind, and no amount of reasoning is going to change that. I don’t really know what to say.

            Explain to me how faith includes evidence. And, if it does, in what way is it “special” when compared to things like acutal evidence based knowledge? None of the examples you have given of faith incorporate evidence. You make no sense.

            If you believe faith is synonymous with hope, then please answer the question I asked above. Do you believe that hope is irrational? Do you believe that hope is a weak idea? Why?

            I don’t believe faith is synonymous with hope. You do. I believe that faith is accepting things as true with no good reason. I think that hope is a good thing as long as we realize that hoping things doesn’t make them true.

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Yes, In this example I don’t currently have established fact to begin with. But my very next line says that I have to gather “evidence” as I go along. I see nothing irrational or delusional about starting off with no facts, and than taking action to uncover them. Even if that action is extreme. The alternative in this example, would simply be to do nothing, and loose millions in the process.

            No, you are taking a lot of information from the bible, running it through your personal interpretation matrix and then from that constructing a “definition” of faith. So, drop your personal interpretations and provide me a direct quote from the bible that provides a coherent, complete definition of faith.

            That is a complete definition of faith. It’s not like I ripped it out of context. The entire chapter goes into a long exposition on faith. I even went out of my way to provide you an example, of which there are many more. You just seem unwilling to accept this example.

            If I quoted to you the entire chapter, you wouldn’t understand it. You’d have to have a background on all the different stories being explained, and all the different theologies behind them. But just so you can’t say that I’m “interpreting” it for myself, here you go, here’s 8 complete verses from the chapter (now I’ll probably be accused of spamming scripture) :

            Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.

            Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

            By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts:and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

            By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him:for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

            But without faith it is impossible to please him:for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

            By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith

            By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac:and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure

            You can read the chapter for yourself if you want more. Hebrews 11.

            I don’t believe faith is synonymous with hope. You do. I believe that faith is accepting things as true with no good reason. I think that hope is a good thing as long as we realize that hoping things doesn’t make them true.

            I’ve already told you that I don’t believe they are synonymous. You seemed to be inferring that they were. You also insist that faith is “accepting” things with no good evidence, when I’ve not provided one example that would agree with that statement. Faith doesn’t accept anything as true. If you knew it to be true, how could you possibly have faith in it? Your faith ends when you hit truth. Faith deals with what “will be”.

            Why can’t you just accept that your idea of faith = no evidence, is wrong.

            How about this, show me a verse from the Bible that says faith = believing with zero evidence. If you can show me where it says this, without taking the verse out of it’s context, then I’ll concede the argument. Because I get the feeling that I can give you a hundred examples from the Bible, that shows faith incorporates evidence, and you would simply dismiss them all.

          3. oCaptainmyCaptain

            let me rephrase and be a bit more specific in order to match your claim.

            Show me a verse from the Bible that says faith = believing something as TRUE with zero evidence

          4. Martin Wagner

            Hebrews 11:1. It’s kind of famous.

          5. EnlightenmentLiberal

            This is not exactly what you asked for, but IMHO related:

            Psalm 14:1

            The fool[a] says in his heart, “There is no God.” [...]

            Which is generally the exact opposite of what we consider to be foolish. Generally we consider someone to be foolish when they believe things on insufficient evidence and reason, exactly like you said you would do for acupuncture else-thread.

            John 20:29

            Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

            What do we have here? Not a definition of faith per se, but it does seem to be saying that belief without evidence nor reason is a good thing. Where I come from, being a gullible fool is a bad thing.

          6. John Kruger

            Martin Wagner has earned the achievement:
            Complete Refutation of a Wild Assertion

            It is not everyday you get to see someone proven so totally wrong so completely and succinctly.

          7. Narf

            I think part of Captain’s problems here might have to do with his inability to parse and analyze language.

            Take the passage in question, Hebrews 11:1, from what I imagine is his preferred translation, the KJV:

            Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

            That passage is nonsense. The use of the word evidence is not describing evidence in any useful sense. I can’t entirely blame the writer, because they didn’t have science, back when it was written … and besides, plenty of other translations don’t use the word evidence … indeed translate it almost entirely differently.

            If Captain was capable to examining what the passage was actually saying, he would realize that it doesn’t mean actual evidence. At best, it’s poetry.

            But, from his authoritarian mindset, the Bible says that faith is evidence, so therefore …

          8. corwyn

            The use of the word evidence is not describing evidence in any useful sense.

            I read it as saying, ‘faith stands in for evidence’. In other words the faith isn’t itself evidence (how could it be?) but rather when one doesn’t have evidence (because the thing is hidden), use faith for that. [beats me how any one can say that that book should be taken literally, when no one can even agree on what it says]

            This doesn’t change your argument of course, as faith is being taken in place of evidence.

            That said, were it not for the emotional baggage that the word carries with it, I would have no problem saying that faith was belief in excess of that provided by evidence. For example, if one were to say that one was 100% confident that a die was going to come up 2,3,4,5, or 6, I would say that one had 16% faith in the outcome (and 83% of that confidence came from evidence).

          9. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I know Martin is a mod here, and this affords him the privilege of making one liners that others praise, but I would hardly call that a “complete refutation”. Especially when nobody translates that verse as saying believing something as True with zero evidence. Even less so, when I’ve been using that definition as the basis for all the discussion we’ve had on the topic.

            The greek word used in this text is “hupostasis”. “faith is the ‘hupostasis’ of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hupostasis means, “that which underlies the apparent” or that “which is the basis of something”.
            This makes the word “substance” the proper word to use in English. The problem with ‘substance’ is that we use it differently to the people that would have used it back then.

            A more understandable translation, might be “title deed”. Faith is the “title deed” of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In this sense, it implies that faith is the claim of ownership to something that you want, and the hope or confidence, that God has in his possession the power to give it to you.

            The word ‘evidence’ used here is the Greek word ‘elegchos’. Elegchos means “a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested”. This would suggest that the invisible things you hope for, and lay claim to the Title deed of, are proved or tested along the way.

            In this sense, faith is recognizing not just what is, but what will be. And to recognize what is, you do need some evidence, but to look forward to what will be, you need both hope and evidence. Which is what I’ve been saying for the past 4 or 5 days.

          10. Martin Wagner

            None of which changes the fact that the overwhelming majority of modern Christians don’t bother to go back to the original Greek to find ways in which to make Biblical language make some sort of sense. They take things at face value. In plain English, a phrase like “the evidence of things not seen” is a flat out self-contradiction, yet the “faith” of most Christians is sufficiently indifferent to reason that they are simply willing to accept that contradictory things can exist if God is in the picture. Faith, for nearly all rank and file believers, simply means “If I believe it strongly enough, it’s true, so there.” That’s a free-and-rational-inquiry stopper, not starter, and it really is the death knell of any attempt to paint Christian belief or faith as an intellectual process.

          11. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @Narf

            If Captain was capable to examining what the passage was actually saying, he would realize that it doesn’t mean actual evidence. At best, it’s poetry.

            How was that for analysis, without resorting to making blind speculations on wether a passage is poetic or not. This passage has almost zero poetic language. In fact, in the original Greek, it reads more as a business transaction.

          12. Narf

            Of course the religious will mostly resist any straightforward, clarifying definition like that. Anything that doesn’t allow them to be wishy-washy and claim whatever the hell they want is a bad thing.

            Although, technically, I guess Captain isn’t doing that. He’s using clear definitions … just dishonest ones that don’t match the way that anyone else uses the words, and then he equivocates like mad, conflating his bullshit definitions with the actual usage.

          13. oCaptainmyCaptain

            What do we have here? Not a definition of faith per se, but it does seem to be saying that belief without evidence nor reason is a good thing. Where I come from, being a gullible fool is a bad thing.

            Please read the analysis on faith I posted above. But as for your interpretation of this passage, I don’t understand how you came to this conclusion. When Jesus says, ” blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, what per se, do you suppose they are basing their belief on if they haven’t seen him?

            I’ll give you a hint; it starts and ends with an “E”.

          14. Narf

            This passage has almost zero poetic language.

            I quite clearly said, “At best, it’s poetry.” That’s the most charitable interpretation I can give for it. What I actually think it is is bullshit and sophistry.

            As Corwyn said, learn to fucking read.

          15. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @Narf

            Although, technically, I guess Captain isn’t doing that. He’s using clear definitions … just dishonest ones that don’t match the way that anyone else uses the words, and then he equivocates like mad, conflating his bullshit definitions with the actual usage

            I guess it begins to get a bit pointless when you start translating from Greek to english, and giving history lessons just to define a sentence, only to be constantly told that you’re being dishonest without any reasons. What, if any of my analysis on the Greek language and this passage, was dishonest? Is it possible that you’re just wrong here? Is it possible that you just didn’t understand the sentence, and that it means something different from what you initially thought it did? Is that possible? Or are you just always right?

          16. unfogged

            When Jesus says, ” blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, what per se, do you suppose they are basing their belief on if they haven’t seen him?

            I’ll give you a hint; it starts and ends with an “E”.

            Unless you are just being entirely dishonest, that’s just inane. The whole point of the story is that Thomas needed evidence that he could trust before he believed while those who believe without any confirming evidence are “blessed”. Hearsay and wishful thinking are not evidence for supernatural events.

          17. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I don’t understand how you came to this conclusion. When Jesus says, ” blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, what per se, do you suppose they are basing their belief on if they haven’t seen him?

            I’ll give you a hint; it starts and ends with an “E”.

            Are you serious? There’s a reason he’s called “doubting Thomas”. He wanted actual verification before believing. You know, what we’re all suggesting here.

            Go ahead. Tell me oh great pompous one what the hell that passage is meant to mean if not that belief without evidence is a good thing. Use all the context you want. What meaning do you take from that passage, because that only coherent meaning is that it’s good to believe without good reason.

          18. unfogged

            This would suggest that the invisible things you hope for, and lay claim to the Title deed of, are proved or tested along the way.

            You have a very strange way of interpreting things. The text says “faith is the evidence” which in your terms would become “the claim (title deed) is the proof”, not that proof will be provided ‘along the way’. Making a claim with no evidence is just waving a fake title deed around. Faith is belief without, or in spite of, evidence and is, in my opinion anyway, one of the most disgusting and dangerous concepts ever conceived.

          19. Narf

            What, if any of my analysis on the Greek language and this passage, was dishonest?

            Your usage of the words faith, hope, and evidence are pure bullshit, for starters. I don’t give a fuck about the Greek.

            I don’t care what the Bible says about faith. So much of the other stuff in the Bible is wrong; what’s one more passage? The way that Christians use the term, today, does not match up with your definition in any way.

            Faith is not based upon evidence. Hope does not explicitly exclude evidence contributing to it. Where the hell did you get these definitions? They’re complete crap.

          20. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Unless you are just being entirely dishonest, that’s just inane. The whole point of the story is that Thomas needed evidence that he could trust before he believed while those who believe without any confirming evidence are “blessed”.

            Complete BS. Thomas was one of Jesus’s disciples! He walked with him, prayed with him, ate with him, witnessed him heal the sick, cure the blind, raise the dead. He had mountains and mountains of evidence that would suggest when Jesus said “I will rise again”, it was going to happen. But he was a Jew, and once a Messiah died, he did as all Jews do, he abandoned that Messiah.

            When I’m asked to believe that Jesus was who he says he was, I’m not asked to believe without evidence. I was encouraged to study, check the facts, do your homework on history. Yes, I found errors, yes I found contradictions in the stories from one gospel to another. But I spent a long time going through the various options: The disciples made it all up, Jesus was a con artist, the Romans invented it, and so on and so forth. All those explanations failed.

          21. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Are you serious? There’s a reason he’s called “doubting Thomas”. He wanted actual verification before believing. You know, what we’re all suggesting here.

            There’s no problem with wanting evidence. That’s fine. The problem with Thomas was that his requirement before he believed something as “true” was insulting. The most insulting thing you can do to a leader, is to not believe in them.

            He not only didn’t believe in Jesus, he didn’t believe in his brothers “the disciples” who told him it was true. He discounted all the things that Jesus had done before, and he ignored all the evidence Jesus had demonstrated, giving credence to his claim as Messiah.

            If you’re a soldier, and your General leads you through dozens of successful battles, then when it comes to the critical one you doubt that he can get you through because the situation has never been this extreme. This is insulting.

            Nobody can lead, without having faith from the people they are leading. Nobody. There’s simply not enough evidence to be absolutely certain of an outcome in every single situation. At a certain point, you need to have some “faith” in the person that’s leading you.

          22. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Finally. Thank you. This is what we have all been asking for, for many days now. This:

            When I’m asked to believe that Jesus was who he says he was, I’m not asked to believe without evidence. I was encouraged to study, check the facts, do your homework on history. Yes, I found errors, yes I found contradictions in the stories from one gospel to another. But I spent a long time going through the various options: The disciples made it all up, Jesus was a con artist, the Romans invented it, and so on and so forth. All those explanations failed.

            Was that really so hard?

            I think it’s fair to reduce your argument to: “I’ve done a thorough examination of all of the possible explanations and possible events that could have created all of the available evidence, and by far the best explanation is that the Christian god does exist and the stories recount its activities with some degree of accuracy.”

            Thank you again.

            Now, unfortunately it gets difficult. I’m going to take a brief moment and review some of the relevant facts.

            1-
            The four gospels of the Christian bible clearly talk about a historical human named Jesus. After you throw out the known forgeries and other interpolations, there are no other independent sources that unambiguously refer to an Earthly Jesus. None.

            For example, the authentic letters of Paul in the Christian bible never refer to an Earthly Jesus. They always and quite clearly describe what he learned “by scripture and by revelation”. They never talk about meeting an Earthly Jesus. They never talk about his ministry, his parents, his family, throwing out the money changers, and so on.

            Other purported sources like Josephus and Tacitus are known forgeries, or they are merely recounting the bible and thus are not independent sources.

            Again, that leaves your entire case about Jesus as resting on the reliability and accuracy of the 4 gospels of the Christian bible.

            2-
            The content of the gospels are wildly inconsistent. The most important part of the whole story – Jesus’s death and resurrection, is wildly different in each of the 4 gospels. They disagree on many important details.

            3-
            The style of the gospels is that of myth and fiction.

            My favorite example offhand – in one of the stories, Jesus’s followers are not real people. They’re caricatures. At one point, they’re in a town, and everyone is hungry and without food, and they don’t know what to do. So, Jesus conjures up some food. The followers are amazed. Then shortly after, they get to another town, where everyone is hungry and without food, and the followers are again quite distressed not knowing what to do, apparently forgetting that Jesus can conjure food. Then Jesus conjures food, and the followers are amazed, apparently having forgot that Jesus can conjure food. This is not how real people behave. This “characters” are obvious created plot contrivances to tell a story.

            4-
            The gospels contain many, many falsified miracles. There was no zombie invasion in Jerusalem along with Jesus. There was no darkness for 3 hours over all the land. Jesus did not throw out the money changers. And many more. Is it really so hard to believe that the story of Jesus rising from the dead was just another fiction like these other falsified miracles? Especially when the gospels vary so wildly on what purported happened with Jesus’s death? We have many confirmed false miracles, and not a single confirmed one. What’s more likely – that the books contain a metric truckload of false miracles, and one genuine miracle when no miracle has ever been documented to be real in the whole recorded history of science? Or that the resurrection of Jesus is just as fictitious as the zombie invasion, the 3 hour darkness, and the other false miracles?

          23. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Also, if you’re honest about your reasoning, which I doubt, but on the offhand chance you are, I suggest you look into the work of Richard Carrier, who AFAIK provides some of the best argument on the details of how the Christian bible came to be without a god. If you’re serious about your reasoning, you should look at the best cases against your argument – you should look at the best counter-explanations, and Richard Carrier is that. And don’t rely on what other people say about him. Read what he actually wrote. Check his sources. Do your investigation. If you want, I can provide a couple links for some good introduction.

          24. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Your usage of the words faith, hope, and evidence are pure bullshit, for starters. I don’t give a fuck about the Greek.

            I don’t care what the Bible says about faith. So much of the other stuff in the Bible is wrong; what’s one more passage? The way that Christians use the term, today, does not match up with your definition in any way.

            Ah! And there we have it. Finally, we get down to some truth here. So all this time, you admit that my definition of faith isn’t necessarliy what’s wrong. And you don’t care wether its right. The only thing you care about is showing your discontent for the Bible.

            What you have here is an unsupported belief. You’re ‘belief’ is that faith isn’t based evidence. You are unwilling to change that belief, no matter the evidence, because it doesn’t conform to what you see in the Christians you’ve interacted with. Well I’m sorry that the Christians you’ve intreated with, have been using faith incorrectly. I really am.

          25. oCaptainmyCaptain

            *interacted with

            …man i hate auto correct sometimes.

          26. AhmNee

            Ah! And there we have it. Finally, we get down to some truth here. So all this time, you admit that my definition of faith isn’t necessarliy what’s wrong. And you don’t care wether its right. The only thing you care about is showing your discontent for the Bible.

            .
            There are just no words. None that you’d understand at any rate. You’ve been shown over and over how your definition is wrong. How the words you’re trying to inject don’t match up. You falsely equivocate, you make shit up, you spew logical fallacy after fallacy. And now that people are growing weary of your bullshit and your word games. Your cognitive dissonance and your logical inconsistencies. How when someone brings up a solid rebuttal to your assertions, you ignore them and run in another direction only to make the same assertion that was discredited earlier.
            .
            You now throw your abhorrently lacking reading skills into reverse and figure that because someone is sick of your inept references to Greek and your fallacious interpretation of bible passages that we never really cared what you were saying anyway. Obviously you’re the only one in christianity that’s correct and knows what’s what. The way others use the word be damned because you’re the only one who knows how to read the book correctly. And you’re the only one who uses faith correctly … with evidence … which you don’t have.
            .
            Ladies and gentlemen, we have found the one true christian.
            .
            Wait. Oh, no. We’ve found the one who thinks he’s the one true christian. Move along. Nothing to see here.

          27. oCaptainmyCaptain

            First, I wish you would stop calling me dishonest. What would I gain by spending 4-5 days discussing with you guys only to intentionally be misleading or dishonest. Doesn’t make sense. I think I’ve been pretty clear on the things I believe to be true. Wether you agree with them or not is open for discussion, so let’s discuss.

            Here’s where it gets really interesting. When I said I did my homework, I was serious about that. So off the bat, I can see that some of the things you’re saying are simply not true.

            1-

            For example, the authentic letters of Paul in the Christian bible never refer to an Earthly Jesus.

            Actually, there is one very significant passage, that not only forces most conspiracy theorists to drop the suggestion that Paul invented Jesus. But it forces scholars to push the dating of the earliest writings of Paul, much closer to Jesus death.

            Here it is :

            And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time

            Paul isn’t just saying that he was a real person. He’s saying that over 500 people saw him bodily rise from the dead, and you can go talk to them. Wether you believe he actually died and rose again isn’t important, these people testified to having seen him in the flesh after his crucifixion. There’s many more passages where Paul describes Jesus as a “man”, but I’ll save those for later.

            Josephus lived during the time Jesus was alive, and he had zero interest in inventing stories about Jesus to corroborate his existence. He was a historian, and we have authentic works where he talks about Jesus as a real person.

            More than that, we have a “wanted” certificate for Jesus, that requests Jesus be brought to trial and stoned to death. What’s interesting about this is that Jesus wasn’t stoned, but a Jew requesting Jesus capture wouldn’t ask that he be crucified as this is a Roman form of execution. This gives credence to it’s authenticity.

            2 -
            They disagree on things such as who came to the tomb first and how many angels where there. But they all unanimously agree on one thing; The tomb was empty, and he rose from the dead.

            I would expect that if 4 people where telling a story, all four of them would have different variations. But if there was truth to it, then the most important pieces would remain the same. This is what we see in almost every single instance where multiple witnesses are at the scene of the crime. It’s simply human.

            This provides trouble for people who claim the Bible is the inerrant word of God. But, I’m not in that camp. Inerrancy seems impossible to me once put in the hands of fallible human beings. I just can’t believe that over 4000 years not a single letter was put out of place, or a single word misspelled. I do still believe it’s the word of God, written by human beings, but inerrant is a stretch. Plus I don’t believe the Bible itself claims to be the inerrant word of God, only to contain it.

            3 -

            The style of the gospels is that of myth and fiction.

            No its not. The gospels contain names of specific locations, and common names of people who would have lived in the first century. Mark’s gospel is an action gospel, and is almost strictly concerned with the events that happened. John’s gospel is more Theological and it’s concerned with taking the events and giving them meaning steeped in a Jewish background. Luke’s Gospel is strictly facts, as Luke was a physician, he starts off by saying that the point of his Gospel is to give a detailed account of the events.

            his is not how real people behave. This “characters” are obvious created plot contrivances to tell a story.

            Wait. wait. wait. You believe that the disciples weren’t even real people? There’s almost no serious scholar that would agree with that. I don’t even really want to go there, as I feel it’s a rabbit hole full of unsupported conspiracy theories, and non sensical things. I would prefer to deal with the facts.

            4-

            The gospels contain many, many falsified miracles.

            I agree that it’s pretty hard to believe, and it was one of the sticking points for me in the beginning. I can’t really say anything about that other than you have a point.

            There is evidence for darkness around the time when Jesus was crucified. The problem is that this darkness is highly unlikely to have been caused by an eclipse, as the passover would have been celebrated during a full moon. But because other people record this darkness, it leads some historians to speculate on possibilities.

            Thallus, a historian of the time, makes reference to the darkness. Africanus, a historian, has this to say about it “on the whole world there pressed a fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun in the third book of histories, without reason it seems to me.”

            Although Phlegon was born after the crucifixion, he was a respectable secular greek historian, and he wrote this “In the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was a great eclipse of the Sun, greater than had ever been known before, for at the 6th hour the day was changed into night and the stars were seen in the heavens. An earthquake occurred in Bythinia and overthrew a great part of the city of Nicæa.”

            It’s worth noting that a lunar eclipse could of happened on that day, but not during the hours the Gospels record. What I have to conclude is that we don’t know. It appears that something happened, but we just have no clear idea as to what. Some people have even speculated that an earthquake could have caused smoke or ash, and this would account for the darkness.

            The other claims you make about Jesus, have no proof of not happening. You simply see them as unlikely. This says nothing about wether they where true or possible.

            Is it really so hard to believe that the story of Jesus rising from the dead was just another fiction like these other falsified miracles? Especially when the gospels vary so wildly on what purported happened with Jesus’s death? We have many confirmed false miracles, and not a single confirmed one. What’s more likely – that the books contain a metric truckload of false miracles, and one genuine miracle when no miracle has ever been documented to be real in the whole recorded history of science? Or that the resurrection of Jesus is just as fictitious as the zombie invasion, the 3 hour darkness, and the other false miracles?

            Yes, it’s actually very hard to believe. It would leave far to many holes, when explaining the history of Christianity. It would leave no rational explanation for the rise of Christianity in a Jewish society that was under Roman rule.

            You have to understand that Jews think differently than you and I, even in the 21st century. Jews from the first century, simply would not have accepted a made up Messiah. We’ve seen other people, such as, Sabbatai Zevi who had followers in the millions and claimed to be the Messiah.

            In the end he was given the option of proving his divinity through a barrage of arrows, being impaled, or converting to Islam. I’ll give you one guess as to which one he picked.

            And when he abandoned his messiah quest, all the Jews abandoned him as well. The ones that stuck with him converted to Islam.

            You have to understand how impossibly unlikely it would be for a first century Jew to follow a made up Messiah. It simply wouldn’t happen.

          28. oCaptainmyCaptain

            @AhmNee

            There are just no words. None that you’d understand at any rate. You’ve been shown over and over how your definition is wrong. How the words you’re trying to inject don’t match up. You falsely equivocate, you make shit up, you spew logical fallacy after fallacy. And now that people are growing weary of your bullshit and your word games. Your cognitive dissonance and your logical inconsistencies. How when someone brings up a solid rebuttal to your assertions, you ignore them and run in another direction only to make the same assertion that was discredited earlier.
            .
            You now throw your abhorrently lacking reading skills into reverse and figure that because someone is sick of your inept references to Greek and your fallacious interpretation of bible passages that we never really cared what you were saying anyway. Obviously you’re the only one in christianity that’s correct and knows what’s what. The way others use the word be damned because you’re the only one who knows how to read the book correctly. And you’re the only one who uses faith correctly … with evidence … which you don’t have.

            I don’t care how you think Christians use the word. Be honest with me, how many Christians have you seen even attempt to give a comprehensive definition of faith? This is probably the first. So what are you comparing my definition to??

            Your just annoyed because I’m not saying “it’s this fuzzy feeling I have”, as you think Christians should. Just because I give something concrete, you reject it. This says a lot about you.

            I’m not changing words. I’m not inventing Greek. I’m taking a literal definition used in the Bible, translating it into something understandable, and giving you a definition in the best way I can. If you think my translation of what the Bible says is incorrect, then fine. Present a different one that’s grounded in linguistic fact, and not just pulled out of your own imagination. I don’t want to hear anymore why you think my definition doesn’t match YOUR VIEW of what a Christian is supposed to think. I. DON’T. CARE.

            One more time just for emphasis. I. DO. NOT. CARE what your preconceived notions of a Christian are, and I’m happy that I was able to upset them. And who are you to say what other Christians believe. Your not even a Christian?

            And If you don’t care what faith means, then why attack it? Why ask me all these questions, if you don’t care what I think?

            And If you don’t care, then fine. But don’t say that I’m equivocating. Don’t say that I’m making shit up. Don’t say that I lack reading comprehension, while clearly showing that you don’t understand what the passage means in the first place. Your ignorance on something shouldn’t be offended by education.

            And the funny thing is, you have not showed me a single example, NOT ONE, of how you believe other Christians use this word. You just continue to assert things without evidence, believing that it’s somehow common knowledge. Well it’s not. Did you ever think that Christians, have a different opinion on there own religion then you do?

          29. AhmNee

            Be honest with me, how many Christians have you seen even attempt to give a comprehensive definition of faith?

            .
            You do watch the show, right? You’ve at least watched some of the debates that people have had with Matt or Sam Harris, Hitches or Silverman? Your narcissism knows no bounds. You are not the first theist we’ve ever spoken to.
            .

            Your just annoyed because I’m not saying “it’s this fuzzy feeling I have”, as you think Christians should.
            .
            No. I’m annoyed because you fail to put up a valid argument and when someone calls you on it, you double down on the argument that was just poked full of holes. And you seem oblivious to it. I’m annoyed because you baselessly claim the bible is the most authenticated book of all time. I’m annoyed because you don’t seem to understand what setting is in fiction. (The Tom Clancy books, BTW, mostly took place in Washington DC, that must mean they’re non-fiction and Jack Ryan is a real guy.) I’m annoyed because even though you’re trying to defend this version of faith that somehow depends of evidence, it’s a complete red herring because you have no clue what evidence really is, what good standards of evidence are or how one goes about properly collecting said evidence.
            .

            I’m not changing words. I’m not inventing Greek. I’m taking a literal definition used in the Bible, translating it into something understandable

            .
            I’ve Googled the Greek words you’ve cited. I can most likely see which pages you got it from and even they don’t agree with you. And it doesn’t matter if your definition is correct because you don’t even understand what evidence is. You wouldn’t know evidence if it fell out of a tree and hit you on the head.
            .

            I. DO. NOT. CARE what your preconceived notions of a Christian are, and I’m happy that I was able to upset them.

            .
            No, you’re pretty much what one comes to expect. A bundle of misinformation, arguments made from ignorance or half information, an unwillingness to acknowledge or inability to understand a well reasoned argument, more logical fallacies than you can shake a stick at and arrogance seeping from every orifice.
            .

            And who are you to say what other Christians believe. Your not even a Christian?

            .
            You do know that most of us weren’t born into atheism, right? You do know that the show and many of the people that visit the forums go out of their way to talk to theists often if not on a regular basis, right? You are not the first theist any of us have encountered. You do know that atheists, on average, are better educated about christianity than theists, right?
            .

            Don’t say that I lack reading comprehension, while clearly showing that you don’t understand what the passage means in the first place.

            .
            It’s been pointed out to you on multiple occasions how you’re misinterpreting the passage and reading into it your own biases. Not even the religious pages that go into the Greek translation agree with you.
            .

            Did you ever think that Christians, have a different opinion on there own religion then you do?

            .
            Sure. And over and over they tend to assert that the belief is more important than evidence. That, in a nutshell, faith is believing in something without evidence of it’s veracity or even in spite of evidence against it. But even that doesn’t matter and that’s why this has been such a huge waste of time, or would have been if not for watching the mental gymnastics you’ve performed trying to defend your inconsistent and contradictory claims. Your saying that faith encompasses evidence is like a deaf man saying it encompasses music, because you have no idea what it really is.

          30. unfogged

            This would suggest that the invisible things you hope for, and lay claim to the Title deed of, are proved or tested along the way.

            I forgot to mention that even if I granted your claim that faith relies on evidence that would be provided ‘along the way’ it would still be unjustified. If you don’t have the evidence yet then belief (or faith) is not warranted. You can hope that something is true (or not) and you can hypothesize about it being true all you want but if you accept something as true before the evidence is in you are acting irrationally.

            I’ve heard Christians before use arguments like ‘if somebody believed in magnets before they were discovered they’d have been right all along’. That’s true but it misses the point that they were still wrong to believe anything before they had a reason to.

          31. EnlightenmentLiberal

            @Captain
            Your passage is ambiguous as to whether it refers to visions and hallucinations, vs seeing an actual Jesus. This is after his purported death and resurrection, after all.

            Paul did think he was a real person. A real person on Earth? Maybe, maybe not. Paul just neglected to mention anything that places him as a human in history, minus the occasional vision hallucination. Not a mention of his ministry. Not a mention of any of his healings. Not a mention of throwing out the money changers. Nothing that would place him definitively on Earth.

            Josephus lived during the time Jesus was alive, and he had zero interest in inventing stories about Jesus to corroborate his existence. He was a historian, and we have authentic works where he talks about Jesus as a real person.

            There are two passages. One is a known forgery. We can talk about that passage if you want. The other is clearly talking about a different Jesus.

            More than that, we have a “wanted” certificate for Jesus, that requests Jesus be brought to trial and stoned to death. What’s interesting about this is that Jesus wasn’t stoned, but a Jew requesting Jesus capture wouldn’t ask that he be crucified as this is a Roman form of execution. This gives credence to it’s authenticity.

            New to me. Citation please.

            They disagree on things such as who came to the tomb first and how many angels where there. But they all unanimously agree on one thing; The tomb was empty, and he rose from the dead.

            They disagree on what date he was killed, the year he was killed, how long between death and the first visions of a resurrected Jesus. In one story, a few women come to the tomb and find the stone rolled away or something. In another version, a different group of women come to the tomb, and there’s Roman soldiers guarding the place, and an angel casts down lightning or something and smites the soldiers.

            Further, so what if they agree the tomb was empty. I’m not arguing that they never agree. I’m arguing that their quality as historical records is shit, and that they are utterly unreliable.

            I would expect that if 4 people where telling a story, all four of them would have different variations. But if there was truth to it, then the most important pieces would remain the same.

            Right… which is how one story could have mentioned they came to the tomb and found a boy inside, and the other one involved a scene straight from a Hollywood movie with Roman soldiers and angels and laser eye beams. This is not something you should expect if they are actually interviewing witnesses. This is what you should expect if they’re making it up as they go along.

            Inerrancy

            Again, fuck inerrancy. I’m talking about mere reliability as a historical document. There is so much fiction in the gospels that it’s basically impossible to sort out what’s true from what’s not.

            I just can’t believe that over 4000 years not a single letter was put out of place, or a single word misspelled.

            What are you talking about? We have many, many manuscripts that show that the Christian bible has gone through many revisions, changes, and so on – some accidental, some purposeful. Good evidence-based estimates are that 5% (IIRC) of some of the books is material that was added after it was first wrote down. These documents were in wild flux during the first few centuries AD.

            No its not. The gospels contain names of specific locations, and common names of people who would have lived in the first century.

            So is Spider-Man. This is not a good argument.

            And how do you know that Luke is a good historian? Because he says so? Really?

            Wait. wait. wait. You believe that the disciples weren’t even real people? There’s almost no serious scholar that would agree with that. I don’t even really want to go there, as I feel it’s a rabbit hole full of unsupported conspiracy theories, and non sensical things. I would prefer to deal with the facts.

            I am saying that the accounts in the Christian bible of the followers in that particular story do not match the behavior of real people. I am not saying that there never was such and such a person. I am saying that this particular story is obviously fiction. It’s a fiction made to tell a story using many well-known plot contrivances and tropes.

            To be continued to avoid multiple link filter.

          32. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Err, I only had one link, lol.

            There is evidence for darkness around the time when Jesus was crucified. [...] But because other people record this darkness, it leads some historians to speculate on possibilities.

            http://www.jgrchj.net/volume8/JGRChJ8-8_Carrier.pdf

            The other claims you make about Jesus, have no proof of not happening. You simply see them as unlikely. This says nothing about wether they where true or possible.

            Again, absence of expected evidence is evidence of absence. Simply saying it isn’t so doesn’t make it so. If these earthquakes and darknesses and zombie invasions happened, there would be many more historical records of such things. There aren’t. We know this because there many historical records of (other) eclipses and earthquakes. This includes written accounts, geological examinations, archeological examinations, and so forth.

            It would leave no rational explanation for the rise of Christianity in a Jewish society that was under Roman rule.

            You seem mistaken about the actual historical facts.
            http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/luck.html
            “In fact, the evidence is pretty clear (as we shall see below) that Christianity won over less than 1% of the population before the middle of the 2nd century.”

            The rate of growth of early Christianity is nothing remarkable. It’s perfectly consistent with other cults and their known rate of growth. Citations available on demand.

            You have to understand that Jews think differently than you and I, even in the 21st century. Jews from the first century, simply would not have accepted a made up Messiah. We’ve seen other people, such as, Sabbatai Zevi who had followers in the millions and claimed to be the Messiah.

            And they didn’t. It was only centuries later when a significant portion of them came around. And even then, IIRC a lot of the growth was among pagans and not Jews. I don’t have numbers offhand. Do you? Do you know offhand how many Jews switched to Christianity over time for the first few centuries AD? I bet you’re just pulling shit out of your ass now.

          33. oCaptainmyCaptain

            You do watch the show, right? You’ve at least watched some of the debates that people have had with Matt or Sam Harris, Hitches or Silverman? Your narcissism knows no bounds. You are not the first theist we’ve ever spoken to.

            I have watched the show. Forgive me for not watching all 850+ episodes, but in the ones I’ve seen, I’ve never seen somebody give a comprehensive definition of what faith means. I’ve seen Matt tell people that what they believe is irrational, but I’ve never seen a complete definition.

            Also when I went to church as a kid, I don’t remember hearing somebody specifically outline a complete idea of what faith actually is. In all the forums I’ve been on with atheists, I’ve never seen somebody attempt to illustrate a comprehensive definition of faith. It doesn’t mean that nobody has done it. I’m sure they have. Since there’s apparently so many of them, show me the comprehensive definitions that you think conflicts with mine. You continue to assert without demonstrating proof. Something that you continue to demand of me.

            And yes the Bible is THE most authenticated ancient work of all time. I blamelessly state it because it’s the truth. Don’t believe me. Fine. Present one that’s more authenticated.

            I’ve Googled the Greek words you’ve cited. I can most likely see which pages you got it from and even they don’t agree with you.

            Bull! First of all, your assuming, where I got these translations for. As you’ve assumed everything else during the course of this discussion. But that’s besides the point. Show me which translations disagree with the way I’ve translated these words.

            No, you’re pretty much what one comes to expect. A bundle of misinformation, arguments made from ignorance or half information, an unwillingness to acknowledge or inability to understand a well reasoned argument, more logical fallacies than you can shake a stick at and arrogance seeping from every orifice.

            I know this might be difficult for you to understand. But maybe the reason I haven’t acknowledged your arguments, is because you haven’t given me any reason to. You’ve not described which logical fallacies I’ve made, only asserted that I’ve made them. You’ve not showed me which misconceptions I have, but are self assured that I have them. Whose the arrogant one here?

            You do know that atheists, on average, are better educated about christianity than theists, right?

            Oh the arrogance. I would assume that since there’s a very small subset of atheists compared to about 6 Billion Theists, the data is a bit skewed. No?

            This says nothing about wether your correct about the Bible. It says nothing about wether you’ve studied the Greek and know how to properly translate a passage, as I guess you do because your convinced that I am wrong.

            It’s been pointed out to you on multiple occasions how you’re misinterpreting the passage and reading into it your own biases. Not even the religious pages that go into the Greek translation agree with you.

            Show me the religious pages that don’t agree with my translation, so I can see if I erred. It seems like a simple fix to show me evidence that i’m wrong.

          34. oCaptainmyCaptain

            I suggest you look into the work of Richard Carrier, who AFAIK provides some of the best argument on the details of how the Christian bible came to be without a god. If you’re serious about your reasoning, you should look at the best cases against your argument – you should look at the best counter-explanations, and Richard Carrier is that. And don’t rely on what other people say about him. Read what he actually wrote.

            Yes, Please show me the links that you have.

          35. AhmNee

            And yes the Bible is THE most authenticated ancient work of all time. I blamelessly state it because it’s the truth. Don’t believe me. Fine. Present one that’s more authenticated.

            .
            There’s the shift of the burden of proof. First you provide the ‘proof’ that the bible is ‘authenticated’. Authenticated how? If it is, it’s not in the way you think.
            .

            Bull! First of all, your assuming, where I got these translations for. As you’ve assumed everything else during the course of this discussion. But that’s besides the point. Show me which translations disagree with the way I’ve translated these words.

            .
            Based on the words you’re using, I believe you were looking at this site (I could be wrong and said as much when I said “most likely”) http://biblehub.com/greek/5287.htm as you moved from one translation of the word to the next, in the order they’re on the page here, in your defense.
            .

            But maybe the reason I haven’t acknowledged your arguments, is because you haven’t given me any reason to.

            .
            Above, you asked what my evidence was that pointed to no god as opposed to a god. I gave 6 points, you responded to and criticized them and I responded and criticized your responses. You then ignored that entirely and you’ve done the same to others. You still haven’t given an answer for how if a being who is all powerful cannot create something greater than himself, how is that not a limitation on it’s power? That would seem to be a limit to the casual observer.

          36. AhmNee

            Show me which translations disagree with the way I’ve translated these words.

            Show me the religious pages that don’t agree with my translation, so I can see if I erred. It seems like a simple fix to show me evidence that i’m wrong.

            .
            Example from the first page of the google search.

            http://skipmoen.com/2010/01/26/theological-psychology/

          37. AhmNee

            Oh the arrogance. I would assume that since there’s a very small subset of atheists compared to about 6 Billion Theists, the data is a bit skewed. No?

            .
            It might be arrogant if it were me making the claim. But it’s not.
            .
            http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/28/nation/la-na-religion-survey-20100928

          38. Narf

            Ah! And there we have it. Finally, we get down to some truth here. So all this time, you admit that my definition of faith isn’t necessarliy what’s wrong. And you don’t care wether its right.

            Seriously, what the hell is the malfunction with your brain? How do you get from me saying that I don’t care what the original Greek says and that I only care what the definitions are and the way that people use the words, particularly Christians … all the way to saying that I’m admitting that your definition of faith isn’t what’s wrong? How the fuck do you make the leap to the exact opposite of what I said? There’s something seriously wrong with you.

            Between this and your insane reading of Doubting Thomas … this is why you’re dishonest.

            Are you really just an atheist troll, fucking with the TAE people and trying to make Christians look stupid? You’re one of the most dishonest douche-bags I’ve read … and I’ve read Ray Comfort.

          39. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Seriously, what the hell is the malfunction with your brain? How do you get from me saying that I don’t care what the original Greek says and that I only care what the definitions are and the way that people use the words, particularly Christians … all the way to saying that I’m admitting that your definition of faith isn’t what’s wrong? How the fuck do you make the leap to the exact opposite of what I said? There’s something seriously wrong with you.

            You said above that you don’t care what the Greek says or the Bible says. Where do you think Christians are supposed to get their views from? That’s like saying you don’t care what Socrates wrote, you only care what he thinks. The two can’t be separated.

            It might be true that some Christians use faith as, “believing something as true without evidence”, but not all Christians use it this way. I don’t even think the majority do, but since no polls have been done on the subject, I can only speculate based off the Christians I interact with.

            Also I didn’t say that you’re admitting my definition isn’t wrong. I said you don’t necessarily care wether it is or not. You seem to only be concerned with your own understanding of how Christians use certain words.

          40. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Example from the first page of the google search.

            Yes, and the page starts off by saying that if you want to find the “older meaning” of the definition then you have to do a little digging. Which I idid.

          41. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Based on the words you’re using, I believe you were looking at this site (I could be wrong and said as much when I said “most likely”) http://biblehub.com/greek/5287.htm as you moved from one translation of the word to the next, in the order they’re on the page here, in your defense.

            No, I did not get my definition from there. But I guess it doesn’t matter really as it seems to agree with my translation of the word.

            You then ignored that entirely and you’ve done the same to others. You still haven’t given an answer for how if a being who is all powerful cannot create something greater than himself, how is that not a limitation on it’s power? That would seem to be a limit to the casual observer.

            I don’t believe I intentionally ignored you. I’ve responded to so many comments here, that some rebuttals just get lost in the litany of posts. I’m only one person.

            The problem with this argument is that it’s illogical. Not to say that God is bound by our same sense of logic, but if he his, then it would simply be illogical to ask something omnipotent to create something more omnipotent. The contradiction is in the request, not in the being itself.

            Plus, even if God did create something more powerful. That new being would be God, and the former one wouldn’t be.

          42. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Again, absence of expected evidence is evidence of absence. Simply saying it isn’t so doesn’t make it so. If these earthquakes and darknesses and zombie invasions happened, there would be many more historical records of such things. There aren’t. We know this because there many historical records of (other) eclipses and earthquakes. This includes written accounts, geological examinations, archeological examinations, and so forth.

            Let’s say I agree with your statement that “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”. I don’t then agree that just because we haven’t found this evidence, means it necessarily doesn’t or never existed. I know you think our technology is highly advanced, and maybe compared to the first century it is, but we still are limited on the things we can do.

            A lot of history and evidence has been lost throughout the ages. Jerusalem itself was leveled in 70AD. Where also talking about events that would have occurred in a relatively remote location. We don’t even record everything that happens in the backwater towns of some of our states. Imagine how much less would have been recorded by people living 2000+ years ago who didn’t have access to the technology we have and could hardly write. It’s amazing that we are able to recover anything at all!

            The large events that could have been witnessed from other locations, seem to have been recorded, such as darkness in the sky and an earthquake. Wether these events occurred at the exact time Jesus was crucified, is still open for debate.

            The rate of growth of early Christianity is nothing remarkable. It’s perfectly consistent with other cults and their known rate of growth. Citations available on demand.

            I didn’t read the entire article, but it seems to make some interesting points. I have to finish reading it and then cross check before I can really say anything concrete about the rate of Christian growth. My current understanding was that nobody really knows how fast it grew. We just know that Judaism’s other offshoot religions where not successful.

          43. AhmNee

            Yes, and the page starts off by saying that if you want to find the “older meaning” of the definition then you have to do a little digging. Which I idid.

            .
            Did you not read past the first paragraph? He translates:
            .

            Faith is walking in obedience to a reality that is not yet obvious. Faith is doing according to God’s truth regardless of what I see.

            That seems to fly right in the face of your assertion there’s some sort of evidence. That seems to say “in spite” of observational evidence.

          44. Narf

            I care about how actual, modern Christians use the word, Captain. You’re coming up with some bullshit definition which you claim is the one given in the Bible … as if there weren’t multiple, conflicting things said about any possible subject, in the Bible.

            Then, you take your Frankenstein definition and conflate it with the way that most Christians use the word, giving you a gross equivocation fallacy for anything you attempt to demonstrate beyond that point. Then, we find out that you’re a young-Earth creationist, which tells us that you don’t understand what evidence is, anyway. You’re completely full of shit.

          45. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Then, you take your Frankenstein definition and conflate it with the way that most Christians use the word, giving you a gross equivocation fallacy for anything you attempt to demonstrate beyond that point. Then, we find out that you’re a young-Earth creationist, which tells us that you don’t understand what evidence is, anyway. You’re completely full of shit.

            You keep saying it’s an incorrect definition, but so far you’ve provided no explanation as to why. The only one who’s attempted to do so is AhmNee. You just keep saying that you don’t believe Christians use it that way.

            Now you’re saying I’m a young earth creationist. What!? Where are you getting this from? Is it because I said that the Bible made reference to people living 900+ years old? For the record, I’m not a young earth creationist.

          46. oCaptainmyCaptain

            That seems to fly right in the face of your assertion there’s some sort of evidence. That seems to say “in spite” of observational evidence.

            Upon reading past the first paragraph he says,

            The Greek word hupostasis never meant inner personal conviction prior to Luther’s translation. This Greek word was a scientific and medical term that meant “the underlying reality behind something.” It has nothing to do with personal conviction. It is a word that says, “this demonstrates the true but hidden reality.”

            He goes on to say that faith is “an outward demonstration of what is to come”, or what will be. Which would agree with what I’ve been saying.

            He goes further by saying, “this is not a private, inner experience. This is a tangible, outward expression of living according to a reality that is hidden for the time-being but will show itself to be the true reality soon enough.”

            Finally he ends by saying. “Faith is walking in obedience to a reality that is not yet obvious. Faith is doing according to God’s truth regardless of what I see.” I agree with the first part, but I think he ends up getting a bit woo woo here. He’s still in the realm of something that is a bit abstract.

            The reason I translated it as “title deed” is because after doing some digging I found that they recently uncovered a Hebrew women who wrote in Greek, “I enclose here my hupostasis”. When they looked at what was enclosed, they found that it was the title for a piece of land. This is why scholars now believe that the word hupostasis, refers to title deed.

            This is further supported by Paul’s next sentence. He says, “For by it the elders obtained a good report.” He goes on to say that, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” The entire passage reads like a business transaction between God and man. This is why “title deed” is probably the most fitting way to translate this word.

            Sure there might be some Christians who won’t accept this definition because it leaves very little wiggle room for any woo woo stuff. But I really believe that it’s the most fitting based on the evidence we have.

          47. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Also I should probably say that even if you said “walking according to God’s truth regardless of what I see” was the correct definition. It would then beg the question, “what is God’s truth”?

          48. AhmNee

            Let’s say I agree with your statement that “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”. I don’t then agree that just because we haven’t found this evidence, means it necessarily doesn’t or never existed. I know you think our technology is highly advanced, and maybe compared to the first century it is, but we still are limited on the things we can do.

            If your bible were a report of a child lost in the woods, we would have found the woods but not found a campsite. And after 2000 years, there has to come a time to call off the search and accept the report may have been false.

          49. AhmNee

            This is further supported by Paul’s next sentence.

            In this context it almost sounds like it’s calling faith the “command of god”. See the next few verses. This one in particular.
            .
            By faith Noah, having been divinely warned concerning the things not yet seen, having feared, did prepare an ark to the salvation of his house, through which he did condemn the world, and of the righteousness according to faith he became heir.

            Passage after passage is seems more murky than the previous. None of them mention evidence or allude toward any evidence. And I stand by my earlier statement that it doesn’t matter because I don’t think you have a grasp of what sufficient evidence is and what good standards of evidence are. And you corroborate that in the discussion about acupuncture. Stating that you’d believe acupuncture would work even if it wasn’t what healed you, as long as you were healed.

            All that it would take for me to believe that acupuncture works, is for me to personally be healed using acupuncture. It would only take one significant and personal experience. That’s it. I wouldn’t give a damn if it didn’t work for anybody else in the world. If it worked for me, then I would be convinced that it worked for me, and nobody could tell me different.

            .

            Now you might be able to deduce that relaxing was what healed me. In this case, we could find something else that would relax me and it might have the same effect. But it wouldn’t make acupuncture not true.

            You just seem to have no idea what it means to have sufficient evidence to believe something is true. And that’s sad. Because, as others have mentioned, it makes you gullible. The next time you went in for acupuncture and it didn’t heal your ills, you’d be very unlikely to decide then that it didn’t work because we, as human beings, have a tendency to count the hits and discount the misses.
            .
            Who knows how many times you’d go for acupuncture without results before you’d get fed up and finally decide it doesn’t work. All because you too easily believed that what healed you was an unproven practice when your migraine just went away on it’s own coincidentally at the same time you went for acupuncture.

          50. oCaptainmyCaptain

            You just seem to have no idea what it means to have sufficient evidence to believe something is true.

            I was wrong. The way I viewed it was that acupuncture still had the desired effect. This effect might have been a result of my mind being calmed by the process of acupuncture, but to me there was little difference. If every time I have acupuncture, it has the effect I’m looking for, it seemed to me that this would mean it “works”.

            Most stage performers have rituals. Some talk to themselves backstage, others shout, and others pray. This ritual helps them get through a successful performance. If they wouldn’t have achieved the same results had they not done the ritual, then doesn’t that mean it works?

            But I understand what you guys are saying.

          51. oCaptainmyCaptain

            By faith Noah, having been divinely warned concerning the things not yet seen, having feared, did prepare an ark to the salvation of his house, through which he did condemn the world, and of the righteousness according to faith he became heir.

            I would argue, that within the context of this story, God speaking to you is evidence. The people knew that God existed. God was still walking around (metaphorically speaking), and interacting with his creation. They knew that he created everything. They knew that he was capable of anything. So If he told Noah, “hey, I’m gonna start killing stuff down there. You better get ready”, it would seem to me that Noah had sufficient evidence to believe it was true.

            When Tyson said he was going to knock you out, you didn’t need to wait until you got hit to come to a reasonable conclusion.

            It “was not yet seen”, but Noah had evidence on which to judge wether the person making the statement was capable of doing what he said. You don’t need to see something in order to be reasonably sure of wether it will happen or not.

          52. AhmNee

            If I remember correctly, god never appeared to Noah. So you still have the dilemma of how you differentiate someone who has heard the voice of god, and someone who is insane.
            .
            How can you say with certainty that the woman who drown her children for their salvation because god told her to is wrong?
            .
            Hearing voices in your head isn’t typically considered evidence. So I still dispute that Noah had evidence and wasn’t forced to take the voices in his head on faith. The only reason we know that Noah was hearing the voice of god in this piece of literature, is because of the narrative mode the piece is written in.

          53. EnlightenmentLiberal

            A lot of history and evidence has been lost throughout the ages. Jerusalem itself was leveled in 70AD. Where also talking about events that would have occurred in a relatively remote location. We don’t even record everything that happens in the backwater towns of some of our states. Imagine how much less would have been recorded by people living 2000+ years ago who didn’t have access to the technology we have and could hardly write. It’s amazing that we are able to recover anything at all!

            You’re making my argument for me. The only sources we have for a historical Jesus are the gospels of Christianity, which are biased as fuck. The only sources we have, have lots of reason to lie and exaggerate. They could even make it all up and we shound’t necessarily expect contradicting evidence.

            The large events that could have been witnessed from other locations, seem to have been recorded, such as darkness in the sky and an earthquake. Wether these events occurred at the exact time Jesus was crucified, is still open for debate.

            Minus – you know – the the zombie invasion, anything relating to the guy named Jesus at all, including when he was supposed to throw out the moneychangers, a large exodus of Jews from Egypt, anything relating to the guy named Moses at all, Genesis in totality more or less, and a shitton of other things.

            Either he was a nobody at the time (Jesus) aka not divine or anything, or he should have been popular enough to be noticed.

          54. AhmNee

            I was wrong. The way I viewed it was that acupuncture still had the desired effect. This effect might have been a result of my mind being calmed by the process of acupuncture, but to me there was little difference. If every time I have acupuncture, it has the effect I’m looking for, it seemed to me that this would mean it “works”.

            .
            If going in for acupuncture or any of the other pseudo-science quackery seemed to help and you could actually trace it back to placebo effect or relaxation, why not try a masseuse or find a way to relax on your own like meditation of creating a soothing space at home. Why pay for someone to ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ you when what they’re doing really does no good. Or, maybe you find you just enjoy acupuncture. That’s fine. But you know that the reason you go is because you enjoy the experience, not that it’s actually helping to fix some health issue.
            .

            Most stage performers have rituals. Some talk to themselves backstage, others shout, and others pray. This ritual helps them get through a successful performance. If they wouldn’t have achieved the same results had they not done the ritual, then doesn’t that mean it works?

            .
            What you’re describing is unnecessary superstition added into what is essentially a focusing exercise. Strip away the superstition and you would likely find that it’s taking the time to calm one’s nerves and focus on what they’re doing is what’s helping, not the superstitious ritual. I know there’s certain linguistic exercises that performers sometimes do. But I think even those are a means to focus on something other than one’s nerves. (I’ve haven’t read up on that in particular so you’ll have to excuse if some benefit to those linguistic exercises have been shown).

          55. EnlightenmentLiberal

            There’s no problem with wanting evidence. That’s fine. The problem with Thomas was that his requirement before he believed something as “true” was insulting. The most insulting thing you can do to a leader, is to not believe in them.

            He not only didn’t believe in Jesus, he didn’t believe in his brothers “the disciples” who told him it was true. He discounted all the things that Jesus had done before, and he ignored all the evidence Jesus had demonstrated, giving credence to his claim as Messiah.

            If you’re a soldier, and your General leads you through dozens of successful battles, then when it comes to the critical one you doubt that he can get you through because the situation has never been this extreme. This is insulting.

            Nobody can lead, without having faith from the people they are leading. Nobody. There’s simply not enough evidence to be absolutely certain of an outcome in every single situation. At a certain point, you need to have some “faith” in the person that’s leading you.

            I am not a gullible fool. If I see my general die, and then someone comes along and purports to be that general, I want evidence.

            If I was the general, I would not want people to “just believe”. I do not want gullible fools in my command. I want them to be able to distinguish between reality and make-believe. I want them to be able to ignore a “clever ruse” by the enemy. I want them to be able to sort through misinformation by the enemy. I want them to be able to recognize an imposter enemy posing as me the general. The greatest insult to me as a commander would be to have idiotic and ineffectual soldiers who believe anything that anyone says to them.

  19. 19
    corwyn

    Atheists are often asked: “What is the harm, if I have faith in some religion?”

    And here in oCaptainmyCaptain, we have a very vivid example of exactly the harm.

    It all starts with a story, in this case of a massive flood. Now we know massive floods have happened (the Mediterranean has flooded from dry to full numerous times). In this flood a number of people and animals manage to save themselves be getting in a boat. So far, so good. As with many things, this flood is attributed to some supernatural cause. Now, when someone wants someone else to behave better, they say ‘watch it, or the supernatural being will send another flood to punish you. Now the story has become a morality play, and it must now be defended or people will do bad things. Additionally, the supernatural agency which caused the flood must be evident, if the story is believable by natural means, it loses it power to prevent bad things.

    Now, humans being what they are, they can’t believe that their ancestors were wicked, but people elsewhere were not. In fact, surely their ancestors were the good ones, and everyone else was wicked. So, the flood must morph from a local story to a global story. The entire world must have flooded due to the supernatural being punishing those wicked people.

    Note that the people who survive do so by their own ingenuity and hard work. If some supernatural being wished them to be saved, the same magic which drowned the world would be sufficient to save his favored ones. However, since it wouldn’t do to be defying said being, they get a ‘warning’.

    Along comes science, and its search for knowledge. So it begins searching (in good faith) for evidence of this global flood and its supernatural causer. But evidence is not forthcoming. In order to salvage their faith in the supernatural being believers must lie. For every piece of evidence, they must invent some way that it doesn’t apply, is wrong, is found by someone is lying. As more branches of science weigh in with evidence, it must all be denied, and soon science itself must be discredited. It practitioners are involved in a conspiracy. Children must be shielded from it so that they can be kept believing in the supernatural being. Education also becomes the enemy.

    As the evidence for the lack of the supernatural being becomes overwhelming, they must claim that the supernatural being is hiding. That all the actions they perform will be hidden in ‘natural causes’. Otherwise, they will have no explanation for the total contradiction. So, now they need to contradict not only science but also their own dogma. The flood that was originally so obviously made by a supernatural being in order to punish evil-doers, must now be pretended to be completely natural, and thus can’t be used as a threat to ensure proper behavior. The story itself has been completely inverted.

    In order to accomplish this mental gymnastics, the mind of the believer must be carefully trained from childhood to reject anything which contradicts what it has already accepted as true. This is precisely the opposite of the mindset that is needed to actually discover new knowledge. A person seeking the truth (as oCaptainmyCaptain claims to be) who flinches away from contradictions to accepted truths will never find the truths which are hidden behind those contradictions. Scientists must carefully train their minds to notice those contradictions and ferret out the reasons for them. And this is exceedingly hard work; the human brain is structured such that it will happily rationalize contradictory evidence.

    So, although there are 7 Billion people on this planet, only a very tiny fraction are doing the most important work of increasing the collective knowledge of humanity. Most are hiding from it in a comfortable cocoon of self-created lies. I refer not to the faith-based beliefs (which one could forgive given that they are indoctrinated in them before they reach the age of reason), but rather those lies which they need to invent to maintain that indoctrination against the pressure of reality. Every time a new fact is found, a new lie must be created to explain how it is consistent with the indoctrinated beliefs. The all-powerful supernatural being is unable to cure diseases in those who are good, in fear that some atheist will do statistics on that, and discover evidence that he exists, because if evidence can be used to show it exists, it can be used to show it doesn’t exist. And the believer knows that the second is more probable. The way we know that the believer knows that is that if they didn’t, if they believed that a supernatural being would be found in the evidence, they would be clamoring for evidence, rather than trying to undermine science.

    1. 19.1
      oCaptainmyCaptain

      Corwyn, I think you’re wrong. I think your very wrong actually. You make a lot of assertions and give virtually zero evidence to support any of them. You believe that people made up the flood, that people are lying about the things they believe, that all Theists are engaged in one giant collective conspiracy. Where is your proof? Where is the evidence that you demand so vehemently from Theists? All I see here is a nice story that you’ve constructed, which would only be accepted around like minded Atheists.

      Let me go paragraph by paragraph and show quickly how ignorant you sound right now.

      You say that the flood would be used to scare future generations into doing the right thing. Wrong. With the flood, the Bible includes a promise that God would never do the same thing again. And “poof”, there goes that theory.

      You say that human beings can’t believe there ancestors where wicked. Really? Really!? Have you ever taken 5 seconds to actually read the Bible? Let’s see what it says about some of the Israelites ancestors,

      Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
      - Acts 7:51

      Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
      - Hebrews 8:9 (which was pulled from a verse in the old testament)

      When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation,
      and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath
      that they should not enter into my rest
      - psalms 95:8

      And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh did.
      2 kings 21:20

      I could go on for days. In fact, the Bible doesn’t have very many nice things to say about most of the fathers of the Israelites. So this idea that they couldn’t cope with their fathers doing evil, is simply ridiculous, and has no basis in fact whatsoever.

      Actually, I’m not even going to go down the line. I’ll just take a page from the atheist playbook and say, “what can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

      1. corwyn

        Corwyn, I think you’re wrong. I think your very wrong actually

        As predicted. Did you spend 10 seconds considering it? You are exactly confirming my point.

        You say that the flood would be used to scare future generations into doing the right thing. Wrong. With the flood, the Bible includes a promise that God would never do the same thing again. And “poof”, there goes that theory.

        THE SAME THING. He could of course do something else, right? Like toss you in hell? No one in the entire history of Christianity ever used the fear of god? Delusional much?

        Let’s see what it says about some of the Israelites ancestors,

        Other peoples ancestors. *Before* they became the choosen ones. But whatever, not important to the point.

        what can be asserted without evidence…

        I wasn’t presenting a hypothesis for testing, I was explaining, to others, why you were an example of the harm that holding religious faith does. To yourself and to humanity. I note that you have not disagreed with that.

        1. oCaptainmyCaptain

          No, I actually thought it was an interesting theory. If I was an Atheist, then I would probably agree wholeheartedly. The compelling thing about your Theory, is that at first glance it appears to be true, and it seems to make sense.

          It’s just not true, or at least there’s not enough evidence to support that its true.

          1. corwyn

            Here’s the thing, if you would agree if you were an atheist, then you aren’t a rationalist.

            But do tell. What is your explanation for you believing something about your supernatural being that directly contradicts what the people who wrote the book believed?

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Are you saying that atheism and rationalism goes hand in hand? I thought you guys claim that atheism is only the pronouncement that “we don’t have enough evidence to think a God exists”. I didn’t know it had anything to say about rationalism?

            I said I might agree as an atheist because that’s just human nature. We tend to agree with people who are like us, for us, or with us. We tend to need less evidence, and do less critical thinking, when something lines up with what we already believe. So since I think your theory has a hint of plausibility as a Theist, I speculate I would see it as very plausible as an Atheist.

            How does what I believe contradict the people who wrote the book?

          3. corwyn

            Are you saying that atheism and rationalism goes hand in hand?

            Oh, do learn to read. Why would I have changed words if I thought they meant the same thing?

            We tend to agree with people who are like us, for us, or with us.

            Which is irrational. Hence, why I claimed you wouldn’t BE rational. What’s hard about this really?

            How does what I believe contradict the people who wrote the book?

            What do you think I have been saying for the last dozen posts? For example, they thought that the flood was INTENDED to be a supernatural demonstration of a powerful supernatural being, you think it is INTENTIONALLY disguised as a natural event by the purportedly the same supernatural being. DIRECT CONTRADICTION.

          4. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Oh, do learn to read. Why would I have changed words if I thought they meant the same thing?

            I see

            Which is irrational. Hence, why I claimed you wouldn’t BE rational. What’s hard about this really?

            Well nobody ever said human beings were rational creatures, we are emotional. It’s also not necessarily irrational to agree with somebody who you often agree with. Only if your agreeing with them without evidence. But I see your point.

            What do you think I have been saying for the last dozen posts? For example, they thought that the flood was INTENDED to be a supernatural demonstration of a powerful supernatural being, you think it is INTENTIONALLY disguised as a natural event by the purportedly the same supernatural being. DIRECT CONTRADICTION.

            It seems I might not be the only one with reading comprehension problems. I never once said it was intentionally ‘disguised’ as a natural event. I said I think it would be a natural event, as any event that happens within this universe is a natural event. Also, nowhere in the Bible does it say that its a ‘supernatural’ event. And it also doesn’t say that it was intended to be a demonstration of a supernatural being!

            The people being drowned, KNEW there was a God. They where very close decedents to Adam, who was said to have walked with God. The flood came because God looked at man and saw that ‘every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.’, and he got pissed off. The flood wasn’t a demonstration, it was a punishment for all the nasty stuff that the people where doing.

          5. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I never once said it was intentionally ‘disguised’ as a natural event.

            Captain, meet Captain:

            [Corwyn shows that the flood was impossible under natural law.]

            It’s not me whose being ignorant right now. You’re arguing that a God, with limitless power, couldn’t do something because it goes against your understanding of physics.

            So yes, you did. Corwyn noted that the evidence is fundamentally incompatible with a Noah flood. Then you argued that an all-powerful god isn’t bound by natural law / physics, implying that it’s free to fix it up after the fact to fit the current evidence, aka fix it up after the fact to make it look like it never happened. This is the only reasonable way to read what you wrote.

          6. LykeX

            I said I think it would be a natural event, as any event that happens within this universe is a natural event.

            Seriously? Any event? No matter what? Even if it blatantly violates the laws of physics? Even if it warps the universe to it’s very core? Even if god personally shows up and starts pulling rabbits out of a hat; since it’s happening in this universe, it’s a “natural event”?
            You’re not just claiming that god only performs his miracles through natural means, you’re claiming that god’s miracles no matter how extraordinary or mind-boggling will always constitute natural occurrences.

            This, I think, is a recurring problem in this whole discussion: You’re constantly using words in completely different ways from how everybody else understands them and then you act surprised when people don’t get what you mean.

          7. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Seriously? Any event? No matter what? Even if it blatantly violates the laws of physics?

            Yes, all events. A simple Google search would be your friend. When I google “natural event definition”, I don’t even have to click on one of the links, immediately it says that the definition is:

            happening: an event that happens

            I don’t even have to go further. The definition of a natural event, is simply an event that actually happens. So yes, if God came down and pulled rabbits out of hats it would be a natural event. I’m not misusing the word.

          8. Martin Wagner

            Martin Agrees with oCaptainmyCaptain Shocker:

            So yes, if God came down and pulled rabbits out of hats it would be a natural event. I’m not misusing the word.

            oCmC is dead right about this. In the same way that if we actually found ironclad, irrefutable evidence for ghosts or clairvoyance, we would not have proven the supernatural, but an aspect of the natural we had not heretofore been able to prove.

            But this puts Christianity in a quandary. Not only is the Bible full of accounts of God (both in and out of Jesus form) performing “miraculous” deeds altering physical reality that are seen by eyewitnesses, but believers today insist that such divine presence is still active. If true, then there should be evidence of these events that can be physically tested, examined, experimented upon, confirmed under peer review. And this is what we never encounter. Challenge a Christian to produce the evidence of Godly tinkering in the affairs of humanity on Earth that he’s just claimed occurred, and he will get, shall we say, huffy. And he’ll come back with some variant of “You have to have faith.” And we’re back to that again.

          9. LykeX

            Well, pardon me. When we’re talking about gods, I just sorta assumed that you would use natural events as a way to distinguish from supernatural events. I mean, why else specify “natural” events? When you add that, I obviously start wondering “as opposed to what other kind? Oh, supernatural events, of course.”

            Honestly, I’ve never never previously heard “natural event” used in this fashion. Okay, you can refer to a dictionary. Good for you. You’ve still used the word in a highly unusual way and, much more importantly, in a way that hampered communication.

            Looking over the posts from the other guys, I don’t think I’m the only one who read it that way. Show of hands, guys: How many of you understood “natural event” to mean “anything that happens at all, no matter what or how”?

          10. oCaptainmyCaptain

            At least somebody finally agrees :)

            But this puts Christianity in a quandary. Not only is the Bible full of accounts of God (both in and out of Jesus form) performing “miraculous” deeds altering physical reality that are seen by eyewitnesses, but believers today insist that such divine presence is still active. If true, then there should be evidence of these events that can be physically tested, examined, experimented upon, confirmed under peer review. And this is what we never encounter. Challenge a Christian to produce the evidence of Godly tinkering in the affairs of humanity on Earth that he’s just claimed occurred, and he will get, shall we say, huffy.

            This goes back to a point I was attempting to make earlier. My contention was that, even if we could produce concrete evidence of unusual events occurring, Christians are still left with the conundrum of having no way to demonstrate there was actually a God involved.

            Any scientist could still say, “no God was required to produce this event. Here’s how it happened…”, and they would be perfectly justified in saying so. Because once God interacts with the natural world, it becomes a natural event, and is therefore subject to some kind of demonstrable natural forces ( known or unknown ).

            How then could we tell wether God had a hand in anything or not? What method would we use? Or would the evidence of unusual events occurring, be proof enough to conclude an omnipotent being most likely exists?

            I’m not trying to move the Christian God out of the realm of testability, I’m asking if it’s even possible to move him in it.

        2. oCaptainmyCaptain

          I’d also like to point out that the God of the Bible really doesn’t seem to be constructed out of a need for a “God of the gaps”. Sure, there’s Genesis, which explains how the earth was founded. And the tower of Babel which explains why people have separate languages. But the rest of the Bible seems to be more concerned with God and his relationship to his people.

          I think taking something and saying it’s that way because “God did it”, is more of a Christian invention. Discussions on these forums and others like it, might not end up refuting God, or marginalizing him, but instead bringing Theists to a closer idea of what God actually is and what actually matters.

          Because at the end of the day, I don’t give a crap wether there was a great flood. I don’t care wether Jesus ever walked on water or turned it into wine. I care even less wether the sun stood still in the sky for Joshua. None of these things made me believe in God in the first place, and they’ve become distractions as far as I’m concerned. Why do we never discuss wether some of the ideals or philosophies taught in the Bible are true or not? And why when we do, it degenerates into discussing laws that where explicitly given to the Israelites, and have no effect on anybody outside of the Israelites?

          I understand that discussing these things can potentially poke wholes in the credibility of the Bible. But the Bible isn’t a science book. It’s not concerned with science. It’s concerned with relationship.

          But I’m just thinking out loud now.

          1. AhmNee

            That sounds like a call for the deconstruction of the sermon on the mount if I ever heard one.

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Sermon_on_the_Mount

            The bible is not a book to live your life by. Sure, it has some good things in it but it’s largely hidden in between some awful ideas and teachings.

          2. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Yeah, I’ve read Matt’s analysis on the Sermon of the Mount. It’s the only thing that ever made me really want to call in. I just might. To be honest, I can’t believe that he was able to write that and press publish with a straight face. He must have been laughing. I know I was.

            I’ve read some really good tear-downs of the Christian faith from Sam Harris. Some of the stuff he says and writes, makes me say, “you’ve got a point there”. But Matt’s deconstruction of the Sermon on the Mount, is laughably bad.

          3. AhmNee

            There’s a hollow argument. Am I supposed to guess why you think it’s bad?

            Maybe because there’s no way to criticize it for being out of context since it covers the entire thing.

            I think you’re right though. Matt probably laughs whenever someone holds up the sermon on the mount as this great message given to the people by jesus.

          4. EnlightenmentLiberal

            but instead bringing Theists to a closer idea of what God actually is and what actually matters.

            What actually matters is first demonstrating that such a thing exists, which you have thus far completely and utterly failed to even attempt to address, despite repeatedly being asked to do so by me and others. Where is your evidence and reason that there is a god and it is the Christian god?

            None of these things made me believe in God in the first place,

            Then what the hell did?

          5. corwyn

            Why do we never discuss wether some of the ideals or philosophies taught in the Bible are true or not?

            How many posts have you made here without making this request? We talk about what people bring up.

            But the ideals, philosophies, and genocides in the book can all be true without there even existing a supernatural being. In fact, they actually make one more unlikely. Certainly, taking the thing as a whole, it can’t be true, as it is too full of contradictions and horrors If there is something in it is true, why not pull it out and use it as is. I have many quotes I love from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, I don’t feel the need to believe in elves, or even take some other quotes to heart.

          6. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Where is your evidence and reason that there is a god and it is the Christian god?

            I swear I gave my reasons for why I believe in God and faith, I’ll link to those if you want. But the reason I haven’t answered “why I believe it’s the Christian God” is mostly out of laziness. That would take a very long time for me to explain all the reasons why I discount all other Gods. Here, I’ll give a few quick reasons.

            Evidence : Of all the faiths I’ve looked at (and I admit that I certainly haven’t exhausted the list) such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and numerous other smaller or ancient religions. I simply find that the Bible has the strongest amount of evidence supporting it. It’s more historically accurate, it’s more archeologically accurate, It’s claims are more widely corroborated, there’s more circumstantial evidence supporting it, and more eye witness testimonies. I know that there are many parts of the Bible that are open for debate, but it still stands alone as the most authenticated ancient work of all time. Nobody can dispute that.

            Applicability : once you realize that the entire Bible isn’t concerned with “stoning witches”, you find a book that has a lasting applicability, no matter what time period you are in. Sure it can be updated, and translated into a more modern speech, but the core messages have remained in tact. The idea of Jesus is something that almost every culture can identify with. People claim that the Bible is no longer applicable to the 21st century. But it remains as the most sold Book, year after year, so most people aren’t getting this memo.

            Coherence : It’s an astounding feat that so many different authors from so many different time periods where able to share the same message, decade after decade, century after century, and millennium after millennium. Atheists argue that the Bible is completely incoherent and contradictory. This is simply not true. Even when read at face value, and not contaminated with “at odds” Theology, you see a clear message from beginning to end. I don’t know of any other book that has accomplished such a feat, and remained relevant.

            Prophecy : Yeah we are all still disagreeing over wether Tyre is still standing or not, but the prophecies in the Bible that I can actually test have come true. Jesus himself actually makes a number of prophecies that I know for a fact came true, and that I know for a fact would have been highly unlikely to come true.

            One of them being, “many will come in my name, saying that I am Christ”. We take this for granted as Christianity is so wide spread now, but when you consider where this was spoken, at what time this was spoken, and within what culture it was spoken. It’s amazing that anybody could foresee that many people would come, not just claiming to be a Christ, but to be Jesus Christ himself. And there’s no shortage of people who have claimed to be him throughout history.

            Lack of reasonable doubt : There’s not a shred of solid evidence to suggest that Jesus wasn’t a real person. There’s not a shred of solid evidence to suggest that disciples made everything up. The only evidence we have, is lack of evidence that miracles are possible. In fact, I think we are sure as we can be that Jesus did live, he was crucified, his disciples absolutely believed that he performed miracles, and they believed 150% that he rose from the dead. It’s also clear that they weren’t alone in this belief.

            Coherence : The Christian worldview is coherent with what I see in my reality. When I look at the world I see meaning, purpose, order, hope, love, anger, greed, pride, and a host of other things that the Bible and the Christian worldview recognizing as being true in this present reality. The stories and philosophies inside match up with who we are as people. If the Bible gets nothing else right, you can’t say that it doesn’t understand human beings. I’ve seen Atheists ask “what does it mean to be human”, and I believe Christianity answered this a long time ago, and that answer coheres with the world I see around me.

          7. unfogged

            Evidence: There are references in the bible that are historically and archeologically accurate. Much of it was written by people using the land they knew as the setting just like Spiderman is set in New York and the Iliad is set in Troy. Since archeologists have found what is believed to be the city of Troy your logic would have to support the Greek pantheon. By the way, much of the history is wrong (no exodus, Jericho destroyed long before the time specified, etc).

            Applicability: Some of the message is good and most, if not all of that, can be found in older writings. There is nothing new in the teachings of Jesus, even the ones that are of value, and an argument from popularity is worthless. Many people believe all sorts of things and popularity does not prove truth.

            Coherence: You’re reading a different book than I am. If you read the bible without the preconceived notion that it is coherent and inspired by a god you may find that you’ve been twisting passages to mean things that they don’t say in order to maintain that coherency.

            Prophecy: If you think that it is amazing that anybody could predict that others would lay claim to being the messiah that the Jews had been looking for then you are very naive.

            Lack of reasonable doubt: That’s not how evidence works. Belief should be withheld until there is positive evidence for something, not just a lack of evidence against it. Also, the argument from popularity is still worthless. Many Mormons are fully convinced that Joseph Smith talked with angels; Koresh, Applewhite, Jones, Moon, etc all have devoted followers who are “150%” convinced that their particular guru was divine and performed miracles.

            Coherence: The bible stories weren’t written by aliens with a different psychology, they were written by humans who had the same desires, needs, fears, etc that we still have today. The technology has changed but a few thousand years is not long enough to change the basic drives and there’s no surprise that they experienced and wrote about those drives. So did many other peoples long before the Israelites and many afterwards. Whatever insights the bible may offer can also be found elsewhere; there is nothing uniquely profound about the bible except to those that hold that belief as dogma.

            All I’ve seen in your posts is that you believe because you believe. It may be comforting and that’s fine as far as it goes but to convince others you need to provide something that is demonstrably true even outside a worldview that first defines it as true before looking at it.

          8. corwyn

            Nobody can dispute that.

            I dispute that. There another thing you have been proven wrong about. You think you would get tired of it.

          9. EnlightenmentLiberal

            Unsubstantiated premise: One of Earth’s contemporary, popular religions must be right. Why? What about the scenario where the god didn’t directly interfere like what you think he does today? What about the scenario where the god did interfere, but the records of its interference have been lost to time? What about the scenario where the god did interfere, but the records of its interference are just a couple of old documents hidden away in the basement of some museum or library under “fiction”? This is what I want to know. Even if you could show that Christianity is more likely than the other world’s contemporary popular religions, that doesn’t show that Christianity is right. You need to meet the actual burden of proof, which is a demonstration that it’s actually likely. That’s fundamentally different than “it’s more likely than these contemporary popular alternatives”. Can you do that?

            Also, “Applicability”. That’s just you saying that you have a pre-existing morality, and that the Christian bible meshes well with it. Why even bother with the book if you already have a morality? Throw out the book, keep your good morality, and join us in the twenty-first century.

          10. oCaptainmyCaptain

            Evidence:

            Much of it was written by people using the land they knew as the setting just like Spiderman is set in New York and the Iliad is set in Troy. Since archeologists have found what is believed to be the city of Troy your logic would have to support the Greek pantheon.

            I don’t understand why atheists insist on using this line of logic. It’s simply ridiculous. There’s zero reason to believe that a hardcore Jewish writer living 3000+ years ago, and writing about historical events containing the God they worshipped, would write the same as a 21st century fiction writer talking about a man bitten by spider. There’s zero comparison here other then they both wrote letters. There’s also no reason to believe that a Jew would have written the same as somebody from a Pagan society. In fact, there’s mountains of evidence to suggest that they would not have.

            Applicability:

            Some of the message is good and most, if not all of that, can be found in older writings.

            This doesn’t mean anything. There’s no evidence to suggest that Jewish writers had knowledge of these other writings. And there’s even less evidence to suggest that they would of incorporated the beliefs of polytheistic societies into their monotheistic world view.

            Coherence:

            You’re reading a different book than I am. If you read the bible without the preconceived notion that it is coherent and inspired by a god you may find that you’ve been twisting passages to mean things that they don’t say in order to maintain that coherency.

            There’s one central theme I see throughout the Bible, and that’s the fall and redemption. One consistent theme. One collection of books.

            Prophecy:

            If you think that it is amazing that anybody could predict that others would lay claim to being the messiah that the Jews had been looking for then you are very naive.

            Please read. I said the amazing thing was that he predicted people would come “in his name” saying they where “him” Jesus Christ. It wouldn’t be amazing at all if he had simply said, “many will come claiming to be a Christ”, as many people had already claimed that before him.

            Lack of reasonable doubt :

            That’s not how evidence works. Belief should be withheld until there is positive evidence for something, not just a lack of evidence against it.

            Yes, but the lack of reasonable doubt is crucial here. It leaves the daunting task of explaining how, if what the disciples wrote wasn’t true, then how do you explain everything else about the rise of Christianity within a Jewish society.

            There have been other people that claimed to be Messiah’s. They where either killed, kicked out of the synagog, or they converted to a new religion. These other people also had many more followers than Jesus personally ever did. Once that happened, all the Jews abandoned that Messiah. There’s no good reason why they wouldn’t have done the same thing here, unless they had sufficient reason to believe that Jesus’s claims where true.

            Coherence:

            The bible stories weren’t written by aliens with a different psychology, they were written by humans who had the same desires, needs, fears, etc that we still have today

            I would agree, and in that respect it’s one of the most accurate books on the subject.

            I would disagree with your assertion that their is nothing uniquely profound about the Bible. I think the evidence is in the fact that we’re still talking about it 1000′s of years later, and another book hasn’t taken it’s mantle. There’s obviously something, good or bad, that people feel is special about it.

          11. EnlightenmentLiberal

            I don’t understand why atheists insist on using this line of logic. It’s simply ridiculous. There’s zero reason to believe that a hardcore Jewish writer living 3000+ years ago, and writing about historical events containing the God they worshipped, would write the same as a 21st century fiction writer talking about a man bitten by spider. There’s zero comparison here other then they both wrote letters. There’s also no reason to believe that a Jew would have written the same as somebody from a Pagan society. In fact, there’s mountains of evidence to suggest that they would not have.

            Do you believe that the allfather Odin exists? Do you believe the mighty Thor exists? Do you believe in Jupiter, Zeus, Poseidon? Obviously they are false, and yet people wrote a great many stories about these people as though they existed here on Earth. There are even better examples from history of this kind of mythologies, but I’ll go with the ones you probably know.

            Thus, we have these ancient people, some of which came before even the earliest bits of the Christian bible, writing stories about gods and their actions on Earth, which are obviously fiction. Why can’t these explanations work just as well for your Christian bible? From my perspective, they do. I don’t see any evidence that the Christian bible is particularly reliable, and I have a very good story as to how it came to be.

            Now, note that you are making a positive claim, and thus even if I didn’t have an explanation for how it came to be otherwise, the burden of proof is still on you. However, I’ll bolster my argument by also noting that in fact I do have an explanation which works quite well for the origins of Christianity.

          12. unfogged

            I don’t understand why atheists insist on using this line of logic. It’s simply ridiculous.

            Atheists will stop using that when theists stop insisting that the historical and archeological evidence supports the bible being true. It doesn’t. It may support the claim that it was written in and around what is now modern day Israel but it doesn’t support any of the mythical or supernatural claims.

            There’s no evidence to suggest that Jewish writers had knowledge of these other writings.

            I never claimed that they did. The implication was that the writings were similar to other, and older, texts because they were stories made up by people just like other cultures also made up similar stories because humans are basically all the same.

            And there’s even less evidence to suggest that they would of incorporated the beliefs of polytheistic societies into their monotheistic world view.

            Actually, there is evidence that the early beliefs were henotheistic, if not polytheistic, and that much of the early parts of the Tanakh make sense when considering Yahweh to be one of a pantheon and later revised to be a single god. Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Z-_A7UyJ0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmPo-M-afRM for Tracie Harris’ presentations on early Judaism.

            There’s one central theme I see throughout the Bible, and that’s the fall and redemption.

            I can agree that that could be considered an overarching theme to the whole book despite the numerous contradictions. You’d have to prove that there was a ‘fall’ before it meant much though.

            I said the amazing thing was that he predicted people would come “in his name” saying they were “him” Jesus Christ.

            I see that as a distinction without a difference. Of course later frauds would claim to be the second coming because they’d want to capitalize on the existing legend.

            how do you explain everything else about the rise of Christianity within a Jewish society

            How do you explain the rise of Mormonism within a Christian society? How do you explain the split of Protestantism from Catholicism or the further schism into 30000+ subdivisions? Some myths are well crafted and appealing to a segment of the population and gain converts. Some don’t meet the needs of the culture at the time and fade away or are actively repressed. Christianity hung on long enough and was lucky enough to gain Constantine as a convert. As I said before, argument from popularity doesn’t address the truth of the proposition.

            I would agree, and in that respect it’s one of the most accurate books on the subject.

            You are certainly welcome to your opinion. I may even agree that it captures the range of human behavior but I would never agree that it presents any sort of decent basis for a moral society.

            There’s obviously something, good or bad, that people feel is special about it.

            Yep, and if I could explain why people were so gullible as to fall for what is so obviously a poorly written book full of immoral ideas there might be a chance to end the farce. As it stands I can only sit back and wonder how anybody could be taken in by the nonsense.

  20. 20
    corwyn

    It’s not me whose being ignorant right now. You’re arguing that a God, with limitless power, couldn’t do something because it goes against your understanding of physics. Do you see how silly that sounds?

    You are being completely dishonest here. You said:

    No, God could technically do a lot. But as soon as he interacts with the natural world, it would become a natural event. Therefore it would enter into the realm of science, and we could just say that God didn’t actually do it. It happened naturally.

    And I am pointing out how illogical that is. Try to remember your own arguments, it will make things a lot easier. [People-not-oCmC will note the general rule that making up stories requires a good memory, while telling the truth only requires that you look at reality again]

    So, do the laws of physics apply or do they not? In order for god to make the flood a natural event, it would need to agree with the laws of physics. That is what we mean by ‘natural event’.

    Besides, once you admit that supernatural means were used to accomplish the whole mess, you are left to wonder (well, those of us with imaginations are) why go through the whole deal with the boat?

    1. 20.1
      oCaptainmyCaptain

      I’m not being dishonest. I’ve learned during the course of this discussion, to choose what I say carefully, as you guys are very interested in semantics at times. I specifically said here that if he interacts with the “natural world” it would become a “natural event”. I consider anything that happens in this universe to be natural. If God made fiery green martians rain down from the sky, It would in my opinion be a natural event. If he stopped time and spun it backwards, I would consider this a natural event. I consider all events that happen inside this universe, natural events. And this does in turn make them testable, but wether we have the capabilities to do this, remains to be seen.

      Wether all natural events are bound by your current understanding of physics, I’m not sure. There could be a lot we don’t know. And what might seem magical or impossible now, might be easily explained when we know more.

      Let me ask you a question. If the Christian God exists, do you think it would have been impossible for him to have caused the flood under any circumstances (known or unknown)?

      1. corwyn

        I’ve learned during the course of this discussion, to choose what I say carefully

        If God made fiery green martians rain down from the sky, It would in my opinion be a natural event.

        These two statements make it clear that you are insane. You really thought that what we mean by ‘natural’ includes a supernatural being raining fiery green aliens down on us?

        Get help.

  21. 21
    unfogged

    why go through the whole deal with the boat?

    That is one that I’ve long found amusing. Supposedly all of the animals were originally wished into being by a mere act of will so why would god need to save samples while he wiped out the rest? Couldn’t he remember what had been created the first time around and just do it again? Is creation more taxing than making a global flood and he was just being lazy? Why go through the whole business of a flood when he could have just wiped out every evil person instantly and left the animals as they were? Surely that would have been just as impressive to the few humans he chose to spare. Going through with drowning almost every living creature on the planet only makes sense if god can be a sadistic monster. Given that he apparently regretted the act afterwards, doesn’t that imply that he’s impulsive? If such a being existed it might inspire fear and propiation but certainly not worship.

    Or maybe it’s just a morality tale by the people of the time using an exaggerated version of relatively mundane local floods that makes no sense when taken literally.

    1. 21.1
      oCaptainmyCaptain

      The answer to the majority of your questions is “I don’t know”. I can’t possibly know why an omniscient being would chose to do things a certain way. I can speculate and maybe use some evidence from the Bible to construct a reasonable explanation as to “why”, but at the end of the day they would only be speculations.

      Do you think it’s possible that God had a good reason for using the flood, instead of other means?

      1. unfogged

        I think you first have to show some shred of evidence for believing that a god exists, let alone the Christian god, before it makes sense to speculate about his motives and abilities. Piling speculation on top of ignorance does nothing to advance our understanding of the universe we live in. It only hinders such understanding.

        Bible stories, like the flood, make much more sense when read as tales told by people who lived 2000 or more years ago trying to make sense of their world. They contain nothing that people of that time could not have known or reasonably guessed. There is absolutely nothing in them that is better explained by a supernatural entity than by people telling stories around the campfire.

      2. corwyn

        Do you think it’s possible that God had a good reason for using the flood, instead of other means?

        Such as the being is a sadistic asshole? Really, I can’t think of any other reason to drown every single TREE because some humans are mating with supernatural beings. What did the trees do?

        I can’t possibly know why an omniscient being would chose to do things a certain way.

        And yet you are perfectly willing to believe others when they say they do…

  22. 22
    unfogged

    It occurred to me that there’s a better example than Spiderman for the claims that the stories are true because you can visit the places where they happened… the movie “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” takes place in Illinois, Washington DC, and other places known to exist today. It was written 150 or more years after the events it describes which roughly parallels the gospels. Unlike the gospels there are many external references to Lincoln and others in the film that corroborate many of the claims in the movie. Maybe in 2000 years there will be a vampire-based religion with Lincoln as the central figure.

  23. 23
    Narf

    Captain, your vocabulary issues go so deep. I can’t be bothered to go back and fix all of your meta-issues.

    When you say that other Christians base their faith upon evidence … well, that’s easy for you to say, because you don’t understand what evidence is. Evidence is demonstrable. You think that the weakest anecdotes, culled with obvious confirmatory bias, are evidence. They’re not.

    Your statement about John being justified in claiming that his good outcome (disregarding all of the negative outcomes experienced by those who also prayed) is evidence of miracles, or however you phrased it, tells me all that I need to know about your thought processes. Your standards of evidence are so exceedingly poor that I can pretty much dismiss anything you say as being unsupported, unless it’s accompanied by evidence from someone far more credible than you.

    You speak of hundreds of eyewitness accounts in the Bible. We don’t have hundreds of eyewitness accounts. What we have is writings from someone who wasn’t there, claiming that there were hundreds of eyewitnesses.

    You speak of imaginary scientific experiments which could confirm the efficacy of prayer, disregarding the fact that prayer has been tested and failed.

    Given your messed up reading of Hebrews 11 (as if we should give a damn what the Bible asserts without evidence, in the first place) and your complete rewrite of the message of the passage about doubting Thomas, in which Jesus explicitly says that people who believe with no evidence are even more blessed than those who have evidence …
    Dude, you’re not rational.

  24. 24
    Robert South

    Confirmation bias is real, but that doesn’t mean something that COULD be confirmation bias necessarily is. The idea is that the set of things that occur is so huge that invariably it will be possible to find coincidences.

    But I think confirmation bias is working on these allegers of confirmation bias: they look for ways for there to be nothing there. The fine tuning of the universe is one example: we want it so bad we have to create plenty of other worlds so the anthropic principle can apply. “See, it’s a huge data set, just looks miraculous from here. ”
    Another example is the fact that Earth’s moon exactly fits over the sun, making solar eclipses possible. But that’s just one sample from an entire universe of moons that aren’t like that. But if every moon did that, it would be a principle, so still no coincidence. The only way for there to be a phenomenon is if you can strictly put it in a test tube and make it perform on command. So, scientifically you can’t prove it, but it’s not
    entirely unreasonable to believe there is some kind of phenomenon here–other than self delusion. The existence of synchronicity fits into the same category as many other unproven ideas, but the existence of observer bias does not conclusively disprove it. Belief that there is something messing with probabilities is not illogical, there is some evidence that may support it, and no evidence fully ruling it out. Rejecting it out of hand because it doesn’t arrive at the correct answer, well, that’s something else.

    It doesn’t work in test tubes, it mainly works in unbounded systems. It’s a property of the statistics not of large numbers, but of infinity. The infinity of the multiverse may itself have dynamic properties.

    1. 24.1
      corwyn

      Another example is the fact that Earth’s moon exactly fits over the sun, making solar eclipses possible.

      *At the moment.* The Moon used to be closer to Earth, and more than covered the Sun. Someday, it will be farther from the Earth, and won’t ever cover it. And then it will reverse that whole sequence. At the moment we *sometimes* get perfectly sized moons, other times it is too big or too small, due to variations in the orbit.

      What exactly did you want to conclude from this? That there is a god? Seems a bit of a stretch. That this is even evidence for a god? Also seems a stretch. Are you sure that the anthropic principle has no influence on this question?

      1. Narf

        I think he’s on our side, stating the argument as theists make it. I don’t think he has the answers to your questions, Corwyn, since he isn’t silly enough to buy into the crap, himself.

        1. corwyn

          That’s fine, I am just making sure that the counter argument is presented. I am only rarely arguing solely to the person I am responding to. That is pretty much a lost cause with many here.

      2. AhmNee

        The Moon used to be closer to Earth, and more than covered the Sun. Someday, it will be farther from the Earth, and won’t ever cover it.

        I could be totally off base but I don’t think that’s how it works. The moon looks like it covers the sun but only on a very limited area of the globe. When there’s an eclipse, it doesn’t happen for the whole globe, just a section where the moon appears to blot out the sun. As the moon moves away from the earth, that area gets smaller as the illusion that the moon is large enough to blot out the sun happens to a smaller area of the earth.

        That was always my understanding of how it works, at any rate.

        1. EnlightenmentLiberal

          Think about that for a sec. Will a random (small) asteroid somewhere inbetween the Earth and Sun cause an Eclipse? No. If the Moon is small enough or far enough away, it’s just some small asteroid. This is in the extremes. You are right that as it gets bigger, the eclipse would also be visible from more Earth land mass.

          1. AhmNee

            That’s precisely it. If it were close enough, yes, the asteroid would cause an eclipse, But only to people right under it (about to get squished). The moon is massive which allows an eclipse to be seen in a larger area relatively and as it moves farther away it would eventually cause no more eclipse than the asteroid.

            I’m not entirely sure we’re disagreeing. :)

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