Debate: Does the God of Christianity Exist? Max Andrews vs. Justin Schieber

andrews_v_schieberDoes the God of Christianity Exist? 

This debate was not a live debate, rather it was a series of audio exchanges that took place through the months of June and July of 2013 between Max Andrews of (Sententias.org) and Justin Schieber (Doubtcast.org). The exchanges were according to agreed upon time limitations on each section. For each of their several sections, the debaters were given at least a week to analyze, script and record their entries before submitting it to their opponent. Each submission, has been edited together in the agreed upon order for your listening interest. As one speaker ends, the next will follow without interruption.

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RD Extra: A Skeptical Review of Religious Prosociality Research with Luke Galen

This RD extra features a lecture by Luke Galen “A Skeptical Review of Religious Prosociality” delivered to CFI Michigan June 26th 2013

It is often suggested that religion leads individuals to be more prosocial, that is, more cooperative, generous, friendly, and happy. A commonly held belief is that “religion makes better neighbors”. However, a closer examination of the research supporting these claims yields important qualifications to this relationship. Dr. Galen will offer some common examples of these types of studies and invite the audience to ask critical questions regarding the types of conclusions that can be drawn from the “religion makes you good” literature.

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And for everyone who asked for references…get a load of this:

References

1. Brooks, A. C. (2006). Who really cares: The surprising truth about compassionate conservatism. New York, NY: Basic Books.

2. Saroglou, V. (2010). Religiousness as a cultural adaptation of basic traits: A five-factor model perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, (1), 108–125. doi:10.1177/1088868309352322

3. Myers, D. G. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55, (1), 56–67. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.56

4. Myers, D. G. (2008). A friendly letter to skeptics and atheists: Musings on why God is good and faith isn’t evil. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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6. Bering, J. (Jul. 1, 2012).  Don’t Trust the Godless. Slate. http://www.salon.com/2012/07/01/dont_trust_the_godless/

7. Galen, L.W. (2012). Does Religious Belief Promote Prosociality?: A Critical Examination. Psychological Bulletin, 138, (5), 876-906. doi: 10.1037/a0028251

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10. Rowatt, W. C., Franklin, L. M., & Cotton, M. (2005). Patterns and personality correlates of implicit and explicit attitudes toward Christians and Muslims. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, (1), 29–43. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00263.x

11. Galen, L. W., Smith, C. M., Knapp, N., & Wyngarden, N. (2011[lg1] ). Perceptions of religious and non-religious targets: Exploring the effects of perceivers’ religious fundamentalism. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,41, (9), 2123–2143. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00810.x

12. Widman, D. R., Corcoran, K. E., & Nagy, R. E. (2009). Belonging to the same religion enhances the opinion of others’ kindness and morality. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 3, (4), 281–289.

13. Galen, L.W., & Ver Wey, A. (July, 2012). Unpacking religious prosociality: Personality ratings are contaminated by religious stereotype and ingroup bias. Symposium presented at the 16th meeting of the European Conference on Personality, Trieste, Italy.

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17. American Association of Fundraising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy (2002). Giving USA: The annual report on philanthropy for the year 2002. New York, NY: American Association of Fundraising Counsel.

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20. Ben-Ner, A., McCall, B. P., Stephane, M., & Wang, H. (2009). Identity and in-group/out-group differentiation in work and giving behaviors: Experimental evidence. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 72, (1), 153–170. doi:10.1016/j.jebo.2009.05.007

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29. Ahmed, A. M., & Salas, O. (2009). Is the hand of God involved in human cooperation? International Journal of Social Economics, 36, (1/2), 70–80. doi:10.1108/03068290910921190

30. Paciotti, B., Richerson, P., Baum, B., Lubell, M., Waring, T., McElreath, R., … Edsten, E. (2011). Are religious individuals more generous, trusting, and cooperative? An experimental test of the effect of religion on prosociality. In D. C. Wood (Series Ed.) & L. Obadia & D. C. Wood (Vol. Eds.), Research in Economic Anthropology: Vol. 31. The economics of religion: Anthropological approaches (pp. 267–305). Bingley, England: Emerald. doi:10.1108/S0190-1281(2011)0000031014

31. Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. (2007). God is watching you: Priming God concepts increases prosocial behavior in an anonymous economic game. Psychological Science, 18, (9), 803– 809. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01983.x

32. Ahmed, A. M., & Salas, O. (2008). In the back of your mind: Subliminal influences of religious concepts on prosocial behavior (Working Papers in Economics No. 331). Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden. Retrieved from http://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/18838/4/gupea_2077_18838_4.pdf

33. Sasaki, J. Y., & Kim, H. S. (2011). At the intersection of culture and religion: A cultural analysis of religion’s implications for secondary control and social affiliation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, (2), 401–414. doi:10.1037/a0021849

34. Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2011). Divergent effects of activating thoughts of God on self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, (1), 4–21. doi:10.1037/a0025971

35. Baumeister, R. F., Bauer, I. M., & Lloyd, S. A. (2010). Choice, free will, and religion. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2, (2), 67–82. doi:10.1037/a0018455

36. Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Like a camera in the sky? Thinking about God increases public self-awareness and socially desirable responding. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, (1), 298–302. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.09.006

37. Pichon, I., Boccato, G., & Saroglou, V. (2007). Nonconscious influences of religion on prosociality: A priming study. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37, (5), 1032–1045. doi:10.1002/ejsp.416

38. Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. (2007). God is watching you: Priming God concepts increases prosocial behavior in an anonymous economic game. Psychological Science, 18, (9), 803–809. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01983.x

39. Bateson, M., Nettle, D., & Roberts, G. (2006). Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting. Biology Letters, 2, (3), 412–414. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0509

40. Batson, C. D., Thompson, E. R., Seuferling, G., Whitney, H., & Strongman, J. A. (1999). Moral hypocrisy: Appearing moral to oneself without being so. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, (3), 525–537. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.3.525

41. Norenzayan, A., & Shariff, A. F. (2008). The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science, 322, (5898), 58 – 62. doi:10.1126/science. 1158757

42. Smith, R. E., Wheeler, G., & Diener, E. (1975). Faith without works: Jesus people, resistance to temptation, and altruism. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 5, (4), 320–330. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1975.tb00684.x

43. Williamson, W. P., & Assadi, A. (2005). Religious orientation, incentive, self-esteem, and gender as predictors of academic dishonesty: An experimental approach. Archive for the Psychology of Religion, 27, (1), 137–158.

44. Gervais, W. M. (2011). Finding the faithless: Perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, (4), 543–556. doi:10.1177/0146167211399583

45. Bushman, B. J., Ridge, R. D., Das, E., Key, C. W., & Busath, G. L. (2007). When God sanctions killing: Effect of scriptural violence on aggression. Psychological Science, 18, (3), 204 –207. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01873.x

46. Leach, M. M., Berman, M. E., & Eubanks, L. (2008). Religious activities, religious orientation, and aggressive behavior. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47, (2), 311–319. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2008.00409.x

47. Saroglou, V., Corneille, O., & Van Cappellen, P. (2009). “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”: Religious priming activates submissive thoughts and behaviors. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 19, (3), 143–154. doi:10.1080/10508610902880063

48. Van Cappellen, P., Corneille, O., Cols, S., & Saroglou, V. (2011). Beyond mere compliance to authority figures: Religious priming increases conformity to informational influence among submissive people. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 21, (2), 97–105. doi:10.1080/10508619.2011.556995

49. Vilaythong Tran, O., Lindner, N. M., & Nosek, B. A. (2010). “Do unto others”: Effects of priming the golden rule on Buddhists’ and Christians’ attitudes toward gay people. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 49, (3), 494–506. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01524.x

50. Johnson, M. K., Rowatt, W. C., & LaBouff, J. (2010). Priming Christian religious concepts increases racial prejudice. Social Psychological & Personality Science, 1, (2), 119–126. doi:10.1177/1948550609357246

51. LaBouff, J., Rowatt, W. C., Johnson, M. K., & Finkle, C. (2012). Differences in attitudes towards outgroups in a religious or non-religious context in a multi-national sample: A situational context priming study. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 22, (1), 1-9. doi:10.1080/10508619.2012.634778

52. Rowatt, W. C., Ottenbreit, A., Nesselroade, K. P., Jr., & Cunningham, P. A. (2002). On being holier-than-thou or humbler-than-thee: A social-psychological perspective on religiousness and humility. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, (2), 227–237. doi:10.1111/1468-5906.00113

53. Burris, C. T., & Jackson, L. M. (2000). Social identity and the true believer: Responses to threatened self-stereotypes among the intrinsically religious. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39, (2), 257–278.doi:10.1348/014466600164462

54. Alicke, M., & Sedikides, C. (2009). Self-enhancement and self-protection: What they are and what they do. European Review of Social Psychology, 20, (1), 1–48. doi:10.1080/10463280802613866

55. Burris, C. T., & Navara, G. S. (2002). Morality play or playing morality? Intrinsic religious orientation and socially desirable responding. Self and Identity, 1, (1), 67–76. doi:10.1080/152988602317232812

56. McCullough, M. E., & Worthington, E. L., Jr. (1999). Religion and the forgiving personality. Journal of Personality, 67, (6), 1141–1164. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00085

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58. Tsang, J.-A., Schulwitz, A., & Carlisle, R. D. (2011). An experimental test of the relationship between religion and gratitude. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, (1), 40–55. doi:10.1037/a0025632

59. Leach, M. M., Berman, M. E., & Eubanks, L. (2008). Religious activities, religious orientation, and aggressive behavior. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47, (2), 311–319. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2008.00409.x

60. Greer, T., Berman, M., Varan, V., Bobrycki, L., & Watson, S. (2005). We are a religious people; we are a vengeful people. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, (1), 45–57. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00264.x

61. Hood, R. W., Jr., Hill, P. C., & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach (4th ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

62. Blogowska, J., & Saroglou, V. (2011). Religious fundamentalism and limited prosociality as a function of the target. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50, (1), 44–60. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01551.x

63. Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question: Toward a social psychological answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

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65. Ji, C. C., Pendergraft, L., & Perry, M. (2006). Religiosity, altruism, and altruistic hypocrisy: Evidence from Protestant adolescents. Review of Religious Research, 48, (2), 156–178.

66. Garos, S., Beggan, J. K., & Kluck, A. (2004). Temptation bias: Seeing oneself as better able than others to resist temptation. In R. L. Piedmont & D. O. Moberg (Eds.), Research in the social scientific study of religion (Vol. 15, pp. 235–260). Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

67. Smith, T. B., McCullough, M. E., & Poll, J. (2003). Religiousness and depression: Evidence for a main effect and the moderating influence of stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 129, (4), 614–636. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.4.614

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A response to Randal Rauser’s criticisms of the Problem of Non-God Objects.

Listeners of the Reasonable Doubts Podcast will know that I (Justin Schieber) often use an argument I sometimes call ‘The Problem of Non-God Objects’.  This argument has gone through many different versions over the last few years.  Put in its most recent, simplified form, the argument goes like this:

 

 

P1: If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique best possible world.

P2: If Godworld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.

P3: GodWorld is false because the Universe (or any non-God object) exists.

-Therefore, the Christian God, as so defined, does not exist.

(
Note: The term ‘GodWorld’ refers to that possible world where God never actually creates anything.  This argument takes for granted that God’s initial act of creating the universe (or any non-God object) was a free act and not born out of necessity.)

 

 

Because the Christian God is to be understood as a maximally great being – he must be absolutely and essentially perfect both morally and ontologically.
What is meant by ontological perfection?

There are things called ‘great-making properties’ – things like power, being loving, having knowledge etc.  And God, if he exists, has these properties to their respective maximally compossible degrees.  The words of Christian philosopher, J.P. Moreland can shed some light on this…
 “To say that God is perfect means that there is no possible world where he has his attributes to a greater degree… God is not the most loving being that happens to exist, he is the most loving being that could possibly exist so that God’s possessing the attribute of being loving is to a degree such that it is impossible for him to have it to a greater degree.”
So the question being pressed by the argument is, If the Christian God were to exist, could he possibly have motivating reasons to intentionally create a universe?
I argue no.

 

If God exists, he is the best possible being – meaning he has those great-making properties to their maximal compossible degrees and no such properties to any lessor degree. A world composed entirely of the single best possible being existing alone for eternity would be a world composed entirely of all those great-making properties to their maximal compossible degrees and no such properties to any lessor degree – Now, unless there is some source of unique Goodness – Goodness that exists outside of and fully independent of God then GodWorld must be the unique best possible world.  It is the richest and, quite literally, the godliest of all possible worlds and since no other world can compare, it is the unique best possible world – one that God, if he is maximally great, would certainly maintain.  The empirical fact that there are things that exists that are not identical to God show us that the possible world of GodWorld was not maintained and so the Christian God does not exist.

 

Roughly six months ago, Randal Rauser (RandalRauser.com) wrote a blog post wherein he forwarded several challenges.  Here I want to look at those objections to see if they carry any weight.

 

Randal’s First Objection:
Randal’s first objection is to perform a kind of Moorean shift. Randal argues that because people believe that God is the creator of the universe (Perhaps by philosophical arguments or revelation etc.), they will be more likely to think that something must be wrong with the argument rather than simply accepting its conclusion.
Essentially, Randal rewrites the argument.  But, because of the deductive nature of the argument, Randal still has work to do.  If the argument is valid, then clearly I must be misunderstanding Randal’s particular nuanced version of God in some important way.  Perhaps P2 or P1 is in error?  The entire point of the argument is that, given this particular way of thinking about God and creation, God can not exist. I hope I can be forgiven for not finding the “But God does exist!” response to be one deserving of more attention.

 

 

 

Randal’s Second Objection
:
Randal’s second response is a bit more substantive.  He expresses skepticism that ‘GodWorld’ is a greater possible world than a World where God exists along with the Universe (Or a non-God object).  He injects his skepticism with some horsepower by providing an illustration about muscle car museums.

 

“Imagine two automobile museums devoted to the muscle car. Each museum has a perfect model of every muscle car ever built from the 1964 GTO straight up to the 2013 Shelby Mustang. However, the second muscle car museum also has an unrestored, rusty 1970 Camaro in the backlot. Which is the greater muscle car museum?”



 

Curiously, Randal doesn’t think that either museum has the upper hand.

 

To see why Randal’s intuitions about the car museum are poorly-formed, we need to think about how one might plausibly place relative values upon the particulars of a category like muscle car museums.  The value of any particular muscle car museum must be evaluated according to how well it fulfills the goals and purposes of the general category of muscle car museums.  Relevant factors might include educational value, number of exhibits, aesthetic appeal, average age of the cars, variety of make/model and condition of cars.  Given the fact that both museums are dedicated to fulfilling these goals, and given the fact that the museum with an unrestored, rusty 1970 Camaro in the back lot has more variety of make/model and condition and a greater number of exhibits so, all else being equal, the second museum is clearly better.

 

If Randal was at a fork in the road with each of these museums an equal distance in opposite directions and both were identical outside of the addition of a rusty 1970 Camaro, are we to think that Randal would be totally in a state of indifference as to which one to actually attend?

 

Nonsense.

 

Here is where the analogy to God and possible worlds breaks down.  We evaluated the relative merit of each museum according to how well they fulfill the expectations of that category but that is not at all how we evaluate the relative ontological merits of two worlds consisting of God and a world consisting of God alongside non-god objects.

 

Why?

 

Because, If we take God to be the ONLY instance of essential and absolute moral perfection, moral grounding and the standard of all possible value, then a world where there exists something ontologically distinct from God is a world where there exists something that isn’t morally or ontologically perfect.  A world containing just one non-god object is a world whose overall quality can now be improved as it has been degraded. In GodWorld however, it simply makes no sense to talk about the improvement of absolute ontological perfection.

RD

Episode 116: The Outsider Test For Faith with guest John Loftus

OutsiderTestforFaithHow can one accept the Bible at face value but reject the Quran’s teachings? How can one accept Christian miracles as evidence but reject Hindu miracles? John Loftus, author of the Christian Delusion and God or Godless, joins us on the show to discuss the Outsider Test For Faith, which challenges believers to thoughtfully consider why they reject the claims of other religions and then apply the same critical standards to their own beliefs. Also on the show, its the Gospel of Superman! Why has Hollywood decided to promote the latest superhero film specifically to evangelical churches? And for God Thinks Like You, can just thinking about Superman turn you into a hero? All that plus a polytheism that is , quite frankly, a little twisted.

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Episode 115: The Myth of Martyrdom (Part 3)

The doubtcasters wrap up their “Myth of Martyrdom” series by discussing the evidence of others (non-apostles) who supposedly witnessed the resurrection, other miracle claims from antiquity and the false dichotomy at the heart of the “die for a lie” argument. Also, the Dr. Professor makes up for lost time by reviewing numerous studies on the psychology of religion, including: religious rationalizations of criminal behavior, cognitive overlap between deontological and consequentialist moral reasoning, and the different paths that lead people to doubt the supernatural.

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RD Extra: Etcetera debate: The Status of God in the 21st Century – Featuring Justin Schieber & Scott Smith

schiebervsmithLast month Justin Schieber was invited by Etcetera to Traverse City, Michigan to debate/discuss with Scott Smith (CApologetics.org) the ‘Status of God in the 21st Century‘.  The lively discussion touched on a wide range of topics from moral intuitions to the strength of positing a God as an explanation.

 

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Episode 114: The Myth of Martyrdom (Part 2): Who Would Die for a Lie?

peterWould anyone knowingly die for a lie? Christian tradition teaches us that many of Jesus’ disciples were persecuted and martyred for their faith. But if Jesus did not really rise from the dead why would the apostles be willing to sacrifice their lives over claims they knew were false? To many Christians, the apostle’s martyrdom is compelling confirmation that the message they preached was true. But is there any reliable evidence that the apostles actually were martyred for their faith in the resurrection? Also on this episode: The Pew Research Center releases a global study on the views of Muslims world-wide. We’ll take a look at the survey and what it suggests about the source of Islamic extremism.

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Episode Links:

Pew Research Center Report: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society
Triablogue: Early Sources on the Death of the Apostles

Episode 113: The Myth of Martyrdom (Part 1) with guest Candida Moss

myth_of_persecutionJesus famously told his disciples “take up your cross and follow me” and the church has proudly circulated stories of Christian martyrs ever since. Stories of believers who refused to renounce their faith in the face of persecution inspire some to great acts of heroism but can also promote a spirit of victimization. In her new book “The Myth of Christian Persecution” Candida Moss argues that the martyrdom stories from the first centuries of the Christian church have been exaggerated, and in many cases completely fabricated. Contrary to popular accounts of church history there never was any widespread systematic persecution of Christians in the first centuries of the common era. Join us as we discuss her fascinating book.
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Episode 112: The Great Agnostic with guest Susan Jacoby

dude_was_great_and_an_agnosticToday most Americans have never heard of Robert Green Ingersoll but in the 19th century he was considered one of the greatest orators of his age. Known as “the Great Agnostic”, Ingersoll criticized religion and championed progressive political causes with great ferocity, wit and humor. Though his writings are controversial even by today’s standards his personal charm was so disarming that people would travel miles for a chance to hear him speak. Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers and the Age of American Unreason joins us to talk about her new biography of Ingersoll and to illuminate how his courage and integrity continues to inspire to this day. Also on this episode: Unlike Ingersoll, Pope Francis seems to have more charm than courage and the doubtcasters enjoy a hearty “I told you so” moment thanks to a new study on the impact of free will/ determinism belief on ones larger worldview.

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RD Extra: Orme vs Shieber Debate – Does The Christian God Exist?

orme_vs_schieber

 

For this RD Extra, we give you a lengthy debate on the existence of the Christian god. Arguing in the affirmative is apologist Jared Orme of Conversion Points Radio and in the negative, Justin Schieber. Reasonable Doubts wants to thank Jared for the time and effort he put into this exchange

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