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Nov 23 2009

Fun with the Jesus people

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)

Last Wednesday, we had on our campus at Case Western Reserve University the promised free distribution of Ray Comfort’s printing of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, with an introduction by him containing his pathetic attempts at combating evolution.

The distribution seemed as if it was being done by community people and not by our own students. I did not get a copy myself but a number of people were gathered at the intersection just outside my office handing out religious tracts. I was stopped by a middle-aged woman who gave me a pamphlet and asked me if I believed in god. I said no. She asked me why not and I said that there was no reason to believe in god.

I asked her why she believed in god and she said that god spoke to her. I said, Really? You actually hear voices in your head? Yes, she said. I asked, What language does this voice speak and in what accent? She said English and added that god would speak to me in my own language and in my own accent. I said that I never heard such voices and that was why I did not believe but since she spoke to god, I asked her to ask god to tell her the serial number of the dollar bill in my wallet to convince me that the voice she heard really was god. She looked pained. That would be mocking god, she said. Why, I asked? It just would and she would not do that. I decided not to press her further on this point

I have found that pointing out logical contradictions or circular arguments never convinces religious people immediately so once you have made your point, it is best to move on and not belabor it. So why do I do bother arguing at all? I am a firm believer that religious beliefs change slowly as a result of people trying and failing, on their own, to reconcile the contradictory beliefs they are forced to hold. So what I do is plant as many seeds of doubt as I can and hope that at least one will take root and sprout and undermine the whole religious edifice.

The best way to do that is to not defend your lack of belief (because religious people don’t really care what your reasons are and don’t listen) but to pose questions to them exploring the logical consequences of their beliefs. Since they care what they think, it forces them to grapple with these issues. This method of posing questions and getting people to figure things out for themselves is known in education circles as ‘inquiry-based instruction’ and is widely used as an effective teaching technique, especially with science, where students often have deeply held, unconscious, and erroneous beliefs, just like religion.

Anyway, back to my encounter with the religious person. She then asked me what I thought would happen to me if I died today. I told her that my usable organs would be harvested and then I would be cremated and that would be it. But what would happen to me after that, she asked? Nothing, I said, that was it. What about the afterlife, she asked. I told her I did not believe in it. She asked why not and I said that there was not a shred of evidence that there was an afterlife, just like she had not a shred of evidence for god, except for the voices in her head. She asked whether I wasn’t scared of being wrong about god and going to hell and suffering torments for eternity. I said I was not worried at all.

I asked her if she had met and spoken to anyone who had died. She said no. So why do you believe in the afterlife? She said the Bible promised that there was one. I asked why I should believe that book more than any other book. She said that it was because it was the word of god. And why do you believe in god, I asked, because of the voices in your head? Yes, and also because the universe has obviously been designed by a god. I said that there were perfectly reasonable explanations of the universe that did not require a god but she was, of course, incredulous that such explanations were possible, and she brought out the usual chestnuts such as ‘the miracle of childbirth’ as evidence of god’s necessity. I decided it was time to move on from that topic too.

I asked her if when Jesus rose from the dead, his physical body also rose. She said yes, of course, because the Bible says he ate fish with his disciples.

So where is his body now? Up in heaven, and she pointed up.

Really, up there? Yes, with Moses and Elijah and all those others who have joined god.

Their actual physical bodies are up in the sky? Yes.

So since they have physical bodies, they must eat and drink there, no? Yes.

So in heaven they have to grow food and cook just like here? Yes, they eat wonderful fruits and other foods.

So that means they go to the bathroom and so must also be having a sewage system in heaven? She looked pained again and said that she did not want to talk about such distasteful things.

But if the actual bodies have been resurrected, I said, then what about the decomposing bodies that we find in graves? She said that after we die, only our spiritual bodies go to heaven at first. It is only at the end of the world, with the rapture, that our physical bodies also rise from the graves (or wherever they are after all that time) and join up with our physical bodies. Since the end of the world has not occurred yet, this didn’t square with what she had just told me about the physical Jesus, Moses, and Elijah and the others currently palling around in heaven in their physical bodies, but I let it go. Maybe they got there early using their frequent flyer miles or elite status or something.

Next: Hitler makes a cameo appearance.

POST SCRIPT: Some Grey Bloke is having trouble with the whole self-loathing thing

Commenter Ray Foulkes introduced me to some funny cartoon videos featuring a character known as ‘Some Grey Bloke‘ that makes some of the points I have been making. Enjoy. And thanks, Ray!

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Eric Steiger

    What about the afterlife, she asked. I told her I did not believe in it. She asked why not and I said that there was not a shred of evidence that there was an afterlife, just like she had not a shred of evidence for god, except for the voices in her head.

    To be fair, there’s no evidence against an afterlife either, or reincarnation, etc. I think drawing any conclusions on this particular point is premature; by the time you have any solid evidence whatsoever, it’s a bit late to share the knowledge. They once asked Heinlein if he wanted to get cryogenically frozen. His response was, “What if it interferes with rebirth?”

  2. 2
    Jared

    Eric,

    Actually, I would argue that there is plenty of evidence against an afterlife/reincarnation. All credible research that I have seen regarding the function of the mind suggests that the physical model and not the dualistic model is correct. That is, the evidence that we have is that the mind is an epiphenomenon that arises from the physical structure of a body. This validates the observation that we don’t see people “continuing” on after the physical structure dissipates.

    Implicit in the words “afterlife” and “reincarnation” is their contradiction with observations. Afterlife indicates a spontaneous reassembling of the physical structure that defines a person, usually somewhere else completely. Reincarnation indicates some form of imprinting of a dismantled (disembodied?) mind (or gemma or soul or what have you) into a new body. Both of these violate all sorts of physical laws.

    In essence what I am saying is that there really is evidence that dualism doesn’t hold, and without dualism reincarnation/afterlife are simply full of contradictions.

    best,
    Jared

  3. 3
    Eric Steiger

    That… is a very good point. Although, as Heinlein also once said, “Soon enough you’ll find out. So why worry about it?”

  4. 4
    Jack

    Mano, re asking the lady to ask God to read the serial number on the dollar and her reply that that would be mocking God. I think God is mocking US by being so stingy with the miracles.

    When Jesus cured Lazarus the leper, that was obviously to show his power and not his benevolence, otherwise, to show that he really cared about the wellbeing of his special creation, he would/could have cured ALL the lepers, or even better, wiped leprosy and all other diseases out of existence.

    To use such power with such a lack of benevolence certainly points to a cruel god or maybe one who really doesn’t have all the power he is claimed to have.

    In either case, to believe in such a being, much less worship it, is just plain silly for an individual, and potentially harmfull to children and other people who depend on the people in their lives who make decisions based on the existense of this creature.

  5. 5
    Jared

    Yes, I agree. Even if there was no evidence one way or another, why worry about it?

  6. 6
    Mano

    Eric,

    The statements “I believe in something because there is evidence in favor of it” and “I believe in something because there is no evidence against it” are not equivalent in their level of rationality. The former forms the basis (or should) of most of our useful beliefs. The latter lays one open to any and all kinds of crazy beliefs.

    It comes down to the question of where the burden of proof lies for existence statements (like that there is an afterlife) and universal statements (like that there is no afterlife). I have discussed that question here.

  7. 7
    Eric Steiger

    Prof. Singham – re: universal vs. existence statements:

    The problem with applying a burden of proof analysis to an afterlife is that there’s no baseline for comparison. In the earlier entry, you pointed out the unlikelihood of a 7-legged cow based on having observed exclusively 4-legged cows. The universal statement “all cows are 4-legged” rests on having seen 4-legged cows before. The problem with an afterlife is that we have no cows to observe. Every paradigm-changing universal statement that’s been proven before (Copernican solar system, natural selection, relativity, etc.) has been proven by observation. I have observed evidence to disprove the existence of a god (the existence of suffering in the world indicates a lack of either omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence); I can’t come up with a form of observation regarding anything post-death that still allows you to report your findings. It’s like if somebody in Europe 2,000 years ago had proposed the existence of land across the Atlantic. The only way to find out would be to go and observe, and it was pretty much a given that if you did, even if you found something, you weren’t coming back to tell anybody.

    Jared’s point about evidence supporting the physical model vs. the dualistic model is strong, but I’m kind of wondering how you could experiment this kind of hypothesis – would you have to damage somebody’s brain/body to the point where they lost cognitive function, and then repair them to perfect functionality and ask what happened to them in the meantime?

  8. 8
    Mano

    Eric,

    You are assuming that the afterlife is a one-way ticket. Once we go there, we cannot communicate with the people here. But the only reason that people believe in an afterlife is because some people at some time claim to communicate with the dead, so it must allow two-way communication. So if an afterlife exists, why don’t the people we know contact us in a way that can be fully established.

    I agree with you that if it is truly one way, then there is no way to know at all. But then what makes this belief any more credible or worth taking seriously than a belief in any other thing (invisible unicorns)?

    n the case of land across the Atlantic, people may not have known for sure but it was not implausible to think that such land might exist. After all, they knew of other large bodies of water that had land on the other side.

    It is like believing in life on distant planets now. If we sent a manned spaceship to find it, they would not come back and we would not know if they found it or not. But there is some reason to think that there might be life out there based on what we know of the nature of the universe in our neighborhood.

    But what is the source of our speculations of life after death?

  9. 9
    Jared

    Mano,

    I think that the source of speculations of life after death come from difficulty answering the question, “What is it like for it to not be like anything?”

    Eric,

    You said “The universal statement “all cows are 4-legged” rests on having seen 4-legged cows before. The problem with an afterlife is that we have no cows to observe. ”

    I am inclined to disagree here. The term “afterlife” is clearly a modification of the term “life”. This means it has something to do regular life, which in this case is our “cow”. So I think that we do have cows to observe, and in this case it is ordinary-life. The supposition is that since we don’t see any “after-life” type people, they must be whisked off and living somewhere else. In order for this to fit our current understanding of the world, this other-place must be completely inscrutable.

    As for your wondering about the types of experiments people have done regarding the mind and body, they tend to occur when people suffer brain damage or other forms of debilitating harm. Obviously these take the form of observations because of the obvious ethical problems with intentionally harming someone. However, medical professionals are frequently confronted with people with various problems. Oliver Sachs has written several books that explore how a person’s self changes when their “equipment” changes (incidentally, his book, “An Anthropologist on Mars”, was the summer reading for my freshman class at CWRU).

    Other studies have shown that paraplegics have more difficulty feeling emotions than they did before their injury. It turns out that physiological changes in your body (and not just your brain) cause you to feel emotion, contrary to the original model that feeling an emotion causes physiological changes in the body. I.e. the tail wags the dog!

    Attempting to fit the pieces together leads many to conclude that the “I” or the “soul” or whatever you want to call it arises out of the equipment, rather than something that is separate from and fed input from the equipment. Another way of putting that is that without sensory input, there can be no “I”. A good book that deals with this issue well is “I Am a Strange Loop” by Douglas Hofstadter. If you want to talk about gestalt switches, that book helped me make several and I really recommend it.

    I hope I am not coming off as condescending or anything; the nature of consciousness is a really interesting question to me, and sometimes I tend to go on for awhile.

  10. 10
    Eric Steiger

    Prof S.:

    Consciousness. While I have it on good authority that there WAS a time before my consciousness existed, I have never personally experienced such a phenomenon. Similarly, I have it on equally good authority that there will be a time when I won’t exist, but I can’t conceive of an existence without myself in it. Therefore, since I know I won’t be here, and I have no frame of reference for existence without me, I must exist somewhere else.

    I don’t think that belief in an afterlife comes from claims of communication; I think it’s the other way around, and that there really is no way to know. I can feel around the room I’m in, and come to the conclusion that there aren’t any invisible unicorns in here, leading to a conclusion that there aren’t any invisible unicorns in the world, which is why I agree that the burden of proof should be on the side trying to prove existence (in this case, of the afterlife). But in my opinion, that burden is so high (communication with the dead) that I’m willing to give just enough benefit of the doubt to balance the issue & consider it unresolvable.

  11. 11
    Anonymous

    I said that I never heard such voices and that was why I did not believe but since she spoke to god, I asked her to ask god to tell her the serial number of the dollar bill in my wallet to convince me that the voice she heard really was god. She looked pained. That would be mocking god, she said.

    We used to ask this question all the time back in Sunday school and we always got the “it would be disrespectful” answer until the rabbi replied with “G-d is not your monkey. Deal with it.”

    I strongly suspect that the conclusion I derived from this (why would an omnipotent being give a rat’s rear what you believed?) rather flies in the face of the proselytizing agenda.

    –HRK

  12. 12
    Beth

    Mano,

    First, I want to say that I thank the LORD that He cares enough about the lost that He gives His saints a heart for them. Left to my flesh, I would not care what you thought or where you were going after closing your eyes to death. But I have to say, because of Him, I do care what your thoughts are and where you will spend eternity in the afterlife.

    You will have an afterlife. Some things are true whether you believe them or not.

    Now, to continue the conversation we had on Wednesday, I would like to say that I am happy that you are still thinking about it. This means that there is still hope for you, Mano. I treasure any conversation or communication with you – or anyone else in a lost condition.

    You misunderstood my words when I spoke of ‘hearing’ from God. Let me try to explain. You had to have a mother, right? Whether she is still living or not, you remember her voice, correct? Even when she isn’t speaking directly to you right now, when you think about her saying something to you, you ‘hear’ her voice in your head. You recognize her voice – when she speaks in your mind. That is the way it is with God – when you are born again. You ‘recognize’ His voice. It isn’t audible like you would hear a radio, but if you recognize your mother’s voice when you think about her saying something to you, you don’t ‘hear’ her voice audibly either. She is real, but she isn’t there at the time you are thinking of her, follow? It is that way with God. When I hear Him, I recognize His voice.

    If you don’t understand, I’m not surprised. You really have to have a relationship with the Almighty to understand much of the Christian experiences. People don’t grasp the Truth of the Bible until the Holy Spirit removes the ‘scales’ from their eyes. It’s like trying to describe the color blue to a blind person. They have never seen any colors, so it is nearly impossible to describe it.

    I will wait for your response on this and then we can continue with the rest of our conversation – if you wish. I am praying for you, Mano. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. 13
    Mano

    Hi Beth,

    Thanks for the message.

    I am afraid that I cannot see the analogy between the relationships involving my mother and god. With my mother I had a lifetime of real, concrete experiences and interactions with a real, tangible person which are now stored as fond memories. But there is tangible evidence that she definitely existed.

    Despite that, I don’t ‘hear’ her voice now, if by that you mean I have conversations with her. I do not ‘ask’ her for advice and she does not ‘tell’ me what to do. I do not experience anything that could be even remotely construed as ‘recognizing’ her voice, although if I heard it I could immediately recognize it. All those words are merely metaphors for acts of memory recall and imagination. I do not confuse them with talking to a real person.

    Are you saying that your experience with god is as real and tangible as the experiences you had with your own mother? How could that possibly be? Do you have any tangible evidence for such a claim, the way you have for your mother?

    Or is it that over time you have constructed an imaginary relationship with an imaginary person that you have now convinced yourself is real?

  14. 14
    Beth

    Hi Mano,
    I thought you might have trouble with the analogy. Yes, my experience with GOD is as real and tangible as any experience I have had with my own mother or anyone else in my life. You ask how can this possibly be? If you speak with any God-fearing, Spirit-filled, Jesus-following Christian, you will find the same. It is part of the relationship. He has revealed Himself to each person born again.
    You don’t have continuing ‘conversations’ with your mother because she is dead (I am assuming because you said you ‘had’ a lifetime of experiences). You said if you heard her voice you could immediately recognize it. She is dead – GOD is not – GOD is eternal. But in the same way you develop a relationship with someone, like your mother, the same is true with GOD. You learn to ‘recognize’ His voice.
    Don’t allow the devil to lead you into hell – and then you be responsible for leading others into hell. You spoke of it being a scare tactic of Christians to speak of hell. Like I said then, if you were asleep and you didn’t know your home was on fire, and I yelled to tell you, “wake up, get out”, would you then say to me, “you are just using scare tactics”? The same would be true if you were a blind man heading for a 100-foot cliff. If I warned you, would you think I was using scare tactics? Open your eyes, Mano. Don’t be prideful and allow your eternity to be spent in hell.
    It is only pride that keeps you in your present state. Remember the question I asked you? Spell the word, “shop” and you spelled it correctly. I then asked you, “what do you do at a green light?” You said, “stop” and only after I repeated the words, “green light” you said, “oh, go.” I said if you could be wrong about something as simple as this, do you think it is at all possible for you to be wrong about heaven and hell? In your pride, you might say no. That would be sad.
    Thomas Edison said, “We do not know a millionth of one percent about anything.” Albert Einstein said, “I think and think for months and years, ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false, the hundredth time I am right.” What about you, Mano? Are you willing to admit that you don’t know everything? If you knew an amazing 1% of all knowledge, which I doubt any man would, is it possible that in the 99% that you didn’t there would possibly be enough evidence to prove the existence of GOD? You owe it to your own good sense to check it out.
    You will face eternity at some point – where will you spend it is the question. I wish to tell you to get on your knees, while you still have time – because without trying to scare you, but to state reality, ten out of ten of us die – and once on your knees, cry out to the GOD of the universe and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. If you do it with a sincere heart, I promise you, He will answer.
    Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) And in 1 Peter 1:3, it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” By these two verses, you can understand that one must be born again AND He has caused each one of us to be born again when it does happen. He draws us to Him, and If we take a step of faith, He will meet us there. Then we will begin the relationship with Him. Seek Him while He may be found, call on Him while He is near (Is 55:6). Your sin blinds you to the Truth and satan has taken over – “in whose case the god of this world (satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor 4:4).
    It is appointed unto man ONCE to die and then comes Judgment. We are only on this earth once and it is for a very short period of time – it speaks of the time as a “vapor” in James (4:14). Repent now – turn from your sins – and put your faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work at the cross.

  15. 15
    Ray Foulkes

    Hi Beth,

    I am as concerned for you as you seem to be for Mano and the rest of us! Like you say, life is short and we don’t want you to waste it and we will all be dead for a very long time!

    Please allow me to comment on your discussions…

    I like the mind trick about the ‘shop’ and ‘green light stop’ It is similar to the ones I use, ‘Say white white white white white!’ with increasing volume, now “What do Cow’s drink?”

    Most people say milk at this point, yet cows eat grass and produce milk – not drink it (except for calves of course) and then there is the one…

    “say JOKE!”

    Now what’s the white of an egg called?

    Did you say Yolk?

    No, that’s yellow silly!, the white is Albumin

    Now nobody thinks for a minute that you were genuinely ‘wrong’ if you said the wrong answers, we just know that this is a trick of the mind, it is one of the ways that the mind works, by association and the person saying “yolk” for the white of an egg or “stop” for the green light were not so much mistaken and the victim of a mind trick.

    Perception, as carried out by the human brain, is a fascinating subject, we do not hear and see the sensory data that is input directly rather our brain collects relatively scant information and then builds a ‘best guess’ virtual reality picture of what is out there. Mano has talked about ‘Gestalt moments’ where the human perception has suddenly changed and illustrated it with some well known optical illusions, did you see those?

    Beth, ask yourself this question, ‘knowing how easily the mind can be tricked and how our perception can be so un-reliable do you think it is remotely possible that when you think that you hear god it is not a real diety but something conjured by your mind as all of our other perception is? is your mind open at least to the possibility of that?

    You mentioned the 1% knowledge that we have and the 99% that we do not. Well, if we do know only 1% where did that 1% of knowledge come from? Ask yourself that and answer it honestly.

    How do we know that the sun is a star and that stars are gravity bound nuclear fusion reactors on a massive scale, how do we know that the earth orbits the sun and that the sun orbits the galaxy once every few hundred million years and that we are currently on the outer edge of one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way?, how do we know that the earth has a molten core or iron and that the sun is mostly hydrogen and helium with 2% heavier elements? How do we know that the continents drift and that the moon is slowly spiraling away from the earth by a few centimeters a year?

    SCIENCE? EVIDENCE? is that how we gained the (limited) knowledge that we have? Is any of that in the bible? is ANY of our proven knowledge in the bible? please tell me.

    We can cure leprosy now, thanks to science, as well as many other diseases that would have taken a ‘miracle’ in times gone by (why did Jesus only cure one lepper and leave the rest to die and leave the disease to plague human kind for the next 2000 years btw? – but I digress…

    Finally, I find that atheists seem to know more about the bible than most Christians. The old testament was written in Hebrew and the NT in Greek. When you look at the original texts the words that were translated into the word ‘hell’ do not mean fire and torture for eternity please read the analysis on this link: -

    http://www.ucg.org/sermons/transcripts/200106hell.htm

    You will see that the words ‘Hades’ and ‘Gehenna’ mean nothing like the sort of ‘hell’ that they have been translated into.

    Beth, is your mind open to the truth? would you re-examine your beliefs based on this new information?

    The 1% of knowledge that you say that we have has come from re-examining old beliefs in the light of new information – that is how science works – and that is how we know what we know today.

    And finally, finally, If scientists really were so arrogant as to claim that they knew everything – science would stop, scientists would all retire as there would be nothing left to discover or prove, the fact that scientist continue to work is evidence that that they know that they do not know everything.

    Do you think that YOU know the truth beyond all doubt?

    And do you REALLY believe what you say you believe?

    Then let me ask you a few more questions…

    Do you or would you grieve upon the death of a loved one? if so why? if you believe that they have gone to heaven and that you will eventually join them there for eternity?

    If your answer is that you are grieving because you won’t see them for a while then would you grieve in the same way if a loved one emigrated to Australia? (assuming you don’t live in Australia yourself).

    And, absolutely finally…

    Why do church steeples have lightning conductors on them?

    What’s wrong with a simple prayer or a bit of good old faith? and if god does want to strike a steeple with a lightening bolt, why try to stop him?

  16. 16
    Mano

    Hi Beth,

    Thanks for the response. I find it fascinating that you can say that “my experience with GOD is as real and tangible as any experience I have had with my own mother or anyone else in my life”. In other words, that you can equate someone you have touched, seen, heard, smelled, and even tasted (in other words experienced using all five senses) as being as real to you as something that has not produced a single one of those sensory experiences but is purely a mental phenomenon.

    You need not have gone to the trouble of playing that word association trick on me. I would have freely conceded that I am capable of mistakes. I would also have freely conceded that my knowledge is a tiny fraction, infinitesimally small in fact, of all the knowledge out there. Who could possibly deny such truisms?

    The problem is your conclusion that therefore I should believe what you believe. By that argument, I should take seriously the claims of anyone whom I meet on the street, however preposterous, and start worshipping Santa Claus, fairies, Satan, invisible unicorns, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.

    A devout Muslim could come to you and make the same arguments for Islam that you are making to me and quote Mohammed and the Koran in support the way you quote Jesus and the Bible. Since it is possible that he is correct and you are wrong (after all, you too are capable of making mistakes and have less than1% of all knowledge, right?), what are you going to do? Are you going to reject his appeal and risk going to (Muslim) hell?

    The same thing could apply to the Mormons, the Zoroastrians, indeed any other god-based religion. How do you know that you are not wrong and they are right? People in all those religions claim to hear voices in their head too.

    Also, I find it hard to understand why religious people quote the Bible as an argument when talking to atheists. Surely you realize that for us the Bible carries no more authority than Shakespeare’s or J. K. Rowling’s works? Quotes from religious texts really don’t do anything for us atheists. Give us credible evidence, though, and we will pay attention.

    Your fire analogy fails for precisely that reason. We have plenty of tangible evidence that fire exists and of its disastrous effects. We also have plenty of evidence that people don’t normally yell fire unless there is reason for concern. What evidence do we have for the existence of hell or that religious people like you have special knowledge about it?

    I think that all that religions really have going for them is fear of hell in some form. Take that away and they will all collapse. That is why religious people keep talking about hell, although it is couched in the form of concern for the person’s future in eternity. It is like the mobster making an offer you can’t refuse.

  17. 17
    Ray Foulkes

    Well said Mano,

    If I had woken up this morning a devout Christian I would be a confirmed atheist by now. I woke up as an atheist though so my views have only been reinforced.

    I had an interesting discussion with my wife this morning, as we enjoyed our Sunday morning lay in. My wife has a PhD in clinical psychology and as rational people it beggars our belief that so many adults, presumably rational in so many walks of life, can be duped in such large numbers by such irrational beliefs. We talked about her childhood in Africa (Rachelle is of Asian decent raised in Zimbabwe). She was always lauded as a child for having a wise head on such young shoulders and praised for wanting to join in adult discussion rather than mess about with other children, she was commended by her aunties and uncles for reading so many books and questioning and challenging things and developing adult opinions early on. Yet when she read the bible and challenged the existence of god she was berated and scolded. She was told as a young child that god existed and that her birth and all the good things she enjoyed, housing food, etc were proof that god existed. She then asked why there were so many poor people back in India where a mother had nothing but a plastic sheet to protect her family from the wind and rain and not enough food to keep them from starvation, where was god for them? At this point her (devoutly religious) family would just curse he and revert to muttering and grumbling without a real answer – without any answer.

    If children were not indoctrinated at a young age, how many adults would indeed adopt a religion through choice?

    Not many I think. If we could stop the religious indoctrination of our children (which I view as a crime against humanity) what a better place the world would be!

  18. 18
    Aston Kaye

    Just read the blog and one of the comments really troubled me, the comment was for Eric Steiger in what I think was the first blog post. I get extremely frustrated when people use an argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) in the debate of a God or afterlife. Its extremely lazy and frankly it doesn’t progress the debate in any way. You could make an argument for ignorance out of anything, the of the most popular ones that I heard are of unicorns. We’ve all heard of unicorns, they’re known to be a fictional creature by most of us except children. However you really can’t disprove that they don’t exist can you?

    The burden of proof always lies on the shoulders of those making the claim. The best way to illustrate this is through Russell’s teapot, the famous theory by philosopher Bertrand Russell.

    “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time”
    -1952

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