First the bad news about the upcoming debate with Joe Puckett where I will be affirming the proposition ‘God Does Not Exist': Plans for livestreaming the event fell through. So if you want to see it live, you will have to come to Northwest Church of Christ, 3904 38th Street NW, Canton, OH on Saturday, June 21, 2104 at 6:00 pm. The good news is that the entire debate will be posted later on YouTube.
As part of the extremely cordial discussions we have had in preparing for this event, Joe and I agreed to ask each other questions about our beliefs and hand them and the answers out to everyone who attends so that they would understand our respective frameworks. The only requirements were that each set of questions and answers had to fit on one side of a sheet of paper. Only answers to the questions were required, not supporting arguments or evidence.
Below are the two statements. I will be sending this link to Joe and have invited him to come and check out this blog’s readers’ reactions.
- Are Yahweh, Allah, Jesus, Krishna, Zeus, Ra, Mithras, and all the other gods of history the same god?
No. Though these gods are very different, belief in them seems to stem from a very similar yearning for the divine that is quite natural to humans.
- Where is god?
Strictly speaking, from an orthodox theological perspective this question might be seen as committing a category mistake. If God transcends space (and, perhaps, time), and if asking ‘Where is God?’ amounts to asking for his current coordinates, then the question is a little like asking, “What color is a argument?” But the tradition also has it that God is ‘everywhere’–omnipresent. Thus, from a metaphysical perspective, God is non-spatial. But from a moral perspective, God is present to every part of the creation in that, minimally, he is conscious of whatever occurs at every region of space-time.
- Is god made of the same kind of stuff as all the rest of the things in the universe that we know about, like quarks, electrons, and other elementary particles?
Not on a traditional account. But neither would I readily assent, without substantial argument, to the suggestion that “all the rest of the things in the universe we know about” are composed of such elementary particles. There just is no good account of how one may begin with non-conscious particles and derive a conscious mind. Perhaps mind and consciousness are of a different order altogether.
- Does god have thoughts and feelings?
The simple answer is “yes” though there are some relevant differences between God having these experiences and humans having them.
- Which of these three properties do you assign to god: Omnipotence (can violate the laws of science at will), omnibenevolence (all good), and omniscience (knows the past, present, future and what is in all people’s minds)?
All of the above. I would only add that an omnipotent being would not have to “violate” laws of science in order to intervene within them.
- Do you believe the Earth is thousands of years old or billions of years old?
I am content to assume, for the purposes of this debate, whatever age you assign to it.
- Is the Bible inerrant and literally true, so that Adam, Eve, Abraham, and the rest are historical persons and the stories of Noah and Jonah and all the rest are historical events?
There is no necessary connection between The Bible is inerrant and The Bible must be read literally. If an author intends to convey information through poetry, metaphor, or analogy, one does not derive the intended meaning by an over-literal reading. If an author intends for it to be read historically, then it should be read as such. Though I hold the persons you mention in the Bible to be historical persons, the question of the inerrancy of the Bible is not directly relevant to the current debate.
- Which of these do you believe exist: ghosts, fairies, devils, angels, heaven, hell, unicorns, dragons, vampires, werewolves?
Ghosts (i.e., spirits), demons, angels, heaven, and hell are real; Fairies, unicorns, dragons, vampires, and werewolves may not be. The difference between them is not a matter of what could logically be real, but rather admittedly based upon my prior (and more foundational) theistic belief.
- What, can you imagine, might convince you to stop believing in God?
In the words of the distinguish atheist scholar, Richard Dawkins, I believe I would first need to “rebel against my instincts.” I would also need to be persuaded that the cumulative case for God is implausible and that alternative theories carry greater explanatory power. However, in order to stop believing in God I would also have to stop loving God.
- We likely agree that science is a reliable source of knowledge about reality. Is it the only source, or would you allow for other ways of knowing? If so, what are some of those other ways?
It is not the only source. Other sources of knowledge are direct experiences via the five senses.
- What, can you imagine, might convince you to become a theist?
There are an infinite number of things that would convince me. Here’s just one: a god appears in the sky and on TV and the internet visible to many people around the world at the same time and says that the next day at a specified time she would stop the rotation of the Earth for 24 hours, and that indeed subsequently happens.
- Does science know how life first originated on earth?
Not yet. It is a question being researched, with scientists exploring several possibilities.
- Is there such a thing as objective morality? If so, upon what is it based?
If by ‘objective’ you mean existing independently of us, the answer is no. If by ‘objective’ you mean something that is not entirely culturally acquired, then there is evidence that evolution has created some primal moral impulses.
- How did the universe begin? (i.e. What caused the Big Bang?) – or another way to ask the question – Is there an absolute beginning to physical reality?
The origin of the universe is a question for which several possible answers (of which the existence of an absolute beginning is just one) are being investigated as an open research question.
- Is there any ultimate meaning to human existence? If not, how might we find meaning in a world where there is none?
If by ‘ultimate meaning’ you mean something that exists independently of us, the answer is no. We find meaning by creating it ourselves, individually and collectively.
- At what point is someone warranted to believe something to be true?
When there is a preponderance of evidence in favor of it.
- While it may still not be convincing to you, which argument do you find to be the strongest in favor of theism and why?
The logical possibility that god might exist is the strongest argument because it is the only one that remains since the preponderance of evidence and scientific arguments are so overwhelmingly against her existence.
- Is God’s existence even a possibility?
Yes. Anything that can be conceived to exist has the logical possibility of actually existing.