A friend of a friend has started a (Christian) blog. I find blogging to be a great way of getting one's thoughts out, almost like journaling, something I did for nearly a decade before switching over to blogging. (anyone remember Xanga?) Yesterday, a link was posted to said blog with the promise that this will explain why this blogger believes in God, with evidence to back it up. Now, I am still very open to the idea that there may be a god out there. It's an interesting hypothesis and one that I don't mind people trying to find evidence for. I was disappointed to find that it was a series of paragraphs containing all the worst logical fallacies and Christian-isms.
Many would argue that religion is based on faith and secularism is based on evidence therefore a belief in God is invalid.
I would argue that both should be based on evidence. Not having evidence doesn't invalidate belief, but it makes it highly suspect and relegates it to an "unknown" territory, requiring either further investigation and/or agnosticism.
In [Timothy Keller's Making Sense of God,] Keller argues that "reason and proof must start with faith in reason and belief in some particular concept of proof" (Keller 2016, p.34). He goes on to say that there is even more faith involved in ordinary rationality than that as many great twentieth-century thinkers (Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Ludwig Wittgenstein to name a few) have argued that all reasoning is based on prior faith commitments to which one did not reason (p. 34).
Firstly, reason and proof do not have to start with faith in reason and proof. This is presupposition. Faith assumes that something is true without anything to back it up and then seeks out "evidence" to make those claims true. Science has a process in order to find evidence. It begins with a hypothesis. Before Einstein proved (a loose term since a hypothesis is never considered truly proven) thermodynamics, it was just an hypothesis. Then he used a complex series of tests and experiments showing that the process was repeatable with the math to back it up. Those tests could be run by anyone and they would get the same results, which then led to it becoming a theory. In science, if a hypothesis proves to be untrue, the idea is abandoned. If you follow the Big Bang Theory (yeah yeah, hear me out), this season Sheldon and Amy stumbled upon an idea concerning super asymmetry. Super excited, they were sure this would lead to accolades and promotions, along with their names in the history books. Then when Leonard comes across a paper disproving super asymmetry, Sheldon loses his mind. Here's the important part: Sheldon gets upset because, like a good scientist, he knows that this is the end. He cannot keep trying to prove something that someone else had already disproved. All his dreams were dashed, he's upset, but he immediately stops trying to prove this hypothesis. Faith does NOT do this. It claims something is a law, a fact and then, with or without evidence, it insists on continuing. It forces fact to conform to it's own logic and ignores anything that does not. If something about the faith doesn't make sense or line up with known facts, the faith is not abandoned.
An example that he gives is the faith we have that our eyes, ears, minds, and memories are not deceiving us (p. 34). Their reliability cannot be tested without using and therefore assuming their reliability (p. 34).
Actually, scientists don't rely on eyes, ears, minds, and memories. We have categorically proven that none of these things can be trusted. Optical illusions prove that our eyes can easily be deceived. We are also aware of things like face blindness, synesthesia, dyslexia, and pareidolia, all of which affect the reliability of our sight. Our ears can also be suspect. How many times have you thought you heard a doorbell or someone talking, only to realize there is no one there and you are alone? People with schizophrenia hear distinct voices and can have conversations with said voices. Our minds are also tricky. One little thing gets out of whack and all kinds of interesting things can happen. Foreign accent syndrome happens when someone is brain damaged and they end up with a speech impediment that sounds, to our ears and theirs, like an accent from a different country. Nevermind that we know so much about psychology, that we are aware how the mind can change and twist things, sometimes to the point of mental illness. My son has been through so much trauma, abandonment, and neglect that it has permanently brain damaged him. And his mind isn't to be trusted, because his trauma has taught him not to trust adults, that he isn't safe anywhere, and that lies are necessary for one to get their way in life. Memories are actually the worst though. Our memories are entirely unreliable. It's why eyewitness testimony has become a more and more an outdated way of presenting evidence in court. There have been eyewitness accounts that have been completely refuted by video evidence and those people refuse to believe the evidence because they "remember" it a different way. All that to say, you can absolutely test something without first assuming it is reliable. In fact, all the studies that show those things are unreliable came after everyone just assumed they were. It took someone questioning that reliability in order for it to be tested.
The assertion that science and empirical evidence are the only ways to understand reality also requires faith (p. 35). Science is only fit to investigate the natural world but not fit to investigate whether anything exists beyond it (p.35).
This is the logical fallacy called 'Appeal to Faith'. This assumes that the only way to understand something is through faith, therefore all understanding is based on some kind of faith, even things that have proof and evidence. The whole point of having evidence is so we don't have to rely on faith any longer. Also, we may not be able to test whether a metaphysical god exists, but we can certainly test the things that its followers claim as signs from those gods. Christians (along with several other religions) claim that God heals through prayer intervention. A Harvard study looked at people who had just had bypass surgery. Their findings were that those who knew they were being actively prayed for actually did worse than those in the control group who either weren't being prayed for or didn't know. Knowing people were praying for them to do well put some kind of mental pressure on the patient who in turn did worse. There have been several studies done about parapsychology and there is absolute nothing to back of their claims of being clarevoyant. In fact, when looked into, most of the claims concerning predictions of the future have been dead wrong. And Christians write those off as people who weren't really listening to God. The problem lies in the fact that the people who are claiming to be prophets of God and psychics really believe they are though. My son is convinced he can see the future. He is so obviously full of shit, but a religious group would probably exploit this to their advantage, which is why he goes to an Unitarian Fellowship that doesn't believe in that crap. We can absolutely test faith healings, prophecies, prosperity doctrine, etc. The problem is that even when there is evidence contrary to religious claims, the religious refuse to accept it. Religion is not open to investigation.
If the universe cannot possibly have created itself, then it is plausible to believe that something created it. That something would have to exist outside of it and therefore would exist outside of the constraints of space and time making it impossible for us to explain using something that could only explain the natural realm. This being would be SUPERnatural.
Why must we assume this? It would seem more logical to say, "So far we don't know how the universe began. We will keep searching for the answer." And that's it. So far the answer hasn't led to God either, because there is no proof of there even being a god. Why do we automatically jump to the 'God of the Gaps' fallacy? The universe cannot possibly have created itself is not a fact, although it certainly seems like Keller is saying it is. The universe cannot possibly have created itself is a hypothesis and without any proof, the religious are trying to say that a god did it.
More evidence that points to the existence of a creator is the order and design that is seen in the natural realm. The Earth is located in just the right spot in relation to the sun. If it were any closer, it would be too hot for life to exist. If it were any farther away, it would be too cold. Coincidence? Also just look at plants, animals, people, and just nature in general. Pick up a biology book and read about how complex life is. Even something as tiny as a cell is so complex. It is so tiny but is necessary for life to exist. The oxygen we breathe here on earth and the water we drink are necessary for life to exist. There is a reason we haven't found life anywhere else. That is because these conditions for life don't exist everywhere. But they exist here. What are the odds that everything winds up in the perfect harmony that we see here by accident. I'm guessing very astronomical.
Christians assume the planet was made just for them, rather than that we (all living species on the planet) adapted and evolved to live on it as our planet became more and more habitable. While it is true that the Earth is in what astronomers refer to as "The Goldilocks Zone", it is also obvious that Keller and the author of this blog are unaware that our planet is constantly wobbling and we are in an eliptical orbit which means that there is no actual "sweet spot". Our planet is constantly heating and cooling and is affected by the other planets, our moon, and the sun on a constant basis. A current hypothesis from UC Santa Barbara is the idea that our planet's bulk composition with all its uranium, thorium, and potassium are part of what makes our planet habitable. The odds of our planet being habitable ARE astronomical if you think in small numbers. But when you think of things in terms of billions of year and you also look at how big our universe is, they aren't so astronomical. We are a blip in the cosmos, but we aren't a singular anomaly. I should also point out that despite the complexity of life, it is not perfect in any way. The human eye itself is a terrible design, one that we would send back to the shop if someone made it for us. The complexity of cells is amazing, but it doesn't mean that a god made them.
A third reason why I believe God exists is the existence of morality. Going back to Tim Keller's book Making Sense of God, Keller states that most secular people today hold a set of ethical beliefs about the nature of human life (Keller, 2016, p. 41). They are committed to science and reason, to progress and the good of humanity, and to the rights, equality and freedom of every human being (p. 41). He goes on to state that Secularism is marked by a call to take active responsibility for making a better world and for the betterment of other people of all races and ethnicities (p. 41). They would argue that removing religion from the world would help us to realize these values (p. 41). The problem is, they cannot explain where these values come from. None of them can be proven empirically and they do not follow logically from a materialistic view of the world (p. 41).
They come from us. There I explained it. Morals and values come from the culture and people groups who create them.
From a materialistic view of the world, you are made strictly of matter with no soul. You have no purpose. There is no after-life and the world will eventually burn up in the death of the sun. Nothing we do here in this world matters because it will not make a difference in the end (p. 42). If this were true, we should be inclined to live as selfishly as possible (p. 42).
Human evolution shows us that we form groups in order to survive as a species. Within those groups there have to be laws (morals) that govern the way we interact with and support each other for the continuation of our species. Being selfish would go against the group's self-interests on the whole. You don't need purpose or an after-life in order to take care of the people you love on this planet. Just because we are a blip on the universe' radar doesn't mean that you can't have meaning in your life, only that there is no grand over-arching cosmic plan.
While there ARE people who live pretty selfishly, there is something in us that knows that is wrong. What put those values in us? I believe that the existence of those values point to the God who put them in us.
Let's discuss some of these so-called morals from God shall we: 1 Samuel 15:3: "This is what the Lord Almighty says ... 'Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' " This is a common thread. The God of the Bible has no problem with mass genocide having orchestrated the supposed flood, the death of everyone in Jericho except Rahab of course, and the countless other cities that were destroyed by the Israelites. Let's remember, these soldiers were killing babies. With swords. On God's orders. We consider that a human rights violation now. Sounds like we have developed some morals that extend beyond God. There was also that time God sent bears to maul some children to death for bullying a bald man. Leviticus 21:17-24 tells us that God discriminates against people with disabilities. They can have some bread from the church, but God makes it very clear that he does not want offerings from anyone who is disabled. The idea that a disabled person couldn't take communion or worship God would appall Christians today, but their God clearly doesn't like them. And when people got upset with Aaron and Moses (Numbers 16:41-49), God sent a plague to kill over 14,000 people. So what if Jesus came and said some peaceful stuff (not all of it mind you), the Bible isn't just the New Testament. If you say that your morals come from God, then that means all of them. No cherry picking.
In summary, I have shown why I believe that it is plausible to believe that God exists. You may say that I have't proven anything but I can also say that you can not absolutely prove that the universe always existed and everything in it was created by it. None of us were there at the beginning of time to see how everything began so it is difficult if not impossible to come up with absolute proof of how it happened. Every explanation is theories based off of evidence.
I don't really see anything plausible in these arguments for the existence of a god. Nevermind that my own disbelief in a god is not formed around how the universe started. Frankly, I don't really care about how the universe was formed or how it happened. I care about whether the Christian God, and all other gods for that matter, is a real entity or not and whether the holy books are accurate and true. Anthropological, historical, and archaeological accounts show a very different picture from the Biblical account that has been so widely accepted. I see a book written by a nomadic people who created a god to help explain their understanding of the world and to give them authority to take over and slaughter other neighboring kingdoms. This was followed by the New Testament where another more gentle god was created around a holy man, myths were added to his story to align it with Old Testament prophecies, and a religion was formed mostly by two men who couldn't even get along most of the time. There may well be a being out there that started the universe. The chances of that entity being the god of the Bible is almost comical. The chances of any of the holy books being accurate is just as laughable. We human want so badly to understand our universe and our place in it. We want death and life to have meaning and purpose. And we created religions to that end.
What would be more honest on the part of this blogger concerning his belief would be this: "I believe God is real because I was taught from a young age that he was. This was confirmed constantly by believing parents, a country full of theists, the churches I attended since childhood, the college I chose to attend, and my wife. As a teen I re-dedicated my life to God after a tragedy in my family and this faith helped me get through some very difficult times. I constantly seek out information that confirms my beliefs and biases, even though I know (because I am educated enough) that this is intellectually dishonest. There is little chance I will ever leave this faith because believing by faith is far more important to me than actual evidence. Nevermind that I don't believe my life will have any purpose or meaning if there isn't an afterlife. I like the idea of an afterlife. It means that I will see the people I lost again. That thought is more important to me than anything in the world, real or not. I need that. So I will continue to create rationalizations for the irrational as long as it means I feel comforted in some way.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.