Aren’t You Being Overly-Skeptical?

I’ve been hearing this one recently. “Aren’t you being overly-skeptical to deny God’s existence? I mean just look at all this evidence that you have to ignore! And what about all the assumptions you’re making by assuming there’s no God?” I’m just going to take a second here and outline my position.

First, let me take a second here to outline what the issue is and what the possible stances are on this. To do this, let me give you an example. Picture I’m holding a box. Now, let me present to you a true dichotomy. This box either contains something, or it does not contain something. The law of excluded middle tells us that these are the only two options. The law of non-contradiction tells us that it must be one or the other, it cannot be both. So in the absence of certainty, what are you supposed to do? Do you believe that there is something in the box or do you believe there is not something in the box? The answer is simply…you don’t believe either. This may seem counter-intuitive. In a true dichotomy, how can you reject both claims and still keep your intellectual integrity? It works like this. It’s true that this is a true dichotomy, but since belief is something that is active we determine belief for each individual claim. For instance, you can either believe the box contains something or you can not believe the box contains something. Additionally, you can either believe the box does not contain something, or you can not believe the box contains something. If you believe that the box contains something, you cannot simultaneously believe the box does not contain something. However, it’s possible to not believe both claims.

This works much the same way with God. There either is a God or there is not a God. Belief in each of these positions is determined separately. Almost all of these positions have a name and this is where the confusion lies. Some people think that atheists are making an assertion, although some do, most atheists I know don’t. To believe there is a God is theism, to not believe there is a God is atheism. To believe there are no Gods is Antitheism (Or Strong Atheism), to not believe there are no Gods doesn’t have a label as far as I’m aware. Both atheists and theists fall under this category. Here is a graphical representation of what I’m describing.

 

Belief Lack of belief (Disbelief)
God exists Theism Atheism
God does not exist  Antitheism  ?????

Now that we all understand what atheism says, it really makes no sense to say that an atheist claims there are no Gods. That would be antitheism. So in much the same way that most people don’t believe in Santa Claus (but wouldn’t say it’s impossible), Atheists don’t believe in God (but wouldn’t say it’s impossible).

So am I being overly-skeptical? Am I making assumptions that are unreasonable? Well, let’s take this one step at a time. What is over-skepticism? Over skepticism is the rejection of valid evidence in favor of less valid evidence or unreasonable thinking. So in order for me to be overly-skeptical I would either need to be rejecting valid evidence or thinking unreasonably. What constitutes valid evidence? This is very much up to the individual, but basing your evidence upon the scientific method, it’s safe to say you’re not being overly skeptical. So if someone presents evidence that isn’t scientifically or logically verifiable, if you reject that evidence it cannot be over-skepticism. This is the generally accepted definition, though over-skeptics would disagree. Using this, we can say that moon-landing deniers or evolution deniers are being overly-skeptical. However, what about atheism? Well, to my knowledge there is no scientifically or logically verifiable evidence to demonstrate God’s existence, therefore it cannot be over-skepticism to reject the concept of God.

 

“What about all those assumptions you’re making? The universe didn’t just come from nothing!”. Why is there something rather than nothing? It’s a great question and one I can’t answer. Therefore, I don’t claim to have the answer. I don’t claim God created the universe and I don’t claim it came from nothing. Either one of those claims are possible. But without a God or a “nothing” to examine, I don’t know how we could ever demonstrate which is more likely. What if nothing can’t exist? What if, whenever nothingness exists, it’s so unstable that something must always come out of it by necessity? Science has made great strides in making calculations about the laws of physics and has determined that the entire universe has a net sum of exactly zero! That is, the energy and the gravity (which is the opposite of energy) in the universe cancel out perfectly! If the net sum was negative or if it was positive, we’d have to explain where that energy came from. But it’s astounding that this isn’t the case. Meaning there’s a good case that our universe in fact did come from nothing! Physicists that support this hypothesis include Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and Lawrence Krauss. Me? I don’t know. Science doesn’t have a working theory yet and it’s possible that the hypothesis is incorrect. Epistemology demonstrates that it’s impossible to make an assumption by disbelieving a claim. “If you reject the idea of santa claus, doesn’t that mean you’re making some assumptions about where the presents come from?” No! You disbelieve the claim until there is evidence to support it. To say “You can’t explain this without God” is an argument from ignorance. So to say “If there is no God, you must assume the universe came from nothing” is just incorrect. I don’t assume that and your assumption that I assume that is unfounded.

Proof: A Conscious Entity cannot be the First Cause.

I’m hoping this post will be quick and to the point with very few reasons to be ostentatious. This proof I encountered online in a different form, however I’ve taken it and shaped it into something similar, but different. I apologize because I would normally reference the original place where I saw the original argument, from which this argument is deduced, but I cannot recall where I saw it. With that, let’s begin.

The point of this argument is to demonstrate that a conscious entity cannot be the true first cause. If this conclusion follows, any cosmological argument for the existence of God is rendered void. I’m going to use a form of proof known as “Proof by Contradiction.” In logic, this is a form in which the premises are assumed to be true in order to prove that this would lead to a contradiction and therefore, one of them must be false.

Important note: When I use the variable “Previously Changeable” in this proof, it is previous in reference to the first cause. (I.E. Previous to the first cause, it is changeable)

Premise 1: X is conscious. ( X –> Conscious )
Premise 2: X is (or initiated) the first cause of everything that exists. ( X –> First Cause )

These two premises are assumed for the stability of this proof to be accurate. If you reject either of these premises, then the conclusion to this proof is something you already accept. Therefore, this proof is irrelevant.

Premise 3: If X is conscious, X thinks. ( Conscious –> Thought )

In order to be “conscious,” one must be aware. This is part of the definition of “consciousness”. Something cannot be both conscious and not aware. Therefore, consciousness implies awareness. In order to be aware, you must think. This is part of the definition of awareness. Something cannot be both aware, and not think because a nonthinking agent is incapable of being aware of anything. Therefore to be aware implies thought. By deduction (The transitive relation), if consciousness implies awareness and awareness implies thought, consciousness implies thought.

Premise 4: if X thinks, some part of X changes. ( Thought –> Change )

In order for a being to think, something that is part of that being must change because thinking is a process and one cannot execute a process without change. For instance, when I think that 2+2=4, I tacitly go through a process of induction (understanding the definition of 2, +, = and 4) followed by a process of deduction (putting these terms together and evaluating if 2+2=4 is a true statement). This, as with any other thought, requires a process and thus requires a change. Any thought requires changing from one mental state to another. You must be able to think what you thought and then think what you’re currently thinking. This is part of the definition of thinking.

Conclusion 1: Thus, some part of X changes (By Premise 1, 3, and 4) ( X –> Changeable )

Premise 5: No cause precedes the initiation of the first cause. ( First Cause –> ¬Previous Cause OR EQUIVALENTLY Previous Cause –> ¬First Cause)

Under the definition of “first cause” something must be the “first cause.” If there was a cause that could precede the first cause, then the first cause is not the true first cause.

Premise 6: No change can occur without cause. ( ¬Cause –> ¬Change OR EQUIVALENTLY Change –> Cause)

If this premise is rejected, then a similar conclusion to this proof will be accepted. If change can occur without a cause, then a conscious agent is not required to be the first cause because a first cause is not required. A change could occur without cause.

Premise 7: Something cannot be both changeable and completely unchangeable (Changeable & ¬Changeable = False)

Justified by the law of non-contradiction. If something is completely unchangeable, by definition it cannot change. (I.E. ¬Previously Changeable & Previously Changeable = False )

Conclusion 2: Thus, No change precedes the initiation of the first cause. (By Premise 5, 6, and 7) (  First Cause –> ¬Previously Changeable )

Note: No change can occur before the first cause. This means that the first cause must be unchangeable before the first cause is initiated.

Conclusion 3: Thus, X cannot be conscious before the first cause. (By Conclusion 1, 2, and Premise 2) ( X –> Previously Changeable & ¬Previously Changeable = False)

Q.E.D.

All Together in word form:

Premise 1: X is conscious.
Premise 2: X is (or initiated) the first cause of everything that exists.
Premise 3: If X is conscious, X thinks.
Premise 4: if X thinks, some part of X changes.
Conclusion 1: Thus, some part of X changes (By Premise 1, 3, and 4)
Premise 5: No cause precedes the initiation of the first cause.
Premise 6: No change can occur without cause.
Premise 7: Something cannot be both changeable and completely unchangeable
Conclusion 2: Thus, No change precedes the initiation of the first cause. (By Premise 2, 5, 6, and 7)
Conclusion 3: Thus, X cannot be conscious before the first cause. (By Conclusion 1, 2, and Premise 2)

Q.E.D.

In Logic Form:

Premise 1: X –> Conscious
Premise 2: X –> First Cause
Premise 3: Conscious –> Thought
Premise 4: Thought –> Change
Conclusion 1: X –> Changeable (By p1, p3, and p4)
Premise 5: First Cause –> ¬Previous Cause OR EQUIVALENTLY Previous Cause –> ¬First Cause
Premise 6: ¬Cause –> ¬Change OR EQUIVALENTLY Change –> Cause
Premise 7: Changeable & ¬Changeable = False
Conclusion 2: X –> ¬Previously Changeable (By p2, p5, p6, and p7)
Conclusion 3: X –> Previously Changeable & ¬Previously Changeable = False (By c1, c2, and p2)

Q.E.D.

We can further shorten it to ignore the entity aspect and just prove Consciousness –> ¬First Cause

Premise 1: If X is conscious, X thinks.
Premise 2: if X thinks, some part of X changes.
Conclusion 1: If X is conscious, X changes (By p1 and p2)
Premise 3: No cause precedes the initiation of the first cause.
Premise 4: No change can occur without cause.
Premise 5: Something cannot be both changeable and completely unchangeable
Conclusion 2: Thus, No change precedes the initiation of the first cause. (By Premise 3, 4, and 5)
Conclusion 3: Thus, Consciousness cannot precede the first cause. (By c1 and c2)

Q.E.D.

In Logic Form:

Premise 1: Conscious –> Thought
Premise 2: Thought –> Change
Conclusion 1: Conscious –> Changeable
Premise 3: First Cause –> ¬Previous Cause OR EQUIVALENTLY Previous Cause –> ¬First Cause
Premise 4: ¬Cause –> ¬Change OR EQUIVALENTLY Change –> Cause
Premise 5: Changeable & ¬Changeable = False
Conclusion 2: First Cause –> ¬Previously Changeable OR EQUIVALENTLY Previously Changeable –> ¬First Cause (By p3,  p4, and p5)
Conclusion 3: Conscious –> ¬First Cause (By c1 and c2)

Why I Want to go to Hell (Proof)

Hell is a horrific place according to mainstream Christian theology. It’s a place of torture, pain, fire, gnashing of teeth and many other horrific images. Jesus himself talked about hell. So why do I think everyone should want to go if it’s such a horrible place? Well, let’s start with talking about what exactly hell is. Many people believe many different things about hell, but what is it? Well, hell doesn’t appear anywhere in the Old Testament (Though Sheol sometimes appears similar) and is mentioned a surprisingly little amount in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it appears as though death was the end of everything and the grave was the final punishment for sins (Proverbs 23:14, Psalm 9:17). Although some Christians (including Billy Graham) earnestly believe that hell isn’t a literal place, but a metaphor for complete nonexistence or annihilation, the overwhelming majority of Christians I know believe that hell is a literal place where there will be physical pain. My body (or new body) will experience real pain for all of eternity as the just punishment for my crimes on earth (Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8) So why would anyone want to go there? Well let’s start with sin.

According to Christian Theology, I am completely responsible for Adam’s sin. Adam was my representative in the Garden of Eden and he chose to disobey God and now, as a direct result, I’m responsible for his actions. Let’s put aside the blatantly immoral part of this and just focus on the crime and punishment. According to Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. So if anyone has sinned, they have earned death. The second part of Romans 6:23 says that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Please note that most Christians don’t look at “death” in the same way I do. Death, in this context, means a spiritual death; A death of the soul. This kind of death warrants being cast into the lake of fire and it has nothing to do with our physical bodies.

So according to mainstream Christian Theology, if you sin you deserve eternal fire, but you can be redeemed from this punishment by accepting this free gift of God. I’d like to take just a little moment to discuss what exactly this means. “God is offering you and I forgiveness and he paid the ultimate price for this on the cross.” This is a line you’ll hear (or something similar) from a Christian trying to proselytize to you. But this forgiveness is very conditional. You cannot be forgiven of your sins after you’re already physically dead. You must accept this forgiveness while you’re still alive. Why? Why can’t I be saved after physical death? If God is all-powerful, he surely has the power to forgive me after I die. If, after I die, I stand before God and say “Oh, wow! I was so wrong, there is a God! Please forgive my transgressions!” Why then is God not allowed to forgive me? According to 2 Peter 3:9, we know that he wants to forgive me. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. We also know that he has the power to forgive me after I’m dead, because he’s all powerful. Why then does physical death change things? I can think of a more forgiving God then this one. I.E. One that forgives people not only when they’re alive, but also when they’re dead.

But that is aside from my point here. Let’s assume that his power is, for some reason, limited after death and he is not able to forgive me after death. I would still choose to be tortured for eternity. Why? Why would anyone choose such a fate over eternal bliss?! There is a simple explanation. I value justice and being held accountable. So if the truly just punishment for my crimes is eternal conscious torment in fire, then the only honorable, moral action is to accept this punishment with dignity. This action would be the ultimate emulation of Jesus. If Christianity is true, then this is the ultimate display of Christian character. This action would respect God in the highest sense because it would respect God’s analysis of my crimes and respect his honest judgement. Going to hell is the only action that completely and honestly respects God. To accept God’s free gift is essentially to say that you shouldn’t have to be punished for your crimes. I value people being held accountable for their crimes, and so I find this to be absurd. If Yahweh exists and is truly just, then the only response to being offered the free gift is to freely reject it and accept my just punishment. How can anyone claim to be a moral agent if they don’t? Christians think they deserve this punishment, yet they are not willing to go. This is the ultimate moral mishap. Morality isn’t accepting punishment whenever it’s not painful or not really unpleasant. Part of being a moral agent is recognizing that, if I’m deserving of this punishment, I should accept it with dignity. I can’t imagine any other way to live my life.

Christianity appears to be selfish in this respect. Every Christian has made a conscious decision that their own eternal happiness is more important than justice or paying for their own sins. What kind of morality is this? This kind where my sins can be completely paid for by another person? Vicarious redemption? The morality that Christianity advocates for is not one that has anything to do with moral accountability. It has nothing to do with justice. The only thing that the Christian Theology cares about is whether or not you are able to be a sycophant to an ideology. That is not a moral system. A truly just moral system is one that accurately punishes people for their moral actions. Christianity fails to do this. But even so, I believe I am a moral agent and so, even if I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions, it would be my very duty as a Christian to accept those consequences.

So any Christian that tells you that you’re going to hell, you should rejoice…because it means you have a superior morality than that person. Anyone that would choose their own happiness over justice is a selfish person. If a Christian tells you that you should accept Jesus, ask them why? If they say to go to heaven, ask why you would ever want to go to heaven? If they say it’s because there’s no sadness and pain, then they are necessarily taking preference to their own happiness over justice.

If you’re interested in logic proofs, this is my reasoning:

Premise 1: God is perfectly just.
Bible verses to back up Premise 1:
Psalm 92:15 “To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him”
Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”
Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He”
Premise 2: God has evaluated the punishment for our sins to be an eternity in hell.
Bible verses to back up Premise 2:
Matthew 25:25-26 “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Romans 6:23 “For The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Revelation 20:15 “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”
Conclusion 1: Thus, The punishment for our sins being an eternity in hell is perfectly just. (By Premise 1 and 2)

Premise 3: God’s gift is a result of his mercy
Bible verses to back up premise 4:
Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
1 Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
Premise 4: Perfect justice and any mercy are in direct conflict.
This premise is justified by the definition of “mercy”. Mercy is a suspension of justice.
Conclusion 2: Thus, God’s gift is in direct conflict with perfect justice. (By Premise 3 and 4)
Premise 5: We should want to do what is perfectly just over accepting what is merciful.
Bible verses to back up Premise 3:
Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”
Isaiah 56:1 “Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.”
Additionally, this premise is a personal belief of mine.
Conclusion 3: Thus, we should want to be punished for our sins for an eternity in hell. (By Conclusion 1, 2, and Premise 5)
All Together:
Premise 1: God is perfectly just.
Premise 2 God has evaluated the punishment for our sins to be an eternity in hell
Conclusion 1: Thus, the punishment for our sins being an eternity in hell is perfectly just (P1 & P2)

Premise 3: God’s gift is a result of his mercy.
Premise 4: Perfect justice and any mercy are in direct conflict.
Conclusion 2: Thus, God’s gift is in direct conflict with perfect justice. (By P3 & p4)
Premise 5: We should want to do what is perfectly just over accepting what is merciful.
Conclusion 3: Thus, We should want to be punished for our sins for an eternity in hell (C1, C2, & P5)
In Logic Form:
Premise 1: God = Perfect Justice
Premise 2: Hell –> God
Conclusion 1: Hell –> Perfect Justice (p1 and p2)
Premise 3: Salvation –> Mercy
Premise 4: Mercy –> ¬Perfect Justice
Conclusion 2: Salvation –> ¬Perfect Justice (p3 and p4)
Premise 5: Perfect Justice > Mercy
Conclusion 3: Hell > Salvation
Q.E.D.

What Would it Take to Convince You to Believe in God?

science

I love talking with theists. I love honestly hashing out the issues that I have with the Bible and with Biblical morality and things of that nature. I talk with a lot of theists from many different religions. (I don’t get many Scientologists that often though, bummer.) The most common, of course, is Protestant and Catholic Christianity. Maybe it’s because most of my friends are protestants since I grew up protestant and was involved with the church until recently. Whatever the reason, I’m honestly glad that I have so many people in my life that enjoy talking about these issues in a non-hostile, non-proselytizing type way. It’s important to understand what we believe and make sure that the reasons we have for those beliefs are firmly backed with reason. If you can’t defend your beliefs, in what sense can you say to believe them?

One of the frequent questions I get is “What would it take to convince you that there’s a God?” or something similar. For all the people who are praying for me, I’ll tell you right now, the only thing capable of convincing me is either evidence, an argument or God himself. Since God himself, to my knowledge, has never revealed himself to anyone, I don’t find that option terribly likely. Of course, I’m a skeptic, but I think it would be rather closed-minded to not even consider what I would think would be valid data and evidence for God. That would be, in my opinion, overly skeptical. Barring some extremely vivid, divine experience (which I don’t think is likely), we need to set our bar of evidence at a level that is not only achievable, but inevitable if there is a God.

There are a few things that we must do before we can talk about being convinced of something.

Firstly, we need to decide on the method for discovering what is true and false in this situation. Since the scientific method is the best way that I have for discovering truth, I will be using it for the majority of this post along with reason. I hope I don’t need to justify why these are good methods, but I don’t think anyone that would reject these methods is going to be interested in what kind of evidence would convince me. As Sam Harris said, “If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it?”

Secondly, since I have chosen science to be my method, we must first conform God into something that can be analyzed by science. Inevitably, there will be people who say that God is outside of the realm of science. “God cannot be observed; an infinite God can’t manifest itself in a finite way without being inconsistent with itself”. This is a popular position and one that I myself used to hold. Unfortunately, if you have defined God in such a way that it cannot be verified, then tautologically by definition, it cannot be verified and thus I can’t believe it and I think that anyone who does is acting dishonestly.

In order for God to be analyzed by science, God must be defined in such a way that, as a hypothesis, it is falsifiable. If something is falsifiable this doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Falsifiability only means that it could, in theory, be proven wrong. In other words, there must be a postulated observation that could potentially be observed that would be inconsistent or disprove our hypothesis. Why is this required for science? Well, I’ll answer that with an example. Let’s say that Bob says that he has a million dollars, but no one can see it or verify it in any way except for him. How can we prove that he is telling the truth? Well, by definition, Bob is the only one that can verify that he has a million dollars, and since we can’t go inside Bob’s head to see if he’s telling the truth, we can’t prove that he has a million dollars. This is something that is out of the realm of science. Science doesn’t claim that Bob is lying, but science must officially declare no position on the veracity of Bob’s claim. Why can’t science analyze his claim? Because it’s not falsifiable…there is nothing that could potentially be observed that would disprove Bob’s claim. This makes it clear that falsifiability is necessary for science to analyze the claim for a truth value. On the other hand, if Bob says he has a million dollars in his closet, all it takes is a peek in his closet to verify if Bob is telling the truth. Thus, in this case, there is something we could observe that would prove Bob wrong. Thus, in a seemingly strange way, the ability to prove something wrong allows us to prove it right! Thus, God must be defined in such a way that is falsifiable.

So we must ask ourselves, what kind of things would we observe that would disprove God? I’ve spent many nights thinking about this very question. “What kinds of things can we observe that is the opposite of what we would expect if God exists?” Here is where we get to the meat of this post: my conclusions about this topic. Firstly, I’ve made a couple of assumptions that I believe are common enough to assume for the sake of argument. I’ve assumed that the God hypothesis we are testing contains a few attributes.

1) There is one God that created everything. (Justified by the fact that most major religions I deal with are monotheistic)
2) God is active in the lives of humans (Justified by the fact that most major religions I deal with accept this as true)
3) God created humans in His image and He cares about them. (Justified partly from number 2, but also in the Judeo-Christian model, this is true)

In other words, this is a theistic God. These three assumptions in mind, here is my list of things we would expect if God existed. This list is by no means exhaustive, these are simply the things that I could think of.

In a Theistic Universe, we would expect…

1) We would expect God to be logically demonstrable and/or verifiable in some way.
2) We would expect God to be easy to find and thus, we would expect everyone to believe the exact same things about God. There’s no reason God would give special messages to one specific group of people; we would all understand God’s message perfectly.
3) We would not expect religious doctrines to be needed to explain anything about God. In the event that religious doctrines were required, we would expect them to last a very long time and in a stable way with minimal changes or additions.
4) We would expect religious doctrines, or God himself, to be progressive and always correct. Sexism is wrong, slavery is wrong.
5) We would expect religious doctrines, or God himself, to tell us important things. I.E. Electricity, Germ Theory, Gravity.
6) We would expect prophecies to be extremely specific: The exact day, place, and event that would occur and there wouldn’t be a single prophecy that didn’t come true. There would be no need for vagueness.
7) We would expect humans to play a significant or important role in the universe and that the universe would not be needlessly large.
8) We would not expect anyone to require faith, because we would have evidence. There’s no reason for God to hide himself.
9) We would expect the mind to be independent of the brain, no change to the brain would affect personalities or decisions.
10) We would expect there not to be gratuitous suffering. People would do bad things and God wants us to have free will, but there would not be random suffering. We would expect everything to be ultimately just on earth.
11) We would expect creation to be perfectly designed and suited for its habitat.

These are the 11 things that I can think of that we would most likely expect if God existed. Conversely, what would we expect in a universe void of a God? These numbers correlate (and are sometimes the converse) to the numbers above.

In a Non-theistic Universe, we would expect…

1) We would expect there to be no sound arguments for the existence of God.
2) We would expect people from different geographical regions to believe different, inconsistent things about what they think is God. We would expect most of these religions to have some kind of holy text to back up their claims and likely some etiological mythologies.
3) We would expect these holy texts to have translational and factual errors (since it is being copied over time with no aid from a divine being), adaptations to social conditions, and possibly even contradictions.
4) We would expect that religious doctrines would reflect local cultures. Sometimes we get good rules (love thy neighbor), sometimes we get bad rules (advocation of slavery, genocide by divine fiat)
5) We would expect religious doctrines to be full of no new information. Nothing that was not available to the writers at the time. We might also expect to find some strange mythological parts that are a reflection of the author’s understanding of the world.
6) We would expect religious doctrines to be full of failed and vague prophecies. Additionally, the prophecies that come true would often be because people later read the prophecies and took steps to try to force it to become true.
7) We would expect the universe to be uncomprehendingly large, to make the probability of intelligent life quite probable.
8) We would expect “faith” (belief without evidence or contrary to the evidence) to be required in order to believe in God
9) We would expect our personalities to change based on physical necessities and changes to the brain
10) We would expect natural disasters to occur at random intervals with no apparent purpose
11) We would expect humans to have things such as vestigial organs and things that could have been better designed, but are understood better under naturalistic theories.

These are the two possible worlds I submit to you. It may surprise many of you to hear that to my knowledge none of the things that I’ve outlined to expect under the existence of God are true and all of the things I’ve outlined to expect if there was no God are true. Of course, I’m sure people would disagree with me on that, but that’s why I’m here! I want to know which ones people disagree with and what is the justification for that?

Now if you’ve gotten this far, you may be asking yourself, “Wait a minute, he hasn’t answered the question! He hasn’t told me what would convince him yet!” and you’d be absolutely correct. The reason I’ve laid this out is partly because I like organizing my thoughts, and partly because I wanted to outline how strong I believe the case is against the existence of God. That being said, here is what I think would convince me that there is a God:

1) At least 7 of these 11 points that we would expect under the existence of God would either need to be demonstrated to be true, or demonstrated why we shouldn’t expect them under the existence of God. (I think that’s fair and not overly skeptical)
2) You would need to demonstrate that your holy text is reliable and an accurate source of information (You would need to use science)

I think that demonstrating these two things are not difficult at all if God truly exists. If something is true and the mechanism for discovering truth is agreed on, often it’s very easy to demonstrate it. That being said, I’m very open to it. I love debating theists and I do it on almost a daily basis. So if you’re someone who thinks you can meet this burden, I would happy to have a dialog with you. However, if you’re a Christian that doesn’t like confrontation or debate, that’s fine too. I’m still interested in listening to your opinions without arguing against you. I love my Christian friends. So please, I invite the confrontations and the friendships. I’m open to all and for all. That being said, I wish you all the best.

Avery

The Argument Against Original Sin

I haven’t updated this in quite a while and it certainly hasn’t turned into the blog that I wanted. However, I’ve been highly involved with deriving arguments against Christian theology and I would like to test a particular one that I’ve come up with that I think is sound. If you are a Christian that enjoys logical debates, I would really like some feedback on whether or not you disagree with this argument and why. If you find this argument sound, feel free to share it with your friends! I will attempt to justify each premise, if something is unclear, please let me know and I will surely do my best to make it clear!

I would first like to say that the point of this argument is not a refutation against Christianity as a whole. The point of this argument is to refute the idea that Adam and Eve are responsible for the first sin. If this argument holds, humanity is not to blame for sin and thus it is immoral to hold them accountable for it.

Premise 1: Sin is to disobey God’s commandments regardless of when the commandments are revealed.

This premise mentions when God reveals the commandments because, in the old testament, there was a time before the ten commandments. This premise assumes that, before the ten commandments were written, it was still a sin to murder. Some define sin as “Doing what they know to be right”

Verses to back up premise 1:
1 John 3:4 “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness”
James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin”

Premise 2: It is a sin to knowingly tell a falsehood.

This premise is straight forward and I don’t think many will disagree.

Verses to back up premise 2:
Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

Premise 3: God cannot tell a falsehood.

This one is also straight forward and I will be surprised if anyone disputes it.

Verses to back up premise 3:
Titus 1:2 “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago
1 Samuel 15:29 “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
2 Timothy 2:13 “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself”

Premise 4: God tells Adam and Eve (Before they sinned) that if they eat of the tree of good and evil, they will die

Verses to back up Premise 4:
Genesis 2:16-17 “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”
Genesis 3:6 “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”

Premise 5: The serpent tells Adam and Eve (Before they sinned) that if they eat of the tree of good and evil, they will not die

Verses to back up Premise 5:
Genesis 3:3-4 “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die”
Genesis 3:6 “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”

Premise 6: The serpent has free will.

This premise is justified by conclusion that if the serpent did not have free will, then the serpent must be an automaton and since God created “all things” God must have programmed the serpent to cause Adam and Eve to sin which would lead to the immediate conclusion that it is immoral for God to punish humanity for original sin since God orchestrated the entire event. To me, this seems like a bigger and harsher theological conclusion then accepting this premise so I don’t think many will disagree with this premise. If you do, I think there are bigger theological concerns to be worrying about.

Premise 7: God has free will.

If God does not have free will, there are also huge theological concerns, I doubt many will object to this.

Conclusion 1: Either the serpent is freely telling a falsehood, or God is freely telling a falsehood (By Premise 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and the Law of Excluded Middle)
Conclusion 2: The serpent is freely telling a falsehood before original sin is committed (By premise 3 and Conclusion 1)
Conclusion 3: The serpent sins before Adam and Eve and thus Adam and Eve (And thus, humanity) cannot be responsible for the first sin. (By Conclusion 2)

To put the argument all together:

Premise 1: Sin is to disobey God’s commandments regardless of when the commandments are revealed.
Premise 2: It is a sin to knowingly tell a falsehood.
Premise 3: God cannot tell a falsehood.
Premise 4: God tells Adam and Eve (Before they sinned) that if they eat of the tree of good and evil, they will die
Premise 5: The serpent tells Adam and Eve (Before they sinned) that if they eat of the tree of good and evil, they will not die
Premise 6: The serpent has free will.
Premise 7: God has free will.
Conclusion 1: Either the serpent is freely telling a falsehood, or God is freely telling a falsehood (By Premise 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and the Law of Excluded Middle)
Conclusion 2: The serpent is freely telling a falsehood before original sin is committed (By premise 3 and Conclusion 1)
Conclusion 3: The serpent sins before Adam and Eve and thus Adam and Eve (And thus, humanity) cannot be responsible for the first sin.

The argument could be further condensed to:

Premise 1: It is a sin to knowingly tell a falsehood.
Premise 2: God cannot tell a falsehood.
Premise 3: God tells Adam and Eve (Before they sinned) that if they eat of the tree of good and evil, they will die
Premise 4: The serpent tells Adam and Eve (Before they sinned) that if they eat of the tree of good and evil, they will not die
Premise 5: The serpent has free will.
Conclusion 1: The serpent sins before Adam and Eve. (By Premise 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)

I’m presenting this argument for your consideration and if a premise can be rejected, I would like to know which one.

Thank you for your attention,

Avery

How I see Christians (An Atheist Perspective)

This is a post more aimed at Christians but I think atheists will benefit highly from it as well.

Firstly, I am an atheist. But not just an atheist, I’m an ex-Christian. I understand how atheists look to Christians and it’s very fascinating to now be on the other side. For the most part, I viewed atheists as arrogant people who only cared about telling Christians that they’re wrong and had no other purpose. As an atheist, I can say there couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

I’d like to explain to atheists that have never been religious that Christians are not unintelligent or dishonest. In fact, I could name a handful of Christians that are smarter than you or I. some christians view you as arrogant so you need to be respectful when conversing with Christians and give them the courtesy of honestly considering their beliefs as possible truth. Christians are not all these fundamentalist, westboro-type wackadoos and many Christians actually oppose the westboro baptist church and fundamentalism. Atheists like to paint Christians all with the same brush but every Christian is different. Just like you don’t want Christians to assume you’re some God-hating, america-hating arrogant person you can’t assume that all Christians are anti-stem cell, anti-science, creationists. In fact, many Christians do embrace science as truth and reject pseudoscience like astrology, creationism, telepathy, and faith healing. As an atheist, you need to consider that every christian is different and most of them are super awesome people.

To Christians I’d like to explain that, to an atheist, a lot of Christians come off as merely trying to defend their beliefs or trying to assert what they believe as true without giving the same courtesy to the other side, it’s very disheartening to see someone who’s not even willing to consider the possibility that they could be wrong. How can you expect to convince anyone else if you’re not willing to be convinced yourself? many Christians are not closed minded about their beliefs, but, to the outside observer, that’s how it can appear sometimes. So I encourage Christians and Atheists to open your minds and consider the opposing beliefs, if you can’t do this, then you have no right to try and convince other people to believe what you believe. If you’re an Atheist, have a conversation with a Christian, if you’re a Christian, have a conversation with an Atheist. Don’t try and convince the other person of what you believe, just find out what they believe and why they believe it.

To Christians I’d also like to explain that many atheists are very open-minded. However, atheist are very evidence-based believers. An atheist will most likely not believe something just because someone asserts that it is true, and I can’t think of a single atheist who would think that faith is a virtue. In church, you’re probably taught that faith is a virtue, atheists reject this, so when trying to convince an atheist, do not appeal to faith, it won’t work. However, many atheists are very honest and if you provide them with good evidence to believe something, they will most likely believe it. That’s how I am at least.

Basically, I just want people to think about what they believe. If you truly and honestly think about what you believe and come up with a good reason to believe it, I have nothing against you. I am very much against atheists or christians who do not even consider the possibility that they could be wrong and try and sew this arrogance to other people. Every day I wake up and consider the possibility that I could be wrong, It’s one of the great things about having a rational mind. I encourage all atheists, christians and anyone of any religion to do the same. WHY do you or don’t you believe?

“What’s wrong with having faith?”

I’d like to say, first of all, that I am not one of those atheists who seeks to strip people of their faith. I despise that religion teaches that “faith” is a good thing. Faith is believing something without a good reason. Faith is, by definition, gullibility. If many people had been raised to believe that a magic sandwich created the world, I have no doubt that it would be the dominating belief in our society. Especially when this belief comes with all kinds of benefits for the in-group.

I enjoy debating Christians. I believe there is a benefit to it. Firstly, I enjoy making people think about their beliefs, and if that’s the only benefit, I’d still do it. I’m a fervent believer in standing up for what is right. Usually, after I’ve pointed out the fallacies in Christians’ arguments, they eventually fall back on the argument “You just need faith.” It will always come down to this argument. The only reason that believers believe is faith. I despise that Christians think this is a virtue. What is virtuous about believing something that you can’t be sure is true? Would you really worship a god that finds lack of faith to be the only punishable sin by eternal torture? I was a Christian for 17 years, so I’m well aware of what Christians believe. I believed I was being loving, caring, compassionate, and kind to others. But how can you be caring to someone, and simultaneously believe that they’re worthy of going to hell, simply for the thought-crime of not believing? Personally, I don’t believe thought-crime is a crime at all, but god does.

So what is so wrong with having faith? Why can’t I just let believers believe what they want and I’ll believe what I want and we’ll all just coexist. Firstly, I’d like to state that I have no problem with letting others believe what they want. It’s a human right and one of the things I stand for is freedom of belief. However, many Christians believe that evangelizing is a type of love and I agree. If their beliefs were true, it would be hateful not to share them. However, they are not true, and sharing them is divisive. If I can stop even one person from falling for this trick, If i can rationalize even one person, then this fight for freedom is worth it, because that’s one more person who will be voting for freedom and will be thinking critically for themselves and not dogmatically accepting what a book tells them is truth.

Firstly, faith is harmful. If you believe that having an untrue belief is non-harmful, you are wrong. Everything you believe affects your actions. If you believe you’re going to have an afterlife, It will make you much more careless to the world that we live in today; the only world we have. There are many Christians with the mindset of “Who needs to save the environment? we’re living in the end times anyway!” This is a mindset that I despise. People who understand that this is the only life we have know that protecting our environment is one of the most important things there is. Untrue beliefs will also affect your voting. You have the right to vote however you want, but if you’re voting to restrict the rights of others, you are severely part of the problem we have in America. America is founded on freedom. If you’re voting to restrict those freedoms, you are very much, what I consider, anti-American. If you’re voting to restrict LBGT rights, then you are letting your beliefs affect and harm others, thus these beliefs are not “harmless.” I’m well aware of the reasons that Christians propose for being against LBGT rights. I used to hold them. The only reason I held them is, not because I believed it was right, but because it’s what I dogmatically accepted from the Bible. I believed I was being loving. But I was a bigot, though I never would have admitted it. I would have said “No, no! This is what God wants”. I didn’t ever realize that this the exact same answer for the salem witch trials, or for burning heathens at the steak. It is anti-freedom and thus, I am fervently against it.

Secondly, faith is arrogance. It prevents you from finding the real answers. If you believe something is true, you’ve stopped looking for the real answers. This is one of the main reasons I personally don’t like faith. It prevented me from seeking the real truth of how the world was created. I just assumed “God did it” and quit wondering. Christians always laugh when I say “I don’t know what caused the big bang, if it needed a cause at all.” I suppose this is because, as humans, we are not satisfied with an answer of “I don’t know.” As a Christian, I was arrogant enough to think that I had all the answers. I knew what created the world. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. I had no idea what created the world, and I don’t believe anyone else knows either. So if you don’t know how something happened, it is extremely dishonest to say that you do. Why can’t we just say “I don’t know”? When I realized that this was not a bad thing, that’s when I began to accept my knowledge for what it is, and I began seeking the answers to the things I wasn’t sure about. For weeks after I became an atheist, I did hours and hours of research into the things I didn’t know. Searching for truth, without the presupposition that God did everything, is one of the most intellectually stimulating exercises I ever had. I was free to follow the evidence where it took me and not start with the conclusion of “God exists” and then bending the evidence to fit that conclusion. That is not how a rational mind works. Faith is the excuse people give so that they don’t need to provide evidence. I think this is extremely arrogant. Faith claims absolute knowledge of god’s existence, or of certain historical events that have no evidence in contemporary science. Many Christians think that atheists are arrogant because they claim to have answers. But since I’ve become an atheist, I’ve discovered that I have less answers than I did as a Christian, but I’ve never been more enamored! The realization that the cause for gravity is unknown, or that abiogenesis is still a very ambiguous topic, is a very happy realization. I’ve realized that I can be the one to search for those answers. Curiosity is the greatest thing that I have, but the willingness to say “I don’t know” does not inhibit that belief, but it reinforces it. It encourages me to look for the answers so I don’t have to say “I don’t know”, but I can say that I’m well on my way to figuring it out.

Thirdly, faith is doubtless. Anything that is doubtless is not a good thing. As an atheist, I’m constantly doubting myself and what I already know. I hope I have doubt for the rest of my life. It confirms to me that I’m not just taking science dogmatically the way I took the Bible. But when I read an article in a science journal, I can sit there and say “hmm, okay so how do I know this article is accurate” and I can do research into it and make my own decision. Christianity neccesarily requires you accept the Bible on faith and not to doubt it one bit. If you doubt at all you are to be condemned! The Bible encourages people to research into their faith so that they can defend it, but anyone who doubts is to be condemned. Matthew 21:21 says, “And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”Romans 14:23 says, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Clearly, the Bible is fervently against doubts. But let’s stop to ask ourselves why? Why would something that is “true” be so fervently against doubts? It seems to me that if something is true, it would encourage doubts, because they would eventually lead to knowledge. Let’s take science for example. One of the pillars of science is falsifiability. Science encourages anyone to try and falsify the things it presents. Because science is concerned about truth, and if it can be disproven, it is not true. But the Bible seems to be afraid of people doubting. Clearly this fear needs to be reinforced with the extremely scary concept of hell so as to scare people into believing. But if it were really true, the Bible would encourage doubts, clearly it doesn’t.

Fourthly, faith is judgmental. I am truly saddened by people who can be so gullible. To believe something without a clear cause is nothing but gullibility. It truly breaks my heart to see everyone I love be completely duped by this divisive religion. But they think it’s not divisive, they think it’s loving and caring! It truly breaks my heart to know that my mom goes to sleep every night thinking that I’m going to hell and that I deserve to go there. These beliefs have poisoned the minds of those who believe it. It tricks people into thinking all kinds of terrible things about those who don’t believe, and those who actually care about doubting things. I used be a Christian and I know what happens in the heads of Christians. They will never admit it, even to themselves, but they judge atheists. They judge believers of other faiths, they believe that believers of other faiths are all going to hell and that they are the only people who are right. They believe every person who doesn’t believe is going to hell and is deserving of going there. I can’t tell you how absolutely devastating it is to even talk to someone, knowing that they believe in their hearts that I’m evil enough to deserve eternal torture. I can’t think of a single case of anything happening to anyone that would warrant them deserving of being tortured for eternity, Even Hitler. There is a time at some point when I would say “Okay, that’s enough torture, He’s paid his price.” At some point, whether it be 5 years, or 10 years, or 100 years, or even 1,000 years, at some point, Hitler has paid the price. Even if I would set that price at 100 years for every jew he killed, he would still be tortured for 100*7,000,000 = 700,000,000 years. But this is just scratching the surface compared to eternity and God finds me worthy of this punishment. If I had a number that was a 1 followed by a number of zeroes equal to every atom in the universe. (A number known to be about a googolplex = 10^((10)^(100))) and was tortured for that many years, God thinks I’m deserving of being tortured for another googolplex years, and another, and another. Think of the biggest number you can, raise it to the second biggest number you can think of’s power and torture me for that many years. God (and Christians) believe I’m deserving of more torture for my crimes. I can’t be tortured enough for this crime of not believing. This is absolutely the most immoral punishment there is. There is no one deserving of that. It breaks my heart to even converse with people who think I deserve that. There are some things that this God does that are absolutely immoral, even Christians know that some of the things God has done have been immoral. But they rationalize it by saying things like “We just don’t understand his ways.” I think these beliefs are absolute poison, and I will never believe something on faith. But even if this god did exist, and tortured people forever, why would I worship such a sadistic being? A truly just god would, at some finite time, say “Okay, you’ve paid your punishment.” but Yahweh? nope. he just keeps on torturing. This is disgusting to me and it breaks my heart to know that Christians worship this being.

Fifthly, and finally, faith is a shield. The average joe schmo might not be willing to go bomb an abortion clinic, or fly a plane into a building, but anyone who says “God exists” to this person, is reinforcing the fundamental belief that causes these people to do these things. Faith allows these people to hide behind other people and let their beliefs be encouraged by other people. I’m not saying any one person is responsible for these people doing the things that they do, but faith as a whole is very much responsible. If there was no belief, there’d be no violent acts in the names of those beliefs. This is not a reason to not have faith. There will always be someone who takes something and twists it for violence. Such is the case with “Eugenics.” However, when the belief is compiled with all these other things, it’s just something the world doesn’t need.

Fortunately, he doesn’t exist. But the point is that Christians honestly believe that he does and nothing makes me feel more heartbroken than the fact that I used to believe it. The God I believed in was a caring, just god. I’ve come to the realization that the God I was raised to believe would not punish me for using the brain, that I was told he gave me, in an honest way. Why would God punish honesty? I’m just honestly accepting that I don’t know if he exists, any just god could not punish me for that, especially when it’s the way I’m programmed. However, I’m so happy that I took an objective look at these things and realized that the nonexistent god of Christianity is nothing worthy of being worshipped even if he DID exist. People often say to me “Why do you hate god?” I don’t hate god, I hate the fact that Christians believe that this god exists and justify the actions that they claim he does. I don’t hate god because I can’t hate something that doesn’t exist.

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