This blog is having an
existential crisis

While I tinker with a new design, I’m also pondering how, what, and why I write here. I don’t know how long that will take, but you’re welcome to email me and see how things are progressing.

Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


exchanges
Irreligious fundamentalism

The saga continues.

Continued from part 3

Before we begin, here’s something to note—something which will probably be obvious if you’ve been following this exchange:

This fellow initially emailed me because he was curious about my reasons for believing in God. He follows me in another context unrelated to this blog, and happened to learn that I am a believer. Notice how that initial purported curiosity has dissolved into something rather more shrill and closed off. This doesn’t always happen, but let’s just say it’s not exactly unexpected. The way atheists like to think of themselves is often comically out of step with the way they actually are. Romans 3:10-14 rings true.

I feel you have to, or like to make things complex, in order to reach a satisfying conclusion or explanation?

It’s not a question of complexity. It’s a question of what constitutes a good explanation. I could equally say that I feel you have to over-simplify everything, but it wouldn’t really get us anywhere.

Would you say my assumption that I exist, that the computer in front of me exists, and the chair I sit on exists is the same as a Christians assumption that a God made the world in 7 days, Jesus died and came back, and will come back again?

No—what you’re describing are called properly basic beliefs. Most philosophers would agree that you are justified in believing them just because of the experiences they are derived from. Comparing properly basic beliefs with complex beliefs like the resurrection is comparing apples with oranges. You should compare apples with apples—in which case, I would say that your belief in the existence of other people based on your direct experience is comparable with my belief in God based on direct experience. Indeed, they are very similar kinds of beliefs. Both could be mistaken, but we seem justified in believing them just because of the experiences that produce them.

My belief in the resurrection, on the other hand, is more like your (or our!) belief in the existence of electrons. It is justified in other ways.

The question we need to assess is whose assumptions are more consistent, more reasonable?

What, the one who doesn’t believe in imaginary things versus the one who does?

No offense man, but you’re embarrassing yourself. For one thing, you’re just begging the question again. Surely you noticed that you’re assuming the exact point in dispute? You’re saying, “Okay, let’s assess whose explanation is best. Well it’s obviously mine because yours is based on make-believe.” You can’t even step back for a moment and be objective about it. It’s like people who say that no matter what the explanation is for someone spontaneously regrowing a limb after being prayed for, obviously it can’t be a miracle because miracles don’t happen! It’s such obviously circular reasoning that it should be utterly embarrassing to even consider it, let alone use it.

For another thing, I can turn this around pretty easily. You believe that something came from nothing. You might as well say you believe in magic. You believe that objective physical processes comprised of nothing but matter and energy somehow cause subjective experiences with properties like intentionality and truth. Again, magic. Even supposing that God is imaginary, the fact is that he is a far better explanation for many of the phenomena I’ve mentioned than yours, which amounts to “Shut up, that’s why.”

What practical outcome does that logic [solipsism] provide?

I’m not sure why you’re couching the question in those terms. The point was to show that your criticism of me holding to unprovable assumptions was ironic in view of the number of unprovable assumptions you hold. What’s more, my worldview provides the means to justify or ground those assumptions so they are reasonable. Yours does not.

It would certainly help someone deliberately cause unnecessary pain and suffering if they operate from faith in the imaginary versus live in the real world?

I’m not sure what you’re driving at. The belief that everything exists in your mind is called solipsism. But it’s not a very widely-held belief, as you probably noticed. Are you saying we should be wary of solipsists because they could be dangerous?

Just because I lack belief in a God, doesn’t mean I am unable to put meaning to things.

You’re confusing epistemology with ontology.

I’m not saying you can’t assign meaning. I’m saying that under your worldview, if the universe itself is objectively meaningless, objectively without purpose, then everything in it is meaningless and purposeless—including your act of assigning meaning and purpose to something. Whatever meaning you assign is itself objectively meaningless. In other words, your assigned meaning is demonstrably false and non-existent. But believing something objectively false is called a delusion. Believing it even when you know it is objectively false might well be a sign of mental illness. Delusional people aren’t well. Which is ironic considering you call my worldview nutty!

I mean plausible as in possible as in “I can see why Dave thinks the sun orbits the earth” … without evidence.

What does mere possibility have to do with my arguments though? I’m not arguing that God is possible. I’m arguing that the evidence points to his existence. Independent lines of evidence. I’m arguing that his existence is not merely possible, but highly probable.

I’m not making claims. Do you really think I am? You are making claims. I am asking why you make those claims. Having a lack of belief isn’t a claim.

Really? I’m about to quote a whole bunch of claims you make. I’m not sure how you could have missed them, since you made them ;p

Utter nonsense. Christianity is the antithesis of science.

Do you think just saying it vehemently enough makes it true? I gave evidence for saying that Christianity kick-started science and is still the only worldview that can ground basic scientific assumptions like the regularity of nature.

Your response is not to refute my arguments or provide counterevidence, but to simply contradict me?

Sounds like something a religious fundamentalist would do.

Scientific advancement practically went backwards during the dark ages thanks to Christianity.

As the saying goes, what is freely asserted may be freely denied. Moreover, I gave evidence to the contrary. I realize this is challenging your received dogma, but the historical evidence simply doesn’t bear out your atheistic doctrine.

Only by becoming free(er) or religion could science explode and make all the discoveries that it has.

You sound like you’re reciting a catechism. When your views are challenged, you revert to memorized canned responses rather than doing the scientific thing and testing the evidence to see whether you were right in the first place.

Christianity is accepting doctrine and not thinking for yourself. It’s accepting the Churches view of the world and not questioning that view.

I see we’re playing the assert-and-insult game. Usually I leave that for school kids backed into a corner, but sometimes it can be fun. Okay, here’s my effort:

Atheism is accepting doctrine and not thinking for yourself. It’s accepting the scientific establishment’s view of the world and not questioning that view.

Maybe individuals like yourself can have a flavour of the religion that is not so anti-scientific (people do like to interpret their bible to fit their worldview) but it’s not accurate at all to say that this religion (or ANY religion) is a backer of science when all science does is show up how silly the religion is.

This response barely rises above sticking your fingers in your ears and going, “Lalalala, I can’t hear you.” You’re simply repeating your canned narrative, as if to comfort yourself that it’s true. But I was an atheist. I’m fully aware of the canned narrative. I abandoned atheism because the only way to back science intellectually is by justifying its assumptions—assumptions which are unjustifiable in the absence of an orderly creator who designed us to rule over the world.

I can’t help noticing that you haven’t responded to any of my arguments for this conclusion. You just pick out the conclusions and assert the contrary in the teeth of the evidence. Who is the one with blind faith now?

That said, how does science show that religion is silly? By your own admission you don’t know enough about DNA to comment on issues like code, transposition etc, which clearly and indisputably point to an intelligent designer. So you can’t be appealing to some oversimplified evolution/creation dichotomy. But then what science are you thinking of? How do you know it shows religion to be silly? Where is your evidence? Or are you just repeating something you heard once? Kind of like the way you say Christians just accept what they’re told?

I mean come on! In order for religion to take hold it must suppress free thought however it can… that’s why religion is so prevalent. To be scientific you need to embrace and encourage free thought. That’s not religion.

Again, you’re just repeating your canned narrative. Where’s your evidence? I, as a “freethinker”, freely came to religious convictions. And I’m hardly alone. Many of the world’s top thinkers today, and nearly all of them through history, have been religious.

Of course, there are also plenty of people who just believe what they’re told and accept it blindly, lashing out when anyone challenges them, repeating their catechized, rehearsed beliefs woodenly despite the evidence. Yet as you are ably demonstrating, those people are hardly confined to the religious establishment.

That’s why Churches love to get the children inside their doors. A young mind is easily lead. And helps to spread their word.

That’s kind of an ironic comment to make considering how atheistic regimes use education to indoctrinate children, don’t you think?

Moreover, it’s a remarkably invidious, cynical thing to say. Do you think that religious parents don’t love their children? Do you think religious people are just zombies going through programmed responses? Drones who produce more drones and dutifully bring them to indoctrination centers, like some post-apocalyptic movie? Have you even met any religious people or tried to understand them? Have you bothered to think through your beliefs here? Presumably not since you would then know how absurd they are.

Of course, there are fundamentalists in religion, just as there are in anything. But from my experience, religious people are far more concerned with educating their children because they have a great love for both their kids and the truth. Why do you think homeschoolers are disproportionately religious? And why do you think homeschooled kids are disproportionately higher-scoring on standardized tests at every grade level?

(I happen to view teaching a child religion as a mild form of child abuse.)

Well I happen to view believing that as a mild form of mental retardation.

3 comments

  1. Kirk Skeptic

    “That’s why Churches love to get the children inside their doors. A young mind is easily lead. And helps to spread their word” sounds better as “That’s why government schools love to get the children inside their doors. A young mind is easily lead. And helps to spread their word.” It’s religion either way.

    “I mean come on! In order for religion to take hold it must suppress free thought however it can… that’s why religion is so prevalent. To be scientific you need to embrace and encourage free thought” can only come from one who has had little contact with PC-ridden, heresy-hunting academia. Besides, if evolution were true (which it is not), religion’s prevalence suggests its value for survival, making “free thought” even sillier and dangerous. Just sayin’…

  2. Chavoux

    Hi Bnonn,
    I have one comment on your analogy between the atheist’s belief in other people and your belief in God… there is one impotant didtiction (I think). While you might be totally justified in your faith in God on the grounds of your own experience, the atheist doesn’t (yet) share that experience. By contrast, his belief in the existence of other people can be confirmed by you or somebody else. OK, there is still some basic faith (properly basic beliefs) required, but if he assumes the existence of just one other person, that person can confirm his belief in any third person. At least in his conversation with you, he can confirm that you also experience the existence of other people. But you cannot do the same with him relative to your experience of God. (I am struggling to express myself here). What would maybe be a closer analogy would be the sameness of your experience of God and His character with the experiences of other believers.? I think what I am driving at is that his experience of other people have more “convincing power” since he can argue from the fact that you (and everyone else) also have the same experience, while you cannot do the same for your experience of God?
    Talking of experience, how exactly did you come to faith? I know that God used your current wife, but how did it work/happen? How long did it take? Did you argue, or was it her life (or something else) that drew and convinced you? I don’t only ask from curiosity, but because there is somebody I love very much, but who doesn’t believe in God yet. And I am really scared of messing things up!

  3. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    While you might be totally justified in your faith in God on the grounds of your own experience, the atheist doesn’t (yet) share that experience. By contrast, his belief in the existence of other people can be confirmed by you or somebody else.

    I’m not sure you really understand the analogy. It isn’t aimed at proving that God exists; what it does is demonstrates that the theist is rational in believing that God exists, given his experience, just as he is rational in believing that other people exist given his own experience. The atheist wants to say that this experience of God is delusional. But if the experience is relevantly similar to our experience of other people, then it is incorrigible—we can’t help believing it, even if it is delusional. So the atheist’s objection becomes very weak. Even if the experience is delusional, there’s nothing irrational about believing it; but if there’s nothing irrational about believing it, then it seems implausible to think it is delusional!

    I think what I am driving at is that his experience of other people have more “convincing power” since he can argue from the fact that you (and everyone else) also have the same experience, while you cannot do the same for your experience of God?

    Well, as I say, the point isn’t to convince atheists. I don’t think my personal experience will convince anyone of anything if they have other reasons to doubt it. The point is simply to show that Christian belief is rational in important ways.

    Moreover, the atheist’s lack of experience shouldn’t be convincing to him in its own right. For example, let’s switch up the analogy. Take music. Some people are tone deaf. But it would be decidedly strange for them to deny the existence of music on the basis that they can’t pick it out. You could say, look, you believe in the existence of sound—why is it so hard to believe that other people have experienced sound in this particular way? Their response that they just don’t have that experience, and indeed seem incapable of it, is going to fall, if you’ll excuse me, on deaf ears.

    Talking of experience, how exactly did you come to faith?

    You can read my testimony here: http://bnonn.com/testimony. If you have questions further to that, you’re welcome to email me: bnonn@bnonn.com.

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