How Religious People Think

Having been brought up (i.e. indoctrinated) as a Christian, I know much more about Christianity than about other major religions, like Islam or Judaism. I will therefore use Christianity as an example, but I’m fairly confident that the case that I make can be made very similarly for other religions.

Any rational person, not necessarily atheist, but at least not indoctrinated with Christianity, when confronted with the Bible, will first note that it’s just a book, written over a long period of time by lots of people, but still just a book nevertheless. Upon reading it he’ll discover that it’s chock full of contradictions and falsehoods, so it might possibly make for some nice and a few not so nice bedtime stories, but it’s certainly not a book worthy of basing ones life on.

The Christian has a different approach. He knows the bible is the word of god. God does not contradict himself, nor does he spread falsehoods, so the christian would seem to be in a bit of trouble when confronted with them, but of course he is not.

You can point out a contradiction to him, like the completely different genealogies of Jesus in the gospels, and he will twist the words as long as it takes for the contradiction to vanish, because, obviously, they need to be twisted, because the bible does not contradict itself.

You can point out to him that the story of creation put forth by the bible is so at odds with what science has found out that it’s not even funny. He will, depending on which christian sect he belongs to, either tell you that genesis is not meant to be taken literally and is just symbolic, i.e. a story, or that it is meant to be taken literally and is, in fact, true. God created the universe a few thousand years ago, but made it look like it was billions of years old. He will point out that there are holes in the fossil record which biology cannot explain. Of course, what he cannot explain is why god would want to fake such an old universe, but then put in those holes.

He does not have to explain, however. God works in mysterious ways and whatever he does makes some kind of sense, even if we cannot understand it.

The christian is thus equipped with a vast array of weapons to destroy any problems that reality lays in the bible’s path. He can twist words, he can declare passages to be just symbolic, he can declare reality to be a fake and even if that doesn’t work out, he can declare that it doesn’t have to, but that it makes sense nonetheless.

He does all these things because he knows that the bible is true. This knowledge is stronger than any fact or logic, so trying to convince him of the contrary will not work.

25 thoughts on “How Religious People Think

  1. I completely agree. However, the fact that the bible is just a book, and written by man, and has contradictions and falsehoods doesn’t prove that God doesnt exist. It simply doesn’t prove that God exists. I’m not going to say that you need to believe in God, I dont think God requires anything of you, I’m sure he doesnt mind if you believe in him though. Anyway, the most concrete proof I’ve seen of God was no book, whether it be the bible or koran, but a simple logical argument. Google Descartes’ Ontological Argument. Thats what did it for me.

  2. The ontological argument is flawed in several ways. Google around and you’ll find a few articles detailing them, or read “The Miracle of Theism” by J.L. Mackie.

    One flaw of the argument is that it requires existence to be a property of things. This is clearly not the case, however. A banana that does not exist is not a banana, it is nothing at all.

    Another flaw is the ambiguity of the argument. Descartes makes the argument for a perfect being, but it has been pointed out that the argument can also be made for a perfect island, thereby “willing” that island into existence. If Descartes’ argument is valid, any conceivable perfect thing must exist, not only the perfect being.

  3. Interesting read. Examples of what you mean would be nice. Being raised as a Christian, I am sure you know that living in faith is a big part of Christianity. I realize that for a lot of atheists, living in faith = not using our congative brain. God just doesn’t hand all the answers to us -otherwise there would be no choice involved. Another huge aspect of Christianity is having a personal relationship with God. Anyone who has experienced this knows what I am talking about. I am not trying to convince you that God is real, you have to find it yourself.

    I guess what I don’t understand is why an atheist seemingly finds it necessary to justify their own non-belief? This has always puzzled me. An atheist has nothing to gain in this type of argument.

    If I were an atheist and confident in my own beliefs as such, I am not sure I would spend a whole lot of time poking holes in religion. I mean, why would you waste the time if you were certain of where you stand? What could your motive possibly be? I bring this up because I have seen so many of these “rants” against religion lately. If you are certain of where you stand in life and beyond, why waste time trying to convince others (or yourself) that religion is a waste?

    By the way, love your pics on flickr …lovely work. ;)

  4. Hi Steve!

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the compliments!

    Examples of what I mean: The article links to a few sites with a lot of examples of the contradictions in the Bible. No need to repeat them here.

    I don’t quite understand what you mean to say by “God just doesn’t hand all the answers to us -otherwise there would be no choice involved.”. I’m not blaming him (not least because I think that he doesn’t exist) that he doesn’t think for us, but he could at least be a little bit more consistent and less cruel (there’s another link in the article concerning cruelties).

    As for finding god: How does one do that? To believe something I need some evidence and I just don’t see it in this case.

    Why do we justify our non-belief? I think it’s always a good idea to reflect on your beliefs and disbeliefs and find out why you have them. Questioning your beliefs (and others) is part of scepticism, and scepticism is good. It keeps you rational and connected to the real world.

    Of course I could keep all that to myself, and I might do just that if religious believers would keep their beliefs to themselves, too. They don’t however. Instead, they try to teach ridiculous stories (creationism) in schools in the US, they harrass homosexuals, do their best to keep people from using contraceptives, fly airplanes into World Trade Centers and wage wars.

    Stop doing those things and I’ll stop ranting.

    Thanks in advance!

  5. I don’t knock you for being skeptical and asking questions, however, your post doesn’t come off that way. It comes across as if you made up your mind and just want to blow off a bit of steam. ;) Asking questions is a good thing. I am going to try to answer some of your thoughts and give you an alternative perspective in the following paragraphs:

    We have to be careful not to confuse the cruelty of the world with God’s will. God doesn’t and didn’t create sin, sadness, evil, despair, etc. This comes from Satan, who is working toward deceiving mankind. As you know, this all started with some bad choices in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world -God gives each of us a “choice” to follow him or not (just as he gave Adam and Eve a choice). I think choice is an important aspect to consider in all of this. If God just handed everything to us and required that we serve him -what kind of world would we live in? Would we really serve God out of choice or because we had to (duty)?

    Finding God and developing a real relationship with him requires actively seeking him. This comes through prayer and meditation. It also comes through reading the scriptures. You got to work at it.

    Also, I would encourage you to be careful not to generalize so much. Just like I could say that all doctors make you wait, and all cops racially profile black people, or all atheists are always trying to stop the pledge of allegiance in schools -generalizations are usually not true. That being said, sometimes there is a grain of truth in generalizations.

    Unfortunately, just a few people can make a whole group look bad. Just remember that each Christian is different and every flavor of Christian religion is different. I don’t know of a single Christian that harasses homosexuals (or wishes them harm). I also don’t know a single Christian who wants to blow up abortion clinics. I am not even sure what you mean by Christians not wanting people to use contraceptives (are you thinking of the Amish? ;)). That is just plain crazy! There are extremists in every group that take things too far. Also consider that print, TV and radio media are not usually presenting groups of people in a balanced way. For example, you will always see cops beating someone on the news if there is video of it. How often do you see or hear of a positive story about an officer on the news? The same thing can be said of other professions. The only time you hear about a mail carrier on the news is when a mailman shoots up a post office. If you look into this phenomenon (going “postal”) and the stats surrounding workplace violence you will find it is extremely rare and it is certainly not indicative of mail carriers as a whole (I mean I hope this is obvious). My point is to warn you not to fall into the trap of believing everything you hear and read about groups of people. You sound as if you have heard or read a lot of negative (and blatantly wrong) things about Christians. You are passing Christians all the time at work, in the park, in the mall, etc. who are just quietly and peacefully living their lives –not looking to do any harm to homosexuals, or push an extreme beliefs on others. Would most of us like to see a non-Christian come to Christ (and share the same joy of a relationship with him)? Sure, but most of us plant seeds rather than push an extreme agenda.

    As far as teaching creation….sure I would like to see a balanced view in the schools. No one I know is asking that the schools stop teaching evolution -just to provide both sides. I don’t think that is crazy. School should be about independent thought and a place for the free exchange of ideas. Having competing view points in school (especially when no one can agree on what is correct or prove one over the other) should be a positive thing.

    You mention needing some evidence to believe. I totally get that. Look around you though -the evidence is everywhere. I think it takes more faith to believe that the billions and billions of stars, this complex planet and everything on it were built just on chance. I mean, have you really thought about that? Our world is so amazingly complex that the probability of it happening just by chance is like dropping 1000s of electronic parts off a cliff and finding a fully functional 777 on the ground. It is actually infinitely more unlikely than that –yet you would never believe that it could ever happen.

    We (humans) can’t even build an operating system that works right or come close to designing life-like artificial limbs or even dream of creating anything close to fully functional artificial intelligence. Take a DSLR for example (loved your review of the 5D). It does not come remotely close to functioning like a human eye does. If we can’t do it as humans, how could nature just whip up the world, galaxy and universe starting out with absolutely nothing? When you put all of this in perspective, the evidence of God’s existence is all around us (at least for me). We even have some limited knowledge on how it all came to be (through the Bible).

    Whether a person chooses to be an atheist or believe in a higher power or creator, it takes some degree of faith. Neither side has concrete answers that can just be handed to you. I personally use this formula for my own beliefs: Personal relationship with God (he has shown himself to me as real) + the Bible (providing a foundation for that relationship) + the evidence that is all around us. It works for me.

    I don’t mean to get in a boxing match with you over all of this. I truly hope you find what you are looking for out there!

  6. I won’t answer all of your talking points here because lots of people have done this already and probably better than I could hope to do it. I’ll just focus on a few things.

    > God doesn’t and didn’t create sin, sadness, evil, despair, etc.
    > This comes from Satan, who is working toward deceiving mankind.

    Is that so? Tell me then, who created satan? Wouldn’t that have been god? And why doesn’t he stop satan from doing all the bad stuff he’s doing?

    This is one of the main problems of religions. They want their god to be all powerful and omnicient, but they also want him to be good, but then they can’t explain why there’s evil in the world, both evil created by man (why does god permit people hurting each other?) as well as evil coming from nature, which god created as well (earthquakes, floods, …).

    > I think it takes more faith to believe that the billions and
    > billions of stars, this complex planet and everything on it were
    > built just on chance.

    Cosmologists have a pretty good idea how stars formed (not by chance!) and if you pay close attention to what biologists try to tell you, you’ll know that evolution isn’t chance, either. Read up on it, you’ll learn a thing or two.

    > No one I know is asking that the schools stop teaching evolution
    > -just to provide both sides.

    You know there’s people out there who believe that the holocaust didn’t happen and who even think they have evidence of that? Why not teach their stuff in school, too, to provide a “balanced” view on the holocaust issue? The answer is, of course, that we know the holocaust happened and those people are either fascists or mad as a bunch of march hares. The same argument (minus the fascism stuff) applies to creationism. There are no two sides. Evolution is a very sound scientific theory backed by loads of evidence, and creationism is a story. And not a very smart one at that.

    > I am not even sure what you mean by Christians not wanting
    > people to use contraceptives (are you thinking of the Amish? ;)).

    Ask the pope. Yeah, the one in the vatican.

  7. Good joust! I am glad you are taking the time to seek out the answers for yourself. It is easy to slant and skew points of view -especially when it is all just text based on a blog.

    (1) God did create Lucifer and gave him a choice. His choice led him into sin. I don’t pretend to know all the reasons why God does what he does, but I do know allow for choice was and is a big factor with God. There is a perfect place without sin and suffering waiting for us called heaven (you can learn more about this and heaven in the Bible).

    (2) You also know that scientists simply have working theories of how the world was created -and that those theories are constantly changing. These theories are far from certain or even provable (some of it has even been disproved). Scientists themselves can’t agree (some have even changed their minds and decided that creation is a real possibility). I have done a fair amount of reading on this subject. A theory and a provable fact are giant leaps apart. This leads me to my next point.

    (3) You know as well as I do that you can’t compare teaching the holocaust to teaching creation. Trying to make this type of comparison almost totally destroys your credibility! Almost no one believes that the holocaust was made up whereas somewhere in the neighborhood of 92% of the US population believes in a God and/or higher power. Making sweeping generalizations (like if you teach this, then you have to teach that, etc.) is convenient for this argument, but totally the wrong approach. Critical thought is and should be a big part of this (I hope).

    (4) The pope represents one flavor of religion. It would be like me saying that everything George Bush says is a direct reflection of your beliefs as an American (assuming you are American). We both know this isn’t true. Even beyond that, very few Catholics even subscribe to the issue you raise of contraception. I am not a Catholic so I can’t really even speak to the reasoning behind this.

    EVERY Christian I know uses some type of contraception (even it is after choosing to have a large family). My wife and I chose to have two kids and were very careful not to have them too soon or to have more. Please be careful of just making sweeping generalizations about whole groups of people. A “Christian” is a very broad category or group. If you really want answers, you have to get away from generalization and stereotypes (blacks do this…Native Americans do that…smokers act this way, teenagers do this, etc.).

    I enjoyed the spirited conversation; however it is quite obvious that your mind is already made up. I am not attempting to convince anyone of anything. I have already asked all the same questions and I am confident in where I stand (and hey, if it is all wrong -I have lost nothing). I seriously hope you find what you are looking for. I also hope that you are careful of being too narrowly focused on disproving Christianity and the existence of God rather than simply seeking out the truth. I think that is all we are all after the same thing in the end -the truth.

  8. > (1) God did create Lucifer and gave him a choice. His choice led
    > him into sin.

    And god knew this perfectly well before he created Lucifer because he’s omnicient, remember? Therefore, by creating Lucifer, he created evil, and he knew it perfectly well.

    But let’s say that he created Lucifer for some other reason which we just don’t know and all the evil in the world is just collateral damage, so to speak. Why did he give Lucifer all that power to do evil? Why not just make Lucifer some poor, dead and dumb guy in a wheelchair without much capacity to do evil? Wouldn’t that have worked out great? We’d still be in paradise! Freedom of choice doesn’t apply here, because if it did, we’d all have to be as powerful as Lucifer, just to have that freedom of choice.

    > Almost no one believes that the holocaust was made up whereas
    > somewhere in the neighborhood of 92% of the US population
    > believes in a God and/or higher power.

    So the only reason we should teach Creationism but not holocaust denial is because lots of more people believe in the former? What about astrology, then? Lots of people believe in astrology. Let’s teach it in school! Throw in faith healing and homeopathy, just to give kids a more balanced view!

    ad 4: My point was that some people do their best to keep others from using contraceptives and they do it for religious reasons. Some people blew up the World Trade Center, and they did it for religious reasons. Not your religion, but religion nonetheless. Have you ever heard of an atheist setting off a car bomb because he didn’t believe in god? Yeah, me neither.

  9. The worst thing about religion is that it authorises the believer to do whatever he chooses in the name of something that can never be held to account.

    The result is a continual cycle of pain that mankind pays out like a broken record.

    Freedom from the belief in God results in total resposibility for ones actions, or at a minimum, human accountability for the results of those actions.

  10. Exactly! While religion claims the moral high ground it’s actually the other way around, as is often pointed out. How can you act morally if the only reason you’re doing good is because you fear the wrath of god?

  11. hmmm. Interesting discussion and points. As a “Christian” I’ve always felt it takes as much faith to be a Atheist as it does to be a “Christian”, “Budhist” or any other belief system. Agnostics are just fence sitters in my mind. Understandable given all the confusion out there in the world but I can understand an Atheist viewpoint easier than that of an Agnostic. I don’t want to redebate points that have been already made in this comments section but I did want to say that in my particular religion, although we believe God created Satan (Lucifer), he did not create him “evil”. Good and Evil exist independent of God. They are the powers of the universe and although God can control many things, for the most part, he is big on free agency and choice. Satan provides part of the push and pull of our particular world. It’s my personal belief that although God may know how things are going to turn out, the reality of how things turn out is completely dependent on us. Choice is what makes bad and good happen in the world but the powers to choose exist always. There may be exceptions but it’s the Yin and Yang if you will. I realize you already have your reasons for your beliefs. I accept and respect that, but I do think some people misunderstand the nature of God and our Satans place in the world. Just thoughts.

  12. I’m afraid your point of view is completely inconsistent. If god is omnipotent and omniscient, then he created Lucifer exactly the way he is, knowing full well what he would do and, in fact, with the intention of Lucifer doing what he does (i.e. evil). Why? Simple: He’s omniscient, so he knew how Lucifer would turn out. And he’s omnipotent, so he could have made him different. The only way out is take away either the omniscience or the omnipotency, or both.

    I don’t have an idea how you reconcile god’s omniscience with free will. God knew what you’d think and do even before you were born (by definition), so how can you claim to have a free will?

  13. Please tell me where in the Bible it explicitly states in context that God has divine foreknowledge (which is different from omniscience, but this seems to be what you are really having a problem about). I think this is just an assumption you are making.

  14. How does omniscience (knowing ALL) not encompass complete foreknowledge? Do you mean to say that god doesn’t know the numbers of tomorrow’s lottery?

    But I’ll give you a concrete example: Peter’s denial of Jesus. Jesus, i.e. god, foretold that Peter would deny him. So what choice did Peter have?

  15. Granted, that’s how some religious people think.

    Others, like me, think there’s nothing to fear from science. Further, science does not yet invalidate anything in the Bible. Nor does anything in the Bible invalidate what science has discovered.

    ID and Creationism are theological “schools of thought” and have no business being taught in science class. If my school were to decide to teach ID, or – heaven forbid – Creationism, I would tell my daughter to endure, try to pass the test, but realize it was all BS. (We will take the same approach with postmodern literary theory and gender feminism (the “‘man hating” kind).

    The creation stories in the Bible (there are two, and they differ) are allegorical or symbolic even though they contain the truth in the same what that telling a 4 year old that babies come from mommy’s tummy is true, but clearly not the whole story, because the 4 year old wouldn’t understand the whole story, or would probably be traumatized if he did.

    We think that Jesus was who he said he was, that is the Messiah, the Son of God, and He who died on the cross so that our sins are forgiven so we may enter heaven. We think this because the narratives of the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) are convincing as the testimony of witnesses to the events themselves. No other religious or mythical texts have the tone and quality of the Gospels. C.S. Lewis explains it better in this excerpt: http://www.geocities.com/yahmdallah/christianity.html#myth

    The contradictions you mention are just that, differences in how someone saw or remembers the events. Something can be inspired by the Devine, but humans can still mess it up. That’s probably why we have 4 versions of the story, so that main points got past our human flaws in relaying events accurately.

    If you find the Gospels unconvincing, that’s just fine. I’m not interested in changing your mind.

    Belief in God (and Christ) is a matter of faith, meaning we believe because we were told it is so by the people who were there, and so we believe without vast, objective proof. We are content with the subjective proofs and anecdotal evidence from our own experiences.

    The usual atheist response to that is Christians do some pretty terrible things in the name of God, and if they are based on subjective and anecdotal evidence, then what makes them different from terrorists? Christians who harm and kill in the name of Christianity simply don’t understand that they’re doing the very thing Christ would have them avoid. And in effect, they are kind of like terrorists.

    The whipheads who don’t understand how important the division between church and state in America (whether it’s officially constitutional or not) are forgetting the fact that they will not always be in power, and that Christianity may not be the dominant religion. They aren’t thinking ahead to the possibility that Buddhism or Scientology could be the religion of those in charge someday.

    As for the whole mosh pit of debates on free will, predestination, the devil, evil, and whether swallowing pop-rocks with a swig of soda will make your tummy explode, I leave to those who have already tackled them better than I ever will. (And I find those debates kinda boring, anyway.)

    Nice pics.

    Hope you enjoy your day.

  16. Thanks for your thoughts, yamdallah! Kudos for your tolerance! If all religious people thought like you, this world would be a much better place.

    Still, I have a few points to make:

    > We think that Jesus was who he said he was, that is the Messiah,
    > the Son of God, and He who died on the cross so that our sins are
    > forgiven so we may enter heaven.

    Now this is something I could never understand. God sends himself (as Jesus) “down” to earth and sacrifices himself (Jesus) to himself (god) so that he (god) can forgive us our sins and send us to heaven.

    Isn’t that guy omnipotent? Why does he have to sacrifice himself just to send us to heaven? Couldn’t he just do it? Why put on such a show?

    And why the whole sin thing in the first place? Why not send everybody to heaven, unconditionally? Isn’t he supposed to be the ultimate in benevolence?

    > The usual atheist response to that is Christians do some pretty
    > terrible things in the name of God, and if they are based on
    > subjective and anecdotal evidence, then what makes them different
    > from terrorists?

    That is an argument against religion as a whole, not only against Christianity. These days, Islam is much worse in this regard. The reason for this is, of course, that religious texts can be interpreted in lots of different ways, and everybody thinks theirs is the correct one, to some extent because they have “subjective proofs and anecdotal evidence from [their] own experiences”.

    And that’s the problem with these proofs and evidence: If your subjective proofs are correct, Christianity is the one and only and right religion. However, there are millions of people who have subjective proofs and anecdotal evidence no weaker than yours saying that Islam is the one and only and right religion. The same goes for other religions. You claim, of course, that they are misguided, because you have YOUR subjective proofs. But if it’s so easy to get misguided, couldn’t you be just as misguided as they are? Doesn’t that thought ever cross your mind?

  17. >> We think that Jesus was who he said he was, that is the Messiah,
    >> the Son of God, and He who died on the cross so that our sins are
    >> forgiven so we may enter heaven.

    >Now this is something I could never understand. God sends himself (as Jesus) “down” to earth and sacrifices himself (Jesus) to himself (god) so that he (god) can forgive us our sins and send us to heaven.

    >Isn’t that guy omnipotent? Why does he have to sacrifice himself just to send us to heaven? Couldn’t he just do it? Why put on such a show? And why the whole sin thing in the first place? Why not send everybody to heaven, unconditionally? Isn’t he supposed to be the ultimate in benevolence?

    Omnipotent doesn’t mean that God will do some things even if He can. Also God can’t do anything that goes against the rules He’s set up (therefore He cannot create a stone he couldn’t lift, because that concept is moot in our given reality that He created).

    That aside, it’s never really explained directly why he had to sacrifice himself, why he “put on a show.” However, there’s a big symbolic rubric behind it. Jesus was sacrificed to God to make us “clean” in much the same way that oxen were sacrificed to God in Moses’ day for purification. (Again, the reason behind why God wants sacrifices is never really explained. But, when it’s just animals, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me (Capt. Obvious point: I’m not a vegan).)

    Another consideration is that He lived as one of us. He directly experienced what it was like to be human. He knows what we go through in this (sometimes) scary, painful, limited existence. That means we can identify with Him and He with us. Thus, His human death, and the suffering He experienced in order to give us a give is, to say the least, a pretty amazing gesture. It usually awes me when I think about it.

    The whole sin thing I think comes part and parcel with having free will and intelligence. Animals have free will, but no intelligence behind it, so nothing they do is technically a sin because they don’t know right from wrong. We have intelligence, and know right from wrong. So if we know what’s wrong, but still don’t avoid it, we’ve sinned.

    God has said that those who are not cleansed of sin cannot enter heaven. However, we cannot avoid sin. Therefore, something has to be done. So, Jesus died in our stead, as a sacrifice, which either ritually, really, or symbolically (or all three) cleanses our sins. Thus we can enter heaven, with free will and intelligence, and hopefully our entire CD collections.

    Why not just send everybody unconditionally? Some Christians claim that Jesus’ sacrifice actually cleansed all humans, not just believers. So, God may have done that. And, believing in Jesus is just a guarantee that you’ll be forgiven. That doesn’t mean God can’t forgive (or judge) anyone according to his will. I personally believe many who are not Christians will be deemed worthy of heaven.

    I think the short version is this is to keep the truly evil bastards – those who have chosen sin and evil – out of heaven so we don’t have to establish covenant communities up there.

    >> The usual atheist response to that is Christians do some pretty
    >> terrible things in the name of God, and if the{ir belifes} (correction) are based on
    >> subjective and anecdotal evidence, then what makes them different
    >> from terrorists?

    >And that’s the problem with these proofs and evidence: […snip…]. But if it’s so easy to get misguided, couldn’t you be just as misguided as they are? Doesn’t that thought ever cross your mind?

    Yes, of course it has crossed my mind, and yes I might be misguided.

    However, my investigations into all religions, belief systems, philosophies, and atheism has lead me to conclude that Christianity is true.

    But, I also believe I have the responsibility – derived from my beliefs – that I cannot harm others unless it is self-defense; that I am to respect their views and beliefs, as long as theirs don’t allow them to cause harm to others; and that I am always to act with love in my heart.

    One thing a lot of Christian Fundamentalists seem to miss in the Golden Rule is that Jesus said, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” He didn’t say treat [qualified] others as you would want to be treated. Sadly, many of my fellow believers feel their goodwill and love should extend to only those they approve of. And that’s missing the whole point.

    So, I feel that adhering to the things that Jesus said we should do, even if I’m misguided, at least I will do no harm, and hopefully some good.

  18. > God has said that those who are not cleansed of sin cannot enter
    > heaven. However, we cannot avoid sin. Therefore, something has to
    > be done. So, Jesus died in our stead, as a sacrifice, which
    > either ritually, really, or symbolically (or all three) cleanses
    > our sins. Thus we can enter heaven, with free will and
    > intelligence, and hopefully our entire CD collections.

    So you’re saying god made a rule (uncleansed (whatever that means) souls can’t go to heaven), then discovered that there was something missing, so went through the Jesus-ritual to cleanse us?

    That’s way too far-fetched for me, especially considering that that god is supposed to be omnipotent and/or omniscient, but at least it’s not as wildly contradicting as most religious people’s beliefs.

    Of course, it’s still incredibly lacking of the evidence needed to back it up. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and those claims are so extraordinary that a bit of literary criticism (as put forth by Lewis) and some anectodal evidence fall far short of the requirements.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with your beliefs as you lay them out, as long as you are skeptical about them and refrain from presenting them as absolute truth, especially to children. My main problem with religion (all religion) is the tendency of its adherents to spread their beliefs as absolute, unquestionable truths. In the long run (sometimes in the short run, too) that leads to ignorance, intolerance and violence.

  19. Granted, the Bible (especially the NT) appears to be a gigantic piece of patchwork. Different authors contributed to it over a long period of time. It was translated several times, at different times. It went through the European middle ages. It was censored and modified ad-lib by rulers of the Christian churches, resulting in lots of different editions.

    What about the Torah or the Qur’an? They have been written in much shorter timespans, and the texts have stuck to the original one. They *should* therefore be more consistent and less self contradictory.

    ‘But what if some surah in the Qur’an contradicts another one?’
    Well, ‘in these cases, let the ones revealed later overrule the ones revealed before.’
    ‘But what if the exact order of revelation is unknown?’
    Should man be allowed to define it? I don’t know.

    So if you want to believe, cast logic aside and everything is fine.
    ‘Holy books’ all got a point to make and they are definitively worth reading, no matter what your personal beliefs are.

  20. >Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and those claims are so extraordinary that a bit of literary criticism (as put forth by Lewis) and some anecdotal evidence fall far short of the requirements.

    Two points:
    Yes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – when you’re trying to prove something. I’m not trying to prove that Christianity is true. All believers just decide that they accept it’s true on faith, based on the evidence they have encountered.

    And, this might be considered splitting hairs, but Lewis (and I) aren’t approaching the Bible as literary critics. He is stating that his vast experience with fiction, history, and many forms of the written word have given him insight into the forms fiction, myth, history, and factual reporting usually take, and the Gospels have the tone of true events being told by those who saw them.

    >My main problem with religion (all religion) is the tendency of its adherents to spread their beliefs as absolute, unquestionable truths. In the long run (sometimes in the short run, too) that leads to ignorance, intolerance and violence.

    Yes, anything that you’ve taken on faith, or have made a decision on without conclusive proof, must be at disposal to the facts. Since we don’t have empirical proof for or against God, then it’s imperative that we all remember no one has all the facts and therefore cannot claim the absolute truth. Additionally, even Jesus had his moment of doubt on the cross, perhaps one of the most telling lessons in all of Christianity.

    And don’t forget, those two sentences of yours also apply to atheism. Think communist Russia. Think this guy, who does say that perhaps some religious people need killing in order to correct the situation: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393327655/

  21. I wonder, my friend, as this will definitely be too novice to begin with, but do you ever wonder how all of this came about?
    I mean, I understand the argument that everything is being discovered by Science, and as the science progresses, do does our knowledge of our surroundings. But it sure as hell leads to something, no? I mean, the big bang, for example. How did the big bang happen? Because of gases? Where did they come from? Previously contracting universe? Where did that come from? I mean, sooner or later, you will reach a place where the thing has to be ‘created’, out of thin air, pardon the expression. It is that ‘creation’ that got to me that perhaps, the chances of God’s existence is higher than of Him not existing.

    And my ‘selection’ of religion, if you may, is the logical next step. Islam coming out as a winner in the ‘competition’ of religions was not an easy victory, but I had good teachers, who were only biased towards reason and logic.

    I get the opinion that you are ‘searching’ for the truth, instead of believing in one thing (in your case, atheism) and then proving it. IF YOU ARE only searching for the truth, then my friend, ask a question, in terms of, what you think, on a personal level, about God. And more specifically about Islam. The Book, Quran, gave me a lot of answers I was looking for. It can do the same for you. Are you searching still?

    God bless and good luck,
    M.

  22. Momekh,

    your reasoning contains quite a few logical errors, which I’ll address one after the other.

    First you seem to assume that something cannot just be, but that it has to be created, which leads you to the conclusion that there must be a creator. This is a very old argument which has been refuted a long time ago, by Hume, among others, if memory serves me right. If something cannot just be, must you not apply that same argument to your creator as well? And then to your creator’s creator ad infinitum? But if you make the argument that the creator can just be, why cannot the universe?

    Of course, you might hide behind your formulation “the chances of God’s existence is higher than of Him not existing”, which I understand to mean that there’s just a certain probability of the creator’s existance, but it’s not absolutely sure. Further down you seem to be very sure of its existance, though, so I take it that you put the probability of its existance to be very near 1, let’s say 0.95. Now by the same reasoning as above, I can argue that there’s a probability very near 1 of your creator having itself a creator, and the combined probability (the product of the two) would still be 0.9 or so. Shouldn’t you pray to that creator instead? Or to its creator, should it exist?

    Then, you say, comes selection of religion, as “the logical next step”. If you’re absolutely sure that there is a creator, then I would say that you should at least investigate what we know, or can know, about it. You, however, automatically assume that one of the world’s religions (which I doubt that you have “evaluated” even a small portion of) must be right about the creator, implying that all others are wrong. Why is that? Couldn’t they all be wrong? In fact, if there are a 100 religions, all of whose adherents claim to be in the right, to communicate with “god”, to be happy and all that, and at most one of them can be correct, isn’t that a pretty strong argument that all of them are? Whatever your argument that another religion is wrong, it can be turned against your religion.

    As for your claim that I am searching for the truth: Yes, you are correct, I am always searching for the truth. Regarding the existance of a creator, I think I have explored all the evidence there is and come to a conclusion. I’ve moved on quite some time ago. If you want to make me reconsider my position, show me evidence. Why is it that not a single one of the “holy” texts of the world’s religions contains a single unambiguous correct statement about something that could not have been known to the people who have written it? Why isn’t there a verse in the Quran giving the weight of the hydrogen atom to within, let’s say, 10 percent accuracy? That should have been easy enough for a creator to provide. Instead it has completely ambiguous verses interpreted to describe the big bang after (and never before) the latter was discovered by physics. Well, sorry, but that just doesn’t count, just like Nostradamus’s “predictions”.

    Such a statement would at least be very strong evidence that there was a “higher power” of some kind involved in the writing of the book in question. Whether it was the universe’s creator or some alien race making a practical joke would be another question.

    To close on a similar note as you have: I don’t think you reasoned the way you descibed. I’m pretty sure you have always been a Muslim, due probably to the fact that your parents were and that you were indoctrinated. Now you’re trying to rationalize your religion, portraying it as a conscious choice. You’re not doing it very well.

  23. The last para is the most correct, although I do not see how it similar to mine.

    I am not aware how Hume or someone else refuted this, but going by what you have paraphrased, it seems odd to me. Of course, that is my way of looking at it and you seemed to be satisfied with that, so in all probabilities it works for you. From what I have understood, you subscribe to the philosophy that it is possible for anything to ‘just be’. For the record, and for the time being, I don’t. If you could give me an online reference on how this is, please do tell! Will be appreciated! :)

    And your statement that “Whatever your argument that another religion is wrong, it can be turned against your religion” is ahead of its time, so to speak. The first ‘quest’ is that of God him/herself. After we have enough ‘evidence’ to say we are at least above 0.5 probability, we can move to the selection of religion. Which, I assure you, is the easy part.

    But what interests me most, my friend, is your continuing ‘search for the truth’, which is commendable to begin with. And what I am thankful for is that you yourself have asked a question to which I do have an answer for! :)

    “Why is it that not a single one of the “holy” texts of the world’s religions contains a single unambiguous correct statement about something that could not have been known to the people who have written it?”

    To get things warmed up, let us start with embryology, the best example I can think of right now. Now we know (within the last 50 years, not more) that a fetus/embryo in the mother’s womb goes through seven stages of development. If you look at the medical book that tells us that (it is by a certain Dr Keithmore, I think), in one of the stages, the reference in the bibiliography is simply put as ‘Quran’. The short history is that the stage of embroy’s development is so minute, that ‘science’ did not see it and everybody was studying 5 or 6 stages. Some researchers mentioned it to Dr Keithmore, and on further research, the doc found the stage exactly as mentioned in the Quran. Hence the reference to THe Book.

    There are other ‘prediction’, if you may, of the sun’s light being its own and the moon’s light being reflected light. And of the EArth being round, and not a complete sphere, but like an ostrich’s egg, which is quite exact.

    Of course, now we probably have the aliens to blame for that, which according to Quran, do exist in all probabilities! :)

    I can only appreciate your well-intentioned questions and am just ‘generally happy’ that I can help you in finding some real answers. Good luck and God bless, friend! :)
    M.

  24. Momekh,

    > From what I have understood, you subscribe to the philosophy
    > that it is possible for anything to ‘just be’.

    I’m saying that your philosophy is that the universe cannot just be, but a creator can. Why? Aren’t you starting with your conclusion there?

    For a more comprehensive discussion of this argument see Wikipedia.

    > After we have enough ‘evidence’ to say we are at least above
    > 0.5 probability, we can move to the selection of religion.

    Again, there is another hidden assumption you are making here, namely that there actually is a religion that is correct. How do you know? Couldn’t they all be wrong?

    > To get things warmed up, let us start with embryology, the best
    > example I can think of right now.

    It’s ironic that I have to link to a Christian website to counter this argument.

    > And of the EArth being round, and not a complete sphere, but
    > like an ostrich’s egg, which is quite exact.

    Have you ever seen an ostrich’s egg? I haven’t, but I’ve seen photos. The Earth is shaped nowhere close to that. If you had an Earth-shaped object the size of an ostrich’s egg in your hand you couldn’t tell that it’s not a sphere, unless you made rather exact measurements. The difference between the equatorial and the polar radii of the Earth is about a third of one percent, i.e. if you scaled the earth to a polar diameter of 30cm, the equatorial diameter would only be a millimeter larger.

    But with all those “predictions” the problem is that they are so ambiguously worded that they can only be fitted to the facts in retrospect. They are hardly more than Nostradamus’s prophesies. That’s why I said “unambiguous”.

  25. religion is a belief that has no proven facts. we don’t have any fossils or anything like that, to prove that god existed.on the other hand evolution has all kinds of fossils or proven facts that it occured.

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