An address to friends


Mainly the religious ones.

This is an invitation to dialogue.

Somewhere in this blog, you will find posts on how I became an atheist and what has changed since, what I have learnt in the interim and what I believe. I hope you are interested enough to search for these posts. They may not be detailed as many of you might expect but they explain a few things about me.

In this post, I hope we can engage on why I no longer believe and why I don’t think I will.

I was brought up in a religious environment. I attended catechism classes, was baptized and confirmed in the catholic faith. I believed because I was told. Maybe I was naive for not questioning some of the unbelievable stories that are told in the pages of the bible. I do not have an answer as to why I believed for so long. There was hardly a non believer where I grew up. There was no reason not to believe in god. Everyone I knew believed that there was a god who loved them, who many years ago walked among men but has since stopped appearing in person for fear of being killed. In all this time and especially in my campus days I really searched for god. The religious group to which I belonged emphasized finding god in all things. I honestly tried to find god in the people I met in nature and so on but either god was busy to reveal himself to me or there wasn’t any.

It is ridiculous to read in posts by apologists that the are no ex-christians. I don’t know what they mean. Maybe it is their way of not acknowledging the possibility of apostasy.

I will honestly say here that I haven’t finished reading the bible or the Koran. I am in the first chapter of the Mahabharata, I have read the Gita, the gospel of Buddha. Am not interested in reading the book of Mormon. I hope to find time to read the Vedas. Anyone with enough time to search this blog will be able to find where I am with that exercise[ reading the bible]. I have been accused of reading the bible with a desire to find it in error. This is not the case. What however has happened is that whenever I read the bible,I find it full of absurdities that I can’t ignore. Whereas I agree that one has to be acquainted with a particular book to offer a critique of it, the much that I have read in it and about it is sufficient for me to make a judgement. The next question would be why I would believe what others have written about the bible instead of believing the bible authors. My response to this challenge is that one can only believe to the extent to which he is convicted and no other. In the many books, I have found what comports with common sense whereas some of the bible stories are contrary to common sense. The next challenge is that of exegesis, that the bible has to be read in a particular way, that in it is hidden layers and layers of lessons. This might be, I don’t deny it, my question has always been to what passages should I apply this way of reading.

Let me demonstrate.

You must have heard of the creationists of various strips. They argue that the earth or rather the universe was created in 6 days. Some of them call these 6 days god days and say they are longer than the standard day me and you mean when we talk of days. A few chapters later, they argue that the seventh day is the day of rest because on that day god rested. In one scenario, the days are god days and in the next referring to the same thing the counting has changed. I let those who have time to make excuses for the bible to do so.

The bible makes a claim that a god exists and that this god did several things. I don’t know what god is. I don’t know what it means to create, neither do I know the difference between that which is created and that which has always existed. I can’t begrudge those who believe the universe was created. I don’t know what evidence they are privy to.

There are those who have asked me to read the NT that maybe I would find something different. That the god portrayed there is different. I have read all the gospels. I have read several letters of Paul. I have read the book of revelation. I have read Hebrew and I am not convinced. If you think there is something am missing, or I could have missed in the good book, mention it. We will discuss it. I am open to persuasion. But we must have a deal; we will have a debate only if you are willing to consider that you could be wrong. Please don’t preach as well. If you have no argument or piece of evidence you wish me to consider, I would prefer we don’t waste time.

I have since considered several arguments for the existence of god and the responses to these arguments. I will state from the outset that I was never led to belief because I had considered the arguments for god, I only read these arguments in the period I was leaving the faith. If as a believer you think there is one I ought to consider, let us talk about it. I will allow you to explain to me why you think they are persuasive and to tell me what god they establish its existence.

I realize for the believer, the bible gives a guideline on how they should live their lives, what they should eat and not eat, what they should wear and so on. I want us to agree that morality has nothing to do with the gods so I propose that in our discussion you will not bring up the question of where I get my morals if I have no belief in god. You will, if you look through this blog, find what I have written on morality and you could at the same time read the argument in Euthyphro and maybe read Nietzsche’s On Genealogy of morals.

Let us also agree here that whether life has meaning or not has nothing to do with gods.

Let us consider this post a special invitation to the believing folk to present the case for believing in god. I am willing to listen to all you got to say. If you think there is a book I should read, I hope you can summarize what you think I will find in it. Life is short, it can’t be spent reading apologetics only 🙂

 

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

70 thoughts on “An address to friends

  1. William says:

    Here are two posts in which you discuss your views on dualism and objective morality, albeit not at much length.

    “Does he sincerely believe in mind/brain dualism? That the mind is not a brain state. That our thoughts are brain states triggered by sensations reaching the brain or recall from memory?”
    https://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/?s=dualism

    “The theory am developing is that morals do not exist. Yes, you read it correctly. Morality is an illusion one that we have created for practical purposes. It is an illusion that our race has developed over time to propagate its survival in the universe. To enforce this illusion, there is shame and threat of punishment that are used to restrict urges. The realization that if this urges were not restricted, there would be chaos. Moral codes are just practical tools and that is it.”
    https://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/on-morality-2/

    So, at least if you still hold these views, you reject dualism and accept moral nihilism. I hold the opposite positions on both issues, so perhaps we could have a discussion about that.

    Dualism is the position that the mind is immaterial. I have two reasons for being a dualist. First, it seems like we can always raise the question why any material process is accompanied by qualia (i.e., something that it is like experientially), no matter how complex the material process is or what kind of process it is. For example, C-fiber stimulation is necessarily accompanied by certain neurological events and dispositions, so it isn’t reasonable to ask why it’s accompanied by those physical things, but it seems reasonable to ask why it should also be accompanied by pain qualia. The materialist has to sort of assume that qualia will eventually reduce completely to material processes of some sort when it’s not clear how that could possibly work.

    Second, the mind and the brain each have properties that the other could not possibly have. A thought can be clear or cogent, whereas it’s not so much as meaningful to describe a chemical reaction as clear or cogent. Again, a physical thing can have a certain temperature or velocity, but a thought cannot. So it seems like we have to abandon materialism in favor of dualism or, again, just assume that it will eventually be possible somehow to reduce these mental properties to physical properties when it’s not clear how that could possibly work.

    Moral objectivism is the position that moral claims are true or false independent of what anyone believes or feels about them. My view is that morality is objective because the only context in which it makes sense to talk about something being valuable is the context of a living thing struggling to survive; what contributes to its struggle to stay alive is objectively valuable to it, and what hinders its survival is objectively bad for it, independent of what anything believes or feels. This applies to human morality because humans have to think in abstractions – they have to form moral principles to live by. Moral principles are true or false depending on whether they generally aid or hinder a person’s survival, no matter what anyone thinks about them.

    Your account of morality as an illusion seems inconsistent in that you grant that morality is necessary, but you don’t say what it’s necessary for or why all cultures have found it necessary if it’s an illusion that doesn’t refer to anything deeper. The obvious response is that being moral is pragmatic because morality is based in reality as a survival tool.

    So those are my reasons for believing in dualism and objective morality, presented briefly. Let me know what you think.

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    • makagutu says:

      William, thanks for your questions.
      I will start with the one on morality.
      In my post I write clearly that morality has developed as a means to control urges. That as a social animal, we have evolved moral codes to make it possible for us to live amicably in groups. The will to live/survive being the greatest will, I think anything that promotes will be favoured. On the question of objective morality, I think we can only say that to the extent that a majority of us agree that something is, makes it objective. For example, the rule that you shouldn’t insult your host could apply universally. Without sentient beings, I don’t think we can even begin to talk about morals. For what would be the reference?

      On your comment on dualism. In response I have a few questions. Where does the mind reside? How is that if the brain suffers an injury a person’s mental make up suffers to? I believe you are aware of the easy problem

      to distinguish conscious from unconscious mental computation, identify its correlates in the brain and explain why it evolved.

      and the hard problem

      is why it feels like something to have a conscious process going on in one’s head–why there is first-person, subjective experience.

      of consciousness. I can’t say I have an answer about why this is so.

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      • William says:

        Thanks for the civil response.

        Your comments on objective morality are partly correct and partly incorrect, from my perspective. It’s true that morality exists to control urges in the sense that moral principles require taking a long range perspective that may clash with superficial desires. You also write that morality helps us live together in groups, which I partly agree with, because morality imposes a discipline on us that helps us get along with other people. However, I do not agree that these things constitute the primary purpose of morality, or that morality is merely an evolved feature of ours.

        In my view, the concept of value only makes sense in one context: the context of a living organism struggling to survive. There is a clear sense in which things can be objectively good and bad for the organism, because things can objectively contribute to or hinder its struggle to survive. Human beings have the ability to choose what moral principles they will live by, and these principles can be assessed as true or false depending on whether they generally contribute to or hinder the life of the person who practices them.

        So I disagree with your claim that moral claims are only objective if a lot of people agree on them. This seems to give the collective a kind of moral infallibility that we don’t usually think it has. We usually think that slavery and denying women the right to vote were morally wrong before we figured out that they were morally wrong. My account of morality explains this objectivity by grounding morality in life.

        Regarding dualism, you ask where the mind is and why brain injuries alter the mind. These questions are difficult to answer on substance dualism, which is the view that the mind is an immaterial thing distinct from the brain, but relatively easy to answer on property dualism, the view that the mind is an immaterial property of the brain. Since the mind is a property of the brain, it is wherever the brain is. Again, the fact that the mind is altered by changes in the brain can be explained by saying that the mind is an attribute of the brain and should be expected to change as the brain changes, in obedience to whatever laws of nature govern the relationship between the mind and the brain.

        I wouldn’t expect you to convert to dualism based on the arguments and answers I’ve given so far, but I think I’ve made a plausible case for the position.

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        • makagutu says:

          Thanks for your response.

          You say mind is a property of the brain. I say mind is a brain state. Tell me where the difference is? If you concede that

          the fact that the mind is altered by changes in the brain can be explained by saying that the mind is an attribute of the brain and should be expected to change as the brain changes, in obedience to whatever laws of nature govern the relationship between the mind and the brain

          how do you justify your insistence on duality?

          On morality,you write

          However, I do not agree that these things constitute the primary purpose of morality, or that morality is merely an evolved feature of ours.

          kindly tell me what else would morality be useful for if not for controlling urges where there are obligations to one another?

          Your argument that we didn’t know that slavery was wrong till recently would only hold if the slaves agreed with you. You know what they say about history, that it is written by the victors. It is possible that there are those who knew slavery to be wrong even then except they had little say with the masses.

          I agree with you that the rule of the majority might not always be the right rule. It is possible they could all be wrong. We could agree that morality is independent of what we think, that is, not subjective but then, what I don’t see is how talk of morality would make any sense if there are no sentient beings. To whom will it be useful? Stars, moons, stones, oceans?

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          • William says:

            I justify insisting on dualism because of the arguments I gave in my first post in this thread. It’s not clear how the mind could possibly be a brain state given that we can always ask why any given brain state should be accompanied by qualia. It’s also not clear how a brain state could have mental properties like being clear or cogent, or on the other hand how a mental state could have physical properties like temperature or velocity.

            You ask “what else would morality be useful for if not for controlling urges where there are obligations to one another?” I think the purpose of morality is our long term survival and happiness. We would need morality even on a desert island with no other people.

            You argue that my “argument that we didn’t know that slavery was wrong till recently would only hold if the slaves agreed with you.” First of all, you said that morality can only be objective in the sense of agreed on by a majority, and the slaves were not a majority. Further, there are immoral practices that were approved by everyone in the society at the time, like sati, where a woman willingly throws herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

            You say that morality can’t be objective because if there were no sentient beings, then there would be no morality. However, the fact that a field requires its object of study to exist is not evidence that the field is subjective. Botany would not exist if there were no trees, but botany is definitely objective.

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          • makagutu says:

            William, it not being clear or understood is not a reason to suggest they are different.

            You say we would need morality even on a desert island and as long as it is inhabited, my statement remains true. In the absence of sentient beings, who will be talking about morality? It is this question you seem to avoid.

            I did in my next response to the point about the majority admit that sometimes majority maybe wrong. Why do you ignore my admission?

            What would botany be a study of if there were no trees at all? Where would we get the idea of trees?

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          • William says:

            Regarding my arguments for dualism, you say, “it not being clear or understood is not a reason to suggest they are different.” If my arguments against materialism go through, then materialism is like the assertion that the number four is a table. This is like someone maintaining that the number four is a table, then responding to objectors by saying “the fact that it is not clear or understood how the number four could be a table is not a reason to suggest that they are different.” It’s a rationally unsatisfying response.

            You say that your position about morality would be true on a desert island if the island were inhabited. But the reason I brought up a desert island was to point out that we would need morality even if there were no other people around. There is no reason to talk about a desert island if there are other people on the island.

            You accuse me of avoiding the question “in the absence of sentient beings, who will be talking about morality?” But again, this does not show that morality is subjective. In the absence of sentient beings, no one would be talking about anything. In the absence of sentient beings, no one would be talking about neuroscience, but neuroscience is not subjective.

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          • makagutu says:

            William, maybe I don’t understand something. I said to the extent that a moral norm can be said to be universal, we can consider it objective. How it is applied is subjective and using my example of not insulting the host can be taken as objective how not to do this is subjective for it depends on what culture you have in mind.

            A desert island doesn’t have to be uninhabited. Is eating a moral choice? Or keeping warm? And is having a long life a moral issue or a happy life? The reason am asking this is to help us in answering the question of what morality may mean when there are no obligations to another person.

            You say that my objection to your point on brain states is a non answer? I readily admitted in my very first response to you on this thread that I don’t know why there is a first person experience. I think that the question of mind and consciousness are a related problem and that is why I brought it up.

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  2. Noel my friend!
    Ever since I’ve first read your blog, I noticed two things: the first tells the story of your honesty and respect for the person with whom you may engage even in a heated debate, with an unfortunate second telling the sad story of a few “all knowing gods of both theism and atheism”, whose ultimate “arguments” are a condescending attitude paired only by vulgarity.
    It’s a shame that blogging has become the place where some people would allow themselves to shamelessly do, what they wouldn’t dare face-to-face. There are a few unchosen words to describe them, but I won’t go that low…
    Your openness and respect deserve the same from your visitors.

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  3. I would be interested to see what theists might say. However, you asked them to consider that they may be wrong and most theists cannot do this. They must believe that they and only they are right because most, if not all, of their self-worth comes from their beliefs.

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    • It’s not only self-worth at stake, but also their “eternal” security, as doubting/questioning their scripture based beliefs is considered as being either the resurfacing of their adamic/sinful nature, or worse, as demonic influence.
      This is why an honest and open-minded dialogue is extremely difficult beyond the above mentioned limits.

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    • makagutu says:

      One hopes there is that theist who is willing to reconsider their position. The theist who like Craig believes the bible to be true regardless of contrary evidence is not the one we intend to address in this post. Such a one will only fill the thread with what the pastor has said.

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    • shelldigger says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. With those two rules in place (admitting the possibility of being wrong, and no preaching) that pretty much cancels out any chance of a true creationist from responding. Assuming they can be honest with themselves. That is assuming a great deal…

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      • makagutu says:

        Are you guys suggesting that I just made the challenge difficult?

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        • shelldigger says:

          Think about it Mak 🙂 When is the last time a creationist admitted they were wrong about ANYTHING? They just happen to have all of the answers, any evidence or reason be damned. They also believe babble quotes and concerns for your soul (preaching) are valid answers to difficult questions.

          …on that note I would venture you perhaps made the challenge impossible, given the circumstances. 😉

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          • makagutu says:

            Unfortunately, I think if we must engage with them, we need ground rules and in my thinking, this was the easiest it could get 🙂

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          • shelldigger says:

            I really hope an individual with an open mind, and a willingness to meet your ground rules comes along. I would very much appreciate an honest exchange, and a possibility of insightful dialogue. I’ll keep an eye on this one for a while, just to see what happens.

            In the meantime I am creating bingo cards to pass around and a 3 strikes and you’re out system for the rules. 🙂

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    • paarsurrey says:

      It is not true about me. I believe in the One-True-God; but I could make mistakes and I could be wrong.

      But Makagutu has put many conditions; so it is not an open discussion in this sense.

      Regards

      Like

      • makagutu says:

        Are you saying that to ask you to consider the possibility you are wrong and no preaching are many conditions?

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        • paarsurrey says:

          makagutu says:April 16, 2014 at 21:27
          “Are you saying that to ask you to consider the possibility you are wrong and no preaching are many conditions?”

          Well, the Atheists also preach; but I was not hinting at that.

          I already agreed that when one enters into a discussion one accepts the possibility that one could be wrong.

          There are other conditions:

          • “That morality has nothing to do with the gods so I propose that in our discussion you will not bring up the question of where I get my morals if I have no belief in god.”
          • “Let us also agree here that whether life has meaning or not has nothing to do with gods.”

          Not only the host should be respected but the guests should also be respected; neither bullied nor ridiculed.

          Why should the religious be put to answer the questions or to give the proofs and evidences? If Atheism is a perfect Ideology; then the Atheists should provide the proofs and evidences they so often demand from the religious.

          The Atheists extol science as if it has been invented by them; nevertheless they should quote for their claims and reasons from a peer reviewed scientific standard journal of science.

          If the religious quote their scripture; their quotes should have the claims and reason-content in them.

          It should be a friendly discussion.

          Please have a thought on this.

          Regards

          Like

          • makagutu says:

            It seems to me you didn’t read the post very well or didn’t understand it. Where in that post is anyone bullied or ridiculed?

            We’ve discussed what atheism is and what it isn’t.

            Tell me what you think reading the psalms or the cow will prove? Is there anything apart from thus says the lord? Or something to a similar effect? I wrote it plainly that eventually I will finish reading it at my own time.

            What do you want us to discuss about meaning of life or morality that you think gods have a say in?

            you can write scripture on your blog all you want. A discussion is not about copying tracts of scripture as if that amounts to any evidence! You really ought to venture outta that bubble of yours and think for yourself without resorting to mo said or the imam said. That is what dialogue in this case is about. Your honest thoughts otherwise you will quote your silly book and I will look for a verse that contradict it and then we end up with a shouting match. Am not interested in that and if you cant manage that, there is no harm in reading what others are saying and learning from them.

            In this post I have not said anything about science whatever way you understand it. Besides it is irrelevant who invented it if it was ever invented as long as it is useful.

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      • okay, why do you believe in this “one true god”? What would tell you that you are wrong? It’s easy to say that you could be wrong but it’s much harder to claim that when someone asks what exactly would tell you that you are wrong.

        Now, in my experience there is nothing that a theist would accept, because their belief is built on nothing but assumptions and blind faith. This is why apologetics exist, to try to explain why someone should believe in nonsense that has nothing to support it. You are sure you are right, and everyone else is wrong but you have no more evidence of this than of your particular god.

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        • paarsurrey says:

          @lubschadenfreude : April 17, 2014 at 18:18
          If you are an Atheist and as you say that you are not on blind-faith rather everything you believe is based on sound experiments and is nothing but science.

          As I requested from the Atheists; now please start providing proofs and evidences favoring Atheism- the perfect ideology for the human being; for the claims and reasons supporting it from peer reviewed journals of Science.

          This is an open question to all the Atheists. Please

          Regards

          Like

          • how cute, you do your best to avoid answering a question asked of you and try to change the subject. Lovely technique, paarsurrey, and one that theists have tried for years when their claims of how they might make mistakes and possibly be wrong are shown to be lies told to atheists in an attempt to take the moral high road and falsely claim that atheists would “never” consider they are wrong. Thank you so much, paarsurrey, you’ve done more for my point than anyone else.

            Now, let’s go over the evidence that favors the idea that there are no gods, and especially your personal god, paarsurrey. There is no evidence that any of the essential events of the bible, or any supposed holy book, ever happened. There is no evidence that invocation of gods does anything in reality, except at most make people feel better when they imagine them. In that claiming that fairies and Santa Claus exists makes children happier, does that make them real? There is no evidence for miracles, e.g. events that are caused by a divine force to benefit someone in contradiction to all known physical laws.

            There have been no reports that show that prayer works in the ways that theists claim, paarsurrey. But there is research that says it doesn’t: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer#The_STEP_project ( read the entire wiki entry to see other research) . We even have your fellow theists making up excuses why prayers aren’t answered when there is no reason they shouldn’t be if this god were omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. They go to the lovely lengths of denying the words of the bible when convenient, where it says that this god will answer all prayers immediately and as they are asked, since a father would not give his son a snake if asked for a fish. We also have the evidence that the predictions of various theists of all types always fail. Ah, all of those great claims by pastors that all sorts of misfortune will happen if this god’s desires are ignored. Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, various Muslim imams in their pitiful impotence, etc, all claiming that the US will fail, that tsunamis will hit, that natural disasters will destroy Dover, PA because the creationist liars were caught out, all are failures. All we get are excuses.

            There is no research in “peer reviewed journals of Science” that show that there were ten magical events in Egypt, which seems to be a problem since you think that events like that do indeed need to be supported by evidence since you want me to provide that evidence. Indeed, there is plenty of research that shows that the kingdoms of ancient Egypt never did anything like the nonsense in the bible. We know quite a bit about them, who was pharaoh at what time, who they interacted with in trade, who they warred with, etc. So, paarsurrey, if we have two competing ideas, the one that has the evidence is the one that is the stronger case. Why did no one notice the entire Egyptian army being destroyed, all of the first-born murdered? Why did Egypt’s enemies not take advantage of this? And oh yes, when did these supposed “plagues” actually happen? Believers can’t even agree on that and they have nothing to show that it ever happened.

            Same with evidence that a magical flood happen all over the world at once, and a ludicrous boat was built to hold “all” of the animals” or that there was a magical “creation” event where everything poofed into existence just like it looks today. No “peer reviewed” geology journals have one bit about a huge flood deposit that has fossils of humans and dinosaurs mixed up in it per their hydrodynamic characteristics and not by their complexity or age. But there are plenty of articles, supported by evidence, that other things happened in the various time periods that theists believe that this flood “actually” happened (for example http://specialpapers.gsapubs.org/content/248/63.abstract )and plenty of articles on how evolution works and is supported by evidence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitional_fossil (note all of those nice citations at the bottom from journals and books). The usual geological processes went along with no sudden break of physically impossible catastrophic behavior, no “fountains of the earth” erupting, etc. Alas, all of those believers don’t agree on when the flood happened either. So, whom do we believe, people with evidence or people who believe in fairy tales and can’t agree on what those fairy tales “really mean”? Should I believe your version of your myths or someone elses? Why?

            It’s the same with the claims of the New Testament, the Qu’ran, the Rig Veda, myths about Queztalcoatl, Raven, Zeus, etc. They make claims and the rest of the world doesn’t notice and goes on doing other things than what is claimed. No magical man/god visiting, no earthquakes noticed in the Middle east on a certain day where the sun also went dark (again, believers can’t agree when that was), etc.

            At best, paarsurrey, you may argue for a vague “god”, that has no attributes and no events attached to it. We can pretend that there is a god hiding under a rock on Zeta Retculi Five and it is really a god but does nothing so we can’t even know that it exists but we can’t deny it either. But that isn’t your god, is it? There is no problem with showing that any god described by religion doesn’t exist and that atheism is the conclusion that is supported by the evidence. I have no more reason to believe in your ‘One-True-God” than I do to believe in Odin, Tezcatlipoca, Ra, Anasi, Ameratsu, Damballa, Mbombo, Tengri, etc. I am assuming you don’t believe in those gods either. Now why is that?

            Now, since I have answered your questions, will you be as gracious to answer mine? What would tell you that you were wrong about your believe in the “One-True-God”? What mistakes could you have made? I am guessing you will not and do your desperate best to ignore my questions.

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          • makagutu says:

            Paarsurrey, atheism is a single point claim. That claim is about whether there are gods/ deities.
            It has nothing to do with whether acid changes litmus paper red or blue. I think you should by now, since you spend so much time around atheist blogs, would know this.

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  4. Ben Nasmith says:

    It’s been a while! I’d recommend a book, Paul Moser’s “The Evidence for God: Religious Knowledge Re-examined”. In there you’ll find a critique of three approaches to knowledge of God: (1) Naturalism, (2) Fideism, (3) and Natural Theology. Paul Moser then develops his own approach, one that I find very promising. I’ve been mediating on his criticism of natural theology for over a year now and it’s made a big difference to my entire approach, as a Christian, to the question of God’s existence. Still thinking about it, (and yes I could be wrong about my approach and about God). All the best (http://www.amazon.com/The-Evidence-God-Religious-Reexamined/dp/0521736285)

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Oh yes, indeed quite a long time and I hope you have been well. Thanks for the recommendation. Given that you have read his book, which god if any is arguing for its existence? Is it the god of Christianity or is he trying to establish the truth of theism so that his god can apply even to Lord Krishna?

      Like

      • Ben Nasmith says:

        Paul Moser argues for a “God worthy of worship”, without necessarily requiring that this be the Christian God. He treat’s “God” as a title rather than a proper name, develops the concept, and asks if anyone qualifies for that title. In fact, in that book, he offers a stinging critique of the (Christian) Calvinist conception of God as not worthy of worship. I wrote a couple posts about this a while ago which I think you might have seen, http://bennasmith.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/great-expectations-and-the-office-of-god-2/. I think it’s a good approach to the question, namely first discussing what a God worthy of worship would be like and then secondly asking whether there is such a being.

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        • makagutu says:

          One of my friends wrote a post that any god worthy of worship is not worth the title. http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/the-moral-autonomy-argument/ He asks why should a god require as to supplicate before s/h/it for whatever reason? Whether the conclusion in the argument can be inferred from the premise is another issue, the question am most interested in is why worship?

          I think the question should rightly begin with what god is and if god is and lastly if such beings should be worshiped and not the other way round.

          Am also interested in your response to the challenge posed by my friend LoT.

          Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            Ok, I hear you. If you think the idea of a God worthy of worship is incoherent then I suppose it’s game over from the beginning. I don’t think it’s incoherent, however, so I’d rather first investigate the best case scenario and see if an objectively good God exists (one worthy of worship), rather than a lesser being. That’s what Paul Moser’s book is all about.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Tell me why you think it is coherent. As you say, you have read Moser’s book and been thinking about it for a year now, am certain you can summarize what you took from the book. I really will not mind the length of the response. I can’t promise that I will read the book this week, though certainly will at some point.

            I think you’d agree that if we were to investigate something, for example if a perfect ball exists, we would start from if we have balls. Why start from positing a god worthy of worship before demonstrating that a god, whatever that maybe, exists?

            Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            Paul Moser’s approach simply begins with God as an exemplary agent, and it seems fairly clear to me that agents (like balls) exist (you and I for example). And agent is worthy of worship if that agent is worthy of one’s full personal commitment to and trust in his “perfect goodness and authority.” So the question is then is there a personal agent who is worthy of my fully commitment, trust, and loyalty? Paul Moser then explores what sort of evidence we’d expect such a (potential) being to yield.
            If you think the idea of an agent worthy of full personally commitment, trust, and loyalty is incoherent, I’m not sure what I can do to help. You could simply assert that there is no such thing, but telling me that such a being is impossible doesn’t seem quite right to me.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            I will ask a simple question.
            Did you, in your coming to believe, inquire first to discover if there are beings worthy of worship or this has come later? Where was your starting point?
            Do you think if you were brought up non religious and found Moser’s book, would you be convinced by it?

            And if I understand you correctly, Moser starts from the position that there is a being worth of worship without necessarily telling us why this is the case?

            Do you think there is any agent that requires such a commitment and what does this commitment entail?

            Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            I was raised a Christian and so I read Moser’s book as a Christian. That’s my cultural starting point, and as I’ve investigated further, I’ve found no reason to abandon it. Would a skeptic be convinced by Moser’s book? Perhaps not. That being said, he writes with skeptics (his fellow philosophers) in mind and is careful to avoid question begging as a result.
            Moser doesn’t start by assuming a being worthy of worship exists. Rather, he starts by asking what a being worthy of worship is and what sort of evidence one might expect from such a being. He then criticizes naturalist dismissals of such a being, fideist affirmations of such a being, and arguments from natural theology which fail to yield such a being.
            In a sentence, if a being worthy of worship were to exist, how would we come to know that it existed?
            I think that such a being exists, and as a Christian I am devoted to the God revealed by Jesus.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Have you considered that maybe you have stuck to it as a result of confirmation bias? That your investigation has led you to those materials that reinforce your belief rather than challenge it?

            You seem so convinced by Moser and I can’t begrudge you for that. Tell me, what books on atheism have you read?

            You realize the question of Jesus existence is in contention. The jury is still out waiting to be called back to the courthouse. They have heard the evidence from either side and are now deliberating on the matter.

            About gods, I don’t think I need to say any more?

            Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            Perhaps, I’m sure it plays some role. That being said, my views have evolved somewhat rapidly over the past few years on various theological issues. So I do hope my pursuit of truth is making some progress rather than just standing still. I haven’t read very much atheist literature to be honest. But I did recently read a collection of essays called “Debating Christian Theism” and was impressed by several of the atheist/non-theist essays found there. I don’t personally see the question of Jesus’ mere existence as an open one, but I’d prefer not to go down that rabbit hole.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Fair enough, I don’t think we would reach an agreement on whether Jesus H Christ was so we can leave it out.

            Your pursuit of truth seems to me to be an exercise in reinforcing what you already believe. Not that I begrudge you for that.

            Like

    • Ben, I’d be interested to hear also, not only about the existence or non existence of God, which has been the subject of theological inquiry since the dawn of time with “nothing new under the sun”, but about your or anyone else’s SCHOLARLY and/or ACADEMICALLY mannered opinion about the nature of such a presupposed being, in light of all what’s written in the -mainly- bible, aligned against the standards of commonsense and/or justice characteristic to our human heritage.
      In other words, do humans oftentimes display evilness because we were created by, and in the image of a selfishly evil deity, who wouldn’t hesitate to lie, kill, murder, etc in order to satisfy his own ego, making any expectations of justice superfluous?
      Also besides countless instances of savage furry, genocide and utter contempt for suffering, could anyone name biblical instances of mass goodness, kindness, charity, which were direct acts of such an omnipotent deity, you know, like any celebration which wasn’t about his selfishness/glory?
      PLEASE kindly avoid copy/paste of someone else’s ideas, as I’m interested in independent thought.

      Like

      • makagutu says:

        Also besides countless instances of savage furry, genocide and utter contempt for suffering, could anyone name biblical instances of mass goodness, kindness, charity, which were direct acts of such an omnipotent deity, you know, like any celebration which wasn’t about his selfishness/glory?

        I don’t think this question has been asked with as much clarity as it is here.

        Like

      • Ben Nasmith says:

        I probably don’t have anything original to say here, sorry. You have some moral reservations about certain depictions of God in the Christian scriptures. Paul Moser does as well, and points out that Jesus did as well. He commanded love for enemies in contrast to conceptions of God in Ps 5:5 and 11:5 where God hates his enemies. I wrestle with your question myself. So on the one hand I partially question whether all biblical authors had God’s character right, and on the other hand, I partially question my own moral intuition. Not sure. As for biblical instances of mass goodness/charity, etc, I ironically point to Jesus life death and resurrection, which the New Testament describes as a significant divine sacrifice for the good of alienated humans.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          Granting for a moment that Jesus H Christ was, in what way does his death and resurrection represent charity?

          Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            The New Testament message seems to me to be summarized by the claim that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” (2 Cor 5:19). Precisely how that works is a topic for (endless) exploration. http://bennasmith.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/theories-about-the-mystery-of-christ-crucified/ But Jesus’ death and resurrection represent God’s desperate attempt to reconcile with alienated humans at great personal cost to himself. It shows us that God loves the world and desires reconciliation rather than judgment. It also shows the severity of the human condition in so far as we crucified God’s best messenger of reconciliation rather than welcomed him. It also shows that the deepest human problem, death, has been defeated and that humans can follow Jesus through death into new life without fear.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Ben, you see we have here jumped the gun. But granting that Jesus was, how does a god who knows that in a few hours he will leave the land of the dead be considered anything other than child-play? You know the hide and seek kind of thing?
            There was no witness to the resurrection, none to the death of the fellow, how can you make such extravagant claims? Have you with honesty considered this event and in what sense it would relate to us?

            Like

          • Ben, why would anyone assume that “we” have crucified christ?
            I didn’t, you didn’t, Mak didn’t! And if god decided to punish us in advance and collectively in Adam, why do we have to suffer the judgement for his own decision? Surely such a “loving and benevolent” being could have waived delegated judgement out of “unconditional” love?
            My friend, if a toddler wonders away and gets killed in a car accident, the parent will be held accountable, not the baby?
            Where was god when the serpent crawled over to his toddlers, who weren’t really informed about god’s enmity with him? Have you noticed that Israel forsook god, nearly always after their loving god left them lonely prey to whosoever?
            “You will surely die” may have meant nothing to them, as they didn’t even know what death is…

            Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            I just read an interesting dissertation exploring some of the points you raise – http://ecommons.luc.edu/luc_diss/414/. It’s possible that God could have waived judgment, but there’s no guarantee that him doing so would have promoted human reconciliation to the same degree as what Christians believe God has actually done through Jesus. I find it helpful to think of sin as alienation from God rather than mere moral guilt. God’s response to sin is an attempt at reconciliation.

            Like

          • Ben, as a trained theologian with nearly two decades of study and debating both theists and atheists, I am thoroughly aware of what 2000 years of theologies have achieved. Unfortunately, no one wants to spend time anymore where the whole problem lies, i.e. the origins of christianity. Judaism has always been rejective of he whole original sin concept, upon which the whole christian messianic concept is built. Without delegated guilt, delegated atonement is futile. And when I say Judaism, I mean Torah theology, and not Talmudic dogmatics, and Torah theology based on the prophets, built Jewish messianic expectations as something totally different of what developing christian theologians have come up with. Nevertheless, christian theology must be justified from within a valid Torah messianic perspective, otherwise it is flawed. Jewish law IS eternal, and the Messiah IS bound by it. What christianity has done with the whole, has completely destroyed the infrastructure of fulfillment, making christianity completely independent of its presupposed foundation, but together with this, invalid and irrelevant in its theological claims.
            The sad truth of this is proved by the fact that none of the NT’s “prophecies and expectations” has been fulfilled, leaving the whole a mess of tens of thousands of denominational interpretations. And I’m not talking about the Pauline mess, but Jesus’ promises, none fulfilled, leaving “faith” and “endurance” as the main two, cheap and painful substitutes common to ALL religions.
            If you Ben, have to judge the tree of christianity by it’s fruits, what will you say about it and its roots?
            Honestly?!
            How could anyone worship a god who caused an uproar because of the temple’s use for money exchange, but remains silent for 2000 years of ecclesiastical rape of children all around the world?
            Wow, Herod had to die on the spot because he failed to give glory to god, but children are being abused by clergy for 2000 years, and no intervention?
            Is this “let the little children come unto…?”

            Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            “christian theology must be justified from within a valid Torah messianic perspective, otherwise it is flawed.” I’m a part-time theology student, and this sounds good to me. I’m very interested in Christian origins and think that looking for continuity with second-Temple Jewish monotheism is important. Once again, you raise the problem of evil, or criticisms of God’s behaviour (actual or perceived). These are tough questions, but as Paul Moser discusses in the book I’m recommending, possessing evidence for God’s existence does not entail that one possesses a theodicy for God’s actions. So I just don’t know. I could speculate (at length) but it probably won’t help.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            If Christ lived and was crucified, I surely wasn’t party to it.
            And if his father is merciful and just but sends an innocent man to commit deicide, then we must in all sincerity change the meaning of these words.
            I have forgiven a few people here and there. I never have to sacrifice a goat to effect this. Suicide/ murder/ deicide/ execution is not my modus operandi

            Like

        • Thank you Ben for your absolute honesty and unpaired courage to admit what most christians know, but never admit.
          I have to say though, that what you’ve mentioned about being a display of god’s charitable love, it’s rather thin compared to what jesus promised about the father valuing us more than sparrows, and the assurance of his daily care for us, clearly unknown to most of the planet…

          Like

          • Ben Nasmith says:

            The New Testament regards Jesus’ self-sacrificial death in pursuit of reconciliation between God and humans as a strong indication of the value of alienated humanity to God. I don’t fully understand why there is so much suffering in the world, but I think human alienation from God has something to do with it.

            Like

  5. Eric Alagan says:

    I believe in God and see God everywhere.

    Interestingly, I don’t see God in the main stream religious institutions – certainly not in the way most (yes, most) of these preachers and followers live their lives. If these people had found god and that’s the kind of lives that god leads them to live – I don’t want a part in that!

    But I believe and pray to – God.

    I wish you all success in your quest, my friend. Whatever you find will be right for you – this too, I believe.

    Peace

    Like

  6. paarsurrey says:

    @Ben Nasmith says:April 16, 2014 at 17:5
    “I think that such a being exists, and as a Christian I am devoted to the God revealed by Jesus.”

    I endorse the One-True-God that revealed Himself on Jesus; but that God was not Jesus and cannot be Jesus.

    Do you agree with this? Please

    Regards

    Like

  7. shelldigger says:

    “Moser doesn’t start by assuming a being worthy of worship exists. Rather, he starts by asking what a being worthy of worship is and what sort of evidence one might expect from such a being. He then criticizes naturalist dismissals of such a being, fideist affirmations of such a being, and arguments from natural theology which fail to yield such a being.
    In a sentence, if a being worthy of worship were to exist, how would we come to know that it existed?
    I think that such a being exists, and as a Christian I am devoted to the God revealed by Jesus.”

    Pardon me, but this may be one of the most ignorant things I have ever read. I see some circumventing of the proposition. A play from left field. A dance through the wonderful land of “what if?” I see there be some criticisms bandied about. Though I do not actually see them here…and criticizing criticisms because they do not provide this being that YOU claim to exist with no verifying evidence is a tad much.

    I do not see any proof for a case at all here. If a being worthy of worship were to exist, I can think of many ways it could impress upon us why it would be worty of said worship. It could perhaps start by showing us it actually exists. Why does your god not have a FB page? A Twitter account? Maybe a miracle or three, subject to scientific scrutiny, is a tad overdue.

    Leaving a book of fables around from 2000 years ago, when man was ignorant of the most basic facts known today which made some claims, that modern science has made a habit of refuting, means little. A book that also happens to be full of inconsistencies and atrocities. Ranging from genocide, to casual murders, to the annihilation of an entire planet (save the chosen few). A book that is so loosely written it can be interpreted 10,000 ways from Sunday, the reason for 10,000 different cults of the same religion. If this was the plan maybe it wasn’t such a great idea. If these gods are so damn great, why in the hell are they so good at hiding behind the curtain? Why do they live in the gaps of modern science? Why do they rely on philosophers to to word game the possibility of their existence into being? Until one of these supposed gods shows up, and demonstrates some godliness, your philosophers are just pissing in the wind.

    Like

    • Ben Nasmith says:

      “If these gods are so damn great, why in the hell are they so good at hiding behind the curtain?” If you want to pursue this question from a Christian point of view, I recommend reading Paul Moser (or my blog). It’s a good question worth wrestling with.

      Like

  8. aguywithoutboxers says:

    A great dialogue that you’ve opened here, my brother! Excellent invitation and idea. Of course, your reign is very receptive to novel practices! 😉 Much love and naked hugs, my friend!

    Like

  9. paarsurrey says:

    @ makagutu with love

    You were born as Christian and everybody around you was a Christian. Yet for some good or bad reasons you became disgruntled with Christianity, Bible and Church; not necessarily with Jesus or Moses.

    I think it was a blind and or unreasonable decision; in other words it was not a scientific decision.*

    “Whenever I read the bible, I find it full of absurdities that I can’t ignore.”

    So:

    1. You never finished reading Bible from cover to cover; hence your knowledge of what got revealed on Moses and Jesus remained, sorry to describe it, as shallow.
    2. It did not occur to you that the denomination in which you were in; might be wrong; hence you should make a comparative study of the denominations of Christianity to find the truthful denomination from them.
    3. You generalized the bitter experience you had of your specific denomination; to other denominations and in haste jumped out of it altogether.

    I think yours was a leap in the dark.

    Wasn’t it?

    Regards

    * Systematic approach to collecting facts and applying logical decision making techniques, instead of generalizing from experience, intuition (guessing), or trial and error.

    Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/scientific-decision-making.html#ixzz2zA7jRXHz

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      You know Paarsurrey, I usually say to insult the host is warrant for dismissal.
      Now unless you are truly ignorant, the bible believers claim only the first five books were revealed to and written by Moses. So I don’t have to read the bible cover to cover to know they are crock!

      Jesus, granting that such a being lived, doesn’t claim any revelation. He makes no new commands and every time he asked a question of law, he refers the petitioner to what the law says. So to say my knowledge is shallow betrays your ignorance.

      You must, to use the famous phrase of Mark Twain, an idiot of the first degree. I ask for reasonable dialogue you tell me to investigate if one of the over 40K sects of Christianity forgetting those of Judaism and Islam and the other varied religions to be the correct one? Do you understand the meaning of reasonable? There is no place I have said I had a bitter experience. Maybe you could point me to it but till then, it is important to respect each other and if you are unable to participate in this conversation, you’d better read the response from my friend Eric. He makes no argument. He says what he believes and leaves it there and there is nothing wrong with it. I respect that. Ben has said too, in a response to LoT that in all honesty he has nothing original to add to the conversation but shares what he believes, that is reasonable and a debate can be heard. To assume a moral high ground to tell me why I did or did not do something is to ask for too much from me.

      And lastly this is with love.

      Like

  10. paarsurrey says:

    @clubschadenfreude :April 17, 2014 at 20:27

    Sorry to point out.

    The arguments you have given are based on your understanding of religion and are against religion.

    You have extremely failed to prove and give positive evidences favoring Atheism; not a single quotation from a text book of science or a peer reviewed article from a journal of science which even mentions of Atheism and arguments of its truthfulness.

    Did you?

    If Tom is proved to be wrong, supposedly; it does not prove automatically that Harry must be right.

    Regards

    Like

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