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Convoluted Rationalisations

Entry 622, on 2007-10-11 at 17:08:23 (Rating 5, Religion)

Today I stumbled on some interesting movies at YouTube. They all involved criticism of belief in the Bible and in Christianity generally. One of the better ones was an episode of "Bullshit" by Penn and Teller which showed how the "Damn Bible" is bullshit. For a mainstream entertainment program it certainly pulls no punches, and it was very disrespectful. I generally find than even critics of religion tend to hold back to some extent from being completely critical and insulting, but this told it like it really is.

Another movie was a bit more restrained but perhaps even more disconcerting to believers. It was called "10 questions that every Christian must answer". The ten questions themselves weren't that important but the idea that intelligent, educated Christians should consider their own beliefs in a rational way was quite compelling.

The questions included: Why won't God heal amputees? Why are there so many starving people in the world? Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible? Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense? Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles in the Bible leave behind any physical evidence? How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?

These, and other questions, can be answered through sometimes quite complex rationalisations. In fact, looking at them objectively they are clearly convoluted. Now it could be that all the rationalisations are real, but there is an alternative. Instead of a whole series of convoluted rationalisations with no supporting evidence we could just say "god doesn't exist".

Its so obvious that I wonder how anyone could be so stupid that they believe Christianity is true. I could perhaps understand limited acceptance of some of the New Testament but the Old Testament is laughable, grotesque, and pathetic all at once. It seems to me that only a real idiot would believe it, yet many people (who I don't consider idiots) do. Its a clear case of self-delusion.

If you're an intelligent person and believe the Bible stories then I challenge you to watch this movie (just search for the title at YouTube) and honestly answer what they ask. If you still believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, that Noah's flood really happened, and that God created the world as described in Genesis, then I suggest you go and get some psychiatric help. And watch out for the goblins and unicorns too!

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Comment 1 (919) by sbfl on 2007-10-15 at 02:14:30: (view recent only)

OJB - I am amazed you would stoop to this level, you are better than this. I liken those questions to an argument put forward by an adolescent - or someone who just says the first thing that comes to their mind. "Why won't God heal amputees?" Give me a break! Is he supposed to? What next ..."Why didn't God ensure I have a beautiful girlfriend?!" And then there's the (cherry picking) literal approach to the old testament but you know we have discussed that before.

You need to look for the red flags. This question gives the authors bias away: "Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?" note the use of a generalisation and the word 'nonsense'.

This line of argument is 'laughable, grotesque, and pathetic all at once".
You would be best to find better sources of info to support your opinions, because these ones only dent your credibility, not add to it. You can do better, eh?

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Comment 2 (920) by sbfl on 2007-10-15 at 02:30:01:

Here's my version for the lefties: Why won't Communism heal amputees? Why are there so many starving people in the North Korea? Why does China demand the death of so many innocent people? Why does communism contain so much anti-democratic nonsense? Why is the Gulag such a huge proponent of slavery in Siberia? Why do bad things happen to good people in Utopia? Why didn't any of Marx's theories in The Communist Manifesto leave behind any physical evidence? How do we explain the fact that Utopia has never materialised?

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Comment 3 (930) by OJB on 2007-10-15 at 05:35:30:

In answer to comment 1: Well Jesus did say that if you ask God for help he will help you. I believe that is mentioned several times in the New Testament. Are you saying God never helps anyone? If the answer is yes, then he's not much of a god, is he; and why does it say he will help in the Bible? if the answer is no then why do we never see this help happening? Is re-growing the limb of an amputee not a worthwhile form of help?

Maybe you will use the old "god won't do anything too obvious because he wants to make his existence dependent on faith, not evidence" argument or the old "god helps those who help themselves" argument. These are two rationalisations just like I mentioned above.

Regarding comment 2: Here's my answer: Communism doesn't heal amputees because it doesn't work (hmmm, see the similarity with Christianity there?) You carry on seemingly destroying your own belief by pointing out that Communism and Christianity are ineffective to a similar degree. I don't quite see what you are trying to achieve there.

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Comment 4 (937) by WF99 on 2007-10-16 at 13:08:59:

Rationalisms? I wouldn't be so hasty. I could just as easily call any defense of evolution a "rationalism" -- that wouldn't change a thing. Many "rationalisms" of Christianity have firmly-rooted merit.

"Why won't God heal amputees?"

Who says that he should? "Well, Jesus did say that if you ask God for help he will help you." That's yanking the verse out of context. Yes, he does help people and want the best for them. In the long run, choosing not to heal may be better.

And even if God doesn't help anyone, that doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

"Why are there so many starving people in the world?"

What are you doing to stop that? But that's a bit off the point. People need to grow their own food now, due to consequences that go back to the Fall.

"Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?"

Please show me an instance in the Old Testament (that's what you really mean) where an "innocent" person is killed. People who sacrificed their own children. People who ruthlessly sought to destroy the Israelites. People who blatantly blasphemed and threatened the lives of God's prophets. You're obviously pushing your thumb on the scales when referring to these people as "innocent".

"Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?"

How else is a miracle supposed to be regarded as a miracle? If God were to appear right now, drop an apple on the ground, and say, "Ha! *Now* do you believe I exist?", that wouldn't get anywhere. In order for God to prove that he is master of the scientific laws he made, he has to be able to break them.

"Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?"

First of all, it was only cultural back then to have slaves. And these weren't slaves who were captured from their own countries; people willfully sold themselves into slavery. And the Bible says that you're expected to release your slave after seven years; only at their insistence can they stay.

And that was in the Old Covenant -- laws specifically for the Israelites.

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Name a good person, please. I'm sure you'll find none.

"Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles in the Bible leave behind any physical evidence?"

What physical evidence should we find? How do you find physical evidence that someone walked on the water or healed a blind man? He wouldn't leave layers of sediment that we could date or anything.

"How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?"

Should he have?

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Comment 5 (938) by OJB on 2007-10-16 at 18:20:44:

The word is rationalisations, not rationalism - they are quite different.

Proof of evolution is based on objective evidence. In science a theory which doesn't fit in with physical evidence or doesn't fit in with other threads of evidence won't be taken very seriously. Saying something inane like "choosing not to heal may be better" is like saying "it might be OK for life to appear out of nowhere in some situations". How seriously would you take that? You're right, if god helps no one he might still exist, but it is evidence against his existence.

Ah the old "consequences of the fall" argument. Have you got any idea how often the Fall is blamed for anything which doesn't seem to quite fit into the Christian story? Its like saying "dark matter. We don't know what it is but its something to do with quantum physics". Not very convincing is it?

So anyone who god punishes automatically isn't innocent, which means god never punishes the innocent. Nice circular argument!

Biblical stories are miracles are they? The flood didn't happen. Creation didn't happen. These aren't miracles. If they actually happened they would be miracles, but they're just not true!

God thought slavery was OK because (whatever). Now that's a rationalisation! There are no such thing as good people. Another one. There just happens to be no evidence of Jesus. How convenient. Jesus never appears to us. That's unfortunate. Its just excuse after feeble excuse.

Can't you see that if anyone else offered this pathetic unsubstantiated garbage in any other context we would laugh at them! If it was just one or two rationalisations it might be believable, but for Christianity to be true there have to be dozens, maybe hundreds. Its blatant nonsense, and if you were really honest with yourself like I suggested I think you would see that.

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Comment 6 (940) by sbfl on 2007-10-17 at 06:01:52:

In response to comment 3: Does it always have to be physical for you? Think outside the square, man. FFS, you actually expect God to be at your beck and calling physically every time you have a wee dilemma?

No.

Heh. I stared off pointing out how ridiculous the original conjecture in the post was (re the amputees). Then I realised, hey, extreme leftism (communism) has solid examples where this line of questioning makes a mockery of it. Now I know you're not a Communist, but you are somewhat of a socialist so it was just a bit of indirect poke for a bit of fun. Don't take it too seriously.

You obviously didn't pick up on it, but if you were to ask x amount of questions to query the validity of Christianity, then those ones were the first draft from a 12 year old. Hence why I said I you are better than this, that you, OJB, could come up with something more intelligible.

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Comment 7 (951) by OJB on 2007-10-17 at 08:55:09:

Sometimes it is better to concentrate on a really simple question instead of one which might have many nuances which confuse the issue. So far the only explanation you can give me concerning why God doesn't heal amputees is that "choosing not to heal may be better". Put yourself in my position. Would you accept that as a reasonable explanation?

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Comment 8 (953) by sbfl on 2007-10-17 at 09:17:33:

Replace "simple" with "dumb". That's where I'm coming from. As I have said already, is he supposed to?

Please think beyond "'Well Jesus did say that if you ask God for help he will help you'" - bing! Here's you leg back. Like I said, you can't tell the difference between spiritual and physical.

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Comment 9 (955) by OJB on 2007-10-17 at 09:25:21:

So it seems that God never does anything that would reveal his presence in any way to anyone except someone who has already committed themselves to believing in him. How convenient. Now that is the ultimate convoluted (and totally unjustified) rationalisation!

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Comment 10 (958) by WF99 on 2007-10-17 at 10:48:03:

"Saying something inane like 'choosing not to heal may be better' is like saying 'it might be OK for life to appear out of nowhere in some situations'."

Um, no it wouldn't. Just because there's no direct good in the present doesn't mean there's potential for a greater good. I could list off countless examples, but I think that you understand the concept.

'Have you got any idea how often the Fall is blamed for anything which doesn't seem to quite fit into the Christian story?'

What problems is the Fall blamed on? I'm just saying that it's a plausible explanation for suffering. Evolution basically states that suffering always was, therefore it is now. Creationism basically states that things were once good, man ruined it, therefore suffering is now. The basic concept makes entirely perfect sense.

"So anyone who god punishes automatically isn't innocent, which means god never punishes the innocent. Nice circular argument!"

How is that circular? It's a logical conclusion.

"Biblical stories are miracles are they? The flood didn't happen. Creation didn't happen. These aren't miracles. If they actually happened they would be miracles, but they're just not true! "

I'm not saying that they're true. I'm saying that that's why they were recorded like that.

"God thought slavery was OK because (whatever). Now that's a rationalisation!"

Please, I'm choking on words -- I don't need anymore shoved in my mouth. I never said that God was okay with slavery. I think you need to re-read my original comment.

"There are no such thing as good people. Another one."

The problem with that theory? Nobody stands up to any standard of what's morally right and wrong. Even you should be able to accept that.

"There just happens to be no evidence of Jesus. How convenient."

You're shooting the words the instant they come out of my mouth and then wondering why they aren't alive. I'm saying -- how do you find evidence of Jesus' miracles? How can you scientifcally prove that he walked on water or not? You can't!

"Jesus never appears to us. That's unfortunate."

That's not what I said. I said: Is it damaging to Christianity if he doesn't appear to us? I wouldn't start the discussion assuming that it is. It's like the whole "Can got create a rock so large he can't lift it?" argument. No, he can't, but that means nothing.

"Its blatant nonsense, and if you were really honest with yourself like I suggested I think you would see that."

I am being honest with myself, and the concept seems perfectly rational (unless, of course, ample evidence proves the contrary, but we haven't gotten there yet).

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Comment 11 (960) by OJB on 2007-10-17 at 11:05:57:

OK, this is getting out of control. There are too many simultaneous threads in the discussion above. Let's get back to the basic question. Are you saying that there is *never* a situation when God would be doing the best thing by healing an amputee?

What about someone in the third world who needs complete mobility to look after his family. He isn't healed, his family starve. Is that the action of a good god, or the result of there being no god? I think anyone who looks at it without the built-in bias of having to believe in the Christian superstition will see the right answer. The problem with people who have faith is that there is always only one answer. That's where the convoluted rationalisations come from!

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Comment 12 (961) by WF99 on 2007-10-17 at 12:46:54:

I believe that everything works out to a greater good. I honestly can't think of a way for that to happen in the scenario you provided above, but I do think that there's a possibility. I'm not going to come up with a far-fetched theory to justify that.

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Comment 13 (962) by OJB on 2007-10-17 at 13:41:17:

Why do you think everything works out to the greater good? That's just faith, right? You believe it because it fits what you want to believe. It should be fairly clear to everyone that actually things don't work out for the greater good. Just look at all the bad things continuously happening in the world. As long as people fool themselves into thinking everything is OK, how can we make things better?

And, by the way, it's also another convoluted rationalisation, because you have created a justification based on a theory from nowhere (that everything is for the greater good) with no evidence at all - in fact your theory is contrary to the evidence.

I mean really, how likely is it that its *always* for the greater good not to heal amputees? Do you begin to see that the simple question isn't as dumb as you might think?

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Comment 14 (963) by WF99 on 2007-10-17 at 14:17:32:

This is temporary, though. And I'm not saying that you should sit around doing nothing about what's going on in the world.

"you have created a justification based on a theory from nowhere" It's not a theory from nowhere.

"Do you begin to see that the simple question isn't as dumb as you might think?" I've never thought that that question was dumb and unthinkable. And I still don't have an answer.

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Comment 15 (968) by OJB on 2007-10-17 at 16:55:38:

Well if its not from "nowhere" then tell me the origin of "the theory of greatest good". How does it fit into our understanding of how the world works and how is it supported by what we see around us? And does it confirm or deny existing theories and philosophies?

Yeah, sorry about the reference to the amputee question being dumb. It was another person I was debating with who claimed that. I give you credit in admitting that it is a distressing question to may believers. Its really just an example of the old question of why does god allow bad things to happen. The standard answers (free will, a greater unseen good, reward in the next life) just don't really stand up to scrutiny.

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Comment 16 (979) by WF99 on 2007-11-17 at 13:11:14:

Sorry it's taken me a while to reply.

The Bible says that "God works all things together for his glory". I know that you probably consider that egotistical, but I don't see a problem with it.

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Comment 17 (981) by OJB on 2007-11-19 at 09:03:39:

Well if "God works all things together for his glory" he's done a pretty crap job. We have disease, natural disasters, famine, crime, and just plain stupidity everywhere. Over 99% of the living things he has created have become extinct. What kind if doofus is this god? Even if god did exist he isn't showing signs of being a very good god, either in the context of competence or ethics.

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Comment 18 (984) by WF99 on 2007-11-21 at 03:23:10:

If you look at things from an eternal perspective, this temporary earth isn't very much. And I should point out that this isn't the way God intended things to be ... (here it comes) ... it was the result of the Fall. The problem of suffering really hasn't fazed me as much as it does you.

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Comment 19 (986) by OJB on 2007-11-21 at 10:40:43:

And what exactly is this "eternal perspective"? Is it not just the angle a believer prefers to take when considering this material? That's another circular argument. You think this eternal perspective exists because its part of your belief, but you accept the belief because of the eternal perspective. To really establish what is true its necessary to have information from an objective source external to the belief system.

Again why did God let the Fall happen? If he "works all things together for his glory" why did he create humans so flawed, why did he allow the Devil to exist, why did he let the Fall happen? And if he knows everything he must have know this would happen before he set the events in motion. The Fall is just an excuse for all the wholes in Christian doctrine, but it just doesn't hold together under any real scrutiny.

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Comment 20 (987) by WF99 on 2007-11-21 at 13:00:38:

The Fall was (again, here it comes) the result of free will. But it, too, will be worked together for a greater good. Also, about the eternal perspective, I'm saying that things on earth shouldn't seem as bad in the long run.

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Comment 21 (988) by OJB on 2007-11-21 at 17:20:30:

Now you can see why this blog entry is titled "convoluted rationalisations". All of that dogma about the fall and free will is obviously a rationalisation to excuse the fact that god does nothing about making the world a better place. Anyone who looks at it rationally will see that, and many Christians have problems with why god lets so many bad things happen. The problem is that they can't see the obvious answer: god never helps us because he doesn't exist!

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Comment 22 (989) by WF99 on 2007-11-25 at 09:00:04:

I've never been able to look at things that way. I've never really had a problem with suffering, but I guess we're stuck on that point. There were still quite a few other topics that your post brought up, and I'd like to take those as far as we can, as well. They were:

"Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?"
"Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?"
"Why do bad things happen to good people?"
"Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles in the Bible leave behind any physical evidence?"
"How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?"

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Comment 23 (990) by OJB on 2007-11-25 at 10:15:34:

I know that suffering can be explained away by using a convoluted rationalisation. I'm sure the others can as well. The question is: how many convoluted rationalisations should we be prepared to accept before we start questioning the underlying truth of the belief system?

If a theory in science required so many arbitrary explanations it would be thrown out (and this has happened: Big Bang replacing Steady State cosmology, relativity replacing classical gravitation, evolution replacing Lamarckism, heliocentric replacing Earth centered Universe, etc).

In fact the old Earth centered Universe with circular orbits is an excellent example of where a convoluted rationalisation became more and more unwieldy until it had to be thrown out. Note that is still worked, but there was a much better explanation: a Sun centered Solar System with elliptical orbits.

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Comment 24 (993) by WF99 on 2007-12-03 at 10:55:04:

But where do things stop being reasonable explanations and start becoming convoluted rationalisations?

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Comment 25 (996) by OJB on 2007-12-04 at 10:07:37:

Well that is the ultimate question, isn't it? Its not always obvious, even when viewed from an unbiased perspective. But the usual indicators are that more and more explanations need to be added to existing ones to rescue them from being shown to be false. And the explanations are based on assertions which are arbitrary. And the explanations have no way of being checked against objective facts. Its that sort of thing we should be wary of.

If you aren't aware of the epicycles necessary to make the geocentric Universe work have a look at that (look up epicycle at Wikipedia) as an example of a series of more and more complex arbitrary rules being applied to a system which was false at its very core. When people create complex rationalisations they should ask if they are really just creating another "epicycle".

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Comment 26 (1001) by WF99 on 2007-12-27 at 11:00:37:

Would you consider any arguments I've proposed during this discuson to be an epicycle?

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Comment 27 (1002) by OJB on 2007-12-28 at 09:36:58:

The Fall is clearly a complicated and unsupported explanation for a simple phenomenon. It fills all the criteria: there is absolutely no evidence supporting it at all, so it is completely arbitrary; it involves a complicated sequence of events where something simple would also work; and it exists to support an existing view which is becoming increasingly less viable.

It *could* be true, but in the past when explanations become less and less viable and require more and more complex modifications they do turn out to be false.

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Comment 28 (1005) by WF99 on 2007-12-28 at 11:46:53:

I have a problem with the "it exists support an existing view" argument. Genesis was written to be a historical document (whether or not it's true is beside the point), so it would have been written before any organized religion was formed about it. And since the Fall is classified as a historical event (again, fictional or not), it can't be scientifically proven.

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Comment 29 (1006) by OJB on 2007-12-28 at 18:39:53:

Are you sure? What evidence is there that Genesis existed before the religion it is part of? It keeps saying "God did this, God did that". Sounds like a religious document to me, and having a specific dogma like that suggests that it was organised.

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Comment 30 (1020) by WF99 on 2008-01-16 at 13:00:04:

Religious principles can, and often do, overlap throughout the Bible. And I believe that it was written before the reported covenant establishment at Sinai.

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Comment 31 (1093) by SBFL on 2008-01-31 at 01:25:03:

OJB, your comment 3 - are you referring to the help of the physical body or of the mind? Because as your post goes, it is of the physical, which means you take the Bible as literal as the Christian fundies (though of an opposing view). My comment 2 was merely a light-hearted parody of the ridiculousness of your initial post.

It appears you are expecting something along the lines of what the Jews were expecting of a Messiah. Someone who would physically and politically free them from the Romans. In fact Jesus came along and didn't give a rats arse of the political situation of the time. He came here to save us from ourselves. To teach us a new covenant, or a new approach to life if you will. It wasn't about "pray to God and you leg will grow back", but more about the less treaded path to the kingdom of heaven.

You may never believe in Jesus, but I challenge you to learn his message. Spare the pointless opinionated nitpicking, and try to see the overlying message (usually obvious from his parables). All good stuff, even if you are not a believer!! Cheers.

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Comment 32 (1096) by OJB on 2008-01-31 at 11:19:19:

The Bible says God will help you if you ask. Is this true or not, because every time we test this claim it turns out to be not true. And if all the help God can offer is the sort that just happens to people spontaneously anyway then what's the use of God? And how is it that all sorts of obvious miracles are described in the Bible? God was OK at doing spectacular things then. So why not now?

I agree there are some good parts in the (alleged) message of Jesus. But there are plenty of bad parts too. And there are plenty of good parts in other religious messages too. And there certainly good parts in non-religious philosophies (some of which pre-date Christianity). And why do we need all the superstition attached to the message?

I am OK at accepting the good parts of Jesus' (alleged) message but I reject the bad parts and I reserve the right to listen top other religious and secular leaders. And I reject all the superstition as well. Seems reasonable, don't you think?

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Comment 33 (1296) by SBFL on 2008-03-21 at 02:00:58:

Well if you believe 'help' to be along the lines of your leg growing back then are you going to be disappointed. Even "The Simpsons" makes a mockery of this type of thinking when Homer prays!

You put "(alleged)" in front of the wrong word. Maybe you should put it in front of 'Jesus' rather than 'message'...?
But there are plenty of bad parts too. - hmmm, which parts specifically?
"And there are plenty of good parts in other religious messages too." - absolutely.
"And why do we need all the superstition attached to the message?" But you allow your disdain of religion get in the way of the meaning....so the alleged superstition is not that critical in the whole scheme of things.

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Comment 34 (1305) by OJB on 2008-03-21 at 10:42:37:

So you are saying God will never answer a prayer in a way which would make it clear that he is responsible for the result? There are never real miracles? Why is that? You still haven't told me why he wouldn't do that, especially when the Bible says he used to. Its all just too convenient. Surely you can see that I have a perfect right to be skeptical!

Look at it from a different perspective. Imagine I told you I have a magic hat which fixes things when I rub it. Imagine I just had my arm amputated after it became infected as a result of a bite from a rabid fundamentalist. You say "rub the hat and wish for a new arm". I say, "it doesn't work that way, but its fixed the headache I had yesterday". Would you think the hat really works?

Bad parts: I think I'm waiting for a reply on this form another post so I'll just put them back on here as well: Deuteronomy 13:6-10, Luke 12:51, Mark 7:9, Matthew 10:34, Matthew 10:21, etc, etc.

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Comment 35 (1349) by SBFL on 2008-03-30 at 23:04:15:

Re first question: Well I wouldn't say 'never' but on the whole my answer is 'yes'.
On the matter of 'miracles' I will say I am not an expert in that area. I believe Jesus performed them but then again he was the son of God. Since the advent of Christianity the term has been somewhat bandied about, and at times taken advantage of, so let's just say it can be a bit murky. Therefore, yes, I can see why you would be skeptical. Indeed, I am too at many claims, esp in this day and age. That wasn't my point earlier though. I was saying it's not a simple as praying for a leg to grow back and voila! Let's be realistic about it, even from a religious point of view.

On the bad parts, yes, it is in another post, so won't reply to here. I did respond to one (and haven't investigated the others yet) but I am moving through our threads in reverse chronological order.

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Comment 36 (1368) by OJB on 2008-04-01 at 16:18:09:

So you agree with me that there are no true miracles, but you haven't said why not. People pray to God for help. Does he help or not? If he does help, is it only in a way which could be interpreted as something else. Why is God so intent on showing that he doesn't exist, or at least not showing that he does?

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Comment 37 (1376) by SBFL on 2008-04-01 at 22:31:59:

No, I said agree that "God will never answer a prayer in a way which would make it clear that he is responsible for the result".

To "If he does help, is it only in a way which could be interpreted as something else." I say 'what goes around, comes around' (in life).

To "Why is God so intent on showing that he doesn't exist, or at least not showing that he does?" I say well I can't speak for the man upstairs but you (due to your thinking/beliefs or whatever you want to call them) demand physical proof and I don't think he is about that. I mean our faith and livelihood wouldn't be much of a challenge if it was blatantly obvious to our little minds that require material black & white proof of His existence (and I refer to everyone here, I am not targeting skeptics). Some people believe that our tiny time frame on this planet that we call a life is merely a test of who we are and I like this concept. How do we live our lives and can we look back and be proud of how we lived it? It is the intent of our lives that is important which is why I don't think one needs to believe in God/be a Christian to make it to the next "level" (see told you I wasn't a fundie). One doesn't need to believe in Jesus per se, but follow his message even if one doesn't see it as such. You may recall I have asked you in previous posts to put aside your disbelief in Jesus and consider his message. Now you know why.

If I was to put aside faith and focus on the purely logical and physical I would still need to wonder why with all our intelligence and emotion that comes with being human, why there is not something more when we die? It's a big question and we all ask ourselves it, Christian and non-Christian alike. Christian people question their faith too and that's because they are human after all.

Why do I get the feeling this thread is going to be the longest in the history of the blog?

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Comment 38 (1385) by OJB on 2008-04-02 at 19:52:25:

OK, so I ask why there are no real miracles any more and all you do is respond with what goes around, comes around. Come on. You must be able to do better than platitudes like that! If the stories are true then real miracles happened in the past, so why not now?

I don't need physical proof, but I do need some sort of evidence. I accept theories which are supported by the best evidence. God just makes no sense on any level to me. What actual evidence is there that a god of any type exists? And the Christian story is so obviously untrue that's its barely worthy of serious consideration. Or am I missing something?

Why would god want us to believe in him by faith? What his point be? What is this test and who is doing the testing, and what would be the point? It just sounds like a rehash of the old Christian myths to me.

What is this next "level" you talk about? Is this life after death? Heaven or something? Again you seem to be rehashing the old myths. Why should I follow Jesus' message instead of some else's message and why should I follow a message when I'm perfectly capable of defining my own morality anyway? Another myth rehash, maybe.

See, it seems that your mind is imprisoned by silly old stories in a fake book supported by a hugely dogmatic organisation. Only a free thinker like myself can see the big picture because I'm not restricted by religious preconceptions.

I have said on many occasions that there some good things about Jesus' message but can you tell me something he espoused which I would not accept as a fair and reasonable person anyway? Or could you tell me anything that isn't also part of some other philosophy?

Why would you suggest there should be something left when we die (apart from wishful thinking)? Its not a big question at all. It simple: we are our minds which are generated by our brains which cease to exist when we die. Hey it might be tough but let's just face facts here.

We've still got a while to go to beat the 74 comments in "Bible in Schools" (started: 2005-06-16).

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Comment 39 (1399) by SBFL on 2008-04-13 at 23:19:01:

Okay, it's too late for me to reply to this especially as you pose many questions. However I have just read your reply to my last comment and just want to acknowledge it at this point. Also maybe this post will have a red-bold # comments indicator for a while longer making it easy for me to find on my return!

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Comment 40 (1534) by SBFL on 2008-08-23 at 09:50:05:

I haven't re-read the whole post and thread but just the last few comments and in response to your comment 38 I would say that is it clear that you take a simplistic view of what God should be like and say assuming he exists. Your view demands evidence or at least logical theories. You even wrote a post recently that said if God is 'good' then why does he let bad things happen to good people (heh, I'm not the only one who uses cliches).

I can't pretend to know all about God just because I am a believer. And I certainly can't give you evidence from former documented miracles (given the colloquial use of the term, its definition is not so black and white either). However there is the mystery of God and for those with some faith, it is in trying to solve the mystery that strengthens our faith. Knowing all the answers is not something that comes out of the blue, they must be learned (and not just by reading a book). You keep demanding simple answers ('What is this next "level" you talk about? Is this life after death? Heaven or something? Again you seem to be rehashing the old myths.) but you should know by now that it is all very complex. If I could answer all your big questions you wouldn't have needed to ask them in the first place. You say "Only a free thinker like myself can see the big picture" but I don't think your picture is very big.

You will be extremely frustrated by my reply and claim a cop out, but that would only emphasis your lack of understanding in what faith is. In fact I am not taking the easy route, but believe you are. You need to have a logical answer, a simple 0 or 1, but that makes it so easy doesn't it? Apparently if there is no simple answer then it doesn't exist?...that's the true cop out.

I'm sorry I can't give you all the answers OJB, but I don't pretend to have them. I do believe there is something after death, but obviously I don't know exactly what form that will come in. Through my faith I hope to learn more, but not to the extent I can tell you if heaven run their IT systems on Mac or Windows servers!

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Comment 41 (1539) by OJB on 2008-08-23 at 14:19:24:

I agree that the old "god letting bad things happen to good people" is an old, tired question, but why? Its because its never been answered. Its also the one that most believers seem to have trouble with. They can reject science all they like but that question seems to cause them a lot more difficulty. Its old sure, maybe cliched, but its still an interesting question with no good answer, even after thousands of years.

Believers keep saying these questions are complex but I don't believe they are. I think they are very simple. Its just failure to accept the facts that forces believers into making them more complex in order to disguise the fact that the simple answer "there is no god" is probably the right one.

I don't demand a simple answer but I do demand one which makes sense. Also, given the choice between a simple, logical one and a complex vague one I will choose the simpler. It seems to me that all the great theological questions can be answered with one easy statement: god doesn't exist.

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Comment 42 (1544) by SBFL on 2008-08-23 at 15:14:07:

It's because you're asking the wrong question. Didn't I point out the stupidity of it in some other thread ages ago? You had some story about a guy who lost an arm or something.

Your final two paragraphs just illustrate my point. I guess it's the difference between our train of thoughts (and why one of us will never convince the other!).

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Comment 43 (1547) by OJB on 2008-08-24 at 12:02:02:

But is it the wrong question? You pointed out why you thought it was stupid but I disagree. The only problem with the question is that a positive answer would actually show god exists. Because god doesn't exist you must find a reason to reject all questions which would demonstrate this fact.

That's why we get so many lame explanations of god's behaviour: we have disasters because of free choice, bad things happen because of the Fall, miracles don't happen because god demands faith. A 5 year old could see through these pathetic explanations and we would reject them in any other area. But, of course, religion demands special treatment and respect (which it doesn't really deserve).

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Comment 44 (1548) by SBFL on 2008-08-24 at 23:05:15:

It is the wrong question because who said that God was supposed to act in that way, that he was supposed to stop "bad" things happening to "good" people. So does even a positive answer prove He exists? Now who's giving lame explanations??

"But, of course, religion demands special treatment and respect"
- hmmm, this must be the special treatment and respect it receives in the media....yeah, right.

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Comment 45 (1552) by OJB on 2008-08-25 at 06:00:45:

Well we seem to hear a lot about how good and great God is and all about the miracles which have happened in the past. Also most religious people seem to think he does intervene in their lives. Even the Catholic church believes in miracles.

But these supposed miraculous events always turn out to have mundane explanations. Why is there never something which can't be explained using conventional naturalistic explanations? I'll tell you why: because everything happens through naturalistic processes, not through God.

You seem to be suggesting that the world works exactly the same way when God is there as it would if he wasn't. Is there nothing at all that we can look for that shows he's there - apart from meaningless subjective wishful thinking, I mean?

Imagine a political party who made the claims that God does... give us your support, money, etc and we will do all sorts of good stuff for you. You will never notice we are doing it, but you just have to take it on faith that we are. Ridiculous right? Yet that's what God seems to demand. That's the special treatment I'm talking about.

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Comment 46 (1555) by SBFL on 2008-08-25 at 16:20:39:

I can't believe how childish and simple your approach is here. So you hear about how God is good and great and you expect that to mean that he will let you win 1st division Lotto? That's how you come across.

Your problem is that you always focus on the physical - miracles, evidence, proof etc etc. Have you ever considered faith to be something emotional, spiritual, personal, relationship based - something you can't see, smell or touch in the physical sense, something that's not even tangible in the physical sense?

Your second problem is that your always so negative, or cynical ("God claims...give us your support, money, etc and we will do all sorts of good stuff for you"). One with such a bitter and twisted view can never be fair and objective - you are forever searching for the thorn in the eye of the Church.

On a lighter note you should re-read the first sentence of your last paragraph: "Imagine a political party who made the claims that God does... give us your support, money, etc and we will do all sorts of good stuff for you." I think it's fair to say that almost every political party in the world falls into that category.

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Comment 47 (1556) by OJB on 2008-08-25 at 21:22:23:

I think you keep deliberately avoiding the question because you don't have an answer. God has the ability to heal anything. There must be people with serious problems who deserve to be healed. But they never get healed. Why not? I didn't mention anything as trivial as winning Lotto at any time.

I focus on things that exist in more than just people's imagination. Do you think god is just a theoretical concept that people use as a symbol for something else? Sort of like the idea Einstein had? If that's what you are saying then that's OK.

I'm sure I remember making some positive comments about the Catholic Church here on occasions. This entry defended their right to take political action. I'm only cynical when it comes to the existence of God. And "a thorn in the eye"? Isn't that a bit of a mixed metaphor?

The political parties usually point out where they have provided real benefits: lower tax, a new hospital, whatever. We know these are real benefits which the government is responsible for. We can't say the same about gods.

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Comment 48 (1560) by SBFL on 2008-08-27 at 23:00:09:

No I am not deliberately avoiding the question. I have answered it. My Lotto comment was to illustrate how ridiculous your question is!!

You use the term 'imagination'. I think that pretty much sums up my point - that it all must be so physical for you. "Theoretical concept" - no. "Einstein idea" - not sure what this is. "If that's what I'm saying" - no, and you know it. Do you have to patronise so badly?

The odd positive comment doesn't change anything. It's more an attitude thing, than number of pro vs number of con. Replace 'thorn' with 'splinter' - sorry, my mistake.

Last para: get a sense of humour! Were you a 'nerd' in school? Oh wait - you love Mac's so of course you were!! (okay that was a another joke, I am sure you won't take any offense to my wee mock).

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Comment 49 (1565) by OJB on 2008-08-28 at 20:10:51:

But you are avoiding the question. Have you told me why God doesn't cure serious disease and injury? No. You have just said its a silly question, or we shouldn't expect God to do that. Why not? I'm not trying to be argumentative here. I really think its that simple.

Einstein used the idea of god as a metaphor, for example (about quantum physics) "God doesn't play dice with the Universe".

Yes, but I prefer the word "geek" instead of nerd! I do try to have a sense of humour but it can be so hard to tell humour or satire from serious discussion when talking to religious people!

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Comment 50 (1571) by SBFL on 2008-08-29 at 21:08:10:

Actually I think I explained it in comment 44. Where does the expectation come from that God is supposed to "cure serious disease and injury", or stop "letting bad things happen to good people"? I mean, who came up with that crap? These are the questions of a child. Maybe it's because he is "Great", and "Good" as you mentioned somewhere else. Let's say I am "good"...does that mean I am supposed to heal injuries? To stop starvation and poverty? See how ridiculous it all is? OJB - you've come up with some thought-provoking discussions on God's existence before, but this just ain't one of them.

Last para: Haha! Are you pigeon-holing religious people though? Heh, you know javascript:add(0)I am taking the mick when I use exclamation points and winking and smiley faces with semi-colons and brackets etc.

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Comment 51 (1574) by OJB on 2008-08-30 at 10:38:28:

OK, so god doesn't help us in that way. Isn't that convenient? I seem to remember that the church you are affiliated with claims that miracles of this type have happened. So does it happen or not. If it does, why don't we see it happening more clearly and more often. if it doesn't, what does God do for us? What use is he? Is he good or not?

I don't think the idea that if you are good and have the power to heal that you should use that power is ridiculous at all. If I was a doctor and could cure disease yet refused to do so, would I be thought of as good? I don't think so.

It seems clear: either god isn't good (by any reasonable definition), or he doesn't exist. So which is it?

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Comment 52 (1576) by SBFL on 2008-08-30 at 21:44:33:

Well what can I say - I have to refer you back to comment 50 since it seems you haven't read it. And spare me the sarcastic comment about 'convenience' - you don't believe in anything you can't see or touch remember? How convenient is that? And your criteria for evidence is tighter than a mermaid's brassiere making it easy for you to refute anything that conflicts with your free-thinker ideals.

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Comment 53 (1578) by OJB on 2008-08-30 at 23:17:19:

Where do you get the idea I don't believe in anything I can't see or touch? Did I ever say that? All I need is objective, testable evidence. Seeing or touching is optional. Asking for that isn't unreasonable. If I just needed weak subjective evidence I would believe in 10,000 different religions, UFOs, the Loch Ness monster, where would it end?

I can't see any reason in continuing this. You just refuse to answer the question, and I know why.

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Comment 54 (1579) by SBFL on 2008-08-30 at 23:28:22:

You're right, there is no point in continuing this. I have addressed your question comprehensively but we disagree because my expectations of God differ from yours. We are going in circles and creating a black hole.

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Comment 55 (1582) by OJB on 2008-08-31 at 00:33:13:

Sorry to prolong this discussion again, but I've got to ask: what does God do for you then. I mean, if he doesn't heal the sick, etc. Also, is there anything that God does which would distinguish a Universe controlled by a god from a completely naturalistic Universe?

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Comment 56 (1584) by SBFL on 2008-08-31 at 10:42:03:

Don't take this the wrong way, but you're not the person I want to discuss the answer to that question with, especially in a public forum. Maybe offline, though it was difficult enough to get you to take a reasonable approach to the last question, I am not sure it is appropriate to continue in the same vein to one more personal.

If you really want to know what I believe as a Catholic, then I you should click here.

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Comment 57 (1586) by OJB on 2008-08-31 at 16:51:17:

OK, let's just leave it. We're approaching this form entirely different angles and I don't think we will ever agree. You believe because you believe, I can't get past that.

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Comment 58 (1590) by SBFL on 2008-09-01 at 00:56:21:

You'll draw your own conclusions about me, incorrectly or correctly, I can't change that. And you may even be patronizing ("You believe because you believe"), but that's a crime I am guilty of also. I am sure we will pick up on the subject matter again, though a break would do us good so we can resume without the baggage!

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Comment 59 (1591) by OJB on 2008-09-01 at 08:59:31:

I'm a bit disappointed you couldn't answer the question. Or maybe I shouldn't be surprised because its the same one I have asked other intelligent religious people and they also didn't really have an answer. Surely you can't blame me at this point of drawing the conclusion that religious people refuse to answer this question in a reasonable way because they are scared of where the answer will lead.

I'm also intrigued that an obviously intelligent person like you believes all that stuff that the link took me to. There is a good case to say that if you examine it objectively just about everything there is false. I know that's what you say you believe. The questions I've been asking have been aimed at figuring out why you believe it.

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Comment 60 (1594) by SBFL on 2008-09-01 at 22:24:47:

Gee you can really be a patronizing prat when you want to be. Which question are you asking about now that you accuse me of not answering and avoiding? Every time I answer one you ask another slightly different one and then complain that I haven't answered you. I'm sorry but I am getting a bit tired of your games. Now which question is it now? The one about how you think Christians should believe God grows limbs back like you see in some cheap vampire flick, or the one "what does God do for you then?". The former has been answered and discussed at length. Reread the thread. Sorry you didn't like the answer. The latter is flippant at best and you'll have to excuse me if I decide not to detail out everything that Gods means to me on your blog. A more sensible, specific approach would be more reasonable for debate here....and I think you may be cutting to the chase in your last statement. You say that you think almost everything I believe is false, since you have examined it objectively. Well as I have said earlier your criteria is limited to the purely logical and scientific, 1+1=2 and all that. You cannot lift yourself beyond that plane. In simple terms you are like a life form in the two-dimensional world who is obviously oblivious to a third dimension since he only knows to move left and right; going up and down simply doesn't exist to him (that was not meant to be derogatory, but an illustration as to the limitations of what you find to be acceptable explanations). I CAN understand how you would find the concept of God complete bollocks based on what you would allow as admissible evidence into the court of your opinion. I would too if I limited myself in such a way. That is why I CAN understand why you don't believe, and why you CAN'T understand why I do. In other words you are limited by your philosophical predispositions. You are already dedicated to the idea that nothing can exist outside the natural realm so nothing is going to convince you otherwise since you have already ruled God out.

Now that I've responded to all the hufnstuf of the previous 59 comments, I am wondering why we went through such a rigmarole if all you wanted to know is "why", as per the last 4 words of your last post ("why you believe it"). Well I guess if one puts aside all the complex stuff like the theology and dogma etc and simply asks 'why do people believe in God', or 'why do many people believe in a higher order' then there would probably be a myriad of answers. I guess the most common would be that since science and logic don't explain everything, then there must be a supernatural explanation, a supernatural God. I agree we cannot find this supernatural God in science and logic per se but people find him through other means that I touched on in comment 46. I don't expect you to understand this, but if you wan to know why an "obviously intelligent person" looks out beyond what he can touch and see, then it begins here. Where it ends is a book-length away!

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Comment 61 (1600) by OJB on 2008-09-02 at 13:10:19:

At the risk of being patronising again I would say that you allow religious ideas to exist which have a lower level of evidence than you would for other beliefs. If you think the evidence for Christianity is sufficient to believe it then why not also believe in other things with similar (unsatisfactory) levels of support? Other religions like Islam, paranormal beliefs like ESP, etc.

You say that I am ignoring a whole new world and that might be true, but 99% of that world is fake. By only allowing beliefs which have good evidence I might miss out on the 1% but at least I don't believe the 99% which is pure nonsense. And eventually the evidence for that 1% will become apparent and then I can change my beliefs.

Everyone has a level which the evidence must exceed to be believed. Yours is just lower than mine. In fact, I would say its much lower just for the religion you have chosen to believe (for various reasons, maybe upbringing, maybe habit, maybe social reasons).

I suspect, judging from your comments on this blog, that you require a relatively high level of evidence to support other beliefs. For example, I would say the objective evidence supporting alien visits, ESP, and several other phenomena is at least as good as the evidence supporting Christianity. So why not believe those things as well?

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Comment 62 (1604) by SBFL on 2008-09-02 at 22:31:00:

No don't worry, not as bad this time! At it appears in the above comment that you have made an effort to at least try and understand my point, so I'll give you some credit for that ;-)....no who's being patronizing?!

To a certain extent you are right in your first paragraph though I will make the point that your use of the term 'unsatisfactory' is yours and I don't go along with that. As for other religions well funnily enough I did read a booklet about Islam (a sort of Islam for non-Muslims book) and I was astounded by the attempt to prove the truthfulness of Islam by physical means. I really had given it a quiet respect it didn't deserve. Their evidence was barely even circumstantial, almost desperate. It was quite sad really though to be fair a judgment shouldn't be made on a mere booklet. As for Judaism, well the Old Testament has many references to Jesus being the Messiah that they simply have got it wrong. Sorry I can't go through my views on all the hundreds of other religions in the world. Lets just say some have been more 'successful' than others. Now on to the non-religious (or should I say 'less-formal religious' in case you were thinking to argue that point) examples like ESP, aliens and the Loch Ness monster, well frankly the reason I have no opinion or non-belief on those things is because they don't go to the heart of 'who I am', 'why I am' etc etc.

As for your second and third paragraphs, well that just emphasizes what I said in my previous comment, especially your use of the term 'lower'. You see my threshold as being lower, I see your threshold as being limited. No arguments here. I am disappointed though at mention of upbringing, habit, and social as being a reason to explain my apparent 'lower' threshold. I think you know me better than that. The 'upbringing' conclusion is a favourite of atheists to explain away the sheer numbers of people of believe in a higher order. Hmmm, how convenient. I should point out that there is no doubt that society, culture and upbringing introduced me to Christianity. But every child develops an adults mind and every adult has the right to question what they have been taught. We do this everyday as human beings. On the issue of religion I would say that some fade away and lose interest, some challenge and embrace, other challenge and reject while a small minority carry on accepting without thinking about it at all. I say a 'small minority' because I believe that every person questions their beliefs of their existence etc at least once in their lives.

On your last point, well that's your opinion of course (regarding equal amounts of 'evidence'). If I dig in to those things I may well believe, who says I don't already? Heh. But as I said earlier in this comment, these things don't answer the questions I seek to have answered. And even if there is a considerable amount of substance to the evidence, it has no meaning so I don't really care anyway (eg I believe I am drinking a glass of beer right now, and I have physical evidence, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start a religion over it). Does that make sense? I'm not trying to ridicule your point, and obviously I'm not trying to convince you to change your views dramatically (I think I've been the one in the cross-examination stand most of this thread anyway!), but I hope it goes some way to explaining the questions you ask (PS when am I going to get a break?).

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Comment 63 (1612) by OJB on 2008-09-03 at 16:37:32:

I always make an effort to understand your point of view because, even though I often disagree with you, I do respect your opinion. But (you knew there would be a "but", right?) it just seems to me that the type of replies you give defending religion aren't up to the standard you give to defend your political views, for example.

You found the type of evidence supporting Islam sort of sad, yet Muslims are convinced its real. Now put yourself in my place and your evidence for Christianity in the place of the Muslim's. Beginning to see where what I'm saying now?

You say your Christian belief goes to the heart or who you are, but why do you need that? Are you really sure its not just because you have been brought up that way? I have seen the subtle ways the church puts pressure on its members. Think about this: if you were brought up a Muslim would you not be saying almost exactly the same things about Christians that you now say about them? There's no absolute truth there. Its all about subjective opinions.

Saying my threshold is limited (or too high) is just like saying yours is too low form a different perspective, so we agree. The question is: where should that threshold be?

If adults were capable of escaping the beliefs instilled into them by their upbringing why do so few people change religions? You would think that if Christianity is so great then all the Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc would convert once they escaped their childhood. Doesn't happen.

Finally, I think seeking answers is a great idea but believing in a nonsensical fairy story (sorry, I know that's harsh but its what I really think) is not the way to do it. Why not explore the philosophy of the world as a whole (including that attributed to Jesus). That gives you are far richer experience than believing in one mythology ever could.

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Comment 64 (1621) by SBFL on 2008-09-18 at 18:17:23:

Para 1: I could say the same thing but obviously politics is a much easier subject matter so I can see how you would form that view.

Para 2: And I did say that that comment was based on a small booklet, and I was referring to evidence by physical means. To be fair to Islam I would need to research it a lot more.

Para 4: Yes indeed, and I am not sure an answer to that million dollar question is actually possible.

Para 3/5: I have explained the upbringing bit and stand by my view on this. You do bring up a valid point on the conversion rates though. My take on that is when one questions their beliefs they break it down to two options: 1) they continue to retain belief in the faith they were introduced to, or 2) they cease to believe (become atheist, agnostic, lapsed etc). The individual hasn't been introduced to all the other religions out there and therefore they don't really enter into their thinking. I can't really speak for others though, only myself.

Para 6 - Yes, I know you have a fondness for derogatory terms when describing religion (does that say more about the perpetrator than the subject matter... ;-)). Yes indeed, most people are interested - some even intrigued - on the philosophy of the world, myself included (interested, not intrigued!), but I doubt it would be a richer experience. That's my view of course, and I expect others will form their own opinion on this as well.

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Comment 65 (1632) by OJB on 2008-09-18 at 22:28:27:

I don't see why politics should be easier than religion, except if you accept my contention that religion is imaginary and therefore more difficult to make absolute statements about.

When you aren't involved in any particular religion and hear the same statements supporting different religions from people with contradictory beliefs you find it hard to see why you should take any of them seriously. Was it Sam Harris who said about religion: they can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

Well if we want to be sure about religion we should apply the same standard of evidence we use when we want to get other things right (such as science, medicine, etc). We clearly don't.

I can't see why people wouldn't convert to another belief if that one was true and the rest weren't. Obviously there is no one religion which is obviously better than the rest.

I find it odd that you doubt that understanding a greater range of philosophies would make your experience richer. That idea seems almost self-evident to me.

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Comment 66 (1633) by SBFL on 2008-09-19 at 20:00:27:

Well think about it...how many blogs do you see about politics cf religion? How many newspaper articles do you see about politics cf religion? If you asked 100 people which topic is easier to discuss - what do you genuinely believe the result would be like?

I love how you think your "belief system" is above all others yet accuse other belief systems of making the same mistake!

We've been over that already. See earlier comments.

I think my explanation stacks up on this one. I am no so sure you are disagreeing with it though.

You haven't really been listening to me have you? For me "richer" is not just about knowledge. Again, see earlier comments. However like I said, understanding a greater range of philosophies is of interest, and would be to most people I'd imagine.

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Comment 67 (1645) by OJB on 2008-09-20 at 14:51:36:

Well I guess religion would be more difficult to discuss, but for two reasons: first, because traditionally it has been a taboo subject and often immune from criticism; and two, because it isn't based on reality therefore the material is not well defined.

I know you think that religion isn't spared the criticism it deserves and I guess that is less the case today, but I still find many people are very hesitant to even talk about it because offending someone over their religion still isn't acceptable.

Well I don't have a belief system except that I believe I shouldn't have a belief system and should rely on empirical evidence instead. Is lack of a belief system a belief system? In some ways it is, but I think we both know it isn't in the traditional sense of the word.

OK, let's just leave the other two issues. We don't seem to be getting anywhere.

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Comment 68 (1649) by SBFL on 2008-09-20 at 18:48:02:

You can twist those points in your favour but I would say for the first reason, the matter is taboo for both religious and atheist beliefs due to the risk of offending someone (rather then some perceived immunity people may think their belief is owed); and on your second point I would say many are uncomfortable discussing their beliefs because they find it difficult to put their reality into words. It isn't easy, though it might be for those who just fall back on what they can see and touch to define their belief.

I agree with your second paragraph. That's just the way people are, and it isn't limited to those who see themselves as 'religious', but for any personal beliefs. You and I are a different breed though as clearly we have thick skins on the matter.

Well we've actually discussed the definition of 'belief system' in a different post some time ago. I thought you might have remembered it. For all intents and purposes I mean religious, atheist, agnostic etc, but I may be technically incorrect. This gives a little insight.

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Comment 69 (1653) by OJB on 2008-09-20 at 20:38:44:

Well I guess it could be because religion is just an intrinsically difficult subject. But why should it be? If God wanted us to share his world why didn't he make it easier and more obvious? Why should it be hard to put this "reality" into words? Maybe its because it isn't a reality at all, just a subjective personal belief.

The critical part of your definition is the word "faith". Unfortunately that word also has degrees of meaning so that can open a new debate. But I don't think I have faith in the same sense as religious people do, therefore I don't have a belief system.

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Comment 70 (1656) by SBFL on 2008-09-20 at 21:27:30:

There you go with the "why does God let bad things happen to good people" line of argument again! I think I at least gave some rational reasoning to the question posed.

That wasn't my definition, like I said it gives a little insight. Here's another one, one which might make you think again. It doesn't really matter, as long as you knew what I meant in the earlier comment.

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Comment 71 (1660) by OJB on 2008-09-20 at 22:16:56:

OK, so you have already said you aren't here to convince me, and you haven't. I find your answer (along with everyone else's) to the "bad things" question and the "hidden god" question extremely unsatisfying. Its the weakness in these answers that makes me doubt religion for reasons beyond the mere lack of physical evidence.

We also don't seem to be progressing on the "is lack of belief just another form of belief" question. I guess everyone has to rely on some faith, because otherwise we get back to the "how do we know anything exists" problem (cogito ergo sum) but I still think the degree of faith exhibited by a religious believer and a skeptic/atheist/scientist is so different that its not really the same thing at all.

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Comment 72 (1663) by SBFL on 2008-09-20 at 23:10:58:

I can't speak for other people, but I put paid to the desperate attempt to prove God doesn't exist in earlier comments on this thread (comments 42-54). On the flip side, I wonder if you think you yourself have been so convincing...

My goodness, you really do know how to flog a dead horse. The definition wasn't so important here, was it? What you believe, what I believe, whatever. See final paragraph in comment 68.

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Comment 73 (1668) by OJB on 2008-09-21 at 19:25:46:

I have never tried to prove god doesn't exist. I just pointed out that there is zero good evidence that he does exist. And I also pointed out that I didn't expect to change your mind but hoped to maybe impart a small amount of doubt. Probably too late even for that though.

I doubt whether I was convincing because I don't think it would matter what the facts were, you would still believe what you wanted to. I've certainly seen this plenty of times before with creationists, etc.

I agree the definition isn't important, the fact is that by any reasonable definition I don't follow a belief system and you do. Or at the very least my belief system is the minimum practically possible.

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Comment 74 (1676) by SBFL on 2008-10-01 at 13:22:25:

"I have never tried to prove god doesn't exist. I just pointed out that there is zero good evidence that he does exist". Okay - hide behind the semantics, but the message remains the same. You say you think it's probably too late for me to take on some doubt like there's an expectation I should...there's that classic arrogance again. Have you ever thought the same applies to you? Of course you have, but you have yet to be enlightened, right?!

2nd para: I don't think I've disputed any facts, only theories and ideas, amongst other notions and philosophies that crop up on your blog. Like you said, you're not out to prove God doesn't exist.

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Comment 75 (1687) by OJB on 2008-10-02 at 11:41:50:

Actually proving god doesn't exist and pointing out that evidence that he does exist is either weak or non-existent are two different things. One implies the matter is closed, the other just says: show me the evidence because what I see so far isn't convincing.

I think that I have no emotional or traditional attachment to my lack of belief. Its a completely separate thing from having a belief supported by a strong community and history. I don't actually see atheism and Christianity as being the same thing so I don't think I am in the situation where I can't change. As I keep saying: just show me the evidence!

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Comment 76 (1688) by SBFL on 2008-10-02 at 12:24:38:

Lots of things are different but also similar. However you want to word it, it was still a desperate attempt.

And as I keep saying - look beyond what you can see and touch!

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Comment 77 (1692) by OJB on 2008-10-02 at 14:42:42:

I'm not sure if you are using this "see and touch" idea literally or metaphorically. All I require is evidence which doesn't rely on a personal experience which could easily be confused with confirmation bias, placebo effect, etc. In other words, I want the same standard of evidence for religion as I would want for a scientific discovery, political cause, whatever.

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Comment 78 (1703) by SBFL on 2008-10-07 at 23:31:19:

Yes, yes, so you keep saying. Well I think from the last handful of comments that we have definitely gone full circle. It was a good discussion and we didn't fulfill Godwin's Law - so it wasn't entirely unproductive ;-)

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Comment 79 (1717) by OJB on 2008-10-08 at 09:34:31:

Why would you not accept that we should ask for that standard of evidence? Can you show me a single fact supporting god's existence which would be good enough to include in a scientific paper or even a court of law? If you can, let's hear it. If you can't, why not?

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Comment 80 (1721) by SBFL on 2008-10-09 at 18:22:29:

My goodness, I don't expect you to agree with me but I do at least expect the courtesy of you listening. After all we are in a discussion, right? We have been over this issue and I don't have the appetite of repeating it all over again. Go re-read the thread. You don't like my comments? Fine. We're not in the habit of trying to convince each other remember, just to hopefully try and understand each others views maybe a little bit better.

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Comment 81 (1723) by OJB on 2008-10-09 at 19:58:25:

I think I have listened but I still think you are confusing a straightforward issue and avoiding the question. That's why I asked a very simple question which you seem to be determined not to answer. Why is that?

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Comment 82 (1725) by SBFL on 2008-10-10 at 07:46:00:

Well, as is often the case you are wrong. And your problem is that you need to see things in absolutes, in a simple form maybe so that you can understand, I don't know. How you can think that that is a straightforward issue indicates to me that you haven't been listening at all. Am I determined not to answer? No. Maybe it's you who are determined not to listen - especially if the answers and discussions are not to your liking. I am determined not to answer again! As I said, re-read the thread (where you and I have been chatting). *sigh*

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Comment 83 (1728) by OJB on 2008-10-10 at 08:22:27:

Some of these threads have got quite long now. Why not just humour me and just quickly (again) tell me the best bit of evidence for god because I really don't remember seeing it here previously. Alternatively, if there is no evidence just say so.

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Comment 84 (1731) by SBFL on 2008-10-10 at 16:44:44:

Well if you don't listen the first time, how can I trust you will the second? If you're so lazy that you can't go back over the matter we have discussed, and that you now demand a one line answer to an issue where you have forgotten the context, I ask you this: Would you bother with people who treat you this way?

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Comment 85 (1732) by OJB on 2008-10-10 at 16:51:45:

Actually I would probably make the same point you have made regarding forgetting my valuable philosophical point, but then repeat the point (maybe with a copy and paste). Or better still, I might rephrase it since it might not have made much of an impression the first time (since the other person has already forgotten it).

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