Saturday, November 27, 2010

Some thoughts on doubt and questioning my current beliefs

A Christian reader of my blog recently wrote to me in response to my Moving beyond ex-Christianity post. I wrote a lengthy response, but I thought I would include below two issues that I touched on in my email, as I thought they adequately captured elements of where I am in my journey.

The first point covers my thoughts on why I think so many Christians seem to struggle with doubt, and the second is my response to the reader's plea that I should put as much effort into questioning my current position as I did when I questioned Christianity.


Christian doubt

Some Christians often struggle with their faith; I no longer have that burden. This is because I've come to a place of simply accepting nature at face value, without having to clutter my view of the world with invisible forces and beings that cannot be demonstrated or verified, but for which I'm told (by major religions) exist. I think many Christians struggle with doubt because they sometimes observe instances where the two worldviews that they hold within their minds - the natural for which they plainly see and experience around them, and the supernatural for which they cannot see or demonstrate - don't always fully gel with each other when it comes to understanding the nature of existence and our place in it. For me, the physical world won the painful battle of cognitive dissonance because I finally realised that if something is invisible and unverifiable, it is indistinguishable to something that does not exist.


Questioning my current beliefs

I've realised recently that questioning my current position isn't the same as giving the supernatural any kind of consideration. When I first deconverted, I would tell my friends that I was a seeker, and I did a lot of reading across the board, from atheist books to apologetics to Hindu writings. But there are thousands of gods, from Apollo to Vishnu to Yahweh to Zeus. Maybe one of these gods exist, but it would be near impossible to research every single one in the hope that I would find the truth. I then realised that it's not up to me to find God (if he/she exists); it is up to those who claim that a specific god exists to make a strong case. In other words, the burden is no longer on me to try and find something; the burden is on those making the claim of existence to show me that something is actually there.

26 comments:

mrs. chinncredible said...

EXCELLENT point there at the end! i know you've faced a lot of negativity, but i am in a journey very similar to yours and i appreciate your thoughts so much. keep them coming. :]

Cobus said...

With regards to your second point, it must be notes that the exact same argument has been used the other way around as well: theologians has made the claim that since being religious has been the dominant stance all over history, and continue to be today, it is up to atheists to provide prove for the non-existence of god.

Although I won't use your argument concerning the different gods, since I consider this to be a somewhat naive view of the relation between religions, I would say that the argument can be turned around to say that atheists would have the task to disprove the different types of religious worldviews (different understandings rather than different names for god).

However, I don't think this line is helping us at all. Somehow we will have to find a different approach where constructive participants working towards a common worldview (although still a worldview in tension) can be in critical discussion, rather than putting the task on the "other group" to prove or disprove whatever.

CyberKitten said...

Corbus - Life is far too short to spend it actively *disproving* every random religious idea.

Also - if you really want to go down that particular road doesn't it also place an onus on all believers to *disprove* everyone else's belief structures in the same way you're saying that atheists need to?

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Cobus

Hope you are well.

Point 2 above does not only include gods; it includes all types of claims made about reality. It includes the person who claims that he visited another planet in a UFO; it includes those who believe a prehistoric dinosaur lives in the depths of Loch Ness; it includes the pamphlets I’m given on the side of the road that claim a cure to HIV/Aids; it includes the car salesman who says that his business is certified by a regulatory body; it includes the person applying for a job who claims that he did a Masters degree at Oxford University.

All the above individuals make claims about reality. It doesn’t make sense that the onus should be on me to try and prove (or disprove) all these, and all other, claims. There simply isn’t enough time, energy or recourses to do so. A better option (and this is generally what we do in everyday life) is to place the burden of proof on the person making the claim. It is up to the Loch Ness believer to provide a specimen; healers to provide the results of clinical trials for an HIV/Aids cure; and for the job applicant to provide certified documents.

If someone makes a claim, and they cannot verify that claim, then it would be silly, and sometimes even dangerous, for us to accept the claim or to act upon it (by spending money on a new car or taking on an untested medical cure) I don’t understand why religious claims should be exempt from this same kind of careful thinking.

Cobus wrote
theologians has made the claim that since being religious has been the dominant stance all over history

I could be wrong, but is this not an argument from popularity?

Cobus wrote
atheists to provide prove for the non-existence of god.

Only if an atheist claims that God does not exist. But I’ve never said with certainty that God does not exist. Rather, my position is that I'm simply not yet convinced by the arguments and evidence that theists have put forward for their claim that god exists. In other words, I’m not certain if God exists or not; I don’t know. But theists claim that they do know, and they want to convince me. So it is up to them to provide evidence for their position.

In other words, I’m not selling anything; rather, I’m simply not buying what theists are selling.

Sorry for the long comment!

CyberKitten said...

Nicely put Kevin.

Shirley said...

Not sure why all the confusion over God or no God. To believe in Him means to believe you get to believe whatever you want to believe ... or not to believe. Just as He doesn't pressure anyone to believe in Him, neither should we who do believe pressure anyone.

It is really quite simple: to not believe in God, is to believe that death is the end to life ... or, to believe in reincarnation. To believe in God AND to live as He calls us to live, is to believe that death is only the beginning to life that never ends.

The saddest thing of all this "believing or not believing" is that Bill Maher who is doing his best to "sell" atheism ... is correct when he says, "most Christians just want to get their butts saved." If those of us who believe, would actually start living our lives as though we truly were created in the image of God, there wouldn't be so many people like yourself who simply decide to deny His existence. If we believers lived as God called us to live, you wouldn't see so many of us struggling with doubt, depression, debt, divorce, diet; same as non-believers struggle with ... not because we are not handed the same things, but because we have a hope and a trust that carries us through the toughest times of our lives.

It really isn't our business to convert or convince you; it is our business to live in such a way that you see something in us you want for yourself ... and if we are not doing that, then we have a belief in God that makes us nothing more than hypocrites which is a huge turn off to people like you. I am sorry you don't know the God (my God) who took a person like myself with a hard/angry heart and changed me into someone who can freely love and is lovable and able to forgive others ... and I am even more sorry that so many in the Church won't allow Him to do the same to them. It is why He created us, and we (the Church) have turned it into religion that divides us all ... "just to get our butts saved." What a shame.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Shirley

I really appreciate your comment, and I have a deep sense of respect for your story and the way you were deeply changed into someone who can, in your words, “freely love and is lovable and able to forgive others.” In this one sentence, you describe the type of Christianity I would have chosen, without a second thought, if my journey had turned out slightly differently. Thank you for sharing this.

But one of the things that I’ve realized is that my unbelief is not based on how other Christians behave. Sure, in the beginning I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy that I blatantly saw in some Christian circles and no doubt this probably was one of the catalysts that started off my initial questioning. But the truth of the matter is that, over the years, I’ve met really wonderful Christians (I have many as friends) and really awful Christians; but I’ve also met wonderful atheists as well as awful atheists. In other words, the ‘goodness’ of a person, and their ability to handle life’s struggles, doesn’t seem (in my own limited experience, at least) to depend on their belief in a specific god, or on whether they believe at all. Being a good person does not really, for me at least, indicate anything special about Christianity; rather it indicates something special about the individual.

Secondly, even if all Christians suddenly changed into wonderful human beings tomorrow, this would not prompt me to give Christianity any additional consideration, because my unbelief is not a result of Christian hypocrisy, but rather based on the fact that many of the claims of Christianity have not been adequately demonstrated.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Shirley said...

I appreciate your response to me. I want to go back to your comment ... "I then realised it's not up to me to find God (if he/she exists); it is up to those who claim that a specific god exists to make a strong case. In other words, the burden is no longer on me to try and find something; the burden is on those making the claim of existence to show me that something is actually there."

When is the burden to know anything for sure, not my own responsibility? I chose to become a parent, because that is what I wanted for myself, and it turned out to be life-changing because in parenting, you learn who you really are as a person (and it isn't pretty)! I believe in being a parent because of all the fulfillment/reward and personal growth that comes with it, but it isn't my burden to convince anyone else they should be a parent.

Parenting is a whole lot like believing in God; you either choose to or you don't, but you don't do either based on someone else providing "proof" that it is what you should do. Parenting was/is such a fulfilling/rewarding thing for me that I want to share it with others and I do, but I cannot prove that parenting will be fulfilling and rewarding for everyone else. You have to know me and know my now adult kids in order to have proof that parenting brings a fullness & reward to life.

Believing in God and knowing that following His will for me brings with it not only a promise of life after death, but also wisdom and clear understanding of things such as say, ... parenting while on earth ... well, I'd rather have Someone whose guidance will direct me in the right way, instead of relying on only what I know. Relying on myself when I chose to parent would have resulted in raising my kids the only way I knew --- the way I was raised.

There are people who believe in God and who are lousy parents. There are people who believe in God who are lousy spouses. There are people who believe in God and are lousy preachers. And you're right, there are people who are atheists and who are wonderful people (as well as lousy ones). That's why He gave us a free will to make our own choices in life. If we look to people for proof, we will get opinions. I did this for a long time until I realized there isn't a person on earth with all the answers. I still look at people and I still listen/learn from people, but God's Word promises me a fulfilled life on earth and an even better life at death. Either way, it is a win/win situation for me. But the burden of proof is on me, not you.

Georg said...

Bonjour Kevin,

Religion does not say much about god - because such an entity does not exist - but a lot about the people who created those phantasies.

If you consider that our very existence and the fate we are having during our life is nothing but chance, it is easy to understand that at all times people tried to squeeze this most unsatisfactory situation into a god system that conveys some sens and meaning.

Georg

Steve Hayes said...

Kevin,

I don't think the onus is on me to convince you of the existence of sky pixies, pink unicorns, invisible friends, flying spaghetti monsters monsters or whatever other deities atheists currently don't believe in.

Nor do I think the onus is on you to disprove the existence of any of these, or anything else.

All I can do is tell you, if you are interested, is what I believe and why I believe it. But you'll need to ask, if you are interested, because I don't want to bore you with things that don't interest you.

The problem with all these things -- sky pixies etc -- is that they have no explanatory value of reality as I experience it. And we have no direct knowledge of "reality", whatever that may be. We only have our experience of it, and your experience is different from mine.

I've read in your blog about what you don't believe, but I know next to nothing of what you experienced when you were a Christian, or what explanatory value your former Christian faith had for you.

For me, a lot of it was expressed in a song by The Byrds:

As through this life you travel
You meet some funny men
Some rob you with a six-gun
And some with a faountain pen

As through this life you travel
As through this life you roam
You'll never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

The song was about Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw, a bank robber. And he robbed banks with a six gun, and was pursued by the authorities and he died in a hail of bullets from the police. But the authorities do not pursue the bankers who forelose mortgages and drive families from their homes. Instead they bail them out with billions.

And during the apartheid period I saw how the "authorities" drove people from their homes in the ethnic cleansing that was at the core of apartheid ideology. And when St Paul wrote that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against "rulers and authorities" (Eph 6:10-12)it seemed to me that his "authorities" have better explanatory value than "sky pixies" or "flying spaghetti monsters", and the explanations of my secular humanist friends were equally unconvincing. If one believed them, then of course the "authorities" were simply flesh and blood, and the solution would be to provide the Pretty Boy Floyds of this world with more fire power, and Al Qaeda is the answer to everything, because (in spite of their claimed religious beliefs) their behaviour is essentially nihilist and materialist.

But I said I didn't want to bore you with this stuff, so I'll say no more.

Allegra said...

Hello Kevin

I've been following your blog for about a year now, on and off. In general, I'd like to say that I'm consistently amazed by you and your journey. Particularly because you seem so at peace with where you are, and mostly because you never seem to express anger or frustration in your articles, towards Christians and Christianity, or to anyone who comments on your articles. I've been on a similar journey for the past four years or so, and I can't always say that I lack anger and frustration in all of my dealings with things Christian and religious.

So, just wanted to say thanks for being such an earnest inspiration.

In response to this article, I wanted to adress your first point. I am (usually) of the feeling that mild doubt in anything one believes is always healthy because it prevents one from stagnating. No matter what the belief is, it's easy for anyone who gets overconfident in their belief to start acting irrationally. A mild doubt in one's beliefs ensures a searching, questioning mind and a dynamic, ever-evolving belief.

I suppose this leads us to the question of ultimate truth. It's easier for people who believe in some sort of ultimate truth to form a solid, stagnant belief because, when they come across something good, they believe they've found "it".

People who do not believe in some sort of ultimate truth (I suppose these are people whose beleifs are relative to the age, the cultural and intellectual context etc.) will deliberately "evolve" their beliefs on an almost daily basis, always taking into account new evidence.

I am tempted to say that this dynamic aspect of any form of belief is crucial for everybody involved. It is a rigid clinging to some sort of "it" that I believe has caused religious wars etc of the past.

So, couldn't it be that experiencing a mild form of doubt in one's own beliefs (no matter what they are) is healthy for the individual as well as for everybody else?

Let me know what you think. :)

Sadie Lou said...

You have two dogs. You train them to fight by fighting them against one another. You feed one more than you feed the other. The one you feed more gets solid food, the one you feed less gets milk. Eventually, the one you feed more will kill the dog you feed less. It's as simple as that. It doesn't prove or disprove anything other than whatever you feed, in your life, is stronger than what you don't feed. Faith or Not Faith.

BC500 said...

Kevin, I agree that few people have the time to check out all possible belief systems and there is no way an individual has enough time to do that. I started with the ones with the biggest number of adherents and worked my way down. I figure the really small belief systems do not pass the truth test, or they would have more believers in them. Of course it is the evidence that matters.

While I believe the evidence is best for Jesus Christ I now am always interested in anyone who can disproved the Bible or the claims of Jesus Christ. The best refuter of our times is Bart Ehrman, a college professor. I have attended three debates and watched Bart do an excellent job in attacking Christianity. I noted all his claims and closely checked them each out and all his arguments a fell apart.

If you are hoping for someone to provide a 100% absolute, concrete, undeniable proof for the existence of God, you won’t get that in this life. When you do get that proof, it will be too late.

The real problem is that while you have decided to wait on others, your person clock is running down. While God offers you sufficient opportunity He will not give you an eternity of opportunities. The point is, if you make the wrong decision then you will have an eternity to regret it. If you are right, and there is no God, no one, including you, will ever know.

BC500 said...

Kevin, Your statement on the winning out of the physical world has me baffled.

Since the super natural exists outside of the natural, then logically, one would not expect anything limited to the natural world (like science) be able to detect anything in the supernatural world.

Here is a similar situation. If you are in a hole which is full of untreated natural gas you could easily deny the existence of that gas because you cannot see, smell or taste it. If you light a match you would never find out how much was there, as you were consumed by the blast. Fortunately, the gas company odorizes it so we can smell it.

Beside there are many things we accept that are outside the ability of science to prove, i.e. Love and Logic. There is no way we can use the scientific method to prove that someone loves another. Logic tells us that there are absolutely no square circles. Don’t get me wrong, we need science and it helps us a lot. It works pretty well in the realm of facts but not so well with truth.

Is God invisible and unverifiable because He is not there, or because you lack the ability or sensitivity to perceive His existence?

Kevin Parry said...

Allegra wrote
So, couldn't it be that experiencing a mild form of doubt in one's own beliefs (no matter what they are) is healthy for the individual as well as for everybody else?.

I share this point of view wholeheartedly! It’s not that I’m leaving healthy skepticism behind here. Rather, the point that I’m making in this post is that I’ve reached a stage where I no longer have the time, resources and energy to devote to searching for some kind of truth behind supernatural claims. After a decade of reading, writing and thinking about the philosophy of religion, I’m now leaving it up to the theist to do the research, to gather the facts, and to present a case for the supernatural. I will always be open to the fact that my beliefs could be wrong, because I will always be available to listen, and to consider, the theist’s case when they come forward to present it.

Kevin Parry said...

BC500 wrote
I figure the really small belief systems do not pass the truth test, or they would have more believers in them

It’s good to hear from you again, BC500! Unfortunately, the truth of a claim cannot be measured by the number of people who believe in it. To say such a thing would be committing a logical fallacy known as the argument from popularity. To clarify with an example: before Copernicus, most people believed that the sun revolved around the earth. If I were living in that time, would it be correct for me to conclude that the sun indeed revolves around the earth, because that is what everyone else believes?

BC500 wrote
While I believe the evidence is best for Jesus Christ I now am always interested in anyone who can disproved the Bible or the claims of Jesus Christ.

The onus isn’t on anyone to disprove Christianity. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim, in this case, the Christian. I don’t worry much about what Bart Ehrman has to say; what is important to me is whether the Christian can demonstrate the truthfulness of the claims that she/he makes.

BC500 wrote
The point is, if you make the wrong decision then you will have an eternity to regret it?

I’ve never understood why a God of love would use fear and threats to get people to love him. But hell no longer bothers me in the least because there is no reason for me to believe that it exists.

BC500 wrote
Since the super natural exists outside of the natural, then logically, one would not expect anything limited to the natural world (like science) be able to detect anything in the supernatural world.

But many Christians claim that the God of the Bible, who is by definition supernatural, has interacted – and still interacts (eg, by answering prayer) – with the natural world. True, science cannot, by definition, have anything to say about the supernatural, but the moment you claim that the supernatural *interacts* with the natural, science can then enter the picture to test you claim. Would you agree?

BC500 wrote
Here is a similar situation. If you are in a hole which is full of untreated natural gas you could easily deny the existence of that gas because you cannot see, smell or taste it

Your analogy is shaky, because we have instruments that can identify different types of gasses, even the ones we can’t see or smell. I’m not aware of an instrument that can be used to detect demons and angels.

BC500 wrote
Beside there are many things we accept that are outside the ability of science to prove, i.e. Love and Logic

But even if we can’t ‘prove’ love scientifically (and I believe science has a lot to say about love), it would have no bearing on whether a supernatural God exists or not. To rephrase your argument: “there exists one thing (i.e., love) whose existence can’t be proved; therefore, God, whose existence can’t be proved, exists”. This doesn’t make any sense to me.

BC500 wrote
Is God invisible and unverifiable because He is not there, or because you lack the ability or sensitivity to perceive His existence?

If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you the same thing: is Allah unverifiable to you, BC500, because he is not there, or because you lack the ability or sensitivity to perceive Allah’s existence? I would like to know your answer.

Thanks again for popping by, BC500. I really appreciate and value your input.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi BC500

Sorry, I have one more comment on the argument from popularity. If you claim that the truth of a religion can be measured by the number of people who believe in it, then you have to admit that – when Jesus walked the earth – the gods of the Roman pantheon were true, and Christianity was false, because when Jesus started his ministry he only had 12 followers, whereas the Roman pantheon had thousands of believers.

BC500 said...

Kevin, To save space I will not repeat our statements but reply mostly in order none the less.

I am not making a claim from popularity, but using a lack of popularity, as an initial test point to rule out early investigation. I totally agree, popularity does not make something true.

Well you may not be interested in the claims of people who try to disprove Christianity but I am.
Is that because we are on the opposite sides of the issue?

The God of the Bible is not a being of a single attribute, so to frame Him as just the God of Love is an incorrect perception. He is also a God of Justice. I find it interesting that you perceived fear from my statement. God is completely fair. If you choose to reject God, and His love, then you would not be happy spending eternity with him in Heaven. God does not send you; you decide where you go after death by the choices you make in this life.

Just because God is interacting with humans, in the physical universe, would not automatically make Him detectible by Science. My point is that it is illogical to say that God cannot exist because science cannot detect him. We accept the existence of other “things” Science cannot detect, (i.e. logic, love, etc.). We obviously have other evidence to show us that God exists.

The key word in the natural gas analogy is “untreated”. The gas company treats it with a nasty perfume so we can smell it. The point is that just because we cannot sense something, with our normal six senses, does not automatically mean that it does not exist.

It feels like you are using a straw man argument, by putting words in my mouth, to mischaracterize my meaning, but I am sure that was not your intent. Let me fix my words for you, “there exists some things (i.e., love, God, etc.) whose existence can’t be proven scientifically; therefore, we must look to other evidence that shows existence of these things”. Does that make more sense?

I think you are asking the wrong question. But since you asked, in my investigation of the evidence, I have found that Allah is an inaccurate representation of the God of the Bible.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi BC 500

Thank you so much for your reply. I must concede that I did indeed put words into your mouth by assuming, and thus misrepresenting, your argument on love and logic. This was my mistake, and I apologise. I want to thank you for calling me out on this, and in future I will ask first for clarity before I assume what you are arguing.

With regards to your popularity argument: you yourself concede that one cannot use popularity (or, un-popularity) as a measure of truth, but you still say that you use it to rule something out during early investigation. How can you rule out something (ie, make an early call on its ‘truthfulness’) by using a tool that can’t be used to measure truth at all?

The point is that just because we cannot sense something, with our normal six senses, does not automatically mean that it does not exist.

Does that mean that you ‘sense’ God outside your five senses? If so, what you do you use to sense him.

But since you asked, in my investigation of the evidence, I have found that Allah is an inaccurate representation of the God of the Bible.

I hope you don't mind me asking: why do you believe in God, and what are your reasons for believing that the Bible is true?

Erin said...

Kevin Parry said...

"I’ve reached a stage where I no longer have the time, resources and energy to devote to searching for some kind of truth behind supernatural claims."


FORMERLY ALLEGRA

I've also reached this point, but I'm so tightly integrated with my Christian community that I can't leave it. It would amputate a huge part of my life.

I don't know whether I'm looking for excuses, but I'm trying to consider that there's no truth behind supernatural claims - other than group hysteria, supersticion and "the power of the mind" - but that this doesn't mean 'God' isn't out there. What if he's just so unlike anything we can comprehend, (so un-human-like) and doesn't involve himself in our daily lives in the way we've always imagined?

I still go to church and put my "translation" babel fish into my ears and try to take lessons from the sermons in ways that they can be useful to me in the way I currently do (or don't) understand God. It often doesn't work and I get hell of a frustrated, but sometimes it does and I feel better.

I guess you couldn't really say much in response to this "monologue", and I'm really wondering whether I'm just in denial. The level to which I just don't care anymore is frightening to me, and I often find myself thinking in default from an already "Atheist" perspective.

I don't really want to be atheist, but it seems almost like gravity at this point. I used to be pissed off and angry with Christians and that feuled my "alternative" expedition, but these days I'm finding the unplausability of it rather hard to deny.

All my friends say that I shouldn't be so hasty to categorise myself and I can still be "Christian", even under my current views. It's just that, when you find your mindset already, inevitably changed - even against your own will - maybe then you just know...

Haha - this sounds like such a confession! Maybe you have something to say. or not? It's ok :)

sattler said...

Hi Kevin, interesting post. Your comment, "I finally realised that if something is invisible and unverifiable, it is indistinguishable to something that does not exist" is what stuck in my mind. Much depends on what we might mean by 'unverifiable'. The statement 'I love my wife' isn't scientifically verifiable but there is evidence of a sort to back up the claim. Religious truth claims don't enable us to put God in a test tube but again there is evidence 'of a sort'. There are lots of questions thrown up by your post but one of them is what do we accept as 'practical reason' - i.e. the kind that we use every day that falls somewhere between the utterly preposterous and the absolutely verifiable?

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Sattler

Thank you for your comment. You mention that there is evidence 'of a sort' for God and religion. I think BC500 was also alluding to this. Can you describe this evidence?

I agree with you that the word ‘unverifiable’ is key here. What kind of verification have you explored that convinced you that demons and angels, as well as God, actually exist?

You also raise a good question on practical reason. One of my earlier posts called 'Living by the rule, rather than the exception' (click here) might provide some answer to your excellent question.

Thanks for popping by!

sattler said...

Hi Kevin, good to be in touch again. Just a minor quibble before answering your question - I didn't mention angels and demons. Is the sequence, 'demons, angels, God' your way of suggesting non-existence by association?

I read your helpful 'Living by the rule' post. You are honest enough to acknowledge that both the atheist and the Christian require a degree of faith with regard external objective reality. Your argument seems to be that there is a difference of degree between atheist and Christian 'faith'. In practice all of us employ kinds of faith (or perhaps practical reason) daily. Every time we sit on a chair, shake hands with a potential business partner or read a text on Julius Caesar this 'faith' comes into play. We trust that the chair will support us without subjecting it each time to complex analysis. Verifiability in that instance is possible, but given time constraints we choose to lower our standards just to make life liveable. 'Evidence' that the potential business partner is honest and reliable rather than a charlatan isn't entirely scientific either. It is as likely to involve intuition, testimony from colleagues, etc. As for Julius Caesar we need to make up our minds on a critical level. What is the value of primary and secondary evidence? What do we make of the claims of contemporaries? Many of your objections to ludicrous metaphysics I entirely agree with; but that makes me a non-conservative Christian and not an atheist. How many dead Canaanites does it take before God becomes god? Meister Eckhart was right: 'God rid me of God'. Faith doesn't belong Christians or atheists - it's part of the magic and fraility of being human.

As for verification of God, the straight answer to your question is that a God who could be absolutely verified wouldn't be God. Verification 'of a kind' isn't dogmatics but it does consist of historical testimony (literary and oral). I'm as sickened as anyone by the brutal history of butchery and beligerance that has typified Constantinian Christianity but even from a critical reading of the Gospels I'm still a disciple of Jesus. That commitment involves faith but I don't think I'm being unreasonable.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Sattler

Is the sequence, 'demons, angels, God' your way of suggesting non-existence by association?

Thanks for mentioning this. I don’t think I’m in error here; the two are separate claims and I haven’t come across any good reasons to believe in them.

In practice all of us employ kinds of faith

I don’t know if your analogies of chairs and business associates are relevant here. I might have a faith of sorts in a chair’s functionality, or faith in someone’s integrity, but whatever kind of ‘faith’ I employ here, it doesn’t consider their existence.

The Julius Caesar analogy is closer to what we are talking about, I think. But anyone can easily go to any major museum and verify evidence for themselves (e.g., Roman coins bearing Julius Caesar’s face and name).

But the important point is that I understand how a chair works, why it works, how it is made, and when it breaks I go about understanding why it broke. I then use that knowledge to make a better chair. In other words, the entire existence and functionality of a chair is fully based on our understanding and knowledge of how the world works.

But it would only make sense to be a bit more skeptical of claims that are entirely removed from our understanding or run against the grain of our general experience. For example, imagine if someone claimed that their chair floated in midair, that their business associate made it rain money by simply clapping his hands, that Julius Caesar could zap people with a bolt of lightning from his fingers, or that Jesus was born of a virgin and walked on water. The problem with the “leap of faith” in believing in these kinds of claims is that we have no reference or foundational understanding at all of how these things could, even in principle, occur. That is what sets them apart from the everyday kind of claims that we can ignore ‘to make life livable’.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin, have you noticed how a lot of things come in opposites? Love - Hate, Left - Right, Up - Down, Finite - Infinite, Matter - Anti-matter.... Take it as deep as you want... Have you ever thought about mortality? That humans are mortal? What about the immortal? Or is the word there for show?

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Anonymous

Thank you for your comment. Yes, I've thought about mortality a lot. In fact, my current position - until further evidence is forthcoming - is that I'm in fact mortal, and there is no life after death.

'Immortality' is a word, yes. But so is 'dragon'. Just because these words exist doesn't mean that the objects or concepts that they describe exist as well.

Or am I misunderstanding your comment? You are welcome to email me if you have any other thoughts.

All the best
Kevin