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"Andrew, is something so uncontrolable as ones belief in God so frightning to control freaks that you would obsess this way."
I'm not sure how I've "obsessed." If you're asking me why my posts are so long, I try to explain my opinions in as detailed and articulate a way as possible; do you have a problem with this?
"Why does a written form of 'right and wrong' bother progressives so?"
I don't object to a written moral code; I object to the idea that the source of morality is an all-powerful being. If right is right and wrong is wrong simply because God says so, morality is completely arbitrary. If God chose, for example, to make child rape moral, he could do so; the fact that he hasn't is just a coincidence.
This is a serious problem because there is no agreement among religions (or even among sects within religions) as to what God wants. Christians who engaged in the Crusades, for example, believed that God wanted them to rape and murder Muslims. If we posit God as the source of morality, anything can be moral as long as your particular conception of God agrees with it.
Secular moral codes, on the other hand, tend to be more consistent, at least when it comes to the basics. They define behavior as immoral if it is bad for society and/or if it cannot be part of a universal principle. Under these definitions, rape, murder, and theft are immoral in pretty much every circumstance.
8) You use complexity as evidence for intelligent design, but this is absurd past all endurance. As I explained, a designer makes something as simple as possible, trying not to produce any complexities and interdependencies that are not absolutely necessary. Yet the human body has many of these complexities. Humans, for example, use the same tube to breathe and to eat, increasing the risk of suffocation; if the human body were designed, the designer would presumably make a separate tube for each purpose in order to make the final product more functional. Thus the complexity of the human body is, if anything, an argument against the existence of God.
You responded to this argument by claiming that Microsoft is designed, yet is indeed quite complex. Thus something can be designed but still be complex. This is true, but misses the point. I was not saying that nothing designed can be complex; what I was saying is that the kind of complexities present in the human body would not have been designed. The tube for breathing and eating, for example, is an easily fixed design-- just add another tube! Perhaps you'll claim that God had some special plan that involved making humans more likely to choke. But even if this is true, the fact that it needs a complicated explanation makes it unlikely. Thus though it is still possible that God exists, the complexity of the human body makes it unlikely.
Thank you for an enjoyable and enlightening debate. May you and I both find enlightenment!
7) You never really responded to the "inconsistent revelations" argument. I'll rehash it: there are so many religions around the world. Some cultures believe in God while others do not, and even those who do have wildly different concepts of God. If there really were a God (or, for that matter, a pantheon of gods), we would expect to find the same religion everywhere. There may be other religions competing with it, but we would expect to find one religion everywhere. After all, if God is all-powerful, why wouldn't he make himself available to everyone? Yet there was nothing like Christianity in the Aztec world, nothing like Buddhism in the Kalahari, and nothing like the ancient Greek religion in Japan. Thus, it is unlikely that there is a God.
You tried to turn this argument around, claiming that since religion is universal, there must be something to religion. But this argument is specious for two reasons. First, it does not in any way demonstrate the existence of God. Though it is (weak) evidence of the existence of the supernatural to say that all cultures believe in the supernatural, not all cultures believe in God. Many religions (such as Buddhism) believe in the supernatural but not in God or gods. Thus even if it is an argument for the supernatural, it is still a powerful argument against the existence of God.
Second, though it is an argument for the supernatural, it's a very weak argument. Yes, all cultures have religions and believe in something of the supernatural, but this could easily be explained as some sort of psychological need. Simply posit that humans are used to authority. Authority appears in all human societies; simply assume that people saw this authority, and believed that authority was the way of the universe. Thus each culture invents its own concept of ultimate, universal authority, and that authority is the supernatural. Thus humans believe in the supernatural universally not because the supernatural is real, but because they have a tendency to follow authority, and the supernatural fulfills this tendency.
5) The existence of free will is actually an argument against the existence of God, or at least of the Christian God. Though there is no naturalistic explanation for the existence of free will, there is nothing in naturalism that proves that free will can't exist; thus from a naturalistic perspective, one can believe in free will, but not understand how it exists. By contrast, if the Christian God is real, free will certainly does not exist. The Christian God is said to be omniscient, infallibly knowing everything from the past, present, or future. But if God knows everything that will happen in the future, there is no free will. If God infallibly knows everything I will do tomorrow, then by definition, I cannot do anything tomorrow other than what God has foreseen. If I cannot do anything but a list of specific actions, then by definition, I do not have free will.
Your response to this argument was to say that you can anticipate some of the arguments, but that doesn't rob me of your free will. But this is a specious comparison. Your assumptions are fallible; I am certainly capable of surprising you. You may infer that I will use certain arguments, but you do not know for a fact that I will use them. By contrast, your God is said to have infallible knowledge of the future. If he existed, he would know exactly what I would be doing at any given time. It is that perfect knowledge that takes away my free will.
You also posted a video by William Lane Craig, but his argument was even more specious than yours (which, may I say, is quite an accomplishment). Craig says that God's knowledge of the future is like "an infallible barometer." But a barometer measures the weather, which, unless you believe in Aeolus, does not have free will. Thus this comparison is at best completely nonsensical, and at worst confirms my point: that if the Christian God is real, there is no free will.
6) I did, in fact, respond to your "first cause" argument. I pointed out that it is a red herring. The problem of the "first cause" is an interstice metaphysical problem, but it is not in any way an argument for God, because if everything that exists requires a first cause, then God would require a first cause as well. You can't simply claim that God is exempt from the need for a first cause, because if there are exemptions, why not simply exempt the universe? Thus regardless of whether we believe in God, the "first cause" dilemma is still a problem.
4) Most of your claims revolve around some variation on "we can't explain where such-and-such comes from, therefore God must have created it." This is essentially your argument regarding order in the cosmos, the human genome, free will, and morality, amount other topics.
In some cases, of course, you're simply flat-out wrong: for example, the theory of evolution explains very well how the human genome originated, while philosophy explains the source of morality. But even for those things that are unexplained, it does not follow that God created them. Just because we don't currently have a philosophical or scientific explanation for the origin of life does not mean that the only explanation is God; on the contrary, it could be that a scientific or philosophical explanation exists, but we just haven't found it yet.
You may claim that it is unfair to assume that we will find a secular, rather than divine, explanation, but remember, the tide of history is against God. There have been many examples of things that are attributed to divine power, but were later successfully explained by historical analysis, philosophy, and/or science (for example, mental illness). Conversely, there are no documented examples of anything being explained by naturalistic explanations that were later discovered to be the result of divine power. Thus it is far more reasonable to assume that there will be a naturalistic explanation for, for example, the origin of life than to assume that it is the result of divine power.
1) You claim that I "offer[ed] no evidence for the non-existence of God," but this is a blatant lie. I offered two points against the existence of any god or gods and two points against the existence of the Christian God specifically. I will briefly rehash those here: a) If there is a God, why are there no religions that are consistent among cultures; b) God is on the losing side of history; c) The Christian God is said to be all-knowing and all-powerful, but if God is all-knowing, there is no free will. If there is no free will, it is impossible to be "powerful" in any meaningful sense; God would simply be an automaton, and would operate the same way gravity of plate tectonics operate (i.e.- without a will); d) The Christian God is said to exist outside of time, but also makes decisions, yet decisions are necessarily made within time. Either the Christian God does not make decisions, and is thus not a personal being and not a god, or he exists within time and is subject to it.
We more or less addressed arguments a-c, but you did not in any way respond to argument d. It is, however, absolutely essential to the argument over the Christian God. Without time, decisions are impossible. To make a decision, it is necessary that there is a point in time in which I do not know what I am going to do, and then later that changes. Either God does not make decisions (and is thus an automaton), or he exists within time. You completely ignored this point, and thus I can only assume that you have no response to it.
Your claim that I "offer[ed] no evidence for the non-existence of God" is manifestly false, and makes a mockery of this debate. You should be ashamed.
2) You continue to misunderstand my position on materialism vs the supernatural, but I will take the fall for this as I realize I have not explained it very well. This is how I see it: I am tentatively a materialist, but I am by no means certain of materialism, and am open to the possibility that the spiritual/supernatural may exist. The evidence against the existence of the immaterial is much weaker than the evidence against the existence of God specifically, so while I am a very vehement atheist, I'm much less certain of a materialist.
3) Though I admit I've been flaky about the "materialism vs supernatural" issue, I did make one thing very clear: the existence of the supernatural does not equal the existence of God. Even if we grant that some spiritual force exists, it does not follow that it is a sentient, personal being; it could just as easily be an impersonal force, something that operates without thinking or making decisions.
"the empty tomb is historical"
Again, if the Apostles were lying, they could have bribed someone to open and empty the tomb. Thus the argument comes back to whether the Apostles could have been lying; you cannot use the empty tomb as separate evidence. I have demonstrated that the Apostles very well could have been lying.
Your example of Paul is completely pointless. Paul did not see the risen Jesus; rather, he saw a vision of Jesus long after Jesus had supposedly risen into heaven. As far as I can tell, he never even saw the empty tomb; he wasn't in Jerusalem when he had the vision. His testimony is not relevant here.
As far as James, do you have any historical evidence outside of Christian scripture that he was a skeptic? The Apostles wrote scripture, so if they were lying about the Resurrection, they could easily have lied about James to bolster their claim. Thus, again, it comes back to whether the Apostles were lying; James' conversion is not a separate argument. This would only change if there were a separate record proving that James was a skeptic. But how could there be? It's not as if the Romans or the Sanhedrin kept detailed records of every individual's religious opinions; governments can't even do this today. Unless there is some separate evidence of James' initial unbelief, this could easily be one of the Apostles' lies.
Okay, I'm going to respond to the "empty tomb" bit and that list my final statement afterward.
"there is 'no documentation or scientific evidence' to show that anyone has ever died for something they know is a lie."
But there is! Gandhi suffered and died for something he knew was a lie. Gandhi clearly did not believe in nonviolence, yet he was willing to die for it! If Gandhi could do it, the Apostles could do it as well.
"biological impossibility, again. Materialism is the ultimate reality in your thinking it seems"
Not at all; I simply believe that biology should be taken seriously. I assume that you take biology seriously as well; if not, I assume you don't go to a doctor or a dentist or take any medicine. I'm not saying that if biology says something is impossible, it absolutely cannot happen; what I am saying, in fact, is that if biology says something is impossible, there is a very high burden of proof that must be met before we believe it is possible. The Apostles testimony simply does not meet this burden of proof. It is entirely possible that they were lying, and this is more likely than that a dead body actually came back to life.
I must stress again, the fact that the Apostles died for their beliefs does not demonstrate that they were telling the truth. Remember Gandhi: nonviolence was central to his preaching, yet he clearly did not believe in total nonviolence. Yet he was willing to die for his principles. Thus there is documented historical evidence of people's dying for beliefs they know are untrue; there is no evidence of dead bodies coming back to life. It is more likely that the Apostles were lying.
And no, it's not a "circular" argument. If I saw direct evidence of the dead coming back to life, I would have no choice but to disregard modern biology. But the Apostles' testimony is not direct evidence. Given the choice between the Apostles' word and everything we know about biology, I will pick biology.
"Your argument against the resurrection is also myopic and arrogant... [because] you would expect everyone to believe it as true if you ("we") saw it, but deny the disciples that same privilege as if your eyewitness testimony were more reliable than theirs."
On the contrary, if I saw a dead body come back to life, I would not expect anyone to believe it on my testimony alone. I would have to give them direct evidence of it. Photos, video tapes, and biomedical data would constitute direct evidence. If I could show other people that data, I would expect them to believe me, but I would never insist on such a claim without such evidence.
The Apostles, of course, did not take photos, films, or biomedical examinations because none of that technology existed at the time. We have only their word, and as I've said many times, if it's their word against everything we know about biology, the only rational choice is to believe biology. They could easily have been lying, just as Gandhi was lying.
Both history and biology contradict the "empty tomb" theory. There is no record in history of a dead man coming back to life, and our biology tells us that once you are completely dead (as Jesus would have been had he been crucified and then left for three days), you stay dead. Thus as far as we can know anything about our world, the resurrection of the dead is impossible. Perhaps some day we will realize that our science is wrong, and that bodies can come back from the dead, but until that day, we have to conclude that the resurrection of the dead is impossible.
By contrast, it is not impossible that people might be willing to die for a creed that they know is partially untrue. There is certainly no philosophical or scientific law that prevents them from doing this, and it has happened in history (again, think of Gandhi).
Thus given a choice between believing in the Resurrection and believing that the Apostles were lying, the only rational choice, based on history, science, and the human experience, is to believe that the Apostles were lying.
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