Why We Lie

I was talking to a friend earlier today, and I asked him if he was watching the show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” tonight.  He replied, “No, I’ve only seen one or two episodes.”  I didn’t mean to call him on his bs, but I quickly correct him and told him that the first episode of the show was coming on tonight for the first time.  He backtracked and said, “Oh I must have been thinking of something else.”

He could’ve been telling the truth there except for one thing.  I know that I do this sort of thing all the time.  When someone asks me if I’ve heard of something, or seen a show or classic movie, or heard some popular band.  My impulse is to be hip, and in the loop by pretending that I know exactly what they are talking about, regardless if I actually do.  What is this impulse?

It’s harmless, of course.  Telling someone that you’ve seen Scarface when you haven’t hardly matters.  It might hurt your credibility when discovered, but not much.  We all understand this impulse.

I am reminded of another friend once who was chiding his friend for having never seen The Godfather movies.  When asked what they were about, my friend said he also had never seen them.  It was peculiar.

Another funny scenario I am reminded of is the numerous times I’ve been watching a movie and some punchline will get played.  Everyone in the theater laughs and I didn’t get the joke or didn’t hear it, but I laugh anyways.  My friend leans over quietly to me and says, “I didn’t get it, what was so funny.”  I’m caught off guard. “I don’t know,” I say.  It’s so silly.

Again, these are harmless lies.  But why?  I think we have a need to be “in the know” and “on top of things”.  Whether we know it or not, we value the opinions of others highly.  We don’t want to be the one guy in the room who didn’t get the joke, or can’t see the magic eye illusion.  Being the 1/10 dentists that didn’t recommend a brand of toothpaste kind of scares us.

We live in a society where the majority rules, and the majority is often right on things.  If we’re confused, we’re prone to just play along and go with the flow rather than risk being the odd man out.

I think this contributes to a lot of religious pressure.  For sure there is a lot of pressure directly from others to think, feel, or believe a certain way, but there’s also a lot of internal pressure to not be different.  This is why Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins get laughs making fun of “Christian hand signals”.

This is also why we hear an abundance of the same stereotypical phrases.

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost.  I don’t really have a solution to this problem except that it’s okay to be honest.  It’s okay to have never seen scarface or to have to think about what you’re going to say before you say it.  You can tell people you read this blogpost and didn’t lie about it!

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Part 2 of my Analysis of “Letters from a Skeptic” by Greg and Edward Boyd – Correspondence 1

In my first post on this book, I covered the introduction and opening letter.  Today, I’ll be examining the first correspondence back and forth between Greg and his father.

Part 1 of this book is titled “Questions About God” but the first few questions don’t really deal with God’s existence.  Instead, Edward asks questions about the consistency of reality with attributes of God given to him by theists.  Correspondence 1 is titled “Why has Christianity done so much harm?”

A few things to point out about this before we even get into the question.

1.  This to me points out that Edward is not the “master skeptic” that Greg painted him to be in his introduction.  If your first objection to the existence of God is “Christians are sometimes big meanies” then that shows to me that this is not something you have been thinking or discussing with others a great deal about.  And for a book written in 1994 about events that took places probably not too long before, I understand completely why this is the case.  I believe that in the late 80’s and early 90’s it was probably extremely difficult to have discussions about being a non-believer.  Apologetics, and thus counter apologetics didn’t start getting popular until the age of the internet where people could anonymously discuss their honest opinions about God and religion without being chastised or preached too.

So I am not putting down Greg’s father, or trying to paint him in a negative light.  I’m simply trying to make the point that his skepticism is based on a more personal, common sense approach rather than a rigorous study of the ideas presented.  I completely understand that approach, but Greg is wanting to have a rigorous intelligent rational discussion with his unstudied father, and Greg comes to the table more prepared.

2.  Even people who are well-educated in apologetics take this approach, and I honestly don’t like it.  The idea behind questions like this and more prominently “The Problem of Evil” is to take observable facts in reality, such as “evil exists” and try to contrast them with qualities of God, such as “God would not allow evil to exist.”  The problem with this type of argument is that the nature of reality is not in dispute, and theists won’t likely argue the point about evil existing, but they will change the qualities of God to squeeze their way out of the apparent contradiction, and honestly, there is nothing that a skeptic can do to disprove them on this.

Here’s a quote from a discussion I was having with someone on facebook about these types of claims.

“Let’s use an analogy. My friend Bob believers perfectly moral unicorns exist and also eat babies. The conversation might go something like this:

Me: How can unicorns be moral and eat babies.
Bob: Well unicorns get a special moral juice from the blood of babies, that allows them to be on a higher plane of moral existence.
Me: How could you possibly know that?

As extreme as that may seem, it highlights the ease in which someone can spout off utter bullshit to reconcile an internal inconsistency.

I think that last contention, “how could you possibly know that?” is a question better aimed at the overarching claims of theism concerning the origin of the universe and the supernatural realm than talking about some very specific, non-integral doctrine.”

I just don’t think it’s useful to question the qualities of a being that hasn’t been shown to exist yet.  Show me he exists first, then we can talk about his qualities.  “How could you possibly know that?” is the first question that should be asked of anyone making a claim.

Okay, after that somewhat long introduction, let’s examine the actual correspondence.

Edward shows my first point when he replies to Greg’s invitation with this:

“My belief (or lack of it) is not based too much on any positive position I hold, but rather, on a host of negative ones.  I can find plenty wrong with most religious and political views, but I am not at all firm on what I personally believe — as least not on religious mattes.  I really don’t have a “faith” or “worldview’ of any sort.  I only know for sure what I don’t believe.  Also, unlike you, I’m not a trained philosopher, so if you write to me like you wrote in your dissertation, forget it!  I won’t be able to follow you.  So you’ll have to keep it simple.”

Edward admits that he’s outmatched in philosophy, but also that his lack of belief isn’t really based on positively applying skepticism, but more of a common sense understanding of bad claims.

Edward makes his first two objections to Christianity.  The first is

“…how could an all-powerful and all-loving God allow the church to do so much harm for so long?  Isn’t this supposed to be His true church?  His representation on Earth?”

While this may be a valid question, I admit that it’s a weak objection.  After all, if God exists, the idea of how he feels about the church can be justified in an almost infinite number of ways that I can think of.  The church being bad isn’t a really good reason to not believe a God exists.

His second objection is:

“And it was the church, was it not, that decided which books were ‘divine’ and should constitute the ‘Holy Bible.’ As far as I am concerned , this is itself enough to reject the Bible as a joke.”

I was actually glad this objection came up.  I wish it were his main objection because Biblical inerrancy and divinity is a central tenant to, specifically Christian-based, God belief.  Let’s see how Greg handles these objections.  Bear in mind I am wading through all the pleasantries and such to get to the meat of the argument.

Greg applauds his father’s willingness to interact in this discussion.  He spells out his intentions:

“these beliefs, I argue, are more substantiated, and far more fulfilling, than any other worldview one could hold.  And my goal, quite frankly, is to convince you of the truth of these beliefs and bring you into a relationship with Christ.  I know firsthand the fullness of life, the peace, and the joy that this relationship gives, and I want to share it with you.”

Theists really don’t get how insulting this mindset is.  It boils down to “my life is better than yours, and I want your life to be as good as mine!”

Also, you’ll notice here that Greg has stated his intentions are to convert his father, not to have his beliefs questioned and possibly proven wrong, but only to prove to his dad that he’s been right all along.

Greg’s answer to his father’s first objection is the exactly the type of response I saw coming.

“I don’t think God can be held responsible for what the Catholic Church — or any church, or any religion whatsoever — has done or shall do.”

You know what, I actually agree with him here.  I think his father’s question was weak and unfounded.  If God exists, there’s no reason to believe that he is the God that controls Christians in any way.  But again, I would much rather be arguing about God’s existence in the first place than what qualities he might or might not have.

Greg continues…

“From my perspective, the God whom the Bible talks about, and whom Jesus Christ incarnates, is a God of love, and this entails that He is a God of freedom, for you cannot have love without freedom. We were created with the ability to choose love, and thus with the potential to choose its opposite — evil.”

Again, I see his point.  This might be a plausible view of God, but notice that he qualifies it by saying “from my perspective.”  I could make a strong case against his perspective of the Bible, using the Bible as well.  Yahweh was arguably a violent war-loving God.  But again, who cares?  Why argue about the attributes of God given to us from the Bible, let’s substantiate the Bible as good evidence of God’s attributes first.

Next he addresses the problem of evil:

“To assume that God is responsible for our evil –even the evil committed “in His name” –is, I suspect, to assume that humans are robots who simply act out of divine preplanned program.”

No it’s not.  If the Christian God exists, He ultimately is responsible for our actions.  He created us with his omniscience.  He understood what was going to happen upon our creation.  If God created us, then he is either fully aware of what we were capable of doing, thus ultimately responsible for it, or he created us without knowing of our actions, and thus not omniscient.

Imagine that you and your spouse are going to conceive a child.  Before you do though, you are given absolute knowledge that your child will be a serial killer.  If you go ahead and create that child, you are not just a willing accomplice, you are responsible.

The obvious objection is that “God doesn’t know what we are going to decide to do because he gave us free will.”  Well if God didn’t know something, he’s off the hook, but that also means God isn’t all-knowing.  The two qualities of God, not responsible for our actions and all-knowing, are mutually exclusive.  Theists have to lose one of those beliefs to have a consistent God concept.

The rest of the chapter deals with Greg defining “Christian” and how a church can’t be “Christian”.  This blog is already too long, so I’ll grant him that.  I will point out that he didn’t address his father’s concerns over the formation of Biblical canon, a much more important question in my opinion.  I wonder if his response was edited out.

Thanks for reading!

Skepticism: “I don’t believe in 2870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2869 gods.”

The quote is from Ricky Gervais.  He’s referring to his reply to theists who question his atheism.

“…they are nearly as atheistic as me.”

I have been having more and more conversations with believers now.  I am in the business of trying to challenge ideas.  My ideas, their ideas, all ideas.  Put them on the table and let’s talk about them.  Recently, a pastor friend of mine asked me this question.

“I would ask you the why is disbelief a virtue? What do we benefit from it?”

My response was probably not very convincing, and I am very critical of myself.  I always second guess the way I convey ideas because my goal is to convey them concisely, directly, and clearly.  I don’t think I did a very good job of that.

“Oh we benefit so much from skepticism. Even you, the faithful Christian! Haha. How much trouble have you saved yourself from being skeptical of all God claims. You benefit from being skeptical about Zeus, Buddha, Allah. You benefit by not believing in Santa and fairies and all sorts of things.

The way in which you benefit is that beliefs inform how we behave, so by you not behaving as if these things all exist, you behave more sanely. You act in a way that is more consistent with reality. You behave more rationally. You buy your kids presents because of your skepticism of Santa. Without that, your kids would be pretty upset.”

But I think that this point is a valid one.  We are all skeptical.  We all live in the realm of skepticism to a degree.  It’s because skepticism works, whether we have admitted it or not.  It worms it’s way into our decision making by the very virtue of it’s use.

The default position of non-belief is virtuous because it keeps us from believing every claim that is presented.  There are more ways to be wrong, and therefore more wrong claims that can be made, than there are more ways to be right.  So we should measure claims with a very accurate ruler.

And we see this in reality.  We see that there are many many many contradictory claims, specifically between the different religions, but even within them.  The different sects, and different theologies.  This doesn’t mean that none of them are right, but it does show that a whole lot of them are wrong just on the nature of the claims and the amount of them that contradict.

Theists would have to agree too.  Maybe even more strongly than I feel about it.  They believe so strongly that their God is the one true God that they disbelieve all other God claims on the basis of contradiction alone.

Skepticism makes two basic assumptions that I think are valid:

1.  We exist in a reality with properties.

2.  Our perceptions about this reality are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong.

But there are those that would claim absolute certainty of an idea.  Ideas that don’t have good enough reason to believe in, let alone claim certainty over.  Those that claim certainty of an idea are incorrect.  Not in the idea they believe in, but in the way in which they believe it.  Absolute certainty doesn’t exist, and even the Pope can be wrong about things.

It’s this acceptance that allows us to examine ALL ideas for truth, and consistency within the reality we inhabit.  In my 2nd blogpost I spoke about the nature of truth.

The second point I brought up in my response was that beliefs inform our actions.  What we believe has huge impact on how we behave.  For example, if I believed that Link for the Legend of Zelda was a true story, I might be inclined to take up my sword, go into the woods and try to help him out!  But this is nonsense, and my actions won’t do anything good or useful.

In the same way, religious beliefs that are false have consequences.  Religious beliefs are also extremely influential.  It’s important that we are skeptical of religious claims until they’re proven themselves correct.

This is why I encourage anyone that believes in a God to seriously question your beliefs.  When I was a Christian I believed in doing this to bolster my faith.  It turned me into a stronger skeptic, and someone with a firmer grip on reality, in my opinion.

Be skeptical.

First Personal Post – Birthday and Work

This is more of a personal post that won’t be quite frequent here, but I felt I should give this blog a touch of humanity.  Much of what I focus on is my brain trying to figure stuff out.

This past week was my birthday and I worked pretty much 13 hours out of the day.  I decided to celebrate on the weekends surrounding my birthday instead, and I realized that I really love work.  Not because going and providing a service for someone is necessarily fun or enjoyable.  Sure, you might get a gooey feeling from helping someone out, but it really comes down to one thing for me.

I love money.  And not in the “love of money is the root of all evil” type way.  But I want for my time away from work to be enjoyable, and sometimes it’s just not enjoyable without having some form of entertainment.  Right now I have about 6 books in my queue to read for purely entertainment purposes.  I have about 5 video games that I haven’t even started because I am playing Borderlands 2, and I have tons of TV shows that I have yet to catch up on.  And I love it!

These aren’t all expensive forms of entertainment, but for the first year of my marriage we couldn’t afford these things.  The first year of my marriage both my wife and I made a combined $1300 a month.  We had a $400 rent, utilities were about $150.  We had a car payment that was $200.  We both had cellphones and that bill was about $70 at the time.  We had internet/cable at the house.  It was literally our only form of entertainment for a while.  It was an $80 bill.  So that left us $300 for food for the month.  I don’t understand how we did it.  300/30 days in a month is about 10 dollars a day.  For two people.  To eat for the entire day.  We barely made it.  We couldn’t even afford to spare money to go get icee’s from Burger King.  I remember being so angry at my wife because she constantly wanted dessert and since neither of us had been out on our own, making our own money, it was tough.

We eventually decided that we would rather eat and have emergency money than have cable so we got rid of that for a little while.

So when I say I love money, I don’t mean I love money.  I love the act of getting money so that I don’t have to be in that position anymore.  I have small needs, and I have pretty much everything I want right now except for maybe some guitars and a mixing board.  But that’s about $4000 worth of stuff that won’t really make me happy.  It’s not the buying and using of the money that I love.  It’s getting that check and seeing my hard work paying off for me.

I hope you are enjoying this blog, I have been really busy with work this week and now that I have the weekend off to relax and catch up on all my entertainment I will also be catching up on this blog.  Thanks for reading, and please comment if you like or dislike anything!

Standards of Evidence Part 1: Extraordinary Claims

When examining claims and deciding whether to believe one, there are many things to consider.  Evidence is a must.  You can’t simply assert something without basis and expect it to be believed.  But we do this every day.  When we talk about mundane day to day happening with people, we’re making a lot of claims and we usually take them at face value without scrutinizing them.  Isn’t this believing in stuff without evidence?

No.  We are taking into account the evidence.  We’re just doing it so quickly that we don’t even realize it.  The biggest piece of evidence, and maybe even the only one in a lot of cases is the person’s eyewitness credibility.  Generally, people are pretty truthful.  We are using our previous experience with people as evidence for this.  We’re also using our direct previous experious with the individual we are talking to further build a case for their credibility.

Let me list a few claims you might accept with an extremely small amount of evidence:

  • I ate a ham sandwich today.
  • The dog crapped in my living room yesterday.
  • I am an okay driver.
  • My wife tells me she loves me everyday.

We accept these things with a very small amount of evidence.  These are mundane claims, and are extremely plausible unless I am a habitual liar. Now what about these claims:

  • I ate 4 ham sandwiches today.
  • The dog crapped in the refrigerator yesterday.
  • I hit something in my car every single day.
  • My wife speaks to me in latin every day.

Notice the level of doubt that starts to rise as you read these statements.  Why?  These are all just as plausible as the claims made in the first list, but the fact that these events are uncommon that makes them require a bit more credibility to believe.  It’s not often someone eats 4 ham sandwiches in a day, or that someone is such a bad driver that they literally run into something every day.  When met with claims like this you may even voice your disbelief:

  • “No way!”
  • “How did your dog get in the refrigerator?”
  • “No one is that bad of a driver.”
  • “How did she learn to speak latin?”

This is asking for further evidence to substantiate the wildness of the claims.  While the standard of evidence has gone up with these slightly more extraordinary claims, they haven’t gone beyond reasonable doubt necessarily.  You COULD take some of these claims on the word of the person making the claim alone.

Let’s ramp up the extraordinary nature of the claims one last time:

  • I ate 1000 ham sandwiches today.
  • I own 3 unicorns.
  • My house is made of ice.
  • Aliens are actually blue, not green or grey like.

So obviously these are extremely extraordinary claims.  Someone would have to bring you a lot of evidence before you believed it.  The claims demand it.  Some of these are claims we couldn’t even say they are even plausible.  Some of them we can demonstrate that they aren’t true.

To me, this shows that extraordinary (unlikely, strange, or uncommon) claims require extraordinary  (a large amount) evidence.

A Completely Different Atheist reads “Letters from a Skeptic” by Greg and Edward Boyd – Preface and Invitiation

Some of you may be familiar with Steve Shives series, “An Atheist reads..” where he reads a theological book from an atheist perspective and basically refutes most of the main points.  It’s a great youtube series supplemented by notes, that you can find on his page here:  www.stevelikestocurse.com

My wife recently picked up “Letters from a Skeptic” and I decided that I was interested enough in this type of thing to do this myself. I’m no youtube video maker though so I decided to use my blog to discuss the books ideas.  So without further ado, let’s start with a brief summary of the idea of the book, and then I will jump into the preface and the inviting letter from Greg Boyd.

The book is by noted theologian Gregory Boyd and his father Edward.  It is a collection of correspondences between the two in which Boyd tries to answer his father’s skeptical questions about God and Christianity.  It’s an excellent idea for a book in that atheists and skeptics can find most of their contentions addressed, and theists can find most of the hard questions they are likely to hear from atheists.

In the end, Greg ends up converting his father after 3 years of letters.

I do think the title of the book should have been “Letters to a Skeptic” since Boyd initiates the conversations and subsequent letters, but that may just be nitpicky.  It’s not as if his father went out of his way to say, “hey answer all these questions for me” and then sent him a bunch of letters.  Like I said, that’s just a nitpick.

Onto to the preface.

The book starts out by Greg, who wrote the preface, describing his father as “exceptionally intelligent, intensely skeptical” and “very strong-willed”.  While I do think it’s sweet of the man to compliment his father, I can’t help but get the feeling that all of these complements have an undercurrent of ego riding under them.  “I convinced the most brilliant, hard-headed, intensely skeptical atheist!  Therefore, Christianity is true!” At the very least they reek of pandering.

This is even more odd when later in the book, in the first chapter even, Edward admits to being uneducated in philosophy and not firm in his beliefs.  More on that later.

Greg continues by giving a history of he and his father’s previous discussions and giving us some of his insight into how his father felt about religion.  That he harbored resentment towards church, and never showed openness to the gospels, etc.

He talks about how he felt led to open up the dialogue through letters. “what did I have to lose” he says.

I actually really appreciate Greg’s approach here and his reasoning.  I think opening up a dialogue with people you disagree with, specifically loved ones, can teach you how to be caring and loving while disagreeing with someone.  I think also that it takes some gall to put your belief system up to scrutiny and I actually respect that.

While I appreciate the approach, I don’t appreciate the reason for it.  Dialogue’s shouldn’t be only for convincing other people that you’re right and they are wrong.  It should be open that both sides are capable of being wrong, and that if Greg held a belief that his father showed to be unreasonable or that Greg did not have evidence or reason for believing it, that he would be willing to change or accept that he held it on faith.  I somehow doubt that Greg has this willingness to change when approaching his father with this, or that he has any intention of changing his mind at all.

Later Greg says,

“There, is of course, always a spiritual dimension in an unbeliever’s resistance to the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4), and reasons are never in and of themselves enough to convert an unbelieving heart.”

As an unbeliever, I completely disagree, obviously with the notion of a spiritual dimension, but more importantly to the idea that reasons alone aren’t enough to convince us.  This is utterly ridiculous.  Reasons alone ARE enough to convince someone to believe something.  Reasons are the only method, other than threats, that are enough to compel anyone to do anything.  A lack of reasons is why I became an atheist.  This is an arrogant attitude and implies somehow that unbelievers are ignoring good reason, or are spiritually stunted or possessed in a way that does not allow them to see the truth.  Provide me good reason and I will believe.

Also, Greg says

“This correspondence is an illustration of how the intellectual and spiritual elements of an unbeliever’s resistance to the Gospel can go hand in hand, and how a person can address both of these elements simultaneously”

I wonder how Greg intends to illustrate the spiritual elements of his father’s resistance, and how he addresses those spiritual elements.  I have a feeling that we’re only going to see the intellectual side of things.

The rest of the preface is just explanation of the editing process of the letters, and how editing of the letters he and his father wrote were crucial to making a coherent, clear, organized and thematically consistent book.  Understandable, but one does wonder exactly what might have been removed.  I wonder if anything that made Greg’s arguments appear weak was removed after the conversion of his father?  This is just speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me.  I will give Greg the benefit of the doubt though, and read it as if the letters are intact content-wise.

The last part of the preface is just “thank you’s” so I will move on to the letter from Boyd to his father.  The “Invititation:  To Dad, with Hope”

I don’t have much to say about this that hasn’t already been said in the description of the book and the preface analysis.  It’s a genuine letter to his dad to reach out and offer him a chance to challenge his son’s beliefs and have his son try to field some of the tougher questions of Christianity.

Boyd ends the letter with this:

“Having one’s faith challenged –whatever faith one holds — is always a good thing.  If it can’t “stand the fire,” a faith isn’t worth holding — whether it is Christianity or atheism.”

This is a sentiment that I very much agree with, and it’s pleasant to hear from the side of theism.  Often theists lean on the fact that faith should be unshakable or unmoving, but Boyd offers a view of faith that is potentially “not able to withstand the fire” and “not worth holding.”

I respect this view, and I hope that you do too.  I am not sure if Boyd is just playing lip service to this idea because in the preface he said he was led to “share the Christian faith” with his father.  This is slightly different than opening up the discussion in order for both sides to be tested.  So I am curious as to which one of these is his true motive, or is it possibly a combination of both?  Maybe it changed over the course of the 3 years.  I am not sure at this point, but I bet we will have a better idea of Greg’s motivation once we get into some of his reasoning.

That’s it for now.  Next time I will be dealing with the 1st official section of the book titled “Part 1:  Questions about God.”  Each part is broken down into multiple correspondences about distinct issues.  I am not sure how many of these issues I will be able to tackle per blog post.  It seems like 2 may be the limit, but they are pretty short so we’ll see.

Thanks for reading and please comment, and/or subscribe if you like what you’re reading.

Debate with William Lane Craig

I would like to formally announce myself as an atheist with this blogpost, and I think I have found a very creative way to go about doing so.  I have studied the arguments for and against God for the better part of 12 years, and I feel like I have a good grasp of the concepts.  I would like to explain to you the reasons why I am an atheist in a formal debate rebuttal with Dr. William Lane Craig.

The reason why I think this would be interesting is because Dr. Craig seems to be the best that theists can offer in terms of arguing for the existence of God.  He is an excellent debater, and often times his debate style alone causes atheists to lose the debate (despite my belief that they are more correct in their thinking).  They simply aren’t prepared to meet him point for point.  I think if you’re an atheist, you should understand the theist arguments, and be able to refute them.

For this exercise, I will be using Dr. Craig’s typical debate performance opening and rebutting it.  Obviously doing responses would be difficult because he responds specifically to his opponents, so I will leave it at the opening statements.  If any theist wants to respond to my opening, feel free and I will respond in kind.

I will use Craig’s opening with Christopher Hitchens because he seems to cover the broadest range of arguments in a relatively short amount of time.  You can view the opening here, and subsequently see how NOT to debate Craig if you watch the rest of the debate.  Hitchens fails miserably in a formal debate format, in my opinion.

Protip:  Skip ahead to the 13 minute mark to avoid all the introductions and get to what I am rebutting.

Without further ado!

“Thank you to everyone who hosted the fake debate.  I’d like to thank my brain for inviting me and hosting the event.  Thank you to Dr. Craig for not agreeing to have his opening used in this manner.

Tonight, I’m defending atheism. The lack of belief in a god or gods.  Atheism is not a belief system, it’s not a claim of truth.  It’s the disbelief of a claim. Therefore, I hold no burden of proof tonight, EXCEPT to rebut the arguments of Dr. Craig.  A lack of belief can’t be proven, or demonstrated except by tearing down the arguments of the belief itself.  Atheism can’t be proven, or demonstrated except by tearing down the arguments of theism.  If we remove the reasons to believe, we are left with no reason to belief.  This is what atheism claims.  We have no reason to belief.  Therefore, in order to “prove” atheism is true, and build up a case for atheism, we merely have to show that theistic arguments are not reasonable.  Atheism is the ground floor and theism is the building on shaky stilts, so to speak.

You may think this is a cop out, but allow me give an example.  Alien abductions are a claim made frequently in our society.  These people claim to have physical evidence, physical experiences, supernatural experiences.  Sound familiar?  In order to disbelieve these claims, we do not need to prove that the opposite is true (that aliens don’t exist).  We need merely to cast a looming shadow of doubt on the claims made by these people.  We need merely to have no evidence in their favor.

In an age where many God claims and various other supernatural claims are made, such as the existence of aliens, it is paramount for us to be doubtful.  All of the god claims in the world can’t be true.  Many of them are mutually exclusive.  This isn’t to say that none of them are true, but it is to say that the burden of proof is on the ones who are making the claims, not on the disbelievers to prove another explanation.

Tonight though, I make it my burden to discredit and tear down Dr. Craig’s claims.  If he hopes to be successful, he must prop them back up.

1.  Kalam

I will start with Dr. Craig’s first claim.  The Kalam Cosmological Argument.  Dr. Craig claims the the universe must have had a beginning, and that this is scientifically agreed upon to be the big bang. The beginning of our universe.  I agree.

My first point of contention is when he claims that there was “nothing” before the big bang.  First, this is not scientific.  Most scientists claim not to know what was before the big bang.  In fact, the phrase “before the big bang” may not even make sense within the context of our universe.  The Law of causality may not apply because we’re potentially talking about a “time” before there was time.  It’s up to Dr. Craig to demonstrate, using evidence, that there is such a thing as “before the beginning of time”.

My next contention is that even if we grant Dr. Craig that there was a “before the beginning of time” we don’t know very much about it.  Dr. Craig claims that we do.  He makes several claims about it.  He claims that the cause of the universe must exist in this “before the beginning.” That this creator must be is a being.  That it is uncaused.  I’m not even sure what basis this claim has.  That because it is outside of our time, space, and matter, it is therefore timeless, spaceless, immaterial. How does he know ANY of this?

It’s at least possible that if there was something that caused our universe to exist that it was not any of those things.  We don’t know that a cause had to be outside of all time, space and material, just our observable time, space and material. It’s possible that our universe came from the matter, time, and space of another universe.  If that were the case, the cause of the universe wouldn’t necessarily be a being, wouldn’t necessarily be outside of all time, all space, all matter.  Just the time, space, and matter of our observable universe.

I’m not asking you to accept this as an explanation, but only as a possible explanation.  Dr. Craig’s assertion is that it HAS to be uncaused, timeless, spaceless, and immaterial, yet I’ve given a plausible explanation in which uncaused, timeless, spaceless and immaterial are not definitive, proven traits of whatever caused our universe to begin.

So in summary, Dr. Craig must first demonstrate that there was a “before the beginning of time”, and then he must demonstrate that whatever was “before the beginning of time” couldn’t possibly have existed inside a separate plane of existence with time, matter, and space.  This is a heavy burden, and if Dr. Craig can manage to prop up his claims, he will definitely have surprised me, and the entire scientific community that disagrees with him.

2. Teleological Argument

This is a much simpler rebuttal.  Dr. Craig has not given any evidence in support of this claim except the improbability of life arising naturally in this way.  We can excuse this argument without evidence because it was given without evidence.  Improbability does not imply design, HOWEVER I think that this universe permitting life is less probable than Craig claims.

His figure is based on OUR life.  What are the odds that any particular universe could sustain any kind of life?  I’m sure they are much lower.  We are eager to look at our needs for life because it’s the only life that we’ve experienced.  It’s entirely possible that different kinds of life, requiring different universal conditions could’ve arisen from different universes.  It seems entirely possible that we have a need for the condition that the universe provides simply because the universe provides these conditions.

Consider a pothole filled with rainwater.  We might look at the shape the rain formed and say, “how improbable!  This water was designed to go in this hole!”, but it’s much more rational to believe that the water was molded and conformed to fit inside the hole.

In fact this is made more plausible by the fact that the universe was around for such a long time before conditions permitting the life we have knowledge of arose.

Dr. Craig must prove that the entire universe was designed to support our life, and that we did not arise naturally from the conditions of the universe.  Another heavy burden.

3. Morality

With secular morality, the moral standard relies on us.  I think that our moral standards are not ultimately objective in such a universal way of thinking about it, but I think they are objective in that they are an attempt at maximizing the overall well-being and survival of our species.  The survival instinct that is ingrained in us through natural means is the driving force for this.  In that sense, it may not be considered objective, but it is meaningful.

In theological morality, I don’t believe that objective morality exists in the way that Dr. Craig proposes that it does.  Let’s examine the words.  Objective, meaning something true apart from a mind, and value, something that requires a mind.  Values don’t exist if minds don’t exist.  Never mind the fact that we have seen no evidence yet for God’s mind, but even if we had, moralities based on God’s nature, or his commands would not be objective, but rather subjective to his standard of morality.  Even if God is moral perfection, who’s to say that God’s moral perfection is desirable?  It would still be a merely subjective idea of morality.  It would not only be subjective, but arbitrary in that morality is not defined in a way that is beneficial to anyone, but God perhaps.

Craig must demonstrate that morality is objective in the way that he claims it is, outside of minds (while relying subjectively on God’s), and that it’s also meaningful in some way.

4. Jesus  This is where he has completely derailed from reason and evidence and is content to rely on hearsay.  While the Bible may have some historical accuracies, there is no evidence for the claims made within the Bible other than hearsay.  This can easily be dismissed.  There’s no physical evidence for Jesus, for his acts, for his death, or his resurrection.  Dr. Craig must present this evidence rather than rely on baseless assertions and hearsay.  No reasonable jury would convict a defendant based on hearsay, so why should we believe things on hearsay.  Especially such extraordinary claims that fly in the face of what we know about the observable universe.

5.  Holy Spirit

Lastly, Dr. Craig continues this train wreck of a reasonable argument by appealing to his own senses and experiences as infallible.  The Holy Spirit, which speaks directly to him, and to everyone, yet he can’t demonstrate any real basis for this claim.  This is easily dismissed as well unless Dr. Craig can give us an example of this Holy Spirit.

So I have laid out my argument.  In summary, Dr. Craig has a lot of ground to cover.  He must provide evidence that:

There was a “time before time”.

There is a being outside of our universe.

It is not possible for a separate plane of time, space, or matter that exists outside of our universe.

The universe is explicitely designed for us.

Objective Morality exists, in the way that he describes it. As being dependent on the mind of God.

That this kind of morality is meaningful.

Jesus existed.

Jesus performed miracles, and was God.  This included resurrecting from the dead.

The Holy Spirit exists.

If Dr. Craig can not demonstrate these unreasonable assertions that he has made, then atheism, and doubt is the clear winner here.  We must not accept any of Dr. Craig’s claims without good reasons.

Thank you.