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I've seen this notion by various atheists including Shermer and Peter Boghossian that the Christian argument goes something like this:

1. I believe in the core tenets of Christianity but it's a faith-based decision, not based on rationality

2. Having lost point 1, I now turn to the practical benefits of Christianity

I think this is a misread, and because I believe that Shermer and Boghossian are both smart enough to know better, it comes off as intellectually dishonest. It's treating a "yes, and" argument as a "yes, but" argument, as though point 2 is meant to salvage the argument after point 1 has failed. That isn't what's going on in the mind of a Christian and they know that.

Fundamentally, Christianity a matter of faith, not rationality. Christians aren't hiding the ball here, they say it outright in the writings of Paul and other places. They say that there is no way to salvation but faith in Christ, and that this is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. When, thousands of years later, nonbelievers on Substack call it foolishness, that's not some new idea, but rather a very, very old one.

So we get the same dance every time. Shermer says that the only path to truth is rationality, and no other standard is valid. Christians say that God created a world that follows consistent natural laws, which is important, but that rationality isn't everything, and when it comes to what sort of person to be, they live by a different standard, faith. Shermer says, "aha, you cannot prove by rationality that your worldview is true!". Well, duh. In literally any situation where two groups are looking at an issue by different standards, they will come to different conclusions about who is right.

But then atheists will say, "but rationality is a better standard that faith". Sure, but that's a false binary. The difference between Christians and atheists isn't that one only accepts truth by faith and the other only accepts truth by evidence. Both do both, it's just that the latter category denies it.

Christians are perfectly comfortable using science as a tool to unravel truths about the natural world. I'm a Christian and a chemist. No problem. But then Shermer claims that atheism is completely a negative proposition, and that his decisions in life are rationally determined. Sure. I'm sure it's "the most advanced findings on the topic" that makes him love his family.

That really doesn't wash when you behold the complexity of existence, the limitations of our understanding, and the finite nature of existence on Earth. There are some things that science may never figure out. There are other things that science will not figure out in our lifetimes. For those things will we choose not to engage with them? In some cases it's impossible. Instead, we will rely on tradition, heuristics, or often just gut feelings, as Shermer and literally everyone else does on a daily basis.

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I guess I stole your basic premise when I just left my comment. I'm an agnostic who would probably bet against the existence of God if I had to choose. But I don't find Shermer's argument compelling. Christians believe in miracles and the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. To calculate the odds of that really happening and then declare it must not have and therefore Christianity is dumb is just an odd argument. You can nitpick religions to death if you want to sit around calculating the probabilities of events or beliefs that are scientifically suspect. But that ignores the fundamental premise, that people of faith believe in something that is by definition not measurable. My guess is that that something doesn't exist, but it's just a hunch and nothing "scientific" on the subject can add to the debate.

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Nobody should believe that Jesus came back to life on the basis of the available evidence. It is not even close to warranting belief. Based on what we know about reality, it is very unlikely, even super-improbable, that Jesus came back to life.

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"It is very unlikely, even super-improbable, that Jesus came back to life." I'd hope most Christians would not only agree, but say something like "That's one of the things that makes a miracle a miracle."

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A super-improbable event is one which, if actually proven to have occurred, would be the first of that kind to have ever occurred in at least a million opportunities to occur. The coming back to life of Jesus would be a super-improbable event, and yet it still wouldn’t be a miracle unless it were proven that it was caused by God. Neither of these proofs has ever been made. Therefore, nobody should believe that Jesus came back to life.

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Define proof in such a way that allows for non-natural explanations for counter-natural phenomena. I'd assume you'd be unwilling to. In that case, you tautologically insist that God can't exist because that which is beyond nature cannot exist. That's okay, and completely understandable. I happen to believe that there is *also* that which transcends nature, which by definition cannot be explained naturally. I am certain I cannot convince you of it, because I cannot prove it to you by definition.

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CG2: Define proof in such a way that allows for non-natural explanations for counter-natural phenomena. I'd assume you'd be unwilling to.

GW2: False. A proof is an organized demonstration by the use of conceptual analysis, logic, evidence, and proper inference that a given proposition is either true or false either to a certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt.

GW2: Neither you nor anyone else has proven that God exists or that Jesus came back to life, period. And those two beliefs are core beliefs for Christianity.

CG2: In that case, you tautologically insist that God can't exist because that which is beyond nature cannot exist.

GW2: What is nature? Do you mean our universe? Something could exist outside our universe, but it would still be part of reality. I’m interested in what is real and not real. God is not real. God does not exist. This has been proven.

CG2: That's okay, and completely understandable. I happen to believe that there is *also* that which transcends nature, which by definition cannot be explained naturally. I am certain I cannot convince you of it, because I cannot prove it to you by definition.

GW2: Prove it. If you cannot prove it, then nobody should believe you.

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I am a Christian. There is more to my faith than believing Mary was a virgin, or that the resurrection occurred. This is a Straw man argument. I don’t base my faith on a historical story. I base it on the fact I have had 1000 prayers answered. That 1000s of times I have been looked after improbably. And that many 1000s of times things worked out perfectly when it appeared they weren’t going to. It is illogical to suggest billions of people believe in prayer and have faith and IT NEVER WORKS. Atheists should try it some time. They will be shocked.

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MW1: I am a Christian.

GW1: I am sorry to hear that.

MW1: There is more to my faith than believing Mary was a virgin, or that the resurrection occurred. This is a Straw man argument.

GW1: No. I have made a Steel Man argument, not a Straw Man argument. There are about a dozen core Christian beliefs. If you do not embrace or adopt all of them, then you are not a Christian. One is that God exists. Another is that Jesus came back to life.

MW1: I don’t base my faith on a historical story.

GW1: The Bible is not a reliable historical record. Much of it is fiction.

MW1: I base it on the fact I have had 1000 prayers answered. That 1000s of times I have been looked after improbably. And that many 1000s of times things worked out perfectly when it appeared they weren’t going to.

GW1: I don’t believe your claim for a second. I invite you to come to Los Angeles and prove your claim and become eligible for our $500K prize.

MW1: It is illogical to suggest billions of people believe in prayer and have faith and IT NEVER WORKS.

GW1: I believe that it never works in the way they/you think it works. A prayer never influences God to intervene favorably in a person’s life. How could it since God does not exist?

MW1: Atheists should try it some time. They will be shocked.

GW1: Most atheists have tried prayer many times in their lives and it has not worked.

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MW1: Life isn’t a game show. Answers to prayers come at the right moment in the right way for an individual. Anyway I don’t like LA. And I don’t need $500,000. It hasn’t worked for you. Which I don’t believe. But, whatever. It has worked for me. You can’t convince me 1000 experiences have been not true. Also, why would you be anything other than ‘cool. I am happy for you.’

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As far as you defining Christianity for me, ego much? You do realize the tenets of Christianity have changed dramatically over the centuries. One of the best aspects of my faith is nothing should come between me and my relationship with God. Including, and maybe most especially organized dogma. ‘Blessed are the meek’. The word used in Greek for meek is not how we use the word now. Meek, ‘praeus’, (sp?) means a strong man who chooses not to use his strength. This is very different than how organized religion sees it. It implies many things. Guess what? I get to read it my way. And the Pope or you I can ignore. And still be Christian.

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MW1: Life isn’t a game show.

GW1: I agree.

MW1: Answers to prayers come at the right moment in the right way for an individual.

GW1: False. There is no good evidence that answers to prayers from any god come at all! An answer would be a verbal message, spoken or written, and objectively observed.

MW1: Anyway I don’t like LA.

GW1: Irrelevant.

MW1: And I don’t need $500,000.

GW1: Also, irrelevant. If you were confident in the power of prayer, then you would take the tests.

MW1: It hasn’t worked for you. Which I don’t believe.

GW1: Prayer hasn’t worked for me, for you, or for anyone else, i.e. not worked in the sense I specified.

MW1: But, whatever. It has worked for me.

GW1: No. You are just mistaken. Come take the test and prove that it would work for you. You can’t. You won’t.

MW1: You can’t convince me 1000 experiences have been not true.

GW1: People have had experiences in which they prayed and BELIEVED, mistakenly, that their prayers worked.

MW1: Also, why would you be anything other than ‘cool. I am happy for you.’

GW1: Irrelevant.

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As a Christian, I found this a good read, but definitely flawed in my opinion especially this quote “If there is a realm of the supernatural, (God) there is no way for a natural and normal, being like us to perceive or understand it”

That could only be true if God was finite, but he can do anything so he could help certain individuals definitely perceive and understand him. But I believe that most of us don’t have that gift and must act on faith because we have a veil placed over our minds. Without this veil, we would not have free choice and we wouldn’t learn as much in our experiences here on earth . After this life is over we will all know and understand the truth and it will probably be mind blowing because I’m sure we can’t really comprehend the nature of God right now but that’s OK. I believe he exists. I believe he is good and loving and allows bad things to happen Because free will is so important to our growth as humans.

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LG1: As a Christian, I found this a good read, but definitely flawed in my opinion especially this quote “If there is a realm of the supernatural, (God) there is no way for a natural and normal, being like us to perceive or understand it” That could only be true if God was finite, but he can do anything so he could help certain individuals definitely perceive and understand him.

GW1: I agree but go one step further. If God did exist, he COULD and WOULD present himself and his rules for living to ALL human beings. That is what an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly moral intelligent agent would do.

LG1: But I believe that most of us don’t have that gift and must act on faith because we have a veil placed over our minds.

GW1: I disagree. None of us needs to act on faith. Faith is a vice, not a virtue. Instead, act on reason.

LG1: Without this veil, we would not have free choice and we wouldn’t learn as much in our experiences here on earth .

GW1: Well, the topic of free choice is a controversial one right now. Nobody has proven that it exists or does not exist. However, I believe it does not, and there is good evidence that it does not. The current book “Determined” by Robert Sapolsky presents the case against free will, as do many other books on the subject.

GW1: Also, veils are not helpful. The more we know, the better the decisions we can make.

LG1: After this life is over we will all know and understand the truth and it will probably be mind blowing because I’m sure we can’t really comprehend the nature of God right now but that’s OK.

GW1: I totally disagree. I believe that when we die, that is the end of our personal existence. Although I can’t prove it, most of the relevant evidence supports that view.

LG1: I believe he exists. I believe he is good and loving and allows bad things to happen Because free will is so important to our growth as humans.

GW1: I am sorry, but you are mistaken. God does not exist. This has been proven. If God did exist, would he give human persons, like the Nazis, the free will to engage in genocide? No, of course not. But, the Holocaust did occur! So, God does not and cannot exist. It’s as simple as that.

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But that's what I'm saying, although I guess not well. On the basis of any sort of statistical/scientific analysis, there is no proof of anything related to God, or the afterlife. But there are people who believe regardless of this. And my point is that the statistical analysis offered in this post won't persuade anyone, and it's just picking one strange thing out of thousands. To say billions of people have died and not come back means it's extremely unlikely that Jesus did, is a silly argument. First, if everybody were doing it it would hardly be a miracle. It's the event happening against all odds that attracts believers. And second, I just don't see the point of choosing one event and proving God doesn't exist. There are hundreds of examples of people turning into salt, angels flying around, miracle cures, a whale swallowing a man etc. Many people believe all that. So why would anyone think a statistical analysis of the likelihood of being born again is going to persuade anyone? You have two choices, believe and don't think about it, or think about it and don't believe. You and I think about it and don't believe, but that will never convince those who choose to make the leap, despite all evidence, and believe.

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A1: But that's what I'm saying, although I guess not well. On the basis of any sort of statistical/scientific analysis, there is no proof of anything related to God, or the afterlife. But there are people who believe regardless of this.

GW1: I agree.

A1: And my point is that the statistical analysis offered in this post won't persuade anyone, and it's just picking one strange thing out of thousands.

GW1: Oh, I disagree. It will probably persuade some people.

A1: To say billions of people have died and not come back means it's extremely unlikely that Jesus did, is a silly argument.

GW1: I disagree. It is a very strong argument. There has never been a verified case of any person ever coming back to life. Jesus was a person. And so, nobody should believe that Jesus came back to life, given the evidence we have.

A1: First, if everybody were doing it it would hardly be a miracle.

GW1: That’s irrelevant. Even if it were confirmed that a person came back to life, it would not necessarily be a miracle. A miracle requires one more thing beyond that. But it has never been confirmed that any person came back to life. Never.

A1: It's the event happening against all odds that attracts believers.

GW1: Allegedly happening! There is no proof that anybody came back to life.

A1: And second, I just don't see the point of choosing one event and proving God doesn't exist.

GW1: Shermer was not intending here to prove God does not exist. He was showing that there is no good evidence for and there is good evidence against the Christian claim that Jesus came back to life. Besides, Jesus and God are two different persons. Jesus probably existed, but God never existed.

A1: There are hundreds of examples of people turning into salt, angels flying around, miracle cures, a whale swallowing a man etc. Many people believe all that.

GW1: Not a single one of those alleged events has been proven to have occurred. None!

A1: So why would anyone think a statistical analysis of the likelihood of being born again is going to persuade anyone?

GW1: Because SOME undecided people DO decide what is true/likely true or what is false/likely false when presented with good evidence.

A1: You have two choices, believe and don't think about it, or think about it and don't believe.

GW1: I disagree. You have at least another choice – don’t believe and then don’t think about it.

A1: You and I think about it and don't believe, but that will never convince those who choose to make the leap, despite all evidence, and believe.

GW1: I think you are being too pessimistic or even cynical about people changing their minds.

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My last comment because you're obviously a militant atheist and I'm not militant anything, and you won't stop until I agree with everything you're writing all over this comment thread. You're still not grasping the role of faith. You say it's stupid, and I agree, albeit in nicer language. But if you believe, you won't care that nobody except Jesus was reborn because nobody has ever been proved to have done that. That's the whole point of Christianity, and you can go on and on, but it's falling on deaf ears. Another example, and there are many, are blind people. For their whole lives they see nothing but blackness. And because of that they should only believe everything is black. People will come and tell them there's a whole world out there that you can see, and most won't believe you but some will. (and I know there are medical advances, and I know that blind people can still touch and smell, but those are silly counters. Blind people will believe things can be felt and smelled, they just can't verify for themselves that anything appears other than black.) So most blind people are relying on their experience and the fact that no blind people have ever seen, so that's "atheist" for blind people. And some take the leap and believe what people tell them despite lack of proof, so that's "religion" for blind people. And that's faith in a nutshell.

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A2: My last comment because you're obviously a militant atheist and I'm not militant anything, and you won't stop until I agree with everything you're writing all over this comment thread.

GW2: False. I am an assertive atheist, not a militant one. Your agreement is not required.

A2: You're still not grasping the role of faith. You say it's stupid, and I agree, albeit in nicer language.

GW2: Straw man. I never said faith is stupid. What is faith? Faith is belief untuned to or misaligned with evidence and/or logic, and usually tuned to or aligned solely or primarily with authority, majority opinion, peer pressure, tradition, intuition, wishes and hopes, or some combination of these. Having faith leads to poor judgement and bad behavior, and thus it is a vice. Here are some examples of faith: “I have faith that Jesus died, came back to life, and is alive today.” “I have faith that extraterrestrials from other galaxies live among us.” “I have faith that God exists.”

A2: But if you believe, you won't care that nobody except Jesus was reborn because nobody has ever been proved to have done that.

GW2: But nobody should believe that Jesus came back to life. That would be irrational. Faith is a vice, not a virtue.

A2: That's the whole point of Christianity, and you can go on and on, but it's falling on deaf ears.

GW2: Not all Christian ears are deaf. I was a fundamentalist Christian at one time and my ears were not deaf to the voices of reason.

A2: Another example, and there are many, are blind people. For their whole lives they see nothing but blackness. And because of that they should only believe everything is black. People will come and tell them there's a whole world out there that you can see, and most won't believe you but some will. (and I know there are medical advances, and I know that blind people can still touch and smell, but those are silly counters. Blind people will believe things can be felt and smelled, they just can't verify for themselves that anything appears other than black.) So most blind people are relying on their experience and the fact that no blind people have ever seen, so that's "atheist" for blind people. And some take the leap and believe what people tell them despite lack of proof, so that's "religion" for blind people. And that's faith in a nutshell.

GW2: Sensation is very different from belief, so your analogy fails

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"I'm sure it's "the most advanced findings on the topic" that makes him love his family." Beautiful!

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Nov 16, 2023·edited Nov 16, 2023

Quite. Eugenics is wholly rational. The dignity of every human life (no matter IQ, disability, or harms they've committed) is not a statement of rationality and is actually very difficult to argue in non faith-based terms. Transhumanism is also wholly rational, as is growing babies in a laboratory to free women to be equal workers. I've tried to make rational arguments against these things and I've lost every one. Ultimately, I am relying on a faith based belief that there is a good. I shudder at the thoughts of living in a wholly rational world.

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A well written but faulty note. How and what has Jesus done? I am still being persecuted, I am a good man and an artheist, I have done well enough in this world without any god notion. Christianity uses religion when it suits them and discards it saying that spiritual is outside is science. Well, which one? But I am so tired of well-educated but faulty tower religious people. And as I said, ya all still want me dead

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Christians want you dead? Since when?

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Even Christians persecute each other. Is this religion or human nature when our shackles go up and we become easily offended? What Jesus offers is a way out of the "eye for an eye." He disregards the power struggle. He says I loved you first, come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. He doesn't force. He invites. He is the narrow path. One side of which is indifference, the other which is an assent to personal power.

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Who wants you dead?! Don’t include me in your generalizations😘

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Christian-ism is of course a set of half-baked beliefs about what we are as human beings, the nature of the Cosmos and reality altogether. By using the weasal-word faith you have already trumped any further investigations into the nature of reality altogether or even open-ended conversations with any and everyone who does not subscribe to your "faith" presumptions.

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Is it just a simpleton like me who is never convinced by any atheistic argument because I can’t get past, “but why does anything matter, then?”?

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Lots of things matter. We don't need to believe in that which is not believable to make thing matter.

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What does it mean for something “to matter”?What defines meaning and purpose? By what standard do we measure it? Life is HARD and full of suffering for so. stinkin’. many.people across time. Why?? Of what value is a life of suffering? And here we go in circles again: how do we define value? Do we all just, as Shermer would say, “by nature” intuit what matters to us? If so, how do we parse that it matters to Hamas to brutally murder innocent Jews and it matters to Israel to bomb innocent Palestinians to snuff out Hamas ? I’m with Fredrick Nietzsche: the only thing for the atheist to decide is whether to commit suicide or not. I’m comfortable with being a simpleton….I simply cannot wrap my brain around why, if this hard life is it, how anything I can do, good, bad or indifferent, possibly matters one wit!

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That is depressing and sad. And I don't understand how you can agree with Nietzsche; that is crazy thinking. Life is amazing; I enjoy every day. Here is what Bertrand Russell wrote: “And so, to those tempted by despair, I say: Remind yourself that the world is what we make it, and that to the making of it each one of us can contribute something. This thought makes hope possible: and in this hope, though life will still be painful, it will be no longer purposeless.”

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What matters is you, and what matters to you.

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Think about it Sally.

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@0rganiker - The fundamental premise of Christianity is salvation. Your write, “Fundamentally, Christianity a matter of faith, not rationality. Christians aren't hiding the ball here, they say it outright in the writings of Paul and other places. They say that there is no way to salvation but faith in Christ. . .”

A typical definition of “salvation” is “Deliverance from sin and from the penalties of sin; redemption.” But, what sin means changes over time. If the bible is the source of laws - commandments - the violations of which would be called sins, then slavery, owning women as property, and raping and pillaging enemies are not sins. They are all permissible by scripture. It's man law, not God's, that protect us from sinners.

As a practical matter, salvation is only useful in the afterlife. If one is “saved” one can go to the good place - heaven. Otherwise, they go to the bad place - hell. But, there is no physical evidence of the existence of such places and heaven and hell or even of the afterlife itself. Therefore, one who is "saved" has nowhere to go after they die.

You also state that, “Christians say that God created a world that follows consistent natural laws.” If that were true, there wouldn’t be God, much less a son of God with powers that are not supported by natural laws; i.e., science.

In short, the Christian faith, like many religions, depend on belief in an imaginary world. It’s in the mind of its adherents and driven by the fear of punishment. And, the history of Christianity is filled with violations of the teachings of Jesus. That continues through today.

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I cannot and will not rely on faith, which to my mind is an abnegation and abandonment of reason.

"I think, therefore I am" holds true for me.

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O1: But then atheists will say, "but rationality is a better standard that faith". Sure, but that's a false binary. The difference between Christians and atheists isn't that one only accepts truth by faith and the other only accepts truth by evidence. Both do both, it's just that the latter category denies it.

GW1: I am very skeptical of this remark. Please prove or even show it is probable that atheists accept truth by faith. But first you better define “faith” in the sense used by religious people.

O1: I'm a Christian and a chemist. No problem.

GW1: Many problems! What chemical reaction enabled Jesus to come back to life? For a good revelation of the many contradictions, see Jerry Coyne’s book – Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, 2015

O1: But then Shermer claims that atheism is completely a negative proposition, and that his decisions in life are rationally determined. Sure. I'm sure it's "the most advanced findings on the topic" that makes him love his family.

GW1: Huh? That borders on ad hominem. What makes him love his family can be explained by reason, but not by faith.

O1: There are some things that science may never figure out. There are other things that science will not figure out in our lifetimes. For those things will we choose not to engage with them? In some cases it's impossible. Instead, we will rely on tradition, heuristics, or often just gut feelings, as Shermer and literally everyone else does on a daily basis.

GW1: Is this supposed to be an argument why we should believe God exists and Jesus rose from the dead? It sounds like “We don’t know, so God did it.” That doesn’t fly. We no longer need to rely on tradition, heuristics, or gut feelings. We now have reason to employ.

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"Please prove or even show it is probable that atheists accept truth by faith. But first you better define “faith” in the sense used by religious people."

You show faith by arguing with every commenter on this post. You trust that they're sentient creatures whose opinions are valuable enough to engage with. You're investing your time in online characters who could be trolling you. You have faith in people. People close to you and people you barely know.

You have faith that this universe and all life is just one big happy accident, like a complex mechanical wristwatch that just fell off a table in pieces and landed perfectly assembled. That nothing can be derived from something. That an "ought" can be derived from an "is". Those are pretty wild beliefs.

Heuristics, tradition, gut feelings? Doesn't sound very scientific to me. Sounds like faith. "The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition or statement for which there is not complete evidence; belief in general."

You also seem to have faith that your opinion matters. Why should your opinion or anyone else's matter in a deterministic universe? Hell, would that even qualify as an opinion if it was determined from the beginning of time that you would be here in this thread desperately trying to justify your own non-belief (which you have no choice but to believe) to every single commenter?

Removing a creator just makes more questions. One would think that as our scientific knowledge increased, there would be fewer gaps to place God into. Problem is, we have more scientists working on more questions than ever. If you compared the amount of articulated cosmic and biological mysteries from different time periods, from biblical until now, you will find that we have more open, articulated questions about our universe than ever. So how does the scientific endeavor keep leaving more and more gaps for God to fit in?

Atheism is a non-starter. Non-belief isn't a belief. Not making a decision is a decision. Don't be bitter because Ayaan has seen the light. Because she's grasped something that you can't. And how can you be surprised? You're literally all-in on nothing. You have a profound, well reasoned and sophisticated commitment to nothing at all, yet come here to argue about it. Strange.

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GW: "Please prove or even show it is probable that atheists accept truth by faith. But first you better define “faith” in the sense used by religious people."

D: You show faith by arguing with every commenter on this post.

GW: Absolutely false! I don’t have any faith (in the sense used by religious people). Also, you failed to define “faith,” as I asked you to do.

D: You trust that they're sentient creatures whose opinions are valuable enough to engage with.

GW: That’s not faith! That is trust based on logic and evidence. Duh.

D: You're investing your time in online characters who could be trolling you.

GW: So what! That’s not faith. It is my moral duty to present truth to trolling characters.

D: You have faith in people. People close to you and people you barely know.

GW: Absolutely not! I certainly have confidence and trust in some people, and those attitudes are based again on logic and evidence. I don’t have any faith at all. I have eliminated it from my life, and I am better off because of that.

D: You have faith that this universe and all life is just one big happy accident, like a complex mechanical wristwatch that just fell off a table in pieces and landed perfectly assembled.

GW: False again. I don’t have any faith at all. The universe and life are not accidents. They are brute facts of our reality. There are at least four good reasons why the universe is probably eternal. Life emerged from the universe.

D: That nothing can be derived from something.

GW: Huh? I believe that something cannot come from nothing. But some who believe in God think that it can and has.

D: That an "ought" can be derived from an "is".

GW: An “ought” statement can be derived from a set of “is” statements. I have published an article on how this is done.

D: Those are pretty wild beliefs.

GW: None of my beliefs are wild. They are based on logic, evidence, and reason. Faith is the antithesis of this.

D: Heuristics, tradition, gut feelings? Doesn't sound very scientific to me. Sounds like faith.

GW: And you are totally mistaken about this. You have failed to prove your point. In fact, your point is faith-based.

D: "The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition or statement for which there is not complete evidence; belief in general."

GW: You failed to provide the author and citation for this quote. And it is not a proper definition of “faith.”

D: You also seem to have faith that your opinion matters.

GW: As I have said repeatedly, I don’t have any faith. I once had faith, but I eliminated it from my life decades ago. I have confidence that my opinion matters because of the evidence that it has.

D: Why should your opinion or anyone else's matter in a deterministic universe?

GW: It is not a matter of “should.” Our opinions do matter! They affect our behavior and the behavior of others.

D: Hell, would that even qualify as an opinion if it was determined from the beginning of time that you would be here in this thread desperately trying to justify your own non-belief (which you have no choice but to believe) to every single commenter?

GW: Of course it would! An opinion is a thing regardless if it is caused or how it is caused. Please present your definition of “opinion.”

D: Removing a creator just makes more questions.

GW: “Removing”? You haven’t proven the existence of any creator to be removed! Duh. Belief in a creator is just a superstition, at least at this time in human history.

D: One would think that as our scientific knowledge increased, there would be fewer gaps to place God into.

GW: I would not think this. There will always be gaps and religious people always will try to fill those gaps with God. But we now know that God does not exist. This has been proven by me and others.

D: Problem is, we have more scientists working on more questions than ever.

GW: And that is a very good thing.

D: If you compared the amount of articulated cosmic and biological mysteries from different time periods, from biblical until now, you will find that we have more open, articulated questions about our universe than ever.

GW: If true, so what? That has nothing to do with the existence of God. It is a common fallacy to say “It’s a mystery, so God exists.”

D: So how does the scientific endeavor keep leaving more and more gaps for God to fit in?

GW: Asked and answered.

D: Atheism is a non-starter.

GW: Atheism is an excellent starter! Start with not believing in any gods. Excellent!

D: Non-belief isn't a belief.

GW: I agree.

D: Not making a decision is a decision.

GW: I’ve made a decision: “God does not exist!” You’ve made a decision: “God exists.” But I am correct and you are incorrect.

D: Don't be bitter because Ayaan has seen the light.

GW: I’m not bitter. I am disappointed and frustrated. Like you, she has embraced ancient superstitions, and that is very unfortunate.

D: Because she's grasped something that you can't.

GW: I could and I would believe that God exists, if it were reasonable to draw that conclusion. But it isn’t. I know that God does not exist. I and others have proven this.

D: And how can you be surprised?

GW: I am surprised by her change because it is so contradictory to her prior behavior and beliefs.

D: You're literally all-in on nothing.

GW: Either God exists or he doesn’t. Agree? Well, he doesn’t. I know this. It has been proven by me and others. If you think he has, then you are just mistaken.

D: You have a profound, well reasoned and sophisticated commitment to nothing at all, yet come here to argue about it. Strange.

GW: My commitment is to reason, logic, evidence, and truth. Not strange at all. I wish you would join us.

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Except that atheists don't "accept truth by faith" (and experiencing the feeling of love for ones familiy is an entirely different thing than "accepting truth by faith").

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That is nonsense Coel.

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Read more Nietzsche, Michael. The problem with your argument is that the enlightenment is the consequence of Christian values and aligned values from other religions. There can be no deriving morality without God. Nietzsche tried and knew the project could not succeed. Ayn Rand tried and failed. Marx and Marxists tried and failed. We have a choice between religions of God or religions that make a God out of a man, an idea, or a nation. There is a cosy humanist conceit that they can derive morality independently, when in fact these humanists are just echoing the Christian moral culture of their birth. With every generation distant from religion this birth-culture fades. Morality degenerates into the worship of self or the worship of power, or both. As Nietzsche saw, as Rand found out. If your intellect is superior to these two (to name but two), the burden of proof (not mere assertion) is on you.

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It only takes one example to rebut the premise that "there can be no deriving morality without God." Slavery. Not only is it nowhere prohibited in the Judeo-Christian canon, it is codified and reinforced. It took the secular thinkers of the Enlightenment to sort out that owning another human is fundamentally immoral. Seventeen centuries of Christianity failed to do that, after fifteen centuries of Judaism also failed.

Would it have been hard for Yahweh to add a commandment "Thou shalt not own another person?" Are failing to honor your parents and adultery more grievous sins than slavery?

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A Christian who is not a fundamentalist or literalist would say slavery's acceptance in the Bible is not an argument against God, it is an argument that humans are fallen creatures, since the Bible is a product of its time and place. The historical permutations of any religion goes through all sorts of changes in the earthly realm. The task is not to obey the Bible, but to divine the Truth, and that is there in the Bible to be found. It's a commonplace to point out the 'contradictions' in the Bible, people do that all day long, in the Quran, too, as an easy way to debunk religions. It was Christopher Hitchens' life project! What's far more significant is the Truth in this case was realized, and realized first with political consequences by the British, a Christian nation and leader in Enlightenment thinking. Think of it this way. If the Bible approves of slavery and there are still millions of Jews and Christians, why do so few of them, like none, support slavery? It's in the good book, after all!

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You make my point in your penultimate sentence. Morals derive from people, not books. People pick and choose what parts of the Bible to respect and what parts to ignore.

And, scare-quoting contradictions does not mean they don't exist. Moreso, if the books were written by flawed humans, then they should not be deemed as some sort of authority. If humans wrote them, and we ignore the part we find immoral, then *we* are the determiners of morality, not the religion.

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The reason I put 'contradictions' in scare quotes is not because they don't exist, but because often they are not understood from a historical perspective. It's a judgement from a privileged superior position of the present when we arrogantly purport to know all and are able to self-righteously judge the evils of the past. I would say people of the distant future will find good reason to judge us in a similar way. We just don't know how.

Yes, of course, the Bible was made by people, but again, a thinking Christian today will understand that. There's no getting around what you say, that people make morality, but that is not the point. The question is whether they make it arbitrarily or with reference to a concept of a higher objective order, what I capitalize as Truth. CS Lewis somewhere argues that we are born with a fundamental and innate understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, and that this understanding is essentially universal across all cultures, despite the absence of influence of one culture to another. Atheists like Hitchens and Harris et al would say that is biological or proof that religion is redundant, not needed to tell us how to behave, but Lewis draws the opposite conclusion, that divine, God, or Christ, or what have you, is within all of us, as we are made in 'the image' of God, and that it is our encounters with the world, our material needs, our particular societies that draw us away from that image into 'sin'. The job of religion, conducted by always flawed human beings, of course, is to help us understand that, to follow the God-created path inside each of us. In Christianity, this would be the Logos, the imitation of Christ. Each religion worth its salt (not cults) has something approximating or analogous to that.

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But please keep in mind that God does not exist. This has been proven.

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Ha. I don't think there is any scientific method that can prove the non-existence of God. One can only deduce it from lack of evidence. Besides, how does one disprove a matter of faith? It's another category of understanding altogether. Using the language of 'proof' on religious matters doesn't compute. That's why there is such a thing as scientists who are also believers. They know the difference.

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Non existence is no more provable than existence.

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So, the Bible is written by men, but there is a superior "Truth?" Whence this Truth? And what evidence is there that it exists or emerges outside our own biological/evolutionary wiring?

Are the Ten Commandments the inerrant word of God or something that people wrote?

You don't need an external God to conclude that we have certain predilections (born of evolution) that yield a moral code. Those predilections aren't the end-all, however, otherwise we'd not have witnessed the evolution of morality. Just about every culture, no matter the religion, had slaves across 90% of human civilization. Today, it's anathema. Wives were frequently subordinate, bound by marriage contract to the bidding of their husbands. Children were similarly treated as "property." Today, individual rights are the pinnacle of an advanced society.

None of this came from scripture, or from some on-high deity.

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I'm not trying to offer 'evidence'. I'm trying to demonstrate the reasoning, the deductions that people with faith might have. Of course they don't have 'evidence'! It's not science, it's religion. When atheists say, 'where's the evidence?' of God or Truth or whatever, that to me is the ultimate straw man, using the tools of science to debunk the fundamentalist belief in God. As I actually did point out, yes, you can explain the moral code by evolutionary biology, but that is not how Christians think. You talk about the 'evolution' of the moral code, but a Christian will not think that way. They will say the moral code has always been the same and that societies either come closer or move farther away from that code over time. You are either close to God or you are not (and you never ARE God), and you can be either at any particular time. And that is based on an intuition of what the 'Truth' is in an absolute sense, not whatever the current belief is. Does God descry human slavery? Well then good, the society that doesn't practice it is closer to God. That would have always been the case no matter the historical period, whether 90% of the world practiced slavery or not. Does God descry allowing children to choose their sex and undergo surgeries and drug therapies to make it happen? Something tells me he does, although that is the current belief in what is right and good our 'advanced' society has come to. It even conforms with individual rights, the 'pinnacle' of an advanced society, as you say. A Christian will say, no, 'society' does not dictate what is good and bad, God does. The question is, where does your standard of what is 'advanced' or not advanced come from? You can't say it just comes from 'people'. Which people? Our leaders? Your neighbour? Do you decide? Who made you the arbiter of morality? People do whatever the hell they want, witness events in the Middle East. Did Hamas 'evolve' to committing its barbaric acts in Israel? I don't see evolutionary biology working too well there. Advanced according to what set of principles and based on what? I think if you examine that question, you'll find the standard we actually use comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West, which doesn't mean what societies believed and practiced in Biblical times, an easy target, but from how the West over time has interpreted and applied the core teachings of that tradition. It is very simplistic to just dismiss the Bible as a bunch of fairy stories about a man in the sky, when in fact many of our core values, including our encoded human rights, are derived from an understanding of what our Western religions have taught all along.

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We have moral sentiments or instincts which result from evolution. But we also have the capacity of reason which is the product of evolution also. And we can use reason to devise a universal code of ethics. All without God!

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The idea that humans are "fallen creatures" is baloney derived from a book of fiction -- Genesis.

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Fiction is often a great purveyor of truth. Of course, it's a mythological concept to think of humans as 'fallen', ie. were once as gods, then 'fell' from heaven (Eden). What heaven? What Eden? But if we understand the idea as a statement about human limitation, that humans are far from perfect, do not know everything, are not all powerful etc. it is manifestly the case. And we do have a strong penchant for wanting to resolve that sense of lack in all sorts of ways, ie. to imagine what 'perfection' might look like, and whether that notion of perfection offers any kind of guide or path to its achievement. Religions do this with the idea of a deity and ideologies (eg. communism) do it with the idea of a utopia. In any case, the notion of 'fallenness' is both false in a literal sense and true as a metaphor for an observable reality.

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MA1: Fiction is often a great purveyor of truth.

GW1: And often it is not.

MA1: Of course, it's a mythological concept to think of humans as 'fallen', ie. were once as gods, then 'fell' from heaven (Eden).

GW1: I agree.

MA1: What heaven? What Eden?

GW1: Beliefs in heaven and Eden are just superstitions.

MA1: But if we understand the idea as a statement about human limitation, that humans are far from perfect, do not know everything, are not all powerful etc. it is manifestly the case.

GW1: I agree.

MA1: And we do have a strong penchant for wanting to resolve that sense of lack in all sorts of ways, ie. to imagine what 'perfection' might look like, and whether that notion of perfection offers any kind of guide or path to its achievement.

GW1: Do we seek perfection or improvement? I think it is the latter.

MA1: Religions do this with the idea of a deity and ideologies (eg. communism) do it with the idea of a utopia.

GW1: By nature human beings seek advancement or improvement.

MA1: In any case, the notion of 'fallenness' is both false in a literal sense and true as a metaphor for an observable reality.

GW1: I disagree. I don’t think “fallenness” is true as a metaphor. From the beginning of our species we have always had assets and liabilities. We haven’t fallen. If anything, we have progressed.

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Do we seek perfection or improvement? You say it is the latter, but I say it is not a binary choice. What we deem improvement needs to be based on a standard or 'ideal' even if one that is not achievable. How can you know something is 'better' if you don't have a clear concept of 'good'? Karl Marx had a concept of the 'good' society, representing an ideal, and all improvements were toward that end. Christians have an idea of perfection in the person of Christ and all their improvements in their lives are judged so according to their understanding of that person. If you do physical exercise, you have an image somewhere in your mind of what a perfectly fit person would be, and all your efforts are to that end. To me this is plain and obvious. As for humans as a species making progress, yes, but in a material sense, and only in a patchwork way, not applicable to all humans. Likewise, some societies have made progress in terms of freedoms and human rights and some are so far from any improvement they pose a significant threat to others. Why? Because they have a totally different idea of what perfection is, and it does not include freedom and human rights. Their improvement is not the same. What all this means is there is actually no improvement of the human species that is not connected to what groups worship as the good and the true and the beautiful at any given time. And any society can regress at any time, as I think Western society is doing currently, if they lose their idea of perfection.

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Peter that's not the rebuttal you claim it is. It's possibly a rebuttal of a straw man, ie a different claim that I didn't make. This is unfortunately typical of sloppy and self-satisfied atheist "reasoning". Where do you think the moral critique of slavery, that you take as self-evident, emerged from? The answer is: from Christians applying Christian values. There is no doubt at all about that. It's a historical empirical fact. The entire Enlightenment is a realisation of Christian values of truth and of respect for the individual. You think that arose ex nihilo? You think it arose in opposition to Christian ethics? You would be empirically wrong in that case.

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Really? Then why did it take 1800 years for those values to condemn slavery?

Your historical fact is nothing of the sort and the Enlightenment was about moving humanity from religious dogma to rationalism.

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But nor is there any deriving morality *from* God, as the Euthyphro argument shows. And people don't get their morals from religions such as Christianity, rather Christianity gets its morals from people.

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"There can be no deriving morality without God."

That is blatantly false. God does not exist and has never existed, and we have morality. It is even improving.

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Could you provide reference for the assertion that morality is improving?

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Certainly. Here are four relevant references for that:

Harris, Sam. The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. September 13, 2011

Pinker, Steven. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. September 25, 2012.

Pinker, Steven. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. January 15, 2019.

Shermer, Michael. The Moral Arc. January 26, 2016

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science determining morality? I thought we have been there before and around 200M died as a result?

fyi, nearly all western countries have a non replacement birthrate and the peoples within western countries that have replacement birthrates are religious.

figure it out.

people make gods of men when they have no real morals

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PM2: science determining morality?

GW2: Yes, science can help determine morality.

PM2: I thought we have been there before and around 200M died as a result?

GW2: You are mistaken in that thought.

PM2: fyi, nearly all western countries have a non replacement birthrate...

GW2: Yes, it is lower, but in many nonwestern countries, especially in Africa, it is higher. I believe the average for one African country is roughly 6 children per couple.

PM2: and the peoples within western countries that have replacement birthrates are religious.

GW2: Yes, this is another good example of how religious belief often leads to immoral behaviors. “Be fruitful and multiply” is not good practice in our current world.

PM2: figure it out. people make gods of men when they have no real morals

GW2: I don’t think that statement makes any sense.

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Thank you. I think that I've sampled but I'll double check. Good day.

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There is no free will.

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My morality or Shermes has not decayed. I fear you can see only your own biased side

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So, so good. Thank you. I too have admired Ayaan for years but she is attributing morals and values to Christianity that she herself had when she was a Muslim, *and* when she was an atheist.

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@Muffy: it differs in that Christianity has more of a formal structure than atheism does.

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Doesn't matter.

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When I first read Ayaan's piece, I saw that hers was a "cultural" conversion, for cultural and political reasons, rather than based on veracity. Your article articulated all that and more.

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Nov 12, 2023·edited Nov 12, 2023

This was my view as well. My comment on her Twitter:

—-

Choosing a tribe doesn’t sound like sincere religious belief to me.

Does the current strife personally convince you a virgin in the desert gave birth to a messiah who rose from the dead and ensures all who believe life after death?

On what do you base your actual beliefs?

—-

If she now just considers herself cultural aligned with Christians, she could have said that, but she didn’t. Furthermore, branding Enlightenment ideas as purely Christian does no service to expand these principles to the non-Christian world. Instead, they should be branded as universally human.

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And she never explains why she is now Christian, rather than Jewish.

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Yes, she did. In the fifth from last paragraph, she wrote:

"Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realization that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable—indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: What is the meaning and purpose of life?"

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Mr. Shermer

I tend to be a sceptic myself, with a background in the sciences and objective logic. However, I am also a person of faith. My faith did not come easily. Up to late 30s I thought ideas about of god could be real, but also suspected they could be just wishful thinking, or invented by those it power to placate oppressed masses. Over the years I accumulated bits of evidence and experience and by my early 40s I started some more serious searching and study. After the accumulated evidence became overwhelming, I had no choice but to accept it. The evidence is unlike scientific evidence that can be easily reproduced or tested. It is more like legal evidence, and for me progressed through stages: probable cause (there is reason to think that there could be some truth here); preliminary investigation resulting in an indictment (there is sufficient evidence to justify a serious investigation and trial); more detailed investigation and questioning; a verdict; and finally, continuing post-verdict evidence that for me further cemented the initial verdict.

Examples of the kinds of evidence meaningful to me include testimony of witnesses that I knew and had enough knowledge of to trust (and in some cases I could personally question), documented records and reports of other witnesses that appear reasonably reliable, historical records, cross corroboration of various witnesses and sources, patterns of history, and my own personal experiences.

An early step in my faith journey was accepting that metaphysical reality exists and contains intelligent agents with the ability to influence physical reality. I also concluded the Biblical record of events and how people interpreted them at the time is reasonably reliable, especially more recent portions and aspects that are cross corroborated in multiple places and by multiple authors. Eventually I concluded Jesus is in fact the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. As such, I consider myself a Christian, however, I do not accept or insist on “dogmas” of the various denominations. In fact, I consider myself to be antidogma. One friend referred to the dogmas as an “intellectual prison.” While I had never thought about it that way I quickly agreed.

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GS1: I tend to be a sceptic myself, with a background in the sciences and objective logic. However, I am also a person of faith.

GW1: Sorry, but you are a walking contradiction. See Jerry Coyne’s book – Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, 2015.

GS1: An early step in my faith journey was accepting that metaphysical reality exists and contains intelligent agents with the ability to influence physical reality.

GW1: That was an early mistake. You cannot prove this. It is not even probable.

GS1: I also concluded the Biblical record of events and how people interpreted them at the time is reasonably reliable, especially more recent portions and aspects that are cross corroborated in multiple places and by multiple authors.

GW1: Did you know that there is NOT A SINGLE first-person, author-identified, low-bias, promptly written, EYE WITNESS report of any event in the life of Jesus and its aftermath. The Gospels are merely stories. Read the work of Bart Ehrman on this topic.

GS1: In fact, I consider myself to be antidogma.

GW1: And yet you are dogmatic about the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus.

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I will provide a brief response to your comments, however, there is far more to unpack here than can fit in a brief comment.

Re your first point. I have not read the book and will not likely do so soon. Please summarize the "walking contradictions" you see. Science and religion deal with different aspects of reality, however, there is some overlap. Where they overlap there can be no contradiction unless one or both are wrong. When I find something that appears to be a contradiction, I typically seek to either resolve the contradiction, or more often find reasonable possibilities that could explain or resolve it. I do not insist on or claim complete answers that resolve every question. In general, I see no contradictions between my faith and science.

Re your comments about metaphysical reality. You state "it is not even probable." Do you have even the slightest basis for this claim? You claim “You cannot prove this.” OK, I may not be able to prove it to you. However, I find the evidence to be overwhelming. The most powerful evidence includes my personal experiences and those of people close to me that I know, trust, and am confident they are stable, competent, and do not have ulterior motives to make things up. Add to these personal testimonies of people I know less well but have some confidence in and documented stories and historical patterns. Overall, I see a lot of data points, and many cross corroborate one another. Some data has more or less uncertainty, but as a composite the conclusion is very compelling.

RE your comments about the Gospels. Your first sentence reads like a carefully word engineered soundbite intended to create a false impression, summed up as “the Gospels are merely stories;” which seems intended to imply they are made up stories. Yes, they are stories about the life of Jesus compiled by four different authors. Within the documents only one (John) claims to be the writings of an eyewitness (I refer to as a “primary witness”), Luke indicates he was not a primary witness to the life of Jesus, but he was clearly a primary witness to its aftermath (as was Paul). They both lived at a time when primary witnesses were alive and involved. Luke indicates that he prepared an account of events “just as they were handed on to us by….eyewitnesses…(NRSV). The other two gospels include no such claims, but other evidence suggests they were also from primary and secondary witnesses and earlier written source documents. The Gospels were accepted as reliable sources by different early churches, consistent with teachings from the early primary, secondary, and tertiary witnesses who established those churches. The four Gospels sometimes tell the story in different ways and include or leave out different things. One can find examples where they appear to contradict one another; however, these tend to be minor points of little or no importance.

My overall take away: The four Gospels are like four witnesses that have not been harmonized or sanitized by some central religious authority. Each has a slightly different view and interpretation of what happened. While some details differ, they all tell the same central story.

Re: your comment on dogmas. Not sure where this is coming from. I never used the words God or resurrection in my post. Definition of dogma per Wikipedia: any belief held unquestioningly and with undefended certainty. Perhaps a separate discussion of my dogmas and your dogmas would be useful.

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Just for fun, let’s look at logic as an intellectual proof for the existence or nonexistence of God. There are many of these “proofs” or “arguments.” Thomas Aquinas had five. Kant had three. And there are many more. But, for the purposes here, I would just focus on one - the cosmological, or "first cause" argument. This asserts that since everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, the universe must have had a cause which was itself not caused. This ultimate first cause is identified with God. Christian apologist William Lane Craig uses this syllogism:

- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

- The Universe began to exist.

- Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

But, this first cause argument has a problem here and it is the logic itself. As used in this context, this argument says that something came from nothing; that there was nothing and then, poof, there was a universe. But, as Parmenides said 2,400 years ago, "Ex nihilo nihil fit" or "Nothing Comes from Nothing."

Physicists don’t really know how the universe came into being. It may be the result of an oscillating universe that infinitely expands and contracts, or it may be part of a multiverse, or it may have popped out of a black hole in another universe. The consensus, though, is that our universe came into existence as a “Big Bang.” The question is what came before? If it’s true that something can’t come from nothing, then what was the cause of the big bang, and what was the cause of the cause of the big bang, and so on in an infinite regression. It’s a paradox. There can be no such thing as an uncaused cause - no first cause.

Likewise, If God created the universe, who or what created God? You see my point. It’s understandable that only a hundred or so years ago, before the advances in astrophysics, before science provided answers to and the methods for finding answers concerning nature, that religious beliefs were used to fill in the blanks. But those days are gone. Religion is no longer necessary as a means of explaining things. As Nietzsche said, God is dead.

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The infinite regress is a paradox, but I can see no resolution other than the blunt fact that at some point you have to arrive an uncaused first cause, whatever that may be.

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GS1: I will provide a brief response to your comments, however, there is far more to unpack here than can fit in a brief comment.

GW1: Your comment is hardly brief.

GS1: Re your first point. I have not read the book and will not likely do so soon. Please summarize the "walking contradictions" you see. Science and religion deal with different aspects of reality, however, there is some overlap. Where they overlap there can be no contradiction unless one or both are wrong.

GW1: You should really read the book. I am not going to paraphrase it to you. Go to Amazon and read the summary. However, I will give you at least one example. Most Christians (one group of religious people) say the universe began to exist and God created it. At least half of cosmologists (one group of scientists) now say the universe is eternal. That’s a contradiction.

GS1: When I find something that appears to be a contradiction, I typically seek to either resolve the contradiction, or more often find reasonable possibilities that could explain or resolve it. I do not insist on or claim complete answers that resolve every question.

GW1: Where there is a contradiction, you should not believe both propositions indicating the contradiction.

GS1: In general, I see no contradictions between my faith and science.

GW1: Then you are just failing to “see” the contradictions which are there. Start by addressing the one I presented above.

GS1: Re your comments about metaphysical reality. You state "it is not even probable." Do you have even the slightest basis for this claim?

GW1: Yes. There is no good evidence to demonstrate that any alleged supernatural thing exists or any supernatural event has occurred. That’s the basis.

G1: You claim “You cannot prove this.” OK, I may not be able to prove it to you. However, I find the evidence to be overwhelming.

GW1: That’s not proof! A proof must entail some objective evidence, not just your subjective experience.

G1: The most powerful evidence includes my personal experiences and those of people close to me that I know, trust, and am confident they are stable, competent, and do not have ulterior motives to make things up. Add to these personal testimonies of people I know less well but have some confidence in and documented stories and historical patterns.

GW1: That’s still not proof. Those are personal anecdotes. They are not even good evidence for your claims.

G1: Overall, I see a lot of data points, and many cross corroborate one another. Some data has more or less uncertainty, but as a composite the conclusion is very compelling.

GW1: Maybe compelling to you, but not to people who are thinking critically, rationally, skeptically, and scientifically.

G1: RE your comments about the Gospels. Your first sentence reads like a carefully word engineered soundbite intended to create a false impression, summed up as “the Gospels are merely stories;” which seems intended to imply they are made up stories.

GW1: It was a carefully crafted sound bite to create a true impression. Most of the Gospel stories are either made up or rumors or misunderstandings. There are probably as many falsehoods as truths in those stories.

G1: Yes, they are stories about the life of Jesus compiled by four different authors. Within the documents only one (John) claims to be the writings of an eyewitness (I refer to as a “primary witness”),

GW1: Most unbiased scholars, including Bart Ehrman, have concluded that the author of John was not an eyewitness to Jesus. But that is another debate.

G1: Luke indicates he was not a primary witness to the life of Jesus, but he was clearly a primary witness to its aftermath (as was Paul).

GW1: By “aftermath” I was just referring to about the first month after the crucifixion of Jesus during which some disciples may have claimed that Jesus came back to life. Neither the author of Luke nor Paul were eyewitnesses to the relevant alleged events at that time. Luke and Paul never met or observed Jesus.

G1: They both lived at a time when primary witnesses were alive and involved.

GW1: Irrelevant. They were not eyewitnesses themselves and they do not name eyewitnesses whom they interviewed and/or do not tell what the eyewitnesses said.

G1: Luke indicates that he prepared an account of events “just as they were handed on to us by….eyewitnesses…(NRSV).

GW1: He does not name these alleged eyewitnesses and does not quote them. The book of Luke is weak.

G1: The other two gospels include no such claims, but other evidence suggests they were also from primary and secondary witnesses and earlier written source documents.

GW1: No, there is no good evidence that those authors were eyewitnesses of any event regarding Jesus. Again, they name no eyewitness and/or do not quote them.

G1: The Gospels were accepted as reliable sources by different early churches, consistent with teachings from the early primary, secondary, and tertiary witnesses who established those churches.

GW1: I don’t accept them as such, and neither do modern scholars or rational thinking people.

G1: The four Gospels sometimes tell the story in different ways and include or leave out different things.

GW1: It is much worse than that. They sometimes are inconsistent or even contradictory. Also, if a major detail was true, as revealed in one Gospel, then we would expect it to be revealed in three or four of the Gospels. For example, only John says that Jesus was pierced with a spear on the cross. Now that is a major detail, but none of the other three Gospels mention it. That is a problem. I suspect the author of John made it up.

G1: One can find examples where they appear to contradict one another; however, these tend to be minor points of little or no importance.

GW1: That is absolutely false. There are many major points on which they disagree. See above for just one example.

G1: My overall take away: The four Gospels are like four witnesses that have not been harmonized or sanitized by some central religious authority.

GW1: They are not eyewitnesses at all! Your overall take-away is just mistaken.

G1: Each has a slightly different view and interpretation of what happened.

GW1: That is absolutely false. The book of John has a VERY different view from the other three.

G1: While some details differ, they all tell the same central story.

GW1: They have some details in common, but from the differences and the deficiencies we know the truth – there is no good evidence that Jesus came back to life.

G1: Re: your comment on dogmas. Not sure where this is coming from. I never used the words God or resurrection in my post. Definition of dogma per Wikipedia: any belief held unquestioningly and with undefended certainty. Perhaps a separate discussion of my dogmas and your dogmas would be useful.

GW1: I don’t have any dogmas, but you probably do. The poor woman has adopted Christian dogmas – that God exists and that Jesus came back to life.

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Regarding the proposition "that metaphysical reality exists and contains intelligent agents with the ability to influence physical reality"---

If this is restated as the proposition that "there exists one or more generally undetected (and/or undetectable with presently generally known and accepted) intelligent agents with the ability to influence physical reality" (avoiding the term "metaphysical" whatever that may mean in this context), then the proposition cannot be proven, but maybe its reality could at least be experienced.

Personal experience is not proof for anyone else. But could a rational person conclude in favor of the proposition based on personal experience?

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Here is an example of the type of experience I have in mind:

In her home, during the course of a busy morning getting her children ready for school, Mary heard a clear voice without any apparent speaker. She heard "Juanita Babcock will need your help today." This was not a normal experience for Mary, but she nonetheless made mental note to call her friend Juanita Babcock.

Driving along a residential city street after dropping her children at their school(s), Mary passed another woman, a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Mary felt an "impression" (as she later called it) that she should stop and ask the pedestrian if she needed anything. Mary shook off the impression and drove on into the next block, but the impression came to her again, stronger, that she needed to stop and ask the pedestrian whether there was anything she needed.

Mary responded by driving back to stop and speak with the pedestrian, a stranger to Mary. The pedestrian told Mary she needed a ride--of just a few blocks--to the local hospital where she worked. Mary picked up the pedestrian, who explained as they drove that her car had just died on the way to work, and that, while walking toward the hospital from her disabled car, she had been praying for help to get to work on time because her job was at risk if she were late.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Mary wished the pedestrian well and introduced herself: "Mary Hoffman." The pedestrian, thanking Mary again, replied "I am Juanita Babcock."

Suppose Mary is a generally rational person. What can she (or what should she) conclude from this experience, if anything?

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To claim that there are intelligent agents, undetectable or not yet detected objectively by people, who sometimes influence physical reality, is not a proposition about personal experience. It is not rational to draw conclusions about objective reality on the basis of personal experience alone.

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I've sat on many juries on cases minor to serious. In more than one of those cases, eyewitness testimony was the least reliable. Often it was wrong. But the circumstantial evidence was robust and drove the verdict. I’d argue that rational thought is only one mode of perception and not our primary one. We are emotional, intuitive, sensing creatures. We create art. We write. We love.

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My husband always says, “ We are SEMI-rational creatures.”😏

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Rational thought is the best skill for answering questions about reality and morality and for problem solving.

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I'm really torn here. My suspicion is that enlightenment humanism requires a cultural foundation of belief in free will and individualism, which are just not present in some places. The thinkers that come out of cultures with a long Christian tradition punch way above their weight in the development and promotion of enlightenment humanism, and I think the societal values that informed their thought are the main reason for it.

Of course there have been other pockets of culture that have contributed to enlightenment humanism (like Daoist philosophy that was allowed space to flourish in China).

And looking across the span of history, it seems like the most prominent atheist cultures (the Soviet Union and other Communist countries) produced anti-enlightenment, anti-humanist societies and philosophers of the first order.

I say all this as an "there's no proof that there's a God" agnostic, and feel awkward arguing that my own beliefs are probably helping to undermine the flourishing of the kind of society I want.

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Mate, there simply is no need for any religion or God today in order to be a decent person. We all know that, and wh6 people aginise about it is a mystery, perhaps the main one

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There's no need for a God to be a decent person, but I think there may be a need for a God to have a decent society. Where can you pull deontological limits on behaviors from without a divine judge? Any argument from philosophy is open to philosophical invalidation, especially with the advent of postmodernism that says all claims of authority are suspect power grabs by one group to oppress the other.

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There is no need for a divine judge, deontology, or postmodernism. In fact they are a bust. Secular humanism is the path to a better world.

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"why people agonise about it is a mystery"

IMO, that's adequately explained by the easily-triggered/re-packaged/hyped common human hunger for "meaning" &or "purpose" (which is explicit in Hirsi Ali's piece). combined with addiction to the emotion of certainty, widespread streaks of confidence-spamming authoritarianism, and desperately wishing for things to be "simple" and "straightforward" (because rationality, let alone socialization & organization grounded in rationality, takes sustained effort and maintenance), many folks are still easily spooked by the messy prospect of "WHAT? every individual works it out for themselves? *moral panic ensues*"

... and of course that's when the apologist punts to The Beauty Of Divinely Ordained Free Will ...

in a nutshell perhaps: people agonise about such things because they aren't immune to button-pushing. so many buttons, so many ways to push 'em...

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You no longer need to be an agnostic. You can now be a contra-theist. There are now several sound proofs that God does not exist.

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You keep saying this. Produce one.

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“we discovered natural rights that dictate that all people should be treated equally through the moral sciences”

In what way can morals come from science? The belief in equality is irrational, based either in a belief in the Christian God, or the God of the humanist’s own making. By every scientific measure, people are not equal. This is a spiritual concept.

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the only equality of rational significance is the legal sort. no spiritual concept/conceit required for that as a baseline — only as rhetoric to bring theists on board with the prospect [a la a certain Constitutional Convention back in the late 1700s]. all other conceits of human equality are at best tools for shutting down (e.g.) people who think the abolition of slavery is a huge mistake.

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I'm curious to know whether what I'm about to share is a widely-known argument for the validity of the Christian faith, or something that only exists within some Christian circles. The comment that an extraordinary event requires extraordinary evidence seems to me to be absolutely true, but I think this evidence is compelling, not unavailable.

First, a vast majority of people living at the time when Jesus's disciples began sharing about their resurrection experience had significant political, religious, and personal reasons for discrediting this. It should have been easy for them to open the tomb and show Jesus's body if it was still there, and they would have certainly been looking for any possible ways to stop the movement. Most accounts say the tomb was guarded by soldiers, as there was high motivation to ensure that no one took his body away and made preposterous claims.

Second, the next leap people often make is that someone must have found a way around the guarded tomb, and stole or destroyed Jesus's body in order to prevent the religious leaders from being able to produce it and discredit their movement. In that case, it's highly probably that those motivated to do this would be the disciples themselves. Except...the disciples were all repeatedly beaten, put in jail, even died tortuous deaths for asserting that Jesus had risen from the dead. And there was no personal or political gain that they received for their assertions - they were poor, constantly traveling, and as mentioned above, suffered greatly. It seems highly unlikely that these men would persistently put themselves through these pains for something that they knew was false. Perhaps some say that their motivation, which they might have been willing to die for, was to raise enough of a force to overthrow their Roman oppression, and perhaps some would have been willing to die for that. But we know that Jesus's followers did not preach or teach anything along these lines.

Third, a passage in Acts 5 quotes a respected Jewish leader, Gamaliel, who says in essence, "Revolutionaries have come before - we've seen people make these claims, draw followers, then die and the movement dies. If this is of human origin again, it will fail. If it doesn't, and can't be stopped, then it must be true." Granted, this requires a leap, but look at what Christianity has persisted through for centuries...is this something at least worth considering?

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Yes! Bravo!

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1.a. no 'tomb of Jesus Christ' (or Yeshuaz ben Yosef, or what-have-you) has been established outside of Gospel literature, making discussion of it purely speculative at best, motivated reasoning at worst. great for storytelling workshops, not so great for getting to the bottom of what we should believe and why.

2. a. "Who would die for a lie?" is a non-starter against rational doubt, because it implies a straw-man counterclaim. rational doubt has no need to insist that "they all made all of it up just to trick/fleece/ people".

b. "we know that Jesus's followers did not preach or teach anything along these lines."

No-True-Scotsman much? how do we "know" this?

tangent—the notion that any surviving Gospel was written by a living eyewitness of events described therein ... also isn't as supported/persuasive as you might think.

3. a. ...how many religions do you think *haven't* persisted for centuries?

b. "Granted, this requires a leap" sort of collapses the whole "Third" ... unless all you're ultimately saying to Shermer is that "it's all about faith", which wasn't really in dispute ...

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all of that has definitely been considered, at various lengths, by rather a few scholars, since higher criticism became a thing centuries ago. infidels.org probably has the most accessible sampling of their various findings, bibliographies and so on.

i eagerly devoured a lot of Holy Text for about 30 years, before i started reading critical biblical studies about 13 years ago.

the short edition of my reply to your "is this at least worth considering?" is: that it pokes zero holes in my doubt (both broad and, i fancy, deep-ish) regarding anything framed as unique/revolutionary/proprietary truth-claims in any and every Scriptural Tradition throughout human history.

supplemental:

what you present as evidence surely is available, but the paths by which one might find it compelling are either invalid or unsound, or are predicated on unnecessary/non-existent/similarly-invalid counterarguments.

but more specifically, if it matters:

1. a.

b. what about the accounts that say it *wasn't* guarded? one will pick the version one prefers to believe, or perhaps mull over both/all accounts and discover or concoct a pleasant "harmonization"... and none of that leaves anyone closer to realizing any meaningful truth, from where I'm sitting. it doesn't amount to anything persuasive (unless being persuaded having not been reliably established as of dire importance), let alone conclusive.

((...oops, i'll have to break this up, because i can't re-read you on my phone at this length...))

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Nov 14, 2023·edited Nov 14, 2023

Shermer is admirably in line with Ayaan's concern about the civilizational war that is upon us. And he is also to be commended that he knows who his allies are in this war, and they are mostly Christian and mostly NOT Muslim or postmodern leftists. He and I (a Christian pastor) find strange bedfellows these days.

However, once again he shows the eager willingness of atheists to pour the "universal acid" of naturalism on everything - everything that is, except their own beliefs.

He says the West's cherished values, which he, an atheist, considers to be objective and universal(!), are not grounded in Christian belief but on "scientific naturalism and Enlightenment humanism." Will he get any argument from Ayaan on this? No. What Ayaan and other deconverting atheists have done is take the question deeper - a step apparently Shermer is unwilling to take. The step is this: "on what are scientific naturalism and enlightenment humanism" built? Do they just hang there in midair, suspended on nothing?

He doesn't see it.

Physicalism/Naturalism/Atheism (whatever you want to call it) is a universal acid that swallows up all superstition and religion and all claims of value. Yes, that is the implication. But as such it ALSO swallows up every ground for believing in the efficacy of reason and therefore also of science and the whole Enlightenment program.

And if you need evidence that this is the endgame of making his chosen philosophy the default ideological center, he needs to not look at the relatively better off irreligious European states he cites. He needs to look at the world those States (now including even the much more religious US) are pulling us into, its valuelessness, its rudderlessness, its Gnostic exaltation of the Self and safety, its negation of truth, its return to authoritarianism and Truthspeak. This leftist wokeism which he decries is not the legitimate child of Christianity. Scientific Naturalism and Enlightenment Humanism are! Leftist Wokeism, however, is the legitimate child of the New Atheists. Shermer and his ilk have sown this wind. We are reaping the whirlwind.

Everything good about her atheism, Ayaan has come to realize, first came from Judeo-Christian roots. So, she said, why stop at the unsatisfying springs, when one may drink from the well?

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The war in civilisation today is a war of where meaning resides.

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Nothing Shermer wrote answered the 3 questions she posed regarding China, Putin, and ideology. It’s about Faith. Faith tells me Christ rose from the dead. As a Catholic married to a Jew for 36 years it is something that myself as an individual believes. I don’t need to be hit over the head by the Church to know this. What Ayaan was searching for she has found in Christianity. She could have also found it in Judaism. It’s a sense of hope wrapped in Faith.

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I think this is misunderstanding Ayaan's point. There's no moral imperative pushing atheism. There's no external driver for humanism other than an internal belief - which is not compelling to others. Judaism and Christianity both have an external reason to bring freedom to the world - the belief that God said so - and that is far more compelling a motivation and hence more likely to succeed.

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But God does not exist! We now know this.

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How exactly?

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What are you talking about, exactly? Provide the context for your question. What did I say which caused you to ask this question? I cannot see the context by accessing this new question of yours. Be specific.

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Gary, says, "But God does not exist! We now know this."

Apparently Gary is now able to prove this. It is too bad he didn't provide Shermer with the proof. I assume it would have prevented Shermer from countering his regular propaganda with, first asking rhetorically, "Are there good reasons to believe in God?" and then responding to his question with, "I will simply note that both sides have strong arguments and ..."

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S1: Gary, says, "But God does not exist! We now know this."

GW1: Yes, I did say that and have said it many times.

S1: Apparently Gary is now able to prove this.

GW1: Yes, I am and I have! Other persons have also.

S1: It is too bad he didn't provide Shermer with the proof.

GW1: I have provided Shermer with the proof several times in the past. I would be willing to provide you with a proof, if you requested it, studied it, and gave feedback on it.

S1: I assume it would have prevented Shermer from countering his regular propaganda with, first asking rhetorically, "Are there good reasons to believe in God?" and then responding to his question with, "I will simply note that both sides have strong arguments and ..."

GW1: I do not present propaganda. I present what is true, probably true, rational, correct, and moral.

GW1: Both sides have arguments, but theists’ arguments are weak and atheists’ arguments are strong, when they make them. Modern arguments against the existence of God are not only strong, they are correct.

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"GW1: I do not present propaganda. I present what is true, probably true, rational, correct, and moral."

Maybe carefully read who was being accused of the propaganda. (Hint: it was not you)

GW1: Both sides have arguments, but theists’ arguments are weak

Again, your pointing this comment in the wrong direction. It was Shermer who said the arguments on both sides were strong. I'm not inclined to believe Shermer one way or the other. It appears he is willing to say pretty much anything. Unfortunately for him in this case he is speaking to someone (Ayaan) that is able to note the contradictions, it apparently bothers him not a whit to engage in.

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"GW1: I do not present propaganda. I present what is true, probably true, rational, correct, and moral."

S2: Maybe carefully read who was being accused of the propaganda. (Hint: it was not you)

GW2: Well, thanks for clarifying here that you were not accusing me of spreading propaganda.

GW1: Both sides have arguments, but theists’ arguments are weak.

S2: Again, your pointing this comment in the wrong direction. It was Shermer who said the arguments on both sides were strong.

GW2: I am pointing my comment to everyone who reads the comments here.

S2: I'm not inclined to believe Shermer one way or the other.

GW2: I have read many, if not most, of Shermer’s books and articles, and I agree with him about 90% of the time.

S2: It appears he is willing to say pretty much anything.

GW2: Nonsense! Identify one specific assertion he has made which you disagree with and maybe we can debate it.

S2: Unfortunately for him in this case he is speaking to someone (Ayaan) that is able to note the contradictions, it apparently bothers him not a whit to engage in.

GW2: He is responding to her! She can reply and I am sure he would not only pay attention but give her space in his magazine, hard copy or online. It sounds like you really want to defend her movement from secular humanism to Christianity, and don’t know why you would want to do that.

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GW2: He is responding to her!

Let's be clear. Can we agree on anything or is it a lost cause before we begin? He is responding to her, in front of us. This letter was sent to her in private for her. It was put here for us.

GW2: It sounds like you really want to defend her movement from secular humanism to Christianity,

I'm celebrating a response to some of the atheist tripe by someone who was once happy to accept it, now calling it unconvincing, and seeing Shermer have to squirm and to make concessions, when he'd have been happy to blow off and paper over if made by most anyone else.

S2: It appears he is willing to say pretty much anything.

GW2: Nonsense! Identify one specific assertion he has made which you disagree with and maybe we can debate it.

You don't on one hand produce this,

https://youtube.com/shorts/6KHvNrLO6qU?si=oEXiUCZwnelCrppu

when you believe, "I will simply note that both sides have strong arguments ..."

Those are absolutely incompatible. And very easy to see. This is grade school stuff. One, or maybe both are propaganda. They both can't be true, but they come out of the same mouth.

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What motivates us to learn about the world if we don't already assume that there is meaning to be found?

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Ah, but the evidence against it is ‘more than an image’ as well. Carbon dating and historical references indicate it is a 14th century artifact — a medieval forgery acknowledged to be such by a bishop in 1390.

I understand the shroud may seem like “compelling evidence” for some who already believe, but, even if carbon dating indicated it was much older — possibly even from the first century A.D. — it still would not — could not — prove that a man-god miraculously arose from the dead.

I don’t say that to be snarky, and wouldn’t go rudely posting that on Christian forums. But this is a forum for skeptics; we hold evidence to higher standards than true believers are inclined to.

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I had all these same skepticisms. But my going out in nature and observing, my giving birth to 4 humans, my breath and heart working in this body have led me scientifically and spiritually to be a Christian. I don't go to church, "church" is everywhere. The Bible is the record , but not the end all, be all....You have gone to great efforts to support the idea that it is unreasonable to believe in God. But, if you can ever get far enough back, back, back... Where did the original spark come from? I find that if we are open, the good ideas(many that you stated) bring us to the higher power and make life even more amazing. But each person had to come there on his own. Alone.

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I had all these same skepticisms. But my going out in nature and observing, my giving birth to 4 humans, my breath and heart working in this body have led me scientifically and spiritually to be a Christian. I don't go to church, "church" is everywhere. The Bible is the record , but not the end all, be all....You have gone to great efforts to support the idea that it is unreasonable to believe in God. But, if you can ever get far enough back, back, back... Where did the original spark come from? I find that if we are open, the good ideas(many that you stated) bring us to the higher power and make life even more amazing. But each person had to come there on his own. Alone.

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Interesting points. But I think it elides certain assumptions. First, humans are not purely rational beings - as the Nazarene said, in my opinion accurately, "man does not live by bread alone". That is the point Ayan is making, and either that core need state will be fed by an intrinsically illiberal religious worldview, or one that is consonant with, and gave birth to, Western traditions. Second (and this is a quibble), we often view the history of human individuality (and the rights of various sub-groups as we define them today) through the lens of our modern, non-food insecure, highly wealthy 21st century lifestyle. Women's suffrage Is a response to a need driven by less death in childbirth and thus longer lives, gay rights are driven by a reaction to mass media/imperial condemnation of the "effeminate" virtues, etc. etc. (there was a lot more tolerance for Whitman than there was Wilde than there was for Stonewall). It was not the Empire of Reason that gave us those rights and definition (in my opinion), it was mere response to social needs, in the context of a society that needed to worry less about making sure the cows got milked. Throughout all of it, man searches for meaning, and for many of us, that meaning runs through the communion of religion.

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