Why do people believe in God?

Image from Apologetics 315

I’ve been told my style of confronting religious issues is, uhm, brash, I guess, too aggressive and not constructive. It has been suggested I ask people why they believe in God. I’m assuming the popularity of the design argument puts it up there as a prominent reason, and the word tricks in the ontological argument make it an unpopular reason, but not completely absent as a reason.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll blog my way through Peter Kreeft’s 20 arguments. It seems fair, and should keep me occupied for a while. I’ll also offer my opinion of some of the reasons atheists give for not believing in God, although the common one is a lack of a good argument, or evidence, to believe in God.

While some of the arguments speak to some generic kind of deity and could be used to support any creator being, like Allah, Yahweh, or Bramanah, others speak specifically to an Abrahamic type deity, like the ontological argument. I will of course entertain other possibilities when the arguments could point towards other possibilities.

Some sites on the web claim to have far more than 20 arguments. If one of the ones you particularly find convincing, or struggle to get around as an atheist, is not among Kreeft’s 20, please post either the complete argument, or a link to it in the comments section of this post. Because in general, I’m not going to bother with arguments from belief and so on, unless someone expressly claims their validity.

Also, any atheists who have any arguments against god’s existence they particularly like should also put them in the comments, and the debate can begin.

These posts are fair game for debate, even if it is just for the sake of exercising the muscle in your head with the most nerdy and oldest debate in History. Please join in, as it’s unlikely I will find every possible rebuttal or supporting claim for all the arguments in question.

The “God’s existence” category will be broken into two sub categories, for and against, to make it easier for people to navigate. While doing this I intend to get back to reading through the Bible, and hopefully the Quran, Bagavad-Gita and the Upanishads.

I may ask commentors here to write guest posts outlining the arguments hey like in order to minimise me straw manning the arguments. If you are a believer, here’s a chance to say why, and if you aren’t, here is your chance too.

That’s a bit over sensitive!

Many people will find that criticising religion upsets people, quite a lot…

…when it’s their religion, otherwise they don’t care. To be fair, it is uncomfortable having undefendable ideas attacked. Jehovah’s Witness take it better than others, relishing the persecution promised by their loving god. But, in general, religious people seem to think that their belief is reason in itself for it not to be criticised.

Sometimes just the mild implication of criticism, like a picture…

Image displayed on Face Of Muhammed in solidarity with JP, the cartoonist.

…can spark death threats and riots.

I’m going to be fair, not all religious people go to church/synagogue/temple/mosque, or whatever, pay tithes, or try to spread their “truth”. But, they generally, even if not financially, but simply through prayer, or simply opinion, support missionaries ramming their beliefs down other people’s throats in third world countries, and pretty much doing to other people’s beliefs what they insist must not be done to theirs. No, it’s not a sermon “on do unto others…”

This is actually a confirmation that, according to the Bible, those who believe in its loving deity, have every right to be over sensitive, and in fact, God will rush to their aid, should they simply call upon him.

“He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. 2 Kings 2:23-25

Yup, even if someone teases your baldness, you have every right to become homicidally offended and call upon God to kill the people doing it.

See how loving God is.

Talk about BS.

I am straight and proud, but I’m not posting that shit on my timeline.

It’s amazing what Facebook turns up. The above picture appeared in a post that was subsequently shared by others (who presumably brought into it) and ended up on my newsfeed. It comes with a little text too, which I will look at a little of shortly.

Firstly, in the image:

“[…] its now seen as intolerant to be straight and proud […]”

No, it is seen as intolerant to be homophobic, believe it or not, I’m straight and proud, but have no issues with homosexuality. This is an obvious straw man argument, they claim the argument to be something other than it is, to make their point.

” […] if you stand against the promotion of gay rights, you are intolerant and bigoted […]”

Damn straight! What’s the issue?

In the text:

“When the ‘rights’ of a group that comprise less than 3% of the global population become ‘special rights’ and are forced onto the majority via the media, governments and well funded ‘lobby groups’ then you know there is a sinister agenda driving the campaign for sinister reasons.”

…and…

“then it is clearly part of a concerted effort to force the normalisation of something that much more than 3% of the worlds population don’t want their children exposed to.”

This is an appeal to popular opinion. Popular opinion doesn’t make an idea correct. When Copernicus suggested a helio-centric universe, less than 3% of the global populace likely agreed, and most people believed in geo-centricism instead, this didn’t make the solar system geo-centric.

The diction seems to be aiming at discrediting anyone who might disagree with them as being part of something evil or “sinister,” which seems like an ad hominum attack. Even if the people pushing the issue do have political agendas, which they probably do, it doesn’t automatically make them incorrect or “sinister” for pushing this one.

Then the rest goes on about pushing political agendas like this one, really? It has nothing to do with treating people in a fair manner which gives them the greatest degree of opportunity for equality and happiness? It isn’t about giving people the right to choose how they live their lives? The rights of people are nothing more than a political agenda? This sounds like another straw man argument.

And right at the end, they make an analogy to women’s rights, just to prove what a bad idea gay rights are. I’m not sure what their reasoning behind this is, though, women probably comprise around 50% of the global population, so it seems like a bad analogy anyway.

This was just interesting, and I’ve filed it under debate tactics, because it’s a good example of bad debating tactics. There are likely two straw man arguments, an appeal to popular opinion, an ad hominum argument, and possibly a faulty analogy.

What’s your two cents?

And, of course, I invite you to post this to your wall if you agree. 😉

Judgmental, intolerant and proud.

“We live in a day and age in which the only thing that it is wrong to believe, is that it’s wrong to believe that somebody’s wrong.” – David Assherick

It’s a funny thing when everyone’s beliefs are considered of equal value. “We have no right to judge the beliefs of others.” Why not? We’ve come so far because of judging beliefs as bad. Imagine if we considered human sacrifice just another belief that’s ok, simply because it’s there?

From IMDb

I am judgmental, and believe we should be. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with judging Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) as immoral for ordering the repeated covering up of child molestation by priests. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with judging someone who repeatedly abuses kids (even if it’s because God told him to) of being abusive, there’s a pattern. I fail to see why judgmental is an insult, surely if people weren’t judgmental, then there’d be no morality at all?

I think it’s good to be intolerant, society is intolerant, we don’t tolerate fraud (unless it’s a religious movement), we don’t tolerate human sacrifice, drunken driving, or mass murder. Some of us don’t have an issue with mass murder and thus consider Moses to be a good moral leader. But in general, society has benefited from intolerance.

Being intolerant or judgemental is limited, I don’t think it is ok to judge someone for being black, or to be intolerant of someone because they choose to eat meat, and I don’t. I don’t think that being intolerant of someone’s sexuality because of a verifiably false Bronze Age text is good either. I do, though, think that being intolerant of a text that encourages child abuse, homophobia, racism, war mongering, mysoginy and fraud, is a good thing.

I don’t mind people being intolerant of my beliefs, but I expect as much as I give. I will always give a reason, “god said…” Isn’t a reason. “You have no right to judge,” isn’t a reason. people can judge me, I don’t mind, there’s a lot of bad stuff to be judged, and I’m not going to hide behind a poor excuse and pretend my evils don’t affect others.

We have outlawed human sacrifice because we are judgmental and intolerant. We have outlawed pot smoking because we don’t take Rastafarianism as seriously as Islam or Christianity, and consider pot smoking worse than child abuse and mysoginy. This is intolerant and judgmental, the fact that it is an incorrect judgment is beside the point, it is judgmental, and most people accept it.

We are intolerant of allowing religious practices such as already mentioned, and indeed, the vast majority of the global population follows an Abrahamic God, who is by nature intolerant and judgmental, and encourages that in His followers. This 52 or 53% of the global populace are fiercely intolerant, leading to wars and other civil unrest. But say something about their beliefs, and you’re intolerant and judgmental, and they get very upset, and stamp their feet, and send people to kill you for drawing pictures, or writing books, they don’t like.

We’ve dispensed with human sacrifice, and most western people recognise that animal sacrifice is also cruel and serves no purpose. We’ve decided that the Sun is probably just a “mass of incandescent gas” and not Ra riding his chariot across the sky. We make jokes about flat earth beliefs, even though the most popular religious text in the world implies geocentricism and a flat earth. We have done this through judging some ideas as objectively incorrect, or in some cases even harmful.

Why then, would it be an bad thing to say beating kids is abusive, even if your bronze age role model disagrees. Why would it be bad to accept that threatening people with Hell is so obviously not loving. Why is it seen as wrong to point out that Christians happily accept the incredible of the resurrection while rejecting the uncomfortable in Jesus teachings of giving all possessions away or removing limbs. It is judgmental and intolerant, of course, but it is also true. How is this a bad thing, if not for people thinking like this, we’d probably still be allowing human sacrifice.

So, I am judgmental, I like making judgments before doing stupid things, like beating children. I’d like to judge that as wrong, and anyone who does it as immoral, and I won’t apologise for that. I am intolerant, I am intolerant of bad ideas that lead to objectively bad choices, like abusing children or threatening people with hellfire and brimstone, which is psychological abuse. I won’t apologise for that either. And if you believe your beliefs are above judgment, and use insults like, “you’re intolerant and judgmental,” I’ll say, “thank you, do you have any good reasons for why you think I’m incorrect?”

Does discussing religion enrich lives?

This question was posed during a debate on Facebook regarding a discussion on… well… God’s existence and people’s inconsistency in taking the Bible literally. I figured it was a good thing to get back to blogging with. Yes, I’m still alive, survived my airplane rides, but have had a lot to process and sort out, like life without God, or much of a family. (No connection between the two.)

So, a world with no religious discourse, that sounds like a world with no religion, great, I can live with that. Now we just need to convince Christians that the only command that most Christians really take seriously should be ignored like the others (sabbath keeping, pork, shaving, mixed breed cattle, mixed textiles and vegetable gardens). This command is the one to ‘make disciples of all nations’. As long as there is this mentality, then religious discussions must, as a necessity, continue.

Since religion is probably objectively bad for modern society, and (at least all the ones so far invented) are so obviously, not true, it would be a good idea to continue in the vein of bloggers and writers around the world that are working to free people from the imaginations of ancient cultures. Here is the answer, the discourse can be fulfilling, since it can have positive results. Fulfilling is a little vague, but I think it’s more than just ridding the world of one of many justifications for evil.

So, is it worthwhile debating the existence of God, is that fulfilling? Again, a bit vague, but when I’m done you can decide whether I have fulfilling. I’d say yes, an emphatic yes. My deconversion started on this blog, and on other people’s blogs, debating, examining arguments, checking facts (you’ll be surprised at how much christianity crumbles when you just check to see if the “facts” from the apologist are indeed facts), and finally, trying to defend the Bible as something worth believing from a rational standpoint.

It was the uncomfortable places I found myself in, the discussions I had with believers, and unbelievers, and the final realisation that if the God of the Bible does exist, he’d not be worth the effort. I won’t reiterate Dawkins’ famous description from The God Delusion, but for those who know it, or who will look it up, that’s what I think of the Old Testament God. My quest for the truth was sincere, I tried, I prayed, I researched, and I just can’t find truth in the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus or Muhammed.

This discomfort was compounded by issues at home, and eventually a life of moving from place to place, I still do this. For readers out there who don’t know me personally, I teach horses to be ridden, so I tend to work myself out of work, and then move to the next breeder. My life has been somewhat upside down, but it is a strangely more promising life without the hope for a hereafter, without the belief that the amazing rainbows I see are anything more than a fortuitous assortment of water and light unintentionally formed by natural occurrences to provide something aesthetically pleasing. That, I am lucky enough to be there at the right moment, to glimpse the beauty of the universe. Instead of believing that they represent the promise of an unreliable God to never eradicate mankind with a flood again. I wonder if that means he’ll do it some other way.

I work hard (it doesn’t look it), I fall, rarely, but it happens. I enjoy every minute of being the first person to climb onto a horse’s back. Sometimes I’m anxious, mostly just excited. It’s exhilarating, and it’s real. I don’t need to add superstition, or God protecting me or anything else into it, it’s just fun. It’s this life, my one life, and I’m living it doing something I love, not sacrificing it for a hopeful, heavenly, hereafter of complete subservience to a totalitarian peeping Tom who watches you shit.

Am I fulfilled? Did having those nasty discussions result in fulfillment. My life before of constantly feeling like I was ignoring what I knew to be true for things I wanted to be true. This wasn’t fulfilling, it kept me in books, it kept me from living. It kept me focused on God, and not on life, I truly believed that if God was my focus all else would come right, so I made God my focus. Work suffered, I didn’t stop completely, relationships with friends suffered as I tried to foist my beliefs at them, such was my love for God. Has having the discussions that lead to my deconversion offered fulfillment? Absolutely!

Sure, religious discussion often go nowhere, especially with religious minds involved, but they can be fulfilling, but my hope is for them to be unnecessary.

This is by no means comprehensive, and sort of got away with me, but hey, have something from the heart as my return gift. Any issues you have may be addressed in the comments.

Fright for flight

Ok, so I’ve been neglecting the blog for a while, and need a kick in the back of the pants for it. So to get into the swing of things something light hearted, then maybe we can get back to the Bible stuff.

I recently (at 32) took a flight on an aeroplane, which while it may seem odd, made me more or less representative of a nation of people most of whom will never fly. I’m not part of that fortunate group anymore though. Obviously this made me a little nervous and somewhat excited, so I got my ticket, went through security, and my heart sank… “Put all metal and electronic objects in the box provided.” I’m screwed I thought, all I want is something to eat, and I’m going to be stuck here until they’re calling my name over the intercom in between some tones that sound remarkably like playing harmonics on a guitar.

So, I bravely march up and put the tablet in the box with my cell and wallet. They check my crotch, hopefully for one of those big cowboy buckles that do more to pull your pants down than hold them up. I go through the metal detector, it makes a noise, my heart moves from somewhere in my tummy to somewhere in the tiled floor that the security guard is looking at. He was fortunately looking at the safety boots which I always wear on horse jobs (I like my toes the shape they are). Unfortunately I’m unaware of this, so I’m still thinking of a private room with a bouncer called Buck and surgical gloves, this is not appealing, how do I explain this.

So he searches me and asks a few questions which I don’t really pay attention to, just reply “no” in a soft nervous voice. He then concludes that it must be the toe caps that are setting the metal detector off. I breath a sigh of relief, no strip search, no rubber gloves. So I don’t need to explain that there’s a foot long piece of steel in my back that I can’t put in the box provided. Thank whatever.

After a reasonably tasty spicy scrambled eg dish that I overdid the tabasco sauce on I head of to find gate A9, which turned out to be reasonably easy, and sit down and wait with the other passengers, that include two very nice looking blondes still in their PJs (I’ve been up since 3am, and envy them somewhat). The harmonics go followed by our boarding order and more harmonics. I see the plane for the first time, and I’m like “really?????”

Once we’re on, a little simple maths tells me that they’re squashing 132 passengers and flight crew into a space large enough for the average African family, I’m stunned, even more stunned by the fact that a normal intercity bus liner has more leg room (and I’m only 5’2″). We take off, the apprehension grows, soon the clouds are as far below us as they should be above us. As someone who has been in a helicopter and a microlight (whose wings seem as good as those allegedly holding up our series 300 737) this seems somewhat stupid.

“Do I pray?” I ask myself, to whom? I think, surely not the god of Abraham I’ve spent the last couple of months insulting. No, he won’t help me, and all the others seem even less worthwhile.

The safety manual isn’t comforting, and I try to work out whether or not sticking your head between your legs can really do much good when the ground is approaching you at terminal velocity. I conclude that I should rather stick my head in the sand like an ostrich than read any further.

Now, I’ve travelled in those death trap minibus taxis that kill thousands each year in South Africa, and I’ve never felt quite so nervous about travelling. I think about it, those taxis are packed just as tightly as this aeroplane, like a sardine tin, mainly for maintenance purposes (they don’t dent so much when they roll if you’ve put enough living human flesh in them). They don’t have the same allure as flight travel, but they’re starting to look awfully attractive.

They announce breakfast, crap, I’m a vegetarian, do they cater for vegos? Will I be stuck between the two nice french people on either side of me munching on their bacon. Oh no, will I have to squeeze past the lady in the isle seat to go have a chat with George on the porcelain phone? Will my scrambled eggs be distributed forty thousand feet above the KZN coast? “We’re serving a continental breakfast.” Great, how un English of BA, at least I won’t have to have that chat with George after all.

Breakfast arrives, there’s a muffin, fruit juice, yogurt, and a plastic bowl with a few pieces of apple banana and mango that is supposed to pass for a fruit salad.

Mango…

I start thinking, there are two positives to this form of travel. Firstly, if this winged tin can suddenly decides that all it’s tonnage doesn’t belong at forty thousand, then I’ll die of heart failure before we reach the clouds (courtesy of the scrambled eggs), and won’t experience the impact. Secondly, if I’m going to be reduced to the intellectual state of a mango, at least I won’t be doing it in that orange plane that left shortly before us, and had “Mango” emblazoned on it’s flank. I get to do it in a white aeroplane with “British Airways” tastefully printed on the tail. Great, at least there’s a couple of bonuses. They aren’t that comforting though.

Ok, so I lived (duh). Now I’m in PE waiting at the airport to board a, no doubt, equally flimsy winged beverage can. If the news reports BA 6321 ate the dirt, you know why the blog is finished, anyway, I’ll let you know if I make it.

Reading through the Bible: day 85

1 Samuel 5 – 8

I’ve been absent for a long time. Sickness, stolen horses and all sorts of other stuff is on my mind at the moment. People have been showing some concern about me abondoning this project. I’m not abandoning it, I’ve simply been busy, I hope to get this moving properly again.

Why not convert

Although there are no glaring contradictions here, there are a few I’ve covered before, like “who hardened the Pharaoh’s heart?” And, “how many gods are there?”

I still find todays passages somewhat problematic. If the Philistines saw the power of God, and believed in it enough to justify their actions regarding the Ark, why not convert?

I don’t think there’s any easy answer to this. Perhaps they were all so evil that they were hardened against conversion. Since they reference the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and acquiesced to what they believed to be God’s will, one has to wonder if this is plausible. But this would be the quick answer to take all blame off God.

This opens up many questions regarding the access to salvation, during the Old Testament period. Could foreigners convert? (Later we get the impression they can.) Without access to the Mosaic books, how could a civilisation so hated by God’s people get the information they’d needed to start worshipping God? Since marriage to foreigners was forbidden, could converts marry Jews? Or did acceptance of the religion make one a Jew?

I don’t think these are easy questions to answer, and will leave them with you.

Please give the reading through the Bible page a look if you haven’t already, there are some background posts and the index to this reading plan. Share it with others who you think can benefit from Reading the Bible.

of religion in a rational world

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