God’s Enemies Are More Honest Than His Friends

For better or worse, I am partly responsible for the recent emergence of “atheism” as a topic of conversation. This … Continued

For better or worse, I am partly responsible for the recent emergence of “atheism” as a topic of conversation. This is somewhat ironic, as I do not like the term and rarely use it. I did not, for instance, refer to myself as an “atheist” when I wrote The End of Faith—and yet this book is my most substantial contribution to the discourse of atheism.

As I pointed out in my subsequent book, Letter to a Christian Nation, we do not have a term for a person who rejects astrology, nor do we need one. If legions of astrologers sought to bend our public policy to their pseudo-science, we wouldn’t need to dub ourselves “non-astrologers” to put them in their place. Words like “reason,” “evidence,” and “commonsense” would suffice. So it should be with religion.

Still, one can only spend so much time quibbling over words, and there are far more consequential matters for believers and nonbelievers to discuss. Despite my misgivings about answering to the name “atheist,” I consider the stigma now associated with the term to be entirely unwarranted. This stigma is, of course, the continuous product of the inane and unctuous declarations that still pass for argument among the faithful. One need look no further than the responses to this week’s question to find some mesmerizing examples.

As to whether atheists and believers can have “a productive conversation,” I am quite sure that the answer is “yes.” But I am uncertain whether this conversation can bear fruit quickly enough to keep civilization from becoming fully engorged by Iron Age stupidity and horror. Our capacity for self-destruction is now spreading with 21st century efficiency, and yet our beliefs about how we should pass our days and nights on this earth still spring from ancient literature.

This marriage of modern technology and preliterate superstition is a bad one, for reasons that I should not have to specify, much less argue for—and yet, arguing for them has taken up most of my time since September 11th, 2001, the day that nineteen pious men showed our pious nation just how beneficial religious certainty can be.

As someone who has spent the last few years publicly criticizing religion, I have become quite familiar with how people of faith rise to the defense of God. As it turns out, there aren’t a hundred ways of doing this. There appear to be just three: either a person argues that a specific religion is true, or he argues that religion is useful, or he simply attacks atheism as intolerant, elitist, irrational, or otherwise worthy of contempt. Any conversation between atheists and believers is liable to fall into one or more of these ruts, or lurch back and forth between them:

1. Religion is true: There are two problems with arguing that any one of the world’s religions is true. First, as Bertrand Russell pointed out a century ago, the major religions make incompatible claims about God and about what human beings must believe in order to escape the fires of hell. Given the sheer diversity of these claims, every believer should expect damnation on mere, probabilistic grounds.

The second problem with arguing for the truth of religion is that the evidence for the most common religious doctrines is terrible or nonexistent—and this subsumes all claims about the existence of a personal God, the divine origin of certain books, the virgin birth of certain people, the veracity of ancient miracles, etc.

For thousands of years, religion has been a haven for dogmatism and false certainty, and it remains so. There is not a person on this earth who has sufficient reason to be certain that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in his cave. And yet, billions of people profess such certainty. This is embarrassing. It is also dangerous—and we should stop making apologies for it.

2. Religion is useful: The argument that religion is useful is also problematic—and many of its problems are enunciated daily by bomb-blasts. Can anyone seriously argue that it is a good thing that millions of Muslims currently believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom? Is it really so useful that many Jews imagine that the Creator of the universe gave them a patch of desert on the Mediterranean? How psychologically beneficial has Christianity’s anxiety about sex been these last seventy generations?

The worst problem with arguing for religion’s usefulness, however, is that it is utterly irrelevant to the question at hand: the fact that a belief might be useful is no argument that it is true. While there are many ways to illustrate this, here is how I recently made the point in an online debate:

The fact that certain religious beliefs might be useful in no way suggests their legitimacy. I can guarantee, for instance, that the following religion, invented by me in the last ten seconds, would be extraordinarily useful. It is called “Scientismo.” Here is its creed: Be kind to others; do not lie, steal, or murder; and oblige your children to master mathematics and science to the best of their abilities or 17 demons will torture you with hot tongs for eternity after death. If I could spread this faith to billions, I have little doubt that we would live in a better world than we do at present. Would this suggest that the 17 demons of Scientismo exist? Useful delusions are not the same thing as true beliefs.

3. Atheism is bad: Rather than argue for the truth of their religious beliefs, or produce evidence that religion is useful, apologists for God often attack atheism as though it were another religion. We are told that atheism is dogmatic, intolerant, irrational, etc. This homily has the virtue of being easy to remember and reproduce—and it now reverberates ceaselessly within the echo-chamber of American religious discourse.

It relies, however, on a many false ideas about atheism. On Christmas eve of this year, I published an essay in the Los Angeles Times entitled “10 Myths – and 10 Truths – about Atheism” in which I attempted to set the record straight. I won’t repeat these points here. Those interested can find this article on my website.

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  • John Raines

    Mr. Bradfield, since you are so keen on logic, tell us how you deduce that “the Bible has a monopoly on truth.”

  • petegrif

    JudyJust to get my situation on the table – I’m an atheist.I think one of the things that is tricky for atheists is the question of what SPECIFICALLY they stand FOR as opposed to AGAINST.I believe, along with Sam, that religions are antiquated crude belief systems but whilst it is easy to mock their absurdities it is worth remembering that they do provide a code and guidance on how to live one’s life. This code and guidance may be violent and bigoted and inappropriate to modern life and values. It may be largely ignored, as Sam points out, by most ‘liberal’ practitioners. But it is nonetheless guidance. There are congragations that focus on positive values and helping the less fortunate.Atheism, by way of contrast, offers little in the way of such concrete guidance. I consider myself a humanist and don’t miss this lacuna, but I think many people find it a little disorientating. What do we stand for except for denigrating their cherished beliefs? There is a real danger we just come across as smug clever dicks. In a forum such as this you can smell that tone. It’s natural when you find kindred spirits. In groups trash out groups and here the religious are the out group.I like the fact that without some superior force telling me what to do through the medium of his chosen representatives and body of texts and practises I have to take the responsibility for my decisions and social acts. But let’s just think for a minute. Let’s explore a happy thought experiment. Let’s assume all religions disappeared tomorrow. Obviously that wouldn’t eliminate the need for civilized behavior. I would argure that it would ultimately be better. But it would be an awkward transition for many because there is nothing to effortlessly slip into religion’s place and MOST PEOPLE NEED SUCH A FRAMEWORK.A historical example might be helpful. Karl Marx pointed out many interesting aspects of capitalist society. His critique lit a fire under those who sought greater social justice. Armed with his economic and social theories they set out to change society and better the lot of the working class. The problem was that whilst they were against the capitalist state Marx didn’t actually have a political theory. Economics – yes. Sociology (particularly social class) – yes. But politics and political institutions – no. Jurisprudence – no. He just had the crude notion of the withering away of the state. So what where the agitators to do? How were they to organize? They knew the capitalist state was bad but Marx didn’t tell them how to replace it or what with. That’s when Lenin entered the picture. Hence Marxism Leninism that led to apalling tyranny.The point is that it’s not enough to rail against the inadequacies of the status quo. If one faith is eroded without thought as to the alternative we may well end up with another tyranny and it might be even worse. That may seem hard to imagine, but so was the horror of the Soviet Union.Judy – when your Quaker friends shudder, I think it is in part not just the fact that you don’t believe in God that they find scary, it’s their more or less conscious feel of a Godless world. and by this they mean a world without any values etc etc. such a world would indeed be a scary place. It is up to atheists to ensure that it is not and that we move on to a 21st century world view and morality that, we hope, will save the planet. This world view will need to embrace some very unsavory facts about human behavior and what may well be sad truths about humankind. The more recent research into sociobiology and evolutionary biology has not been that encouraging.However, in the immortal words of Antonio Gramsci – “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”:)

  • William O’Connor

    Belief takes many forms and faiths. Belief in the value of knowledge, belief in the value of friends, belief in the value of compassion. These beliefs are all beneficial. If someone’s faith is beneficial, in that it gives meaning to life, then there is no need to abandon it even if that faith might well be false. It might be true that life has no meaning other than what we seek to give it, but that knowledge might actually be harmful to some who need to believe that life has an inherent purpose and goal. Faith, in itself, may well be a survival mechanism brought about by the natural selection process of evolution. Deity based religions are probably false as there does seem to be a logical inconsistency amongst the various attributes usually assigned to a deity. However, if these faiths do give real meaning to the lives of their adherents, they’re beneficial; at least to their adherents, if not to others. And, of course, there are many faiths that are not deity based also. Faith in something: art, music, science, religion, whatever, seems to be an essential necessity for continued survival.

  • Matt

    Sam,Are you a vegetarian? Just curious. Does anyone else know if Sam is a vegetarian? Sam’s too cool to post on the message boards… we just all have to grovel in support and listen to the idiots who try to resist.Fine by me. I love you Sam.

  • Michael Horn

    While Mr. Bradford has already been sufficiently upbraided for his illogical attack on science, I will add that his statement, “Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.” is in itself the saddest of testaments to a belief system that rests – entirely – on the childishly illogical, completely inadmissible premise that says “what’s in this book is true…because this book says it’s true.”Only the most primitive, superstitious and unreasoning of individuals could blindly subscribe to such nonsense, commonly (and too often proudly) called faith. And the pain that it has always brought this world is immeasurable.

  • Janusz Kowalik

    There is no question that any religious fanaticism is very negative and potentially barbaric. The September 11 of 2001 is a good example of the extreme true believers. ‘

  • Michael Horn

    While Mr. Bradford has already been sufficiently upbraided for his illogical attack on science, I will add that his statement, “Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.” is in itself the saddest of testaments to a belief system that rests – entirely – on the childishly illogical, completely inadmissible premise that says “what’s in this book is true…because this book says it’s true.”Only the most primitive, superstitious and unreasoning of individuals could blindly subscribe to such nonsense, commonly (and too often proudly) called faith. And the pain that it has always brought this world is immeasurable.

  • Michael Horn

    While Mr. Bradford has already been sufficiently upbraided for his illogical attack on science, I will add that his statement, “Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.” is in itself the saddest of testaments to a belief system that rests – entirely – on the childishly illogical, completely inadmissible premise that says “what’s in this book is true…because this book says it’s true.”Only the most primitive, superstitious and unreasoning of individuals could blindly subscribe to such nonsense, commonly (and too often proudly) called faith. And the pain that it has always brought this world is immeasurable.

  • Ed W.

    bruce: you ask for studies on resurrections… as far as that goes: they arent necessary. how would one study resurrections anyway? its not like they actually occur? that is like asking me for the scientific studies that show that sperm whales don’t time travel? in any case, im sure there is plenty of related data from biologists that would support my argument. the fact of the matter is there is no scientific reason to consider resurrection a possibility, let alone assume it happens. the reason you have for assuming they occur is this: some people witnessed it happen once thousands of years ago. well ok, leaving out the possibility of hyperbole or fabrication, it is still a bad idea. if you want to construct your worldview based on stories from thousands of years ago, that is fine with me. im just here to point out that that is an intellectually faulty pursuit.

  • Philip Tripp

    Reading many of the comments regarding Sam’s article gives me great hope that there are many bright and articulate non-believers out there. In the same light, it is also very disturbing to read Jason Bradfield’s comments. Unfortunately, Jason’s arguments, which made me numb with their illogic, represent the hard core beliefs of the vast majority of religious people, regardless of their individual faith. His “logic”, as ridiculous as is seems, absolutely represents the basic core beliefs of so many humans regarding their own personal faith. That is scary to me. Jason’s arguments reminded me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where the townspeople used “logic” to determine whether the woman was a witch or not. The movie made fun of medieval people and their primitive logic yet Jason’s arguments are even more befuddling and the year is 2006. Even more scary!Stan Yoder’s suggestion to stop focusing on using logic to persuade religious believers away from their religion is dead on. Using logic,you will never ever persuade a shizophrenic that they are not really hearing voices and you will never ever convince an individual like Jason to recant his world view. The logic of non-believers is not even in the same universe as Jason’s. Harris, Dawkins and Dennet are indeed the holy trinity of non-belief right now and there is no better way to carry on their mission than what they are currently doing. We do need additional approaches however. I doubt that militancy is the answer. I wish I had the answer. The illogic of religious belief is truly baffling to me. I just know that I am very afraid of all people who invoke Christ, God, Allah, Mohammed, the Bible, the Koran and the like to justify their world views. Religion has been the bane of mankind for thousands of years and with the weapons of mass destruction that are now readily available, those wars between religious enemies will almost assuredly lead to the extinction of not just our species but could lead to the next mass extinction on this planet. It doesn’t take many people to destroy the planet. Only a few lunatics that are willing to die for their beliefs. Nuclear weapons were developed by sane governments to have military supremacy with the mutual understanding that they are only deterrents to being attacked. Those same weapons in the hands of people who really don’t care about human life, either theirs or ours, or the rest of life on this planet are absolutetly the enemy we should all fear. Perhaps it won’t happen immediatly but it is almost a certainty that their ultimate attack on the world will happen. The really sad thing about the dominant species on the planet is that we are now capable of destroying all life on a really unique planet. This planet would be so better off without any humans. We are the only species that doesn’t fit into any food chain whatsoever. The planet would thrive without us. With us in charge, the planet is almost certainly doomed.

  • abominable snowbeast

    Jason Bradfield has a true talent for fitting more logical fallacies into one post than previously thought possible. I’ll debunk a few, and for my own sanity’s sake, I’ll leave the rest of the fallacies for others to pick apart.”(1) Observation is unreliable. … [T]he senses tend to deceive us; they are not to be trusted. … But if observation is unreliable, if the senses are so easily deceived, if the results frequently differ, why should one ever believe that he has discovered truth through observation?”If you didn’t believe in observation, you wouldn’t believe in anything. You wouldn’t believe you were posting a comment on a webpage, or that anything is important enough to write about, or that Sam Harris existed. You certainly wouldn’t believe in God, because you could only find out about him through some form of observation, such as observing the priests in your childhood. By the way, how did you figure out that “observation is unreliable?” Through observation?”(2) All scientific experiments commit the fallacy of asserting the consequent. In syllogistic form this is expressed as: ‘If p, then q. q; therefore, p.'”All scientific experiments? You have got to be joking. Take my eighth grade science project as an example: Which is a better insulator of soda cans: plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or brown paper bag? If you like, I suppose we could say, “IF plastic wrap keeps soda colder than aluminum foil or paper bag (p), THEN plastic wrap is the better insulator of soda cans (q)” — BUT — that format is silly and pointless, since p is merely a restatement of q. So, it seems that it’s possible to do a science experiment that does not have to follow that formula. Science is basically about careful reasoning and careful observation, and to reduce it to a single formula, one based on faulty logic, is absurd, especially given that science plain out WORKS.”(3) Science commits the fallacy of induction.” How do you think the rules of deduction were discovered? By induction! Again, to not believe in induction, or observation, is to sit on one’s hands, do nothing, shut up, and excuse oneself from the conversation. Comments (4) and (5) are such a load of crap that I don’t have the patience for it. Passing the baton…

  • WC Brooks

    Dialogue? A civil one? Wouldn’t that be nice. But I’m reminded of what my grandfather always said, “You can’t teach a pig to sing – it’ll only frustrate you and make the pig angry.”

  • Stan Yoder

    Because it has been shown time and again that the “faithful” are not swayed by logic, Sam, why are we trying to use logic to sway them? It seems a self-defeating strategy. We need to be devising strategies that protect innocent non-believers from the overreach of fanatics of whatever religion. If their beliefs allow them to lead good lives, hurray for their beliefs, however unprovable. But please stay out of my good life, believers. Contrary to your certitude, I don’t need your salvation.How do we persuade them to mind their own damn business? When their religions REQUIRE them to muck about in other people’s lives by persuasion or force (e.g., laws, suicide bombers, evangelistic crusades) how can they be convinced to act differently? If we can’t de-convert them, could we somehow divert them?Attempting to kill an organism awakens all fight-or-flight instincts in it. We need a diplomatic solution, not a military one. I fervently hope we can come up with more than logic to influence them. What might work?

  • Cindy

    Bruce Burleson: Mr. Burleson, I have read your post and the resulting dialogue with interest. —-Do we believe everything that we read?—- You say that you have read in the Bible that eyewitnesses saw Jesus after he was known to be dead. (Matthew 28:1-10 etc.) Is the Bible a source that we can trust? I think we all ask ourselves similar questions when we read information. When I pick up the Washington Post, and it states that an individual witnessed something happening, I admit that I am pretty likely to believe what I read. The Post has a reputation for good reporting, I have verified things that I have read in the Post through other sources previously, and there’s an author listed by the article so I could always contact him or her if I had a question about what was reported. Is the same true for the Bible? The Bible claims that angels fly down from heaven routinely, that the sun stood still in the sky, that Moses parted the Red Sea, etc. These are claims that I think even you will admit are pretty amazing. That the Bible reports these things as happening makes me question it as a source. There are numerous inconsistencies in the bible (compare accounts of Jesus’s life between the 4 gospels), again which make me question the source. And most importantly, where is there another book or source where I can check this claim that witnesses saw Jesus rise from the dead?—Is this event consistent with reason and experience?— I think we all compare what we read about to our experience. In my experience, the sky is typically blue, though it is sometimes grey or pink or red. I have never known it to be green, and I wouldn’t accept without question an account of the sky truly turning green without some evidence. I have encountered dead things in my life, animals and people, and I have never known one that was truly dead to come back to life. (We could spend some time defining “truly dead” but let’s say for convention that the heart has stopped, and brain activity has ceased.) I have never read any account in any reputable textbook, or seen any news report, or heard any expert testimony on dead things becoming alive again. You have to admit that a dead thing becoming not-dead is outside of common human experience. Now there are many things in the universe that humans have probably yet to experience, and I would not claim that we can even imagine what some of these are, but so far dead things stay dead. Do you agree?So you are saying that on the basis of one book, which has claimed some pretty fantastical stuff in other sections, that some people might have witnessed something completely outside of human experience happening, and on this you base your entire religion and worldview? I have to say it’s not enough for me. I’d like to hear your comments on my thoughts.thanks-

  • George

    Mr. Bradfields interjections about the value of science totally backfired with his belief that his God would stoop to the level of human iron age intelligence and author any of the passages his religion calls a bible. Christians were persecuted in ancient Rome, not because of their monotheism, but because they would not accept, with any tolerance, the beliefs of the rest of the population. If you have read, and I hope re-read, Sam’s books and Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”, you may be interested in Richard Carrier’s “Sense & Goodness Without God.” More fodder for non-believers and, a great read.

  • Mark

    Check out Sam’s web site http://www.samharris.org and join his forum

  • Stan Yoder

    Because it has been shown time and again that the “faithful” are not swayed by logic or evidence, Sam, why are we trying to use logic and evidence to sway them? It seems a self-defeating strategy. We need to be devising strategies that protect innocent non-believers from the overreach of fanatics of whatever religion. If believers’ beliefs allow them to lead good lives, hurray for their beliefs, however unprovable. But stay out of my good life, believers. I have a good life despite your certitude that is impossible without your beliefs, and I don’t need your salvation.How do we persuade them to mind their own damn business when their religions REQUIRE them to muck about in other people’s lives by persuasion or force? (e.g., laws, suicide bombers, evangelistic crusades) We can’t de-convert them; could we somehow divert them or subvert their power without threatening their very existence?Stamping out religion will take more time than we’ve got, I’m afraid. It won’t be killed quickly. Indeed, attempting to kill an organism awakens all fight-or-flight instincts in it. Right or wrong, it will continue until dead. A scorched-earth strategy, I predict, will fail. We need a diplomatic solution, not a military one. What might work?

  • Allan Katz

    God wants us to be athiests — that’s why he or she or it gave us a brain; so we can logically devine superstition from truth. (For the rest of my posting I’m going to refer to God as He. Actually, I’m going to use “god and “he” in lowercase, because I don’t think god is that self-important. That last thought is hard for even me to grasp and I said it. Once you get into this god stuff, it’s very confusing. And I don’t think god wants us to be confused. Except many of us are, so maybe he does. See what I mean? I don’t think god wants me to keep typing. Hey, look, I’m still typing. Maybe god wants me to go on. I wish he’d just project a huge picture of me in the sky typing so I’d know what he wants. Sometimes not knowing is anxiety provoking — which is probably the basis for religion in the first place.

  • Stan (embarrassed) Yoder

    Oh, damn! It reposted instead of editing. Sorry, everyone.

  • ShawnM

    With everything that is good or bad about religion or its organizations, the one descriptor Harris gave to religious belief that resonants so loudly is that it is just plain embarrassing. Although much more profound, it is like someone who still thinks George Bush is a good president or who still believes the Iraq War is a good and just endeavour…just plain embarrassing.

  • Randolph Lee

    Stan Yoder raises the most important point herein: what do we do? How do we extinguish the barbarianism in the, not least painful, but most likely to succeed manner. Pain be, pardon the expression, damned, this nonsense has to go, and go now! But how??? How??? How??? Perhaps one place to start would be to increase our support for the ACLU’s lawsuits against religious expressions in our government. I wonder if they will accept donations restricted to that goal only?If not, perhaps we need to start a new organization whose only purpose is to raise money to be used to sue the government. Let’s start by extinguishing every last bit of religious nonsense from our government.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Cindy: Thank you for your response. First, I view the books in the New Testament as independent accounts, so that the credibility of those accounts does not rest on the credibility of Old Testament accounts of miracles, about which I am making no argument in these posts. The accounts in the New Testament are all written relatively soon after the event – I Corinthians 15 is about 55 AD, Mark (the first Gospel) perhaps in the 60’s, John (the last Gospel) somewhere around 90. Whatever inconsistencies you are referring to, these accounts are all consistent on the point at issue – the resurrection of Jesus. There are differences in the facts reported, which is to be expected when multiple witnesses see the same thing. But they all clearly report the resurrection of Jesus. You are correct – this is an amazing thing. I imagine that it was also an amazing thing when the Wright Brothers first flew. It was amazing when we landed on the moon, which would have been considered impossible only a few decades before. When it occurred, it was the first time that it had occurred. You are absolutely right that our usual daily experience is that dead people stay dead. As you say, so far, dead things stay dead. But there has been a report of one who did not stay dead, and that is the issue that we are discussing. Whether or not that is credible to you, there is some evidence that has not been refuted by positive scientific proof that a dead man rose. I am not saying this on the basis of one book. I am saying this on the basis of five separate accounts (Paul plus the four Gospels), none of which have been scientifically shown to be false. The New Testament as one book did not exist until the church put it together a couple centuries later. It was improbable that a resurrection would occur before it occurred. It was improbable that the Big Bang would occur before it occurred. Yet it occurred, and to our knowledge, it has never occurred again. It is improbable that life would exist, yet here we are. Improbable things happen, and we have eyewitness accounts that a resurrection occurred. I believe those accounts in part because of my subjective experience, which others may not share. My only point in all of this is that there is some evidence of the resurrection, which has not been positively refuted. Therefore, it simply cannot be said that believers have “no evidence” for their faith.

  • Skeptic in Tallahassee

    To Bruce Burleson:I just want to make a few comments about your thoughts about the alleged resurrection of Jesus.1) I think that you are correct that the Gospel narratives ARE evidence in favor the alleged resurrection of Jesus but they are hardly sufficient evidence to justify your belief that Jesus truly rose from the dead. To use your court analogy for a moment– you are failing to consider ALL the evidence and to properly weigh it, and you are allowing your subjective biases (wishful thinking) to affect your judgement.2) The alleged resurrection of Jesus is a hypothesis not an observation or set of observations. It is true only if two other sub-hypotheses are true, i.e. Jesus died as the result of his ordeal on the cross and Jesus was subsequently alive. If either one of these sub-hypotheses is false, then the resurrection hypothesis is also false. The problem is that the quality and the quantity of the reports used to support the two sub-hypotheses are deficient, insufficient, and weak.3) There is an abundance of evidence that people do not come back to life after they die. For all the dead people I have ever seen, not a single one has ever come back to life. This is also true for all the dead people seen by all my family, friends, and acquaintances. I am not aware of any case where it has been shown beyond a reasonable doubt that a person died (lets say displayed at least a non-beating heart and rigor mortis) and came back to life. So, we have billions of cases of people dying and not coming back to life and not a single case of a person dying and coming back to life. Mr. Burleson, you must consider this evidence alongside the Gospel narratives as you make your judgement about the alleged resurrection of Jesus.4) Consider alternative hypotheses about the Gospel narratives themselves: a) they are accurate reports, b) they are fabrications, c) they are speculations, d) they are based only misperceptions, faulty inferences, or abnormal sensory experiences. There may be others, but these are perhaps the most important alternatives. I suggest that there is a much greater probability that b), c), or d) is true than that a) is true, GIVEN the poor quality of the Gospel narratives (compared to good journalistic, historic, or medical reports) and the overwhelming evidence that dead people don’t tend to come back to life.5) Not only is the idea of Jesus’ resurrection unlikely based on historical and scientific criteria, it is unlikely based on theological considerations. If God existed, COULD he cause a resurrection of Jesus? Of course, he could. If God existed, WOULD he cause a resurrection of Jesus? Not very likely! An omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being would hardly use a poorly documented single event, occurring two thousand years ago, to deliver an important message or teach a critical lesson to humanity. That would hardly be the action of a perfect teacher.I hope this will help in your reconsideration of your conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead.

  • Rob Singleton

    Mr. Bradfield not only misunderstands what Russell had to say, but also misapplies basic logic as well as revealing a misunderstanding of how science operates. First, Russell’s emphasis was on the problem of induction, which was first articulated by David Hume. The problem of induction does not lead to the conclusion that inductive generalizations are therefore false, as Bradfield seems to believe, but that reasoning begs the question and isn’t strictly valid. However, this does not give any sort of hope to the philosophical skeptic that doubts empirical knowledge as is evidenced by Bradfield’s inclusion of the many inductive generalizations he uses to show why inductive generalizations are “false”. What Hume and Russell showed is that claims based on such generalizations are tentative and open to revision with new evidence. It also means that it is difficult to address the question of why we should expect the future to resemble the past without begging the question. However, even if the philosopher spends time arguing this question, he or she never behaves otherwise. David Hume makes this abundantly clear.Secondly, Bradfield claims that science is based on fallacious arguments and he gives the exampleIf p then qThis is indeed a fallacious argument, but it is incorrect to say that science operates in this way. To use one of Bradfield’s favorite words. His claim is false. If we are going to reduce science to a set of abstract arguments (a questionable endeavor as it is) then we should represent it accurately.If, and only if p, then qis a logically valid argument and is also a better representation of what scientists are striving to accomplish. In the end Bradfield leaves us with the appearance of sophisticated apologetics, but it is only philosophical skepticism of the worst kind, which we have just as much reason to believe as solipsism. I would ask, given such skepticism on his part and in the interest of keeping an open dialogue, how he came to the conclusion regarding the truth of the Bible, if not through observation, and why he regards this method as being more reliable.

  • Randy

    Mr. Bradfield probably has a copy of Lee Strobel’s ridiculous book “The Case for Christ” where so called experts make the case for Christ’s existence. Many Christians are told to read this book in an attempt bustress their silly beliefs.

  • Craig

    Sad thing is, I have an ex-inlaw who is an atheist and who espouses some of the same arguments Bradfield did above. He is an ex-heroin addict (perhaps still?) with little hope. He lives off is grandparents’ money. He once berated something I said about science or my science teaching with the retort: “Just because the sun came up today doesn’t prove it will come up tomorrow.” I think the problems here lie in the words proof and truth. Isn’t proof a mathematical term? I don’t know where the word truth comes from. And while we’re at it, let’s throw out the term scientific law. Scientific theories are human mental models of how things work in the universe. They predict the outcomes of experiments or the outputs of machines. If the experiment has an unexpected outcome, we modify the theory. If the machine puts out garbage, we build a new one. I think Bradfield is pissed off that water never boils at the same temperature and somehow blames that on science itself. He obviously doesn’t know how boiling works. To him, the fixed words of the bible are pure, concrete, and unchanging and for some reason his mind can’t cope without them.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Ed W – Thank you for your thoughtful response. OK, so you cannot point me to scientific studies which conclude that resurrections are not possible. That was the very point of your first post, that science had concluded that it was not possible. I guess you are conceding this point in my favor.If you are telling me that you saw Napolean rise from the grave, I do not believe you, because you have already told me that you do not believe such things. Your claim is of a completely different nature than the accounts found in the New Testament, as you don’t even believe it yourself. If you think resurrection is a “bad idea” that can be dismissed out of hand without further discussion, then you are taking a position that is not based on evidence. That is blind faith. There is the possibility of hyperbole or fabrication in any account, including those made by scientists today. That is all part of the process of deciding what to believe and what not to believe. I have the evidence of the New Testament accounts, which accounts have not been proven false. Coupled with my own subjective experience, that gives me an adequate basis upon which to build a worldview. One may think that quantum mechanics or string theory is a “bad idea” that just can’t be true. That says nothing about the actual truth of such things. Science has discovered many strange, improbable things. Resurrection may be improbable, but that does not mean it did not happen.

  • Greg Wirth

    My brother swears that he saw Santa and his reideer leaving our house one year, based on his account, and I know him to be an honest individual, I would say that we MUST believe in Santa Claus and keep on believing. Of course, I did hear one time that faith was believing in something when common sense tells you not to…Hmmm? Perhaps since Santa is so jolly and kind that we could start a religion based on his ideas of generosity, kindness, giving, 8 tiny reindeer, traveling the world over in 1 night, having sugar cookies and milk for snacks, and employing a great number of little people we’ll call elves. No one has one shred of evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, even you Bruce, so I say we base our laws, our Constitution, our morals all on Santa and we should kill those people who disagree with us. I’ll write to Santa and see what inspiring things he has to say about abortion, gays, giving money to the poor and a host of other topics by which we’ll all follow once I get the final word. Stay tuned.

  • Greg Wirth

    My brother swears that he saw Santa and his reideer leaving our house one year, based on his account, and I know him to be an honest individual, I would say that we MUST believe in Santa Claus and keep on believing. Of course, I did hear one time that faith was believing in something when common sense tells you not to…Hmmm? Perhaps since Santa is so jolly and kind that we could start a religion based on his ideas of generosity, kindness, giving, 8 tiny reindeer, traveling the world over in 1 night, having sugar cookies and milk for snacks, and employing a great number of little people we’ll call elves. No one has one shred of evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, even you Bruce, so I say we base our laws, our Constitution, our morals all on Santa and we should kill those people who disagree with us. I’ll write to Santa and see what inspiring things he has to say about abortion, gays, giving money to the poor and a host of other topics by which we’ll all follow once I get the final word. Stay tuned.

  • Greg Wirth

    My brother swears that he saw Santa and his reideer leaving our house one year, based on his account, and I know him to be an honest individual, I would say that we MUST believe in Santa Claus and keep on believing. Of course, I did hear one time that faith was believing in something when common sense tells you not to…Hmmm? Perhaps since Santa is so jolly and kind that we could start a religion based on his ideas of generosity, kindness, giving, 8 tiny reindeer, traveling the world over in 1 night, having sugar cookies and milk for snacks, and employing a great number of little people we’ll call elves. No one has one shred of evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, even you Bruce, so I say we base our laws, our Constitution, our morals all on Santa and we should kill those people who disagree with us. I’ll write to Santa and see what inspiring things he has to say about abortion, gays, giving money to the poor and a host of other topics by which we’ll all follow once I get the final word. Stay tuned.

  • C.Compston

    Interesting discussions. Sam, as usual, you have with your precise perfect arguments found words for so many of us who see religious irrationality as a threat to our continued existence.

  • abominable snowbeast

    Randolph Lee, I have to disagree with you about using the government to fight religion. I don’t think it would work. As of now, it only seems to make enemies out of people who would otherwise be happy to live and let live. Whenever an atheist sues to, say, take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, the howls start up and religious people get mobilized. Besides, things like that, or “In God We Trust” on the currency don’t make a lick of difference. No one ever said, “Gee, I wonder if God really exists,” and then looked at a dollar bill and thought, “Oh, okay. God does exist.” This is primarily an intellectual issue, and it has to be fought intellectually.I think that Sam Harris’ idea of “conversational intolerance” is the best way to go about changing things. Make people embarassed to admit what they believe, and even if they don’t question those beliefs (and hopefully they do), they won’t want to bring them up again or use them as a reason for passing bad legislation. Was it Harris who gave the example of the KKK once having a huge membership until word got out on the radio (in the ’20s?) about their absurd rituals, and they soon had the whole country laughing at them? I think people do respond to reason and logic, just not necessarily the first time, or the tenth time. If people hear a message many times, they think about it more often, like an advertising campaign. Keep on keeping on. But as for a really quick deconversion of the world… ain’t happening. Give it a few decades, though, and who knows.

  • ShawnM

    To Bradfield, Craig, et al.:

  • Ted Swart

    Judy, Petegrif et al;All this talk about whether or not it is okay to call oneself an agnostic rather than an atheist seems to me rather silly. Of course it is perfectly okay to call yourself an agnostic and equally okay to call yourself an atheist or for me to call myself a radical pantheist. Words do not have an immutable rigid meaning and most certainly acknowledging ignorance or incomplete knowledge (as agnosticism does) is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the dogmatic nature of formal religion — as much as anything — which makes it so deplorable. I have never been comfortable calling myself a humanist since it seems to me it elevates us humans unjustifiably. I sometimes long for the day when we get some clear cut messages from intelligent life elsewhere in space. It might help to pull us up short. Certainly the notion that we need to think about positive stand-ins for religion, as currently practised, is sensible. I think to some extent these already exist. The notion that most people need religion, as we know it, is highly suspect. The education system is deplorably inept about inculcating even a half decent understanding of what science or basic logic is about. If all children were taught that they have both a right and a duty to think for themselves the world would be a much better place. Most of us in the Sam Harris neck of the woods are agreed that we would indeed be better off without formal religion and the sooner the better I say. The Harris, Dawkins, Dennett triumvirate may well have given inadequate attention to the best way of weaning people off religion and perhaps discussions like this can help reinforce good ideas in this regard.

  • Anonymous

    Skeptic in Tallahassee: Thanks for the very thought-provoking post. I respond to your points seriatim. 1) I am considering all the evidence I have about Jesus, and it all says that he rose from the dead. The evidence about other people dying is not in issue. Obviously, the norm is that dead people stay dead. That is not in dispute. What is your evidence that my wishful thinking is affecting my judgment?2) We have an account of a Roman soldier stabbing Jesus in the side and coming to the conclusion (along with everyone else present) that Jesus was dead. We have the accounts of the resurrection. I don’t know why this is deficient, insufficient and weak. How many times does one have to report a truth to make it true? Other than the fact that resurrection itself is improbable, there is no reason to reject the accounts.3) I agree that billions have died and stayed dead. That is no evidence that Jesus stayed dead. 4) I agree that there are other logical possibilities to explain the resurrection. There is no evidence that any of them occurred. The only evidence is that Jesus rose. I disagree about the alleged poor quality of the accounts. I find them convincing. 5) I do not confess to know the mind of God, or all the reasons why He would cause a resurrection. It is pure speculation to talk about what God would or would not do and why He would or would not do it, unless it is revealed in some way. Thanks for making me think.

  • Bill C.

    Dear Sam,I think it would be an almost wet dream of American atheists to see you and Dawkins square off against Ann Coulter and …… Pat Robertson (although and religious asshat will do) on Real Time with Bill Maher. How can we make this happen? Regards

  • Bruce Burleson

    Greg Wirth: You don’t believe your own brother’s story about Santa, and you know him much better than I do. You yourself do not believe him to be truthful on this issue. There is no reason for me to believe him, either, based upon your testimony.

  • Kaattie

    Cindy: Nice work! You convinced me! Obviously our Jesus-believer was not convinced however. This is the really tiresome dilemma we face: believers can’t be shaken off their faith. They have too much at stake, as others on this site have observed.Patti: I am an extrovert. I have always shunned religion, as a child even though forced to go to church I thought the whole thing was a bunch of hooey. My passion is work. I am a doctor. I have always been a humanitarian, and an animal-tarian, too. Had to dissect and experiment on a live dog in medical school. It was truly disgusting. But I’ve seen plenty of disgusting things that people do to their fellows also.I think our best hope is to be saved by aliens.Peace,K

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: Even if Josephus, Tacitus have been debunked regarding their statements about Jesus (which not everyone accepts), the New Testament accounts themselves are historical evidence. Just because they were later put together in a religious book does not mean that they do not contain historical accounts of events. You may choose not to believe them, but it is arbitrary to completely deny them any historical significance. And what about the accounts of Pliny the Younger and Seutonius – have they been debunked, too?

  • yoyo

    Im an atheist but I don’t feel I have to be FOR anything

  • Bruce

    Quoting Jason Bradfield “Scripture is true and must always be true.”Yikes!” I do believe in god, I do, I do, I do.

  • Paul Young

    I’ve just searched on Google and it doesn’t seem to exist so I’m coining a new word and that word is “Theodrivel”. (Derived from Theology & Drivel of course).Effectively it describes the type of terminology that the likes of Jason Bradfield, the clergy and other god botherers descent into when the logical skids are pulled out from under them in debate over the existence of a god.I don’t know about others but it seems to be like clutching at candy floss in trying to understand their talk of states of transcendentalism and being at one with their personal gods, etc.There’s just nothing that resembles the slightest bit of sense or evidence to support what they say they believe and the level of dialogue reduces to the level that you might expect from a four year old.So from now on I’m going to lessen the frustration by shoveling all that stuff into a bin which is labelled “Theodrivel”.Another great article Sam, the juggernaut is rolling. I’m just visiting, RichardDawkins.Net is my usual hangout site but I’m right behind you, Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett and many others of your views.If they’re calling 2006 the Year of the Atheist then the religions of the world have every reason to be terrified of 2007 and onwards!!!!!!Happy New Year everyone.

  • Dee

    To Burton H. Wolfe : Congratulations ; it must be mental telepathy–you pretty much wrote my thoughts. Of all the messages written here, yours is the best. It’s time to realize if we are going to talk about the evils of religion we need to focus on the one religion that really threatens mankind today—ISLAM ! Compared to Islam , the other religions are not enough of a problem to waste time squabbling about. Islam is the best example of the harm Sam Harris says religion can do.The noose of Islam , today, is closing in on us tighter and tighter , and we should be aware of this and fight it with all our power. There are some things we should NOT tolerate . Be afraid–; be very afraid.

  • Ivan A. D’Mocracy

    Re Dee (Posted December 29, 2006 3:42 AM) and your message to Burton H Wolfe: I generally agree. I think many of us see the manifest dangers of Islam.  But please proceed with caution. I would suggest that we not isolate the Islamic (or any “single”) religion as the boogey-man. Heck, look how this “persecution” thing has been twisted into strengthening the faiths of Jews and Christians. I would rather eradicate this dogmatic superstition than strengthen it.  Instead, I would suggest an all out “justify-yourself” challenge as more suited to our needs.   Whenever anyone around me brings up religion, God, or Jesus, I assume that they do so because they feel that it is their divinely inspired duty and “right” to preach their assumed “rightous-ness”. In all fairness, this gives me as much right for a rebuttal and viewpoint challenge.   Thanks to the recent books, lectures, and articles by the likes of Harris, Dawkins & Dennett (among others), it has become easier to grow more adept at giving very polite, but challenging responses to these people. Within the context of the conversation I can usually demonstrate how “incredulous” there viewpoint really is. Generally, I am able to accomplish this without perceived malice (as none is intended – I mean, ignorance and the darkness of blind faith is more likely to evoke sympathy / empathy from me than malice!).  True, sometimes hurt feeling do ensue. But as I convey no personal malice, spite, hatred, or unbalanced biases (I treat all mono/poly theistic religions with equal disdain!), I am often amazed at how frequently I have these same used-to-be-sheeple inquiring more and more about reason and commonsense as time goes by.  Hey, like, who knew that honey attracts more flies than piss-n-vinegar!!

  • Unbeliever

    Thanks for that excellent article, Sam!

  • Unbeliever

    Thanks for that excellent article, Sam!

  • Unbeliever

    Thanks for that excellent article, Sam!

  • Bruce Burleson

    Believers assert an absolute affirmative – God exists.Ultimately, both are faith positions. Both sides believe passionately in something that they cannot absolutely prove. Both sides cite their evidence and their arguments. Believers assert a positive position, and so must assume the burden of proof. But if I cannot convince non-believers of the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus, that only means that I have failed to convince them. Others are convinced, and can cite the evidence that gives a rational basis to faith, whether others accept that evidence or not. Ultimately, each individual decides, and ultimately, the truth, whatever it may be, exists independently of our belief or non-belief in it. If the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred, it is reasonable to believe in it. If it did not actually occur, it is not reasonable to believe in it. Whatever position you take, you cannot escape faith. You either believe that it happened, or you believe that it did not happen.So, I have objective evidence of the resurrection (the New Testament accounts) and subjective experience that accords with that evidence. That makes my faith a combination of reason and experience. And that is as far as the argument can be taken.

  • Nick

    Jason Bradfield (above)said, “all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments” & “science is not capable of giving us any truth” by way of his computer!

  • ShawnM

    To B. Burleson:

  • lastpolka

    To Sam Harris, I loved your article and adore the way you think. Keep up the good work! To DuckPhup, I so enjoyed reading your comments. And to Randolph Lee, there IS such an organization out there attempting to “extinguish every last bit of religious nonsense from our government”. It’s The Freedom from Religion Foundation – check it out at http://www.ffrf.org. Happy New Year to all!

  • Kattie

    Nick, to quote Sam:”This marriage of modern technology and preliterate superstition is a bad one” – Very bad in Bradfield’s case!

  • Pecos (NM) Skeptic

    Just one of the problems I have with the supposed resurrection of Christ lies with my sole faith: the Laws of Physics. If there exist — or existed — such “miracles” as the resurrection, as well as so many other “miracles” we hear about on a daily basis (child birth, prayer-based healing, storm survival, etc.), then can the laws of physics be true “laws” if they are broken so easily? Seems to me the universe would be a mighty chaotic place indeed. Why would “God” make “miracles?” Is “he” insane? For example, it seems we should be witnessing bizarre, abnormal ocurrences constantly, based on the prayers and “miracles” accorded special “others.”

  • Darrin

    Most believers may never be turned away from their irrational thoughts, because they have a defence mechanisim dubbed “Pride and Bias”. When they read somthing on this site, or others, or talk to one of us, they, I believe, begin to see some light. BUT… their “Pride and Bias” always comes to the rescue. From what I can see, the believer converting to rational thought is few and far between. But, converting a few, is better than none. I think if Christainity had adopted meditaton as one of their creeds, I think it would never have spread the way it did, because through meditaion, Pride, Bias, EGO would diminish. Pride and Bias should be one of the areas of concentration on this site. If this idea could be Emphasized, maybe more belivers would be inclined to look inward and see what they refuse to see. Can you imagine a beliver suddenly seeing that their is no God, then having to tell thier children that they were wrong, and maybe their spouse, and their co-workers that they argued with… and especially their religious circle of friends… tough to do when “Pride and Bias” exists.

  • Randy

    First of all, to re-state what ShawnM said earlier, Pure water will boil at EXACTLY the same temperature every time at the same pressure. There is NO question or doubt about this. It seems silly to have to even bring this up.Regarding Bruce’s arguments, I have to say it’s sad that what appears to be a significant intellect based on his verbose responses is wasted on useless religious belief.Bruce, it’s just stupid that you get to pick and choose which parts of your holy book are true and untrue. You say that you’re basing your belief in Jesus’ resurrection on the New Testament accounts when the Bible itself is contradictory. Are you admitting that the rest of the bible is false? What leads you to believe that just these New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are true but yet you can so easily dismiss the rest of the bible as not-quite-so-true? You said, “I view the books in the New Testament as independent accounts…” Ok, but what makes them so different that you believe what they have to say, but you don’t believe in the other books? The leadership of your chosen religion have deemed the Bible in its entirety to be true, but you’ve decided differently? Are you your own religion? Based on what? What are these “subjective evidence” you keep referring to?

  • Bruce Burleson

    ShawnM: I do appreciate your comments. But there is evidence that the resurrection occurred, as I have pointed out in my posts. Non-believers choose to reject that evidence, even though it has never been positively disproven (other than by the a priori assumption that resurrections do not occur). Non-believers are capable of citing arguments in support of their position, but ultimately they take a faith position – that God does not exist and that the resurrection did not occur. Since they cannot positively prove by evidence and logic that this position is true, there must be at least an element of faith in it. This is not really a criticism, it is just an observation. Ultimately, none of us has personal experiential proof of at least 90% of what we believe. We are all trusting in someone else’s account, whether it be in the realm of science or religion.

  • Timmy

    This debate is in such desperate need of clarity!Christianity is a belief. Islam is a belief. Agnostic is simply a polite way to say atheist. We will both burn in Hell at the same temperature.Atheists and scientists are the very first ones to gleefully admit to not having all of the answers to the mysteries of life.So I emplore all agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and scientists to stop arguing amongst one another about cemantics. We are all like minded compared our delusional counterparts. Let us speak as one voice for reason and intellectual honesty.Go Sam Go!

  • Timmy

    This debate is in such desperate need of clarity!Christianity is a belief. Islam is a belief. Agnostic is simply a polite way to say atheist. We will both burn in Hell at the same temperature.Atheists and scientists are the very first ones to gleefully admit to not having all of the answers to the mysteries of life.So I emplore all agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and scientists to stop arguing amongst one another about cemantics. We are all like minded compared our delusional counterparts. Let us speak as one voice for reason and intellectual honesty.Go Sam Go!

  • Timmy

    This debate is in such desperate need of clarity!Christianity is a belief. Islam is a belief. Agnostic is simply a polite way to say atheist. We will both burn in Hell at the same temperature.Atheists and scientists are the very first ones to gleefully admit to not having all of the answers to the mysteries of life.So I emplore all agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and scientists to stop arguing amongst one another about cemantics. We are all like minded compared our delusional counterparts. Let us speak as one voice for reason and intellectual honesty.Go Sam Go!

  • Ron

    This is a great article, and I’m particularly fond of the three divisions of possible atheist-theist conversation: religion is true, religion is useful, atheism is bad.Sam’s words are as sharp as a katana, slicing away the fat of religion from the underlying actuality. Atheism may be in a limelight for the time being, but its so misunderstood, being burned by bias. It is ridiculous that scientific growth and expansion is being decreed as “unethical” by the faithful.We may be the dominate species, but that doesn’t make us exempt from being slaves to custom and tradition, and this we share too much.

  • Howard Pepper

    I appreciate Sam’s work–an important contribution to important issues for discussion! Brief comment on issues raised by Blackdog, Stan Yoder and others: I strongly believe we DO need to think and talk strategy, not just focus on logic and arguments. In response to the question if Sam had seen “…anyone from the religious community actually come to realize the truth…?” I will step forward (and I know quite a few others). You might check the work of Dr. Marlene Winell, and her excellent book, “Leaving the Fold.” Lots of insights into the social and psychological factors involved. That kind of education is one element in constructing effective strategies.One of mine is to try to actually acknowledge the positive motivations, commitment, etc. of religious people. Many of them ARE very compassionate and an angry or forceful approach does no more than raise defenses (understandably). I also point out the common ground I still share with Christian friends/relatives. (I consider myself “spiritual but not religious” now, and throw out that millions in this category do believe in things like the continuation of consciousness beyond physical death, without being “religious” or closed to scientific evidence–rather many of us seek it out for deeper insights, greater truth.)I was a “professional” (ministering) Christian who was continually exploring deeper WITHIN theology AND via science, and I included the realm generally shunned (unfortunately) by both–the “paranormal.” In my case, it took convergence of many elements, over time, for me to finally make a paradigm shift. A couple were: exposure to loving, devoted “liberal” or progressive Christians and their very pro-social, pro-science, pro-environmental, non-literalist (biblical) stances; investigations re. debated subjects (“paranormal”) where physics and metaphysics meet and science and religion (or at least “spirituality”) have hope for a bit of collaboration instead of constantly shooting past each other. Actually such collaboration IS happening via important work by people like Russell Targ, David Hawkins, Fritzjof Capra, and many others. Toward possible atheist/religion dialog, this area is not to be overlooked. In general, a LOT of formal and informal education and exploration is what it took for ME. It should be noted, though, that I am unusually driven toward both intellectual and experiential understanding–way beyond most people, especially the more conservative among Christians (or other religionists). One more thing on approach: if indeed it be true (as I believe) that we can reach the higher levels of consciousness and humanitarian action (especially LOVE)apart from any belief in a personal God, we need to show that. For all its inconsistencies and problems, Christianity got its strong start largely because it had a positive, loving social outreach. In many, many cases yet today that is what draws people in (or keeps them in, along with less positive factors). For those of us with a different perspective, the positive power of acceptance (of the people) and compassion, in thought AND deed, along with loving challenges to look deeper will go a lot further than angry confrontation or coercive measures like a barrage of lawsuits.

  • Howard Pepper

    I appreciate Sam’s work–an important contribution to important issues for discussion! Brief comment on issues raised by Blackdog, Stan Yoder and others: I strongly believe we DO need to think and talk strategy, not just focus on logic and arguments. In response to the question if Sam had seen “…anyone from the religious community actually come to realize the truth…?” I will step forward (and I know quite a few others). You might check the work of Dr. Marlene Winell, and her excellent book, “Leaving the Fold.” Lots of insights into the social and psychological factors involved. That kind of education is one element in constructing effective strategies.One of mine is to try to actually acknowledge the positive motivations, commitment, etc. of religious people. Many of them ARE very compassionate and an angry or forceful approach does no more than raise defenses (understandably). I also point out the common ground I still share with Christian friends/relatives. (I consider myself “spiritual but not religious” now, and throw out that millions in this category do believe in things like the continuation of consciousness beyond physical death, without being “religious” or closed to scientific evidence–rather many of us seek it out for deeper insights, greater truth.)I was a “professional” (ministering) Christian who was continually exploring deeper WITHIN theology AND via science, and I included the realm generally shunned (unfortunately) by both–the “paranormal.” In my case, it took convergence of many elements, over time, for me to finally make a paradigm shift. A couple were: exposure to loving, devoted “liberal” or progressive Christians and their very pro-social, pro-science, pro-environmental, non-literalist (biblical) stances; investigations re. debated subjects (“paranormal”) where physics and metaphysics meet and science and religion (or at least “spirituality”) have hope for a bit of collaboration instead of constantly shooting past each other. Actually such collaboration IS happening via important work by people like Russell Targ, David Hawkins, Fritzjof Capra, and many others. Toward possible atheist/religion dialog, this area is not to be overlooked. In general, a LOT of formal and informal education and exploration is what it took for ME. It should be noted, though, that I am unusually driven toward both intellectual and experiential understanding–way beyond most people, especially the more conservative among Christians (or other religionists). One more thing on approach: if indeed it be true (as I believe) that we can reach the higher levels of consciousness and humanitarian action (especially LOVE)apart from any belief in a personal God, we need to show that. For all its inconsistencies and problems, Christianity got its strong start largely because it had a positive, loving social outreach. In many, many cases yet today that is what draws people in (or keeps them in, along with less positive factors). For those of us with a different perspective, the positive power of acceptance (of the people) and compassion, in thought AND deed, along with loving challenges to look deeper will go a lot further than angry confrontation or coercive measures like a barrage of lawsuits.

  • Howard Pepper

    I appreciate Sam’s work–an important contribution to important issues for discussion! Brief comment on issues raised by Blackdog, Stan Yoder and others: I strongly believe we DO need to think and talk strategy, not just focus on logic and arguments. In response to the question if Sam had seen “…anyone from the religious community actually come to realize the truth…?” I will step forward (and I know quite a few others). You might check the work of Dr. Marlene Winell, and her excellent book, “Leaving the Fold.” Lots of insights into the social and psychological factors involved. That kind of education is one element in constructing effective strategies.One of mine is to try to actually acknowledge the positive motivations, commitment, etc. of religious people. Many of them ARE very compassionate and an angry or forceful approach does no more than raise defenses (understandably). I also point out the common ground I still share with Christian friends/relatives. (I consider myself “spiritual but not religious” now, and throw out that millions in this category do believe in things like the continuation of consciousness beyond physical death, without being “religious” or closed to scientific evidence–rather many of us seek it out for deeper insights, greater truth.)I was a “professional” (ministering) Christian who was continually exploring deeper WITHIN theology AND via science, and I included the realm generally shunned (unfortunately) by both–the “paranormal.” In my case, it took convergence of many elements, over time, for me to finally make a paradigm shift. A couple were: exposure to loving, devoted “liberal” or progressive Christians and their very pro-social, pro-science, pro-environmental, non-literalist (biblical) stances; investigations re. debated subjects (“paranormal”) where physics and metaphysics meet and science and religion (or at least “spirituality”) have hope for a bit of collaboration instead of constantly shooting past each other. Actually such collaboration IS happening via important work by people like Russell Targ, David Hawkins, Fritzjof Capra, and many others. Toward possible atheist/religion dialog, this area is not to be overlooked. In general, a LOT of formal and informal education and exploration is what it took for ME. It should be noted, though, that I am unusually driven toward both intellectual and experiential understanding–way beyond most people, especially the more conservative among Christians (or other religionists). One more thing on approach: if indeed it be true (as I believe) that we can reach the higher levels of consciousness and humanitarian action (especially LOVE)apart from any belief in a personal God, we need to show that. For all its inconsistencies and problems, Christianity got its strong start largely because it had a positive, loving social outreach. In many, many cases yet today that is what draws people in (or keeps them in, along with less positive factors). For those of us with a different perspective, the positive power of acceptance (of the people) and compassion, in thought AND deed, along with loving challenges to look deeper will go a lot further than angry confrontation or coercive measures like a barrage of lawsuits.

  • Timmy

    Bruce Bruce Bruce,Thousands upon thousands of people claim to have witnessed Elvis at the shopping mall since his death. Many have written books about their sightings.

  • Timmy

    Bruce Bruce Bruce,Thousands upon thousands of people claim to have witnessed Elvis at the shopping mall since his death. Many have written books about their sightings.

  • Timmy

    Bruce Bruce Bruce,Thousands upon thousands of people claim to have witnessed Elvis at the shopping mall since his death. Many have written books about their sightings.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Randy: Sorry about being verbose. I am not picking and choosing the parts of my Holy Book that I believe in. I have a different interpretation of the Old Testament than fundamentalist Christians, so I did not want to waste time on all the issues that arise in talking about those passages, many of which I believe are poetic or otherwise metaphorical. I can believe that the Scripture accurately reveals truth about God without accepting a hyper-literal interpretation of all Old Testament accounts. That is an issue of interpretation, not of validity.The New Testament accounts of the resurrection are different. By their very nature they purport to be eyewitness accounts of an historical event, which were recorded relatively soon after the event occurred. The account of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15 is written by an extremely intelligent man – the apostle Paul – who lays out the evidence for it. I find no contradiction in the evidence of the resurrection accounts. They all report the same thing. I am not my own religion, as you suggest, but I am not part of any denomination. I am simply a believer in Jesus. The subjective experience that I refer to is my own inward experience of the presence of God, which accords with the descriptions of that phenomenon that I find in the New Testament. In other words, my subjective experience confirms the objective evidence that I see in the New Testament. Look at Sam Harris’ own mention of his inward spiritual experiences in “The End Of Faith.” Mystical experiences happen even to non-believers. In my case, those experiences match what I see in the New Testament. I will not bore you with the details, lest I become “verbose.”

  • Robin

    Iwant to follow up on the comment by Watercolor Genius. Yes, Catholicism is certainly a club and also a world-historical community. That makes it extremely difficult to leave behind. And the clergy make it very costly to try. Marrying a non-Catholic used to involve demeaning contracts over the baptism of children. Leaving the church meant and perhaps still means certain ostracizastion by famiy and friends. Apparently the same is true for Mormons and Jews. Moslems can be executed on sight for apostasy. It is one’s life literally or figurative that one loses in daring to free oneself from the religion of one’s birth. I believe the loss of community is the biggest hurdle to allowing oneself to see through the delusions of dogma and faith. The Catholic church of the early 20th century was hostile to members joining “secular” and civic organizations. They feared the creation of alternative communities. But alternative communities is what we need if we are to break the stranglehold of religion on the public imagination. Robin

  • Ted Swart

    To Bruce BurlingtonYou write as follows:”Believers assert an absolute affirmative – God exists.But . . . . There is a real problem about these sentences. They assume that the word God has the same meaning for believers and unbelievers. But this is not necessarily the case. What if we asked instead the following question.If there is a God what would God have to be like?(The question could be accompanied by a partial definition of God as some kind of trans-human Divinty) And the very first thing that springs to my mind is that such a Divinity could not possibly be a creator of the universe. This can easily be ruled out by noting that such a Divinity would have to be more complex than the universe itself thus raising the unanswerable question as to who created the Divinity. This comes pretty close to proving that the God believed in by Christians, Jews and Muslims most certainly does not exist. There is much more that can be said but there is really no doubt that your either/or conundrum doesn’t even exist if you permit defintions of Divinity — other than those espoused by the monotheistic or polytheistic religions. So, to summarize, I am not in the game of asserting an absolute negative as you claim I must since I am an agnostic and I first want to know the definition of God you are talking about. And even within the monotheistic faiths the definition of God is far form uniform. Muslims will say Allah is the right God to believe in and Christians will say it is a strange triune God consisting of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.So I don’t think your argument can even get off the ground until you do at least a half decent job of defining what you mean by God. Cheers.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson wrote:Believers assert an absolute affirmative – God exists.Ultimately, both are faith positions. Both sides believe passionately in something that they cannot absolutely prove. Both sides cite their evidence and their arguments.********1. “I do not KNOW whether god(s) do or do not exist.2. “I DO NOT believe that god(s) exist.”3. “I believe that god(s) DO NOT exist.”1 is generally taken to be the ‘agnostic’ position…2 is generally taken to be the ‘weak’ atheist position…3 is generally taken to be the ‘strong’ atheist position.Notice that 2 (weak atheist position) is TRUE for both 1 and 3. If you don’t ‘know’ whether or not god exists (1), then you do not ‘believe’ in god (2).If you ‘believe’ that god does not exist (3), then you do not ‘believe’ in god (2).Also, pay particular attention to the qualitative difference between 2 and 3… if you can perceive that difference, then you should be able to appreciate why your assertion (above) is an absurdity… and that there is NOTHING about 2 which is ‘faith-based’, or that constitutes a positive assertion about some aspect of existence and reality; it is simply a refusal to be sucked into embracing nonsensical delusions.So, the common denominator between ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’ is that neither positions harbors a ‘belief’ in god… and thus, both are ‘non-believers’. That also seems to be the only position that makes sense, since for someone to say that they ‘believe’ that there is no god implies a logical proposition that ‘god does not exit = true’. THAT implies that there must be some kind of logical ‘proof’ for that assertion… and, of course, since it is impossible to prove such a thing in the absence of infinite knowledge, it is no more than a red herring. Further… if you possessed the infinite knowledge necesary to ‘prove’ such a logical proposition, then you would fulfill the definition of a god yourself, and end up in a ‘Divine Paradox’. Thus, position (3) is logically untenable… just the same as religious belief is untenable.For purposes of this answer (and for most of the answers I give), it should be understood that when I say ‘belief’, I am referring to an internalized (part of one’s self-description) certainty of the ‘truth’ of some matter pertaining to a fundamental aspect of existence and/or reality.The only sensible course is to say “I do not believe in god,” and let it go at that. It would seem obvious to me that if the FSM descended from heaven on a cloud, and touched me with his noodly appendage… or some other god performed his own version of that trick… I would be logically obliged to reassess my disbelief. But, until that happens… I don’t believe in god(s).

  • Ivan A. D’Mocracy

    Timmy : LOL – Elvis is Alive! & “Bruce Bruce Bruce” – your patience and politeness and sincerity of your proffered conversations / rebuttals are truly appreciated by the “mostly lurkers” among us. But, I beg of you, of all the questions that have been put your way – please directly address Timmy’s question as follows:”if … (snip) … a very large group of Elvis believers were to have a massive amount of influence in the affairs of our political and social discourse? Would this sit well with you?”This is my concern with religion precisely! Exactly. Please, others of “the faith” are requested to weigh in on this topic as well (Bruce Bruce Bruce may need some Kingdomly help on this one!). What on earth (or off!) could give you and your myopic, parochial, wee, exclusionary and disparate faith(s) any right whatsoever to continue to have any moral right (or indeed validity of any kind whatsoever!) to impact civilization as we have it today? And, uhhmmm, whose faith would it be? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?And to what end? Google any of the Humanist Manifestos on the web for a better, more sustainable, open, and accepting version of hope for the future. Please – For the love of Jesus (who may or may not have existed, but in the spirit of true love of the species “mankind”).

  • Gary Llewellyn

    When I’m feeling fearful, I desire certainty….when I’m feeling exited, I desire uncertainty!

  • Bruce Burleson

    Ted Swart: I agree with your criticism of my post, with respect to the point you made about defining what I mean by God. If you are a true agnostic, then what I said does not apply to you at all. By God, I mean an infinite, eternal personal being, who created the universe, who exists outside of the universe but can interject himself into the universe, and who is more complex than the universe. He was not created, and in his realm there is no law that requires that he be created. He is self-existent. He is triune. My basis for this belief is the teaching of the New Testament, primarily of Jesus, in whom I trust because of his resurrection. His resurrection establishes him as the ultimate authority on spiritual and religious matters. If he was not resurrected, he is not worthy of belief. If he was, he is worthy of belief. My whole faith is built on his resurrection, which confirmed that he was the Son of God. Disprove that, and you destroy Christianity, as even the apostle Paul admitted. That is my definition of God. But for a true agnostic such as yourself, my post really had no relevance. It was mainly for atheists, if I can use that word.

  • skeptic griggsy

    At best, religion is a powerful placebo that one can replace with others . Faith is the I just say so of gullibility.Theistic evolutionists violate Occam’s razor by conflating natural selection with teleology.”End states are consequences[ selection]. not foregone conclustions[ teleology]. To marry origins[ selection] or contingency and creation[ teleology] or necessary being as Russell Stannard does is to beg the question of the second category.Selection does the job on its own. To deny that as shallow theists do is to make the new Omphalos argument that God deceives us in so thinking as the old one has God deceiving us into thinking that evolution occurred . Theists beg the question in assuming that a god had us in mind when selection mindlessly gave us being . Theists beg the question in assuming there is perfection. Theists beg the question in assuming a complete starting point of the cosmos. We, contrary to the shallow Francis Collins in Chritianity Today do not beg the point in denying any gods as we show there can be no evidence for any and he there begs the question of ultimate purposes and other matters!In his book , he maintains that the god redundancy[ violation of Occam's razor ] makes a contrbution to thought , but that is osbcurantism. Why is it thought to be dogmatic in asking for facts and logic? Our transient passions- purposes and meanings, human love and this life suffice. One needs counseling to overcome the wishful thinking of Francisco Jose Ayala and other believers that one desperately needs an ultimate purpose, divine love and a future state! Logic is the bane of theists. Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.

  • Greg

    Bruce: Oh but I do believe! He wasn’t the only witness, I’ve met countless numbers of people over the years who have said that they, too, have seen Santa. Why Macy*s every year has Santa arrive and stay there during the season before boarding his sleigh and delivering all the toys to good girls and boys. You have no evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, do you? If I have witnesses who have seen him, he therefore exits. For you to say otherwise would negate your own arguement for your Jesus. And my witnesses have been within the past 40 years so certainly their account is more accurate. Additionally, the post office will gladly accept all letters to Santa at the North Pole; NORAD has a website that actually tracks Santa and his sleigh on Christmas Eve, both of these are government programs which would be lying to the American people if Santa truly doesn’t exist. The Marine Corps every year has a toy drive to help Santa with gathering toys and those officers take an oath, so if they’re lying about Santa, certainly wouldn’t lying be cause for court-martial? Every year I read The Night Before Christmas and even the inspired writer of that story has a claim to have witnessed Santa on Christmas Eve one year, along with the reindeer and sleigh. If the writer is a witness as well, how is that not proof enough for you. I’ve listed many examples, more than you, to support my case of people who would swear that Satna exists – I think you need to accept this and stop trying to lie about it.

  • Greg

    Bruce: Oh but I do believe! He wasn’t the only witness, I’ve met countless numbers of people over the years who have said that they, too, have seen Santa. Why Macy*s every year has Santa arrive and stay there during the season before boarding his sleigh and delivering all the toys to good girls and boys. You have no evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, do you? If I have witnesses who have seen him, he therefore exits. For you to say otherwise would negate your own arguement for your Jesus. And my witnesses have been within the past 40 years so certainly their account is more accurate. Additionally, the post office will gladly accept all letters to Santa at the North Pole; NORAD has a website that actually tracks Santa and his sleigh on Christmas Eve, both of these are government programs which would be lying to the American people if Santa truly doesn’t exist. The Marine Corps every year has a toy drive to help Santa with gathering toys and those officers take an oath, so if they’re lying about Santa, certainly wouldn’t lying be cause for court-martial? Every year I read The Night Before Christmas and even the inspired writer of that story has a claim to have witnessed Santa on Christmas Eve one year, along with the reindeer and sleigh. If the writer is a witness as well, how is that not proof enough for you. I’ve listed many examples, more than you, to support my case of people who would swear that Satna exists – I think you need to accept this and stop trying to lie about it.

  • Greg

    Bruce: Oh but I do believe! He wasn’t the only witness, I’ve met countless numbers of people over the years who have said that they, too, have seen Santa. Why Macy*s every year has Santa arrive and stay there during the season before boarding his sleigh and delivering all the toys to good girls and boys. You have no evidence that Santa doesn’t exist, do you? If I have witnesses who have seen him, he therefore exits. For you to say otherwise would negate your own arguement for your Jesus. And my witnesses have been within the past 40 years so certainly their account is more accurate. Additionally, the post office will gladly accept all letters to Santa at the North Pole; NORAD has a website that actually tracks Santa and his sleigh on Christmas Eve, both of these are government programs which would be lying to the American people if Santa truly doesn’t exist. The Marine Corps every year has a toy drive to help Santa with gathering toys and those officers take an oath, so if they’re lying about Santa, certainly wouldn’t lying be cause for court-martial? Every year I read The Night Before Christmas and even the inspired writer of that story has a claim to have witnessed Santa on Christmas Eve one year, along with the reindeer and sleigh. If the writer is a witness as well, how is that not proof enough for you. I’ve listed many examples, more than you, to support my case of people who would swear that Satna exists – I think you need to accept this and stop trying to lie about it.

  • Rick Bunte

    Nice article, Sam. Keep up the good work. Note to Jason Bradfield: Experiments are not repeated with varying results because senses lie. Results vary because of normal variation, and experiments are repeated in order to establish the standard deviation of the results. Good grief.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: If your position truly is that “I do not believe that God exists” and not “I believe that God does not exist”, then I agree that your position is not faith based. But when you say that you would reassess your logic if you had a personal divine experience (your “noodly appendage”), are you not admitting that subjective experience which confirms objective evidence provides a rational basis for faith? Therefore, if I have had such an experience, and it is in accord with the evidence in the New Testament, would you not have to admit that, for me personally, my faith has a rational basis? Greg: Where is the church of Santa that you attend? Give me the address, and I will come visit. Let me see the eyewitness accounts of Santa that you mention. Perhaps I will convert.Ivan A. D’mocracy: To answer your question, I have no more and no less right to impact society than any other individual.

  • Michael Aherne

    Bruce,Let me try another approach, because you seem reasonable.Pretend we are in a courtroom. We have an impartial jury who are deciding if Jesus’s resurrection actually happened. We will take as an assumption that Jesus’s existence as a human is not in question. Fair?Ok. You say that the gospels + Paul are 5 pieces of evidence, in the form of testimony, for the literal resurrection of Jesus. I agree — so we bring in the 4 gospel writers and Paul, and we sit them down in the courtroom, and they give their testimony, and they leave. Certain details in the testimony differ, but that can be expected. The point is, they all agree that they saw a man who was previously dead walking around.Now I get to call my witnesses. For my first witness I call in everyone in the United States. And every single person comes in, and gives testimony that they have never seen a dead man come back to life. That’s 300 million pieces of evidence against resurrection in general, of which Jesus’s resurrection would be a subset. For my second witness I call in the rest of the world. Another 6 billion people file into the courtroom, and each one declares that yes, indeed, they have never seen anyone who was dead for 3 days come back to life. Not only that, but instead of just giving the testimony and leaving, they stay in the courtroom, and allow themselves to be cross-examined. You can talk to any of your relatives and ask them if they’ve seen someone come back to life.The judge adjourns, and the courtroom empties, and the jury goes to deliberate. On the one hand, they have 5 guys, who they could not cross-examine, claiming that a person rose from the dead. On the other hand, they have 6.3 billion people claiming they have never seen such an event. Where do you think the balance of probabilities is going to swing? 5 vs 6.3 billion? And that’s not even including the testimony of countless humans before our time who, by their very deadness, make an implicit case for non-resurrection.You have to admit that this jury would be very hard-pressed to vote in favor of Jesus.Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.If the only evidence is this testimony, then I’m afraid the case is dismissed. There is nothing substantial here to warrant the belief that this event took place. The reason other commenters have brought up Elvis and Heaven’s Gate and others is to show you that you are not universally applying the same decision-making method to all claims. You reject claims that have even more testimony than Jesus’s resurrection (such as Elvis’ resurrection), but accept the account of Jesus because you are inherently bias towards it. Perhaps you were raised Christian or perhaps your life took an excellent turn for the good once you found religion — there’s no need to speculate — but the point is you are not being universally fair towards extraordinary claims. At best this makes you naive. At worst, a hypocrite.Sincerely,

  • Theosophus

    SamWhen in your empiricist mode, you emphasize the importance of “reason,” “evidence,” and “common sense,” proposing: “There is not a person on this earth who has sufficient reason to be certain that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in his cave.” (By “sufficient reason,” one supposes you mean “material justification”.) But, having made such convincing empiricist arguments, you then trot off to an idealist never-never-land, not merely implying, but energetically insisting, that the philosophical/-religious views you disparage have no material dimensions, i.e., no origin in the experiences of the individuals who embrace them. Now, since Sam-the-idealist appears to be as closed to material evidence and common sense as his religious opponents, the following observations and arguments are addressed exclusively to Sam-the-empiricist. * Today, it’s considered indisputable that just as no two of the approximately six-and-a-half-billion humans inhabiting this planet have identical fingerprints, no two of them have * Common sense argues that asking which of them comes closest to viewing the “objective truth” is a silly question. Each obviously sees what the leaves “absolutely and objectively”Defending the common sense premise that all our truths are at once products of an “out there,” an “in here” of the observer, and the relationship between them, the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski queried: “What justifies our belief that the visual world of a fly, made up of light and dark spots of neutral colors, is less ‘authentic’ or less ‘true’ than ours, except the fact that ours is better adapted to our needs? . . . In all the universe man cannot find a well so deep that, leaning over it, he does not discover at the bottom his own face.”* Now, where political and philosophical consciousness is concerned, it’s obvious that, with rare exceptions, none of us, whether politically Left, Right or Liberal, knowingly calls true ideas which, if we act upon them as valid, will result in our socio-economic expropriation. No less obviously, we must either regard this as a miracle of “walking on water” and “raising the dead” proportions, or, consider it irrefutable evidence that, before all else, our political truths are blueprints and justifications for defending our personal social existences (much as our biological truths are blueprints and justifications for defending life and health).* While one might argue there are individual exceptions to the above rule, Christ perhaps, and Che Guevara, there are clearly no community exceptions. And we know well how people in community rationalize not following such individual egalitarian exceptions. Describing Christ as the “Son of God,” Christians excuse their failure to share as the actions of “mere mortals.” Self-declared Marxists have similarly rationalized not imitating Che by calling him “the socialist man alive today;” an elevated status which, they concede, they have not yet personally attained. If tomorrow everyone began behaving as Christ prescribed surely it would mean the end of Christianity. People might thereafter love him as they loved themselves, but idolize? In the same way, the men who joined Che in the Bolivian mountains no doubt loved him. But is it reasonable to suppose they worshipped him for doing the same thing they were doing? (That which people idolize they never emulate!)In short, common sense and universal experience argue our religions/philosophies are but blueprints and justifications for keeping what we have; Christianity an interest-protective excuse for not behaving as Christians. * This last point was hammered home by Marx (and no, my agreement with him here aside, I do not consider myself a Marxist). Adam Smith described all the members of capitalist communities as engaged in trying to better their socio-economic conditions/enhance their material situations, while an “Unseen Hand” somehow binds them together. For Marx, however, the preservation of their “social existences” (i.e., reproduction of the socio-economic conditions they already enjoy) is far more important than improving it for citizens of every community. And it is the things a community’s members cooperatively do to achieve that paramount objective, not some mysterious “Unseen Hand,” which unifies them around every given system of production. ”Production,” said Marx, “aims at the reproduction of the producer” and “his objective conditions of existence.”According to Marx’s materialist dialectic, as new productive orders became viable their elite-originated blueprints were gradually absorbed by everyone, furnishing the assumptions with which they began their thinking about matters social, economic and political. Idea and experience being “a unity,” just as political States impose system-protective limits on everyone’s doing, philosophies/religions he argued, establish system-protective boundaries for their thoughts. Obviously, if non-elite members of a community were to reject its (to date, elite-originated) philosophical vision, refuse to act upon it, they would have to confront the elite physically, and neither of them would be socio-economically sustained. Therefore, so long as productive orders were able to perpetuate their social existences, non-elites have been found to reflexively internalize, rather than reject, such visions. * Of course, Sam-the-impiricist might reason that while the animist religions of hunter-gatherers and the Religious Absolutism of feudal societies may have served as blueprints and justifications for preserving the “social existences” of the individuals who embraced them, today, given global warming, global pollution, nuclear weaponry and the creation of an integrated global economy, we will either construct a philosophical peerspective which ascribes equal value to everyone’s life and security, or, none of us are going to make it.

  • Ted Swart

    To Bruce Burleson:I am sorry I got your name wrong in my previous post. And I must thank you for absolving me from having to grapple directly with your either/or conundrum. So, let me end by suggesting that there is still hope for you. You can change and drop the shackles of formal religion and be free as a bird. Let me tell you one thing that does not happen if yo do this. Your ethics and morals do not change one jot or one tittle and there is no reason at all why they should do. Best wishes. You are clearly an honest man and if you keep at it your honesty will win out.

  • jconrad

    It’s a shame Jason Bradfield is capable of understanding some of the limitations of science–he doesn’t for example mention curing of diseases. How he can go though all his points and end up with a simple statement of unsupportable faith. How does he know truth is in the scripture? Guess what Jason, I have faith in science and–unlike those poor fools in Iraq who are blowing each other up–because of it I’ll live longer and wont waste my time praying to some imagined diety. RELIGION IS THE BANE OF MANKIND. The sooner its gone the better.

  • Timmy

    On the question of what should atheists do about religion?The debate seems to be Revolution? or Evolution?

  • Timmy

    On the question of what should atheists do about religion?The debate seems to be Revolution? or Evolution?

  • Timmy

    On the question of what should atheists do about religion?The debate seems to be Revolution? or Evolution?

  • Greg

    BruceI’m glad you’re getting the attention you seek outside of yourself on this blog, perhaps with enough of it; you will find the esteem within to stop seeking outside of yourself that which can only be found within. One seeks outside himself/herself that which they cannot find from within; projection is the means by which we personalize the experience, regardless of its truth or not to make ourselves feel better about ourselves and the world around us. One does not seek god when one accepts the traits of adulthood that include responsibility and accountability for all aspects of one’s life; there’s no need to do so. Many adults get stuck in childhood fantasy and magical thinking which leads to many fallacious ideas including god, happily ever after, perfection, someone will save me, if I’m good Santa will bring me presents, etc. Science, reason and logic need not provide proof of god’s existence. Utilizing your bible text is a circular argument that is unsubstantiated and lacks any credible evidence. Do you have your beliefs beyond the text? Notice how the position of science, reason and logic allows for all human beings to live their life as they wish; notice how religion is controlling, manipulative and destroys people. While I have been entertained by the attention you’ve received, you are being intellectually dishonest to make the claim that a man, any man, arose from the dead to walk the earth again without any irrefutable scientific evidence. While you may be comfortable with this illogic, it hardly holds any intelligence to any reasonable person with logic on his/her side. The line of danger comes into play when others like yourself decide to fly planes into buildings because they believe something of a religious nature; war is more tolerable when it’s against a particular nation who’s ideals differ from ours upon their attacks on our soil; war with an ideology of religious beliefs is a war difficult to win, if at all. If our country continues down this road of religion, having our government hijacked by Christianity and other religious beliefs, we will certainly self-destruct or be taken over by another that will find this weakness from within; so far Islam has managed a media campaign that has successfully divided the country. I do not respect your religion or beliefs about it as it has been the basis for too many deaths along with bigotry, hatred, and discrimination.

  • Travis Fowler

    How many people have been killed in the name of god? Why?

  • Martin White

    Excellent posts, really heartening. The problem is that those making the comments in defense of using atheism are correct, not our great and good friend Sam Harris, who, for all of his tremendous logic, is more of a quasi-Buddhist than a strict rationalist. Even our own defenders (Chomsky comes to mind) think atheism is a dirty word. Atheism is not – is a hard-won understanding that social justice comes from the workings of human beings. And on that score we are doomed, so please folks, laugh at the predicament, laugh at the absurdities, laugh at our our ensnarement in wrecking the planet and perpetuating horrific inequalities, and yet do what you can, and never intellectually betray your principles. The comments section are the best parts – the inspiring workings of liberated minds.

  • Philip Tripp

    Sam’s article certainly has stirred up the choir. The problem is that while we all have different perspectives on this issue, most of us who are responding are non-believers. We are in effect, preaching to the choir. Figuratively speaking, Bruce Burleson is a lamb who stepped into the den of lions. He certainly has retained his views in the face of much feedback. I wouldn’t expect him to be different than any believer, regardless of their faith. With so much fervor, energy and thought spent denouncing religion on this site, how about if some of us lambs go into the religious lion’s den? There must me a huge number of web sites, where the choir is very religious, that we could go into and make some kind of assertion that God does not exist. Using a similar assertion that Bruce Burleson made, I think we could stir up the water just like Bruce has. If each of us follows up the responses with some of the wisdom imparted by Harris, Dawkings, Dennet et,al to bolster our arguments, I can’t think of a better way to utilize the anti-religious passion on this site. If anyone agrees with me and could publish a list of sites, I would be happy to throw myself to the lions. I used to do this regularly over thirty years ago, long before the internet. I use to attend meetings sponsored by various churches in my area. The meetings were usually held in someone’s home and they welcomed fellowship with new faces. That was my way of getting in the door. What I experienced, many years ago, is quite different than what Bruce experienced today. While many of the attendees at those meetings spoke with great concern about my beliefs, a small minority were outright hostile and on several occasions I felt that my personal safety was in great jeopardy by attending the meeting. One observation of mine when reading the comments on Sam’s site, is that most comments are rational and name calling and threats are rarely if ever used. I think if you venture into the lions’s den you will be shocked at some of the attitudes towards your prescence on the site and may even be threatened with violence. Religious dogma does not welcome opposing views. It is a closed club and only open to members. On another note, I really think that Tim Rykert nailed it on his comment on December 29th at 4:59pm in which he began with “This debate is in desparate need of clarity”. Right on Tim!The same for Kaatie, Stan Yoder, Burton Wolfe, Duckphup et,al. My hat is off to all of you.

  • RB

    As to the question of what we should do, and how we should do it, Sam’s example is quite good. He argues calmly, consistently and forcefully. I can attest that it works.In a recent conversation with a God-fearing, assertive and loud Baptist in the workplace — I had to answer him because his ministry was disrupting the work of a half-dozen, including me, down the hallway and around the corner — I used one of Sam’s points to great effect.I’ll call him Tim. The rant that made me get up from my desk and walk around the corner, where he held sway over five co-workers in their swivel chairs:”Americans need to realize that if they don’t wake up and follow God’s commandments, all hell is going to break loose, and the godless non-believers are going to be the first to go, because they’re responsible for all these problems.””Who are you talking about, these godless non-believers?” I asked.”Well, the Islamo-facists you are ready to take over this country,” he replied.I saw the opportunity to employ one of Sam’s methodologies, so I jumped at the chance.”Did you know that Muslims believe that Mohammad mounted a winged horse and flew to heaven? Isn’t that ridiculous non-sense? Ever see a winged horse? One-point-five billion people believe that.””Yeah, it’s pathetic,” Tim said.”So, you don’t believe that Mohammad was a prophet of God, do you?””No, that’s bull—-. Those people have been brain-washed since birth.””I agree with that. So you’re an atheist when it comes to Islam, right?”Tim paused before answering. As the thought penetrated his cortex, his face twitched. “I never thought about it that way, but I guess you’re right.” “And you don’t believe in Thor, Zeus or Athena either do you? All those gods of mythology. We’d laugh together at someone who walked in here and said he was taking his boat out today to find and have a talk with Posiden, wouldn’t we? We’d think he was crazy, right?”Tim didn’t answer. But he was listening.”So you and I are no different. We’re both atheists when it comes to thousands of gods out there that people claim to believe in. We’re in complete agreement about that. So you understand what it feels like to be an atheist.””Well, yeah, but I really hadn’t thought of it that way,” Tim repeated. He had abandoned his confrontational tone and manner.”And the only difference between you and an atheist is that he has subtracted one more god from the equation. Do you see that?”Tim was now the focus of six people awaiting his answer. A nervous smile appeared and he chuckled, perhaps intending it to be only to himself, but a wet burble emerged nonetheless. “Yeah, well…” he mumbled. “I gotta get to work.” He turned his back on us and started shuffling papers around his desk. The other observers glanced among themselves, a couple of them smiled, and then did likewise.I haven’t heard Tim climb back on the soapbox since, at least not in my presence, and it’s been about five months. Sam’s approach does work with “believers,” try it out.

  • R. Roth

    Kaattie is correct. I am a public school teacher. As I was re-reading Letter to a Christian Nation, I thought that, if we really believed in really teaching children to think, Letter should be required reading for every appropriately aged school child with guidance from an intelligent adult. But, that’s wholly unthinkable in our society, isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    Bruce Burleson wrote:Duckphup: If your position truly is that “I do not believe that God exists” and not “I believe that God does not exist”, then I agree that your position is not faith based. But when you say that you would reassess your logic if you had a personal divine experience (your “noodly appendage”), are you not admitting that subjective experience which confirms objective evidence provides a rational basis for faith? Therefore, if I have had such an experience, and it is in accord with the evidence in the New Testament, would you not have to admit that, for me personally, my faith has a rational basis?********************I was not “… admitting that subjective experience which confirms objective evidence provides a rational basis for faith.” I was being facetious. First of all, I did not say that I would “reassess my logic”… I said that I “…would be logically obliged to reasses my disbelief”. There is a difference, you see. Further, the context related to a direct PHYSICAL encounter with an alleged diety… which, of course, is never going to happen to me, since there is no such thing as magical sky-fairies… er… gods. It’s not going to happen to you, either… in “accord with the evidence in the New Testament”, or in accord with anything else.If you asserted that you had such an experience, I can assure you that nobody would suspect you of being rational… there is nothing ‘rational’ about religious faith.Let’s examine ‘belief’ and ‘faith’. ‘Belief’ is very much misunderstood. It is perfectly correct and acceptable, in ordinary conversation, to say things like:”I believe that the sun will come up tomorrow.””I believe that OJ did it.””I believe that the earth, the universe and Heaven were created in six days.”However, in the course of non-trivial discourse, there are important distinctions to be made with respect to nuances of meaning… nuances which seem to ESCAPE THE NOTICE of the majority of people… that majority being those with a ‘religious’ mind.A real ‘belief’ is a certainty of the absolute ‘truth’ pertaining to some aspect of existence and/or reality. It is one of the primary ‘filters’ via which we interpret input from objective reality, and from which we create our ‘self-description’ and our world-view… our ‘subjective reality’. Here are the key elements of that internalized filter set:* MisconceptionsWith our five senses, we are able to perceive only a tiny fraction of a billionth of a trillionth of the input that the universe provides. Most of what we DO perceive is filtered out by the subconscious. The tiny bit that is left over gets processed through those ‘filters’ of our self-description… and the output of those filters is our ‘world-view’… our ‘subjective reality’. Of course, in addition to what we perceive directly, we also similarly process abstracted information… stuff that we read, hear from media, from teachers, from preachers, from our family, associates and aquaintences.So… going back to the sentence “I believe that the sun will come up tomorrow”… that is not really a ‘belief’, per se. First of all, it is a metaphor, not a statement of fact. Second, we all know that some day, the sun will NOT “come up tomorrow.” In about 5 billion years, the Earth will be reduced to a crispy critter and then blown away as ashes, as the sun expands to a red giant. No… at most, this statement can be said to represent a ‘reasonable expectation’, supported via ‘knowledge base’ and ‘experiential reference’. It is not a real ‘belief’. This is NOT the kind of thing that gets incorporated into the primary filters of our ‘self-description’.Similarly, “I believe that OJ did it” is really just a strongly-held opinion, based upon evaluation and interpretation of the ‘evidence’, as influenced by our misconceptions and prejudices. It in no way represents a definitive statement or certainty of ‘truth’ with regard to existence and fundamental reality. This, also, is NOT the kind of thing that gets incorporated into the primary BELIEF filters of our ‘self-description’. However, it MIGHT affect our misconceptions and prejudices, and contaminate our ‘knowledge base’.The final statement, though… “I believe the bible, which says that the earth, the universe and Heaven were created in six days”… represents a fundamental component of one’s self-description. It is a primary filter, through which one interprets, evaluates and judges information which might potentially have an effect on one’s interpretation of reality… for example, new information about the age of the universe, the age of the earth, evolution… all of that gets processed… and rejected, as false by the religious person… here… in this filter. Beliefs are an internal representation of what we hold to be absolute certainty of ‘truths’ pertaining to findamental aspects of existence and objective reality. Well, guess what? NOBODY knows ANY absolute ‘truth’ pertaining to objective reality. (The ONLY thing we an say with any certainty about objective reality is that it is ‘non-local’, as revealed by Bell’s Theorem.) Essentially, then, a ‘belief’ is a delusion, which is sustained by ‘faith’… wishful, magical, thinking. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what IS.Belief is an insidious mind-killer… it cuts one off from the intellectually honest (willing to question and doubt the veracity of one’s own assumptions) consideration of alternative possibilities.Imagine Mr. Mackey, the counselor, on South Park: “Bleeefs are baaaaddd… m’kay?”The only way for a person to ‘evolve’ (change and grow) spiritually and personally, and achieve ‘open-mindedness’ (the ability to honestly consider alternative possibilities) is to ELIMINATE beliefs… and prejudices… and misconceptions… from that internal filter bank.Open-mindedness and intellectual honesty, quite simply, are not a possibility in conjunction with a religious belief system. It is only when ‘beliefs’ are DEMOTED to ‘paradigms’ (useful ways of thinking about things) that personal and spiritual growth can effectively begin, and open-mindedness can (some day) be achieved.Oh… and we must learn to get comfortable with the concept of “I don’t know.” That does, after all, describe the ‘true’ state of affairs.Anyway… ‘faith’… as stated above, and in the context of religious belief, is nothing more than wishful, magical thinking. It is the insubstantial, ephemeral clouds upon which ‘belief’ is sustained. ‘Faith’ is a substitute for evidence… ‘belief’ is a substitute for knowledge. Faith + belief = delusion.It is interesting to note, referring to the inability of the religious mind to discern subtle differences in the meaning of ‘belief’, they similarly are unable to discern or appreciate subtle nuances of meaning pertaining to the concept of ‘faith’. Fundamentalist preachers seem to be aware of this deficiency, and use it to their advantage. Typical evangelical harangues include things like “You have ‘faith’ that the chair you are sitting in is not going to collapse under you, don’t you? You had faith that the plane that brought you here wasn’t going to crash, didn’t you? You have faith in your spouse, don’t you? Well, have faith in the Lord.” They are simply unable to discern the qualitative differences that are implied in those uses of ‘faith’. It is very disconcerting, when having a conversation with someone, to suddenly realize that they are not capable of making the kinds of subtle distinctions that the rational person for granted.

  • Kattie

    Okay, Doug Adam, very nice diatribe. I agree with you almost 100 percent. But, Sam, Richard et al are not arguing that theism is the root cause of all the evils you describe. In fact, most of their argument uses the current political state in the Middle East as only an exemplar of how useless, irrational, incoherent, laughable and EMBARASSING (to borrow from several posters on this site) belief systems influence human (political or sociological) events. Faggetaboutit. We’re talking here about universal God-uselessness!!!! Yeah the whole world’s a mess but I am f-ing sick and tired of In God We Trust, and I pledge allegiance under Dog, please, we need to find a way to get it out of our daily lives if we don’t want to be a part of it!I have to say, Bruce said a good thing – to state, “I do not believe in God, any God”, is not a proposition that anyone can refute! Because that debate can never be won or lost, at least not for centuries or millenia, as long as it takes for aliens to come and save us!

  • DuckPhup

    I have come to think that the brains of the religiose simply work differently than the brains of rational people. For example, there are some subtleties at work, concerning the nature of ‘belief, which seem to escape the notice of most people. A rational person might say “I believe in the Big Bang.” A religious person might say “I believe in creation, as described in Genesis.” But these statements are not even remotely similar, with respect to what is meant by the word ‘believe’.For the rational person, the statement of ‘belief’ in the Big Bang means that they understand that the concept provides a scientifically and mathematically consistent explanation, congruent with the available evidence, which accounts for the evolution of the universe from a fraction of a second after the initiating event, up until the present. When the ‘inflationary model’ came to the fore, rational people said “Well, good… that clears up a few questions and makes things even more coherent.” NOBODY threw up their arms and wailed “Oh, no… oh, no… ain’t so… ain’t so… the Big Bang is the inerrant truth… not this ridiculous, atheistic ‘inflationary’ model.”See… when we say “I believe in the Big Bang”, we don’t really mean the same thing as the religious person means when he says “I believe in creation, as described in Genesis,” or “I believe in God.” Our ‘belief’ in the Big Bang (or anything else) isn’t really a ‘belief’… it is more properly a ‘paradigm’… a useful way of looking at something, or thinking about something. If additional information is uncovered that adds to the conceptual model, that is a good thing… not a disaster. If part of the conceptual model is discovered to be incorrect, and must be defenestrated and replaced with something completely different… that is also a good thing… not the end of the world as we know it. And often, no matter how highly confident we may be of the accuracy or completeness of a particular paradigm, we may have reason to apply a DIFFERENT paradigm to the same thing, in an effort to tease out new insights; for example, we might want to contemplate the potential implications of a change to a theory from the perspective of the Tao Te Ching, the Gaia hypothesis, or ecological homeostasis. We KNOW that all theories are approximations… and that is OK. We KNOW that we don’t have all the answers… and that is OK, too. There is nothing wrong with saying “We don’t know… yet; but we’re working on it.”But these modes of thinking, perceiving, contemplating and understanding are utterly alien to the ‘religious’ mind. For the religious mind, a ‘belief’ is not a paradigm… not a useful way of thinking about something… it is an internalized conviction that one knows the absolute ‘truth’ pertaining to some fundamental aspect of existence and/or reality. ‘Beliefs’ are one of the key interpretive component filters of the religious person’s ‘self-description’… a part of what DEFINES them as a person… the very thing that creates their world-view… an underpinning of their ‘subjective reality’. Any challenge to one of these internalized ‘beliefs’ is perceived and interpreted as a vital threat… an attack upon the ‘self-description’… and an assault upon their subjective reality.And here is the key difference: When there is a change in one of the paradigms dealing with a scientific concept, or a new insight into the workings of the universe, to the ‘rational’ person it merely constitutes an interesting new piece of knowledge and understanding… a new insight, to be appropriately incorporated into one’s world-view. However, if that same new insight, or piece of information (a feature of the universe, for example) seems to threaten a tenet of Christianity, everybody goes to battle stations, goes into ‘damage control’ mode, for fear that the whole edifice will come crashing down… and ultimately, it will.So, when a fundie disparages evolution, for example, it really has nothing to do with a genuine, intellectual dispute regarding scientific details… they are generally scientifically illiterate, anyway. Any ‘scientific’ arguments that they present, they inevitably do not even understood… they are just lifted from the pre-packaged lies, misrepresentations and pseudo-science that are found on dozens of ‘Liars for Jesus’ (LFJ) web sites, and parroted. They are in a battle. They are trying to sink science before science sinks them. They are desperate… and science is (mostly, and unfortunately) generally oblivious to the fact that they are even in a fight, and that somebody is trying to sink them. They just keep blithely bopping along, doing what science does… trying to figure out how nature works.No… none of this has anything to do with a mere disagreement pertaining to evidence and understanding. It has to do with minds that deal with fundamental issues in an entirely different way. It has to do with a flexible, open-minded (willing to honestly consider alternative possibilities), intellectually honest (willing to question and doubt one’s own presumptions) curiosity about the universe, contending with a rigid, unyielding world-view that depends from a conviction that certain codified faith-based delusions (willful ignorance and magical, wishful thinking) ‘beliefs’… based upon the myths, superstitions, fairy tales and fantastical delusions of a bunch of ignorant Bronze Age fishermen and wandering goat-herders… represent the absolute ‘truth’ of reality.We might as well be talking to an alien species, from a distant planet.*****************”When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig

  • Esa

    Do as Randy asked, read Earl Doherty’s book “Challenging the Verdict”. Strobel’s book “The Case for Christ” is Christian Conservative’s propaganda glazed with half truths and pure lies. Even better reading is another Earl’s book “The Jesus Puzzle”. When finished there is nothing left from our Saviour.

  • Kaattie

    Hey, you long-winded-ones must be firing up the ovens for no one to have posted in like an hour? Just make your (cogent) point.

  • Ned Davis

    Why are people religious? I call it “After-Life Insurance”. They are buying into the notion that if they can collect “brownie-points” in heaven when they get “there” they will have box seats in ‘God’s Stadium’. When you start to explain the motivation of the fantasy of life after death it’s almost funny. The insurance industry is missing a big policy opportunity here…they could sell so called christians a policy they can never claim! (here on earth that is). They also will receive a valuable free jewel in their crown for every person they convert and, oh yeah, the streets are paved of GOLD up there too!! (Sounds like it could be slippery up there when it rains). Does it rain in heaven? The human brain is amazing at creating “realistic” delusions of fantasy. Religion uses everything they can to trick the brain; deep rooted rituals, emotive music, topical books, endless discussions about false attacks on itself, etc, etc. These are proven brain washing techniques and control techniques to continue the delusion for the herd. Ideas compete just like people, so we are in a battle of ideologies. ‘Atheism is a concept who’s time has come and we must continue the dialogue and keep our heads held high amongst an onslaught of negativity and intolerance.

  • RB

    Duckphup:Excellent points. “Believers” hold irrrational beliefs, but (for most) only in this one arena of discourse. They demand rational arguments and behavior from other in all other areas all the time.For example, a fundie would be outraged if they bought a package labeled “pork sausage” that turned out to contain sawdust pressed into patties. If the grocer told him: “I believe it tastes like pork and contains the same nutrients,” the fundie would demand a refund. Fundies act rationally all the time. They count their change — they don’t trust that God does it for them. They apply the brakes before slamming into the rear of the next car — they don’t trust that God will prevent the potential collision. Well maybe some will say they believe this, but their actions belie their words, everyday, all the time.The approach that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, et al., are currently taking is to point out — especially to religious “moderates” — the inherent contradiction between their rational thoughts and behavior in every other area of their lives versus their irrationality when it comes to religion.Harris and Dawkins are focusing on “moderates” because their tolerance for irrational religious beliefs provide cover for the fundamentalists, who are fewer in number. Take away this tolerance — held by many — and isolate the few. Yep, talking to fundies seems like talking to an alien species, one with brain damage. Still, they eat and drink something every day, most don’t walk around with a pile of crap in their pants (in their heads, yes), and some even wear sunglass and refuse to stare at the sun.So they do act rationally, and it’s a lot of fun to point this out to them.

  • Ned Davis

    Why are people religious? I call it “After-Life Insurance”. They are buying into the notion that if they can collect “brownie-points” in heaven when they get “there” they will have box seats in ‘God’s Stadium’. When you start to explain the motivation of the fantasy of life after death it’s almost funny. The insurance industry is missing a big policy opportunity here…they could sell so called christians a policy they can never claim! (here on earth that is). They also will receive a valuable free jewel in their crown for every person they convert and, oh yeah, the streets are paved of GOLD up there too!! (Sounds like it could be slippery up there when it rains). Does it rain in heaven? The human brain is amazing at creating “realistic” delusions of fantasy. Religion uses everything they can to trick the brain; deep rooted rituals, emotive music, topical books, endless discussions about false attacks on itself, etc, etc. These are proven brain washing techniques and control techniques to continue the delusion for the herd. Ideas compete just like people, so we are in a battle of ideologies. ‘Atheism is a concept who’s time has come and we must continue the dialogue and keep our heads held high amongst an onslaught of negativity and intolerance.

  • Ned Davis

    Why are people religious? I call it “After-Life Insurance”. They are buying into the notion that if they can collect “brownie-points” in heaven when they get “there” they will have box seats in ‘God’s Stadium’. When you start to explain the motivation of the fantasy of life after death it’s almost funny. The insurance industry is missing a big policy opportunity here…they could sell so called christians a policy they can never claim! (here on earth that is). They also will receive a valuable free jewel in their crown for every person they convert and, oh yeah, the streets are paved of GOLD up there too!! (Sounds like it could be slippery up there when it rains). Does it rain in heaven? The human brain is amazing at creating “realistic” delusions of fantasy. Religion uses everything they can to trick the brain; deep rooted rituals, emotive music, topical books, endless discussions about false attacks on itself, etc, etc. These are proven brain washing techniques and control techniques to continue the delusion for the herd. Ideas compete just like people, so we are in a battle of ideologies. ‘Atheism is a concept who’s time has come and we must continue the dialogue and keep our heads held high amongst an onslaught of negativity and intolerance.

  • Prof. V.N.K.Kumar ( India )

    Beautiful piece of writing. Ofcourse nothing less is expected from you. Only thing is that you forgot to edit it in one place. You wrote ” If legions of astrologers sought to bend our public policy to their pseudo-science, we wouldn’t need to dub ourselves “non-astrologers” to put them in their place.”This should read as — If legions of astrologers had not sought to bend our………

  • Charles T. Williams

    After watching all 10 of the Beyond Belief sessions, I felt enlightened, enraptured, edified; then disheartened and cynical. In spite of the eloquent, heartfelt, informative presentations and the inestimable Mr. Dawkins, I cannot help but to conclude that in the debate between science and religion, science and humanity does not stand a prayer. Science may know the properties of the carrot down to his most elemental cellular structure. But science cannot explain the creation of the carrot. Borrowing from one of the above comments, science may prove to a mortal certainty that every crow ever seen and known to man was black. Christian clerics need only announce that a red crow divulged to Jesus the orgin of the carrot,to, with the support of their one billion plus followers, have anyone who denies the existence of red crows to be deemed a heretic,stood up against a wall, and shot. The point is, that science’s greatest fear is that its scrupulously constructed emperical truths will be denigrated to heresy by a groundswell of religious fervor. While religion’s greatest fear is that its carefully honed anti-truths that have been sustained by centuries of the fervor of its congregants will collapse of under the weight of irrefutable truth. Therein lies the dilemma that must ultimately be confronted by folks like me. In about a month or so, a novel written by me will be published by Iuniverse. It’s title is “The Phaeton Continuum.” In addition to being, what I think, is a damn fine mystery, it will offer a unique and profound perspective on religion and, hopefully, possibilities for science to explore. Watch for it online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Iuniverse.

  • Anonymous

    Travis – great points, I’ve saved them for future debates on other sites, I shall justly give credit to you for your insight. Philip – check out Townhall.com, it’s filled with this religion garbage. I’ve spent about a 1/2 year since the site started, battle with the unenlightened. Dawkins, Harris, this blog and others have supported my position and helped clarify it. Kaattie – nice post. I do try and keep my comments short, thanks for the reminder. Cheers!

  • Shemp

    Hey Jason Bradfield, Jesus loves you.But everyone else thinks you are long winded and a complete idiot.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Michael: I read your comments with interest. Here is my response. The issue in your court analogy is “did Jesus rise from the dead.” I bring in my five witnesses who testify that he did. You bring in your billions of witnesses who say nothing at all about Jesus. I would then move for a directed verdict in my favor, as you have brought forth no evidence at all that Jesus was not resurrected, which is the point at issue in the trial. I win – the judge will grant my motion because I alone have brought evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, and you have not brought one piece of evidence that he did not. There is no issue about other people – only Jesus. This is the testimony that has lasted for 2000 years – that Jesus physically rose from the dead. I fully agree with you that no one else has. That is not in dispute. All claims that someone rose from the dead must be evaluated by looking at the witnesses. This is why I believe Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul, and not all the Heaven’s Gate and Elvis believers. They have not, and will not stand the test of time, and my assessment of them is that they are not worthy of belief. You may disagree. But to put the New Testament in the same category as Elvis is indicative of the fact that you have not seriously studied it. But thanks for your arguments.

  • Kerry Craig Walker

    Sam is so good at hitting the nail on the head. Thanks Mr. Wolfe for your comment. I have spent over 30 years in my off and on studies of religion and I have seen the simple reality that thought created and invented all the religions of the world and all of their gods. This is a simple fact that withstands any open minded and intelligent dialog. One fellow bought a puppy and brought it to the drop zone and the owner of the airport had three dogs that were not being all too friendly with his puppy. He simply laced some juicy beef stakes with antifreeze and took care of them. Even though he was looked into for having done this act, he was never formally charged. I have also seen a beautiful little girl that was very apprehensive about her first skydive and this same fellow took her out for her first skydive with no concern for her apprehension, and he didn’t bother to make sure she had a good spot, and she landed off the drop zone and was severely injured, yet this guy had no since of conscience about what he had done. This same fellow pulled my pilot shut on my rig as I exited the plane on a low altitude “hop and pop” and I was intending to do as many flips as possible after exit. I sensed something was wrong upon exit and immediately stopped flipping, and I was very fortunate that I was not killed. I could go on about more wrongs committed by these hard-core “atheists” in the sport, but I think you get the point. I just wonder what kind of world we would have if it contained nothing but people with no sense of wonder about this unknown and mysterious energy behind all life, and behind this universe, and that had this conscience of apathy and superficiality about everything they did. The lack of intelligence and love, and the lack of respect for others are not monopolized by those that believe in organized religion. In my studies I have communicated with some of the best minds in the field of evolution and paleontology, religion, history, science and on and on. Yet I have emailed Sam several times and have never gotten a response from him or anyone associated with him. My point is, is he too self-centered and too involved in his own world of ambition to respond? If anyone is interested put in “Kerry Walker Story” in a search and learn about what happened to me in this “Great Country” and be sure to click on “Articles” and look up my latest post called “The Natural State of Spirituality”. Although it is not listed in the “Articles” section, you will find it in the list of post on the blog in “Open Diary”. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you read. I feel that we are all naturally good people if we can come to understand the power of conditioning and the problems created by culture and heritage, and simply understand who we are and simply be human beings. Organized religion is certainly the biggest contributor to the ignorance of mankind, but I think it may just go even deeper than that.

  • Kerry Craig Walker

    Sam is so good at hitting the nail on the head. Thanks Mr. Wolfe for your comment. I have spent over 30 years in my off and on studies of religion and I have seen the simple reality that thought created and invented all the religions of the world and all of their gods. This is a simple fact that withstands any open minded and intelligent dialog. One fellow bought a puppy and brought it to the drop zone and the owner of the airport had three dogs that were not being all too friendly with his puppy. He simply laced some juicy beef stakes with antifreeze and took care of them. Even though he was looked into for having done this act, he was never formally charged. I have also seen a beautiful little girl that was very apprehensive about her first skydive and this same fellow took her out for her first skydive with no concern for her apprehension, and he didn’t bother to make sure she had a good spot, and she landed off the drop zone and was severely injured, yet this guy had no since of conscience about what he had done. This same fellow pulled my pilot shut on my rig as I exited the plane on a low altitude “hop and pop” and I was intending to do as many flips as possible after exit. I sensed something was wrong upon exit and immediately stopped flipping, and I was very fortunate that I was not killed. I could go on about more wrongs committed by these hard-core “atheists” in the sport, but I think you get the point. I just wonder what kind of world we would have if it contained nothing but people with no sense of wonder about this unknown and mysterious energy behind all life, and behind this universe, and that had this conscience of apathy and superficiality about everything they did. The lack of intelligence and love, and the lack of respect for others are not monopolized by those that believe in organized religion. In my studies I have communicated with some of the best minds in the field of evolution and paleontology, religion, history, science and on and on. Yet I have emailed Sam several times and have never gotten a response from him or anyone associated with him. My point is, is he too self-centered and too involved in his own world of ambition to respond? If anyone is interested put in “Kerry Walker Story” in a search and learn about what happened to me in this “Great Country” and be sure to click on “Articles” and look up my latest post called “The Natural State of Spirituality”. Although it is not listed in the “Articles” section, you will find it in the list of post on the blog in “Open Diary”. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you read. I feel that we are all naturally good people if we can come to understand the power of conditioning and the problems created by culture and heritage, and simply understand who we are and simply be human beings. Organized religion is certainly the biggest contributor to the ignorance of mankind, but I think it may just go even deeper than that.

  • Kerry Craig Walker

    Sam is so good at hitting the nail on the head. Thanks Mr. Wolfe for your comment. I have spent over 30 years in my off and on studies of religion and I have seen the simple reality that thought created and invented all the religions of the world and all of their gods. This is a simple fact that withstands any open minded and intelligent dialog. One fellow bought a puppy and brought it to the drop zone and the owner of the airport had three dogs that were not being all too friendly with his puppy. He simply laced some juicy beef stakes with antifreeze and took care of them. Even though he was looked into for having done this act, he was never formally charged. I have also seen a beautiful little girl that was very apprehensive about her first skydive and this same fellow took her out for her first skydive with no concern for her apprehension, and he didn’t bother to make sure she had a good spot, and she landed off the drop zone and was severely injured, yet this guy had no since of conscience about what he had done. This same fellow pulled my pilot shut on my rig as I exited the plane on a low altitude “hop and pop” and I was intending to do as many flips as possible after exit. I sensed something was wrong upon exit and immediately stopped flipping, and I was very fortunate that I was not killed. I could go on about more wrongs committed by these hard-core “atheists” in the sport, but I think you get the point. I just wonder what kind of world we would have if it contained nothing but people with no sense of wonder about this unknown and mysterious energy behind all life, and behind this universe, and that had this conscience of apathy and superficiality about everything they did. The lack of intelligence and love, and the lack of respect for others are not monopolized by those that believe in organized religion. In my studies I have communicated with some of the best minds in the field of evolution and paleontology, religion, history, science and on and on. Yet I have emailed Sam several times and have never gotten a response from him or anyone associated with him. My point is, is he too self-centered and too involved in his own world of ambition to respond? If anyone is interested put in “Kerry Walker Story” in a search and learn about what happened to me in this “Great Country” and be sure to click on “Articles” and look up my latest post called “The Natural State of Spirituality”. Although it is not listed in the “Articles” section, you will find it in the list of post on the blog in “Open Diary”. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you read. I feel that we are all naturally good people if we can come to understand the power of conditioning and the problems created by culture and heritage, and simply understand who we are and simply be human beings. Organized religion is certainly the biggest contributor to the ignorance of mankind, but I think it may just go even deeper than that.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Ted Swart: I also appreciate your honesty. Reasonable people can disagree.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Greg: Sorry that I offended you. Apparently there is no basis for further discussion.

  • Greg

    The scientific understanding of nature is lost on the religious. Nature has no care as to your skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, right, wrong, good, bad, moral or immoral. It does care about survival and those that are strong enough to survive it, be they human, animal, etc. (although we are animal, you get my point). Given this understanding of Nature, we are better off as a civil society deciding, that which is socially acceptable with regards to laws and rules in order to stay civil and organized. Create consequences for behavior that deviates from this foundation and be done. The moralizing of any society is doomed from the start for the most obvious of reasons.

  • Greg

    The scientific understanding of nature is lost on the religious. Nature has no care as to your skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, right, wrong, good, bad, moral or immoral. It does care about survival and those that are strong enough to survive it, be they human, animal, etc. (although we are animal, you get my point). Given this understanding of Nature, we are better off as a civil society deciding, that which is socially acceptable with regards to laws and rules in order to stay civil and organized. Create consequences for behavior that deviates from this foundation and be done. The moralizing of any society is doomed from the start for the most obvious of reasons.

  • Greg

    The scientific understanding of nature is lost on the religious. Nature has no care as to your skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, right, wrong, good, bad, moral or immoral. It does care about survival and those that are strong enough to survive it, be they human, animal, etc. (although we are animal, you get my point). Given this understanding of Nature, we are better off as a civil society deciding, that which is socially acceptable with regards to laws and rules in order to stay civil and organized. Create consequences for behavior that deviates from this foundation and be done. The moralizing of any society is doomed from the start for the most obvious of reasons.

  • Steve M

    Thanks Sam for all you do. Thanks to all of Sam’s, Dawkin’s, et al, supporters. Happy Theodrivel-free New Year!

  • Bruce Burleson

    Travis Fowler: You have pointed out many failures of Christians and Christianity. Good job. Christians need to hear about their failures, which are legion. You have failed to disprove the evidence that exists for the resurrection of Jesus. But you are in good company.

  • Sam B

    Our Socrates Group suggested that we should separate faith from religion. In general, the group questioned the value of religion depended upon the local leadership.

  • victoria

    Well, as a believer with an open mind and hopefully respectful to my fellow humans- i was very interested to find out what seems like the spokeperson for atheism-agnosticism thinks.sadly- it seems like not only right wing christians use 911 as an alarmist battle cry to get the little soldiers in order-it seems improbable that if hes so intelligent he doesnt know how to separate politically motivated actions from religiously motivated ones.so i can only surmise that he knew what he was doing.it is most unfortunate that mr harris has not found intelligent intellectual foils of belief to spar with-its a very limited category of 3 that he thinks all believers fall into in respnonsesi really was hoping to have my mind blown a littlelike i keep saying(not implying foolishness to mr harris or anyone this is my saying)

  • BGone

    I wonder if teaching the children “Scientisimo” is the same thing as teaching them lies. I suppose it depends on whether or not the teachers have faith. The 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not believe thy own lies” is the most violated of them all. Religion is useful because the truth is not important only what people believe is important.

  • Ted Swart

    To Doug Adam:You say:”A critque of Harris and DawkinsConventional wisdom as expressed in the western corporate media maintains that terrorism is motivated almost entirely by religious belief namely in Islam.”This is a caricature of what goes on in the media. Most of them are so darned scared of causing offence that they pretend terrorist attacks have nothing to do with Islam. They are often even scared to use the word terrorist let alone the word Muslim. They certainly chickened out — for the most part — when it came to publishing the Muhammad cartoons. Further along you say: “If this is true then the world will never know peace, the prognosis therefore is that death and destruction will continue in the world for all eternity.” Maybe the world will never know peace but it would sure stand a better chance of doing so if most of the worlds citizens were not enslaved by patently nonsensical religious beliefs.”The intellectuals (is this supposed to be a pejorative term?) Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins appear to subscribe to this doomsday analysis but they also seem to be implying that if the majority are converted to atheism the world will be delivered from religious inspired terrorism.”It is hard to know what to make of this caricature of what Harris and Dawkins say in their books. Have you actually read their books? Neither of them would even remotely suggest that throwing off the shackles of religious beliefe would suddenly and miraculously produce a peaceful utopia. All they are saying is that the world would be a much better place if it was not held back by baseless religious dogma.You go on to say that:”However there is a glimmer of hope because another belief exists that terrorist and suicide attacks are motivated by political events. (This does not deny that their religious convinctions, like patriotism, may supply their courage to make the supreme sacrifice.) This seems to be more reasonable than the proposition it is just religion or hatred of the U.S.”Nice of you to say that “This does not deny that their religious convictions, like patriotism. may supply their courage to make the supreme sacrifice.” This is a sort of half hearted concession that religion does plays a role in the current conflicts in the Middle East and its spill over into the West. Your use of the word “may” is ,however, a grudging concession. Let me ungrudgingly concede (as I am sure Harris and Dawkins would) that political considerations do pay a role in the conflicts. Your problem seems to be that you have a kind of either/or attitude rather than a both/and attitude. Moreover, I think you play down the role of religion way beyond what is justified. The Taliban in Afghanistan was (and will again be if it is given half a chance) one of the nastiest examples of religiously based oppression in the history of the world. And it was hardly foisted on the Afghanis by lust for oil or other indefensible motives on the part of the West. You come very close to talking as if Bush, Harris and Dawkins are in bed together — which you must know is so way off the mark as to be laughable. Apart from the final quotations (some of which are rather odd) you end by saying:”Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, in their noble mission to expose the fallacies of religion have opted for an easy ride and jumped on the bandwagon of U.S. and U.K. propaganda machines which lie and exaggerate to engender fear to ensure a compliant and at times somnambulant public. Harris and Dawkins have departed from truth and logic in this respect which is unprincipled and a disservice to their just cause.”On the one hand you talk about H&D’s “noble mission” and “just cause” yet you begrudge them the common courtesy of fair treatment and, at very minimum, a more discerning read of what they actually have to say. They are certainly not uncritical supporters of Israel but to imagine that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict does not have religious roots (my God is better than your God rubbish) going back well over a thousand years is to be blind to the truth. Let me end by asking you a question. Do you really think that the current Middle East conflicts would exist in the form they do if the Arab and other Muslim nations had outgrown their religious shackles and the USA had not gone backwards in terms of its obsession with fundamentalist religious beliefs? Maybe there would have been an agnostic President in the USA and a democratic governance structure in Saudi Arabia.

  • victoria

    also making a blanket statement as to the honesty of the friends of god seems a little tacky and doesnt in any way advance his position one way or the otheri had hoped that sonce atheists(non believers?) were more rational and less emotionally motivated and would be above that kind of thingah well, were all just people arent we?

  • Cindy

    Thank you Mr. Harris.I’d like to add something else to the “Religion is Useful” category — it has certainly been mentioned before by Mr. Harris and others, but not yet directly in this discussion. This always leaves them thinking. It opens the door to discussion of where our morality comes from, or at the very least establishes doubt in their minds that their own morality comes completely from the bible. It shatters the “Religion is Useful” arguement utterly.

  • Susan Brassfield Cogan

    ——This terrifying paragraph illustrates all of Sam’s points. It also negates all of Jason’s ideas. If you can’t know anything, you can’t know the Bible is either true or false. And a line like “science is false and must always be false” typed with a computer and posted on the world wide web is the most PERFECT irony!

  • Susan Brassfield Cogan

    ——This terrifying paragraph illustrates all of Sam’s points. It also negates all of Jason’s ideas. If you can’t know anything, you can’t know the Bible is either true or false. And a line like “science is false and must always be false” typed with a computer and posted on the world wide web is the most PERFECT irony!

  • Susan Brassfield Cogan

    ——This terrifying paragraph illustrates all of Sam’s points. It also negates all of Jason’s ideas. If you can’t know anything, you can’t know the Bible is either true or false. And a line like “science is false and must always be false” typed with a computer and posted on the world wide web is the most PERFECT irony!

  • Shemp

    Let the Age of Reason finally begin! Thomas Paine would be proud of you, Sam. Some points from your books have been quite useful in breaking down those annoying mental walls. I offer a few for the enlightened to enjoy. “It is time we admitted, from kings and presidents on down, that there is no evidence that any of our books was authored by the Creator of the universe. The Bible and Koran, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology. To rely on such a document as the basis for our worldview -however heroic the efforts of redactors – is to repudiate 2,000 years of civilizing insights that the human mind has only just begun to inscribe itself. “Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films or that specific software was made by God. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything, ANYTHING, be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in right now.”Use The Force Luke,

  • Bruce Burleson

    Anonymous, formerly known as Duckphup: I apologize for not fully appreciating the fact that you were being facetious regarding a religious experience. Your post has required much thought. I understand the distinctions that you make regarding faith and belief, and they are well-taken. If Jesus rose from the dead, that is a fact, a truth that exists apart from my belief, faith, knowledge, etc. His resurrection is either true or not true. It does not depend upon my faith, belief or knowledge. I personally believe in the resurrection for the reasons I have stated before. My original point is that there is “some evidence” to support my belief. No one has successfully repudiated that position, and no one can. My faith is not a blind faith, devoid of evidence. I believe in the evidence I have cited, and no one else on this site does. So be it.

  • Alexei Poplov

    I thought the Scientismo example was quite interesting, along with the rest of the post.Alexei

  • Cliff R.

    What a good laugh I had from the person who posted the long sermon aboout science not being true but scripture is. The pathetic morons who post this drivel are taking up valuable oxygen on this planet. The best solution would be to let these idiots; Christian, Jew & Muslim fight and kill each other, if it could be done without harming the rest of us. Of course it can not, so we must find another way. Its these religious fools children I feel sorry for, having to be brainwashed by retarded parents.

  • Marcos Carvalho

    I wish some of these anti-science lunatics would actually stop being such total hypocrites and try living without science, in a cave, away from us and away from computers. We would see how well they would fare. We need more people like Sam, who are injecting a nice dose of reason and logic into culture.People like Elton John who are willing to criticise religion in the mainstream media. We need to write to our TV channels and demand that movies like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘Inherit the Wind’ and others critical of religion get shown on TV instead of crap like the slew of Jesus movies that we always see on Xmas. Call your radio stations and ask for songs like ‘Dear God’ by XTC or ‘Atheist Peace’ by Bad Religion get played. Until atheism becomes a popular movement we’re doomed to live in a ‘Christian’ nation. And I agree with the post that Islam is a danger to the world today, but I’d like to add that so is Christianity. Our laws are getting changed, women are having their reproductive rights taken away, children are no longer receiving sex education, and gays are being persecuted.We desperately need an end to all this religious nonsense, religious dogma has haunted us for millenia and it needs to end now, before it destroys us all.

  • Don

    I have a lot friends and and relatives (in their 50s and above in age) who are religious. No matter how elegant Sam and Richard Dawkins are, I cannot fathom them abandoning their faith. They have, after all, a lot of emotional investment in their faith and they have expended considerable effort to display their religiosity through the years, especially in their Christmas missives sent out with cards. (I groan every year knowing what lies inside the envelope bearing their Christmas card.) I think it would be very difficult psychologically for them to say, all of a sudden, “nevermind–I was wrong. More I was completely wrong”. Religion has worked for them and it’s part of their lifestyle. Religion makes them feel good about themselves and they believe it is the only source of moral rules. I hold out little hope that they will ever turn their back on religion. Perhaps younger people with less of an emotional investment in their religion will be more open to reason and rationality. I say this knowing that a lot of younger people (here and abroad) are inculcated with religious dogma early on (see the documentary “Jesus Camp”).

  • VICTORIA

    but the scientismo is so clearly based on the 10 commandments-MR STEWART- IN WHAT WAY IS THE PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI CONFLICT BASED ON religion? the faiths lived in harmony in that region for a thousand years-google rabbis against zionism and see what the religious jewish people have to say about itit seems that you fall into the category of alarmists which is your right- but doesnt make for interesting or edifying dialogue-isnt there one original idea here?

  • Shemp

    Hey Marcos!Inherit the Wind is a grrreat film. Favorite quote from Hornbeck (Gene Kelly)”I may be rancid butter, but I’m on you’re side of the bread.”

  • Kaattie

    Bruce: I sincerely appreciate that you have evidence to support your beliefs. The problem for us non-believers is that the evidence you are relying on is papyrus-thin. This evidence surely would not stand up under the Daubert rule.Peace, and so be it.

  • Brian O’Dea

    Here it is folks… further proof that religion is sending the world to hell in a handbasket. And this is the mentality that rules all the known world. Scary, no? How will we ever pull back from this lip of insanity before mutual destruction overcomes even the unwilling.”Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: Please refer to Federal Rule of Evidence 803(16) – “Statements in a document in existence twenty years or more the authenticy of which is established” are not hearsay. All I have to do is call an expert witness such as a theologian, and have that person testify that the New Testament is authentic, which simply means that it is what it says it is. I don’t have to prove that it is true beyond all doubt, only that it is authentic (a “real” New Testament), and the statements in it will be introduced into evidence, because they are not hearsay as a matter of law. You will have to wait until another day to celebrate your victory. Nice try.

  • Kaattie

    Bruce: Forget about heresay, check out Daubert. Nice try.(Google it – or dredge it up in the memory banks. Applicable primarily with respect to the lack of scientific evidence that breast implants cause disease, thus resulting in millions of cases of product liability being thrown out.)

  • timmy

    Sorry Bruce,

  • timmy

    Sorry Bruce,

  • timmy

    Sorry Bruce,

  • Bruce Burleson

    Kaatie: Daubert (without going into all its legal niceties) requires my expert witnesses to be methodologically reliable. My evidence does not come from experts – it comes from eyewitnesses – fact witnesses. The only expert testimony I need is a theologian to establish that the New Testament is authentic (not true – just what it says it is). Then my eyewitness testimony from that document is admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(16). My evidence will show that Jesus rose from the dead. No evidence that he (not other billions) did not rise from the dead will be introduced, as there is none. Therefore, I will win, as I have the only evidence. There will be a directed verdict in my favor.

  • Jeff Reed

    “There appear to be just three: either a person argues that a specific religion is true, or he argues that religion is useful, or he simply attacks atheism as intolerant, elitist, irrational, or otherwise worthy of contempt. Any conversation between atheists and believers is liable to fall into one or more of these ruts, or lurch back and forth between them”We first need to clarify that atheists’ or believers alike can be women. And as for the three “ruts”: I do not believe that any one religion is the only true religion. Secondly, although religion has been known to unify humans (and if we look around the globe, you can see the positive impact of religion has I believe through history outweighed the negative) I do not believe it to be “the” necessary component of every day life. And thirdly, I do not care if a person is a believer, atheist or agnostic, as long as they respect their fellow human beings. And if any one particular point can be made about Christ, it is that respect for other humans was paramount. Disregard the words attributed to Christ from others, look at his actions. And if any human would simply attempt to follow his actions, then any God would have a hard time not allowing them into whatever Heaven there may be. And if there is no God, then we will still be much better off because I truly believe that his most stringent point was to first make a Heaven here on Earth, before anything else.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: Of course there is no case where this has occurred. This is all hypothetical, as this is not a justiciable controversy. Perhaps you and the others can file a class-action suit of some sort, seeking a declaratory judgment that Jesus did not rise from the dead. I will file an answer to that suit on behalf of believers. Let’s see what the judge allows. I did not say that any document 20 years old or older would be the “sole evidence.” I only said that the rule cited would allow it to be introduced. You can introduce all your evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead, if you have any.

  • Kaattie

    Saddam Hussein has been executed. Long live our glorious religious traditions! (And get thee to thy bomb shelters…we will all go together when we go, to quote a marvelous prophet.)

  • timmy

    Bruce it was you that decided to profess that you could win a cout case based on your evidence and I correctly pointed out that your assertion was preposterous.

  • timmy

    Bruce it was you that decided to profess that you could win a cout case based on your evidence and I correctly pointed out that your assertion was preposterous.

  • timmy

    Bruce it was you that decided to profess that you could win a cout case based on your evidence and I correctly pointed out that your assertion was preposterous.

  • Realist

    I can’t top what Sam said, but I just want to say thanks Sam for saying it.

  • Kaattie

    Have to rebut you again, Bruce. Who cares if you have theologians to opine that in their expert opinion the New Testament is “authentic”. The issue is, what is the bulk of the evidence in favor of resurrection? That issue must be decided in court on the best available evidence, with evidence presented that it is reliable. Surely medical science will trump 2000-year-old heresay in a rational court. Oops, we no longer have that in this country, do we? Thanks to the disgusting injection of “faith-based politics” into every aspect of our society, including the highest court in the land. Okay, nevermind, you win.

  • Bruce Burleson

    I will comment on only one issue – the resurrection of Jesus. My entire faith is based upon that event. If that event actually occurred, everything that I believe about God follows from it. If that event did not occur, everything that I believe about God fails. My objective evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus comes from the New Testament accounts of that event, in which it is clearly stated that Jesus rose from the dead and was seen by certain witnesses. Some of these witnesses were willing to suffer death rather than deny this event. You may choose not to believe these accounts, just as a jury may choose not to believe an eyewitness account in a trial. But no one can truthfully say that there is “no evidence” of the resurrection of Jesus. Will any non-believer at least be honest enough to admit that there is “some evidence” of the resurrection of Jesus, whether you believe that evidence or not? I believe the objective evidence from the biblical account because of my own personal subjective experience, not because of dogma that has been taught to me. Much like a jury member who has to determine whether or not an eyewitness account is true, I have chosen to accept this evidence because of subjective impressions that I have about the story itself, about the writers who have written about it, and about the subject of the story – Jesus. I can go into these subjective experiences in more detail if anyone is interested (I doubt that many are). But my point is that I have both an objective and a subjective basis for believing in that event – the resurrection of Jesus. We make decisions on this basis daily – through the combination of objective evidence and subjective experience. So far, I am satisfied in my own life that my faith is correct. I acknowledge many of the problems with religion that Mr. Harris has so articulately pointed out. However, no one can honestly state that there is “no evidence” of the resurrection of Jesus, whether or not you choose to accept that evidence.

  • Roger Westermeyer

    Amen, Sam, Amen.John Lennon said it best years ago:Imagine Imagine there’s no heavenImagine there’s no countriesYou may say I’m a dreamerImagine no possessionsYou may say I’m a dreamer

  • Bruce Burleson

    I enjoyed the discussion. Good night.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson:Read “The Jesus Puzzle”, by Earl Doherty… that should vanquish your delusions.

  • timmy

    Thanks for playing Bruce.

  • timmy

    Thanks for playing Bruce.

  • timmy

    Thanks for playing Bruce.

  • Patti

    I just read in a Myers-Briggs personality book that roughly 2/3 of the world consists of extraverts, who glean their energy, comfort and validation from external sources, which religion dishes out in spades (herds of people validating one another, the beneficience and approval of a Giant Daddy in the Sky, etc). Conversely, introverts tend to derive their comfort and energy from within, so maybe don’t need that external validation, and perhaps are less inclined to join the flock. In fact, don’t NEED the flock.My question: Do you think there’s a larger number of introverts who are atheists (vs. extraverts?). Religion is so social. How many of you consider yourselves introverts/extraverts?

  • Kaattie

    Ditto, Timmy. And Roger, John Lennon’s words couldn’t be more appropriate at this sad hour.

  • MichaelH

    Dear Mr. Harris,

  • Toquertion

    Question .. Religion tends to cause people to seperate rather then bringing people together .. this creates conflict how can we fix this …

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: I will read the Jesus Puzzle. Thank you for the recommendation. Will you be honest enough, however, to admit that there is some evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, whether you believe that evidence or not?

  • gary gromet

    Atheists do not pay the salaries of clergymen. I have spent considerable time considering how to make a atheism as big a business as religion. I have not come up with any method.My second point is that trying to convert a believer into non-beliver is similar to trying to convert a Jew to Catholicism: Difficult and time consuming and more than likely unsuccessful.

  • JL Wallace

    The one named “Jason Bradfield” is an idiot. Congratulations Jason, you successfully missed EVERY point of reason, observation, evidence and logic presented throughout human history. WELL DONE! You religious nutjobs are pathetic and will be dealt with in time. Tick tock tick tock tick tock…

  • gary gromet

    Atheists do not pay the salaries of clergymen. I have spent considerable time considering how to make a atheism as big a business as religion. I have not come up with any method.My second point is that trying to convert a believer into non-beliver is similar to trying to convert a Jew to Catholicism: Difficult and time consuming and more than likely unsuccessful.

  • JL Wallace

    The one named “Jason Bradfield” is an idiot. Congratulations Jason, you successfully missed EVERY point of reason, observation, evidence and logic presented throughout human history. WELL DONE! You religious nutjobs are pathetic and will be dealt with in time. Tick tock tick tock tick tock…

  • gary gromet

    Atheists do not pay the salaries of clergymen. I have spent considerable time considering how to make a atheism as big a business as religion. I have not come up with any method.My second point is that trying to convert a believer into non-beliver is similar to trying to convert a Jew to Catholicism: Difficult and time consuming and more than likely unsuccessful.

  • JL Wallace

    The one named “Jason Bradfield” is an idiot. Congratulations Jason, you successfully missed EVERY point of reason, observation, evidence and logic presented throughout human history. WELL DONE! You religious nutjobs are pathetic and will be dealt with in time. Tick tock tick tock tick tock…

  • Bruce Burleson

    Graham Cleverly: Therefore, science can never prove that Jesus rose from the dead, even if He actually did. So science is not going to be helpful on that issue.Furthermore, science has yet to prove that Jesus did NOT rise from the dead. So since science cannot prove that He did rise from the dead, and since it has yet to prove that He did not, science is really of very little value in determining that issue.

  • Jeremy

    Quick correction to Bruce’s 5 witnesses – Paul (of Tarsus) lived decades after the death of Jesus. While Paul claimed to see an apparition of Jesus, he could hardly be called an eye-witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus (even though Paul formed the foundation for much of Christian theology and some of its doctrine).That leaves only 4 witnesses. Of these, it should also be noted that Mark, Luke, and Matthew’s Gospels are all roughly similar, but that they differ substantially from John’s Gospel in content and structure. So there aren’t just minor differences and contradictions between the four Gospels, but some quite curious ones that would require explanation in order for them to be called reliable evidence (especially Jesus’s last words of “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” in only two of the Gospels).

  • S. Landry

    No one seems to have addressed Mr. Burleson’s point directly, so I will try.First, no one actually saw the resurrection. Just an empty tomb and Jesus days after he was supposedly dead. Secondly, there are inconsistencies within the eyewitness accounts reported in the Bible (see For something as spectacularly improbable as a resurrection and ascension, this is spectacularly weak “evidence.”This came about because you consider this the lynchpin of your belief. Yet I would argue that it is necessary but not sufficient. Eliminating the resurrection would certainly make it hard to be Christian, but so would any number of other things – virgin birth, 6000 year old earth, etc. Depending on they variety of Christian, some are not necessary of course, but for any particular variety there are a number of highly improbable things that must be accepted as true with little or no evidence other than the demonstrably self-contradictory and unreliable books of the Bible.

  • Anonymous

    > There appear to be just three: either a person argues that a specific religion is true, or he It’s too bad Sam did not run into other arguments besides those three. There is at least one other argument – the blind men and the elephant frame of reference. From this, we perceive a piece of the truth but don’t understand how that piece fits into the whole. We see paradoxes in belief and between belief but we don’t see how the paradox is reconciled. And most don’t understand how people out of various motives have distorted and rewritten parts of religious doctrine for their own limited purposes. In addition, belief in God is no reason to disengage one’s brain. After all, the ability to reason is a gift from God and should be used.

  • Anonymous

    > There appear to be just three: either a person argues that a specific religion is true, or he It’s too bad Sam did not run into other arguments besides those three. There is at least one other argument – the blind men and the elephant frame of reference. From this, we perceive a piece of the truth but don’t understand how that piece fits into the whole. We see paradoxes in belief and between belief but we don’t see how the paradox is reconciled. And most don’t understand how people out of various motives have distorted and rewritten parts of religious doctrine for their own limited purposes. In addition, belief in God is no reason to disengage one’s brain. After all, the ability to reason is a gift from God and should be used.

  • Anonymous

    > There appear to be just three: either a person argues that a specific religion is true, or he It’s too bad Sam did not run into other arguments besides those three. There is at least one other argument – the blind men and the elephant frame of reference. From this, we perceive a piece of the truth but don’t understand how that piece fits into the whole. We see paradoxes in belief and between belief but we don’t see how the paradox is reconciled. And most don’t understand how people out of various motives have distorted and rewritten parts of religious doctrine for their own limited purposes. In addition, belief in God is no reason to disengage one’s brain. After all, the ability to reason is a gift from God and should be used.

  • Alvin Hurst

    Bruce Burleson, you need to reed just pretend by dan barker, and Ken Smiths guide to the bible, and the book your church doesn”t want you to read,Available at evolvefish.com,study comparitive religion and you will find more evidence of many other gods ,and sons of god being resurected in much the same way as jesus,your religion is assembled from other religions.

  • Walter80111

    The late Carl Sagan’s thinking leaves room for the mystery of what we (science) have not yet discovered or explained and graciously allows for this realm to be labeled “god”. This leaves an open door for those that might be fence sitters tettered to a lifelong indoctrination of religion and the uneasy feeling that abandoning any notion of their traditional “god” has negative consequences. (fear)A suggested step would be to consider the proposition that, although there is the great mystery we might call “god” there is no reason to accept any myth, miracle, or action atributed to this or any “god” that does not make sense in today’s world. There is far more to admire in the mystery of what we do not know today, than at any time in the history of mankind. The universe is incredible enough. No need to “believe” a “holy” book. Christians should question the virgin birth; miraculous recovery (by Christ or anyone else) from death; and the dubious value, if not outright damage caused by the notion of “forgiveness of sin”.Lie on your back one starry night and wonder…..Yes, thanks to all for the support of reason in this forum. But let’s be even more reasonable. Confrontational attack usually has the “born again” dig in even more.Gentle does it……Thanks Sam, for your initiative. I have given your little “Letter” book to quite a few people, and it has had some tentatively positive responses from “christian” friends. Really!WalterPS, Carl Sagan’s “Gifford Lectures” recently re issued/edited by his partner as ” The Varieties of Scientific Experience” is a wonderful read on the search for “god”.

  • Joseph Finn

    The solution is to create antireliginanity, AR, the religion of reason. As a believer in AR, an ARian, we now have the right to create our own set of ridiculous reasons for behaving the way we want. Personally, I do not really want to have 30 virgins waiting for me when I die. I prefer women with experience. If I thought this true then I might be interested in blowing myself up to get my reward. Seriously, religious belief is a learned experience. We believe what we were taught to believe. Only a few are able to break from the grasp of religious teachings and seek real truth. For me, the truth is that god is a convenient concept that men use to solve unanswerable questions about life. It is just too hard to face life directly and on our own. The concept that we can let go and let god take over is very powerful. So we make god truth and learn to believe this. That is why there “are no athiests in foxholes”.How then does the world come to grips with the incredible world conflict we now face. Only when more and more men understand the Truth – each of us is responsible for solving our own life problems – will there be a chance for Reason to prevail. We can only hope man will survive the next thousand years while the conversion to reason based thinking occurs.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Don: Thank you for your response. 1) With respect to Heavens Gate, I am not aware of any eyewitness testimony reported from them that the spaceship arrived. Was there any? The biblical account has eyewitness testimony of the resurrected Jesus. 2) I am not aware of the resurrection of Jesus having been proved to be false. If it ever is, that would destroy the basis for my faith. 3) If I did not have the testimony found in the Bible about the resurrection of Jesus, I would have no basis for believing that it occurred. There I find eyewitness accounts. It is that objective evidence coupled with my own subjective experience that has resulted in my belief in this event. To answer your question – “No”, without the testimony, I would not cling to my faith, as I would have no objective basis for my faith. The testimony, coupled with my subjective experience, creates the faith. That faith is not based on “no evidence”, as I have the evidence from the Bible. You may not agree with that evidence, but you honestly cannot say that there is “no evidence” of the resurrection. The scriptural accounts are the only objective evidence that I have, to answer your last question.Now, will you answer my question: Do you admit that there is some evidence of the resurrection of Jesus?

  • Bruce Burleson

    Alvin Hurst: Thanks for the recommendations. I will read these books. By the way, my church does not tell me what I can read and what I cannot read. When I am reading these books, I will be looking for accounts of eyewitness testimony of the resurrections of these other deities that you mention. If there are eyewitness accounts of historical events in these accounts, then I will have to admit that there is “some evidence” of those events. I may choose not to believe in those accounts, based upon a variety of objective and subjective factors. But an eyewitness account is “some evidence.”Now, will you be honest enough to just admit that there is some evidence of the resurrection of Jesus?

  • DaveL

    I’m thrilled to see that there are so many people finally speaking their mind about the issue of religion and how it adversely affects our world. Just one person standing up and declaring to the masses that “The King Has No Cloths,” may set our world on the path of accepting what should have been obvious all along. I really like the way KAATTIE expressed her thoughts. It was short, simple and to the point. I’m sure the founding fathers of our country wanted a true separation between church and state to avoid the path our country is headed down today. No religious beliefs should have ever gained influence in governing our nation’s commerce, education or foreign policy but tragically religion has woven itself into the fabric of all our government does. We have a world, armed to the teeth, taking up sides which are drawn across religious lines while none of those religions are based upon any verifiable facts. Do we really want to kill off our fellow man because of differing religious ideologies? We will always have psychotic religious fanatics who inflict unimaginable death and destruction upon the innocent. We need a measured response to such tragedies. We need to be the nation of reason and as long as our religious beliefs guide our reasoning, our responses will be counterproductive.

  • Jeff Reed

    Ok. Don’t quite understand the blind men and the elephant, but nontheless, all else makes sense. Do you have any ideas for reconciliation?. For peace?

  • Alvin Hurst

    Bruce, there is no evidence of the reserection of jesus, jesus is a fictionan character,educate yourselfe please.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson said…”Duckphup: I will read the Jesus Puzzle. Thank you for the recommendation. Will you be honest enough, however, to admit that there is some evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, whether you believe that evidence or not?”**********Myth, superstition and fictional accounts do not constitute ‘evidence’… no matter HOW many people believe it, or how many copies of it have been printed.It is interesting to note that the entire accumulated time span for which the comings and goings of Jesus are accounted for in the Wholly Babble (not counting his supposed 40-day sojourn in the desert) amounts to no more than 3-weeks. The Gospels are a fictional account of a non-existent personage, weaving contemporary ‘savior’ myths (Mithra, Dionysus, Osirus, et al) around a set of prophecies from the OT…. essentially, the myths, superstitions, fairy tales and fantastical delusions of an ignorant bunch of Bronze Age fishermen and peripatetic goat-herders… a helluva base upon which to establish one’s world-view.

  • Walter80111

    Bruce,There were actual “eyewitness” accounts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that false witness launched a terrible, needless war. Eyewitnesses usually observe what they are expected to, or desire.Christ’s life and message becomes much more valuable when stripped of the hocus pocus.Walter

  • David R.

    Hi Sam,

  • Don

    Bruce,With respect to the death of cult members, I merely was making the point that a willingness to die for some belief does not make that belief true.Don

  • LT

    I return to Sam Harris’ post and “rise to the defense of God” using the third line, albeit with more nuance than “atheism is bad.” I haven’t read his book, but I have read his linked column and find several of his myths (straw-men, really) worthy of reconsideration.1. Atheists believe that life is meaningless.*Not all atheists believe that life is meaningless, but it is rational for an atheist to believe life is either meaningless or meaningful, and we can’t prove either right. However, if the Bible, for example, is true, then life can only be meaningful.3. Atheism is dogmatic….One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. *Merely rejecting religious beliefs is not my normal understanding of atheism. My understanding of an atheist is one who feels confident that there is no God. Since one cannot prove God’s nonexistence, such confidence can only be dogmatic. Jason Bradfield (2nd post) has gotten a lot of flak, but he is correct that any worldview, scientific or religious, is fundamentally unprovable. This third “myth” is actually completely true.7. Atheists are closed to spiritual experience. There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe.*This is a very narrow definition of spiritual experience. The statement is true only if there is no personal God to experience. If there is a God, then an atheist who feels confident He doesn’t exist is definitionally unable to experience Him. An agnostic who isn’t sure where He exists can experience Him and be convinced, but an atheist cannot have such an experience.8. Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding….Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. *”Freely entertain”? How is that less speculative than choosing to believe, for example, the Bible, written over centuries by dozens of people? If we revise myth 8 to “atheists have no logical basis to believe…” then the statement is true.10. Atheism provides no basis for morality.*Add “irrefutable” before “basis” and the statement above is true. It is rational for an atheist to only ever be self-interested. We can find that self-interest repugnant, we can’t prove it’s wrong. If on the other, there is a God and the Bible is His Word, we can prove self-interest is wrong.Overall, Mr. Harris’ column reflects his unwillingness to face the implications of true atheism. Atheism is actually pretty bad. That doesn’t prove Christianity is correct, but it may equalize the relative appeal of the two belief systems for some people.—————-And now let me propose a fourth line to defend Christian belief: I can’t prove I’m right, but neither can any atheist prove there is no God. We do not simply surrender to a demonstrative proof of a worldview; such proofs don’t exist. Instead, we *choose* to believe in Christ or in atheism or in something else, and that choice matters.

  • Phil Stout

    The fallacy of Mr. Bradfield’s argument is found in the first sentence of his post. He’s working his way through Sam’s second book. You’re right Jason, that “Letter to a Christian Nation” is a real toughy.If,a, the opening statement is ludicrous. And,b, the following arguments ridiculous than ,c, Jason is ….Thank you Sam. Keep it coming.

  • Steverootdoc

    “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”If Mr. Bradfield expects to convince anyone of this, he’ll have to make a clearer, simpler case for it. He has way too much time on his hands.

  • Jasontz

    Sam really has a way with words. once again he confronts the issues raised at hand and is attacked for his opinion. Religion is belief. athiesim is not non-belief. its belief in unknown truth, and that scares people.people percieve athiesm as folding your hand in poker. “i dont know what to belive so ill sit this one out”, and thats not far from the truth. but folding a hand in poker is an agressive move if you know you have the weaker hand.

  • Jeff Reed

    Looked up the elephant thing. So we need to enable the blind to see as well, as we can do. The question is still valid. Do you have any ideas for reconciliation? For peace? And if atheist, agnostic, or of religion, life is not meaningless. Look at your children, and if childless, look at your neighbors, relatives and friends. We are to enjoy the life we have been given, and leave this world better than we were left, so the next generation can enjoy even more. That, I believe, is a decent explanation of the meaning of life.

  • Fred in Sonoma

    Sam: thanks once again for your cogent words. Your prose not only makes sense; it is always well-written, and a pleasure to read.Jason Bradfield: as I read through your response to Sam, which assures me that that science is not capable of giving us any truth, it occurred to me that science alone made it possible for me to read what you wrote. Had your thoughts been delivered through the magic of religious incantation, they might have carried more weight.

  • “Q” the Enchanter

    “It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.”And which account of God’s Word was that that doesn’t ultimately rely on the testimony of men?

  • “Q” the Enchanter

    “It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.”And which account of God’s Word was that that doesn’t ultimately rely on the testimony of men?

  • scooternyc

    Mr. Harris once again gets right to the points and makes them well. I can’t be for certain that he would be supporting the idea of disbanding the state of Israel, which does concern me. If that were the case, none of us has the deed to any nation in which we live, should they be disbanded, as well. While we endorse the idea of freedom of speech and person’s right to have his/her religion, we should end the religiosity that is attempting to hijack this nation through government. Dangerous, indeed.

  • scooternyc

    Mr. Harris once again gets right to the points and makes them well. I can’t be for certain that he would be supporting the idea of disbanding the state of Israel, which does concern me. If that were the case, none of us has the deed to any nation in which we live, should they be disbanded, as well. While we endorse the idea of freedom of speech and person’s right to have his/her religion, we should end the religiosity that is attempting to hijack this nation through government. Dangerous, indeed.

  • “Q” the Enchanter

    “It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.”And which account of God’s Word was that that doesn’t ultimately rely on the testimony of men?

  • scooternyc

    Mr. Harris once again gets right to the points and makes them well. I can’t be for certain that he would be supporting the idea of disbanding the state of Israel, which does concern me. If that were the case, none of us has the deed to any nation in which we live, should they be disbanded, as well. While we endorse the idea of freedom of speech and person’s right to have his/her religion, we should end the religiosity that is attempting to hijack this nation through government. Dangerous, indeed.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Sam,I’ve read your first book…working on the second. I’ve read some stuff on your site and watched the One answer to “atheism” that you have not mentioned and has been out for quite some time is Clarkian presuppositionalism. Nothing that I have read in your writings so far would come even close to addressing the issues Gordon Clark had raised in a number of his books.In my opinion, he has logically demolished not only your framework, but even the Christian “empiricism” held by the vast majority of Christendom. (intelligent design arguments, evidentialism, classical Thomistic arguments, etc.)Here’s to name a few of the arguments:1) Observation is unreliable. Scientists do not perform an experiment only once. Experiments are always repeated, and the results most always differ in some way. Why? Because the senses tend to deceive us; they are not to be trusted. Hence, numerous readings are taken in an attempt to guard against inaccurate observation. So much is this the case in science, that tests with unrepeatable results are never taken seriously. But if observation is unreliable, if the senses are so easily deceived, if the results frequently differ, why should one ever believe that he has discovered truth through observation? (2) All scientific experiments commit the fallacy of asserting the consequent. In syllogistic form this is expressed as: “If p, then q. q; therefore, p.” Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of Christianity, stated it this way: All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: “If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true.” This argument is, of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing.” If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based. In the laboratory scientists work with a hypothesis. In this case the hypothesis is: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me.” The scientist then attempts to deduce the predicted results that should occur if the hypothesis is true, such as “this bread nourishes me.” He then performs an experiment to test the hypothesis to see if the predicted results occur. So he sits down at the table and eats the bread, and wonder of wonders, the bread does nourish him. The hypothesis, he concludes, is confirmed: “This bread is a stone and stones are nourishing.” Silly you say? Yes! Yet, as Russell has asserted, it is not “fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.” That is to say, all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments. (3) Science commits the fallacy of induction. Induction is the attempt to derive a general law from particular instances. Science is necessarily inductive. For example, if a scientist is studying crows, he might observe 999 crows and find that they all are black. But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black? No; the next crow he observes might be an albino. One can never observe all crows: past, present, and future. Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation. Hence, science can never give us true statements. (4) Equations are always selected, they are never discovered. In the laboratory the scientist seeks to determine the boiling point of water. Since water hardly ever boils at the same temperature, the scientist conducts a number of tests and the slightly differing results are noted. He then must average them. But what kind of average does he use: mean, mode, or median? He must choose; and whatever kind of average he selects, it is his own choice; it is not dictated by the data. Then too, the average he chooses is just that, that is, it is an average, not the actual datum yielded by the experiment. Once the test results have been averaged, the scientist will calculate the variable error in his readings. He will likely plot the data points or areas on a graph. Then he will draw a curve through the resultant data points or areas on the graph. But how many curves, each one of which describes a different equation, are possible? An infinite number of curves is possible. But the scientist draws only one. What is the probability of the scientist choosing the correct curve out of an infinite number of possibilities? The chance is one over infinity, or zero. Therefore, all scientific laws are false. They cannot possibly be true. As cited above, the statement of Karl Popper is correct: “It can even be shown that all theories, including the best, have the same probability, namely zero.” (5) All scientific laws describe ideal situations. As Clark has said, “At best, scientific law is a construction rather than a discovery, and the construction depends on factors never seen under a microscope, never weighed in a balance, never handled or manipulated.”3 Clark uses the law of the pendulum as an example: The law of the pendulum states that the period of the swing is proportional to the square root of the length. If, however, the weight of the bob is unevenly displaced around its center, the law will not hold. The law assumes that the bob is homogeneous, that the weight is symmetrically distributed along all axes, or more technically, that the mass is concentrated at a point. No such bob exists, and hence the law is not an accurate description of any tangible pendulum. Second, the law assumes that the pendulum swings by a tensionless string. There is no such string, so that the scientific law does not describe any real pendulum. And third, the law could be true only if the pendulum swung on an axis without friction. There is no such axis. It follows, therefore, that no visible pendulum accords with the mathematical formula and that the formula is not a description of any existing pendulum. From our study of these five logical difficulties, it can be readily seen that science is not capable of giving us any truth. And if the scientific method is a tissue of logical fallacies, why should Christians seek to argue from science to the truth? Simply stated, they should not. Science is useful in accomplishing its purpose, i.e., subduing the Earth. But that is all it is useful for, nothing more. The question arises, “If science never gives us truth, how can it be so successful?” It all depends on how one defines success. We are now able to put a man on the moon; we are also able to destroy our fellow man with one push of a button. Are these measures of success? Scientific theories are always changing (whereas truth is eternal). Is constant change a measure of success? Science is successful when one understands its purpose, and when one understands that false theories sometimes work. Newtonian science, for example, worked for years. It has been replaced by Einstein’s theory. But even though he believed his theory to be a better approximation of the truth than Newton’s, Einstein declared that his own theory was false. Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    Sam,I’ve read your first book…working on the second. I’ve read some stuff on your site and watched the One answer to “atheism” that you have not mentioned and has been out for quite some time is Clarkian presuppositionalism. Nothing that I have read in your writings so far would come even close to addressing the issues Gordon Clark had raised in a number of his books.In my opinion, he has logically demolished not only your framework, but even the Christian “empiricism” held by the vast majority of Christendom. (intelligent design arguments, evidentialism, classical Thomistic arguments, etc.)Here’s to name a few of the arguments:1) Observation is unreliable. Scientists do not perform an experiment only once. Experiments are always repeated, and the results most always differ in some way. Why? Because the senses tend to deceive us; they are not to be trusted. Hence, numerous readings are taken in an attempt to guard against inaccurate observation. So much is this the case in science, that tests with unrepeatable results are never taken seriously. But if observation is unreliable, if the senses are so easily deceived, if the results frequently differ, why should one ever believe that he has discovered truth through observation? (2) All scientific experiments commit the fallacy of asserting the consequent. In syllogistic form this is expressed as: “If p, then q. q; therefore, p.” Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of Christianity, stated it this way: All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: “If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true.” This argument is, of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing.” If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based. In the laboratory scientists work with a hypothesis. In this case the hypothesis is: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me.” The scientist then attempts to deduce the predicted results that should occur if the hypothesis is true, such as “this bread nourishes me.” He then performs an experiment to test the hypothesis to see if the predicted results occur. So he sits down at the table and eats the bread, and wonder of wonders, the bread does nourish him. The hypothesis, he concludes, is confirmed: “This bread is a stone and stones are nourishing.” Silly you say? Yes! Yet, as Russell has asserted, it is not “fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.” That is to say, all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments. (3) Science commits the fallacy of induction. Induction is the attempt to derive a general law from particular instances. Science is necessarily inductive. For example, if a scientist is studying crows, he might observe 999 crows and find that they all are black. But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black? No; the next crow he observes might be an albino. One can never observe all crows: past, present, and future. Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation. Hence, science can never give us true statements. (4) Equations are always selected, they are never discovered. In the laboratory the scientist seeks to determine the boiling point of water. Since water hardly ever boils at the same temperature, the scientist conducts a number of tests and the slightly differing results are noted. He then must average them. But what kind of average does he use: mean, mode, or median? He must choose; and whatever kind of average he selects, it is his own choice; it is not dictated by the data. Then too, the average he chooses is just that, that is, it is an average, not the actual datum yielded by the experiment. Once the test results have been averaged, the scientist will calculate the variable error in his readings. He will likely plot the data points or areas on a graph. Then he will draw a curve through the resultant data points or areas on the graph. But how many curves, each one of which describes a different equation, are possible? An infinite number of curves is possible. But the scientist draws only one. What is the probability of the scientist choosing the correct curve out of an infinite number of possibilities? The chance is one over infinity, or zero. Therefore, all scientific laws are false. They cannot possibly be true. As cited above, the statement of Karl Popper is correct: “It can even be shown that all theories, including the best, have the same probability, namely zero.” (5) All scientific laws describe ideal situations. As Clark has said, “At best, scientific law is a construction rather than a discovery, and the construction depends on factors never seen under a microscope, never weighed in a balance, never handled or manipulated.”3 Clark uses the law of the pendulum as an example: The law of the pendulum states that the period of the swing is proportional to the square root of the length. If, however, the weight of the bob is unevenly displaced around its center, the law will not hold. The law assumes that the bob is homogeneous, that the weight is symmetrically distributed along all axes, or more technically, that the mass is concentrated at a point. No such bob exists, and hence the law is not an accurate description of any tangible pendulum. Second, the law assumes that the pendulum swings by a tensionless string. There is no such string, so that the scientific law does not describe any real pendulum. And third, the law could be true only if the pendulum swung on an axis without friction. There is no such axis. It follows, therefore, that no visible pendulum accords with the mathematical formula and that the formula is not a description of any existing pendulum. From our study of these five logical difficulties, it can be readily seen that science is not capable of giving us any truth. And if the scientific method is a tissue of logical fallacies, why should Christians seek to argue from science to the truth? Simply stated, they should not. Science is useful in accomplishing its purpose, i.e., subduing the Earth. But that is all it is useful for, nothing more. The question arises, “If science never gives us truth, how can it be so successful?” It all depends on how one defines success. We are now able to put a man on the moon; we are also able to destroy our fellow man with one push of a button. Are these measures of success? Scientific theories are always changing (whereas truth is eternal). Is constant change a measure of success? Science is successful when one understands its purpose, and when one understands that false theories sometimes work. Newtonian science, for example, worked for years. It has been replaced by Einstein’s theory. But even though he believed his theory to be a better approximation of the truth than Newton’s, Einstein declared that his own theory was false. Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    Sam,I’ve read your first book…working on the second. I’ve read some stuff on your site and watched the One answer to “atheism” that you have not mentioned and has been out for quite some time is Clarkian presuppositionalism. Nothing that I have read in your writings so far would come even close to addressing the issues Gordon Clark had raised in a number of his books.In my opinion, he has logically demolished not only your framework, but even the Christian “empiricism” held by the vast majority of Christendom. (intelligent design arguments, evidentialism, classical Thomistic arguments, etc.)Here’s to name a few of the arguments:1) Observation is unreliable. Scientists do not perform an experiment only once. Experiments are always repeated, and the results most always differ in some way. Why? Because the senses tend to deceive us; they are not to be trusted. Hence, numerous readings are taken in an attempt to guard against inaccurate observation. So much is this the case in science, that tests with unrepeatable results are never taken seriously. But if observation is unreliable, if the senses are so easily deceived, if the results frequently differ, why should one ever believe that he has discovered truth through observation? (2) All scientific experiments commit the fallacy of asserting the consequent. In syllogistic form this is expressed as: “If p, then q. q; therefore, p.” Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of Christianity, stated it this way: All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: “If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true.” This argument is, of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing.” If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based. In the laboratory scientists work with a hypothesis. In this case the hypothesis is: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me.” The scientist then attempts to deduce the predicted results that should occur if the hypothesis is true, such as “this bread nourishes me.” He then performs an experiment to test the hypothesis to see if the predicted results occur. So he sits down at the table and eats the bread, and wonder of wonders, the bread does nourish him. The hypothesis, he concludes, is confirmed: “This bread is a stone and stones are nourishing.” Silly you say? Yes! Yet, as Russell has asserted, it is not “fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.” That is to say, all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments. (3) Science commits the fallacy of induction. Induction is the attempt to derive a general law from particular instances. Science is necessarily inductive. For example, if a scientist is studying crows, he might observe 999 crows and find that they all are black. But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black? No; the next crow he observes might be an albino. One can never observe all crows: past, present, and future. Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation. Hence, science can never give us true statements. (4) Equations are always selected, they are never discovered. In the laboratory the scientist seeks to determine the boiling point of water. Since water hardly ever boils at the same temperature, the scientist conducts a number of tests and the slightly differing results are noted. He then must average them. But what kind of average does he use: mean, mode, or median? He must choose; and whatever kind of average he selects, it is his own choice; it is not dictated by the data. Then too, the average he chooses is just that, that is, it is an average, not the actual datum yielded by the experiment. Once the test results have been averaged, the scientist will calculate the variable error in his readings. He will likely plot the data points or areas on a graph. Then he will draw a curve through the resultant data points or areas on the graph. But how many curves, each one of which describes a different equation, are possible? An infinite number of curves is possible. But the scientist draws only one. What is the probability of the scientist choosing the correct curve out of an infinite number of possibilities? The chance is one over infinity, or zero. Therefore, all scientific laws are false. They cannot possibly be true. As cited above, the statement of Karl Popper is correct: “It can even be shown that all theories, including the best, have the same probability, namely zero.” (5) All scientific laws describe ideal situations. As Clark has said, “At best, scientific law is a construction rather than a discovery, and the construction depends on factors never seen under a microscope, never weighed in a balance, never handled or manipulated.”3 Clark uses the law of the pendulum as an example: The law of the pendulum states that the period of the swing is proportional to the square root of the length. If, however, the weight of the bob is unevenly displaced around its center, the law will not hold. The law assumes that the bob is homogeneous, that the weight is symmetrically distributed along all axes, or more technically, that the mass is concentrated at a point. No such bob exists, and hence the law is not an accurate description of any tangible pendulum. Second, the law assumes that the pendulum swings by a tensionless string. There is no such string, so that the scientific law does not describe any real pendulum. And third, the law could be true only if the pendulum swung on an axis without friction. There is no such axis. It follows, therefore, that no visible pendulum accords with the mathematical formula and that the formula is not a description of any existing pendulum. From our study of these five logical difficulties, it can be readily seen that science is not capable of giving us any truth. And if the scientific method is a tissue of logical fallacies, why should Christians seek to argue from science to the truth? Simply stated, they should not. Science is useful in accomplishing its purpose, i.e., subduing the Earth. But that is all it is useful for, nothing more. The question arises, “If science never gives us truth, how can it be so successful?” It all depends on how one defines success. We are now able to put a man on the moon; we are also able to destroy our fellow man with one push of a button. Are these measures of success? Scientific theories are always changing (whereas truth is eternal). Is constant change a measure of success? Science is successful when one understands its purpose, and when one understands that false theories sometimes work. Newtonian science, for example, worked for years. It has been replaced by Einstein’s theory. But even though he believed his theory to be a better approximation of the truth than Newton’s, Einstein declared that his own theory was false. Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”

  • Steverootdoc

    Mr. Burleson,

  • kaattie

    Atheism is hardly “in vogue”. If more of us “atheists” are daring to make our views known, it is because of the sickening takeover of modern political discourse by so-called “Christians”, not to mention the atrocities perpetrated by other religious fanatics. I am really sick of having some dialogue about “God” interjected into all of my daily affairs, whether it is reading it on currency or trying to keep my children from being brainwashed about “It” in school as they recite the pledge of allegiance. I can only hope that my children’s generation will learn more science, and develop the healthy delusion that life can be lived quite happily and morally without the ball-and-chain of an absurd religious fanatacism pervading all aspects of daily life.

  • Joel Wheeler

    Sam,Your eloquence once again supports why it is that you have become a member of the ‘holy atheist trinity’. Even more so than what I’ve read from Dawkins or Dennett, you seem to break things down to an understandable level for even the least educated amoung us. It is this gift of words which you possess, which makes stale centuries old arguments against religion seem fresh and new. If only there was some way to tap into that eloquence and pass it on to others who would happily enjoin the conversation.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Don: Well, at least you answered the question. Thanks for that. Science cannot prove, nor can it disprove, the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. In a court of law, an eyewitness account of an event accounts as “some evidence”. There are several eyewitness accounts of the resurrection, none of which have been disproven by science or any other method. I agree that eyewitness testimony should not be taken at face value, and if you could present me here and now with scientific proof that Jesus did not rise from the dead, then you would destroy the basis of Christianity once and for all. You, however, are not able to do this. We have 1) the accounts of the eyewitnesses and 2) a lack of scientific proof that the accounts are wrong. That equals “some evidence.” We disagree on this point, but at least the issue is defined.

  • Watercooler Genius

    I find that my Catholic friends don’t even believe their own Church Doctrine. They just don’t want to leave the club their friends and family are in. They tell me that they view Church as a club – similar to a Fraternity. You join, and take the good with the bad.Not exactly an argument that wins my respect and admiration. Especially when the bad they accept is so repugnant to reason.

  • Ted Swart

    Jason Brafield writes as follows:One answer to “atheism” that you have not mentioned and has been out for quite some time is Clarkian presuppositionalism. *******This has got to be the most clueless observation I have come across in a long time. The strength of science lies precisely in the fact that it insists on repeatability. If an observation cannot be repeated by others it quite simply does not enter the scientific canon. The issue of “inaccurate observations” is simply a red herring. If different scientist do not get the exact same figure for the speed of light or the mass of the electron this does not mean we do not have a very good idea of what these values are. *****************What a bizarre contention. I don’t know of a single scientific conclusion which follows such a caricature of what science is about. Examples please! Scientists discover radioactivity, by accident as it so happens, and go on to find – by repeatable experiments which elements in the periodic table are radioactive. They then go on by further repeatable experiments what the half lives of different radioactive elements are and further go on to estimate (yes estimate – not claiming exact accuracy) what the age of the earth is from ancient rock formations. And they discover that the earth is billions of years old – irrespective of which suitable radioactive element are used for this determination. Where, in all of this, is there any confusion between bread and stones? Pray tell.********(3)Science commits the fallacy of induction. Induction is the attempt to derive a general law from particular instances. Science is necessarily inductive. For example, if a scientist is studying crows, he might observe 999 crows and find that they all are black. But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black? No; the next crow he observes might be an albino. One can never observe all crows: past, present, and future. Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation. Hence, science can never give us true statements.********This is just further mumbo jumbo. Science is not prone to say all crows are black – freely admitted uncertainty to the rescue – but simply that most crows are black. Crows are not the only birds which are black and their characteristics embrace many other aspects which distinguish then from other birds. So, there is built in room for albinos in the world of science.********* * * * * *Why this ridiculous aversion to averages? It is not as if science excludes averages from its discourse. No scientist would ever claim that there is even such a thing as the exact boiling point of water. But we do know a lot about water including the fact that ice is less dense than water and that it therefore floats on water – which is a massively fascinating observation tied in with the issue of how life came into being. And we do know that the earth is roughly spherical and we do have a good idea how the sun produces radiant energy and so and so on. And these are all facts that have been discovered by the scientific method. ********** * * * * * All I can say to that is so what! No scientist would dispute what you are saying. This in no way negates the reality of scientific progress.* * * * * * * * * * * * How on earth do you arrive at such a ridiculous conclusion? Medical science has uncovered the existence of appendices attached to our digestive system. And we know that these appendices can became inflamed and even burst thus endangering the lives of those so afflicted. And innumerable lives have been saved by appendectomies. These are all true scientific facts and to suggest that “science is not capable of giving us any truth” is quite simply perverse. * * * * * * *Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.” * * * * * * An how do you arrive at this indefensible conclusion? Just how do you know which scriptures to pick from the large range on offer? What repeatable procedure do you suggest I follow to come to the same conclusion as you do?

  • Bruce Burleson

    Steverootdoc: I agree completely. I was not saying that the accounts of the resurrection are true because they have not been proven false. But science cannot be the ultimate arbiter of this question because it cannot prove the resurrection true or false. My point is that the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection, coupled with a lack of proof that they are false, equals “some evidence.”

  • Ed W.

    bruce:how is that for evidence? i dont know what delusions one must harbor to really believe that things like this happen. is it just that you were told it many times as a child? or is that you convinced yourself after watching passion of the christ? besides… if i told you that Napoleon rose from the dead and i saw it happen… would you believe me? no. there are innumerably more plausible explanations: i was on drugs, i walked onto the set of a movie, i am lying, etc.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup & Alvin Hurst: Both of you believe that Jesus was an entirely fictional character. You are both taking positions that are against the weight of historical scholarship on this issue. You can point to scholars that deny his physical existence. I can point to more scholars that acknowledge his existence (whether or not they believe in his deity or resurrection). So I have educated myself on this issue. I am interested in knowing whether Sam Harris believes that Jesus, as a human being, is a completely fictional character. Does anyone know?

  • Anonymous

    agnosticism is a position on knowledge: “we can’t know”.atheism is a position on belief: “i don’t believe zeus exists”. one can be an agnostic atheist or whatever.

  • kaattie

    Daniel: “If there is a single issue religious people and atheists must discuss, it is the problem of evil.”Read Ernest Becker, “Escape from Evil”. Go on, read it! Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to new ideas – even though this book was published in 1975!His seminal work which won a Pulitzer, “The Denial of Death”, also addresses the need humans have to find solace in an imaginary immortality which is the essential root of all religious belief.I don’t see any hope for our species or the planet without abandonment of religion, let alone any kind of productive or logical discourse with religious fanatics.

  • Incredulous

    Sam, you rock. Maybe a bit more intense than necessary but I routinely buy your books and send them to friends and colleagues. It’s a message that needs to be articulated and very few have the courage to do so.

  • doug

    sam, forgive the last responder, for he surely knoweth not the least of which he babbles. Stated another way, he spent an inordinate amount of words in the service of science bashing, but failed to even approach the outer peripheries of logic.I fear the rhetorical effect of his speech making and odd declerations fall as flat as tires hitting a truck load of nails.Keep swinging, sam. We’re there for you.

  • yoyo

    Great post Sam….I think you’re making a dent in the way people think about religion and god.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Ed W: Thanks for your comment. I was not aware that science had concluded many times that resurrections like the one reported in the New Testament “aren’t possible.” Please refer me to the scientific studies that reached this conclusion.With regard to your Napolean analogy – 1) neither you nor anyone else has told me that Napolean did rise from the dead; and 2) if you or someone else did, I would have to evaluate your testimony based upon a variety of factors. If I reject it out of hand, I am making an a priori assumption not based on evidence.

  • amba

    Another fallacious argument: Science is false, therefore scripture is true?? How does that follow?

  • blackdogg

    After watching you engage various “religionists” in discourse for the last two years, I have concluded that the reason they are so willing to contort logic to any end in protecting their position (see comment above) is the same reason paranoid schizophrenics deny the real world in favor of their own delusional constructs. To admit their delusion would be so damaging to their core image of the external world and their relationship to it, they fear they would break down in the face of the admission and lose power over their own world. I have seen many people who I would otherwise consider intelligent and thoughtful, twist reason into a pretzel in defense of the most ridiculous claims. I have seen you quote biblical passages and stories that would make most modern people cringe in another context, and yet these same people will insist either that the stories are allegorical or layered in some way that only believers understand.

  • amba

    Another fallacious argument: Science is false, therefore scripture is true?? How does that follow?

  • amba

    Another fallacious argument: Science is false, therefore scripture is true?? How does that follow?

  • Burton H. Wolfe

    To Sam’s points I add the following.

  • Burton H. Wolfe

    To Sam’s points I add the following.

  • Jake Grey

    I have not the time nor the patience to expound upon the multitude of reasons that the well educated Mr. Jason Bradfield is wrong in his efforts to deconstruct science and render it useless in our search to better examine the fabric of reality. I will however, say that bread and stones are not variables, in any sense of the word, and therefore fit into your proposition about as well as square pegs in round holes. You attempt to force logic from illogic and you are quite skilled in this I can see. If science cannot yield any fruit from it’s experiments, or it’s methods, then Polio must have eradicated itself all those years ago. The computer you created your comment on should then be a product of faith and god’s diverse mechanical prowess. The vehicle you use to transport you to church… must surely be fueled by god’s love itself.The point, Mr. Bradford, is that if you are attempting to disprove science with science, you must conduct your own experiments with less bitter disdain for it, and more respect for truth itself. Oh… and once again Mr. Harris,Thank you for teaching us to better look at reality. I couldn’t have done it without you. A lot of us couldn’t.

  • Burton H. Wolfe

    To Sam’s points I add the following.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson wrote:”Duckphup & Alvin Hurst: Both of you believe that Jesus was an entirely fictional character. You are both taking positions that are against the weight of historical scholarship on this issue.”*********You are confusing ‘historical scholarship’ with ‘religious scholarship’. There is no HISTORICAL evidence for the existence of Jesus, whatsoever. Josephus, Tacitus and Tertullian are effectively debunked. There are no other historical references.

  • Ted Swart

    I find the following contribution most unfortunate. ” satanhimself: I hope that Sam will grow more comfortable with the word “atheist”, as I did, when I realized the simplicity and honesty of the word—“without belief in gods”. Nothing more, nothing less. An atheist could still hold beliefs in other concepts, like multiple universes or (a word I really detest) “spirituality”….as long as no supreme beings are involved.”When Sam suggests that he is not too keen on the term atheist I can identify with him. It is a ‘not’ style word. And although you (Satan — scared of revealing your own name?) say that atheism permits other beliefs it does tend to be rather emphatic.I do not believe in the Christian concept of God, ditto for Judaism or Islam or Zoroastrianism or the Bahai faith or the multiple gods of Hinduism. But I have for some long time now regarded myself as an agnostic. The fact that religious believers try to take advantage of the word agnostic is neither here nor there. They sure do everyhthing possible to take advantage of the word atheist. I am an agnostic simply because I do not believe in the conception of God put forward by the worlds formal religions. But I lay no claims to knowing all the answers and I feel unable to exclude the possibility of some numinous aspect to the world we live in. I have just finished reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and I find myself attracted to what Dawkins calls Einsteinian religion. After reading his detailed explication of deism, theism ,agnosticism, atheism, pantheism etc I guess I am a pantheist or more particularly a radical pantheist (to borrow from Douglas Adams — who styled himself a radical atheist). But, to come to the point, I think it is a waste of time to try and force all those of us who reject the erroneous views of the world we live in, propounded by the worlds formal religions, to use the same label. There are more important things for us to do. Enjoy your label atheist, if you so wish, but please don’t fuss over forcing or even coaxing the rest of us to use the same label. To suggest that those of us who use a different label are not honest is unfair to say the least.

  • Myron

    I just have had time to read about half of the comments. I agree that converting the religious to non-believers may take too long. I am concerned that the religious are going to destroy our world with their insanity. Our only hope is for another much more advanced civilization from another planet to actually show us the way to peacefull coexistance. I am 72 and have had this hope since the first report of flying saucers. I can only hope that there is other life on another planet that was not influenced by mystical gods.

  • RB

    Bruce:You have not yet responded wrt the 2nd Law of Thermo.Are you, like the writers of your holy book, ignorant of this property of matter, one which precludes resurrection of dead flesh?You see, fairy tales flourish amid the ignorant and uneducated. The “miracles” could more easily be “sold” way back then. T

  • RB

    Bruce:You have not yet responded wrt the 2nd Law of Thermo.Are you, like the writers of your holy book, ignorant of this property of matter, one which precludes resurrection of dead flesh?You see, fairy tales flourish amid the ignorant and uneducated. The “miracles” could more easily be “sold” way back then. A miracle described in the Koran concerns Mohammad ascending the heaven on a winged horse. There were many who claimed to have witnessed his departure from earth. Surely you believe them, too, right?

  • RB

    my apologies for that

  • Julian

    I will always be grateful to Sam Harris for opening my eyes to things I knew very well in my heart, but was unable or unwilling to see.

  • Bruce Burleson

    RB: I am familiar with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. If God does exist, He is outside of this realm and not subject to the laws of physics in this universe. Therefore, assuming that such a God does exist, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics would not apply to Him and would not prevent Him from entering this realm and resurrecting a dead body. Of course, if you reject the idea of a God that exists outside of this realm, this explanation won’t mean much to you.

  • John M.

    I think it is unfair to point to fanatics who act on their own and murder others as evidence that religion is bad.Any philosophy can be taken the wrong way and abused. I submit for your consideration that it is not religion that has been responsible for countless travesties throughout history. It is, instead, man’s desire for power that is responsible. Religion is merely the excuse man uses to accomplish this evil.Atheism is no exception. Hitler was inspired by Nietzsche and Darwin. He was attempting to accelerate ‘Survival of the Fittest’, which both Darwin and Nietzsche observed was lagging in modern humans, by creating a “master race”. Stalin and Mao Tse Tung followed suit, creating evil atheistic tyrannies. Did Darwin intend for this to happen? Weren’t these brutal dictators acting of their own volition? Were they not hungry for power? Can we blame Darwin for their actions?How, then, can we blame Christ for the non-believing popes who murdered countless non-believers (and believers) throughout the ages, just because they errantly did so in Christ’s name? How can we blame Christ for Catholics bombing abortion clinics? How can we blame Christ for a few misguided evangelicals attempting to take over our government?As a believer, I see atheist dictators acting on their own. Can any non-believers give me the same with respect to zealots who have ignored the loving, peaceful message of Christ, to create their own agenda?

  • Skeptic in Tallahassee

    To Anonymous or Bruce Burleson:Thank you for your thoughtful comments. In turn, I will comment on your five responses, and I will hope that others will be interested in this tangent on which we have moved.1) Jesus was at least a man, and therefore all evidence related to men living and dying is pertinent to your decision about whether or not Jesus was likely to have risen from the dead. If you are overlooking the billions of cases of people dying and not rising from the dead and the accumulated knowledge of human physiology, then you are not considering ALL the evidence pertinent to the decision about the alleged resurrection of Jesus. The evidence that wishful thinking is interfering with your judgement is circumstantial. Your conclusion that Jesus definitely or probably rose from the dead (which is it?) is unwarranted when one applies rational criteria to all the pertinent evidence. In almost all cases, when people use something other than a rational process to reach a conclusion, as you have, they instead use a process of wishful thinking. My suspicion is that the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead is appealing to you because it feeds your wish that you too will one day rise from the dead. When people wish for something to be true, they often lower their standards of evidence.2) I am pleased that you mentioned the report which alleges that a Roman soldier stabbed Jesus in the side because this is a good example of the poor evidence often used to support the hypothesis of a resurrection. If it were true that Jesus was stabbed in the side, then this fact would increase the likelihood that he died on the cross. Conversely, if it were false that Jesus was stabbed in the side, then this would decrease the likelihood that he died on the cross. So, it is an important question. I think that it is extremely unlikely that the stabbing ever occurred, and there are several reasons for thinking this: a) Only one of the four Gospels (John) alleges that the stabbing occurred. If the stabbing had occurred, because it would be a major detail, it is highly likely that most or all of the Gospels would have reported it. (In the same way, if three planes had crashed into the Twin Towers, because this would be a major detail, it is highly likely that most or all of the reports would have contained such a detail. It would be very unlikely that only one report or that 25% or less of the reports would contain this major detail.) b) The Gospel of John was the latest of the four Gospels to be written (probably in 90-95 AD) and delayed reports are more affected by lapses of memory, distortions, and embellishments than early reports. c) There appears to be no other report of a stabbing of Jesus on the cross from any other source in history. There is no corroboration of it at all. d) The stabbing makes no sense in the context of the narrative. Remember that it was reported that the Roman soldiers did not break the legs of Jesus because to them he appeared to be already dead. Thus, there would have been no motive to stab Jesus. The stabbing makes no sense when the incident is analyzed from the psychological perspective of the soldiers. e) The report of the stabbing is immediately followed by a statement that the stabbing fulfilled a prophesy. It is as if the author was trying hard to make his description of the incident fit an ancient prophesy. (Ironically, an embellishment wasn’t needed at all, since the piercing of Jesus’ palms and ankles would have been a fulfillment anyway.) Just because somebody says that something happened doesn’t mean that it did happen, or even that it did not happen. The claim must be rationally evaluated. Based on such an evaluation, it appears much more likely that the report of the stabbing was a fabrication by the author of the Gospel of John than that it was a factual report. From all the evidence about human life and death accumulated over the last two thousand years, it is appropriate to have a strong presumption that no resurrection has ever occurred. To claim that one did occur is to make an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence. The evidence from the Gospels is so weak that it can hardly be considered extraordinary.3) I do NOT contend that a resurrection has certainly never occurred or could never occur, but I do contend that based on the evidence it is extremely unlikely that one has ever or could ever occur. It is much more likely that the reports of the Gospels contain significant fabrications, speculations, or mistakes than that a resurrection actually occurred. That billions and billions of people have died and stayed dead is evidence against the hypothesis that any man, including Jesus, came back to life.4) The flaws in the Gospel reports regarding the crucifixion and its aftermath include the following: a) The Gospels were written anywhere from 20 to 65 years after the crucifixion, and delays of this magnitude are usually associated with unreliability. b) Most biblical scholars have concluded that the Gospel authors are anonymous, and thus their credibility history can not be assessed. c) Most biblical scholars have concluded that none of the Gospel authors was an eyewitness of the events about which he reported. (Only one claims to be, and his claim is dubious.) d) The Gospels are not written in the “first person”; they are written in the “third person”, as most novels are written. e) If the Gospels were based on the reports of any eyewitnesses, their identities and positions for observation were not specified. f) There are no signed affadavits. g) There are several contradictions from one Gospel to another. h) There are many major details reported in one Gospel that are not reported in any other, details unlikely to go unreported or unremembered if they actually happened. i) Our English renditions of the Gospels have gone through at least two language translations, and some translation errors are likely. j) There are no first-hand eyewitness reports from medical personnel testifying to Jesus being dead after removal from the cross or being alive three days or more later. k) By agreement of all Gospels, the only person in proper position to verify the death of Jesus was Joseph of Arimathea. We do not have a report from him and he was not present at the meetings alleged to have occurred with an alive Jesus days or weeks after the crucifixion. l) The tomb was probably not guarded at all (only one Gospel says it was) and if it was guarded, this occurred only after the tomb was left unguarded for at least 12 hours. The chain of evidence was broken. m) There are no nonChristian reports of the details of the crucifixion and its aftermath. I don’t see how anybody who has carefully and critically studied the Gospel reports could consider them to be convincing, unless of course, they are motivated by something other than the search for truth, something like wishful thinking.5) Although you said that you do not confess to know the mind of God, actually you do claim to know it. By concluding that if God exists, he DID cause a single resurrection 2000 years ago, you are at the same time claiming that he WOULD cause a resurrection. You are claiming that causing a single resurrection 2000 years ago is compatible with God’s basic nature, if he exists. I am simply making the opposite claim to yours. I am claiming that he WOULD NOT cause a single resurrection 2000 years ago. Causing a resurrection in this way is not compatible with the basic nature of God, as most people understand it, if he does exist at all. It is more likely that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being would NOT cause a resurrection in this way than that he would cause one. For a “perfect being”, there are so many better ways to make a point or teach a lesson.

  • timmy

    Oh LT,First of all, there are no shortage of biological and evolutionary explanations for human altruism. This is backed up by data that the most secular societies have a below average crime rate as opposed to their pious counterparts. Athiests are equally as capablle of compassion and altruistic behaviour as the God fearing.

  • timmy

    Oh LT,First of all, there are no shortage of biological and evolutionary explanations for human altruism. This is backed up by data that the most secular societies have a below average crime rate as opposed to their pious counterparts. Athiests are equally as capablle of compassion and altruistic behaviour as the God fearing.

  • timmy

    Oh LT,First of all, there are no shortage of biological and evolutionary explanations for human altruism. This is backed up by data that the most secular societies have a below average crime rate as opposed to their pious counterparts. Athiests are equally as capablle of compassion and altruistic behaviour as the God fearing.

  • Ted Swart

    To Bruce Burleson:Let me apologize for those atheistic contributors to this discussion who behave in a boorish manner. I regard them simply as letting the side down.I would, however, like to make an important point about your description of your mystical experience which you feel validated your belief in the resurrection of Jesus. There is a truly vast treasure house of books on mysticism as I know only too well. As it turns out, I had a T Wistar Brown fellowship to Haverford College in 1963 and Haverford has what is arguably the finest and most comprehensive collection of books on mysticism in the world. So I think I can rightly say that I have a well above average knowledge of the subject.And one thing stands out like a sore thumb. Although mystical experiences have a substantial amount of commonality –the feeling that time stands still, the feeling of being at peace and at one with the world and so on — they are all too often linked to the particular religion (if they have one) which the individual mystics happen to be attached to. A Sufi mystic will regard his/her experience as involving Muhammad and Allah. A Hindu mystic will explain the experience in terms of the Hindu pantheon. And a Christian mystic will explain the experience in terms of Jesus and/or his mother Mary. So I suspect that your experience does not really validate anything. It is as if the door by which we enter a mystical experience has a strong influence on the door by which we leave it. I personally had my first mystical experience at a very young age — something like 5 or 6 — with all the usual characteristics but no religious connections at all (I was still too young to have been sufficiently indoctrinated). As I have already explained I was brought up an Anglican and I used to accept the Jesus resurrection story as an adolescent. Now it seems to me nothing other than quaint nonsense. If anyone else had died and was buried and his/her body disappeared from the grave the very last thing that you or I or anyone else would conclude was that the person concerned must have risen from the dead. We would simply assume that the body was stolen from the grave or that the person concerned never really died. And given your very obvious desire to be honest with yourself you will, I hope, come to see that this must be true for Jesus as well. Let me encourage you, as I have done before, to keep searching for the truth. I can assure you there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.Most Christian when confronted with the hard questions which their faith raises run away and hide. So, I would like to put on record my appreciation of your courage in staying the course.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: When Sam Harris experiences altered states of consciousness, his internal filter tells him that it is not an experience of God, whom he does not believe exists. If Sam is wrong in his belief, then his internal filter is causing him to be deceived, and he may be missing the experience of the divine. I have examined the resurrection as Skeptic has suggested, and while I have come to a different conclusion, I am familiar with the problems Skeptic mentions. This does not detract from the fact that the early Christians clearly believed and stated as a fact that Jesus had been resurrected. If they are correct (and no one has proved that they were not), then my internal filter of faith is not a delusion, but an accurate lense through which I can experience a reality beyond this one. I will say this – that any “believer” who comes to this site without a personal experience like mine will probably leave an agnostic, at the very least. Sorry if this sounds sexist, but this site separates “the men from the boys.”

  • RB

    Hi Bruce:Well, that view leads to a stalemate, doesn’t it? Ok, leave that aside (for the moment) , why aren’t 1.5 billion Muslims correct in believing their end-of-life miracle for Mohammad?

  • Bruce Burleson

    RB – I cannot comment on anything regarding Islam, as I have no personal knowledge of the Muslim experience. I have never sensed Allah or Muhammed in any way. The Koran and Muslim literature are just words on a page to me, probably like the Bible is to you. It is my inward experience that validates the New Testament story for me. Ted Swart – I enjoy the exchange. I think believers and non-believers alike profit from honest debate and discussion. None of us know exactly where the road will lead, but honest self-examination and willingness to hear other views are always beneficial experiences.

  • Jeremy

    Bruce:”I have examined the resurrection as Skeptic has suggested, and while I have come to a different conclusion, I am familiar with the problems Skeptic mentions. This does not detract from the fact that the early Christians clearly believed and stated as a fact that Jesus had been resurrected.”This skirts around the entire issue – why did those early Christians, many of whom were evangelized and not eye-witnesses, believe that Jesus had been resurrected? Just because a group of people treats something as fact, regardless of whether they were in close or distant time proximity to the event, does not make it more reliable without additional evidence. Some evangelical Christians treat the Rapture’s eventual occurrence as though it were a fact, even though it is based on some rather vague and cryptic passages in the Book of Revelations. Most religions treat the events which gave them birth to be factual, does that make them all historically accurate? Your tests for suggesting the correctness of Christianity could be applied to any faith and therein precisely lies their problem (for your proof).”I will say this – that any “believer” who comes to this site without a personal experience like mine will probably leave an agnostic, at the very least. Sorry if this sounds sexist, but this site separates “the men from the boys.” Regardless of the gender of your statement, you also imply some sort of adultness or maturity that is missing from those agnostics or atheists who lack your “personal experience of God” (specifically through Christianity). Again, you assume some kind of superiority to those who lack your evasive and unreasoned faith.

  • RB

    Bruce:But it obviously moves 1.5 billion people to pray daily — five times — and they completely accept a fairy tale that “I have never sensed,” as you put it.In fact, by your own words you are an atheist wrt Islam. You know how it feels to have “never sensed” Islamic faith.So there is common ground here, twixt you and other atheists. I would make the claim that you have never “sensed” Thor, or Posiden, either, and you feel no need to disprove their existence. Why they’re just non-sense gods, right?The only difference between you and an atheist, Bruce, is that the atheist has subtracted one more god from the equation.

  • timmy

    Bruce,Now. You must return the favor and admit that, by this same standard of evidence, Elvis also rose from the dead and frequents shopping malls throughout the mid west.If you believe 2000 year old hearsay twice removed.

  • timmy

    Bruce,Now. You must return the favor and admit that, by this same standard of evidence, Elvis also rose from the dead and frequents shopping malls throughout the mid west.If you believe 2000 year old hearsay twice removed.

  • timmy

    Bruce,Now. You must return the favor and admit that, by this same standard of evidence, Elvis also rose from the dead and frequents shopping malls throughout the mid west.If you believe 2000 year old hearsay twice removed.

  • Myron

    To all the Believers, I pose some questions that I would like you to consider;Think about the answer to all these questions and you may realize why I am an atheist. My rules are very simple. Do unto others as I want done to me. I follow that rule as closely as humanly possibly. I have no personal enemies. I help my fellow human and animal life to live as comfortably and happy as possible. I am extremely happy with my life; I have worked hard and made a comfortable living for my family. I have no fear of dying as I am getting old and realize that my life must end sometime like all the other inhabitants of this planet. I do feel sorrow for those that live in fear of what will happen to them and their loved ones when they die. I only wish they could enjoy their life on earth as I have done. I also wish they would stop trying to convert me. I like the idea of returning to the earth from which I was created.

  • Bruce Burleson

    RB: Yes, I am an atheist as to Allah, Thor, Krishna, Isis, etc. I cannot subtract Yahweh because of my experience. Therefore, a chasm exists between us which will not be bridged from my side, as I cannot deny what I have seen. Unless and until my journey reveals to me that my “Duckphup filter” is deceiving me, then I will continue on this path. Timmy: My current analysis of the Elvis question is almost grounded in asthetics. Elvis believers are not really serious contenders for the truth. A fat rock star and a miracle-working, righteous, forgiving, loving, death-defeating Messiah are simply not in the same league. Anyone who really, seriously puts Elvis, Santa, and the Easter Bunny in the same category as Jesus, is not truly committed to the truth. I don’t think you honestly see Elvis and Jesus in the same light. Don’t disappoint me. You choose not to believe in the resurrection, and I respect you. I gave up on the court battle – now you need to give up on the Elvis analogy. It’s a loser.

  • timmy

    Well put Myron.The most important point you make that all religious people need to think about is:The question they need to answer is what will their God do with the majority of people on this earth who do not subscribe to their faith but in fact believe something completely incompatible with their faith. If God created all of us. Why do most of us have it wrong?I am an atheist who does not discount the idea of the possibility that our universe (or multi universe) was created by someone or something. Because if feels like we’re being tested. It feels like someone is waiting for us to disccover the answer.What a brilliant concept that power motivated men dreamt up so many years ago before the average person had access to the knowledge of collective humanity.

  • timmy

    Well put Myron.The most important point you make that all religious people need to think about is:The question they need to answer is what will their God do with the majority of people on this earth who do not subscribe to their faith but in fact believe something completely incompatible with their faith. If God created all of us. Why do most of us have it wrong?I am an atheist who does not discount the idea of the possibility that our universe (or multi universe) was created by someone or something. Because if feels like we’re being tested. It feels like someone is waiting for us to disccover the answer.What a brilliant concept that power motivated men dreamt up so many years ago before the average person had access to the knowledge of collective humanity.

  • timmy

    Well put Myron.The most important point you make that all religious people need to think about is:The question they need to answer is what will their God do with the majority of people on this earth who do not subscribe to their faith but in fact believe something completely incompatible with their faith. If God created all of us. Why do most of us have it wrong?I am an atheist who does not discount the idea of the possibility that our universe (or multi universe) was created by someone or something. Because if feels like we’re being tested. It feels like someone is waiting for us to disccover the answer.What a brilliant concept that power motivated men dreamt up so many years ago before the average person had access to the knowledge of collective humanity.

  • RB

    Nobody has yet commented on the condescending tone of this Active Conversation:”Why is Atheism Enjoying a Certain Vogue?”Whoever wrote that reveals two things about him/herself: First is the seemingly incredulous notion that anyone would be an atheist, and second is the put-down implied in the words “certain vogue” as if thinking rationally is a fashion trend.Here’s an answer for the authors: Rational thinking, as opposed to wishful thinking, will always emerge, no matter how dark the current era. Ours of course is dominated by just stupid leaders such as Bush, Obama, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggart and their ilk.Yes, they’ve had their day, and it’s proven to be absymal at every level — except for the money and power they’ve ceased from their subjects — but us rational folks (atheists) will no go away.This isn’t “a certain vogue” it is a relentless search for what the universe is really about. What’s been “in vogue” the past six years is pathetic journalists giving bjs to religious bigots who ceased power.Well, guess what, that vogue has left the station.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Whoa Timmy: You let your atheist guard down in your response to Myron. You said that you are an atheist who does not discount the possibility that we were created, that you feel like you are being tested, that “someone” is waiting for us to discover the answer. What is wrong with believing that Jesus is the answer? There is some evidence that he did everything that the new testament says that he did. Why do you reject him? Why do you hate him? Because of other Christians? Don’t let them stand in the way. Ask Jesus to reveal himself to you. I have, and I am not a sad soul. To All – No one has ever responded in any way to my statements about Sam Harris’ mystical experiences. I believe that you are all ashamed of the apostle and prophet of atheism for having these experiences. You believe that those experiences open the way for an unwanted intrusion of the divine. I challenge you to evaluate your own “Duckphup filters” and see if your own prejudices and biases are not preventing you from experiencing God.

  • Jeff B.

    First, I want to thank people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins for bringing me into the “light.” My skepticism and my agnosticism has been just under the surface. It is now out, never to be placed back in the darkness!To Bruce: I appreciate your candor and civility.To Phillip: You are right. For those who are thoroughly convinced in god and religion, arguing using science and logic will usually end in failure. To them, god is not bound to any laws of the universe. It’s the perfect delusion, insulated from the normal proofs. However, there are millions of people who are not that convinced of god or religion, but who follow both because of societial and family pressures and prejudices. These people would question their beliefs, if given the right time and information. I think the internet will be their turning point. It is up to us to keep up the dialogue.Tom in Austin has it right. We should be terribly concerned for this current generation of the scientifically ignorant. We must stand up and speak up for knowledge–the teaching of our children about science and critical thinking. What does it say about god and religion that 93% of our most eminent scientists do not believe in god. It says that knowledge is the antithesis of religion and belief in god.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson wrote:”When Sam Harris experiences altered states of consciousness, his internal filter tells him that it is not an experience of God, whom he does not believe exists. If Sam is wrong in his belief, then his internal filter is causing him to be deceived, and he may be missing the experience of the divine.”************What you fail to take into account is that truly rational people do not HAVE ‘belief’ filters in the same sense as religious people. I told you about ‘paradigms’ in a previous post. You might want to search this page for that word, and re-read. In any event, for rational people, this does not involve an internalized certainty that one knows the absolute ‘truth’ pertaining to some aspect of existence and/or reality, as it does for religious people. Such a sense of certainty is merely a delusion, since NO ONE is privy to such ‘truths’. Rational people KNOW that that they do not know. Religious people are unjustifiably certain that they DO know.Faith-based ‘beliefs’ are an insidious mind-killer… they cut one off from the open-minded and intellectually honest (willing to question and doubt one’s own presumptions) consideration of alternative possibilities.’Faith’ is a vacuous substitute for evidence. ‘Belief’ is a vacuous substitute for knowledge. Faith + belief = delusion.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: I have lived in other countries where my faith was not predominant (Communist Yugoslavia in the 1970’s, for one). That is simply a consequence of living in a particular place, and it has no bearing on my faith. Right now, Christianity (so-called) is predominant in the USA, and I can understand the consternation of non-believers when “Christian” politicians attempt to impose their moral code on the unwilling. Christianity suffered its most severe defeat when it became the majority religion in the West under Constantine. It did much better as a persecuted minority faith, and that is where it is headed again in the near future. Jeff B. – Hi, Jeff. No, no other god has appeared to me. Yes, the others have it wrong. What did you expect me to say?

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: You said “rational people know that they do not know.” Now we are starting to sound like Donald Rumsfeld. I also know that I do not know, but I also know what I have experienced. Except for your a priori assumption that God does not exist, there is no reason why my experience cannot be valid and Sam Harris’ deficient. What I believe I know is based on what I personally experience. Certainly, there is always the possibility of error, and I admit that. I may be totally wrong. But my experience to this point leads me to believe that I am right, just as yours has.

  • timmy

    One more thing,Most atheists I have encountererd, in life and on these forums, are of the “live and let live” mind-set. But because religion is the very antithesis of “live and let live.” Because religion asserts massive influence on our social and political discourse, we have no choice but to attack the validity of your claims to supreme knowledge, for which there is none. We correctly believe that the onus should be on you to prove your outrageous assertion, rather than on us to disprove it.

  • timmy

    One more thing,Most atheists I have encountererd, in life and on these forums, are of the “live and let live” mind-set. But because religion is the very antithesis of “live and let live.” Because religion asserts massive influence on our social and political discourse, we have no choice but to attack the validity of your claims to supreme knowledge, for which there is none. We correctly believe that the onus should be on you to prove your outrageous assertion, rather than on us to disprove it.

  • timmy

    One more thing,Most atheists I have encountererd, in life and on these forums, are of the “live and let live” mind-set. But because religion is the very antithesis of “live and let live.” Because religion asserts massive influence on our social and political discourse, we have no choice but to attack the validity of your claims to supreme knowledge, for which there is none. We correctly believe that the onus should be on you to prove your outrageous assertion, rather than on us to disprove it.

  • RB

    Bruce,When Harris began describing his Eastern meditative experiences, I’ll admit I found it less than enlightening or persuasive. But recall that he is currently studying these phenomena scientifically as part of his pHD work in neuro-physiology.I’ll listen when he publishes.When I jog, I often (but not always) achieve what is called “runner’s high” — characterized chiefly, for me, as a separation from a sense of time. I’ll be warming up in the first mile or so, glance at my watch and it’ll report, for example 9:28 elapsed running time.Next time I glance at it: 57:15 or similar. Basically, I feel as if zero time, or scant seconds, have actually passed between the two readings. In addition, looking up at the sky, it appears as if the clounds are receding from sight rapidly.This is a wonderful, almost mystical physical sensation and it always makes me smile.It goes away after my cardio-pul system returns to rest. However, what am I thinking during these “lost times?” Often I’m able to figure out a way to solve a design problem (I’m and engineer) in a new and unique way.I just love it, but in no way sense or form have I ever attributed this to the supernatural. Basically, it think it’s oxygen saturation and endorphins…but it sure leads to a meditative-type of state.Highly recommended.

  • timmy

    No BruceOur whole point is not that there is no possibility that a creator exists. But, that without credible evidence, nobody should ever claim to know who God is and more importantly what God wants. To do so is the very hight of hubris and ignorance.You would love it if our argument was that, we know the answer. Because that would make us as incredible as you.You still have’t answered the pertinent question.

  • timmy

    No BruceOur whole point is not that there is no possibility that a creator exists. But, that without credible evidence, nobody should ever claim to know who God is and more importantly what God wants. To do so is the very hight of hubris and ignorance.You would love it if our argument was that, we know the answer. Because that would make us as incredible as you.You still have’t answered the pertinent question.

  • timmy

    No BruceOur whole point is not that there is no possibility that a creator exists. But, that without credible evidence, nobody should ever claim to know who God is and more importantly what God wants. To do so is the very hight of hubris and ignorance.You would love it if our argument was that, we know the answer. Because that would make us as incredible as you.You still have’t answered the pertinent question.

  • Pam

    Sorry I’m getting to this after Bruce has gone, but he asked about science as it is germane to the resurrection, and there’s a point that no one mentioned – medical science is able to speak to what happens to a body after death, specifically what happens to the cells of body, brain and organs when they are no longer nourished by blood and the oxygen it delivers. If more than a few minutes go by, the damage is irreversible. Not to mention that the intestinal bacteria begin devouring the body from the inside. Therefore, to believe in the resurrection, one has to believe in magic and the suspension of the laws of nature. Not likely to stand up in a court of law. Doctors would testify as expert witnesses as to the impossibility of returning body and brain to a functional state after three days. The “eyewitnesses” would also be discredited by their failure to publish for 30-60 years, the possibility that it wasn’t even they who did so, the fact that they had had time to collaborate, and the fact that they had an agenda (they were pushing a religion).I don’t see how Bruce’s case turns out well.

  • LT

    Timmy and some anonymous poster have complained about my examination of atheists’ morality and dogmatism.On Harris’ tenth “myth”: When I wrote, “It is rational for an atheist to only ever be self-interested, I didn’t mean that it’s not rational not be self-interested. It’s perfectly possible for atheist A to be altruistic, but s/he can’t prove that atheist B’s being bad to the bone is wrong. Even if s/he appeals to biology like Timmy, how can s/he prove that atheist B should follow his/her biology rather than break free of it? Atheist A may have very strong feelings against atheist B’s outlook on life but s/he will always be lacking in proof. As for atheists being dogmatic, I dispute the distinction between lack of belief in God and belief in no God. Theism can be equally expressed as belief in God or lack of belief in the idea that no God exists. The admittedly un-dogmatic middle ground of not being sure isn’t included in the definition I found in the Oxford American Dictionary (a dashboard widget), “the theory or belief that God does not exist.” Given this definition, the third “myth” is a correct statement.Incidentally, I submit that people in the middle ground are as vulnerable as people who firmly believe there is no God to the critiques of Harris’ 1st, 8th, and 10th points in my previous post.The anonymous poster also accused me of having “skirted around [my] entire point. Yes, it’s obviously a choice, but what sort of things is that choice based on? You can’t choose to believe in a positive (something) simply because it cannot be authoritatively disproved.” I agree with the last statement. I didn’t choose to believe in God as an adult simply because I couldn’t prove His nonexistence.As for the prior statements, I didn’t go into the details of how to decide on a worldview because my post was getting long, and I won’t now. I will say that the limited, dual purpose of my previous post was (1) to dispute some of Harris’ defense of atheism and (2) to suggest that atheism isn’t some natural, neutral, or default position. It is a *chosen* worldview just like any religious one.

  • cat

    Myron,

  • cat

    typo, meant, Wisdom comes with age. Unless less Your a us President.

  • Kenneth

    As of 5:30, Decmber 30th, Sam Harris has been removed from the panel, I had to link to this discussion by clicking on Mr. Harris’ profile.Why has his column been removed?

  • Cindy

    Bruce wrote:

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: Roman emperors and church councils and modern politicians have so polluted the stream of Christianity that is it almost unrecognizable today. Forget all that stuff and just read the Gospel of John. The Jesus that you find there is a wonderful person. You reject him with all the fervor of a lapsed Catholic. There is no reason to do that. Pam: I’m not cherry-picking and I haven’t abandoned the OT. I just have a different interpretation of parts of it. Jesus was not invisible and out of touch. He was here among us. He doesn’t condemn people for scientific inquiry.

  • Cindy

    As Kenneth asked, why has Sam Harris been “removed” from the panel when the 17 other panelists remain? Surely this discussion has been lively, but it has been exemplified by reasoned discussion with hardly any “low blows” (certainly far fewer than I have seen in online discussions on less contentious topics).

  • Dave Rader

    I certainly owe a great debt of gratitude to Jason Bradfield, his post is one of the first up top.I now have a much better grasp over why conversations I have with people of faith end up so bizarre. I had no idea people of faith actually had such misconceptions about what science is and how it works.Jason, to begin with, no truth can make another truth untrue. If you believe this to be the case, one of the truth’s was never a truth.Maybe Jason, someday you will realize that science is nothing more than the organized, verified observations and the attempt to organize those observations to make predictions about future observations. In other words, it is just the sum of what we know and what we think we might know.Science has no agenda. Science exists as is whether you believe in it or not. Science never recruits nor does it care if you believe it or not. Therefore…Science is *not* the opposite of religion. Science is man’s best tool to understand his surroundings. Science works via probabilities, not truths. Truth is not even an aspect of science. Science says if you know of a better way to understand your surroundings, it will be incorporated and used. Faith has none of these. Science is an open-ended paradigm, faith is a closed system. Nothing knew will ever come from faith. So who would you be more willing to believe, those who get their understanding of the universe from verbally passed down words of “preliterate” people who tell you to believe something, or a group of people who tell you not to believe anything they tell you, instead they encourage you to investigate for yourself?Simply put: If you get your understanding of the universe from ancient stories verbatim, you see little predictability in the universe and all the wonder the universe holds is boiled down to those words. If you get your understanding of the universe from observations that have been verified by people who have no connection to each other, you see the world as a somewhat predictable place and the universe becomes far more wonderful and awe inspiring.Too bad for you.

  • Jonathan Allen, Ph.D.

    Jason Bradfield’s comments do deserve a reply from a practicing scientist.First, unlike orthodox religion, science doesn’t claim absolute eternal truth. It constructs models of nature which explain and predict its behavior. Succeeding generations of scientists continue to refine these models so they achieve ever better confidence and accuracy. Occasionally an existing model is found to be wrong and honest scientists are then glad to correct their theories. Bradfield’s example of the pendulum is a good illustration of how a theory may be refined.The “simple pendulum” of Freshman physics does indeed consist of a point mass on the end of an ideal string, and this is admittedly a rather crude approximation of a “real” pendulum. If, however, one stays in school till the sophomore year, the physics text introduces the “physical pendulum” whose bob may have any geometrically calculable mass distribution. It also includes corrections for another non-ideality called “circular error.” As for inductive methods, I again agree that they don’t lead to absolute philosophical Truth (with a capital T). There is always the possibility that an exception waits around the next corner, especially with a young theory which has not had a long history of verification. For example some of the newer cosmological such as string theory may very well prove deficient, whereas Maxwell’s equations and the laws of thermodynamics are pretty solid. Newtonian mechanics is also solid in its range of applicability. If Mr. Bradfield doubts this, then let someone hurl a bucket of excrement at him (the literal kind, not religious dogma). Will he duck, or stand there confident that since Newtonian mechanics isn’t valid, the foul stuff will probably miss?Mr. Bradfield has a point that some of the applications of science (technology) have been used for ill. It is therefore the duty of conscientious scientists to consider the forseeable consequences of their work and choose employment accordingly. I am an atheist by any practical definition, and I do choose, and refuse, work with ethical standards. And I don’t need a god to tell me to do so.

  • Dirk Campbell

    Coming very late to this thread, I’d like to say that I find Bruce Burleston an interesting and honest mind, as most contributors acknowledge.There is one question I’d like to ask you, Bruce: If you had been born in Saudi Arabia instead of in the USA, would you have accepted Jesus as your ultimate spiritual authority? Answer: No. You would have been just as zealous a Muslim as you are now a Christian, and you would have regarded the Christian resurrection story as a fabrication just as you now regard it as worthy of belief. Assuming you would have retained your intellectually honesty, how would you deal with the accident of birth, apart from attributing it to the benificence of God? Because all Muslims attribute their religious affiliation to the benificence of God, just as Christians do theirs.Dirk

  • Dirk Campbell

    Coming very late to this thread, I’d like to say that I find Bruce Burleston an interesting and honest mind, as most contributors acknowledge.There is one question I’d like to ask you, Bruce: If you had been born in Saudi Arabia instead of in the USA, would you have accepted Jesus as your ultimate spiritual authority? Answer: No. You would have been just as zealous a Muslim as you are now a Christian, and you would have regarded the Christian resurrection story as a fabrication just as you now regard it as worthy of belief. Assuming you would have retained your intellectually honesty, how would you deal with the accident of birth, apart from attributing it to the benificence of God? Because all Muslims attribute their religious affiliation to the benificence of God, just as Christians do theirs.Dirk

  • Dirk Campbell

    Coming very late to this thread, I’d like to say that I find Bruce Burleston an interesting and honest mind, as most contributors acknowledge.There is one question I’d like to ask you, Bruce: If you had been born in Saudi Arabia instead of in the USA, would you have accepted Jesus as your ultimate spiritual authority? Answer: No. You would have been just as zealous a Muslim as you are now a Christian, and you would have regarded the Christian resurrection story as a fabrication just as you now regard it as worthy of belief. Assuming you would have retained your intellectually honesty, how would you deal with the accident of birth, apart from attributing it to the benificence of God? Because all Muslims attribute their religious affiliation to the benificence of God, just as Christians do theirs.Dirk

  • Ted Swart

    Hi Bruce:You write as follows:”Ted Swart – I enjoy the exchange. I think believers and non-believers alike profit from honest debate and discussion. None of us know exactly where the road will lead, but honest self-examination and willingness to hear other views are always beneficial experiences.”Given the kind and thoughtful attitude displayed in these words I have to conclude that you are at least half way home. But in order to get beyond 50% of the way you need to admit that your use of your mystical experience ,as validation of your belief in Jesus and his resurrection, is nothing more than circular reasoning.In the original Sam Harris thread one of the contributors very succinctly pointed out that:”Religion is an accident of birth”. You openly admit that you do not know much about the Muslim religion but you presumably know enough to appreciate that Muslims reject the notion that Jesus is the Son of God and that they contend he did not die on the cross — although they foolishly claim he was lifted straight up to heaven. Now, if you happened to have been born into the Muslim faith and had a mystical experience you must concede that the experience would almost certainly have involved Allah and/or Muhammad. And this is the nub of the problem for believers like yourself.You really cannot honestly say that your mystical experience corroborated your conception of Jesus and his life and death. You simply must be able to point to other reasons (extraneous to your mystical experience) as to why your faith is superior to any other faith. That is a mighty task indeed and you have — up to this point — come up with no reasons which flow from anything other than the accident of your birth. Let me assure you, once again, that if you cease to believe in Jesus as God in human form your life will not fall apart. You will still be honest truth seeking Bruce Burleson with your moral and ethical standards intact — but freed from the burden of having to carry along with you ideas that have have no reality.My best wishes that you can and will move further along the road. As you rightly say none of us knows in advance “where the road will lead”.Unfortunately, electronic interaction has its limitations and it would be much better for us to have a face to face encounter.

  • timmy

    LT: Bruce:Bruce, if you grew up in Saudi Arabia, you would have attached your personal spiritual experience to Mohamad. Don’t you think?And you still won’t answer the pertinent question

  • timmy

    LT: Bruce:Bruce, if you grew up in Saudi Arabia, you would have attached your personal spiritual experience to Mohamad. Don’t you think?And you still won’t answer the pertinent question

  • timmy

    LT: Bruce:Bruce, if you grew up in Saudi Arabia, you would have attached your personal spiritual experience to Mohamad. Don’t you think?And you still won’t answer the pertinent question

  • timmy

    And Bruce, Please tell me your alternative interperatation of the following. Please put them into the context of your interperatation so we understand exactly what you mean by different interperatation.

  • timmy

    And Bruce, Please tell me your alternative interperatation of the following. Please put them into the context of your interperatation so we understand exactly what you mean by different interperatation.

  • timmy

    And Bruce, Please tell me your alternative interperatation of the following. Please put them into the context of your interperatation so we understand exactly what you mean by different interperatation.

  • dirk Campbell

    TimmyConstantine, not Augustus. Sorry to be pedantic.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    TimmyConstantine, not Augustus. Sorry to be pedantic.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    TimmyConstantine, not Augustus. Sorry to be pedantic.Dirk

  • Duff

    Bruce is gone because he had to get to school. I think it the fifth grade.

  • TomInAustin

    I want you all to note Mr. Jason Bradfield’s message. This represents the forefront in scientific knowledge among recent high school graduates. It’s highly likely that he is valedictorian of his high school.He’s a perfect example of why we’re all doomed.I teach various scientific courses at the college level. The undergraduate students that I see have almost no understanding of logic, the scientific method or of science itself. A peer-reviewed article to them is something that is found on the Internet. We are cranking-out an entire generation of scientifically ignorant citizens. This is approximately the third consecutive generation of logically-impaired Americans. Karl Rove’s perfect demographic. I will ask these questions using a standardized form which is all these students can function with:1) What do you want to be?2) What campus club or activity grew exponentially over the last decade?If you want a perfect example of what I think America is and will become more of -watch Jerry Springer. How can you expect to carry on in logical conversation with someone you have to ask to put the snakes down before we get started? The only thing we can truly expect is the tyranny of the (ignorant) majority in larger and larger doses. There is nothing that an ignoramus hates more than an intellectual and they will lash out. (The “fourth” response) Ask Santayana how long has it been since we burned heretics anyway?Therefore good luck my brethren.

  • dirk Campbell

    TimmyAnd I’m right with you about ‘allegorical’ interpretations of the OT.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    TimmyAnd I’m right with you about ‘allegorical’ interpretations of the OT.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    TimmyAnd I’m right with you about ‘allegorical’ interpretations of the OT.Dirk

  • fern

    >Jeff Reed:> Very nice indeed. The problem is how do we all come to understand that in the end we all bleed red?I suspect in the end by all bleeding red. I don’t think such a change is easily accomplished.

  • timmy

    Thanks for the correction on Constantine. I knew that. Brain fart.And Fern:

  • timmy

    Thanks for the correction on Constantine. I knew that. Brain fart.And Fern:

  • timmy

    Thanks for the correction on Constantine. I knew that. Brain fart.And Fern:

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: I really was not avoiding your pertinent question – I thought I had answered it, but apparently I did not post my comment, so I will try to repeat it. I have lived in countries where my faith was not predominant (Communist Yugoslavia in the 1970’s, for one). That is simply a consequence of living in a particular place, and it had no effect on my faith. I can understand the consternation of non-believers who feel that Christians are imposing their moral code on them. I think the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity was when Constantine made it the state religion. It does much better when it is the persecuted minority faith, which is where it will soon end up again.

  • Bruce Burleson

    And I do not have an alternative interpretation for the Deuteronomy passage. That is pretty literal and meant what it said. We are not under that covenant anymore, which is why we call the Christian scriptures the New Testament. In the new testament, our command is to tell others about Jesus and love one another as He loved. Christians have no mandate to kill or harm anyone. All I can say about the OT passages and killing Canaanites is that that was a different time and God was dealing with a different group of people in a way that seems foreign to us today. It simply does not apply to us today. I know you will all have a field day with this one. Have fun.

  • Sybil

    The Earth is not 6000 years old.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Ted: Some people’s religions are an accident of birth, but that is superficial religion. There are Muslims who have converted to Christianity, and vice versa, so it is not universally true. I can give my reasons why I think that Christianity is superior to Islam, and I imagine that an Arab Muslim convert to Christianity could give other reasons. I don’t really think that gets us anywhere. I am at a disadvantage because I was born in a Christian environment, so you will not take me seriously when I speak of mystical experiences. I have experienced what I have experienced for the past 35 years, and I feel that I have evaluated it as objectively as possible. I will continue to do so, and I am sure you will continue to evaluate your own experience. Maybe someday we will meet and discuss it further.

  • Gerry

    To Kerry Craig WalkerYou write: From where do you jump to the conclusion that atheists have no sense of wonder, a conscience of apathy, and similar baseless accusations?It is exactly the contrary: The sense of wonder drives an atheist searcher to find out about the next possible step toward truth, using all “god-given” (excuse me) tools he has: Love, wonder, awe, surprise, error, curiosity, openness to possibly quite unexpected results.What a difference as to human dignity when we compare this mode af action to the stale, boring, obnoxiously immobile, dead and prefabricated, “eternally” unchangeable “truths” the religionists are worshipping!Gerry

  • RB

    Bruce (hi) said:”And I do not have an alternative interpretation for the Deuteronomy passage. That is pretty literal and meant what it said. We are not under that covenant anymore, which is why we call the Christian scriptures the New Testament. In the new testament, our command is to tell others about Jesus and love one another as He loved.”Maybe, but why did St. Augustine sanction killing heretics and St. Aquinas — the great reformer, ha — say, no, no killing, but it’s ok to torture unbelievers until the demons flee their bodies and they repent and receive the lord?Uh, maybe they were reading the OT and forgot to read the NT.The reason modern Christians don’t kill and torture has not come from within Christianity, but rather has been imposed by morality from outside the religion.Don’t forget the Puritans in this country burned witches, and James Dobson today has called for imposition of the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy.So quit pretending that Christianity is just a lovely-dovey little religion. It isn’t.

  • Anonymous

    In response to Bruce, I do not think a trial judge would allow into “evidence” claims that people saw talking burning bushes, talking donkeys, or that dead people somehow supernaturally rose from the dead, for its “truth value” (maybe, however, to civilly commit the declarant :)If you are a trial attorney you are well aware of the line of Supreme Court cases requiring that testimony be “scientifically reliable” and not suffer from any “analytic gaps” else it is INADMISSIBLE.The point is, by modern evidentiary standards there can be no “eye-witness” testimony of the above, hence you have no “legal” evidence to introduce. Hope this helps some on your spiritual journey.

  • hofmann

    This was fun, if a bit dizzying. I enjoyed the fact that no one responded to my earlier post – I’ve never been sure that I am on the right planet. As to I think Judy’s plaintive request about agnosticism, I would offer that atheism says all this God hope is never going to work out in our circumstances, while agnosticism implies there might be a small area of hope remaining. This, of course, is pure personal conjecture. The pro-atheist criticisms of “Sam Harris” have been fun – I called him a “quasi-Buddhist,” and I have yet to be corrected on that score.He took large amounts of psychedelics, and has sat for hours in meditation. I don’t like drugs (alcoholics run in my family), and get headaches from trying to listen to the pounding of my brain. I am against professorial humanism, q then p, lonely typing, and claims to moral superiority. We need no savants in this epochal endeavor – just honest, funny posts, and the world is ours!

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson repeatedly makes reference to the credibility of the independent witness accounts of Jesus crucifiction and ressurection contained in the Gospels. What a hoot. There is absolutely NO archeological evidence to suggest that Jesus actually existed. No writings. No artifacts. No official records. The only non-biblical written references (Josephus, Tacitus) are first of all, hearsay, and secondly, highly dubious hearsay, at that. At least part of the references in Josephus are an obvious forgery, added much later by a Christian scribe.I have seen several comments here where Christians incorrectly state or imply that the Gospels were written by members of Jesus’ posse, who actually witnessed the events. That is absolutely false. The Gospels are NOT independent accounts of actual events by actual witnesses. The First gospel to be written was Mark, just before the beginning of the 2nd century. Matthew and Luke (Bruce: Google for ‘synoptic gospels’) were written a few decades later, using Mark as a template and then inserting additional fictional scenes in which they put words into the mouth of Jesus… words that came from the ‘Q-document’, a lost list of Judaized versions of sayings from the Greek Stoic and Cynic philosophical traditions. Thus, many of the supposed SAYINGS of Jesus (in Matthew and Luke… they are absent in Mark and John) are similar… but the scenes and circumstances in which they are uttered are different (Sermon on the Plain vs. Sermon on the Mount, for example). John, the last gospel to be written, apparently did not have access to the ‘Q-document’, and is even more embellished and discrepant than the others. Earl Doherty (“The Jesus Puzzle”) makes a nearly air-tight case for the idea that NONE of the early Epistles refer to Jesus as an actual historical person from the recent past… they present only a ‘spiritual’ Jesus, who was the product of ‘revelation’, dreamed up in the context of ‘midrashic’ modernization of OT scriptures, under inspiration from the ‘Holy spirit’… an imagined emanation from the godhead, similar to ‘wisdom’, or the Greek ‘Logos’ that presented itself during deep contemplation of scripture, and heavily influenced by zeitgeist. In reading the early Pauline Epistles, it is only when one has their “Gospel goggles” on (Doherty’s wonderful expression) that they can be interpreted as having ANYTHING to do with an actual, existing, god-man. In other words, Christianity is based upon additional, later, fictional embellishments of the hallucinations and delusions of Saul/Paul, moreso than anything resembling actual events.

  • jscan

    Geeez.. thanks for the articulate commentary Sam.. I can’t help but think that the majority of postings here have neglected the root of the situation; I don’t think any of the atheists here truly feel compelled to convert Bruce or any other believer (although they certainly have expended enough keystrokes vollying arguments!). I’m convinced we don’t want said believers however becoming our President (or school board chairman for that matter) and aligning his/her decisions based primarily on their belief system. Here lies the crux of the problem – whether you vote in Isreal, Iran or or Dover, Delaware.

  • Greg

    “There are a lot of very rich Christians in this country while homeless hungry people line the streets of the city aren’t there Bruce.Please do not speak of subjects where you know nothing of; homeless people are homeless because of their choices in life, regardless of their state of mind. People who hand these people their money on the street are contributing to their mental instability as they should be directing them to the many services our nation has paid for in order that they get the help they need; alcohol abuse, substance abuse, psychological help, medications, and the like. While there are many Christians who are capitalists, they are not the only ones who create jobs, investments and more. Anyone with a decent retirement benefits from our stock market and the capitalistic society, which we grow from in many ways, too many to mention. You are being very dishonest to attack our capitalistic society, which created the computer you’re typing on; the lights in your house; your house; practically everything you enjoy in life and partake of. I worked with the homeless population for 3 years, I understand this population and I understand the tree-hugger mentality of thinking they’re doing good by giving money; they do more damage then you can imagine. Many times our organization was on the brink of getting someone help and some jerk would give him or her 10 bucks and they’re off to the liquor store. You’re examples are irresponsible, distorted and dripping with a diseased mind.

  • Greg

    I don’t believe this Bruce chap actually believes all this rubbish. I think he found what he thought was a preverbal hole in the argument that jesus did exist, toward science/evidence to the contrary and has made that his argument by which he holds his faith. It’s rather clever, indeed. Certainly he has had an inordinate amount of attention paid to himself and his ridiculous notion. If nothing more, the argument has assisted many on this particular blog with information regarding this stupid notion that jesus rose from the dead to the extent that he even existed. I would be interested in research that attempts to uncover the background of why people are so willing to believe in this crap, let alone turn their life over to it. When you consider it, the aspect is just astonishing with regard to the populous that is involved and the hoards of money they glean from it all. Does anything else even compare? If a person espouses a religious belief they are diseased within the mind. This is not an issue as everyone has certain levels of disease that they heal to one extent or another over time through various means. The issue is when the disease is so metastasized that it invigorates people to thwart governments, societies, and nations. I don’t believe a person can be rational and hold these religious beliefs at the same time. Their views and decisions will be distorted at the very least with regard to the rest of life. I liken it to being around the schizophrenic and never knowing when he/she will become irrational and violent. I’ve yet to see a case where this wasn’t true. If you have I would be open to knowing more about it. I appreciate the intellectual arguments put forth here; they are excellent for future debates on other sites and discussions. Cheers! Happy New Year!

  • Greg

    I don’t believe this Bruce chap actually believes all this rubbish. I think he found what he thought was a preverbal hole in the argument that jesus did exist, toward science/evidence to the contrary and has made that his argument by which he holds his faith. It’s rather clever, indeed. Certainly he has had an inordinate amount of attention paid to himself and his ridiculous notion. If nothing more, the argument has assisted many on this particular blog with information regarding this stupid notion that jesus rose from the dead to the extent that he even existed. I would be interested in research that attempts to uncover the background of why people are so willing to believe in this crap, let alone turn their life over to it. When you consider it, the aspect is just astonishing with regard to the populous that is involved and the hoards of money they glean from it all. Does anything else even compare? If a person espouses a religious belief they are diseased within the mind. This is not an issue as everyone has certain levels of disease that they heal to one extent or another over time through various means. The issue is when the disease is so metastasized that it invigorates people to thwart governments, societies, and nations. I don’t believe a person can be rational and hold these religious beliefs at the same time. Their views and decisions will be distorted at the very least with regard to the rest of life. I liken it to being around the schizophrenic and never knowing when he/she will become irrational and violent. I’ve yet to see a case where this wasn’t true. If you have I would be open to knowing more about it. I appreciate the intellectual arguments put forth here; they are excellent for future debates on other sites and discussions. Cheers! Happy New Year!

  • Greg

    I don’t believe this Bruce chap actually believes all this rubbish. I think he found what he thought was a preverbal hole in the argument that jesus did exist, toward science/evidence to the contrary and has made that his argument by which he holds his faith. It’s rather clever, indeed. Certainly he has had an inordinate amount of attention paid to himself and his ridiculous notion. If nothing more, the argument has assisted many on this particular blog with information regarding this stupid notion that jesus rose from the dead to the extent that he even existed. I would be interested in research that attempts to uncover the background of why people are so willing to believe in this crap, let alone turn their life over to it. When you consider it, the aspect is just astonishing with regard to the populous that is involved and the hoards of money they glean from it all. Does anything else even compare? If a person espouses a religious belief they are diseased within the mind. This is not an issue as everyone has certain levels of disease that they heal to one extent or another over time through various means. The issue is when the disease is so metastasized that it invigorates people to thwart governments, societies, and nations. I don’t believe a person can be rational and hold these religious beliefs at the same time. Their views and decisions will be distorted at the very least with regard to the rest of life. I liken it to being around the schizophrenic and never knowing when he/she will become irrational and violent. I’ve yet to see a case where this wasn’t true. If you have I would be open to knowing more about it. I appreciate the intellectual arguments put forth here; they are excellent for future debates on other sites and discussions. Cheers! Happy New Year!

  • Pam

    “I know you will all have a field day with this one. Have fun.”OK.There are other passages that are just as straightforward, like the instructions to Moses in Leviticus. Homosexuals, adulterers, disobedient children, all are to be stoned to death. Aaron’s sons offer him incense instead of burnt offerings, and the Lord burns them to death (apparently, while the smell of burnt offerings is sweet, God thinks incense stinks). Women aren’t to be allowed to speak in the temple, nor can they enter when menstruating. A man may not “lie with” a betrothed woman, but if she’s a slave girl, it’s OK, because she belongs to him.Lot is visited by two (male) angels, come to warn him that Sodom will be destroyed. When the townsmen demand that he bring them out so that they might “know” (i.e., sodomize) them, Lot offers them his two virgin daughters instead. This is the man God considers worth saving.You can WORSHIP him??? The OT is full of this kind of thing – mysogyny, rape, killing people (including women and children) by stoning, burning, putting them to death “at the edge of the sword” – all at the behest of the Lord. There’s even a bit about dashing out the brains of children on rocks. Lovely stuff. You can keep your God.

  • RB

    Bruce:You have asserted that no scientific study has disproven that the resurrection did not happen. Two points about this assertion:1. It is false. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that all real thermodynamic processes have losses (irreversibilities) that cause a production of entropy.The three days of decay of Jesus’ tissues, indeed occurring at the molecular level, would have been irreversible. All of the King’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.2. The burden of proof is not on non-believers. It lies with you. Prove to me that God intervened, suspended all the known laws of chemistry, physics, and biology to produce this “miracle.” Explain how it happened.I suspect I’ll be waiting a looooong time.

  • DuckPhup

    Greg:Regretably, I must disagree with you. I think that Bruce actually DOES “bleieve all this rubbish.” I have encountered many just like him. It is very depressing.I think that as religion ‘evolved’, as an aspect of human culture, the people who were the most intimately involved with it began to recognize its potential for influencing people via fear and other powerful emotions, rather than by persuasion.I think that religion started out as an attempt by men to try to establish an understanding of the world with which they were confronted. At the time the bible stories were concocted, the perception was that the earth was the object and the center of creation. Why? Because they had no reason to think otherwise. Today, as we advance science, we stand upon the shoulders of all the scientists that came before. Back then, there were no shoulders to stand upon… so they did the best they could with what they had… their senses.They were trying to do what science is trying to do today… trying to understand reality. Today, we have technology and disciplined meta-procedures (scientific method) to help us extract answers from nature.Back then, they did not.Today, we have ‘theories’ to provide consistent explanations for what we are able to observe in nature, supplemented and validated by the additional information that we are able to extract from nature by means of our technology, our disciplined methods and our intellectual tools (mathematics, logic). Most of our theories are incomplete, so we continue to work on them… because we know that they are incomplete.Back then, they did not have disciplined methods, and they did not have the technology to extract answers from nature. The only information they had access to was what they could see with their own eyeballs. There was no technological knowledge base or scientific context in which to interpret their observations, so they had to appeal to their imaginations… and the ‘supernatural’… in order to make sense out of what they saw. Actually, what they really achieved was deluding themselves into thinking that they knew the truth. Amazingly, over time, this delusion has become codified, institutionalized, and incorporated… complete with franchises.Basically, early religious beliefs can be thought of as a ‘hypothesis’, concocted by people who were constrained by lack of technology, methodology and intellectual tools… but they sure weren’t constrained by lack of imagination.Over time, the people who were most intimately involved with using these made-up stories to quell the anxieties of their people began to sense a business opportunity… a way to use these made up stories to not just mollify, but to CONTROL people, and to gain wealth and power. It is the BUSINESS side of the equation that has been driving religion for the past 3,500 years or so.Today, Christianity is essentially a criminal business enterprise, based upon fraud… in fact, it is the world’s longest running and most successful Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) scam. The product they are selling is the illusion of ‘salvation’… and the ‘pay plan’ doesn’t kick in until after you’re dead. Meanwhile the VICTIMS (having been deceived into believing that it is their God-given duty) are out there busily recruiting MORE victims. What a racket! FORTUNATELY, it only works on those who are gullible enough, and sufficiently lacking in critical thinking skills, to fall for it. UNfortunately, THAT accounts for about 80% of the population of the USA. (There are a lot more people who DON’T know how to think properly than there are people who DO know how to think properly.) That is why there are a lot more religious people in the USA than there are ‘Free-thinkers’… including Atheists. Also, Christians are generally too dense to realize that proselytizing (spreading the ‘good news’) is a key element of the Christian MLM MARKETING PLAN, which was instituted after Christianity lost the political power that had previously allowed them to simply torture and kill anybody who did not comply. Now, they merely pester and annoy people to death, through persistent obnoxiousness. If you stop to think about it, you will realize that Christians are very much like the Borg, on Star Trek Next Generation: “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” I would not be surprised to learn that thoughts of Christianity provided the ‘creative spark’ for the Borg concept.Interestingly, statistics on supernatural beliefs count the USA on a par with backward, developing Third World nations, rather than among modern, advanced, wealthy industrial powers.Remember where I said that that scientists (metaphorically) stand “ON the shoulders” of all who came before? Well, that’s just the scientists. Religious people are not “standing on the shoulders” of anybody… they are standing “in the sandals” of an ignorant bunch of Bronze Age fishermen and peritatetic goat herders, and basing their world-view in their myths, superstitions, fairy tales and fantastical delusions.

  • John M.

    I have to agree with the Rabbi regarding a common belief system among most atheists. As I list these, you will some obvious parallels to organized religions throughout the world. 1. THERE IS A CREATION STORY. (It is called Evolution.)2. THIS CREATION STORY CANNOT BE VERIFIED. (No one was around back then, so we can never be sure any creation story is completely true.)3. THIS CREATION STORY REQUIRES FAITH. (There is no evidence to prove evolution ever happened. That system is a series of suppositions, one built on another. Just as faith is required to believe a Creator exists, faith is required to believe that everything came to exist without an Intelligent Being, by pure random chance.)4. THIS BELIEF SYSTEM HAS A LEADER OR FOUNDER. (His name was Charles Darwin.)5. THERE IS A TEXT THAT GUIDES THE FAITHFUL. (Darwin’s foundational text is Origin of the Species.)6. THERE ARE CONTEMPORARY TEACHERS AND LEADERS WHO ATTEMPT TO ADD INSIGHT AND GUIDE THE FAITHFUL. (These include Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Steven J. Gould, who all wrote tomes that are often regarded among atheists on the same level as Darwin’s original work.)7. SUBSCRIBERS FEEL THEIR TRUTH IS THE ONLY TRUTH, AND ALL OTHERS ARE WRONG. (Most atheists are intolerant of other views of creation. They speak in absolute terms about the certainty of their belief system, to the exclusion of all other belief systems.)8. THERE IS A CONCERTED EFFORT TO SHARE THIS BELIEF SYSTEM. (It is not enough to adhere to this system. Adherents feel the need to share this belief system with others, in an effort to enlighten those around them.)9. SOME FOLLOWERS FORCE THEIR VIEWS ON THE PUBLIC, THROUGH APPEALS TO THE GOVERNMENT. (This includes attempts to remove all displays of other religions in our schools, government buildings and currency, as well as the successful act of legally banning the teaching any competing theory of creation in our public schools.)10. SOME ADHERENTS ARE MOVED TO VIOLENT EXTREMISM. (Hitler was inspired by Nietzsche and Darwin. He was attempting to accelerate ‘Survival of the Fittest’. Stalin and Mao Tse Tung followed suit, creating evil atheistic tyrannies. This can happen when any or all of the above nine concepts are present.)I submit this for your consideration.

  • John M.

    I am SO SORRY. I meant to post this response to another panelist, on another page. It is a thread that is more tolerant and civil that this thread. Please dismiss my posting. It is out of context with this discussion. Sorry again.

  • Linda Joy

    If Sam Harris takes the time to read all of this and gets to my email, I just want to say Thank You So Much for your book, End of Faith. It really gave me the comfort of knowing that I am not alone in the thoughts I have had about religion for a long time. Two other comments- I am currently reading a book called The Christ Conspriacy by Acharya S. It’s an excellent reference that argues the non-existence of a historical person called Jesus. Also, to the question of how to get others to wake up. I write letters to newspapers whenever religious issues come up. Like the claim that the secularists are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. I wrote about how Jesus got put into the winter festivals in the first place (Constantine 360AD gave Jesus Mithras’ birthday of Dec. 25th). I found that writing letters to newspapers is a good way to keep the conversation going. Sam Harris’s book gave me the courage to challenge irrational public religous statements and put them on the same level as any other statement. Also, whenever I travel, I leave little marker notes in the Gideon’s bible in the hotel rooms. I mark the Deuteronomy 21 passage about stoning disobedient children to death with the remark-“Isn’t God great?!” I also mark the first page of the gospel of Mattthew which gives Jesus’ geneology back to David and then also claims he was born of a virgin and a ghost. I make the remark- “Jesus either has a human geneology or not. It can’t be both!” These are little steps to raise awareness, but if everyone who is responding to Sam’s ideas do these small things, we may have some large effect.

  • RB

    Pam:You go girl!

  • Anonymous

    hello, anybody home

  • timmy

    Bruce.

  • timmy

    Bruce.

  • timmy

    Bruce.

  • timmy

    And Greg:I was correctly pointing out that American Christians aren’t Christians at all.

  • timmy

    And Greg:I was correctly pointing out that American Christians aren’t Christians at all.

  • timmy

    And Greg:I was correctly pointing out that American Christians aren’t Christians at all.

  • Rick

    Paraphrasing Mark Twain on the idea of different religions getting along: I performed a little experiment. I took a dog and cat and put them in a cage together and soon taught them to be friends. Then I added a fox, and soon all three became friends. Then I tossed in a rabbit, some doves, a squirrel, and a hawk. Before long all of them were getting along. Then, in another cage, I put in a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Muslim, a Pagan, and a Salvation army Colonel. When I came back there wasn’t anything left but some bloody rags. “They had disagreed on a theological detail,” Twain writes, “and had taken the matter to a higher court.”

  • Ted Swart

    For Bruce B:You write as follows:”Ted: Some people’s religions are an accident of birth, but that is superficial religion.” I am not in a position — by and large — to judge the level of superficiality of other peoples religion. But, from what little I have gleaned on this web site, your own personal religion is very far from being superficial. But, in the days when I was an Anglican and subsequently a Quaker my own involvement was likewise very far form being superficial. That has not stopped me from becoming an agnostic. The truth is the the vast majority of religious believers stick to the religion they are brought up in. This means that if you are a Hindu or a Muslim you probably don’t even realize you have the option to switch. So, what do you say about Hindus or Muslims? Tough luck that you happened to be born into an inferior religion with a phoney view of God, reality and redemption. “There are Muslims who have converted to Christianity, and vice versa, so it is not universally true.” Certainly that is the case but the Muslim to Christianity switch involves the death penalty so it is very rare in that direction.”I can give my reasons why I think that Christianity is superior to Islam, and I imagine that an Arab Muslim convert to Christianity could give other reasons.” Pray tell what your reasons are.”I don’t really think that gets us anywhere. I am at a disadvantage because I was born in a Christian environment, so you will not take me seriously when I speak of mystical experiences.”Not at all. I don’t for one moment discount the reality of your mystical experiences. I simply doubt the inferences you draw from these experiences. And, if you were a convert from Hinduism or Islam to Christianity I would feel exactly the same. “I have experienced what I have experienced for the past 35 years, and I feel that I have evaluated it as objectively as possible.”Very interesting indeed. One of the greatest Christian mystics was Meister Eckhart whose mystic experiences led him to adopt unorthodox views — so much so that he was posthumously excommunicated by the church. “I will continue to do so, and I am sure you will continue to evaluate your own experience. Maybe someday we will meet and discuss it further.”A face to face meeting might well prove very interesting.

  • RB

    Linda: right on. I don’t travel much, but I’ll remember next time I do, to do what you are doing, good idea. As described above, I’m also confronting religious bigots nowadays, no longer tolerating them in silence. Their feeble arguments are like swiss cheese.

  • Mark Eaton

    Sam:I would suggest that you demonstrate just how effectively you can shred the defenses of believers by debating one. I suggest you debate any one of the following belivers:John Ankerberg

  • Tonio

    “I don’t think any of the atheists here truly feel compelled to convert Bruce or any other believer (although they certainly have expended enough keystrokes vollying arguments!). I’m convinced we don’t want said believers however becoming our President (or school board chairman for that matter) and aligning his/her decisions based primarily on their belief system.”JScan, I agree. Remember Muhammed Ali’s famous quote, “No Viet Cong ever called me n*****”? My version is, “No atheist ever called me hell-bound.” That is a huge reason that I consider myself an “atheist sympathizer.” On this site, I have read posts by some atheists who call believers stupid and ignorant. I condemn such language as not only inexcusably rude, but also counterproductive to rational dialogue. The important distinction is that those particular atheists are not threatening believers with eternal damnation if they do not recant their beliefs.Michael Newdow correctly pointed out that “under God” does not belong in the Pledge of Allegiance, although I disagree with his tactic of trying to make the entire Pledge unconstitutional. Newdow did not call for changing the phrase to “under no god.” I favor returning to the pre-1954 wording, which did not endorse any particular religious belief.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Back to basics. The issue is whether Jesus rose from the dead. If that happened, Christianity has an historical and rational basis in fact. If it did not happen, Christianity is a lie. Paul lists witnesses to the resurrection in I Corinthians 15. A fair reading of the passage indicates that he is discussing a physical person who was crucified, who died, who was buried, who physically rose from the dead, and who was seen by others. This was the uniform testimony of the apostles – that Jesus rose from the dead and that they saw him afterward. It is presented as an historical event. Whether or not a person accepts this testimony, it is some evidence of the resurrection. If acceptance of this testimony were purely a matter of science, logic and reasoning, then I would have to agree with David Hume and with most of you that it is more likely than not that there is some other explanation for this story than an actual resurrection. But faith is not purely a matter of science, logic and reasoning. It does need to have factual basis, or it becomes mere superstition. But the mystical experience of true faith, while based in historical fact, is an experience that is beyond the mind.Sam Harris gives an account in “The End Of Faith” of mystical experiences that he has had while meditating. He has experienced an altered state of consciousness similar to that achieved by Hindu gurus. I do not doubt his experience. My experience is somewhat different. I experience an altered state of awareness and consciousness in my private devotions with God. In that experience, the new testament story becomes alive to me, as though I were communicating through its words with a person on the other side (like these posts, only with an extra dimensionality). I do not hear audible voices, nor do I hallucinate. However, I do become acutely aware of the presence of one who is communicating with me, whom I understand to be Jesus. One of the results of experiences like this is “faith” in the scriptural accounts, which become alive to me and which I experience as part of my own life. There are many other inward benefits of this experience, but faith, which transcends rationality even though it is based in fact, becomes a reality to me – it becomes part of who I am. It would be just as difficult for me to deny the existence of my mother as it would be for me to deny the existence of the God with whom I commune. For those of you who hope to destroy religion with science, reason and logic, you will find people like me to be hopeless cases. You will just have to tolerate us (unless you have more nefarious plans for us). I do not intend to impose my worldview on anyone politically or ecclesiastically or in any other way. But I am telling all non-believers that there are those who experience something inward and personal (just as Sam Harris does on his own level) that transcends rationality. You may rationalize this and call it a mental disease. But my own faith has an objective basis in evidence (the new testatment) and a subjective experience that confirms that evidence in me. Jesus is presented as actually alive, and I experience him in that way. It has nothing to do with popes or churches or politics or money or organized religion or what I was taught as a child (as I was never taught anything about this form of experience). So do not get overly optimistic about eliminating faith. It will never happen.

  • Mad Love

    I personal see a lot more need for spirituality and usefulness for myth than Sam Harris does, but MAN am I glad he’s out there with his message. When I first saw him on C-Span it was a revelation… I was thinking to my self “We’re allowed to say this stuff out loud?”Hahaha, Go Sam!

  • Robert Perovich

    In response to John M.1. THERE IS A CREATION STORY. Evolution is based on objective evidence, not on speculation by the writers of the Bible, who were equally convinced that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe.2. THIS CREATION STORY CANNOT BE VERIFIED. Evolution was verified by a mountain of fossil evidence and the understanding of genetics.3. THIS CREATION STORY REQUIRES FAITH. The only requirement is accepting the blind faith from over 2000 years ago may be false, as they were in their understanding of the Earth and the universe. 4. THIS BELIEF SYSTEM HAS A LEADER OR FOUNDER. Darwin was as much of a “leader” or “founder” as Copernicus, Galileo, or Einstein.5. THERE IS A TEXT THAT GUIDES THE FAITHFUL. It is called science textbooks.6. THERE ARE CONTEMPORARY TEACHERS AND LEADERS WHO ATTEMPT TO ADD INSIGHT AND GUIDE THE FAITHFUL. This includes all science teachers, as well as the most eminent scientists in the world.7. SUBSCRIBERS FEEL THEIR TRUTH IS THE ONLY TRUTH, AND ALL OTHERS ARE WRONG. Scientists admit they are wrong when evidence proves it. Religious faith is so dogmatic, they rarely admit they are wrong. Atheists are perceived as intolerant when they reject false belief. Galileo was perceived as intolerant to the dogmatic belief that the Earth is the center of the universe, and was persecuted by the devout relgionists.8. THERE IS A CONCERTED EFFORT TO SHARE THIS BELIEF SYSTEM. This is called public education of science.9. SOME FOLLOWERS FORCE THEIR VIEWS ON THE PUBLIC, THROUGH APPEALS TO THE GOVERNMENT. Again this is called public education of science. Creationism, a religious belief based on no evidence, cannot be taught in public schools because of the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion).10. SOME ADHERENTS ARE MOVED TO VIOLENT EXTREMISM. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung, were inspired by atheism the way Charles Manson was inspired by the Beatles. Hitler used Christian-based anti-semitism, not atheism, to justify the extermination of Jews. Hitler’s was raised Catholic and his religious beliefs are disputible as he frequently contradicted himself with his public statements. Atheism has none of the characteristics of organized religions. Nonbelievers of religious dogma are not at all organized as the members of the Churches, Temples or Mosques. Atheists are as well organized as the as the non-astrologers and alien abduction deniers. But we all belong to the acknowledgement that the creation of the universe and life on Earth is an open question to be studied by objective evidence, and not supernatural speculation. And we are not dogmatic because we accept the reality that no one has the answer yet. Thank you Sam Harris for two well-written books that provide a logical, reasonable, and common sense approach to the absurdities of religious dogma.Happy New Year to all.

  • Jeff Reed

    Fern:

  • BGone

    LT, you haven’t separated belief in God from belief in religion. They’re two radically different things. God and the Bible is God’s word must both be true for Christian religion to be true. There can be a God and the Bible not the word of God.In fact, the Bible is a proved hoax. It’s worse than that. The modern specification for God doesn’t come close to the best one derivable from the Bible. The best interpretation of the Bible, 1501 by number, Atheists don’t believe in God. What is a person who doesn’t believe in religion, any religion? Is that person also required to not believe in God?

  • Anonymous

    Bruce Burleson wrote: “Sam Harris gives an account in “The End Of Faith” of mystical experiences that he has had while meditating. He has experienced an altered state of consciousness similar to that achieved by Hindu gurus. I do not doubt his experience. My experience is somewhat different. I experience an altered state of awareness and consciousness in my private devotions with God. In that experience, the new testament story becomes alive to me, as though I were communicating through its words with a person on the other side (like these posts, only with an extra dimensionality). I do not hear audible voices, nor do I hallucinate. However, I do become acutely aware of the presence of one who is communicating with me, whom I understand to be Jesus. One of the results of experiences like this is “faith” in the scriptural accounts, which become alive to me and which I experience as part of my own life. There are many other inward benefits of this experience, but faith, which transcends rationality even though it is based in fact, becomes a reality to me – it becomes part of who I am. It would be just as difficult for me to deny the existence of my mother as it would be for me to deny the existence of the God with whom I commune.”*****************Think back to a previous post, which you admitted “… required much thought”. It had to do with certain internalized ‘filters’… among them ‘beliefs’… the output of which is one’s ‘subjective reality’. Can you not see that your comments, above, serve to illustrate what i was saying? Altered states of consciousness are common, in conjunction with meditation, intense prayer, deep contemplation of art or nature or music, chanting and rythmic dancing, and in other human endeavors involving deep focus and attention. Your INTERPRETATION of the meaning and significance of your own subjective experiences is ENTIRELY a function of those internal filters… primarily ‘beliefs’… although ‘misconceptions’ and ‘prejudices’ undoubtedly play a roll, as well.So, you are taking an experience that is essentially the physiological equivalent of that which could otherwise be achieved by immersing yourself in bongo-drum rhythms, or contemplating your navel, and coupling it with the faith-based delusion that such experiences mean you are in direct communion with the master of the universe.Get a grip.

  • DuckPhup

    Apologies… I failed to complete the ‘name’ field in my last post.

  • Jeff Reed

    To Fern:

  • Greg

    “But faith is not purely a matter of science, logic and reasoning. It does need to have factual basis, or it becomes mere superstition. But the mystical experience of true faith, while based in historical fact, is an experience that is beyond the mind.”This statement is astonishing in what it reveals, which Philip picks up, spot on and discusses; excellent job!I was an individual who was raised catholic, sent to catholic school, etc. By 3rd grade I somehow came to the understanding within that it was rubbish, to the chagrin of my parents, mainly because I felt the need to tell everyone I knew and ask them to test it for themselves. LOL! Precocious as I was. I abandoned religion and all it precepts. Years later I went to college, studied various religions as part of the curriculum, engaged in the New Age phenomena, actually thought myself able to “channel” etc. Turns out it was all rubbish again. What did happen for me was this: I accepted that I was an adult, not a child; I accepted that I was responsible for my life choices; I accepted that I was accountable for my actions – no one and no thing was going to “save me” from whatever choices I made. When this happened, I no longer needed a god, an angel, or whatever other superstition one might engage in to “look after me” and to “take care of me”. This is a stance of being a victim; once a person evolves past this victimization they truly have no other choice but to abandon religion, new age, and the like because you come to realize the reality of the life you are living. Science has opened up the world to me in ways that NONE of the other religions, new age, superstitions EVER did. No bible. No crystals. No astrology. Just the facts. Black and White in my face, look at the experiments, see their result. Observation is THE most powerful tool science and the individual has at their disposal. You really can only accept or dispel something upon your own personal research into any subject matter. You cannot take another’s word for it; you cannot accept only one text as reason for logic; you must mature in every way lest you stay trapped in a development stage prior to adulthood that renders you helpless to reach potential.

  • Greg

    “But faith is not purely a matter of science, logic and reasoning. It does need to have factual basis, or it becomes mere superstition. But the mystical experience of true faith, while based in historical fact, is an experience that is beyond the mind.”This statement is astonishing in what it reveals, which Philip picks up, spot on and discusses; excellent job!I was an individual who was raised catholic, sent to catholic school, etc. By 3rd grade I somehow came to the understanding within that it was rubbish, to the chagrin of my parents, mainly because I felt the need to tell everyone I knew and ask them to test it for themselves. LOL! Precocious as I was. I abandoned religion and all it precepts. Years later I went to college, studied various religions as part of the curriculum, engaged in the New Age phenomena, actually thought myself able to “channel” etc. Turns out it was all rubbish again. What did happen for me was this: I accepted that I was an adult, not a child; I accepted that I was responsible for my life choices; I accepted that I was accountable for my actions – no one and no thing was going to “save me” from whatever choices I made. When this happened, I no longer needed a god, an angel, or whatever other superstition one might engage in to “look after me” and to “take care of me”. This is a stance of being a victim; once a person evolves past this victimization they truly have no other choice but to abandon religion, new age, and the like because you come to realize the reality of the life you are living. Science has opened up the world to me in ways that NONE of the other religions, new age, superstitions EVER did. No bible. No crystals. No astrology. Just the facts. Black and White in my face, look at the experiments, see their result. Observation is THE most powerful tool science and the individual has at their disposal. You really can only accept or dispel something upon your own personal research into any subject matter. You cannot take another’s word for it; you cannot accept only one text as reason for logic; you must mature in every way lest you stay trapped in a development stage prior to adulthood that renders you helpless to reach potential.

  • Greg

    “But faith is not purely a matter of science, logic and reasoning. It does need to have factual basis, or it becomes mere superstition. But the mystical experience of true faith, while based in historical fact, is an experience that is beyond the mind.”This statement is astonishing in what it reveals, which Philip picks up, spot on and discusses; excellent job!I was an individual who was raised catholic, sent to catholic school, etc. By 3rd grade I somehow came to the understanding within that it was rubbish, to the chagrin of my parents, mainly because I felt the need to tell everyone I knew and ask them to test it for themselves. LOL! Precocious as I was. I abandoned religion and all it precepts. Years later I went to college, studied various religions as part of the curriculum, engaged in the New Age phenomena, actually thought myself able to “channel” etc. Turns out it was all rubbish again. What did happen for me was this: I accepted that I was an adult, not a child; I accepted that I was responsible for my life choices; I accepted that I was accountable for my actions – no one and no thing was going to “save me” from whatever choices I made. When this happened, I no longer needed a god, an angel, or whatever other superstition one might engage in to “look after me” and to “take care of me”. This is a stance of being a victim; once a person evolves past this victimization they truly have no other choice but to abandon religion, new age, and the like because you come to realize the reality of the life you are living. Science has opened up the world to me in ways that NONE of the other religions, new age, superstitions EVER did. No bible. No crystals. No astrology. Just the facts. Black and White in my face, look at the experiments, see their result. Observation is THE most powerful tool science and the individual has at their disposal. You really can only accept or dispel something upon your own personal research into any subject matter. You cannot take another’s word for it; you cannot accept only one text as reason for logic; you must mature in every way lest you stay trapped in a development stage prior to adulthood that renders you helpless to reach potential.

  • Anonymous

    In response to LT:”*Merely rejecting religious beliefs is not my normal understanding of atheism. My understanding of an atheist is one who feels confident that there is no God. Since one cannot prove God’s nonexistence, such confidence can only be dogmatic.” The definition of atheism is the lack of belief in a god. As others have done, you can get into the nuances of strong/weak atheism, but this is at it’s core. As has already been pointed out in this thread and in Harris’s and Dawkin’s own books, however, is that you can’t disprove a negative, i.e. that god doesn’t exist, the same you can’t prove that Santa doesn’t exist (to use a previous poster’s analogy). But this mere fact doesn’t make Santa’s existence probable or even likely. “*This is a very narrow definition of spiritual experience. The statement is true only if there is no personal God to experience. If there is a God, then an atheist who feels confident He doesn’t exist is definitionally unable to experience Him.”You confine spiritual experiences to experiences of god. Yet, wouldn’t you describe a Buddhist’s meditation as some form of spiritual exploration/experience? No God is necessary there. I don’t quite agree with Sam’s odd segue in this area, but God is not necessary for the spiritual. “It is rational for an atheist to only ever be self-interested. We can find that self-interest repugnant, we can’t prove it’s wrong. If on the other, there is a God and the Bible is His Word, we can prove self-interest is wrong.”Not true. Are atheists incapable of caring for their children or loved ones more than themselves? As Dawkins points out, atheists could even be more caring about their impact to others in this life since they don’t believe in any afterlife to have further experiences or see injustice righted. Christianity hardly proves self-interest wrong since the salvation of the individual is at the heart of it. Each Christian is foremost concerned with the eternal salvation of their immortal soul, whose salvation can be achieved (depending on the sect) by faith alone or by faith with works. For the Christians who believe that salvation can be achieved through faith alone (as many Protestant sects do), self-interest is most definitely a factor. “And now let me propose a fourth line to defend Christian belief: I can’t prove I’m right, but neither can any atheist prove there is no God. We do not simply surrender to a demonstrative proof of a worldview; such proofs don’t exist. Instead, we *choose* to believe in Christ or in atheism or in something else, and that choice matters.”You skirted around your entire point. Yes, it’s obviously a choice, but what sort of things is that choice based on? You can’t choose to believe in a positive (something) simply because it cannot be authoritatively disproved – like believing in Santa Clause because his existence cannot be authoritatively disproved. Everyone has a choice, but it’s the justification for that choice that matters most of all.

  • Rick

    In response to Martin’s request to hear from teachers, I teach college writing and literature, and I often teach a course called Writing in the Sciences. For their first formal paper I ask students to write a position essay on whether creationism should be taught as a science in our public schools. I stress that the issue is teaching it as science, not philosophy or literature or history–strictly science. If they argue that creationism is indeed a science, students must convince me how it meets the scientific paradigm. Usually, about two-thirds argue it is not a science. The argument often taken by the one-third claiming that it is a science is “equal time”; that is, equal time to evolution. These students claim that education must put all the ideas out there for young people to see. Most of these students turn out to be devout Christians. If I ask them if the hundreds of other creation stories should be added to the educational buffet, they are often silent. Sometimes one will argue that America is a Christian country and that only the Biblical Creationism should be taught. If I then ask them if the laws of physics,chemistry, and biology vary from country to country they usually just stare at me. Although few will admit it, these devout students don’t just want equal time, they want the entire time.

  • Skeptic in Tallahassee

    To Bruce Burleson:As I indicated in my previous post, the belief that Jesus rose from the dead is based on reports from men who lived nearly 2000 years ago, very few in number and very poor in quality, evidence which pales in comparison to the evidence from the accumulated knowledge of human physiology and the billions of observations that people who die do remain dead. I specified the flaws in the ancient reports and speculated how your belief is most likely based on wishful thinking, the wish that you too will one day be brought back to life from the dead. I suspect that your “subjective evidence” involves this process of wishful thinking. However, your “subjective evidence” may simply fade away once you deal honestly with the objective evidence.As Carl Sagan once said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The Biblical reports surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion and its aftermath are quite poor, let alone extraordinary. I doubt that you would ever accept the “heresay” of a few people to support a significant claim if it were in an area of your life other than the religious one.I have a project to suggest to you, one that I actually completed myself. Set up a table in which you attempt to align the events from the four Gospels, those events described from the point in time that Jesus is presented to Pilate. Take note of the contradictions and dicrepancies in the different narratives. Tabulate whether major details are specified in one, two, three, or all four Gospels. Attempt to give explanations for the differences in the accounts. This will be an mind-opening experience! If you diligently and honestly carry out this task, you are likely to come to the conclusion that nobody who thinks rationally can conclude that the alleged resurrection of Jesus actually occurred.

  • Al

    Dear Jason Broderfield,Al.

  • E. Favorite

    To Howard Pepper:You say, ” In response to the question if Sam had seen “…anyone from the religious community actually come to realize the truth…?” I will step forward (and I know quite a few others).”Let’s hear from them – on this forum and however else they can be mobilized.

  • Peter M.

    As to belief in the resurrection of Christ, which Mr. Burleson espouses, imagine that you were sitting on a jury and the witness said — “yeah, about 50 years ago, or at least according to my friend Barney, who knew Nat about ten years ago, who knew Todd about 35 years ago, this guy had a .38 caliber . . .”. — do you see where I’m going with this? This is the type of evidence that Christians base their beliefs on. Dated evidence; hearsay upon hearsay, and probably motivated by external events (Christian leaders were becoming embarrassed that the end times forecast by Christ were not happening).We’d never accept such testimony if we sat on a jury, but somehow this is valid evidence to Christians. (Other religions are based on the same flimsy evidence — I don’t mean to pick on Christianity alone.)Go figure.Nothing like the indoctrination of the young to cement ridiculous beliefs.

  • walter80111

    Bruce,I good friend of mine, a Dutch catholic priest, has the position that we should focus not on the death (and the doubtful and irrelevant resurrection) of Jesus, but on his life. All this focus on what Jesus did, or now does, after his death should not be an issue.

  • timmy

    Bruce:Jesus doesn’t love me. But he clearly loves you Bruce.

  • timmy

    Bruce:Jesus doesn’t love me. But he clearly loves you Bruce.

  • timmy

    Bruce:Jesus doesn’t love me. But he clearly loves you Bruce.

  • Lynne

    Everybody is right, nobody is wrong! Whatever one chooses to believe and really believe is true for them. The following account I posted in another one of Sam’s debates is really true for me:The evidence for Who We Are is well-documented already by quantum physicists at Harvard University. When one prays, meditates, or asks whatever higher source energy you individually choose to believe in, one is really talking to oneself. It leaves one feeling so powerful, centered and calm.There are two great movies out in theatres now I highly recommend: Conversations with God (adapted from Neale Donald Walsh’s book series and The Secret (a documentary about the power of affirmations).Whatever one believes or affirms for him/herself, one gets sooner or later. I have been so astounded how true this is as I have been practicing staying positive. My life has changed. I am feeling so wonderful physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.It is true for me whatever I feel is right for me. I never want to ever focus on anything of a critical nature that is negative and takes us way out of perspective or out of balance. Trying to use words to describe things you feel deep within one’s conscious, subconscious, and superconscious levels always gets things out of proper perspective. Tuning into the feeling of beauty and harmony of everything working together always feels right to me. “The beauty of everything spreads out before me in my view,I wrote a collection of poems on pdf format entitled Everyone’s Right, Nobody’s Wrong! That really says it for me. It makes no sense to keep arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong for we always have to use words to do so. When it comes to the subject of God and religion, I truly believe we cannot mesh with words. It cannot be expressed verbally. It has to be felt in your own individual way. I believe we are all an individuation of this consciousness called “God”. When we “die”, (“death” is only what we call a process of change from the physicality to the spiritual realm) we go from that individuation of multiple roles of expression we each are playing out, to the singularity of spirit or Oneness in the core with God-Consciousness. This is only temporary because we are all living eternal and are all complete as we are in Essence. I have come to believe for myself in our eternal life starting now (not waiting to have it in the Afterlife) our purpose is something we freely choose for ourselves and can create our own future by our own thinking. We are always evolving to become greater, life never stays stationary in one place which is why I can see one would never want to stay in “heaven” all the time because there is so much to learn, so many things to explore and keep on expanding. When we choose to exist in the physical, we are not aware of this singularity consciousness because the physical expression is of a different kind of vibrational frequency. We can only create first by thought, then by word and deed. Thoughts or ideas become things. The process is alot slower. We are all in evidence of that. Anything invented or made was by thought first before the physical action took place to make it. We are here to make the most of our life, to be the best that we can be and have experiences in this physical plane that we all have created together by thought. When we live in the spiritual realm, it is different because we find all creations are instantaneous as we think, it is done at the same time. Communities in that spiritual realm are created by everyone’s thought-forms together. You attract the environment you want to live in according to your own thoughts. It’s the Law of Attraction.This is all being proven now through quantum physics. Life is so phenomenal. Life is to be enjoyed fully by all people no matter what race, creed or nationality they are. Life does not discriminate against anyone or anything.It’s there and it works whether you are aware of it or not!

  • timmy

    Victoria,Unlike most non believers I have read the Koran. It wasn’t easy. It’s very long and you have to read a lot off the sentences twice because of the ancient language. But I had to do it for research so I did.Islam is not currently a religion of peace. If Hitler had succeeded in taking over the entire world, there would then have been peace and order to our world also. I have read the Koran Victoria, and it is the moderate muslims of today who are misreading the Koran, not the extremists.If you go beyond the Koran and read Mohamad’s biography, you will see that Mohamad was indeed a terrorist and every bit the meglomaniac psycopath that Hitler was.No doubt there are people who calll themselves muslims who are peacefull happy people who would never harm a fly.

  • timmy

    Victoria,Unlike most non believers I have read the Koran. It wasn’t easy. It’s very long and you have to read a lot off the sentences twice because of the ancient language. But I had to do it for research so I did.Islam is not currently a religion of peace. If Hitler had succeeded in taking over the entire world, there would then have been peace and order to our world also. I have read the Koran Victoria, and it is the moderate muslims of today who are misreading the Koran, not the extremists.If you go beyond the Koran and read Mohamad’s biography, you will see that Mohamad was indeed a terrorist and every bit the meglomaniac psycopath that Hitler was.No doubt there are people who calll themselves muslims who are peacefull happy people who would never harm a fly.

  • timmy

    Victoria,Unlike most non believers I have read the Koran. It wasn’t easy. It’s very long and you have to read a lot off the sentences twice because of the ancient language. But I had to do it for research so I did.Islam is not currently a religion of peace. If Hitler had succeeded in taking over the entire world, there would then have been peace and order to our world also. I have read the Koran Victoria, and it is the moderate muslims of today who are misreading the Koran, not the extremists.If you go beyond the Koran and read Mohamad’s biography, you will see that Mohamad was indeed a terrorist and every bit the meglomaniac psycopath that Hitler was.No doubt there are people who calll themselves muslims who are peacefull happy people who would never harm a fly.

  • Lynne

    Heaven is only a state of mind. It is no place,”no where” but

  • RB

    Bruce:”A personal experience of Mohammed riding a horse to heaven is not part of the Islamic experience.”I can’t figure out if this statement is simply chauvenistic, condescending or just an expression of a state of denial.Of course it is part of the Islamic experience! It is what they believe happened to their prophet, and there is no difference at all between that myth about the end of Mohammad’s life on earth and the myth you are selling.I had the fortunate experience of living two years in a Muslim country, Turkey. Not a tourist visit, but daily living among the people of a country that is 96% Islamic. They live and breathe this stuff, Bruce, just as you do. You may feel your religion is superior to theirs, but rest assured they feel exactly the same.The eyewitness accounts of his ascendancy to heaven on a winged horse is the “proof” used to validate their belief that Allah had chosen Mohammad as his prophet, spokesman, charlatan, whatever, to deliver His word to the world.There are Muslims who choose a non-literal interpretation of the Koran — mainly because they are trying to square their faith with modernity — but far more who take it just as it’s written, as you do with selected portions of the NT.”Christianity is, at its root, a personal faith in Jesus.”Call it what you will, but it sounds delusional, and no different than other supernaturalists’ delusions.One final point: someone like Bruce and a devote Muslim would find it nearly impossible to have a reasonable conversation about anything, if they could even speak to each other.It is interesting that after nearly four years — and having vanquished his main enemy, Saddam — grand ayatollah Sistani still refuses to meet with any U.S. official. He doesn’t talk to infidels. He doesn’t get his hands dirty. He doesn’t sit with swine, which is what devote Muslims think of non-Muslims.Oh it IS a personal faith, Bruce, very personal.

  • Anonymous

    I am always somewhat amused, and perhaps a little amazed at other people’s willingness to try to engage around the tenants of a religious belief system. Those kind of beliefs are delusions and as such do not really respond to logical argument. Just try to talk a person with schizophrenia out of her/his delusion. I do think it’s important to keep in mind that during the time that Christian ideas were being created, people had little understanding of basic scientific principles. Therefore what people may have thought of as resurrection could just as well have been a person coming out of a coma. And someone walking again after being unable to could just as well have been someone recovering from hysterical paralysis, which has no underlying physical cause. When we want to see a miracle we often will because our minds are made that way. But wishful thinking doesn’t make it true, it just reveals something about the person doing the wishing. Those who hold on to the belief that there’s a paternal entity watching over us and giving us the chance for immortality are those who are too scared of facing our own limitations and perhaps feeling uncertain of their own abilities to make it in this world. It’s kind of pathetic and childlike if you ask me.

  • RB

    Tonio:I haven’t used the word stupid, but I have used ignorant, and I meant it.Stupid means lacking intelligence or common sense; dazed and unable to think clearly.Based on that, I would not object to someone describing someone else in a metaphysical fog as being stupid. It seems accurate.Ignorant means lacking knowledge or awareness in general. George Bush was ignorant about the pandora’s box that was Iraq, and willfully ignored tens of millions of people who protested, warning him not to pry open the lid.57 million voters followed his lead. Stupid? Ignorant? Or both?The use of these words may stop conversation with the stupid or the ignorant, but they pose no problem for the rest of us.

  • Laurel

    Theodrivel is good. How about also theces and throctology?

  • Laurel

    A little historical correction to an earlier post: In the US in MA the alleged witches were hanged and in 1 case the woman was crushed to death by Puritan “good Christians” piling rocks upon her.

  • Philip Tripp

    Bruce, I suspect that like me, you have about thiry or forty years experience on this planet longer than some of the individuals that are engaging you. While you and I are on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum, as far as what we believe, your comments this morning at 9:06am were wonderful. Clearly, your words represent someone who has found peace within himself after a long journey. I would guess that anonymous is much younger, and in pursuing his passion, has missed the bigger picture of your comment. To me, you just put your soul on the table for all of us to see, and you very succinctly summarized a spiritual lifetime journey into 3 or 4 paragraphs. I have friends that are as devout as you and I respect all of them because their belief comes from a very deep internal peace. They talk the talk and walk the walk of Christianity. You are in the same place and I admire your openness, especially in this den of lions. The message that I want to impart to you is my journey has also been a long one and I have the same peace as you without any God, Son of God or religious scripture. Most religious people have some how come to the conclusion that atheists are cold, dead inside and/or are lacking in passion. What they should consider is that very few of us were raised in atheist families. Most people grow up with some kind of religious training. By the time we have become atheists we have had a good look at what’s out there. We feel all of the same religious passions as you do, we simply reject all organized religion.I would never try to compare the relative intensity of our experience but I will say that my beliefs answer all of my questions and I feel at peace. That is my religion. My journey has also been a long one and I have made attempts to discover God and Jesus as well as many other faiths. The problem was that when I called, no one was home. If God wants me, he knows my address. I hope that you can connect with this idea. I am open to anything, even today. Nothing I have experienced, that is earth based, is acceptable. It would be so easy if there was a God to explain everything. It just doesn’t work for me. It has been said many times before, but atheists are not anti-religious per se. It’s just that they recognize the inherent defects in all religions and subsequently reject all of them. A true atheist however knows that he doesn’t know. That may be contradictory, but it is part of why we experience such awe and wonder when contemplating the possibilies that lie at the truth. To me the real truth is indeed far beyond anything that our feeble minds are capable of understanding. We perceive ourselves as such monuments to intelligience but I don’t think we really have a clue as to the real truth. For Victoria, I read an english translation of the Koran about 25 years ago while on a six month tour of Europe and the Middle East. After reading the Koran, I concluded that like the Bible, it was written by a primitive nomadic people who had little understanding of the world as we know it today. Their attitude towards women, conquered people and those that don’t follow their word of God was disturbing compared to the attitudes and knowledge of today. I think the reason that “Islamphobia”, as you call it exists, is because a small group of radicals have morphed the words in the Koran into a mission against the infidels which right now happens to be the west. In a decade it might be the Chinese. Any group, regardless of their political or religious slant, that flies planes into buildings and blow themselves up to annihilate innocent people, is going to create a Phobia in the minds of the all peace loving humans. Remember that Moslems, Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus all died in those attacks. How do they justify their act when they undoubtedly killed devout Muslims? Collateral damage? Where do they draw the line then? You should consider that question and not wonder why the west is “Islamaphobic”Intellectually, the educated majority on this planet recognizes that the same passion and peace that Bruce Burleson experiences with his relationship with Christ and a Moslem’s relationship with Allah, are all the same emotion. They are just different paths to the same place. We recognize that it is only a very small and radical group that call themselves Mulims that are causing all the problems. I assume that you are not one of them. Since Islam is the religion of the radicals that brought down the World Trade Center and continue to blow themselves up all over the world, it is unlikely that we are going to be afraid of any other religion. When Buddhist monks start strapping bombs to their selves and blow up shopping centers and kill innocent women and children, then the world will become Buddahphobic. Until that unlikely event happens, it’s safe to say that Islam will be the world’s primary candidate for a religion that promotes violence against innocent people.

  • dirk Campbell

    Well. Bruce, I think you’ve proved one thing to us: it’s damn hard to influence non-rational commitment by means of rational discourse.I’d like to ask you this:If there is an inner spiritual presence that gives your life meaning and you want to call that presence Jesus, fantastic. I have no problem with that at all. It’s true for you because you feel it’s true, and if that makes you happy, well and good. But could you at least consider the possiblity – the hypothesis, if you like – that the phenomenon is not as dependent on the label (the belief structure attached to it) as you think?The psychologist Abraham Maslow called what you have talked about ‘Peak Experience’. He showed that it is something common to people across all belief systems, including religious and non-religious ones, and that it shares essentially the same features: an increased sense of joy and love, meaning and gratitude, humbleness in the presence of something vastly greater, and so on.This experience, so personal and so transformative, may be associated with a belief structure but, as Maslow shows, it is not not necessarily contingent on any belief. It is the experience itself which is in fact primary, and beliefs emerge out of it. The monotheistic religions do not accept this. They have adopted the ‘chosen people’ mindset, which is what makes them, unfortunately, so intolerant, particularly of each other.The only way adherents of these faiths can co-operate is if they put their beliefs to one side as being of less importance than the need to co-operate. This makes them, to my mind, at best, secondary to the deep human impulses of love, joy and generosity described in Maslow, and, at worst, inimical to the future survival of human beings themselves, as pointed out by Harris.Please consider the possibility that the label you have attached to your experience is an inherited construct. Because you see it as unquestionable you use your well-equipped brain to argue in favour of it, whereas you could equally well use the same brain to argue that it is valid in any context!If you say that you have to have Jesus in order to have the experience, it means that what you are really attached to is the label, not the experience. There is plenty of evidence to show that there are numerous ways of accessing your experience without attaching any label at all. A lot more evidence, at any rate, than that afforded for a uniquely incredible event by five writers none of whom even offers any direct personal account.Best wishesDirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Well. Bruce, I think you’ve proved one thing to us: it’s damn hard to influence non-rational commitment by means of rational discourse.I’d like to ask you this:If there is an inner spiritual presence that gives your life meaning and you want to call that presence Jesus, fantastic. I have no problem with that at all. It’s true for you because you feel it’s true, and if that makes you happy, well and good. But could you at least consider the possiblity – the hypothesis, if you like – that the phenomenon is not as dependent on the label (the belief structure attached to it) as you think?The psychologist Abraham Maslow called what you have talked about ‘Peak Experience’. He showed that it is something common to people across all belief systems, including religious and non-religious ones, and that it shares essentially the same features: an increased sense of joy and love, meaning and gratitude, humbleness in the presence of something vastly greater, and so on.This experience, so personal and so transformative, may be associated with a belief structure but, as Maslow shows, it is not not necessarily contingent on any belief. It is the experience itself which is in fact primary, and beliefs emerge out of it. The monotheistic religions do not accept this. They have adopted the ‘chosen people’ mindset, which is what makes them, unfortunately, so intolerant, particularly of each other.The only way adherents of these faiths can co-operate is if they put their beliefs to one side as being of less importance than the need to co-operate. This makes them, to my mind, at best, secondary to the deep human impulses of love, joy and generosity described in Maslow, and, at worst, inimical to the future survival of human beings themselves, as pointed out by Harris.Please consider the possibility that the label you have attached to your experience is an inherited construct. Because you see it as unquestionable you use your well-equipped brain to argue in favour of it, whereas you could equally well use the same brain to argue that it is valid in any context!If you say that you have to have Jesus in order to have the experience, it means that what you are really attached to is the label, not the experience. There is plenty of evidence to show that there are numerous ways of accessing your experience without attaching any label at all. A lot more evidence, at any rate, than that afforded for a uniquely incredible event by five writers none of whom even offers any direct personal account.Best wishesDirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Well. Bruce, I think you’ve proved one thing to us: it’s damn hard to influence non-rational commitment by means of rational discourse.I’d like to ask you this:If there is an inner spiritual presence that gives your life meaning and you want to call that presence Jesus, fantastic. I have no problem with that at all. It’s true for you because you feel it’s true, and if that makes you happy, well and good. But could you at least consider the possiblity – the hypothesis, if you like – that the phenomenon is not as dependent on the label (the belief structure attached to it) as you think?The psychologist Abraham Maslow called what you have talked about ‘Peak Experience’. He showed that it is something common to people across all belief systems, including religious and non-religious ones, and that it shares essentially the same features: an increased sense of joy and love, meaning and gratitude, humbleness in the presence of something vastly greater, and so on.This experience, so personal and so transformative, may be associated with a belief structure but, as Maslow shows, it is not not necessarily contingent on any belief. It is the experience itself which is in fact primary, and beliefs emerge out of it. The monotheistic religions do not accept this. They have adopted the ‘chosen people’ mindset, which is what makes them, unfortunately, so intolerant, particularly of each other.The only way adherents of these faiths can co-operate is if they put their beliefs to one side as being of less importance than the need to co-operate. This makes them, to my mind, at best, secondary to the deep human impulses of love, joy and generosity described in Maslow, and, at worst, inimical to the future survival of human beings themselves, as pointed out by Harris.Please consider the possibility that the label you have attached to your experience is an inherited construct. Because you see it as unquestionable you use your well-equipped brain to argue in favour of it, whereas you could equally well use the same brain to argue that it is valid in any context!If you say that you have to have Jesus in order to have the experience, it means that what you are really attached to is the label, not the experience. There is plenty of evidence to show that there are numerous ways of accessing your experience without attaching any label at all. A lot more evidence, at any rate, than that afforded for a uniquely incredible event by five writers none of whom even offers any direct personal account.Best wishesDirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Should have read Philip’s thoughts before offering my own! Having read them, though, I heartily endorse them.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Should have read Philip’s thoughts before offering my own! Having read them, though, I heartily endorse them.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Should have read Philip’s thoughts before offering my own! Having read them, though, I heartily endorse them.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Should have read Philip’s thoughts before offering my own! Having read them, though, I heartily endorse them.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Should have read Philip’s thoughts before offering my own! Having read them, though, I heartily endorse them.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Should have read Philip’s thoughts before offering my own! Having read them, though, I heartily endorse them.Dirk

  • Ted Swart

    Bruce:You sometimes answer my questions at least partly and sometimes you don’t. Let me at least try to answer your questions”I conclude my Sunday sermon with a question for you. Why would you not want the resurrection to be true?”I suppose the correct riposte is: Why are you so anxious to believe it is true?The actual answer to your question for me is that I neither want nor do not want the resurrection story to be true. I used to believe it was true but came to recognize that it could not possibly be true as I have already explained at some length. It might perhaps be helpful to add that even if the Jesus resurrection story was true what conclusions are we supposed to draw from it? “When you look at the evidence for it that does exist, do you approach it with the sole purpose of deconstructing and destroying it, or do you approach it objectively, with an open mind, seeking to deterimine if the story of Jesus is the truth?”Once again I find it difficult to grapple with the question as phrased. I never really approached the story (evidence seems too strong for me) with any preconceived ideas and certainly not with a view to “deconstructing and destroying it”. I simply came, after the passage of time, to regard the supposed evidence as a chimera. “If it is true, why would anyone not want to accept it, and the hope it offers for eternal life? I challenge you to go look at it again, with a sympathetic reading of the text, giving it the benefit of the doubt. Momentarily set aside all the crimes and injustices that the church and Christians have committed over the last 2000 years, and just look at the story of Jesus one more time.”I have done what you suggest many times and all it does is confirm my conviction that the story is irredeemably flawed.I have tried really hard to put myself in your shoes and, in trying to do so, I am reminded that the Christian religion is not just the resurrection story but all the other bits and pieces of the whole story including the ridiculous fabrication about the fall from grace by Adam and Eve — without which the mythology surrounding Jesus becomes meaningless (as in Adam all die so in Christ shall al be made alive). If you accept the WHOLE story it makes some kind of sense in a mythological world. But once you come to question various of the bits and pieces of the story — as not belonging to the real world — the whole structure collapses. So trying valiantly to focus on and salvage the resurrection story is doomed to failure.Sorry if what I say sounds rough but I really do hope that one day you will not view it as such.

  • Linda Joy

    Hi everyone- Look at the effect Sam Harris has had on so many people! This dialogue is great. One of the problems here, however, is the number of arguements using quotations from the Bible. While that is a good way to point out to Christians (and Jews) the many errors of the writings, etc., the basic fact is that the whole book is mythology. We don’t have any evidence that the events described actually happened. We don’t have any proof that characters in the stories actually said what they are quoted to have said. So we are arguing sometimes about non-existent stories and unrecorded conversations. It is most likely that Jesus is a cobbled together conglomoration of pagan god fables. The claims by the Old Testament writers that the Jews had such major effects on the history of that region just doesn’t show up in historical writings. The big danger here is that we have always had and still have those who are willing to kill others over mythologies. That’s one of Sam Harris’s main points. Oh, and one other thing. If a man named Jesus really existed, walked the earth and did and said the things attributed to him, he wasn’t very nice to his mother!

  • Shemp

    Here’s a good one. Right at this moment thousands of Muslims are celebrating Hajj. They are standing in front of an enormous stone that represents the Devil, and are throwing rocks at it to purge themselves. We, as a species, should find this kind of behavior embarassing, as I’m sure most of those commenting here do.

  • A Thinking BUM

    Bruce,I’ve noticed that there really hasn’t been a direct response to the part of your very first comment that said, “If that event actually occurred, everything that I believe about God follows from it.”People have been arguing that the first part of the statement is false, or at the very least has insufficient evidence to warrant any kind of belief.I am going to quickly run through my beginning argument, but I want to focus on the implication that if the resurrection is true and verifiable, that it helps you out with knowing anything else all that useful.1. What the “disciples” said and did (and even exactly who they were) in and around the time of Jesus’ death is inconclusively verifiable.2. Assuming we can know what they said and did (which is the only possible thing that historical records could actually provide evidence for along these lines) – what they believed is completely unverifiable.3. Assuming that we do know what they said and what they did and what they believed (and that they 100% believed that Jesus died and resurrected) – whether Jesus actually died, came back from the dead a few days later is completely unverifiable. (Note that even somehow knowing that the disciples believed 100%, that does nothing to show THAT it is the case that it happened.)4. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, and believed (that Jesus died and resurrected), and that we could somehow KNOW that Jesus actually did die and resurrect – you’re really in trouble.5. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, believed, and that we know that Jesus did in fact die and come back to life several days later – we are now, apparently, dealing with an “entirely foreign and alien event/being.” This means we’re at a dilemma.The horn of the dilemma becomes the following: A. Jesus was supernatural and his death/resurrection were something that has never happened before, or since, and that Jesus must have some kind of power/ability that is not accessible to “ordinary humans” or If you think B, then you’re not likely a traditional Christian.If you choose option A, then, by invoking the supernatural, all claims become much more difficult to pin down. By what standard do we judge, trust, compare Jesus to? How can we make even the most outrageous probabilistic claims about him?For example, no one could persuasively argue, “Well, clearly, Jesus is a good person/being, that is to be trusted because during his life he didn’t sin and he preached a good moral code.” With nothing to compare these experiences and events with, one has NO BASIS for choosing:Jesus is God-incarnate, died and rose on the 3rd dayoverJesus was the manifestation of the mischevious God that created the universe to see how many people he could fool with a neat trick.or, overJesus was a human body that was possessed by a spirit who is mostly bad, but over this spirit’s life-span of 10,000 years, acting good in a human body for 33 years is an easy trick, plus, convincing people that your host body died and resurrected is child’s play. Hell, the disciples could have been possessed as well, and they just had to play convinced that Jesus came back.The supernatural powers that are required to convince a bunch of people that a body has died, and then is alive again are very minute in the grand scheme of things. This is achievable by even a local deity. There’s not need or reason to assume or even think you can conclude that this creature has unlimited power and knowledge — it’s only (allegedly) demonstrated its power over a very small distance in a very short span of time. Even if I let you have it all the way through, sure, the miracle that supposedly happened, happened. And we’re certain of that. What is the reasonable course of action once a person KNOWS that Jesus rose from the dead? I bet that most people, – even atheists – would say, “to believe Jesus in every claim that he makes” – but that doesn’t follow. There is no reasonable course of action because we’re dealing with a completely alien situation.

  • A Thinking BUM

    Bruce,I’ve noticed that there really hasn’t been a direct response to the part of your very first comment that said, “If that event actually occurred, everything that I believe about God follows from it.”People have been arguing that the first part of the statement is false, or at the very least has insufficient evidence to warrant any kind of belief.I am going to quickly run through my beginning argument, but I want to focus on the implication that if the resurrection is true and verifiable, that it helps you out with knowing anything else all that useful.1. What the “disciples” said and did (and even exactly who they were) in and around the time of Jesus’ death is inconclusively verifiable.2. Assuming we can know what they said and did (which is the only possible thing that historical records could actually provide evidence for along these lines) – what they believed is completely unverifiable.3. Assuming that we do know what they said and what they did and what they believed (and that they 100% believed that Jesus died and resurrected) – whether Jesus actually died, came back from the dead a few days later is completely unverifiable. (Note that even somehow knowing that the disciples believed 100%, that does nothing to show THAT it is the case that it happened.)4. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, and believed (that Jesus died and resurrected), and that we could somehow KNOW that Jesus actually did die and resurrect – you’re really in trouble.5. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, believed, and that we know that Jesus did in fact die and come back to life several days later – we are now, apparently, dealing with an “entirely foreign and alien event/being.” This means we’re at a dilemma.The horn of the dilemma becomes the following: A. Jesus was supernatural and his death/resurrection were something that has never happened before, or since, and that Jesus must have some kind of power/ability that is not accessible to “ordinary humans” or If you think B, then you’re not likely a traditional Christian.If you choose option A, then, by invoking the supernatural, all claims become much more difficult to pin down. By what standard do we judge, trust, compare Jesus to? How can we make even the most outrageous probabilistic claims about him?For example, no one could persuasively argue, “Well, clearly, Jesus is a good person/being, that is to be trusted because during his life he didn’t sin and he preached a good moral code.” With nothing to compare these experiences and events with, one has NO BASIS for choosing:Jesus is God-incarnate, died and rose on the 3rd dayoverJesus was the manifestation of the mischevious God that created the universe to see how many people he could fool with a neat trick.or, overJesus was a human body that was possessed by a spirit who is mostly bad, but over this spirit’s life-span of 10,000 years, acting good in a human body for 33 years is an easy trick, plus, convincing people that your host body died and resurrected is child’s play. Hell, the disciples could have been possessed as well, and they just had to play convinced that Jesus came back.The supernatural powers that are required to convince a bunch of people that a body has died, and then is alive again are very minute in the grand scheme of things. This is achievable by even a local deity. There’s not need or reason to assume or even think you can conclude that this creature has unlimited power and knowledge — it’s only (allegedly) demonstrated its power over a very small distance in a very short span of time. Even if I let you have it all the way through, sure, the miracle that supposedly happened, happened. And we’re certain of that. What is the reasonable course of action once a person KNOWS that Jesus rose from the dead? I bet that most people, – even atheists – would say, “to believe Jesus in every claim that he makes” – but that doesn’t follow. There is no reasonable course of action because we’re dealing with a completely alien situation.

  • A Thinking BUM

    Bruce,I’ve noticed that there really hasn’t been a direct response to the part of your very first comment that said, “If that event actually occurred, everything that I believe about God follows from it.”People have been arguing that the first part of the statement is false, or at the very least has insufficient evidence to warrant any kind of belief.I am going to quickly run through my beginning argument, but I want to focus on the implication that if the resurrection is true and verifiable, that it helps you out with knowing anything else all that useful.1. What the “disciples” said and did (and even exactly who they were) in and around the time of Jesus’ death is inconclusively verifiable.2. Assuming we can know what they said and did (which is the only possible thing that historical records could actually provide evidence for along these lines) – what they believed is completely unverifiable.3. Assuming that we do know what they said and what they did and what they believed (and that they 100% believed that Jesus died and resurrected) – whether Jesus actually died, came back from the dead a few days later is completely unverifiable. (Note that even somehow knowing that the disciples believed 100%, that does nothing to show THAT it is the case that it happened.)4. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, and believed (that Jesus died and resurrected), and that we could somehow KNOW that Jesus actually did die and resurrect – you’re really in trouble.5. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, believed, and that we know that Jesus did in fact die and come back to life several days later – we are now, apparently, dealing with an “entirely foreign and alien event/being.” This means we’re at a dilemma.The horn of the dilemma becomes the following: A. Jesus was supernatural and his death/resurrection were something that has never happened before, or since, and that Jesus must have some kind of power/ability that is not accessible to “ordinary humans” or If you think B, then you’re not likely a traditional Christian.If you choose option A, then, by invoking the supernatural, all claims become much more difficult to pin down. By what standard do we judge, trust, compare Jesus to? How can we make even the most outrageous probabilistic claims about him?For example, no one could persuasively argue, “Well, clearly, Jesus is a good person/being, that is to be trusted because during his life he didn’t sin and he preached a good moral code.” With nothing to compare these experiences and events with, one has NO BASIS for choosing:Jesus is God-incarnate, died and rose on the 3rd dayoverJesus was the manifestation of the mischevious God that created the universe to see how many people he could fool with a neat trick.or, overJesus was a human body that was possessed by a spirit who is mostly bad, but over this spirit’s life-span of 10,000 years, acting good in a human body for 33 years is an easy trick, plus, convincing people that your host body died and resurrected is child’s play. Hell, the disciples could have been possessed as well, and they just had to play convinced that Jesus came back.The supernatural powers that are required to convince a bunch of people that a body has died, and then is alive again are very minute in the grand scheme of things. This is achievable by even a local deity. There’s not need or reason to assume or even think you can conclude that this creature has unlimited power and knowledge — it’s only (allegedly) demonstrated its power over a very small distance in a very short span of time. Even if I let you have it all the way through, sure, the miracle that supposedly happened, happened. And we’re certain of that. What is the reasonable course of action once a person KNOWS that Jesus rose from the dead? I bet that most people, – even atheists – would say, “to believe Jesus in every claim that he makes” – but that doesn’t follow. There is no reasonable course of action because we’re dealing with a completely alien situation.

  • RB

    Linda said this:” We don’t have any evidence that the events described actually happened. We don’t have any proof that characters in the stories actually said what they are quoted to have said.”This brings to mind the whole Shroud of Turin drama some years ago. You’ll recall the Church resisted and then finally allowed a snippet to be tested.There was great anticipation among the faithful that finally Proof would be found, and the glory of Jesus would be confirmed. Alas, it turned out to be a forgery dating to, I can’t recall exactly, but the 16th century or so.The point is that IF some scientific proof emerged confirming Jesus’ existence (let alone the miracles) believers would be high-fiving and praising science at the top of their lungs. They’d be BIG believers of science.It’s really funny, when you think about it. They have only wishful thinking.

  • victoria

    hereis a better one-at this moment in time- the largest gathering of human beings on the planet is in mecca for hajj (the pilgrimage)all united in purpose and coming away stronger in faith- more humble in demeanor- more resolved to be better human beings- more conscious of their responsibilities toward their fellow humans-and renewed in determination to be more effective stewards of all created beings and this planet-millions of these beautiful souls will wash back over the planet to all corners better mothers- doctors- leaders-janitors-where else in this world do we find such a concerted effort? what would drive them to do this? if i see someone who is effective and a winner- i want to follow themEID MUBARAKTHANK YOU SHEMP- without your careless misrepresentation- i wouldnt have been inspired to share this remarkable and mostly unnoticed by americans event

  • victoria

    PS i wish it was me insha’alla one day…

  • timmy

    Bruce,One need not try hard to disbelieve an absurd notion.If someone tells me there’s a flying spagetti monster.I ask you again, why would Jesus not talk to me when I was an innocent 11 year old boy looking for him?

  • timmy

    Bruce,One need not try hard to disbelieve an absurd notion.If someone tells me there’s a flying spagetti monster.I ask you again, why would Jesus not talk to me when I was an innocent 11 year old boy looking for him?

  • timmy

    Bruce,One need not try hard to disbelieve an absurd notion.If someone tells me there’s a flying spagetti monster.I ask you again, why would Jesus not talk to me when I was an innocent 11 year old boy looking for him?

  • John M.

    To BRUCE BURLESON:I wish you could know how encouraged I am to see your faith in action. You have been rational, patient, respectful and unwavering in the midst of condescension and ridicule from some posters. They openly discuss with eachother whether they can ‘convert’ you, but you keep coming back, and you do it calmly and gracefully. You have even earned the respect of many non-believers on this board. I was initially concerned as I watched one lone believer handle objections from many non-believers, but you have endured. Even as they put Him to death, Jesus never gave up trying to show His opponents the Light and the Truth. You are behaving in genuine Christ-like fashion. Thank you for modeling His love so clearly!

  • Anonymous

    1. I do call to witness the Resurrection Day; 2. And I do call to witness the self-reproaching spirit: (Eschew Evil). 3. Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? 4. Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers. 5. But man wishes to do wrong (even) in the time in front of him. 6. He questions: “When is the Day of Resurrection?” 7. At length, when the sight is dazed, 8. And the moon is buried in darkness. 9. And the sun and moon are joined together,- 10. That Day will Man say: “Where is the refuge?” 11. By no means! No place of safety! 12. Before thy Lord (alone), that Day will be the place of rest. 13. That Day will Man be told (all) that he put forward, and all that he put back. 14. Nay, man will be evidence against himself, 15. Even though he were to put up his excuses. 16. Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur’an) to make haste therewith. 17. It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it: 18. But when We have promulgated it, follow thou its recital (as promulgated): 19. Nay more, it is for Us to explain it (and make it clear): 20. Nay, (ye men!) but ye love the fleeting life, 21. And leave alone the Hereafter. 22. Some faces, that Day, will beam (in brightness and beauty);- 23. Looking towards their Lord; 24. And some faces, that Day, will be sad and dismal, 25. In the thought that some back-breaking calamity was about to be inflicted on them; 26. Yea, when (the soul) reaches to the collar-bone (in its exit), 27. And there will be a cry, “Who is a magician (to restore him)?” 28. And he will conclude that it was (the Time) of Parting; 29. And one leg will be joined with another: 30. That Day the Drive will be (all) to thy Lord! 31. So he gave nothing in charity, nor did he pray!- 32. But on the contrary, he rejected Truth and turned away! 33. Then did he stalk to his family in full conceit! 34. Woe to thee, (O men!), yea, woe! 35. Again, Woe to thee, (O men!), yea, woe! 36. Does man think that he will be left uncontrolled, (without purpose)? 37. Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)? 38. Then did he become a leech-like clot; then did ((Allah)) make and fashion (him) in due proportion. 39. And of him He made two sexes, male and female. 40. Has not He, (the same), the power to give life to the dead? Quran Chapter: 75

  • RB

    Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of 6 billion human beings. The same statistics also suggest that this girl s parents believe at this very moment that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this?No. The entirety of atheism is contained in this response. Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle. The obvious must be observed and re-observed and argued for. This is a thankless job. It carries with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is, moreover, a job that the atheist does not want. Sam Harris

  • Tonio

    “But I do know of many moderate believers who have been converted, not to atheism, but to a new personal spirituality. One with an allegorical appreciation for the teachings of Jesus.”Timmy, thanks for your praise. The theme behind all my posts on this site is the importance of personal spirituality, as opposed to group dogma. Now, some people may find their own spiritual meanings from particular dogmas, and I fully support that. I’m saying that it should be a bottom-up process, not a top-down process. When an organization tells people what to believe, it has nothing to do with personal spirituality and everything to do with the organization’s needs.Victoria, I would find the Hajj a very admirable endeavor if it weren’t for Islam’s teachings about war on unbelievers. Similarly, I would find the born-again phenomenon very admirable if it weren’t for Christianity’s teachings about eternal damnation for unbelievers. Why can’t believers “come away stronger in faith” and “more resolved to be better human beings” without regarding others as evil and worthless and deserving of death?

  • victoria

    tonio- dont listen to others- just read the book and come from a position of knowledge-i really hope you are not suggesting such an abhorrent perception that muslims believe such a deviant and evil and perverse and corrupt ideabecause this is not true at all – what a disgusting and bizarre idea- then you can find it admirable because it is-please- i refrain at all times from even the mildest rebukes to anyone regardless of faith or lack thereof-that is such a deeply insulting and baseless accusationit is not ok to make statements like thatthe frame of your statement on war on unbelievers is an islamophobic term ive learned to recognizeplease nderstand that hate and slander and prejudice are ugly from any mouth- i would question my sources that have misled you-i feel like i spend so much energy on deflecting the hate language that i see on so many pseudo-islamic front sites – sadly so many times when i google something myself i end up unknowingly in these sneaky sites as i watch the reasoning turn ugly and strange then i recognize it is a fake site intended to misleaddont let the fear ridden alarmists put words in your mouth

  • timmy

    Amen

  • timmy

    Amen

  • timmy

    Amen

  • Bruce Burleson

    Good Sunday morning to you all. I have read all your comments, and have decided that it is physically impossible for me to respond to them all without appearing to be attempting to draw attention to myself. I will make one post today, and try to bring a few of my thoughts together. First, you are all good cross-examiners, and have admirably pointed out many weaknesses with faith in general and Christianity in particular. It is useless for me to try to deny those weaknesses. On behalf of all non-believers who have been personally harmed or offended by Christianity, I apologize. On many occasions, believers have behaved badly. But I am not defending believers, the church, the Moral Majority, TV evangelists, the pope, George Bush or anyone else. I am defending Jesus. I begin with his resurrection, which Christians celebrate weekly in their Sunday gatherings. Either that event occurred or it did not occur. If there are weaknesses in the testimony (which some of you have ably demonstrated), that may undermine the credibility of the witnesses and may even justify you in not accepting their testimony, if you are looking for a reason not to accept it. It does not, however, decide the ultimate issue of whether the event itself happened. The jury may decide that OJ didn’t do it – but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t. So why do I believe in it, if even I admit that the evidence is not conclusive? You may believe that OJ did it, because you have seen OJ. You see how he acts, his demeanor, etc. This convinces you that he did it, even though he has been judicially acquited. It is your personal experience with OJ that seals it for you. Maybe the OJ analogy is not good for all of you, because you may sincerely believe that he didn’t do it. In any event, you make your decision based upon your personal observation of OJ.My ultimate decision that Jesus rose from the dead is based upon what I personally perceive to be my encounter with him within myself. I perceive that I am communing with and communicating with him specifically on another level within my “spirit.” I have communicated with some of you by e-mail. I have never seen you, and don’t even know some of your names. But I perceive that I am dealing with human beings through cyberspace, and I perceive that you are alive and intelligent. I may be mistaken – you may all be computers – but I don’t think so. This form of communication was not possible 20 years ago, but now it is. We communicate on another level. It would have been difficult to explain this type of communication 20 years ago, or even to have conceived of it for some of us who are non-technical. Yet, here it is, and here we are communicating. So it is with my communion with Jesus. I get the distinct impression that I am dealing with a person, and my life makes sense because of it. I commune with him, experience the divine, understand things about my life, and have a hope and peace that I have not been able to achieve elsewhere. Is this wishful thinking, or am I simply filtering a psychological phenomenon through the filter of religious bias? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I am morally obligated to objectively analyze my experience and not to be caught up in emotionalism. I believe I do that, and you have actually helped me in that process – you have given me some additional tools with which to refine my thinking on this subject. Thank you.I understand Pam’s response to God. All I can say is that I begin my journey with Jesus. If he is the son of God, then all my interpretation of the OT has to be filtered through him. He is the perfect revelation and manifestation of my God, and I do love and worship him. Where you end up usually depends on where you start, to paraphrase Everlast. Start with Jesus, and you end up in a different place.Christianity is, at its root, a personal faith in Jesus. A Muslim cannot say that he has a personal relationship with Mohammed in the same way a Christian has a relationship with Jesus, as Mohammed does not claim to be the son of God. A personal experience of Mohammed riding a horse to heaven is not part of the Islamic experience. A personal experience of the resurrected Christ is an integral part of the Christian experience. This is a fundamental distinction between the two faiths. Judaism does not include such a personal experience, nor does Buddhism, which in most forms does not even include a belief in a god. Hiduism can involve personal devotion to gods, but the historical existence of some of those alleged incarnations is so shrouded in myth (such as the alleged life of Krishna) that they can’t even agree on where to fit them historically. While some of you don’t believe Jesus existed as a person, at least I can place him at a definite time, geographical location and culturual experience. These are some of the reasons I believe Christianity is superior to other faiths. I will not bore you with other reasons. Suffice it to say that, as I have argued from the beginning, there is some objective evidence of the resurrection, and my subjective experience, which I have and will continue to analyze, confirms that evidence in me personally, creating the phenomenon that is referred to as “faith.” That is the foundation of my religious experience.I conclude my Sunday sermon with a question for you. Why would you not want the resurrection to be true? When you look at the evidence for it that does exist, do you approach it with the sole purpose of deconstructing and destroying it, or do you approach it objectively, with an open mind, seeking to deterimine if the story of Jesus is the truth? If it is true, why would anyone not want to accept it, and the hope it offers for eternal life? I challenge you to go look at it again, with a sympathetic reading of the text, giving it the benefit of the doubt. Momentarily set aside all the crimes and injustices that the church and Christians have committed over the last 2000 years, and just look at the story of Jesus one more time. Have a Happy New Year. I’ll check your comments tomorrow.

  • Jan Mashman

    As irrational as religion is, it will never be eliminated as it serves the needs of many people.Sam’s contribution is to open the dialogue.Hopefully, some day, Athiests will come out of the closet and demand the same respect of their beliefs that religious people demand of theirs.The net result will be the separation of church and state which has gradually been eroded in this country. Let’s keep our eye on the most important goal.

  • Tonio

    Victoria, I admit that my source for the Koran is Harris’ “The End of Faith.” While Harris has an agenda, at least it’s not a Christian one. I add that because most criticisms I hear from Islam come from fundamentalist Christians, who seem to me to have an obvious partisan agenda.Harris’ book offers a long, long list of Koranic quotes that appear to endorse death for non-Muslims. You’re exactly right that most Muslims do not believe in such a “deviant and evil and perverse and corrupt idea.” The issue is that such ideas are inherent in the scriptures of the various religions, and that some believers use the scriptures to justify the most heinous of atrocities.I have no agenda against Islam or any specific religion. My only agenda is to defend not my own beliefs, but my right to have my own beliefs in the face of attempt by others to convert me and in the face of threats by others to condemn me to hell.

  • VCITORIA

    well tonio- i doubt that mr harris would especially want- well me for instance or a fundamentalist christian in particular- to define him to the world- i noticed immediately from his first 2 statements that he has a personal emotional perspective that he is operating from- actually one ofmy first posts was while everyone is speaking about being reasonable- looking at facts- weighing things through evidence-so use your own intelligence and go to the source- dont let others think for you- even one with such a big brain as sam harris- i guess christians and atheists have found an issue they can agree on- islamophobia-think for yourself tonio!but you already know that. thank you for your respectful responsegood manners are universal arent they

  • victoria

    sorry tonio- i meant the beginning of the other post by sam harris here is overtly islamaphobic- not this one- in this one he only opened by suggesting that gods friends are dishonest…

  • fascinated

    To SAM HARRIS:I was fascinated by your recent response to RB. You may not fully realize what you have written.Your first paragraph was revealing. You state that the “entirety of atheism” is summed up in that scenario. WOW! Do you see what you’re saying? You are not rejecting God because of science or logic or reason…you reject Him because you could never worship the god you have conceived in your mind. The god you refuse to believe is a cruel absentee slumlord. I wouldn’t believe in that guy, either. You are angry at him, and you refuse to acknowledge that He exists.You say that atheism is “a refusal to deny the obvious”. I could not disagree more. You are, in fact, denying the Obvious. When you watch a sunset, stare at cloud formations, ponder the intricacies of the human body, or whatever in nature fascinates you, you have to suppress the thought that a Supreme Being created it, because you think he would have to be insensitive and vicious. I won’t be surprised if you deny this, because you may not be doing it consciously.You can write as many books as you want. You can talk about science and logic, but the truth is that you are making an emotional choice not to believe. You probably don’t realize it, but it’s so clear to me. You see, I’ve already been there.

  • Jeff Reed

    Lynne:

  • timmy

    Dear Fascinated,First of all that wasn’t a response by Sam Harris.But either way, You missed the point. And the reason he uses a scenario like this to illustrate, is because the most common misperception of atheism is that it is a belief.And rest assured, nobody needs to supress the idea that god created the fascinating awe inspiring things that we see in nature.Your misperception of atheism is pretty clear when you accuse us of being mad at someone we don’t believe in.

  • timmy

    Dear Fascinated,First of all that wasn’t a response by Sam Harris.But either way, You missed the point. And the reason he uses a scenario like this to illustrate, is because the most common misperception of atheism is that it is a belief.And rest assured, nobody needs to supress the idea that god created the fascinating awe inspiring things that we see in nature.Your misperception of atheism is pretty clear when you accuse us of being mad at someone we don’t believe in.

  • timmy

    Dear Fascinated,First of all that wasn’t a response by Sam Harris.But either way, You missed the point. And the reason he uses a scenario like this to illustrate, is because the most common misperception of atheism is that it is a belief.And rest assured, nobody needs to supress the idea that god created the fascinating awe inspiring things that we see in nature.Your misperception of atheism is pretty clear when you accuse us of being mad at someone we don’t believe in.

  • timmy

    If all of the religions in the world were part of a big science experiment, atheism would be the control.

  • timmy

    If all of the religions in the world were part of a big science experiment, atheism would be the control.

  • timmy

    If all of the religions in the world were part of a big science experiment, atheism would be the control.

  • timmy

    Well said Tonio,But I do know of many moderate believers who have been converted, not to atheism, but to a new personal spirituality.I don’t think that my posts alone will convert Bruce. But I have hope that the collective intelligent debate that Bruce started and stuck with so graciously on this thread will give him good reason to explore his feelings about his place in the universe.

  • timmy

    Well said Tonio,But I do know of many moderate believers who have been converted, not to atheism, but to a new personal spirituality.I don’t think that my posts alone will convert Bruce. But I have hope that the collective intelligent debate that Bruce started and stuck with so graciously on this thread will give him good reason to explore his feelings about his place in the universe.

  • timmy

    Well said Tonio,But I do know of many moderate believers who have been converted, not to atheism, but to a new personal spirituality.I don’t think that my posts alone will convert Bruce. But I have hope that the collective intelligent debate that Bruce started and stuck with so graciously on this thread will give him good reason to explore his feelings about his place in the universe.

  • Anonymous

    Man made God in his image.

  • Anonymous

    Bruce you have not, as you have stated, presented any evidence that supports your theory other than your personal experience of which cannot be considered within the realm of understanding the evidentiary process of proving that something/someone exists within our history. Your foundation of corresponding with people through email is evidenced by the email itself. I suppose if you throw logic and reason out the window, as you do with your jesus factor, you might think it’s coming from another computer that isn’t human. None of the other aspects of arguments matter, as they are mere distractions to the subject at hand: did jesus rise from the dead. The evidence proves that no, he did not. Your arguments are interesting, but in any other situation you would be considered schizophrenic by proclaiming you are having a personal relationship with someone from within and that this person speaks to you. You are given a pass by society at this time in our evolution (that dreaded word that all religion hates)but my hope is that at some point our societal acceptance of behavior would not indulge in the most trivial of conversations such a notion of that which has no basis for evidence other than it’s own claim to evidence.I am most certain though that science continues to discover the wonders of nature and that is something to hang your hat on again and again. The beauty of science is in the ability to continue to change over the millennia as we discover new aspects to research and science knows its fallibility, which is precisely why it continues to discover and uncover to keep the whole assimilation of it all, moving upward and onward. Religion has been stuck in a time that no longer exists and when it attempts to change with the times it does at it’s own peril since it does nothing but assert its very own contradictions by denouncing precepts for which it deemed unchangeable and irrefutable, much like your own claim. No intelligent person would consider your question of jesus and such because it’s a losing argument when you attempt to have intellectual conversation with someone who is of the mind set that they could easily be Santa Claus, in your case, your personal relationship from within. At this point in time if it can’t be seen under a microscope chances are there isn’t much to back up the claims. The supernatural, where you’re placing this jesus fellow, does not exist except within the mind, which of course is reason enough to believe that person is diseased at some level of intellect – when it goes too far we medicate him/her in order for them to function appropriately. Psychology appears to be based on patterns of behavior that have been defined as this or that, but not all people fall into all categories and this is only one reason for it’s shaky foundation; I’m not even sure I would go as far as saying it’s worth pursuing with the exception of diagnosing those who are exhibiting anti-social behavior to the extreme of schizophrenia and other diseases of the mind – again these things can be seen under the microscope, so to speak, which helps to provide evidence of existence. I think you’ve made your case that reason, logic and the expertise of science cannot disprove jesus’ resurrection as much as it cannot disprove that Isis and Venus are the goddesses of love. But this is hardly the evidence needed to assert such a bizarre claim.

  • Simpleman

    Dear Bruce,The following questions about the NT testamony are intended to throw doubt on the reliability of your experts in court.Part of their trestamony has Jesus ascending physically into heaven. Of course, in those days they did not know that the atmosphere got thinner as one ascends. Back then, they thought that heaven was somewhere in the sky. They did not know that the body would explode at some give altitude or that the oxygen would become insufficient to sustain life. Some of the obvious scientific questions would be how high did he ascend? How long did it take for him to disappear? Is this just another question of god interfering with the laws of nature and physics?Some less obvious questions would concern the nature of heaven.Is it a physical place inhabited by physical beings or a spiritual place where souls are in concert with god?If it is a physical place, where is it? High flying jets, and balloons have not seen any sign of it; nor have rockets and space probes.If it is a spiritual place, what is the advantage or purpose of ascending physically?My guess is that this part of the testamony was intended to demonstrate the divinity of Jesus, and not actual fact. If they felt that this sort of embellishment was necessary, how reliable is the rest of their testamony? The answers to these questions may be as close to proof as you can get that the resurection is a fairy tale meant to convert pagan disbelievers.

  • Anonymous

    BTW, within the psychological field many people have had a “personal experience” have come to understand that the power of the brain to create illusions and delusions is very strong, to the extreme of hallucinations. This experience can also be induced by a slew of drugs in our society.As Dawkins has stated, the brain is very powerful and capable of creating much in the way of delusion and making things up. When you think you’re looking out at the world, the brain is simulating the scene you’re looking at and placing everything in its category for assimilation – pictures, sounds, etc, all easily explained scientifically about how it works, not here in the world of sound bite blogging. The brain is quite capable of creating much in itself in terms of illusion, both visual and auditory, much has been researched about the brain where a simulated exercise creates the same brain patterns as those experienced when the ‘real’ example happens before your eyes. Simple example hopefully is one of crossing the desert. It may appear that water is just on the horizon, the brain may think water is just ahead but upon reaching the spot one realizes it does not exist. Again, science can easily explain this illusion/delusion and has over time. I can only end this missive by stating as Dawkins has on many occasions, I suggest you pick up a book about Evolution, even perhaps several of Richard’s books and Sam’s books, and learn something about it. If you’re response is for me to read the bible, I have, many times have I studied it during my schooling, there’s no need for it beyond the understanding that it is merely a part of history and nothing more.

  • RB

    Laurel:You were too polite to mention my name re: the error of fact I posted regarding the witches of Salem. They were indeed placed under heavy stones, or hanged, and not burned as I stated.The practice of burning witches — or cutting off their heads and other vile actions — was a European Christian practice.Thank you for the correction.Of course this does not diminish the point that many acts of savagery have been conducted in the name of Jesus, nor that Christianity is a religion with a peaceful benign history and intent, as some believe.

  • timmy

    Tonio,Again the misperception that atheism is a belief comes through in your comments.You are not being preached to.

  • timmy

    Tonio,Again the misperception that atheism is a belief comes through in your comments.You are not being preached to.

  • timmy

    Tonio,Again the misperception that atheism is a belief comes through in your comments.You are not being preached to.

  • RB

    Hey Tonio, you raise good points:”Because I don’t like the idea of any person or doctrine telling me what I should believe.”Understood, and empathatic with the sentiment. Note carefully that Dawkins and Harris specifically distinguish between belief in a non-personal “god” and the personal god of the three religions of abraham. It is the latter they’re concerned with because those belief systems call for followers to act — violently against non-believers. Harris sees these religions as a sub-set of dogmatic beliefs systems as a whole, which he condemns in a similar manner.If you said you see “god” in the stars at night, they wouldn’t spend time confronting that belief. If you said you hear god while praying and he tells you to stone women who show their ankles in public, you would be a target of their ire.”I believe that it is possible for someone to hold a religious belief and not act on that belief in a way that harms others. If someone else’s beliefs do not affect me, do I have the right to demand that he or she change those beliefs?”Those types of belief systems aren’t a threat, so no, why waste time on it.

  • Tonio

    Timmy, please read my post above where I refer to myself as an “atheist sympathizer.” The people telling me what to believe are not atheists but evangelists from various religions. My posts objecting to being told what to believe are directed at the evangelists on this board and not at Harris or Dawkins or any other atheist.”Again the misperception that atheism is a belief comes through in your comments.”I don’t intend to equate atheism with a belief. I’m trying to defend the idea of freedom of conscience, and that idea affects atheism just as much as it does any religion. An evangelist sees atheists and adherents of other religions as the same, as simply targets for conversion, and atheists and other believers both face that kind of intrusion into their personal boundaries. If freedom of conscience were banned by some government, it would affect both atheists and believers.

  • Pam Meloy

    TonioAs with anything there seems to be many A/A (atheist/agnostics) out there that are ugly with people who believe. Just the same I have found just as many A/A’s on this website that are simply speaking to their non-beliefs. I for one had been afraid to come out of the closet because I thought that the majority of people that were non-believers were much more educated and analytical than myself. I have found a great circle of people posting on this site alone that have taught me so much. I am now reading Dawkins/Harris and other related information and am learning a great deal. It is my hope that by being brave enough to post along with all of you intellectuals that more people like myself will be brave enough to come out of the closet as I did. I started by reading and feeling very intimidated in the beginning. By posting I have found some wonderful on-line friends. The majority of us are not trying to convert you. I would hope we do give you something to think about.

  • OGTAY

    Mr. Harris,Please, Soviet Union has spent 70 years for tryng to eliminate religion from people’s life by applying to all sorts of mud dropping technics, and these all were done in the name of atheism.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Congratulations to all: reading this thread has kept me busy for hours, and thinking productively too.Bruce Burleson, the wily Christian fox, led the hounds on a merry chase to the dead end of belief or disbelief in resurrection, but also opened a new theme: identification with your own personal Jesus. This may be seen as achievement of a new state of mind analogous to the enlightened states targeted in the Eastern meditative traditions, with the difference that the born-again person remains a regular member of his or her community.Is this enlightened state the goal (or end) of faith? Is this kind of personal fulfillment the destination of a psychotrip that justifies a detour through religion? And does it exalt the Christian religion above all others, as a more efficient transport of ordinary dullards from the banality of everyday life to perfection in the fellowship of enlightenment? Atheism can seem a dismal doctrine, a mere denial of the charms of traditional paths to subjective transcendence of our carnal limits. But it speaks to a real impatience with the tunnel vision that those traditional paths impose. Sam Harris sees the issue: As a society we can no longer safely tolerate the intolerance that is so often a corollary of the tunnel vision of organized religion, not to mention its crazy irrationalism in face of modern science. We are better off with a dismal truth than absurd hubris masquerading as revelation. Yet there is a risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as Burleson seems to have sensed. Many times in history, revolutionaries have rebelled against religion only to founder on the rocky shores of an excessively harsh rationalism. Think of the French revolution, where heads were chopped off like cabbages in the name of reason, or the Russian revolution, where reactionaries of all kinds were rounded up and shot in the name of the proletariat. Militant atheists need to ensure that the struggle against religious tolerance does not spill over into denial of the deeper needs of humans in an age characterized by the scientific revaluation of all values.The deeper need that the personal Jesus meets is the need for one’s own direct and intimate contact with eternal glory. Scientists like Richard Dawkins tell us that our bodies are no more than survival machines for our genes and that our brains are no more than battlegrounds for competing memes, and philosophers like Dan Dennett tell us that free will is an illusion. The average person is not bright enough to see the glory of these ideas and merely feels belittled. But if I can unite with Jesus, I become immortal and transcend all that scientific mumbo-jumbo.The deepest problem with the Abrahamic tradition, as I see it, is that it politicizes God. The undeniable immanence of being (to use a meme from existentialist philosophy) is conflated with the unfathomable transcendence of a supreme being. This supreme being is conceived by analogy with a person but rules over us, like a monstrously inflated father figure. The timeless luminosity of mere being is seen as the stage of an eternal being, God, who is enthroned above me and offers a narrow path or a tunnel to salvation. When my salvation is made conditional upon my following the shining path, the political risk of punishment for straying is obvious.The solution to reconciling both the problem of the Abrahamic God and the need for a personal Jesus with the atheist demands of Harris, Dennett and Dawkins is to see that the scientific vision of the atheists always includes transcendence, understood as liftoff from immanence to infinity. We are stuck in the immanence of normal life, where genes and neurons and so on rule our days, but the sheer complexity of all the feedback loops, molecular interactions, field interference and so on ensures that infinities pop up everywhere and the scientific story goes gaga. In fact, the scientists need faith to believe that it will all make sense in the end. This gives room for each and every one of us to shape our selves to suit our psychological needs. If that need takes the form of ecstatic union with an imaginary Jesus, so be it. This need not involve any political complications that should concern us here. Such an inner path to transcendence and reconcilation with eternity has no implications for public policy except that people should be free to experience it, as and when they see fit.If this is what Burleson has brought to our thread, good for him. Atheism with this freedom is not dismal, and faith thus interiorized is not intolerable.You are welcome to disagree …

  • ANDY ROSS

    Congratulations to all: reading this thread has kept me busy for hours, and thinking productively too.Bruce Burleson, the wily Christian fox, led the hounds on a merry chase to the dead end of belief or disbelief in resurrection, but also opened a new theme: identification with your own personal Jesus. This may be seen as achievement of a new state of mind analogous to the enlightened states targeted in the Eastern meditative traditions, with the difference that the born-again person remains a regular member of his or her community.Is this enlightened state the goal (or end) of faith? Is this kind of personal fulfillment the destination of a psychotrip that justifies a detour through religion? And does it exalt the Christian religion above all others, as a more efficient transport of ordinary dullards from the banality of everyday life to perfection in the fellowship of enlightenment? Atheism can seem a dismal doctrine, a mere denial of the charms of traditional paths to subjective transcendence of our carnal limits. But it speaks to a real impatience with the tunnel vision that those traditional paths impose. Sam Harris sees the issue: As a society we can no longer safely tolerate the intolerance that is so often a corollary of the tunnel vision of organized religion, not to mention its crazy irrationalism in face of modern science. We are better off with a dismal truth than absurd hubris masquerading as revelation. Yet there is a risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as Burleson seems to have sensed. Many times in history, revolutionaries have rebelled against religion only to founder on the rocky shores of an excessively harsh rationalism. Think of the French revolution, where heads were chopped off like cabbages in the name of reason, or the Russian revolution, where reactionaries of all kinds were rounded up and shot in the name of the proletariat. Militant atheists need to ensure that the struggle against religious tolerance does not spill over into denial of the deeper needs of humans in an age characterized by the scientific revaluation of all values.The deeper need that the personal Jesus meets is the need for one’s own direct and intimate contact with eternal glory. Scientists like Richard Dawkins tell us that our bodies are no more than survival machines for our genes and that our brains are no more than battlegrounds for competing memes, and philosophers like Dan Dennett tell us that free will is an illusion. The average person is not bright enough to see the glory of these ideas and merely feels belittled. But if I can unite with Jesus, I become immortal and transcend all that scientific mumbo-jumbo.The deepest problem with the Abrahamic tradition, as I see it, is that it politicizes God. The undeniable immanence of being (to use a meme from existentialist philosophy) is conflated with the unfathomable transcendence of a supreme being. This supreme being is conceived by analogy with a person but rules over us, like a monstrously inflated father figure. The timeless luminosity of mere being is seen as the stage of an eternal being, God, who is enthroned above me and offers a narrow path or a tunnel to salvation. When my salvation is made conditional upon my following the shining path, the political risk of punishment for straying is obvious.The solution to reconciling both the problem of the Abrahamic God and the need for a personal Jesus with the atheist demands of Harris, Dennett and Dawkins is to see that the scientific vision of the atheists always includes transcendence, understood as liftoff from immanence to infinity. We are stuck in the immanence of normal life, where genes and neurons and so on rule our days, but the sheer complexity of all the feedback loops, molecular interactions, field interference and so on ensures that infinities pop up everywhere and the scientific story goes gaga. In fact, the scientists need faith to believe that it will all make sense in the end. This gives room for each and every one of us to shape our selves to suit our psychological needs. If that need takes the form of ecstatic union with an imaginary Jesus, so be it. This need not involve any political complications that should concern us here. Such an inner path to transcendence and reconcilation with eternity has no implications for public policy except that people should be free to experience it, as and when they see fit.If this is what Burleson has brought to our thread, good for him. Atheism with this freedom is not dismal, and faith thus interiorized is not intolerable.You are welcome to disagree …

  • ANDY ROSS

    Congratulations to all: reading this thread has kept me busy for hours, and thinking productively too.Bruce Burleson, the wily Christian fox, led the hounds on a merry chase to the dead end of belief or disbelief in resurrection, but also opened a new theme: identification with your own personal Jesus. This may be seen as achievement of a new state of mind analogous to the enlightened states targeted in the Eastern meditative traditions, with the difference that the born-again person remains a regular member of his or her community.Is this enlightened state the goal (or end) of faith? Is this kind of personal fulfillment the destination of a psychotrip that justifies a detour through religion? And does it exalt the Christian religion above all others, as a more efficient transport of ordinary dullards from the banality of everyday life to perfection in the fellowship of enlightenment? Atheism can seem a dismal doctrine, a mere denial of the charms of traditional paths to subjective transcendence of our carnal limits. But it speaks to a real impatience with the tunnel vision that those traditional paths impose. Sam Harris sees the issue: As a society we can no longer safely tolerate the intolerance that is so often a corollary of the tunnel vision of organized religion, not to mention its crazy irrationalism in face of modern science. We are better off with a dismal truth than absurd hubris masquerading as revelation. Yet there is a risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as Burleson seems to have sensed. Many times in history, revolutionaries have rebelled against religion only to founder on the rocky shores of an excessively harsh rationalism. Think of the French revolution, where heads were chopped off like cabbages in the name of reason, or the Russian revolution, where reactionaries of all kinds were rounded up and shot in the name of the proletariat. Militant atheists need to ensure that the struggle against religious tolerance does not spill over into denial of the deeper needs of humans in an age characterized by the scientific revaluation of all values.The deeper need that the personal Jesus meets is the need for one’s own direct and intimate contact with eternal glory. Scientists like Richard Dawkins tell us that our bodies are no more than survival machines for our genes and that our brains are no more than battlegrounds for competing memes, and philosophers like Dan Dennett tell us that free will is an illusion. The average person is not bright enough to see the glory of these ideas and merely feels belittled. But if I can unite with Jesus, I become immortal and transcend all that scientific mumbo-jumbo.The deepest problem with the Abrahamic tradition, as I see it, is that it politicizes God. The undeniable immanence of being (to use a meme from existentialist philosophy) is conflated with the unfathomable transcendence of a supreme being. This supreme being is conceived by analogy with a person but rules over us, like a monstrously inflated father figure. The timeless luminosity of mere being is seen as the stage of an eternal being, God, who is enthroned above me and offers a narrow path or a tunnel to salvation. When my salvation is made conditional upon my following the shining path, the political risk of punishment for straying is obvious.The solution to reconciling both the problem of the Abrahamic God and the need for a personal Jesus with the atheist demands of Harris, Dennett and Dawkins is to see that the scientific vision of the atheists always includes transcendence, understood as liftoff from immanence to infinity. We are stuck in the immanence of normal life, where genes and neurons and so on rule our days, but the sheer complexity of all the feedback loops, molecular interactions, field interference and so on ensures that infinities pop up everywhere and the scientific story goes gaga. In fact, the scientists need faith to believe that it will all make sense in the end. This gives room for each and every one of us to shape our selves to suit our psychological needs. If that need takes the form of ecstatic union with an imaginary Jesus, so be it. This need not involve any political complications that should concern us here. Such an inner path to transcendence and reconcilation with eternity has no implications for public policy except that people should be free to experience it, as and when they see fit.If this is what Burleson has brought to our thread, good for him. Atheism with this freedom is not dismal, and faith thus interiorized is not intolerable.You are welcome to disagree …

  • Pam Meloy

    Thanks RB I am reading The God Delusion right now and tons of information Ted Swart has sent me I in time get to Beyond Belief. So much to learn so little time. :-)

  • Doug

    Quoting Bruce Burleson: “I cannot conclusively prove to you the extraordinary claim that Jesus rose from the dead. My belief in that extraordinary event comes from an inner response to the new testament story that you cannot test objectively. Therefore, I am in the position of advocating a faith that I cannot objectively prove, except to report to you my subjective experience, which you cannot objectively test. I can see why many of you believe that my faith is based upon wishful thinking, at best, or is psychotic, at worst.”Bruce, you show no evidence of psychosis that I can observe. Thank you for your honesty in stating that your belief is subjective and untestable. In response I will admit that my disbelief is also subjective and untestable. We stand in the same relation to the issue.But has this lengthy discussion actually been about the CORE ISSUE? It seems to me that for most believers it is not the question of whether Christ rose from the dead after three days that matters, but whether he subsequently ascended to Heaven and most specifically whether they themselves can expect to ascend to an afterlife. The powerful attraction at the core of religion is providing a comforting answer to the completely unanswerable question of what does or does not come after death. Aethiesm, agnosticism and science provide no answers to this question, other than it is unknown and appears unknowable.Religion has thousands of years of history developing versions of what the afterlife will be like and what you have to do in this life to attain the postive rewards and avoid the negative. Organized religion has developed the stories surrounding this into a complicated self-supporting dogma that also support large powerful organizations with historical track records that lead me to mistrust them.Modern psychological theory supports the notion that most people make most decisions on emotional grounds and only subsequently engage the intellect to justify them. An issue so central and so frightening (at least after you hear about Hell) as death is going to inevitably lead to emotional decisions. This is at the root of the sway religion has over its believers.To free oneself of religious faith requires freeing oneself of the need to have an answer to life after death. This is not easy and is made much more difficult by the tantalizing promises (and terrible threats) of religion.The immediate future of this World would be well served by the appearance of a completely new Messiah who preaches a message that requires no obedience to dogma or Church, but promises each believer a comfortable afterlife. Needless to say, he would be in danger of crucifixion at the hands of existing religions and stoning by their believers.

  • dirk Campbell

    Bruce, your willingness to be honest and vulnerable should be acknowledged as the fine example that it is. We are all trying to be honest here and I suspect that many of us have gone through the same turmoil around loyalty to ideas that seem right because we have grown up with them. We are all happy if someone can prove something by means of reasoned discussion; we are devotees of truth, after all.I think when talking about St. Paul’s conversion of Greeks you have to bear in mind that the idea of a slain and resurrected god was familiar to the Greeks from many different belief systems at the time, so it’s not so far-fetched that some of them were prepared to believe what he said.As for the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection: well, nobody knows if it really happened or not, it’s just infinitesimally unlikely and we have to base our reality on the greatest likelihood. (To say that God is capable of anything doesn’t work because it starts off a circular argument.) The fact that a lot of stuff in the gospel accounts HAS been subsequently disproved, such as contemporary historical references, old testament prophecies etc., just lends weight to the dismissal verdict.Best wishesDirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Bruce, your willingness to be honest and vulnerable should be acknowledged as the fine example that it is. We are all trying to be honest here and I suspect that many of us have gone through the same turmoil around loyalty to ideas that seem right because we have grown up with them. We are all happy if someone can prove something by means of reasoned discussion; we are devotees of truth, after all.I think when talking about St. Paul’s conversion of Greeks you have to bear in mind that the idea of a slain and resurrected god was familiar to the Greeks from many different belief systems at the time, so it’s not so far-fetched that some of them were prepared to believe what he said.As for the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection: well, nobody knows if it really happened or not, it’s just infinitesimally unlikely and we have to base our reality on the greatest likelihood. (To say that God is capable of anything doesn’t work because it starts off a circular argument.) The fact that a lot of stuff in the gospel accounts HAS been subsequently disproved, such as contemporary historical references, old testament prophecies etc., just lends weight to the dismissal verdict.Best wishesDirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Bruce, your willingness to be honest and vulnerable should be acknowledged as the fine example that it is. We are all trying to be honest here and I suspect that many of us have gone through the same turmoil around loyalty to ideas that seem right because we have grown up with them. We are all happy if someone can prove something by means of reasoned discussion; we are devotees of truth, after all.I think when talking about St. Paul’s conversion of Greeks you have to bear in mind that the idea of a slain and resurrected god was familiar to the Greeks from many different belief systems at the time, so it’s not so far-fetched that some of them were prepared to believe what he said.As for the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection: well, nobody knows if it really happened or not, it’s just infinitesimally unlikely and we have to base our reality on the greatest likelihood. (To say that God is capable of anything doesn’t work because it starts off a circular argument.) The fact that a lot of stuff in the gospel accounts HAS been subsequently disproved, such as contemporary historical references, old testament prophecies etc., just lends weight to the dismissal verdict.Best wishesDirk

  • Doug

    I would like to thank Bruce Burleson for being either an excellent case in point or a truely talented devil’s advocate. He has politely and intelligently engaged in extended dialog on the issue of faith and evidence and thereby given all of us an excellent excercise in thought, logic and debate. I care not what his actual motivations may be.There is one observation that I would like to make about the debate: Bruce has made the statement that his belief in God is based upon the miracle of Christ rising from the dead. Many religious people use the miracles reported in the Bible as proof of the existance of God and the validity of the scriptures. If these were ordinary events, within the range of common everyday experience they would not be miracles and they would not have value as “proof”. As the debate with Bruce has shown – attacking the nature of the evidence and questioning the liklihood of the event is not effective in shaking belief. For the believer the miracle itself is proof of the power of God and the truth of the scripture that reports the miracle. For the non-believer the preposterous nature of the asserted event is proof of the non-truth of the scripture and the non-existance of proof of God.Since there is no objective way to verify the truth or falseness of the reported event the debate is doomed to end in a draw – you either believe, or you don’t. Thank you, Bruce for demonstrating the futility of applying rational logic to debates of this nature.

  • RB

    Doug:”The powerful attraction at the core of religion is providing a comforting answer to the completely unanswerable question of what does or does not come after death. Aethiesm, agnosticism and science provide no answers to this question, other than it is unknown and appears unknowable.”Sagan and others have written about the simple fact that the atoms in our bodies originated in the furnaces of stars. And that eventually, we will return to the space as star dust, to be re-made again as part of a planet in some newly-birthed solar system.This is not wishful thinking. This is the scientific conclusion reached by cosmologists and astro-physicists over a period of less than a century as the processes of nuclear fusion and the observations of ever-more-powerful telescopes allowed greater understanding of how the cosmos evolves and has formed and will continue to form.So in a very real sense, our atoms will all be re-cycled and — if the evolution of life is a universal phenomena, and there is growing evidence of that — be re-born again as part of some other creature, time and again. Thus science can offer a person the concept that you are indeed part of an enormous and perhaps infinite cycle of birth and re-birth. For some this might be as satisfying as any notion about death controlled by supernatural beings, but without the need to seize onto an irrational belief system.Thus I must disagree that our increasing knowledge of the universe (science) has not offered ANY answers to this question.

  • Skeptic in Tallahassee

    Early in his post on this first day of 2007, Bruce said “I cannot conclusively prove to you the extraordinary claim that Jesus rose from the dead. My belief in that extraordinary event comes from an inner response to the new testament story that you cannot test objectively.” Let’s give Bruce some credit for his acknowledgment that he cannot “conclusively prove” the alleged resurrection of Jesus. But the case isn’t even close to conclusive proof. The case doesn’t even warrant a conclusion that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was more likely to have occurred than not to have occurred. The problem is that Bruce continues to make a claim about objective facts (the alleged resurrection) based on a subjective feeling (“inner response”). This makes about as much sense as Bruce claiming that George Washington flew over the Delaware river because he (Bruce) has a stomach ache. Belief in objective events can not rest on subjective feelings. It is unethical to suggest that they can.Bruce said “The ones that believe can only point to an inward revelation that basically cannot be explained to others. Faith comes to them inwardly – it just comes, and they believe.” Bruce’s “inward revelation” starts with wishful thinking, then makes a leap of faith, and finally ends up with a dogmatic certainty about objective reality, all wrapped up in a nifty psychological package called “a visit by the Holy Spirit”. In the world today there are millions of people who have subjective experiences similar to Bruce’s but who have formulated and maintained beliefs very different and even contradictory to his. I am sure that the men who flew planes into the Twin Towers relied on the same kind of “inward revelation”. They abandoned rational thinking just as Bruce has in his claim about a resurrection.Bruce then said “I cannot convince you rationally of something that is essentially a spiritual phenomenon.” The problem here is that Bruce has been strongly conditioned by others, and by himself, to associate genuine peak emotional states (awe, serenity, love, beauty, unity, peace, etc.) with specific unfounded hypotheses about the objective world. The association is primarily an accident of birth; he picked up the association because of the country, neighborhood, family, school, and church in which he grew up. Although he will probably never accomplish it, salvation for Bruce lies in the decoupling of his peak emotional states from his unfounded hypotheses and then either enjoying those states for their own sake or recoupling them with conclusions derived from rational thinking. Truth does not come from feeling, no matter how valuable feelings can be, it comes from thinking straight.Bruce has no explanation for Timmy as to why some people experience an “inner revelation of Christ”, and some do not. The groundwork for such subjective feelings is laid during the person’s childhood and is culturally specific. The “inner revelation” is neither an accident nor a supernatural event; it is part of a specific psychological development. If we knew the details of Bruce’s growing up, we could probably see clearly how the seeds were sown.Bruce said “It is my obligation to continue to subject my faith to objective analysis to determine whether it is genuine, or whether it is the product of wishful thinking or psychosis.” Amen! Bruce does not talk in a way that indicates psychosis, but his thinking is full of wishful thinking. Unfortunately, he is not processing evidence with rational principles. We can only hope that Bruce will keep seeking the truth and will not infringe on the rights of others as he finds his way to a better place.

  • Doug

    Response to RBI doubt that many people are very concerned with the re-cycling of the atoms of their corporal form. It is the consciousness we think of as “I” or the “soul” that is of concern.I would be happy to have a pine tree planted over my grave, or be burned and scattered if that wasn’t such a waste of energy. I personally have no concern about what happens to my body after death. I am not so blaise about what happens to “me” – the collection of memories, thoughts, desires, hopes, dreams, and loving feelings that I consider to be my unique “self”. Even though I believe that there is nothing knowable about what happens after death, I would like to be able to believe that there is some way that “I” might survive the death of my body.I find nothing satisfying in the scientific fact of the immortality of the atoms and energy that happen to be part of my body at the time that I die. I doubt there are many people who would find this anywhere nearly as comforting as the thought of being re-united in some way with loved ones. The promise of life after death is a powerfully persuasive reward offered by religion. To deny its attractiveness is to fail to fully understand the hold religion has on the believer.

  • timmy

    We alll seem to agree that belief in God in the hands of somebody like Osama Bin Laden is a bad thing.

  • timmy

    We alll seem to agree that belief in God in the hands of somebody like Osama Bin Laden is a bad thing.

  • timmy

    We alll seem to agree that belief in God in the hands of somebody like Osama Bin Laden is a bad thing.

  • RB

    Doug:”I would like to be able to believe that there is some way that “I” might survive the death of my body.”While I understand this, the concept of a “soul” separate from your body is religious dogma. There is no evidence of a “soul,” and plenty of evidence contradicting this concept.What we know is that all communication — be it at the neural level, one neuron talking to another — or at higher levels, thoughts, spoken words, radio waves, lasar pulses, all require energy.What source of energy “powers” your “soul?” Presumably you’ll think: well, the energy of my body. Once the mitchodria in your cells stop processing ATP, the ability of your neurons to communicate ceases. Unless your “soul” is powered by something not yet detected, then it dies when your body does.So savor every moment, now, while you have them, rather than wishfully thinking for a perpetually-charged Energizer bunny soul that will keep on ticking for eternity. (As an aside: what if you got stuck next to George Bush for eternity?)If everyone had greater reverence for the here and now, and the preciousness of life on earth — maybe there would be fewer wars in the name of dieties who are promising “eternal life for your soul.”

  • DuckPhup

    For those who persist in perceiving and/or insisting that atheism is a ‘belief':Atheism can be categorized as a ‘belief’ ONLY in that same sense that — NOT collecting stamps — might be construed to be a ‘hobby’.

  • timmy

    Yes RB,And if you do choose to believe that yourt soul will live on, attaching that thought to any one of the monotheistic religions supports them in their entirety.

  • timmy

    Yes RB,And if you do choose to believe that yourt soul will live on, attaching that thought to any one of the monotheistic religions supports them in their entirety.

  • timmy

    Yes RB,And if you do choose to believe that yourt soul will live on, attaching that thought to any one of the monotheistic religions supports them in their entirety.

  • DuckPhup

    Doug wrote: “I doubt that many people are very concerned with the re-cycling of the atoms of their corporal form. It is the consciousness we think of as “I” or the “soul” that is of concern.”RB wrote: “While I understand this, the concept of a “soul” separate from your body is religious dogma. There is no evidence of a “soul,” and plenty of evidence contradicting this concept.”******************So… apart from the fact that all of this stuff is mythological nonsense, anyway… everyone’s worries about what happens to their personal ‘soul’ are of no consequence… it does not exist.

  • Linda Joy

    Doug- I know how you feel about wanting to think that your consciousness or the “I” of you somehow survives death, but such a system has strong flaws in it. Like what happens to people who are severely retarded or brain damaged all their lives? What kind of consciousness would they carry into the afterlife? Or newborn infants that die early? Every time I try to think of a possible system of afterlife, it always has holes in it that blow it away. I don’t get comfort from the evidence that is mounting that the brain is the only seat of our conciousness and that when it is damaged or dies, so does conciousness, but that is the most logical scenario. There is some comfort in knowing that if my conciousness doesn’t survive, I’ll have no ability to be aware of that. Anyway, it is what it is and no one knows what it is, so maybe it’s best to put our thoughts toward what we are able to do now. Non-belief in a deity or a religious system gives one the freedom to do just that.

  • DuckPhup

    Timmy wrote: “I know that I will never convert Bruce.”Convert Bruce to what? Atheism? I tend to think of ‘conversion’ as the process of supplanting one set of beliefs with another. Atheism is, by definition, NOT belief… so I cannot see how that concept might be applied to the process of teaching someone how to abandon wishful, magical thinking and apply reason and critical thought. I think that ‘deprogramming’, or ‘awakening’ are more apt terms.

  • RB

    Yes, Linda, yes.”Non-belief in a deity or a religious system gives one the freedom to do just that.”Many believers I’ve encountered seem fearful of what they would do, what they would think about, how they might behave if they de-couple themselves from a supernatural control.Others who have done this, and I’m one, find it liberating. One’s thinking about problems, big and small, becomes clearer without always needed to conform to the scribblings of some book of gibberish.For example, I’ve been thinking a great deal about love, I’m trying to develop ideas about its biological and evolutionary roots — it must serve some survival function, beyond the obvious protective urge, or perhaps that is all there is to it. But why, for example, did I fall in love with — let’s keep it anon — Betsy all those years ago, but not Jane? Why did Jane, over the course of the years, love Jack, Dan and then Jose? But not dozens or hundreds of others.We seem to fall in love perhaps only once (maybe never), but certainly only a handful of times in the course of a life (I’m not talking about love of parents, siblings or others familar to you from birth). From an evolutionary POV, our DNA are selective, in my opinion, and send out signals — at least through our five primary senses, and perhaps in a programmed way through communication — to each other.Anyway, I’m still toying with the ideas, but de-coupled from any supernatural persuasion, the “mystery” of love becomes more transparent, and frankly, interesting.And that’s just one example.

  • Bruce Burleson

    I can’t convert anyone either. I can discuss my experiences, listen to yours, and in the process refine my understanding of life and truth. Because I was born in a Christian environment, anything I relate about my experience is subject to the objection that it is culturally determined, and you can dismiss it with the “accident of birth” argument. This does not work when we consider the phenomenon of Arab- Muslim converts to Christianity, who are subject to being put to death, as Ted Swart pointed out in a previous post. They have experienced something that has caused them to go completely against their upbringing, and to potentially lose everything. There are also examples of atheist conversion (C. S. Lewis), and also with communists, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and every other background. Conversion to Christ is a worldwide phenomenon. Obviously, there are also examples of conversion away from Christianity to these other worldviews. The point is that you cannot so neatly and summarily dismiss faith as being culturally determined. Take the conversion of Paul of Tarsus, for example. Unlike the situation with the gospel accounts, there is very little actual doubt that a guy named Paul existed, and that he authored at least the first nine epistles that are attributed to him in the New Testament. His conversion experience is described three times in Acts, which was written by his travel companion Luke, and which experience Paul confirms in several places in his epistles. Sure, I suppose Luke could just be flat-out lying, but the combination of the Acts accounts and the Pauline epistles are generally considered to give a reliable account of Paul’s life. Paul was not raised a Christian, and hated Christianity. He participated in killing and imprisoning Christians, and was in the process of carrying out this objective at the time of his conversion.After his conversion, he was rejected by his faith and cultural community (Pharisees/Jews), lost his status in that community, and ultimately lost his life for his Christian faith. Either he was hallucinating, or he made the whole thing up, or he saw a fireball and thought it spoke to him, or he had an encounter with Jesus. We have enough of his writings to evaluate him as a person, and he doesn’t sound like a lunatic, a liar or an idiot. He had a “conversion experience” in which he believed that he encountered Jesus, something which his worldview told him was simply not possible. While the vast majority of Christian conversions are not this dramatic, the same basic phenomenon happens all over the world every day. A person has an inward experience of Jesus that radically changes his or her life, sometimes causing that person to be completely rejected by family, faith and culture. I can point to many scientists today who have had conversion experiences. They do not abandon their scientific worldview, but they acknowledge a reality beyond this one. This often subjects them to ridicule in the scientific community. They don’t start believing the world is 6000 years old, but they do start believing that Jesus rose from the dead. They cannot prove that the resurrection occurred, but their inward experience convinces them that the resurrection is true. These are people who are used to having things confirmed objectively, and yet something happens in them to cause them to accept another reality. I don’t think they have abandoned rational thinking, as Skeptic suggests. In the Christian understanding, God has chosen “faith” as the basis for a relationship with people. He did not chose knowledge, reason, science or logic, although there are elements of all of these in faith. This is not belief with no evidence, as there is “some evidence.” This faith experience occurs when God communicates in some way (through the Bible, through an event) to a person. Internally, that person begins to believe when before they did not (or their previous belief was superficial, something they were taught). Like looking at a three-dimensional picture, you look at something that seems two dimensional, and then suddenly another dimension appears, so is the conversion experience. I will accept whatever consequences come with identifying myself as a Christian, including having to deal with the Old Testament and the crimes of other believers. Jesus, for me, is the ultimate interpreter of the OT, and His teachings and example are non-violent, forgiving, loving, and life-affirming. If other believers have missed the point, I’m sorry.

  • timmy

    Yes RB yes,One thought on the handfull of times we fall in love in our life.

  • timmy

    Yes RB yes,One thought on the handfull of times we fall in love in our life.

  • timmy

    Yes RB yes,One thought on the handfull of times we fall in love in our life.

  • timmy

    And with that I have a question for the panel.Would monogamy be the norm if not for religion?I don’t have an answer for this myself.I’m writign a screenplay that takes place in a universe with no religion and I’m trying to figure out how the sexes would make their living arrangements and deal with the raising of children.

  • timmy

    And with that I have a question for the panel.Would monogamy be the norm if not for religion?I don’t have an answer for this myself.I’m writign a screenplay that takes place in a universe with no religion and I’m trying to figure out how the sexes would make their living arrangements and deal with the raising of children.

  • timmy

    And with that I have a question for the panel.Would monogamy be the norm if not for religion?I don’t have an answer for this myself.I’m writign a screenplay that takes place in a universe with no religion and I’m trying to figure out how the sexes would make their living arrangements and deal with the raising of children.

  • RB

    Thank you Timmy and Duckphup, you guys are as clear-thinking as Sam.Doug:”Since there is no objective way to verify the truth or falseness of the reported event the debate is doomed to end in a draw – you either believe, or you don’t. Thank you, Bruce for demonstrating the futility of applying rational logic to debates of this nature.”Frankly, history contradicts this assertion.History is replete with examples where a shared notion of morality has led to the abandoment of irrationally-based beliefs. Slavery was justified by the bible, but it is now viewed with disgust (although not completely, yet, see Eithiopia).The gods of the Romans, Greeks, Scandanavians, et al., lie on the dustheap.Humans abandon supernatural explanations and justifications as their knowledge and consciousness expand. Folks like Bruce are just lagging behind.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: Monogamy might not be the norm without religion, in my opinion, but it would still exist. Studies seems to indicate that most people have multiple sexual partners, so we are not inherently monogamous. But at some point many want to settle down with one partner for their own psychological (having an emotionally intimate relationship) and practical (raising children, finances) reasons. Monogamy exists among atheists, so it must not be solely a religious construct.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce… the ‘savior’ that is described in the authentic Pauline epistles is NOT a person who existed in the recent past, as described in the Gospels… it is a ‘spiritual’ Jesus, who resided only in the spiritual realms of ‘heaven’… not a human one, who resided on earth. The idea of a ‘human’ Jesus did not surface (was not invented) until around the beginning of the 2nd century.Saul/Paul is the author of Christianity… not Jesus… and the Christianity that emerged in the 2nd century would not even have been recognizable to Paul.Only 5 of the 13 epistles that were are attributed to Paul are widely regarded to be genuine… 3 are of dubious attribution… and the rest are obvious forgeries. The “Luke’ that you identify as a companion of Paul, and infer was the Luke who was responsible for the Gospel that bears his name, and a witness to the events that the Gospel of Luke describes, was nothing of the sort. That is an absurdity. The Gospel of Luke was not written until the 2nd century. NONE of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the events that they depict. The gospels are ALL fictional accounts. Mark was the first gospel written… PERHAPS before the dawn of the 2nd century. Matthew and Luke were written later, using Mark as a template and incorporating the ‘sayings of Jesus’ from the ‘Q-document’… actually Judeaized versions of tenets of the Greek cynic and stoic philosophies. John was written still later.There are hundreds of scholarly references that enumrate the problems with the pauline epistles… just Google for ‘pauline epistles forgeries’. This site will provide you with a good summary, though:

  • timmy

    Well Bruce,That truly is it I guess.

  • timmy

    Well Bruce,That truly is it I guess.

  • timmy

    Well Bruce,That truly is it I guess.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: There are also hundreds of scholarly references that take exactly the position that I have taken. I guess it depends on what authority you choose to have faith in. Your site is a “skeptic” site, so it is predisposed against the Bible. But I’ll start with your position: I am assuming that Romans is one of five epistles that you consider authentic. In Romans 1:3, Paul writes that Jesus Christ “tou genomenou ek spermatos David kata sarka” – “was born from the seed of David according to the flesh.” “Born” and “according to the flesh” are clear references to an historical person, not just a spiritual Christ – a Jew of the tribe of Judah, clan of David. Romans 5:6-9 states the fundamental atonement concept, that is based upon Christ dying for the ungodly, shedding his blood, and showing by that death the love of God for us. A spiritual Christ does not die or shed blood. I know that I will not convince you, as your atheist filter requires you to deny the very existence of the physical Jesus. You would be on more solid ground if you admitted Jesus existed as a human and that he died by crucifixion, but that he stayed dead, in accordance with the laws of nature. Trying to go back and eliminate him from history makes you look like the fanatic -you have become an evangelist.

  • Tonio

    “The use of these words may stop conversation with the stupid or the ignorant, but they pose no problem for the rest of us.”RB, I disagree. Those words pose a huge PR problem for not just atheists but for everyone who believes in freedom of conscience. As I see it, most Americans are moderate believers. They are uncomfortable with the religious right’s agenda, but they are also uncomfortable with the “threat” posed by atheism and humanism. There is no such threat – these moderates have been listening to the propaganda put out by the Coulters and Robertsons. If you listen to these demagogues’ anti-ACLU rhetoric, you would believe that atheists oppose freedom of conscience, that atheists want to outlaw all religion. But as we have seen with Kansas schools, the Air Force Academy and the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, many on the religious right are working to turn government into a recruiting tool for their faith.Given this dangerous environment, I believe it’s very risky for atheists to use words like ignorant in describing believers. Freedom of conscience needs all the allies it can get. Do atheists want to alienate the moderates who support freedom of conscience? Most Christians in America don’t want forced prayer or creationism in schools, but they might go along with those punitive measures if the extremists convince them that their right to be Christian is under attack. In my view, the best way for atheists to appeal to the moderates is through reason, not through name-calling.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: I’m disappointed that there aren’t any takers on your monogamy question. I thought it was interesting. One refinement in my post – in an advanced society, such as the one you posit, I suppose that finances and raising children will not be a problem, so will not feed a drive for monogamy. I still believe monogamy would exist, as if two people find that they are compatable at every level, there may be no reason for them to go outside that relationship to find fulfillment. So even in a religionless advanced society, I think you would still find it. However, given our tendency to explore outside the confinements of any structure, I don’t believe it would be the norm.

  • DuckPhup

    Bruce Burleson wrote:”You would be on more solid ground if you admitted Jesus existed as a human and that he died by crucifixion, but that he stayed dead, in accordance with the laws of nature. Trying to go back and eliminate him from history makes you look like the fanatic -you have become an evangelist.”Up until a few years ago, I WOULD have ‘admitted’ (or, at least, ‘conceded’) that Jesus existed as a human and that he died by crucifixion, etc. But then, I began to look deeply into biblical scholarship… and came to the conclusion that the biblical scholarship of Christian apologists is not honest… and that modern, intellectually honest biblical scholarship shines an entirely different, and much more compelling light on the subject… and succeeded in convincing me that the Jesus character is entirely fictional. If you were to honestly investigate in the same fashion, with an open mind, you would become convinced of the same thing.I am not “… trying to go back and eliminate him from history…”. Modern biblical scholarship makes it quite clear that he never was IN history.

  • timmy

    Bruce thanks for you thoughts on the love question. It’s an interesting question. I think your points are valid.Here’s a question I don’t think you’ve been asked yet.

  • timmy

    Bruce thanks for you thoughts on the love question. It’s an interesting question. I think your points are valid.Here’s a question I don’t think you’ve been asked yet.

  • timmy

    Bruce thanks for you thoughts on the love question. It’s an interesting question. I think your points are valid.Here’s a question I don’t think you’ve been asked yet.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: I approach your question with a great deal of humility, because whatever response I make to it will probably not be entirely correct or sufficient. I think that faith is a virtue because it is the one quality that we can possess that attributes absolutely no sufficiency or “glory” to ourselves – all the honor goes to the object of the faith, which in my case is Jesus. I do not see my faith as “blind”, although I understand from all the previous posts that this is how most unbelievers see it. That was my whole point in the “some evidence” argument. But be that as it may, in a faith relationship we become completely dependent upon God, and this is why most people shy away from or reject it. We in essence “die” to our own sense of sufficiency and trust in God. We walk by faith, which basically means that we let God be God. To refuse to have faith in God cuts you off from him, as that is the only path by which he allows access to himself. That leads to its own end, the “eternal damnation” that you describe. I honestly do not like that concept, and the only reason I believe in it is because Jesus seems to teach it so clearly. I am not God, and do not see things the way he does all the time. On the other hand, if one does take the leap of faith, the promise of Jesus is that you are accepted, and eternal damnation is no longer an issue. In that faith relationship, our questions begin to be answered. The questions raised by our natural scepticism begin to be dealt with, but on God’s terms. I have my own questions, as my feelings on eternal judgment indicate. But at this time I sense that I know Jesus. I don’t always understand or agree with my wife, and I certainly did not always understand or agree with my parents, or with anyone else that I have known and loved. It’s the same with God – that is what makes it a relationship. He can handle the skeptic’s questions. You said previously that you felt that you were being tested. I’m sorry if my response to that was rude. I also feel that I am being tested, and I am looking for genuineness in my faith and worldview. One reason I came to this site is that I wanted to subject my belief to criticism. Modern Christianity is so messed up that it is hard to get down to the core truth. You guys are stripping away my veneer, so I am profiting from that. There may yet still be things to talk about. The “tester” is at work in all of us.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Duckphup: I guess we have a battle of the experts regarding our respective sources. Not much room for movement on the battlefield. What do you think about Timmy’s question about monogamy?

  • waked

    reading Sam was for me a journy in a world of reality it is not only an light opening experince but you discover that it is high time to join forces against spreading this dangerous phenomena called religion .

  • RB

    Tonio:”Do atheists want to alienate the moderates who support freedom of conscience? “No. But Harris and Dawkins are arguing that moderates with their liberal attitude toward religious tolerance are part of the problem — they provide cover for the extremists. By breaking this taboo — deliberately — rationalists are attempting openly to isolate the extremists. “Most Christians in America don’t want forced prayer or creationism in schools, but they might go along with those punitive measures if the extremists convince them that their right to be Christian is under attack.”Then they deserve their fate. You have just described most Americans as passive victims of bullies, so weak intellectually that they will give up basic tenants of democracy because Rush yells at them. It may be the case (I’m not so sure) but if so it’s pathetic.Mosts Americans don’t read the bible and what little they know of it is cherry-picked to conform with modern notions of morality.I’m in agreement with you that the use of perjoratives is not a sound debating tactic.Nevertheless, if a friend said he had encountered a preacher who wants him to handle poisonous snakes to show his belief in jesus, I would tell him unhesitantly that he’s stupid. No I would shout it at him.If he tells me the world is 6,000 years old, I would tell him that his ignorance is so complete that it is breath-taking.I do not believe that the word ignorant is a perjorative — it is descriptive of a state of knowledge. But I accept that you think it sounds harsh.

  • timmy

    Bruce,

  • timmy

    Bruce,

  • timmy

    Bruce,

  • duckPhup

    RB wrote:”I do not believe that the word ignorant is a perjorative — it is descriptive of a state of knowledge. But I accept that you think it sounds harsh.”***********

  • RB

    Waked:Welcome aboard the peace train.

  • Pam Meloy

    Waked you are right on. All one has to do is read the posts on this website and will be reinforced in the fact that we non-believers have it all over the believers. Isn’t it freeing to not have to argue about details of how this and that and that are? It goes on and on for pages and pages of what questions and answers and more questions and more debate and in the end nothing is gained by all of the educated people with their facts, books, quotes, and opinions.I for one am not trying to convince anyone of anything but just to say how I feel and why. I think it is fruitless to argue with the people that believe. They are not here to learn. They are here to sway others to their side. Peace and happy new year to all.

  • Bruce Burleson

    I have read all your comments, and I have to say that is has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me in recent memory. It has been beneficial for me in that it has forced me to remove the religious veil that I normally wear and come face to face with the actual basis for my faith. I cannot conclusively prove to you the extraordinary claim that Jesus rose from the dead. My belief in that extraordinary event comes from an inner response to the new testament story that you cannot test objectively. Therefore, I am in the position of advocating a faith that I cannot objectively prove, except to report to you my subjective experience, which you cannot objectively test. I can see why many of you believe that my faith is based upon wishful thinking, at best, or is psychotic, at worst.In Acts 17 the apostle Paul told the Athenian council at the Areopagus about the resurrection of Jesus. He was speaking to the intellectual elites of his day. There were three responses: 1) some mocked; 2) some wanted to learn more; and 3) some believed. To some it seems absolutely ridiculous, and they will not change their stance because believers cannot deliver the extraordinary evidence they require. That is even more true today, as we are now in a scientific age, and the purported eyewitnesses of the resurrection are long dead. The ones that believe can only point to an inward revelation that basically cannot be explained to others. Faith comes to them inwardly – it just comes, and they believe. If there are any out there in the 2nd category, who want to learn more, I can only point you back to the original story and ask you not to let our failures as believers prejudice you against that story. Ultimately, if Jesus is the truth, it is up to Him to reveal Himself to you. I cannot convince you rationally of something that is essentially a spiritual phenomenon. Timmy, I have no answer to your question. I do not know why some people experience an inner revelation of Christ, and some do not. For the rest of you who have pointed out the weaknesses in the New Testament accounts, I again acknowledge that you are good cross-examiners. It is my obligation to continue to subject my faith to objective analysis to determine whether it is genuine, or whether it is the product of wishful thinking or psychosis. (If it is the latter, I guess my own self-examination won’t do much good). Thank you for giving me some tools to do that. At this time, my faith remains – I believe that I experience the resurrected Christ.For what it’s worth, I do respect you, and I do acknowledge that you may be right and I may be wrong. I have actually grown to like you. Sam Harris has done the world a favor by at least jump-starting the dialogue between non-believers and believers. Who knows where it will end?

  • Tim Hughbanks

    Jason Bradfield:

  • Tonio

    “You have just described most Americans as passive victims of bullies, so weak intellectually that they will give up basic tenants of democracy because Rush yells at them. It may be the case (I’m not so sure) but if so it’s pathetic.”RB, that is not quite what I had in mind. I think it is more accurate to say that humans have a tendency to fear change. That fear makes people vulnerable to the demagoguery of the Limbaughs and Coulters. Specifically, the religious right points to Engel vs. Vitale as the beginning of America’s alleged decline, as if restoring forced prayer in school would magically make people understand right from wrong. It’s a despicable tactic, and it works partly because it is natural to romanticize the era in which one grew up. It’s all about the famous Ben Franklin quote about trading liberty for security. The only way to prevent that is to defeat fear with reason.

  • Pam Meloy

    Congratulations to you Bruce for the below statement:I have been on this website from the first day and have read and posted on the previous thread of Sam Harris. You said the magic words “I don’t know”. I can respect your beliefs because you have at least acknowledged that you do not know why you believe and others do not. This is a great credit to you. Thanks P.S. I must say that I have tried in the past to have the experience you have had and it is just not possible for reasons I have no way of knowing. I may have had too many Jason Bradfield experiences in my life. Happy New Year

  • Tonio

    “Harris and Dawkins are arguing that moderates with their liberal attitude toward religious tolerance are part of the problem — they provide cover for the extremists.”I’m familiar with that argument, RB, and I agree with it to a point. I’ve read “The God Delusion” and I’m a third of the way through “The End of Faith.”But I’m reluctant to go as far as Harris and Dawkins do with that argument. Why? Because I don’t like the idea of any person or doctrine telling me what I should believe. I believe that it is possible for someone to hold a religious belief and not act on that belief in a way that harms others. If someone else’s beliefs do not affect me, do I have the right to demand that he or she change those beliefs? Assuming I did, what is to stop the other person from doing the same thing to me? Why types of belief-motivated actions are harmful to others, directly or indirectly?

  • timmy

    Jason,And surely of course, if science can be proven to be falible, then the Bible must be right. It’s so clear now. Thank you.Your whole premise for speaking in such a debate is so incredibly flawed you deserve the rank you have receiced on this thread.You want so badly for the logic and science side of the argument to be: We are right and you (the believer) are wrong. That is the only way that you can argue with us. You need to first put the words into our mouth that “we know the truth about everything. Then you can bash us.The very first conclusion of science is that science is falible. You misunderstand as so many believers do, that this debate is not between one certainty and another.

  • timmy

    Jason,And surely of course, if science can be proven to be falible, then the Bible must be right. It’s so clear now. Thank you.Your whole premise for speaking in such a debate is so incredibly flawed you deserve the rank you have receiced on this thread.You want so badly for the logic and science side of the argument to be: We are right and you (the believer) are wrong. That is the only way that you can argue with us. You need to first put the words into our mouth that “we know the truth about everything. Then you can bash us.The very first conclusion of science is that science is falible. You misunderstand as so many believers do, that this debate is not between one certainty and another.

  • timmy

    Jason,And surely of course, if science can be proven to be falible, then the Bible must be right. It’s so clear now. Thank you.Your whole premise for speaking in such a debate is so incredibly flawed you deserve the rank you have receiced on this thread.You want so badly for the logic and science side of the argument to be: We are right and you (the believer) are wrong. That is the only way that you can argue with us. You need to first put the words into our mouth that “we know the truth about everything. Then you can bash us.The very first conclusion of science is that science is falible. You misunderstand as so many believers do, that this debate is not between one certainty and another.

  • dirk Campbell

    Can we agree on a definition of skepticism? It is from a Greek verb ‘skeptomai’ which means to think rationally. A skeptic is therefore one who considers and weighs the evidence properly, not somebody who rejects things out of hand.Jason, you are doing a grand job for the atheist cause. Your post is so incoherent that I couldn’t respond to it if I tried. Keep it up!Bruce, a word of advice: don’t keep telling us how humble you are, you’re beginning to sound unctuous.Andy, great posts, and don’t worry that no-one has replied to your grandest. The silence is probably out of respect.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Can we agree on a definition of skepticism? It is from a Greek verb ‘skeptomai’ which means to think rationally. A skeptic is therefore one who considers and weighs the evidence properly, not somebody who rejects things out of hand.Jason, you are doing a grand job for the atheist cause. Your post is so incoherent that I couldn’t respond to it if I tried. Keep it up!Bruce, a word of advice: don’t keep telling us how humble you are, you’re beginning to sound unctuous.Andy, great posts, and don’t worry that no-one has replied to your grandest. The silence is probably out of respect.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    Can we agree on a definition of skepticism? It is from a Greek verb ‘skeptomai’ which means to think rationally. A skeptic is therefore one who considers and weighs the evidence properly, not somebody who rejects things out of hand.Jason, you are doing a grand job for the atheist cause. Your post is so incoherent that I couldn’t respond to it if I tried. Keep it up!Bruce, a word of advice: don’t keep telling us how humble you are, you’re beginning to sound unctuous.Andy, great posts, and don’t worry that no-one has replied to your grandest. The silence is probably out of respect.Dirk

  • timmy

    Victoria,When you ask, what makes humans superior?But I will try none the less to answer the question bssed on what you meant as opposed to what you said.Whether or not humans are superior depends of course by what criteria you consider superior.And on the soul question.You are not okay with this remaining a question. You need someone to give you definitive answer now.

  • timmy

    Victoria,When you ask, what makes humans superior?But I will try none the less to answer the question bssed on what you meant as opposed to what you said.Whether or not humans are superior depends of course by what criteria you consider superior.And on the soul question.You are not okay with this remaining a question. You need someone to give you definitive answer now.

  • timmy

    Victoria,When you ask, what makes humans superior?But I will try none the less to answer the question bssed on what you meant as opposed to what you said.Whether or not humans are superior depends of course by what criteria you consider superior.And on the soul question.You are not okay with this remaining a question. You need someone to give you definitive answer now.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Thanks, Dirk.Now to Jason:Your “critique” of science is entirely external, not internal. Evidently you have never done any real science. Your attempt in your post of December 29, 12:04 AM, to apply Gordon Clark’s obsolete methodology to scientific reasoning is embarrassing.(1) Observations are unreliable but the are the best way we have to get started in science. If we repeat observations under systematically varying circumstances, we can build up a foundation on which to build a theoretical edifice. Without observations, there is no science, just empty dogma.(2) Propositional logic is not a major tool in experimental science, but a propositional formalization of how scientists sometimes reason is better characterized, as several posters stated, either as “p if and only if q, and q, therefore p” or “if p then q, and not q, therefore not p.” Bertrand Russell, in the passage you quote, is pointing out a weakness not in science but in the logicist methodology of science, which was rectified in the improved philosophy of science developed by Karl Popper.(3) As Popper said, scientists proceed by proposing and testing hypotheses. This is a trial and error process that generates better and better theories for describing reality. It is an evolutionary process in which errors are selected out and improved variant theories tested in experimental confrontations. When all goes well, dominant paradigms emerge to guide and shape future work.(4) Equations are distilled hypotheses based on volumes of experimental results. Only a beginner would regard all the possible curves through a set of points on a graph as equally valid. Some mathematical relationships are fruitful, others are not, and an expert sees this and selects the right curve, the one that fits with other related results and the surroundng theory and so on.(5) All scientific laws are derived from models that simplify reality. They represent the features that interest us and abstract away irrelevant detail, just as your visual cortex abstracts away most of the detail your retinas send back along the optic nerves. Scientists first build a basic model for the salient facts and then build more detailed models for more exact work.Organized science is the most powerful and effective machine we have for augmenting our human faculties in order to achieve an understanding of nature. Nothing else comes close. The equations of Maxwell, Einstein, Schrödinger, and Dirac, the laws of heredity and DNA chemistry, all the proofs of mathematics, and so on – these are the new scriptures. These are the deeper truths that make the world make sense. Individually, they are fallible, but collectively they have a weight exceeding that of all our previous scriptures put together. To relate to your post of January 2, 12:29 PM, the validity of science does not depend on inductive reasoning, and skepticism, far from shaking the foundations, strengthens science by exposing the weaker parts for ongoing revision. Science gets stronger as it reveals successive layers of truth – from atoms to nuclei to quarks, from heliocentrism to galaxies to inflationary cosmology, from cells to DNA to genomes, and so on.Forget the Bible and the Koran – these are fossils for a museum.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Thanks, Dirk.Now to Jason:Your “critique” of science is entirely external, not internal. Evidently you have never done any real science. Your attempt in your post of December 29, 12:04 AM, to apply Gordon Clark’s obsolete methodology to scientific reasoning is embarrassing.(1) Observations are unreliable but the are the best way we have to get started in science. If we repeat observations under systematically varying circumstances, we can build up a foundation on which to build a theoretical edifice. Without observations, there is no science, just empty dogma.(2) Propositional logic is not a major tool in experimental science, but a propositional formalization of how scientists sometimes reason is better characterized, as several posters stated, either as “p if and only if q, and q, therefore p” or “if p then q, and not q, therefore not p.” Bertrand Russell, in the passage you quote, is pointing out a weakness not in science but in the logicist methodology of science, which was rectified in the improved philosophy of science developed by Karl Popper.(3) As Popper said, scientists proceed by proposing and testing hypotheses. This is a trial and error process that generates better and better theories for describing reality. It is an evolutionary process in which errors are selected out and improved variant theories tested in experimental confrontations. When all goes well, dominant paradigms emerge to guide and shape future work.(4) Equations are distilled hypotheses based on volumes of experimental results. Only a beginner would regard all the possible curves through a set of points on a graph as equally valid. Some mathematical relationships are fruitful, others are not, and an expert sees this and selects the right curve, the one that fits with other related results and the surroundng theory and so on.(5) All scientific laws are derived from models that simplify reality. They represent the features that interest us and abstract away irrelevant detail, just as your visual cortex abstracts away most of the detail your retinas send back along the optic nerves. Scientists first build a basic model for the salient facts and then build more detailed models for more exact work.Organized science is the most powerful and effective machine we have for augmenting our human faculties in order to achieve an understanding of nature. Nothing else comes close. The equations of Maxwell, Einstein, Schrödinger, and Dirac, the laws of heredity and DNA chemistry, all the proofs of mathematics, and so on – these are the new scriptures. These are the deeper truths that make the world make sense. Individually, they are fallible, but collectively they have a weight exceeding that of all our previous scriptures put together. To relate to your post of January 2, 12:29 PM, the validity of science does not depend on inductive reasoning, and skepticism, far from shaking the foundations, strengthens science by exposing the weaker parts for ongoing revision. Science gets stronger as it reveals successive layers of truth – from atoms to nuclei to quarks, from heliocentrism to galaxies to inflationary cosmology, from cells to DNA to genomes, and so on.Forget the Bible and the Koran – these are fossils for a museum.

  • Tonio

    Dirk, I agreed with most of Andy’s excellent post, although I should mention the following.”Many times in history, revolutionaries have rebelled against religion only to founder on the rocky shores of an excessively harsh rationalism. Think of the French revolution, where heads were chopped off like cabbages in the name of reason, or the Russian revolution, where reactionaries of all kinds were rounded up and shot in the name of the proletariat.”I wouldn’t describe the French and Russian revolutions as harsh rationalism rebelling against religion. If anything, I would describe them as the replacement of one type of state religion with another. The fallen monarchs claimed divine sanction to rule. The secular tyrants had personality cults that strongly resembled religions. (As an aside, that’s why it’s misleading to characterize the Soviet regime as atheist.) I would argue that rationalism had little to do with either revolution, except maybe to question the monarch’s claims of divine sanction. I see the “personal Jesus” as the individual creating his or her own purpose for life. I don’t see atheism as inherently denying the spiritual, although Dawkins specifically suggests so. The problem, as Dawkins said, is that dogmas don’t limit themselves to the purpose of life, but instead make claims about the world. I would argue that if rationalism belittles the spiritual, than dogmatism belittles it even more by denying the individual’s right to create his or her own purpose for life.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Thanks, Dirk.Now to Jason:Your “critique” of science is entirely external, not internal. Evidently you have never done any real science. Your attempt in your post of December 29, 12:04 AM, to apply Gordon Clark’s obsolete methodology to scientific reasoning is embarrassing.(1) Observations are unreliable but the are the best way we have to get started in science. If we repeat observations under systematically varying circumstances, we can build up a foundation on which to build a theoretical edifice. Without observations, there is no science, just empty dogma.(2) Propositional logic is not a major tool in experimental science, but a propositional formalization of how scientists sometimes reason is better characterized, as several posters stated, either as “p if and only if q, and q, therefore p” or “if p then q, and not q, therefore not p.” Bertrand Russell, in the passage you quote, is pointing out a weakness not in science but in the logicist methodology of science, which was rectified in the improved philosophy of science developed by Karl Popper.(3) As Popper said, scientists proceed by proposing and testing hypotheses. This is a trial and error process that generates better and better theories for describing reality. It is an evolutionary process in which errors are selected out and improved variant theories tested in experimental confrontations. When all goes well, dominant paradigms emerge to guide and shape future work.(4) Equations are distilled hypotheses based on volumes of experimental results. Only a beginner would regard all the possible curves through a set of points on a graph as equally valid. Some mathematical relationships are fruitful, others are not, and an expert sees this and selects the right curve, the one that fits with other related results and the surroundng theory and so on.(5) All scientific laws are derived from models that simplify reality. They represent the features that interest us and abstract away irrelevant detail, just as your visual cortex abstracts away most of the detail your retinas send back along the optic nerves. Scientists first build a basic model for the salient facts and then build more detailed models for more exact work.Organized science is the most powerful and effective machine we have for augmenting our human faculties in order to achieve an understanding of nature. Nothing else comes close. The equations of Maxwell, Einstein, Schrödinger, and Dirac, the laws of heredity and DNA chemistry, all the proofs of mathematics, and so on – these are the new scriptures. These are the deeper truths that make the world make sense. Individually, they are fallible, but collectively they have a weight exceeding that of all our previous scriptures put together. To relate to your post of January 2, 12:29 PM, the validity of science does not depend on inductive reasoning, and skepticism, far from shaking the foundations, strengthens science by exposing the weaker parts for ongoing revision. Science gets stronger as it reveals successive layers of truth – from atoms to nuclei to quarks, from heliocentrism to galaxies to inflationary cosmology, from cells to DNA to genomes, and so on.Forget the Bible and the Koran – these are fossils for a museum.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,thanks again for demonstrating that you cannot address the induction problem without sounding like a moron.Once again, my criticism of ‘science’ has nothing to do with the Bible.You say: “The entire system (and by the way, it is system, not a politicized group of people) is based on continual re-examination of itself. And a willingness to be proven wrong.”Timmy, you still don’t get it. Define the word “wrong” for me. And after you define it, please explain how you account for it.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,thanks again for demonstrating that you cannot address the induction problem without sounding like a moron.Once again, my criticism of ‘science’ has nothing to do with the Bible.You say: “The entire system (and by the way, it is system, not a politicized group of people) is based on continual re-examination of itself. And a willingness to be proven wrong.”Timmy, you still don’t get it. Define the word “wrong” for me. And after you define it, please explain how you account for it.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,thanks again for demonstrating that you cannot address the induction problem without sounding like a moron.Once again, my criticism of ‘science’ has nothing to do with the Bible.You say: “The entire system (and by the way, it is system, not a politicized group of people) is based on continual re-examination of itself. And a willingness to be proven wrong.”Timmy, you still don’t get it. Define the word “wrong” for me. And after you define it, please explain how you account for it.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk says, “Jason, you are doing a grand job for the atheist cause. Your post is so incoherent that I couldn’t respond to it if I tried. Keep it up!”Hmmm…great answer Dirk. Mere assertions as usual. Thanks for displaying once again that you have no answer.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk says, “Jason, you are doing a grand job for the atheist cause. Your post is so incoherent that I couldn’t respond to it if I tried. Keep it up!”Hmmm…great answer Dirk. Mere assertions as usual. Thanks for displaying once again that you have no answer.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk says, “Jason, you are doing a grand job for the atheist cause. Your post is so incoherent that I couldn’t respond to it if I tried. Keep it up!”Hmmm…great answer Dirk. Mere assertions as usual. Thanks for displaying once again that you have no answer.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Andy,You posted all of that crap to basically demonstrate once again that you folks can’t answer the problem with induction.I’ll repeat – inductive reasoning is ALWAYS fallacious. So, to keep your presuppositions alive you resort to insanity and make absolute statements that you can not epistemologically justify.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Andy,You posted all of that crap to basically demonstrate once again that you folks can’t answer the problem with induction.I’ll repeat – inductive reasoning is ALWAYS fallacious. So, to keep your presuppositions alive you resort to insanity and make absolute statements that you can not epistemologically justify.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Andy,You posted all of that crap to basically demonstrate once again that you folks can’t answer the problem with induction.I’ll repeat – inductive reasoning is ALWAYS fallacious. So, to keep your presuppositions alive you resort to insanity and make absolute statements that you can not epistemologically justify.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk,Please provide a source for your definition of skepticism.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk,Please provide a source for your definition of skepticism.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk,Please provide a source for your definition of skepticism.

  • timmy

    Hey Jason,You are so out of it you don’t even realize that you are not actually here at all. Neither is this post. Your existence is an unconfirmable obserrvation. You aren’t even reading this post right now and you know it. Or if you are.

  • timmy

    Hey Jason,You are so out of it you don’t even realize that you are not actually here at all. Neither is this post. Your existence is an unconfirmable obserrvation. You aren’t even reading this post right now and you know it. Or if you are.

  • timmy

    Hey Jason,You are so out of it you don’t even realize that you are not actually here at all. Neither is this post. Your existence is an unconfirmable obserrvation. You aren’t even reading this post right now and you know it. Or if you are.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Inductive reasoning in mathematics:X is true of 0Analogously in empirical science:X is true at time T[alternatively, write "case" and cases" for "time" and "times"]In mathematics, such induction is valid.So we make a model in which the step from T to T+1 is valid, and see whether the model AS A WHOLE survives sufficiently rigorous testing.Science works. Any logician who “proves” otherwise has shot himself in the foot.*QED = Quantum electrodynamics, refined and refined until the match of theory and experiment works out to 13 decimal places (as of last year), works … although no-one really understands it (says Feynman, who should know), so the logicians are as baffled as the rest of us!

  • ANDY ROSS

    Inductive reasoning in mathematics:X is true of 0Analogously in empirical science:X is true at time T[alternatively, write "case" and cases" for "time" and "times"]In mathematics, such induction is valid.So we make a model in which the step from T to T+1 is valid, and see whether the model AS A WHOLE survives sufficiently rigorous testing.Science works. Any logician who “proves” otherwise has shot himself in the foot.*QED = Quantum electrodynamics, refined and refined until the match of theory and experiment works out to 13 decimal places (as of last year), works … although no-one really understands it (says Feynman, who should know), so the logicians are as baffled as the rest of us!

  • ANDY ROSS

    Inductive reasoning in mathematics:X is true of 0Analogously in empirical science:X is true at time T[alternatively, write "case" and cases" for "time" and "times"]In mathematics, such induction is valid.So we make a model in which the step from T to T+1 is valid, and see whether the model AS A WHOLE survives sufficiently rigorous testing.Science works. Any logician who “proves” otherwise has shot himself in the foot.*QED = Quantum electrodynamics, refined and refined until the match of theory and experiment works out to 13 decimal places (as of last year), works … although no-one really understands it (says Feynman, who should know), so the logicians are as baffled as the rest of us!

  • RB

    Jason, here’s some inductive logic for you:The Bible is the Word of God.God is all powerful, all knowing, perfect.Therefore the Bible is perfect.Too bad it got the number pi wrong, even though its precision had been calculated to more than five decimals places 1,000 years before Christ did Mary.Uh, must have been a typo. Not His fault, right?

  • ANDY ROSS

    Tonio: “I wouldn’t describe the French and Russian revolutions as harsh rationalism rebelling against religion. If anything, I would describe them as the replacement of one type of state religion with another.” Sadly, the French revolution led first to chaos and then to Napoleon. But the American revolution was a similar attempt to replace a manifestly irrational arrangement (rule by the British crown) with something more reasonable (the constitutional republic). As we all know, it was by accommodating religion (“In God we trust”) that the American revolution achieved a smooth transition. Even more sadly (to go by the body count), the Russian revolution was explicitly atheist. It was state-of-the-art atheism, as of 1917. And intellectuals like George Bernard Shaw even admired it (before the gulag stories got out).Tonio again: “I don’t see atheism as inherently denying the spiritual, although Dawkins specifically suggests so. The problem, as Dawkins said, is that dogmas don’t limit themselves to the purpose of life, but instead make claims about the world.”What is conventionally known as the central dogma of molecular biology is that DNA contains the code for making proteins, which make up organisms. The “purpose” of DNA life is to replicate its genes – Dawkins. And the central dogma makes claims about the world, namely that if we study DNA transcription and proteosynthesis, it will all work out nicely. OK, this is the one and only good piece of dogma in the world of Dawkins, but the problem of principle remains. Modern big science is analogous to a religion, indeed a bigger and more powerful one than has ever stalked the Earth before. If big science repudiates spiritualism, it will generate opposition. So I hope that, perhaps via the science of consciousness, room will be made for the sort of harmless spiritualism of people who seek enlightenment – so long as their personal Jesus does not ask them to blow up medical facilities and the like, of course.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Tonio: “I wouldn’t describe the French and Russian revolutions as harsh rationalism rebelling against religion. If anything, I would describe them as the replacement of one type of state religion with another.” Sadly, the French revolution led first to chaos and then to Napoleon. But the American revolution was a similar attempt to replace a manifestly irrational arrangement (rule by the British crown) with something more reasonable (the constitutional republic). As we all know, it was by accommodating religion (“In God we trust”) that the American revolution achieved a smooth transition. Even more sadly (to go by the body count), the Russian revolution was explicitly atheist. It was state-of-the-art atheism, as of 1917. And intellectuals like George Bernard Shaw even admired it (before the gulag stories got out).Tonio again: “I don’t see atheism as inherently denying the spiritual, although Dawkins specifically suggests so. The problem, as Dawkins said, is that dogmas don’t limit themselves to the purpose of life, but instead make claims about the world.”What is conventionally known as the central dogma of molecular biology is that DNA contains the code for making proteins, which make up organisms. The “purpose” of DNA life is to replicate its genes – Dawkins. And the central dogma makes claims about the world, namely that if we study DNA transcription and proteosynthesis, it will all work out nicely. OK, this is the one and only good piece of dogma in the world of Dawkins, but the problem of principle remains. Modern big science is analogous to a religion, indeed a bigger and more powerful one than has ever stalked the Earth before. If big science repudiates spiritualism, it will generate opposition. So I hope that, perhaps via the science of consciousness, room will be made for the sort of harmless spiritualism of people who seek enlightenment – so long as their personal Jesus does not ask them to blow up medical facilities and the like, of course.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Tonio: “I wouldn’t describe the French and Russian revolutions as harsh rationalism rebelling against religion. If anything, I would describe them as the replacement of one type of state religion with another.” Sadly, the French revolution led first to chaos and then to Napoleon. But the American revolution was a similar attempt to replace a manifestly irrational arrangement (rule by the British crown) with something more reasonable (the constitutional republic). As we all know, it was by accommodating religion (“In God we trust”) that the American revolution achieved a smooth transition. Even more sadly (to go by the body count), the Russian revolution was explicitly atheist. It was state-of-the-art atheism, as of 1917. And intellectuals like George Bernard Shaw even admired it (before the gulag stories got out).Tonio again: “I don’t see atheism as inherently denying the spiritual, although Dawkins specifically suggests so. The problem, as Dawkins said, is that dogmas don’t limit themselves to the purpose of life, but instead make claims about the world.”What is conventionally known as the central dogma of molecular biology is that DNA contains the code for making proteins, which make up organisms. The “purpose” of DNA life is to replicate its genes – Dawkins. And the central dogma makes claims about the world, namely that if we study DNA transcription and proteosynthesis, it will all work out nicely. OK, this is the one and only good piece of dogma in the world of Dawkins, but the problem of principle remains. Modern big science is analogous to a religion, indeed a bigger and more powerful one than has ever stalked the Earth before. If big science repudiates spiritualism, it will generate opposition. So I hope that, perhaps via the science of consciousness, room will be made for the sort of harmless spiritualism of people who seek enlightenment – so long as their personal Jesus does not ask them to blow up medical facilities and the like, of course.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB,Thanks again for demonstrating that you have no answer. You instead create arguments for me about the Bible.We haven’t got to the Bible yet. I’m asking you to deal with the problem of induction as a first principle.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB,Thanks again for demonstrating that you have no answer. You instead create arguments for me about the Bible.We haven’t got to the Bible yet. I’m asking you to deal with the problem of induction as a first principle.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB,Thanks again for demonstrating that you have no answer. You instead create arguments for me about the Bible.We haven’t got to the Bible yet. I’m asking you to deal with the problem of induction as a first principle.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,still waiting…what does any of this have to do with me or the Bible?Please address the problem of induction and arriving at certainties.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,still waiting…what does any of this have to do with me or the Bible?Please address the problem of induction and arriving at certainties.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,still waiting…what does any of this have to do with me or the Bible?Please address the problem of induction and arriving at certainties.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Since my big statement of 2:49 PM went unanswered I’ll stick to small statements …Bruce: “you cannot so neatly and summarily dismiss faith as being culturally determined.”Well, I think you can, but that only shows the issue to be a red herring. Any expression of faith occurs in a language community and against a set of shared beliefs and defaults about life and the universe. The faith itself may be a human universal, hard-wired by genes like the basic emotions, but if so it remains so protean that without a culturally determined expression it would remain unrecognizable. I am sure that this kind of protean faith lies behind the belief in science of people like Dick Feynman or Carl Sagan, who were smart enough not only to see the epistemological problems at the leading edge of science but also to see that only clear thinking based on honest appraisal of natural phenomena can help us in the long term. In other words, science done right is a faith too, but one shorn of embarrassingly idiotic entanglement with old issues about whether Jesus walked on water or Mohammed took dictation from an angel.Bruce again: “Conversion to Christ is a worldwide phenomenon.”Well, conversion to a state of enlightenment is a worldwide phenomenon, and prevailing cultural memes cause this to be described as conversion to Christ, which I like to think of as finding one’s own personal Jesus. But why should this kind of enlightenment, which may not be quite the same as Buddhist enlightenment, be thought of as related to the Biblical Jesus? Our contact with the Biblical Jesus is more remote and indirect than that with most other historical (or fictional) personages, yet people are convinced they have made contact. This is surely psychologically remarkable. They achieve a kind of resonance in their mental state and imagine it transcends the normal rules of physics (excluding quantum nonlocality, which is only well defined for microscopic systems, despite what they say in the movie “What the Bleep?!”). My personal take on this is that it reflects a weakness in the standard physical “explanation” of time, but let that go for now.Timmy: “Would monogamy be the norm if not for religion?”Probably, yes. Biologists have studied several pairs of species that are very similar except that one is monogamous and the other is polygamous, and it seems to reflect the working of a simple hormonal mechanism controlled by a small number of genes. So we probably have that mechanism to thank for the fact that we’re not (quite) like bonobos. The fact that human males are on average slightly bigger than females reflects a tendency for polygamy or harems, like gorillas, and the size of human testicles correlates with a level of promiscuity that puts us halfway between gorillas and bonobos. As you see, none of this has any obvious relation to religion.Duckphup: “The Jesus character is entirely fictional.”If so, the author was a genius! Seriously, this is not a big issue for the choice between religious faith and atheism. A millennial movement can get started on the basis of a well planted fiction as well as on fact. Think of how twentieth-century demagogues powered genocidal campaigns with the ludicrously fictional “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” But the possibility that Jesus was fictional does at least open up the debate on the historicity of the New Testament. If even the historicity of Jesus is in doubt, the resurrection and so on are not even worth talking about. Such issues are also irrelevant to any faith that depends merely on resonance with an image of Jesus, which is a psychological phenomenon familiar to students of consciousness.Enough for now. Replies, anyone?

  • ANDY ROSS

    Since my big statement of 2:49 PM went unanswered I’ll stick to small statements …Bruce: “you cannot so neatly and summarily dismiss faith as being culturally determined.”Well, I think you can, but that only shows the issue to be a red herring. Any expression of faith occurs in a language community and against a set of shared beliefs and defaults about life and the universe. The faith itself may be a human universal, hard-wired by genes like the basic emotions, but if so it remains so protean that without a culturally determined expression it would remain unrecognizable. I am sure that this kind of protean faith lies behind the belief in science of people like Dick Feynman or Carl Sagan, who were smart enough not only to see the epistemological problems at the leading edge of science but also to see that only clear thinking based on honest appraisal of natural phenomena can help us in the long term. In other words, science done right is a faith too, but one shorn of embarrassingly idiotic entanglement with old issues about whether Jesus walked on water or Mohammed took dictation from an angel.Bruce again: “Conversion to Christ is a worldwide phenomenon.”Well, conversion to a state of enlightenment is a worldwide phenomenon, and prevailing cultural memes cause this to be described as conversion to Christ, which I like to think of as finding one’s own personal Jesus. But why should this kind of enlightenment, which may not be quite the same as Buddhist enlightenment, be thought of as related to the Biblical Jesus? Our contact with the Biblical Jesus is more remote and indirect than that with most other historical (or fictional) personages, yet people are convinced they have made contact. This is surely psychologically remarkable. They achieve a kind of resonance in their mental state and imagine it transcends the normal rules of physics (excluding quantum nonlocality, which is only well defined for microscopic systems, despite what they say in the movie “What the Bleep?!”). My personal take on this is that it reflects a weakness in the standard physical “explanation” of time, but let that go for now.Timmy: “Would monogamy be the norm if not for religion?”Probably, yes. Biologists have studied several pairs of species that are very similar except that one is monogamous and the other is polygamous, and it seems to reflect the working of a simple hormonal mechanism controlled by a small number of genes. So we probably have that mechanism to thank for the fact that we’re not (quite) like bonobos. The fact that human males are on average slightly bigger than females reflects a tendency for polygamy or harems, like gorillas, and the size of human testicles correlates with a level of promiscuity that puts us halfway between gorillas and bonobos. As you see, none of this has any obvious relation to religion.Duckphup: “The Jesus character is entirely fictional.”If so, the author was a genius! Seriously, this is not a big issue for the choice between religious faith and atheism. A millennial movement can get started on the basis of a well planted fiction as well as on fact. Think of how twentieth-century demagogues powered genocidal campaigns with the ludicrously fictional “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” But the possibility that Jesus was fictional does at least open up the debate on the historicity of the New Testament. If even the historicity of Jesus is in doubt, the resurrection and so on are not even worth talking about. Such issues are also irrelevant to any faith that depends merely on resonance with an image of Jesus, which is a psychological phenomenon familiar to students of consciousness.Enough for now. Replies, anyone?

  • ANDY ROSS

    Since my big statement of 2:49 PM went unanswered I’ll stick to small statements …Bruce: “you cannot so neatly and summarily dismiss faith as being culturally determined.”Well, I think you can, but that only shows the issue to be a red herring. Any expression of faith occurs in a language community and against a set of shared beliefs and defaults about life and the universe. The faith itself may be a human universal, hard-wired by genes like the basic emotions, but if so it remains so protean that without a culturally determined expression it would remain unrecognizable. I am sure that this kind of protean faith lies behind the belief in science of people like Dick Feynman or Carl Sagan, who were smart enough not only to see the epistemological problems at the leading edge of science but also to see that only clear thinking based on honest appraisal of natural phenomena can help us in the long term. In other words, science done right is a faith too, but one shorn of embarrassingly idiotic entanglement with old issues about whether Jesus walked on water or Mohammed took dictation from an angel.Bruce again: “Conversion to Christ is a worldwide phenomenon.”Well, conversion to a state of enlightenment is a worldwide phenomenon, and prevailing cultural memes cause this to be described as conversion to Christ, which I like to think of as finding one’s own personal Jesus. But why should this kind of enlightenment, which may not be quite the same as Buddhist enlightenment, be thought of as related to the Biblical Jesus? Our contact with the Biblical Jesus is more remote and indirect than that with most other historical (or fictional) personages, yet people are convinced they have made contact. This is surely psychologically remarkable. They achieve a kind of resonance in their mental state and imagine it transcends the normal rules of physics (excluding quantum nonlocality, which is only well defined for microscopic systems, despite what they say in the movie “What the Bleep?!”). My personal take on this is that it reflects a weakness in the standard physical “explanation” of time, but let that go for now.Timmy: “Would monogamy be the norm if not for religion?”Probably, yes. Biologists have studied several pairs of species that are very similar except that one is monogamous and the other is polygamous, and it seems to reflect the working of a simple hormonal mechanism controlled by a small number of genes. So we probably have that mechanism to thank for the fact that we’re not (quite) like bonobos. The fact that human males are on average slightly bigger than females reflects a tendency for polygamy or harems, like gorillas, and the size of human testicles correlates with a level of promiscuity that puts us halfway between gorillas and bonobos. As you see, none of this has any obvious relation to religion.Duckphup: “The Jesus character is entirely fictional.”If so, the author was a genius! Seriously, this is not a big issue for the choice between religious faith and atheism. A millennial movement can get started on the basis of a well planted fiction as well as on fact. Think of how twentieth-century demagogues powered genocidal campaigns with the ludicrously fictional “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” But the possibility that Jesus was fictional does at least open up the debate on the historicity of the New Testament. If even the historicity of Jesus is in doubt, the resurrection and so on are not even worth talking about. Such issues are also irrelevant to any faith that depends merely on resonance with an image of Jesus, which is a psychological phenomenon familiar to students of consciousness.Enough for now. Replies, anyone?

  • Pecos (NM) Skeptic

    Could — and would — one of you sagacious posters please explain the meaning of the phrases, “God bless you,” “May God bless you,” and “Bless you.” The operative word is “bless.” I really, truly don’t know what this means. Is “Bless you” or “God bless you” a command, a suggestion, or what? And what does it mean to be “blessed?” Is it a form of magic, such as a reverse curse? Does it mean a person, having been blessed, is then in a “state of grace?” And further, what does that signify? Should there be an aura, a halo, or somesuch hovering above or about that lucky person? Perhaps being blessed means that the blessed one is thereafter — or for how ever long a blessing lasts — protected from evil and pianos falling from upper stories? No? Yes? Help!

  • Jason Bradfield

    And please define the word “wrong” Timmy.

  • Jason Bradfield

    And please define the word “wrong” Timmy.

  • Jason Bradfield

    And please define the word “wrong” Timmy.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Pecos (NM) Skeptic,Still rambling on about the Bible, eh? Care to address the problem of induction?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Pecos (NM) Skeptic,Still rambling on about the Bible, eh? Care to address the problem of induction?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Pecos (NM) Skeptic,Still rambling on about the Bible, eh? Care to address the problem of induction?

  • timmy

    AndyAgain this issue gets confused by two false premises.1) Atheism is something that would exist on it’s own without religion. The hubris of science is thinking that they are best equipped to debunk religion. Science is helpful in this debate, but the god we are all concerned about is the Abrahamic god, not the harmless spiritual god.

  • timmy

    AndyAgain this issue gets confused by two false premises.1) Atheism is something that would exist on it’s own without religion. The hubris of science is thinking that they are best equipped to debunk religion. Science is helpful in this debate, but the god we are all concerned about is the Abrahamic god, not the harmless spiritual god.

  • timmy

    AndyAgain this issue gets confused by two false premises.1) Atheism is something that would exist on it’s own without religion. The hubris of science is thinking that they are best equipped to debunk religion. Science is helpful in this debate, but the god we are all concerned about is the Abrahamic god, not the harmless spiritual god.

  • timmy

    Jason,Please read carefully because you keep missing it.You keep trying to put claims of certainty in our mouths to argue with but it is you who puts those claims there, not us who makes them, so go argue with yourself.I understand why you so badly need to make the false assertion that science claims certainty.If the point you are trying to make is that science is far from perfect, congratulations on stating the obvious that no one on this thread argues with.If there is some other point you are trying to make, please clarify.

  • timmy

    Jason,Please read carefully because you keep missing it.You keep trying to put claims of certainty in our mouths to argue with but it is you who puts those claims there, not us who makes them, so go argue with yourself.I understand why you so badly need to make the false assertion that science claims certainty.If the point you are trying to make is that science is far from perfect, congratulations on stating the obvious that no one on this thread argues with.If there is some other point you are trying to make, please clarify.

  • timmy

    Jason,Please read carefully because you keep missing it.You keep trying to put claims of certainty in our mouths to argue with but it is you who puts those claims there, not us who makes them, so go argue with yourself.I understand why you so badly need to make the false assertion that science claims certainty.If the point you are trying to make is that science is far from perfect, congratulations on stating the obvious that no one on this thread argues with.If there is some other point you are trying to make, please clarify.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,I already know that…again, I just want a definition of “wrong”.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,I already know that…again, I just want a definition of “wrong”.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,I already know that…again, I just want a definition of “wrong”.

  • RB

    Jason, you said thank you “again”, well I’ve never engaged you until now because your argument is spurious.But if I gather some facts — that the spectrum of a star reveals its chemical composition — and then hypothesize — stars turn hydrogen into helium, that is inductive.Now I can go about affirming, or trying to find examples of stars that do not adhere to the hypthesis.This happens all the time, and it works all the time. Frankly, I don’t understand your objection. That’s why I let others wash away your clay feet. You really aren’t worth the effort.But I do understand why you don’t want to subject the bible to objective analysis. And why don’t you answer a straightforward question: why did the bible — the “perfect” book — get the value of pi wrong?Because it was written by illiterate twits, that’s why.

  • Skeptic

    Henceforth, I will refer to myself more simply as “Skeptic” rather than “Skeptic from Tallahassee”. For clarity, please use the same label.Bruce said “The point is that you cannot so neatly and summarily dismiss faith as being culturally determined.” In this context the point was not to dismiss faith (it can be dismissed because it doesn’t work) but to explain its development in individuals. In the vast majority of cases, people retain as adults the worldviews they were brought up with. Furthermore, when they change worldviews as adults they most often change to another worldview that is prominent in the societies in which they live. This is not to deny that there are cases which don’t conform to these generalizations; there are. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. The culture into which people are born is the single best predictor of the worldview they will hold as adults.Conversions occur. Changes in worldviews occur. So what? What does this have to do with the truth that Jesus rose from the dead? Nothing that I can see. The belief that he did rise from the dead is extremely unlikely to be true no matter whether one moves towards or away from its endorsement. One should not believe that Jesus rose from the dead; it is UNETHICAL to do so. The only relevant point here is that wishful thinking is almost always the engine which moves people to an endorsement of that belief.Bruce said “They [scientists who have experiences of conversion to Christianity] don’t start believing the world is 6000 years old, but they do start believing that Jesus rose from the dead. They cannot prove that the resurrection occurred, but their inward experience convinces them that the resurrection is true. These are people who are used to having things confirmed objectively, and yet something happens in them to cause them to accept another reality. I don’t think they have abandoned rational thinking, as Skeptic suggests.” Scientists are people too! Their training in rational thinking provides them with some immunity against conversion experiences and irrational thinking, but the protection is not complete. What apparently happened to the Paul of the Bible and to Bruce happens much less frequently with scientists than with nonscientists. But the important point is that an inward experience or a subjective feeling is NOT the proper foundation for assessing the truth value of a claim. You can’t feel your way to truth; you must think your way to truth, and you must do this thinking in a particular way in order to be regularly successful. Unfortunately, Bruce has just not adopted the proper way yet in all areas of his life. The scientists which do come to believe that Jesus rose from the dead as a result of some odd psychological experience have not totally abandoned rational thinking, but they have disregarded it in at least one area of their lives, just as Bruce has done. This is the phenomenon of COMPARTMENTALIZATION which I talked about earlier. Bruce is probably quite rational in most areas of his life, but sadly, when he considers the major questions about the universe, life, and ethics, he resorts to wishful thinking to reach his conclusions.Bruce said “In the Christian understanding, God has chosen ‘faith’ as the basis for a relationship with people. He did not chose knowledge, reason, science or logic, although there are elements of all of these in faith. This is not belief with no evidence, as there is ‘some evidence.’” People use at least three different definitions of “faith” on a regular basis and sometimes they improperly use them interchangeably, which creates much confusion. There is the definition which refers to a worldview or set of beliefs. (“In the Middle East, the most common faith is Islam.”) There is the definition which refers to confidence or trust. (“He had faith in the doctors who were treating him.”) And then there is the meaning of “faith” which refers to a form of irrational thinking. Here is my definition which captures this meaning. “Faith is the process of believing propositions on the basis of little or no evidence, or out of proportion to the quantity and quality of evidence, or believing propositions largely by substituting wishful thinking for the application of rational principles.” Bruce and most religious people operate on faith in this sense. Bruce says that there is “some evidence”, and in relation to the hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead, he is correct. But that is not the important point. Some evidence does not necessarily constitute enough evidence. It certainly does not in this case. Bruce holds his belief in the resurrection of Jesus not on the basis of no evidence, but on the basis of a little evidence, poor in quantity and quality, and completely overwhelmed by contrary evidence, great in quantity and quality. Bruce chooses to believe in the resurrection of Jesus because it fulfills his WISH that he too will one day be able to defeat death. His WISH is powerful, but it does not make his CLAIM true. But I don’t know that we need to discuss much further why the resurrection of Jesus does not make sense from a rational perspective. After all, Bruce has already clearly acknowledged that he can not maintain this particular belief through a rational process. Like a turtle pulling its head back into its shell, Bruce has resorted to feeling, subjective experience, and personal conversion as the basis for his claims about facts in the real world. Jesus was raised from the dead simply because Bruce (and others) feel in their hearts that it must be true! That is their mistaken contention.Bruce said “I will accept whatever consequences come with identifying myself as a Christian, including having to deal with the Old Testament and the crimes of other believers. Jesus, for me, is the ultimate interpreter of the OT, and His teachings and example are non-violent, forgiving, loving, and life-affirming.” By agreeing to accept whatever consequences come with having to deal with the OT, Bruce has taken a huge burden on himself. Although in many places the NT shows the character of Jesus to be somewhat rebellious against OT theology and ethics, in other places (of which Bruce must surely be aware and which Sam Harris references in his first book), the NT shows Jesus to be supportive of or endorsing of OT theology and ethics. One wonders whether Bruce (or Jesus for that matter) would support the practices of the stoning of homosexuals or of misbehaving children, as is prescribed in the OT. Bruce is partly correct in his claim that Jesus is depicted as non-violent, forgiving, loving, and life-affirming in the NT, but he is also partly incorrect about this, as a careful and critical reading of the NT reveals. (I’ll just give you one example to counter Bruce’s generalization. Jesus clearly believed and preached that some people would suffer SEVERELY in Hell FOREVER! I don’t see that as non-violent, forgiving, loving, or life-affirming. To the contrary I see it as violent, unforgiving, hateful, and life-demeaning.)In his recent post, Timmy posed one of the most important questions of this entire discussion. Addressing himself to Bruce, he said “I believe that scepticism is a biological necessity and part of our survival instinct. Why would an all knowing all loving god make it a sin for people, with a natural built in scepticism, to not believe in something fantastical, based on hearsay. Not only is it a sin. It is the only unforgivable sin.” Wow! Now that is a good question. How did Bruce answer it? In response, after a profession of humility, Bruce said “I think that faith is a virtue because it is the one quality that we can possess that attributes absolutely no sufficiency or “glory” to ourselves – all the honor goes to the object of the faith, which in my case is Jesus.” In my opinion, Bruce gives a very poor answer to a very good question. My contention is that Bruce has it all backwards. Faith is a VICE partly because it attributes sufficiency and glory to the person who exhibits it! All the honor goes to a flawed process! The faith holder tells himself “I am right because my subjective feeling tells me so! Something is true because I want or wish it to be true. I have no need for the accumulated scientific knowledge of mankind or the best method ever invented for pursuing truth. I am sufficient, glorious, and honored unto myself.” Not only does Bruce’s speculation here make little sense, it only tangentially addresses Timmy’s question.Bruce believes that life is a test of faith, and this is what most Christians believe. Timmy asks Bruce why God would make life a test of faith when faith seems to go contrary to our natural skepticism. I think the correct answer to Timmy’s question is that if he did exist, God would not have made life a test of faith at all, but would instead have made it partly a test of rationality! If he did exist, God would have been the Creator. What were we “created” with that is so special? It is our big brains and our intelligence. With this “gift” we have discovered over the millennia that there is a way of thinking which increases our chances of survival and prosperity. This mode of thinking is called “RATIONALITY”. God would not punish us in an afterlife for engaging in a mode of thinking in this life which brings us great rewards. Conversely, he would not reward us in an afterlife for engaging in a mode of thinking in this life which brings us great punishments. Most people believe that if he exists at all, God is an eternal, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, perfectly good, personal being who created all things. If this is the case, then it would be incompatible with his basic nature to require people to operate on faith! If he existed at all, God would be inclined to punish people in a afterlife because they believed in the resurrection of Jesus in this life! Why? Because God would want our thinking to be based on rationality, not on faith. Just imagine life to be a test of rationality and you can’t go wrong. BEING RATIONAL will pay you big dividends in this life, and if God just happens to exist (which is not likely), then it will likely pay you big dividends in the life to come.Bruce said “To refuse to have faith in God cuts you off from him, as that is the only path by which he allows access to himself. That leads to its own end, the “eternal damnation” that you describe.” I think just the opposite is true. If God exists, to REFUSE to have faith (see my previous definition) and to EMBRACE rationality would bring you closer to God. Rationality would be the main path by which God allows access to himself. Faith would be one of the paths which God cuts off from access to himself. The idea of “eternal damnation” in which Bruce, Jesus, and most Christians believe is CONTRADICTORY to the basic nature of God (if he does exist) and is quite possibly the most evil idea ever invented by man. But that is a discussion for another day.A few years ago a mantra commonly used by Christians was “What would Jesus do?” An interesting question, but the wrong one. They needed to step it up a notch. They needed to ask, and they and Bruce still need to ask “What would God do and not do, if he existed?” In my humble opinion, God would NEVER confine some people to everlasting torment or even punish people at all for forming their beliefs on a rational foundation (rather than a faith foundation). God would ALWAYS reward rationality and punish having faith. It is not so bad that Bruce and others think that life is a test. The problem is that their conception of what the test is, is wrong. Finally Bruce said “One reason I came to this site is that I wanted to subject my belief to criticism.” Well that is one WANT which we can help Bruce satisfy, and I think we have done a pretty good job of it. However, one WANT which we can’t satisfy is his want for the alleged resurrection of Jesus to be true. That is one WANT that not even God would satisfy, if he were to exist.

  • Puzzled

    It seems Jason Bradfield needs to do some reading on the philosophy of science. Representative authors such as Popper and Kuhn would help you get some understanding of the concepts so that you can converse with the others here more coherently.If people were to follow up on all your notions of science (in your initial posting), then nothing would ever get done, no new knoweldge advanced. Most simply put, scientists make assumptions about the phenomenon of interest, and then build predictive models. If those models fail to predict accurately (and no, no model is 100% accurate, and that does not invalidate the model), we tweak or even go back to the drawing board. Your response to Andy’s posting (using derogatory comments) do not serve you well in trying to make your point, if you have one. I thought it was well written and explained well what you seem to have a hard time understanding. Just to respond to one of the items listed in your post, yes, 999 crows we see might be “black,” and the 1000th one we see may be an “albino.” So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”?? Yes and no. “Yes” to the extent that we’d need qualifiers. But “no” to the extent that the question is assumed to have omitted the qualifer “generally speaking.” And the term “albino” already implies an anomaly, doesn’t it? Let’s use some common sense. Lastly, it might serve you well to explain in your own words what you are trying to say instead of trying to repeat things from readings that you don’t seem to have a very good grasp of.

  • timmy

    AndyOn the monogamy thing.

  • timmy

    AndyOn the monogamy thing.

  • timmy

    AndyOn the monogamy thing.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB says, “that is inductive” and then later, “and it works all the time.” and then “Frankly, I don’t understand your objection.”One more time RB – the problem of induction. What is your answer to the problem?Look it up – try google or wiki if you have to.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB says, “that is inductive” and then later, “and it works all the time.” and then “Frankly, I don’t understand your objection.”One more time RB – the problem of induction. What is your answer to the problem?Look it up – try google or wiki if you have to.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB says, “that is inductive” and then later, “and it works all the time.” and then “Frankly, I don’t understand your objection.”One more time RB – the problem of induction. What is your answer to the problem?Look it up – try google or wiki if you have to.

  • timmy

    Jason:Websters deffinition of wrong: Not correct or true.You said:Then I said:Then you said:Then why are you asking for science to prove it’s certainties.Posted January 2, 2007 3:34 PM

  • timmy

    Jason:Websters deffinition of wrong: Not correct or true.You said:Then I said:Then you said:Then why are you asking for science to prove it’s certainties.Posted January 2, 2007 3:34 PM

  • timmy

    Jason:Websters deffinition of wrong: Not correct or true.You said:Then I said:Then you said:Then why are you asking for science to prove it’s certainties.Posted January 2, 2007 3:34 PM

  • ANDY ROSS

    Timmy(1) Marxism is closely analogous to a religion – agreed, thank you. But it was an attempt at atheism (“religion is the opiate of the people” and so on) and therefore deserves close study as an example of how even the best intentions can go wrong. Marx based his efforts on Hegelian philosophy. Hegel created a supposedly definitive dialectical critique of all religion, and set religion beside art but beneath philosophy in the culminating triad of his “absolute” synthesis of everything.(2) Atheism does not imply science – again true, thank you. But atheism without science is a leap into the abyss. To deny a worldview you need a better worldview. Scientists do their level best to stop scientific doctrines from becoming dogma (except the molecular biologists, who were probably just joking), so it is misleading to see science as significantly like religion. Science is descriptive but should not be prescriptive, whereas religion is prescriptive and should not be descriptive.As you say, scientists are not necessarily the best executioners for the Abrahamic God.To all who love a good joke, another induction:If X has 0 hairs on his head then X is baldThe ancient Greeks called this a sorites paradox. It shows that induced baldness is a deep philosophical problem. But do we have problems with baldness? Not me!

  • ANDY ROSS

    Timmy(1) Marxism is closely analogous to a religion – agreed, thank you. But it was an attempt at atheism (“religion is the opiate of the people” and so on) and therefore deserves close study as an example of how even the best intentions can go wrong. Marx based his efforts on Hegelian philosophy. Hegel created a supposedly definitive dialectical critique of all religion, and set religion beside art but beneath philosophy in the culminating triad of his “absolute” synthesis of everything.(2) Atheism does not imply science – again true, thank you. But atheism without science is a leap into the abyss. To deny a worldview you need a better worldview. Scientists do their level best to stop scientific doctrines from becoming dogma (except the molecular biologists, who were probably just joking), so it is misleading to see science as significantly like religion. Science is descriptive but should not be prescriptive, whereas religion is prescriptive and should not be descriptive.As you say, scientists are not necessarily the best executioners for the Abrahamic God.To all who love a good joke, another induction:If X has 0 hairs on his head then X is baldThe ancient Greeks called this a sorites paradox. It shows that induced baldness is a deep philosophical problem. But do we have problems with baldness? Not me!

  • ANDY ROSS

    Timmy(1) Marxism is closely analogous to a religion – agreed, thank you. But it was an attempt at atheism (“religion is the opiate of the people” and so on) and therefore deserves close study as an example of how even the best intentions can go wrong. Marx based his efforts on Hegelian philosophy. Hegel created a supposedly definitive dialectical critique of all religion, and set religion beside art but beneath philosophy in the culminating triad of his “absolute” synthesis of everything.(2) Atheism does not imply science – again true, thank you. But atheism without science is a leap into the abyss. To deny a worldview you need a better worldview. Scientists do their level best to stop scientific doctrines from becoming dogma (except the molecular biologists, who were probably just joking), so it is misleading to see science as significantly like religion. Science is descriptive but should not be prescriptive, whereas religion is prescriptive and should not be descriptive.As you say, scientists are not necessarily the best executioners for the Abrahamic God.To all who love a good joke, another induction:If X has 0 hairs on his head then X is baldThe ancient Greeks called this a sorites paradox. It shows that induced baldness is a deep philosophical problem. But do we have problems with baldness? Not me!

  • ANDY ROSS

    TimThe monogamy mechanism works mostly via oxytocin, which is released in both sexes during copulation and results in pair bonding, so the relative promiscuity of men and women probably has more to do with their relative investments in offspring. Social and religious arrangements most also play a role, but in various ways. For example, Mormons are genetically indistinguishable from average Protestants, but they tend to have bigger families for explicitly doctrinal reasons. Agreed, Mormon doctrine evolved to adapt the flock to populate a practically virgin continent (ignoring Native Americans for the usual deplorable reasons), so we cannot claim that the doctrine floats free of all natural constraint, but it is clear that doctrine is a separate variable here. As another example, Muslims and Hindus in India are genetically the same but treat women very differently.The modern liberation of women has two aspects: the contraceptive separation of sex from reproduction and the increasing economic importance of intelligence relative to muscle power. Modern sexual politics are only possible where sexual freedom does not have reproductive consequences. And intelligence is about equally distributed between the sexes, unlike muscle power. The downside here is that Western fertility has slumped as a result of women’s liberation. Understandably, free women don’t want to spend all their time having babies, and we have in effect chosen quality over quantity: we prefer fewer kids, with more investment in education and so on per kid, than more kids and lower standards. The disaster waiting to happen here is that the Islamic world is still in fertile mode – pop out more kids and economize on their education. So we have a demographic nightmare looming, which the relative fertility of Jews and Arabs in Israel illustrates as urgently as any other example. This, I believe, is the big horror behind the fear of terrorism that Sam Harris documents. A few hotheads we can maybe live with, but tens of millions of angry youths whose only education is the Koran may make some of us want to reach for the nukes.VictoriaHumans are learning to live in harmony with the planet. As a social species with big brains, we are better adapted in a quite natural sense to “run” the planetary ecosystem than any other species. And our technology is part of our extended phenotype (recalling Richard Dawkins’ first – and for me still best – book). We deploy machines to improve our lives in the same way birds deploy twigs to make nests. We’re not better in any metaphysical sense than dolphins, just smarter at building machines.As for souls, read Dan Dennett. He’s America’s best living philosopher, in my humble opinion.

  • ANDY ROSS

    TimThe monogamy mechanism works mostly via oxytocin, which is released in both sexes during copulation and results in pair bonding, so the relative promiscuity of men and women probably has more to do with their relative investments in offspring. Social and religious arrangements most also play a role, but in various ways. For example, Mormons are genetically indistinguishable from average Protestants, but they tend to have bigger families for explicitly doctrinal reasons. Agreed, Mormon doctrine evolved to adapt the flock to populate a practically virgin continent (ignoring Native Americans for the usual deplorable reasons), so we cannot claim that the doctrine floats free of all natural constraint, but it is clear that doctrine is a separate variable here. As another example, Muslims and Hindus in India are genetically the same but treat women very differently.The modern liberation of women has two aspects: the contraceptive separation of sex from reproduction and the increasing economic importance of intelligence relative to muscle power. Modern sexual politics are only possible where sexual freedom does not have reproductive consequences. And intelligence is about equally distributed between the sexes, unlike muscle power. The downside here is that Western fertility has slumped as a result of women’s liberation. Understandably, free women don’t want to spend all their time having babies, and we have in effect chosen quality over quantity: we prefer fewer kids, with more investment in education and so on per kid, than more kids and lower standards. The disaster waiting to happen here is that the Islamic world is still in fertile mode – pop out more kids and economize on their education. So we have a demographic nightmare looming, which the relative fertility of Jews and Arabs in Israel illustrates as urgently as any other example. This, I believe, is the big horror behind the fear of terrorism that Sam Harris documents. A few hotheads we can maybe live with, but tens of millions of angry youths whose only education is the Koran may make some of us want to reach for the nukes.VictoriaHumans are learning to live in harmony with the planet. As a social species with big brains, we are better adapted in a quite natural sense to “run” the planetary ecosystem than any other species. And our technology is part of our extended phenotype (recalling Richard Dawkins’ first – and for me still best – book). We deploy machines to improve our lives in the same way birds deploy twigs to make nests. We’re not better in any metaphysical sense than dolphins, just smarter at building machines.As for souls, read Dan Dennett. He’s America’s best living philosopher, in my humble opinion.

  • ANDY ROSS

    TimThe monogamy mechanism works mostly via oxytocin, which is released in both sexes during copulation and results in pair bonding, so the relative promiscuity of men and women probably has more to do with their relative investments in offspring. Social and religious arrangements most also play a role, but in various ways. For example, Mormons are genetically indistinguishable from average Protestants, but they tend to have bigger families for explicitly doctrinal reasons. Agreed, Mormon doctrine evolved to adapt the flock to populate a practically virgin continent (ignoring Native Americans for the usual deplorable reasons), so we cannot claim that the doctrine floats free of all natural constraint, but it is clear that doctrine is a separate variable here. As another example, Muslims and Hindus in India are genetically the same but treat women very differently.The modern liberation of women has two aspects: the contraceptive separation of sex from reproduction and the increasing economic importance of intelligence relative to muscle power. Modern sexual politics are only possible where sexual freedom does not have reproductive consequences. And intelligence is about equally distributed between the sexes, unlike muscle power. The downside here is that Western fertility has slumped as a result of women’s liberation. Understandably, free women don’t want to spend all their time having babies, and we have in effect chosen quality over quantity: we prefer fewer kids, with more investment in education and so on per kid, than more kids and lower standards. The disaster waiting to happen here is that the Islamic world is still in fertile mode – pop out more kids and economize on their education. So we have a demographic nightmare looming, which the relative fertility of Jews and Arabs in Israel illustrates as urgently as any other example. This, I believe, is the big horror behind the fear of terrorism that Sam Harris documents. A few hotheads we can maybe live with, but tens of millions of angry youths whose only education is the Koran may make some of us want to reach for the nukes.VictoriaHumans are learning to live in harmony with the planet. As a social species with big brains, we are better adapted in a quite natural sense to “run” the planetary ecosystem than any other species. And our technology is part of our extended phenotype (recalling Richard Dawkins’ first – and for me still best – book). We deploy machines to improve our lives in the same way birds deploy twigs to make nests. We’re not better in any metaphysical sense than dolphins, just smarter at building machines.As for souls, read Dan Dennett. He’s America’s best living philosopher, in my humble opinion.

  • timmy

    Andy,Well put, as all of your posts are.I don’t need a better world view to deny the world view put forth by religion. I just need for their world view to be completely ridiculous and incredible.It is not. And we should never let it become that.As I said before, if all of the religions of the world were part of a big science experiment, atheism would be the control.

  • timmy

    Andy,Well put, as all of your posts are.I don’t need a better world view to deny the world view put forth by religion. I just need for their world view to be completely ridiculous and incredible.It is not. And we should never let it become that.As I said before, if all of the religions of the world were part of a big science experiment, atheism would be the control.

  • timmy

    Andy,Well put, as all of your posts are.I don’t need a better world view to deny the world view put forth by religion. I just need for their world view to be completely ridiculous and incredible.It is not. And we should never let it become that.As I said before, if all of the religions of the world were part of a big science experiment, atheism would be the control.

  • timmy

    And Jason,Will you answer one question for me?Based on everything that you have said so far in this thread, it seems to me that you would have to reply “I can not conclusively answer that question”In which case, why would you try to engage in a conversation with intelectuals when you are someone who can not even answer the question:Be careful now Jason. You either have to admit that you can not answer that question, or you have to answer it.

  • timmy

    And Jason,Will you answer one question for me?Based on everything that you have said so far in this thread, it seems to me that you would have to reply “I can not conclusively answer that question”In which case, why would you try to engage in a conversation with intelectuals when you are someone who can not even answer the question:Be careful now Jason. You either have to admit that you can not answer that question, or you have to answer it.

  • timmy

    And Jason,Will you answer one question for me?Based on everything that you have said so far in this thread, it seems to me that you would have to reply “I can not conclusively answer that question”In which case, why would you try to engage in a conversation with intelectuals when you are someone who can not even answer the question:Be careful now Jason. You either have to admit that you can not answer that question, or you have to answer it.

  • victoria

    being able to build machines is hardly proof of superiority- and we dont seem to be doing even an inferior job of running the ecosystem- rather we are destroying it.if youve read daniel dennet and have an answer, fine- give it- telling me to find an answer myslef isnt- obviously – an answer-athesist are afraid of muslims and jews procreating?well- big brains? how does even one thing you said “prove” any superiority whatsoever?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled said, “Just to respond to one of the items listed in your post, yes, 999 crows we see might be “black,” and the 1000th one we see may be an “albino.” So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”?? Yes and no. “Yes” to the extent that we’d need qualifiers. But “no” to the extent that the question is assumed to have omitted the qualifer “generally speaking.” And the term “albino” already implies an anomaly, doesn’t it? Let’s use some common sense.”Who said the question was, “What color is the crow?”The question asked was, “But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black?”Try again.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled said, “Just to respond to one of the items listed in your post, yes, 999 crows we see might be “black,” and the 1000th one we see may be an “albino.” So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”?? Yes and no. “Yes” to the extent that we’d need qualifiers. But “no” to the extent that the question is assumed to have omitted the qualifer “generally speaking.” And the term “albino” already implies an anomaly, doesn’t it? Let’s use some common sense.”Who said the question was, “What color is the crow?”The question asked was, “But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black?”Try again.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled said, “Just to respond to one of the items listed in your post, yes, 999 crows we see might be “black,” and the 1000th one we see may be an “albino.” So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”?? Yes and no. “Yes” to the extent that we’d need qualifiers. But “no” to the extent that the question is assumed to have omitted the qualifer “generally speaking.” And the term “albino” already implies an anomaly, doesn’t it? Let’s use some common sense.”Who said the question was, “What color is the crow?”The question asked was, “But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black?”Try again.

  • RB

    Thanks everyone for the responses about love/monogamy, all very thoughtful. Andy, I researched the oxytocin tip, and that was quite illuminating. Thank you.To summarize, oxytocin is released during orgasm, is present in higher levels in plasma among those who say they are falling in love and, among other effects, causes increased feelings of trust. It appears to have multiple functions, including a stimulant to help breast-feeding.However well the mechanism is understood, this does not explain, unless I’m missing something, why Joe falls in love with Jane, but not Susan, or vice versa. Some thing(s) trigger oxytocin release.What is/are the trigger(s)?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled asks, “So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”Actually Puzzled, that wasn’t the question. The question was:”But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black?”Try again.

  • timmy

    I forgot to check for keystroke errors in my last post and wouldn’t you know it, I made one in the word “intellectuals.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled asks, “So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”Actually Puzzled, that wasn’t the question. The question was:”But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black?”Try again.

  • timmy

    I forgot to check for keystroke errors in my last post and wouldn’t you know it, I made one in the word “intellectuals.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled asks, “So, does that change the answer to the question “What color is the crow?”Actually Puzzled, that wasn’t the question. The question was:”But is he ever able to assert that all crows are black?”Try again.

  • timmy

    I forgot to check for keystroke errors in my last post and wouldn’t you know it, I made one in the word “intellectuals.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,Is that it? Wrong is what is not true? oookkkk…so what is true? Care to elaborate anymore?Furthermore, why are you asking me about the newspaper? I’ve said this a million times – this has nothing to do with me or Christianity…You’re the one that claims that science “CLAIMS NO CERTAINTIES”, so you tell me what happens when newspaper is thrown into the fire…

  • timmy

    The answer is no Jason.And what happens to that newspaper?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,Is that it? Wrong is what is not true? oookkkk…so what is true? Care to elaborate anymore?Furthermore, why are you asking me about the newspaper? I’ve said this a million times – this has nothing to do with me or Christianity…You’re the one that claims that science “CLAIMS NO CERTAINTIES”, so you tell me what happens when newspaper is thrown into the fire…

  • timmy

    The answer is no Jason.And what happens to that newspaper?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,Is that it? Wrong is what is not true? oookkkk…so what is true? Care to elaborate anymore?Furthermore, why are you asking me about the newspaper? I’ve said this a million times – this has nothing to do with me or Christianity…You’re the one that claims that science “CLAIMS NO CERTAINTIES”, so you tell me what happens when newspaper is thrown into the fire…

  • timmy

    The answer is no Jason.And what happens to that newspaper?

  • Anonymous

    Jason:Jason is an idiotSome Christians are idiots, thereforeJason is a ChristianI think this is an inductive conclusion everyone here agrees is true.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Victoria, I think you’ll find it was you who mentioned superiority.I said humans are naturally better adapted to run the world, and I mean this in the evolutionary sense (which has often been said to be tautological) that the fittest survive. Who are the fittest? Those best adapted to their environment. What counts as best adapted? That which tends to promote survival in those conditions. Natural selection selects those who reproduce most succesfully. Hence our angst about the Koran-waving millions!Souls are often thought to be the same thing as selves, and to a first approximation that may be good enough. A self, as Dan Dennett sees it, is a construction of the brain. We make selves for ourselves (so to speak) to put our thoughts into better order. Each of us builds our own autobiography to sort out our memories, as an ongoing drama starring our own self. That is, Dan thinks we create ourselves as something like fictional characters within our own stories, and we do this for deeply rooted biological reasons. In our inner pictures of the world, our own self is the locus of agency and control, like the cursor on a computer screen. Another part of Dan’s picture is that when we look inside the biological robot we see in the mirror, we find not a little homunculus at the control panel in the brain but a pandemonium, with a lot of little demons slugging it out for control. These little demons literally fight for resources to grow their synapses and so on. Logically, the demons are cognitive robots. What are the robots made of? More robots! It’s robots all the way down. They just get simpler the deeper you go, until finally you reach the electrochemistry of neurons. Dan thinks the self is like a virtual machine, which is to say an emulation, like a virtual Windows machine running on a Mac. The parallelism of the brain supports a serial virtual machine, which he calls a Joycean virtual machine because it generates a stream of consciousness using words, like the fictional character Nora Bloom in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. For Dan, a human self is spun from words like a spider’s web is spun from silk. For more, read Dan. And to put his work in context, you might like to read my 19-page report on a really nice 2002 conference in New York called “The Self: From Soul to Brain” where Dan was a keynote speaker – What about the eternity of souls? Here I give my own view. The self is an information structure, like a program, a huge collection of bits. If someone were to run this program on new hardware in the deep future, that self would emerge anew into physical life. If it were me, my guess is that I would remember my previous life as if it were yesterday, and feel rather puzzled about what happened in the meantime.So if the Islamists get too much, we can all upload our minds and rapture to the deep future!

  • dirk Campbell

    JasonYou asked’Please provide a source for your definition of skepticism.’The Greek language, as I already said: ‘skeptomai': to look around, to consider, to think. As opposed to the word ‘nomizo’ (from which we get the suffix -nomy) which means to think in the sense of arranging or regulating what has already been acknowledged.The philosophical school of skeptics (‘skeptioi’) used the word ‘skeptomai’ in a more narrow sense to mean doubting anything that could not be conclusively proved.Hope that helps.Dirk

  • ANDY ROSS

    Victoria, I think you’ll find it was you who mentioned superiority.I said humans are naturally better adapted to run the world, and I mean this in the evolutionary sense (which has often been said to be tautological) that the fittest survive. Who are the fittest? Those best adapted to their environment. What counts as best adapted? That which tends to promote survival in those conditions. Natural selection selects those who reproduce most succesfully. Hence our angst about the Koran-waving millions!Souls are often thought to be the same thing as selves, and to a first approximation that may be good enough. A self, as Dan Dennett sees it, is a construction of the brain. We make selves for ourselves (so to speak) to put our thoughts into better order. Each of us builds our own autobiography to sort out our memories, as an ongoing drama starring our own self. That is, Dan thinks we create ourselves as something like fictional characters within our own stories, and we do this for deeply rooted biological reasons. In our inner pictures of the world, our own self is the locus of agency and control, like the cursor on a computer screen. Another part of Dan’s picture is that when we look inside the biological robot we see in the mirror, we find not a little homunculus at the control panel in the brain but a pandemonium, with a lot of little demons slugging it out for control. These little demons literally fight for resources to grow their synapses and so on. Logically, the demons are cognitive robots. What are the robots made of? More robots! It’s robots all the way down. They just get simpler the deeper you go, until finally you reach the electrochemistry of neurons. Dan thinks the self is like a virtual machine, which is to say an emulation, like a virtual Windows machine running on a Mac. The parallelism of the brain supports a serial virtual machine, which he calls a Joycean virtual machine because it generates a stream of consciousness using words, like the fictional character Nora Bloom in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. For Dan, a human self is spun from words like a spider’s web is spun from silk. For more, read Dan. And to put his work in context, you might like to read my 19-page report on a really nice 2002 conference in New York called “The Self: From Soul to Brain” where Dan was a keynote speaker – What about the eternity of souls? Here I give my own view. The self is an information structure, like a program, a huge collection of bits. If someone were to run this program on new hardware in the deep future, that self would emerge anew into physical life. If it were me, my guess is that I would remember my previous life as if it were yesterday, and feel rather puzzled about what happened in the meantime.So if the Islamists get too much, we can all upload our minds and rapture to the deep future!

  • dirk Campbell

    JasonYou asked’Please provide a source for your definition of skepticism.’The Greek language, as I already said: ‘skeptomai': to look around, to consider, to think. As opposed to the word ‘nomizo’ (from which we get the suffix -nomy) which means to think in the sense of arranging or regulating what has already been acknowledged.The philosophical school of skeptics (‘skeptioi’) used the word ‘skeptomai’ in a more narrow sense to mean doubting anything that could not be conclusively proved.Hope that helps.Dirk

  • dirk Campbell

    JasonYou asked’Please provide a source for your definition of skepticism.’The Greek language, as I already said: ‘skeptomai': to look around, to consider, to think. As opposed to the word ‘nomizo’ (from which we get the suffix -nomy) which means to think in the sense of arranging or regulating what has already been acknowledged.The philosophical school of skeptics (‘skeptioi’) used the word ‘skeptomai’ in a more narrow sense to mean doubting anything that could not be conclusively proved.Hope that helps.Dirk

  • ANDY ROSS

    Victoria, I think you’ll find it was you who mentioned superiority.I said humans are naturally better adapted to run the world, and I mean this in the evolutionary sense (which has often been said to be tautological) that the fittest survive. Who are the fittest? Those best adapted to their environment. What counts as best adapted? That which tends to promote survival in those conditions. Natural selection selects those who reproduce most succesfully. Hence our angst about the Koran-waving millions!Souls are often thought to be the same thing as selves, and to a first approximation that may be good enough. A self, as Dan Dennett sees it, is a construction of the brain. We make selves for ourselves (so to speak) to put our thoughts into better order. Each of us builds our own autobiography to sort out our memories, as an ongoing drama starring our own self. That is, Dan thinks we create ourselves as something like fictional characters within our own stories, and we do this for deeply rooted biological reasons. In our inner pictures of the world, our own self is the locus of agency and control, like the cursor on a computer screen. Another part of Dan’s picture is that when we look inside the biological robot we see in the mirror, we find not a little homunculus at the control panel in the brain but a pandemonium, with a lot of little demons slugging it out for control. These little demons literally fight for resources to grow their synapses and so on. Logically, the demons are cognitive robots. What are the robots made of? More robots! It’s robots all the way down. They just get simpler the deeper you go, until finally you reach the electrochemistry of neurons. Dan thinks the self is like a virtual machine, which is to say an emulation, like a virtual Windows machine running on a Mac. The parallelism of the brain supports a serial virtual machine, which he calls a Joycean virtual machine because it generates a stream of consciousness using words, like the fictional character Nora Bloom in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. For Dan, a human self is spun from words like a spider’s web is spun from silk. For more, read Dan. And to put his work in context, you might like to read my 19-page report on a really nice 2002 conference in New York called “The Self: From Soul to Brain” where Dan was a keynote speaker – What about the eternity of souls? Here I give my own view. The self is an information structure, like a program, a huge collection of bits. If someone were to run this program on new hardware in the deep future, that self would emerge anew into physical life. If it were me, my guess is that I would remember my previous life as if it were yesterday, and feel rather puzzled about what happened in the meantime.So if the Islamists get too much, we can all upload our minds and rapture to the deep future!

  • VICTORIA

    TIMMY ntowithstanding our ability to kill creatively- if that is what makes humans superior- fine- actually i was NOT starting out with the assumption that humans are superior-if you dont have an answer it is fine by be- but this is the third time someone has told me i cant ask a question the way i want-i dont consider attacking the question an answer-

  • RB

    Don’t like that one?Brain damage exists in humansJason has brain damage, thereforeHe is a Republican.Better?

  • Jason Bradfield

    “I think this is an inductive conclusion everyone here agrees is true.”Anony,thanks for demonstrating exactly the problem. 1. The conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. I could be part of the some that are not idiots.2. Your comment afterward demonstrates what you have to resort to, supposedly handling the problem of induction:”Truth is what everyone agrees is true.”With a post like that, I would sign in as anonymous too.

  • Jason Bradfield

    “I think this is an inductive conclusion everyone here agrees is true.”Anony,thanks for demonstrating exactly the problem. 1. The conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. I could be part of the some that are not idiots.2. Your comment afterward demonstrates what you have to resort to, supposedly handling the problem of induction:”Truth is what everyone agrees is true.”With a post like that, I would sign in as anonymous too.

  • Jason Bradfield

    “I think this is an inductive conclusion everyone here agrees is true.”Anony,thanks for demonstrating exactly the problem. 1. The conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. I could be part of the some that are not idiots.2. Your comment afterward demonstrates what you have to resort to, supposedly handling the problem of induction:”Truth is what everyone agrees is true.”With a post like that, I would sign in as anonymous too.

  • RB

    Some musings in response to my own question:We have a saying: “It was love at first sight” which is possibly a clue. We have five primary senses, but I’ve never heard anyone say: “It was love at first smell.”The theory I’m considering is that there is a DNA-driven selection process going on, a multiple-choice test being administered, in which some limited number of checkmarks must be ticked off before a threshold for stimulating oxytocin is reached?Does the simple saying above reveal that the first clue(s) come from visual trigger(s). (I realize this might seem absurdly obvious to some.)There was a fairly recent study done in which men from all cultures and races were shown photos of women of all races, sizes and shapes. The results were striking: women with a 0.7 ratio of waist to hips were deemed the most “beautiful.”We seem hardwired to respond to this visual cue because it seems to indicate fertility, the researchers concluded. Another study involved symmetry of facial features.But that can’t be it alone. I’ve visually seen, I don’t know, countless women with those attributes and have not fallen in love with them.I suspect these cues might set the stage of interest perhaps, but many other “checkmarks” have to be ticked off. The sheer volume of literature, poems, songs devoted to describing the eyes, I think, is probably evidence that some sort of trigger resides there also.

  • RB

    Some musings in response to my own question:We have a saying: “It was love at first sight” which is possibly a clue. We have five primary senses, but I’ve never heard anyone say: “It was love at first smell.”The theory I’m considering is that there is a DNA-driven selection process going on, a multiple-choice test being administered, in which some limited number of checkmarks must be ticked off before a threshold for stimulating oxytocin is reached?Does the simple saying above reveal that the first clue(s) come from visual trigger(s). (I realize this might seem absurdly obvious to some. Feel free to tell me this, but I’m trying to take this step by step.)There was a fairly recent study done in which men from all cultures and races were shown photos of women of all races, sizes and shapes. The results were striking: women with a 0.7 ratio of waist to hips were deemed the most “beautiful.”We seem hardwired to respond to this visual cue because it seems to indicate fertility, the researchers concluded. Another study involved symmetry of facial features.But that can’t be it alone. I’ve visually seen, I don’t know, countless women with those attributes and have not fallen in love with them.I suspect these cues might set the stage of interest perhaps, but many other “checkmarks” have to be ticked off. The sheer volume of literature, poems, songs devoted to describing the eyes, I think, is probably evidence that some sort of trigger resides there also.

  • RB

    Jason’s frame of reference is worth repeating, so as to know the cave from which he shouts:”Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”Notice the use of absolutes. He is sure: “Science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth.”Ok, Jason. Please go place your head in your oven. Turn the heat onto EXTREME HIGH. Stay in that position for the next hour, two if needed. Include any extremities you no longer need. Now, when you’re done, let us know if the science of heat transfer is false. What a loser.

  • Puzzled

    The gist of the argument stays the same. The scientist would not be able to say that ALL the crows are black even if he/she observed a million. But, the scientist would say that the data are consistent with the hypothesis that crows are black. Finding an “albino crow” would not lead the scientist to reject that hypothesis. I fail to see what this line of argument (or any others you propose) really contribute to the discussion (or to whatever point you seek to make). It might help the conversation if you can write more plainly and (most important) in your own words, as YOU understand it, not retelling someone else’s ideas that (I suspect) you might not fully grasp. Once again, I would like to suggest more civility. I don’t need to “try again,” but I do hope to engage in honest dialogue where hopefully you are able to break through some misconceptions about the scientific method. I have been able to learn new things about Catholicism from this blog; not that I’ve converted, but still I think it is good to understand those of different worldviews better.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk,You specifically said, “It is from a Greek verb ‘skeptomai’ which means to think rationally.”Again, please provide a source for your definition that it necessarily means to think “rationally”.Just because you go “looking around” for other answers does not necessarily mean you are thinking rationally.Furthermore, it’s interesting that your answer somewhat resembles Wiki’s page – if so, did you read the rest?”In classical philosophy, skepticism refers to the teachings and the traits of the Skeptikoi, a school of philosophers of whom it was said that they “asserted nothing but only opined” (Liddell and Scott). In this sense, philosophical skepticism, or pyrrhonism, is the philosophical position that one should avoid the postulation of final truths.”Again, ONE SHOULD AVOID THE POSTULATION OF FINAL TRUTHS.Now, ole’s Timmy here and jump in and give us a definition of Truth.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk,You specifically said, “It is from a Greek verb ‘skeptomai’ which means to think rationally.”Again, please provide a source for your definition that it necessarily means to think “rationally”.Just because you go “looking around” for other answers does not necessarily mean you are thinking rationally.Furthermore, it’s interesting that your answer somewhat resembles Wiki’s page – if so, did you read the rest?”In classical philosophy, skepticism refers to the teachings and the traits of the Skeptikoi, a school of philosophers of whom it was said that they “asserted nothing but only opined” (Liddell and Scott). In this sense, philosophical skepticism, or pyrrhonism, is the philosophical position that one should avoid the postulation of final truths.”Again, ONE SHOULD AVOID THE POSTULATION OF FINAL TRUTHS.Now, ole’s Timmy here and jump in and give us a definition of Truth.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Dirk,You specifically said, “It is from a Greek verb ‘skeptomai’ which means to think rationally.”Again, please provide a source for your definition that it necessarily means to think “rationally”.Just because you go “looking around” for other answers does not necessarily mean you are thinking rationally.Furthermore, it’s interesting that your answer somewhat resembles Wiki’s page – if so, did you read the rest?”In classical philosophy, skepticism refers to the teachings and the traits of the Skeptikoi, a school of philosophers of whom it was said that they “asserted nothing but only opined” (Liddell and Scott). In this sense, philosophical skepticism, or pyrrhonism, is the philosophical position that one should avoid the postulation of final truths.”Again, ONE SHOULD AVOID THE POSTULATION OF FINAL TRUTHS.Now, ole’s Timmy here and jump in and give us a definition of Truth.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy says, “It burns”Really Timmy? And are you “certain” of this?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy says, “It burns”Really Timmy? And are you “certain” of this?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy says, “It burns”Really Timmy? And are you “certain” of this?

  • RB

    Jason:Jesus was born of an immaculate conceptionHuman zygotes require 23 matched pairs of chromosomes to develop, thereforeJesus was a stillborn lump of poop.Damn, this inductive logic stuff works well.

  • RB

    “It burns.”No, Jason, God you’re dense. That’s not newspaper, it’s your hair in the oven. Hang on, it gets better.

  • timmy

    Jason,When you ask me for a deffinition of a word I go to Webster’s and cut and paste it into my post for you.

  • timmy

    Jason,When you ask me for a deffinition of a word I go to Webster’s and cut and paste it into my post for you.

  • timmy

    Jason,When you ask me for a deffinition of a word I go to Webster’s and cut and paste it into my post for you.

  • Anonymous

    Jason, yet another contradictory statement. How many can you issue? Can you set the record?ONE SHOULD AVOID THE POSTULATION OF FINAL TRUTHS.Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. Really, Jason? Are you “certain” of this?Have you peed in your diaper yet?

  • timmy

    Yes Jason, it burns.Now, when I call Jason an idiot. It is not a crude mindless insult.

  • timmy

    Yes Jason, it burns.Now, when I call Jason an idiot. It is not a crude mindless insult.

  • timmy

    Yes Jason, it burns.Now, when I call Jason an idiot. It is not a crude mindless insult.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled,First, i find it hypocritical of you to assert that I don’t understand the issue just because I’ve pasted quotes from others and then you turn around and ask for “honest dialogue”.Secondly, what does “honest” mean? How do you account for “honesty”? What is your epistemological justification for ethics?Thirdly, the problem is very easy to understand. Your posts even reveal it:”The scientist would not be able to say that ALL the crows are black even if he/she observed a million. But,….”You just admitted what my point has been all along: Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation.Yet, people are throwing a hissy fit over my post…so which is it?Puzzled, do you not see any problems with the fact that you can produce no universal proposition?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled,First, i find it hypocritical of you to assert that I don’t understand the issue just because I’ve pasted quotes from others and then you turn around and ask for “honest dialogue”.Secondly, what does “honest” mean? How do you account for “honesty”? What is your epistemological justification for ethics?Thirdly, the problem is very easy to understand. Your posts even reveal it:”The scientist would not be able to say that ALL the crows are black even if he/she observed a million. But,….”You just admitted what my point has been all along: Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation.Yet, people are throwing a hissy fit over my post…so which is it?Puzzled, do you not see any problems with the fact that you can produce no universal proposition?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Puzzled,First, i find it hypocritical of you to assert that I don’t understand the issue just because I’ve pasted quotes from others and then you turn around and ask for “honest dialogue”.Secondly, what does “honest” mean? How do you account for “honesty”? What is your epistemological justification for ethics?Thirdly, the problem is very easy to understand. Your posts even reveal it:”The scientist would not be able to say that ALL the crows are black even if he/she observed a million. But,….”You just admitted what my point has been all along: Universal propositions can never be validly obtained by observation.Yet, people are throwing a hissy fit over my post…so which is it?Puzzled, do you not see any problems with the fact that you can produce no universal proposition?

  • timmy

    can you see that you are done here Jason?

  • timmy

    can you see that you are done here Jason?

  • timmy

    can you see that you are done here Jason?

  • RB

    Jason, we live in the real world.Here is a (yet another) Universal Proposition for you to test:Stand in the middle of the fast lane of I-75. As the next semi-tractor-trailer approaches, turn your back, drop your pants and moon the truck driver.I postulate that that will REALLY piss him off.Let us know if I’m wrong.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,”You’re eyes are clear, so you must be a ******* idiot.” ( ;uh…you’re the one that said that science can produce no certainties and now you are telling me that you are “certain” that if i throw a newspaper into a fire, it will burn.Which is it moron?Secondly, you’re definition does me no good. Wrong is “not true”. Well, wooptie do…what is “truth” then?Is truth “certainties”?

  • timmy

    Jason by admitting that no scientist can state that all crows are black without exception, you are correct. We have proven your arguement it correct.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,”You’re eyes are clear, so you must be a ******* idiot.” ( ;uh…you’re the one that said that science can produce no certainties and now you are telling me that you are “certain” that if i throw a newspaper into a fire, it will burn.Which is it moron?Secondly, you’re definition does me no good. Wrong is “not true”. Well, wooptie do…what is “truth” then?Is truth “certainties”?

  • timmy

    Jason by admitting that no scientist can state that all crows are black without exception, you are correct. We have proven your arguement it correct.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,”You’re eyes are clear, so you must be a ******* idiot.” ( ;uh…you’re the one that said that science can produce no certainties and now you are telling me that you are “certain” that if i throw a newspaper into a fire, it will burn.Which is it moron?Secondly, you’re definition does me no good. Wrong is “not true”. Well, wooptie do…what is “truth” then?Is truth “certainties”?

  • timmy

    Jason by admitting that no scientist can state that all crows are black without exception, you are correct. We have proven your arguement it correct.

  • victoria

    HI ANDY- thanks for respondingOF COURSE it was me that mentioned superiority-why are humans superior? i am not operating on the assumption that they are- i guess i was looking for deep answers with proof behind them- devil robots?

  • ANDY ROSS

    RB, thanks for the link. NYT reporter Dennis Overbye has done a good job with the story, tho most of what he reports is the same work by Dennett, Libet and Wegner that I reported 4 years ago. Also, he mangles the Gödel-Turing story and fails to mention Wolfram as the inspiration for Silberstein’s “poetic waxings.” Still a nice, fun overview.

  • ANDY ROSS

    RB, thanks for the link. NYT reporter Dennis Overbye has done a good job with the story, tho most of what he reports is the same work by Dennett, Libet and Wegner that I reported 4 years ago. Also, he mangles the Gödel-Turing story and fails to mention Wolfram as the inspiration for Silberstein’s “poetic waxings.” Still a nice, fun overview.

  • ANDY ROSS

    RB, thanks for the link. NYT reporter Dennis Overbye has done a good job with the story, tho most of what he reports is the same work by Dennett, Libet and Wegner that I reported 4 years ago. Also, he mangles the Gödel-Turing story and fails to mention Wolfram as the inspiration for Silberstein’s “poetic waxings.” Still a nice, fun overview.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB says, “Jason, we live in the real world. Here is a (yet another) Universal Proposition for you to test:Stand in the middle of the fast lane of I-75. As the next semi-tractor-trailer approaches, turn your back, drop your pants and moon the truck driver.I postulate that that will REALLY piss him off.Let us know if I’m wrong.”Really RB? Is that a certainty? Is that a universal proposition? Actually, I can think of at least one other possible conclusion. You know, just expressing “doubt” here like a good skeptic would with inductive reasoning.Since morons like you reject absolute truth, thereby making ethics and morality subject to whatever people “feel” like doing, the truck driver may be a fag and actually enjoy me flashing my butt at him.Heck, thanks to your fallacious reasoning and lack of epistemological justification for absolutes, ethics, and the like, I might even make the next episode of “Truckers Gone Wild”.

  • timmy

    Yes yes Bruce,We get it now. You’ve had an experience that none of us can understand yada yada yada.And on the arrogance issue. The biologist in your example does not tell the accountant that he is going to burn in hell for not understanding biology. If he did, it would be the very hight of arrogance.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB says, “Jason, we live in the real world. Here is a (yet another) Universal Proposition for you to test:Stand in the middle of the fast lane of I-75. As the next semi-tractor-trailer approaches, turn your back, drop your pants and moon the truck driver.I postulate that that will REALLY piss him off.Let us know if I’m wrong.”Really RB? Is that a certainty? Is that a universal proposition? Actually, I can think of at least one other possible conclusion. You know, just expressing “doubt” here like a good skeptic would with inductive reasoning.Since morons like you reject absolute truth, thereby making ethics and morality subject to whatever people “feel” like doing, the truck driver may be a fag and actually enjoy me flashing my butt at him.Heck, thanks to your fallacious reasoning and lack of epistemological justification for absolutes, ethics, and the like, I might even make the next episode of “Truckers Gone Wild”.

  • timmy

    Yes yes Bruce,We get it now. You’ve had an experience that none of us can understand yada yada yada.And on the arrogance issue. The biologist in your example does not tell the accountant that he is going to burn in hell for not understanding biology. If he did, it would be the very hight of arrogance.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB says, “Jason, we live in the real world. Here is a (yet another) Universal Proposition for you to test:Stand in the middle of the fast lane of I-75. As the next semi-tractor-trailer approaches, turn your back, drop your pants and moon the truck driver.I postulate that that will REALLY piss him off.Let us know if I’m wrong.”Really RB? Is that a certainty? Is that a universal proposition? Actually, I can think of at least one other possible conclusion. You know, just expressing “doubt” here like a good skeptic would with inductive reasoning.Since morons like you reject absolute truth, thereby making ethics and morality subject to whatever people “feel” like doing, the truck driver may be a fag and actually enjoy me flashing my butt at him.Heck, thanks to your fallacious reasoning and lack of epistemological justification for absolutes, ethics, and the like, I might even make the next episode of “Truckers Gone Wild”.

  • timmy

    Yes yes Bruce,We get it now. You’ve had an experience that none of us can understand yada yada yada.And on the arrogance issue. The biologist in your example does not tell the accountant that he is going to burn in hell for not understanding biology. If he did, it would be the very hight of arrogance.

  • timmy

    Jason,I said that science claims no certainties.

  • timmy

    Jason,I said that science claims no certainties.

  • timmy

    Jason,I said that science claims no certainties.

  • JASON

    Timmy and RB:I KNOW I have PROVEN you to be WRONG. I am SUPERIOR in my debating skills to all here. Because I talk to GOD THE ALMIGHTY.Bow to me, oh slaves of science, or I will CRUSH you with my FAT ASS. (If I could only get my head out of it first)

  • timmy

    So Jason we hve admitted over and over again that science has no absolute answers. We have shown that your argument is with no one but the absolute meany science man in your head.

  • timmy

    So Jason we hve admitted over and over again that science has no absolute answers. We have shown that your argument is with no one but the absolute meany science man in your head.

  • timmy

    So Jason we hve admitted over and over again that science has no absolute answers. We have shown that your argument is with no one but the absolute meany science man in your head.

  • timmy

    There it is!

  • timmy

    There it is!

  • timmy

    There it is!

  • RB

    “Since morons like you reject absolute truth, thereby making ethics and morality subject to whatever people “feel” like doing, the truck driver may be a fag and actually enjoy me flashing my butt at him.”Please, please, go out and test the proposition. Nothing is certain, Jason, it might be a woman driver, or since nothing is certain, it might be a monkey, or a booger, or a fruit fly, or it might be the HOLY GHOST!!!!!mo ron: a stupid person. ORGIN: a medical term indicating a person with a mental age of 8 to 12.Looking in the mirror, Jason?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy says, “I can claim for certain that a newspaper burns in the fire based on what I have seen in my life.”In other words, the next crow will be black. Here we are again, full circle. Timmy now is not only claiming “certainties” but says it is “certain” based on what he has seen in the past.what arrogance and stupidity.Timmy, on what basis can you say it is “certain”? Have you tested this…have you thrown all newspapers into fires to conclude then that it is a certainty that the next time i do it, it will burn?Since you boast in logic, please demonstrate for me in logical form that your past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Until you logically demonstrate this, you are merely asserting and i have no “reason” to take you serious.”If I am wrong about that observation, no big deal.”Wrong, as in “not true”. So what is Truth? And what do you mean by “if”?Which is it? Are you “certain” or not?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy says, “I can claim for certain that a newspaper burns in the fire based on what I have seen in my life.”In other words, the next crow will be black. Here we are again, full circle. Timmy now is not only claiming “certainties” but says it is “certain” based on what he has seen in the past.what arrogance and stupidity.Timmy, on what basis can you say it is “certain”? Have you tested this…have you thrown all newspapers into fires to conclude then that it is a certainty that the next time i do it, it will burn?Since you boast in logic, please demonstrate for me in logical form that your past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Until you logically demonstrate this, you are merely asserting and i have no “reason” to take you serious.”If I am wrong about that observation, no big deal.”Wrong, as in “not true”. So what is Truth? And what do you mean by “if”?Which is it? Are you “certain” or not?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy says, “I can claim for certain that a newspaper burns in the fire based on what I have seen in my life.”In other words, the next crow will be black. Here we are again, full circle. Timmy now is not only claiming “certainties” but says it is “certain” based on what he has seen in the past.what arrogance and stupidity.Timmy, on what basis can you say it is “certain”? Have you tested this…have you thrown all newspapers into fires to conclude then that it is a certainty that the next time i do it, it will burn?Since you boast in logic, please demonstrate for me in logical form that your past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Until you logically demonstrate this, you are merely asserting and i have no “reason” to take you serious.”If I am wrong about that observation, no big deal.”Wrong, as in “not true”. So what is Truth? And what do you mean by “if”?Which is it? Are you “certain” or not?

  • RB

    Ok, Jason, I’ll stop poking you like the slug you appear to want to be, but only if you’ll answer one simple question:Is 1+1=2 a true statement?Can you manage an answer?We’ll be waiting.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB,”it might be a woman driver”ummm..no, you originally said, “him”.I produced another possible conclusion based on your premises.And once again, instead of admitting your error, you have to resort to changing information – him to her.That’s what morons do to keep their system afloat.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB,”it might be a woman driver”ummm..no, you originally said, “him”.I produced another possible conclusion based on your premises.And once again, instead of admitting your error, you have to resort to changing information – him to her.That’s what morons do to keep their system afloat.

  • Jason Bradfield

    RB,”it might be a woman driver”ummm..no, you originally said, “him”.I produced another possible conclusion based on your premises.And once again, instead of admitting your error, you have to resort to changing information – him to her.That’s what morons do to keep their system afloat.

  • timmy

    Jason,

  • timmy

    Jason,

  • timmy

    Jason,

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,First, you say, “Will you explain how a man who refuses to allow anyone to make any statemments of truth or certainty…”I never made that claim. I believe that SOME can make statements of truth and certainty and have an epistemological justification for it, but I’m not here to talk about Christianity.I want to know yours and yet you just can’t seem to give me an answer…what is ‘truth’?Secondly, please demonstrate for me in logical form that your past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Until you logically demonstrate this, you are merely asserting and i have no “reason” to take you serious.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,First, you say, “Will you explain how a man who refuses to allow anyone to make any statemments of truth or certainty…”I never made that claim. I believe that SOME can make statements of truth and certainty and have an epistemological justification for it, but I’m not here to talk about Christianity.I want to know yours and yet you just can’t seem to give me an answer…what is ‘truth’?Secondly, please demonstrate for me in logical form that your past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Until you logically demonstrate this, you are merely asserting and i have no “reason” to take you serious.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Timmy,First, you say, “Will you explain how a man who refuses to allow anyone to make any statemments of truth or certainty…”I never made that claim. I believe that SOME can make statements of truth and certainty and have an epistemological justification for it, but I’m not here to talk about Christianity.I want to know yours and yet you just can’t seem to give me an answer…what is ‘truth’?Secondly, please demonstrate for me in logical form that your past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Until you logically demonstrate this, you are merely asserting and i have no “reason” to take you serious.

  • timmy

    Jason,

  • timmy

    Jason,

  • timmy

    Jason,

  • RB

    C’mon Jason. You call people morons (mental age 8-12). Unless you are projecting, and are yourself sub-moronic, you should be able to answer the question:Is 1+1=2 true?Anyone with the mental age of a moron can answer this question. Can you?

  • RB

    Still waiting, Jason. Did you need to change your diaper first?It can’t be THAT hard? You can get assistance, if you’re UNSURE.

  • timmy

    RB

  • RB

    Well, it’s been 22 minutes so far, and Jason is unable to answer the question:Is 1+1=2 true?So much for having a serious discussion with this loon.

  • timmy

    RB

  • timmy

    RB

  • RB

    Timmy:Of course you are correct.Jason, pull your right finger out of your butt and hold it in front of your face. No! Don’t smell it, just hold it out there.Now pull your left finger out of your nose and hold it next to your right finger. Yes, you can lick the stuff off it first.Ok, ready now? Count the two fingers. Is the result two? No? My God, man, you’ve just destroyed all of mathematics and science with your discovery!! Congratulations, dude.Now re-insert fingers to previous positions.

  • RB

    While Jason ran out to buy a calculator to test the proposition that 1+1=2 is true or not (by running the experiment an infinite number of times on his new calculator, providing he can purchase an infinite number of batteries to power it), we can get back to a real discussion.His silence is golden.

  • RB

    Well, 25 minutes and counting as Jason struggles to determine the answer to whether or 1+1=2 is ture or not.Can you imagine this guy taking a dump? Actually, yes I can:”Was that a turd, or an illusion?””I don’t know, why are you asking me?””Because you ARE me, I’m talking to myself. I need to know whether or not to wipe myself.””Well, it is a metaphysical question. We can’t possibly know the answer, unless we consult the bible, which has a monopoly on truth.””Ok, it’s sitting right there next to the john. What does it say?””In John 3:16, it says: “For God So Loved the World, He gave his only begotten turd to it.””Right. So I’ll wipe now.”From the distance: “Jason, this is your mother, take a dump or get off the pot. And be sure to spray some Lysol when you’re done.”

  • timmy

    Oh my Lord!It just came to me!Just the meany absolute certain scientist monster that lives inside little Jason Bradfield’s head.Yay, I get to live my happy life like a normal intelligent person again.

  • timmy

    Oh my Lord!It just came to me!Just the meany absolute certain scientist monster that lives inside little Jason Bradfield’s head.Yay, I get to live my happy life like a normal intelligent person again.

  • timmy

    Oh my Lord!It just came to me!Just the meany absolute certain scientist monster that lives inside little Jason Bradfield’s head.Yay, I get to live my happy life like a normal intelligent person again.

  • TITO ESTRADA A

    I am a honduran theatre actor/director/playwrite. I am working now on a project about faith. More than the financial needs (there is hardly any for cultural work in this country), we need some feed back on the theme. I´m constructing a dramatic line (which is not the drama/play) starting from the primitive apearenece of words (the word) and the simbolic sence of universe (miths), and the theme is very rich in images, but I am having problems findimg a chord, a drama (an action) in daily life, that can express the forms of faith a man/woman goes through to survive today. Faith for me is a sandal (or a boot), that prevents men/women from stepping on hardish reality. For faith we love, for faith we hate… etc. If anybody is interested in colaborating with this clown, please do. ([email protected])

  • RB

    Tim,How sad is it when a human being can’t figure out if 1+1=2 is true or not?Maybe my optimism about the human species is unrealistic.

  • Quentin Feduchin

    JASON BRADFIELD’S comment is unbelievably selective in at least one respect.

  • Jason Bradfield

    “You won’t get an answer unitil you give him a definition for what you mean by 1.”I’m not answering because as I have said before, this isn’t about me. I’ve been called an idiot for not forsaking Christianity and embracing “science”, “atheism”, etc., so I’m looking for “reasons”.Timmy claims that inductive reasoning can produce no certainties, but then turns around and argues the certainty that paper will burn in fire every time. Timmy still hasn’t demonstrated for me in logical form that his past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Instead, he merely asserts it and expects people to jump on board with his conclusions because he says it does. And I’m the arrogant one…rrriiiigghhhtttt.RB wants to know if 1+1=2 is true, but still hasn’t explained to me what “true” means.And, like a good moron, instead of recognizing the failure of inductive reasoning, RB embraces it and has to change his argument mid-stream in attempt to make it work.The “him” that he said was driving the truck is now possibly a woman or a monkey. Well, i guess if you are an evolutionist, that is a valid statement. Change the data as you go.whatever morons.

  • Jason Bradfield

    “You won’t get an answer unitil you give him a definition for what you mean by 1.”I’m not answering because as I have said before, this isn’t about me. I’ve been called an idiot for not forsaking Christianity and embracing “science”, “atheism”, etc., so I’m looking for “reasons”.Timmy claims that inductive reasoning can produce no certainties, but then turns around and argues the certainty that paper will burn in fire every time. Timmy still hasn’t demonstrated for me in logical form that his past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Instead, he merely asserts it and expects people to jump on board with his conclusions because he says it does. And I’m the arrogant one…rrriiiigghhhtttt.RB wants to know if 1+1=2 is true, but still hasn’t explained to me what “true” means.And, like a good moron, instead of recognizing the failure of inductive reasoning, RB embraces it and has to change his argument mid-stream in attempt to make it work.The “him” that he said was driving the truck is now possibly a woman or a monkey. Well, i guess if you are an evolutionist, that is a valid statement. Change the data as you go.whatever morons.

  • Jason Bradfield

    “You won’t get an answer unitil you give him a definition for what you mean by 1.”I’m not answering because as I have said before, this isn’t about me. I’ve been called an idiot for not forsaking Christianity and embracing “science”, “atheism”, etc., so I’m looking for “reasons”.Timmy claims that inductive reasoning can produce no certainties, but then turns around and argues the certainty that paper will burn in fire every time. Timmy still hasn’t demonstrated for me in logical form that his past observations logically necessitate that the next paper thrown in to the fire will burn. Instead, he merely asserts it and expects people to jump on board with his conclusions because he says it does. And I’m the arrogant one…rrriiiigghhhtttt.RB wants to know if 1+1=2 is true, but still hasn’t explained to me what “true” means.And, like a good moron, instead of recognizing the failure of inductive reasoning, RB embraces it and has to change his argument mid-stream in attempt to make it work.The “him” that he said was driving the truck is now possibly a woman or a monkey. Well, i guess if you are an evolutionist, that is a valid statement. Change the data as you go.whatever morons.

  • RB

    Jason wrote:”RB wants to know if 1+1=2 is true, but still hasn’t explained to me what “true” means.”Jason, see above re: whether or passed a turd or not. You are crazy, and I don’t mean that perjoratively. You pretend not to know what “true” means, but assert that the bible is “true.” This is very much about you. You have completely missed the point. The irony is: you’ve missed the point.”And, like a good moron, instead of recognizing the failure of inductive reasoning, RB embraces it and has to change his argument mid-stream in attempt to make it work.”Again, you missed the point, loonie-toons. That was called: humor.

  • RB

    This has been an excellent object lesson for how to identify crazy people: they have no sense of humor, or irony, and due to the untenable basis of their beliefs, resort to endless dodges when asked a straightfoward question.”…still hasn’t explained to me what “true” means.”I think the jury can decide the case now.

  • RB

    Trish:Right. And, religious bigots confronted with inconsistencies in their belief systems accuse scientists and doubters of “arrogance.”This is classic projection: On the one hand, they proclaim their holy book to be — as one poster here who shall go unnamed (Jason) — to hold “the monopoly on truth.”There is no greater arrogance than such an assertion.

  • LT

    Before anyone declares victory in this debate, I would like to revisit what I perceive is Timmy’s central assertion, that religious belief is problematic because of the certainty it claims, whereas atheistic nonbelief is not problematic because it claims no certainty.I can not speak of any religious systems, just my own understanding of Christianity. As a Christian, I do not claim to have complete knowledge about all the secrets of the universe. (The Bible is not a science textbook; it’s not supposed to.) However, I do claim that some aspects are knowable, not by human effort, but by revelation. It’s a judgment call to decide whether to accept the possibility of a revealed truth or a God who reveals it, but I hope Timmy will agree that one should accept or reject God based on the preponderance of evidence and not reject His existence a priori. It does depend on how one views evidence. A scientific standard for evidence can be dangerous. If one says that for something to have happened, it must be supported by scientific evidence, then God is effectively eliminated. For example, if a miraculous event in the Bible is not supported by science, then it can’t have happened. However, if it supportable, then the argument for God is weakened anyway because we don’t need to appeal to Him for that event. Scientific attempts to solve the God question are effectively an a priori rejection of Him.Does an axhead float or sink when it falls into the water? Practically, I would say that of course it will sink. In an absolute sense, however, I could not be sure that a particular axhead would sink. God might break laws of buoyancy to make the axhead float if he had a reason to. He does in 2 Kings 6.1-6. Similarly, I expect newspaper to combust when thrown in fire but would still have to admit that God could prevent it from burning if He wanted to. (Not that I can imagine any reasons, but it depends on context.) These examples suggest that we need not reject all or most of scientific prediction to accept God.I submit then, that science, while useful for many things, cannot effectively be used to answer the question of whether there is a God. If not science, we must appeal to historical or circumstantial evidence to examine competing religious claims. Such claims about things outside the physical world are unverifiable, but some religions make claims about things that happened in this world. For example, Jesus Christ is claimed to have come alive after he died.I argue further that not all “religious” claims of this sort are equally supported by the evidence. For example, take the claim that it is Santa Claus who puts out toys. We can no longer negate the claim by saying it’s impossible for Santa Claus to give out those toys all in one night. Instead, we can say it’s most likely not true by using surveillance cameras to show that it’s the parents who do so instead.I cannot here show that the preponderance of historical evidence supports the claims surrounding Christ rather than of any other religion. However, I find misguided Sam Harris’ blanket claim that “the evidence for the most common religious doctrines is terrible or nonexistent—and this subsumes all claims.”There is the issue of whether we can trust evidence from that long ago. Without the problematic scientific standard, it’s more appropriate to scrutinize ancient evidence than to reject it out of hand. Otherwise, we are simply being elitists when we claim that we are wiser than the ancients.I know Timmy won’t agree in any religious belief simply because someone claims it’s revealed by God. He shouldn’t. However, I submit that a look at the evidence that doesn’t reject God initially or use a process whose design effectively rules Him out makes religious belief reasonable. Not provable, but reasonable. Christians don’t claim that people discovered the true God. They claim that He showed Himself to them so that they could be certain of Him. Thus, religious belief need not be problematic simply because some (not all) things are taken to be certain.

  • RB

    LT wrote:”I submit then, that science, while useful for many things, cannot effectively be used to answer the question of whether there is a God.”The burden of proof (of God) lies not with non-believers. It lies with thee, and you at least tacitly admit you can’t provide proof. “Not provable, but reasonable.” The latter being an opinion, the former a concession.I use science, usefully, everyday. We all do (except Jason). I agree that thinking scientifically a priori rejects all miracle-performing, personal gods. There is no proof whatsoever that God exists and further ventured one day to suspend the laws of nature — to allow walking on water, resurrection or flights to heaven on winged horses. The assertions of miracles raise so many other questions: What does it mean to suspend the laws of physics in and around the volume of a man’s body?The blasphemy of faith (can’t you see this?) is that anything goes.I hereby proclaim that the God I invented 10 seconds ago commands thee to send your virgin daughters to live with me and pleasure me. In exchange, I promise you eternal life, somebody else’s virgin daughters, and your nose will grow smaller if you pray.I mean, where does it end? Anything goes with that attitude, including a whole lot behavior that is immoral. They stone women to death in Saudi Arabia today for the sin of “dishonoring” the family. It is ultimately about paternal hegemony and money and property. But all these “tolerant” religious “moderates” go about blathering how religions are such bastions of “morality.” I’m sick of it.Prove it, dammit. Quite whining about faith. It’s just nonsense.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Quentin,As i have explained to one person who has emailed me, i do not have time to address 200+ posts and all the contradictions and ad hominens i see.Furthermore, i never said my post was comprehensive. I briefly posted just a couple of reasons why I can not take “science” seriously.Also, i did not provide any comments about Christianity at “length” because that was not my purpose. The fact of the matter is…i’m not interested in comparing conclusions reached by science with the Bible and then battling from there. I’m not interested in battling over the existence of Jesus and whether or not He could have rose from the dead with you – nothing i say would be convincing to you because you are operating within an entirely different set of presuppositions.My critique of science in entirely INTERNAL. Forget Christianity for the moment…my charge to you is that YOUR framework CAN NOT even get off the starting blocks without contradicting itself. It cannot account for something as simple and as fundamental as “logic” itself.And what is sad is that many “scientists” recognize the problems with induction and empiricism; so instead of forsaking the framework, as any “rational” person would do, they instead embrace skepticism (another self-contradiction) and/or redefine logic to make their system work.Now we are told, by men like David Zarefsky, that inductive reasoning is ok. That we are to focus on “experience rather than form”.An inductive argument (science)yields conclusions that are supposedly but not necessarily implied by the premises. For this reason, induction is always a formal fallacy; that is, the conclusion is never certain, never rationally established. In fact, since the conclusion is not necessarily implied by the premises, there is no way to logically show that there is any necessary relationship at all between the conclusion and the premises. When are you going to address this issue? Again, I don’t give a rats behind what you think about the Apostle Paul…i want to see you defend your own presuppositions. My contention is that you cannot.Interestingly enough, some have tried. On another thread, Catuskoti’s remarks: “A life of faith could be more assuring than a life that honestly (and I’d say courageously) faces the fertile womb of uncertainty….. They are not “world views” but ways of relating, systematically, and skeptically to claims derived from always contingent, revisable, and empirically falsifiable assumptions. Instead of grounds for facts, modern, contemporary science has, for the past 60+ years, searched for questions, for grounds to doubt.” And there you have it – the admission that empiricism leads to skepticism. However, skepticism is not a valid route to take either, for skepticism contradicts itself. Saying, “one can not know anything” is self-contradictory. So again Quentin, let me know how you solve this problem without resorting to skepticism and without contradicting yourself.You can’t. And so, instead of forsaking such nonsense, you fight for it.Thus, the Bible rightly calls you a “moron”.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Quentin,As i have explained to one person who has emailed me, i do not have time to address 200+ posts and all the contradictions and ad hominens i see.Furthermore, i never said my post was comprehensive. I briefly posted just a couple of reasons why I can not take “science” seriously.Also, i did not provide any comments about Christianity at “length” because that was not my purpose. The fact of the matter is…i’m not interested in comparing conclusions reached by science with the Bible and then battling from there. I’m not interested in battling over the existence of Jesus and whether or not He could have rose from the dead with you – nothing i say would be convincing to you because you are operating within an entirely different set of presuppositions.My critique of science in entirely INTERNAL. Forget Christianity for the moment…my charge to you is that YOUR framework CAN NOT even get off the starting blocks without contradicting itself. It cannot account for something as simple and as fundamental as “logic” itself.And what is sad is that many “scientists” recognize the problems with induction and empiricism; so instead of forsaking the framework, as any “rational” person would do, they instead embrace skepticism (another self-contradiction) and/or redefine logic to make their system work.Now we are told, by men like David Zarefsky, that inductive reasoning is ok. That we are to focus on “experience rather than form”.An inductive argument (science)yields conclusions that are supposedly but not necessarily implied by the premises. For this reason, induction is always a formal fallacy; that is, the conclusion is never certain, never rationally established. In fact, since the conclusion is not necessarily implied by the premises, there is no way to logically show that there is any necessary relationship at all between the conclusion and the premises. When are you going to address this issue? Again, I don’t give a rats behind what you think about the Apostle Paul…i want to see you defend your own presuppositions. My contention is that you cannot.Interestingly enough, some have tried. On another thread, Catuskoti’s remarks: “A life of faith could be more assuring than a life that honestly (and I’d say courageously) faces the fertile womb of uncertainty….. They are not “world views” but ways of relating, systematically, and skeptically to claims derived from always contingent, revisable, and empirically falsifiable assumptions. Instead of grounds for facts, modern, contemporary science has, for the past 60+ years, searched for questions, for grounds to doubt.” And there you have it – the admission that empiricism leads to skepticism. However, skepticism is not a valid route to take either, for skepticism contradicts itself. Saying, “one can not know anything” is self-contradictory. So again Quentin, let me know how you solve this problem without resorting to skepticism and without contradicting yourself.You can’t. And so, instead of forsaking such nonsense, you fight for it.Thus, the Bible rightly calls you a “moron”.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Quentin,As i have explained to one person who has emailed me, i do not have time to address 200+ posts and all the contradictions and ad hominens i see.Furthermore, i never said my post was comprehensive. I briefly posted just a couple of reasons why I can not take “science” seriously.Also, i did not provide any comments about Christianity at “length” because that was not my purpose. The fact of the matter is…i’m not interested in comparing conclusions reached by science with the Bible and then battling from there. I’m not interested in battling over the existence of Jesus and whether or not He could have rose from the dead with you – nothing i say would be convincing to you because you are operating within an entirely different set of presuppositions.My critique of science in entirely INTERNAL. Forget Christianity for the moment…my charge to you is that YOUR framework CAN NOT even get off the starting blocks without contradicting itself. It cannot account for something as simple and as fundamental as “logic” itself.And what is sad is that many “scientists” recognize the problems with induction and empiricism; so instead of forsaking the framework, as any “rational” person would do, they instead embrace skepticism (another self-contradiction) and/or redefine logic to make their system work.Now we are told, by men like David Zarefsky, that inductive reasoning is ok. That we are to focus on “experience rather than form”.An inductive argument (science)yields conclusions that are supposedly but not necessarily implied by the premises. For this reason, induction is always a formal fallacy; that is, the conclusion is never certain, never rationally established. In fact, since the conclusion is not necessarily implied by the premises, there is no way to logically show that there is any necessary relationship at all between the conclusion and the premises. When are you going to address this issue? Again, I don’t give a rats behind what you think about the Apostle Paul…i want to see you defend your own presuppositions. My contention is that you cannot.Interestingly enough, some have tried. On another thread, Catuskoti’s remarks: “A life of faith could be more assuring than a life that honestly (and I’d say courageously) faces the fertile womb of uncertainty….. They are not “world views” but ways of relating, systematically, and skeptically to claims derived from always contingent, revisable, and empirically falsifiable assumptions. Instead of grounds for facts, modern, contemporary science has, for the past 60+ years, searched for questions, for grounds to doubt.” And there you have it – the admission that empiricism leads to skepticism. However, skepticism is not a valid route to take either, for skepticism contradicts itself. Saying, “one can not know anything” is self-contradictory. So again Quentin, let me know how you solve this problem without resorting to skepticism and without contradicting yourself.You can’t. And so, instead of forsaking such nonsense, you fight for it.Thus, the Bible rightly calls you a “moron”.

  • victoria

    BRUCE- i came to my own spiritual path through prayer and an extraordinary experience in deep meditation- i prayed consciously and with a despair torn heart for a long time- i asked that god lead me to worship him the way that he wants to be worshipped and not the way that i am comfortable worshipping him-it was an experience totally conscious- awake and with preternatural awareness and super real- so real that i can remeber it better right now than what i did 5 minutes ago.i will probably share it on the atheist question for the public.i appreciate your honesty- and sharing- it requires solid faith to uphold in the face of skepticism.since you have shared here i will not try to impose on the tremendous impct you have made here-

  • Puzzled

    Anyone who thinks he has THE answer probably cannot be considered intellectually honest, and what I meant by intellectual dishonesty was this: do you really want to know and learn, or just engage in wordplay?

  • DuckPhup

    Science does not ‘prove’ things. ‘Proof’ is for mathematicians, coin collectors and distillers of alcoholic beverages. Proof in science is applicable only in the ‘negative’ sense… i.e., hypotheses and theories must be ‘falsifiable’. When scientists do experiments (to validate ‘predicted’ results), they are NOT trying to ‘prove’ they are RIGHT… they are trying to FIND OUT if they’re WRONG. NOT being wrong simply builds confidence that one is on the right track… it ‘proves’ nothing.Evolution is a scientific theory. In science, theories occupy a higher tier of importance than mere ‘facts’… theories EXPLAIN facts. The theory of evolution explains the OBSERVED FACT that the genetic makeup of populations of organisms changes over time. These observed facts are NOT in dispute, and they are readily evident in the fossil record, biology, genetics, palentology, etc…. moreso now than they were in Darwin’s day.The theory identifies two primary mechanisms which ACCOUNT FOR the OBSERVED FACTS:* genetic drift… statistical variations in allele frequency, over time* natural selection… the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators Dawkins’ excellent phrase)The FACTS (the genetic makeup of populations of organisms changes over time) ARE NOT in dispute. There is ongoing conversation about OTHER possible mechanisms which may ALSO account, in part, for the OBSERVED FACT that the genetic makeup of populations of organisms changes over time, such as ‘punctuated equilibrium’. However, the word ‘fact’ CAN BE applied to evolution in the sense of COMMON USAGE in science… that being:”In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent’. ~ Stephen J. GouldIn THAT sense, ‘evolution is, indeed, ‘fact’.

  • timmy

    Why does Jason take great care to deflect all questions?This is why Jason Bradfield has not answered a single question posed to him.Now he will tell us that he doesn’t have to answer our questions. That the onus is on us to answer his questions only.He is crazy.

  • timmy

    Why does Jason take great care to deflect all questions?This is why Jason Bradfield has not answered a single question posed to him.Now he will tell us that he doesn’t have to answer our questions. That the onus is on us to answer his questions only.He is crazy.

  • timmy

    Why does Jason take great care to deflect all questions?This is why Jason Bradfield has not answered a single question posed to him.Now he will tell us that he doesn’t have to answer our questions. That the onus is on us to answer his questions only.He is crazy.

  • Skeptic

    Bruce said “The issue of Christian faith is, I believe, an epistemological issue. The non-believer sees Christian faith as a belief that is not based upon any evidence at all (or insufficient evidence, as Skeptic writes) because it does not fit into any of his categories of knowledge. Those categories are generally rational, based upon the perceptions of the senses, scientific evidence, logic, etc. The believer simply has a different experience that allows him to experience the knowledge of God (in the sense of knowing a person and knowing certain things about that person, not in the sense of knowing everything). A revelation comes to the believer, and it creates the phenomenon of faith. This appears irrational to the non-believer, because he does have any epistemological frame of reference for such things.”I think that Bruce is correct that the nature of the main issue which we have been discussing is epistemological. And it is a very important issue.Bruce continues to use the word “faith” in different ways which creates confusion. I suggest that we use the terms “worldview” and “confidence” to refer to two of the meanings of “faith”, while reserving the word “faith” itself for the meaning which I targeted in my last post. Faith is a particular irrational way of arriving at conclusions from evidence. Bruce is familiar with faith in this sense and he recognizes that belief in the alleged resurrection of Jesus is based on this process of faith. But instead of recognizing that faith is a vice, Bruce wants to make it into a virtue. He is not alone in that project since many of the NT writers and subsequent Christians do the same thing.Bruce thinks that we non-believers lack an epistemological frame of reference for such things as revelation and faith, but I disagree. Believers and nonbelievers start with the same data of the senses and the recollected images of the senses. They both reach conclusions from this data, conclusions in the form of propositions about the world. They both have degrees of confidence in their conclusions, ranging from very low to very high (certainty). They both experience feeling states such as joy, peace, exhilaration, awe, and curiosity which are sometimes associated with the conclusions which they draw. Where believers and nonbelievers differ, however, is in how they bridge the gap from data to conclusions. Most nonbelievers use a process called “rationality”. Most believers use a process called “faith”, and they use this process only in certain areas of their lives or with certain questions. They are quite content to use rationality in other areas, especially where their immediate health or well-being is on the line. Now, how does “revelation” fit into this? Bruce might say something like this “The truth that Jesus rose from the dead came to me in a revelation.” So, what’s really going on here? Bruce holds a particular proposition to be true, but he does not use a rational process to reach that conclusion, as he himself admits. He also has a very high degree of confidence that the proposition is true; he is either certain that it is true or nearly certain that it is true. Perhaps he had a “flash of insight” involving feelings of certainty about the proposition, feelings of awe or joy, and maybe even some visual images. He then attaches other beliefs to the experience, i.e.“My insight came from God!” and “Nonbelievers just aren’t able to reach knowledge like I can; I must be special.” Very often the propositions which Bruce ends up endorsing are ones which he WANTS to be true; WISHFUL THINKING plays a major role in his selection of beliefs. The problem is that faith and revelation are just not reliable roads to knowledge. Christians and Muslims both indulge themselves in faith and revelation, but they come out of these processes with opposite conclusions. Christians conclude “Jesus rose from the dead.” Muslims conclude “There is only one God and no human can be divine.” or “Jesus was made to appear to rise from the dead.”There once was an ancient clan of hunters. Everyday the clan had to select which direction in which to go in order to seek animals which they would kill for food. Some members of the clan said “Let’s track our prey by looking at the tracks of animals in the soil.” Over the years, they learned that this was a good method by which to find their prey; it worked well. One day, one of the clan members (his name was “Bruce”) said “Let’s not track our prey using tracks in the soil. I have a better method.” The other members of the clan said “What is your method? We’re always seeking better methods.” Bruce replied “Sometimes I have this subjective experience in which I see which way we should go to find our prey. I’ll just tell you when I have this experience and we’ll go that way.” The other clan members decided to humor Bruce a bit, so they tried his method on ten consecutive days. It worked once in ten tries. Finally, hungry from their relative lack of success, the rest of the clan said to Bruce “Looking at tracks in the soil brought us success nine times out of ten, but your method brought us success only one time out of ten. We’re not going to listen to you anymore or use your method of seeking our prey. Thanks anyway.” Bruce kept pestering the clan with his revelations, but the clan did not listen. One day Bruce even suggested that by his own subjective revelation he could determine where to plant seeds so that they would grow into plants which could be eaten. But, the clan just wouldn’t listen. They knew that Bruce was prone to flights of fantasy. Faith and revelation are simply unreliable methods for seeking knowledge. In fact they don’t bring knowledge at all; they simply bring a false sense of confidence.Bruce said “ Faith is an experience in a realm of knowledge that those without faith simply do not have.” Bruce is trying to invent realms of knowledge which do not exist. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he did not. There is only one realm of knowledge which contains the truth about this. Suppose we had a time machine by which we could travel back and observe Jesus (I’m assuming here that he actually existed) every single minute of the day during a 60 day period beginning one week prior to his crucifixion (I’m also assuming here that he was hung on a cross). What would we observe? According to Bruce, we would observe that Jesus was removed from the cross, placed in the tomb, was confirmed to be dead by his handlers (they determined he had no heart beat or lung action and was in a state of rigor mortis), and then at some time when nobody else was around, Jesus came back to life, exited the tomb, and later met with his disciples and others. Now according to nonbelievers, we would observe something quite different, and there are several alternative sequences of events which we could envision. The truth of the matter is that nobody living today can know what happened with Jesus; we don’t have the imaginary time machine that I described. The only thing we can do is to approach the truth. We can make statements about what PROBABLY happened. Now, what method shall we use to make our approximation. Maybe we should examine all the relevant evidence with rational principles. After all, that approach seems to work better than anything else in other areas. But no, Bruce and most other Christians think that they have a better method. They think that they know the truth from subjective experience, revelation, or faith. They think they have a magical pathway to truth. The problem is that it just doesn’t work! Not only that, it is unethical to use that approach. It is an act of intellectual dishonesty or abuse of intelligence.Some nonbelievers might say “Just let Bruce maintain his delusion about Jesus rising from the dead. It’s no big deal. He’s not hurting anyone.” However, other nonbelievers such as Sam Harris are beginning to point out how faith-based thinking IS harmful, and I expect that a lot more investigation will be done on this in the next few years. Relatively peaceful faithists (believers in the value of faith), such as Bruce, act as ENABLERS of other faithists to engage in violence. The peaceful faithists contribute to a CULTURE OF IRRATIONALITY which is fertile ground for people that are already prone to aggression for other reasons. It is a very short step, for example, from a belief in the resurrection of Jesus to a belief that Jesus wants you to kill abortion doctors.So much more can be said about the problems of an epistemology based on faith, revelation, and dogmatism, but I think I’ve said enough for one post.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Canyon: And I encourage you to continue to defend your faith, as well. One conclusion that I have come to is that I need to pick my battles carefully. I decided a long time ago not to get into fights about science because 1) I am not a scientist, so I am not really qualified to dispute their findings or theories, and 2) I don’t really have any fight with science, anyway. Everything it currently holds could be true, and Jesus could still be the resurrected Son of God. That is the ultimate issue for me, and science really has nothing to say about that. The God of the Bible exists outside of this universe and is not subject to its laws. Science, even if it admitted that He might exist, could not observe, measure or test Him. He is only known by revelation – self-disclosure. So pick your battles carefully, and have fun.

  • Karen

    Duckphup: regarding the dating of the gospels, there is currently a very interesting exhibit at the Smithonian’s Sackler Gallery in D.C, titled “in the beginning” that looks at biblical documents from the first millenium. According to the biblical scholars and curator that have put the exhibit together, the first gospel was written by 70 A and the last (John) by 90 AD. Paul 1st lettter to the Corithians is dated at 15 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. So these are accounts by witnesses to the events, written shortly (by historical standards) after the events occured and while there would have still been other witnesses around to step up and vehemently disagree with those accounts if they chose to. Not all scholars may agree with these dates but enough of them do for you to amend your statement to: some biblical scholars say… Believers are always accused of cherry picking the evidence but evidently non-believers do the same thing.Bruce: you have been a great encouragement to me and I am sure to many others. I rarely post on these blogs because, in general, the tone gets way too personal and mean. By your thoughtful and kind approach, you set a tone that ended up influencing the overall tone of the discussion and you are to be commanded for that. I also appreciate the many thoughtful and respectful posts by Timmy and many others. Having said that, Bruce, I agree with you that the basis for our faith, more than any book, is our personal relationship with the living Christ. One last thought. I am amazed by how many people tell us what God should be like, if he existed, how he should act, what he should want of us etc. God existed before us and will exist after us. he does not need our approval or us dictating his behavior so that we can then accept and worship him. What kind of a God would that be? Certainly not one that is worth worshipping. As He said: I am that I am.

  • timmy

    What has Jason shown us?The difference between the believer and the non believer is that the non believer requires no certainty to enjoy life.The believer on the other hand needs certainty. The unknown is not wonderous to them as it is to us.If I ever throw a piece of paper into a fire and it does not burn,

  • timmy

    What has Jason shown us?The difference between the believer and the non believer is that the non believer requires no certainty to enjoy life.The believer on the other hand needs certainty. The unknown is not wonderous to them as it is to us.If I ever throw a piece of paper into a fire and it does not burn,

  • timmy

    What has Jason shown us?The difference between the believer and the non believer is that the non believer requires no certainty to enjoy life.The believer on the other hand needs certainty. The unknown is not wonderous to them as it is to us.If I ever throw a piece of paper into a fire and it does not burn,

  • timmy

    Take careful note of the fact that Jason has not and can not answer a single question.Go ahead and ask Jason what his name is?What happens to paper in fire?What is 1 + 1?Is the sky blue?What is your name?Is Jason Crazy?Ooops, Jason blew up. Did you see that? He just blew up.

  • timmy

    Take careful note of the fact that Jason has not and can not answer a single question.Go ahead and ask Jason what his name is?What happens to paper in fire?What is 1 + 1?Is the sky blue?What is your name?Is Jason Crazy?Ooops, Jason blew up. Did you see that? He just blew up.

  • timmy

    Take careful note of the fact that Jason has not and can not answer a single question.Go ahead and ask Jason what his name is?What happens to paper in fire?What is 1 + 1?Is the sky blue?What is your name?Is Jason Crazy?Ooops, Jason blew up. Did you see that? He just blew up.

  • timmy

    Well said as usual Trish.I do have optimism though. Did I start this by saying that I had optimism?

  • timmy

    Well said as usual Trish.I do have optimism though. Did I start this by saying that I had optimism?

  • timmy

    Well said as usual Trish.I do have optimism though. Did I start this by saying that I had optimism?

  • Ted Swart

    Hi Bruce:It was good to see your statement that: “I don’t have any fight with science anyway”. It makes me continue to believe that there is real hope for you.I know you say you are not a scientist but you don’t have to be a scientist to understand the evidence for the age of the earth or the occurrence of evolution. So I assume you regard my two statements about the age of the earth and the occurrence of evolution as true. This is a very good first step. Keep moving along on the road.

  • timmy

    And check this out, Hot off the presses!Pat Robertson makes his year end prediction.I’ll bet Pat is really rooting for this to be his first ever prediction success. He would know that such an event would surely set off world war three.Yikes!

  • timmy

    And check this out, Hot off the presses!Pat Robertson makes his year end prediction.I’ll bet Pat is really rooting for this to be his first ever prediction success. He would know that such an event would surely set off world war three.Yikes!

  • timmy

    And check this out, Hot off the presses!Pat Robertson makes his year end prediction.I’ll bet Pat is really rooting for this to be his first ever prediction success. He would know that such an event would surely set off world war three.Yikes!

  • Bruce Burleson

    Skeptic: Now who is the fear-monger? Killing abortion doctors? I have believed in the resurrection of Jesus for decades, and never once in that time did I ever sense, feel or otherwise irrationally conclude that I was supposed to kill anyone, abortion doctors or otherwise, on orders from heaven. Even if I wanted to (which I don’t), that would be clearly against the teachings of the one I say was resurrected. You are the one who is brainwashed to think that this is an urge of the normal Christian. What compels non-believers to murder? It certainly isn’t the resurrection.Let’s look at your analogy of the clan of ancient hunters. Only instead of hunting for animals, let’s hunt for ultimate truth. The clan has been led by scientists who rely on the scientific method and observation to seek for this prize game, but it has left many in the clan spiritually empty. A deep sense of meaninglessness has overtaken some in the clan, who have been told that the universe is pointless, that their lives are an accident, and that it will all end with the universe burning itself out. A believer asks to take the lead for awhile, and he uses “faith” (an inward response to revelation) as his primary method of hunting. Using this process, a number in the clan find spiritual fulfillment with an experience of the divine. Others prefer to continue using the old ways. The clan is split, each group claiming to have the right path to truth. The closest that you can take me to the question of whether or not Jesus was resurrected from the dead is a statement of probabilities. You conclude that it is more likely than not that he did not rise from the dead. This tells me nothing – either he did or he did not. Of course it is improbable – that is why it is unique. The universe is improbable, and it is here; life is improbable, and here we are. It is improbable everytime someone wins the lottery. Probabilities are meaningless in the individual situation. Something either happens or it doesn’t. The inward revelation I experienced is similar to meeting a person, but on the level that Christians refer to as “spirit.” To me, this confirms that Jesus is alive. It changed my whole attitude about the new testament, and I began looking at it not as a set of propositions to be proved or disproved, but as a revelation about the person of Jesus. It is not the resurrection itself as a proposition that is revealed, it is Jesus himself. I didn’t get an inward vision of Jesus rising from the dead – we believe in the resurrection because we encounter Jesus. The encounter with Him is like a sensory experience in another level or dimension. There has been much said about Christians being “certain.” I always admit that I may be wrong – and I will say it again “I MAY BE WRONG.” I am always seeking to understand my own experience better. I don’t think that I am any more certain in that sense than you are. I believe that I have experienced something, so I talk about it. So far, while your arguments confirm to me that I cannot prove the resurrection objectively, they have not convinced me that I am just engaging in wishful thinking. My experience of a few decades is that I am communing with Christ. I will continue to listen to your critique, however, as it makes me reflect on my experience. I really did not intend to say this much, but your comment left me no choice.Last comment – you guys all seem like you believe Christians are about to destroy you. Has anyone out there ever personally suffered physical violence in the name of Christ? Please let me know. For what it’s worth, I am just as appalled by Pat Robertson as you are. I wish he would just shut up.

  • timmy

    Jason.Does God exist?I wonder how the minions on your website would react if they knew that Jason Bradfield was being asked the simple question:

  • timmy

    Jason.Does God exist?I wonder how the minions on your website would react if they knew that Jason Bradfield was being asked the simple question:

  • timmy

    Jason.Does God exist?I wonder how the minions on your website would react if they knew that Jason Bradfield was being asked the simple question:

  • Puzzled

    If people cannot answer questions like “what is truth” then what does that mean? Beyond the dictionary meaning of “truth,” I am not sure if the question actually has substance. Saying something like “God is Truth.” It’s like saying “Truth is Life” or “Life is Death” (to quote a song lyric). It means so many things (and nothing at the same time) that it doesn’t further any reasonable discourse and necessarily requires more precise and specific questions. Jason, you ask questions like this, and in response to whatever people say, “I am still waiting” or “Ah-Ha!” So what do YOU take away from this? I think the burden is on you (or those like you) to demonstrate that this is not just word-play and provide more substance to debate.

  • Bruce Burleson

    Karen: Hi. Help me out here. I’m probably not expressing myself very well when I tell them about my personal experience with Jesus. Tell them your experience. Don’t fear the lions. After awhile, you get numb to the tearing of your flesh.

  • timmy

    Bruce,Your whole argument of late is that science can not satisfy the spiritual because science has no answer for ultimate truth.Once again you point out the fundemental difference between you and non believers. The atheists you are debating with, as all atheists are people who do not need an answer to that ultimate question.We enjoy taking what science has taught us, and pondering the mysteries of the universe on our own.Vive le mystery.

  • timmy

    Bruce,Your whole argument of late is that science can not satisfy the spiritual because science has no answer for ultimate truth.Once again you point out the fundemental difference between you and non believers. The atheists you are debating with, as all atheists are people who do not need an answer to that ultimate question.We enjoy taking what science has taught us, and pondering the mysteries of the universe on our own.Vive le mystery.

  • timmy

    Bruce,Your whole argument of late is that science can not satisfy the spiritual because science has no answer for ultimate truth.Once again you point out the fundemental difference between you and non believers. The atheists you are debating with, as all atheists are people who do not need an answer to that ultimate question.We enjoy taking what science has taught us, and pondering the mysteries of the universe on our own.Vive le mystery.

  • Jason Bradfield

    Skeptic says,”Believers and nonbelievers start with the same data of the senses and the recollected images of the senses. They both reach conclusions from this data, conclusions in the form of propositions about the world.”How so skeptic? Please explain to me how this works?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Skeptic says,”Believers and nonbelievers start with the same data of the senses and the recollected images of the senses. They both reach conclusions from this data, conclusions in the form of propositions about the world.”How so skeptic? Please explain to me how this works?

  • Jason Bradfield

    Skeptic says,”Believers and nonbelievers start with the same data of the senses and the recollected images of the senses. They both reach conclusions from this data, conclusions in the form of propositions about the world.”How so skeptic? Please explain to me how this works?

  • Bruce Burleson

    Ted – Based upon the evidence that I have seen, it appears that the universe is somewhere around 13.5 billion years old and that the earth is somewhere around 4.5 billion years old, as we experience time. Hugh Ross, a Christian astrophysicist, (www.reasons.org) does a good job of explaining the current science in a readable fashion. I will add that God apparently experiences time in a much different fashion, based upon the revelation of scripture. Based upon the evidence that I have seen, it appears that evolution of species has occurred. Whatever information God placed into the universe at the Big Bang has lead to life. The vast difference between human beings and their closest relatives (not in the DNA, but in intelligence and ability), the precambrian explosion (and all punctuated equilibrium examples, as documented by Stephen Gould), and phenomena such as irreducible complexity (as documented by Michael Behe) all leave open the distinct possibility that the creator invervened in the evolutionary process or jump-started it. Even if he didn’t, his initial creative act set everything in motion that ultimately led to us. Ted, this is not a “first step” for me. I don’t have a problem with science, period. It’s a gift from God. Good to hear from you.

  • timmy

    Bruce,What good will it do for Karen to talk about her personal experience with Jesus? Won’t that just piss us off all the more, that here is yet another person who Jesus has made himself known to and yet he still won’t do it for me.Why can’t we understand Bruce?You have no more discussion left here as I see it.

  • timmy

    Bruce,What good will it do for Karen to talk about her personal experience with Jesus? Won’t that just piss us off all the more, that here is yet another person who Jesus has made himself known to and yet he still won’t do it for me.Why can’t we understand Bruce?You have no more discussion left here as I see it.

  • timmy

    Bruce,What good will it do for Karen to talk about her personal experience with Jesus? Won’t that just piss us off all the more, that here is yet another person who Jesus has made himself known to and yet he still won’t do it for me.Why can’t we understand Bruce?You have no more discussion left here as I see it.

  • Jason Bradfield

    ummm..still no answer. In the voice of Yosemite Sam…”Scientists are sooo stupid.”puzzled, it’s very easy to grasp what I am doing.Timmy here says I am an idiot for accepting the Bible and not his empirical explanation for things.I have a perfectly valid reason for doing so – science is inductive and inductive reasoning is formally fallacious.Timmy then responds something to the affect – “well, what kind of idiot denies that if you throw a newspaper in the fire, it will burn?”Timmy went on to say that the “reason” he knows this “certainty” is because of previous observations.So, i have asked Timmy to prove his assertion that his past experience logically infers beyond any shadow of a doubt that if i were to throw a newspaper in fire right now, it will burn…a simple “science” test.YET, Timmy has failed to prove this. And not only has he not even attempted it, he then goes on to say that i am retarded for doubting him.You morons want me to deny the divine logic (Christ Jesus) and embrace evolution and all the rest of the crap, yet you can’t answer this one simple thing.Furthermore, Timmy is the one using the word “true” – so to understand what he means, I have asked for a definition and he refuses to give one. – “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    ummm..still no answer. In the voice of Yosemite Sam…”Scientists are sooo stupid.”puzzled, it’s very easy to grasp what I am doing.Timmy here says I am an idiot for accepting the Bible and not his empirical explanation for things.I have a perfectly valid reason for doing so – science is inductive and inductive reasoning is formally fallacious.Timmy then responds something to the affect – “well, what kind of idiot denies that if you throw a newspaper in the fire, it will burn?”Timmy went on to say that the “reason” he knows this “certainty” is because of previous observations.So, i have asked Timmy to prove his assertion that his past experience logically infers beyond any shadow of a doubt that if i were to throw a newspaper in fire right now, it will burn…a simple “science” test.YET, Timmy has failed to prove this. And not only has he not even attempted it, he then goes on to say that i am retarded for doubting him.You morons want me to deny the divine logic (Christ Jesus) and embrace evolution and all the rest of the crap, yet you can’t answer this one simple thing.Furthermore, Timmy is the one using the word “true” – so to understand what he means, I have asked for a definition and he refuses to give one. – “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

  • Jason Bradfield

    ummm..still no answer. In the voice of Yosemite Sam…”Scientists are sooo stupid.”puzzled, it’s very easy to grasp what I am doing.Timmy here says I am an idiot for accepting the Bible and not his empirical explanation for things.I have a perfectly valid reason for doing so – science is inductive and inductive reasoning is formally fallacious.Timmy then responds something to the affect – “well, what kind of idiot denies that if you throw a newspaper in the fire, it will burn?”Timmy went on to say that the “reason” he knows this “certainty” is because of previous observations.So, i have asked Timmy to prove his assertion that his past experience logically infers beyond any shadow of a doubt that if i were to throw a newspaper in fire right now, it will burn…a simple “science” test.YET, Timmy has failed to prove this. And not only has he not even attempted it, he then goes on to say that i am retarded for doubting him.You morons want me to deny the divine logic (Christ Jesus) and embrace evolution and all the rest of the crap, yet you can’t answer this one simple thing.Furthermore, Timmy is the one using the word “true” – so to understand what he means, I have asked for a definition and he refuses to give one. – “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

  • Bruce Burleson

    Timmy: I intended to bow out yesterday, but Skeptic keeps challenging me. Sorry. Can you mediate a truce between us? Then I’ll confine myself to just critiquing you guys for a change.

  • timmy

    Jason I have answered your question.Paper burns is my answer.And my definition of the word truth remains that which is widely accepted in the dictionary. And no I can not prove that either.Now do you have a point?You are arguing with yourself Jason and calling it Timmy.You are right about science not being able to prove any certainties Jason.Do you have any other points to make?

  • timmy

    Jason I have answered your question.Paper burns is my answer.And my definition of the word truth remains that which is widely ac