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Monday, January 26, 2009

Christian Apologetics Need to be Revised

Christian apologists need to get with the program!


Christian apologetics are basically the strongest arguments that the Christians have to support their claims and beliefs. Apologetics is the branch of theology that attempts to rationalise the various aspects of the faith.

They do this through various means, including reinterpreting the bible (when it says seven days, it actually is referring of millions of years), trying to support the biblical stories with a variety of (mostly weak) evidence (Kirk Cameron, John Dickson, etc), emotional appeals (atheism leads to Nazism) and poorly reasoned/misinformed arguments (bananas, peanut butter and John Lennox). The remainder of their arguments seem to be based on incorrect definitions (atheists believe there is no god), outdated and previously debunked arguments (Pascal's wager1 2 3, fine tuning 1 2 3 and irreducible complexity 1 2 3).

The introduction of the internet has made it so easy to debunk such apologetic arguments (the search words 'debunking apologetics' got 37600 hits in google) that those who make such arguments are up against a wall of criticism, which they may not have encountered in their normal parochial activities, where they are more likely to just yabber on to an already convinced crowd about some poorly structured, loosely based and inadequately researched ideas that just came into their head on a Saturday night. Basically, it seems that there has been little or no internal fact checking and scrutiny for the most part for these religious leaders. Now we have a brilliant new technology that lets a fire hose of ideas burst upon any chink in the system, making any faults in the arguments presented obvious and causing the whole pile of rubbish to come tumbling down.

The main point that I am trying to get at here is that basically, there has been very little in the way of new apologetic arguments developed in recent times.
The creationists, nee 'Intelligent Design' crowd have repackaged their ideas in an attempt to convince some of the current generation, but they seem to be unable to resist the backlash of the switched-on online community.

I would like to see some new arguments from Christians.

All I can see at the moment is a blatant attempt to recycle ideas that were debunked by one generation and try to sell them to the next generation. I'm afraid that the christian community is suffering under the transparency afforded by the internet age and can't keep up. Why might this be? I suppose it is because they are fixed in using 'old methods' that have been tried and tested over the years, which are out of touch with the tech savvy youth of today.

I would like to see someone come up with a new proof of god, a new reason to believe, a new original idea. I really would! It seems that, for the religious skeptic, most of your time is devoted to fending off ideas whose faults were exposed over a hundred years ago 1 2!

Please, If you are a christian reading this, put forward your best arguments.

If there really is a god 1 2 3 4, how would I know this, how would I verify this and what would convince me that it is real?

Here are a few tips to save you from looking like a complete douche bag.

This in NOT a veiled attempt to try to act like I, or non-believers in general know everything. I GENUINELY would like to hear some new argument. I would like to have to work on a new idea that is proposed, I would like to be CHALLENGED by the arguments of a religious person and have to reassess the way I look at the world.

Please, if you have anything worthwhile, let me know and we'll see if there is anything worth discussing.


(Note: Apologists are not confined to Christianity. Basically, any person who attempts to defend an idea that is under scrutiny is an apologist. I understand that there are many faiths that apologists attempt to reconcile rationally, but I have focused on Christians because they are the most prominent in the society in which I live)

63 comments:

  1. If you call yourself an atheist but you don't believe that there is no God, you really should start calling yourself an agnostic, cos that's what you are.

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  2. I googled "debunking atheism" and got 149,000 hits.

    I guess that means it must be very easy to debunk atheistic arguments!

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  3. "The remainder of their arguments seem to be based on incorrect definitions (atheists believe there is no god), outdated and previously debunked arguments (Pascal's wager1 2 3, fine tuning 1 2 3 and irreducible complexity 1 2 3)."

    The first apologetic argument you list is Pascal's wager?!

    That's not even an intellectual argument, it's more of a general proposition in the same topic area. And it also relies on some assumptions which are likely to provide a huge tangent. I doubt you'd see it anywhere in any kind of semi serious apologetic literature.

    Fine Tuning- you only provided one link, 2 and 3 had no hyperlinks.

    This is a very strong argument, and none of the attempts I've seen at debunking it have even come close to convincing me that it ISN'T a very strong argument. The fine tuning of the universe points towards a divine hand being at work. Plenty of scientists recognise this and even agnostic or athiest ones. They presumably reject theism for other reasons and obviously consider the argument a strong one, just not strong enough to be a full knockout blow in it's own right.

    Irreducible Complexity is interesting, but a bit of a red herring to me in the overall scheme of things. The design in the universe is so clear that the design in biology becomes a peripheral issue. Besides, evolutionary theory doesn't imply atheism, which is why atheist Michael Ruse says Richard Dawkins makes him "embarrassed to be an atheist". At worst, all evolution does is push God back from primary to secondary causation. The atheist might then argue that this makes God more of a deistic God. However, I see no inherent reason why such a God couldn't choose to interfere in the physical processes he created- for example in the case of Jesus Resurrection.

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  4. My bad, I just re read your post- pascals wager was not actually the first apologetic argument you listed.

    I still find your post quite intriguing though, because you spend most fo it knocking down a straw man. You're making fun of apologetics yet you didn't even mention the First Cause or Moral arguments, and your sole response to fine tuning was that it's been debunked on the basis on one YouTube video (which I haven't watched yet).

    I might add though, that attempting to settle the issue of God's existence and/or the truth of any faith system or worldview purely on the basis of academic argumentation is ultimately a futile exercise.

    For the reason why this is the case, this article should shed a bit of light:

    http://www.christianethicstoday.com/Issue/056/Another%20Atheist%20Finds%20God%20By%20John%20Scott_056_15_.htm

    Linked to from Herald Sun FaithWorks Blog:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/faithworks/

    In other words, people have their own experiences (not to mention presuppositions) which effect the way they interpret data in front of them. This might explain why you claim to have never even found any Christian's arguments to ve even slightly compelling, when in fact there are plenty of Christian Apologists who regularly debate and defeat skeptic's much more intelligent and educated than yourself. One such example would be William Lane Craig. If you REALLY want to read some apologetic literature and be challenged, I suggest you read his Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition. I haven't read it yet, but have read some excerpts and flicked through it in a shop. It's highly recommended as the best apologetic book of our modern era, and Craig is hailed as the best apologist and Christian scholar- by everyone from Amazon Reviewers to his scholarly contemporaries.

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  5. As the day drags on and work becomes less and less interesting, I can't help but be drawn back to your blog, and your illinformed attempts at poking fun at Christian apologetics.

    It would help, of course, if you got a few basic things definitions and categories right...

    For example, this:

    "The creationists, nee 'Intelligent Design' crowd have repackaged their ideas in an attempt to convince...."

    Ah yes, "creationists".

    See, you're completely confusing some totally seperate groups of people here. Creationists, in the traditional sense, were YECers- or young earth creationists. Intelligent Design Crowd is a newer and completely seperate group.

    In fact Intelligent Design has made a clean break recently, in terms of those who are defending and moving forward with the idea. Arguably the two biggest current proponents of Intelligent Design are Bradley Monton and David Berlinski. The fact that one's an atheist and the other's an agnostic make your links with "Creationism" look spurious at best and completely fradulent at worst.

    Yes, ID does in one sense invoke a "creator" in the biological process of life formation, however there is no link between ID and the traditional creationists. And secondly, ID is not some kind of pseudo intellectual idea deserving of utter ridicule (as you seem to imply...) because there are plenty of educated atheists and agnostics who think the ID ideas have much more meat to them than some leading atheists have claimed.

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  6. "Creationists, in the traditional sense, were YECers- or young earth creationists. Intelligent Design Crowd is a newer and completely seperate group."

    The main point here, which I didn't quite quantify as well as I should've, is that the ID crowd reject a lot of the "science" and ideas of the YECers. So your comment that "Creationists, nee ID crowd" which lumps them together and implies that ID is some kind of second wave of the same people, is misguided.

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  7. Wow Trav, you've been busy today! I wrote this post as a somewhat flippant attempt to stir up a bit of debate and give the readers something to get involved in. I was kinda hoping that there might be a few more believers getting involved, and we might get a chance to discuss some fresh arguments.

    You've pretty much acted in the predictable fashion of trying to pull apart the nonessential aspects of the original post rather than stepping up and presenting your best arguments. I'm a little disappointed, but should have seen it coming.

    There are numerous flaws in my post, but I wasn't trying to make a point, I was trying to find out what the best arguments for christianity are, and then we might be able to have a decent discussion about them.

    If you have an argument to deliver, please do so!

    In the meantime, I can't let some of your assertions stand unopposed...

    "If you call yourself an atheist but you don't believe that there is no God, you really should start calling yourself an agnostic, cos that's what you are"

    No. That's wrong. We've had this discussion before. I even provided a good reference for this one this time. If you believe in a god, you're a theist. If you don't, you're an atheist. To not believe in a god is a passive position, quite different to the active position of believing that there is no god. Not believing in a god is not a claim, believing gods do not exist is a claim of knowledge.
    Then there's the misunderstanding of the terms 'atheist' and 'agnostic'. They both address different questions and are not mutually exclusive. Please read this for more clarity: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Atheist_vs._Agnostic

    "I googled "debunking atheism" and got 149,000 hits. I guess that means it must be very easy to debunk atheistic arguments!"

    Yes my use of google results was fallacious. It was intended as more of an illustrative point than a complete argument. Also, I apologise for the buggered up links.

    Fine tuning is only convincing if you are viewing the system from the inside out, with the assumption that life was meant to occur in the form that we know. There is no reason to presuppose this. If the universe was modeled in such a way that life could not arise, we would not be here to speculate otherwise, but that does not mean that it is ought to be that way. Is does not imply ought.

    "The design in the universe is so clear"

    Not really, there seems to be a lot more chaos than design, if you ask me. Humans are remarkably good at pattern recognition and the design you are seeing is actually better explained through successive developments and gradual shaping, whether you're talking about evolution, a rock formation, a constellation etc. In what is design obvious? I'd like to know if there are examples that defy rational analysis.

    "evolutionary theory doesn't imply atheism"

    That's right, and I don't know anyone who would make the argument that it does. Evolution showed us that creation did not occur as the bible said it did. I'm not sure why Dawkins would be a shame to atheists for making this argument, as I'm not sure that he does make it. I'll have to do a bit of digging to find out what Ruse was referring to.

    "you didn't even mention the First Cause or Moral arguments"

    No, I didn't. The point of the post was to elicit arguments from christians. If you would like to discuss these, please make your case.

    You posted an article on Anthony Flew's conversion. I've been wanting to find out a bit more about his reasonings and I guess now's as good a time as ever to look into it a bit deeper.

    I intend to read William Lane Craig's arguments, as you suggest. Do you have any specific arguments to offer up?

    You defend ID/creationism, but I'm not sure what your argument is. Are you making an appeal to authority, or is there more to it?
    And by the way "there is no link between ID and the traditional creationists" is out and out wrong. The clear connection between the two was clearly examined and explicated in the Dover trial, right down to sections of textbook being copied and pasted, with the word 'creator' being exchanged for 'intelligent designer' (http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/forrests-testimony-creationism-id) and even worse editing errors like 'cdesign proponentists' (http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/cdesign-proponentsists).

    ID not only seems like a second wave of creationism, but was shown, in a court of law to be so!

    Basically Trav, you have just put out a 6 comment Gish Gallop that jumps all over the place, without really allowing a chance to discuss and of the ideas you have referred to. I would be more than happy to discuss an of these ideas in detail, but to get anywhere, the discussion is going to have to remain on track.

    Please, if you have a convincing argument, I'd like you to state your case. Then give us a chance to rebut without blasting us with a scattergun of arguments that just serve to confuse and hold up the flow of the discussion.

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  8. Hi there guys!

    Not sure if I am doing something wrong, but when I Googled "Brand new Apologetic arguments" I got 28,900 results. When I searched "Brand New Apologetic Argument" I got 94,300 results! I also Googled the following with the following results...
    "Fresh Apologetic Argument" - 163,000
    "Convincing Apologetic Argument" - 148,000
    "Recent Apologetic Argument" 1,170,000
    "New Apologetic Argument" - 1,350,000!

    I guess what this shows is that we very easily believe what we want to believe (unless, as I said, I am doing something wrong).

    Of course it does not show that there is any new apologetic argument, just that there are search results when I Googled. Perhaps if I had typed "No" in front of my searches I would have had even more results!

    Seriously though, I followed the link regarding the definition of an Atheist. I am confused as to whether it was providing an accurate definition or not. The reason for this is because it contained info about what I have heard you (as in on this blog) say you are, by definition, and what you say you are not. Perhaps you could clarify? What is an Atheist?

    Dave

    DAve

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  9. Dave, an atheist is a single position on a single point, that of belief. A theist is someone who has a belief in a god or gods. An atheist lacks a belief in a god or gods. Atheism is a lack of a belief in a god(s).

    Agnosticism addresses a different question. Gnosticism is related to knowledge about a god or gods. Agnosticism is a lack of knowledge about a god or gods.

    These two positions are not mutually exclusive. I personally (and many of the Sydney Atheists and most atheists I know of) are "agnostic atheists". This means that we are not claiming to know there is no god (because we don't, and believers don't know that there is one), but we don't believe any claims made about god(s). A gnostic atheist is someone who claims that they know god(s) don't exist, and also doesn't believe in them.

    A gnostic theist claims to know that a god(s) exists, and also believes in that god(s), and so on. That diagram at the Iron Chariots wiki explains it really well.

    Trav continues to accuse us of not being atheists, suggesting that we call ourselves agnostic, because he clearly doesn't understand what the terms mean, despite us explaining them to him over and over and over this on many different blog posts. We are not gnostic atheists. He is either being willingly ignorant, or he enjoys circular, never ending discussions.

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  10. Trav said...
    "The fine tuning of the universe points towards a divine hand being at work"

    This is so wrong on so many levels. It could point to an alien reality making technology too, but theists are jumping the gun claiming the fine tuning to exist. There is still plenty of science to be done. For example:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926673.900
    It is a bit like the First Cause argument these days; on it's way to the recycle bin.

    Trav said...
    "atheist Michael Ruse says Richard Dawkins makes him "embarrassed to be an atheist"

    I think Ruse is agnostic and he actually wrote that "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist." He also attacked Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell". But what's your point? You can go to Sydney Anglican churches and they tell you that Catholics go to hell and vice versa, but so what?

    Trav said...
    See, you're completely confusing some totally seperate groups of people here. Creationists, in the traditional sense, were YECers- or young earth creationists. Intelligent Design Crowd is a newer and completely seperate group. In fact Intelligent Design has made a clean break recently, in terms of those who are defending and moving forward with the idea.

    Nonsense. Just google "cdesign proponentsists" and you'll see how clean the break was.


    I never understood the power of the "moral argument". How does that point to "the God" anyway. When people like William Lane Craig use it, they get in trouble defending God killing the Midianite kids being morally good.
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767
    I guess Christians must think killing kids could be good.

    Some answers to your William Lane Craig defence:
    doubtreligion.blogspot.com go to podcast episode 23.

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  11. Trying to have a rational discussion with a christian is more or less a complete waste of time, and that has been demonstrated time and again on this web site with "Trav". Its a waste of time because these people already know what the answer and the endpoint of any discussion HAS to be, and thats a reinforcement of their commitment to a particular version of christianity. This commitment is fundamentally emotional and irrational, and emerges from all sorts of personal social and historical influences. Its only after theyve made the Great Leap of Faith that they start casting around for arguments that they can use to try and justify what theyve done and not look stupid. And..yeah well we know how great a tactic that is right? Their debating is Phoney and they still look stupid.
    One good thing thats slowly changing about all this is that thanks to people like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, we no longer accept the silly idea that religious beliefs should get special kid-glove treatment because a persons "Faith" is somehow different.

    Yes, christianity contains some wonderful ideals, but the real essence of it all is just silly. And Alan, there arent going to be any new arguments for it all becauase theyve been trying desperately for 2000 years to find a decent one and as you say all they can come up with is a rehash of all the old ones.

    Christian Apologetics is an oxymoron

    ps there are too many daves and davids on this site whats going on?

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  12. Wow, looks like I've put someone's nose out of joint!

    David M:

    "Its a waste of time because these people already know what the answer and the endpoint of any discussion HAS to be, and thats a reinforcement of their commitment to a particular version of christianity."

    Are you suggesting that athiests aren't the same, in a given argument? If people didn't think their point of view had some substance, they probably wouldn't be arguing with you in the first place.

    Peter, re your New Scientist article. I think one of the commenters said it well: "I've always liked a good science fiction read myself, and I would put this down in that category".

    There's heaps and heaps of different constants, and this guy was looking at just one or two of them which relate to star formation. Of course there's plenty of science to be done- there always is. You can only talk about the current state of affairs, though.

    "If the universe was modeled in such a way that life could not arise, we would not be here to speculate otherwise,"

    This quote, I believe is from William Lane Craig:

    "Some have tried to counter with the WAP (Weak Anthropic Principle), saying that we should not be surprised that we do not find features in the universe which are incompatible with our existence. This may be so, but it still does not explain the vast improbability of our existence. And it does not satisfy our desire to know why we exist. To demonstrate this, consider the following analogy:"

    "Suppose you are dragged before a firing squad consisting of 100 marksmen. You hear the command to fire and the crashing roar of the rifles. You then realize you are still alive, and that not a single bullet found its mark. How are you to react to this rather unlikely event?"

    "If we applied a sort of WAP to the firing squad scenario, we could state the following: 'Of course you do not observe that you are dead, because if you were dead, you would not be able to observe that fact!' However, this does not stop you from being amazed and surprised by the fact that you did survive against overwhelming odds. Moreover, you would try to deduce the reason for this unlikely event, which was too improbable to happen by chance. Surely, the best explanation is that there was some plan among the marksmen to miss you on purpose. In other words, you are probably alive for a very definite reason, not because of some random, unlikely, freak accident."

    "So we should conclude the same with the cosmos. It is natural for us to ask why we escaped the firing squad. Because it is so unlikely that this amazing universe with its precariously balanced constants could have come about by sheer accident, it is likely that there was some purpose in mind, before or during its creation. And the mind in question belongs to God."

    And regarding the moral argument, it's basically saying that if objective moral values do not exist, God doesn't exist. Yet objective moral values do exist, therefore God exists.

    To me, the first premise seems fairly obvious. The second premise is definitely subjective, because "objective moral values" are difficuly to verify. But, I definitely believe they exist, so for me this argument makes sense.

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  13. Thanks for the info Rach. Alan’s posted his comment just before I did and I guess also answered my question to some degree.

    I have something, not sure if it is new, perhaps you have heard it before, though I have not. Also, I would not describe it as an ‘apologetic argument’, though it is ‘apologetics’. In this apologetic I will strive to be as honest and as open as I possibly can and ask that you do the same, otherwise there is little point going further!

    The starting point is with how you guys define yourselves. Please, I understand you have explained this many times to Trav, but I do have some observations that Trav might not have made, and I am a relatively new guy on the block...yes another Dave/David!

    According to most (all) dictionaries I have consulted, Atheists are people who believe that there is no god. Not a passive but an active stance. Now, I do not mind if you change what an Atheist is (which appears to be what has been done), but cannot help think a new name would have been good – perhaps “Passivetheists” would have been good (my spell checker does not like it so I assume it is free if you want to use it?!?)! Anyway...I was reading a Christian Apologist (so I accept he might have misrepresented you) who explained what he thought was the reason for the name change: That the burden of proof has always been on Atheists, because of their claim that there is no God. Now, with their change of definition as to who they were the burden of proof is now on Christians.

    Not sure if you agree with that, though I would have thought under the old definition the burden of proof lay on both parties as both parties claimed to believe something. The interesting thing for me personally is that I would have thought the burden of proof is irrelevant for Christians. If I want you to know God like I do, then I should have a desire to share that with you.

    Anyway – back to your own definition as to who you are! I have no problem with the definition...if that is how you want to define an Atheist – cool. But if so, I have great difficulty in accepting that you guys are in fact Atheists! Please, hear me out!

    If your stance was truly passive then you would not have a blog that has posts headed “Christian Apologetics need to be revised”. That title in itself is a statement of belief. You would not turn up for a debate as to what makes more sense, Christianity or Atheism. You would not be meeting together, unless of course you were all linked together by something in common, but you claim to be linked by nothing – by a lack of belief. If this is true then you are certainly unique! You would not be ‘evangelistic’ about your lack of belief and actively advertise who you are and what you do not believe. You would not have paid to have t-shirts printed, nor would you, Alan, be throwing out a challenge to Christians to prove there is a god. I do not believe in Aliens, and yet I do not have a blog on which I post, challenging people to prove that there are aliens. Your behaviour defies your definition!

    I, if I am honest, cannot say that I am a Christian if a Christian is someone who does not believe there is not a god. Why not? Because Christians go to church, evangelise and wear Christian t-shirts! This is more than simply a lack of belief in there not being a god. This is belief in a god in action.

    The old definition seemed much better suited to who you are and what you do - from my observations. It appears as though you really do believe in the reality of a godless world. What you say and do confirms this belief. Now I am not having a go at you here. I think that what you do is great and makes perfect sense, if you believe there is no god. But - if you are truly going to maintain you have a passive stance then please, stop the blogging, the meetings and the advertising, and like others who believe nothing...just melt back into society! This would be normal!

    I have not finished my apologetic, but I need to know how you respond to this first bit. There is no sense continuing until we settle on who you are because at the moment who you claim to be is not consistent with what you do, which makes it hard to have any sort of discussion. Like I said, lets be honest here!

    I know that one favourite argument of Athiests is that Christianity has failed to be and do what it claims to be. We can talk about that later if you want, but at the moment lets try and work out if Atheists are being consistent with who they say they are!

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  14. Firstly, just one thing Dave:

    "Please, I understand you have explained this many times to Trav, but I do have some observations that Trav might not have made, and I am a relatively new guy on the block...yes another Dave/David!"

    The thing is, they actually haven't! I remember just after Alan's debate with Mike Paget a few mths ago there was a big debate along these lines with Mike Paget, but I wasn't heavily involved and don't remember being particularly interested either.

    Well done Dave, I wholeheartedly agree with your "apologetic", although I wouldn't really call it that myself. Your post was very balanced and reasonable, and I'll be very interested to hear responses.

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  15. Dictionaries describe common usage, which is not necessarily the operational definition being used.
    I stand by our definition as the most accurate definition of 'atheist'. When we are talking about atheists, we are talking about people who do not believe in gods. We are not making a claim that no gods exist. May I remind you of the complicated definition of a 'christian', in which case we have found it useful to ask what each individual believes and why before engaging in a direct discussion about their beliefs. Let a person explain what they mean, then go from that.

    There have been many attempts to come up with different names and it is always problematic. The best way is to ask (as you have done) and accept the definition (as some seem incapable of doing)

    Yes, in the 'classical' definition, the burdon of proof is on both parties, but it's a different burdon for each. The atheist(anti-theist) has to prove that God does not exist, and the theist that it does.

    There are many groups who find intellectual argument stimulating, even when arguing about subjects they do not believe in (skeptics will often have blogs about UFOs, which they don't believe in, to use your example).
    The point to it is that we are very interested in the truth and, personally, I think that if argument can lead us to know if there is or is not a god, either outcome would have such massive consequences to the future of humanity that the pursuit of the answer is something that must be engaged in.
    I believe that there is an answer and that the answer is ultimately knowable. The more we disect what we claim to know and understand, the closer we get to the truth. I have heard agnosticism described as a statement that the answer is simply unknowable. I'm not sure of this definition, but it certainly does not describe my position.

    As can be seen in many of the activities that we are engaged in, our lack of belief in gods is just a starting point, and we engage in discussions on many more topics than simply 'is there proof for god yet?'

    One trait that many of us share is a desire to understand the natural world and are, mostly, pretty awestruck at how amazing everything is. We just don't see any reason to attribute it to a god when natural explanations are working just fine.

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  16. Alan, a couple of points:

    "The point to it is that we are very interested in the truth and, personally, I think that if argument can lead us to know if there is or is not a god..."

    The obvious problem here is that intellectual argumentation will never fully settle the issue for the vast majority of people, and I'd even suggest all people, because our own experience and presuppositions will always impact our interpretation of the data/evidence/arguments, regardless of whether we want it to or not. After studying psychology, you should realise this.

    Plenty of Christians became such due to personal experience, and never felt the need to even entertain any intellectual reasons for their faith. Plenty of atheists are the same, and are atheists primarily due to their own personal experience. So for a large (larger that you think, I'd imagine) portion of people, intellectual arguments are futile, unnecessary and/or uninteresting, and won't lead us to any kind of truth.

    "I believe that there is an answer and that the answer is ultimately knowable"

    "I have heard agnosticism described as a statement that the answer is simply unknowable. I'm not sure of this definition, but it certainly does not describe my position."

    OK, so you think the answer is ultimately knowable. Correct me if I'm wrong, but your answer (which you think is knowable) is that there is No God. Given that, why do you insist on your definition of "a lack of belief"?

    You're trying to remain in the middle ground and stating that you have a "lack of" belief in a God rather than a belief in No God, but that is clearly inconsistent with your claim that the answer to the question of God's existence is "knowable". You're claiming 1. that the answer is knowable and 2. that there is no evidence whatsoever for God. The only logical conclusion one can draw from those statements is that you believe that there is no God.

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  17. I'm a theist.

    I've decided that this means the following:

    I am someone who lacks belief in the idea that there is no God.

    This is not the same as saying that there is a God.

    When engaging in discussion, you need to listen to me and my definition before we can engage in meaningful dialogue, therefore I will refute all attempts to redefine my definition.

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  18. Alan, here's what Dave and myself are getting at. Or, I don't presume to speak for Dave, but I agreed with many of his comments and so I'd be surprised if he disagreed with the following.

    Let's discuss two distinct statements:

    A- I believe no God exists

    B- I have a lack of belief in a God or Gods.

    Now, it's obvious that anyone who believes A will also believe B. But someone who believes B doesn't necessarily have to believe A.

    Therefore if you believe A to be true, then A is a much more accurate definition of your beliefs because it entails two statements which are both accurate portrayals of what you believe to be true. Whereas if you use B as the definition of your beliefs, it's ambigious and doesn't clearly define your belief because it leaves the question of A open.

    Therefore If you believe A to be true, you should use A because it is the definition which accurately defines your beliefs, and B does not.

    Otherwise, you're being intellectually dishonest and inconsistent.

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  19. And if you deny the use of A as a definition of your beliefs whilst affirming B (and yet actually believe A to be true), then you're being especially dishonest and inconsistent.

    As I showed in my earlier post, I believe it's logically consistent to deduce from your previous comments and postings that you believe A to be true. Therefore, you shouldn't complain if someone argues against your position as A.

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  20. Note Alan: Most of my postings here relate to you specifically. As you correctly pointed out, it is "useful to ask what each individual believes and why before engaging in a direct discussion about their beliefs", so in the case of discussions in this blog about atheism, and discussing your postings, I believe it's reasonable to use A as our definition because you've shown yourself to clearly believe that No Gods exist, as opposed to merely a lack of belief.

    However, I'd also agree with Dave's ideas, and I'd extend that to suggest that the majority of self proclaimed atheists also hold A to be true, by their actions and positive affirmation that they believe no Gods exist.

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  21. Thanks for the reply Alan! I said I would strive to be honest and open, and asked you to do the same. I have a problem. Either you are not being honest, or you have not thought this through very well, or you are in denial! Sorry, I know it sounds harsh, but let me explain why from what you have said...

    “Dictionaries describe common usage, which is not necessarily the operational definition being used.”

    I agree this is often the case, though usually dictionaries supply more than one definition, working from the most common usage first and then moving to less common (including ‘operational definitions’). I still cannot find your definition. Also history would appear to suggest, from my limited research, that the meaning of the word has been changed by Atheists. There was a time when Atheists appear to have been happy with the working definition. So...why change it? Also, I might ask you, what do you call someone who believes there is no God? I assume there is now no name for someone with this belief?

    “May I remind you of the complicated definition of a 'christian', in which case we have found it useful to ask what each individual believes and why before engaging in a direct discussion about their beliefs. Let a person explain what they mean, then go from that.”

    This is exactly what I am trying to do. Find out what you believe so we can go from that. The interesting thing about Christians is I think 99% of us would agree with the dictionary definition of being a Christian – someone professing to follow the religion of Christ, esp affirming the divinity of Christ. There are as many differences between Atheists and what they believe as Christians and what they believe, but the words Christian and Atheist still mean something! I am trying to determine what the word Atheist means.The problem is the way your actions deny your definition.

    “There are many groups who find intellectual argument stimulating, even when arguing about subjects they do not believe in (skeptics will often have blogs about UFOs, which they don't believe in, to use your example).”

    It is one thing to find intellectual arguments stimulating, it is another to seek to evangelise others to your point of view. Your website says that a part of your vision is to have a society that lives and grows through secular values. You also promote secular education for all (I assume even to those who do not want it) and are “currently planning an advertising campaign intended to make sure people know they can be good without gods”. You also hold the view that Toongabbie Anglican are nice people – but still wrong! This is more than the simple enjoyment of intellectual arguments. This is the outworking of a belief, a common belief held by those who call themselves Atheists!

    You have said that we should ask you what you believe, and then accept the definition you give us and go from there. You have noted that some seem incapable of accepting your definition. I accept your definition of what an Atheist is. No worries, it is a passive stance, it is not a belief system. What I do not accept is that this is what you believe, as your actions speak more loudly than your words. Your actions are not passive and they come about because of your beliefs!

    You can continue to deny the reality of your actions if you like, but this is then where we must stop. Not because someone has failed to provide a convincing apologetic argument (I have not had the chance yet), but because you have failed to provide me with an accurate description of what you do or do not believe.

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  22. These links explain the definition of atheism we have been using.

    http://www.atheists.org/atheism/About_Atheism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

    http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/

    http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Atheist

    http://www.investigatingatheism.info/definition.html

    If you continue to refute this definition, I'm afraid we aren't going to get anywhere. This IS what I mean when I refer to atheism.

    As far as finding my actions to be contradictory to my definition, I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying and what that means. I see no reason to believe in a god, so when I see people who through their belief in a god,act in ways that I think are ridiculous, I often react to it.

    I honestly do not know if there is or is not a god. I suspect that you would have to share that position. If I can't be sure of the truth of my belief, I feel that it is pragmatic to withhold belief in either direction until we can show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that either position is true.

    I suppose that I do my best to reassess my beliefs often. If I cannot be sure that a belief is true, I will either seek evidence to support my belief, while making sure there isn't a better explanation, or I throw out the belief and admit that I just don't know. With belief in gods, I am in the process of seeking evidence and assessing alternative positions. While doing this, I cannot say that I believe one way or the other, as I am trying to figure out just that.

    I do believe that the answer is knowable, but by that I do not mean that it is currently knowable, but that, if we search hard enough and work through the arguments thoroughly enough, we will eventually figure this out. The way things stand, neither of us can claim that we have incontrovertible evidence for or against the existence of gods.

    Theologians find the quest for the answer an interesting and stimulating pursuit. I share in this interest. I enjoy looking at the arguments and weighing the cases. I enjoy the many paths it takes me on and the ways that it helps me to grow as a person. I just have not come across anything that makes it clear to me that a god exists.

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  23. "With belief in gods, I am in the process of seeking evidence and assessing alternative positions. While doing this, I cannot say that I believe one way or the other, as I am trying to figure out just that."

    "I do believe that the answer is knowable, but by that I do not mean that it is currently knowable, but that, if we search hard enough and work through the arguments thoroughly enough, we will eventually figure this out."

    Doesn't this mean you are currently an agnostic, because, despite holding that the position may be knowable, you currently hold that you are nowhere near this supposed point of knowing?

    In other words, despite your insistence that you can "know", it's currently a pipedream, by your own admission.

    Given your current position of not knowing, I'm not sure how you can reasonably hold that the position is knowable either. This also leads me to suggest that a more accurate definition of your current beliefs may be that of an agnostic. I wonder how much evidence you'll need before you "know". There's new arguments out all the time (contrary to your self admitted fallicious assertion in the post being discussed), so I can't help but think you'll be suspended in this perpetual state of not knowingness, which will keep you in reality, in the realm of agnosticism. As long as you haven't made sufficient progress towards knowing and hold that you do not know, I think that's definitely very close to making you an agnostic in the way I understand it.

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  24. Rachel and I have already addressed the point that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. Did you actually follow the link? This is getting to be a pointless circular argument.

    Again, you referred to 'new arguments'. I really would like to address one of these if you would just offer one up!

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  25. See what I mean Alan. Its pointless discussing things with these people.

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  26. Trav said...
    And regarding the moral argument, it's basically saying that if objective moral values do not exist, God doesn't exist. Yet objective moral values do exist, therefore God exists.
    To me, the first premise seems fairly obvious. The second premise is definitely subjective, because "objective moral values" are difficuly to verify. But, I definitely believe they exist, so for me this argument makes sense.


    Normally it is:
    1. If there are objective moral values then God exists.
    2. There are objective moral values.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    The first causality is assume (Why?). The second one is assumed without a proof (proof please?). So the conclusion is just a faith base assumption not even an argument.

    You assume the first one as "fairly obvious", why? You also agree that the second premises is difficult to verify but you have believe in it. To me it looks like your "difficult to verify" assumption is not a good argument, but a faith based position. It is like arguing that laws of logic prove that fairies exist.


    Trav said...
    There's heaps and heaps of different constants, and this guy was looking at just one or two of them which relate to star formation. Of course there's plenty of science to be done- there always is. You can only talk about the current state of affairs, though.

    The current state of affairs (science) is that we do not know the dependencies of constants nor the probabilities or methods how universes come about, but you claim to know the answer. To me it sound a bit strange to claim knowledge when scientists are still working on it.

    Trav said...
    "Suppose you are dragged before a firing squad consisting of 100 marksmen. You hear the command to fire and the crashing roar of the rifles. You then realize you are still alive, and that not a single bullet found its mark. How are you to react to this rather unlikely event?"

    This is a good example. All 100 marksmen probably got their ammo from the same ammo box which were made in a same factory and delivered in a same shipment. Even a single failure in one machine in a factory or exposure to water during shipment or mix up with blanks could have caused "bullets" to fail in a same way. Once we understand the causality/dependencies of the whole event only then we can count the probabilities. And if universe had infinite (or timeless) time to appear how do you count the probability?

    Trav continued...
    Because it is so unlikely that this amazing universe with its precariously balanced constants could have come about by sheer accident, it is likely that there was some purpose in mind, before or during its creation. And the mind in question belongs to God

    So you ignored the science article as fiction and continued to claim "precariously balanced constants", claim "likely" probability for a purpose and introduce God. Could you please estimate the probability of the God's existance and the purpose of the universe?


    Dave,

    Unlike most atheists here I claim to know there is no god(s); "know" in same sense as Christians know that only the God of the Old Testament exists. So in an issue of proving the negative I disagree with most Atheists including Dawkins and side with philosopher Michael Martin, but might go slightly further making conclusions. I don't assume that I have a burden of proof, just like Christians do not have a burden of proof to show that Thor, pink unicorns or fairies do not exist. I do assume a burden of investigation before I can make a knowledge claim.

    Regarding the burden of proof. A lot of apologist want give non-Yahweh believer part/whole burden of proof, but at the same time I don't see them putting forward proofs why Thor, Zeus and Ganesha don't exist. That does not seem right to me.

    Regarding definitions. If you ask different Christian apologist do define who is a Christian you will get different answers. Some Catholics claim Calvinists are not Christians, some Calvinist claim JWs are not Christians, Some JWs claim Mormon's are not Christians, some... You might just have to disagree on some issues...

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  27. Interesting post Peter, I'll reply tomorrow in more detail if I get a chance but for now:

    1. You've ignored the moral argument I made, and claimed I'm making faith based assumptions when in fact we're talking about something for which very good arguments can be made, but which I didn't choose to go into in an exhaustive way in this post. For you to jump ahead and claim that the premise is a "faith based assumption" shows you really lack understanding and probably aren't interested in dialogue at all. You're already showing your biases and jumping to a conclusion for which you've shown no justification.

    2 We DO know the probabilities of the many constants, otherwise how on earth did the greatest scientific minds come up with them in the first place? Explain that to me.

    3. Your reply to the marksman example shows ignorance for how such a firing squad would actually take place. Why assume each shooter shoots at one person only? THAT is a faith based assumption underlying your argument before you even begin to state it.

    4. The introduction of "God" (as a name for a divine being) which William Lane Craig made is a natural outworking and a logical move on from the design to which the fine tuning points.

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  28. I go away for a while and Critical Mass's blog turns into a trollfest??

    Nice.

    @David M

    You are entirely correct. Engage mockery

    @Trav

    STFU. You are a goalpost-mover, a circular arguer, a dodger of issues and a troll. You start from an a-priori assumption that god exists and everything else moves outwards from there. That is not how logic is done.

    Again, STFU, you nork.

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  29. Thanks again for your interaction Alan. I am not sure if engaging mockery is helpful, and I do not believe in Trolls!

    I do not want to be involved in a circular argument either, and so I am determined to move on. Before I do though I wanted to say that I looked up all the links that you have supplied re the definition of an Atheist, and I found out that Atheists can be strong (as I think Peter is), or Weak (as you claim to be). All I am saying is that your behaviour is that of a Strong Atheist. Peter seems to be happy to admit that he is a strong Atheist.

    I said that you were either not being honest, had not thought it through or that you were in denial if you claim to be a weak Atheist. You have since provided me with another option that I am happy to accept. You are a weak Atheist who reacts to the ridiculous things that some people do in the belief of God. This explains your actions. Of course, for you to allow the ridiculous things that some people do in the name of religious belief to cause you to react to the extreme of wanting a society to adopt purely secular education and values, then are you not guilty of at least one of the following?

    *lumping all religious people into the one box and judging all of us by your experience of some.

    *Judging religious people because of their ridiculous behaviour, but allowing the Atheists who exercise ridiculous behaviour to not only escape your reaction...but apparently gain your support through your support of Atheists.

    *Throwing out God because of the behaviour of some people who claim to follow him rather than a lack of proof that he does exist.

    *Not being honest about why you behave the way you do, and you are actually a strong Atheist.

    *Being in denial about why you behave the way you do.

    *Of having not really thought it through.

    I do not know why you do what you do Alan. Perhaps you could clarify it for me. Please note this is not a circular argument as I have taken on board the things you have been saying and I have been responding to them.

    I am really hoping to move onto my apologetic soon, but it would be helpful to know how you justify your behaviour.

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  30. Hi David, to clarify (and this is NOT about being dishonest, so don't even go there) - for me personally, I am a weak atheist when it comes to general discussion on the blog and such. This is the MOST rational position to take. When I am among other fellow atheists (who clearly understand the definitions of these terms), I will go as far to say that I am a strong atheist. The reason for this is NOT dishonesty, it is simply that I acknowledge that I cannot argue a strong atheist position. I cannot demonstrate to you that god does not exist to absolute certainty, in exactly the same way that you cannot demonstrate that a god does exist to a degree of absolute certainty.

    I can however, and we have done this MANY times on this blog, argue that weak atheism is the most rational position to take, which is why we take that position on the blog. If I declared here that I am a strong atheist and claimed "I know that god doesn't exist", then there would be a burden of proof on me to support that claim with evidence.

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  31. And to clarify further:

    * we do lump all absurd religious claims into one box because they are all as ridiculous as each other (I SAID CLAIMS, NOT PEOPLE)
    * there is NOT ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE for an interactive, personal god. I don't believe in god in the same way you don't believe in fairies.
    * we are NOT in denial of anything
    * we have thought this through, trust me

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  32. Something I would like to clarify is that I never said I do not believe in fairies...just trolls!

    Rach - thanks for giving me some more info about what you personally believe. I am sorry if I have got your back up with some of my harsh accusations, but I am glad to now be at a better place of understanding what you do believe! I really would suggest that if you really are a strong Atheist amongst your Atheist friends, then please be loud and proud with Christians as well. If the aim is really to seek the truth, then why not? Also, when defining an Atheist do not just give the definition of a weak Atheist. I even asked what you call someone who believes there is no God and got no reply! Understanding the difference between the two is not a hard concept, and it helps for greater understanding between those of us who want to discuss and seek the truth. Atheists seem to really get annoyed when Christians do not try and understand them. I have been trying hard to understand you guys, but felt that I was given the run around! I might add that saying you are a weak Atheist fails to be the most rational position if you are behaving like a strong Atheist!

    Now – on to my apologetic!! Perhaps it is not new, but I have not heard any other Christian say this...though you said it yourself Rach a little while ago. I cannot prove to you that God exists.

    Yeah, that was it! Probably not much there to debate Alan?

    So where does that leave us? You cannot, as you have noted, prove that God does not exist, and I cannot prove that he does exist! I assume that we still want to seek the truth. The best way forward is surely to accept each other the way that we are and then to learn from each other. I felt that I have been able to learn something about you Rach, and what you believe. Perhaps if I could let you into something about what I believe.

    Alan, and I assume other Atheists, enjoy an intellectual discussion, a debate. If you really want to seek the truth though, it will probably not find you in a debate. It is more likely to find you in a relationship. Yes, I cringe at the thought of the relationships you might have had, do have or will have with people who say they are Christians, or perhaps are Christians. We are not perfect, and Christianity and religion has so often been hijacked by others for their own evil desires. The truth is though that the heart of the problem is not religion...but mankind. I believe that Jesus solved that problem. I am more than happy to talk about the how and why if you are interested.

    Sorry again if I have offended.

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  33. Dave,

    that's not an apologetic. I quote from Teh Wikipedia:

    "Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views."

    Your statement does none of those things, so while it may be true, it's not an apologetic. Just being strict about definitions here.

    Now, given the two statements:

    Christians cannot prove god exists
    Atheists cannot prove god does not

    we can apply the principle of parsimony and declare a winner. Which one of those two statements introduces fewer contingencies?

    See where I'm going here?

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  34. Thanks Jason. It is always good to get definitions right, which is why from the beginning I said that I did not have an Apologetic Argument, but an Apologetic.

    Now at this point we could look at a number of definitions regarding what exactly an Apologetic is and pick the one that suits us the best. If I go by the New Webster Dictionary of the English Language, then I would define Apologetics as “That branch of theology by which Christians are enabled scientifically to justify and defend the peculiarities of their faith, and to answer its opponents.” I assume that by that definition there is no such thing as Apologetics...as the other David alluded to earlier! There is nothing that I know of that allows me to scientifically justify and defend my faith (justify in the fullest sense).

    If I were to go to my old Funk and Wagnalls dictionary(!) it says that Apologetic s is “the branch of theology that defends Christianity.” At least this definition does not have expectations that are so high!
    Then of course we have the working definition (Alan was telling me about working definitions earlier!) which us Christians (the ones that study theology) often use to refer to Apologetics as a philosophy or way that we approach defending our faith to those who would question it. This working definition is actually compatible (I think) with the Funky Wagnall one.

    Anyway, my Apologetic is to be open and honest about what I believe. I am not going to make up defences that do not exist, but rather my defence (or should I say a part of my defence) is to admit that I have no conclusive proof that God exists. I think you have worked that out by where you go next, which is not where I want to go. You want to declare a winner here! Good for you! Lets’ just think about that for a minute!

    I do not think we have a chance (in hell if you believe in it) of working out which of these statements has fewer contingencies. There are several reasons for that – but what we can do is listen to each other. I would love to know why those of you who will admit to being Strong Atheists are Strong Atheists, perhaps there has been experiences that have occurred that have helped bring you to that belief. I would love to know what you guys think Christianity is actually about, and why you have come to these conclusions. The other David said "Its a waste of time because these people already know what the answer and the endpoint of any discussion HAS to be, and thats a reinforcement of their commitment to a particular version of christianity." My good friend Trav correctly pointed out that this is also often true for Atheists in the same argument. Now, if you really want to pursue truth, then would it not be sensible to sit down and work out what it is about each other that causes us to have our conclusions worked out the way we do? Perhaps the truth is not in either extreme?

    How do we do this? Will it work? Not sure, but it seems a better way of pursuing the truth than declaring a winner. It is not about winning, but the truth. It is not about a debate, but rather the journey. It is not about an argument, but relationship. It is not about trolls, but fairies!

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  35. (I've been trying to post this all day but haven't been able.)

    Jason, Show me where I moved the goalposts, argued in a circle and dodged issues, and your post may actually have some substance to it.

    Until then, those are completely empty assertions.

    It's actually Critical Mass which is turning into a bit of a disaster Zone. There was a point in time where I might've actually been developing a semi healthy respect for this blog and some of it's participants, yet the recent posting of that absurb Atheist Christmas Letter changed my mind.

    As I said, show me my fallacies and then we can discuss them.

    Also, Dave, you're very balanced and open in your discussion, so I'm very interested to hear where this goes. I'll try to avoid any more sidetracks (like ths above) in order to leave the floor clear for your discussion to continue!

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  36. I thought everyone agreed that it is only ever possible to prove that a thing exists, that there can never be a proof that something does not exist.Instead one would have to attempt to prove the opposite - that a god does exist - and then go looking for the sort of thing we might expect to find if such a thing existed.Therefore its stupid to ask for proof that God does not exist. As far as God is concerned all that can be asked for is for proof that he/it exists - and so far they havent been able to do it - in fact theyre even admitting they cant on this Blog.And a logical conclusion following this failure/admission is that there is no such thing. Maybe one day someone will find that proof - which is what Alan was originally asking - but until then we'll just keep waiting.Some of us are actually "over" waiting for that proof and have decided to declare the case closed - theres no God. Others still leave the door slightly open - weak or strong atheists ....whatever.

    So Trav thinks that there are some atheists for whom the answers are already In - big deal Trav - my point is that the answers are In for ALL christians.Thats why your "debating" is phoney - you're really just trying to preach at us. Boooooring.....yawn....zzzzzzzz

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  37. Sorry to bore you David M! Not sure how much of what you said was directed to me or Trav or to both but I had a few observations.

    I have never been interested in who has burden of proof. As it happens, Alan and Rach have both said that for strong Atheists the burden of proof is on both parties. But as I said, who cares about burden of proof, Alan is seeking the truth! I certainly have not agreed that it is impossible to prove that something does not exist. I can prove that my second head that is the same size as my first head that grows out of the side of my neck that my first head rests on does not exist. You just have to look at me!

    At the same time, I have not asked for proof that God does not exist, I already know that you cannot give it, just as I cannot give you what you ask for.

    But you have claimed to come to a logical conclusion (starting on the premise that you cannot prove something does not exist...which is wrong, but I think not relevant anyway). From this discussion I have come to a logical conclusion of my own. Hopefully without preaching and with exciting presentation I will share it with you.

    This post was thrown out as a challenge to Christians, to do the impossible. This has been as much as admitted. Alan claims that what he really wants to know is simply the truth, that is all. But, the place from where he throws out the challenge is that of a weak Atheist. This puts him in a very strong position where he is impossible to be beaten. Now, the complete definition of an Atheist was not given to me when I asked for it, and although Alan has still not admitted he is a strong Atheist, it would appear from what Rach, Peter and David M have said that there are more strong Atheist than Weak ones at Sydney Atheists (in this discussion at least), as I had suspected from your actions. My logical conclusion is that under the supposed banner of ‘seeking the truth’, people have not been forthcoming with what the truth is. Why? So that they can win an argument. I do not think Alan was really wanting us to provide proof. I think that is the last thing Alan wants! I would be surprised if he agrees with me, but that is what I think! I think Alan was trying to put us in our place (a bit like preaching at us without preaching at us!).

    What I have suggested as the only way forward is to cut all the crap, accept each other as we are, and not preach at each other, but share who we are with each other so we can learn from each other (yes, I genuinely believe I can learn from you). As I said, perhaps the truth is not in either extreme. Alan, perhaps you would like to reply? It was your post. Have I judged you unfairly? I might add that as I look at your website and the stuff you are involved in Alan (and the rest of you) I have a great respect for you. I just want an open discussion.

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  38. Trav: Hahahahahahahahaha! Troll.

    David M: thanks for succincly summarising the problem

    David: your conclusion is OK, in a warm and fuzzy way, but you're still nitpicking positions. blah. But you do make one good point:

    "My logical conclusion is that under the supposed banner of ‘seeking the truth’, people have not been forthcoming with what the truth is."

    wahey.

    (btw, why is blogspot so fail at processing comments???)

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  39. Actually even though theres no objective physical proof of its existence, you do have a second head as you described but it has the quality of being invisible to anyone who does not have the faith to believe that its really there.

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  40. my bad. wrote "David" where I should have written "Dave". If blogspot's comment preview wasn't a heap of steaming crap I'd have spotted that. >sigh<

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  41. Jason, please play nicely with Trav.

    David M, I was careful to mention that my second head was growing out of my neck. This is to say that is it physically attached. Now, just because it is not visible does not mean it leaves no physical proof of existence.

    Anyway it is my head, I made it up so stop pretending to know more about it than I do.

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  42. Cannot play nicely with Trav. Trav is a craven buffoon. Trav is so fractally wrong that infinite time is required to refute his fail. And even when you refute his fail, he comes back with "ha, no, you"

    In summary, no.

    Also blogspot comment code is shite.

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  43. And just to go back a few steps, Dave:

    Me: Your statement is not an apologetic. Fail.
    You: You're abslutely right, it's not an apologetic. You're correct, and I'm not. My bad. Forgive me.... Anyway, back to my apologetic...

    WTF?????

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  44. 1. I did not ignore you moral argument. You claimed that objective moral values do exist, but I implied that you need to prove it not just make the claim. So please prove it.

    2 Trav said...
    We DO know the probabilities of the many constants
    I don't understand this. Could you please provide an example how to calculate the probability of a constant?

    3. Your answer is irrelevant. My point was there there might be dependencies between marksmen and constants in our universe. Please address that.

    4. Any random set of constants could point to a fine tuning. So what is his/your point?


    Dave,
    Are you a strong Christian (know that the God Yahweh and Jesus exist) or a weak Christian (believe that the God Yahweh and Jesus exist)?

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  45. Jason, not sure about what you mean by
    "Me: Your statement is not an apologetic. Fail.
    You: You're abslutely right, it's not an apologetic. You're correct, and I'm not. My bad. Forgive me.... Anyway, back to my apologetic...

    WTF?????"


    I assume that you are not happy with my 'Apologetic Argument'? Sorry if there is some confusion but I was never attempting to present an apologetic argument (even though it was what I was asked to do I guess...) but I was presenting an 'Apologetic'. Even with the definition of 'Apologetics' that you provied, it does not have to be an argument. It can be a strategy. My strategy was to not provide an argument. This is my Apologetic. Sorry if I was unclear, but sometimes the best defence is no defence. As I said, it is not all about the debate. I do not blame you if you think I have still failed to provide an Apologetic, but it has been interesting...and warm and fuzzy has it not?!?

    Thanks for the question Peter. I would say that I started as a weak Christian, with many times of doubt thrown in. I was brought up in a very traditonal Sydney Anglican home. I think this contributed to only messing me up more. It was very legalistic at times. I thought I had to perform for God. I have since spent the last 13 years working through stuff, like what the Bible really says, and my own personal relationship with God. I think this has lead me to a position I would describe as a strong Christian, though it is very hard to explain why. Sorry for the life story...Good question!

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  46. "Even with the definition of 'Apologetics' that you provied, it does not have to be an argument. It can be a strategy. My strategy was to not provide an argument. This is my Apologetic. "

    Bald is not a hair colour. Lack of argument is not an argument. Fail.




    Blogspot comment system is stil shite also.

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  47. Gee Dave I thought you really meant it when you said it was possible to prove that something doesnt exist but I see now that you realize its not so easy, you try to trivialise the point and secretly sneak away and hope noone was watching. Sorry but we're onto you. Like I said before, its a waste of time becaue its a phoney debate but I wont be as mean to you as Jason.But just for the record You Lost.

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  48. And I thought we were doing so well for a minute there.

    Jason, I agree...lack of argument is not an argument. But an apologetic does not, by definition, have to be an argument. Look at the definition you provided.

    "Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views."

    I do not have to use an argument to defend my faith. I personally believe Jesus was very specific in his instructions to me as to how I am supposed to defend my faith...and it was not with arguments.

    David M...I still believe it is possible to prove something does not exist. Like I said, just because some people might not be able to see the head does not mean someone could not try to touch it, smell it, hit it or shoot it...except for the fact that it was not there. I was careful in my original definition of my second head for a reason. I was not trying to "trivialise the point and secretly sneak away and hope noone was watching."

    What I did was show that your logic was wrong (invisible does not equal no objective physical proof), and then I made a joke. I have been attempting to make jokes the whole time I have been here. Seriously.

    Just for the record...it...is not...about...winning...

    Was Jason mean to me? I thought he was too busy playing with Trav.

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  49. I am mean to everyone without fear or favour. It's what I do. Some atheists like to present a friendly face to the internet. I'm the other sort.

    Inherent in the supplied definition:

    present rational basis (doesn't)
    defend faith against objections (doesn't)
    expose flaws inherent in competing views (doesn't)

    I think the fact that you have to jump through so many logical hoops in order to make even a weak defence of Christianity may in fact be the best argument against faith.

    The contortions that most religious apologists go through just to get a "maybe" on the board is _hilarious_. I'd LOL if it wasn't so sad.

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  50. I know I am using the term "Apologetic" in a form that you might not be used to, but it is still an apologetic by definition. For starters, by the definition, as I said, it does not have to be an argument. It can be a strategy. Now, because I am not a complete dummy, I have not told you all of my strategy! But for arguments sake, consider the following...

    You have decided that my apologetic does not present rational basis - but have I not been very rational? I cannot prove to you that God exists. Now, if I had attempted to prove to you God existed, then I would have failed to be rational!

    You have decided I have not defended my faith against objections, and yet you have not supplied me with any objections - other than the claim that I cannot supply you with a new apologetic...which I have. I have defended my faith against your only objection! (Yes, I know you have other objections...but I do not want to presume the ones that you personally have).

    You have decided that it does not expose flaws inherent in competing views - but it does. You see, your (that is the people I have been discussing with on this blog in general) seem to think that this is about having an argument or debate where we will be able to, as you said, declare a winner. You seem to think the answer to the question as to the existance of God can be settled through a debate. My apologetic says that the only hope we have of getting close to the truth is to learn from each other (and if there is a God, wait for him to supply the proof, if he chooses...when he chooses).

    In short, Christianity is about relationship (although many, I know, would argue), and that is what I am trying to show you. Although Sydney Atheists do relational things (meet together etc), Atheism itself is not relational.

    I do not know why Peter asked if I was a strong or weak Christian, but I assume it is because Peter realises that part of the process is understanding - not whether I can prove God exists, but how I can proudly stand up in public and say I believe in a God I cannot see or prove is there. The same works for me. Why is it that you, Jason, feel that you need to engage Christians in debate about God. I have read reasons on Atheist websites as to why some Atheists do, but why do you? What has happened in your life? Were you bashed over the head with a Bible? Perhaps worse? Perhaps it is nothing like that, but just a part of your journey.

    Once again, I am not trying to win a debate, I am seeking the truth.

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  51. "Why is it that you, Jason, feel that you need to engage Christians in debate about God. I have read reasons on Atheist websites as to why some Atheists do, but why do you? What has happened in your life? Were you bashed over the head with a Bible? Perhaps worse? Perhaps it is nothing like that, but just a part of your journey."

    Don't patronise me David, I bite.

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  52. David M

    "And then go looking for the sort of thing we might expect to find if such a thing existed."

    "all that can be asked for is for proof that he/it exists - and so far they havent been able to do it - in fact theyre even admitting they cant on this Blog.And a logical conclusion following this failure/admission is that there is no such thing"

    IF God does exist, why should anyone be able to categorically prove, beyond doubt, his existence, or even come close? Plenty of things DO exist that we would expect to see if God does exist, yet no one will ever be able to 'Prove' God.

    If you think they should be able to, please tell why.

    And regarding me "preaching" at you? Please, show where I preached. It doesn't help the discussion if you come along simply making general statements without even providing examples.

    If you think anything I say is "phoney", please advise what it is and why it's phoney. Otherwise that's another empty assertion in the same mould as Jason's earlier.

    Jason- Ad Hominem.

    If you know "how logic works", then prove where I'm so horribly wrong. Otherwise, shut up. That's pretty Simple.

    And plllleeease stop arguing over trivialities. It doesnt matter whether Dave's statement is an apologetic or not. He's making an argument of some sort, in order to start a discussion. So respond to his statement, and stop quibbering over whether it should be named as an apologetic or not!

    Poor Dave..... he's trying to start a discussion and all that's happening is we're all getting bogged down in unimportant detail

    Peter:

    1. Objective Morals are evident in our conscience. If you asked 100 people, is it "wrong" that the guy threw his daughter off the West Gate Bridge yesterday? 100 people would reply with a Yes.

    A quote from The Shack by William Paul Young:

    "Regardless of their point of view, it seemed that everyone whopsoke was deeply affected by the situation. Something in the heart of most human beings simply cannot abide pain inflicted on the innocent, especially children. Even broken men serving in the worst correctional facilities will often first take out their rage on those who have cause suffering to chuildren. Even in such a world of relative morality, causing hard to a child is still considered absolutely wrong. Period!"

    So objective morals do exist. Some things are wrong, regardless of your worldview or anything else. The call from deep within awakens us to the mere existence of right or wrong. Yet, if we're just mindless products of biological evolution without any other forces acting on us, there's no reason to suppose that would be the case.

    2. Refer to works by Paul Davies, Owen Gingerlich, Stephen M Barr, Stephen Hawking and the like. I'm no physicist. But I do object if you simply dismiss the calculation of probabilities without justifying why you're doing so.

    3. I'm not sure I completely understand you here. I gave an example, and you completely misunderstood it with a faulty unreasonable assumption in your answer. Now you're claiming to actually have a point, so please elaborate on what that point is.

    4. These constants are the constants that make life possible.

    Regarding the strong/weak christian thing, it's a false dichotomy. Please advise what definition of knowing you're using when asking people to assert whether or not they know something. In the truest sense of the word, you can't even "know" that you weren't put here 5 minutes ago. Perhaps you're lying in a lab somewhere and a mad scientist is looking over you, implanting different memories into your brain as you go. In the truest sense of the word you don't even "know" that this isnt the case. All evidence points to the contrary, however, and there is no positive evidence. So that's all you can do- decide, basedo n the evidence.

    So in order to avoid this false dichotomy, please give a definition of "know".

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  53. I am entirely over the comments system on blogger.

    "Plenty of things DO exist that we would expect to see if God does exist"

    Wait, is Trav the Troll suggesting that actual evidence of god exists? SRSLY?

    Trav, if you can come up with one thing, one thing that exists whose existence is contingent on the existence of a god or gods, please, do tell.

    No, "objective morality" is not contingent on the existence of a god. The fact that 100% of people would condemn throwing a kid off a bridge is not proof for the existence of a god. It's proof for the existence of human society. People condemn murder because the human species is conferred an evolutionary advantage by that condemnation. God does not come into it.

    Fine tuning is not the answer. It's plausible it could be a lucky accident. The multiple-universe conjecture is also plausible. All you're doing there is rubbing yourself up and down the anthropic principle and moaning.

    Remember, you're suggesting evidence exists which could ONLY exist due to a real, actual god. The existence of just one plausible alternative explanation blows that assumption out of the water.

    So go on, troll, come up with something. I dare you.

    And the ad-hominems? You should know by now that I think you're an idiot and that I will not deal with you in a civil manner. Troll.

    I fully expect you to go away and come back with something monumentally, fractally wrong, by the way. Do not expect nice treatment when you do. Troll.

    by the way:

    "Yet, if we're just mindless products of biological evolution without any other forces acting on us, there's no reason to suppose that would be the case. "

    That is the most collossally ignorant statement I have ever seen. Troll.

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  54. And plllleeease stop arguing over trivialities. It doesnt matter whether Dave's statement is an apologetic or not. He's making an argument of some sort, in order to start a discussion. So respond to his statement, and stop quibbering over whether it should be named as an apologetic or not!

    Haha. You are an idiot.

    How long have we had to put up with your bullshit? You come on an atheist blog, frequented by atheists, all of whom know what atheism means, telling us you think it means something totally different.

    So, yes, let's get the Travialities out of the way and talk about something of substance. Perhaps the baffling fact that you think a Palestinian zombie Rabbi made the Andromeda Galaxy and you're in a personal relationship with him?

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  55. Trav,

    1. You can not prove anything by asking people or quoting and authority on the subject. In your example the guy probably did not think he was doing the "wrong" thing. Your own example refutes your argument. So you have not proved anything yet.

    2. I don't understand what you are talking about. You made the claim that "We DO know the probabilities of the many constants". So if you want to continue this issue please provide a link or a reference. I think I have all of Hawking's books so you can refer to those too.

    3. Many physicist have suggested that the value of the major constants might be interlinked thus making the probabilities of universes capable of producing suns (~possible life) somewhat more likely. Hawking's latest work (see for example BBC Sky at Night magazine Nov08) relates to the birth of our universe, where he suggests that our universe might not had an initial [quantum] state. Good background article what modern thinking about the parameters of our universes are. Good bookstores (Borders) might still have it.

    I think you should use the absolutely supergenius professor Michio Kaku in your argument next time. He has made good points to support your case how fine tuned of some constants are (for example proton formation). No rational person would argue with Kaku.

    4. Trav said...
    "These constants are the constants that make life possible"
    Yes but not only these. The article I linked earlier explains that many sets of constants make life possible.

    Trav said...
    Regarding the strong/weak christian thing, it's a false dichotomy
    Well spotted. Of course it is and at least in two ways. And the link Rach provided earlier shows the same about agnostics and atheists, and even strong/weak atheism. Addition to that I have met (cultural?) Christians who don't seem to be "know" or "believe" that Jesus was resurrected/God, also making my question a false dichotomy. Definitions are difficult, I try not to argue about them much.

    Some philosopher have argued that we can not even be sure if we exist, but I would argue that is the only "know" I have philosophically. In real life people tell me that they know that God exists, that summer will be hot, that they like chocolate... I use it in a same way, I know I don't have $100 note in my pocket at the moment using investigation and absence of evidence method to know. My dictionary has more that 10 meanings of "know", so I don't know...

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  56. I applaud Alan for his original post. I've used the same tactic to draw out the low hanging fruit of opposition argument. It appears that it has worked here.

    I'd like to preface this comment by saying that I defend the right of everyone here to hold their own beliefs, regardless of the nature of those beliefs, and to voice them without fear of manifest suppression.

    It's difficult to debate a topic when the base assumptions of both sides are inherently different. The arguments either assume the existence of God and demand to opposition provide disproof, or alternatively assume he doesn't exist and require proof that he does.

    Alan's original position was a genuine one:

    "If there really is a god, how would I know this, how would I verify this and what would convince me that it is real?"

    This is a trap that Trav has fallen into. If there was proof that God existed then faith would cease to exist. Faith is one of the most important aspects of a theistic belief system and to scientifically or logically prove God is self-defeating.

    Alan, judging from previous posts, knows this or at least would find little fault with this idea.

    The correct answer to

    "If there really is a god, how would I know this, how would I verify this and what would convince me that it is real?"

    is

    "You can't, but you don't need to, theistic belief is a beautiful part of my life and I only hope that you could one day share in the joy it brings me in a personal way."

    I'd be dissapointed by the debate here but for it being a portrait of constipated thought.

    I commend everyone, though, on being willing to put forward their beliefs here.

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  57. It's a bit difficult replying to about 4 different posters all at once. I'm not sure where to start.

    Jason, you've completely misrepresented my comment. I said things exist which we'd "expect to see" if God does in fact exist. Such things include the universe coming into being out of nothing at a moment when space and time began, and the fine tuning we've been discussing. Other examples would be the existence of objective moral values which is also under the microscope. More again would be the rational intelligibility of the universe, meaning both our capability of studying it and laws which govern the universe's existence.

    Note, I never said there was anything which could uncategorically prove God's existence, or that would ONLY exist if God existed. I'm suggesting there's evidence which suggests God's existence, not proves.

    Websinthe, there will always be a place for faith, but don't assume that belief in God is purely based on faith. Belief is often based on reasoning and faith, or in some cases even one without much of the other.

    Regarding morality, it would seem that the modern day consensus is that morality is simply a by product of evolutionary processes. I'm not completely convinced by this explanation as I suggested above. So can someone recommend the best sources (preferably websites) who will expand on this view?

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  58. Trav you are so confused its ridiculous. In relation to morality you just wrote "I'm not completely convinced by this argument" yet earlier you posted "So objective morals do exist" Well for crying out loud which one is it? You asked for an example of phoney - well thats it.Phoney.

    And by the way, seeing as you mention the suffering of innocent children, how the hell can you then swallow the grotesque idea that your great all powerful God who sees the innocent kids that are daily being raped and abused and whatever,even though he does nothing about it, loves and cares for each and evryone of them? If there was a God who was all knowing and all powerful - as you Jesus freaks assert - then the evidence is that he doesnt give a toss about the innocents suffering. And for all our sakes, please please please dont bother responding to this post. We are all sick and tired of your silly convoluted ramblings. We've all seen the contortions and twists and excuses and smoke screens and plain nonsense your type have to resort to to get out of having to admit that the problem of pain - yeah I know CS Lewis - still hasnt gone away.

    Youre a phoney

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  59. Jason, sorry if I have offended, but I was not being patronising. I am aware you can bite, I have seen the damage you have inflicted on Trav! I was actually genuinely asking you how you came to be an Atheist, and I would still like to know.

    When I started in this discussion I said I was going to be open and honest. I said up front I did not care about burden of proof, and yet some withheld info because they were (I assume) suspicious that I was then going to use the info against them. I didn't. I know that we have very different perspectives, and I know that you have probably experienced religious nutters who have given you cause to be suspicious. At the same time I have accepted you guys where you are at. The only time I have been doubtful about what I was being told was because of contradictory behaviour, and it would appear as though I was correct in being doubtful. Is it too much to ask that we just have an open discussion?

    Also, I said that I could not prove God does not exist. I never said that there was no evidence that God exists. This evidence that I see for God existing you might well say is actually evidence for the existence of a human society (such as the reaction to a man throwing his daughter off a bridge). We are interpreting the evidence in different ways. Why? Because we are coming from different places and have had different experiences. The only way for both parties to get closer to the truth is to understand each other better.

    Finally, I am not in this discussion so that someone can go "Hey, Dave's got a brand new apologetic - he is the winner!" (I think it is clear that is not going to happen!)I am actually here to learn and understand. So, can we move on?

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  60. Trav,

    if you water down your 'evidence' that much, it ceases to become useful.

    There is also plenty of evidence around that we'd expect to see if any of the following existed, and I'll give an example of each:

    Bigfoot - strange footprints and broken underbrush. Or that could just be other, more mundane animals and gullible hunters. Or hoaxers.
    Alien Spacecaft - crop circles. Or that could be Doug & Dave, or any of their imitators
    Banshees - odd screaming noises on stormy nights. Or it could be the wind in an old building
    Ghosts - actual picures ZOMG!!!! Or it could be hoaxers, or incompetent photgraphers, making multiple exposures
    Homeopathy - or it could be the placebo effect and/or manipulation of data
    Sherlock Holmes - we have documentary evidence! Or that could be fiction.
    Yowies - google "tim the yowie man". Or he could be a plain ordinary nutter
    Pumas in the Blue Mountains - video evidence! Or that could be someone's domestic cat filmed by credulous fuckwits

    I could go on all day, honestly. These are all types of evidence we might expect to see if the subject actally existed. But they all have other, natural explanations, which work better.

    We've already discussed fine tuning and objective morality. FAIL. The big bang? likewise. More anthropic principle masturbation? Stop it, it's gross.

    Look, all you're doing is trying to get a "maybe" on the board. This will not be a victory for you. At best it will be a draw because we can _always_ weakly answer with a "maybe not", drawing the game. Or we could shoot down every piece of phoney "evidence" you try to attribute a "maybe", in which case we'll be here all bloody day.

    Or you could do as David M suggested and go back under your bridge, from where you can harrass other travellers. Troll.

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  61. Hi Dave,

    you did pretty well not to bite back. Let me outline why I did:

    Often, in my experience and in the experience of compatriots, the "why don't you believe?" question is an opening gambit to try and steer towards "so why are you angry with god?", which, obviously, implies that the atheist being questioned actually _does_ believe but is in denial. Theists, for some reason, see this is a victory. Atheists get inordinately annoyed at it, because it's a sneaky, hypocritical verbal dodge.

    (I'm not suggesting that's where _you_ were necessarily going, but it happens. A lot)

    So that's why I bared my fangs for a moment.

    Anyway, truth is, pretty much all of us can offer rationalisations for why we don't believe. Some of us can get close to actual explanations. Mostly though you'll get an incomplete answer. Then next time you ask, it'll be a little different.

    Usually you can boil it down to "I see no evidence or convincing argument for the existence of god or gods, and I see no reason to leap to the more outlandish proposal in cases of ambiguous evidence". Not always.

    It's a biggie, but at some point I'll roll up my sleeves and blog on the subject.

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  62. Thanks for that Jason. I can understand why you might bare your fangs. Not being an Athiest, and being very inexperienced at speaking with Atheists, I was not aware that Christians employ the tactic you describe. It is a very ordinary thing to do.

    Your comment made me realise that there is a big problem with my proposal (that knowing each other will help us work towards the truth). We only know and understand ourselves so well, and I guess the truth is that our own understanding and interpretation of our actions might be beyond our own, or anyone else's understanding! And as you say, "Then next time you ask, it'll be a little different." The same is for believers when we rationalise why we believe. My answer to that question has changed regularly through the years. It is a biggie!

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