Last Updated on 2017-04-10 by Joop Beris
In the fifth and last part of the debate that wasn’t a debate, we finally take the gloves off. We get into an real debate. Before reading this part, please have a look at part 1, 2, 3 and 4 first.
The debate that wasn’t a debate was a direct message conversation I had on Twitter with Makayla, a Christian who contacted me to learn more about my position of disbelief.
Disclaimer: Makayla gave her permission for the creation of this post and it’s follow-ups. I promise to represent her part faithfully though for brevity, I will have to condense both her and my points.
At the conclusion of part 4, I asked Makayla 2 last questions about her belief. As it turned out, those questions sparked an real debate. This is what I asked her:
- What did you hope to accomplish from asking me the things you asked and what did you pick up from our conversation?
- What would be cause for you to doubt your faith?
Her answer to the second question was the one that set off the discussion. It was my opinion that it showed a complete unwillingness to examine her faith in a critical way. My response to that was somewhat scathing:
You are obviously an intelligent person which is why it is hard for me to understand why you don’t see the fallacious reasoning going on in your reply. Allow me to explain.
You see, you require perfect evidence from science for the claims it makes but you require no evidence at all for your faith. You say that you will continue to believe “until the resurrection of Jesus Christ is disproved”. Shouldn’t it rather be that you should ask for evidence that it occurred in the first place? The burden of proof is always on the person making the positive claim. Faith claims the resurrection happened. Well, then prove it. Prove that there was a 1st century Jew who was crucified by the Romans and three days later he walked around again. There is no evidence for this event anywhere.
Secondly, suppose that an archaeologist did come forward and said he found the body of someone named Jesus who was the man described in the Bible. How would you know that those were the actual bones of Jesus? You could do scientific tests on the bones but by your own admission, I think you wouldn’t accept any scientific evidence because science is just a tool than humans use, as you’ve said.
This means your belief isn’t falsifiable and therefore it is not evidence based.
You are very correct in saying that not all religions can be right because they make contradictory claims. However, this does not rule out the fact that they could all be wrong. What if none of them got it right? What if they were all just man-made? Why is your faith true and not all the others? These are fundamental questions and if I was going to believe in something that had such a large impact on my life, I’d want to know the answers to those questions before devoting my time, energy and money to that belief. This is what a reasonable person would do.
You say that God is not the author of confusion. Have you looked at all the contradictions in the Bible alone, never mind the parts where the Bible contradicts what we know of the world? Have a look here and see for yourself where the Bible doesn’t agree with itself: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions …
These are hard-hitting but very relevant questions. They also finally get to the core of the debate. Makayla had a very lengthy reply which I will quote below, though somewhat abbreviated.
You said I require perfect evidence from science for the claims it makes but i require no evidence at all for my faith. To me that is not necessarily true. The entire idea of science is to find evidence based on facts, formulas, testing, research and so on, So how is it not fair to ask for such evidence?
Now let me explain about the second half of your statement that I do not require any evidence for my faith. I do not have blind faith. There is a difference between going into something blindly without any sort of evidence/proof and that with faith. Faith is not knowing 100% about God but willing to take the step to find out the truth. I came to a point in my life where I was willing and I acknowledged my need of God in my life because without Him I condemned myself to death because of my sinful nature. I wanted God to be the center of my life and I wanted to have a relationship with Him and then He allowed me to have a relationship with Him once I did so.
In regards to evidence, now how can you tell a true Christian from a person that just calls themselves a Christian? You can tell that God works in an individual’s life based on the fruits of the heart they produce. In other words, a change in heart. A few examples of these fruits an individual produces If God is genuinely in their life is; love, genuine kindness, they love their neighbors as themselves, they are slow to anger, they are patient, they do not lie, they do not murder, they do not lust, they do not hold grudges, call people names, so on and so on.
[edited for brevity]
Also, please don’t get confused that I do not use science. I do and I love using it to learn. I would be stupid not to. However I do not rely on science for every answer or to answer everything. I simply cannot because it cannot even give me all the answers to everything. Far from it. It cannot even answer a simply question of how anything came about but Instead it’s answered with falsifiable theories that take far greater blind faith to believe than to believe a creation was made by a creator.
I don’t need evidence that the resurrection occurred. I already have it because of how Gods worked in my life because I was willing to accept the Truth. It would be harder for you to disprove it. I do not have the burden of proof because I know the truth. I have a relationship with God that’s evidence in itself. I don’t need all the answers to everything when God already is the answer.
[edited for brevity]
It is easier for man to ask for evidence than it is to accept it. Furthermore. There is evidence of Jesus raising up from the dead. My evidence is in the Bible. This is what you are asking indirectly if you say that the Bible is not credible: “In order to believe in Christianity, give me evidence from Non-Christian documents to corroborate what is written in the Bible. Give some evidence that was not said by Christians because they already believe it. In other words, I won’t believe in a document until I have a document from someone else who didn’t believe it”. That’s an absurb demand. Why would there be a document about Jesus by people who never believed in Him in the first place? Why would anyone write about Christianity and not believe it but yet account for it? That’s absurd! And then say that the people who did believe in Jesus and wrote about it are liars and then use it against
them? Doesn’t make sense to me….. Matthew, Mark, Luke, James… They were real people who wrote down real occurrences. It’s no different than any other historical document that were written down by actual people who actually experienced the events they are writing about to inform others about what occurred. Back then they didn’t have wifi. They couldn’t tweet about it. So they wrote it down on scrolls/paper 😉 Use Caesar, Alexander The Great, any other leader back then that you like. People wrote about them being a leader because they were and we know that because of the documentation saying so. Not because of documentation saying they weren’t. The bible is no different. It is 66 documents written at different times for different audiences, based on true inspiration from God conveniently placed together in one large book. Some of them are even letters to the towns of the time period about what had occurred. So the evidence of Jesus Christ is always right in front of you.
In all honesty, can you answer me what harm does it do to an individual who is willing to believe in Jesus who was crucified and rose three days later conquering even death for them in order to cover their sins so that they may be saved and not condemned by their actions? What harm is there in a message about salvation? (Also if you care for the read, heres some other evidence for you from other sources: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/is-there-any-evidence-for-jesus-outside-the-bible/ … ) Individuals are so nears sided when they read the Bible that they are essential blind because of their analytical thinking. Yet Jesus said let those who have ears hear and those who have eyes see. People knit pick the Bible looking for stuff they do not understand themselves no care to understand and justify it as being wrong or right. Their interpretation validates their opinions and not what the Bible truly says. God is not the God of confusion. Man himself gets confused because his understanding of words is so limited.
[edited for brevity]
Adding on to your statement about me proving the resurrection to you…just as you, Victor Stenger demanded that William Lane Craig produce some evidence from Tacitus or some other roman historians of the resurrection. He said because surely if that would have happened, they would have reported it. The historical criterion is this: in the history of the first century nothing happened in the first century roman world unless Tacitus or Suetonius or some other roman historian wrote about it. Nothing else occurred unless they experienced it first hand. No human being thinks that nothing happened unless a historian wrote about it. Think about the billions and trillions of events that have occurred in the world, that have not been written down…for example, I went to work last Friday evening. But unfortunately I didn’t have a historian record every one of my actions, does that mean I didn’t go to work because it was never written down? Not every occurrence in the world is being written down. The resurrection that happened at local small event in Jerusalem would not have been any bit of significance in the eyes of the historians at that time. They didn’t believe it but yet the news of resurrection spread like wild fire anyways. Just because it wasn’t necessarily written down outside of documents of the bible, doesn’t mean it never happened. We have reason to trust first hand testimony. Now if you dismiss first hand testimony and if you dismiss documents that are written within the lifetime of those who can tell about the event, then you have to get rid of almost every historical event that has happened in the history of the world. It’s absolute nonsense to demand that all historical documents must be corroborated by people who didn’t believe it happened. We have to take the text of the bible seriously because they exist and they come from the first century and the documents we have come within a few decades and that’s unlike any other historical document which we possess.
It was an impressively long reply, which I have edited for brevity here and there, while leaving the intent and meaning intact, I hope. Length however, does not mean factual or sensible. My reply intended to tackle each of her points.
Answer: The amount of logical fallacies and poor assumptions that you have managed to include in your reply is unfortunately somewhat bewildering. I’ll try to tackle them in the order in which you made them in the hope that things will remain clear.
I think you’ve misunderstood what I was trying to say. I don’t have a problem with anyone requiring science to prove the things that it claims. In fact, this is what scientists *have* to do, if they expect their work to be taken seriously. My problem is that you require perfect evidence and all the answers from science before you consider it valid, while not having any valid evidence for your faith and still consider it valid. This is typical of many theists.
“There is a difference between going into something blindly without any sort of evidence/proof and that with faith”. No there isn’t, that is precisely my point. Faith isn’t evidence, proof or even knowledge. Faith is pretending you know something while you essentially have nothing to back it up. If faith were evidence, we would simply call it that, there wouldn’t be a need to use the word “faith”. Faith is not about finding out the truth. When you start to believe, you cease to question so you never arrive at the truth unless by sheer luck. Faith is the antonym of knowledge.
All those wondrous qualities that you list for people who supposedly have God working on them, we have a word for that already: decent. You don’t need God for any of those qualities, it just means you are or at least try to be a decent human being. The fact that you, like many other Christians, seem to think that this requires divine intervention, is downright insulting, not to mention ridiculous.
You saw other people behaving like decent human beings and you concluded that this proved a 2000 year old tale about a man who was also God and served as a human sacrifice to himself to appease himself with humanity? Do the words non sequitur mean anything to you?
You can’t rely on science because it cannot give you all the answers to everything? Those lazy scientists had better get off their butts then, hadn’t they? Even if science doesn’t explain everything, you should understand that religion explains nothing. Religion also doesn’t have all the answers to everything. It simply pretends that all the answers are already there (God did it). This isn’t an answer, this is an end to searching. Me, I prefer an honest “I don’t know” to a made up explanation any day of the week. There is no shame in not knowing, only in not trying to find out.
“I don’t have the burden of proof because I know the truth”. Careful, that sounds rather arrogant and here I was thinking that Christians were supposed to be meek and humble. You don’t know the truth, you claim to know the truth and ironically, that means the burden of proof is on you. Not all of us have a direct hotline to God so your imaginary relationship with God isn’t proof of anything (well, maybe it is, but I’m trying real hard not to be unkind).
From your following argument, I think you are actually unfamiliar with the term “burden of proof”. Please see here for what I mean by that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophic_burden_of_proof …
“My evidence is in the Bible”. I don’t recall how many times I have had to dismantle this claim but sadly, people still parade the Bible around as if it proves anything. The Bible isn’t evidence of your claims, the Bible is your claim. You believe that what it says is true, I’d like to see that corroborated. You can’t prove the Bible from the Bible, that’s absurd. If things worked that way, we could say that Harry Potter was true because we can read about Harry Potter in books about Harry Potter.
“Why would there be a document about Jesus by people who never believed in Him in the first place?” Oh, I don’t know…history, perhaps. There were historians back then too. Just as there were administrators, clerks, judges, general correspondence. The thing is, there’s no one outside of Christian circles who mentions Jesus anywhere, in the entire 1st century AD. Not one single mention, anywhere.
“Matthew, Mark, Luke, James… They were real people who wrote down real occurrences”. I’m actually shocked that no one has ever told you that the authors of the four canonical gospels are unknown. They were later attributed to these four apostles but we have no reason to think this is true. The sources we have are all fragmented, undated and anonymous. They’re also in Greek, not Aramaic, which makes actual apostolic authorship highly unlikely.
“In all honesty, can you answer me what harm does it do to an individual who is willing to believe in Jesus who was crucified and rose three days later conquering even death for them in order to cover their sins so that they may be saved and not condemned by their actions?” Oh, absolutely. It does enormous harm. It causes people to believe they are always watched, can always be convicted of thought-crime, it makes people feel like they are unworthy, sick. It makes people renounce the reality of the world around them, focusing their attention on a mythical afterlife that will most likely never come instead of motivating them to live now and act now. Worst of all, people pass on the disgusting and immoral teaching of original sin to their children by terrifying them with hell and damnation, starting the miserable circle all over again. It causes them to pray instead of seek medical help when necessary, it causes them to believe that being gay is wrong, abortion is always wrong and euthanasia is bad. It promotes child beating, wife beating and general submission of wife to husband. Many believe that creationist nonsense should be taught in classrooms, damaging education. Need I go on?
“People knit pick the Bible looking for stuff they do not understand themselves no care to understand and justify it as being wrong or right.” Okay, then explain to me the meaning of a verse like Leviticus 20:9, or Exodus 35:2. Or 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (whoops, aren’t you violating that one now?) What is its significance? How am I supposed to interpret that?
So you are truly equating you going to work, like billions of others, to a once in history event like the resurrection? Interesting analogy, I must say. A dead man walking around again would be of no significance to historians at that time? That’s an absurd claim. Or maybe not…after all, doesn’t Matthew mention tombs opening and dead people walking around the streets of Jerusalem? Resurrection must have been something of a banality back then. Didn’t Matthew also mention an earthquake that split the façade of the temple? No, I can’t see how that would have any historical significance at all. Pity the other 3 canonical gospels don’t back those events up. They must have forgotten.
As I have explained above, the gospels aren’t first hand testimony. We don’t even know who wrote them and they don’t even get their facts straight about the events surrounding the resurrection.
“Just because it wasn’t necessarily written down outside of documents of the bible, doesn’t mean it never happened.” The opposite is also true, have you considered that?
I urge you to investigate how the current Bible came into existence in the first place, how it has been edited, miscopied, forged ever since the 1st century AD. The gospels have had authors attributed to them and were amended to make them fit with fourth century theology and a political agenda, most of Paul’s’ letters weren’t written by Paul and many texts were thought not to be canonical and were simply dismissed. The Bible you read today is a badly copied forgery and largely a work of fiction. It’s the work of people.
Makayla, now firmly entrenched in her faith, responded with another volume text, which I will again edit for the sake of brevity.
I find it kind of humorous that you think you have to “tackle” everything I say. Just curious but why do you think you have to always prove or disprove a person wrong or right? If you say your way of understanding everything is right, then what does what I say or anyone else even matter to you? If your disbelief is so certain, conversations like this should in a sense be meaningless to you. Especially when all you do is call another person’s views fallacies if they don’t coincide with yours.
C.S Lewis says it perfectly: “Belief, in this sense, seems to me to be assent to a proposition which we think so overwhelmingly probable that there is a physiological exclusion of doubt, though not a logical exclusion of dispute.” That is, we believe something that is not 100% certain but so probable that not believing in it is absurd.
My point in asking you for perfect evidence in science, is to show you that science is not perfect because its limited to the extent of a man’s limitations since man is the one influencing it. God is 100% perfect, with that He is 100% valid, and has no limit. If scientific evidence is all that will convince you or any other individual that is in the same position of disbelief of anything to be real or true, then you have no reason to trust philosophical truths, aesthetic values, emotions, virtues, mathematics, logic, common sense, or anything that ever occurred in history because it was in the past and you were never there to experience it for yourself to say what is and isn’t true so and then would require for you to rely on testimonial evidence documented by others. By solely relying on scientific evidence which cannot answer everything for truth and always being skeptical of anything else because it involves uncertainty…well that’s got to be a hard life. Its seems to skepticism is what creates a life of illusion because an individual is afraid of uncertainty and therefore doesn’t want to face it. Besides a rare few, Christians have always come to believe in Christianity because of various evidences, whether logical proofs, scientific discoveries, religious experiences, literary evidence, or on the authority of others. There is no seriously thinking Christian I have ever heard of or met who initially believes in Christianity without a shred of evidence supporting that belief. –“You ought to believe in Jesus.” -“Why, who’s that?” –“Don’t worry about it, just believe.” -“oh OK.”….Who would do that?
[edited for brevity]
You say that all those wondrous qualities that I listed for people who supposedly have God working in them. You call it decency. Well let me ask you this; Have you every lied? What do we call a person that lies; a liar! Have you ever stolen anything? What do we call a person that has stolen; a thief! Have you ever looked at a women with intentions of sexual desires? What do we call a person who has done that; well Jesus said that “whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. So if you truthfully answer theses question and any of them or all are a yes. Then you claim you are either a liar, thief, adulterer, or all three. Would you say then you are a decent person if you are at minimum a liar, thief, and a adultery? And these are only a few of those “decent qualities”. What if you went through every single one, who many more would you answer yes to. But through belief in Jesus Christ and repentance, your sins can be forgiven in your life so that in Gods eyes you are no longer a liar, thief, or adulterer, or anything else your actions say of who you are….
I do not need to believe what science says about my existence because I know who I am through Christ. No other man’s opinion, no scientific fallacies, no nothing can tell me elsewise. You and anyone else can call me insane, dishonest, full of assumptions, and whatever else, but Christ calls me forgiven and that is all that matters to me. My identity is not in science. Science can only be used to strengthen my identity in Christ.
You said “that people pass on disgusting and immoral teaching of original sin to their children of hell and damnation” …let me ask you this. Let’s look at atheists since you want to point fingers to creationists. Atheists don’t believe in a god. So if you said yes to either being a liar, thief, adultery, (being honest with yourself) and you already disbelieve in god; God is not in the picture. Well let’s say you have a close atheist friend and you ask them the same thing about whether they have either lied, stolen, cheated on someone, murdered, been angry at someone else, so on and so on….I guarantee you they will answer yes to at least one if not most of them. If he as you have answered yes, then how is it that you both are still not decent people then, even with no teachings of God in the mix of it? So think of that on a bigger scale (of course no God included), how many people can be called cheats, liars, thief, murders, molesters, rapists, beats their child, so on and so on and yet they do not believe in a God just like you? And why would they teach that it’s because of God if they don’t believe in Him?…so my point is it is not Christians teachings. It’s the sinful nature of man. Atheists want to put the blame on Christians because they do not want to be responsible for their own actions.
[edited for brevity]
My friend, you just have be willing to accept it. If not than that is what you choose. It does not burden me. As I’ve said, I already have my answers. I wish you the best of luck finding yours in science.
My final reply to her doxastically entrenched position is below.
Answer: Yes, I admit it, I feel a need to correct logical errors or false assumptions when I see them. I am a student of reason and logic and it is something of a moral requirement for me to help others use reason and logic correctly. That’s why I feel I must tackle them.
It matters what others say to me, certainly. I am always open to discussion, reason, logic and new evidence. I’m willing to change my mind about things but not when people come to me with mere conjecture, wishful thinking, belief without evidence or supposedly holy texts. So yes, discussions like these are partially meaningless to me. It’s not because I am smarter than you, it’s because I am not willing to believe, I want to know things about the world around me. And when reason and logic, science and philosophy don’t have an answer or at least a working theory or sensible hypothesis, I am ready to say “I don’t know”. I’m not happy with not knowing but I must accept that there is no answer to certain things, yet.
I don’t call other people’s views “fallacies” when they do not coincide with mine, I call them fallacies when they have no basis in reality, aren’t supported by reason and logic or are obviously false.
I respect C.S. Lewis for his incredible way with words and his reasoning powers. I even agree with the statement of his that you quoted. Where he gets it wrong, is not in his logic but in his underlying assumption: that the existence of a deity is probable to begin with. Like I said several times already: there just isn’t any evidence to support such a conclusion.
There is no scientist worth his salt who will tell you that science is 100% perfect. Most, if not all of them, will tell you that science is flawed and that the scientific method is not perfect but it is the best we have to discover how our world works. Science has brought us many things: aeroplanes, computers, space flight, medicine, electricity, the Internet, the Large Hadron Collider and many more so we know that it works. Science can also make accurate predictions about events in the world, something which no religion can do.
That God is 100% perfect, or rather that God is at all, is a baseless assumption. Any other qualities that you wish to attribute to God are therefore meaningless, idle speculation.
Your notion that if someone wishes to understand life through what science says, therefore can’t trust in philosophical truths, aesthetic values, emotions, virtues, mathematics, logic, common sense, or anything that ever occurred in history is partially true. We question things, try and get to the bottom of things, we seek to understand. Only by questioning things can we gain understanding. That’s why I oppose religious thinking: it stops people from asking questions.
Your example of how someone would accept Christ without even knowing who that is supposed to be, is indeed absurd. However, people may readily accept something that sounds good without ever questioning it or thinking that it needs to be questioned. Like Christians accepting the Bible as evidence while it is actually the claim that needs to be questioned. Or people who think that Deepak Chopra actually has something meaningful to say. It just sounds good, so people will believe it. Again: that’s why we need to question everything.
The notion that I have sins which must be forgiven is a part of your Christian belief system. I don’t subscribe to the Christian faith or its moral teaching so “sin” doesn’t exist for me. Sin is an imaginary disease, invented to sell you an imaginary cure. That doesn’t mean I don’t know right from wrong or that there is no good or bad, just that I don’t believe I am violating the rules of some deity. I can be “good without God”. Part of the reason why I call the teaching of “original sin” disgusting is precisely because it tells people they are sick, they are unworthy, they need saving from their sinful nature. This is false. People are just as we would expect them to be: imperfect mammals. It’s only our intelligence and compassion that can lift us above our nature.
Way back at the beginning of this discussion, I asked you if it was correct to say that we come to knowledge through reason and evidence. You accepted that premise.
You did not provide me with any evidence. You provided me with hearsay, ancient myths that should be intellectually embarrassing for any modern person to believe in and false conclusions about what you saw around you. When I asked you if it was reasonable to say that the only way to know things were true, is through reason and evidence, you said yes. Yet you fail to embrace both reason and evidence and dare not question or are unwilling to question the things you assume without evidence.
You said yourself that when deciding the best possible answer to a question, you should look at all alternatives. Maybe you have done so, but you have chosen for yourself the most unlikely answer that one could imagine: that an omnipotent creator deity is responsible for the universe and everything in it and that this deity wants to have a personal relationship with you. Never mind that there are other, more reasonable and more plausible explanations for the things which you consider evidence. Never mind that there is nothing in the entire volume of scientific knowledge that makes the existence of a deity or a divine origin of the universe and everything in it remotely plausible. Even a position of “I don’t know” would be a better alternative to your belief. You have chosen the explanation that you like, not the one that is superior scientifically, logically and reasonably. You are free to make that choice and free to live with the consequences of it. At least you should have the intellectual honesty to admit that your belief is a preference and not say that it is supported by reason and evidence. It isn’t.
It’s been interesting and enlightening for me, that’s for sure. At the very least, I think I will get a blog post our of this.
While the exchange turned hard and Makayla remained entrenched in her beliefs, it gave me a wonderful, personal insight in the way theists view the world. Generally, I don’t believe that debating believers is effective but it can gain yourself or other people valuable insights. No matter how reasonable you go into these debates, believers see reality in a different way and it even seems sometimes that theists and atheists come from different worlds.