Dawkins doesn’t show, Craig shreds his book in front of a packed hall

As he said he would, Richard Dawkins refused William Lane Craig’s invitation to debate him at the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford. So Craig went ahead and ripped his book apart without the distraction of having to respond to petulant ad hominem (entertaining as that would have been). The video is up; watch it below.

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  1. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    im afraid im not the sort of person to indulge you in your thirst for argument; even when noone is actually arguing with you bnonn. so, i will leave you carry on with this discussion on your own as the actual comments from other people are largely inconsequential to you.
    its compelling that in such volumous responses from you, complete with facecious dictionary definitions, there is no room for the slightest reflection that might suggest- ‘yeah, you know looking back maybe i was lured into a reaction and i could have made a better judgement call, but y’know, im only human’ ,
    that seems far, far too painful for your heart to consider.
    equally it is always concerning when someone goes to such extent of multiple quotations from scripture to justify their actions obviously at odds with canonical teaching, I can think of numerous teachings direct from Christ in the New Testament that condemn you where you stand. The noted difference being I refuse to manipulate the word of God to serve a vengeful argument born of personal ego.
    Your comments actually formed much of the discussion at our study group last night, and the tone was one of unanimous astonishement. The fact that you see bringing people to God as of secondary importance to the primary goal of vindicating your argument fatally undermines any credibility you claim to have. In this regard, you might be the only Christian apologist in history who seperates the salvation of non-believers from the primary goal of winning your arguement.
    Bnonn, you’re really, really not that important. It’s really, really not about you.
    Every non-believer you abuse, insult or drive further away from God is just as cherised a creation as you are. And we are clearly told how God longs to be reunited with his lost children and how much joy there will be if just one of them returns to Him. Yet this, by your own admission, is not the primary goal of your work. So in essence, reconcilling God with his lost children is of secondary importance to you, bringing joy to God is of secondary importance to you; God is of secondary importance to you.
    The primary objective, above all others, is for you to feel the pleasure of winning, to be superior, dominating, victorious, powerful and beyond defeat. If God is reconcilled with one of his children who he created, well, thats not really that important is it? I am sure God will be incredibly proud of when you stand before him and declare that you could have used your intellect and platform to bring Gods children back to him, but hey, thats not what it was all about! but, He should have seen you smash those guys in the debate.
    My Pastor made a lighthearted analogy last night, that you remind him of a soldier going to war, who wears the same uniform as everyone else, but no longer cares what the mission is, what the objectives are or, what the orders are he was given, just as long as he gets to shoot at people with his gun. If thats means losing the war or compromising the rest of his platoon, who cares, as long as you get to shoot people.
    Interestingly,12 people, so far, from my church have now said they will not be visiting, or advising others to visit the site, nor will they be supporting any more live events; im sure there will be other churches of similiar opinion.
    So you are now doing damage to your own ministry, driving Christians away from you who could lend support, and driving non-believers away who you have the ability to save. I note another recent discussion which ended with the other person declaring he would not return to the site due to your abuse.
    In one of your comments above you invited my prayers, and I will certainly pray for you Bnonn.
    I will pray that your heart is not always so blinded by power and pride, and at some point you find the capacity to demonstrate the humility that evades you so evidently. I will also pray that God, in his wisdom, did not lead any non-believer to you in the hope that you would be the person who might help them move towards accepting His love. I will pray that those people go on to have some sort of contact with a genuine, true apologist who is prepared to lay aside all personal desire and pride, and spend the time needed to bring them to salvation in Christ.  I wil pray that you do not drive any more of Gods children even further away from Him. Above all, I will pray that when you do stand before God you do not hear the words ‘I never knew you’.
    You seem like a very smart guy; but you have things horribly confused. Its not about you.
    I pray that you find the fufillment you crave, but from the proper source. A Christian should shine a light to show others the glory of God; a Christian hypocrite merely casts a dark shadow on the rest of us.
    God Bless.
    Marc.

  2. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    Marc, I must say that’s a disappointing response. Given that you called me out for behavior you thought was inappropriate, I expected you’d at least interact with my reasons, rather than just smear me. That seems very hypocritical.

    im not the sort of person to indulge you in your thirst for argument

    That’s a very uncharitable interpretation, especially considering you don’t know me, and I have been nothing but civil to you. I also have to wonder why you posted your initial comment if you weren’t prepared to argue for your position?

    even when noone is actually arguing with you bnonn

    When someone states that I’ve done something wrong, they’re starting an argument if I happen to disagree. Presumably you haven’t taken back your original comment. So it certainly seems that, as a matter of fact, you are arguing with me.

    as the actual comments from other people are largely inconsequential to you.

    Not only is this another uncharitable snippet of ad hominem, but it’s also patently false. Why would I bother replying, let alone as carefully as I did, if I considered your comments inconsequential?

    its compelling that in such volumous responses from you

    Your latest response is much longer than mine. Is length an indicator of error or intent or something?

    complete with facecious dictionary definitions

    You called my response a “tirade”. I was making sure we both understood what that meant. Needless to say, you haven’t given any reason for why it should be considered one. Instead, you’ve packed in the passive-aggressiveness and replaced it with simple slander. For someone who is so concerned about me abusing others, you certainly have no problem abusing me.

    there is no room for the slightest reflection that might suggest- ‘yeah, you know looking back maybe i was lured into a reaction and i could have made a better judgement call, but y’know, im only human’

    You are bearing false witness. Quoth me: “To my mind, this kind of response is biblical. It’s not an impulsive, emotional flare-up.” … “God knows I am not as good a man as William Lane Craig …  I use the personality God gave me as best I can. I’d appreciate your prayers, and of course your response if you still disagree.” … “If it turns out I’ve misinterpreted or misapplied Scripture, then I’m quite open to your correction.” Etc.

    that seems far, far too painful for your heart to consider.

    Yet you refuse to consider the biblical support for my actions. A holier-than-thou attitude isn’t a substitute for a counter-argument. You pay lip-service to piousness, but when someone disagrees with your assessment you immediately resort to this kind of impious rhetoric?

    it is always concerning when someone goes to such extent of multiple quotations from scripture to justify their actions obviously at odds with canonical teaching

    Are you saying Scripture is wrong in this case, or that I am misapplying it? In either case, you need to argue for your position. You’re acting like a pharisee.

    I can think of numerous teachings direct from Christ in the New Testament that condemn you where you stand.

    The same Christ who called the pharisees a brood of vipers, called pagans pigs and dogs, and inspired the inscripturation of the other examples I cited? 

    The noted difference being I refuse to manipulate the word of God to serve a vengeful argument born of personal ego.

    Oh I see. You don’t need to do exegesis because you can just beg the question and insult me instead. It’s hard to tell if you really think you’re being pious and are just incredibly blind, or if you’re just a troll who has taken a dislike to me. Either way, this is obviously not a conversation that’s going to bear fruit.

    Your comments actually formed much of the discussion at our study group last night, and the tone was one of unanimous astonishement.

    Considering the theological incompetence of most study groups, that hardly surprises me. But why didn’t you invite me along to defend myself? Surely you’re not afraid of having your views tested?

    The fact that you see bringing people to God as of secondary importance to the primary goal of vindicating your argument

    You’re bearing false witness. Quoth me: “The primary objective of apologetics is to vindicate the Christian faith—to show that it is true beyond reasonable doubt … That doesn’t just involve argumentation. It involves behavior too. There is sometimes a place for letting an argument go, even when you’re right.”

    In this regard, you might be the only Christian apologist in history who seperates the salvation of non-believers from the primary goal of winning your arguement.

    Either you are willfully mischaracterizing me or you’re simply incompetent at reading.

    Bnonn, you’re really, really not that important. It’s really, really not about you.

    Again you misrepresent me in the most uncharitable way, implying that I think I am “really, really important” and that apologetics (or something) is “really, really about me”. I explicitly acknowledged that this is not about me when I said, “But of course, God can tear down Thinking Matters and raise up a dozen similar organizations out of the earth if he wants to.”

    Every non-believer you abuse, insult or drive further away from God is just as cherised a creation as you are.

    Since I’m a Calvinist, I don’t buy this tendentious premise.

    And we are clearly told how God longs to be reunited with his lost children and how much joy there will be if just one of them returns to Him. Yet this, by your own admission, is not the primary goal of your work.

    Indeed. My work is apologetics. Not evangelism. That’s a basic distinction.

    So in essence, reconcilling God with his lost children is of secondary importance to you, bringing joy to God is of secondary importance to you; God is of secondary importance to you.

    This is just an incredible conclusion to your convoluted line of reasoning. Unfortunately it’s a line of reasoning which is completely out of touch with reality.

    The primary objective, above all others, is for you to feel the pleasure of winning, to be superior, dominating, victorious, powerful and beyond defeat.

    You’ve obviously decided this in advance, and regardless of how reasonable my defense of my actions turns out to be, you’re not willing to change your mind. Ironically, you’re doing the exact thing you’re accusing me of.

    My Pastor made a lighthearted analogy last night, that you remind him of a soldier going to war, who wears the same uniform as everyone else, but no longer cares what the mission is, what the objectives are or, what the orders are he was given, just as long as he gets to shoot at people with his gun.

    Is your pastor in the habit of passing these sorts of judgments on people he has never met, behind their backs, without bothering to even talk to them first? What was his response to my defense of my actions from Scripture? Did he exegete the relevant passages to demonstrate why I was wrong?

    More importantly, if your pastor really feels this way about me, I think it is incumbent upon him to contact my pastor and express his concerns. If my actions are truly as awful as you’re making out, then something needs to be done immediately.

    Interestingly,12 people, so far, from my church have now said they will not be visiting, or advising others to visit the site, nor will they be supporting any more live events; im sure there will be other churches of similiar opinion.

    Well, I’m quite conflicted about that. On the one hand, I regret causing offense to other Christians, and losing their support. Especially since this website is run by more than just me.

    On the other hand, I recognize that the truth is divisive. If Christians are going to condemn me, or at least not support me, because I try to adhere to Scripture, then in a sense that’s so much the worse for them.

    I note another recent discussion which ended with the other person declaring he would not return to the site due to your abuse.

    Indeed; and I acknowledged that I may have been overzealous, and apologized in that thread. Odd that you don’t mention that.

    In one of your comments above you invited my prayers, and I will certainly pray for you Bnonn.
    I will pray that your heart is not always so blinded by power and pride, and at some point you find the capacity to demonstrate the humility that evades you so evidently.

    Even though I think you’re wrong about this issue, I still appreciate that. I can always use more humility. God knows I have far too little.

    I will also pray that God, in his wisdom, did not lead any non-believer to you in the hope that you would be the person who might help them move towards accepting His love.

    Well, this doesn’t make sense. Do you think God did not know the outcome before he initiated the leading? Whatever happened, it was precisely as God intended.

    You seem like a very smart guy; but you have things horribly confused.

    If I’m so smart, maybe you’ll consider that I have actually considered this issue many times, and have good reasons for the conclusions I’m defending.

  3. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    Bnonn , im really not that important. Utilise you time to pray and ask God for true direction.
    God Bless and take care.
    Marc

  4. Charles
    Charles says:

    Shredding is so slow! Here’s an idea… let’s burn books that frighten us.
    What a pack of pretentious theo-fascists! Time to face the facts… 
    We have the fossils. 
    We have the DNA. 
    We win

  5. Thomas Larsen
    Thomas Larsen says:

    Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

    Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

    —Colossians 4.2–6

  6. Thomas Larsen
    Thomas Larsen says:

    Bnonn, can I ask you a question?

    If you were able, would you give up your salvation for the salvation of others? For the salvation of, say, Dawkins?

  7. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    Thomas, re your first comment, notice Paul is referring to outsiders. Presumably those trying to understand our faith. He isn’t talking in the context of scoffers.

    We can’t set him against himself. We can’t look at what he says about how we should act without also looking at how he himself acted. Remember, he is also the fellow who called unbelievers children of the devil, and publicly wished others would cut off their genitalia. So we need to interpret Scripture with Scripture.

    Re your second comment, I suppose it depends. Perhaps for those closest to me I would. But I must be honest I would not for someone like Dawkins. I’m not even sure I should, but if I should then I’m not sure I could. Quite frankly, hell terrifies me.

  8. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    Thomas, sure, scoffers are outsiders. The question is whether they are the kind of outsiders Paul has in mind in that passage. What is the situation he is speaking to? It doesn’t seem to be the same situation in which you see him taking people to task in very harsh, condemning language.

    My concern is that you are taking certain biblical passages out of their scriptural and cultural contexts and using them to support a way of interacting with people who oppose Christians that is quite unbiblical.

    Okay, well again, we can’t set Scripture against itself. If you think I’m taking passages out of context, you need to show why. It can’t just be because “Christians should never act like that” or something. You need exegetical arguments. On the face of it, it seems very clear that there are times when the appropriate response is to strongly condemn rather than to be gracious. And I think there are good practical reasons for that. Indeed, I think it is vital for the health of the church and the ministry of the gospel that scoffers and mockers are turfed out on their ears to avoid a lot of wasted time and energy that could be better devoted to people who are actually interested in listening to the reasons we believe.

    The problem I see in a lot of churches today is that people are so afraid to hurt others’ feelings, or to be seen as judgmental or harsh, that they compromise the truth and the body of Christ by daring not speak out against obvious error and obvious time-wasters. They simply aren’t honoring what God himself says about how we should deal with these sorts of problems, these sorts of people.

    If I were an atheist and I read some of the things that have been written above, I would be pleased and proud to be a nonbeliever

    Well, that would be a double indictment on you then. Not only can you not fairly evaluate the arguments, but you’re replacing logic with emotion.

    Remember, I’m not suggesting this should be how we deal with everyone. I’m specifically talking about scoffers. Unfortunately we get a lot of those here.

    What is the primary purpose of apologetics, if not to aid in evangelism

    Apologetics has two prongs. Firstly, to overcome any reasons people have not to believe the gospel. Secondly, to encourage and equip Christians themselves by vindicating their faith. I am equally concerned with the latter as the former. Indeed, I am more so, because I am keenly aware that most Christians are incredibly poorly schooled in their faith. I think that’s nowhere more evident than in Marc’s unfortunate comments above.

    I don’t see the primary purpose of apologetics, per se, as aiding evangelism. I think that’s its primary purpose to an evangelist. But I am not an evangelist. As you can no doubt tell, I’m not what you might call a people person. I don’t think my calling is evangelism—not any more than any other Christian. I think my calling is in providing a resource to Christians who need answers to tough questions, and to unbelievers who are looking for answers.

    Don’t think I’m diminishing the importance of evangelism. I’m not. I believe it is every Christian’s duty. But some are called to it specifically, and some are called to other things. I think I’m in the latter group. And so I don’t use evangelistic effectiveness as a criteria for judging everything I do. I don’t think that’s valid. In fact, I think we’d get very little done within Christianity if all we did was evangelize. Heck, one of my major criticisms of the modern church is that it only caters to “seekers” and new converts, at the expense of feeding mature Christians spiritual meat.

    Hopefully that gives you some sense of where I’m coming from.

  9. Thomas Larsen
    Thomas Larsen says:

    Jesus and Paul spoke harshly to those who claimed to be God’s people and yet did not act accordingly—to hypocrites, in other words. Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” and Paul wished that the circumcision preachers, the unsettlers, would “emasculate themselves.” Nowhere in the Bible are believers told to abuse or insult a sceptic or to drive her away from God.

    You wrote, “I think my calling is in providing a resource to Christians who need
    answers to tough questions, and to unbelievers who are looking for
    answers.” Excellent! But good resources are only part of the story; the way you and your colleagues conduct yourselves reflects on the Gospel, too. The Bible does not promise that Christians will be able to provide strong arguments for their faith, but it does promise that the lives of Christians will be transformed and changed by the Holy Spirit.

  10. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Jesus and Paul spoke harshly to those who claimed to be God’s people and yet did not act accordingly—to hypocrites, in other words.

    That’s one group. But Elijah spoke harshly to those who did not claim to be God’s people at all. Rather, they made it their business to turn people away from God.

    The Bible doesn’t reserve rebukes, invective etc for hypocrites. Rather, it is concerned with those who lead others away from the truth, who appoint themselves as apologists against the truth. This is why Proverbs, for example, says so many things about fools and scoffers, rather than just about false teachers. So you’re drawing too narrow a boundary.

    Nowhere in the Bible are believers told to abuse or insult a sceptic or to drive her away from God.

    Notice how you’re subtly changing your language. You’ve turned a scoffer into a “sceptic”. But they’re not the same. You can see for yourself that I deal differently with people who are merely skeptical than with people who set themselves up to ridicule Christianity or lead others away from it.

    Similarly, you speak of abusing and insulting. But of course, although the Bible doesn’t use those terms, it certainly speaks of rebuking and reproving. And it explicitly acknowledges that “a scoffer does not like to be reproved” (Pr 15:12); indeed, that if you reprove a scoffer “he will hate you” and that “whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury” (Pr 9:8,7). So clearly scoffers, and apparently those sympathetic to them, see rebukes like this as abusive and insulting.

    Moreover, while I hardly think that driving a scoffer away from this website is equivalent to driving him away from God, Proverbs 22:10 explicitly says to “drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.”

    Unless, of course, other believers to take up the scoffer’s cause after he leaves…

    The Bible does not promise that Christians will be able to provide
    strong arguments for their faith, but it does promise that the lives of
    Christians will be transformed and changed by the Holy Spirit.

    Indeed, and one of those transformations is a zealousness and jealousy for the truth, and an intolerance of willful error.

  11. Thomas Larsen
    Thomas Larsen says:

    Does “zealousness and jealousy for the truth, and an intolerance of willful error” mean that one must be abusive or insulting to a sceptic scoffer? William Lane Craig, for instance, surely has a commitment to the truth and a very effective ministry; but never once have I heard him abuse or insult even the most vitriolic of his opponents. I don’t understand why you’re trying to defend a view that neither Scripture nor any contemporary evangelical theologian of whom I am aware espouses. Could you list some of the biblical passages which recommend that scoffers be abused and insulted?

  12. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi Stuart,

    “Why would the notion that something began to exist become nonsensical if
    you did not know what caused that something to exist?And “obviously
    [nonsensical]”, in your words?”

    Sorry I could have been clearer. What I should have said is that it has always seemed obvious to me that the universe couldn’t begin to exist because why is the thing that caused the universe to be there, there? It hurts my mind – though I love doing it – to wonder “why the universe?”, and my mind goes further and further back and there is no answer. It’s amazing.

    “The cause of the universe must be timeless because the universe includes
    time. The cause of time can’t (without creation) be in time. ”

    Physicists don’t seem to call the big bang the end of the story, though, and I don’t think they’d claim that the cause of the universe needs to be timeless – there can be time outside of time, aparently. But I agree that it seems impossible for the cause of our time to be within our time (on the other hand, weirder things have happened in physics!).
    I believe, though, that your statement disrespects the meaning of the word ’cause’. Or at least, my version. And that, I think, is at base the reason why I reject a beginning to the universe. For what does the word beginning even mean without time?!

    “More importantly, you presume to know too much by considering it
    suspicious that the evidence for God should be more obvious, etc. For
    all you know God may have really good reasons for giving the (scant in
    your opinion) evidence he has.”

    Yeah, maybe. But then this might be true of astrology. Maybe there is a reason that they can be explained by the confirmation bias, as James Randi has shown, and despite this, despite not being more obvious in every day life, maybe they are still really (really) true. Or maybe Vishnu has a reason for being unobjectively evidenced.

    ” In fact, that seem plausible to me given
    Christian theism for various reasons. 3. I don’t think the knowledge of
    God is chiefly by the evidence (see Plantinga’s religious epistemology).

    The problem is that these statements are contradictory. You have just used evidence (the non-obviousness of evidence for the christian god) to bolster your belief in the christian god. And you have used an epistemology which claims that knowledge of god is not via evidence, as evidence.
    It is my position that all of the evidence for god or christianity is within this un-obvious realm, and all subject to the confirmation bias. Give me a good miracle, or god appearing and talking with me, and I’ll believe in a heartbeat. It’s not that big a request is it? It purportedly happened to plenty of people in the Bible, particularly Jesus’ time.

    “You quote “if there was good evidence that the universe was eternal,
    would i consider this good evidence that there is no god?”. Not sure
    where you got this quoted question from. But I agree with you here”
    Lol. They were thinking-marks.
    I think that if causality is completely tied up with time, then I believe in an eternal-past and future universe. It’s probably more that space-time is completely tied up with causality. Looking up the Guth etc. theorum I also found this interesting, it’s short and well worth watching to see what space-time can do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfeJhzPq3jQ
    This……….I don’t even know…….I would love to ask Guth “what does the universe which contains the bubble, exist in?”

    But it gets worse. You have to remember that space-time – general relativity – is only a model, and this is mainly why I don’t consider that beginning-of-the-universe cosmology is much to count on. We can’t even explain why galaxies don’t fly apart – we can’t find the dark matter, if it even exists, and yet people are making claims about the entire universe, which we understand even less. Physicists have no trouble with the idea of eternal-future, and it would not surprise me if eternal-past became evidenced at some point either. But on this topic, and about the confirmation bias. I do think that if the evidence arose that the universe might be eternal-past that some christians would start to use the whole genesis-‘bara’ thing as evidence that the bible is right again! It is in exactly this way that I think that the confirmation bias is at play with religion. People base their arguments and evidence and epistemologies upon what they want to believe. This exlplains so much about religions.

    Say, could you provide a link to your article on creation ex-nihilo. I don’t know that much about the genesis-‘bara’ thing.

  13. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi Stuart,

    “Why would the notion that something began to exist become nonsensical if
    you did not know what caused that something to exist?And “obviously
    [nonsensical]”, in your words?”

    Sorry I could have been clearer. What I should have said is that it has always seemed obvious to me that the universe couldn’t begin to exist because why is the thing that caused the universe to be there, there? It hurts my mind – though I love doing it – to wonder “why the universe?”, and my mind goes further and further back and there is no answer. It’s amazing.

    “The cause of the universe must be timeless because the universe includes
    time. The cause of time can’t (without creation) be in time. ”

    Physicists don’t seem to call the big bang the end of the story, though, and I don’t think they’d claim that the cause of the universe needs to be timeless – there can be time outside of time, aparently. But I agree that it seems impossible for the cause of our time to be within our time (on the other hand, weirder things have happened in physics!).
    I believe, though, that your statement disrespects the meaning of the word ’cause’. Or at least, my version. And that, I think, is at base the reason why I reject a beginning to the universe. For what does the word beginning even mean without time?!

    “More importantly, you presume to know too much by considering it
    suspicious that the evidence for God should be more obvious, etc. For
    all you know God may have really good reasons for giving the (scant in
    your opinion) evidence he has.”

    Yeah, maybe. But then this might be true of astrology. Maybe there is a reason that they can be explained by the confirmation bias, as James Randi has shown, and despite this, despite not being more obvious in every day life, maybe they are still really (really) true. Or maybe Vishnu has a reason for being unobjectively evidenced.

    ” In fact, that seem plausible to me given
    Christian theism for various reasons. 3. I don’t think the knowledge of
    God is chiefly by the evidence (see Plantinga’s religious epistemology).

    The problem is that these statements are contradictory. You have just used evidence (the non-obviousness of evidence for the christian god) to bolster your belief in the christian god. And you have used an epistemology which claims that knowledge of god is not via evidence, as evidence.
    It is my position that all of the evidence for god or christianity is within this un-obvious realm, and all subject to the confirmation bias. Give me a good miracle, or god appearing and talking with me, and I’ll believe in a heartbeat. It’s not that big a request is it? It purportedly happened to plenty of people in the Bible, particularly Jesus’ time.

    “You quote “if there was good evidence that the universe was eternal,
    would i consider this good evidence that there is no god?”. Not sure
    where you got this quoted question from. But I agree with you here”
    Lol. They were thinking-marks.
    I think that if causality is completely tied up with time, then I believe in an eternal-past and future universe. It’s probably more that space-time is completely tied up with causality. Looking up the Guth etc. theorum I also found this interesting, it’s short and well worth watching to see what space-time can do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfeJhzPq3jQ
    This……….I don’t even know…….I would love to ask Guth “what does the universe which contains the bubble, exist in?”

    But it gets worse. You have to remember that space-time – general relativity – is only a model, and this is mainly why I don’t consider that beginning-of-the-universe cosmology is much to count on. We can’t even explain why galaxies don’t fly apart – we can’t find the dark matter, if it even exists, and yet people are making claims about the entire universe, which we understand even less. Physicists have no trouble with the idea of eternal-future, and it would not surprise me if eternal-past became evidenced at some point either. But on this topic, and about the confirmation bias. I do think that if the evidence arose that the universe might be eternal-past that some christians would start to use the whole genesis-‘bara’ thing as evidence that the bible is right again! It is in exactly this way that I think that the confirmation bias is at play with religion. People base their arguments and evidence and epistemologies upon what they want to believe. This exlplains so much about religions.

    Say, could you provide a link to your article on creation ex-nihilo. I don’t know that much about the genesis-‘bara’ thing.

  14. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Thomas, in my previous comment I showed exactly how Scripture recommends that scoffers and false teachers be, in your words, “abused and insulted”, and I have provided several actual examples of this happening in the Bible.

    I don’t understand why you don’t understand why I’m trying to defend my view. I’m trying to defend it because I believe it is scriptural. It doesn’t seem like you’re really considering my words. Indeed, it seems like you just can’t believe it is possible there are times when Christians are justified in not being “nice”—in being “mean”.

  15. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Hi Peterpieman

    What I should have said is that it has always seemed obvious to me that the universe couldn’t begin to exist because why is the thing that caused the universe to be there, there?

    You’ve just repeated the same idea – more an expression of incredulity. But you don’t need an explanation of the cause in order to reasonably believe that something began to exist. If you did you would indeed end up in with an infinite regress and end up knowing nothing. In fact, this principle would destroy the whole project of science. And you didn’t watch the video above did you? This was explained there. 

    Physicists don’t seem to call the big bang the end of the story, though,

     
    We’ve covered this ground. 

    …and I don’t think they’d claim that the cause of the universe needs to be timeless – there can be time outside of time, apparently.

     
    Physicist stick to science. Speculation on time beyond the universe is in the realm of metaphysics – clearly the philosophers domain. So when you “…agree that it seems impossible for the cause of our time to be within our time” that is enough to make it reasonable to believe that the cause of the universe is timeless. 

    Your base reason for rejecting that the universe had a beginning you explain with this question: “For what does the word beginning even mean without time?” The way I use the word begin is not absent the concept of time altogether. There is subsequent time which is all that is required to imbue the concept with meaning. That the universe began to exist means that it is not eternal in the past: that the sequence of events that led to the present moment is finite. 

    On your idea that the evidence for God should be more obvious you reluctantly cede my point that you are in no position to judge if God has sufficient reason for making his existence as obvious as it is. You say, “Yeah, maybe.” But then you say, what about the evidence for astrology and Vishnu? The same reason/excuse could be used. Could astrology really have a reason for making his existence more obvious? This is lacking common sense. And I don’t know of the evidence for Vishnu. Is there some? 

    You have just used evidence (the non-obviousness of evidence for the christian god) to bolster your belief in the christian god.

    No I didn’t. That God could hide himself for good reasons is a defeater for your claim that the evidence should be more obvious. 

    And you have used an epistemology which claims that knowledge of god is not via evidence, as evidence.

    Sorry, I’ve been floating between various forums with their various concerns and ideas cross-pollinate. Plantinga counts the personal experience of God as a properly basic belief, so the belief in God doesn’t need evidence for it to be warranted. I count the personal experience of God as evidence, and this evidence warrants belief. Its saying pretty much the same thing. What its not saying is your crude interpretation that I have evidence because the belief in God is not via evidence.

    But it gets worse. You have to remember that space-time – general relativity – is only a model, and this is mainly why I don’t consider that beginning-of-the-universe cosmology is much to count on. We can’t even explain why galaxies don’t fly apart – we can’t find the dark matter, if it even exists, and yet people are making claims about the entire universe, which we understand even less.

    So you don’t just have a problem with believing the idea that the universe began to exist. You have a problem with believing everything in cosmology. And this because there are some questions yet to be answered? I think you should at least admit, that at the current point, as the field stands, that it is reasonable to believe that the universe began to exist. 

    Physicists have no trouble with the idea of eternal-future, and it would not surprise me if eternal-past became evidenced at some point either.

    The trouble is that, as every good philosopher should know, that the two eternals you speak of are of a different order. The eternal-future is merely potential. The past-eternal has to be actual. Which is impossible (see the philosophical proofs for the beginning of the universe).

    But on this topic, and about the confirmation bias. I do think that if the evidence arose that the universe might be eternal-past that some christians would start to use the whole genesis-‘bara’ thing as evidence that the bible is right again! It is in exactly this way that I think that the confirmation bias is at play with religion. People base their arguments and evidence and epistemologies upon what they want to believe. This explains so much about religions.

    Not Christianity. For approximately 1900 years Christianity affirmed that the universe began to exist, and this against the tide of popular opinion. It was long considered more reasonable to believe that the universe was eternal. In effect, the problems you are having with the concept of the universe having an beginning are the same problems that have always troubled unbelievers about the Judeo-Christian tradition. (It has always been staunch in this area, and it has only been recently that some have suggested the Bible does not teach creatio ex nihilo.) However, in your case your troubles are a century out of date. Near the beginning of the 20th Century the tide began to turn, and it has continued to rise such that today it is far more reasonable to believe that the universe began to exist than it is to believe that the universe is eternal in the past.

    Say, could you provide a link to your article on creation ex-nihilo. I don’t know that much about the genesis-‘bara’ thing.

    I was referring to this http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2010/09/creatio-ex-nihilo/ which does have some references provided. I think it is Paul Copan and William Lane Craig that have written the book documenting the Christian heritage of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, the theological and biblical exegetical work that heritage is based on, and probably the philosophical grounding as well.

  16. Peterpiemann
    Peterpiemann says:

    Marc,

    I have to confess I am disappointed in your response. I think it most likely that you don’t want to consider what your beliefs would be like were you born into another religion because you really know the answer. Considering this problem this can only bring one closer to objectivity. How could it not? Think about it.

  17. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    “You’ve just repeated the same idea – more an expression of incredulity. But you don’t need an explanation of the cause in order to reasonably
    believe that something began to exist. If you did you would indeed end
    up in with an infinite regress and end up knowing nothing. In fact, this
    principle would destroy the whole project of science.”

    This is most certainly not merely an expression of incredulity, it is the expression of completely undeviating brute empirical fact. Certainly I agree that all that is needed to show that something began to exist is the knowledge that it didn’t exist at some point and then it did (and this doesn’t even apply to the universe), and that one doesn’t need to know about the cause in order to conclude that. Unfortunately though, it is undeniable that we have never observed a cause that itself does not need an explanation. You won’t be able to come up with an example.
    I agree, we do end up with an infinite regress, but you are going to need to show that this destroys science – it does nothing of the sort. Science obviously progresses whether it claims a finite or infinite universe.

    “Could astrology really have a reason for making his existence more obvious?”
    I don’t understand you. What has astrology got to do with ‘his’. God? Huh?

    “And I don’t know of the evidence for Vishnu. Is there some?”
    Hindus would say there is. Of course you wouldn’t agree that there is evidence just as they would deny your evidence fort christianity. How would you respond to a Hindu who claims that vishnu has good reason to hide himself? You would respond with skepticism, as I am responding to you!

    “Sorry, I’ve been floating between various forums with their various
    concerns and ideas cross-pollinate. Plantinga counts the personal
    experience of God as a properly basic belief, so the belief in God
    doesn’t need evidence for it to be warranted. I count the personal
    experience of God as evidence, and this evidence warrants belief. Its
    saying pretty much the same thing. What its not saying is your crude
    interpretation that I have evidence because the belief in God is not via
    evidence.”

    So you think that the personal experience of god is both a properly basic belief and has good evidence, yes?

    “So you don’t just have a problem with believing the idea that the
    universe began to exist. You have a problem with believing everything in
    cosmology. And this because there are some questions yet to be
    answered? I think you should at least admit, that at the current point,
    as the field stands, that it is reasonable to believe that the universe
    began to exist.”

    Yes I have a problem believing that the universe began to exist (with my current understanding of time) and with many things in cosmology. But honestly and respectfully, I don’t think that you have a very good understanding of the field. I suspect that you just have the views which are convenient to you – those which Craig feeds you – taking the big bang further than do cosmologists, and one particular theorem produced 8 years ago, presumably because it is convenient to his argument. Read this, for example. This is from a HIGHLY RESPECTED COSMOLOGIST, Sean Caroll. Look what he says:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2007/04/27/how-did-the-universe-start/

    You just don’t hear people talking like this in earth science, or genetics, or chemistry. In cosmology, claiming that there is a “current point, as the
    field stands, that it is reasonable to believe that the universe began
    to exist.” is just plain simplistic. That the universe was much denser in the past, that inflation happened – there is good evidence to think this, but that the universe began to exist is overstepping the mark. As Caroll says “we have no good reasons to believe that those statements are actually true, and some pretty good reasons to doubt them.”

    “The trouble is that, as every good philosopher should know, that the two
    eternals you speak of are of a different order. The eternal-future is
    merely potential. The past-eternal has to be actual. Which is impossible
    (see the philosophical proofs for the beginning of the universe)”

    And that is why cosmology is such an un-definite field. Is it that the universe began to exist with a cause which violates the notion of ’cause’, or does cause and effect go on infinitely in the past? We have no empirical justification for either, they both seem impossible. Personally I have come to terms with this contradiction. I think that this contradiction is an empirical observation in itself. Welcome to the incredible real world.

  18. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman,

    The principle that you must know the cause of something before you can know it began to exist is not empirical fact, let alone one that is completely undeviating brute empirical fact.
    And you don’t need to show something did not exist at some point and then does exist at some later point to know that something began to exist. Look at anything thats been around for more than a little while.
    You say, “Unfortunately though, it is undeniable that we have never observed a cause that itself does not need an explanation. You won’t be able to come up with an example.” This is a strength of my argument!

    I agree, we do end up with an infinite regress, but you are going to need to show that this destroys science – it does nothing of the sort. Science obviously progresses whether it claims a finite or infinite universe.

    This is a misunderstanding. The principle that you must know the cause of something before you can know it began to exist (or the other principle that you need an explanation of the explanation in order for something to be the best explanation) ensures an infinite regress and the collapse of science.
    Re astrology: you bought it up. You explain.

    Re the evidence for Vishnu: I would say lets discuss it and see if its any good.

    So you think that the personal experience of god is both a properly basic belief and has good evidence, yes?

    Not quite. “… and is good evidence.” Yeah.

    But honestly and respectfully, I don’t think that you have a very good understanding of the field.

    Where is your evidence? Tut tut. You shouldn’t believe that otherwise. But honestly Peter, for this argument I don’t need an understanding of the field. I just need to understand Stephen Hawking when he says in A Brief History of Time, that almost everyone today now believes that the universe had a beginning. But thats not all I have, as you are aware. I’m just saying that in itself is sufficient to make it reasonable. Call Stephen Hawkings (or Alexander Vilenkin) simplistic if you must. I think for anyone else that would be a bit hard to swallow.
    And I think Carroll is overstepping the mark if he means to say that there is NO good reason and some pretty good reason doubt that the universe began to exist. But I don’t think that is what he is saying. Watch you don’t misquote people. The point of his article is what I have been saying all along: Big Bang cosmology is not a proof of the beginning of the universe – Scientific conclusions will always be tentative – But it is confirmatory of the beginning of the universe.

    Is it that the universe began to exist with a cause which violates the notion of ’cause’, or does cause and effect go on infinitely in the past? We have no empirical justification for either, they both seem impossible. Personally I have come to terms with this contradiction. I think that this contradiction is an empirical observation in itself.

    Your laboring under the impression that both of these are scientific truths and established by empirical observation. They are not. They belong to the philosophers. Empiricism cannot arbitrate on these matters.

    The universe beginning to exist with a cause does not violate the notion of ’cause.’ What does violate the notion of beginning to exist is being without a cause. This is because of one of the strongest and most well established of all metaphysical principles, that from nothing nothing comes. It is this that is continually empirically verified and has never been falsified. This is the real world.

  19. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    Hi Peter
    I apologise if it seemed I was evading your question, it wasn’t my intention. If I’m correct you seem to be inferring that a specified religious belief system is nothing more than the product of a particular geo/sociological conditioning, be it either primary or secondary. To a certain degree I understand where you are trying to go with this line of reasoning. The main objections I would have with it would be so:
    1. The social/geographical ‘heredity’ model of religious belief systems cannot adequately explain the phenomenom of non-christians in ‘non-christian’ (in the extreme sense) countries converting to christianity. Or lifelong atheists, from secular families accepting Christ.
    2. Simply because a belief system is dominant in a particular location or period of time does not in any way validate its truth claims. You could look to the Communist revolution under the Bolsheviks or The Nazi Party ideology in Europe in WWII; if I was born in those locations at those times would the current ideology be right simply because I was born into it? Of course not. I believe In Christianity because, for me, the evidence points towards it as true.
    3.Also the point your making seems to collapse under its own first premise. Are you then conceding that you are only an atheist (im assuming this, apologies if your agnostic but im hedging my bets!) because you live in a secular society, which tends to publicly ridicule religion without any level of sophisticated hearing; and not actually because you don’t believe in God? If social conditioning is the root cause of religious beliefs it can equally be the root cause of atheism, which i guess is still a religious belief if we are going to be honest.
    Thanks for your comment. I am always open to listening to the opposing view. And although we do have different viewpoints I appreciate your time.
    Marc

  20. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi Stuart,

    I agree that you don’t need to know the cause of something in order to know something began to exist. But there is ALWAYS a cause to explain any ‘something’. It’s quite simple, unless you can come up with an example of something that does not need a cause you are ceding the point. Everything that we have ever observed has had an explanation. That stands (unless you can come up with a counter-example).

    “Re the evidence for Vishnu: I would say lets discuss it and see if its any good. ”

    Right, so the disciples of Vishnu are not going to be bothered that I can’t see vishnu or his miracles. They will have explanations for why I can’t see him just as you do for your god.

    “Where is your evidence? Tut tut.”
    I could say this whenever you quote or claim something, but it’s not very helpful is it.

    “But honestly Peter, for this argument I don’t need an understanding of
    the field.”
    I’m afraid you do. It is absolutely true that GR breaks down for a singularity (hint: big bang) and that it is completely at odds with our understanding of the very small (hint: big bang).

    “I just need to understand Stephen Hawking when he says in A
    Brief History of Time, that almost everyone today now believes that the
    universe had a beginning.”
    Do you even know when that book was written, Stuart?

    “Call Stephen Hawkings (or Alexander Vilenkin) simplistic if you must. I
    think for anyone else that would be a bit hard to swallow.”
    The thing is that there is plenty of evidence out there to see what these people actually think about their own theories. The funny thing is that they take them less seriously than you do, because they know that there are many ifs and buts.

    “Your laboring under the impression that both of these are scientific
    truths and established by empirical observation. They are not. They
    belong to the philosophers. Empiricism cannot arbitrate on these
    matters.

    By all means, please give an example of what you mean. I cannot see how a philosopher can draw upon anything but observation.

    “The universe beginning to exist with a cause does not violate the
    notion of ’cause.’ What does violate the notion of beginning to exist is
    being without a cause. This is because of one of the strongest and most
    well established of all metaphysical principles, that from nothing
    nothing comes.”
    I’m sorry, you cannot claim the first sentence here until you come up with an example. Again, we have never observed anything at all that does not have a cause.

    ” It is this that is continually empirically verified and
    has never been falsified. This is the real world.”
    Like quantum foam? Where does that come from? I think only one of us is looking at the real world!

  21. Bsquibs
    Bsquibs says:

    It is true that an individual brought up in a christian religion is far
    more likely to be a christian as an adult, and an individual brought up
    as a Muslim, say, is far more likely to be a Muslim as an adult. What do
    you think we should conclude from this? That christianity is ‘right’?
    Hardly.

    I think we should probably conclude that there is little of value in your argument. But perhaps you can explain to me why you think that a “what if” scenario has any bearing on objective truth?

    For example, what if… you happened to have been born in Texas and lived and died a staunch Baptist who was absolutely convinced that the Earth was some 6,000 years old? Given that neither you (the real you, not the Texan you) nor I actually believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old I must ask what has your what if scenario actually done to challenge the objective age of the Earth?

  22. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Hi Peterpieman, 

    Its gratifying to see that you have reversed your position, from “It has always seemed obvious to me that it wouldn’t make sense for the universe – as in, absolutely everything – to begin to exist because, well, what would cause it to begin to exist?” to what you now affirm, “I agree that you don’t need to know the cause of something in order to know something began to exist.” Whats not so gratifying is that you now seem to think that I have to show you a counter-example (“of something that [begins to exist yet] does not need a cause” [brackets mine for context]) or of something that does not need an explanation. But these are things that I already agree with, which you also have come to agree with, and are, by the way, principles that work in favor of two different theistic arguments (namely, the first premise of the Kalaam Cosmological Argument and the first premise of Liebnitz’s Argument from Contingency). 

    Where this has come from and where we are is now is quite amusing. You were arguing that the universe beginning to exist (the second premise in the Kalaam cosmological argument) is unknowable by offering the in principle objection above you no longer affirm. I take it now that you have reversed your position, that you think the universe beginning to exist is knowable. If so, and you’d need to clarify that, then the logical arguments for God’s existence such do provide evidence for God’s existence. Accordingly, Dawkin’s central argument as you have construed it ([being] “where the *^#) is the evidence for god? The claim that god exists is extraordinary, but the evidence is anything but.”) is hollow at its core, since there is evidence for God. Also, as Bnonn pointed out, that the claim that God exists is only extraordinary if you already believe that God does not exist, so using this in an argument against God’s existence is obviously circular reasoning. 

    Re the evidence for Vishnu, you say “Right, so the disciples of Vishnu are not going to be bothered that I can’t see vishnu or his miracles. They will have explanations for why I can’t see him just as you do for your god.” I don’t know where you got any of this from. I don’t know the evidence for Vishnu. Is there some? Do the disciples of Vishnu offer any? I don’t know the expectation of there being more evidence than there is if Vishnu existed. What I do know, and this was the point if you recall, is that for Christianity there is no expectation that the evidence for God, if God exists, should be more than the amount of evidence there appears to be now. If you’re going to continue with this argument that the supposed lack of evidence for God’s existence is evidence that he does not exist, then the burden of proving that point (that there is expectation of more evidence if God does exist) is placed solidly and squarely on your shoulders. 

    Re the field of cosmology: It is acceptable practice for any layman to survey the experts with the relevant expertise to see where the majority stand on the issue in order to conclude that it is reasonable to believe said issue. So I don’t need understanding of the field of cosmology. I just need an understanding that the field is generally united in their belief that the universe began to exist in order for me to conclude that belief is reasonable. And thats what we have. 

    That GR breaks down for a singularity is not new news – everyone always knew that. Quantum physics will need to be introduced at the point when space is shrunk to sub-atomic proportions and no one knows how to do that yet. Also, the expansion of the universe is probably not constant, as per the Standard Big Bang Model, but none of these adjustments need effect the fundamental prediction of the standard model that the universe began to exist. 

    Re Stephen Hawking saying that nearly everyone believes now that the universe, including time itself, began to exist: I’ve looked it up and he said it in 1996 in The Nature of Space and Time with Roger Penrose. Are you claiming that since then there has been a major sea-change in opinion? 

    Re “what these people actually think about their own theories.” It sounds like you’ve been hitting up these non-academic, debunking type websites where people quote things without understanding them properly and out of context with the pretense of providing context. What you need to do is read whole papers from trustworthy sources, and then quote what is unequivocal. 

    In summary, I’ve spent way too much time going back and forth with you, and I’m still awaiting the demonstration that Dawkin’s central argument is cogent. If you deem to reply, I’m not going respond until you say something new or have made the demonstration clearly. I suppose that would mean you actually watch the video posted above, and come to a proper understanding of what Dawkin’s central argument actually is. Until you offer something substantive and worthy to think on, I don’t want to waste my time on further interaction. Someone else can pick up the tread if they want.

  23. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi Marc!

    I have to say I don’t think that religious belief is ONLY a geo-politico-social thing, but it is largely that. I certainly agree that people convert to christianity, but what about people who convert to other religions, or de-convert? As it happens, christianity is typically the lowest growing religion, and when the world population growth is taken into account, it’s shrinking.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups#Trends_in_adherence

    I couldn’t agree more that the dominance of a religion in a region does not necessarily validate it’s truth claims. All I am claiming is that a person’s religion is largely determined by the religion that they are born into. This shows that religion has nothing to do with its truth claims. Or if you still think it does, then why is christianity shrinking?

    I certainly agree that I am probably only an atheist because I live in the first world. But I was not brought up an atheist, I was brought up in a christian home. I am an atheist not because secular society ridicules religion without sophistication, but because secular society offers [more] freedom, and proper evaluation can only be done from freedom. And being born into christianity limits freedom just as you would claim being born into islam does.

  24. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman,

    I said I wasn’t going to respond but this latest reply to Marc is putting a spin on things that shouldn’t be ignored.
    I went to the link you provided and the chart does not confirm your conclusion that Christianity is shrinking. It confirms Christianity grew 1.32% per annum between 2000 and 2005 – quite plainly. When you take the worlds population growth rate into account, Christianity is still growing. What is shrinking is the proportion of adherents of Christianity to the total world population. This puts a much different light on things than the light you shone on it.
    Whats interesting to me is that you mention a persons religion is largely determined by a religions birth rate, but fail to mention that Christianity far outstrips any other religion in terms of actual conversions. In other words, that statistics show that more than is that case for any other religion, if you are a Christian you are far more likely to have become one after not being one. You also do not take cognizance of the fact that counting percentage growth will tend to favour smaller religions, while counting actual numbers will tend to favour larger religions.
    But all this all has nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of Christianity, or any other religion or (non-religious category) for that matter.
    A helpful reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claims_to_be_the_fastest-growing_religion

  25. Marc.
    Marc. says:

    Hi Peter
     you make some very valid points worthy of consideration. I don’t neccessarily believe that the points support your views however. You have basically restated one of my initial points, the ‘heriditary’ or ‘social conditioning’ model of belief cannot adequately explain people converting to other religions or atheism. In fact this whole line of reasoning stands refuted by your own experience, despite being brought up in a Christian environment you were not conditioned to believe and after your own consideration rejected Christianity as false. The same is true for the atheist who comes to believe Christianity is true.
    In that light the notion that religion has nothing to do with truth claims is not something I would not hold to be true. In fact to me, that statement betrays a train of thought I cant quite understand. Religion, including atheism is completely envoloped in its truth claims otherwise we are all indulging in pointless mythology. The Bible even makes this clear; if Christianity were false then we should be pitied for being so foolish. All truths cant be true no matter how much we all hope our individual truth is. Thankfully we are all free to evaluate the arguments and evidence on offer and decide where we believe the truth rests. In my reasoning, the evidence from multiple disciplines points to Christianity being true.

  26. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    Unfortunately you have misunderstood my position.

    I stated: “I agree that you don’t need to know the cause of something in order to know something began to exist.”

    This statement most certainly does not say that something can be causeless. It merely states….what it states. Just because we don’t NEED TO KNOW the cause of something in order to know that something began to exist, does NOT mean that that something can be causeless.

    So I am stating that there has never been anything observed that doesn’t have a cause. To conclude that, suddenly, the universe can violate this is bad reasoning.

    I have no objection to the universe beginning to exist any more than I have an objection to the idea that I(me) began to exist. However the idea that the universe began to exist with NO CAUSE is as ridiculous as the idea that I began to exist with NO CAUSE.

    ” If you’re going to continue with this argument that the supposed lack
    of evidence for God’s existence is evidence that he does not exist, then
    the burden of proving that point (that there is expectation of more
    evidence if God does exist) is placed solidly and squarely on your
    shoulders. ”
    I think that the main position of Dawkins and most atheists is “Where the heck is god? I don’t see him.” If there is good evidence out there, then it is up to you to show it. Unfortunately the only evidence that people ever come up with is completely subjective. And the idea that god has good reason to hide is no respectable standard of evidence, it is what all religious and quack-y claims are based upon.

    You’re right we are getting nowhere. I would suggest that you do some reading about current cosmology.

    “including time itself, began to exist”
    I also can’t help but notice that if it were convenient to you you would be all over this statement. You would mock it. How can time begin to exist? How can time apply to time? But, of course, it is not convenient to your argument and so you ignore it. This just goes to prove my point that logic is almost useless. Far more important is choosing how, when and where to use it. You chose it with the end of christianity in mind.

  27. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Hi Peterpieman,

    I find your latest response quite concessionary. You are affirming that the universe has a cause, that you have no problem with the universe beginning to exist, nothing without a cause has ever been observed, and that it is ridiculous to think that something can begin to exist without a cause. On all of these, I wholeheartedly agree, and its surprising indeed that you should be so negative towards the theistic arguments.

    I think that the main position of Dawkins and most atheists is “Where the heck is god? I don’t see him.”

    No. I think that main position of Dawkins is that that God almost certainly does not exist. This is the conclusion of his central argument. An argument you have yet to demonstrate is cogent.
    I agree with you that it is up for me to show that there is good evidence for God – because I make the positive claim that God exists. Using the same rules, because you make the positive claim that all the evidence that people ever come up with us completely subjective, you have to show it. But again, you have merely asserted this. An assertion made all the more remarkable in the face of what you are willing to concede. Take the Kalaam Cosmological Argument for instance. You strongly endorse the first premise, as well as the conclusion. You hesitate on agreeing with the second premise for some reason, but clearly agree that the answer to this (the beginning of the universe) is not a matter of mere subjective opinion. So your assertion is fatally flawed. Worse, I’m pretty sure you would agree at this point with all the premises of the Contingency Argument for God’s existence.

    And the idea that god has a good reason to hide is no respectable standard of evidence, it is what all religious and quack-y claims are based upon

    This is quite sad that you would continue in this error. I have explained it you before. I’ll do so again for good measure.
    I’m working with the evidence I can show you (specifically as an example the Kalaam Cosmological Argument). You claim its not enough because what evidence there is is all subjective and God should have given better. Firstly, as I’ve just done above, I’ve shown that you yourself don’t believe the evidence is all subjective. Second, I also gave the counterargument that God may have a good reason for making his existence just as obvious as it is (i.e. not more, not less). Effectively, I’m disagreeing with your claim that God should have made his existence more obvious than he has by suggesting he may have good reason not to. I’m asking you to prove the claim you have made by showing that God should have given better evidence of his existence. This being your claim It is your burden to show that God does not have a good reason to make the evidence of his existence more obvious than what it is.
    Re time beginning to exist: I don’t know why you think its a problem for me. (I agree with it on the basis of science which has discovered that time is a physical dimension not unlike space, and not discounting – as you do – Steven Hawking and Roger Penrose’s strong endorsement on the state scholarly opinion on this.) I think its a problem for the atheist, since if time came into being with the universe than the cause of time must have the property of timelessness. It sounds like you continue to think that it is nonsensical to say that something begins to exist or is caused to exist without there being a prior time. But I’ve covered this ground already. All you need for the notion to be coherent is a simultaneous and subsequent time. And thats what we have for the beginning of the universe.

  28. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    Yes christianity is growing, but that is kind of a meaningless statement when all (of the major) religions are growing. A more accurate reading would be to state that christianity is declining as a percentage of the world’s population. What matters to the topic at hand that Marc and I were discussing is the RelativE growth of christianity, because Marc brought up the conversion of people to christianity.

    I don’t know where you get your fact about christianity outstripping other religions in “actual conversions”. I’m not denying it, I just don’t know where you get it from.

    The first sentence of you link says “Most increase in the population of any religious denomination is simply due to births.”
    How are people supposed to know whether they have been born into the correct religion given that their thinking about religion is so coloured by their upbringing?

  29. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Hi Marc,

    No I completely agree with you that social conditioning and upbringing cannot explain conversions in any direction. That is why I brought up statistics. If christianity was the only True religion I would expect that people who ‘wake up’ from their conditioning and get the opportunity to look around objectively would, of course, choose christianity since it is the only True religion. This is not obviously the case, however.

    I see what you mean about my story being contrary to the conditioning thing. Firstly, I was conditioned to christianity until I matured and left home. What I was trying to say in my last post, though, is that the best decisions are made when we are Free. Freedom of information, freedom from social groups, freedom from family. These freedoms are highest in Western society I think, and it is in these societies that there is the highest prevalence of non-religiousness. You may disagree, of course, maybe you think that modern Western society is not the most free, but I can’t see that argument having much evidence.

    I agree with you that religion is not competely removed from its truth claims, and atheism is not completely removed from conditioning. The question is, which worldview is the most removed from conditioning. I think that the trend in modern society shows which is.

  30. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Peterpieman,

    I don’t know where you get your fact about christianity outstripping other religions in “actual conversions”. I’m not denying it, I just don’t know where you get it from.

    I got the information from the wikipedia link I provided, which got the information from the 2005 Encyclopædia Britannica. The 1.38% growth rate you gave was taken from the 1990-2000 version of the World Christian Database.

    How are people supposed to know whether they have been born into the correct religion given that their thinking about religion is so coloured by their upbringing?

    Try to assess the arguments and evidence each provide as fairly as possible. Be open to the possibility you are wrong. Avoid logical fallacies. Steer clear of irrelevancies like appeals to the chances of being born in another religion, social conditioning, freedom of religion in the west. Something you might want to try.

  31. Peterpieman
    Peterpieman says:

    Stuart,

    Sorry for the late reply.

    “I find your latest response quite concessionary. You are affirming…..negative towards the theistic arguments”

    Hmmmn! I strongly suggest that the universe has a cause, by induction. Sorry to say it again and again but everything that we have ever observed has a cause, so it would be aberrant to claim that the universe does not.

    There is the problem, though, that I have only just realized explicitly, that if the universe does have a cause, then that cause cannot be outside of the universe by definition! And there is the old problem that that cause must also have a cause which must have a cause….. I am quite comfortable with this/these contradictions because…..well, because they are the state of the matter.
    (A little later you talk of how I agree with much of the Kalam argument – I hope you can see from the above that this is not to be)

    “No. I think that main position of Dawkins is that that God almost
    certainly does not exist. This is the conclusion of his central
    argument. An argument you have yet to demonstrate is cogent.”

    Okay, sure. And I think that using an epistemology where evidence has to be objective, this is the case. And the case that evidence has to be objective can be made from examining what evidence looks like in areas where we know that we have been led down the wrong path.

    “I agree with you that it is up for me to show that there is good
    evidence for God – because I make the positive claim that God exists.
    Using the same rules, because you make the positive claim that all the
    evidence that people ever come up with us completely subjective, you
    have to show it. But again, you have merely asserted this”

    The problem here is that any evidence that is convincing to you that proves that god exists is going to fall short of what I demand. And what I demand is quite simple: objectivity. And any evidence that I come up with to show that your evidence is subjective you are going to disagree with. However, your demands are quite complex: you are only going to accept your ancient texts and your religions claims to miracles, and your axiomatic assumptions.

    “I’m asking you to prove the claim you have made by showing that God should have given better evidence of his existence.”
    If I believe that god has reasons for remaining hidden, then I am completely exposed to believing the subjective claims of any religion. Particularly one in which I was born into:

    “Steer clear of irrelevancies like appeals to the chances of being born
    in another religion, social conditioning, freedom of religion in the
    west.”

    I think that you have not come to terms with reality Staurt. Denying that people are largely conditioned by the religion and culture into which they are born and brought up is just a flat denial of reality. In fact, I’ll bet that you DO believe that people are conditioned into religions, just not yours. Ha!

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