What Our Objections to God Say about Us

Most objections to Christianity, or to religion more broadly, are hardly unique. So, encountering this fairly typical description of six “paths to atheism” seems as good an opportunity as any to address them.

I’ve come to realize that our objections to God’s existence tell us more about ourselves than about Him. Most can be boiled down to three basic realities of our psychology and the human condition:

1. The limits of the human brain to fully comprehend the world,

2. The human inclination to doubt, and

3. The human inclination to sin.

First, the limits of the human brain. The author of this post, blogger Chad Becker, begins with the question of God’s infiniteness. He simply cannot wrap his mind around the idea that God has existed for all of time. It is so obvious as to be cliche. Thus, this is his first path to atheism.

But is it really easier for us to fathom a point in time at which there was no universe and no God? Either way, we cannot comprehend God’s nature in the same sense that we can comprehend the nature of an orange. The part can never grasp the whole, and we are most certainly but a part of the universe we inhabit. Even if my thumbnail possessed consciousness, along with a vague awareness that it was part of something bigger than itself, could my thumbnail ever fully comprehend the human body in all its intricate complexity? Certainly not. But it would make even less sense for my thumbnail to cling to the belief that it was all there was, denying the existence of the greater body.

Becker also admits to being unable to fathom heaven (point six). To which I would respond that neither can anyone else. But saying “I’ve never been to the center of the earth; I just can’t imagine what it would be like there,” is not to admit that the center of the earth does not exist.

Religion is not the only field to offer seemingly incomprehensible conclusions; just look at science. People struggled to accommodate themselves to Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, Newton’s physics, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. When we study the world from a scientific perspective, as from a religious perspective, there exists the same condition of knowing something without fully comprehending it. I know that time and space are relative, but my brain still struggles with what that means. I know that God is infinite, but I am likewise at a loss to articulate all the implications of this concept. Don’t even ask for a precise explanation of the trinity. Likewise, even the best, most brilliant scientists struggle to explain the origins of human life or the exact nature of matter. We are time and again forced to admit that there is much we do not know. Thus, Christianity has always acknowledged the existence of mystery. The fact that we cannot comprehend something does not make it untrue.

Secondly, doubt. It is in many ways a mark of intelligence and maturity to be willing to doubt what one has been taught, especially when one encounters different teachings. The alternative would be to refuse to consider opposing views, insisting that one already possesses all the answers and therefore everyone else must be wrong.

So what are we to make of all the religious diversity we encounter? Becker admits this to be the true source of his doubt (point two). He realizes that if he were born into a Mormon family, he would likely be a Mormon. If he had been born in India, he would likely be a Hindu. Religion, then, is just each unique culture claiming an unfounded monopoly on truth. So what if Christians have a book they use to justify their claims? Islam has a book. Mormonism has a book. In Becker’s words, “Nothing distinguishes one religion’s claims as more valid on an evidence based level.”

While this is certainly a common objection in the modern, globalized age, it is not too difficult to dispense with. One can start by pointing to all the similarities between the world’s great religions. Doesn’t the fact that certain teachings crop up in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism support their validity? Take, for instance, the obligation to care for the weak and needy, the understanding of man as a basically flawed being, the need to cultivate virtue, and the possibility of life after death.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observes:

If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own… Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two make five.”

The commonality of many belief systems from around the world supports natural law theory — the idea that we can use reason, common sense, and experience to arrive at a set of universal moral norms. Any child who has every screamed “That’s not fair!” has appealed to the idea of a universal code of human behavior that all should be able to recognize (though all don’t always follow). It is as if a moral code had been inscribed upon our hearts, a “conscience” if you will. If there is a universal, natural law (beyond mere human laws, which will vary), then there must be a universal law-giver, and this we know as God.

And yet while the world’s diverse cultures have long subscribed to a set of strikingly similar norms of behavior, they are not all the same, and they are not equal. In Hinduism, widows were once burned to death. Various cultures have practiced some form of human sacrifice. Around the world today, there are certain cultures that continue to victimize women and children. The Gospel of Matthew instructs “by their fruits you shall know them.” It is no coincidence that the very idea of human rights and women’s rights first emerged in a Christian context. Christians were the first to oppose infanticide, establishing the first orphanages to care for unwanted children. While some have perverted scripture to attempt to justify slavery, as Becker notes, Christians were also the first to abolish slavery entirely on the grounds that it was in fact anti-Christian.

While similar to other religions in its basis in natural law, Christianity is also unique. It is the only religion to claim to have been founded by God Himself. Muhammad is to Muslim’s but a prophet; Buddha and Confucius were to their followers but wise teachers. Yet Christians believe that Jesus was and is God, the Word made Flesh. No other religion has anything like the Incarnation or the Resurrection. No other religion can provide as firm a foundation for human rights. By becoming human Himself, God endowed humanity with a unique dignity and worth. This fact should be enough to make us pause and consider Christianity as more than just one of many moral systems from which to choose.

People often criticize Christians for trying to convert people of other faiths, as if such an action was based in a negative judgment of their existing faith. But imagine we are all in a river (life), headed for a great waterfall (death). The end seems inevitable, except there is a narrow stream – partially obscured by branches – leading off to the safety of land. Would we criticize someone for venturing out into the raging waters to help others reach the stream of salvation? Or would we more criticize the one who contents himself with his own salvation, letting others choose their own way though knowing it leads to ruin? The latter course is “tolerant,” the former loving.

Becker’s fourth and fifth paths to atheism stem from a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Bible, which is not one book but a library of seventy-two books, varying greatly in their authors, contexts, and purposes, collected and compiled over the centuries. A mass of writing such as this cannot be expected to be fully understood without a great deal of careful study. If one is intent to cherry-pick verses, it can be easily misread and misunderstood. (This is why the Catholic Church has always pointed to the need for authority in interpreting scripture, and why Luther’s Reformation wrought so many conflicting interpretations.)

However, it is impossible to consider the Bible as a whole and miss the essential message of God’s love for humanity and the importance of compassion and repentance. In his effort to instruct humanity, God did not begin by unloading the entire truth in one sitting, just as we would not begin instructing a child in Shakespeare and Einstein. We would first prepare a foundation, instilling basic concepts of reading, writing, and arithmetic. A child passes through many teachers in his life to prepare him to for his ultimate career, just as God sent many prophets to prepare the way for His Son. In the Gospel, Jesus clearly states that he is establishing a new covenant, not to replace God’s covenant with Abraham, but to complete and perfect it.

The third human obstacle to understanding God is a big one – sin. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden, the very first sin sprang from doubts about God’s ultimate goodness (the idea that He might be selfishly hoarding wisdom) and the desire to be like Him: to possess knowledge of good and evil. At the root of all sin is rebellion against God; specifically the desire to replace His judgment with our own. Returning to natural law, C.S. Lewis states:

These, then, are the two points I want to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious desire that they should behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it.

A consequence of human sinfulness is that we live in a pretty messed-up world, a world where even professing Christians do terrible things – not because they are Christian, but because they are human beings, and therefore fallen. The schoolyard bully knows full-well that it is wrong to pick on the weaker kids. He does so anyway. But we humans are also masters of self-delusion. Often at the earliest sensation that what we want to do is wrong, we come up with elaborate justifications, even telling ourselves that it is all for the best.

In Becker’s third point, he criticizes Christians as narcissistic for attributing all the good in their lives to God, as if God cared more about them scoring an “A” on that test or landing a new promotion than the welfare of the millions of people in the world left to suffer. Certainly Christians are not immune from the very human vices of narcissism and vanity. All that is good in our lives does ultimately trace back to God, but what the world calls good is not what God calls good. For example, most people long for riches and would thus celebrate an increase in their personal fortunes. But from the perspective of one’s soul, riches may impede the path to heaven and eternal life; thus they can be bad. As Christians, we should perhaps begin to thank God more for the challenges and obstacles in our lives, especially those that provide opportunities for spiritual growth, and get rid of this notion that God just wants us to be happy and comfortable.

All this talk of sin makes atheists like Becker especially uncomfortable, as it leads to the most abhorrent of states – guilt. This is no surprise, as the creed of postmodernism may as well be “always feel good about yourself, no matter what!” How terrible to sense that one may not be as good as one would like to believe! How awful to imagine that one’s sexual desires should sometimes (as in the case of homosexuality and adultery) be suppressed and not indulged! How can man ever be truly happy if he is always obsessed with following rules?!

To Becker, there should really only be one rule – “just be a nice person.” In this very popular line of thinking, we should stop preaching our “thou shalt not’s” and just leave people alone for goodness’-sake. Remove the warning lights and the guardrails. Because the last thing we would ever want is to make someone feel like they are not “just fine the way they are,” like they have the potential to be so much more, like this life is not the end. Becker finds the very concept “gross,” and he is glad to be free of it. But returning to the analogy of the waterfall, is it “nice” to watch as people float by towards the waterfall, oblivious to the impending disaster? Or is it at best moral laziness and cowardice? The path of repentance is uncomfortable to be sure, but the path of sin does not lead to happiness, in this life or the next.

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29 thoughts on “What Our Objections to God Say about Us

  1. Great post. I thought of the “turtles all the way down” argument turned around on the “be a nice person” argument. It sounds great, but how does one be a nice person? Why, by being _____ or doing ________. Whatever that blank is filled in with, from a secular perspective, it only creates more turtles. There is no foundation, no anchor. Why this moral? Ok, why that moral? The further you go, the more you are proving that there is a natural inclination to want laws, but without acknowledging a lawmaker, the laws go on forever.

    • Why is it then that about .1% of the US prison population is atheist? Seems you guys are the ones that might check your foundation for cracks. Big gaping cracks that don’t help anyone be good

      • I’m really curious as to where you get your .1% figure, considering most estimates range from 3-10% identifying as atheist.
        I really can’t take seriously a call to check the foundations of my rationality from someone who doesn’t research their statistics.

      • Even if your numbers were right, it’s still less than religious numbers by a long shot. Your number still favors atheist morals over religion

      • I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean. How does a statistic demonstrating the quantity of a minority favor that minority’s morals over the majority?

      • If atheists are so bad, with no morals, what aren’t there more imprisoned atheists proportionate to Christians? It’s not a hard correlation to see

  2. “Sin” is a word that isnt used outside of the context of Abrahamic religions; it’s inapplicable to a large fraction of the world.
    Morality and religion/spirituality are not mutually exclusive; and to suggest that one’s ethical fitness has anything to do with the philosophy they hold on theism and atheism is simply ignorant. Whether or not one believes in creationism has nothing to do with their moral decency.

    • Whatever you want to call it, we can all understand sin as overstepping an important boundary or violating basic moral norms. Just look at how even secular liberals pounce on the sins of politically incorrect (dare I say it, blasphemous) speech. An atheist can be a good person. A “Christian” can be a bad person. But our values must be based on something other than “that’s just how I feel about x issue.” And Christianity offers the most solid foundation for a morality that recognizes the human rights of each individual human life, regardless of political/ social status.

    • I would also like to offer the example of the “Good Samaritan” as evidence that one need not be formally religious to be/do good. But one must reference some higher power if one is to possibly define or explain goodness.

      • Actually I disagree with that definition of sin. A sin is not what oversteps basic moral norms, it is what oversteps religious moral norms. Big difference.
        I also very much disagree with the idea that belief in a higher power is necessary to define and explain goodness. Compassion, empathy, love, and charity are all derived from the very basic emotions that we have evolved to have and are still evolving in.

      • So you are arguing that emotions form the basis of morality? What about anger, contempt, disgust, and fear? We have also evolved these. Remove God and the only morality possible is radically subjective relativism, which is no morality at all, just personal taste. Absolute moral standards (I.e. It is always wrong to take innocent human life) require some reference to a higher power, a standard that exists beyond subjective judgment.
        Your first point is semantics… Every belief system defines things that are acceptable and things that represent transgressions. Christians call this sin. In the secular world it can be known as simply offense. Just look at how outraged people are always getting these days over the slightest infractions of what constitutes acceptable speech or behavior (tweets, kids hoodies, costumes, etc). I would prefer the Inquisition to the modern social media witch hunt… At least the church gave people the chance to answer for their alleged crimes!

  3. Lauren, I enjoyed reading your blog. I think it’s an important topic and have always wondered why more people don’t want to discuss it, especially when the topic has such an impact on our lives on earth and possibly hereafter. As you know I used to be Catholic. I’m not anymore. Now I am agnostic, not atheist. My belief is that god doesn’t exist, but I just don’t know. I can’t know. I offer up the possibility that I could be wrong. I have for a long time regarded the idea of belief or faith when it comes to religion as an interesting concept. It doesn’t offer up a possibility of doubt. A possible conversation with someone who believes in god….. Do you believe in god? “Yes, I believe in God.” Do you know for sure that god exists? “No, but I believe He does.” Is it possible that god does not exist? “No.” …..There is no doubt. In my mind if there is no doubt, then you know. For example, did the Vikings win their playoff game? Yes, I believe they did (the person responding thought they heard someone on tv say that the Vikings had won, but they weren’t quite sure if they heard it right because they weren’t completely paying attention to the tv). Pressed further. Do you know if they won? No, I don’t. There is doubt there. When it comes to religion the idea of belief or faith is almost like a politically correct way of saying that you know it to be true.
    I liked your thumbnail analogy. We are a part of existence. We have something ancient in us, and therefore we are so far away from it. Given that, we lack the ability to understand it. To borrow a song lyric, “I can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try. It’s like a song playing right in my ear, that I can’t sing, but I can’t help listening.” (Jackson Browne)
    If god has always existed, then why can’t the universe have always existed? Why does it have to have been created? Can our minds that constantly see a beginning and an end comprehend that? If we can believe that god has always existed, then why would it be so hard to believe that about the universe – an infinite universe – no beginning and no end? The “big bang” was just a miniscule transformation of this part of the universe. If there is no beginning to our universe, no creation, then there is no creator.
    I have always wondered how people who don’t take the story of Adam and Eve literally, and believe in some sort of evolution, marry that belief with the belief in heaven. If there is some sort of belief in evolution, then when did god deem humans worthy of heaven? And if that happened, then there is a delineation that goes like this. At some point, a parent was not deemed worthy, but the child was. How bizarre is that?
    Is this possible? God did not create man in his image, rather man created god in man’s image. The Bible or many religious books at times just seem so petty and just reek of man’s ideas. Eve was created out of Adam’s rib. She tempted Adam. From Deuteronomy, “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” There are numerous other examples, and trust me, I know that there is beauty and compassion in many other verses. Why is it that someone who is homosexual has to suppress it and be heterosexual? They have as much desire to be heterosexual as I do to be homosexual. It’s not a choice for me. Why is it for them? What is wrong with it? Is anyone being hurt by it?
    I lived in Saudi Arabia for seven years. I was constantly asked why I wasn’t Muslim. People felt the need to save me. I hated it. I could never truly tell them how I felt about religion. If I had, I would have at some point been shown the door or worse. I happily flow down the river. I don’t believe in the waterfall. I understand the desire to save, but it bothers me. There’s a certain hubris about it.
    Lastly, I will take the possibility of man-made disasters (war etc.) out of the equation to try to keep it simple. How could god allow this to happen? An eight year old child is playing in his home in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, December 26, 2004. Without warning, a huge tsunami crushes his body and drowns him. God allows this to happen? How? Well it’s ok, he may not have lived much of his life on earth, but he will spend eternity in heaven. Wait. No he won’t. According to Christianity, he wasn’t baptized or he never took Christ as his savior. Now that’s not fair. Even the schoolyard bully could agree with that.
    With everything I have written, you might say that it seems like you are an atheist not an agnostic. If so, I would understand. But my final point is this. I just don’t know if god exists and I never will. I offer up the possibility, but for me it’s just not very probable.

    • Dave,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I am honored to have you as a reader and appreciate the opportunity to extend our conversations. I’m going to try to engage you on some of your points.
      First, I would say that – despite my interest in examining its rational basis – religious belief always requires an element of faith (hence the term, faiths). We cannot know of God’s existence in the same way that we know the Vikings won their playoff game. We can know it in the sense that we know our mother loves us. From a purely rational standpoint, she might be lying when she says she loves us. Or she might be trying to conform to some societal expectation. Could it all be part of some elaborate hoax? Perhaps. But when we combine the feeling we get in her presence with her words and actions, we can make the decision to believe. Faith, like love, is in many ways a decision. I choose to believe that this bridge will not collapse beneath me. I choose to believe that my teachers and mentors have my best interests at heart. Yet doubt can always find its way in. If you have met anyone who claims they have never doubted, I’d have to imagine they are either lying or the kind of person who just doesn’t think much. One of Jesus’ own disciples (Thomas) famously doubted. Mother Theresa confessed deep and persistent doubts, even as she chose to not let them stand in her way of putting the message of the Gospel into action and serve the poor.
      Second, as for the universe… I think science is pretty clear about the Big Bang, which offers evidence to support the Christian teaching of a created universe. We observe the world around us and see that everything in existence came from something else. If we were to subject this observation to an infinite regression, we would have to arrive at a First Cause. Incidentally, this is one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ five rational proofs of God’s existence. Even the scientists and philosophers of the Age of Reason admitted the need to acknowledge God in the very least as the First Mover (even the Deists, who dismissed so much of religion as superstitious nonsense knew they could not rationally dispense with God entirely).
      Third, I would argue that reason can only get us so far in understanding God. There is still the need for revelation. Imagine reading all of Shakespeare’s plays. You may think you have a pretty good idea of who Shakespeare was by reading his work. But at some point, you would need a real autobiography to learn about his life. When we look out at the world, we see God’s handiwork, which points back to God himself. But we need the Bible to really understand his relation to us and his purpose for us. A basic part of the Catholic catechism is that God created us to know, love, and serve him in this world and be happy with him in the next. While Genesis 1 is often dismissed as fairytale – and whether or not there was a literal Adam and Eve – it contains a great deal of truth about human anthropology that has been supported by science. For example, men and women are similar but different (the whole created from a rib thing). Jordan Petersen, a clinical psychologist, has done a whole series of podcasts on the psychological truths to be found in Genesis. For example, did you know that humans have the best eyesight of almost any species? Only predatory birds even come close. Petersen explains how the need for this eyesight comes from the need to be able to recognize two dangers that have long plagued man from an evolutionary standpoint – snakes and poison fruits. And what does Genesis warn against?
      I was not familiar with that passage from Deuteronomy, but it seems to be the only passage calling for mutilation as punishment in the whole Bible, and most people don’t interpret it literally. Cut off her hand = make her pay (with money) for what she has done, showing no mercy on account of her sex. You could compare this to Jesus instructing his disciples to cut off their hands if their hands cause them to sin — more to make a point than an actual command.
      When it comes to the sexual teachings of the Bible, all men and women are instructed to suppress their inclinations that do not align with God’s plan. This does not just apply to homosexuality, but to married couples practicing contraception. Sure, it’s difficult to live a Biblical teaching of sexuality, but the reward certainly justifies the cost. One can point to the negative impacts of sex outside of marriage on society, but I have read many testimonials of people who once lived a homosexual lifestyle who admit that it did not bring them happiness in the long run (just as no sin does, no matter how much we try to justify it).
      Getting back to salvation, I’ll bring up Pascal’s wager — he could not know God’s existence with 100% certainty, so he was left with two choices. If he led his life as if God existed, what did he have to lose? Nothing really, as people who follow the teachings of religion are in general happier. Reverse the situation. What if he lived his life as though God did no exist, only to discover he was wrong? Well, eternal damnation, I guess… which is not to say I believe that all non-Christians are damned (I do not claim to know the fate of any man’s soul). The problem of human mortality is not God’s doing… it was a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin (The Fall), which had to be redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice. We all – like the child in Indonesia – could be called from this world at a moment’s notice. This would only be cruel if there was no afterlife and no path to that afterlife. An atheist has to come to grips with the idea that people who do terrible things in this life will never pay for them, and innocent people will never be rewarded for their goodness. I don’t know how you can even survive thinking about the world in those terms; it seems a path to madness or despair.
      So, in summary… I didn’t actually know about your religious background and current status as an agnostic, but I hope I have answered some of your points. I consider you someone who lives his life in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, whether or not that is the reason behind your actions. Your life is an example of kindness and compassion. I, on the other hand, can rationally articulate the faith, but find myself lacking in these attributes at times. Who will God judge better? Let’s just say I would not put any money on the fate of my own soul over yours!

      • Thanks for your response Lauren. And so quickly. You have a well that runs deep, from years of reading and curiosity. Good way to be. Stay curious. Thanks for the kind words. Maybe too kind on me and a little hard on yourself. You are without a doubt, a good person. We could all be better.

  4. Writer of the article used as the crux of this article here! Found your message letting me know you wrote this! Cool! This was my response on my blog as of tonight. I’ll be back sometime in the next week to check in and contribute more time, but this is all I could muster at the moment, as I mention in my response:

    *Opens article*

    *Attempts to ignore how pious the title already is considering the olive branch you pretended to extend (in your comment to me) just now…*

    The largest hole that your counter points to mine seem to fall in can be categorized as “You are starting from an assumption that God exists and working backwards”, or expecting me to “prove a negative” based on that starting point.

    I don’t know how to debate your arguments when they are of this nature: “But is it really easier for us to fathom a point in time at which there was no universe AND no God?”

    To beg that assurtion; that a “God” existing makes that statement more sound, is of no logical merit. You are just proving where your bias starting-point is.

    Your next paragraph, as such:

    “Becker also admits to being unable to fathom heaven (point six). To which I would respond that neither can anyone else. But saying “I’ve never been to the center of the earth; I just can’t imagine what it would be like there,” is not to admit that the center of the earth does not exist.”

    …is a straw-man of what my point really was. I notice you took my thesis and disected nothing further. Your response does not address any of the points that led to that conclusion.

    Already, I’m exhausted about the idea of dissecting this further, as I feel you are writing with a predetermined conclusion in mind. I have work in the morning and I know digging into your next paragraph where you assert that ‘scientific theories can be hard to comprehend, and so is the idea about god, therefor GOD!’ would take me the next hour because of the layers of obsurdness your quick analogy steam rolled over…

    So with that, I will be checking back tomorrow. Or the next day. Whenever I know I have hours to unpack how much is packed into these assertion sentences…

  5. So hard…to not reply…to some points…should go to bed…

    One of your counter paragraphs starts with this and continues with this exact thought: “While similar to other religions in its basis in natural law, Christianity is also unique. It is the only religion to claim to have been founded by God Himself.”

    Do you realize how circular that is?

    If I handed you a piece of paper that said “Everything the person who handed you this paper says is true.” and then I told you that I was god, you would have to believe me! Why? Because I am god! But how do you know that? Because the paper I handed you tells you so! What if you don’t believe the paper? You have to, it was written by me, God! etc etc etc…

    What a nothing embarrassing point continuing to show your logical bias…

  6. Allow me to inform you how your final paragraph looks like from the outside:

    “But returning to the analogy of the waterfall, is it “nice” to watch as people float by towards the waterfall, oblivious to the impending disaster? ”

    Your assertion that people are “oblivious” to death/morals in this analogy, is insulting.

    Your assertion that “All this talk of sin makes atheists like Becker especially uncomfortable” is insulting.

    I’m not saying you owe me an apology. I’m not saying I’m offended. I don’t get offended. I’m saying “insulting” only to point out how aggressively delusional your assertions are that you are projecting discomfort or obliviousness onto other people, in order to protect your world-view. It’s insulting in the sense that you are no longer just asserting “godly conclusions”, but now you are asserting your own bias assumptions into other peoples heads and lives and talking about it as if its fact.

    This was just a longer version of “I will pray for you.” in any other debate I have ever had. You don’t realize how dismissive that is, and it’s just gross…just like I said in my final paragraph of my article. Just gross judgy bullshit you are projecting onto others. Just gross.

    • I do apologize if I came across as dismissive at any point. Not because I’m worried about your feelings, but because that would go against the spirit of humility that is necessary – from both a religious and a scientific standpoint- to approach truth. My point is: sin, doubt, and ignorance are intrinsic to the human condition ( myself included) not just atheists. No, I can’t prove God’s existence, just like you can’t disprove it. It comes down to a choice each person must make for himself – will you live your life as though there is a God or as if there isn’t? I personally think the evidence tilts strongly in Gods favor, but most Christians don’t believe because of logic. It more often comes down to a personal experience or decision. But ultimately agnosticism is not a valid position: you either live as if God exists or as if He doesn’t.

      • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

        That pretty much sums it up. I don’t claim things I know I can’t know, and any “evidence” people reference here on earth quite simply looks exactly like what you’d expect it to look like, when you look back at the dawn of man trying to explain the big mysterious world around them.

  7. First, thank you for a great article. It is intelligent and well-written. My thoughts:

    1. Limits of the human brain.

    I think there is a big problem saying ‘god existed before the universe, there was nothing else and never has been’. It’s really just an argument of ‘the bible said so’, which is the whole point – we atheists don’t think it’s true just because it’s in a book. So I don’t think you are bringing up anything new or interesting here.

    There are many concepts we can’t fully grasp: Again this is true. Again I can’t see it scoring points. Animals aren’t smart enough to ask existential questions, does this prove anything other than the limit of their brain? The best you can say is it doesn’t *disprove* god.

    2. Doubt

    I really like your argument about religion having common factors. Unfortunately I think it falls foul of the fact that humans are social animals – certain behaviours and expectations are part of (most of) our species, which is why we exhibit behaviour such as caring for our young or our sick or elderly. I’m not saying ‘we just do it’ either, I’m saying that tribes of humans that cared for their sick and elderly out-competed those that didn’t, because sick and elderly people are still valuable when they get better or because of their lived experiences. It’s like asking why we like food – the answer is it, it tastes good. It tastes good because those of us attracted to food lived, those who weren’t died.

    As for the whole ‘my religion is unique’, that is as far as I know incorrect. Even a basic google search shows that in Egyptian religion, priests of Ra and egyptian rulers named themselves the son of Ra and Heliopolis’ wife. My understanding is the incarnation of god(s) or his children is hardly uncommon.

    3. Sin

    Again with ‘humans do it so it must be true’. Isn’t it infinitely more likely that humans do it, so we made up something to explain it? We do make up societal rules and have inherent ideas about right and wrong, and we do apply our flawed judgement to determine when we are going to follow those rules.

    Ultimately while well written and thought-provoking, I don’t see how your post does anything but allow christianity to cope with genuine, observable, logical facets of life. Yes, you can fit the world into christianity just like you can any other religion – but there is no reason to.

    • Isaac, thanks for the read. See my response to Chad above. I can’t prove God’s existence, just like you can’t disprove it. We can weigh the evidence, which I think points strongly to the existence of God, but it ultimately comes down to a personal decision: to live your life as if God exists or as if He doesn’t. It’s as if we are both standing at the edge of a bridge and I say “that bridge will hold” and you say “no it’s won’t.” Okay… so which of us is going to walk across it? The fact that I see something of value or necessity on the other side of the bridge does make me more inclined to believe it will hold. Belief matters in so far as it inspires action. So no, I’m not approaching the issue from a completely unbiased perspective. My goal in writing these posts is not so much to convince atheists, but to be thought-provoking as you say and to show that at a minimum religious belief is not irrational.

      • ” We can weigh the evidence, which I think points strongly to the existence of God”

        This i strongly disagree with. You may have made some arguments that let christians keep believing (of the ‘god says so therefore it’s true variety), but all signs point away from existence of a supernatural being.

        We have historical records showing there are thousands upon thousands of different religions. You can handwave by saying ‘oh they all have some commonality and *my* religion is the best one so it must be right’, but the truth is so can every other religion. Just because yours happens to claim your god actually walked the earth doesn’t somehow make it better.

        We have 0 evidence of things that supposedly happened in the bible. Said bible is chock full of inconsistencies and things we now know are factually incorrect. Call them allegorical, point to all the different authors and you still can’t escape the fact that there is no evidence for events which are *strictly said to have happened*, and very little evidence for your main man jesus – and that which exists is very likely to be fraudulent.

        Your books plagiarise heavily from the religions that came before them.

        How about the complete and utter absence of all plausible miracles since there have been ways to verify them?

        You have to come up with excuses. You have to come up with ways of moderating and unifying conflicting messages and real world information. That’s a strong sign you believe in a story.

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