Simplistic Atheism {4}: What could make me an Atheist?


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(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

In this series of exchanges with my friend Daniel, I’ve tried to argue that his Facebook post on why he is an Atheist expressed an overall view of the world that is too small and too simplistic. I think this is because of his empiricist method and materialist conclusion about reality–that all there is is what we can see, touch, feel, etc.

Some concluding remarks

My whole point has not simply been that Daniel’s facts or even his method is wrong. But rather, it finds its proper place, meaning, fullness, and possibility within the Christian view of reality. I have argued in each of my posts that Christianity does not “refute” reason, science, history, skepticism, textual messiness, historical difficulty, or even doubt. Instead, the Gospel encompasses it all, and each of those things find a greater fulfillment in their use, cohesion in the whole of the world, and reality within that place.

I have said that even his Atheism is too small, as even that finds its fullest expression within Christianity. As I’ve said before, Christians make the best Atheists (Dostoevsky said as much as well).

gestalt_triangleAs an analogy, I’d say the whole of the world and reality is similar to Gestalt perception ideas. Where, as the line goes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” For example, look at the image to the left. Daniel’s view is likened to saying, “there are simply three shapes there.” I can fully acknowledge that, but then I’d say that, even within those shapes, there is another shape–a triangle–resonating from within in. He would then ask me to offer evidence of this, and I would simply have to say it’s a matter of perception and a greater principle at work than “mere” sight. He would then ask me to justify my belief using only the three shapes and their own mathematical proportions to prove there was indeed a triangle there as well, and of course, using only the means and methods of the “Pac-Men”, one cannot prove that there is a triangle.

This is the spirit in which I have said that Daniel’s original post represented a “simplistic” view of the world, leading to “simplistic” conclusions, leading to his Atheism. I find myself compelled by the story of Christianity, and the picture of the world it paints.

I picked up my copy of N.T. Wright’s amazing The New Testament and the People of God to refresh myself as to what he might say. He has an amazing section defending his way at belief, which is called critical realism. He points out that, according to empiricism, we are in continual interaction with the external world and we form hypotheses and theories in response to what we observe. But empiricists sometimes naively assume that beliefs spring magically from our sense-data.

But this neglects the very realm within which all of this musing about reality occurs. As I said in a Facebook comment yesterday:

I do believe that we are fundamentally epistemological storytellers. That we form our identities as we tell our stories of ultimate significance. We are–before we are anything else–“walking narratives”. Which is why I find the standard of what’s “compelling” (in an ULTIMATE sense) so powerful. No other religion has been able to cross racial, ethnic, geographic, age, intelligence, or class lines like Christianity. There is something utterly unique and–yes–“compelling” in a way that I cannot give a material account for.

Our beliefs are formed not on the plane of reason, but on the plane of “story”. As Wright goes on to say, our sense data “needs a larger framework on which to draw, a larger set of stories about things which happen in the world” and Daniel’s worldview seems to understate that “every human community shares and cherishes certain assumptions, traditions, expectations, anxieties, and so forth, which encourage its members to construe reality in particular ways”.

Daniel seems to discount this, thinking that the scientific method overcomes this. I don’t. I see a need for revelation, when it comes to Ultimate reality. We need a God to come among us and reveal himself because we could not devise him on our own through logical deduction or even reasonable discourse. We need conversion, not deduction.

To use an overused C.S. Lewis quote: I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

And so, as has been my usual tactic for these discussions, I find the story and picture of reality that Christianity paints to make far more sense of the world than Materialist Atheism. And I will continue to proclaim that Story as the Story to which all others are submitted, and the one that also far surpasses the others in scope, explanatory power, and, (in my opinion) most importantly, Beauty.

Okay, now for what you really came to read.

What would convince me to be an Atheist?

In Daniel’s original post, he asked Christians to make similar lists of what would turn them away from Christianity. None of his points were in isolation, as if that one thing would turn him, or that it would be an immediate and total change. Rather, some of those points would give him serious pause and re-evaluation. Second, it’s important to remember that his points, and mine, are ultimately subjective reasons for ourselves, and not logical deductions that need resonate with everyone. Also, several of his points were simply not possible to have happen (as in “If we had a different kind of Bible”). This is all well and fine. I only say that so that everyone knows that it is within these parameters I write this list of things that would lead me towards Atheism.

1. If we found Jesus’ body. And no, the Jesus ossuary doesn’t count. This would make me an Atheist in an instant. The historical, bodily Resurrection of Jesus is the hinge around which all Christianity turns. If his body were proven to have been found. I would abandon Christianity altogether and join the precise worldview of Daniel. Some might say they’d remain “spiritual” while not Christian. I’m with St. Paul, however, in saying, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

2. If the earliest Christian traditions did not include the idea of a physical bodily Resurrection. This would need to be verified by new documents showing widespread Christian belief in a “spiritual” resurrection, or some other thing other than the Resurrection. I understand people already make this claim, but this claim is based more on silence, filling in gaps, and is an interpretation of current data, not a conclusion from it.

3. If an alternate explanation for the rise of Christianity was given. The development and rise of Christianity–in its scope, diversity, speed, and geography–is something that, in my opinion, is completely unparalleled and only truly explained by something actually having happened on Easter morning. No other possible explanation has been offered to me that doesn’t seem to stretch the evidence, fill in a lot of gaps without warrant, and overall seem unreasonable. I understand a lot of skepticism on this point comes from the assumed small probability that a Resurrection would occur, rather than evidence, but I still find that the Resurrection makes sense of the evidence more than anything else history has ever seen or known.

4. If Isaiah 53 was written after Christ. The greatest document among the Dead Sea Scrolls is the Great Isaiah Scroll, containing the entire book of Isaiah, including Chapter 53. To me, in my times of doubt, this chapter is the clearest prophecy about Jesus, and even includes details of his life that are talked about by non-biblical sources centuries later. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls, people could have perhaps said that Christians went in and added this prophecy, but with the discovery of the scrolls, we have (and I have laid my own eyes upon) the words of this chapter written on documents that existed well before Jesus.

5. If the Old Testament didn’t seem like the perfect precursor to the new. If the Old Testament just didn’t have so many darn “types” and foreshadows of the Gospel and Christ. They’re just ambiguous enough that one couldn’t anticipate Jesus just by looking at them, but they’re clear enough that in hindsight, they make so much sense. If this were not the case, this would bother me. Consider Joseph: a man despised by the people he grew up among, sent to the pit of death and slavery, put between two criminals, says to one “your gonna live”, the other “you’re gonna die”, exalted from the “grave”, raised to the right hand of Pharaoh, and the nations come to him to be fed the bread of life in the time of drought. Was I being creative there? Yeah, but there’s plenty more where that came from. (See my Bible Survey Class for more on that.)

6. If Christianity didn’t have such versatility, depth, and diversity. I don’t know of any other way of viewing the world that has such implications for every part of it. It cuts across every boundary line of geography, race, class, and ethnicity, and it’s the only way of thinking that has done this (not even secular humanism or empiricism can boast this). The Gospel can be grasped by the youngest child (or perhaps even unborn child), and yet can be the subject of centuries of the highest and most respected scholarly research and development. It has been able to find its place in any type of society and yet hold continuity to its greatest essentials. The greatest scientists of the Scientific Revolution were Christians. Many of the greatest artists were Christians. It strikes intellect, soul, heart, and real, everyday, mundane life.

7. If Sacraments were not a thing. God always works and reveals himself by way of material mediators. I have certainly experienced this. If the God of Christianity were completely disembodied or abstract and the only place of his material presence that I (or anyone) could know was the Resurrection of the past, this would bother me. But the fact that, week after week, I truly do meet God’s tangible Presence in his Word, His People, Preaching, and in the Communion Elements, shows that he is still around, and actively so.

8. If the world was destroyed, and Jesus didn’t come back. If there was a meteor coming, and would be destroying all of humanity, then a few minutes before impact, I’d probably become an Atheist. (Note: a commenter below thought I was referring to the Rapture. Good God, I promise I’m not. I’m merely talking about a naturalistic calamity.)

9. If a completely material account could be given for the rise of justice, beauty, and love. It would need to be an account that did justice to the fullness of awe and transcendence those things evoke. I can see how our evolutionary capacity and skill for these things would have developed. And I understand that the primary place where we experience them is in our brain. But still, there’s something “more”, “Other”, and “external” about each of these things that hints that they are things that exist outside of us that we experience (hello, Plato!).

10. If an Atheist could give me a full, convincing accounting for why they believe in morality and justice. This is more specific than the last point. I know it seems like a silly, over-the-top argument. But seriously, I don’t see why an Atheist should care about genocide, or get mad if I just walk up and slap their significant other. I understand they do care, and they feel proud of themselves for being so “aware of their own evolutionary tendencies” to work against them for a “better world”, but I don’t see any evolutionary accounting for why they have this particular view of a “good world” or why they would want to pursue it. It is simply an untested, un-defended “intuition” that they agree we can and (for some reason) should work towards. But I would need a better purely materialistic explanation than that to find it convincing. And not some weak “social cohesion” thing either.

11. If animals did art. Seriously. There is such a huge gulf between humans and animals in this respect. Yes, animals can do “art-like” things in controlled settings, given the tools and encouragement to do so by humans. But in nature, you never see “less evolved” art. It seems that every part of us has evolved in slow transitional steps, but not our desire to create–or appreciate–art. And not just any art, but absolutely useless art (in the Wilde sense)–art that has no utility whatsoever and just exists because it deserves to. This is something that no species before homo sapiens has ever had the idea on its own to do. To me, this is weird. To be an atheist, I’d need this explained.

12. If Hopkins, Roethke, Rachmaninov, Bach, Miles Davis, stringed instruments, Caravaggio, and Rothko didn’t exist. No, I’m not trying to be cute. The transcendence of these things testifies to something far beyond a simple arrangement of noises, words, or paint. As I said in an earlier comment, Christopher Hitchens’ brother even said, concerning any chance of his brother’s possible conversion, “It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time.”

13. If everythingmy intuitions, my loves, my affections, my joys, my sorrows–in essence–my story could be given an entirely rational, material accounting that really did encompass all the sensations I’ve ever had. If there came about, someday, a computer (or some other process) that could tell one’s entire story, with an accounting of their complete biochemical and sociological history such that one’s existence (even their random experiences of transcendence) could be represented in binary codes. In other words, if even our sense of awe, justice, and beauty could be artificially recreated, that would mess with my head and faith.

14. If Near Death Experiences were fully explained. This episode of an unlikely podcast blew my mind on this topic. I know, I know. This is usually a silly thing to bring up in these “Serious” conversations, but still, I’m still kind of riding the high of that podcast. More and more scientific evidence is mounting that our consciousness is “non-local” (not simply arising from our brains). I know science is seeking a naturalistic explanation, but until they do, I find this really compelling evidence for “the soul”. (Later, I wrote this clarifying comment below: Maybe I should be more specific. I don’t mean NDE’s like seeing heaven and such. I meant more like when people have conscious experiences while technically dead. When their consciousness can see over a shelf or float around the room and such when they should be dead. Non-local consciousness. That’s all I’m talking about. But no, I promise I’m not talking about “90 minutes in heaven” or anything.)

15. If Science’s sudden turn against theism didn’t look entirely like a culturally-conditioned movement of the moment, rather than a natural by-product in the pursuit of truth. The greatest scientists, historians, scholars, thinkers, writers, and such have all been Christians, and only until fairly recently. This whole separation between religious belief and even empiricism is really, really new (in the grand scope of human time). Call it an evolution of thought if you want. I wonder if it’s just a socio-cultural historical spasm or temper tantrum.

16. If I lost hope that people could change or that the Gospel didn’t “work”. I’ve written about this before. Human change is such a difficult, mysterious process. I genuinely have seen the Gospel change people at such deep levels, more than anything else has. Even though I struggle with changing myself, others’ stories have encouraged me. The Gospel makes claims about what it does in societies and people, and I still see evidence that this is the case. If I stopped seeing that, then I’d begin to question things more.

17. If the Gospel was no longer stunningly, jaw-droppingly beautiful and explanatory of the entire universe. If I became convinced that there was a greater communion with humanity and the world, sense of purpose, and experience of transcendence in Atheism, I’d consider it.

18. If I tried Atheism long enough. I truly believe that the perceptual “muscles” used to gather “religious” knowledge is like a muscle that grows weaker with time not exercising it. In other words, there is a way to truth that is only known from “inside” the “Christian knowledge circle”. When you’re outside of it, one’s ability to see this or resonate with it dulls. I feel my inner-Atheist to such a degree, that if I removed myself from means of grace and communion and all those other ways and places I meet God, I could probably become an Atheist. This would not be true of everyone, but it might be true for me.

19. If Daniel’s kind of god were true and Christianity made perfect, logical, evidentiary, reasonable sense. Honestly, if the requirements of God as laid out in Daniel’s post were actually answered in those terms, then I’d become an Atheist. Because then, I’d no longer have any place to incorporate suffering, doubt, and real human experience. If Christianity wasn’t nitty-gritty, earthy, messy, and soily. If it answered every “why?”. In other words, if the God of Christianity were able to be submitted wholly to human reason, as Daniel wants, then he would not be a God worth worshiping or believing in at all.

20. If God changed me into an Atheist. In the end, though, what could make me an Atheist? Nothing a human could do. Spirituality is not fundamentally a human enterprise. There is no new “fact” or “event” that I think would pull me away. It is a deeper, more existential state that arises from a communion with the Numinous, the Other, the One within whom all of reason and logic is grounded. Every “fact” is appropriated within him, and so no new “fact” could disprove Him any more than a child can disprove they had a parent. And so, in the end, I don’t know that, working within an empirical worldview, I could ever “discover” or “come across” any tangible thing (or even experience!) that would negate my faith as it seems it has Daniel’s.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

–Isa.55:8-9 (also in the Dead Sea Scrolls, haha)

I appreciated this exchange with Daniel, and thank him for playing along.  I also invite critiques and responses from readers of this post and series.

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47 thoughts on “Simplistic Atheism {4}: What could make me an Atheist?

  1. Cross-posting from FB:

    “Okay, so I think the first part before the “What could make me an Atheist” is a little underhanded and disrespectful. Believing your ideas to encompass ideas that diametrically oppose your ideas is philosophically interesting and possible, but puts your opponent in the position of either agreeing with you or agreeing with you, and that’s not really fair. That’s about all I’ll say there.

    RE: “What could make me an atheist?” and how I’d respond:

    1-2. Okay, yes, but that wouldn’t make me an atheist, it would make me no longer believe in the physical resurrection and would likely make me a non-Trinitarian/Unitarian Universalist (though I’d keep high church liturgy because it’s better than middling liberal Protestant worship). I’d still see no better way to live my life than through self-sacrifice and giving and being about “the other” before myself (or at least trying to do those things, and continuing to repent when I failed). That’s what’s compelling to me about Christianity – the way it calls upon you to live your life no longer for yourself. Finding Jesus’ body (which is an historical impossibility, actually, since there’s zero way to verify that as far as I am aware) would cause me to doubt, but I’d probably continue living AS IF it were true, since then the only thing that changes is shifting my view of ultimate reality to one that is more “since there’s no binding Truth or meaning in the universe, I have to make it up myself humanism and Christianity is the best way of living so that others are taken care of at least as much if not more than me” (existentialist Christianized humanism?).

    3. “The development and rise of Christianity–in its scope, diversity, speed, and geography–is something that, in my opinion, is completely unparalleled and only truly explained by something actually having happened on Easter morning.”

    Slight correction? It is only truly explained by something actually having happened on Easter morning (which does not mean a Resurrection, but the apostles/disciples CLEARLY found an empty tomb and had experiences of Jesus’ being raised from the dead – those are historical “facts” as much as we have any).

    4. “To me, in my times of doubt, this chapter is the clearest prophecy about Jesus, and even the details of his life that are talked about by non-biblical source.”

    Yeah, I don’t think one needs to see it this way at all. Sure you CAN see it as a prophecy, but you can also VERY clearly see in the Gospels a Jesus that understands himself to be fulfilling this and actively making it so. Making this into a prophecy that Jesus just happened to fulfill thereby proving his messianic purpose (which isn’t quite what you’re saying, so this is some hyperbole) stretches my incredulity a bit too far. It’s much more reasonable to me to assume that Jesus read Isaiah 53 and recognized himself and his understanding of his call and vocation and mission on earth to be its fulfillment (hence why he says so in Luke 4), and then enacts it.

    5. “If the Old Testament just didn’t have so many darn “types” and foreshadows of the Gospel and Christ, such that one couldn’t tell just looking at them, but in hindsight make so much sense, this would bother me.”

    Uh, hmmmm. So, given that the authors of the New Testament CLEARLY pulled from the Old Testament in literary ways (most notable for me in Luke 1/1 Samuel 2 with the Lukan borrowing of Hannah’s Song to compose the Magnificat), I’m not sure it’s easy to say that this is terribly noteworthy as something that would give you trouble. The NT authors used the OT. If they hadn’t, we’d have a different way of understanding the OT (and a very different NT), but that wouldn’t cause me to shake my faith.

    6-7. Okay.

    8. Wait, what? How does that even make sense. The rapture is NONSENSE and completely bad theology (not to mention a shite reading of Thessalonians and Revelation). Or do you just mean that if all of humanity were wiped out of existence, you would be an atheist because God wouldn’t do that? I’m a little confused as to how that would even matter since everyone is dead. Seems slightly tautological.

    9. BINGO. Except that it’s not the “rise” of justice, beauty, etc. It’s the existence of them. And, actually, it’s the existence of ANYTHING. Science can tell us HOW things came to be with some degree of certainty, but not WHY things came to be (and dismissing the question as irrelevant or unanswerable by science isn’t actually an answer).

    10. I think that’s a dangerous game. There are plenty of reasons to believe in morality and justice without theism. Finding it wrong at a gut level to kill people and things unnecessarily because you recognize that being is better than not being even if there’s no ontological reason for that belief (aside from you just feeling like that’s the case) isn’t comprehensive, but it’s also not wrong. It’s just a different way of believing and viewing the world. I’d hope that a Western atheist would note that that belief’s historical genesis is THROUGH Christianity and that it probably wouldn’t exist without Western Christian history in the way that it does (see Francisco de Victoria and Hugo Grotius who laid the foundations for international human rights; both Christians and scholars of law).

    11. That’s dumb. And some do: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Brassau

    But seriously, this is as bad as asking for “the missing link” in evolution. It’s a non-issue. Plus, would this one thing make you question your faith? Seriously?

    12. Again, that’s simplistic. You would question your faith if orchestral music and great renaissance/baroque art didn’t exist because it’s so beautiful?

    13. I don’t even know what this means? Because your entire complicated internal being cannot be told by a man-made, non-evolved computer there must be a God? I just… that seems to be misunderstanding how humans relate to technology. And, there really might be something in the future that can do that? So, that seems like a weird thing to me.

    14. ಠ_ಠ

    Bad, bad, bad reason. There are perfectly fine ways of looking at NDEs rationally that have nothing to do with the afterlife and assigning any authority to them, even in the aggregate, is just wrong theology – why in the hell would God let someone into heaven and then so “haha, sorry, no beatific vision for you any more, lulz” – that just makes heaven seem like a place everyone goes after death rather than a mystery to which you are invited. Are you going to say something about UFOs next? Come onnnnnnn.

    15. It is culturally conditioned, but even if it weren’t, I’m not sure that’d shake my faith at all.

    16. Yes. This is the BIGGEST one for me. If it didn’t transform lives, or were somehow harmful, I would probably not be able to e a Christian, even if I still thought that Jesus physically rose from the dead.

    17. I agree, but what about people who don’t find it thus?

    18. That seems troubling and makes it seem like your faith is actually brainwashing and not real. Careful, careful.

    19. That… just seems a little troll-y to me. I get what you’re saying with doubts/suffering, etc., but that title only reads like “haha, Daniel’s understanding of God is so stupid that *I’D* be an atheist if it were true.

    20. wut — this TOTALLY refutes the rest of the points you made above and seems really intellectually dishonest (I’d believe there were no God if the God I believe in told me) — again… wut”

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    • Eric, thanks for the comment. I don’t have time for a thorough response (nor do I feel the need to), but just a few things. This is a totally subjective list of statements, none of which are meant to be slam dunk arguments for theism–just the things the feed into my faith. These are not “proofs” any more than Daniel’s post was meant to be taken that way. And so yeah, we’re all going to have some reasons for believing that might be silly to others. Some people’s list may include the final words of their dying grandmother or seeing the face of Jesus in their toast. Whatev. If we believe in the immanence of God, then he can meet individuals in any way.

      Re: first part. My whole point has been that his ideas are not diametrically opposed to mine. Even his atheistic conclusion (did you click the links there for more expounding?). Yes, some of his CONCLUSIONS might be said to be “diametrically opposed”, but neither his method or his facts in and of themselves.

      Re: the rest, I’ll just shotgun my response.

      – I’m happy that you have an “inner-unitarian”. i have an “inner-atheist”. it’s all subjective on this point.
      – In Luke 4, Jesus doesn’t quote Isa 53. In fact, I don’t think any allusions to Ch. 53 occur. It’s in the Petrine Epistles, but not the gospels, I don’t think. And there’s a difference between the prophetic clarity of Isa 53, with, say, Hosea 2, when it says “I called my son out of Egypt”?, or when Jesus rides in on a donkey. Yes, those are conscious attempts to fulfill prophecy, and perhaps Jesus took Isa 53 as his mantle. But still Isa 53, to ME, at least, is unique in its force, specificity, and clarity
      – To me it’s the overabundance of OT types. There’s just such continuity in the progression that goes beyond conscious literary modes. There are many there that aren’t even pulled out n the NT like the Joseph thing i teased out a bit.
      – The Rapture? THAT’S where your mind went to first? No, I don’t believe in a rapture, and I clearly mention the example of a meteor, and if the destruction were certain, I’d know finally that at least the Christian God that expresses his care and attention to humans is not true. Even if that resignation would last but a few minutes before being vaporized. It would still be a “proof” to me.
      – on your BINGO comment. I watched that Atheist Tapes YouTube vid you posted as well. and it was AMAZING. Thank you for that.
      – This is by far my most important point in this whole piece: http://bit.ly/14dg7IQ
      – Re: atheist morality–I thought we were on the same page on this when you asked Daniel the very same question in another thread? What did I miss? And do you hold that the morality of non-Christians is simply due to cultural influence, or do you think there’s a mystical “imago dei” part as well? you seem to be stressing the former, i the latter.
      – again, that monkey is doing art in a controlled, human-determined setting. and, whether or not that’s “art” is still up for grabs. i’m simply saying that aesthetics is a function of the soul–that extra THING we have that other animals do not. Do you doubt that there is a gulf between humans and animals? if not, what are the greatest displays of that gulf? I suppose some could say justice, intellectual pursuit, social ordering, self-sacrifice, politics, or whatever (and some of those are stronger than others), but my go-to appreciated difference is Art.
      – Re: the composers/writers/artist. Dude. it’s not a proof. These are things in which I have had especially numinous experiences. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying this is a binding intellectual tower all atheists must scale or else they must be theists.
      – NDE’s. Maybe i should be more specific. I don’t mean NDE’s like seeing heaven and such. I meant more like when people have conscious experiences while technically dead. When their consciousness can see over a shelf or float around the room and such when they should be dead. Non-local consciousness. That’s all I’m talking about. Listen to the podcast. It’ll make more sense, especially at the end. But no, I promise I’m not talking about “90 minutes in heaven” or anything.
      – really, 16 is the biggest for you? i really thought it would have been the beauty/justice stuff. tat was a pleasant surprise.
      – Gospel aesthetic. again. this is MY list. I’d personally LOVE to read yours. (I’d even post it on the blog for you!)
      – brainwashing. yeah, i had a hard time trying to figure out how to articulate that. i’ll keep trying.
      – sorry for seeming troll-y. i hate trolls. meat, you around?
      – yes, the last point was supposed to demonstrate the oddness inherent in a Christian having a list such as this in the first place. It’s to demonstrate how even at the end of the day, faith is something that transcends a list such as this. And at a cosmic level, from the divine perspective, I really do believe that #20 is what will have actually happened if I did become an atheist. It wouldn’t be how i would subjectively relate to my Atheism, but at least with where I’m theologically at right now, that’s what i think would have objectively and divinely happened.

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    • “(and dismissing the question as irrelevant or unanswerable by science isn’t actually an answer).”

      It isn’t necessarily irrelevant or unanswerable, it is just silly in the first place. And why is that? Because the question presumes from the outset that there is an answer as to why, and in many cases the person asking the question presumes agency behind the why which is also not necessarily present.

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  2. Very good reasons. Some of them were ones I had thought of and others were eye-opening and thought-provoking. I just wanted to add that when doubt rises up inside of me, I remember part of the book “The Silver Chair” by C. S. Lewis. In it, the character named Puddleglum announces that even if the villain is right and there is no Aslan or Narnia, he chooses to believe. He will not give up his belief no matter what others say because what he believes in gives his life purpose. Just a thought.

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        • sorry, i’m not trying to be an a-hole.

          i just think that the apostle paul would say that if you face no trials/struggles as a Christian (and there’s no deeper joy to be had in this life or the next) then you’re doing it wrong (Christianity that is)

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      • Um, yes. Everyone has their own reasons for following and believing in God although there are numerous universal ones. I’m sorry, I was not trying to debate anything with you or say something wrong. All I wanted to do was add something that inspired me in my Christian walk. There was no arguing with or disagreeing with your thoughts. I’m very sorry.

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        • Yes, Anna Rose, i think that’s a beautiful reference. Thank you. Faith comes in so many shapes and sizes and we each have our own way of wearing it and clinging to it, even when it’s hard. Thank you for the encouraging words, and thank you for commenting.

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        • no need for an apology – i respect your opinion here. i guess i’ve just become jaded by fluffy, sentimental Christianity that seems to run rampant in the West.

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts and sorry if I was a bit brash.

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          • That’s fine! I also do not like fluffy Christianity and that was certainly not what I was trying to say. Struggles with my faith and deep darkness have been a huge part of my life so I know that it is not about only when things are good. I just have to remind myself to keep up hope otherwise I would despair. I probably didn’t express it right in my earlier post.

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  3. “The phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is often used when explaining gestalt theory,[1] though this is a mistranslation of Kurt Koffka’s original phrase, “The whole is other than the sum of the parts””

    Lulz, that’s from the article you yourself cited.

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    • That’s why i very intentionally added the preface “as the phrase goes…” I toyed with using the original phrase, but eventually decided against it. For anyone that really cared, i linked to the article.

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  4. “We need a God to come among us and reveal himself because we could not devise him on our own through logical deduction or even reasonable discourse.”

    So… why do we need him in the first place? Simply because we could not devise him on our own through logical deduction or even reasonable discourse (as thousands, or millions of humans have made up other gods in the past?)? Our inability to devise him doesn’t seem to be a reason we need him in the first place Paul.

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    • Do i really need to hold your hand through this? I’m saying (1) that IF there is a God, we cannot arrive at him through a logical deduction, and so he would need to reveal himself; and (2) that he has indeed done this. of course I’m not saying that if you had never done this then we have some sort of responsibility to assume it. that is not what is meant when I say “need”. By “need”, I do not mean contingent necessity, but rather, existential limitation. I would have thought that that would be clear.

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      • Oh, my bad, IF. I forgot that you always presume god at the outset. Silly me, I’m used to listening to debaters that don’t generally presume this without making that explicit. Maybe you should have simply said here are my 20 things that would make me an atheist PRESUMING THERE IS A GOD IN THE FIRST PLACE. :p lololol

        As it turns out, I quite agree with you on 1, we cannot arrive with him through logical deduction (which nearly all christian apologetics attempt to do btw) so he needs to reveal himself. My door is always open for God to walk through. Literally, I never lock it. He can just let himself in my apartment. I can even hold the door open if he’ll knock.

        As to 2, I don’t recall him having come to dinner yet. Or even lunch. Or brunch. Not even a snack time. And don’t give me this horse sht about “o well he was “revealed” wink wink through the bible”. The bible looks just like every other ancient piece of theological literature, and even you feel the big difference is only his resurrection. It doesn’t reveal jack squat, much less a god OTHER than the one it explicitly claims exists (vengeful, wrathful etc).

        But in any event, glad to clear up what you meant by “need”.

        “existential limitation”

        Nice made up nonsensical term. I’ll google it. Hmm, even google can’t explain what you mean here. But whatever you mean by it, ooooooookay.

        In any event, I need to getty up and do some work today. I’ll ttyl.

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  5. ” I find the story and picture of reality that Christianity paints to make far more sense of the world than Materialist Atheism”

    In other words, because you like that world-view better, you’ll stick with it for giggles.

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  6. “None of his points were in isolation, as if that one thing would turn him, or that it would be an immediate and total change”

    Actually I think some were, but whatev. I mean, god coming down and saying “how do you do Dan, I can be savior today?” would probably do it as long as he could tell he wasn’t hallucinating.

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  7. “If we found Jesus’ body. And no, the Jesus ossuary doesn’t count.”

    Wow, your first thing is already probably met and yet you say it “doesn’t count”. The ossuary is interesting though.

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  8. What are amazing about 4 and 5 of your reasons are that they are in fact reasons to think that the people coming later simply tried to fulfill the foreshadowing and prophecy to legitimize their own new religious beliefs.

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    • yeah, because if Christianity were true we should totes expect it to have absolutely no connection to and no foreshadowing in the centuries of Judaism that birthed it. Got it. makes total sense. Well done.

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      • I’m not sure why you have such a penchant for inserting things into my mouth that I never said while you get all defensive Paul. Seriously? Just stick to what I actually said. I never went so far as to assert what you seem to think I am.

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          • Admittedly, as your snark has lessened, mine has increased, probably unnecessarily so. It’s just that for realz, anon is so irritating.

            And for the record, honestly, multiple people have, in both public comments on Facebook and in private messages and emails, have asked me “what the heck is up with that ‘meat’ guy?” In fact, that term “troll-y” was first applied to you by two separate people on two separate threads on Facebook, not me. Several people have pleaded with me to stop responding to you so that you might stop commenting. One person even threw out the proverb to “not answer a fool according to his folly”.

            I can tell you’re a smart guy, and you’ve made some allusions that make it seem like i might know you IRL, but seriously, when you don’t go anon, and you own your words, it forces you to be more reasoned in your argumentation, not be unnecessarily annoying, and at least garner more respect. I’m not trying to be a jerk, I’m just saying that the rhetorical style that going anon inspires, is one that is more of a distraction and annoyance than real engagement. And so, even as you have softened your tone in these last couple of posts, that bad taste is still in our mouths from earlier ones.

            And your say you haven’t merely tried to be provocative, but that’s hard to reconcile with you coming out of the gate with your “BOOOOORING” comments. I wasn’t hurt. I didn’t care. But it did set the tone for how everyone thinks of your comments.

            Peace.

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  9. “If there was a meteor coming, and would be destroying all of humanity, then a few minutes before impact, I’d probably become an Atheist. (Note: a commenter below thought I was referring to the Rapture. Good God, I promise I’m not. I’m merely talking about a naturalistic calamity.)”

    But then if NASA diverts the asteroid at a cost of many trillions of dollars do you still become an atheist, or are you unchanged? Perhaps more fervent than ever? I promise its one of the later. Strange how humans saving you somehow fills you with being grateful to god instead.

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  10. “If an Atheist could give me a full, convincing accounting for why they believe in morality and justice.”

    Sam Harris already did this, a thousand times over. But if you really want to go more in depth, I’m sure there will be books out shortly. Though I note your subjective language you used, because it has to convince you. And not even convince you of their sincere belief in morality and justice, because I’m sure you already are convinced of that, you need to feel convinced that there are good grounds for them in the first place. And you are already unconvinced by the millions of people who have implemented and lived under moral and just societies that had nothing to do with Yahweh so just what would it take to convince you bro?

    “but I don’t see any evolutionary accounting for why they have this particular view of a “good world” or why they would want to pursue it.”

    It isn’t necessarily all evolutionary, it’s partially just being able to see the desirability of such a society. Keep that word in mind.

    “And not some weak “social cohesion” thing either.”

    Weak? Societies of this type tend to be much much much stronger than those that aren’t of this type. Outright Strength (that partially follows from cohesion btw) of your tribe is not a “weak” argument for the survival of your tribe.

    “If there came about, someday, a computer (out some other process) that could tell one’s entire story, with an accounting of their complete biochemical and sociological history such that one’s existence (even their random experiences of transcendence) could be represented in binary codes. In other words, if even our sense of awe, justice, and beauty could be artificially recreated, that would mess with my head and faith.”

    Before you die, this will happen.

    “If Science’s sudden turn against theism didn’t look entirely like a culturally-conditioned movement of the moment,”

    LULZ WUUUUUUT???????? Conspiracy theory much?

    “I wonder if it’s just a socio-cultural historical spasm or temper tantrum.”

    Don’t worry bro, it isn’t.

    “I truly believe that the perceptual “muscles” used to gather “religious” knowledge is like a muscle that grows weaker with time not exercising it. ”

    Agreed.

    “If I became convinced that there was a greater communion with humanity and the world, sense of purpose, and experience of transcendence in Atheism, I’d consider it.”

    Read all of the works by Sagan. Then come on back to me and tell me how little communion with humanity, sense of purpose and experience of transcendence you find. I have some of them if you wish to bum them.

    ” In the end, though, what could make me an Atheist? Nothing a human could do.”

    Agreed. Nothing can necessarily change you, because you simply prefer the path you’re on, everything the contrary be dammed. Though I’ll be honest if you read all of Sagan I think you’ll probably make it, especially if you try out atheism and let those muscles relax. One or two years later, your delusion is over bro.

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    • The venerable meat strikes again! Cutting to the heart of my argument, ironically dressing himself in anonymity to try and think he’s making me take responsibility for my words!

      Sam Harris: lame reductionist. Read his books on history of religion and neurological basis of morality. Not convincing in the least. Sagan is good, but note i said greatER sense of communion. There us such communion in atheism, but that sense of communion is incorporated into Christianity’s sense of awe, and then magnified exponentially. And the word “weak” was outside the question marks around “social cohesion” because it was modifying “argument”, not “social cohesion”. You have said nothing to make the argument seem any stronger.

      But seriously, if you ever wanted to take personal responsibility for your words and not go anon, then I’ll take and engage your arguments more seriously, bruh.

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      • Oh, so you’ve read a pale blue dot? And a candle in the dark? There are a few others, but you’ve actually been through those 2?

        And re: the argument, I’m sorry I didn’t make it explicit enough for you. The “argument” is strong because of the literal strength of the societies that adopt morality and justice and thus survive and flourish better than those that do not. It’s that simple bro.

        Why you so worried about my being anon anyway? I just don’t want this being spread all around the internets. There are a lot of religious atheist bigots out there bro, in my OWN FAMILY. I don’t need that sht hitting the fan, can you understand that? I prefer my christmas/thanksgiving peaceful and not filled with preaching to me.

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  11. “That seems troubling and makes it seem like your faith is actually brainwashing and not real. Careful, careful.”

    Trust me, lol, his is! Childhood indoctrination at its finest! Give him a couple of years off, and he’ll drop the whole delusion, he’s a fine man, he can do it!

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