Carl Sagan’s catch phrase: (Bad) philosophy, not science — UPDATED

Carl Sagan famously said, “The cosmos is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be.”

The irony is that each of those statements is philosophical, not scientific.  He merely tipped his hand for all to see.

The cosmos is all there is

No scientific evidence for that. 

all there was

No scientific evidence for that. 

and all there ever will be.

No scientific evidence for that. 

They say that Carl Sagan didn’t believe there was a God.  He does now.

UPDATE: Bubba made a good point in the comments section about the definition of cosmos (“the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system”).   Another irony is that as science demonstrates more and more spectacular fine-tuning of the universe, desperate materialists are having to posit the pathetic “multiverse” theory to prop up their worldview.  This is in direct conflict to all of Sagan’s erroneous statements and is just as unsupported factually.

0 thoughts on “Carl Sagan’s catch phrase: (Bad) philosophy, not science — UPDATED”

  1. The difference, Boo, is that materialist naturalists like Sagan believe that scientific evidence is the only sort of evidence that matters. We do not.

    The fact is, the idea that only scientific evidence is persuasive CANNOT be proven scientifically.

    It’s like the claim, “only sensory experiences are trustworthy,” which cannot possibly be proven and is not even suggested by sensory experiences.

    Neil, the deeper irony in most of what Carl Sagan said is in his use of the term “cosmos.”

    The most precise sense of that term isn’t just the universe (“all there is”), but a well-ordered universe: the opposite of cosmos is chaos, and an atheistic worldview is more at home in the latter than in the former.

    The materialistic naturalism of the atheist cannot provide any real confidence that the universe is a cosmos rather than a chaos, nor it can provide any real reason to trust the necessary assumption of science that the universe is a closed, predictable system — that universal conclusions can be drawn from specific observations.

    Most crucially, I don’t think that atheism can even explain the foundation for science and indeed all rational thought: the human capacity for rationality.

    From the point of view of a materialist, naturalistic atheist, the human mind is a figment: only the brain is real, and the brain is nothing more than a complex arrangement of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Thoughts are just chemical reactions that are the necessary consequence of the environment’s start state and the unfolding of uncontrollable and unavoidable physical processes. To whatever degree the human brain has changed over time, that change was “guided” (an unfortuate anthropomorphism) by what works in terms of survival, not by what is metaphysically true.

    The atheist cannot explain human rationality, but he presumes to be able to explain everything else.

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    1. @ Michael — touché! I didn’t connect those very well, did I?

      @ Bubba — excellent points, as usual. I wasn’t aware of the cosmos / chaos irony.

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  2. Neil and Matthew,

    Great lines! My heart breaks fir the lost, because they live as if God IS dead yet one day they will be–and by then it’s too late. One unsaved guy I know told me if he stands before God and is consigned to Hell, he’ll have to accept that–meaning by then he will have to live with the consequences of a wicked life. And I told him, “But you DON’T have to!” He’s on my mind a lot because he seems to be so hard to get through. I am afraid the time he stops fence sitting on the God question will be as he’s thrown into the deepest pit of Hell.

    And yet…

    “with man this is impossible but nothing is impossible with God.”

    ~David

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  3. I don’t get this post at all Neil. You are criticizing Sagan for making statements about his personal beliefs? No, those are not scientific facts. They are merely hypotheses shared by many in his field, and supported by our current knowledge of the universe.

    Carl Sagan knew more about the cosmos than either of us could ever hope to know. Perhaps you should read some of his work.

    I think it’s silly enough to believe in a man in the sky who watches our every move and reads our thoughts. But I think those who believe that man has a basement were he tortures those who don’t believe in him for eternity are just sadistic.

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    1. Hi Ryan,

      Sagan used that line all the time, and as the intro to a science show. He stated it dogmatically, as if there was evidence behind it. It was never presented as just his opinion. He was full of it.

      I’ve told you at least three times that people aren’t tortured in Hell, they are punished. The first one or two I would attribute to a lack of awareness. Now you are making me wonder if you misstate it on purpose. Future comments with that falsehood won’t appear. Therefore, your sadism line fails.

      Your worldview has no reason to say sadism is bad, anyway. Use the “man in the sky” line all you like, but the existence of God is an infinitely better explanation than eternally existent materials that just happened to come to life and evolve to where we are. And even if it were true your moral claims would be meaningless and you would have no reason to trust your alleged rationality.

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  4. Neil, thanks for updating the blog entry with my observation about “cosmos.” It’s actually something I myself have only recently realized, and I think it’s just another good indication of how much atheism borrows from a thoroughly theistic worldview.

    (Consider how often Darwinists anthropomorphize what they believe to be random, unguided processes: even if one assumes they’re speaking figuratively, they can’t help but ascribe intentionality to the process.)

    I may be going a bit far in this observation — but perhaps not by much — but it does seem that there’s a big difference in how adherents to these two conflicting worldviews ridicule the opposition.

    We ridicule the materialistic naturalism of atheism by pointing out the inconsistencies in their unspoken assumptions.

    They ridicule Christian monotheism by gross caricatures about a capricious sky-father.

    A flippant dismissal of strawmen is no substitute for a good argument against the actual position of one’s opponents, and I wish that fewer people would opt for the emotionally satisfying but intellectually vapid dismantling of a position that no one actually holds.

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  5. Neil, call it what you want, but punishment in a fire pit for all of eternity sounds like torture to me. I will call it punishment from now on.

    As for Sagan, he is a scientist, and it was his show, that was based on a book that he wrote. Yeah – it was his opinion, and he was qualified to present it, as a scientist, on a science show.

    And my worldview says sadism is bad, by the way.

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    1. The question that always kicks your worldview in the gonads is raised in your last sentence. Why is sadism bad? Who says it is?

      I’m sure Neil can address your hell=fire error.

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    2. Hell will definitely be an awful place to be. That is one of the reasons we warn people against it and tell them the only way to avoid it (faith in Jesus and not by trying to be good). It is certainly a scary teaching, but scare tactics are only wrong if the threat isn’t real. Hell is real.

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    3. Re. Sagan — I agree with most of that. My point was simply that he was wrong on all three counts and there was no science behind his claims.

      If memory serves, that show was on PBS, and I don’t appreciate any tax funding going for nonsense like that.

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  6. Maybe it’s time we stopped kicking each other’s worldviews in the nuts. I think we all agree that there is a basic morality inherent in each person. Where we differ is in explaining the cause of that morality. The same could be said of universal constants, well actually of anything for which there is not yet (and may never be) a satisfactory scientific explanation. No matter what our outlook on life we all come up against the same brick wall, and all have different explanations for where or what the door is.

    I would greatly distrust any atheist who claims to have all the answers. There are a lot of things we don’t know and can’t yet explain. Atheists shouldn’t try to claim ownership of science, as so many do. They should let the science speak for itself. Christians should not make the mistake of thinking that atheism ought to have an opinion on everything; atheists are not obliged to try to give answers to the big questions. Atheism is not a theory-of-everything. I’m sure we are often, perhaps rightly, accused of cowardice in this regard.

    Christianity has invented the answers, stacked the deck, and dealt itself the perfect hand. Theology is an elaborate, and in my opinion very admirable, attempt to explain things that nobody understands. The bible is very vague on a lot of things; the trinity, the “substance” of God, the exact mechanism of salvation, and eschatology, to name just a few. And wherever science is silent, Christianity is there with the handy explanation, which, unfortunately, raises more questions again. Christian theology is indeed a theory of everything, and why not?

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (yes, yes, I know what most of you probably think of him) was once asked straight out if he believed in the existence of God. His answer is one that has stuck in my mind. He said (this is from memory, not verbatim) that he doesn’t believe in God to the extent that he would tick a box marked God, and say, Yes, that’s done. But he’s prepared to commit to the reality that there is a God, and take it from there. Now that’s a pretty bold thing to say.

    A good friend of mine who lives in another part of Ireland just sent me a text message saying she has lit a candle for me, presumably down at the local Catholic church. I feel comforted by this, not because I believe there’s a God who hears and cares, but because she does, and she believes in it enough to think that it will do me some good. This atheist doesn’t despise Christianity, when people offer to pray for me I’m honoured and flattered, even though inside I might be thinking “please don’t waste your time”.

    I find Christian theology both fascinating, and, at a superficial level, very elegant. But I find that when I get into the details, I just can no longer believe the things that one is asked to believe. I can’t reconcile the inventor of human morality with the God of the bible, who has the un-challenged authority to go against that same morality. I find theologies of election, in both the Old and New Testaments, repulsive, and the direct cause of much of what is wrong with the world today. It also worries me that such a high percentage of the citizens of the only superpower on earth believe that the end of the world is not only imminent but inherently desirable.

    Please don’t confuse my doubts and unbelief with hatred of God. It is often said that atheists hate God. You need to separate your absolute belief in God and our concept of the human fabrication of God. I dislike the convenient idea of God being the answer to everything, but really only where the strident certainty of belief ventures into areas where it doesn’t belong. I keep having to remind myself that I can’t blame Christians for not wanting such things as gay marriage, being against the teaching of evolution, and supporting (in many cases) the apartheid policies of Israel (I trust I’m not doing anyone a grave injustice here, but in my experience western Christians have a rather blinkered view of middle-eastern politics, and Israel can do no wrong in their eyes).

    But your absolute belief in something doesn’t make it right, and I suppose that’s why I’ll continue to post here. Neil, feel free to fisk this if you have the time and inclination, I always enjoy reading your responses.

    Regards to all,
    Michael

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  7. Racing Boo, the problem with atheists’ materialistic naturalistic worldview isn’t simply that the worldview hasn’t yet explained morality: it’s that the worldview CANNOT account for morality.

    Either morality is subjective or objective.

    If one takes the position that it’s subjective — that is, a mere human experience not grounded in any objective reality — then one isn’t explaining morality: one is trying to explain it away.

    If the moral law is a real law to which our thoughts, words, and deeds should conform, it must be objective.

    Here’s the problem: if morality is objective, it must also be transcendent, because observations of the material universe can only lead to “is” statements, morality involves “ought” statements, and no “ought” can be derived from any set of “is” statements.

    Take the moral law, “you should treat others as you would like to be treated.” You can take every statement about the physical universe, and you can never logically reach this law. If, for instance, you talk about how helping each other benefits the entire species, you sneak in an “ought” statement about how people ought to care about the fate of our species, and invoking one “ought” to explain another doesn’t help things unless that “ought” could be derived from the physical universe, and that can’t be done.

    The problem with atheism regarding morality is this:

    1) If morality is real, it must be objective.

    2) If morality is objective, it must be transcendent.

    3) Atheism — particularly materialistic naturalistic atheism — denies transcendence.

    We’re not putting on atheism the undue burden to explain everything: we’re simply pointing out that atheism precludes and contradicts some things, such as morality.

    “Christians should not make the mistake of thinking that atheism ought to have an opinion on everything; atheists are not obliged to try to give answers to the big questions.”

    That’s true, but if atheism EXCLUDES the existence of things like morality, and if we nevertheless do not discard morality as a subjective figment of human experience, then we can conclude that atheism is a false belief system.

    It’s not that atheism doesn’t have all the answers: it’s that some of the answers it does claim to have, are clearly wrong.

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  8. Bubba,

    When did atheism become a “belief system”. It is precisely the opposite. I just don’t buy your belief system.

    All that one needs to know to conclude that morals do not come from God is the fact that people who do not believe in God have relatively the same morals as those who do. That can be demonstrated on a personal, and cultural level, and in many different parts of the world.

    Neil, I can’t understand why you object to Sagan’s statements as being “not scientific” when you keep telling me that hell is real. You have not a shred of evidence that there is a hell.

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  9. About your other comments, Boo/Michael, I don’t think it’s quite fair to accuse Israel of “apartheid” politics: modern Israel hasn’t been perfect (no state is), but I think it’s done a great deal to find common ground with people who deny the state’s right to exist and even the Jews’ basic humanity; people who produces the most repellant propaganda against them, denying the Holocaust, repeating the blood libel against them, and even saying that Jews are descended from apes and pigs; people who act on this hatred they stir up, by sending even children to cafes and restaurants to blow up other children.

    About your difficulties with what the Bible teaches about God, I would first of all say that the Bible is clear that God is holy — that is, that He is separate from the universe He created, separate because He is perfectly moral and good. We do not understand everything He does, but I believe the Bible teaches against the idea that God ever commits a moral wrong or that He is capricious and utterly incomprehensible. There are other religions that teach God is unknowable — that He is powerful but not necessarily good — but Judaism and Christianity aren’t among them.

    And, second, I see election as one those claims of the Bible that is absolutely true, but it must be balanced in order for a believer to avoid wrong ideas about God.

    (There are quite a few such pairs of ideas: Christ’s humanity and His divinity; the unity of the Trinity and the distinctness of each Person in the Trinity; God’s justice and mercy.)

    Election must be balanced against the Bible’s clear teaching of God’s universal love:

    “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine

    The Bible is clear that those who are saved are first called by God and that not everyone will be saved, but it’s also clear that God loves the entire world and desires to save the entire world. His sovereign election must be balanced against our free will, and the judgment of some isn’t evidence that God picks winners and losers, but that man ultimately has the power to choose to reject salvation — and that he often does exercise that power.

    Beyond these specific responses, I would say that the Bible should not be judged, primarily, by what it claims about God. If God is infinite and eternal and all-knowing, we finite and time-bound and limited human beings shouldn’t expect to comprehend Him absolutely fully.

    What the true, living God has to say about God will probably be the most difficult for us to accept, and His claims about Himself would be the hardest to evaluate at any rate.

    To determine whether the Bible is a trustworthy authority about God, let’s look to subjects that are much closer to home.

    What does the Bible say about us? And what does the Bible say about human history?

    First, about us, it seems to me that the Bible is unique in claiming our absolute need for divine salvation from our sins. It teaches a moral law and our transgression of that law — as many other faiths do — but unlike everything else, it claims that we cannot rectify the situation with our own good works.

    Do you find this to be an accurate, if dire, evaluation of our earthly situation? If not, have you taken care of your own problems meeting the stringent requirements of even the Golden Rule? Do you really find yourself to be nice, pleasant, and even loving when you’re tired, stressed, or caught off guard, or do those moments where you are at your weakest physically reveal who you really are?

    The Bible isn’t just unique in its claim for the need of salvation, it is unique in claiming to meet that need, and to do so through historical events, namely the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

    That historical claim of the Resurrection: if you don’t assume that the miraculous is impossible…

    (If you believe in objective morality, you already believe in transcendence that opens the door to miracles: a transcendent moral law could be the result of a transcendent Law-Giver, and there’s no philosophical protection against His occasional interference with physical events.)

    …does the claim of the Resurrection measure up to other ancient historical claims, such as the assassination of Caesar? Is the manuscript evidence strong? (It is, dwarfing other ancient texts in terms of early, numerous texts.) Does what little that non-Christian historians provide, validate or invalidate the New Testament? Has archaelogy proven or disproven the little details of the New Testament, such as the number of porticoes in the pool of Bethesda in John 5:2? And is the Resurrection the best possible explanation for why the Apostles — those who would have known the truth — to risk persecution and even death to form the early Christian church, and for why the church grew so rapidly? Is Christianity, as J.P. Holding put it, an “impossible faith” that “could not have survived in the ancient world unless it had indisputable evidence of the resurrection of Jesus”?

    I think these questions are easier to answer: we can evaluate the Bible’s claims about our own moral state and the historicity of the Resurrection easier than we can claims about God.

    If those claims aren’t credible, then what the Bible says about God isn’t credible either.

    But if the Bible does accurately describe our desperate moral condition and does credibly claim that Jesus rose from the dead, then we have to accept its claims about God, not because we find them always easy to understand, but because the source has proven to be reliable.

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  10. Ryan:

    Not to answer for Neil, but we Christians aren’t obligated to have “scientific” evidence for a literally supernatural concept like Hell. Our problem with Sagan’s (frequent) digressions beyond what science proves is the hypocrisy. People like Sagan routinely appeal to science as the sole source of trustworthy information.

    WE. DO. NOT.

    Indeed atheism is a belief system: atheists believe that God does not exist.

    A belief in a negative claim (“X does not exist”) still entails a belief system.

    The “opposite” or negation of belief is agnosticism, not atheism.

    About God and morality, I believe you miss my point.

    “All that one needs to know to conclude that morals do not come from God is the fact that people who do not believe in God have relatively the same morals as those who do. That can be demonstrated on a personal, and cultural level, and in many different parts of the world.”

    My claim is NOT this: the belief in God makes people more moral than the denial of God.

    My claim is this: the belief in God can EXPLAIN the source of morality, and the denial of God cannot.

    Sure, there are quite a few atheists who live reasonably moral lives, but, whether they realize it or not, their belief in the moral law is in contradiction with their stated denial of God. Their atheism cannot account for a real and objective morality.

    It’s to their credit that they still perceive and believe in the moral law, and it’s to their credit that they behave morally: but if this belief and these actions cannot be justified by their atheism, it undermines that atheism.

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  11. Maybe it’s time we stopped kicking each other’s worldviews in the nuts.

    Michael, if I gave a “comment of the week” award, that would be it!

    I think examining and defending our worldviews is crucial. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Do they offer the best explanations of where we came from, why we’re here, how we should live, what are our major problems, how do we solve them, etc.?

    As to everything else, I’ll just say, “What Bubba said.”

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  12. Hi Bubba,

    The law of inertia describes the behavior of massive objects. Without massive objects, no operation of inertia, which yet is objective and universal in its description of objects. The “laws” of ethics (I’ll explain the scare quotes anon) describe how to maximize well-being in societies of sentient animals. Without sentient animals, without suffering and happiness, no ethics. There is no necessity that “objective” must imply “transcendent” in any sense so fuzzy and not really meaningful as “transcending the natural universe.” (If morality transcends the natural universe, how does it get back in again to govern all its intricate provincial workings? A government that “transcends” the people is the most dangerous possible government).

    Ethical facts transcend in only one important sense. They transcend any one person’s subjectivity because your suffering is real live suffering, whether I believe it or not, and because there is no yardstick by which my suffering is more objectively urgent than yours, whether I want to consider it so or not. That’s *all* ethics need transcend in order to be objective: solipsism. It doesn’t have to transcend the world of social relations with their interdependent mechanics. The capacity to empathize presumably evolved because it was so useful, but the world into which that capacity gives insight — the suffering of others — is objectively real. It’s analogous to our ability to do math, which also presumably evolved piecemeal as one or another calculation gave a survival advantage, yet the number relations it describes are objective and reliable and help us solve real world problems.

    Indeed the heart of morality *is* a kind of math, an equation, if one helpfully illustrated by rich feeling — the understanding that you suffer and enjoy as vividly as I do, that we’re equal in that sense. I of course also have strong urges to slight you for my own advantage, but my capacity for empathy always ultimately lets me know that this is not fair, is not equal, is poor math.

    Let me frame your “ought” and “is” argument in a new way; you tell me if it’s fair. I’ve said before that “ought” always implies an “in order to,” as in “you ought to do this *for that end*.” If God’s in his heaven, that end might be something like, “in order to fulfill the greatest possible glory, which only God fully perceives, you ought to … love your neighbor etc.” A secular ethic might be along the lines of, “in order to live together in the happiest and most beautiful way, we ought to … love our neighbor etc.” A theist could argue that the religious version has an advantage in that there can be no democratic squabbling over what the most desirable “in order to” is: God really does know better. But if he *knows better*, that’s because there’s an objectively better, more glorious “in order to” to be *known* — which therefore, if our sight were as keen as God’s, we could see too! And of which therefore God is not the source in the first place. If he were the source of the “ought,” rather than just knowing what that “ought” truly is, that would mean the “ought” was *entirely* subjective, just in God’s subjectivity rather than our own.

    The only apparent advantage of the idea of God for an objective morality is that God is a singular, dictatorial subject, while we are many. He’s still a subject. If morality is objective, he’s not its source, just its witness. If he *is* the source, then there’s nothing objective about it. It’s arbitrary.

    But we’re in luck. With or without God, we have a perfect universal consensus. Not, of course, the happiness of one’s neighbor; empathy is much less awakened in some than others. No, every sentient being without exception wants its *own* happiness. And because I know this to be so, I know that it’s unsupportable math to consider my own happiness more important than yours. I have selfish desires, but I KNOW that those desires are poor math. (My cat, who kills and tortures so innocently, probably doesn’t know it. But she doesn’t know much math either, and this has no effect on math’s objective operation in her world as much as in mine).

    It’s also very happily the case that the greatest happiness involves a high degree of altruism and a high degree of contentment, the contentment of a mind that has learned to rest and surrender right here, not slave-driven by desires and aversions. Such contentment doesn’t come about through conscious will, but a deep rest of the mind in its own unfabricated nature: here, breathing, being; letting desires and aversions transpire and expire in transparency like chattering birds over a broad still pond, without raising a finger against them or for them. Trusting that awareness has all in its right place. And this contentment, in itself, whenever we find ourselves blessed with it, clears away large swaths of the fears and yearnings that temporarily so drown out empathy, the recognition of how vividly and adorably you too yearn for happiness. In contentment, affection and delighted generosity easily overflow.

    (Not bragging or preaching, just praising, getting off. Lest someone scorn that sort of warmish prose…).

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  13. You are wrong Bubba. It is incorrect to claim that “I believe God does not exists”. I make no claim. I’ve seen no evidence either way. When no evidence is present, no claim can be made, and disbelief is the default claim.

    For example do you believe that I have a blue car? Of course you don’t – you have no evidence either way, but that does not mean that you believe that I DON’T have a blue car.

    If you don’t make decisions based on scientific evidence, what basis do you use? Intuition alone? good luck with that.

    Here’s my problem, and I hope you can try to put yourselves in my shoes for just a minute. Everything you guys say, you back it up with the Bible. I don’t believe the Bible is the word of any supreme being. The only evidence that the Bible is God’s word is from mortal men. And I don’t trust their logic. You say you don’t need science to defend your belief in God, and I can accept that, but you use science to try to prove the infallibility of the Bible (in my opinion, unsuccessfully).

    Since the Bible is the only source of your “worldview”, do you just think I should read it over and over until I believe it?

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    1. Everything you guys say, you back it up with the Bible.

      Ryan, I’ve offered plenty of reasons for the flaws of atheism, the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible. It is hard to take you seriously when you say things like that.

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    2. Did you ever take me seriously Neil? It seems like you are pretty locked in to your beliefs, and I do not expect to change your mind, but I’m going to challenge you anyway.

      Do you have evidence that the Bible is the word of God that does not rely on here-say? Is there a way that I can test for myself the validity of the Bible? Is there a way I can find out there is a God without someone telling me that there is a God?

      If a person, or group of people lives their entire lives away from civilization, and contact from anyone, how would they have the opportunity to know about God? If God created all of us, why does he not give us equal opportunity to know him?

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      1. Did you ever take me seriously Neil? It seems like you are pretty locked in to your beliefs, and I do not expect to change your mind, but I’m going to challenge you anyway.

        I am firm in my convictions because I’ve studied the issues so exhaustively. I was an atheist / agnostic / apathetic for 28 years and only came to faith after asking lots of tough questions.

        I don’t mind challenges. Just because you didn’t persuade me otherwise doesn’t mean I didn’t take you seriously.

        Do you have evidence that the Bible is the word of God that does not rely on here-say? Is there a way that I can test for myself the validity of the Bible? Is there a way I can find out there is a God without someone telling me that there is a God?

        Yes. First, decide whether you really want to know if there is a God, whether you will follow the evidence where it leads and whether you will accept his authority.

        Then read some good apologetics sites and books. Subscribe to the Stand to Reason and/or Apologetics.com podcasts and listen for a while with an open mind.

        Also, to state the obvious, I would encourage you to read the Bible thoroughly. You can’t lose. Even if you don’t end up believing it you’ll be more familiar with what you are trying to criticize. I think all atheist arguments are ultimately wrong, but some are much better formulated and challenging than others.

        Also, it is such an oft-quoted piece of literature that everyone should read it at least once.

        If a person, or group of people lives their entire lives away from civilization, and contact from anyone, how would they have the opportunity to know about God? If God created all of us, why does he not give us equal opportunity to know him?

        Good questions. Most Christians I know wrestle with those. Here are a couple quick answers, though you may not like them because they come from the Bible ;-).

        Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

        Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

        God reveals himself in his creation and in our consciences. We have to work to deny him.

        Re. equal opportunity: I wrestled with that a lot when I became a believer. I felt guilty because I had Christian parents, grew up in a “Christian society,” etc. yet still rejected God for so long. Why did I get so many chances when others may not have heard of Jesus as much or at all?

        Then it hit me: That’s why it is called grace. I don’t deserve it, but God gave it anyway.

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  14. Oh I forgot to make one point (did you miss me?). I realize someone accustomed to Christian morality might have a harder time seeing how objective morality could emerge organically from the need to share a world with others. In contrast to an ethics where compassion is the overriding principle, Christian ethics emphasize other confusing elements which are hard to reconcile in a logical framework, thus creating a greater need for a transcendent lawgiver who knows better.

    For instance, gay sex is wrong not because of any suffering it causes (all you can point to is a slightly greater risk of infection from certain sex acts), but because … well, I don’t know the exact theological formulation, but not because of concerns with suffering and happiness. There are a number of similar instances.

    And God must torment the unsaved for eternity NOT because it will bring about any greater good at any future time, but because they’ve earned it through … sinning against him? How vulnerable is an omnipotent God that transgressions (even small ones!) which inconvenience him not in the least, deserve infinitely worse punishment than harm to “the least of these” in human societies?

    As far as I’m concerned, the need for punishment is only to reduce total harm: because harm is bad for the harmed. We want to discourage a harmer from harming a second time, deter others. Hell obviously doesn’t serve the first of these purposes, and surely half of eternity would suffice for the second? Couldn’t an inmate be given a chance to reconsider after the first 100 million years?

    Especially since God is the victim and he, presumably, cannot even be harmed.

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  15. “My claim is NOT this: the belief in God makes people more moral than the denial of God.
    My claim is this: the belief in God can EXPLAIN the source of morality, and the denial of God cannot.”

    Does a god explain morality better than no god? If so, you must explain how said god did it, not just say it did. And did you bother to look alternative explanations based on evidence? Morality can indeed be explained through evolved behavior and it already has quite a body of evidence in support. Saying “God did it” does not. It is a ‘just-so’ story. Your logic is based on a false dichotomy, an excuse for the glaring fact that your position has no support.

    “Indeed atheism is a belief system: atheists believe that God does not exist.
    A belief in a negative claim (”X does not exist”) still entails a belief system.
    The “opposite” or negation of belief is agnosticism, not atheism.”

    Saying atheism is a belief is like saying baldness is a hair color. Like most atheists (even Dawkins), I do not reject the existence of god(s). I maintain the null hypothesis in the absence of any reason to reject it. Thus, operationally, I act in accordance with there being no reason to accept that god(s) exists. Is that agnosticism? Not hardly.

    “People like Sagan routinely appeal to science as the sole source of trustworthy information.
    WE. DO. NOT.”

    Okay. What is it you do consider evidence? And remember, for me not to offer up the word ‘poppycock’ it must be verifiable, all hypotheses must be falsifiable and testable. If they aren’t, I see no way in which to distinguish any conclusions from made-up nonsense.

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    1. Hi Shamelessly,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Does a god explain morality better than no god? If so, you must explain how said god did it, not just say it did.

      Yes, the existence of a lawgiver explains why laws exist much better than the absence of a lawgiver. It is common sense. There are laws against murder that you are obligated to obey regardless of whether you know how they came into being.

      Morality can indeed be explained through evolved behavior and it already has quite a body of evidence in support.

      No, it can’t — at least not without the question begging that always takes place. The most common is to rationalize how something allegedly helps perpetuate the species so it is therefore morally good. But they never explain why perpetuating the species is a moral good.

      And the rather ironic thing is that once the atheists try to convince you about how morality evolved they’ll turn around and say how there are no universal morals. Both arguments are wrong, but I suggest picking one and sticking to it.

      I do not reject the existence of god(s). I maintain the null hypothesis in the absence of any reason to reject it. Thus, operationally, I act in accordance with there being no reason to accept that god(s) exists.

      Keep telling yourself that. I know why you are denying God (Romans 1:18-20).

      “People like Sagan routinely appeal to science as the sole source of trustworthy information.”

      WE. DO. NOT.”

      Yes. You. Do. You did it in the next paragraph:

      What is it you do consider evidence? And remember, for me not to offer up the word ‘poppycock’ it must be verifiable, all hypotheses must be falsifiable and testable. If they aren’t, I see no way in which to distinguish any conclusions from made-up nonsense.

      I see it here all the time. Atheists make a category error over and over, insisting that they won’t believe without scientific evidence of God’s existence. Of course, you can’t use science to weigh the color blue, either, because it doesn’t have weight. You don’t use material methods to test immaterial things.

      Also consider their typically dismissive reaction to the evidence of the testimony of eyewitnesses or reliable sources. They often insist that they only trust empirical evidence and not that of eyewitnesses, but that would mean they’d have to create their own test equipment and replicate every single experiment before they trusted the results. They obviously don’t do that. They use their judgment and experience to determine who they think is trustworthy and they rely on their conclusions. We do the same thing.

      More here — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/evidence/

      We have lots of evidence for God’s existence: Teleological, cosmological, moral, historical, etc. Insisting on scientific evidence demonstrates ignorance or willful rebellion.

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