The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that “category mistakes” were a key cause to metaphysical mistakes:
Finally, the fallacy that Aristotle calls form of expression exploits the kind of ambiguity made possible by what we have come to call category mistakes, in this case, fitting words to the wrong categories. Aristotle’s example is the word ‘flourishing’ which may appear to be a verb because of its ‘ing’ ending (as in ‘cutting’ or ‘running’) and so belongs to the category of actions, whereas it really belongs in the category of quality. Category confusion was, for Aristotle, the key cause of metaphysical mistakes. (ARISTOTLE 2.1.4)
Matt Slick over at CARM writes, “A category mistake is an error in logic in which one category of a thing is presented as belonging to another category. For example, to say “the rock is alive” assigns the category of life to an inanimate object. Another example would be to judge the beauty of a painting based on how much it weighs. This is a category error, since the category of beauty is not determined by the category of weight. So, for the atheist to work from inside his materialistic, non-transcendent worldview and require evidence for the non-material, transcendent God (which necessarily exists outside his perceived worldview) is a category mistake because it is asking for the material evidence of the non-material, the non-transcendent evidence of the transcendent. It is like asking to have a thought placed on a scale. It doesn’t work because they are different categories.”
Here are two challenges by an atheist troll which I take up (click to enlarge):
There is a fundamental distinction between the way that Christian apologists approach proving a negative, and the way that atheists approach proving a negative. The distinction is that Christian apologists give good reasons to accept that something doesn’t exist or isn’t true, whereas atheist apologists will commit a fallacy known as an argument from ignorance. The atheist will say “If you can’t prove to my satisfaction that God exists, then I am justified in not believing.” It is an argument from ignorance to say that “X” does not exist because it hasn’t been proven to my satisfaction. However, Christian apologists will say, “We have good reasons to not accept your claim.” and then will proceed to give those reasons.
The Conflict of Worldviews
Since science alone can not test the validity of worldviews, we must use other methods to test claims in which science itself cannot test. You might ask, how can we tell how a worldview is valid or invalid? The mark of something that is not true is inconsistency. What we must do is take all of the presuppositions of a worldview into account, and follow those presuppositions to their logical conclusions. If any of these presuppositions are shown to be internally inconsistent while following them to their ultimate conclusion, then that worldview is false.
In this case, since the atheist is arguing for The Flying Spaghetti Monster, we must take the properties of the Flying Spaghetti Monster into consideration when arguing against it.
The Problem for the Atheist
It should be recognized that when the atheist is arguing for a deity in order to refute any type of theism, including Christianity, that the atheist is forsaking their own worldview for in favor of another. The presuppositions of Pastafarianism are inconsistent with the presuppositions of atheism. Since the arguments and objections that atheism brings to the table in regards to Christianity are not sufficient, it is necessary for atheists to posit something as absurd as a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Since the presuppositions of Pastafarianism are inconsistent with atheism, when they adopt this worldview to try to challenge the Special Revelation of Christianity, they are actually forsaking their own belief that no gods exist. If the arguments that atheists used against Christianity were so consistent, there would be no need for them to mention the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems that the atheists have not realized that if could successfully prove the existence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster, then atheism would be false. The Flying Spaghetti Monster undermines the entire atheist worldview.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster
The Flying Spaghetti Monster concept was revealed to the public when an atheist named Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education in regards to a decision to permit teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.(1) Intelligent Design proponents responded by saying that his letter unwittingly proved the ID movement’s point, because ID does not say or try to conclude who the designer is. Nevertheless, The Flying Spaghetti Monster became a popular objection to Christianity and all other forms of theism, even though that doesn’t appear to be what Bobby Henderson’s original intention was.
1. Pastafarianism only entertains relative moral values at best.
2. Pastafarians live as if objective moral values exist.
3. If a Pastafarian lives as if objective morals exist while claiming that morals are relative, then the pastafarian worldview is self-contradictory.
4. A self-contradictory worldview cannot be true.
Conclusion: Therefore, Pastafarianism is false. (A cosmological argument against flying spaghetti monster.)
So the Flying Spaghetti Monster is just a rip off of earlier thinking. But, here is the refutation of it:
Brian Garvey, a lecturer in the philosophy of mind and psychology at Lancaster University, has written an article (referenced here) exploring Russell’s famous celestial teapot. The article, Absence of Evidence, Evidence of Absence, and the Atheist’s Teapot (PDF), appears in in the latest volume of Ars Disputandi, a philosophy of religion journal hosted by Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Here’s the abstract:
Atheists often admit that there is no positive evidence for atheism. Many argue that there is nonetheless a prima facie argument, which I will refer to as the ‘teapot argument’. They liken agnosticism to remaining neutral on the existence of a teapot in outer space. The present paper argues that this analogy fails, for the person who denies such a teapot can agree with the person who affirms it regarding every other feature of the world, which is not the case with the atheist vis-a-vis the theist. The atheist is committed to there being an alternative explanation of why the universe exists and is the way it is. Moreover, the analogy relies on assumptions about the prior plausibility of atheism. Hence, the teapot argument fails.
And a quote:
“There is, I want to argue, a significant difference between denying the existence of a teapot orbiting the sun, and denying the existence of God. When two people disagree over whether or not there is a teapot orbiting the sun, they are disagreeing over whether the world includes that particular item or not. For all that that particular disagreement implies, the two people agree about every other feature of the world: the tea-ist believes in a world that is exactly the same as the one the a-tea-ist believes in, with the single difference that it contains one item that the a-tea-ist’s world doesn’t contain. Since, as I have argued in the previous section, the only thing that could count as evidence for the teapot orbiting the sun is that someone has seen it, it is in one way analogous to a situation where one person says: ‘there’s a postbox at the end of the high street’ and the other person says ‘no there isn’t, go and have a look’, and the first person goes and looks and doesn’t see one. If that person is reasonable, that will be the end of the argument. The two situations are not quite analogous, however, in that no-one has gone and looked to see whether there is a teapot in outer space. But the situations are disanalogous in a second way too, and a way which helps to illuminate why, in the absence of evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no such teapot. That is, that there is nothing manifestly far-fetched in the idea of there being a postbox at the end of the high street. In the absence of seeing one (leaving aside the possibility of more indirect evidence, such as seeing a map of where all the postboxes are at the GPO) one is hardly being unreasonable if one doesn’t come down on one side or the other. And this difference between the postbox and the teapot tells us something about why it is unreasonable to suspend judgement regarding the teapot, even though we have not only failed to see one, but failed to carry out anything remotely approaching an exhaustive search. Because of its manifest far-fetchedness, or what amounts to the same thing, because it’s reasonable in the absence of prior evidence on the specific hypothesis to estimate that it’s highly unlikely, we can say that, when it comes to teapots orbiting the sun, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The atheist’s argument attempts to gain persuasiveness by ignoring this issue of prior plausibility. It is true that we cannot (at present) conclusively prove that there’s no teapot in outer space in the way that we could conclusively prove that there’s no postbox on the end of the street by going there and looking. But part of the reason why, despite not being able to do this, it is still reasonable to conclude that there isn’t, is that prior to any investigation the hypothesis is manifestly far-fetched. In the postbox case it is not, and thus we can see that absence of evidence, as far as rendering it reasonable to deny something’s existence goes, has different force depending on the case in hand. Unless the existence of God is taken to be also manifestly far-fetched, the argument to the effect that if we don’t suspend judgement regarding the teapot then we shouldn’t suspend it regarding God, doesn’t get off the ground.”
The “a-” in “atheism” must be understood as negation instead of absence, as “not” instead of “without”. Therefore, in philosophy at least, atheism should be construed as the proposition that God does not exist (or, more broadly, the proposition that there are no gods).
There is a subtle, but important difference between not believing in something and believing that something is not (does not exist). Atheism adopts the latter position in holding that God does not exist. Atheism is more than mere lack of belief, it is the denial of the existence of God. Mere lack of belief makes the atheist no different from a newborn baby or my Chevy. (Added to a bit — but from APOLOGETICS 315)
Here I will take a break and point out that there are MANY “utilitarian benefits” to the Christian faith, but say this is not the goal of our faith…
“And you will know the truth [regarding salvation], and the truth will set you free [from the penalty of sin].” – JOHN 8:32
…but the “healthfulness” of experiencing TRUE JOY is a natural outgrowth of believing in Truth:
Religious Belief Reduces Crime Summary of the First Panel Discussion Panelists for this important discussion included social scientists Dr. John DiIulio, professor of politics and urban affairs at Princeton University; David Larson, M.D., President of the National Institute for Healthcare Research; Dr. Byron Johnson, Director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy at Vanderbilt University; and Gary Walker, President of Public/Private Ventures. The panel focused on new research, confirming the positive effects that religiosity has on turning around the lives of youth at risk.
Dr. Larson laid the foundation for the discussion by summarizing the findings of 400 studies on juvenile delinquency, conducted during the past two decades. He believes that although more research is needed, we can say without a doubt that religion makes a positive contribution.
His conclusion: “The better we study religion, the more we find it makes a difference.” Previewing his own impressive research, Dr. Johnson agreed. He has concluded that church attendance reduces delinquency among boys even when controlling for a number of other factors including age, family structure, family size, and welfare status. His findings held equally valid for young men of all races and ethnicities.
Gary Walker has spent 25 years designing, developing and evaluating many of the nation’s largest public and philanthropic initiatives for at-risk youth. His experience tells him that faith-based programs are vitally important for two reasons. First, government programs seldom have any lasting positive effect. While the government might be able to design [secular/non-God] programs that occupy time, these programs, in the long-term, rarely succeed in bringing about the behavioral changes needed to turn kids away from crime. Second, faith-based programs are rooted in building strong adult-youth relationships; and less concerned with training, schooling, and providing services, which don’t have the same direct impact on individual behavior. Successful mentoring, Walker added, requires a real commitment from the adults involved – and a willingness to be blunt. The message of effective mentors is simple. “You need to change your life, I’m here to help you do it, or you need to be put away, away from the community.” Government, and even secular philanthropic programs, can’t impart this kind of straight talk.
Sixth through twelfth graders who attend religious services once a month or more are half as likely to engage in at-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual excess, truancy, vandalism, drunk driving and other trouble with police. Search Institute, “The Faith Factor,” Source, Vol. 3, Feb. 1992, p.1.
Churchgoers are more likely to aid their neighbors in need than are non-attendees. George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, 1991, p. 226.
Three out of four Americans say that religious practice has strengthened family relationships. George Gallup, Jr. “Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century,” The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.
Church attendance lessens the probabilities of homicide and incarceration. Nadia M. Parson and James K. Mikawa: “Incarceration of African-American Men Raised in Black Christian Churches.” The Journal of Psychology, Vol. 125, 1990, pp.163-173.
Religious practice lowers the rate of suicide. Joubert, Charles E., “Religious Nonaffiliation in Relation to Suicide, Murder, Rape and Illegitimacy,” Psychological Reports 75:1 part 1 (1994): 10 Jon W. Hoelter: “Religiosity, Fear of Death and Suicide Acceptibility.” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol. 9, 1979, pp.163-172.
The presence of active churches, synagogues… reduces violent crime in neighborhoods. John J. Dilulio, Jr., “Building Spiritual Capital: How Religious Congregations Cut Crime and Enhance Community Well-Being,” RIAL Update, Spring 1996.
People with religious faith are less likely to be school drop-outs, single parents, divorced, drug or alcohol abusers. Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Roland, “Correcting the Welfare Tragedy,” The Center for Public Justice, 1994.
Church involvement is the single most important factor in enabling inner-city black males to escape the destructive cycle of the ghetto. Richard B. Freeman and Harry J. Holzer, eds., The Black Youth Employment Crisis, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p.354.
Attending services at a church or other house of worship once a month or more makes a person more than twice as likely to stay married than a person who attends once a year or less. David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, “Is Divorce Hazardous to Your Health?” Physician, June 1990. Improving Personal Well-Being
Regular church attendance lessens the possibility of cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema and arteriosclerosis. George W. Comstock amd Kay B. Patridge:* “Church attendance and health.”* Journal of Chronic Disease, Vol. 25, 1972, pp. 665-672.
Regular church attendance significantly reduces the probablility of high blood pressure.* David B. Larson, H. G. Koenig, B. H. Kaplan, R. S. Greenberg, E. Logue and H. A. Tyroler:* ” The Impact of religion on men’s blood pressure.”* Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 28, 1989, pp.265-278.* W.T. Maramot:* “Diet, Hypertension and Stroke.” in* M. R. Turner (ed.) Nutrition and Health, Alan R. Liss, New York, 1982, p. 243.
People who attend services at least once a week are much less likely to have high blood levels of interlukin-6, an immune system protein associated with many age-related diseases.* Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen, The International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine, October 1997.
Regular practice of religion lessens depression and enhances self esteem. *Peter L. Bensen and Barnard P. Spilka:* “God-Image as a function of self-esteem and locus of control” in H. N. Maloney (ed.) Current Perspectives in the Psychology of Religion, Eedermans, Grand Rapids, 1977, pp. 209-224.* Carl Jung: “Psychotherapies on the Clergy” in Collected Works Vol. 2, 1969, pp.327-347.
Church attendance is a primary factor in preventing substance abuse and repairing damage caused by substance abuse.* Edward M. Adalf and Reginald G. Smart:* “Drug Use and Religious Affiliation, Feelings and Behavior.” * British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 80, 1985, pp.163-171.* Jerald G. Bachman, Lloyd D. Johnson, and Patrick M. O’Malley:* “Explaining* the Recent Decline in Cocaine Use Among Young Adults:* Further Evidence That Perceived Risks and Disapproval Lead to Reduced Drug Use.”* Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 31,* 1990, pp. 173-184.* Deborah Hasin, Jean Endicott, * and Collins Lewis:* “Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Patients With Affective Syndromes.”* Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 26, 1985, pp. 283-295. * The findings of this NIMH-supported study were replicated in the Bachmen et. al. study above.
The strength of the family unit is intertwined with the practice of religion. Churchgoersare more likely to be married, less likely to be divorced or single, and more likely to manifest high levels of satisfaction in marriage.
Church attendance is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
The regular practice of religion helps poor persons move out of poverty. Regular church attendance, for example, is particularly instrumental in helping young people to escape the poverty of inner-city life.
Religious belief and practice contribute substantially to the formation of personal moral criteria and sound moral judgment.
Regular religious practice generally inoculates individuals against a host of social problems, including suicide, drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births, crime, and divorce.
The regular practice of religion also encourages such beneficial effects on mental health as less depression (a modern epidemic), more self-esteem, and greater family and marital happiness.
In repairing damage caused by alcoholism, drug addiction, and marital breakdown, religious belief and practice are a major source of strength and recovery.
Regular practice of religion is good for personal physical health: It increases longevity, improves one’s chances of recovery from illness, and lessens the incidence of many killer diseases.
…..I’m certainly no Aristotelian. Not because I reject happiness. Rather, as a materialist, I think there’s nothing intrinsic about the goals and purposes we seek to achieve it. Modern science explicitly jettisons this sort of teleological thinking from our knowledge of the universe. From particle physics to cosmology, we see that the universe operates well without purpose.
The laws of physics are inherently mechanistic. The second law of thermodynamics, for instance, states that entropy is always increasing. Entropy is the degree of disorder in a system, for example our universe. Physical disorder is all about equilibrium — everything resting randomly and uniformly. Leave your hot coffee on the desk and it will cool to ambient temperature. The coffee molecules are more organized because they are moving faster and working harder to sustain a higher temperature than the surrounding air. But heat transfer results as the coffee molecules expend more energy. As energy is expended, the temperature of the coffee drops and equalizes with the air. Entropy increases since the molecules in the system are now less organized as the overall temperature becomes more uniform.
Now, imagine this on the cosmic scale. Just as the temperature of the coffee and air equalizes, the Earth, our solar system, galaxies and even supermassive black holes will break down to the quantum level, where everything cools to a uniform state. This process is known as the arrow of time. Eventually everything ends in heat death. The universe certainly started with a bang, but it likely ends with a fizzle.
What’s the purpose in that, though?
There isn’t one. At least not fundamentally. Entropy is antagonistic to intrinsic purpose. It’s about disorder. Aristotle’s world and pretty much the dominant understanding of the physical universe until the Copernican Revolution is all about inherent order and permanence. But the universe as we understand it tells us nothing about the goal or meaning of existence, let alone our own. In the grand scheme of things, you and I are enormously insignificant.
Purpose springs from our longing for permanence in an ever-changing universe. It is a reaction to the universe’s indifference to us. We create stories about the world and ourselves as contours, “phantom bodies,” of the inevitability of loss and change. Myths appear timeless; they have what Blumenberg calls an iconic constancy. Stories pass through generations, often becoming traditions, customs, even laws and institutions that order and give meaning to our lives. Purpose grows out of the durability of human lore. Our stories serve as directives for the ways we need the world to exist.
An indifferent universe also offers us a powerful and compelling case for living justly and contentedly because it allows us to anchor our attentionhere. It teaches us that this life matters and that we alone are responsible for it. Love, friendship and forgiveness are for our benefit. Oppression, war and conflict are self-inflicted. When we ask what’s the purpose of the recent gassing of Syrian children in the Idlib Province or the torture and killings of Chechnyan homosexual men, we ought not simply look to God or the universe for explanations but to ourselves, to the entrenched mythologies that drive such actions — then reject them when the institutions they inform amount to acts of horror.
The purposes and goals we create are phantom bodies — vestiges of and memorials to the people, places and things we stand to lose and strive to keep. Purpose indexes the world’s impermanence, namely our own. Sure, my grandfather’s T-Bird will function well as transportation once I’m finished. But, that goal only makes sense as an enduring reminder of the stories and memories of him. Purpose is about loss, or at least the circumvention of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We create purposes to establish happy endings in a universe where endings are simply that — endings.
I will never see my Papa again. One day I will die. So will you. The T-Bird will decay along with everything in the universe as the fundamental particles we’re made of return to the inert state in which everything began. Entropy demands it.
So, take a moment to think about the mythologies informing your purpose. I’ll reflect on mine, too. The universe, however, won’t. And that might be the most meaningful distinction of all.
I just wanted to update the below a bit with a great explanation of how theists view evidential propositions about God as compared to agnostics and atheists. Tim Stratton makes a great short example of what is being discussed in the below — but clearer: “ATHEISM: LACK OF BELIEF OR BLIND FAITH?“
Many atheists claim that their atheistic beliefs are just as viable as my theistic beliefs. Typically, the following scale (or something similar) is provided:
1- God exists (100% certainty) 2- God probably exists (51%-99% certainty) 3- Neutral Agnostic (50%/50%) 4- God probably does not exist (51%-99% certainty) 5- God does not exist (100% certainty)
I have claimed to hold to proposition (2) as a theist. Because of a cumulative case of coherent reasons (backed up by evidence), I believe theism is probably true with extremely high degrees of certainty (say, 97% certainty). Although I am not 100% certain (but have justification to believe God probably exists), it is quite reasonable to put my faith in what is probably true. This is why Christian theism is a reasonable faith.
Many atheists ignore the plethora of arguments and evidence for God and attempt to make the same move on the other side of the scale. However, they run into the same problems I discussed above. If they claim to hold to proposition (4), then they need to provide coherent reasons (backed up by evidence) as to why they think atheism is “probably true.” Why has the belief needle moved from (3), neutral agnosticism, to proposition (4)? If there are no logical answers then the atheist holds this view for no good reason at all (especially while ignoring the cumulative case for the existence of God). Indeed, their commitment to this definition of atheism is still nothing but a blind faith.
Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. ~ Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York, NY: Marine Books, 2008), 347.
Faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, the immutable [i.e., unchangeable] truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes. ~ John Dewey
John Dewey, “Soul-Searching,” Teacher Magazine, September 1933, p. 33.
There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the schoolboy who said : “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain
Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips: A Book of Quotations (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009), 116, cf. faith.
I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue. The harm that is done by a religion is of two sorts, the one depending on the kind of belief which it is thought ought to be given to it, and the other upon the particular tenets believed. As regards the kind of belief: it is thought virtuous to have Faith—that is to say, to have a conviction which cannot be shaken by contrary evidence. Or, if contrary evidence might induce doubt, it is held that contrary evidence must be suppressed. On such grounds, the young are not allowed to hear arguments…. The consequence is that the minds of the young are stunted and are filled with fanatical hostility both to those who have other fanaticisms and, even more virulently, to those who object to all fanaticisms. ~ Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (New York, NY; Simon and Schuster, 1957), vi.
(See response to Russell’s “induce doubt” portion at bottom)
According to the A Manual for Creating Atheists, faith is:
“pretending to know things that you don’t know”
“belief without evidence”
The author calls faith “an unreliable epistemology”
and calls for a process and agenda that will “ultimately eradicate faith”.
The words we use are important. They can help us see clearly, or they can confuse, cloud, or obscure issues. I’ll now offer my two preferred definitions of faith, and then disambiguate faith from hope.’
1. Belief without evidence.
“My definition of faith is that it’s a leap over the probabilities. It fills in the gap between what is improbable to make something more probable than not without faith. As such, faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.”
—John W. Loftus, “Victor Reppert Now Says He Doesn’t Have Faith!” (Loftus, 2012)
If one had sufficient evidence to warrant belief in a particular claim, then one wouldn’t believe the claim on the basis of faith. “Faith” is the word one uses when one does not have enough evidence to justify holding a belief, but when one just goes ahead and believes anyway.
Another way to think about “belief without evidence” is to think of an irrational leap over probabilities. For example, assume that an historical Jesus existed and was crucified, and that his corpse was placed in a tomb. Assume also that eyewitness accounts were accurate, and days later the tomb was empty.
One can believe the corpse was missing for any number of reasons. For example, one can believe the body arose from the dead and ascended to heaven, one can believe aliens brought the body back to life, or one can believe an ancient spirit trapped in the tomb merged with the corpse and animated it. Belief in any of these claims would require faith because there’s insufficient evidence to justify any one of these particular options.
Belief in any of these claims would also disregard other, far more likely possibilities—for example, that the corpse was stolen, hidden, or moved.
If one claims knowledge either in the absence of evidence, or when a claim is contradicted by evidence, then this is when the word “faith” is used. “Believing something anyway” is an accurate definition of the term “faith.”
2. Pretending to know things you don’t know.
Not everything that’s a case of pretending to know things you don’t know is a case of faith, but cases of faith are instances of pretending to know something you don’t know.’ For example, someone who knows nothing about baking a cake can pretend to know how to bake a cake, and this is not an instance of faith. But if someone claims to know something on the basis of faith, they are pretending to know something they don’t know. For example, using faith would be like someone giving advice about baking cookies who has never been in a kitchen.
As a Street Epistemologist, whenever you hear the word “faith,” just translate this in your head as, “pretending to know things you don’t know.” While swapping these words may make the sentence clunky, “pretending to know things you don’t know” will make the meaning of the sentence clearer.
To start thinking in these terms, the following table contains commonly heard expressions using the word “faith” in column one, and the same expressions substituted with the words “pretending to know things you don’t know” in column two.
Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists (Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013), 23-26
I regard faith as religious belief which is held without evidence. If someone thinks that a bus will arrive on time per its schedule, then that person has trust or confidence, not faith. I don’t use the word faith except to mean non-evidential religious beliefs. I work hard to identify the evidence, so faith for me is an lazy, easy way out.
(See a professor comment on this definition at the bottom)
Letting Christians Define Faith
faith 1. Objective body of truth in the Bible, the creeds, the definitions of the universal councils, and/or the teachings of the church. 2. Positive, subjective, and personal allegiance to and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Faith exists in constant tension with three other elements: works, reason, and knowledge. In Protestant scholastic theology, faith is viewed as a threefold process: notitia (knowledge of what is to be believed), assensus (intellectual acceptance of the truth of what is believed), and fiducia (personal commitment to that truth).
The first involves reception of the message of the gospel. The second involves objective acceptance of certain theological concepts and historical events. Theologians call this fides quae creditur (the faith that is believed), comprising erkennen (recognition) and assensus (assent). Assensus includes confidence in God’s promises and trust in the events recorded in the Scripture. Peter Lombard pointed out that assensus alone is fides informis (incomplete faith).
Authentic faith must include a second aspect—a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Theologians variously call this fides qua creditur (faith by which one believes), fides formata caritate (faith formed by love), bekennen (acknowledgment), and fiducia (trust in what is believed). Fiducia also involves obedience to God’s Word, perseverance in God’s will, and love for God’s people (John 3:36; Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Cor. 13:2; 1 John 3:1o). Thus Christians not only live because of faith but they also live according to the faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Faith is in one sense a human act, but it is also at the same time a divine gift.
George Thomas Kurian, ed., Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001), cf. faith, 292-293.
I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.
Morimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in, Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207.
Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.
William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 38.
Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.
Personal saving faith, in the way Scripture understands it, involves more than mere knowledge. Of course it is necessary that we have some knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done, for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14). But knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for us is not enough, for people can know facts but rebel against them or dislike them. (Rom. 1:32; James 2:19)….
In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel and approval of those facts, in order to be saved, I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me. In doing this I move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person. We may therefore define saving faith in the following way: Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal lift with God.
This definition emphasizes that saving faith is not just a belief in facts but personal trust in Jesus to save me…. The unbeliever comes to Christ seeking to have sin and guilt removed and to enter into a genuine relationship with God that will last forever.
The definition emphasizes personal trust in Christ, not just belief in facts about Christ. Because saving faith in Scripture involves this personal trust, the word “trust” is a better word to use in contemporary culture than the word “faith” or “belief.” The reason is that we can “believe” something to be true with no personal commitment or dependence involved in it. I can believe that Canberra is the capital of Australia, or that 7 times 6 is 42, but have no personal commitment or dependence on anyone when I simply believe those facts. The word faith, on the other hand, is sometimes used today to refer to an almost irrational commitment to something in spite of strong evidence to the contrary, a sort of irrational decision to believe something that we are quite sure is not true! (If your favorite football team continues to lose games, someone might encourage you to “have faith” even though all the facts point the opposite direction.) In these two popular senses, the word “belief” and the word “faith” have a meaning contrary to the biblical sense.
The word trust is closer to the biblical idea, since we are familiar with trusting persons in everyday life. The more we come to know a person, and the more we see in that person a pattern of life that warrants trust, the more we find ourselves able to place trust in that person to do what he or she promises, or to act in ways that we can rely on. This fuller sense of personal trust is indicated in several passages of Scripture in which initial saving faith is spoken of in very personal terms, often using analogies drawn from personal relationships. John says, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). Much as we would receive a guest into our homes, John speaks of receiving Christ.
John 3:16 tells us that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Here John uses a surprising phrase when he does not simply say, “whoever believes him” (that is, believes that what he says is true and able to be trusted), but rather, “whoever believes in him.” The Greek phrase pisteuo eis auton could also be translated “believe into him” with the sense of trust or confidence that goes into and rests in Jesus as a person. Leon Morris can say, “Faith, for John, is an activity which takes men right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ.” He understands the Greek phrase pisteuo eis to be a significant indication that New Testament faith is not just intellectual assent but includes a “moral element of personal trust.” Such an expression was rare or perhaps nonexistent in the secular Greek found outside the New Testament, but it was well suited to express the personal trust in Christ that is involved in saving faith.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 709-711.
Although suffering as a prisoner for proclaiming the gospel, Paul was not disillusioned or in despair. Why? Because of his faith. As he testifies to his faith, its essential elements become clear. “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because Iknow whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I haveentrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:11-12). Truth about God can be known. Zeal for God without knowledge (of the Redeemer) did not suffice for monotheistic and moral Jews (Rom. 10:1-2). Neither did worship of an “unknown God” atone for the cultured Athenians (Acts 17:23-31). In contrast, Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21).”
The faith that saves is directed away from human educational, cultural, and religious achievements to the Creator, whose redemptive plan has been preserved and publicized in Scripture. Faith comes by hearing the message of special revelation now affirmed by the written Word of God, the hearer being convinced that “Jesus is Lord” and trusting in him (Rom. 10:4, 8-11, 14). Faith involves knowledge (notitia), persuasion (assensus), and commitment (fiducia). These three elements of faith are operative, not only when one first believes the gospel and trusts the Savior, but also in a growing faith throughout the Christian life.
Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demerest, Integrative Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 168-169.
There is more than enough evidence on every hand from every department of human experience and knowledge to demonstrate that Christianity is true… It is the faith of the non-Christian [that] is externally and internally groundless. They are the ones who leap in the dark. Some, like Kierkegaard, have admitted this
Robert Morey, Introduction to Defending the Faith (Orange, CA: Christian Scholars Press, 2002), 38.
When I was undertaking my doctoral research in molecular biology at Oxford University, I was frequently confronted with a number of theories offering to explain a given observation. In the end, I had to make a judgment concerning which of them possessed the greatest internal consistency, the greatest degree of predictive ability. Unless I was to abandon any possibility of advance in understanding, I was obliged to make such a judgment… I would claim the right to speak of the ‘superiority’ of Christianity in this explicative sense.
“Response to John Hick,” by Clark Pinnock, in More Than One Way? Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, Revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996), 68.
Often, however, the cause of our doubt isn’t what you might think. It isn’t necessarily the strength of the arguments that rattles us, but the way they resonate with the unbeliever in each of us (what the Bible calls the “old self”). We hear Tokyo Rose’s voice and she seems to make pretty good sense sometimes. Yet more often than not, if we look closely at the atheist’s arguments, we find that there is little substance. Seeing this can change the argument’s frequency and therefore break its spell.
Believers often worry that their doubts signify the rapid approach of full-blown unbelief. But as pastor and author Tim Keller puts it,
Faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.
All thoughtful believers—even those whose faith is mature—encounter doubt. Not a single person has had unadulterated faith.
In any case, it certainly won’t do to ignore your doubts, and defusing them will only strengthen your faith. To be sure, doubts can be strong enough to become a trial in your life; but like all trials, they’re meant to refine faith, not stifle it.
Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), xvii.
Here is the response to Logicel’s position:
…faith isn’t a theory of how to know things: “Faith is not an epistemological category. It is not a way of knowing something. Faith is a way of trusting something.
“Faith is trusting in that which you have reason to believe is true. Once you have come to believe that something is true, using reliable epistemological means, you can then place your faith or trust in those things.”
The definition above of faith is ha-larious! Thanks for posting it. I’m using it to show how ignorant people are about the term, faith. It is totally opposite of the real meaning that it makes quite a contrast. Faith is the substance of things believed based on evidential material, eye witnesses reports, and logical reasons to hold something as true. Those who have “faith” without the evidence are deluded and would believe anything. It is like someone believing that one species evolves into another species without any transitional evidence. Even with no evidence they continue to believe its true! Now that fits your poster’s definition. Anyway, thanks for the post. I am getting a lot of laughs by using it in my presentations.
Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.
From Living Waters, creators of the award-winning TV program “The Way of the Master” and the hit movies “180” and “Evolution vs. God,” comes the powerful film “The Atheist Delusion.” Executive produced by TV co-host and best-selling author Ray Comfort (Hell’s Best Kept Secret, Scientific Facts in the Bible).
I am posting this excerpt of Daniel Dennett’s response to William Lane Craig’s presentation (HERE). Dennett’s short follow up offers no defense of his atheism in light of Craig’s presentation. He basically mentions that his non-knowledge will some day be filled in (atheism-of-the-gaps). This will be followed up by a response in the comments section that made me think of this old upload on my Vimeo, and why I isolated it. The response is well thought out and will be an enjoyable read to those of us headed towards glory. I will also insert my response (mainly using Dr. Howe’s book, Vestigial Organs Are Fully Functional) to a Discover Magazine article when “Born Again 77” gets to the topic, as well as a couple other resources. Enjoy:
The original topic in which I pulled this response from can be found here at UNCOMMON DESCENT, Born Again 77 starts by quoting a previous statement by a skeptic, and then adding to his knowledge base:
Very Enjoyable Read
“Perhaps the gaps he is referring to are things like lightning (yep, gotta hand it to science; definitely not thrown by Zeus in piques of anger)”
Excerpt: In August 2009, Dwyer and colleagues were aboard a National Center for Atmospheric Research Gulfstream V when it inadvertently flew into the extremely violent thunderstorm—and, it turned out, through a large cloud of positrons, the antimatter opposite of electrons, that should not have been there.
To encounter a cloud of positrons without other associated physical phenomena such as energetic gamma-ray emissions was completely unexpected, thoroughly perplexing and contrary to currently understood physics.
“The fact that, apparently out of nowhere, the number of positrons around us suddenly increased by more than a factor of 10 and formed a cloud around the aircraft is very hard to understand. We really have no good explanation for it,” says Dwyer…
…“We really don’t understand how lightning gets started very well because we don’t understand the electrical environment of thunderstorms. This positron phenomenon could be telling us something new about how thunderstorms charge up and make lightning, but our finding definitely complicates things because it doesn’t fit into the picture that was developing.”
Verse: “Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” (Job 38:35)
Moreover, the ‘gap’ problem is far worse for Atheists than just not being able to explain lightning. Atheistic materialism cannot even explain how a single photon gets from point a to point b, nor even how a photon is emitted or absorbed, much less how lightning occurs:
“The path taken by the photon is not an element of reality. We are not allowed to talk about the photon passing through this or this slit. Neither are we allowed to say the photon passes through both slits. All this kind of language is not applicable.” ~ Anton Zeilinger (Double Slit, Quantum-Electrodynamics, and Christian Theism – Video)
Excerpt: It is important not to over-interpret these diagrams. Nothing is implied about how a particle gets from one point to another. The diagrams do not imply that the particles are moving in straight or curved lines. They do not imply that the particles are moving with fixed speeds. The fact that the photon is often represented, by convention, by a wavy line and not a straight one does not imply that it is thought that it is more wavelike than is an electron. The images are just symbols to represent the actions above: photons and electrons do, somehow, move from point to point and electrons, somehow, emit and absorb photons. We do not know how these things happen, but the theory tells us about the probabilities of these things happening.
Verse: “For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)
And although Theists are often accused of making ‘God of the Gaps’ style arguments by atheists, the fact of the matter is that, as science has progressed, it is the Atheist himself who has had to retreat further and further into ‘Materialism/Naturalism of Gaps’ style arguments. i.e. into “Science will figure a materialistic answer out to that mystery some day” style argument.
To clearly illustrate the ‘materialism of the gaps’ style argument that atheists are forced to make, the materialistic and Theistic philosophy make, and have made, several major contradictory predictions about what type of scientific evidence we will find.
These major contradictory predictions, and the evidence now revealed by advances in modern science, can be tested against one another to see if either materialism or Theism is true.
See: Theism compared to Materialism/Naturalism – a comparative overview of the major predictions of each philosophy (Video)
As you can see from the preceding video, when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy (methodological naturalism), from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact science is even very good at pointing us to Christianity as the solution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’
See: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” (Video)
Moreover, let us be VERY clear to the fact that ALL of science, every discipline within science, is dependent on basic Theistic presuppositions about the rational intelligibility of the universe and the ability of our mind to comprehend that rational intelligibility….
Excerpt: When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary.
The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight….
Moreover, if we cast aside those basic Theistic presuppositions about the rational intelligibility of the universe and the ability of our mind to comprehend that rational intelligibility, and try to use naturalism as our basis for understanding the universe, and for practicing science, then everything within that atheistic/naturalistic worldview, (i.e. sense of self. observation of reality, beliefs about reality, free will, even reality itself), collapses into self-refuting, unrestrained, flights of fantasy and imagination.
Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a framework of illusions and fantasy – Sept. 2016 (Google Doc)
As well, Darwinian evolution, the supposed pride and joy of Atheistic Materialism, is itself useless as a heuristic in science
“Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery. Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology.”
“In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, and physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”
~ Marc Kirschner, Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 2005
“While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superflous one.”
~ A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, Introduction to “Evolutionary Processes” – (2000).
Excerpt: Coincidentally, a correspondent today sends across my desk this from biologist Jerry Coyne, of Why Evolution Is True fame. Writing in Nature (“Selling Darwin”), Coyne has conceded:
“[T]ruth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.”
In fact, to the extent that Darwinian evolution has influenced scientific research, it has sent science down blind alleys by making wrong predictions, such as the false predictions of vestigial organs and junk DNA. The following paper evaluates 23 fundamental false predictions of evolutionary theory from a wide range of different categories
Excerpt: The predictions examined in this paper were selected according to several criteria. They cover a wide spectrum of evolutionary theory and are fundamental to the theory, reflecting major tenets of evolutionary thought. They were widely held by the consensus rather than reflecting one viewpoint of several competing viewpoints. Each prediction was a natural and fundamental expectation of the theory of evolution, and constituted mainstream evolutionary science. Furthermore, the selected predictions are not vague but rather are specific and can be objectively evaluated. They have been tested and evaluated and the outcome is not controversial or in question. And finally the predictions have implications for evolution’s (in)capacity to explain phenomena, as discussed in the conclusions.
“The thyroid gland, pituitary gland, thymus, pineal gland, and coccyx, … once considered useless by evolutionists, are now known to have important functions. The list of 180 “vestigial” structures is practically down to zero. Unfortunately, earlier Darwinists assumed that if they were ignorant of an organ’s function, then it had no function.”
~ “Tornado in a Junkyard” – book – by former atheist James Perloff
Excerpt: A favorite criticisms of ID is that it is a science stopper. The opposite is true. The Live Science article shows that the “vestigial organs” argument has not changed for over a century, since Wiedersheim coined the term and listed over a hundred examples (in 1893). Evolutionary theory, in fact, has been worse than a science stopper: its predictions have been flat out wrong. Only a handful of alleged vestigial organs remains from Wiedersheim’s original list, and each of those is questionable.
In fact, the false prediction of vestigial organs by Darwinists led to much medical malpractice in the past:
Evolution’s “vestigial organ” argument debunked
Excerpt: “The appendix, like the once ‘vestigial’ tonsils and adenoids, is a lymphoid organ (part of the body’s immune system) which makes antibodies against infections in the digestive system. Believing it to be a useless evolutionary ‘left over,’ many surgeons once removed even the healthy appendix whenever they were in the abdominal cavity. Today, removal of a healthy appendix under most circumstances would be considered medical malpractice”
~ David Menton, Ph.D., “The Human Tail, and Other Tales of Evolution,” St. Louis MetroVoice , January 1994, Vol. 4, No. 1.
“Doctors once thought tonsils were simply useless evolutionary leftovers and took them out thinking that it could do no harm. Today there is considerable evidence that there are more troubles in the upper respiratory tract after tonsil removal than before, and doctors generally agree that simple enlargement of tonsils is hardly an indication for surgery”
~ J.D. Ratcliff, Your Body and How it Works, 1975, p. 137.
The tailbone, properly known as the coccyx, is another supposed example of a vestigial structure that has been found to have a valuable function—especially regarding the ability to sit comfortably. Many people who have had this bone removed have great difficulty sitting.
Moreover, in so far as science has been able to advance in spite of Atheistic materialism, it can be argued that Intelligent Design was and is central to the advancement of science itself since almost all, if not all, of science has advanced by technological advancement in the instruments of science. That is to say, almost all, if not all, of science has advanced by humans infusing new information into material substrates, in a ‘top down’ fashion, in better and better, i.e. more sophisticated, ways:
Excerpt: Mathematics underlies virtually all of our technology today. James Maxwell’s four equations summarizing electromagnetism led directly to radio and all other forms of telecommunication. E = mc2 led directly to nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The equations of quantum mechanics made possible everything from transistors and semiconductors to electron microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging.
Indeed, many of the technologies you and I enjoy every day simply would not work without mathematics. When you do a Google search, you’re relying on 19th-century algebra, on which the search engine’s algorithms are based. When you watch a movie, you may well be seeing mountains and other natural features that, while appearing as real as rock, arise entirely from mathematical models. When you play your iPod, you’re hearing a mathematical recreation of music that is stored digitally; your cell phone does the same in real time.
“When you listen to a mobile phone, you’re not actually hearing the voice of the person speaking,” Devlin told me. “You’re hearing a mathematical recreation of that voice. That voice is reduced to mathematics.”
Both the program and the data are non-physical entities, indeed so is all software. A program is not a physical thing you can point to, but by Definition 2 it certainly exists. You can point to a CD or flashdrive where it is stored, but that is not the thing in itself: it is a medium in which it is stored.
The program itself is an abstract entity, shaped by abstract logic. Is the software “nothing but” its realisation through a specific set of stored electronic states in the computer memory banks? No it is not because it is the precise pattern in those states that matters: a higher level relation that is not apparent at the scale of the electrons themselves. It’s a relational thing (and if you get the relations between the symbols wrong, so you have a syntax error, it will all come to a grinding halt). This abstract nature of software is realised in the concept of virtual machines, which occur at every level in the computer hierarchy except the bottom one . But this tower of virtual machines causes physical effects in the real world, for example when a computer controls a robot in an assembly line to create physical artefacts.
Excerpt page 7: The assumption that causation is bottom up only is wrong in biology, in computers, and even in many cases in physics….
The mind is not a physical entity, but it certainly is causally effective: proof is the existence of the computer on which you are reading this text. It could not exist if it had not been designed and manufactured according to someone’s plans, thereby proving the causal efficacy of thoughts, which like computer programs and data are not physical entities.
DENVER, CO—At a Friday local chapter meeting of anti-religion group Atheist Friends United, skeptic and freethinker Michelle Newberry reportedly delivered a powerful, inspiring testimony, recounting her journey from hoping in God to finally realizing that she is nothing but a carbon-based cosmic accident whose existence is of utterly zero consequence.
“At one time, I foolishly believed I was here for a reason, that there was a higher purpose and plan for me in the midst of joy and even suffering,” Newberry told her fellow atheist and agnostic brothers and sisters in the entirely non-religious meeting. “I am humbled and so grateful that I finally came to believe the soul-crushing idea that my existence is a complete accident with absolutely no ultimate meaning.”
Witnesses say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Newberry thoughtfully told the touching story of how she finally “saw the light,” when she realized at long last that her existence is the result of an impossibly complex series of inexplicable, incalculable errors, and that she is nothing but a carbon robot devoid of any hope or meaning, barreling toward the absolute nothingness whence she originated.
“I’m here as a witness to the power of atheism—the only reasonable worldview,” she declared. “Things like right and wrong, love and beauty, passion and empathy, ecstasy and heartbreak—these are but leftover, superfluous, physiological baggage from our completely naturalistic journey to being. They don’t mean anything.”
…the group was ecstatic to learn that four new converts were won over to the idea that life is meaningless.
Here is a thoughtful challenge by someone a friend is in conversation with:
I’ll jump into this message by addressing the assertion that suffering is related to sin. I understand that this is what the Bible says, and during the infancy of the human species, when religion was our first attempt at making sense of the world, it might have made sense to attribute suffering to violating the will of a god. However, to make such an assertion in 2016 seems rather ridiculous. Nine million children die every year before they reach 5 years old. Remember that tsunami in 2004 that killed 250,000 people? Imagine one of those every ten days, only killing children under the age of five. We’re talking about a thousand dead children per hour, or about 17 every minute. This means that before you reach the end of this paragraph, some few children will likely have died in terror and agony somewhere in the world. The parents of these children almost certainly believe in God, and are praying at this very moment for their children to be spared. You and I both know that these prayers will go unanswered. The classic position taken by nonbelievers is that any god who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to suffer and grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them, or doesn’t care to. This conception of a deity is therefore either evil or impotent.
The very first thing that pops into my mind is the idea Dr. Clouser pulls from many positions taken by people who profess to “think well,”
The program of rejecting logic in order to accept mutually contradictory beliefs is not, however, just a harmless, whimsical hope that somehow logically incompatible beliefs can both be true…it results in nothing less than the destruction of any and every concept we could possess. Even the concept of rejecting the law of non-contradiction depends on assuming and using that law, since without it the concept of rejecting it could neither be thought nor stated.
Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2005), 178.
(More can be see in this regard in my intro chapter to my book, here)
We will venture into how this challenge is void of “thoughtfulness” — which is why I italicized this word in the first sentence at the top of this post. The main laws of logic will show that if the skeptics viewpoint is “true,” then “truth” does not exist. But I digress ingress.
Numbers 1 and 2 taken together do, of course, entail 3. Therefore, the propositions from our original theistic set that now make up 1 are logically consistent with the existence of evil. The only relevant question regarding 2 is whether it is possibly true. Obviously it is since it is not logically false. Therefore, the theistic set is logically consistent from which follows the impossibility of anyone’s ever demonstrating that it is not.
So we see that by using logic found in philosophical principles that the challenger alluded to, especially in his last sentence, saying “This conception of a deity is therefore either evil or impotent,” that the challenge is defeated.
Not only that however, is, HOW does the challenger come to a conclusion that he can judge something to be wrong, outside of his personal opinion that is. In other words, he is saying that an action or inaction constitutes evil. He uses this moral presupposition bound up in “evil” to insert into a syllogistic formula to disprove God (at least God in the Judeo-Christian sense… for “evil” being negative is absent from every other religious viewpoint).
He, the challenger, is saying that I, that my neighbor, someone in Bangledesh, or Papua New Guinea [etc.] should see this formula, understand what “evil” action or inaction is, and agree with him. He is – in other words – inserting an absolute principle in the formulation. This is where I want to challenge such an idea.
CS Lewis once reflected on himself doing the same thing as an atheist when he said:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.
To further draw out this idea, Ravi Zacharias responded to a questioner at Harvard where a moral principle was inserted into the premise of the question:
You see… when an absolute is brought into the equation, the challenger ceases being an atheist or skeptic. UNLESS they pause and explain to others why they should accept what they consider to be an “evil” act. ~These presuppositions also assume a goal or end to life, inserting meaning and purpose that the skeptic EXPECTS others to see and agree with.~ Let us see a little about what atheists consider to be “evil.” Again, these are people bringing their worldview to their logical ends (for references, see, 26 Brutally Honest Atheist Quotes Worth A Read):
“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self—evident. . . Christianity is a system.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“…to say that something is wrong because… it is forbidden by God, is… perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong… even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable….” “The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” ~ Richard Taylor
“There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” | “The hard answer is it [moral decisions] is a matter of opinion.” ~ David Silverman
“There is no purpose to life, and we should not want there to be a purpose to life because if there was that would cheapen life.” ~ Dan Barker
Here is my “AFTERTHOUGHT” to two examples proffered by myself in regards to a meme floating around the internet:
Just as an afterthought. A skeptic who rejects God and accepts naturalism cannot say rape is wrong like the theist can say this:
theism: evil, wrong at all times and places in the universe — absolutely;
atheism: taboo, it was used in our species in the past for the survival of the fittest, and is thus a vestige of evolutionary progress… and so may once again become a tool for survival — it is in every corner of nature;
pantheism: illusion, all morals and ethical actions and positions are actually an illusion (Hinduism – maya; Buddhism – sunyata). In order to reach some state of Nirvana one must retract from this world in their thinking on moral matters, such as love and hate, good and bad. Not only that, but often times the person being raped has built up bad karma and thus is the main driver for his or her state of affairs (thus, in one sense it is “right” that rape happens).
In other words they have to BORROW FROM ethics the worldview that they are trying to disprove (again referencing CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias’ work above).
For more on this, see my post noting many more atheist/evolutionary (philosophical naturalism) positions followed to their logical conclusions here:
Here we see the logical consequences of the “God Is Dead” movement and Nietzsche’s prophecy concerning the outcome:
Nihilism can take more than one form. There is, for instance, passive nihilism, a pessimistic acquiescence in the absence of values and in the purposelessness of existence. But there is also active nihilism which seeks to destroy that in which it no longer believes. And Nietzsche prophesies the advent of an active nihilism, showing itself in world-shaking ideological wars. “There will be wars such as there have never been on earth before. Only from my time on will there be on earth politics on the grand scale.
The advent of nihilism is in Nietzsche’s opinion inevitable. And it will mean the final overthrow of the decadent Christian civilization of Europe. At the same time it will clear the way for a new dawn, for the transvaluation of values, for the emergence of a higher type of man. For this reason “this most gruesome of all guests”, who stands at the door, is to be welcomed.
Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VII (New York, NY: Image Books, 1994), 405-405.
And so, the Twentieth Century was indeed the bloodiest ever. In fact, non-God [atheistic] governments killed more people in 100-years than all religion did the previous nineteen. See my “Religious Wars” post for more.
Again, even truth is called into question, as the many quotes in the above link show, if God is extant from our discussion about reality.
“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”
C. S. Lewis, God In the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 52–53.
Do you see? If atheism is true, then these absolute statements entwined in these skeptical position vanish. In fact, “consciousness” is a problem for this discussion:
Atheist Daniel Dennett, for example, asserts that consciousness is an illusion. (One wonders if Dennett was conscious when he said that!) His claim is not only superstitious, it’s logically indefensible. In order to detect an illusion, you’d have to be able to see what’s real. Just like you need to wake up to know that a dream is only a dream, Daniel Dennett would need to wake up with some kind of superconsciousness to know that the ordinary consciousness the rest of us mortals have is just an illusion. In other words, he’d have to be someone like God in order to know that.
Dennett’s assertion that consciousness is an illusion is not the result of an unbiased evaluation of the evidence. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unbiased evaluation” in a materialist world because the laws of physics determine everything anyone thinks, including everything Dennett thinks. Dennett is just assuming the ideology of materialism is true and applying its implications to consciousness. In doing so, he makes the same mistake we’ve seen so many other atheists make. He is exempting himself from his own theory. Dennett says consciousness is an illusion, but he treats his own consciousness as not an illusion. He certainly doesn’t think the ideas in his book are an illusion. He acts like he’s really telling the truth about reality.
When atheists have to call common sense “an illusion” and make self-defeating assertions to defend atheism, then no one should call the atheistic worldview “reasonable.” Superstitious is much more accurate.
These are meta-narratives just assumed by the skeptic with no regard to how they arrived there. I liken it to an analogy of driving a car. The atheist thinks he has gotten in his car, backed out of the drive-way, and is a few turns into his trip to the market of reason. I am merely pointing out that the car is not starting when the key is turned. One may wish to go through another post of mine entitled, “Is Evil Proof Against God? Where Does It Come From?“
Remember, always ask yourself if the question or challenge is a proper one to begin with…
Mortimer J. Adler rightly points out that while many Christians are quick in responding to the conclusions in an argument often times the Christian is unaware that the point of departure is not in the conclusion, but in the starting premise, the foundational assumptions.
Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 20-21.
Classic Syllogism – Simple Change
This is how it is often presented:
★ If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil.
★ If God is good, He would want to prevent evil.
★ Evil exists.
★ Therefore, there is no God. (Or: God is either not all-powerful, or He is not good.)
All that is really being done is this simple change, and it is sound:
★ If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil.
★ If God is good, He would want to prevent evil.
★ Evil exists.
★ Therefore, the world contains evil.
The conclusion that the world contains evil has no explanatory power on why it does or even if this impacts the existence of God in any way.
“But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.”
~ [atheist] David Albert is a professor of philosophy at Columbia and the author of “Quantum Mechanics and Experience.” (NYT)
“I don’t know what’s the matter with physicists these days. It used to be that they were an intellectually sophisticated bunch, with the likes of Einstein and Bohr doing not only brilliant scientific research, but also interested, respectful of, and conversant in other branches of knowledge, particularly philosophy. These days it is much more likely to encounter physicists like Steven Weinberg or Stephen Hawking, who merrily go about dismissing philosophy for the wrong reasons, and quite obviously out of a combination of profound ignorance and hubris (the two often go together, as I’m sure Plato would happily point out). The latest such bore is Lawrence Krauss, of Arizona State University.”
~ [quoting atheist philosopher of science, Massimo Pigliucci] Peter S. Williams is Assistant Professor in Communication and Worldviews at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication in Norway. He is author of many articles and several books, including “C.S. Lewis vs the New Atheists” & “A Faithful Guide to Philosophy” (Paternoster, 2013). (BETHINKING)
The quantum vacuum is the arena where fundamental physical processes take place, and is by no means a simple empty space where nothing ever happens or a pure abstract concept of quantum field theory. Many of these fundamental processes are nowadays well understood.
[atheist] Hartmut Figger and [atheist] Dieter Meschede, Laser Physics at the Limits (New York, NY: Springer Publishing, 2002), 197.
Even if the matter fields involved in the vacuum state are rather peculiar and certainly not observable in the sense that ‘real’ particles are, it is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty ‘void’.
[atheist] Christopher Ray, Time, Space and Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 1991), 205.
The beginning of the universe is more at home in a theistic worldview than an atheistic one
The beginning of the universe fits in well with the Bible, e.g. – Genesis 1, Titus 1, etc.
In case you are wondering about what the evidence is for the Big Bang, here are 3 of the evidences that are most commonly offered:
Three main observational results over the past century led astronomers to become certain that the universe began with the big bang. First, they found out that the universe is expanding—meaning that the separations between galaxies are becoming larger and larger. This led them to deduce that everything used to be extremely close together before some kind of explosion. Second, the big bang perfectly explains the abundance of helium and other nuclei like deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) in the universe. A hot, dense, and expanding environment at the beginning could produce these nuclei in the abundance we observe today. Third, astronomers could actually observe the cosmic background radiation—the afterglow of the explosion—from every direction in the universe. This last evidence so conclusively confirmed the theory of the universe’s beginning that Stephen Hawking said, “It is the discovery of the century, if not of all time.”
Just a quick response to a skeptic elsewhere online…
A person in a group I am a part of posted the following link as a challenge. I focus on number three in my response:
(Site linked in above graphic)
I responded thus…
Already #3 is an issue. Most of what we as a society determine to be truth, especially from ancient documents that discuss history, is not is testable, repeatable, and falsifiable in scientific terms. For instance:
✦ “What are the distinctive sources for our beliefs about the past? Most of the beliefs we have about the past come to us by the testimony of other people. I wasn’t present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I didn’t see my father fight in the [S]econd [W]orld [W]ar. I have been told about these events by sources that I take to be reliable. The testimony of others is generally the main source of our beliefs about the past…. So all our beliefs about the past depend on testimony, or memory, or both.” (Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris, pp. 57-58)
✦ “In advanced societies specialization in the gathering and production of knowledge and its wider dissemination through spoken and written testimony is a fundamental socio-epistemic fact, and a very large part of each persons body of knowledge and belief stems from testimony.” (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi [2nd ed.], p. 909)
✦ “But it is clear that most of what any given individual knows comes from others; palpably with knowledge of history, geography, or science, more subtly with knowledge about every day facts such as when we were born..” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, p. 869)
An example of this is discussed many years ago by CS Lewis, when he writes:
➤ “what Napoleon did at the battle of Austerlitz by asking Mr. Bonaparte to come and fight it again in a “laboratory with the same combatants, the same terrain, the same weather, and in the same age…. You have to go to the records. We have not, in fact, proved that science excludes miracles: we have only proved that the question of miracles, like the innumerable other questions, excludes laboratory treatment” ~ C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1970), 134.
★ “A page for freethinking, rational skepticism toward the myth of Abraham Lincoln’s existence and the stories attributed to him…. Belief in Abraham Lincoln is the most malevolent of all mind viruses.”
May I also note the lack of anything historically sound in this anti-theist site about Hitler. Their page on Hitler is really bad: “Hitler, atheist or Christian?“. I LOL’ed at the pic of Hitler and Christmas. I bet with a simple google search I can find a Satanist celebrating Christmas. At any rate, I did a final update to a post on my site discussing Hitler and these very subjects: