Thinking Christian

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Why Religious Freedom Matters

Posted on Nov 30, 2012 by Tom Gilson

Religious liberty is under attack, not only from Federal mandates to violate doctrine and conscience, but also from a more intentional philosophical perspective. Ryan Anderson of editor of Public Discourse, recently reviewed Brian Leiter’s Why Tolerate Religion? I do not expect to have time to read Leiter’s book, though I suppose I may have to eventually; it’s an important question he raises and it needs a sustained thoughtful response.

I think even without reading the book there is something to be added to Anderson’s answer. He described Leiter’s key statement of the problem thus:

He explores this question because he’s puzzled by it. As he sees things, “no one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion … why, as a matter of moral principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral treatment to religious practices” (emphases throughout are original). He argues that there is no reason that religion should be protected above and beyond any claim of conscience. Indeed, the book’s dust jacket synopsis perfectly captures his view: “Western democracies are wrong to single out religious liberty for special legal protections.” A bold conclusion. Here’s how he gets there.

Leiter asks “what is distinctive about religion such that religion ought to be tolerated.”

First of all I recommend you read Anderson’s answer to that question. Then I suggest you consider the role that religion has played in the progress of liberal democracy.

The relationship between church and state has always been an uneasy one; or when the two have become too cozy with one another, the effects have been less than salutary.* The two are in competition in many ways. The state asks for allegiance; God asks for allegiance. The state has its rules and laws and expectations; God has his. God claims all power and authority; the state has a tendency to do the same. And where is the check on that tendency?

Historically the answer to that question has been that the state answers to a higher power. Religion’s best role in relation to the state is commonly described as “speaking truth to power.”  In 390 AD the Emperor Theodosius impulsively ordered a bloody massacre in Thessalonica. Bishop Ambrose of Milan rebuked him, and the Emperor both repented in tears and with a liberalizing change to regulations concerning the death penalty. King John signed the Magna Carta, one of history’s great documents of freedom, in submission to God and to the Church.

Awareness of higher moral standards is not limited to Christian influence; it operated in Confucian China, for example, if I understand correctly; but it has served best where kings, presidents, and prime ministers have considered themselves answerable to the God of the Bible.

By way of contrast, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others of their ilk threw off all restraint, making the state the ultimate in terms of both power and “truth.” The results speak for themselves.

If Lord Acton was right about power and corruption, then the state requires a check upon it, a conscience speaking to it. Again, this could never be anything but an uneasy relationship; that’s the way it is when one says “we can and should do this” and another says, “you can do it but you shouldn’t.” So be it: whether the relationship feels good or not, it is essential to liberty.

America’s founders were well aware of human corruptibility, and wrote our Constitution to provide multiple checks on governmental power for that reason. Keeping religion out of the hands of government was one of their many moves of genius.

Christianity can speak truth to power, with or without Constitutional freedoms, but a state that welcomes that word of truth, and which encourages the population in discovering and developing it, is a healthier state than one that limits it. Thus religious freedom is good for human liberty. Even though the church’s relationship to the state cannot be a comfortable one, religion is a force for freedom—even for unbelievers like Brian Leiter.

*I see Islam as a special case here, for it is more than a religion. It includes within it, essentially, a direct connection to state. There is Islam as religion and Islam as state, and the two are inseparable, by Islamic doctrine. I do not think we as a nation have thought through how our First Amendment applies to a religion that is also a competing governing force. We have work to do on that.

51 Responses to “ Why Religious Freedom Matters ”

  1. ryan says:

    No doubt there is much benefit to encouraging freedom of religion in a population.

    While I agree with this statement, “Religion’s best role in relation to the state is commonly described as ‘speaking truth to power.’”

    I believe Leiter is worried about the religion’s whose “truth” is destructive in nature. The truth being relayed to political leaders is usually filtered through major religious leaders of the time. What I mean is, while some political leaders may have made decisions in the past based on what they personally know of in the bible, others relied on what christian leaders were teaching.

    Sometimes, this second hand truth turned into an atrocity. Sometimes it was good.

  2. Josh says:

    Ryan,

    Science is no less susceptible, especially now that it’s being treated like a religion by a wide swath of scientism believing atheists.

    I’m making a wide assumption here that you trust science above all/and or the only source for knowledge. Let me know if that assumption is wrong.

  3. Josh says:

    I think the end result of all sin nature is to shut down that dissent which shows light in the darkness. That’s why lies are so appealing to those who attack Christianity, IMHO.

    That’s the genius of the 1st amendment with in our constitution, and it is a natural extension of the greatest commandment of Mathew 22:37-39. Religious freedom, and the freedom to speak about what you believe will always be under assault by those scared that their own beliefs cannot hold their own in the arena of ideas. This book is one of many salvos over the bow before the full assault takes place.

  4. ryan says:

    Josh, I agree that any worldview is susceptible to corruption. If anyone believes that their worldview is in-corruptible, they may already be well on the path of corruption, lol.

    I don’t see how my personal beliefs matter this early in the discussion. Truth is truth and should be able to stand on its own (and hopefully accepted by reasonable people), regardless of whether the truth is found after rigorous scientific method or the Christian God himself showing up to say what is true.

    …But if you must have them (my beliefs) in order to pepper any responses/arguments here you go:

    I believe it is highly likely that there is an intelligent creator. I currently do not believe that this creator is the one described in the Christian Bible. I believe the scientific method is valuable tool in the mission for truth. I believe the bible has valuable insight on the human condition. Above all…I don’t know what I don’t know, but I assure you that I want to know what is true, and am willing to go to the ends of the earth for it. I have a high standard of truth, and if the Christian God is who he says, I don’t think he should have an issue meeting that standard.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Hi, Ryan,

    We were discussing blog comment guidelines earlier today, so I’d like to add a quick courtesy reminder: “Christian,” “God” and “Bible” are proper nouns in this context. (Standard English convention is to capitalize “Christian” when used as an adjective, too.) Past experience has caused this to become something that makes a difference. Thanks.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Ryan,

    I have a high standard of truth, and if the christian god [sic] is who he says, I don’t think he should have an issue meeting that standard.

    If the Christian God is who he says he is, he sets the standard of truth; and you’re more right than you realize: he doesn’t have issues.

    Did you by any chance mean “standard of evidence” or “standard of reasonability” or something like that instead? If so then God is still the standard, but something along that line would make more sense to discuss. Just wondering what you really meant.

  7. ryan says:

    Tom, noted and will make changes.

  8. ryan says:

    Tom,
    From my perspective, God’s standard of truth is proclaimed in the Bible itself. There are very bold proclamations in the Bible that do not have verifiable evidence supporting it. It’s hard for me to accept something someone wrote and base my life on it.

    So, for me to believe that the creator of the universe is the same as the God described throughout the whole Bible, my standard of evidence is for God himself to prove that connection.

  9. SteveK says:

    Ryan,

    There are very bold proclamations in the Bible that do not have verifiable evidence supporting it.

    Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, creator of all, holy, eternal, the Truth, the Lamb of God, claimed he would defeat death and rise on the third day, etc, etc.

    How are you going to verify these bold proclamations even if Jesus himself were standing in front of you making them? You can’t verify them the scientific sense so what did you have in mind? What would convince you?

  10. SteveK says:

    Ryan,

    It’s hard for me to accept something someone wrote and base my life on it.

    I’m not buying this. You accept principles and teachings that your have built into your soul by the very nature of who you are, principles and teachings that someone taught you directly, and others that you read about. You base your life on these and live them out so it seems like you are already doing it -and that is isn’t very hard for you to do.

  11. ryan says:

    SteveK,
    I would be convinced if God showed me himself. He came and talked to Thomas, he showed up for Saul, and he responded to Elijah’s requisition for his physical presence. He could verify these things.

    As for the next comment, are you saying that one should accept all teachings and principles that I come across in life? I feel like that sentence may have been taken out of context, so I will rephrase it with the other statements in the original paragraph:

    I find it hard to spend my life being a Christian when the boldest claims (that the faith is based on) in the Bible do not have verifiable evidence supporting it. It is text.

  12. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    I would be convinced if God showed me himself.

    Do not put the Lord, Thy God to the test — you will *NOT* like the end result.

    I find it hard to spend my life being a Christian when the boldest claims (that the faith is based on) in the Bible do not have verifiable evidence supporting it.

    Is there any kind of evidence short of being a witness to a miracle that would convince you?

  13. ryan says:

    @Rodrigues
    Was Thomas or Saul or Elijah testing the Lord? If so, they received the results I desire!

    I’m pretty set on solid evidence. No more rationalizing or justifying.

    At any rate, back to the OP. Has anyone read the book referred to in the OP?

  14. Crude says:

    I’m pretty set on solid evidence. No more rationalizing or justifying.

    You’re going to do that no matter what evidence you get. It’s part of the whole process.

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  16. Tom Gilson says:

    Ryan, no Thomas and Saul and Elijah were not testing the Lord. They were not saying, “You jump to my whistle or I won’t believe in you.”

    The closest to that error would have been Thomas, and he did indeed get a mild correction from Jesus. But there was already a relationship there. It wasn’t that Thomas didn’t believe in God or in Jesus, he just had trouble believing Jesus himself was alive again. He didn’t make God perform for him, though. He didn’t make up brand new terms God would have to meet for him. He just said he needed to see that of which he had already been told.

    Would you really believe if you had the kind of evidence Thomas had? If so, then you’re on the right track.

  17. ryan says:

    Crude, most people with not argue that the background of this website is white. It just is. And, I am a first hand witness to it’s whiteness.

    Tom, I agree, I don’t think they were testing Him at all. Rodrigues assumed I was ‘testing’ God so I wanted to point out some other biblical characters that illustrate the fact that God is not unwilling, according to the Bible, to physically manifest himself. So, I’m not really making up new terms for God.

    Nor am I threatening God with disbelief. And, if a previous relationship is required, than I have definitely fulfilled that requirement as well.

    “He just said he needed to see that of which he had already been told.”

    A man walks into a church. The preacher reads John 3:16 and speaks of all types of wonderful things. What is wrong with that? Is he ‘testing’ God? What about David and the Psalms he wrote. Those are very powerful cries. As my wife has pointed out, I am in good company.

    “Would you really believe if you had the kind of evidence Thomas had? If so, then you’re on the right track.”

    Yes. I don’t know a man alive that wouldn’t want to know that there is a God out there with all of the attributes penned in the Bible. But without any evidence that points to the reality of this, it could all just be a made up thing. Birthed in the minds of men in order to create purpose, well being, or a mechanism to allow people to think they know the answer to everything. Who knows. It could be a fairy tale.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Ryan,

    God is willing to manifest himself on his terms. It looked to me, and I’m sure also to G. Rodrigues, like you were asking him to perform on your terms. Maybe I misread that; I can see from your post here that it’s not as simple as it seemed at first sight.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    Ryan, you wrote earlier,

    So, for me to believe that the creator of the universe is the same as the God described throughout the whole Bible, my standard of evidence is for God himself to prove that connection.

    I believe God is very willing to do so, on his terms. Are you interested in knowing more about that?

  20. What has to be understood before this situation can be rectified is that the state is subject to the church not vice versa!

    http://www.on-this-rock.org

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m not so sure of that, Scott. We don’t want the church to become the state’s ruler, for then the church would be the state. The state is certainly subject to God and his Word, but when the state was subject to the church in Europe centuries ago, corruption was multiplied.

  22. Crude says:

    Crude, most people with not argue that the background of this website is white. It just is. And, I am a first hand witness to it’s whiteness.

    Great. It means nothing in this context.

    Who knows. It could be a fairy tale.

    Even with evidence, plenty of things ‘could be a fairy tale’.

    You’re confusing ‘having evidence for’ with ‘proving the existence of’.

  23. ryan says:

    Crude, I’m confused. What’s the difference between hard evidence of the Christian God and proving the existence of Him?

    The white screen comment was in response to your comment that even with evidence, one would still rationalize. Evidence removes the need to rationalize. It is what it is and its plain to see. To me, the Christian God is not like this white screen, I have to fill in large gaps with educated guesses and hope that I’m right. If the Christian God were to be as plain as this background, what would be left for me to doubt?

  24. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    What’s the difference between hard evidence of the Christian God and proving the existence of Him?

    You still have not explained what you mean by “hard” or “solid” evidence.

    By previous comments you discard “rationalizing” or “justifying” which makes no sense to me, because there is no such thing as uninterpreted evidence, evidence that by itself and without further argumentation is so overwhelming that it compels assent to belief.

    If the Christian God were to be as plain as this background, what would be left for me to doubt?

    You seem to labor under the misapprehension that only if God would send a sign down from the heaven’s especially to you, you would bow down and obey Him. But this is plainly false. Satan saw His glory and yet he chose his own will; again and again, the Bible tells us how man are wicked, proud and hard of heart and will *not* obey Him not even after witnessing miracles: just look at the history of Israel right after the exodus or the Gospels themselves. Or James 2: 19.

    You are asking for God to be as plain as the background, for then there would be no doubt. Listen to yourself, for Heaven’s sake. You are asking for God to force himself into your life in such a way that you have no other choice but to obey him. Do you even realize what you are asking?

  25. ryan says:

    Rodrigues, again, I’m not asking anyone to do anything. If God personally comes to me and it leads me to believe, then great (Acts 9:3-6).

    Of course there’s a difference between obeying God and knowing he is real. But, since I’m a simple guy, I just want to know if he is real first. Then I’ll move on the the decision point of step 2, deciding whether or not to follow said God.

    If that makes me wicked, proud of heart, in league with devil, testing God, then…wow. Wow is all I can say.

  26. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    St. Paul’s conversion is the only miraculous conversion in the Bible. That should tell you something.

    But, since I’m a simple guy, I just want to know if he is real first.

    You have not answered my question. For the *third* time, what is “solid” or “concrete” evidence to you? What sort of evidence would convince you that God exists? Until you answer it, there is nothing anyone can do to help you answering the question if He is “real” or not.

    If that makes me wicked, proud of heart, in league with devil, testing God, then…wow. Wow is all I can say.

    Did I say that? If you cannot read or are just intellectually dishonest just say so, and I will stop addressing you this very instant.

  27. ryan says:

    No, I can’t read. Apparently, you are having a hard time with it as well.

  28. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    Apologies for the snark. If you want to proceed answer the question I posed.

  29. ryan says:

    I’ve answered this question before you asked it, and then another time thereafter. Are you looking for a specific format or jargon?

    Here’s another way to answer the same question. My kids know I exist because I am physically manifested in their life. They never watch me from a distance and ponder logical evidence and decide whether I am who or what I am. All I hear is “Daddy!”. It’s settled, I am all the evidence they need to know. From what I have read in the Bible, the Christian God is not above this type of interaction with his creation, yet it just is not happening.

    I know you want me to give some form of answer that can be philosophically picked apart and maybe we can deduce logically that it’s highly probable because this, that, and the other…but, I don’t have one of those answers for you. Sorry.

    I guess I could say something like, if Jesus showed up at work today and took me and my coworkers out to lunch, and told us everything. But that falls under the argument of saying I want God on my own terms. Which, I don’t. I’m not testing God, I don’t have terms for him. I’m not promising anything to God if he is real.

    I’m just simply saying that I need more than a logical conclusion, or psychological filler to know God is real. I just want to know that he is real and the evidence I need would be, well, he’s real and there is no way around it. Like the moon, a round earth, this boring desk I sit at all day. Real. Tangible. Objective. All discussion posts debating his existence have been wiped away, lol.

    Above all Rodrigues, it’s ok if you don’t have an answer for me. You don’t have to prove anything. You’re not God, only God can show up. I’m sure for you, you have the evidence you need through your personal experiences. And that’s good enough for you. Any I’m glad you have found peace in that, in fact, maybe I envy it a bit. For me, I just need more than what my mind can create. So…relax, you’re off the hook :)

  30. SteveK says:

    ryan,
    You can forever wait for God to give you what you are asking for, but until then you have to deal with what you have.

    The God you don’t believe in says you and I have enough evidence. Your soul connects with that truth because on some level you agree, but you resist it. Why do you resist it – on what basic principle do you conclude that this truth is actually false?

    Suppose God asked you why you rejected the truth you already knew to be true, how would you respond? You don’t have to give an answer here, but I hope you can answer it to your own satisfaction.

  31. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    Ok, so as you asked (implicitly), let me pick apart your answer and show that you are behaving irrationally and simply do not know what you are talking about.

    My kids know I exist because I am physically manifested in their life.

    How am I to interpret this? I will interpret as saying that you need to perceive the object via sense experience of some sort in order to assert that it exists. Contrapositively, if you do not have any sense experience of the object then either you reject the existence of said purported object or, at the very least, you withhold your assent, meaning, you are agnostic about its existence.

    Here is the problem: you do not believe any of this. Because you believe in the existence of *lots* and *lots* of things for which you have not got the least iota of direct sense experience. Here are just three examples:

    1. You have never had any direct sense experience of Abraham Lincoln, and yet you believe (at least I hope, you do) that a person named Abraham Lincoln lived in the USA in the 19th century and did such and such things.

    2. You have never had any direct sense experience of quarks; in fact you *cannot* have any direct sense experience of quarks because quarks cannot be observed free due to asymptotic confinement. You do not have a particle accelerator in your house. So why do you believe in the existence of quarks (at least I hope you do)? On the basis of expert testimony of a select group of physicists that on the basis of a very small number of experiments, concluded that one must *posit* the existence of quarks to explain the measured data. Noticed that this is a paradigmatic case of inferring the existence of something that cannot be directly perceived, that is, inferring the existence of a cause from its effects via an (inferential, abductive) argument.

    3. Pythagoras famously proved that the polynomial x^2 – 2 has no roots in the field of rational numbers. But one can prove that the polynomial does have a root in the field of real numbers, that is, one can prove that the square root of 2 *exists*. None of these objects (polynomials, fields, square roots, etc.) are physical objects. And yet, you believe in the existence of square root of 2 (at least I hope you do). Because you have seen the (deductive) argument that *proves* that the square root of 2 exists. Or if you have not seen it, or are not a mathematician, you believe in the expert testimony in those that do understand the subject matter.

    About the last example, you could say that polynomials, fields, square roots, etc. are just concepts in the mind and have no extra-mental existence. You could indeed say that (and, at least in part, it is even a good answer), but then you have an even greater problem on your hands: how to explain that these concepts that exist solely in the mind are crucial for the formulation of our best theories of our physical universe. For if say the real field is as fictional as Santa Claus, then since virtually any physical theory in existence uses it in its mathematical descriptions, then what is the status of the physical theories themselves? How can they tell us anything *objective* about reality?

    Not to mention the obvious problem that “shocked” Pythagoras and his school: you are committed to say that the diagonal of a right triangle with unit sides in the Euclidean plane does not have a length or that its length is just a “concept in the mind”.

    To summarize, you simply do not know what you are talking about. Or if you do, you are just behaving irrationally.

    They never watch me from a distance and ponder logical evidence and decide whether I am who or what I am. All I hear is “Daddy!”. It’s settled, I am all the evidence they need to know.

    Wrong. There are plenty of *implicit* assumptions they are making that go from “I see X” to “X is my father and my father exists”; here are a few. That their organs of perception, namely the eyes, are generally reliable and they are not hallucinating; That their memory of the past is generally reliable (for to recognize X as their father, they must have a reliable image memory of their father). That other minds other than their own exist (for otherwise, seeing X is just a construct of their own minds), etc. Why do you beleive in any of these assumptions (at least I hope you do)? You do not have the least amount of direct sense experience to back them up, so what is your excuse?

    I just want to know that he is real and the evidence I need would be, well, he’s real and there is no way around it. Like the moon, a round earth, this boring desk I sit at all day. Real. Tangible. Objective.

    God is not a physical object like the moon, a round earth or a boring desk. So any argument for His existence must proceed from effects in the physical world to Him. Even if you witnessed some sort of miraculous event, you would have to have some reason why that event is indeed miraculous and not a freak natural occurrence, or maybe even the product of aliens in outer-space with ultra-advanced technology that took the time just to pull your leg. Asking for “real” evidence just betrays that you simply do not know what you are talking about, for there is no such a thing as uninterpreted evidence apart from one’s philosophical commitments — which is what Crude was trying to tell you btw.

    The philosopher Alvin Plantinga has some famous online notes titled (quoting from memory) “A two dozen or so arguments for the existence of God”. So, there many rational arguments for His existence — some better than others, of course (and some, positively bad). You have two options to dismiss the arguments for God’s existence:

    1. You have considered them *all* and found them *all* lacking.

    But I wager you have not done this. This leaves us with:

    2. You dismiss them all without even considering them, in which case you are behaving irrationally — this should be obvious, but I can expand on this if you want me too.

    I’m sure for you, you have the evidence you need through your personal experiences. And that’s good enough for you. Any I’m glad you have found peace in that, in fact, maybe I envy it a bit.

    Save your psychologizing trash for someone else, please. You do not know me, so you have absolutely no idea how I have come to belief in God. Suffice to say that you are wrong.

    One last note: the question of the existence of God is not in the same plane as whether someone named Abraham Lincoln that did such and such existed, or whether quarks exist, or even whether the square root of 2 exists (in whatever sense you take the word to mean as applied to abstract mathematical objects). The question of God’s existence has infinite existential import; for contrary to all the other questions, the answer *changes* our life and our relationship with it. Sure, we can consider it coolly, like any other philosophical problem, and that even has its advantages. But the fact still remains: whatever the answer we give, even a refusal to answer it, completely changes the way we view and *live* life. So it is an infinitely practical question.

  32. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    For me, I just need more than what my mind can create.

    You offer no reason why the evidence for God is inadequate and then proceed to trot out the old “imaginary friend insult” Yoir wording may be less obvious, the meaning is the same.

    You talk of being sure that God is real but really any experience could be rationalized away. God says that those who seek him will find him. I’m not convinced that you are seeking him but only you can know. God gives us what we need not what we want. Those miraculous experiences in the bible? They aren’t for the sole benefit of the individual. We are always blessed to be a blessing. God elects people to serve their generation and the generations to come and gives them what they need to accomplish the task.

  33. ryan says:

    @Rodrigues, those are good arguments for the existence of A , something I already believe is highly probable. The God of the Bible being that intelligent creator is really what I struggle to see. I stated that when I was asked what my beliefs were.

    Ok, here goes. I will try to answer your question again.

    “What sort of evidence would convince you that God (of the bible) exists?”

    If an angel of the Lord, Jesus, or God visits me AND my family in our home or in public.

    “Asking for ‘real’ evidence just betrays that you simply do not know what you are talking about, for there is no such a thing as uninterpreted evidence apart from one’s philosophical commitments”

    Consider that comment, along with the illustration of my kids using physical perceptors to make decisions, and how Pythagoras’ was ‘shocked’. What I understand from that is that I will never find ANY, what I consider ‘real’, evidence of the Biblical God. In other words, I’m wasting my time seeking that type of experience,meeting a personal God, since that is not the nature of the God of the Bible. Do I understand that correctly?

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    If you meet the personal God, what evidence is there then to be required? If I met my wife on the street, would I ask her for evidence that she was really my wife?

    Do you require this to be a physical meeting? Do you suppose that is the only way God is capable of manifesting himself, such that we know it’s God who is there? If so, on what grounds do you take that to be so?

    Just wondering.

  35. ryan says:

    @Tom, I agree with you. It’s the reason I’m having a hard time fulfilling Rodrigues’ requirements for a scientific or logical answer. In my mind, it would just be apparent if he manifested (as explained in my example of my kids, the white background). Same with you illustration about the wife. No interpreting, no rationalizing. You and everyone knows that’s Tom’s wife.

    He could manifest in an infinite amount of ways. Picking one set of evidence requirements would be like being in room of a million doors and saying that I will believe only if He comes through door #1.

    I pigeon holed myself into the last answer because I felt accused of dodging questions, and I made a mistake.

  36. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    those are good arguments for the existence of A , something I already believe is highly probable.

    Huh? What are you referring to? I argued precisely the contrary, that given your epistemological stance, you *cannot* believe in the existence of Lincoln on quarks, or believe in any mathematical claim.

    And what do you mean by “something I already believe is highly probable”?

    What sort of evidence would convince you that God (of the bible) exists?

    If an angel of the Lord, Jesus, or God visits me AND my family in our home or in public.

    Ok, so outside of a direct, public (no fear of mass hallucination?) miraculous intervention of God in your life, no evidence can convince you that God exists.

    Consider that comment, along with the illustration of my kids using physical perceptors to make decisions, and how Pythagoras’ was ‘shocked’. What I understand from that is that I will never find ANY, what I consider ‘real’, evidence of the Biblical God. In other words, I’m wasting my time seeking that type of experience,meeting a personal God, since that is not the nature of the God of the Bible. Do I understand that correctly?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, because as you *STATED* above in plain English, the only evidence you accept is a direct, public miraculous intervention of God in your life. So if God does not accede to your terms and sends one of His angels to humor you, you will not believe He exists.

    I am not privy to God’s will; maybe He will send one of His angels, maybe not. So whether you are wasting your time or not, I do not know. I do know that you are wasting *my* time. The first word of the blog title is “Thinking” but apparently that is something you reject as so much “rationalizing” and “justifying” (whatever that means), so there is really not much point in conversing with you.

    No, because the real problem is not that your epistemological stance prevents you from weighing the evidence in favor of God’s existence. The real problem is that your epistemological stance ultimately prevents you from considering *any* evidence whatsoever, in favor of *any* claim whatsoever in such a way that you have absolutely no rational basis for *any* of your beliefs — literally, you are behaving ir-rationally.

  37. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    Just to preempt a possible misunderstanding, when I say that “there is really not much point in conversing with you”, is because it follows from your epistemological stance, and since I cannot summon an angel of the Lord but only engage in dialectics, that nothing I say can ever change your mind — it is in that sense that my time as well as yours in fact, is being wasted, not that you are somehow undeserving of respect or some such.

  38. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    The God of the bible is consistently referred to as the creator God. Why do you think they were wrong? What is it about God as revealed in the bible that makes you think it is not a revelation if the creator God?

  39. ryan says:

    @Rodrigues, I respect what Tom is doing on this site. Therefore, I am refraining from responding to your multiple insults through your posts.

    It seems that none of my answers to your questions are sufficient and even offend you on some level. I suggest that we leave the dead horse in this post and maybe we can interact with clear heads some other time. Deal?

  40. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    I am refraining from responding to your multiple insults through your posts.

    Excuse me, but can you point any “insult” I have hurled towards you? I am aware of none, conscious or unconscious, but since English is not my primary language, maybe I am missing some subtleties of tone, so could you enlighten me, please?

    It seems that none of my answers to your questions are sufficient and even offend you on some level.

    You misunderstand me or I did not explained myself correctly. I asked a question; you graciously humored me and answered it. Your answer was what it was, period (unless you want to amend it).

    The answer you gave is “insufficient” not because I find it troubling, offensive, dissatisfying, disagreeable or whatever, but because being what it is, it is self-refuting (and you have not shown if and where I have gone wrong in the argumentation). Maybe you do not care if your position is self-refuting and contradictory. You are certainly within your rights and that is fine with me as well. But you should also understand that *if* that is indeed your position (I sincerely hope not) then rational discussion with you is impossible.

    Could you also tell me where do you got the idea that I am offended by anything you have said? Because I am not, so once again it must be my barbaric command of the English language that is betraying me. So could you enlighten me, please?

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    Ryan, I’m not sure what’s here that I would count as an insult. Yes, he said you were behaving “ir-rationally,” but in context it was a technical usage of the term, which he explained quite thoroughly before he used it.

  42. Tom Gilson says:

    Hmmm… G. Rodrigues and I were writing and posting simultaneously here.

    Ryan, if there really is an insult in here, you’re free to let us know where it is.

    I agree with G. Rodrigues, by the way, that there is a distinction between disagreeing and taking offense. Fleegman made a similar mistake recently.

  43. SteveK says:

    G. Rodgrigues,

    English is not my primary language

    Seems like you have better command of the English language than I do.

  44. ryan says:

    Neither of you think sarcasm, when referring to the person you are talking to is meant to be insulting?

  45. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    Neither of you think sarcasm, when referring to the person you are talking to is meant to be insulting?

    My answer, and this is just an opinion, is no.

    I freely admit that quite often I do employ irony and sarcasm, as they are the weapons, in an almost literal sense, of civilized discourse; I will not justify myself on this particular point, because I do not need to as I deny having employed any sarcasm against you, either consciously, or remembering my state of mind at the time of writing and re-reading what I wrote, unconsciously. Since you think differently, can you please tell me where exactly you think I was being sarcastic?

  46. Tom Gilson says:

    Sarcasm? I don’t see any. (I mean that genuinely. This would have been a great opening for me to be sarcastic, if there were actually lots of sarcasm here to be sarcastic about, but not this time.)

  47. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    Ok.

    “Ok”? Is that all you have to say?

    Apparently, you were very offended by my alleged insults. In December 7, 2012 at 10:04 am, you wrote:

    Above all Rodrigues, it’s ok if you don’t have an answer for me. You don’t have to prove anything. You’re not God, only God can show up. I’m sure for you, you have the evidence you need through your personal experiences. And that’s good enough for you. Any I’m glad you have found peace in that, in fact, maybe I envy it a bit. For me, I just need more than what my mind can create. So…relax, you’re off the hook

    Answer for yourself (for yourself, not for me or anyone else) this: is the above paragraph “insulting”?

    I guess if I were in a Sherlock Holmes mood I could unearth other gems of similar worth but I will just cut to the chase. So first, you make disparaging, insulting remarks about my beliefs. Then, after showing a complete and utter inability to rationally justify your position, you invent out of thin air the charge that I have insulted you. When asked for substantiation, you change the accusation to having been sarcastic. When asked for substantiation, you neither offer one nor you retract the charges. And then to top it off, right after posting the above “Ok”, you run off to another thread and go on to cast aspersions over the whole blog audience (not me or any other single commenter, the *whole* audience) by saying,

    this audience is [not] quite ready to replace judgement with exploration of personal stories like this

    and ending up with:

    Haven’t seen much empathetic intelligence. Philosophical and logical, yes, but devoid of a human aspect.

    I do not know what you understand by “empathetic intelligence” or “human aspect”; I cannot speak for anyone else, but I for one am definitely not prepared for your display of “empathy” or “intelligence”. In other words, take a long and hard look at yourself and answer this question (I repeat, for yourself, not for me, as I neither need nor want your justifications, nor for anyone else): is your behavior the behavior of a grown-up, decent human being? Is your behavior an example of “empathy” or “intelligence”? Put yourself in my shoes (that is what empathy is, after all): honestly, what would you think of a person that behaved like you did?

    Think about it. Pax vobiscum.

  48. ryan says:

    @Rodrigues

    You’re right.

  49.    
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