Thinking Christian

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That’s what you call a strong argument!

Posted on Jan 11, 2014 by Tom Gilson

James Lindsay thinks he has caught me exposing faith as separate from knowledge. It’s a long exposition, almost 2,800 words (including some lengthy quotations from my own writing).

I’ve studied it carefully, and I think I can confidently reduce it to this:

Christians think they have evidence-based knowledge that supports their faith. I say they don’t. Other people outside the Christian faith tradition agree with me. Therefore Christians are necessarily wrong to believe they have knowledge supporting their faith.

In fact, I can reduce it to even fewer words: “Hey, everybody–Tom is wrong, and I’m right.”

Now, that’s what I call a strong argument!

Note to James: if you’re right, you’re right. If not, then you’re not right. If we have no evidence-based knowledge supporting our faith, then we’re wrong. If we do, then you’re wrong. None of those conditional statements is controversial. Let’s move on to something more substantive, okay? And let’s not pretend that mere pronouncements such as you made repeatedly in your blog post can settle anything.

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106 Responses to “ That’s what you call a strong argument! ”

  1. SteveK says:

    I don’t know James and I haven’t read the blog post you linked to, but I do know something about human nature generally speaking, and therefore, because I know that, I have faith that James will one day wise up.

    That faith is rooted in my belief that God made everything for a particular purpose and that he seeks our ultimate well-being, and that he won’t let James completely rest in his current state.

  2. Jenna Black says:

    Tom,

    I just read your e-book on Peter Boghossian’s (PB) “Manual for Atheists” and am following the discussion with James Lindsay. I have made a hobby of arguing with atheists over the past few years and am excited and grateful to see that you are on top of the latest twists and turns in their arguments. Thank you so much for your clear and well-articulated arguments against PB’s definition of faith. My goal is to become an informed and articulate apologist for Christianity myself. As an educator and a linguist, first of all, I want to support your challenges to PB’s definition of faith by pointing out that words are merely labels for concepts or ideas: PB is attempting to divert the term “faith” to be used as a label for a very different concept than what we Christians mean by faith. This he does, as you say, in the hope of making faith (the concept or idea) “more rhetorically vulnerable to attack.” We Christians need tools and knowledge to explain and defend our Christian faith in our rhetorical encounters with atheists.

    I highly recommend the book by Professor James W. Fowler (1981), “Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning.” This research-based treatise on faith explains in detail how religious faith develops over a lifetime based on a coherent theory of faith. Professor Fowler documents how faith evolves through fairly predictable stages that involve questioning and reevaluating our beliefs and commitments over a lifetime. He finds that in this process many people reaffirm and remain with the teachings of their childhood or “conventional faith”, while others grow into what he calls a “faith of full maturity” that is “more independent” and “a universalizing, self-transcending faith.”

    I sincerely doubt that Boghossian has read it and if he had, I doubt that he would be so bold in promoting his own idiosyncratic and self-serving (and problematically simplistic and brief) definition of the multifaceted, complex, abstract concept of Christian faith.

    God bless your ministry. Now that I have discovered your website, I will continue to write and comment.

    Jenna Black

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    This is truly mystifying. Apparently James Lindsay thinks that this means I’m on the way toward ceding my entire position:

    Note to James: if you’re right, you’re right. If not, then you’re not right. If we have no evidence-based knowledge supporting our faith, then we’re wrong. If we do, then you’re wrong. None of those conditional statements is controversial. Let’s move on to something more substantive, okay? And let’s not pretend that mere pronouncements such as you made repeatedly in your blog post can settle anything.

    One of his blog commenters seems to think so too.

    It’s strange they would think that. What I was doing there was drawing out the emptiness of his argument, which (as I said above) amounts to, “Hey, everybody–Tom is wrong, so I’m right.”

    What would cause them to think I was beginning to agree with them? Surely they read it in to what I said, because I didn’t say it myself. James has complained about confirmation bias among people of faith. Could this be him committing that error himself?

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Jenna, thanks for writing. I look forward to hearing more from you!

  5. Another point of clarification, Tom. I don’t think you’re about to concede your argument; indeed, I’d be quite surprised if you did. I think you are at the precipice with the opportunity to look over, if you dare.

    Earn my respect, Tom. Evaluate Christianity like you would Islam and admit that you don’t know what you claim to know about it. It’s a big step, and I know it’s hard to make (as I’ve done it myself). The opportunity is there, though, if you’re willing to take it.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, James, for the clarification.

    I have studied Christianity’s strengths and weaknesses, and I’m well aware of them. I don’t think I would deserve your respect or anybody’s if I denied what I have come to know to be true.

  7. Jenna Black says:

    I have been following this discussion for a few days now and must say that I clearly see the many glaring fallacies in James Lindsay’s argument. James claims that “… Christians do not possess sufficient evidence-based knowledge to justify their beliefs.” This is a very bold statement since there are currently over 2 billion Christians in the world, not counting billions more throughout Christianity’s 2,000 year history. Nonetheless, James believes (has faith) that he is qualified to judge the sufficiency of the knowledge on which every Christian bases his/her faith. However does Dr. Lindsay claim to know this? Based on what evidence? Or is Dr. Lindsay merely pretending to know what he doesn’t know and can’t know? Therefore, according to Peter Boghossian’s definition of the term, James Lindsay is exhibiting faith, a faith based not on evidence but on a claim of omniscience.

  8. SteveK says:

    James,

    Evaluate Christianity like you would Islam and admit that you don’t know what you claim to know about it.

    Let’s do that here. Islam says Christ did not die on a cross. Christianity says Christ died on a cross. Forget about the resurrection for now because we don’t need to consider that for my purposes here.

    Which one has evidence for it and which does not, and what do you suggest I do with the answer?

  9. Melissa says:

    Earn my respect, Tom. Evaluate Christianity like you would Islam and admit that you don’t know what you claim to know about it. It’s a big step, and I know it’s hard to make (as I’ve done it myself). The opportunity is there, though, if you’re willing to take it.

    Why do most skeptics assume that Christians just haven’t examined the faith as thoroughly as they have. So they never consider that the Christian has examined the faith more thoroughly and come to the opposite conclusion? Considering that the knowledge of Christianity displayed by most skeptics rarely progresses above a school age understanding and they display absolutely no interest in rectifying that, plus exhibit a marked blindness to the weaknesses of their own position, one wonders what their justification is for assuming they occupy some kind of high ground in critical thinking. The patronizing attitude gets a little tiresome after a while, especially as it is usually unwarranted.

  10. BillT says:

    Evaluate Christianity like you would Islam…

    This is either a dishonest strawman argument or an example of someone who just doesn’t know much about these two religions. Islam really can’t be evaluated “like you would” Christianity. Christianity is a religion uniquely based on its historical validity. Islam isn’t and doesn’t even claim to be. They each stand on their own distinct evidences and are not comparable in the way Dr. Lindsay suggests. I suspect (or at least hope) he knows this but he sadly isn’t above muddying the waters with such an obvious misdirection. It is discouraging that he thinks so little of those he pretends to be having an honest discussion with. I don’t believe we are as disrespectful towards him.

  11. One quick comment for SteveK#8:

    Let’s do that here. Islam says Christ did not die on a cross. Christianity says Christ died on a cross. Forget about the resurrection for now because we don’t need to consider that for my purposes here.

    Which one has evidence for it and which does not, and what do you suggest I do with the answer?

    For reference, Islam says that Allah made it look like Jesus was crucified, but that he wasn’t really crucified, and that Allah raised him up bodily.

    If you want to compare the two, you should really compare the exact claims being made, not just partial claims.

    FWIW, going where I think you’re going, I think the “evidence” would support either claim I think.

  12. SteveK says:

    Interesting, CA, that you would equate evidence of historical facts with religious claims about historical facts. If you were comparing Islam to naturalism would you take that same stance and say Islam equally supports the claims made by naturalism? if so, why are we even discussing this?

  13. Jenna Black says:

    The glaring problem with James Lindsay’s challenge to Tom Gilson to compare the “claims” of Christianity to the “claims” of Islam is that it is beside the point. The evidence for Christianity and the truth of Jesus’ miracles reside in the testimony of the four evangelists in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And yes, it is testimony and there is no credible biblical scholarship to support any claim that it is not their testimony. Therefore, the issue is whether or not the evangelists are credible witnesses to the events told about in the gospels. I highly recommend this wonderful book by Simon Greenleaf (1874). “The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence.” Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics (reprint in 1995).

    We are peers on the jury in the trial of “God yes/no”, which includes the question of “Miracles yes/no”. We all hear the testimony of the witnesses to the agency of God in human events and God’s Miracles. I was not present to witness these miracles myself, so I as a juror must evaluate the credibility of the witnesses to the miracles. The core question is this: Is/are this person/these people credible such that I can believe their testimony? I find the evangelists and apostles who wrote, preserved and venerated their sacred writings to be credible witnesses. Consequently, I can trust and rely on their accounts of/about their relationship with God and Jesus as God incarnate.

    I can/do believe in God’s Miracles (with a capital M) because of the small miracles I have witnessed/experienced in my own life and in the lives of people I know and love. From my experiences with miracles I know that God intervenes in the lives of human beings in marvelously loving, just and healing ways. Atheists have reached a different verdict in this trial than I. Although I do not understand why they reject the testimony that comes to us through the Gospel, I am not obligated in the least to convince them of the validity of my verdict, my faith in God. Atheists are what Professor Greenleaf calls “objectors” and as such, the burden of proof in opposition to “ordinary presumptions of law” falls on them to impeach the evangelists’ testimony.

  14. SteveK,

    I’m participating in an internal critique, assuming that a God exists since the challenge was to evaluate the claims of Christianity from a Islamic point of view.

    My point was that you can’t point to “evidence” that Jesus died on a cross as something that would contradict the Islamic claim, that’s all.

  15. Jenna, I’d like to save you a lot of time. Here’s what you’re up against (though you’ve read it already? Yes, if you really have been reading what I’m writing on my own blog).

    Quoting myself: “[Tom is] invited at any point he would like to clarify what that idea [God] means, but I’m quite sure he cannot do so without referencing his beliefs, making a claim to the validity of Christian scripture, or making an appeal about the objective universality of his subjective personal experience, i.e. things he’s pretending to know.”

    You’re citing your beliefs (about the character of the evangelists, e.g.), making claims that depend upon the validity of Christian scripture (most of what you’re saying), and making appeals to the objective universality of your personal experience (your little-m miracles, if subjective experiences, otherwise these are filed under your beliefs unless verified utterly as miracles instead of, e.g. confirmation bias or mistakes about what happened). That is, you’re pretending you know things you don’t know.

    Nothing you say has any weight until the God hypothesis gets off the ground, and you’re simply assuming it. I mean, your audience here will love it, of course, but if you value truth and honesty, this is a critical point to grasp.

    Additionally, my invitation for Tom to treat the claims of Christianity like he treats the claims of Islam is just an invitation for him to step outside of his bubble and think about his beliefs that way. The claims of Islam don’t matter. All that matters is that he’s either out-of-hand dismissive of them or will actually measure them against their real weight (which every commenter here so far has done, concluding that Islam must be false as a result)–rather proving the usefulness of this invitation. Since he’s sure his beliefs are true, even a completely honest and thorough investigation of this kind should be no problem.

    Perhaps you will give it a try, though? Can you evaluate Christianity as if you were a Muslim, or as you evaluate Islam as a Christian?

  16. Jenna Black says:

    James,

    I must confess that I do not understand what you mean by to “evaluate Islam as a Christian.” I am not very well informed about Islam and therefore cannot “evaluate” (whatever you mean by that) with any degree of competence. What I do know is that Islam is monotheism and one of the three religions of the Abrahamic tradition and that the name that Moslems use for God is Allah, one of the hundreds of names for God from the many cultures, languages and faith traditions in the world. So why do you want to divert the conversation to Islam? Why don’t you address my argument: The four canonical gospels are testimony and unless and until you as a detractor can impeach the four evangelists as witnesses who are qualified to testify with authority to what they testify to, you cannot claim that there is no evidence on which we Christians base our faith. And why do you denigrate and dismiss my or anyone’s subjective personal experiences with/of God as evidence? You are most certainly free to reject my testimony as to my subjective personal experiences (Are there any experiences that are not personal and subjective?) because you don’t find me to be a credible witness or do not find my testimony to be credible, but for me and for those who find my testimony to be credible, my personal subjective experiences are evidence.

  17. Jenna, this isn’t about your argument; it’s about mine. That’s the title of the entire piece.

    I also do not want anyone to talk about Islam at all. I have merely used it as an example of another religion. Hinduism would work too. The goal is simple: think about how you treat religious claims from religions you don’t believe in, then ask yourself how you might treat Christian claims if you didn’t already believe them. This will help you see whether you accept Christianity because of evidence (knowledge) or on faith.

  18. Also, Jenna, if you want to know why I don’t “deal with” your argument about the testimony of the Evangelists, it’s because I already dealt with it. You require citing either your beliefs or scripture or both to conclude that their testimony is valid. Since that presumes what you’re aiming to show, it begs the question. Until you can demonstrate that God is real (justifying your beliefs) and the scriptures are truly his word (justifying the use of them), you haven’t made an argument.

  19. Jenna Black says:

    James,

    I am puzzled by your claim that I (assuming you are using “you” in the singular) must “justify” my belief in God before making an argument and to do so I must “demonstrate that God is real.” Is this really a requirement you place on all Christians you dialogue with, especially since I doubt that for you as an atheist, anyone can “demonstrate” to you that God is real? For Christians, Jesus Christ demonstrated to us that God is real. Far be it for me to attempt to do what Christ has already done. Again, we return to the question of testimony. You cannot claim with any authority or credibility that I do not know what I know or have not experienced what I have experienced, although you are most certainly free to disbelieve my testimony as to my knowledge and experiences.

  20. Martin Ludecke says:

    Jenna – We can probably easily dismiss all subjective claims as they have bias built in by default. Would you not agree with this? To illustrate, I have had a personal feeling that Zeus is real; who are you to question my experience? I am not certain of your claim that the gospels (the 4 that made it into the bible) were eyewitnesses to anything Jesus actually did or said. Can you provide sources to back you claim?

    How certain are you (on a scale of 1-10) that Mohammed didn’t fly to heaven on a winged horse?

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    A few comments, James.

    1. You assume falsely that I haven’t evaluated Islam. I have.

    2. You assume (mostly in Twitter posts) that I consider it important to “earn your respect” by following your script and posting what you want me to post. This, too, is a false assumption.

    3. I’m not really interested in re-evaluating Islam now or in making it a focus of my writing. If that fails to earn your respect, see number 2.

    4. You seem to think that it’s up to you to determine the field on which this argument is being conducted: the demonstration that God is real and that the Scriptures are his word. I have written extensively on that in the past. When Peter Boghossian came up with a tangential argument on the nature of faith, I turned my attention to that argument instead of other topics, and wrote an extended series focused on his specific claims.

    5. While writing on Boghossian’s claims, it was of course impossible at the same time to write on a different lengthy topic. Yet you have pressed me to do so.

    6. Meanwhile you have refused to engage with my the multiple ways I have demonstrated that Boghossian takes a false, rhetorically manipulative, historically and linguistically unsupportable, tendentious, question-begging, straw man-building and otherwise intellectually reprehensible approach to the meaning of “faith.” You continue to light candles as his acolyte, “Boghossifiying” religious literature and asking others to join in with you at it.

    7. You say we have not supported our arguments and you are hammering on that, while ignoring the clear evidence that Boghossian’s arguments not only lack support, they have been demonstrated to be fallacious.

    8. Yet you keep hammering on us. Why not on him?

    9. For my part, I’m not interested in engaging with your challenges until you take Boghossian’s demonstrated errors seriously.

    10. Further, your calls to me to “be honest” (on Twitter) are shown hypocritical by your own dishonesty in ignoring Boghossian’s errors. And, for instance, by scornful tweets like this one yesterday:

    “How do you know the Bible is true?”
    “I have faith that it’s true. It says it’s God’s Word, so it’s God’s Word.”

    JesusRadio

    (“JesusRadio” was a term you were using repeatedly in tweets both Tuesday and yesterday to indicate contempt.)

    You didn’t think it worth mentioning that when Frank and I had that interaction, we were role-playing, demonstrating that this was a weak and vulnerable answer. Do you call that honest?

    Finally,

    11. You’re trying to manipulate my choice of topics, you’re practically excoriating me for not writing what you tell me I should write, you pay no attention to what I have written, including what I’ve previously written on topics you say I must cover now to “earn your respect.” In general your approach is to take control of the course of the conversation, picking and choosing what you care to attend to. You seem to think you’re calling “the dance” (and you know the tweet I’m referring to there). Let me remind you that that’s not your role in my life. Let me also inform you that your lack of interaction with what I’ve been writing from the beginning has made this discussion too boring to continue with much longer.

    Dealing with your contempt has also become tiresome. I am referring mostly to Twitter again. (I am no longer following you, by the way.) Let it be known that, while I respect you as a fellow human being, and as fellow human beings there is always room for us to increase mutual respect, I have other goals that I am pursuing, and if I fail to persuade you to overturn your contemptuousness, I can live with that.

  22. JAD says:

    James:

    Additionally, my invitation for Tom to treat the claims of Christianity like he treats the claims of Islam is just an invitation for him to step outside of his bubble and think about his beliefs that way.

    Has James stepped outside of the bubble and examined his own world view the same way he is suggesting that Tom should do? If he has, why does he have such a poor understanding of Christian beliefs?

  23. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh, and by the way, I suggest you think more carefully before writing things like this:

    Quoting myself: “[Tom is] invited at any point he would like to clarify what that idea [God] means, but I’m quite sure he cannot do so without referencing his beliefs, making a claim to the validity of Christian scripture, or making an appeal about the objective universality of his subjective personal experience, i.e. things he’s pretending to know.”

    This is a challenge for me to explain what I believe to be true about God without referencing my beliefs or my source materials. It assumes that you have won the battle over whether these are known or whether they are pretended to be known, and it sets the rules for my response by the force of that undemonstrated assumption.

    It is another instance of your trying to wrest control of the debate, which is really no debate at all, since the first ground rule you set is, “Let’s recognize that I’ve won the most important part already: the part where we know whether you know anything or not.”

    So I have a proposal. Let’s stipulate this as a point of settled agreement between you and me. You think I’m pretending to know things I don’t know. I’ve got that, you’ve got that, we can all see that that’s what you think. There’s no need to waste more bandwidth on it.

    Let’s stipulate also that I am quite sure you are wrong on this, but I don’t consider it my duty to dance to your demands to prove you wrong. I think you can see that clearly enough (though you’re free to re-write it in less loaded language if you prefer). I think we can all see that this is the case.

    Can we agree to those two points?

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    JAD, James certainly hasn’t stepped outside his own bubble and examined Boghossian’s worldview. That’s for certain. He could do it easily enough: it’s all written out for him here. But he has refused to pay it any attention.

  25. Jenna Black says:

    To Martin Ludecke,

    First, if you reject any account (testimony) that is personal and subjective because you conclude that it is “biased”, then how do you learn or know anything at all? What you are saying is that you only rely on your own direct subjective personal experience, which is, I assume, in your estimation, free of bias?

    I recommend that you read the book I cited above by Professor Simon Greenleaf as a guide to assessing the credibility of the testimony of the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Meanwhile, let me ask you this question. If the canonical gospels are not the testimony of the four evangelists to whom they are attributed, as in The Gospel According To …., then whose testimony are they?

  26. This is really astounding.

    First, Tom, I do expect you have evaluated Islam, though I wouldn’t have been surprised if you hadn’t (many Christians never bother). What I’m interested in is how you evaluated it and how that differs from how you evaluate Christianity. Consider the 1.2 billion Muslims, most of whom are far more serious about their beliefs than most Christians, who evaluate Christianity sort of like how you evaluate Islam. How do they do it? Don’t they want to be saved?

    Second, I used to be a Christian. I’m already out of the bubble. I occasionally have to reassess my position with regard to certain beliefs (usually political ones) by stepping outside of the bubbles we’re always in (which can be identified with cognitive capture, among other phenomena). That’s often fruitful, and because I did it with religion, I’m far more able to do it with other topics. To clarify, I’ve examined Christianity both from within and from without, and I see the stark difference between those perspectives clearly now. The problem is faith–as pretending to know things we don’t know.

    Third, take my invitation. You repeatedly are indicating that you cannot justify your beliefs without referencing your beliefs, scripture (propped up by your beliefs in them), or personal subjective experiences. Just admit that you don’t *know* your beliefs are true and that you believe them anyway.

  27. SteveK says:

    The goal is simple: think about how you treat religious claims from religions you don’t believe in, then ask yourself how you might treat Christian claims if you didn’t already believe them. This will help you see whether you accept Christianity because of evidence (knowledge) or on faith.

    I did that in #8, James. It would be the evidence that leads me to my conclusion regarding the specific point that I raised – not the religious claim that says the historical record is one giant mistake. I don’t believe conspiracy theories, religious or otherwise. Maybe you should clarify this to your followers, like CA.

  28. BillT says:

    And all this talk about how any account (testimony) that is personal can’t be trusted because of it’s subjective completely ignores how much of the NT has been confirmed by historical and archeological findings. In fact, as has been stated here many times, there have been no historical/archeological discoveries that contradict the NT. This on top of the textual/historical criticism that confirms the dating, authorship and accuracy of the NT texts.

    It’s again a dishonest approach by the secular posters here to try and limit the discussion to areas they can muddy by their own unsupported claims and definitions. It’s always special pleading with the non-believing crowd. Any other ancient historian would have thought he died and went to heaven if they had even half of what NT scholars have. But for the secularists no amount of evidence is ever good enough.

  29. SteveK says:

    But for the secularists no amount of evidence is ever good enough.

    Except when it comes to the claims and testimonies published in modern journals. Those we can trust without question because it’s obvious these people are smart and are reporting accurate historical facts.

  30. John says:

    Tom,

    As Jenna Black has noted, “The glaring problem with James Lindsay’s challenge to…compare the “claims” of Christianity to the “claims” of Islam is that it is beside the point.”
    Jenna is correct! Mr. Lindsay is an agnostic at least, or an atheist is most. His view of religion is this:

    “Because of the heavy fracturing of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths, all of which claim to follow the One True God, and claim to be the One True Faith, I will refer to the entire belief structure as the ‘One True Faiths’. As with many other writers in this genre, though I will frequently point to the differences between (sic) the ‘One True Faiths’, generally speaking I find their differences mostly insignificant against their similarities and do not think of them as fundamentally different constructions , although they are followed by groups of people with wildly divergent approaches to life, ethics, morality, and spirituality. These difference exhibit diversity that is in no way trivial and regularly proves problematic when not terrifying.”

    So when he challenges you Tom to, “(e)valuate Christianity like you would Islam and admit that you don’t know what you claim to know about it…” he is being disingenuous. He is throwing you a bone, a red herring. Perhaps it is better to cut back to the chase and address Mr. Linsday at the point that really matters to him, which is:

    “What on earth has been shown to be true of God? We haven’t even established that God exists–or what is meant by the term “God” for that matter (see my chapter-length discussion on this matter in God Doesn’t; We Do, chapter 4). We “know” absolutely nothing about what has been true of God except what we pretend to know about it.”

    For James Lindsay, the real battle is to be fought in Chapter 4. Why not take him up on it?

  31. Jenna Black says:

    BillT,

    Thank you for your comment. I think that it is important to keep this fact about atheism in mind: Atheists must reject every bit of evidence of God’s existence because to accept any evidence of the reality of God threatens their ideology. In doing so, they are being logically consistent since they do not believe that God exists and there can be no evidence of anything that does not exists. Non-existence leaves not a trace. Therefore, atheists must a priori reject any and all evidence of God’s existence from any and every source, although the evidence we Christians rely on in formulating our understanding of God is abundant and sufficient to convince us beyond any reasonable doubt (the highest standard of proof) that God exists. This is why Jesus Christ, the gospels and the New Testament are under relentless attack by atheists. This is also the reason why we must be witnesses and why witnessing to each other about how God works in our lives and testifying to the rationale for our faith in our Christian communities are so vitally important.

  32. Tom Gilson says:

    James, you say,

    What I’m interested in is how you evaluated it and how that differs from how you evaluate Christianity. Consider the 1.2 billion Muslims, most of whom are far more serious about their beliefs than most Christians, who evaluate Christianity sort of like how you evaluate Islam. How do they do it? Don’t they want to be saved?

    I’m calling this another attempt to control the topic of the conversation, and to divert it off Boghossian’s obvious and embarrassing errors.

    I don’t need you driving my agenda, James, which is all you’ve done since you began interacting with me. I use “interact” loosely, in view of your refusal actually to engage with the topics I’ve been writing on.

    I’ll respond to your questions about Islam once you’ve responded (responsibly!) to my challenges to Boghossian. No more diversionary tactics.

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    John, for an answer to your question in #30, see here, please.

  34. Jenna Black says:

    John,

    Thank you for your insights. We must realize that if Tom or any other Christians, collectively or individually, take up the question of God’s existence with non-believers, two things must happen first. We must ask them for their definition of the term “God” and their definition of the term “to exist,” specifically as the term “exists” applies to their concept of God. This should not, supposedly, pose a problem for them since they seem to be very big on argumentative definitions, as demonstrated by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay.

    Let’s first of all address the definition of “exist” taken from Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary definition of exists:
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exist
    a : to have real being whether material or spiritual

    Note that this definition posits two types of existence: material or spiritual. The secularist who wants to “establish that God exists” must tell us if God’s (as they define God) existence is material or spiritual. Despite their fondness for definitions, this may pose a problem for many atheists since they deny the concept (and reality) of any such existence as spiritual existence.

    For an excellent treatise of the definition of God in the tradition of the world’s major religions, I recommend the book by David Bentley Hart (2013), “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.”

  35. Wood757 says:

    Jenna,

    You are having a difficult time understanding that your religious “beliefs” are neither evidence nor knowledge. They are just what you choose to believe. You can believe with all your heart and mind that your deity exists, that you have “experienced” that deity. But when you venture out of the realm of belief and claim that there is “objective” evidence for your deitiy’s existence, then you have assumed the burden of proof for demonstrating your claim.

    To claim that “Atheists must reject every bit of evidence of God’s existence” is to assert that you have acceptable, verifiable evidence to support your claim. You cannot do as you are doing – trying to shift the burden of proof to atheists. You must provide solid evidence and not claims that what is written in The Bible must be true because you believe.

    It should be painfully obvious to you that making a positive claim of a deity’s existence requires evidence for your claim. No one has any responsibility to disprove your claims. And you don’t get to declare that your belief in a deity applies to anyone else.

    Atheists have nothing to prove and you have nothing to offer that meets any definition of “evidence.” Until you accept your responsibility to support your claims no one has any reason to accept them.

    Fortunately, the scientific method is passing religious claims by. We now understand with increasing confidence that the human brain is the source of all religious beliefs, that the over 2,500 invisible deities mankind has believed in were inventions of human beings to “explain” what they had no knowledge of about the world. If your religious beliefs are threatened by increasing knowledge it is better to embrace reality than to deny it.

    You can believe anything your heart desires. Just understand when you assert something as objective fact, the burden of proof is entirely on your shoulders. You don’t get to shift that burden to anyone.

  36. JAD says:

    Martin@ #20 wrote:

    Jenna – We can probably easily dismiss all subjective claims as they have bias built in by default. Would you not agree with this? To illustrate, I have had a personal feeling that Zeus is real; who are you to question my experience? I am not certain of your claim that the gospels (the 4 that made it into the bible) were eyewitnesses to anything Jesus actually did or said. Can you provide sources to back you claim?

    How certain are you (on a scale of 1-10) that Mohammed didn’t fly to heaven on a winged horse?

    I think Jenna ,beginning @ #25, is on the right track, but let me try to simplify it a little.

    The Christian faith is based on a number of historical claims:

    1. An itinerant Jewish preacher/teacher, known as Jesus of Nazareth, emerged as a public figure around 30 AD.

    2. Jesus was arrested and tried by the Jewish high priest Joseph Caiaphas who then turned him over to the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate who also tried him and sentenced him to death. Jesus was crucified by the Romans on Friday April 3, 33 A.D. (Note: Many scholars argue that Jesus was crucified on April 6, 30 A.D. I think better historical arguments can be made for the later date. Also, I have converted the dates to the Julian calendar.)

    3. Jesus was given an honorable burial by Joseph of Arimathea, in Joseph’s unused tomb.

    4. This tomb was discovered empty on Sunday April 5th, 33 A.D. by a group of his women followers.

    5. Afterwards, beginning with the women, Jesus’ disciples claimed to have experiences which they believed were physical appearances of Jesus.

    6. Paul and other Christian writers of that time interpreted these appearances to be the result of the physical resurrection of Jesus.

    7. It is this belief that accounts for the sudden growth and rapid spread of Christianity in the first century

    These are all historical claims which can be supported, or not, by circumstantial evidence (for example, Roman history, our knowledge of first century Jewish culture and archaeology). To be impartial an investigator needs to set aside his or her personal biases and look at the evidence objectively. This has nothing to do with personal feelings or the claims of other religions.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    Wood757,

    What is your evidence for your claim that her beliefs are neither evidence nor knowledge, that they are just what she chooses to believe? Have you examined her for whether she has objective evidences for her belief? (Calls for “proof” are intellectually irresponsible. We make decisions based on the preponderance of evidence, not on proof. You drive to the store based on the strong evidence that you will not be killed in a car accident, not based on proof of that.)

    The burden-shifting of which you accuse her is partly legitimate: it’s wrong to say that atheists must reject every bit of evidence for God. On the other hand, where evidence has been offered you, the burden of proof has already been assumed and accepted, and then it becomes your turn to show that there’s something lacking in it. That burden is yours. So if you want to be intellectually responsible about it, you do have a responsibility to disprove such claims.

    The scientific method has little to do with religious claims. Your understanding of the human brain as the source of religious beliefs is philosophically and neurologically naive at best; at worst it is nothing more than a prejudicial claim presented here without a shred of supporting reason behind it.

    You can believe anything your heart desires, but you can’t get away with pretending that you own a burden of response to the evidences that are presented to you.

  38. Jenna Black says:

    Wood757, RE #35

    I do not claim that my “beliefs” or anyone else’s are either evidence or knowledge. This is not what a belief is. But sound beliefs are based on evidence and knowledge and false beliefs are rejected based on evidence and knowledge. Beliefs are more like opinions or evaluations, assessments and judgments about knowledge and evidence. Whether or not a belief is true (an odd linguistic construction) depends on the proximity of a belief as a representation of and value judgment to reality.

    Please allow me to return to the trial by jury metaphor I wrote about earlier to respond to your allegation that I as a Christian have a “burden of proof” as to my beliefs, in particular my belief in God. We are peers on the jury in the God yes/no trial. Neither of us is the prosecutor, who bears the burden of proof in the trial, which s/he must meet for each individual juror to satisfy the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We each, individually, arrive at our verdict in the trial based on our assessment of all of the evidence presented, as this evidence’s congruence or lack of congruence with what we know (knowledge). In the deliberation process, we may give a rationale or justification of our verdict for the benefit of our fellow jurors, but in the end, we are not responsible for convincing anyone else on the jury of peers as to the truth or correctness of our verdict. Neither you nor I as a juror bear a burden of proof.

    I use this analogy to illustrate the point that Christians are not under obligation to “prove” our beliefs to anyone. Our Lord Jesus made this clear to us in his teachings about how we are to respond to non-believers. Since Jesus himself does not impose upon me a burden of proof, neither can you.

  39. Jenna Black says:

    Wood757 #35 (continued),

    As to your claim that “… Atheists have nothing to prove and you have nothing to offer that meets any definition of “evidence.” First, I totally agree with you that atheists have nothing to prove about God. The decision and commitment to either accept or reject any or all evidence of God is an act of free will, and we Christians acknowledge and respect the free will of all people. However, your statement that the evidence that I (as a Christian) or that we as Christians collectively offer, or better said, point to, meets “any definition of ‘evidence’ is untrue. Of course, there exists the possibility that none of the evidence of God that we Christians offer/point to meets an atheist’s definition of “evidence” because of the way that particular atheist has defined “evidence.” Just as in a court of law, there are rules that guide what is acceptable evidence that can be “entered” into the proceedings. It is most certainly possible for atheists to define evidence in such a way that no evidence is admissible in their deliberations as to God’s “existence.” But this is a rather meaningless and deceitful process. Admit no evidence, entertain no evidence, and then declare that there is none. Do you really think that atheists are giving God a fair trial?

    However you as a non-believer define “evidence”, it is helpful to consider the definition of God that the ancient Hebrews give us in Genesis 1:1 and the evidence on which they base their definition: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” IOW, in the very first sentence of the Bible, God is defined as the Creator (of everything) and the evidence is “the heavens and the earth.” I have often wondered why it is the case that for atheists “the heavens and the earth” are not enough (sufficient) evidence or admissible evidence of/for God.

  40. Wood757 says:

    #37 Tom Gilson

    “Beliefs” in and of themselves are neither evidence nor knowledge. And claims based on beliefs are not evidence for those claims.

    Jenna is in the position of making claims based on her religious beliefs while asserting they are evidence for the existence of her chosen deity. And, yes, her claim that “Atheists must reject every bit of evidence of God’s existence” is a well-worn straw man to shift the burden of proof.

    In the entire history of the human race, virtually every tribe and human groups have independently “believed” invisible deities “must exist” to explain nature. This is indeed a human invention, a human trait, an evolutionary trait of the human brain’s advanced development over time.

    Yes, the scientific method has every thing to do with it. It is the methodology by which mankind has increased knowledge of the physical world and explained what once was not understood. We know that lightning and thunder does not mean “the Gods are angry.”

    We also know that morality originated in the human brain, an evolutionary response for human cooperation for survival. And yes, we know that through science.

    That’s the reality, Tom. Knowledge increases over time. It didn’t stop when different human beings wrote The a Bible over many years long after Jesus died. As inconvenient as that knowledge is to your religious beliefs, there is no rational reason to reject it. Until and unless you provide verifiable, objective evidence for your invisible deity in the sky, there is no reason for anyone to accept those claims.

    The burden of proof rests entirely on your shoulders. Give us the evidence or withdraw your claims.

  41. SteveK says:

    Wow. Assert that you know you’re right without offering evidence or reasons, and your burden has been overcome. Easy.

  42. Melissa says:

    Wood757,

    Much of what you’ve put forward here as knowledge from science is nothing of the sort. All they are are just so stories wrapped up in the trappings of science in an attempt to piggyback on the success of the hard sciences, thereby gaining the uncritical assent of scientism’s adherents. I suggest you apply a little more critical thinking to some of the claims you read and don’t just swallow them because they happen to agree with what you want to be true.

  43. Wood757 says:

    #38 & #39 Jenna Black

    As I made clear, you can believe anything you want and your freedom of religion is protected under The First Amendment as is my freedom from religion.

    And yes, your beliefs do not require any evidence per se. But that is not the issue here. The issue is that you have chosen to claim there is evidence to “justify” your beliefs. So by your own free will you have entered into claims about evidence for your beliefs. Nobody forced you to.

    Let’s review what you said specifically earlier:

    “James claims that “… Christians do not possess sufficient evidence-based knowledge to justify their beliefs.” This is a very bold statement since there are currently over 2 billion Christians in the world, not counting billions more throughout Christianity’s 2,000 year history. Nonetheless, James believes (has faith) that he is qualified to judge the sufficiency of the knowledge on which every Christian bases his/her faith. However does Dr. Lindsay claim to know this? Based on what evidence?”

    James made a claim that Christians have not provided “sufficient evidence-based knowledge to justify their beliefs.” Your immediate response was a classic Argumentum ad populum, appeal to popularity (2 billion Christians can’t be wrong!) Then you misrepresent what James wrote with a red herring, claiming that James has set himself up as “qualified to judge” what all 2 billion Christians know or don’t know. He did not state that, nor would any rational person do so. Your response betrays real avoidance that you, and all like-minded religious people, cannot actually provide any actual real “evidence,” evidence that everyone can see, understand, and verify for themselves.

    What the issue really comes down to has practical and deleterious effects on society that atheists and scientists confront: the assertion by the Christian Right that religious beliefs like Creationism should be taught as science in public school science classes as a “valid alternative scientific theory” to Evolution, completely in violation of The First Amendment. And the false assertion that the United States was “founded on Christian principles.”

    This is why atheists, scientists, and even clergy, are holding your feet to the fire when you stray from your religion and assert them as “true” and “fact” for political purposes.

    So, believe anything you want, share your religion with anyone who wishes to, but when you venture into the real world of evidence or try to impose your beliefs on others, we’ll be there to remind you of your burden of proof.

    Cheers.

  44. BillT says:

    We also know that morality originated in the human brain, an evolutionary response for human cooperation for survival. And yes, we know that through science.

    Wow, just wow!

  45. Tom Gilson says:

    Further response to that:

    Ummm, no, Wood757, those who “know” it know it through their metaphysical interpretations of what has been observed.

    If you doubt that, show me the journal article where your opinion has been conclusively demonstrated. Show me how it deals with the objections raised by atheists like Richard Joyce, Sharon Street, Michael Ruse, and others.

  46. Jenna Black says:

    Wood757 RE: #43

    You are arguing in circles. You state correctly that “James made a claim that Christians have not provided “sufficient evidence-based knowledge to justify their beliefs.” By this statement, I take it that James means any and all (or none) of the 2 billion Christians in the world today has “sufficient evidence-based knowledge to justify our beliefs.” He must mean that no Christian has justification for our beliefs since the basis for our beliefs as Christians is the same throughout the world and throughout the history of Christianity. But you accuse me of making a “classic Argumentum ad populum, appeal to popularity.” I have not claimed that Christianity is true because it is popular (the religion with the greatest number of followers in human history). I claim that Christianity is popular because it is true.

    I am merely pointing out to James Lindsay and to you what you are up against. The claim you are making is that there is no evidentiary basis for Christianity as a religion. This is essentially what is called in statistics a null hypothesis. Either no Christian has an evidentiary basis for his/her belief in Christianity or all of us do. (And let us also note that this claim made by atheists generally extends to all monotheistic religions.) In order to have your null hypothesis prevail, James Lindsay and you are faced with the task of discrediting the complete New Testament as evidence for the existence of God and the establishment of the Christian religion.

    James has indeed “…set himself up as “qualified to judge” what all 2 billion Christians know or don’t know.”This is indeed a very ambitious understanding. It is not enough for James Lindsay or for you to claim to have shown that Tom Gilson or Jenna Black or Christian X has no evidentiary basis for his or her belief in God and in Jesus Christ (which you cannot.) If you could, you still have 2 billion Christians to go whose evidentiary basis for their belief you must discredit in order to sustain your null hypothesis.

  47. Longstreet says:

    This is why atheists, scientists, and even clergy, are holding your feet to the fire when you stray from your religion and assert them as “true” and “fact” for political purposes.

    So, believe anything you want, share your religion with anyone who wishes to, but when you venture into the real world of evidence or try to impose your beliefs on others, we’ll be there to remind you of your burden of proof.

    Physician heal thyself!

    Or if you prefer Matthew, remove the log from your eye…

  48. steele says:

    @James Lindsay,

    James you state:

    “Just admit that you don’t *know* your beliefs are true and that you believe them anyway.”

    Well first this is a non-sequitur to start and a loaded statement. I would be more that happy to become an atheist again James if you can provide me one objective reason to be moral.

    Please don’t bore me with some evolutionary herd morality garbage or good for goodness sake because based on your world view, atheism, morality is just what in fashion at the moment. I will wait for you to show me how you “know” objectively moral facts.

    Thanks

  49. Jenna, I’d feel remiss not to point out at this point that while you think I’m assuming that two billion people are wrong about Christianity, there are about five billion people who agree with me on that point. I’m also not afraid to admit that we might all be wrong. Do a search for my friend, Irony the Equivocator. What if that’s correct? Can you prove it’s not?

    When you make something that seems like an ad populum argument, you’re committing a fallacy. It’s particularly bumpy, though, when you don’t even have a majority to give a veneer of argument to your ad populum.

    Also, I eagerly await any of those two billion Christians to come forward with evidence that passes either peer review or the Outsider Test for Faith. If they have evidence, let them bring it forth, let it be evaluated, and if they’re right, let’s celebrate them like we should.

  50. Martin Ludecke says:

    @Jenna Black – I would never make the claim that my subjective experience is free of bias, nor would I use subjective experiences to guide me reliably through the objective reality we all share. Additionally, I don’t claim to know anything. I am merely asking questions. Do you think other faith claims based upon the standard you hold yours to are just wrong because they haven’t the right knowledge or are they just pretending to know something based upon their own subjective feelings?

  51. Jenna Black says:

    James, RE: 48

    You have committed the ad populum fallacy, not I. You make the assumption that all non-Christians in the world believe that Christians are “wrong.” On what evidence do you base this claim? Atheists, who appear to comprise about 10% of the world’s population, believe (or pretend to believe) that all religions are “wrong” including the religions of those 5 billion people who you now claim agree with you. But this ad populum argument is irrelevant to your original claim that there is no evidentiary justification for belief in God.

    Again, I urge you to examine the evidentiary bases for the ancient Hebrew’s belief in God that is articulated in the first sentence of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. The ancient Hebrews were most certainly not concerned in the least about “peer review” or the “Outsider Test for Faith” so why should Christians and why should I?

  52. Jenna Black says:

    @Martin Ludecke RE: #49

    You say this: “…nor would I use subjective experiences to guide me reliably through the objective reality we all share.” Do you mean that you do not use your own subjective experiences to guide you through reality? Or do you mean that you use no one’s subjective experiences to guide you through reality? If your answer to either or both of these questions, on what basis do you relate to reality? Do you reject your own experience because your own experience is biased? Frankly, I have never met anyone nor can I envision anyone who doesn’t rely on his/her own experience, which is invariably subjective since we humans cannot experience anything objectively) for relating to reality.

  53. Josh Lord says:

    BillT said:

    “for the secularists no amount of evidence is ever good enough.”

    Later on, Jenna said:

    “in the very first sentence of the Bible, God is defined as the Creator (of everything) and the evidence is “the heavens and the earth.” I have often wondered why it is the case that for atheists “the heavens and the earth” are not enough (sufficient) evidence or admissible evidence of/for God”.

    If that’s how low theists set their evidential bar for God’s existence, it’s difficult to see in what circumstances they could have possibly reached the opposing conclusion. Apparently the mere existence of the earth is sufficient to vindicate the Jeudao-Christian creation myth and the myriad associated claims! (I’ll ignore unsubstantiated assumptions of heaven) No wonder you are astonished at our comparatively astronomical standards of evidence.

    In this one statement, Jenna, you’ve betrayed some egregiously illogical thinking. The “logic” seems to be: Consider an explanations for some object X we know to exist -> determine that X (which we already know to exist) does indeed exist -> determine that the particular explanation for X in question must be true.

    What about all of the other explanations advanced for the existence of the earth over the course of history? What about the prevailing scientific explanation that works just fine based on physical laws opertating in leiu of God? Surely by your reckoning the fact that the earth exists is, if not conclusive, at least strong evidence in favour of each of these (overwhelmingly mutually exclusive) explanations.

    Given how liberally you’ve concluded the existence of God above, it doesn’t surprise me that you consider the testimony of four individuals – hailing from an incredibly superstitious age predating the scientific method – sufficient to conclude (with remarkable certainty) that a charasmatic man named Jesus who lived 2000 years ago and who claimed to be the creator of the universe incarnate was, in fact, the creator of the universe incarnate. Once again, if that’s how low a standard of evidence your require to verify such extraordinary claims, it’s hardly surprising that atheists are accused by theists of harbouring excessive evidential requirements. It astonishes me, however, that a person of your undeniable intellectual capacity could consider this “evidence” a sufficiently sound foundation upon which to formulate your understanding of the world.

    Are you aware that genuine miracles are attributed to modern day spiritual leaders (not from the Christian faith) by a far greater number than ever witnessed the “miracles” of Jesus? By every measure these claims should be taken more seriously than those of the gospels: they’re corroborated by a large number of people, they’re made by (in many cases) by people with a naturalistic understanding of the universe available to them and by people whose testimonies we can verify here and now and probe for further details. Nevertheless, I suspect (though I may be wrong) you aren’t especially impressed by such claims. Could that be because you’re assuming (unwittingly) a-priori that the bible is veracious and hence are affording the miraculous claims contained within – claims that if made in an other context would elicit your scepticism – an elevated degree of consideration to the point that you consider them to constitute unequivocal evidence for God?

  54. Martin Ludecke says:

    @Jenna Black

    Thank you for your response. One last question. Should be an easy one but I have never been able to answer it.

    Christians have a lot of evidence for their faith. Muslims also have a lot of evidence for their faith. The list grows from here but let’s take just these two faiths. Since both make wildly contradictory claims against not only each other but what we know about how the natural world works and since they cannot both be correct in their claims, what process do I use to determine which is correct/better?

  55. Tom Gilson says:

    Josh Lord, since you’re so concerned about standards of evidence, it would do you well to re-consider the evidential standards according to which you’ve drawn the conclusions you’ve stated here.

    Granted that Jenna’s statement is incomplete: the existence of nature need not lead one all the way to the conclusion that the God of the Bible is real. (I think it leads to a conclusion that some Being much like the God of the Bible must be real; but it doesn’t fill in all the rest of the information, for sure.) But I think you’ve given precious little thought to the incompleteness of naturalistic/scientific explanations for the existence of the universe.

    I doubt you’ve done a good comparative study between contemporary and biblical miracles. The analogy you’re trying to draw there is weak. Modern-day “miracles” are easily debunked as illusions. One of the great contemporary illusionists, Andre Kole, does a walking-on-water trick on stage. He says Jesus could have done it the same way he does–if Jesus traveled across the countryside with a heavy truckload of illusion equipment. The point is, Jesus’ miracles were not of the sort that illusionists could have debunked even if they had been there. Either they happened or they didn’t; but they certainly weren’t tricks.

    Further, there is real evidence supporting the most significant miracle of all, the Resurrection.

    So I recommend that you take your support for evidence to its full extent and examine all of it.

  56. Tom Gilson says:

    Martin, the means by which you can determine which faith is better is simply to compare their evidences. It’s not complicated.

    Muslims have evidence for the reality of Muhammad, but the existence of Muhammad does not make the Qur’an’s view of God true. So in that sense, evidence for their faith is lacking, even in principle: it is a faith of the sort for which evidence is largely irrelevant. The same thing is even more true of Eastern religions.

    Christianity is historically situated. It teaches that God is known by his works among his people, especially through Jesus Christ. If the history is true, then the God revealed in that history is real. So evidence for Christianity is relevant in a way that it is for no other religion. (The one exception is Mormonism, for which historical/archaeological evidence is so embarrassingly absent, we need not pay it much attention.)

    Therefore your attempt to equate Christian and Muslim evidences fails right out of the box. But the answer to your question remains the same: just look at the evidences that exist, and draw your conclusion.

  57. Wood757 says:

    #41 SteveK

    It’s not a mystery where the burden of proof lies, only to those of you who deny it.

  58. Wood757 says:

    #44 BillT says:

    “Wow, just wow!”

    Science is full of WOWS. That’s what makes it so fascinating.

    Yes, the subject of the evolutionary roots of morality is quite fascinating. After all, where do you think all the similar religious moral teachings came from, the individual invisible deities for whose existence there is not a stitch of empirical evidence?

    This will help you get a grounding in the subject:

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=biological+evolution+and+morality&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C20&as_vis=1

  59. Wood757 says:

    #45 Tom Gilson says:

    “Ummm, no, Wood757, those who “know” it know it through their metaphysical interpretations of what has been observed.”

    That you can’t empirically demonstrate with evidence visible to all.

    I rest my case.

  60. Josh Lord says:

    Tom,

    “I think it leads to a conclusion that some Being much like the God of the Bible must be real”

    Let me guess, the fatally flawed first cause argument? This is where I ask “what/who created the creator?” and you answer “that question is incoherent because, by definition, God is the first cause and had no antecedent”, at which point I marvel at your ability to circumvent a insurmountable problem by defining it away with recourse to what is, essentially, tantamount to magic.

    I have no idea why the big bang occured, nor do I think that anybody today can know either (though many, including yourself, claim to). What I do know is that the “it was a magical creator who conveniently enough just so happens to not require an explanation himself” explanation is intellectually bankrupt. Postulsting an entity necessarily more complex that anything he’s supposedly required to explain and then getting out of the now even greater problem of explaining this entity by glibly dissmissing the need to do so at all by definition, is the epitome of a non-explanation.

    “But I think you’ve given precious little thought to the incompleteness of naturalistic/scientific explanations for the existence of the universe.

    It’s evidently incomplete, and I’m confident that I’ve never heard any atheist or scientist claim otherwise. What this gap in our knowledge doesn’t do is give us license to invent or emnrace a supernatural explanation until a naturalistic one emerges, as humans-minds have an unfortunate tendency to do. In sum, you’re alluding to the classic “God of the gaps” argument; an argument I think meritless.

    “I doubt you’ve done a good comparative study between contemporary and biblical miracles”

    Guilty as charged, but so what? I’m reminded of Richards Dawkin’s quip that you don’t need to study leprechology to reject belief in leprechauns. In both instances we have to rely on falliable and hence unreliable human testimony and we’re dealing with claims irreconsilable with what we know about the universe. I was merely highlighting an especially pertinent example (amongst many possible) of the human-mind’s ability to misinterpret what it sees. In many respects, we’re remarkably easy to deceive and I would conjecture that pre-enlightment man even more so.

    Knowing that several people thought something was the case 2000 years ago is not the same as knowing it was the case today. When historical testimony relates something that flys in the face of everything we’ve since learned about the universe (and much of it does – witnesses of ghostly apiritions, for example) – and hence makes claims that ought be considered extraordinary – it’s right to be sceptical and await extraordinary evidence before considering them an accurate reflection of objective reality.

    You claim to have such evidence. To meet this criteria, it would at least need not be plausibly accounted for by alternative explanations. Are you confident that this “real evidence” supporting the resurrection could not be plausibly accounted for within a naturalistic framework? Could you imagine the sort of things that a naturalist might say to account for this evidence? Are they utterly implausible, or merely unlikely? I would contend that if the latter, they’d struggle to be more far-fetched than the explanation you suppose accounts for them.

  61. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Josh Lord:

    Let me guess, the fatally flawed first cause argument? This is where I ask “what/who created the creator?” and you answer “that question is incoherent because, by definition, God is the first cause and had no antecedent”, at which point I marvel at your ability to circumvent a insurmountable problem by defining it away with recourse to what is, essentially, tantamount to magic.

    (1) It is not fatally flawed; at least you have not showed it is.

    (2) It is not “by definition”, but as the conclusion of a rigorous metaphysical demonstration, that God is without cause; in fact that is the whole point of the argument, that there must be a primary uncaused cause.

    (3) Given that you do not even grasp the structure of the argument, it is richly ironic, first, to say there is an “insurmountable problem” and second, to say that we have recourse to what is “tantamount to magic”. I suppose though, that just as modern technology is akin to magic to an untutored savage, metaphysical arguments will likewise appear “magical” to untutored ignoramuses.

    I have no idea why the big bang occured, nor do I think that anybody today can know either (though many, including yourself, claim to).

    And more ignorance on display. You are confusing the Kalam with the First Way. Whether the universe is past-finite or not is completely irrelevant to the First Way. And *why* the big bang occured is also irrelevant to the Kalam, btw.

    Postulsting an entity necessarily more complex that anything he’s supposedly required to explain and then getting out of the now even greater problem of explaining this entity by glibly dissmissing the need to do so at all by definition, is the epitome of a non-explanation.

    More ignorance on display:

    (1) No one is “postulating” anything; rather, the existence of God is the *conclusion* of an argument.

    (2) The First Way is a deductive argument; whether it explains anything at all that you think it ought to explain is completely irrelevant to its validity.

    (3) Aquinas (along with the Church Fathers, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the protestants in the classical theism tradition, etc.) held the doctrine of divine simplicity; anyway your “necessarily more complex” is simply a non-sequitur and once again irrelevant to the argument.

    What this gap in our knowledge doesn’t do is give us license to invent or emnrace a supernatural explanation until a naturalistic one emerges, as humans-minds have an unfortunate tendency to do. In sum, you’re alluding to the classic “God of the gaps” argument; an argument I think meritless.

    Since the First Way, which you do not even understand, is not a gap argument, what you think is meritless is quite irrelevant.

    And I will stop here because there is only so much patience one can muster for such ignorance and irrationality. But here is a friendly suggestion: you are way out of your depth and do not have a clue about what are you talking about. So how about educating yourself before spouting ill-informed nonsense?

  62. Tom Gilson says:

    #41 SteveK

    It’s not a mystery where the burden of proof lies, only to those of you who deny it.

    Well, of course it’s no mystery. Doh.

    The burden lies with those who make the claim.

    I suppose you think that the claim is that there is a God. Look through your own posts, though, and you’ll find dozens of claims. Some of them need no support, since they are agreed upon by everyone. Some of them bear a burden of proof.

    You’re right: it’s not hard at all. But if you insist that there is only one claim, then you are among those who “deny it.”

  63. Wood757 says:

    #46 Jenna Black says:

    “He [James] must mean that no Christian has justification for our beliefs since the basis for our beliefs as Christians is the same throughout the world and throughout the history of Christianity.”

    No, James was clear in what he wrote: “… Christians do not possess sufficient evidence-based knowledge to justify their beliefs.” Shared belief amongst 2 billion Christians is not evidence those beliefs are valid and true. He (and I ) are specifically asking for the objectively-based EVIDENCE for your claim that your beliefs are true.

    Your problem is with the term and meaning of “evidence.”

    “But you accuse me of making a “classic Argumentum ad populum, appeal to popularity.” I have not claimed that Christianity is true because it is popular (the religion with the greatest number of followers in human history). I claim that Christianity is popular because it is true.”

    You “claim” it is true. You won’t provide evidence. That remains your problem, not anyone else’s. And that is the difference between “belief” and “evidence.”

    “The claim you are making is that there is no evidentiary basis for Christianity as a religion. This is essentially what is called in statistics a null hypothesis. Either no Christian has an evidentiary basis for his/her belief in Christianity or all of us do. (And let us also note that this claim made by atheists generally extends to all monotheistic religions.) In order to have your null hypothesis prevail, James Lindsay and you are faced with the task of discrediting the complete New Testament as evidence for the existence of God and the establishment of the Christian religion.”

    No, once again, you are only trying to shift the burden of proof. Your problem is claiming The Bible is “evidence” for the existence of “God” without providing verifiable positive evidence of the existence of God. You may believe it is true, as do your 2 billion Christians do, but no one has any reason to accept to accept that your deity exist without independent, verifiable, POSITIVE evidence for the existence of an invisible deity.

    If such evidence ACTUALLY existed, there are a few implications:

    1) No one would be arguing whether or not “God” existed. It would be objectively discernible to everyone without need to DEMONSTRATE “God” exists.

    2) There would be no need for religion; it would not have to exist. There would not have to be hundreds of sects of Christianity, or different religions. It would be a fact of nature that a deity exists, like gravity.

    “It is not enough for James Lindsay or for you to claim to have shown that Tom Gilson or Jenna Black or Christian X has no evidential basis for his or her belief in God and in Jesus Christ (which you cannot.) If you could, you still have 2 billion Christians to go whose evidentiary basis for their belief you must discredit in order to sustain your null hypothesis.”

    You’re still trying to shift the burden of proof. No one has presented any objective evidence to discredit. You are ONLY making CLAIMS that 2 billion Christians base their beliefs on “evidence” when, in fact, you no such evidence has been presented. You are just repeating that your strong religious “beliefs” constitutes evidence, James and I, and others are asking you to present the actual objective, positive, independently-verifiable evidence to support your claim that an invisible deity named “God” actually exists.

    “Again, I urge you to examine the evidentiary bases for the ancient Hebrew’s belief in God that is articulated in the first sentence of the Bible, Genesis 1:1″

    Appealing to The Bible is not evidence of the veracity of The Bible’s claims.

    I rest my case.

  64. SteveK says:

    Wood @59

    That you can’t empirically demonstrate with evidence visible to all.

    I literally laughed out loud at this response. Thanks for brightening my day.

  65. Tom Gilson says:

    Wood757: I hate to point it out to you, but in #59 you stated a point that affirms my position, and then you rested your case.

    Maybe you didn’t realize that was what you were doing there.

  66. Tom Gilson says:

    In other words, SteveK had good reason for his day to brighten at that point.

  67. Wood757 says:

    #62 Tom Gilson says:

    “I suppose you think that the claim is that there is a God.”

    Yes, that’s what Jenna claims. She has made a positive the claim that “God” exists. That 2 billion Christians “know it’s true. “No matter how much you wish to shift the burden of proof to atheists, you can’t.

    Why don’t you and Jenna just admit it or provide the objective evidence for the existence of your favorite invisible deity?

    What’s holding you up? Lack of evidence?

  68. Tom Gilson says:

    And really, Wood757, you ought to be more careful. Look at what you did here:

    “Again, I urge you to examine the evidentiary bases for the ancient Hebrew’s belief in God that is articulated in the first sentence of the Bible, Genesis 1:1″

    Appealing to The Bible is not evidence of the veracity of The Bible’s claims.

    I rest my case.

    You referred to an appeal to the evidentiary bases for the Bible, then you said that appealing to the Bible is not evidence.

    Do you see the disconnect?

    An appeal to the evidentiary bases for the Bible is not an appeal to the Bible as evidence itself.

    You’re not reading carefully enough.

    Or something.

  69. Wood757 says:

    #65 Tom Gibson says:

    “Wood757: I hate to point it out to you, but in #59 you stated a point that affirms my position, and then you rested your case.”

    That you don’t need evidence for your claims. Yes, I knew that.

  70. Tom Gilson says:

    In #67, you selectively ignored most of what I wrote in #62. What’s holding you up from paying attention to the discussion you’re actually participating in?

    What’s holding me up from presenting evidence for the deity are three things:

    1. Read the discussion policies, and you’ll find that it’s my policy to try to keep discussions focused on one topic, not on hundreds.

    2. There are hundreds of lines of evidence that I could write in favor of the existence of God.

    3. I have already written on dozens of them, so the premise of your question is false: nothing’s holding me up, I’ve already done it. What’s holding you up from using a search function here and looking for them?

    4. And finally, there are libraries full of other writings on the same.

    So I think I’ll just (a) dispute the premise of your question, (b) dispute the conclusion you’ve inaccurately drawn, and (c) try to stay on topic instead of letting you dislodge me from it.

  71. Wood757 says:

    #68 Tom Gibson says:

    “You referred to an appeal to the evidentiary bases for the Bible, then you said that appealing to the Bible is not evidence.”

    LOL. I am quite clear that The Bible does meet any standard as “evidence” for the existence of an invisible deity.

  72. Tom Gilson says:

    My name is not Gibson.

    And your point in #69 shows you still don’t get what you really said when you rested your case.

  73. Tom Gilson says:

    Wood757,

    Let me inform you now that you are doing such a poor job of reading what you’re responding to that I am wondering whether there’s any value in letting you continue here. It happened again in #71. You misunderstood, and you LOLed.

    I don’t want us to have to explain the same thing to you over and over again, as has seemed to be necessary recently. It’s just not a good use of anyone’s time.

    See #9 under the discussion policies.

  74. Wood757 says:

    #70 Tom Gilson says:

    “What’s holding me up from presenting evidence for the deity are three things:

    “1. Read the discussion policies, and you’ll find that it’s my policy to try to keep discussions focused on one topic, not on hundreds.”

    Remind Jenna Black, the one to whom I initially responded, that she went off-topic.

  75. Wood757 says:

    Tom Gilson:

    The Bible is not evidence for the existence of any deity. Do you disagree?

  76. SteveK says:

    Wood,
    Does the Bible count as evidence for anything? How do scholars answer that question?

  77. Tom Gilson says:

    @#74:

    Thank you for that advice. I’ll review. In the meantime you don’t need to blame-shift.

  78. Tom Gilson says:

    @#75:

    I disagree. The Bible is evidence for the reality of God. Anyone can see that.

    The definition of evidence is something like this:

    Some information E is evidence for some belief B, if E’s being true, and E’s being known to be true, provides good reason for a reasonable person to judge it more likely that B is true, compared to the situation where E is not in existence, is not true, or E is not known to be true.

    The Bible exists and speaks of God in ways that can be assessed for truth. This information E increases the likelihood of belief B, “the God of the Bible exists,” being true, compared to the case where there is no Bible.

    That’s not hard, Wood757.

  79. Wood757 says:

    Tom Gilson,

    Let me reconstruct your argument in logical form with two blanks of unknown information to see if I am accurately interpreting it:

    E contains “information” about B
    If E is true, or “known to be true” B may be true
    If E does not exist, is not true, or not known to be true, then B____________?

    The Bible exists and contains information about “God”
    The information in the Bible about “God” can be assessed for truth.
    That information and truth is_____________________________?
    Therefore it is “likely” God exists.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    First, the following is not a statement about E or B. It is a statement about under what conditions E is evidence for B. And I have corrected a slight error in your version.

    E contains “information” about B
    If E is true, or “known to be true” B may be is more likely to be true than if not so for E.
    If E does not exist, is not true, or not known to be true, then B____________?

    Filling in the blank: Then no conclusions concerning B can be drawn from E.
    That conclusion is independent of the lines that preceded it. There’s no reconstruction in logical form here; that last line simply stands on its own.

    Your second set of statements is a little rough in their construction, but as far as the bottom line is concerned, you could read the Bible and fill in the blank for yourself, Wood757.

  81. Tom Gilson says:

    Or put it this way to make it easy:

    Is it more likely the God of the Bible exists, given the existence of the Bible, or given the non-existence of the Bible?

    (I’m trying to make it exceptionally easy for you.)

  82. Jenna Black says:

    Tom,

    Good job in this discussion with Wood757! I would remind Wood757 that my reference to Genesis 1:1 is/was to point out the evidence on which the ancient Hebrews based their understanding of God as the Creator.

    I hope you find my recommendations of books I have studied useful. Here are two more.

    Nathan Stone (2010). “Names of God.” Chicago: Moody Bible Institute.

    Rabbi Michael Samuel (2010). “Birth and Rebirth Through Genesis: A Timeless Theological Conversation Genesis 1-3.”

    Thanks again for the stimulating and enlightening conversation.

    Your sister in Christ,

    Jenna

  83. Wood757 says:

    Tom Gilson,

    So let me again clarify this.

    So you have provided no evidence to support a claim that “God” actuality exists, only an assertion that because The Bible exists, and there is “information” (unspecified) in The Bible that “can be assessed for truth” (therefore can assessed for falsity) a “God” is more likely to exist than not to exist.

    Correct?

  84. Wood757 says:

    #82 Jenna Black

    Just a reminder that we are talking about your claims that a deity exists.

  85. Tom Gilson says:

    Wood757,

    I was answering the specific question. I detect a note of scorn or suspicion over my not having gone further than that.

    If you really do want a complete answer on the topic you’re beginning to broach, please let me know what city you live in and I can direct you to the appropriate library. It won’t fit very well in a combox, however.

  86. Martin Ludecke says:

    re 56

    Tom – Thank you for your response. I was unaware that Christianity is the only world religion that has historical situatedness. I will research this a little more. To be certain of your position, am I to understand that all other religion’s evidentiary claims can be dismissed because Christianity is the only one whose claims are rooted in/with historical situatedness?

  87. Martin Ludecke says:

    Tom – This thread has been enlightening to say the least. Great conversation. Many posts(mine included) have made claims (empirical or otherwise). I freely admit that any claim I make is potentially falsifiable. No need to reply to this question; it is just an exercise in thoughtful reflection: Do you think that any/all of the claims here are *potentially* falsifiable? Mine probably are. How about others (yours included)?

  88. Wood757 says:

    Tom Gilson says:

    Scorn?

    I am asking a straightforward question: am I accurately representing your statement or not? You should be able to give me a direct answer, no?

    After all, you wrote: “The Bible is evidence for the reality of God. Anyone can see that.” (I ignored your scorn in the last sentence.)

    I am waiting for the evidence to support your claim, “The Bible is evidence for the reality of God.”

  89. Tom Gilson says:

    Wood757, I think when you ask me for evidence to support my claim that the Bible is evidence for the reality of God, you’re asking for something more than evidence, you’re asking for evidence that you find persuasive. Given a proper understanding of the term, however, the Bible is evidence for the reality of God of the Bible if that reality is more likely to be true given the existence of the Bible than its non-existence. This is self-evidently the case: if the Bible didn’t exist, there would be exactly zero probability that the God of the Bible exists; but since the Bible exists, there is some probability greater than exactly zero that the God of the Bible exists. Therefore the Bible is evidence that the God of the Bible exists.

    Is it persuasive evidence? It’s part of a package, actually. On its own it has internal features that I think are compelling. Beyond that, there is external attestation in history, archaeology, philosophy, and so on, which add to its persuasive effect in my view. I recognize that it’s not that way in your mind. So be it. You would be hard-pressed to deny that it raises the probability of the God of the Bible to some finite number greater than zero. That’s all I’m trying to persuade of in response to your question, Is the Bible evidence of God? My goal there is admittedly modest.

    As for more ambitious goals, which I also have in other contexts, do you want me to detail the reasons I think that it’s persuasive? I have done so at great length over the years in the 2,000+ posts I have written for this blog. I haven’t done so this time because that would be changing the subject; and not just changing it, but broadening it to a conversation that’s beyond reasonability to sustain.

    So I’m intentionally providing a narrow, technical answer, because I’ve found that these discussions proceed much more productively if we try to talk about one or two things than if we try to talk about everything.

    If on the other hand you think I’m ducking the question, unable to answer, etc. I advise you not to rush to prejudiced judgment. Just because I don’t comply with your requests or demands here doesn’t mean I haven’t done so elsewhere or that I cannot do it. I have explained my reasons; any other conclusion you draw is based on your own conjecture, not on evidence. And we all value evidence, right?

  90. Wood757 says:

    #89 Tom Gilson says:

    “Given a proper understanding of the term, however, the Bible is evidence for the reality of God of the Bible if that reality is more likely to be true given the existence of the Bible than its non-existence. This is self-evidently the case: if the Bible didn’t exist, there would be exactly zero probability that the God of the Bible exists; but since the Bible exists, there is some probability greater than exactly zero that the God of the Bible exists. Therefore the Bible is evidence that the God of the Bible exists.”

    That is a claim, not evidence of any probability of the existence of God. You are assuming in the premise that The Bible is an authoritative source, one of the major issues in contention. While The Bible contains some history, it is taking The Bible as an authoritative source of objective evidence for the existence of God as a given when, in fact, The Bible itself does not present or require “evidence” for it’s content. The Bible consistently asks you to “believe,” to accept its pronouncements as true. To take The Bible as an authoritative source on evidence for the existence of God. You may believe as part of your religious thinking but we have no objective reason to accept that as valid.

    “You would be hard-pressed to deny that it raises the probability of the God of the Bible to some finite number greater than zero. That’s all I’m trying to persuade of in response to your question, Is the Bible evidence of God?”

    Even if your reasoning you are using were not fallacious, the probability of the existence of a deity named “God” being slightly greater than zero lacks any contextual meaning. We can say the probability is exactly zero – but no one can claim God does not exist; that is a meaningless point to whether God exists or not.

    If we applied your reasoning to any book written than you would have to say that the probability of “The Protocols of The Elders of Zion” being true is greater than zero because someone wrote a book with claims in it. Are we justified in doing so?

  91. Tom Gilson says:

    No, Wood757, I am not assuming in this claim that the Bible is an authoritative source. I am merely (in this context) making the modest claim that:

    if the Bible didn’t exist, there would be exactly zero probability that the God of the Bible exists; but since the Bible exists, there is some probability greater than exactly zero that the God of the Bible exists. Therefore the Bible is evidence that the God of the Bible exists.

    You say,

    the probability of the existence of a deity named “God” being slightly greater than zero lacks any contextual meaning. We can say the probability is exactly zero – but no one can claim God does not exist; that is a meaningless point to whether God exists or not.

    The context, my friend, is in my specification that the probability I’m referring to is that of the God of the Bible.

    You can say the probability is exactly zero, but you have no reason to say so unless you know exactly everything about how God might exist and manifest himself, if there is a God. Maybe that was the point of your final sentence in that quote. But it’s also irrelevant to whether my point is accurate about the Bible being evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible.

  92. Jenna Black says:

    Tom,

    Here is one of the ways I view the Bible as evidence that God exists: The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible (Torah, Tanakh) is the story of the ancient Hebrews’ relationship with God as they understood God. It is impossible for human beings to have a relationship with non-existence. Or phrased another way, there is nothing to say about a relationship with nothing since there is no such thing as a relationship with nothing. Therefore, the Hebrew Bible is evidence of God’s existence.

  93. BillT says:

    Wood757,

    I don’t want to get off topic but you keep saying the Bible isn’t an authoritative source. However, the New Testament especially is certainly a authoritative historical source. Biblical studies, related extra-Biblical historical texts and archeological evidence together make the Bible the most reliable ancient historical texts in existence. It is orders of magnitude more reliable than the existing historical evidence for the ancient Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamians, Assyrians, Aztecs, Incas, etc. Our faith stands on a historical/archeological/textual foundation that is head and shoulders better than other ancient historical studies.

  94. Tom Gilson says:

    Jenna and BillT, that’s exactly right. I was sticking with the minimalist answer to a question, but it could be expanded massively in the directions you’ve outlined.

  95. Jenna Black says:

    Wood 757, RE: #50

    In this comment you say this: “…the probability of the existence of a deity named “God.” What does it mean for a “deity” to exist? To answer this question, we must examine what that deity (which is given a name by a linguistic community) deifies. Deification is a linguistic and intellectual process through forms of “story-telling” that involve mytho-poetic language, symbolism, allegory, anthropomorphism, and other forms of linguistic, conceptual representations of existing reality. The conceptualized and imagined deity does not “exist,” although the reality that is deified does exist.

    An example: We readily acknowledge that Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain, does not exist, but no one argues that rain does not exist. The same is true of all 200 Aztec gods. The representations of the natural phenomenon or human characteristic are not existing gods but the natural phenomena they symbolize do exist.

    Many atheists do not understand or refuse to acknowledge what monotheism deifies, which is the reason for the lack of relevance of their claim that there is “no evidence that God exists.”

    My question to you: Who names or named God “God”? What do communities that use the name “God” mean by this name? For starters in addressing this rhetorical question, I recommend Nathan Stone’s book, “Names of God” (2010) that explores 12 names of God from the Hebrew Bible.

  96. BillT says:

    Tom,

    Right, and I didn’t want to get off topic but it seemed to be going around in circles a bit. The basic facts need to be understood. It’s my impression that PB, Dr. L and many others seem to lack those basics.

  97. Wood757 says:

    #91 Tom Gilson says:

    “You can say the probability is exactly zero, but you have no reason to say so unless you know exactly everything about how God might exist and manifest himself, if there is a God. Maybe that was the point of your final sentence in that quote. But it’s also irrelevant to whether my point is accurate about the Bible being evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible.”

    No, not at all. All I can say is that I cannot claim there is no God, even if we assess the probability is exactly zero.

    No, The Bible only serves as a claim for the existence of a deity. It is not evidence for the existence of a deity named God. As I pointed out elsewhere, the claim, or premise, that The Bible is an authoritative source is one of the things in contention. It is fallacious to claim that it is even though, as a Christian, you may intently believe so. There is no objective reason for anyone to believe claims that The Bible is evidence for the existence of a deity. You an believe whatever your religion tells you but it does not apply to anyone who does not share your religious beliefs.

    This is obviously so and quite easy to observe. If such evidence existed for a deity there would be no contention over it. There would be no need for multiple religions nor multiple sects within religions. There would be no need for any religions – the existence of God would be a self-evident fact, as self-evident as gravity.

    I find the contortions and gymnastics you all are going through in trying to claim the existence of a deity only illustrates what Lindsay is saying. You may believe anything you want, you may passionately want to convince others your beliefs are true. But you cannot do it by fallacious reasoning, moving the goal posts, perpetually trying to shift the burden of proof, and providing no objective, verifiable evidence.

    Just accept the reality: you choose to believe in a deity. We have yet to see a single piece of evidence that any deity exists, much lees the one you call “God.”

    Agreed?

  98. Wood757 says:

    #93 BillT

    I’ve already said that The Bible does serve as a historical source for some things.

    I am saying that The Bible cannot be considered an authoritative source for the existence of an invisible deity and other extraordinary claims as Tom Gilson asserts, e.g., that it’s mere existence and discussion of a deity serves as a probability that a deity exists.

    Simply, The Bible provides no positive, verifiable evidence of the existence of a deity. And the dancing around the issue amongst theists here in face of our requests for evidence only illustrates my point.

  99. Tom Gilson says:

    Wood757, you say that if there was evidence there would be no contention. There is contention, therefore there is no evidence.

    There is contention over whether George Zimmerman was criminally culpable for Trayvon Martin’s death or whether he acted justifiably. Therefore there is no evidence.

    Right?

    Then what did they introduce at trial?

  100. Wood757 says:

    #95 Jenna Black

    So no invisible deity as described in The Bible actually exists. Therefore, Jesus is not God, nor The Son of God, and the Holy Spirit is imaginary, too.

    Wouldn’t have been easier to acknowledge test to begin with?

  101. Wood757 says:

    #99 Tom Gilson,

    That’s a real contortion in logical reasoning. Read what I wrote: “…the existence of God would be a self-evident fact, as self-evident as gravity.”

    Do you understand, now?

  102. Tom Gilson says:

    I think, in other words, you are still conflating “evidence” with “indisputable and universally accepted proof.”

    This is not a discussion over whether undeniable proof for God, persuasive to all persons can be found in the Bible. You and I both agree that it cannot and does not. We don’t need to argue over that. This is a discussion over whether the Bible and its contents count as evidence for the God of the Bible.

    You may not consider it evidence, but it’s also rather imperious of you if you take that opinion of yours as conclusive evidence that no one else sees legitimate evidentiary value (of some lesser or greater degree) in the existence and contents of the Bible.

    And though I’m really sorry to have to say it, your insistence that there is not one piece of evidence for any deity flies in the face of the conclusions reached by the vast majority of humanity. It’s an incredibly absolute pronouncement. You’re expressing the opinion that whatever exists in all of reality, including everything that has ever been proposed as a possible evidence for deity, has already been explained exhaustively enough to rule out even the slightest shred of possibility of deity, with the result that no person could rationally entertain the possibility that anything in all reality could point toward the possibility of a deity.

    That’s what it means when you say, “not a single piece of evidence that any deity exists,” Wood757.

    Why so insistent? Why take such an impossibly hard stand? What has motivated you to go so far in that direction?

  103. Tom Gilson says:

    In order to be a contortion of reasoning, Wood757 (@#101), it would have to be contorted in its form. I used the same form of reasoning you used. Draw the correct conclusion from that, and we’ll be in agreement.

  104. Tom Gilson says:

    But wait! In #98 you’ve changed the terms. You no longer say “it’s not evidence.” You say it’s not “positive, verifiable evidence.”

    That’s progress. Depending on what you mean by “positive” and “verifiable,” I might almost agree. That is, if you mean, positive to be verified and agreed by every observer, then we agree. That’s obvious enough!

    But if you mean something less than that, well, I’d say we’d still made progress by what you wrote in #98, but we still have a way to go.

  105. Tom Gilson says:

    But the theists here are NOT “dancing” around the issue of evidence. We are simply unwilling to re-write a library on this page. And your suggestion that this constitutes dancing is really quite vexing on your part.

    If you care about evidence, then you ought to care about the evidence of what people say to you, rather than remaining mired in your preconceptions about what you think we’re hiding behind what we say.

  106. BillT says:

    I’ve already said that The Bible does serve as a historical source for some things.

    I am saying that The Bible cannot be considered an authoritative source for the existence of an invisible deity and other extraordinary claims as Tom Gilson asserts…

    Even if the thing that the Bible serves as a historical source for is Christ’s resurrection? After all if the resurrection happened it would be an historical fact. Why are some historical facts excluded an others included (outside of you just saying so).

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