Why I’m not an atheist #2 – Scientific Naturalism is powerful, but not enough.

I resist naturalistic explanations of my belief in God.

Atheist still use philosophical arguments, but it seems they are more a tool for unsettling Christians rather than the lifeblood of atheism. What seems to give much of modern atheism its strength is that in scientific naturalism it has found a way of explaining the world that doesnʼt need God. The philosophical argument still has its place of atheism, but it is less urgent and less pressing. The best argument against understanding the world in a theistic way is to provide an elegant, attractive, powerful mode of explanation that has no need for God.

The scientific naturalist mode of explaining the world is very powerful. It is indeed an impressive and elegant human achievement to have come up with this naturalist explanation of the world.

And yet I hold out on this very powerful way of understanding the world.

Why maintain a belief in God, when there is a very reasonable explanation of the world that doesnʼt require God? Indeed why am I not an atheist?

A couple of reasons:

Firstly, I maintain a difference between the conclusions reached by science, and the
assertions made by naturalism
.

Science is a methodology. It takes as its starting point observation – physical evidence of
one sort of another is the means by which science discovers physical causes.
You can do lots with the methodology of science. Itʼs very powerful! But one thing you cannot do with science is prove that physical causes is all there is. You assert a conclusion if it has already been woven into your methodology at the start. Naturalism conscripts science — it says: Look at all the physical causes science has discovered, and science can explain how it all works, so there must be no other causes.

But the interpretation of your scientific conclusions depends not on your science, but on your philosophy.

I look at the conclusions of science, and I see in them a discovery of how God has done things in the world.

A naturalist looks at the conclusions of science and says, There is no need for God.

Both assertions are beyond the realm of science — there is no scientific experiment you can do that can prove one over against the other. Any observational data you find will just fit into a prior philosophical framework you have established for yourself.

This is why some of you are agnostic rather than atheist. You are committed to the scientific method, but have seen that it is not in itself sufficient to say anything about God, for or against. We decide on other basis. Science is like a big bucket — an enormous bucket — that you can plumb the depths of the ocean with. But just because youʼve got a full bucket doesnʼt mean youʼve got the whole ocean. Itʼs far too imperialistic to claim that!

But secondly, I reject naturalism as a philosophy because it is too powerful.
Iʼll need to explain what I mean!

Naturalism explains my convictions about God in evolutionary terms. This is one of the humorous back and forths that always happens when atheists and Christians engage: the Christian will present some sort of reason or fact why the atheist should believe in God, and the atheist will respond with: Well I can explain fact using just natural physical explanations. I point to the fine tuning of the universe as evidence that God made it; the naturalist says, that doesnʼt prove God, because, as unlikely as it is, sheer random forces just made it like this.

I point to the number of people around the world, and throughout history  who believe in God, as evidence that we are hardwired for God — but the naturalist explains all such belief as a kind of  by-product of our evolutionary development … religion has helped us survive, but that doesnʼt prove thereʼs a God. I point to the beauty and design in the world and all the things we value, as signs that we are built and created by and for someone greater than ourselves; but the naturalist will encourage me to be suspicious of my perceptions “The illusion of design is a trap that has caught us before” Dawkins writes.

Thereʼs a long list of things that evolutionary naturalism is powerful to destroy and tear down, and the harder atheists use it with entertaining and formidable skill.

But hereʼs my question: why stop with religion? If religion is the product of evolutionary
adaptation, then why not rationality? Why ought I to be suspicious of my perceptions of design, but not suspicious of my perceptions of whatʼs rational?

If evolutionary naturalism is true, then ʻrationalityʼ is not to be explained as some characteristic of our species that connects us with the real world — it is merely a characteristic of the species that  helps us survive better in the real world. The power of reason depends on its objectivity — that it is really true and connects me to the world in a way that is true. But evolution is not interested in truth — itʼs just interested in survival. What we think about the world may be nothing more than a dream, an invention of our pragmatic minds.

Darwin himself realised this, and wrote to a friend:

“With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of manʼs mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”

Naturalism is a very powerful sword. Naturalism does away with God, to be sure. But in the process, it does away with everything. Nothing we know or perceive can be depended on as connecting us to the real world — anything our brains tell us are merely the product of evolutionary adaption. If physical forces really do explain everything, then they must truly be allowed to explain everything — even my own explanations. It is just a case of special pleading to ʻexemptʼ naturalism from its own razor.

Naturalism, and atheism, in terms of what it actually teaches, seems to me to be a counsel of despair. My love for my family, my concern for others, the reasons I get out of bed in the morning — all of them are illusions, and irredeemably so.

Now please donʼt misunderstand me: I donʼt mean that every atheist is living in despair!
Iʼm glad to say thatʼs not the case. But if the physical evolutionary causes are the only explanation for life you have, how can you assert the reality of meaning of any kind? Itʼs not enough to say that you do assert the existence of meaning and love and beauty! When I hear atheists do that, I just think they are talking as a semi-Christianised atheist, still spending some cultural credit hanging around from Christianity! Itʼs not enough to say evolutionary naturalism doesnʼt lead to meaningless for you — you have to show why it shouldnʼt?

The author

Dave is campus director for AFES at James Cook University in Townsville. Before training at Moore Theological College he was a scientist. He has four sons, seven chickens, and one wife.

28 thoughts on “Why I’m not an atheist #2 – Scientific Naturalism is powerful, but not enough.”

  1. Nathan, I will be the first to admit that Naturalism is suspect as a means to completely understand the universe. I also believe that our "monkey brains" are probably not equipped to even understand everything Naturalism can offer. I believe there will always be gaps in human knowledge. But why must we always try to fill these gaps with a deity? Perhaps there is some exciting new form of science that transcends Naturalism that could be discovered one we take our noses out of our holy books. I've always thought the "God of the gaps" is a cop-out. An easy way out.

    1. Jeff,

      I don't buy into the idea of a "God of the gaps". I think you've misread Dave's point here. A God of the gaps is a cop out. Understanding the way something works does not, for the Christian, remove God's hand from the equation. It just helps us see God's hand at play.

      So what Dave is saying, and what I believe also, is that science, and naturalism are great for explaining what we can see – but fall over when they assume this means there is nothing "supernatural" or unseen causing what we see.

    2. Hey Jeff,

      I think Nath's right, Dave's definitely not proposing a 'God of the gaps'. A 'God of the gaps' inherently buys into something of the roots of naturalism, the assumption that observable (even if not yet observable by our science) causation is the only realm of reality. Dave clearly takes a different tack with this:

      "Both assertions are beyond the realm of science — there is no scientific experiment you can do that can prove one over against the other. Any observational data you find will just fit into a prior philosophical framework you have established for yourself."

  2. But if the physical evolutionary causes are the only explanation for life you have, how can you assert the reality of meaning of any kind? Itʼs not enough to say that you do assert the existence of meaning and love and beauty!

    My experience of meaning (or of beauty, of love, etc. etc.) is a subjective process that occurs entirely within my own mind. The mere fact that I experience it is enough to justify claims of its existence, because that's all that its existence is.

    This is different from claims of supernatural phenomena or of deities, which generally have to do with the objective world outside the claimant's mind, and therefore require objective evidence relating to that same outside world.

    Why ought I to be suspicious of my perceptions of design, but not suspicious of my perceptions of whatʼs rational?

    We do have to assume that our minds are capable of at least partially figuring out the world around us, and that the world is consistent enough to be at least partially figured out. Without that assumption, there's no reason to try to figure out anything. We assume our own rationality implicitly whenever we even start thinking about or discussing how the universe works.

    Heck, you're making that assumption right now! Yes, you, the person reading my comment and trying to decide if I'm making any sense! If you don't make the basic assumption of having a working facility for figuring things out, then how do you justify trying to figure anything out?

    I assert that the assumption of rationality is basically necessary for any further discourse or productive thought about anything, unlike the far more specific and far less basic assumption of the existence of the supernatural.

    If you want evidence for the overall rationality of the universe, that's reasonable. But, we already have piles of such evidence; you're using one such piece of evidence to read my comment. Whenever we figure stuff out about the nature of the universe, and start building technology around that new-found knowledge, that technology works astoundingly often and well. If we, and also the universe, weren't at least somewhat rational, why would rationality lead to technology that works so much more often than non-rational methods lead to working technology?

    …the naturalist says, that doesnʼt prove God, because, as unlikely as it is, sheer random forces just made it like this.

    You're clearly way too knowledgeable and intelligent to not understand why this is a blatant misrepresentation of the naturalist's position on the nature of the statistical probably of the universe being the way it is. :-) If you don't know what I'm talking about, look up Douglas Adams's quote about the puddle that woke up one day.

    1. what tags do you use to do those quotes?

      Adam's analogy on works so long as you keep looking from the puddle's perspective. As soon as you step outside of that and realise that puddles can 'live' in holes of different sizes, but life doesn't work outside certain parameters, the analogy falls.

    2. HI David,
      I've only just returned to this post, so here's a very belated reply!

      You said: "My experience of meaning (or of beauty, of love, etc. etc.) is a subjective process that occurs entirely within my own mind. The mere fact that I experience it is enough to justify claims of its existence, because that's all that its existence is. "

      But that begs the question — if meaning is subjective, then how can you call anything evil? In the newspapers where I live there is the story of a man who abducted an 8 year old girl from her bedroom and killed her, leaving her body in a storm drain. If what you have said is true (that meaning and morality is subjective and occurs entirely within your own mind) then it seems that you can have nothing to say about that kind of act — it's not actually evil, it's just that you, personally, perceive it to be so. And the man who did the act didn't perceive it to be so, and hence for him it wasn't an evil act. Subjectivising meaning and morality is a neat way to exclude 'objective' claims, but no one actually does it in practice.

      I think in fact we all operate, on a day to day basis, as if there really are objective factors in our world about what is right and wrong, meaningful and not. To be sure, delineating the exact lines between right and wrong can be a very mirky business, but that there is right on wrong … I don't see anyone living in a way that denies that (whatever they might say with their mouths).

      But then the weakness of naturalism is that it denies what we all know to be true — it says all such perceptions of morality, meaning, beauty etc etc are just the way our brains fizz and not connected to anything objectively real in the world.

      I don't think belief in God is imposing some 'superstructure' on an otherwise neutral world. Our sense of meaning and morality and beauty certainly doesn't prove God exists, but to my mind all of those things are explained much better if there is a God than if there isn't. The existence of God fits with our normal experience of those things.

      You said: "We do have to assume that our minds are capable of at least partially figuring out the world around us, and that the world is consistent enough to be at least partially figured out."

      Indeed, I agree with you. But those assumptions seem to be contradicted by naturalism, not supported by it. If I am just the product of evolutionary forces that are interested in survival rather than truth, then the last thing I can assume is that my brain is telling me true things about the world — it's just telling me things that will help me survive.

      On the other hand, our rational capacities are exactly what you would expect if we are made in the image of God. Our assumptions about rationality don't challenge theism — they fit with it!

      You said: "look up Douglas Adams's quote about the puddle that woke up one day"

      I haven't read HHGTTG for a while so thanks for the excuse to pick it up again (is that where the puddle's from or elsewhere?)

      1. And the man who [raped the child] didn't perceive it to be so, and hence for him it wasn't an evil act.

        I think you're countering a strawman of my argument. I never claimed that morality is purely subjective, only that beauty and love and the personal experience of meaning are subjective. Morality is a cultural mechanism that allows people to get along with each other; it exists as the societal level, not at the personal subjective level and not as some kind of Platonic ideal either. Clearly, the rapist in your example is objectively violating any functional society's ethical system.

        I still don't understand why God is in any way a helpful concept when explaining morality. When people work together, they all benefit. Adding a God into your explanation doesn't explain anything, because now you've just pushed the question up one layer: where did God get those ideas of morality from?

        If I am just the product of evolutionary forces that are interested in survival rather than truth, then the last thing I can assume is that my brain is telling me true things about the world — it's just telling me things that will help me survive.

        This happens all the time for precisely the reason you describe!

        For example, people are very apt to see patterns where none exist; this is why people believe in astrology and phrenology and such. Over-eager pattern recognition is pretty helpful if you're looking out for tigers in the jungle, since false positives are much less dangerous in that situation than false negatives. However, it's not so helpful if you're trying to, say, develop a theory of particle physics. :-)

        Luckily for us, we've managed to figure out the scientific method, a system for (among other things) verifying whether or not a pattern is valid in a way that is much less vulnerable to individual biases.

        On the other hand, our rational capacities are exactly what you would expect if we are made in the image of God. Our assumptions about rationality don't challenge theism — they fit with it!

        But as with the morality and beauty issues, this doesn't explain anything. Instead of asking "Why are we rational?", you say we should ask "Why would God make us rational?", but the latter question is the exact same thing as the former question, just with one arbitrary and unhelpful element added.

        I haven't read HHGTTG for a while so thanks for the excuse to pick it up again (is that where the puddle's from or elsewhere?)

        Not that I want to discourage you from re-reading such an excellent book :-), but I'm referring to a standalone Adams quote that goes like this:

        Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'

        1. Whoops, for some reason I thought I hadn't yet put the puddle quote in this thread yet, so I pasted it again even though it's already been put here. Sorry about that.

          1. I thought I'd replied to the puddle before too..

            at any rate, I think it's flaw lies in the puddle's inability to see that it could exist as a puddle in any shaped hole – but the fine-tuning argument is that we can only exist in a universe /world 'shaped' like this. That is, we've determined what the puddle has not.

        2. I never claimed that morality is purely subjective, only that beauty and love and the personal experience of meaning are subjective. Morality is a cultural mechanism that allows people to get along with each other; it exists as the societal level, not at the personal subjective level and not as some kind of Platonic ideal either. Clearly, the rapist in your example is objectively violating any functional society's ethical system.

          It's true that most people objecting to objective morality are not advocating moral relativism, but the kind of inter-subjective morality you're proposing still contains the basic flaws of subjective morality – it's just that the subjectivity is increased from individuals to society groups. By such reasoning, we can not hold other societies accountable for something our own society might not think is moral. We don't need to invoke Godwin's Law to demonstrate that.

          I still don't understand why God is in any way a helpful concept when explaining morality.

          Well, simply, because it's the best explanation, in that is has the most power and scope. Naturalism fails to account fully for morality, but morality is fully accounted for if we consider the explanation that it was set up by a moral law-giver.

          1. By such reasoning, we can not hold other societies accountable for something our own society might not think is moral.

            On the contrary, we can and should hold other societies accountable under our society's moral system, if our society's moral system includes the idea that all people deserve to be treated equally (as it does).

            We don't need to invoke Godwin's Law to demonstrate that.

            Isn't there a corollary to Godwin's Law that deliberately invoking it doesn't count? ;-)

            Well, simply, because it's the best explanation, in that is has the most power and scope. Naturalism fails to account fully for morality, but morality is fully accounted for if we consider the explanation that it was set up by a moral law-giver.

            It does have scope, but it has no power: adding God to the model doesn't grant it any more predictive capability, and isn't falsifiable. These are serious warning signs in any theory.

            The naturalistic explanation for morality goes like so: when working together is more effective at ensuring survival and gene propagation than in-fighting and internal strife, those creatures that work together tend to pass on their genes more often.

            This idea can be verified observationally to a certain degree (i.e. you could experiment to see if those wolf packs that work together the best are the ones that live longer and, in turn, tend to produce more intra-cooperative descendant wolves). In my opinion, though, the best verification of this idea comes through simulation: if you set up a computer model, you can actually see and measure the advantages of co-operative behavior over purely selfish behavior in many scenarios.

          2. Sorry, I don't know how to block quote, so I'll have to use the more mundane method

            You said: "On the contrary, we can and should hold other societies accountable under our society's moral system, if our society's moral system includes the idea that all people deserve to be treated equally (as it does). "

            But what if another society's moral system doesn't say all people are created equal (as is evidently the case in many societies!) — why is your moral framework any superior to theirs if BOTH moral frameworks are simply evolutionary products? In an naturalistic framework, the foundation for their moral framework is exactly the same as yours — it's just what's helped them as a society to survive.
            I think your statement misses the point I made in the original post — it's not enough to assert that you (or your society) HAVE a moral framework, but to show why you SHOULD have that framework given your starting points.

            Another way of approaching it is to consider the actions of some who act in the name of evolutionary naturalism in a way most people would deplore as evil. There's a good Times article here (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/bio… showing how high school shooters in the US are quite consistently acting with explicit Darwinian moral frameworks. Strictly speaking their actions are not inconsistent with Darwinism _itself_, as the article argues. It doesn't seem that Darwinism _itself_ gives you any resources for condemning (or more importantly, inwardly restraining) that kind of action. It seems you have to end up going to some other moral framework (eg residual cultural instincts from a prior Christian era) to give you a basis on which you can say that they SHOULDN'T act that way. According to evolutionary naturalism, all of your instincts that say "It's just wrong" really are just instincts and nothing more – the shooters instincts were different and, in Darwinism, no worse or better than yours.

            I know that is just dealing at the level of individual actions, but I agree with Andrew that a society's morality deals with the same issues just raised a level.

          3. I think that people don't quite understand moral relativism. Moral relativism is simply the opposite of moral absolutism, where something is right or wrong no matter what the context of the situation. Moral relativism is simply shown to be how most people think with a simple thought experiment.

            If your ship crashes and you are on a lifeboat that can carry only 20 people safely, and there are 25 people on the boat, and all are unconscious but you, what do you do? The edge of the boat is only 3 inches above the water line, and a storm is coming. You have to toss 5 people overboard into freezing cold water, or everyone dies. What decision do you make? Is it more moral to let all 25 people die than it is to send 5 to certain death?

            The majority of people would choose to toss off the 5 people, and that illustrates that although it is immoral to kill innocent people, it is a choice that people are willing to make for the greater good.

            Now, it is still possible for objective morals to coexist with moral relativism as long as you assume that some things are more moral than others. Objective morality and absolute morality can coexist too. In other words, objective morality is not absolute morality and subjective morality is not moral relativism.

            Not sure if you understood that, but it seems as if you may think that objective morality is antithetic to moral relativism, and that's just not the case.

          4. Your example is one of utilitarianism ('the greater good') rather than moral relativism. In fact your example assumes (and is completely dependent on) a moral absolute: the value of human life. The whole reason why the decision about 'who to save' needs to be made, is b/c there is a prior absolute moral imperative stating that 'lives should be saved'. Your example simply resorts to utilitarianism to solve the problem of what to do with that absolute ethic in a mirky situation.

            True moral relativism in the situation you describe would be rather more sinister — it would mean that whilst one person in that situation might seek to save as many people as possible (b/c they have an ethic which says human life is valuable), another person might do nothing at all, or push everyone overboard (b/c they have an ethic, lets say, that their life is most important and the lives of others don't concern them). True moral relativism says that neither action is superior to the other, neither is 'absolute' over the other. It's that kind of morally relative ethic that evolutionary naturalism, in its logic, seems to lead to. The world is mere physical causes (so says naturalism) and so interpreting any action as 'better' than another is a construct of the way my brains fizz, or at best just an ad hoc and dispensable survival mechanism developed over time.

  3. Imagine you're playing poker, and you get a 3 of Hearts, an 8 of Diamonds, a 5 of Diamonds, a 7 of Clubs, and a King of Clubs. Not an especially rare hand, right? But, mundane as it is, it's precisely as likely as a royal flush of hearts! The only reason it's more valid to go "Wow, that's incredibly unlikely!" when we get a royal flush than when we get a hand of garbage is that there's a pre-assigned value to having a royal flush.

    Andrew, the question of "How unlikely is it that our type of intelligent life is possible in a given universe?" is somewhat backwards, since the only reason such a universe is special to us is because, well, we're here. It might be really incredible to us that we live in this particular universe which has life in it, but our perspective is biased.

    In this way, it's very similar to the puddle's situation: the puddle's perspective is that the puddle's existence is important, and so it sees anything required for the puddle to exist as very important indeed. On the other hand, outside the puddle's perspective, whether or not the puddle exists isn't any more noteworthy than whether or not a particular cloud exists, or whether or not a particular molecule of hydrogen is here rather than there, or so on.

    1. True, we do assume our existence is important, and it's worth asking why we do that on a philosophical level. The desire to know the 'meaning of life' seems to be somewhat universal in humanity, and as C.S. Lewis argued, we don't have such instinctive desires (like hunger and sexual desire) unless there is a means by which it can be met. So too then, I think the human desire for meaning indicates that some kind of meaning does exist. I think there's more reason to assume there is meaning than to assume there isn't.

      If finding ourselves on a life-sustaining planet is like getting a royal flush, and the x number of non-life-supporting planets are all the other possible hands, we can either look at it and say 'luck' or something similar, or we can wonder whether we were given the cards specifically. You see, your analogy begs the question in terms of randomness.

      Of course, this is but one philosophical reason. The arguments from the existence of things like love, art and beauty and morals as well as the historical resurrection are culmative.
      When we ask "is what we know and see best accounted for and most consistent with a creator God or unguided, random, chemical reactions?" I think that the former is more persuasive.

  4. As C.S. Lewis argued, we don't have such instinctive desires (like hunger and sexual desire) unless there is a means by which it can be met.

    Is a desire for a "meaning of life" really instinctive, or is it at least partially cultural? And, in what way does having an "instinctive" desire for something constitute evidence that that something exists?

    Even assuming that we do have a biological-level desire to find a "meaning of life", all that indicates is that that pursuing that desire is beneficial to fitness in some way, not that the object of pursuit exists.

    […]or we can wonder whether we were given the cards specifically.

    If you and a million other people were all playing poker at the same time, and one or two out of the million get a royal flush, would you ask why were they given the cards specifically? Why assume that some agent was active in arranging for a particular result when that result doesn't violate what one could reasonably expect from chance alone?

    […]arguments from the existence of things like love, art and beauty and morals[…]

    Love, art, beauty, and morals all have perfectly reasonable explanations for their existence that don't require or imply the existence of a creator God. If a piece of evidence could be explained by a trillion possible things including God, in order for me to accept that evidence as implying the existence of God you would need to show why God is a much better fit than any other of the explanations.

    […]as well as the historical resurrection[…]

    I'm probably not as familiar with this line of evidence as you are, so I'd like to ask you to go into more detail about why you feel that the evidence for a historical resurrection is compelling. However, to pre-emptively argue against a couple points I suspect you might be about to say on this topic:

    1. The fact that people at the time were convinced enough to become believers isn't meaningful evidence that what they believed in is true. If it were, then we could expect that the Heaven's Gate cult's belief in a spaceship hiding behind a comet, a belief so strong that they committed suicide over it, implied the existence of that spaceship. There's a strong belief in many parts of the world that running a fan overnight in a room with the windows closed will cause death; Google "fan death" and you can read all about it. People believe things strongly all the time, but often not for any good reason.

    2. As I understand it, there's a serious lack of documentation of the resurrection, or any of Jesus's other activities, that was not created by believers for the express purpose of converting other people to the faith. Independent confirmation would be much stronger evidence than evangelical claims by religious believers. Otherwise, why not pick any of the other belief systems that also have historical texts with claims of miraculous events, such as Buddhism?

    Um, let me finish up by saying: If my tone in this comment or in any other comes across as harsh, please forgive me. I'm not trying to be antagonistic, just to encourage close examination of all ideas, in both myself and others. If I start behaving like a jerk, please let me know and I'll apologize and rein it in. :-)

    1. Is a desire for a "meaning of life" really instinctive, or is it at least partially cultural?

      Even if it is 'cultural' I think it's a fairly universal culture, which just brings us back to the same point.

      Even assuming that we do have a biological-level desire to find a "meaning of life", all that indicates is that that pursuing that desire is beneficial to fitness in some way, not that the object of pursuit exists.

      When we don't have any such desires that don't have an answer (e.g. hunger) then I think it does indicate that such an answer exists. I don't think it makes much sense otherwise.

      If you and a million other people were all playing poker at the same time, and one or two out of the million get a royal flush, would you ask why were they given the cards specifically? Why assume that some agent was active in arranging for a particular result when that result doesn't violate what one could reasonably expect from chance alone?</blockaquote>

      As I said, the poker scenario presupposes chance, which is begging the question somewhat.
      If I found $50 in my letter box instead of the usual junk-mail, would I suppose chance or intention?

      …in order for me to accept that evidence as implying the existence of God you would need to show why God is a much better fit than any other of the explanations.

      Well I think it's probably very debatable whether naturalism best accounts for art / beauty and particularly, morality (indeed, Dawkins acknowledges that altruisms such as adoption are seemingly anti-darwinian, and his only explanation is that it is some sort of 'misfiring' or happy accident).

      I'm probably not as familiar with this line of evidence as you are, so I'd like to ask you to go into more detail about why you feel that the evidence for a historical resurrection is compelling.

      Probably the best thing would be to point you initially to Dave's #3 post in this series: http://st-eutychus.com/2009/why-im-not-an-atheist

      I think that's a better place to discuss that point. Though a brief response to your two points:

      #1 – there is a difference between believing something will happen, and believing something has happened. And indeed, believing you've experienced something. The disciples didn't die for a belief they 'hoped' was true, they died for a claim that they experienced something.
      I do think the conversion of two 'hostiles' like Paul and James are strong pieces of evidence – what would convince you that your brother was the messiah, risen from the dead?

      #2 I don't think that's the case. And of course, if someone was reporting that the resurrection happened, then they would simply be written of as a believer too, wouldn't they? Asking for confirmation by someone who didn't believe it happened is a little absurd to my mind. There are at least 11 historical facts, none supernatural, relating to the crucifixion of Jesus that are accepted by the majority of scholars (including critical scholars who do not accept the resurrection) which I think are best accounted for by the resurrection.

  5. A little late, and brief (and also not very well worded) comment, or perhaps question, or statement..

    Arguing that the existence of morality in a universe created by chance, I'm not sure if that works. Think about it, in a universe that happens by chance, anything can happen. There is no right or wrong (as got stated earlier I think) in an absolute sense. So, there is no reason for you not to have morality, as not everything that survives (as I understand evolution) have to be perfect, or even better (in an absolute sense again) than whatever else happened to be around at the same time, it just happened to be more suited to whatever was around it.

    One thing that seem to separate us from animals (hopefully other things as well, but..) is that we can imagine things, and imagining things and being able to have thoughts of God and the meaning of life seem to me to be rather similar. And imagining things can be quite useful, you can (to an extent) predict the future; "If I do this, well, then the lion can't eat me" and you can also invent things (which also comes in handy).

    But, I think I may get a bit of topic, all I was trying to say is that in a random universe anything can happen as, well, it's random. And me feeling small and lost and thinking there should be more to life that there is may just be an unfortunate bi product of something that allows me to live..

    Still, I'm around the 50%+ mark for the existence of God. Not because it makes a lot more sense than other views of the world, but more because it is kinda cool with a God that loves us.

Comments are closed.