Tag Archives: Bill Pratt

Trolling For Jesus: DiscipleoftheWord. Part I

There is nothing that is more dumbfounding than bigotry and hate-mongering.  Unfortunately it seems prevalent in the blog world behind the screen of internet anonymity.  For some the safety of the keyboard hidden in the quiet of their own home allows for the venting of frustrations in ways and words that would never be used in face to face conversation.  For others the vitriol is raised to an art form, and the TROLL is born.  Scouring the internet blogs and message boards this individual seeks out those who will fall prey to their obsession; an obsession with abusiveness in complete anonymity.

Tough Questions Answered, Bill Pratt’s apologetics blog has fallen victim to such a TROLL.  Lying in stealth behind the moniker of DiscipleoftheWord is a radical fundamentalist Christian who feels obligated preach to, castigate, insult and condemn everyone he encounters.  Not satisfied to harass the Skeptics, his natural opponents, he also goes for the jugular of his fellow believers.

In the middle of a conversation and debate that had been taking place for nearly a month DiscipleoftheWord implanted himself in the discussion and launched a full onslaught of disrespect, hate, bigotry and sarcasm justifying his every word as sanctioned by God, backed with the authority of the Bible.

Below is the first exchange with participants of the discussion before DiscipleoftheWord successfully ran the majority off and ended the debate.  You can find the full unedited discussion here.

Bill Pratt says: May 19, 2010 at 9:20 am

Willie, if someone asks you a complex question that would take many hours and thousands of words to adequately answer, what would you do? What if that person knows that you have written about the question in many different places, but they refuse to read that material and instead demand a unified and re-packaged version especially for themselves?  This is the problem I am having. What would you do if you were me? How do I answer your question without dropping everything else I’m doing for the next month?

DiscipleoftheWord says: May 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm

@Bill Pratt: If you confess that you have certain doubts about the Christian faith, then that is your problem not all of Christianity’s.  It is a problem of ignorance, irrationality, and a deficiency in your righteousness and intellect. What you need is prayer, study, and divine grace for your soul. 

It takes a very particular variety of hypocrisy to translate this malfunctioning of faith into an approach to apologetics, and then to take pride in it and call it humility. If you introduce doubt into the people of God, and in turn cast rebellion into their hearts. You are a wolf in the disguise of a sheep, discouraging the assurance of the faithful, while making an excuse for the sons of hell. Shame to you. Let your type of humility burn in hell, because it does not proceed from the revelation of God but from the limiting arrogance of man.

 Willie G says: May 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm

 I am pretty certain the words above are those of a comment Troll seeing how they in no way reflect either the content of the original post or the discussion that followed. If they are authentic they speak volumes to the position of skeptics and further evidence of why throwing off the fetters of religious delusion was the right thing to do.

DiscipleoftheWord says: May 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm

 Whose a comment trolled? (Sic)  Introducing a positive tenet of Christianity with a negative premise is exactly what I am pointing to.  And if I might join this debate:  The fact that Bill thinks he can in anyway turn Willie G to the Gospel with an intellectual argument proves his spiritual stupor.  Willie G … ha[s] never been in Christ and in no way represent the Born Again nature of a believer.  What is born of God cannot be unborn…, no matter what Bill says.  And Willie G, you are the very Son of Hell I am speaking of.

Does Bill think his intellectual arguments apart from the Word of God can save Willie…? Or does Willie G believe that his secular arguments can shake the faith of a regenerated believer?  You fools…neither can happen.  Willie G can no more see the Kingdom of God anymore than he can see his own depravity and absolute inability to understand spiritual things.  Bill you’re a religious coward…tell him that the wrath of God is being revealed against all ungodliness…tell him that the wages of sin is death.  Tell him the truth….that he is Hell bound.

Doubting T says: May 19, 2010 at 8:36 pm

 You are either a great example of Poe’s Law (i.e. A parody of a Fundamentalist is indistinguishable from the real thing.) or mentally dysfunctional I can say no more, except, if you are truly typical of folks that post on this site, then Bill and Darrell have a problem with how this site is represented to even Christians.

DiscipleoftheWord says: May 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm

 LOL… You’re offended?  So what?  You’re at a Christian Blog arguing that there is no rational reason to believe in God.  You’re an enemy of the Lord I serve.  If Bill and Darrell do not believe that an unbeliever will perish in Hell then they really can’t call themselves Bible believing Christians can they?

John 3:18: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  What did you expect to hear?…”

Willie G says: May 20, 2010 at 8:10 am

It never ceases to amaze me how a Troll will ruin both a conversation and the integrity of a blog. But of course this Troll is just doing the “Lord’s” work.

DiscipleoftheWord says: May 20, 2010 at 9:11 am

Oh boohoo, is that all you have Willie G, integrity?  In your first post you accused Bill of being delusional.  In your second post you accused him of being condescending….ect, ect. (Sic)  I smell arrogant self contradiction and it stinks like flesh.  Aren’t you going to pull an epicurean riddle out of your hat?  Or maybe you’d like to challenge the TAG argument?  Or why God doesn’t heal amputees.  How about the problem with Evil?, or we can discuss you allegations against “Christian Atrocities”.  You could run over to the Annotated Skeptics Bible web site and copy and paste a few verses out of context to try and refute the living God (if you’re mentally challenged that is).  It is you that is here under a guise, a guise of intellectualism, but there is nothing new in what you say.  You guys are a dime a dozen.

 1Co 1:18 “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise , And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

 Bill Pratt says: May 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

[Doubting] Thom: if you read through the blog, you will see that I get attacked by both Christians and skeptics. DiscipleoftheWord has been commenting on another post, but I refused to continue talking to him when he continuously used derogatory words to describe my views. He is obviously frustrated that I won’t get down in the mud with him and sling some of it around. Such is my life….

 DiscipleoftheWord says: May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am

Oh how that man suffers.  Bill your hatred for me must be profoundly deep that you would rather side with unbelievers than men of God.

 Bill Pratt says: May 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Greg [DiscipleoftheWord], I definitely do not hate you and I am not siding with anyone. I just wish you would tone it down and speak with more humility – that’s all.

Willie G says: May 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Bill, never acknowledge a Troll. Call them out as being a troll and then totally ignore them or block their return. Otherwise they will never stop.

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A Tough Questions Debate: Bill Pratt

After a very long and heavily interrupted discussion concerning the reasonableness of belief in the Christian God I have decided to condense the conversation to the key lines of thought with the key participants.  This is part one of the discussion that I have been having with Bill Pratt, author of the apologetics blog Tough Questions Answered.  I have removed all comments from other participants in order to make the discussion more easy to follow.  Additional posts will follow with my discussion with other key commenters.  Below is the original post written by Bill that initiated the discussion.  I include it in it’s entirety for context.

ORIGINAL POST:

Are There Things that Really Bother You about Christianity?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Does it bother you that the Bible is composed of 66 different books instead of one single tome?  What about the fact that there were errors made in copying some of the Bible manuscripts over the last few thousand years?  Does it cause you to doubt Christianity because there are some difficult passages in the Bible?  Do you wish Jesus didn’t say some of the harsh things he said?  Do you find it strange that the biblical authors come from vastly different backgrounds (e.g., shepherds, kings, fishermen)?  Or that they composed poetry, historical narrative, allegory, and apocalyptic letters instead of a theological/moral textbook with each point being carefully outlined (e.g., “see section 11.3.4.7 for why murder is wrong”).  Does it irritate you that Jesus only ministered for a few years and covered a limited range of topics?  Are you worried about the way the canon of Scripture developed over time in the church instead of God sending Scripture to earth in a black obelisk, like  in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey?  Do you wish Jesus and the apostles had addressed more social ills than they did?

Listen carefully: If these kinds of things really eat at you, you have either rejected Christianity or you have erected barriers around your faith so that you can shut off your brain and not think any more.  You see, what you fail to realize is that God has chosen to use flawed and fallible human beings in the framework of human history to accomplish his purposes.  We are included in his plans and he allows us to be important actors in the drama he has written, but there is a catch with this approach: Christianity turns out to be messier than some of us would like (emphasis mine).

Jesus is both divine and human; the Bible is both divine and human.  Both of these are tenets of Christianity, so why do so many of us want to drop the human part of the Bible and the human part of Jesus?  Jesus, as the God-man, was sinless during his life in earth, but that doesn’t mean he was some kind of emotionless Spock with no feelings and no passion.  The Bible, because it is divinely inspired, is inerrant in what it teaches, but that doesn’t mean that God had to compose the Bible as a dry textbook that dropped from the sky one day, avoiding all human interference.

Learn to appreciate the fact that God has included humanity in his plans.  The sooner you do, the better you’ll understand Christianity.

DISCUSSION:

Willie G says:

April 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

That is an incredible encapsulation of why so many former evangelicals have turned their backs on their former faith. You paint god as the tyrannical playwright that fully orchestrates the “drama” of human existence in all its ugliness, with all its tragedy, gross neglect and evil encounters, then add that it is all his plan and he “allows” us to play. There is far too much deleterious innuendo here to ever accept your final appeal to the appreciation of any kind of a divine “plan.” Rather it points clearly to delusion.

Bill Pratt says:

April 22, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I would say the reason any evangelicals turn their backs on their former faith is because they were taught a Pollyanna view of Christianity that was so naive and simplistic that when the first little trouble occurred in their faith, it fell apart into a million tiny pieces.

Willie G says:

April 23, 2010 at 10:27 am

This is so typical. The first line of defense when faced with the realization that someone has rejected what you cling to always seems to be to denigrate the experience and understanding of the one who lost their faith. “If you just believed what I believe,” or “you weren’t really a christian to start with,” or any other assumption you can think of not to have to deal with the fact that men and women of extreme intelligence who have immersed themselves in scripture, the christian fellowship, evangelism and ministry and earnest seeking of god’s face and personal relationship with him have authentically found their beliefs deficient in plausible content and have simply and often painfully walked away.

Bill Pratt says:

April 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Willie, I’m not trying to offend anybody; I’m just telling you what I’ve witnessed time and again when dealing with ex-evangelicals. I’m sure there are some ex-evangelicals who do not fall into this camp, but most of the ones I talk to do fall into this camp.  Now it’s your turn to offend me. Tell me how you explain the fact that men and women of extreme intelligence have immersed themselves in scripture, the Christian fellowship, evangelism, and ministry, and have found their beliefs to be perfectly plausible, reasonable, and intellectually satisfying. There are millions of them, so what gives?

Willie G says:

April 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Bill says: “Now it’s your turn to offend me. Tell me how you explain the fact that men and women of extreme intelligence have immersed themselves in scripture, the Christian fellowship, evangelism, and ministry, and have found their beliefs to be perfectly plausible, reasonable, and intellectually satisfying. There are millions of them, so what gives?”

First of all, I do not want to offend you or anyone else here. I seek only dialogue. As one who has weighed their faith on the scales of truth and found it wanting I continually seek diverse points of view that will help me to either confirm or deny my current position. In this search I have quickly tired of the same old arguments and theistic short cuts of those who would quickly cling to their long held beliefs blindly and condemn or at least discount the honest seeker who has discarded those same long held beliefs. Fair enough?

Now, to address your question: I alluded to my position in my first comment above. I would propose that the problem is one of delusion. While the application of this term is not original to me, it is striking to me that people of all religions, not just the masses that you refer to in the Christian faith, will cling to their beliefs in the face of contrary evidence and reason and will further attempt to excuse inconsistencies and out right horrors and atrocities committed in the name of their religion and their gods.  This smacks of neuro-pschycological conditioning similar to what is found in all cases of what we would commonly refer to as brainwashing. Although I am not a proponent of his combative and militant style, nor his general nasty approach and rudeness I nevertheless refer you to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Also, John Loftus new book The Christian Delusion is outstanding from both the point of view of Christian apologists and Atheist/agnostic philosophers.

One thing I would like to point out, and I hope you don’t find this insulting, is I am surprised to see you lean on an appeal to the masses as a basis for a truth claim. I have read this argument in your archives as well and was dumbfounded that anyone would appeal to the majority as a source of confirmation. There is nothing more dangerous than group-think. This very thing has led many a cult to a suicidal rampage. The fact that Atheists find themselves vastly outnumbered in no way discredits their claim to truth, nor does numerical superiority of any religion seal the deal for it’s truth claim.

So, I basically ask that you and I have a dialogue based on our own search for truth. I in no way doubt your sincerity. I believe you are deluded. I believe that I was deluded as well. I believe I have awakened from the delusional haze and have made the decision to no longer drink the kool-aid. I am not here to attempt to convert you. Although, if you are honest, I believe that you would have to admit that since I stumbled onto your site you are here, in fact, to attempt to reconvert me. And I’m ok with that. But I will insist that your arguments be intellectually charged, clearly logical, and not just the same old tired drivel that gets tossed out at the skeptical world because you have nothing of substance to say.

You and your colleague are here under the guise of apologetics. I can tell by the commenters (one of whom I read regularly) that you have several very honest, well versed, highly educated skeptics in the house and along for the ride. The nature of your site being a blog invites interaction and dissent. So I’m here to see what you have to say. I hope you are here to accept my respectful dialogue.

Peace to you.

Bill Pratt says:

April 25, 2010 at 6:13 pm

You said: “I would propose that the problem is one of delusion.”

You further say religious folks are brainwashed. I appreciate your honesty, but I wonder why you bother dialoguing with people who are deluded and brainwashed. After all, these kinds of people rarely, if ever, respond to rational evidence or argumentation. You said that I must be trying to re-convert you, and I won’t argue with you, but why exactly are you talking to me? Delusional people are hardly worth spending serious time with.

You said: “I am surprised to see you lean on your appeal to the masses as a basis for a truth claim.”

I think you have misunderstood me. I do not claim that majority opinions must be true or are even strong evidence for truth. I always bring up this point in order to force people to come to terms with why they are in a minority. The fact that a viewpoint is shared by most people demands an explanation from those who do not share that viewpoint; that’s all. If you do not come up with a decent explanation for why most people are wrong about an issue, I worry that you really have not taken the majority view seriously.  In your case, you believe that 95% of the people who are alive and who have probably ever lived are delusional, and that you are part of a minority that have somehow escaped this delusion. That is a fact worth stating and thinking about. It may say something important about you, but only you can know that. So I guess I should follow up with the question of why is it that you were able to escape the delusion? And then, why haven’t I escaped?

Willie G says:

April 25, 2010 at 7:36 pm

You said: “I wonder why you bother dialoguing with people who are deluded and brainwashed. After all, these kinds of people rarely, if ever, respond to rational evidence or argumentation. You said that I must be trying to re-convert you, and I won’t argue with you, but why exactly are you talking to me? Delusional people are hardly worth spending serious time with.”

I suppose the basic answer is that I feel a great affinity with and for those who still cling to faith in the supernatural, especially those who seem open to examining questions in an intellectual and academic way. You seem to be one that finds your faith to be reasonable (i.e. you don’t seem to have “blind” faith). I was once fully indoctrinated, brainwashed, deluded. Once my faith was forced under the scrutiny of reason and science my faith began to crumble and the shroud of delusion began to lift until eventually I could no longer reasonably hold to my previous faith. However, as any adequate student of science will tell you, the objective of science is not to prove a hypothesis correct, but rather to disprove that hypothesis. Therefore, there is no better place to check for error in your assumptions than the source. I seek out theistic intellectuals that are willing to dialogue, discuss and debate to make certain that I have not come to false conclusions. So in essence I come to you, though I may think you are deluded, to find evidence that I have drawn faulty conclusions. This is why I admittedly get irritated when presented with canned, tired, worn out attempts at rebuttal. I will always be a seeker. I will not find what I seek by engaging only those that agree with me. I must also stay in touch with those who are contrary.

You said: “If you do not come up with a decent explanation for why most people are wrong about an issue, I worry that you really have not taken the majority view seriously.”

I ask a little levity here. Without divulging my entire life’s history let’s leave it at me being fully engrossed and invested in all things Christian and evangelical. I not only took the majority view seriously, I was the majority view, I proselytized based on the majority view, I gave and sacrificed all that would be considered dear for the majority view. When I walked away from what I now refer to as delusion I was crushed spiritually, emotionally, socially and economically. I have paid a massive negative price for my deconversion that carries serious personal repercussions to this day (20 years later). So please, do not question my serious consideration of the majority view.

You asked: “why is it that you were able to escape the delusion? And then, why haven’t I escaped?”

Delusion is an awful thing. One who is mistaken can be corrected. One who is confused can be redirected. One who is ignorant can be enlightened. But one who is deluded can only be changed by the most unpleasant, and sometimes violent intervention. I was able to escape only through the most unpleasant heart-wrenching and personally devastating and socially isolating experience that I could ever imagine. My life has been rent asunder. Everything I ever cherished and held dear has been torn from under me. I have been rejected and tossed aside by nearly everyone that ever meant anything to me. But now I am free. Free from the bondage of religious delusion. The cult has been scourged from my brain, and now I stand alone, just me and my days on the earth.  My experience is why I said in an earlier comment that I am not here to convert you. If you are as deluded as I was, I would never wish the pain of my deconversion upon you. I cannot explain why you have not escaped, but I daresay that if you continue to engage people like me in the conversations you seem to be inviting, that it is only a matter of time. Ancient supernatural superstition cannot stand the onslaught of modern reason. If you continue to expose your faith to those who have escaped it will be weighed in the balance, and it will be found wanting, and you will either escape the delusion, or you will become a cowering dishonest theist.

I look forward to your response.

Bill Pratt says:

April 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Willie,
Thanks for your honesty and openness. I do not doubt anything you say about your de-conversion, and I imagine it was and remains extremely painful. One of the first things I want to ask God when I finally get to meet him face to face, is “Why are there intelligent people who looked at the evidence for your existence and found it to be strong, and others who looked and found it to be weak?”

Please indulge me a little bit; I am not trying to brag, but just give you my background so you can get a sense for who I am. I have been engaging non-Christians, and especially atheists, for 7 years now. I was ranked third in my high school class of 500 students, have an IQ of 140, and received an electrical engineering degree from GA Tech, one of the toughest engineering schools in the US. I have saturated myself in the arguments against Christianity. I meet weekly with skeptics at a friends’ house.  Why do I continue to believe? Just from my brief bio, you can see that I probably have the intellectual chops, that I’ve studied the evidence for and against, and yet my faith remains solid. There must be something more to de-conversion than mere intellectual exploration of the issues. There are many people like me. So why don’t we deconvert? This is the question that bothers me.

I can only conclude that there are spiritual, emotional, moral, and volitional issues also at play when someone believes or doesn’t believe. It has to be more than mere intellect, because the empirical evidence shows that there are many Christian intellectuals. What are your thoughts on this question?

Willie G says:

April 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Bill says:I’ve studied the evidence for and against, and yet my faith remains solid. There must be something more to de-conversion than mere intellectual exploration of the issues. There are many people like me. So why don’t we de-convert? This is the question that bothers me. I can only conclude that there are spiritual, emotional, moral, and volitional issues also at play when someone believes or doesn’t believe. It has to be more than mere intellect, because the empirical evidence shows that there are many Christian intellectuals. What are your thoughts on this question?”

This is a big and important question and one that I’m not sure I can do justice to without a considerable amount of time and space. So I will attempt to answer briefly without taking over your blog space. I only ask that you assume positive intent if something seems not fully developed. Please follow up with additional questions if you require more detail for clarity.

“I’ve studied the evidence for and against, and yet my faith remains solid. There must be something more to de-conversion than mere intellectual exploration of the issues.”

First of all, intellectual exploration is not the equivalent of de-conversion, but rather the responsibility of anyone that would make a truth claim with regards to any subject whatsoever, whether religious or non-religious in nature. We are creatures endowed with intellect and the powers of reason. We owe it to ourselves to be agnostic towards all truth-claims that lack explicit empirical evidence to support them. We take this approach towards nearly all ideas that are presented to us, especially religious ideas that are outside our cultural and familial experience. Here in lies the problem. We have no difficulty in rejecting the truth claims of those that do not share our religious culture and habitual practice. In fact we dismiss them out of hand without fear of consequence. But after years, if not decades of religious indoctrination we are so culturally and experientially invested in what we have always “known” to be the truth that we struggle to objectively examine those truth claims in the light of reason. Since we cannot bring ourselves to even consider that we may be mistaken we refuse to hear the objections of those who have agnostically approached our claims and have cast them aside as preposterous. Until you can forcefully and even violently step outside of your biases (biases that we all possess) and approach the tenets of your faith agnostically, examining them in the light of reason and scientific method I would propose that you never will resolve this issue. John Loftus refers to this as the “Outsiders Test of Faith.”

I was much like you in this regard. I was an apologist, an evangelist, a lifetime believer seriously invested in the Christian faith. I could not imagine how anyone could possibly not see Christianity as the absolute truth for which I claimed it to be. Over the course of a decades’ long journey, piece by piece it began to unravel, come unglued and eventually dissolve as I studied and examined critically claim after claim in the light of reason. So intellectual exploration is not the equivalent to de-conversion, but rather it is like the lighting of a fuse, a very slow, long-burning fuse that if kept in an environment of scientific reason will burn passed all unsupportable truth claims until it reaches the point of no return, the ultimate implosion of faith known as de-conversion.  But as you imply, there is more to de-conversion than a simple intellectual exploration. I would like to briefly address these as you have outlined.

“So why don’t we de-convert? … I can only conclude that there are spiritual, emotional, moral, and volitional issues also at play when someone believes or doesn’t believe.”

Spiritual issues: This brings to mind the argument of William Lane Craig with regards to the “internal witness of the Holy Spirit” or what I have come to refer to as the “I know what I know therefore what I know cannot be refuted” argument. It’s exactly how the old hymn says regarding the resurrection of Jesus: “you ask me how I know he lives… he lives within my heart.”  I would contend that this is a non-argument. This is nothing more than experiential subjectivism that is 100% non-verifiable outside the psyche of the one who has the experience. You can no more objectively demonstrate spirituality than I can objectively demonstrate the real presence of the flying spaghetti monster.

Studies have clearly demonstrated the power of indoctrination upon the human mind, especially in the case where the indoctrination begins early in the life of a child. With the right level of indoctrination implanted ideas become part of the physical makeup of the brain as a new reality becomes imprinted in the mind. The power of repetition supported with a system of reward and a guilt enforced fear of failure the human mind can be convinced to do and say both the most altruistic and the most self-destructive actions. To avoid delusion we must realize that believing something to be true does not make it actually true.

I am certainly open to being shown that I am in error, but I would contend that there is no objective test that would demonstrate a state of spirituality. You may point to sincerity, and faithful dedication, good works and acts of contrition, religious practice and ritual, but none of these will prove, demonstrate or verify the existence of a spiritual realm or state outside of our physical experience. These all rather are only the proscribed actions of a religious creed. Christians do in fact like to refer to these things as an “outward expression of an inward grace” yet only those indoctrinated in that particular religion will perform those particular religious practices and rituals, and it is quite simple to demonstrate that people of all cultures and traditions, religious or otherwise will behave kindly, morally and decently coupled with altruistic good works.

So in short, if you believe that there are “spiritual issues” that lead one to de-conversion that are outside of the intellectual exploration, then I would challenge that it is the intellectual exploration that leads one to the realization that there are no spiritual issues at all, but only what we can deal with in the realm of nature.

Emotional issues: Anyone who de-converts from Evangelical Christianity who says there were no emotional issues involved was not long invested in their faith. For me personally, the longer that fuse of intellectual exploration burned the more emotional issues accumulated. The closer a de-convert comes to the summit of the de-conversion process, the more the emotional and rational discontent grows. As reason brings intellectual honesty there is a sometimes violent shaking off of chains that have long been clung to as if they were a security blanket. As eyes are opened to the light of reason one will find themselves suddenly hurt by the realization of how their lives have been negatively impacted by a delusion that was cast upon them. Unfortunately there is usually a period of hatefulness and sarcasm, cynicism and even poor behavior towards those that they feel have held them captive. This emotional reality is akin to the Kubler-Ross cycle of grief. All stages must be passed through before true acceptance can be attained. During this period many de-converts simply walk away from long held fellowships and abandon relationships leaving people wondering, and often accusing them of things that have nothing to do with their true reality.

Moral and volitional issues: I’m not directing this criticism at you personally, but citing “moral and volitional issues” is nothing more than an ad hominem argument. Christians seriously invested and committed to their indoctrination cannot begin to fathom how anyone could possibly reason themselves away from the faith so the fall back is automatically that there must be sin in the skeptics life that could not be squared with the holiness of god. Once their sin is exposed to the light, being unwilling to repent and give it up, the skeptic is forced to retreat to the shadows and deny their previously held faith. And further, for you to say “I can only conclude that there are … moral and volitional issues also at play” is a clear indication to me that you have failed to see the beam in your own eye in favor of searching for the speck in mine. I’m sorry Bill, but this is a cop out, and I’m calling “foul”!! This is self-righteous judgmental legalism at its finest. Does not the Bible teach that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of god? None are righteous, no not one? Through the death of the one man, all die? And did Jesus not exclaim to “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? And did not the Apostle Paul opine his extreme and ongoing struggle with sins that he could not overcome (“that which I do not want to do, I do”)? In fact were not Paul’s struggles so extreme that he had to be comforted by the retort of god’s proclamation to him that “my grace is sufficient for you”? To contend that Christian-turned-skeptics walk away from their faith due to “moral and volitional issues” is both disingenuous and demeaning, and further a shallow attempt to dismiss the skeptic without dealing with his true concerns. Thus: ad-hominem.  I’m sorry for the rant, I mean no disrespect to you, but this argument smacks at the most extreme condescension and disrespect to all deconverted skeptics.

I hold that the specter of “sin” and the fear of retributive eternal punishment is the greatest single factor in commanding adherence to the delusion. The fear of burning for eternity in the fire and brimstone of Hell is etched in the minds of the evangelical world such as to hold them fast. It takes great courage to face that fear and to examine your core beliefs in the light of reason. Many Christians who have extreme doubts about their religious beliefs are kept in the pew for no other reason. They have swallowed the shallow argument of Pascal’s wager and take the better safe than sorry approach. So they live their lives convincing themselves that those things that make intellectually no sense must be taken as truth “by faith.” All the while, the intellectual reasoning and drawn conclusions that are applied to the things of faith, these same folks would never apply to any other intellectual pursuit or discipline they encounter. They would quickly recognize the ludicrous nature. But add the “god-said-it, god-did-it, god-wrote-it, god-breathed-it” element to the conversation, coupled with the promise of eternal damnation for rejecting it, and the issue is cemented and resolved. The delusion is complete.

Bill Pratt says:

May 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

First, citing the possible existence of moral and volitional issues is not an ad hominem argument, for I am not arguing the point at all. I am not saying: “You deconverted because of moral and volitional issues only, therefore your beliefs about God are false.” That would be ad hominem, but I am not saying that, nor have I ever said that.  I am merely pointing out that human beings are not purely intellectual creatures. We possess will, emotions, and intellect. We are complex, and when we make decisions about ultimate issues, such as God, it is highly likely that all of these components come into play. So many skeptics try to argue that their deconversion was purely intellectual, and I find that to be ludicrous, to be blunt. That may be the case in a rare few instances, but in general, skeptics have emotional, volitional, moral, and intellectual reasons for not wanting to believe. In fact, research done by psychologist Paul Vitz indicates that many atheists have unresolved hatred for their father figures.

You have argued that most Christians cling to their beliefs for fear of hell, and some do. But many do not. I rarely think about hell. I have studied Christianity backward and forward and I find it to be quite intellectually satisfying, as I’ve said before. There are many others like me, so your theory for why people remain Christian is flawed, as it does not deal with all the data. The data says that there are rational and intellectual people who have no problem believing the core beliefs of Christianity.  Again, your theory addresses some of the data (i.e., there are Christians who don’t think about their faith, there are Christians who are afraid of hell, there are Christians whose faith is only undergirded by “God says it, I believe it”). This may even be a large number of Christians, but certainly not all.  But let’s say that most Christians are ignorant of the intellectual reasons for their beliefs: what exactly does this prove? A person may hold a true belief without understanding why it’s a true belief. For example, everyone believes that gravity exists, but most people cannot explain what scientific equations explain its operation.

Maybe a summary of our positions would be helpful here: You seem to be saying that any Christian who truly examines his faith in the light of reason will eventually de-convert, given that they are intellectually honest.
I say that people de-convert not just for intellectual reasons, but for moral and volitional reasons as well. I also say that I and many others are living proof that you can believe in Christianity and be intellectually honest.  Where should we move from here?  Were there certain key facts you learned that made Christianity intellectually impossible to believe, facts that I am not aware of?

Willie G says:

May 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Bill, you stated: “I have studied Christianity backward and forward and I find it to be quite intellectually satisfying, as I’ve said before.”

and: “But let’s say that most Christians are ignorant of the intellectual reasons for their beliefs: what exactly does this prove?”

I have spent several days pondering our discussion, your most recent response and how I would like to engage with you going forward. I am sorry to have reached the conclusion that I have come to because I was genuinely hoping for a invigorating exchange that would challenge my thinking and current positions. However, in light of the above two quotes I fear that we have reached the end of the road and it would be futile to attempt to move forward. I will attempt to summarize why I am feeling this way.

I stated in no uncertain terms that my contention is that Christians, you included, are delusional. You cling to beliefs that you would not allow for any other situation in life. You have put your hope in things that have no scientific or natural foundation. You believe in miraculous claims that are outside the realm of reason and fully discount as false the miraculous claims of all others who don’t share your particular worldview. Further you guard your delusion by confidently claiming that having studied backward and forward you find it to be “intellectually satisfying.”  Further, instead of dealing with my direct accusation of delusion and attempting to convince me why I am incorrect in my claim, and prove to me that you are not delusional you make an appeal to popularity stating that I need to explain how so many “intellectual” people can be likewise deluded. You follow that with a HUGE red herring argument that it’s not you that is deluded, but rather I must of necessity have spiritual, emotional, moral and volitional issues outside of my intellectual reasoning that have resulted in my deconversion. Unfortunately your diversion sucked me in and I spent a good deal of time trying to answer your accusation. Although I called you on this ad hominem approach, you simply wrote it off as a mischaracterization of your intent and proceeded to throw another red herring into play with your comment about atheists having unresolved hate issues with father figures.  If that wasn’t sufficient to demonstrate that you are totally dodging my objection you then make a weak analogy by comparing unintellectual belief in god to lack of understanding (but yet believing) in the LAW of gravity.

Then finally you state that: “I and many others are living proof that you can believe in Christianity and be intellectually honest.”

Again I would state that you and many others are living proof that honestly believing in Christianity proves you to be delusional.

If you would like to directly address my accusation of delusion and explain why it is intellectually reasonable to believe in the foundations of the Christian faith then I am willing to continue our conversation. However, if all you want to do is beat up straw-men, toss out red herrings and weak analogies then I’m not sure I have the energy to continue to deal with the same poor arguments that are presented by nearly every poorly informed Christian who really only believes because they live in a predominantly Christian society.  If you address my accusation of delusion demonstrating intellectually why it is reasonable to accept the claims of Christianity, then I will be glad to supply you with a long list of of key facts that have made Christianity impossible for me to believe.

Bill Pratt says:

May 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

You ask me to prove that I am not delusional (who exactly is using the ad hominem approach? just asking…). I would point to the numerous blog posts that I have written on the evidence for God’s existence, the historical reliability of the New Testament, and the utter inadequacy of competing worldviews to explain the basic properties of our universe and the human experience. These are easy to find either by using the tag cloud, the search box, or clicking on categories in the left column of the home page.  Unfortunately I have not produced a systematized discourse on why Christianity is reasonable, as that would require a book-length treatment. This is, after all, a blog. Blogs are useful for narrowing in on bite-size topics, but not for defending complete world-views.  If you would like to know what book most closely explains my reasoned belief in Christianity, I would recommend reading I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. This books follows a classical apologetic approach to presenting the reasonableness of Christianity. There are certainly other approaches, but I prefer that one.  I’m not sure what else I can do to prove I’m not delusional.

Willie G says:

May 19, 2010 at 12:26 am

I have not made a personal attack. I stated “…address my accusation of delusion demonstrating intellectually why it is reasonable to accept the claims of Christianity…”

I am asking you a direct question. Why is it reasonable to accept the claims of Christianity? You have titled your blog “Tough Questions Answered”, subtitled “a christian apologetics blog.” This communicates to me that you have the answers to my tough questions and you are prepared to defend Christianity. I am merely asking you to do just that.  I am disappointed that you would simply wave your hand and dismiss me with a homework assignment to explore your archives. You present yourself as an apologist, a defender of the faith. I would expect you to be prepared to address the questions of the honest skeptic. You asked me why I thought so many intellectual people adhered to the tenets of Christianity. I answered that Christians were caught in the demise of delusion, social and cultural brainwashing. I asked you to demonstrate why Christian belief is not a delusion but instead a reasonable understanding of the human condition, and an intellectually sound approach to the human condition. Instead of answering my question and challenge you point me to Geisler/Turek and their tome (which I own and have studied and critiqued) which is nothing more than delusional propaganda to prop up the pre-existent faith of the Christian community. There is nothing in their book that is the least bit intellectually challenging to the skeptic community.

Bill Pratt says:

May 20, 2010 at 9:27 am

I don’t think you’re being fair or reasonable. I have sincerely interacted with you, and I have answered several of your questions. But you are throwing a doctoral thesis at me and then claiming that it’s disappointing that I won’t take the time to write it.  Are you just trying to trap me and make me look bad or do you want to tackle some smaller issues that we could more easily dissect? I am not unwilling to talk with you; I am just asking you to focus our discussion on some smaller, more manageable topics. Are you willing to do that or will you let things stand at: “I asked Bill tough questions and he refused to answer.” I’m not sure how making that statement advances anything.  What is particularly frustrating is that anyone who bothers to read this blog over a period of time has seen me answer hundreds of questions and spend considerable time over the past year and a half doing so. You have so far refused to read the other blog posts I have written and have demanded that I put everything into this one blog post comment thread.  Willie, are you acting in good faith in our conversation? What is your goal here? If it is to continue our dialogue, then please consider my time constraints. If you are only content with me writing a book in this comment thread, then so be it. Our time, on this comment thread, is at an end. I hope you will choose to focus instead.

Willie G says:

May 21, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I don’t think I am being unfair at all. I am not here to insult you, make you look bad, castigate you, or even argue with you. I came here to get a very tough question answered. Has it occurred to you that I have, in fact, read through your archives, not only the posts themselves but also the dialogue that follows? I am not being disingenuous. I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. You have simply not addressed my question on your blog, not in this post nor in any other. If you feel that you have, then please help me out and point me to it. Otherwise you seem to be saying “that question is too hard so ask me an easier one.”

Everything you have written on your blog is built on the foundation that belief in god and Christianity in particular is reasonable. Before I can dialogue with you on any particular facet of Christian theology I need to understand why it is reasonable. I will not debate a person over the ethical nature of harsh treatment of abductees aboard the alien mother ship because I reject alien abduction as a fantasy, and those who believe it and claim to live their lives based upon it are delusional. It is immaterial how the aliens decorate their spaceships and not worthy of discussion due to the fact the foundation of credibility of the entire subject matter is non-existent.

Please Bill, go back to my very first comment on this blog post. Although I allowed myself to be distracted some by your follow up comments, I have not changed my question from the beginning. You asked “are there things about Christianity that really bother you?” I stated “Yes. I think it is a delusion.” You said “I find Christianity to be intellectually satisfying,” so I asked “Why? Why is it reasonable to believe in God and Christianity?”  I can’t ask you a different question. No other question matters to me. I am appealing to you. You can judge my motives to be false if you want to, but if that is the case why do I come back again especially with the tirades of the nut-job Troll. For me, at this point in my life there can be no other question. If you want me to go ask someone else, just say so. If you think you have an answer I sincerely want to hear it.

Bill Pratt says:

May 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm

In some of my blog posts, I have given philosophical and scientific reasons for believing in a theistic God (cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments being three of them). Because of our conversation together, I am plan on doing more of that. In other posts, I have written about the historical reliability of the New Testament documents. I have written several posts pointing out the deficiencies of an atheistic worldview (no grounding for free will, morality, consciousness, etc.). I have pointed out the fact that over 95% of the world’s population believes in God, which means that less than 5% of the world is not delusional. I know you don’t like me to bring this up, but surely it’s a fact that counts against your viewpoint and for mine. Can you truly believe that 95% of all people are delusional? The blog is littered with these kinds of posts and they are easy to find.  Is there more evidence I could provide? Always, I am working on it and will continue to produce more material along these lines. Again, if there is a particular issue you would like to jump into, I’m game.

Willie G says:

May 25, 2010 at 12:38 am

So I think since you have put a stake in the ground (level setting) that I should return in kind (level setting).  Although I very much enjoy discussing and debating the various arguments for the existence of the Christian God that you posit above “(cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments being three of them)”, none of these address my question to you. All of these arguments are not sufficient to address my core question. Please bear with me on this. I am not being belligerent, or mean, or in your words trying to “make you look bad.” My question to you is the stumbling block for me. So I repeat and reword my question again for you here. Why is it reasonable to believe in god; any god; any religious faith or dogma?

Let me give some qualifying statements to set the stage for our future discussion.

    • I have not reached the point in my life-journey that I proclaim to be a strong atheist. I would say that I am agnostic to all gods and all religions. However I would say I am a strong agnostic; my interpretation being that I see no evidence to accept any claim for the existence of any god. If reasonable evidence is presented I will follow that evidence. The more I search and examine what is presented, the stronger my agnosticism has become.
    • I am extremely educated and previously indoctrinated in fundamentalist/evangelical christian doctrine. I only know your education/scriptural training background from what you have shared in your biography and comments about your current seminary training. I am in no way putting myself or my training above you, in fact I am very humble in regards to my understanding, however I am confident in saying that you can speak at any academic level with regards to both the Bible and Christian academia and I am with you. I am studied and proficient in biblical languages, textual criticism, modern and post-modern theological thought, hermeneutics, apologetics, philosophy of religion and psychology. I say all of this not to build myself up, but only to say that if you have something to say, a position to argue, then bring it please. Don’t hold back or dumb anything down. We are deep into the comments now, you don’t have to worry about your general audience, very few people will venture this deep into a thread.

Now to the point at hand, and it really is a simple one based upon the way you have presented your defense. Even if I find your arguments reasonable “(cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments being three of them)” why should I apply these arguments to your god, the christian god? Why should I not apply them to Vishnu, Allah, Thor, Zeus, Mithra, etc? I know you have heard this question before, but you have to be honest, it has never been answered. So I ask again, why is it reasonable to believe in god, any god, your god?

As for your continued insistence to appeal to popularity/the masses, I would encourage you to drop this line of argumentation as it is a well recognized fallacy and your constant repetition of it only makes you look silly in the eyes of serious students of logic and debate. I mean, really, think of all the by-gone universally accepted beliefs that have been obliterated by science: geo-centrism, flat earth, etc… So many universally held beliefs have been disproved and discredited by science and the simple growth and development of the human intellect that it is non-productive to appeal to universal belief as a measure of “rightness.” I will disregard any appeal you make to the masses out of hand, so you should really just stop doing it.

You asked me earlier why I bother talking to you since I obviously claim that you are delusional. Most christians that I talk to are not only delusional, but so deeply entrenched in their delusion that meaningful discussion is impossible (such as Discipleoftheword). You however, although we definitely disagree and at are at odds with our core positions, seem to be open to searching for truth. That’s all I ask for. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. In fact, that is the challenge. All of my beliefs are falsifiable. In fact that is what I am seeking. Please, prove me wrong.

Bill Pratt says:

May 25, 2010 at 7:41 pm

One quick point about my appeal to the masses. I was not arguing that a person should believe in God because 95% of the population do. I was pointing out that your position is that 95% of people in the world are not only intellectually wrong about something (that has certainly happened before, as you point out), but that they are actually delusional, which is an abnormal psychological condition. I am challenging you to re-think your use of the word “delusional” as describing those who believe in God because you end up claiming that virtually everyone on the planet is psychotic, or whatever word you want to use as a synonym for delusional.

Anyway, let’s look at what the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments demonstrate. If you accept these arguments, they show, in total, that there exists a being who is self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, immaterial, unimaginably powerful, personal, super-intelligent, purposeful, and good. Using these criteria, we can then examine which gods out of your list fit this criteria. To my knowledge, the only two that do are Yahweh and Allah.  Now that we’ve narrowed down to these two, we can investigate the historical claims that are made about the founders of these religions, Christianity and Islam. We look at the New Testament documents to see if they are trustworthy and if they are an accurate report about Jesus. We ask if Jesus did anything to prove he was God’s true representative. We then look to see if Muhammad did anything to prove he was God’s representative, as he claimed. In the end, we can show with historical probability, that Jesus died and rose from the dead, as he predicted he would. He claimed that this would prove he was sent from God. Muhammad recited words allegedly given to him by an angel, and that is the only proof he offered. Nobody ever saw this angel except Muhammad. I would then say that Jesus’ claims are reliable and Muhammad’s are not.  That’s how I would approach it.

Willie G says:

May 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I believe we have now begun, at last, a productive discussion.  I believe that you have taken the definition of delusion to the extreme, and it is not necessary to go that far to understand my point. According to the American Psychological Association to delude is to mislead the mind or judgement.

(American Psychological Association (APA): delude. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/delude)

It is not necessary to carry the definition to any greater force to understand my intention in the word’s use. I have no difficulty in stating that 95% of the population of the world has been deluded, or misled in judgement to believe in beings for which there is insubstantial evidence to merit their existence. I have yet to see presented by any believer a falsifiable hypothesis for the existence of the supernatural. All religions ask adherents to accept outrageous claims without evidence. Adherents recognize that there is no positive evidence, and in the face of derogatory evidence will choose to continue to believe. William Lane Craig, in a now infamous YouTube debate stated that if he could be shown the tomb of Jesus with the rotting corpse of Jesus inside that he would still continue to believe in the resurrection of Christ. He would not abandon his faith even with the foundational event of the faith being demonstrated to be false. This is textbook, dictionary definition, delusion.

Humans need explanations. Humans need truth. After all, that is why I bother to continue to engage Christians even after discarding my faith. We are the most advanced creatures in all of the earths history. We have evolved the capacity for higher level reasoning and searching for meaning outside of ourselves. No other creature on earth has this capacity. Some of us, indeed most of us, satisfy that need with myth. The rest, remaining unsatisfied, continue to search.

Now to your logical arguments. First, I do not accept the classical arguments as demonstrative of a supreme being who is a being who is self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, immaterial, unimaginably powerful, personal, super-intelligent, purposeful, and good. While I would say that these classic arguments carry much philosophical weight and are worthy of discussion, they only leave one with a decision to make. Does the logic of the argument merit the acceptance of the conclusion?  If you build impeccable logic around a mythical foundation you still finish with myth. Aristotelean logic can only produce valid arguments, not truth. If the foundational hypothesis is based upon myth or legend, regardless of the infallible logic of the argument you still have a false conclusion.  This leaves us with nothing but empirical data. Since empirical data of the supernatural is non-existent then the only non-delsusional conclusion is agnosticism. I have no knowledge of gods or anything supernatural.

Bill Pratt says:

May 29, 2010 at 11:01 am

I would like to start with your statement:  “This leaves us with nothing but empirical data. Since empirical data of the supernatural is non-existent then the only non-delsusional conclusion is agnosticism. I have no knowledge of gods or anything supernatural.”

It seems that you grant the force of the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments, but you deny that they can lead to a supernatural being, as supernatural beings cannot be empirically known. So I think this is a core issue for us to discuss. It seems that you are setting an epistemic boundary for yourself, that anything that you cannot directly see, touch, taste, smell, or hear probably does not exist. Or, to believe in anything that you cannot directly see, touch, taste, smell, or hear is delusional.  I find this to be a very curious way of looking at the world, as there are many things we cannot directly empirically detect that we nonetheless posit as existing: the mind, moral values, laws of logic, the concept of truth, sub-atomic particles, multiple universes, and so forth. I doubt that you deny the existence of all of these things.

Would you agree that the following statement is self-defeating? “Only what can be known by science or quantified and empirically tested is rational and true.”  That statement itself cannot be empirically tested, so does that make it false? It is a statement about science, not of science. Clearly there is more to reality than what we can empirically test.

How would we have rational grounds to believe in the supernatural? Well, we look at ourselves and the world around us, and we ask, “Are there effects we see that demand a cause that is like God?” We work from effect to cause, which is just the same way we approach many things in life. Some effects demand causes that are truly exceptional. When we think about the cause of the universe, the cause of the complex conditions necessary for human life, for the existence of morality, for the existence of human consciousness, we are pushed beyond the standard material causes that can explain most things.  At this point, do we just throw our hands up and say, “Oh well. These things demand some kind of awesome cause, but we have never seen this kind of cause directly, so we must remain ignorant.” No! Because we have background information. Virtually every human has an innate sense of the supernatural; we have numerous alleged historical accounts of humans interacting with supernatural beings. Maybe the explanation for the awesome cause lies here.

Willie G says:

June 1, 2010 at 8:48 pm

You said:It seems that you grant the force of the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments, but you deny that they can lead to a supernatural being, as supernatural beings cannot be empirically known.”

I was making a rhetorical statement, as in “if I grant the force of… etc.” I did not want to get sidetracked with the classic arguments for the existence of gods as I knew they would distract us from the central tenet of my argument. As I stated in a previous post, I do not find the classic arguments effective. They have been bantered about by philosophers for ages with little effect. Each new generation has to muddle through their complexity with scores of new thinkers rediscovering the classic premises and conclusions only to end up with the same stale-mate that the previous generation ended with.  So let me reiterate what I said before, if for the sake of our discussion I was to grant that these classic arguments carry some weight for the evidence of gods, that is all that they would do; provide evidence that “something” or “some god” could possibly exist. They do not in any form or fashion establish compelling evidence for the christian god with any weight greater than for any other god. You know where I’m going here Bill, back to my original question. Why the Christian God?

You said: “ It seems that you are setting an epistemic boundary for yourself, that anything that you cannot directly see, touch, taste, smell, or hear probably does not exist. Or, to believe in anything that you cannot directly see, touch, taste, smell, or hear is delusional.”

I do not take issue with your characterization here. Science in general and the scientific methodology in particular has well established that what cannot be demonstrated evidentially are either non-existent, or beyond our ability to know. That is clearly why science does not deal in the realm of possibility, but rather probability. If I can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or hear a thing (1st order experience), nor see, touch, taste, smell or hear evidence of a thing (2nd order experience), then although it may be possible for that thing to exist, it is not probable. There is no reason to invest oneself in what is not probable. I have no 1st or 2nd order evidence of either leprechauns or unicorns. Could they possibly exist? Yes. Is it probable based on the evidence I have? No. So why bother.

You said: I find this to be a very curious way of looking at the world, as there are many things we cannot directly empirically detect that we nonetheless posit as existing: the mind, moral values, laws of logic, the concept of truth, sub-atomic particles, multiple universes, and so forth. I doubt that you deny the existence of all of these things.”

Bill I can’t help but think you are playing word games here, or being disingenuous so as to dodge my question. I don’t want to get drawn into a battle of semantics. I am being straight forward with you and telling you exactly what I think. I find your statement a little silly. The mind, moral values, laws of logic and the concept of truth are all the products of natural physical processes within the brain. Our ability to conceive of them is a by-product of our humanity; our ability for higher order thinking. As for sub-atomic particles, multiple universes, etc. you know as well as I do that much of advanced science is highly speculative and hypothetical as mankind and science searches for knowledge and understanding. This line of thinking is getting us nowhere.

You said: “How would we have rational grounds to believe in the supernatural? Well, we look at ourselves and the world around us, and we ask, “Are there effects we see that demand a cause that is like God?” We work from effect to cause, which is just the same way we approach many things in life.”

You are making an attempt at the scientific method here, but in my opinion are falling short. You are proposing a post-modern methodology and attempting to overlay an ancient worldview. You are simply proposing a “god of the gaps.” In other words, anything that you or I or science cannot yet explain must demand god as the answer. I am not here rejecting god, I am rejecting your conclusion. We are back to my question. Why is it necessary to interject god into the answer for a currently unsolved question. And in particular, even if that is the route you find that you must take, then why the Christian God? So I would answer your question with a very large NO. Rather than hypothesize an unfalsifiable conclusion, why not rest comfortably in stating that as of right now we do not know the answer. We may never know the answer. But together humanity will continue to search.

You said: “Some effects demand causes that are truly exceptional. When we think about the cause of the universe, the cause of the complex conditions necessary for human life, for the existence of morality, for the existence of human consciousness, we are pushed beyond the standard material causes that can explain most things.”

You are absolutely right, and as Christopher Hitchens stated, “exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.” Why is it reasonable just to fill in the blank with something that is unfalsifiable because you don’t have an answer yet. Yes, we are pushed beyond the standard material causes that can explain most things. That’s why we don’t know. That’s why agnosticism becomes the default position.

You said: “At this point, do we just throw our hands up and say, “Oh well. These things demand some kind of awesome cause, but we have never seen this kind of cause directly, so we must remain ignorant.”

Absolutely not! Humanity will continue to strive and seek and find. We as a species will never acquiesce to the unknown. We will continue to march forward in the face of mystery, and seek the answers that will be found in the natural world, the only thing that we can experience and know. If gods exist, we can only know them in the natural, because that is what we are and that is where we exist.

You said:No! Because we have background information. Virtually every human has an innate sense of the supernatural…”

I would state that every human has an innate genetic drive to know. We all want to understand, and to sense that we have a purpose and that life has meaning. I am of the mind that humanity invented religion to answer that question, not the other way around.

You said: “we have numerous alleged historical accounts of humans interacting with supernatural beings. Maybe the explanation for the awesome cause lies here.

Alleged is the optimal word. You don’t believe any of the modern alleged accounts of interacting with supernatural beings. Why do believe the ancient ones. Don’t make me go into all the alleged supernatural events going on in our modern world. I know you are aware of the claims and I know that you either deny them out of hand or are extremely skeptical. All I am saying is that to be an honest seeker of truth you must apply that same degree of healthy skepticism to your own deeply held beliefs.

So to conclude, I am really asking you not for an argument, but rather to understand your point of view. Let me put it in evangelical church terms. What is your testimony? Why do you believe? You said you find Christianity to be intellectually satisfying; why is that? Why is it reasonable to believe in the Christian God, and not any of the other 4800 major and minor world religions and their associated gods?.

Bill Pratt says:

June 1, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I want to pick up again on this idea of empirical evidence. I think you’re dismissing this point too quickly. Virtually everyone believes that minds exist, that real moral values exists, that laws of logic exist, but nobody can directly see, touch, taste, smell, or hear those things. We infer their existence by looking at the world around us with our five senses and then working back from effect to cause; we infer non-material things from material things.  We cannot actually see electrons, but virtually everyone believes they exist because we see their effects. Again, effect to cause. When we find effects that demand a supernatural cause, why shut the door on that option? Why is it so hard to believe that a Mind is behind this world? We have no trouble believing minds exist, so why rule out The Mind?

I see things in the world that demand a cause which is very much like God. I reject agnosticism as the default position as I think there is ample philosophical, scientific, historical, and experiential data to conclude that the Christian God really exists. The accumulation of all of the data pushes me inexorably to this conclusion.  Let me try to put it another way. I see effects around me that demand a supernatural cause. The kind of cause that is necessary fits the description of a theistic God. I look to the historical evidence surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and I find it to be quite good. He claimed to be the unique representative of God, and he proved it by his resurrection (a well attested historical event). That’s how I find my way to Jesus.

Leaving aside the intellectual rationale, I have found, experientially, that whenever I adjust my life to the principles taught by Jesus, I find greater peace, greater comfort, greater wisdom, and greater love for my fellow man. All of the virtues that humans seek in each other are brought out more and more as I conform my life to Jesus. For me, Christianity works. It is practical. That doesn’t prove it’s true, but ultimately when we conform our thoughts and behaviors to the way the world really is, things will go better for us. The person who refuses to believe that cars drive in front of his house will only survive so long while blindly walking into the street every day. If Jesus is really God, the sooner we get on board, the better our lives will be.

Willie G says:

June 2, 2010 at 1:13 am

I’m sorry, but this is just a spurious argument. You seem to be taking conceptual entities that are products of the neurological processes of the human brain and assigning some kind of physical existence to them. Higher order thinking is a mental process unique to the physical anatomical functioning of the human brain. To anthropomorphize the existence of these processes and equate physical existence just does not follow. There is no inference required and none necessary. We are not starting with the concept and moving to the neurological workings of the brain, but rather vice versa. We understand, if only partially, the firing of synapses to activate the neural processing that takes place in the brain. This is the cause that produces the effect of higher order reasoning unique to human beings. Non material simply does not mean non-natural, and certainly not supernatural. The analogy is weak. You are not going to move me on this point.

Your example of electrons is stronger, though your conclusion is just as spurious. Only the casual reader of atomic theory accepts the existence of electrons as fact. The existence of protons, electrons and neutrons is speculative and hypothetical based on very sound scientific reasoning. It is a best guess based on the solid experimental data that atomic science has been able to produce. Science in all cases accepts the possibility of the need to alter or even abandon long held hypotheses in the event any experimental condition falsifies the currently accepted hypothetical condition. To analogize from a hypothesis of electrons which we cannot see, taste, touch, smell to “effects that demand a supernatural cause” breaks down. You are jumping from solid experimental scientific methodology with decades of proven results that have produced practical application in chemistry, pharmaceuticals, atomic energy, etc. to trying to equate it to non-verifiable, non-testable, non-falsifiable claims of the existence of supernatural entities. I am not finding this line of thinking reasonable in the least.

You said: “I see things in the world that demand a cause which is very much like God.”

And I would ask you for specific examples, and extraordinary evidence to support that extraordinary claim. You simply don’t have an answer, so you are assigning agency.

You said:I think there is ample philosophical, scientific, historical, and experiential data to conclude that the Christian God really exists. The accumulation of all of the data pushes me inexorably to this conclusion.”

This is why I am still here talking with you. I challenge you to back up this claim. Please show me “scientific” evidence for the existence of God. And I will hold you to proper methodology. Show me historical evidence for the existence of the Christian God that is any more relevant than historical claims of any other religion for any other gods. There is simply no such thing as philosophical or experiential data worth discussing. Philosophy is simply a means of organizing complex thinking into bodies of knowledge. If your starting premises are false your whole philosophy crumbles. I have been telling you from the beginning that I don’t accept your initial premises. I am begging you to explain your premises and convince me why your philosophy is reasonable. Experiential data is meaningless because it is nothing more than sheer subjectivity that is open to various and sundry personal interpretations.

Your next line of reason is strictly southern USA conservative evangelical theology. This is of no consequence to the skeptical world. You claim the “right” interpretation of your scriptures. The other 15,000 to 34,000 protestant denominations claim their “right” interpretation as well. There are as many diverse views of the historical Jesus and the events of his life as there are denominations. Your appeal to your particular theology carries little weight.

And finally you want to “leave aside the intellectual rationale.” Although this is the only thing that I have asked you for, an explanation for why believing in the Christian God is reasonable. But OK, I’ll go with it. I believe this is really the heart of your argument. Experientially you find Christianity to be a positive experience. You like it. It is satisfying personally, socially, practically and morally. It has helped you be a good person and feel good about yourself. You believe it helps you live a decent life.

OK, I have no problem with that. But guess what, I have all of that as well. I have found all of that same positive experiential data exists for my life outside of the church and belief in god. I have found total freedom to love life and my fellow man and to excel as a socially fulfilled human being by throwing off the shackles of religion. And I have a great added benefit; no more fear, no more guilt, no more worry about anything. Living life moment by moment day by day, making the most of this life here and now is extremely gratifying and fulfilling.  Please, help me see how I am missing the mark, because I’m just not seeing the reasonableness here.