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On Proving God

Explore God

There’s a huge movement that’s sweeping Austin right now called Explore God. If you live in central Texas, you know what I’m talking about. You pull out of your driveway and you see a sign in the yard across the street. You get on the highway and there’s a billboard. You drive past a church to see a big Explore God banner out front, then, on your way home, more signs dot the houses as you drive through your neighborhood.

I was blown away by the saturation level that the people behind this movement managed to achieve, and curious about the campaign’s content. Since it seems to be targeting seekers and non-believers, I pulled up the section of the website that discusses atheism to see whom they got to address this topic. To my shock, I found...

Me.

I vaguely remembered the time a camera crew visited my house when I was 9,000 months pregnant. Evidently that was for this Explore God thing. I had no idea! Well, I had some idea. I mean, they said something about the internet and God and billboards, but I didn’t catch most of it since I was busy trying to find a way to ask if they needed any footage of me taking a three-hour nap.

Anyway, I would have eventually figured out that something was up, since my email and social media accounts have been hit with a new round of feedback from the online atheist world. It’s been a while since I’ve had large numbers of people calling my conversionmy sanity, and my mental coherence into question, and it’s provided me with a good opportunity to take a step back and ask myself, Why did I become a Christian?

Jen Fulwiler

I’ve been pondering the question for the past few days as I fold laundry and make lunches, and I thought I’d share my thoughts.

On Having Proof

 
The issue that arises over and over again when you talk about atheist-to-Christian conversions is one of proof. We atheists had seen plenty of people concoct nonsensical and internally inconsistent belief systems because they confused “what feels good” with “what is true.” It struck me as a very dangerous path to start assenting to beliefs that cannot be disentangled from the messy world of subjective experience.

Deep down in my heart of hearts, I might feel that the sun revolves around the earth...but before I start announcing this as a truth about the way the universe works, I should go ahead and examine the evidence to see if it is actually true. It is this kind of never-wavering requirement for proof that allows us to have a clear-eyed look at the universe. No area of life should be exempt from this sort of analysis, certainly not religion.

Doesn’t that mean, then, that it’s impossible for any person who holds to this way of thinking to be a believer? At most, you could be an agnostic. But since religion cannot be proven in any kind of verifiable way, a person cannot both subscribe to an evidence-based way of evaluating the world and be a believer. One or the other has to go. Right?

For most of my life, I would have said yes. Absolutely, yes. But then, about 10 years ago, I began to reconsider.

Filming for "Explore God."

Filming for #ExploreGod


 
It started with a conversation with my grandfather, an engineer who worked his way through college by shoveling coal during the Great Depression, and went on to build complicated refineries all over Mexico and South America. He’s not overtly religious, and I always assumed that with his keen intelligence and careful, analytical way of thinking, he must be an atheist. So when it came out that he believes in God, it piqued my interest.

I began to consider that many of the pioneers of science believed in God—Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle, and Mendel, to name just a few. Almost all the great Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity believed that supernatural forces were at work in the world. In fact, among people considered to be the greatest minds of history, only a small percentage were atheists.

Realizing that so many bright people believed in God didn’t make me think they were right—after all, there are bright people in every belief system—but it did pique my interest about the issue of proof.

Was I really ready to say that I was a more analytical thinker than my engineer grandfather? Was I seriously going to claim that the monk Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, did not require evidence before believing a theory to be true? Did I honestly think that it never occurred to Galileo to question assumptions?

These questions lingered in the back of my mind as a series of events played out that led me to consider that there might be more to life than the material world alone. I set out on a search for truth about the spiritual realm, which pretty quickly led me to the only lasting world religion whose founder claimed to be God. I came to see that there was a strong case that a person named Jesus of Nazareth did exist. I thought it was interesting that Christianity spread like wildfire through the ancient world, despite the fact that becoming a Christian often meant persecution or even death.

I began reading works by the great Christian thinkers, and was surprised that their arguments in favor of belief were more intriguing than the ones I’d always heard (mainly “Shut up,” and “You’re going to hell”). In fact, this was some of the most reasonable, lucid writing I’d ever encountered.

Jen

Yet I still had not seen proof. I was caught in a no-man’s land between finding the case for Christianity extremely compelling, and not being able to take the leap to belief because I could not prove it to be true.

I didn’t know where to turn, so I decided to do an experiment: something rang true about Augustine’s famous statement that you must believe so that you might understand, and so I began to live my life as if God did exist. I prayed, even though I felt like I was talking to myself; I followed the Christian moral code; I read the Bible and honestly tried to understand what it might be trying to teach me. I conformed my life to a God-centered life, even thought I wasn’t sure I believed that God existed.

There was no big thunder-and-lightning encounter with Jesus, and, frankly, I only rarely “felt” God’s presence. But once I began this experiment, it was as if some hidden, tremendously powerful magnet had been activated within me that began pulling me in one direction. One odd “coincidence” after another formed a breadcrumb trail to lead me to God, and it sure did seem like some external force was acting in my life in a real way.

But the most interesting part was this:

The more I went through the motions of believing in God, the more the world made sense to me; the more human history made sense to me; the more I started to make sense to me. The picture of human life that I’d formed based on science alone now seemed incomplete. I still believed everything I’d learned through the lens of science, but I now saw a whole other dimension to the world around me. It was like the difference between looking at a picture of a double-fudge chocolate cake and having one in front of me to smell, touch, and taste: everything I knew before was still there, but I was now experiencing it in a much more intense and vivid way.

I’d considered my life before this God experiment to be good, and it was in many ways, but it now seemed disordered, confused, and flat compared to the life I had now. Little lingering issues faded away; parts of life that had seemed overwhelming were diffused and put in their proper place; I saw that certain actions that had seem innocuous in my atheist worldview had caused great harm to me and to others. I was finally able to put a name to the deep stirrings within my soul I’d experience when listening to a profound piece of music or hearing about an act of evil; I understood why Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, what drove the efforts to build the great cathedrals. For the first time I felt the depth of my potential as a human, a woman, and a mother.

When I considered this experience in light of the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, the improbable spread of early Christianity, and the seamless and perfectly, internally-consistent traditional Christian moral code that has stood strong for two thousand years, something clicked. To borrow from an analogy I once heard someone else use, it was like finding the box top that made all the puzzle pieces come together. Atheism allowed me to complete a few sections, but its box top had me constantly jamming pieces together in a way that didn’t work. With Christianity, everything snapped into place.

Finally, I had found my proof—though it wasn’t the type of proof that I’d originally been looking for.

What I came to see is that there are different kinds of proof in the world. The process for proving that the Horsehead Nebula is 1,500 light years from earth is different than the process for proving that the bad guy committed the crime, and the process for proving that God exists is more different still.

And so, to the folks who want to know what kind of proof I have to offer for my Christian beliefs, I would say this:

I can show you lots of evidence, and, if you’re willing to consider it with an open mind, I think I can make the case that this belief system is at least worth a second look. But I cannot prove its truth to you in the way I can prove that the earth revolves around the sun. The human soul is a necessary component of the God experiment, and the laboratory in which it takes place is the individual human heart. Yes, there is compelling, verifiable evidence for the truths of this belief system, but an analysis of evidence will not—cannot—get you all the way there.

If you are standing back and waiting for the data alone to convince you that God exists, that’s like holding a piece of litmus paper above a solution but never dipping it in. You can have a complete understanding of how the hydrogen atoms in the liquid would potentially interact with the dye on the paper, but until the paper has contact with the solution, the experiment is not complete.

And guess what: in the God experiment, your entire life is the litmus paper.

So no, you absolutely do not have to check your analytical, evidence-based way of evaluating the world at the door when you step into the waters of spirituality. Just understand that when you begin to explore God, you’re looking for an entirely different kind of proof.
 
 
Originally posted at Conversion Diary. Used with author's permission.

Jennifer Fulwiler

Written by

Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She's a contributor to the books The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011) and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion (Servant, 2011), and is writing a book based on her personal blog. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their six young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. Follow Jennifer on her blog, ConversionDiary.com, or on Twitter at @conversiondiary.

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  • jakael02

    Great article. I think the author hit the nail on the head when she wrote that she can't prove Christianity in the same way as scientists prove that the earth revolves around the sun but she can show evidence for Christianity that is worth considering.
    I think her experiment to "act like a Christian" even though she was not was very interesting. Catholicism teaches that atheism is primarily a moral problem within society, and secondary a intellectual problem within society. The author stated she started to follow the Christian moral code and then her path towards God bore fruit.

    • Sqrat

      "Catholicism teaches that atheism is primarily a moral problem within society."

      Would you care to elaborate?

      • jakael02

        First, I couldn't find the source from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). So ultimately, i take that back and don't have any footing to stand on. Second, I got that from my notes; which I did not have a source attached to them. Third, I should have rephrased that comment. It sounded slanderous. My intent was not to come across that away. The CCC states:

        2124 The name "atheism" covers many very different phenomena.

        and that believers can contribute to atheism....

        2125 "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion."

        Fourth, so cafeteria Christians are being lumped into "atheist" for the sake of those paragraphs. But it don't seem to suggest a focus on those whom are strictly "agnostic atheist".

        Fifth, my notes lead to that conclusion via follows:

        God places himself and his law within the reach of their rational minds. Man desire to satisfy worldly pursuits, demands of flesh, and given in to temptations of the devil can lead them to sin. This leads them to turning their backs on God, piling ingratitude with impiety until sin smothered truth within their consciousness. Persistent sin
        darkens the mind to the point of intellectual blindness; the heart darkens and grows cold for the laws of Love and God. This follows that atheism is primarily a moral problem within society, and secondarily an intellectual problem.
        Sixth, I could stand to be corrected or elaborate. This is a topic I know little of, so I am open! :)

        • Sqrat

          You might have started with:

          2123 “Many... of our contemporaries either do not at all
          perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time.”

          And atheists too, I suppose.

          The "New Atheists" have sought to return the favor by suggesting that perhaps it is religion that is one of the most serious problems of our time. While I think that is a slight exaggeration (at least in more secular countries), it does seem to be the mirror image of official Catholic doctrine.

          • jakael02

            Good point. The "New Atheist" that suggest religion is one of the most serious problems of our time; can you give me their main or one of their main reasons? I'm curious to know. Thanks.

          • Sqrat

            You might try this: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/features/2007/god_is_not_great/religion_poisons_everything.html.

            The words in that essay that resonate most with me are the following: "Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence? I ask because there is a real and serious difference between me and my religious friends, and the real and serious friends are sufficiently honest to admit it. I would be quite content to go to their children's bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to "respect" their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing."

            Because, you see, "Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time" and must be eradicated. That's one of the main reasons this site even exists. To quote Brandon Vogt, "One implicit goal is to bring non-Catholics to faith, especially followers of the so-called New Atheism."

          • josh

            jakael02

            I'll take a stab at your question about religion being a serious problem if you and Sqrat don't mind. There are a lot of specific issues that draw individual atheists to see religion as a major problem. Off the top of my head you have: Muslim terrorism, Christian terrorism, the Palestinian conflict, American war-mongering, opposition to evolution, cosmology, quantum mechanics and other science, persecution of homosexuals, mistreatment of women, opposition to abortion, euthanasia, contraception, etc., corruption of historical studies, bad philosophy, the Catholic abuse cover-up, suppression of free speech, abusive teachings of eternal punishment, excuses for genocide, slavery and other wrongs, countless religious wars and cases of discrimination, global-warming denial, bad music, etc. etc.

            Different atheists (among those who care) tend to pay attention to different problems in which religion is involved. And perhaps none of these are exclusively religious, but they all clearly involve religion as a major component and obstacle to progress from an atheist's view. The overarching view is that religion is both irrational and voracious. That is, by its nature, religion sees itself as important and even supreme, it tends to subsume other things under its own self-declared authority. As long as that is true, religion always has the potential for causing massive problems.

            We might imagine, contra the real world, a religion that isn't very problematic on any particular issue, but there is an underlying problem with the irrationality that makes it unstable. Basically, if the voice of God can tell you to hold a bake sale for charity, it can also tell you to burn down a synagogue. That's very worrying to atheists. We want to deal with people who we think are fundamentally in touch with reality. That doesn't guarantee a solution to all problems, but it seems like a necessary starting point.

          • jakael02

            I see what your saying. It sounds like the two are fundamentally opposed to one another. Both seem to claim the high moral ground. Do you think the only solution dialogue and reason for those whom will participate?

          • Sqrat

            I am not terribly optimistic. The lack of shared premises makes it difficult to work together toward shared conclusions.

          • jakael02

            Have you benefitted from this site much? In a sense of mutual understanding or growth in respect for one another. Just curious. I'm still relatively new here.

          • Sqrat

            I am quite new here myself. I was really only expecting an exposure to a wide range of Catholic apologetics, and I'm getting what I came for. In that sense I suppose I can say that I'm benefiting.

          • josh

            'New' atheism is in some sense fundamentally opposed to religion, just by definition. (With the usual caveat that there is nothing 'new' about it, that was just a media label that stuck.) For completeness, one should remember that there are also atheists who don't much care if other people are religious as long as it doesn't infringe on their lives. New atheists are more likely to see ethical issues with religion like I cited above, although a lot of them are also fundamentally interested in the 'pure' question of truth and falsity in religion.

            I suppose a 'solution' would be for one side to simply take up arms and eradicate the other. :) But that's not my preferred route, and given the numbers I don't think my 'side' would win. So yes, I do think dialogue and reason are needed if there is to be any progress.

          • jakael02

            Well you make good points. I don't want to eradicate anybody. I can hardly squish a bug. We all want happiness and love. We all want truth. I know for me, I've learned a lot about atheists on this site and I have a deeper understanding, knowledge, and respect for you all.

  • David Nickol

    [S]omething rang true about Augustine’s famous statement that you must
    believe so that you might understand, and so I began to live my life as
    if God did exist.

    I am quite sure that "going through the motions" of being a believing Christian would make many people more receptive to becoming committed Christians, but I think that going through the motions of being a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim would make many people more receptive to becoming committed members of those religions. And I think this would be true not only for religions but for various ideologies and many positions that do not even rise to the level of ideologies. It strikes me as something very akin to behavioral therapy.

    But of course a lot of people who go through the motions of being believing Christians because they are believing Christians nevertheless eventually find their faith weakening or disappearing altogether.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "I am quite sure that "going through the motions" of being a believing Christian would make many people more receptive to becoming committed Christians, but I think that going through the motions of being a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim would make many people more receptive to becoming committed members of those religions."

      You might be right. Knowing Jennifer, though, in her case I think the problem was that while she had intellectual difficulties with each of those other faiths, she eventually ran out of objections to Christianity. It still took "playing Christian" to push her the rest of the way--to open her up to receiving the gift of faith--but "playing Christian" didn't require contradicting her reason.

      Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Mormonism were never really live options for her because they each had unavoidable problems, in her mind, and therefore wouldn't be worth "trying on." Like many people through history, she narrowed down her options to atheism or Christianity. And after years of embracing the former, she decided to try on the latter.

      • felixcox

        I think you accurately characterize her narrative. What she gets wrong is the idea that there is special evidence that pushes the supernatural claims of christianity beyond reasonable doubt. At best, the most a reasonable person can say is that MAYBE those supernatural events happened- but then you must use such a generous standard with hundreds of other remotely plausible accounts throughout history. The early accounts of christianity are given exceptional and undue credibility, given their company among dozens of other accounts of supernatural events (events that most people correctly believe did not happen).
        The rapid rise of christianity is another red herring that upon close inspection lends no special credence to christianity's claims of supernatural events. Throughout history, many other sects have suddenly multiplied. While each case is different in detail, in the big picture, they fit a well-worn pattern that periodically emerges acoss various cultures. Ideas spread, regardless of the truth of the religion channeling them. See Joseph Smith.

        • Pedro Dias

          "Throughout history, many other sects have suddenly multiplied."

          I'm pretty sure persecution and death wasn't broken out in those sects. People are sometimes seduced by the perks that you find inside that sect; in the practical sense, for about 300 years, Christianity had none. Once you converted, you submitted yourself to spend most of your day in catacombs to avoid from being noticed that you weren't worshipping the Roman gods, which was a major thing in public life in the Ancient world. And not only did the founder die before any real growth happened, all of his direct successors (with the exception of John) were executed by the Romans. And still, people kept coming in droves after watching the faithful being eaten by lions or executed in one of the most awful torture devices that was known back then.

          It's not a red herring, but an unexpected effect of discouraging causes. That is a viable argument that can't take place in any other case... ;-)

          • felixcox

            Actually, there are many many cases in which sects remain attractive to adherents despite persecution. Currently in China, Falon Gong is an example. In this thread, someone brought up the Cathar heresy- they too faced torture/death, yet stuck to it. David Koresh's group in Texas were heavily persecuted and eventually killed by the FBI, but adherents really drank the kool aid. A charismatic leader or novel comforting philosphies and a sense of spiritual fulfillment are obviously sufficient incentives for people to join sects that guarantee persecution. Nothing new here. Claiming that sects spreading rapidly necessitates supernatural claims is unfounded. There are way too many ordinary explanations that are more probable, and far more consistent with human behavior.
            All sects, even the persecuted ones, give followers solace; christianity and falon gong are no exceptions. They demonstrate that social belonging and spiritual practice (however you define it) can override the social pressure to break away from the sect. No supernaturalism needed. But if you posit it (the magic) is there, you have an enormous burden of proof. Unfortunately for believers of christianity who want to claim that their beliefs are rational, no such extraordinary evidence exists.

          • Pedro Dias

            I never said that Christianity's sudden multiplication can only be explained by a supernatural cause, but that the fact that it did helps to prove a point on what moved people to join it.

            And keep yourself in mind, the very founder of Christianity was publicly executed before this really began to sprout. The very foundation of cults is usually based on the deep belief that the leader will be somehow their savior (honestly, it's explanation as to exactly how makes little to no sense, and it's usually shoved into the heads of the possible converts; that is never observed with Christians) and this leader gets to be alive long enough for the sect to be solidified. But in this particular case, the leader was killed in front of everyone and a little over a month later, the religion seemed to grow explosively. If we are to compare Christianity with these cults, we need to assume that Christ wasn't really dead after being killed in the sight of everyone. But on that point, His supernaturality would already be taken for granted, and the comparison of Christianity with today's early sects wouldn't prove much anyway.

          • felixcox

            All I'm saying is that supernatural claims require overwhelming evidence that trumps ordinary explanations. We're going in circles here, but you offfer nothing but conjecture and speculation. That's nothing like solid evidence; and not remotely the type of evidence to justify claims of rising from the dead. Don't forget, comparable 'evidence' is used to claim the Mohammed didn't die, but instead was carried up in the sky (to where??) on a flying horse. People believe all sorts of improbable claims; ancient hearsay is not EXTRAORDINARY evidence. If you have anything but ancient hearsay, I'm all ears. Otherwise, you are special pleading.

          • Pedro Dias

            Well, I'm guessing that the achievements of Alexander the Great require extraordinary evidence as well, given that you probably wouldn't believe that some guy ended up being a military leader with virtually no defeats, victoring against and completley conquering the biggest and largest empire of the time in just about 12 years, which even though isn't exactly supernatural, it is definetly formidable and possibly hard to believe. I'm guessing his existence can't be properly explained, as no contemporary written accounts of him survived time. But if you have any sense in your mind, you're going to accept that the effects caused by his existence (including the existence of two dozens of cities with his name, just to name an example) confirm his authenticity. And, mind you, there's no "solid evidence" for it".

            And I'm going to ask you for a better explanation for the sudden sincere belief among the Apostles than Jesus had risen from the dead if he hadn't been entombed after his crucifixion, only to find the tomb empty a couple of days later, and His multiple appearances being witnessed by entire crowds of people, being believed even by skeptics of his resurrection. Other explanations are generally rejected due to the unlikelihood of them happening, and I don't think that the possibility of the Apostles making that up would be sufficient to have been killed in all types of executions, from beheading, to being sawed in half to death. And if you want a fellow atheist asserting that the Apostles did exist and their bodies are still properly localized, watch this: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=825888

            In any case, you can try and refute more recent supernatural events that happened recently and were witnessed by both believers and non-believers alike, such as the Miracle of the Sun, which happened here in Portugal 94 years ago, in which from believers to anti-Catholic newspapers reported the event, and there is pure backup of supernaturality by the accounts of between 30,000 and 100,000 people, with no mentioning of witnesses that were about 20 miles away. Refute this and your assertion start to gain credibility. And don't mind bringing already refuted arguments, think a little yourself. I wish you the best of luck for that... :P

          • felixcox

            You said, "And don't mind bringing already refuted arguments, think a little yourself. I wish you the best of luck for that... :P"

            I only think for myself, thank you! As I said, you offer no EXTRAORDINARY evidence. I bold-faced it both in this post and in last post, in the futile hope that you would notice the emphasis on "extraordinary." I asked you to bring forth anything other than 2000-year-old hearsay; we both know you don't have this or any hard evidence. That's okay, that doesn't mean your belief is wrong- it simply means you don't have strong evidence for supernatural claims.

            And no offense (I was exactly like you once!), but comparing the unique yet entirely human life of Alexander the Great to a magician who casts out demons and puts them into pigs, who raises the dead, who's crucifixion is reported to bring forth zombies into the world, who flies up into outer space just like the prophet mohammed: well, yeah, we're talking apples and oranges. I understand that you need to feel like your beliefs are rational, so you try to pretend that the historical evidence is similar in quality. That's okay, I remember that need too. Just believe for yourself, man. The more you look into the history of ALL religious movements, you will see a continuity encompassing Christianity. You should really read about non-christian cultures, for starters, the tens of thousands of people in India who follow Śri Sathya Sai Baba. Yet another charismatic leader with thousands of eye-witnesses who claimed he performed miracles, healing the sick, etc. Thousands and thousands of people, eyewitnesses alive today, believe this! You can actually talk to people who knew the great Sri Sathay sai Saba. Yet you will probably apply a skepticism to this case- and if you applied the same skepticism to the claims of the much much older and less verifiable claims of the bible, you'd conclude the same. The truth is that they are most likely not objectively true accounts supernatural events. Are believers then liars? Of course not! There are other psychological mechanisms at work; no magic or deceit necessary for such belief. Don't be mislead by arguments about Christianity's uniqueness; ALL RELIGIONS ARE UNIQUE! All religions can claim uniqueness (you should talk to devout Mormons!); such does not remotely provide extraordinary evidence for miracles.

            As for the miracle of the sun, I'm unfamiliar with it. I just wikipedia-ed it; the only proof offered is that lots of people said they saw it. And that, my friend, is exactly the sort of group-think that produced the accounts of Mohammed rising into heaven; or proof that gurus in India heal the sick (they don't). But sincere people really believe these things, and really have life-changing experiences with these people because of the supposedly supernatural things they saw. That's not evidence; that's testimony. And if you live long enough, and pay attention to non-christian cultures, you will be confronted with HUNDREDS of examples of people sincerely believing things that are not true. Show me a video of a miracle. Please. Or is your god, like Baal, incapable of performing under pressure? Why is it that in this surveillance age with cameras everywhere, god can't be troubled to perform a beyond-doubt, miracle? Hmm, I (like any other skeptic) have explanations that make sense of this inconvenient fact. All I hear from the religious are feeble rationalizations and mumbling about God's mysterious plans, or the need of God to remain mysterious in order to better provide us with a choice to believe (which makes no sense given that thousands were supposed to have been witness to these miracles)...

            these are post-hoc rationalizations, neither compelling nor satisfying.
            I'll just say again- if you are so certain of the ancient second-hand testimony of the gospels, why on earth are you not on a jet right now to India to talk to FIRST HAND EYE-WITNESSES of miracles performed in living memory??! You seem to have a convenient standard for judging the quality of eye-witness testimony- one that arbitrarily gives a pass to christian second-hand eye-witnesses, while affecting a default skepticism to any other religion, even those with people alive today who's lives have been dramatically changed by miracles they claim to witness. If you doubt the miracles of India today (and if you claim you are unfamiliar with them, then it will be understood that your default skepticism correctly prevents you from wasting time with such unlikely claims), then you really have to explain why you lower the bar so much for the gospels.

          • Alden Smith
          • felixcox

            I watched the video, and it's embarrasingly and extremely poorly reasoned. He first compares evidence for miracles to improbable mundane events like winning the lottery. It's sad that this is what he resorts to- winning a lottery is improbable but physically quite possible for anyone who enters. No magic necessary.
            Then he says we must consider the likelihood of an event happening without the extraordinary claim, as with the resurrection. He asks, how likely is it that there was no Resurrection given the apparent belief of early believers, accounts of the empty tomb, etc. Obviously, he thinks this ancient testimony is sufficient when it comes to christianity. More obvious to anyone with an open mind is the fact that he most certainly does not use similar reasoning when evaluating claims such as the ascendency of mohammed into outer space on a flying horse. But wait, early muslims were obviously hugely affected by this mohammed person, and the sect spread like wildfire... Which is the same caliber of evidence christians muster (of course with caveats such as "but belief would be harmful to believers, therefore it's more likely to be true if they do." such caveats are for another post, but again, history, psychology, anthropology, and sociology provide much much more compelling and PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE explanations for the story). I'm afraid christians can only offer specious reasoning and special pleading to defend the improbable events of the bible. Occams razor leads us to plenty of other PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE explanations of christianity, ones that are absolutely consonant with the spread of other social movements built upon charismatic leaders.
            It's actually quite sad that WLC is so respected when he uses such shoddy reasoning.
            Remember, the gospels are not even first-hand accounts. They were written decades after Jesus's death (or ascendancy), and are simply hearsay. A trial case today would be dismissed if it had nothing going for it but ancient hearsay. Why? Because that's not enough to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
            History is replete with examples of people swearing they saw the impossible- skepticism should be the default position unless given extraordinary evidence. christians do not have it, so they grasp at straws, pretending that the extraordinary claims of ancient miracles are comparable to winning the lottery! It's actually a bit pathetic. If you want to believe, that's fine. But you simply cannot win an argument stating that such beliefs are the LIKELIEST beliefs given the total lack of first-hand, beyond-doubt evidence.

          • Guest
          • Alden Smith
          • felixcox

            A video is not a rebuttal. I'll respond to comments, not videos of people who can make improbable claims and get away with it unchallenged. I'll exercise the golden rule and not refer you to the hundreds of vids that demonstrate my point of view. I can represent myself.

          • Alden Smith

            I see that you are a hyper skeptic. Now what criteria would you use to determine what is "extraordinary evidence" and what is not? What kind of evidence would qualify as extraordinary?

          • felixcox

            So now you declare I'm a "hyper skeptic" because I simply ask for stronger evidence than ancient hearsay. If you were intellectually honest, you'd concede that you are a "hyper skeptic" because you disbelieve in the hundreds and hundreds of accounts of non-biblical miracles around the world. As I said, you suspend your normally-sound judgment when it comes to evaluating all miracles except for one. But based on NOTHING BUT ANCIENT HEARSAY. I'm a rationalist, so of course that's not enough to persuade me. We are very different.
            You can keep posting videos of selective-fundamentalists who claim that ancient hearsay is indeed more probable than the other obvious and ordinary explanations for christianity's origins and rapid growth. It's a pattern that has occurred on every continent across hudreds of distinct cultures, so yeah, there are VERY good explanations that don't involve magic. Whatever floats your boat. If you can call me a "hyper skeptic," are you comfortable with me labeling you in a similar fashion?

    • Randy Gritter

      I think there is a gap between theist and atheist that must be crossed. That involves doing a lot of things that are the same in all religions. Trying to connect the historical revelation of God to your faith community with your conscience and your everyday decision making. I can see that coming to Catholicism as a protestant I was able to relate to much of Catholicism because protestants did something like it. Atheists, it seems to me, would have less of that.

      There is the issue of whatever faith a person is brought into becomes their final destination. People are evangelized by this small fundamentalist or perhaps Mormon church and they really trust that church because of that. Even when they learn it is one very small part of Christianity as a whole they hesitate to look for a better expression of Christianity. I find that unfortunate because I did eventually look for a better expression of Christianity. I found it in Catholicism and it is the best thing I did.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    I am happy that Jennifer attempted this experiment and ended up as a Catholic.

    I have attempted the same experiment numerous times, without the same result.

    Some attempt this experiment and become Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in fact advocates this sort of experiment. I would imagine a number of people who attempt this method, but try to live as faithful Muslims, end up adopting Islam.

    It is an interesting experiment, and I would encourage others to try it. Try living in accord with the rules of a given religion: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, whatever you like. See if it works for you. All I can say is that this approach was not very effective for me in the long run.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Thanks for the comment, Paul! Though we typically find ourselves on different sides of the discussion, I always appreciate your candor and charity.

    • DannyGetchell

      If you are told often enough that "Budweiser is the king of beers,"
      Budweiser will eventually taste somewhat better- perhaps a great deal
      better- than it tasted before this magick spell was cast. If a behavior
      therapist in the pay of the communists rewards you every time you repeat
      a communist slogan, you will repeat it more often, and begin to slide
      imperceptibly toward the same kind of belief that Christian Scientists
      have for their mantras. And if a Christian Scientist tells himself every
      day that his ulcer is going away, the ulcer will disappear more rapidly
      than it would have had he not subjected himself to this homemade
      advertising campaign.

      Wilson and Shea, The Illuminatus Trilogy

  • Mark Moore

    Know delusion.

    • Randy Gritter

      The question is whether a delusion would behave this way.

      The more I went through the motions of believing in God, the more the
      world made sense to me; the more human history made sense to me; the
      more I started to make sense to me. The picture of human life that I’d formed based on science alone now seemed incomplete.

      Would you expect this if Catholicism was actually delusional?

      • josh

        Yes, that's exactly how all cults function from the perspective of their believers.

        • Randy Gritter

          Really? I think cults actually don't open up the world and all of human history and all the facets of the human person. I think they close a person to that stuff. They make a person's world very small. Jennifer describes a world that is much larger that what she experiences as an atheist.

          • josh

            That's what they look like from the outside, what they feel like from the inside is what Jennifer describes. Jennifer's world is very small, but it feels to her like she's tapped into a 'secret' level of depth or understanding, not to mention comfort. It's as shallow and superficial as any other cult to a non-believer, but that's not a judgment the cultist is able to easily make as long as they are emotionally invested in their own world.

            "Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." as Hamlet says. Some people sleep easy in nutshell kingdoms.

          • felixcox

            Randy, I have a friend who had a very similar conversion to Mormonism. I think Cat Stevens fell in love with Islam in a similar way. Are they all true, or do they simply show how the mind creates a narrative that tries to articulate the ineffable...

      • David Nickol

        Would you expect this if Catholicism was actually delusional?

        I think delusional is the wrong word. Certainly mental health professionals do not count most religious beliefs as being delusional, even though it is clear that if certain religious beliefs are true, then others are false. Religion is universal or near universal in human cultures, and religious beliefs are "normal" for human beings.

        • Sqrat

          By the very nature of the case, mental health professionals would likely be using the word in its clinical sense, but it also has a non-clinical meaning that is perfectly appropriate here. Look up "delusional" at dictionary.reference.com.

          • David Nickol

            I don't think it is at all helpful, appropriate, or charitable to label someone (or someone's beliefs) delusional because he or she has religious beliefs you disagree with or because he or she lacks the religious beliefs you have. It's little more than name-calling.

          • Sqrat

            Well, don't blame me. I didn't invent the English language, and I didn't supply the meanings of its words.

          • David Nickol

            I am not blaming you for the English language. I am saying I don't think it is any more accurate for an atheist to call religious beliefs delusional than for theists to call atheism delusional. I think it is the wrong word. Here is the most pertinent definition of delusion from Merriam-Webster's Unabridged:

            a false conception and persistent belief unconquerable by reason in something that has no existence in fact

            It seems to me that neither atheism nor theism can be considered a matter of fact, and that neither is "unconquerable by reason."

            Don't the atheists who argue here generally acknowledge that they cannot prove the nonexistence of God? They simply don't think there is enough evidence to convince them that God exists. If you have rational proofs of the nonexistence of God, and you can't convince theists that God doesn't exist, then you have a right to call theists delusional. If theists have rational proofs for the existence of God and can't convince atheists God doesn't exist, then they have a right to call atheists delusional. Theists do claim do have rational proofs of God's existence. I have never found an atheist rational proof of God's nonexistence. So while I don't find the rational proofs of God's existence convincing, the fact that there are such (alleged) proofs seems to me to put theists closer to being able to call theists delusional than atheists calling theists delusional. But neither is close enough.

          • Sqrat

            Well, what can I say? What you cited as the "pertinent" definition of delusion in Merriam-Webster's Unabridged is actually one of the "such as-es" under the following main definition: "something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated : false belief or a persistent error of perception occasioned by false belief or mental derangement : customary or fixed misconception." True, it says that a delusion might be occasioned by "mental derangement," but it doesn't have to be -- it can be occasioned simply by "false belief."

            But that's only the second definition cited. The first definition cited is "act of deluding or state of being deluded". And "delude" has the following definition in the same dictionary: "to lead from truth or into error : mislead the mind or judgment of : impose on : deceive, trick : make a fool of." Those are, of course, actually several different definitions, not one definition.

            John Loftus, a well-known atheist who works mainly to refute Christianity of the evangelical/fundamentalist rather than Catholic variety, refrains from calling Christians "delusional" (perhaps because of alternate clinical meaning), but quite openly calls them "deluded" -- "led from truth or into error," if you will.

            As for myself, I do not assert that I can absolutely prove the nonexistence of God, any more than I can absolutely prove that Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States, or any more than (as Richard Dawkins would say) I can absolutely prove the non-existence of fairies at the bottom of my garden. I merely claim that is it more reasonable to believe that God does not exist, and more reasonable to believe that there are no fairies at the bottom of my garden, and less reasonable to believe that God exists, and less reasonable to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of my garden.

          • Steven Carr

            Well, anybody who tells me there are demons and a Satan must ask themselves why I should take them seriously.

            Where are all these demons?

            How come these demons never interfere with the laws of nature?

            Why does Satan hide himself away, never causing any trouble?

          • josh

            One doesn't need an absolute disproof of God to make belief in God irrational. God has no existence in fact but for some people this is a persistent belief unconquerable by reason. There are people who suffer from paranoid delusions. Kurt Godel, an analytic genius in logic, comes to mind. These delusions involve conspiracies and I shouldn't need to point out that you can't absolutely disprove a conspiracy. That doesn't make paranoia non-delusional or non-paranoids equally irrational.

            I will point out however, that the Argument from Evil remains a far better disproof of God as conceived of by Abrahamists than any purported proof for this God that has been offered.

          • josh

            David, 'delusional belief' isn't being uncharitable. It is just a description of how certain beliefs are, in the judgment of an atheist: A false belief which is held in spite of it's irrationality or evidence against it.

          • David Nickol

            As one of my high school teachers used to tell us about once a week, as if he had never mentioned it umpteen times before, words have denotations and connotations. To call something a delusion isn't merely to call it a false belief. The implication is that there is something wrong in the head of the person who believes it. It is uncharitable to imply that someone is wrong in the head, oftentimes even when they really are.

          • josh

            I'm not sure what you mean by 'wrong in the head' apart from holding an irrational idea. Some otherwise great minds have had very delusional ideas. I can agree that delusional probably isn't the most charitable way to put a true statement, but there are considerations besides diplomatic flattery. Do you agree that it isn't 'little more than name-calling'?

        • Randy Gritter

          OK, would you expect this if Catholicism was false? The word "delusional" came from the removed comment.

          Chesterton said he does not believe Catholicism because something proves it. He believes it because everything proves it. That is what convinces me. It just makes sense of everything in such an amazing and beautiful way. It is hard to imagine a false system doing this.

          • David Nickol

            OK, would you expect this if Catholicism was false?

            I am not sure what it would mean, precisely, to say, "Catholicism is false." Would Catholicism be "false" if Jesus was not God Incarnate and didn't rise from the dead? I don't think that would make Catholicism false.

            But supposing you feel it would, my answer would be yes. There are any number of religions that adherents hold to be true, find ultimate meaning and purpose in, and feel enlightened and transformed when they commit to them. I don't think Catholicism is confirmed any more than Buddhism or Judaism or Islam by how much adherents feel their eyes were opened to ultimate reality when they learned what their religion taught. The conviction of a Muslim, Mormon, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, etc., etc., that he or she has found the truth in his or her particular religion is "proof" to that person only.

            It may be that when we hear of, or see, a person who happy, serene, content, and so on because of his or her religion, that we may be drawn to that religion, but it is not proof that the religion is true. It is evidence that the person's emotional and intellectual needs are met by the practice of that religion.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "I am not sure what it would mean, precisely, to say, "Catholicism is false." Would Catholicism be "false" if Jesus was not God Incarnate and didn't rise from the dead? I don't think that would make Catholicism false."

            Undoubtedly it would.

          • Steven Carr

            Would Catholicism be false if Jesus had not turned into a life-giving spirit, as Paul insisted when he wrote a letter to recent Christian converts in Corinth who were scoffing at the idea of their god raising corpses?

            Would Catholicism be false if the resurrected Jesus had not been seen to fly into the sky, just as though the story had been written by people ignorant of what the sky really is? (Hint. It is not a gateway to Heaven?)

          • David Nickol

            I like this passage in Nostra Aetate:

            Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.

            I don't think Catholicism (at its best) rejects other religions as "false." It regards them as having only part of the truth. One sometimes gets the feeling that some Catholics—if it could be proven that one and only one Catholic dogma were untrue—would declare Catholicism worthless, because it is so frequently portrayed as an all-or-nothing proposition.

          • felixcox

            This conviction is what I don't understand. You say undoubtedly catholicism would be false if Jesus were not God Incarnate and did not rise from the dead. But doesn't it follow that it has to be undoubtedly true that Jesus did these miraculous things? If so, what is this game-changing evidence? Really now, I read apologists quite frequently, they offer evidence, but entirely circumstantial. To declare huge, wildly supernatural events true, you need huge, wildly persuasive evidence. In the case of Jesus's incarnation and rising from the dead, we don't have it.

          • felixcox

            "it is hard to imagine a false system doing this." Yes, it is apparently hard for you to imagine so. I would encourage you to look at other serious, devout, spiritually fulfilled practitioners of other religions. There are tens of millions of people who are equally convinced their religion makes complete sense in an amazing and beautiful way. And like you, they cannot imagine that others have the same experience with a "false" system. Think it through- it is a good exercise to imagine what other good-natured people believe (in other words, don't just imagine the fanatical suicide-bomber; think of peaceful happy Jainists or Hindus, for whom their religion makes sense to them).
            It shows you the mind is very well equipped to rationalize things that just are not true.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      It's unfortunate that this comment was removed, because it opens up a new direction to discussion.

      Imagine that someone was hit over the head and lost their memories. Some psychologists, at least in the movies, suggest that the person return to regular life, in hope that the typical motions of life bring memories back.

      Maybe, though, memories never come back. Maybe the supposedly returned memories are really delusions brought about by repetitive and enforced behavior. But if the delusions match actual past events, why would it be wrong or mistaken to accept them? The delusion would match reality insofar as it is a correctly stated account of past events, but not insofar as it was a real memory of the past events.

      The central question is: is it true? If it's true, and if Jennifer has good reasons for believing that it's true, then perhaps it doesn't matter if she deludes herself. She would have deluded herself into the truth.

  • josh

    This is one of the saddest stories I've read recently. Watching a mind close itself disturbs me profoundly.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      Why do you think that her mind has become closed? She reached a different conclusion. Maybe it's the wrong conclusion, and hopefully then she can be talked out of it. But why does that entail closing oneself off?

      Or maybe I don't understand what you mean by the phrase.

      • josh

        It's the way she writes about her current and past thoughts. Also, see her linked articles which were thoroughly taken apart by atheists. If she was an atheist she has completely forgotten what it was like to be one, based on her idea of what Catholic doctrines should make sense to atheists. I hold out hope that anyone's mind can be changed, but I'm not so blind as to think it likely in a case like this. Ms. Fulwiler has found a stance that feels comfortable and complete to her, and to preserve that she has embraced ridiculous assertions. She's in deep, so to speak.

        "When I considered this experience in light of the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, the
        improbable spread of early Christianity, and the seamless and
        perfectly, internally-consistent traditional Christian moral code that
        has stood strong for two thousand years, something clicked."

        When I read statements like this I don't think I'm dealing with someone who is still looking for answers or taking a critical eye to their core beliefs. The phrase 'hook, line, and sinker' comes to mind.

        • Randy Gritter

          You think you take a critical eye towards your core beliefs? Can you be skeptical of skepticism?

          It is easy to look at Jesus and demand an absolutely rigorous proof of His claims. Do you demand that in all your relationships? That someone provide irrefutable proof they are your friend before you accept them?

          • josh

            I'm not sure what I would classify as 'core beliefs' for myself, but I hope I can be critical of them. Can you be skeptical of skepticism? Yes, you can think about what kinds of principals you mean by skepticism and why they are useful or not. When it comes to religion I don't demand an absolute proof, just evidence sufficient to support the claims over all competing possibilities, including agnosticism. 'Jesus' falls far short of that. Before I accept someone as a friend, I require the standard sorts of evidence that they actually exist.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "'Jesus' falls far short of that. Before I accept someone as a friend, I require the standard sorts of evidence that they actually exist."

            To be clear, are you denying Jesus existed? Or are you least proposing Jesus' existence is more unlikely than not?

          • josh

            Ah, let me clarify. I'm not asserting that a 'historical Jesus' never existed. I don't know although I lean towards 'yes he did' as an apocalyptic preacher. I meant that Jesus the man is dead and no longer exists, while Jesus-the-God doesn't and never has existed, at least based on the evidence we have.

          • Randy Gritter

            When it comes to religion I don't demand an absolute proof, just evidence sufficient to support the claims over all competing possibilities, including agnosticism.

            OK, but if you go back to her point of the improbable spread of early Christianity, is not at least arguable that Christianity being true is the best explanation for that spread? Along with the beauty of the New Testament teaching itself, could that not be reasonably evaluated as better than the competing possibilities?

            Agnosticism does not really enter into it because something has to explain how Christianity came to be and came to spread.

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            There is nothing improbable about the spread of Christianity, it spread like thousands of other cults did throughout the Mediterranean. It promised eternal paradise and was able to convince a Roman Empire that they were right. The religion then gradually spread throughout the territory of that empire and a little beyond until its descendants imposed it on the rest of the world. Unlike Alexander, it didn't penetrate India Asia or sub Saharan Africa and eventually fractured and was replaced in large portions of the world.

            If you want a religion that truly beat the odds look to Judaism. It never wanted to grow and despite the centuries of oppression and outright attempts to exterminate it with 20th century tech, it is going very strong.

          • Vuyo

            Hi Brian Green Adams.
            >>>...it spread like thousands of other cults did throughout the Mediterranean.
            Can you name 5 that spread like Christianity?

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            Off the top of my head, Isis, Mithra, Artemis, the Cathaginian religion, Zoroastrianism. I am not saying all of these achieved the same status as Christianity, but its initial spread is not unique, it's adoption by Rome was, which is why I think it had such an effect. Had Rome lost the Punic wars, we might very well be talking about their fire god.

            Moreover, what was spreading was a variety of forms of Christianity,

          • Andre Boillot

            OK, but if you go back to her point of the improbable spread of early Christianity, is not at least arguable that Christianity being true is the best explanation for that spread? Along with the beauty of the New Testament teaching itself, could that not be reasonably evaluated as better than the competing possibilities?

            The Mormon faith boasts a similarly impressive spread (founded in 1830s, now over 15m followers).

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

            I suppose one might hold that Christianity's early growth is more impressive due to the difference in how quickly information propagated - but one could easily counter by pointing out how quickly most people tend to dismiss the teachings of Mormonism as the work of a con-artist. So, does the spread of Mormonism give us any indication of it being true?

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          I worry about things that are perfectly internally consistent. GK Chesterton told me perfect consistency is a sign of insanity.

          That said, I think most of what she accepts can be more-or-less rational, even though it's probably wrong. It's true that Catholic philosophy and theology are terribly inconsistent or disconnected from reality or both. My personal philosophy is objectively not much better (although I don't claim that God revealed my philosophy to me; most of it I've made up as I've gone along and revised when needed).

          I think almost everyone's confused about the big questions. Those who aren't confused are probably closed minded. Jennifer's statement, the one you quoted "perfectly, internally consistent" does make me think that you may be right.

    • David Nickol

      This is one of the saddest stories I've read recently. Watching a mind close itself disturbs me profoundly.

      It seems to me that from an atheist point of view, any choice of religious or nonreligious "lifestyle" is just as good as any other. It has been argued here by atheists that life has no intrinsic or objective meaning, but has only the meaning a person chooses it give it. If a person chooses to believe in Catholicism and live the Catholic "lifestyle," why is that closing his or her mind? You might argue that from an atheist point of view, a person who chooses Catholicism is choosing something untrue. But from an atheist point of view, who is to say living according to the truth is the highest value? If life has only the meaning one gives it, then truth has only the value one gives it.

      It seem to be saying, "Why can't Jennifer be more like me? I have chosen the correct path, and she has chosen the wrong path." But from an atheist point of view, I don't see how it can be argued that being committed to what atheists hold to be true is any more to be valued than committing to what Catholics hold to be true.

      • josh

        Haven't we had this conversation before? I said it disturbs me, not some abstract objective highest value. Her mind is closed because it has become incapable of critically evaluating her beliefs. If you 'choose' your set of beliefs the very wording suggests that you are no longer open to changing them based on better evidence and argument.

        You are also making some implicit mistakes about atheism per se. I'm happy to discuss my own views, but 'from an atheist point of view', many atheists would see an intrinsic value in truth, or ethical behavior (which Catholicism isn't), etc. For those like myself who don't see any sense in talking of 'intrinsic' (absolute/objective) values, adding God into the equation doesn't change anything so linking the question with atheism is a red herring. Personally, I value truth, I value other people not laboring under delusions, I value certain ethical outcomes which depend on peoples beliefs. Why wouldn't I want Jennifer to change her mind? Can I compel her to do so? Not with certainty, but from her talk of 'evidence' and 'what makes sense' and so on I gather that she also values truth and reason, at least in the abstract.

        David, you come across as something of an agnostic. From that point of view, do you have any reason to choose one lifestyle over another?

        • David Nickol

          Personally, I value truth, I value other people not laboring under delusions, I value certain ethical outcomes which depend on peoples beliefs.

          But since you "don't see any sense in talking of 'intrinsic' (absolute/objective) values," you have no grounds on which to argue that valuing truth is in any way preferable to valuing pleasant untruth. It is as if Jennifer likes vanilla ice cream, you like chocolate ice cream, and it makes you sad that she doesn't prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla, like you. If truth has no intrinsic or objective value over falsehood, valuing falsehood is as legitimate a choice as valuing truth.

          • Andre Boillot

            David,

            "But since you "don't see any sense in talking of 'intrinsic' (absolute/objective) values," you have no grounds on which to argue that valuing truth is in any way preferable to valuing pleasant untruth."

            I think we run the risk of throwing out the baby here. Admitting that there might be no capital letters - 'Objective Truth' - from which we might judge any and everything against, doesn't to my mind, prevent one from making objective statements.

          • josh

            "...you have no grounds on which to argue that valuing truth is in any way preferable to valuing pleasant untruth."

            Did you read what I wrote? The 'grounds' ultimately come down to the idea that Jennifer and I do have some common values, that we both value truth among other things. It's as though she thinks that vanilla is the only flavor in the world and I am trying to persuade her to try something different, or at least to realize that vanilla may be a subjective favorite of hers but it is not the objective best flavor.

            Now if Jennifer were a rock, or hamster, I wouldn't try this tactic. It hinges on the idea that we have similar enough motives (and that we have motives at all) that she might consider and be persuaded by her own reason to another position, which I would find favorable. If she somehow places no value on truth, then obviously there is nothing to gain by arguing that truth is intrinsically valuable. Why would she care whether that statement is true or false? My position really is the only consistent one, which you may, in principle, not care about.

  • Sqrat

    I didn’t know where to turn, so I decided to do an experiment: something
    rang true about Augustine’s famous statement that you must believe so
    that you might understand, and so I began to live my life as if God did
    exist.

    To what extent would it be possible psychologically for Catholics to perform the same experiment in reverse -- to live their lives as if God did not exist? If they can, how, do you suppose, would they live their lives?

    • JohnC

      I think a not-insignificant minority already do. Then they convert to another group, be it atheist, non-religious but spiritual, or join some other religious group. These folks just don't get talked about very often.

      • josh

        I seem to recall a recent chart showing that, among American Hispanics, Catholicism is overall diminishing while more are becoming protestant or 'secular' among other things.

  • Peter Piper

    Jennifer is correct that there are a lot of different ways in which things can get proved, and that the type of proof which is appropriate can vary depending on the type of claim. But there is one consistent feature of proofs which she has not taken adequately into account: for X to count as a proof of a claim, it should be very unlikely that you will obtain X if the claim is false.

    Here the claim is that there is a God (and that the description of said God by the Catholic Church is broadly accurate). It isn't made entirely clear what X is supposed to be, but it seems to be something like the experience of the world coming to make more sense to Jennifer when she lived as if she were Catholic. However, it is not uncommon for people to feel that the world makes more sense after a change in their way of living, regardless of whether the change is to a style of living which is close to that prescribed by Catholicism.

    Thus is isn't too implausible that Jennifer could have had this experience even on the assumption that there is no God. I therefore object to the claim that this experience is some kind of `proof'. I'm worried that I might have misunderstood what the proof was supposed to be: does anyone have any other suggestions for what it might be which don't suffer from the problem outlined above?

  • Chip Fox

    I applaud you Jennifer, your experiment proved that the more you try to believe something the more you believe it.

    "The more I lived as if Harry Potter was real, the more magic made sense to me."

    "The more I lived as if being a pothead was the purpose of life, the more everything made sense to me."

    "The more I lived as if blacks were subhuman, the more racism made sense to me."

    • Steven Carr

      I don't understand.

      If Jennifer has found something she likes, what concern is that of yours?

      If it makes her happy, why not let her be a Catholic?

      Nobody is suggesting that anybody else should become Catholics.

      You have to find your own way in life, find out what is true for you, what gives your life meaning.

      If you find meaning in life by sitting in a church and singing hymns, then great.

      • Chip Fox

        It's not a good idea to believe something for the sole reason of it feeling good. I just gave examples as to why.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          "It's not a good idea to believe something for the sole reason of it feeling good."

          Which is precisely what Jennifer said in her original article:

          "The issue that arises over and over again when you talk about atheist-to-Christian conversions is one of proof. We atheists had seen plenty of people concoct nonsensical and internally inconsistent belief systems because they confused “what feels good” with “what is true.” It struck me as a very dangerous path to start assenting to beliefs that cannot be disentangled from the messy world of subjective experience.

          Deep down in my heart of hearts, I might feel that the sun revolves around the earth...but before I start announcing this as a truth about the way the universe works, I should go ahead and examine the evidence to see if it is actually true."

          • Chip Fox

            and she just redefined feeling as evidence... it's still feeling even if she wants to call it evidence.

          • Chip Fox

            Having a special or supernatural kind of evidence is still a feeling. No matter how much you want to redefine it.

      • TheLump

        Because, with this way of thinking, people can, will and have hurt other people because their beliefs tell them to. Also, Catholics DO suggest others become Catholic.
        It's a bit foolish in life to find out what is only "true for you". I want to know what actually is. What is fact. Where people have different "truths" they inevitably come into conflict with each other.

  • Steven Carr

    'The issue that arises over and over again when you talk about atheist-to-Christian conversions is one of proof.'

    In other words, Christians can't produce a single talking donkey even though their Old Book says there was one.

    'I understood why Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel,'

    What drove Michelangelo to homosexuality?

    Guess what? He might have painted his god as an old man in the sky, but if his god exists, he is going to burn his best artist in Hell....

    • Horatio

      "What drove Michelangelo to homosexuality?

      Guess what? He might have painted his god as an old man in the sky, but if his god exists, he is going to burn his best artist in Hell...."

      I don't believe the Church purports that anyone in particular is in Hell, or in Purgatory.

      • Steven Carr

        Good.

        Because even non-believers will get to Heaven, because your god is now allowing in homosexuals.

        Who actually is going to Hell? Hitler will be very lonely.....

        Perhaps he will be joined by a billion Muslims, all of whom deny that Jesus is their Saviour.

        • Horatio

          Again, as far as I have been told by Churchmen I hold in esteem, there is no individual (not Hitler, nor any homosexual, heterosexual, nor any Muslim, Jain, Zoroastrian or or Christian) who the Church can compel to be in Hell or Purgatory. They've only ever suggested that the option of Hell must exist for us to be truly free.

          • josh

            "They've only ever suggested that the option of Hell must exist for us to be truly free."

            This is very misleading. The teaching of the Church for thousands of years, and the alleged words of Jesus himself, make it very clear that Hell is to be a highly populated place, while entry to Heaven depends on extremely narrow and difficult criteria. Catholic doctrine has developed to say that humankind shouldn't be 'presumptious', that is, that they can't claim to be certain that a particular person will be in hell since God can freely do what he wants, and since every person deserves to be there if not for God's mercy. At the same time, Catholic doctrine holds that certain conditions guarantee one will go to hell: 'to die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love...' This leads to the rather contrived belief that in some nebulous moment of death people might inexplicably become Catholics and repent of Catholic sins, including homosexuality, thereby being saved. But regardless, the historical teaching is clearly that most people won't, even if a Catholic is not to claim with certainty that a specific person isn't.

          • Horatio

            I put forward what this ordained Catholic clergyman has to say about the issue:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmsa0sg4Od4

          • josh

            "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy,
            that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the
            gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who
            find it are few"

            How many Jesuses do you want me to put up against one moderate clergyman? Should I throw in some popes? I think it is to Fr. Barron's personal credit that he hopes everyone doesn't end up in hell. I think his source material says otherwise.

          • Horatio

            I simply wanted to make you aware of one facet of the variety of opinion on this issue among Catholics. Sure, there are plenty of hardliners you could point to: Augustine and Aquinas were monumental figures in Catholic tradition. But the source material you refer to clearly leaves room for Father Barron's interpretation, which I think is the more accepted one nowadays. Many find and enter the wide gate, but how many follow it to its terminus? That is the question that is asked.

          • Octavo

            This is the kind of doctrinal revision (although I'm sure that's not the correct term) that I can get behind. I think the idea that even non-believers and pagans get escape Hell is a good one that should be encouraged. The less cruel and absolutist doctrine is, the better it is for the rest of us, in my opinion.

            ~Jesse Webster

  • Linda

    Thanks, Jennifer, for such an interesting article. I was raised Catholic but recently have been making a more concerted effort to practice more intently and regularly its spiritual paths, in particular That of St Therese and her Little Way, and the effect is profound. And - based on some of the negative reaction I've seen below - difficult to convey. I, too, find evidence every day and "proof" but it's not the kind of proof my atheist friends would ever accept. But your comment about coincidence strikes a chord with me. I find a lot more coincidence in my life when I give it over to God than when I distance myself from Him. Did you find much difference in this phenomenon being an atheist versus a Catholic? Or is your perception of coincidence different now that you're Catholic or is it the same? Thanks again for the article!

  • Guest

    Wonderful article, thank you.

    The reaction elicited by online atheist groups is typical. That kind insistent atheism has very much to do with maintaining a particular self-concept: one that seeks association with the fruits of science which are the source of the modern world's power. Positioning themselves in that sphere lets them incorporate that power into their identify. Then, isolating it from a Majority provides a relative power, a kind of high tower from which they can now look down. Take away this distinction, and you take away the worldview in which the tower exists. The rationalist who is also a theist then becomes someone who not only "gets" science and reason, but also "gets" something else that the atheist does not.

    To use an analogy, I have heard scientifically literate, rational and analytical people (including good friends of mine), who when viewing a work of art may concede that they just don't "get" it. They then sometimes choose to argue that there's nothing to "get" at all. Sometimes, they go so far as to suggest that art in itself is without merit, or that it is a purely masturbatory exercise. It doesn't enhance our objective knowledge nor solve problems, after all. Obviously, those who do "get" the work, and cultivate an appreciation of art, see this for so much nonsense.

    • robtish

      Oh, wow, more ad hominem. Instead of psychoanalyzing the people you disagree with, how about dealing with their actual statements. Also, read this site's comment policy.

      • Horatio

        That was me, sorry. I realized that my post was general, tangential, too idiosyncratic and ad hominem, so I gutted that paragraph and didn't intend for it to ever see the light of day. I'm not sure how it ended up getting posted. Somehow Disqus didn't think I was logged in so I can't delete it...please feel free to strike it from the record! There's literally nothing I can do about it now but downvote my own self, which I do now with gusto.

        • robtish

          Hey Horatio. No harm done. Props for owning up to it! We've all been there.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Guest, I agree with robtish. Please refrain from generalizing an entire group of people--whether Catholics or atheists. Also, out commenting policy requires using your real name. So next time, please use a different Disqus account or sign your name at the bottom of each comment.

      Thanks!

  • Brett Salkeld

    “There is no such thing as a mere observer. There is no such thing as
    pure objectivity. One can even say that the higher an object stands in
    human terms, the more it penetrates the center of individuality; and the
    more it engages the beholder’s individuality, then the smaller the
    possibility of the mere distancing involved in pure objectivity. Thus,
    wherever an answer is presented as unemotionally objective, as a
    statement that finally goes beyond the prejudices of the pious and
    provides purely factual, scientific information, then it has to be said
    that the speaker has here fallen victim to self-deception. This kind of
    objectivity is quite simply denied to man. He cannot ask and exist as a
    mere observer. He who tries to be a mere observer experiences
    nothing. Even the reality “God” can only impinge on the vision of him
    who enters in the experiment with God – the experiment that we call
    faith. Only by entering does one experience; only by cooperating in the
    experiment does one ask at all; and only he who asks receives an
    answer.”

    Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 175-176.

  • Octavo

    It makes sense that stepping into a mythic narrative would convince a person of the validity of that framework. CS Lewis sometimes talks about how wearing the "mask" of Christ makes one more like Christ. We become who we practice being.

    ~Jesse Webster

  • Horatio

    Wonderful article.

    To use an analogy with visual arts, I have heard scientifically literate, rational and highly analytical people (including especially good friends of mine) who when viewing a painting may concede that they just don't "get" it. Well, fine. But they then sometimes go on to argue that there's really nothing to "get" at all. They may go so far as to suggest that art in itself is without merit, or that it is a purely masturbatory exercise: "It doesn't enhance our knowledge nor solve practical problems." Meanwhile, there are people who do appreciate art, and who are profoundly affected by certain works. Some even perceive Truth in a few great works. Just so with religion. Are these aficionados just irrational?

    If religion is it is all just based on creating good feelings, I invoke the analogy again: why is Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son such a profound artwork? Shouldn't we reject it immediately for its horrifying subject?

    If all religions are equal nonsense (e.g. the old Zeus = Christ argument), I invoke the analogy a third time: is there not a clear difference in quality between a work by F.E. Church and a work by Thomas Kinkade? They both paint landscapes, after all.

    • Andre Boillot

      Horatio,

      You seem to imply that the scientific, rational, and analytical among us are at a disadvantage where appreciating art is concerned.

      I can assure you, that doesn't apply to at least two of us (if I may be so bold as to associate myself with Feynman): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRmbwczTC6E

      • Horatio

        Andre,

        I don't mean to imply that! And I apologize if I did by accident. I just mean that I have *definitely* encountered those people (mostly engineers, for reasons I refuse to speculate on) and I think their line of argument is similar to some atheists (not all, of course).

        • Andre Boillot

          Horatio,

          Fair enough. I think whether or not somebody "gets" art isn't determined primarily by characteristics one (not saying you are) might like to stereotype atheists with (scientific, rational, etc.).

          For what it's worth, the first person I thought of that just doesn't "get" some art was my uber-conservative-Catholic grandmother. Bless her, she says the same thing about cell-phones. :)

          • David Nickol

            Sometimes the people who say they don't "get" an alleged work of art are much like the child who said the emperor had no clothes.

          • Horatio

            Perhaps, but in my experience, most of the time they're just acting like philistines.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sure, and in many ways I think my appreciation for art tends towards the more "traditional" or "classical" - ironically, in this case, like my grandmother's. However, even on the pieces that we both admire, I think we admire for very different reasons.

            All of which was to say, that I didn't think the qualities Horatio outlined where significant factors when it came to appreciating things like art.

          • Horatio

            " I didn't think the qualities Horatio outlined where significant factors when it came to appreciating things like art."

            Again, I emphasize that I didn't mean to suggest that being a rationalist puts you at a disadvantage for appreciating art, only that one can be a genius in one aspect and an ignoramus in the other: an analogy which I think is apropos to the relationship between religion and empiricism, and why I think atheists are wrong to invoke "Science!" in an attempt to deconstruct religion in general.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sorry if it seemed like I was belaboring the point, I was just trying to make m'self clear to Mr. Nickol.

            "why I think atheists are wrong to invoke "Science!" in an attempt to deconstruct religion in general."

            I mean, I would say that they are certainly right to invoke science where religion seems to be specifically in conflict with it...you know, never mind :)

          • Horatio

            Sorry Andre,

            I changed the wording of my comment to make it less granular (I changed "Science" to "Reason").

            I totally agree! I think its a noble thing for a scientist to stand up to claims about nature that are demonstrably false that from religious (or non-religious) people.

          • Horatio

            "I think whether or not somebody "gets" art isn't determined primarily by characteristics one...might like to stereotype atheists with (scientific, rational, etc.)."

            Indeed, far from it! They might as well assort independently. My point is that they are quite different aspects of perceiving and interpreting reality, and even people who are quite high functioning in one aspect may be desolately ignorant about the experience of the other. I am reminded of the disdain Wordsworth expressed for "dissection," and how annoying it is to me.

            How I wish Steven J. Gould (a popular science writer as well, but no friend of Dawkins) were still alive. He had useful things to say about the relationship between religion and science in this respect, re: his concept of NOMA.

      • Horatio

        Andre, thank you for sharing this video. Great words from that great soul.

    • Andre Boillot

      "If religion is it is all just based on creating good feelings"

      I don't know too many people that would assert this. Certainly, one of the issues that atheist often take exception to, is the notion of eternal damnation which some religions teach - which I think you'll agree is hardly "all just based on creating good feelings".

      • Horatio

        You may be right, but there are those people who claim that religion --on the whole-- is just a comforting delusion, which to me is analogous to saying art is just pretty pictures. I think the fact you point out is a legitimate counterpoint to the assertion.

  • Steven Carr

    'There’s a huge movement that’s sweeping Austin right now called Explore God. If you live in central Texas, you know what I’m talking about. '

    One of the questions in the 'Explore God' website is 'Why does God allow pain and suffering?'

    It is a good question.

    Why did this hypothetical god literally demand that people give him piles of gold?

    1 Samuel 6
    4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?”

    They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers.

    'Tumors' is an interesting English euphemism for the plague that this hypothetical god had given the Philistines.

    In the Hebrew, this hypothetical god had given them piles, and was now demanding piles of gold as a guilt offering.

    And Christians wonder why atheists don't believe the Bible

    • Randy Gritter

      You need to understand the story the bible is trying to tell. It is the story of salvation. It is not primarily the story of the Philistines but that of the Jews. You need to look at the Israelite priests and compare them with the Philistine priests and diviners. Even though the Philistines are a heathen people they obey God and are willing to make sacrifices for sin. They have the honor of giving God gold. That honor should belong to Israel but their priests behaved disgracefully.

      • Steven Carr

        NO wonder your god demanded that these priests give him (literally) piles of gold.

        What does your god want with gold anyway?

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    I, like others have noted, can also easily accept that belief or faith may come through practice. I can accept that if you act as if something is true you will eventually begin to believe it, especially if the goal is something like faith and the incentive is eternal life. Though I often do my utmost to genuinely as possible ask the universe if a God exists, and get no answer, I am not willing to give up condoms, ask my girlfriend to move out, stop having sex with me, and to pretend that a cracker is the body of a god. Not unless someone can explain to me how this narrative is at all plausible or necessary.

    Brandon suggets that Ms Fulwiler did not give Islam or Bhuddism the same benefit of the doubt as Christianity because she has intellectual issues with these religions. I have intellectual and moral issues with Christianity, such as the advent of Hell, substitutional atonement, and sexism. These are too much to go into here, and no doubt, the contributers and commenters will have apologetics. Well so do Muslims. They also have a much better documented history and require far fewer leaps of faith to believe, were these apologetics given the same benefit of the doubt as the apologetics that suggest there is no eternal conscious torture for the unsaved, despite clear bible passages to the opposite? I also wonder what intellectual objections could be raised against Jainism and many forms of Bhuddism.

    Finally, I think we all need to be careful of looking for little signs and coincidences as evidence of unseen supernatural forces. This really suggests confirmation bias. God can easily just appear and prove his existence, like he did to the apostles, disciples, Joan of Arc, many saints etc. if he really exists and cares if we believe in him.

    • Randy Gritter

      The business of stopping sexual activity can be a huge bias. We tend to underestimate how much our hormones and our emotions effect our ability to reason. If you know that arriving at a certain conclusion will disrupt your sex life in a way you don't want to contemplate then you will tend not to arrive at that conclusion. So re-ordering your life first and then reflecting on whether or not it is all true has big advantages.

      • Steven Carr

        If your sex life will be disrupted, don't worry.

        There is always a chance that the hypothetical Christian god will arrange a public orgy for you to take part in.

        2 Samuel 12
        11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

        I find that many believers seem to think the only reason people don't believe is that their religion has been kept a great secret until now.

        We've actually read about Catholicism. We've read the Bible.

        We know what's in it.

        The reason people don't believe is because they've learned what they are expected to buy.

        And they are not buying it.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        It is not a bias it is a direct reason not to act like a Catholic.

  • Paul Boillot

    I began to consider that many of the pioneers of science believed in God—Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle, and Mendel, to name just a few. Almost all the great Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity believed that supernatural forces were at work in the world.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1te01rfEF0g

    In fact, among people considered to be the greatest minds of history, only a small percentage were atheists.

    Apart from being a blatant appeal to numbers and authority, a large percentage of those weren't Catholic, a larger percentage weren't Christian, a larger still percentage weren't Monotheists and a great many of the greatest thinkers have been cautious in the extreme about hedging their possible beliefs. If we're going to play the numbers-game, color me underwhelmed.

  • Steven Carr

    'I thought it was interesting that Christianity spread like wildfire through the ancient world, despite the fact that becoming a Christian often meant persecution or even death.'

    Except, of course, in Jerusalem, where these things were supposed to have happened.

    Even the New Testament claims that Christianity only took off once there was no Jesus for people to see and be totally unconvinced by.

    Mind you, Jesus spent three years preaching, feeding thousands of people, raising people from the dead, walking on water, and still his very own disciples left him (John 6:66)

    In Acts, Peter makes one speech and three thousand people convert in one day.

    Did it never occur to Peter not once to say to Jesus , 'Boss, let me handle the talking. I'm better at it than you are'?

    • felixcox

      Exactly right. And the silence of the christians on this point is particularly damning (pun intended). Believers rationalize their belief in the supernatural tales of the NT with stock phrases like, but Christianity spread so rapidly! while a close scrutiny of history shows nothing extraordinary. Believers also cling to any and every unique aspect of the Jesus story, as uniqueness equates extraordinary evidence of supernatural events. It doesn't- all religions are unique, just in different ways.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    People should check out Matt Dilahunty's YouTube. One of the worlds most prominent atheists is taking part and posting his musings.

  • Vasco Gama

    Just as Jennifer I experienced also an atheist-to-Christian conversion, but my
    experience was somehow distinct. In spite of a traditional Catholic education
    in a religious family, I departed from religion during puberty and became a
    convicted atheist. However distinctively from most of my fellow atheists I
    never shared their contempt in relation to religion or the religious believers
    (and could never consider religious a superstition or the believers as deluded
    persons in need of any kind of enlightenment).

    As my conversion process is relatively recent (initiated 2 or 3 years ago) I am
    not entirely aware what motivated it, but in general I may say that I sensed a
    “need of God”, it is difficult to describe well the situation, but as far as I
    can say I experienced this need of God, which in my case seems to make sense as a young boy I was once a believer. If I can recognize that somewhere in my life
    I missed God, I acknowledge that it was the product of disturbances in my
    personal life (not really relevant to others) that lead me to question a
    variety of beliefs that had held my atheistic world view.

    As a result I must say that the belief in God made me experience a strong sense
    of coherence in reality, which I clearly had not before (I guess that I share
    this with Jennifer and many other believers).

    Often I hear atheists demanding for the proof for the existence of God, which
    is reasonable, but in spite of the efforts of a large number of
    apologists I guess this proof doesn’t exist (and the weird thing is that
    believers “know” that God exist as they sense God and for them God, as
    experienced, is very real). However this “proof” required by atheists (as an a
    priori proof for the existence of God), to the best of my knowledge, can’t be
    produced as in my view that it would contradict our free will. God is
    accessible to all humans (that so will, given that we possess the capability to
    love, reason and free will). If an a priori proof of God´s existence was
    possible, reason alone would force us to believe in Him, which would be
    inconsistent with our free will. In this sense our belief in God is in the
    first place the result of our love (for God) and believers are by their free
    will worshipers of God).

    Believing in God is an act of love (and will and reason), not believing in God is also an act of will and reason (in fact God doesn’t impose on us but asks for our love).

    • Steven Carr

      So your god would never issue commandments saying 'Love god of your own free will' , and claim this is the most important commandment?

      • Vasco Gama

        why not?

        For me the love of God is the most basic and fundamental teaching (or commandment)

        or did I miss your point?

        • Steven Carr

          You might like to consider if the word 'teaching' is the same as the word 'commandment'.

          In fact, I command you to do that of your own free will.

          Why do you love somebody your Holy Book says kills children?

          • Vasco Gama

            Please do not get lost in semantics.

            Once one believes in God (which is an act of our will, as you may well choose not to believe in Him, there are a lot of people who choose not to believe) it is irrelevant whether you call it a commandment, a teaching, a desire, a suggestion, or whatever...

    • Sqrat

      However this “proof” required by atheists (as an a priori proof for the existence of God), to the best of my knowledge, can’t be produced as in my view that it would contradict our free will. God is accessible to all humans (that so will, given that we possess the capability to love, reason and free will). If an a priori proof of God´s existence was possible, reason alone would force us to believe in Him, which would be inconsistent with our free will. In this sense our belief in God is in the first place the result of our love (for God) and believers are by their free will worshipers of God). Believing in God is an act of love (and will and reason), not believing in God is also an act of will and reason (in fact God doesn’t impose on us but asks for our love).

      Look, I don't mean to be rude, but that doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. I'm not asking for an a priori proof of the existence of God. What I am asking for is a reasonable amount of a posteriori evidence.

      You believe in the existence of Pope Francis, right? You believe it because you think you have reasonable evidence of his existence. He's appeared on television, after all, and presumably you have no reason to believe that the footage was doctored and that you are the victim of a conspiracy to make you believe that Francis is now the pope, even though Benedict is secretly really still the pope. Can you explain to me how Francis' appearance in television in full papal vestments after a globally-publicized papal conclave was a violation of your free will?

      You don't believe in (the existence of) Pope Francis by an act of love, or an act of will, or even, beyond a certain point, by an act of reason. You believe it because Francis' existence presents itself to you as a simple fact. Why should belief in the existence of God be any different?

      The vast majority of people who have ever lived on planet earth have not believed in (the existence of) the Christian God. For many of them such a thing would not even be possible. On the day that Jesus died, what percentage of the people of the world were Christians? For what percentage of them was Christianity even a possibility? On that day, the people in the far-off north of Scotland could not have believed in the Christian God by an act of love, or will, or reason. Neither could the people of India, or India, or China, or Australia, or North and South America.

      Belief in the existence of the Christian God has never been the result of acts of love or acts of will. Instead, it has been in large part the result of a ceaseless drumfire of propaganda on the part of Christian institutions (including the family) as well as of individual Christians. This web site is a small part of that drumfire.

      • Vasco Gama

        The point you raised is very good.

        Yes, we both know that Pope Francis exits. As you said we know that because we have an excellent amount of evidence for that fact.

        But would it be reasonable to admit a God (with the characteristics of the God defined by Christians, which is a God of love) would be known to exist just as we recognize that Pope Francis exists? I guess not, this "God" would be a tyrant and could not inspire love on humans, most probably it would inspire repulsion. About
        God, one may say that we do know exactly what it is like (as we humans are infinitely limited to know Him as He really is), but we know very well what it is not like.

        We only know God by love (that is something that really can't be demanded, but has to be freely given), much in the same way (although in different level) as we know that someone else loves us.

        • Vasco Gama

          sorry, one litle mistake:

          About God, one may say that we do not know exactly what it is like (as we humans are infinitely limited to know Him as He really is), but we know very well what it is not like

        • Sqrat

          "But would it be reasonable to admit a God (with the characteristics of the God defined by Christians, which is a God of love) would be known to exist just as we recognize that Pope Francis exists? I guess not, this "God" would be a tyrant and could not inspire love on humans, most probably it would inspire repulsion"

          Again, this makes not the slightest bit of sense. Is Pope Francis, because he has allowed you to be provided with sufficient evidence of his existence, a tyrant? Does he, for that reason, inspire repulsion in you? Would he only be worthy of your love if he had refused to provide you, me, the entire world, with compelling evidence that he, you know, actually exists?

          • Vasco Gama

            Here
            you are making little sense.

            Pope Francis (or you, or
            anybody else that I recognize to exist) has no power to be a tyrant to me. But
            God as such (as the ultimate creator and sustainer of all that happen to exist)
            is in a completely different level (and would have the power if it was the case
            that such a God would be possible to exist).

          • Vasco Gama

            Sorry, I forgot to respond to your question:

            " Would he only be worthy of your love if he had refused to provide you, me, the entire world, with compelling evidence that he, you know, actually exists?"

            God didn't refuse to provide compeling evidence, Christian believe that God reveals to us in the reality of our existence (in spite it is not a compeling way, then it is accessible to us through love and not by reason alone). Christians also believe that He revealed Himself through Jesus and a series of extraorinary (unnatural) events called miracles.

            I have to say that it appears that God's existence, for some reason I don't fully understand, seems to reveal Himself more clearly to some people and not so clearly to others (this is a mistery I can't explain).

          • Sqrat

            Pope Francis (or you, or anybody else that I recognize to exist) has no power to be a tyrant to me. But God as such (as the ultimate creator and sustainer of all that happen to exist) is in a completely different level (and would have the power if it was the case that such a God would be possible to exist).

            I find this more than a little puzzling. You seem to be saying that an actual human tyrant, one who clearly exists, could have no power to be a tyrant to you. Yet God, because he is somehow different (in some way that you have yet to articulate), would be a tyrant simply by manifesting his existence in a way that would be obvious. Is that a correct summary?

            God didn't refuse to provide compeling evidence, Christian believe that God reveals to us in the reality of our existence.... I have to say that it appears that God's existence, for some reason I don't fully understand, seems to reveal Himself more clearly to some people and not so clearly to others (this is a mistery I can't explain).

            Wouldn't it follow from your previous line of argument that it's simply the case that some people have chosen to believe, through an act of will, that the Christian God has revealed himself? If so, then it seems to me that it would also be the case that, in order to believe it, you first have to want to believe it. But that option would not be (or would not have been) open to anyone who had never heard about the Christian God. For example, almost no one in the world in, say, the year 35, would have or could have, wanted to believe that the Christian God had revealed his existence, because they had never heard of such a god. Most of them had their own gods (and doubtless many of them were quite sure that those gods had revealed their existence).

          • Vasco Gama

            I see you have difficulties in understand me (in spite of what I said was clear, however this can be due to fact that English is not my native language), and I will try to reformulate somehow my reasoning and answer your questions.

            « You seem to be saying that an actual human tyrant, one who clearly exists, could have no power to be a tyrant to you.»

            You got it right, in fact there is no human being that has the power to be a tyrant to me (i.e. to make me do things contrary to my will).

            «Yet God, because he is somehow different (in some way that you have yet to articulate), would be a tyrant simply by manifesting his existence in a way that would be obvious.»

            Here, when one mentions God one must consider the characteristics of the Catholic conception of God. But if you are not really familiar with that conception, in order to pursue our dialogue you can imagine the deist conception of God, the one who created and sustains everything in existence, plus imagine that it is a loving God, one who loves mankind, as made the world in a way that humans are fulfilled, in communion with Him through the love of God. Further consider that humans have three basic characteristics: capability to love (one another and God), they are rational creatures and they possess free will. When Catholics say that we were made on is image, we are in fact referring to these basic attributes (capability to love, reason and free will).

            If the existence of God was obvious (in a way it could not be denied, most in the same way as we acknowledge the existence of gravity), free will would mean nothing, reason would force humans to do good and really there would be no evil, and we would servants, there would be no choices to choose from. This is absurd, even if we admit that we can’t say much about God, we know very well that we are able to make choices (in fact, in this case we could limit this capability to choose in the choice between the believe on the existence of God or the disbelieve).

            This God that couldn’t be denied, besides being preposterous, is obviously a monstrosity and a tyrant. It clearly makes no sense.

            In fact a loving God would require that the act of believing in Him would be an act of pure free will, in fact, our only relevant gift to God, is our love (i.e. our faith).

            «Wouldn't it follow from your previous line of argument that it's simply the case that some people have chosen to believe, through an act of will, that the Christian God has revealed himself? If so, then it seems to me that it would also be the case that, in order to believe it, you first have to want to believe it.»

            I couldn’t agree more.

            But that option would not be (or would not have been) open to anyone who had never heard about the Christian God. For
            example, almost no one in the world in, say, the year 35, would have or could have, wanted to believe that the Christian God had revealed his existence, because they had never heard of such a god. Most of them had their own gods (and doubtless many of them were quite sure that those gods had revealed their existence).»

            I agree with you, there are people who did have access to the revelation. (however in the Catholic perspective those who didn’t have access to the revelation possess God in their souls, through consciousness).

          • Sqrat

            Your English, while not perfectly idiomatic, is more than adequate to convey your meaning. My difficulty in understanding you, such as it is, is of the "Can he really be saying what I think he's saying, because it doesn't seem to make sense?" variety.

            You write,

            This God that couldn’t be denied, besides being preposterous, is obviously a monstrosity and a tyrant.... In fact a loving God would require that the act of believing in Him would be an act of pure free will, in fact, our only relevant gift to God, is our love (i.e. our faith).

            How does one make sense of that claim in the context of the myth of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? In the myth, God's existence couldn't be denied by Adam and Eve, because he made his existence manifest. He talked to them, and even apparently appeared before them. Given your claim, the God portrayed in the Eden myth was both "preposterous" and a tyrant -- a tyrant because he interfered with the "pure free will" of Adam and Eve.

            I'm curious as to whether your position is a personal idiosyncrasy, or whether it is what is actually generally taught by the Catholic Church There's supposed to be an article on Strange Notions that might shed some light on that question ("If God is Real, Why Won’t He Show Himself?"). Unfortunately, the link takes the user to the wrong article.

          • Vasco Gama

            The Catholic Church clearly opposes to fideism, which is the attempt of a literal interpretation of what is written in the bible. And in this sense I will not address your reference to Adam and Eve.

            Besides it makes no sense to discuss particular aspects of the scriptures or of religious faith in general as my only point is to show that the a priori proof for the existence of God is an absurd if we take into account a God as defined by the Catholic Church. And that was the only thing I tried to argue and to explain to you (a God that could be a priori proof is not acceptable by reason).

            But I understand that you may be somewhat puzzled by my explanation, it seems that the concept of God you have is different and quite irrational (or maybe you expect that the believers should have an irrational conception of God?).

            But I can mention the case of Saint Paul to whom God spoke when is going to Damascus. Apparently Paul was an orthodox Jew going to Damascus in persecution of some other Jews (followers of Christ). Paul was a cultivated person, he was well aware that people had visions, delusions, saw ghosts, lights, or whatever… , instead he heard the voice and took it seriously, was that the only choice he had? I think not, he could make no case of that (and convince himself that whatever he heard was not important, or that it was an illusion he should make no case of), and resume the comfortable life he had. Instead he chose to take this voice seriously and brought discomfort to his life.

            This was not exceptional for Saint Paul, other believers also heard voices talking to them, others had visions, to others God appeared in their dreams, or perceived other signals. However for most of Catholics didn’t need such extraordinary events to have faith. In any case, for someone who is a convicted atheist he wouldn’t be easily fooled, he knows that we trick ourselves that we can see things, or hear things, or have strange dreams, and in the end it would have to come from our free will.

            This is not a personal idiosyncrasy, It just happens to be related to what Jennifer wrote (On Proving God).

            In any case in these blog there a few good articles covering the issue. It is treated in detail in this blog: on top we can find a brown bar, click on “God”, then on “existence of God”, there you will find various excellent articles to read about this subject.

            It was nice talking to you.

          • Sqrat

            The Catholic Church clearly opposes to fideism, which is the attempt of a literal interpretation of what is written in the bible. And in this sense I will not address your reference to Adam and Eve.

            Who are you trying to fool? Yes, the Catholic Church certainly holds that the story of Adam and Eve contains
            figurative language. The Church has to. If the entire story were taken literally, it would shatter some of the most basic claims and assumptions of both Catholicism and Christianity in general. Nevertheless, the Church holds that (at least) the following four elements of the story are literally true:

            1. Adam and Eve were real people; they actually existed.

            2. They received, directly from God, a particular divine prohibition.

            3. They disobeyed God and did what God had prohibited them from doing. This disobedience, the sin of Adam, was the Original Sin.

            4. God punished them for their disobedience by depriving them of physical immortality.

            In my opinion, your refusal to address my point about Adam and Eve is not at all because the Church takes nothing in the Adam and Eve story literally, which you certainly tried to imply. It is because you realize that your central claim -- that if God were to make his presence known to someone, he would be acting as a "tyrant" and would be inhibiting the free will of that person -- is absolutely at odds with those parts of the Adam and Eve story that the Church does take literally. The doctrine of the Church only makes sense based on the understanding that Adam and Eve knew that they had received a prohibition from God, and that God was neither inhibiting their free will nor acting as a tyrant by making his existence known to them for the purpose of issuing that prohibition.

            In short, I believe that you are deliberately misrepresenting the position of the Catholic Church about Adam and Eve in order to avoid having to deal with the fact that your core argument is in direct conflict with that position.

            Incidentally, "fideism" is NOT "the attempt of a literal interpretation of what is written in the Bible." The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it thus: "A philosophical term meaning a system of philosophy or an attitude of mind, which, denying the power of unaided human reason to reach certitude, affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith, and the supreme criterion of certitude is authority."

          • Vasco Gama

            One of the things that makes the dialogue between believers and atheists (or non-believers in general) is so hard is often due to the existence of conceptual discrepancies, which is the case in this debate.

            Here we are debating the concept of God, which is not an easy task.

            I tried unsuccessfully to establish the Catholic concept of God, as to be One that doesn’t impose Himself on humans, but requires faith (which as I explained before is the love of God). This conception requires that it is reasonable to believe both that God exists (as the believers do) or to disbelieve (as the atheists do). As God doesn’t impose Himself on us humans, even the believers have to deal with challenges to their faith, and in a sense are compelled to strengthen their faith (or lose it), through prayer, going to church and trying to be close to God (which is not a simple task considering that God doesn’t appear before us, when we doubt).

            I see you fail to understand this concept, maybe it seems mysterious to you, however (believe it if you want) it is the
            only one that makes sense to me.

            As I wrote in my original message I was an atheist not so long ago, and I understand that the concept of God or of the Church that atheists usually possesses (not saying that you share my prior conceptions) are quite peculiar may seem quite peculiar for someone that doesn’t believe. In this sense I have to appeal to reason, and keep quite simple in order to avoid misunderstandings, but it is hard. The best way I can explain is that you seem to expect that the believers are irrational and that the teachings of the church are irrational, and something that contradicts your view must be the result of magic witchcraft, or some evil intention (not the case I assure you). I take my believes seriously as I expect other people (in this case you) to take them seriously, in a sense our believes are the fabric of our existence and even if sometimes they are occasionally challenged we have the obligation (to ourselves) of defend them as best as we can within reason.

            You are right about fideism not being exactly what I stated (in fact fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains
            that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths, that is severely criticised by the Catholic Church, not sure if it considered as an heresy). In any case the literal interpretation of the scriptures is considered
            a grave error. I can insert here a quotation from a post-synodal exortation of Benedict XVI (VERBUM DOMINI)

            "In applying methods of historical analysis, no criteria should be adopted which would rule out in advance God’s
            self-disclosure in human history. The unity of the two levels at work in the interpretation of sacred Scripture presupposes, in a word, the harmony of faith and reason. On the one hand, it calls for a faith which, by maintaining a
            proper relationship with right reason, never degenerates into fideism, which in the case of Scripture would end up in fundamentalism."

            When you state that the «Church holds that (at least) the following four elements of the story are literally true: 1. Adam and Eve were real people; they actually existed»

            I guess that such believe is just not true (and you are mistaken)

            Or when you say that I am «deliberately misrepresenting the position of the Catholic Church», you are also
            mistaken (at least I tried to be faithful to the teaching of the Church).

            But don’t take my word for granted, you can easily check this things directly from the documents of the Catholic Church (try the catechism or other documents in the site of the Catholic Church: http://www.vatican.va)

          • Andre Boillot

            Vasco,

            "As God doesn’t impose Himself on us humans, even the believers have to deal with challenges to their faith, and in a sense are compelled to strengthen their faith (or lose it), through prayer, going to church and trying to be close to God (which is not a simple task considering that God doesn't appear before us, when we doubt).

            I see you fail to understand this concept, maybe it seems mysterious to you, however (believe it if you want) it is the
            only one that makes sense to me."

            I think the problem for many non-believers, with respect to the idea that god refusing to impose himself by revealing himself, is that even if you cast aside the literal Adam & Eve, there are scores of other examples in the Bible and Catholic tradition where an aspect of god, or the Virgin Mary, or one of the saints have revealed themselves. It seems strange, therefore, to be told that god doesn't wish to interfere with somebody's free will by revealing himself. It apparently used to happen quite frequently until a couple thousand years ago, less and less ever since.

          • Vasco Gama

            I guess that that may be somehow puzzling. I must note however that one can fail to attribute any significance to those extraordinary events (at the time and latter, as those events were able to convince some but not others, surely not everyone, in a way that either it was accepted or denied was accepted or denied according to reason), and you may very well chose to state them as absurd according to your will.

            In the past, just as now, we have heard about the occurrence of extraordinary events, strange visions, strange voices, funny blinking lights, screams, dreams (and now, just as two thousand years ago we knew that we could bear witness to absurdities, we knew that we subject to deception, nothing new here, we did not evolve to became a particularly prescient species, we are about the same). Then how do we deal with the occurrence of such an event. For sure if it is something that we consider absurd we will not even spend much time dismissing it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Vasco,

            "In the past, just as now, we have heard about the occurrence of extraordinary events, strange visions, strange voices, funny blinking lights, screams, dreams"

            I think you're perhaps missing my point - or perhaps drastically downplaying certain aspects of Biblical and Catholic tradition. Again, many non-believers find it strange that figures such as Abraham, Moses, the Virgin Mary, etc. are apparently not at risk of having their free-will tampered with, even though god has definitively revealed himself to them.

            "Then how do we deal with the occurrence of such an event. For sure if it is something that we consider absurd we will not even spend much time dismissing it."

            I guess that would depend on what you thought the consequences of not dismissing the absurdity were.

          • Vasco Gama

            You can't forget that you are referring to very particular people who were faithful believers. In this sense that not too
            much harm (or any) was done to their free will, I guess.

          • Andre Boillot

            Oh, I'm not forgetting. That's my whole point: the sort of direct revelation that won't do "much harm" to the free will of the privileged few is denied the masses...because it would harm they're free will...because...they're not faithful enough...because...well, as you can see, it's quite complicated business.

          • Vasco Gama

            It really is not as complicated as it seems. Faith is an expression for our love for God, and in some sense is an abdication of our free will. As you rightly say it is the privilege of a few, however it is not denied to the masses, it is available to anyone who so will. But only to those who will.

          • Andre Boillot

            "It really is not as complicated as it seems."

            Yeah, I know, 'none so blind...' and all that.

            "As you rightly say it is the privilege of a few, however it is not denied to the masses, it is available to anyone who so will. But only to those who will."

            This claim is very much in doubt, as testified by the countless former and current faithful who desperately search and without result. Your last sentence comes off as blaming the individual for not trying hard enough.

          • Vasco Gama

            "as testified by the countless former and current faithful who desperately search and without result" that is only your impression. It is more like those who don't seach can't find.

          • robtish

            I call "No True Scotsman" on that one.

          • Andre Boillot

            Oh good, I can now dispense with qualifying your statements as only *seeming* to blame the victim. I think this concludes our conversations.

          • Vasco Gama

            I do not blame anyone, and don't see victims nowhere in sight (as if everything was determined and there was no way to choose).

          • Sqrat

            When you state that the «Church holds that (at least) the following four elements of the story are literally true: 1. Adam and Eve were real people; they actually existed»

            I guess that such believe is just not true (and you are mistaken)

            Or when you say that I am «deliberately misrepresenting the position of the Catholic Church», you are also
            mistaken (at least I tried to be faithful to the teaching of the Church).

            But don’t take my word for granted, you can easily check this things directly from the documents of the Catholic Church (try the catechism or other documents in the site of the Catholic Church: http://www.vatican.va)

            Very well. On the site you suggested I consult, we find: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html, in which it is stated:

            When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

            And in the Catholic Catechism we find:

            How to read the account of the Fall

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human
            history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            In other words, the Fall of Man was the result of an actual deed committed by actual people, "our first parents."

          • Vasco Gama

            Thank you for the information, I was mistaken.

            Yes, Adam was well aware of the existence of God. But even then he chose to challenge God.

          • Sqrat

            Yes, Adam was well aware of the existence of God. But even then he chose to challenge God.

            That is true. In the Genesis myth, that is because the serpent persuaded Adam and Eve that God had lied to them about the consequence of eating the forbidden fruit -- as indeed, as far as we can tell from the myth itself, he had. That would be a part of the myth that the Church would not want taken literally (or even figuratively).

          • Andre Boillot

            Adam's defiance of god in the face of certain knowledge would seem to throw water on the idea that too much evidence of god interferes with free will.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not so sure about that interpretation of things, in fact for one reason or another Adam was in paradise and was not supposed to disobey God, anyway he choose to disobey (it seemed reasonably even knowing God and that he should
            obey Him).

            I guess that his offspring (us) don't possess the grace of being sure about God's existence, and quite on the contrary, it seems that it is quite easy to doubt (without any interference of God in our free will).

          • Andre Boillot

            Vasco,

            "I guess that his offspring (us) don't possess the grace of being sure about God's existence, and quite on the contrary, it seems that it is quite easy to doubt"

            Couldn't have said it better myself, though I'm struggling to understand how you're not picking up on the implications of what you're saying. To me, it seems quite unfair that - as a result of Adam's disobedience to a god he knew with certainty existed - we should not only be denied such a certainty, but also be made more prone to err.

          • Vasco Gama

            At first sight I would agree with you, that is a mistery to me. The only way I can understand it, is that whatever makes us humans makes us prone to share the same error (as if it is a necessary requirement for us to be humans). I will have to look into it.

    • felixcox

      So you reason that your god cant be deduced by reason. I dare say you are right! But please understand that you are just projecting on to this god all the good things you imagine. If you are a christian who believes the bible shows us gods intentions, then you have a much much more complicated picture. even Jesus says that those who don't believe in him will suffer for eternity. I don't call that love!

      • Vasco Gama

        What I said was that “the existence of God can’t be proven a priori”, in this case I can’t produce a proof to you, the world, or reality, by itself seems as rational (ordered and intelligible) for a believer such as for non-believer. In fact God can be proven a posteriori (from experience). But if you are interested, the subject of “the proof of God’s existence” is treated in detail in this blog: on top we can find a brown bar, click on “God”, then on “existence of God”, there you will find various excellent articles to read about this subject.

        It is beside the point to engage a discussion with you about any particular content of the scriptures. The point of my message was simply to address the rationality (or better the lack of rationality) of providing an “a priori proof for God”.

        I am not trying to convert anyone that is well above my capabilities.

  • MattyTheD

    Jennifer, that's a stellar piece! Loved it. Very insightful.

  • Juan

    Awesome. I feel I could write exactly the same words, I feel exactly the same way. There's no physical evidence of God, because man can't reach God by his own mind, neither can he have such an easy and permanent attachment to God. Instead, genuine Faith is something you must take care of, different than evidence, which is something 100% garanteed and permanent. Salvation is a battle, a struggle, a proccess, it's not like: "Oh, I have the evidence, the job's done." That would contradict the whole greatness and beauty that is the genuine Faith.

  • Pamela Wilson

    My boyfriend used to be a non believer. He would make fun of me for my Christianity, and sometimes would be hurtful and snide with his remarks towards me. One night I don't remember what started the conversation/argument, but he got angry and stomped out of our apartment. It was a hot clear summer night, He got to the car and he said that he looked up to the sky and said angrily "Alright damned you, If you exist. PROVE IT!" Next thing I know he, my boyfriend is coming back into the apartment soaking wet with a stunned look on his face, and he told me what he had said, then he said lightening struck not more that 5 feet from him and it started raining so hard that he was soaked before he could open the car door. Funny thing is I never heard a thing, no thunder, or the lightening striking the parking lot right outside our apartment. I never even heard the rain, but the next morning my boyfriend was showing me in the parking lot where the lightening struck and there was a big crack and hole in the pavement. He became a believer after that, and went on to be saved! PRAISE GOD!

    • Steven Carr

      So Zeus exists after all!

      • Randy Gritter

        Sounds more like Thor! Seriously, these stories are data but they don't prove a lot about God. So what? If the essential question is whether anything supernatural exists then this story leans towards the Yes side. You still have the real work of sorting through all the claims and counter-claims about God and figuring out which makes the most sense. If you were afraid you would not longer use your reason, don't be. You will need it.

    • Dan Morgan

      I would say your boyfriend has got big things in Christianity ahead of him. If you are both growing closer to God, you can not help but to get closer to each other. As for physical proof, look around you. Looks like the creation story was right. Oh the timing was recorded wrong? Yea, lets focus on that rather than there being a creation, therefore, logically, and scientifically, there is a creator!!