The Reason for God

Reason for God wrote:

In the first half of this volume
we will review the seven biggest objections and doubts
about Christianity I’ve heard from people over the years. I will
respectfully discern the alternate beliefs beneath each of them.
Then in the second half of the book we will examine the reasons
underlying Christian beliefs.

This scares me quite a bit (as it seems... arrogant? Supposition?), but I'll be interested to see others' take on it when it comes along in discussion.

Jolly Bill wrote:
Reason for God wrote:

In the first half of this volume
we will review the seven biggest objections and doubts
about Christianity I’ve heard from people over the years. I will
respectfully discern the alternate beliefs beneath each of them.
Then in the second half of the book we will examine the reasons
underlying Christian beliefs.

This scares me quite a bit (as it seems... arrogant? Supposition?), but I'll be interested to see others' take on it when it comes along in discussion.

Or it sets him up to knock down straw men and softballs, his reader reassured that he is making "the best case" for each alternate belief. Thus the reader will feel that THEY have read "the best case" for skepticism and seen it knocked down at every turn, and they can feel confident that they have truly examined their deepest beliefs and found them to be flawless in ways they did not even know.

Pardon my cynicism.

Yeah, I think the arrogant style is one of the things that bothers me most, he seems to be actively trying to appear as neutral and non-confrontational in style whilst being very presumptive at the same time. It definitely rubs me up the wrong way and comes across as passive agressive. Not to mention the fallacies he is using in this intro bit are pretty transparent set-ups for strawmanning later on.

Jolly Bill wrote:

Less "the world is against us and we must remain strong, pure, and loyal, or we will be doooooomed" talk would aid in creating a civil dialogue quite a bit.

Growing up in a charismatic church and Baptist and Church of God schools I was flooded with this kind of message. It was, naturally, the stated goal that 100% of the global population should be Christian and that anyone who not was either a target for conversion or someone who was trying to overthrow Christianity. It was extremely combative.

Because of this I can certainly appreciate the tone of this book as the few good conversations I've had regarding religion seem to take similar approaches to the subject. While I agree with all of the above statements that have indicated the book's author uses flawed logic I wish more people used this kind of approach. Questioning yourself and being able to explain to others why you believe what you do without resorting to playground style shouting matches of "Is too!" "Is not!" would go a long way toward civilizing the debate.

Why is it that the rules of logic change for religious apologetics and exegesis? It's extremely frustrating.

Robear wrote:

Why is it that the rules of logic change for religious apologetics and exegesis? It's extremely frustrating.

Gotta start somewhere, right? I'm just happy that an attempt was made at logic as opposed to the argument that "God is real, you must believe. Why? Because God said so." Baby steps, man, baby steps.

Ulairi wrote:
Bear wrote:
Malor wrote:

They're not at all incompatible. Science is only incompatible with Biblical literalism, not faith.

So how do you classify people of "faith" that say dinosaurs never existed and the earth is 10,000 years old?

Does anyone believe the dinosaurs never existed and the earth is only 10,000 years old?

Only Biblical literalists, AFAIK. So we're back at Malor's post now.

Bear wrote:
Malor wrote:

They're not at all incompatible. Science is only incompatible with Biblical literalism, not faith.

So how do you classify people of "faith" that say dinosaurs never existed and the earth is 10,000 years old?

As Biblical literalists: literalism is not compatible with science. See original posting.

Kehama wrote:

Growing up in a charismatic church and Baptist and Church of God schools I was flooded with this kind of message. It was, naturally, the stated goal that 100% of the global population should be Christian and that anyone who not was either a target for conversion or someone who was trying to overthrow Christianity. It was extremely combative.

It's another way to bolster community cohesion and to stop people thinking too much about the weaker aspects of their faith. Focus on the fight not on your doubts.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Or it sets him up to knock down straw men and softballs, his reader reassured that he is making "the best case" for each alternate belief. Thus the reader will feel that THEY have read "the best case" for skepticism and seen it knocked down at every turn, and they can feel confident that they have truly examined their deepest beliefs and found them to be flawless in ways they did not even know.

Pardon my cynicism.

You could well be spot on. It will be interesting to see how he represents the skeptical arguments, especially when it comes to evolution vs creationism.

Here is a short note by the author explaining his reasons for doing the book. He has clearly tried to create a book that will be a tool for conversion.

Higgledy wrote:

Here is a short note by the author explaining his reasons for doing the book. He has clearly tried to create a book that will be a tool for conversion.

And there we have it. Why should anyone take it seriously if his stated purpose (outside of the book) is conversion, and yet he tries so hard to say it isn't, whilst simultaneously trying as hard as possible to convert the reader (in the book)? It's just confused, nonsensical and deceitful.

Kehama wrote:
Robear wrote:

Why is it that the rules of logic change for religious apologetics and exegesis? It's extremely frustrating.

Gotta start somewhere, right? I'm just happy that an attempt was made at logic as opposed to the argument that "God is real, you must believe. Why? Because God said so." Baby steps, man, baby steps.

But the question that needs asked is "is this a sincere attempt at logic or simply yet another in a long line of pseudological prosthelytizing schemes?". Considering the remarkable similarity to other historical arguments, I would suspect the latter.

Book wrote:

You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B. For example, if you doubt Christianity because “There can’t be just one true religion,” you must recognize that this statement is itself an act of faith. No one can prove it empirically, and it is not a universal truth that everyone accepts. If you went to the Middle East and said, “There can’t be just one true religion,” nearly everyone would say, “Why not?” The reason you doubt Christianity’s Belief A is because you hold unprovable Belief B. Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith.

He totally loses me here. I accept the possibility that there some kind of godlike entity, but don't think it's probable that out of an infinite possibility of representations of this entity (or entities), that even one of the various representations that humans have presented as possibilities is the right one.
But he says that this statement is an act of faith that no one can prove empirically and is not a universal truth that everyone accepts, and is therefore just another belief that is just as valid as the belief in a Christian god.

But why are all beliefs created equal? Beliefs need to be based on something. Even if my belief can't be proven, it's still based on what I would consider to be pretty compelling logic - that of probability. Given a large set of religious "possibilities", and no empirical evidence establishing that one religion is more likely to be correct than another, all religions are equally likely to be correct (or incorrect).
What kind of reasoning is the belief that christianity is the correct religion, versus, say, Judaism, Islam, or Greek Mythology, based on? I'm honestly curious - mostly because any time I've seen someone answer this, the argument always reverts back to "The Bible". So because it was written, it must be true. I don't buy it.

Maybe we should do a study group of "Sweet Reason" as well.

I saw this video linked from Bad Astronomy the other day. Faith vs Reason

Seems to be pretty relevant to this discussion.

Dysplastic wrote:

But why are all beliefs created equal?

Because religion is supported by pure belief. If you allow that some beliefs are more valid than others, it becomes really hard to argue for religion on basis of evidence.

Faith cannot overcome fact, and fact cannot overcome faith. Faith can overcome faith.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Because religion is supported by pure belief. If you allow that some beliefs are more valid than others, it becomes really hard to argue for religion on basis of evidence.

I wouldn't necessarily say more valid, but I would certainly say more likely (Though maybe "more likely" is just a PC way of saying "more valid"). If we don't allow that some beliefs are more likely than others, then well, there isn't really any reason to the discussion.

Higgledy wrote:

It's another way to bolster community cohesion and to stop people thinking too much about the weaker aspects of their faith. Focus on the fight not on your doubts.

When my wife and I wanted to introduce our children into a Christian church environment, that was one of the biggest barriers across our path. I strongly disagree with churches which tell people what to believe or discourage doubt. Unfortunately, that describes most churches. It took a long time for us to find a place that we felt was appropriate. Our goal is to open our children's minds... not close them!

Well I'm currently reading "The Jefferson Bible" and then after that probably "Twilight", after that I'll probably want to read "The Reason for God".

What? I like to mix things up.

If the author submits (or concedes) that Christian belief are as unprovable as any other belief, then, really, what is the Christianity's claim to superiority? I interpret that as an open invitation to go and be a Zoroastrian, for all it matters, then.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

If the author submits (or concedes) that Christian belief are as unprovable as any other belief, then, really, what is the Christianity's claim to superiority? I interpret that as an open invitation to go and be a Zoroastrian, for all it matters, then.

I'm not sure if this is serious or sarcasm, but in the off chance that it's serious, I'll take a crack at it. I'm pretty sure you're confusing 'unprovable' with 'untrue'. Pretty much any religious person I know (I don't know any literalists personally so not sure about them) will readily concede that their belief is unprovable. That's precisely why they call it faith. They would not concede that their belief is untrue however, which is why they would claim superiority over Zoroastrian or Pastafanarianism.

Farscry wrote:
Ulairi wrote:
Bear wrote:
Malor wrote:

They're not at all incompatible. Science is only incompatible with Biblical literalism, not faith.

So how do you classify people of "faith" that say dinosaurs never existed and the earth is 10,000 years old?

Does anyone believe the dinosaurs never existed and the earth is only 10,000 years old?

Only Biblical literalists, AFAIK. So we're back at Malor's post now. :D

And this. This. A thousand times this. I'm not particularly religious myself, but I'm also not an atheist. So I've personally got no skin in this game. But I've never been able to understand why this simple concept is so hard to understand. Science and faith aren't in competition, they're not even in the same game.

The only time they are is if someone incorrectly tries to use science to disprove a matter of faith*, or (much more often) faith to disbelieve a matter of science.

* I'm not talking about things that are actually matters of science that were previously explained by faith, such as how a certain phenomena occurs. I'm talking about actual matters of faith, such as why things happen the way they do or why we're here, etc.

Robear wrote:

Maybe we should do a study group of "Sweet Reason" as well. :-)

One book at a time my friend...one book at a time.

And as much as I'd like to respond to the Young Earthers don't believe in dinosours(which from what I have seen is false), I'm going to hold off in attepmt to keep this thread on the rails for the time being.

Great insights so far. It really is interesting and valuable for me to discuss this book in an environment where the default setting is not automatic acceptance.

Rallick wrote:
Teneman wrote:

The only time they are is if someone incorrectly tries to use science to disprove a matter of faith*, or (much more often) faith to disbelieve a matter of science.

* I'm not talking about things that are actually matters of science that were previously explained by faith, such as how a certain phenomena occurs. I'm talking about actual matters of faith, such as why things happen the way they do or why we're here, etc.

I don't understand why these matters should not be something science can look into. Why not? Why does only religion claim this jurisdiction? The thing about science is that it is all about prodding and poking things until we have a reliable answer. While it's messy, it does generally produce good results, and with more time the results get better. If it were up to religion, the answer is always 'because God/the Bible/other deity or holy book said so'. While this may work for those who happen to share that faith, there is no reason for anyone else to accept that.

No, no, not what I said. Science can, and should, be able to look into anything and everything it wants to.

There are some things however that are philosophical questions, by their very nature untestable, unverifiable and unprovable. What is Truth? What is beauty? What is the meaning of life? Those are the types of questions science can't deal with. Matters of faith fall into that arena.

It's not that science shouldn't look into those things or doesn't have jurisdiction, it's just that they're not matters which science is equipped to deal with.

Teneman wrote:

The only time they are is if someone incorrectly tries to use science to disprove a matter of faith*, or (much more often) faith to disbelieve a matter of science.

* I'm not talking about things that are actually matters of science that were previously explained by faith, such as how a certain phenomena occurs. I'm talking about actual matters of faith, such as why things happen the way they do or why we're here, etc.

I don't understand why these matters should not be something science can look into. Why not? Why does only religion claim this jurisdiction? The thing about science is that it is all about prodding and poking things until we have a reliable answer. While it's messy, it does generally produce good results, and with more time the results get better. If it were up to religion, the answer is always 'because God/the Bible/other deity or holy book said so'. While this may work for those who happen to share that faith, there is no reason for anyone else to accept that.

Edit: OK, looks like I misread your post, Teneman. Seems we are in agreement!

Edit 2: Wait, no we're not. I think science will eventually be able to answer the why's and wherefore's. And I don't see anything wrong with them trying, either.

Teneman wrote:
Rallick wrote:
Teneman wrote:

The only time they are is if someone incorrectly tries to use science to disprove a matter of faith*, or (much more often) faith to disbelieve a matter of science.

* I'm not talking about things that are actually matters of science that were previously explained by faith, such as how a certain phenomena occurs. I'm talking about actual matters of faith, such as why things happen the way they do or why we're here, etc.

I don't understand why these matters should not be something science can look into. Why not? Why does only religion claim this jurisdiction? The thing about science is that it is all about prodding and poking things until we have a reliable answer. While it's messy, it does generally produce good results, and with more time the results get better. If it were up to religion, the answer is always 'because God/the Bible/other deity or holy book said so'. While this may work for those who happen to share that faith, there is no reason for anyone else to accept that.

No, no, not what I said. Science can, and should, be able to look into anything and everything it wants to.

There are some things however that are philosophical questions, by their very nature untestable, unverifiable and unprovable. What is Truth? What is beauty? What is the meaning of life? Those are the types of questions science can't deal with. Matters of faith fall into that arena.

It's not that science shouldn't look into those things or doesn't have jurisdiction, it's just that they're not matters which science is equipped to deal with.

Yeesh. I'll just reply here instead of editing again. Turns out we are in agreement after all!

Rallick wrote:

Yeesh. I'll just reply here instead of editing again. Turns out we are in agreement after all! :-P

Dang. Ok, I'll fix that, give me a second to go back and edit something in my post

Teneman wrote:

There are some things however that are philosophical questions, by their very nature untestable, unverifiable and unprovable. What is Truth? What is beauty? What is the meaning of life? Those are the types of questions science can't deal with. Matters of faith fall into that arena.

It's not that science shouldn't look into those things or doesn't have jurisdiction, it's just that they're not matters which science is equipped to deal with.

See, this is what I don't understand. Why isn't science equipped to deal with this? Beauty, Truth and the Meaning of Life are things that are decided on by people. That means scientific study as to what people find Truthful, Beautiful or Meaningful would yield statisitically scientific results. In fact, I would argue that these results would be at LEAST as accurate that the words written in a book compiled of scattered religious doctrine over a period of hundreds of years.

Teneman wrote:
Rallick wrote:

Yeesh. I'll just reply here instead of editing again. Turns out we are in agreement after all! :-P

Dang. Ok, I'll fix that, give me a second to go back and edit something in my post ;)

Yes, we can't be having this agreement all over the place. It's unhygienic!

Mousetrap wrote:

See, this is what I don't understand. Why isn't science equipped to deal with this? Beauty, Truth and the Meaning of Life are things that are decided on by people. That means scientific study as to what people find Truthful, Beautiful or Meaningful would yield statisitically scientific results. In fact, I would argue that these results would be at LEAST as accurate that the words written in a book compiled of scattered religious doctrine over a period of hundreds of years.

It's as simple as objective vs. subjective to be honest. Science can't possibly determine what beauty is, beauty as a concept is subjective. Same as Truth or the Meaning of Life.

Science can, as you say, determine what the majority of people find to be beautiful, but that's an entirely different question than the philosophical one "What is Beauty?".

I agree again with Teneman (gasp!). Science can't tell us the answer to subjective questions like that. They may be able to tell us that a certain personality type would prefer a certain thing, and point out the brain chemistry required for that, but 'What is Beauty' is not a scientific question.

I'm not sure religion is any better equipped to answer these questions, however. Teneman mentions that these are philosphical in nature, but there is a broad distinction between philosphy and religion.

Rallick wrote:

I'm not sure religion is any better equipped to answer these questions, however. Teneman mentions that these are philosphical in nature, but there is a broad distinction between philosphy and religion.

I agree with you Rallick (turnabout's fair play and all ). These specific questions are definitely more philosophical than religious. I was just looking for examples of types of questions that science wasn't really capable of dealing with.