Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview With Michael Minot: An Atheist Turned Christian

I am pleased today to present an interview with author and speaker Michael Minot.  I hope that this will be the first of many contributions by Mike to our humble blog.  Mike is a Twitter friend who has become a true friend in recent weeks.  I began following Mike because of his powerful story of turning from atheism to follow Christ.

Mike was a real estate attorney for more than a quarter century, before making the decision to turn in his briefcase and the courtroom to write and speak full time concerning the truth he has found in Christ.  Mike lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and three children.

Interview with Michael Minot: 
An Atheist Who Turned to Christ

Tim: Why were you an atheist?

Mike: A couple things started to occur with me when I was in junior high and high school. First, I began to think that the Christian claims of a resurrection were far-fetched. For anything to occur that would clearly violate the laws of nature didn't seem plausible to me. Secondly, with the help of my teachers, I began viewing life as a competition – one where the strongest thrive. This notion of how the world worked played right into my competitive nature. I began making plans to compete and be the best at whatever I was going to do. I wanted to be one of the strongest. And thirdly, I grew up in a household where neither of my parents believed in God. I never attended vacation Bible school, Sunday school, retreats, camps, or anything that many young people in churches attend. So the environment leading me into adulthood did not foster a belief that the God of the Bible was real.

Tim: What was the biggest hurdle in becoming a Christian?
Mike: I had many objections to Christianity. But when you ask me what was the biggest, I have to say that the hypocrisy I witnessed in some religious leaders became my largest prejudice. In 1979 the unimaginable horrors of what happened in Jonestown shocked me. The person who was responsible for this travesty had the designation "Rev.” in front of his name. I associated Rev. Jones with the church and its message. In the 1980s, Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker were well known TV personalities. The scandals they were involved in further hardened me.

Tim: What was the "final straw" that made you believe Christianity was true?
Mike: With me, there was not a final straw. Several years after graduating from law school I was challenged by someone I met while studying for the Florida bar exam. By this time, I was living the life. I had money in my pocket, the keys to a new convertible, and a more than healthy social life. Life was great and getting better all the time.

But my friend had a different view of the trajectory of my life. He challenged me to review the Scriptures and come to a fresh decision regarding the meaning of my life. He indicated that the Scriptures played a large part in his life. I was forced to recognize that my friend's invitation came at a unique period. The time pressures of law school were behind me, I was living alone, and not dating anyone specific. In other words, realistically I didn't have the excuse that I didn't have the time. I also decided that a thorough critique the Scriptures might assist me in gaining ammunition to support my views. I had a number of other questions I thought I could investigate such as what the Scriptures said about why there was so much pain in the world.

So with these things in mind, I called my friend back and agreed to his challenge. Each evening, and for longer periods during the weekend, I read the Scriptures as well as various books on science and philosophy. After a period of weeks, I sensed that I had misjudged the impact this investigation would have on my life. Somewhere between six and eight weeks after I started, against everything I thought true before, I came to the conclusion it was more likely than not I was a created being.

My investigation ran the gamut on so many different issues. So I can't say for me there was a "final straw" which caused me to reverse all my previous thinking. It was the sum and weight of an enormous amount of information, particularly that coming out of modern science, that I came to know as a result of my investigation.

Tim: Often I feel like atheists and Christians are speaking two different languages? Why is that? What would you say to both groups?
Mike: First, I would say it's not my experience that people from those groups speak a different language. Maybe it has to do with my once being so firm and indoctrinated as an atheist. I feel comfortable talking to people on in either group.

A second problem with the assertion that the two groups speak different languages is that I find it difficult to generalize about either group. Each group has people representing a large variety of views, motivations, and willingness to seek the truth at all costs.

The one factor I believe that causes discussions between the two groups to be the most vigorous, interesting, and fruitful is when those that are having the discussion are genuine truth seekers. Many atheists maintain the position that they will never become Christian because they don't want Christianity to be true. In other words, they will deny Christianity no matter the weight of the evidence. On the other hand, some Christians hold their beliefs solely as a matter of faith without a firm grasp of the facts that support its claims. They believe in Christianity, and will continue to do so in large part because they believe it's “the right thing to do.” But when true truth seekers in both groups engage in meaningful discussions, I believe the notion that they speak two different languages fades away.

I would encourage you to check out Mike's blog at: http://michaelminot.com/index.html

I would also encourage you to follow Mike on Twitter: @MichaelMinot 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Andrew the Atheist thinks Tim should re-consider his answer.

Oh, I'm sorry, Tim.  The correct answer was yes, not no.  Thanks for playing.

I feel weird telling the christian how to better argue with atheists, but here goes anyway.  I think it's good that you recognize the core problem: the question is actually if god can make logical contradictions.  But I think you should have answered yes.  You really back yourself into a corner when you say no.  I'll explain.

You see, your position eliminates the Transcendental Argument for god, or TAG, as it is popularly known.  It's a common aplogetic that states that logic is impossible without god.  God is the author of logic and reason, and therefore he is able to bend, mend and break those rules are part of his omnipotence.  While I am glad to dismiss the TAG, I don't think you either meant to do this, or never even heard of this apologetic you just refuted yourself.  Again, we come back to why I asked FIRST how much you know of apologetics.  If god is the author of logic, he can make logical contradictions, no problem.  So I suggest that when you are asked this question next time, you answer, "YES."

Your position also makes the christian god impossible.  I know I'm arguing the character of god and not the existance of god.  Trust me.  If you convince me the christian god is real, you don't have to worry about me accepting any god is real.  Besides, if you want to talk deism, we'll get into a comparative religion topic, and I think we both agree that's not what we want to do.  I mean, I'm down for it if you want, but you said you didn't. 

The christian god has more than one logical contradiction for which you'll need to account.  Not only is this being supposed to be omnipotent, it is also supposed to be perfect.  A perfect being cannot create anything less than perfect.  Your god should not have been able to make angels that turned to demons, or people that would fall from grace.  If he is perfect, only perfection can come from him.  It did not.  That's contradicition #1.

But my personal favorite is that your god is also supposed to be all-just AND all-mercifull.  Justice and mercy are mutually exclusive.  I define justice as, "you get what you deserve," and mercy as, "you do not getwhat you deserve."  If you have different definitions, you'll need to let me know what those are.

If god is just, then he gives people what they deserve.  If god is merciful, he does NOT give people what they deserve.  Therefore, he cannot be both all-just and all-merciful.  In fact, with regard to a single person, he cannot be both just in any way AND merciful in any way.  He must be one or the other.  There's contradiction #2.

But again, neither of these problems is any concern, so long as you admit your god is a god of logical contradictions.  I didn't even mention the bible.....  There you'll find contradictions #3-???

Tim, I'm worried about you.  Eventually, these kid gloves I'm wearing here are going to have to come off.  But that doesn't have to happen now.  So tell me, honestly, is this the first real exchange you've ever had with an atheist?  It's okay if it is.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  But you should know by now you are not the first believer I've debated.  The first one was the toughest to convince.  It was me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tim, The Christian's Rebuttal: Can God Create A Rock That Is Too Heavy For Him To Lift?

Andrew, even though I think that your last challenge was made in jest, I will answer it seriously.  You chastise me for using ancient arguments, yet this is one of the oldest alleged paradoxes used to challenge the character of God.

When we say that God is omnipotent, we say that He can do all possible things.  In other words, God is bound by the laws of logic.   For example, God could not make a square circle because circles are mutually exclusive of squares and vice versa.  In the same way, when arguing that God could not create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it, is in fact nonsensical.  Asking if, "God can create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it? is just as much nonsense as asking if, "Can God create a square circle?"  It is a logical contradiction.  Namely, it is a logical contradiction to say to talk of God's simultaneous ability and disability to lift the rock.   Put another way,  the statement "God can lift this rock" must have a truth value that is either true or false; they cannot both be true at the same time.  Thus, the question and the perceived paradoxes which you pose are, actually meaningless; they are illogical. 

As a side note, the questions that you pose have to do with God's character, not His existence. I am happy to defend God's character, but I did not think we were there yet.

Also as a side note, God cannot and will not make you love Him.  Thus, one example of a rock that cannot be lifted is your heart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Andrew the Atheist asks about really big stones.

Here's one for the believers.  Don't get frightened.  This is going to be easy.  I'm keeping with the had-this-conversation-a-thousand-times-gonna-have-it-one-more-time theme we have going here.  So you've all heard this before, and I just want to make you all repeat the same old answer again.  Here goes:

The argument against omnipotence:

Can god make a rock so bid even he can't lift it?  Can he make a cup of coffee so hot even he can't sip it?  Can he make a woman so hot even he can't resist her?

I've heard all kinds of explanations for this.  What's yours?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Andrew the Atheist answers, “The same place you base yours.”

Tim, you’re being silly.  OF COURSE atheism doesn’t make me a better person.  Just like Christianity doesn’t really make you a better person.  And no, we are not going to do a head count and compare horrible people.  That’s silly.

AND, I said before that even if Christianity DID make EVERYONE a better person, that has NO BEARING on the truth of its claims.  So neither this, nor the previous question, has ANY bearing on the truth of Christianity.  We could agree or disagree all day; nothing about this topic has ANYTHING to do with whether or not Christianity is true.  
Now it is clear that we do NOT base ANT of our morality on scripture.  Let’s get that out of the way RIGHT now.  The bible is a mess of conflicting ideas, bad ideas and stupid morality.  If you want to get into a “bible said; bible says” debate, fine.  Just know that for every example of a GOOD idea coming from the damned bible, I’ll find one that shows the opposite.  Maybe two. 

Besides, it’s clear that the scriptures aren’t clear.  If they were, we would not see so many diverse denominations of Christianity.  If two groups of Christians differ on a particular issue, there is no real way to solve the dispute.  The two groups split into two new factions that grow independently.  We see it all the time.  New groups and splinters of sects within christianty are formed every day as people cannot agree on what god says.  So we do not get morality from any holy book.

Before I go on to where everyone actually gets morality, I want to drive one more nail into the bible’s moral coffin.  Whenever I have this debate, (yes, I’ve had this one dozens of times before) people turn to the ten commandments.  I see you included a picture of them.  The ten commandments are an excellent example of where we do NOT get our morals.  Of ALL ten, only two have any moral value, and even then, they fail as absolutes.  As a moral code, 20% is a dismal number.  Any other list that only had 20% relevance would be cast aside as a load of crap.  This one ought to be no different.  Plus, there are different versions of the commandments.  Even within the bible, there is more than one set.  Clearly, any resemblance with actual morality is pure coincidence.

So where do morals come from?  How are we moral?  First, we need to acknowledge that morality is a human system.  If there were no humans, there would be no morality.  So when we talk about morality, what are we really discussing?  We are talking about the way humans relate to other humans.  Humans are indeed social creatures.  We are a herd animal.  Since before our ancestors were human, we have had to find a way to live together.  We have found great strength in working as a team or group.  We need a way to do this with as little conflict as possible.  How?

Morality is easily explained from your primordial soup.  As creatures evolve and form social networks, creatures of all kinds form rules that govern behavior.  It takes no imagination to see that any animal that must work with others must do so in a cooperative manner.  It takes no imagination to see that this forms the basis of our morality. 

Again, Tim, we’ve gone down a beaten path.  If you are really interested in how human morality is formed, there are SOOO many places to find this.  This debate has happened over and over again.  The argument you state is so old, I can’t imagine you’ve never heard anyone explain this to you before.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tim, The Christian, Apologizes To Atheists

To all you atheists everywhere and especially to those who read this blog, I am sorry.  I just read a news story about death threats being leveled against atheists in response to a Fox News post on its Facebook page about the American Atheists' lawsuit to stop a crucifix from being erected at the World Trade Center Memorial. Apparently, over 8,000 such comments were posted.  A link to an article about it is here:http://www.allfacebook.com/fox-news-facebook-page-gets-8000-death-threats-2011-08

As a Christian, I am horrified by this. I apologize on behalf of Christians. This type of response has no place in Christianity.  I worry that this type of response is too common.  It is wrong headed and evil and idiotic.  Please try and remember that for every one of these nut jobs, there are hundreds of Christians who would give you a hug.

Again, I am sorry.  This is wrong on so many levels.  

Tim, The Christian, Asks The Atheists: On What Do You Base Your Morality

Andrew, in your last post, I think you make a fallacious argument, namely, you say that atheism makes you a better person.  Atheism cannot make you a better person, or at least a more moral person. We can both go back and forth and point at people who claim to be in our camp who are evil.  In my last post, I pointed to Stalin (yes, I incorrectly labelled it Lenin) as someone who did horrible things in the name of atheism.  And you pointed out Harold Camping, whom I readily agree did evil in the name of Christianity.  The point is that you cannot dismiss the truth of Christianity based on the evil that is done in its name because even if someone claims to be a Christian it does not mean that they are practicing their alleged faith correctly. In the same way, I cannot dismiss atheism because Stalin committed mass murder.

What I do not understand, and what I ask you atheists is, "on what basis do you adhere to a moral code?"  In my mind, if a person is an atheist, there is no basis for ethics or a moral code.   

Atheists attempt to dismiss Christianity by saying that its moral code is skewed.  I take issue with that, but that is not the point.  The point is that Christianity has the basis for a moral code -- a basis which calls us to love each other, to be unselfish, etc.  Why should the atheist be unselfish?  Because it benefits mankind?  So what if it benefits mankind?  If I am an atheist, why should I do anything ethical?  For example, if I am an atheist and I can get away with cheating on my taxes, there is nothing in atheism which tells me not to do that.  Also, the morals espoused by Christianity, and the Ten Commandments in particular, are the basis for most legal systems in the Western world.

Whether or not you like the moral code of Christianity, the Christian has a moral code. Whether the Christian follows that moral code all the time, is a completely different matter. In fact, we Christians tend to admit that we fail to follow the moral code all the time, thus our need for a Savior.  Nevertheless, Christianity prescribes what the Christian should do; atheism does not prescribe what the atheist should do. In fact, it makes no sense for an atheist to have a sense of duty about ethics. On what basis does the atheist ever have a sense of duty?

Furthermore, this is also a proof for God's existence, and the main argument that is used by C.S. Lewis.  We are all born with a conscience, a basic knowledge of right and wrong.  Unless he is a sociopath, every human being has this innate sense of right and wrong.   Where would this innate sense of morality come from if there was no God?  This sense of morality is in every person, in every culture.   In every country in the world, it is wrong to steal from another; in every country in the world, it is wrong to lie for no reason; no matter your faith, it is wrong for me to walk up to you, bop you on the nose for no reason and take your wallet.  Where did the conscience come from unless it was placed there be God?  The innate sense of right and wrong cannot evolve from the primordial soup.

Whether or not you like Christianity's moral code, can you admit that at least Christianity has the basis for a moral code, and that atheism does not?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Andrew the Atheist: The No. 1 Reason I am an atheist: It makes me a better person.

You’re close, Tim.  Actually, what I was going for was why you think the claims of Christianity are convincing.  Kind of like what you did before with the argument from design, but something that ACTUALLY convinces you.  I know you said you don’t want this to be a comparative religion blog, and I would agree that I don’t see the need to dispute the claims of islam, Hinduism, or Judaism, but at the same time, I do wonder if there is something in those religions that you do NOT find convincing and why.  It’s just that I’m reminded of how this blog started.  We were disagreeing if the atheist position required faith or not.  From your position, I imagined you perceived atheism as a form of religion.  I find that claim silly, but we’re not there yet.

First, I want to point out that even IF religion DOES make you a better person, that in itself has no bearing on the truth of the claims of religion.  If religion is harmful, that also has no bearing on the truth of its claims.  The claims of a religion must be made to stand on their own.  That said, I find atheism is superior in ethics and morality.

It really scares me when people say that they think they would be horrible people if not for the temperance they get from religion.  I am inclined to take them at face value and accept their statement.  But I find that if we look closer, it’s really not true. 

I find that this view is formed backward.  In other words, we look back on an event or decision, and then judge it to be in line with what we think god wants or not.  We tend to retrospectively put actions in camps, so to speak.  This was good because it had a good outcome.  This was bad because the outcome was less than desirable.  God must have wanted me to do that, because it eventually led to a good thing.

So I have a problem with this.  Find two believers and you will get three opinions of what god wants.  Trying to make decisions on this basis must indeed be frustrating.  I find this is what most believers mean when they say it is hard to be Christian.  The only sure fire way to know what god wants, it seems, is to do it and watch the fallout.  What an infuriating life that must be.

Still, you make some good illustrations with Camping, the catholic pedophiles, AA, and Stalin (you said  Lennon; I think you meant Stalin).  I think it IS DEFINITELY both my place AND yours to condemn Camping.  That asshat ruined people’s lives.  He stole their money.  He robbed them of their future.  That guy is a douche and needs to be called a douche.  This goes for the catholic pedophiles, too.  I think it is IMPORTANT for believers to openly shun these jerks.  If you think Camping, the Westboro nuts, Pat Robertson or anyone else is using the name of Christianity to spread and do evil, YOU should be shouting the LOUDEST, “Hey!!  You asshats are ruining our religion!!  You douchebags are why people call religious people nuts!!  You are why people say religion is harmful!  STOP IT!!”   But instead, what I hear are the atheists shouting this the loudest.  I find that disappointing, and would point to this as one way atheism holds higher standards.

I despise AA.  This is mandated religion.  GOVERNMENT mandated religion and a clear violation of the separation of church and state.  Fortunately, there are secular alternatives.  Did you know that AA’s success rate is no better than quitting on your own?  It’s not only bullshit, it’s worthless bullshit that is as effective as nothing.  AA is a terrific example of how nothing fails like prayer.

Stalin WAS an atheist.  However, Stalin didn’t do what he did in the name of atheism.  He did it to secure power for himself.  He used propaganda and posturing in very similar ways that the religious do.  The reason Stalin was able to do so much harm was not because he was an atheist.  It was because he was able to control the information the masses heard.  The problem with Stalin was NOT that there was too much critical thinking and rational thought.  Stalin is a very good example that no matter what the dogma is, it can be harmful. 

Finally, I want to get to why I think atheism grants a superior ethical and moral platform.  It is the duty of every person to develop, investigate, construct, analyze and evaluate a personal code of ethics.  We must be able to look at our code, and modify it if needed.   We have to be able to say that we were wrong.  Slavery was once the norm; now we are appalled at the notion.   Inter-racial marriage was once outlawed.  Now we see to outlaw this is immoral.  We must allow our morality and ethics to evolve and change, or watch them stagnate and fail.

If we think our morality is dictated to us in some ancient holy book, why would we ever attempt to grow?  If we think we can be forgiven of any wrong doing, why attempt to make amends?  If we think salvation is not granted by works, why work?

I find that atheism has its own “good news”:  it is the good news of personal responsibility.  We are responsible to each other, for we are the ones who will make the world what it is and what it will be.  Humans are not responsible to a god, but to each other.  God isn’t here; we are.  And while it has no bearing on the truth of that statement, it pleases me greatly.  It inspires me to get off my knees and roll up my sleeves. 

PS:  I've blogged on this before.  Check out:

Tim, The Christian: No. 1 Reason For Why I Am A Christian -- It Makes Me A Better Person

Andrew, I think you want me to enunciate why I am a Christian. I will begin to do so below, but I hope two things: (1) that it will open up a civil discourse, and (2) that at some point you will explain the primary reasons as to why you are an atheist.

The last few days, I have been thinking about how to answer this challenge, and have found it somewhat difficult.  I finally understood why I am having trouble.  To a Christian, our worldview is completely different.  Trying to explain your viewpoint to someone who does not share your worldview can be difficult. C.S. Lewis summed it up well when he wrote, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

Understand too that explaining why I am a Christian might actually take a book and it is difficult to summarize in a solitary blog post.  As such, as long as it is amenable, I will offer several posts on why I am a Christian.  This will only be the first reason for why I am a Christian.

The first reason that I am a Christian is because Christianity makes me a better person.  If left to my own devices, I find that I become selfish, arrogant, and unloving.  Being a Christian forces me to battle selfishness.  Indeed, as Christians we are to treat others as more important that ourselves. This is a daily struggle, but it is a worthy struggle.  When my life is not centered on Christ, I tend to be prideful and think that life is all about me.  When I am not as serious about my faith as I should be, I become less loving and I note that I use people instead of treating them with love.

I am not alone in this.  Other people I know who have become Christian see there lives radically change -- for the better.  I know people who have overcome deep issues of bitterness and anger through their faith. I know others who have successfully battled serious addictions.  For example, Alcoholic's Anonymous Twelve Step Program, is riddled with references to God and the need for His help.

Perhaps I am the only terrible person on earth, but I do not think so. I believe that man without the influence of religion, will be less loving, more selfish, more angry and full of bitterness.  I am certain that what I am going to write next will be the source of much consternation, however, I think all religion, and Christianity in particular, helps people be better people.

I am certain the immediate objection from a non-Christian will be so-called Christians who commit vile acts in the name of religion.  Already on this blog, you have said that often atheists are angry because they think that religion is harmful and causes people to do evil things.  The example used was Harold Camping.  It is not my place to condemn Harold Camping, but what I think what he did is despicable and there is little Christian about what he did.  Yes, we Christians must take ownership for evil done in the name of God (the example I would use is the Catholic priests abusing children).  I believe that evil committed by people who claim to be Christians is the largest hurdle that genuine Christians must overcome when convincing people that Christianity is truthful.  To once again quote C.S. Lewis, "Of all badmen religious bad men are the worst."

I would address this issue in four ways. First, we Christians are fallible and make mistakes.  Too often we Christians attempt to portray ourselves as "perfect."  We are not and we should not pretend that we are.  Rather, most of us struggle with issues and understand that we need help to live a better life.  We fail on a regular basis and do not live up to our calling as Christians, but importantly we must be transparent about that.  That is certainly the case with me.

Second, I believe that God will severely judge those who commit evil in the name of God.  I believe that more than cursing using His name, this is what God had in mind with the commandment that prohibits "using the Lord's name in vain."  Please understand I am not saying that people like Harold Camping who have done great evil in the name of religion are not Christians.  That is not for me to judge.  Whether or not people such as Camping are "saved", I do believe that God will judge them severely.      

Third, it is not right to "throw the baby out with the bathwater."  Christianity is true, whether or not there are people who use it for evil purposes.  For example, there are people who blow up abortion clinics in the name of Christ.  Because some idiot labels himself a Christian and attempts to wrongly justify his actions with Christianity does not mean that he accurately represents Christianity. Let's also be clear, there have been plenty of atheists who have committed untold evil. It is not right for me to say that atheism must be false because Lenin murdered millions of people. 

Finally, people who do evil in the name of religion, although they are too prevalent, are an aberration rather than the norm. For every Catholic priest who abuses little children (even one is too many), there are thousands of good Catholic priests who defend children and help the brokenhearted.  For every Harold Camping, there are thousands of us "normal" Christians who do good work at food banks, or volunteer at hospitals, or house the homeless.  Although it is not where it should be (and shame on us), Christianity is responsible for more charity, philanthropy, and work to benefit the downtrodden than any other "system", atheism included.   

This I know for sure, and it is the first reason that I am a Christian; namely, I am a better person than I would be if I were not a Christian.  I am more loving, selfless, and less anxious than I would be if I were not a Christian.  I know this because of times when I was "not walking close to God."  In those times, my life was full of stress and anxiety; I was looking out for only one person; I was not always truthful with those around me; and I used people for my own ends instead of truly loving them. I do not think I am alone in this. I think that man left to himself will gravitate toward greed, anger, anxiety, bitterness, etc.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tim, The Christian's Reply: Did Andrew The Atheist Admit That The World Was Created?

I am quite astounded by your response to my assertion that the atheist cannot explain the origins of the world because instead of addressing the argument you choose instead to insult me. I make no apology for the argument because it is obviously a valid one. You say that you need scientific proof to believe in something, yet I give you an argument from science, and you criticize me for making it.  Christians are often criticized for not being open minded.  In this case, I do not think you are being open minded.  I provide a legitimate argument and you dismiss it without seriously dealing with it.

I think at the outset, it is helpful to clarify what I am actually arguing and the purpose of the argument.  All I am arguing is that it is more rational to believe that there is a Creator. I believe I provided evidence of such.  I am NOT saying that because the atheist cannot disprove the existence of God then there must be a God; thus, I am NOT making an argument from ignorance. I am making this argument because (a) you have said that the only truth you are willing to accept is so-called scientific truth; and (b) despite extensive reading on the subject, I have never heard a legitimate rebuttal from an atheist.  Also, it is important to note that this has nothing to do with evolution.  I believe that the two are not incompatible, that is, it is rational to believe that the world is created and still believe that evolution occurred after the creation.

1. You are right that this is a common argument for the existence of God.  This is because Christians simply cannot comprehend the atheist's position because it is so inconceivable to believe that a world as complex as ours came from chance.  A child looks at Monet and he does not think that Monet just happened to appear on the canvas in a random display of color; the world is much more complex than a Monet painting, yet the atheist would have us believe that the world is simply good luck.  Yet, you try to say that my argument is not rational.  It is more rational to believe that a "Higher Power" created the world.

2.  Although you are trying to mock the argument by using Thor as an example, by admitting that it may have been Thor who created the world, you are admitting that the world was created by a "Higher Power.  This is not a comparative religion blog. I thought the purpose of this blog was for us each to present arguments concerning the existence of God.  Once you accept that a Higher Power exists, I will happily provide you with arguments as to why I think the Christian God is the right one, but that is a completely different argument.

3.  I am not sure what type of argument you are looking for. I am not sure that you will legitimately accept any argument.  I will happily provide you with why I personally believe in God, but I feel like you will completely discount my personal beliefs as opinion so I am not sure that is helpful.  To a large extent you are correct in that I do not believe in God based on the argument that God created the world. On the other hand, when I see a beautiful sunset, millions of stars, or the beauty of the world under the ocean, it strengthens my belief in God. We Christians believe that, "the heavens declare the glory of God."

In conclusion, it seems to me that you have admitted that the world is created.  If not, then provide me with an argument for why it is more rational to believe that the world occurred by chance than that the world created.  Finally, please clarify that you really do want me to share my personal beliefs, and if so to what end?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Andrew the Atheist answers, "Maybe it's Thor!"

It's taken me a long time to reply.  That's because I have three drafts that will not be used.  I have to say, Tim, I'm really disappointed.  This question is exactly the kind of apologetic nonsense I wanted to avoid.  Not because I can't answer it, but because it has been answered SOOOOOO many times before.  All I do is repeat the same stuff you can find with a quick google search on any of these "evidences".  You should try www.talkorigins.org.  I think they talk about this too.

Look, the reason I asked how much you knew about apologetics was so that we could move past this.  I was hoping you were already familiar with this and wouldn't be interested in going over it again.  I'm FAR more interested in what you believe, and why.  This is NOT why you believe there is a god.  This is at best an excuse you give for holding beliefs on faith rather than science. 

What I mean by that is you obvioulsy recognize the superior nature of science to explain the universe than faith.  Why else do you look for science-like things to support your position?  But even if ALL your evidence is TRUE, that does not mean that believing in god is rational.

Your argument is bad logic, and you seem to know it.  It is an argument from ignorance, just as you suggest.  The argument from ignorance fallacy is NOT that if the atheist cannot disprove god, then god must exist.  That fallacy shifts the burden of proof from the one making the claim to the one considering the claim.  The argument from ignorance states that if I have no answer for how the univere began, then it is rational to assume a god or diety is the reason the universe began.  That IS indeed the argument you make, and that is why it fails before you even state it fully.

There was an interview on Bill O'Riley's show between O'Riley and Dave Silverman of American Atheists.  Bill said, "Tide goes in; tide goes out.  YOU can't explain that."  To which Dave exclaimed, "Maybe it's THOR!"  "You can't explain it," Bill repeats.  Dave replied, "I don't have to."

See there are two big logical problems here.  First, you make the argument from ignorance and fill the gaps of knowledge with god.  But there is a second flaw here:  Once you open the possibility to the supernatural, ANY supernatural answer will do.

Let's say I concede.  I don't, really, but let's say for the sake of argument that I do.  We'll look past the first error.  So we are looking for a creator.  How do you determine which creator it is?  Was it Zeus, Jupiter, chtulu, a giant space turtle, a huge world tree, the flying spaghetti monster, Brahma, Odin, a magic bunny, leprechauns, pixies, invisible pick unicorn, Tiamat, etc?  How can you tell the difference?  If you could use this design argument for the existence of other gods, is it really that good of an argument?  If we could end up with the flying spaghetti monster as the creator, is that really the argument that supports the christian position?

See, if you say there is a creator, you really haven't answered anything.  We come back to faith, not evidence.  How would you make the existance of your god more likely than the existance of another?  Keep in mind that christians within themselves cannot come to a consistant description of who or what god is.  When you figure out how to prove the Westboro Baptists are worshiping the wrong god, please give them a call.  Convince them that they have gotten the wrong deity.  When you can do that, I'll be impressed.  Until then, you have at best a stalemate within your own religion.  We haven't even gotten to flying spaghetti monsters.

Look, Tim.  You can go to hundreds of places and get this debate anywhere.  That's not what I thought this blog was going to be about.  I thought we were going to discuss the REASONS why people believe and do not believe.  That is really interesting to me.  This argument is NOT why you believe.  This is an excuse you hide behind when people ask you why you believe.  It may fool another believer, but it won't fool me.

I expect better of you next time, Tim.

Oh, and to all you commenters, I'd encourage all of you to ignore the troll.  We had a good thing going here before the troll came and this question, but I am still hopefull we can turn it around.  The troll must be very busy, as it has become apparent he has confused me with some "other" Andrew the Atheist.  I must attempt to find this other dude, so I can return his troll to him.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tim, The Christian, Asks The Atheists: How Did The World Begin?

Before I present my next question / argument, a few housekeeping items:
1.  I apologize for not posting anything for a almost a week.  Life has been hectic for me, in a good way, this past week.  I thank you for your continued readership and think you can expect much more frequent posts.
2.  I have really appreciated that the posts we have put up have been commented on a lot.  A primary purpose which both Andrew and I had was to promote dialogue between Christians and atheists.  I have been very concerned in recent days, however, with the tenor of the comments.  Both sides need to tone it down.  Let's refuse to make personal attacks or digs.  Let's be civil with each other and focus on giving our best arguments. PLEASE.

Now my next question for you atheists: How can you explain the origins of the universe?

I believe that the Christian position concerning the origins of the world are more rational than the atheists'.  I do not believe that the atheist can adequately answer how the world was created. Typically the atheist says that the world was created through a Big Bang.  This begs the question, however.  What caused the Big Bang?  Where did the matter come from that went bang? How did something come from nothing?

The Christian position is clear.  Aristotle and Aquinas called it the Unmoved Mover.  Modernly, the argument is that there is an Intelligent Designer.  And there is plenty of evidence for an Intelligent Designer.  For example, the placement of the earth makes it more reasonable to believe that Someone placed it where it is:

1. The Tilt of Earth's Axis: The axis of the earth is tilted at about 23% yet no other planet is tilted like this in the known universe. The tilt of the earth is important because it allows for equal distribution of the heat from the sun. 

2. The Oscillation of the Earth's Axis: The earth "wobbles" off the 23% tilt by about 3%. It wobbles up 3%, then back to 23%, and then down 3%, and then up again to the 23% average tilt. And it does it with amazing regularity, thus creating seasons.  If this oscillation was more than 3% up from the average, the sun would strike the earth with such force the ice caps would melt, there would be huge flooding and eventually it would evaporate the oceans. Conversely, if there were no seasons, the world would be mostly ice. 

3. The Rotation of Earth: The earth rotates on the titled axis at about 1000 miles an hour. The rate of speed is critical for life to exist because it is what causes the day to be 24  hours long, a length of time that is critical for growth and rest to both animal and plant life.  If days were longer, the heat would build up so much that it would scorch everything above the surface of the ground.  If the nights were longer, scientists estimate that temperatures would plummet to -240 below 0. Our world is rotating at just the right speed to alternate between heating and cooling, to promote growth and rest.

4.  The Depth of the Oceans:  The depth of the earth's oceans is just right. The former president of the American Academy of Sciences said that if the earth's oceans had been just a little deeper when the earth began, the extra water would have robbed the atmosphere of the oxygen and carbon dioxide. The atmosphere we breath is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% trace elements, the exact combination for human life to prosper. Without it, life would have never begun. Therefore, the earth's oceans are just the right depths in relation to the atmosphere.

5. The Thickness of Earth's Crust: Not only are the earth's oceans the right depth, the earth's crust is the right thickness. If the earth's crust was only ten feet thinker it would oxidize all the earth's oxygen. 

6. The Speed of Orbit: The earth moves at the rate of 18 miles per second around the sun in an elliptical orbit, not a circular orbit, at just the right speed. If the earth slowed just a couple of miles per second we would be pulled into the sun and burned to a crisp. Conversely if the earth were moving faster in orbit, we would freeze to death. 

7. The Distance From Sun:  The earth is just the right number of miles from the sun, about 93 million miles, to get just the right amount of heat to survive.  The surface of the sun is about 12,000 degrees. If the earth was just a few miles closer to the sun, we would burn like torches; a few degrees further away, we would freeze like popsicles.

9. Distance Of The Moon: While the earth is spinning, oscillating, and racing round the sun, the moon is moving around the earth at just the right distance to cause the tides to ebb and flow at just the right rate. If our moon were in a closer orbit, the increased gravitational pull would cause the lower regions of the earth to be  flooded eventually, all land would be swamped.  

The placement of the earth and moon in the solar system is only one example of the miracles (I know you atheists will cringe at the use of that word) that can be found in nature.  The earth and moon are perfectly placed to be conducive to life.   Yet, the atheist would have us believe that it is simply by chance.  It is more rationale to believe that this evidence indicates that the world was placed where it was by a Creator.

This is not an argument about evolution.  Too often the arguments are confused. Evolution and the belief in creation by God are not mutually exclusive.  

This is also not an argument for ignorance, that is, I am not arguing that since an atheist cannot disprove that God created the world, then it must be that God created with world. Rather, I am saying that there is evidence that "God" created the world, and that it is more logical to believe that Something created the world. 

What say you?