How can we know there is a God?

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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Sstavix » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:22 am

Since I know you like astronomy, and I have a fondness for it as well, let's get back to the Big Bang. The theory states that the universe exploded from one point of singularity, right? And from that one moment, the universe has been expanding more and more, getting increasingly bigger. Logic would indicate that, since the theory stipulates that there is a central point to the universe - the spot where the Big Bang originated - that there would have to be an edge to the universe.
Good example. :)
Um, so, yes, we used to think there was an edge, or rather, that the universe circled in on itself (like if you imagined a 2d creature on the surface of a ball.) The round universe is what would occur if space is "positively curved, and I believe the fate of the positively curved universe is a Big Crunch. But, it turns out, we measured the curvature of space and it turns out pretty flat. Oooh, right?
Oh shoot, I'm getting off topic.
Right, so, there must be an edge, right? Well, turns out, we don't know. Or maybe that there is no edge, some scientists seem to suggest. Like, what? Right. We're approaching, if you pardon my punnage, the edge of my own knowledge here. Super interesting, but let me allow Hank Green to explain it more succinctly.

So, it actually looks more like there isn't an edge.
No edge.
Yay, I finally have a chance to watch that video and am conscious enough to understand it. It's been a rough couple of weeks. Anywho....

So if the universe doesn't have an edge and, of course, doesn't have a center, then doesn't that mean the Big Bang Theory is false? Or there could be evidence that the Big Bang Theory is disproven, if we want to look at it in more scientifically semantic terms. I thought Green's statement that all of the universe just suddenly popped into existence all of a sudden and has remained largely that way aside from the effects of gravity and whatnot interesting as well - perhaps almost as if it were created that way...? :wink:

However, his statement that the universe is infinite and expanding at the same time made no logical sense to me, and judging from his own reaction, it makes no sense to him, either. It's almost Orwellian - one has to keep two opposing concepts in mind and accept both of them as true. Generally, when I come across instances of things like that, it sets off my "BS Detector," as it were, and my initial response is along the lines of "now you're just making stuff up." I don't generally fall for the "razzle dazzle" approach, or as W. C. Fields, said, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull."

In other words, if it makes no logical sense, then you may no longer be dealing with logic.

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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArcticFox » Mon Sep 08, 2014 3:13 pm

If you've never read the novel Contact by Carl Sagan I strongly recommend it.

No, not the movie. The movie is indeed based on this novel, but they left out an extremely important element from the novel.

Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

In the novel, when Ellie is with the aliens at the end and is talking with them, they tell her that they have discovered evidence of a Creator of the universe. They did it by calculating the value of pi out to a HUGE number of digits and found, buried in that number, a series of digits that couldn't possibly be naturally occurring. (They explain this better in the novel than I can here.) They therefore had concluded that the universe was created by a supreme being, because the Creator's signature was literally worked into the very fabric of the universe.

Now, I don't think Carl Sagan wrote this to express his personal belief in a Creator. (I think he was agnostic.) I think he did it to show what sort of evidence he would need in order to believe.

That said, I do want to point something out. In the novel, it was about a super-advanced alien race that believed in a Creator because they were able to prove it mathematically. That's all well and good, but it completely defeats the purpose of Faith. If I can empirically prove to you that God exists, then you don't need Faith. In fact, you'd be left with no logical choice but to accept the existence of God. I won't get into why I think that's a bad thing here, but I would challenge each of you guys to ponder that question for yourself. :)
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:22 pm

I haven't read Contact yet, Bronan, so... I don't think I can be reading the rest of your post...

But I can totally respond to Brozilla's.
Yay, I finally have a chance to watch that video and am conscious enough to understand it. It's been a rough couple of weeks. Anywho....

So if the universe doesn't have an edge and, of course, doesn't have a center, then doesn't that mean the Big Bang Theory is false? Or there could be evidence that the Big Bang Theory is disproven, if we want to look at it in more scientifically semantic terms. I thought Green's statement that all of the universe just suddenly popped into existence all of a sudden and has remained largely that way aside from the effects of gravity and whatnot interesting as well - perhaps almost as if it were created that way...?

However, his statement that the universe is infinite and expanding at the same time made no logical sense to me, and judging from his own reaction, it makes no sense to him, either. It's almost Orwellian - one has to keep two opposing concepts in mind and accept both of them as true. Generally, when I come across instances of things like that, it sets off my "BS Detector," as it were, and my initial response is along the lines of "now you're just making stuff up." I don't generally fall for the "razzle dazzle" approach, or as W. C. Fields, said, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull."

In other words, if it makes no logical sense, then you may no longer be dealing with logic.
The problem is we're dealing with concept out of our scope of life. We're used to Newtonian physics, but when you get really big or really small, suddenly things no longer make sense. The faster you go, time slows down? Doesn't make sense, but that's what the Math says and further research supports it. What about quantum physics? Talk about hard to conceptualize. But, that's what the math says and so does our research.
It's not that this isn't logical, it's pure logic. It's math. It's just not something our brains are used to conceiving.

The problem with this is that it's hard to imagine expansion of everything. It's not expanding into something from a point, it's just expanding.

You're right that there is no center of the universe. Everybody is the center of their own observable universe, but here, perhaps, the Big Bang theory, named mockingly by Sir Fred Hoyle, fails to accurately illustrate it's own theory. It's not an explosion where the universe grows from. It's a rapid expansion of everything. Everything is moving apart. There is no center because everything is the center, which, also means nothing is. The concept of center and edge just don't apply when you're looking at picturing everything. Or, even nothing. Can you even imagine what "nothing" is? Or a border between something and nothing?

Hard to picture? Sure, you're being asked to imagine something your brain would have never been able to see, nor will ever be able.
But this is where the math, the purest form of logic, leads us. If you still think this is all hogwash people made up, I invite you to dive into the subject. It's one of the most interesting things you can get into.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Sstavix » Mon Sep 08, 2014 7:57 pm

If you've never read the novel Contact by Carl Sagan I strongly recommend it.

No, not the movie. The movie is indeed based on this novel, but they left out an extremely important element from the novel.

Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

In the novel, when Ellie is with the aliens at the end and is talking with them, they tell her that they have discovered evidence of a Creator of the universe. They did it by calculating the value of pi out to a HUGE number of digits and found, buried in that number, a series of digits that couldn't possibly be naturally occurring. (They explain this better in the novel than I can here.) They therefore had concluded that the universe was created by a supreme being, because the Creator's signature was literally worked into the very fabric of the universe.

Now, I don't think Carl Sagan wrote this to express his personal belief in a Creator. (I think he was agnostic.) I think he did it to show what sort of evidence he would need in order to believe.

That said, I do want to point something out. In the novel, it was about a super-advanced alien race that believed in a Creator because they were able to prove it mathematically. That's all well and good, but it completely defeats the purpose of Faith. If I can empirically prove to you that God exists, then you don't need Faith. In fact, you'd be left with no logical choice but to accept the existence of God. I won't get into why I think that's a bad thing here, but I would challenge each of you guys to ponder that question for yourself. :)
I have seen the movie, but wasn't able to get through the novel (too dry for me!) But I do enjoy the movie as well, because I think ti does a good job of capturing the feeling of a spiritual experience. Something that happens to you and you know is true to the very core of your being... but you can't really explain it, and you certainly can't prove it. And yes, Sagan was an atheist. So it's interesting that both of these aspects come from his writings!
The problem is we're dealing with concept out of our scope of life. We're used to Newtonian physics, but when you get really big or really small, suddenly things no longer make sense. The faster you go, time slows down? Doesn't make sense, but that's what the Math says and further research supports it. What about quantum physics? Talk about hard to conceptualize. But, that's what the math says and so does our research.
It's not that this isn't logical, it's pure logic. It's math. It's just not something our brains are used to conceiving.
We'll get to my thoughts about math in a moment. But do you think that this could be evidence that we, as human beings are not entirely logical in the first place? That we rely on more than logic and reason to make sense of our surroundings?
Can you even imagine what "nothing" is?
I can. It's what remains on my plate after I'm all done eating my cognitive dissonance burger. It's a very sad sight, indeed.
But this is where the math, the purest form of logic, leads us. If you still think this is all hogwash people made up, I invite you to dive into the subject. It's one of the most interesting things you can get into.
I've considered math, especially when learning about ancient Greece and the Pythagoreans. It made me wonder about the true nature of math.

Let me present you with a scenario - show me a two. I don't mean the symbolic representation of a two (which in Arabic numbers, is 2. In Roman numerals, it's II. I could go on, but I'm not sure how many will be correctly interpreted by various Web browsers. :wink: ). I don't mean two of something. I mean an actual, physical two. One I can hold in my hands and manipulate, look at under a microscope, dissect and reassemble, and draw pictures of and hang on my refrigerator.

I'm willing to bet that you can't do it. So far, no one I've talked to has been able to do this. We can certainly look up the definition, we can draw its symbolic representation, we can identify it as a noun... but have any of us actually snuggled with a two? If it has no actual physical form, how can we prove that two even exists?

What I'm getting at is that mathematics is an extremely abstract concept. It's a way that, for centuries, people have used these numbers to define the universe in a way that makes sense to them. And, as you're willing to point out, at some higher level the math begins to falter. The numbers tell us one thing... but our minds and sense of reason tell us that it can't possibly be that way.

So what do we do? We take a leap of faith that the numbers don't lie. We believe that the math is correct, despite what our gut instinct tells us.

In one respect, the Pythagoreans were all about numbers - they believed that the universe was basically run by and could be explained by mathematics and music. In a sense, it was a sort of cult that worshipped mathematics, logic and reason. Yes, I went there - math often takes just as much faith as other forms of established religions.

I've sometimes wondered about what it would be like to have humanity contact a group of aliens who didn't operate off a base-10 system (based around the concept of our base-10 being an evolutionary trait tied to the fact that we have 10 fingers. These other aliens would have greater or fewer digits, so there would be some form of conversion necessary before the sciences started to make sense to each other). Or, alternatively, a society where numbers don't even exist at all (I'm still trying to conceptualize how this society would function - I'm wondering if they developed concepts based around geometry rather than algebra. Perhaps, in their society, pi actually equals 1, and all the rest of their numbers hinges on that fact. This one would be much harder to write about). But that's more of a side note.

I'm certainly not saying that we should completely dismiss mathematics as a religious cult that should be ignored (much as my math grades would like to attest to that... ;) ). But rather we should acknowledge that mathematics is a man-made construct, designed for us to try and understand the universe where we've found ourselves. And like most man-made tools, it may fail when we implement it in an incorrect fashion.

I know this is getting deep into philosophy - a good portion of which does consist of "what if...?" scenarios. Blame it on Douglas Adams - his statement that 6x9=42 started me on the thinking that, what if, the math that we've known and used for so long... is wrong? And very few of us realize it? So it's kind of an examination of belief systems in general. Kind of. I think my train of thought is unloading at this point, so I'd better stop before my ramblings dissolve into complete nonsensical psychobabble.

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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:22 pm

Haha, oh man, you're getting into some heavy stuff. The realness of math? I don't know. Is it just the way our minds understand the universe? Is it the only real thing? Whose to say that the physical objects you could hold in your hands actually exist? Who says physical entities are anything more than illusions. What if those are just expressions of math. All of this is speculative, and rather mind-melting, too.
Yes, I went there - math often takes just as much faith as other forms of established religions.
Haha, no. I'll still defy this. Math is all about demonstration and proof of conclusions. At best, faith is relegated to axiomatic expressions. Faith of religion is not only called more, but it's weaved into it's very structure. For Christianity, not only is faith important to accept nearly every aspect of it's doctrine, but also a required facet of salvation. Worlds apart from science and math, which seek to demonstrate as much as it can.
I still must stand against these allegation that science and math require just as much faith, when, in their very definitions, have a polar opposite treatment of it.
I've sometimes wondered about what it would be like to have humanity contact a group of aliens who didn't operate off a base-10 system (based around the concept of our base-10 being an evolutionary trait tied to the fact that we have 10 fingers. These other aliens would have greater or fewer digits, so there would be some form of conversion necessary before the sciences started to make sense to each other). Or, alternatively, a society where numbers don't even exist at all (I'm still trying to conceptualize how this society would function - I'm wondering if they developed concepts based around geometry rather than algebra. Perhaps, in their society, pi actually equals 1, and all the rest of their numbers hinges on that fact. This one would be much harder to write about). But that's more of a side note.
Well, differences in base is not that big of a deal. We see that all the time here on earth. Babylonians had a base-60 system, which is why we have seconds and minutes on a pseudo-base-60 system. Computers go on binary, and we often use a hex system as an intermediary. Base-12, is arguably a better alternative to base-10, which can be halved, thirded, and quartered as whole numbers.

But vastly different systems, like you said around geometry, seems fascinating. Perhaps an alien race doesn't even have a concept of numbers. Who knows how much our neurological make up "distorts" our experience of reality, if distorts is even a proper way of seeing it.
But rather we should acknowledge that mathematics is a man-made construct, designed for us to try and understand the universe where we've found ourselves. And like most man-made tools, it may fail when we implement it in an incorrect fashion.
There is a lot of pretty high-level discussion about this. Is math the reality of the universe we can truly understand, or is it an expression of our own neurology. Fascinating stuff.
I can. It's what remains on my plate after I'm all done eating my cognitive dissonance burger. It's a very sad sight, indeed.
Haha, touche.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Truthseeker » Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:07 pm

I have not posted for a while, but I was looking for a fascinating discussion and I knew I could find it here.

I wont even try to participate in the conversation regarding math and the big bang.

I have been familiar with the arguments in the OP for years and, frankly, they are clearly trivial. They exist to make believers feel more secure by adopting superficial trappings of rationality but utterly crumble at the slightest intellectual resistence. I can't add any refutation of them that has not already been said by Archangel.

One thing that does stand out to me is the idea that emotion, intuition, personal revelation, etc. can be personal proof, if not universal proof, that God exists. I'd be lying if I said I did not have that same intuitive draw to the idea that God is real. It's a very human experience. But when I have these thoughts, I am also compelled to observe that millions of people across the world come to different conclusions using the same "tools". Their emotions and intuitions pull them to different gods. They believe they have spoken to other deities with the same conviction that Christians believe they have spoken to their god. And they are so convinced in the authenticity of these experiences that they make great sacrifices and are even willing to die for their gods. And these variations in religious experiences are not random: they overwhelmingly correlate with culture, family, and upbringing. So my question is how an intelligent person, capable of observing this facet of human nature, could possibly credit their own religious experiences as genuine revelations?
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Wed Sep 10, 2014 3:53 am


One thing that does stand out to me is the idea that emotion, intuition, personal revelation, etc. can be personal proof, if not universal proof, that God exists. I'd be lying if I said I did not have that same intuitive draw to the idea that God is real. It's a very human experience. But when I have these thoughts, I am also compelled to observe that millions of people across the world come to different conclusions using the same "tools". Their emotions and intuitions pull them to different gods. They believe they have spoken to other deities with the same conviction that Christians believe they have spoken to their god. And they are so convinced in the authenticity of these experiences that they make great sacrifices and are even willing to die for their gods. And these variations in religious experiences are not random: they overwhelmingly correlate with culture, family, and upbringing. So my question is how an intelligent person, capable of observing this facet of human nature, could possibly credit their own religious experiences as genuine revelations?
This is the one thing that Richard Dawkins has said that I think is worth examining. A man today, raised in the West, is Christian largely because of the culture he grew up in. That same man born and raised in ancient Greece wouldn't likely be a Jew.

That said, the usefulness of Dawkins' observation ends there because he doesn't make the next step and address the universal need for men to commune with the divine. It's as innate as our sense of wonderment, and smallness, when we look up at the night sky and ponder the meaning of it all.

It is in our nature to want to be part of something greater than ourselves. It is, if you will, in our DNA. Science will get better at answering the how, but it cannot answer the why. Nor should it ever be used to do so.

All this poetic mush aside, you ask an important question about spiritual revelations and experiences outside those of Yahweh and, fortunately, Scripture is very clear about what those are. There are many paths to destruction... one path to Yahweh. The Adversary knows of our spiritual hunger and very happy to fill that void. It's that simple.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Wed Sep 10, 2014 5:12 am

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. You're addressing a "universal need for men to commune with the divine." We can't just put that down as a premise for the case for the Christian God as it's both not yet demonstrated, and even if it was, it's also not enough. Any other religion can claim the same, so you have bought yourself no ground.

But, if you want, we can take some baby steps and talk about that "universal need." Care to show your reasoning on why we have it and what exactly it is?
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Truthseeker » Wed Sep 10, 2014 3:05 pm

I feel like the point of my question may not have gotten across. I was asking how anyone can honestly think THEIR communication with the divine is genuine when they know full well that other people are having talks with other gods and those talks seem just as real to them. If the answer is that the bible says talks with Yahweh are real and anyone who thinks he's talking with other gods is really talking to Satan, then that begs the question of why anyone would think the bible is reliable on that point. And based on the conversation in this thread, it seems like a popular answer to that question would be that you know because Yahweh told you so. But then that comes full circle back to my original question. It looks like a big loop of thinking that leads nowhere.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Wed Sep 10, 2014 11:08 pm

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. You're addressing a "universal need for men to commune with the divine." We can't just put that down as a premise for the case for the Christian God as it's both not yet demonstrated, and even if it was, it's also not enough. Any other religion can claim the same, so you have bought yourself no ground.

But, if you want, we can take some baby steps and talk about that "universal need." Care to show your reasoning on why we have it and what exactly it is?
My observation regarding our need to commune with the divine was never intended to be a premise for the case for the Christian divine, but simply an evidence that a divinity, of some sort, exists. I don't even talk about Yahweh until my last paragraph, and that was in response to a direct question about spiritual revelation. You've read into everything preceding that paragraph something that was never there.

As for your questions as to why we have it, and what that is, as a former believer you should be aware of those answers already. Man is a spiritual being created by Yahweh for the expressed purpose of communing with Him of our own volition. Adam's original sin severed our natural connection to our Creator, but the desire was never destroyed. By rough metaphor, we might think of this desire similar to phantom limb syndrome often experienced by amputees. Innately we feel something is missing and we seek out the spiritual to make us whole once more.

There's your why and your what.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Wed Sep 10, 2014 11:26 pm

I feel like the point of my question may not have gotten across. I was asking how anyone can honestly think THEIR communication with the divine is genuine when they know full well that other people are having talks with other gods and those talks seem just as real to them. If the answer is that the bible says talks with Yahweh are real and anyone who thinks he's talking with other gods is really talking to Satan, then that begs the question of why anyone would think the bible is reliable on that point. And based on the conversation in this thread, it seems like a popular answer to that question would be that you know because Yahweh told you so. But then that comes full circle back to my original question. It looks like a big loop of thinking that leads nowhere.
Yes, now I understand. I thought you were asking the question from a Christian perspective. You are not.

My answer? I can't know. Not 100%. But there are ways I might determine what the source is:

Is it something I want to hear? (If the answer is 'yes,' then care should be taken. If it's always 'yes' then you're talking to yourself or something dark.)
Is it something that contradicts what I know to be explicitly true about Yahweh? (Yahweh isn't in the business of contradicting Himself.)
When bringing the revelation to the elders of the faith, what is their impression? (That's a big one often ignored.)
Is the revelation about me or others? (In 99.99% of the cases, it should be about you. If it's not then it needs extra scrutiny.)

In short, if the revelation is, "You're awesome, but all those others guys aren't," you're probably not hearing from Yahweh. Maybe Vishnu? I don't know how that dude works.

But if you're looking for a fool proof litmus test, one does not exist. One does not it call it 'faith' because it's just a nifty word. We need to use our head and our heart in all things.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:26 am

My observation regarding our need to commune with the divine was never intended to be a premise for the case for the Christian divine, but simply an evidence that a divinity, of some sort, exists. I don't even talk about Yahweh until my last paragraph, and that was in response to a direct question about spiritual revelation. You've read into everything preceding that paragraph something that was never there.
Even if that's not your intention, which, by curious juxtaposition, happened to build up to it, you certainly believe that there is a God and it's the Christian one. You make this jump anyways, but it's too much for me to ask about it?
As for your questions as to why we have it, and what that is, as a former believer you should be aware of those answers already. Man is a spiritual being created by Yahweh for the expressed purpose of communing with Him of our own volition. Adam's original sin severed our natural connection to our Creator, but the desire was never destroyed. By rough metaphor, we might think of this desire similar to phantom limb syndrome often experienced by amputees. Innately we feel something is missing and we seek out the spiritual to make us whole once more..
Yes, I remember the standard explanation, but it's little more than just assertions people make to feel better about their beliefs. I want to see why this is credible.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:40 am

My observation regarding our need to commune with the divine was never intended to be a premise for the case for the Christian divine, but simply an evidence that a divinity, of some sort, exists. I don't even talk about Yahweh until my last paragraph, and that was in response to a direct question about spiritual revelation. You've read into everything preceding that paragraph something that was never there.
Even if that's not your intention, which, by curious juxtaposition, happened to build up to it, you certainly believe that there is a God and it's the Christian one. You make this jump anyways, but it's too much for me to ask about it?
As for your questions as to why we have it, and what that is, as a former believer you should be aware of those answers already. Man is a spiritual being created by Yahweh for the expressed purpose of communing with Him of our own volition. Adam's original sin severed our natural connection to our Creator, but the desire was never destroyed. By rough metaphor, we might think of this desire similar to phantom limb syndrome often experienced by amputees. Innately we feel something is missing and we seek out the spiritual to make us whole once more..
Yes, I remember the standard explanation, but it's little more than just assertions people make to feel better about their beliefs. I want to see why this is credible.
One man's assertion is another man's conclusion derived from evidence, I suppose. If you don't find Scripture to be credible why do you ask people to prove their spiritual beliefs but chide them from using the very material upon which their belief is founded?

Do you ask architects to prove the soundness of their designs but forbid them from using everything they've learned about structural engineering in their case?

What kind of answer are you looking for, dude? Yahweh doesn't fit in a lab. Sorry.

Again, I'm back to something I've brought up in the past which was scoffed at: What are you trying to accomplish here?

No one will ever give you a scientifically falsifiable argument to prove Yahweh. It doesn't exist. So why do you keep asking believers to do so?

Are you wanting to make us better believers, with stronger arguments, or are you simply trying to make fewer believers? Because I don't see a third option.

Unless you're a sadist. I suppose that's the third option. I don't know why else one continually demands "credible" answers from people who will never be able to provide them. Do you shake your fist toward the North Pole when Santa doesn't answer your letters? Demanding answers from wary parents in the mall when they bring their children to sit on St. Nick's knee come the season?

Of course you don't. You know Santa doesn't exist. But here you are with us, demanding "credible" answers from people who, from your point of view, insist Santa is real and will answer your letters if you're a really, really good boy.
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ChickenSoup
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ChickenSoup » Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:56 am

or maybe he doesn't want to be surrounded by yes-men and only discuss things with fellow atheists, as this conversation can be both stimulating and enjoyable?

Maybe he's been on this site almost as long as it's been around and wants to maintain contact with people, and gets drawn into the conversation for the aforementioned reason?

Lord knows that's why I end up in this section of the forum. (not an atheist, but sticking around)
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Bruce_Campbell
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Bruce_Campbell » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:56 am

Yeah, we don't need you to referee, seldarane. We're all adults here. (Well, most of us.)
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