How can we know there is a God?

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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:00 am

Yeah, we don't need you to referee, seldarane. We're all adults here. (Well, most of us.)
If you think I'm trying to referee then you fail to grasp what I'm trying to get at. (I'll withhold the passive aggressive retort reserved for this space.)

I'm simply trying to understand of the intentions and motivations of the people I'm engaging on contentious issues. Were I to engage, for example, a Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher on issues of faith I am crystal clear about what their ultimate goal in such discussion are. They are very open about it. Knowing that I can engage them on equal footing because I know I'm not really talking to them, but to the people gathered to watch the spectacle. No, in such a contest neither I nor Dawkins/Maher are going to change one another's minds.

That is all I'm trying to ascertain regarding you and ArchAngel. I've put my cards on the table for you both on a number of occasions and rather than be forthright, well, you specifically decide to take a less useful tack.

ArchAngel asks for a "credible" answer to a question. My question to him is if he can conceive of an answer a person of faith might give him he'd be willing to accept? (Hence my, "Yahweh won't fit into a lab," statement. If that is his criteria for credible than no one but Yahweh can satisfy it.) I do not doubt his intelligence. I have no doubt he's weighed the questions he posing in his own time and has formulated responses to anything he believes a theist might respond with, because he's found such responses lacking in advance. (As evidenced by his casual dismissal of " the standard explanation" I presented his inquiry.)

Then I wonder aloud to him (and you) what is the point of the exercise?

ChickenSoup's observation about being surrounded by yes-men doesn't answer the question, it simply deflects it. Should I surround myself with atheists I would be lying if I did not say my intention was to dissuade and convert should issues such as the ones discussed here come up. That doesn't mean I can't be friendly, affable, and anything else with them, but on matters such as this I have a clear intent and motivation.

So I wonder aloud once more: What is the point of the exercise you and ArchAngel are engaging in? Either you wish to make believers stronger in their faith by assisting them hone their arguments, or you wish to show them that their arguments, and their faith, are folly.

Unless, as I've noted, you're sadists.

You engage in these discussions to an end. They might be fun, invigorating, entertaining or whatever else (as ChickenSoup notes), but these are fundamental issues that define a person's innermost core. You do not engage these topics lightly if you care at all about that. To do so is the height of callousness, and I do not believe anyone here is so careless. It may be entertaining talk, but it's important talk because to persuade someone on these matters it to, quite literally, alter their course in life. ArchAngel the believer that was, and ArchAngel the atheist that is, walked very different roads. From a Christian perspective, one toward salvation, the other to destruction.

Just stop and think about that for half a second. You have the power to lead a person to Yahweh, or lead them away, and become a catalyst for everything that follows. If you do not tremble at that thought, in humility at the greatness of the task you're undertaking, I argue you aren't paying attention and ought not to be allowed around pointy things.

So because I do tremble, and I wish to ensure I'm not expending my energies on those not ready, or not willing, to consider what I have to say, I put my cards on the table openly. I tell you my intent.

Why won't you?

Am I debating with a Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher, people who have no interest in knowing Yahweh but love the debate, or am I engaging someone who is genuinely unclear on issues of faith and is seeking clarification?

I am truly perplexed why asking the question is so scandalous.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Bruce_Campbell » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:51 am

I don't generally pour my guts out to people who antagonize me at every turn. So consider yourself lucky.

Why do I post here? Well, because there are smart people on this forum, and I enjoy being challenged. Iron sharpening iron, and all that. I respect the people who post here regularly, and I've learned a lot from the discussions here.

I'm not interested in talking people out of Christianity. I lost my faith over a ten year period (most of my 20's and my early 30's), and it wasn't fun, nor is it something I would want to inflict on another human being. (Imagine a bad breakup that lasts for a decade... that was basically my "deconversion" experience.) If I have ulterior motives, maybe they are to show people that atheists aren't all jerks and can in fact be friendly, kind people, and aren't necessarily the monsters I was taught they were growing up. (I'm not the best diplomat, so I dunno how well that all works out.) Conversely, I like having Christian friends, because it helps me remember that not all Christians are like so many of the jerks I grew up with. Maybe it's a kind of therapy.

Those are my cards, and I generally don't hold them close to my chest. If you've got any other honest questions that aren't thinly veiled accusations ("Why are you trying to draw people away from Yaweh?"), I'm more than happy to answer them.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:08 am

Thank you for the forthright response.

I tempered the post above to try to show that I'm not trying to be anyone's enemy, I simply want to know more about the people I'm engaging. Truly, I knew of no more clear and honest way to present what I was thinking and feeling. (You may have noticed I edited it several times to hone it.)

I truly, deeply, apologize for the antagonism I exhibited to you in the past. I will add no qualifiers to this.

Please know that I will endeavour to behave more civilly toward you in the future. Should I slip, a polite reminder is appreciated. Know, however, I hold no animosity toward you, and never have.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Bruce_Campbell » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:19 am

Thank you for the forthright response.

I tempered the post above to try to show that I'm not trying to be anyone's enemy, I simply want to know more about the people I'm engaging. Truly, I knew of no more clear and honest way to present what I was thinking and feeling. (You may have noticed I edited it several times to hone it.)

I truly, deeply, apologize for the antagonism I exhibited to you in the past. I will add no qualifiers to this.

Please know that I will endeavour to behave more civilly toward you in the future. Should I slip, a polite reminder is appreciated. Know, however, I hold no animosity toward you, and never have.
Hey man, apology accepted, and if I was a jerk (I say "if" because I don't always catch myself or remember), I apologize too. If you ever find yourself in Austin, let's meet up for a beer. Or coffee if you're not a drinker. Or just some good food.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:17 am

I lived in Austin until about a year ago!

Man I miss the food. Salt Lick, Torchy's Tacos, Crawfish Shack... The Alamo Drafthouse ruined every other theater chain in the world for me.

And there's no gaming store in the country like Dragon's Lair.

Hopefully CCGR can get me a press pass for PAX South and I can do coverage for the website. That would be sweet.

Not sure when I can make it back down, but I know my wife and I want to.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Bruce_Campbell » Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:28 pm

We should have had this conversation a long time ago. I could have used a friend last year. :)

Now I want to gush about Austin, but I'm on a bus to DFW and on my phone. I love the Drafthouse. Did you ever go to Master Pancake?
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:06 pm

I never did a Master Pancake, but I know they do the MST3K thing. The only event thing I went to was a Christmas Eve quote along of Die Hard where we got Twinkies, cap guns, and they set off pyrotechnics when Nakatomi Plaza blew up.

It was a pretty sweet Christmas.

Oh, and I saw Masters of the Universe there too. Dragon's Lair handed out copies of the new He-Man comic book to everyone and my friend won a copy of Masters of the Universe on DVD. He was pretty stoked.

OH! (The memories are flooding back now!) I was also at the world premier of Star Trek. It was cool. We were told it was a screening of an HD version of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, and we'd get to see an extended Star Trek trailer and the screenwriters would be there to answer questions. So it was already pretty cool.

They fire up the film and after about three minutes it starts to mess up and the film breaks down. The manager comes out, apologizes, and says he's gonna look into it and asks the screenwriters to come up for some Q&A. While they're doing that Leonard Nimoy comes out and says he's heard we're gonna see an extended trailer.

He asks if we'd rather see the whole movie.

Then the screenwriters tell us that we're the first people in the world to see the film, even before the official world premier in Australia.

So that's a thing that happened at the Drafthouse.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Truthseeker » Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:23 pm

Selderane, I'm happy to make it clear that I am not asking from a Christian perspective. And from that more critical perspective, I still think your answer isn't much of an answer because most of your points presuppose that Christianity is a true religion when my question is why would anyone arive at that conclusion in the first place. The answers seem awfully circular.

Why believe you are talking Yahweh and not yourself? Because what I'm hearing is supported by the Bible. Why believe the Bible? Because the Bible is supported by what Yahweh says to me. Why do you think that's Yahweh? Because the Bible. Do you see the circular thinking? Instead of having any foundation in observable reality, this thinking feeds only on itself. It is in its own little cocoon, and it looks very dark in there.

Regarding your question to ArchAngel regarding the motivation for having these conversations, for me it is a little of everything you mentioned. Sometimes I want to understand the religious point of view. Sometimes I want my point of view to be tested in a debate. Sometimes I want to persuade people to my viewpoint.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:03 pm

Don't let me get in the way of your conversation, but I think you asked a pretty important question. Not relevant to the debate, persay, but I don't think you were intending on leading up to an Ad Hominem attack and you seemed to express genuine curiosity, so if I glazed over it before, I'd like to answer it.

Starting out, ChickenSoup and BruceCampbell: they get me. I'll end up reiterating what they've said, but I'll try not to spend too much time repeating their points.

So, this is definitely a question I've been asking myself lately. I have this very large impetus to engage in debate, and it's important that I should understand why. Is it possible that this is a coping mechanism for me to deal with several anxiety and insecurity issues. Probably very likely. I grew up homeschooled, which led to a whole slew of personal issues and one of the very few things I'm actually confident in is my intelligence. Would I enjoy having that validated? Like a fat kid with a twinkie hot dog. I'm not going to deny this baser motive exists, as unhappy as I am to admit it, it's probably likely I have this little gremlin following me around.
I think it's more than just that. If that alone, I would have given up on it. You don't debate for any particular length of time before being proven wrong or beaten, or at times, even humiliated. And I certainly have, and I will continue to be forced to admit my errors and ignorances. But those experiences have been incredibly important in my development into someone who I'd want to be. Like I said before, one of the few things I'm confident in is intelligence, so it is, at least now, something I can take a couple blows without absolutely crumbling inside. Being proven wrong can even be exciting; you get to me more right later.

But the value of debate is more than just having errors weeded out. It's an incredible tool for having both sides understand each other better. I understand much of the Christian mindset, yes, but I'm still prone for writing off Christians as a one-dimensional, monolithic group that was never smart enough to throw off their superstitions. When you are on the outside, you see a very overwhelming picture of Christianity and it's not flattering. But these interactions, on a very intense and foundational level, helps me get a better, more nuanced perspective of Christians. Yes, I still have yet to see an argument that is persuasive of the existence of God, but I get to probe the minds of people and see how they tick and understand them better as people.

And in reverse, I also want to be understood as well. I see how many Christians talk about Atheists. I recall how my old pastors use to refer to them as. The images are almost comically bad. Just watch "God is Not Dead" to see how much of Christianity looks at us. I'm not going to lie, I lost a lot of respect for a number of my friends, family, and acquaintances, when they were lauding the movie. And part of the thing is, I know a lot of these people just aren't up for a debate. They are not willing to pit their conceptions against mine. So what happens, they leave thinking one way about Atheists, and I leave thinking another way about them. I haven't seen the sort of preachy ranting from you as I've seen around, but if you've seen some of the polls, Atheists are seen very poorly in the public eye. It's a little weird, by simple not believing in a God, we often come off as a tool of Satan. This is one of the reasons why I'm writing this giant wall of text; you seem genuine in your question on why I do this, and I think I owe you a proper answer.
The more we get out and try to just be honest and open, I think this might mend some relationships. I'd like to see a Christian be able to correct another because they understand why we think the way we do. They don't have to agree with us, but know our reasoning will help them get a better picture of other people, but also of their own beliefs.

And that's also part of the reason: for me to understand my own stance better and you yours. Bruce mentioned iron sharpening iron. A very apt biblical analogy. To improve each other, it is going to take some pressure, heat, and friction, but you can leave stronger and sharper, flexible enough for the rigors of the world, but direct enough to cut to the heart of the matter. You might ask questions that I've not thought of, and I'll have find out. Why do I believe what I believe? I've been told species evolved, or that prayer was just something people did to make themselves feel better, but here someone is pointing out that an eye has to many important parts to evolve, or that their aunt was healed of a cancer when someone prayed over them. How do I know these things? Nobody can make you analyze your own beliefs like someone who disagrees.

I think it's also important to address the central component of debate: persuasion. Am I trying to convert people? No, but kind of. For one, and I think it's important to mention: You cannot convert someone, not without, at least, some high level cognitive manipulation. In a sense, I agree with the Bible on this: you cannot lead someone to Christ, but you can't lead them away either. Now, I don't believe in a Holy Spirit, but a person's beliefs are of theirs alone; I don't credit anybody with the release of my faith. Some people asked the right questions, but it was my own walk.
So no, I don't think I can persuade anybody to become an Atheist, nor am I trying to. I'm not going to get them into Atheist heaven or get brownie-points with the Atheist Not-God. A christian sees themselves helping a person get eternal salvation, but what good would I do?
Well, there is some good to be had. Not wanting to derail the subject, we see a lot of pain and harm from religious dogma. I do think the world would be better off with less religion. But, it isn't the magical concept of religion that hurts people, it's blind groupthink. I want people to be inquisitive, and use critical thinking, and minimize some of the harm from out-grouping. And I can do my best to persuade these things without trying to make someone atheist. Theists can think and be rational, and that's what I seek to foster, and they can do the same for me.
So, yes, I am asking questions over that I'm pretty sure I know the answer I'm getting, but sometimes I get surprised and learn something new, sometimes I'm proven wrong, and sometimes I get a person asking themselves an important question.
I'm asking you about the criteria on why you believe, not only in a God, but the Christian God. Yes, he cannot be defined in a lab, or even proven. So then why do you believe?
Even if you don't answer me that question, it's important you ask yourself that and keep asking yourself that.

So, TL;DR, Insecurity, to foster critical thinking, to understand, and to be understood.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:12 pm

Selderane, I'm happy to make it clear that I am not asking from a Christian perspective. And from that more critical perspective, I still think your answer isn't much of an answer because most of your points presuppose that Christianity is a true religion when my question is why would anyone arive at that conclusion in the first place. The answers seem awfully circular.

Why believe you are talking Yahweh and not yourself? Because what I'm hearing is supported by the Bible. Why believe the Bible? Because the Bible is supported by what Yahweh says to me. Why do you think that's Yahweh? Because the Bible. Do you see the circular thinking? Instead of having any foundation in observable reality, this thinking feeds only on itself. It is in its own little cocoon, and it looks very dark in there.

Regarding your question to ArchAngel regarding the motivation for having these conversations, for me it is a little of everything you mentioned. Sometimes I want to understand the religious point of view. Sometimes I want my point of view to be tested in a debate. Sometimes I want to persuade people to my viewpoint.
Thanks for the insight. I appreciate it.

To your "cocoon" point, I first would caution you against weasel words such as, "it looks very dark in there". We're all trying to get a deeper understanding of personal beliefs one another share and that kind of statement... elicits uncharitable sentiment in my breast.

I'd like to flip the script some, if you would allow. You're hip to the Christian thing. You're down with the lingo, our arguments, and jazz. So, you tell me: What kind of answer do you think a Christian might formulate to your inquiry you'd find satisfactory?

Lets posit for the sake of argument that Yahweh does exist, He is the one true god, and He has revealed Himself to you. Now, tell me how you, the recipient of all this neat stuff, would respond to the question you've posed to me in a way that doesn't get wrapped up in that cocoon of darkness you've observed.

Role-play, baby! Let's chuck some D10s. I see you have a few ranks in "Spirituality." Add those to your result and tell me what you get.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Truthseeker » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:06 pm

Well first of all I regret that the darkness comment gave you uncharitable feelings. There's a balancing act between expressing one's self with force and not saying things that are obsticals to understanding, and I don't always get it right. Yet...darkness is what it looks like to me when an ideology is challenged and it can't help but retreat into self-referential arguments. At least know that's what it looks like from the outside looking in and understand why.

Now, you ask me what I'd want to see that would convince me. What I am looking for is for a thought process to be detailed. The narrator of the thought process begins with no opinions regarding religion but is interested in arriving at one. I want to see the line of thinking that leads that person to the conclusion that Yahweh is the one true God. There are at least two caveats. First, this person does not believe that wanting something to be true makes it so. Thus, any argument that takes form of "if Yahweh isn't real, then [some undesireable thing] would be true" would not persuade him. Arguments such as you need God for life to have meaning, you need God for morality to exist, etc. would have no sway with him. The second caveat is that because this person does not begin assuming that Yahweh is real, that assumption cannot enter into his thinking until he arrives there at the very end of the thought process. Thus, arguments such as "Yahweh is the one true god because the Bible says so, and I know the Bible is true because it's Yahweh's book, and Yahweh wouldn't write a false book because he is the one true God" have no place in his thinking.

I don't know the specifics of what the substance of that thought process would be. If I knew that I'd already be a Christian. People have been trying for thousands of years to do what I just described and have not succeeded.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Sat Sep 13, 2014 4:18 am

I don't know the specifics of what the substance of that thought process would be. If I knew that I'd already be a Christian. People have been trying for thousands of years to do what I just described and have not succeeded.
I would argue on the "have not succeeded" part, but the reason why is obvious. That said, you are right, these arguments have been made for thousands of years and I doubt I can compose one on the fly that will suddenly persuade you.

Truth be told, I know of no person who was swayed to a religious worldview because of a particularly persuasive argument. Indeed, at least from the Christian worldview, I don't think it can be done. I believe arguments can be made in favor of this, that, and the other thing, and taken together make a powerful case for a divine Creator, but a leap of faith is necessary to get to that final destination.

But I thank you for indulging me because you confirmed what I suspected. It was my thought that if your yourself couldn't conceive of a convincing argument I knew there was no way I, or likely anyone else, might formulate one for you.

Which is why I asked ArchAngel specifically what he was trying to accomplish. There's a wealth of apologetic material out there that argues for the Christian worldview. You, he, and others are aware and read on this material. So it seemed futile, to me anyway, to argue the point further here.

If, for example, you find Ravi Zacharias' intellectual rigor unpersuasive, I sincerely doubt anyone here is capable of bridging the gap for you.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Sat Sep 13, 2014 6:39 am

Well, I straight up wrote a book up there answering that question.

But I don't care what the apologists say right now. I'd much rather hear why YOU believe it, and what standards you hold for belief. You're not representing Christianity or Theism, you're representing only your own beliefs.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby selderane » Sat Sep 13, 2014 4:21 pm

Well, I straight up wrote a book up there answering that question.

But I don't care what the apologists say right now. I'd much rather hear why YOU believe it, and what standards you hold for belief. You're not representing Christianity or Theism, you're representing only your own beliefs.
The answer is... involved. It will not help you to come to an understanding with Yahweh, but you deserve an answer given the lengthy response you gave me.

Give me some time to mull it over and I'll post something later today, I think.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby ArchAngel » Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:13 pm

No worries, take your time. I look forward to an involved answer.
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