Can Atheists believe in an afterlife?

tea asks:

There are many ways to debate this. Most new atheist explain or argue that if you don’t believe in god, then it is impossible to believe in anything supernatural or an afterlife.

I personally believe that 99% of what people claim to be a supernatural or religious experience is just the mind creating delusions. And I find myself rolling my eyes when I listen to someone explaining they had some type of “experience”. But I do find myself believing in something more. I feel that the mind is very powerful and 99% of the time it is just my brain creating a delusional world for me to live in because I can’t find the scientific explanation. But there is still that feeling. The feeling is that I am connected to something bigger then myself and that there is a purpose to everything.

I still live my life as an atheist. I use logic and reason to live my life. And I don’t live my life by any dogmatic point of view. I also live my life in the here and now, not waiting for some “next life” to happen. I just want to see other atheist feel about this subject.

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65 Responses to Can Atheists believe in an afterlife?

  1. Durzal says:

    Welcome Tea (you British?)

    Well atheist as a definition means “a person who believes that there is no God/Gods”

    So I guess its possible for an atheist to believe in an afterlife, generally though atheists are critical thinkers who embrace logic and reasoning based on evidence and the idea of an afterlife would seem to require a huge degree of faith (i.e. belief without any (credible)reasoning or evidence to support the idea)

    The mind is a very complex system, as you say, most “experiences” are just the mind doing its best to explain the unknown
    i.e. If you put people who believe in ghosts in a dark room at midnight and say its very very haunted, they will see stuff. (same thing as the placebo effect)

    The feeling of being connected to something bigger is an interesting evolutionary trait, its the reason we fight for sides i.e. your family,gang,team,village,city,corps,country and faith.
    Being apart of something bigger is an obvious evolutionary advantage as within something bigger you are afforded greater protection,resources,skill base etc and so human being instinctively are always looking to and feel to be apart of something bigger.

    I hope this was of use, feel free to ask me for any further explanations on anything I’ve said.
    (or haven’t said)

  2. tea says:

    No, I am not British. It just spells out my initials of my name.

    I agree about it being an evolutionary trait. But what would happen if we evolved out of it. Would we become less human? Or what if the trait evolved more, would we has a species have the ability to love more or have unconditional love.

    Another way to look at it, is the trait is generally a good thing because it units us but is it also the number one reason there are wars, hate, and etc.

    Sorry, not trying to get off topic. It’s what jumps into my mind after reading your comment. I really enjoyed this discussion.

    I would still like to see what other Atheist feel about an afterlife. I would really be interesting in seeing any comments of what there idea of the afterlife is.

    • Durzal says:

      People could be born without a need to be apart of something bigger, but as, in this day and age its unlikely to have any bearing on survivability it wouldn’t have any evolutionary impact and I cant really see a situation in which being a loner would benefit survival, so losing the trait is unlikely in any scenario.

      I don’t believe the trait would or should have to evolve more(become more compelling) for us to see the whole of humanity as apart of our extended family(i.e. stop killing each other), It would take something like an alien invasion or a potential life ending asteroid impact to get humanity to realise that regardless of colour, race or creed we are all brothers.

      Give it a few thousand years and I would imagine that human beings will start to unite as an entire race and stop killing each other. (lets hope we make it that far)

      • Durzal says:

        Btw, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any atheist who believes in an afterlife.
        It really does take some wishful thinking to believe something as baseless as an afterlife.

      • The Atheist says:

        I’m not so confidant that we as a species have become immune to the forces of evolution. As in most cases, changes to a species occurs as a response to a significant change to the environment. Certain personality types might be more (or less) successful if we get hit by a large asteroid, if we have a major tsunami, a nuclear war, major epidemic, if the world gets grossly overpopulated, major climate change due to global warming, etc.

      • Durzal says:

        I agree, I was just saying that due to our current technology this sort of trait has no bearing on our survivability.

        If there was a nuclear war and civilisation as we know it came to an end, then all bets are off, but even then I can’t see how being a loner would ever be of any benefit so I doubt we would ever evolve out of a tendency and receptivity to group up.

        I totally agree though that we haven’t in anyway become immune to evolution, virus’s alone will no doubt be improving our immune systems for many many years to come.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      Evolutionary speculation doesn’t explain why the trait exists in the first place. I’m not so sure how a trait that compelled us to focus on a realm outside of the empirical reality in which we had to live, hunt, survive and multiply would present a survival advantage as to persist to the prevalence it has today.

      Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God setting eternity in our hearts is the Biblical explanation of why we have a sense of life continuing beyond this one. Why anyone would use a God-given awareness of eternity in conjunction with acts of hatred is best explained by the presence of sin (Genesis 3), where mankind takes something good and uses it for evil.

      Obviously I’m not an atheist. :) Your question was an interesting one though so I wanted to offer that. As far as an answer to your question as originally stated, I think an atheist, like everyone else, has at least to some degree an innate awareness of eternity, and of a Creator (Rom. 1), as evidenced by the feelings of purpose and connection to something greater that you mentioned, but can choose not to identify it as such.

      • The Atheist says:

        I don’t follow. How do Paul’s comments about idol worshipers (those who worship “images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” – more than likely followers of any of the “Goddess religions”) apply to an atheists presumed innate awareness of a Creator?

        One alternative you might consider is that Ecc 3:11 is incorrect since you personally can observe that some people do not “have eternity in [their] hearts”, and that some people understand the universe much more thoroughly and on a much deeper level than some who “have eternity in [their] hearts.”

        The other alternative to consider is that “in the hearts of men” doesn’t necessarily mean in the hearts of ALL men. However that would take a bit of linguistic gymnastics since the Hebrew is pretty clear when it says that ‘He gave eternity in their hearts so that no man (referring to the preceding “their” – and thus defining “their” as “all men”) can discover what Elohim has done from beginning to end.’

        • Mike Johnson says:

          Paul’s explanation of “godlessness” is that it is the result of knowledge of God being “suppressed”: “…people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (1:18, 19). A Creator is logically inferred from creation, but there is also the implication that we are created with minds that are aware of Him. We can be gravely mistaken as to the true nature of this God we sense innately and go and worship other things or ideas, or parts of His creation. Paul in Acts 17 noted that the Athenians had many idols and images, even one dedicated to an UNKNOWN GOD. This would be similar to the undeniable universal moral obligations we all are aware of and “can’t not know”, which we’ve discussed at length in another thread.

          Whether Ecc. 3:11 is talking about all men or some men, the conflict Tea describes is not uncommon. We may claim to “understand the universe much more thoroughly and on a much deeper level than some who ‘have eternity in [their] hearts'”, but why do we set our sights on the outer reaches of the universe to begin with? Why are we so hopeful that there is something Personal out there? I won’t say that a God who desires to be discovered willingly is the only possible answer for this, but it seems to be the best answer, and indeed a better one than an evolutionary trait.

        • The Atheist says:

          Mike,

          The placement of comments is starting to get confusing! So I’ll place my response at the bottom of this post (bottom of the page).

          I’ve noticed that you introduced the question of evolution a few times in recent conversations which weren’t about evolution per se. Maybe much of what you believe hinges on the validity of evolution, and for that reason you feel it is foundation to the discussion. Or perhaps you enjoy the subject of evolution (as I do!) and just want to talk about it. In either case, maybe I can show you that evolution has and does occur. In the end you can ignore the evidence and maintain your current beliefs (and ignoring the evidence will at least be a conscious decision at that point), or better yet you can refute the evidence (which makes for a productive dialog) and make a believer out of me! I’ve started a new thread called Why Another Discussion About Evolution? where we can continue the part of our conversation about evolution. I hope you’ll comment!

          • Mike Johnson says:

            Good idea, I was wondering how narrow the columns would get :)

            I will take a look at the post on evolution, although I hesitate to dive into an in-depth discussion on evolution for a couple reasons. One is that many Christians are willing to accept evolution as part of God’s creation process. I don’t share that view because I think hermeneutically there is no way to completely reconcile this with scripture, but either way I don’t see the acceptance of evolution as a strong argument against the existence of God. For this reason, much of what I believe actually does NOT hinge on evolution. Certainly the existence of God does not. And while many aspects of biology and physics do intrigue me, the argument can go in so many directions and accomplish very little in the way of a theistic argument.

            That’s not to say evolution would never come into the discussion, as I have stated that I think the fact that a logical origin of moral obligations can’t be found in evolution, simply because its first evolved appearance would require a pre-existing standard to define it morally.

  3. The Atheist says:

    Atheism means belief in no god and does not necessarily preclude a belief in life after death. However, belief in gods and belief in life after death may share the same origins.

    I agree with Durzal regarding the role of evolution. I would also add that there may be other reasons besides beneficial evolutionary traits that compel humans to believe in gods and in an afterlife. That is, there may be some side effects from the evolutionary development of beneficial traits. The side effects need not be beneficial as long as they are not too detrimental.

    Here’s what I mean: humans (and other animals) have evolved to differentiate inanimate objects from agents. They recognize that a leaf blowing in the wind is an inanimate object but a mouse scurrying across the field is an agent. Humans (and other animals) have evolved a theory of mind: that agents act mindfully to achieve goals; they don’t act at random. For example, agents act because they are getting food, running from danger, etc. This ability to recognize agents is very beneficial because it allows humans to recognize prey and predators and predict with some accuracy how each will act. The benefits are that we can better recognize and evade predators and we can better recognize and capture prey.

    This mechanism for differentiating inanimate objects from agents is not perfect; we can’t always get it right. So we have evolved to slightly err on the side of mistaking inanimate objects for agents (which is not so bad) vs. mistaking agents for inanimate objects (which can be deadly). But there is a side effect from this error of sometimes mistaking inanimate objects for agents: our logical mind invents agents to explain this illusion that these faux agents exist. In other words, we see ghosts and we theorize spirits and these ghosts and spirits evolve into gods.

    The notion of an afterlife may be similar. We have evolved to read emotions and other information from human faces (beneficial trait). Hence, well-crafted masks seem to communicate to us (side effect). Faces of dead people eerily seem like there is still an agent behind the face – the face still seems to communicate on some level even in death (side effect).

    We have evolved a will to survive (beneficial trait). But because we also have evolved the ability to reason, we are able to predict our own death. But we wish we would not die – we struggle for a way to survive. We cope with this fear of impending doom by imagining that somehow we don’t really die after all (a side effect).

    When we reflect on our own nature. We observe that, in the whole of our experience, we are always alive. There is never a time in our experience when we are not alive. Therefore we can’t experience our own death as part of our reality – death is less real to us than life. Our tendencies to imagine a world of spirits, to imagine that dead people are still somehow alive (others don’t really die – and we are like the others), and to wish that we really won’t die, coupled with a personal observation that life is very real but death is less real, makes the case for life after death seem pretty alluring!

    However, the case for life after death seems inconsistent with the whole of our observations and the most exact reasoning.

  4. Sam says:

    I’m what many have called a very militant atheist but I do believe in an “after-life” as some call it. Let me explain. There is nothing supernatural about it. I think that a “soul” is a unique combination of electrical waves/particles that, much like a radio transmission exists forever, can be detected by a receiver and that some living people can and do receive those transmissions during and after the lifetimes of other individuals. Eventually those transmissions may break apart or dissipate so as not to be recognizable as having come from a particular individual but until then that individual may be said to be existing after his/her death. Everything is energy, Baby!

  5. Durzal says:

    This is quite an interesting belief, though I would imagine it wouldn’t really be classed as belief in an afterlife in the traditional sense (i.e. continuation of life or existence after biological death) as these transmissions would, if I interpret you text correctly, seem to be mere re-runs of thoughts of a once conscious and thinking mind rather than a continuation of conscious life.

    Interesting though, I liked the bit about these transmissions being like radio transmission as if by “like” you include speed this would mean that they wouldn’t be affected by time and that would suggest immortality (of a sort) which I thought played well in a belief in an afterlife.

    I’m guessing this belief has some relevance to ghosts?

  6. Sam says:

    No, I’m afraid my ideas have never been considered traditional! There is some relevance to “ghosts” and other psychic phenomena but only incidentally. In case you might be wondering, no, I’ve never had experiences with either. Those waves/particles which collectively used to be called “Sam” may retain a sense of self-awareness immediately following bio-death and may even retain some capacity of will. I like to think so and so I do. I’m taken with the idea that the “stuff” of which we are made and by which we function is never destroyed, ever. It merely changes in form and function, matter and mind. Plant a tree on my grave and “my” molecules may nourish, and thus literally become a part of the tree or even the tree itself. Someone eats the fruit from that tree. Now am “I” that person? Is that person now me? Am I now not conscious again after my “death”? Having no heavenly aspirations of the goddy sort, this is the answer to my spiritual yearnings for immortality and it makes sense to me. Did I mention I’m a poet? Lol! Yes, even rational people can be spiritual…

  7. Sam says:

    No, I’m afraid my ideas have never been considered traditional! There is some relevance to “ghosts” and other psychic phenomena but only incidentally. In case you might be wondering, no, I’ve never had experiences with either. Those waves/particles which collectively used to be called “Sam” may retain a sense of self-awareness immediately following bio-death and may even retain some capacity of will. I like to think so and so I do. I’m taken with the idea that the “stuff” of which we are made and by which we function is never destroyed, ever. It merely changes in form and function, matter and mind. Plant a tree on my grave and “my” molecules may nourish, and thus literally become a part of the tree or even the tree itself. Someone eats the fruit from that tree. Now am “I” that person? Is that person now me? Am I now not conscious again after my “death”? Having no heavenly aspirations of the goddy sort, this is the answer to my spiritual yearnings for immortality and it makes sense to me. Did I mention I’m a poet? Lol! Yes, even rational people can be spiritual…

    • Durzal says:

      “may retain a sense of self-awareness immediately following bio-death and may even retain some capacity of will”

      Is this a firmly held belief or is it just something you view as vaguely possible?
      If its firmly held, do you have any explanation on how electrical signals that run along electrical synapse in our neural system could operate outside of a set system for operation?
      It sort of seems to me, like the electricity that runs your computer doing what the computer does without the computer.

      I wouldn’t say that if your body helps nourish a tree you aren’t in any sense a tree.
      I’m sure that some of the trillions of atoms in my body at one time or another belonged to a dinosaur, tree, bird, dog turd etc, yet I don’t consider myself to be apart of any of these or that somehow a dinosaur, tree, bird, dog turd is apart of my consciousness.

      I believe that what we are is the unique electrical and chemical system that is our mind and that once this system has broken down we are lost, the atoms that made up the system may still exist but they no longer make up that unique system.

      This is why brain surgery can drastically change personalities and why terrible diseases like alzheimer’s can see the persons mind diminish and be lost as their brain systems brake down and yet the body still lives.

      Immortality at its best is found in having children (gratz your immortal) besides that I would suggest expanding an area of scientific understanding, getting a book published, or hell even inventing a new type of super low energy light bulb.

      Welcome to the blog btw.
      Try not to take any derogatory comments about your beliefs to personally as you wouldn’t believe the sort of respect I hold for a dogged atheist in a bible belt state of America, your a marvel!

  8. Sam says:

    It’s not as much a firm belief as it is a theory at best. I surmise the electrical signal exists “out there” much as a radio signal could be said to exist somewhere between the transmitter and the receiver. Once the body dies, a receiver, in this case another human brain, might be able to detect it. I agree that over time my molecules would no longer have anything to do with “me” but I’m contending that the laws of attraction may make it possible for a “bundle” of my molecules to remain recognizable as having come from ME! Seriously, this is really all just mental masturbation though quite anti-climatic since we all know nothing happens at the end. Dead is dead! Lol! At least I can admit when I’m fantasizing which is more than I can say for those sporting godwebs between their ears! I’m happy to have found a place I can be honest about and proud of my beliefs (or lack thereof). Thx.

  9. Sam says:

    P.S. Is there a way to edit my post? I noticed too late I misspelled a word and I’m a stickler for that sort of thing. It should have been “anticlimactic”. I’m sure you knew that, though! Thx again!

  10. tea says:

    Here is a good link for what Sam was talking about, just to get a taste.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/07/even-atheists-g/

    I found this before we started this Thread and felt it was a nice scientific way of explaining a afterlife. But some of the new age spiritual type people try to hang on to his idea and I find myself rolling my eyes. So I needed to hear another Atheist say they thought it was a possible idea. Also when I did some research it felt like it was being described as junk science.

    Also Durzal said “Immortality at its best is found in having children”. I agree with that but you can also view this blog as a form of immortality. Somewhere in cyberspace our thoughts are being recorded and stored on a Google server as one consciousness. COOL!!!

    • Sam says:

      Thx for the link, tea! And here I thought I was having an original idea! Just goes to show there’s nothing new under the sun, eh?

  11. Durzal says:

    Its an interesting link though I feel the author has, shall we say, taken some artistic license with quantum theory, for instance information in this context isn’t(unless I’m mistaken) supposed to mean your memories or thought patterns but say all the properties of a particle that differentiate it from another particle.

    Its sort of like me referring to special relativity as proof that time travel is possible, its not really lying per se but intentionally or not, I’d be misrepresenting the true reality of the situation.

    • Sam says:

      May I ask what your background is in terms of education and vocation? You are a very intelligent guy and I will always concede to your take on any question of physics as I am admittedly ill-read in that area. My Master’s is in Behavioral Science, yeah, the dreaded SOFT science but I am ever fascinated by the hard sort as well. In that vein, in fact, I NEED things to make sense in the material world. That said, I love to speculate. I think the world needs a theory that explains strange phenomena rather than the tendency of hard scientists to dismiss experiences as hallucinatory or misjudgements. How do you explain, let’s say, the case of the little boy who apparently has information about the life of a pilot that was shot down in the war including his name, the name of his plane, where and when he lived, etc.? This kind of stuff intrigues me and I want to know how and why it happens. What do you think?

      • Durzal says:

        Education, nothing fancy, I have a GNVQ in Advanced Business Studies and am just about to start with the police (in England)
        as I said I’m no expert, I really am just a few physics books further along(I find this stuff fascinating)
        I doubt my intelligence (such as it is) really comes into it, I understand a good deal of the concepts of theoretical physics but I really would be lost with the mathematics behind it.

        If you really want to gain an appreciable understanding of modern physics first I would suggest watching this

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/program.html

        Its 3 hours long but its divided up into 15min clips and will introduce you to most of the newest concepts in physics in an easy to understand way.
        After you have attained a base understanding I’d recommend reading:
        The Elegant Universe:
        (Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions,
        and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory)
        By Brian Greene (its 1 book)
        This book is written by the same guy that is in the clips and in the same easy to understand manner yet gives you a much broader and in depth understanding, watch those 3hours and read that book and you’ll know pretty much what I do.

        Regarding the pilot/boy thing, I would be prone to think that it was some sort of farce/scam like faith healing were the boy had some prior knowledge though its hard to make any real accurate determination without a first hand account of events.
        I really am a sceptic regarding this sort of thing.

      • sam says:

        I have read Elegant Universe and am anxious to view the video. I do understand the fundamentals and even some the more advanced ideas and I don’t think anything I’ve presented here necessarily conflicts with any of it. In fact, the idea of our “souls” being nothing but the “strings” of information that uniquely comprise each of us whose components may remain attracted to each other and thus bound together and recognizable by some receiver as having a certain identity gels nicely in all that. That’s what’s so ELEGANT about this fantasy of immortality. Anyway, it’s nice to talk with someone with brains and a healthy amount of skepticism. I must caution skeptics, however, including myself, against the tendency to become cynical when they encounter seemingly inexplicable phenomena. To dismiss it as bunk without considering how it might fit into the reality of physics and other realms of science by which we make sense of the world is a grave mistake and the very reason we are often considered cold blooded and close minded. Simply to concede that “it’s possible” (which we all know everything IS) does not lock us into the belief that “it’s probable”. I do value the endeavors of the science-minded to analyze and find new truths. I just don’t believe it should be the be-all and end-all of any person’s life. IOW, if one spends his life worrying a problem whose solution would provide more comfort or satisfaction for humanity to his death, then how ironic is it that he should not have taken opportunities in his lifetime to himself enjoy and appreciate what we already know and have. Here’s an article about the pilot boy in case you’re interested: I wouldn’t say I believe in reincarnation per se but perhaps this boy and others are very good “receivers”! Have a great day!

  12. Durzal says:

    “Soul”?
    Your going to have to help me here, what do you mean by a soul?
    If I assume you mean our mind or all neural functions, I would ask:

    How would you propose that all the trillions of 1d strings that make up our consciousness be it matter or energy would be able to organise themselves outside the brain after death to continue any semblance of conscious thought?

    Humans being aren’t merely electrical activity floating about the brain, if a part of brain matter is damaged it can effect personality, memory etc so the system (i.e. matter) is needed for the electrical activity to run on, without a complete reconstruction of the brain system outside the body after death how could any semblance of normal brain function possibly continue?

    I can happily accept the possibility of a closed/limited (i.e. not conscious) form of information being transmitted from the brain and possibly being received by an outside source but to suggest that such a complex system such as that of human consciousness could operate independent of a system that we know it needs to function is beyond the scope of my open-mindedness.

    We are not the individual tiny vibrating 1d strings of superstring theory, we are a HUGELY complex, unique and large distribution of these strings.
    (We are greater than the sum of our parts)
    and so without the whole, we are just the parts!

    I sort of agree that people shouldn’t waste there lives working on this or that problem to the exclusion of live itself.
    It would of course depend on what the person in question wants to get out of life, some physicists, (like Einstein did) want to understand Gods design, so they spend their lives in pursuit of that goal. (he was almost there:(

    I try my best to be open-minded, that’s why I don’t deny outright the possibility of a God type being, but as above It has its limits, so I can’t for example, believe in an all powerful creator of the universe(God) who sends people to a place of unending pain and suffering for all of eternity if they don’t happen to have been fortunate enough to be born into the right religion.
    (or other such absurdities that some theists believe)

  13. sam says:

    Please explain how a seemingly science-minded individual can make a statement like “we are greater than the sum of our parts”. That is mathematically impossible!! Lol! Just yanking yer chain! I would suggest the “soul”, which is how goddy people refer to what I think of as that “bundle” of energy and function of each individual, may remain bound together much like a radio transmission does and perhaps the human brain being much more complex, as you’ve pointed out, than a radio, certain “receiving” brains are able to not only receive a bundle but allow for the functional processes of the “sender’s” brain to continue? Remember I’m still just speculating. Is this possible? Of course. Probable? Not so sure but there are literally millions of reported phenomenon that are to date unexplained and being a behavioral scientist I realize much of it can be explained away using psychological reasoning and analysis but there are still cases that stump even the staunchest skeptics. Where do you stand on the UFO “issue”? Are ETs real and, if so, are they visiting us? If not, what sort of evidence would convince you otherwise?

  14. Durzal says:

    Ohh Aliens, I can be a little less sceptical here.

    UFO’s are exactly that- Unidentified Flying Objects
    (frisbees,birds,insects,light tricks,photoshop users)

    I somehow doubt that an alien species that has mastered the complexities of interstellar space travel is going to mess up at the last hurdle by doing aeronautics in front of Billybob the drunken southern redneck.(no offence Bill)

    There is little doubt in my mind that ET life forms are bound to exist given the size of the galaxy
    (let alone the universe)
    Intelligent life? well the odds drop, (but not considerably) the problem is finding them before we or they go extinct, I would imagine the longer a species goes without destroying itself the greater its chances of enduring, so there may well be vastly advanced aliens out there.
    Another problem is we haven’t exactly been here very long on a cosmic scale, hence no visitors and who’s to say that such an advanced race would have any interest in our little planet of ape men(and ladies).

    The only thing that would convince me would be a spaceship landing in central London.
    (or some other rather obvious first contact)

    Not convincing list!
    Alien pictures and videos.
    Spaceship pictures and videos.
    Fruity yanks claiming to have been abducted and probed- what could they possibly learn from it?
    Roswell& similar – alien spaceships have an odd tendency to crash near secret US air bases.

  15. TazHall says:

    Personally, I think it is because you have not yet squelched a basic component of your humanity. The simple fact that you think about such things is significant.

    Personally, I do not think this is something that evolved but is something inherent in the human spirit. And I do not think it is something to be ashamed of.

    You are a creature, and creatures have creators just as much as a child has parents.

  16. The Atheist says:

    Hi, TazHall. Welcome to the blog! Could you clarify a bit? Are you responding to the main post or to one of the commenters?

  17. Amanda says:

    I think it is hard for people who are Atheist to really believe that there is no afterlife. Im sure that it is difficult to come to the conclusion that everything that has happened in your life and everything that you do is insignificant and at the end of it you literally become nothing.

    I know there are some people out there who do not believe in an afterlife and are completely comfortable with that belief. I can’t imagine not beliving in an afterlife. Coming to the conclusion that my family and loved ones that have passed are nothing and meant nothing.

    I have a brother who has passed away when he was 3. I can’t imagine that there is no afterlife. I know that I can not prove that there is one, I don’t care either. I do know that we are all in the same boat though, Atheists can not prove there is no afterlife, and believers can not prove there is one. In that respect, I will choose to believe that there is one, even if it isn’t true, it certainly is something to think about. It certainly brings a smile to my face to believe that my brother or other loved ones are in heaven. Im not trying to step on anyones toes about what they believe but I am saying I think that it is kind of sad to see other people out there trying to take this belief away from others. I truely do not understand how one person can sit there and honestly say, Amanda, your brother is nothing, sorry. That isn’t educating me. Because I would secondly ask, how do you know that, you would obviously have to say, well because it is more logical than believing in heaven. And I would say, well I would rather believe in heaven than in nothing at all.

    I really am not trying to make anyone mad. I honestly want you all to believe or not believe in whatever you want. but please think about what your words could be taking away from someone. And for goodness sake, don’t say that you are merely trying to educate people. You have no more proof in your theories as we do in ours. Let’s just leave it at that.

  18. The Atheist says:

    Hi Amanda. For me, it was very hard when I first realized that this life was “it” and that there is no afterlife. I felt scared and helpless. Coming to terms with it took time. In retrospect, I suppose I went through the same grieving process as anyone who loses a loved one or anyone who learns that they have terminal cancer. And like someone who lost a loved one or who has learned that he has cancer, I’ve accepted it. We die, and that’s the end.

    When I did believe that there was a God and that there was an afterlife, there was always the nagging question: how do I know? Because people have told me? Is that the only reason? How do THEY know? It took me a long time to finally admit this doubt to myself, much less to anyone else. I suppose like other believers, I was terrified of the doubt. Doubt is a sin! Right? Doubt is a sign that I’d somehow given in, that I’d let God down. I wasn’t able to face my doubt until I finally realized that the faith I professed to have was not faith at all if it was so fragile that it couldn’t withstand the slightest bit of scrutiny. If God wanted me to have faith, this wasn’t the kind of faith He wanted me to have.

    So I started asking myself why I held the beliefs I held. It felt like I was the first to admit that the Emperor had no cloths. I did have answers, but I didn’t have any good answers. This was not yet the point where I concluded that there was no God, this was the just point where I concluded that the reason I personally believed in God were not valid reasons. So I began an earnest search for valid reasons. There simply were none. The reasons other believers gave me for their faith were not reasons at all. They were nothing more than rationalizations or wishful thinking. I tried to find my own reasons. I couldn’t. There was simply no good reason to believe that God, a spiritual world, or an afterlife exists. Not one.

    Finally accepting what I feared was true all along was absolutely liberating. There is a good deal of comfort in believing in God and an afterlife. But the comfort is tainted by a nagging suspicion that deep down, you don’t really believe it. It’s a belief you WANT to have, it’s a belief you think you SHOULD have, but it’s a belief that you don’t think will stand up to your own honest scrutiny. Having been in both positions, I can say that the peace I feel today by accepting what I know to be true, is more real and more comforting than the hope I had when I held faith that I was afraid to question.

  19. Amanda says:

    I think what I was trying to say is that no one knows really what happens when someone else passes away. Because by that time they aren’t able to tell us.. I do want to say that, in my opinion, I wouldn’t feel liberated knowing that nothing happens. That wouldn’t make me feel better. But, Like I said that’s my opinion. And truely I respect yours, but i would have to disagree. And you might have to agree that many atheists blieve they are trying to educate us. They aren’t, I feel like they are trying to take something from us, Our beliefs.

    I am a christian, I have doubted. I think that there are some faiths out there that would look poorly on this. However, I believe it to be more special that I did doubt and asked questions and studied other relgions. However, I came back to what felt right to me. And there isn’t anyone out there that can say 100% how the world works. I might be wrong, or right. I have no right to tell anyone else that they are wrong or right.

  20. The Atheist says:

    I think atheists often do try to educate others, and many of us run informational style websites, blogs and forums expressly for that purpose. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for atheists, or anyone for that matter, to want to educate or otherwise share knowledge that might be helpful to other people. In that sense, they are giving something to you rather than taking something away. In particular, they are sharing sound reasoning and knowledge (presuming that the atheist in question is rational and knowledgeable) which is invaluable for making good life choices. For example, we might treat each other kinder if we didn’t believe that our God disapproves of those who believe differently.

    It is true that in the end it takes something from you. It’s a lot like someone explaining how a magic trick works. You lose the wonder of the trick on the one hand, but on the other hand you learn the truth that it wasn’t really magic but rather an illusion.

    I would disagree that you have no right to tell anyone else that he or she is wrong or right. In some cases you have an obligation. For example, if someone believed that he could fly and was ready to jump from a high building to prove it, you can be confident in your knowledge that he can’t really fly, and you have a moral obligation to convince him that he is wrong. Or put another way, you would be responsible to a certain extent for his demise if you withheld your knowledge. Many Christians believe that they have the obligation to “witness” for this very same reason.

  21. Amanda says:

    Well, You do have the freedom of speach, as a result, you can say whateaver you want to me. However, I really wish that Atheists didn’t think they were educating us. How could they really know 100% what they were saying is true.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that you are wrong, that there really is a God? That there really is’t an illision. For arguments sake, lets just say you were wrong. Everything you believed went out the window and here you are at judgement day. (Im sure this all sounds incredibly silly to you) What now?
    What is going to happen. Do you think it would be appropriate for you to be blamed for “educating” others and turning them away from God.

    Im not asking you to believe in God. I would never do that. That is your decision and I have nothing to do with that. But I just get offended when Atheists pretend that christians, or other faiths, are dumb for believing in God. As if it should be so clear that it isn’t real. and how can any mature itelligent adult believe in such a magical thing. Well, because it’s in our hearts, its part of who we are. And that’s okay. Just like its okay that you don’t believe. You aren’y hurting anyone not believing in anything. On the other hand, who are we hurting.

    Im just saying please try and think about what your saying or “teaching to the uneducated”.

    Unless you can 100% prove you are right, what credibility do you have to say that another belief is 100% wrong?

    I think we could go on about this subject forever. The bottom line is that I personally will never believe what you believe, and I assume that you will never change your mind either. But we can still be accepting of eachother. and respectful. We don’t have to compare my beliefs to a magic trick, or a milk jug, right?

  22. The Atheist says:

    Here you can find serveral questions that believers ask of atheists. Many of these conversations result in believers learning something about science, or atheism, or even about religion that he or she didn’t know. So I’m a little mystified why you would think that atheists don’t educate believers. However I take you at your word if you say that you personally are not learning anything from these discussions.

    I’m wondering if saying that atheists shouldn’t “educate” unless they “really know 100% what they were saying is true” is an attempt on your part to hold atheists to a higher standard than yourself and other believers. You as a believer said earlier in this thread that “you [atheists] have no more proof in your theories as we [believers] do in ours.” Do you feel that you should say this without knowing that it is “100% true”? Personally, I think it’s OK if you are willing to discuss it. Generally speaking, we atheists do have more evidence for our beliefs than believers do (I say “generally speaking” because there are believers like Spinoza for example, whose spiritual beliefs don’t conflict with observation, and there are atheists who don’t base their beliefs on fact).

    I have indeed considered the possibility that I’m wrong. I consider that possibility any time someone challenges my beliefs. I feel an intellectual responsibility to either provide compelling reason for my belief, or to admit that my belief may be wrong. To answer your specific question, if I found myself at Judgment Day (as described in the Bible), then I would accept that I had been wrong about God all along – that even if I had found during this lifetime that the Bible’s description of God was immoral, I would admit that God by definition was moral since He was the source of Morality. In that sense, I would admit that even if I found no reason to believe during my lifetime that God existed, any punishment for this failure on my part, and for leading others to doubt God’s existence would be deserved.

    By the way, I’m also glad that you are no longer accusing me personally of pretending “that christians, or other faiths, are dumb for believing in God.” but instead you are now accusing “atheists” in more general terms. Here is an old thread where I’ve expressed my personal thoughts on this subject. While you may be steadfast in your own beliefs and are determined never to change them no matter what (you say that you will “personally will never believe what [I] believe”), I don’t take the same inflexible position. I’m willing to change my beliefs any time I learn that they are misguided.

  23. The Atheist says:

    Mike,

    How do you respond to my specific reasons to consider Ecc 3:11 an untrue statement since you can personally observe that, contrary to Ecc 3:11: some people do not “have eternity in [their] hearts”, and some people understand the universe much more thoroughly and on a much deeper level than some who “have eternity in [their] hearts.” Ecc 3:11 seems incorrect on this point doesn’t it?

    Were you implying that you believe that ‘God who desires to be discovered willingly?’ I wasn’t sure from your comment.

    You ask: “why do we set our sights on the outer reaches of the universe to begin with?” We’ve evolved a naturally curiosity, and this curiosity motivates us to learn about our environment. With the advent of more sophisticated tools, we’re able to extend our notion of “environment” well beyond our immediate home.

    You may exegete Paul’s discussion in Rom 1 as being about people in general, but that doesn’t seem to be consistent with the context in which Paul is writing. Paul seems to be inditing members of certain local cults. While I can’t say that Paul is wrong here in the general sense since he seems to be talking specifically about specific groups, I can say that your interpretation of Paul’s statements as generality is untrue since it conflicts with what we observe.

    You said: “Why anyone would use a God-given awareness of eternity in conjunction with acts of hatred is best explained by the presence of sin (Genesis 3), where mankind takes something good and uses it for evil.” I don’t think that’s the best explanation or even a very good one, since not everyone has this God-given awareness. In fact, my belief is that no one has it since as far as I know, there’s not a shred of evidence for this innate awareness. Do you have any evidence for it?

    If, as you say: “We can be gravely mistaken as to the true nature of this God we sense innately”, then how do you know that the God of the Bible is the true god? In other words, do you believe that the Bible is true because your “innate” knowledge is echoed in the descriptions of God in the Bible, or is your “innate” knowledge shaped by an upbringing in a culture that accepts the Bible and it’s descriptions of God as true?

    You said: “Creator is logically inferred from creation.” I agree. But why should anyone believe that the creator is anything other than a natural process?

    • Mike Johnson says:

      “How do you respond to my specific reasons to consider Ecc 3:11 an untrue statement since you can personally observe that, contrary to Ecc 3:11: some people do not “have eternity in [their] hearts”, and some people understand the universe much more thoroughly and on a much deeper level than some who “have eternity in [their] hearts.” Ecc 3:11 seems incorrect on this point doesn’t it?””

      I don’t think it’s true that we observe that 1) “some people do not ‘have eternity in [their] hearts’”, or that 2) people who do not formally recognize such concepts “understand the universe much more thoroughly and on a much deeper level” than those who acknowledge eternity.

      On 1), I am reading “Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law” by J. Budziszewski, where he explains that a person can know something without really realizing that he knows it. He uses an example of geometry and the principal that parallel lines do not meet. A student may doubt this and say he doesn’t know that parallel lines never meet. When the teacher says he knows that parallel lines do not meet, he means that their not meeting is contained within the concept of parallel lines. When the student says he doesn’t know if they do not meet, he means he cannot see how they do not meet. In his own conversion from atheism, he describes, in another book (Why I Am a Christian, N. Geisler) the knowledge of God as something he knew all along. After realizing the truth, it seemed to him that his former atheism/agnosticism was something he had previously convinced himself was true, a form of intellectual dishonesty. A short excerpt from that chapter is here: http://bit.ly/oeLqc3. Other similar testimonies exist, contemporarily and going back to Blaise Pascal’s speculations about a “God-shaped hole” in the heart of every man. There are many things that can be similarly “suppressed” in the mind, forgotten or pushed aside, to be potentially “unearthed” later, as Romans 1:18 suggests about God, as 2:15 suggests about His moral law, and as Ecc. 3:11 suggests about eternity.

      Re: 2) those who “understand the universe much more thoroughly and on a much deeper level”, how are you defining thorough or deeper understanding? And what relevance would the level of understanding about the universe have on understanding of God or eternity?

      As far as the context of Romans 1, there may very well have been the backdrop of certain pagan practices at the time; however, any denial of the reality of God involves placing worship due the Creator onto something He has created instead. This may include animals, carved images, aspects of nature, or our own intellect or accomplishments.

      You say “there’s not a shred of evidence for this innate awareness”. It’s difficult to prove any type of innate awareness, except personal testimony about hindsight and observing how we live. I framed my original question on morality because it’s demonstrated by how we live, and I haven’t seen anything in that thread that defeated the premise that morality is universal and objective. In fact, the debate takes on the form of absolute and objective judgments about reality, so any dialog about it proves the premise true. What J. Budziszewski and others say about denying what we know is affirmed in the denial of objective moral values, something that couldn’t possibly be the product of human evolution because of the way we apply it to non-human entities or ideas. We can’t do otherwise. God is the best explanation for this.

      “how do you know that the God of the Bible is the true god?” Simply because claims about other gods don’t match up. They may claim to be creator but then describe their own creation. They may claim two personal attributes that contradict one another, or the truth of two contradicting statements. Their doctrine may contradict what we know and observe about ourselves and our universe. The God described in the Bible stands up to this kind of scrutiny where others fail.

      “But why should anyone believe that the creator is anything other than a natural process?” Because the creation of nature logically requires something to create it that doesn’t fall under the category of nature. The natural processes we observe logically require a creator.

  24. Mike Johnson says:

    @The Atheist

    “The placement of comments is starting to get confusing! So I’ll place my response at the bottom of this post (bottom of the page).

    I’ve noticed that you introduced the question of evolution a few times in recent conversations which weren’t about evolution per se. Maybe much of what you believe hinges on the validity of evolution, and for that reason you feel it is foundation to the discussion. Or perhaps you enjoy the subject of evolution (as I do!) and just want to talk about it. In either case, maybe I can show you that evolution has and does occur. In the end you can ignore the evidence and maintain your current beliefs (and ignoring the evidence will at least be a conscious decision at that point), or better yet you can refute the evidence (which makes for a productive dialog) and make a believer out of me! I’ve started a new thread called Why Another Discussion About Evolution? where we can continue the part of our conversation about evolution. I hope you’ll comment!”

    Good idea, I was wondering how narrow the columns would get :)

    I will take a look at the post on evolution, although I hesitate to dive into an in-depth discussion on evolution for a couple reasons. One is that many Christians are willing to accept evolution as part of God’s creation process. I don’t share that view because I think hermeneutically there is no way to completely reconcile this with scripture, but either way I don’t see the acceptance of evolution as a strong argument against the existence of God. For this reason, much of what I believe actually does NOT hinge on evolution. Certainly the existence of God does not. And while many aspects of biology and physics do intrigue me, the argument can go in so many directions and accomplish very little in the way of a theistic argument.

    That’s not to say evolution would never come into the discussion, as I have stated that I think the fact that a logical origin of moral obligations can’t be found in evolution, simply because its first evolved appearance would require a pre-existing standard to define it morally.

  25. The Atheist says:

    Mike,

    I think you made an important statement here that’s worthy of a bit of reflection. When you say that you “don’t share that view [about evolution] because [you] think hermeneutically there is no way to completely reconcile this with scripture,” aren’t you really saying, at least in this instance, that you are willing to deny the reality you can observe in favor of an a priori belief that you hold about the truth of the Bible?

    On ‘having eternity in their hearts’, I can understand how a believer can say in retrospect that even as a nonbeliever, he always “knew” that there was a God, even though he wouldn’t admit to knowing it at the time. After all, it was that nagging feeling that caused him in the end to become a believer. I feel the exact same way. Except in my case, when I believed that there was a God, I knew that for the most part (but certainly not always) that I was really just trying to believe, and that in reality there was no God. That (plus a little honest introspection) is what led me finally to become an atheist. I can’t help but see this as another instance where you are willing to deny the reality you can observe (atheists who really believe that there is no God), in favor of an a priori belief about the truth of the Bible.

    You say that “any denial of the reality of God involves placing worship due the Creator onto something He has created instead.” This also is observably not true. If you and other worshipers of God can be awestruck by creation, even if you worship only God and not creation, then others who don’t worship any God can also be awestruck by the universe without worshiping the universe.

    By “a thorough understanding of the universe”, I mean having an in-depth detailed knowledge, vs. a superficial knowledge that lacks detail. If you concede that atheists don’t have ‘eternity in their hearts’ (and I understand that you might not concede this – you might instead prefer to deny the evidence), then I can show you at least one atheist who has a more thorough understanding of the universe than at least one person with ‘eternity in his heart’. Of course I can do much better than that, but that is sufficient to prove Ecc 3:11 wrong at least in this small detail.

    The way having eternity in one’s heart relates to an understanding of the universe (not an understanding of eternity) is that that Ecc 3:11 says that “He put eternity in their hearts that without it no man can fathom what Elohim has made from beginning to end.” And what Elohim has made from beginning to end is creation (that’s what he made when He “made everything beautiful”), a.k.a. the universe. It’s not the case that “eternity in the heart” makes “all men” more adept at understanding the universe. We can observe instances where the opposite is true.

    Regarding your exegesis of Ecc 3:11 – what is the difference between having eternity “written on the heart” (what do you mean by “written”?), and “set in the heart”? Note that the Hebrew says “nawsan” which means “to give”, not “to write”. In any case, how would changing the meaning from what the Hebrew says (“put in the heart”) to “written on the heart” lead you to conclude that one would not be conscious of what God put (or wrote) in his heart? For example in 1Ki 10:24 & 2Ch 9:23, God puts wisdom in Solomon’s heart and not only is the wisdom not hidden from Solomon, it’s evident to everyone else too. In Neh 2:12, 7:5, Nehemia is fully aware of what God put in his heart. In Psa 4:7, “David” is aware of the gladness that God put in his heart. In Jer 24:7, God puts knowledge in people’s hearts which is not hidden from them.

    Jesus corroborates this somewhat when he says (Mat 15:18) “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart” If atheists say that they don’t believe in God or eternal life (that is, that they don’t have eternity in their heart), then according to Jesus that’s really what’s in their heart.

    The fact that someone like Budziszewski didn’t realize he knew something all along doesn’t at all mean that someone wouldn’t know what Got put in his heart. Every instance of this in the Bible seems to indicate that people would know.

    Regarding the “shred of evidence” I was talking about in the context of innate awareness – I’m always careful with the difference between evidence and proof. I’ll accept evidence without proof. However, no one should expected anyone to believe something for which there is no evidence, should they? In this case, your personal testimony is evidence of sorts (I say “of sorts” because some evidence is more compelling than other evidence). However I also have to take the word of others who claim to have no innate awareness of God (and of course, that’s also my personal experience). Do you consider this to be evidence of sorts as well?

    Regarding your undefeated premise: I showed that morality isn’t universal because we can observe individuals and entire cultures with differing moralities. If your argument proceeds from this premise, then your argument fails when the premise fails. I agree that morality is objective, however I explained how it is objective in a very different way than you say it is: morality is objective in the sense that it has been shaped by evolution – it is the result of attributes like empathy and reasoning, both of which are found in varying degrees in other animals.

    However I am glad to hear you say that your claim that morality is universal and object is not your conclusion but it is rather your premise – you use it to support your argument that God exists. You also say that the reason you know that there is universal and objective morality is that God exists and is the source of morality. You might recognize this as a circular argument.

    You say that “the debate takes on the form of absolute and objective judgments about reality”, but our reality is subjective. Do you see the exact same color as I do when we look at the same red apple in the same light? To we process speech and logic in exactly the same way? Do we reason or think (or judge) identically? We can observe that while people experience reality in a similar way, the experience from person to person isn’t identical. To go a step further, we don’t experience what we think of as “reality” at all. We don’t see an apple, red or otherwise. We see light from the apple. In fact, we don’t “see” light either. We experience the excitation of the optical nerves. But no, not even that. We experience the process of the brain as it interprets the signals from the nerves. In fact, “we” are the subject of the experiences we have. Those experiences are by definitions, subjective. The experiences are “our reality”, rather than any reified concept of “reality”.

    Can you tell me why you think that the ‘denial of objective moral values affirming the denial of what we know’ says anything at all about evolution – how it either supports or undermines it?

    I’m looking at your answer about why the claims about other gods “don’t match up”. Of course my first thoughts are – there are many other gods that are claimed creators that were not themselves created. Here’s just one example (I’ll give more if you’d like me to): Ahura Mazda – dubbed “the Uncreated God”. The God of the Bible claims contradicting attributes: Jesus is subservient to the Father, Jesus is equal to the Father. Your claims here (backed up by biblical verse) contradict what we know and observe about ourselves and the universe (most of my responses have comments have been to addressed these contradictions).

    You also presume that at least one religion has to be true. For example, if you can eliminate other religions as being true religions by finding contradictions in them, that will leave you with Christianity which must be true. Aside from the fact that the Bible also has contradictions, there are other problems with your strategy. First, you have to exhaust all other possibilities by examining all other religions. This is possible I guess, but I also guess you haven’t done this (and don’t plan to). If this is the case, then you’ve not told me the real reason you can be sure that Christianity is right about who God really is. Second, you have to show why at least one religion must be the true one (even if God really does exist). Why isn’t it possible (or even implausible) that no religion describes who God really is?

    We observe things every day that come spontaneously into existence: virtual particles. Most of the mass of the universe is due to the existence of virtual particles. Then it is not true that all things that have a beginning and end need a creator. If you consider the result of the Big Bang as “all of existence”, then you might guess that something must have caused the universe to come into existence (although there really isn’t any support for this requirement). If you look farther out beyond our universe, you might find natural processes that create Big Bangs all the time. There are a few (conflicting) theories that show promise in learning about the origin of our universe. One is a theory that M-Branes (that have always existed and always will) collide to release energy as a Big Bang. Another theory is that the universe is made of 10 dimensions, three of which are currently expanded, the other 7 of which are very small, on the order of Planck’s constant. The dimensions oscillate – when these three dimensions collapse, others will expand at the same time. The Big Bang is the result of expanding dimensions.

    Thanks, by the way, for responding to my question. That is really quite refreshing! I always try to answer the questions others ask but most people don’t repay the courtesy – so I want you to know that I really appreciate it! Please let me know if I’ve missed any questions you asked me. Here’s one I’d asked you that you might have missed:

    Were you implying that you believe that ‘God who desires to be discovered willingly?’ I wasn’t sure from your comment.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      “When you say that you ‘don’t share that view [about evolution] because [you] think hermeneutically there is no way to completely reconcile this with scripture,’ aren’t you really saying, at least in this instance, that you are willing to deny the reality you can observe in favor of an a priori belief that you hold about the truth of the Bible?”

      Not at all actually. I don’t think we observe evolution. Speciation and variety within created kinds are observed reality, yes, but not evolution of all life from simple cells over millions of years. What we observe about life and the fossil record isn’t a surprise for Christians because it all fits with the Bible’s account of creation and a global flood. If I accept as a priori that there is no creator of creation and that there is no moral lawgiver of obvious objective moral code, then I am denying reality that I can observe.

      I would also not say that the reality of what we observe about atheists is that they genuinely believe there is no God, because there are too many converts to Christianity that testify of prior suppressed knowledge (I know at least two who personally attest to this) to know this for certain. As I’ve said, innate knowledge is hard to prove since both theists and atheists can claim the intuition was there but hidden. Your testimony follows the same pattern, only the reverse conclusion. What I observe about reality certainly doesn’t disprove the idea of innate knowledge any more than atheist testimony disproves God.

      I think we are defining certain things differently. I think you require a formal deity for honor, homage paid, adoring reverence or regard for something to be considered worship. The very first Google results of “define worship” describe worship as “to any object regarded as sacred” and as a verb “to feel an adoring reverence or regard for any person or thing.” This fits Romans 1 format of worship of “things” that we devote our lives to and put our faith in for guidance. I think perhaps most atheists place their highest regard and adoration on their own intellect. In their mind it’s what saves them from whatever they fear. It isn’t the sort of “religious” adoration you might find in church or other traditionally religious settings. But it is very religious nonetheless. I don’t think there’s any reason to relegate worship only to the traditional theistic view of “God”, except that it makes it convenient for atheists to exempt themselves from the arena of worship.

      I don’t see a difference between rendering “written” or “put” or “set” in Ecc. 3:11; the meaning is the same. Also, there is no reason to think that God meant for this information to be hidden. We hide it. Paul continues in Romans 1:28… “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” Any memory or knowledge can be willingly suppressed for a variety of reasons, so the fact that we see in Scripture most knowledge that is obvious and some that is hidden actually reflects what we observe. We revel in some knowledge and suppress other knowledge. You would claim that I am suppressing knowledge in accepting God, correct? :) I don’t assume that knowledge is necessarily hidden from us from the start or that concealment is God’s intent, unless the Bible says that specifically.

      Re: “…no one should expected anyone to believe something for which there is no evidence, should they?” There is always an element of faith required in any belief. In evolution, there is so much unobserved science involved that faith is required to say this is how life developed. There is faith required that laws of nature will continue to hold true simply because they seem to have done so in the visible past. On what basis does an atheist know that experiments done the same way in the same conditions will yield predictable results? We have faith in the laws of uniformity and the assumption that things will continue in uniformity. We have faith that we can generally rely on our senses to perceive the world. We faithfully accept that the sidewalk is solid and the air is not poison, etc. Believing in something only requires sufficient reason (not complete empirical knowledge) and faith bridges the gap in complete knowledge. It’s that “sufficient reason” that I argue for here.

      Another thing we obvious define differently is morality. Judging by how we treat it, moral law is like other laws we are familiar with. Take speed limits: “Thou shalt not exceed 45 mph in this zone.” Our ignorance of or willing disobedience of this law doesn’t refute the existence of the law. Our ignorance or unique perception of that limit as 55 will not stop us from getting a ticket. It is exactly what it is. You speak of morals as differing from culture to culture and time to time, but what you are observing is differing perspectives on the meaning or existence of moral law. One person says this is right and another person says that is right, but both say it AS IF it is supposed to apply to absolutely everyone. This is a living contradiction, where we frame morality as one thing but as soon as we open our mouths about it or try to live it out, it shows itself as something completely different.

      In your apple analogy, when you say “this apple is red”, we have to be certain, as with all truth claims, that we are clear in what we mean. You described the scientific process of seeing color, and when we talk about color, that is actually what our truth claim is: That I, Mike Johnson, view the light reflecting on the apple and my brain interprets that color as red. Unless it’s a golden delicious or grannysmith. :) If someone were to claim it is brown, purple or gray, their claim would be based on how their brain was interpreting it, because they are either color-blind, wearing tinted lenses, or are too far away to see it well. These are external factors that would alter how most people would normally view the red apple. The truth of the red apple claim is that the color is seen as red in our mind unless there is something else that causes our perception to change. In other words, the truth claim is about your brain, not the apple. But that truth is still objective and absolute, because your seeing the apple as red, which is what you’re claiming, is still true for everyone, everywhere at all times.

      It could also be said that “this apple is on the table”. Now it’s about the apple, and this claim is true for everyone, everywhere, at all times. Someone else may not see the apple on the table because they are a mile away and can’t verify it, but it remains true because it corresponds to reality of that moment. You can change the reality by knocking the apple off the table, but then the truth claim you would make is that “the apple is on the floor”, which, again, is true regardless of person, time or place.

      Moral truth is no different. How do I know this? It isn’t because I believe God exists as the source. It’s because of the way we always treat it. Fairness is right and murder is wrong regardless of person, time or place. If I murdered someone on Neptune, well out of any legal jurisdiction, it’s still wrong. When people read ancient history about torturing and raping children, they are describing an act that is immoral. If two worlds in a far off galaxy engaged in warfare, we would still consider the moral implications of the violence and policy. On atheism, there is no basis for saying any of these acts are moral or immoral. If we could come up with a logical origin for morality that doesn’t require a pre-written standard, Evolution would only serve to govern within human behavior. But there is no guarantee that moral obligations would not change, or differ from person to person/culture to culture, and we observe that behaviors do change and vary, because perspectives and interpretations of moral law change and vary.

      If such things were truly subjective, we ought to be describing apple colors by the process in the brain, but instead we say that apples are red. If morals are subjective, we ought to talk about serial killers with the consideration that what they are doing could be morally right, but nobody does that. Is there a single example that you can think of that shows this?

      To continue to talk about morality as subjective and live it as if it applies to everyone, everywhere at all times is another type of intellectual dishonesty. Possibly a truth that is suppressed because of the theological implications?

      You mentioned circular arguments. It’s important to realize that some arguments are necessarily circular, when what you are trying to prove cannot appeal to anything higher. These are first principals, and when we are discussions concepts as fundamental as ultimate origins and “self-evident” conditions, the reasoning has to be circular. Enter faith. One example: A defense of reason BY reason is circular. That’s why even reason presupposes faith. :)

      Re: “Can you tell me why you think that the ‘denial of objective moral values affirming the denial of what we know’ says anything at all about evolution – how it either supports or undermines it?”

      Sorry, I’m not sure where I stated that. :) But I do think that evolution can’t account for objective moral values, as stated above, because the first occurrence of these values requires a pre-existing way to define them as moral. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re looking for, sorry if I’ve lost the original context.

      Accounts of Ahura Mazda are dated centuries after New Testament manuscripts about Jesus, with remarkable similarities to Jesus, so he’s most likely a copycat, and many features of his religion were added even later. Mazda was even sacrificed according to some Zoroasterian writings, but not as an atonement for sin or for any known purpose.

      Re: “The God of the Bible claims contradicting attributes: Jesus is subservient to the Father, Jesus is equal to the Father.” My son is obedient to his father, but is he not equal to me in his humanity? Are you not just as much of a person as your boss? Jesus obeyed His Father, but they are equals in their divinity. No contradiction.

      Re: “You also presume that at least one religion has to be true.” No, it’s possibly that we could all be getting it wrong, but we stand by our convictions. You hold to atheism because you believe it to be the truest belief system. As I said, there’s an element of faith to any belief, and hopefully we all arrive at the conclusions we find as the best answer. I think Christianity best explains reality we can observe.

      Re: “We observe things every day that come spontaneously into existence: virtual particles.” They appear to come into existence and vanish again out of what some some call “nothing”, but this “nothing” is always described as “something” with properties and energy, so we don’t observe virtual particle creation ex nihlo. There are plenty of theories of how the universe began and functions based on things that we can’t see, which is ironic since the theory of a divine Creator, who is also unseen, is often rejected. Obviously faith in the unseen is not the reason for the bias, but perhaps the personal implications of a God who holds us to account.

      Re: “Were you implying that you believe that ‘God who desires to be discovered willingly?’ I wasn’t sure from your comment.” Sorry, I think I wasn’t sure what you were asking here. Do you mean to ask if I believe God wants us to discover Him?

      Fingers are weeping, but good discussion. :)

  26. Mike Johnson says:

    Re: “Can you tell me why you think that the ‘denial of objective moral values affirming the denial of what we know’ says anything at all about evolution – how it either supports or undermines it?”

    Sorry, I found it upon reviewing the conversation. I say that morality can’t be the product of human convention (which is assumed to have developed via evolution) because we simply don’t treat it as something human, looking at “the way we apply it to non-human entities or ideas. We can’t do otherwise…”

    This is basically what I asked here: http://askanatheist.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/do-atheists-judge-gods-morality/

    When I say “What J. Budziszewski and others say about denying what we know is affirmed in the denial of objective moral values, something that couldn’t possibly be the product of human evolution because of the way we apply it to non-human entities or ideas,” I meant to compare the way we deny objective moral values to denying innate knowledge of a Creator. I think both represent knowledge that can be suppressed because of the implications.

    Hopefully that is clearer. :)

  27. The Atheist says:

    Mike, you say that:

    Speciation and variety within created kinds are observed reality, yes, but not evolution of all life from simple cells over millions of years.

    Since we agree that speciation is observed, albeit within “kinds”, then I’ll next offer evidence that speciation results in different “kinds”, I’ll argue more later that all life evolved from simple cells.

    Biology defines speciation but not “kinds”; the term “kinds” is not used in biology to define taxonomies (family trees). Gen 1:11 uses the word “kind” (“min”) to describe various grasses (not simply “grass”) and various herbs (not simply “herb”), and various types of fruit (not simply “fruit”). Are zebras and horses different kinds? Are whales and dolphins different kinds? Are “clean” birds a different “kind” then “unclean” birds? Give me an example of 2 organisms that are very similar, but different enough for you to consider them different “kinds”.

    If speciation occurs as a result of genetic mutations and natural selection for the mutations, and genetic changes correspond to physiological changes, then we should reason that small physiological changes accumulate over time; the larger the time span, the more pronounced and numerous the changes will be. Over large spans of time as new changes to the environment continue to cause new change in the species via natural selection, we should expect that the changes would become more numerous and also more pronounced. This is precisely what the fossil record documents. Depending on what you mean by “kind”, we should expect different “kinds” of organism as physiological changes accumulate. For example, we should expect a species of grass that has subdivided into 2 separate species to become quite noticeably different over a span of millions of years.

    What we observe about life and the fossil record isn’t a surprise for Christians because it all fits with the Bible’s account of creation and a global flood.

    The evidence might be a surprise for creationists who are a bit more familiar with the evidence. One surprise would be that plant and animal fossils appear in sedimentary layers that are consistent with the age of the species, and not randomly or “heaviest first” which would be consistent with sedimentation due to a global flood. Instead, we consistently find predecessors in strata that is older than the strata where we find the descendants. Not only are the plants and animals themselves sorted, but so are animal footprints and coprolites, and ancient human artifacts. Stratified fish fossils and pollen remains would also be inconsistent with strata that were created by a global flood.

    While these observations are inconsistent with a global flood, they are consistent with stratification over millions of years that contain oldest species on the bottom and newest species on the top (i.e., a record of evolution).

    What I observe about reality certainly doesn’t disprove the idea of innate knowledge any more than atheist testimony disproves God.

    What you observe is not proof, but rather evidence that atheists as a group do not “know” innately that gods exist. I agree that certain converted atheist individuals say that they always “knew” deep down that God existed, and what they say might in fact be genuine and candid. But that is no indicator that atheists as a group “know” that gods exist, any more than fallen-away Christians saying that they always “knew” deep down that God didn’t exist is an indicator that all Christians innately doubt God.

    I think you require a formal deity for honor, homage paid, adoring reverence or regard for something to be considered worship.

    What I said earlier was that “if you and other worshipers of God can be awestruck by creation, even if you worship only God and not creation, then others who don’t worship any God can also be awestruck by the universe without worshiping the universe.” Then atheists worship the “creation” and intellect no more and no less than Christians do.

    …there is no reason to think that God meant for this information to be hidden. We hide it.

    Just to clarify – your theory is that: God puts the knowledge that he exists “in our hearts”, and we know that this knowledge is there, and we intentionally hide this knowledge from ourselves? And you conclude from this that there are no true atheists, right? As we apply the standards of evidence in general, let me ask you for your evidence of this claim: that knowledge of God is in our hearts, and that we hide it (or evidence of your clarified claim if I got your claim wrong). It’s my understanding (so far) that the sum total of evidence you have is verses from the Bible that support this. If that’s the case, I’ll next ask you for evidence that the Bible is authoritative, since that would be the reason to accept the verses (and we can proceed to explore evidence for preferring certain exegesis over others). If that’s not the case, then I look forward to the evidence that compels you to believe your theory that there are no true atheists.

    Our ignorance of or willing disobedience of this law doesn’t refute the existence of the law…Moral truth is no different. How do I know this [about moral truth]? It isn’t because I believe God exists as the source. It’s because of the way we always treat it…Fairness is right and murder is wrong regardless of person, time or place.

    Yet we know this law (speed limit) exists and we know its origins, whether we choose to obey it or not. Our question is about the origin of the Law.

    Right and wrong are judgements about what is moral. Right and wrong are not morality per se. And judgements about what is right and what is wrong are inconsistent across cultures. “Fairness” is a kind of equal treatment that is right by definition of the word “fairness”. However what constitutes “fairness” is inconsistent across cultures and between individuals. “Murder” is the kind of killing that is “wrong” by definition of the word “murder”. However what constitutes “murder” is inconsistent across cultures and time. If this is correct (and if it isn’t, how is it incorrect?), then “how we treat morality” is no evidence that would make you conclude that morality was from a divine source.

    Then what evidence causes you to believe that a greater Law exists, beyond what I have described?

    On atheism, there is no basis for saying any of these acts are moral or immoral.

    Atheism per se has nothing to say about morality. Atheism says that there is insufficient reason to conclude that gods exist. From there we can say that morality can’t come from gods who do not exist.

    However as I explained, we do find an explanation of the origin of morality in evolutionary sciences and neurological sciences. We also find explanations about why we consider certain things right and other things wrong. Theistic morality on the other hand requires the existence of gods to define Morality. However this explanation is problematic in that we have no reason to suspect that the morality we observe has any divine source, and we have no evidence that the gods exist.

    But there is no guarantee that moral obligations would not change, or differ from person to person/culture to culture, and we observe that behaviors do change and vary

    This is absolutely correct and this is exactly what we observe – our morality does change.

    If such things were truly subjective, we ought to be describing apple colors by the process in the brain, but instead we say that apples are red. If morals are subjective, we ought to talk about serial killers with the consideration that what they are doing could be morally right, but nobody does that. Is there a single example that you can think of that shows this?

    Yes, there are examples of this. Neurologists describe qualia like the color “red” in terms of brain activity, and some argue that ethnic cleansing (serial killing on a grand scale) is morally right and necessary. I’m not sure if it was you or someone else who posted to this blog who argued that God’s commanded genocide is morally right.

    I’m not sure how relevant this question is though because it doesn’t address why most of us accept apples as “red” and killing as “wrong”. The reason is that we consider our subject experience to be our reality. Only on deeper reflection and investigation do we have to admit the subjective nature of what we perceive.

    the truth claim is about your brain, not the apple. But that truth is still objective and absolute, because your[sic] seeing the apple as red, which is what you’re claiming, is still true for everyone, everywhere at all times…It could also be said that “this apple is on the table”.

    We don’t perceive the thing that you are calling “objective” or “absolute”. The sum total of all knowledge we possess is gained through perception only. Anything we label “reality” is really a subjective view of the world. We can conclude logically that there exists an objective from which we derive our subjective experience, but we can’t say anything about it apart from our subjective knowledge. If we can’t say anything about it other than it must exist, then we also can’t say anything about how “absolute” it is. As an illustration, we perceive that the mass of matter is constant (an apple ways 150 grams), but we also perceive (through experiment) that it is not constant – it changes with velocity.

    There is no such thing as “an apple” from an objective-only view point. The apple is a system of subatomic particles and forces. The set of particles that make up the system we call “the apple” are in constant flux – the particles come from distant locations and they retreat to distant locations. “The apple” is something we define subjectively.

    To continue to talk about morality as subjective and live it as if it applies to everyone, everywhere at all times is another type of intellectual dishonesty.

    Morality “applies” to everyone in that most humans have a sense of morality. We impose our morality on others. One name for this imposition of morality is “law”. In democratic society, it’s perhaps more evident that the mechanism for determining a shared morality is consensus, rather than any absolute definition.

    I agree that failure to recognize the subjective nature of our morality is indeed intellectually dishonest and most cultures are intellectually dishonest about it. However there’s no intellectual dishonesty in liking one’s own morality better than another’s because that isn’t an intellectual act.

    You mentioned circular arguments. It’s important to realize that some arguments are necessarily circular, when what you are trying to prove cannot appeal to anything higher.

    Thanks for stating that on the record! Arguments are not circular because they begin with a premise. Arguments are circular when the conclusion (the thing to be proved) is really a premise. When I say: “if A, then B, A, therefore B, the argument is not circular because “B” is not a premise.

    However when I say: “if A, then B, A therefore B” just as before, but now I support the validity of the premise “A” by adding: “if B, then A, B therefore A”, then I have a premise “A” which is masquerading as a proved conclusion.

    So what’s wrong with this particular type of thinking? Like fallacious thinking in general, it allows you to arrive at erroneous conclusions. It allows you to say that the existence of Morality (a premise) is proof that God exists (your conclusion), and that the existence of God is proof that Morality exists.

    To illustrate further, I can say:

    • invisible pink unicorns exist
    • pink unicorns make invisible pink droppings
    • therefore invisible pink droppings exist

    When you challenge “invisible pink unicorns exist” as a false premise, I rejoin with:

    • invisible pink droppings exist
    • pink unicorns make invisible pink droppings
    • therefore invisible pink unicorns exist

    If circular arguments are valid, then you have to accept that invisible pink unicorns exist since I have made a valid argument that proves that they do.

    defense of reason BY reason is circular.

    That correct reasoning leads to correct understanding is a premise, not a conclusion. Most believers implicitly agree with this premise when they give reasons why nonbelievers should believe. Paul is a good example of a Christian that uses reasoning to make others understand, and therefore agrees with these premises.

    Note that since the premise is uncontested, there is no call for any defense. The only way to contest it without implicitly accepting the premise would be to reject the premise out of hand, without any reason for doing so. Rejection out of hand doesn’t require a response, any more than ignoring the premise requires a response.

    Accounts of Ahura Mazda are dated centuries after New Testament manuscripts about Jesus, with remarkable similarities to Jesus, so he’s most likely a copycat,

    Then we both agree that there are enough similarities between Jesus and Ahura Mazda that one is likely a “copycat” of the other. The story of Ahura Mazda appeared during the Achaemenid period (550 to 300 bce).

    Re: “The God of the Bible claims contradicting attributes: Jesus is subservient to the Father, Jesus is equal to the Father.” My son is obedient to his father, but is he not equal to me in his humanity? Are you not just as much of a person as your boss? Jesus obeyed His Father, but they are equals in their divinity.

    That means that you have to read Jon 10:30 as “I and my Father are one [, but only in certain ways]” instead of simply “I and my Father are one”.

    Did the Father beget Jesus? Then was there a time before Jesus was begotten when he didn’t exist? According to Joh 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with GOD; and the Word was GOD.” And according to Joh 1:14, Jesus is the Word. But according to the earliest manuscripts of Mar 9:7, the Father says of Jesus: “Today I have begotten you”.

    One who always existed would have a different nature than one that did not always exist.

    “You also presume that at least one religion has to be true.” No, it’s possibly that we could all be getting it wrong…You hold to atheism because you believe it to be the truest belief system. As I said, there’s an element of faith to any belief,

    This is a very rational approach to religion: to admit that it’s possible that it’s not true. If you believe that it’s possible that it’s not true, does it then make sense to compare the plausibility of apologies for contradictions in the Bible with theories based on textual criticism that make a more compelling case for why the differences exist (for example: the texts were written by groups who did not agree completely)?

    Is it also possible that no religion is true? Is it possible that there are no gods?

    The faith that atheism requires is not the Faith (blind Faith) that Christianity requires. Atheism requires faith (belief is a more apt term) for example belief that things like neutrinos exist, that science isn’t a conspiracy to hide the truth about the divine, or that the process of science is a process of fact finding, and theory falsification. That’s not blind faith because anyone who wants to can independently verify it. In other words, the belief is about something that is falsifiable. As I understand your arguments and as I understand fundamentalism in general, religious Faith is blind Faith. It requires one to begin with a baseless premise that God exists, a premise which is neither observed or falsifiable.

    [virtual particles] appear to come into existence and vanish again out of what some some call “nothing”, but this “nothing” is always described as “something” with properties and energy, so we don’t observe virtual particle creation ex nihlo.

    Yes that is a very important point. According to quantum physics, the nature of nothing is that the state of nothingness is an unstable. The reason that there is something rather than nothing is that nothing is improbable as quantum physics shows. The “nihilo” that the Creator created “something” from doesn’t really exist and never did. The concept of “nihilo” is a folk concept not a correct physical concept. It’s analogous to the classic understanding of matter which fails to take relativity into account. Both concepts, “nihilo” and classic matter, are missing essential peaces of knowledge.

    the theory of a divine Creator, who is also unseen, is often rejected. Obviously faith in the unseen is not the reason for the bias, but perhaps the personal implications of a God who holds us to account.

    It is the reasons for concluding that there is an unseen divine Creator that are often rejected. In our discussion here, the main reasons given for believe in God were existence of morality, god-of-the-gap, dismissal of evidence for evolution, and the presupposition that a Creator exists. I’ve already given argument for rejecting those reasons, none of which had anything to do with being held to account.

    I can’t imagine anyone (including me!) who would reject an eternal life of bliss for the small price of accountability. I can’t see why you would guess that that would be a common motive.

    Re: “Were you implying that you believe that ‘God who desires to be discovered willingly?’ I wasn’t sure from your comment.” Sorry, I think I wasn’t sure what you were asking here. Do you mean to ask if I believe God wants us to discover Him?

    Yes, sorry for being unclear. My question was about something you said in your post on 1/19: “I won’t say that a God who desires to be discovered willingly is the only possible answer for this, but it seems to be the best answer, and indeed a better one than an evolutionary trait.”

    So I was trying to ask you to clarify if you indeed believe that God wants us to discover him, or if you feel there is a reason that at most he leaves what you consider to be clues (like for example the existence of morality, even though morality is also explained quite adequately by evolution).

    Sorry, I found it upon reviewing the conversation. I say that morality can’t be the product of human convention (which is assumed to have developed via evolution) because we simply don’t treat it as something human, looking at “the way we apply it to non-human entities or ideas. We can’t do otherwise…”

    Except in relatively rare instances, we treat the Earth as flat even though with enough knowledge about it, we can see that it’s actually round. We treat the sky as something “above”, even though with enough knowledge, we can see that it’s something that surrounds us in all directions.

    With enough knowledge about morality, like what it’s components are (empathy, reason, etc), where else it’s found in nature (our closest relatives: bonobos, chimps, etc), how our brain processes morality (the activity of dorsal and ventral regions of the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, hippocampus, angular gyrus, anterior cingulate, and temporal cortex during moral problem solving), and the origin of its elements (empathy extends from caring for young, reason extends from problem , etc), then we can see that morality is a process of the brain and a product of evolution.

    I meant to compare the way we deny objective moral values to denying innate knowledge of a Creator. I think both represent knowledge that can be suppressed because of the implications.

    When you see someone arguing against the existence of an objective Morality or the existence of God based merely on the desire to avoid accountability, you should recognize their argument as means-end reasoning (e.g., wishful thinking). Then you should present your arguments for the existence of an objective Morality and the existence of God, and point out that the truth (or conclusion) of your argument depends only on the validity of your premises and the validity of your argument; it is not effected by the desirability of the outcome.

    Both objective moral values and innate knowledge of a creator are baseless claims, so they are both rejected as false premises. Both claims fail as premises because they are counter to what we observe.

    In the case of objective Moral values, the claim is that there can be no morality without a Moral standard that lies outside of humanity. The problem (and reason to reject this claim) is that by objective source, you mean a Divine source – I agree and explained why morality is objective (it has evolved in a particular way) – but it is not divine and not absolute. That object Morality is divine is stated as a premise, but there’s no reason to accept the premise when it is inconsistent with what we observe. We observe that humans have morals, this morality is the product of evolution, and morals differ between cultures. There is no basis for a premise that morality requires a divine standard to either exist or to function.

    Then existence of objective Morality can’t server as a premise for an argument to prove that gods exist.

    The claim of innate knowledge of a Creator fails because it argues that if something is true in one instance, then it must be true in all instances. For example: Platypus is a mammal. Platypus lay eggs. Therefore all mammals lay eggs. You claim that Budziszewski was an atheist. Budziszewski had inner knowledge of a Creator. Therefore all atheists have inner knowledge of a Creator.

    Then the conclusion that atheists have inner knowledge of a creator fails.

    The argument for the existence of a Creator based on innate knowledge fails for another reason too. It assumes that the “knowledge” is trustworthy and correct. Until relatively recently, humans had knowledge that the Earth was flat, or that the Earth was the center of the universe. If you think of this knowledge as a “feeling”, we can observe how our feelings can sometimes deceive us. If you think of this knowledge as reason, then we can observe how we can reason incorrectly when we reason without possession of certain key facts.

    Then the conclusion that atheists have inner knowledge of a creator fails because we don’t have any reason to believe that this particular type of inner knowledge, that a creator exists, is trustworthy. The reasons it’s not trustworthy are that:

    • it is unlike other knowledge that we are willing to consider as trustworthy
    • it is like knowledge that we consider to be untrustworthy: hunches, feelings about a flat world or geo-centric universe, etc.
    • Mike Johnson says:

      Good afternoon! Since the discussion has become quite lengthy, I subdivided my response into 4 general topics that you addressed in your last post, in the order you presented them. Hopefully that helps keep things clear. :)

      ———————————-

      On speciation/ToE:

      “speciation results in different “kinds”,”

      The created kinds of plants and animals referred to in Genesis (1:11,12,21,24,25 and 2:9) were specific kinds. To say that speciation results in different “kinds” is true, but not the same kinds mentioned in the creation account. The Bible doesn’t specifically define a ‘kind’ but it is generally compared to order or family, because two members, (i.e. lions and house cats, zebras and other equine, many bears, camels and llama, many snakes), can often hybridize. This fits with plants and animals that reproduce “according to their kinds” as Genesis 1 describes.

      “the term “kinds” is not used in biology”

      Not by evolutionary biologists.

      “If speciation occurs as a result of genetic mutations and natural selection for the mutations, and genetic changes correspond to physiological changes, then we should reason that small physiological changes accumulate over time; the larger the time span, the more pronounced and numerous the changes will be. Over large spans of time as new changes to the environment continue to cause new change in the species via natural selection, we should expect that the changes would become more numerous and also more pronounced.”

      New species form from a loss or shuffling of existing genetic information. This is downhill change. Over vast time you expect “new changes”, but evolution requires these “new changes” be novel structures and new biological systems. Consider exactly how a wingless insect would evolve wings, when in most cases the entire musculature of the insect is involved with the flight process; even the brain is wired differently, because wing flapping and rotation for steering and speed control occurs as a switch-on/switch-off—with completely different aerodynamic principals than what you’d expect in the case of bees—rather than a bee having to think about each wing stroke. And bee fossils “100 million years old” remarkably haven’t changed. The millions of years invoked are a way to gloss over the apparent magic (small changes=big “new changes” over time) of how living things evolved.

      “plant and animal fossils appear in sedimentary layers that are consistent with the age of the species, and not randomly or “heaviest first” which would be consistent with sedimentation due to a global flood.”

      Large and capable animals probably would have sought higher ground during a flood, so they would have at higher elevation before collapsing from exhaustion or drowning. A great deal of geological column “sorting” is expected in a global flood, because bottom-dwelling marine creatures would generally get buried first, then other free-swimming marine animals, cold-blooded (reptiles are most sensitive to environmental changes), then warm-blooded (amphibians can’t tolerate salt water), followed by more vigorous animals and humans, who would have the best chance of making it to higher ground before high ground disappeared. There are trilobite fossil tracks than span multiple layers of sediment. They either spent millions of years burrowing upward, or they fought to stay above rising sediment deposits. Some fossilized tree trunks also span multiple layers. Trunks may float for a while during a flood before sinking root-end first.

      “we consistently find predecessors in strata that is older than the strata where we find the descendants”

      If you assume that lower strata are always older by millions of years, you’ll of course date the fossils in them accordingly. And this “ordering” is actually not consistent as you suggest. As I said above, a lot of sorting is expected in a slow progressive flood (it took 5 months to cover the earth according to Gen. 7-8), and some “out of order” fossils is what we would expect too, as some more mobile land animals would have been caught by surprise and some smaller marine creatures would have been brought to the surface by turbulent forces such as the “springs of the great deep” bursting forth (Gen. 7:11). When evolutionists find fossils out of order, they often say they are “older than expected” or credit over-thrusting, for which there is often no evidence.

      That is only part of the problem for Naturalism. First you need life, which you can’t have if you can’t make amino acids in an oxidized atmosphere (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22129728) or build protein and DNA sequences by chance in the millions of years projected (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15321723).

      ———————————-

      On innate knowledge and morality:

      “What you observe is not proof, but rather evidence that atheists as a group do not “know” innately that gods exist.”

      I’ll concede that I haven’t proven atheists know of God. I think it’s reasonable considering the personal testimony of more than a few, but I’m fine with it going unproven. My point is still that “it seems to be the best answer, and indeed a better one than an evolutionary trait.” (See Feb. 19 post). And yes, I do believe this because it comes from a plain reading of the Bible and because it doesn’t contradict what I observe. I believe that “the Bible is authoritative” because the Bible cannot be shown to be wrong. If a prophet showed up and claimed authority, and no one greater existed to appeal to, he would have to pass some tests to be authentic. Obviously what he said should be true and he should never contradict himself.

      Critics have claimed that the Bible has been significantly altered to fit prevailing theology over the centuries. In terms of the new Testament, there are over 24,000 pieces of manuscript dating as early as the first century that agree very close to 100%—and absolutely 100% in doctrine. The extant documents are factual evidence. The only way to uphold the claim of manuscript alteration would be to assert that all the alterations occurred before the earliest copies we have, which is a very small window. This would require a massive collaboration of thousands of 1st century scribes in multiple geographic locations and languages, rivaling any conspiracy imaginable. It’s simply ad hoc.

      “Yet we know this law (speed limit) exists and we know its origins, whether we choose to obey it or not. Our question is about the origin of the Law.”

      I’ve been trying to make the clear the nature of the law as well as the origin. You define morals as one person’s choice to drive 55, and another’s choice to drive 10 over, another’s 20 over, and another’s to not even bother to look at the sign. All represent various interpretations of one fixed law: a 55 MPH speed limit. Right and wrong are not “judgments about what is moral”, unless it’s true that some individual’s “right” judgment of his own act of torturing children for fun gets him off the hook for the crime. Does it? Judgment differs because people and cultures do. The thing that we make judgments about, moral law, is immutable. As to your example, FAIRness is measured against an objective standard of FAIR, and “what constitutes ‘fairness’ is inconsistent across cultures and between individuals” because people are inconsistent in their understanding of, obedience to, or regard for moral law. If you only have the definition of murder to go by in determining that it is wrong, was it right before we came up with a word for it? Your foundation for morality doesn’t go any deeper than humanity, and it doesn’t hold together. You obviously live as if morality is universal and objective because you project across cultures and across time. You deny it but can’t help it, which happens to be the nature of something that is innate.

      My original argument for universal and objective morality wasn’t an argument for God; it was an argument against moral evolution and for a source outside of humanity. Thus far you haven’t shown that we treat morality subjectively; in fact you’ve demonstrated the opposite by asserting objective moral truths in your arguments. Thus far you haven’t explained how moral systems could have evolved without an objective standard already in place.

      • Some humans hold that moral obligations evolve.
      • Moral obligations that evolved in humans should only be applied to humans.
      • Humans apply moral obligations to humans and also to intelligent beings in the universe including God, whether real or imaginary.
      • Humans do not apply moral obligations exclusively to humans.
      • Therefore, humans who hold that moral obligations evolved are inconsistent.

      Put another way:

      • Moral obligations that evolve cannot be universal.
      • Humans observe that moral obligations are universal.
      • Therefore, moral obligations did not evolve.

      “Atheism per se has nothing to say about morality.”

      Atheists make moral judgments all the time. Atheism has much to say about a lack of evidence for God, but it has even more to say about morality.

      “…why most of us accept apples as “red” and killing as “wrong”. The reason is that we consider our subject experience to be our reality. Only on deeper reflection and investigation do we have to admit the subjective nature of what we perceive.”

      This is incoherent. If “anything we label ‘reality’ is really a subjective view of the world,” then there would be no point in this debate. On deeper reflection you seem to admit the opposite, which is:

      “We can conclude logically that there exists an objective from which we derive our subjective experience, but we can’t say anything about it apart from our subjective knowledge.”

      Here you recognize that there must be an objective law from which we derive our ideas of morals. Isn’t this enough to then conclude that it comes from somewhere other than our own minds? What we say about it is based on our experience of it, yes, but we would have nothing at all to say about it if it didn’t already factually exist independent of our experience of it.

      “There is no such thing as “an apple” from an objective-only view point. The apple is a system of subatomic particles and forces.”

      All you have done here is find a more ambiguous way to describe an apple, only now it’s so obscure it’s useless. A hungry person looking for an apple won’t know what “a system of subatomic particles and forces” is. He wants an apple.

      And whatever has this accomplished? Because if “there is no such thing as an apple from an objective-only viewpoint”, then there is also no such thing as “a system of subatomic particles and forces” from an objective-only viewpoint. Both are known only by our perception. Furthermore, in an effort to avoid making an absolute, objective statement about the reality of the apple, you’ve also made an absolute, objective statement about the reality of a system of subatomic particles and forces.

      “We impose our morality on others” is an indicator that you are still thinking small on what morality is. If the most we have is a kind of intersubjectivity (a consensus of subjective views), or really just individual moral ideas (since there is no guarantee of consensus on many ideas), why do we impose them on others if we know they in many cases are only unique to each person? Why has every nation throughout history gone to great lengths to establish law in order to impose personal moral ideas on their people? If it is the recognition that order aids in survival, why are the rulers and lawmakers always the ones with the moral feelings that order aids survival? We live as if the morals we “impose” are supposed to mean something to everyone else because we strive to align our sense of morality with laws that are already written. When we deviate from it, we also know we are deviating from laws that are already written—enter conscience.

      “[circular reasoning] allows you to say that the existence of Morality (a premise) is proof that God exists (your conclusion), and that the existence of God is proof that Morality exists.”

      I don’t try to prove morality exists because it’s self-evident. I think God is the best explanation for morality such as it is.

      A premise is a basis, stated or assumed, on which reasoning proceeds. Reason is a premise; In saying that a defense of reason by reason is circular, If you were called to justify why you rely on reason, you’d be stuck with the same problem. When we argue the first and basic principals we all presuppose, we have to drop the syllogisms.

      Reason, logic, morality are the assumed basis on which we determine what follows, what’s ethical, what’s just, what should be written into law. If God is the source and therefore the basis of reason, logic and moral law, it won’t work as a convincing argument to force Him to be a premise for the same. I am not interested in proving God’s existence, but rather show that what atheists assume as their basis for reason, logic and morality actually point to something beyond humanity and is therefore flawed. Did reason evolve because it was reasonable to do so? Objective truth directs us outside of humanity to account for it, and for most, this implies God, or something just like Him. To avoid this, I think the atheist has to deny what he knows, making objective truth statements about how truth is subjective, maintaining that moral truth is subjective while condemning Hitler, listing moral law as a product of evolution when it requires a way to define it before it arrives.

      • If truth is subjective, then premises have no meaning.
      • Premises have meaning.
      • Therefore, truth is not subjective.

      ———————————-

      On comparative religions and Biblical contradictions:

      Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster are figures appearing before Christ’s birth but many of the features about them aren’t written until later, and they really don’t add up to many similarities, particularly since Messianic prophesies and the Torah were on the scene before Zoroaster. Jesus and many details about the coming savior were prophesied in Genesis (1450-1410 BC) and particularly Isaiah (740-680 BC) and elsewhere.

      Reading John 10:30 to understand that Jesus was like God in every way except some obvious differences is the logical way to read it. Jesus was God in human form, which was one obvious difference that He wouldn’t have had to point out to those He was speaking to. His obedience to the Father was another distinction as well as His unique role while on earth, but His oneness with God the Father was the point He was making. There’s no reason to believe that Jesus meant there were no distinctions whatsoever between Himself and the Father simply because He doesn’t mention them in John 10:30.

      Mar[k] 9:7 actually doesn’t include “Today I have begotten you.” It does appear in Heb. 1:5 as a quotation of Psalm 2:7, which is a Messianic prophesy. In terms of God’s relationship with the Son, begotten is a description of the relationship, not of actual birth. “Today” refers to a time when the Son was revealed and presented to the world.

      The term “only begotten” occurs 6 times in the New Testament (monogen?s, Strong’s #G3439) in reference to this Father-Son relationship. This doesn’t refer to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem because He is the Son from eternity past. The emphasis is on the Father-Son sameness, not of live birth. Christians are said to be “born” or “begotten” of God in a spiritual sense (ie. 1 John 3:9), obviously not a physical re-birth.

      This is from the Nicene Creed:

      “And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father … .”

      Jesus was “begotten, not made” because He has the same nature as God the Father, vs. something you ‘make’ or ‘create’ (cake, art, a house) that doesn’t necessarily have your nature.

      I think you’re 0-3 for contradictions. J Now to say it makes “sense to compare the plausibility of apologies for contradictions in the Bible with theories based on textual criticism that make a more compelling case for why the differences exist (for example: the texts were written by groups who did not agree completely)” assumes there are actual contradictions, and you haven’t established that yet. To show a contradiction, you need to show more than a copyist error in the form of a misspelling, numerical error, exclusion of a letter or word here and there (which comprise the total -1% portion of early manuscripts that don’t agree) that does nothing to alter meaning, or competing doctrines that can’t be reconciled by a straightforward reading with consideration of context and original language—the same method used when reading and understanding anything else.

      ———————————-

      On Fact finding and nothingness:

      I also believe that neutrinos exist and that a primary purpose of science is fact-finding and theory falsification rather than conspiracy planting. And yes, it is possible that no religion is true, thanks to the nature of truth being what it is (absolute and objective), it’s conceivable that the truth about God can be missed by absolutely everyone. To place faith in a religion, be it Christianity or atheism, you ought to have adequate reason to do so, in which case it isn’t “blind” faith. If religion “requires one to begin with a baseless premise that God exists”, somehow many come to theism by the evidence. Is evolution observable? Speciation and natural selection are, but macro-evolution is not, because you can’t test it. At most you could say that certain aspects of ToE can be tested, but these are usually aspects that support speciation and NS—both of which comport with Creation. Creation wasn’t observed and isn’t testable, but in which are we multiplying assumptions? Along the presumed path of a single living cell of unknown origin to a world filled with complex life.

      When you say that a state of nothingness is improbable because it is unstable, do you mean that it is decaying or radioactive, as in physics, or is it structurally unsound? Is it weak or simple? In any case, you are using properties and measurements to describe nothingness, which means you aren’t really talking about nothingness.

      “the main reasons given for believe in God were existence of morality, god-of-the-gap, dismissal of evidence for evolution, and the presupposition that a Creator exists.”

      The fact that morality exists in such an obviously universal way logically leads outside of humanity for its source. As stated:

      •Some humans hold that moral obligations evolve.
      • Moral obligations evolved in humans should only be applied to humans.
      • Humans apply moral obligations to humans and also to other intelligent beings in the universe including God, whether real or imaginary.
      • Humans do not apply moral obligations exclusively to humans.
      • Therefore, humans who hold that moral obligations evolved are inconsistent.

      And

      • Humans exist, therefore humans had a beginning.
      • Humans are moral beings, performing moral good.
      • There must have been a first morally good act performed by humans.
      • Something that first occurs is something by definition.
      • Therefore, a definition of moral good must have existed before the first human moral act.

      A God of the Gap argument invokes God in the absence of science. I don’t offer God in the absence of other ideas of origins but in the face of other ideas that don’t make sense.

      I don’t dismiss evidence for evolution, I dismiss conclusions of evolution that don’t come by the evidence but rather employ circular reasoning on a very small scale. I.e. The only way we can say that complex eukaryotic cells with nuclei evolved from simpler bacteria cells with no nuclei is by assuming that evolution is true.

      “In the case of objective Moral values, the claim is that there can be no morality without a Moral standard that lies outside of humanity. The problem (and reason to reject this claim) is that by objective source, you mean a Divine source – I agree and explained why morality is objective (it has evolved in a particular way) – but it is not divine and not absolute.”

      If the problem is that I mean a “divine” source, let’s forget about a divine source. Let’s just say that my argument is the objective source of morality is outside of humanity. Really, that was my point from the start, but we’ll leave the God conclusion out. Would you be willing to accept that there logically must be some source for universal, objective moral duties existing outside of humanity that is something other than God?

      • Mike Johnson says:

        Sorry, long post, but I wanted to append one point of yours I missed. :) It highlights the misunderstanding I think you have on this.

        My claim: If morals are subjective, we ought to talk about serial killers with the consideration that what they are doing could be morally right, but nobody does that. Is there a single example that you can think of that shows this?

        Your response: Yes, there are examples of this. … some argue that ethnic cleansing (serial killing on a grand scale) is morally right and necessary.

        Most believe ethnic cleansing is morally wrong and some think ethnic cleansing is morally right. These are opposite views, but all have something in common: their conviction that their own view is right. Regardless of the position they take, everyone views their own position as objective and absolute. Nobody views moral truth as if opposite views are equally valid, which would be the case if we truly believed morality was subjective and relative. Regardless of what we think the right thing is, we treat morality as if it’s supposed to mean the same thing to everyone, everywhere, for all time. Even aliens and gods. It presents itself as something much bigger than humanity.

        Re: “I’m not sure how relevant this question is though because it doesn’t address why most of us accept apples as “red” and killing as “wrong”.”

        Given the above truth, it’s fairly simple. Most people accept apples as red and murder as wrong because it takes some sort of distortion of our vision or worldview to see otherwise in these cases. Bad interpretations of truth exist, but it most moral situations, the truth is rather obvious. What is innately obvious is that whatever our interpretation is, we expect others to see it the same way.

  28. [...] responded to the topic below for discussion at AskAnAtheist.wordpress.com, leading to an extensive debate about innate knowledge, morality and evolution. Some of my dialog [...]

  29. Well this is late to the party but I’d like to add my two cents:

    First: I’m agnostic. I don’t find any theism particularly convincing, but I also don’t see any real evidence against the existence of some sort of God-like force, so I’m content here. But just color me atheist for the purposes of this discussion.

    Anyway, science and logic can only answer *how* the universe functions. For example, neuroscience attempts to explain how our minds function, while physics does the same with how the laws of the universe function (though even the laws of the universe are just our own interpretations of phenomena), Etc.

    However, they do not even come close to answering *why* things happen really, such as why the universe exists at all. This is one of the fundamental reasons why religion is so pervasive and alluring for some. We all want to know why we are here and how, and it is easy to fall into a belief system even if there is no actual evidence for it.

    Now, it could very well be that *non*-existence is impossible, so sheer existence simply spontaneously appeared (a la the big bang, or whatever universe may have theoretically come before it). But the universe is ordered, rather than chaotic. Certain laws do govern everything, even if we can never truly know them. And to me, it would seem awfully strange for a spontaneous universe––which would have no real reason or advantage at all to be ordered––is, well, ordered. In fact, it would be remarkably easier for everything to simply be in chaos. Einstein shared this view, and he had a “profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence.”

    Furthermore, an infinite regress into the past of causal events is impossible. So there had to have been at some time an unmoved-mover––something completely independent of determinism––that began our little universe (or, again, whatever came before it). This isn’t an argument for God, but it is an argument that, for me at least, there’s more to our existence than meets the eye. At the very least it’s evidence that there must be something that does not adhere to our universe’s laws.

    But this is all speculative. Still, I personally find it laughable to think that we are even close to understanding our universe, or even ourselves. Nothing is set in stone. Even the theory of gravity seems to be rupturing with holes. These dark matter hypotheses? No more than a dubious theory to make up for the holes and for what we don’t understand. And once again: we have not even a drop of understanding of WHY our universe exists at all in the way it is, let alone ourselves.

    So after over two thousand years of philosophizing and empirical studies, it seems the only thing we can really say we know is the good ol’ Socrates’ axiom (which assumes the cogito):

    “The only thing I know is that I know nothing at all.”

    I’m content with that.

    • Michael,

      Our knowledge and understanding is indeed limited. I appreciate you sharing your perspective, and I think many are in the same place you are, resisting outright atheism because the universe begs for certain explanations that are incompatible with atheism or naturalism. I don’t think I could be content with that. :)

      It’s tempting though, to think that agnosticism is a kind of non-position. The conclusions you describe and a conviction to keep a distance from certain theistic conclusions is actually a commitment to a certain agnostic position in its own right, which is also a belief system. The claims of atheists seem ignorant of the obvious, and the claims of theists seem to claim too much knowledge. As a Christian, I obviously believe that a certain amount of knowledge of God is possible, and even the strictest agnostic who says God is unknowable admits a minimal amount of knowledge of God when he claims to know that God is unknowable. Complete knowledge of God is impossible for any finite human mind, but I think we can all agree that some knowledge is possible. Even Socrates’ axiom “the only thing I know is that I know nothing at all” is a declaration of limited knowledge.

      Reason is the thing that we all champion that gets us to whatever conclusions we have. You’re right about your observations of the laws of logic that beg for some explanation beyond what we can see and prove. Reason is one of those ultimate commitments that we are forced to assume. When we do, even reason becomes suspect, because we can’t defend reason without using reason, so this reasoning becomes circular.

      Turns out that ALL reasoning about ultimate origins or ultimate authority or ultimate commitment is ultimately circular. :) I don’t think most people think about this, but at its most basic level, ANY belief or principal, from atheism to theism and everything in between, is ultimately taken on faith. We presuppose reason, logic, morality, and other unprovable principals when we do anything.

      While there are many things that theists see as evidence for God—many of which you described—theists can’t empirically prove God and ultimately accept His existence on faith. What sets apart theism from athiesm, both taken on faith and ultimately circular, is that when theism is presupposed, it provides logical answers for reason, logic, natural laws, morality, origins, etc. God, at least the one described in the Bible, provides a logical basis for what we have to assume when we assume He does not exist. Many insist on rejecting what can’t be logically proven. The problem is, that’s everything, so rejecting anything that requires faith is impossible. The choice to accept Christian theism on faith, however, leads to answers to the the why questions you mentioned. I think the biggest obstacle is not really the truth claims within Christianity, but the initial step of faith INTO Christianity.

      Why the God of Christianity over other forms of theism? That’s a separate discussion, and usually a later discussion. What I hope you can see first is that ANY belief—even what many call non-belief—is acquired by faith. When we place faith in the existence of an infinite Creator God, the universe actually begins to make sense.

  30. Don Merry says:

    I guess I will weigh in on this question of the possibility of an afterlife, but I cannot really call myself an atheist. However, I am a firm believer in logic and reason. I believe that the current hypotheses regarding an infinite multiverse to be heading in the right direction. Trying to wrap the mind around the implication that there are an infinite array of universes, some very much like our own and most nothing like it…well, it begs the question; Are their universes so much like our own that I am born again and again and again, to live out the life from the moment of my own conception? I mean really, who else can fill the role I fill in this life, other than myself. What purpose if any can the infinite multiverse be fulfilling, other than trying to (successfully or not) complete the task of being infinite? And so, humble I, servant to this mechanism, carry on forever the task I am given at birth with my mind a clean slate each time but for the genetic code which is unique to me. Who else could do it?

    • gram says:

      You’re on the right track. A multiverse makes it possible to state that recurrence is instantaneous, and thusly averts the possibility of a universal violation in prolonged waiting periods (queuing). A multiverse makes it possible to suggest something pleasing to a theist and atheist alike. We continue: this satisfying the first want of the theist. Naturally: this satisfying the first want of the atheist. Do you want to know more? I’m an expert on this topic.

  31. James says:

    Everything can be explained. Maybe not today but soon. The idea of afterlife is just to silly for My taste.

    • zJustin says:

      I agree everything [real] can be explained. We’ve made explanations for non-real things because our observations were faulty or our superstitions too strong to be overcome by fair judgement. If there is a real explanation for God then perhaps that means God exists. But it’s probable he does not, and billions of believers all agreeing does not make the non-real exist.

      I think this is what some agnostics get hung up on; the idea that outright saying God does not exist is very unpopular so they’ll rely on the fact that they don’t know and that’s good enough. But knowledge comes from learning and gaining information about your surroundings. Becoming aware of the possible existence of God is a form of knowledge so why, when you seek out evidence of that existence and fail to find it, can’t that also be a form of knowledge?

      My point is, all atheists who have been introduced the idea of God, claim knowledge about the existence of God. Simply not believing and that’s that is in a way a little ignorant and arrogant. There is a reason we don’t believe, but that doesn’t mean we are unwaverinlgy confident that God does not exist.

    • gram says:

      Yes- everything can be explained.
      No- afterlife isn’t as silly as you think.

      There are three valid reality scenarios:

      1) We utterly discontinue
      2) We naturally continue
      3) We magically continue

      The second one is now thoroughly, overwhelmingly proven true. I’m an expert on this topic. Would you like to know more?

  32. Hahshsjsk says:

    I am an atheist and believe that we die our consciousness shifts into infinity

  33. gram says:

    It might surprise you to learn that the majority of atheists believe in an afterlife. Buddhists don’t believe in God but they believe in recurrence. And there are others more philosophically developed who also believe we continue through recurrence but do a better job of explaining exactly how it works. What’s more, they have an array of arguments proving that this is so. Would you like to know more? I’m an expert on this topic.

    • Gram says:

      I’d like to qualify my remark about Buddhists. American Buddhists are likely to believe in God. Asian Buddhists of the traditional persuasion are likely to believe in recurrence. Most Buddhists prefer to say that it doesn’t really matter how we got here: that what we do with our life is more important.

  34. Kevin Logan says:

    Okay, I’ve read all of this and while I recognize the desire to show off those philosophical chops and have an intelligent debate, I’m also 42 years old now and I’m at that age where I just really don’t like dragging out the big brain anymore. So here goes, as pragmatic as I can make it.

    My dog has an instinctive will to survive and protect its own life, but, it in no way what so ever knows that it is going to die. That’s a hard concept for humans to wrap their mind around. My dog doesn’t know it is going to die anymore than a squirrel, possum, cow, dragonfly, housefly, gnat or platypus knows they are going to die. So, my dog doesn’t sit around contemplating its own death. We humans are different that way, we know we are going to die. And we don’t like that idea. We can’t even begin to understand what death, the end of “me”, means. We think we do, but we don’t. I could say that without the belief in an afterlife, death is a condition that is very cold, very dark, and it is going to last a very, very long time, except that “cold”, “dark” and “time” are realities that we only recognize because we are alive and have our senses. At death, we won’t feel cold, notice the dark, and time will have no meaning anymore, because our senses, therefore our reality, stops. Death, is oblivion. So…..

    My dog will also kill a squirrel, if it can catch it, and not think twice about it. It doesn’t sit around feeling guilty at having ended another creatures life for his own amusement and sustenance. That’s because my dog doesn’t realize that the squirrel was another living thing to begin with. It sees no significance at all in killing another living thing other than a means to an end driven by instinct.

    So, that tells you two things about humans. We are not only consciously aware of our own deaths, but we are also aware that other things are alive, and we can, through our own actions, end that life, and we know what it means to kill something else.

    So, a belief in a “God” and an “afterlife” have evolutionary advantages. Humans are a herd animal. We’re social, we want to be around other humans. We want to be a part of a group, a community. It’s almost essential to our survival. But, how does the community prosper, when, if you think about it, there is absolutely nothing that stops me from going next door, right now, and killing my neighbor just because I’d like to have his television, or take his wife as my own. Nothing. I can do it if I wanted to. For that matter, there is nothing that stops me from loading the rifle and going downtown and just going on a killing spree. What stops me from doing it isn’t the idea that I am ending of another life the way I might a deer, it’s the idea that there will be consequences that directly effect me and my survival and well being if I do, like I will spend the rest of my life in prison. Back in homo-sapien’s infancy though, back when we first learned to hunt in packs and settle with our tribe around a fire, we didn’t have the police, or forensics expert, or anything that could track killing my neighbor back to me. We didn’t have a legal system that promised to punish me for killing another. So, it was beneficial to civilization and our own survival to have religion. “God” is humanity’s Santa Claus. He watches us at all times, he knows when we are naughty and he knows when we are nice. I could kill my neighbor, and no human might ever know it was me that did it, but God would know, and I would be condemning myself to eternal damnation if I did. Whereas if I follow the social contract and behave, I would be rewarded. And because I’m aware that I am mortal, the afterlife, “heaven” or “hell”, is a pretty damn good way to convince me to make decisions that benefits society around me, by making me aware that my actions will have consequences even after my death. Humans prove every day that we are more than capable of killing our own kind to satisfy our own wants, “God” is an evolutionary response not to benefit you, but to benefit the survival of the species.

    And to touch one of the things that is baffles me about these “New Atheists” that are trying to be atheist but still try to comfort themselves with the thought of an afterlife. You can’t have it both ways. If humans are a part of the natural world, your death, and your parent’s deaths, and your children’s deaths, are as meaningless as that of a possum that gets run over in the road. You will die, but the species continues on, so your “soul” living on serves no purpose to that end, the continuation of the species. The only difference is that while the possum’s offspring might start to feel anxious that momma hasn’t come back yet, you will have people who remember you, the memory of others is the only immortality humans have. And that whole thing about a “soul” that goes on being possible because of humans having electrical synapses, and energy cannot be destroyed, only dispersed, doesn’t work either. It’s true that the nervous system has electrical impulses, but humans are not Duracell batteries. We don’t have a store of energy to disperse at our death, so the Matrix lied to you. Humans are more potato clock, the electricity is generated through chemical processes, once the chemical processes stop, no more electricity is produced, so there is no “energy” to disperse. And we’re not like radios either, the electromagnetic spectrum is so well studied that, trust me, if humans were transmitting, we’d be able to pick it up on our car stereos by now. So you won’t become a ghost either.

    So, there’s my take on it. If you can’t handle that your death is truly the end, God is your way to go. If you don’t mind that death is going to be very cold, very dark, and last a very long time while the Sun keeps on shining without you, then you’re good to go on being an atheist.

    • Gram says:

      My understanding of the term “new atheist” is someone who feels joy in the awesome power and beauty of the universe- not someone who thinks we continue.

      And I see no contradiction in not believing in magic yet believing in continuation. Natural continuation through recurrence has been overwhelmingly proven true.

      That people are the only ones who create beliefs about afterlife shouldn’t be construed to mean that every belief we might create is false- though all but one are.

  35. Leanne says:

    I am one of the rare atheist that believe in the possibility of an afterlife. I do not appreciate religious or nonreligious people including other atheist adding dogma to my beliefs. I also am not lacking in beliefs as religious people claim atheist do. I’m not ever lacking in wonder about this planet,solar system, or the rest of the universe. I am not ever lacking in hope. I may be short on hope somedays but I believe it will come back around again sooner or later as it always has before, time and time again. The Sadducees are Jews that believe in god yet not an afterlife. The Pharisees are Jews ,(the ones who harassed Jesus) that believe in god and an afterlife. That is what divides common beliefs no matter what affiliation you are. Nobody knows life before their birth or if there is any after death. Speaking for myself, I think that anyone who decides their isn’t any life after their death may as well say that their life as well as other life and existence around them doesn’t exist at all.

    • Leanne says:

      Let me also add that the reason I hope and feel strongly about the possibility of an afterlife is because I made it a big part of my life to learn about and understand as much as I possibly can know. Yet I know that the span of life wouldn’t be enough to grasp some small fraction of it, so I hope that there is some how or way to achieve this. And all I can think of is the hope of going on further for all of it to happen. Hey, who doesn’t or wouldn’t want to know everything? Nobody I know of. Also, sorry gram, it seems I’m not rare as I thought I was. I’m just used to alot of other atheists belief on afterlife. I’m not a Buddist, Hindu, or any affiliation.

  36. jeffbguarino says:

    I am an Atheist and I think an atheist is a person who does not believe in God. Everything else is unknown. If you believe there is no afterlife then you believe in something where there is no proof one way or the other. That is all except for the quantum mechanical theories and experience. After all there are two states. Your alive and if you are not alive then you are dead. Before I was born , then I was in the dead state. I went from being dead to being alive and then I was born. So it has happened to me once already that I can verify. If something has already happened once that I know of for sure then why can it not happen again.

    This is why I find it astounding that most Atheists do not believe in afterlife when it is something that has already happened to them.

    If the probability of you going from this “dead” state to the “alive” state is extremely low, (as some friends argue) , I just remind them what probability is. It does depend on time and if time goes on forever then there is an absolute probability of an event happening again no matter how improbable. You do not even have to return as the same person or even as a person. Your mind is like a quantum state. Quantum state are not destroyed, they just change their wave function over time. There can only be one Quantum state of your consciousness in the whole universe. There can never be two states that are exactly the same, they exclude one another. That is why two identical people are not the same person. If you could create two people with identical brains, atom for atom. What is it that make them have two souls ? It is quantum mechanics. They each have two different quantum state and they are mutually exclusive.

    If you start thinking about duplication machines and transport devices like on star trek , you can actually learn quite a bit about the nature of consciousness. There are rules and you can figure them out. When captain kirk beams down , his molecules are scrambled and reassembled at his destination. The molecules need not be sent but just the information about the location of each molecule in his body. So he steps in the transporter and his molecules are scanned and he is disassembled into molecules. Down on the planet or his destination there is another machine with a store of molecules to rebuild him from the signal , which just contains the information. So a new captain Kirk is created.

    So say the original transporter did not destroy the original Captain Kirk and a new one was created at the destination. Well then you just have a duplication machine. There are two souls , where there was originally just one soul. The theory goes that the original must be completely destroyed so the quantum state is free to move to the other body. But does that really happen.

    Each time someone “beams” down , they are essentially killed and another person is created with a different consciousness. There is a very low probability that it would be the original Captain Kirk.

    I figured this out over 30 years ago , then I read about it in a physics book by Roger Penrose, Then I recently heard them talking about it on “The Big Bang Theory”

    If you think about it , it makes perfect sense.

    If you read any quantum mechanics books, you will see how it works. The Pauli exclusion principal, applies to atoms and actually all quantum states. This is what prevents twins from being the same person and being two individuals.

  37. Tyler says:

    That’s a good point. The irony is I find myself laughing as well when I read or hear Atheists talking about there being no afterlife or no God and that they just go and die and that’s that. That’s all fine, but what’s hilarious is how much they insist on it. They talk about it as if they have the market cornered on the topic, which they don’t. They can’t have the market cornered on something they don’t understand. They have no connection regarding anything beyond what they can’t see, therefore they shouldn’t be contributing to a subject they’re not versed in. Typically their contributions to it are one of disdain or holier than thou and everyone is living in some kind of Fantasyland. Just because an Atheist is incapable of that realization, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or hasn’t happened for someone else.

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