Catholic: with Questions about Evolution

December 31, 2012

Alan R. says:

I am Catholic and am open to evolution as a possible theory. My question is three fold:
1. If evolution is the effect on living things to real environmental changes over time in which the living being passes on beneficial traits that perpetuate and alter the species, what was/is the evolutionary benefit of large % of rational beings desire to know the truth about everything but believing in a supposidly fictional god?
2. Is this differentiation between believers and non-believers the begening of seperate species?
3. Will there ever come a time when athiests reach the conclusion that if morality can possibly evolve, that they can get ahead of the evolutionary curve by eliminating the competition for resources and eliminate the competition i.e believers?

If this line of questioning is to long, feel free to simplify it.
Peace be with you,
Alan R.
P.S.
It seems like most of the questioners and commentors are very civil which is nice :)

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Evidence of God from Christians questionable

December 26, 2012

zJustin says:

I’m an atheist myself and I’m not presenting any doubts about my atheism with this question but I seem to have trouble with trying to get evidence from theists who want to try to convince me that God exists.

I was talking with a very fine gentleman, who is my neighbor and a strong believer in Christ and God. He asked me why I don’t believe and as is the standard reply there is not enough evidence to prove the existence of God. I told him I am a person of science and logic, and I need proof in the form of hard, observable evidence.

So he is convinced one form of evidence is that we each have an unseeable spirit and soul within us, and since it is only God that can create us with a spirit inside, God must exist. And his supporting arguments for this spirit, hence God are various documented miracles witnessed. We didn’t have time to go into detail about it but he quickly explained something about a woman without a womb giving birth to a child.

So anyway the problem I have really revolves around how “miracles,” that may have been observed and apparently interpreted as such, actually specifically prove the Christian god? I asked for hard evidence, something explainable; scientific but Christians keep citing observations that are in themselves miraculous events.

I mean if the event is currently unexplained by science, how do we know Allah or Shiva didn’t do it? Or perhaps there was a sorcerer or leprechaun in the room. Miracles, or for that matter anything that seems amazing or incredible are lousy at proving god. But I need a way to explain that to Christians. But at the same time I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly good evidence, that’s not miraculous or magical but could prove god if we found it, might look like.


Talk Me Out Of It

April 14, 2012

mark says:

I’ve been a christian all my life. I now want to be reasoned out of it. Please help


Jesus Couldn’t Have Died for Original Sin

August 14, 2011

Christianity tells us that we are all sinners and doomed to Hell, unless we accept Jesus as our Savior.  The reason we are doomed is that we are all sinners. The Apostle Paul says in Rom 5:12:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The reason that we are all sinners is that we “inherit” the “Original Sin” of Adam.  As sinners we deserve death.  Only Jesus’ death could atone for Original Sin.

Right?

That puts Christians in an awkward position.

Christians have to hold that there really was an Adam and Eve and a talking Serpent in the Garden of Eden.  They have to accept the creation story of Genesis. Most Christians have abandoned this position in favor of concepts like “divinely guided evolution”.  A few Christians still argue in favor of creation a la Genesis but the arguments have been exposed over and over as baseless dogma and have rapidly lost traction among all but the most fundamentalist of Christians.

Or, Christians can accept evolution, even if they qualify it as divinely guided evolution.  Then there was no Adam in a garden with Trees of Life and Knowledge.  If there is no Adam, there is no Original Sin.  There is only our nature (is it sinful?).  And our nature is the product of evolution (is it divinely guided?).  If there is no Original Sin, then why did Jesus die?


Do You Believe in Faith Healers?

July 15, 2011

I’ve always been fascinated by faith healers, and even more fascinated by the people who believe in them.  This video is long – really long – just over an hour.  And it’s often a bit slow and boring, but it’s also astounding.  Don’t miss any of it!

If you are a believer in God and in faith healers, consider what you have just watched here.  Then ask yourself: “in what material ways are the faith healers I believe in different from Pastor James Collins?”

If you are a believer in God but not a believer in faith healers, you might join me in recognizing how believers in faith healing don’t simply believe – they need to believe.  Any attempt to dissuade them from their belief is not met with good reasons for their belief, but instead it is met by emotional responses that are disguised as reasons.  Because in the end, the “reasons” they give are not rational, and there is no real reasoning with them.  You might ask yourself: “is this like my belief in God?  Do I believe for good reasons, or do I simply need to believe?  Are my “reasons” rational?  Or are my reasons specifically designed to justify what I already believe?”

Extra credit:

Atheists should also contemplate the nature of their belief that God does not exist: “do I start with a belief that God does not exist and then seek reasons to justify this belief, or is my belief that God does not exist a result of reason?”

Since by definition, agnostics don’t find that the evidence they have is sufficient to form a belief regarding the existence of God, can “needing to believe” influence their belief about the existence of God?


Creating the Creator

July 10, 2011

We humans believe in all sorts of different gods.  It is a rare person who believes that all of these gods exist.  Most people in modern society believe that only one particular God exists (Allah or Yahveh for example), or they believe that only a particular pantheon exists (The Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and angels for example). And a few of us believe that none of these gods exist.

Unless you happen to be one of the rare people who believe that all gods that anyone conceives of really exists, you can join me in exploring how people come to dream up the gods that do not exist (excluding, of course, your god or pantheon which really does exist).  Here is one plausible account:

Memories of the dead

When a parent dies, there is very often the mistaken feeling that the parent is still somehow still with us after his or her death. We continue to “feel” the parent’s presence for several months. Our memories of the parent, emotional denial of his or her death, our habit of having the parent with us since birth, all make it difficult to realize the loss. In some societies, ancestor worship is the main religion. These feelings, that the parent is still present, has grown into a codified belief system where ancestors are always present and watching over their progeny.

When some ancestors become more powerful than others (the spirit of my great great granddad can protect me against the spirit of your great great granddad), that ancestor becomes a demigod. Each generation attributes more powers and abilities to their demigods. Over time, the demigods begin to look like what we would call gods.

Belief in the unseen

Most of the time, we (and other animals) can distinguish an agent from an inanimate object. We can tell for example that a lief blowing overhead in a stiff wind is inanimate, even though it is moving erratically. We can tell that a hawk gliding smoothly overhead is animate; the hawk is an “agent”. An agent can act, it has the ability to direct it’s movements. Inanimate objects can be acted upon but they don’t act of their own accord.

We are good at recognizing agency. Our ability to recognize agency is hardwired in us, it is essential for our survival. We can recognize pray, and more importantly, we can recognize predators. But because our ability to recognize agency isn’t perfect, we have evolved to err on the side of mistaking an inanimate object for an agent. This has some disadvantages. One disadvantage is that we might flee at the sound of a falling pine cone. However, this is far more preferable than erring in the other direction – it is far more preferable than mistaking an agent for an inanimate object. That is how you get eaten by a predator!

We’ve all heard a creak in the house that sounded a little like a footstep. Or we’ve seen a shadow that look a little like a person. Because we are hardwired to recognize agency, and if we can’t tell for sure, we’re hardwired to err on the side of recognizing agency when there is no agent. We interpret these “unseen agents” as spirits or ghosts. Spirits and ghosts are what we call agents that are invisible. Most of us have had the experience of “seeing a ghost” until we look close and discover we have seen a shadow.

Language develops

As hominids become bipedal, children could no longer easily hang from the mother as she goes about her business of foraging and traveling. The child had to walk close by as soon as he became big enough to walk. As a result, physical gestures between mother and child became less effective since the child and mother were no longer in constant physical contact. Vocal utterances began to take on a primary role in mother child communication: “stay close by, beware of danger, eat this, stop that!”

Language takes on a more important role as toolmaking develops – it’s a way to pass on the skill to children and other tribesman. Finally, it becomes a way of facilitating cooperation. Language evolves from grunts and hoots and becomes symbolic.

Language can describe the unseen

As language becomes more sophisticated, it becomes adequate to describe a dead ancestor or tribesman to a child who has never seen him.

Conflation of real and imaginary

The child grows up with the understanding that there are unseen people who everyone believes to be real. The same child hears stories of mistaken (or intentionally invented) agents which are indistinguishable from stories of extinct agents. There is a conflation between an imagined agent who never existed with real extinct people who really did exist.

Imagining Gods

Memories of ancestors become distorted as more superhuman feats are attributed to them. Super ancestors are imagined to explain apparent agency that would not be possible actions of (normal) dead relatives: thunder, earthquakes, the sun tracking along the sky, floods, famine, epidemics.

Imagining a Creator

Logic develops and people begin to recognize that things have origins. What is the agent that created those things? The origin stories from different cultures give us examples of various Creators that we humans have imagined.


Was Jesus Always Perfect?

November 24, 2010

There are plenty of verses in the Bible that we can take to mean that Jesus was perfect (“a lamb without blemish”, etc), but the Bible doesn’t say outright that Jesus was always perfect. On the contrary, Hebrews implies that Jesus was not always perfect, but rather became perfect at some point. Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV) says:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

According to this passage, Jesus was not the source of salvation until after he was made perfect. This has important ramifications. It means that people who lived before Jesus was made perfect, did not have a source of salvation. Without a source of salvation during their lifetime, God’s most faithful servants, like Moses, King David, King Solomon, and the prophets, went to hell when they died. It also means that if Jesus was always God then God isn’t necessarily perfect. Alternatively, it means that Jesus wasn’t always God (because God is always perfect).

There is good evidence that the author of Hebrews didn’t believe that Jesus was God, at least not in a way that makes the Father and Jesus one and the same. Here is a good presentation of the evidence: www.prudentialpublishing.info/hebrews_view_of_Jesus.htm

Which do you think is true…

1) Jesus was always God but God can be imperfect
2) Jesus became God after he became perfect
3) Hebrews is not the Inerrant Word of God

…and why?


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