Proof that there is no god?

June 2, 2012

Paul S says:

A definitive proof there is no god.

Such claims have been made. But fail do to the fact one cannot logically prove negative.

Now if one was to show that there is something else other than a god to account for everything, that could be such a proof.

Now on the premise that there is in fact no god. That should indeed be possible prove that there is something else other than a god, I would think.

To show this is the case, let’s look at the question, “Does God exist?”

The question presumes existence. And does not presume a god.

Existence is here. And existence is in evidence. God in the question is not. The point being existence exists without the need for any kind pf a god. Existence is the only self existence entity. And not in need of any kind of a god.

Now there not being any kind of a god. The universe exists as it is now. All the theist arguments which may convince many there is a god. Are still false, there not being any.

Furthermore can any theist show this premise that there is no god to be an absurd premise, being that there is no god?

Paul S.
a professed Christian.

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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


Why Another Discussion About Evolution?

February 19, 2012

There are far fewer discussions these days about the validity of evolution than there were just a few years ago, and for good reason. For the most part, evolution is accepted by theists and atheists alike. Albeit theists add that evolution must have been guided by the Divine hand, even if the guidance was apparently through the natural processes that we can observe.  That’s an interesting discussion too, but not the one I’m attempting to target here.

The question about evolution is still very relevant to some whose conservative interpretation of their sacred writings (the Bible, the Qur’an, the Tanakh, etc) is at odds with it.  This post isn’t my attempt to put forth any new evidence or arguments – that would take more moxy than I’m able to muster!  It’s not even an attempt to put forth an exhaustive case for evolution – still too much moxy!  The purpose of this post is to provide those who object to the theory of evolution with a ready forum in which to explore the topic, in the context of the other discussions on this blog that they might be participating in.

We can observe the mechanisms of evolution first hand. For example we can observe the causes of genetic mutation, like copy errors during reproduction, and external influences like radiation, and interaction with external chemicals. We can also see how the mutations are directly related to new traits – in many cases we can trace a specific trait to a specific set of genes.

We can see natural selection in action. Natural selection happens when organisms interact with their environment. Traits that are beneficial in a certain environment give the organism a reproductive advantage. Conversely, traits that are detrimental can hinder reproduction.  Shifts in the environment can change which traits are advantageous and which traits are detrimental.  Thus detrimental traits in one environment can become advantageous traits in another. Organisms with advantageous traits are more likely to generate more offspring, thus the trait becomes predominant.

There are hardly any believers left who object to “micro-evolution”. Virtually all believers now accept that “micro-evolution” occurs. The objection is to so-called “macro-evolution”.  The terms “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” are differences without any real distinction – they are folk concepts rather than biological concepts.  There is however a biological concept of “speciation”. Speciation can occur when members of the same species become isolated into distinct colonies. This often happens when colonies migrate and become separated by geographical distance, or by newly formed features in the geography – like bodies of water, mountain ranges, or climate shifts.  The isolated colonies evolve independently over time, each accumulating it’s own unique set of mutations.  Over time, the drift in genetic makeup of the isolated colonies can be substantial enough so that individuals from one colony are no longer capable of producing fertile offspring with mates from the other colony.  Once this happens, the colonies are said to be different species.  Since the colonies are no longer able to share genetic traits, they can’t re-converge. From this point forward, the individual colonies, now separate species, continue to evolve independently.  As a result, their traits continue to diverge to the point where we would recognize them as different species by casual observation – they “look different”. You might think of this as “macro-evolution”.  Speciation has been observed first hand in various living plants, flies, worms, and other organisms. And of course we find countless examples of speciation in the fossil record.

We use independent means to observe that evolution has occurred over time. We can deduce a family tree (a model of ancestral relationship) based on the morphology and age of the vast number of species that are preserved in the fossil record – some quarter of a million or so species that are represented by countless individual organisms.  We can also deduce a family tree by looking at DNA of living species, to determine how close one species’ genetic sequence is to another.  For example, chimpanzee DNA is much closer to human DNA than to fruit fly DNA. Therefore chimpanzees and humans are more closely related than either humans and fruit flies, or than chimpanzees and fruit flies.  These completely independent methods of observing our evolutionary past yield virtually the same family tree.

Evolution provides an excellent explanation for the progression of single-celled organism, to cell colonies, to simple multi-celled organisms, to the more complex organisms (including us!) that we can observe today.

How can a belief in the supernatural evolve?  Is belief in the supernatural somehow a beneficial trait?  And if not, does our belief in the supernatural suggest something more to us humans than can be explained by evolution?

We humans (and some other animals to a lesser degree) have evolved the ability to think abstractly.  This enables us, among other things, to predict outcomes of hypothetical scenarios in our minds, rather than being forced to learn everything by trial an error through our physical actions.  This has clear evolutionary advantages.  This same abstract thought forms the basis for complex thinking and verbal communication – also very advantageous.

Along with abstract thought, we (and most other animals) have evolved the ability to distinguish between living organisms and inanimate objects. That is, we can tell the difference between agents, like a butterfly in our garden, and non-agents like a feather floating erratically in the breeze.  However like anything in nature, this ability is not perfect.  Sometimes we mistake agents for non-agents (we don’t recognize the panther stealing stealthily across the grassland), or we mistake non-agents for agents (a shirt hanging in a dark closet looks just like a ghost!).  From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s better to err on the side of mistaking a non-agent for an agent (don’t take any chances – that could be a predator and we might be its lunch!) than to err by mistaking an agent for a non-agent (we missed lunch because we didn’t recognize the pray).  We’ve evolved to err on the side of “seeing ghosts” than to err on the side of “getting eaten”.

Seeing “ghosts” and thinking abstractly about “what a ghost is and where ghosts come from” are a few examples of the kinds of things at the root of belief in the supernatural. We sense something that feels like it’s really there, but we can verify that it is not really there.  We then conclude that things that aren’t physical can exist (that is, we tend not to doubt the accuracy of our feelings).

Belief in the existence of abstract, unseen agents evolves through reasoning, to become beliefs in things like animal spirits. We assume that the unseen agents have a familiar origin, like agents we can see – people and animals. The belief evolves into ancestral gods when we reason that our ancestors were with us when they were alive (when we could see them), so they must still be with us now since they are still alive, but we just can’t see them. And if they are with us, they must still take care of us like they did when we could see them. If they take care of us, it means they can still make things happen – they have power to affect change in the environment. Abstract concepts of celestial gods proceed from there. This, combined with our reasoning that everything has an origin, becomes belief in creator gods.

Not every persistent trait is advantageous. Take male breasts for example.  Some traits are simply byproducts of advantageous traits, like female breasts for example.  Similarly, belief in the supernatural might be a by product of erroneous agency detection, coupled with the ability to think abstractly about “ghost” agents.  Though it could be merely a byproduct, I think belief in the supernatural actually is beneficial.  Tribes that are more organized around authority can dominate tribes that are less organized.  Belief in gods is a ready source of authority – both in terms of the belief about what the gods might require of us (we seek to appease authorities or to perhaps gain favor from them), and also in terms of the authority that self-appointed spiritual leaders claim to have – spiritual leaders claim first-hand knowledge of the gods and what the gods want: “The gods want you to put yourself in harms way to protect our village! Disobey them and the gods will kill you!”

Theists who don’t accept evolution because it conflicts with their theistic beliefs, won’t particularly like these conclusions.  That’s expected and understandable.  Shouldn’t we accept any conclusions that are most strongly supported by the evidence, even if we don’t particularly like the conclusions?  My challenge to you is this: while you examine the evidence that underpins evolutionary theory, and while you look for ways to refute the theory (Refuting a theory is a good thing by the way! Science is based in falsifying theories and cannot stand without it!), be resolved to accept whatever your reasoning suggests is the truth.


Coming Out Yogi

October 2, 2011

Brian asks:

Hey, I was a Christian for 10 years, pursuing Jesus with all my might during my devotions. The thing is, however, that I never grew in my faith. I also had some mood problems that prayer and Bible study never helped. However, since I started doing yoga and meditating, these moods are greatly reduced. I’m fascinated by this yogi philosophy and yogis are some of the most kind and compassionate people. But how do I get out of these church commitments where people need me and how do I explain to them what I’m doing? Especially when I know no one will understand?


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?


Why Pray Before a Meal?

April 7, 2011

I’m often tempted to ask Christians who I see praying in public before a meal why they pray. Of course I would never be so disrespectful as to actually walk over and ask. I’m not offended by it, Christians have every right to do it and I support their right. But I do wonder why. So I’ll ask my questions here, where I can safely assume that someone reading a blog about atheism would be amenable to a conversation about faith and belief.

Social Aspects of Praying:

Do Christians feel that God prefers that prayers are said while in a certain posture, with head bowed, eyes closed, and hands clasped? Or is the prayer posture meant more as a performance for the benefit of those around them, rather than for God’s benefit? It seems a lot like the ichthus (fish) bumper stickers – it’s used as a public statement, a testimony. Is the prayer before the meal a polite way of witnessing, a way to show those around them that “I’m a Christian” without actually engaging anyone in conversation? On the one hand, I appreciate that most Christians would be respectful enough not to overtly proselytize those around them. On the other hand, statements to the effect of “I’m a Christian” is not much of a witness. For example, it says nothing about the reality of Jesus which is what a Christian witness or testimony really is. Or possibly, prayer before the meal is a display for other Christians, a way to tell other Christians that you’re one of them – sort of like the Shriner’s “secret” handshake.  Maybe it’s both.

Theological Aspects of Praying:

Thank you for this food we are about to receive…

Why do Christians pretend that God gives them their meals? It seems obvious enough where food comes from. The Earth produces food for humans and other terrestrial life. Life on planet Earth has evolved such that there is a food chain.  If I may oversimplify a bit just for illustration: plants consume non-living materials like minerals, water, CO2 and sunlight.  Animals consume plants, and animals higher on the food chain consume other animals.  Humans are near the top of the food chain (yes, we do have natural predators!).  Each of our meals has this natural origin.  If there is a God, then He doesn’t give us each meal, He gives us the entire Earth from which we get our food.  Why not thank God at every meal for the Earth rather than for the meal?  The meal seems insignificant relative to the gift of the whole Earth!

Other Quirks Regarding Prayer:

Why pray only for food?  Why not pray for water?  Water is even more essential to our sustenance than food.  We can survive without food for weeks but we can only survive without water for a few days.

Bless this food to our bodies…

“Bless this food to our bodies” isn’t even grammatically correct – the verb “bless” can take the indirect object, “body”.  You can bless the food, or you can bless our bodies, but you can’t bless food to our bodies.  Nevertheless, this phrase is very wide spread among Christians – try this search on Google (http://www.google.com/search?q=”bless+this+food+to+our+bodies”) and you’ll see what I mean.

My point is not that Christians are guilty of incorrect grammar – we all are.  My point is that Christians make this particular grammatical error only in prayers for the meal and not anywhere else.  So how does a grammatically incorrect phrase become so popular in prayer and only in prayer?  Does it sound more spiritual?

What do you think?

Whether you are Christian or not, what to you think about the Christian prayer for the meal?


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