REPLY #46c TO|
Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).
This is the third of a five-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
Are you certain that you aren't seeing and hearing exactly what you want to hear
and shutting out the rest?
(R) No, I am not, though I try very hard to be open-minded and empathetic
towards the views of others.
(MB) Just as long as those views are basically the same as
(R) What is your answer to the same question?
(MB) I subject all views to the same standards of evidence and accept the
conclusions produced from the evidence. I am willing to accept any view that is
supported by the preponderance of evidence and will remain skeptical of anything
which fails the test of evidential support. There is no better way.
(R) It is clear you see mainly the negative aspects of anything to do with
(MB) Give me an example of what you think is a positive aspect of religion and
why religious beliefs are the only way that one can reap the benefits of
whatever that might be.
I'm not saying that there's nothing positive to be said about religion. I
just want to hear you advance and defend something. It is my contention that
the consequences of the negative aspects of religion *FAR* outweigh any positive
I'm sure you've *met* that many, as well. But, how many of them do you actually
(R) A lot -- at least a 1000. I'm a friendly kind of guy.
(MB) You feel confident that you are highly knowledgeable about the individual
religious views of at least 1000 Christians? Friendly or not, I don't think you
could gain that sort of familiarity without extensive questioning. Let's assume
that you did subject 1000 people to that sort of questioning about their
beliefs. Did you get identical answers from all of them? If not, why not? If
so, are they all members of the same sect or do they represent a good sample of
I judge religious believers by their actions. I don't have to know them
personally in order to see what they do. The actions of believers are constantly
on display on a daily basis. You can't miss them or confuse them.
(R) I agree, the actions of the religious are on display. You've got Mother
(MB) You may be interested in checking out this web
site for alternative views of Mother Teresa and her "goodness". It's also
interesting to note that the Calcutta press had very little good to say about
her after her death. There were numerous scathing accusations that she
bequeathed nothing more than hunger and exploitation and that she really
accomplished nothing more than proselytizing.
(R) ...and the hundreds of thousands of dedicated missionaries throughout the
world who do more real good for human kind than all the non-religious nay-sayers
who ever lived.
(MB) So religion is the only "real good"? How do you arrive at that conclusion?
Perhaps you need to define "real good". What inventions and knowledge have
religion provided us that have produced the standard of living we take for
granted today? Do you approve of the 1000+ years of intellectual drought that
religion provided for us prior to the Renaissance?
(R) You've got great preachers and authors like Billy Graham and Norman Vincent
Peale and Corrie ten Boom and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose messages of
love and toleration have inspired and enriched the lives of millions. You've
got John Wesley, whose compelling statement of humility, compassion, and love
("There, but for the grace of God, go I.") reveals the true meaning of
Christianity. All you have to do to see these things is not close your eyes
when you do.
(MB) I see these things just as clearly as does anybody else. However, I do not
interpret them as being the ultimate achievements of Man, nor do I believe that
Christianity, in particular, or religion, in general, are the exclusive paths to
lifestyles of love and toleration. Perhaps, you care to read ["The Affirmations
of Humanism"] and explain how it can't possibly be either "good" or "right"
because it is non-religious. Morality and honorable lifestyle decisions are not
the exclusive domains of religion.
Also, I have made a study of religion over the past few decades and can speak
with some degree of authority from what I've learned.
(R) Let's make this "two" rather than "few" shall we. Otherwise, you'd have
started when you were pretty young.
(MB) No, "few" is correct. My studies did, indeed, begin at a very young age.
I was what's normally referred to as a "child prodigy" and had already read the
Bible cover to cover prior to entering kindergarten at the age of 5 -- by which time I
had already discovered that what I was reading didn't make any sense. Since I'm
now a few days short of 41 (and still doing my homework), I have, indeed, been
at this for the past few decades.
(R) What exactly did this study consist of?
(MB) Reading and researching everything I could get my hands on and
cross-checking the stories in the Bible with history and philosophy. Most
believers never bother to submit the Bible (or their beliefs, for that matter)
to any such scrutiny. They just take what they're told by preachers, parents,
and friends at face value and never question anything.
(R) Do you have a degree in world religion? Or perhaps philosophy? I would
expect anyone who claimed to have made a decades long study of religion to have
at least a master's, if not a doctorate, in a related subject.
(MB) Oh? Why? Is a college degree proof of knowledge and understanding or is
one required in order to possess knowledge and speak with some authority based
upon what one has learned? Consider that members of the Institute for Creation
Research are all required to have advanced degrees in some field of science, but
these people still believe in abject nonsense.
I have no degree and don't intend to get one. I have about three years of
accumulated credits in mathematics, computer science, and psychology, but my
personal studies have gone far beyond that. Since every standardized
intelligence test I've ever taken has placed me in the 99th percentile, I think
I'm more than capable of understanding what I study.
(R) I'm willing bet this "study" consisted of reading mainly fictional works by
authors with a generally anti-religious bias, whose remarks on the subject were
seldom backed up or given critical examination because of the nature of their
medium, and whose opinions you never questioned.
(MB) You're sure willing to make a lot of losing bets about me, eh? I've said
many times that I subject everything to the same standards. That includes every
book I've ever read on religion, science, history and philosophy. When I see
consistent facts and coherent argument across the spectrum of the literature, I
can feel confident about accepting them. When I don't see such things (as is
the fate of pro-religion texts), I can feel equally confident in rejecting
(R) I'll bet I've read a lot of the same books, and enjoyed them,
(MB) I'll bet that you haven't since you have been unfamiliar with the
quotations and arguments presented from them.
(R) But I read critically and seldom accept something without thinking it over
(MB) Yet, you're still a Christian? This is too funny. Anybody who has truly
done any critical reading or careful thinking about any given subject would have
more upon which to base their beliefs than meaningless "personal
(R) I generally agree completely with no one's opinion....and I have a few of my
(MB) Such as, "I believe what I believe because that's
what I want to believe"?
Is perfect knowledge required in order to say anything at all that is right
about God or about the universe?
(R) We do not have perfect knowledge of anything and can only hope to be close
to right. When a bullet is fired from a rifle, if we have good knowledge of its
initial conditions we can make an accurate prediction of where it will land.
But not exactly -- that would require perfect knowledge.
(MB) Quite correct. However, from your past arguments, you would claim that
imperfect knowledge of where the bullet would strike means no knowledge at all
and that it would be "just as valid" to claim that it will land at any arbitrary
location (or even that God fired the rifle). This is clearly not the
(R) The closer our knowledge is to perfect the more accurate the
(MB) Exactly! And, the more accurate the prediction, the more validity it has.
When you have a claim that can't be supported beyond 0% accuracy (like positive
existential claims for God), such a claim can't possibly considered to be the
equal of any other which has so much as one piece of evidence supporting it.
Even if that brings the competing claim to only 1% accuracy, our knowledge about
it is still closer to perfection and the claim, therefore, is more valid.
As our knowledge increases, we continue to approach the magic 100% accuracy
goal. But, we don't have to get all the way there in order to accept the
general truth of a theory with some degree of confidence. As stated in a
previous example, we all accept Newton's theory of gravity even though it can be
shown that it cannot be applied when relativistic or quantum effects overwhelm
(R) It is relatively easy to gain nearly perfect knowledge about something as
simple as a bullet fired from a gun, but with more complex phenomenon, such as
how human beings might behave under certain circumstances, it is much more
(MB) That's because human behavior and rifle bullets are not similar phenomena.
Rifle bullets are inanimate objects whose motions are constrained by the laws of
physics. Human behavior is not a physical thing at all, but is the result of
the electrochemical workings of the brain.
(R) And when dealing with God, where all the evidence is experiential and/or
controversial, knowledge is imperfect indeed. That is not to say some religious
beliefs may not be closer to "right" than others. It is just very difficult to
know which they are.
(MB) So far, none of them has been shown to exceed 0% accuracy. Until that
happens, they are all equal -- all worthless as theories of Life, the Universe
If nothing can be said about God that can be shown to be right, on what basis is
anybody supposed to believe in him?
(R) On the same basis we believe in other phenomenon of which we do not have
(MB) OK, so if the God theory is 0% accurate, we should be justified in having
0% belief in it, correct? If its accuracy is greater than 0%, there must be at
least one piece of supporting evidence for it -- but you've already admitted on
numerous occasions that there is none.
Religion deals with emotion while science deals with reality.
(R) No, religion deals with spiritual reality, while science deals with
(MB) Physical reality can be shown to exist. "Spiritual reality" can't.
Therefore, what's being said here is that science deals with what exists and
religion deals with what doesn't. If not, how will you demonstrate the
existence of "spiritual reality"?
Still, such a sentiment [to marvel at the "greater glory of God's work"] is pure
emotion. It is not logic, nor is it support for the existence of God.
(R) O.K. And of course, neither does it support arguments He doesn't
(MB) You're contradicting yourself again. This sentiment is merely a
paraphrasing of the old "Argument from Design" nonsense that we have already
discussed. Since it purports to demonstrate God's existence (and fails), it
just adds more fuel to the opposite arguments that advance disbelief.
How is it logical to believe in something you can't define, that has no physical
existence, that can't be understood, and for which there is absolutely nothing
to support it?
(R) God is a Supreme Being without physical existence.
(MB) Or, without any existence at all so far as anybody has been able to
(R) He can be understood only imperfectly (as with most other human knowledge)
and any support for His existence (or non-existence) is inconclusive.
(MB) You didn't answer the question (surprise, surprise). I didn't ask for
perfect definitions or understandings or conclusive evidential support. I asked
how it could be logical to believe in something for which there is absolutely no
support of any demonstrable kind whatsoever?
Don't be ridiculous. If you call yourself a Christian and say that you believe
in God, then your God is the one described in the Bible.
(R) This is a matter of wishful thinking on your part.
(MB) Oh? Really? I think it's time to call you out on this one. In the
earlier reply on this topic, you said "I have made no statements on the nature
of God. Not one." You have also been trying to say that "God" means any
conceivable deity and is not limited to the God of the Bible. Well, let's see
just how true that is and whether or not you even understand (or remember) what
you have been saying.
The following is a list of statements that you have made on the nature of
God in previous replies. Each is accompanied by a reply number in which it can
be found (some statements have been repeated in multiple replies). Since you
are currently writing in response to Reply #18, I will limit the list to
statements you have made up through that point.
- God created the world and the universe (Reply #4)
- He is the Great Scientist, Master Physicist, Ultimate Chemist, Supreme
Biologist (Reply #9a)
- He does not reside outside science (Reply #13a)
- He responds to prayer (Reply #13b)
- He is the God of Abraham (Reply #13b)
- He is part of the Holy Trinity (Reply #13c)
- Jesus is God (Reply #13c)
- Absolute morality descends from God (Reply #13e)
- God has always existed (Reply #16b)
- God is non-physical (Reply #16c)
- God is not a personal preference (Reply #17b)
- Denial of God has adverse consequences (Reply #17b)
- God is responsible for eternal souls (Reply #17b)
- God is loving (Reply #17c)
- God is not fictional (Reply #18c)
- God doesn't speak out loud in actual words (Reply #18c)
So, tell us again how you have "made no statements on the nature of God" and
tell us how the sum total of these statements can mean any God other than the
God of the Bible. Then, let's return to the discussion at hand without the
evasive redefinitions and obfuscations of basic points.
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