What It Would Take

“What would it take for you to believe in God again?” This is what Ryan asked me recently. It’s a really good question, and it’s one I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve also read the thoughts of some other atheists on this subject; one that I think makes a particularly good argument is found here. I also like the format he uses, and I’ve decided to lay mine out similarly.

First of all, like most atheists, I don’t claim that gods absolutely don’t exist. That would require a level of knowledge that we’ll never have. I just don’t believe in any of the gods of the “revealed” religions. So whether it’s Marduk, Zeus, Thor, Jehovah, or Allah, I don’t believe in any of them. I think the existence of a god is unlikely, but still possible. If a god exists, then I think it’s probably the kind of god deists believe in, a being who created everything but doesn’t interact with us on a personal level. I don’t think this being would be wholly good or wholly evil. Instead, I think it would have both characteristics, just like we do. Why do I think that? Because that’s what we see in nature.

But currently, I don’t believe in such a god. In my life, I’ve only experienced things that have a natural explanation, so it’s hard for me to conclude that all of nature originated in the supernatural. I just don’t believe the evidence suggests it. What would cause me to change my mind?

Things I would find convincing:
Direct Communication — If God began to speak to all of us directly, I would find that convincing. However, it would have to be done in a way that would eliminate the possibility of fraud or hallucination.

Miracles — I think witnessing the miraculous would be very convincing. If I could witness an amputee regrow their limbs right before my eyes, I would be convinced. But watching a televangelist heal someone of back pain is not convincing to me at all.

Prophecy — Specific, detailed, and accurate prophecy would convince me. For instance, if the Bible had prophesied about the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan, and it gave great detail as to when it would happen, where it would strike, and how powerful it would be, then I would find that convincing. However, if it merely prophesied that a tsunami would one day strike Asia, that’s not convincing at all. Or if it prophesied an event that someone could later cause to happen in an effort to prove the prophecy true, that would be much less impressive. Or if it recorded the prophecy and the fulfillment in a way that made it impossible to determine if the prophecy was actually written before the event occurred, then I would not be convinced.

The Power of Prayer — If prayer could actually “move mountains,” or if it almost always healed the sick, etc, then I would find that to be very convincing evidence.

Things that would make a compelling case:
A Perfect and Truly Inerrant Text — If we had a religious text that offered profound information, clearly spoke of scientific principles that would have been difficult or impossible to know at the time, gave prophecies that would have been impossible to fake or misunderstand, did not contradict itself in even the slightest way, was verified consistently by history, and gave instructions that were humane and helpful, then I would find that to be compelling evidence that the religion might be true. Of course, we would also need a clear line of evidence showing us when the texts were written, we would still need access to the originals, and we would need some kind of verification telling us which parts were legitimate. This could be achieved through miraculous means, perhaps. Regardless, we would need solid information on who wrote it, how it was written, and how it was transmitted through the ages.

A High Standard of Morality — If the teachings of this religion displayed a high and consistent level of morality throughout the ages, I would find that to be compelling evidence. For instance, I would expect it to teach that killing is wrong period, not just when it’s members of your tribe. I would expect it to teach that all people are equal, regardless of race, nationality, gender, age, beliefs, etc. I would expect it to teach that slavery and child abuse are wrong. And I would expect it to teach these things, regardless of what the people around them believed at the time.

Blessed Followers — If the followers of the religion were typically in better health, lived better lives, displayed more generosity and kindness, had fewer natural disasters, etc, I would see that as decent evidence that their religion might be true.

Things I would not find convincing:
Personal Testimony — Maybe you “just know” something, but that’s not evidence. I only have my experiences to go on, so unless you can provide really good evidence to help support your experience, I won’t find it convincing.

Hearsay or Anecdote — There might be a really good story about how someone knew someone whose life was completely changed by a particular religion, but I don’t count that as evidence. Incidentally, I also place Paul’s “500 witnesses” in this category. Who were these witnesses? What did they see? When did they see it? What were the circumstances surrounding this event(s)? It’s just anecdotal evidence.

An Imperfect Text — This may go without saying, since I kind of addressed it in the previous section. But I’m often told that I’m being too strict with the Bible — that we don’t place the same degree of scrutiny on works by Tacitus, Seutonius, or Plato. But this is a silly claim. As far as I know, Tacitus, Seutonius, and Plato never claimed to speak for god. And if they did, none of us believes them. However, the Bible does claim that (in some passages), and plenty of people believe the claim. That should force us to scrutinize it more carefully than we do other works. I’m also told that the Bible was written to fit within its own time and shouldn’t be held to the same standards of accuracy that we have today. But I also find this excuse bizarre. I agree that the Bible is a product of its time — that’s one of the reasons I don’t think it was inspired. I would expect an inspired work to be transcendent in nature, and I wouldn’t be convinced by anything less.

In closing…
I appreciate Ryan’s question, and I’m sorry it took me so long to post a reply. There may be some things I’ve left out of my answer, but I hope it’s clear enough to suffice. It’s possible that some may think this list is too severe — that I’m setting the bar too high. But I honestly disagree with that.

When I was a Christian, I thought that I possessed much of this evidence. I believed the Bible was completely true and inerrant. I didn’t believe its morality was consistent throughout, but I felt that I had decent reasons for why that was the case. And I believed it contained actual prophecies and miracles. Of course, I later found out that wasn’t true. But my point is that the things that would cause me to believe now are very similar to the things that caused me to believe as a Christian. So I don’t think the list I’ve laid out is overly strict.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about this. I’m especially interested to hear from Ryan or other Christians. Am I being reasonable? Is there something out there that meets these standards?

Thanks

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “What It Would Take”

  1. I do not believe you are being unreasonable at all. You listed all the things that it would take for me to believe again.

    Like

  2. While I can empathize with your need (Thomas wasn’t the only one who needed to get his hands dirty to have faith; I do to) for more concrete evidence for God, I think you may be s.o.l., because God works through people, and people aren’t perfect.

    What God seems to desire most from us is faith (trust) in Him, and this requires a withholding of information on His part. I think this is why He allows all of the imperfections of religion and religious texts. If we had perfection in these things, we would need no faith, and we would not need to exhibit any grace or mercy to others in these areas.

    But, there is this: people are capable of astonishing acts of love, and this is of God. This often occurs in really freaky ways (read: miracles far more beautiful than the utilitarian healing or limb-regrowing), and if you’ve experienced something like along these lines, you can’t really explain it or define it, but you know it is of God.

    You just…know it.

    Like

  3. I read this post on my phone when I was in the car with my husband. He was really impressed with how well thought out it was (and of course I was too). Excellent job Nate!

    Like

  4. I’ll answer this question from the other side of the coin.
    What would it take for me as a believer walk away from faith? It would take someone finding the body of Jesus. If that happened I would turn away and never look back.

    Like

  5. @bburleson

    It is highly unlikely we would ever find Jesus body even if there was no resurrection. And if a body was found, how could we possibly test that it was Jesus of Nazareth? Isn’t it true that during Jesus ministry there were many people named Jesus? I’m fairly sure there are tombs that still can be visited that that are a testament to this.

    I believe in Jesus, but I think that (and it already has been claimed) if the body of Jesus was found, Christians would merely dismiss this find as being “someone else”.

    plus it seems to me very likely that is such a tomb would be empty anyway since even in the desert bodies do break down completely.

    Like

  6. For me as a believer, it would take the missing link to be found.

    For me, if evolution is true (not merely adaptation, but evolution) then my faith would seem severely misguided

    If the “missing link” could be peer reviewed and tested beyond reasonable doubt, then I would be forced to reassess faith.

    Like

  7. Here’s some of my some thoughts regarding suffering. Is the question of why we suffer grounds to deny God?

    Outside of my lived experience, families are torn apart every day, people die from disease, and natural disasters occur (the Bible even accounts of them) this has been going on since I was born, and long before.
    Although I would probably be tempted to turn away from God if this happened to someone I knew directly, it would not be reasonable to deny God on these grounds.

    I have come to faith with this going on all around me, but yet not all of this has directly affected me as it has affected and touched others. It would be unreasonable of me to deny God if I was to be directly be touched by suffering, since I believed in Him, even though other families, other nations and other people were touched by such suffering.
    I hope to God that I or others are never am affronted with such things; however, death still remains and If we live long enough we will all one day have to bury loved ones.

    I am not more important or valuable than any other human being. So why should I be surprised if calamity strikes me or someone I know. Why should I deny God, or be surprised if suffering directly impacts on me?
    That being said I think when suffering touches someone, all reasoning and logic can be put on hold, everything can stop. So I can understand how people could deny God in such circumstances, after all, I don’t know how I would respond.

    Like

  8. Thanks Nate for your thoughtful response.

    thankyou for taking the time, you have provided alot to reflect on.

    I’ll write a response this week

    Like

  9. @bburleson
    Considering there’s no evidence for God to begin with, that’s like me saying “The only thing that would make me stop believing in a giant teapot that orbits the earth is if one falls from the sky and they find it smashed up in a garden.”

    Don’t you agree?

    Like

  10. Larry, There is plenty of evidence for God if one wants to find it. I’m not saying you can “prove” it. But there is plenty of compelling evidence.

    William, no I don’t. What I am saying is the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If it was proven conclusively false then there would be no reason for there to be a Christ faith.

    Like

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Ryan (portal001),
    Thanks for your feedback. I felt the same way you do about the problem of evil for a long time. As I’ve gotten older, it seems to bother me more. I may post about it soon…

    As far as the missing link goes, I’d recommend looking into that a bit more, if you’re interested. Most scientists feel like we already have several missing links — or at least their close cousins. Since evolution teaches that these changes happen very gradually, it’s a misconception to think that there would be one transitional fossil; in fact, there would be many. Even the Wikipedia article on human evolution is a decent place to start, if you’re interested in knowing why scientists think we have very good evidence for evolution.

    Thanks

    Like

  12. @bburleson

    I think for those of us who don’t believe, it’s hard to understand why thinking the resurrection is true would be the default position. It’s such an extraordinary claim, it seems that the default position would naturally be skepticism. So whereas we need proof to believe it, you would need proof to disbelieve it. I think that’s what Larry and William were saying.

    Thanks

    Like

  13. Nathan,

    I thought Ryan asked you a very good question. Your answer makes several things very plain, but also leads to some other questions.

    One thing that you seem to have taken great pains to be careful to make clear is your denial of any existing evidence for the Bible or for God. You are not willing to accept anything that might produce faith in God on your part. Basically, you seem to be saying that if God would take away the need for faith by performing some miracle in person on or someone you know, in your presence, you would believe in Him. Well, there would be no “faith” in that. So, in effect, you are saying you would have faith if there was no need for faith. How interesting!

    You say you would find a “high standard of morality” a compelling piece of evidence. Whose “morality” is the standard? Yours? Are you taking on the mantle of “God” and setting standards for all the world? Or, are you simply trying to hold God “hostage” by in effect saying “I’ll believe in God if He follows my rules and requirements”? Who put you in charge? What right do you have to place your own private ideas of morality on anyone else? If there is no God, then everyone is free to set their own standards of morality, and should not be forced to accept anyone else’s.

    Do you use the same standards of evaluation and acceptance for God and the Bible as you do other things? If not, why not? If so, how can you believe in “science”? How can you accept the Big Bang theory or the theory of evolution as truth or even likely? Did you see or experience the Big Bang? Have you seen evolution take place? Why are you so willing to accept these things on faith, but not the idea of God? I’ve told you stories about your great-grandfather. He was a real character. I heard these stories directly from him, and have had many confirmed by another source. Do you believe he even existed? How do you know? Should your children accept stories about him as true? Or, will you teach them that since you didn’t see the events take place, nor were you told them by the direct participants, that they simply aren’t true? I know that you will say you can have faith in science because it doesn’t claim to be inspired. Okay, so what you are saying is that it makes more sense to place faith in a discipline that has been shown to be wrong in the past and that makes no claims of inspiration or inerrancythan it does to place faith in something that has remained consistant for centuries and has evidence to support it’s claims of inspiration. I’m sorry, but why does uncertainty and error appeal more to your faith than consistancy and claims of inerrancy? Obviously, if you refuse to accept the idea of God, then the Bible cannot be true. I admit that arguments can be made and evidence presented that could cause one to doubt the Bible, but there is no smoking gun. Error cannot be proved beyond all doubt. However, science and scholars have often been proved wrong, and will be proven wrong again as more discoveries are made over time, yet this is where you place your faith. This just doesn’t make sense to me. I fail to see the logic in it.

    I know you enjy the intellectual exercise of debating these things. It is a shame you don’t recognize the strong evidences for God and the Bible, but would rather place your faith in yourself and uncertain scholarship. Desides, if there is a God (and through faith I know there is), what would you expect His reaction to be toward someone who would make demands of Him beyond what He determined should be made? In other words, you place yourself above God, deciding what is Godly behavior, making sure everything meets YOUR criteria, instead of the other way around. Seems to me to be an awfully arrogant viewpoint.

    I know this is not going to change your mind. I just want you to think carefully about the end result of your views.

    Love,

    Dad

    Like

  14. @bburleson
    First off, which god do you claim to have evidence for? Allah? Vishnu? Thor? The Judeo-Christian God?

    Secondly, there’s no scientific or historical evidence for God. Anecdotal evidence is practically useless. So could you show me the evidence please?

    Like

  15. Hi Dad,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Basically, you seem to be saying that if God would take away the need for faith by performing some miracle in person on or someone you know, in your presence, you would believe in Him. Well, there would be no “faith” in that. So, in effect, you are saying you would have faith if there was no need for faith. How interesting!

    So you believe Moses, Abraham, Noah, Gideon, Paul, Peter, David, Solomon, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, etc had no faith? Hebrews 11 would disagree with you…

    I’ve mentioned before that science is often wrong. That’s the point of science. When a previously held position is proven wrong, it’s rejected or revised in favor of a better explanation.

    Religion, on the other hand, teaches that the ultimate truth is already known and can’t change. So when parts of it are shown to be incorrect, the believer is forced to hang on anyway and come up with rationalizations for how it could still be true. You believe that the rationalizations for Christianity are plausible. Of course, Muslims believe the rationalizations for Islam are plausible too. Every religion plays this game — I have no doubt that some scientists do it too when they have pet theories. But I don’t find those rationalizations to be plausible. I do think that there are proven errors in the Bible, even if you disagree.

    But in the end, the stuff about science is beside the point. I didn’t stop believing Christianity because of evolution or any other scientific teaching. I stopped believing because I became aware of the problems in the Bible.

    Besides, if there is a God (and through faith I know there is), what would you expect His reaction to be toward someone who would make demands of Him beyond what He determined should be made? In other words, you place yourself above God, deciding what is Godly behavior, making sure everything meets YOUR criteria, instead of the other way around. Seems to me to be an awfully arrogant viewpoint.

    You only feel this way because you don’t see a difference between God and the Bible. I’ve never placed myself above God — it really makes me sad that you see it that way. I finally began asking myself if the Bible was really from God or not. Even though you believe in inspiration, you still agree that men wrote the Bible. I didn’t question God — I questioned those men and found them wanting.

    Like

  16. I just read a book called “Calculating God.” It’s a good read that offers a decent proof of God…only in a fictional universe. It takes the fine tuning argument theists currently use, but in a world where it has been verified that physical laws and constants could be different, but aren’t. They have also determined that there can’t be a multiverse. If science ever determines something similar, I would start believing in God.

    Like

  17. @portal001
    I’ll definitely be interested to hear what you think of that book. I was surprised by some of the information in there — especially about the experiment with silver foxes in Russia. You’ll see what I mean when you read that part. I don’t know why that experiment made such an impact on me, but it did.

    @hcgrundy
    That sounds interesting — I may check the book out some time. When I was a Christian, I heard the fine-tuning argument quite a bit. I now see that it’s just a clever use of statistics. If we calculate the probability of everything it took to get this specific reality, then the odds are staggering. But they’re just as staggering when you calculate the probability for any specific person. What are the odds that I would exist instead of all the other possible people that could be here at this moment in time? When looking at it that way, you can make anything’s existence so unlikely that it appears to be impossible.

    It’s just like when people wonder how we could have wound up on the one planet in our solar system that supports life unless it was designed that way. But what other planet could it have happened on? If we’re here to wonder about it, then it only makes sense that we would have to be on a planet that supports our existence. To borrow from Julia Sweeney, it’s like being in awe of how our hands were designed to fit our gloves so perfectly. That’s looking at it backwards. Just like we designed gloves to fit our hands, life on this planet evolved to fit this planet — not the other way around.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Like

  18. The fine tuning argument isn’t a good argument only if we live in a multiverse, which quantum theory shows is probable. If there is only one universe, then your analogies to individuals and planets don’t hold true because the anthropic principle has many people and worlds to take into account.

    Like

  19. I tend to agree with that, but we’ll probably never know for sure. And it’s also hard to imagine what other possible life forms might have been able to exist under different circumstances. But I’ll readily admit, this is an area in which I’m no expert.

    Like

  20. Nate, “what would it take for me to believe in God again?” This is a very interesting question. I still believe in God, but not in the way I used to when I attended Pentecostal and Catholic church. I believe God is greater than the God portrait by most Christians (sending people to hell if they don’t accept Jesus). To accept this God would require me to simply stop caring about truth, genuine love, and spiritual growth. To believe again in a God that excludes anyone who does not explicitly accept Jesus as their savior, would require me to be narrow minded, superficial, religious, and selfish. I rather continue to believe in a God that is greater than what our human minds can fabricate based on our human agendas and ideas.

    Like

  21. Hi Noel,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I could get behind a god like that too, and I completely understand why you believe in it. For all I know, a god like that may exist. Do you still consider yourself a Christian, or more of a deist?

    Like

  22. Nate, your question made me ponder more on what I would consider myself. I don’t usually like to put labels on anything or anyone. I have though, considered myself a Reflective Christian, reflective because I have started to welcome doubts and questioning as ways to grow more spiritually, without forcing myself to accept doctrines that are unreasonable and contradictory (a loving God sending people to Hell). I also include “Christian” in my description because my beliefs were founded on this religion, and continue to strongly believe in what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of Heaven. He may also have been the “son” of God, or manifestation of God, but I don’t think anymore He could have been the only manifestation of God here on earth. Am I a Deist? Good question, the more I research on this definition, the more I can identify more with this view of God. I will continue to reflect on this. Thank you for the food for thought. Peace.

    Like

  23. Thanks for the reply, Noel. I totally identify with your position, and I’m really glad you’ve stopped by. Good luck as you continue your journey!

    Like

  24. I have to agree with you Noel. I think Yeshua died for ALL men. AND THEN… some men came in and started putting qualifiers on what he did so you had to agree with them if you wanted to make it. Thankfully God doesn’t care about their qualifiers..@Noel

    Like

  25. @Nate I don’t know brother. I think if you found yourself on a rock standing next to Moses and he lifted his arms and you felt a great wind blow until the Red Sea, or the Reed sea, whichever is easiest for you to buy, I don’t care. Regardless. You’re there, he lifts his arms and the wind blows and the “pick one” parts. Right then you would say, “There is a God!” Then. just after crossing you’d think “There may be a God.” But not too many days later, once the “people” had a chance to spout all of their stupid detritus at you, you would probably think, “Sure the wind parted the sea AND – THAT – IS – UNUSUAL but it happens. You know?” And very quickly you would settle back into your comfortable atheism.

    Still, you know yourself better than I do. How far off the mark am I here?

    God BLESS!

    Like

  26. Hi haydendlinder! Thanks for your comments.

    You make a good point. I think my reaction would depend on the quality of the miracle. When I was a kid, I thought of this as two actual walls of water. I imagined being able to walk between them, perhaps even seeing fish swimming around within, like two giant aquariums. Then, once the Israelites were safely across and the Egyptians came into the middle of the sea, Moses dropped his arms, and the two sides came crashing together in a magnificent cacophony of water and foam.

    However, I’ve also read the different theories about this event — perhaps it happened at a time when the sea was low, maybe a powerful wind gave it the appearance of “separating the waters,” etc.

    If I witnessed an event like the latter, I could see myself rationalizing the experience pretty easily. However, if I saw something like the former, I really do think that would be plenty of evidence for me. I don’t think it’s something I would doubt later.

    I don’t guess I’ll ever know for sure, unless I experience an actual miracle (not holding my breath 😉 ), but this is my best guess on how I’d react. Thanks again for the great question. It’s not one I had really thought about — I’m glad you changed that!

    Like

  27. @Nate

    I respect you as a scholar of Christianity and that you left it only because you found things in it that were not reasonable. You preferred reason over blindfaith.

    May I ask you some question/s?

    You left Christianity because it was faulty as you say; then what positive merits did you see in Atheism that you joined it?

    I am not doing it to revert you to your previous position or convert you to my belief. That is your own choice.

    Please

    Like

  28. Hi paarsurrey!

    Thanks for the question. I don’t feel like I really “joined” atheism. Instead, I view atheism as a default position. In fact, I think we’re all born atheists, since infants (and even young children) aren’t old enough to understand the spiritual concepts that would be necessary to hold a true belief in a god. Other people have often compared atheism to “non-stamp-collecting.” In other words, most people in the world don’t collect stamps, but it wouldn’t make sense to really identify us by that. It’s really just the default position.

    That said, there are definitely important aspects to life that we typically derive from religion, morality being the most important. And if I don’t believe in a god, how can I be moral? What does atheism provide as a basis?

    Actually, I don’t think atheism does provide a basis for morality, since it only informs one’s stance on the existence of god(s). Instead, I get my basis for morality through humanism. The idea is that all people have value and are worthy of respect. You’ve shown great courtesy in your comments, for instance. And it’s not because we share religious beliefs, but because you obviously believe you should show respect to your fellow man. I feel the same way. Part of it is that I don’t want others to harm me or treat me unfairly, so I try to treat others in the same way. Related to that, if I went through life stealing, raping, killing, etc, I wouldn’t live very long. Society would reject me. But beyond that, I actually enjoy being “nice.” Treating other people morally makes me feel good, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. It seems to me that most people naturally want to do good things for others and be a valued member of society.

    When my wife and I first began realizing that our long held Christian beliefs may not be true, we worried about what that would mean for the rest of our outlook on life. How could we justify being moral without God? It’s a natural question to ask, but we found that it really wasn’t that difficult of an issue when it came down to it. We had lots of good reasons to live morally that had nothing to do with whether or not God was real.

    Please let me know if there’s a part of your question that I didn’t address, or if you have other questions you’d like to discuss. Thanks again for your comment.

    Like

  29. @ Nate :March 9, 2014 at 11:41 am

    “That said, there are definitely important aspects to life that we typically derive from religion, morality being the most important. And if I don’t believe in a god, how can I be moral? What does atheism provide as a basis?
    Actually, I don’t think atheism does provide a basis for morality, since it only informs one’s stance on the existence of god(s). Instead, I get my basis for morality through humanism. The idea is that all people have value and are worthy of respect. You’ve shown great courtesy in your comments, for instance. And it’s not because we share religious beliefs, but because you obviously believe you should show respect to your fellow man. I feel the same way.” Unquote

    Thanks for your response.

    I agree that morality could be a positive factor for changing one’s ideology, as it is an important aspect of human life for peaceful co-existence.

    So for the sake of morality for one you had opted to accept Humanism (not Atheism as you have yourself stated above, if I have correctly understood it).

    Can you please enumerate the principles of morality and their wisdom that Humanism (not Atheism) provides with reference to a Humanist’s source of consensus so that we could make a comparison v Quran which is the first and the foremost source of consensus of Muslims?

    Also please mention that the same morals which you have found out now in Humanism in fact were non-existent in Christians- your previous ideology, and that the Humanists have excelled them with a very big margin in codifying them theoretically as well as and practically.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

  30. Hi paarsurrey,

    I didn’t mean to give the impression that I left Christianity over morality. I left Christianity because I no longer found it believable. There are a number of inaccurate prophecies, contradictory passages, bad science, bad history, etc in the Bible. When I added to that some of the doctrinal problems, like the idea of an eternal Hell, I just didn’t find it believable anymore.

    After I lost my faith in Christianity, I worried that I wouldn’t have good reasons to be moral anymore, but I quickly realized that wasn’t true. That’s when I realized that humanism was a great basis for morality — but again, let me stress that this didn’t really have anything to do with why I stopped being a Christian.

    Anyway, you asked about some of the differences between the two ways of thinking. In Christianity, and most other religions, morality is derived from a supreme law giver. God says what’s moral and what’s not. But this brings up some important questions: if God commands something that would normally be evil, like killing specific people, then killing those people would suddenly become morally good. This means morality is fluid — there is no real moral standard. It could change as soon as God changes his mind about something.

    Humanism, on the other hand, gives reasons for why things are moral or immoral. It’s not set by decree; instead, it’s based on human well being. Vaccinating people against disease is a moral act, for instance. Even though the vaccination may be painful, the good that comes from it is far more vital than the momentary unpleasantness. A pinch, on the other hand, while similar to the level of pain that’s experienced by a vaccination, is immoral because it serves no greater purpose.

    The distinction between humanist morality and religious morality is that different things become the focus. Homosexuality, for instance, is considered immoral by most religions, but not by humanists, because there’s no human suffering inherent in homosexuality. Just like any relationship, as long as it’s between consenting adults, the humanist doesn’t care what their sexual preferences are. Who are they hurting? On the other hand, adultery would still be viewed as wrong by most humanists, because it does hurt people.

    I hope that helps explain my position a bit better. Morality is a huge subject, and there’s much more that could be said, but since this is just a blog comment, I’ll try to leave it at this. Definitely let me know if you have other questions or would like to dig into any of these points further.

    Thanks

    Like

  31. @ Nate :March 9, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    I got the impression from your post (of March 9, 2014 at 11:41 am ) that morality was the issue that you changed from Christianity to Humanism/Atheism. Now you have clarified that it was not the prime issue. I, therefore, leave it here (though later we may discuss it also).

    Then we come to my question formulated again with a little variation; what positive merits did you see in Atheism/Humanism that you left Jesus religion for it?

    I understand you found faults in Pauline Christianity:

    “I left Christianity because I no longer found it believable. There are a number of inaccurate prophecies, contradictory passages, bad science, bad history, etc in the Bible. When I added to that some of the doctrinal problems, like the idea of an eternal Hell, I just didn’t find it believable anymore.”

    First of all these are not the core or prime teachings of Jesus or Moses or the prophets; these are the secondary points which could be explained away.

    But demerits of Christianity, negativeness of Christianity, does not make positive merits of Humanism/Atheism automatically.

    We want to know the positive merits of Humanism/Atheism for which you left Christianity.

    I like your matter of fact style of writing; no complain with it.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

  32. Hi paarsurrey,

    First of all these are not the core or prime teachings of Jesus or Moses or the prophets; these are the secondary points which could be explained away.

    I disagree with your assertion here. Prophecy, for example, is vital for substantiating the claims about Moses, Jesus, etc. If those prophecies fail, there’s no real reason to believe the other claims. In John 3:12, Jesus says this:

    If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

    He’s absolutely right. If someone comes to you and claims to speak to ghosts, that’s a wild claim that is almost impossible to test. If they also tell you that they’re the President of the United States, then as long as they’re not Barack Obama, you can discount both claims. The fact that they’re lying about a verifiable claim means they’re almost certainly lying about their untestable claim, especially since it’s so unlikely in the first place.

    When it comes to the Bible, we don’t know who wrote most of it, or when. They claim things that are very unlikely, like miracles and being able to speak for God. When they give us some claims that we can test, like Ezekiel’s prophecy that Tyre would be destroyed and never rebuilt, we need to examine them to see if the prophecies pan out. In that particular case, Ezekiel’s prophecy failed. So why should believe any of his stories or prophecies that can’t be tested?

    So these problems in the Bible are anything but minor, and they can’t be explained away. They are important clues that show us that Christianity is a false religion.

    As to your questions about atheism and humanism, I’m not sure that I understand what you’re looking for. I didn’t convert to atheism, I just stopped believing in Christianity. Once my belief in God was taken away, atheism was all that was left. It simply means that I don’t believe in a god. There are no other tenets or beliefs that go along with that, so it’s not really something that a person can convert to. There really aren’t any positive elements to atheism — it’s just a word that describes what I’m not. I’m not a theist; therefore, I’m an atheist. In other words, I’m an atheist in the same way that I’m a non-stamp-collector. Does that make sense?

    Humanism is really just the concept that all people have value. People can be humanists and also be religious — most people are. The US constitution is based on the principle of humanism when it says “all [people] are created equal.” That’s humanism’s basic tenet.

    Is there something in particular about humanism or atheism that you’d like to know?

    Thanks

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s