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Offline jgunter

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An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« on: December 14, 2010, 03:09:22 AM »
Hello,

I posted on here a while back.  I forgot about the forum but recently remembered it and decided to return.

This website is very interesting because of its focus.  If it is successful, it can only do one thing, refute Christian theism.  It does not constitute a refutation of theism itself, or even the possibility of some god other than the Christian god answering prayer.  In truth, if its arguments are successful, it does not disprove the Christian god is false but rather undermines the epistemic justification for believing in the Christian god.  That is an important distinction that people on this board should take note of.  With that in mind, I intend to offer a response on behalf of the Christian theist.

First, there is no burden on the Christian to provide a theodicy.  That is to say, a Christian does not have to provide an answer to the question, why won't God heal amputees?, that would be considered "certain" or "justifiable" according to the evidence.  The Christian does not have to give the reason why God would not heal amputees.  The question posed here is very similar to the problem of evil.  In the problem of evil, the burden on the theist is to simply offer a plausible explanation for why God might do something.  The theist does not have to know God's reasons for allowing evil in order to believe God is compatible with evil.  If the theist can offer a plausible explanation for the existence of evil and the existence of an all-powerful, all-good God, then both the logical and evidential problems of evil are refuted.  This principle works in the same way with the question posed on this website.  Instead of providing the answer, the Christian only has to give a possible answer.  (For more on the problem of evil and the existence of God, see Alvin Plantinga's free will defense)

Given what I have stated above, I see a problem with the claim on this website that many of the reasons given by defenders of Christian theism are rationalization.  To say a claim is a rationalization is to say that the person making the claim is committing an informal fallacy or making an excuse.  However, if the burden on the Christian is to simply give a possible answer to a question, then it is not a rationalization, it is simply a response to the question.  Another problem that I see is defining an answer given by a defender of Christian theism as a rationalization.  I do not know that this is what is being done here.  However, there is the danger of dismissing each response as a rationalization and begging the question.  This means that people who commit this fallacy are already assuming what they set out to prove.  Simply put, if the burden on the Christian theist is to simply give a possible response to the question posed on this website, then her response is not a rationalization.

Let me give an example, take rationalization #10.  Suppose a Christian theist proposes that many statements in the synoptic gospels by Jesus are meant for poetic embellishment and have symbolic meaning rather than literal.  Is this actually a rationalization?  No it is not.  It is simply giving a possible response to the question asked and it is possible that it is the answer.  I do not know that it is the answer but it may very well be.   Another possibility is that Jesus was only speaking to his disciples and not humanity at-large.  Is this possible?  It would seem so.  Thus, I have met the burden of proof in this instance.

Another response that I would like to propose regarding rationalization #10: This website may be conflating omnipotence with the ability to do what is logically impossible.  Very few theists will or should accept the claim that God can do the logically impossible.  For instance, we are not saying much if we say that an omnipotent God could not cause his own non-existence.  It is logically contradictory for this to occur.  Another example: God cannot create a rock so big that he cannot lift it because that would conflict with his omnipotence.  The power of God should be understood as the ability to do everything that can logically be done.  How does this relate to the question?  It is possible that some evils are necessary and that God cannot properly remove them without removing some greater good such as free will.  For a defense of this view, I encourage interested readers to consider Alvin Plantinga once again.  Notice what I have done.  I have not given a theodicy and said this is the actual state of things.  Instead, I have only proposed something that is a possible state of affairs. 

I contend that this website makes a mistake when it calls many responses given to the question rationalizations.  To be charitable, there may be responses that are rationalizations.  I did not consider all answers to the question.  However, that does not mean that all responses are rationalizations.  In addition, this website misunderstands the burden of proof in the case of the Christian theist.  The Christian theist does not have to prove to people here that God has good reasons for not healing amputees.

Conclusion

Does my argument attempt to prove that Christian theism is true?  No, it does not.  Instead, it is merely a defense against the argument this website presents.  There are other arguments that attempt to prove God's existence but this is not one of them.  Instead, my argument merely claims that the objections raised here are not sufficient to refute Christian theism.  Thank you for your kind attention.

Offline William

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2010, 03:56:34 AM »
The Christian does not have to give the reason why God would not heal amputees. 

Correct  :)   And that is because you can't.  And why not admit that it is troubling?  :?

The rest of your post is pure excusiology. 
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Offline plethora

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2010, 05:24:36 AM »
Does my argument attempt to prove that Christian theism is true?  No, it does not.

You're right about this.

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Instead, it is merely a defense against the argument this website presents.  There are other arguments that attempt to prove God's existence but this is not one of them.

The question "why won't god heal amputees?" and much of the content of the site addresses how 'prayer does not work' explaining that the results of those prayers are exactly what you would expect if there were no god.

You gotta admit the 'jug of milk' analogy hits the mark dead center by showing how prayer doesn't work.



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Instead, my argument merely claims that the objections raised here are not sufficient to refute Christian theism.  Thank you for your kind attention.

Ok. Tell you what... how about you raise a new thread and present the very best argument you have in favor of the existence of a god. I'll be more than happy to address that. Up to the challenge?
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2010, 08:04:57 AM »
OP, your answer is simply too modest to have any conviction behind it. No, the Christian does not have to do anything. You can, I suppose believe that the earth is flat and that disease is caused by bad air or that black cats have an effect on luck. However, it is usual in the 21st century to try to have some sort of knowledge about the way things work and why things happen.

"God did it" is hardly an explanation is it?
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline Alzael

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2010, 08:28:22 AM »
If the theist can offer a plausible explanation for the existence of evil and the existence of an all-powerful, all-good God, then both the logical and evidential problems of evil are refuted.  This principle works in the same way with the question posed on this website.  Instead of providing the answer, the Christian only has to give a possible answer.

Which the christian cannot do. Christians have yet to give a plausible reason for the existence of evil. Or why god doesn't heal amuptees. Which I notice you didn't bother to come up with either. As for the free will defense, that's so patently wrong, been torn apart so many times, and is just so patently stupid that I won't bother with it. Unless you really want to get into that, but I promise that it won't end well for your theology.

However, if the burden on the Christian is to simply give a possible answer to a question, then it is not a rationalization, it is simply a response to the question.

It's a rationalization if their response is clearly wrong or illogical, but they pretend it isn't. Which describes pretty much every claim that christians make.


Suppose a Christian theist proposes that many statements in the synoptic gospels by Jesus are meant for poetic embellishment and have symbolic meaning rather than literal.  Is this actually a rationalization?  No it is not.  It is simply giving a possible response to the question asked and it is possible that it is the answer.  I do not know that it is the answer but it may very well be.   Another possibility is that Jesus was only speaking to his disciples and not humanity at-large.  Is this possible?  It would seem so.  Thus, I have met the burden of proof in this instance.

Yes, it is still a rationalization. Unless you can show that either of those have some basis in truth, you are simply trying to make up an excuse to cover a hole in your theology that you wish wasn't there. You also have not met a burden of proof because you haven't proved anything. To take your above example of Jesus's gospels being used for poetic embellishment. How do you then tell the difference between what is supposed to be literal and the embellishments? Also since symbolism and poetry are personal interpretations, you're admitting that you're just making things up, so then why do you pretend that your god and Jesus are real? If many of the statements are embellishment then what if all of it is? And there are a lot of other questions that this raises which need to be answered before you have responded to a burden of proof. As it stands we have a meaningless statement with no support, made by someone trying to explain something that can't be logically explained.

In other words, a rationalization.

I contend that this website makes a mistake when it calls many responses given to the question rationalizations.  To be charitable, there may be responses that are rationalizations.  I did not consider all answers to the question.  However, that does not mean that all responses are rationalizations.  In addition, this website misunderstands the burden of proof in the case of the Christian theist.  The Christian theist does not have to prove to people here that God has good reasons for not healing amputees.

You can contend as much as you want. However many responses are rationalizations. They are attempts to logically explain things that are illogical or that conflict with reality. Or to provide explanations for things that they find difficult to accept. And yes, the theist does have to show that god has good reasons for not healing amputees. You cannot just offer an explanation, you have to justify the explanation that you give. This is the difference between logical and intelligent discourse, and what religious people do.

In short, a series of boring and useless words that say nothing, and show little to no understanding of rational discourse. If you have a real argument to make, then make it. If you have actual evidence to offer, then offer it. Don't waste everyones time with inanity.
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Offline Operator_020

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2010, 08:31:14 AM »
Hi jgunter,

welcome back to our forum.  I see you joined nearly a year ago.  Many things have changed since then.  If you have not had a chance to read the Rules and Etiquette guides, please do so at your earliest convenience.

Much of what you say is correct.  The question of not healing amputees is not a death blow to all god concepts.  But it does raise questions, the answers to which limit concepts of possible gods.

I disagree with one thing you said:

First, there is no burden on the Christian to provide a theodicy.  That is to say, a Christian does not have to provide an answer to the question, why won't God heal amputees?, that would be considered "certain" or "justifiable" according to the evidence.  The Christian does not have to give the reason why God would not heal amputees. 

While this may be true broadly speaking, that is the point of the forum.  So within the context of discussions here, you are incorrect.  You may propose any explanation you like, but be prepared to have it followed with "how do you know?" and "do you have evidence that is correct?" That's how we roll.

Thank you for your polite and reasonable response.

best regards,
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Offline Historicity

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2010, 08:44:05 AM »
If it is successful, it can only do one thing, refute Christian theism.

Naw, we have a couple Moslems who come on here at times to convince us that Mohammed tore the moon apart and put it together and that Neil Armstrong is a closet Moslem.

Offline Historicity

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2010, 09:07:00 AM »
Suppose a Christian theist proposes that many statements in the synoptic gospels by Jesus are meant for poetic embellishment and have symbolic meaning rather than literal.  Is this actually a rationalization?  No it is not. 

Ah, you are a true disciple of Plantinga. 

I have dug into Alvin Plantinga's walls of words far enough to know his favorite fallacy:  Slippage of meaning. 

A rationalism starts with a conclusion and then builds a bridge to the evidence.  It does not start with the evidence and go to the conclusion.  How do you determine that something is poetic and symbolic ahead of time?  Why is it poetic and symbolic?

By having no prior definition of rationalization you slip things around whenever you are caught.

Quote
Very few theists will or should accept the claim that God can do the logically impossible.  For instance, we are not saying much if we say that an omnipotent God could not cause his own non-existence.  It is logically contradictory for this to occur.  Another example: God cannot create a rock so big that he cannot lift it because that would conflict with his omnipotence.

Wrong.  It demonstrates nothing about "his" omnipotence.  It demonstrates that omnipotence is an impossibility because it always has contradictions.  As Bertrand Russell points out, the Abrahamic God is a typical oriental despot.  Such a king is a temperamental despot answerable to no one.  His people cringe and find their only defense is to butter him up by glorifying him with absurdly superlative adjectives.

Offline jgunter

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2010, 12:26:09 PM »
Hi Everyone!  Thank you all for your responses.  I was impressed to see so many post so quickly!  I don't have time to respond right now but I will take the time later to respond to as many of you as I can.  Looking forward to a later discussion.

Offline Operator_020

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2010, 12:43:21 PM »
Hi jgunter,

This forum can be overwhelming for Christians.  I suggest you select a couple of members and request a thread in the Discussion Rooms.  The rules are here and good advice here.  That will limit the number of people you will have to deal with.   Hopefully that will help you get acclimated.   This is just a friendly suggestion.

Happy posting
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2010, 01:20:34 PM »
The OP appears to be describing an excellent process for believing something that one wants to be true.

So I guess what you do is this. Decide on what you hope is right, beat around the bushes for awhile looking for the vagueness necessary to help you gloss over its flaws, and presto, it's real.

When something we pretty much know (DNA and genetics, for instance) is more useful and accurately predictive than someone else's several thousand year old wild-assed guess (the bible), I'll go with the version of reality that actually explains and helps and heals, thank you.

We know exactly why god doesn't heal amputees. He doesn't exist. That's quite a shortcoming. Heck, I couldn't have made this morning's oatmeal if I didn't exist, so I have no trouble understanding why your god can't do anything. The purpose of this site isn't to actually wonder why god doesn't heal amputees. It's to wonder why people who think he could (if he wanted to) manage to make up so many frickin' excuses.

Edit: The usual. Forgot that punctuation occasionally works miracles.

.

« Last Edit: December 14, 2010, 01:50:28 PM by ParkingPlaces »
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Offline Alzael

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2010, 03:05:16 PM »
One other thing as well is that this whole OP is just a rationalization in and of itself. It's an attempt to rationalize away the need to provide evidence for the posters beliefs by claiming that one doesn't have to prove their ideas. They simply have to be able to make up an answer that might be a possible explanation. This doesn't make the idea any smarter or any less delusional. It actually makes the person doing it look less intelligent and more delusional because they are adding on new absurdities that they can't prove.

Most of the threads with theists on this forum are testaments to this.
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Offline jgunter

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2010, 07:14:01 PM »
Hi Everyone!  Thank you for your thoughtful responses.  I apologize for not getting back until now.  Instead of quoting every one of you, I'm going to respond to claims that I think are the most compelling critiques of my argument and name the author.  If this is problematic or against the rules, I apologize in advance.

To Plethora: Indeed, it seems that much of what people on this site says we should expect from prayer if it were true does not happen.  However, the issue I bring up is whether that conception of prayer is correct.

To Greybeard: You misunderstand what I mean when I say what the Christian theist has to do.  In order for this site's argument to work, it needs to show that the lack of answered prayers is incompatible with the existence of God.  However, if we can think of a possible reason for a certain state of affairs, then the Christian theist has met her burden of proof in this instance.  I used an analogy where I state that the problem of evil is meant to show that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of God.  The response to that argument is to find a possible explanation in order to show that it is not actually incompatible with the existence of God.  It does not prove that God exists.  However, it does undermine the argument that it counters.  Of course a Christian theist can do more and attempt to give a theodicy.  I am simply saying they do not have to in order to have justification for their beliefs in this instance.  (When I say they have justification, I am saying that it is possible that the Christian theist has independent grounds for believing in the Christian god and that they don't have to do any more to defend their position in this particular instance.)  The better strategy is to attempt to undermine the independent justification that theists claim to have for believing in God because this argument is easily refuted.

Alzael: It may be that the free will defense is not compelling, I don't know.  However, I don't know that you are right in saying that it is so patently wrong that one doesn't have to bother with it.  It seems to be important enough that academic philosophers take up the challenge of arguing against it or defending it.  In fact, I believe a hot topic in philosophy of religion journals at the moment is the discussion of trans-world depravity and its role in the free will defense.  I'm interested in why you think it is so obvious that it is wrong given that it still generates much interest in the academic community.

You beg the question when you say that every response Christians give is irrational.  You are already assuming your view is correct.

To all respondents: I would like to respectfully propose this thought.  I may be wrong and I don't want it to be taken that I am trying to undermine the authority of the moderators in this forum.  If it is the case that everyone must be ready to defend their answers against questions like, "how do you know?"  There is a point where everyone will ultimately say they do not know and it will result in radical skepticism.  Many people on this forum say that they know God does not exist.  It is very easy to question how they know that to the point where they will have to admit they don't know and become skeptics.  The reason I mention that is to point out that it is very easy to say we know one way or another.  I am not saying I know God exists.  I am simply trying to point out where the burden of proof lies in this instance and what criteria need to be met in order for the theist to have epistemic justification for his beliefs.

To Plethora: I would be happy to give an argument for the existence of God!  My personal view is that I have independent justification for believing in God apart from the Bible.  Thus, even if this site is correct and disproves Christian theism, I would still be a theist. 

I also have independent grounds for believing in Christianity.  Given the nature of God, if he exists, I'm not surprised that I don't have THE answer to why he doesn't heal amputees (if he doesn't and I'm not convinced that he hasn't healed amputees in the past).  Instead, I only need to have a plausible response to arguments like those presented at the website in order to continue having epistemic justification.  The problem with the argument is that it has to rule out every possibility in order to constitute a compelling argument against the truth claims of the Bible.

Thank you all for your responses.  I look forward to continuing the discussion if anyone wishes.  I've presented my argument and take myself to have generated compelling responses.

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2010, 07:37:46 PM »
To all respondents: I would like to respectfully propose this thought.  I may be wrong and I don't want it to be taken that I am trying to undermine the authority of the moderators in this forum.  If it is the case that everyone must be ready to defend their answers against questions like, "how do you know?"  There is a point where everyone will ultimately say they do not know and it will result in radical skepticism.  Many people on this forum say that they know God does not exist.  It is very easy to question how they know that to the point where they will have to admit they don't know and become skeptics.  The reason I mention that is to point out that it is very easy to say we know one way or another.  I am not saying I know God exists.  I am simply trying to point out where the burden of proof lies in this instance and what criteria need to be met in order for the theist to have epistemic justification for his beliefs.

Of course I don't "know" there is no god. But that doesn't make me a skeptic. What I am skeptical about is centuries and centuries of people from various cultures claiming they have a god and none proving it. The fact that stories have been handed down for hundreds of generations claiming religious truths holds no more water than a sieve when it comes down to it.

Not counting the mormons, who base their newer story on an old story, and the scientologists, whose beliefs were apparently made up on a bet, most other religions are old old old. That millions think the stories plausible doesn't make them true. That nothing those stories say, christian or otherwise, matches reality may not matter to the believers, but those of us not silly enough to swallow fairy tales look at the situation otherwise.

While many believers have, over time, been content with the words in the bible or whatever religious text they worship, others have been out trying to figure out what is really going on. And nowhere is anyone seeing any sign of a god or a need for a god to explain reality as we see it. And now days, with microscopes and telescopes and infrared equipment and clean labs and cooperation among disciplines we are finding out all kinds of stuff that your bible and your claimed god never mentioned.

Yea, you've got Genesis 30:37, with the striped sticks in front of the trough to cause the drinking goats in heat to produce striped offspring, but I wouldn't use that as an answer in a biology class if I were you.

Omnipotent beings who don't bother mentioning that we should wash our hands are bad enough. Omnipotent beings who put the germs there in the first place are far worse. And omnipotent beings who ask much while giving nothing any more concrete than a requirement for faith are totally out of it.

Or non-existent.

I choose the latter.

Edit: added the striped goats example just because I love that one.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2010, 07:41:15 PM by ParkingPlaces »
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Offline jgunter

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2010, 09:04:40 PM »
Hi parkingplaces, thank you for your response.  I wasn't saying that denying God's existence makes one a skeptic.  I was only trying to point out that a discussion of how one know's something for certain can result in radical skepticism.  I don't think hardly anyone is a radical skeptic.  Instead, I was trying to point out that we should use the language of epistemic justification rather than knowledge.  Who has more justification for their beliefs?  Atheists believe they have more justification for not believing in God.  The theist believes she has more justification for believing in God.  Thus, it comes down to the evidence.  I apologize if I wasn't clear enough on that point I will try to be more clear in the future.

To your skepticism about religion: fair enough.  However, just because a religious text does not mention something does not mean it is unreliable.  In fact, we would not expect an ancient religious text to be anything like the language we use today.  Religious texts like the Bible were written in a particular context, mostly for a particular audience.  Thus, it is often problematic to make claims about what should or should not be in a text without first considering the context it was written in or the purpose for which it was written.

I think you're right that many people are content with the Bible and don't seek knowledge.  I am not one of those Christians.  I happen to think that science is perfectly compatible with Christianity and marvel at the wonderful discoveries it has made.  That said, just because the Bible doesn't mention it doesn't mean the Bible is an unreliable source for the material that it contains.  Another thing that I would point out is that you are saying God does not exist because the world religions seem to be false and the Bible doesn't mention certain things that you think it should have.  However, why should it?

In your last paragraph, you state another version of the problem of evil.  You basically say that a god wouldn't not tell us about things that affect our health or that he would not put germs into the universe causing us to contract diseases.  Responses to the problem of evil are numerous so I won't go into it here as I have already discussed it briefly other than to say that I don't find that particular line of argument compelling.  On your requirement of faith: You say that a God asks much while giving little in return.  On the contrary, if God does exist, and Christianity (or some other religion offering salvation) is true, then he asks very little of us in return for eternal salvation.  It doesn't seem like God asks much.  In light of all of that, I don't find your objections compelling and believe I have enough justification to continue my belief system.  Thank you for your response!
« Last Edit: December 14, 2010, 09:06:22 PM by jgunter »

Offline jetson

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2010, 09:40:13 PM »
jgunter...

How do you rationalize talking snakes, virgin births, and resurrected dead people?  I'm curious.

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2010, 10:16:28 PM »
To your skepticism about religion: fair enough.  However, just because a religious text does not mention something does not mean it is unreliable. 

If that were the only flaw in the bible, I might be willing to cut you guys some slack. It was merely an example. From the creation myth to 40 years lost to Babel to burning bushes and rampaging she-bears, the book is so full of stories that cannot be true that I have no reason to suspect that any of them are accurate in any meaningful way.

Quote
I think you're right that many people are content with the Bible and don't seek knowledge.  I am not one of those Christians.  I happen to think that science is perfectly compatible with Christianity and marvel at the wonderful discoveries it has made.  That said, just because the Bible doesn't mention it doesn't mean the Bible is an unreliable source for the material that it contains.  Another thing that I would point out is that you are saying God does not exist because the world religions seem to be false and the Bible doesn't mention certain things that you think it should have.  However, why should it?

Its not so much that the bible doesn't mention things I think is should as much as it is the bible doesn't mention anything relevant. About anything. I'll give it props for being a source of cultural history, but so are the writings of the Brothers Grimm.

Quote
In your last paragraph, you state another version of the problem of evil.  You basically say that a god wouldn't not tell us about things that affect our health or that he would not put germs into the universe causing us to contract diseases.  Responses to the problem of evil are numerous so I won't go into it here as I have already discussed it briefly other than to say that I don't find that particular line of argument compelling.  On your requirement of faith: You say that a God asks much while giving little in return.  On the contrary, if God does exist, and Christianity (or some other religion offering salvation) is true, then he asks very little of us in return for eternal salvation.  It doesn't seem like God asks much.  In light of all of that, I don't find your objections compelling and believe I have enough justification to continue my belief system.  Thank you for your response!
[/quote]

Christian responses to evil must, by definition, be numerous because you guys make a lot of stuff up. You don't want to go into it, so I won't either.

And I need to point out that it is humans who are asking me to do the salvation dance, not a god. Again, there isn't one. And dancing to the beat of the same drummer that inspired the crusades, the inquisition and stake burnings is not the sort of alternative I want to embrace.

You guys run around saying all humans are on auto-evil and simultaneously expect those of us who aren't actually violating that many of the ten commandments to quiver in fear are out of touch. (I should point out that if there were a god I wouldn't be so prone to writing run-on sentences, but that's another matter  :))

Anyway, simply being told there is a god by people who were told there was a god by people who told them there was a god isn't quite enough of a reason for me to follow along in lock-step.

It's funny when christians want to stick to epistemic justification. That's all you have to work with, so you venerate it. I'd rather stick to the facts.

As I said to one christian aquaintence, personally proving the accuracy of P.T. Barnum's quote, "There is a sucker born every minute" is not something to be proud of.

The reason christians don't want to argue facts is that you guys don't have any to work with. You have to hem and haw and make up excuses and pretend you have divine intervention on your side and stuff. There is no way for us to have a meaningful conversation when every time I bring up a provable reality you guys say "No fair".

Faith is something I have in family and friends until they prove they aren't worthy of it. Belief is something I used to have in the tooth fairy and Santa. I have found it of no use since. It is presumptuous for those that don't know me to think that those two components, when magnified by the god story, are exactly what I need to make my life better. My life isn't even bad enough to need improvement.

I encountered a gentleman a few days ago while traveling from Oregon to Montana who asked me if I was a christian. I answered with a simple "No". He gasped and told me I was going to hell.

It is he and his brethren who are afraid of hell, not me. That's proves to me that christians believe their story, but it proves nothing at all about it's veracity.


What I lack in sophistication I make up for with other shortcomings.

Offline jgunter

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2010, 10:38:39 PM »
jgunter...

How do you rationalize talking snakes, virgin births, and resurrected dead people?  I'm curious.

Hi Jetson, thank you for your question.

If by rationalize you mean what are my reasons for believing, then that I can answer.  However, if you mean that I will give reasons that are inherently untrue then that does not work.  It would already be assuming what needs to be proven, that my position is wrong.

You seem to be asking a question about how I justify miracles.  First, regarding talking snakes in Genesis, I'm not so sure that the creation myth is meant to be taken literally.  Given the big bang, evolution, and the literary genre of Genesis, I am not certain it was ever intended to be a literal creation story at all, but rather, simply an explanation that ancient Israelites could understand.  Maybe it was meant to be a literal story.  That will be controversial with many Christians and many on this website.  I imagine someone here will say that it could simply be false and that is true.  Another argument put forward by some scholars is that the creation story tells the truth but not the whole truth.  That is to say, what it gives us is truth but it does not tell us everything about creation, such as evolution or the big bang and so forth.  I find this view to be persuasive.  It is certainly possible that it could have occurred even as science does much to explain other aspects of creation.  This does not seem to be unreasonable, especially given the independent grounds for believing in God.

Regarding miracles, I think it is fruitful to recall Peter van Inwagen's work on Hume's argument against miracles.  First, it is problematic for people to argue that miracles cannot occur because they conflict with our experience.  Van Inwagen points out that experience can only support positive claims.  For instance, experience tells us that the sun rises every morning.  However, experience cannot tell us anything about negative claims.  For instance, it is problematic to say that our experience tells us that miracles never occur.  No, that is not true, our experience merely tells us that certain things tend to occur.  Thus, we cannot say that miracles never occur from experience alone, merely that they don't normally happen because we don't normally experience them.

If God exists, then it is reasonable to say that he could contravene at certain points in time.  That seems uncontroversial.  But how do I arrive at the belief that the virgin birth and the resurrection are true?  I find both claims plausible, especially the resurrection, given the testimony of the people who saw Christ in multiple instances.  I won't go into this extensively but given the eyewitness accounts, Paul's writings, and the lives of the disciples after the resurrection, it seems reasonable to believe that Christ rose from the dead.  If someone wants a fuller treatment of this account, I recommend N.T. Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God.  It is a lengthy tome but well worth the read and it spells out what I said more fully.

To summarize, I believe in miracles because I believe I have good reason to believe in God.  However, I also believe in the resurrection because of the evidence surrounding it and this gives me enough justification to believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  Thank you for your question.

Offline jetson

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2010, 11:24:54 PM »

To summarize, I believe in miracles because I believe I have good reason to believe in God.  However, I also believe in the resurrection because of the evidence surrounding it and this gives me enough justification to believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  Thank you for your question.

Interesting.  I don't know how to believe in God.  I can't even think of a "good reason" to.  My world-view say's that no gods are necessary for the world to be what it appears to be.  No matter how much people wish for some grand, higher purpose, or eternity, it appears to me that we are each going right back to where we were before we were conceived by our parents.

Miracles don't impress me much.  I have to completely suspend my disbelief to imagine that resurrections are possible.  Since humans have yet to resurrect a dead body at will, I have to settle on the idea that Jesus was not resurrected.  I know of nothing outside of The Bible that corroborates the story, and I would likely not accept it if it were found.  It is simply another fictional story designed to give divinity to a character.

Indeed, your thoughts on the Genesis account could be considered blasphemous!  But, when you consider that snakes have no language abilities, you have to conclude that there was never a talking snake in a garden somewhere.  Good for you for considering it a metaphor.

I am not one to accept something described as a miracle as anything but a misunderstood phenomena.  Something that cannot yet be explained, but that must certainly have an explanation.  God is NO EXPLANATION at all.  God is whatever one wants it to be, for whatever purpose one wants it to be.  God is NOT FALSIFIABLE, therefore God should be dropped from any and all explanations of anything.  It is always far better to leave a thing unexplained, than to attribute it to God, simply because there is absolutely NO WAY to dismiss God as the cause - which makes it a useless explanation.

Do you understand falsification int he scientific method?  If so, how would you falsify God?

Offline Alzael

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2010, 11:33:20 PM »
It may be that the free will defense is not compelling, I don't know.  However, I don't know that you are right in saying that it is so patently wrong that one doesn't have to bother with it.  It seems to be important enough that academic philosophers take up the challenge of arguing against it or defending it.  In fact, I believe a hot topic in philosophy of religion journals at the moment is the discussion of trans-world depravity and its role in the free will defense.

Two things with this. The first being that free will is different in a christian context. In the context of the christian faith free will cannot exist. The very tenets that christianity is built on negate it. For example the fact that in the christian faith all humans are born as sinners who will go to hell without salvation. This condemnation before we are even born is an imposition on our free will. While you can be freed from it by having faith in god, the fact that we are condemned from birth through no action of our own negates free will. Much of the rest of the christian doctrine also shows that we have no possibility of free will within the confines of christian belief. Free will is a poor excuse that apologists try to use to justify the things that their god does or doesn't do. But it never holds up to scrutiny. When philosophers talk about free will they aren't using it in the context of the christian faith. They are examining other things and thinking about the psyche of humanity itself, they are not using a religious system to consider it.

Second, philosophy of religion is not about what christians believe, it is about the nature of religion as a whole. It encompasses all religions. Some religions are perfectly compatible with the concept of free will. Christianity isn't however, unless you pretty much throw out everything in the bible. Which is the religion that we're discussing.

You beg the question when you say that every response Christians give is irrational.  You are already assuming your view is correct.

I am not assuming. I have spent half of my life dealing with theists. And out of books, conversations, lectures and debates I have yet to see a theist make a single argument that didn't fall into one of four categories, Dodging, Ignorance, Illogical, or really Stupid. There is no evidence to support the religious claim. If a christian were to present a response that doesn't fall into one of those categories then I would acknowledge it as such. Not a one that I or any atheist I am aware of has actually been presented. Ask the atheists here if they have ever heard a rational, logical defence of christianity. If christians cannot provide any valid evidence to back up their responses as seems to be the case so far, then they are irrational. As I said, if you have an argument to make, then make it.

As I pointed out above in my first response. You cannot just answer a question like the problem of evil or any other question with a simple statement and then not provide evidence. Or rather, you can, but you cannot claim to be making a rational response if it doesn't follow logic and you cannot back it up.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2010, 11:38:13 PM by Alzael »
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Offline jetson

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2010, 11:43:41 PM »
As an atheist, I will add to Alzael's reply...

I see absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that a god might be possible.  Gods are emptiness.  They rely on gullibility and ignorance to be believed.  They don't even begin to approach a rational explanation for anything, especially in these modern times where science has so handily explained just about every unknown that was once attributed to some god.

That a book is still around today is no indication that the words in it are anything but mythology.  Zeus was a VERY popular god.  So was Thor...and the list goes on...


Offline Alzael

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2010, 11:58:32 PM »
I find both claims plausible, especially the resurrection, given the testimony of the people who saw Christ in multiple instances.  I won't go into this extensively but given the eyewitness accounts, Paul's writings, and the lives of the disciples after the resurrection, it seems reasonable to believe that Christ rose from the dead.

1) The eyewitness accounts were written by people who lived decades after, who claimed to have heard of these accounts from other people who claimed to have heard of those accounts. None of the gospel writers were there, Mark quite possibly wasn't even born then. Peter never saw Jesus outside of a vision. All they did was here about it from what was at best a third-hand source.

2) Paul's writings are again, written by someone who never once met Jesus outside of his own head. Since Pauls writings and the bible are the only accounts of Jesus existence, they can not be used as evidence of his existence. At least not if you're going to try to claim to be a rational person.

3) The lives of the disciples fall into the same as the other two. No evidence they even existed outside of the bible, which can't prove their existence.

Even by the loosest standards of evidence none of these even begin to qualify. As I said, christians fail everytime to produce a rational argument or response. I'm always open to being proven wrong, and I'm fairly certain the others feel the same though. But how does anything that christians argue in anyway conform to standards for evidence or rational thinking?

« Last Edit: December 15, 2010, 12:18:04 AM by Alzael »
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Offline JeffPT

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #22 on: December 15, 2010, 12:03:18 AM »
I imagine someone here will say that it could simply be false and that is true. 

At least you admit this.  Good for you.  I have to ask though... if every other religion in the history of the world has a creation story that you likely reject as false, then why do you think the Christian one deserves more merit? 

Another argument put forward by some scholars is that the creation story tells the truth but not the whole truth.  That is to say, what it gives us is truth but it does not tell us everything about creation, such as evolution or the big bang and so forth.

Or it could just be false, like you said.  But if you really want to say this, couldn't you say the same thing about every other religion with a creation story?  Maybe the Aztec creation story   http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-creation-story.html    really tells the truth but not the whole truth?  Or maybe it's just false.  You see, all you are doing is giving special treatment to your particular brand of theism because that's what you were trained to believe.  When you step outside of your religious beliefs for just a moment and give equal consideration to your creation story and the Aztec creation story, you will realize that both of them have exactly the same amount of evidence in favor of their cause.  I mean seriously... couldn't it really be that Ometecuhtli/Omecihuatl really did exist and created themselves from the void. 

All an atheist does is give equal consideration to all available religions.  When you realize that all of them are equally implausible, are you not them armed with reasonable doubt against the existance of any of them?  Of course you are. 

I find this view to be persuasive.  It is certainly possible that it could have occurred even as science does much to explain other aspects of creation.

And if you were an Aztec, you would find the argument for Ometecuhtli/Omecihuatl to be equally persuasive.  Do you see that?  That's how religious belief works. 

This does not seem to be unreasonable, especially given the independent grounds for believing in God.

No sir.  It all revolves around the same thing.  If you FIRST believe in God, then anything can be seen as "reasonable".  Suddenly, an invisible, all powerful sky man who is bound by nothing makes EVERYTHING reasonable.  Flying pigs, giant ants, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!  It seems that the overriding excuse that Christians regularly want us to believe, yet rarely say is "Hey, if God were real, it could happen!"  I'm sorry.  I'm not a child anymore, so I'm not falling for it.  You need more than that. 

First, it is problematic for people to argue that miracles cannot occur because they conflict with our experience.  Van Inwagen points out that experience can only support positive claims.  For instance, experience tells us that the sun rises every morning.  However, experience cannot tell us anything about negative claims.  For instance, it is problematic to say that our experience tells us that miracles never occur.

Can we cut the bullshit please?  Look, this just doesn't add up right.  You have to be reasonable here.  We really have no evidence at all, none what-so-ever that miracles take place.  Now, there are really only 2 possibilities regarding miracles.  Either  A. They happen or B. They don't happen.  There is no middle ground.  It's a yes, no question.  Regardless of what excuses you choose to pile up in favor of A, (they happen too infrequently, they happen when no scientists are around, blah blah blah) you just plain have no evidence that they actually happen.  So, given that information, is it more logical to believe they actually happen, or that they actually do not happen?  It's much more logical to believe they do not, right?  It all boils down to one thing... Do you have good reasons to believe what you believe, or don't you?  Why would you ever believe A over B, when we have so little evidence for A?  Isn't B is by far the most logical choice? 


  No, that is not true, our experience merely tells us that certain things tend to occur. 

Yes, and we tend to use those "tendencies" to teach us about the world.

If I drop a penny from 5 feet off the ground 100 times, and every time it falls straight to the ground, am I not allowed to form the opinion that it's going to happen on the 101st?  Do you really think I should see that as a "tendency" instead of a cold, hard fact about pennies? What kind of life would you live if everything you saw around you was only a tendency in your mind?  Would you walk out the front door thinking that at any moment you could be propelled at light speed toward the sun and 8 minutes later be burnt to a crisp?  No.  We let our experiences tell us how the world works. 

So when everything around us points to the idea that no miracles occur, are you really expecting a rational mind to form another conclusion?  Why? Based on what?  Wishful thinking?  I just don't see it. 

Thus, we cannot say that miracles never occur from experience alone, merely that they don't normally happen because we don't normally experience them.

And we can also say that at any moment, a giant pig might... just might fly out of my ass.   I mean, just because it doesn't happen normally, doesn't mean it can't happen, right? 

I believe I have good reason to think that a giant pig won't fly out of my ass at any given moment.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it won't.  I use that same reasoning with regard to miracles.  You can sit there, shrug your shoulders and say "Hey, it could happen!" all you want.  The fact remains, you have no evidence that it ever has, or ever will.  I have very good reasons to think that.  Are your reasons for thinking otherwise seriously worthy of consideration?  YES, but only if you had evidence.  If you have none, then no. 

If God exists, then it is reasonable to say that he could contravene at certain points in time.  That seems uncontroversial.

Of course it is.  But assume God is not real.  If God isn't real, then miracles would occur with exactly the same frequency that they do now... 

But how do I arrive at the belief that the virgin birth and the resurrection are true?  I find both claims plausible, especially the resurrection, given the testimony of the people who saw Christ in multiple instances. 

Really?  You honestly think their testimony is good enough for you?  Let me ask you a question then.   So if someone came up to you today... someone that you trusted and knew REALLY well, and said that they saw a guy die and 3 days later came back to life, would you think that is worthy of complete acceptance?  Without a single shred of proof to present to you? 

You are trusting a book written by (forgive me here) GOD knows who, that is over 2000 years old, that has been manipulated and changed for centuries, and you honestly think the few people who claim to have seen a guy die and come back to life 3 days later are RELIABLE eyewitnesses?  Are you kidding me?   

I won't go into this extensively but given the eyewitness accounts, Paul's writings, and the lives of the disciples after the resurrection, it seems reasonable to believe that Christ rose from the dead. 

And given the documented life stories of the prophet Mohammed, the great god Allah is reasonable to them too.  Do you understand that your "evidence" amounts to 12 illiterate desert people and one guy with epilepsy running around and talking about what may have been a pretty decent guy who said the world was going to end?  Even if the 11 remaining disciples really did believe that Jesus was God, why do you think we should consider that anything more than 11 deluded fools?  Seriously.  If 12 people came to your house right now claiming that they saw some guy die and come back to life 3 days later, you would laugh them out the door.   

It's not reasonable.  It really isn't.  Shrug your shoulders and disagree all you want.  It's not reasonable. 

It is far more reasonable to think that they were simply lying or wrong about the entire thing than to think a man really did die and rise 3 days later.  It was the same 2000 years ago as it is today. 
 
If someone wants a fuller treatment of this account, I recommend N.T. Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God.  It is a lengthy tome but well worth the read and it spells out what I said more fully.

And I recommend some Bart Ehrman to get you up to speed on the serious problems with biblical history.  And he is an agnostic.  Someone who sits the fence and says.. "I don't know what's true, but here is what we know about the bible."  THAT'S the guy we should listen to.  Not N.T. Wright, and not Richard Dawkins.  If we want the truth, we have to go to a place with as little bias as possible.   

To summarize, I believe in miracles because I believe I have good reason to believe in God.  However, I also believe in the resurrection because of the evidence surrounding it and this gives me enough justification to believe that Jesus was who he said he was.

More likely.... a human tells a lie about it, or a man actually rises from the dead 3 days later? 
More likely.... miracles don't happen at all, or they do happen, just not when anyone can verify them in any way, shape or form.
More likely.... the genesis story is completely made up, or it really did happen that way and science has it wrong.
More likely.... God doesn't exist at all, or God exists (only we can't hear, touch, taste, smell, feel, verify, examine, or find any actual evidence for it in any way)

I'm Sorry.  I believe your reasons for believing in God are hopelessly inept. 

I'm also sorry if this came across as rude or insensitive.  I tend to come off as angry and mean, when for the most part I'm just annoyed at the whole thing.  It's just so dumb. 
Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline jgunter

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #23 on: December 15, 2010, 01:27:17 AM »
Hi Everybody!  Thank you all for your responses once again.  Unfortunately, I seem to have missed out on some of your responses and it has piled up.  Thus, I don't believe I have the time to respond to everyone.  I read through your responses and I think they are different ways of stating the same things.  As such, I think I have provided enough justification for my beliefs and to refute the argument placed against the existence of God by this website. 

Before I finish, I would like to make one final comment.  I agree with JeffPT that we should not be listening to Richard Dawkins.  However, I disagree that Bart Ehrman is any less biased than someone like N.T. Wright or Dawkins or Hitchens.  It may be fruitful to either read the transcript of the debate between Ehrman and Craig or watch it on video.  That convinced me as to the reliability of Ehrman as I was convinced that he was strongly refuted by Craig.  Just food for thought.

All in all, I enjoyed everyone's responses.  I apologize that I can't take everyone else's points but you simply overwhelmed me with your responses and there is not enough time!  That's okay.  I hope you all have a good evening.

Offline Aaron123

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #24 on: December 15, 2010, 01:57:18 AM »
So you're not going to bother partaking in this discussion again?

Then next time you make a topic, why should any of us bother with it if you're going to bail out after a day or two?  Rather convenient you should bail out after several members gave long rebuttal to your posts and asked you some tough questions.   &)
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Offline plethora

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #25 on: December 15, 2010, 05:02:05 AM »
.... I think I have provided enough justification for my beliefs and to refute the argument placed against the existence of God by this website. 

No, you haven't justified your beliefs since you admitted nothing in your entire OP proves them to be true.

All you've said is "you guys want an answer? Here's an answer. It doesn't prove anything, it's just my answer." Some refutation  &)

Quote
All in all, I enjoyed everyone's responses.  I apologize that I can't take everyone else's points but you simply overwhelmed me with your responses and there is not enough time!  That's okay.  I hope you all have a good evening.

So I guess you've chickened out of my challenge to you:

Ok. Tell you what... how about you raise a new thread and present the very best argument you have in favor of the existence of a god. I'll be more than happy to address that. Up to the challenge?

That says much about how confident you are of your arguments.
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Offline naemhni

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #26 on: December 15, 2010, 06:22:53 AM »
1) The eyewitness accounts were written by people who lived decades after, who claimed to have heard of these accounts from other people who claimed to have heard of those accounts. None of the gospel writers were there, Mark quite possibly wasn't even born then. Peter never saw Jesus outside of a vision. All they did was here about it from what was at best a third-hand source.

Right, meaning that they're not eyewitness accounts at all.

And even if they were... as I never tire of pointing out, laypeople generally presuppose that eyewitness testimony is some of the best evidence there is, whereas experts in the field know that it's actually just about the worst.

Not sure whether you're coming back, jgunter, but if you do, please take a few minutes to watch this video.  It's a card trick in which the color of the cards' backs changes from blue to red.  Watch closely and see whether you can catch the trick... most people don't.  (I didn't either.)  After you're done watching the video, you'll never think of eyewitness testimony the same way again.


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Offline plethora

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #27 on: December 15, 2010, 06:35:06 AM »
Nice vid! +1

I didn't catch the trick either ... that wuz kewl  8)
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Offline Alzael

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Re: An Attempt at a Modest Reply
« Reply #28 on: December 15, 2010, 07:22:55 AM »
Hi Everybody!  Thank you all for your responses once again.  Unfortunately, I seem to have missed out on some of your responses and it has piled up.  Thus, I don't believe I have the time to respond to everyone.  I read through your responses and I think they are different ways of stating the same things.  As such, I think I have provided enough justification for my beliefs and to refute the argument placed against the existence of God by this website. 

Before I finish, I would like to make one final comment.  I agree with JeffPT that we should not be listening to Richard Dawkins.  However, I disagree that Bart Ehrman is any less biased than someone like N.T. Wright or Dawkins or Hitchens.  It may be fruitful to either read the transcript of the debate between Ehrman and Craig or watch it on video.  That convinced me as to the reliability of Ehrman as I was convinced that he was strongly refuted by Craig.  Just food for thought.

All in all, I enjoyed everyone's responses.  I apologize that I can't take everyone else's points but you simply overwhelmed me with your responses and there is not enough time!  That's okay.  I hope you all have a good evening.

So basically you're yet another example of the dishonesty and cowardice inherent in theism. You haven't refuted a single thing, even a theist should be able to realize that. In fact not only have you not provided a good refutation, you haven't presented a single refutation for anything. Your OP only said that christians shouldn't have to prove their points. It didn't make any refutations, nor have your other few posts attempted to refute anything. You also clearly haven't defended anything since all you've done is make simple statements that show nothing. You haven't even badly defended your beliefs, you simply haven't done it at all. You're either lying, completely delusional, or an idiot. I'll leave it to the people who will read this thread to decide on which it is.

As for being overwhelmed, no you aren't. I have never seen someone before be unable to handle a few posts like this. If you're really so fragile that something like this overwhelms you then what are you doing here? What you are is a coward who wants to back out now that he realizes that he might have to actually be held to what he says. If you can't carry on a conversation, then don't talk. As I said, don't waste everyone's time with your inanity.
"I drank what?!"- Socrates

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