So in order to understand my points for belief in God, you would first have to accept something that I believe is true. That mankind is made up of more than just the physical. We have other dimensions to us. Love, music, art, self sacrifice, laughter, sadness, and all of these expressions (and more) tell me that we are more than just tangible. We have qualities like higher level thinking and a consciousness that causes us to ask why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
These are the basic questions that every philosophy and religion in the history of the world has wrestled with, and proposed answers to. I don't see any reason to make the immediate leap from "Huh. Fascinating questions" to "Therefore, the Bible must be true!" It would be quite the stroke of luck if the predominant religion of the region and culture you just happened to be born in also just happened to be the one with all the correct answers to the questions of life! Wouldn't it? If you are uncomfortable with the "random chance" element of evolutionary theory, shouldn't you also be uncomfortable with the idea of assuming that American Protestantism is true just because you happened to be born into the milieu of American Protestantism?
Obviously, taking the answers of the local predominant religion doesn't work as a method of discovering truth because...think of all those other poor bastards born in other places and times, with other predominant religions and philosophies! If you had been born under the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III, I guarantee you, "Christianity!" would not have been the answer to those questions you would have found.
So, the first thing that must be done when beginning a process of inquiry into these questions, is to seek out a method or methods that work for the purpose of answering questions, discovering facts, and identifying errors in one's own thinking. "Defend the religion I was born into" demonstrably does not work, as shown by the existence of all those people born into religions and philosophies you think are wrong, wrong, wrong. So far, the methods that have shown themselves to work best are: observation, logic, and science practiced under a rubric of reciprocal accountability. "Reciprocal accountability" is the process by which ideas (world views, political polices, scientific theories, products for sale, claims that a given person is guilty of a crime, etc.) are subject to the critical scrutiny of others, who are free to shoot them down.
This is the underlying principle of how the world's most successful science (peer review, replication of observation and experiments by skeptical scientists), courts (adversarial trial-by-jury with guaranteed access to professional legal representation), government (political leaders regularly subject to democratic elections, checks-and-balances, and debate of their policy proposals), and markets (free competition by multiple enterprises with a government referee to prevent the formation of cartels, monopolies, systematic cheating by the powerful, etc.) work. Of course these things don't work perfectly. Nothing human does. But...the way we find out they don't work perfectly, and try to make them work better is: science, logic, and reciprocal accountability.
Have you noticed that religions as a rule, never use these tools? How they always try to put something or someone (or both) above questioning and criticism?
Observations like this leads me to believe that we are more than just evolved beasts. That we are not random chance beings whose ancestors crawled out of a primordial soup and eventually become man. I don't see the evolutionary reason or even the possibility of evolution "needing to" create those intangible qualities (as if evolution itself had a brain and a motive).
I could just as easily say, "Observations like this lead me to believe that we are more than just automatons made to tend a garden (Gen. 2:15). That we were not made to just munch fruit and obey orders, or herd goats in the desert. I don't see the design reason or even the possibility of a deity 'needing to' create those intangible qualities [e.g. ability to perform calculus or build spaceships] in order to have people to bow down to it and sing its praises." And the truth is, I don't. Any deity capable of creating a hundred billion galaxies with a thought has no conceivable use for human sycophants.
1. I see evidence of good and evil
This does not provide evidence for Christianity. The "Argument From Evil" is actually one of the main evidences against the existence of an all-powerful, all-good creator deity with omnimax attributes (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, omnibenevolence). Leaping straight to Christianity here also represents a fallacy of Locating the Hypothesis. More on this below.
2. I have reason to believe in the authenticity of the bible
Not sure what you mean by "authenticity of the Bible" here. If you're arguing something along the lines of, "The Bible said that Nineveh was real; the archaeologists thought it was a myth until they found it, therefore the Bible is God's infallible Word!," that is no more to the point than assuming that because Troy and Mycenae were found, therefore the Goddess Athena must exist. Again, you're jumping straight to the Bible for no apparent reason. Have you tested the Upanishads for authenticity? Locating the Hypothesis again.
3. The bible also admits the problem of good and evil
4. The bible states that the ability for good and evil exists in people. Which I see evidence of.
Outside of, maybe, a few hand-wringing French Existentialists and postmodernist academics, you'd have a hard time finding any philosophical or religious text that doesn't admit the problem of good and evil, and state that good and evil exist in people. If you're guessing that I'll mention "Locating the Hypothesis" again here, you'd be right.
5. The bible states that mankind needs to be taught what good and evil are. Otherwise, if left to their own devices, man will deviate into a place where he hurts and destroys himself and others around him. I see evidence of this throughout history and in today's world.
See my response to #4 above.
But ultimately a society without God's rules for living written in their hearts, will decay. Therefore God in the bible shows us that we are lost without Him.
And yet, somehow, the Japanese, the Swedes and Finns and Danes manage just fine without ordering their societies along the lines of a Biblical Sharia. In terms of measurable criteria of social health (crime rates, teen pregnancy rates, happiness levels, social equality, infant mortality, etc.) such secular societies routinely outperform religious societies like the U.S. Within the U.S., the more secular "blue" states outperform the more religious "red" states. As far as we can tell from actual observation, we are better off "without Him." For that matter, the ancient Egyptians, Minoans, etc.--not to mention hunter-gatherer cultures that measured their continuation in tens of thousands of years--seem to have managed alright without the Bible.
Furthermore, what exactly are "God's rules for living" anyway? No eating shrimp wrapped in bacon? No use of blended-fiber cloth? Picking up sticks on a Saturday should be a capital offense (Numbers 15:32-36)? No, wait, we ignore all that stuff nowadays, don't we? You know, the places where the Bible actually lays out a code of law and jurisprudence. Instead, we come up with a set of "rules for living" we like better (don't be gay, don't be a woman, and cut taxes on the rich) and then say those are in the Bible as "God's rules for living." How many Christians these days actually obey the things the Jesus of the Gospels said about money? Well, if we're going to come up with our own rules anyway, we might as well use the methods I outlined above and stop using Yahweh as a ventriloquist dummy.
Locating the Hypothesis
I mentioned the concept of "Locating the Hypothesis" a few times. When we are trying to answer a question, and are confronted with a large possibility space of potential answers, it is fallacious to select one particular hypothesis out for focused attention without having sufficient evidence to do so. Over and over again, you leap straight to [your interpretation of] the Bible without first providing any evidence that it, and not some other ancient holy book or none, should be privileged as the one worthy of consideration.
To see the problem of privileging the hypothesis, suppose that the police in Largeville, a town with a million inhabitants, are investigating a murder in which there are few or no clues - the victim was stabbed to death in an alley, and there are no fingerprints and no witnesses.
Then, one of the detectives says, "Well... we have no idea who did it... no particular evidence singling out any of the million people in this city... but let's consider the possibility that this murder was committed by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, who lives at 128 Ordinary Ln."
If the detective does not have evidence already in hand to justify singling out Mortimer for such special and individual attention, then this is, or ought to be, a violation of Mortimer's civil rights.
You have provided no reason to immediately select "the Bible" as the one hypothesis worthy of consideration, no evidence that you ever went through any process of inquiry where you considered the merits of the Vedas and the Pyramid Texts and the Pupul Vuh and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics[/url] and the writings of Confucius, etc. before finally hitting upon the Bible as the best and most rational understanding. You've shown no evidence of having a method of inquiry that lead you to choosing "the Bible" other than "being born at a particular place and time."
6. Other religions are self serving in that they try to control their followers. If practiced correctly, Christianity allows people to choose.
Oh, sure. But if you "choose" wrong, you BURN FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER IN EXQUISITE FIERY TORMENT!!!! Nice soul ya got there. It'd be a shame if something happened to it. Capiche?
Of course people from the beginning of time have wrestled with these issues. That's exactly what one would expect from people who were created in the image of God to do. Even if they don't know God.
Now, I don't make a "leap". The reasons that I gave were just a beginning. I don't leap from the existential concept to.... American Protestantism. First is accepting the idea that we are more than just an accident. And more than just a physical creature destined for the dust without a soul or something else, whatever that might be. After at least considering that possibility, a person can enter into a journey of discovering what that something else could be.
That you don't see a reason for God to create people........well the bible says that God loves His creation. Maybe that's a good enough reason. As parents and people with family, we should be able to relate to that. The Bible says that God knew you from the beginning of the earth. That He created you for a reason. If God is who He says He is, and does love His creation, then people who know Him will WANT to bow down and sing His praises. He doesn't force anyone to do that.
Re: the issues of good and evil: Good and evil are definitions of standards. We would have to get into the problem of where our standards come from. Are they floating or fixed?
I see that good and evil exist and it causes me to look for a good/evil standard and reason why. The bible answers those questions. I know other "holy books" claim answers too. Yes, I've read many of them but not all. That doesn't mean that landing on just the right truth was a coincidence. I don't see this as a choice as much as I see it as God's leading me and giving me reasons to believe at the same time.
Burning forever may be a metaphorical explaination of hell. Forever seperation from God is probably one thing that christians can agree upon regarding this subject. That it burns like an unquenchable fire because the person will never have satifaction in their existance, always searching and never able to experience relationship, contentment, always blaming God for even being in hell, will certainly be a part of that eternal existance. But hey, at least God is giving the person what they wanted right? Seperation from Himself. A lot atheists say that even if the God of the bible were true, they wouldn't want to be with Him. A loving God, I suppose, gives them what they want in the end.
I will get to the rest of your long response later. Not ignoring it.