The Diary Of A Truth Seeker

We all make mistakes. When it comes to our beliefs, what makes it especially difficult to change them is our sense of deep kinship with family, friends, and our greater communities. Like it or not, there are often consequences attached to our beliefs.

These consequences stem from a long history of social interactions, and yes, social conditioning. There are many communities and families where it is simply socially unacceptable to be skeptical about religion! This is the truth. I am speaking on behalf of millions of people right now.

A truth seeker has a choice. We can suppress our doubts and search for the truth in secret. I happen to think that there are a vast number of religious people all over the world that feel and live this way. Thank you Internet for becoming so widely accessible!

Another option is that we can be honest about our questions and doubts with everyone we know. This has highly varied outcomes and consequences. It can range on the world spectrum of being put to death for blasphemy all way to a softer form of social rejection from our closest friends and family. Thankfully, I live in a country that highly values diversity of thought and even many of my friends and family have been accepting of my decision to no longer believe in the Christian faith.

It’s been a mixture of responses toward me personally. It has helped me learn who my closest and truest friends really are. Thankfully, many of them are still Christians. Yes, with as much as I question and criticize Christianity I still have Christian friends, and I still love them to death!

It’s a complicated line to walk sometimes but in the end I hope that everyone who knows me understands that I am deeply interested in finding out the things that are true. If we think about our search for true things as being like a dude with a huge machete trying to chop through the brush, that’s me. I have my machete in hand and I’m attempting to work through many of life’s deepest questions.

Sometimes we realize that we’ve chopped our way to a dead end, well, the attitude of one navigating through the thick jungle and the attitude of a truth seeker is just the same. If we need to turn around and find another pathway, then dammit, that’s what has to be done! In the arena of our beliefs and our doubts it could well turn into a rather interesting progression over a lifetime.

I cannot guarantee that I will always be an Atheist, though, I also cannot equally guarantee that I will someday come back into a belief in God. The future for me and many of my fellow truth seekers is simply undetermined. This also makes the pursuit just a little more savory and exciting!

Did you want to know the third option? The third option is to basically not care about what is true. It is a passive, lazy, and rather pathetic path to take. I don’t have much respect for the guy who throws in the towel. Not when it comes to treasuring and valuing what is true.

I would point such a person to Science! Be it Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, and learning from the vast conversation about Religion all throughout the world. It’s worth our time, our energy, and our very lives!

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Why All The Doubting Believers?

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People who honestly put it out there that they disbelieve in a God’s existence are not the only one’s plagued with uncertainty. Christians of all backgrounds are filled with doubts about their beliefs. Evidence for this is not hard to come by as many Pastor’s and their congregants admit this within their prayers and their musings on an almost daily basis.

There’s a common prayer extracted from the New Testament, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” For whatever reasons, and the justifications are often varied, Christians insist that their beliefs are true and that it isn’t necessary for them to provide reasons that would seem to speak to the legitimacy and reliability of their position.

There are many important fronts where faith is unable to distinguish itself from myth. In example, the teaching that Christian conversion is a supernatural event wherein the living God now resides within a person’s heart for the first time, is a belief largely taken on faith alone.

It is recognized that subjective feelings and experiences can fail the test. The test for what? The test for distinguishing God from our own intuitions. The other side of this argument which favors conversion as a supernatural event is that one could be entirely mistaken. One’s sense of guidance, confirmation, and intuition could be failing them due to an inability to actually know whether Christian claims are reliable.

Another avenue that provides little certainty is whether there is actually any agency and guidance behind people’s prayers? Certainly many sincere Christians have some measure of confidence that something or someone is at work behind the scenes but how well supported is this notion? It remains an ongoing in house debate as to whether a God’s handiwork can be deciphered from mere coincidence and the way events unfold with or without prayer as the common variable.

Miracle claims and claims of healing, almost as a rule, are met with a lot of skepticism within many Christian circles. The Charismatic movement appears to be riddled with false claims and a lack of discernment as to how to establish legitimacy. The examples go on and on.

What this may indicate is that many Christians handle their doubts in such a way that maintaining a belief in belief is the desired goal. Rather than believing Christian claims because the claims themselves can be understood as legitimate in their own right, it is now a prominent attitude to harbor a strong belief in belief itself.

This is because faith is very much stressed as a commitment. Just as marriage carries the common theme, “till death do we part,” belief in Jesus is handled quite like marriage is handled. The point I would stress is this, this approach to maintaining belief in God carries within itself the potential to be entirely mistaken.

This kind of approach toward truth claims doesn’t appear to be presenting itself as deeply concerned with whether or not Christianity can be known as true without a doubt. This is sometimes done knowingly, but often unknowingly. As a final clarification my phrasing, “without a doubt,” that I used above is not an unrealistic appeal to absolute certainty. It is an appeal to being able to adequately make a ruling in favor of Christian claims being able to be presented as true with a high degree of accuracy. “Without a doubt” is an appeal to being able to establish a claim as a known fact and ruling out falsehoods.

 

Christian Conversion (Part 2) What Could It Be?

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7

Continuing on from my previous post, if Christian conversion is not a supernatural process, what is it? How can we best understand it? In the case that we are mistaken, in example, if it is the case that we are unable to discern between God and a deep intuitive feeling, then it is important to grasp that this may be the best way to sum up what faith is psychologically.

This sense of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, whether that seems more accompanied by certain feelings or not, could simply be, at best, a deep and heartfelt sense of intuition. An intuition that could be failing us as a barometer for truth because of the distinct possibility that past miracle claims and claims to divinity cannot be guaranteed as either reliable or legitimate.

The New Testament seems to teach that receiving the Holy Spirit is a kind of guarantee of one’s salvation, but many honest believers, including myself when I believed, admittedly have a difficult time knowing this claim tangibly. That is, in a way that can be confirmed as reliable. It is recognized that this is what Scripture seems to teach, but as to whether one can be reliably certain that they have the Holy Spirit, well, that too often becomes a matter taken on faith.

One may be beginning to notice a pattern here? Regarding New Testament miracles, including the resurrection, and regarding Christ’s claims to divinity, the question remains, can we make a definitive ruling that such claims are reliable? If so, what is our process for determining that?

Then as it relates to discerning whether one has the Holy Spirit this conundrum pops up yet again. How is it that I can reliably know that I do in fact have the Holy Spirit? It begins to be a matter of not whether we desire to believe these claims, but are these claims in fact presenting themselves as without a doubt able to be relied upon? Are these claims, as a rule, true in their essence? If so, how can we know this for ourselves?

The alternative to this supernatural interpretation, again, could be that at best what Christian conversion appears to be is a heartfelt sense of intuition that wants, perhaps even feels like it needs Christianity to be true. This sentiment is often expressed in worship.

“I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will.”

At the core of the gospel message it is stressed that one of our greatest human needs is being met. The need to be forgiven. The need to be reconciled to God. Now, this is probably deserving of another blog post. What human needs is Christianity claiming to meet? What role does this play in our ability to distinguish between reliable and potentially unknowable information?

It is certainly a tedious process to begin the journey of attempting to discern how reliable a set of claims present themselves to be? What can we know personally? How certain can we be? Once we’ve determined how certain we are, based upon what can be known, how should this inform belief? What does this reveal about a mindset of faith in contrast to these important questions about determining reliability?

As a reminder, here’s what we are trying to determine.

1) Assuming that you presently believe that Christian conversion is a supernatural process, how are you attempting to rule out the distinct possibility that it could simply be a deep sense of intuition, one in which you deeply desire for these claims to be true without actually knowing it?

2) How important is it to be able to know to some degree that Christian claims are reliable? Does it seem fair that discerning reliability would serve to best determine how to judge whether it is true?

3) If, while in the process of investigation it would seem that the reliability of these claims is unable to be determined, how does this go on to inform your sense of certainty? Are you more certain or less certain? What is the relationship between certainty and belief?

Thank you for taking the time to consider these important questions. Perhaps if you know something that I don’t know, something that deeply convinces you that Christian claims can be determined with a high degree of certainty as reliable, you’ll want to share that with me below? We may or may not see eye to eye in how to determine reliability, but I am definitely always open to other arguments.

By the way, I’ve decided that I will be doing a third post to this blog series. We’ll be exploring the human needs that Christianity claims to meet and trying to gauge how deeply that may come into play when informing one’s sense of certainty? Should be a pretty fun topic so don’t go away!

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Christian Conversion: Part 1: Questioning Assumptions

There is a mindset, yes, dare I say it, a process of religious conversion that can be explained. Particularly, the supernatural language that is used within Christianity to incite and explain a conversion response. I am a person that has, as a rule, reevaluated many things about my own past.

In my attempt to be transparent and demonstrate how it is I believe that I was mistaken, and how many others today are likely mistaken, I have come to pinpoint as exactly as I can how it is that supernatural conversion can be explained naturally.

I write this to Christians who believe that they are born-again. Evangelical Christianity, especially, stresses this idea that becoming born-again is in fact a supernatural experience. It is quite literally thought of as God transforming the human heart. It is quite literally this idea that through the process of regeneration God is now, for the first time, residing within a person’s heart.

It is important to be able to extract a big assumption out of this. That assumption being that coming to Christ is without a doubt a supernaturally driven event? The point I’d like to stress with my Christian friends is this, it might not be. It truly, as a matter of serious evaluation might not be.

It may feel to us as a matter of deepest heartfelt longing and desire that it is God. God speaking to us, God moving us, God leading us, God transforming us from within, but whatever these feelings, these inklings, these intuitions are, it may in fact be all that they are.

We need to take note of this, we need to be aware of this. WE CAN BE MISTAKEN. Especially as it relates to seemingly supernatural phenomena. So it is that I now have a challenge for the Christian. How is it that you can reliably know for yourself that you have met the living God? Is it important for you to be able to discern this for yourself?

A problem that arises here, both for myself when I believed, the duration of that belief commitment being for ten years, and for those who still believe today, is that this is a bit of a Wizard Of Oz scenario. It appears that we have no idea who or what is behind the curtain, and this should be a matter of concern.

Based on some rather obscure miracle claims from thousands of years ago, we are willing to commit without knowing? To worship and adore without truly knowing whether there is a receiver of it? Even right now many are whispering to themselves, well, that’s the whole point of having faith.

I suppose that at least one is being honest in admitting that they won’t know the truth of these claims until they die, that is, if there even is a chance to know after death? The thing of it is that Christians aren’t taught to live silently. They are taught to spread this message to the world as gospel truth, and this is now where I have a valid contention with faith.

Faith acts as if it is true without knowing it is true. It heralds good news to the world without knowing in all actuality if it is legitimate. To any logician this should raise some red flags. So that’s why I’m now here, working in the trenches, attempting to make it clear just how presumptuous faith appears to be.

To state it plainly, it appears as if faith is all too willing to ignore the process in which we can legitimately come to know a set of claims as true. Like a broken record I tend to stress that there appears to be no valid way to establish whether miracles and claims of divinity are even reliable. This could be a logical disaster.

In part two of this blog post I will delve further into how Christian conversion can go on to be understood as a natural process. It involves concluding differently about basic assumptions and seeing how it plays out in reality. Stay tuned!

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Is The Christian God Failing Us?

1) If the God of the Bible exists
2) And it is generally accepted that he wants the world to believe in him (1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, John 3:16-17).
3) Why is it that roughly two-thirds of the world, possibly more, lack the basic underlying assumptions needed to conceive of this God correctly?
4) Not only that, but why is it that even when many people are confronted with the Bible’s claims, they remain in a place of uncertainty and/or disbelief?
5) Would this be attributed to human choice or would it seem more evident that if this God exists he has failed to provide the means to bring the world into a correct understanding?
Thanks for your input. I’m trying to help all of the Apologists out there!
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Reliability Isn’t Merely Assumed And Then Believed

Miracles, divinity, presence. Say it again with me, miracles, divinity, presence. These are three separate categories which would appear to incite skepticism within many open but cautious inquirers into Christianity as well as into the world’s religions at large.

Contrary to what some folks may think I am actually quite ready, willing, and open to meet my maker if in fact it is accurate to think about my existence in those terms. I am not opposed to a good God existing, but I am also not in favor of giving credence to such beliefs if I cannot gain a reliable foundation from which to build certainty.

When I used to identify as a devoted Christian I was under the mistaken impression that doubt was a terrible trap to fall into for too long. It took a little time for me to adjust to the fact that being skeptical is yet another useful tool in the arsenal for discovering and highlighting what is true.

As it pertains to claims about miracles, the divinity of Jesus, as well as the idea that God is present, more specifically, in the form of the Holy Spirit residing within a person, it would appear that there are good grounds to question whether there is sufficient reason to believe that these claims are inherently reliable.

What makes this project challenging is that I am presenting a case for the Christian to reevaluate how he or she is presently building their own foundation for sufficient certainty. My argument is that Christians do not have sufficient means from which to conclude that miracles, divinity, and presence are reliable avenues from which to gain certainty. I would equate gaining a sense of certainty to forming a belief that Christian claims are in some way reliable.

I will first focus on the nature of these claims and what they appear to require from the Christian in order to solidify belief. From the very onset Christianity requires assumptions that are not necessarily legitimate to accept as it relates to making a solid case for inherent reliability.

Miracles

  • At most it would seem that one can only assume that miracle claims are inherently reliable. Assuming that a historical Jesus literally turned water into wine, walked on water, and rose from the dead is not a clear indicator that he actually did. The question remains, would beginning with this assumption actually merit a belief that such claims can be understood as reliable? This brings into question whether gaining a sense of confidence about this issue is warranted in light of an inability to discern what is factual?

Divinity

  • At most it would appear that one can only assume that Jesus was divine by accepting Christian doctrine. This does not establish whether he was actually divine. Again, this brings into question what is actually contributing to one’s belief that such claims are even reliable to accept in the first place? How is the Christian bridging the gap between the assumed reliability of this claim, a form of reliability that cannot be guaranteed, and their belief that it is in fact true? Assuming reliability does not actually show that the claim that Jesus was divine is legitimate in its essence. If not even the Christian can gain insight into the inherent reliability of the claim that Jesus was God, what exactly does a Christian understand as their own source of assurance? What rests at the foundation for properly forming one’s beliefs?

Presence

  • Let’s narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within a believer? That it may not even exist? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?

It is fair to note that not everyone thinks in the same way. That being said, I am trying to honestly inquire into how an assumption about the inherent reliability of miracles, divinity, and the presence of God in one’s life leads to a sense of assurance? My honest evaluation is that this appears inconsistent. In other words, it appears insufficient and not well supported given what can be known about these matters. I don’t see how assuming reliability should further lead into a belief that these claims have shown themselves to be legitimate in their essence, especially as it relates to these three very questionable categories.

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Are You Sure About Your Christian Beliefs?


I find this to be an intensely interesting inquiry into trying to understand the essence of one’s confidence as it relates to miracle claims, claims that someone is/was divine, or even that a Holy Spirit is thought to somehow reside within a person. How is it that one gains and remains in a state of assurance, trust, or certitude about the assumed reliability of the claims I mentioned above? 

Let’s just narrow in on the claim that a Holy Spirit resides within a person. How is it that a Christian gains certitude about the reliability of this claim? Could it be just as likely that a Holy Spirit does not reside within you? How would one attempt to discern the difference? How does one evaluate and conclude that such a claim is trustworthy?

Faith And Not Knowing, A Call To The Carpet

 

 

The number one reason I remain so vocal about the problems within faith-based thinking is because I am deeply concerned about intellectual honesty. It pains me to see people being closed off to total transparency. It is by far the worst way to represent what is true.

Is it unfair to call faith a lack of total transparency? I want my readers to be the judge. Though one may be completely honest about the fact that they have a high amount of confidence in faith-based claims the other side of this coin is where I would like to focus.

The other side of faith-based thinking is the fact that it is an inherently ignorant position. I am not hurling this as an insult, I am saying that inherent within a faith-based point of view is the fact that believers don’t know what actually happened in the past.

Muslims don’t know whether their prophet Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse and Christians have no idea whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. How this builds up people in their faith, I’m not sure.

That’s one big “if” and it doesn’t stop there. As far as I can humanly discern, and many believers would back me up, people are inherently ignorant as to whether a God actually exists. What this means is that faith involves leaning into what we don’t know. There is a very real possibility that a God is not behind the scenes.

People must see this and admit this in light of what they don’t know. There isn’t seventy-five percent certainty or ninety-five percent certainty, we either know that a God exists or we don’t. The rest is intuition. Now, just envision the world we live in. Envision the billions of people who don’t intuit the same religious beliefs you have, ask yourself, really ask yourself what gives you the better edge on what is true?

Is it the eloquence of your own teachers and philosophers? Is this how belief without knowledge gets justified? This is calling faith to the carpet and I am fairly and legitimately asking my audience to try to pinpoint for themselves what makes intuition without proper knowledge of miracles and invisible beings reliable?

Within your own system of thinking and forming beliefs what is it exactly that makes faith a reliable avenue to discern between true and false miracles or true and false God beliefs?

I’d like to provide a list of how this species of ignorance is affecting people of faith everywhere.

Faith worships what it doesn’t know

Faith prays to who or what it doesn’t know

Faith obeys and loves what it doesn’t know

Faith assumes that miracle claims are reliable

Faith claims to know the mind of God, if there even is one?

Faith claims to have the correct revelation without a built in mechanism to demonstrate the falsehood of competing religious claims

Faith, as a form of intuition, often claims that it stands as evidence for God all by itself. In other words, faith claims to be getting a read from God all the while not actually knowing it

Faith often sees itself as immune from the kind of mistakes that other religions clearly make

Faith, as a set of beliefs is often highly resistant to being revised or discarded in light of opposing evidence

Faith is viewed as a virtue without being able to produce evidence of its object

 

At the end of the day we need to ask ourselves this question, “does ignorance merit belief?” There’s a price to pay for this intellectually and it looks like this.

Earlier I purposely brought up the Islamic miracle of Muhammad flying to heaven on a winged horse and the Christian miracle of Jesus rising from the dead. I set these two miracle claims side by side.

I did this because somehow it is okay for people within either religion to believe in their specific miracle claims without even knowing whether they actually took place. Then, on top of that it is somehow justified to make a call on which miracles from other religions are mythical and didn’t take place.  

People argue for the resurrection by saying, “with God all things are possible.” Well, then what reason has the Christian to negate the possibility that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse to receive instruction from Allah? From an outsider looking in it would appear that the only mechanism being used to determine the truthfulness of one claim and the falsehood of the other is which religion one is more predisposed to believe in.

Faith is unable to separate supposedly true claims from supposedly false claims and this is why it is an unreliable avenue from which to determine what is true.

Is Morality Truly Objective?

Is there one universal objective moral code that applies for everyone at all times and in all places? Morality would certainly be an easier endeavor if we could simply point to an objective standard bearer. Many Theists think that if God exists, there is a sufficient basis for objective morality. I still question that premise even if a God exists.

I would certainly agree that if a God exists He could act as an enforcer of various commands and rules, however, even in light of enforcement, would this make such commands objective? In my view, not in light of Euthyphro’s dilemma.

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Now, does Euthyphro’s dilemma automatically mean that morality is objective independently of whether God exists? Well, my thought is this. If we are to search out and pinpoint either an objective standard bearer, something equivalent or similar to a God, or the existence of an impersonal set of objective moral standards, I am of the view that both searches fall short.

In other words, it appears that we cannot adequately establish whether morality is a universal objective moral code that applies for everyone at all times and in all places. In order to know this, we would need to be omniscient beings.

An argument for morality as it has been put forth by William Lane Craig and other Theists like him, is rather problematic as it relates to attempting to validate objective morality.

As stated it says,

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

  1. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

  1. Therefore, God exists.

Premise one of this argument would seem true in the classical sense of understanding morality as a universal objective moral code. If God does not exist, there is not a corner of our universe that appears to be dictating to our species an official code of right and wrong, good and bad.

If God does not exist this would appear to make morality subjective and more relative to one’s circumstances. The question is, would this be such a negative thing to accept about morality? Well, I can think of a few negative objections that often get raised.

  1. If morality is not objective, there is no good reason to agree on anything morally.

  1. If God does not exist, a lack of objective morality implies the absence of ultimate accountability and justice.

  1. If morality is not objective, how can we call out the Holocaust as something that was totally intrinsically wrong?

Let’s take a look at this first objection.

1. If morality is not objective, there is no good reason to agree on anything morally.

This concern would seem to be a failure to account for why there is a good amount of moral consensus in the world already. Certainly the development of moral frameworks is not without benefit in our world.

Just consider a basic desire for well-being both for ourselves and others. A simple definition of well-being is a state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Certainly we can derive a great amount of motivation to work toward this goal in life, can we not?

Now, just imagine what working toward well-being looks like? It involves avoiding the worst possible outcome for everyone. It involves taking the needs of others into account. Is this working from a strong sense of ought or obligation? No, it is working from a strong internal desire to better the world voluntarily, and dare I say it, in spite of a sense of obligation. I’ll leave it to my readers to judge how freeing that concept may be? Living for the good of others solely because we want to?

What this means is that the beginning of our quest for morality is subjective, but since so many of us can agree that we desire well-being both for others and ourselves, well-being ends up getting greatly informed by the reality of the external world. How we can best live together in a community, how we assess the positive and negative consequences of our actions, how we reduce suffering, and how we ensure the safety of one another.

2. If God does not exist, a lack of objective morality implies the absence of ultimate accountability and justice.

It is true that if God does not exist, there is not an ultimate enforcer of the rules. There is not a divine commander. We each need to think through and consider how relevant these ideas really are to bettering the world regardless? I happen to think that if God doesn’t exist, it really has no bearing on whether we can live selflessly and virtuously before our fellow human beings.

Accountability and justice becomes relevant to our circumstances, not on a cosmic scale, that was never the point. The disappointment that derives from this is that there will have been much within this world that people essentially got away with. A vast array of wrongs that were never punished or made right.

Since I desire to reflect a certain kind of realism, I just pose the question to these people, “should we have ever expected justice to be implemented on a cosmic scale?” Both morality and justice are human constructs, but we benefit from these constructs in order to provide accountability in the here and now, you know, where it appears to count the most. Safety, survival, and a sense of fairness all make sense in a world where we are concerned about well-being.

3. If morality is not objective, how can we call out the Holocaust as something that was totally intrinsically wrong?

I’d say that the problem with this thinking begins with the fact that nobody truly knows whether morality is actually objective. So many good minds are left searching and asking, “in what way is morality objective?” This is more so an argument from desire.

Well, we can wish it and want it with every fiber in our bodies, this doesn’t make God real and it doesn’t make morality objective. So, what are the facts? The fact is that something like the Holocaust is very clearly and objectively a threat to human well-being.

To any of us who agree that well-being is worth striving for, both for ourselves and others, the Holocaust should appear quite objectively antithetical to those goals. That’s what really matters here, am I right? We don’t actually know whether the Holocaust matters on a cosmic scale, so who was this atrocity most relevant to? It was most relevant to our circumstances as human beings that just want to survive and enjoy living.

To a vast majority of people the Holocaust was bad and it was very bad in the context of looking out for the greater well-being of our species. We know we can do better. We know we can value one another better. We know that we can create a safer world than that.

My final point is this, we don’t need ought statements in order to recognize what is objectively threatening and clearly not within the interest of health and well-being. The simple assumption here is that we can and do take it upon ourselves to value one another and vouch for each other’s safety, health, and happiness.

Are there exceptions to this rule, yes, but these are precisely the kind of people that exhibit a lack of basic empathy and demonstrate with their actions why we create justice systems and mental health facilities in the first place.

My next post will pick up where I’ve left off. I’ll move on to address the second premise of The Moral Argument.

Acting As If God Is There

Acting as if God is there, as it seems, is a necessary component of having faith in God. Especially if the book of Hebrews in the Christian Bible has anything to say about it.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

“Must believe that He is,” isn’t that an interesting quote? I find it especially interesting in light of a theory that I have about the majority of folks who believe in God. Lately, I’ve been making the argument that a significant majority of people who claim to believe in God do not equally claim to know that God exists.

So how does this honest admission live up to what is instructed in Hebrews 11:6? The best I can figure is that people are acting as if God exists without actually knowing it for themselves. I think many Christians see this as safe to do because they think of themselves as standing upon the testimony of the Apostles and Christ’s earliest followers.

So, let’s break this down a little bit. Christians have a New Testament, and within this collection of books are a series of extraordinary claims about Jesus of Nazareth and what God was said to have done within the lives of his followers. I’m not here to say that these stories are not interesting. In all honesty, there are some very fascinating ideas in the New Testament. People in union with God? His Spirit living within them and empowering them? Eternal life? A sense of brotherhood with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life? This is great.

Although there are many positive elements to the New Testament story, my position is that truth does not always coincide with hope. The truth is the truth, however the chips may fall. Part of guarding the truth involves applying discernment as it pertains to the reliability of miracle claims. Miracle claims abound in these texts and there are emotional reactions bound up within the narrative itself. Doubting Thomas touches the nail prints in the hands of a Jesus that he thought was dead, but now is alive. He falls to his knees and worships God.

It’s a heart-warming account, but it doesn’t make it true. I’m here to advocate the idea of not putting the cart before the horse. The cart is brimming with emotional appeal to the New Testament narratives. There’s a lot of fuel there to work from. The horse represents truth and how we can best discern what that is as it relates to these stories. My argument is this, and Bart Ehrman makes a similar point.

Miracles are the least probable events to consider for any critically minded historian. This is because miracle claims all over the world have a very poor reputation as it relates to what is true over what is mistaken or downright fabricated. Miracles, as a category of evidence from which to draw from are notoriously unreliable. It can be a complicated debate when I run into people who are convinced that they’ve encountered miracles. It isn’t as if I’m not open to changing my mind, but as the saying goes, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Miracle claims need to earn a reliable reputation, until then, it is no stretch of the matter to say that believers are resting upon very poor evidence.

Guarding what is true also means recognizing when we are unable to classify a set of claims as true. This is my conclusion about the New Testament as well as every extraordinary claim that the Bible makes. A most appropriate response is to suspend judgement and believers in turn have the burden to demonstrate that such claims are reliable. In the interest of believing in true things, each of us is entitled to rest upon the very best forms of assurance. Assurance should be clear, reliable, and derived from the best evidences available.

This brings me back full circle to the admission of a great majority of believers that they do not in fact know that a God exists. They act as if God exists because they draw their inspiration to do so from the New Testament narratives. We all must decide, does the New Testament pass muster as it pertains to the evidence? Not if it can be agreed that miracles are notoriously unreliable to put forth as evidence.

If the greater likelihood is that miracles are made up or highly susceptible to error, then it has not been established that Christianity is true. Many people of course believe it to be true in the face of its poorly purported evidence, in such a case a belief should only carry as much weight as the evidence it can bring to bear. If someone honestly doesn’t know if God exists and yet they tell us that they believe, they are demonstrating that this is a belief based not upon evidence but desire. Desire trumps evidence in the minds of believers all over the world.

When desire trumps evidence, there is a definite likelihood for such a belief being wrong. If people are acting as if God exists without knowing that God exists, they are structuring their lives and giving a lot of time to something that they don’t even know to be true. There is one key element that I think could change the minds of millions of believers. If Christianity was no longer a culturally normative set of beliefs, if it fell out of fashion similar to the way Greek Mythology and many other ancient religions have, this would act as a  lynchpin for helping many people proportion their beliefs to the evidence.