Greeting from a Christian
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28-02-2013, 03:36 AM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(27-02-2013 10:20 PM)DarthMarth Wrote:  On a more practical note, is there some easier way to quote multiple people that I'm missing? Because this is kind of annoying.
Yes. Just click the following button at the bottom of the posts that you want to respond to.

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28-02-2013, 04:07 AM (This post was last modified: 28-02-2013 04:11 AM by Vosur.)
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(27-02-2013 05:43 PM)DarthMarth Wrote:  Sorry, like I said, that was an incomplete answer. Your precondition for this question was a bit strange. Do you mean to ask, would I still be a Christian if I still believed in God, but knew that there was no afterlife and we just vanish when we die (which in theology, is called annihilationism)? More below.
Yes.

(27-02-2013 05:43 PM)DarthMarth Wrote:  Ah, I'm surprised I summarized your view so well! What I was describing seems to be a generalized version of the scientific method--generate a hypothesis (is there an analogue to this with the existence of God?), examine and analyze the evidence, and draw a reasoned conclusion.
I'm a proponent of what Carl Sagan called "scientific skepticism". You'll have to click on the following box if you want to read its entire content.

Wikipedia Wrote:Scientific skeptics believe that empirical investigation of reality leads to the truth, and that the scientific method is best suited to this purpose. Considering the rigor of the scientific method, science itself may simply be thought of as an organized form of skepticism. This does not mean that the scientific skeptic is necessarily a scientist who conducts live experiments (though this may be the case), but that the skeptic generally accepts claims that are in his/her view likely to be true based on testable hypotheses and critical thinking.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds - rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity.

From a scientific point of view, theories are judged on many criteria, such as falsifiability, Occam's Razor, and explanatory power, as well as the degree to which their predictions match experimental results. Skepticism is part of the scientific method; for instance an experimental result is not regarded as established until it can be shown to be repeatable independently.

By the principles of skepticism, the ideal case is that every individual could make his own mind up on the basis of the evidence rather than appealing to some authority, skeptical or otherwise. In practice this becomes difficult because of the amount of knowledge now possessed by science, and so an ability to balance critical thinking with an appreciation for consensus amongst the most relevant scientists becomes vital.

Not all fringe science is pseudoscience. For instance, some proponents of repressed memories apply the scientific method carefully, and have even found some empirical support for their validity. though the theories have not received complete scientific consensus.

Empirical or scientific skeptics do not profess philosophical skepticism. Whereas a philosophical skeptic may deny the very existence of knowledge, an empirical skeptic merely seeks likely proof before accepting that knowledge.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_skepticism

(27-02-2013 05:43 PM)DarthMarth Wrote:  I have two thoughts on this.
1. Like I said, this method works well for science--so we call it the "scientific method". But could it be jumping to conclusions to assume it equally works for questions of metaphysics? Of course, science does deal with questions of things that can't be directly picked up by instruments--I'm thinking particle accelerators, which (this could be a simplification) test for the presence of new particles by looking for the remnants of their near-instantaneous decay, as predicted by theory. The hypothesis distills the theoretical work down to an observable whose presence will confirm the theory and its absence disprove it. So, by analogy, even if we can't aim a telescope at the right patch of the sky to find God, we can expect certain things to be true of ourselves, of the world, of the universe, etc. if God existed. Since those things aren't the case, we conclude with sufficient certainty to say that God "probably" doesn't exist. How accurate is this summary?
Hypotheses concerning the existence of the supernatural and the metaphysical are, by definition, unverifiable by science because science is grounded on methodological naturalism. I have furthermore yet to be provided with such a hypothesis that doesn't turn out to be an ad hoc hypothesis.

I think I can simplify this matter by rephrasing my question properly: Can you demonstrate the existence of Yahweh, Heaven and Hell, i.e. your Christian beliefs, using scientific evidence?

(27-02-2013 05:43 PM)DarthMarth Wrote:  2. This method presupposed starting at a point of neutrality, but I'm not sure this is possible with questions of belief. My Christian upbringing, for instance, causes me to approach these questions from a certain perspective--and the presuppositions I therefore carry are much deeper than the ones science is worried about. The only time we're truly neutral about the existence of God is when we're babies, and then we're in no position to perform scientific reasoning. How can you be sure you are a fair judge of what's true when your very ability to process what's true is shaped by your background?
I'm sorry, but I can't seem to follow you. Why is it not possible for me to examine the available evidence from a neutral point of view?

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28-02-2013, 04:53 AM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(27-02-2013 11:53 AM)DarthMarth Wrote:  Hello all,

I am a twenty-something software engineer living in Minneapolis. I am a prolific cyclist (at least in the warmer months), amateur blogger, and audiophile metalhead. And yes, I am a Christian. I was considering keeping my beliefs a secret as I explored this forum, but that would have been dishonest.

What is a Christian doing on a forum for atheists? Well, I learned about TTA by reading Seth Andrews' new book and decided to check it out. Why was I reading Seth Andrews' book? Because I've had serious doubts and questions about Christianity myself, the kind that probably led many of you to reject your faith. But, somehow, I didn't. (Darn, so close!, you may be thinking) So I decided to read Deconverted (and also Godless) both to look for why this was so--how my story differed from Seth Andrews' or Dan Barker's--as well as to gain a better firsthand understanding of some prominent atheists' perspectives.

Anyway, the books were challenging and eye-opening. Through them I realized just how hollow and wooden so many Christian apologetic arguments, birthed and grown in the echo chamber of the "Christian bubble", must sound to skeptics. And I realized just how badly Christianity at large is failing both at answering honest doubts and questions in the church ("Just have more faith! Who are you to question God?") and at engaging in real dialog (not debates and conversion attempts) with the growing atheist community.

So, that's why I'm here, to pursue that kind of dialog. I don't consider myself some kind of "ambassador" of Christianity, and certainly not a missionary. I'm not here to argue or try to convince anyone to "see the light". I'm just here to talk, listen, and, hopefully, to understand better, if you'll have me.


Welcome to the forum.

I'm not exactly up on my biblebull, so for the time being, I've nothing to question.

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28-02-2013, 09:17 AM
Greeting from a Christian
Darth, I have a simpler question which may help move Vosur's question along:

Correct me if I am wrong. You seem to believe faith is an acceptable source of knowledge. If so, why?

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28-02-2013, 09:57 AM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(28-02-2013 04:07 AM)Vosur Wrote:  
(27-02-2013 05:43 PM)DarthMarth Wrote:  Sorry, like I said, that was an incomplete answer. Your precondition for this question was a bit strange. Do you mean to ask, would I still be a Christian if I still believed in God, but knew that there was no afterlife and we just vanish when we die (which in theology, is called annihilationism)? More below.
Yes.
Well, I would say yes, but it's hard to tell how that would affect my view of God/the Bible. (Though many Christians do interpret the language of "destruction" that way) But yes, I would say that if I knew your beliefs stopped mattering when you die, my faith would probably be more based on ethics and morality (not that it isn't now, but not exclusively), for the reasons I mentioned before.
(28-02-2013 04:07 AM)Vosur Wrote:  Ah, I'm surprised I summarized your view so well! What I was describing seems to be a generalized version of the scientific method--generate a hypothesis (is there an analogue to this with the existence of God?), examine and analyze the evidence, and draw a reasoned conclusion.

I'm a proponent of what Carl Sagan called "scientific skepticism". You'll have to click on the following box if you want to read its entire content.

Wikipedia Wrote:Scientific skeptics believe that empirical investigation of reality leads to the truth, and that the scientific method is best suited to this purpose. Considering the rigor of the scientific method, science itself may simply be thought of as an organized form of skepticism. This does not mean that the scientific skeptic is necessarily a scientist who conducts live experiments (though this may be the case), but that the skeptic generally accepts claims that are in his/her view likely to be true based on testable hypotheses and critical thinking.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds - rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity.

From a scientific point of view, theories are judged on many criteria, such as falsifiability, Occam's Razor, and explanatory power, as well as the degree to which their predictions match experimental results. Skepticism is part of the scientific method; for instance an experimental result is not regarded as established until it can be shown to be repeatable independently.

By the principles of skepticism, the ideal case is that every individual could make his own mind up on the basis of the evidence rather than appealing to some authority, skeptical or otherwise. In practice this becomes difficult because of the amount of knowledge now possessed by science, and so an ability to balance critical thinking with an appreciation for consensus amongst the most relevant scientists becomes vital.

Not all fringe science is pseudoscience. For instance, some proponents of repressed memories apply the scientific method carefully, and have even found some empirical support for their validity. though the theories have not received complete scientific consensus.

Empirical or scientific skeptics do not profess philosophical skepticism. Whereas a philosophical skeptic may deny the very existence of knowledge, an empirical skeptic merely seeks likely proof before accepting that knowledge.
Wikipedia Wrote:1. Like I said, this method works well for science--so we call it the "scientific method". But could it be jumping to conclusions to assume it equally works for questions of metaphysics? Of course, science does deal with questions of things that can't be directly picked up by instruments--I'm thinking particle accelerators, which (this could be a simplification) test for the presence of new particles by looking for the remnants of their near-instantaneous decay, as predicted by theory. The hypothesis distills the theoretical work down to an observable whose presence will confirm the theory and its absence disprove it. So, by analogy, even if we can't aim a telescope at the right patch of the sky to find God, we can expect certain things to be true of ourselves, of the world, of the universe, etc. if God existed. Since those things aren't the case, we conclude with sufficient certainty to say that God "probably" doesn't exist. How accurate is this summary?
Hypotheses concerning the existence of the supernatural and the metaphysical are, by definition, unverifiable by science because science is grounded on methodological naturalism. I have furthermore yet to be provided with such a hypothesis that doesn't turn out to be an ad hoc hypothesis.
So, in other words, hypotheses for the existence of God are like moving goalposts; if the evidence doesn't fit, they can just change endlessly to fit the evidence. I can see how that would be frustrating.
(28-02-2013 04:07 AM)Vosur Wrote:  I think I can simplify this matter by rephrasing my question properly: Can you demonstrate the existence of Yahweh, Heaven and Hell, i.e. your Christian beliefs, using scientific evidence?
I think the tricky thing for scientifically-minded Christians is that we have no problem, in principle, with the method of scientific skepticism. In mathematical terminology, I think that, as a system, it is correct but not complete. That is, there are things that are true, but can't be proven or falsified by it.

So in response to your question, I would say no, I can't, but I don't think this is the right question. You will of course say that this is a cop-out; why should my claim to truth be exempt from the skeptical inquiry to which every claim is subjected? Because I have presupposed that there are true things that exist outside the realm of science and consider this to be one of them (and yes, this way of thinking has lots of room for abuse, but that doesn't make it false). And, I think, you have presupposed the opposite, that there is nothing true (or, at least, worth knowing) outside this space. Because of these assumptions I consider faith a different, less "hard" way of seeking knowledge while you consider it willful ignorance. This is what I meant earlier by different epistemologies. Can the completeness of scientific skepticism be proven by scientific skepticism?
(28-02-2013 04:07 AM)Vosur Wrote:  2. This method presupposed starting at a point of neutrality, but I'm not sure this is possible with questions of belief. My Christian upbringing, for instance, causes me to approach these questions from a certain perspective--and the presuppositions I therefore carry are much deeper than the ones science is worried about. The only time we're truly neutral about the existence of God is when we're babies, and then we're in no position to perform scientific reasoning. How can you be sure you are a fair judge of what's true when your very ability to process what's true is shaped by your background?


I'm sorry, but I can't seem to follow you. Why is it not possible for me to examine the available evidence from a neutral point of view?
Because we have (I think) all made the above assumption--either that the set of true statements is coterminous with the set of statements that can be established by scientific inquiry, or it is a superset. (Or what if they just intersect? Or are disjoint? Or the former is a subset of the latter? I'm not asserting either of these, but they're nice thought exercises) Is there any way to answer this question besides making an assumption?

Cardinal Smurf: I didn't see your post, but I may have answered your question as well.

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28-02-2013, 10:23 AM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
In skepticism we don't assume false, we just mark a claim as 'not proven'. In any case, God is such a wishy-washy concept that applying any sort of reasoning requires defining exactly what you mean by God.

But you can make *probability judgements*. e.g. (you will hate me) tooth fairy. Please evaluate probability of existence.

Now apply same to God.

I assume you're now an atheist Wink
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28-02-2013, 10:50 AM (This post was last modified: 28-02-2013 10:55 AM by Vosur.)
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(28-02-2013 09:57 AM)DarthMarth Wrote:  So, in other words, hypotheses for the existence of God are like moving goalposts; if the evidence doesn't fit, they can just change endlessly to fit the evidence. I can see how that would be frustrating.
Yes, that's an excellent way of putting it.

(28-02-2013 09:57 AM)DarthMarth Wrote:  I think the tricky thing for scientifically-minded Christians is that we have no problem, in principle, with the method of scientific skepticism. In mathematical terminology, I think that, as a system, it is correct but not complete. That is, there are things that are true, but can't be proven or falsified by it.

So in response to your question, I would say no, I can't, but I don't think this is the right question.
I'm afraid to say that we don't have any common ground for a future discussion about the existence of supernatural deities in that case.

(28-02-2013 09:57 AM)DarthMarth Wrote:  You will of course say that this is a cop-out; why should my claim to truth be exempt from the skeptical inquiry to which every claim is subjected? Because I have presupposed that there are true things that exist outside the realm of science and consider this to be one of them (and yes, this way of thinking has lots of room for abuse, but that doesn't make it false). And, I think, you have presupposed the opposite, that there is nothing true (or, at least, worth knowing) outside this space. Because of these assumptions I consider faith a different, less "hard" way of seeking knowledge while you consider it willful ignorance. This is what I meant earlier by different epistemologies.
That's not entirely accurate. I don't presuppose that there isn't anything outside the realm of science, I propose that I can't demonstrate anything to be true if it cannot be examined by science. To give you an example: While I know that I have dreamed of flying to Mars last night, I cannot demonstrate this to be true to anyone else because I don't have anything to prove it other than anecdotal evidence. This, of course, doesn't mean that I never had this dream, all it means is that I'm unable to show that it happened. Likewise, I cannot and do not deny that many people at least think that they've spoken to god at some point in their lives, all I can say is that I cannot believe them if all they have is anecdotal evidence.

(28-02-2013 09:57 AM)DarthMarth Wrote:  Can the completeness of scientific skepticism be proven by scientific skepticism?
I don't know what 'the completeness of scientific skepticism' is supposed to mean. Do you mind elaborating on this?

(28-02-2013 09:57 AM)DarthMarth Wrote:  Because we have (I think) all made the above assumption--either that the set of true statements is coterminous with the set of statements that can be established by scientific inquiry, or it is a superset. (Or what if they just intersect? Or are disjoint? Or the former is a subset of the latter? I'm not asserting either of these, but they're nice thought exercises) Is there any way to answer this question besides making an assumption?
I think I have covered this above. Don't hesitate to let me know if you think that I haven't.

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28-02-2013, 10:51 AM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(27-02-2013 07:00 PM)Cardinal Smurf Wrote:  
(27-02-2013 05:44 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  Fuckin' QA, that's like IA for cops.

Well said!
Sure, well said and all, but both are very much needed. I get that cops don't like IA, and I get that (some) devs don't like QA, but neither group would be as effective without their quality counterparts.

Besides, IA is looking for cops to screw up so they can be punished. I've never heard of IA trying to help cops be better cops - all they do is beat up the bad cops. As a software QA engineer I like to build a better relationship with my developers. I don't punish, I don't belittle, I don't keep score. All I do is help them find flaws in their code so they can fix the flaws and create better code. So far, going on 15 years now and I seem to have good relationships with all the devs I've worked with - they know I'm here to help rather than to destroy.

Then again, who knows what they say behind my back...

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28-02-2013, 11:25 AM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
Welcome. I'd probably be to lazy to answer all the questions you have. Lucky for me I can answer these questions rather easily, but it's still a bit frustrating because of loaded questions. I don't always get a warm and fuzzy reaction, but it's easier on me.

My typical discussion on theology.

Person: What are you?
Me: What do you mean?
Person: Religiously.
Me: I have no religion.
Person: So you're an atheist?
Me: Not exactly.
Person: What do you mean? Do you believe in God?
Me: What's your definition of God?
Person: [definition]
Me: Then no, I don't believe in your God.
Person: So you're an atheist.
Me: [face-palm] Sure, I'm an atheist.
Person: Why didn't you just say that to begin with?...You know you're going to burn in Hell.
Me: Okay.
Person: Would you like to come to church with me?
Me: No thanks.
Person: I'll pray for you.
Me: Okay.
(silence)
Me: Well, see ya' later.

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28-02-2013, 12:09 PM
RE: Greeting from a Christian
(28-02-2013 10:50 AM)Vosur Wrote:  Yes, that's an excellent way of putting it.
Okay, that helps me understand why you don't find religious claims believable.
(28-02-2013 10:50 AM)Vosur Wrote:  That's not entirely accurate. I don't presuppose that there isn't anything outside the realm of science, I propose that I can't demonstrate anything to be true if it cannot be examined by science. To give you an example: While I know that I have dreamed of flying to Mars last night, I cannot demonstrate this to be true to anyone else because I don't have anything to prove it other than anecdotal evidence. This, of course, doesn't mean that I never had this dream, all it means is that I'm unable to show that it happened. Likewise, I cannot and do not deny that many people at least think that they've spoken to god at some point in their lives, all I can say is that I cannot believe them if all they have is anecdotal evidence.
Okay; I tend to confuse weak and strong atheism; also weak atheism and agnosticism. (See below)
(28-02-2013 10:50 AM)Vosur Wrote:  I don't know what 'the completeness of scientific skepticism' is supposed to mean. Do you mind elaborating on this?
Continuing from above, your position is starting to make a bit more sense. So would you say it is permissible to personally believe things for personal or non-empirical reasons, but there is no reason to expect anyone else to share that belief? For example, say I had a dream of flying to Mars. If I therefore made it my life's mission to be one of the first Martian colonists, would you consider that justifiable as long as I didn't also try to convince others to live on Mars or support simply because of my dream?

Or, put another way, there may be things that are true that can't be verified with science, but there isn't enough general (not personal/anecdotal) evidence to be able to claim to "know" them. Is this an accurate summary?
(28-02-2013 11:25 AM)Dark Light Wrote:  Welcome. I'd probably be to lazy to answer all the questions you have. Lucky for me I can answer these questions rather easily, but it's still a bit frustrating because of loaded questions. I don't always get a warm and fuzzy reaction, but it's easier on me.

My typical discussion on theology.

Person: What are you?
Me: What do you mean?
Person: Religiously.
Me: I have no religion.
Person: So you're an atheist?
Me: Not exactly.
Person: What do you mean? Do you believe in God?
Me: What's your definition of God?
Person: [definition]
Me: Then no, I don't believe in your God.
Person: So you're an atheist.
Me: [face-palm] Sure, I'm an atheist.
Person: Why didn't you just say that to begin with?...You know you're going to burn in Hell.
Me: Okay.
Person: Would you like to come to church with me?
Me: No thanks.
Person: I'll pray for you.
Me: Okay.
(silence)
Me: Well, see ya' later.
If you'll answer one question: what would you say is the difference between being a (weak) atheist and an agnostic? Or are they not mutually exclusive?

"Know that we own minds that could devour the sun/And what we've done will remain although it's gone" - Scar Symmetry
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