The importance of evidence
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15-06-2011, 05:07 PM
 
The importance of evidence
Hey all,
Thank you in advance for your time and attention to answering this question. I am in the process of writing a book/letter to my family and friends regarding my ongoing agnosticism/atheism. Like most of the Mid-west they are all deeply religious and have no idea to the extend of my unbelief.

As a bit of background, I attended a private Christian elementary and High School, church twice a week, and even a small bit of seminary. I thought I had escaped the clutches of Christianity when I moved to Los Angeles with my girlfriend who was a non-practicing catholic. Unfortunately I was torn back in when she "found Jesus" from a caring friend and left me one year ago. We have since patched the relationship and agreed to disagree on the subject. I do find it important to get my beliefs across in an organized fashion at this point since she especially will not have anything to do with a rational conversation on the subject. Eventually I can see this all blowing up without communication and respect.

I have quite a bit covered so far. Especially focusing on the authorship of the Bible and the atrocities there-in. However, I am having a very difficult time conveying my thoughts on the importance of evidence (since it is obviously lacking in Christianity) and the mistake of the "faith trap" from my point of view. So that leads me to the question and purpose of this post. Has anyone come across a good argument for the importance of evidence that I can read up on? I scanned the forums here and general Google inquiries really didn't lead me to anything I liked particularly well.

Thanks again for all the help!
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15-06-2011, 06:02 PM
RE: The importance of evidence
Well, one explanation borrowing from christianity would be snake handling. Which is a practice among some pentecostals

Mark 16:15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The reason this is such an obvious fallacy is that these poisonous snakes sometimes bit the handlers, and the passage from mark states that if they believe they will not die and will be cured by a laying of hands. Needless to say there have been deaths after a snake bites a handler and people do not promptly request medical aid instead relying on faith. The evidence that people do die from the venom is contradicted with the idea of them not having enough faith. Who is going to handle poisonous snakes as a testament to god if they don't believe?

This would be an example of taking the bible on faith being disastrous. Still thinking of how best to answer this question.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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15-06-2011, 06:15 PM (This post was last modified: 15-06-2011 09:06 PM by ashley.hunt60.)
RE: The importance of evidence
This question tends to get a little bit philosophical, but I'll try to keep it light.

Evidence is vital to living. You have evidence that the brake pedal in your car will work from other testimonies and personal experience. You have evidence that the Earth will continue to spin by looking into the past. Evidence is an extremely basic thing, everything we see and hear serves as evidence for something, and it affects how we live. If you had evidence that you were really ill and needed to see a doctor, it's important to act on the evidence and see a doctor. If you had no evidence to suggest that you were sick, you wouldn't be rushing to the ER and wasting time and money for nothing. Evidence, and our ability to reason through it and draw the most likely conclusion, is fundamental to our lives. It's with evidence that we can say what is and isn't likely with such high accuracy.

Applying it to religion, many people say that faith(belief without, or in spite of, evidence) is a good thing. But in no other walk of life is irrational beliefs okay. We don't applaud the people in the mental hospitals for having faith that they are channeling the spirit of Elvis. If the leader of your nation decides to attack a neighboring peaceful country with faith that they were plotting to attack you first, you wouldn't praise your leader for his amazingly strong faith. So why is it suddenly a good thing to have faith about there being a god?

Many people will claim that a belief in god does no harm, and only lightens up a person's life. If you want to keep things respectful and nice, you should stop on that note and say that you simply prefer to believe what is true and supported by evidence, because you can find joy and happiness in your life without the concept of god. But there are many claims of the dangers of religious faith, a variety of which will be posted here, I'm sure. But I view religious faith as having been corrected by evidence. There are many things said in the Bible that a lot of people have realized that a literal interpretation isn't correct through evidence. For example; the bibles mentions that Christians should be able to handle deadly snakes and drink venom. But, when put to the test, it turns out that a Christian, no matter how strong their faith, cannot chug deadly venom and live. Through evidence, people realized that having faith that they can drink poisons is harmful. In a head-on collision between faith and evidence, evidence tends to win out in little matters like these. So, through evidence people have seen what parts of the Bible can't be taken on faith, leaving the more benign(there are people here who would take me up on this matter) beliefs.

Evidence > Faith

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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15-06-2011, 06:22 PM
RE: The importance of evidence
OP, I'm just wondering why you're doing this. Is it for yourself? Is it to try to convince others to come around to your way of thinking?

I'll ponder this while I wait for your answer. My gut reaction is that if a person does not require evidence to have blind belief, nothing you say or do is going to change that. Blind faith a powerful thing, ridiculous as it may seem to those of us without it. Wink

My reason for being is to serve as a cat cushion. That is good enough for me. Wink
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15-06-2011, 06:23 PM
 
RE: The importance of evidence
(15-06-2011 06:15 PM)ashley.hunt60 Wrote:  Evidence > Faith

Thanks for that Ashley, great start. Exactly the kind of thing i am looking for.
(15-06-2011 06:22 PM)trillium13 Wrote:  OP, I'm just wondering why you're doing this. Is it for yourself? Is it to try to convince others to come around to your way of thinking?

It took me a long time to come to the realization that I need to do this for myself. It is important for me that I see and understand why they believe the way that they do. Knowledge tends to breed understanding (at least for me). In the heat of the moment I have found that a rational conversation on the subject is all but impossible. In fact, this idea came to me one night as I got into a fight with a loved one who shouted (out of clear disrespect) "If you know all the answers, then you should go write a book." I feel deeply that this must be written for my benefit, not to try and convert; but to try and explain in a loving compassionate way that I feel atheism lacks sometimes. It's not that I have all the answers... but I have a belief that deserves to be respected.

Having been on their side of the belief once upon a time I do still respect their need to cling onto that. They fear and worry out of love for me for the most part. So I owe them a deeper explanation.
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