How to convert me

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Part II of this article is here.

Hello all!

Dave Muscato here again! I hope you’re having a good day.

Right now, I’m in the middle of an ongoing internet back-and-forth with someone who is seemingly trying to convince me that a god exists. He (she?) posed this question:

First you say, “I don’t believe gods exist”; then you say, “I don’t think humans can be certain about whether gods exist or not.”

Can you be certain that God doesn’t exist?

man-thinking

These aren’t mutually exclusive. The first statement addresses the question of what I believe. The second statement address the question of whether the existence of god is within the epistemological grasp of humans.

The answer to his question, of course, is no. But I don’t need to be certain there is no god in order not to believe in one. Just like I don’t need to be certain there is no such thing as a unicorn in order not to believe in unicorns. I’m reasonably sure that all the stories, books, movies, legends, etc about unicorns are either intentionally or unintentionally fictional, and that’s the same way I feel about (all) gods.

Evangelical readers, if you want to convert me, you’re going to have to try harder than this. I know some of you really have taken the time to study the arguments for atheism, but honestly, most of the evangelicals who want to talk to me have not. It helps to understand the definitions of, for example, “atheist” and “agnostic.” I don’t mind going over the same arguments repeatedly if it helps someone to understand my point of view, but if you want to be more effective as an evangelist, here is some advice:

  1. Understand that as an atheist, I have a lot more experience debating my beliefs than you do. This is not just because I’m an atheist activist, but because I live in a country where atheists are the minority. I am accustomed to defending why I am an atheist and explaining the holes in the arguments for god(s) to people who have taken it upon themselves to try to convert me. I do this every day, and only sometimes because I want to. I try to keep my head up and not take it personally when an evangelist goes on the verbal offensive. I’m used to it, and I’ve heard it before. That’s not to say you could never change my mind; just understand that it’s extremely unlikely that you’re going to present something I haven’t heard (and dismantled)—multiple times—before. I don’t say this to be arrogant; it’s just a fact of being an atheist where I live. People regularly try to convert me, and I encourage that. I will be the first to admit I’m wrong if you can convince me to believe in a god. But please, try to empathize. It will help you build rapport with me.
    -
  2. If you’ve never read the Bible (or whatever your holy book is) cover-to-cover, do so. A great number of atheists, including me, have done so. It’s the least you can do. I am constantly amazed at the number of evangelists I talk to who tell me that they believe the Bible is the most important book ever written—or even more laughably, their favorite book—and simultaneously, they’ve never even read it! If you know how to read and you’ve been a Christian for more than 6 months, I consider you without excuse for having not read your own book. You don’t have to have gone to seminary to engage me in a conversation about your religion, but make some effort to meet me halfway here, folks.
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  3. Understand that your personal experience is not going to convince me. There is no amount of insistence that you saw or experienced a miracle that is going to convince me that the laws of physics were suspended in your favor, rather than that you were simply mistaken. Even if I saw a miracle myself, I would be skeptical, as you should be, too. Human senses are quite fallible and the much-more likely explanation is that, lo and behold, there is a scientific/naturalistic explanation for the occurrence. See whywontgodhealamputees.com for more on this.
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  4. Don’t tell me what I believe. Ask me what I believe. I am not angry at your god. I did not have a bad experience with a church. I do not worship Satan, nor do I believe he exists (nor demons, nor angels, et al). I am not “refusing” your god. I don’t “know in my heart” that your god exists. I have no desire to go around raping and killing just because I don’t believe in hell. Further, you are not going to have any success scaring me into belief in your god by warning me about hell. That only works on people who believe hell is real. I don’t believe in your god because I have carefully examined the logical arguments and the historical evidence and find both unconvincing. That’s really all there is to it.
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  5. Don’t give up. If you think you have a good argument, and I offer you a reason I think it’s wrong, go research it and come back and talk to me some more. You are not going to convince me in a single conversation, and you shouldn’t go in with that expectation. That’s totally okay! Let’s build up a mutually-respectful friendship where we can have discussions like this whenever we want. If nothing else, it will help you have a better understanding of the reasons you believe.

_ThumbsUp_

If you want to convert me, all you have to do is be honest and talk to me. You may be surprised to find that your reasons for belief are not as solid as you thought—be prepared for that and take it into account. Conversely, If I find what you have to say convincing, I will change my mind. But please understand that I’ve done this a lot, and to be frank, nobody before you has succeeded. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try—I am always interested in respectful discussions about religion.

I hope this has been helpful. Have a great one!

Dave

Part II of this article is here.

dave_bio_pic4

Dave Muscato is the Kansas/Missouri-Area Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Secular Student Alliance. He is also a board member of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A non-traditional junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com. Opinions posted here do not necessarily reflect the views of MU SASHA, the Secular Student Alliance, nor the Humanist Community at Harvard.

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191 thoughts on “How to convert me

      • Dave , point one is flawed . why ? becuase not Atheists are a minority in America , but from what i can see , so are true blue Christians . So , those true blue ones are in this dialogue , discussions , and debates everyday also. we are both minoritys and both in the arena . it is not just the Atheist .

  1. I have another one.

    “Don’t assume we haven’t read your holy book. Don’t assume that we’ve never heard your message before”

    I get so annoyed by evangelists who say that all we need to do it “read the bible” and we’ll suddenly believe. Or that what we need is just a little more preaching at. Reading the bible, cover to cover, twice, is part of why I’m now an atheist. And most atheists in the US are ex-christian, and we certainly live in a god-soaked country, so if just hearing their “good news” were sufficient, we would never have left religion in the first place.

    • Excellent point! As someone who has read the Bible several times, this one comes across as amusing to me more than anything. It especially gets me when someone says, “Just read this verse” like that in itself is going to make me suddenly smack my head and say, “What was I thinking? It says RIGHT HERE that for God so loved the world that he gave his only son… I believe!”

      • dave , just becuase christians have turned the Bible into an idol , does not make the god news invalid .

    • I get that kind of thing a lot being an ex Mormon, now atheist. I try to explain to people that I tried, and I tried HARD to believe. I prayed a lot, went to church, read all the scriptures, basically begged God to be real and I never felt anything. I never had the amazing experiences that everyone else had and that is what started me down my path of doubt. Everyone’s response is “you have to have faith first” or “you weren’t open to God’s message.” It bothers me that people assume I’m completely blind to their message or teachings

      Great article Dave

      • Thanks! I actually have had those experiences, but I understand them now for what they are: transcendent, but human, emotions. You can get the same feelings from going to a concert or participating in any type of ritual or group thing like that. It doesn’t have anything to do with a god or anything supernatural, though :)

      • Liz , it is when when comes to a complete stop in ones life and puts the so called holy books away , and the churches , etc.. and sits in silence , that Christ will emerge . Better to be a non believer than to seek to trump up relgiuos nonsense. but even better yet is when contact by God who is love is made to an individual . this is not a concept , idea , or idealogy , but rather a Person that seeks you .

    • religion and the good news are polar opposittes . the American Jesus has never been the real Jesus . none of this is about the Bible , it is about the love of God. Love is the only thing that matter and that will last .

  2. Agreed on pretty much everything…except maybe #5. You’re a lot more patient than me, I’m sure. I’m hardly ever at a place where I can be the Perfect Argument-Dispensing Machine and am far more likely to snap something snide just to make people go away.

    • I think #5 is perhaps the most important one. It does take patience, but it’s in this step that people develop a truer understanding of what it means to be an atheist, and it’s in this step that people who are going to eventually deconvert begin their journey toward atheism. Religion depends on misinformation and ignorance, and I think it’s hard to understate the importance of encouraging religious people to research the counterarguments for themselves.

  3. I was once in a church service where the pastor advised the congregation to just “skip over Leviticus,” he said, “there’s some strange stuff in there.” haha! These guys aren’t dumb – they are banking that most Christians will never actually read the Bible. They want their flock to show up on Sunday and get little snippets of “good” scripture marinated with plenty of live rocking worship music. That’s the product they must sell in literate population.

    • “They want their flock to show up on Sunday and get little snippets of “good” scripture marinated with plenty of live rocking worship music.”

      – Don’t forget the most important part – the tithe!

    • these churches have missed out on what Erasmus called ”True Humanism ”, which is only found in Christ and not in church services that whip up emotion for personal gain .

  4. I barely know anyone who believes in God, so I don’t think you’re in the minority. In England, kids get Christened, couples get married in churches. I can guarantee the majority don’t believe in God, it’s just a culture thing. Christians in England are as chilled as a Coors light:)

    • Sounds nice! I live in a relatively small city (100k) in Missouri, Midwest USA. Not quite as bad as the South, but they call it the Bible Belt for a reason!

  5. first off I point out jesus was a bum that did not have a job and begged money. If he was your son-in-law your would call him aworthless bastard.
    Secondly, he did nothing to futher the lives of the poeple around him. There was slavery, child labor, expotation, sexism, and mistreatment of peole and instead of helping those around him he said oh well, lets take about abetter after life.
    I would take neslon mandella, martin luther king jr. or gandi as the pwerson to emulate instead of jesus.
    The only thing jesus and the bible ligitimizes the fleecing of old people with the promise of a better after life if they pay up now.
    Expalin to me why Jesus is so fucking great. you cant.

    • The stories of Jesus are very much about helping and furthering the lives of the people around him. I’m not saying you have to believe the stories, but your statement is inaccurate, there are numerous stories in the bible of Jesus doing exactly what you say he was not doing

      In fact the “fleecing” of people stems from the old testament, specifically Deuteronomy and Numbers, which commands followers to tithe. In the new testament (the stories of Jesus), there is no mention of tithing, only that we need to be generous to the needy (see the gospel of Matthew).

    • ed , makes no logical sense . MLK , Mandela , and Ghandi all patterned their work for social justice on Christ’s work .

      Christ offends the religiuos and secular self rightiuos equally in their class structure . if the shoe fits , take it off.

  6. Very nicely worded, Dave! My old blog had a tagline: “I’m not angry, I just don’t agree with you.” Most regular folks – theist and atheist alike – have NO IDEA how to argue in a respectful, friendly way. They cannot seem to understand that an “argument” does NOT require anger and acrimony.

    We’re all just human beings struggling through life trying our best to make sense of the world. People who have different opinions and who believe things that you don’t, or don’t believe things that you do, should be treasured! We should try and understand one another!

    Sadly, this is an almost impossible goal to achieve. Most folks just cannot get past the fact that I don’t think that their own particular flavor of supernatural entities and beliefs actually exist. They take it as a personal attack when I state that. Then, the rest of the discussion usually devolves into back-filling and explaining the explanations. It’s exhausting, and quite frankly one of the biggest reasons why I stopped writing my blog after it had been active for more than 9 years.

    I like what you said about changing your mind. I said this a LOT when I was writing my blog. I WILL change my mind if the evidence is there. Evidence. Not personal anecdotes, not “friend of a friend” stories, not parables, and not quotes from a 2000 year old book – evidence that can be repeated and independently verified. Can most theists say the same? I have found that they cannot.

    In any case, keep up the good work, Dave! I am enjoying reading your blog.

    • Thank you for your kind words! The way I see it, atheists view belief in the Christian god as one option among many – including other gods, or none at all. But Christians see their belief as a part of their core identity, which may help explain why they can get so offended or feel attacked when we try to explain why they might be wrong. I think it’s important to remember that belief in a god is not a choice, just like being an atheist is not a choice. It’s just the conclusion one reaches after considering the evidence, logical arguments, and (in the case of the former) taking faith into account. We have to be careful not to attack their identities and help them understand that their god is just another in a long line of gods throughout history.

    • Brent , if you are looking for evidence , then are you not as blind as relgiuos people that want proof too. Objective certainty cannot be found in anything . Godel , Heisenberg , and Schrodinger…not top mention Quantum proves that. therefore , one must reject all ersatz certainty and embrace objective uncertainty , and pursue the epistilmology of the subjective . Kierkegaard is very clear about this . hence , the Christ within .

  7. My cousin is a professor of Jewish studies, so I asked him about the oddities in the Old Testie. He said that most Jewish scholars wouldn’t think it good to read the Torah straight through, because it doesn’t make too much sense. Talmudic guidance is a good idea.

    He, along with other reform Jewish family members, seem very open with agnostics and atheists. Have you had any conversations/debates with Jews on the subject of atheist vs. theist? If so, was it very different from the same topic with Christians (Messianic “Jews” excluded)?

    • Actually I was raised semi-Jewish (my mom is a deistic Jew; my dad is a deistic Roman Catholic). Remember that in Judaism, traditionally, you have to be born into it – you have to be able to trace your lineage to one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Judaism also has no concept of hell or arguably none of an afterlife at all. So there’s really no pressure or quarrel between Jews and agnostic atheists – Jews see themselves as God’s chosen people, and everyone else isn’t. Jews don’t evangelize – the Great Commission (Jesus telling his disciples to go out and spread the gospel) is New Testament stuff. It’s very different indeed from debates with Christians or Muslims who believe that, if you don’t convert, you’re going to hell, and that they are tasked by their god to set you straight.

  8. Great article, Dave. What a treat to read and then discover it was written by a fellow Tiger! Thanks for reppin’ the Zou like a boss.

  9. Dave, this was very well-written, and I appreciate your stance on epistemology and fideism. Although I do believe in a God, I feel that we could find a common ground in our understanding of what it means to believe. I hear too many debates not beyond, “it is a fact that there is no God” on one side, and, “it is a fact that there is a God” on the other. Thank you for opening a space for real, respectful conversation on belief to occur. No conversion intended, just showing some appreciation from a reasonable, religious existentialist to a reasonable atheist.

  10. Mr. Muscato: That was a nice article, but Mizzou sucks. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about what you would have to do to convince me otherwise.

  11. Pingback: Dave Muscato: how to convert me.

  12. An interesting challenge. Up here in Canada, we are much more relaxed about religious discussion (personally, I have never been to the Bible Belt, so I’m not quite sure what it’s like to be constantly evangelized/proselytized to). Being raised as a Roman Catholic and having attended Christian schools has given me some perspective in entering the (mostly) atheist and logical world of academe; it has also, I think, prevented me from trying to convert someone whose interests may not lie in religion or spirituality, especially out of respect for their values, beliefs, cultural background, etc.
    It is a conundrum to consider that holy texts are the (infallible) word of god (or gods), yet are written by (fallible) man; with that in mind, how indeed are we to understand inconsistencies? Some of the most intriguing, beautiful texts I have encountered, specifically from the 17th century (classic writers like Milton or Bunyan, and more fringe writers like Margaret Cavendish and Margaret Fell Fox), are about this spiritual and sometimes intellectual struggle for the writer. As a person with different beliefs from the surrounding majority, it seems you have much in common with these provocative dissenters! Forgive my rambling, but faith writing, prophecy, spiritual activism literature, and the like are a rich areas of fascinating study, especially through an academic (i.e. non-spiritual) lens.
    I suppose what I am really trying to say is I very much appreciate an intellectual discussion about spirituality!

  13. Good article. It isn’t only atheists who get annoyed at all the “christian” idiots.

    I do have a question though, if doing evil makes me happy, why shouldn’t I do it? (or if you object to the word evil, insert genocide, murder, rape, whatever you would think of as evil). Basically, why should I follow someone elses morality?

      • @ubi dubium

        what about the truth? if the truth is that there is no God and therefore no objective morality why would I restrict myself to some primitive belief system?

      • “if the truth is that there is no God and therefore no objective morality why would I restrict myself to some primitive belief system?”

        That’s really a question we’re asking you. The morality in the bible is primitive and we as humans can do better. Why should we look to a bronze-age book as a model for how we should behave?

      • @Jonathan
        If you don’t want to further the species, that is up to you. However, if you are a menace to society (i.e. you start killing people or causing damage to property), you are taken out. We are social animals for a reason. Altruism has nothing to do with “being good.” It is a result of empathy. Like I said before, we make laws to protect ourselves, not because a deity tells us to. I don’t buy that your religion kept you from committing crimes. I think that if you had a chance to get away with it, you would commit a crime for personal gain. Why? Because you would see it as God providing for you though his divine will. That actually makes you more dangerous than an atheist, who would have to think of the social ramifications for his actions. I don’t have to make you feel accountable for what I think is right and wrong, because you will receive a secular punishment no matter how justifiable your crime is in the eyes of God.

      • I don’t worship a God who is fine with evil.

        And your opinion of me is stupid. If God says not to do something and he is my highest authority, I won’t do it, period. If all that’s stops you is “social ramifications”, there’s plenty of evil you could do without any of those? Shouldn’t the fittest survive and the weakest not reproduce, for the good of society?

        so basically there is no right and wrong, if you can get away with it it’s fine. If I go to a different culture and abuse women legally, is this wrong? why shouldn’t I do it if it makes me happy?

        heck, the way you think, the Holocaust wasn’t even bad, it was simply somewhat misguided. It wasn’t even a crime, it was legal and had the goal of furthering society. (unless I misunderstand you.) Atleast my belief system has the ability to call evil as evil no matter whether the culture is fine with it or not.

      • @Jonathan
        I love the way you twist my words and put additional ones in my mouth (my fingers?). You don’t really deserve to be debated, because you are making up things that I never said, and in the process making yourself look like an idiot in front of everyone. If your god is Yahweh, he says not to wear clothing made of multiple kinds of cloth. He says that women cannot teach, and must be subservient to man. He says you can’t sue other Christians. I respect women IN SPITE OF what your God tells me to do. I wear multiple kinds of cloth because it is economical. I call my father a father even though the Bible tells me not to. I eat pork even though bible tells me not to. Oh, and you know what I don’t do? Rape a virgin and then marry her, like the bible tells me to do.

      • firstly, even if what you allege the bible says it actually does, based upon what do you frown upon it? why do you think I should regard women as equal to me? men are after bigger stronger and can handle more pain, why should I regard women as equals? (I do, and everyone should, because God said so, I haven’t really heard any other solid proof)…

        I don’t intend to misrep you, could you give some examples?

        In regards to the OT commandments, those were for a specific historic context that we do not inhabit. Nowhere is it said that women can not teach. Think about Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, etc… Paul does say though that women are not permitted to be in positions of leadership over men in church, but that is not nearly the same thing as not ever teaching in any context. (you likely hate it anyway, but just so the distinction is made). And the father thing also is just another verse out of context..

        Just curious, if you think I should respect women, why? aren’t you just pushing your personal morality on me? why should I care if you think of me as morally wrong if you have no absolute reason for believing it?

    • Because our species evolved with a tendency toward social cohesion. Behaviors which incur higher social costs than benefits tend to be eliminated by cultural forces. Religion didn’t invent suppression of rape, murder and theft. Cultures did. It may make you personally happy to steal, but this is rare … most people don’t have these urges because they understand indulging in theft causes personal harm. For those few who enjoy theft, there are social inventions to discourage it … it may make you happy at first, but somewhat less happy after being thrown in jail or having your hands chopped off. Again, nothing at all to do with that part of the cultural experience we call religion.

      • “religion didn’t invent suppression of … cultures did.” At the risk of sounding condescending, which ancient cultures are you referring to that acted independantly of their religion?

        ok, so assuming I’m smart enough to get away with it… also, if I enjoy shooting up a school, is that wrong?

        and from where do you derive your assertion that impulses towards crimes are rare?

        And if my culture has no laws against taking as many women as I want and abusing them, why not? heck, 1/3 of women will be sexually abused in North America, pretty sure most of those people get away…

      • @Jonathan

        1.) The Roman Empire acted largely outside of religion. While most societies did have organized religion, it doesn’t mean that it was to their benefit.

        2.) Yes, shooting a school is wrong. We have a natural instinct to protect our children as a way of furthering the species.

        3) Impulses toward heinous crime are rare due to our altruistic instincts. There is absolutely no proof that religion averts crime. We make laws against crime to protect ourselves.

        4) Not sure what your point is here. I would argue that the abuse of women is actually sanctioned by most religions, as they are seen in religious texts as subservient to men.

      • @Quellian. This same Roman empire that worshipped their emperors, both the living and the dead ones… (I’m not saying that ancient religions were good, only that they were prevalent..)..

        2) Violating instincts is wrong? what if I don’t want to further our species? why should I obey your notion of right and wrong?

        3) firstly, what is heinous? isn’t that just a cultural thing you’ve been brought up in? and from where do you get your assertion that humans are intrinsically good (maybe its just that I’m from Vancouver, where people riot at the first opportunity…) Maybe its just me, but it seems to me that people are quite willing to do whatever evil they think they can get away with…

        Also, I haven’t checked up on these statistics, but I could name multiple crimes my religion has held me back from..

        4) My point is that you have done nothing towards making me accountable to your standards of right and wrong… you might be right, but if furthering the species is what we are after, why not just have women as baby makers? wouldn’t that be their highest good?

        My question was and is though, why is anything wrong, why do you look down on people who act out of different moral beliefs than you? based on what do you consider your actions superior to theirs?

      • “…Also, I haven’t checked up on these statistics, but I could name multiple crimes my religion has held me back from”

        In that case, please keep your religion and never deconvert! :)

    • Do you want to live in a world where everyone uses & abuses people around them, or would you rather live in a world where people look out for eachother & treat others with kindness & respect? I’d prefer the latter, and behave accordingly. There is no need for an invisible sky-daddy threatening me with hellfire to force me to lead a moral life.

  14. Very good article. The first bit especially- I’ve had a hard time articulating why “I don’t believe in gods or the supernatural” and “No, I’m not 100% absolutely positively sure they don’t exist” aren’t contradictory. Now I can steal your words (with attribution of course!).

    • Thanks for your kind words! Yeah, this is something I run into a lot… Many people don’t understand that being agnostic and being an atheist aren’t exclusive claims. Here’s a handy-dandy chart:

    • If I might add, the burden of proof is always on those making the supernatural claim. In other words, you shouldn’t (and frankly couldn’t) provide proof that gods and the supernatural don’t exist, because the very nature of the claim also gives the believer the option to simply move the supernatural goalpost. (Russell’s Teapot).

  15. I’m sorry for you, Dave. You’re really missing out from some beautiful religions and outlooks/ways of life. People only convert themselves. Please keep an open mind. All my prayers and best thoughts and wishes!

    • I used to be very religious, a professional worship musician, actually—trust me, I know what I’m “missing!” ;)

      Thanks for your comment.

  16. Nice article. As people in the minority on such a trigger topic as religion, I do think it is important that rationality, positiveness and patience be practiced in conversations with believers. As a former believer, one of the hardest things I simply couldn’t understand was how atheists could possibly live without a hope for some kind of significance or purpose – I think it does well to make sure we reflect the truth of the matter. Life is still worth living and is a wonderful adventure even if it comes to a permanent end. You can still smile and marvel and have fun.
    I think this article not only addresses key points but carries that underlying tone as well, nicely done.

  17. Joining in the chorus of ‘excellent article’. I particularly appreciated the parts about “don’t tell me what I believe” and “don’t give up” – I’ve had lots of lively discussions with various religious folks (including family), and we often have to break off so we can go and find more references and look up what the other person brought up.. so we can talk more. They and I might not agree, but we can certainly talk and examine ourselves through that discussion.

  18. I still do not understand why people continue to debate the existence or lack of a God or gods. Personally, I do not care either way, and I do not mind other peoples opinions. I live in a kind manner towards others because it’s nice to be nice and I would like to be treated in that way in return, not because I am worried about what God or gods would think. Personally, I like the idea of being reincarnated into an alternate universe-mainly because it sounds cool. What ever happens after death it is useless for people to debate because no one will ever be sure, until perhaps after death(maybe). Anyway you look at it this is a useless debate that wastes time and creates angry people. Focus on helping others it is more time-worthy.

      • I’d like to argue your statement. that religion hardens hearts. when yet you harden your own heart against “religion” opposed to acknowledging that people are the sum of religion, thus people harden there hearts and people can be wrong. But you can know the truth of god’s love should you be willing to not look to religion, but look unto God alone. You and him in a relationship. Where can you find God? in prayer. because God is real, he will prove it to you. Yet, not proof like, “here here see, i have proven god exists.” but “wow, how can anyone understand what I now KNOW”
        In my religion, i give money if you ask for it, i try to correct my ways and support those in pain and suffering. Yet, you say my heart is hardened? fairly judgemental
        what about Ghandi, or Mother Theresa?

      • People naturally have the capacity to feel empathy for other people. We can do good things for others, or avoid doing bad things to others, because we have the ability to consider how we would feel if someone did those things to us (note to Jonathan: this is where morality comes from).

        Religion (especially christianity) teaches us to ignore that empathic instinct and define right and wrong not by how our actions affect others, but by adherence to a set of rules designed to make an imaginary character happy.

        I wouldn’t have used exactly the words “religion hardens hearts”. But religion is a really effective way for people to feel like they are loving their neighbor while they slaughter their neighbors.

      • @Nox what I’m wondering though is why you all care so much about how other people feel? or why should I?

        We don’t always know how our actions affect others. And to think that we know what is best for ourselves or others is prideful at best and stupid at usual. What do we base love on (by love I mean acting in someones best interest)? culture is always changing, one day it will tell us people needs this and then later it flip flops… ourselves? I doubt I even need to debunk something so self-evidently stupid… other people? no one knows what they need…

        you may dislike the guide I use to define love and morality, but at least the one I have doesn’t change all the time.

  19. I can logically justify either side, but since I have no faith in deities, what’s the point of trying to convince me otherwise? I went to church for a few years, but it didn’t take. :-)

  20. All’s can be said is that you seem to have a pessimistic view of the world, and a proud one of yourself. God is, whether or not you choose to believe in him. Sin is a concept that applies to each person, and Love is so much more than a word. Love gives the world meaning to you and every person.
    Now, on faith alone can we know God, but think not that he is a peer. You are beneath God in every way, as are all of us. You cannot do, know, say, or perceive the things of God.
    All that you know is you feeling. This is the spirit, everything you feel right now, and we can’t know how another person feels due to our individuality. Yet, God knows.
    Now, when people say read. it is to read and understand.
    Now, I’m sure you’ve read the bible. Perhaps you would be willing to admit that you have feelings to which the Word of God and the Living word, Jesus Christ is speaking to.
    Yet, you could very well read it again and not see how it applies to you.
    For it was written to apply to each of us.

    Lastly, I’m only here cause I found Christ and saw many unexplainable things afterward and have been showered with the mercy of God that I am unworthy of.
    repent, lest ye be cast into everlasting Fire.
    also, check out Mike Licona

  21. As a long term atheist, I would like to think that I would be persuaded by evidence of the existence of god(s). However, I would just be deluding myself. A lot of the “evidence” for a godless universe, I take on faith, because I don’t honestly understand all the science. I just trust those that appear to. If I saw a miracle, I would also ascribe it to some natural explanation….and if there wasn’t one handy, there is always the “science doesn’t know everything” line to fall back on.

  22. What do you believe Dave? Evolution? And which theory? To begin I would like to pose a few questions to you.
    1. The second law of thermodynamics says that matter and energy are moving toward a less usable, more disorderly state called “entropy”; what evidence has led you to believe the opposite? (In other words, why do evolutionists think there is reason to believe that the opposite would occur, and think that a living cell could become more and more complex? (Also, we must agree that no one has ever witnessed a “closed-system”)
    2. Scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey produced amino acids during their famous origin-of-life experiment, but most importantly, they did not include any oxygen during this test because the amino acids would have been destroyed. Since earth’s atmosphere is made up of 21% oxygen, how do you think this experiment would prove spontaneous generation?
    3. In nature, we have never seen a single exception to the Law of Biogenesis, which says that a) living things always come from living things; and b) living things produces only more living things like themselves. Do you think there is any evidence that would prove otherwise?
    4. Thinking of Darwin’s finches and over 100 years of modifying fruit flies, don’t these evidences only prove that finches remain finches, and fruit flies remain fruit flies, without ever changing to another species?
    5. Genetic mutations are random, rare, and most often, are not ‘good'; they also can only use what DNA already exists. How, then, would mutations account for the origin of living things and/or the evolution of cells to become plants to become humans?
    Thank you for reading my questions to you, I will hope to hear back, and please ask me anything you like!

    • 1. 2nd law of thermodynamics only applies to closed systems; Earth is not a closed system
      2. Earth’s atmosphere 3 billion years ago was close to what Miller/Urey used
      3. We have gotten amino acids; that’s what Urey/Miller proved and why it was such a big deal
      4. They do change to other species over time. They can’t interbreed once they’ve changed enough.
      5. Genetic mutations are ubiquitous. Plants never became humans; that’s not how evolution/natural selection works. Plants and humans are in two different kingdoms

      Thanks :)

    • >The second law of thermodynamics says that matter and energy are
      >moving toward a less usable, more disorderly state called “entropy”…
      Hold it right there. “Entropy” and “disorder” are two different things, and they’re neither synonymous nor interchangeable.
      Consider a shiny new deck of cards, fresh from the factory; all the cards in this deck are sorted neatly into suits, and within each suit, sorted into A-K order. IF ‘entropy’ and ‘disorder’ were actually the same thing, anything that increases the deck’s ‘entropy’ would also increase its ‘disorder’, and anything that reduces the deck’s ‘entropy’ would also reduce its ‘disorder’, right? Okay; leave that shiny new deck of cards outside overnight. The deck will get colder, which reduces its ‘entropy’… but the deck was SORTED. There was no way to REDUCE the deck’s “disorder”, because it was as ORDERED as it could decently GET!
      So when a sorted deck of cards cools off, the deck’s “entropy” changes while, AT THE SAME TIME, the deck’s “disorder” DOES NOT change. Therefore, “entropy” and “disorder” CAN’T be the same thing!

      >…what evidence has led you to believe the opposite?
      We believe entropy can decrease because we believe water can freeze. The entropy of water molecules in an icicle is substantially lower than the entropy of those same molecules after the icicle has melted.

      >In other words, why do evolutionists think there is reason to believe
      >that the opposite would occur…
      See above. Also: According to our understanding of Earth’s history, there was a time when Earth was flatly INCAPABLE of supporting ANY life. Nowadays, Earth supports LOTS of life. Therefore, there HAD to have been at least one instance of life coming from not-life.

      >…and think that a living cell could become more and more complex?
      Serious question: Given the fact that mutations DO occur, what the heck is going to STOP living cells from “becom[ing] more an more complex”? Some mutations will reduce a cell’s complexity; others will increase it. Unless there’s some factor which actively interferes with complexity-increasing mutations, PREVENTING complexity-increasing mutations (and ONLY complexity-increasing mutations!) from occuring,

      >Scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey produced amino acids during
      >their famous origin-of-life experiment, but most importantly, they did
      >not include any oxygen during this test because the amino acids would
      >have been destroyed.
      Hold it right there. There was, too, oxygen in Miller & Urey’s experiment! It included water, and the chemical formula for water is H2O.
      Now, it’s true that they didn’t include molecules of O2, so-called “free oxygen”. This is because they were making their best guess at what the Earth might have been like BEFORE life existed. The Earth’s present-day atmosphere has a lot of free oxygen in it because of all those plants on Earth which produce oxygen molecules as a waste product of their metabolism; BEFORE life existed, there wasn’t—COULDN’T have been—any significant amount of free oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, because free oxygen is AWFULLY damned reactive, and however much of the stuff HAD BEEN in Earth’s pre-life atmosphere, those oxygen molecules would have taken themselves out of circulation very quickly, on a geological timescale, by reacting to form compounds like carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (SO2), and carbon dioxide (CO2). So if you’re trying to duplicate conditions on the pre-life Earth, either you figure out what would REPLENISH the supply of free oxygen molecules as they react themselves out of the atmosphere… or you don’t include free oxygen in your experiment.

      >Since earth’s atmosphere is made up of 21% oxygen, how do you think
      >this experiment would prove spontaneous generation?
      It wouldn’t. Of course, it wasn’t SUPPOSED TO “prove spontaneous generation”, so I don’t see why you think this is a problem for evolution.

      >In nature, we have never seen a single exception to the Law of
      >Biogenesis, which says that a) living things always come from living
      >things…
      Again: NO life on Earth at some time in the past, LOTS of life on Earth NOW. There MUST HAVE been at least one instance of life coming from not-life.

      >…and b) living things produces only more living things like
      >themselves. Do you think there is any evidence that would prove
      >otherwise?
      There might be such evidence, depending on what you mean by “like themselves”. If you’re talking about one “kind” coming from a different “kind”, then no, there isn’t any such evidence—but that’s only because you Creationists have no clue how to tell one “kind” from another. If you’re talking about one species coming from a different species, there’s plenty of documented examples of EXACTLY THAT happening. Heck, even the über-Creationists at Answers in Genesis agree with real scientists that speciation CAN AND DOES occur; they just think speciation happens LOTS faster than real science says it does.

      >Thinking of Darwin’s finches and over 100 years of modifying fruit
      >flies, don’t these evidences only prove that finches remain finches,
      >and fruit flies remain fruit flies, without ever changing to another
      >species?
      Okay, you ARE arguing that speciation can’t occur. Feel free to tell Answers in Genesis that they’ve got it wrong.

      >Genetic mutations are random, rare, and most often, are not ‘good’…
      The last time I checked, something like 90% of all mutations don’t really do much of anything, one way or another—that is, they’re “neutral”, NOT “beneficial” or “deleterious”. If you have some time on your hands, you might want to look at the Genetic Code, and figure out what percentage of point mutations DO NOT cause a codon to produce a different amino acid…

      >…they also can only use what DNA already exists.
      Hold it right there. The whole POINT of a mutation is that it CHANGES the DNA which already exists, from whatever genetic sequence USED TO BE there, to some DIFFERENT genetic sequence!

      >How, then, would mutations account for the origin of living things
      >and/or the evolution of cells to become plants to become humans?
      Hold it. This doesn’t even MAKE SENSE unless humans are DESCENDED FROM plants—and real science DOESN’T say we’re descended from plants. Rather, real science says that plants are COUSINS… very, very, VERY distant cousins… of humans.

      emily, your comment demonstrates that you are ignorant about thermodynamics, and at least as ignorant about evolution & biology in general. Because of your ignorance, your ‘arguments’ against evolution are, quite simply, stupid and wrong, and BECAUSE your ‘arguments’ are stupid and wrong, your arguments flatly WILL NOT persuade anybody who DOESN’T share your ignorance of science. If you genuinely are serious about trying to persuade ‘evolutionists’ that Creationism is more valid than evolution, I would strongly recommend that you learn about the REAL theory of evolution, because once you know what evolution REALLY is and REALLY says, you’ll be able to make anti-evolution arguments that AREN’T stupid and wrong.

  23. Dave,
    I like the article. I am a very religious person, but I can honestly respect your belief (or non belief in this case.) I have many friends who are atheist and it is much easier to have a mutual respect for each other and what we believe rather than have a constant debate or argument back and forth. I really appreciate the logical arguments that atheists give. I understand that a belief in God isnt very logical. Great read. I hope to read some more from you.

  24. 1. “First, no one has ever witnessed a real ‘closed system.’ Every system ever studied in nature has energy going out of it and into it, and yet the Second Law still works on every system we have ever seen. Second, is it true that simply by adding energy things get more complex and orderly?”
    2. What evidence is there that proves the earth’s atmosphere contained 0% oxygen billions of years ago? If there is not sufficient evidence, we must conclude that this experiment only assumes as much.
    3. Amino acids are not life, therefore the experiment does not disprove the Law of Biogenesis.
    4. Where is any evidence of any species becoming another species?
    5. I understand my misconception there; however, I would like to ask you why you believe that the existence of mutations proves macroevolution.

    • 1) If your 2nd law assumptions were true, we would never see crystallization in nature. Also, entropy does not forever increase, but stops increasing once a thermodynamic equilibrium is reached. When the first organic molecules reacted to form nucleic and amino acids, the release of energy due to breaking of bonds did indeed increase the entropy of the surroundings. By adding energy, things can get more orderly (i.e. salt crystallizing from the sea evaporating) while other things get more disorderly (water vapor).

      2) Oxygen is very reactive. If you were to remove all the plants and animals from the earth, the oxygen in the atmosphere would react with metals to form metal oxides, etc.

      3) No, amino acids are not life, but they are essential to ALL life. We cannot witness spontaneous life formation right now because any molecules essential to life that get formed are most likely consumed by organisms.

      4) Darwin’s Finches are separate species because they do not interbreed in nature, and are a great example of speciation.

      5) Mutations are just a small part of macroevolution. By manipulating the genetics of dogs, for example, we can create variations based on mutations that have the potential to turn into new species, given a few hundred thousand years.

      • I’m no expert. Correct me if I’m wrong though, but for the bare bones reproducing form of life 20,000 base pairs are necessary. Are you aware of the odds of 20,000 base pairs lining up in specific order? and that’s just the DNA. I don’t know the specifics of the proteins, but most are hundreds of animo acids lined up in specific order and “folded” a specific way (and life forms only have left-handed ones, but in nature left and right are formed equally as frequently and are both equally likely to bond..). Basically what I’m trying to say is that abiogenesis is so unlikely as to be impossible.

      • @Jonathan
        It is highly improbable, but not impossible, and is the best explanation we have right now. How many amino acids could form on a grain of sand? Thousands. How many grains of sand are there on every beach in the entire world? Suddenly, the odds are a lot better. However improbable it is, it is even a billion more times improbable that a sky fairy said “Let there be life!” and it just sprang out of nothingness in an instant. Also, some Archaeans use both D and L amino acids.

      • ok.1/ 2^20,000= 1/16^2,500 …. if i remember correctly, the powers that be regard a probability of less that 1/10^50 as impossible…. so technically yeah, impossible… and thats in the DNA alone

  25. I am disappointed, thats a very dishonest post, Dave.

    You don’t seriously want to consider anyone Christians arguments, you just want to use that as a backdoor to attack theirs.

    Many prefer it more honest, and I honestly think you are a deceptive manipulator.

      • it’s possible to have multiple motivations….

        Lets consider what the facts is. 100% of atheists hate christianity… therefore you must not have a purely intellectual motive for this post… Irregardless of what you think, this is what the reality is…

  26. Because you you have previously said that reading the bible cover to cover is a great way to become an atheist, and here you are encouraging it under the pretense of “seeking understanding”

    Quit backdooring you arguments and just come out with it.

    You aren’t kidding me. Just maybe some of the poor saps who read this.

    • It may well be a great way to become an atheist. But are you seriously advocating that people who want to call themselves Christian *not* read the Bible?

  27. No, I am pointing out that your argument is manipulative and dishonest.

    Now, if you had just admitted that you wanted them to read the bible to assist in deconversion, that would be different.

    But you didn’t.

    And that was dishonest.

    Don’t try to kid a kidder, sport. By the way, your post is utterly arrogant.

    • If the bible is so flagrantly untrue, that suggesting for christians to read their own holy book can only be interpreted as an attempt to deconvert christians, doesn’t that say something about whether christianity is true?

  28. Hello Dave!

    Great post. I really appreciate how you lay out where you stand in terms of your belief, and that you are going to stand your ground and are not going to let others dictate their beliefs or think for you. That’s very smart of you to do when considering religions. As well, take the fact that you (for one) encourage readers to lay out there arguments to you, and that you’re all-ears for them: it’s very refreshing :)

    Now, I want to ask you honestly: have you ever considered the belief system of Islam? and I don’t mean this as a sad joke or anything – negative media portrayal and extremists aside, have you ever thought about the beliefs found in Islam? :)

    I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on it. :)
    ~HV

    • I have read the Qur’an if that makes a difference. I don’t find Islam at all convincing and the reason is simple: In order to believe Islam is correct, you first have to accept the Abrahamic god and all the BS in the Old Testament. I haven’t heard any good arguments or seen any convincing evidence—despite LOTS of searching—for why anyone should even have reasonable belief in the Abrahamic god, let alone all the legends of the Old Testament, too. And to believe all that, PLUS the stuff in the Qur’an? It just gets less and less likely the more stuff you stack on top of it. Let’s start with believing in a god, any god. Once we’ve established a good reason to believe in that, we can start talking about specific gods, and then specific religious systems. I don’t think we’ve appropriately addressed Step 1.

      • Okay, I see where you’re saying Dave :) . One key distinction that I wanted to just point out, before we get started, is that Muslims do believe that the Old Testament *used* to be the true book of God at one point. Meaning that we believe that it used to be God’s word only and nothing but truth. However, the Muslim belief is that later on, humans happened to change the Old Testament’s wording (and the other holy books of God) so much, that one couldn’t believe it anymore without raising some serious questions about its content (for instance, why Jacob (PBUH) is portrayed as someone who would sin with his daughters when he’s supposed to be a [sinless] Prophet. That would be a bit hypocritical).

        Therefore, Muslims consider only the Qur’an to be the truthful book of God now as God protected it from tampering. This is because it is the last book revealed to mankind, and so it must be preserved in order for it to last. The rest of the holy books? They “were books revealed to man, and then had man’s fingerprints left on them”. By rest of the holy books, I am referring to the Torah, the Za-boor (the book of David PBUH) were also the book of God’s religion.

        Anyways, I wanted to ask you Dave: do you agree that we’ll use reason, logic, and common sense to justify things? Quoting verses or examples and whatnot here and there is fine, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to understand the justifications that both you and I are giving, right? So is that cool with you? :)

      • Yup, logic, reason, evidence. Not common sense. Common sense – intuition, gut feelings – are often VERY off the mark. In fact we use logic, reason, and evidence to correct for “common sense” for this very reason.

  29. @Dave from comment #72: Sorry, couldn’t reply to you from there. But okay, that’s agreeable with me too. I’m glad you made the distinction between common sense and reason ^_^ .

    So I read from the above comments that you believe in the theory of Evolution, correct? To be downright honest with you – while I understand and appreciate science, I don’t like it, plain and simple, because it irks my brain with all that thinking and things start getting real messy in my head -_- . So, let me just say that I don’t really know the whole gist of evolution since I didn’t take Grade 11 science, LOL, and frankly, I don’t want to get too much into it.

    Anyways, from what I *do* know, the theory of evolution is that animals and plants and things that we know today evolved from other things before, and that those other things basically came from nothing. Am I anywhere near the [summary, mind you] of the correct definition of the theory (from what you understand it to be?) :/

    • Not even remotely. Where life originated (“came from nothing”) has nothing to do at all with evolution. Evolution is a change in the frequency of alleles over time. Evolution is proven and it’s fact. The theoretical part is why it happens, and that is called natural selection. Nowhere in the theory of evolution by means of natural selection is the claim made that life came from nothing. Evolution deals with the origin of *species* (thus the title of Darwin’s book), not the origin of life. Hope this helps!

      • LOL, I had a feeling I’d be wayy off too, but hey, I tried :P .

        So what I get is, evolution is a change in the frequency of a group of genes, right? Meaning that slowly, a certain gene or group of genes started to change, and therefore what we see today is a result of those changes? I don’t want to offend you (and please forgive me if I do!), but I kinda want to ask you why you believe in evolution. Just so I know where you stand, alright? :)

        And also, if evolution has to do with the origin of species and not the origin of life, then what are your beliefs with where life came from? Do you believe in the Big Bang Theory?

        P.S: Please excuse me if I don’t make sense during our discussion. I’m human, after all :D

      • Oh, it’s totally fine! I’m not at all offended. It takes way more than that to offend me!

        Evolution is not something you believe in or don’t believe in. It’s proven. We have seen it happen in the lab and can make it happen on demand. It’s demonstrated and an essential part of modern science. The theoretical part is the why – natural selection – not the how (evolution). I believe it because it’s demonstrably true.

        As far as the origin of life on Earth, I believe what mainstream science has to say: That the first self-replicating molecules arose more-or-less by accident. If you want a great explanation of this, check out Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene.”

        I also believe the Big Bang theory as far as how the universe got to be the size that it is today, yes.

  30. I’m an educated believer from the South–and I really enjoyed your post! I totally get what you’re saying and for the most part, I agree with the way you’ve logically laid out your treatise on what would convince you to believe. I’ll even go so far as to give you an additional point: make sure the life you’re living backs up what you tell others that you believe. Regardless of position, I appreciate consistency. (smile!) I’m quite aware that I may never do that perfectly, but an honest effort goes along way with me on this issue. Based on your post above, I’ll bet that you try to live consistently with your beliefs and would naturally have a respect for others who try to do the same. I understand that my experience will never convince you and I’m fine with that. Because this is an issue of faith, your beliefs and experiences will not change my mind, either, but I’m always happy to find someone who can articulate what they believe and why. Thanks for posting a great article! Grace & Peace!

  31. Curious how the Christians trying to convert you here don’t really seem to be following your suggested methodology. Perhaps they are wary of losing their faith before they can bring you to accepting theirs. Heh.

  32. @Dave in comment #79: Thank you for your patience and understanding Dave! I really appreciate it in comparison to the mostly negative comments one can receive when they are trying to have a religious discussion with someone. You really are an example that every religiously-discussing individual should follow in terms of conduct :D . By the way, you can call me Bird if you’d like :P

    I’ve got to go now, but I’ll be sure to (start to) read up a bit on your evolution reference so I can see where you’re coming from. I do hope it’s not that complex :/

    In terms of evolution, I would like to ask if you could prove to me that it exists and that it is happening even as we speak. I know that I’ll have to read up on it to get some bearings, but to be honest, my mind starts to go a little haywire when I try to reason with all the scientific terms used to understand evolution (and I know that the terms are kinda necessary to get the whole thing, otherwise why would they be there?). Basically, I’m just looking for some proof of evolution put in layman’s terms, so to speak. I’m not very knowledgeable in the sciences, and so I’d just like some kind of simple definition that I can understand and work with, you know? :)

    From what I’m trying to grasp so far (thanks for your help!), evolution (change in the frequency of a gene pool) happens due to natural selection (gradual change in biological traits becoming more or less common in a population)? So both terms refer to change, but evolution refers to the frequency of change in a gene pool and natural selection refers to the change in the commonness of a certain characteristic – meaning, a trait’s “popularity”. I hope I’m getting somewhere, LOL :|

    I’ll try to be back tomorrow to continue our interesting discussion :)
    Thanks for everything, and good night Dave!

    • I know I’m not Dave but I noticed you asking for proof of evolution and its existence.

      There’s so much proof that it doesn’t take much searching on google to find some. Take our wisdom teeth for instance, in prehistoric ages the jaw was much larger and actually allowed room for these extra set of molars. However, as we evolved our jaws are now smaller and wisdom teeth are now deemed unnecessary, we simply have no use for them anymore. We mostly have them removed since they do not have room to grow properly and they could cause discomfort if they become impacted.

      Also found this quite interesting:

      “Environmental factors may be at work, too. In 1970s, for instance, researchers tied the larger jaw present in Eskimo women to the women’s tradition of softening leather by chewing it.

      In East Asia, on the other hand, it is more common to find people with fewer wisdom teeth, or no wisdom teeth at all.”

      That is evidence of life evolving to adapt to their environment. It is also known that approximately 35% of the world’s population are now found to be born without wisdom teeth, and I’m willing to bet that further into the future that percentage will grow.

      • I think that percentage will only grow if being born without wisdom teeth allows those individuals better reproductive success in some way. With modern medicine, I think it mostly doesn’t really make a difference right now. (I had crappy wisdom teeth, had them pulled, and it has not affected how many children I have.)

        But there are a few naturally aids-reisistant individuals in sub-saharan Africa. Having that trait and passing it to their kids really does affect the survivial of their offspring right now, so I expect that trait will increase in that population, at least until we manage to bring widespread effective treatment there.

      • Hello Francis :)

        Even if you’re not Dave, I do appreciate you offering your example and explanation, so thank you for that :)

        Opposing the humans-not-needing-wisdom-teeth-anymore-and-our-shrinking-heads example, I think it’s very interesting to note that in Islam, Muslims believe that the humans (and animals too, I believe) of the past were actually much bigger than us now, in terms of their height and width (Adam PBUH is said to be at the height of 90ft tall). As well, Muslims believe that the size of humans will continue shrinking until Day of Judgement. For instance, take the description of the tribes of Ya-jooj and Ma-jooj (referred to [but not necessarily the same as] Gog and Magog in the Bible). It’s said that the two tribes will be half of an average human’s size, and that they will come near the end of the world’s time. If you also go to Makkah and look at the footsteps of Ibrahim (Abraham PBUH) near the Ka’bah (here’s a picture of one: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-n0DquILMou4/TtUhj5NsJcI/AAAAAAAAWoo/-XrqVt0UkgQ/s1600/maqam_ibrahim_as_1238452798.jpg), Ibrahim (PBUH)’s one footstep is much bigger than our own two feet put together.

        This difference of size shows the gradual decrease in human size. However, this does not link with the theory of evolution, as Muslims believe that this decrease in size is through the will of God (more on the theory of evolution in Islam in another comment :D)

        So perhaps the carvings of the moai on Easter Island aren’t so mysterious anymore: if the moai look big to us now, considering the size explanation, they must have been regular-sized statues for the humans before at that time then. Does it make sense to you?

      • Hello Nox :)

        Thank you so much for the videos. I benefited from having the theory of evolution explained to me simply, and I really enjoyed learning about the mudskippers – they’re so cool!

        While I did like the videos, my comment here will be a bit long and will mostly repeat what I want to say to Dave about the theory of evolution. Thus, if you don’t mind, I’ll kind of sum up what I want to say to you both when I comment at Dave again. Is that cool? :)

      • Hello Starseeker :D

        Thanks for the link; it was quite informative! Again, I will also be commenting a bit on your example when I make my little counter-argument to Dave. The reason why I’m not directly commenting to you is because I don’t want to type out the same kind of comment to different people and sound a bit repetitive. So is that okay with you? :)

  33. This is a great article. My own experiences lead me to continue to believe in God, but studying the Bible & using basic logic led me to reject Christianity as a Paul-created mithra cult that betrayed what the Jew Yeshua (if he existed) was trying to do – encourage Jews to reject legalism for morality-based spirituality.

    Oops, that’s kind of long. What I was getting at: the more I distill my own beliefs, the less I want to try to convince anyone else. Spirituality is an extremely personal journey. I’ve come to see religions are just big allegories, ways for people to explain the universe & the human experience so that they can understand it & deal with scary ideas like death. Who am I to take away or challenge someone else’s allegory that is helping them get through the day?

    Personally I am fascinated by the constructs Christians use to get around discrepancies & problems. It’s so creative, constantly innovative. What I find really sad is how many people use this idea of the afterlife to waste their time HERE and NOW. It also makes me sad that despite what Yeshua (most likely) intended, Christians become extremely legalistic and use their religion to avoid true spirituality or true morality because “oh, I’m forgiven and have eternal life, this life doesn’t matter, blah blah blah”. I think may Christians are worse people for their beliefs.

  34. emilymsteph :
    1. “First, no one has ever witnessed a real ‘closed system.’ Every system ever studied in nature has energy going out of it and into it, and yet the Second Law still works on every system we have ever seen. Second, is it true that simply by adding energy things get more complex and orderly?”

    n at least some cases, it’s possible—read up on “convection cells”, for starters.

    2. What evidence is there that proves the earth’s atmosphere contained 0% oxygen billions of years ago?

    Given that there’s oxygen atoms in water, carbon dioxide, and various other molecules which could easily have been part of the Earth’s pre-biotic atmosphere, I strongly suspect it isn’t possible to prove that “the earth’s atmosphere contained 0% oxygen billions of years ago”. I’m pretty sure that what you really mean here is, prove that the earth’s atmosphere contained 0% oxygen molecules billions of years ago.

    3. Amino acids are not life, therefore the experiment does not disprove the Law of Biogenesis.

    No, but “no life then, lots of life now” does.

    4. Where is any evidence of any species becoming another species?

    Ask Answers in Genesis; they think there’s evidence of speciation.

    5. I understand my misconception there; however, I would like to ask you why you believe that the existence of mutations proves macroevolution.

    Once you’ve got (a) self-replicating whatzits of whatever sort, and (b) random variations in said whazits, and (c) those random variations are heritable… what the heck is going to stop macroevolution from happening?
    That’s a serious question, by the bye. You Creationists absolutely need there to be some unbreachable barrier that absolutely, 100% prevents change in living critters from exceeding some as-yet-undefined limit, in order for Creationism to be true; and if you actually did have that barrier, you’d have the scientific breakthrough of the century.
    Alas, you Creationists don’t have any such barrier. You have garbage, and you have arguments that refute caricatures of evolution, but what you don’t have is the anti-change barrier you need.

    • That “barrier” issue is something that I’ve also never heard creationists talk about, and have been thinking they’d at least make an attempt. They are full of “OK so species can change over time, but one type can never change into another type”, without ever showing that there is anything stopping that from happening. “OK wasp, you can change over time, but only this far and no farther, because if you shift any farther you’ll be an ant, and that’s a different “type” and that’s not allowed! So stop changing right there.” Without some kind of evidence of a barrier existing, their “evolution within type” assertion completely fails. But I’ve never heard this addressed.

      • The creationist theory is that the genetic variety was there from creation, so different creatures were able to adapt to their environments through adaption, and over time they lost their variety and were no longer able to breed with other formerly related species.

        And actually, I remember reading once about and experiment with some bacteria or other, where they exposed it to gradually higher temperature, and over some ~40,000 generations they were able to raise the temperature, but there was limit, after a while they stopped adapting… (I think they also did it with lowering the temp too…)…. so there’s one obscure example from an obscure memory…

      • sez jonathan:

        The creationist theory is that the genetic variety was there from creation, so different creatures were able to adapt to their environments through adaption, and over time they lost their variety and were no longer able to breed with other formerly related species.

        What you’re talking about here is a concept called “front-loading”, most likely because it can be thought of as having all the necessary genetic variety loaded into the initial (set of) created life-form(s), upfront.
        Front-loading is an interesting notion, and in principle there doesn’t seem to be any a priori reason to think that front-loading wouldn’t do the job Creationists want it to do… but as soon as you shift your attention from the rarefied philosophical heights of “is this concept internally consistent?” to the gritty, rubber-hits-the-road depths of Reality As She Is Spoke, in practice front-loading dies screaming.
        If front-loading is correct, each initially-created critter must necessarily have carried all of the genetic machinery that would be required to cope with all of the varying environments that would ever be encountered by any and all of its descendants. And out of all of this massive collection of genetic material, somehow only those specific bits of genetic material which allow the critter to cope with today’s environment are active; everything else is kept “on ice”, as it were.
        Well, okay, we know that genes can be rendered nonfunctional—that’s what a ‘pseudogene’ is, after all. So your initially-created beastie has all the genes for whatever traits it needs to deal with the environment within which it was created, and it’s got a complete set of pseudogenes for all the traits its descendants will need to deal with every last one of the environments that any of its descendants will ever live in.
        See any problems there? I sure do, but I’ll leave the question open to give you a chance to figure it out on your own.
        Another problem: Since front-loading requires every critter to have pseudo-genes for every trait that will ever be needed by any of the critter’s descendants, it follows that every living thing on Earth carries a direct, explicit genetic record of all the future adaptations its descendants will be required to make in later generations.
        Again: See any problems there?
        I could go on, but if you cannot or will not see why the above two points are (at the very least!) highly problematic for front-loading, it’s unlikely that you’d find anything further to be persuasive.

  35. Reblogged this on Screaming Kangaroo and commented:
    This is very well written and felt it needs to be shared. I’ve encountered the same types of questioning and situations that are mentioned in this post. It always amazes me how someone who insists they are correct knows so little about their own beliefs.

  36. I loved reading this article. Your openness to discussing religion and and your “willingness to be converted” are very cool and speak highly of your character and intellectual honesty. Although I disagree with your first point (I live on a liberal college campus in a liberal city), I will keep your points in mind the next time I evangelize. Thanks for writing this!

  37. Rocky Morrison :
    Because you you have previously said that reading the bible cover to cover is a great way to become an atheist, and here you are encouraging it under the pretense of “seeking understanding”

    According to you Xtians, the Bible is the Word of God Himself. How come you’re not saying something like, oh, Yeah, Dave, I know you think that reading the Bible is a great way to make atheists, but you’re wrong about that. Reading the Bible is a great way to learn the Truth about God, and that’s why I think everybody should read the Bible from cover to cover, just like you ask people to do! Thank you for advising everyone to do something that can only help bring more people to Christ! Where’s your Faith, dude? Where’s your confidence in the power of the One True God, hm? It’s almost as if you have a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, us atheists might be right about god not existing…

      • Hello Jonathan :) . I think it is interesting to note that in Islam, God tells us humans to test the Qur’an itself (which is the holy book which Muslims believe in) by producing something equal and as truthful as its content:

        “If all the humans and all the jinns bonded together in order to produce a Quran like this, they could never produce anything like it, no matter how much assistance they lent one another.'” (Qur’an 17:88)

        “And if you are in doubt as to which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a sura [chapter] like it, and call on your helper, besides Allah, if you are truthful.” (Qur’an 2:23)

  38. Hey Dave,

    Great suggestions. As a Christian, I completely agree with you on almost everything you said here. I have one caveat though. Although number one is true of you, it is certainly not true of all people who claim to be atheist. While the ratio of relatively informed and well read active atheists to not very well informed atheist is smaller than the ratio of informed and well read Christians to not very informed well read Christians, I have still engaged with a number of atheists who throw out quite ridiculous not very well though out arguments.

    It is becoming easier and easier for people to claim to be atheist and live in a sound box where all they hear is a reflection of their own views. I realize that “Christian” culture can make it easy for someone claiming to be a Christian to be really shallow in their thinking, but some followers of new atheists have also not gone very deep. Especially when it comes to examining the consequences of their own system. I am right now engaged in a long conversation with someone claiming to be an atheist, but who is angry at religion and who does not really know what I believe nor has she thought out well why she hold certain positions now.

    Sometimes because there are no robust Christian thinkers near, a skeptic or atheist is not challenged with robust arguments themselves. Perhaps they can easily knock down the testimonials of those less informed, so they believe they really have dealt with the serious arguments of an informed believer.

    Finally, sometimes people from whatever position have some other reason not to change their position, so they choose not to engage in real conversation. I frequently encounter a kind of deer in the headlights fear from Christians who think they are going to lose their religion when I (a Christian pastor) challenge them on some sacred position they hold. From atheists, I often get a hostility that seems directed not so much at me, but at some perceived notion of me as a “religious” person (kind of like your number 4). I get the feeling that they have been hurt or perceived hurt from some religious authority figure in their past and that their rejection is not primarily an intellectual one, but rather an emotional reaction to some personal hurt.

    Again I am not saying this of you, because just from this one post, I perceive you have considered things thoughtfully.

    Thanks again for your instruction.

    Mike

    PS.

    1 & 5 I intentionally engage lots of people not just to try to convince them the truth of my faith, but also so sharpen myself.

    2. I have read through the Bible a number of times, and am currently reading it again. Great advice, I will be showing your post to my congregation.

    3. I also agree, while my experience is part of my knowledge of God, if what I believe is true, then I need to be able to point to facts and truths that anyone could see.

    4. Also great. Lots of people believe all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons. I used to spend a lot of time doing this very thing, not just with atheist, but people of other faiths too. I am beginning to learn to listen, but I still have a ways to go on this.

  39. One time I had these Jehovah’s Witnesses would come around & I would be fairly patient with them & send them on their way. One day however, they simply would not stop knocking on my door while I was in the shower. So, I answered the door naked. They never came around again.

  40. I’m holding a jewelery box in the palm of my hand. You don’t know what’s in it. I tell you there is a live, full-sized elephant inside. You say that is preposterous; you know enough about elephants and jewelery boxes and how reality functions to state unequivocally that there’s no way there’s a live, adult elephant inside a jewelery box in the palm of my hand. But I say to you, prove to me there isn’t!

    And this is how I get from agnostic to atheist. Not only are the supernatural things people claim their gods are capable of incompatible with our best understanding of nature (by definition), we also have observed and documented how cults are born and how they grow into religions. We have several examples from the last century alone (e.g. Scientology, John Frum cargo cults).

    Your god is the elephant in the jewelry box. I’m not skeptical yet unsure of his existence. I am as certain he is fictional as you are Thor and Odin and the Sun-God Ra.

    • ahhh, but christianity is different. It’s beginning was predicated upon a resurrection from the dead. The thing all the first sermons pointed to as proof was the resurrection. I have encountered no sufficient explanation for how so many people can believe someone was raised from the dead if he wasn’t. These people were being murdered for their belief, so there’s less than no motivation to lie. They all point to the resurrection and the hundreds of witnesses as proof of what they believe, so it’s not like their trying to skim over it. Paul in one of his letters mentions hundreds of witnesses that could verify what he said (again, no motivation to lie). And what happened was inconsistent with group halucination. Unless you have another valid explanation, the only valid one I’ve ever seen is that he was raised from the dead.

      • sez jonathan:

        I have encountered no sufficient explanation for how so many people can believe someone was raised from the dead if he wasn’t.

        In that case, Elvis must be alive. I have encountered no sufficient explanation for how so many people can believe Elvis faked his death if he didn’t do that.
        And Muslims are right about Mohammed flying up to heaven on a horse. I have encountered no sufficient explanation for how so many people can believe Mohammed rode a flying horse up to heaven if that didn’t happen.
        ‘Nuff said?

      • surprisingly, that’s different (although MJ lives for real)… you don’t see Elvis nuts pointing to the hundreds of witnesses of his resurrection, you see some conspiracy theory stuff (ok, I didn’t care enough to google it, I don’t know what you see)…

        Anyone can claim a private visit to heaven, it’s when you ascend in front of hundreds of people that it starts to get weird… There is a plenty sufficient explanation, he was a cult leader and claimed that something unverifiable and ridiculous happened to him based only upon his say so…

        The early church claimed a public and verifiable event that had hundreds of witnesses who were willing to die over their testimony… witnesses from many different cultural backgrounds and a few different belief systems…

  41. Hi Dave, my name is Denis and I present you with the very best argument I have seen for the existence of God. It is a book called: “The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism”, by Edward Feser. The book is sufficiently complex to satisfy a university student but unfortunately too complex to present its arguments in this limited forum. If you are willing, you can acquire the book and read it yourself. Here is a review of it for your benefit:

    http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=5716

  42. Jonathan :
    sThe early church claimed a public and verifiable event that had hundreds of witnesses who were willing to die over their testimony… witnesses from many different cultural backgrounds and a few different belief systems…

    Really? Sorry. There are no public and verifiable events about Jesus. None. At all. Hint: you can’t use the bible to prove the bible is giving an accurate account. You say the church claimed an event in the past that had hundreds of witnesses – but that is exactly correct. It’s an unsupported supposition.

    • unsupported? I’m not sure if you didn’t read or didn’t comprehend what I was saying.

      Myths don’t start in the lifetime of those who saw the contrary happen. I’m saying that the manner in which christianity happened is its own verification. The only logical explanation for it is that Jesus was raised from the dead. Otherwise it wouldn’t have started in the city that saw Jesus die within the lifetimes of those that saw it. If he wasn’t raised, they would have simply dug up the body and that would have been the end of that… people aren’t known to start lies they’ll get killed for and are easily disproved anyway, and if they do those lies aren’t known to gain traction spreading rapidly across the known world.

      • Not true. There are myths of people alive today. Ever hear of John of God, for example? Or what about the myths surrounding Kim Jong Il?

      • Sorry. Please do brush up on the current evidence for who wrote the gospels and when. There are conflicting stories in the gospels of what happened and NONE of them are either contemporary or by eye witnesses.

        er… You do know that the gospels were not written in 33 AD by four guys named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who saw it all, right?

        “Myths don’t start in the lifetime of those who saw the contrary happen” and “lies aren’t known to gain traction spreading rapidly across the known world.” – If that’s the entirety of your evidence, you have not even begun to offer valid proofs. If I follow your reasoning and keep it to contemporary times, where we do know how they got started, we’d have to conclude that neither The Church of the Latter Day Saints nor Scientology has any believers, and cargo cults, of course, could never have happened. The followers of these both sincerely believe myths that started in the lifetime of the founders and contain what we’d, as non-believers, have to call “lies” about their founders’ relationship to divinity that have certainly spread to a good portion of the world. There is nothing sufficiently different about Christianity (a dying and resurrected god is a fairly common trope, especially in the area and time where Christianity began. Osiris and Mithras leap to mind but I am sure there are others.) that would exempt it from the same quite human processes that created every other religion.

        Something taught as “truth” doesn’t have to be true to gain followers ready to die, lie, and scheme for it.

      • @Dave

        I don’t know much about either, but I don’t think John claimed to rise from the dead, which is kind of in a league of it’s own…

        I know less of Kimmy J, but having a totalitarion government behind you can help with that sort of thing… whereas the only motives the disciples would have had to lie would have been some kind of weird wish to die in the worst ways possible…

        So basically, different stuff.

      • @Carol It’s different to have deceived followers who are willing to die, that’s possible. But if you find me some founders willing to die in their bs that’d be different. Those people would have known for sure it was a lie and were still under turture sticking to it. Quite different than expendable peons.

        In none of those do you find people pointing to a guy whose tomb was in spitting distance and saying he rose from the dead… And then pointing to hundreds of witnesses to verify it.

        And I’m definitely not a history expert, but there is good evidence pointing to it being quite early and quite accutely authored…

  43. Jonathan :

    And I’m definitely not a history expert, but there is good evidence pointing to it being quite early and quite accutely authored…

    You have now admitted that you are speaking out of ignorance and are unwilling to go look at the scholarly evidence we do have. There is NO “good evidence” of “people pointing to a guy whose tomb was in spitting distance and saying he rose from the dead… And then pointing to hundreds of witnesses to verify it.” There is a story of that, written long after the time it was supposed to have taken place by people who were not eyewitnesses.

    The official books of the New Testament were decided by committee at the Council of Nicaea hundreds of years after the fact, by a group with a definite agenda to push.

    “early and quite accutely authored” (I am presuming you meant “accurately” authored) – so you do believe that there were 4 guys named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in 33 AD who wrote down what they had just seen happen?

    Go look at some non-partisan scholarship. I recommend “Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth” edited by R. Joseph Hoffmann, which can be found on Amazon or can be requested at your local library.

    • sort of, what I meant was: “I don’t really want to have to look into this for some internet forum, here’s what I believe, and if I have to I’ll look to history to show it vindicates me, but I’d much prefer it if everyone just sort of believed me….”

      Actually, the books were recognized as the bible based on a number of factors. All the books were already recognized and held as scripture by most of the early church (basically, the controversy is blown out of proportion, it’s not that there wasn’t any, it just wasn’t that bad.).

      I did mean accurately, even though it’s still rather unwieldy… and not in 33, Mark was like written first, then likely was also used as source material for Luke and Matthew, and then last was John… but yeah, I do think those people wrote them… and actually, call weeb if you want, but I’m not going to do any work until you bring some evidence to the table

      There is the example though where the early church kicked out some bishop who wrote a fake Pauline letter…. and all the other gospels people allege are fairly ridiculous….

      • Jonathan said – “I don’t really want to have to look into this for some internet forum, here’s what I believe, and if I have to I’ll look to history to show it vindicates me, but I’d much prefer it if everyone just sort of believed me….”

        Then WHY are you HERE? History does NOT vindicate your ideas, unless you also limit your reading to works you know already will agree with you. The evidence as to why Jesus, if he even existed as described in the gospels, never rose from the dead is complex, not really suited to arguing in this thread, and can’t be summed up with the equivalent of your insulting, “Hey, I know goddidit, now stop thinking and believe me.”

        You are more than welcome to live your life believing in your delusions, but if you come to a thread on how to argue your religious points with atheists with only one point – “I’d much prefer it if everyone just sort of believed me.” – you are making yourself completely ridiculous. Could you at least bother to scroll up, read the five points listed at the top of this thread, and take them as guidelines?

        BTW, Jonathan, if you are really as intrinsically immoral as you claim to be without some command from god holding you back from committing daily atrocities, please do go right on believing.

      • Perhaps I have simply been skimming, but all I’ve had so far on the history is your say so. Now there’s a word people would usually use to describe people like me who are annoyed at someone for doing something they themselves are doing…

        I would prefer not having to have to do too much work just to keep up with some random forum filled with people I’ve never met… It’s not because I don’t wan’t to ever look into it, it’s on my list of things to do to look into early church history. But some random person I’m likely to never see isn’t that much motivation, especially if all that person says is I’m wrong and brings no other evidence other than majority opinion…

      • And about my beliefs, why should I keep untrue beliefs?

        what’s wrong with atrocities? correct me if I’m wrong, but you have no basis for absolute morality, and therefore no cause for calling something someone else does wrong. Right and wrong is just something you make up with the help of your upbringing… unless of course your willing to grant an absolute lawgiver…

  44. Jonathan :
    I’m no expert. Correct me if I’m wrong though, but for the bare bones reproducing form of life 20,000 base pairs are necessary. Are you aware of the odds of 20,000 base pairs lining up in specific order?

    The odds of a given event occurring depend on the sequence of events which led up to the occurrance of that event. If the sequence of events which led up to those base pairs lining up in that particular order is the tornado-in-a-junkyard “each base pair picked at random” scenario beloved of Creationists, then sure, the odds of that particular BP sequence happening as a result of tornado-in-a-junkyard is 1/(4^20,000), which, to a zeroeth approximation (this being an estimate that’s even rougher than a first approximation), is something like 1/(1.6*10^12,000). So it’s quite reasonable to suppose that the sequence of events which led up to that particular BP sequence is, in fact, not the totally random, tornado-in-a-junkyard scenario Creationists like to bang on about. So okay, tornado-in-a-junkyard is not how that BP sequence happened.
    That leaves open the question of how that BP sequence did happen.
    So let’s try a different scenario, one that’s rather different from tornado-in-a-junkyard Total Randomness. Let’s try a scenario that involves self-replicating entities…
    Basically what I’m trying to say is that abiogenesis is so unlikely as to be impossible.
    Hold it. Your argument is about the astronomical improbability of a sequence of base pairs. What makes you think BP sequences had anything to do with abiogenesis? For the most part, abiogenesis researchers think DNA didn’t enter the picture until long after self-replicating whatzits got started!

    Take-home lesson: If you want to argue that evolution is wrong, you’ve got to argue against evolution, the real theory of evolution, not argue against a distorted caricature of evolution. If you refute a caricature of a scientific theory, well, what you’ve got is a caricature of a refutation. The real scientific theory, the theory you didn’t attack because you were so busy hacking and thrusting at a strawman caricature of said theory? That real theory will keep perking along just fine, thanks.

      • Jonathan – remember what Dave said at the beginning of this thread? “If you think you have a good argument, and I offer you a reason I think it’s wrong, go research it and come back and talk to me some more.” Now it is YOUR turn. Go do some real research in a real biology textbook about real evolution. Then come back with a real argument.

      • Jonathan :
        How could an organism replicate with no instructions on how to do so?

        Same way water molecules can congeal into snowflakes with no instructions on how to do so. If you want to argue that water molecules have instructions, said instructions being the laws of physics and chemistry which were established by your favorite invisible friend, you’re at least halfway to the position known as ‘theistic evolution’.

  45. @Dave: Hello again :D . I hope you’re doing well!

    To get to the point, I did say that I would explain why the theory of evolution doesn’t cut it, and why logically it does not make sense. So here is what I have for you, and I do hope that you (or anyone else) will read and give me some feedback :) . Here we go! :

    To set out a definition (because I couldn’t reason with one myself, LOL :P), according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the theory of evolution is “a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations”. Now that I’ve finally got a mainstream definition for it, let’s see why the theory of evolution doesn’t seem to add up.

    The theory of evolution fails due to three principle reasons (and I’ll give real-life example from notable scientists themselves):
    1) The theory cannot explain how life originated on Earth
    2) No scientific finding shows that the “evolutionary mechanisms” proposed by the theory have any evolutionary power
    3) The fossil record proves the exact opposite of what the theory suggests (that life evolved over time)

    #1) The theory of evolution is that all living species evolved from a single living cell that emerged on Earth 3.8 billion years ago. So let’s first briefly ponder about that first species that the single cell must have created on its own, whatever the species was. As the single cell supposedly had no Creator, it had to have made some sort of decision as to what it was going to do, right (because that cell could think for itself)? Because even if the sole cell didn’t have a plan, it must have taken the very basic things like nitrogen, oxygen, etc. and developed them into some nourishment that the first species could survive on. Supposing some sort of cell division and whatnot happened, that single cell then proceeded to create a plant or animal (which came first?) – all of this, purely by chance. Of course, Earth must have luckily had a livable atmosphere on it (think air, water, minerals, climate) that the first species + its nourishment must have survived on and then that first specie branched into other species over time, which then branched into others which branched into others and eventually, we would have all of the diverse and complex plants and animals that we have today. I mean, what else would a single, animate cell with all of those natural resources do for billions of years? I know I sound sarcastic here, but thinking of how it might have gone down sounds a little confusing.

    However, even if this did happen, the question that remains is: How did this “first cell” originate? The fact that inanimate matter produced a living cell is not consistent with the most basic rules of biology.

    Loius Pasteur, in his lecture at Sorbonne in 1864, said that “Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow struck by this simple experiment”. You may know of Pasteur from his fermentation experiment that ultimately disproved of inanimate matters generating living things all by itself. This experiment supports biogenesis, which is widely known by the phrase “life has to come from life”. Even as Charles Darwin wrote in a letter to a friend that “at the present day such [developing] matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed”, how would the chain of life have formed then if nothing/nobody ate nothing/nobody, (as I briefly thought about above)?

    Now, one may present the Big Bang theory and concur that in this scenario, life did come from no life. The Big Bang theory supports Huxley’s abiogenesis view of the creation of the universe. as does the Qur’an itself: “[He is] the Originator of the heavens and the earth [from nothing]!” (6:101). Keep in mind that the Big Bang theory was starting to develop (with scientific fact) in the 1900s [although the idea was conceptualized by the Ancient Greeks, whom Muhammed PBUH did not know], while the Qur’an had already bought this phrase 1300 years before this.

    Continuing on, Alexander Oparin, the renowned Russian biologist, also presented many theses to continue the work upon the theory of evolution in the 1930s. As his experiments failed, Oparin also concluded: “Unfortunately, however, the problem of the origin of the cell is perhaps the most obscure point in the whole study of the evolution of organisms.”

    Later on, American chemist Stanley Miller carried out another experiment in 1953, where he combined the gases that he thought to have existed in the primordial Earth’s atmosphere and by adding energy to the mixture, Miller synthesized several organic molecules (amino acids) present in the structure of proteins. However, it was found that the atmosphere used in the experiment was very different from the real Earth conditions. Eventually Miller also agreed to this. As Geochemist Jeffrey Bada, from the San Diego Scripps Institute summed it up in this statement in Earth magazine in 1998:
    “Today as we leave the twentieth century, we still face the biggest unsolved problem that we had when we entered the twentieth century: How did life originate on Earth?”.

    As we can now see through 3 separate experiments by famous scientists, living things cannot be produced by simply putting organic matter together. Simply because one of the reasons is that there is structure in living things, even in the smallest cell. All of the kinds of cells out there are not simply there by coincidence, or purely by chance. We know this because the probability of proteins (the building blocks of a cell) being synthesized coincidentally is 1 in 10 to the power of 950 – and an average protein made up of 500 amino acids. In mathematics, a probability smaller than 1 over 10 to the power of 50 (let alone 950) is considered to be impossible in practical terms. While conceptually it could have been possible, logic tells us that off the paper, it’s quite impossible that everything could have existed from that single cell all by itself.

    Even if one insists that cell did exist, we also know that protein needs DNA to exist and vise versa: one cannot exist without each other. DNA can replicate itself only with the help of some specialized proteins (enzymes). However, the synthesis of these enzymes can only happen with the information coded in DNA. As they both depend on each other, they have to exist at the same time for replication – which is very unlikely to have happened for our little cell here. Professor Leslie Orgel, from the University of San Diego, California, confesses this fact in the September 1994 issue of the Scientific American magazine:
    “It is extremely improbable that proteins and nucleic acids, both of which are structurally complex, arose spontaneously in the same place at the same time. Yet it also seems impossible to have one without the other. And so, at first glance, one might have to conclude that life could never, in fact, have originated by chemical means”.

    Therefore, if that single cell couldn’t have occurred naturally, then it has to have been created. If the single cell was created, then this belief defies evolution, which is trying to deny that creations were created and instead evolved into what we know today.

    I’ll let y’all digest this bit and then hopefully I’ll get to my second point :)
    Let me know what you guys think! :D

    • There are…. yikes… so many things wrong with what you wrote, I don’t even know where to start.
      – Your definition of evolution is not the one used by biologists. This is a straw man. Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations. Put another way, evolution can be precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next.
      – The theory of evolution by means of natural selection is not supposed to address how life began. That’s like saying that the theory of gravity is wrong because it doesn’t address how life started. It’s not supposed to. There are other theories for that.
      – The first “life” on Earth was not a whole cell – cells came way later. Self-replicating molecules were first, and RNA came before DNA.
      – Neither plants nor animals came first. Proto-cells came first, then single-celled organisms, etc. Plants and animals both are less than a billion years old.
      – This is extremely disingenuous: “And so, at first glance, one might have to conclude that life could never, in fact, have originated by chemical means.” The reason is that if you continue reading that article, you will find he explains exactly how it did, in fact, originate from chemical means. At first glance, it seems impossible, but that’s because it’s counterintuitive, not because it’s wrong.

      Did you copy & paste this from somewhere?

      • @Dave: Good to see you Dave, and thank you for the prompt reply :)

        1) Well, the definition I cited is used by Merriam-Webster, LOL :P . I wanted to use a nice, short definition of the term – I’m not a die-hard for science, but I did want to set up some sort of scientific definition as a starting point. The shortened definition you gave me is exactly what I meant. If my general definition changes the strength of my argument, then I would like to hear some feedback on how it does that through the precise definition of the theory of evolution :)

        2) And that’s what I mean. If the theory of evolution addresses on how species started, and a specie is a form of life, what theory do you believe in considering how life began? There needs to be a form of life for a species to start, right? So the theory of evolution rather depends on the concept of where life started from. Yet what about the experiments that show that life could not have started from inanimate molecules? If I remember correctly, you did mention that you believe in the Big Bang Theory, right? I do believe that I have addressed that outlook of life’s beginning through that theory, and the Qur’an only confirms it, as I’m sure you know :)

        3) Okay, so how did these molecules form into cells (do molecules form into cells themselves in the world out there, all by themselves – or are molecules just found in cells, and their formation before a cell could form is what we assumed happened)?.

        And if evolution occurred, what did the molecule evolve from? A molecule isn’t alive from what I know, so even if it isn’t alive, through evolution, where is its “change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool” coming from? Where in this ancestral line does this piece of matter become animate? What formed the one self-replicating molecule (in an inhabitable Earth environment) so that it could form a cell? As well, how do we know that RNA is the ancestor of DNA (and that it simply does not coexist with/within DNA)? Are there experiments that confirm these notions? I do apologize for my numerous questions [and even more so if they don’t make sense, due to my lack of scientific knowledge], I realize that Leslie’s article contains much of the answers to my questions, but seeing as I don’t understand most of the article, I was hoping for a bit of an explanation of it, you could say :)

        4) If my quote is damaging my own argument, is there any proof to suggest that proteins can synthesize without needing DNA from its nucleus? As Leslie himself suggests, we don’t know where RNA is coming from, do we?

        Of course, I didn’t know anything about the theory of evolution and whatnot, so I had to research. Basically, what you see before you is a combination of a few sources (approximately 11) here and there. If you’d like, I can list my sources for you so you can see where my information is coming from :)

        Thanks for your time and effort, Dave! :D
        I really appreciate it~

    • Proteins can actually be synthesized without being in a cell. Either way, you are obviously not as uninformed as you are claiming to be. Even though you were told your definition of evolution is wrong, you are still parotting the same story in a different context. Firstly, Pasteur’s experiment only confirmed that life cannot spring from a sterile broth. That is common sense. Secondly, we don’t know what the first cells looked like. Proteins fold naturally according to their amino acid sequences. It is entirely possible that simple enzymes formed first, some of which had an affinity for nucleotides, thereby helping form rudimentary RNA, which set off chain reactions down the line. No matter how weak the evidence is, it is not non-existent. However, there is absolutely NO evidence of Allah, or a creator, and attributing all of creation to him just because we don’t understand it YET is ridiculous.

      • @Quellian. Hello there :) Thank you for joining into the conversation and for giving me some feedback. I do appreciate it! :D

        LOL, believe me – I don’t even remember something as simple as how to balance an equation in Chemistry, let alone understanding all of this scientific biological data. But like I said, I researched what I could, and here I’m trying to reason with y’all about what I found, as best as I can :) . I want to see if I can understand all of this as well.

        So to start, if proteins can be synthesized without being in a cell (yet), and proteins are formed by amino acids, how do amino acids form? Yes, I know they are a combination of amine and carboxylic acids which then turn into peptide chains that form the building blocks of that one protein molecule which can then form together to make that one animate cell – but better yet, how did the two elements know how to form amino acids (if they aren’t even animate, so how did they have RNA to know what to do? Ribozymes just happened to be there (and what are they made up of)? Or, did the two elements just knew what they had to do, purely by chance?).

        Of course Pasteur’s experiment is common sense. Seeing his experiment, how can evolution make sense, then? Because if life couldn’t form in a sterile broth, how could it could form in an initially sterile environment? Because the Earth was uninhabitable and then all of a sudden it was inhabitable (due to what reasons?) and of course life was going to spring itself there, just because everything that life needed to spring was coincidentally there for the taking? Does the theory of evolution only make sense because it is the only explanation we have for how life formed on Earth? As you said, we don’t know enough yet – yet we do know an awful lot about how life formed itself, right? And yet we don’t know where that essence of life started from, which the theory of evolution depends on.

        As I said before, the probability of proteins forming naturally are next to nil. Hypothetically, it’s still possible, but practically it can’t happen – and we all know that the world is quite practical. And if proteins can form today but we don’t see it happening because they are eaten by something else, I really don’t see how life will continue on Earth (or even how it survived when there were other predators back then?) if that’s going to keep happening. Eventually, everything would eat everything else that way, and the last survivor in the end would have nothing to eat. But of course some molecules would come together and form some bananas or something, right?

        Also, I want to ask: does it seem likely that as humans are said to have evolved from the Hominidae family of primate species, humans will then evolve further and perhaps create other species? I mean, we’re only standing at about one species right now for humans (right?), and how long have humans existed? 200 000 years? Yet for the bonobo, once thought to be one of our closest “relatives” (with a proposed 98% DNA similarity), its speciation occured 1.5 – 2 million years ago. Even now, “the most recent genetic analyses (published in 2006) of chimpanzee and human genetic similarity come from whole genome comparisons and have shown that the differences between the two species are more complex, both in extent and character, than the historical 98% figure suggests”. This suggests that we’re not even as similar to chimps as was once thought.

        If we are using logic and reason here, to not know about how life started (due to what? lack of evidence or due to lack of logic with the theory?) but to say that we all depend on it does not make sense. That’s why I’m saying, to know that there is a God and then to say we depend on him does make much more sense then leaving it all to probability and chance (which we don’t fully understand).

        So tell me: how is there no evidence of God? Like, what suggests that there’s no, none, nil, zilch, nada possibility at all that there is a God?

      • The burden of proof for God is on you. So I turn the tables here: What evidence is there for a God? You are wrong in saying amino acids cannot occur naturally. A carbon chain with an unsaturated bond can be aminated and oxidized easily. And organic chains can and do form spontaneously. From an amino acid, it is quite easy to make a polypeptide chain, or a protein, through dehydration.
        Pasteur boiled a broth which didn’t contain necessary conditions nor elements for life, making it a faulty experiment.
        Also, the theory of evolution DOES NOT depend on the explanation of origins of life. It only explains speciation.
        You need to understand how plants fixate the energy of the sun into carbon bonds. That’s why life won’t stop. We keep getting energy from the sun.

  46. Jonathan :
    to have evolution you need life, this doesn’t concern evolution.

    If “an organism” is already alive and replicating, it concerns evolution, which has clear and already discovered mechanisms for proceeding, as several people have already explained to you.

    The current answer to the abiogenesis question is “we don’t know all the details yet but since life is obviously here, it had to have happened and we have several potential mechanisms for it that we are experimenting with.”

    Abiogenesis did not start with “an organism” – again as several people have already explained to you. Please go back and reread their posts until you understand the basic concepts.

    You are currently not following the advice given in both number 4 and number 5 in the handy guide to how to present your arguments to an atheist given at the top of this page.

    • so then there is life, and it concerns evolution… I said if it isn’t alive it doesn’t concern evolution, then you talked about something alive and said it does concern evolution. I didn’t deny that, I simply said if it isn’t alive it doesn’t concern evolution….

      so basically it has to have happened in some Godless way, so there must be a way, even though the more we look into it the less likely it seems… if that’s your position then you have to admit I’m not the only “believer” here, since that’s all you have in that.

      I wasn’t denying what people have said about abiogenesis, I have merely stated the manner in which it would be possible. (I find it increasingly ironic that you condescend to me for stating something as my belief without support, and then condescend to me for not believing someone elses position when it is presented without support…)

  47. Jonathan :
    Perhaps I have simply been skimming, but all I’ve had so far on the history is your say so. Now there’s a word people would usually use to describe people like me who are annoyed at someone for doing something they themselves are doing…
    I would prefer not having to have to do too much work just to keep up with some random forum filled with people I’ve never met…

    And again I ask, Jonathan, why are you HERE? What do you hope to accomplish by posting here, if you are not willing to even read the posts for comprehension?

    I am, just like Dave, very familiar with the religious side of the arguments, which is why I can dismiss your unsupported opinions without re-researching your points. I know the points on both sides of the argument. You, on the other hand, skim the arguments presented without understanding them, are unabashedly unwilling to do any reading or research on any of the subjects you pontificate on, and still expect us to concede the brilliance of your position by fiat. Why? Why are you here?

    But I am a glutton for punishment sometimes, so I’ll ask you: since you believe in an “absolute lawgiver” who gave you morality, how do you reconcile god’s command “Thou shalt not kill” with the many times god kills (the flood wiping out all but a select few) and his many, clear instructions to kill people who, for example, are merely living in places “his” people want to live or who don’t follow his, often petty, rules? By the time you add in the rest, including the Caananite and Amalek babies and virgins, god and his followers are the biggest murderers and baby killers of all time, while still spouting a pious “God tells us not to kill so we are obviously more moral than you poor godless folk who don’t believe in a divine lawgiver are; even if he tells us to kill you, we are still more moral than you are,” line. It sounds to me as if you are claiming that god says, “Whatever displeases me is immoral and whatever pleases me is moral and what that is can change without notice.” God’s position is much more “relativistic” than “absolute” to me.

    Is your answer “god made us, god can take us out”? Maybe, “We’re all evil anyway, so it doesn’t matter”? I don’t consider those to be good, moral positions for any one, even god. And yet you accuse the non-religious of being moral relativists, when we can show consistency and method in how we apply our morality.

    • “perhaps I have just been skimming” was a polite invitation for you to fill me in on all of the wonderful historical evidence you have been presenting that I have missed. Basically what I meant was, you seem rather annoyed that I haven’t brought any evidence, but from reading your posts, I was unaware that evidence was requisite…. (or basically, I was politely pointing you out as a hypocrite, but I didn’t say it outright in case I actually had missed something)

      I, like not many christians, am familiar with your arguments and do not need to re-research to dismiss you. You on the other hand, simply accuse me of stuff that you yourself are guilty of, at least I’m honest…

      Perhaps I have missed some critical historical fact or argument you have presented (this is the part where you either shut up with your accusations or present the thing I’ve missed).

      Firstly, your worldview debases consistent morality. I’m not saying that you are some sort of blatantly “immoral” person, you just have absolutely no basis for calling someone else that. You obey your morals, they obey theirs. I will deal with what you said, but it doesn’t detract from your own inconsistency.

      THe commandment was actually not “don’t kill”, the hebrew word used there didn’t include stuff like war and self defense… Also, notice the second person nature of the command… And the bible makes it fairly clear that the people God wiped out deserved it…(ie. God would have let sodom go for 10righteous people, and where it says God was waiting for their transgressions to be full about the canaanites…)

      And if there is a perfect creator God, then whatever pleases him would be good, and whatever doesn’t would be evil, by definition. But you missed God’s immutability, so it doesn’t actually change.

      and on what basis do you call my morality immoral. All that means is your personal upbringing and choices cause you to dislike it. Why the heck should I care what one relative morality says about mine?

      (ie. I’m not saying you are relativist, only that to be consistent you should be, since you have no absolute basis, which completely takes out any ability of yours to call a different morality immoral. Please explain to me what basis you have for looking down on someone elses morality.)

    • @Carol Lynn: Hello there :) . I just wanted to reply to what you were saying to Jonathan as well, if you don’t mind :D

      First off, as I would like to discuss the morality of God and such with you, I’m going to assume that you believe in God just as I do. Otherwise, it’d a bit difficult to convince someone that God has morals when that person doesn’t believe that God even exists. It’d be entirely different discussion then. Cool? :)

      One thing I wanted to ask you was, which concept of the One God are you referring to? You’re probably thinking, but don’t the Abrahamic religions believe that there is only One God? I ask this because the portrayal of God in each of the Abrahamic religious books are quite different, at least now. For example, if we take your question with the One God portrayed in the Qur’an and Ahadeeth (sayings of the Prophet PBUH), then the morality issue of God isn’t as hypocritical as it seems to be.

      Now If you believe in the God portrayed in the Qur’an, the whole idea in Islam is that as God’s creation, God wants you to believe that He created you and He wants you to love Him. In order for you to have love for God, you need to sacrifice your will and in its stead follow God’s command, because that says that you want God’s happiness with you more than you want your own happiness with you. Essentially, the act of sacrificing your own will for God’s will is what will give you both mutual happiness and love for each other. That’s why the meaning of the word Islam (in the religious sense), means ‘to voluntarily submit to God’. Meaning, to willingly submit to the will of God and not to your own will, just so you can gain the happiness of God.

      As for the stance of morality, who’s morals are we going by here? Ours or God’s? Obviously God would have more knowledge of what is right and wrong than we would have do, as He created the whole ethic system for us in the first place. So if God tells me that something is wrong or right, and I know that (as God created everything) He has more knowledge of morality than I do, then I would accept that that act is wrong or right for me to do. Why? Because if we take the route of going by our own morals, I’m sure you know that humans can have VERY different concepts of what’s right and what’s wrong among each other. That’s why, by following the morals of God, there is a sense of soundness in believing in God’s morality in contrast to believing in human morality.

      In terms of what God’s morals actually are, they are described in the Qur’an and in the Ahadeeth. As with “[God’s morality can change] without notice.” – this is why God gave us Prophets (PBUT) and Books. So that we would know what pleased God and what didn’t. But you might wonder, what about the all the new issues that came after the the Last Prophet (PBUH) and the Qur’an – how do we know which of them are right or wrong to do/believe in? In Islam, because the Qur’an was the last book revealed, we have no more direct contact with God through the Prophets (PBUT). So here steps in the position of the Ulema (plural in Arabic for Aalim, which means “scholar”. In this case, we are referring to an Islamic scholar). The Ulema are a group of Islamic scholars who have studied the religious sciences of Islam very intimately and thoroughly. With their background knowledge, they can dissect the rulings that would go for today’s issues in the changing world more effectively than a layman could. The Ulema usually ask for each other’s viewpoint on a matter and also refer to various texts when making decisions for new issues (known as Qeh-yaas in Arabic), and there are also general consensuses of the Ulema as well (known as Ij-maa). What the Ulema determine would be the best for one to do in these new situations will have to be in agreement with what the Qur’an and the Ahadeeth (sayings of the Prophet PBUH) say as well.

      So with all of this in mind, the reason why God can choose to kill us but we’re not allowed kill each other. is from the very fact that God gave us life and that we cannot give life to ourselves. If we follow the cycle of life, if God is the giver of life, then He is also the giver of death. So. if God commanded you to kill someone, then firstly, God is testing us to see if we will enact His will over ours, but He is also completing the life cycle of that person, because He is giving death. Even if a human (through murder) or animal (through someone being eaten by an animal) or even nature (through natural disasters) are the cause of death, it is through God’s will that the time of death came to that specific person/animal/plant etc. So then, is God is moral if He gives life, is He immoral if He gives death? That would not seem equal if God simply gave life but not death (according to the life cycle). And God is supposed to be fair in all things, right? :)

  48. Jonathan :
    “perhaps I have just been skimming” was a polite invitation for you to fill me in on all of the wonderful historical evidence you have been presenting that I have missed.

    Evidence that you have said you were not willing to even go look at when I posted places for you to find it.

    Basically what I meant was, you seem rather annoyed that I haven’t brought any evidence, but from reading your posts, I was unaware that evidence was requisite…. (or basically, I was politely pointing you out as a hypocrite, but I didn’t say it outright in case I actually had missed something)

    What a peculiar misreading of my posts. I am not annoyed, if you perceive it as annoyance, because you don’t have any evidence, because I don’t think you have any to present that has not already been thoroughly debunked. I am wondering why you think the sheer force of your pixels on the screen will make any difference to my evidence, which you admitted previously that you have not read and will not consider looking into just now, though, to be fair, you said you might want to look into it sometime in the future. I am also still wondering what you hope to accomplish here in a thread on how to argue your points convincingly to atheists when you disregard every single strategy, still helpfully listed at the start of this thread, that might help your cause. You might want to address that.

    And if there is a perfect creator God, then whatever pleases him would be good, and whatever doesn’t would be evil, by definition. But you missed God’s immutability, so it doesn’t actually change.

    So… what is your daughter worth on the slave market? Slavery is encouraged and exactly what we should be doing to anyone god doesn’t like, right?

    I actually hold myself to stricter standards of morality than your god, because I think genocide is immoral under any circumstances.

    There is absolutely no evidence anywhere for a “perfect creator god” – and you have certainly presented none here. If you still think there is a “perfect creator god,” I can only conclude you are deluded and wrong and have no idea of how to present an argument. (You can still go back to the top of the thread and learn strategies for arguing convincingly with atheists.)

    and on what basis do you call my morality immoral.

    All that murdering, raping and pillage your god is OK with is not moral by any modern standard. It was good enough for the goat herders who made up a god to make themselves seem important, but we’ve done better than that now. Man is a social animal and behaviors that are against group cohesion are counterproductive.

    (ie. I’m not saying you are relativist, only that to be consistent you should be, since you have no absolute basis, which completely takes out any ability of yours to call a different morality immoral. Please explain to me what basis you have for looking down on someone elses morality.)

    I’ll quote a bit from the Iron Chariots wiki on morality – “…when what we choose as a model is a god of ancient scripture depicting moral principles we hold being most basic (such as Ez. 9:5-6, God commands “slay the little children without pity.”) When we tell ourselves there is an all-powerful entity that can do this, and still be “morally perfect,” we create the very conditions that far from leading us to moral truths guarantee a moral confusion. Even if a god created our universe, nothing about the act or power of grand creation requires moral perfection. And even if the universe was created by a god somehow ‘intrinsically good’ no logic would require the being still to exist. Imagine if such a god existed yesterday but destroyed itself today, would torture suddenly stop being a moral issue? If so, then this god can’t have embodied values of enduring relevance. Severing any connection with any objective moral values. If not, we admit that this god does not need to exist, destroying this moral argument’s conclusion for the existence of god. There would be equally overwhelming problems with claiming that “moral values and duties are transcendental in nature, and therefore require a supernatural creator.” As soon as we require things to be viewed supernaturally with “goodness” “badness” or “oughtness,” as soon as we allow the supernatural feature in any of our explanations, the idea of a single supreme deity becomes just one of countless unknowable untestable concepts, all with their unhooked justifications.

    In this case, transcendental values and duties could just as easily be the creation of a group of supernatural experimenters, arbitrarily making things “good” and “bad” so as to study the effect on animal behavior. If moral values and duties had to have been created supernaturally, this alone would count against their objective validity. For that matter, any arguments for the existence of god (even if they were valid), wouldn’t provide a logical pathway to a god of any particular religion or scripture.”

    and a bit more from Al Stefanelli http://alstefanelli.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/morality-secular-vs-religious/

    ” True morality is secular and non-sectarian. This results in behavior that is modified by decisions that have a positive effect on society as a whole, that embrace humanity and are accepting of different lifestyles. Religious morality does not allow for behavior modification toward humanity, but rather utilizes the fear of punishment and hope for reward as the motivating factors in the decision-making process. While the fear of punishment often has results that only affect the individual believer, the hope for reward has far more outreaching effects. …

    The fact is that we are social animals and our morality, when separated from religion, is the product of evolution. Communities of gorillas and chimpanzees have no religion or belief in god, but yet they behave in ways that show they honor their mothers and refrain from killing their brothers and sisters. And although anti-social behavior exists in all primate societies, so do ethics, morals and altruism, everywhere and at all times. Humans are sensitive to the emotions of other humans, and emotion is contagious. Mentally healthy individuals are happy when in joyful situations and sad when in miserable ones. We are even happier when we are around other happy people, and thus, it is in our nature to make others people around us happy.

    Morality and ethics revolve around how we solve problems. … True morality is goodness that is independent of theology, thus an imaginary god cannot be the source of morality. The task of moral education is not to spew forth a list of commandments from an ancient holy book, but to help people to predict the consequences of actions they are considering. The basis for morality and ethics is making educated decisions based on the perceived rewards or shortcomings that will be inflicted upon society. Religious morality is, in fact, immoral because it is chock full of unnatural degradations, bigotries and intolerance and serves to accommodate human needs by basing behavior on the perceived commands and desires of ancient mythical deities that were invented by ignorant men.”

    Man is a social animal and behaviors such as genocide, murder, slavery, and rape, to name a few, which are encouraged and seen as godly and righteous in texts written about your god are immoral behaviors. I don’t care if Jesus himself with daddy next to him came down and told me that wiping out certain people would be a good thing, it’s not and I’d be happy to say that to his face. So, yes, if you are in favor of genocide, murder, slavery and rape if your god told you to do those things, I am quite willing to call the basis of your behavior immoral and counter to the best interests of society.

    • so many words…. and asking me to read a book doesn’t count as presenting evidence. As if some person I’ve never met has the magical ability to usurp my already long list of things I want to read…

      and just curious, why should I care how my actions affect other people? why would I want to emotionally invest in others? The basis for morality is God, apart from him there is no absolute morality. There is no abiding “should”…

      Just curious, why should I care about your definition of moral? why does it have power over me, how des it apply?…. I call you immoral but it’s rather irrelavent to you since you don’t accept my morality… same to you, why should I consider your thoughts at all relavent? Basically, you have some standard of morality you made up or accepted from someone else who did, why should I care?

      And without God, there is no logic…. but I`m done here… you likely won`t accept that, but you`ll use some sort of logic founded on the assumption that what`s true for you is true for me…

      God bless y’all, and he does, whether you like it or not…

  49. Birds of Paradise :
    @Carol Lynn: Hello there . I just wanted to reply to what you were saying to Jonathan as well, if you don’t mind

    Not at all.

    First off, as I would like to discuss the morality of God and such with you, I’m going to assume that you believe in God just as I do.

    Bad assumption. I don’t.

    Otherwise, it’d a bit difficult to convince someone that God has morals when that person doesn’t believe that God even exists.

    Correct. If you wish to continue the discussion, please provide some proof to scientific standards that this “god” concept you are talking about actually exists.

    See the list at the top of the thread for some hints on how to go about it.

    To save time, I’ve already examined and rejected every argument for god I’ve ever encountered, including but not limited to, kalam, Pascal’s, ontological, presuppositional, theodicy, creationism, and any argument that involves invoking the revealed word of god. Got anything new or different?

    • Hello again Carol Lynn. I hope you’re doing well :) . My apologies for my late comment – life does get busy sometimes :P

      So to reply to your comment, I did give my first part of the scientific proofs regarding God’s existence. To skip repeating myself, you can read comments #105, #149, #151, and #153. If you have any comments on them, do let me know :D

      If the evidence I’ve given here so far does not make sense to you, then I will continue to explain Part 2 of my scientific explanation. So is that okay with you? :)

  50. Pingback: How to convert me: Part II « The Official MU SASHA Blog, Updated Daily

  51. Jonathan :
    I don’t worship a God who is fine with evil.
    And your opinion of me is stupid. If God says not to do something and he is my highest authority, I won’t do it, period.

    Hold it. How do you know that this god person even exists in the first place? And assuming this god person does exist, how do you know what it said? What you really mean here is, “If I believe God says not to do something, and I believe he is my highest authority, I won’t do it, period.” Well, sure. The thing is, John Doe over there has different beliefs than you—the god Doe believes in is a god who is fine with evil. Doe doesn’t have any more evidence of the god he believes in, than you do of yours, but Doe’s belief in his god is every bit as sincere as your belief in yours. So the mere fact that John Doe believes in god doesn’t stop Doe from doing all kinds of evil, secure in his belief that he is doing god’s will.
    Now, an Xtian believer might say that Doe’s god-belief is terrible and wrong, and if only Doe believed in the right god, and the right sort of absolute morals, Doe wouldn’t be doing evil. Well, maybe… but if you look at the historical record, you’ll find there have been mass quantities of sincerely devout Xtians who believed that God approves of slavery—that it’s God’s will that some human beings own other human beings—and these Xtians could cite Scripture to support their case. Of course there have also been other sincerely devout Xtians who believed exactly the opposite, namely that God doesn’t like slavery. But who’s right, the god-likes-slavery Xtians or the god-hates-slavery Xtians? Likewise, in the present day there are plenty of sincerely devout Xtians who believe gays are an abomination unto the Lord, and plenty of other sincerely devout Xtians who believe that God doesn’t have a problem with gays.
    You say that you Xtians have got a line on an Absolute, Eternal, Unchanging Moral Standard? Fine. What is that Absolute, Eternal, Unchanging Moral Standard? Does this AEUMS require slavery, or forbid slavery? Are gays good as they are, or are gays a violation of this AEUMS? And how do you know that this Absolute, Eternal, Unchanging Moral Standard is the moral standard you happen to believe in, rather than being one of the moral standards that are accepted by any of the Xtians who disagree with you on whichever point(s) of morality?

    If all that’s stops you is “social ramifications”, there’s plenty of evil you could do without any of those? Shouldn’t the fittest survive and the weakest not reproduce, for the good of society?

    You are apparently one of the folks who are under the impression that the term “fittest” in in the phrase “survival of the fittest” means something like “strongest” or “most brutal” or whatever. You, like everyone else who shares that impression, are just wrong about that. In reality, the term “fittest” in that phrase refers to reproductive fitness, not the ability to stomp on the weak.
    Apart from that, “not giving a shit about anybody but yourself” is a pretty decent definition of sociopathy. If your argument is that atheism doesn’t provide any tools to keep sociopaths from screwing over their fellow man, you may be right… but that doesn’t make religion any better than atheism unless religion does provide tools to keep sociopaths from screwing over their fellow man. Considering how utterly commonplace it is for Xtian believers to hold that God approves of everything they like, and that God hates all the things they hate, it’s not at all clear that god-belief is any better than atheism at keeping a lid on sociopaths.

    so basically there is no right and wrong…</p

    There isn’t any absolute, eternal, universally applicable ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, no. There’s plenty of ‘right’s and ‘wrong’s which are applicable to whichever restricted domain(s).

    …if you can get away with it it’s fine.

    If I go to a different culture and abuse women legally, is this wrong?
    According to the moral standards of that culture, abusing women may well not be wrong. But according to the moral standards I accept, you damn betcha abusing women is wrong.

    why shouldn’t I do it if it makes me happy?
    heck, the way you think, the Holocaust wasn’t even bad, it was simply somewhat misguided. It wasn’t even a crime, it was legal and had the goal of furthering society. (unless I misunderstand you.) At least my belief system has the ability to call evil as evil no matter whether the culture is fine with it or not.

    Dude. The mere fact of having any moral standards at all is what allows you to “call evil as evil”—the only thing you get by throwing “absolute, eternal, universally applicable” onto it, is built-in ‘justification’ for using whatever degree of force is necessary to stomp ‘evil’ mortality out of existence.

    • Ok, first off we can all agree that sociopaths have a complete lack of morals. It is a documented severe mental illness, Hitler well fit into that category and to think that just because someone doesn’t believe in a higher power doesn’t mean that person has no morals. I know quite a few people who do not hold with the belief of Christianity who have very strong moral character. The Ten Commandments were written as a basic guideline for the Hebrews after having been in slavery for 1000’s of years, there is absolutely no way anyone can keep the Ten Commandments its impossible and even God knew that. As to the book of Leviticus, the laws written in the book of Leviticus were written for a specific reason and purpose, not to be crude but take for instance that a woman must sit under a tree for 7 days during her cycle, now thanks to the invention of feminine. Products,running water and soap that isn’t necessary. As to the statement about people who are gay, it doesn’t say in the ible that God hates gay people, it says he killed the people od sodom and Gomorrah because they were wicked and forcing themselves (rape) upon eaxh other. The God of the Hebrew bible did not hate anyone, he hates sin which is by far a different animal.

      • I am sorry for all of the typos, I am replying for my phone and it simply isn’t wanting to cooperate. A lot of the reason I was an athiest to begin with is all of the overwhelming contradicting theologies that each hold their beliefs too. If you were to put all the different descriptions of God were placed together He would be a sadistic, jealous, overbearing slave driver that was never happy at all. That isn’t what the Bible says.

  52. Pingback: Hvordan du skal omvende en ateist | Herr Ateist

  53. Just wanted to make a comment, I do not wish to debte. Genesis, the first book of the Bible states that woman was created from a mans rib, not from his head or feet to be vebally abused or trampled upon, but rather the part of his body that protects his heart. Women were created as equals, not as subserviant slaves.

    • Also would like to add, I was an athiest that became a believer, and I can firmly understand your reasoning for being an athiest. I have my own personal, private experience as to why I became a believer that I don not wish to get into. I would discuss it on email with you if you wish it.

  54. Mandy Moore :
    … just because someone doesn’t believe in a higher power doesn’t mean that person has no morals. I know quite a few people who do not hold with the belief of Christianity who have very strong moral character.

    That’s nice. It would be nicer if you told this to those people among your fellow co-religionists who bloody well do think that lack of belief in a “higher power” does mean that person has no morals, but it’s nice.

    The Ten Commandments were written as a basic guideline for the Hebrews after having been in slavery for 1000′s of years, there is absolutely no way anyone can keep the Ten Commandments its impossible and even God knew that.

    So… by your own explicit admission, this ‘god’ person set up rules which he flat-out knew cannot be obeyed.
    Hmm.
    According to the Bible, the god-ordained penalty for breaking any of these rules is to burn in Hell forever.
    Hold that thought.

    As to the book of Leviticus, the laws written in the book of Leviticus were written for a specific reason and purpose…

    Okay, you’ve found a way to reconcile the weird and sometimes dangerous rules of Leviticus with modern sensibilities, namely hey-those-rules-don’t-apply-to-us. Bully for you. Do you intend to do anything about those people among your fellow co-religionists who bloody well do think that the rules of Leviticus apply to modern society?

    …it doesn’t say in the ible that God hates gay people…

    How nice for you. Since all those people among your fellow co-religionists who bloody well do think god hates gays are wrong about that, you’re even now working to persuade your co-religionists what the Truth About Gays is, right?
    Right?

    The God of the Hebrew bible did not hate anyone, he hates sin which is by far a different animal.

    Exactly how much practical difference is there between someone who beats gays to death because they hate the ‘sin’ of homosexuality, and someone who beats gays to death because they hate gays?

  55. Why are you asking people to convert you? If you are firm in your beliefs you shouldn’t feel the need to be challenged. I am a Christian and a lot of people tried to tell me why my beliefs were wrong just because they knew I was a Christian not because I had asked them or anything.Then they pull out these crap arguments like they watched a couple of YouTube videos and read a Richard Dawkings book so now they’re an expert on Christianity. But honestly no Christian will ever convert you unless God allows them to and unless you open your heart not just your mind. I guess I’m different than most people in the fact that most people find facts then believe but I believed first and then found facts that only added on to my belief making it stronger. But before I accepted the Lord as my savior there was always an emptiness that I couldn’t get rid of and now I’m a different person. I wouldn’t go back to the old way I was if someone paid me.

    • Griffin :
      Why are you asking people to convert you?
      Reading comprehension FAIL on your part, Griffin. Muscato didn’t say he’s asking people to convert him; rather, he’s pointing out that bunches of people have tried to convert him, that he expects bunches more in the future, that all of his would-be convertors have exploited a small number of shitty arguments and shitty rhetorical techniques, and that any would-be convertor who uses the same old shitty “tools” from the same old shitty “toolkit” are just wasting their time.

      I am a Christian and a lot of people tried to tell me why my beliefs were wrong just because they knew I was a Christian not because I had asked them or anything.

      “not because I had asked them or anything”? I don’t believe you, Griffin. If this comment is close to a representative sample of your conversational approach, I’m willing to bet that you unzipped your pants and tried to cram your Jesus down those other guys’ throats, you kept on doing that until they finally had enough of your naked proselytizing, and only then did they start to correct your many errors of fact and reasoning.

      But honestly no Christian will ever convert you unless God allows them to and unless you open your heart not just your mind. I guess I’m different than most people in the fact that most people find facts then believe…

      Wow. Just wow. immediately after asserting that “open(ing) your heart not just your mind” is a necessary pre-requisite to being converted to Xtianity, you can assert that “most people” only Believe after they “find facts”? Come on. Griffin. Are you even reading what you write? Anyway, I call bullshit. Conversion to any religion, Xtianity or otherwise, is primarily (if not entirely) an emotional process. I mean, what do you think Luther was going on about about when he wrote that “Reason is the devil’s whore”, hm?

      But before I accepted the Lord as my savior there was always an emptiness that I couldn’t get rid of and now I’m a different person. I wouldn’t go back to the old way I was if someone paid me.

      “emptiness that I couldn’t get rid of”. Yep, no emotion here, just good old facts and sweet, sweet reason! Again: Do you even read the stuff you write, Griffin?

  56. having read all of these comments it seems to me that like most christians just like the atheists love to talk about old testament and the 10 commandments and just out and out avoid th NEW testament , the good news and words of Christ . Big mistake . that is why these arguments are so circular . Chjrist cut to the chase — love your enemies , feed the poor , visit those in prison , be reborn , judge not , etc. this is something that christians and atheists need to pay attention to and stop all of this obnoxiuos moralizing on both sides . maybe then the world will change in the here and now .

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