The MU SASHA Blog

The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

Guest Post: Brandon Christen – A Major Difference

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It seems to me there is a wide (and widening) gap between what counts as a decent argument between many Theists and Non-Theists. This may just be me, and it may just be anecdotal, but I still think this difference merits at least a brief discussion.

I’m a debate-seeker. I actively seek out Theists who are interested in discussing the philosophical notions underpinning religious belief, the religious systems themselves, and the properness or improperness of various beliefs. Are these conversations frequently head-bangingly frustrating? You bet. But, I think they’re also of great importance for, in my opinion, the bridge between Theists and Atheists needs to be built, one laborious, frustrating plank at a time. That being said, I love the idea of such discussions when they’re good, which is to say when both the other person and I are interested in sussing out why we should believe what we do and in reaching a genuine understanding of the truth. I wish more of my conversations with Theists went like this…

Sadly, that sort of chat remains, more often than not, a illusory goal. I have plenty of chats, but never do they seem to be going anywhere. Sure, the people are polite and attentive; sometimes, they even seem really interested in what I have to say and in learning more about our differences. Still, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen horrible arguments brought out time and time again despite my plainly spelling out why they’re utterly unconvincing.

Consider a conversation I had with my old pastor just several weeks ago. We had decided to meet and discuss my views as an Atheist. One of the arguments he threw at me was the (predictable) argument from design. “The apparent design and intelligence behind what we see,” he excitedly exclaimed, “is utter proof of a supreme designer!” I quietly listened and waited my turn, and when it came I began to explain for him the problem with “begging the question” style arguments like that one. I told him that if A.) his experience based “evidence” tells him that all complexity and design requires a designer, then B.) the even more complex designer itself would have to “bear evidence” to a yet more complex designer, and so on and so on into infinity. In essence, saying that “God made everything,” merely begs the justified next question of “Well, who made God then?”

My old friend tried to say that God was eternal and beyond our realm of adequate understanding. I then told him that what he was saying was merely an explanation, not a reliable observation; he was merely postulating a “what if” scenario that could maybe excuse the paradoxes of his God. I told him that if he can just arbitrarily draw a line and say that causation goes back no further than his god, then Atheist could just as justifiably draw a line and say that causation goes back no further than matter/energy. The difference at that point, I said, was in degrees, not in kind. He stopped for a brief moment, then just insisted even louder that my position was unfounded and that I was clearly just denying the “obvious truth…that there is a supreme God.”

Moving on, we began to talk about morality. I perked up; this was my sort of thing, my specialty. He asked me how morals could have ever arisen naturally. I began to eagerly explain, but he cut me off and agitatedly insisted that I had failed to provide evidence earlier that blind nature could even produce life (though I actually had provided evidence to that end), so I was automatically barred from discussing a natural rise to morality. I tried to explain that I had provided reasons to doubt the need for divine creation and had also given current alternative, naturalistic theories as to how the universe came about, but at each stage he just kept interrupting and insisting I was failing without really listening to what I had to say.

By this point, it had become very clear to me what was really happening. He had decided going in to the conversation that there was no way I’d find his arguments not to be convincing; an attitude I feel is probably born from a life spent looking at skin-deep analyses of naturalistic explanations compared to lengthy analyses in favor of the Bible (arguments which, more often than not in my experience, are already held by the person doing the reading). Honestly, it seemed to me as though he felt that I really hadn’t considered my decision to leave Christianity and become an open Atheist; it felt as though he thought his common, first-level arguments would be new and profoundly convincing to me. (The supposition that Atheists just haven’t thought about things clearly is a very common one) Who knows? Maybe he simply honestly isn’t aware how thoroughly naturalistic philosophy and science has dealt with objections like Paley’s Watchmaker or the First Cause? Then again, maybe he (as I’m told others from my old church have) actually suspects that I’m just “choosing” to be an Atheist so I can “get away with sins.”

The rest of my conversation with my old friend proved as equally fruitless. Whether he was unable or unwilling to see the slight turn of thought necessary to understand the distinction between not believing a thing exists versus believing a thing does not exist, I do not know. There were many other such occasions where I tried to explain a crucial bit of Atheistic philosophy or logic to him, but he interrupted me halfway and insisted that I was going off topic. For my part, I suspect that his misgivings were, again, a result of a lifetime spent focusing almost exclusively on books written to support his ideas; books that paint an overly simplistic view of non-theistic philosophical arguments.

The height of annoyance and hypocrisy came towards the end though, when he told me “Brandon, it’s plain to see what you’re doing. You’re blinding yourself to obvious truth because of your misgivings about God stemming from your negative views on human suffering.” I responded, “Friend, it’s easy to see that you are blinding yourself to hearing what I’m trying to say because you’ve spent your whole life immersed in a culture that…” and that’s where it threw his hand up and interrupted me again. “You can’t do that!” he exclaimed. “You’re impugning my motives!”

“No, friend,” I responded. “I’m merely showing you how what you say can easily be cross applied to you as well, from my point of view. It seems to me that you are willfully blind because of years of indoctrination.”

We went back and forth on this for several minutes, and all the while he steadfastly refused to see my point; that his accusations of me worked just as well against him, so he’d better find new ammunition to talk about or admit he was being less than critical in his thinking. To this point he could not concede, and so our conversation stymied and went nowhere, fast. In the end, I simply decided that I’d rather go home and watch a movie with my family than continue listening to him chase his own tail while calling me a fool. At the end of our talk, my friend told me “I’m glad you came over tonight, and I hope I didn’t offend you. It’s just that I am firmly convinced you are wrong, and I want to make you see that for your own good.”

And there it was. The key; the key to why that whole talk that evening was so fruitless. It was his uncompromising estimation of his position…

Is it wrong to be convicted in your beliefs? I don’t think so. I know I am very convicted in what I believe. However, to let that conviction utterly blind you to hearing and trying to understand someone else’s thoughts, let alone blind you to the humble acknowledgement that you may be wrong, is a problem. It stifles conversations and it drives away understanding with its sharp, uncompromising edges. I’m not saying be wishy-washy, I’m simply saying that honest conviction acknowledges that even its most earnestly held beliefs have their cracks.

And this, I think, is the great divide between most of the Theists I talk to and myself. My discussion with my old pastor was one long episode of him politely shouting “I KNOW I AM RIGHT! UNDENIABLY RIGHT! NOW AGREE WITH ME OR ADMIT YOU’RE A FOOL!” Just the other day, I had another conversation with two other friends who happen to be Theists. I asked them what it would theoretically take to change their mind about God and they both said “Nothing. Nothing can ever change my mind.” This close minded attitude and hostility towards the genuine conceptualization of being wrong is a fissure between Theists and Atheists that I feel more often than not hinders our religious friends from understanding the “gist” of what we Atheists are actually trying to say, which is that our Atheism is fueled by very reasonable doubts and skepticisms founded upon well thought out logical and philosophical underpinnings. If they can’t see that, then it is no wonder that some are not able to clearly see our historical criticisms of the Bible, the vast evidences for a naturalistic universe, or our ethical criticisms of the morality the Bible prescribes.

So what’s the remedy for this? Patience. Patience and an uncompromising and honest appraisal of reality. Keep engaging in these conversations and debates because, bit by bit, we are helping them start to understand what we’ve been trying to say all along. Will there be scores of Atheist converts as our Theistic friends start genuinely considering our arguments? Probably not; but then again, that shouldn’t be our primary focus anyway. Rather, we ought to be striving towards the much more attainable goal of getting them to see that we aren’t irrational God-haters or amoral hedonists.

(So, this is my first post here at SASHA, and I’m thrilled to have made it. I’m sure some typos missed my re-reads, but you’ll just have to forgive me that; I’m new to blogging in general. I look forward to posting more in the future though!)

Brandon Christen was born and raised right here in Missouri. He grew up in a religious family, and joined a far-right conservative church when he was a senior in college. For almost six years, the church dominated all facets of his life and thinking until, in early 2010, he began to openly question its steadfast rejection of science and philosophy. After a protracted struggle with his convictions, Brandon became an Atheist in September of that year. These days Brandon remains intensely interested in religion, though now he views it from a secular perspective. One of the chief problems he sees between Secular Society and Religious Society is the presumption that religion takes the high ground on moral and ethical issues. To combat this problem, Brandon frequently engages in conversations with as many religious individuals as he can in a “grass roots” effort to spread awareness about secular morality. He also acts as a strong voice in the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Central Missouri. While he still sees debunking religious falsehoods as important, Brandon’s ultimate focus is on becoming a professional philosopher and emphasizing in ethics so as to lend his voice to the attempt to heal the moral divide between believers and non-believers. 

Helpful resources:

Godisimaginary.com
Iron Chariots Wiki
Skeptics’ Annotated Bible / Skeptics’ Annotated Qur’an
AtheismResource.com
TalkOrigins.org

YouTubers: Evid3nc3Thunderf00tTheAmazingAtheistThe Atheist ExperienceEdward Current,NonStampCollectorMr. DeityRichard DawkinsQualiaSoup

Blogs: Greta ChristinaPZ MyersThe Friendly AtheistWWJTD?Debunking ChristianitySkepChick

and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too! :)

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About delightfullydoubtful

I'm a former preacher turned staunch Atheist. For a while, I dabbled in the cliche mindset that, with the realization that there was no afterlife or judgment, I was free to focus solely on money, sex, and worldly pleasure. However, that lifestyle was found to be woefully inadequate for this one-in-eternity shot at living, so I quickly moved on. For a while, I took up the banner of evangelical Atheism; deciding that the best way to serve my fellow man was to convince everyone I could to abandon religious faith. To that end, I frantically began trying to read up on my philosophy and science so as to have the most damning anti-theism arguments possible... However, I quickly found that line of approach to life wasn't very fulfilling either. Don't misunderstand me; I do honestly think that religion and spirituality (in the esoteric, religious sense) are both more harmful than good, and I think that mankind would do itself a huge favor if it threw off the fetters of supernaturalism once and for all. However, I realize that it is a fools errand to tell someone you are going to change their mind against so virulent and powerful a meme as religion. Ergo, I asked myself "What can someone who's eager, has a love for philosophy, science, and debate do to play their own small part in the theism/atheism issue?" My answer was simple: ethics. I think that ethics is the biggest battleground of the secular/religious culture war. Sure, the tenets of the two big religions include a need to focus on eternity, but to be honest most folks who believe in God simple despise Atheists for the false perspective that an Atheistic society would be one without ethics or morality. This simply isn't true; there have been many morally minded Atheists and there exist now many very ethical Atheists. In fact, I see ethics and Atheism as being interwoven; a thought I'll hopefully be exploring more on this blog. By no means am I an expert...yet. I don't pretend to be. I do, however, desire to be an expert on ethics someday, and I'm actively working towards it whenever I have the time. This blog is to be my own venting ground and training ground, of sorts, where I can put what I'm thinking into text and review it myself. I don't think anyone will ever come here and read my writings, but that's okay by me.

16 comments on “Guest Post: Brandon Christen – A Major Difference

  1. Jared Cowan
    October 24, 2011

    I agree. Atheism in terms of stereotypes is a problem that exists in part because of atheists that stereotype Christians. We can both laugh at stereotypes, but we shouldn’t take them seriously as anything like factual standards of what a group is like.

  2. David Fitzgerald
    October 25, 2011

    Brandon, excellent post, and I couldn’t agree with you more that the best tool to avoid frustration with the whole process is patience. No matter how intractable your Christian friend’s position seems, you ARE making a difference, just by being there and willing to have a dialogue and share the reasons that convince you that Christianity is just plain wrong on so many things. After all, it’s thoughtful conversations exactly like this that turned me from a staunch born-and-raised Christian apologist into the passionate atheist activist I am today!
    -Dave Fitzgerald

  3. F.J. Dagg
    October 25, 2011

    Thanks, Brandon (and greetings to my friend and fellow commenter, Dave), I have a couple of questions, but first, full disclosure:

    I am a believer, though I don’t usually apply the term, “Theist” to myself. I’m not a church-goer or Bible believer (though I am not in all cases hostile to those who believe it). A large part of my faith recognizes what I and, arguably, others don’t and, arguably, can’t, know. Like you, I enjoy discussions of cosmology, though you may be relieved to learn that I don’t insist that anyone share my beliefs. That said, the questions:

    Would you please provide me with links to your favorite authors/discussions purporting to dispose of the Watchmaker and First Cause arguments? I ask not as a covert challenge but in a sincere spirit of enquiry. Thanks in advance.

    To turn your question to your friends (2nd to last para) around, what it would theoretically take to change your mind about your non-Theistic beliefs?

    Thanks, and best wishes,
    James

    • Jared Cowan
      October 25, 2011

      How about evidence that suggests a paranormal explanation of sorts instead of inductive reasoning to something that is admitted to be beyond any scientific perspective and to stand out as unique in any cosmological argument? If God is beyond the principle that everything that exists needs a creator, why do you expect anyone to take the argument seriously?

      Belief in god based on issues of cosmology seems to boil down to an argument from ignorance: if we can’t find an explanation of what existed prior to the Big Bang, it must be God or some higher power? What about, “We don’t know, but we might find out eventually,”?

      The same thing could be said of an argument from teleology or design. If you think that it couldn’t be the case that an eye progressed from proto-eye organs in other organisms, then you resort to claiming those must be designed because you don’t know of a natural explanation or a scientific explanation makes you uncomfortable.

      When asking this question, we should probably first qualify what constitutes as evidence between us. If you take anecdotes that you think are from trustworthy people as evidence, then it’s just a matter of who you’re willing to trust and you’d believe any number of contradictory things from various people who have no reason to lie about what they believe sincerely, even if it happens to be untrue. If you think evidence based on scientific methods is flawed because we’re not sure, then why even trust a doctor to give you any treatment at all when they are commonly basing their practice on limited and uncertain science? And then we have logical syllogisms and arguments for God’s existence, which, even if they’re valid, doesn’t mean they are true, since the arguments assume at least one of their premises to be true because of the otherwise uncertain nature of their argument. The notion that because everything that exists has to have a cause is then negated by positing a causeless cause and effectless effect, i.e. God.

      This is why I reject virtually any argument that has ever been given to me. There are fundamental flaws in any of them, mainly based on a short sighted and uncritical idea of what constitutes as evidence and the similarity between a belief and opinion.

      • F.J. Dagg
        October 26, 2011

        Thanks for your thoughts, Jared. I’d like to reply at greater length, but unfortunately time doesn’t permit, so I just inserted some quick replies between your comments below. After reviewing, one thing stands out: your mention of the “argument from ignorance.” It’s a good point and it hits close to what matters to me in these kinds of discussions. More below. –James

        How about evidence that suggests a paranormal explanation of sorts instead of inductive reasoning to something that is admitted to be beyond any scientific perspective and to stand out as unique in any cosmological argument?

        — Is “inductive” the right word here? Seems to me that paranormal evidence is in fact an example of inductive evidence, certainly not deductive or syllogistic evidence. I’m willing to consider such evidence as part of an inductive case for the existence of a Creator. —

        If God is beyond the principle that everything that exists needs a creator, why do you expect anyone to take the argument seriously?

        — By implying that it’s impossible to take seriously the question of First Cause (“…beyond the principle that everything exists needs a creator”), you dismiss the question before the discussion begins. As I understand it, the whole point of the First Cause argument is that it is a special case. IMO, the problem here involves the limitation of man’s capacity to understand. One might say, “it is impossible for the limited to grasp the limitless.” —

        Belief in god based on issues of cosmology seems to boil down to an argument from ignorance: if we can’t find an explanation of what existed prior to the Big Bang, it must be God or some higher power? What about, “We don’t know, but we might find out eventually,”?

        — I’m fine with, “We don’t know…might find out…” You have a good point re “argument from ignorance,” but in defense of my own position in that regard, I do not fall into fallacy because I don’t claim proof. I merely speculate, which, I do claim, is all anyone is entitled to do, given our condition. Further, as to “argument from ignorance,” Certainly some believers are guilty. But I believe some non-believers are guilty as well. This is one of the main reasons this question engages me: my objection to some non-believers seeming to regard the lack of proof of the existence of a Creator as proof of non-existence. —

        The same thing could be said of an argument from teleology or design. If you think that it couldn’t be the case that an eye progressed from proto-eye organs in other organisms, then you resort to claiming those must be designed because you don’t know of a natural explanation or a scientific explanation makes you uncomfortable.

        — I have no problem with evolution. The question is, why is there anything TO evolve? Back to First Cause.–

        When asking this question, we should probably first qualify what constitutes as evidence between us. If you take anecdotes that you think are from trustworthy people as evidence, then it’s just a matter of who you’re willing to trust and you’d believe any number of contradictory things from various people who have no reason to lie about what they believe sincerely, even if it happens to be untrue.

        — I’m sorry, I‘m not sure I follow. Obviously, anecdotal evidence is by its nature subjective and must be treated as such. —

        If you think evidence based on scientific methods is flawed because we’re not sure, then why even trust a doctor to give you any treatment at all when they are commonly basing their practice on limited and uncertain science?

        — Not all methods are equally trustworthy. If the doc says “take Antibiotic A for your cold,” and there’s a history of millions of such successful treatments and I’ve personally taken Antibiotic A for colds a dozen times with no ill effects, then I’ll trust the doctor. If, OTOH, he says, “I’d like to treat your stage 4 brain cancer with an experimental method involving leeches marinated in moon rock radiation, and btw, you’re the first subject,” then I’d have a lower level of confidence in his advice. Then too, scientific evidence is always open to question. Witness the particles traveling at possibly supraluminal speed recently observed at CERN. I haven’t kept up with the story and don’t know if the question has been settled, but my point is that some of the best minds in the world looked at evidence of what would be a great dislocation in our understanding of the world and said, “Maybe…” —

        And then we have logical syllogisms and arguments for God’s existence, which, even if they’re valid, doesn’t mean they are true, since the arguments assume at least one of their premises to be true because of the otherwise uncertain nature of their argument. The notion that because everything that exists has to have a cause is then negated by positing a causeless cause and effectless effect, i.e. God.

        — Yes, you’re correct in distinguishing validity from truth. But, as I said, I favor the First Cause, with the stipulation that man’s understanding isn’t up to fully grasping it. I stress again, I don’t claim proof. I merely point and say, “Maybe…” As I once said to Dave, “This is what it looks like from here…” And the reason I bring it up at this forum is to assert that non-believers can claim no more than that, either. Hence I have the same objection to atheistic proselytizing as do atheists to religious proselytizing. Absent proof, we should mind our own business. —

        This is why I reject virtually any argument that has ever been given to me. There are fundamental flaws in any of them, mainly based on a short sighted and uncritical idea of what constitutes as evidence and the similarity between a belief and opinion.

        — I agree, to the extent of my knowledge of them, that arguments for the existence of a Creator or God fall short of proof, though as we also agree, lack of proof of “A” does not constitute proof of “not A.” I agree, too, that beliefs and opinions are similar though I don’t see the relevance to the discussion. It would be relevant if anyone in the room claimed that belief is the equivalent of fact but I don’t see anyone making that claim here. As to what constitutes evidence, I believe you can infer my ideas about that in the foregoing. If not, I’m happy to try to clarify. Thanks again for your thoughts. —

    • lordburgundy
      October 26, 2011

      Hey F.J.
      Thanks for your questions. As far as my favorite authors and discussions, that’s a tricky one. I’ve read a lot and whenever I speak it is from a synthesis of the things I’ve read, so sometimes it’s hard for me to pin down exactly where I first learned something or exactly what statement of an argument I found most compelling. I will look through my books and go back through my favorite websites though, and I’ll see what I can find for you. Offhand I would say Sens and Goodness by Richard Carrier, Atheism Explained (not very in depth, but a really good overview of a lot of important points) by David Steele, and the Iron Chariots wiki website are good places to start.

      As for your second question, for me to change my mind I would have to encounter a being or system which was in no way explicable by natural forces and *only* explicable by supernatural forces. If that sounds like a pretty hard shoe to fill, it’s because it is; and it should be. The proof of the existence of something supernatural would have to be something that is definitely proof and definitely supernatural. As of yet, all things we observe either are explained by natural laws or have very workable plausible natural theories that could explain them. In short, we’ve not yet met anything that utterly betrays our ability to postulate a natural cause, so we’ve not yet encountered anything constituting proof of supernatural causes.

      Thanks for the questions! And best to you as well!
      Brandon

      • Jared Cowan
        October 26, 2011

        @ FJ

        I’m speaking of something like Nightmare on Elm Street where the killings become so brutal and bizarre that you have to start considering the possibility that people may be getting killed in their dreams. I use the example because I’m watching the film series on a regular basis recently. Inductive evidence in science isn’t invalid because it’s inductive, except when it relies on a limited scale and scope of observation or a limited series of experiments.

        I don’t dismiss the argument before it begins, I dismiss it because it is a fallacy of special pleading, which many people who argue this fail to see. If you set up a standard and then violate it, you are practically admitting you need this exception to make sense of your theistic argument, because otherwise you fall into a problem of infinite regress with your God.

        I regard the lack of proof presented by theists as a principled reason to regard their claims as suspect by the principle of parsimony, ironically presented by William of Ockham, a Christian. If we presume simplicity, then God is, as described by most Christians, an unnecessarily complex entity in an otherwise relatively simple, yet complex in its own natural sense, world. I don’t argue that because there is no evidence of God, God absolutely doesn’t exist, but that there is no reason to consider God exists at the moment. Call me a pragmatist on this.

        First cause isn’t what your problem is with evolution except when you go back further than abiogenesis, which is the question of life coming from non life. there are a number of compelling theories one can find and I’d prefer them by simplicity, not to mention a matter of basic naturalism, which is in no way an absolute claim, btw.

        The uncertain nature of new medical treatments is most likely made clear to a patient as opposed to treatments established with years of experiments and studies. Something being open to question doesn’t mean you should regard it as somehow without any basis in reality with tested treatments that we already see have virtually no ill effects whatsoever. Something being uncertain does not make it untrustworthy in any significant sense beyond the same problem one could posit with humans. As friendly as we can be, there is always the possibility of betrayal. But that’s why we should remain mindful. But don’t become so skeptical of something merely because it has the possibility to be wrong in some sense.

        You seem to miss the point of proof in terms of science versus proof in terms of logic. Proof in terms of logic is not as compelling unless the premises are demonstrably true, from what I understand of basic syllogistic logic. There is also the problem I’ve already emphasized of special pleading and the focus on a final answer as opposed to a satisfactory answer such as what we have with big bang theory.

        Not to mention a problem I have to say to any theist: if we could prove your God, then why have faith in it anymore? If it’s even remotely as verifiable by science as gravity, then your God ceases to be supernatural in any sense that you yourself seem to regard it as. If we can discern God through natural means and scientific methods, then it is no longer worthy of worship, even if it exists.

        I don’t think I’ve ever implied that since there is no proof of God, the claim of “not God” must be true. But by law of parsimony, pragmatism and general consideration of what is real, I see no reason to believe God exists, I see no reason to consider it relevant even if it does, and I don’t see any reason to consider people’s supposed experiences of “God” as validating something that has natural explanations

      • F.J. Dagg
        October 26, 2011

        Hi Brandon,
        Thanks for your reply and for the suggestions of materials. I understand entirely about “many sources.” Your suggestions above are a good start, I’m sure, and in any event my time is limited, so please don’t spend any time hunting for stuff on my account.

        Your reply to my 2nd question makes perfect sense, and I have no objections to it. I’d like to discuss broader implications at length, but as I’ve said…time. I will though toss out an idea, if I may.

        In my reply to Jared I made kind of a deal of “the limits of man’s understanding.” In that light, I’d like to suggest that the word, “supernatural” is perhaps not as absolute as it may appear. E.g., to a time traveler from 150 years ago, television would appear supernatural, but once the underlying–natural–principles were explained it would appear to him entirely natural. My point is that our knowledge is both incomplete and changing, hence the line between what we regard as “natural” and “supernatural” is arbitrary and moves over time. So, perhaps science and my favored First Cause might intersect at some point in the future resulting in a great increase of our understanding. Just a thought…

        Thanks again!
        James

      • Jared Cowan
        October 26, 2011

        This ceases to be an argument from ignorance fallacy and instead becomes a God of the gaps issue. You think God will just solve these problems that we don’t understand. The problem with that is that many of these mysteries have been solved for the most part. Storms, seasons, etc. Why do you think we need God for something that could very well have natural and material explanations for it? Because you boil this down to what appears to be a pyrrhonist notion that you won’t make any claims to truth because it’s so uncertain. Maybe I’m wrong and there are other forms of this that come to mind, such as radical skepticism, perhaps.

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  5. Crystal Ruttley
    October 26, 2011

    Brandon, I have read and thought about what you have said about your conversation with your (used to be pastor). Your convictions are your own, but to publicly put down your (used to be pastor) is totally wrong! You have a right to your opinion, but to push your opinion onto other people is not saying much for your belief!! Everyone has a right to believe as they choose, not just you or your also one-sided friends. The difference between what I believe and you believe is I can open my heart as GOD as taught me through my beliefs to where I see you can not!! Other wards, can you accept that I have the right to believe in God? I feel you have taken your beliefs to tell people that they are wrong! Believing in anything with your heart is your RIGHT, not everyone else’s to feel or believe as you also want them to do. Believing in something is not a way to have a debate or look for an explanation as to why they believe! Be careful of what you ask for, you just might get it! I still love ya and I think you have a good heart, just have to figure out the difference between education and the right to believe I’m whatever you want! I myself believe in the whole being of GOD and choose not to be educated differently! I also don’t believe in trying to make you believe as I do! That is your chose and no one else’s. So don’t be angry at us Theists as you put it for our belief! Otherwards if you can’t deal with our train of thought don’t carry on about it or blame or argue! Leave us to believe as we wish! You can do the same!

    • Jared Cowan
      October 27, 2011

      People can have opinions without automatically being equated with insulting the person they happen to disagree with. I have opinions about a number of people who believe ridiculous things, but I’m not insulting their character by insulting their beliefs with my opinion that they are ridiculous, moronic and stupid.

      Why open your heart to something that in no way is pertinent to human endeavors? That’s my question to you.

      If you choose not to be educated differently, you’re being willfully ignorant, which is only a few steps away from being willfully stupid.

      I can’t leave you to believe as you will if you think you can just do whatever you want because your beliefs are the majority. That’s the line.

  6. Chrys Ruttley
    October 31, 2011

    I can’t believe you would put words in my mouth, saying I called anyone moronic, stupid and so forth! Then again if that is the only way you can have any discussion (being blameful) than I refuse to waste my time. As to Brandon, I know him personally and care about him very much, but then again I am not compelled have any reason to discuss that with you. Open mind and open heart can be perceived completely different. I would like to ask a question of you, do you believe in love? I think you would have trouble believing in that, because there is no proof that love, hate, friendship, or feelings can be proven! I am surprised you can attack my character and that is okay. I am a far cry from willfully ignorant! You do not know me or about me! I DO have a right to converse with my friend!

  7. Chrys Ruttley
    October 31, 2011

    I can’t believe you would put words in my mouth, saying I called anyone moronic, stupid and so forth! Then again if that is the only way you can have any discussion (being blameful) than I refuse to waste my time. As to Brandon, I know him personally and care about him very much, but then again I am not compelled have any reason to discuss that with you. Open mind and open heart can be perceived completely different. I would like to ask a question of you, do you believe in love? I think you would have trouble believing in that, because there is no proof that love, hate, friendship, or feelings can be proven! I am surprised you can attack my character and that is okay. I am a far cry from willfully ignorant! You do not know me or about me! I DO have a right to converse with my friend! As far as opening my heart, yes it is pertinent to ME!!!!! What part of that is so hard for you to understand! As I tried to make clear, it is MY life, not yours or any one else’s! May I also say name calling is not very becoming or has anything to do with MY belief!!!!

    This is MY life to believe in as I choose, having nothing to do with your life sir!

  8. Jared Cowan
    October 31, 2011

    I believe in love and it can be proven in terms of brain states, from what I understand. The empirical nature of it in terms of an individual’s experience doesn’t render it unprovable in scientific terms. There’s also distinctions of infatuation and genuine love of various forms, such as romantic, familial, friendship, etc.

    Your life has everything to do with me when it gets into issues that involve me in some sense, such as the attempt to spread your beliefs to those you think are wrong, yet you have little to go on to support your beliefs beyond further unfalsifiable ideas of resurrection and deities.

    Me claiming you are willfully ignorant is not insulting you as a whole person, but merely in the state of beliefs you hold in contradiction to evidence that contradicts it in one way or another. You could be an otherwise good person, but being willfully ignorant is not claiming you are evil ultimately in any sense.

  9. Kayden
    November 7, 2011

    I would like to point out that I’m Jewish before continuing. However, how is the fact that their is a G-d “obvious” as your friend says? I mean, yes, it seems obvious to me sometimes, but it takes effort and delving on my part to connect with divine energy. I don’t speak in tongues, I’ve never witnessed a “miracle,” and I will never be “saved.” Sorry, the fact that it’s an obvious truth that G-d exists is a little frustrating to me. It might seem obvious, but it’s not an “obvious truth”. One might have a feeling about it, but feelings don’t make for truth. Otherwise we’d call them facts.

    I feel like I’m sometimes trapped in a similar struggle. My dad has on numerous occasions asked me to talk to a priest about my “concerns with Christianity,” especially before I converted to Judaism. I told him he should talk to a rabbi. However, there’s no head atheist or anything (then again, rabbis don’t have any special standing in the community other than their learning) so maybe you should point all your friends the way of Richard Dawkins if they tell you that you need to talk to a pastor/priest/etc.

    In a similar vein, I just can’t win with Christians either, though it’s usually about whether or not Jesus fulfills the requirements of the messiah, not whether or not G-d exists. Either way, they usually come with the same mindset. I know there are some that are more agreeable, I just can’t seem to find them except at specifically interfaith conferences.

    Anyway, just thoughts floating around in my brain as I read the post and the comments.

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This entry was posted on October 24, 2011 by in Author: Brandon Christen.
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