The missionary position

Sometimes a short post is all that’s needed to convey a deep thought. And Makagutu’s posts is both.

While I do side with him on his thoughts, my own position on the matter is a little bit more complicated.

Firstly the easy bit. It think the Christian Missionary culture brought with it much that is bad. They ravaged local cultures and customs and forced those living in the lands they invade to convert to their doctrines. The side affect of this is that those who followed found it easy to pillage the occupied lands and take the wealth back to their own nation. Leaving those who knew and loved the lands worse off. I think that is a terrible legacy that is yet to be redressed.

I am a product of that which I condemn. I grew up in Zambia and spent many of my formative years cocooned within the missionary environment there. I have benefitted from it. Emotionally I love Zambia as a country, it is beautiful and those who live there are beautiful. Humans and other animals, all of them are beautiful.

It’s been more years than I care to admit since I visited and I miss the country still. I miss the dust and the smell of rain and the many sounds and the fabulous food.

Yet, much of what I love is tainted by the knowledge of injustice that took me there. Injustice that I once supported. Injustice that I once thought was godly and right. Injustice that in some small way was carried out by my own family line. it is done, it is past and I can do nothing about that. Sometimes that knowledge hurts.

Without that, I could never have seen some of the wonders I have seen. I would not have the memories that lead me to call the Victoria Falls my favourite place on earth. A name that itself is a product of that culture.

I was taught that those who died making first contact in the spread of the gospel were heroes and martyrs. There are Christians today who still think that.

I can only shake my head in disbelief, tainted with a small amount of shame.

Random thoughts

In this post I wrote, following, Professor Makau Mutua, that indigenous religions should be protected against the proselytizing religions, that is, Christianity and Islam.

Those of you who don’t live under rocks have heard about the missionary, John Chau, who met a not very good fate when he went to spread the not so good news of chesus to guys who were not interested.

Maybe had my ancestors meted the same treatment to early missionaries, the profile of our world would be different. If the missionaries believe their god is everywhere and can perform miracles, I would suggest they pray and fast, while at home, and ask the gods they pray to to convert whoever it is they are interested in saving from a death that meets us all.

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Creationism – Still a problem for Christianity

Here in the UK, the main publisher of Christian content is Premier Christianity. They do radio broadcasts, podcasts, a magazine and host various blogs.

This week they published a pair of blog items that were guaranteed to grab my attention.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/10-questions-to-ask-a-young-earth-creationist
https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/10-questions-to-ask-Christians-who-believe-in-evolution

The ten questions for Creationists are:

1. Can we start by agreeing that the Gospel is more about the Rock of Ages than the ages of rocks?
2. Does the age of the earth – or its shape – matter to a Christian?
3. Does the Bible teach that the earth is spherical?
4. How could people in 1000 BC grasp the idea of geological time?
5. Does the Bible always speak in a direct literal way?
6. Why do you assume that animal death only began to happen after Adam ate the fruit?
7. Is young earth creationism the traditional Christian view?
8. Were early geologists opposed to Christianity and did they use their geology to undermine belief?
9. Did Christians oppose old earth geology in the past?
10. Why do you claim that so many geologists in the last 350 years got their geology wrong?

The ten questions for those who accept evolution are:

1. If the Bible was your only source, would you ever suggest that Jesus Christ used evolution?
2. Why do you believe rocks containing thorns are millions of years old?
3. Why would you believe that Jesus the Creator used such processes to create the world, and then hypocritically declared it to be “very good”? (Genesis 1:31)
4. Why would God use a process which favours the strong over the weak?
5. How do you reconcile the truth of God’s word with millions of years?
6. At what point did humans become humans?
7. Was Jesus mistaken?
8. How can we trust God?
9. If evolution is true, then why didn’t God simply tell us that?
10. What would the Apostle Paul make of the theory of evolution?

Some of the questions (like Creationist question no.3) look to me like ‘softballs’, unserious questions designed to allow a standard response to a common internet meme. Given the majority readership of these posts is likely to be Christians, this seems like a waste of a question. Why not present a question that promotes deeper dialog between different Christian factions? I for one am not interested in this sort of question, it’s not challenging.

I’m also disappointing by the depth of the answers to the questions, they are all brief and only cover the the question superficially when some of them (like evolution question no.5) deserve much longer answers. Maybe what should have been done is cover each question in a single blog post and allow a bit of dialogue between the two individuals involved in the questions. That would have been my preference anyway.

Questions aside, it’s the public comments below that have produced the most heat. I have weighed in with my own views and predictably ran into the expected presuppositionalist telling me what it is I believe. I find those highly irritating and it is always a test of patience to remain civil in my replies.

As is to be expected, the more thoughtful comments come from the Christians who accept an old earth and some form of evolution and the more antagonistic comments are from the creationists, who espouse a much more literal version of the bible accounts. Sadly, they don’t continue their biblical literalism into the verses that talk about loving your neighbour and witnessing with respect and gentleness.

Oddly, I find myself welcoming the terrible comments from Creationists, not because I enjoy reading what they say, I don’t. I welcome the comments because it permits the rotten part of Christianity to expose itself. The more this literal and unloving section of Christianity floats to the surface and spews it’s bile, the more people will be turned away from it and be unconvinced by its claims. The clutter and chaos created by the creationists acts as an inoculation against the more attractive aspects of Christianity. Because at the very core, Christianity is still a myth trying very hard to be taken seriously and Creationism reveals that in the most effective way possible.

Why ice cream makes me love Jesus more.

Why ice cream makes me love Jesus more.

This blog post raises a theme I have often seen made in Christian circles and it really is among the dumbest claims that get made by Christians. It comes under the banner of validation by self identified victimisation. Apparently, being mocked validates your beliefs. Or rather, mocking something means it’s real because no one ever mocks a not real thing. Golly!

Well, that must mean the earth is really flat, unicorns exist, there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and amazingly, atheism really is true! Oh the contradiction!

But, the question that you really want me to answer is….

Would I try this Ice Cream? Hell yes!

More importantly, why didn’t I know about it when I was in Toronto last summer? Oh well, guess I’ll have to arrange a trip back one day.

6 days / 66 books / 6000 years

Recently we read about an ice cream in Canada called ‘Sweet Jesus Ice cream.’ 1

  • The ’t’ of ‘sweet’ is an inverted cross.
  • The ’s’ of Jesus is the sign of an ‘SS style “S” that was popular among Satanic metal bands of the ’70s and ’80s.

#  Some of their promotional slogans 

  • ‘Everyone has a cross to bear.  Yours won’t be hunger.’
  • ‘Eat like its your Last Supper.’
  • ‘Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain, but God Damn that’s delicious.’
  • ‘Love is patient, love is kind, but you can’t lickit.  So who cares?’

#  They are a good advertisement that Jesus is real.

Nobody mocks a non-entity, a fiction or a fable.  They do what the Bible says:

  • Jesus will be mocked.  He was mocked at the Cross, “Then they spat in His face and struck Him with their fists.  Others slapped Him and said, ‘Prophecy to…

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Being Anti-Theist

I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook discussion boards on religion. I generally try to be polite and considered, but there are also times when I let that drop and I respond to theists in the manner that they have spoken to me. The result of that is that I have been called anti-theist.

I don’t especially object to that label, mainly because how a theist wishes to describe me is of little concern to me. Over the years I’ve been called lots of things by theists and as a general rule I’ve noticed that theists who apply labels to those like myself tend not to be bothered by the accuracy of their proclamations. SO being labelled anti-theist by a theist isn’t something that bothers me at all, though it’s not a label I would necessarily apply to myself.

That’s not to say I don’t find some things abhorrent that come from the religious, those things do exist and when I see those things I do shake my head and wonder to myself “Where does this poison come from?”

One such example happened only this weekend, in response to the following story.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/14/nyregion/david-buckel-dead-fire.html

I can’t even comprehend what would drive someone to do that. The story makes me shudder at the imagined pain such an act would cause.

So what is my anti-theist beef today?

Well, I was alerted to the story when a Christian posted it to Facebook with the comment

Everybody’s got a religion…

Reasonpress site launch and a Book that I’m very Excited About

I hope the title of this post isn’t seen as click-bait because it’s all true. I am excited and it is about a book and a website , but it’s also more than that.

For the past year I have been involved in a collaborative project to get a book out, it’s been running under the title of The response Book Project and it’s gone live and there are plans to expand the site into something more. The something more will have to wait for now, this post is about the book.

But first the link, the curious can click this link and come back here for the boring bits later.

https://reasonpress.net/

 

Why?

It all began with a Christian radio show and podcast called Unbelievable? I’ve been a regular listener for a number of years, as are many atheists. It’s the only religious podcast I regularly listen to, because it is generally interesting, relaxed and stimulating to listen to. Details can be found at the link below:

https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes

Last year, the host of the show released a book to state why, after ten years of hosting the show and talking to atheists, he was still a Christian. The book was officially launched at the Unbelievable? conference in London and I attended, along with a handful of other atheists to get our hands on the first copies of the book so that the response project could get underway. On balance we were not all that impressed. It seems that talking to atheists does not involve listening to them.

Find the book here, if you dare:

https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Unbelievable-the-Book

 

What now?

Well, the site is not intended to be a static site. All the chapters of the response book are free to read on the site and there is a Discus comment block under each one so the hope is that there will be a chance to take the response further and have an active back and forth and not a stale opinion page. There are plans to extend the site beyond just this response book, but those ideas will have to wait until they are made real before I announce them here. For now it’s just the book and that’s about all the excitement I can contain anyway.

Twenty Arguments for God – A Summary

 

I’ve spent the last couple of months considering and responding to twenty arguments for the existence of the Christian god (http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm).

To be blunt, I’m unconvinced and less than impressed. The bottom line is, when Christianity tries to argue for the existence of its god, it does so from a position of wishful thinking. Christianity desperately needs to appear reasoned and lacking in superstition, so arguments like that list emerge to try and show that face. Yet, when the bright light of reason does indeed shine on these arguments, what becomes demonstrably clear is that Christian arguments for their god are framed so that they can only conclude in their god and are worded so as to guide only towards the Christian god. It is the perfect example of putting the cart before the horse.

The big thing that is lacking in all these arguments is the test. This is the pinnacle of a reasoned argument. It’s all well and good making a case for something, but if you don’t create a test that will confirm or deny the validity of the idea, then you have only done half a job.

Christian apologetics as a whole is the school of half a job and this list of twenty arguments demonstrates that nicely.

When I started through the list I was hoping that I would be challenged to think deeper about why I rejected my former faith. I hoped that the challenge would stimulate me into having to think about the implications of the arguments and maybe even spend some time reading up on the background to the arguments. I did that a little for some of them, but over all I found that the arguments were light on substance to the point that my biggest challenge was to try to address the points thoughtfully and not resort to a sarcastic dismissal. It’s very possible that I wasn’t as successful on that as others would be.

The most disappointing argument for me was also one of the most popular and widely used, the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It really is a shocker. That intelligent people hold it in high regard demonstrates the wishful thinking element of religion and how far people will go to shore up their beliefs with arguments that have the superficial appearance of rationality.

 

Twenty Arguments for God – Twenty – Pascal’s Wager

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 20:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#20

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

20. Pascal’s Wager

Suppose you, the reader, still feel that all of these arguments are inconclusive. There is another, different kind of argument left. It has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager. We mention it here and adapt it for our purposes, not because it is a proof for the existence of God, but because it can help us in our search for God in the absence of such proof.
As originally proposed by Pascal, the Wager assumes that logical reasoning by itself cannot decide for or against the existence of God; there seem to be good reasons on both sides. Now since reason cannot decide for sure, and since the question is of such importance that we must decide somehow, then we must “wager” if we cannot prove. And so we are asked: Where are you going to place your bet?
If you place it with God, you lose nothing, even if it turns out that God does not exist. But if you place it against God, and you are wrong and God does exist, you lose everything: God, eternity, heaven, infinite gain. “Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing.”
Consider the following diagram:
The diagram is in the shape of a square with the opposite corners connected by lines. Going clockwise from the top left the labels are ‘God Exists’ then ‘God does not exist’ then I believe in Him’ then ‘I do not believe in Him’
The vertical lines represent correct beliefs, the diagonals represent incorrect beliefs. Let us compare the diagonals. Suppose God does not exist and I believe in him. In that case, what awaits me after death is not eternal life but, most likely, eternal nonexistence. But now take the other diagonal: God, my Creator and the source of all good, does exist; but I do not believe in him. He offers me his love and his life, and I reject it. There are answers to my greatest questions, there is fulfilment of my deepest desires; but I decide to spurn it all. In that case, I lose (or at least seriously risk losing) everything.
The Wager can seem offensively venal and purely selfish. But it can be reformulated to appeal to a higher moral motive: If there is a God of infinite goodness, and he justly deserves my allegiance and faith, I risk doing the greatest injustice by not acknowledging him.
The Wager cannot—or should not—coerce belief. But it can be an incentive for us to search for God, to study and restudy the arguments that seek to show that there is Something—or Someone—who is the ultimate explanation of the universe and of my life. It could at lease motivate “The Prayer of the Skeptic”: “God, I don’t know whether you exist or not, but if you do, please show me who you are.”
Pascal says that there are three kinds of people: those who have sought God and found him, those who are seeking and have not yet found, and those who neither seek nor find. The first are reasonable and happy, the second are reasonable and unhappy, the third are both unreasonable and unhappy. If the Wager stimulates us at least to seek, then it will at least stimulate us to be reasonable. And if the promise Jesus makes is true, all who seek will find (Mt 7:7-8), and thus will be happy.

I first heard Pascal’s Wager when I heard the singer Cliff Richard summarise it in an answer to a question about why he believed. He didn’t identify it as Pascal’s Wager at the time, he just summarised the argument and that he was convinced by it. At the time I was too. It was some years later before I heard the term and looked into it more deeply.

The way the argument is presented is that the options are; the Christian god or no god. No other god is allowed for. It’s a false dichotomy. Why doesn’t the argument include the other gods? If you line up all the possible gods and then place no god in opposition, the choice becomes much clearer. Pick any god and you fall foul of those that remain, you may as well go for the home run and offend them all! If there is only one god and all the others are man made then how do you identify that god from the human descriptions? They all sound like human invented deities, so how do you pick the real one? You may as well say that none of the gods that humans believe in is real. It really is the most reasoned option.

As an aside, I do find it amusingly ironic that a religion that today teaches the evils of gambling, would posit this wager as a reasonable bet.

An unbiased (in my view anyway) description of Pascal’s Wager can be found here: http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/pascals-wager/

Twenty Arguments for God – Nineteen – The Common Consent Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 19:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#19

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

19. The Common Consent Argument

This proof is in some ways like the argument from religious experience (18) and in other ways like the argument from desire (16). It argues that:
Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era.
Either the vast majority of people have been wrong about this most profound element of their lives or they have not.
It is most plausible to believe that they have not.
Therefore it is most plausible to believe that God exists.
Everyone admits that religious belief is widespread throughout human history. But the question arises: Does this undisputed fact amount to evidence in favor of the truth of religious claims? Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive: the vast majority of humans have believed in an ultimate Being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship. No one disputes the reality of our feelings of reverence, attitudes of worship, acts of adoration. But if God does not exist, then these things have never once—never once—had a real object. Is it really plausible to believe that?
The capacity for reverence and worship certainly seems to belong to us by nature. And it is hard to believe that this natural capacity can never, in the nature of things, be fulfilled, especially when so many testify that it has been. True enough, it is conceivable that this side of our nature is doomed to frustration; it is thinkable that those millions upon millions who claim to have found the Holy One who is worthy of reverence and worship were deluded. But is it likely?
It seems far more likely that those who refuse to believe are the ones suffering from deprivation and delusion—like the tone-deaf person who denies the existence of music, or the frightened tenant who tells herself she doesn’t hear cries of terror and distress coming from the street below and, when her children awaken to the sounds and ask her, “Why is that lady screaming, Mommy?” tells them, “Nobody’s screaming: it’s just the wind, that’s all. Go back to sleep.”
Question 1: But the majority is not infallible. Most people were wrong about the movements of the sun and earth. So why not about the existence of God?
Reply: If people were wrong about the theory of heliocentrism, they still experienced the sun and earth and motion. They were simply mistaken in thinking that the motion they perceived was the sun’s. But if God does not exist, what is it that believers have been experiencing? The level of illusion goes far beyond any other example of collective error. It really amounts to collective psychosis.
For believing in God is like having a relationship with a person. If God never existed, neither did this relationship. You were responding with reverence and love to no one; and no one was there to receive and answer your response. It’s as if you believe yourself happily married when in fact you live alone in a dingy apartment.
Now we grant that such mass delusion is conceivable, but what is the likely story? If there were no other bits of experience which, taken together with our perceptions of the sun and earth, make it most likely that the earth goes round the sun, it would be foolish to interpret our experience that way. How much more so here, where what we experience is a relationship involving reverence and worship and, sometimes, love. It is most reasonable to believe that God really is there, given such widespread belief in him—unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.
Question 2: But isn’t there a very plausible psychological account of religious belief? Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears; that God is in fact a projection of our human fathers: someone “up there” who can protect us from natural forces we consider hostile.
Reply A: This is not really a naturalistic explanation of religious belief. It is no more than a statement, dressed in psychological jargon, that religious belief is false. You begin from the assumption that God does not exist. Then you figure that since the closest earthly symbol for the Creator is a father, God must be a cosmic projection of our human fathers. But apart from the assumption of atheism, there is no compelling evidence at all that God is a mere projection.
In fact, the argument begs the question. We seek psychological explanation only for ideas we already know (or presume) to be false, not those we think to be true. We ask, “Why do you think black dogs are out to kill you? Were you frightened by one when you were small?” But we never ask, “Why do you think black dogs aren’t out to kill you? Did you have a nice black puppy once?”
Reply B: Though there must be something of God that is reflected in human fathers (otherwise our symbolism for him would be inexplicable), Christians realize that the symbolism is ultimately inadequate. And if the Ultimate Being is mysterious in a way that transcends all symbolism, how can he be a mere projection of what the symbol represents? The truth seems to be—and if God exists, the truth is—the other way around: our earthly fathers are pale projections of the Heavenly Father. It should be noted that several writers (e.g., Paul Vitz) have analyzed atheism as itself a psychic pathology: an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God.

In the course of history, millions of people have believed in god and they can’t all be wrong can they? Well yes they can. Millions of people have believed in gods that are not the Christian god, does the author think they are all wrong? Of course he does.

The author would have us believe that because religious belief has been wholeheartedly accepted, promoted and foisted on others for as long as there is a history of humanity, then that must make it true. The author isn’t drawing a distinction between religions here, all religions are lumped into the same basket so as to weight the scales in favour of the Christian god. Should this methodology be taken seriously?

Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive

This one doesn’t. Testimony means little to nothing when it’s that blatantly biased.

The question is asked if it’s really plausible to believe that if there is no god then all those acts of worship over the course of mankind’s religious history were never once directed to a real object. Well there are many idols that have been on the receiving end of that worship so it seems that the author has a rather skewed perception of what it was that all those religions have worshiped. The author, it appears, assumes that all those religions were really focused on the single god that he believes in.

The comparison with heliocentrism is puzzling. I assume the author means geocentrism, which isn’t a theory but an hypothesis. The origin for the belief was observation of the sun and moon, the correction of the false idea and the establishment of the fact of heliocentrism was further evidence that is measurable and repeatable today. God, in the meantime, is still only an idea, one which Christians will not allow to be tested, measured or otherwise detected.

Ditto the comparison with falsely believing yourself to be married. I can go home and experience conversations over a home cooked meal and then correctly load the dishwasher afterwards. In the meantime all prayers to god and other methods of communication are decidedly one-sided. The author is trying desperately to assert the existence of god using every day experiences while failing to address that his god can not be seen, touched, heard or tested for.

unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.

Not accepting that religious belief can be explained naturally, is not the same as it not being possible, it just means that in the religious mind, religious belief overrides everything else.

Apparently,

Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears

Can you hear the strawman claxon sounding? I have no recollection of ever having heard this argument, I am pretty sure this is the first time I have responded to any form of it. Kids form a belief in god because they are taught it. Either from parents or from other trusted adults. They don’t naturally gravitate to it because of fear. It’s not a coherent argument but it does make for a good set-up to plug the work of Paul Vitz who asserts

an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God

More of that nonsense here (http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth12.html), if you can bare it.

Twenty Arguments for God – Eighteen – The Argument from Religious Experience

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 18:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#18

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

18. The Argument from Religious Experience

Some sort of experience lies at the very core of most people’s religious faith. Most of our readers have very likely had such an experience. If so, you realize, in a way no one else can, its central importance in your life. That realization is not itself an argument for God’s existence; in fact, in the light of it you would probably say that there is no need for arguments. But there is in fact an argument for God’s existence constructed from the data of such experiences. It is not an argument which moves from your own personal experience to your own affirmation that God exists. As we said, you most probably have no need for such an argument. Instead, this argument moves in another direction: from the widespread fact of religious experience to the affirmation that only a divine reality can adequately explain it.
It is difficult to state this argument deductively. But it might fairly be put as follows.
Many people of different eras and of widely different cultures claim to have had an experience of the “divine.”
It is inconceivable that so many people could have been so utterly wrong about the nature and content of their own experience.
Therefore, there exists a “divine” reality which many people of different eras and of widely different cultures have experienced.
Does such experience prove that an intelligent Creator-God exists? On the face of it this seems unlikely. For such a God does not seem to be the object of all experiences called “religious.” But still, he is the object of many. That is, many people understand their experience that way; they are “united with” or “taken up into” a boundless and overwhelming Knowledge and Love, a Love that fills them with itself but infinitely exceeds their capacity to receive. Or so they claim. The question is: Are we to believe them?
There is an enormous number of such claims. Either they are true or not. In evaluating them, we should take into account:
the consistency of these claims (are they self-consistent as well as consistent with what we know otherwise to be true?);
the character of those who make these claims (do these persons seem honest, decent, trustworthy?); and
the effects these experiences have had in their own lives and the lives of others (have these persons become more loving as a result of what they experienced? More genuinely edifying? Or, alternatively, have they become vain and self-absorbed?).
Suppose someone says to you: “All these experiences are either the result of lesions in the temporal lobe or of neurotic repression. In no way do they verify the truth of some divine reality.” What might your reaction be? You might think back over that enormous documentation of accounts and ask yourself if that can be right. And you might conclude: “No. Given this vast number of claims, and the quality of life of those who made them, it seems incredible that those who made the claims could have been so wrong about them, or that insanity or brain disease could cause such profound goodness and beauty.”
It is impossible to lay down ahead of time how investigation into this record of claims and characters will affect all individuals. You cannot say ahead of time how it will affect you. But it is evidence; it has persuaded many; and it cannot be ignored. Sometimes—in fact, we believe, very often—that record is not so much faced as dismissed with vivid trendy labels.

It’s not new or surprising that people who are religious have expereinces that they interperet in support of that religion. Often these experiences are very important to them. In some cases you could even say that they treasure them. People with vastly different religious creeds will use similar experiences to support their own beliefs.

Can these experiences be explained in any other way? Well yes, the human mind is very good at seeing patterns, especially patterns that do not exist, it is so easy to do this that a great many illusions are based specifically on this attribute. In addition, the human mind will interperet things according to it’s own biases. That is, if something can’t be explained easilly, then the mind will jump to its default unexplained bias. This could be religious, conspiracy, aliens or any number of other imagined explanations. The sheer number of experiences that people are prepared to attribute to these isn’t an argument for the existence of any of them but a clear demonstration of how lazy our cognitive functions are. Investigating and testing for the actual explanation requires a darn sight more effort than assuming your superstition of choice is correct. Which is exactly why these kinds of experiences are seen by the religious as confirmation of their religion.

In my time I’ve had a fair number of experiences that were interpreted as religious. To be completely frank and honest, there is one very significant one which I have no explanation for, does that mean the Christian god is real? Of course not. Way back at the beginning of my journey away from Christianity I learnt about the scientific explanation for an experience that matched one of my own (Sleep Paralysis). It was this moment that caused me to seriously question my religiously interpreted experiences. It was only when I questioned them in this manner that I realised that I had been duped all along.

Religious experience, by it’s very nature, is a very subjective thing and when mixed with a spoonful of bias, it becomes highly unreliable. This is exactly why we should not trust religious experience and it should not be taken as confirmation of anyone’s preferred god.

Twenty Arguments for God – Seventeen – The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 17:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#17

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this one or you don’t.

What do I do with this one? Question the sincerity of the author? Roll out an ad hominem by insulting the authors intelligence?

Do I call POE? Do I ask if the whole thing is an elaborate troll?

Do I counter by saying that there is also shit and vomit, therefore there is no god?

I’m stumped, not because the sentences are compelling, but because this is not an argument. To take it seriously or to give it serious thought is insulting.