Twenty Arguments for God – Twelve – The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

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 12:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#12

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

12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

This argument, made famous by Rene Descartes, has a kinship to the ontological argument (13). It starts from the idea of God. But it does not claim that real being is part of the content of that idea, as the ontological argument does. Rather it seeks to show that only God himself could have caused this idea to arise in our minds.
It would be impossible for us to reproduce the whole context Descartes gives for this proof (see his third Meditation), and fruitless to follow his scholastic vocabulary. We give below the briefest summary and discussion.
We have ideas of many things.
These ideas must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.
One of the ideas we have is the idea of God—an infinite, all-perfect being.
This idea could not have been caused by ourselves, because we know ourselves to be limited and imperfect, and no effect can be greater than its cause.
Therefore, the idea must have been caused by something outside us which has nothing less than the qualities contained in the idea of God.
But only God himself has those qualities.
Therefore God himself must be the cause of the idea we have of him.
Therefore God exists.
Consider the following common objection. The idea of God can easily arise like this: we notice degrees of perfection among finite beings—some are more perfect (or less imperfect) than others. And to reach the idea of God, we just project the scale upward and outward to infinity. Thus there seems to be no need for an actually existing God to account for the existence of the idea. All we need is the experience of things varying in degrees of perfection, and a mind capable of thinking away perceived limitations.
But is that really enough? How can we think away limitation or imperfection unless we first recognize it as such? And how can we recognize it as such unless we already have some notion of infinite perfection? To recognize things as imperfect or finite involves the possession of a standard in thought that makes the recognition possible.
Does that seem farfetched? It does not mean that toddlers spend their time thinking about God. But it does mean that, however late in life you use the standard, however long before it comes explicitly into consciousness, still, the standard must be there in order for you to use it. But where did it come from? Not from your experience of yourself or of the world that exists outside you. For the idea of infinite perfection is already presupposed in our thinking about all these things and judging them imperfect. Therefore none of them can be the origin of the idea of God; only God himself can be that.

I believe the Descartes argument that is mentioned at the top is summarised here:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ontological/

ideas [of things] must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.

We all have ideas, this is part of being human, sometimes our ideas are nonsense and sometimes they are correct. They are all out own. How does an idea come from outside of us when the idea happens inside our brain? Is there a demonstration of how an idea comes to us from outside of us? How do we tell the difference between the two idea types?

This idea [of an all-perfect god] could not have been caused by ourselves

With the failure to address how there are ideas that we don’t come up with ourselves, how could anyone support this claim? The claim is interesting, but its premise is not shown so why should the claim be accepted?

the idea must have been caused by something outside us

How? What is the mechanism? The author is running with the idea as though it’s true. Who came up with the idea that there are ideas that come from outside us? If that idea came from within someone, how could we know it to be true?

Therefore God exists.

Whose idea of god exists? Does every Christian describe the same god? Do they all exist? if a Christian’s idea of god is flawed or incorrect does that means it’s their own idea of god and not an external idea? Does that cancel out this argument?

It one believes the author, it seems that only the Christian god could have planted the idea of the Christian god into our minds because we’re too weak and limited in our thinking to invent that god ourselves? Really!?

One only has to read the Bible to see that the Christian god has many human characteristics, disproportionate vengeance, annihilation of the disliked, inconsistency. It’s all there.

If it’s specifically the Christian idea of god that has been given to humans from god, how come there are so many other gods that humans think about? Is the Christian god really that much more special that it would be impossible for humans to come up with it on their own?

As a final thought, I am genuinely astonished that this argument is presented seriously. In fact this argument makes me wonder if the whole list of 20 arguments is someone having a massive laugh at the expense of those Christians who buy it and reference it on an all too regular basis.

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Twenty Arguments for God – Nine – The Argument from Miracles

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 9:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#9

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

9. The Argument from Miracles

A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
There are numerous well-attested miracles.
Therefore, there are numerous events whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
Therefore God exists.
Obviously if you believe that some extraordinary event is a miracle, then you believe in divine agency, and you believe that such agency was at work in this event. But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Which events do we choose? In the first place, the event must be extraordinary. But there are many extraordinary happenings (e.g., numerous stones dropping from the sky in Texas) that do not qualify as miracles. Why not? First, because they could be caused by something in nature, and second, because the context in which they occur is not religious. They qualify as mere oddities, as “strange happenings”; the sort of thing you might expect to read in Believe It or Not, but never hear about from the pulpit. Therefore the meaning of the event must also be religious to qualify as a miracle.
Suppose that a holy man had stood in the center of Houston and said: “My dear brothers and sisters! You are leading sinful lives! Look at yourselves—drunken! dissolute! God wants you to repent! And as a sign of his displeasure he’s going to shower stones upon you!” Then, moments later—thunk! thunk! thunk!—the stones began to fall. The word “miracle” might very well spring to mind.
Not that we would have to believe in God after witnessing this event. But still, if that man in Texas seemed utterly genuine, and if his accusations hit home, made us think “He’s right,” then it would be very hard to consider what happened a deception or even an extraordinary coincidence.
This means that the setting of a supposed miracle is crucially important. Not just the physical setting, and not just the timing, but the personal setting is vital as well—the character and the message of the person to whom this event is specially tied. Take, for example, four or five miracles from the New Testament. Remove them completely from their context, from the teaching and character of Christ. Would it be wrong to see their religious significance as thereby greatly diminished? After all, to call some happening a miracle is to interpret it religiously. But to interpret it that way demands a context or setting which invites such interpretation. And part of this setting usually, though not always, involves a person whose moral authority is first recognized, and whose religious authority, which the miracle seems to confirm, is then acknowledged.
Abstract discussions of probability usually miss this factor. But setting does play a decisive role. Many years ago, at an otherwise dull convention, a distinguished philosopher explained why he had become a Christian. He said: “I picked up the New Testament with a view to judging it, to weighing its pros and cons. But as I began to read, I realized that I was the one being judged.” Certainly he came to believe in the miracle-stories. But it was the character and teaching of Christ that led him to accept the things recounted there as genuine acts of God.
So there is not really a proof from miracles. If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event. There is a movement of the mind from this event to its proper interpretation as miraculous. And what gives impetus to that movement is not just the event by itself, but the many factors surrounding it which invite—or seem to demand—such interpretation.
But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.
Therefore their cause exists.
And their only adequate cause is God.
Therefore God exists.

There is a big issue with miracle claims, they tend to be anecdotal, poorly evidenced, believed only by those who are motivated to believe them and, most importantly, have alternative non miraculous explanations. That latter part is where the first sentence falls over. I do agree with the first sentence in that if the only explanation is the direct intervention of a god, then it’s a miracle. I challenge the use of the word adequate though, adequate by whose or by what standard? Also, with an incomplete knowledge of nature, it is entirely possible that an event which was previously considered to be a miracle is now successfully described naturally.

After the half hearted definition of miracle in the opening sentence, we get the completely unsupported claim that.

There are numerous well-attested miracles.

Since a miracle requires god, it must surely follow that well-attested miracles mean god is real. Which god though? This is the other problem with miracle claims, not only do you have to get past the issue of proving it’s a miracle, you then have to decide which of the myriad claimed deities is responsible for it. Or if you’re a catholic, which departed soul.

But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Good questions, important questions. We should check them out.

The next three paragraphs don’t provide any answer so I’ll skip on.

If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event.

I agree, but that is a belief position and not the sort of thing anyone should accept as proof.

But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.

Is reliable testimony better than adequate explanation? I’m not sure, neither sound convincing. Especially without specific references, which are not provided, they never are of course.

I strongly dispute the bold claim that miraculous events exist. There may be unexplained events, but does that make them miracles? I say not. The existence of a god is a very significant and important claim. If this claim is relying on alleged miracles for proof, then the claims need to be robust. Testimony is not a robust method of determining the accuracy of an event. Counterfeit miracle claims exist and many a believer has been fooled into arguing for their veracity. The Christian god is also not the only one credited with doing the miraculous, which creates a very unfortunate problem for the author. Should those other deities be accepted on the claims of those other miracles? We don’t need him to come here and answer, we know he’ll not accept those as proof for those other claimed gods.

Which tells us something very important about how he values miracle claims.

And their only adequate cause is God.
Therefore God exists.

It’s a slam dunk folks, just believe it and it’s true. This argument must surely be the worst one yet! Assert something is true, assert it means your god exists, assert that therefore your god exists! The invisible pink unicorn will be proud, blessed be its shadow.

Twenty Arguments for God – One – The Argument from Change

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 1:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#1

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

1. The Argument from Change

The material world we know is a world of change. This young woman came to be 5’2″, but she was not always that height. The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. Now when something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being. For until it comes to be, it does not exist, and if it does not yet exist, it cannot cause anything.
As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.
Now a question: To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved? Obviously, other things must be involved. Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then. The result of change cannot actually exist before the change. The changing thing begins with only the potential to change, but it needs to be acted on by other things outside if that potential is to be made actual. Otherwise it cannot change.
Nothing changes itself. Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules. And when the animal or human dies, the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.
Now a further question: Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing? Are its movers also moving? If so, all of them stand in need right now of being acted on by other things, or else they cannot change. No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.
The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

Apparently the author has never observed a cell under a microscope, or bothered to understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The universe that we are within is under constant change and there is no evidence of external activity interfering with it. As it currently stands, we are unable to detect anything that is outside of this universe. The premise of this argument, that everything needs something external to it in order for it to change, is extrapolated to such an extreme that it makes a fatal assumption. I imagine that the author assumes that we’ll never ‘see’ outside the universe and therefore can’t directly challenge the argument.

If an argument is framed in such a way that it can’t be challenged, does that make it automatically correct?

Physicists are working on the problem of what could be beyond the boundary of the universe, if indeed there is such a thing. There are hypothesis that are in the works and experiments are being devised. For a stack load, and I do mean a stack load, of further reading on the subject, this Wikipedia page has a bunch of references that can be followed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe). Yes, I know there are many who detest Wikipedia for various reasons, it is however a good way to find a list of references to science stuff. So if reading the Wikipedia article makes you want to retch, skip to the bottom and browse through the references. It’s a very good a place to start.

This argument also makes reference to an animal’s will as the external source of it’s desire to move. The will is what we call the decision to move, which is based on the chemical and biological interactions in the brain. The brain, being part of the animal in question, is entirely within the animal and contains nothing that is outside of the animal. The whole idea that our will to move is external to ourselves is an utter nonsense point and factually incorrect.

As will become clear as I chug my way through these arguments, I put a lot of store in what can be explained and demonstrated, which normally means something scientific. The argument quoted above explains nothing and demonstrates even less. It is founded on a crude and minimally descriptive premise and flops downhill from there. There are not even any references to support the points made.

The agent of change that the argument says must exist outside the universe is not explicitly identified in the argument, but we all know that a Christian wrote the item and the only external being that the author is going to accept is the Christian god. The fact that other religions can, and probably do, use a similar argument to this to lead to their own god or gods should be an indication of weakness of this one.

A Skeptics(!) Takes a Look at Science Part II

I read a few blogs whose authors clearly disagree with my worldview. I think it’s good to do that. This isn’t the first time I’ve made a post that’s commenting on the particular blog I’m responding to and I doubt it’ll be the last. It’s a veritable goldmine of potential posts, made all the more easier for the lack of a comments section.
You’ll need to read this to understand all of my comments below.
1) Science is based on observation and experimentation. ‘String theory’ doesn’t have much (any?) supporting evidence and is not widely accepted, or even seriously considered. The sentence “they spend an inordinate amount time and money chasing, trying to convince us  that they are truthful” isn’t true for string theory . Its a bad example. A good example would be the Higgs Boson, theorised, fits the models, generally accepted, expensive experiment built, tested and confirmed. Note ‘confrimed’, shown to be real, cost justified!

Then the author jumps to evolution. Why do theists so often do that? Start with something ‘out there’ and suddenly dive to evolution! Two completely different disciplines. It’s like they’re trying to taint the water or something.

Anyway, the reason why the evolutionary process is still being tested and experimented on is not to look for an elusive proof, but to learn. Each feature, behaviour and mutation has a different selective pressure and some are easier to explain than others. Learning is good. To sit back and think the job is done and we know it all is the utmost arrogance.

2) Scientists accept we all have biases, that’s why peer review exists. Even that isn’t perfect and sometimes fails us. Mistakes happen, but crucially, mistakes also get found out and corrected. It would be better to not have the mistakes and that’s the ideal, but bias means those will happen. No one should claim there is no bias in science. Though the scientific method itself, should be bias free and the process designed to eliminate bias.

To place any god into the science lab would be to introduce deep bias with presupposition. Excluding god isn’t bias, its the null hypothesis at work, it’s not specifically god that is excluded, but ALL presuppositions that should and must be excluded each and every single time, always and forever. When an experiment reliably and predictably indicates a god, then that god can come and play with the Bunsen burner, until then the cosmic waiting room is the best it can hope for.

3) theists regularly confuse lack of religion for another religion and this is an example of the nonsense that follows.

4) still rambling about religion. Oh if only we all lacked bias!

5) I have a dream! I have a dream that there is enough money going round for all the good science to get all that it needs every time it needs it.

Still going on about religion and invoked Bodwin’s Law, tut tut!

and finally

6) Science has discovered and described the easy stuff and is now onto the harder stuff. It’s only to be expected that as technology improves we’ll get to discover stuff that has previously evaded us. That’s why it took 100 years to discover gravitational waves. This is neither a shocking nor a ground-breaking suggestion.

As for physics having got to the end? Poppycock! With each new thing we learn we find more things that we now need to learn about. Any scholar that claims this for physics or biology isn’t well versed in physics or biology!

Mis-quoting others, atheists being dicks

One of the joys of the internet is the ability to check out and spread humorous quotes of famous people that backup your philosophical position.

Which probably explains why the following quote, supposedly of Mark Twain, has been doing the rounds for some time.

Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.

When the above quote appeared on my Facebook feed some weeks ago I decided to check it out. I don’t like to just take pithy quotes on face value and in today’s age of easily assimilated and faked images it is so easy to attribute anything to anyone.

There are many places that repeat the quote, but only a few that show a history of the quote, among them is this one: http://www.zebrafactcheck.com/neer-the-twain-did-speak-it/

As can be seen, the quote is of dubious attribution.

One of the reasons I wanted to check the quote out is that I don’t consider it particularly accurate. The history of religion is very complex and no one who studies it long enough will actually claim the quote as being an accurate representation of that history.

The quote is the sort of thing that I would laugh at with friends over a beer if repeated down the pub, but would never take seriously. However, sticking it on Facebook makes it open to challenge. So having found that it wasn’t a valid attribution I commented to that effect and corrected the poster.

Now this particular individual is rather outspoken and like to say things that shock and will argue them until the other party gives up. Some of his posts and comments are so abrasive that my wife has blocked his comments from showing on her feed. He certainly isn’t the type to admit a mistake easily, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when his response to my correction was to reply that whoever said it, it was effing funny.

It is this kind of atheist that, sadly, gives the rest of us a bad name and it is this kind of mentality that, also sadly, many people of a religious persuasion imagine when they think of atheists. I know that is the sort of person I thought most atheists were because that is what I had been warned about many times growing up.

The truth of course, is that this is not characteristic of most atheists, it is simply that this is the kind of atheist that gets noticed the most.

 

The Atheist Prayer Experiment

I listen to an large number of podcasts. In fact I’d go so far as to say that when I’m working from home or out and about with my iPod, my listening is 99% podcasts. They vary from music podcasts to comedy and audio stories right the way to science based. There are some atheist podcasts and there is a sole Christian podcast in the list.

That Christian podcast is Unbelievable? (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/unbelievable/id267142101) From UK Christian radio station Premier. The basic format is that the Christian host takes a subject each week and generally chairs a discussion between a theist and a non-theist. Usually the theist is a Christian. I find the show is generally well balanced and I appreciate the honest discussion that follows. I think Justin (the host) does a very good job.

Now that the plug is out of the way; last year they ran An Atheist Prayer Experiment (http://www.premier.org.uk/atheistprayerexperiment). I’m so far behind on listening to the podcast that I’m only just catching up with the results shows. The basic idea was to challenge Atheists to pray daily for 40 days asking God to reveal Himself to them.

My Thoughts

When I first heard about the challenge, I did consider if I would have taken part. The experiment was already over by the time I heard the first podcast advertising it. My conclusion was that no I would not take part because I would more than likely be guilty of not being open enough to pray the prayer and mean it. Surely that would disqualify me as I could not be objective.

The conclusion from that was that if the only people would be able to take part where those who were considered open to their being a god, then surely they can’t call themselves atheists can they? While I applaud the sentiment behind the experiment I do see it as being a bit valueless.

Testing God?

Having ruled myself out of taking part, my next thought was that surely this would come under the banner of testing god and the Bible specifically warns against this doesn’t it. I had a brief conversation with my pastor (since I no longer attend the church is he still my paster? Who cares, he’s a good chap and a good friend so for clarity I’ll refer to him as my pastor) on this and we both seemed to agree that it did get close to falling foul of that.

Rather naughtily I asked the question “In that case, isn’t all prayer testing god?” Hmmm, I think the answer to that is a whole blog post on its own. Anyway, we agreed that the boundary was more a fat grey line than an absolute boundary.

Later I would discuss this with my wife and while we too agreed it was a largely valueless experiment, her answer to the testing god question was that the warning to not test god was more about seeking a bargain than it was about praying this sort of prayer. I asked her if Jacob and the Fleece was a test, she said yes. We agreed that since the command came much later than Jacob’s bargain that we’d let him off on this occasion.

Praying on Video

In order to protect himself from accusations of not being sincere, one participant recorded a video of himself praying. Christians commented that the prayer was genuine and complimented him on his prayer. The participant reported that he felt humiliated by it. I wondered why they were complimenting him on the words he used, surely it’s the state of his heart and mind towards god that is of greater importance!

It’s a Christian Win-Win

Regardless of the results, Christians can claim a win here. If there were many converts, well the answer is obvious. For each of those who don’t convert, well they were clearly not open to god’s message or the time wasn’t right for them, or any other apologetic reasoning.

As it happens, there was a tiny number of converts out of the 70-odd participants.

 

Swearing on the Bible

 

A few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I found myself swearing an oath with my hand on a bible.

In my Christian days I this practice bugged me somewhat. I always considered the verse in James which talks about not swearing on the book of the law and letting your word be reliable. In my more arrogant moments I would say that if I were ever in that situation I’d open the Bible to the relevant passage, read it, and then refuse the request.

These days, I’m not quite so hot headed about the issue, but I do wonder why it is done and why people still accept it. There is good argument for both Christians and atheists to object to the practice. The way I squared with it was that I took the view that it was better to have a bible there on display and seen as a symbol of trustworthiness. The issue now, is that it is only Christians who have that option.

I get the reasons; there is solemnity in putting your hand on the bible and making a promise. As a child, the challenge from people doubting ones word was to “swear on your mother’s life”. People who really wanted to be believed would do this in an effort to show their reliability. My mother’s life is more valuable to me than a bible; can’t that be used as a sign of my reliability? Of course the legal process would consider that a flippant offer, so why should the bible be seen as less flippant?

As it happens, the oath swearing was a requirement of my being an executor of my late mother’s will and in order for my brothers and I to get our inheritance, I had to make a visit to a solicitor and swear that I am me.

It is interesting that for items such as passports it is sufficient for me to get a photo signed by someone who knows me or that for me to go and get a benefits payment I just need to produce a document with my name and address on it, along with something with a signature. However, this process required something more, and that something more is for me to visit the office of someone who has never met me before, put my hand on a bible, promise I am me and sign a form. My neighbour could have done it in my place and no one would have been any wiser. Well technically, the signature could eventually be checked and found to be wrong, assuming it was checked downstream of the swearing.

The actually event took me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting it. The first alert came when I was introduced by the secretary as being there for a swearing oath, she then informed the duty solicitor that there was a bible in the meeting room. Because of the background detailed above I was immediately on alert for what was about to happen.

After a brief chat with myself I decided it wasn’t worth kicking a fuss over and that I would go with it.

The moment itself was me with my hand on the bible repeating a phrase that was being read out to me. The only other times I have repeated stock phrase was at the dedication of my daughter, when I was a god-father and when I got married. All those seemed more solemn than the moment I was having in that average meeting room with my hand on a slightly battered bible.

I took it seriously, but it didn’t feel as wholly solemn as it should have. I dare say that if I was still a believer I may have felt differently.

Afterwards I asked the solicitor if there had ever been anyone object to the process. She said not, but that there was an alternative phrase for the occasion should someone prefer to forgo the bible option. I was both impressed and pleased there is that option but I don’t think I missed out on anything by choosing not to object; after all, in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that important. My promise would still mean the same and any falsities would still hold the same punishment.

I couldn’t help wonder though, if this practice should be consigned to history and what value it really has. Those that will intend to lie their way will do so, bible or not, and those that wish to be honest will do so, bible or not. I don’t believe the presence of the bible in situations like this makes a difference. It’s the solemnity of the moment that is important; in which case it probably is time that something was found that will be equally acceptable to Christians, atheists and other faiths alike.

Though, honestly speaking, it is not something I’d consider important enough to campaign for. There are far bigger issues in the world than the need to worry about the technicalities of convincing people to tell the truth.

 

 

Dying to see God

Recently I watched a video from Discovery News on the phenomena of Near Death Experiences (NDEs). Video here (http://testtube.com/dnews/dnews-517-white-light), I recommend watching it before continuing, its only a couple of minutes and worth your time.

It gives a very good summary of the current state of understanding of NDEs and its very interesting. For years NDEs have been jumped on by the religious community as being proof of an afterlife, specifically heaven. Over the years I have heard of several testimonies from people which included an NDE as part of the subject’s journey. They are always used as an indicator of the reality of heaven and the teller typically tells of a joyous sense of calm during the experience.

It is worth noting that the testimonies I have heard on the subject have always been from a Christian perspective and so my knowledge of NDE reports is heavily skewed with that bias.

NDEs as proof of heaven

Whenever I hear a story of an NDE I always think of this story (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Proof-Heaven-Neurosurgeons-Afterlife-ebook/dp/B008TTPQXA/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1) or at least one like it. I am sure the book I have heard of is a lot older than the book in that link.

From the perspective of many Christians, stories like this are seen as tangible proof of the divine and when someone has an experience like that and tells it in Christian terms it can provide very real encouragement and confirmation to those who sometimes struggle with their faith.

Thinking back to my Christian days, I’m asking myself how I felt about NDEs, there were certainly times when I never doubted that they were real and that people were provided with a glimpse of heaven. However, there were also times when I found myself wondering about the details that were occasionally provided. These are now so long ago that I honestly can’t say what effect they had on me at the time.

With this latest scientific research I find myself being relieved that there is an explanation that makes sense. Though I do also find myself wondering how the believing Christians will respond to this news.

 

Inundated with facebook traffic

Well not really, but my blog stats are humble enough that a couple of dozen incoming links in a single day from facebook stand out.

They are all coming into my post on Adam and Eve (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-problem-of-adam-and-eve/).

Frustratingly WordPress doesn’t record what facebook page they links came from, only that they came from facebook. A search around failed to bring up any hint and none of the visitors felt the need to comment so the brief feeling of facebook love and popularity waned rapidly.

 

Ken Ham’s Big Fat Lie

Ken Ham’s book, The Lie, is apparently 25 years old now. Somehow I’d managed to miss out this book during my creationist years and so I have not read it. A page about the book on the AiG website did make me sit up and pay attention though (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/au/what-is-the-lie).

Leaving aside the mountain of scientific evidence that soundly refutes creationism, Ken Ham does at least have one very good point to make. That is that if you accept evolution, there is some compromise to be taken when believing the Bible. Many people have made this point over the years. Some argue that compromise and the Bible do not mix and any compromise you make when reading it effectively means you are following a flawed faith.  This was certainly a view I held for a long time and reading some of what Ken Ham writes, it would seem he has a similar perspective.

I’m not that black and white about it anymore. I do find significant difficulty matching Genesis with known Evolutionary facts and historical evidence. The Biblical narrative simply does not fit and those are the reasons for my eventual leaving Christianity.

There is a certain honesty in the literal creationist belief system. That is the uncompromising acceptance of the Biblical accounts as absolute fact. Yet this position does have its issues, especially when faced with the weight of science. It is such a shame that we now know that the early Genesis chapters are not factual events and are simply amalgamated stories. This reveals literal Biblical belief to be founded on untruth (or a Lie even).

Pauls Words

At the start of his page, Ken Ham quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:11 (And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.) Reading that page I get the impression the whole of the AiG ministry hinges around this verse. The implication being that the lie being referred to is evolution.

Being curious about the context I read around the verse. This chapter opens with Paul talking about an apparent false teaching to the Thessalonians to do with the Lord having already come back (vs 2). This false teaching apparently came from a misunderstanding of something Paul said and he attempts to put that right in this letter. He goes on to talk about the “man of lawlessness”, which commentators seem to indicate referrers to the anti-Christ. I wondered at first if Paul was referring to the person behind the false teaching, but the next reference (vs 9) does seem to indicate the anti-Christ, or at least someone close to him.

Whatever it is Paul is referring to, he goes on to talk about end times and then makes the statement that Ken Ham quotes.

If Paul is referring to end times, the context of this quote is clearly related to that and the delusion that God sends is directly related to the lies told in relation to falsehoods spread during end times. This makes me wonder what this has to do with evolution. Unless we’re already in end times, evolution is completely out of scope here. So now Ken Ham needs to show that the prophesy and global wickedness associated with end times and all the tribulation that follows it are happening now. He also needs to show why that verse should be referring to evolution, especially difficult because nowhere in the bible is evolution or the processes that lead to it, mentioned.

There is also the not so small and highly inconvenient issue that he is accusing his god of intentionally making people believe a lie which will result in their condemnation. Actually, that issue exists even if the verse is not talking about evolution. To be honest, I’m far more interested in how a perfect god explains that than I am about the semantics of what the lie is actually referring to.

I think tying this specific verse to evolution is a blatant deception, or at least a risky strategy. Of course, having not read The Lie, it is possible I’ve jumped the gun here and he’s referring to wider end times nastiness. If that’s the case, then he still needs to show how we are in end times and that evolution is wrong, which it isn’t.

Ken Ham’s whole ministry is based on the lie of creationism. It’s a lie that fooled me for many years and it’s a lie that continues to fool many more. I’m glad I’m out from under it.