My beliefs

Okay, I’ve been promissing it for a little while now, and I think it’s about time I started to lay out what I believe and what I don’t believe. I will try and keep this as sucinct as possible but it’s likely to be an on going piece. I’m pretty certain about some things I believe, but unclear on plenty of others. Still others I’m fairly confident of where I stand, but wouldn’t have a clue how to go about explaining it (for example free will). Some of this is likely to be me trying to find the best way to word my position and I ask for your patience in that.

I also expect that writing this out and having people comment is likely to lead me to change my opinions, so this is hardly an ending to my beliefs; more likely a beginning.

And finally (and I guess also my first belief), nothing I write here is sacred. I do no believe opinions, beliefs or even faiths are sacred and everything should be open to question. I intend to go to town on others beliefs and I hearby give permission for people to tear mine apart.

Let’s begin…

I wanted to start by laying out where I stand with my atheism. To be clear, weak and strong atheism aren’t exclusive of each other. I’d say most if not all strong atheists are also weak atheists, and I fit into both categories.

As we discussed previously, weak atheism is simply hearing a statement akin to “There is a god / there are gods” and rejecting it, usually because it hasn’t met it’s burden of proof.

As well as agreeing with this, I am also a strong atheist, which means I think there is evidence that suggests gods don’t exist.

Since becoming an atheist I’ve become a lot more skeptical, and one thing I’ve found is there are a lot of sayings out there that are wrong. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is one such saying. The fact is if we expect there to be evidence somewhere, and that evidence is non-existent it is in fact evidence of absence. Not proof of course, but evidence. Many people have been sucked into believing this saying and the fact is it’s not true.

With that in mind I would argue there are massive amounts of evidence we would expect to find that indicate the existence of a god, but that evidence is not there. Just to list a few:

  • The effectiveness of prayer. The studies have been done and there is little doubt that prayer has no effect. All studies done come back with a 50/50 success rate of prayer, exactly what we would expect from a coin flip experiment.
  • Increased happiness. One would expect that being closer to a benevolent loving god would make one happier. Apparently it doesn’t and atheists have been found to be just as happy as believers. Ironically it is those that are unsure where they stand that seems to be the least happy.
  • Increased wellfare. Surely communities that believe in a god would experience better living conditons. Better health from all the healings. Less crime from better morals. The fact is there is a negative correlation between community wellfare and religion. Areas with greater numbers of believers also have a decrease in wellfare.
  • A lack of evidence for a soul. Experiements have been done and so far we have no good reason to believe they exist.
  • Some sense of Karma, where good people have good things happen to them and bad people are generally punished. Although I would say this does in fact happen, it is due to obedience to the law. If bad people don’t break the law they seem to be able to get away with just about anything. Good people tend to attract good people and this seems to be the sole reason for good things happening around them. Any true sense of Karma seems to be completely random.
  • Evil acts commited by ‘gods’ people. The most obvious example being pedophile priests, but of course there are many others. Surely a benevolent god would only allow the best of humanity to represent him, rather than harming his chosen people. Considering how these acts can often drive people from their religion you would expect a god to interviene and assist those in trouble.
  • Specifically for Christianity: Better evidence for the existence of Jesus. There is no first hand evidence of Christ and there isn’t ANY evidence for his existence until at least a couple of decades after his death. Despite feeding 5000 people no one bothered to write it down. Apparently not important enough. Outside of his followers no one bothers to write about Jesus for ages. I can’t remember exactly how many years, but there are decades and possible centuries before anyone who isn’t a believer decides he is worth recording. This alone is unlikely, but when you consider it is meant to be a message to all of humanity and that the only way to God is through Jesus it seems odd that an all powerful god wouldn’t have made sure there was a better standard of evidence available.
  • A world wide religion. Again a little specific to Christianity, but applicable to others. There are many people who will never hear of the various gods or prophets. Considering that a belief in the deity is often required isn’t it a little unfair that these people are condemned to the various versions of hell simply because they were unlucky enough to be raised in an area without that knowledge?
  • The number of ‘dead’ gods. Throughout history there have been literally thousands, probably millions of gods. And so far they’re all dead. All of them have died with the civilisations that worshipped them. So far everyone has got it wrong. After these hundreds of thousands of failed attempts to find gods, what makes people think the modern religions will be any more successful?
  • Better morality. None of the holy books I’ve read or been told about have even a good example of morality, let alone a superior one. Certainly there are decent morals to be found in the Bible or Quaran, but there are an equal or greater number of bad morals. Gods don’t appear to hire very good editors.
  • A lack of consistency. My best knowledge comes from the Bible, but I’ve no doubt the same can be said about the other holy books. Even the Gospels are inconsistent, let alone the rest of the books. I heard recently that there is more consistency between all the books related to ‘Star Wars’, and I believe it to be true. Maybe Jedi should be a major religion?
  • Evidence of altered texts. There is no doubt that the ancient texts have been altered. Again, supposedly being the word of god why is this necessary? Why does a god not interviene and make sure the texts are kept consistent?
  • All the answers we have aquired to date point towards a natural explanation for our universe. Although there are questions still to be answered, currently we have no good reason to posit a god.
  • In all of history every time supernatural phenomenon has been explored we have found a natural explanation. Throughout all of history there is no definitive example against this. The answer has never been ‘God did it’.

I’ve no doubt I could go on, and that there are any number of arguments I might still miss. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the world is looking for some kind of god. After probaby 10,000 years (going back to the ancient shaman) we have no good reason to believe. How many years do we continue to look for something when after all this time we have nothing solid to offer? At what point do we throw in the towel?

As for strong atheism I am limited to Christianity. Given enough time I intend to study all the major religions and I expect to find similar proofs, but for now I haven’t had the years to dedicate this study.

  • There is zero evidence for Moses outside the Bible. There is no written or archiological record of the early Jews living in Egypt, nor is there any evidence of a people wondering the desert for forty odd years. To be fair, the Egyptians often didn’t keep records when their Pharoah was defeated (Pharoahs were considered gods, and nautrally a god could not be defeated), but this is hardly evidence for the exodus. Also,it rained frogs! I don’t care how strict their record keeping was, that gets written down by someone.
  • There is however evidence of Jewish people living in the holy lands around the time they should have been in Egypt. Jews were the only people of the time that didn’t eat pork, so spotting their campsites isn’t terribly hard.
  • Now, assuming Jesus is meant to be divine, shouldn’t he have know the story of Moses was just that, a story? Why they did he speak of Moses on multiple occasions then? He either knowingly lied, or he didn’t know. Neither of these are consistent with a divine being.
  • We have no evidence to think the Genesis story is true, and accepting evolution and the age of the earth suggests it probably isn’t. However the story of Jesus doesn’t make any sense except in the light of Genesis. Jesus was meant to die for our sins, but not just current sins. More importantly he was meant to have died for the one sin God hadn’t been able to forgive, original sin. But original sin isn’t only relevant if the story of Adam and Eve is true. Without Genesis, Jesus’ sacrifice is ultimately pointless. Taking this into account the entire Bible doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

These are just a sample of my atheistic position. I’m sure given time I’ll come up with better ones and think of better ways to phrase what I’ve so far written. I’ll try and keep people posted whenever I make an edit to the above.

As for other things I don’t believe in. Basically, if it’s a skeptical question I almost always side with the skeptics. I don’t believe in

  • The paranormal (ghosts, spirits, ghouls, weigi boards etc).
  • Astrology.
  • Cryptozoology (Bigfoot, Lockness monster, chipocarbra etc).
  • Psycic abilities.
  • Fortune/Future telling.
  • Speaking to the dead.
  • The vast majority of conspiracy theories (eg. 9/11 being an inside job).
  • Most alternative medicines, although not necessarily all. They need to be taken on a case by case basis.
  • Homeopathy
  • I’m unconvinced that acupuncture works, although I don’t know enough to be certain.
  • Aroma therapy (although I’ve no doubt it can be relaxing, not unlike meditation).
  • Karma
  • Magnetic healing
  • Hypnosis
  • Minds. There is no evidence that people have anything more than brains.

For all of these things I am a weak non-believer about, in the same way I could be called a weak atheist. I just don’t think these things have met their burden of proof. Like gods, many of these claims have been around for decades, centuries or even thousands of years and so far we have no solid evidence that any of them work. After all this time I would expect something!

I think rather than going into each of the above seperately I’ll wait and see what responces I get from you readers. If people have a particular interest in one of the topics I’ll consider dedicating an entire post to it.

What I do believe.

  • Meditation does work. Certainly there will be claims in this field that are just ridiculous, such as levitation. But we know that people can in fact lower their own heart rates. Obviously meditation can do something. For the most part I think it’s just relaxing ones body and brain to a point of light sleep. Especially in todays society, taking a moment of the day to relax and reflect has to have some kind of positive effect.
  • Thought crime is stupid. The idea that people should be punished for what they think, or that thoughts should be restricted is abhorent to me. This is another reason I reject a few Biblical passages. I think people should be allowed to believe what they want, I’d just prefer it if people had good reasons to do so.
  • As long as it harms no other, do as you will. The closest thing to an atheist creed, this is a general idea (although not a rule) that I try and live by.
  • People are inherently good. Most people seem to do the right thing. Although sometimes indifferent, when presented with choices people usually try and do the most good. The idea that humans are inherently evil or insufficient in some way doesn’t seem to be justified.
  • There is no meaning. Not only to life, but to anything. Not only does this not depress me, I find it infinitely more rewarding. There is no meaning to my life, therefore I get to make my own. I get to carve my own destiny. We all do. It’s not governed by any external force and the choices we make matter. This to me is more meaningful than completing someone elses, even a gods meaning to existence.
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About Jamie D
I'm an entrepreneur and small business owner working in 3D animation and multimedia. I also have a keen interest in technology and education.

13 Responses to My beliefs

  1. Shona says:

    I understand your skepticism but if you go through life discounting everything that isn’t mainstream you may cut yourself out of a lot of amazing opportunities 🙂

  2. Smeagan says:

    It scares me how much we have in common re: our beliefs. We should try and talk more because the conversations would be very interesting.

    Also, I don’t know about you, but I try hard to be accepting of people’s belief in their god of choice. This is very difficult for me but I feel like a have to do it since a number of people special to me are religious. But I sometimes find it very hard to not just say to them, how can you be so blind? Ok, believe in a god if you want, but all the evidence around your specific god (Christian) points to either a) him not existing at all or b) him existing in a totally different manner to what is described in the Bible and therefore it just makes me think that total devotion to a specific god is perpetuating self-delusion and they manage it only by being totally un-analytical of their own beliefs and refusing to have serious debates with atheists.

    I don’t know, it gets me down sometimes.

    • archdragon87 says:

      Always happy to chat atheism/skepticism/religion!
      When I became an atheist I was lucky enough to be living with two opinionated skeptics, and although our religious views differed it made for great conversation. They were also the kind of people who could have heated debates over this kind of stuff and half an hour later be watching ‘Top Gear’ together. Made for a fantastic learning environment.
      I’ve now got podcasts, blogs and even an atheist meetup group I participate in. I think having people you can discuss issues with is important for intellectual growth. And where possible, people who disagree with you on issues.

      As for being accepting of others beliefs, it’s a bit of a doozey. My personal stance on it is, always respect the person, but you don’t have to respect the belief. The simple fact is I can’t respect a belief in Christ, or any other religious figure. And I think I’m doing a diservice to the people I care about by pretending I do.

      • Ama Dine says:

        Hi Arch,

        A belief is a thing and I don’t respect things because they have no life in them .. although you might say a belief has life, because it can change and grow .. but no.

        I think a person deserves respect, when they earn it, regardless of what they believe, and if they do no harm with what they believe. They might be deluded in my opinion, but I respect their right to have that opinion.

        Love & Peace
        Ama

        • archdragon87 says:

          No, I definitely don’t think beliefs have life in them. To be honest the more I learn about life the less I see it as a thing within, and more of a description of state. That aside I wouldn’t go quite so far to say I don’t respect things that aren’t alive. I have a certain amount of respect for the law for example.

          A person always deserves a certain amount of respect. Part of that respect should be allowing them to have whatever opinions they like, no matter how wrong they might be. A recent saying I’ve come across says “My rights end where yours begin”. Basically another way of phrasing what you’ve written. Believe whatever you like as long as you do no harm.
          Now that is in regard to the law and limiting the restrictions we place upon peoples lives and their beliefs. Our governments should never try and legislate thought-crime. But I do think people should have good reasons for what they believe for their own intellectual honesty, their safety and the safety of overs. Our beliefs inform our decision making. If we have beliefs for bad reasons (even if the belief itself is good) it may lead us to make bad decisions.

          • Ama Dine says:

            Interestingly enough, law has its own foundation in belief. We create law from beliefs, what is right, what is wrong .. all defined by what is acceptable (or unacceptable) to our society and its norms. And law grows and changes, just as belief does.

            And who defines wrong, Arch? What is wrong for you can be right for me, and visa versa. I am no less wrong than you are right, we just have two different opinions in which we base our beliefs.

            I agree with your re-write .. and the wiccan crede reads ‘if it do no harm, do what you will’ .. another way of saying that is ‘live and let live’.

            How do you define good reasons for their beliefs? I have experience for mine, you have lack of experience (of the divine) for yours (in that particular case). Although my experiences are mostly subjective, some have been shared with other people, who have experienced the same things I have (e.g. particular ghosts and elementals) at the same time as I did, but since you have not experienced what we have, and choose not to believe what we do, our reasoning is obviously wrong? Hmmm… my beliefs free me to make good, consciencious decisions based in Love, and a great deal of commonsense. I am no new age fad follower, and I know of many, who, holding new age beliefs, also act for the greater good, although you might wonder at their mindset given their clothing and their speech.

            I do not have to be wrong for you to be right, nor the reverse. The world is big enough for both of us to keep our opinions/beliefs and still find common ground for discussion. People tend to forget that in the intensity of trying to make their mark on the world. I made my mark many years ago, and there’s no hurry anymore .. but push me hard enough and I can push back .. but without as much of the intensity as when I was very young, and just learning my path. Oh the arguments I used to get into with both athiests and fundamentalists. LOL I look back with amusement, and regret.

            There is no great divide between your thoughts and mine, you hold your set of beliefs, that allows you to live in comfort, honesty and safety, and I have mine. Live and let live. 🙂

            Love & Peace
            Ama
            p.s. I actually want to comment on your blog .. but that will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s bedtime for me now. Goodnight.

            • archdragon87 says:

              Yes, you’re definitely right about laws. And I also have respect for certain beliefs, just as I respect certain laws. They generally get judged the same way; are they based on good concepts, preferably backed up by evidence as well as philosophies?

              “And who defines wrong, Arch?”
              It depends what context you take ‘wrong’ in. For example it would most likely be ‘wrong’ for me to share my father’s medication, which is why we have prescriptions. But obviously it’s ‘right’ for him, otherwise they wouldn’t have been prescribed. Yes, sometimes what’s right for someone may be wrong for someone else, and vice-versa.
              On the other hand if we’re talking about ‘The Lockness monster exists’, then we have a dichotomy and it is either right or wrong. It is a boolean operation, true or false. The Lockness monster cannot simultaneously exist and not exist. Defining whether the statement is true or false can be somewhat more difficult, but that doesn’t change the fact it is either right or wrong.
              So if you believe a god exists and I don’t, we have a dichotomy, and one of us must be wrong. A statement cannot be simultaneously right and wrong, this is one of the laws of logic.

              http://carm.org/schooldemos/demo3/2_logic/3logic.htm
              -See ‘The Law of Non-Contradiction’

              Being a dichotomy, one of us is right and the other is wrong. There is simply no way around this. The fun part is figuring out which way it is. I personally have no vested interest in the answer one way or another. I’m okay living in a universe with or without a god. But I think finding out which type of universe we live in is important, as the answer will help determine how I choose to live my life.

              “How do you define good reasons for their beliefs?”
              I would say the best way to come to good beliefs is through something similar to the scientific method. In a nutshell the scientific method asks for repeatable experiments by independent parties under similar circumstances. For example, anywhere in the world you can cool water and it will freeze at 0 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved by anyone, anywhere in the universe. The experiment is repeatable by independent parties.
              Unfortunately personal experience doesn’t work under the scientific method, as it’s impossible for me to replicate your personal experience. I can’t literally see through your eyes. Even having someone else at your side verifying what you saw isn’t enough, as there are many examples of mass hallucinations throughout history.

              “…our reasoning is obviously wrong?”
              Based solely on your previous post, yes your reasoning is faulty. Please note that doesn’t necessarily make you wrong, it just means it’s unverifiable. Believing in ghosts is fairly ‘out there’, and it’s not something I would choose to believe unless given a good reason to. Even if I personally experienced a ghostly encounter it would not be enough for me to believe. There are any number of things that could lead to my misinterpretation of the facts. This is why we need evidence that is verifiable from repeatable, independent sources.

              You’ve said in several posts that you don’t feel the need to prove or convince others of your beliefs, but I’m interested whether or not you could if it were asked of you. Do you have any examples or tests that could be done that could give weight to your world view, or is it mostly based on personal experience?

              I have no doubt I’d be unable to talk you or anyone else out of their religious beliefs. What I hope to do is give people better tools for analysing and being sceptical. Hopefully people will then use these tools on their own beliefs and come to better answers. Regardless of what answers they find, hopefully these answers will bring us closer to the truth, whatever that might be.

              “There is no great divide between your thoughts and mine, you hold your set of beliefs, that allows you to live in comfort, honesty and safety, and I have mine. Live and let live.”
              Absolutely. I think people get far too caught up in the beliefs themselves and forget that in the end we’re all trying to find the truth, and that the best way to get there is to try as many different paths as possible. I just worry we’ve been following some paths for far too long without their bearing any fruit. What’s worse, some of these paths do cause great harm.

              I do hope you will comment on the blog post itself. It was quite an epic to put together and so far no one has commented directly on it!
              Goodnight 😉

    • Ama Dine says:

      Hello Smeagan,

      All evidence, or lack of it, is subjective to each person. I find tons of ‘proof’ in my daily life, to say I am watched over and loved by Spirit/God and the angels.

      I agree the Gods of the Bible are .. something .. confusing to say the least, and downright nasty in the case of the Old Testament. I wonder why people cannot see the distinct differences between the god in the Old and the God in the New .. but that’s just me, a student of Theology AND metaphysics. LOL

      And, btw, I do analyse my beliefs regularly, and am happy to have serious debates with athiests, and fundamentalist Christians, but I do not feel the need to ‘prove’ my beliefs to either groups ‘standards’, and don’t expect them to prove why they believe what they do, to my standards.

      Love & Peace
      Ama

      • Smeagan says:

        I’m not sure you’ll even see this because I never get notified when someone replies (probably because I never realised there was a “notify me of follow-up comments via email” button before. Whoops!

        Ama, if you truly do analyse your own beliefs regularly (and I realise this is extremely hard to do without a bias, since you’re analysing your own beliefs and everyone has a bias, atheist or not) and you are willing and able to have debates with atheists, deists and everyone in between then I take my hat off to you. I think anyone, regardless of their belief, deserves respect for being willing to enter into a serious debate with someone about them and (more importantly, perhaps) during this debate are willing to listen to the other person’s points and rebuttles and perhaps even modify their own beliefs (about anything; gods, God, the existence of heaven/hell, alternative medicines, which shoes are best, anything) then that person deserves respect.

        My problem is that most people get offended and start acting hurt and sullen when you try to engage them in debate about their beliefs. Then, if they are willing to debate with you, they more often then not ignore everything you say, and end up making stupid statements like “well, we’ll never know who is right until we die!” or “well it’s all just so pointless anyway!” or other such rubbish. The point of debate is not always to prove who is right – and is certainly not why I debate people – but to challenge your own ideas, analyse them and see how they hold up to scrutiny, and I like to have my beliefs challenged. I honestly do. I just find most people don’t and even if they are willing to debate you they get huffy and defensive and it ends up damaging your relationship in the end.

        I just feel if you aren’t willing to have your beliefs challenged and aren’t willing to look at them critically then your belief really is just self-perpetuating delusion whether it’s “Jesus was the son of God” or “science is always right”. Any belief. This seems to happen more often with religious types, but it is definitely, definitely not exclusive to them by any means.

        I wish people would understand that “I think your beliefs are stupid” is not equal to “I think you are stupid”. Cry.

        Also, sorry if that didn’t make any sense. I am extremely tired and extremely hungry right now so my brain feels like a big fuzzy ball of cotton wool. Haaaa….

    • Ama Nazra says:

      Comments on your blog, Arch …

      The power of prayer. I don’t know where you have been researching but, scientists have proved that prayer can make a distinct difference in the lives of people who need healing, and even stop bacteria from expanding under demanding scientific standards .. I read two reports from the same (first) google search page by putting in ‘proof of the power of prayer’. I also read a few person accounts that won’t agree with your scientific method, but that’s ok with me. LOL

      Increased happiness .. why do we expect ‘God’ to provide our happiness? Were we not given the right to choose our own reality? Only a child demands happiness all the time, and entertainment and treats, and how many of want to remain children forever .. quite a few, I should think. LOL No, God gave us free will and that includes the right to be miserable, so expecting It’s presence to make people happier is childish, in my opinion. And then there is the question of which ‘God’ is running the planet. Personally I think we have two of them to contend with, and one of them is not very friendly. The other is benign and allows us to be ourselves, whatever that might be.

      Increased welfare – again someone is expecting God to provide everything for them, instead of having to make any effort for themselves. It’s very easy to give over responsibility for your life to someone else, its also lazy and selfish. I have no idea where you get the information about believers and welfare .. please quote your sources.

      Evidence for the soul .. well, it depends on what the soul actually is. In my understanding a human being is made of three parts .. mind, body and spirit. Equate mind with ego and that’s closer to the mark, IMO. Ego controls our reactions to things, if we let it. Spirit belongs to God and the body to the earth from which it was made (we have the same chemical components). Soul and spirit might be the same thing. There was a very interesting bit of research done on how much a spirit might weigh, and I think the answer was about 21 grams .. this test was later panned .. which is sad, and I admit it was not done well, but .. it was still interesting. This is the snopes report debunking it all, but I am not so sure the man wasn’t getting somewhere. http://www.snopes.com/religion/soulweight.asp

      In the meantime, how do you define the soul, Arch?

      Karma is about balancing one act against another. Good people might have been real villains in previous lives, so this time around they might have a real struggle on their hands, to bring into balance, with good deeds, all the harm they have done before. Instant karma, which I suffer from (LOL) is when you drive a trailer down the highway, knowing full well that the blinkers do not work (which is illegal, as you know) and have to drive right past a police car which is parked (facing the wrong way) on your side of the road, at the last corner you are likely to see it. No, I didn’t get booked, thank God (and I did). The policeman saw me clear as day, and the trailer .. so unless the blinkers suddenly sprang to life (unplugged) he was nice to me that day.

      Good people attract good people because of the energy they produce. Bad people do likewise. If you want to change the people around you, change yourself first.

      Evil acts .. God gave everyone free will upon their creation. What they do with it is up to them. Karma is the payback. Here is a perfect example of someone appearing to measure everyone, and God, by our own expectations and desires. A God you/me/anyone could believe in would have to do what you wanted. People appear to expect him/her/it to step in and change things to suit themselves and their wishes, but without understanding the great ‘plan’ for humanity (and none of us can, given that we only know a little of our own part in it) .. something that we see as a bad deed now might have unexpectedly beautiful consequences – like the death of Jesus on the cross. The religion might be completed screwy now, but the people that started it probably did so from love, or political expediency .. or both. It’s been almost 2000 years since then.

      What is first hand evidence? We have Josephus writing about him
      http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html, among others,
      some graffiti on a wall about Christ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexamenos_graffito.
      And an ossuary was found
      http://www.ucg.org/science/surprising-archaeological-find-proof-jesus-existence/ Fact or fiction, it is up to each of us to decide for ourselves.

      And no, the Jewish followers of Jesus didn’t write stuff down. It seems they were mostly illiterate .. so they ‘couldn’t’ write, and all of their history is oral, something that had been done since the time humanity learned to tell stories. Writing was a new fad, mainly only practised by those in ‘power’, in a form of record keeping for tax purposes.

      And the ‘only reach God through Jesus’ is one of the contradictions in the bible .. one section says its so, and another says we can go straight to God, but I am not looking up chapter and verse tonight. LOL

      I agree its unfair people are condemned to hell if they don’t know Jesus .. but that is only one of multitudes of belief systems we call religions .. and its not appropriate to damn God for what humanity does with the knowledge of Its existence. And I do wonder if some of those ‘gods’ are not simply biding their ‘time’ waiting to be found again? But that’s a bit too Terry Pratchett of me. LOL

      Morality is controlled by social ‘norms’. It’s not a God thing, it’s a people thing. Again, God is not controlling our morals, we are supposed to be able to do that for ourselves.

      Who defined the ‘consistency’ comment? And how are different stories by different people, with different viewpoints, who saw different events from their own perspective, expected to be consistent? And the consistency of the Star Wars books is there because one man wrote them (and others might have followed the same themes), and they are not 2000 years old and have not be ‘edited’ (redacted) to death by people with their own political motivations.

      I agree with your comment about the editing of the bible, but again .. its not up to God to stop us changing things, its up to us to respect God enough NOT to change things. But I don’t believe the bible is the true word of god .. so whatever.

      Which answers and who did the acquiring? Athiests find one sort of answer, to suit their beliefs, and support them .. Christians find another, Buddhists have theirs, agnostics have theirs .. Muslims have theirs. You get my drift. Fire, today, is a useful tool .. to a caveman first discovering it it would have been terrifying and a real treasure. We take too much for granted.

      Supernatural .. what is a natural explanation? I agree ghosts are completely natural, btw. LOL

      Now here’s a thought .. why is it the vast majority are looking for a god (deity) of some kind? One possibility comes to mind .. perhaps our collective consciousness recognises that God exists and we are hunting it? Or perhaps we are just trying to find something greater than ourselves because we are so fearful and limited, so we create fearful gods and loving ones? And then there’s the need for an explanation for the rain, and so primitive society might have created a rain god .. a focus to send their thoughts/requests to?

      And not everyone needs ‘something solid’ to believe in a God .. some just take it on faith. You can’t and that’s fine, and I’ve had plenty of ‘solid’ (by my definition) experiences, so I am just fine too.

      Moses .. I admit, a quick search doesn’t give me direct evidence, but it certainly does show evidence of Israelites (not Jews – that was a later name) living in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. The ‘written’ is cuneiform tablets. http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/archeology.htm

      And it rained fish in england in the 18th century .. they got taken up in a water spout and dropped from the clouds when it broke up, according to scientists .. so frogs aren’t all that far a leap in reality. And in a society where writing was limited to record keeping, why would they bother writing about frogs?

      Jesus talking about old testament stories .. of course he would, given it was part of his society, and part of his learning, and even if moses was a parable and not fact .. we also have ‘myths’ that people believe in our modern society. Jesus did not become divine until about 100 years after he died, I think. No theologian takes the ‘divine’ bit as ‘fact’, but they often do through faith.

      I doubt Adam and Eve are true, the genetics of it is too scary .. and anyway, who did the ‘sons of adam’ breed with to have kids, and only Cain, since he killed Abel? We all come from a murderer? Hmm… human society being what it is ???? But that is entirely speculation (and giggling) on my part. There ‘had’ to be other people, so the story is patently false .. (so much for the fundies saying the bible is the ‘true’ word of God.) This story is more likely an allegory .. perhaps of the first humans being seeded on the earth by aliens? Or coming from another planet having betrayed their ‘masters’ or ‘gods’ or whatever.

      The paranormal (ghosts, spirits, ghouls, weigi boards etc). – Ouija boards .. nasty things, should be destroyed everywhere in the world. They cause all types of problems. Ghosts, spirits .. I have met plenty. Not sure what an ‘etc’ is , I also believe in demons.
      Astrology. – It’s a possibility. – I AM a gemini cancer cusp, and have all the tendencies listed in both, and I had them before I knew anything about astrology.
      Cryptozoology (Bigfoot, Lockness monster, chipocarbra etc). – I will give this the benefit of the doubt.
      Psycic abilities. – I have clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, among many other things, but I cannot ‘smell’ ghosts.
      Fortune/Future telling. – Hmm.. used to get paid to do this all the time, still do from time to time. I have been told by many people that I am very accurate.
      Speaking to the dead. – Yes, I do, but not in depth, only to help them pass over.
      The vast majority of conspiracy theories (eg. 9/11 being an inside job). – Agreed!
      Most alternative medicines, although not necessarily all. They need to be taken on a case by case basis. – I love most alternative medicines, but draw the line at some of the weirder spiritual healing techniquest .. I am a Reiki Master Teacher. That is the gentlest energy, and very effective.
      Homeopathy – Absolutely brilliant healing modality.
      I’m unconvinced that acupuncture works, although I don’t know enough to be certain. – Having had it for muscle spasms in my face, would be happy to have it all over again, and I really do not like needles.
      Aroma therapy (although I’ve no doubt it can be relaxing, not unlike meditation). – Lovely .. give me lavender for a headache any day. Meditation and aromatherapy have nothing to do with each other, nor are they the same. Meditation is contemplation, or focusing, or journeying inside your mind. Aromatherapy is about using your sense of smell to help heal you, as well as absorbing the oils put on your skin.
      Karma – I believe strongly in karma. What we sow, we reap.
      Magnetic healing – maybe.
      Hypnosis – can be very effective in the right circumstances, but it is not the stageshow crap.
      Minds. There is no evidence that people have anything more than brains. – The brain is an electrical muscle .. what do you actually ‘think’ you think with?
      You forgot numerology – I also love that. It’s a good way of watching the patterns of your life.

      Levitation and meditation have nothing to do with each other. A group of us, 4 in all, 15 years old in a sports field, levitated another 15 year old. We each put 1 finger of each hand under her body (head, feet, two sides) and said ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ over and over, and focused .. and up she went, light as a feather. And down she came a few minutes later when we were interrupted by the teacher .. and the landing hurt! We had her about 2 feet off the ground. That was fun.

      And no meditation is not light sleep. If you go to sleep you are not doing it right. Do some more research. It’s very therapeutic.

      Thought crime, I have no thoughts on.

      I wish people were inherently good. As far as I can see, we are inherently lazy.

      The ‘no meaning to life’ is a heartbreaker, Arch. We were created to live and learn, otherwise why bother existing at all? I agree we get to create our reality, with or without God .. that is up to each individual. And I also live by the crede .. if it harm none, do what you will. Kindness can be the greatest gift of all.

      Love & Peace
      Ama

      • archdragon87 says:

        Prayer:
        I’d be interested to read about the studies you mentioned. The thing we need to take into account with these studies is the peer review process. This is where other scientists read the original report and try to replicate the results. Many times they find faults in the reports and experiments which undermine the validity of the study. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve had Creationists link me to studies that have been disproven hundreds of times, yet they continue to link them. I’m hoping you haven’t become a victim of this dishonest tactic.
        I quickly Googled ‘proof of the power of prayer’ and the entries I got all seemed to be personal experience stories. Could you link the studies you mentioned?
        I’m a little worried though; you say that this is “okay with me” in regards to personal experience stories. Presumably this means you still consider these stories to be valid evidence? If this is the case I feel it would be worth spending the time explaining why this shouldn’t be okay, as it’s a fundamental cornerstone of sceptical thinking. It may even be worth dedicating an entire post to.

        I’ve been struggling to find the old sources I used to reference when I debated on a Creationist forum. Unfortunately I seem to have lost most of it. However I found this article which references several studies and gives the conclusion I feel is most appropriate. Some tests say prayer works, other say it doesn’t and may even be detrimental. When you consider all the studies that have been done it’s quite obvious that the average conclusion is that prayer has a 50/50 chance of working, which is what we’d expect if it has no impact.

        http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1849/have-studies-proven-that-prayer-can-help-heal-the-sick

        Welfare and happiness:
        I need to point out that in the above paragraph you’ve claimed that prayer does in fact have healing properties. If this were the case we should expect better health from societies with more prayer, thus better welfare and indirectly more happiness. But then you don’t think that a belief in God should make people happier. These two ideas pretty much contradict each other.

        It’s in no way an expectation of God to do things for us, merely an unintended side effect of belief. Some believe (not all, and I’m not sure about you) that God is the author of morality and that the only way to be truly moral is through God.
        If this is true then we should expect people who believe in God to be more moral, and the side effect of that would be less crime, less hatred, more charity…etc. Naturally we would expect this to lead to better welfare and thus, more happiness overall. It’s important to point out ‘overall’ here, as I’m not suggesting believers should expect to be happy all the time, just more frequently.

        The study I’m referencing is relatively modern. The Atheist Experience recently had Greg Paul on their show (Episode #719), who wrote a paper making a link between societal health and religion and found a negative correlation.
        A brief description of the study can be found at Wikipedia.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_S._Paul

        Souls:
        I prefer not to define the soul. As I don’t believe in one I don’t think it’s my place to be defining what others believe in. Your definition is exactly the reason I don’t bother, as you don’t seem to be able to give a meaningful definition.
        You say the soul includes mind (ego), body and spirit, but then say spirit and soul may be the same thing. How can a definition of the soul be inclusive of itself? It makes about as much sense as the Carlton Draught ad saying their drink is “Made from beer”.
        This is one reason why studying souls/spirits is so difficult. No one seems to have a good definition, and many definitions disagree with each other.
        I know about the study you’re talking of. It was certainly a good idea and something worth investigating. Sadly the study is old and the methods used weren’t terribly accurate. The scientist himself admitted the test would need to be repeated, preferably with more rigorous methods. Only 6 subjects were tested, and most of them showed varying results. Definitely interesting, but just as definitely not great evidence.
        Until someone can bring good evidence of the soul I see no reason to start believing in one.

        Karma:
        Karma is so hard to measure (and therefore prove) because as we agree, good people attract good people and therefore good things, while bad people attract undesirable people. Figuring out how to tell if this is just a natural occurrence as one would expect, or whether Karma itself is a force or energy is very difficult.
        You say that people produce energy. Clearly a happy person will have positive body language and therefore attract similarly minded people. But I don’t think this is what you mean by ‘energy’. Do you think the energy itself is a substance, and if so why?

        Evil Acts:
        “… without understanding the great ‘plan’ for humanity (and none of us can, given that we only know a little of our own part in it)”

        This no longer really falls under the category of evil acts but I think it’s dreadfully important to bring up none the less. Why exactly should people worship and/or cultivate a relationship with someone whose intentions they do not understand? It seems incredibly irresponsible to me.

        Proof of Christ:
        “No theologian takes the ‘divine’ bit as ‘fact’, but they often do through faith.”
        There’s a great deal you wrote about evidence for Jesus and other Biblical figures, but I think this is the most important part to discuss first.
        I’m not terribly interested whether there was a man named Jesus. What’s interesting is whether or not he was the Christ. That is to say if there was a bloke call Jesus who lived around the right time and said a couple of nice things and told a couple of clever stories it’s not that big a deal. People like that have existed throughout history. This would just make Jesus another Gandhi-like figure.
        What makes the story interesting is whether or not Jesus was divine. There is definitely evidence available that says there was a religious group that called themselves Christian and that they followed someone they called the Christ. It is more likely than not that someone called Jesus lived around that time and said some thought provoking things. But that does not make him divine. What I’m interested in discussing is his divinity, and the lack of evidence there is for that.
        Now if you’re of the opinion that Jesus existed, but he was only a man then there’s no problem and not really much more to discuss. But I’m going to go through the rest of your post for interest’s sake, and possibly for the benefit of others.

        Josephus + ‘gotQuestions’ link
        I know of the Josephus quote and many of the others in the link you provided. The thing with this is each quote needs to be taken on its own and will take up a massive amount of space and time. Therefore I intend to dedicate an entire post to this point. Hopefully it will be a good exercise for other readers as to how we should go about gathering good evidence.

        Graffiti Wall:
        Now this one I have significant problems with. Presumably you’ve read the wiki article? The article itself goes into how it’s no more likely that this is graffiti about Christ than it is about Isis. There are multiple explanations for its purpose and it’s extremely inconclusive.
        Despite this you’ve linked it as specifically being about Christ. Forgive me for being so harsh, but I think this is somewhat dishonest and part of the problem. People citing sources as proof of their religious convictions knowing full well the article doesn’t actually support what they’re claiming. Or worse, they haven’t bothered to read the article and are just lazy.
        It worries me that you bring this forward as evidence. Not only is this not firsthand evidence; it’s not even good evidence. This definitely shouldn’t lead people to believe in Christ, and definitely not as divine.

        Ossuary:
        A beautiful example of why people need to check their sources. You would expect a find this amazing to have made the news and be quoted at every possible moment. But for some reason you don’t.
        I wanted to double check your sources and punched in “ossuary James” into Google. Google’s predictive text then brought up “ossuary James fake” as one of the search options.
        Here is another Wikipedia article, explaining it’s possible the ossuary was a forgery.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Ossuary

        This literally took me under 30 seconds to find. Either you knew of this controversy and didn’t mention it, or you never bothered to double check your sources. Again I really need to emphasise this is why the scientific method works! The peer review process is monstrously important and this is why. If this is the same standards you have for all of your beliefs I’m genuinely concerned.

        And no, it’s not up to each of us to decide for ourselves. It should be our responsibility to do our research and follow the evidence wherever it leads us. Choice should have very little to do with it. When the evidence is strong enough we should no longer have a choice what to believe.

        Illiterate Jews:
        This is most certainly true. But the fact its true isn’t evidence for Christ. Remember, absence of evidence IS evidence of absence.
        Really though, there were 5000 people Jesus was meant to have magically fed. There were dozens of miracles and the Gospels specifically say he did more miracles that what they bothered to record. Do you really think that of the thousands of followers he had, not one of them was literate? Or that after his death the earlier Christians didn’t get together to pool enough money and have a scribe write it down? Or that someone wasn’t SO inspired that they went to the effort of learning to read and write?
        There are so many possible scenarios that could have happened to allow this story to be better recorded, yet to the best of our knowledge none of them occurred. You’d think a god who wanted to get a message to humanity would have made sure a better job was done.

        Reaching God:
        It doesn’t really matter whether you get to heaven by believing in Jesus or just in God, the fact is there are places on earth where people know neither and its possible they may miss out.
        And I do think it’s entirely appropriate to damn a god for not getting his own message across. The claim is that he loves us and wants us to reach him. It is impossible for mankind to get his message to ever corner of the globe, so even if people wanted to they couldn’t. So the consequence is that some people are damned to hell for all eternity because this god who is meant to love us didn’t think things through properly. That’s not loving or moral.
        Now I don’t know if you personally believe the above about damnation, but there are some who do and I think it’s worth pointing out this hypocrisy for those that do.

        Morals:
        Again, I think this is something that you and I agree on and I only mentioned it for the benefit of other readers. I would agree that morals are controlled by social norms and that there is nothing intrinsically moral about anything.
        That said however, surely you think there are certain standards your god would prefer you live to? Appropriate ways to treat people? Considering some of the abhorrent ideals in the Bible (both old and new), presumably you think this is one of the parts that mankind got wrong when writing it down?

        Consistency:
        Technically the Gospels weren’t written by people who saw anything from different perspectives. They were written by researchers based on verbal stories they picked up from interviews.
        And the issue isn’t with seeing things from different perspectives. It’s things like in one Gospel having zombies walking the streets of Jerusalem but not having it in any other. That’s not a perspective issue, that’s a massive omission of a very important detail.

        The Bible as the true word:
        It’s good to know you don’t think this is so. I think it shows the ability to think for ones self. This is obviously then meant for other readers who feel this is true.

        Why are people looking for a deity?:
        I don’t really think there’s any need to go into this one. You seem to have answered your own question :P. Obviously I think the natural explanation is the better one, as it assumes less and it better in line with Occam’s razor.

        ‘Solid’ evidence:
        Actually everyone does need solid evidence, just to greater or lesser degrees. No one credible has ever come up with a concept of a god without a solid reason. That reason may be as misguided as wondering where lightning bolts come from, or it may be because they read an old book that suggested it to them. Regardless though, everyone needs at least a basic level of solid evidence.

        Israelites and cuneiform tablets:
        I’m sorry, I’ve read the article and it doesn’t seem to offer much if any evidence.
        The article claims these tablets had letters which detailed the Israelites entering the land of Canaan. Okay, so what? Doesn’t that prove they were living around the holy lands around the time they should have been in Egypt?
        Sadly this website (nor any others I’ve quickly looked at) offers a translation of these texts, so it’s very difficult to know what to think.

        Origins of the universe:
        “Which answers and who did the acquiring?”

        That is a massively loaded question and would take years of study for me to answer properly. But to quickly name a few.

      • The big bang theory.
        The expansion of the universe.
        Age of the universe.
        Evidence of the earth’s creation.
        Abiogenesis.
        Evolution.
      • As for who, there are likely thousands of people who have studied these theories and it’s virtually impossible to give a definitive list.

        And no, atheists (or at least good sceptical atheists) don’t find answers to suit their beliefs. We follow the evidence to its inevitable conclusion. This then leads us to develop beliefs.

        Of fish and frogs:
        Yes, it rained fish…and…people wrote it down! That’s exactly the point I’m trying to get across. And considering how infrequently it rains water creatures I think frogs really are a great leap. This would have been some weird shit. And when it’s not only raining frogs, but the other plagues that were predicted by someone claiming it was the work of his god, yeah that’s pretty important. I love it how you try and dismiss it like they were just frogs and conveniently seem to have forgotten all the other strange stuff that went down.
        And again I need to point out that absence of evidence is still evidence of absence. A lack of evidence about these miracles doesn’t somehow make it likely it happened.

        Jesus speaking of Moses:
        What you need to remember is that Jesus spoke of Moses as if he were a real person. Not only that, there are stories of the spirit of Moses appearing to Jesus. Now if Jesus were just another guy with some good morals and stories to tell, yes we would expect this. But if Jesus was divine then I would expect him to at least have avoided the Moses story, or even better told people it wasn’t true!

        Adam, Eve and incest:
        Ah, some believers get around this by postulating that the fall of man from the Garden of Eden has lead to our genetics slowly becoming corrupted. This explains why people lived so long back then and could interbreed without issue. Completely unsubstantiated of course.
        But if you don’t take the story of Adam and Eve literally then the sacrifice of Jesus is virtually meaningless, at least in the way the Bible says it goes.

        Astrology:
        Your response here is a perfect example of why cases from personal experience are so useless. You have the characteristics of a Gemini/Cancer. I too share a lot of similarities with Scorpios. With just you and me we have a 100% confirmation that there might be something to Astrology.
        But once we get a large sample size and start doing double-blind tests we very quickly discover that it’s all pretty random. Try reading random star signs to people after telling them you’re reading theirs. You’ll be stunned how many times they’ll say “oh yeah, that sounds like me”.
        It’s a case of remembering the hits and forgetting the misses and as a species we’re notorious for it.
        The other important connection that would need to be made is how the alignment of random planets affects people’s personalities. There’s just no good reason to think they should. And when you consider that Pluto is no longer considered a planet the whole system comes crashing down. For some reason that doesn’t seem to have been an issue for the astrologists…

        Cryptozoology:
        “Benefit of the doubt”?
        Doesn’t that usually mean you’ll accept it as true? If yes, why? The claims that large animals like the Lockness and Bigfoot could have gone undetected for so long, even with so many people searching for them is ridiculous. Why would you start with the assumption they’re true with virtually no evidence, rather than assuming it’s mythology until proven otherwise?

        Psychic/Clairvoyant/Fortune teller/Speaking to the dead/Reiki:
        All these words can have slightly different meanings to different people. Any chance you could outline what abilities you believe you have? I’d prefer not to assume. Maybe it’s even worth putting a post on your own blog detailing these abilities? I’d be more than happy to put up a link to it.

        Homeopathy:
        Would you define what you think homeopathy is and the process one goes through the make a remedy? I ask this because other conversations I’ve had make me think some people confuse homeopathy with herbology, which often does work.
        I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet concerning homeopathy, because the way I understand it the only way it could work would be if we completely rewrote our understanding of chemistry, biology and physics. The problem I have with homeopathy is that it is doing legitimate harm to people and unless it can be proven to work it needs to be stopped.
        Depending on how you define homeopathy I’ll probably end up dedicating an entire post to it, as it’s something I’d love to rip apart.

        Minds:
        I’m not quite sure what you’re asking here. I think I think with my brain. That’s where all the evidence leads.

        Numerology:
        Don’t really know enough to have a strong opinion. Numerology is believing numbers themselves have power, correct? If so, then I think I can add it to the list of things I don’t believe. Numbers have no significance beyond the meaning we give to them. They don’t have any particular power of their own.

        Meditation/Levitation:
        Actually meditation and levitation have plenty to do with each other.

        “Autobiography of a Yogi has accounts of Hindu Yogis who used to levitate in the course of their meditation.”
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levitation_(paranormal)
        As for your levitation story, do you think it’s repeatable? Because that’s exactly the kind of thing science would love to test, and it’s incredibly easy to do so.

        And yes, I’m aware meditation isn’t actually sleep. I simply used ‘light sleep’ as an analogy for a relaxed state.

        Meaning to life:To be sure, my life has plenty of meaning and I enjoy every minute of it, even the hard parts. What I mean is there’s no intrinsic meaning, no higher meaning. And honestly I don’t see how the existence of a god would necessarily make any difference to that. No one seems to know what god’s plan is meant to be. For all we know he/she/it has no more idea than we do.

  • Smeagan says:

    I’m just a little bit confused about why you believe in God? Yes, you say you have experiences everyday of God’s participation in your life but then you also say that he’s a non-active god and people shouldn’t expect him to interact in their lives? I’m just a little confused about the dichotomy of these statements. Maybe I read/interpreted them incorrectly.

    The other thing I wanted to bring up is that the Star Wars novels were written by many people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Star_Wars_books#Authors) and they were all under strict instructions not to contradict one another and to ensure the continuity and accuracy of the Star Wars cannon. The reason I point this out is that it wouldn’t have been hard for the people writing the Bible to have fact-checked, at least to a certain degree, and – as Jamie pointed out – if the inconsistencies lie in different people’s view-points why are the base facts if the stories so wildly different?

    I realise my comments are a little late to the game but I just wanted to add these points to Jamie’s.

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