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Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

This thread seems to generate long, long replies. Hardly surprising, given the fact that libraries have been filled with this subject matter, and will undoubtedly continue to be filled.

Incidentally, you still haven't told me where you stand in the debate. General "first cause" god, or Omni-everything God with a capital G? From your reference to prayer experiences, I infer the latter, but I'd still be interested to know your denomination, even if it's just out of curiosity. Are you a Christian? Muslim? Roman Catholic, Anglican, Remonstrant, Lutheran, Mormon, generic believer? (Hey, that was the original point of this thread, wasn't it?)

Chaos and the universe

If chaos rules the universe, then basing your belief system entirely on what is scientifically provable seems a bit iffy... you will only believe what can be scientifically verified but you seem to in the same breath negate the very possibility of anything being scientifically verifiable at all, in the sense that anything which appears to be verifiable on earth from our perspective, might be completely limited to our planet, our speck of the galaxy, this instant in time and so forth. So that science cannot really tell us anything except that here on this earth, such and such seems to occur with frequency.

Well, I don't so much believe that chaos rules the universe here and now, as that the universe arose out of chaos. (quantum mess out of which big bang arose) I think our "laws of nature" apply to the physical universe as a whole, but that it is entirely possible that other universes with different laws of nature could exist, and perhaps even do, and that our laws of nature will at some point cease to apply as the universe reverts to entropy. Perhaps there exceptions to the laws of nature even within this universe. (Black holes? Wormholes? Weird stuff?)

Moreover, even if things arise from random effects, this does not mean they are completely unpredictable. There still is probability. Even though the result of a dice roll is random, if you roll a million dice it's fairly safe to predict the average score will be 3,5.

But I do admit that this gets rather far into quantum physics and other stuff I do not understand myself. In the end, everybody has to accept some things he's told by other people as truth, as you can't check everything yourself. In my case, I'll accept physics.

I am very curious about your idea that the laws of nature are only descriptive of what matter does, and are not necessary. If they are descriptive only then what can possibly be causing matter to behave in certain ways?

Mostly, I see the same thing you do, but from a slightly different angle. You say "matter behaves in a certain way because of the (god imposed?) laws of nature."

I say "Out of the big bang arose matter that behaves in a certain way. The way it behaves is described by the laws of nature." In other words, the laws of nature do not precede matter. You can't have the laws without matter, it'd be meaningless. "Before" the big bang (there is no before, time is a dimension of the universe) the laws of nature as we see them would have been meaningless. Like the idea of a time "before" the big bang. But as I said, I do not completely understand this stuff. I ought perhaps to read up on it.

The blind watchmaker, trial and error

incidentally, when you say that humans are a product of mere trial and error, isn't it curious that you are using language best suited to describing how an intelligent process would create something? I realize it is just a consequence of language, but i'm sure you will agree that it is non-sense to speak of trial and error unless one is intentially seeking to produce a particular outcome (which in your world view is impossible in respect of the origin of humans).

No, not really. "Trial and error" presupposes a goal. But it does not presuppose an intelligence. You can have a goal without intelligence. Take the example of a evolution. If anything is trial and error, evolution is. And the goal is clear: reproduce yourself, maintain the species. This goal is nor formulated by any intelligence, it simply arises because anything without that goal would cease to exist. Anything not good enough at achieving that goal ceases to exist. Etc.

So, it is quite possible to seek to produce a particular outcome without having any intelligence interfering whatsoever.

Therefore, the existence of a human does not presuppose the existence of a "humanmaker." This becomes clear when examining a human more closely. We don't appear to be designed. A clever, let alone omniscient designer could make something far more efficient than a human, without, tailbones, appendixes, ingrown toenails or dementia. All these things do not interfere with reproduction whatsoever, and therefore are not weeded out by evolution. An intelligent designer probably would have fixed these problems/redundancies and a thousand more.

Note that the "desired outcome" here is not "to design a human being" and that were one to start evolution all over, we could well end up with entirely different creatures. Say, sentient dinosaurs. Or no sentient beings at all. Or something even weirder.

Efficacy of prayer

Yes, you're right on that. Prayer and religion undoubtedly helps many people. (which is one reason I never try to dissuade people from their faith. Just defend my own lack of it.)

For the effects of prayer to be evidence of the existence of a god, it would not just need to be effective, it would need to be more effective than belief in a witch doctor, new age healing guru or a placebo.

But not only can this effect be explained away via psychology, for me it actually is another reason to disbelieve the existence of god. Because, if belief helps you live longer and healthier and increases mental health, it explains nicely why so many humans are religious. It's an evolutionary advantage, that's why.

Evidence for God

I suspect Randal that what you would require would be something massive. Something so undeniably God-sent that it would overwhelm you entirely. And it would not do for it to have occured in the past!{snip}

As I stated, what would be required for me to believe in a god, depends on the kind of god. For me to believe in the Christian god would indeed require... if not something massive, more something... definite. Unambiguous. Preferably in a laboratory. Unlikely to happen, I know.

And stories in the bible do indeed not qualify. Besides the doubts about the bible's origin and veracity, there's Clarke's law: any technology sufficiently advanced appears as magic to the beholder. (Or any natural phenomena sufficiently complicated.) Whilst the rise of christianity is certainly remarkable, it is by no means supernatural. In that time and age, there was a wide dissatisfaction with the established religion, and hundreds of mystery cults arose. One thrived, in part because of Constantine's conversion, but christianity really was just a sign of the times in my eyes. Fanatics always have existed, and probably always will. Other religions have their saints and martyrs. Does that prove them true?

The Eternal Sceptic, or an Open Mind on Religion

But who can answer the eternal sceptic? I guarantee that there is nothing i could write which you could not dismiss as mere coincidence or as certainly explainable though we don't quite know how, or as historical puffery.

Yes, that's fair enough. I try to keep an open mind on most things, but I do not think there's anything you can say to convince me to become a christian. (Although I might just be persuaded of the possibility of a "first cause" god.)

Not only because of the points discussed in this thread, but because there are dozens of other reasons why I do not believe in the Christian god. I do not think I could believe in him if my life depended on it. (and according to christians, it does. Now there's a pity.)

And, also because I was raised an atheist and a sceptic. Much though I would like to believe my position is entirely and completely rational, I'm too much of a sceptic to believe that either. Education and indoctrination are of immense influence in these things. It's kinda hard to be a christian when you've been dismissively told by your mother from age 4 onwards that religion is "a story some other people believe is true. But don't tell them that, it might upset them." when you asked about what god is.

That doesn't mean I haven't looked at the questions carefully myself when I was older, and tried to form my own conclusions as much as possible. But one does not shake off one's background entirely, as you said in your reply to Cynader.

Finally, I think there was recent research that indicates there exists a genetic predisposition for or against religion. Some people are simply born sceptics, or the opposite.

We all strive to keep an open mind (or so I hope) but where religion is concerned, this is rarely achieved. There is no definite answer in this debate. If there was, all sceptics would have been converted a century ago, or religion would have ceased to exist.

I think it would be safe to state that this is equally true for you, Andrew. Do you think there is anything I could say to you that would make you renounce your faith? Me, a stranger over the internet? I do not particularly care to try, as your beliefs are really your own business, but if I were a particular rabid brand of atheist hell-bent on denouncing the "misguided religious fools" I doubt I would have much success.

Why don't you answer the same question I did, but the other way around?

What would make you stop believing in God and become an atheist? view post


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