30 December, 2010

Freedom Through Truth: Of Christians and Atheists

Michael Brandon over at Freedom Through Truth comments on my recent discussion with numerous atheists here and on the Holy Post in which he offers the following:

Atheists are people who CLAIM not to believe in the existence of God. Theists, on the other hand CLAIM that God believes in ALL of us. Christians take this further, and claim, with historical support, that God believes in us so much, and loves us so much that even though many CLAIM not to believe in Him that would not stop Him from making himself known to them, and offer himself up to save them from themselves.

Although God sent His Son Jesus to earth to show us what He wants from us, and to prove His love for us, many of us do not believe in Him still. Proving the existence of God to one who does not want to believe is like taking a blind man to the zoo, and trying to prove to him that elephants exist, when he refuses to get up off the bench he parked himself on. He can hear the elephant trumpeting, but considers it to be the wind. If you were to take his hand and lead him over to an elephant, and guide him to touch it, he might still refuse to believe it is an elephant. Such is the power of disbelief, in the heart and mind of someone blinded by more than just his eye sight.

But, atheists claim not to be blind....

Interested in more? Click on the link.

Freedom Through Truth: Of Christians and Atheists

26 comments:

  1. You and Michael are going to run into trouble with that first sentence: "Atheists are people who CLAIM not to believe in the existence of God."

    First, the use of the word "CLAIM" turns the whole discussion into calling all atheists liars. That one word is so loaded with negativity that there is no recovery from the slap it delivers. You've set up an adversarial position, and you're going to wonder why atheists hit back?

    It is much less inflamatory to say simply, "Atheists do not believe in God." That simple statement is clear, concise, accurate, and neutral. Of course, it also doesn't give you a faux innocence, either, so you can CLAIM to have been "attacked" when someone picks up the challenge you just threw down, does it?

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  2. "Proving the existence of God to one who does not want to believe is like taking a blind man to the zoo, and trying to prove to him that elephants exist..."

    Again, wrong emphasis. The assumption there is that elephants exist and anyone who doesn't "believe in" them is a blind fool. But when the elephants do not exist, the more one claims that they do, the more one sounds like an idiot to those who know better.

    It is possible to live a happy and full life without elephants. Why do y'all bother with such trivialities? If you want to have an elephant, keep it in your own yard, and ride around on it whenever you want, but don't hold up traffic, and don't forget to clean up its mess, okay? Oh...and don't expect anyone else to contribute to its feed bill, either...

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  3. I will make anyone willing to compare elephants and god a deal:

    I'll bring a recording of an elephant, they bring a recording of god.
    I'll bring a piece of skin, a tooth, a tusk, a whisker, perhaps even some dung from an elephant, they bring any bit of god along.
    (As an addendum to the above, I won't bring apiece of silly putty that someone chanted over and magically turned into a piece of an elephant.)
    I'll let someone walk over and touch an elephant, stroke them, maybe even ride them, they'll walk god over and let me grab his robe (or whatever he wears these days).

    And, really, please stop telling me what I believe and do not believe. Bring me nice, concrete evidence for god, verifiable and repeatable (just like you can for an elephant) and I'll listen.

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  4. Tim, it seems that you are determined to pick a fight, then claim that people attack you or are angry.

    Lady Janus hits the nail on the head. The bolded word claim is a deliberate and calculated statement. It's inflammatory and it's unnecessary.

    What next? Shall I CLAIM that you are not a child molester? Shall I CLAIM that you are not a drug addict? Shall I CLAIM that you don't beat up little old ladies and steal their handbags? Or, shall I respect you despite our differences, and say that I sincerely doubt that you are any of the above?

    In closing. Tim, you seemed obsessed and angry at people who don't believe as you do. Why is that?

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  5. Anonymous: The mystery to me is why is it that people assume that if I challenge a belief or conviction of others that somehow this equates to me (or Michael) being 'angry' or 'obsessed'?

    If by 'obsessed' you are referring to my adherence to the conviction that atheism is as much a 'belief system' as is theism (they both deal this the same God question - just different answers), then perhaps you might say that I am stubborn, dogged or even wrong, but not obsessed.

    As to the 'anger' issue, I can only assure you that you are confusing my willingness to examine these questions at a more fundamental level than can be answered with facile responses torn from the latest Hitchens or Dawkins missive to their flock of (un)believers. I wake up each morning with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step, and am rarely angry. Frustrated sometimes by my inability to to explain myself... yes, but almost never angry.

    Fr. Tim

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  6. Tim, atheism is a belief system in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

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  7. "...if I challenge a belief or conviction of others..."

    But that's not what you're doing here, Tim. You're declaring a lack of something to be a negative aspect of it, and then challenging that which does not exist. I actually could not have put it better than "anonymous" did just above. Atheism is NOT a "belief system." It is, quite simply, a LACK -- and ABSENSE -- of belief system(s).

    I do not, however, think you're angry about it. I think you honestly don't understand it, and than makes you a little frustrated, which might come across as anger to those who are not regulars here. The same way atheists are frustrated by those who do not (or will not) understand, and therefore make incorrect assumptions in order to keep a conversation going. The problem with keeping the conversation going based on incorrect assumptions is that you only get further and further from understanding one another, not closer. Y'all keep talking for the sake of hearing your own arguments, and you stop listening to what anyone else has to say.

    You believe in God. Atheists do not believe in God. There is no why. That is all.

    Anonymous, would you PLEASE get yourself a signature of some kind?

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  8. Lady Janus: I would agree with you if it were an issue of atheists never having heard of God. But the fact remains that they have... and they made a decision based upon the evidence in front of them that they do not believe in His existence. It is not possible to say that they have no belief system. They possess a belief system that starts with 'there is no God'.

    Happy New Year. May 2011 be a year of good health, wealth and happiness for you.

    Fr. Tim

    Fr. Tim

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  9. "It is not possible to say that they have no belief system. They possess a belief system that starts with 'there is no God'."

    Sorry, but at least in my case, that's simply not true.
    I am perfectly willing to see the massive amount of scientifically verified, repeatable evidence for the existence of god. Photos of angels, the weight of a soul, watching amputated limbs growing back, the fact that faith healing only seems to work for one religion, watching people swallow deadly poison and not take harm (that one's specifically noted in the Bible...) - all that kinda stuff!
    Show me these things, and I'll give credence to your hypothesis that god exists. Use the hypothesis, show that it's scientific (ie, that it is falsifiable, and makes predictions that can be tested.)


    If this can't be done, please expect me to simply shrug and say "You haven't given me good evidence - you haven't demonstrated your point. Come back when you can." That's my atheism, and it's clearly not a statement of faith.

    It's no doubt been said before, but I'll say it again - atheism is a faith in exactly the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

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  10. Anri: Now I understand that we are speaking past each other... because you are not an atheist. You are an agnostic! You are open to the possibility of the existence of God but it has not been proven to your satisfaction.

    Agnostic: no real answer to God question
    Atheist: the definitively is NO God
    Theist: God exists.

    Fr. Tim

    PS. Happy New Year!!

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  11. I take issue with your categories.

    An agnostic is someone who is the opposite of a gnostic - which is to say, one who has knowledge. I am not ignorant of religions, I have looked into a number of them, a few in some detail. I am not an agnostic, therefore, as I have plenty of knowledge of the subject.

    A theist, as you noted, is someone who has belief in a god or gods. An atheist is simply the opposite of that - one who has no such belief. I lack belief in god for the same reasons, and to the same extent that I lack belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Leprechauns. I do not believe that there 'is no real answer' to the question of the Easter Bunny's existence, and so would not call myself an agnostic as far as that question goes. However, if some evidence were to (somehow) come to light that the Easter Bunny exists, I would be forced to alter my belief.

    Until and unless substantial evidence for a god or gods is brought forward, I will continue to dismiss the idea as wishful thinking. This is not the same as having no opinion or as lacking knowledge.

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  12. "...they made a decision based upon the evidence in front of them..."

    NO! Tim, please pay attention: As far as the atheist is concerned, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE. You are describing the thought processes of an antitheist, not an atheist.

    "It is not possible to say that they have no belief system. They possess a belief system that starts with 'there is no God'."

    Of course it is possible! It's actually right there in front of you. We have had this particular conversation before, you and I, and it comes down to language and syntax. Parsing:

    1. I believe there is a god.
    2. I do not believe there is a god.
    3. I believe there is no god.

    Those are three clearly and distinctly different thoughts. Numbers two and three are NOT the same thought. Number two puts the negative on the belief; number three puts the negative on the god.

    You understood this last time we had this conversation. What happened between then and now?

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  13. Lady Janus: Advent, Christmas, New Year's, old brain: that pretty much answers your question! Thank you for your patience.

    You reminded me to look again at this note:

    Atheism and anti-theism so often occur together at the same time and in the same person that it's understandable if many people fail to realize that they aren't the same. Making note of the difference is important, however, because not every atheist is anti-theistic and even those who are, aren't anti-theistic all the time. Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods; anti-theism is a conscious and deliberate opposition to theism. Many atheists are also anti-theists, but not all. (about.com)

    Fr. Tim

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  14. Now ya got it, Tim (I knew ya would... ;D)!

    Happy New Year.

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  15. Arni, there is all kinds of evidence for the existence of God. Repeated may times over. You could start your open minded investigation by taking a visit to the Healing Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec and start counting crutches and wheelchairs left behind by people healed there. How high would you need to count before you'd be satisfied to say that maybe there is a God that actually answers prayers as believers claim?

    Cheers
    Paul

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  16. Anonymous, it seems that you are confused about the mean of the phrase "open-minded".

    This excellent video should help you understand why your claims are anything but the result of an open-minded approach to seeking the truth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqX

    You might also want to look up the meaning of the word evidence, as it doesn't mean what you think it means.

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  17. Apologies, the URL above is missing one character.

    Regardless of your position in this debate, this is an interesting and excellent video that challenges all of us to examine our own biases as well as our perceptions about other people's points of view.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqXI

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  18. Open-minded
    1 open-minded attitudes: unbiased, unprejudiced, nonpartisan, neutral, nonjudgmental, nondiscriminatory; objective, dispassionate, disinterested; tolerant, liberal, permissive, broad-minded. ANTONYMS prejudiced, judgmental.
    2 it was a progressive school that appealed to parents who were open-minded: receptive, open to suggestions, open to new ideas, amenable, flexible, willing to change. ANTONYMS narrow-minded.

    Thats pretty much what I thought it meant.

    Evidence
    3 evidence of a struggle: signs, indications, pointers, marks, traces, suggestions, hints; manifestation.

    Thats pretty much what I thought it meant in this context. A wall full of crutches a wheelchairs that people left behind would suggest, hint or be a sign that a miracle may have taken place. Its certainly not proof but I would certainly argue that its evidence.

    Cheers
    Paul

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  19. "...there is all kinds of evidence for the existence of God."

    That would depend entirely upon what you call "evidence," Paul. What is acceptable to you as evidence is not necessarily acceptable to anyone else. Who can state with absolute accuracy that those wheelchairs and crutches were not left by charlatans and con artists? And who would trust whose word that it is so?

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  20. Janus thats just one case. I could name dozens of inexplicable events in Christianity. The miracle at Fatima would be one of the most profound. Witnessed by almost 70,000 christians and atheists alike. I agree however that a charlatan can be at work. There was a preacher in the US that used to have his wife read intention cards at his tent revivals to call out healings and he was caught. I'm sure we can have that in Catholicism too. The church is pretty careful on what it designates as miraculous however. At Lourdes, thousands have claimed to be healed yet the church has only officially recognized about 60 miracles. Don't you think if you were promoting healing shrine scam it be a better marketing ploy to accept them all? That said, I've seen healing happen much closer to home. For instance my sister was healed of Scoliosis at a healing mass in our parish years ago.
    I know evidence isn't evidence for everyone. Blood in OJs truck and his bloody glove couldn't convince a jury that he killed his wife either. They were convinced he didn't from the get go for other reasons. You could have shown them a photo of him doing it and they'd probably not accepted that it was evidence either. So I agree evidence is not the same for everyone.

    Cheers
    Paul

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  21. Paul,

    On the subject of supposed miracles at Lourdes, one of the most famous RC sites of claimed miracles, apparently eighty thousand pilgrims a year visit the site, but there are less than 70 "declared miracles". Some say most of these are for illnesses that would have healed themselves anyway. There have never been any cases of severed limbs re-growing for example.

    The other thing is the Bible teaches the devil has power to perform miracles too. Read the account of Moses and Pharoah' magicians performing miracles. There are other accounts in the Bible of the devil having power to perform miracles.
    So even if there have been some miraculous occurrences at Lourdes or Quebec, how does one know if it is of God or of the devil?

    These sites such as Lourdes or in Quebec centre around the worship of Mary. Worship of anyone other than God is condemned in the Bible and is specifically forbidden in the ten commandments. So why would God perform miracles in these sites which would give approval to the worship of Mary, which is idolatry?

    The Bible makes it clear Mary cannot be a mediatrix between God and men; the only mediator between God and men is Jesus Christ. (see 1 Timothy 2:5)

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  22. The Bible makes it clear Mary cannot be a mediatrix between God and men; the only mediator between God and men is Jesus Christ. (see 1 Timothy 2:5)

    Hi Wayne,

    Hope the new year finds you well.
    The Blessed Virgin simply petitions her son on our behalf as she did when he worked his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana.
    If not the mother of Christ, why can Benny Hinn or any other number of protestant faith healers call on Christ for healing? Why do protestants flock to these men by the millions seeking healing if nobody can intercede for another with the Lord? Shouldn't they go right to Jesus? You also need to be careful about casually attributing miracles to Satan. A Pharisee did the same with Jesus and it was pointed out to him that blaspheming the Holy Spirit was an unforgivable sin.

    Cheers
    Paul

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  23. As for crutches and wheelchairs being left behind in a pile, I would be suspicious of that because I think you will admit there are a lot of people who will think at the time that if they leave these things behind, it shows faith. Many believe if they have enough faith, they can be healed,(pentecostal movement) and if one is not healed, it shows a lack of faith. This is unbiblical. It would be interesting to know all the facts and what happened to these people afterward.

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  24. "Arni, there is all kinds of evidence for the existence of God. Repeated may times over. You could start your open minded investigation by taking a visit to the Healing Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec and start counting crutches and wheelchairs left behind by people healed there. How high would you need to count before you'd be satisfied to say that maybe there is a God that actually answers prayers as believers claim?"

    A single artificial leg would be a good start.

    Glass eye?

    Howabout a toupee?

    All charismatic, primitive religions claim faith healing as part of their panoply. So, either god is perfectly willing to heal folks regardless of what they worship, or something else is going on here.

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  25. Paul,

    I don't think I attributed the miracles to Satan. But I did raise the possibility and ask the question. It is common for charismatic people to throw that question back at a person and accuse them of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is an emotional argument which is hard to match. But remember, if the healing glorifies Christ, then it may be of God; but if it does not glorify Christ, it should be looked at closer in the light of the Bible.(John 16:14) Are these claimed healings glorifying Christ or Mary?

    There was a documentary on TV about at least one of these charismatic healers and their healing ministry. Reporters tried to have some of his healings examined by a doctor but apparently he would not agree.

    You said "The Blessed Virgin simply petitions her son on our behalf as she did when he worked his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana."

    Mary was just a person. She does not and never did have the characteristics of God such as omniptence, onmiscience, and omnipresence. Therefore, there is no indication that she can even hear the millions of prayers that are offered up to her all around the world every day. Prayers are only to be addressed to God through Jesus. Only Jesus has the power to hear prayer from all over the world. It is fruitless to be praying to Mary.

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