I got screencapped on a blog by Jennifer Fulwiler raising some questions and objections to her – alleged – conversion from atheism to Christianity. I have my suspicions about anyone who claims that, and Mrs Fulwiler’s claim seems to be based on an argument that amounts to: “Look how cute my baby is. Therefore, god.”
The blog post goes into a bit more detail, but ultimately it kills itself off before it even gets going.
But since religion cannot be proven in any kind of verifiable way, a person cannot both subscribe to an evidence-based way of evaluating the world and be a believer. One or the other has to go. Right?
Right. End of blog post then yeah?
It started with a conversation with my grandfather, an engineer who worked his way through college by shoveling coal during the Great Depression, and went on to build complicated refineries all over Mexico and South America. He’s not overtly religious, and I always assumed that with his keen intelligence and careful, analytical way of thinking, he must be an atheist. So when it came out that he believes in God, it piqued my interest.
It figures that he would be an engineer. Engineers are notably more conservative and religious. Quite why this is isn’t particularly known but when it comes to creationism I suspect it is to do with being predisposed to ‘making things’ and thinking that this is the only way that things can come about.
I began to consider that many of the pioneers of science believed in God — Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle, and Mendel, to name just a few. Almost all the great Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity believed that supernatural forces were at work in the world. In fact, among people considered to be the greatest minds of history, only a small percentage were atheists.
This is an argument from authority and, therefore fallacious. Further, while these men may have been believers their work was not on god and did not prove gods existence. In the case of many of them their work has done quite the opposite (perhaps most notably Galileo and Copernicus) and this put them in opposition to the Christian religion.
To pick out a favourite example, Newton, as well as being a theist Newton was a ritual magician and an alchemist. Are we, then, to also believe that demons and spirits can be controlled with magic words and circles scribed on the ground? Should we abandon science and take up pursuit of the philosopher’s stone? Hopefully Mrs Fulwiler wouldn’t want anyone to take up those pursuits. So why make the exception for this singular, particular line of unproven nonsense?
Was I really ready to say that I was a more analytical thinker than my engineer grandfather? Was I seriously going to claim that the monk Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, did not require evidence before believing a theory to be true? Did I honestly think that it never occurred to Galileo to question assumptions?
Mrs Fulwiler has misidentified the problem. It isn’t so much the degree of genius or analytical thinking but whether that analytical thinking is applied to the question of god or not. People are fully capable of holding contradictory ideas or cordoning off certain sets of ideas from critical analysis. Skepticism and critical thinkings are ways of addressing and overcoming this tendency and the result is atheism. Not that atheists aren’t also capable of abandoning skepticism and critical thinking when it comes to their own pet causes.
One must also consider the historical context. For a great many years not being a believer (or being the wrong kind of believer) was a death sentence and if it wasn’t a death sentence it was a social death sentence. An obscenely wealthy church also held a lot of purse strings. Still, despite this science did advance – usually when religion retreated. The two biggest leaps in scientific knowledge before the present day came with The Renaissance and The Enlightenment, both associated with a weakening of religion.
I set out on a search for truth about the spiritual realm, which pretty quickly led me to the only lasting world religion whose founder claimed to be God. I came to see that there was a strong case that a person named Jesus of Nazareth did exist. I thought it was interesting that Christianity spread like wildfire through the ancient world, despite the fact that becoming a Christian often meant persecution or even death.
The term ‘spiritual’ might as well be a noise. It is so loosely defined as to be useless.
The grandiosity of a claim doesn’t make it more likely to be true. It does increase the amount of evidence required. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
There is no historical evidence for Jesus, whatsoever. This is an unpopular opinion to be sure, but one easily refuted by the producing of even a single piece of evidence. To call the case ‘strong’ is so wrong as to be laughable.
Many religions have spread fast. This is an argument from popularity. Put it this way, in current times Islam is growing faster and, in the west, atheism and neopaganism are growing faster than both (or were a couple of a years ago). Put another way, more people in the world don’t believe in any particular religion than do. People are also willing to die for a great many causes, religions and ideologies. It doesn’t lend them any credibility that people will die for them.
I didn’t know where to turn, so I decided to do an experiment: something rang true about Augustine’s famous statement that you must believe so that you might understand, and so I began to live my life as if God did exist. I prayed, even though I felt like I was talking to myself; I followed the Christian moral code; I read the Bible and honestly tried to understand what it might be trying to teach me.
This is an open invitation to confirmation bias. This ‘experiment’ is, in essence, brainwashing. Except you’re doing it to yourself. An analytical approach is one where you try to prove an idea wrong at least as much as you try to show it to be right. Further, I rather doubt that Ms Fulwiler has stoned any adulterers to death lately. She’s probably eaten shellfish and I’m fairly sure she’s wearing mixed fabrics in some of those photos on her blog. She’s been applying an independent moral filter to Christian morality which only goes to show that morality doesn’t derive from or conform to the Bible.
The more I went through the motions of believing in God, the more the world made sense to me; the more human history made sense to me; the more I started to make sense to me. The picture of human life that I’d formed based on science alone now seemed incomplete. I still believed everything I’d learned through the lens of science, but I now saw a whole other dimension to the world around me.
And people feel the same way about the teachings of any and every guru, self-help book and bagload of nonsense you care to mention. It doesn’t make a single one of them any more credible.
When I considered this experience in light of the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, the improbable spread of early Christianity, and the seamless and perfectly internally consistent traditional Christian moral code that has stood strong for two thousand years…
What can you say to that but ‘lol’. I mean… really.
I can show you lots of evidence, and, if you’re willing to consider it with an open mind, I think I can make the case that this belief system is at least worth a second look. But I cannot prove its truth to you in the way I can prove that the earth revolves around the sun. The human soul is a necessary component of the God experiment, and the laboratory in which it takes place is the individual human heart. Yes, there is compelling, verifiable evidence for the truths of this belief system, but an analysis of evidence will not — cannot — get you all the way there.
So no. You can’t show anyone any evidence. An open mind is not an uncritical mind. I don’t think you can make this case and if you can’t show it in that way, then you’ve nothing to show. There’s no reason to think there’s a soul either so making that a requirement is like saying you can’t find Nessie without the help of Bigfoot. As with any believer, you’re invited to present this supposed evidence and see if it stands up to scrutiny, but I doubt that it will.
I still doubt Mrs Fulwiler was ever an atheist beyond simply apathetically not believing. She called evolution ‘random’ and doesn’t seem to be knowledgeable of many of the contradictions and issues of Christianity. It just doesn’t sit right.
I began to consider that many of the pioneers of science believed in God — Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle, and Mendel, to name just a few. Almost all the great Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity believed that supernatural forces were at work in the world. In fact, among people considered to be the greatest minds of history, only a small percentage were atheists. – See more at: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2013/09/on-proving-god.html#sthash.d05RpBM6.dpuf