Why choose a religion that condemns everyone else?

Posted: January 5, 2011 in atheism, children, Christian, faith, Religion, women
Tags: , , ,

One of the challenges that I face as a Mom is countering our culture’s belief that all faith systems are legitimate. My child’s belief system is assaulted by the media and the population at large, accusing the Christian worldview of intolerance even to the extreme of claiming Christian beliefs are hateful.  How do I teach my children that the belief that Jesus is the only way is a legitimate belief?

The basis for the attack is a belief that religion is all about choice. This is a free country; we are free to believe as we choose. Why would anyone choose a religion that insists that everyone who does not believe as you do will go to hell? On the surface this argument seems legitimate and justified. But if choosing a religion is about choosing what is true rather than choosing what appeals to us, the argument fails.

The reality is that we do not get to choose what happens to be true. I like to believe I have a million dollar balance in my checking account. Believing I am a millionaire appeals to me. Living according to my belief, I write checks all over town that upsets retailers who do not get the funds promised. When I act out of faith, I cannot live consistently with my belief because my faith does not correspond with reality. I can then conclude that my belief is false.

Is it possible to determine to the same degree of certainty that a religion is true or false? The answer is probably not since we are dealing with spiritual matters. Spiritual matters correspond to a realm outside of our material universe and cannot be measured with any degree of precision or even experienced according to our physical senses. Then how can any faith system claim to be true?

My Atheist/Humanist friends like to use a phrase to replace of the word “faith” when they speak of matters that cannot be or have not been proven. They like to say, “I have a conditional acceptance that it is true.” In the same manner we can apply that phrase to matters of faith. As fallible beings we must acknowledge that we hold an incomplete understanding of many things. For this reason many of our beliefs about reality require an element of faith, or conditional acceptance.

Paul recognized this principle when he wrote to the Corinthians approximately 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion.

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (NASB95)

Paul had a conditional acceptance in the Christian faith dependent upon the truth of the resurrection. If the resurrection is not true, Christianity is false and Paul knew it. He wanted the Corinthians to know it, too. Paul was writing at time when witnesses to the truth of the resurrection were still alive and could easily corroborate or deny his testimony. He believed as people have for over 2000 years that Christianity is true, reasonable and corresponds to reality. The miracle of the resurrection affirmed that what Jesus testified about himself was true.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6

Jesus said it. I believe it. And that settles it for me.

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Comments
  1. Rick Possett says:

    Hello. Being in a mixed-faith marriage, I struggle with these kinds of issues, so I always like to see what other folks have to say. I stumbled across your post just now and I’m having some trouble following. First you say that we don’t get to pick what is true and what isn’t. Then you say faith is non-rational, and that you accept Christianity as a conditional truth.

    So my question is, will teach your kids that Christianity is a conditional truth? And if so, what will you tell them is the difference between a conditional truth and any other kind? (And what are the other kinds?)

    To be honest, I am not Christian, but I am genuinely interested. Thanks.

    • Nance says:

      Rick, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I welcome the invitation to probe deeper into this topic. To clarify, faith may be non-rational, that does not mean it is irrational. Many beliefs we have and live by everyday are conditional truths; many of our scientific theories for instance are accepted as conditional truth. And of course I teach my children that Christianity is a conditional truth, the Bible plainly states that it is conditional upon the truth of the resurrection. Paul stated as much in his letter to the Corinthians.

      If we are truly honest with ourselves, much of what we believe to be true is conditional and requires some element of faith due to our incomplete understanding. Take the theory of evolution for instance. For 150 years that theory has been changing as new information is discovered and our understanding of our world grows. But at any point during the past 150 years, scientists operated upon a conditional acceptance of what the theory stated at the time. If this type of reasoning is acceptable for our understanding of the material world, then why not of the spiritual?

      From your last question, I surmise that you would like me to define an unconditional truth which we might call knowledge. Since this is an epistemological discussion the contrast is between that which is accepted by faith and that which is accepted by knowledge. For instance, I have believed that when I put my seatbelt on it will protect me in the event of a car accident. Putting on the seatbelt and backing out of the driveway is an act of faith in the seatbelt. Upon the day I experience a car accident, it is a fact the seat belt protects me. This type of understanding moves from faith to knowledge upon testing. In the language of science, this was a falsifiable theory.

      What if some aspects of some beliefs related to the supernatural could be examined by means of forensic science? Acceptance of forensic evidence is practiced every day in the courtroom as events are reassembled and timelines examined and theories tested to recreate the most plausible and accurate account of events. People are condemned to death upon conclusions drawn about events that cannot be duplicated. I am suggesting that the resurrection is a theory that can be explored by forensic science, medical science and historical research. Christians consider the resurrection to be a falsifiable event in history; the evidence is compelling for us and based upon that evidence we believe that Jesus was who he professed to be and that he will do what he proclaimed he will do.

      I believe that when I put on Christ, He will cover me in the event of my death. Dying to myself and putting on Christ is an act of faith in Jesus much like putting on a seatbelt is an act of faith in a seatbelt. We are saved by grace through faith alone. If one could prove Christianity to be true, it would no longer require an element of faith. But I can reason to a faith in Christ based upon the revelation I have received.

  2. Rick Possett says:

    Thank you for the thorough reply! I am intrigued by the comparison here:

    “If this type of reasoning is acceptable for our understanding of the material world, then why not of the spiritual?”

    For a long time there were many competing theories on the nature of motion. Newton described the phenomenon elegantly and mathematically – mathematics being the language of science – such that it left no known exceptions. On your account his theory was accepted conditionally for several centuries before Einstein.

    But Einstein didn’t prove Newton wrong. He expanded the theory of motion to cover special cases. So there is a difference between something being wrong and it being incomplete.

    Here’s the kicker. We knew Newton’s theory was incomplete because we measured and tested it. Supposedly it was one such seminal test, where physicists were attempting to measure the speed of light with greater accuracy, that got Einstein thinking in the first place.

    You mentioned you put on Christ like you put on seatbelts, that you have faith in both. That’s fair, but seatbelts get tested – A LOT – and every single year. In fact, based on those tests, they’ve changed significantly over the last half century. We’ve also augmented them with air bags, because it turns out seatbelts alone might not be enough. They were incomplete!

    It’s fine to say we have faith in seatbelts, but it’s better to say our faith is in THIS PARTICULAR seatbelt I’m wearing, that there isn’t a defect that causes it to fail. That seatbelts generally work to save lives is as falsifiably well-tested as just about anything, and is backed by a thoroughly detailed physical and chemical theory that is also repeatedly and independently verified. What’s more, that impact of wearing a seatbelt (versus not) can be numerically quantified in the language of mathematics.

    I too have faith in seatbelts. But I also have good reason for it, and with round of tests, the reasons keep piling up!

    So what are we (or should we be) testing such that the Resurrection could be falsified? In other words, what is even theoretically possible to discover that would falsify a supra-natural explanation? What would sufficient dis-proof even look like?

    Sorry for the multiple questions, but I’m not sure I could answer them!

  3. Nance says:

    Before we muddy the waters with a myriad of variables, I think it would help to maintain a few distinctions. First, I do not have faith in the resurrection, I have faith in Christ. It is in examining the forensic evidence of the resurrection that convinces me the resurrection is true. Two, as any Christian will tell you, my faith is absolutely tested every day, every hour. The transformation in my life caused by Christ is evidence of my faith. However, because MY faith is a subjective experience as is true of any “religion” it would be highly presumptuous of me to assume that MY personal experience or faith would be enough to convince any reasonable person that Christianity is true. This is why when defending the faith I reference the effects of GOD’S existence rather than my personal experience. One such effect is that of the resurrection.

    If one’s worldview allows for miracles, then raising a man from the dead is a plausible thing. If however, one denies the possibility then any discussion about the supernatural is nothing but opining in which case our discussion should take a different course. You know far more of my beliefs than I do of yours, so a little clarity may prevent our speaking past one another.

    The resurrection is a falsifiable event as any past event would be; simply provide a body or some remains of a body and one has disproved the resurrection. If you know anything of the history of Christianity, you know the Jews would have loved to have found the body to shut up those pesky followers of The Way.

    There is so much more about the resurrection and greater minds than mine have examined all of the evidence and reasoned to much greater detail than my simple mind could comprehend. For that reason, I would suggest reading “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona. I have been a student of both men and they present the material sensitive to inquisitive and skeptical minds, like you and I.

    Finally, to be clear, Christianity is open to falsification by the same laws of logic that determine the validity of any other human knowledge. The case for Christianity does not rise and fall upon empirical data alone; demonstrative evidence of a mono-theistic God is derived by inferences from nature and man.

    Perhaps the first question you should ask yourself is,” Is it possible that the Christian God exists?” I always tell my children that the virtue in keeping an open mind is such that when you are exposed to the truth, you are willing to accept it.

  4. Rick Possett says:

    I get the sense I have pestered you enough. I really appreciate your patience. I think I get more excited by this kind of thing than I probably should, at least that’s what my wife just told me!

    I also appreciate the time you took to write your last reply, which is why I would like to acknowledge it briefly.

    Please note, I was not asking for proof, but what could possibly be proof. You answered – if I read correctly – that the discovery of some remains would be a good example. But finding remains would be evidence that Christ was NOT resurrected (although I’m not sure how, if found, we could ever show the remains were his – a critical problem). Rather I am asking what could be evidence that he WAS resurrected. What would such evidence even look like?

    Note, I am not asking for that evidence to be presented. I am asking for an example of what it could even be, regardless of whether it actually exists or not. What could we possibly discover, test or measure that would support the claim of the resurrection? Or the virgin birth? What would such a research program look like?

    Without something to study, test, measure, analyze and describe (then rinse, repeat), I’m not sure how we could ever equate religious Faith with the kind of faith we have in seatbelts, or microwave ovens, or toothpaste, or what-have-you.

    You also referred me to some experts and asked that I keep an open mind, which is always good advice. As it happens, I am familiar with Gary Habermas, as well as others like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. I have their books on my bookshelf right here! The problem is, they don’t really address that question either, which is why they’re not widely read outside of Christian circles.

    But thank you for the discussion and thank you for putting up with me. As I said, I always like hearing different folks’ points of view. (And BTW, If you would like some recommended reading as well – after all, staying discomfortably challenged by the other side is the best innoculation against error – I would be happy to oblige. Just let me know.)

    We can end on a positive note at least. We both agree to keep an open mind. I think that’s a great place to start.

  5. […] with the author on the case for Christ. I thought some of you might enjoy it. Here is the link, text below. (Reproduced without permission – happy to remove if […]

  6. Nance says:

    In answer to your inquiry as to what positive evidence would be for the ressurection, for detailed information I still recommend Licona’s book. But if you wish to know what the evidence might look like, it would be the same as for any other ancient historical event: eyewitness accounts, corroborating testimony, acheological verification of testimony, testimony hostile toward Christianity, etc. All of which we have in plenty. The testimony we have available regarding the ressurection is overwhelming with over 5000 early documents.

    Now back to my question. Is it possible that the Christian God exists?

  7. R P says:

    Hello! Good to hear from you again.

    Yes, of course it is possible the Christian God exists.

    Is it possible the Muslim God exists?

    What about the Mormon God?

    This debate is so interesting because all sides (there are not just two) find that the evidence for their point of view “is just plain obvious”. I wrote about the evidence for the Resurrection and similar kinds of stories over in my neck of the woods in a post call “Were You There?”. That really laid out my point of view in a little more detail, but to summarize…

    It’s fine to claim historical documentation is sufficient proof of something – we do it all the time – but not all evidence is created equal.

    It’s one thing to believe, for example, that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. We have the actual document of course. But outside of that, two things about that event are different than the one you suppose. One, the act of signing a document is something that can leave *physical evidence*, such as the document itself. Two, we know from life in the present that signing declarations is exactly the kind of unremarkable things politicians like to do.

    It’s one thing to say we have good evidence for, say, the existence of Moses. Records are shoddy and details scarce, but it’s unremarkable to claim the Hebrews had a leader. It’s something else to claim the story about the baby in the reeds is true, especially since that exact same story had been used many times before, including with Sargon of Akkad, and seems to have been something of a “stock” parable in the ancient world. And then there’s the whole Red Sea incident.

    I don’t doubt a historical Jesus. Doing so is ridiculous, despite what some folks might say. I don’t doubt a historical Buddha either. But then we have written historical accounts of the Enlightened One doing some pretty amazing things, including springing from his mother’s side at birth and immediately walking and talking. Supposedly the trees even bent of their own “will” to give him shade.

    We can apply the legal benchmark of “reasonable doubt” to the three levels here:

    1) It’s one thing to have reasonable doubt about a historical act for which there is physical evidence and which we know from experience is the kind of thing that happens in life, like politicians making grand statements.

    2) Next there are events for which there is no physical evidence but which we know are common in life, the Persian Wars for example. We do have physical evidence – ancient swords, money, armor, monumental inscriptions of events – that describes to us a social, political, economic world where Greece and Persia would have been in conflict, and that physical evidence might support and certainly doesn’t contradict the bulk of the written accounts. We also know from everyday life that societies in those relative positions tend to conflict and make war. The US and China are emerging rivals for example.

    3) Lastly there are things for which we have no physical evidence and that completely defy rational explanation.

    I would suggest to you there is not and should not be the same standard of “reasonable doubt” for all three levels, but in act the burden of proof needs o raise proportional to the outrageousness of the proposed event.

    But even if we used the same threshold for all three levels, I think we have a problem claiming that the evidence for the Christian account is any more convincing than the Mormon account, or the Buddhist, etc. You can say that it does to you, and I won’t argue. The least I would ask is that you acknowledge that I’m not unreasonable for failing to see through the hair-splitting, especially in light of the “quality” of the evidence all around.

    Take this passage from Matthew Chapter 27, for example:
    51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
    52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
    53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

    The dead walking through the city would seem to be a notable event, but that fact doesn’t appear in any of the other Gospels, and it certainly doesn’t jump out from any non-Christian accounts of the time. And that isn’t the only issue of that kind (it’s just one I happened to remember off the top of my head).

    We have all kinds of eyewitness testimony for witchcraft, including some accounts of witches who survived drowning or burning at the stake. Real, honest, everday Americans believed in witches just as much as a small group in Palestine believed in the Resurrection at the time.

    Reasonable folks roll their eyes at astrology, but it’s a big deal to millions of people in the West and *billions* in India and China. People in the middle ages truly believed in elves and fairies, and they left lots of accounts of that. here are textbooks for turning lead into gold, and people claimed to have seen it. Newton himself spent the latter part of his life obsessed with alchemy.

    Is it possible all those things are true?

    And what do we make the lot of it when there is an alternative, non-magical, non-astrological, non-divine explanation that actually has physical evidence?

  8. R P says:

    Sorry for the multiple comments (and the typos, sheesh) but I had to run out unexpectedly earlier – dog was making a mess! – and I wasn’t sure the comment box would save my work.

    I ran into a guy the other day arguing for young Earth creationism. His maze-like, cross-wired arguments were kind of frustrating, not least because it just seemed like he was just hiding, tangling himself up in all this unnecessary complexity. But it was also frustating because there were so many layers. As soon as you peeled back one, another layer of defense popped up, and so the natural response is “wow are you kidding me?” I had this image in my head of a bottomless pit of baseless claims and counter-claims. Staring into it, it’s easy just to say “you’re insane” and move on.

    I suspect all sides come off that way to each other. It cautions us to keep in mind what could possibly falsify our beliefs.

    I wanted to do a summary to hopefully make the point that I’m not playing a shell game here. It goes to what I was asking for earlier about what evidence, real evidence, would look like. It seems to me the most we could ever have is the second- and third-hand historical documentation. That is, we can’t have physical evidence for a miracle since by definition is it an exception to natural law and so no cause for it could be found in nature.

    Short of such actual, real proof, the standard of evidence is going to be somewhat slack, which is fine as long as:
    1) There isn’t a simpler competing claim that also fits the facts and that does have hard evidence, and
    2) We apply the looser standard roundly. That is, we can’t give Christianity special treatment because “it’s just so obviously true, why can’t you see it?”, which is what everyone says about their own point of view. 🙂

    But if the historical accounts of the Resurrection are to be believed (because they come from multiple, concordant sources for example) then we seem caught in a paradox. Other religions can muster just as much or more documentary evidence, and they all can’t be true.

    Such a low burden of proof also leaves the door open to historically well-documented, widely believed practices like witchcraft, astrology, telepathy, alien abduction, ghosts and vampirism, to name a few. Our dismissal of them is based on our belief that they are wrong because of a lack of hard evidence, despite the fact that other people believed (or still believe) they are true!

    But then, that so many people at the time believed it to be true is offered as evidence FOR the Resurrection. So which is it? Why do we believe second-hand accounts of the Resurrection, without hard evidence, but not the parinirvana of the Buddha, or the Ascension of the prophet Muhammad, or the angelic visitation to Joseph Smith, or the documented cases of witchcraft in Salem. And the list goes on…

    Why is it all of those historically documented things are NOT true?

    Think of it like this. The Gospels were written many years after the fact. A Muslim can rightly claim that the Qu’ran was recited by the Prophet directly, and that entire armies believed and followed him. (It was several generations before Jesus had armies of believers.) You have to admit, that’s a strong first-hand account!

    Then there are the weak arguments. I’ll give an example. William Lane Craig, in the video you posted, points to the fact that it was women who carried the message, and that they seem to have been believed in a time of mysogyny counts a solid evidence (that if it were made up it would have been put into the mouth of a man). But that’s no different than saying we should believe Joan of Arc spoke to God for the same reason. Or that the Buddha was right because he let women be bhikshus. Or that Marie Curie was right about the nature of radiation, not because she conducted valid experiments, but because she was an esteemed woman in a time of widespread mysogyny.

    That women carried the message is simply evidence that the community of early Christians believed Jesus had been resurrected, which I don’t doubt. So saying that doesn’t actually add anything. It’s just a fancy way of reiterating that Craig thinks the Resurrection is true because so many people at the time believed it. Well, that’s fine. Go back in time and talk to the good people in Salem.

    The evidence is always loose-goosey like that versus the evidence for the heliocetric theory of the solar system, or the cosmic microwave background, or the Planck length, none of which anyone has “seen” personally with the naked eye but which are mathematically well-demonstrated nonetheless.

    So it is possible the Christian God exists. Absolutely. I would ask you, is it possible the Mormon God exists? When a Muslim speaks emotionally about having felt the presence and power of God, what do you think she is referring to? And how is that any different from your own experience?

    • Nance says:

      I am happy to hear that you concede the possibility of God’s existence. In Atheist/Christian debates in which a similar question is posed the Atheist does a delicate dance dodging the question. As in the video I posted of Hitchens, he cannot affirm his Atheist belief and with good reason. There is only one intellectually honest answer and the implications of this question go far beyond Atheism, and the debater knows it. His entire worldview hinges upon a denial of anything immaterial. To be fair, I want to ensure that you understand the implications of your concession and I will explore that in a post to follow.

      I also want to assure you that I absolutely concede that your objections and questions are legitimate and we will explore those as well. I have held many of them, and in fact am answering them for my 10 year old son now. As we find common ground, many of the objections such as the possibility of pantheism (Mormonism), the legitimacy of religious documents, the reliance on subjective experience, etc. will be resolved as we establish a solid foundation upon which to evaluate these claims.

      Many Humanist/Atheist who take the step you have taken move logically from Atheism to Deism. Robert Jastrow, for instance, came to a similar conclusion. But since you still allow for the possibility of many gods, I will meet you there, acknowledging simply the possibility of a non-material reality. That way we don’t knock out too much in one blow and your concession only rules out Atheism and Agnosticism.

      It is a great privilege to join you on your journey for truth, if even for only a little while. I am confident we will learn much from one another as we seek the truth in all things.

  9. R P says:

    “Many Humanist/Atheist who take the step you have taken move logically from Atheism to Deism… That way we don’t knock out too much in one blow and your concession only rules out Atheism and Agnosticism.”

    First, calling it a concession implies I’ve given something up. It would be better to say we agree that the Christian or Mormon or Muslim or any other god could exist. That’s not a “concession” for you either, so let’s please be fair.

    Second, saying that god could exist doesn’t rule out agnosticism (although I would not call myself agnostic) nor does it strictly preclude atheism. Saying dodos don’t exist is factual and does not contradict the statement that they could exist. In fact, they did exist but don’t anymore. The same is true for woolly mammoths.

    I don’t think either of us think dragons exist or ever existed, but they could have. This is the black swan phenomenon. Aristotle, Juvenal and other ancient thinkers started a trend of using a “black swan” as an example of the untrue since all swans were known to be white. This example was used over and over again in unnumerable philosophical works straight through to the 18th century… when black swans were discovered in Australia.

    Whether or not something *could* exist is unremarkable. Whether or not it *does* exist is futile. The real question is, how would we know? I don’t think polka dot swans exist, but it’s possible. “Conceding” that doesn’t mean I’m now a polka dot swan deist. As a matter of fact, I could still be a polka dot swan atheist (which in fact I am – I do not think polka dot swans exist).

    Does that make sense? I feel like I’m not explaining well. And I would like to understand more why you think that admitting something could exist necessitates the belief that it does.

  10. Nance says:

    Rick, I have a moment and I wanted to drop by and let you know that I have given your and Roberts comments a great deal of thought while taking care of my son. I just do not have the time to sit at the computer and compose the detailed response you are worthy of. His breathing is improving and I should have more time to commit to my blog soon. Thank you for your patience.

    • R P says:

      This discussion, however interesting, is not worth one second of time over your family. Take care of what’s important.

    • Nance, I hope I didn’t come across as implying you don’t WANT to respond in my first comment on this blog. What a nightmare it sounds like you’re facing, it’s always the worst kind of trial when one of your children are sick. Take care, and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  11. Nance says:

    Thank you so much for the well wishes! When it rains, it pours! I even had to resuscitate my laptop from the blue screen of death this week! Everyone went back to school today, and hopefully we will remain healthy for a while, including the Dell.

    Rick, I may be oversimplifying and if I am forgive me. I am a simple woman. I think you have communicated your view eloquently and thoroughly. My experience in communicating with people who hold opposing worldviews has convinced me to keep arguments simple by focusing on the foundation of the view, that which props it up, rather than pointing at claims which branch off the view. In effect, rather than evaluating the truth of the branches and leaves, I have found it more effective to analyze the truth of the foundation or just take an axe to the trunk so to speak.

    I think I have made it clear that at this point I am not arguing for the existence of a monotheistic god, only for the existence of a supernatural reality and since we have so little common ground upon which to address monotheism, I am going to leave that discussion for later. That discussion will address your arguments for Wicca, Mormonism, Buddhism, etc. When we move to that discussion, we have to determine whether God is one or many and whether God is personal or if God is an impersonal force. We have a long way to go to get to that debate.

    Secondly, I addressed the distinctions between soft and hard Agnosticism in the comments here: https://womenintheword.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/seeking-a-reasonable-faith/. The hard Agnostic claim that “God is not knowable” is an objective claim about reality. The soft claim that “I don’t know that God exists” is a subjective claim while it may be true, it is still opinion. If we reduce our discussion to opining we are no longer engaging in a debate of objective reality, but sharing personal experience. This too has its benefits, but it does not progress the discussion any toward analyzing beliefs about reality for truth value.

    That I believe a claim about reality does not grant that claim any truth value. Truth value is discovered independently of my belief and truths exist whether I know them or not. It behooves the reasonable person to determine the truth value of his beliefs, in addition to determining what claims he believes to be true. The apostle Paul implores believers to be prepared to give a reason for their hope and to address opposing claims with gentleness and respect. My skills are limited, but I hope I have at least provided food for thought.

    In regard to the evidence I refer to in support of the resurrection, it seems you accept the reliability of forensic evidence for ancient historical events, but take issue with the reliability of the New Testament documents. I would very much like to address this objection as I have held it as well. I do not have the time to effectively argue that for you at this time, so I will refer you an article which argues for the reliability of the New Testament here: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bib-docu.html

    Finally, your last comment concerns me regarding the futility of determining the existence of a thing, that thing being God. If the historical evidence supports the belief that polka dot swans exist, then the belief itself can be determined to be reasonable. If however, all our human knowledge negates the possibility, then the belief would be determined to be unreasonable. If this is futile why do you devote so much time to the discussion? If all we can agree on at this point is that we can determine whether it is reasonable that God exists, I would concede that the act of determining the truth or falsehood of such a claim is a worthy endeavor.

    I hope I addressed everything; I gave it my best effort.

    • R P says:

      Hello. I am glad to hear things have settled down. Lately it has been crazy for me at work – hence the dearth of posts. But we should be thankful. I firmly believe that if we did not have these little challenges we would slowly turn into the worst versions of ourselves.

      I disagree that soft agnosticism is an opinion. If it is, it’s an opinion on a lack of opinion. It is what I call the neutral position, the point of ignorance from which knowledge advances us (but I also like Thomas Nagel’s description: the view from nowhere).

      In standard logic, the burden proof lies on the person making the knowledge claim. This includes the atheist, who makes the positive claim that God does not exist. It also includes the hard agnostic, who of course claims that we can’t know if God exists.

      If you categorically deny the neutral position, then that means I can’t factually express lack of knowledge about anything. The statements “I don’t know if there are Snickers bars in China” or “I don’t know if there is life on Mars” must be nonsensical.

      Even if that were true, and I think clearly it’s not, that doesn’t get you off the hook for having to demonstrate your own positive claim about the existence of God.

      As for the futility of knowledge, I wasn’t saying that knowledge is impossible. I simply said that’s putting the cart before the horse. The real question is, how would we know? How would we know whether God existed or not?

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