3/26/2006                                                                                       View Comments

How can you be sure there is no God?

The following is a transcription of the podcast made available HERE.

Welcome to the ex-Christian monologues, a podcast from the webmaster of exchristian.net.

I’m Dave, the webmaster, and it’s March 26, 2006.

Here’s a comment someone posted on ExChristian.Net just this morning:

“May I ask you a question?” writes the poster. “How are you so sure that there is no god. I think I understand well the position of agnostics. But I am curious about your conviction of no god. Anybody tell me?”

It is both frustrating and fascinating the number of times I’ve seen this question. The people asking are usually sincere, or appear sincere – they believe they are asking a pretty good question, one the requires a pretty good answer. Some people think that by simply asking that question, or some variation of it, that they’ve made a good point, or proven something.

Another version of the “how can you be sure there is no god” question, would be: “what is your evidence that there is no god?”

Okay, let’s consider this for a bit.

Here’s a statement: There is a god.

Here’s another statement: There is no god.

On the face of it, many people see these two statements as almost two sides of the same coin. What I mean by that is that Christians generally see these two statements: There is a god, vs. There is no god, as equal.

But are they really equal?

Let’s create a scene here. I’m no longer a Christian and I’m talking to a Christian friend. My Christian friend states there is a god and I deny that there is a god. Surprised by my denial, he asks me for my evidence that there is no god. I ask him for his evidence that there is a god and he shakes his head, asking again for my evidence that there is no god.

We seem to be at an impasse.

Then he waves his arms dramatically and proclaims, “Look at the world we live in, the complexity and variety of life, the beauty of creation, the majesty of the heavens. That is evidence of my god.”

I look around, and I have to admit, his description is apt. Life is wonderful and so is the rest of the Universe. I have to agree with him on that. What I deny is that the existence of the Universe gives incontrovertible evidence of a god, or that a god played a role in creating the Universe.

My friend and I share a few common beliefs. We both believe life is grand and that the Universe exists, and is magnificent. Now my friend wants to add another belief to this list, a belief in a god.

Now, I freely admit, I don’t know where the Universe came from, if it came from anywhere. I don’t know why our planet appears beautiful to my eyes, or how life can be so complex. I don’t know – I admit it. My Christian friend has offered an explanation for the existence of these things – things we can both agree are quite remarkable.

Now, this is where the in breakdown in our conversation starts – right here.

My friend is the one offering an explanation for why the Universe exists and why it is the way it is. I am not offering an explanation; I’m claiming ignorance on these points. He is claiming authoritative knowledge.

Now, when someone claims to know the reasons for something, it’s proper to expect some justification from them before accepting the explanation.

Let me put it another way.

Someone could state that the Earth is being held in space and spun by giant invisible spirits. Now, before anyone would be expected to accept that belief, they would be well within their rights to ask for some evidence that supports the belief.

I agree that the world is hanging on nothing and spinning. I might not know how the Earth could possibly hang in space and spin, but I don’t believe invisible ghosts on steroids are pushing it in a steady rotation. I might not even have a better explanation than a “ghost theory,” but I still deny that such a thing is true. It falls to the person who claims to have the explanation to provide the supporting evidence. It doesn’t fall to me to provide evidence as to why I don’t believe in the ghostly world turners. All I need do is state that the evidence presented by the "spirit theorists" is unconvincing. I need not provide evidence as to why I deny the explanation; I simply deny that the evidence presented is sufficient for me to accept and believe.

Let’s consider another example. A man’s windshield is smashed and he accuses his neighbor of the crime. The neighbor denies having done it, and asks for the accuser’s evidence. The accuser replies with, “Where is YOUR evidence that you didn’t commit the crime?”

I can hear it already! “That’s not the same thing.”

Isn’t it?

Let’s see, the two neighbors agree that there is a smashed windshield. The owner of the car has a belief. He believes his neighbor is responsible for the crime. He thinks the smashed windshield is enough evidence to prove his neighbor’s responsibility in the matter. He offers no evidence for the crime except that there is a smashed windshield and his belief. Everyone can agree there is a smashed windshield, but one person has stated a belief, an explanation for smashed windshield.

Similarly, my Christian neighbor and I agree there is a Universe, but he has offered his belief, his explanation for the Universe. As with the windshield, it falls to the person making the explanation to provide evidence supporting the explanation.

Should the windshield case ever come before a judge, the accuser will need to present evidence supporting his allegation – his belief – first that he has a neighbor and secondly that his neighbor sabotaged his property. The accused will need to present nothing, except maybe to show that the evidence is insufficient to prove his guilt.

Okay, suppose I say I’ve designed wings that when strapped on my arms, will make me fly. My friends deny that I’ve made such a thing. It falls to me to prove my assertion; it doesn’t fall to my friends to prove their lack of faith.

How about I tell you I was taken into a UFO where I had nice chat over tea with Bigfoot. Would you believe me? If not, why not? Any reasonable person would expect me to provide some solid evidence before believing that Sasquatch and I are acquaintances who occasionally have lunch with Extraterrestrials. Skeptics would be justified in saying “I don’t think so.” It wouldn’t fall to the skeptic to give evidence for his or her lack of belief in my little story, no matter how much I believed it myself.

Still, I can hear the Christian voices, “Prove there is no god! See, you can’t prove it! Therefore, God exists!”

The demand for disproof can never lead anywhere. I can say “there is good evidence that a god does not exist.” Then I could challenge the Christian to prove that my evidence doesn’t exist. The Christian could counter with “There is evidence that your evidence doesn’t exist – prove that there is no evidence disproving your evidence.”

The discussion quickly gets confusing, and silly, and goes absolutely nowhere.

Now if the Christian could offer some evidence that his or her god exists, then a fruitful discussion might ensue.

I don’t believe in Bigfoot, fairies, ghosts that like to play spin-the-world, or Zeus. Until some solid evidence is presented supporting a belief in these things, I can say with much confidence that none of these things exist, except in stories and in the imaginations of some people. I need not PROVE that Bigfoot, fairies, world lifting spirits, or the gods on Mt Olympus don’t exist. It falls to those who state any of these things DO exist to provide the evidence supporting their beliefs.

In a similar fashion, I can claim that the Christian God does not exist. There is simply insufficient evidence supporting the existence of a god. Pointing to the Universe as evidence of Christianity’s god, is much like pointing at the smashed windshield as evidence that the neighbor smashed it. In the story there is a smashed windshield, and how it happened is a mystery. Evidence must be presented showing that the neighbor was indeed responsible for smashing the windshield.

Likewise, there is a Universe, and its genesis is frankly, a mystery.

Now it’s time to see the evidence that supports the Christian’s accusation that the Christian god is responsible for the Universe.

3/21/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Evangelical Christian Theology 201

by Valerie T

In light of this week's massacre of apparent children.

Lesson II: Child-ness

A good Evangelical must be able to recognize children on sight. This is because God loves children and every one is precious in his sight. He watches over them and protects them from harm, just like an all-powerful shepherd watching over his lambs. The Bible says so. Although this may not seem obvious in the world around us, when you understand the difference between a child and not-a-child everything becomes clear. You know who to take care of and how to keep from getting distracted by child-like creatures that don't merit your attention. It also becomes obvious who God wants you to vote for - politicians who prioritize children over not-children. After studying the following series of photos, you will be able to differentiate between children and not-children almost as well as God himself — though not quite, because, as the photos illustrate, God is infinitely wise and you are not.

The best way to distinguish children from not-children is to carefully consider their condition. The decision rule is very simple. Because God takes care of children (they have guardian angels, the Good Shepherd carries them when the way gets hard, etc.), any child-like life form that is battered, verminous, or, in particular, dead, is not a child and never was. Another important differentiator is age. During the nine months between fertilization and birth, any stage in the development of a fertilized human egg is a child.*

*Note: Some people argue that since God aborts 60-80% of fertilized eggs, they can't all be children (http://www.reason.com/rb/rb122204.shtml). In this case, refer to the first sentence of this paragraph. "The best way to distinguish children from not-children is to carefully consider their condition." Based on the decision rule, those that God aborts are not-children. We know this because they are dead. The other 20%, however, are children, because they are living. See how simple it is?


Series 1: Child

Children. (Notice - clean, well-fed, probable Christian parentage - all evidence that these child-like creatures are, in fact, children.) They are loved by human parents and God alike. God answers the prayers of little ones like these, even when they pray about puppies and dolls and baseballs and the Academy Awards. Good Evangelicals are similarly attentive and loving. They take care of children, just like God does. A political leader who is doing God's will works to keep these precious lambs from harm and insures that they are healthy, well-fed, and schooled.


Series 2: Not-a-Child



Not-Children. Evidence that these are not-children can be seen in their emaciated state. Their unlikely Christian parentage goes without saying. These not-children do not pray for puppies and dolls, and God does not answer their prayers for food.* Good Evangelicals are free to follow the example of God himself in determining how much attention to pay to not-children like these and how to respond to their pleas. Likewise, an Evangelical in a position of political power may choose to prioritize the concerns of children (above and directly below) over the concerns of not-children (directly above). In fact, he should.

*Actually, most ministers will tell you that he answers all prayers. He says "Yes." "No." or "Maybe ;).When we have adequate missionaries to send to all of Africa, they will undoubtedly explain this to the not-childen and their parents living there, which should offer some comfort."


Series 3: Child



Children. We know these are children because they are not-born.* Also, they are alive, or were when the pictures were taken. This combination is a guarantee of child-ness. A person who authorizes the destruction of a child like one of these is a baby killer with no family values. He or she cannot be a good Christian and is not qualified to hold any public office that might affect the well being of children.

*Note: Once born, some remain children, but most become not-children. These must be re-born to become children again, or, later in life, to become children-of-God.


Series 4: Not-a-Child



Not-Children. Confirmation that these are not-children can be seen in their damaged and dead condition. Two of these may be potential-children (see below), though with low potential. Should they die of their injuries, however, this confirms that they were not-children from the get-go. A person who authorizes killing not-children is not-a-baby killer. He or she can be a good Christian.* He or she can be qualified to hold public office and to act in the name of God.**

*only if holds Evangelical beliefs. Otherwise, may be a moral person but will burn in hell. But not for killing not-children. Only for not holding Evangelical beliefs.
**only if holds Evangelical beliefs. Otherwise, may be a moral person but will burn in hell. But not for killing not-children. Only for not holding Evangelical beliefs.


Series 5: Potential-Child

Potential-Children. Potential-children are hard to identify. They are actually not-children who have some likelihood of becoming children through the efforts of missionaries, Sunday school teachers and ordinary Evangelicals. Some not-children have more potential than others, and this is determined largely by their place and time of birth. How much energy one should invest in potential-children depends on how much potential they have. Factors to consider are: health, religion of origin, and socio-economic status.

A population of not-children who attend Sunday school and live in a good Evangelical community may have high potential. In consequence, their food, health, and education may be of great moral importance to their Evangelical neighbors. Also, not-children born into desperate, poor families and communities may be open to whatever missionaries may offer and may also have high potential. But be careful about how you spend your limited moral energy. Some not-children have almost no potential at all. In such cases, there is little point in feeding, healing or educating them. Such efforts are like seeds sown on rocky ground.

Discerning this, good Evangelicals often devote their time and money to other priorities. Even conspicuous consumption can be one of these priorities, as pleasing to God as the odor of burnt offering. Why? It may help to attract not-children and ex-not-children (see below) to the faith, thus increasing their potential.

It is crucial to remember that potential-children should never, never be given priority over children (first and third rows above).


Series 6: Ex-Child, Ex-not-a-Child
(High Potential Variety)



Ex-children and Ex-not-children. At some point in development, children and not-children hit "the age of accountability." They abruptly become children- of-God and evildoers, respectively. Although the external differences may appear minimal, the effect is profound, in particular for the evildoer. This is because not-children have eternal, individually conscious souls. When they die they all go to be with Jesus where they live happily ever after - even the cancerous, maimed, starving ones who had absolutely no potential here on earth and consequently merited little attention from Good Christians. But as soon as a not-a-child turns into an evildoer, death has another outcome - eternal torture - something rather like the not-childhoods of some not-children, only even worse and way longer. Fortunately, evildoers can become children-of-God by praying a specific prayer of belief in the redemptive power of perfect-human sacrifice (see Lesson III: When murder is moral - Killing children, not-children, and ex-children in the name of God).

3/19/2006                                                                                       View Comments

3/09/2006                                                                                       View Comments

The Emperor's New Clothes

by Deamond

ORDINARY THEIST

oh, look, there's the King!


AGNOSTIC

Is... is he... is he wearing skin-colloured clothes or something?


ATHEIST

Oh, god, he's naked.


SCIENTIST

"Pardon us, your majesty, may we feel your sleeve for a moment?"

"Why, certainly." (Whispers to coleague) "He's naked"


NONPRACTICEING THEIST

I'm bored, I'm going home


HEATHEN

your King is naked, not like our King.


PHILOSOPHER

Maybe the clothes are there and the King isn't.


CULTIST

(Streaks in front of parade, gets arrested, no one gets the irony)


CREATION SCIENTIST

Well, obviously you can't feel it, either.


FANATIC

(Actually sees clothes)


LUCIFERIAN

Wooo! Shake it!


TELEVANGEALIST

We'll send you the bill for the robes, your majesty.

3/02/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Ancient Perception of Day and Night

By Wayne O

Gen.1
[1] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
[2] And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. [3] And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
[4] And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
[5] And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
….
[14] And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
[15] And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
[16] And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
[17] And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
[18] And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
[19] And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

I’ve seen this topic danced around, with no particularly plausible explanation offered for the three cycles of daylight and darkness (day and night) transpiring before the appearance of the sun. For us today, who have grown up learning modern cosmology from an early age, the first explanation we hear of day and night is that it’s the result of the rotation of a spherical world; the side exposed to the sun experiencing daylight, while the opposite side falls in the sphere’s own shadow, or night. That explanation hasn't always been available to everybody.

Left to their own powers of observation, how might a primitive people perceive the cycles of darkness and light? We can try forgetting about the knowledge we possess today and make some "primitive" observations of our own.

Anyone who is up before sunrise knows that the sky is already light by the time the sun appears on the horizon. Likewise, in the evening the sky remains light for a while after the sun drops below the horizon. Furthermore, entire days may pass without the sun being visible at all from the ground when the sky is cloudy or overcast, or in the presence of fog, for example. Granted, the day is not as bright without direct sunlight, but there’s still plenty of light. Inside a hut or tent or the entrance of a cave we may also be cut off from direct sunlight, but the interior can still have plenty of light, depending on the nature of any openings to the outside. Similarly, at night there are differing degrees of illumination, depending on the phase of the moon, or whether it is visible in the sky at all. The sun will cast shadows, but so does the moon. A full moon seems very bright in the night sky, yet it is night nevertheless. Often the moon is visible in the daytime along with the sun, although not nearly as bright.

So, without knowledge of the real cosmological relationship between the sun and Earth, our observations might tell us that the sun merely accompanies day, without causing it, reasoning as follows:


  1. It can be daytime without the sun being visible in the sky. This can result from cloudy, foggy, or overcast conditions, or with the sun obstructed from sight by a mountain, a forest canopy, or the side of a ravine.


  2. Daytime lasts longer than the time the sun is visible in the sky. It begins a little while before the sun rises and ends a little while after the sun has set.


  3. Interiors of huts, tents, caves, gorges, forests, etc., can be illuminated from skylight. It is not necessary for sunlight to shine directly on something to have sufficient illumination to see it.


  4. It is brighter in the daytime when the sun is visible, but it is also brighter at night when the moon is visible (and brightest at night when the moon is at its fullest).


  5. The moon may appear in the daytime as well as at nighttime. On some days it appears both in daytime and at night, so there’s no apparent cause-effect relationship between the moon and night.


  6. The sun may provide light and heat, but so does a fire. A fire can even provide more heat than we feel from sunlight. Yet a fire does not turn nighttime into day. Why should the sun, being of a lesser intensity than a fire, be expected to do so? We know from our experience with campfires, torches, and oil lamps that heat from a fire is most intense in close proximity, and the warmth drops off with distance. Therefore, the sun must be pretty close, since we can feel its warmth.


  7. The sun occupies a very small area of the entire sky dome, yet the sky is uniformly lit on a clear day. Why should one assume that a tiny spot in the sky is responsible for lighting the entire expanse?

Might we not conclude from simple observation that daytime and sunlight are two separate and distinct phenomena, just as nighttime is separate from moonlight? And just as a fire can provide light and heat, yet not change night to day, cannot the sun be merely a supplement to daylight and daytime warmth--a "greater light to rule the day"--but not a cause of the day, while the moon provides light at night without causing the night?

From a primitive perspective it could very well seem that day and night could exist without need of the sun. And that’s about as good an answer for origins as you’ll get from any of Genesis.