12 Feb 2012

Why I Know There Is a God

Religious 171 Comments

At first I had titled this post, “Why I Believe in God.” But as you’ll see, the reasons I will give, lead to the conclusion that I know there is a God. Now it’s true, it’s possible I could be wrong (as we’ll see), but by the same token, I might be mistaken when thinking I have a father. And yet, I don’t walk around saying, “Why I believe I have a father.” No, I know I have a father.

The motivation for this post comes from frequent commentator “Major Freedom,” who wrote last week: “This is why I dislike the Sunday posts. It turns an economics blog that satisfyingly demolishes economic ignoramuses, into an idiotic festering stinkpile of contradictions and crap logic.”

Now Major Freedom here touches on something–in his inimitable fashion–that plenty of other people have expressed over the months. These people just can’t understand why I am so logical and smart when it comes to views they agree with, and yet I am so illogical and stupid when I talk about spiritual matters.

I claim that this is a very bad hypothesis on their part. It’s much more consistent with all of the facts to say that I am making reasonable points in defense of theism. I might very well be wrong, but (I claim) it’s highly unlikely that my ability to parse an argument, or to recognize if evidence comes down in favor of one theory versus another, suddenly ceases to work every 7th day of the week.

Note that I am NOT saying, “If you think I am right about free markets, then you are inconsistent if you think I’m wrong about Jesus.” To repeat, I am NOT saying that. Rather, what I AM saying is that you should pause before saying that I’m spouting idiotic festering stinkpile of contradictions and crap logic. Sure, I could be wrong about Jesus, but I’m not that obviously wrong, where it only takes two seconds of thought to see the flaw in my worldview before the atheist can move on to other debates.

Now here’s why I say that this hypothesis offered by Major Freedom ill-fits the empirical evidence. First of all, it’s not merely that people (like Major Freedom) who like my political/economic views think that I come down on “the right side.” No, it’s more than that. With the possible exception of my focus on Paul Krugman, most people agree that when I talk economics, I at least really try to fairly present the various viewpoints in a dispute. I’m not too often accused (again, with the possible exception of my Krugman posts) of deliberately misrepresenting the views of the person I’m critiquing, when the person is a non-Austrian or a non-libertarian.

Second of all, I have nothing to gain (in a worldly sense) from holding my views, and certainly not from expressing them on a weekly basis here on the blog. In fact, this stuff actively hurts my career. Do you think it helps me get consulting contracts from hedge fund managers, if a quick Google search shows me talking about multiplying loaves and fishes?

It’s not like I’m ever going to run for office, and so need to be able to point to a church that I attended. It’s not that I need to be a good Christian to get in with the people I work with. (If I had gone back to Catholicism that would be a more plausible theory, but not evangelical Christianity.) I also didn’t convert from atheism because of a girl I wanted to marry; I was single when my conversion occurred.

Now some people over the months have said things like, “Bob maybe you need the comfort of knowing a magic man in the sky will take care of you after you die, but some of us have the courage to face the truth.” Oh really? Is that the kind of guy I strike you as? Someone who doesn’t search for the truth, but instead embraces a worldview based on convenience? Does my career really make sense if that’s how you diagnose my religious views?

Third of all, I used to be a devout atheist. I had read Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, and Mencken’s Treatise on the Gods, and thought I could draw on their best arguments, but write a single book that made the case against Christianity more succinctly. You know what I did with free markets in my PIG to Capitalism? I was going to do the same for atheism. In college, I would actively try to get my closest Christian friends to abandon their superstitious beliefs that imprisoned them. I thought I was freeing them.

So, believe me when I say that I really understand the appeal of the atheist position. And yet, I abandoned it. That doesn’t mean I’m now right, and that atheism is therefore wrong, but it does mean that it’s very unlikely that I simply haven’t thought much about the issue. If I had been born to evangelical parents, and walked around my whole life thinking it “totally makes sense” that Jesus died for my sins, then you could plausibly say, “Bob is a smart guy, but he just takes his religious views for granted, and hasn’t subjected them to his usual withering analysis.” But you can’t really say that, if I used to be an atheist and then flipped.

Why It’s Not a Good Hypothesis to Suggest I Am Ignorant of the Laws of Physics

I apologize for the narcissism of this post, but I think it’s necessary. After all, I’m explaining why I personally came to believe in God, and I’m defending myself from the typical attacks offered by Major Freedom and others on a weekly basis here. So forgive me, but in this section I am going to brag a little bit.

When I was in 8th grade, my science teacher and I would (after class) talk about special relativity. At that point in my life, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, “A theoretical physicist.” My hero was Richard Feynman.

In high school I took the two AP Physics courses and knocked them out of the park. For example, if the question asked us to compute the velocity of a ball dropped from rest, after it had fallen 10 meters, other kids in the class would use F=ma and the value for g, in order to set up the force as a function of distance and then integrate the acceleration over the interval of height. But I would solve the question in a matter of moments, by looking at the change in potential energy (because of the change in height), and then plugging it into K = 0.5*m*v^2 since energy had to be conserved. My teacher was this cool Indian guy who was getting his PhD, and he was really disappointed when I told him I was going to study economics in college, not physics.

Even so, when I went to Hillsdale College they put me in PHY 505 (Electricity and Magnetism) just because I had so much of a physics background, and it satisfied some requirement for a liberal arts degree. The only other people in the class were all juniors or seniors who were physics majors, and I’m pretty sure I was the first freshman in the college’s history to take that class. Besides crushing the exams, during office hours the professor and I would talk about things like explaining the behavior of a siphon in terms of Newton’s laws acting on the individual water molecules. (So this was like the opposite of the approach I took to the falling ball in high school.) When my schedule was too busy and I dropped Quantum Electrodynamics (I think in my junior or senior year), that professor very reluctantly signed my Drop card because he had looked forward to having me in the class.

Last anecdote: When I was at NYU getting my degree in Economics, physicist Brian Greene–author of the popular The Elegant Universe–came to give a guest lecture (on string theory I think, but I can’t remember). During the lecture, he walked us through a thought experiment in which the sun suddenly vanished, and the earth at the same time started moving out into the solar system, tangent to its original orbital path. I emailed Greene and said that this actually was wrong, because it would take a little more than 8 minutes for the earth to get the information that the sun was no longer there, providing gravity. He agreed with my criticism. (I can’t remember if he intentionally made the simplifying inaccuracy, or if he hadn’t realized that subtlety during his talk. But, either way, he agreed that I had corrected something he’d said in his lecture.)

OK don’t worry, I’m done telling you how smart I am. What’s my point? I am NOT saying, “Because I got good grades on my high school physics tests, I have credibility when it comes to theological arguments.” No, what I AM saying is that you really have no business dismissing my worldview because I “obviously” am ignorant of the findings of modern science. I promise you, I have a pretty good feel for how the natural sciences work.

Why I Know There Is a God

Now that we’ve got that preamble out of the way, here are some of my experiences, which make me sure that a God exists. The following is not a story of my conversion. Instead, I am simply reporting things that have happened in my life, so that you have a better idea of why I find armchair arguments “disproving” God to be so inadequate.

==> The moment when it first dawned on me that God existed (it’s a long story that I don’t want to tell right here in this post), I felt intense contrition. After all, I had spent a lot of energy trying to get my good friends to drop their faith. I said out loud, “I’m soooo sorry….” Then, in my head, I heard another intelligence say, “I forgive you.”

==> Roderick Long one time had a blog post challenging the internal logic of Christianity. It was a very strong critique, and I had no idea how to answer it. But I prayed about it and the answer just popped into my head. (Unfortunately this article isn’t online anymore.)

==> One time I was walking around in Auburn thinking through various things at night. My train of thought led me to a particularly clever insight about something, and I felt a bit worried at how proud I was of myself, but I kind of looked up at the sky and said, “C’mon, that’s a pretty awesome idea,” or something like that. Immediately, my mind was suddenly filled with this proposition: “The moment we decide to be with God, we are saved, and could go to heaven and live in paradise. However, God asks us to remain on the earth a while longer, to try to save some of our brothers and sisters, because they won’t listen to Him.” Now this proposition had nothing whatsoever to do with what I had been thinking about previously; it wasn’t at all related to the “great idea” over which I had just been congratulating myself. At this point I have no idea what my “great insight” was, because it was vomit compared to the beautiful gift of a morsel of His knowledge that God gave to me, to remind me of my place.

==> When I was a professor at Hillsdale (now a Christian), I went and re-read a bunch of books on evolution that I had remembered loving when I was a student at Hillsdale (and an atheist). I couldn’t believe how obviously they were constructed on one non sequitur after another. It wasn’t that I could prove anything about the origin of life, but I’m saying that things that had seemed like knockdown arguments to me when I was an atheist, no longer seemed so convincing when I was now a Christian and open to the possibility that the standard Dawkins-esque story was wrong. (Note that I wasn’t committed to being a Biblical literalist at this point.) Anyway, I was all fired up, writing a bunch of articles on this stuff, defending at least weak versions of Intelligent Design theory. I was walking around a room in my house, thinking things through, and I was getting really worked up about Eugenie Scott and the other people I was taking on in my articles. At one point I got really aggressive in my daydreaming, I think basically saying something along the lines of, “Oh it’s so hilarious how sure these people are of their position. They can’t even see how they’re assuming their conclusions. Many I can’t wait to blow them up!” And at this point, something in my room fell over. I don’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t something that should have fallen over on its own. So I took that to be a gentle reminder to chill out, that the point wasn’t to defeat opponents but to help people see the bigger picture.

==> Another time I was wrestling with a very serious moral dilemma. I was talking to a former pastor about it, and he was showing me different passages from Scripture about the issue. After talking to him, I prayed and asked God that if He wanted me to do something a certain way, I genuinely needed guidance. I then flipped open my Bible “randomly” and I promise you, the chapter I started reading literally started with the Pharisees coming and asking Jesus about exactly this issue. It freaked me out it was such a tailor-made message from God about how He wanted me to think about the issue. (I’m being vague since it’s personal.)

==> Those who have been long-time readers will remember that the reason I went to Haiti is that I thought God was telling me to, and my joke was that I’d rather travel in a plane than a whale. Now Steve Landsburg should appreciate this aspect of the story: Whether you think I’m crazy or sane, the best theory to explain my behavior is that I believed God was telling me to go. I am a germaphobe. When I am on a roadtrip and go into a restaurant, I take a little bottle of hand sanitizer in with me, because I’m worried that the menu will be dirty from the previous customer. Also, I am uncomfortable traveling to foreign countries; I was very relieved when the illustrious von Pepe was on the same flight as me to the Mises Supporters Summit in Vienna. So put those two together: I am a germaphobe and I was stressed out about flying to Austria. Do you think I relished the thought of doing manual labor in a makeshift volunteer camp in Haiti? Can you imagine anything else motivating me to do that, besides, “I’m on a mission from God”?

==> Finally, one time I was pacing around the downstairs of my house (here in Nashville). I was alone in the house. For some reason I had lately been thinking along the lines that natural scientists and theologians were explaining the same events, just using different approaches. For example, theologians would say, “When Jesus was born, a star appeared in the sky to lead the magi to the new King.” Yet astronomers would say, “Oh, that was just a supernova in galaxy XYZ. Nothing supernatural about that. Given the state of the physical universe, that had to happen. It would have been a miracle if a ‘bright star’ didn’t appear in the sky to the people at that time.” So anyway, I was pacing around my downstairs, in the room holding a couch, table, and my computer desk, thinking along these lines. Just as I had satisfied myself that nothing really “miraculous” occurs–because God wants the universe to be orderly for us to understand–I turned around and saw my son’s rocking horse from when he was a toddler, sitting on the floor right where I must have paced at least 10 tens in the previous half hour. It was normally something that would be in the corner of my son’s room upstairs, and yet here it was, “suddenly” resting right where I would clearly have tripped over it 10 different times in the previous 30 minutes. There was no way I could have just not seen it for that long; it was smack dab right in between the wall and the table, where I had been pacing. This too freaked me out, because I interpreted it to be the least frightening thing God could have done, that was frightening enough to shock me out of my silly “deduction” regarding His position vis-a-vis the physical world.

One (Probably Vain) Parting Request

In closing, I want to remind everyone why I spent so long establishing my background in physics, and my previous “devout atheism.” I know full well how I would explain away all the above, if some Christian had told me those things back when I was in college. I would have said the guy felt really guilty upon his conversion experience, and so he “had” to hear this fictitious God forgive him, so he could get on with his life. When he was walking around the house in Hillsdale, getting really worked up about refuting the atheist biologists, he stomped the floor really hard and knocked that thing over. His “inspired” thoughts about writings articles, or having ideas on why God makes us remain on a miserable planet, and even being able to flip open to a Bible passage that he had obviously read several times during his life–these episodes just show how powerful the human mind really is, even though we aren’t consciously aware of what we can do sometimes.

(It’s like the story when Richard Feynman just “randomly” pointed to a problem in the schematics that an engineer showed him–Feynman thought he was lucky, but I always thought it was that Feynman’s mind was incredibly powerful and subconsciously he saw the problem in the blueprints in a matter of seconds. There was another occasion when Feynman got “lucky” and turned somebody’s safe to the correct combination on the first try; again I think he actually had the power to do that, even though he didn’t think it was possible that his mind was that powerful.)

As far as the Haiti stuff, well this guy was under a lot of stress at the time from his job and the expenses of his son’s diagnosis of autism, and he actually needed to take a vacation that would completely remove him from that situation. But he would never in a million years be able to take a fun vacation with all of that responsibility waiting at home, and anyway at a regular destination he still would have had frequent internet access. But by going to Haiti for a week–where he could only check his email every other day, for a few minutes, and where he engaged in exhausting manual labor and had to stay focused to avoid getting diarrhea–he had no choice but to forget everything else and walk back from his looming nervous breakdown. How to justify all of this? His subconscious invented the notion that “God really wants me to do this.”

In conclusion, I hope the above anecdotes at least make atheist readers understand why I am so sure that God exists. Rather than attribute a weekly failure of my logic and reason, I would appreciate it if you’d give me the benefit of the doubt of having a series of unlikely coincidences. For an analogy, if some guy got stuck in an elevator at the airport, and then missed his flight that ended up crashing, and then he won the lotto that same day, and later that night he got a call from his church’s pastor saying he was retiring and urging this guy to go into ministry–you can understand why this guy might suddenly “find Jesus.” You would still think he was wrong, but you could cut him some slack and not accuse him of ignoring the “overwhelming evidence” that there wasn’t a God.

171 Responses to “Why I Know There Is a God”

  1. Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

    Before I start, I just want to clarify that any fun I poke is meant in good spirit. I apologize in advance for everything I say in bad taste.

    An interesting parallel to your story about the holes you perceive in evolutionary theory (originally, I misspelled ‘holes’ as ‘whole’ — as if evolutionary is ‘whole’, or complete [seriously!]; must be a sign from Darwin), I think, is anybody’s ideological change. For example, Daniel Kuehn started out as a libertarian and is now a statist (I kid!) progressive. I am sure that when he was a libertarian he thought he had all the answers, and suddenly he saw the truth in whatever ideology he holds now; then, when he reads all the libertarian arguments he once believed in he can find all the holes in it. I single out Kuehn, because he’s the only example I can personally think of — originally, I had Gene Callahan in mind, but I really have no idea what ideology he used to hold or what ideology he holds now.

    Anyways, my point is I that I think people see truth where they want to see it, and I don’t think any particular set of beliefs (whatever those beliefs are on) has watertight empirical or logical support. So, it’s easy for us to see flaws in what we don’t want to believe, even if dismissing what we don’t believe in because of those flaws is almost like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Even if this isn’t exactly right, it’s clear that people who hold different sets of beliefs honestly think they are right, even when they arguing with people who hold the exact opposite set of beliefs and they think they’re just as right.

    What am I trying to say exactly? I have no idea. I just thought of this parallel when I read that part of the post.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “I had Gene Callahan in mind, but I really have no idea what ideology he used to hold or what ideology he holds now.”

      Not everyone is an ideologue, Jonathan!

      • Major_Freedom says:

        i·de·ol·o·gy/ˌīdēˈäləjē

        Noun: “A system of ideas and ideals; The ideas and manner of thinking of a group, social class, or individual.”

        It is not surprising that Callahan of all people would declare that not everyone adheres to a system of ideas. After all, in his case, it isn’t a system at all. It is a crude mish-mash of uninformed fallacies and cantankerous sarcasm.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t see any problem with identifying oneself as an ideologue so long as you are willing to debate in a civil manner. Ex-socialist David McDonaugh of the Libertarian Alliance identifies himeself as an ideologue but he loves to debate.

    • amor luvz says:

      Just ponder upon this message, The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. Ellen G. White

      May God Bless You!

    • amor luvz says:

      do you know attorney catalan from Philippines

      Thank you!

    • perry2638 says:

      Well that depends on who you ask. You are thinking “Who you ask”?
      If that’s what you were thinking you most likely are one of many that
      Believe in God. I think that it is true now more than ever, who you ask
      And when you ask them. Let’s say that you ask a teenager in 1960 or 1970.
      They may say “I guess so, Mom and Dad make us go to Church every
      Sunday. You may ask a teenager in 1980 or 1990 and ½ of them may say
      That we are learning that all life started out as pond scum so I’m not sure.

      It’s 2013 and you walk up to a teenager or someone in their 20’s downtown
      On a Saturday night and ask “Have you found God” ½ of them would say not yet
      Not wanting to talk about it or, just to impress their friends they may say
      “I didn’t know he was missing” What if you like it or not. We are becoming
      Less GOD friendly. That is political correctness, for less people in general are God
      Fearing people these days. Political correctness is part of what got us here.
      I’m going to tell you right now that I am not a religious person. And the only group that I belong to is empower and maybe a few ham radio clubs. In this day in time I believe
      That people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing or picking on a group, that they just don’t say anything. I don’t care if you believe in God or not. That’s your business, but don’t give up your backbone! I believe that everyone deserves the same chance.
      Let’s look at an example that does not step on any toes. We have the Girl Scouts, The Boy Scouts, The Campfire Girls, and for the Gay Boys, The Camp Fire Fairies.
      Just don’t go messing with our once proud intuitions like The Boy Scouts.
      Now we have to decide if it’s ok to have Gay Scout Masters! Well let’s see,
      A forty or fifty year old Gay Man in charge of a bunch of young boys.
      What could go wrong? Wait a minute! We have all ready tried that, It’s called
      The Catholic Church. That’s not working out to well. The world is turning into
      A Pennsylvania locker room and we are just sitting back and watching it happen.
      So just don’t sit still, say something, or do something for yourself and family
      And join The Empower Network and work for yourself. Stand up and make a
      Difference. Freedom is one click away.
      http://www.empowernetwork.com/makemoneynow.php?id=perry2638
      and perry2638.com

  2. Ghengis Khak says:

    I’ll make a vaguely similar warranty to Johnathan M.F. Catalan’s — I don’t mean any disrespect. Rather, I’m just interested in figuring out how you think your experiences could apply to others.

    The things that have happened to you, as you seem to suspect, are likely to be unconvincing to someone not already in agreement with you since all of the evidence you are using seems to be non-falsifiable. Of course, you didn’t claim anywhere that this should be convincing to others so maybe that doesn’t matter to you.

    I was an evangelical Christian for my entire life, prior to my “conversion” to atheism about 7 years ago. Your entire conversion is rooted in these miraculous events that happened to you, but they don’t happen to most people. What should their (and my) position on God be in that case? Surely you see how I “know” that God doesn’t exist.

    Why has God singled *you* out to be shown evidence of his existence? Am I somehow less special in this regard? My intellectual faculties had me arrive at the same place you were at in your atheistic youth. Why would I not be shown some sign as well?

    • P.S.H. says:

      This is not a direct answer to your question, but you might profit from Craig S. Keener’s book on miracles. (It’s a massive, two-volume tome, but you don’t have to read all—or even most—of it to get the gist of the argument.)

      • Anonymouse says:

        What’s the gist of the argument?

        • P.S.H. says:

          Keener’s evidence can’t be distilled into a blog comment. For a skeleton of the argument, see the Amazon page.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “Why has God singled *you* out to be shown evidence of his existence? Am I somehow less special in this regard?”

      The fact you are here, reading this post, means you are being shown this right now. Of course, horses can be led to water, but not made to drink!

      • Ghengis Khak says:

        Maybe I shouldn’t be so prickly, but I find this a little bit insulting since it seems to insinuate that someone hearing second hand stories of miracles and not believing them is somehow equivalent to bringing a thirsty horse to water and the horse not drinking. As though the solution to both their plights is to obvious, which they could figure out very easily if only they weren’t a f***ing dumb horse.

        Anyway, to address your point, hearing second hand about miracles is in no way equivalent to witnessing them yourself (or so I would imagine; never had the latter).

        People can be dishonest. I am not accusing Bob of dishonesty, though I don’t know him personally and have no particular reason to trust him on this matter. In any case, generally speaking it is well known that people can be misleading and dishonest when it comes to backing up a particular viewpoint. For example, opponents of fiscal austerity in budgetary matters very often make things up or cherry pick data to support their view, sometimes unintentionally (eg, “austerity is failing in the UK right now”).

        Second, how do I adjudicate between the different sets of miracles I hear about? Many religions have some concept o miracles (Muslims, Jews, different types of Christians, Buddhists even?), Why should one set of claims be more convincing to me than all the others? In terms of the horse analogy, this is the equivalent of the horse having a dozen streams to choose from and all but one are poison. How is a horse to choose?

        • Robert Fellner says:

          I found it to be rather insulting as well. I am curious to hear Gene’s response as to why witnessing miracles firsthand is so obviously identical to hearing stories about them that it justifies the condescension of his “Of course, horses can be led to water” comment.

        • Julian Goldman says:

          I don’t intend to insult you. Whether or not what Gene meant about the horse analogy, it’s a mere statement. For instance, you can take a woman out to dinner but if she’s not eating. It’s not going to make any real sense to anyone but her. Because only she knows the real reason/s and you can’t expect to get the whole reason and even if you do how could you know? Faith or do you remain confused? Things aren’t hand tailored to your personal understanding just as some things just aren’t openly known and as you know it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions. For thousands of years humanity has jumped and drawn from one faith to another usually with people just as dead set as yourself about their belief. But nobody can be 100% correct in this argument because it is all completely drawn out of and built from ignorance. Even in our science there’s always underlying mysteries in the present facts. But still there’s some sort of factor shared in all our minds about that final question we ask ourselves, why is it me here, right now. You can’t tell me you haven’t wondered about the cosmos and your own existence. All I can say is that we compare the similarities. Have you not had mind altering affairs that challenge prior beliefs? Doesn’t the very function of evolution strike you as mysterious? I’m not saying pick a religion. But it doesn’t hurt to keep an open mind to the concept of a higher being or creator. Just think your life over. Think it over draw from your earliest memories, why do you remember them, how do they make you feel? How come you remember it, what was so important about it? Worst possible case scenario is that you’re correct. We’ll all find out one way or another. But honestly, to me being an atheist is like choosing to live in hell. Mainly because there just isn’t that element of hope that keeps things rolling. It’s same thing as we all have different and still similar experiences. As for your other comment: My response may not even make sense to you but it’s like you’re asking why some people laugh more than others.

          • Someone says:

            Being an atheist is like choosing to live in hell?

            Pascals Wager, so your argument is invalid. My understanding of religion tells me you need genuine faith to go to heaven. If an atheist just for hopes pretends to believe in a God will just be plain hypocrite.

            I’m an agnostic atheist, meaning I accept the fact that we can’t surely know if there is a God (it can’t be proven or disproven). And I’ve never had so much hope and happiness since I choose to be one. Its like all my chains have been broken and Im finally independent. I owe it to myself whenever I do something good. My self-esteem has increase and I’ve done many things in my life that I would never done because of this so called God (I’m an ex-Christian). I respect everyone belief and all my Christian friends also.

            To conclude, my point is that not everyone requires a religion to function properly. I’m happy about religion to a point. As it helps with putting morals to society. But assuming that being an atheist means you have no hope or is the equivalent of living in hell is just plain selfish. Just because you can’t live a good life without a super natural being doesn’t mean everyone else is like you.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Being shown what, other than words that Murphy typed? That’s not evidence of God’s existence.

        Apparently for some horses, they can drink imaginary water because someone has faith it’s there.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          MF wrote:

          Being shown what, other than words that Murphy typed? That’s not evidence of God’s existence.

          Apparently for some horses, they can drink imaginary water because someone has faith it’s there.

          MF, at this point, I think it’s clear that for you, to say “I believe God exists” is by definition equivalent to saying “I have no evidence but mere faith to justify my belief in God.”

          In this post I listed a bunch of sensory experiences that I had, for which the best hypothesis I can come up with, is that a being very much like the God described in the Bible exists. You can say I’m wrong, but it’s vacuous at this point for you to say, “Bob just has faith in God, he has no evidence.”

          If that’s how you want to use words, fine, but don’t pretend that you are being empirical and I’m not.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            MF, at this point, I think it’s clear that for you, to say “I believe God exists” is by definition equivalent to saying “I have no evidence but mere faith to justify my belief in God.”

            Please try to distinguish between how one gets to their conclusions, and one stating their conclusions without explaining how they got there every single time.

            It’s not “by definition.” It’s by implication.

            In this post I listed a bunch of sensory experiences that I had, for which the best hypothesis I can come up with, is that a being very much like the God described in the Bible exists. You can say I’m wrong, but it’s vacuous at this point for you to say, “Bob just has faith in God, he has no evidence.”

            I dispute your contention that your examples are valid evidence. I can do that, can’t I? If I said “I believe in the flying spaghetti monster”, and I show you what I consider to be “evidence” as me having some recollection of walking through solid objects, or witnessing objects falling off shelves, or opening up the flying spaghetti monster bible at the exact point that explains what I was just thinking prior, etc, etc, all of this, would it really be so outlandish for you to say “Hey wait a minute, these aren’t legitimate evidence for proving the existence of the glorious spaghetti lord. They are experiences for sure, but they do not qualify as evidence for what you’re trying to prove.”

            If that’s how you want to use words, fine, but don’t pretend that you are being empirical and I’m not.

            You’re just imagining yourself to be empirical.

            Belief in God is a priori to all experience.

            Suppose that I send a camera crew over to all those places you had those “experiences”, and I ask that you duplicate what you did that you claim showed evidence of God existing. I can videotape you walking through solid objects, I can videotape you as objects start flying off the shelf while you’re in your trance, and I can videotape you saying a question out loud, then randomly opening up a page and passage in the bible that exactly answers your question.

            If you’re “empirical” as you claim you are, then certainly you wouldn’t mind it if others observe such alleged empirical evidence and document it instead of relying on your recollection?

            Would you be able to do all those things you did in the past, again? The hallmark of the empirical scientific process is duplication. If your claims can’t be duplicated, then they aren’t empirical evidence of your claim.

            So what say you? Will you put your empirical money to where your mouth is? Will you say to the world that you can replicate these experiences and document them as proof? Or will you go down the anti-empirical route and claim that “God works and mysterious ways, and so I can’t do it again”? You know, exactly how frauds and cheats defend their claims, but with more cosmic gusto?

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Just to clarify, MF, I didn’t think I had repeatedly walked through a rocking horse. I thought it appeared when I wasn’t looking. Yes, the latter is almost impossible to believe, but more possible than that I had repeatedly walked through a solid object for a half hour without noticing I was doing it.

            • Dan says:

              “I dispute your contention that your examples are valid evidence.”

              And,

              “Suppose that I send a camera crew over to all those places you had those “experiences”, and I ask that you duplicate what you did that you claim showed evidence of God existing.”

              What if Dr. Murphy already had video of these experiences? You’ve already stated that these are invalid in your book to begin with. So why would video of the events even matter?

              Also, why challenge him to duplicate these experiences? You put experiences in quotation marks. Are you implying that Dr. Murphy is a liar?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                What if Dr. Murphy already had video of these experiences?

                Then I would ask that he duplicate it by video taping them again. Like I said.

                You’ve already stated that these are invalid in your book to begin with.

                I don’t them as valid because they are hearsay, and because Murphy clearly suggested that these were one time events.

                So why would video of the events even matter?

                Duplicates matter, like I said.

                Also, why challenge him to duplicate these experiences?

                Because duplication is a hallmark of the scientific method, like I said.

                You put experiences in quotation marks. Are you implying that Dr. Murphy is a liar?

                No, not a liar.

              • Dan says:

                Oh, so if he duplicated these experiences then he would have scientifically proven God exists and you would lay down all claims otherwise?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                In the positivist sense, yes. He’ll convince a majority of scientists.

                But like I said below, for me to be convinced, the theory has to be internally consistent as well, and God doesn’t even pass that stage in my judgment.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                MF wrote:

                n the positivist sense, yes. He’ll convince a majority of scientists.

                But like I said below, for me to be convinced, the theory has to be internally consistent as well, and God doesn’t even pass that stage in my judgment.

                See, MF, this is what I mean when I say you’re not even trying, and that you’re wasting everyone’s time on these particular issues (not saying your participation on other things on the blog). First you claimed that you had to be able to “see “something to believe in it. I pointed out that no, you would believe in something so long as you had empirical evidence of its effects on the physical world. So I said that’s what I was describing in this post. Then you moved the goalposts and said no, you wanted reproducible empirical effects, that a natural scientist could see was equivalent to his evidence for, say, gravity. Then Dan challenged you, saying that even I provided you with such evidence, you still wouldn’t believe. You agreed (quote above in italics) that he was right, and that even though positivist scientists (i.e. the ones who hold up reproducible empirical evidence from the physical world–imagine that!) would believe at that point, you still wouldn’t, because on a priori grounds you think the very concept of God is nonsense.

                And then, after this second major shift of the goalposts, you have the audacity to say, “As I said…” as if we’ve been ignoring your constant, consistent position throughout the debate.

                Please stop referring to your position as “evidence-based.” It is not, it is a priori deductive reasoning-based. That’s fine. If I say I don’t believe in square circles, I have no problem telling people this is a logic-based argument, not an evidence-based one. When it suits you, you embrace the prestige of “empirical evidence and reproducibility” but then when it looks like you might lose a debating point on that criterion, you flatly drop it and mock the “positivist scientists” who use that as the acme of truth.

                I really hope atheist onlookers can at least see what I’m talking about here. I admit it must be frustrating to debate a Bible-thumping Christian who says, “I know the Bible is true! It says so right here in verse 15. Duh.” But by the same token, I hope you can at least feel my pain when debating Major Freedom on this stuff.

              • Dan says:

                That is what I thought. It is useless for him to debate religion with you sense there is nothing that could convince you. The existence of God in your eyes is impossible.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                First you claimed that you had to be able to “see “something to believe in it. I pointed out that no, you would believe in something so long as you had empirical evidence of its effects on the physical world. So I said that’s what I was describing in this post. Then you moved the goalposts and said no, you wanted reproducible empirical effects, that a natural scientist could see was equivalent to his evidence for, say, gravity. Then Dan challenged you, saying that even I provided you with such evidence, you still wouldn’t believe.

                That is not an accurate summary of what has been argued, and if anyone is wasting people’s time, it is certainly not me.

                This is what was argued:

                Casual reader responded to your post titled “Why I know There is a God” by answering “…because you have faith.

                Callahan replied:

                “the reason I think there is a tree outside my window is because I have faith.”

                I then said the difference between knowing God exists and knowing trees exists is that we can actually see trees. Like I said before, “see” is a sense, and it is through our senses that we learn of empirical objects, directly or indirectly. That could mean feeling the tree blindfolded, it could mean looking at it with one’s naked eye, it could mean seeing a picture of it, it could mean cutting pieces off the object and analyzing them and determining the biological make-up of the object to be that of a tree, it can even mean testing the oxygen content and indirectly sensing that a tree is there, etc.

                KP then asked me if I thought that the only things I believed in are things that I could see. Continuing with how I interpret the word “see”, I then said “for empirical things, yes.” In other words, I was getting across the idea that everything that is external to myself, I can only know they exist through experiencing them via my senses, directly or indirectly.

                It was here that you pounced and tried to make it appear as if I was arguing that I only believe in things that I see directly with my naked eye. So you went down the quarks route, trying to turn faith in God to be epistemologically equivalent to believing quarks exists even though we can’t see them with our naked eye directly.

                You want to put your experiences into the realm of valid evidence. I introduced the duplication criteria at this point, not to “move the goal posts”, but to make it clear that valid evidence must be reproducible, exactly like seeing the tree would have to be reproducible in order for my claim that I saw a tree to be valid evidence. I didn’t deny that my sensing the tree has to be reproducible before it is valid evidence. If you asked me if it had to be reproducible, I would say of course, I don’t expect you to take my word for it.

                Dan then challenged me and said that if you can duplicate your experiences, then one would have to elevate it to valid empirical evidence. I said for positivist scientists, yes, but not for me, because I hold the concept God to be meaningless and inherently illogical.

                You agreed (quote above in italics) that he was right, and that even though positivist scientists (i.e. the ones who hold up reproducible empirical evidence from the physical world–imagine that!) would believe at that point, you still wouldn’t, because on a priori grounds you think the very concept of God is nonsense.

                After painstaking deliberation and logic, yes, I do find God to be an inherently illogical concept. That doesn’t mean that I can’t identify possible duplicated experiences as valid scientific evidence.

                And then, after this second major shift of the goalposts, you have the audacity to say, “As I said…” as if we’ve been ignoring your constant, consistent position throughout the debate

                Not at all. That “as I said” was referring to my immediately preceding post, not my entire set of posts as if I was trying to insinuate that you were too blind to see what I was saying the whole time.

                Please stop referring to your position as “evidence-based.” It is not, it is a priori deductive reasoning-based.

                My “position” is that your personal experiences are not valid evidence. Your experiences are by your own statements not a priori deductive based, but a posteriori empirical based. In order for those experiences to be valid evidence, they have to be duplicable, exactly how if you challenged me about me claiming to have experienced observing a tree, my claim alone is not valid scientific evidence. It would have to be duplicable, either by me over time, or by more than one observer at a given time.

                Please stop saying your personal experiences are valid evidence. They are not valid evidence!

                Yes, the ultimate grounding for my conviction that God is meaningless and incoherent, and thus cannot exist, is a priori deductive logic. But this statement doesn’t change a single thing I have said ANYWHERE in this entire thread. Maybe as a Christian you believed you could play gotcha by continually pressuring the empirical evidence point, only to then find it was all for nought, thus realizing it was all a waste of time for you, and by all means, believe that, it makes no difference. But please don’t claim that my refusal to accept your experiences as valid evidence is somehow prejudicial and ad hoc.

                That’s fine. If I say I don’t believe in square circles, I have no problem telling people this is a logic-based argument, not an evidence-based one. When it suits you, you embrace the prestige of “empirical evidence and reproducibility” but then when it looks like you might lose a debating point on that criterion, you flatly drop it and mock the “positivist scientists” who use that as the acme of truth.

                No see, the debate goes from logic to empirical evidence depending on what YOU are claiming is valid evidence for God. Remember, you said that your personal experiences are valid evidence. I am rejecting your personal experiences not because my foundation is ultimately evidence based, but because the entire meaning of valid empirical evidence prevents your stated experiences from being valid evidence.

                I am not going back and forth between evidence based rejection of God to logic based rejection of God. Please stop trying to convince your readers of a position that I do not hold in order to mislead them into not accepting an “atheist’s” arguments.

                I fully understand your frustration. It goes down to disagreeing on the nature of the source of human knowledge, what we can know and what we can’t know. You want faith to be the ultimate judge, I want reason to be the ultimate judge. Yes, faith and reason do contradict and are mutually incompatible, regardless of what any mystic has led you to believe.

            • zzk says:

              He would also need to provide a hypothesis and experiments that would sufficiently exclude all possible alternative explanations (ie – Jesus rules out the possibility of the FSM doing the miracles).

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Yes, this is where positivism must make way for analyzing internal logical consistency.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because he was actually searching for truth. God isn’t gonna come into your life if your not open.

  3. Anonymouse says:

    Thanks Bob for this post. I think it helps non-theists to see where you’re coming from and understand what motivates you. Your sincerity and openness is much appreciated.

    “Rather than attribute a weekly failure of my logic and reason, I would appreciate it if you’d give me the benefit of the doubt of having a series of unlikely coincidences.”

    I think, contrary to the point you thought you were making, it is this series of moving events that best explains your weekly breakdown in logic. It is not the events themselves that caused this, but your interpretation of them, and your continual striving to resolve the contradictions inherent in such an interpretation.

    How are we to resolve a situation in which two people with an equally compelling set of experiences come to mutually exclusive conclusions? Do you think only Christians experience objects mysteriously tipping over and “relocating”? Is it possible for people who hold views incompatible with Christianity to have similar experiences and come to radically different conclusions from the one you have?

    • Lyonwiss says:

      Good point Anonymouse. Muhammad also claimed to have had compelling experiences and revelations from God. Yet his God is not the Christian God. In fact the bible says (Deuterononmy, 13:9) he should be killed: “But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people”. Some muslims are equally passinately about “jihad”.

      Bad arguments, whether in religion or economics, usually come from a biased selection of facts or evidence to be “explained”.

      If belief is personal choice then I would choose to believe in something which doesn’t involve cruelty to other human beings.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “Yet his God is not the Christian God.”

        Silly. Yes, Mohammed and Augustine understand God somewhat differently, but it is quite obviously the *same* God that they understand differently!

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Obviously! So if my next-door neighbor worships the flying spaghetti monster God, and he mocks Christians for not acting in accordance with spaghetti scripture, then the “silly” people are somehow those who reject the spaghetti prophet who is “obviously” talking about the same God as everyone else. The flying spaghetti monster created the universe, is all knowing, all powerful, and the spaghetti bible says Christians are wrong.

        • Lyonwiss says:

          Sillier still. Your undertsanding is different from mine, so I’m going to kill you.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Which religion do you subscribe to?

            Judeo-Christianity? Deuteronomy 13:5-15, Deuteronomy 17

            Islam? Sura 2:161 and 2:191

            There’s so many good ones that condone murdering people who refuse to worship the same invisible man in the sky. But yeah, mystics all point the same craziness don’t they? It’s gotta be true!

    • AC says:

      Exactly, there are many smart and sincere people who have come to completely incompatible views on the supernatural. Most or all of those views must be false.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        Again, silly. God is infinite: of course there are an infinity of aspects to his appearances, and of course no human could ever take in all of them, so of course different people report different views. But there is enough commonality that most of the great mystics have understood each other, whatever tradition from which they came.

        • LvM says:

          “God is infinite”

          How do you know? Proof of a god (by miracles for example) is one thing, but proof of his specific attributes is another.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          God is infinite: of course there are an infinity of aspects to his appearances, and of course no human could ever take in all of them, so of course different people report different views.

          God can’t contain infinite aspects, because that would require the presence of aspects that contradict.

          A thinking mind cannot settle on contradictions, let alone the contradictory concept of an infinite being.

          But there is enough commonality that most of the great mystics have understood each other, whatever tradition from which they came.

          Yeah, mystics of different religions agreed so much that they went to war with each other and killed in the name of their “correct” interpretations.

          • Carrie says:

            Major,

            “Yeah, mystics of different religions agreed so much that they went to war with each other and killed in the name of their “correct” interpretations.”

            Yes.

            And yet… all the “great mystics” (please understand I am merely quoting GC’s description and not actually accepting a self-contradictory term) DO share the same fundamental understanding of the world and of each other.

            They all understand that:

            - Man’s life is meaningless because it is not eternal.

            - Man’s life is insignificant because he is but a speck in the universe.

            - Man is not powerful because he can be destroyed by greater forces—ranging from divine miracles down to measly bacteria and hangnails.

            - Man’s knowledge is not to be trusted because he is not omniscient and his mind is fallible.

            Most importantly, all the great mystics understand that their primary enemy is not the man of another religion, but the man of earned self-esteem who loves his life. Mysticism seeks to convince man that he is not fit for life—and in this regard all mystics are united.

            On the occasions when I venture into the blogosphere I am consistently impressed by your articulate comments (and your patience and resilience). But although I take delight in reading your entries, I hope you will value your time—and yourself—enough to stop casting your pearls before swine without getting so much as a pork chop in return.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Mysticism seeks to convince man that he is not fit for life—and in this regard all mystics are united.

              Bingo.

              Even Augustineans, like most of today’s Christians, who conceive of the universe as a benevolent creation out of the goodness of God, nevertheless deny man his true self, and put his “spirit” into another realm where “absolute truth” resides. Earthly existence is just a “test” for man. Man’s true calling is in the “after-life.” This is, like you said, merely a rejection of absolute reality of Earthly life.

              Mystics are all united in denying the absolute reality of Earthly life, and so seek, intentionally or unintentionally, to break apart man’s true spirit which is not only fully and completely within himself, but is “himself.” By “spirit” I mean man’s Earthly teleological nature, i.e. ability, i.e. power.

              Mystics, even Christians, want to divorce absolute teleological powers from man and attach them to some universal abstract concept in another dimension. They are unaware, and hence afraid, of their own, and hence man’s, true spirit.

              Only by subjugating man’s spirit to an all powerful deity concept that is allegedly outside themselves, is man “safe” and aware of “absolute truth.” They never seek absolute truth within themselves. The rationalists during the enlightenment did this, and because of that lightening bolt that lasted oh so very shortly, you and I today are living an incredibly life that would never have been possible if the dark ages of mysticism persisted in its full effect. The enlightened philosophers were no doubt theists, but they rediscovered (through Aristotle) that man has absolute truth within himself that can be discovered.

              Theists are so often skeptical/afraid/worried of atheists who retain their spirit fully within themselves, because they are afraid of man’s spirit, period. But every now and then, they have a mental flash that puts the spirit back into themselves in some partial way. Maybe the spirit used their body to move objects, or opened a book to a page that is connected to some past Earthly desire, etc.

              Christianity I think was naturally selected in evolutionary religion terms, because it closely mimics rationalism. Rationalists hold that the world operates according to laws man cannot change, and that man has the power to learn these laws, and alter his actions to improve his life. Christians hold that the world operates according to God’s will that man cannot change, and that man has some of God’s spirit within him such that man has a will akin to God’s will, in that God creates and man can partially create too, that God chooses and man can partially choose too, etc. I think this is why capitalism, which is based on rationalism, flourished with the spread of Christianity. Christians want to, indeed they have to if they are going to remain Christian, believe that all this proves the Christian God true, but what is actually happening is that since Christianity comes so very close purely atheistic rationalism, man’s actions are actions as if they are rationalist founded.

              Of course there are serious flaws in the official Christian doctrine, i.e. the craziness of the bible, and that gives bigots and evil people an excuse to let loose their bigotry and evil, and gives otherwise “good” Christians an embarrassing and relentless headache that they rarely if ever touch. In all of Murphy Sunday’s posts for example, I have not once seen a truly penetrating critique of so-called “war monger evangelicals.” Murphy the Christian “tolerates” it because absolute truth resides elsewhere anyway, so who cares if a hundred thousand innocent people in the middle east get slaughtered by war monger Christian states, and who cares if hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians are essentially enslaved by the Israeli state? They believe in God so they’ll get rewarded with infinite abundance and existence in the after-life.

              Just imagine if a religious soldier really truly absolutely believed that he is shooting at Gods and not the children of heretics. He’d put down his weapon, and apologize for even contemplating ending a God’s existence. Crazy yes, but it would save innocent lives.

              Imagine if the world’s most dominant religion was that everyone in the world were not God’s “children,” but as the only Gods, in and of themselves. Each of this religion’s adherents would view themselves and every other human as a God. Each God-man is imperfect, each God is fallible. The core of their religion is that the universe is perfect in its imperfections, because only Gods can see imperfections. Each man-God can see himself as being imperfect because his spirit is perfect. Each man-God can understand time because he exists in time, and is hence mortal.

              If this religion spread across the world and become the dominant, or the only, religion, I submit that it would lead to the most individual freedom. But historically so far, humans as a whole have not been ready for full freedom, because the world’s major religions all strip man’s spirit away from him and attach them to a God. Some have wanted ultimate freedom for sure, but an individual cannot be free if he is overpowered by those who don’t want man to be free.

              Thus the “mental gene” of human slavery persists and is naturally selected among those who deny man’s true spirit.

              Theist libertarianism is therefore, to me at least, the most cosmic of all contradictory ideologies that a human could ever adopt.

        • AC says:

          Silly. You know very well there are incompatible beliefs by large numbers of sincere people. They are not just saying, “there is some intelligent being out there.”

        • Robert Fellner says:

          Gene,

          It’s so ironic that you continually refer with condescension to those posting here and then proceed matter-of-factly to explain the infinite nature of God. You would think you might notice the irony of the enormous hubris your “no, silly this is the way it works” approach to a discussion about whether or not an infinite, all-powerful, incomprehensible being exists or not.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            It’s so ironic that you continually refer with condescension to those posting here and then proceed matter-of-factly to explain the infinite nature of God.

            “Sacred things exist only for the egoist who does not acknowledge himself, the involuntary egoist … who serves only himself and at the same time always thinks he is serving a higher being, who knows nothing higher than himself and yet is infatuated about something higher; in short, for the egoist who would like not to be an egoist, and abases himself (combats his egoism), but at the same time abases himself only for the sake of “being exalted”, and therefore of gratifying his egoism. Because he would like to cease to be an egoist, he looks about in heaven and earth for higher beings to serve and sacrifice himself to; but, however much he shakes and disciplines himself, in the end he does all for his own sake, and the disreputable egoism will not come off him.” – Johann Kaspar Schmidt.

  4. skylien says:

    You can’t argue about the existence of God. That is not possible. It is a very personal and individual thing if you either believe in one, more, none or just being open to some or all possibilities. I don’t think that one can compare the religious believes of people with political views like libertarianism (as Jonathan does) in which logic and arguments have to be comprehensible at least theoretically by all people. Of course like in science there is also only one truth if there is a God or not, but in science we have tools and means to verify or at least investigate that, in case of God we clearly lack them at all. Personal spiritual experience is personal and not comprehensible to others if they lack the same or similar experience.

    My point is, I don’t give a damn in what people believe. It’s their thing. At least as long as they don’t bother me with them against my will and don’t have cranky views that really clashes with the real world and science. At this point I do care of course what they believe (like creationism). And even then you should not be too fast to dismiss or discount their arguments in other subjects just because of their cranky religious believes. Lots of people are right in one area but awfully wrong in another…

    So I really don’t understand all the fuss about Bob’s spiritual believes and his urge to express them on HIS blog. I am perfectly fine to respect them.

  5. Pierre says:

    Bob, I love your blog, you are one of my heroes (arguably I have many heroes, but that still makes you part of an intellectual elite). Another one of my heroes, Heinz von Foerster, described metaphysical questions as “prinzipiell unentscheidbar”: you know you are faced with a metaphysical question when you can not answer it by deduction, which is somehow what you tried to do here. I think faith, any faith, is conducive to happiness, but that teleogical argument (that faith is justified because it turns you into a happier person) is the only one the deserves being stated if one wants to avoid the ridicule of trying to deduce the undeductible.

  6. Steven E Landsburg says:

    1) Your long preamble is both appropriate and accurate. I have no doubt that you are a) very smart, b) genuinely interested in seeking the truth, and c) habitually extremely fair to your opponents when you argue (in particular, going far out of your way to make sure you understand what they’re saying). I agree that all of this creates a presumption that you are not crazy or stupid when it comes to matters of theology.

    2) That having been said, I am stunned that your arguments are so weak. Life is long, and every now and then something is going to happen that we can’t explain. Jumping from “Gee, I was sure that rocking horse was in the corner; how odd that I hadn’t tripped over it” to “The Bible is literally true” seems —- I have to say this — to be a form of insanity. I agree, per point 1), that the entire rest of your life creates an extremely strong presumption against insanity. But this seems insane.

    3) One reason we hear voices in our heads is that different parts of our brain are communicating with each other.

    4) When I was 10 years old, I had a paper route. One Saturday night, I was delivering the Sunday paper (we delivered the Sunday paper on Saturdays) and I had three more houses left to visit — but only one more paper in my wagon. Nothing like this had ever happened before and I was irrationally petrified about the consequences — I thought I would be in some kind of enormous trouble over this and my life would never be the same. So I turned my back to the wagon and prayed that when I turned back around, there would be three papers in that wagon. (I was, I think, something of an agnostic at that time, attributing maybe a 50% probability to the existence of God.) I waited a long time to turn back around, to give God a chance to do his work. When I turned around, there were three papers in that wagon, though I had double, triple and quadruple checked the wagon in my early desperation, and there had definitely been only one paper. And EVEN THEN, my first reaction (well, my second reaction, following enormous relief) was:
    “Wow. It seems almost impossible that those two extra papers were there all along and I failed to see them. But almost impossible as it might be, it’s still more plausible than that God did this.” I stand by that reaction.

    5) Your Haiti experience seems to be not so much an argument to convince us of God, but to convince us of your sincerity; as such it belongs in your preamble, not in your main argument. It’s pretty convincing.

    6) If a guy got stuck in an elevator that caused him to miss a flight that crashed, and then won the lotto, and then attributed all of this to God, I’d say he was a egomaniacal psycopath. His “God” kills hundreds of others, but saves his life. His God denies the lottery winnings to millions of others, but enriches him. This is a God who has somehow chosen this guy as far more important and/or deserviing than vast numbers of others. To believe in such a God seems to require a belief in one’s own specialness that I am comfortable calling — here’s that word again — insane.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Steve Landsburg wrote:

      Jumping from “Gee, I was sure that rocking horse was in the corner; how odd that I hadn’t tripped over it” to “The Bible is literally true” seems —- I have to say this — to be a form of insanity.

      Steve, if you’ll glance back over the post, you’ll see that I made no such leap. I didn’t come even within the same ZIP code of making that leap. This is just another example of theists and atheists not even understanding each other’s arguments before launching into a critique. (It’s like the other people in these comments laughing at my attempt to use “deduction” when it comes to God. No, I’m here talking about *induction*, if anything.)

      And I think we can all agree on a much better example of insanity. (That’s a joke, people.)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Steve, also, thank you for the honest story from your youth. I’m glad you are admitting that your own experiences seemed to offer a “miracle” which you ruled out of bounds a priori.

      (I’m not saying that with a chip on my shoulder; I’m genuinely thanking you for admitting that.)

      This is why I get frustrated when people say stuff like “all the evidence suggests…” Sure, if we by definition rule out anything that doesn’t fit in with our prior belief that “it can’t possibly be that God is doing this,” then we shouldn’t be shocked to discover that there is “absolutely no evidence” that there is a God.

      (I’m not accusing you of saying these things, but plenty of my critics have over the months.)

      To repeat, everyone, I’m being sincere here when I thank Steve for his honesty. At least he is aware of his cognitive mechanisms and how, on the off chance that he is wrong, he is filtering away the evidence that would allow him to realize it.

      (Just like, if I am wrong, I am now in a position where it’s easy for me to see spurious “confirmations” of my belief that God exists.)

      • Dan Hewitt says:

        Bob and Steve exemplify this……

        Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

        Orthodoxy – G. K. Chesterton

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Great quote, Dan Hewitt. I imagine Major Freedom won’t see that it is true. Doesn’t mean he is wrong overall and I am right, of course, but it *does* mean that I’m the one “letting the facts speak for themselves” while he knows what the answer has to be, before looking.

          • Adam Hickey says:

            Are we supposed to accept anecdotes as evidence? I would not automatically dismiss someone’s account of a miracle, but how am I supposed to differentiate between a miracle account and when someone says “I know psychics exist because the psychic knew my dad’s birthday?” (Not that I’m immediately dismissing the psychic account)

            I cannot comment on the validity of either of those accounts, but in order for me to be convinced I would need to see some type of scientific replication. Neither of these types of accounts have shown to be true under scientific observation (yet, but I would be open to their validity).

            I”m guessing the psychic believer or miracle believer could say these types of events are not present under scientific investigation. In that case I’d still have to say I’m unconvinced .

            Also, I don’t doubt people have religious experiences. I just don’t see how they can claim to know god is responsible for those experiences. What evidence do you have to differentiate between a religious experience and coincidence or just a brain phenomena?

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the believers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while disbelievers in miracles do not accept them in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) on the basis of evidence. The believers in miracles accept them because they have a doctrine for them.”

            See what I did there?

            • Dan Hewitt says:

              See what I did there?

              Yes, I see, but I offer Landsburg’s own words as evidence that he rejects miracles because he has a doctrine against them:

              “Wow. It seems almost impossible that those two extra papers were there all along and I failed to see them. But almost impossible as it might be, it’s still more plausible than that God did this.” I stand by that reaction.

              • lwaaks says:

                Weird stuff does happen. That’s all Landsburg is pointing out. Just because he reject such “miracles” doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other very good arguments against god’s existence. But if there were other good arguments, such “miracles” might actually bolster your argument. So, the Chesterton quote is weak logic.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Oops one other thing Steve: I see why you are confused about the placement of the Haiti story, but my point is, I felt something for a long time that I interpreted as “God wants me to go to Haiti.” So I know I experienced that phenomenon. I didn’t try to describe it in this post, because it would be difficult to explain. But, to give an objective argument that I really did experience something that was nothing like normal feelings of conscience or whatever, I brought up the facts that it was insane for me to go to Haiti, given other information about me.

      So let me put it this way: If I reported, “I saw a burning bush, and with my ears heard a voice speak to me,” then that would be one thing. However, it wasn’t as obvious as that. This then leads you to wonder whether I am just exaggerating normal emotions/feelings that people have under stress, and so that’s why I’m saying, “Well, whatever it was, it led me to do this incredibly odd thing that normally I wouldn’t have done for $40,000. So you tell me if I’m wrong for thinking I heard God expressing His wishes.”

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Landsburg pretty much nailed it (no, not merely because I “agree” with him, but because the way he explains all your experiences has superior explanatory power).

      After this latest blog post of supposed “God proofs”, I am even more convinced of what you quoted me as saying last week.

      The moment when it first dawned on me that God existed (it’s a long story that I don’t want to tell right here in this post), I felt intense contrition. After all, I had spent a lot of energy trying to get my good friends to drop their faith. I said out loud, “I’m soooo sorry….” Then, in my head, I heard another intelligence say, “I forgive you.”

      You consider “voices in my head” to actually be valid evidence for God? You don’t see anything illogical with that?

      That “voice in your head” could have just been an echo that you remembered from some experience you had in the past. Your story reminds me of one of my old aunts told me a story about how she once “spoke to God.” She said:

      “[Private], I once asked God “What are you?”, and he replied “I..am..that I am.”

      She said it in this obviously forced, and thus awkward, haunting and mantra-like manner, almost as if to convince herself more than me. Anyway, long story short, I later learned that a little while back she saw the movie “The Ten Commandments,” and it had a huge effect on her. She would watch it multiple times. It was that movie that she got the quote “I am that I am.” The statement is made in the same haunting and mantra like manner when the voice of God speaks to Moses (played by Charlton Heston). My aunt says she was speaking to God, but she was just recalling an audio clip from a cheesy movie with Charlton Heston.

      Try to think back to when you heard or read “I forgive you.” Were you just recalling a time during your childhood when you felt really bad and one of your parents told they forgive you? Was it something you read?

      Like Landsburg said, sometimes one part of our brain “talks” with another part of our brain when we’re thinking. This doesn’t mean God exists. It does mean we’re weighing various alternatives.

      Roderick Long one time had a blog post challenging the internal logic of Christianity. It was a very strong critique, and I had no idea how to answer it. But I prayed about it and the answer just popped into my head. (Unfortunately this article isn’t online anymore.)

      Was it one of these articles?

      http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/long6.html

      http://praxeology.net/unblog02-04.htm#27

      http://praxeology.net/unblog02-04.htm#28

      http://praxeology.net/unblog02-04.htm#25

      One time I was walking around in Auburn thinking through various things at night. My train of thought led me to a particularly clever insight about something, and I felt a bit worried at how proud I was of myself, but I kind of looked up at the sky and said, “C’mon, that’s a pretty awesome idea,” or something like that. Immediately, my mind was suddenly filled with this proposition: “The moment we decide to be with God, we are saved, and could go to heaven and live in paradise. However, God asks us to remain on the earth a while longer, to try to save some of our brothers and sisters, because they won’t listen to Him.” Now this proposition had nothing whatsoever to do with what I had been thinking about previously; it wasn’t at all related to the “great idea” over which I had just been congratulating myself. At this point I have no idea what my “great insight” was, because it was vomit compared to the beautiful gift of a morsel of His knowledge that God gave to me, to remind me of my place.

      I once smoked up and played frisbee in the park during dusk. I looked up and saw the moon in crescent shape, with the planet Venus close by. These two things were the only shiny objects in the sky whose light could make it through the atmosphere. I “immediately had this proposition”: “This might be what the ancients were looking at which they symbolized as the crescent moon and star. This symbol was used by the Ottoman Empire and is now used by many Muslim countries on their flags.” Then I chuckled, thinking “If I were a Christian, I would probably consider this to be an omen that eastern world Muslims are going to take over the west and then enslave us.” Then I realized the power that symbols have on human thinking, and why there is a whole field of inquiry into symbology.

      When I was a professor at Hillsdale (now a Christian), I went and re-read a bunch of books on evolution that I had remembered loving when I was a student at Hillsdale (and an atheist). I couldn’t believe how obviously they were constructed on one non sequitur after another. It wasn’t that I could prove anything about the origin of life, but I’m saying that things that had seemed like knockdown arguments to me when I was an atheist, no longer seemed so convincing when I was now a Christian and open to the possibility that the standard Dawkins-esque story was wrong. (Note that I wasn’t committed to being a Biblical literalist at this point.) Anyway, I was all fired up, writing a bunch of articles on this stuff, defending at least weak versions of Intelligent Design theory. I was walking around a room in my house, thinking things through, and I was getting really worked up about Eugenie Scott and the other people I was taking on in my articles. At one point I got really aggressive in my daydreaming, I think basically saying something along the lines of, “Oh it’s so hilarious how sure these people are of their position. They can’t even see how they’re assuming their conclusions. Many I can’t wait to blow them up!” And at this point, something in my room fell over. I don’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t something that should have fallen over on its own. So I took that to be a gentle reminder to chill out, that the point wasn’t to defeat opponents but to help people see the bigger picture.

      What evolutionary “non sequiturs” are you referring to perchance? Were they close to you observing something falling off a shelf, to you having God-like powers, to you doing God’s work, to God exists? Talk about non sequiturs!

      Another time I was wrestling with a very serious moral dilemma. I was talking to a former pastor about it, and he was showing me different passages from Scripture about the issue. After talking to him, I prayed and asked God that if He wanted me to do something a certain way, I genuinely needed guidance. I then flipped open my Bible “randomly” and I promise you, the chapter I started reading literally started with the Pharisees coming and asking Jesus about exactly this issue. It freaked me out it was such a tailor-made message from God about how He wanted me to think about the issue. (I’m being vague since it’s personal.)

      At a party I once played a game of Ouija. One of us asked “Are there any among the dead who are with us here? If so, please become known.” We then spelled out “PS4H.” You should been there, because one of the people shouted “OMG! PSH? PSH are the initials of my friend’s brother who died in a car accident!” I kid you not, we asked that question, and out popped that answer. Of course, we didn’t remember the 17 nonsensical answers to other questions, because the whole point of Ouija is to interpret random answers as “meaningful”, i.e. magical.

      Those who have been long-time readers will remember that the reason I went to Haiti is that I thought God was telling me to, and my joke was that I’d rather travel in a plane than a whale. Now Steve Landsburg should appreciate this aspect of the story: Whether you think I’m crazy or sane, the best theory to explain my behavior is that I believed God was telling me to go. I am a germaphobe. When I am on a roadtrip and go into a restaurant, I take a little bottle of hand sanitizer in with me, because I’m worried that the menu will be dirty from the previous customer. Also, I am uncomfortable traveling to foreign countries; I was very relieved when the illustrious von Pepe was on the same flight as me to the Mises Supporters Summit in Vienna. So put those two together: I am a germaphobe and I was stressed out about flying to Austria. Do you think I relished the thought of doing manual labor in a makeshift volunteer camp in Haiti? Can you imagine anything else motivating me to do that, besides, “I’m on a mission from God”?

      Being motivated by belief X does not equate to evidence of the existence of X.

      Finally, one time I was pacing around the downstairs of my house (here in Nashville). I was alone in the house. For some reason I had lately been thinking along the lines that natural scientists and theologians were explaining the same events, just using different approaches.

      Understatement of the millennium.

      For example, theologians would say, “When Jesus was born, a star appeared in the sky to lead the magi to the new King.” Yet astronomers would say, “Oh, that was just a supernova in galaxy XYZ. Nothing supernatural about that. Given the state of the physical universe, that had to happen. It would have been a miracle if a ‘bright star’ didn’t appear in the sky to the people at that time.” So anyway, I was pacing around my downstairs, in the room holding a couch, table, and my computer desk, thinking along these lines. Just as I had satisfied myself that nothing really “miraculous” occurs–because God wants the universe to be orderly for us to understand–I turned around and saw my son’s rocking horse from when he was a toddler, sitting on the floor right where I must have paced at least 10 tens in the previous half hour. It was normally something that would be in the corner of my son’s room upstairs, and yet here it was, “suddenly” resting right where I would clearly have tripped over it 10 different times in the previous 30 minutes. There was no way I could have just not seen it for that long; it was smack dab right in between the wall and the table, where I had been pacing. This too freaked me out, because I interpreted it to be the least frightening thing God could have done, that was frightening enough to shock me out of my silly “deduction” regarding His position vis-a-vis the physical world.

      The “three Kings” are the three stars of Orion’s belt. They were known by the ancients as “the three kings.” In late December, these three stars align and point to the star Sirius, which was known as Osiris’ star, and these four stars point to the rising Sun, all in a nice line. Christianity just took this age old story and added a few new twists, saying instead “Three wise men followed the star in the east to the birth of the “Sun”, i.e. the son, i.e. Jesus.”

      And you just weren’t paying attention to the rocking chair but missing it every time you walked by, for crying out loud. Or do you actually believe you have the magical ability of being able to walk through material objects, but only ever through recall and never in an experiment when everyone is watching you?

      You know, this blog post reveals strong evidence of something I thought was only applicable to the more extreme Christians. It seems that even the otherwise intelligent and logical ones believe they are at an epicenter of magical powers. So you are more open to having otherwise innocuous events being “magical” in origin. Thus the penchant for having that belief validated constantly arises, and excuses for things you cannot immediately explain through reason (which takes time) are explained by attributing sorcery and supernatural powers to them, with you of course at the epicenter of those magical events.

      What is with this primordial urge of WANTING to live in a world where there are powers beyond human comprehension and ability, i.e. of wanting to escape one’s physical body and transcend the limitations that arise from the gap between thoughts and the contingency of human life? Why do so many people want to live in such a world? Is it because it gives you a sense of power that you could not have by reason and Earthly action alone? Is it because you want to feel like you’re at the epicenter of this great magical power that is waiting to be unleashed in all its full glory? That one only needs to “focus” one’s mind like some wizard, and he can walk through wooden toys?

      This kind of thinking is the same kind of thinking that plagued the Egyptian mystic Plotinus, who I consider to be the founder of modern day Christianity, perhaps even all three major religions. He could not tolerate human contingency and held that it can be, and should be, transcended by way of denying all human reality, hoping to lay bare an experiencing of “The One.”

      When I first started reading this blog post, and saw my name mentioned, and what motivated this blog post, I honestly felt bad, because even though I know I can get caustic, I didn’t want to personally offend those I admire. But after reading more of it, and going through the alleged “proofs of God”, I cannot help resisting the urge to say that I think you’re even more irrational on Sundays than I thought. These arguments for God’s existence are some the worst I have ever come across. They are events which are so inconsequential, so incredibly innocuous, so easily explainable without invoking the magical powers of a deity that flows through your body(!), that I find it hard to believe that you can say these things and not laugh out loud while typing them. They are not evidence of God, but evidence of your beliefs. You’re treating these events as “proofs”, but they are really just interpretations of these events GIVEN you have the pre-existing belief that you are at the epicenter of some magical force.

      Do you think that these events should be considered as evidence that should convert an atheist?

      The title of this post should be “Why I know that I know I believe in God.”

      Faith is a blind denial of the rational part of one’s mind that is made subservient to that which it defies.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is interesting how, in response to Murphy’s claim that he heard another “intelligence” speak, Major_Doofus decries the experience as a mental phenomenon, using his own brilliant intuition/amateur psychology.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Can you be more specific?

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes. Your characterization of Mr. Murphy’s auditory perception of another being as merely “voices” in his head was an arrogant dismissal based on your intuition.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Oh well then you’re just not listening then.

              The difference is that I know that if I think of an argument or statement, in other words if an argument or statement just “pops” into my head, that it is mine, not some other worldly, other dimensional being. I know I thought of it.

      • Dan says:

        Did you read Dr. Murphy’s whole post? He stated, “I know full well how I would explain away all the above, if some Christian had told me those things back when I was in college.”

        You just did what he said he already knew he was capable of doing. The post wasn’t supposed to be about proving the existence of God. It was to give us the reasons that HE KNOWS God exists.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Did you read Dr. Murphy’s whole post? He stated, “I know full well how I would explain away all the above, if some Christian had told me those things back when I was in college.”

          I don’t see how such up front caveats inoculate his post from analyzing and critiquing.

          You just did what he said he already knew he was capable of doing. The post wasn’t supposed to be about proving the existence of God. It was to give us the reasons that HE KNOWS God exists.

          Like I said below, if Murphy appeals to his rational mind for proof, then he appeals to all of us too.

          • Dan says:

            I don’t think it inoculates him from critiquing but I thought it was funny that you simply said the same things he said on how he would have explained away these events when he was an atheist. I think every single person on this site could come up with ways to explain away his experiences with God. I just don’t know how that is contributing anything to this particular post.

            I’m personally not religious but I found this post to be very informative on why Dr. Murphy believes the way he does. It makes perfect sense to me for him to have these kind of experiences after he became a believer in God and then feel vindicated and solidified in those beliefs.

            For someone like you I can see why that would trouble you. You say there is nothing that would convince you of God’s existence. So even if God came before you and spoke to you, turned night into day, flew you through the entire universe, etc I would imagine you checking yourself into a mental hospital.

    • MamMoTh says:

      3) One reason we hear voices in our heads is that different parts of our brain are communicating with each other.

      But we recognize these voices as being ours. When someone hears voices that he doesn’t recognize as his, isn’t that a symptom of (mild) schizophrenia?

      If I were a shrink I’d love to analyse Murphy for free. I’d even offer to pay him some coconotes.

  7. Casual reader says:

    “Why I Know There Is a God” simple… because you have faith.

    No matter how smart you think you are there is no way (I think) you can make a reasonable and logical argument proving the existence of god, or disaproving it by the way (I’m agnostic). The second step would be to prove that your version of god is the right one, you know there are serveral: hinduism, judaism, buddhism, etc.

    More than “why I know there is a god” it should be “why I believe there is a god”.

    If you analyze the evidence you have provided, it’s just thoughts and voices you had in your head at some points in time. Thoughts are not physical phenomena (not in the sense we are talking here, of course they are the result of bioquimical and electrical reactions). And if only thoughts were prove of anything, well, Keyness would be as valid as Misses.

    By the way, the evolution theory is just a cientific explanation for the development of the species, it is not intended to disaprove religion or something. It was not created as a counter argument to religion. If the theory has holes, well that doesn’t say anything about religion.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      ““Why I Know There Is a God” simple… because you have faith.”

      Yeah, and the reason I think there is a tree outside my window is because I have faith.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        The difference is that humans can actually see trees.

        • P.S.H. says:

          They see a two dimensional image, and take it on faith that there is an objective world that accounts for this strange allotment of colors.

          This is pure intuition. It just happens to be so deeply ingrained in the human psyche that it is easy to forget that it is an assumption.

          • MamMoTh says:

            Same thing applies to rocking horses and to the bible.

        • KP says:

          Do you only believe in things you can see?

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Things that are outside of me, empirical things, yes.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              MF wrote:

              Things that are outside of me, empirical things, yes.

              MF, that’s obviously not true. You believe in all sorts of things that are outside of you and “empirical” that you can’t see. You’re not even trying.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “MF, that’s obviously not true. You believe in all sorts of things that are outside of you and “empirical” that you can’t see. You’re not even trying.”

                Not to chase you around your own thread, but one could similarly accuse you of “not trying” when you focus on this side point made by MF and ignore questions that directly address your initial post, such as:

                How are we to resolve a situation in which two people with an equally compelling set of experiences come to mutually exclusive conclusions?

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Anonymouse: I strongly object. I am at work and am just checking in occasionally to make sure people’s comments aren’t held up too long when WordPress for some reason doesn’t want to post them.

                When I say to MF he’s “not even trying,” it’s because he’s saying something that is quite clearly false. He’s wasting all of our time (with that particular answer, not necessarily with everything else he’s said in response to my post). Now the other guy will come back and have to say, “Oh MF, so you don’t believe in sound? You don’t believe in quarks? You don’t believe in Abraham Lincoln?” etc. etc. Then MF will have to say, “Oh that’s not what I meant. What I meant was I have reasons for believing a tree exists, for believing sound waves exist, for believing… that are all reproducible. Bob has no such evidence for his fairy man in the sky.” So it’s a big waste of time, because MF actually isn’t answering the simple question correctly.

                I am not wasting anybody’s time by refraining from answering your good questions when I’m at work and can’t do them justice.

              • KP says:

                Thanks for saving my time Bob!

              • Eric says:

                I always though this point made by Leanard Peikofff in his “Religion vs. America” lecture made a lot of sense:

                “This is the essential that distinguishes religion from science. A scientist may believe in the entities which he cannot observe, such as atoms or electrons, but he can do so only if he can prove their existence logically, by inference from things he does observe. A religious man, however, believes in some ‘higher unseen power’ which he cannot observe and cannot logically prove. As the whole story of philosophy demonstrates, no study of the natural universe can warrant jumping outside it to a supernatural entity. The five arguments for God offered by the greatest of all religious thinkers, Thomas Aquinas, are widely recognized by philosophers to be logically defective; they have each been refuted many times, and they are the best arguments that have ever been offered on this subject.

                Many philosophers indeed now go further: they point out that God is not only an article of faith, but that this is essential to religion. A God susceptible of proof, they argue, would actually wreck religion. A God open to human logic, to scientific study, to rational understanding, would have to be definable, delimited, finite, amenable to human concepts, obedient to scientific law, and thus incapable of miracles. Such a thing would be merely one object among others within the natural world; it would be merely another datum for the scientist, like some new kind of galaxy or cosmic ray, not a transcendent power running the universe and demanding man’s worship.”

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, that’s obviously not true. You believe in all sorts of things that are outside of you and “empirical” that you can’t see. You’re not even trying.

                Like what? Please be advised, that when I say “see”, I mean experience through the senses. I don’t necessarily mean through the eyes only.

                Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I assumed that’s what KP meant when HE said “see.”

                I am not wasting anyone’s time here.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Bob Murphy wrote: “MF, that’s obviously not true. You believe in all sorts of things that are outside of you and “empirical” that you can’t see. You’re not even trying.”

                MF answered: “Like what? Please be advised, that when I say “see”, I mean experience through the senses. I don’t necessarily mean through the eyes only.”

                Fine, we’ll do it your way MF. Tell me, what does a quark look, smell, taste, sound, or feel like? And also, what about the other universes that you believe in, to explain the apparent fine-tuning of this universe? How much sensory data have you gotten on those other universes?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Fine, we’ll do it your way MF. Tell me, what does a quark look, smell, taste, sound, or feel like?

                They look like this:

                http://i.imgur.com/rX0wG.jpg

                Quarks don’t have smell, or taste, because these senses can only discern molecules.

                As for sound, every thing either moves the air around it in such a way as to enable the ear to sense it, or it doesn’t. I am not sure what quarks sound like. Maybe they sound crackly.

                And also, what about the other universes that you believe in, to explain the apparent fine-tuning of this universe?

                I don’t actually believe in the multiverse theory. I am currently on the fence, tilting towards not accepting it, because it will never be empirically sensed by us. There will have to be some incredible logic displayed that would make it irrefutable. So far, none exist.

                How much sensory data have you gotten on those other universes?

                Zero, which is one of the main reasons why I don’t believe in it.

                I’ve read Brian Greene’s “The Hidden Reality”, and from what I gather, it will only ever be accepted through mathematical inference, not perception, but then like I said before, some mathematics I reject as mystical.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                MF what is that a picture of? A collection of quarks all lined up? Or some lines on top of a big rectangular quark? You have to be more specific. Pretend I don’t believe in quarks and want sensory evidence of their existence.

                And sorry about the multiverse thing: I assumed you used it to explain the fine-tuning of the present universe, because that’s the only argument I’ve heard on that score that makes sense. I grant you that you are consistent on that issue, then.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Also to save time: MF please tell me if you believe in gravity, and in subjective preferences in people outside of yourself.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF what is that a picture of? A collection of quarks all lined up? Or some lines on top of a big rectangular quark? You have to be more specific. Pretend I don’t believe in quarks and want sensory evidence of their existence.

                That picture is a snapshot of a bubble chamber.

                You can read about them here.

                And sorry about the multiverse thing: I assumed you used it to explain the fine-tuning of the present universe, because that’s the only argument I’ve heard on that score that makes sense. I grant you that you are consistent on that issue, then.

                The way the multiverse theory is presented as far as I know is essentially this: The probability of a universe whose constants are finely tuned to that which enables such a question to even be asked, is so very close to our universe’s constants, that it is likely that we would be in that universe.

                This theorizing comes very close to depending on faith rather than evidence, and so I am tilting towards Paul Davies’ position that multiverse theorizing is so reminiscent of theology and is as ad hoc as postulating an intelligent creator.

                Also to save time: MF please tell me if you believe in gravity, and in subjective preferences in people outside of yourself.

                Yes and yes.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                MF there seems to be some confusion. I asked you what a quark looks like, and you showed me a photo of a bubble chamber. I know bubble chambers exist; I can see them. But I want to know what a quark looks like.

                And you said you believe that gravity and subjective preferences (for other people outside of yourself) exist. So which sensory data do you use to experience those things? I hope you don’t say something like, “I can see a ball accelerating downward,” because that just establishes the existence of a ball. Or, if you insist that you can believe in this invisible “force” operating all around us called “gravity,” then you shouldn’t be so shocked that I am open to the possibility of an invisible God influencing physical objects that I can perceive.

                (To refresh your memory as to what started this: Someone said in this post I was merely reporting that I believed in God because I have faith, and Gene sarcastically said sure, in the same way that he he believes in the tree outside his window because he has faith. Then you came back and said the difference was that you could see a tree. Somebody then asked you if you only believed in things that you could see, and you said yes, later clarifying that you meant you only believed in things you could perceive with your senses.)

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF there seems to be some confusion. I asked you what a quark looks like, and you showed me a photo of a bubble chamber. I know bubble chambers exist; I can see them. But I want to know what a quark looks like.

                I guess I don’t understand what you mean by what a quark “looks” like.

                And you said you believe that gravity and subjective preferences (for other people outside of yourself) exist. So which sensory data do you use to experience those things?

                For gravity, the senses are touch and sight. We can physically feel the force of gravity, and we can see light waves bending around galaxies creating the gravitational lensing effect.

                For subjective preferences of others, it can be one of two ways, depending on your epistemology. If you’re Aristotelean, it’s grounded through experience in interrogating the subject ex post. If you’re Kantian, it’s a logical inference that is grounded in self-reflection in oneself as a human, and then inferring that because others are human, they share that same mental structure.

                I hope you don’t say something like, “I can see a ball accelerating downward,” because that just establishes the existence of a ball.

                It also establishes the existence of a force.

                Or, if you insist that you can believe in this invisible “force” operating all around us called “gravity,” then you shouldn’t be so shocked that I am open to the possibility of an invisible God influencing physical objects that I can perceive.

                Non sequitur.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                All right one last comment from me on this particular cul de sac… MF we have now established that, contrary to your previous claims, you do in fact believe in things that you can’t directly observe. For example, you actually don’t have direct sensory data on quarks. I asked you what a quark looks like, and you presented a photo of a bubble chamber. When I explained that you didn’t answer my question, you expressed confusion. So to clarify: Suppose I ask you what Abraham Lincoln looked like, and you showed me a photo of footprints in the snow outside of his log cabin. Would I be out of line for repeating my question? And then, if you told me you were incapable of producing a photo of Lincoln himself–and you had earlier told me you only believed in things you could see–then I would be justified in saying you shouldn’t believe in Lincoln, per your own stated worldview.

                You said you believed in gravity because you could feel its force and you could see it moving objects.

                You said you believed in subjective preferences because you could interrogate people.

                OK, guess what? I could literally feel God’s presence (on a few occasions), I saw Him knock a physical object over, and I had a (very brief) conversation with Him. So there is nothing qualitatively different about the type of evidence I’m presenting.

                The one thing you have for gravity that I don’t have for God, is the reproducibility and predictability. That’s fine, if you want to make your stand on that criterion, OK at least that makes sense. But enough of this nonsense that you only believe in things you can see, touch, taste, etc.

              • Anonymouse says:

                “Anonymouse: I strongly object. … I am not wasting anybody’s time by refraining from answering your good questions when I’m at work and can’t do them justice.”

                I apologize if I came off a little too strong there. It’s due to an eagerness for intellectual engagement, with no disrespect intended. I will continue to eagerly await your reply :)

              • Major_Freedom says:

                All right one last comment from me on this particular cul de sac… MF we have now established that, contrary to your previous claims, you do in fact believe in things that you can’t directly observe. For example, you actually don’t have direct sensory data on quarks. I asked you what a quark looks like, and you presented a photo of a bubble chamber. When I explained that you didn’t answer my question, you expressed confusion.

                No see, this is why talking with theists is so frustrating. It’s like you WANT people to be ignorant or something.

                The bubble chamber shows the paths the quarks take in a fluid. When you asked what quarks “look like”, I took you to mean by naked eye, but since our eyes cannot discern objects and events outside of certain ranges of size and energy, we have to do so indirectly.

                The bubble chamber is one of the best DUPLICABLE (notice that this right away puts quarks in a class distinct from God) visual pictures we have of quarks. Then there are the many non-visual energy detectors that can DUPLICATE (there’s that word again) quark detections.

                I expressed that I don’t know what you mean by “looks like”, not because I’m confused, but because I don’t know what the heck you are looking for. Do you mean how they would look under a microscope? Microscopes work off the principle of interaction, either light, electrons, but quarks are too small to be discerned by light wave and electron rebounds. It would be like trying to detect individual air molecules by throwing a basketball and weighting for it to bounce back.

                So to clarify: Suppose I ask you what Abraham Lincoln looked like, and you showed me a photo of footprints in the snow outside of his log cabin. Would I be out of line for repeating my question?

                Of course not, because footprints are not unique to Lincoln. But if I showed you pictures, signatures, voting records, documents, books from a wide variety of sources, that span many years and many square miles, and taking into account the fact that it would be virtually impossible for the list of US Presidents to be fake and made up, then your persistent questioning will turn into a clear agenda that is seeking to make me question the whole concept of truth, in favor of what you’re peddling.

                And then, if you told me you were incapable of producing a photo of Lincoln himself–and you had earlier told me you only believed in things you could see–then I would be justified in saying you shouldn’t believe in Lincoln, per your own stated worldview.

                Photos are not the only visual pieces of evidence.

                You said you believed in gravity because you could feel its force and you could see it moving objects.
                You said you believed in subjective preferences because you could interrogate people.

                OK, guess what? I could literally feel God’s presence (on a few occasions), I saw Him knock a physical object over, and I had a (very brief) conversation with Him. So there is nothing qualitatively different about the type of evidence I’m presenting.

                Terrible. You “saw” God? Or did you see an object fall off the shelf? You had a conversation with God? Or did you just think of talking with something outside yourself? DUPLICATE IT, DOCUMENT IT, and it will rise to the status of valid evidence. If you don’t, then it’s just empty assertions.

                The qualitative difference is that unlike you, I can duplicate experiments that show the existence of gravity. I can duplicate interrogating people to show subjective preferences.

                You only have one time personal anecdotes and you want your personal anecdotes to be elevated to legitimate evidence. Duplicate them, and I will grant them as valid evidence in “my worldview.”

                The one thing you have for gravity that I don’t have for God, is the reproducibility and predictability. That’s fine, if you want to make your stand on that criterion, OK at least that makes sense. But enough of this nonsense that you only believe in things you can see, touch, taste, etc.

                Again, when I said “see”, I meant being sensed through experience. That includes sensing things that are affected by other things that are in my direct experience. For these things, the principle of duplication is PARAMOUNT.

                If I see one object constantly reacting in the same way to something I create that I can’t see with my naked eyes (like individual atoms), and I see the bubble chamber results every time, then I can conclude that something is there that I can’t see directly, but I know it’s there because it keeps affecting the things I can see, in the same way.

                I can SEE the bubble tracks produced in bubble chambers. Those tracks are created by particles that scientists call quarks. These indirect observations I would not even call valid evidence unless they can be duplicated.

                This caricature of my position that you are trying to insinuate is my position, is not my position at all. Again, when I said “see”, it is to be understood as being sensed through experience, either directly by our unassisted body, or indirectly through the assistance of tools and equipment that I can directly experience in a duplicating manner, either across time for time invariant concepts, or across many observers and sources for time dependent concepts.

                I will elevate your experiences into valid evidence, as soon as you duplicate them and document them and show the internal consistency of the theory you have to explain what you see. Of course you’ll never get off the internal consistency launchpad, but if I halt my mind just to indulge you, then I won’t even ask that you show direct visual evidence of God. It can be indirect like the bubble chamber. Just use objects that react in the same exact way according to your theory of what caused those objects to do what they did, which we don’t observe directly, and in my mind, your experiences will leave the realm of snake oil salesmen rhetoric, and enter the world of valid evidence.

                If you’re seriously contemplating this, I ask that you explain why no human have ever done this before you. Then I will ask if you can understand why that is, and why there are atheists to begin with.

  8. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I actually like personal experiential evidence a lot better than the sort of apologetic exercises you see a lot, in part – perhaps – because that was a big part of how I lost my faith. I pretty well read and could provide all the stock answers, but there was just no evidence to latch on to. There’s only so long you can keep reciting the lines if you’ve got no obvious reason in front of your face to expect those lines to be true. Theism is plausible and atheism is plausible. A thoughtful person’s relation to belief in God, then, is usually going to be determined not by some sort of apologetics, but by the way they experience the world around them and their understanding of God’s action (or lack of action) in those experiences.

    So I am predisposed to like these answers very much.

    Of course, my push-back is predictable too. You know them all, of course — and have probably mused over them. But the fact that you’ve satisfied yourself on the standard push-backs doesn’t mean that your self-satisfaction is guaranteed to satisfy others (and you’re smart enough to anticipate that it won’t satisfy others):

    1. Are any of these experiences really indicative of such an extraordinary claim? It’s quite a claim to hang on eerie coincidence. What is more likely – that the rocking horse just appeared as a sign from God (correct me if I’m misinterpreting the story – but that is what you’re claiming, right?) or that you were deep enough in thought that out of the collection of things in the room you hadn’t noticed it? I am convinced you have convinced yourself on this point, but if we’re going to be fair to you and accept that you’re convinced, you can clearly be fair to us and understand why we might not be convinced.

    2. What exactly about these occurrences – even if they point to some supramaterial reality – points to he Biblical God? What validates the intricacies of the plan for salvation, for example?

    3. What would you think if someone gave you similar serendipitous events and offered them as proof of the reality of Vishnu or Thor? I’m sure such cases are documented. How would you respond?

    4. And this one might not be so tough: do you expect us to accept this as evidence? I’m guessing you probably don’t – you probably just want us to understand why you accept it.

    • Brian Shelley says:

      I agree with this sentiment quite a bit Daniel. I don’t really understand why people get bent out of shape by things like the creation story and miracles. I believed in neither when I became a Christian again a few years ago. It was the practical application that mattered to me. When Christianity, as a life philosophy, kept working empirically for me, the supernatural elements became more believable.

      As a corrollary, I’ve been trying to convince my oldest son (7) to join me on one of my wilderness backpacking trips. I’ve told him how great fun it is playing in streams, climbing rocks, and having snowball fights in August. I’ve told him about seeing bears, moose, deer, etc… His main hang up, though, is having to poop in the woods.

      It comes across as silly to me, those who dismiss a grand adventure in it’s entirety, because of minor quibbles like pooping in the woods.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        It’s interesting how you (probably inadvertently) just characterized human reason and evidence-based propositions to be “minor” and “poop in the woods.”

        I feel sorry for theists who miss out on the grandest adventure of all: their own human existence. They try to transfer their ability to know objective truths onto something outside themselves, then call it God, and then defer to it what is objectively true. Knowing that this is the only life we have is, in part, a source for me making the best of it that I possibly can. For me that includes talking to you fine people.

  9. Daniel Kuehn says:

    re: “For an analogy, if some guy got stuck in an elevator at the airport, and then missed his flight that ended up crashing, and then he won the lotto that same day, and later that night he got a call from his church’s pastor saying he was retiring and urging this guy to go into ministry–you can understand why this guy might suddenly “find Jesus.””

    True, but doesn’t this seem very, very different from the coincidence you’ve related here?

    You’ve mostly given us insightful, but not earth-shattering lightbulb-moments for you.

    There is a demonstrably low probability associated with plane crashes and lotto tickets. No such probability can be attached to “Maybe Bob didn’t realize the horse was there/maybe it wasn’t there and it appeared”.

  10. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Also I went on a mission trip to New Orleans when I was in highschool. I felt an intense calling to New Orleans.

    As an atheist, I don’t discount the feeling of an intense calling – I still remember it vividly. I don’t consider that sort of evidence invalid at all, I just think we need to be careful about interpreting exactly what it is evidence for.

  11. John G. says:

    Thanks for laying out parts of your journey, Bob.

    Sorry about your son’s autism. Have you looked into food allergies, especially wheat and possibly dairy?

    Two questions — why evangelical Christianity instead of a return to Catholicism? And, why in the world would an atheist go to Hillsdale?

  12. Daniel Kuehn says:

    One more thing about the commenter dissatisfaction point…

    One thing I think atheists get frustrated a lot is the interchangeability of discussions of “God”, as in “some being that’s beyond our conceiving and extremely powerful” (which is actually well within the bounds of plausibility), and “The God of the Bible and Jesus and all that”.

    Even if one were to grant that our simplistic materialist mindsets miss something crucially important – none of your examples and very little of the evidence that’s ever offered provides a good reason to attend a Christian church and to explore the Christian path to salvation more deeply.

    Perhaps I could put it this way: what about these experiences drove you to more traditional Christianity and not – say – Unitarianism. Let’s forget about all the eastern stuff for now. I’m not even quite sure why you’re not promoting Unitarianism from these experiences – or perhaps Judaism. Do any of your experiences give any warrant to differentiate between those who have and haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as savior?

    The experiences seem like – if we were to fully and uncritically accept your account and your interpretation of them – a decent reason to toy with the idea of theism, and MAYBE monotheism. But does it get us any farther than that?

  13. Joe says:

    Great story, Bob. I can relate. One experience I had in particular shaped me into having the faith I needed. That time, God was really carrying me on his shoulders.

  14. david nh says:

    I like your Sunday posts and don’t find them in any way to be evidence of anything except perhaps a measure of humility and depth. Moreover, even when I don’t have time to read them, I like that you do them.

    The questions of God’s existence and the nature of faith are not new and brilliant and wise men have pondered them for centuries. They didn’t all come to the same conclusions.

    I have always found it very telling (of what I am not precisely sure) that atheists associate religious belief with mental incapacity and how important it seems to be to atheists that they disabuse believers of their “irrational” beliefs or “crutch”.

    Atheist libertarians may wish to recall that:

    1) They tend already to accept that empiricism is not the only source of knowledge and that in fact empiricism can at times be misleading;
    2) Slavish devotion to what is superficially “rational” may in substance be contrary to reason in the absence of complete knowledge – beware the hubris that “rationality” encourages – is the hubris of the atheist analogous to the hubris of the central planner and the “market failure” theorist? (We’re smarter now – this time we really HAVE got it figured out!);
    3) Absence of proof (of whatever standard) is not proof of absence (see: black swan);
    4) “It is foolish to believe in God” or “there is no God” are not logically necessary even if one believes that “we will never know whether there is a God (or, equivalently, the existence of God will never be proven)”;
    5) natural science is descriptive, not explanatory – where it attempts to explain, it merely relies on a new descriptive element (i.e., a more general law);
    6) Religion attempts to explain why there is something and not nothing – I am not aware that science offers a competing explanation. Therefore, Occam’s Razor doesn’t apply.
    7) For centuries, fashion and social convention demanded that one at least give the appearance of having religious faith. Clear thought suffered. In recent decades, at least among the intellectual classes, fashion and social convention now demand the opposite. What are the odds that the prospects for clear thought will remain unaffected?

  15. Kyle says:

    Your story reminds me of the same arguments for and against this miracle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_F%C3%A1tima

    The miracle was well recorded and seen by thousands of people, even miles away from the occurrence. Highly unlikely scenarios had to occur in order for this situation to work out the way it did; yet it is still an act of faith to believe…

  16. A Country Farmer says:

    To echo one of Daniel’s comments, I think a lot of anti-religious people (both atheists, and in some sense agnostics) are rather anti-Abrahamic religious people, rather than anti-God. For example, it annoys me, when someone just talks about “God” and conflates the two. First, it becomes very abstract and hides away the implications (so, is this statement true: “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death.” – Leviticus 20:9 ?). Second, it dismisses, in a back-handed sort of way, other religions.

  17. Mattheus von Guttenberg says:

    I would have loved to have been the first to respond to this post as I was on the previous, but unfortunately I didn’t see it in time.

    My response is pretty standard, and I support everything Kuehn said (It’s shocking how much he and I agree on metaphysics and philosophy and disagree on economics). You bring a lot of explanation for why you, in particular, feel a strong conviction that God exists. And that’s fine. Nobody is out to challenge the African shaman who believe fairies flying around their head, or the quiet Jews in suburbia. I personally try not to have beliefs (convictions without reason) but I don’t begrudge people or go out of my way to assault those who do.

    But not all your post is a personal memoir; you are trying to argue the case for God. And try as you might, all this post amounts to is anecdotal evidence. I am personally of the conviction that anecdotal evidence is insufficient justification for all but the most mundane experiences (whether strawberries are tasty, is Jim a nice guy, etc.). I’m sure you see this, too. If someone offered the same – or perhaps more grandiose – experiences you had, but attributed them to Xenu or Thor, how would you react? With glee because you’re really all “talking about the same guy?” With skepticism, because your own worldview is incompatible with Scientology and Norse mythology? With cognitive dissonance because you knew in your heart of hearts they were right and you were wrong? I’d put my money on number 2. And I think we all ought to feel number 2 on claims like this. That’s why so many of your readers are skeptical – or put off – by your claims to know the Truth on creation, existence, metaphysics, morality, and justice because of your experiences and the compelling anecdotes of an old book. (no offense intended)

    You got pretty worked up last time we talked on Christianity and that’s probably because I started a front page assault on your blog, so I apologize (this is me being conciliatory).

  18. Ken says:

    I was once a “devout atheist” as well, but my transformation didn’t lead me to a supreme being. in fact, i would say that a supreme being, if there is one, is still not the Is, but just part of the make up of the universe. Even if Jesus is the issue of this supreme being, that does not make him, or his issuer, God. However, as Krishna states in the Bhagavid Gita, “All paths lead to me.”

    There is no “heaven” but what you have in the here and now. The past cannot be changed, the future cannot be known. Only the present exists. Just be, and you can help others to just be, and that joy that you found is heaven. Why look to what happens when you die or whether you will be judged by an entity who really has no right to judge you.

  19. Chris says:

    The ultimate argument for me as an atheist is the existence of suffering. I mean the kind of suffering that we can barely imagine, yet happens constantly: rape, torture, dying slowly of a horrible disease*…. go ahead and make a horrifying and graphic list. But this supposedly benevolent, omniscient god does nothing to stop it. Instead, he was busy whispering to Bob and moving his son’s rocking horse.

    *If someone is going to make an “evil needs to exist if we have freewill argument” then just focus on disease and natural disaster (to be vivid, imagine someone dying of dehydration under a pile of rubble and imagine what that must be like… yet this “good” god does nothing).

    • lwaaks says:

      Chris,
      This is an important point. Christians do have to grapple with the problem of evil but they do a terrible job of it. Instead of saving the Jews during the Holocaust, god prefers to save Landsburg’s paper route?

  20. Strat says:

    What I wonder when I hear these sorts of arguments. (the I know because I was contacted by god in some way.)

    Is there ever times when you have questions equally as important (if not more) where god doesn’t answer you. Or has every major struggle been swiftly answered?

    Because as an Austrian/Anarcho-captialists I wonder if I am as equally deluded as the people who believe in keynes, communism, mixed markets kinda folks. I can only put together the data I experience around me, and to the best of my ability I am still subject to deep psychological flaws that I cant pinpoint.

    This is a very serious question as almost everyone can relate to (in the social sciences for sure.)

  21. Leah says:

    Hey Bob!
    An honest curious question: Why Christianity and not, let’s say, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, etc? I know we talked about it briefly once, but we never really came to any conclusion.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Because I saw a great tattoo of a cross….

      I’ll try to answer this question next Sunday.

      • Leah says:

        That must have been one good tattoo. Did I do it? :p

        • Bob Murphy says:

          It was originally a plus sign and then someone wanted to cover it up.

  22. Seb says:

    Another question like the previous one : Why a monotheist faith ? Why not a polytheist faith like the old norse gods or the greek gods ? They explain a lot of your personal experiences too.

  23. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, I asked you this question over at Steve Landsburg’s blog a few days ago:

    You say “But since I can’t explain where God comes from or why He should be rational, I can’t ultimately explain the existence of elegant mathematics either.” That leads me to the question, do you see the existence of God as a contingent truth or a necessary truth? In other words, are you a rationalist in the tradition of Dostoevsky, who thought we just happen to live in a universe in which it’s an empirical fact that there’s a being called God? Or do you view God the way Steve views numbers, namely that they must exist in any possible universe? I think people like Thomas Aquinas believed in the latter: they believed that the existence and characteristics of God could be deduced by unaided reason alone.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Keshav I’m not sure how to answer your question. I think the more we study this particular universe, the more evidence mounts that it was intelligently designed to support human life. I guess I could logically imagine intelligent beings living in a universe where science and reason alone wouldn’t lead them to believe in God, but it would be nothing like our universe so it’s kind of a weird question, mostly because I don’t really understand what is necessary for intelligence to exist.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Bob, I’m kind of asking a deeper question: I’m not asking about the nature of God or the universe, I’m asking about the nature of your belief in God, or more poetically I’m asking about your relationship with God. Do you have a relationship of convenience, meaning that you are primarily a rationalist, who just happens to find himself in a universe in which there’s a being named God, just like you blog about Krugman because you find yourself in a universe in which there’s a being named Krugman? Or is the necessity of God’s existence (meaning the fact that God must exist in any possible universe, like Steve views numbers) so deeply engrained in your character that you wouldn’t be yourself if you abandoned your faith now? In other words, have you come to accept God’s existence as an a priori truth, or do you just view it as a fact of life, just like the fact of life that there’s a Nobel Laureate called Paul Krugman who annoys you sometimes?

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Let me reiterate that Dostoevsky was the rationalist type of Christian, whereas Aquinas was the a priori type. Full disclosure, I’m an a priori type of Hindu. I’m guessing that you’re the rationalist type, so many theologians, and I think Jesus himself, would urge you to move to the a priori type.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          To put it another way, I want to know whether faith or reason motivates you now. Reason may have brought you here, but does reason keep you here?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Keshav you’re setting up a false choice. What if I accept God’s existence as a fact of life, just like the fact that I have a son I adore, or that rainbows are beautiful? By using Krugman as the example you’re loading the deck.

  24. Jon O. says:

    ““The moment we decide to be with God, we are saved, and could go to heaven and live in paradise. However, God asks us to remain on the earth a while longer, to try to save some of our brothers and sisters, because they won’t listen to Him.”

    You’d expect an omnipotent being trying to convince people of his existence to be a bit more persuasive.

    Also, why this seemingly arbitrary need for people to believe in order to be saved? If God created these people, and is a forgiving creator, why should it matter if people are right or wrong in their belief of God’s existence? If atheists are wrong shouldn’t God forgive – or at least blame himself for creating beings (and the environment they live in) who doubt his existence – and save them too?

    Also, couldn’t I share these personal anecdotes to show ‘I know God dodesn’t exist’: when I was an adolescent my grandmother was diagnosed with brain cancer. I prayed and prayed and prayed to God for her not to suffer and die…guess what, she suffered and died. Later on my other grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. I prayed and prayed and prayed to God for her not to suffer and die..guess what happened? (btw, both were christians and ‘truly believed’.) So, is there no omnipotent God or did he want them both to suffer and die? The latter seems worse than the former IMO.

    • AC says:

      That’s easy. God works in mysterious ways, didn’t you know? There’s a great reason for all the innocent suffering. But he’ll move rocking horses and make sure bloggers don’t get too arrogant.

  25. Yosef says:

    Bob,

    Your anecdotes about what you see as miracles in your life are very interesting, and I wouldn’t think of suggesting you are just misinterpreting them and they could just be explained away without God. Not only do you explain that you could do that yourself, but also it would add no value.

    What I’d like to know is why these acts in your life are so paltry compared to what we see in the Bible? I mean, something falling and a rocking horse don’t seem to be on the scale of what evidence other people had of God’s existence. I mean, Saul of Tarsus was literally stopped along his way by God. Moses not only had a long talk with God, but was given a cool staff for his troubles. And Abraham knew God so well he actually haggled with him! (50 righteous? At today’s prices?!”).

    So why were they, along with others, given such overwhelming evidence of God, but you (or, or others) don’t?

  26. Desolation Jones says:

    When I was maybe around 9, my dad was driving me and my brother to the dentist. Out the window I saw something that looked exactly what you would expect a flying saucer to look like. It had the cliche disk shape with flashing lights around the circumference. It was just floating in the sky and did not look like it was really moving in any direction. This was during clear daylight, not during the night where any flashing lights in the sky could look like a UFO type of thing. I only saw it for around 20-30 seconds because we made a turn and it ended up being blocked by some tall buildings. Maybe it was the angle, but when I excitedly informed my dad and brother about it, they did not see anything. A bit later on, my dad told me it was just a helicopter. I knew how helicopters looked like and to me it did not look like a helicopter.

    I was a “believer” for a long time after that, but I became more of a skeptic a number of years back. I still think alien life exists somewhere in our large universe. I’m just not sure about them visiting us anymore. All the evidence just seems way too flimsy. Even I don’t believe my own story anymore because my evidence is just so anecdotal. There’s a ton a reasons why what I saw wasn’t actually what I saw. Chances are my dad was right and it was a helicopter.

    I’m not sure what exactly exactly is the point of my post, but there’s probably some parallels somewhere in there. After reading the rocking horse and newspaper stories, I was just reminded of that old show from the 90s, Beyond Belief: Fact and Fiction. Felt like it was my turn to give a story.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Desolation Jones: Thanks, I was thinking of UFO analogies myself. Now if you want to say, “At this point, in light of all the other evidence, I have to conclude that I was either hallucinating or misinterpreting what I saw,” I’m totally fine with that. Indeed, that’s my own explanation for your story.

      But if you were alone, and the ship hovered over you, and you said, “Hey I can’t solve this tricky unsolved math problem that’s been plaguing people,” and the answer popped into your head, and you also heard, “You’re welcome,” then if some skeptic later on said, “Using the laws of biology and astronomy we can see there is not a shred of evidence for extraterrestrial intelligent life,” you might find that amusing.

      (Wow that was a long sentence. It must have been inspired.)

  27. Watoosh says:

    Very interesting discussion. I’ll admit to being on the non-Christian side, but there’s no doubt that theological debates with you are much more amicable than with most apologists – even if you’re just as wrong as they are.

    One reason why we think you’re hanging your brain out to dry on Sundays is because unlike in economics, where you’re interpreting data and making conclusions based on auxiliary assumptions, in theology you’re clearly grappling with very profound memories, experiences and emotions – to which we have no access – but you’re using that as an excuse to subvert reason. And that’s fine – I have no problem with people believing in extra dimensions, gods or talking snakes after powerful psychedelic trips, strange synchronicities or visions in broad daylight. I’m human too, and there are probably lots of beliefs that I hold for bad reasons (libertarian anti-paternalism, maybe?). But anecdotes won’t convince skeptics, and you’re not justified in drawing any other conclusions from them. If you’re going to be an intellectually honest evangelist, then use reason indiscriminately – no carveouts for special memories or eerie phenomena.

    I’m not expecting you to have another Damascus moment (“Gosh, how could I have been so stupid to believe that the Creator of the Universe was communicating by moving a rocking horse!”), because your beliefs and experiences have value to you that others cannot see (yes, even theology can serve as a warning against interpersonal utility comparisons!) and they can be hard to let go of. What I am wondering is this: can you see a possibility of revising your spiritual beliefs substantively, e.g. admitting that maybe your theological narrative doesn’t explain your experiences sufficiently, and that your experiences might not warrant such strong beliefs about afterlife etc.? If so, do you fear that this might actually happen, in which case (judging by your current metaphysical beliefs) you might slip away from eternal salvation?

    • Watoosh says:

      ^should’ve been Damascus road moment.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Watoosh wrote: One reason why we think you’re hanging your brain out to dry on Sundays is because unlike in economics, where you’re interpreting data and making conclusions based on auxiliary assumptions, in theology you’re clearly grappling with very profound memories, experiences and emotions – to which we have no access – but you’re using that as an excuse to subvert reason.

      How have I subverted reason, Watoosh? You see, this is why I gave the preamble about physics. You guys are acting like I don’t know it’s rather unlikely that a rocking horse appeared out of thin air. Yeah, I get that. But that is the only explanation for what I know I experienced.

      It’s you, Landsburg, MF, et al. who are simply throwing out evidence that doesn’t fit what you already know “has” to be true. Now in fairness, you guys didn’t directly experience what I did, so for you it’s just hearsay. I don’t expect to convince you guys. That’s why I titled the post, “Why I Know There Is a God,” not, “Why You Guys Should Believe There Is a God.”

      Up till now I have tried to use objectively verifiable arguments. The vast majority of the criticisms leveled against them have been non sequiturs, of the type, “If there is no God, then what you are saying makes no sense Bob.” Right, but if there is a God, then what I had been saying makes sense. So, your arguments don’t really do much to establish whether or not there is a God.

      So in this post, I was explaining why I am personally so confident that MF et al.’s non sequiturs week after week, aren’t simply invalid arguments in defense of a true position, but instead are invalid arguments in defense of a false position. I admit this post itself wouldn’t make anybody switch sides.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        It’s you, Landsburg, MF, et al. who are simply throwing out evidence that doesn’t fit what you already know “has” to be true.

        What I already know is based on evidence. It doesn’t “have” to be true in the normative sense. It just is true.

        Hearsay is NOT valid evidence! I rejected your hearsay for the same reason why most courts won’t even allow the prosecution or defense to introduce hearsay to the jury. The judge will tell the jury to “disregard” hearsay comments.

        I proposed that your experiences be duplicated and video taped, so that your hearsay can at least enter the realm of valid evidence. How can you say I am prejudicially rejecting your experiences as invalid evidence when I am clearly open to you videotaping and duplicating what you said happened? Could it be that you are just miffed that your hearsay is being rejected instead of just dogmatically and ignorantly accepted like that yahoo Callahan? Evidence is information which can be legitimately communicated, and shown by one person to another. It is not merely what you think. What you think are legitimate thoughts, but they don’t become legitimate evidence until they can at least be shown via communication.

        Up till now I have tried to use objectively verifiable arguments. The vast majority of the criticisms leveled against them have been non sequiturs, of the type, “If there is no God, then what you are saying makes no sense Bob.” Right, but if there is a God, then what I had been saying makes sense. So, your arguments don’t really do much to establish whether or not there is a God.

        That’s not my argument. I am not starting with “Suppose there is no God.” I am starting with the nature and hence ability of my mind, what it can and can’t know in principle. I can do this by a combination of self-reflection and experiencing external objects, both of which are actions. This had led me to conclude that God is not even a coherent, internally logical concept. It is by this criterion that I reject God. It’s not just a prejudicial position.

        And you AGAIN just committed a logical fallacy, this time of begging the question.

        You’re saying people can’t reject your experiences as invalid evidence of proving God exists, on the basis that if we START with the “correct” proposition of “If there is a God…”, meaning if we start with the assumption that your conclusion is true, then people will have to accept your experiences as valid evidence.

        Can you not see the problem here?

        You say they’re wrong about your experiences being invalid evidence, but you can’t chastise them by ad hoc starting with the conclusion “If there is a God…”, and then proceed to treat your evidence that requires the conclusion to be true, as if they’re objective bias free evidence that doesn’t require any interpretation one way or the other.

        You’re saying people are wrong to reject your experiences as valid evidence on the basis that they are not starting with the ad hoc proposition “If there is a God…”!

        Please tell me you can see the problem.

        You cannot say they are wrong unless you can show their foundation is wrong. But the foundation is the very thing you are claiming to prove by way of the alleged evidence! You can’t start with your conclusion, and then claim that your experiences, the interpretations of which require the conclusion to be true, somehow stand alone as objective and bias free evidence that proves your conclusion true!

        It would be like me saying I intend to prove that the flying spaghetti monster is true, by taking my experiences, interpreting them as valid evidence, and not just experiences, on the supposition that the flying spaghetti monster is true, and then say that these alleged valid evidence proves the existence of the flying spaghetti monster.

        So in this post, I was explaining why I am personally so confident that MF et al.’s non sequiturs week after week, aren’t simply invalid arguments in defense of a true position, but instead are invalid arguments in defense of a false position.

        You’re personally “so” confident of these alleged non sequiturs week after week, and of an allegedly false position?

        I am supremely, completely, fully, and with unsurpassed conviction, confident that you are using a combination of valid and invalid arguments in defense of a false position. Does that mean that you now have to add more adjectives to win? Let’s play a game of who has more faith to see who wins. Oh wait…

  28. Marc says:

    This post is a joke, right?

    A voice in your head, something fell once, you opened a book to a particularly relevant passage, and a rocking horse appeared that you didn’t at first notice was there?

    That is how you know of the existence of the Christian god of the bible and the literal truth of that book, Bob?

    Seriously?

    • MamMoTh says:

      That sums it up.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Marc wrote: “That is how you know of the existence of the Christian god of the bible and the literal truth of that book, Bob? “

      Nope. I guess you get reading lessons from Landsburg.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Without getting personal, can you characterize the general circumstances that surrounded your INITIAL belief in God, specifically what was going through your mind that lead you to take what you knew, to make the conclusion that God exists?

        In other words, what are the requisite ideas that a human has to have, in order to come to the conclusion that God exists?

        For example, what ideas am I and all other atheists are missing that would lead us to come to the conclusion that God exists?

  29. Marc says:

    “In conclusion, I hope the above anecdotes at least make atheist readers understand why I am so sure that God exists. Rather than attribute a weekly failure of my logic and reason, I would appreciate it if you’d give me the benefit of the doubt of having a series of unlikely coincidences.”

    I’m not sure how you can fail to comprehend the first sentence.

  30. Marc says:

    Or maybe we all should rattle off our physics bona fides before we post…

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Right after the bona fides about Biblical literalism. You and Landsburg both attributed to me a much stronger view than what I said. But hey, I’m just a Christian, no need to understand my position before mocking me.

      • Marc says:

        Well, I guess I missed where your anecdotes led you directly to Jesus and your other Sunday posts taking the bible quite literally.

        • Dan says:

          It seems to me that he is giving anecdotes that happened after he already believed in God. I took it as more of an explanation of why he knows God exists and not how he came to believe in the beginning. The title of the post should have been the first give away.

          • Marc says:

            Noooo, read it again:

            “==> The moment when it first dawned on me that God existed (it’s a long story that I don’t want to tell right here in this post), I felt intense contrition. After all, I had spent a lot of energy trying to get my good friends to drop their faith. I said out loud, “I’m soooo sorry….” Then, in my head, I heard another intelligence say, “I forgive you.””

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Marc this is really astounding. Dan (correctly) is saying, “Everything Murphy is listing in this post occurred *after* he already believed in God. These were just confirmations, not the reasons he dropped his previous atheism.”

              Then, to show Dan that he’s wrong, you quote me saying:

              The moment when it first dawned on me that God existed (it’s a long story that I don’t want to tell right here in this post), I felt intense contrition. After all, I had spent a lot of energy trying to get my good friends to drop their faith. I said out loud, “I’m soooo sorry….”

              So Marc, what is your interpretation of the above? I was an atheist, then felt really sorry for trying to convince people of the truth and I said “I’m sorry” out loud to a being I didn’t believe in, but then when He answered me, I believed in His existence?

  31. Seth says:

    I always thought atheism takes about the same level of faith as theism.

    I think, given Feynman’s propensity to be able to identify one or two number of combination lock and the number of times he picked them, it’s no surprise that we would be able to identify the third number on the first try on occasion.

  32. Bob Robertson says:

    I’ve also heard, from people who have had the personal experience, that putting a strong magnet to the left side of the head will cause a “religious” experience.

    I had a “religious” experience coming off the anesthetic used when I had my wisdom teeth removed.

    Funny thing about religion, it’s entirely personal. No “proof”, no “evidence” other than opinion. Feynman may very well have had such a powerful mind, sure. Nothing he did required divine intervention.

    But by that same argument, your own insights are just as likely to be your own powerful autonomic “sub conscious” coming to you in moments of peace and reflection, what you call “prayer”.

    Which brings us all back full circle: Nothing you cite is “proof” because it’s not repeatable.

    Natural selection is, however, not just repeatable but utilized all the time to create new species.

  33. Stephan Jerde says:

    “Major_Freedom
    at

    God is infinite: of course there are an infinity of aspects to his appearances, and of course no human could ever take in all of them, so of course different people report different views.

    God can’t contain infinite aspects, because that would require the presence of aspects that contradict.”

    Seriously? If I were to claim that there are an infinite number of real numbers smaller than 2, you would say that because I’ve contended an infinite number, that some of them must be greater than 2?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Seriously? If I were to claim that there are an infinite number of real numbers smaller than 2, you would say that because I’ve contended an infinite number, that some of them must be greater than 2?

      Go further, Stephan. “Infinite aspects” would require an infinite number of real numbers lower than 2, AND a finite number of real numbers lower than 2, AND an infinite number of giraffes lower than 2, AND a finite number of foot massages lower than 2, AND some of these things but not others, etc…

      What you are doing when you say there are an infinite number of real numbers lower than 2, is actually you utilizing the law of non-contradiction, in that there is NOT a finite number of real numbers lower than 2, NOT an infinite number of giraffes lower than 2, etc…but numbers and only numbers. That is a finite concept, even though you’re talking about a theoretically infinite quantity of something. You will never succeed in tabulating them if you tried, no matter how powerful your mind is, no matter how powerful computers become. This is why you take an infinite concept and put it into a finite concept “real numbers.”

      Any time you say a concept is something you are saying it’s not everything else. “Infinite aspects” is incoherent because it contains contradictions. “Infinite aspects” means that we can’t even exclude “no exclusions.” But if “no exclusions” is included, then no exclusions would contradict the fact that there are inclusions. Thus infinite aspects is impossible for humans to comprehend even in principle, and because I am a rationalist, that means I know it cannot exist.

      • Stephan Jerde says:

        Nope. One need only include contradictory aspects if one chose to include contradictory aspects, just as one need only include false mathematical statements if one chose to include false mathematical statements.

        Another example: the set of irrational numbers which do not contain the digit “3″ is both infinite and a proper subset of all irrational numbers.

        Another example, though a little harder to see how it applies to this case: Gabriel’s Horn is a geometric figure of finite volume but infinite surface area.

  34. Gee says:

    Dear Bob,

    Please watch the new movie “Take Shelter”. Half way through the movie, write down what you interpret is happening in the movie, and try to predict what is going to happen by the end of the movie. When the movie ends, the significance of this exercise may reveal itself.

  35. Stephan Jerde says:

    Major_Freedom: “Suppose that I send a camera crew over to all those places you had those “experiences”, and I ask that you duplicate what you did that you claim showed evidence of God existing. ”

    This comment applies not only to MF, but also to a rather disturbing number of people who obviously have a pretty good background in science.

    I’d propose you apply the same test to Abraham Lincoln. I think you can pretty convincingly prove he never spoke a word at Gettysburg, in fact, that he, too, was a figment of an overactive imagination.

    In a similar vein, you could have definitively disproven radiation prior to the Curies, and demonstrated the nonexistence of cells prior to Leeuwenhoek, and so forth. Sure, applying the scientific method to those things prior to the discovery of how to detect them is a valid approach to trying to understand the world, but it would result in being completely wrong.

    I’m not saying I think there is a God-o-scope in the works anywhere, but until we knew how to construct such a detector, how would one be able to produce the form of proof or evidence you seek?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      I’d propose you apply the same test to Abraham Lincoln. I think you can pretty convincingly prove he never spoke a word at Gettysburg, in fact, that he, too, was a figment of an overactive imagination.

      Nice try, but unlike God, there are photos of a Lincoln, there are documents written by a Lincoln, there are records of millions of people voting for a Lincoln, there are so many recorded events that the preponderance of evidence makes the conclusion “Abraham Lincoln existed” undoubtedly true, and your analogy patently absurd.

      It only shows the depths of skepticism that theists will call upon people, so that if they can get people to reject convictions on the basis of a preponderance of evidence, then maybe, just maybe, they can get people to accept convictions on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.

      If you want people to accept the proposition that God exists, then the very LAST route you should take is trying to get people to deny the validity of the preponderance of evidence that Abraham Lincoln existed, and could have been a figment of people’s imaginations. Not only is it insulting, but it undercuts your own position that requires and asks that people depend on their own minds.

      In a similar vein, you could have definitively disproven radiation prior to the Curies, and demonstrated the nonexistence of cells prior to Leeuwenhoek, and so forth.

      No you could not. Radiation and cells existed prior to them being discovered.

      Sure, applying the scientific method to those things prior to the discovery of how to detect them is a valid approach to trying to understand the world, but it would result in being completely wrong.

      And yet you just tacitly accepted the existence of radiation and cells.

      I’m not saying I think there is a God-o-scope in the works anywhere, but until we knew how to construct such a detector, how would one be able to produce the form of proof or evidence you seek?

      You already have a God-o-scope detector, you just need to know how to use it.

      • Stephan Jerde says:

        But if you don’t hold the line at the “camera crew” test, which you insisted Bob meet, where exactly are you going to draw the line? Do you intend to just move it in an ad hoc fashion to yield the result you want? How is that not simply a “begging the question” fallacy?

        No you could not. Radiation and cells existed prior to them being discovered.Right. But how do you propose to apply the “camera crew” test to that?

        And yet you just tacitly accepted the existence of radiation and cells.Right. But I’m not the one who proposed the “camera crew” test. How do YOU tacitly accept that which does not meet your own test for empiricism?

        You already have a God-o-scope detectorHumor me. If there were a God, what kind of “signature” would you expect to find? Radio waves? Gamma sources? What?

  36. Luke says:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/

    Great apologetic resource.

    Carry on.

  37. Dan says:

    This is a post I’ve been waiting for for a while. It is helpful in understanding why you believe the way you do. I thought you did a wonderful job in this post despite the fact that a lot of people took this as you trying to prove God exists. The two other kind of Sunday posts I would like to see are a post on what brought you to God to begin with and then Christianity and a post along the lines of Christianity for dummies.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      I thought you did a wonderful job in this post despite the fact that a lot of people took this as you trying to prove God exists.

      If Murphy is appealing to his own mind as evidence for why he believes God exists, then he is appealing to everyone else with a mind too.

  38. Jack says:

    I’m not sure I’ll get a response to this, since you have basically a novel to read if you want to reply to everyone. I’m not an atheist and I’m not a theist. I used to take that as a weak position, when I was a staunch atheist. I’m 21, I think I probably abandoned atheism when I was about 18 or 19. At some point I realized atheism was one of the most disgusting beliefs known to man. I read this whole post twice, and I’m not going to try to point out the holes in your personal experiences. (As far as I’m concerned, personal experiences like that can’t really have any holes for us to discover.) The only thing that I find so absurd and objectionable about Christianity is the idea of hell, or any wretched place for sinners to go. So my question to you is this: Do you actually believe that sinners who do not repent and ask for forgiveness will go to hell? I’m assuming you are now a biblical literalist. Do you believe people who commit homosexual acts and so forth will go to hell? I’m genuinely curious.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Jack wrote:

      Do you believe people who commit homosexual acts and so forth will go to hell? I’m genuinely curious.

      It depends if they’ve accepted Jesus as their savior. I don’t think people who murder, but then repent and accept Jesus, go to hell.

      To anticipate the follow-up: I am not sure what to do about stuff that is illegal in the OT but which doesn’t strike us today as all that bad. I’m personally not inclined to that type of lifestyle, and I don’t view it as my job to go around telling people they are sinning, so fortunately I don’t really have to comment on that debate too much, except to tell Christians who make signs saying “God Hates F**s” that no He doesn’t.

      • Dave says:

        If accepting Jesus as your savior is the prerequisite for getting into heaven then I guess most of the people who aren’t lucky enough to have been born in Christian countries and raised with Christianity are doomed. If that’s really the case then I don’t think the Christian god is very loving or compassionate at all.

  39. Dave says:

    I don’t see why belief in god necessitates belief in religion. I mean just because there’s a god doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the god of the bible, that’s just a book that humans wrote two thousand years ago. With a bunch of stories in it that are physically impossible.

  40. Julia says:

    I would love to hear your conversion story. Many people are not so stubborn when presented with Truth. Their conversion stories usually consist of having an overwhelming feeling at church or something similar. For people (like you) who have high standards for believing Truth conversions are much more overwhelming or “in your face”. I know that mine sure was. I hope you write about it at some point. I know it is a really personal thing, but I would love to see how God gives a skeptic what he needs to believe.

  41. Ben says:

    If I offend you in any way, I apologise. As an atheist, I have been spoken to by darwins ghost so must defend all my ‘false’ beliefs.

    In your article you said that when you became a believer you found books on evolution less believable, but maybe that’s a sort of religious mindset… To disbelieve all but what you know.

    I think god is really just an explanation that ancient people used for things they can’t fathom. Religion is used to make money. Catholisism says wealth is a mortal sin, but has literally trillions of pounds.

    Religion has caused so much death and destruction. But if god is real, why does he allow it? Why allow plague, war, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and floods to happen on the people he worked so hard to make? He doesn’t. Even if there is a being that made us, he wouldn’t have no power over nature or people.

    To truly appreciate the worlds wonder, you must realise that it made itself. The strongest animals, or the ones with the best camoflauge, pass on their genes to more animals, because they live longer so reproduce more, changing species. When stars die, they make a new star, or metals and all other elements. Stars are basically god. They give us light and life, and make all elements. Please, if religion keeps going on this way, it’ll spiral out of control. The Catholics edited the bible to make Jesus seem to be son of god, when he was a prophet or even a Buddhist one. They created Eve’s story, so that people would blame women for everyone’s earthly woes. They had Mary Magdalene painted out of The Last Supper by Davinci, because they didn’t want a woman as Jesus’ follower, but she WAS a disciple. Do a bit of research, watch some atheist documentarys and read around, and see if you still have faith. One day this could become full on war between believers and non believers. Please. You have to, for the sake of us all.

    • Mynameisinvisibletoyousomehow says:

      Just wondering what you meant by “The Catholics edited the bible to make Jesus seem to be son of god, when he was a prophet or even a Buddhist one.” Not the sentence fragment, just the bit where you note “Buddhist one”, do you mean Buddhist Son of God/God, as there is no belief of God in Buddhism.
      Thanks

  42. Beth says:

    One thing is certain. Whatever we argue about, we will never truly know the answer until we’ve come to the end. If there is no God, then the end is dark for all of us. Like a dreamless sleep you will not wake up from. BUT, if there is One true God, then those of us who believed , even though we did not see, will spend eternity in bliss with the One who loves us.

  43. Ell says:

    I didn’t just “pick” Christianity out of all the religions. I grew up in a Christian household but didn’t really care about it. Until I was in a dark place and I said “God, if you’re there.. help me.” My life hasn’t been the same. People who do not believe in God will dismiss that as coincidence. If we are here by complete random chance and just die.. what’s the point? Many Christians have a mind blowing moment in their life when they know without a shadow of a doubt that God is real. Mine occurred during my dark place. As did my Father’s. Even then, I looked into other religions. I looked into the validation of the Bible (which is historically accurate) which furthered my belief. Isaiah and Micah predicted the birth and life of Jesus Christ (written 700 years before he was even born.) We can argue left and right but my life has purpose and meaning and I’ve never been happier. One day we will all see. If I am wrong, I will never know. If you are wrong.. well I hope for your sake that you’re not because you are in trouble.

  44. Paul says:

    First of all, the beginning does not make sense. The thing about your father, there is things like DNA, you know. Second, Im sorry, but I hate the way you believers say “I know there is god”. Im not saying there is no god, because I do not know, just the way you dont. But you believers, especially Christians are so arrogant and you still say stuff like that. You say stuff like “I red the Bible”, well I red Harry Potter, should I apply for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?? And I red Eragon, but a havent met any dragons recently…
    Nobody even knows who wrote the Bible. Anyway, I know I am not going to convince you and I am not trying, I just wanted to express my feelings about all religions. The only thing its done is it killed millions of people only because a bunch of stupid people believe in different god then the other bunch of stupid people. Oh and by the way. There are many gods, many books like the bible which “proves” there is that exact god and all other gods are wrong! Use your brain for once.

  45. Dasha May says:

    God, Creative intelligence, Universal mind, the source energy, the life force….call it what you like, the King of Snowflakes…who cares, who cares how educated, smart, intelligent you think you are, who cares if what you say is true or false, imagined or real, right or wrong, At some point when we all run out of points to argue we still won’t know how the body digests potato, when we eat, what prevents us from chewing on the inside of our mouths or biting off pieces of our tongues? Add to that all of the other thousands of chemical reactions with hormones, enzymes, ions and the flow of millions of electrical impulses every minute and you can easily see that every heart beats with the same rhythmic Divine intervention. If all of the complexities of the human body aren’t enough, what about the ecological systems by which the earth and its trees bear fruit or the animals that give us meat and clothing. Want something to worry about? What if all of these things that keep us alive were left to chance?

  46. Mynameisinvisibletoyousomehow says:

    Just one point, no offense to you or your beliefs, but how can you believe in the “Adam and Eve” story about them being the first creations along with the animals, when there is physical evidence of life before humans?
    You may not believe this part of Christianity, but it is normally included in the belief.
    Again no offense, just curious on your view. Thanks!

  47. J Mathews says:

    There is no need for arguments to prove the existence of God. God is supernatural holy and infinite and He is source of all wisdom. It is very easy to know God. Man who is finite and whose wisdom is limited must humble to the simple condition of God to know Him. The Bible says Seek and you will find. If one can humble and kneel and pray with real seeking heart to know God, I have no dobut you will find God. The argument, will cease. God helped me to know Him this way.

    Once your life in this world is over, you should not regret of the chances God gave you to know Him through others. You may not believe in Heaven and Hell, but what if it is real? The Bible says, The ungodly will go to hell and the those who received the forgiveness of sins and belived in God will go to Heaven.

    May God Help you

  48. Vanessa says:

    Thank you for this. I believe in God, but went through a period in college and university when I lost my faith. In fact, I’d have to say that studying science broke my faith. For years I wavered between atheist and agnostic. But then, eventually, science led me back to God, and he (I’ll alternate pronouns, because I don’t believe that God is gendered) began actively pursuing me, until I came back to her. I have had countless “miraculous” experiences in my life, many of which are answers to prayers, some of which came from listening to God’s quiet voice, and allowing it to guide me.
    I think it is really tough to be a scientist, and to maintain a faith in God. However, this is only because many atheists in the sciences are down right hostile towards Christianity, and endeavor to convert believers to unbelievers. It sounds like you were one of these atheists. ;-) I know it may be well intentioned, and that these atheists may simply want to help “free” their religious counterparts, but I have striven in my life to not be a “Bible thumper”, and to respect other people’s beliefs. I have never tried to force my spiritual views on others, so imagine my surprise when faced with atheists (many of which were highly intelligent, and whom I greatly respected) who aimed to “convert” me!
    I would like to thank you for pointing out that believing in God is not irrational, and it is not a point of view chosen by the intellectually weak of mind, or by those who just want to believe something easy. Being a Christian in the scientific world is anything but easy. But I, too, have felt the pull of God, and once I responded, the calm and peace I felt in my soul was evidence to me that there is a God, and he really cares about us.

  49. john says:

    Is there any logic left. Believing in god is one thing but talking to god is another.
    Believing in a fairytale is one thing but talking to one of the characters is quite another. People who talk to imaginary beings are considered mentally ill but when it comes to religion all rules go out the window.

    Just because you have an emotional response or an epiphany coincident with a thought or idea doesn’t mean that some extraterrestrial being is communicating with you.

    Get real

  50. Danny says:

    God is almighty.

  51. boltonia says:

    Pretty unimpressive argument for the existence of a God. The idea that somehow you felt it necessary to persuade us of your intelligence by referencing to your earlier experiences in physics, your fascination with Feynman, and your successful criticism of Brian Greene seems rather silly. Each of those areas that you reference in your preface to justify your intelligence deals with objective data that can be either verified or falsified. The idea that you would then make reference to a personal experience and believe that others would or should find that a compelling reason to believe is quite absurd. So you had a “self-authenticating” experience, what are the rest of us to make of that? If Feynman were still around wonder what would make of that?
    I have never been to this website, but I have no doubt that you are exceedingly intelligent. Your expertise is economics , something I know little to nothing about. The philosophy of religion, however, is another area of specialization. You might want to take a look at David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.
    No doubt you believe in miracles and in strange occurrences like your rocking horse experience . However, while none of us can say with certainty that that didn’t happen, it is more than likely that it did not. As Hume rightly explains the evidence for a miracle, or a strange experience like you site, is always limited, as miracles are single events occurring at particular times and places and so the evidence for the miracle will always be outweighed by the evidence against it. When we review your experience from an objective standpoint, it is much more likely that you misinterpreted the event, than that the event actually took place.
    Cordially,
    BB

  52. Chris says:

    I lack the intellectual pedigree that you and most people who have responded here seem to possess, but I am a soulsearcher and I do not dissmiss the importance of the conversation. Having said that, I do have an issue with your evidence. Several times in this testimonial, you claimed to have heard the voice of another intelligence in your mind. I apologize if im being obtuse, but I just cant relate. I do not accept this as a valid “pro-theist” argument. Its never happened to me, and all evidence I have suggests that hearing voices no one else can hear is, well… dangerous, or at least unhealthy. I am not patronizing at all, I have some sense that men of vision are attuned to something I could never see, but even if I qualified you as such an individual, it does not help me at all on my search for answers, In short, you “know” God exists because of some sort of psychic email or supernatural occurance. How is this usefull to me?

  53. james says:

    this is really helpful thanks!

  54. Xafaga says:

    i have reasons to believe i might be Jesus or something of the sort…i might be wrong, but i wanted someone to talk to.

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