Cedar Point Math & Science Week

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 2:42 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

We don’t need to waste time defining the word “religion.” People can look it up. Religion as a concept is obviously complex and multi-faceted, but the part that concerns me is the part dedicated to the belief in and worship of God. You may not personally feel this way, but that part of religion is very important to millions—billions, even—of people, in not only the way it makes them feel but, even more critically to a global society, the way it makes them behave.

You and I don’t appear to have much to argue about, but I only think that’s because you’re not addressing my primary concern with religion: Why do you believe that God (that is, the Christian version) exists and is the creator of all things, that Jesus died for your sins, and that heaven awaits you (again, I’m simply assuming that you believe these things; correct me if I’m wrong)? Does the same train of thought apply to why you believe that your mom loves you? Because I would counter that by saying that there is probably ample evidence that she does. She probably tells you she does quite often, probably hugs and kisses you, probably spends quality time with you, probably put a great deal of effort into raising you to be a happy, intelligent, loving human being. This is the evidence you have at hand. Does this evidence eliminate the possibility that she’s faking it? No, it does not. But to an outside observer, these pieces of evidence would make your belief that your mom loves you seem completely reasonable, to the point where I would accept that you “know” your mom loves you. If you held that belief for a mother that never paid any attention to you, accept when she was berating or beating you, and who tried to kill you, then I would say that you were suffering from delusion, because the evidence suggests otherwise.

What evidence is there for the Christian God and all of the core doctrines of the faith, scientific or otherwise? The Bible? Is that really good enough? What about the Koran? And if you think I’m focusing on the part of religion that is inconsequential, or is so much less consequential than that part of religion that fosters love, friendship, and togetherness as to be a moot point, I would argue that it is far more important than you think. The existence of God, Jesus, heaven and hell (and not as you've defined them, but rather as what most people take them to mean), sin, etc. is important, because these are statements about the nature of reality, and people behave according to what they think is true about reality.

As far as religion devaluing life, I’m thinking more in terms of the ease with which we take the lives of others, or with which suicide bombers take their own lives. If no one believed in an afterlife, but rather believed that this life was all that we had, then wouldn’t there necessarily be more hesitation and deliberation in matters of war and capital punishment? Who could say that they have the authority to snuff out someone’s one and only shot at existence? To put it bluntly, believing in an afterlife makes it easier to justify killing yourself or others.

Last edited by Bakeman31092, Wednesday, May 15, 2013 2:44 PM
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:01 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Why do I believe in God? The same reason I believe my mom loves me and isn't faking it. Because I feel it. Why is that not sufficient evidence for me to believe it? Why does my evaluation of evidence need to meet your criteria?

(BTW, your example - hugs, kisses, etc. are not evidence for real love vs. fake love. There is no distinction in that "evidence" between real and fake love.)

A lot of things make it easier to justify killing yourself or others. Heck, oil does a pretty good job of that already. Should we get rid of oil?

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:13 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:15 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

"Feeling it" is not evidence. It's the reasons behind why you feel it that are evidence based, at least in the case of your mom's love. If she treated you very badly, then the evidence would indicate that she doesn't love you.

Oil might give people a reason to kill one another, but I'm saying that if before pulling the trigger, someone stopped and thought, "Boy, this is going to be it for this guy," then it would be harder to pull the trigger. It would be harder to accept collateral damage as merely the cost of doing war. Taking innocent lives would have a whole new meaning, because in addition to being innocent, they would also cease to exist entirely.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:26 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

BTW, your example - hugs, kisses, etc. are not evidence for real love vs. fake love.

You took that out of context. Hugs and kisses by themselves do not indicate real love, but I was lumping those actions in with other examples of how people can show love for one another. The point I was making was that the evidence to support whether or not someone loves you comes from their behavior pattern towards you. Hugs and kisses are just one example of potentially loving behavior. It a single piece of evidence used to build the case. If that's the only evidence you had, then yes your case would be very weak.

This is a difficult example to grapple with because the default position is that my mom loves me, and I love my mom. Why? Because she's my mom, and I'm her son. But if you really stop to examine this, I think you'd realize that your feelings of her love have been reinforced over the years by her behavior towards you. If her behavior had been at the other end of the spectrum, then there would come a point where you would be lying to yourself if you said that she loved you.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:34 PM

The fact humanity has the impulse to worship God (or a god) is evidence enough. Originally, the only thing that humans worshipped was God, but then sin messed it up. Nothing besides humans worship any higher spiritual being, and God gave that trait to only us. That trait wouldn't have, and didn't, evolve randomly.

Last edited by Tyler Boes, Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:34 PM
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:37 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

The fact humanity has the impulse to worship God (or a god) is evidence enough.

Not at all.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:39 PM
LostKause's avatar

So Bakeman, are you intentionally trying to get people to not believe in God? What is your purpose for continuing the argument? I'm just curious.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:42 PM

I stop arguing about the age of the Earth because it really doesn't matter. The thing that does matter is the existence of God.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:44 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Re: Hugs and kisses

They are evidence of loving behavior, but they are not evidence to support real love as opposed to fake love. There is in fact, no "evidence" to differentiate real love vs. fake love. Perhaps I come to the conclusion that she loves me because of years and years of hugs, kisses, support, love, etc. but maybe she just did all those things to trick me into believing she loved me when she really didn't. How do I know? How can I ever tell if all those collected actions were expressions of real love or if she's just a really good actor?

Bakeman31092 said:

The fact humanity has the impulse to worship God (or a god) is evidence enough.

Not at all.

Completely agree here. There are a lot of human impulses and a lot of things we deny, rationalize, and justify which are completely incorrect. We have the natural impusle to kill each other (even without oil or religion), to drink ourselves to death, to be greedy and vengeful, etc. Doesn't make any of them any closer to being true or right.

LK, my point and I suspect Bakeman's here isn't to convince anyone of anything. For my position to be meaningful, it has to be able to stand up to rational scrutiny and inspection. If I can't defend it in the face of argument, then I shouldn't hold that position in the first place. I consider this type of conversation a refinement by fire.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:50 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:53 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Bakeman31092 said:
I'm saying that if before pulling the trigger, someone stopped and thought, "Boy, this is going to be it for this guy," then it would be harder to pull the trigger.

Have you met people? ;) This is the exact opposite of my experience. My experience is that people have very little sympathy or empathy for each other when compared with their own desires. Heck, most kids take pleasure in hurting other people/things and need to be taught not to.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:54 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 4:08 PM
Vater's avatar

They wouldn't be able to pull the trigger if there were no guns.

Oh, sorry...different argument.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 5:50 PM
Bakeman31092's avatar

LostKause,

I love a good debate. Andy and I have engaged in a healthy discussion that I have genuinely enjoyed, and I hope he feels the same.

I find it interesting that your question was directed at me only, when we have both been going back and forth in what I perceive to be equal measure. It kind of goes to show that the atheist is viewed as the instigator, as the one that has to justify and defend his beliefs, while religious beliefs are assumed to be the default, self-evident condition.

And for the record, I do think we'd all be better off if no one believed in God.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 6:10 PM

I think when you believe all you need is faith. Not proof, not evidence. Faith.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 6:20 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Tyler Boes said:

Nothing besides humans worship any higher spiritual being, and God gave that trait to only us. That trait wouldn't have, and didn't, evolve randomly.

Mmm, but how do we know that chimpanzees or dolphins or what have you don't worship any higher spiritual being? Assuming the existence of a God, how do we know he only gave that trait to humans?

Evolution isn't random.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 7:00 PM
Carrie J.'s avatar

Nor is it random that dog spelled backwards is God. ;-)


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 9:48 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Bakeman31092 said:

And for the record, I do think we'd all be better off if no one believed in God.

While I respect your opinion, do you include all the charity services and justice ministries that in your conclusion? Up until very recently (sadly, I'm not sure why we've gotten away from it, though even today many individuals in the church still do so even as the institution seems to have other priorities) every justice movement in the United States: abolition, womens' rights, workers' rights, civil rights have been championed by the church.

I recognize a whole lot of evil has been done in the name of religion, but a whole lot of good has also been done.

Would the people who get food from our food pantry or learn English in our ESL program or the kids in our after school program be better off?

Not to mention all the people who wouldn't be better off simply for the reason that they value their relationship with God. I can certainly say that neither I, nor the people in my church, nor the people I work with who believe in God would be better off simply because God is an important part of our lives.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 10:52 PM
OhioStater's avatar

The belief in a god and the dedication and faith to a religion are wonderful things. Religion in and of itself is not bad. Concomitantly, it is a scientific fact that faith and spirituality are very strongly related to mental health, family cohesion, and all sorts of wonderful social goodness.

The problem, as usual, is that humans in power have used religion to manipulate and exploit others to serve their own ends.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 11:21 PM
Jeff's avatar

As someone who would probably self-describe as vaguely agnostic, I can rationally conclude that faith and religion are devices that comfort us when we can't explain everything. That's fine, I'm not criticizing anyone, but it's self-serving, and I think you have to be OK with that.

It's a double edged sword for sure. Some of the greatest and worst actions in human history occur in the name of one god or another. I'm often inclined to wonder if the trade-off is worth it when I see all of the hate carried out in the name of religion, and I struggle to remember things like soup kitchens and other compassionate efforts that also have a religious base.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 1:14 AM
OhioStater's avatar

When pondering the meaning of life, aren't we all trapped in a perpetual state of not knowing?

That's where religions come from.

It's human nature to need an explanation...at least for most. It's the same reason we overreact to disasters and atrocities in such an irrational way; we come up with what we perceive to be linear causality, and work from there.

Ambiguity makes the masses uncomfortable.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 7:22 AM
Bakeman31092's avatar

These are all very good points that get mentioned frequently in these types of discussions. I'll try to answer each one:

...do you include all the charity services and justice ministries that in your conclusion?

You don't have to believe in God to be good. All of those things you mentioned are arguments for the usefulness of religion that don't address the trueness of religion. I've been arguing that truth matters, because even if a belief leads a person to do good things, if the belief is in something that isn't true, then it's a delusion, and delusion is not a healthy mental condition.

I guess this is where you and I differ, Andy. I believe that people are naturally good. Religion may provide the conduit for people to express their goodness, but the goodness is still there. In fact, I think that motivation to do good simply for its own sake is more pure than the motivation that comes from wanting to appease a deity (though I'm not claiming this as your motivation, Andy). We know (there's that word) that it's good to be nice to people, to help those in need, and to cooperate with one another. Altruism is innate (studies have shown that it is innate in primates and other animal species as well). All people should have the opportunity to flourish and be happy because...well they just should. If anything is self-evident, it's that. So if I had to put a bow on my argument, it's that points in favor of the usefulness of religion are not a) convincing in their usefulness, and b) points in favor of the trueness of religion. If all religious doctrines, all belief in God, were wiped out overnight, tensions would ease in this country, in the Middle East, and all over the world.

The belief in a god and the dedication and faith to a religion are wonderful things.

I simply do not agree.

...mental health, family cohesion, and all sorts of wonderful social goodness.

Scientific links to spirituality and faith aside, all of these things can be had without believing in God, Jesus, heaven, creation, etc.

...faith and religion are devices that comfort us when we can't explain everything.

Religious explanations for the currently unexplainable are not true just because they comfort us.

It's human nature to need an explanation...

And science has proven to be a better tool at explaining things than religion has.

Again, either God exists, or he doesn't. Either Jesus was sent down by God as a sacrifice, or he wasn't. Either the Koran is the inerrant word of the creator of the universe, or it isn't. These claims that billions of people believe to be true have grave consequences, because they drive action and dictate behavior. All I'm saying is that the claims themselves ought to have merit, outside of their supposed usefulness.

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