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What good reason is there to believe the Christian God exists? [The Debate Thread]


SkinWalker
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Looks like an interesting list of topics.

 

I wanted to add:

 

If we presumed that morality were simply an evolutionary adaptation or a law of nature, how is it that morality is then seen to "evolve" (more like change, "evolve" is wrapped up in common speech with the baggage of "progress" while true evolution is merely change that happens to survive through generation) from one century to another, one culture to another, and even within one culture? It's not something purely biological. So one could speculate that we were "born with" certain ideas, but then we can't just turn around and say we are free to change them on a whim and say it's bogus. It would be really great if more people from the internet world could take serious courses in philosophy.

 

The basis of everything in the human mind is philosophy, so if we start second guessing that, we have nothing. We can't "know" anything and might as well assume our actions are completely determined, even if our common sense and everything else points to the opposite. I'd say we're part of nature, but we also have free choice, however limited that might be by our finite information and powers, the influence of others, etc.

 

Religion and philosophy are closely tied with one another. Simply getting rid of the idea of a "God" and assigning the origins of morality to philosophy doesn't really get you very far, because you still have to account for where philosophy comes from and what it means (if we're simply biologically determined, it's just something quirky about our species but ultimately meaningless).

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Does the author of the original post seek to know a good reason to believe in God (Christian or otherwise), or does he seek proof that any such being exists, or does he simply wish to have a sounding board for all of the things he wishes to say to discredit the existence of said being(s)? I only ask because a simple Google search can render literally thousands of results on the subject of the correlation between spirituality and happiness, which seems to me, a pretty good reason to believe God exists.

 

I also haven't been around in a while...

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the correlation between spirituality and happiness, which seems to me, a pretty good reason to believe God exists.

 

Ah, some things never change.

 

Closer examination of said studies, along with an understanding that correlation does not equal causation, tends to support an alternate hypothesis. Specifically, that the actual "secret sauce" is pro-social behavior, which church-going people just happen to get from spending time around their in-group. Same measures of happiness and satisfaction can be found in people that have completely secular means of scratching that itch, such as chess clubs or cup-stacking tournaments.

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No, my argument is that spirituality can result in happiness. As you were quick to point out, so can chess clubs, or cup-stacking tournaments. Change the title of the thread now to "What good reason is there to join chess clubs or cup-stacking tournaments?" Happiness, health, etc...All fine reasons to join chess clubs and stack cups. As for correlation not equaling causation, I'd say I have a basic understanding of it, and in this case, I could get on board with that if not for the fact that even those who do not attend regular church services, but simply "feel spiritual" have lower levels of depression and anxiety, which of course results in lower blood pressure, decreased chance of strokes. Living longer, healthier, lives are "good reason"(s).

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I'll try this again a slightly different way.

 

What you are arguing (whether you realize it or not), is that there is a causal relationship between spirituality/church attendance/what have you and happiness.

 

The point I am trying to make is that the causal relationship is between pro-social behavior/pro-social cues and happiness. That some people get this from religion and/or spirituality is nice, but there are lots of ways to get there. My larger point (made elsewhere in this thread and others, but not this exchange) is that spirituality/religion is actually one of the least optimal ways to get there.

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I'll try this again a slightly different way.

 

What you are arguing (whether you realize it or not), is that there is a causal relationship between spirituality/church attendance/what have you and happiness.

 

The point I am trying to make is that the causal relationship is between pro-social behavior/pro-social cues and happiness. That some people get this from religion and/or spirituality is nice, but there are lots of ways to get there. My larger point (made elsewhere in this thread and others, but not this exchange) is that spirituality/religion is actually one of the least optimal ways to get there.

 

You seem to be under the impression I've missed some points along the way. I have not. You also seem to have skipped over the bit where I mentioned that not everyone who considers themselves to be spiritual, engages in social functions relating to said spirituality, and yet still enjoy less stressful lives among other health benefits. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin touched upon your suggestion that it's simply healthier mentally and physically to be active socially, but it was not the only factor, and sometimes, isn't a factor at all, as evidenced by people who meditate, or pray, etc, minus attending church.

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That would be up to each person to decide.

No, there is sound argument to be made.

 

If there are multiple ways to accomplish X, some are inherently going to be better than others (which means some are going to be worse than others). The only room for real debate here is whether or not you agree that doing things, like indoctrinating children to believe that an invisible man lives in the sky, can read your thoughts, and will send you to a lake of fire to burn for all of eternity if you don't love him enough, is a "bad thing".

Edited by Achilles
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You seem to be under the impression I've missed some points along the way. I have not. You also seem to have skipped over the bit where I mentioned that not everyone who considers themselves to be spiritual, engages in social functions relating to said spirituality, and yet still enjoy less stressful lives among other health benefits. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin touched upon your suggestion that it's simply healthier mentally and physically to be active socially, but it was not the only factor, and sometimes, isn't a factor at all, as evidenced by people who meditate, or pray, etc, minus attending church.

 

Again, the "secret sauce" isn't being spiritual. Studies that prime subjects via secular cues (such as voting, or other civic-related institutions or activities) show the same results. When these studies controlled for other factors (the sequence in which you make your arguments above makes me think you aren't considering this as part of your analysis) they consistently find that religion/spirituality just isn't a factor.

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  • 1 month later...

I see a very common claim by professed atheists online that they are happier people, even that they are better people, because of their worldview.

 

Theoretically I could imagine that as many of these people appear to have come from fundamentalist (or otherwise strictly conservative) religious upbringings, they now report this satisfaction because they resent rules being imposed upon them that caused them moral upset (at not being able to do the things they wanted, that their religion frowned upon).

 

Now on the other hand, a person who considers what their religion teaches to be true, would probably be more happy adhering to that lifestyle and ideology, thinking they are "doing the right thing." After all, most of us seem to want to "do the right thing" and derive satisfaction from that.

 

The difficulty with atheists usually is that they throw off their old worldview and then go in search of something to replace it. Generally it seems like people end up modifying a few things (like related to sexual morality, drugs, dancing or whatever it was that their previous religion restricted more than they wished... others even cite things like being annoyed at having to attend weekly religious services) but hold to pretty much what they did before. Otherwise accept a radically different worldview, but it still gives them the sorts of things they desire... how they should live and a goal to work for in life (even if it's something like "be happy" or "help people").

 

The "I'm better than you" mentality of some atheists (which to be fair, is a common complaint from atheists about Christians and other traditional religious people online) is that they're adhering to "the truth" as they see it, and doing things "for the right reasons."

 

It would be interesting to see some data on that. I generally tend to imagine people will appreciate the polls and studies that confirm their own bias and dislike the ones that go against it.

 

But the idea of a God being something that will make you happy really doesn't seem that important if one places a premium on the truth above happiness. If there is no God, I'd want to know it. If there is a God, I'd want to know it, in either case I'd be "happier" to know the truth than just happy to have an idea I like as my accepted worldview.

 

The atheist will argue not having a God means more freedom. The Christian will argue having a God gives one a foundation for objective morality and a goal to shoot for (eternal happiness for loyalty to God).

 

The evolutionary argument can go a number of different ways. If we were programmed to believe in deities for the sake of our survival, why would we suddenly think that certain individuals are born (mutants?) who lack this programming and that these people will somehow pass this on to the "next level of human evolution" which is atheism which is best for our species survival.

 

Trouble is, "evolution" isn't concerned with ideas or memories, but our physical makeup. Where is the "religion gene"? Do atheists lack this? Did they lose it when they became atheists (do they gain it back again when they convert to theistic religions?). I think people misuse the term (saying "evolution" to mean "better ideas or lifestyle" rather than a change in biology over generations).

 

If religion was really going to wipe us all out, why is it bigger now than ever before and the human population is bigger than ever before (and technology is as advanced as it has ever been)?

 

Atheists will say all the technological progress is due to the freedom given by atheists, but they have to recall that they stand on the shoulders of giants. The foundations that they are building upon were established by religious people... theists, including Christians (and others who benefited from their discoveries and research). And by the same token Christians benefited from (monotheistic) Jews and (polytheistic) Greeks & Romans for a lot of things. Muslims took from the same sources and prior to Al Ghazali were pretty pro-"science."

 

Comparing bodycounts and wars doesn't really do it either. Even so, if something is true, whether it "causes" wars or not, isn't a reason to reject the truth in favor of something that feels better, unless we put the truth at less of a premium than peace, I suppose.

 

Fascinating discussion, wish I had to the time to really get into it with you guys. Most of these discussions on the internet sadly don't get past the chest-beating and flame-baiting stage.

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I see a very common claim by professed atheists online that they are happier people, even that they are better people, because of their worldview.

 

Theoretically I could imagine that as many of these people appear to have come from fundamentalist (or otherwise strictly conservative) religious upbringings, they now report this satisfaction because they resent rules being imposed upon them that caused them moral upset (at not being able to do the things they wanted, that their religion frowned upon).

 

Now on the other hand, a person who considers what their religion teaches to be true, would probably be more happy adhering to that lifestyle and ideology, thinking they are "doing the right thing." After all, most of us seem to want to "do the right thing" and derive satisfaction from that.

In the interest of being consistent, I'll repeat my earlier argument that ideology (in and of itself), tends to be a poor indicator of happiness. An extroverted atheist who spends a lot of time hanging out with like-minded secular people, doing volunteer work, etc is going to be more happy than an introverted jehovah's witness who sits at home, hating himself for being a sinner. Likewise, someone who is moderately religious but goes to unitarian church every Sunday to hang out with like-minded theistic people is going to be happier than the anti-theist sitting at home crossing "god" off his dollar bills with a sharpie.

 

Furthermore, religions that are more fundamentalist in nature don't give a crap about "doing the right thing". They care about adherence. Islamists who are cutting off the heads of journalists and aid workers aren't doing it because they feel that their actions are contributing to maximizing human flourishing, they are doing it because they have a very strict interpretation of their doctrine.

 

So yeah, you could argue that this person (or these persons) are individually happier because they feel they are doing "the right thing", however they are increasing suffering while doing so. Hardly a "good reason to believe".

 

The difficulty with atheists usually is that they throw off their old worldview and then go in search of something to replace it. Generally it seems like people end up modifying a few things (like related to sexual morality, drugs, dancing or whatever it was that their previous religion restricted more than they wished... others even cite things like being annoyed at having to attend weekly religious services) but hold to pretty much what they did before. Otherwise accept a radically different worldview, but it still gives them the sorts of things they desire... how they should live and a goal to work for in life (even if it's something like "be happy" or "help people").
I don't agree that this is categorically a difficulty that atheists usually have. I do find a couple of things interesting/telling here:

 

1) you seem to only think of athiests in terms of former theists who deconverted. While it probably fair to say that some significant number of people who identify as athiests (especially those you encounter in North America) probably fit the bill, a lot of your commentary falls apart the moment we try to apply to people who were raised secular. This includes entire countries.

 

2) if the "secret sauce" is religion, then why would these people "desire" goals, such as "being happy" or "helping people"? Before you answer, the question was rhetorical.

 

The "I'm better than you" mentality of some atheists (which to be fair, is a common complaint from atheists about Christians and other traditional religious people online) is that they're adhering to "the truth" as they see it, and doing things "for the right reasons."

 

It would be interesting to see some data on that. I generally tend to imagine people will appreciate the polls and studies that confirm their own bias and dislike the ones that go against it.

The mechanism you're looking for here is "confirmation bias".

 

But the idea of a God being something that will make you happy really doesn't seem that important if one places a premium on the truth above happiness. If there is no God, I'd want to know it. If there is a God, I'd want to know it, in either case I'd be "happier" to know the truth than just happy to have an idea I like as my accepted worldview.

 

Interesting. If there was no god, how would you know it? If the answer to the question of god's existence was unknowable, would you still be able to find happiness? Neither of these are rhetorical.

 

The atheist will argue not having a God means more freedom. The Christian will argue having a God gives one a foundation for objective morality and a goal to shoot for (eternal happiness for loyalty to God).
Objective morality isn't dependent upon a god existing (let alone the christian god). Is eternal happiness for loyalty to god the only reason to be moral?

 

The evolutionary argument can go a number of different ways. If we were programmed to believe in deities for the sake of our survival, why would we suddenly think that certain individuals are born (mutants?) who lack this programming and that these people will somehow pass this on to the "next level of human evolution" which is atheism which is best for our species survival.
There have been non-theists for at least as long as we've been recording history. One could say that they are more prominent now (though that it could be possible that this is simply a function of how human percieve the times they live in). The shortish answer might sound something like this:

 

You're right to invoke evolution here. The landscape has changed and we, the social mammals, have evolved. We don't need "the group" the way we once did. The mix between individual yearning and group adherence has changed. It's not that "atheists are better than non-theists" or vice versa. We still have moral obligations to each other. Using a 2000 year old book and bronze age superstition is not the best way to navigate that conversation though.

 

Trouble is, "evolution" isn't concerned with ideas or memories, but our physical makeup. Where is the "religion gene"? Do atheists lack this? Did they lose it when they became atheists (do they gain it back again when they convert to theistic religions?). I think people misuse the term (saying "evolution" to mean "better ideas or lifestyle" rather than a change in biology over generations).
Our brains are part of our physical makeup. Religion is fairly universal. There are two explanations for this: 1) religion is right or 2) we all have brains with religious centers in them. Evolution accounts for #2.

 

If religion was really going to wipe us all out, why is it bigger now than ever before and the human population is bigger than ever before (and technology is as advanced as it has ever been)?
More people, more free time, more interaction between ideologies. 2 million people, split into tribes and spread across the globe with little contact and no means to communicate don't have religious conflict.

 

Atheists will say all the technological progress is due to the freedom given by atheists, but they have to recall that they stand on the shoulders of giants. The foundations that they are building upon were established by religious people... theists, including Christians (and others who benefited from their discoveries and research). And by the same token Christians benefited from (monotheistic) Jews and (polytheistic) Greeks & Romans for a lot of things. Muslims took from the same sources and prior to Al Ghazali were pretty pro-"science."
Yeah, I spend a lot of time around atheists and I don't think I've ever heard any one of them say anything like this. I think anyone who knows even a little bit of the history of science is well aware of how things have gone down. Edited by Achilles
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An extroverted atheist who spends a lot of time hanging out with like-minded secular people, doing volunteer work, etc is going to be more happy than an introverted jehovah's witness who sits at home, hating himself for being a sinner. Likewise, someone who is moderately religious but goes to unitarian church every Sunday to hang out with like-minded theistic people is going to be happier than the anti-theist sitting at home crossing "god" off his dollar bills with a sharpie.

 

I personally don't buy into the argument that extroverts are "happier" people than introverts, especially considering what tests have been used to gauge the results tend to focus on levels of comfort during social interactions. Nor does my wife, who is a bit of an introvert herself. It just so happens she's an introvert with a master's degree in psychology.

 

An excerpt from an article published by Psychology Today stated;

There’s no clear answer to this question. Current tests consistently rate extroverts higher on the happiness scale than introverts. However, many of these tests measure degree of happiness using activities like socializing and interacting with the outside world, both of which extroverts need to thrive! Introverts do experience happiness when they are around other people, but are most happy when participating in lower-key activities. These are not accounted for on current tests and likely causes introverts to score lower.

 

So! Is it possible to have a happier, healthier, life while still believing that a Christian (or other) God exists? I would have to suppose so, in the same way that it's possible to be an introvert who enjoys the health benefits of owning a pet.

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Yeah, that isn't the argument that I was making. I was using extreme examples to support the argument I was making. Apologies for adding confusion where I was trying to add clarity.

 

Re: the second part of your post - I don't think anyone has questioned that such a thing was possible. It's possible to find bliss in any number of things (some of which immoral). The question I thought we were trying to answer was whether or not we had good reasons for thinking the christian god exists.

 

"Because some people believe that believing makes some people happy" continues to be a poor argument.

Edited by Achilles
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If one asks for a reason to believe in God, and another says "happiness equating healthiness is a good reason", and you say that it is the social function rather than the spirituality itself that is the "secret sauce" or "pudding", or whatever other food stuff you'd like, then you have, in fact, questioned the second part of my post, or rather all of my posts on the topic.

 

If the question instead, is "is there any rock solid evidence of a Christian God?" (I didn't read that anywhere. Maybe I should have read between the lines?), I'd have to assume a person who is as intelligent as you seem be, is trolling, while we're on the subject of poor arguments.

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If one asks for a reason to believe in God, and another says "happiness equating healthiness is a good reason", and you say that it is the social function rather than the spirituality itself that is the "secret sauce" or "pudding", or whatever other food stuff you'd like, then you have, in fact, questioned the second part of my post, or rather all of my posts on the topic.
Good reason. The title of the thread is "What good reason is there to believe the christian god exists?"

 

You offered a reason, but as I pointed out it isn't a good reason because 1) the relationship between belief and happiness isn't causal, 2) a positive correlation between belief and happiness would be applicable to any religious belief and therefore not a supporting argument for the christian god specifically, and 3) belief in christianity comes out of the box with several negative implications (for oneself and for others) which result in a net loss of happiness.

 

The second part of your post specifically said:

 

So! Is it possible to have a happier, healthier, life while still believing that a Christian (or other) God exists?

 

Yes. It absolutely is possible. If I've said otherwise in this thread, please show me where.

 

What I have not said is that this is a good reason for believing that the christian god exists.

 

The belief that Santa is going to bring me a Tesla Model S tomorrow may bring me intense joy, but that joy doesn't make my reasoning sound. Even if I managed to convince my neighbors that this was a thing and they too adopted this thinking, it still wouldn't be good reasoning. If we started getting up early on Sunday mornings to dress in our best clothes and gather together to talk about the immense satisfaction that came with knowing that "tomorrow" Saint Nicholas would be bringing us fancy electric cars, it still wouldn't be good reasoning. Even if this belief system somehow spread into the global water supply and every man, woman, and child all came to believe (and found bone-shattering ecstasy in the acceptance) that in the morning, there would be a shiny Model S waiting for them compliments of Kris Kringle, not a single one of us would have come to that belief via good reasoning.

 

If the question instead, is "is there any rock solid evidence of a Christian God?" (I didn't read that anywhere. Maybe I should have read between the lines?), I'd have to assume a person who is as intelligent as you seem be, is trolling, while we're on the subject of poor arguments.
Title of the thread: "What good reason is there to believe the christian god exists?"

 

Not sure how being able to stick to the argument constitutes trolling.

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Good reason. The title of the thread is "What good reason is there to believe the christian god exists?"

 

I gave a good reason. The fact that you yourself don't agree that living a longer, healthier life is beside the point. The name of the thread is not "Is there a reason good enough for Achilles to believe the Christian God exists", and the fact that you continue to argue otherwise puts me in the mind of a child who sticks his fingers in his ears, closes his eyes, and says "NYAH NYAH NYAH I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

 

You offered a reason, but as I pointed out it isn't a good reason because 1) the relationship between belief and happiness isn't causal,

Not true according to several psychology/medical text books and studies.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cant-buy-happiness/201302/why-be-spiritual-five-benefits-spirituality

 

http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/ways-spirituality-can-make-you-healthier/

 

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/spirituality-may-help-people-live-longer

 

I could literally go on and on posting links to studies that show your statement to be false, but I'm sure you can work a search engine.

 

2) a positive correlation between belief and happiness would be applicable to any religious belief and therefore not a supporting argument for the christian god specifically, and

 

I'm sorry, could you explain how what I've said can pertain to as you say "any religious belief", but then somehow exclude the Christian God? If said good reason applies to any religious belief, then you've made my argument for me as it also covers the Christian God. I'm being a bit facetious here, in that I know what you mean. The question in the thread title asks specifically about the Christian God. I realize my answer covers many ideologies and deities, but it doesn't make it any less correct, and it still certainly covers the very specific Christian God.

 

3) belief in christianity comes out of the box with several negative implications (for oneself and for others) which result in a net loss of happiness.

 

This bit seems to be entirely made up. There is no evidence to support that claim whatsoever.

 

The second part of your post specifically said:

 

 

 

Yes. It absolutely is possible. If I've said otherwise in this thread, please show me where.

 

What I have not said is that this is a good reason for believing that the christian god exists.

 

The belief that Santa is going to bring me a Tesla Model S tomorrow may bring me intense joy, but that joy doesn't make my reasoning sound. Even if I managed to convince my neighbors that this was a thing and they too adopted this thinking, it still wouldn't be good reasoning. If we started getting up early on Sunday mornings to dress in our best clothes and gather together to talk about the immense satisfaction that came with knowing that "tomorrow" Saint Nicholas would be bringing us fancy electric cars, it still wouldn't be good reasoning. Even if this belief system somehow spread into the global water supply and every man, woman, and child all came to believe (and found bone-shattering ecstasy in the acceptance) that in the morning, there would be a shiny Model S waiting for them compliments of Kris Kringle, not a single one of us would have come to that belief via good reasoning.

 

Nice analogy, except this car presumably wouldn't have a direct impact on my health or the longevity of my life. Maybe it would? I'm not much into cars, so I'm guessing this one is extra-special-super-dee-dooper. I don't argue that anyone who is religious/spiritual arrives at that state of mind from what you would consider "sound reasoning". I merely argue that scientific data has shown benefits to arriving there, and that the benefits seem to me and many others, to be good reason.

 

Title of the thread: "What good reason is there to believe the christian god exists?"

 

Not sure how being able to stick to the argument constitutes trolling.

 

Then accept my apology as I retract that statement in its entirety.

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We are pretty close to the point (if we haven't crossed it already) where we are arguing in circles. I'm going to make one last-ditch effort to make my point and then we'll see where it goes from there.

 

A primer on causality:

 

A) the sun rises

B) the rooster crows

C) the farmer's alarm clock goes off

D) the farmer wakes up

 

Someone with a flawed understanding of causality may argue that A causes B, which causes C, which clauses D.

 

Someone with a better understanding of causality understands that A causes B, nothing in this sequence causes C, and while B could be a cause for D, in this example C is the actual cause of D. A and B have a causal relationship. C and D have a causal relationship. There is no overlap between the first causal relationship and the second.

 

Now, to bring it home:

 

A) Humans are pro-social mammals

B) Pro-social mammals gain benefits from normative behaviors

C) Religion provides a framework of normative behaviors

D) Humans gain benefits from religion

 

B happens because A is true. D happens because C also just happens to be true.

 

Your "argument" is simply to assert D over and over again. My point is that you can replace the word "religion" in C and D with any other thing that satisfies C and you will get the same result. You seem to think that this constitutes a good reason for thinking that the christian god exists. This cannot be the case if "the thing" in question is your weekly cribbage tournament. "Christianity" is one degree shy of being completely arbitrary at that point. This is why there is no causal relationship between the specific belief in the christian god and happiness; the thing causing the happiness isn't the belief, it's the framework. You're confusing the two.

 

Moving on.

 

Regarding your sources: They are garbage. I started to make an honest attempt to address the very serious problems with each of them, but honestly, I can't shake the feeling that I would be wasting my time. Not to be insulting, but anyone who posts a Psychology Today link probably isn't going to understand why that's a bad idea, even if it's explained to them.

 

If you want the tl;dr version: poor methodology or no methodology provided, blatantly biased samples, no explanation of how results compared to other groups when other factors were controlled for (I've called you out for this last one in other posts. The fact that you didn't acknowledge, counter-argue, or change your tactic is a contributing factor to my assumptions about you above - just in case you try to accuse me of judging you unfairly).

 

Next.

 

Let's take a look at christianity. What differentiates christianity from other religions (or what makes christianity "christianity")?

 

It's jesus, right? Ok, who is he? Why is he important? Let's talk about that.

 

A) christianity is a religion based on the belief that jesus christ is "the savior" (can't tie this back to god - two other religions lay claim to the same abrahamic deity. The thing that makes christianity "christianity" is christ...it's right there in the name).

B) Acceptance of jesus christ is required for salvation ("salvation"? Salvation from what?)

C) Salvation is the absolution/forgiveness for one's sins (okay, sounds important, but this doesn't answer my question. What am I being saved from?)

D) Absolution/forgiveness is required for entrance into heaven in the afterlife (please? the answer to my question now?)

E) Those not granted into heaven go to hell (sounds...fun. What exactly happens in hell?)

F) Hell is a lake of fire in which the souls banished there will enjoy an eternity of never-ending torment.

 

TL;DR - jesus is only way to not be subjected to the worst possible torture imaginable.

 

BTW, god never sleeps, can read your thoughts, and will seriously **** your **** up if you even think about slipping. But he loves you. So much so that he invented hell just so that you could have a place to go if you can't prove that you love him back enough.

 

This is just the most fundamental example of what I mean when I say, "belief in christianty comes out of the box with several negative implications which result in a net loss of happiness". If you really need more examples, we can talk about christianity's views on topics such as womens' rights, slavery, homosexuality, minority rights, science education, environmentalism, etc. Still feeling like I'm making stuff up?

 

Almost finished.

 

To draw attention to the meta-argument for a moment, I'd like to point out a couple of things:

 

1) To the question, "What good reason is there to believe the christian god exists?" your only response has been to assert that the belief (apparently in anything) makes people happy. Is this really the only arrow in your quiver?

 

2) Your sources (and to a certain extent, your argumentation) keep referring to spirituality. You do realize that "spiritual, but not religious" is a thing, right? Or that muslims, hindus, buddists, jains, hari krishnas, etc, etc, etc all consider their pursuits to be "spiritual", right? Are you arguing that spirituality is a good thing or are you arguing that there is a good reason to think the christian god exists? The former is really a non sequitur (and all I see you doing). The latter is the actual topic of the thread.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh my. Where to begin. You know what? Nevermind. I'll just say one final time, that I am not saying being happy to believe in God is proof of God. I'm saying that being happy to believe in God is one possible beneficial outcome. I'm not confused about anything. You make the same point in the post above. So...so what if you can replace C with something other than religion and still wind up at D? You're still winding up at D. If I told you sun light was a good source of vitamin D, and you argued that fish was also a source, it doesn't make sun light any less of a source.

 

Moving on to my sources being garbage. You seem to think that if you don't like a particular site, that everything they post must be false. I'm not sure what that's based on. Psychology Today didn't conduct any of the studies they reported on in that particular article. Also, I dug around and can't find a shred of evidence that suggests their site might be a disreputable source of false information, but please, continue to smugly dismiss them. It was a university study, if memory serves correct, not a study some unqualified web magazine publisher came up with. So yeah, I'm probably just too stupid to know why using them as a source isn't a good idea. Furthermore, I will again remind you that my wife has a masters degree in psychology, and we've discussed this very same topic at length. So with all due respect, I think I'll take her word over yours. Also, your sources are where?

 

As for your thoughts on Christianity, I really can't be bothered, mate. I'm not here to convert you or anyone else to the flock. The Christians I know personally aren't experiencing any "fundamental loss of happiness". They're quite happy to acknowledge Christ as their savior, and ask forgiveness for their sins. It doesn't really seem that much of a hassle to them at all, in fact, quite the opposite. So yes, I feel like you're just making things up, to answer that question.

 

As for arrows in my quiver, my very first post on the topic on this very page, I believe asked "Does the author of the original post seek to know a good reason to believe in God (Christian or otherwise), or does he seek proof that any such being exists, or does he simply wish to have a sounding board for all of the things he wishes to say to discredit the existence of said being(s)?" You seem to fall into the category of the last two parts of the question. I only needed one arrow to answer the first. Honestly, I don't have answers or arrows for the other two. So no need to argue those on my end. It's not my place to convince you or anyone else there's a God. That seems pretty simple.

 

And for your final question, I again refer to when I asked what the author of the thread meant by HIS question. If I've engaged in non sequitur with YOU, and the topic is a simple "Is there any proof of Jebus?", then accept my apology, as no one has bothered to answer my question. I'm not so simple as to think it was anything other than "show me Jeebus", so perhaps I should have gotten your permission before I jumped into this asking if the things I've been saying could be entered into the debate, or better still, in hindsight, I probably shouldn't have jumped in at all. And of course I know you can be spiritual without being religious, attending church (a point I've already made to debunk your "pro social animals" claim), or being Christian. What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

 

Anyhoo, nice debating with you. It's fun to have opposing views on topics and still remain civil. I think we've done that.

Edited by CapNColostomy
Left a bit out.
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  • 1 month later...
In the interest of being consistent, I'll repeat my earlier argument that ideology (in and of itself), tends to be a poor indicator of happiness. An extroverted atheist who spends a lot of time hanging out with like-minded secular people, doing volunteer work, etc is going to be more happy than an introverted jehovah's witness who sits at home, hating himself for being a sinner. Likewise, someone who is moderately religious but goes to unitarian church every Sunday to hang out with like-minded theistic people is going to be happier than the anti-theist sitting at home crossing "god" off his dollar bills with a sharpie.

 

Furthermore, religions that are more fundamentalist in nature don't give a crap about "doing the right thing". They care about adherence. Islamists who are cutting off the heads of journalists and aid workers aren't doing it because they feel that their actions are contributing to maximizing human flourishing, they are doing it because they have a very strict interpretation of their doctrine.

 

So yeah, you could argue that this person (or these persons) are individually happier because they feel they are doing "the right thing", however they are increasing suffering while doing so. Hardly a "good reason to believe".

 

But here we're presupposing that the fundamentalist who causes suffering is objectively wrong. From their perspective I'm sure they believe they are doing the right thing (or else they are hypocrites/liars) and may be "happy."

 

I will freely admit that "happiness" (as in some kind of subjective feeling of well being) is not the end-all be-all of goodness. A crazed sadist is not "good" outside of his own insane mind.

 

This could then devolve into the "what is better for society" argument between theists and atheists, which ends up typically being "as long as everybody in the society is the same, that's the best."

 

If we view "happiness" as "happiness of humanity" that's another kettle of fish. The atheist who says he'd rather accept the "cold hard truth" rather than be "blissfully ignorant" (ie: believing that he'll go to heaven when he dies to be with his lost loved ones and a loving father deity vs. knowing he'll be dead forever after a short life no matter what he does), is he "happier" than the religious believer who is "sad" because he feels condemned by his God for his sins? The religious fanatic may be convinced he's "saved" no matter what he does, or he might be tormented thinking he'll never measure up to the religious standards he has imposed upon himself.

 

So you can go all over the place here. But the atheist is never going to become a believer if he goes about it like this "well I KNOW this is a lie, but I'm going to force myself to believe it, because I heard it will make me happier." So any discussion along those lines isn't going to go anywhere. This isn't a matter of "just believe" as if it's an on/off switch. If it's a contest between "who is better, believers or unbelievers" it's an endless pissing contest, at least it has been a lot of places.

 

1) you seem to only think of athiests in terms of former theists who deconverted. While it probably fair to say that some significant number of people who identify as athiests (especially those you encounter in North America) probably fit the bill, a lot of your commentary falls apart the moment we try to apply to people who were raised secular. This includes entire countries.

 

Right, and I'm guessing none of us are from that context. But there are only two types of anything... those who were always that way (raised) and those who converted.

 

Usually I hear this argument used against religious theists by atheists, to the tune of "you only believe that because you were raised that way" (conversely they usually then explain that they were religious until around college age then they became an atheist). People convert from one thing to another to another all throughout their life, it's very common and others never do. I get it. Is someone more right just because they never changed or someone less right because they changed their mind? (assuming of course the person who was "raised a/n X" actually believed it and wasn't just biding their time until they could come out of the closet so to speak).

 

2) if the "secret sauce" is religion, then why would these people "desire" goals, such as "being happy" or "helping people"? Before you answer, the question was rhetorical.

 

The mechanism you're looking for here is "confirmation bias".

 

I know I made the right decision, and I'm happy with it. Lots of people experience disatisfaction. The question of happiness (whoever defined) is an interesting one, but I agree, not the end all be all. So one might then ask, what good reason is there to be an atheist, besides the reasons I mentioned? (ie: not "having to follow rules" or "be happier [than some other subjective standard]")

 

Interesting. If there was no god, how would you know it? If the answer to the question of god's existence was unknowable, would you still be able to find happiness? Neither of these are rhetorical.

 

According to philosophy, we can know (to a reasonable degree of certainty of course) through reason, we don't need to simply perceive the lack of a special revelation (or denial of all alleged revelations) to be disconfirmation of the god hypothesis. Just out of curiosity, is anyone reading this thread a philosophy major or have a degree in it?

 

The atheist is either presuming lack of evidence is proof of absence or else is convinced by a philosophical exploration of the question, so I don't see there's any getting around it there. We would never give credit to a creationist who believed evolution was false, simply because he never met a scientist who could adequately convince him of it, especially if he had no understanding of science himself.

 

Objective morality isn't dependent upon a god existing (let alone the christian god). Is eternal happiness for loyalty to god the only reason to be moral?

 

There have been non-theists for at least as long as we've been recording history.

 

That's an interesting claim. How are you defining "theism" here? Because the ancient Greeks, even the ones who explicitly denied the existence of the various pantheons typically believed in some kind of Demiurge or other figure that excludes them being "atheists."

 

One could say that they are more prominent now (though that it could be possible that this is simply a function of how human percieve the times they live in).

 

It seems to me that atheism as we know it really was a product of the enlightenment.

 

The shortish answer might sound something like this:

 

You're right to invoke evolution here. The landscape has changed and we, the social mammals, have evolved. We don't need "the group" the way we once did. The mix between individual yearning and group adherence has changed. It's not that "atheists are better than non-theists" or vice versa. We still have moral obligations to each other. Using a 2000 year old book and bronze age superstition is not the best way to navigate that conversation though.

 

Ironic then that we invoke philosophy (to say nothing of mathematics) as our foundation, much of which is older than 2,000 years, and some of which is also founded from the the time of the "bronze age" of superstition. As for "needing the group" we still do. The modern entrepreneur could never exist in the wild, but needs a flourishing human community with a built up infrastructure in order to step forth out of his boot straps. We just perceive it differently because we've grown up in a SOCIETY (group) that glorifies individualism and autonomy. We all had parents (or other elders) who taught us language, gave us access to resources and technology and learned to the point where we could then take advantage of a pre-existing system to declare our independence (meanwhile reaping the rewards of those who came before us)... unless of course we really grew up in log cabins we built with our own hands. ;)

 

Our brains are part of our physical makeup. Religion is fairly universal. There are two explanations for this: 1) religion is right or 2) we all have brains with religious centers in them. Evolution accounts for #2.

 

Should we say if evolution is responsible for religion, that we should get rid of it? Is that "getting rid of it" an evolutionary change or just an individual assertion against nature? If so, is that right or wrong, good or bad? Just curious what you think there.

 

More people, more free time, more interaction between ideologies. 2 million people, split into tribes and spread across the globe with little contact and no means to communicate don't have religious conflict.

 

There's no conflict between groups that have no conflict, that's true, but what happens when the two groups meet and let's say one has something the other wants, would a difference, say a religious difference, be an adequate excuse for conflict?

 

Religious conflict can be contrasted with religious toleration, even pluralism. Apparently there's no guarantee of either.

 

Yeah, I spend a lot of time around atheists and I don't think I've ever heard any one of them say anything like this. I think anyone who knows even a little bit of the history of science is well aware of how things have gone down.

 

How about the history of philosophy? Anyhow, neither of us have met most of the atheists in the world, and never will. But if we look at a cross section, we do see a lot of North American converts from (typically conservative) Christian denominations, and a lot of people raised atheist in oppressive states, so it's not surprising if that's whom we might stereotype as atheists. The North American convert variety is the typical atheist I meet online, maybe because of their high visibility and their often missionary spirit. If I only spent time with people like me, I might find it harder to believe other types of people existed.

 

Interesting discussion, as always.

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Edit: Wikipedia at least mentions some "atheistic" Vedic (pre-Hindu) groups that existed in the "final centuries BCE." Considering recorded history began around the 4th millennium BCE, that's a long time without evidence of atheists. Of course the definition has changed over time. Christians were once considered "atheists" for instance.

 

Vedic religions are not an area I'm well studied in, so I could be wrong on that point.

 

If we were to adopt the popular self-definition used by many folks on the internet and define "atheist" as "simply one lacking belief in the existence of any deities" (and excluding pantheists and panentheists) and define "deity" as a supernatural being greater than a human (especially, but not limited to one(s) responsible for the creation of man and/or the universe) or any ultimate being, then it would seem for much of recorded history there was no such thing. Doesn't mean it's wrong (hence those atheists who favor the "we're a higher step of evolution" claim, which is still not biological evolution).

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