Godisimaginary.com (“Proofs” 26-50)

OK I’m getting tired of this so I’ll just blow through the rest. I didn’t think I was going to find quite as many annoying parts as I found. Please keep in mind that all these words are my own views. I’m tired of hedging all my statements with ” “it seems to me” and “I think this is valid.” I’m temporarily upgrading to “it is” and “valid.”

Proof 26: Notice that the Bible’s Author is not “all-knowing”

Valid. Except that he calls the biblical authors “insane,” which is tremendous chronological snobbery. The fact is that that’s just how we were back then. Smartasses like our friend here could not have survived in that climate, which is why they had to wait for advances in science, technology and civilization before they could evolve.

Proof 27: Think about Life After Death

Invalid (mostly). Sure, it’s valid to point out that, on observation, we are made out of the same material as everything else in the natural world. But then what is the difference between you and a bacterium? The difference is that you have a consciousness. You don’t believe that everything in the physical world is the same, and you are fine with harming mannequins and computers because you don’t believe that they feel anything. The consciousness is what people mean when they talk about a “soul.” So far, we have only observed it arising in correlation with how information is organized in brains. In my view (and in the view of many people who are not the least bit intellectually challenged), it cannot ever be explained by appealing to any physicalist theories of matter, because you always need a consciousness to observe the matter. Hence, there is always a loophole: you cannot prove that matter is all there is, because you need a subjective experience to experience the measurements, the late hours at the lab, and the numbers that would prove such a thing.

Whether consciousness is capable of existing independent of a brain (and whether you would stay an individual person after death, even if consciousness did survive) is not something that you can find out any other way than by killing yourself (though it’s my suspicion that you probably won’t be you once you’re dead). The author can plug materialism all he likes, but that is metaphysics, and it gets tiresome: putting up with smug people who think that their opinions have been demonstrated by experiment.

Proof 28: Notice how many gods you reject

Valid. Near the end he launches into a little tirade, saying that there is “zero evidence” that the Christian god exists, which is not true. Why does the author think that Christianity and Islam have survived the process of natural selection? It’s because they have some evidence (and they also worship an invisible God, which is convenient since he is invisible; you can’t go on believing in Zeus once people figure out what lightning is really about). The evidence for Christianity is Jesus and the testimony of the gospels (plus the survival of the Jews, miracle stories, etc.), and the evidence for Islam is the (real) man Muhammed and the Qu’ran. We’re not talking about proof, or even good evidence, we’re just talking about “evidence.”

Make proper distinctions, people.

Proof 29: Think about Communion

The author starts off right by pointing out that communion is bizarre and then empties his bowels into his pants by spouting that Christianity-evolved-from-pagan-rituals bollocks again, thoroughly undermining his position and getting Christians everywhere temporarily high on rainbows and butterflies.

Proof 30: Examine God’s Sexism

I certainly hope you paying attention to what he says here. Girls, go read this one if you haven’t read any of the others.

I pointed this out to a feminist Christian friend of mine during an altercation. She defriended me. Then I pressed the point and she perma-blocked me.

Because she knows it’s true.

Proof 31: Understand that religion is superstition

At this point the author gets a little huffy, grabs the reader’s collar and shakes him/her, saying “Aaaaaaarggghh don’tchyabelievewhatI’msayingyet?”

Proof 32: Talk to a Theologian

I think he’s picked a terrible example of the absurdities of theologians. There are so many more ludicrous things that theologians say, and he decides to pick on the issue of mountains not moving when we pray, even though (see previous) the people who initially heard these statements almost certainly would have had an interpretation that is different from the author because they themselves observed the lack of moving mountains and instant answers to any prayer. When theologians say such absurd things about so many topics, I think it’s a shame to waste a section like this.

Proof 33: Contemplate the Crucifixion

I agree that the Christian story is absurd when you really think about it.

The reason Christianity survives is because the universe is already absurd, so we really have no problem mortgaging the rest of our minds.

Proof 34: Examine your Health Insurance Policy

Valid. I have never, ever understood this tension between believing that you’re going to be healed of everything and then inevitably crumbling to bits and not being healed (by necessity of nature, mind you). It’s too circular for me to ignore. I will write separately on this.

Proof 35: Notice Jesus’ Myopia

The author is correct in my opinion (of course), but every Christian reading this necessarily has a computer and therefore probably hasn’t had any luck internalizing the gravity of these statements.

The past is not a fairy tale; all this terrible biting and chewing our way into the present actually happened.

I would love for modern-day Christians to go back to 50 AD.

Proof 36: Realize that God is impossible

This is not a very good argument.

Proof 37: Think about DNA

What happened here is that the author needed 50 proofs, because 50 is a nice number.

At this point he seems to be losing his mind.

Proof 38: Notice the Divorce Rate Among Christians

This one is simple: all the people who got divorced aren’t real Christians. And if it happens to my best friends, well, they aren’t me. Next.

Proof 39: Realize that Jesus was a Jerk

No commentary. More of those rancid comments about how “any biologist will tell you that all life is a chemical reaction.”

Proof 40: Understand Christian Motivations

This is hard to take, but it’s mostly true.

Proof 41: Flip a Coin

A rehashing of previous ideas that are nonetheless sound.

Proof 42: Listen when “God Talks”

This is one of the most valid points in the whole list.

Carl Sagan once said that when people claimed to be in communication with aliens, he would ask them to “provide a short proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem,” or some such thing. The response was always silence. If you asked about something banal or non-technical, however, you would get long, rambling answers.

God never tells any Christian anything that the Christian could not have come up with him or herself. The fact that God’s answers to prayer were never any smarter than my best guesses (while my less-smart friends got even worse answers to prayer, and my wiser friends got wiser answers) was a serious cause of doubt for me over many years.

Proof 43: Realize that a ‘Hidden God’ is Impossible

When I was a kid in Sunday school, I asked my pastor why the Bible was full of all this miraculous stuff, but nothing like that seemed to be happening today. The world looks totally different today. He responded by enthusiastically lending me a book.

Well it didn’t work. I never got an answer to my question. The answer is precisely as it’s laid out here: that stuff in the Old Testament didn’t happen. The reason we don’t see God parting the Red Sea and slaying our enemies with big giant angels is because they made it up back then–it’s not because he went into hiding since then.

Proof 44: Think about a Christian Housewife

The pure self-centred indulgence of Christian prayers breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart because of all the people who actually could use an answered prayer but aren’t getting one (while Jesus brings my bus to my bus stop on time). And it breaks my heart because when I see these people praying these prayers, I have no idea what to do. I can’t imagine how they would survive thinking that nobody is looking after these little details of their lives. They would feel so utterly abandoned.

I can’t even watch.

Proof 45: Consider Noah’s Ark

No commentary.

Proof 46: Ponder Pascal’s Wager

The author is somewhat mistaken, here. If you are really going to wager, you bet on Christianity, because there is pretty much no way to go to hell as a true Christian, based on other people’s beliefs. If you choose something else, however, you always risk hell.

Proof 47: Contemplate Creation

Maybe. Maybe not.

Proof 48: Compare Prayer to a Lucky Horseshoe

Because we have to make it to 50.

Proof 49: Look at who Speaks for God

Indeed.

Proof 50: Ask Jesus to Appear

A bit of a weak finish.

*

All right. That’s all. I’ll get back to writing as usual, now.

Conclusions:

A lot of these arguments are precisely the arguments that render me incapable of believing. But some of these arguments are bad enough that I was able to bite down on them, as a Christian, and hang on to my position for a good number of extra years. Thanks for that.

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6 Responses to “Godisimaginary.com (“Proofs” 26-50)”

  1. #27

    At some point we’ll have to have the consciousness vs. materialism discussion but maybe we can dodge that a bit for now. Is it not possible that consciousness is only a result of chemical reactions? If you proved it was impossible to prove, doesn’t that make any opinion on the matter equally valid/invalid?

    In the face of uncertainty, I grant that the author does not have a good argument against Christianity. But one can at least do as well as demonstrate the uncertainty. The Atheist and Christian should both agree to disagree on that one. It’s a 50/50 toss up.

    I don’t know why the author goes on about chemicals leaving earth. Since when do Christians believe that the soul is composed of atoms?

    #30

    I always knew God / The Bible was sexist, but man I didn’t know about some of those blatantly obvious passages. It’s brutal.

    Feel free to message me privately on this, but was that altercation based on your friend arguing that God demonstrates women should be treated fairly? I can’t imagine where anyone would get that idea unless you utterly refused to read biblical passages and just made up your own version of God’s word.

  2. (ignore this message, subscribing)

  3. “Is it not possible that consciousness is only a result of chemical reactions?”

    Not in my view. This argument (again, in my view, though I have not seen any way of holding a different view) results from a fundamental misunderstanding of what is being argued.

    There are easy problems of consciousness, which are meant to explain how you can get A from B, and then there is the hard problem (see David Chalmers, who states it most bluntly) which is *why do we experience anything at all?*

    Thomas Nagel once wrote a paper that put this idea into plain English, called “What is it like to be a bat?” He points out that experience is not like physical processes. It has a “what it’s like” aspect. No amount of information about a bat’s neurons, chemical processes, or biology can tell you what it is like to be a bat. Therefore the experience must encompass something more than the physical.

    In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins speculates that perhaps a bat experiences not sound, but visual experiences (or what we would call visual) when it echolocates. But no amount of physical information can ever discern this.

    You can measure the wavelength of the red light that comes into your eyes. But that does not explain why you experience seeing red (or experience anything). There is no reason why you *must* experience red when that wavelength hits your eyes. How do you know that it doesn’t cause something completely different in me? To be sure, that would likely mean I am experiencing more than just a difference in the colour red, since you’d be able to tell: but then perhaps I am experiencing something totally different in all my sense perceptions. And nobody would know.

    Your computer is made out of the same things as you–it makes noises, it shuffles charges around, and so forth. Does it experience anything? Most of us would say that it doesn’t. Why? If humans are “just chemical reactions,” why do we treat them differently than chairs? It is because we believe they experience things.

    There is no reason why the motion of physical matter must give rise to any experiences at all. There is no way to ever tell whether any experiences are happening aside from your own.

    Let me raise yet another common observation. How do you know that I exist? How do you know that I’m not just a machine, and you are in fact the only conscious thing? This is called solipsism. Sure, I seem like I have experiences just like you, but you cannot prove this. You can cut open my brain, poke around, and eventually conclude that I am just a really convincing computer (just as if we built computers that claimed to be human, but we knew they were just programmed to deceive us into feeling empathy for them). If all the relevant information about me is contained in my atoms, why should you have any uncertainty?

    It’s because experiences cannot be decomposed into physical processes. The above arguments don’t even matter, because the hard problem of consciousness remains: no amount of moving atoms around and *correlating* them with experience (“these wavelengths make red for humans”) will explain *why* those physical processes give rise to experience at all.

  4. Regarding the sexism, I was responding to my friend’s rants against conservatives who, in her view, were being sexist.

    “Where do you think they got these ideas from?” I said at one point in my commentary. Now I have one less friend on Facebook.

    She never addressed a single one of my arguments or comments, but she did call me “offensive” and delete my comment off her wall.

  5. I am going to need to read more into the hard problem. I have grazed articles about it before, and I still don’t completely grasp the issue.

    I would have to actually see the dialogue with your friend, but: The ancients who wrote the Bible were sexist, and that slowly (and non-linearly) decreased over time. I can see Conservatives, in trying to hang on to traditional values, sampling a few decades prior to set examples for the future. I would find it hard to believe that they are citing the Bible as reasons for inequality being OK. Males dominated females as society came into place, and the Bible is just one written record of this natural phenomenon.

  6. Not everyone agrees about the hard problem. In my opinion the people who deny its existence have some kind of a worldview-shaped stick up their arses but that’s just my opinion.

    I didn’t say that conservatives cite the Bible to defend inequality. I just said they soak up the Bible’s ideas. In fact almost all conservatives, including myself, tried to explain away those passages by historical context and so on. Everyone agrees that to have those same sentiments today doesn’t make sense.

    However, “wives submit to your husbands” is still very common in the Christian culture (it’s too bad I didn’t get one of those wives out of my ordeal; it’s a racket, I tell you). They balance it out by saying “husbands, submit in turn to your wives,” but the actual verse that follows says “husbands love your wives.” In general the man is seen as having the authority, and this isn’t questioned. It’s sad to see what happens when you Google this issue and start reading.

    The general idea of the man being the “head of the household” isn’t that terrible a thing, in my opinion. Sometimes there needs to be some order to things. But it can lead to ideas that he’s always right, always has the final word, doesn’t have to submit in cases where he’s wrong (or his wife is more reasonable than he is), gets to proclaim what God’s will for the family is…

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