REPLY #18a TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
This is the first of a three-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
(R) The need which is
fulfilled is to be able to do exactly as one pleases, without the
constraints of what is perceived as artificial rules of morality. Any
belief in God interferes drastically with this need, so the existence
of God is denied. My experience leads me to conclude that most, if
not all, atheists have this as the fundamental reason for their denial
of God's existence.
(MB) So, you are equating non-belief in God with immorality? Yeeeesh! Or, are
you saying that one cannot be moral without believing in God? Double Yeeeesh!
Your "experience" sounds like the sort of groundless inuendo that you like to
accuse me of. Morality is the determination of which behaviors are "right" and
which are "wrong". Religion's contribution to morality is to set its own
standards for making that determination.
However, for intellectuals a non-belief in God comes
about as a result of an objective study of the subject which raises
too many problems, paradoxes, and contradictions in the God
theory for it to be acceptable. I should also point out that any
scientific theory that is found to suffer from the same degree
of difficulties is also discarded. This is as it should be.
(R) In the first place, there are many intellectuals who believe in
(MB) You missed the point again. I stated how intellectuals arrive at
non-belief in God. I didn't say that all intellectuals are non-believers.
(R) In the second place, my theory that God exists and that He
created the universe is very simple. What problem, paradox, or
contradiction is presented by this?
(MB) There are several and most arise from the notion that God is omnipotent and
omniscient. One is the question of whether or not there is such a thing as
"free will". Another is why anything should happen that would get God angry or
be any way other than what he intended. Then, there's the old question about
whether or not an omnipotent God could make a rock so big that he couldn't lift
it. Also, why would such a being permit beliefs in other deities (or no deity
at all) or even allow his creation, Man, to conceive of such things?
(R) Finally, the belief that God does not exist presents paradoxes and
contradictions of its own. If the universe is purely a product of
chance, and therefore, essentially meaningless, then everything in it
is meaningless -- even that which appears to have meaning.
(MB) That's not a paradox or a contradiction. That's a matter of philosophy
that applies only to an idea of Man that anything actually has any meaning.
What would be the problem with acknowledging that there is no inherent meaning
to the universe or anything within it?
(R) Just an estimate, based on personal experience. It could very
well be high. At least I made one, instead of just saying, "All
atheists do this", or "Every atheist thinks that," the way you always
say of religious believers.
(MB) Uh-huh. So, making a wild and purely speculative guess is justification
for an expressed personal opinion about atheism?
If the knowledge I gained from my experiences studying
Islam during the time I spent in Turkey is any indication, a strict
religion is far more likely to keep its adherents than is one that is
less strict. Christianity is really a very lax religion that places few
demands on its adherents. In such an environment, it is easier to
question and to entertain alternative ideas.
(R) Of course, the rule of fear is always an alternative to the rule
of reason, but such a rule must be maintained with consistent
ruthlessness, not mere strictness. Otherwise, it quick falls apart, as
in the Soviet Union when Gorbachev relaxed that formerly
repressive regime. Such ruthlessness is readily apparent in some of
the theocratic Muslim states, but who can state with certainty that
Islam is the root of the ruthlessness? It could well be another
(MB) Islam itself is not ruthless in its demands -- it is just strict. It
doesn't fall apart or splinter into hundreds of sects because it is internally
consistent and honest. Sure, it is used by ruthless leaders as a way of
maintaining control. But, so are Christianity and practically every other
(R) I don't really know much about Islam and can't speculate on
whether it is strict or not. Perhaps Muslims might disagree with
your categorization of it. I've spent a total of about seven months
in Saudi Arabia, but unfortunately, didn't have any extra time to
spend studying Islam. However, we used to go to Bahrain for
R&R, and while there I saw many Saudis, in traditional dress,
getting loaded in the bars. Alcohol, to my knowledge, is strictly
forbidden by the Koran and I know it's illegal in Saudi Arabia, but
neither restriction seemed to matter to these guys. Where's the
(MB) The strictness of the religion doesn't necessarily prevent one from letting
down his hair when he is away from its influences. Any Desert Storm veteran
will tell you about the restrictions placed on the American troops while in
Saudi Arabia. Those same restrictions weren't in place in Turkey, nor are they
(R) I would call Christianity a loving religion, not a lax one. In terms
of numbers, it has outperformed Islam two to one in attracting and
keeping adherents, although Christianity, of course, had a head start
of about six hundred years.
(MB) Christianity has also had a far more active missionary tradition than has
Islam. Today, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.
On a side topic, you claim a lot of first-hand knowledge
about atheists. I wonder how it is that you know so many of
them. Do you actively search them out? They certainly
wouldn't come directly to you nor would they interject
atheism into casual conversation.
(R) I spent a couple of years in college dormitories and another
three or four in the barracks. Aside from quite a bit of heavy
drinking, there was also a lot of discussion on some heavy subjects.
You'd be surprised what young people talk about in such
(MB) I'm not sure that either college dorms or military barracks would be a
great choice of places to find informed opinions on heavy subjects. This is not
to say that there won't be a lot of freely-expressed views, of course. Many of
them normally arise after bouts of the aforementioned heavy drinking.
(R) During those years, I met dozens of people who claimed not to
believe in God. Additionally, anytime I meet someone who
indicates they don't believe in God, I attempt to engage them in
conversation about it, out of interest in why, if nothing else. But
no, I don't go around hunting for atheists.
(MB) So, you've met "dozens" of atheists -- some in situations of dubious
intellectual environs -- and from this you can extrapolate the views of all
atheists. Are you certain that you aren't seeing and hearing exactly what you
want to hear and shutting out the rest?
To be able to make any valid judgments about them, you
must personally know a thousand or more (the number usually
required to generate a statistically-valid survey) and I'll bet you
don't personally know a thousand people of *any* religious or
non-religious persuasion that well.
(R) I'm absolutely certain I've met at least a thousand Christians,
just on the basis of the fact that most Americans claim this religion.
(MB) I'm sure you've *met* that many, as well. But, how many of them do you
actually know well?
(R) Also based on my attendance at six different churches over the last
15 years, (I move around a lot) each of which had 200 members or
more. But you are absolutely right about valid sample sizes, and
also about the fact I don't know enough atheists to make
conclusive judgments about them. My statements about them are
opinions based on my experiences. So, explain to me how the
statements you make about religious believers, which you make
with an air of great authority, are anything more than opinions
(MB) I judge religious believers by their actions. I don't have to know them
personally in order to see what they do. The actions of believers are
constantly on display on a daily basis. You can't miss them or confuse them.
Also, I have made a study of religion over the past few decades and can speak
with some degree of authority from what I've learned.
Which would then all but ensure that any specific
statement in support of God must be so unsupportable as to
be little more than completely wrong.
(R) I almost agree with you here. However, we differ over how
this should be stated. Any specific belief about God is almost
certain to be not completely right, and may be completely wrong,
because it is impossible for us to have perfect knowledge of God.
Didn't I pretty much say that in my first answer to your essay?
It is equally impossible for us to have perfect knowledge of
anything else in the universe.
(MB) Is perfect knowledge required in order to say anything at all that is right
about God or about the universe? If nothing can be said about God that can be
shown to be right, on what basis is anybody supposed to believe in him?
They are in opposition when one upholds his religion as being
the equal of science or as a valid alternative to science.
(R) Religion and science deal with different spheres.
(MB) Yep. Religion deals with emotion while science deals with reality.
(R) Logic, however, is applicable to both.
(MB) True again. But, there is no logic that can be applied to support a claim
for the existence of God. And, no, "Well, it can't be disproved" is not
They are *not* in opposition when religion embraces science
as a valuable tool to increase our understanding of the universe --
even if it's only to use science to marvel at the "greater glory of
(R) Beautiful! I could never have said that as well as you just did.
(MB) I know. Still, such a sentiment is pure emotion. It is not logic,
nor is it support for the existence of God.
Of course, there would still be the question of whether or not
it was actually God's work and not that of some other deity (or of
no deity whatsoever).
(R) Very true. So far as this discussion is concerned, God is
defined as no more than a Being, whose exact nature is not
relevant. And, as I admit and have stated many times before, the
idea there is no such Being is logically just as valid as the idea there
(MB) How is it logical to believe in something you can't define, that has no
physical existence, that can't be understood, and for which there is absolutely
nothing to support it?
Again, you are limiting yourself to only considering the
black-and-white issue of whether the God of the Bible exists
or not (in addition to demonstrating a continued
misunderstanding of the difference between agnostics and
(R) Who has brought up the God of the Bible so far in this
discussion but you? (You're not saying Hindus believe in Him, are
you?) I have made no statements on the nature of God. Not one.
(MB) Don't be ridiculous. If you call yourself a Christian and say that you
believe in God, then your God is the one described in the Bible.
(R) The issue of whether or not God exists, however he is defined, is
the black and white issue here, and nothing else. Earlier in this
discussion, you clearly stated you did not believe in God. As long
as you make such a claim, you are an atheist. As soon as you stop
making it, you become something else.
(MB) You still don't know what "atheist" means, do you? "God" is just one
particular example of a deity. To express a non-belief in God does not mean
that I express an absolute non-belief in the existence of any superior being. I
can only say, at best, that I consider the existence of *any* such being to be
What if an all-powerful deity exists, but it isn't the God of
the Bible? What if the truth is that there's actually more than one
such deity? What if there's actually a whole bunch of
less-than-all-powerful deities and each is in charge of his own
galaxy or star system? Or, maybe the truth is of a nature that we
have not yet discovered or imagined.
(R) Now, you're starting to get the picture.
(MB) I've always had the picture. You've just tried different and improper ways
of developing it for your own satisfaction.
(R) The concept of God, for the purpose of this discussion, includes every one
of these things you mention. The fundamental question is whether He exists or
not, regardless of how He is defined. Only after settling this question do
issues about His nature become relevant.
(MB) Are you changing your own views in light of my arguments? This is the
first time that you have suggested that "God" means anything more to you than
the one that Christians worship. In any event, any of those scenarios are
nothing more than pure speculation. The fact that they are not immediately
dismissable is why I am agnostic rather than atheist. It is also why belief in
any one particular scenario becomes even more unsupportable than it would
By your own definition, anyone who holds any such beliefs
would be "atheists" even though that would clearly not be the case.
Your beliefs are very limiting. Mine are open to all possibilities --
maybe even the Great Green Arkleseizure...*grin*
(R) No, this is absolutely untrue. Anyone who believes that God
exists (in any form) is a believer, be they a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu,
a Deist, or whatever. Anyone who believes God does not exist is
an atheist. As you pointed out earlier in this discussion, such beliefs
may be agnostic, to varying degrees, but people are still one or the
(MB) Incorrect. You have forgotten the agnostic view that I hold where I may
not believe in any particular deity (or deities), but I can't totally dismiss
the possibility that some form of superior being might exist. Until any
evidence is produced to support any of them, however, I will remain skeptical.
That doesn't make me atheistic.
(R) Oh, and if you choose to believe in the Great Green Arkleseizure,
you are making a fundamental error of logic.
(MB) No more so than if I chose to believe in any other universe-creating
Yeah, right. That's why you believe in a religion and a
God whose First Commandment is "I am the Lord thy God.
Thou shalt have no other Gods before me."? Is that how
Christianity defines "tolerance"?
(R) Tolerance is defined exactly as I define it above. The first
four of the Ten Commandments give mankind's duty to God, with
the remainder defining our responsibilities to one another.
(MB) How can the First Commandment have any relevance if you try to claim that
there is more than one version of God? It clearly states that there is only one
and leaves no room for any other point of view.
(R) They apply to those who utilize the Old Testament, which of course,
(MB) "Includes Jews"? The Old Testament is only and exclusively about the Jews
-- the "chosen people". Is that a view that suggests tolerance?
(R) I would not expect a Hindu to obey the First Commandment in reference to the
God of the Bible, any more than he should expect me to obey the requirements his
religious texts. What is intolerant about that?
(MB) Why even bother with religious texts and doctrines if all views are to be
equally tolerated? Do you live by what the Bible teaches, in whole or in part?
Do you just choose to uphold the parts that suit your own personal beliefs? In
a previous response, you took atheists to task for supposedly choosing
non-belief in order to justify their own preferred behaviors. It sounds like
you are doing the same thing with this "roll your own" version of Christianity.
"Toleration" is what believers demand of others -- not
something that they are very willing to apply to themselves.
(R) Something you should always keep in mind when considering
religious people is the fact that despite their beliefs, they are still
people, and subject to all the same human foibles as
everyone else. As a pastor of mine used to say, churches aren't museums
for saints, they are hospitals for sinners. People don't
suddenly become perfect simply because they start going to church.
(MB) I've never said anything different. However, they do choose to adopt a set
of beliefs that they uphold as being "right" and they do attempt to spread those
beliefs to others.
(R) There are undoubtedly some intolerant Christians, but there are
many, many more who are tolerant and loving. When you make a
statement such as the one above, in which you project your own
prejudices against religion on to everyone with religious beliefs, you
do nothing more than demonstrate your own intolerance.
(MB) Do I? I've seen nothing from you which refutes the points I've made. You
just can't try to redefine "tolerance", "athiesm", or even "God" for your own