Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized 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 third of a five-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Are you certain that you aren't seeing and hearing exactly what you want to hear and shutting out the rest?
(R) No, I am not, though I try very hard to be open-minded and empathetic towards the views of others.
(MB) Just as long as those views are basically the same as yours, anyway...

(R) What is your answer to the same question?
(MB) I subject all views to the same standards of evidence and accept the conclusions produced from the evidence. I am willing to accept any view that is supported by the preponderance of evidence and will remain skeptical of anything which fails the test of evidential support. There is no better way.

(R) It is clear you see mainly the negative aspects of anything to do with religion.
(MB) Give me an example of what you think is a positive aspect of religion and why religious beliefs are the only way that one can reap the benefits of whatever that might be.
    I'm not saying that there's nothing positive to be said about religion. I just want to hear you advance and defend something. It is my contention that the consequences of the negative aspects of religion *FAR* outweigh any positive ones.

I'm sure you've *met* that many, as well. But, how many of them do you actually know well?
(R) A lot -- at least a 1000. I'm a friendly kind of guy.
(MB) You feel confident that you are highly knowledgeable about the individual religious views of at least 1000 Christians? Friendly or not, I don't think you could gain that sort of familiarity without extensive questioning. Let's assume that you did subject 1000 people to that sort of questioning about their beliefs. Did you get identical answers from all of them? If not, why not? If so, are they all members of the same sect or do they represent a good sample of all sects?

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.
(R) I agree, the actions of the religious are on display. You've got Mother Teresa...
(MB) You may be interested in checking out this web site for alternative views of Mother Teresa and her "goodness". It's also interesting to note that the Calcutta press had very little good to say about her after her death. There were numerous scathing accusations that she bequeathed nothing more than hunger and exploitation and that she really accomplished nothing more than proselytizing.

(R) ...and the hundreds of thousands of dedicated missionaries throughout the world who do more real good for human kind than all the non-religious nay-sayers who ever lived.
(MB) So religion is the only "real good"? How do you arrive at that conclusion? Perhaps you need to define "real good". What inventions and knowledge have religion provided us that have produced the standard of living we take for granted today? Do you approve of the 1000+ years of intellectual drought that religion provided for us prior to the Renaissance?

(R) You've got great preachers and authors like Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale and Corrie ten Boom and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose messages of love and toleration have inspired and enriched the lives of millions. You've got John Wesley, whose compelling statement of humility, compassion, and love ("There, but for the grace of God, go I.") reveals the true meaning of Christianity. All you have to do to see these things is not close your eyes when you do.
(MB) I see these things just as clearly as does anybody else. However, I do not interpret them as being the ultimate achievements of Man, nor do I believe that Christianity, in particular, or religion, in general, are the exclusive paths to lifestyles of love and toleration. Perhaps, you care to read ["The Affirmations of Humanism"] and explain how it can't possibly be either "good" or "right" because it is non-religious. Morality and honorable lifestyle decisions are not the exclusive domains of religion.

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.
(R) Let's make this "two" rather than "few" shall we. Otherwise, you'd have started when you were pretty young.
(MB) No, "few" is correct. My studies did, indeed, begin at a very young age. I was what's normally referred to as a "child prodigy" and had already read the Bible cover to cover prior to entering kindergarten at the age of 5 -- by which time I had already discovered that what I was reading didn't make any sense. Since I'm now a few days short of 41 (and still doing my homework), I have, indeed, been at this for the past few decades.

(R) What exactly did this study consist of?
(MB) Reading and researching everything I could get my hands on and cross-checking the stories in the Bible with history and philosophy. Most believers never bother to submit the Bible (or their beliefs, for that matter) to any such scrutiny. They just take what they're told by preachers, parents, and friends at face value and never question anything.

(R) Do you have a degree in world religion? Or perhaps philosophy? I would expect anyone who claimed to have made a decades long study of religion to have at least a master's, if not a doctorate, in a related subject.
(MB) Oh? Why? Is a college degree proof of knowledge and understanding or is one required in order to possess knowledge and speak with some authority based upon what one has learned? Consider that members of the Institute for Creation Research are all required to have advanced degrees in some field of science, but these people still believe in abject nonsense.
    I have no degree and don't intend to get one. I have about three years of accumulated credits in mathematics, computer science, and psychology, but my personal studies have gone far beyond that. Since every standardized intelligence test I've ever taken has placed me in the 99th percentile, I think I'm more than capable of understanding what I study.

(R) I'm willing bet this "study" consisted of reading mainly fictional works by authors with a generally anti-religious bias, whose remarks on the subject were seldom backed up or given critical examination because of the nature of their medium, and whose opinions you never questioned.
(MB) You're sure willing to make a lot of losing bets about me, eh? I've said many times that I subject everything to the same standards. That includes every book I've ever read on religion, science, history and philosophy. When I see consistent facts and coherent argument across the spectrum of the literature, I can feel confident about accepting them. When I don't see such things (as is the fate of pro-religion texts), I can feel equally confident in rejecting them.

(R) I'll bet I've read a lot of the same books, and enjoyed them, too.
(MB) I'll bet that you haven't since you have been unfamiliar with the quotations and arguments presented from them.

(R) But I read critically and seldom accept something without thinking it over carefully.
(MB) Yet, you're still a Christian? This is too funny. Anybody who has truly done any critical reading or careful thinking about any given subject would have more upon which to base their beliefs than meaningless "personal preference".

(R) I generally agree completely with no one's opinion....and I have a few of my own.
(MB) Such as, "I believe what I believe because that's what I want to believe"?

Is perfect knowledge required in order to say anything at all that is right about God or about the universe?
(R) We do not have perfect knowledge of anything and can only hope to be close to right. When a bullet is fired from a rifle, if we have good knowledge of its initial conditions we can make an accurate prediction of where it will land. But not exactly -- that would require perfect knowledge.
(MB) Quite correct. However, from your past arguments, you would claim that imperfect knowledge of where the bullet would strike means no knowledge at all and that it would be "just as valid" to claim that it will land at any arbitrary location (or even that God fired the rifle). This is clearly not the case.

(R) The closer our knowledge is to perfect the more accurate the prediction.
(MB) Exactly! And, the more accurate the prediction, the more validity it has. When you have a claim that can't be supported beyond 0% accuracy (like positive existential claims for God), such a claim can't possibly considered to be the equal of any other which has so much as one piece of evidence supporting it. Even if that brings the competing claim to only 1% accuracy, our knowledge about it is still closer to perfection and the claim, therefore, is more valid.
    As our knowledge increases, we continue to approach the magic 100% accuracy goal. But, we don't have to get all the way there in order to accept the general truth of a theory with some degree of confidence. As stated in a previous example, we all accept Newton's theory of gravity even though it can be shown that it cannot be applied when relativistic or quantum effects overwhelm it.

(R) It is relatively easy to gain nearly perfect knowledge about something as simple as a bullet fired from a gun, but with more complex phenomenon, such as how human beings might behave under certain circumstances, it is much more difficult.
(MB) That's because human behavior and rifle bullets are not similar phenomena. Rifle bullets are inanimate objects whose motions are constrained by the laws of physics. Human behavior is not a physical thing at all, but is the result of the electrochemical workings of the brain.

(R) And when dealing with God, where all the evidence is experiential and/or controversial, knowledge is imperfect indeed. That is not to say some religious beliefs may not be closer to "right" than others. It is just very difficult to know which they are.
(MB) So far, none of them has been shown to exceed 0% accuracy. Until that happens, they are all equal -- all worthless as theories of Life, the Universe and Everything.

If nothing can be said about God that can be shown to be right, on what basis is anybody supposed to believe in him?
(R) On the same basis we believe in other phenomenon of which we do not have perfect knowledge.
(MB) OK, so if the God theory is 0% accurate, we should be justified in having 0% belief in it, correct? If its accuracy is greater than 0%, there must be at least one piece of supporting evidence for it -- but you've already admitted on numerous occasions that there is none.

Religion deals with emotion while science deals with reality.
(R) No, religion deals with spiritual reality, while science deals with physical reality.
(MB) Physical reality can be shown to exist. "Spiritual reality" can't. Therefore, what's being said here is that science deals with what exists and religion deals with what doesn't. If not, how will you demonstrate the existence of "spiritual reality"?

Still, such a sentiment [to marvel at the "greater glory of God's work"] is pure emotion. It is not logic, nor is it support for the existence of God.
(R) O.K. And of course, neither does it support arguments He doesn't exist.
(MB) You're contradicting yourself again. This sentiment is merely a paraphrasing of the old "Argument from Design" nonsense that we have already discussed. Since it purports to demonstrate God's existence (and fails), it just adds more fuel to the opposite arguments that advance disbelief.

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?
(R) God is a Supreme Being without physical existence.
(MB) Or, without any existence at all so far as anybody has been able to demonstrate.

(R) He can be understood only imperfectly (as with most other human knowledge) and any support for His existence (or non-existence) is inconclusive.
(MB) You didn't answer the question (surprise, surprise). I didn't ask for perfect definitions or understandings or conclusive evidential support. I asked how it could be logical to believe in something for which there is absolutely no support of any demonstrable kind whatsoever?

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) This is a matter of wishful thinking on your part.
(MB) Oh? Really? I think it's time to call you out on this one. In the earlier reply on this topic, you said "I have made no statements on the nature of God. Not one." You have also been trying to say that "God" means any conceivable deity and is not limited to the God of the Bible. Well, let's see just how true that is and whether or not you even understand (or remember) what you have been saying.
    The following is a list of statements that you have made on the nature of God in previous replies. Each is accompanied by a reply number in which it can be found (some statements have been repeated in multiple replies). Since you are currently writing in response to Reply #18, I will limit the list to statements you have made up through that point.
  • God created the world and the universe (Reply #4)
  • He is the Great Scientist, Master Physicist, Ultimate Chemist, Supreme Biologist (Reply #9a)
  • He does not reside outside science (Reply #13a)
  • He responds to prayer (Reply #13b)
  • He is the God of Abraham (Reply #13b)
  • He is part of the Holy Trinity (Reply #13c)
  • Jesus is God (Reply #13c)
  • Absolute morality descends from God (Reply #13e)
  • God has always existed (Reply #16b)
  • God is non-physical (Reply #16c)
  • God is not a personal preference (Reply #17b)
  • Denial of God has adverse consequences (Reply #17b)
  • God is responsible for eternal souls (Reply #17b)
  • God is loving (Reply #17c)
  • God is not fictional (Reply #18c)
  • God doesn't speak out loud in actual words (Reply #18c)

    So, tell us again how you have "made no statements on the nature of God" and tell us how the sum total of these statements can mean any God other than the God of the Bible. Then, let's return to the discussion at hand without the evasive redefinitions and obfuscations of basic points.

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