Pastor BJ

I seem to be on the verge of having a serious discussion with Pastor Benjamin J. Short. I’m moving the discussion here so we can break free from the 140 character limit.

BJ has made several points and I would like to collect my responses to them here. Then we can continue the discussion in the comments of this post.

BJ_Short: @almightygod just visited your webpage. I’m very curious how an atheist REALLY believes we came into existance. And what happens after death

almightygod: @BJ_Short We come from our mothers. After death we rot and are gone.

BJ_Short: @almightygod where did our mothers and their mothers come from? And where does our conscience come from?

BJ_Short: @almightygod How can biological matter spontaneously develop conscience?

almightygod: @BJ_Short How do you define conscience?

BJ_Short: @almightygod our God-given knowledge of His existance and our responsibilty to keep His law. As Psalm 40:8 says “thy law is within my heart”

almightygod: @BJ_Short Well, if you define it that way then there’s no such thing.

BJ_Short: @almightygod Interesting! What about emotions? Where does love and hate, joy and sorrow come from?Even the ability to believe or not?

almightygod: @BJ_Short We don’t need magic to explain emotions. They come from our brain which evolved.

BJ_Short: @almightygod from what?

almightygod: @BJ_Short Human brains evolved from simpler brains. And you can see simpler forms of emotion and morality in animals.

BJ_Short: @almightygod I’m asking about the beginning. Where’d love come from? Where did “simpler” brains come from? Why are we even here?

BJ_Short: @almightygod Who decides what’s right and wrong?

almightygod: @BJ_Short Does a mother dog show love when she cares for and defends her puppies?

almightygod: @BJ_Short People (voters, legislators, juries, communities) decide what’s right and wrong.

almightygod: @BJ_Short Do you really think people (and animals) wouldn’t cooperate unless someone magicked it into them?

BJ_Short: @almightygod do you really think it rained on the rocks for millions of years and now magically we exist and can see and speak and even love

BJ_Short: @almightygod do you really think nothing exploded and became everything?

almightygod: @BJ_Short Are we going to discuss the moral argument? Or the cosmological? I get dizzy when you switch back and forth.

Let’s begin with the cosmological argument. Reality-based humans are willing to admit that we don’t know exactly how the universe began. It is an area of ongoing study. The cosmological argument seeks to replace that admission of ignorance and dedication to discovery with an assertion that is backed up by no evidence and does nothing to help us discover the truth. Essentially, you look at a gap in our current knowledge and say “God did it.” There’s no evidence for this. It’s more useful to say “I don’t know, let’s try to find out.” That’s my response to the cosmological argument. If you want to pick up the moral argument, then please address the responses that I’ve already made.

I look forward to our continuing discussion.

23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by critregionalist on October 6, 2009 at 2:44 am

    Regarding origins, while this isn’t–admittedly–conclusive evidence per se, there are generally universal trends that maintain a sort of consistency that points to a common origin (I maintain a supernatural origin). For instance, mathematics is the language of the universe, and the small portion of the universe that we have been able to observe generally obeys with remarkable precision specific laws that we have been able to observe and define (think Newton, Einstein). Again, while this isn’t point-black evidence of God necessarily, it points in the direction of a Creation by an Intelligent Being that, as it were, seems to have cognitive processes that are not unlike our own, albeit much more advanced if a God does indeed exist (I suggest the similarity of cognition on account of our ability to become aware of and subsequently define these mathematical and scientific processes as they occur).

    Science maintains that the simplest solution is often the true solution. The problem is, when it comes to the origin of creation, no answer is very simple. The most simple direction I can determine myself is the consistencies and the universality of the mathematical language I have suggested herein. Comments?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Bj Short on October 6, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Thanks for your response. You have been very honest and forward, and I appreciate that. In response, we are here. We exist. Now how did we get here is the question? Yes, it is easy to say ‘God did it.’ The simple honest truth is someone or something brought about life. There is a law which states that energy and matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but somewhere along the line, that law was broken. We have never observed nature breaking that law. That’s why it’s a “law”. Nature can not break it. Reality-based humans know that. How then could this happen. I believe the Bible. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Gen 1:1 God would therefore have created the laws we have to keep, but not Him. For instance, God would not be bound by time. We are. The real problem with this belief is if God created it, He owns it, including you and I. Then we’d have to answer to Him, because He would decide right and wrong. I’ll stop and let you respond.

    Reply

    • You seem to have a poor understanding of the natural laws. We came up with them to explain the consistency we observe in the natural world, but that doesn’t mean we’re 100% correct about them. They can be revised when we come up with better explanations.

      So, in essence you’re making an argument that the universe needs a creator because we don’t know how it could exist without one. Then you insert a cause that you feel okay defining as uncaused and outside of the natural world.

      Why not just extend the same courtesy to the universe and just say it has always been?

      Reply

    • You said, “There is a law which states that energy and matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but somewhere along the line, that law was broken.”

      When did this happen? If you’re referring to the Big Bang, then your statement doesn’t apply. We don’t understand the Big Bang well enough to say what happened exactly and what laws were or weren’t broken. Your assertion that God did it doesn’t really explain anything. It’s a non-answer. What’s wrong with just saying “I don’t know” and continuing to study the facts? That seems more reasonable than jumping to the conclusion that the mythology of some bronze age goat herders explains the the gaps in our knowledge.

      Reply

      • So, what of the belief that God did do it? Maybe not the big bang purse, but what if he took matter and created the universe, and used evolution to create man and everything else?

        There is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know” and studying the facts, but why claim that because there is evolution, because there is the theory of the big bang, that there can be no god?

    • Its a false assertion that “nature” can never break a scientific “law” and it is special pleading to say that “God” can violate this rule but the universe cant without some some proof as to why this is the case.

      Newton’s laws of gravitation were “laws” for quite sometime until we realised that nature can violate them simply because we learned something that Newton never knew. The same may apply to thermodynamics and we currently have no good science for the conditions at t=0.

      None of this disproves the existence of a deity (take you pick as to which one) but none of it requires one either.

      Reply

    • Hi BJ, I will answer your questions which prove that you are someone using his brains. Thats a good begining.

      First you have to understand, that the answer “God” isnt an answer at all. To say, God did something, doesnt answer anything. You ask for the origin? Well, why stop at the Universe? If your answer is, God created it, why not ask, who created god? This is a question so old, that even the vedas deal with it. You know what they answer to this question? They say the same thing the bible and the quran says: don´t ask. It is forbidden to ask? So then, let us forbid to ask “who created the universe?” and we dont need the construction called “god”.

      Second, nature doesnt brake any law. There are no laws in nature, just probabilities. You think gravity is a law?Karl Popper showed us very beautifully that you cannot prove a theory at all. Even the theory of gravity is disputed (e.g. look for viking anomaly). So, how the universe emerged? We dont know exactly, but we have a theory. Look for vacuum-fluctuations, you will find the answer to the question, how something can be created out of nothing (the idea is straightforward: if you go to your bank having on your account zero and in your pocket zero, you nevertheless can go out of the bank with hundred bucks in your pocket. necessary is only, that you create both: positive and negative – plus in your pocket, minus on your account).

      Third, what was the reason for the creation of the universe, even if we (or you) accept that a fluctuation was its creator? Well, there is no need for one. Fluctuation happen, thats it. I know its hard to accept that things just happen and its way more comfortable to assume that everything has a good reason. But thats unneccessary, and we learend through history that unnessecary assumption prove wrong over time.

      Fourth, you fail to understand what a billion years mean. Of course you do, I do, too, and everybody else. I am 35 years old, and my childhood is so unbelievebly far away…how much I have been through in only 30 Years! Now, in 1910 WW one hasnt yet begun, we had 100 cars on the planet and airplanes where killing machines for nuts. What happened in 100 years is unbelievable. Now think of 1000 years. I fail, i cannot imagine. 10000? Impossible. And we are talking about a billion years. Evolution happens every day, you can see it with your own eyes. Just take a bacteria culture and use penicilin on it, you will see that it is likely that one of the bacteria will survive do to a mutation (and therefore, evolution). You cannot believe that within 2 billion years out of aminoacids could evolve proteins that could reproduce itself? well, I believe in 2 billion years can happen everything.

      Fifth, there is no such thing as love, right or wrong. This are horomons and the nerves in our brain. It is easy to prove that, because what you think is right a taliban would claim is thoroughly wrong. Its just imagination and judgment, dependent on where we are born, raised, educated etc.

      The most important thing is to understand, that God as an answer isn´t a (scientific)answer at all. And what the bible writes is, to put it polite and positive, the wisdom and imagination of some shepherds from the near east. As well as the Quran and the Talmud.

      Never forget: you are an atheist, too. For almost every god that people believe in. You are an atheist for Krishna, for Allah, for Thor, for Jupiter. I, as an true atheist, went just one god further. A very small step that you should go, too.

      Reply

  3. Posted by critregionalist on October 6, 2009 at 3:30 am

    If I was unclear in any way, please allow me to clarify. I am a believer in God and the Bible–a literal interpretation, although I do not think that a literal interpretation confines you to the generally silly beliefs that other literalists seem to think (i.e., the world is six-thousand years old, etc.). God created this world precisely how He said He did…but because we lack the appropriate language to aptly describe His methodology, we have a somewhat easily misunderstood account (for instance, the concept of “time” as we understand it wasn’t created until the fourth “day”).

    I know this must seem like I am trying to reconcile my intellect with the stories I was told as a child, but I am a firm believer that science and God’s account for creation aren’t in any way contradictory. It is when men–whatever their intentions may be–become dogmatic about one or the other that we get these absurd rifts and even more absurd conclusions. Did God create the world precisely how He said He did? Yes. Is evolution real and quantifiable? Absolutely.

    Reply

    • “I know this must seem like I am trying to reconcile my intellect with the stories I was told as a child”

      Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like, actually.

      “Did God create the world precisely how He said He did?”

      We don’t have any evidence that any deity has ever told us anything.

      …and if you’re referring to the creation account in the bible, well, it just seems a bit ambiguous if you ask me.

      Reply

      • Posted by critregionalist on October 7, 2009 at 4:45 am

        I’m a little disappointed in your reply. Granted, I wasn’t necessarily invited into this dialogue, but I’d hoped for better than “seems a little ambiguous.”

        But you’re right, and I addressed the ambiguity–and the subsequent dogmas that plague Christianity because of it. But ambiguity is a consistent methodology in both Old and New Testaments. Indeed, while Christ could at times be very direct in his manner–driving the merchants from the temple–and his speech–calling the Pharisees a “brood of vipers”–He generally utilized parables to teach what are considered more sustainable lessons (by sustainable I simply mean that they are a basic framework with allowable adaptations to modern, more complex situations). If one believes as I do that God’s consistencies hold within them latent messages, then the ambiguity likewise becomes infused with a certain deliberateness.

        Why, then, does God choose ambiguity? For that matter, why does He hide Himself from us while still requiring our belief in Him? What good comes of it? **Please bear in mind that I do not speak for all Christians herein**

        When the Biblical account states that we–humans–are created in God’s image, I believe that this accounts more for intangible things rather than fleshly manifestation: free will, cognition, self-awareness, imagination, tacit social contract. The full magnitude of these things–Godly things, indeed–can only be revealed through a cognition of dualities (for instance, we cannot fully comprehend “good” without a fundamental understanding of “evil,” etc.). Likewise, the impressive nature of God’s presence can be fully revealed by comprehending His absence. Awareness of Truth is fully appreciated when it transcends confusion or lack of understanding. The cognition of dualities underpins a number of issues that atheists tend to have with God’s apparent contradictions (i.e., why would the devil be allowed to exist? Why is suffering allowed by a loving God? Why did God enable Man to fall from His presence?).

        Unfortunately, this all takes me a long way away from the discussion of origins. Am I opening another can of worms?

  4. I wasn’t invited into the dialogue either, actually.

    I think the convenient ambiguity of religion is probably best discussed elsewhere unless God wants to take the discussion there. Coincidentally enough, I’ve been trying to discuss it on a blog I write for for the past month with no takers. Would be interested in getting your input there: http://projectfreethought.org/2009/09/14/god-how-convenient/

    Reply

  5. To Sam, who said, “There is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know” and studying the facts, but why claim that because there is evolution, because there is the theory of the big bang, that there can be no god?”

    It’s hard to deny the existence of something that very few people can consistently describe. What is a god?

    Perhaps invisible fairies did it. No one can deny that either.

    Reply

  6. You’re right, very few people can consistently describe what God is. All branches of Christianity, Catholicism, Jewish, everything, each view God differently, each have different ideas how to worship. So you’re right, it is hard to believe when you see so many inconsistencies, when all sorts of people who read and believe the Bible to be inspired, believe different things.

    So what is a God? Well that depends on who you ask. If you ask someone Catholic, God is knowable, he is everything and nothing, everywhere and nowhere – at least according to the Nicean Creed.

    And then let’s say you ask a Mormon who God is to them. To them God is a being with a perfect, physical body, someone who created the Earth and the Universe so we can be tested and live happily. To them, you can know know God through praying to him, reading the scriptures and living the commandments.

    So that’s just two examples of a great chasm of thought, with a million ideas in between.

    So, I guess you have to find that out for yourself. Maybe you do believe that there is someone who created everything, or maybe you don’t. Or you can believe in the invisible fairies, or a super explosion of universal explosions that caused the Earth and everything else to form.

    So, what then? Either there is a god or there isn’t. It is up to each person to experiment, either via science or personal spiritual experimentation to see what you believe.

    Reply

  7. I simply don’t have a compelling reason to jump to a god-conclusion. Especially when there is such a diverse set of beliefs by people who claim to -know- there’s a god, what he’s like, how he wants us to act, and the rewards or punishments if we don’t.

    Now if you want to strip down the definition of “god” to be nothing more than a deistic causer with no other known characteristics other than the ability to start a universe at least once… I take little issue. It’s really nothing more than calling something “dark matter” or “Planet X” other than the religious connotations we all have.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure I trust “personal spiritual experimentation” to reveal any objective realities about the universe.

    Reply

  8. Furthermore, I’m not sure I trust “personal spiritual experimentation” to reveal any objective realities about the universe.

    Valid point, but how else would we discover if there is a god or not? 200 years ago we barely knew about atoms, now with the right tools we can see atoms, we can see in further depths of space and other things that would be impossible to discern otherwise.

    So why not a tool for finding out if there really is a god? Of course, different answers have sprung forth about the exact nature of God, but even in differing in the many details, there are many things that each church shares in common; that there is a god, that he wants us to obey his commandments, that he sent Jesus to help us, and other things. Or maybe everyone is guessing at it.
    But as pointed out in one of the comments on your blog post about the convenience of God, apparently it works for most Christians, as they are staying with it, and apparently makes them happy. So even with them arriving at different conclusions and details, obviously they’re doing something right, something that makes them happy, otherwise they wouldn’t stick with it. Or maybe not?

    Reply

  9. How would you objectively judge whether “supernatural tools” were working or not? It seems to me we would easily believe in anything like ghosts, gods, aliens, fairies, magic, astrology etc. if we simply accepted the confidence of people who believe as evidence.

    If you narrow your sample group to just Christian churches today, you will find that most of them have basic beliefs, one of them being that there is indeed a god and there was a Christ. Then things get fuzzy.

    If you broaden your group to all religious people over the course of time, we find that we’re dealing with cultures that believed in anywhere between one (or possibly no) god to thousands of gods.

    As for the utility of people’s beliefs, regardless of the truth: Yes, people claim to be happier with religion or that it helps them through things. Then again, so does having a social structure of people to support you and the hope that things will get better. I’m certainly not going to tell the drug addict who depends on a “higher power” that he’s delusional and alone. I do, however, enjoy challenging healthy people to be intellectually honest.

    Reply

  10. Clint: How would you objectively judge whether “supernatural tools” were working or not?

    Hmmn, I’m not sure actually. That’s the tricky part.

    I guess until God does something; reveals his presence, speaks to people, calls prophets, organizes a new church, then we’ll never be able to objectively judge if the tools the work or not.

    Of course, on the flip side, there is probably one group, if not many, that already claim such things. So yeah, it is difficult to know if they’re right, or they’re just another group taking a go at it.

    So what happens when you reach that point with an intellectually honest person who believes in god(s)? Where does the conversation go from the point of admitting that the person doesn’t know everything about his or her deity of choice, but still looks at reality objectively?

    Reply

  11. “So what happens when you reach that point with an intellectually honest person who believes in god(s)?”

    Funny you ask, because I was that person less than a year ago.

    I simply accepted that I was being irrational in certain parts of my life because I valued faith. This led to a lot of strange philosophical twisting and unusual beliefs.

    Reply

  12. So what prompted you to decide that valuing faith was irrational? And what have the philosophical twisting and unusual beliefs led you to?

    And what are these unusual beliefs?

    Reply

    • When I realized that faith for me essentially meant an unprovable, unknowable, impractical bias. I “knew” there was a god, but didn’t actually know. I just accepted it because I had for so long viewed the world and life through the lens of religion.

      The philosophical twisting has led me to atheism, agnosticism, naturalism, humanism. Aside from isms, it gives me great joy to be a skeptic and working towards intellectual honesty and consistency. It was liberating to finally acknowledge reality and accept it on honest terms instead of defending ancient superstition.

      I held unusual beliefs relative to the average Christian. For example, I reached a point where I wouldn’t have called Yahweh “good”. I believed the god I worshiped was egotistical and a tyrant, but it was his game.

      Reply

  13. Sorry for being silent all these years and leaving so much room to doubt. I, uh, had a thing. Anyway, I can’t blame you for thinking that I was just made up by humans, but now I’m speaking to the world using a totally reliable method.

    Reply

  14. So, ‘AlmightyGod’, what about those religious groups that claim you speak through prophets, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists and Mormons?

    Reply

  15. Part of the fun and challenge of avoiding Hell is sorting through the religions and choosing the correct one. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for you, so you’ll just have to decide which ones are real and which ones are only claiming that I spoke to them.

    Choose carefully.

    Reply

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