What Would Convince You?

What would convince you that God is real?

This post is purely a mind game, a hypothetical, a ‘what if’. For this post I am not interested in why you believe in god or not, I’m not trying to convert anyone either way. What I’m asking is for you to think what would convince you that God is real. Use your imagination, be as scientific and logical or as wild and bizarre as you like, but remember ultimately your scenario should be able to prove God exists to you, and the rest of the world. The scenario could be something like mine below, or a day-in-the-life-of like I spotted recently, but now can’t find again (if the writer reads this please provide a link).

For my readers who already believe God exists you can get involved in this little thought experiment as well. You can either:

  1. Tell us a scenario which would unequivocally make you dis-believe in God (what might be the one thing that would make a Christian disbelieve in God?), or
  2. Give us a scenario that would convince you that the person standing in front of you was God and/or Jesus (ie. imagine someone walks up to you in the street and says “Hi, I’m Jesus”).

For 2 above you might think “but I’d just know, it would be obvious by his presence” (or something similar). But would you really? There have been many ‘false prophets’ over the years, and many people who were convinced they were Jesus, some of these have even managed to get a following. Some people are amazingly coercive and persuasive. I’ve been to a Billy Graham meeting and “I BELIEVED”, I’ve been to Amway meetings and wanted to buy and sell all their products. It doesn’t necessarily mean either of these are true, it could just be excellent selling skills? I’m not talking about Jesus returning for the Rapture, as per Revelation, but just turning up. Imagine trying to convince your friends you actually physically met him.

For a while now I have read many blogs and forums frequented by religious and non-religious people. Both sides are often trying to convert the other, generally with little success. It always comes down to a belief or disbelief in God.

For atheists the general consensus is that they would need some unequivocal evidence to believe in God. Here’s an example I dreamt up several months ago:

God appears, in human form, near the summit of Mount Everest in front of some climbers. God would be wearing just the usual robes and sandals and be showing no evidence of altitude sickness or cold. He would provide the climbers some time to obtain video footage and then request they leave the mountain and inform the world God is about to move Mount Everest to Australia. Once all the climbers have left the mountain, God would remove the top 1km or so of the mountain and fly it to out-back Australia, say near Uluhru (the transit could quite easily be visually verified by many people). He would then give scientists time to verify the piece of mountain in front of them is actually part of Mount Everest. (I’m sure this would be easy by verifying composition of the rock, dirt and ice; and verifying that the outlines match). Perhaps God would sit at the top for a few weeks and those of us who were able could go and have a look? Afterwards, just to be nice, God would then put Mount Everest back together (additionally I imagine that if a large chunk of Mount Everest suddenly disappeared for a few weeks it could mess up the environment and weather, so God would also put in some provision to prevent this).

If I saw this and had credible scientists state unequivocally that it was not faked, then I would seriously consider that God exists (as I’m sure just about everyone else in the world exposed to this would). One point to consider though, which god would this be? I guess he’d tell us?

An added bonus with my scenario is that those of us who make the trip to see this ‘miracle’ could visit Sean on the way. Those with a few spare dollars might even want to stay here whilst visiting Uluru, possibly the most expensive tent in the world?

Please note that, IMHO, to-date no totally unequivocal evidence, like this, has been provided that any god exists.

On the other hand, I have read many articles that explain why God couldn’t or doesn’t exist, all of which to me seem perfectly logical and provide credence to me that God doesn’t exist. However very few, if any, religious people accept these arguments.

So to sum up:

Believers – 1. Tell us what might make you disbelieve, or 2. Give us a scenario in which you, and hopefully the rest of the world, would know God and/or Jesus was standing in front of you.

Non-Believers – Give us a scenario which would prove to you, and hopefully the rest of the world, that God and/or Jesus exists beyond a shadow of a doubt.

One Last Thing

Now I’d like to keep this nice and civil, no attacking others scenarios or beliefs, this is purely an exercise in thinking “What If”. None of you will be held responsible for the thoughts expressed here (at least not by me).

We have a long weekend here in Australia, for Australia Day, so I’m going to be busy – watching cricket, going to barbecues, parties, doing some DIY, etc. – so I won’t be making any new posts till Tuesday.
So; Play Fair, No Arguing (save that for another post), No Biting, or else I’ll have to send you all to bed without dessert, and have fun.

Oh, and one very last thing: There may be an award for the best scenario.

Technorati tags:

Advertisements

54 Comments

Filed under atheism, atheist, award, awards, beliefs, christianity, god, hypothetical, jesus, mind game

54 responses to “What Would Convince You?

  1. Cricket tragic

    Well, I have met Jesus Christ. Many years ago he was a customer of mine when I worked for the Commonwealth Bank. Strangely enough his account was under a different name, but those were the days before you had to pass the 100-point identity check so he was probably just avoiding tax. Anyway, he assured me he was the Jesus!

    Sorry Oz, even your scenario wouldn’t convince me, but I guess I am hard-core, so to speak. Your scenario might make me believe in something supernatural (although I actually doubt it unless I witnessed the whole episode myself I would still believe that someone was trying to dupe me), but why would that supernatural creature have to be a ‘god’ and not say a ‘ghost’ for argument’s sake?

  2. AV

    Give us a scenario which would prove to you, and hopefully the rest of the world, that God and/or Jesus exists beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    The manifestation of a square circle.

  3. I would like to sign up for the field trip should such an event occur. The visit to Sean’s place and the tent…well, who could resist!

    I would like to discuss the number 2 scenario with the caveat that I am not going to be able to convince you with scientific fact that I or anyone else would ever recognize God if he sat down next to me in a coffee shop.

    A few years ago I was at the local home improvement store with my dad. We were working on something to fix up my house, something my dad will forever be doing because he just can’t sit still. Anyway, while we were in the home store it began snowing. Not a typical Colorado snow. It was wet and sloppy and generally uncomfortable. I was not amused when my dad asked me to pull over so he could get out of the car. There was a guy sitting on the curb panhandling and my dad wanted to talk to him. Daddy checked his pockets and gave the man the money he had. Then he asked the man if he needed anything else, a warm coat or something hot to drink.

    This was not the first time this had ever happened in my life. My dad is forever picking up strays and taking care of people on the side of the road so I’m never really surprised when this kind of thing happens.

    But now for the reason why he does this kind of thing (on top of the fact that he is a genuinely loving and caring person) . My dad believes that there is no way that we could recognize God in His earthly form unless He wants us to. So we need to search out every opportunity to help the people that we are here with today.

    Now, Oz, you know how I feel bout presents….

    I hope you have a fantabulous weekend! Enjoy the holiday and the cricket, parties and DIY (remember the tips on keeping the number of a handyman close by) and have a lovely glass of wine!!!!

  4. AV

    In all seriousness, though, I think Cricket Tragic has point regarding your scenario, OzAtheist. Your scenario describes an unexplained observable phenomenon: something calling itself “God” removing part of Mount Everest, placing it in the middle of the Australian outback, and then putting it back again. The way science normally treats hitherto unexplained observable phenomena is to try and find natural explanations for them–a process which could take years, decades, perhaps even centuries–an approach known as methodological naturalism (the method in this case being the scientific method). But if it is reasonable to posit a supernatural explanation for the hitherto unexplained phenomenon described in your scenario, why would it not be equally reasonable to posit supernatural explanations for any unexplained phenomena? How does one know where to draw the line?

    I’m not attacking you, btw–I’ve heard several atheists answer your question (or questions like it) in terms very similar to yours. (PZ Myers for one, I think.) IMHO, answering the question “What would convince you that God/Jesus is real?”, from a non-theist point-of-view, implies answering at least the first two of the following:

    1. Under what conditions is it reasonable to suspend methodological naturalism and parsimony in accounting for unexplained phenomena?
    2. If there is an unexplained phenomenon in regard to which we must suspend methodological naturalism, why should “God did it” be considered the default explanation?
    3. If there are conditions under which we must accept “God did it” as a viable explanation for a hitherto unexplained phenomenon, how do we know “God” = “The Christian God?”

    That’s why I find the initial question–“What would convince you that God is real?”–very hard to answer.

  5. Saved Sinner 2

    Oz,

    Since most of the time when it comes to the existence of God people tend to use the “Christian” God as a reference to either prove or disprove the existence of god. So, with that said I will use the Christian view in the scenario to answer your question.

    AV,

    First I would like to state the I find your view and input presented in a very intelligent and logical manner, and you have no problems in demonstrating points that would support your case.

    I do feel though have to point what seems to be a slight faux pas in your most resent post. Though I do se where you are coming from when you refer to the issues with an unexplained observable phenomenon, and you are right that that WOULDN”T logically convince you that God is real. Oh, and on your first post: “The manifestation of a square circle” I actually don’t think that would convince you that the individual that manifested the square circle was really “God” or just a crazy magician that pulled a square out of his hat and told you it was a circle.

    With that being said, I really don’t think the hypothetical question is as hard to answer as you have previously stated. I also think if you were interested in this hypothetical post and mind game that you could come up with a logical answer that would truly convince you that God is real (hypothetically of course) even it was as simple as “The only way I would be convinced is if God comes down and to me up to heaven and showed me all of the documents that would explain the prove the actual meaning of “Truth””.

    Now for my scenario, that is if I really needed hard observable evidence that God is real. (Like I have stated this scenario is using the Christian version of God since it seems to be a “popular” category to fit God into)
    I guess I would be totally convinced if I experienced first hand the events described in the bible as suppose to reading it in some text. I would have liked to see the miracles that this incarnated God performed (which would still not be sufficient evidence that he was God or a Hoaxster) I would then have to witness this crucifixion actually seeing him whipped being nailed to the cross and stabbed in the rib. I would have to see him put into the tomb and then later the tomb would have to be empty. If this still wasn’t enough I would have to see feel and hear him talk when he returned back to earth. Finally I would have to see him ascend back into the heavens. If that was still not enough to convince me I guess I would have to wait until I die and hopefully with in the first 100 years in the afterlife I would be convinced that God was real.
    Disclaimer: I wrote this setting with the attempt to set my personnal beliefs aside and hopefully with an accurate summary on how it is stated in the Christian bible.

  6. Saved Sinner 2

    sorry an accurate disclaimer:
    previous scenario is not necessarily defining the beliefs of SS2 nor any referances to the bible are implications that SS2 is an expert in biblical studies 🙂

  7. AV

    Oh, and on your first post: “The manifestation of a square circle” I actually don’t think that would convince you that the individual that manifested the square circle was really “God” or just a crazy magician that pulled a square out of his hat and told you it was a circle.

    I was being a tad flippant.

    I also think if you were interested in this hypothetical post and mind game that you could come up with a logical answer that would truly convince you that God is real (hypothetically of course) even it was as simple as “The only way I would be convinced is if God comes down and to me up to heaven and showed me all of the documents that would explain the prove the actual meaning of “Truth””.

    No, I honestly can’t. That hypothetical wouldn’t suffice, either. (How would I know that it’s “God,” for instance?)

    BTW: what might make you disbelieve, SS2?

  8. Pingback: At what point do we cast away Ockham’s Razor? « Five Public Opinions

  9. Hmm, interesting. I’m not sure I know. But I would hope that God, if S/He exists, would. A few years ago I used to debate with the Filipino anti-abortion activist Manny Amador in a Yahoo group called “Hermitmouse” . . .since deleted, sadly. We had some good discussions. Once I called him on his claim that God loved me and wanted me to believe in him. I told him, “If God wants me to believe in him, reply to this message with the one thing that would make me believe. If God really wants me to believe, he will inspire you with what to say.” I have to admit I felt a great deal of anxiety as I waited the twelve hours or so it would take for Manny to get back online. I didn’t even know what would convince me then, either. I guess I really wanted to believe because I felt a great deal of disappointment when Manny wrote back, “I have to find something I read that will convince. Give me a couple of days.”

    After that I lost interest in debating with him. I was a very devote Christian for 35 years and I guess I longed for something to justify that devotion. ::sigh::

  10. Soitgoes

    Before I could provide a scenario, I would need “THE” definition of “god”.

  11. Saved Sinner 2

    AV,

    Well I guess if the hypothetical of “God” taking you to heaven and providing some document that ACTUALLY gave you the evidence and hard proof that he/she/it existed wouldn’t suffice, and you can’t think of what would convince you in a hypothetical manner no matter how far fetch it may be, then that must mean that you have some hard found evidence that he/she/it/they don’t/doesn’t exist and you are hoarding that proof to yourself to play with the ignorance of individuals that believe iin his existance. IF So, I wish you would share in order for me to extiguish my ignorance.

    I will have to but a little more thought in a good hypothetical that wou make me disbelieve, but I will give it a try. He are two for starters that comes to mind

    1. AV or anyone else replies providing the hidden evidence that God really isn’t a God beyond any doubt. This evidence would definately have to be new and of course non debatable since up to this point in history evidence on either views haven’t been convincing enough to put EVERYONE in the entire world on the same sheet of music.

    2. possiblity would be that if I was able to become immortal and travel in time and experience for myself the universe and life developing first hand and maybe be able to search for myself, oh I would probably also have to use 100% of my brain inorder to have the intellegence to gather and conclude my findings. Of course this is failable because this might just convince me that god IS real and that I am him 🙂

    note: I am not trying to be condensending or insulting it is just hard for me to believe that no matter what the topic is about that someone couldn’t just provide a open minded hypothetical in order to actually partake in the intent of the actual thread.
    Of course, that could be only out of my own ignorance that I feel this way.

    I will think harder on your question AV and try again later.

  12. arthurvandelay

    Well I guess if the hypothetical of “God” taking you to heaven and providing some document that ACTUALLY gave you the evidence and hard proof that he/she/it existed wouldn’t suffice, and you can’t think of what would convince you in a hypothetical manner no matter how far fetch it may be, then that must mean that you have some hard found evidence that he/she/it/they don’t/doesn’t exist and you are hoarding that proof to yourself to play with the ignorance of individuals that believe iin his existance. IF So, I wish you would share in order for me to extiguish my ignorance.

    Now, now, SS2 . . . that’s the sort of thing SS1 would say! I have already explained to you in another thread why I consider myself an agnostic atheist, and you accepted my explanation then, so it is disingenuous of you now to suggest that I’m “hoarding evidence” of God’s non-existence. I’m not, nor does it follow from the fact that I honestly can’t think of a good answer to OzAtheist’s hypothetical that I would be.

    I’m not saying that I couldn’t be convinced . . . I’m just being honest about the fact that I don’t know what would convince me. I don’t think a document declaring itself “proof of God’s existence” would do it, because if was to accept that document as conclusive, why should I not already accept the veracity of the many already-existing documents that declare themselves (or are declared by those who hallow them) proof of God’s existence, such as the Bible or the Koran?

    AV or anyone else replies providing the hidden evidence that God really isn’t a God beyond any doubt. This evidence would definately have to be new and of course non debatable since up to this point in history evidence on either views haven’t been convincing enough to put EVERYONE in the entire world on the same sheet of music.

    But would evidence make a difference, given that for most believers, belief in God is a matter of faith (i.e. belief without evidence)?

  13. Christopher

    How about this hyperthetical phenomena? A huge symbol of the diety, formed from some super dense alloy, suspended with no visible means of support 200 feet above a major city. This symbol would have no effect on the weather despite its obvious size and any number of observers could stand on it, fly around it etc, to ensure it was not a trick or an illusion of some kind. How about that?

  14. AV

    How would we know that the object was indeed the product of supernatural causation–rather than, say, an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence?

  15. Saved Sinner 2

    AV,

    To reply on your post (26 january 11:30am, I can’t cut and paste and there is alot to copy prior to writing what I have to say so sorry for my laziness) 🙂

    You had compared one of my comments as something SS1 would say, I would have to say that is false in the matter that I was only giving a hypothetical scenario that by no means would be an actual statement/defense for the purpose to change your personal views. I would never use that as a means for a logical debate.

    I think the premise of this particualar board is to stimulate the creativity of the readers and posters and not as much the itellectual side of the brain, since it is all in a hypothetical manner.

    As for the question would evidence make a difference, given that for most believers, belief in God is a matter of faith(i.e. belief with out evidence)?

    Well through out history no logical discussion on either views have been able to extinguish one or the other sides defense entirely. So the answer would be no so far and most likely( of course I am not a fortune teller) no evidence will ever make a difference to believers and the same goes for non-believers as well. As for a hypothetical statement that would hypothetically convince an individual. as in my scenareo that if AV or anyone else provided the hidden evidence that God was not real would convince me of the nonexistance of God, It was based on fiction. I wasn’t really expecting you to provide me evidence, because I DO understand your view point. I wasn’t expacting anyone could ACTUALLY convince me or that my story would ACTUALLY convince some one that God was real.

    So I didn’t mean to nor was trying to slam on you, I now do really understand what you mean by that you really don’t know what would convince you.But I don’t think the intent was to provide something that would hypotheticly convince you personnally, and most likely that hypothetical would never become an actual since everyone doesn’t have the same views so far.

  16. I don’t think anything could convince me of the existance of a god.
    Well, maybe the rapture. And the sooner the Crazy christers are raptured the better.
    We’ll have our planet back.

    Really though nothing could convince me.

    Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
    And thus, “Any being from a sufficiently advanced technological world is indistinguishable from a god .”

  17. Christopher

    @ AV

    Hmmm Now that’s an interesting question. Allow me to turn it around a bit. Let’s say that the postulated phenomena showed that the being [or beings] were to all intents and purposes omnipotent. This being so would there be any functional difference between them and god? In other words couldn’t we logically say that such a being or beings are god to all intents & purposes?

  18. I did a post in which I provided my answer to this commonly asked question back in October. It can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/22zx5e

  19. AV

    Let’s say that the postulated phenomena showed that the being [or beings] were to all intents and purposes omnipotent. This being so would there be any functional difference between them and god? In other words couldn’t we logically say that such a being or beings are god to all intents & purposes?

    You still have the problem of trying to identify what kinds of phenomena would convince you that the being is omnipotent, as opposed to being simply more advanced/knowledgeable than us.

  20. Christopher

    @ AV
    Fair enough. Hmmmm. How about the creation of a galaxy on demand. Taking the form we have asked for in a location we specify and composed of the types of stars we have requested. For example a triangular galaxy with a perfectly formed question mark in the middle composed of stars giving every indication of being ancient yet having sprung up overnight.

    I would argue that such a feat would imply omnipotence or at least something so close to it as makes no never mind. Fair enough?

  21. AV

    Chris: I still don’t see how such a feat would imply omnipotence, as opposed to technology on a scale we denizens of “Middle World” cannot comprehend.

  22. Christopher

    @ AV
    That’s my point. Granted its done with technology. But if a being [through technology or no] demonstrates omnipotence, omniscience, etc, then they are the functional equivalents of gods.

  23. Pingback: The Thinker Award « Oz Atheist’s Weblog

  24. AV

    But if a being [through technology or no] demonstrates omnipotence, omniscience, etc, then they are the functional equivalents of gods.

    I know I’m beginning to sound pedantic and annoying, but I don’t think advanced technology = omnipotence & omniscience (which I would define as infinite power and infinite knowledge–btw, how would we be able to measure infinite power and knowledge in the first place, without possessing infinite power and knowledge ourselves?).

  25. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    This doesn’t necessarily mean the magician is a god. Though I see where Christopher is coming from in saying that they would seem to be ‘gods’ because they would appear to be omnipotent. I’m sure some people would worship them as gods, just not me, and, I’m guessing, not AV and plenty of others.

  26. Christopher

    I’m afraid I’m not explaining myself very well. Sorry all. I mean that given a demonstration of sufficient power [the creation of a galaxy] etc such beings would be the functional equivalent of a diety. I think what people are getting mixed up in such a definition are things we normally associate with dieties – supernatural power, worship and so on. But such things are not necessarily linked with the definition of a diety at all. That’s my point anyway. Sorry to be so long winded about it.

    AV I do understand the point you are trying to make. It’s just I’m saying past a certain point knowledge that a being fits an absolute definition of omnipotence seems a bit picky to me. That’s my opinion anyway.

    In any case there are many definitions of diety which do NOT include omnipotence – many of the polytheistic definitions of god(s) for example. Such a being as I posit would certtainly seem to exceed any power demonstrated by them.

  27. Christopher

    Oh and before I forget there would be one very good reason why it could be argued we should worship such a being. Imagine such a super alien exists. She can create or destroy whole galaxies with a blink of her eye. If she demands worship for some reason would you really want to get her pissed off at you by saying no? Forget about the question of deserving worship & make it just a case of self preservation.

  28. AV

    Oh and before I forget there would be one very good reason why it could be argued we should worship such a being. Imagine such a super alien exists. She can create or destroy whole galaxies with a blink of her eye. If she demands worship for some reason would you really want to get her pissed off at you by saying no? Forget about the question of deserving worship & make it just a case of self preservation.

    It would be quite the twist on Pascal’s Wager, I suppose, but in your scenario the celestial dictator would be empirical, rather than supernatural as is the case with the Christian/Muslim/Jewish God, and therefore if s/he’s literally holding a gun to your head it would be difficult not to “worship” this super alien. The “worship”, of course, could only be superficial and material–the offering of sacrifices and prayers, the construction of temples and idols, etc.

  29. AV

    I think what people are getting mixed up in such a definition are things we normally associate with dieties – supernatural power, worship and so on. But such things are not necessarily linked with the definition of a diety at all.

    I agree, but for the purpose of this discussion we probably ought to set some minimal conditions for deity-hood.

  30. Christopher

    You mentioned minimal conditions for diety-hood. Good idea! My old philosophy professor allways used to say “define your terms, define your terms”! So which of these would be necessary [in your opinion] for a being to be considered God?

    a) Omnipotence

    b) Omnibenevolence

    c) Omniscience

    d) Creator

    e) Sustainer [if God ceased to exist so would everything else]

    f) Perfectly free

    g) Eternally existing

    f) A personal God.

    Any, all or none of the terms may be chosen but I do think its necessary we know exactly what we’re discussing. 😀

  31. a, b, c, d, e, g
    both f are not necessary but would be acceptable as well.

  32. AV

    Christopher, that is a brilliant and stimulating question! I don’t know that we can reach a consensus on the question of the necessary and sufficient conditions for deityhood, let alone the necessary and sufficient conditions for the kind of deity most monotheists (those within the “Abrahamosphere,” as it were) are thinking of when they refer to “God,” but it is well worth hashing out all the same.

    I think d would have to be the most basic requirement, and it is arguable that a, b, and c flow from that. E would not necessarily hold from a deist’s perspective–but then again are we talking about the philosopher’s God or the apologist’s God? F might get us into tricky situations re: the determinism/free will debate if we grant a, b, and c. G would hold if the deity is posited as existing outside space and time. I can’t see the need for positing h at all.

  33. Christopher

    Thanks guys. Just be aware though that the choices you’ve made preclude the vast majority of the conceptions of God which have existed in this planet’s history. For example b & c would preclude a pantheistic conception of god. A & c would preclude a dualic conception & many of them would preclude a polytheistic conception.
    Perhaps we should change the question to “what would convince you that a monothesitic God is real?”

    Now pertaining to h since neither of you consider that of any great importance then we can do away with worship as a factor to consider. After all if this diety has no desire for personal contact then worship is meaningless.

    It also raises the question why a diety who couldn’t care less about us would care whether we believe in him (or her) or not?

    As to the free will problem I think that is raised by God being omniscient. I.e. if he knows what I’m going to do before I do it how can it be said I still have free will & if I don’t how can it be just that I am to be punished for my unfree actions? Aquinas dealt with that one. Rather nicely too in my opinion.

    But before we get into any of that do either of you see any of these traits as being logically incomprehensible?

  34. Christopher

    Sorry that should be “dualistic” not “dualic”. Grrr. Damn illiteracy strikes again. 🙂

  35. AV

    Perhaps we should change the question to “what would convince you that a monothesitic God is real?”

    That’s what I inferred OzAtheist’s initial question to mean, at any rate.

    But before we get into any of that do either of you see any of these traits as being logically incomprehensible?

    You mean contradictory? I think you pointed out the big ones: (A,B,C) vs F.

  36. Christopher

    Yes I did mean contradictory. [face red with embaressment].

    I’m intrigued though why you feel A,B, & C contradict F. Can’t see the contradiction myself.

    I hope AV and Ozathiest don’t mind all this. To me these questions are the preliminaries to trying to tackle the question. I’m quite prepared to ignore the issues raised here if either of you have a problem with examining this or you think its off topic.

  37. Christopher

    Here’s a question for both of you. If it could be shown, through logic, that God, as you both have defined him [or her, or it], exists then would that be considered sufficient reason to justify belief? I.e. the arguments used in religious philosophy. Do either of you have any knowledge in this area?

  38. Firstly – no I don’t mind you using this forum, the original question has been answered by those that wanted to, and I now consider it open to further discussion.

    AV is correct in assuming I was referencing a monotheistic god, similar to the christian/judeo/abrahamic God, as this is what I and most of my readers are familiar with. I’ still trying to fully comprehend the pantheist/polytheist/deist god concepts. So your questions and discussion are very interesting Christopher and AV.

    Christopher my knowledge is fairly limited, but I’ll give it my best shot.
    The contradiction in the a/b/c V f stems from the premise; how can we have free will if god knows all and has already predetermined our lives. I guess I’ll have to read some Aquinas to understand this better from both sides.

    Christopher, re your last question, this was partly what this original post was meant to do. I had been thinking what might convince me that a god did exist, hence my bizarre scenario. But even through what seems a logical and scientifically proven scenario there is still room to doubt a ‘god did it’. Which would then bring us back to h) a personal god to justify belief. So then we are back to ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ as the only reason to believe in god (which is what most religious people currently do – I suspect)

    Lastly I guess this is one of the things that make me an atheist, if two intelligent people like Christopher and AV can’t even agree on what constitutes a god, what hope does the general populace have. Therefore if god can not be agreed on then I guess he/she/it doesn’t need to exist.

  39. AV

    ,i>I’m intrigued though why you feel A,B, & C contradict F. Can’t see the contradiction myself.

    Actually, you’re right about A–it doesn’t necessarily contradict F. I think omniscience contradicts perfect freedom insofar as knowing everything must include knowledge of the future, and a knowable future must be a fixed/pre-determined future. A perfectly free being could take action in the present to alter that future, but then the future would no longer be fixed, and thus no longer knowable.

    Omnibenevolence contradicts perfect freedom because it suggests that the deity is incapable of, and thus not free to act other than benevolently. There is also the problem of identifying what it is that defines an act as benevolent. Is there an absolute standard of benevolence–and if so, how do we know what it is. Or is the definition of benevolence purely a matter of social consensus? On such grounds I would like to alter my basic conditions for deityhood. I don’t think a deity necessarily must be omnibenevolent.

    If it could be shown, through logic, that God, as you both have defined him [or her, or it], exists then would that be considered sufficient reason to justify belief?

    I’m not sure that logic–deductive logic at any rate–is supposed to work that way. Logic in itself is not a source of truth or fact–it is merely a system for preserving consistency in the relationship between statements (premises and conclusions).

  40. Saved Sinner 2

    Logic in itself is not a source of truth or fact–it is merely a system for preserving consistency in the relationship between statements (premises and conclusions)

    I haven’t been a part of the discussion between Christopher and AV, but only wanted to say I like how AV put this.

    I knew what logic was in a sense, but this just made it clearer, because sometimes people do gradually stray from the true meanings of words—for instance irony is often miss used.

    well that’s my 2 cents

  41. Saved Sinner 2

    ozatheist,

    my last post was pure coincidence when I remarked on the MISUSE(not miss use) of the word irony. I just read your homepage and noticed you used the word irony. So I only wanted to clarify that I wasn’t implying that you misused the word.

    another 2 cents worth

  42. Christopher

    Sorry for not replying sooner ozathiest & AV.

    Now first thanks for the compliment ozatheist. I don’t consider myself very intelligent though. I met others at uni that left me for dead in the intelligence stakes. However I would say that the term intelligent more closely fits you & AV more than myself.

    Second let’s tackle Omniscience & Free Will. Aquinas gave a very elegant answer to this one. He declared that the problem was illusory. Why? Simple. He reasoned as follows. If God is Omnipresent then He [or She or It] is not not only in every place but also in every time. So God [future self] observes the choices we have made and their repercussions & then God [present self] tells us “When you do such & such this will happen”. A rough equivalent would be us travelling in a time machine back to Cook’s era & telling him “you James Cook will discover a new land on such and such a date.” Would we be violating his free will? Absolutely not since to us what Cook has done is history but to Cook it would still be a future event.

    I think that argument is reasonable. If indeed God [as we have defined Him] exists at all.

    Thirdly there is a logical argument that is a variation of the ontological proof for God’s existance. One version is as follows:
    Let us define something as unsurpassibly great if it exists and perfect in every possible world. Now let us allow that it is at least possible that such an unsurpassably great being exists. This means that it is at least possible that there is a world somewhere where such a being might exist. But if it exists in one world, it exists in all worlds [for given omnipresence the fact that such a being exists in one world entails that it exists and is perfect in all worlds]. This being so it would necessarily exist. A being which necessarily exist must exist.
    The correct [indeed only] counter to such an argument is to deny the apparently reasonable concession that it is at least possible for such a being to exist somewhere in the universe. To be able to logically deny this you would have to be eternal, omniscient & omnipresent. In other words you would be God. This concession is more dangerous than it looks since in modal logic from pissibly necessarily P we can derive necessarily P. I was first taught this argument by my philosophy professor Alvin Plantinga & it stills drives me up the wall that I can’t find find a fault in the argument. I hope the two of you have better luck.

  43. AV

    Christopher, a few comments back you asked:

    If it could be shown, through logic, that God, as you both have defined him [or her, or it], exists then would that be considered sufficient reason to justify belief?

    I should reiterate that I don’t think you can use logic as a source of truth about the world and the universe, and therefore I don’t think arguments that rely upon logic alone–that is, to the exclusion of evidence–could ever be considered sufficient reason to justify belief.

    I’ve used the following example in a discussion with SS2 in another thread, but it bears repeating here. Let’s take President Bush’s famous 2001 statement “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” and restate it in logical terms:

    P1. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
    P2. You are not with us.
    C. Therefore, you are with the terrorists.

    The argument above is deductively valid: as long as the premises are true, the conclusion will be true. But it is also factually wrong, It is possible to be neither with us nor with the terrorists, and as a matter of fact many nations and individuals, both with the Western world and without, both within the US and without, were neither supporters of the terrorists nor uncritical supporters of the policies of the Bush administration.

    But it is very easy to see how some people could become bamboozled by the deductively valid form of the President’s argument (once you add in the implied P2 and conclusion), and confuse validity with truth. What they miss is that logic is only truth-preserving; it is not inherently true. Since we are not talking about mathematics here, and since by “true” I mean “true about the world and the universe,” there must be provided sufficient supporting evidence to justify the belief that P1 and/or P2 are true. (“True,” that is, in the tentative sense of being true only until there is sufficient evidence to justify the belief that P1 and/or P2 are in fact false, and so on.)

    You’ve heard of the adage, popularised by Carl Sagan, that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Whether it is capital “T” true is one thing; it certainly has and does work as a useful guiding principle for establishing (albeit tentatively, but tentatively is probably the best we can do) truths about the universe. Well, the claim that a deity/deities/the supernatural exists is surely an extraordinary claim, and my position all along in this thread has been that it would take extraordinary evidence–so extraordinary that I am having difficulty even imagining what it could look like–to convince me to accept this claim. I certainly don’t think ordinary evidence–e.g. anecdote, scriptures, personal testimonies, etc.–is up to the task. So why, then, would I be justified in accepting the extraordinary claim that a deity/deities/the supernatural exists with no supporting evidence whatsoever?

    So, to sum up, this is how I see the suggestion that I would be justified in accepting this extraordinary claim on purely logical grounds:

    P1. If I have a bridge to sell you, you ought to buy my bridge.
    P2. I have a bridge to sell you.
    C. Therefore, you ought to buy my bridge.

    Sorry, but I need to see this bridge–or be provided with sufficient evidence of its existence–before I consider buying it.

    I know I haven’t addressed your apologetics, and I hope to do so soon enough. But I thought I should get this out of the way first.

  44. Pingback: Are there good arguments for the existence of deities/the supernatural that don’t require supporting evidence? « Five Public Opinions

  45. AV,

    I think that one can defer to Dawkins’ response to the ontological argument on this one; There is nothing feeding into it.

    Or my own criticism. All of the “pure logic proofs” can prove as many Gods as there are meeting the creator criteria* (Odin, Uranus etc) and if you “prove” the existence of any two (or more) Gods from competing pantheons you break the law of non-contradiction.

    Pure logic ontological arguments perform their own auto-reductio.

    * Indeed, in pure logic, you can’t even be precluded from making up as many as you like. You can call him Yahweh or you can call him Jay, but whatever you do don’t call him “dude”.

  46. Christopher

    @ Bruce

    Sorry but the version of the ontological argument I presented does NOT prove Odin, Zeus, etc. Those were conceived of as polytheistic Gods who were NOT omnipresent or eternal. But you’re right in one sense the ontological argument merely tries to argue for the existence of a theistic God but not the identity of said God.

    To highlight the problem: If a being exists which is both Omnipresent & eternal then such a being is a necessary being. However if a being [say a polytheistic God] is neither Omnipresent or eternal it is not a necessary being & therefore need not exist.

    It would not be contradictory for me to declare of such a non-necessary being “yes it’s possible such a being exists but I don’t think it does. The argument would start & stop right there. But if the being is a necessary being such disbelief would be irrational. By definition a necessary being MUST exist. That’s the whole point of the argument.

    As to Dawkin’s charge that nothing feeds in to an ontological argument I think it is mistaken. In any case I think Dawkin’s was refering to Anselm’s Ontological Argument NOT its modern version which is quite different.

  47. doubtingthomas426

    Hello, I’ve recently received a rather disturbing comment on my site from a Christian (whiteman0o0) on the issue of whether or not we are all born sinners. He stated that, yes, we are all born sinners. I argued that I believed babies and children are innocent and can’t and shouldn’t be judged based on the ‘sins’ of a couple of naïve children in the Garden of Eden. I brought up the tragic, unexpected death of a baby in its crib from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and asked if this baby should burn in eternal hellfire because it never had the opportunity to accept Jesus as his personal savior or ask for forgiveness for his ‘sins’? Whiteman0o0 responded, saying, yes, babies and children can go to hell because (and here is where it gets crazy) God doesn’t judge them for their ACTUAL lives but for the lives they WOULD HAVE lived had they not died. In other words, God creates an alternate timeline where the baby/child didn’t die and sees if they would have become a Christian or not, what sins they would have committed, etc. and sends them to heaven or hell accordingly. I don’t know if anyone else is as put off by this scenario as I was but I am pleading and urging anyone who does find it disturbing, or even those who agree with it, to please visit the page where the comment appears. You can find it here:

    http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/if-the-statement-is-true-your-religion-is-vile/

    Please read the comments (you can ignore the original post), particularly mine (DoubtingThomas426) and whiteman0o0’s and leave a comment addressing this issue. I truly appreciate it.

    Thank you and I apologize for taking up space on this page with my plea.

    DoubtingThomas

    http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/

  48. GWS

    If you were an all knowing, etc being and designed another being wouldn’t you design it so that it didn’t have to eat three times a day?

  49. arthurvandelay

    If a being exists which is both Omnipresent & eternal then such a being is a necessary being

    So, why should I accept that such a being exists without supporting evidence?

  50. arthurvandelay

    Let us define something as unsurpassibly great if it exists and perfect in every possible world.

    Define “perfect.”

  51. Christopher

    Hi Arthur

    In answer to your questions.

    1) Perfect may be defined as “entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.”

    2) You ask why should you accept that such a being exists? But that’s the whole point of the argument Arthur. According to modal logic if we accept even the possibility that such a necessary being exists then the necessary being MUST exist.
    The ONLY counter to this argument is to reply that it is not even remotely possible that such a being exists which seems unreasonable to do for the reasons I’ve given above.

  52. Christopher

    I should explain that second point a bit more. In order to declare that there is not the slightest possibility of such a being existing you would have to have knowledge not only of every planet, meteor and asteroid in the universe but also throughout all space and time. For example “This necessary being does not exist on this planet, neither in its dim past nor in its far future.” In order to be able to declare this you would have to be omniscient, omnipresent & eternal. In other words you would be God. See the problem?

  53. Christopher

    Sorry guys but I’m going to have to leave the discussion. Have to hit the books for my class tomorrow.

    Oz, AV, Arthur, Bruce, Saved Sinner thank you for a most stimulating discussion. Bye

  54. AV

    I know Chris has left the discussion, but I’ll put this out there anyway.

    According to modal logic if we accept even the possibility that such a necessary being exists then the necessary being MUST exist.

    One can always remain agnostic about whether the possibility exists. The burden of evidence lies with the one claiming that the possibility exists (as well as, I agree, with the one denying it).

    Perfect may be defined as “entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.”

    This doesn’t tell us very much about what perfect looks like. Without flaws, defects or shortcomings in relation to what standard? If the answer is “any standard,” then “perfect” is meaningless. If the answer is “standard X”, then we’d need to establish what X is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s