Tag Archive: Evidence

If the Evangelical God Revealed Himself to Me, Would I Believe? 

athfleaist convention

I am often asked what it would take for me to believe in the Evangelical God. Is there anything that would cause me to discard atheism and embrace the God whom Evangelicals say is the Creator of everything and the savior of everyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ?  Am I so set in my atheistic/humanistic ways that there is nothing that could persuade me to return to the Christianity I abandoned eight years ago?  Simply put, what will it take for me to fall on knees and repent of my sins, professing that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior?

Many Evangelicals, of course, believe that no amount of evidence would be enough to convert someone such as myself. I am a reprobate, an apostate, a sworn enemy of the Evangelical God. I have crossed the line of no return. My destiny is already settled, with a first-class accommodation in Hell and the Lake of Fire awaiting me after I die. According to the Bible, I am the pig that has returned to the mire and the dog who has returned to his vomit. I have trampled under my feet the blood of Jesus, and there remains no further sacrifice for my sins. Christian evangelizers are told not to waste their time on the Bruce Gerencsers of the world. Let them go to the hell they so richly deserve!

Other Evangelicals think that I am still saveable. With God all things are possible, they say.  Imagine what a testimony to God’s wonderful grace it would be if the preacher-turned-atheist Bruce was brought low before the thrice-holy God and saved from his sins. Years ago, I remember being taught in evangelism class that the best way to reach a community for Christ is to find the meanest sinner in town and lead him to Christ. While I am not a mean person, I am considered the village atheist, a man who hates God and Christians. Get me saved, and r-e-v-i-v-a-l is sure to follow. Or so local Christians think, anyway.

Many Evangelicals believe that God has given me all the evidence I need in order to believe. The Evangelical God has revealed himself to me through creation, conscience, and divine revelation (the Bible). God has done all the revealing he intends to do. If this is not enough for me, I can go straight to hell.

Wait a minute, what is there in creation that proves to a rational, reasonable man that the Evangelical God is one true God, and that forgiveness of sins and salvation are through Jesus, the second God of the Trinity? When I peer into wondrous darkness of a starry night, I am filled with awe and wonder. When a harvest moon rises in the east, giving off its larger-than-life orange glow, I am reminded of the awesomeness of the universe.  All around me I see wonders to behold. As a professional photographer, I often spend time peering at the complexities and beauty of nature and wildlife. Even the feral cats resting underneath the nearby post office box cause me to pause, watch, and enjoy. Everywhere I look, I see things that cause me to stop, reach for one of my cameras, and shoot a few photographs. Not far from where the aforementioned cats hang out, there are sheep and goats who often entertain me when I have time to stop and take their pictures. And don’t get me started when it comes to my family. There are times when everyone is over for a holiday — all twenty-one of us, aged two to sixty — that I quietly sit and watch my children and grandchildren. I think to myself, man, am I blessed. With all the health problems I have, I am lucky to be alive, fortunate that I have the privilege to love and be loved. Does all of this, however, say to me, the Evangelical God is real, that Christianity is the one true religion? No, it doesn’t. At best, all that I have experienced tells me that perhaps there is some sort of divine power, a God of sorts, that has set in motion life as we know it.  Perhaps — though I doubt it — there is a deistic God who created the universe and then went on vacation, leaving the future of planet earth and its inhabitants up to us. This is the God of some of the people who read this blog, and while I don’t believe in their God, I do understand how they came to believe as they do, and I respect their viewpoint. And they are okay with my unbelief, as is their God.

existence of god

I have yet to have an Evangelical satisfactorily explain to me how anyone can rationally surmise that their God is the one true God just by looking at starry skies or biological world. I am willing to concede, as I mentioned above, that it is possible to conclude that some sort deistic creator put the world into motion and then said, there ya go, boys and girls, do with it what you will. But, pray tell, what evidence is there for this generic creator God of sorts being the Evangelical God? Well, the Bible says ___________, Evangelicals say, and therein lies a big, big problem. Evangelicals are, for the most part, literalists. When they read the creation account recorded by an unknown author in Genesis 1-3, Evangelicals conclude that their God created the universe in six twenty-four days, exactly 6,022 years ago. Yes, I am aware that some Evangelicals are NOT young earth creationists, not that this really matters. Whether young earth or old earth or any of the other creation theories espoused by Evangelicals, they believe that the foundational authority is the first three chapters of Genesis.

Using the Bible as a tool to prop up what can be viewed with human eyes only causes greater doubt and unbelief. Why? Because what the Bible says about the universe runs contrary to what science tells us. Astronomy, geology, cosmology, archeology, and biology all tell us that what the Evangelicals believe the Bible says about the universe is false. Of course, Evangelicals are taught that the Bible is the final authority on everything, including how and when the universe came into existence. When science conflicts with the Bible, the B-i-b-l-e — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — not science, is always right. As science continues to push creationism closer and closer to the dustbin of human history, Evangelicals are forced to defend beliefs that are no longer rationally defensible. So anyone telling someone such as myself that creation — when viewed through the lens of the Bible — proves the existence of the Evangelical God will be met with ridicule and laughter.

The Bible, despite Evangelicals believing otherwise, is no longer a credible source of proof for the existence of God. Evangelicals believe that divine revelation (the Bible) is another way that God reveals himself to us. Unfortunately, thanks to the internet and authors such as Bart Ehrman and Robert Price, the Bible can no longer be used as proof for anything. Now that there are countless blogs and websites dedicated to deconstructing the history and teachings of Christianity and the Bible, it is increasingly hard for Evangelicals to continue to promote and sell the party line. The Bible is not worthless. There are teachings, maxims, proverbs, and such that people, religious or not, find encouraging and helpful. The same, however, could be said of a plethora of religious texts, so the Christian Bible is not special in this regard.

inventing a god

Having read the Bible dozens of times from cover to cover, spending thousands of hours studying its words, books, and teachings, I see nothing that would convince someone not already initiated into the Evangelical cult that the Christian God is the one true God and all other Gods are false. The fact remains that the Bible is not what Evangelicals claim it is, and the only people who believe that the Bible is some sort of supernatural book are those raised in religious sects and tribes that embrace inerrancy. Such people believe the Bible is inspired and inerrant because they either don’t know any better or they refuse to change their beliefs — facts be damned. Extant information, available to all who can read makes one thing clear: the Bible is not what Christians say it is.

Evangelicals also believe that their God reveals himself to humans by giving all us a conscience. Supposedly, the conscience that God gives us is some sort of moral regulator. According to Evangelicals, everyone is born with an innate understanding of right and wrong. God, they say, has written his law on our hearts. If this is so, why do parents need to teach children right and wrong? Why is it that geography and tribal identification, not God, determines moral and ethical beliefs? If the Evangelical God’s law is imprinted on everyone’s hearts, shouldn’t everyone have the same moral beliefs? Of course, they don’t, and doesn’t this mean that there must be some other reason(s) for moral belief other than God? That atheists are moral and ethical without believing in God is a sure sign that these things come from something other than a deity; things such as genetics, parental training, tribal influence, education, and environment.

The fact is, for atheists such as myself, creation, conscience, and the Bible do NOT prove to us the existence of the Evangelical God. Sorry, Evangelicals, I have weighed your evidence in the balances and found it wanting. What then, Bruce would it take for you to believe in God? Is there anything that God can do that would cause to believe?  Sure, there is. Let me conclude this post with several things the Evangelical God could do to prove to me his existence. All of these are within the ability of the I can do anything Evangelical God:

  • Raise my mother from the dead so she can love and enjoy the grandchildren she never got to see.
  • Heal me. Waking up one morning — just one — without pain would certainly cause me to reconsider my view of God.
  • Striking Donald Trump dead the next time he lies would certainly be a sign of God’s existence.
  • Causing the Cincinnati Reds to go 81-0 the last half of the season, Joey Votto hitting 80 home runs, Billy Hamilton hitting .350 and stealing 140 bases, and the Reds winning the World Series would definitely make me believe in God’s existence.
  • Causing the Cincinnati Bengals to go 16-0, winning three playoff games and the Super Bowl would also make me wonder, is there a God?
  • On a more serious note, God ending violence and war, hunger, sickness and disease, would certainly get my attention. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that God is too busy helping Grandmas find their keys and Tim Tebow become a major league baseball player to be bothered with human suffering.
  • And finally, God could just send Jesus to my house. That certainly would do the trick. However, I fear once I tell Jesus what has been going on in his name for the last 2,000 years that he might say, Dude, I don’t blame you for not believing in God. I wouldn’t either, but since my Dad is God, I have to believe whether I want to or not.

Truth be told, I doubt there is anything that can be said or done that would convince me of the existence of the Evangelical God. I have carefully weighed the extant evidence and found it wanting. Since it is unlikely that any new evidence is forthcoming, I am comfortable with saying that the Evangelical God is the mythical creation of the human mind, and I need not fear or obey him.

Southern Baptist David Platt Says Missionaries Raised Man From the Dead — Maybe

raised-from-dead

CHARISMA News reports:

An unreached people group in Southeast Asia gave their lives to Christ when their leader apparently dropped dead and came back to life after a group of believers prayed.

David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, recounted the “modern-day resurrection” story during the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee meeting on Sept. 19.

A local Southeast Asian Christian who was brought to faith by some Southern Baptist missionaries took a group of friends and began evangelizing in the remote village, Baptist Press reports.

Villagers responded by bringing idols, necklaces and amulets associated with their occult worship to be burned, Platt said, relaying the account of an IMB worker.

It is reported that shortly after the burning ceremony, the village leader was found dead.

The villagers said they believed they angered the local spirits by giving up their possessions. They asked for their ritual objects to be returned to them.

The Christians, discouraged by the request and the news of the leader’s death, traveled to where the leader was laid and prayed over his body “that God would show His mercy to the people in the village, that God would show His glory and His love to that people who were so close,” said Platt.

“This Asian believer tells our missionary,” Platt said, “that as they were praying there over the man, all of a sudden the man coughed. Everybody in the house got really still. And the man coughed again. People came rushing over, and the village leader started breathing. People started helping him up. Everybody’s looking at these Asian believers like, ‘What happened?’

“They decided this was as good a time as any to share the Gospel,” Platt stated. “So they shared the Gospel, and in the days to come, people started coming to faith in Christ and that village starting burning their idols.”

Platt later admitted that the man might not have really been dead. Why then, did Platt, CHARISMA, and other Christian “news” sites report this as a modern-day resurrection from the dead? There’s zero objective, verifiable evidence that the “dead” man was brought back to life. Isn’t it far more likely that people THOUGHT the man was dead and that, coincidentally, he coughed at the very moment the missionaries were praying over him?

One thing is for certain, the missionaries used this sham resurrection to manipulate scientifically illiterate locals, going so far as to lead them to think that, through their prayers, the Evangelical God had brought the chieftain back to life. This kind of mumbo-jumbo magic show only works in countries populated by people with little to no understanding of science. You know, like the United States.

Video Link

If these missionaries can really pray dead people back to life, why not bring their show back to America so their magic powers can be closely observed and documented. S-h-i-t (spoken in the voice of Senator Clay Davis on The Wire), I would be happy if they just plied their miracle-working power on the sick and crippled.  Again, I would want the “healings” scientifically verified.

Perhaps David Platt and his fellow stone-age Southern Baptists should spent some time learning that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. If Platt wants non-tokers of Fundamentalist weed to believe this story, he is going to have to provide scientific evidence for his claims. Until then, I am with Clay Davis: s-h-i-t.

Frank Turek Says the Most Important Question is Does God Exist?

frank turek

Frank Turek

In a recent World Magazine interview, Frank Turek, author of Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, stated that the most important question any of us will ever face is, Does God Exist? Here’s what Turek had to say in a Q&A on World:

Early in your book Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, you say that there is one core question every human being needs to ask and answer. What’s that question? “Does God exist?” is the primary question because if God exists, then there is a real purpose to life and we live a certain way. If God doesn’t exist, there is no real objective purpose to life and you can do whatever you want. “Does God exist?” is literally the most important question every human being should answer. Unfortunately, most of our education system, particularly our public education system, assumes the answer to that question is no without even examining the evidence.

Shouldn’t Turek’s question really be, Does the Christian God exist? Turek, like all fundamentalists, presupposes the Christian God is the God that we must determine exists. Isn’t Turek doing exactly what he condemns the public education system for doing? Let me reword Turek’s last sentence:

Unfortunately, most Christians, particularly fundamentalist Christians, assume the answer to that question is the Christian God without even examining the evidence.

Most Christians embrace the religion and God of their culture and tribe. This is why most Americans self-identify as Christian. Few of them have actually considered the evidence for the existence of the Christian God. They just believe because that’s what most Americans do.

No Christian has ever been able to successfully explain to me how one can look at creation and say a God created everything and then turn right around and say that that God is the Christian God of the Bible. What evidence gets us from A GOD to THE GOD? There is none. Believing that the Christian God is the creator requires faith, not evidence. This is why atheists like me do not believe in God. It’s not so much about evidence as it is faith. We don’t have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the Christian God created the universe in six days, six thousand years ago. We don’t have the faith necessary to believe in a virgin having a baby, a dead man getting out of the grave after he has been dead for three days, or a man walking on water or through walls.

If apologists like Turek have evidence for these things, by all means they should present it to the world. Pointing an ancient text that purportedly was written by men under the influence of God, is not evidence. Step outside of the Bible, where’s the evidence for the Christian God being the creator?

Turek seems to have forgotten Hebrews 11:3:

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Through FAITH not EVIDENCE we understand the worlds were framed (created) by the word of God.

Christians do a real disservice to their religion when they try to “prove” the existence of their God. Either people believe or they don’t. Either they have faith or they don’t.  Count me as one of the faithless. While I can appreciate the deist argument for the existence of a creator God of some sort, I don’t think the evidence is such that I am willing to abandon atheism. Since there is no threat of hell or judgment with the deist viewpoint, I am content to try to live a moral and ethical life, loving others, and helping those who are in need.

As an atheist, I have a lot of questions, but does God exist is not one of them. While I am technically agnostic on the God question, I am confident, based on my study and experience, that there is no God. Perhaps a God of some sort will reveal itself to us some day. If I am alive when that day comes, I will then consider whether that God is worthy of my worship. Until then, I am content to remain an atheist.

Note

Doctrinal statement for Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College, the school Turek received his PhD from.

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For the Evangelical Christian, It’s Not About the Evidence

birth of jesus

Here’s one thing that atheists and agnostics need to understand. A person becoming an Evangelical Christian has never been JUST about the evidence. We mistakenly think that if we just show a Christian the evidence that they will abandon their Christianity and embrace atheism or agnosticism. How’s that working for us?

The truth is, Christianity as a belief system is all about faith. Hebrews 11:1-3 says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

How does a person become a Christian? Ephesians 2:8,9 says For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The Christian, by faith, decides to believe certain things. By faith, he believes the Bible is the word of God and what it says is truth.  By faith, he believes that the central teachings of Christianity found in the Bible are true regardless of the fact that they contradict what we otherwise know to be true.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, that he was born of a woman named Mary who was impregnated by God. It is common knowledge that virgins can’t have a baby. Unless a woman is impregnated by a man’s sperm there can be no baby forthcoming. The Christian knows this, but chooses to disregard it because, by faith, he believes the story in the Bible about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

It is also common knowledge that when people die they stay dead. I know of no evidence that suggests that a person laying dead in the grave for three days has any hope or possibility of coming back to life. When you’re dead you stay dead. The Christian knows this, but chooses to disregard it because,by faith, he believes the story in the Bible of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. By faith, he believes that God will someday resurrect his body from the grave and make it brand new.

The Virgin birth of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead are two essential doctrines of the Christian faith. There is absolutely no evidence for these two events outside of the Bible. It requires faith to believe these two cardinal Christian doctrines. The same could be said for the Bible stories about Jesus walking on water, walking through walls, turning water into wine, and walking though a crowd of people without being detected. Reason demands we reject such stories, but by faith the Christian believes them to be true.

Christians do a great disservice to their religion by attempting to argue for Christianity on an evidence alone basis. This is an argument that they cannot win and they only hurt their own cause when they attempt to argue faith claims in an evidence arena. Outside of the Bible, there is no proof that virgins can have babies or dead people can get out of the grave and live again. These are stubborn facts that cannot be refuted.

Does this mean that Christians are stupid or ignorant? Of course not. I recognize that Christianity has never been just about the evidence. Christianity purports to answer what we call the big questions of life. Where did we come from? What is the purpose of life? Is there life after death? The Christian Bible answers these questions and more. For atheists and agnostics, the answers to these questions seem empty and of little value, but we need to remember not everyone is like us.

Who am I to stand in the way of what helps someone get through the night? It matters not whether I think their beliefs are a flight of fancy. All that matters is whether their Christian beliefs meet the need they have in their life. We often forget that many people come to the Christian faith in a time of crisis. Let’s face it, atheism doesn’t do a very good job of comforting people when they are hurting, sick, or dying. Often, all we have to offer is love and compassion wrapped in the reality that life is shitty and hard and everyone dies in the end. Brutal I know, but it is the truth.

Ask yourself, when is the last time you have won over a Christian by argument and evidence? Doesn’t happen much does it? Christianity is much more complex than that. It’s not the end of the world if a Christian dies thinking they will go to heaven. At the end of the day who cares? For whatever reason, the Christian needs faith to make it through life and they need to think that there is something better awaiting them after they die. I don’t fault them for believing these things.

But, as an atheist I cannot believe the things that Christians believe. Why? I don’t have faith. All I have is a Bible that Christians tell me is the truth, but I find no persuasive evidence for its truth claim. I know that faith would fix the lack of evidence problem for me, but I’m not willing to relegate matters of life and death to such a subjective thing like faith. I wish I could, but I can’t.

What I Found When I Left the Box

Man hiding in box

Yesterday, I wrote a post titled The Danger of Being In a Box and Why It All Makes Sense When You Are in a Box.  A commenter on Reddit asked if I would elaborate on this part:

“But is wasn’t. My mind was filled with thoughts of all the wonders I found outside the box. Things that those in my box said were bad for me; things that they were sure would ruin me. They told me that the box was all I needed. They feared I was becoming a wanderlust.

And they were right. I wandered once again outside the box, and just like before I fell down the slope of the slippery hill. This happened to me many times before I finally gave up and stayed at the bottom of the hill. When I did this,  the box I had lived in for almost 50 years no longer large enough for me. For the first time, the things I had found in the box seemed odd, peculiar, and contradictory.”

Every time I left the box I found new and wondrous things, things I had never heard about before, things I had never experienced. The box I was in for five decades was a box  whose dimensions were clearly defined. There was no guessing about the length, width, or depth of the box. Over time, the box had to be replaced. Those outside the box constantly battered the box with bats, bricks, and rocks. Sometimes, these attacks would cause gaping holes in the box and it became necessary to replace the box.

The new box was not like the old box at all. The dimensions were different and it held fewer people. Everyone in the box pretended that the box was just like the old box. An old-fashioned box, we were told. We knew the box was not like the old one, but giving the appearance that the new box was the same as the old box was more important that coming to grips with the reality that the box was different. The box keeper was adamant. He said our box was just like the first box, that the box had stood strong for 2000 years.

On one of my trips outside of the box, I found out that the box keeper wasn’t telling the truth. He was trying to preserve something that never existed. Perhaps he really didn’t know since he had never been outside the box.  I found out the box manual had errors and contradictions. People outside the box questioned whether the box manual was the correct manual. For a time, fear plagued me every time I went outside the box. I realized if the box manual wasn’t true, then everything I believed about the box was wrong. I thought, I am smart guy. How could I have been deceived for almost 50 years? Surely ALL these people in the box can’t be wrong?

As I strayed farther and farther away from the box, though, I found that there were all kinds of boxes. Every group of people had its own box, — some were religions, some were political, some were social, and some were economic boxes. I always knew there were other boxes, but I considered all other boxes but the one I was in to be false boxes.

Those of us in the box always mocked those in the atheist box. None of us actually knew an atheist, nor had we ever read a book written by an atheist, but Dr. I-Have-The-Truth told us he knew all there was to know about the atheist box and he was certain the atheist box was a false box with no bottom that led straight to hell. He told us many horrible things about the atheist box. I was glad I was not one of THOSE kinds of box dwellers.

Imagine my surprise to find out that the atheist box was nothing like Dr. I-Have-The-Truth said it was. In fact, I found out there was quite a bit of diversity in the atheist box. They argued back and forth with each other, but once they were done arguing they all went to the bar and were still friends. I had never seen such interaction before. In my box, when arguments broke out they usually ended  with one party calling  the other party not-a-true box dweller. Some of them even went so far as to leave the box and, just a few feet away, build another box. They said they were a new and DIFFERENT box, but everyone knew that the only thing different was the location of the box.

I found that I liked the atheist box. Those in the atheist box encouraged me to be skeptical of the every box. I had never heard this before. In the box I was from, we were told to never question the box and certainly to never question or doubt the box manual. The box keeper warned us that doubt led many a box dweller outside of the box never to return. We wondered, did they end up being recycled?

This new-found freedom to question and to be skeptical was quite liberating. It also caused a good bit of conflict for me. People from the box I had left were questioning whether I was ever a “real” box dweller. They said, Yes he was in the box but he never really believed the box manual. They called me a deceiver. Some even thought I was deluded. The box keeper used me as an illustration of what happens when a person becomes skeptical and asks questions

For a time, my wanderlust, while liberating, caused me a great deal of mental conflict. There seemed to be a constant tug and pull. I felt as if  I were going to be pulled apart. I heard about a man who specialized in helping people who left boxes similar to the one I was in. So I went to see him and I knew immediately that he could help with the tug and pull that was trying to tear me apart.

Over time, I began to see how the box, the box keeper, and the box manual had taken over my life to such a degree that I lost any concept of who I was. Every time I saw the specialist I reclaimed some of the self that I had lost. As this happened, I began to deal with the questions I had about the box and the box manual.

I am not sure when the moment was, but I do remember coming to a place where I felt completely free. I felt “born again.” I thought, I am a “born again” atheist. I no longer felt any pull to return to the box. Of course those in the box said “See what happens when you stay outside the box for a long time?”

Seven years have gone by since I found myself at the bottom of the slippery hill. It is hard to believe — seven years. People in the atheist box, the box I now call home told me that things would be better with time. They encouraged me to read and study. They told me “go where the data, the evidence leads you.”

Over time, I learned that the atheist box, and for that matter no box, is perfect. In every box there are arrogant, nasty, vindictive box dwellers. No box is perfect, but some boxes are definitely better than others. That’s the greatest wonder of all…I now have the  ability to freely choose the box (es) I want to be in.

I guess the best thing to say is this…I no longer feel boxed in.

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