10 Reasons Why I Am Not A Christian

This list may be hard for Christian friends and commenters to read, but please persevere.

I do not describe myself as being a Christian. I don’t feel I can. Here’s why.

Reasons of Belief

1. There is no God. Not in that sense, anyway.

Christianity talks about God as a distinct conscious being: a person. Someone who can be present or absent, who has desires, a will, thoughts, and emotions. One who can act physically. Eventually he will live on Earth among human beings in a great city. We call this the ‘theistic’ model of God. This super-human theistic God was the pattern of most religion until very recently, and it is obvious that it is God made in the image of man. God is like us, only bigger, better, wiser, kinder, more powerful. But ultimately human. It is a deeply primitive notion that I can’t take seriously.

2. I don’t buy the Jesus story.

Here is my story about the Greek man-God Theosozei, born when Zeus impregnated the girl Pikra, who had been forewarned by a vision of Hermes. Though a god himself, he lived life as a mortal, showing his divinity by doing many amazing deeds, until his mortal body was put to death by his enemies. But, how amazing, his immortal soul returned from Hades to climb the slopes of Olympus in glory.

Sound likely as an actual historical set of events? Of course not. We’re so familiar with the story of Jesus that we can forget how utterly absurd the claim that it actually happened.

3. There is no supernatural.

Coincidences happen, and it is a universal human reaction to see some purpose in them. People cry out in fear or ill health, and some get better. People access changed states of mind, and interpret it as spiritual gifts or spiritual possession. Every example of the supernatural has an alternative, perfectly natural, explanation. Whenever we can check, the natural explanation is the one that turns out to be true.

4. The bible is a mess, historically and morally.

Almost every historical claim the bible makes is either suspicious or refutable. It is full of horrible morality (more on that later) and inconsistent teaching. Jesus is not consistently a great moral teacher. It is golden rule one minute, then hating your father and mother the next. It is ministering to lepers here, and cursing fig trees there. The bible is a perfectly unremarkable ancient collection of stories and lore: an inconsistent foundation on which to base either belief or morality.

Reasons of Association

5. Christians form the bulk of the immoral majority.

I’m passionate about the empowerment of women; about economic justice; about free human sexuality; about science; about welfare for the needy; about peace.

There are those who oppose me on these issues. Who want women to submit to male authority; to champion the rights of big business over their workers; to condemn those with a different sexuality; to hamper science education; to eliminate welfare safety-nets; to bomb countries who don’t do as we wish.

On these moral issues, the bulk of the immorality is dressed in religious garb.

6. Faith in dogma is anathema to human understanding.

Through history, human life has been short and difficult. Humanity has made hard won breakthroughs in knowledge: understanding of the causes of disease, or the ability to irrigate crops against drought. Knowledge of other people and other cultures has been crucial for driving social change. None of this hard-won understanding came from dogma. Faith in theological answers distracts from facing reality honestly. I cannot support an institution who’s aim is to increase the amount of theological faith in the world.

7. Churches are dishonest about their member’s faith.

A large number of church-goers have problems with a naive face-value Christianity. Nobody wants to talk about it. A veneer of belief coats every surface, hiding doubts.

Most people I know in Church are pluralistic, maybe even universalist, but can you imagine a service dedicated to Rama one Sunday? Or a sermon on the historical Jesus, even? Not a chance. Churches pretend to be orthodox, because that façade is more important than the actual beliefs of their members.

Reasons of Morality

8. The orthodox Christian God is a deeply immoral character.

The Christian God is not good. He is vain, violent, jealous, judgmental, and tyrannical. Hitler and his gas chambers can’t hold a candle to the God of the flood and of a fiery Hell. Kim Jong Il was modest compared to the worship God demands.

9. The afterlife limits humanistic morality.

Belief in a judgement after death is comforting when justice is lacking. But we shouldn’t be comforted. We should be pained, constantly and severely, at injustice. Pained to the level of doing something about it. Doing something now, so justice is done now. The idea that God will take care of it later is hugely immoral. I don’t believe it makes people less likely to act unjustly, but it does lessen our motivation to act against injustice.

10. Cultivation of guilt is abusive.

You are a sinful individual. Without God’s help you are utterly despicable and worthy only of condemnation. Your litany of sins is long and ever-growing. You cannot do anything good or beautiful or worthwhile in your own strength.

This is the very definition of emotional abuse, the messages that victims of abuse suffer, until their self-worth is so small, they feel they deserve their treatment. To the extent Christianity teaches this, it is deeply malevolent.

But I Agree, and I’m A Christian…

So do many of my believing friends.

Why don’t I just be a Christian in the same way: with a mythological God, Jesus’s finer bits of morality, and a liberal stand on social issues? If I called myself a Christian, and lobbied for this, I’d help Christianity steer a more moral course.

The real reason I am not a Christian is that I choose to say I am not. The reason for that choice is a post for another day…

How about you? Why are you a Christian, why are you not? If you are, why do these issues not affect you? Or am I just plain wrong?

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80 Comments

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80 responses to “10 Reasons Why I Am Not A Christian

  1. I more or less agree with with your reasonings. I still grapple with the supernatural thing, but mainly because I wonder if the concept as generally understood makes sense. Or maybe the word “nature” is too vague or insufficiently narrow. But if we equate “supernatural” acts with what we generally think of as magic, yes, I do have a problem with that. However, I think I will stay at least a tad flexible until we can develop a convincing Theory of Everything.

    I’ve pondered what you say concerning how an afterlife might limit human morality. Yes, the thinking that God will balance the scales later might lead some towards a lazy attitude about injustice. But I don’t see why it can’t also be argued that a lack of postmortem judgment might not lead many to a very selfish view of things: one shot, go for it with gusto, and everyone for himself! For me this isn’t a factor at all. I just have trouble conceiving a way that personal survival of death would be likely.

    I guess the best reason I can give for why I am no longer a Christian is that after much thought and study I arrived at the conclusion that it is too artificial a scheme to be true.

  2. Ian

    Cool, thanks for your input, Doug. I’ve had discussions with Christians who claim post-mortem judgement makes people less likely to perpetrate injustice. I’m not convinced. But I’ll freely grant that it isn’t the strongest of my ten!

  3. I like that you posed it as “not Christian” rather than the boring “why I’m an atheist”. I differentiate between my secularism versus the traditional atheism. I grew up in a completely non-religious household, so I saw God and the Bible as purely symbolic. I have a few Christian friends who seem to understand science but see prayer and church as simply a way to make themselves feel better, not something that’s actually real.

    I was Wiccan for a while but could not get into the idea of actual gods. I just liked the rituals for the change in seasons. One thing about superstition, it depends on how you define it. I would have said an invisibility cloak or parallel universes were almost mythical, but they’re as you said, from natural causes.

    In our minds though, I think it’s okay to assign a kind of awe that makes them so above human understanding that we see it that way.

  4. Ian

    Thanks Amelie, and congratulations on getting through Tough Mudder!

    Yes, I agree, I think Christian and Atheist are separate labels, and its quite a separate process deciding whether to adopt either of them. And the labels don’t always correspond to the meaning. So I know a lot of Christian atheists, but only one Christian Atheist – if that makes sense.

    I’ve also got a bit of a neopaganism fetish, but I wouldn’t call myself a Pagan, or any sub-group of them. As you say, ultimately we don’t dispose of our spirituality if we decide there are no gods or spirits. Awe, a sense of something greater, mystery, experience, are all important to me. And I think it a bit of a shame when some atheist friends of mine throw out those babies with the bathwater.

  5. Hey, thank you. I’m still amazed I managed to not drown in the snow-making pond!

  6. John Candido

    As a liberal Christian and Roman Catholic, it is disconcertingly difficult to see the church and indeed the whole of Christianity in contemporary society, in a state of crisis. I am sympathetic to all of your concerns about why you find Christianity a most difficult and distasteful proposition. It will take many years of theological reflection and wholesale reform, in order for Christianity to regain its long lost moral standing in years gone by.

    Don’t lose heart! There are many fine and intelligent individuals that have left the practice of church attendance, who have either remained Christians or who have joined other religions. It is really important to remain positive about all mainstream religions. Like society throughout history, religion cannot exist in a vacuum. In time, reform and evolution to liberal positions will happen. The sad thing is that you and I will probably not live to see that future dawn of hope.

  7. Ian

    Thanks so much for your response John. I really hoped that someone of faith would respond, and thanks for doing so frankly.

    I rather suspect you’re right. Christianity will adapt, and its modern forms will become historical curiosities. And I agree it won’t be soon enough for us.

    “Don’t lose heart! There are many fine and intelligent individuals that have left the practice of church attendance, who have either remained Christians or who have joined other religions”

    This is the subtext of my last bit – I think the real reason one decides to be a non-Christian isn’t these issues, because many thinking folks have the same issues, but remain in the faith.

    Where I depart from your comment is on the importance of staying positive about mainstream religions – I think there is another choice: personal religion, local religion, small group religion, decentralized and idiosyncratic. I’ve posted about that before and probably will again soon.

    Thanks again, John.

  8. John Candido

    Your welcome Ian. There is another blog that might interest you or any of your contributors. It is called ‘Secondsight’ at http://secondsightblog.net and is devoted to an intellectual resoponse to science and religion. Thanks.

  9. John Candido

    Having individual or idiosyncratic choices and responses to organised religion is to be welcomed and encouraged. Religious freedom is part of all of our collective and individual human rights, as adumbrated in important declarations on human rights from the United Nations. It is easy to forget that the minority of Christians, who continue to practice their faith by going to church, are exercising their religious freedom.

    I no longer practice my faith in protest against the obnoxious state of Catholicism today, although I remain a Christian. I will not compromise with a structure that continues to exist for its own sake. I would much prefer to use my mind and think my way through contemporary religious issues.

    One thing that has sustained me through my journey is the private practice of Christian Meditation. You can find out how to meditate by going to the ‘World Community for Christian Meditation’ (WCCM) at http://www.wccm.org/. I have been a meditator for about 20 years and have done the vast majority of my meditative practice at home. The WCCM was founded by the late English Benedictine called Fr. John Main OSB, is headquartered in London, and is directed by another English Benedictine called Fr. Laurence Freeman OSB.

  10. Wow, this is incredibly strong post, Ian.

    I really like how you separate, in the end, the reasons from the choice. Reasons are one thing, but a personal, brute choice is another.

    I’ve found myself in this same situation. Although I agree with your reasons, I’d also add that there is an aesthetic there I don’t want to associate with anymore also. It’s not just what they say, but how they say it, how they transmit the message. I mean, even school classrooms are slowly getting away from the old sitting in rows and all facing forward…

    Christianity really has to address the supernatural issue and the morality issue in particular, if it’s going to survive in any form (imo).

  11. I guess I’ll comment here, having only recently discovered this blog.

    My own view of Christianity is rather similar to yours, though I have not spent as much time on religious issues since dropping out.

    I suppose that I could have remained a Christian, in spite of my skepticism. I did find the moral teachings of Jesus (mythical as he may have been) very powerful. But the problem I had with remaining a Christian, is that the Churches seemed to be filled with pious hypocrites. Moreover, the friendship from the Church community seemed superficial. Many of the community were highly judgmental, ready to shun you if you did not seem to reach some sort of ideal of perfection. But true friendship should take you as you are, warts and all.

  12. Ian

    Thanks for your comment, Neil, and welcome to the blog!

    I have been fortunate in mostly knowing church folks who’ve offered genuine friendship over the years. Though I’m not discounting your experience, which is shared by several other people I know.

  13. Where did you get your information about Theosozei? Does this come from actual Greek mythology, or is this a made-up fact?

  14. Ian

    Theosozei is a very loose greek translation of Jeshua: the aramaic name of Jesus. I did the same for Mary. The story is the story of Jesus, the point being, that we’re only willing to pay it any attention at all because we’ve been cultured to. If we came across the identical story in another ancient context, it would be both unsurprising and obviously mythological.

  15. The point is, we don’t come across an identical story. The story of Christ is unique, and embraced by many. Stories that are “obviously mythological” are simply that, obviously mythological. But the story of Christ does not strike many as mythological. From the earliest times, people felt the Christ story compelling. What you offer as a reason against Christianity (viz. “I don’t find it believable”) might also be a reason for Christianity, except in reverse: I find the story believable, therefore it must be true. In the end, it is a matter of opinion, not fact. An argument against Christianity based on opinion is no stronger than one for it.

  16. Ian

    “The point is”

    Who’s point? Because your response misses the point I was making.

    My claim was this: if most people read a thinly disguised precis of the Jesus story, with no recognizable names, places or Christian jargon, they’d read it as obviously mythological.

    It seems a bit of a silly objection, then, that the thinly disguised story isn’t a genuine Greek myth.

    “The story of Christ is unique”

    Every story is unique. Unique stories are incredibly common.

    “But the story of Christ does not strike many as mythological”

    So? A Roman Mithras worshipper didn’t find the story of Mithras obviously mythological either, but we both do. Lots of myths were believed by many.

    The important question is why? What context would someone need, for the story of Mithras to ring true? Are those kinds of forces shaping the beliefs of contemporary Muslims, say, or Scientologists, or Christians?

    “An argument against Christianity based on opinion is no stronger than one for it.”

    I wasn’t making an “argument against Christianity”, I was giving reasons for my unbelief. The clue was in the title of the post.

  17. Rolando Aponte

    The again a “thinly disguised precis of the Jesus story” in not the real story. I can do the same trick with many other historical events and come up with the same allegations of “mythology”. And unlike any son of Zeus, Jesus is a historical character.

  18. Ian

    It was a precis of Christology. The historical Jesus is quite different again, and unlike the Jesus that Christians talk about.

  19. Rolando Aponte

    Ian, your “historical” Jesus is a construction based on your humanist beliefs and not on facts, because your are committed to materialism, and you must confess that you won’t allow a Divine foot on your doorstep. Of course you could argue the same thing about my beliefs, so I guess we are even. Religion is on both sides.

  20. Ian

    No, materialism is not an assumption, it is an observation. I don’t assume materialism.

    you must confess that you won’t allow a Divine foot on your doorstep

    I was a Christian for more of my life than I’ve been an atheist. But I was forced to give up on the supernatural, because it simply isn’t there. If you can provide new evidence to the contrary, then please do.

  21. Rolando Aponte

    Why is it a belief in God more “supernatural” than abiogenesis or the miracle of the “primeval soup”, or the divinity of natural selection, or the “universe from nothing”? In the final analysis you require more faith to validate your worldview than I do to accept the Christian worldview. Moreover, I might be able to prove that Christianity is true beyond reasonable doubt but only you can choose to accept it.

  22. Ian

    ” might be able to prove that Christianity is true beyond reasonable doubt ”

    Please do. As someone who has proved that I am willing to change my views fundamentally based on the evidence, I am very open to your proof.

    “Why is it a belief in God more “supernatural” than abiogenesis” Because God is usually defined as being beyond the natural world and not limited by it (though some varieties of God-concept are not supernatural, it is true – I’ve written elsewhere on this blog on that). Whereas any particular hypothesis of abiogenesis is going to be given in terms of natural processes, should leave evidence that can be checked, and should be falsifiable. Really, this is basic epistemology. Do you really not understand, or are you asking rhetorical questions because you think that you are thereby making a point?

    “In the final analysis you require more faith to validate your worldview” – Nope. I can see why you’d like to think so. But I just need some area in which two different explanations have different consequences that can be observed.

    “the divinity of natural selection” – ah, so evolution denial too? How unsurprising.

    But, hey, let’s focus on your evidence. You have proof. I’m up for that.

  23. Rolando Aponte

    (1) The anthropic Principle (2) The Big Bang (3) The mathematical impossibility of abiogenesis (3) The absence of intermediate links in the fossil record (4) The many biblical references to scientific insights (5) The Bible change lives (6) The existence of a moral law implies a moral lawgiver (7) DNA (8) Ockham’s Razor (8) the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics (10) Why is there something instead of nothing

  24. Ian

    1. I don’t think you understand the anthropic principle – it is an explanation for why things *appear* to be perfectly tuned for life. As such it is an argument *against* Christianity.

    2. The big bang is a proof of Christianity? In fact it is a materialist description of how the universe came to be, standing directly in distinction to explanations involving a supernatural agent. So, again, it is an argument against divine creation.

    3. Please show that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible, because my PhD was in the math of evolution, so I’d love to know how you get that. And please don’t do the “life never comes from non-life” crap. You said *mathematically* impossible – I expect math. This, I suspect, is an argument from incredulity.

    3[sic]. There are millions of intermediate links in the fossil record, you’re regurgitating creationist nonsense that has been shown to be false many times. We have transitional forms of very many parts of the phylogenetic tree. Of course, creationists just deny this, but there are thousands of papers describing this that are a google search away. So this is a lie.

    4. Please name any biblical reference to scientific insight that isn’t a post-hoc shoehorning. In other words, what can you predict, on the basis of the bible, that science would concur with? Also the bible has great insights like the earth does not move, that pi is 3, that the stars are set in a firmament, that the sky holds back the waters, that the earth stands on pillars, that it is a disk, and so on. So let’s not pretend the bible is in the least bit scientifically credible. This is simply unconvincing.

    5. The Koran changes lives too. As does the works of L Ron Hubbard, founder of scientology. I have spoken to many people who have had their lives changed by discovering yoga, or crystal healing, or fairies. I dare say you don’t go seeking those testimonies. This is unconvincing.

    6. Why? I’ve written on this blog how morality comes about and why. This is nonsense that hasn’t been taken seriously for 200 years. This is an argument from incredulity.

    7. In what way is DNA a proof of Christianity? You’re getting tenuous here. In fact, the bible suggests that it is God who is responsible for constructing a person in their mother’s womb. The idea that the construction process is mechanical and controlled by an inherited blueprint is good evidence that the bible writers didn’t know what they were talking about. DNA is a materialistic explanation for the developmental biology: for how an egg becomes a person. As such it is an argument *against* a supernatural process being at work in this.

    8. Ockham’s Razor states that the simplest explanation is usually right. We don’t disagree that there is a natural world. You, however, also believe there is a supernatural world. The supernatural world is not required to explain any observable phenomenon. Therefore, by Ockham’s Razor, the supernatural world does not exist. Once again, your argument for Christianity is actually an argument *against* Christianity.

    9. Why do you think mathematics is unreasonably effective. If we approximate we can map mathematics to some large scale processes, but math turns out to be really difficult to model all kinds of things. Try doing math of quantum mechanics, say, or fluid motion, or neural networks, or genetic regulation, or evolution. Pointing at approximations like F=ma doesn’t tell you anything about the universe, only about how we approximate it. This is an argument from incredulity.

    10. You’ve already answered this with #1. So you’re rather undermining your own case here.

    So out of 11 ‘proofs’, four are arguments against Christianity, three are arguments from incredulity, two have abundant counter examples, one is a lie and the other you answer yourself.

    So all these are a load of rubbish, and miss the point of how you show anything to be true.

    If you have two possible explanations, to prove one is better you have to show situations in which they make different predictions, and show that the better explanation is more often right. None of these do that. I don’t think you have any clue just how stupid a list this is, which is a shame. It signifies just how indoctrinated you are.

    Now of course, you’ll just decide that I’m being hardhearted or stubborn or some such. But then you’ll use that as an excuse not to actually find out anything more about any of these. You won’t go away and research the anthropic principle, or study transitional fossils, or educate yourself about the mathematics of evolution. You’ve already decided you know enough about all this stuff. You think you have this big insight, but it all rests on monumental ignorance, and you are so in denial of that, that you won’t spend any time educating yourself on any of this for real. A quick cruise over a creationist website is enough. An actual textbook on evolutionary theory is not required. It is very sad.

  25. Rolando Aponte

    I knew politeness would cease abruptly sooner or later.
    (1) Anyway, the Anthropic principle is so strongly advocating a designer, that in order to get rid of the “God” hypothesis, the Multiverse theory has been postulated. Of course the multiverse is no less metaphysical than simply believing “God did it”. So, it seems to me you are the one not understanding the implications of the Anthropic principle.

  26. Ian

    I wasn’t intending to be impolite, I was trying to motivate you to read about some of this rather than repeat stuff you’ve heard but clearly don’t understand. You claimed to have proof, but now it is clear you don’t even know what proof would look like, let alone provide any, let alone understand the things you do put forward.

    The anthropic principle does not require a multiverse at all. And the multiverse isn’t there to get rid of a God hypothesis. There is only one AP work to my knowledge who posits any kind of designer, and that is a Christian work, which explicitly redefines AP as the Cosmological Anthropic Principle, and fundamentally changes it in the process. The CAP does require multiple universes, however, so that stands in contradiction to your claim that you meed multiple universes for the AP to avoid a god hypothesis. Quite the opposite, the sole published version of AP that includes God requires multiple universes.

    Contrast that with the hundreds of books and papers on actual AP that reach the opposite conclusions. The AP states that the universe appears to be designed to support consciousness, because we are conscious of it, and if the universe did not support conscious life, then nobody would be conscious of it. Which in turn shows that one does not need to explain the aptness of the universe for consciousness, since it is unavoidably a prior of any possible theory. It was originally conceived as an explanation of why a God *wasn’t necessary*. You might, for example, want to read Carter’s original 1975 paper on the subject, or Penrose’s summary in Emperor’s New Mind (though that book has problems when it comes to neuroscience, its cosmology is pretty good). I can believe you’ve read about AP from some Christian author who equally butchered it, and made it into some weird argument for God. But if so, they didn’t understand it either. Go back to the source and find out.

  27. Rolando Aponte

    Don’t make the mistake of assuming things when it comes to “creationists”. Yes, I’ve read Brandon Carter’s paper. His main argument was that only in a universe capable of supporting life will there be living things capable of observing such fine tuning. But this is a stupid tautology with no scientific value. Brandon’s universe is an absurd universe, which just happened to be the way it is. Duhhh!! The point is the fuine tuning remains unexplained. And that’s precisely why the multiverse thery is becoming so popular. Because there is a need to explain the fine tuninf.

  28. Rolando Aponte

    Sorry for all the previous typos. For some reason, I’m forced to type without actually seeing the screen.

  29. Ian

    Okay, but Carter’s paper is the Anthropic Principle. Which you’ve concluded is a stupid tautology. So clearly it isn’t an argument for the existence of God, for you.

    What you meant to say, then is that the Fine Tuning argument is an argument for the existence of God, not the AP.

    But, of course the Fine Tuning argument is countered in many ways without reference to a designer. The AP, and multiple universes you’ve said.

    “with no scientific value” – quite the opposite, since you’ve already brought up Ockham’s Razor. The AP says a god is not required, the CAP says there is a designer. Neither are distinguishable by experiment (which I take is what you mean by ‘no scientific value’ claim), therefore the CAP should be rejected as introducing an additional unrequired hypothetical agent.

  30. Ian

    “For some reason, I’m forced to type without actually seeing the screen.” – is that a problem with the blog?

  31. Ian

    That Carter’s AP is a tautology is the whole point, and quite intentional, and not stupid at all.

    The point of AP is that consciousness, and the fine tuning of the universe for life is *always* a premise of the discussion. I.e. you can do no epistemic work by observing that the universe is fine tuned.

  32. Rolando Aponte

    Ian, OK you are correct. The fine tuning is the argument instead of the AP. Sorry for the confusion. Anyway, I don’t think just saying” if things were different, they would be different” adds any scientific value. It is still a valid statement, but does not encourage a search for the physical explanation of the fine-tuning. Of course, the reason is obvious.

  33. Ian

    Okay, so your argument graduates from an argument against Christianity to another argument from incredulity: a god of the gaps. We haven’t figured out X, therefore God did it. But that isn’t actually an argument at all, and the reason is not obvious in the slightest.

    Do you understand how evidence works? About the distinction of hypotheses? Can you put forward some actual argument, rather than just God of the gaps arguments?

    Lack of evidence is only a problem if you would reasonably expect evidence to be present. For example, if I say “Jesus never said same sex marriage was wrong, therefore Jesus was in favour of same sex marriage.” Then I’m making up nonsense, right? Same sex marriage was simply not an issue in Jesus’s day. Jesus might possibly have commented on it at some point, but if he did then his views were so perfectly ordinary for his culture that nobody recorded them in the gospels. So the lack of evidence for Jesus’s dislike of SSM is not evidence that he liked the idea, because we wouldn’t expect to see that evidence. The lack of such evidence doesn’t allow you to read whatever you want into the gap. Instead we look at areas we do have evidence. For example Paul, who came up against a culture with wider homosexuality, does condemn what he found. From that we can probably conclude that Jesus would have done the same, if it had been a pressing issue in his ministry.

    Similarly with any ‘gaps’ arguments. They only work if you can show that the gaps are surprising. In your list, you attempted this with the transitional fossils. But that is simply untrue. There are plenty of them. Though creationists often deny this fact, it doesn’t make it so.

    Another example might be abiogenesis. We don’t have direct evidence at the moment to conclude any of the ideas about how abiogenesis happened are definitely correct. So can we conclude that it didn’t happen at all? That god did it? No, of course not – we have even less evidence of that. The lack of direct evidence isn’t a problem when we wouldn’t expect to have such direct evidence. We would have to look at indirect evidence. And there, mathematical and chemical evidence is pretty good. But not conclusive, of course. We’re still at a point where a range of hypotheses are not distinguishable on the basis of the evidence we can find. That has changed even over the last 5 years, however.

    So that’s why arguments from incredulity are never going to be proofs. It isn’t about worldview or whether you are predisposed to denial. It is that they are pointing to things that aren’t surprising and claiming conclusions that are without basis in observation.

  34. Rolando Aponte

    OK, then let’s talk about evidence. Do you know how many codes per second would be required to be evaluated in order for natural selection to “stumble upon” the universal genetic code found in nature? The math works out roughly to 10^55 codes per second. Even granting all the time available since the Big Bang the probabilistic resources are simply not there. Who’s really the “god of the gaps” here? Evolution is. Evolution did it. Natural selection, mutations, plus time makes the impossible possible, and miracles a reality. After all, natural selection only substitutes one god for another as it ascribe intelligence-like powers to unconscious environmental features. The credit really should go to the Designer who built the incredible machinery that enabled His creatures to adapt to environmental features.

  35. Ian

    No, it doesn’t. You’re just regurgitating lies that have been told you by creationists, and refuted many times. The math works out fine, if you actually do it. Can you do it? I can, it really isn’t that hard, though it isn’t high-school math either. Please show your working.

  36. Rolando Aponte

    I’ll show you my math if we both agree on the following: (1) the math model should mimic natural selection as it is required according to Darwinism (2) mutations must be modeled not as a single mutation but as if these have become a characteristic of the population (3) incorporate in the model not only the selection coefficient of a single mutation, but also its probability of dissappearing through randome effects.

  37. Ian

    (1) Yes, as long as you actually get Darwinism right, which remains to be seen. (2) I’ve no idea what you mean – perhaps a grammar issue there. You certainly don’t want to assume mutations are features of the whole population, because they aren’t. You also don’t want to assume sexual reproduction at this stage, if you’re talking about abiogenesis, so if you want a concept of a ‘whole population’ you’ll need to specify what you think your replicator is, and your recombination operators. (3) Yes, though be aware that these are not independent, and if you are using a fitness-proportional-fecundity model, then the rate of loss naturally emerges from the selection coefficient.

  38. Rolando Aponte

    Sorry for the confusion with #2 above. What I mean is that most evolution math models, assume that in one generation, some number of potentially adaptive mutations may occur, each most likely in a different individual and that these mutations remain in the population and are not changed. This is not yet evolution, because the mutations have occurred only in single individuals.

  39. Ian

    Okay, you don’t need to assume they are in different individuals, your rate of mutation should be per variable (per gene for most models that assume we’re replicating at the organism level), not per individual, so should handle this automatically. “and that these mutations remain in the population and are not changed” I’m not aware of any models that assume this, but if yours doesn’t, that is fine too!

    “This is not yet evolution, because the mutations have occurred only in single individuals.” I suspect I’m going to have to try to figure out how you’re using “evolution”, because that sounds like a hat you could hide a rabbit in, if you wanted. But yes, mutations are in individuals.

    But, you’re doing the math of abiogenesis, right? The evolution of protein coding? So be careful what you consider an individual. It will have a big effect.

  40. Rolando Aponte

    Yes, abiogenesis math. One last thing, no RNA world will be assumed.

  41. Ian

    That depends what abiogenetic scenario you’re considering. RNA in extant biology has catalytic effects. So if you’re considering the evolution of protein coding by RNA, then you shouldn’t ignore that the RNA has function independent of what it codes for.

  42. Rolando Aponte

    The math is here: Hubert P. Yockey ” Information Theory and Molecular Biology”. (Note: Yockey is neither a creationist nor an “intelligent designer”)

  43. Ian

    Ah, why didn’t you just say you were referring to Yockey rather than wasting all this time with ground rules and suchlike. I thought I was genuinely discussing with you, not with your ability to cut and paste!

    Yockey is wrong on the impossibility of doing science on abiogenesis. But you’ve not even quoted him correctly. His 10^-75 estimate is for the random production of cytocrome C in a left-handed chirality by chance from a prebiotic soup. Something which no abiogenetic hypothesis claims. This number you quote is not related to the origin of coding, and was not even given as a probability of the emergence of coding by natural processes.

    No abiogenetic hypothesis I’m aware of puts forward spontaneous biogenesis of coding. The hypothesis is that coding is derived from regular catalysis, given that a selection of catalysts can be seen as coding for the reactions they accelerate.

    Even in the narrower remit of his actual calculation, there are problems. He makes the prosecutor’s fallacy in assuming that it is our biochemistry that is the end point for the calculation, in fact, in the 10^-75 figure, he even assumes our chirality, which is a bizarre assumption that no abiogeneticist would claim.

    His work is rather old now, so he hasn’t (too my knowledge – I haven’t read his last book) engaged with recent evidence of ribozymes and replicating RNA, for example.

    He is certainly not a creationist (and in fact has said in court that his results do not in any way support a creationist interpretation), but curiously he does have some ideological issues. He believed the idea of self-organized criticality (now a well-established part of complexity theory) was tantamount to a Stalinist conspiracy, and claimed his analysis was proof that the SETI program should be disbanded.

    But that’s a sideshow. He was instrumental in introducing some key results from coding and information theory into the emerging field of bioinformatics in the 1980s. His text book, though a little dated now, is still sound on its application of information theory to evolution. But we don’t teach from the book much now, because bioinformatics has rather exploded in the last decade, and his contributions have been extended dramatically.

    I’m disappointed that you appear to be playing games here. I’ve read plenty of creationist propaganda, so I know well the usual sources that are cited (incidentally Yockey has on several occassions criticized creationists for completely garbling his results and coming to the wrong conclusions). They’ve been refuted many times. So there is no point just shovelling the same stuff back at me again. If you can understand this, I’m happy to debate it. If you want to go through Yockey’s calculation, we can. But if not, then just go and read some textbooks and stay off the creationist websites.

  44. Rolando Aponte

    I think Yockey has proven that there has not been enough time for the genetic code to evolve. The math is relatively easy – I have a solid math background since I am an econometrist – . Show me your numbers.

  45. Ian

    No he hasn’t. He’s shown that it very unlikely that we could evolve the coded proteins we see in terrestrial biology from a primordial soup of amino acids. Which of course it is, and no modern abiogeneticist claims otherwise. But this is just a combination of a lack of awareness of the full range of biochemical mechanisms available to abiogenesis, and the prosecutor’s fallacy, as I’ve said. His math is fine, his premises don’t work. Which isn’t surprising, since he put forward his calculation in the 70s, well before we had any idea about RNA function, the size of autocatalytic sets, or the math of self-organization. As I said, if you want to step through his calculation, feel free. But this has all been covered in hundreds of papers since his.

    And, besides, why are you cherry picking this calculation. Since you don’t believe any of his other calculations which show clearly how all life is descended by evolution from a common ancestor? A result he has said is so certain, mathematically, as to justify being called a law, not a theory. You are being disingenuous. You aren’t using this result because you find it mathematically convincing (as above, you haven’t even been able to say what the result means). You are using it because Dembski based a dubious argument on it, and it has become a bit of a fad among creationists.

    Do you play the same kind of cherry picking games in your professional life?

  46. Rolando Aponte

    Common ancestry? The genomes of chimps and humans differ by 300 million nucleotides. Have you calculated how many advantageous mutations per generation (assuming what, 5 millions years from the common ancestor?) are needed to confer a reproductive advantage each year? Do the math and just tell me it is possile.

  47. Ian

    So what bit of Yockey’s calculations on that very topic do you think are wrong? Since you have the book where the information theoretic properties of that evolution are given in some detail. The math is in the book, and you claim to be able to understand it.

  48. Rolando Aponte

    I would like to you to answer the prior question. You just convinced me I’m “cherry picking” on Yockey, so let’s move forward.

  49. Ian

    Which prior question?

  50. Ian

    Rolando – I don’t know if you’ve given up on the conversation, but I was genuinely asking which question you wanted to address. Did being convinced of cherry picking mean you wanted to go back to another of your list, or did you mean you wanted me to talk about chimp/human evolution?

  51. Rolando

    Ian, sorry I was away for a few days. Yes, I wanted to talk about the chimp/human evolution, with your answer to the specific question above.

  52. Ian

    Okay, it would help if you declared what I’m arguing against here, or whether you are actually looking to be stepped through. I can step you through the biology and math, but there’s no point if you’re just on this issue because you’re channeling something you’ve read. Might as well skip right on to saying what that is and I’ll read it and discuss.

    Otherwise, it might take quite a long post to lay out the groundwork before you can do the calculation.

  53. Rolando

    NO, I am not channeling anything I’ve read. Just a honest question.

  54. Ian

    I’ll do this in stages, let me know if I’m moving too slow or fast.

    Okay, so the first thing to talk about is the edit distance of two strings. A crucial concept in information theory. How do you figure out how different two strings are (sequences of elements drawn from an alphabet, like the Latin alphabet, or the alphabet of GACT bases in DNA). The obvious answer is to count the number of positions that they differ. But this isn’t good. If I take a 500,000 word novel, and delete the first letter, then the new version will be different at most positions, even though I changed one thing.

    So instead in information theory we talk about the edit distance. Which is the number of edits you need to make to turn one string into the other. In many applications of information theory you use the Levenshtein distance for that. This is a type of edit distance where the distance is the number of additions, plus the number of removals, plus the number of substitutions. We can go further to a generalized edit distance, which is any model that has a) a set of operations that say how the string can be changed, and b) a cost associated with each one. Google uses this to guess what you’re typing. For example, if you are german, you might use ß, or you might spell it out as ‘ss’, or ‘sz’. So converting ß to ss isn’t a distance of two (a subtraction and a replacement) it is a single operation, and a very common one, so “große” is only a small change from “grosse” – it might be given a cost of 0.5, say, because it is much less of a change than turning “coup” to “cup”.

    When we compare DNA sequences we need to be able to calculate edit distance (let’s leave evolution aside for now, we compare DNA sequences often for other things, such as testing for ancestry when identifying a body, or paternity tests, and we do it a lot when sequencing DNA, because of the ‘shotgun’ method used to build up a large DNA sequence). For that we need to know the kinds of mistakes that biology makes when copying DNA. Does it just substitute one base for another, or remove or add single bases, or does it do things more equivalent to changing ß to ss?

    It turns out that there are a few distinct kinds of errors DNA copying usually makes. It does copy a single base wrong (known as a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP). It also repeats things the wrong number of times (sometimes the thing being repeated is very long), these are called Segmental Duplications, or Long Copy Repeats (SD, LCR – they are slightly different things, but for our purpose that dosn’t matter). It can invert sections, so the DNA runs in the opposite direction. There are also a few other things that can mutate DNA that aren’t copying: there is a common change in bits of DNA that are CG into TG, viruses work by getting the cell to use their RNA as if it were their own, and this virus genetic code can be incorporated into the DNA (known as a retroviral insertion). There are many more besides, but these will be important for our discussion.

    DNA comparisons are often given as a percentage, but this isn’t very helpful. You can give certain kinds of changes in % terms – you can say the % of the genome with an SNP, for example. But you couldn’t unambiguously calculate the % match for a genome with LCRs.

    So the point of this is to say figures of % similarity on their own are meaningless to base calculations on, unless we unpack the actual changes that have been found. To calculate if there is enough time, we can’t assume DNA changes are just single base mutations, we have to consider how different the two genomes are, in terms of the number of mutations that are likely to have been needed to cause the divergence.

    Does that make sense so far?

  55. Ian

    I’ve thought of another example of generalized edit distance. I’ve read articles talking about how dramatically different two texts of the New Testament are, as evidence that the original text is hopelessly corrupted by error. This has a similar problem to % differences in DNA.

    Often the errors are knock on effects. A scribe copying accidentally jumps their eye between two similar words, and a section is either omitted or repeated. Or else someone made a marginal note in their text, and they incorporate it wholesale into the text of their copy. So a new section appears.

    These shouldn’t be seen as huge changes. They are both single errors. Repeating a whole page is no more of a copying error than repeating a verse. And though it is rarer, it isn’t a more serious error than spelling a word wrong.

  56. Rolando

    Ian, thanks for taking your time for explaining this to me. I think you are heading towards the issue of genetic similarity between chimps and humans, right? Well, to us christians, similar DNA codes only proves the same design engineer wrote the codes, not evolution. The genetic difference between humans and the chimp is only 1.6%. That doesn’t sound like much, but that is a gap of at least 48,000,000 nucleotides, and a change of at least 3 nucleotides is fatal to an animal, meaning there is no possibility of change.

  57. Rolando

    But still, please continue with your explanation so I can understand exactly the theory behind your argument…..

  58. Ian

    Well, you asked me

    “Have you calculated how many advantageous mutations per generation (assuming what, 5 millions years from the common ancestor?) are needed to confer a reproductive advantage each year? Do the math and just tell me it is possile.”

    So I’m answering that. It is possible, and I’m showing you how the calculations are done.

    Since you mention it, there are good reasons in this why DNA similarities are very unlikely to be purely down to functional similarity. Although it is always possible to posit a deceptive God who made it look just like common descent as a trap to beguile the unfaithful.

    But that’s not what I was trying to answer. I was trying to answer your question.

    “Well, to us christians”

    I should point out that the vast majority of Christians have no problems with evolution or an old earth. American evangelicals are allied with non-western Muslims against the rest of Christendom and the rest of the world. It is not a ‘Christian’ viewpoint to deny evolution, it is an American evangelical perspective. Most of the Christians I know see creationists as an embarrassment than perverts and satirizes true faith, not as some kind of Christian ideal.

  59. Ian

    The genetic difference between humans and the chimp is only 1.6%. That doesn’t sound like much, but that is a gap of at least 48,000,000 nucleotides

    Sigh. So you didn’t listen to anything I said, did you?

    There’s really no point having a conversation if you aren’t actually willing to read and understand what I’m saying.

    I get that you think I’m the stupid one here, and you already know everything you need to know to see that it is all a load of rubbish. But why ask questions if you’re not interested in the answer. I don’t get that.

    and a change of at least 3 nucleotides is fatal to an animal, meaning there is no possibility of change.

    A change of one nucleotide can be fatal. But a change of many millions may not be fatal. It is nonsense to say 3 nucleotides is fatal. We average about half a million SNP from both our parents (i.e. after taking account sexual recombination), so the idea that 3 differences is fatal is ludicrous.

  60. Rolando

    Ok, so know you come with the “stupid, anti-science american evangelical, syndrome”. Let me get it straight for the record. I believe in creation “ex-nihilo” by a trascendent God, not because I’m brainwashed, but because to me it’s the most rational answer to the question of origins. And secondly, because of solid theological reasons which I could explain in detail.

  61. Rolando

    And now please could you continue with your explanation? I’m listening.

  62. Ian

    Ok, so know you come with the “stupid, anti-science american evangelical, syndrome”

    I said nothing of the sort. I merely pointed out that creationism isn’t the Christian position, but a position that a minority of Christians follow.

    Let me get it straight for the record. I believe in creation “ex-nihilo” by a trascendent God

    Yes, and I think there most Christians would agree with you. But that doesn’t entail anti-evolution or young earth creationism, or any other kind of science denial.

    And now please could you continue with your explanation? I’m listening.

    After the prior comment about % differences, after I’d typed nearly a thousand words of explanation for why that isn’t helpful, I don’t really believe you are. I think you are trying to find superficial things to pick at rather than try to actually understand what scientists are saying.

  63. Rolando

    If differences calculated on a percentage basis are not helpful or valid, then the vast majority of the evolution advocates, should pay attention, since this is the usual comparison basis. That’s why I insisted on the argument, not because I did not read or understand what you said.

  64. Ian

    They are a shorthand, they are not useful for calculating the probability or rates of evolutionary change. Please provide references to calculations of either done on general % basis. Even the % you quote is of a very specific %, the SNP %. You’re getting yourself mixed up on what you’re reading and assuming it is saying things it isn’t. I can help, but not if you insist on seeing this as some stupid battle between what I say and what anyone else says. You seem to be lacking the basic understanding of what you are reading. I can either help with that, or you can play games. But I’m done with games.

    If you want to understand, (you don’t have to believe, just understand what scientists are actually thinking) you’ll have to allow yourself to actually learn at some point. The “oh, well tell the other scientists that, since they clearly mention that” is just pathetic. Please grow up and have a reasonable conversation. Otherwise we’re done.

  65. Rolando

    What it seems pathetic from is that your argument is one from arrogance. What you are implicitly saying is this: I have the truth and don’t bother bringing arguments from other scientists or research contradicting my position. This is specially unacceptable in a field where there is so much controversy and where comparison of gene expression has been unfruitful to evolutionists. For example, what about epigenetics? You are not willing to discuss it, huh? So yes, are right. We are done.

  66. Ian

    You aren’t bringing arguments from other scientists that contradict my position. Please show me any scientist who disagrees with anything I’ve written. Please show any scientist who does a calculation of probability or evolutionary rate based on a percentage similarity of a genome. Please show any scientist who says that we should treat all genome differences as SNPs, please show any scientist who uses hamming distances for genetic comparison. Please show any piece of research that contradicts what I said in that long post.

    What I’m saying is that you aren’t understanding what you’re reading. You’re imagining all kinds of contradictions that aren’t actually there. And if you’d relax and commit to trying to understand stuff, you’d actually learn what scientists think.

    Who said I’m not willing to discuss epigenetics? Why are you trying to come up with another topic? Where do you get the fact that this disagreement is about gene expression? You are just bringing up random stuff. I am trying to discuss the rate of evolutionary change needed between chimps and humans, which is exactly what you asked me about. But there’s no point me talking about that unless you are willing to listen. We can talk about gene expression too, and epigenetics, and anything else, but there’s no point if you aren’t willing to learn anything.

  67. Rolando

    Ian, is there any good web or book reference you could provide on the subject of human evolution? Thanks in advance for the information.

  68. Ian

    The textbook I learned from was Fleagle’s first edition. There’s now a second edition.

    But I’m not a paleoanthropologist or paleontologist. My doctorate was in the mathematics of evolution. So I can’t tell you if there’s a better text out there nowadays.

    I can tell you that a textbook like that won’t talk about genomics much, though. So if (as per your questions above) you are mostly interested in bioinformatics, you may have to go elsewhere (elsewhere than Feagle, I’m not telling you to go away).

    There is a pretty good online course on quantitative genomics at Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/course/genomescience which will teach you the basic genomics to read papers about genomic analysis of primates, though it assumes some molecular biology knowledge. The course is not evolutionary: so it shouldn’t raise your hackles too much.

    As for our conversation I don’t know how to make progress. I’d like to continue and answer your question. But I want to take you through the process, so you can understand why we get there. But that doesn’t seem possible if your reaction to my explanation is to try to look for superficial differences with other people’s writing, and not engage with what I’m saying.

    Look, I’ve done a fair share of being exasperated at you, and I’ve been rude as a result. I’m sorry. If our conversation is to be constructive, you might have to trust me that I know more about the science than you, and that I’m going to have to teach you some stuff to answer your questions. Obviously that doesn’t mean you have to believe I’m right, just that I might know more about the claims of scientists, and I can help you understand on what basis they are made. But it wouldn’t be a quick process. Bioinformatics is complex stuff. As complex as, say, quantum mechanics. So a one paragraph answer won’t help you understand anything, but I’m willing to walk through the basic science.

  69. Ian

    … if it would help level the playing field and take away any power dimension to the conversation, I’m happy for you to reciprocate by teaching me the basis of your theology.

  70. I am a Christian, there is no other way. Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life. I have tried other ways, but Christianity works for me. Brian Sterley

  71. Ian

    Thank you Brian, a great example of a comment from someone who sees no reason to read or engage with anything that was said, but simply repeat their own spiel regardless of whether it was appropriate or not. Unfortunately you’re not alone among Christians. The fingers in ears shouting Jesus is the way stereotype is all too often valid.

  72. Dave

    Ian; I love this post!!! I am a Christian, Jesus Christ may or may not be the way as Brian mentioned, That I don’t know about for sure. What I do know is that denying in the existence of God is a very dangerous stance to take regardless of your beliefs. I will answer every single one of your points with intellect and respect. There are many “types” of Christians throughout the world (stupid but that’s human nature I suppose) I believe in God and Jesus Christ which is what socially classifies me as a “Christian.” Yes the bible is full of contradictions absurdities and even at one point mentions God having an assassin. (Story of David after he slays Goliath.) What you have to take into consideration is that our bible was written by MAN. Then after it was written it eventually ended up in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church so therefore most all Christians base their belief on the writings of the Roman Catholic Bible…or King James version, new american version…and so on. I however am not that stupid to just follow something some men wrote years ago that God told them to write without researching all religions before coming to the conclusion that Christianity is the right one; or better wording, that the Christian God is the true God. I don’t care what the bible says God is because I don’t believe God is a super humanoid entity. I believe that God is pure energy, like a light. In my personal opinion God has no physical form or even physical vocal chords to be able to make audible communication or speech. Now I am sure he could manifest himself into being able to communicate that way but there would be no reason to do so. You mentioned there is no supernatural, yet SCIENCE has proven that there are things that have no explanation in the physical realm. Is that proof of the supernatural? No of course not but it is also not a deniability either. When you are talking about the story of Christ well who knows how much truth there is in that none of us were there, but there is always a little truth in every lie. So take away Jesus from the equation and you are still left with God. We can debate all day long over the existence of God and I can show you my evidence and you can show me yours. Both of us will have compelling evidence but neither one of us will find any concrete proof either way. Scientists could take a picture and have a full on video/audio recorded conversation with God and people would still deny his existence. Here is the kicker though God exists whether you believe or not and just the fact that you felt you had to post this to get people to talk about it makes him a reality whether he ACTUALLY exists or doesn’t. I’m not trying to persuade you to believe at all that’s up to you. You can do the same research I have and it seems like you are because I arrived where you at before. I didn’t believe in Christianity either or even in God so I sought out Satan. You wanna see some paranormal shit go screw around with devil worshipping…get involved in it, bring others to it, follow the teachings of Luciferianism and I promise you will find your supernatural proof. You’ll either hate it or love it when you start experiencing it, I loved it. Dangerous though and not even just religiously you’ll lose yourself and become a person you loathe…but you’ll be having fun every step of the way. Sounds good so why not? You seem to be searching for some kind of truth to our (human) existence and you are working so hard to disprove Christianity and God so why not start with the evil side first? Why not seek out Satan? Study all religions before saying God doesn’t exist, do the homework and the research then come back to me. Luciferianism look it up get involved, Satan has a bible too. No, not the Anton LaVey Satanists either they’re not evil, just stupid. Just study the religion call out to Satan use his symbols perform the “LEGAL” rituals and you’ll find an answer. You still may not believe in God after but you will believe in the supernatural that I can promise you. I know we Christians are not supposed to act like this right? We’re all crazy zealots with our fingers in our ears shouting Jesus is the way…not me dude. I am shouting wake up and be a humanitarian idc what you believe in that’s between you and God. The satanic advice is all for you…if you really want to prove the existence of the supernatural to yourself and more than likely the existence of God as well (idk I somewhat believed in God when I was doing that dumb shit.) that is one way you can do it because if there is a Satan then there has to be a God. It is very dangerous. Then again you don’t believe in God or your soul so what you got to lose?

  73. Ian

    Firstly, paragraphs might help. This is a dump of a stream of consciousness, it doesn’t make your point very well.

    Secondly telling me what I’ll believe if I ‘learn more’ or that you’ve been where I am before me, are classic tactics that have been much discussed on this blog. Both are rather pathetic, and cheap. Show don’t tell.

    Thirdly, it might help to write without so many non-sequitirs. e.g. “God is pure energy, like a light…. God has no physical form” I don’t think you understand what physicality is. “I sought out Satan… the teachings of Luciferianism” You were a Luciferian because you were seeking Satan, at what point did you notice you were in the wrong place? “talk about it makes him a reality whether he ACTUALLY exists or doesn’t” Well, with logic like that, I must concede defeat. “yet SCIENCE has proven that there are things that have no explanation in the physical realm” I’d love to see these proofs. And not things that scientists haven’t yet explained, the things they’ve proved have no explanation in the physical realm, please.

    “We’re all crazy zealots with our fingers in our ears shouting Jesus is the way…not me dude.” I don’t know, that seems like a good summary of your tell first, ask later post. Maybe replace “Jesus” with “God”, from your comment, but the crazy zealous shouting approach – yeah, that seems very much like you, dude.

  74. David

    Yes I am Christian.
    Why? Because, I’d rather live as a believer and risk dying and finding out that I was wrong and there really is nothing after this life than to live as a non-believer and die and see that I was wrong and God really does exist!
    Let me put it this way: If you believed that the police and court system did not exist and you thought there would be no consequences for committing a crime so you went out robbed a bank and killed someone for fun then a few minutes later the police arrested you, you’d be screwed! Now you would have to get a Lawyer and explain your actions to a judge. The judge will not accept any of your excuses and he would send you to maximum security prison for the rest of your life or maybe even give you the death penalty!
    That would be a pretty big price to pay for doing something “just because you didn’t believe that the police, court and prison didn’t exist at all”!
    Not believing in God would be that same type of situation. Only worse! Because, if you live as a non-believer and you die tomorrow and find out you were wrong, you will meet God. He will ask you to explain why you didn’t believe in him. In this case, you will not even get a Lawyer to help you, you’ll be completely alone! He will judge you. He may or may not accept any excuses you give him. Then he will say one of two things: “I fogive you. Welcome to Heaven. You may proceed through the pearly gates.”
    Or
    You kept making excuses all your life as to why you would not and could not believe in me. I’m sorry, but, I won’t accept your excuses. Step through door number two and go straight to Hell!”
    That is just too big of a risk for me to take!
    Here on Earth, if you break the law and go to prison, you still have a second chance to get your life right so that you can someday go to Heaven, if it exists. However, if you go to Hell, there Will be no second chance!
    If you live as a believer and die and find out you were wrong and there’s nothing after this, you’ve lost nothing.
    However, if you live as a non-believer, die and find out you were wrong, you’ve lost everything!
    If what they say about Hell is correct, it is a place full of fire and ugly daemons who will torture you for eternity, then I don’t want to risk going there!
    People who have had near death experiences talk about their experience and what they saw. Most of those people from all over the world have never met each other and their stories match very closely. Some of them saw Heaven and some saw Hell. Those who saw Heaven found the experience very peaceful. But the ones who went to Hell talk of seeing evil and they are scared! Many of them become very religious afterwards.
    I truly believe that there has to be a creator because without a higher being, the Big Bang, evolution and all those other things atheists talk about would be impossible!
    For example: Who or what would have lit the fuse on the dynamite to set off the Big Bang? It would have been impossible!
    People sometimes say that for there to be a God, someone would have had to create him; but, that is only because it is what our mind is capable of seeing. Our minds aren’t able to visualize a lot of things we cannot see, hear or feel.
    Time is one thing in our world that we can comprehend. We can’t easily imagine a world where time does not exist. However, in Heaven there is no such thing as time. God has been around for eternity. That means there is no begining and no end. So that means God was never created, he has always been there and always will be.
    I know the Bible is hard to understand, it contradicts itself some times and there are a lot of other problems with it, but, the book was written by imperfect humans a long time ago, before the English language even existed. The book has been re-written several times and translated into several languages over the centuries, there are also several different versions of it to. So facts have gotten messed up and a few things were lost in translation.
    But there have been several things in the Bible that have been proven.
    There is a large ship that has been found on a mountain that matches the description of Noah’s Ark. There’s no water around the mountain. How did such a large ship get there? Must have been the flood.
    I don’t truly believe everything the Bible says verbatim, especially that story of the flood, but, there must have been a flood at some time, or else, how would the ship have gotten there? Who built it and why?
    I cannot physically prove that God exists, but nobody can prove he doesn’t exist either. With that in mind, I will continue to believe, even if I’m wrong, so what. Most people in the world do believe in God. Un some countries, they are forced to believe a particular religion, but most people in the world have a choice and we still believe. I will not take chances with the possibility of an afterlife!

  75. Ian

    What an incredibly long and rambling comment. Some much shorter responses.

    1. Your first argument is called “Pascal’s Wager” – it is nonsense, since it doesn’t account for the possibility of any other God except yours. You just happened to pick the right God. Of course, there’s plenty of Gods human beings have believed in who’d send you to damnation for making the wrong pick. The idea that it is “my God or atheism” shows a frightening lack of imagination.

    2. If you’re genuine about trying to learn about ‘the dynamite on the big bang’, then a college course would help. Of course, I’ve no illusion that you are actually interested in learning anything.

    3. Noah’s ark is a scam. Do some research. It hasn’t been ‘proven’ at all. But it bilked a few believers (not many, it turns out, the vast majority of Christians understand the ‘discovery’ was smoke and mirrors). A simple hour reading can help with that level of naivite.

    You seem to swing between pretend ‘what-if’s and then just declaring how things are. I’m always glad when folks like you come to witness here, in that way that talks a lot and doesn’t listen, understand or read. It does make a difference, but not in the way you hope.

    You didn’t comment in a way that suggests you read or are engaging with any of my points. So hey, I doubt you’ll respond. But anyone coming across this site who is interested can get a good sense of the level of many Christian’s rationalisations of their beliefs. I’m happy with that.

  76. Vince

    Ian, Terrific blog. You’ve implied a few times in this post and others that what is physical or natural is all there is. I don’t necessarily disagree with this view as I don’t think we can make a definitive statement one way or the other. At least to the degree that I can understand it, I agree with the post-modernist. I don’t think there is a big truth out there (including a natural one), and I think the quest to find and/or declare one only serves to marginalize others. However, that’s not why I profess to be a Christian, I just thought it was a point to bring up.

    Other than that, I agree with most of what you said in your post. I can tell you that the only reason I profess to be a Christian is because I was raised as one. Now that I’m in, I think that I can do more good fighting the system from within than I can from outside. Many Christians I know already view social justice as one of the most important things to their faith. They just need to leave much of their theological garbage behind. In many cases, I think they just need someone to tell them that this is okay to do so. You do this very nicely in your blog. However, most Christians, I think, won’t listen to you because they will go immediately on the defensive when you say that you are not one. I’m not saying you should declare to be one. Your belief in natural/supernatural would probably rule that out. What I am saying is that I find my place there, and I think there is a need for people like me in it.

  77. Derek Ramsey

    “3. There is no supernatural.”

    Let’s examine the claim of Ravi Zacharias. Chronic back pain for 27 years. A man that Ravi knew received a message from God for Ravi. The message was “3, 4, 5”. He was to deliver the message because Ravi would know what it meant. He scheduled a meeting with Ravi and gave the message. Ravi stated that the source of the back pain was caused in the L3/L4/L5 region of his spine. There was a prayer and laying on of hands. Shortly after that the pain was gone.

    Notice that the supernatural event was separate from the miracle itself. The healing could easily be attributed to a natural cause, but it is still a miracle because of its improbability (after 27 years) and the supernatural cause (the delivered message).

    Stories like this are not uncommon and often come in this form: a person is given a improbable task by God that results in an amazing outcome. This is consistent with Biblical teachings that the Holy Spirit dwells inside individual Christians and is the source of direct communication with God. It’s also why mass faith healings and anointing services often fail to work (Ravi also tried that), because they are not directly commanded by God and thus a violation of his will.

    It is true that even if the healing can be medically verified and explained, there is no way to confirm that the message was genuine. If you are around faithful and true Christians, you’ll run into these stories often. It either indicates mass fraud by persons you wouldn’t normally consider fraudulent, truth of the supernatural, or coincidence.

    Obviously you have to make up your own mind, but it’s not fair to say that there is *no* evidence of the supernatural. Naturalistic explanations are insufficient to disprove the supernatural. Naturally if you make up your mind that *any* highly improbable event is coincidence by definition, then you can’t believe in the supernatural. But that’s only because you’ve decided ahead of time that this is your belief.

    Reference: http://www.rzim.org/let-my-people-think-broadcasts/chariots-of-fire-part-3-of-3/

  78. Derek Ramsey

    “9. The afterlife limits humanistic morality.”

    1) God is limited by free will. He cannot punish every injustice without life becoming a coercion.
    2) There is a trade-off between mercy and justice. If you had a world where justice was immediate, there could be no mercy (or a population left). If you had a world where mercy reigned, you would have no justice.
    3) It is God’s mercy that you don’t have to worry about meting out justice. And don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t trust you to make the right judgments and I’m deeply suspicious of any government doing this properly. But God’s justice will be perfect.
    4) There is no never-ending torment in Hell, that’s a corruption of Bible teaching. The punishment for sin is permanent death. The death penalty is very strong justice.

    Which crimes do you think should result in instant justice? Surely not the ones that you have committed?

  79. Derek Ramsey

    “10. Cultivation of guilt is abusive.”

    You’ve been sold a false bill of goods if you think being a sinner makes you “utterly despicable” or unable to do anything good. This might be an indictment on a particular group of people or experiences you’ve had, but it is not an indictment on God.

    I’m not sure you can complain about lack of justice in the world and then say that guilt for sin is wrong. If something requires justice, why shouldn’t lack of repentance result in guilt? I would want to live in a world where people feel guilty when they do something wrong.

    Sin separates a person from God. In absolute terms the punishment for sin is permanent death. You’ll live out your life, suffer whatever natural consequences for your choices and at the end you’ll get the “atheist’s wish”: you will cease to exist.

  80. God fearing mortal

    This author is lost, scared & spiritually sick. Points 1-10 are opinions & lies, I pray the writer will evolve to understand reality & how to research data before exposing their ignorance further. #1 God is the only judge. Judging others is the biggest insult to God. I.E. Churches are dishonest & people in there are immoral. #2 Jesus / the messiah was perfect. He is foretold all thru the Old Testament & when he comes in the New Testament he only spreads love, hope & forgiveness. What translation of the bible reads Jesus flipping the golden rule, hating anyone ( moms & dads ), or anything ( fig trees)? Why does this empty person need 10 reasons to spread satans lies? I only see 1 – they were not taught about faith, so now they’re trying to kill what they don’t understand. Maybe they should refer to one sentence in the Greatest Book ever written -Hebrews 11:1

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