General Question

Paradox25's avatar

Can a theist also be a skeptic?

Asked by Paradox25 (10181points) July 11th, 2013

Some nontheists may say that being a theist is by default contradictory to skepticism. Some theists may disagree with the latter statement for their own reasons. Do you think that a theist can also be skeptic, or does theism by default contradict the skeptic’s position?

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74 Answers

rojo's avatar

This is interesting Skeptical Theism

BhacSsylan's avatar

It depends how you mean. Very rarely are skeptics perfect skeptics, we all have blind spots (aka cognitive dissonance). Some skeptics can have a blind spot where religion is, and many do (though they would probably disagree with me as to it being a blind spot). Some hold with the idea of ‘non-overlapping magisteria’, which means that they think science simply doesn’t have much to say about religion. Again, I disagree, but many hold this position.

So, if you mean ‘can a perfect skeptic be a theist’, I’d have to say no (since I don’t hold with non-overlapping magisteria). But no one is a perfect skeptic. If you mean ‘can a person think of themselves as a theist and a skeptic’, the answer is certainly yes, and many do. And I personally think that a skeptical theist has a big blind spot with religion, but I won’t deny they can be a good skeptic in other areas.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

That would be on what detail or item is being scrutinized. In its basic form you can’t be a believer and be a skeptic, hence, why would you be called a ”believer” if you did not believe? If you are going to have faith, you have to believe in the faith or it has no power. It doesn’t mean you can’t test the scriptures to see if what you are being told is true or not, God tells you that. If you do not believe the Word off the top, then maybe you are not a true believer as you think you are.

marinelife's avatar

Theism has to do with belief. A theist can also be a skeptic.

Rarebear's avatar

I know many atheists who are not skeptics, and many theists who are skeptics.

But this is an area of fierce debate within the skeptical movement.

ETpro's avatar

There are certainly theists that are skeptics when it comes to claims of human supernatural powers, mind reading, fortune telling, etc. But the meaning of the word skeptic and the meaning of the word faith do, just as @Hypocrisy_Central notes, directly clash. If you read about what skeptical theism is in the link that @rojo provided, you will read about a branch of theism that asserts that it is impossible to know about the actions of God. Claiming knowledge of something that can’t be known is the very thing skepticism is aimed at resisting.

josie's avatar

There is an entire historical enterprise that believes that Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther were skeptics.
Answer, no doubt.

Judi's avatar

Thomas was the first Christian skeptic I know of. Some of the best theology is a result of working through skepticism. IMO

LostInParadise's avatar

Theism requires a leap of faith, which is the opposite of skepticism.

Rarebear's avatar

@LostInParadise I disagree. Although there is some overlap between atheism and skepticism, they are not synonymous. I know many atheists who believe in the paranormal, and SCAM (supplementary and alternative medicine). And I know many theists who are rigorous critical thinkers.

ETpro's avatar

@Rarebear You can’t be a rigorous critical thinker and accept the creation myth and commandments of the religions devoted to El, Yahweh, Elohim, God the Father, son and Holy Ghost, Allah. The assertions are just to absurd to fit with critical thought unless the person involved has a massive blind spot obscuring that realm from their consideration.

augustlan's avatar

I’m in agreement with @BhacSsylan. Probably every skeptic has his or her own blind spots, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think that a theist can be a skeptic, too.

ETpro's avatar

@augustlan and all the others who have so stated. What rigorous research can you cite to say that all people are have blind spots. I’ve met my share who work tirelessly to ensure they don’t. And it would certainly take substantiation to prove that all people are equally blind to facts and guided entirely by confirmation bias. I think that’s just one more of those oh-so-comfortable false equivalences that make people seem so egalitarian while allowing them to shut their eyes to evidence and function on what is, in essence, a blind spot.

augustlan's avatar

I admit I have no rigorous research to back up my opinion on this. It just seem reasonable to me that there probably isn’t a person alive who is perfect in any regard, including skepticism.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@ETpro cognitive bias is a highly well-documented facet of the human mind. An excellent recent example, highly trained radiologists were given slides to look at which literally contained a gorilla picture photoshopped on top. After analyzing them, only one (of ~10) noticed anything out of the ordinary. I also work tirelessly to eliminate defects where I can, but I am not perfect and I would be skeptical (ha) of anyone who claimed they were. I am not saying they’re equivalent in scope, and I argue quite a lot against religion, as you can easily see in my history here. I just said above I think the non-overlapping magisteria is a load of bunk. But I will not claim that no skeptic has made a mistake, or that one must be perfect to claim the title.

Part of being a skeptic is recognizing our flaws, after all.

LostInParadise's avatar

Skepticism is a general stance toward life. There will always be things that appear a certain way at first sight, but which are actually different. It is, for example, quite natural to initially believe that the sun goes around the earth. As someone who questions conventional wisdom, a skeptic is more open to alternative explanations and more willing to follow where the facts lead.

There are dogmatic unthinking atheists. I lump them in the same category as theists. They have taken their own leap of faith without thinking things through.

tups's avatar

Of course they can. I would say that theism means that you believe in a God, but being a sceptic you know that you can’t possibly know if there is a God. It all comes down to the difference between belief and knowledge – two things that people sometimes have a hard time recognizing the difference between.

Just like theist can’t know for sure if there is a God, atheists can’t know for sure if there isn’t.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Of course one can be a rigorous critical thinker and accept the creation myth. And because you are a rigorous critical thinker yourself, you are capable of understanding the difference between a myth and a historical account or scientific statement. If not, please let me know and I’ll explain it to you. I’m sure you’ve heard of Michael Shermer, who is Editor in Chief of the Skeptic magazine. He said the following:

“Myths are about the human struggle to deal with the great passages of time and life—birth, death, marriage, the transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age. They meet a need in the psychological or spiritual nature of humans that has absolutely nothing to do with science. To try to turn a myth into a science, or a science into a myth, is an insult to myths, an insult to religion, and an insult to science. In attempting to do this, (young-earth) creationists have missed the significance, meaning, and sublime nature of myths.”

Let’s take Adam and Eve (one of the two creation myths in the Old Testament). People who learn to “eat” fruit from the tree of knowledge lose their innocence and their ignorance i.e. their “paradise” and learn about the evil side of the world. But it’s an opportunity for growth as well. A modern version of this myth can be found in the Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Until the traveler arrives from the past, the Eloi are a comfortable group, living a banal life of ease on the surface of the earth. When they get a taste of knowledge they meet the evil Morlocks. No more paradise.

LostInParadise's avatar

Myths make great metaphors. So do fairy tales. To accept a myth or a fairy tale is to take it as a fact, which is what at least some theists do. To say that the Bible is the word of God is to take it as the literal and absolute truth. No room for skepticism here. To say that you are a Christian but do not take the Bible as the word of God, is to state a fuzzy and ultimately meaningless form of theism.

mattbrowne's avatar

To accept a myth is to accept its deeper meaning and wisdom. Most modern Christians accept that the Bible was written by humans. Many of the authors are known by name. The evangelists, for example, tried to describe the life of Jesus passed on by oral traditions. There are also myths in them, like the circumstances of birth of Jesus (Luke).

The description that the Bible “is the word of God” mostly comes from American fundamentalists and zealous atheists. The view that if the Bible “isn’t the word of God” Christianity becomes fuzzy comes from zealous atheists.

Paradox25's avatar

@ETpro What is considered justifiable to be skeptical about or not, and what/who gives any self-proclaimed skeptic the authority to decide that? There are people like myself who don’t believe in paranormal phenomena, but rather accept the evidence for it, so no leap of faith required there. I’ll mention theology as well. There are people out, many of whom are scientists who believe that there is strong evidence for a creator of some sort, so they’ll claim that their theism is no leap of faith either. Some theists justify their theism (usually deists) based on mathematics alone, like the 50/50 argument (50% chance of there being a god or not).

@Rarebear What is the true definition of the term skeptic? There are people who consider themselves global warming and/or evolution skeptics, so would those views make these types of people skeptics? I know atheists/agnostics who are not sceptics as well.

LostInParadise's avatar

@mattbrowne , Pardon my bluntness, but what is it that makes you a Christian? Do you or do you not believe that Christ rose from the grave to redeem the sins of those who believe in him? I always took this to be the definition of Christian. Anything else is like the person I knew who joking described himself as a non-practicing vegetarian.

@Rarebear , I contend that all skeptics are atheists. There are additionally atheists who are not skeptics. It is like saying all roses are flowers, but there are other flowers that are not roses.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Most theists I hang out with are skeptics, but we make a conscious decision to believe, because our religion is faith-based only.

@LostInParadise I believe in God and Jesus the whole she-bang, but see my statement above. God gave us a brain to think with, and Adam & Eve had a choice to make just like we all do. My God encourages questions from His children, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be skeptical or question anything and everything.

LostInParadise's avatar

Interesting how you can say that you will not question your faith, but everything else is open to question. I definitely support the everything else part. A healthy skepticism is a good thing.

Rarebear's avatar

@ETpro I didn’t say that the theists I knew accepted the Creation myth. I said they believed in God. In fact, these theists of whom I speak are rigorous defenders of evolution.

ETpro's avatar

Well, I ruffled some feathers. Good! Helps flush the bloodsucking lice from under them.

@BhacSsylan I don’t disagree with anything you say. The fact that your way of saying it seems to be an attempt to disagree with what I wrote tells me that either your didn’t understand, or that I failed to make myself clear. I did not say that some are paragons of perfection with no conformation bias. Quite the opposite, I said that claiming all have an equal amount of confirmation bias is a clear example of false equivalency. I stand by that statement. It is absurd to assert that all people are equally subject to bias. I defy anyone here to find credible research establishing that such it the case.

@mattbrowne I have no problem with accepting the creation myth as an interesting allegorical story. I accept it as that myself. But that doesn’t take someone to being a skeptic to being a dedicated theist. There are huge problems with the creation myths in Genesis is one tries to ascribe them to the word of an omniscient, omnipotent God. They are wildly wrong in many areas a omniscient creator would know to be wrong. And that sort of sloppy reporting by God extends throughout the old testament and new. They show ample evidence of being the musings of primitive men, not the divine inspiration of am absolutely perfect. omniscient and omnipotent God. Thus, I am skeptical.

@Paradox25 Go collect James Randi’s prose for demonstrating paranormal phenomena then get back to me and I’ll consider that my skepticism about your paranormal claims may need reevaluation. Till better evidence comes along supporting your claims, though, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that I do not see.

@Rarebear If one believes in the God of Abraham, Isaac. Jacob. David, Solomon ad Jesus, THen they believe in a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever and yet changes on a whim. They believe in a God who is love and who deliberately engineered a universe were there was solid evidence that he didn’t exist, nut he insisted on condemning all who are aware that facts he “planted” lead away from him; but he will condemn all who fail to believe to an eternity of punishment in agony beyond human comprehension. And we are supposed to believe this is a loving god. How many truly loving human parents would do that. Is this god composed of perfect love so incredibly perverse that he makes the Marquise de Sade look like and angel, and yet skeptics must accept this idiocy as truth. Your theists friends are entitled to believe what they wish but be prepared for a fight when trying to transfer those beliefs to me.

Rarebear's avatar

@ETpro you are not often wrong, but you are here. Sorry.
http://www.starstryder.com/about-me/this-i-believe/

ETpro's avatar

@Rarebear You’re entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine. My opinion is that those who claim the Abrahamic God exists while having no proof of it, and who reject most of the Old and New Testaments which assert his existence are demonstrating a profound lack of skepticism. Rather, they seem to be taken in primarily by feel-good woo-woo.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t see why not. I know people who choose to believe in God, even though they think it isn’t altogether logical.

augustlan's avatar

@ETpro I’ve always been a critical thinker and a skeptic, but I also used to believe in god. Here’s the thing, when I was a believer, I was fully aware that there was no evidence for god’s existence. But believing in god was about how I felt rather than what I knew (or could know, for that matter). I understood that there was no proof, but I still felt in my heart of hearts that there was a god.

Accepting that I couldn’t know, I also knew how I felt. It’s sort of like how every parent feels that their child is amazing, even when evidence points to ‘ordinary’. Sure, it’s a dichotomy, but it’s not necessarily one you feel compelled to resolve. You accept the dichotomy and move on about your business.

ETpro's avatar

@augustlan Skepticism is all about not being swayed by how one feels.

Paradox25's avatar

@ETpro I’d glady discuss why Randi’s challenge has little meaning to me, as well as to a growing number of scientists and other paranormal researchers, in another thread. I’ve also posted links concerning evidence and recommended books, but you actually have to read them. I’d gladly discuss the futility of Randi’s challenge, as well as other dirt I have on that guy in another thread. There’s a huge difference between a true sceptic and a professional debunker. I brought up points about the paranormal to make a bigger point pertaining to my question, such as the fact that many sceptics accept paranormal evidence rather than take a leap of faith that something mystical is occuring.

I kind of agree with your point about believing in a seemingly transcendental concept such as a supreme deity and being a sceptic, especially since many of these types of theists debate me on the paranormal. My biggest concern is that almost all beliefs, no matter how much evidence seemingly supports something, is still a belief regardless. What classifies as evidence to one person may not be strong evidence to another, and even many scientists seem to disagree with each other concerning different phenomena, and not all of these scientists has a religious bias to verify the Bible like a Hugh Ross for example.

Personally I see no reason why a theist can’t be a sceptic, unless you consider the Null Hypothesis. The problem that I see with many sceptics is that when they can’t explain the results of an experiment which seems to fight the null, they simply just use the Null Hypothesis itself to explain that an alternative hypothesis must be wrong. I’ve seen the latter done in so many different experimental protocols. So let me guess, a self-proclaimed sceptic is going to tell others what they should be sceptical about, and which side of an issue I should take, and then if I don’t I’m not considered to be a reliable sceptic?!

Paradox25's avatar

@LostInParadise Some of us theists do question our beliefs, but unfortunately many won’t. I still question my stances. I’ll reverse this question though, how many sceptics would be willing to question their disbelief, even if evidence seems to counter the disbelief? Some sceptics have already told me that they won’t even bother to look at certain evidence because they already know that the concept of god/s, ghosts, spirits, psi, telepathy, energy healing, etc is a ridiculous thought. Please don’t give me the pink unicorn argument.

Neodarwinian's avatar

Sure, in every thing but that one thing.

mattbrowne's avatar

@LostInParadise – When you say that accepting a myth means accepting it as a fact (take it literally), you assume that Christians accept that snakes can talk (as in the Adam and Eve creation myth). Pardon my bluntness, but that is a ridiculous assumption on your part. I have yet to mean one Christian who thinks that snakes can talk.

And assuming that Jesus “rising from the grave” means using his arms like wings defying gravity or using them as an airfoil generating lift is equally ridiculous.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Because the Bible was written by humans, it can’t be perfect. I know that many traditional Christians disagree with this view.

Christian skeptics rely on a method called higher criticism, founded by the Dutch scholars Desiderius Erasmus and Benedict Spinoza, which investigates the historical context of the Bible. “It asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work in its production; what sources were used in its composition; and what message it was intended to convey.”

LostInParadise's avatar

Christians do not take the resurrection as myth, though they are divided between those who say that Jesus rose in body and those who say he just rose in spirit. Both groups believe that the path to salvation in the afterlife depends on belief in the resurrection. If you do not accept it as fact then what makes you a Christian as opposed to any other religion?

mattbrowne's avatar

I see nothing wrong with believing in him rising in spirit. It’s symbolic language and it clearly depicts what Christianity is all about. In the spirit of Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King asked his followers to engage in nonviolent protests. In Edward Snowden’s view, he acted in the spirit of the American constitution.

You seem to be confused about the meaning of the word fact. Perhaps this definition will enlighten you: “A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be proven to correspond to experience.”

Don’t confuse religious beliefs with phenomena of the physical world. We can’t verify resurrection. We can believe in it or not. To me resurrection symbolizes that the spirit of Jesus lives on. He is in a way still present and he can help Christians live a good life. A life without hating other people.

LostInParadise's avatar

Do you believe in life after death?

mattbrowne's avatar

Define life after death.

LostInParadise's avatar

Life after death assumes that our consciousness is part of an immortal soul distinct from our physical bodies. Life after death is the continued existence of such a soul after our physical demise. After death the soul retains memories and is able to reason and feel emotions. See Wikipedia article. Skip to the section on Christianity about half way down the page.

Judi's avatar

What if you don’t retain memories? I don’t remove er life in the womb but I believe in it. I sometimes wonder if death is like birth. It seemed to make so much sense when my mom was dying. It felt like my sisters and I were midwifing her into a new existence.

LostInParadise's avatar

For those unfortunates who do not achieve salvation, would it make sense to be punished for something one does not remember doing?

Judi's avatar

@LostInParadise, I am not convinced anyone will not “achieve salvation.” (Sorry for the double negative.)
God is full of surprises. I just read this post and it made me think about how some of the holiest people I know are atheists.
More wisdom from Walter Wink (“Engaging the Powers”): “The God whom Jesus revealed as no longer our rival, no longer threatening and vengeful, but unconditionally loving and forgiving, who needed no satisfaction by blood—this God of infinite mercy was metamorphosed by the church into the image of a wrathful God whose demand for blood atonement leads to God’s requiring of his own Son a death on behalf of us all. The nonviolent God of Jesus comes to be depicted as a God of unequaled violence, since God not only allegedly demands the blood of the victim who is closest and most precious to him, but also holds the whole of humanity accountable for a death that God both anticipated and required. Against such an image of God the revolt of atheism is an act of pure religion.”

Paradox25's avatar

@mattbrowne That would be life after life.
@LostInParadise Not all people (such as myself) who believe that our egos and memories may survive what we term as ‘physical’ death are dualists, at least in the sense that there are two sides to existence, the physical and the spririt. I’m more with Buddhists on this one, though with some differences.
@Judi I’ve read alot about near death experiences. It seems that we enter this world through a dark tunnel with light at the end, and when we pass on we enter another dark tunnel with light at the end. Not everyone has the same experience of course from what I’ve read about NDE’s though, and near death experiences aren’t actually death themselves either.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Judi , Interesting quote. It goes along with my belief that, if religion comes to an end, and I do believe that such a time will come, then it will have to be replaced with a more tolerant earthbound spirituality.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@LostInParadise For those unfortunates who do not achieve salvation, would it make sense to be punished for something one does not remember doing? Could you be prosecuted for a crime you did not know was a crime, or one you did know, but forgot about before the statute of limitations had run? Sure you can. On the Lord’s Day each will have read to him/her their account. You will not have “I forgot” as an excuse because every act will be presented to you. Those acts not covered under grace will be judge under the Law of Moses. Even if you were pardoned of all but that piece of candy you stole in the 5th grade, the punishment is the same; the wages of sin is death. Those unfortunate souls who don’t get that, will truly be unfortunate.

Judi's avatar

Then I fear we’re all going down @Hypocracy_Central.
I don’t serve a god who requires the perfect handshake or incantation to be in the “club.”
I believe Jesus reconciled ALL of creation, not just those privy to the secret.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Judi I believe Jesus reconciled ALL of creation, not just those privy to the secret. Here is the fact: it is not a secret club of the privy. Christ died that all might be reconciled, and redeemed. However, if one doesn’t accept the gift of salvation, what good would it do them? If I won the lotto and posted that every Flutheronian that post a letter to a certain address within a set number of days would get $20,000, if you did not believe, and post the letter in the required days, how can you get the cash? Salvation, to those who are not seeking it, is a mystery. It would make as much sense to a longshoreman hearing about how an oscillator works when he has no interest in it.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central , I don’t want to get too involved in interpretations of salvation, not being a Christian, so let me make this brief. The point I was trying to make is that if we accept @Judi ‘s belief that our memories start new in the afterlife then it would not make sense to punish people. The analogy would be with someone who is sent to prison and then comes down with Alzheimer’s and completely forgets why he was put away. What would be the point of continued imprisonment?

Judi's avatar

@hypocricy_Central, Grace is not a lotto.
@LostInParadise, I wouldn’t really call it a “belief, ” I would call it a “wonder.” I don’t claim to have any special knowledge of spirituality, just a simple faith that my God loves me and has my best interest hat heart. I am not so arrogant to think that I know exactly how he works. I have hopes. I used to believe as @Hypocrisy_Central does. Over time, the more I learn the more I realize how little I know. My hope is that God is bigger than that.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne We’ve been through all this before, so I don’t expect much to come from my reply. But the claim for the Bible is that is was written by fallible man but under the divine guidance of a God who is both infallible, omniscient and omnipotent. If the God who directed its writing is not all those things, then who cares what he directed men to write? If he is all those things, then how come he couldn’t get it right? I am sorry, but your own claim makes the book irrelevant in present times.

Paradox25's avatar

@LostInParadise Do you really think that science could had evolved without metaphors? I’m not talking about accepting metaphors as objective evidence or facts, but rather using metaphors to guide us. Could we really have prevailed as a civilization by the scientific method alone, with no metaphors to guide it?
@ETpro How many scientists would really disagree with their life’s work upon a new discovery which would counter their own assumptions? Remember what Max Planck said. Also, when many atheists claim that they don’t believe in a god, they frequently claim (at least the atheists I’ve debated) that they suspend belief due to lack of evidence for a creator. Is it really possible to suspend belief when ultimately we all use our own mental images to come to our current conclusions?
@Judi @Hypocrisy_Central Do you both classify yourself as sceptics?

LostInParadise's avatar

Science depends on metaphors, models, analogies and abstractions, but it does not mistake these for reality the way that religion does.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Paradox25 @Judi @Hypocrisy_Central Do you both classify yourself as sceptics?
Though there are things I still do not understand about the Bible or the will of God fully I would not call myself a skeptic. Because I don’t know why God allows some things and other things He makes an example of, or allow no quarter, it is because I was not letting the Spirit lead and trying to fathom it with my meager earthly mind. If I do not seek the things of the Spirit in the spirit, how can I understand them in a carnal mind? That would be as a musician trying to make sense of an electronic schematic.

Judi's avatar

@Paradox25 , it depends on the situation. I guess I would say that once my spidy sense is activated my skepticism is off the charts. For the most part though, I tend to take to much at face value. It has gotten me in trouble before.
I AM skeptical of establishment though if that makes any sense. Usually, if the majority seems to be following like lemmings, I’m the one that sees the cloff and starts screaming to no avail. That’s why although I AM a sold out follower of Jesus, I am disgusted by the likes of Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson and Mark Driscol.

ETpro's avatar

@LostInParadise “How many scientists would disagree with their life’s work?” Any true scientist would. Until Einstein published his papers on Special and General Relativity, the entire scientific community was convinced that Newtonian physics ruled the entire Universe.

Einstein himself introduced a “cosmological constant” into his E = mc² equation in his Theory of Special Relativity. He did so because all of science at the time believed that our Universe is static and eternal, but his theory without a constant stuffed in did not equate to such a Universe. After learning later that our Universe is dynamic and ephemeral, he declared that the cosmological constant was his greatest blunder. He should have trusted his equations.

Good scientists go where the evidence takes them. When observed evidence destroys a cherished belief, they follow the evidence. Science is not about schools of belief but about how things actually are. Religion, which is ONLY about schools of belief, has never accurately predicted anything or made anything work. Science is ONLY useful if it can predict as yet unobserved things and make things work.

mattbrowne's avatar

@LostInParadise – It is my hope that physical death is not an absolute termination of the mind. If there is a realm beyond the physical world, we have no way of knowing what this is. If God exists, the true nature is beyond human understanding. The invention of terms like immortal soul is an attempt to describe something we can’t describe. To me they are symbols of something that is worth believing in. All of this is beyond the realm of science. The purpose and meaning of the universe is inexplicable by science. The tools of scientific method simply cannot be applied. There is no true Theory of Everything explaining all natural laws. Because we can’t explain the explanation of the explanation. We can believe in God as the ultimate explanation. Or we can say that some things “just are”, which is what atheists do to get around the infinite why questions problem.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – What does the Bible itself say about divine guidance while writing the Bible? Do you have a verse stating this?

LostInParadise's avatar

Matt, There will always be things science cannot answer. You can always ask why for any explanation given. Your God is just the metaphoric repository of our ignorance. There is no practical difference between saying, “I don’t know” and saying “It happens because it is the will of God, but God is unknowable.” You are playing a game of semantics. As our ignorance has retreated to questions about subatomic particles, we have been witnessing an incredibly shrinking and irrelevant God.

You might find of interest this article decrying the squishy form of religion espoused by Karen Armstrong to which you subscribe.

Here is Richard Dawkins on this approach to theology:

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: “Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn’t matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism.”

Well, if that’s what floats your canoe, you’ll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world’s peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They’ll be right.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne The various authors of biblical verses made over 3,000 claims that the words they were transcribing were not theirs, but instead the divine and inerrant utterances revealed to them by an omnipotent, omniscient and supernatural being who was, is and always will be the one true God, the creator of all that exists and existing undetectably, independent and outside that creation.

Here are just a tiny number of the many examples.

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19.

“God knew that false prophets would also claim to speak for Him, so He placed a death penalty if their words did not come true.” Deuteronomy 13:5.

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was on my tongue” 2 Samuel 23:2.

“12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. John 16: 12–15.

Have you not read the book yourself? There are over 3,000 claims in it of divine authorship. It specifically says that its divine author, God, is omniscient and omnipotent. If this is your religion, why do you need one who doesn’t believe it to tell you what you profess to be the totality of truth?

mattbrowne's avatar

None of these examples show or prove divine authorship, i.e. that the verses of the Bible were dictated by God (did he use a microphone?). All verses were written by human beings who assume that what they wrote was inspired by God. Yes, in the Christian belief God is seen as omniscient and omnipotent, but also as being beyond human understanding. We will never understand his true nature. We will never understand his true will. Christians believe that Jesus as the son of God (symbolic meaning) showed us God’s will. It’s a belief. Not a fact. Not an absolute truth. Many atheists seem to assume that all Christians interpret the Bible as a book of facts, a book of clear doctrines and absolute truth. If this were so, why are there approximately 41,000 Christian denominations? Many atheists also express black and white thinking when talking about Christianity. Either you are a Christian or you are not. Either you accept all doctrines or you don’t. The world is more colorful, more complex. Maybe this helps: there is such a thing as a 70% Christian. We live in a free world. Religious belief is a choice. The support of doctrines and certain viewpoints is a choice. Religious beliefs must make sense to individuals including those capable of critical thinking. If you think that “70% Christians” are idiots, this is your right. If you think that only Bible-Belt-type Christians are the true Christians and others are not, this is your right. I’m glad we live in countries that support freedom of thought.

LostInParadise's avatar

You are of course free to interpret your belief as 70% Christian. My interpretation and, I suspect, that of a lot of others, would be more like 99.9% atheist.

mattbrowne's avatar

I don’t believe that the natural laws are just there because they are just there. I don’t believe that the universe has no meaning and purpose. I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe in his spirit. I believe in rejecting hatred during our lives. I believe in the deeper meanings of biblical myths and parables. I believe in being part of the Christian community practicing its rituals. I believe in evolving religions. I believe in tolerance. It is my hope that physical death is not an absolute termination of the mind.

I’m still wondering why there are so many Christian fundamentalists in the US, but not in Europe. In my opinion American atheists are part of the problem by advocating their “all or nothing approach”. Either you accept everything written in the Bible as divine and inerrant utterances to be followed at all times, or you don’t and then this means you have to give up religion. So either be an atheist or a Christian who has the duty to murder innocent women and children as uttered by God in Deuteronomy. Well, a lot of people in the US are not ready to give up religion. And since atheists seem to discredit any attempt of a third way, many of them end up as fundamentalists as the only religious offer.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am in agreement with most of the concrete beliefs in your first paragraph, which does not keep me from being 100% atheist. The major omission would be the part about Christian community and rituals.

It is hard to know what the actual person Jesus believed, but I think it is reasonable to suppose that he opposed the priestly domination of the Jewish Temple, which I would go along with.

I reject hatred.

I believe in the deeper meanings in a whole range of works of fiction.

No doubt that religions evolve.

I believe in tolerance.

Though I see no reason to believe so, it sure would be nice if our minds continued beyond our physical death. Maybe Kurzweil’s singularity will some day become reality.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@mattbrowne If this were so, why are there approximately 41,000 Christian denominations?
Matt, the simple answer to that is MAN. That is not God’s plan. There are many divisions in the body of Christ because of man. There is nothing good about man. You always have the ‘A’ type extroverts who want to run things. If they can’t gain position or status where they are the only remedy is to go start your own church, or denomination. The core of that is pride.

I am glad pride which leads to divisions is a result of sin, therefore man has hope. If it were a byproduct of evolution man is doomed. Either it is a cancer that developed as a part of higher intelligence that can’t be eradicated, or it is an innate quality of evolution that needs some outside force to mitigate. Either way man is screwed if it is a byproduct of evolution.

mattbrowne's avatar

@LostInParadise – The rituals are the only difference? So you think that the natural laws have an explanation beyond nature? And you believe the universe isn’t meaningless?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central – We don’t know what God’s plan is. We can only guess and form beliefs. I think there are 41,000 Christian denominations, because of the gap between Jesus’ life and the description of his life passed on by oral traditions. Even Paul didn’t know Jesus personally. In Islam it’s different. We know a great deal about the historical Muhammad and the time right after his death. The Koran is seen as being dictated by Allah. Word for word. Still, there are more than one branch of Islam, but not 41,000.

LostInParadise's avatar

@mattbrowne , Any explanation of a natural law is a natural law. There is no way out. The problem with saying God is an explanation is that it does not explain anything. It does not allow us to do anything that we could not do otherwise. It is just a word game, attaching a name to our ignorance. One time God was the explanation for planetary motion. Then Newton showed how the laws of physics explained movement of the planets, pushing back the God explanation. Each time we learn something new, we push God back a little further.

What does it mean for the universe to have meaning? Please give examples. I can’t object because I don’t know what you are talking about.

Paradox25's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I love asking theists this, so I’ll ask you this: do you really think there’s a supreme deity, or does the thought of there not being a god scare you so you kid yourself into believing? Is it the philosophy, or the actual belief that a god per se exists? As far as Christians not seeming to agree with each other, and considering the obvious fact that even biblical scholars (whom are likely much more knowledgable than yourself concerning the Bible) can’t even seem to agree on what the texts mean, don’t you see yourself commiting the no true scotsman fallacy?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

do you really think there’s a supreme deity, or does the thought of there not being a god scare you so you kid yourself into believing?
I certainly do believe there is a supreme being and He is God. I don’t worry about the thought that there is no god, because he/she would have been a man-made artifact of wood, metal, or stone. God made man, man cannot make God. I do not have to kid myself in believing because if you have a true relationship with Him, there are things that you would have had experiences that have no earthly explanation.

As far as Christians not seeming to agree with each other, and considering the obvious fact that even biblical scholars (whom are likely much more knowledgable than yourself concerning the Bible) can’t even seem to agree on what the texts mean,
Crossover from one language to another is bound to have some meanings that are not clear. I can take you to neighborhoods here in the US and have you ear hustle some conversations, you would follow a lot of it, but there are things I know you would not know what they were talking about. We have what we need to know what Gs to know, the Bible even said not to split hairs on syntax because He knew ahead of time people would try to use that as a reason to remain in their iniquity.

Here is a question I love to ask atheist; so I will ask you. If there is nothing past this life here, why are atheists afraid to die or fight to live even if that means to linger in server physical pain unto they are rescued? Now you can use the talking points about staying alive as to not sadden those who you would leave, which makes no sense because you would never know how sad or happy they would be once life leaves your body. I am sure you have another –excuse- reason for being afraid to die or not wanting to relinquish life.

ETpro's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Man has worshiped over 3,000 different creator gods, and almost all of them, in their sacred texts, are asserted to be the one and only god. Obviously, they cannot all be right. So even the most adamant theist HAS to admit that man can and does create gods. Lots and lots of them. Thousands of them.

I understand you are convinced you’ve fortunately been born in the narrow niche of time and real estate where you were reared to luckily latch on the the 1 that’s the real one, and the other poor saps, past and present, who worship any of the other 2,999 are just deluded and damned to eternal, unimaginable suffering because your loving god decided they shouldn’t be favored with the great fortune he lavished on you.

As to personal relationship, the tingly feeling on the nape of one’s neck, the still small voice, maybe. But we humans have to be constantly on our guard not to be led astray by our feelings. We are hard wired by evolution to feel certain things in powerful fashion. Such feelings served our survival in hunter gatherer tribes. But they often lead us to conclude that things wholly produced in our imagination are even more real than the ground we walk on when the truth is they are nothing more than delusions. Why do you think it is that people worshiping wildly different gods from the one you revere report exactly the same personal relationship?

@Paradox25 To bring this back to the OP if theists are capable of being true skeptics, we seem not to have that sort of theist anomg our membership.

Paradox25's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I seem to have this uncanny ability to be labeled as a conservative by liberals, liberal by conservatives, religionist by atheists, and atheist by theists. I’m not sure what your definition of an atheist is, for is your definition of an atheist somebody who doesn’t believe in a god per se, or someone who isn’t Christian? I find it odd that you bring up the topic of an afterlife, since there’s probably no other person in the history of fluther who has argued for the existence of an afterlife as strongly as I have, so where were you theists to back me up? LMFAO.

To answer your latter question I’m not an atheist, so you’re asking a theist this: “If there is nothing past this life here, why are atheists afraid to die or fight to live even if that means to linger in server physical pain unto they are rescued? Now you can use the talking points about staying alive as to not sadden those who you would leave, which makes no sense because you would never know how sad or happy they would be once life leaves your body. I am sure you have another –excuse- reason for being afraid to die or not wanting to relinquish life.” I can’t answer that, because I think there likely is an afterlife, and because I don’t fear death anymore than any other atheist or theist.

@ETpro In all fairness I do feel that by default theism counters skepticism. I still feel that you can have a core belief in a god, but keep this out of your thinking process when reverting to skepticism involving tangible phenomena. A skeptic is supposed to have doubt until there’s testable, observable and repeatable evidence concerning supporting any phenomena or entity. You’re claiming that there’s no theists who’ve satisfied your criteria for being a skeptic, but how many skeptical scientists would be willing to throw away their live’s work and their cognitive dissonance for a new discovery countering the null? My answer would be likely not too many.

You’re likely correct, that theism does counter skepticism. However, who’s to say that the skeptic has the best train of thought concerning scientific research and advancment? Metaphors, along with observation and experience, ultimately shape our character, thoughts and abilities. Fundamentalist disbelief is just as dogmatic as fundamentalist belief in my opinion. Ironically some of the greatest scientists and inventors were skeptical, but not dogmatic with it.

ETpro's avatar

@Paradox25 Sorry, but your understanding of science is clearly flawed. One after another, great scientists have thrown out their life’s work because some new evidence surfaced that showed their prior understanding with limited, or just plain wrong.

Skeptics obviously are not inherently right. They just aren’t so easily led astray as are those who give in to the tingly feeling on their spine, their intuition, exciting anecdotes, etc and consider those to be evidence worth jettisoning established scientific theory and inventing a whole new model for universal law.

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