Two miracles for the skeptic (part 1)

As society continues to migrate to towards secularism, a larger percentage of the population questions the existence of God and skeptics find it easier to dismiss scriptural or  personal claims of miracles.

Factors of modernity lead some to doubt the literal claims of scripture. Less people see scripture as inerrant leaving each recorded miracle subject to scrutiny. An example of modern dismissal of scriptural miracles can be found with Thomas Jefferson. The influential proponent of the Enlightenment famously (or infamously) removed accounts of miracles from the New Testament because he found them unbelievable.

Contemporary claims of God’s miraculous intervention cover a wide range, from being cured from sickness as an answer to prayer, to countries winning wars. Because such claims can be subjectively interpreted, a skeptic can dismiss them. To the doubter, contemporary accounts of miracles are not necessarily a proof of God.

My purpose is not to suggest scriptural or contemporary accounts of miracles are irrelevant — but that to some, they may not be convincing.  I would propose two items that I believe are good cases for the miraculous, and worthy of consideration by doubters, and a possible avenue towards belief.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell points out that the first function of mythology (sacred narrative) is “the discovery and recognition of the dimension of the mystery of being.”[i] One of the best titled books in Mormondom captures the major aspects of being, and the resulting potential sacred mystery.  I have yet to read Hyrum L. Andrus’ God, Man and the Universe.[ii] But I really like the title. You really can’t capture the great philosophical and theological topics so succinctly in a single title. And it so happens that it also captures the elements of Campbell’s primary function of mythology.

I propose that the miraculous and/or God can be found in the two major components of being: the Nature of the Universe, and the Nature of Man.[iii]

Miracle #1: The Universe

I was moved recently when NASA engineers cheered the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars.[iv] I had grown up during the Apollo era and the science of the time captured my imagination and wonderment. News of its landing led me to believe we had taken yet another “leap for mankind” towards unraveling the mysteries of the universe.

My personal fascination as a child with space came from the same wonderment we all feel as we stare at the stars and try to wrap our heads around the immensity of space. A lot has been learned about the Universe in the scientific age.  We know the Universe is essentially the remnant of a large explosion.  For over thirteen-billion years, much of the energy in the explosion called the Big Bang, has coalesced into physical matter, and the space which contains that matter and energy still continues to expand like a mushroom cloud at an ever increase rate of speed.

But as I think about it, it seems we really shouldn’t have had a Universe in the first place. What seems more plausible to me — is that the Big Bang should not have banged at all. It should be as it was in the pre-Big Bang era where our Universe was compressed into a single point. The container that holds the matter and energy of the Universe that we call “space” – did not exist.  And because time and space are integrated together as “continuum,” there really wasn’t time either.  No matter, no space, no time.

So I wonder why the explosion occurred in the first place, allowing reality as we know it to come into existence. This was the beginning. [v]

Discovering and recognizing the mystery of reality (our Universe) is what Joseph Campbell calls the “Mysterium Tremendum” – the awe we experience as we contemplate the incomprehensible origin and nature of reality.

I submit that the mystery of our 13.7 billion year old reality — is an event worthy of being called a miracle.

[Continue Reading Part II]


[i] Campbell, Joseph, and Eugene C. Kennedy. Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2001. 5. Print.

[ii] Andrus, Hyrum Leslie. God, Man and the Universe. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1968. Print.

[iii] Because I use the title of Andrus’ book to introduce a point, I follow his terminology and use “Man” rather than the more gender inclusive“Humankind.”

[iv] More important is the recent detection of the Higgs Boson particle, the so-called “God Particle.” http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/135756-cerns-higgs-boson-discovery-passes-peer-review-becomes-actual-science

[v] With all the matter of the universe compressed in this tiny space, time would have warped to the point that it would have stood still.

 

Comments

Two miracles for the skeptic (part 1) — 44 Comments

  1. The universe is absolutely a miracle. (And my PhD focused on early universe physics so don’t write me off as a religious crackpot.)

    The odds of such life giving fine tuning are stagering. There are entropy arguments in the physics literature by very renowned physicists that show how unlikely a big bang should be and yet experimental evidence shows it happened and was vital to the generation of new elements that could collapses into new fresh young galaxies that could go on an seed life. It’s truly astounding and miraculous!

    And what I always find interesting is that the solutions posed by atheists to these problems is to invent something akin to a God. A perfect self existant entity that just happens to exist with all of it’s great properties end of story.

    For instance, one solution to these problem, popularized by Hawking in his new book, is that there is some perfect quantum vacuum states that just happens to create a multiverse of many universes such that eventually ours is created. Ask him where this “perfect” vacuum state comes from and he will tell you it is just a self existant entity and so it is pointless to ask where it comes from. (God anyone?) Ask him why it just so happens to have the exact quantum structure needed to pull off this feat when surely we can conceive of realistic vacuum states that have no such perfect properties and he will immediately tell you that it just is that way because it just is. (“I Am that I Am” Ex. 3:14) Or as fellow cosmologist (who is an adamant atheist)Sean Carroll admits:

    “So, at first glance, it seems plausible that there could be a similar answer to the question of why the laws of physics take the form they do. But there isn’t. At least, there isn’t any as far as we know, and there’s certainly no reason why there must be…

    [Perhaps] the laws of physics take the form they do because no other form is possible. But that can’t be right; it’s easy to think of other possible forms… [So] The final possibility, which seems to be the right one, is: that’s just how things are. ”

    The convient laws deserve no more explanation then the great “I Am” does and yet just happen to be so perfect. A miracle!

    And this is just one example. Every scientific attempt to explain the miracle of the universe leads fundamentally to some self existant quantity and set of laws endowed with with just the right attributes necessary to bring all of this into being which does not require further explanation. It just is because it is. (Again: “I Am that I Am” Ex. 3:14)

  2. Could Joseph S. have lit upon the second great miracle in his citation of Ex. 3:14?

    Consciousness would be an excellent candidate for second miracle. I eagerly await the revelation of Clair’s choice, though.

  3. WHY! who makes much of a miracle?
    As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
    Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
    Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
    Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the
    water,
    Or stand under trees in the woods,
    Or talk by day with any one I love–or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
    Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
    Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
    Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
    Or animals feeding in the fields,
    Or birds–or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
    Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down–or of stars shining so quiet
    and bright,
    Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
    Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best–
    mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
    Or among the savans–or to the soiree–or to the opera,
    Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
    Or behold children at their sports,
    Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old
    woman,
    Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
    Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
    These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
    The whole referring–yet each distinct, and in its place.

    To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
    Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
    Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
    same,
    Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
    Every spear of grass–the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women,
    and all that concerns them,
    All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

    To me the sea is a continual miracle;
    The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–
    the ships, with men in them,
    What stranger miracles are there?

    Walt Whitman

  4. My purpose is not to suggest scriptural or contemporary accounts of miracles are irrelevant — but that to some, they may not be convincing.

    The interesting thing about this sentence is that it definitely describes how I feel about this post — I’m not suggesting that [modern, scientific-sounding] accounts of miracles are irrelevant — but to me, they are not convincing.

  5. “But as I think about it, it seems we really shouldn’t have had a Universe in the first place.”

    The problem with this argument is that you have no evidence to base it on or context to place it in. You might just as well say that the singularity should have turned into bubble gum. What does “should” mean here? You mean based on your understanding of what singularities normally do? All the other times you have observed them? Those things led you to believe that the normal laws were suspended (that’s what a miracle is). It’s a riddle that cannot be solved. We have a single data point that we cannot see beyond.

  6. Joseph Smidt (re:#1) , thanks for the insight. Its nice to get some perspective from someone who’s studied the early the Universe.

    Regarding atheists who suggest phenomena such as a “perfect quantum vacuum state” was the cause of our reality, could they not define this “state” as God? Or how about defining the laws of nature that allowed for this “state” to be God?

    While these definitions don’t align with traditional religious views of God, it nevertheless seems to be a potential approach. Rather than presupposing what God (the creator) is, couldn’t one define God as -that which brought forth the Universe?

  7. Mark (re:#2) — regarding the Whitman poem, very appropriate. Thanks.

    Matthew (re:#4) — What I was trying to say (and perhaps this will not make any difference to your perspective) is that the fact that their was stuff even before the Big Bang (in this instance a singularity) is a bizarre concept that seems counter intuitive. I.E. — there should not have been anything, ever. Not even a singularity that would explode.

    It seems miraculous to me that there ever was anything at all — pre-big bang or otherwise.

  8. Clair,

    Do you see any difference between “pantheism” and “theism”? Or how about between “pantheism” and “deism”? If so, what would those differences be, in your opinion?

  9. Andrew S., I see theism as a general belief in God, while pantheism as the idea that God is everything, or God is the Universe.

    I see Deism as the idea that God created the Universe, or the world, put everything on autopilot, and is no longer involved in the day-to-day happenings of the world.

  10. Well, obviously there has to be something that created the universe, whether it was created from another universe within a multiverse or through some other process. But that doesn’t mean that this process that created the universe was necessarily conscious. If you want to call it “God”, that is your choice, but without consciousness (acting like the laws of nature) it would be very different from the God pictured by theists.

  11. I feel like it’s worthwhile here to quote Pulitzer prize winning physicist Brian Greene:

    “A common misconception is that the big bang provides a theory of cosmic origins. It doesn’t. The big bang is a theory… that delineates cosmic evolution from a split second after whatever happened to bring the universe into existence, but it says nothing at all about time zero itself. And since, according to the big bang theory, the bang is what is supposed to have happened at the beginning, the bang leaves out the bang. It tells us nothing about what banged, why it banged, how it banged, or, frankly, whether it ever really banged at all.”

    Brian Greene, “The Fabric of the Cosmos”, pg. 272.

    I’m not trying to make a point by quoting this, it just seemed relevant and useful to the subject tangentially.

    My own thoughts on miracles are that miracles have no power to create faith on their own – something the scriptures make clear repeatedly. The children of Israel still murmur in the desert after God parts the Red Sea and provides mana from heaven. The Pharisees witness miracles firsthand and still cry for Jesus’ blood. Pharaoh sees his river turn to blood and still won’t let Israel go. Laman and Lemuel see angels and the power of God, yet still attempt to murder Nephi.

    This actually makes logical sense. I once had an atheist in a debate tell me he would believe if only God revealed himself unmistakeably by some big miracle. I responded that this assertion of his was incorrect most likely.

    God could show up tomorrow and teleport the Golden Gate Bridge to the middle of Cheyenne Wyoming tomorrow and what would it prove?

    It would prove that someone out there has powers we don’t understand – but what beyond that? He could be fooling us. He could merely be more advanced – like Captain Kirk on the Enterprise bamboozling the primitive natives into worshiping him so he can save some of his crew members. Or he could be someone not worth worshiping, no matter how powerful he is – like the character “Q” that Captain Picard’s Enterprise encountered.

    It just illustrates the final point that having superpowers does not automatically make you an object of faith.

    Just my tangential musings on the original post.

  12. re 9,

    Clair,

    Thanks for the response. I guess for me I see theism a little bit differently. I would probably say deism for me does fit the idea of God putting everything on autopilot, so for me, the only meaningful difference between pantheism and deism is whether there is an external being involved or not…however, theism for me implies not only an external being, but also intervention in the universe.

    I guess one problem I have is in seeing why pantheism should be called such. If the natural universe is what it is, why should I call that God? Why should I call “the laws of nature that allowed for this “state”” God when, as you yourself admit, this definition doesn’t “align with traditional religious views of God.” Especially when the term “God” — because of traditional religious views — would come with a WHOLE lot of baggage that I would essentially have to defuse every single time, whereas if I don’t introduce God into the mix, then I don’t have to defuse anything.

  13. Seth R., you are right. Transporting the golden gate bridge would prove that someone had the ability to do that but it doesn’t say anything about whether they created the universe or are all good. To prove that, you’d need multiple viewings of this being to give you more evidence as to what they were like and what they could do. The reason why you see so many different religions is that people try to come up with a belief without having access to this information.

  14. Andrew S., Atheism is still stigmatized in our society. So I think that people adopt pantheism because it allows them to use the word “God” (thus staying in the good graces of society) while still talking about atheism. Spinoza and Einstein are two examples of this.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza

  15. re 11

    Seth,

    Again, I reiterate that one major point here is whether something is convincing…and that often isn’t as intuitive…so a lot of people think that really “big” things would be convincing to them, but that’s not necessarily the case.

    However, God should know what sorts of things would be useful in convincing people, you know, if he knows that sort of thing. What sort of thing would be the “Road to Damascus” experience or the Alma the Younger experience?

    That being said, I do think that what you say later on is valuable for something else:

    It would prove that someone out there has powers we don’t understand – but what beyond that? He could be fooling us. He could merely be more advanced – like Captain Kirk on the Enterprise bamboozling the primitive natives into worshiping him so he can save some of his crew members. Or he could be someone not worth worshiping, no matter how powerful he is – like the character “Q” that Captain Picard’s Enterprise encountered.

    Some folks say that God has to be suspiciously absent/ambiguous in revealing himself because if there were proof of God’s existence, then there would be no room for faith.

    But I think that is incorrect…as you say, just knowing an extremely powerful being exists (even a being that created the universe, theoretically) does NOT automatically mean you will feel obligated to worship him…but too many believers make faith about belief in existence, rather than a trust in commandments or whatever.

  16. re 14

    Hibernia86

    I guess that is true. Of course, Einstein did have to defuse a lot of stuff afterward…including the pantheist and atheist labels…people try to use Einstein as an example of a religious scientist, but he was very loudspoken against traditional religiosity.

    That raises another question, though…for most folks, should we take the term “pantheist” as a code word for “atheist”? I think in some cases this can be true, but I dunno…for me, pantheism implies more of a “spiritual-but-not-religious” new-age “we are all connected” or a feel-good-about-science Carl “we are all star stuff” Sagan sort of image.

    And I’m not sure if that applies to everyone who uses the term.

  17. Andrew, I think that’s true. The scriptures also portray God’s refusal to reveal himself to us as an act of mercy on his part. Because if he revealed himself to us, it would only serve to leave us without excuses, and only wind up condemning a lot of us further. God’s refusal to be seen shields us from that responsibility.

    As to my point that “seeing is not believing” and your observation that a lot of religious people do make “seeing” the primary focus of their religious life… I agree that this is misguided a lot of the time.

    It’s one of the reasons why I often say that fundamentalist Evangelicals and fundamentalist New Atheists are often merely two sides of the same misguided coin. Both are under the naive assumption that conclusively demonstrating God will make it all better and solve the whole argument.

  18. re 17,

    Seth,

    You just implicitly did the same thing I was talking about! God’s revealing himself would only leave us without excuses (as if we can have any excuses anyway?) if revealing his existence reveals his morality or goodness. And that is not the case.

    God’s refusal to be seen is overkill, even theologically.

  19. Re:12, Andrew, yes, good point. Theism implies intervention by God, while pantheism and deism do not.

    I suppose another way to state what I was trying to say could be — even if one rejects the idea of intervening theistic God, one can still be a deist or a pantheist. I think some might not consider that as an option.

    You wonder “If the natural universe is what it is, why should I call that God?” I say, “why not?” It is a miracle, IMO, and if one finds themselves flirting with atheism because of the “baggage” they’ve rejected from traditional religion, why not consider a deistic or pantheistic path? I’m suggesting it is an option worth considering.

  20. Andrew: quote: “Some folks say that God has to be suspiciously absent/ambiguous in revealing himself because if there were proof of God’s existence, then there would be no room for faith.”

    There is a video about that on Youtube where they imagine what would happen if firefighters took this same approach.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSZqH0Ms4ds

    Seth: quote “The scriptures also portray God’s refusal to reveal himself to us as an act of mercy on his part. Because if he revealed himself to us, it would only serve to leave us without excuses, and only wind up condemning a lot of us further. God’s refusal to be seen shields us from that responsibility.”

    Or he could accept that we are prone to sin and set standards that were reasonable for us. Human society doesn’t give the death penalty for littering. God shouldn’t either.

  21. re 19,

    Clair,

    You wonder “If the natural universe is what it is, why should I call that God?” I say, “why not?” It is a miracle, IMO, and if one finds themselves flirting with atheism because of the “baggage” they’ve rejected from traditional religion, why not consider a deistic or pantheistic path? I’m suggesting it is an option worth considering.

    1) If I do not believe in god, then the onus is really upon the person who’s trying to get me to believe. It’s not a matter of me to make a case for “why not” because the why not is simple: I am not convinced to. If you are convinced otherwise, that’s fine. As long as you realize that it’s a matter of you seeing things a bit differently than I do, rather than the thing we’re looking at being different.

    2) “Miracle” is another term with baggage. Namely, miracles imply the supernatural. But if I do not believe the universe came about through supernatural means, then why should I call it a miracle? (I won’t go yet into the other baggage I think is behind the term miracle, but maybe I will if it comes up in a later comment.)

    3) I don’t think it’s that people are “flirting” with atheism. It’s that, as you yourself stated it earlier, theistic cases don’t seem convincing to some people. Atheism is simply what’s left — not pantheism or deism.

    Basically, for deism, pantheism, or theism to seem convincing to me, I would have to cut out so much of them that it doesn’t make any sense to me to use a different term for them than atheism. And then those terms would mean something very different than how certain others interpret it.

    4) Likewise, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that atheists haven’t considered pantheism or deism. I think that many have, and are not convinced…Pantheism and deism still have to make their cases — either that we should conflate the natural universe with a term that generally connotes the supernatural, or that we should introduce a completely separate being who serves as the clockmaker who set the natural universe in order, but who now does nothing.

    re 20,

    Hibernia,

    I’ll ahve to check that video out when I’m not at work (text and blogs are easier to slip in to a busy day than video)…

    Or he could accept that we are prone to sin and set standards that were reasonable for us. Human society doesn’t give the death penalty for littering. God shouldn’t either.

    On a good day, I would point out that we shouldn’t expect human morality to align with whatever deity’s morality is…on a bad day, I would say that most religions’ deity morality is actively counter to human morality…which makes it strange for so many folks to appeal to human moral ideas as a pro for God, but whatever.

  22. Andrew, I didn’t really mean that in an absolute theological sense. But I did mean to convey that the scriptures give the sense that having God around all the time in plain sight would make us somehow more guilty when we still go ahead and do the wrong thing anyway.

  23. Seth, I will admit that the Mormon theology of the Telestial Kingdom is much better morally than the Trinitarian Christian’s view of Hell being the default end point for those who don’t become Christian. I suppose that being “doomed” to a heaven better than Earth despite our sins is pretty considerate of God under Mormon theology. So I suppose that I misspoke and didn’t limit myself to Mormon theology on this blog and I apologize.

    Still, if you think God may be hiding himself in order to keep us from having the responsibility of living up to our actions due to our knowledge of God, then why are Mormon missionaries going around preaching the gospel? Isn’t that just taking away the shield you were talking about? (also, if God wants us to forgive others, why can’t he do that himself? Why does he require his son to be killed in order to make up for sins rather than just forgiving them for people who are sorry?)

    Andrew: While I suppose it is possible for a deity to create a morality for itself that was different than the one it gave to its creations, for a deity that supposedly favors free will, creating a different morality for themselves than the one they are forcing on their creation would seem to go against that claim.

  24. Hibernia, the whole point of Mormon missionary work is the advocacy for FAITH, not sure knowledge.

    I’ll admit freely this is confused by the tendency among lay Mormons to say “I know God lives” or “I know the Church is true” etc. I think they’re really talking about faith, not sure knowledge.

    But anyway…

  25. re 23,

    Seth,

    That is only the case if you agree with God about what the wrong thing is. Knowing that God exists doesn’t mean you’ll agree with him on what the wrong thing is.

  26. But what is the use of faith if you don’t have sure knowledge? You can have faith in anything. That is why there are so many religions. But don’t you want to have some sense of believing in something verified rather than something that just makes you feel good? And the bigger problem is that there are people making major decisions in their lives based on their religion that they don’t have sure knowledge of. It is even worse than that because people are making political decisions which affect OTHER people’s lives based on their faith that they don’t have sure knowledge of. This leads to a mess. Politics NEEDS to be based on facts and evidence or it isn’t going to work. The same is true for people’s lives.

  27. Andrew,

    You’re right, I can’t prove anything other than there is an existence and suggest that existence implies something miraculous. Beyond that, it is a matter for individuals to subjectively define terms and beliefs in ways that suit themselves.

    And you’re right about baggage surrounding terminology. I find myself wishing I could find other terms to use to avoid pre-conceived notions.

    You’ve obviously a well thought-out person who has considered various alternatives to this problem. I’ve hoped to lay out one consideration for those who may not have thought through things as deeply as you have.

  28. re 28,

    Clair,

    If I were to go solipsistic on you, i’d suggest you can’t really prove either of the things you said. BUT without going solipsistic, I would say that at the very least, you certainly cannot prove that existence implies something miraculous. You can make your case for why you are personally persuaded to believe that existence implies something miraculous, but then it just becomes a matter of whether someone is convinced or not.

    I wouldn’t give the readers of this blog so little credit. I’m probably in the bottom 10% in terms of intelligence or thinking things out of the Worlds Without End crowd, so I dunno.

    I guess the question that I really want to ask, and maybe this conversation is off-topic and should be taken off-site…but WHY does it MATTER that someone believes — especially when it seems that you’re saying that what they believe doesn’t matter, just as long as they believe that something miraculous happened. Why should narratives including miracles be privileged over ones that do not include them?

  29. Hibernia, I think you’d be surprised how much of politics – even wildly successful and uplifting politics is based on FAITH, not fact.

    The American Revolution wasn’t based on fact. There was no data – no one had ever tried to do what they were doing before.

    In fact, I’d submit to you that the majority of useful human action is based on faith in absence of “sufficient fact.”

    If you wait for sufficient fact before acting in anything, you’ll never get anything worthwhile done in life. All the most important human movements, decisions, and achievements have their genesis in faith, not sure fact.

    I don’t have a sure knowledge that my wife loves me. But I have faith that she does.

  30. Seth, in politics there are three separate types of opinions. The first kind are preferences. Do you want the government to spend more money on hiring good teachers for your children or would you prefer a tax cut. You can make arguments either way, but ultimately it is each person’s decision as to what to support. The second type is morality. Should gay marriage be legal or not? This is a moral question that, if you believe in objective morality, has a correct answer even if we can’t agree on it. The final type is scientific questions. Is climate change caused by humans? This has a real objective answer. If your opinion isn’t based on the facts, it is worthless in this case. But you’ll notice that none of these three cases relied on faith.

    The American Patriots during the revolution may have had faith that they would win, but that wasn’t necessarily the truth of the situation. They very easily could have lost (George Washington was almost trapped on Manhattan in 1776 with his army which might have ended the revolution if the British had been successful). Faith in their victory might have propelled the Americans, but a more objective observer would have been more cautious in his bet.

    You may have faith that your wife loves you and you are probably right, but an objective observer would observe your wife’s actions while she was with you and when she wasn’t and test to see whether they matched up with the hypothesis that she loves you. That would then provide a probability that this was true.

    People make their decisions based on probability. But the best decisions have at least some evidence to back them up. Religious texts rely on faith (we have no writings about Jesus from anyone in Jesus’s lifetime. We have no golden plates. We don’t have verification from the people that lived during Mohammad’s lifetime or the Buddha’s lifetime that either had truly done what was written of them. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You’ll notice the miracles always happen in the past or in a subjective way that can’t be proven to the world at large the way, for example, World War II can (we have plenty of physical and written evidence for World War II as well as pictures and video)

  31. Hibernia, the moment you start looking at your spouse with an eye to proving objectively whether she loves you or not – you are on a quick road to estrangement and divorce. You’ve already killed the love in the relationship.

    As for the American Revolution – I wasn’t talking about military victories – though those are also faith-based in large measure. I was talking about the new idea of government the revolutionaries had. It was completely new, untested, and for all they knew bound to fail miserably. No data.

    As for your example of education – there is no better example of faith-based politics without real data in action than the optimistic belief that merely educating our kids will automatically put us on the path to peace, prosperity, and happiness in society.

    Where did we get this blind faith in education I wonder…

  32. Oddly enough, I just got done reading one of the noted great World War II histories – A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan.

    Once you finish reading his book about the disastrous Allied invasion of Holland, browse through his massive footnotes. Look at the disputes and patchy accounts of Nazi and British officers – how they saw the same battle differently.

    You quickly come to the conclusion that piecing the battle together accurately is impossible for us now – and always was impossible. We have a massive lack of information about how even small engagements went down. Too many eyewitnesses with different perspectives and memories.

    Any personal injury lawyer can tell you that a traffic accident with three eyewitnesses will yield you five different accounts of the accident – many of them contradictory.

    Don’t be so confident that you really know what happened in the Battle of the Bulge any better than you know what happened at the walls of Jericho.

  33. Seth, I agree you have to have faith in a marriage for it to succeed, but you do need to have some evidence of love for it to work. If your wife was rude to you all the time, treated time with you like a chore, and flirted with other men when they were around, you’d have to give up your faith that she loved you. Faith can not tell you truth. Faith is trust without evidence that is needed for some relationships to work, either in marriage or in society at large.

    And yes, the revolutionaries had faith in democracy (well, some faith. The electoral college was a way to make sure that there was a layer of the elite between the popular vote and the selection of the president). But whether democracy would work or not depended on the objective world, not faith. America needed to try democracy out to see how it would work. That faith might have helped to put America in the mind frame that would allow for democracy, but that mind frame could also have been created by people who were giving democracy a chance without committing.

    In regard to education, there is a lot of data that supports the idea that better educated children do better financially. While educating your children is not the only thing that they need, it does greatly reduce their likelyhood of unemployment as has been shown generation after generation.

    Historians have long admitted that they can only provide a probablistic description of the past, not absolute certainty. That is true of everything. They work with what they have and create the best picture they can.

    So the problem, I suppose, is not so much with faith itself, but rather with people who rely only on faith or who prioritize faith over evidence. If a person wanted to make their religion stand out as the best, they should provide evidence that supported their claims. Otherwise it is just a guess and given the endless possible choices of what to have faith in, there would be little likelihood of reaching a true answer. I could be said to have “faith” in truth of evolution, but that is only because I know that it has been tested by hundreds of thousands of scientists (through studies of the fossil record and DNA) and that I could do all the tests myself if I so chose. I can test my “faith” whenever I want and show objective evidence to prove it. This can’t be done with religion (or at least, none that currently exists) and that is the problem.

  34. “could they not define this “state” as God? Or how about defining the laws of nature that allowed for this “state” to be God?”

    Actually many do. I know many scientists who define God as the laws of nature since, for the reasons I gave in comment #1, the laws of nature are very god-like in some ways. But to these people this is a non-personal God so I think they need to go one step further. :)

  35. Without GOD APREARING BEFORE every person on earth, we must rely upon faith IN GOD. And yes, many biblical and religious teachings are false. I Swear Upon My Life THAT GOD EXISTS! I have seen HER TWICE, SHE TOUCHED My hand, SHE SENT Me “to visit the dead”, AND BROUGHT Me BACK. GOD SPOKE TO Me, AND TOLD Me “I AM FEMALE”. SHE TOLD Me to tell the world many wonderful things, which I share directly, and through Our website at: http://www.thechurchoflatterdays.org
    Please, don’t doubt that GOD EXISTS, SHE DOES, and that is My Testimony. Thanks, And Have A Nice Week! James Johnson

  36. Hey it’s that guy featured in the other article! The internet can bring people together from all over.

    James, if you want people to believe that God exists, show evidence (pro tip: typing in caps does not count as evidence)

  37. Dear Hibernia86,

    Are you asking Me to demand something from GOD? No thanks, I don’t do that. That is why i no longer say “amen” (meaning: “so be it”) at the end of My prayers, because I’ve learned to never demand anything FROM GOD! GOD DOES HER THING without My help, thanks!

    James

  38. Mr. Johnson, if God is indeed this great, I think he deserves to be advocated for in a manner that doesn’t make his supporters look like shouting fools.

    On the Internet ALL-CAPS is considered shouting and is quite rude. Any post you make containing frequent use of ALL-CAPS is most likely to be ignored – since it often indicates ignorance in the person typing it.

    I think God deserves better advocacy than what you are giving him.

  39. Seth,

    GOD IS female. Actually, GOD DEMANDS that i use ALL CAPITALS WHEN i refer TO GOD!!! It’s not rude, you are simply not capable of understanding GOD’S IMPORTANCE possibly?

    Have A Nice Day,
    Jesus II

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