Reflections of a Former Missionary

If I had to choose which book would be the most challenging to Evangelical Christians, and which might turn them to atheism or agnosticicsm, it would be this book:

Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary

Foreword by Guy P. Harrison

Kenneth W. Daniels has produced a powerful work that will give Christian readers much to think about. Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary is an important book that should be widely read. The author’s approach is gentle and honest while still managing to be unflinching and thorough. As a former fundamentalist Christian missionary who devoted far more time and energy than most to serving that religion, he obviously remembers what it feels like to be fully immersed in belief. Fortunately, Daniels has retained plenty of sympathy for those who cannot yet see that the supernatural claims of Christianity cannot stand up to honest scrutiny. This brilliant book is not a vicious attack on Christians. It is a strong but polite plea for them to see and hear new ideas, to consider the possibility that their belief system might be a mistake. Daniels maintains a humble tone throughout the book. He does not blast believers with arrogant claims of intellectual superiority on the question of faith. He simply shares thoughts and questions about his journey through Christianity and escape from it. This is a powerful story and Daniels has many piercing ideas that are likely to carry considerable weight with believers because of his difficult work as a missionary in Africa. Daniels earned his stripes as a committed Christian. He went way beyond the easy life of a casual Christian sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings. He lived his Christianity; he made serious commitments and followed through with sacrifices for his religion. For someone like him to walk away from it, with great reluctance, humility, and no rage says a lot. It gives Daniels tremendous credibility.

Daniels is well read and obviously knowledgeable about Christianity. Most importantly, however, he has retained a sense of respect and compassion for believers. Yes, he thinks they are wrong about their religious claims, but he has not turned his back on them as fellow humans. It is likely that many Christians will struggle to reconcile the wisdom and challenges found within Why I Believed with their own beliefs. The author’s impressive logic and intelligence, combined with a sensitive approach and his top-notch credentials as a Christian missionary, make it impossible for anyone to dismiss him as an angry crank or an irrelevant outsider. Daniels walked the walk, believing and serving with far more sincerity and dedication than most believers do. He writes:

I invite Christian readers to consider the possibility that my apostasy is a result not of divine or diabolical deception but of a simple weighing of the evidence … It might be that I am wrong. It might be that I have not sought God sufficiently or studied the Bible thoroughly enough or listened carefully enough to the many Christians who have admonished me … Maybe. But the knowledge that billions of seekers have lived and died, calling out to God for some definitive revelation without ever receiving it, or receiving revelation that conflicts with the revelation others have found, contributes to my suspicion that there is no personal God who reveals himself to anyone.

This is a book I will give to Christians because it is forceful and devastating to their irrational beliefs without belittling or mocking them. That Daniels is able to make such a powerful case against Christianity is impressive enough; that he is able to do it without drifting into attacks and name- calling makes Why I Believed an important book that should be read and discussed by both believers and nonbelievers.

It is available on kindle for 99 cents! You can download the kindle reader for free at Amazon.

One may wonder why someone like myself, a professing Christian and creationist would love this book. It raises many of the questions that few Evangelical are willing to engage in. Daniels echoed so many of my deepest personal doubts as well. I found a kinship with his questions, though I arrived at completely different answers. There is a good amount of material on Michael Behe and Bill Dembski’s influence on him, and later how he came to reject their claims.

I myself have been critical of some of the things in standard ID literature, but unlike Daniels, I arrived at acceptance of ID via different routes, so when Daniels lost faith in God because he lost faith in ID due to arguments such as those put forward on the internet (by Abby Smith and Andrea Bottaro at PandasThumb), I arrived at opposite conclusions because I did not necessarily take the inferential routes Behe and Dembski took. Daniels even makes reference to the uncommondescent weblog and names of people I’ve interacted with on the net.

This is probably the most well-written anti-Christian book in terms of scholarship and compassionate tone. I don’t agree with the final conclusions, but the questions raised are well-worth considering by anyone serious about these topics.

147 thoughts on “Reflections of a Former Missionary

  1. stcordova: Such as?The creationist Blyth pioneered the notion of Natural Selection, not Darwin.

    I posted a link.

    stcordova: The creationist Blyth pioneered the notion of Natural Selection, not Darwin.

    So he gets a pass for being a creationist, but Darwin is demonized, or will both go to hell?

  2. stcordova: Harry Potter written in the internet age where names of people and cities easy to look up. Not so easy for Luke to write of cities going from Jerusalem to Rome and name officials like Pontius Pilate, Felix, Porcisu Festus, Sergius Paulus and accurate descriptions of customs and legal courtroom and legislative procedures is it? The distance from Jersualem to Rome is about 1,500 miles by air. Luke and Paul took a longer route by land and sea. The book of Acts reads like a diary. You think Luke (or some charlatan years after the fact) spent years researching names and places along a 1,400+ mile plus route without the means of modern libraries, maps, and Google? If it were a long-after-the-fact charlatan writing the book of Acts, how was he able to glean so many names accurately hundreds of years later without access to a vast repository of archaeological knowledge? The most reasonable explanation was it was a first hand account of actual events.

    Don’t know about others, but for me the issue is not whether the Bible is in any way an historical document. I’d be surprised if it weren’t, especially, the New Testament, to some extent factual or at least consensual with contemporary history and geography. What I question about the Bible is the supernatural elements, what I would call the embellishments. We can cross-check history and geography to some extent. That has no bearing on whether there is any reason to consider the supernatural elements found in the Bible as more than embellishment or spin.

    (I’m writing this in a lull before New Year guests arrive. Unlikely to find another opportunity to comment for a while – so Happy New Year!)

  3. What about the Epic of Gilgamesh? It’s not just one, but several myths there that are almost identical to some passages of the Bible, Adam & Eve, the flood…

    One really needs to do some apologetic aerobics to explain away why the Babylonians had pretty much the same myths centuries before the Hebrews even existed

  4. Just had a thought in the shower. And Dazz’s comment is relevant too. Maybe we could persuade Dr. Matzke to turn his phylogenetic analysis on to the Bible and other texts, like the epic of Gilgamesh, the Gnostic gospels, the Dead Sea scrolls and so on. Maybe there is a way too to analyse how the various sects and schisms of Christianity radiate out from the early Christians and how some sects lost out and became extinct.

    Must go.

  5. Yes, Happy New Year!

    And I hope few of you have bad hangovers to start the new year.

    FYI:
    My worst hangover was when I was 8 years old. I saw all the adults drinking this bad tasting pink lemonade they called a daiquiri. I asked for a cup and one of the inebriated adults gave me cup of it and mom and dad didn’t stop me from drinking it, they just laughed. I swallowed it and said, “YUCK!”

    Next morning I told mom I felt sick. She said I had a hang over! I went to school any way, and the teacher asked me why I looked so sick. I said, “I have a hangover.”

    Good think my folks didn’t get charged with child abuse!

  6. One really needs to do some apologetic aerobics to explain away why the Babylonians had pretty much the same myths centuries before the Hebrews even existed

    The ancestors of the Hebrews (Eber) were before the Babylonians:

    Jesus the son of….

    the son of Abraham,

    the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

    35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,

    the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,

    the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,

    the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,

    the son of Noah,

    the son of Adam

    The Hebrews (sons of Eber) only recorded the flood, it doesn’t mean their ancestors didn’t have the story before the Babylonians.

    Additionally, there is the account of the Tower of Babel. That means the population dispersal was out of Mesopotamia not Africa (as evolutionists claim). Genetic evidence agrees with “Out of Mesopotamia” rather than “Out of Africa”. Genetic Engineer Robert Carter:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su2ix3TwbIs

    Additionally the table of Nations in Genesis 10 lists a genealogy that might get DNA confirmation. The name for Egypt in Genesis 10 is the Hebrew word Mzraim. The modern Egyptians call their country Maz, after the accurate label that accords with Genesis 10 gives.

    The tracking of the Y-chromosomal variants may confirm Genesis 10.

    As I said, the Hebrew Bible affixes the date of Eve with an mtDNA of 6,500 years. The next is to see if Y-chromosomal Adam for humans agrees with Noah at about 4,500 years ago. So far the data disconfirm that claim, but I’m cautiously optimistic something may be found that will give a 4,000 Y-chromosomal date.

    As with Y-chromosomal Aaron, Y-chromosomal Noah is of keen interest. It is a bold historical claim for the Genealogy of Jesus.

    The genealogies in the Bible set apart the Biblical account from other accounts. The family tree data is highly tied to the claim of the flood. For the Hebrews it would be like some of the people today who are descended from the Mayflower pilgrims. Eber was claimed to be the great-great grandson of Noah. So at what point was the genealogy fabricated. Given that Hezekiah’s existence was faithfully preserved for over 2,500 years, it seems there has be a family and cultural imperative to have an accurate family history.

    I think therefore P(Noah’s Flood True) > 1% for my purposes.

    PS

    Now it should be evident why the YECs especially love the work of Population and Quantitative Geneticists even though those disciplines are pro-evolution. These disciplines has the theoretical framework for YECs to carry out their quest.

  7. stcordova: The Hebrews (sons of Eber) only recorded the flood, it doesn’t mean their ancestors didn’t have the story before the Babylonians

    So Noah wasn’t a Hebrew?

    You argued earlier that “The Bible has surprising historical accuracy (names of individuals, places, etc.), makes me believe some of the other claims are credible.”

    So now we have this Gilgamesh epic, where the guy is Utnapishtim and the Ark landed at mount Nisir, while the biblical account says it’s Noah and mount Ararat. If you were right and the Babylonians were narrating the same event, so much for the Bible’s accuracy in names and places!

    stcordova: Additionally, there is the account of the Tower of Babel. That means the population dispersal was out of Mesopotamia not Africa (as evolutionists claim). Genetic evidence agrees with “Out of Mesopotamia” rather than “Out of Africa”. Genetic Engineer Robert Carter:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su2ix3TwbIs

    The tracking of the Y-chromosomal variants may confirm Genesis 10

    So you don’t believe in phylogenetics, but you think tracking of the Y-chromosomal variants may prove something? You need some internal consistency and you need it fast.
    Honestly, I’m probably not watching that Robert Carter video. I don’t need to to spot the huge amounts of confirmation bias that you’re throwing at this. I clicked on it and just by the name of the poster “slaves4christ” gives away all one needs to know about the scientific rigour to be expected from that guy. BTW, an engineer… salem’s hypothesis anyone?

  8. Daz said:

    “Proclamation” from the scientific community is based on evidence.

    So? What difference is that supposed to make to me? That carries as much weight to me as a Christian saying “It’s in the Bible.”

    As I pointed out before, such proclamations change over time, and evidence is an interpretation of the facts and the data. I’m not morally or ethically required to accept anything any current crop of scientists, priests or social justice warriors proclaim as “truth”.

    You don’t need to take any scientist’s word as gospel, nothing stops you from evaluating the evidence by yourself.

    Also, nothing stops me from ignoring scientists whenever I feel like it. My beliefs are not based on supposed scientific evidence; they are based on personal experience.

    What I was trying to convey is that I find intellectually dishonest to cherry pick bits and pieces of evidence, depending on what field they support because of some more or less arbitrary, preexisting religious belief.

    It’s only intellectually dishonest if one subscribes to “scientism”, or that science is the arbiter of truths. Since many theists do not have such a commitment and arbit truth via other means, it’s not intellectually dishonest at all to accept from science what is in accordance with one’s arbiter of truth, and dismiss that which is not.

    Put the shoe on the other foot; you accept what science validates as true in the Bible, and dismiss that which science considers untrue. Is that “cherry-picking”? Is that “hypocritical”? Of course not.

    Of course if you say you don’t really care about what’s true, I don’t think it matters all that much what definition of truth (absolute, provisional…) we’re talking about.

    Not caring about what specific things are true is not the same as trying to have an argument where you haven’t provided a definition for what the term is supposed to mean.

    But yes, scientific knowledge is never settled. Not sure if you’re implying that it’s therefore a weaker form of truth than faith based truth.

    I’m not implying anything. I’m stating outright that science doesn’t claim its models are “true” at all; it only claims those models are effective. The provisional nature of scientific models precludes any scientific claim that such models are “true”. This is why I’m trying to get you to define what you mean by “true”, because as far as I know, the strongest, closest scientific approximation of a truth claim would be designating something as a “scientific fact”, and even those are held as provisional in nature. They are not asserted as “truths”, only so reliable as to not warrant serious challenge (unless some dramatic new data or evidence turns up).

    The thing is that every time you use those tools, based on scientific knowledge, you are putting that provisional truth to the test. You’re often even entrusting your life to it. Provisional truth can’t be that bad, and I highly doubt you don’t care if it’s true when you’re on a situation where your life may depend on that provisional truth.

    Except that I don’t consider anything science comes up with to represent any “truth” whatsoever, nor am I obligated to do so, in the same way that you are not obligated to consider anything in the Bible or uttered by a medium or handed down via folklore through generations as “provisional truths”; any value you derive from any of those sources is determined by your own metaphysical commitments and, I presume, the scientific method. Just because the Bible has good advice in the form of divine commandments, or just because some folkloric remedies can be used as actual medicine, doesn’t mean that you are committed to considering that such sources of information should be used as arbiters of truth.

    IOW, you pick and choose that which your own a priori system of validation determines. As do we all.

    Maybe it’s not hypocritical, maybe it’s just ignorant and you’re actually using those tools without even knowing it. Maybe you couldn’t be reading this right now if it wasn’t for those tools

    You know, science is done every day by people with theistic metaphysics. One could argue that modern science was invented by such people, and that many of the greatest discoveries were made by such people – people who considered science a useful tool, but not a source of any significant truths.

    Which brings us back to the definition problem. You’ve never defined what you mean by “truth”. If by “truth” you mean “modeling the general, predictable behavior of physical matter and energy in a way that everyone can repeat and use” – then, okay, by that definition science is a great source of truths.

    However, I don’t consider those things “truths”; I consider them provisional scientific theories and facts about the near-universal, common experience of people. As such, they’re not even in the same category as what I refer to as “truths”.

  9. stcordova:

    As I said, the Hebrew Bible affixes the date of Eve with an mtDNA of 6,500 years.The next is to see if Y-chromosomal Adam for humans agrees with Noah at about 4,500 years ago.So far the data disconfirm that claim, but I’m cautiously optimistic something may be found that will give a 4,000 Y-chromosomal date.

    FFS Cordova not this stupid bullshit again. Mitochondrial “Eve” wasn’t the only woman alive in her time. Y-Chromosome “Adam” wasn’t the only man alive in his time.

    What’s next, the “not enough moon dust” bit of YECkery?

  10. William J. Murray: any value you derive from any of those sources is determined by your own metaphysical commitments and, I presume, the scientific method. determines. As do we all

    What metaphysical commitments does the scientific method impose? None whatsoever

    William J. Murray:IOW, you pick and choose that which your own a priori system of validation determines. As do we all

    How is going wherever the evidence leads you, picking & choosing?

    I think I’ve been clear enough about what I mean by scientific truth. Not like it’s my definition anyway, so I’m not sure what’s so mysterious about it.

    William J. Murray: It’s only intellectually dishonest if one subscribes to “scientism”, or that science is the arbiter of truths. Since many theists do not have such a commitment and arbit truth via other means, it’s not intellectually dishonest at all to accept from science what is in accordance with one’s arbiter of truth, and dismiss that which is not.

    OK, let’s see if I understand what you’re saying here… so when someone accept scientific knowledge, and therefore adopts the scientific postulates including that evidence rules and one should go where the evidence points, that’s “scientism”, but if someone accepts some scientific knowledge and rejects others because there’s a conflict with a religious belief, rejecting in the process a fundamental premise of science, that’s just science? And what about ID then? They claim they have all the evidence on their side, so they must be claiming to accept science across the board. They must be guilty of scientism too, Don’t they?

    What about religious people who don’t accept any other ways to truth to occasionally supersede their postulates? We need a term like “religionists” for them. You clearly seem to be a religionist.

    I hope you get my point. The term “scientism” is a derogatory term used to attack those who are simply consistent with their position and don’t suspend premises arbitrarily. That’s intellectually honest. It’s also an implicit accusation that everyone who doesn’t reject some scientific facts only gets their facts from science, as if “scientism” precluded philosophical approaches to issues outside the scope of science. That’s BS

  11. Daz said:

    What metaphysical commitments does the scientific method impose? None whatsoever

    Already been over this. Of course it does. Denying doesn’t change the fact. A metaphysical construct is required before one attempts to know anything or else they have no way to conceptualize what knowledge is, what knowledge should look like, how it can be acquired, etc. The idea that knowledge = consensual, repeatable experimental results is a metaphysical presupposition about what knowledge is and how it is accumulated.

    How is going wherever the evidence leads you, picking & choosing?

    Already addressed. “Evidence” is a biased interpretation of facts and data. Saying that “the evidence leads” is the same as saying “biased interpretation” is leading.

    I think I’ve been clear enough about what I mean by scientific truth. Not like it’s my definition anyway, so I’m not sure what’s so mysterious about it.

    If by “clear enough” you mean “will not provide it”, okay.

    I hope you get my point.

    I got all your points and addressed each of them. You apparently want others to accept all of what consensus science says or accept none of it. That, to me, is like a fanatical religious position. In my worldview, science and religious/spiritual/philosophical teachings and all sorts of things are simply tools I use at my personal discretion to live the kind of life I want to live.

    That’s no more hypocritical or intellectually dishonest than, as an artist, mixing media, substrate and styles to create the kind of art I wish to create.

  12. William J. Murray: Already been over this. Of course it does. Denying doesn’t change the fact. A metaphysical construct is required before one attempts to know anything or else they have no way to conceptualize what knowledge is, what knowledge should look like, how it can be acquired, etc. The idea that knowledge = consensual, repeatable experimental results is a metaphysical presupposition about what knowledge is and how it is accumulated.

    But you accept some science, actually I don’t think it would be exaggerated to affirm that you probably accept most of it, so if there’s a metaphysical construct, maybe that nature exists and it’s possible to know some of it and how it works, then you accept that too, and the premises that drive science. Do you think it’s not reasonable to accept experimental results that work the same everytime, and that science has made us more knowledgeable? If you do, you are buying into it’s metaphysical constructs

    William J. Murray: “Evidence” is a biased interpretation of facts and data. Saying that “the evidence leads” is the same as saying “biased interpretation” is leading.

    Science is systematic and unambiguous. Most of the times, when there are different interpretations it’s because there’s not sufficient evidence, and some scientists might have different interpretations, but then those interpretations wouldn’t be considered scientific facts the way well supported theories & hypothesis are.
    Can you name a single, well established theory that is supported by tons of evidence and what the bias would be to accept those? What’s the bias in gravity? electromagnetism? evolution?

    William J. Murray: If by “clear enough” you mean “will not provide it”, okay.

    Let me try, how about something like this?
    Scientific fact = A theory/hypothesis with explanatory power supported by (multiple lines) of strong evidence confirmed by numerous independent observers.

    William J. Murray: You apparently want others to accept all of what consensus science says or accept none of it

    You admit that you occasionally reject the consensus and the evidence because you have another set of premises that supersede science. That alone is a violation of scientific premises.
    Your argument is not that you don’t think there’s no evidence to support theories that you reject, it’s that you reject science’s premises… sometimes. So according to you, you are sometimes biased one way, sometimes the other.
    There’s nothing wrong with rejecting consensus if one thinks there’s not sufficient evidence, but not because of a preexisting bias. And please don’t tell me there’s a “materialistic” bias to evolution. I’ll be the first to accept any other theory, including one that involves God or ID if the theory has more explanatory power and supporting evidence than evolution. Or will reject evolution if a single piece of evidence debunks it.

    It’s like being a Christian every day except on Sundays, because on Sundays atheism supersedes one’s christianity

    So no, I don’t ask to go all or nothing, you can do whatever you want, I just think it’s not a consistent or logical way to approach science and knowing in general.

    William J. Murray: That, to me, is like a fanatical religious position. In my worldview, science and religious/spiritual/philosophical teachings and all sorts of things are simply tools I use at my personal discretion to live the kind of life I want to live.

    I would never dare tell you what to do, believe or accept, or how to live your life, not like you should care in the slightest if I did, and I’m glad it works for you.

  13. William J. Murray,

    One final thought (can’t edit my post above). There is nothing religious in accepting evidence. It doesn’t bind you morally, politically, gravity doesn’t demand you to follow precepts, evolution doesn’t tell you what to do on Sundays, etc.. it doesn’t even necessarilly bind you to any theory in particular

  14. Why should anyone accept any proclamation of “science”? Because science tells us what’s true? That’s metaphysics and it doesn’t come from the scientific method.

    First, science doesn’t make proclamations, people do. Why should I trust the proclamation of a scientist over the proclamation of a witch doctor?

  15. dazz: Science is systematic and unambiguous. Most of the times, when there are different interpretations it’s because there’s not sufficient evidence, and some scientists might have different interpretations, but then those interpretations wouldn’t be considered scientific facts the way well supported theories & hypothesis are.

    Science is unambiguous, except when it isn’t. You don’t have to convince me!

  16. Mung: Science is unambiguous, except when it isn’t. You don’t have to convince me!

    The nature of the exceptions is what matters. All scientific advances I can think of started out with ambiguities. This is usually due to insufficient evidence, often in turn due to inadequate or inappropriate instrumentation. As Asimov wrote, the most powerful words in science are not “eureka, I’ve found it!”, but rather “hmmm, that’s funny…”

    Similarly, most scientific hypotheses are constructed with the goal of disambiguation. The evidence currently available might suggest two (or more) possible explanations, and the hypothesis is intended to eliminate one of them.

    Eventually, feedback between hypothesis and observation leads to good instrumentation. good explanations, predictive accuracy, and gives rise to the next generation of ambiguities. Left in the wake of this process is “settled science”, in the sense that is the ancestor explanation of many productive, predictive descendent explanations.

  17. BTW, an engineer… salem’s hypothesis anyone?

    I said GENETIC engineer. Carter has a PhD in biology. He was among the first to genetically engineer glowing fish through transgenic insertions.

    I accept phylogentics for the same species. It doesn’t make sense to apply it to creatures that don’t share a common ancestor!

  18. stcordova: I accept phylogentics for the same species. It doesn’t make sense to apply it to creatures that don’t share a common ancestor!

    I disagree with Salvador. Imagine that.

    What would a phylogeny of the members of the same species look like? The very idea appears to me to be an oxymoron.

    How else do we test the hypothesis that they share a common ancestor? Does the book of Genesis provide us with a classification of all the holobaramins?

    Happy New Year Salvador.

  19. Apparently disambiguation within science is important but apart from science, not so much. Notice the repeated attempts by William to convince dazz to disambiguate terms.

  20. stcordova: I said GENETIC engineer.Carter has a PhD in biology.He was among the first to genetically engineer glowing fish through transgenic insertions.

    I stand corrected then

    stcordova:
    I accept phylogentics for the same species.It doesn’t make sense to apply it to creatures that don’t share a common ancestor!

    Phylogenetics works the same applied to different species. Don’t you think it’s an amazing coincidence that it also happens to support common descent and the tree of life it produces is so consistent with other independent lines of evidence?

  21. How about P(Islam True), P(Hinduism True), P(Buddhism True), and especially P(A god who will torment you forever for trying to scam it with Pascal’s Wager True)?

    I see nothing special about Christianity that makes it more credible than any of those.

    #1 First off from my vantage point I think I’ve seen personally or through associates and acquaintances or people I respect in the public sphere ( like Moon Walking Astronaut Charles Duke, Boxer George Foreman, famous gambler Mike Bootlegger Turner, UFO researchers like Wes Clark, Miss America Cheryl Pruit, many others)… having a few exceedingly rare prayers answered in the name of Jesus. It at least puts P(Christianity True) on the radar for further consideration… For P(Satanism True), credible medical practitioners have gone on record as saying they’ve seen creepy negative effects. Those are arguably more subjective personal reasons…..

    #2. I discussed why I think P(Chrisitianity True) > P(Joseph Smith True) because Smith is demonstrably a liar with respect to his fraud on the Book of Abraham and his personal gain in promoting his religion. I would thus at least respect Charles Duke’s claim of a miracle over Joseph Smith’s. Whether Duke is just reading too much into ordinary events is another story, but I hope it is relatively clear why I would at least rank the P’s in the way I do.

    If there is no such thing as miraculous in your book, then of course:

    P(Christianity True) = P(Mormonism True) = P(Islam True) = 0

    If one accepts miraculous things happen, then the question of reliability of the witnesses is the distinguishing feature in ranking.

    Admittedly, one might prefer to see with one’s own eyes, but then, that raises the problem Richard Dawkins posed. If you saw God doing miracles before your eyes, are you just hallucinating?

    When I have a nightmare, I find myself trying to run from trouble even from illusory foes. It’s still Pascal’s wager playing out, because there may be a point our sensory perceptions are accurate. It is rational to respect them unless one can actually “know” they are hallucinating such as in cases of Charles Bonnet syndrome:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_release_hallucinations

  22. stcordova:

    All that Pascal’s wager does is identify the most logically consistent wager with one’s belief system.It does not mean the premises are right, but it does suggest which decision is logically consistent with ones accepted premises.

    As usual, then, it’s just a matter of Garbage In, Garbage Out.

  23. stcordova,

    My bet is on childhood indoctrination — am I wrong?

    You are wrong. I learned and accepted evolution in high school. No one in my family, not my parents ever seemed to even notice since in Roman Catholic households evolution is not a big deal. It was only in adulthood that my parents even knew I was a creationist.

    Nonetheless, you were raised in a Christian environment. It’s not surprising that you consider Christianity to be more likely to be true than Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. As Dawkins said, “It is a remarkable coincidence that almost everyone has the same religion as their parents and it always just so happens they’re the right religion.”

    Interestingly, I have a close friend from college who was raised a Catholic but became an evangelical shortly after leaving the Marines.

    Using the bible as evidence that the bible is true is . . . less than convincing.

    That wasn’t my argument Patrick, I stated what the Bible claimed namely the geneology of Jesus, and I gave supporting evidence the genealogy has physical evidence supporting that genealogy along many lines.

    What you wrote was “#1 A straightforward reading of the Bible is that it claims humanity arose through a miraculous act.”

    That’s not evidence, it’s the claim that requires evidence to support it, hence my comment about using the bible to prove itself.

    P(Bible True) > %1 in my assessment as a consequence of that physical evidence. Or do you deny Hezekiah was a real person? How about Aaron brother of Moses.

    That’s utterly immaterial to the truth or falsehood of Christianity, unless you’re willing to grant that P(Hogwart’s exists True) > 0 because the books mention King’s Cross Station.

    You can believe Richard Carrier and other Jesus mythicists if you want, but I don’t find their “scholarship” worthy of consideration.

    What I find interesting about the Jesus myth hypothesis is how many people rail against it without having any evidence to disconfirm it. There simply is no evidence for the existence of Jesus within decades of when he supposedly lived. Does that mean he didn’t exist? Of course not. It does put the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of those who claim he did, though.

    Additionally what about the 5 porticos listed by John in the Pool of Siloam or the Pool of Bethesda discovered by archaeologist almost 2000 years after the writing by John.

    That’s still not evidence supporting the truth of Christianity.

    I’m not trying to challenge your beliefs per se (perhaps in another thread). I’m just trying to understand what you base them on. Thus far, and without trying to sound too snarky, objective, empirical evidence is not among those reasons. That too is fine, until you base actions that affect other people on your beliefs. As I’ve said before, the only reason I spend time refuting ID and other religious nonsense is because believers vote.

  24. That’s not evidence, it’s the claim that requires evidence to support it, hence my comment about using the bible to prove itself.

    I didn’t say it was evidence, I suggested the mtDNA were corroborating evidence of the claim. I stated the claim, then provided what I consider corroborating evidence.

    If you want to insist on your interpretation of what I said, that’s up to you. But you’re arguing against something other than my intended meaning.

  25. stcordova,

    How about P(Islam True), P(Hinduism True), P(Buddhism True), and especially P(A god who will torment you forever for trying to scam it with Pascal’s Wager True)?

    I see nothing special about Christianity that makes it more credible than any of those.

    #1 First off from my vantage point I think I’ve seen personally or through associates and acquaintances or people I respect in the public sphere ( like Moon Walking Astronaut Charles Duke, Boxer George Foreman, famous gambler Mike Bootlegger Turner, UFO researchers like Wes Clark, Miss America Cheryl Pruit, many others)… having a few exceedingly rare prayers answered in the name of Jesus. It at least puts P(Christianity True) on the radar for further consideration… For P(Satanism True), credible medical practitioners have gone on record as saying they’ve seen creepy negative effects. Those are arguably more subjective personal reasons…..

    Do you have any objective, empirical evidence for any of those claims? Say, the name and medical history of the blind girl who was supposedly healed? And UFO researchers? Really? You’re not doing your case any good by associating it with cranks.

    #2. I discussed why I think P(Chrisitianity True) > P(Joseph Smith True) because Smith is demonstrably a liar with respect to his fraud on the Book of Abraham and his personal gain in promoting his religion.

    What about P(Judaism True), P(Islam True), P(Hinduism True), P(Buddhism True), and P(A god who will torment you forever for trying to scam it with Pascal’s Wager True)? All except the last make the same miraculous claims as Christians. All have exactly the same amount of evidence supporting them.

  26. And UFO researchers? Really? You’re not doing your case any good by associating it with cranks.

    John Mack, Dean Harvard Medical School:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_E._Mack

    John Edward Mack M.D. (October 4, 1929 – September 27, 2004) was an American psychiatrist, writer, and professor at Harvard Medical School. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, and a leading authority on the spiritual or transformational effects of alleged alien abduction experiences.

    As far as Duke, I don’t have rigorous evidence, but why should I bother? Duke strikes me as credible, and MIT grad, a specimen of mental and physical ability, hence he was among the chosen few to be entrusted to fly space craft to the moon.

    You’re the one who has more at stake if Duke right, you’re the one, imho who should bother to be 100% sure you are right, not me. You’re the one who should be concerned there isn’t 100% proof OOL is naturalistic. You’re the one who should be concerned that a respected physicist like Richard Conn Henry of the Henry Rowland school of Astronomy thinks Quantum Mechanics implies an all powerful mind.

    If I adopted the typical atheist Probabilities and Payoffs which I translate symbolically here from the works of people like Bertrand Russel (A man’s freedom to worship):

    E (Atheism True) = E (Christianity True) on eternal timescales.

    Hence you gain nothing even if you were right. Ken Daniels book had a chapter on Pascal’s wager, and I think he failed on that point.

    In contrast, for me, in my view on eternal timescales:

    E(Atheism True, Christianity False) = 0 for atheist
    E(Atheism True, Christianity False) = 0 for Christians

    E(Christianity True, Atheism False) = + infinity for Christians
    E(Christianity True, Atheism False) = -infinity for Atheists

    I’d say you have more stake in being 100% certain Duke was misreading the evidence. You have more at stake in being 100% the genealogy of Jesus and associated events are false. I’m just pointing out, from my vantage point, Ken Daniels hasn’t shown the superiority of his wager because it requires 100% certainty, and in light of Heisenberg and Gödel, that’s a tall order that won’t be filled….

    Additionally, many atheists strike me as living relatively good and decent lives by any standard of society through out history — honesty, integrity, humanity, etc.

    http://www.care2.com/causes/atheists-have-stronger-family-values-than-evangelical-christians.html

    So the cost of being a Christian vs. an being Atheist in the secular world isn’t substantial in terms of life style in the 21st century unless one is a creationist persecuted in academia or in the Jet Propulsion Lab.

    So, in light of the high morality already in evidence in atheists, it seems even less rational to me that an atheist will insist he is 100% right in the absence of actually looking. Your attitude seems to be, “show me otherwise I won’t believe.” That’s fine, if you’re right. It’s not fine if you are wrong.

    In contrast, on eternal time scales, I can afford to be wrong, you can’t.

    On what grounds is E(Atheism True) substantially better than E(Christianity True) even by your own reckoning?

    I doubt I’ll sway you, but that’s not my purpose for being here. I’m seeing if you have arguments that can sway me.

  27. Patrick: There simply is no evidence for the existence of Jesus within decades of when he supposedly lived.

    But then, decades later, there was evidence for the existence of Jesus?

    How does that happen, Patrick?

  28. Patrick, to Sal:

    Nonetheless, you were raised in a Christian environment.

    Mung:

    So were you.

    Yes, but Patrick isn’t bamboozled by that fact into thinking that Christianity is more likely to be true.

  29. stcordova,

    I would want no part with a god that tortures good people for eternity just because they didn’t worship him or believed it based on honest evaluation of the evidence.

  30. stcordova: In contrast, on eternal time scales, I can afford to be wrong, you can’t.

    Sure I can. I I place my bet alongside you and won, I’d spend eternity with you and the critters at UD, and that would be hell.

  31. stcordova,

    That’s not evidence, it’s the claim that requires evidence to support it, hence my comment about using the bible to prove itself.

    I didn’t say it was evidence, I suggested the mtDNA were corroborating evidence of the claim. I stated the claim, then provided what I consider corroborating evidence.

    If you want to insist on your interpretation of what I said, that’s up to you. But you’re arguing against something other than my intended meaning.

    I re-read the pertinent comments and still don’t get that, but I accept that it is what you meant.

  32. stcordova,

    Your attitude seems to be, “show me otherwise I won’t believe.” That’s fine, if you’re right. It’s not fine if you are wrong.

    That depends entirely on your prior beliefs. If gods exist it’s entirely possible they want to reward people who demand evidence before believing in something and want to punish people who believe solely on the basis of Pascal’s flawed Wager.

  33. Regarding my claim:

    EV( Atheism True, Christianity False) = 0 for both atheists and Christians,

    let me highlight something an atheist Amazon reviewer wrote regarding Peter Boghossian’s crusade against Christianity that illustrates why I personally assign those EV values:

    I’m an atheist who recently heard Peter Boghossian speak and read from his book, Manual for Creating Atheists. I was underwhelmed. Here’s the idea. Divisive dogma stems from irrational faith – the “virus” of belief. Therefore, the atheist is obliged to save the world by pounding reason into Swiss-cheese-for-brains believers. Sample conversations in the book purport to teach us how to convert our victims with irrefutable rationality. It’s a gospel of evangelical atheism.

    So, to show us how easy this is, the author invited a sweet-faced young Christian woman to the podium so he could demonstrate how his barrage of annoying questions will plant seeds of doubt. Here’s the rub. This lovely young lady beamed at him with admirable turn-the-other-cheek charity whilst he, in polite, but arrogantly self-righteous tones, hammered on her. So, while he arguably won the rational argument, who cares? The woman with the bright, loving spirit beat him hands down, like a faith-filled martyr looking calmly down the lion’s maw.

    I asked the author if it is always appropriate to challenge people of faith. He said there are no exceptions. I countered that I live among sick and dying people, and not only is it not my job to try to disabuse them, but that it would be cruel to upset their belief in a promised afterlife, just as it would be cruel to deny those in pain their end-of-life morphine. Only then did the author admit he remained mum while his mother clutched her statue of Jesus when she was dying of cancer.

    I dislike evangelism in all its forms, because evangelism is divisive. It says, “I’m right, and you’re wrong, and only I know the truth.” Evangelistic atheism is as bad as any other kind. Yet I’m glad to live in a time when we can discuss these differences without getting burned at the stake. But even in modern times, atheists must endure pitying gazes from believers who feel sorry for our lost souls, so it’s empowering when authors like Boghossian come out swinging.
    Constance Emerson Crooker

    Author of Melanoma Mama: On Life, Death, and Tent Camping
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/review/RZA9V9XVAYNEU?ref_=glimp_time_1rv_cl

    That is why I conclude, especially on scales where EV register -infinity to +infinity:

    EV( Atheism True, Christianity False) = 0 for both atheists and Christians

    I’ve not read Boghassian’s book, I might pick it up.

    I suspect Ken Daniels book is a more potent read however for deconverting Evangelical Christians. I respect what Daniels said, but I’m stating why I did not end up in the same place as Daniels.

  34. stcordova,

    EV( Atheism True, Christianity False) = 0 for both atheists and Christians,

    I may have missed it over the holidays, but did you ever provide your estimates for P(Judaism True), P(Islam True), P(Hinduism True), and P(Buddhism True)?

    Perhaps if you understand why you don’t believe in those faiths you’ll understand why I lack belief in yours.

  35. I may have missed it over the holidays, but did you ever provide your estimates for P(Judaism True), P(Islam True), P(Hinduism True), and P(Buddhism True)?

    Yes. Or at least I thought I gave enough of an answer.

    I said

    if you don’t believe in the possibility of miracles:

    P(Judaism True), P(Islam True), P(Hinduism True), and P(Buddhism True) = 0

    Given you’re epistemology demands repeatability to accept miracles of fact, that implies even if miracle happens the epistemology you swear by will not recognize them as a matter of principle since miracles by definition are not subject to repeatability. Hence I pointed out your epistemology is flawed as a matter of principle for the questions it is trying to resolve.

    In contrast, if one accepts miracles are possible real, then my P estimation is based on the reliability of the one claiming to be God’s messenger.

    P( Luke, Matthew, Paul, 1 Kings….. and chain of custody thereafter are reliable) > P(Joseph Smith reliable witness)

    One can carry out the same historical evaluation of other sacred writings.

    I would have said more, but it’s only now after I’ve articulated my position about Christ’s genealogy for the 3rd time are we in a position to discuss the credibility of the writers and authors and maintainers of the Bible vs. the writers and maintainers of the Koran and Hindu religion.

    But you actually didn’t seem that interested in a serious discussion because you were criticizing something other than the intended meaning when I spoke of Christ’s genealogy. You totally glossed over the implications of Luke’s credibility as a historian, and even Alan Fox pointed out he had no problem with some of the historicity of Luke. If Luke’s and John’s account have shown evidence of a good chain of custody since ancient times because of archaeological discoveries, then it lends credibility to those writings as witnesses. The writings could still be mistaken about what individuals claim they saw with their own eyes, but they are more credible than Mohammed or eastern Hindu mystics who have little regard for physical reality. Alfred Whitehead (Bertrand Russell’s mentor) pointed out why Christianity was essential for the development of modern science because of it’s view of the importance of the physical universe vs. the more mystical view that had relatively low regard for the physical universe. Hence

    P(Christianty) > P(Hinduism)

    Mohammed in contrast shows nothing other than being a self-deluded or dishonest babbler. What is to distinguish him from anyone else?

    At least Christ’s followers vs. Mohammed’s followers, claim Christ rose from the dead. So now we have the credibility of someone like the Gospels of Luke and John and Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Romans vs. the gullible crowd that followed Mohammed. If one actually read the accounts in John, Luke, Corinthians and Romans critically, one will conclude these were skeptically minded men, not gullilble individuals. Finally, the fact the mtDNA accords with the genealogy of Luke attests to me of the divine origin of the Bible. I don’t need 100% proof, I only need to show:

    P(Luke Reliable Witness) > P(Mohamend Reliable Witness) to show

    P(Christianity True) > P(Islam True)

    I ranked P(Judaism True) right below P(Christianity True) because it too, beyond any other sacred work, has strong archaeological confirmation that supports credibility of the writers, plus good evidence of the chain of custody of the documents over the centuries and millenia.

    But now we have mtDNA and Y-chromosomal DNA and C14 dates that may even lend more corroborating evidence the writings were by writers witnessing historical events.

    I provided a link homicide detective J. Warner Wallace’s evaluation of the impression of the Gospel writings as sounding like testimony that seems credible vs. fabricated. There are lots of odd ball facts listed that are consistent with eye witness testimony that a detective picks up on. It’s not the sort of stuff one finds in other people claiming to hear from God:

    http://www.ColdCaseChristianity.com

    I should add one thing you said yourself — you said if God is the Christian God it would seem the right course of action for someone is to try to kill God. If that is your attitude, then why should God help you perceive him? It seems to me given your hostility to Him, God would rationally try to ambush you on judgement day by not making his existence to you obvious in this life unless you are willing to be less biased about the data.

    What I mean about you being biased about data is your sample size of observations is very small to be making sweeping 100% certainty assertions of the Christian God’s non-existence or “there is no evidence”. I do not say I’m 100% certain, I say, “I believe like a little child, I don’t have to be 100% certain to rationally believe I a positive EV wager.” However, for an atheist to rationally assert he has at best a 0 EV wager (vs. a minus infinity EV wager), his view must assign 100% certainty there is no Christian God, but that can only be done by faith, not by direct measurement because of Hiesenberg and Godel, and hence the wager on atheism doesn’t look rational, even though it is reasonable on the surface to suppose there are no miracles and no God.

  36. stcordova: Given you’re epistemology demands repeatability to accept miracles of fact, that implies even if miracle happens the epistemology you swear by will not recognize them as a matter of principle since miracles by definition are not subject to repeatability

    I don’t think it works like that. For all I know it’s the experiments that should produce repeatable results, one doesn’t need to observe the hypothetical event repeatedly. For example, the hypothesis that dinosaurs went extinct because of the impact of a meteorite. The evidence of the Chicxulub impactor supports the hypothesis, and one can repeatedly check that the crater is big enough to support the idea the the meteorite was large enough to produce such mass extinction, and one can use repeatable radiometric dating techniques to check that the impact happened 66 millions of years ago at the time dinos populated the earth. More supporting repeatable evidence would be the lack of dinos fossils older than that.

    Of course it’s not required to witness the same event happen again repeatedly, namely, the impact of the meteorite.

  37. stcordova,

    I think you’re still missing the point that including some historically accurate statements does not mean that a particular piece of writing is accurate about everything. Being correct about the location of a city or the genealogy of a king does not add credence to claims that a god or gods exist.

    Add to that the fact that there are no references to the biblical Jesus from historians who were writing at the time of his supposed ministry and I hope you can see why I find biblical claims less than convincing.

    As far as rating Christianity as more probable than Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, I still see no evidence. I suspect adherents of those faiths would be just as casually dismissive of your claims as you are of theirs.

    My goal in engaging you on this topic was to try to understand why you believe what you do. I haven’t achieved that goal and I don’t see it happening any time soon. Rather than continue to presume upon your time, I’ll just drop it here.

    Thank you for your participation.

  38. I always ask myself, regarding nonbelievers, have they ever really made an effort to accept Lord Xenu.

  39. dazz: I don’t think it works like that. For all I know it’s the experiments that should produce repeatable results, one doesn’t need to observe the hypothetical event repeatedly. For example, the hypothesis that dinosaurs went extinct because of the impact of a meteorite. The evidence of the Chicxulub impactor supports the hypothesis, and one can repeatedly check that the crater is big enough to support the idea the the meteorite was large enough to produce such mass extinction, and one can use repeatable radiometric dating techniques to check that the impact happened 66 millions of years ago at the time dinos populated the earth. More supporting repeatable evidence would be the lack of dinos fossils older than that.

    Of course it’s not required to witness the same event happen again repeatedly, namely, the impact of the meteorite.

    The study results need to be repeatable, not necessarily the event.

    On the other hand, especially if the miracle is something that could happen but is statistically unlikely, repeatability probably would be required. Like a mind reader who guesses the cards you drew 9 times out of 10 with strict controls in place. Do it once, so what? The “mind reader” could just be lucky. When the “mind reader” does it 20 times in a row, at least you know that something’s almost certainly going on, mind reading being one possibility.

    But if 1000 people under reasonably normal circumstances (not where some magician has had a bunch of people working, or what-not) watched Joseph of Cupertino soaring around the sky, catching random birds and then landing on a tree branch 60 feet from the ground–just the one time–that’s pretty good evidence of a miracle. One person sees it, come on, from lying to hallucinations, there are a lot of reasonable alternatives to the miracle. But with the 1000 witnesses, a scientist researching the phenomenon ought to be able to at least say that there was something unknown involved in the spectacle.

    To come to some actual conclusion of what is behind the spectacle might again require some sort of repeatability, though, because how else is one to discover the cause? On the other hand, Joseph of Cupertino supposedly did repeat the miracle over and over again, so I don’t see that repeatability is necessarily going to be impossible. We’d like to see it now, however, rather than to rely on a some eyewitness claims that can’t be verified at this point in time.

    Glen Davidson

  40. Patrick:

    Thank you for your participation.

    Thank you for your skepticism because that’s why I visit here. If I only wanted to get fawining over what I say, there are venues in church for that.

    I think every person’s limited samples size would logically drive many to conclude there is no God if their own experience is the only criteria. OOL and Richard Conn Henry’s physics make me believe in God, and then the question is “who might be God’s actual messenger.” I don’t like having to rely on someone else’s word, I’d rather see for myself, but as the old saying goes, “play the hand you are dealt.” And the hand I’m dealt is ancient writings. Not the best hand relative to seeing things first hand…

    For a much less theological discussion, but one that is related, one can frame Pascal’s Wager in terms of Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan theory. I don’t know what Taleb’s religion is. So if there might be any benefit to this discussion outside of theology, here is Taleb’s work:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

    He’s quite a scholar and an accomplished financeer to boot. Perhaps you might find something of value in Taleb’s work that isn’t so theologically loaded.

  41. stcordova,

    He’s quite a scholar and an accomplished financeer to boot. Perhaps you might find something of value in Taleb’s work that isn’t so theologically loaded.

    Sam Harris is less than impressed with Taleb. There’s a link to a podcast in the thread there, I’ll check it out tonight.

  42. “I myself have been critical of some of the things in standard ID literature, but unlike Daniels, I arrived at acceptance of ID via different routes, so when Daniels lost faith in God because he lost faith in ID due to arguments such as those put forward on the internet (by Abby Smith and Andrea Bottaro at PandasThumb), I arrived at opposite conclusions because I did not necessarily take the inferential routes Behe and Dembski took.”

    If one’s religious faith completely hinges on some empirical claims, particularly on ID which makes no logical and scientific sense, then one has no faith to begin with. Flawed theology inevitably clashes with reality (whereas correct theology explains reality). In Kenneth Daniels’ case, his flawed science, which he mistook for religion, clashed with reality.

    @stcordova
    What is the gist of ID that you hold to? Do you think “design detection” is a thing? If not, what else is there in ID that you find scientifically interesting? And what’s the link to God from there?

  43. Erik,

    What is the gist of ID that you hold to?

    I think some things look designed, I’m willing to risk believing they are until proven wrong.

    Do you think “design detection” is a thing?

    Prefer not to view it that way, I’m ambivalent, so a weak, “no”.

    If not, what else is there in ID that you find scientifically interesting?

    Some features of life and the universe look miraculous, not consistent with scientifically demonstrable explanations. For well-engineered looking machines to emerge from a lifeless planet is more miraculous than Lazarus rising from the dead.

    And what’s the link to God from there?

    Miracles require a Miracle Maker. 🙂

Leave a Reply