Don likes to take me to task for what he says are assertions in my arguments. I do make assertions, as do we all, because not all points in an argument need to be demonstrated every time they’re used. Indeed, not all assertions can be.
There are assertions that we all accept are likely to be true: the sun will ‘rise’ tomorrow; the Earth is a sphere; evidence is better than no evidence and so on. There are those who dispute these assertions but the onus is then on them to provide the evidence or argument that their counter-assertion is true. Yes, there may come a day when the sun doesn’t rise but it is statistically improbable; the Earth is demonstrably not flat; faith is not an reliable substitute for evidence. There is abundant evidence and sound argument why these things are not the case. But – and this is my point – this evidence does not have to be trotted out every time an argument relies on such probabilities; they can be asserted.
I write, and indeed live my life, on the basis of the fact (‘assertion’) that the supernatural does not exist. Over the last ten years, I’ve posted several arguments why this is the case. I frequently provide a link to these arguments when asserting that, outside of the human imagination, gods, spirits, angels, devils, demons, powers, principalities, ghosts, avatars, heaven and hell do not exist. These arguments form the backbone of any subsequent assertion that the supernatural is not real.
Nonetheless, the onus to ‘prove’ that this is the case does not rest with me. First, because it is impossible to prove a negative. Consider, for example, the Christians challenge to prove their God doesn’t exist. While there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that this is the case, there is no absolute ‘proof’ of God’s non-existence (as I’ve argued before, it all comes down to probability, or, in God’s case, improbability.) Absence of evidence is invariably evidence of absence.
The onus instead lies with the one making the incredible claim. Those who take it as fact that the supernatural and God are real need to demonstrate to the rest of us that this is the case. They have, in my long experience, failed to do this. The best they can do are the various arguments (the ontological, Kalam cosmological, teleological, fine-tuning and the argument from design) that suggest the possibility of the supernatural but fall far short of convincing evidence that the supernatural is real, and further still that the Christian God exists. They depend in the end on the feelings they have in their heads and the Bible (or some other holy book.) This is wholly inadequate.
Consequently, I’ll continue to operate from and make my assertion that the supernatural does not exist until such time as Don or any other of his co-religionists demonstrate the probability that it does.
From my assertion, backed up, remember, by earlier arguments, a number of other facts follow:
With no supernatural, there are no gods; YHWH in all his incarnations is a God, therefore YHWH does not exist.
Much follows from this:
If YHWH does not exist, Jesus cannot have been either his avatar, Son or incarnation;
Jesus cannot have been raised from the dead by a being who doesn’t exist;
Stories that he did so must therefore be merely that: stories;
The celestial, eternal Jesus who sits at the right hand of God in heaven is not real;
Any experience people have of this being is entirely within their own imaginations;
The Bible is based on such imagined encounters with these imagined characters;
There is no after-life or judgment;
The Christian faith, including my own, cannot be explained in terms of the supernatural;
Only explanations that are rooted in naturalism, as in science, have any validity.
There are more implications that can be drawn from the premise that there is no supernatural, including the fact that the world makes much more sense (if it makes any sense at all) without drawing gods and demons into it.
Consequently, I shall continue to make my assertions, like those above, supported as always by previous argument. Any religious believer who wants to challenge them is welcome to do so, but must do more than point out the obvious, that they are assertions. They must provide the evidence for the supernatural, and all that follows from it, independent of the goings on in their heads and without reference to holy books written by those with similar subjective feelings.
Sometimes I think the problem arises with the definition of evidence. Some see it simply as their “basis for belief” and thus, by quoting bible scripture and/or advancing theological arguments, they have offered evidence. Some will even advance “personal” revelation or experience as evidence.
However, when one considers the more widely accepted definitions of the word (documentation, authentication, proof), the believer falters.
But of course, they are unable to see/accept this and so continue to advance personal reasoning, apologetics, and (seriously) outdated scripture.
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You’re right. They also think we’re so unreasonable not to accept personal testimony and scriptural quotations as evidence.
I know I said to you that I’d move away from writing about matters of faith. I’m trying, honestly! At least Don has been quiet lately; he’s been busy on his own blog showing how every single one of the Bible’s prophecies is true and accurate (sigh).
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I’ve noticed on my own blog that “matters of faith” pretty much always get a fair amount of feedback … whereas other topics aren’t (generally) as popular. Seems it’s a topic that everyone has an opinion about! 🤔🙂
Neil: Only explanations that are rooted in naturalism, as in science, have any validity.
Don: That limitation flows from your assumption that God, the supernatural, does not exist. It becomes a circular argument. God does not exist, therefore, only the natural exists. Or only scientific naturalism has validity, therefore, God has no validity.
This assumption is based on probability. Though you did not specifically say it, you apparently mean that the probability of God is low while the probability of natural explanations is high.
But that is the fly in the ointment. With no bias toward either naturalism or supernaturalism as an explanation of all things, the probability is equal. Both appear to have have low probability. (You would likely say that it is not, and I would say that it is not, but that is because we come to the question with a bias.) But virtually everyone chooses between them. What influences that choice?
My explanation is that there is a spiritual influence. What is yours?
It’s not an assumption that there is no evidence for the supernatural, it is a FACT (as you like to assert.) Without verifiable evidence for the supernatural it is safe to say it doesn’t exist, or, to put it another way, the probability of the supernatural is so low, it is virtually zero. This absence of evidence does not mean, as your fallacious leap of logic claims, that the probability of the naturalistic universe and supernatural imaginings is equal. Far from it.
Unless of course you can provide objective evidence for the supernatural that can’t be explained much more plausibly in naturalistic terms. In which case, have at it. (Just so we’re clear, the voices in your head, the assertions of ancient writers who didn’t know any better and woolly apologetics don’t qualify as evidence.)
Christians and innumerable others have had millennia to provide such ‘proof’ without managing to produce even the tiniest scrap of empirical evidence for any supernatural entity, so I’m not holding my breath that, after all this time, Don Camp will be the one, finally, to come up with that evidence (though I’ve no doubt you’ll try.)
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Like I said, the probability of a scientific naturalistic explanation and a supernatural explanation are equal if objective, empirical evidence is the criterion. Unless you have some objective, empirical evidence for for the existence of the universe as it now is.
Honestly, I have read a lot of scientists who BELIEVE as you do and who would have the ability to provide this objective evidence if were possible, and they have not done so. That does not mean they have no opinion and offer no scenario for a naturalistic origin. But they are as much opinion as any of those from the theists you complain about. So if you accept opinion and scenarios as evidence of scientists, why do you reject explanations form theists that are the same?
BTW you know, I am sure, that not all scientists BELIEVE in a naturalistic explanation for origins.
So, it certainly appears to me like a stalemate. Which brings me back to probability.
What is the probability of a universe like ours with an planet like ours with life like us by natural means? I think many scientists agree that is is exceeding low, even if some of them still consider the naturalistic explanation the only option.
So, I would ask them as I have you, why they choose a naturalistic explanation over a supernatural explanation given the odds. I did have one scientist willing to give his reason: Occam’s razor. But that really does not address the problem of being unable to explain origins by naturalistic means. It simply rejects the one element that provides a simple answer. My explanation is that it is spiritual and not logical. What is yours?
So you can’t do it. You can’t provide a single piece of evidence for the supernatural. That is why I don’t BELIEVE in it. Why do you persist in your folly?
This is another fail, Don. It’s just a load of guff. You’re going to fail the entire course at this rate.
Oh, I didn’t say that I could not provide a single piece of evidence. I can provide at least as much as you or the scientists who declare with such finality that the cosmos is all there is, all there ever has been, all there ever will be. In fact I can provide a great deal more. (Would you call Carl Sagan’s writing on the cosmos a load of guff? I doubt it. I would, however. His bold and foolish declaration goes far beyond the evidence. )
I can go beyond Sagan to point to the detail and complexity of the universe’s design as evidence of the Designer. I can point to DNA as evidence for the intelligence of the Designer. I can point to the beauty we all see in one form or another around us and our ability to apprehend beauty as evidence of the creativity of the Designer. I can point to the narrative of human history in the Bible as evidence for the purpose of the Designer. I can point to our nature as moral beings as evidence of a moral God.
You can point to the disinterested stars as evidence . . . of what?
To be honest, Neil, I’ll go with the evidence the universe provides for God,
All circumstantial, Don. Not direct evidence of any of the supernatural beings you claim regularly interact with human beings in this physical reality. That they are active in people’s lives should provide some concrete evidence of their existence: a recorded sighting of an angel; a widely heard voice from heaven; a physical manifestation of a demon; pillars of fire and cloud; something like tongues of fire around believers’ heads; resurrected saints; a physical manifestation of the risen Lord; God actually and unmistakably walking among us. These are how supernatural entities make their presence known in the Bible (supposedly), yet you can’t offer any such ‘evidence’ from the real world of the here and now.
Yet if I asked you to provide evidence of, say, Joe Biden’s existence, you would have no trouble doing so. You wouldn’t need to resort merely to pointing out his policies or the effect of his philosophy or the fact America is how it is because of him. You’d be able to provide empirical evidence of his physical presence, or recordings of his speeches or the eye-witness testimony of those who interact with him every day. Why is it with God and his supernatural support cast that none of this is possible? Is it because, since Bible times, they’ve all become ineffable and invisible? Or is it that those characteristics are actually synonymous with ‘non-existent’?
As for your (non-sequitur) question about what stars are evidence of, they are evidence of… stars. Why do they have to be evidence of something else? In any case, science explains their existence far, far better than your assertion that ‘God done made them’.
You’re really not thinking too clearly, Don. 2/10 for effort this time, though certainly not for content.
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Your list of appearances underlines the fact that people reported those appearances. Today people also report appearances of angels and demons. You remain unconvinced. They report answered prayer and miracles. You remain unconvinced. People report being visited by Jesus and become believers because of that visitation. You remain unconvinced.
So, the bottom line is that you will not be convinced by anything less than a person experience. But would you be convinced? A lot of people saw Jesus and heard him in the flesh and were not convinced. Why? Maybe their reason is your reason.
Stars: Actually, many scientists take the stars as evidence that natural processes are the only processes. Carl Sagan did. Maybe you do. If so, you and they are making a leap to Faith in a process for which there is no evidence. And you are doing so against all odds. Good luck. Sincerely, I mean that. That would relieve you from any responsibility to God, and it would make no difference for me. But I would not bet on it. Sometimes horse with the least probability to win does. But rarely.
They report such things but provide no evidence that what they experienced was anything outside of their own imaginations. According to the bible, angels are terrifying creatures, yet no-one reports seeing them like this. Today’s angels are gentle reassuring beings with shiny wings dressed all in white, their (white) Jesus from the front of a Hallmark card.
Where are the recordings of miracles, angels and demons? In this day and age, when everybody films everything, no-one ever thinks to get their phone out to capture the miracle or the manifestation of an angel? Where too is the scientific evidence? Where the disturbances in the atmosphere that the manifestation of such beings would create, where the effect of their presence beyond the occasional psychosymatic ‘healing’?
You’re wrong, Don. These imaginary beings have never appeared on the Earth; they don’t exist.
This is an interesting statement, Don. Especially coming from you and viewing it as a standalone:
… you and they are making a leap to Faith in a process for which there is no evidence.
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Yes, it’s us making the leap of faith, not Don with his panoply of gods, angels and demons. His comment above that he believes in all of these things because he’d feel like a desolate chimp without them speaks volumes.
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I said it would make no difference to me if there were no God. But on reflection that is not quite true. I would find life desolate. I would be like a chimp sitting on a bluff looking west over a sea of green jungle toward a sunset. And thinking, is that all there is? If so, what’s the point?
Probably chimps do not think like that. But we do. And in such a place, I would think like MacBeth.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
And I would think how tragic that I can think.
I cannot believe it is so.
Just because you’d feel lost without the consolation of your imagined deities does not mean such beings exist, Don. Your being needy does not make Christian mythology true.
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I am needy. I can not live without meaning. I cannot live in desolation. I am thankful that I don’t need to.
You don’t need to, Don. Life has meaning, purpose and the potential for fulfilment without the crutch of Christianity. Other atheists who comment here would tell you the same.
That is meaning you have created for yourself in a meaningless universe. It is a game you are playing.
Nothing you do results in eternal good for anyone. It cannot. if everything turns to dust. But sadly, because you turn people away from God, you are doing eternal harm.
Yes, that’s right. We create our own meaning. Yes, right again, the universe is meaningless in human terms. Yes, nothing I do, nothing you do, nothing your mythology does, nothing anybody does has any eternal significance (and before you say these are assertions, so are your statements. You’ve failed to demonstrate theres such a thing as ‘eternal good’ or ‘harm’.)
If I’ve turn anyone away from fantasy, I’m glad of it.
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Oh how easily this statement can be turned around and used against you …!!
That is meaning you have created for yourself in a meaningless universe.
And the only “eternal harm” that is being done are the individuals who instill fear in others related to their “eternal destiny.”
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