Many Christians (especially charismatic ones) have a certain tendency to see miracles everywhere and fail to consider the existence of the Placebo effect that can easily account for many healings following prayer.
But some things seem to defy material explanations based on mainstream medicine.
In two books of J.P. Moreland, an Evangelical philosophy professor and apologist, I found the following touching story. I entirely trust his honesty.
“Just a few weeks ago I had an amazing conversation with Nathan, one of my philosophy graduate students. Before coming to Biola University, Nathan and a friend were on the Long Beach State debate team and were ranked fifth in the country, having beaten Harvard and other top schools in debate competitions. Needless to say, Nathan is a very rational person not prone to being gullible. Nathan relayed that when he was thirteen, he was diagnosed with GERDS (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), in which the valve between his esophagus and stomach did not work properly. He would wake up at night not being able to breath because of the stomach acid gathering in his chest and the severe pain that followed. Nathan developed insomnia — he had to sleep sitting up and did not sleep through the night for nine years. In 2002, Nathan got married and his wife made him go to a doctor to investigate surgery. When he did, he was told that he would need a series of five surgeries and would be on medication the rest of his life. The next day, Nathan and his wife attended a small group Bible study at which a missionary couple from Thailand was going to share about their ministry overseas, a ministry that included miraculous healings. No one at the Bible study knew of Nathan’s illness. While there, something shocking happened to him. In Nathan’s own words, “During the Bible study, out of the blue, the speaker stopped praying for another person, turned and said, ‘Some one in the room is suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux disease.’ This man had never met me nor could he have known the disease name.” Nathan went on to say that the missionary described a painful event that had happened between the person with GERDS (Nathan had not yet identified himself as the person) and his father when he was diagnosed with the disease as a young boy (all details of which were unknown to anyone, including Nathan’s wife, and were accurately described). Nathan identified himself as the person with GERDS, the missionary laid hands on him and prayed for his healing, and he was instantly and completely healed! From that night until the present (about three full years), Nathan has never had an incident, he has slept through every night since that Bible study, and the doctor cleared Nathan shortly thereafter of the diagnosis.”
“As emotion welled up within him, Nathan relayed to me that at that very moment he was instantly and completely healed!”
“I met Nathan’s wife a few weeks ago at a student gathering, and without warning I pulled her aside to ask about the incident. She confirmed every detail of the story to me“.
The best materialistic explanation
How would a materialist account for this?
It seems extremely unlikely that the missionary would have talked with a close relative of Nathan (or even his father) in order to orchestrate the event.
Otherwise, the missionary’s words of knowledge can only be interpreted as random thoughts generated by his brain. But how likely would he find at that precise moment a man who suffer from GERDS and had a painful experience with his father whilst being diagnosed? Conversely, how likely is the missionary to randomly find the right diagnosis and circumstances instead of, say, “recalcitrant cold”, “lung cancer” or “chronic back pain”?
This type of specific knowledge appears to go well beyond the reach of lucky guesses.
It is worth noting that the missionary not only mentioned that a painful event with the man’s father occurred but also described it in a way that Nathan deemed “accurate”. If the missionary was randomly making things up, it would be unlikely he could provide an accurate description of the incident, as there are countless different types of incidents that could have happened.
Consequently, it seems very unlikely (if not extremely unlikely) that the missionary could have correctly guessed those pieces of information about Nathan.
The healing itself is less evidential as cases of spontaneous remissions of GERDS are known. However, it is certainly curious that after having suffered from the disease for nine years, Nathan was suddenly delivered from it after having felt “emotion welled up within him“. The whole encounter seems to have triggered an inner healing.
What we will make of that story depends on one’s prior beliefs. A hardcore materialist will consider this as only an unlikely chain of coincidences.
Someone open to the reality of paranormal phenomena might consider that something really strange took place.
Here is the introduction to a novel I’ve been writing in English for eons…and perhaps even in some parallel world 🙂
Hier ist die Einführung in einen Roman, den ich auf Englisch seit Äonen geschrieben habe…und vielleicht sogar in irgendwelcher parallelen Welt 🙂
Ceci est l’introduction du roman que j’ai écrit depuis de très nombreux mois…peut-être même dans un monde parallèle 🙂
Magonland…a world not entirely unlike ours but not completely similar either.
Magonland…eine Welt, die unserer nicht ganz unähnlich ist, obwohl sie auch nicht ganz dieselbe ist.
Magonland…un monde qui n’est pas vraiment différent du notre, bien qu’il ne soit pas tout à fait identique. For countless centuries, the whole planet has been ruled by the iron fist of the “Grand Consil”, whose manipulative skills have grown so strong that they managed eventually to convince the large majority of Magoners that they live in a democracy and are sovereign over their own existences.
Seit zahllosen Jahrhunderten wird der ganze Planet von der eisernen Faust des “Großen Consils” regiert, dessen manipulativen Methoden so stark geworden sind, dass es ihnen schliesslich gelang, die grosse Mehrheit der Magoner davon zu überzeugen, dass sie in einer Demokratie leben und über ihre eigenen Existenzen entscheiden.
Depuis de nombreux siècles, l’entière planète a été gouvernépar le poing d’acier du“Grand Consil”, dont les techniques de manipulation sont devenues tellement maturesqu’ils ont finalement réussi à convaincre la grande majorité des Magoneursqu’ils vivent dans une démocratie et dirigent souverainement leurs propres existences.
But political oppression is far from being the only problem plaguing humans.
Aber die politische Unterdrückung ist keineswegs das einzige Problem, das Menschen plagt.
Mais l’oppression politique est loin d’être le seul fléau affligeant les humains.
Many eons ago, at a time when religions had not yet been eradicated, Ankou, a terrifying drug devouring the bodies and souls of its victims, had been introduced into the world by a powerful sect which disappeared shortly thereafter.
Viele Äonen zuvor, zu einer Zeit als die Religionen noch nicht vertilgt worden waren,wurde Ankou, eine furchterregende Droge, die die Körper und Seelen ihrer Opfer verzehrt, in die Welt hineingebracht von einer mächtigen Sekte, die kurz danach verschwand.
Dans un passé très lointain,alors que les religions n’avaient pas encore été éradiquées, Ankou, une drogue terrifiante qui dévore les corps et les âmes de ses victimes, fut introduite dans le monde par une puissante secte qui disparut peu après.
And so did belief in Kralmur, the God of all gods whose glorious return so passionately preached by forgotten prophets never happened.
Und ebenso verschwand der Glaube an Kralmur, den Gott aller Götter, dessen glorreiche Rückkehr, über die vergessene Propheten so leidenschaftlich gepredigt haben, nie geschah.
Et il en fut de même pour la foi en Kralmur, le Dieu de tous les dieux,dont le glorieux retour prêché tellement passionnément par des prophètes oubliés,ne s’est jamais produit.
Despite a wealthy existence, a fantastic girlfriend and a decent job he feels passionate about, Curt Sunbloom no longer wants to live on.
Trotz einer wohlhabenden Existenz, einer fantastischen Freundin und einer anständigen Arbeit, wovon er sich begeistert fühlt, will Curt Sunneblum nicht länger weiterleben.
Malgré une existence aisée, une fantastique petite amie et un travail décent qui le passione, Curt Sunbloom ne veut plus vivre.
Apart from having the same name as his dead father who tyrannized the planet for decades, he constantly feels a deep emptiness in his innermost being that nothing had ever been able to drive away for long.
Ausser der Tatsache, dass er denselben Namen wie den seines toten Vaters hat, der den ganzen Planet während Jahrzehnten tyrannisiert hat, fühlt er ständig eine tiefe innere Leere, die kein Ding dieser Welt auf die Länge hatte vertreiben können.
En plus d’avoir le même nom que son père décédé,qui a tyrannisé toute la planète pendant des décennies, il sent sans cesse un vide intérieur que rien au monde n’a jamais pu chasser pour longtemps.
As rumors of a gate toward another realm surface, he doesn’t hesitate and decides to search for it.
Als Gerüchte über ein Tor nach einer anderen Dimension auftauchen, zögert er nicht und entscheidet, danach zu suchen.
Lorsque des rumeurs concernant un portail vers une autre dimension surfacent, il n’hésite pas et décide de le chercher.
But at the same time, mysterious lights are beginning to move around in the sky.
Aber zur gleichen Zeit beginnen gerade mysteriöse Lichter am Himmel, sich herum zu bewegen.
Mais en même temps, des mystérieuses lumières dans le ciel commencent a se déplacer erratiquementdans le ciel.
And Ankou seems to be evolving into something more sinister than it ever was.
Und Ankou scheint gerade, sich in etwas zu verwandeln, das noch düsterer ist als es je gewesen ist.
Et Ankou semble être entrain de se transformer en quelque chose encore plus sinistre qu’elle n’a jamais été.
Soon, Curt finds himself in the middle of a confusing war whose significance might transcend everything he believes in.
Bald befindet sich Curt mitten in einem verwirrenden Krieg, dessen Bedeutsamkeit alles übersteigen könnte, woran er glaubt.
Bientôt, Curt se retrouve au milieu d’une guerre déroutante, dont la signifiance pourrait très bien transcender toutes ses croyances.
So, aside from my work as an emerging scientist, this novel is the main reason why I’ve been blogging less frequently for the last months.
Also, neben meiner beruflichen Tätigkeit als Nachwuchswissenschaftler ist dieser Roman der Hauptgrund, warum ich im Laufe der letzten Monate viel seltener gebloggt habe.
En plus de ma profession en tant que jeune scientifique, ce roman est la raison principale pourquoi j’ai rarement blogué pendant les derniers mois.
At the moment,I am undecided as to how to publish it.
Momentan weiß ich noch nicht, wie ich ihn publizieren werde.
En ce moment, je ne sais pas encore comment je veux le publier.
I consider it much more important to be read by many people than to make money out of it.
Ich betrachte es als viel wichtiger, von zahlreichen Menschen gelesen zu werden, als dadurch viel Geld zu verdienen.
Je considère beaucoup plus important d’être lu par beaucoup de personnes plutôt que de gagner de l’argent a travers cela.
In the parallel world I created, English is the common tongue but some people speak in French and other people speak in the Germanic dialect of my region.
In der parallelen Welt, die ich erschaffen habe, ist das Englische die gemeinsame Sprache aber einige Menschen sprechen Französisch während andere Personen den deutschen Dialekt meiner Region reden.
Dans le monde parallèle que j’ai créé, l’anglais est la langue principale mais certaine personnes parlent en français tandis que d’autres s’expriment dans le dialecte germanique de ma région.
So people interested in linguistic might like it 🙂
Also Leute, die an der Linguistik interessiert sind, könnten es mögen 🙂
Ainsi, les gens intéressés par la linguistique pourrait l’apprécier 🙂
I am all too aware that both liberals and conservatives are unlikely to like this post as it was written by someone who sorts of stands in the middle and doesn’t adhere to the dogmas of either side.
Are liberal Christians all the same?
Are conservative Christians all the same?
No, and I sing the praises of some. A short list, admittedly. And I intensely dislike some ‘conservative’ Christians.
However, if I described the key aspects of liberal Christians that I firmly regard as being essentially anti-Christian, I suspect you’ll find quite the overlap of the Venn diagrams.
By the way, Marc. I recall years ago over at your blog was some snarky little German atheist who used to talk about how the irreligious Germans didn’t really have much of a ‘racism’ problem (compared to the more religious US). I warned at the time that there was quite a lot of people ready and willing to immigrate to Europe, given half a chance, and that the perceived lack of problems wasn’t going to last forever. I recall being laughed at and being told how the only problems were the Turks, and that’s under control.
If ever the opportunity arises, let ’em know that I am laughing my ass off whenever I think of that conversation now.
I recognise at your tone you feel extremely frustrated and angry.
I don’t think this is doing you any good and I honestly don’t believe that this state of mind honours Christ.
I know only few things about your background, life experiences and what you went through.
But I think you’d be better off praying to God that He shows you if certain things you consider to be right might be wrong.
And I shall certainly do the same.
I haven’t got any news from Andy for a long time.
I do believe that we, as Christians, have a duty to welcome and shelter anyone whose live is really threatened.
But Angela’s Merkel decision to accept more than two MILLIONS of migrants was crazy. Many of them are pseudo-refugees. Many of then have no willingness to integrate themselves into the German society.
I am critical of “Black Lives matter” and I just published this blog post.
My opposition to this movement has caused many progressives to call me a “racist” and “white supremacist”.
I am now convinced that liberal cultural warriors aren’t any better than conservative culture warriors.
But I always try to be gracious and respectful towards respectful opponents.
Best wishes and blessings.
Credit where it’s due, Marc. You’re unusual.
That said, I really do what I think is right. Do keep this in mind: you’re coming around to show some sympathy with a point of view that I’ve long occupied. I used to be more moderate. I tried to have a ‘At least we’re all Christian’ attitude with leftist Christians.
Then I started to notice that the leftists didn’t care about God at all. The resurrection? A side-belief at best. No, what was really of interest was motivating the Church to subscribe to whatever the important secular social issues of the day were, with a bit of God-language thrown on them.
I notice, from afar, that the principal opponents to Merkel’s insanity tend to be people holding crosses and having a far more traditional view of Church and State. It’s the liberal Christians and (especially) atheists urging her on.
Besides, the appalling rise of Donald Trump makes it abundantly clear that there are still many Americans of Europeans descent who hate, resent or disdain Afro-Americans.
Why do I even bother?
And just like that, I’m reminded yet again of why I disown the Christian Left. Enjoy your Muslims, Marc. May the liberal parts of Europe give way to sultans, and may the rest be blessed by God.
If black people don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop all of that rioting and extreme violence.
It would also help me resent them less if there were less black gang-bangers and if they actually made some sort of attempt to form families instead of breeding like rodents.
But what do I know. I’m just a racist.
“If black people don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop all of that rioting and extreme violence.”
What disturbs me about that sentence is that it involves one hell of an over-generalisation.
“Black” people aren’t a monolithic group. There are as many differences between blacks as there are between “whites”.
Many blacks are appalled by the violence of “Black Lives Matters” and do not feel they represent them.
I agree with you that such acts are indefensible and also completely counter-productive.
But I think you should have written:
“If proponents of Black Live Matters don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop supporting all that rioting and extreme violence.”
If an Afro-American wrote:
“If white people don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop discriminating and hating us.”
I would disagree with him for the same reason.
Crude: I don’t expect you to become a liberal Christian.
I don’t expect you to start believing that gay marriage is a good thing.
I don’t expect you to support abortion, all the more so since I believe it should be avoided if the health of the woman isn’t threatened.
But I think that if you call yourself a Christian (and are aware of the Sermon on the Mount), you ought to make a conscious effort to respectfully treat respectful opponents regardless of their ideas.
I’ve always tried to be kind towards you, even when you wrote things I totally disagree with and even when you were insulting towards other commentators on my blog.
“Enjoy your Muslims, Marc. May the liberal parts of Europe give way to sultans, and may the rest be blessed by God.”
You are being quite nasty here. Apart from lumping together all Muslims as raping terrorists, you are assuming that I am happy about the current situation, even though I told you that a (small) part of the migrants are violent pseudo-refugees (who are a threat to Westerners, liberal Muslims, homosexuals, and Arab Christians alike).
By the way, Germany and France didn’t invade Iraq. Without American imperialism, there wouldn’t have been such atrocious destructions in Syria and in the Middle East.
So, I do believe that it is the US who should have welcomed the large majority of them.
Let us not forget that most of them aren’t criminals but people who have lost everything because of us Westerners.
What disturbs me about that sentence is that it involves one hell of an over-generalisation.
What disturbs me about that is that you don’t realize that I’m generalizing.
I’m tired of people pretending they don’t understand that that’s what I’m doing. They do. So I’m not going to apologize for it.
I agree with Malcolm. The need to constantly self-police and forever parse one’s words to exactitude is nonsensical. Especially when Marc himself will talk about how Trump’s rise obviously shows how wickedly horrible and racist towards black the country is.
That said, the black culture is – for a number of reasons – rife with single moms, who are increasingly copping an attitude of ‘I didn’t do nothing wrong!’ and ‘Oh my God for some reason my kids turned out rotten, it’s not my fault’. White culture has its own mass of problems, but I believe in addressing them, and being clear about their racial realities.
As for Marc, well, that warrants a post of its own.
Yeah. When you realize that the one group you actually made an effort to play nice with is ALSO not, and never going to be, willing to give you a fair hearing, you stop caring about what they think of you at all.
Crude, I want to be clear about one thing.
I wouldn’t have commented on your blog if you were just a nasty conservative to me. I think you have been being consumed by anger and hatred for too long. And I really believe this is doing you no good at all.
Malcolm, while some folks might understand it this way, many others will feel insulted.
Whenever liberal culture warriors write: “White men cannot bear the idea of a female leading the mightiest country in the world” I feel really offended and angry.
This is why I think *all* such over-generalisations should be avoided.
This is a straightforward application of the Golden Rule you probably know.
Best wishes, Marc.
“I think you have been being consumed by anger and hatred for too long. And I really believe this is doing you no good at all.”
‘Consumed by anger and hatred’ cashing out to… what? Snarky comments? Openly saying I have no patience for a segment of Christianity which was marking me and people like me as a monstrous hateful person even when I was noticeably more delicate and forever trying to be appeasingly careful with my words?
I express contempt for people who despise me or collude with those who do, and I am ‘consumed by anger and hatred’. You buddy up with people who think the failure to service a same-sex wedding is a criminal act, worthy of firing, fining and jailing, but what, you’re better because in direct conversation you’re civil? No, that’s not even in the realm of sensible.
As for ‘many others will feel insulted’ – they’ve turned feelings of insult into a policing weapon. And when we feel insulted or angry, we’re told – and have been told – to shut up and deal with it, because freedom. We offend, innocently or not, and the rules change; our offense is ‘hate’, which freedom is incompatible with.
You should understand why so many people have decided that the politeness game is no longer one they wish to play.
“Malcolm, while some folks might understand it this way, many others will feel insulted.”
You used an example of people of other races making similar generalizations about whites, and you’re quite correct: When that becomes taboo to say, I’ll stop generalizing about blacks.
I decided not to further engage them as the confrontation was starting to wear me down.
It goes without saying I completely reject their assertion that it is permissible to be nasty towards a respectful opponent because other people holding similar ideas have bullied you.
Nor do I believe that liberals making racist over-generalisations against whites can justify you making racist over-generalisations against blacks. For this is a form of collective punishment.
As a side note, if anyone is interested in learning the reasons why I don’t think that Black Lives Matter is the right way to tackle the undeniable reality of anti-black racism in America, I am certainly willing to talk about that.
But if you believe there cannot possibly be any such reasons, I am probably not worth your while.
Do you want to be bullied, ridiculed and dehumanised by a LIBERAL culture warrior?
Say to him or her any of the following things.
1) Systematic racism against afro-americans is alive and well in America in 2016. This shouldn’t be tolerated. But there are also innocent white kids who get bullied and battered just because of their skin colour. This should be called racial hatred and equally combated.
2) Nowadays, there is still an intolerable level of homophobia and misogyny in the Western World. We must not deny this but eagerly fight it. However,in 2016 the oppression of gays and females is MUCH worse in Muslim countries. They (and liberal Muslims who defend them) are much more in need of our support than Western females and homosexuals.
4) A man whose life has been destroyed by a false rape accusation is as much in need of our help and compassion as a woman whose life has been destroyed by a true rape.
5) While assessing the existence of real discriminations in the here and now in a given society (say America), you shouldn’t directly compare the whole groups of non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, blacks and Asians because these populations can be extremely different in terms of poverty, culture and many other factors.
Instead, while investigating academic success, unjustified police arrests, discriminations etc., you should compare homogeneous groups such as:
a) wealthy whites and wealthy blacks coming from wealthy neighbourhoods
b) poor whites and poor blacks coming from poor neighbourhoods
c) qualified men and qualified women applying for academic positions in philosophy or mechanical engineering.
6) Anti-black racism isn’t only a Western phenomenon. There are awful cases of persecutions of black Africans in Arabic countries as well. This is something progressive Arabs clearly expose and fight. Curiously, this is something progressive Westerners choose to completely ignore because it destroys their most fundamental beliefs.
7) Race-based affirmative action is unjust and inevitably upholds artificial divisions of humankind.
Instead, it should be replaced by a set of three measures
i) wealth-based affirmative action
ii) any enterprise must have the same amount of employees belonging to the ethnic minority as the amount of that ethnic minority among qualified candidates.
iii) public education in poor neighbourhoods must be extremely strengthened and improved through the intervention of the State. Much more money needs to be spent in these areas.
8) Discriminating a person because he or she is obese, unattractive or behaves oddly due to a mental health condition isn’t any less immoral than discriminating him or her based on race, gender or sexual orientation.
9) Stealing the wallet of a person swinging it around in the street is as immoral as stealing it from his or her closed pockets.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of people, it might not be wise to hold it in one’s hands while walking down certain streets.
Raping a sexily dressed and attractive woman is as wrong, egregious and wicked as raping a “modestly” dressed woman.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of men, it might not be wise to dress oneself provocatively under certain circumstances.
Liberalism, rationality and morality
I want to make it perfectly clear that what I wrote does NOT concern all liberals, but only the true “culture warriors” among them.
These people view themselves as the champions of truth, reason, decency and intelligence.
Actually, my numerous interactions with them have shown me they aren’t any different from nasty religious fundamentalists aggressively defending their cherished dogmas, without evidence and often even in the face of evidence.
I consider myself a progressive Christian because I believe that the Bible contains contradictions and errors and that we need to use our God-given conscience in order to figure out what is right and what is wrong in a complex world and to make moral progress.
And this all too often leads me to think outside the box, as the content of this post proves.
Frankly, I am ready to give up any of the nine “heretical” beliefs I laid out if you give me compelling rational arguments against them.
Insulting and dehumanising me would be definitely most entertaining (to me) 🙂
Alas, it is unlikely to change my mind in the least.
It is particularly embarrassing that many of these self-righteous “leftists” are self-professed Christians.
By bullying their respectful opponents and treating them like the scum of the world, they are dishonouring Christ who taught us to even love our enemy.
It revolved around the problem of divine hiddenness: if God really exists and is interested in people believing in Him, then why does He not unambiguously prove His existence?
The discussion took place in the comment section of a blog post written by progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser entitled “Is the Atheist my Neighbour?”
When I wrote Is the Atheist My Neighbor? I had a very short endorser wish-list. That list consisted of folks who were leaders in their professions and exemplars of the kind of irenic dialogue between atheist and Christian that was the book’s reason for being.
Neither Richard Dawkins nor Ray Comfort made the list.
One of the people who did make that list was J.L. Schellenberg, Professor of Philosophy at Mount Saint Vincent University. Schellenberg is an atheist and one of the leading philosophers of religion in the world today. His most important work in philosophy of religion is a powerful argument for atheism from divine hiddenness, an argument that he has honed over more than twenty years. Professor Schellenberg has pushed the dialogue and debate forward with a thoughtful and powerful argument, and all without animus or rancor. Indeed, while I have never met him, I know several Christian philosophers who count him not only an esteemed and worthy opponent, but a personal friend as well. You can visit Professor Schellenberg online at his website here.
All this is to say that I was delighted to receive the following endorsement from Professor Schellenberg for Is the Atheist My Neighbor? Given my goals in writing this book, an endorsement like this is worth its weight in gold, and that would hold even if the endorsement were etched in granite. The first sentence alone provides one of the best introductions to a book endorsement that I’ve ever read:
“There are some whose way of following the first of the great commandments has, in the matter of nonbelief, meant violating the second. In this brief and lively but remarkably full and acute discussion, Rauser shows the way out of this problem. Impressively fair, and writing not perfunctorily but with feeling, he has found a way to express genuine neighborliness both to atheists like me and to Christians who struggle to reconcile love and loyalty.”
Andy Schüler, a German Atheist reacted to another commentator arguing that rejecting God’s existence is never an innocent action.
Among many other things, he wrote:
Schellenberg´s argument requires that at least some people who are open to the possibility of God’s existence and do not resist this truth still live and die as unbelievers. If you interpret the Bible in such a way that the existence of such people is impossible – then your interpretation makes the Bible evidently wrong about this matter (in a way that makes any further discussions impossible, because it forces you to accuse people who claim that they indeed are sincerely open to the possibility of God’s existence, yet also sincerely do not believe that there is a God, of simply lying about this).
You don´t teach your kid that he or she shouldn’t touch a hot stove by letting him touch it. Or rather – you would be a terrible parent if you did it). And the scripture you refer to depicts God in an even worse light, God is like a parent that is an extremely skilled mentalist and not only does nothing to stop his little kid from touching the hot stove, but rather uses his skills to convince him that he should touch it!
My response follows. Please forgive me for the small pieces of German dialect scattered here and there 🙂
Hi Andy! 🙂
Long time, no see! (Sit longi Zit hon ich nix meh von dir gehert!).
“Innocence or lack thereof has nothing to do with anything here. Schellenberg´s argument requires that at least some people are open to the possibility of God existing / not resisting the truth of this, yet still live and die as unbelievers.”
My own view is that people “dying as unbelievers” (or atheists for that matter) but sincerely and humbly striving for justice and love will inherit eternal life whereas people dying as egoistical self-righteous bigots will irremediably lose their existence and be no more.
In all his parables, Jesus never threatened anyone with hellfire for not believing in Him or engaging in sexual immorality but for
1) failing to feed the poor, weak, hungry or neglected
2) not repenting from one’s own unjust pride.
Even Paul himself didn’t embrace the whole view often attributed to him in that he wrote
“God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11”
If you read Roman 2, it seems quite clear to me that Paul believed in the salvation of righteous heathens dying as such, his other ideas notwithstanding.
It is ironic that those arrogant and unloving fundamentalists who keep preaching about “salvation by faith” and eternal torment are those who are the most likely to miss everlasting life, according to Jesus.
Given that, I find that Schellenberg´s challenges are far less impressive (albeit not entirely unproblematic, of course).
God is under no moral obligation to give clear evidence of His existence to atheists if their unbelief while dying isn’t going to damn them.
You’re quite right that we cannot make a choice about what we deem to be reasonable (obwohl die Engländer das Wort “decide” sowohl als “entscheiden” als auch als “bestimmen”, “herausfinden” verwenden 🙂 )
Yet, the same thing cannot necessarily be said about our hopes .
Obviously, someone convinced that theism is extremely implausible cannot entertain any hope in that direction.
But what if you’re completely ignorant about whether theism or atheism is true?
Or what if you (as I do) believe there are intriguing pieces of evidence for the existence of a non-material world which aren’t, however, compelling?
It appears quite reasonable to think one can, in that case, consciously choose to entertain and cultivate hope in either direction.
One example might make that concept a bit more palatable.
Consider the proposition: “Our world is actually some kind of simulation run by beings we know nothing about . It all started five minutes ago with the appearance of age.”
I’ve no doubt that most of us find that pretty absurd on an emotional level .
Yet, I do not think that anyone can show this to be widely implausible without begging the question and smuggling in assumptions about reality. And I spent quite a few hours exploring propositions aiming at rationally dismissing that possibility.
(You can try to prove me wrong if you so wish 🙂 ).
Therefore, I think that in order to ground our entire knowledge and existence, one has to take a leap of faith and make a pragmatic decision (Entscheidung) not based on whatever reasons.
“Here’s a fact, and I am sure the other people here will be mortified that I dare to talk about it. There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people who are HIV positive. It’s not a good place for any of them to be, I know.
“Sixty per cent of them are not British nationals. They can come into Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the retro-viral drugs that cost up to £25,000 per year per patient.
“I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world, but what we need to do is put the NHS there for British people and families, who in many cases have paid into the system for decades.”
While he skilfully shaped his utterances to make them sound more respectable, I think that the content remains absolutely shameful.
Think about it for a while. Banksters plunge countless lives into an unspeakable misery through their reckless actions and they don’t have to give anything away from their wealth.
There’s little doubt that some of the foreigners taking advantage of HIV-treatments are abusing the system.
But the harm they (indirectly) inflict to British households is negligible in comparison to that stemming from immoral millionaires and billionaires.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said his criticism of ‘HIV tourists’ is not at odds with a Christian attitude and that Christians should put their countrymen before immigrants …. Nigel Farage has said his comments about ‘HIV tourists’ are perfectly compatible with a religious outlook, claiming that it is “a sensible Christian thing to look after your family and your own community first”. …. But asked on Saturday whether his views were compatible with a Christian outlook, Mr Farage said: “What good Christian would say to an 85-year-old woman ‘you can’t have breast cancer treatment because we can’t afford it’, whilst at the same time shovelling a billion pounds on foreign aid, allowing people from all over the world to fly into Britain as health tourists get an HIV test and drugs over £20,000 a year?” ….
Speaking to Sky News he added: “It is a sensible Christian thing to look after your family and your own community first.” …. Mr Farage said that he regarded himself as a Christian, despite attending church only a “few times a year”, and insisted Britain should maintain its cultural position as a “Judeo-Christian” country.
Here’s my response to his rhetorical question I emphasised.
What good Christian would prevent the weakest members of his society from taking advantage of a decent healthcare just for allowing a bunch of greedy people to get even richer?
I don’t know Nigel Farage deeply enough for judging him as a moral person.
But I strongly doubt he’s a real committed follower of Jesus of Nazareth who kept preaching against failing to feed and help the poor.
The return of Robin Hood
Nigel Farage is an impostor. He steals the money of the poor to give it to the rich.
What modern Britain really needs is the Robin Hood of the legend.
Children are not that gullible, which makes indoctrination even more odious
I recently submitted an article on indoctrination for publication in an academic journal. I was attempting to explain what indoctrination looks like in practice in an educational environment, and along the way I made an assertion that I think most people would accept: “Young children … in most cases will believe whatever they are told”.
This is a widely assumed to be true, so I am grateful to my anonymous peer reviewer for pointing out that I was mistaken. The reviewer recommended I read a paper by Dan Sperber et al, “Epistemic vigilance”, which, happily, is freely available online. The section on children begins on page 371. The evidence suggests that children from very young ages use sophisticated techniques to work out who to trust.
Even at a very early age, children do not treat all communicated information as equally reliable. At 16 months, they notice when a familiar word is inappropriately used (Koenig and Echols, 2003). By the age of two, they often attempt to contradict and correct assertions that they believe to be false (e.g. Pea, 1982). These studies challenge the widespread assumption that young children are simply gullible.
Do young children have the cognitive resources to allocate trust on the basis of relevant evidence about an informant’s trustworthiness? Given the choice, three-year-olds seem to prefer informants who are both benevolent (Mascaro and Sperber, 2009) and competent (e.g. Clement ´ et al., 2004). In preferring benevolent informants, they take into account not only their own observations but also what they have been told about the informant’s moral character (Mascaro and Sperber, 2009), and in preferring competent informants, they take past accuracy into account (e.g. Clement ´ et al., 2004; Birch et al., 2008; Scofield and Behrend, 2008). By the age of four, they not only have appropriate preferences for reliable informants, but also show some grasp of what this reliability involves. For instance, they can predict that a dishonest informant will provide false information (Couillard and Woodward, 1999), or that an incompetent informant will be less reliable (Call and Tomasello, 1999; Lampinen and Smith, 1995; Clément et al., 2004). Moreover, they make such predictions despite the fact that unreliable informants typically present themselves as benevolent and competent.
The paper goes on to explain that four- and five-year-olds develop methods of spotting deception and also hypocrisy. Further, they are good at interpreting signals about what other people think about information (and the informers), and they use this to assist their own judgements about who is a trustworthy informant and what information is reliable. They’re also pretty good at spotting when someone intends to deceive them, and they know to ignore that information. From the age of four, children are particularly careful about who to trust.
All of which is not to say that children can’t be fooled, of course, but adults can be fooled too. It turns out children are not the trusting dopes they are sometimes depicted as.
But I know, and you know too, that if you stick a class of children in a room with a teacher who tells them that God made the Earth in six days six thousand years ago, most of them are going to believe it (and this was my point when I said that children generally believe what they are told). So what’s going on?
The answer, of course, is that children have excellent reasons to trust their teachers and their parents. Even in the most extreme cults, the vast majority of the verifiable information we learn from our parents in our formative years turns out to be true. Stoves are indeed hot and plug sockets are dangerous. Waiting for the green man does make it safer to cross the road. The food they recommend is generally good tasting and non-poisonous, and the things they recommend for entertainment are usually enjoyable. Up to the age of four, most of what we know about the world comes from parents, and most of it is right.
Then our parents hand us over to the care of teachers, which implicitly tells us that they are to be trusted. Our parents may also explicitly tell us to trust our teachers, with phrases like “You should listen to what your teacher says”. We trust our parents because they haven’t steered us wrong so far, and sure enough the teacher does seem to be reliable as well. She teaches us to read, which is very useful, and when we read signs using the methods she taught us, we arrive in the right places. She shows us that when we connect wires to metal contacts, the bulb lights up, and when we connect them to plastic, nothing happens.
Our parents and teachers tell us stories, and from quite early on they distinguish between true stories and those which are ‘only stories’. So when they tell us about Noah’s Ark, the exodus from Egypt, and the walls of Jericho, we trust them. We have every reason to do so—they have demonstrated their reliability. We would, as Sperber’s paper argues, be pretty good at telling if they were trying to deceive us, but of course they aren’t.
In short, when children are taught creationism by their parents and teachers, they accept it because this is the rational thing to do. Even the most committed skeptic cannot check everything out first hand. We all gain much of our knowledge from reliable others, and for most of us parents and teachers are the most reliable others we will ever know. It would be insane to trust them on everything except religion when religion is presented as true in the same way as all other knowledge taught at home or school. Of course the children believe you. That’s what you’re for. When you use that fact to make children believe things for which there is insufficient evidence, you are abusing your power and abusing their trust.
Presenting religious ideas as though we can believe them with the same confidence we can believe that clouds make rain or electricity flows through metal better than plastic is just immoral. I find it difficult to overstate how wrong this is. There are not many things I would call sacred, but the duty of care to children must be one of them. Ironically, I find myself wanting to use religious language to emphasise the gravity of this point. From the point of view of the Christian teacher, God has put these children in your care. It is despicable to use this position to present scientific and religious information as though they are both equally knowledge. Your job is to educate children, and you’re lying to them. It is the educational equivalent of a doctor poisoning patients.
I think this raised quite important questions about the nature of faith and what our convictions should be grounded on.
Here was my response.
I certainly agree it may be pretty harmful to teach far-fetched beliefs to children.
I don’t think, however, that one can generally say that fundies are being immoral for doing so.
Most I talked with are sincerely convinced that there are good arguments for a young earth or an exodus out of Egypt and that if it doesn’t belong to public knowledge, it is only because “godless” scientists “suppress the truth”.
So they teach what they are honesty convinced of and I think that very few of them teach things they know very well to be false.
Of course, I believe they are either utterly irrational or terribly uninformed. But that changes nothing to their sincerity.
Otherwise, I doubt it is possible to only believe in things we’ve evidence for.
Consider the proposition:
“We do notlive in a simulation ran by beings we know nothing about.”
Almost all human beings accept this.
Yet, I strongly doubt it is possible to bring up evidence for this without already making assumptions about reality, i.e. without begging the question.
As far as I can tell, nobody has ever come up with a satisfactory answer to the Muenchhausen dilemna,
All justifications in pursuit of ‘certain’ knowledge have also to justify the means of their justification and doing so they have to justify anew the means of their justification. Therefore, there can be no end. We are faced with the hopeless situation of ‘infinite regression’. One can justify with a circular argument, but this sacrifices its validity.
One can stop at self-evidence or common sense or fundamental principles or speaking ex cathedra or at any other evidence, but in doing so, the intention to install ‘certain’ justification is abandoned.
An English translation of a quote from the original German text by Albert is as follows:
Here, one has a mere choice between:
An infinite regression, which appears because of the necessity to go ever further back, but is not practically feasible and does not, therefore, provide a certain foundation. A logical circle in the deduction, which is caused by the fact that one, in the need to found, falls back on statements which had already appeared before as requiring a foundation, and which circle does not lead to any certain foundation either. A break of searching at a certain point, which indeed appears principally feasible, but would mean a random suspension of the principle of sufficient reason. ******
According to that definition, it is my contention that everyone walks by faith.
I don’t have children but I think I would try to explain this to them as soon as they are old enough to grasp that (without hopefully making them too dizzy).
To my mind, these considerations lead to a humble pluralism rather than to a confident materialism.
I don’t, however, hold anything I said dogmatically and would be glad to see your objections, if you have some.
I certainly sympathize with the children of fundamentalists who go through terrible ordeals as you did.