Occam’s Razor And Faith

Occam’s Razor explains that if there are two explanations for something, the odds of being correct favor the one that requires the fewest assumptions.

Our ancient book, the Bible, is an interesting place to consider Occam’s Razor. From the point of view of people in the faith, the reason the Bible was written was because God wanted it written. At least that is a way to paraphrase believers for this purpose.

Skeptics would simply say the Bible was written by local peoples for their own purposes at the time. The question is, which of these two explanations require the fewest assumptions?

The assumptions of skeptics is that there were local people who knew how to write and wanted people to believe certain things for their own self serving reasons.

The explanation that God wrote or guided the writing of the Bible requires first invisible God which no one has seen. Then, it assumes the god was able to communicate to humans what it wanted written even though there has never been verification this communication is even possible.

Thus, one explanation requires far flung and supernatural assumptions. The other does not.

Why then would millions more people prefer the least likely of the two explanations over the more likely? My explanation is that the majority of people have some need for the least likely to be true. Occam did not factor in such a need.

It frustrates rational people that the majority prefer ideas about magical events and invisible beings. However, it makes religion fascinating.

32 Responses

  1. Cevon Anderson

    People may think there is verification, due to their use of “magical thinking”. There is a confusion surrounding causality. It is a type of causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks for meaningful relationships between acts and events, without understanding coincidence. This type of thinking is predominant in all of us between age 2 to 7 years old.

    Magical thinking – from Wikipedia
    Magical thinking is the attribution of causal relationships between actions and events which seemingly cannot be justified by reason and observation. In religion, folk religion, and superstitious beliefs, the correlation posited is often between religious ritual, prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or recompense. In clinical psychology, magical thinking can cause a patient to experience fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because of an assumed correlation between doing so and threatening calamities. Magical thinking may lead people to believe that their thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it. It is a type of causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks for meaningful relationships of grouped phenomena (coincidence) between acts and events.

  2. dean

    People who believe in irrational things start with a belief and then build a case for it, surrounding themselves with people, places or things that reinforce those false beliefs. They avoid situations that might steer them straight. In short they want to believe something, therefore they do. Not everyone is interested in rational thought.

  3. entech

    Why then would millions more people prefer the least likely of the two explanations over the more likely? My explanation is that the majority of people have some need for the least likely to be true. Occam did not factor in such a need.

    Crabtree’s Bludgeon, a foil to Occam’s Razor, and may be expressed so: “No set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated.”

    1. entech 1:38 “No set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated.”

      Beautiful. I had never seen that eloquent sentence.

      Putting it more crudely as one of my professors did decades ago, “It’s not uncommon for people to hold two opposing ideas in their heads at the same time.”

      Maybe not a perfect example, but I’m always taken aback by people who write here, Literalists take the Bible literally. I’m not one of those people. I just take some of it literally–especially the parts I like.

  4. Jonah

    Good afternoon Jon and other readers – I find it a reasonable observation that a god, when compared to nothing else, is a magical mystical thing. It makes a lot of sense to question it. However, this is the offense / defense dilemma.

    If your point is that God is not, then what is? Rational people may find God (or not) because it makes more sense to them than the alternatives.

    People compare their life experiences to a naturalist worldview, and some people find the assumptions inherent in that position even more magical and mystical. We’re here because of time plus matter plus chance and that’s it? Matter came from a place of no matter? Intelligence came from a place of no intelligence? Love and fear and joy and pain and life and death are meaningless? Right and wrong and justice and equality have no moral basis, but are just ideas we’ve constructed to get along?

    Comparing the assumptions to those worldviews have brought many to the opposite conclusion than you have reached in Occam’s Razor.

    1. Cevon Anderson

      Jonah: If people think “right and wrong and justice and equality” have a magical god-in-the-sky basis, then they have given themselves absolute authority and permission to judge and do with other people what they will. They absolve themselves, wash their hands clean, of any responsibility for their own actions and/or that of the mob of people around them that they have colluded with. This is how we get religious-based torture, murder, genocide, wars, terrorism…. These people have given themselves moral and ethical immunity based on whichever magical god-in-the-sky their culture has concocted. They pretend to have divine authority while having given themselves authority. They never have to take responsibility because the entity they claim exists seems logical, feels right, or they just “know.”

      You ask does “Matter came from a place of no matter? Intelligence came from a place of no intelligence?” Well, does a cake come from no cake? Yes. Does water come from no water? Yes, it came from hydrogen and oxygen. Did a noble queen with divine authority not come from a divinity? Yes, she doesn’t. Did Egyptian sun god pharaohs not come from the sun god? Yes, they did not. You argue that if a lot of people have believed something and it seems to make sense, then there is the proof. So if people strongly believed in the pharaoh sun gods doesn’t that mean its true? No. What if they felt good because of the belief, doesn’t that mean its true? No.

      Are, “love and fear and joy and pain and life and death… meaningless?” No, they have the meaning we give them, and they have very satisfying meanings because we made sure they would. They have human fingerprints all over them. When you get to a certain age and no longer have parents or adults caring for and protecting you, its a very comfortable thing to have a father in the sky.

      1. Jonah

        “If people think “right and wrong and justice and equality” have a magical god-in-the-sky basis, then they have given themselves absolute authority and permission to judge and do with other people what they will.”

        Whether or not people believe in a god, they still give themselves absolute authority and permission to judge. I say I believe in the Christian God, yet I still have free will to follow those teachings, bend those teachings to suit me, or completely re-write those teachings in my mind yet still claim God’s authority. However, there is a standard I am claiming to hold myself to. If I bend those teachings in a way that are not consistent with those teachings, others can point out the gaps between my stated standard and my practice.

        People are very capable of convincing themselves of their moral and ethical immunity based on a wide variety of ideas. A eugenicist can claim that science gives them moral / ethical immunity because of survival-of-the-fittest evolution and it being a “compassionate” thing to relieve the handicapped / people from a bad gene pool of their worthless lives. People can also claim they constantly evaluate themselves for moral / ethical shortcomings, yet they still are the authority figure in determining their own fate.

        Yes, “religious” groups have started wars and done terrible things. I consistently don’t deny that. However, “non-religious” groups are also capable, as history has shown, of starting wars and committing genocide based on the moral and ethical immunity their worldview provides to them.

        On the other point, yes, cake comes from no cake and water comes from no water. The difference between those examples and the matter coming from no matter point is that the components that make up cake / water are present before being combined. The components of matter, to my understanding of scientific knowledge, are not present in “no matter.”

        1. Jonah 10:40 I say I believe in the Christian God, yet I still have free will to follow those teachings, bend those teachings to suit me, or completely re-write those teachings in my mind yet still claim God’s authority.

          It is possible there exists a God with ultimate authority over us and everything else, except he left an out for “free will”. Would not it be possible as well this is a rhetorical card trick that provides a out for the dilemma of perfect authority but a not prefect reality?

          1. Jonah

            Jon: “It is possible there exists a God with ultimate authority over us and everything else, except he left an out for “free will”. Would not it be possible as well this is a rhetorical card trick that provides a out for the dilemma of perfect authority but a not prefect reality?”

            Yes, if I’m comprehending your point correctly, free will is how we can have a perfect authority without a perfect reality. Whether that is a card trick or accurately defining the situation appears to be one of our worldview differences.

          2. Jonah 2:11 Whether that is a card trick or accurately defining the situation appears to be one of our worldview differences

            I agree we do have different world views, the question is how do we defend these views. I prefer the skeptic’s way of handling issues that so far defy known knowledge. For example, someone who has an understanding and acceptance of evolution might be confronted with the question, where did it all start? This presents a dilemma, he can explain where we came from to a point, but not ultimately. That person may not know the answer so admits he does not know. At least that is what I do.

            The original Christians faced a dilemma. How can there be an all powerful god but things happen that the god disapproves of. Instead of saying, “I don’t know”, they came up with this “free will” thingy. It strikes me as an answer someone made up because he assumed the teacher did not read the exams.

          3. Jonah

            Jon, I do genuinely appreciate your honesty and willingness to say what you believe to know and what you don’t believe one can know.

            Free will is a complex topic for theists and non-theists alike. If we can humor the point that a creator exists, I fully admit he would laugh at my attempts to explain his thinking.

            The things I value the most involve choices of mine or choices of others. Take love, for example. Sure, it’s great that my wife is “in love” with me, but if that were simply a choice-less condition imposed on her, I would have less appreciation for it. Her free will to say yes to me and no to everyone else, even if they are better looking or make more money or are smarter, etc., gives me greater grounds for appreciating her choices in regards to our relationship.

            I guess I view that similarly when it comes to a relationship with a creator. Without choice, we’re just robots, and it’s not a meaningful relationship. If a creator exists, and if he wants a relationship with us, our free will flows from that.

            The list of what all of us don’t know is very long, but I enjoy trying to figure out as much as I can, which it appears you do as well. All we can ask for is a free society that allows us to pursue our questions and answers and form the worldview that makes the most sense for each of us.

        2. Cevon Anderson

          You write that, “Whether or not people believe in a god, they still give themselves absolute authority and permission to judge.” Rather, I think people usually understand or follow ethical principles whether they accept the theistic concept or not. When people are consistently following an ethical or philosophical system, neither of which call for the theistic concept, they don’t give themselves absolute authority and permission to judge. Philosophy rigorously searches for inconsistencies, and people using philosophical methods know results can vary due to the quality of philosophical evaluations.

          Religious systems tend not to have concerns with real and obvious inconsistencies because adherents reject any and all that are pointed out, and in some religions one has no authority; it is completely handed over to god(s), required by the theistic concept.

          If someone respects the vigor required in science for advancing our knowledge base, rather than reading a purported holy book, others can also point out the gaps between that person’s stated standard and their practice.

          You write that, “People can. . .claim they constantly evaluate themselves for moral / ethical shortcomings”, yet, “they still are the authority figure in determining their own fate.” I was not talking about determining one’s own fate. I referred to people committing atrocities against other people – determining another person’s fate. Anyone who regularly evaluates her/himself for moral / ethical shortcomings has greatly reduced their likelihood of committing abuses. Someone who justifies abusive behavior against other people because they “know” that a higher power demands it has completely removed themselves as culpable in any way. It’s much easier to commit abuses the further away one places culpability.

          1. Jonah

            Hi Cevon – I agree with you that one doesn’t need to have a theistic worldview to make moral choices.

            As for the “real and obvious inconsistencies” religious adherents reject when they are pointed out, that’s a core difference in our worldviews. My curiosity about these claimed inconsistencies bring me here occasionally, yet I find the theories / evidence lacking. I understand that you call that confirmation bias. I feel like non-theists struggle with the historical evidence supporting the accuracy of the Bible. I call that confirmation bias as well.

            Some people view theism favorably and find truth in it, while admitting those promoting it litter in politics and manipulation. Others see it as politics and manipulation first, with small or no dose of truth involved. Some view the current state of academia favorably, find truth in it, with small amounts of politics and manipulation mixed in. Others see it as primarily a propaganda tool of trumpeting one’s worldviews, with less truth mixed in. I personally have great respect for the best of both religion and academics, while also seeing the shortcomings when the selfish agenda becomes more of a driver than reality.

            One can add words like rigor and evaluation all day long regarding their worldview, yet that doesn’t make a worldview unique or better. I think the amount of rigor and evaluation of the Christian tradition is robust as well. You feel strongly that your rigor and evaluation supersede mine. That’s fine. We’re just “out-confidencing” each other in this line of discussion.

            I don’t think the evidence is there for theists being more likely to commit atrocities than non-theists. I fully concede you or others could give me a long list of atrocities committed by theists. I can come right back with a long list of atrocities committed by non-theists. Atrocities can be committed in the name of god(s), science, or any other justification.

            The history of humankind is one of power struggles, conquest, and abuse; it spans languages, cultures, and worldviews. I believe it is an easier case to make that we are sinful people who have done, are doing, and will do evil than trying to make the case of a non-theistic worldview shift drastically reducing atrocities.

          2. Cevon Anderson

            Jonah, you lay out an argument that we have different world views. That so plainly goes without saying, so what would we have to argue about? Would anyone not notice? You don’t address any specifics. Its easy to dismiss any argument contrary to yours, while providing no substance, and avoiding difficult questions.

            You write that you find the theories / evidence of Biblical inconsistencies lacking. Talk specifics; talk about the prophecies of Tyre’s destruction, the destruction and 40-year no man’s land of Egypt, or God telling Adam that he would die the day he ate from the tree of knowledge, and Adam then went on to live over 900 years more.

            Confirmation bias isn’t finding theories or evidence lacking. Rather, its approaching data with a preconception, and then only finding evidence which supports the preconception.

            Most people aren’t born in non-theist families. People who find no merit in the theistic concept are overwhelmingly have theistic origins. Growing up, my preconception was that there was a God, but when I looked at the lessons being taught I found them riddled with errors, contradictions, inconsistencies. Therefore I wasn’t able to confirm what I had been taught; I had no confirmation bias. I found quite a bit that failed my preconception.

            Dismissing the word “vigor” or “evaluation” in reference to science as nothing more than words points to either rejection of science or unfamiliarity with the scientific method. If it weren’t vigorous you wouldn’t have electricity, anesthetics, Penicillin, the computer, the internet, iPods, light bulbs, statins, the eradication of smallpox, the jumbo jet, good anti-cancer drugs, the automobile, geometry, logarithms, genetics, or Quantum mechanics, to name just a handful.

            What rigorous evaluations do you find in the Christian tradition? Is there falsifiability, peer review, historical confirmation, archaeological confirmation?

            You write that atrocities can be committed in the name of god(s), science, or any other thing. That also goes without saying. Since almost everyone in past centuries and millennia were believers, I think you would have trouble coming up with a long list of atrocities committed by non-theists. Even in recent times atrocities were not in the name of non-theism. Non-theism isn’t even a thing; its a lack of belief in a thing — theism.

            The Soviets and Chinese, had state-imposed atheism, with a hidden religious majority, and committed atrocities in the name of totalitarianism (doing literally anything to stay in power; much like today’s Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and misguided industry or agriculture reform, and the like). The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia believed in Buddhism and Totalitarianism. All of these were totalitarian regimes that wanted no competition to their power base — no other political parties, no religion, no free speech, no freedom of the press.

            All the religious atrocities down through the ages were done with the justification that they had God or god(s) on their side. Its an extremely potent, visceral motivator. One man who witnessed both planes going into the Twin Towers on 9/11 said that as soon as he saw it he knew it was religion; the passion, the intense hated. He was right.

          3. Jonah

            Cevon – I am happy to address specifics. I think we can both agree that facts don’t have worldviews.

            My point in the last post, and a handful in the past, is that I see Christian views often dismissed on this site as being blind, unreasonable, irrational, following what others have told you, a relic of the past that we have advanced beyond, based on faith and not facts, sourced by manipulation / opiate to the masses, religion being a greater source of harm than of good, etc. Please note I’m not specifically crediting these to you, but rather these are generalizations. I also concede that similar treatment would probably be received by non-theists on a theist’s site. These critiques are not evidence, just opinions. It doesn’t advance knowledge to talk over each other like that.

            I have attempted to provide facts in defense of my worldview on a number of topics. The historical case for a Jesus that lived, died, and was crucified, as recorded in the Bible. I listed sources outside of the Bible. I listed the opposing cultures in the region, who would have had motive to dismiss his existence, instead confirmed it. I also questioned the “independent” requirement as I understood it, as “independent” seemed to require “was there and didn’t witness it,” which is an impossible standard if there was something to witness. The accuracy or inaccuracy of the Bible starts at that central figure, the life of Jesus. The evidence for that life is strong.

            I have also attempted to provide facts in defense of my view of abortion. This is a topic I believe we went back and forth on. That is not even predominantly a religious discussion. All one needs to share my view on that is that life matters and that life begins at conception. Those two points are not exclusive to a Christian worldview. The science is something pro-lifers are very willing to discuss. That a unique being begins at conception is supported by the science. Public opinion is a dangerous barometer, but I would think it would make one introspect on their view that life doesn’t begin until the fetus is born when 84% of the country (Marist Poll) is opposed to late term abortion. Most understand there is more than one life when they see a pregnant woman.

            Other objections to the Bible, like one mythical story of a resurrection, with no claimed witnesses and no claimed adherents, somehow disproves Jesus, that the religion radically transformed itself a thousand years after Jesus, I have also replied to.

            You are very right that many people are raised in a certain belief system and then later in life go to a different one. Your experience, like many others, is away from Christianity. The reverse is also true. Christianity has not predominantly grown by the sword, especially in recent times. Africa and Asia especially in the last century have seen great growth in Christianity. This growth has rooted from both other theistic views and non-theistic views. I don’t believe Europe or America are lost causes either, far from it.

            My references to vigor and evaluation were in regards to your philosophical claims, not the likes of electricity. You knew that, though.

            The rigorous evaluations you ask about like peer review, historical review, and the like, stand up well for Christianity. The Bible is the most read and dissected book in the history of mankind. I’ve covered some of these topics in the life of Jesus section. These are not the primary reasons most people leave Christianity. Many others, Lee Strobel as a prominent example, found that evidence to lead them to Christianity.

            I get that I’m very likely not to convince you or anybody else to hop on my side. I may even fail to get somebody to have a greater respect for my position. I do want to thank you for humoring my thoughts, expanding my understanding of how others view the world, and discussing these things cordially.

          4. Jonah 1:00 These are not the primary reasons most people leave Christianity. Many others, Lee Strobel as a prominent example, found that evidence to lead them to Christianity

            Certainly, everyday there is someone somewhere who was not religious or Christian and converts. But surely you are not suggesting the numbers coming in equal the numbers leaving. Catholic numbers probably not dissimilar to Protestant numbers. For every one the comes in, six leave. This is offset somewhat by births and children that replace to some extent deaths. The overall result is decline. Southern Baptists have been declining by 10% per year for several years.

            This is not to say anyone can predict this will continue forever. It certainly has so far in Europe.

          5. Cevon Anderson

            Jonah–I think people disputed the logic, not the irrationality. You said it wasn’t a matter of logic, but a matter of faith, and that you are entitled to your opinions about what is logical or not, just like others. So, when you dispute the logic of others, you are also essentially labeling their beliefs as illogical. You aren’t a victim.

            You were the one who wrote that you followed what others have told you in regard to core Christian principles. This was not the “opinions” of others, which lacked “evidence.” You provided your statements about yourself, which is the evidence.

            You never refuted why faith is not blind. You said you don’t examine evidence, but that you just accept. In common parlance people say. “I will take a ‘look’ at that for myself.” You’re arguing semantics, not proving your martyrship.

            Critiques are not evidence, you say. Evidence was put forth in many instances. One example is that I used Biblical quotations. I pointed out where prophesies proved not to occur. You did not counter those. It makes it hard to simply dismiss presented evidence as mere “critiques”, while offering no counter evidence. In fact, its easier that way.

            Cultures in the region had motive to dismiss Christ’s existence, did they? The only ones waiting for the biblical Messiah were the Jews. They had every reason to rejoice that the true Messiah had arrived. It would be the time of divine forgiveness and hope. They realized what a true Messiah was or wasn’t based on the prophesies (see Old Testament). As written in the Christian Old Testament: first, the tribes of Israel would unite and then return to Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6). Then the true Messiah would initiate and succeed in the rebuilding of the third Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 37:26-28), thus initiating the messianic age — an era of world peace (Isaiah 2:4), end of all hatred, suffering, oppression, and disease. Had all Jews returned to Israel? Did the Messiah succeed in rebuilding the Temple? Was an end put to all hatred, suffering and disease? I always ponder how a Christian discounts the original definition of the Messiah, found in their own holy book?

            Independent evidence does not mean “was there [but] didn’t witness it”, and I’ve never read that claim on this board. Your claim that this personal witnessing is an impossible standard is therefore a straw-man argument. Evidence independent of the Bible’s literature would be archeologically evidence, etc. You can state that the evidence for the life of Jesus is strong, but the problem is that you haven’t shown any. Is there something you showed that I missed?

            Post-conception zygotes, embryos, and even fetuses non-viable outside the womb, are naturally aborted by the body all the time. Does that mean God killed a unique life? Why would it matter that 84% of the country (Marist Poll) is opposed to late term abortion, when almost all abortions are done in the first trimester? That wouldn’t give you much support for banning most abortions. You would just be banning late-term abortions medically needed to save a woman’s life or health. A woman’s physician(s) have the medical expertise to make that determination.

            I don’t know what is, “one mythical story of a resurrection”, to which you refer. The current resurrection meaning did not appear until 1200 years after the purported Jesus figure; its documented in Christian writings. I’m sorry, what was your answer to that? Could you give me a short sentence?

            Although Christianity did grow by the sword in earlier time periods (e.g. in European Middle Ages it was predominant), what was also key was the use of subterfuge, e.g. conversion of the Germanic tribes was done by agreeing that they continue celebrating their religious beliefs and holidays (e.g. Pagan vernal equinox, and Yuletide), and just applying a Christian name change. A foot was lodged in the doorway, and then the opening was insidiously widened, to impose one culture on another.

            I didn’t apply the words vigor and evaluation to philosophy, but rather to the scientific process. So no I didn’t “know” that I applied those words to philosophy. Be careful of miscommunications /assumptions.

            You say Christianity is popular and growing in Asia and Africa, yet popularity does not determine what’s actually best for people. In the last 25 years it was popular among many Americans to deny climate change (due to corporate misinformation campaigns to protect environmentally destructive profits, e.g. Exxon just admitted they had a secret 13-year misinformation campaign), yet now most people in the US realize what’s happening, due to the scientific evidence. Even a majority of all voters, and a majority of conservative Republicans, 60 percent, now accept the facts. Republican politicians’ competition in the Presidential campaign to be the purest, most fundamental conservatives, will backfire on them in the general election on this topic.

            While you mainly make generalizations and talk about yourself: why you come here, what supposed disrespect you received for your views, whether or not you convince people, how no one convinces you, your Christian views simply being dismissed (as if there is no debate taking place here; disagreement is not dismissal), your underhanded comment about people humoring your thoughts is a deliberate attempt to emotionally harm. That of course is sin in Christianity, but since the Lord forgives you probably don’t worry too much.

            You claim their is rigorous evaluations in Christianity. Again, what rigorous evaluations do you find in the Christian tradition to confirm Biblical accounts or prophesies? Is there falsifiability or historical confirmation through archaeological evidence? Many claims by God and prophets’ prophesies are very specific, yet did not occur. You did not respond to any of those comments.

          6. Cevon — Good post. I find it amusing when western Christians here say the faith is growing in Africa and Asia. From what I have read, the versions on those two continents are as different as night and day from each other and from that in the West.

          7. Jonah

            Cevon – Please stop putting words in my mouth. I am not a victim here. Pointing out things I feel aren’t true is not the same as propping myself up as a grand martyr. I come here willingly.

            If I took the time to point explain away all of the inaccuracies you have attributed to me in this post, I would write a book (faith / logic, victim, blindly followed, not examining evidence, my own martyrship, that I haven’t provided evidence of Jesus, etc.). I’m tired of continually correcting that in this thread. I’m sorry a Christian can’t provide archaeological support for Jesus, but that kind of goes without saying with our thoughts on the empty tomb.

            I will address the old testament passages you cite. Yes, some Jewish people were looking for a certain kind of messiah that Jesus didn’t fulfill. Many Christians would say the Jews are waiting for a messiah they wanted (more of a earthly political figure) instead of the fulfillment of what was promised to them (in Jesus). I read Isaiah 43, Ezekiel 37, and Isaiah 2 and these sections are consistent with that interpretation. As for the rebuilding of the “temple,” Jesus’ body was the new temple. This is described in John 2:19-21.

            If people were claiming Jesus was the messiah, and Jesus never existed, it still gave Jewish non-Christ believers no reason to go along with the “myth” that this threat to their messiah expectation lived.

            Climate change is obviously an extremely hot (pardon my pun) topic. Both “sides” could point out unethical behavior and manipulation of evidence until we’re blue in the face. I personally am open to ways to grow the economy and respect the earth and hope the hyper-charged histrionics can settle down and a reasonable path forward can be taken.

            Your claim I’m making underhanded comments to emotionally harm is baseless, Cevon. I don’t dislike you. I’ve very much enjoyed this. You may choose not to believe me, but I think you come across as extremely bright and capable of arguing your positions quite well. If you dislike what I’m saying, or me personally, that’s fine. If us discussing these topics is bad for the blood pressure, maybe we should take a break from it. Thank you for the interactions.

          8. Cevon Anderson

            I don’t put words in your mouth, because I cut and paste your words into my comments. I agree with you; you are not a victim here. You come here willingly, and then complain. I never called you a victim because I don’t think you are.

            You complain that you were called blind, though you never were, and then don’t explain why faith said to be blind is inaccurate. Every time I explained what I meant you just repeated the complaint using the sound bite. You took the time to list alleged criticisms, out of context and often misquoted, rather than take the time to make any argument for claimed lack of fairness.

            I referred to archaeological evidence in regard to “Biblical accounts and prophesies.” You then misattribute that as asking for archaeological evidence for Jesus (please just look above to see my actual words). Its certainly not a matter of if “a Christian” can show archaeological corroborating evidence, its whether any archaeologist has.

            Its not that Jewish people were looking for a certain kind of messiah; its that the definition of the messiah (claimed as Jesus) does not match the Christian Old Testament definition. What was promised to the Jews is found in those Christian Old Testament citations; not an incarnate god who arrives when Jews are still scattered to many nations, fails to rebuild the Temple or usher in world peace. Whatever you have, its not the prophesied messiah.

            John attempts to force the alleged messiah into the original prophesy by stretching individual words beyond the breaking point. A body is entirely dissimilar to The Temple. In the Old Testament there is no lack of clarity about what The Temple is.

            When major corporations are now admitting to what most people already knew, that they led deliberate misinformation campaigns to falsely deny that rapid warming is taking place, what “sides” do we have? Among climate scientists, who are the only ones qualified to access the climate, there is essentially one side, with a handful that are selling books denying the science behind the studies. There is now a minority, even within conservative Republican circles, that remain deniers. The problem is that there was such a long and forceful campaign to misinform through the conservative media, that conservative soldiers in the trenches are still stuck there. Its like the Japanese soldiers found on deserted Pacific islands still fighting the war decades after WWII who were. To this day I cannot google the issue without finding dozens of denials in the top hits coming from non-authoritative, non-scientific sources.

            I don’t think our predicament with the huge-scale damage we’ve done to the planet allows us to merely be open to ways to grow the economy and respect the earth; that is the only way to do it. The other way has proven unsustainable to the planet that we’re part of.

            Can you cite any authoritative sources engaging in hyper-charged histrionics about climate change?

            Aside from the love-fest we’re having, you say its baseless to say you’re making underhanded comments to emotionally harm. As I’d rather hear an explanation rather than take it on faith that,”thank you for humoring my thoughts” is somehow pure, your silence in regard to explaining it does little for encouragement. Maybe you just haven’t yet realized that passive aggression can harm. I was never worried if you liked me or not. The issue was your comment.

          9. Jonah

            Cevon – it’s a fair critique that I essentially skipped past the archaeology. The linked video provides some solid info if you are interested in investigating further.

          10. Jonah 9:40 The linked video provides some solid info if you are interested in investigating further.

            Thanks for that link. I watched it all.

            Unfortunately, it provides no “solid info” at all. It reiterates the tons of speakers, writers, professors, etc. say the entire narrative of the Christian faith is historically sound because there are secular references to what people in the first couple of centuries believed. Repeating what early Christians believed is not evidence there is historically sound evidence there was a resurrection, there is heaven, hell or sin.

            Then, he glosses over all kinds of archeological evidence that refutes what is in the Bible, replacing it with what people believed. He said early Christians “believed” Bethlehem was the place. I heard a archeologist speak who actually digs in Bethlehem. He said there is no evidence the present site of Bethlehem has people living there at the alleged time of the “Jesus birth.”

            On top of that, he goes on and on about the discovery of a first century boat. What is “f” does that have to do with anything?

          11. Jonah 11:59 The technique this professor uses in his story telling is a technique common to much ancient story telling. It is so common there is a word for it, though I can’t find that word and I’m not at home with my library.

            We know the technique is old because it appeared in the earliest Greek myths which have survived. One has to believe it was also in prehistorical story telling. It is the technique for making a story believable by placing it in an actual historical context. In the case of the Bible and this professor, there is a copious amount of name dropping of actual historical figures, Pliny the Younger, Pontius Pilate and so on. The idea is that if the history surrounding the myth are true people will over look the obvious fabrications.

            I listened carefully for the professor’s independent evidence of the resurrection. To his credit, he concluded there is none.

            I buy Bart Ehrman’s explanation of the Jesus story. He finds there was an outspoken and critical-of-the-times preacher. In all probability there were several. They are all forgotten except for this one. Why did this one become such a huge world figure? For the simple reason a story started that he was killed and came back to life. Until this story started, he was just one in the passing parade.

            From the history we have, and the Bible itself, we know visions and dreams were treated as interchangeable with actual historical events. Even the professor in the video admits we have no independent information about the coming back to life except what is in the Bible. The “proof” used by believers is that large numbers of people have believed and still believe it really happened.

            On a positive note, I’m glad both people who believe far flung myths and those of us who await evidence can all live together and get along.

          12. Jonah

            “I buy Bart Ehrman’s explanation of the Jesus story.”

            Jon, well, I wish I could see you and Professor Maier have that debate. Here are the views of a historian you may respect on this Jesus “myth”:

            “I don’t think there is any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus.”

            In response to their not being any hard core evidence: “What evidence is there that Julius Caesar existed?” “If you say that historical evidence doesn’t count, then I think you get into huge trouble.” “Why not just deny the Holocaust? Why not deny that Abraham Lincoln lived?” “Once you get out of your conclave, this is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity.”

            “There is no scholar in any college or university in the western world who teaches classics, ancient history, new testament, early christianity, any related field, who doubts that Jesus existed.” “We have more evidence for Jesus than we have from almost anybody in his time period.”

            “Jesus is abundantly attested in ancient sources.” “Early and independent sources certainly indicate that Jesus existed.” “Atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of mysticism, because, frankly, it makes you look foolish to the outside world.”

            – all direct quotes from Bart Ehrman

          13. Jonah 2:53 You need not spend time quoting Ehrman to me. I have nearly all of Bart Ehrman’s books and have watched several of his debates with other scholars. He has no doubt there was a historical Jesus. He also had no doubt the only reason there is a religion called Christianity is because someone, maybe more than one person he speculates, had a vision of a risen Jesus. He does not believe the sermon on the mount ever happened and especially does not think the resurrection happened.

            For some reason it is difficult for a portion of believers to see the difference between a preaching character, a literal Jesus, and a god figure Jesus. They are two separate figures. There a reasonable arguments the first existed. There are none that the second existed. Your guy in the video, (Maier I think his name is) comes up short in corroborating evidence of the resurrection. That lies within the realm of religion, not history.

            I’ve said I don’t see independent sources that verify the existence of the teacher/preacher Jesus. But, it really does not matter whether there was or was not such a person. The only thing that matters is whether there was a resurrection.

  5. Jinx

    Perhaps the need to believe in something is an evolutionary development to believe in our fellow humans and the mystery each one presents. We have come so far from the natural world and the co-operation needed to survive that we fail to look at the wonder of another human being and reach for an unproven spirit entity that controls the world……a world we can control with in our own limited way.

  6. entech

    One aspect of Occam’s razor, using as few assumptions as possible can be framed to say that it is perfectly valid to make an assumption based on empirical observations, not necessarily true or false but valid. However extreme caution must be used if you try to expand things, an assumption from two or more prior assumptions becomes increasingly removed from observable, demonstrable fact.
    To speculate on the universe around us we can come to two (probably more but keep it simple) conclusions, it was created or it has always existed.

    Allowing for the problem of induction it is reasonable, based on observations of cause and effect and the lack of observed spontaneous generation, to assume a creator of the universe.
    Similarly observation shows that a substance cannot appear from nowhere (the same spontaneous generation as above) and that a substance is not totally destroyed by any known process, simply stated as matter cannot be created or destroyed we can assume that the universe has always existed. Further observation shows that a substance can take different forms, material or energy, think of a log of wood being oxidised (burnt) at the right temperature and with the right proportion of oxygen, the wood gives of gas which combines with oxygen to create a flame. The log appears to be destroyed but is actually converted into heat and ash.
    Using these assumptions to explain the origin of the universe in terms of the widely accepted “big bang” theory, the standard cosmological model which gives a reasonably good account of the universe as we know it, we can say that “God” created the universe out of nothing or that the universe as we know came into existence as the result of a change of state of some existing substance.

  7. Jinx

    Entech, I definitely agree with you! Empirical observation and sound application of the scientific method (that can be replicated by others) offers us the proof we need to trust something is real. Correlation only says that 2 things (smoking cigarettes and cancer) seem to go together. Cause and effect can only be teased out with many experiments with clear, precise methodology over time. Look how long it took to conclude smoking causes cancer. (I like your analogy of a burning log, very clever way to explain some that looks so simple but is complex in many ways.)

    So far, I have seen no evidence that does or does not support a god or my little wanderings of the mind posted above. There is some anthropological theory that looks at altruism in an evolutionary process as well as the need to explain the unexplainable. It certainly isn’t proof but only another way of looking at a difficult problem.

    I have never heard of Crabtree’s Bludgeon and have to look into it, thanks Entech, you are literally a wise old owl! : )

    1. Looking up info on Crabtree’s Bludgeon was a treat. It led me to the website “To umm is human” that had lots of very odd content including CB. Also enjoyed the explanation of “fruit bat fellatio” which it turns out is a study showing how bats extend their copulation time this way. Thank you Entech.

    2. Jinx 11:36 Cause and effect can only be teased out with many experiments with clear, precise methodology over time. Look how long it took to conclude smoking causes cancer.

      So often here, posts by Christians say (paraphrasing) “I know I have experienced God (or Jesus). That is why I know God exists.” It is fine with all of us that someone is helped by experiencing a god.

      It is not helpful, however, when believers want to put whatever they have heard from this god or read what this god reportedly wrote into laws that force the rest of us to conform to their personal experiences. Without some independent observation of these experiences they really are meaningless to the rest of society.

    3. Cevon Anderson

      Altruism and compassion get built into the social animals due to the combination of natural genetic mutations and changing environmental pressures. Species for which cooperation advanced the species’ survivability became more and more cooperative so long as it continued to make survival more and more assured. When it’s so successful that the species begins to crowd out others, then other species are pressurized by this new environment, and via natural mutations, evolve counter defenses. Altruism and compassion are a product of nature.

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