May 10, 2011

49 Pascal’s Wager: Just believe and go to heaven

Believer’s statement: Pascal’s Wager states that it’s better to believe in God. If there’s a God, you go to heaven because you believe

Skeptic’s response: Well, that’s some master plan. The catch is you need to know that the God you worship exists. But you don't know. And what's more, let's say just skeptics go to heaven, so the religiously faithful are completely out of luck. Assuming a God exists.

Recap: I fully expect that reality has something to say about an afterlife. There isn't any way to know there's an afterlife for certain, and somebody's belief in heaven can't make it exist.

If I'm a Mormon I can't go to heaven if the Catholic God exists--assuming one of the Gods exists in the first place.

Related post:
91 What if you're wrong and there’s a God

May 9, 2011

48 Do you bow down to someone who says, “I’m God”

Believer’s statement: Jesus said he was God, so we should worship him. 

Skeptic’s response: Jesus didn't declare that he was God. If he was God, he should've had said it plainly to the people. 

By the way, if anybody were simply to come up and say today, "I’m God, bow before me!” you’d probably not believe the guy. And you’d probably think he was a magician if he were to perform a “miracle.” 

Recap: Jesus did not say that he was God in the first place, not anywhere in the Gospels.

Related post:
 22 Did Jesus call himself God in John 8

May 8, 2011

47 Did Isaac Newton suggest the God of the gaps

Believer asks: Perhaps the Big Bang created the universe, but Who caused the Big Bang? 

Skeptic replies: Science is still working on the question of what caused the Big Bang to bang. Meanwhile asking “who caused it” is a God of the gaps question. That is, religious people may say “God did it” until science discovers the answer.

For example, Isaac Newton (1643-1728) developed a mathematical equation for the motion of the planets in orbits thanks to the force of gravity. His equation explained why planets and comets orbited the sun

At the same time, Newton couldn't account for the so-called plane of the planets, in which their orbits lay on practically the same plane or level around the sun and not perpendicular to each other. In the end Newton attributed the design to God, "an intelligent and powerful Being” (Newton, Principia). This kind of reasoning is called the "God of the gaps" argument today

Decades later the astronomer Pierre-Simon LaPlace gave an explanation for the plane of the planets according to a natural law. So it was bye-bye to the God of the gaps argument. 

The point is that one day physicists might discover the natural force that caused the Big Bang. Until that happens the “God of the gaps argument” people need to have patience.

Related post:

May 7, 2011

46 Was the cosmos created from absolutely nothing

Believer says: God created the universe, something from nothing, and the Bible says so. 

But skeptic says: The Bible doesn't talk about a cosmos made from nothing. Biblicists may claim that Genesis opens with complete emptiness. But Genesis doesn’t really say it. In fact some Bible editions make it clear that a primeval ocean was there first; it was there already and uncreated.

Commentaries may take the side that says God created the primeval cosmic ocean first, anyway. And then God worked with the primeval sea. But Genesis itself fails to make it clear

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Biblicists might want to believe that God worked with just total emptiness, no potential material. They say “It just happened that way, that’s all.” It may satisfy their faith to say it. But it's a God-of-the-gaps argument, rationalization that fills in mysterious gaps in scientific knowledge.

Recap: Of course a cosmos coming from zero potential is counter-intuitive. The Bible doesn’t explain how God could create the universe from nothing at all. Science doesn't explain how the cosmos came, either. It’s a gray zone for everybody. Decide for yourself, take the side of a scientific unknown or a religious faith in Genesis.

Related post:
44 Did God created cosmos from unimaginable nothing

May 6, 2011

45 I know that I know that I know there’s a God

Believer says: To know there's a God is to feel there’s a God. That’s how you know; you feel it.

But skeptic says: Some people have a feeling that there’s a God. But the question is whether a feeling it's evidence for one. People experience the feeling in every religion; so all gods must exist. I jest of course.

Besides, say people have a strong feeling there’s no God. So by the same token, they’re right. Where do we go from there?

May 5, 2011

44 Did God create cosmos from unimaginable nothing

Believer says: In Genesis, God created the universe by making something from nothing. That state of nothing is unimaginable. 

But skeptic says: It’s just too easy to say God created the cosmos from nothing. That's because nobody can ever know about it or whether anything was created from it if the state of nothing is "unimaginable."  

Recap: When Biblicists talk like that--saying that the nothing is unimaginable--then by admission they don't know anything about this nothing. So they can't be sure it was nothing whatsoever or whether anything came from it.

Related post:
46 Was the cosmos created from absolutely nothing

May 4, 2011

43 Christian warns against fossils

Believer says: God planted fossils in the ground to make the earth appear older and thereby to test faith. 

But skeptic says: Well, then, the animals that were fossilized never existed and time that they lived never occurred. We could just as easily say God left a religious record, the Bible, containing stories about miracles that never happened. Just asserting that the Bible is real but fossils aren't isn't convincing.

Related post:

May 3, 2011

42 Did the Gospels come from eyewitnesses

Believer says: The Gospels are based on eyewitnesses. 

But skeptic says: Well, if Mary the mother of Jesus was an eyewitness, the story of the Wise Men should have greater detail in the Gospel of Matthew. She would've known how many Wise Men there were, their names and country, and the sort of star that had been their guide, a miracle or a planetary conjunction. But Matthew says very few things about them. 

In chapter one of the Gospel of Luke, the author says he learned the story of Jesus from hearsay. As for the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and John, their authors are basic mysteries, too. So it’s really impossible to demonstrate that the Gospels came from eye-witnesses. 

Related post:

May 2, 2011

41 Fourth-century Christian warns against creationism

Believer says: I know the earth and universe was created in six days just as in Genesis 1.

Skeptic says:  St. Augustine in the fourth century writes: “Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances ... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis [De Genesi ad litteram] Book 12).

Augustine attempted to harmonize the Bible with the science and philosophy of his day, but he warned that we can't be certain what kind of creative days they were in Genesis. 

He saw creation all-at-once, so the entire act of creation took one instant. He said the Genesis account was poetical or mystical expression.

In AD 389, he said Genesis 1 was allegory so that people could understand. Years later he explained that everything was made in an instant, so creation was simultaneous. And the six days was a mystical number.

He concurred with Alexandrine church fathers (leaders) who believed creation to have happened in a single instant. The six "days" were reduced to an indivisible instant. 

Recap: Augustine as well as other Christian intellectuals distrusted a literal Genesis 1, the six-day creation. Moreover, he warned that astronomical science gradually discover the facts, calling Genesis creationism into question.

Related post on my other blog:
10 So, will the Earth last forever

May 1, 2011

40 Does the Bible say gravity keeps earth in space

Believer says: Job 26:7 says the earth hangs on nothing. God told Job that the earth was held in place by gravity a thousand years before Isaac Newton’s law of gravitational attraction!

Skeptic says: It says as follows:

7 He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. 

Scholars say the verse is a mystery. Well, the key is that back then the sky had an empty space where a polar star stands today; astronomy says that the north pole points to a different space in the sky after lots of time. So I side with others and say it's why the poet says “stretches out the north over empty space.”

It looked as if the stars went in a circle around the empty place in the sky. The earth hung under it, on nothing, so to speak. 

Scholars say Job was written in two parts between 600 BC and 400 BC. The sky hadn't a celestial north star during those centuries.

Yes, Job says the earth hangs on nothing. But it could have to do with just empty sky and not gravity.

Recap: The north sky had no pole star when Job 26 was written. I say it portrays a dark and empty space in the north sky and the earth is positioned under it. In the poetic sense, the earth hung on nothing.