Is Faith in God a Delusion?

Just a quick one today because I have a lecture soon. Last night I attended a debate between Alistair McBay from the NSS and David Robertson, author of The Dawkins Letters, entitled ‘Is Faith in God a Delusion?’ Frustratingly, neither party seemed intent on answering the question at hand. Basically, Alistair pointed out a few of the strange things that religious people believe, and outlined the position of the NSS in its fight against the “religious demand for inequality”. David replied by repeatedly calling atheism a “faith” and a “religion”, saying that to a certain extent you have to take everything on faith. His main point, however, was that when you’re talking about this kind of thing, you can’t take in your own preconceptions about what you can count as evidence. This is what I want to discuss.

His inclusion of the word ‘preconceptions’ of course makes atheists sound closed-minded. But I’d like to meet the Christian who approached the subject totally open-mindedly, examining all the evidence not only from science but also from all religions and cultures around the world, and rationally came to the conclusion not only that God exists, but specifically the personal Christian God who intervenes in our lives on a day to day basis. I doubt it would ever happen.

The fact is that although there is no definitive boundary between what we can class as evidence and what we can’t, there is a spectrum as to what we can count as good evidence and what we can count as bad evidence. Here are the 10 evidences for the existence of God as Robertson lays out in The Dawkins Letters, as taken from the blog “Why Believe

  1. Creation
  2. The human mind and spirit
  3. Our inbuilt moral law
  4. The existence of evil
  5. Human desire to find God through ‘religion’
  6. Personal experience
  7. History
  8. The true Church
  9. The Bible
  10. Jesus as revealed through the Gospels

Now, let’s be honest, a lot of this isn’t what we would call good evidence. Some of them are the same idea repeated, some of them are just as good evidence for God as against, some of them don’t really make sense at all. It just so happens, apparently, that all the good, hard, tangible evidence is on the side of science, whereas the soft, mushy, bad evidence is on the side of religion. And Robertson seemingly expects us to give them each equal weighting. I disagree. Maybe later when I have more time I’ll go through each of these evidences one by one.

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9 Responses to Is Faith in God a Delusion?

  1. revromansky says:

    Is faith in Dawkins an illusion? In Ben Stein’s “Expelled” he states he believes in intelligent design, howbeit from an alien origin.

    How’s this? I’ll prove God when you prove atheism, my point being a religious system, or lack of it, is dealing with the spiritual realm, the realm which atheists dogmatically and unreasonably deny. Theologically, spirit trumps soul (reason) and body. If you don’t include a theological paradigm and accept globally represented conclusions, your spinning your wheels and preaching to the choir.

    We are not so smart as God is dumb.

    RevRomansky

    http://revromansky.worpress.com

  2. grammarking says:

    I presume you mean Dawkins said he believes in intelligent design, because I really don’t care what Ben Stein thinks. I sincerely doubt that that’s true. He may have expressed an admiration for Einstein and Spinoza’s God, or the possibility of a first cause, but that doesn’t mean he believes in intelligent design. I haven’t seen the film but I know Dawkins, Myers et al were conned into taking part.

    How do you expect me to “prove atheism”? Not that that makes sense, but I presume you mean to prove the nonexistence of God. You cannot prove a negative, especially when that negative involves the nonexistence of an invisible entity which seems intent on hiding itself from human knowledge. The burden of proof is firmly in the theist’s court.

    It is neither dogmatic nor unreasonable to ‘deny the spiritual realm’. There is no evidence for it and everything associated with it is explained naturally, so invoking its existence only complicates the problem, which means it’s illogical to believe it exists. Anyone can come to that conclusion on their own, so it’s not dogmatic.

    I take “including a theological paradigm” to mean giving credence to things like the existence of evil as evidence fo the existence of God, when in fact it would be there whether or not God existed. That’s bad logic.

  3. revromansky says:

    I.e., prove your denial of spirit is legitimate. It seems that those of faith are required to prove God using a philosophical system that has replaced spirit with science, which is patently skewed in favor of those who have done the replacing. A premise that had been accepted and valid for thousands of years was only recently denied for no better reason than simply denying it.

    In the conversation, requiring scientific proof of God would also require the proof of no God. Unless, of course, atheists are self-exempt. Of course, neither proof can absolutely be given, but that’s because of the untenable shift to denying the spirit, in favor of science, outright for no better reason than “because”.

    A legitimate question, Gram. Before science was invented, did God exist? Again, is the theistic premise now null, or would it be more advisable, philosophically, to simply add science to the mix?

    RevRomansky

    http://revromansky.wordpress.com

  4. grammarking says:

    It’s essentially Occam’s Razor, Reverand. We’re not denying the spirit (I don’t like the use of that word deny, it implies that the evidence is right in front of us) just for no reason, it’s because more and more things that have in the past been attributed to God and the Spirit Realm (where is that, btw?) are better explained in other ways, which have been discovered through science. The simplest answer that fits the criteria is the one you should go with, so invoking an invisible sky-faerie to explain something is illogical if it can be explained without doing so.

    The current philosophical system has not replaced spirit with science at all, it has approached both of them using reason and seen which has stood up to scrutiny. Unfortunately for people in your business, religion is looking pretty shaky so far. I’m sure you’d like to go back to the age of unquestioning obedience but I like to think about what I believe.

    Your question doesn’t really make sense, nobody invented science, but I’ll answer the spirit of it rather than the letter (feel free to call me Mike btw, that’s my real name). Was the sun a star before we knew so? Yes it was. Does that mean that it was unreasonable to think it wasn’t? Not at all, it doesn’t really look like a star, it’s considerably bigger for a start. In the same way, God was a way to explain things that people didn’t really understand. Gradually as we’ve explained things like rain and lightening, as well as where such complexity as life comes from, we’ve less often had to resort to “Goddiddit” to explain things. At the moment all God has left is the first cause, and we’re working on that now at CERN. This ‘God of the Gaps’ mentality is all that’s kept belief in God alive.

    Think of it from my perspective for a minute. If I told you about the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or Russell’s Teapot, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn – or, for that matter, any God that’s ever been worshipped), you’d want some kind of evidence before you started to believe in it, right? Why do you not apply the same kind of reasoning to your own beliefs? Presumably you have some evidence, else you wouldn’t believe it. I’d like to hear it.

  5. revromansky says:

    Gram, how little would universal expansion have to change to end the universe as we know it? 10 (-)23rd power. The proton powered flagellar radial pump, complete with sealed bearing. Two examples of scientific represenations of ID. You know how to surf, go look yourself. The statistical likelihood alone of ID is overwhelming

    You’re an evolutionist, I take it. Yet there have been found no transitional forms found, such forms being basic to the Theory of Natural Selection. Yet you BELIEVE.

    You want it both ways. You state you don’t have to prove there is no God, but if Christians can’t prove God scientifically, there is no God. God is a spirit. Science has merely failed in its attempts to quantify spirit. Don’t blame God for that one.

    If there is no God, why do you campaign as hard for atheism as Christians do for Jesus? Your behavior belies your intent. You BELIEVE.

    RevRomansky

    htt://revromansky.wordpress.com

  6. grammarking says:

    Please, did you just use the bacterial flagellum as evidence for ID? It’s been pwned by evolutionists so many times, I can’t believe any ID proponent would go anywhere near the subject. There’s even a wikipedia page on it. If you google “evolution of bacterial flagellum” the 6th link from New Scientist is pretty good.

    And do you think it’s a coincidence that we happen to be in a universe that has figures just the way we need it? If it were different, it would either be a different kind of universe, or the universe wouldn’t exist at all. This shouldn’t come to us as a surprise. It’s like people arguing against the likelihood of abiogenesis happening on Earth; it’s no coincidence that we happen to be on a planet where it occurred. There may have been something in the Planck Time which explains it. We don’t know yet, but to claim that as evidence for God, much less specifically the Christian God, is a bit weak. We’re working on it. I’ve often said that I have no problem with the idea of a first cause which we may as well call God, but from there to claim that this first cause still exists, is anything we might call conscious, knows that we exist, gives a damn about any species on this planet (much less specifically homo sapiens above all the others), is capable of intervening in our lives on a personal level and does so on a regular basis, and above all just happens to be one of the gods mankind has made up (much less specifically the one you were brought up to believe in) is so astronomically small that we may as well live our lives as though there is no God.

    I can’t believe you just claimed there are no transitional forms. All fossils are transitional forms, but I particularly suggest you look for Archaeopteryx and Tiktaalik, or go here (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html). That evolution happened is about as close to a fact as you get in science. Not only does the fossil record match up pretty much exactly as we would expect, but there are also mountains of other types of evidence for it. My personal favourite is endogenous retroviral insertions, but if you go onto http://www.talkorigins.org/, there’s a good article there called 29+ evidences for evolution I can recommend. What the controversy is about is how it happened. Belief in the theory of evolution is not a faith position as you appear to be suggesting, there is evidence behind it. It’s a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory.

    Science has quantified spirit, it’s something suggestible people invent to explain things they don’t understand, which have a perfectly rational explanation. But I think as a species we’re a bit grown up for that now, don’t you?

    I campaign ‘for atheism’ because I don’t like to see people oppressed by religion. I don’t like to see women having their reproductive rights suppressed. I don’t like to see homosexuals taking abuse from religious knuckleheads just for being who they are. I don’t like to have to spend 1/7th of my life sitting at home just because some book says the world has to stop. I don’t like lies being spread in schools at the expense of good science. I don’t like valuble life-saving research being stopped because a book says it’s not right. I don’t like people in funny hats getting undue respect and having influence in our politics just because they wear that funny hat. I don’t like suicide bombers. I don’t like being told that I’m a sinner when by any objective moral system I’m not a bad person. The list goes on and on and on. It has nothing to do with any kind of faith position.

  7. revromansky says:

    So you think immorality is okay, you don’t want to sit in church cause its boring, you want to abort a living child should you happen to get a woman pregnant, you support experimentation on unborn children, you don’t think that Christians should have a say in our political system, you equate all religions with Islamic murderers, and you get sick of hearing the name “Jesus” because it reminds you that you, like all of us, have lied, cheated, stolen, hated. The list goes on and on.

    Great confession, Gram. To bad you weren’t in a confessional sponsored by that Christian guy with that funny hat. It might’ve done you good.

    RevRomansky

    http://revromansky.wordpress.com

  8. grammarking says:

    Good job you weren’t taking my confession, Reverand, else I’d be doing penance for things I haven’t done!

    I didn’t say immorality was ok. I didn’t say church is boring (although it often is). I didn’t say I would abort a fetus if I got a woman pregnant. I didn’t say I don’t want Christians having a say in our political system. I didn’t say all religious people are the same as suicide bombers, and neither did I say that I’m sick of the name Jesus. Neither have I confessed to any lie, theft, hatred or act of cheating. Seems like you lie more than me.

    What I do say is that my moral system is informed by modern knowledge (and changes according to that knowledge) rather than by a static book written thousands of years ago. Although I would never choose myself to abort a fetus, I recognise that it’s not my body, not my choice. Maybe the misogynistic Christian tradition disallows you from seeing that, but I don’t like it when people force the consequences of their beliefs onto other people who don’t share those beliefs. I believe in freedom. I don’t object to Christians having a say in politics (interesting that you don’t mention all the other religious groups – do they not deserve a say?), all I object to is that say being given higher worth and a higher degree of respect just because it becomes from a religious person, when in reality the majority of people in my country are not what I would call religious. It’s sycophantic, it’s undemocratic and it’s sick.

    Although I recognise that suicide bombers are a different kind of fanatic to your average religious person on the street, it still stems from religious belief, which was why I mentioned it. Please remember that plenty of atrocities have occurred in the name of the Christian god too.

    Now kindly get back to the topic at hand. I believe we were at the point where I pwned your ‘evidence’. Let’s get back to talking about faith positions.

  9. Erlend says:

    Just saw the debate online 🙂

    hehe, that idiot should not be allowed to use the word evidence at all. All his 10 statements where nonsensical, devoid of points and none of them can in even the slightest way be taken as evidence of god’s existence..

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