An atheist and “street epistemologist” called “@AdamDoesSE” on Twitter contacted me (SJ Thomason) on YouTube and Twitter and asked me to answer the following eleven questions. I contacted my Christian peers and below we have presented our answers. Furthermore, we have created two sets of tough questions that we ask that the atheists and street epistemologists answer.
The authors and/or contributors of opinions, links and questions in this Christian group include: Jason Tolkien, Travis Jackson, J.K. Riki, @jj_richards, Rickey Holtsclaw, Bill Shaw, Sy Garte, Craig Reed, and SJ Thomason. Other contributors whose links and Twitter profiles that I recommend you visit include those of the Daily Apologist, Eve Keneinan, Andrew Stratelates, Sarah Salviander and Heather Schuldt.
11 Tough Questions by Adam the Street Epistemologist:
- If it’s the case that heaven and hell are the only two options in the end, and someone desires neither, do they still ultimately have free will?
SJT: Question to Adam: What is your preferable alternative to heaven and hell?
TJ: That’s like asking if you give someone the option of either eating a burger or pizza, and they don’t want to eat either of them, do they still have free will. If you gave someone the choice of eating one thing or another, neither of which they liked, it wouldn’t magically remove their free will. Eventually, hunger will make the choice final for them (they’ll eat one or the other), just as death will make our choice between Hell and Heaven final.
Jason: Yes, they still have free will, they can continue to will that they receive neither. God however is under no obligation to obey their free will.
JJ_richards: Greetings! While the question you pose is interesting, it seems that there might be a misunderstanding about what Christians claim when they speak of freewill. First off, if God exists there is an underlying structure to the universe that is of His making and under His rules. I cannot flap my arms to the sun or twitch my nose to end up on mars no matter how much I may want it. These laws govern our lives and ultimately put some restraint on sin (an argument for another day). I mention all of this because within the structure of the universe rests our short earthly lives. In this universe, we are given moral freedom within its structural confines as set up by God. I’d liken it to a playpen and a small child. A child can do what he/she wants within the bounds of the play pen, but in order to get out to the rest of the world, he/she needs a lift. But upon exiting the play pen there are new sets of rules and boundaries set by their environment, and hopefully more rules by good parents. I realize all analogies have their weaknesses. But in a similar way in order to move on from the bounds of this life, we cannot do it alone. But the next life (heaven) comes with a different set of bounds and rules. This is a new created order which awaits. Further Christians generally only claim freedom within this life. Consequences are an entirely different matter. If you jump off a bridge and die, it’s your choice. Yet that is where, according to Christian tradition, the choice making ends, and you have put your destiny in the hands of the maker. Perhaps he could decide just to eliminate you from existence, but the point is you have no power over your destination after this life window. God desires nothing but good for you, and all his laws collectively point to the better. But He deems justice is necessary, by His rules, in His time, as is His right if He is the creator of all things. While I am unsure if free will exists in heaven, I know it is a gift right now through which you as a conscience being can find and experience love, knowledge, hope, happiness and truth/illumination. Thanks for the question.
JK: First of all thank you so much for letting me participate, and taking the time to read my answers! I do my best to be correct and truthful, but as I always remind anyone who is bothering to listen to me, I am a fallible human and always recommend as much research as possible is done. Knowledge = good. Do not believe anything I say simply because I say it. Go seek. God has given us this amazing universe to explore and the answers we need are here, so a study of nature and Scripture combined with prayer and wisdom is better than anything I will write. 🙂 With that out of the way, my Question 1 answer: In a concrete sense the choice is desiring grace, forgiveness, and love or not desiring those things. I do not know how one could choose something that was in-between forgiveness and not-forgiveness. You either A) accept forgiveness or B) you do not. If you believe you do not need forgiveness, obviously you would reject even the idea of it being offered, which becomes Option B. If there is indeed another option, please let me know and I am happy to address it, but as far as I can tell that is what separates Heaven and Hell right there. Accepting the grace offered or rejecting it. I see no third option, like some sort of half-acceptance. If I am merely missing such an option, please let me know.
- Why take a position on abortion if it could be Jesus’ will in the same way it was Jesus’ will in Noah’s flood to drown toddlers, babies, and the unborn?
SJT: As the Creator of all creation whose purpose for us is to build our spirits to become more like Jesus, God has sovereignty over what occurs within His creation. He is the giver of life and the one who ends our lives on earth once we’ve fulfilled our purposes.
TJ: That’s like asking “Why take a position on murder if it could be Jesus’ will in the same way it was Jesus’ will in Noah’s time to drown people?” Murder involves the killing of a human being by another, not God killing a human being (as seen in any dictionary).
Jason: Abortion cannot be Jesus’ will, because his word states in Ex 20:13, “You shall not murder.”
JJ_Richards: I have two answers for this: a simple one and a complex one. My simple one: The church has stood against abortion and infanticide for +1700 years, where else can I stand? My complex answer: If by his will, people are eternal creatures, who transition from one life to the next. Then death isn’t the end. While it is an end to our say in it all (as I mentioned above) it is not the end of all of God’s purposes. However to be clear, God never gave US his blessing to end human life except in defense or in pursuit of justice. The point is life is sacred. All lives are sacred. Human lives are especially sacred. When humans murder innocents, they violate God’s law. Another way to say it is that when we murder, we unjustifiably ‘end’ people from our world. Conversely God cannot murder if he’s the keeper of our eternal lives he’s deemed us to have. If the Christian God exists, he’s the author and sustainer of life. Life literally would end according to the Bible if he stopped sustaining it. (It’s interesting that there are scientific theories pointing to the idea that all of reality is just a simulation. Perhaps He’s the great downloader and code writer? 🙂 ) So He literally moves people from one state of existence to the next – and he’s the ONLY one with the right and power to bring the soul to heaven. (As He deems fit.) It could even be argued that if God decides it’s time for me to go, how much the better! (as a believer) I’d get to experience true joy in ways I’ve hardly imagined and my suffering would be over. Murder is purely a human action. Abortion is an action by people to end human life unjustifiably; thus it is murder. God’s law says humans are not to murder. Thanks for the question.
JK: In the case of the Flood we do not need to put the “if” modifier in. In the case of abortion we have no indicators that it is God’s will, and a great number of indicators in the Bible that it is not. See Exodus mentioned by Jason above, as well as countless other verses throughout (and, I would propose, the overall message of the book in its entirety).
- How can an ‘all good’ deity be ALL good if sin is a byproduct of his creation?
SJT: Evil has a purpose as it helps to develop our empathy, perseverance, and commitment to love.
JJ_Richards: As a finite being, my ability to answer this question is limited. However I do know that love cannot exist without free will. And I think that every man knows that love is the ultimate form of Good. True love involves a true choice. By God allowing us to choose Him or not, he allowed the possibility of love – the ultimate form of Goodness. But this also allows the possibility of going the other direction, toward evil. On another note, it’s amazing that Jewish/Christian thought uses light as a metaphor for God and his goodness. We often find that many of these descriptors in our ancient texts find new fruit in modern scientific discovery. Today we know that darkness, is simply an absence of light. In the same way the ancient Jews who described God as light said the further one walked away from Him, the more we’d be in darkness, until we cannot see at all. Sin is the direction away from Him who emanates all light and goodness. To put it another way, the more we sin the more we walk away from love. Thanks for the question.
TJ: Because sin is a product of our choices, not all of which are good. It’s not God’s fault; it’s our fault.
Jason: Sin is not a “byproduct” of creation, because sin is not a necessary result of God’s creation. Sin is solely the responsibility of those who choose with their free will to engage in it.
JK: I will second Jason’s answer, and and also thumbs-up SJ’s, though I think she is speaking to a broader topic in general (and an important one). “Sin is the responsibility of those who choose to engage in it” sums it up rather beautifully. You may want to check out the book “Evil and the Justice of God” by NT Wright for more information on this general subject. It is a good one, in my opinion.
4. What is the best way to demonstrate to oneself that they are open to being wrong about a religious belief held as deeply as yours?
SJT: Ask them to explain their beliefs and how they came to them.
TJ: In other words, what is the best way to make me think I could be wrong about my religious beliefs? Well if I found out I was in something akin to the Matrix (especially if I looked like Keanu Reeves) then I may reconsider my religious beliefs, because everything would be thrown out the window! Translation: ask better questions.
Jason: I am not open to being wrong about my religious beliefs. Deuteronomy 18:18,19
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
JJ_Richards: Ask them what they believe and why they think it is true without ridicule.
JK: I am unsure if you are asking an internal or an external question. It sounds internal, as in “How do you know you’re personally open to being wrong?” I personally know I am open to being wrong today because I was so not-open to being wrong in my youth. It is only through closing myself off in pseudo-Christianity as a kid and then becoming a no-holding-back atheist/nihilist in my 20s that I was able to see clearly what “being open” was. At that point I went forward being totally open to the prospect of being wrong. Every day I research as openly as possible, and change where I discover I have made a mistake. After many years of hard study, Christianity (actual Christianity, not the weird half-Christianity I knew as a child) has proven the most reasonable and true of what I have looked at. I also continue to look. If I should come across something more true as I continue to seek, I will change my beliefs to that, as my goal is the truth. I think the pursuit of truth is not only a wise thing to do, but it also happens to be what Christianity suggests we do in our lives. I agree.
- If you learned that the pastor you met on the plane was no longer a Christian, would this concern you, not concern for him, but in terms of the path you went on in your life?
TJ: No, it would concern me that he no longer followed the Lord, and I would want to know why and lead him back to the Lord.
Jason: No, because my faith is not founded on the testimony of man, but rather founded on God’s creation (Romans 1:18-22), God’s word, and the testimony of God’s Spirit (John 16:7-11).
JJ_Richards: It would only concern me if I didn’t have excellent reasons for belief. As I am confident in my convictions due to them, I’d only be concerned about what he was missing out on: a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
JK: Is this a hypothetical pastor or some specific instance SJ had? I can’t speak to it if it is a specific. If it is a hypothetical, in that case I would love to have a conversation with him about the whole thing, to get his insights and make sure there was nothing he saw that I had missed. In my experience every “I was a pastor for X years before I quit” person has lacked some pretty fundamental understandings of Christianity or God, much like I did as a young person. I’ve been there, and lack of knowledge is what caused me myself to leave the faith for a time. A half-understanding of God most definitely makes nearly no sense at all.
- IF it’s the case that people who don’t hear the good word go to heaven on merit, and those that hear, but reject the word, go to hell, wouldn’t it be preferable to wipe out all records of Christianity?
SJT: No. Christianity helps to explain our purpose, meaning, and hope in this life. Christianity is the only religion to explain evil and to offer salvation based on our faith and belief in the source of all love and morality.
TJ: Who says that people who haven’t heard the Gospel go to Heaven based on their good merit?
JJ_Richards:This question is an interesting rhetorical maneuver. It is written in such a way that misses Christian theology, but also includes the same sort of yes or no demand that often accompanies the question, “Do you like beating your wife?”. However it misses the mark for even this sort of trick, because the first part of the question is completely wrong. The IF statement is not recognized by any historical mainline theology in Christianity. So it might as well be asking, “How many inches long is the smell of a rose?”. I suggest reframing your objection or question.
Jason: It is not the case that people who don’t hear the good word go to heaven on merit, Christ made that clear in Luke 12:47,48:
47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.
48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Christ plainly states that those who do not know the God of the Bible are going to Hell.
JK: Here is where many Christians and I disagree, and that is perfectly fine because I may be wrong. I do not believe anyone gets into Heaven “on merit” but rather “on seeking/accepting.” For example, there may be someone brought up in Hinduism their whole lives with no chance at ever hearing the name Jesus. But they may have sought God with their whole heart. I do not believe for a second God would forsake that person, because it makes no sense given the character of God. However I do not believe they get some “free pass” but rather are spoken to, by God, about Christ. Or perhaps more specifically, about grace itself. At any rate, I do not expect anyone gets sent anywhere after this life is done without hearing of the gift of grace, and given the opportunity to accept or reject it. Merit doesn’t factor into it in this regard. I could, of course, be wrong, and some would tell me I am. That is definitely their prerogative. I believe all will hear whether by us or God himself, and all will be given the chance to say “Forgive me” or “I do not need forgiven, leave me.”
- Would you prefer that everyone on earth converts to Christianity and the level of human suffering stays the same or that everyone on earth becomes an atheist and the level of human suffering falls 90%?
SJT: Atheism in governments has been demonstrated to magnify evil, so the question is an impossibility. Witness what happened in the past century at the hands of atheist leaders Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao Zedong. Over 100 million people starved, were murdered, or basically perished under those leaders, which is attributable to a combination of their communist and atheist beliefs. In all centuries prior to the 20th combined, we have not equaled the devastation we experienced in the last. Consider also the way Nietzsche portended this outcome when analyzing what would happen in a God-free world.
TJ: Hell involves FAR more suffering than anything experienced on earth. Hence, why I would rather have everyone convert to Christ and have the same-old same-old, rather than a godless “Utopia”.
Jason: Since I believe everyone who is not a Christian suffers conscious everlasting torment in Hell, I would prefer that everyone converts to Christianity.
JK: Fun question, albeit extremely loaded. 🙂 But I expect you know that. Anyway, I would prefer, as I believe God does, we get whatever suffering we need (no more, no less) in the brief time on Earth in order to accept grace and glory forever. To me going to college for four years, even if it is miserable, so that you can have a lifetime of opportunities is worth the trade. Now, if this life was the only existence we ever got (ever), my answer might change. I do not believe it is.
JJ_Richards: You must think carefully before asking such a question. Would you prefer that everyone on earth have flying elephant tigers which bring health and goodness to all? Funny right? My hypothetical question is based upon my imagination. Your question is based upon your imagination. But we live in the real world. There is no evidence that flying elephant tigers exist. Nor is there much evidence that atheism would make human suffering fall. In fact atheism has a very bad track record when it’s adherents are in power. This is the problem with such false alternative questions. I can imagine all day that atheism will make the world suffer free, but such a thought would be completely out of line with evidence in the real world. And if God exists, atheism is not the end of suffering, but probably heading toward an eternity of it. This question also seems to assume that eliminating suffering in this life is the ultimate end of the Christian. It is not. Thanks for the question.
- How did you eliminate (if you did) infinite regress as an option?
SJT: The Big Bang eliminated infinite regress as an option.
TJ: How did you?
JJ_Richards: The philosophical concepts of Unmoved Mover, Contingency, and the impossibility of arriving at this point if time were infinite. The metaphysical possibilities of our timeless Interdimensional God. The scientific properties of Thermodynamics, Big Bang inflation, and the constants of the universe.
Jason: This question requires a lot of in-depth reasoning to answer, so I offer you this article in response:
JK: Infinite regress is, as far as I understand it, a flawed theory because it supposes that a Universe based in cause and effect ultimately had no cause. And that is an EXTREMELY badly-simplistic description, but the best I can do personally. Also even if infinite regress was logically reasonable to believe, if infinite regress was accurate we would simply find ourselves in the same place as Nihilists do, and since I have been there I have ruled it out on the grounds of it making no realistic sense given historical and current human experience (including the desire for meaning and purpose).
- Why do you think Hindu’s are unconvinced of Quranic prophecy?
SJT: No idea. We aren’t Hindus.
TJ: Probably because Hinduism and Islam are 2 different religions? Translation: ask better questions.
Jason: Both the Quran and the Islamic traditions contain false predictions, therefore, by the Bible’s standard in Deuteronomy 18:20-22, Muhammad was a false prophet.
20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’—
22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
You can read documentation of the false predictions here:
JK: You’d have to ask them specifically. If they knew little of Quranic prophecy, I would say it is probably ignorance, because we cannot properly judge or be convinced of something if we don’t even know it through and through. Believing or not-believing something blindly is, in my experience, utterly foolish. If they had studied it thoroughly then it most definitely would be a specific cause or instance that did not convince them, and that would be a very personal thing so I couldn’t begin to guess or assume. Again, they would need asked.
- How could I tell the difference between someone who actually knows their purpose in life according to god and someone who just believes they know their purpose from god?
SJT: I don’t see a reason to differentiate the two.
TJ: This question assumes you would ever thoughtfully consider the existence of a deity. That entails going beyond methodological naturalism, going beyond a science-or-nothing worldview. Without doing that, you can never know.
Jason: You can already tell the difference perfectly, those who are Christians know their purpose because it’s given in the Bible, those who are not Christians do not acknowledge their purpose from God. And you know Christianity is true through spiritual revelation, as stated by God in Deuteronomy 18:18,19. But if you choose to ignore that spiritual revelation, you will live your life denying the truth that you know:
1Co 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
JJ_Richards: When you say “tell”, it very much seems you mean “Know”. As this is a question about knowledge (epistemology), I defer to others in this group who have more expertise in that area for a thorough answer. With what reading I’ve done in that area, I would say that you can’t know in the proof sense, as that realm of knowledge seems confined to math. Outside of that, there is always some element of trust or faith involved. I suppose you’d have to make a decision about your subject. Are they truthful, honest, and consistent? Does the deity they say they hear from make any sense of the real world? Does their supposed deity diagnose the dilemma of man? Does their purpose in life bear fruit? Or do they froth at the mouth and use hallucinogenic drugs for their spiritual experiences? There are so many questions you could ask here. Yet at the end of the day, knowledge requires some sort of belief, that much I do know. Even science rests upon a number of axioms it must take on faith. Here are a few: The Existence of Truth, The Existence of Objective Reality, The Discoverability of the Physical World, The Rational “behavior/properties” of Truth, The Rational Comprehendability of Other Minds, The Law-Like Behavior of the Past, and The Trustworthiness of our Senses (in the past, present, and future). Science cannot proceed without these faith assumptions, but I highlight them to point out that knowledge has to start with faith at some level. My question for you is where is your faith? What do you worship? Thanks for the question.
JK: How could you tell the difference, in someone else? I expect you’d have to build a very close relationship with them, likely over decades or longer, and have conversations so deep as to be marital in nature. Even then you might not be sure, I suppose. And that’s okay, because the important thing is what God calls YOU to, not so much what He calls them to. We are each responsible for our own relationship with God. Often we get a little carried away and spend all our time and energy on what is for others to do in their own lives instead. A wise use of our time is a little less focus on what’s inside others and a lot more time on what is inside us.
Bonus! 11. If god actually didn’t have a plan, and he was letting things just run their course, how could you tell the difference?
JJ_Richards: In my eyes, for this question to have any merit, it would have to be in a very different reality than what you and I occupy. Let me ‘expand’ that. What I mean is; there is an underlying super order that governs the universe. If you are talking about the supposed creator of everything when you say God, He made this extreme order. This order screams purpose, or as you say a plan. Now if you are talking about a ‘god’ who’s subservient to the universe, then we aren’t talking about the same thing. And I have no interest in defending or proving a ‘god’ who’s not the uncreated creator of everything. Such a being wouldn’t be God. But the very existence of the universe demands fine-tuned order, else it could not exist. I see no way to escape that God if he exists, has SOME sort of plan. To find out who this God is, we have to go further.
SJT: We wouldn’t be hard-wired to follow the Golden Rule if God was “letting things just run their course.” We would be a bunch of “moist robots” without purpose, meaning, or any sense of what’s right and wrong. (The term moist robot comes from Frank Turek). Yet studies have indicated that all of humanity and all major religions share the same moral compass, which directs us to seek purpose, meaning, and to follow the Golden Rule (Kinnear et al., 2000). God has also hard-wired us with the moral “ought” to appreciate benevolence above all other values (Schwartz, 2012). God desires goodness as the ultimate outcome – and everything He does in this world shapes us so we develop an appreciation for love over evil and goodness over its alternatives.
TJ: If God didn’t have a plan or a purpose, we would not have mountains of evidence of design in the universe. By that, I know indeed that God has a plan.
Jason: We know God has a plan because he has told us so in his word, and we know his word is true through spiritual revelation from the Holy Spirit:
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;
11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
If you accept the Holy Spirit’s testimony to you, you will be able “tell” what the truth is. If you reject the Holy Spirit’s testimony, you are lost.
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
JK: Minus trusting what God says, I don’t suppose we could. So then we would have to take a look at the two options before us 1) God has a plan and 2) God has no plan, and determine which is A) More reasonable B) More likely and C) More useful. In each case I believe option 1 comes out the clear winner given those two options. Again, though, in order to do this one would have to not believe or trust God, and personally I have found trusting Him is the smart play. He’s proven worthy of being trusted, far more than anyone else I’ve met. 🙂 Thanks again for letting me join in! I hope these answers find you well, and that the rest of your day and life is beautiful and filled with glory.
We want to thank Adam, the street epistemologist, who crafted these questions. We hope that he and other readers with his skeptical views will consider our answers. We further have links to more answers below, along with questions we pose to our atheist and street epistemologist friends. Enjoy!
My responses to the questions are in WordPress format, thank you, RD Holtsclaw @RickeyDale07 (Twitter) See: https://rickeyholtsclaw.com/2019/01/14/atheists-questions-for-the-christian/
YouTube link by Craig Reed:
Questions to atheists from Bill Shaw:
1) What evidence do you have that there is no God or supernatural?
2) If matter and energy is all there is in the Universe, and as matter and energy don’t have free will, what makes you think *we* have free will?
3) If everything exists only because it has survival value, what makes you think our reason is a guide to reality? An idea can be false, but still have survival value (eg I’m careful crossing the road because if I don’t pay attention, a giant ostrich will fly down from the clouds and eat me)
4) What basis do Atheists have for values? We can’t decide our own values, because we are fallible.
5) If we’re all just evolved animals, why is a human life any more valuable than any other form of life?
6) Finally, what’s your explanation for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?
Questions to atheists from Sy Garte:
I am not going to answer your questions, because I find them to be leading (and misleading), generally beside the point, and lacking in the most basic knowledge of the subject matter. They are full of fallacies such as straw men, begging the question, and assuming facts not in evidence. My friends here are far more tolerant than I, and despite the poor quality of the questions, have provided much better answers than I could hope to.
I will however, address your questions with my own that are meant to illustrate that the type of “questions” you raise can be asked as easily but theists as atheists. Some of these questions may seem absurd, but that merely reflects the quality of the question it addresses.
1. If a multiverse, and some unknown law are the only two explanations for the fine tuning of the cosmological constants, why do you reject a creator which has at least as much evidence as the other two?
2. Why take any moral, political or philosophical position, since all such positions have at one time or another led to the death and suffering of millions of human beings (about 10 times that produced by religious strife).
3. How can anyone decide that anything is good or evil if there is no such thing as sin, if morals are all relative, and there is no standard by which to judge?
4. What is the best way to demonstrate to oneself that they are open to being wrong about any conviction, (including atheism, scientism, human mediocrity, alien existence, absence of free will, etc)?
5. If you learned that the scientist you met on the plane was no longer an atheist, but had converted to Christianity (like me), would this concern you in terms of the path you went on in your life?
6. IF it’s the case that people who don’t hear the good word get academic promotions and tenure, as do those who reject the word, wouldn’t it be preferable to simply refuse to hire Christians for University positions in the first place?
7. Would you prefer that everyone on earth converts to Christianity and the level of human suffering falls 90% or that everyone on earth becomes an atheist and the level of human suffering increases to the level found in atheist societies (Soviet Union, China, N. Korea, Cuba, etc.)
8. How did you eliminate (if you did) infinite regress as an option? (Since you don’t believe in an uncaused Creator).
9. Why do you think Jews aren’t Buddhists. (well, some might be, Im talking about the religious Jews).
10. How could I tell the difference between someone who actually knows their purpose in life and someone who just believes they know their purpose
Bonus! 11. If there is no plan in the universe, and things just run their course, why does anyone ever bother to make any plans ?
Kinnier, R.T., Kernes, J.L., and Dautheribes, T.M. (2000). A Short List of Universal Moral Values. Counseling and Values, 45: 4-16.
Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1116
9 Replies to “Christians Answer Questions from a Street Epistemologist & Ask Him Questions in Return!”
Very interesting. Thanks for posting.
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Thanks. I’m just re-reading the questions to atheists at the end – and they’re rather amusing!
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We just have to pray God opens their eyes. I find that many who confess to be believers are also blind to their own false beliefs. It would seem that the church these days needs apologists as much as the unbelievers.
I agree with you though, it can be amusing and frustrating when you see how tightly people hold to beliefs that make no sense. But very scary and sad for them at the same time.
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What I thought was funnier than the questions that they asked was the response from some of you telling them that their questions didn’t make any sense. LOL.
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I actually laughed out loud at my desk at work on a couple of them.
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I don’t self-identify as an atheist, but I’m not a believer (and in full disclosure I came here from Pinecreek’s youtube channel), so I’ll play, starting with Bill Shaw’s 6 questions:
1) That’s not how things typically work. What would evidence that something does not exist look like? What evidence do you have that there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Russell’s teapot? Anyway, I would guess most atheists are of the “agnostic” variety who don’t claim that ‘God does not exist’, but rather would say something like, ‘There is at present insufficient evidence to conclude that God exists’, and many admit an openness to changing one’s mind should such evidence be found. I concur with those views.
2) I actually don’t think that we do have free will, ultimately. But our brains are wired to behave as if we do, and civilized society is dependent on individual accountability, and the true chains of causality are far too complex for us to understand in all but the simplest cases so it’s a reasonable to compromise to make.
3) Our reason isn’t a perfect guide to reality (there are all manner of ways we can be deceived by our senses, and can and do deceive ourselves) but it is the best guide to reality we have. If you think there is a better guide, please let me know what that is, and why it is better than reason.
I agree that a false idea can sometimes have “survival value” (dietary laws come to mind), but it doesn’t follow that reason and correct ideas are therefore useless.
4) Then why can’t we just decide our own fallible values? (Actually, I think evolution probably has done it for us, which perhaps amounts to the same thing.)
5) We value human lives over other life because we ourselves are humans. Human life isn’t any more valuable than any other form of like in any ultimate sense.
6) Objectively and honestly considering all the evidence I’ve encountered, I think the probability that the last of those is a myth (i.e., non-factual) is far, far higher (as in, orders of magnitude) than the probability that the event actually happened. But I’m always open to considering new evidence!
I’ll tackle Dr. Garte’s questions in a separate post.
My (atheist) responses to Bill Shaw’s questions:
1) My evidence is the absence of any evidence for the supernatural.
2) I don’t believe we have free will.
3) Our reasons are based on observable evidence. eg: I don’t worry about flying ostriches eating me while I cross the road because there’s no observable evidence for me to worry about that. It’s why I look out for traffic.
4) Values are dependent on one’s perspective.
5) They’re not more valuable, but survival is universal throughout all species.
6) I don’t believe supernatural miracles exist so the most likely explanation is that the story of Jesus is a created oral story (myth).
Answers to questions from Sy Garte:
1. We don’t know yet as this is a frontier of particle physics and cosmology. I reject the creator explanation because you must establish the creator exists first.
2. Because I am part of this reality, interact with beings part of this reality and actions have direct and indirect consequences.
3. It’s easy to decide because we can observe what kind of effect it will have on others.
4. I am open to being wrong. But the evidence heavily supports atheism, scientism, human mediocrity, alien existence, absence of free will.
5. Many scientists are religious, so I wouldn’t be concerned. I would inquire what changed their position so drastically.
6. It’s the employers’ responsibility to hire the best person for the job – discriminating on religious beliefs is a misuse of that responsibility.
7. It doesn’t need to be either. Poorly thought question.
8. I don’t need to. I suspect the cosmos is eternal.
9. I’m not Jewish so have no idea. Poorly thought question.
10. There are only people who just believe they have a purpose.
Bonus! 11. I make plans because no deity is making plans for me.