Hi everybody. I'm having a debate with an acquaintance of mine (well, sort of, he's a friend of a friend) and I'm wondering if anybody who has a MySpace might want to help me convince him (it'd be pretty hard - he lives in rural Wisconsin and he just voted yes for the gay marriage ban). He also believes that there's good scientific evidence to support creationism.
I think the whole point of The End of Faith was that we should be doing things like this, having honest conversations about faith, teaching the believers about atheists, etc. So hopefully you guys'll help me. I'm doing fine right now, but really the more the better, he's got a lot of friends.
(If you do come on, I trust that you will polite and kind.)
Thanks for the help!
Here's the dialogue so far:
Original blog post (by him):
God, Gays, and General Frustration Pt. 1
(by David Strack)
This is a very rare event on davidstrack.com. I am not only discussing religion, but I am delving into the violent and ruthless waters of modern politics. Brace yourself.
I'm not sure where I should start, but I think that I will begin with the most important and debated subject: God. First of all, I am not attempting to prove that God exists, that would be impossible. I am attempting to defend the Bible and its authority - as instructed by God in 1 Peter 3:15. When I hear people challenge the Christian faith, 90% of the questions attack the account of Creation. This is probably because the account of Creation in the Bible is completely opposite to the evolutionary idea of…evolution. As a fundamentalist Christian, I believe that the Bible is the full and complete infallible Word of God, that the Creation account is 100% accurate, and that there are no major contradictions throughout the entire Bible. Also, the more that I research, the more I discover that science continues to support the biblical account of Creation. Of course, there are plenty of questions left unanswered - but there is overwhelming support for Creationism, especially when the biblical accounts are combined with scientific evidence. For example, one of the most widely accepted evolutionist ideas is the concept of an old Earth - a planet that is at least 4.5 billion years old. Evolutionists claim that geologic evidence and carbon dating methods give undeniable proof toward the theory of an old Earth. However, once the Bible is accepted as the complete truth, this concept is rendered completely useless. Here's why: The Bible says that God created the world in six days. The words evening and morning (Genesis 1:5) are used to stress that these are plain-old 24 hour days, not magical days just for creation. The Bible mentions nothing of billions of years anywhere. In fact, with the evidence obtained from the scriptures, the Earth cannot be much older than six thousand years. But, if God's word isn't good enough, there is plenty of scientific evidence to support this. I don't have the time to list them all, but a great apologetics website/magazine, answersingenesis.org, has compiled a list of 14 natural phenomena that disprove evolution's old Earth and support creationism's young Earth. This evidence, of course, is only a very small slice of a very large pie, but I feel that it's good for establishing the authority and accuracy of the Bible in the account for creation.
I will write much more on this subject in the future, but I feel that I must move on.
Midterm elections were held yesterday, and like many other Americans, I headed out to the polls to cast my vote. The most important and meaningful vote to me yesterday was the Wisconsin referendum to ban any same-sex marriage or union. After months of annoying, confusing, and exaggerated television ads, the time had come to make a decision as to whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry and reap the full benefits that legal marriage has to offer. Naturally, I looked at my own values and thought of how God would want me to vote. Voting for the ban was a no-brainer - for myself anyway. God strictly prohibits homosexuality, several times in the Bible (1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Romans 1:26.27; Leviticus 20:13; Jude 7 [referring to the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah]). Beyond this, God strictly defines marriage in the very first book of the Bible. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24; NIV)." Marriage is defined as one man and one woman countless times in the Bible, and not once does it permit homosexual unions. As a committed follower of Christ, I must take every legal action available to protect the sacred institution of marriage. This is my PERSONAL reason for voting for the ban. However, a separation of church and state is in place, and the scriptures shall not determine the law, and vise-versa. Here's my secular reason for supporting the ban on same-sex marriage.
Pretend that I am not a Christian. Pretend that I have absolutely no religious opinion whatsoever. I would support a ban on gay marriages and unions because kids these days have enough problems the way it is. Face it, children NEED fathers and mothers. Picture all of the "bad" kids you know, all of the troublemakers. How many of their parents have gotten divorced? Imagine a society where two women can raise a son, who will never even have the chance of having a father to look up to, or the children that would never experience a mother's love. This reason alone is enough for me to "vote yes." But the election is over, and the ban has passed. Arguing this topic is pointless now. I do see a lot of complaining and whining over the decision. This is America, we vote, and the majority wins. It's not a challenging concept, but 60% of Wisconsin does not want to see same-sex unions. It's time to accept that fact and appreciate the voting system that is in place. Those of you who voted "No" to the ban, you were voicing your opinion and exercising your right to vote, and I was doing the same. It does not make me a bigot, intolerant, or a white trash hick. You're as guilty of supporting your beliefs just as much as I am. The end, I'm done talking about this.
Finally, we arrive at the "general frustration" section of this blog post. I am S-I-C-K of this world. I am sick of people that I love hurting themselves, I am sick of hearing of all sorts of sexual perversions that my friends commit, I am sick of the world wanting me to get drunk and screw everyone in sight. I do not consider myself better than anyone on this green Earth, but I am proud of my abstinence from alcohol, illicit drugs, and sexual activity. Even way back when I was an atheist, I hated drinking, I hated drugs, and I hated premarital sex - so don't write it off as just another "Christian side-effect." This world needs a change, my friends need love, and I feel that I'm not around enough to give it to them.
I've been writing this and reading materials for about three hours, and I think that I need some sleep. I am encouraging arguments. Leave a comment, send me an email, or just let me know how you feel. Prove me wrong, make me look like an idiot, support me, make my opponents look like idiots, I don't care. Share your thoughts and stand up for what you feel is right. Thank you, America, and good night. Stay tuned for my defense of Noah's ark and the Genesis flood.
PS - Trenchfoot Media's hosting switch was a success, the site should be online by this weekend
First of all, David, I do look up to you. I admire your work, especially since you did not shy down, but rebelled against your school in the face of opposition.
I also think that you are admirable for putting your religious and political comments out there. We need more passionate people like you.
With both those admirations in mind, I would like to happily debate some of the defenses you made above.
__________Part 1: Definitions and Assumptions__________
David, what if you're wrong? Just an opening question to start with. Now, my reply:
As a defender of science, I would like to argue that, contrary to your statements, our scientific insights so far have not agreed with the account of the bible; in fact, they've outright clashed against it.
Now I know that I probably cannot change your mind, since your mind is protected by your faith, which basically tells you not to question these important ideas (at least not with an open mind). I probably cannot change your mind because, no matter how much good evidence I bring to the table, you are hidden from it by a blindfold of faith. You will be forced to ignore my best points (either by flat out ignoring them or by using vague and low-quality rebuttals).
Hopefully, though, I will be able to break through this barrier, for three reasons:
1. I am on your side.
2. I generally want the same things you want.
3. You seem to be a reasonable man.
The last reason is indicated by your urge to defend your beliefs—for most people of faith feel it utterly unnecessary to defend what they believe (since they believe what they believe for no actual reason beyond non-thinking or wishful thinking). I think you are in the gray area; you believe improbable things, and yet you still understand the necessity to justify your beliefs (or, to put it another way, to think rationally). Hopefully I can pull you back over to the rational side.
I think it is wise to start at the beginning, as you did above, so here it goes:
First of all, I do agree that it is impossible to prove that God exists. I also think, as you probably do, that it is impossible to disprove that God exists. However, I also think it is impossible to prove or disprove anything (to the degree that you are 100% sure about it). When I go to sit in my chair, I am not 100 percent sure that it will hold me up. I may be 99.9 percent sure, but there's always going to be at least a small margin of error when it comes to any kind of thinking.
I will not stress the point much further now, but I would like to point out that your religious brethren (of all faiths) often claim to actually feel 100% percent certain, not even about such small things as chairs, but about the biggest questions in the universe! As I said, I will not push the point yet, but this type of unjustified certainty is something to ponder.
Moving on, then, why am I not an agnostic? (I am an atheist by the way; well, at least by most definitions.) If I can't be sure whether or not God exists, then why do I say I'm an atheist and not an agnostic? Furthermore, why do you claim to be a Christian and not an agnostic, if you also concede that it's impossible to prove God?
The answer is probability. I am not an agnostic about my chair because I believe it will hold me up. The reason I believe that it will hold me up is because the likelihood of it not holding me up is about 0.01%. There are other little things that I believe about: whether I'll get hit by a car as I cross the street, whether my cat will bite my finger off when I go to pet her, whether my grandma will bite my finger off when I go to pet her, etc. These are relatively unimportant things, but we must still make assumptions about them. What would happen if we didn't make assumptions about them, if we thought about them instead? If we just kept thinking and thinking and thinking about them? We would waste a lot of time, that's what! We'd never get anything done. This has a lot of evolutionary implications, but we don't need to get into that.
So, if we called people who believed their chair would hold them up Chairtans, would we call people who believed their chair would not hold them up chair-atheists?
Why not? Because atheists don't believe that God doesn't exist. They may not believe he does, but they don't believe he doesn't.
Atheism is an absence of belief. It is a lack of certainty. Most Christians claim to be certain that God exists. Atheists don't claim the opposite of this. They are not certain that God doesn't exist. They just aren't certain he does.
So what makes atheism different from agnosticism? Both are philosophies of uncertainty, right? Well, agnostics simply don't believe in anything—they aren't certain, whereas atheists go further; atheists say that, while they don't believe anything with certainty either way, they do think one choice is more likely than the other. Most atheists don't say they're 100% certain God doesn't exist, they say they're 90% or 95% or 99% certain that God doesn't exist. This is much more reasonable than claiming certainty in either direction.
So we see that you are not, by this definition, a complete believer. You don't claim 100% certainty that God exists. Instead, you claim a certain high percentage. This is what I do (though on the other end of the spectrum). This makes us thinkers, as opposed to believers.
Thus, faith is the opposite of thought. Instead of thinking about it, you have faith and end the conversation.
So, as I said, I think there might yet be a chance that you will see the light—for you did, after all, just start a political and religious conversation…
Now that we've got the definitions out of the way, and we've established that we're thinkers at the core, and thus reasonable people, let us look at some of your defenses of the bible. First of all, let's look at creationism.
__________Part 2: Creationism vs. Evolution__________
A child watches as a magician does some tricks. The child cheers, oohs, and ahhs. The child loves watching the amazing things that the magician can do. He is obviously working miracles, he is obviously supernatural.
The child grows up and learns how some of the tricks were done. This makes the now young man angry. He didn't want to know how the tricks were done. They were so much better when they were mysterious, he thinks.
Creationists are like children, in my opinion. They can appreciate the beauty of the universe, but only if they give it a special designer. Here's a quote I like: "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" That's Douglas Adams, a great man.
The "authority" for creationism that you give is not very convincing. In fact, he (Russell Humphreys) is a complete joke in the scientific community. He's known for misquoting and misusing sources. He's known for basing evidence he finds on assumptions (often biblical ones, obviously). I found a good quote on the way he "proves" certain things, such as the supposedly insufficient sodium levels of the ocean:
"Humphreys finds estimates of oceanic salt accumulation and deposition that provide him the data to "set" an upper limit of 62 million years. But modern geologists do not use erratic processes like these for clocks. It's like someone noticing that (A) it's snowing at an inch per hour, (B) the snow outside is 4 feet deep, and then concluding that (C) the Earth is just 48 hours, or two days, in age. Snowfall is erratic; some snow can melt; and so on. The Earth is older than 2 days, so there must be a flaw with the "snow" dating method, just as there is with the "salt" method."
That was Dave Thomas, a respected scientist. You can find his rebuttal to Humphreys' article here: http://www.cesame-nm.org/Viewpoint/contributions/Hump.html
Every creationist claim towards disproving evolution uses flawed logic, and I would be happy to attempt to respond to any you want to present to me. Of course, I'm not a scientist, but I will definitely try.
Scientifically, creationism has been "disproven" thousands of times over, and evolution has been "proven" just as much. The only reason evolution is called a theory is because everything in science is called a theory—you can't ever really prove or disprove anything. But for purposes of discussion, evolution is just as much a fact as the "theory" that the earth revolves around the sun. It's been proven just as much.
There's really no debate, except in America, which is overly Christian. No other civilized nation in the world is this ignorant (meaning ignore-ant). No other western nation cares about religion a fourth as much.
__________Part 3: The Myths About Atheism__________
Dave, I want to ask you a question, and hopefully you'll answer honestly, at least in your head. When you were an atheist, weren't you just as moral as you are as a Christian? Didn't you care about human suffering just as much back then?
There's this huge myth that atheists can't be moral (or spiritual). That, as I say, is a myth. I've found that atheists in general care more about human suffering and have much more fulfilled, meaningful lives in general than their Christian neighbors.
That it only comes once is what makes life so sweet. Atheists generally recognize this, as they recognize that the meaning of your life is decided by you.
Now consider Christian missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa preaching against condom use. Every day they are adding to the total number of people killed by AIDS.
Now consider stem-cell ban advocates. Every day, they prolong the suffering of millions, even billions of people for no reason, because of age old myths about the soul entering the zygote at the moment of conception.
Now consider that 44% of Americans apparently believe that the apocalypse is coming within 50 years, and that it will bring the second coming of Christ. As Sam Harris says,
"It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves—socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be [italics] glorious [slash italics]. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency."
My point to you today is that you really have no good reason to believe what you do, and that it is actually counterproductive. I agree with you about drugs and drinking, and even though I disagree with you on gay marriage, I think you are an intellectual and you can see that you are above this intellectual heresy you have been a part of. I think that you will see that atheists can be moral and spiritual, and hopefully, even if you disagree with me, I think that you will reply so we can keep debating.
All that aside, I think you are a great person and I hope to keep debating with you.
His friend's reply:
How dare this person above to judge your faith and try to bend your beliefs. You believe whatever you need to believe and no one believes exactly the same thing, so everyone would have their own title for their beliefs. That being said, you would be considered a Christian…
And info to the 'NO' voters (aka. poster from above)... Marriage IS the bond between one man and one women, nothing more nothing less. Also, homosexual couples are trying to share the same tax cuts as heterosexual couples only heterosexual couples have added expenses…biological children. And it wasn't going to stop there, they would try to exercise more of their rights from there…
My reply to his friend:
I'm sorry if my post came off as hostile. I am just here to debate. Hopefully you will see that I'm not trying to be rude by coming on here, and that it's actually to the contrary: I am trying to make a bond with some people of faith.
I was not trying to judge David's beliefs. I was simply trying to ask him some questions about what he believes. I am very interested in discussions like this, and I think communication and debate are good things.
I think that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and that a person should, within reason, be allowed to believe whatever they want. I have many friends of different faiths—Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc (mostly Christians). I am simply trying to find out why David happens to be a Christian, as opposed to a Muslim, Confucianist, Jain, or even atheist. While I think that everybody has the right to believe what they want, especially if it's inside an established tradition, I don't think that means we shouldn't talk about what we believe, because what we believe is extremely important. I think interfaith and inter-ideology dialogue is very important.
I am not necessarily trying to "convert" David, and I doubt he could be converted anyways. I am simply trying to get my thoughts out to rational people like him. I think atheism is horribly misrepresented in America, as opposed to how it is in the other western civilizations, and I defend my position passionately.
I do quickly want to challenge your use of the word belief, because I don't believe in anything (that has a god-like importance). Atheism is the lack of belief in deities, not the belief that they aren't there.
As far as your first point against homosexual marriage, I disagree: I think the idea that marriage is only for heterosexual couples is mistaken, and that it is purely based on biblical dogma.
As far as your second point, I do understand what you are saying to an extent. However, I think that sacrifices (such as allowing the same tax cuts for homosexuals) need to be made in the name of freedom during times when human rights are being violated.
So that's my position, looking forward to any other replies on the subject. I think this is fascinating.
His girlfriend's reply:
Don't be discouraged by any opposition, David. Keep fighting the good fight and put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). Always remember that heaven rejoices at the repentance of just one person (Luke 15:7), so, if you can help the Holy Spirit to make a difference in just one person's life, I may just love you all the more
My reply to his girlfriend:
If you are correct in the assumption that the bible is the word of God, then I hope that I am converted, as I obviously wouldn't want to go to hell.
So hopefully, since you and David and Cody hold your positions strongly, you all will give me more good arguments for the bible, and if it turns out you are right, then I will change my position and happily help spread the word of Christ.
But I would also like to ask that, if we do debate, you do consider the arguments I give with as little bias as you can, and actually consider them. I know I will do the same for you.
That's all so far. Regardless if anybody comes on to help me I think I'll keep the transcripts going here, for people that don't have a MySpace. And lastly, I trust that everybody will be very polite and kind.