Saturday, February 23, 2008

What if I'm wrong?

Jake & Elwood Blues ask What if I'm wrong?.

Well, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. So what?

The potential consequences of a belief, especially when those consequences aren't at all provable, aren't a valid basis for choosing that belief. Sure, if Yahweh exists, and at all resembles the savage, bloodthirsty, crazily jealous (of whom?) and positively batshit-insane character of the Old Testament, I'm pretty much screwed, in hell for all eternity. Of course, if Allah really exists, and resembles the equally batshit-insane character in the Koran, I'm equally screwed.

And let me assure you, gentle reader, that I am God's prophet on Earth and you will spend eternity in a fiery hell unless you renounce all other religions, create a shrine to Charles Darwin and Richard Feynman, and send me $100. That may sound implausible, but what if you're wrong?

We do have to make decisions on our best estimate of the consequences. I've evaluated the potential consequences of dying in fiery car crash, and I believe the chances are rather slim, hence I actually drive my car. But it's pointless to ask, "What if I'm wrong about the chances?" Well, if I'm wrong, then I'll probably die in a fiery car crash. But take a person who believes the opposite: What if they're wrong and not driving a car will increase one's chances of dying in a fiery car crash? Yes, that seems implausible, but the question, "What if you're wrong?" assumes that the seemingly implausible is actually true.

It's a sucker's game, an attempt to motivate people to act from fear rather than rational sense.

One thing that irritates me about this line from Christians (and Muslims) is that I hate threats. And it is most definitely a threat: Believe in Christianity (or Islam), without regard to how absurd it might seem, because if you don't you'll be tortured for an eternity in hell.

Leaving God aside for a moment, we have the problem of credibility. I might or might not trust God, but why in the world should I trust Christians? You might as well rob a bank by phone. You might as well knock on my door and say, "Give me all your money, or my invisible friend will obtain a nuclear weapon from Albania and set it off in your garage."

All threats are violent assaults, and, frankly, it's only the fact that I'm convulsed with laughter at the ridiculous notion of eternal punishment beyond the grave that stops me from defending myself. But such threats don't much improve my moral evaluation of the Christians who make them.

And even if Yahweh Himself were to threaten me, I would still give him two middle fingers. Don't threaten me, give me reasons. You created the universe, and now you're acting like a B-movie mafia thug?

But of course, Yahweh does not exist. Allah does not exist. Krishna, Shiva, and Kali don't exist. The Buddha was just a guy, albeit a pretty smart guy. Thor, Zeus, Marduk, Cthulhu, and all the rest are characters in imaginative fictional literature; they are inventions of the human mind. There is no heaven, no hell, and this life is all we have. If it pleases you to live this life in fear, and spend a good portion of it giving thanks to the ceiling and supporting parasitic priests, well, it's your life, not mine.

Even if I'm wrong, I'm not going to live my life controlled by absurd fears, ridiculous threats and contemptible parasites.

31 comments:

  1. bb--

    don't know if i'm banned still, or not.

    either way, i'll be using this material, real soon, on a christian thread, over the issue of hell. just minutes ago, someone threw down the 'threat of eternal fire' gauntlet, and i cannot resist.

    whether you like the compliment or not, i appreciate what you have been writing about since your return. you're very good at it.

    peace--

    scott

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  2. No, scott, you're not banned. :-)

    I'm not one to hold a grudge.

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  3. "If it pleases you to live this life in fear, and spend a good portion of it giving thanks to the ceiling and supporting parasitic priests, well, it's your life, not mine.

    Even if I'm wrong, I'm not going to live my life controlled by absurd fears, ridiculous threats and contemptible parasites."

    Again I believe the motivation, for most people are not to do things out of fear. The terrible acts of ignorance we see from fundamentalist nut jobs if they do not do something radical to defend their faith, and the proposed punishment they fear if they do not do something radical to defend their faith, IMHO are a reaction to fear. Fear of repression, fear of death from the opposition, fear of the unknown, etc.

    I do not believe the things I believe or worship the way I worship out of fear but out of awe, respect, reverence, thankfulness, etc.

    I can grasp, understand, and actually appreciate some of the viewpoints I have heard about incorrectly choosing beliefs or getting it wrong, but as humans aren’t we inherently "wired" to err? No one ever gets it right 100% of the time. I don’t know anyone that is not a klutz or has not done something to earn a Darwin Award at some point in their lives. (is it ok that I say "Darwin Award" ; )

    Aren’t most punishments preceded by warnings? My father always told me "penalties and rewards are deferred". I like that axiom and it has stuck with me throughout my life. Whether or not I apply it to everything in my life is another matter altogether.

    Oh and your comment, "Well, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. So what?" That is also another topic we can explore further at another time.

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  4. Again I believe the motivation, for most people are not to do things out of fear.

    As a matter of sociological psychology, I beg to differ.

    I do not believe the things I believe or worship the way I worship out of fear but out of awe, respect, reverence, thankfulness, etc.

    As a personal matter, I have to take you at your word. The question "What if you're wrong?" doesn't seem to have any more force on your beliefs than it does on mine.

    As humans aren’t we inherently "wired" to err? No one ever gets it right 100% of the time.

    These are two entirely different statements. If we were wired to err, we would err all the time. We're wired to be correct often enough to survive long enough to reproduce, using the techniques cobbled together over the last half-billion years of neurological evolution.

    I don’t know anyone that is not a klutz or has not done something to earn a Darwin Award at some point in their lives. (is it ok that I say "Darwin Award" ; )

    It's fine to mention the Darwin Awards; I myself used to be a screener. Note that to earn a Darwin Award, you have to permanently remove yourself from the gene pool, usually by death. I think you're exaggerating just a hair in this regard.

    Aren’t most punishments preceded by warnings?

    A "warning of a punishment" is a fancy phrase for a threats.

    And if you want to take the parent/child metaphor one step farther, let me remind you that if God wants to make any "warnings of punishments" directly to me, He and I will have our own conversation about parent/child relationships. I assure you, no god has had such a conversation with me, and if any god did want to have such a conversation with me, any resistance on my part would be futile.

    In the meantime, I'm a grown man and a citizen of a democracy, and no other human being — neither priest nor President — stands to me as a parent does a child.

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  5. Jake&Elwood
    Thankyou I was struggling for a question of the week.

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  6. Yeah. Pascal's Wager, (i.e. believing in God solely because you are afraid of roasting), is pretty much the lamest thing ever.

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  7. If I somehow had foreknowledge of a specific plane that was going to crash at some specific point in the future, killing all of the hundreds of passengers and crew on board, I would do everything in my power to stop that flight from taking off in the first place, or at the very least discourage everyone from boarding it. If I did little or nothing at all to stop it, I would experience overpowering feelings of guilt for the rest of my life.

    Millions of Christians believe, with complete confidence, that something far worse will happen to far more people after they die. That tragedy, unlike the hypothetical plane crash, will be eternal, involve practically infinite amounts of pain and agony, and impact magnitudes more people.

    I do not understand why such Christians that believe in a literal, fiery hell do not spend every single minute of their lives doing everything in their power to stop the rest of us that are headed for this awful end. They should be constantly warning everyone within shouting distance, all of the time.

    The fact that they are not doing that is a mystery to me.

    Brian

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  8. No really Barefoot, I was being serious about the Darwin Award. You don’t know some of the people I associated with in college. Some probably have, or at least should have voluntarily removed themselves from the gene pool. ; )

    To be perfectly honest I was not specifically citing Pascal's wager per say but thank you atheist, and the others who have responded here and on my blog, for pigeonholing my blog. Thank you Barefoot for not jumping on that bandwagon, your patience is appreciated.

    It seems pretty weak to just say, "Yeah. Pascal's Wager, (i.e. believing in God solely because you are afraid of roasting), is pretty much the lamest thing ever."

    Do you really realize how "lame" and over simplified that statement sounds?

    Not that I am an expert on Pascal but the wager also highlights benefits of believing in God as well. One point of contention that I noticed was that Pascal believed the creator to be a Judeo-Christian God. I agreed with most of the postings that I read that one could "get it wrong". It is quite a dilemma which leads me to several questions and one statement / question:

    1. Is it easier to say there is no God and therefore not have to make a choice or be concerned about the possible consequences of said decision?

    2. For argument sake, what if one did get it wrong, assuming there is a creator, what then?

    3. Statement: God does not require anyone's belief in Him to exist. If there was a creator would you agree with that statement and what would you postulate from that statement?

    Anyway, as I have said before, in my posts I have been stating what my beliefs are and trying to gain more insight into those of others.

    To fdqpink/Baal's Bum, and other bloggers here, why is it a waste of a real life hoping for an imaginary next life? What do you think I am I wasting? (time posting here ; ) No seriously, I would be interested to hear your views on this. Something besides just saying believing in God is "lame" dude. Something else besides the obvious all to "well known" answers. (wasting time, energy, money, etc.)

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  9. bb said:

    A "warning of a punishment" is a fancy phrase for a threats.


    Few fundamentalists Christians seem to have ever thought of it in that way, and so saying it like that turns out to be surprisingly effective on them. They envision their god as loving, but it also seems clear that these threats of hell are still exactly that---threats. It is a blatant contradiction.

    It is a point that I have used on a few different fundy message boards, and usually with no response at all. Usually when I make various arguments, I receive bad responses in return. To this point there is often no response at all though. They just have to think on it for a while.

    Brian

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  10. J&E: Some probably have, or at least should have voluntarily removed themselves from the gene pool. ; )

    There is no "should have" in evolution. There are only those who somehow manage to reproduce and those who do not.

    It seems pretty weak to just say, "Yeah. Pascal's Wager, (i.e. believing in God solely because you are afraid of roasting), is pretty much the lamest thing ever."

    Hence I provide a link to the full argument of why it's the lamest thing ever.

    Is it easier to say there is no God and therefore not have to make a choice or be concerned about the possible consequences of said decision?

    It's not a matter of easier or harder. It's a matter of what's actually true, and, more importantly, what we can know.

    2. For argument sake, what if one did get it wrong, assuming there is a creator, what then?

    It's impossible to know. Everything depends on which creator (and there are as many or more hypothetical creators as there are possible worlds). Given the relationship between terrestrial life and the size of the universe, it's very plausible that even if there were a creator, it wouldn't care about our trivial human opinions any more than I care about the opinions of the mold in my bathtub.

    It's just as "likely" (and one can use probabilistic language only in the most rarefied metaphorical sense) that a creator would reward skepticism and punish credulity as the opposite.

    God does not require anyone's belief in Him to exist. If there was a creator would you agree with that statement and what would you postulate from that statement?

    It's pretty much the definition of "exist" for statements about existence to be true independently of anyone's belief, disbelief, or knowledge.

    I don't see that one can draw any interesting conclusions from the statement.

    [I]n my posts I have been stating what my beliefs are and trying to gain more insight into those of others.

    You are, of course, entitled to have whatever beliefs you wish. Your beliefs and $1.35 will get you a medium coffee at Starbucks.

    [W]hy is it a waste of a real life hoping for an imaginary next life?

    It's not much of a waste to just hope. It's all the other stuff you do because of that hope. The big question is: what choices would you make differently if you didn't have that hope?

    It's your life, no one else's, and, so long as you don't try to coerce others, you're not in the least bit answerable to anyone — at least any other human being — about what you do with your life.

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  11. Jake & Elwood Blues: 1. Is it easier to say there is no God and therefore not have to make a choice or be concerned about the possible consequences of said decision?

    “Easy” has nothing to do with it. Perhaps one could argue that “2+2=4” is “easier” to say than “to solve for x, it is –b plus or minus the square root of (b squared minus 4 times a times c) all over 2 times a, yet both are equally true.

    We have examined the evidence and are persuaded there is no god. For some of us, that may have been an easy decision with little consequence. For others it may have been the hardest decision of their life, resulting in the loss of job, friends and one’s marriage.

    More: 2. For argument sake, what if one did get it wrong, assuming there is a creator, what then?

    Then one got it wrong. Of course the question of “which creator” would still need to be answered. Is it one god? Two gods? Multiple gods? Is it is a creator who started the universe and lets it spin (deistic)? Is it actively involved in its creation? What interests the creator? What angers it; what pacifies it,; what makes it happy? Can it be happy?

    Simply saying “creator” is simple for the theist—they immediate default to the god they prefer. For the non-theist this happens to be a much harder question, because we don’t have a “default” god. If we decided, for some reason, to pick a creator, we have a plethora to choose from. None of which look any more promising than the other. They ALL look human-made.

    More: 3. Statement: God does not require anyone's belief in Him to exist. If there was a creator would you agree with that statement and what would you postulate from that statement?

    The first statement is speculation. It is impossible for the theist to tell me what their God’s favorite color is; let alone necessary characteristics of it. Again, it depends on the creator.

    For all I know, just like fairies need us to clap our hands in order to have them live, or Santa Claus loses his magic by our lose of belief—perhaps the creator does need belief for us to exist. We haven’t a clue.

    I postulate nothing from the statement because it is (yet another) unproven assertion made by a theist about their god that they can’t demonstrate.

    More: …why is it a waste of a real life hoping for an imaginary next life?

    It isn’t. What becomes difficult is when that afterlife divides between those going to heaven and those going to hell. And, exactly as The Barefoot Bum said, the resulting action that springs from such a belief.

    To give you a personal example, I am married to a woman who is firmly convinced in an eternal, fire-belching afterlife for all infidels. Myself included. Who has firmly informed me if I even hint of a possibility of an inkling of a chance such a place might not exist to my children she will immediately divorce me. That “hope” causes me to lie to my children. Is that a good thing?

    It is not her hope of heaven impacting our lives; it is her dread of hell.

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  12. J&E
    You ask why it is a waste to spend a real life hoping for an imaginary next?
    Do you not think you should concentrate on the road your on rather than the possibility of having to move elsewhere when your journey is finished ?
    How much time is spent grovelling to yours and other peoples imaginary friends ?
    How much money do the churches get for doing absolutely nothing why do they never have enough ?
    Why do so many married couples sleep in separate beds because they have enough children ?
    I could probably go on like this for another hour but I have to go to work. may carry on later.

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  13. Hi,

    I could've sworn you linked to me, but I appear to have fallen off your blogroll. This was the whole B.A.D. foofaraw. I'd appreciate a spot on your blogroll. If, that is, you don't consider my blog the bloggy equivalent of the Black Hole of Suck.

    If you could trouble yourself to either put me on the roll or let me know to which alternate universe I should hie myself forthwith, I'd appreciate it. Many thanks.

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  14. I always get confused by Hell. I mean, 'In the beginning was God', right? (I hope I haven't misquoted). And there was only God - the one God. Nothing and nobody else. (Always wondered why only one being would exist on its own, and where it came from. But that is another question).

    And then God 'made' everything. So nothing existed before, and then God made it all. So where did Hell come from? Did God 'make' it? If so, why? And if God did not 'make' it then doesn't that break the initial statement of nothing existed?

    And where did Satan come from? If he existed before God 'made' everything, then he must be a being like God i.e. outside of our universe. Which would make Satan an equal being to God. Oops. Or did God make Satan? Why would God do such a thing? Or did something God created somehow become Satan? And if so, how did an ordinary being created by God transcend to the point where it was almost equal in power to God?

    The whole Christian church is very vague on this Devil and Hell thing. It is there, and you should be afraid of it (your threat). But no one has ever seen it. And we don't how it could possibly have come into existence, or why. You just have to believe us. Because ...??

    John

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  15. Cat: No, you didn't "fall off", I'm just incompetent. You're now on the blogroll.

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  16. Who in their right mind is going to change their course of action based on a person or place they know nothing about, can't see, can't possibly know about and certainly can't prove to exist by the very definitions of this person and place? It's absurd.

    What's also absurd is thinking that you're somehow better than the people who act a certain way because they fear a pitchfork in the ass after they die by an imaginary being with horns because instead you act a certain way to get a biscuit from a better imaginary being in the sky. Threat or reward, it's all imaginary bunk.

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  17. John UK
    You can put both down as selective translationHell
    alsoMore Hell
    Satan means adversary/opposition/prosecutor
    In some scripture satan often comes up as the good guy trying to stop god being a bastard one version of the flood I think in the book of Jasher is a prime example.

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  18. I find this rhetorical question insulting. The theist who poses it knows darn well what happens if the anti-theist is wrong according to their world view. So what is the point of this question? It is so presumptuous to ask it in the first place. It boils down to a childlike defense of an issue, "Oh yeah, well if I'm right then you burn in Hell for eternity, so now who's the stupid one now?"

    What if we are all wrong that there was no spaceship behind Hale-Bopp to transport our souls away from the recycling of Earth? Should we all investigate Heavens Gate ideology and wait around another 3000 years for Hale-Bopp to return?

    Please do not misinterpret my intent J&E. I appreciate your willingness to challenge your faith with this very question. And it is unfortunate you feel pigeon-holed, although the question in general is exactly in line with Pascal's Wager. I unfortunately used this question to comfort my own beliefs as a former Catholic in response to my atheist friends.

    Is this question not the worst threat possible? If you do not believe what I do you suffer horribly for eternity.

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  19. I think the worst would be subscribing to a religion your whole life, following all it's tenets, faithfully tithing, abstaining from what you're told to abstain from, and when you die you still end up in hell because oops, you followed the wrong religion. At least we atheists would have had a better life to look back on while we're roasting for the rest of eternity. :)

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  20. Jerry - Perhaps I was a bit sensitive when I made those comments about being pigeon holed. I just was looking for open discussion and not for an ambush. Ah ha, we got him now, Pascal's wager, how lame, or other such comments. I also apologize if the question “what if” seems presumptuous or rhetorical, it was not my intention for it to be. Again, I am “out there” looking for answers just like the next Tom, Dick or Larry. ; )

    Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your views, one of the differences of opinion we have is that I have made one decision in my life that will remain unchanged. That is in the acceptance of and faith in the fact that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

    Thank you though for recognizing that I am willing to ask questions. I will soon have a follow up post to my "what if" question I asked on my blog in the coming days.

    To Philly - "At least we atheists would have had a better life to look back on while we're roasting for the rest of eternity. :)"

    "Better life" compared to whom? Theists? That seems to be a fairly presumptuous statement. I previously asked why is it considered a waste for one to have faith and to do all the things you mentioned, and more. Like “faithfully tithing, abstaining from what you're told to abstain from,” etc. For the most part those things help other people in need. People hurting emotionally, physically, and, dare I say spiritually. It is when the good things that theists try do become twisted and turned around to hurt or oppress another group of people because they believe something different.

    Back to the “wrong choice” do not pass go or collect 200 dollars, go directly to hell card. I will leave the roasting to my oven for the time being. (chicken, ham, beef, etc. sorry if I have offended any vegans, vegetables are mainly used to enhance flavor in my kitchen.) I do not want to open that can of fire and brimstone in our discussion yet since, so far, hell has only been inferred by the disclosure of my chosen faith and I know how much Barefoot abhors threats.

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  21. J&E: It's all right: you're entitled to your views. Keep in mind, though, that you're not the first Christian we've heard these arguments from, and we atheists do have a tendency to head things off at the pass.

    So... Leaving notions about hell on the back burner (if you'll forgive the pun) what do you have to say about the topic, "What if you or I are wrong?"

    "Better life" compared to whom? Theists? That seems to be a fairly presumptuous statement.

    I don't think it's at all presumptous of PhillyChief. By definition, predicating a choice based on some condition (even just positive consequences) means that if that condition were false you would choose differently. Since you would choose differently it must mean that you are be sacrificing something for the expected consequences.

    If you were not, then the question, "What if you're wrong?" ceases to be very interesting; being right or wrong doesn't change anything.

    For instance: what if Stephen Hawking is wrong about black hole radiation? Well, I wouldn't do anything differently, so I can safely say, "I don't care if I'm wrong."

    If it's the case that you wouldn't live your life any differently if you didn't believe in God (and I myself would definitely not live my own life any differently if I did believe) then we can equally say that neither one of us would really care if we were wrong.

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  22. For the most part those things help other people in need. People hurting emotionally, physically, and, dare I say spiritually.

    Oh, and THAT wasn't presumptuous? I suppose none of that catholic tithing for instance went to legal fees, a new statue or another gold chalice? Please.

    I feel if the believer and I are going to hell together that I do in fact go with having had a better life, if for no other reason than perhaps I can actually know where my charitable contributions went and take pleasure from that. ;)

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  23. ake & Elwood Blues,

    I have a question. In your original comment you said, “To me one question loomed high above all others, what if we are wrong. Now ‘we’ can apply to any of the three basic groups, atheistic, theistic, and secular, but I want to focus on ‘my’ group, the theistic. I personally have no problems asking the question ‘what if I am wrong’.”

    I presumed from that (perhaps incorrectly) you were implying asking yourself “What if I am wrong?”

    Yet now I see you have said:

    Jake & Elwood Blues: …I have made one decision in my life that will remain unchanged. That is in the acceptance of and faith in the fact that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

    If you are never going to change your mind—what is the point of asking yourself if you are wrong? Since the answer has already been predetermined you must not be?

    So was the original statement saying you don’t have a problem asking atheists and secularists if they are wrong OR were you saying you don’t have a problem asking yourself if you are wrong, ‘cause you have predetermined the answer?

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  24. Another loss for the theist if wrong: the ability to reason.

    And if there is a god, why would he give us this power and punish us for using it?

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  25. john (Uk), "...did something God created somehow become Satan? And if so, how did an ordinary being created by God transcend to the point where it was almost equal in power to God?"

    I wonder if they ever have demarcation disputes?

    Satan: Come on - she committed adultery, she lied, she disobeyed her husband ...

    God: But she's the people's princess! Be fair, you got Dodi.

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  26. It seems pretty weak to just say, "Yeah. Pascal's Wager, (i.e. believing in God solely because you are afraid of roasting), is pretty much the lamest thing ever."

    Do you really realize how "lame" and over simplified that statement sounds?


    Oh, I'm sorry, you meant I should believe in God becuause belief is cheap, and, besides, I can escape torture that way. I forgot how inspiring that is.

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  27. If we're going to talk about the potential consequences of belief it also has to be noted that we can see a lot of very negative effects in fundamentalist religion. As one example, the economic effects noted here.

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  28. dagoods,

    I have made a decision in what I choose to believe. What I was trying to accomplish in my postings on my own blog was to show "good faith", pardon the pun, by saying that I am willing to ask questions about why I believe what I believe. Is that not what we all are doing by reading, researching, pondering, postulating, etc., ad infinetium? (well maybe not that long, depending on what you believe ; )

    If you take a look on my blog I better explain what my agenda is. Before I even started posting anywhere I was being asked questions by theists and atheists alike. I am in no way an authority on any particular subject matter and again, I have outlined that in my own blog posts and responses to questions here.

    I would like to take a moment and thank Barefoot. He has been a more than gracious and most patient host. He has also informed me that many of the questions that I have asked are not new to either of the aforementioned viewpoints. Please forgive my naiveté when it comes to such matters.

    With that being said, and in closing, I have a few questions and the answer to your question dagoods.

    Why does it seem, at least IMHO, to be "all or nothing" with a good deal of theists and atheists?

    Why are there seemingly no grey areas in a good deal of people's beliefs?

    In anyone's opinion, is faith a gray area?

    You asked "So was the original statement saying you don’t have a problem asking atheists and secularists if they are wrong OR were you saying you don’t have a problem asking yourself if you are wrong, ‘cause you have predetermined the answer?"

    The answer is yes, I do not have a problem.

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  29. Why does it seem, at least IMHO, to be "all or nothing" with a good deal of theists and atheists?

    For the same reason that you can't be a little bit pregnant. Either a God exists or it doesn't. Either faith is a valid, useful epistemic method or it isn't.

    Why are there seemingly no grey areas in a good deal of people's beliefs?

    What do you mean, "grey areas"? Most atheists and scientists are not absolutely convinced of their beliefs, but many beliefs (e.g. evolution) do have such overwhelming evidentiary support that changing them seems unlikely.

    In anyone's opinion, is faith a gray area?

    How can faith be gray, though? See my posts on Doubt, faith, certainty and conviction and The believer's doubt. You say (and I don't doubt your sincerity) that you're willing to ask questions about why you believe what you believe. But if no logically possible answer could change your beliefs, if the belief is a choice and not an evaluation (and isn't that precisely what faith means?) then it's difficult to understand what your project intends to accomplish.

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  30. Jake & Elwood Blues,

    I apologize for messing up your moniker in my last comment. When I cut-and-copied, I inadvertently missed the “J.”

    I asked the question because it seems (and I do not think you are doing this on purpose) you are using the word “we” when you really want the word to be “you.” Like the husband who declares it is time for marriage counseling because “we” have a problem, when he is actually looking at his wife thinking “YOU have problem.” And expects to approach the counselor saying, “WE have a problem,” but have the counselor declare how it is the wife’s error.

    I get the same tingling feeling. That you are saying, “What if we (atheists, theists and secularists) are wrong” but what you actually want to address is to have us look at how we(atheists only) could be wrong, but you do not need to look at whether you could be wrong because you don’t think you possibly could be. Is it “we” you wanted to talk about (requiring you to be open to change) or is it only the atheists and secularists?

    Jake & Elwood Blues: Why does it seem, at least IMHO, to be "all or nothing" with a good deal of theists and atheists?

    In addition to what The Barefoot Bum pointed out—this has little to do with differences in god-belief. It has to do with being human. I could likewise ask you why does it have to be “all or nothing” when it comes to Jesus being Lord and Savior? Couldn’t he be just a rabbi? Couldn’t he be a myth? Why is it “all or nothing” when it comes to holy writings? Why is it “all or nothing” when it comes to paths to heaven?

    As humans we all have some beliefs we are “all or nothing” and others we are not.

    On a side note, since you are interested in discovery, we deconverts are often asked, “Why is it you went from conservative Christianity to atheism? Why couldn’t you find some theistic belief in-between?” (And this question is similar to your “all or nothing” idea.)

    For me (and many others) it has to do with methodology. While investigating Christianity, we developed a way to determine what more probably happened in which we are shocked to discover the raw humanity of Christian belief. That it is human-made. When we apply that same methodology to other theistic beliefs—they likewise fail to persuade for the same reason. Like a hot knife through butter, our new method cuts to the quick any human-proposed idea of a god.

    For an analogy, imagine in a factory someone comes up with an efficient system to manufacture transmissions. The management realizes how this system improves production and profits, and implements a similar system for the brakes, the engine, the body, the axles, etc. One could see the “before” and “after” of the factor and ask, “Why was it ‘all or nothing?’ Why did the whole factory have to change to the new system?” ‘Cause it works.

    More: Why are there seemingly no grey areas in a good deal of people's beliefs?

    Oh, there are. The problem comes in what is “gray” for one person is very, VERY Black-or-White for another! One person could readily accept Exodus is a myth or partly myth or mostly myth or true with little effect upon their belief. Another may find thinking even an iota of a myth in Exodus destroys the entire viability of the Bible.

    Ask yourself this question—what, for you, must absolutely, positively be true within the contents of the Bible? Is that true for everybody who declares themselves a Christian? There’s your answer…

    More: In anyone's opinion, is faith a gray area?

    Depends how you define “faith.” In my opinion, humans are persuaded to different degrees by different means with different evidences; inherently belief in an area which is only partly substantiated would necessarily be…well…different. *grin*

    I would have a strong question for a Christian who holds to inspiration of the canonical Protestant Bible who also considers “faith” gray—are they being consistent?

    “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:20
    “The prayer of faith will save the sick.” James 5:15
    “Your faith has made you well.” Matt. 9:22, Mark 5:34
    “…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:20; 21:21, Luke 17:6
    “When He saw their faith, He said to him, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’” Luke 5:20
    “Your faith has made you well” Luke 8:48
    “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." Luke 18:42
    “The just shall live by faith” Rom. 1:17
    “…having been justified by faith…” Rom. 5:1
    “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Heb. 11:3
    “But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Heb. 11:6

    So something that has the power to heal, which correctly utilized can (hyperbolically) “move mountains,” which is a necessary mandate for justification and a requirement to please God is “gray”???

    Of course, I would point out these are separate books, written by separate authors, with very different ideas of what “faith” means—resulting on a contradictory conglomeration. But that is the Christian’s problem to make a cohesive declaration out of this mess—not mine.

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