A Letter To Christian Apologists

TO:  Christian Apologists

Discussions with you over the years have always ended with neither of us coming to a basic agreement regarding ways of determining the truth.  I base acceptance of any claim on whether the evidence supports it.  You say there are other ways of knowing.  I have challenged your statement and all I receive back is philosophy, logical fallacies and subjective experiences.

Please ponder the following points and questions:

Both of us use evidence to conduct our everyday lives.  However, you exclude this requirement when addressing religion and faith.  Why?
Most of you are certain without evidence. I am uncertain but form beliefs based on probabilities from facts.  Can you look at these very different degrees of certainty and honestly support your level of certainty without evidence?  You may be able to justify it to yourself, but not to me.
I am open to changing my opinion on any subject if I am presented with evidence that makes my present opinion less likely to be true.  Can you say the same thing?
When presented with a claim, the first thing I consider is its plausibility:  Are there examples of the same phenomenon that are consistent with the laws of physics and other scientific realities? If not, then I expect extraordinary evidence in support of such a claim.  Can you say the same thing?
Science has been a great force in understanding the reality within and around us.  It also has lead to tremendous improvement in the quality of life for humanity.  What concrete progress can you point to that is directly related to religion?
Scientists agree on so much and Christians disagree on so many issues.  Which of these levels of agreement is more likely to reveal truth about reality?
"You have the choice of living in one of two worlds: a world like ours in which science had come into being but religion never appeared, or a world in which religion had appeared but science never did.  Which would you choose?" ~Jerry Coyne

Science shows that the human mind is very susceptible to misperceptions, bias and resistance to evidence that contradicts an opinion.  Science is the only method available to objectively look at facts to overcome this natural tendency of the mind to deceive itself and, thus, comes the closest to determining reality.

Science shows that the mind is very probably only a function of the brain and that there probably is no independent "soul."  The mind emerged from the brain, a common occurrence in nature (i.e. water from hydrogen and oxygen, an ant colony from individual ants, etc.) and is a verb, not a noun.

Science shows that the common, layperson concept of "free will" is probably an illusion.
  
No studies have supported the existence of miracles.

There is no evidence that prayer has any effect on natural occurrences.

There is no evidence of life after death. 

Science (especially neuroscience and psychology) has studied religious experiences and can explain them through natural mechanisms.

Evidence from multiple branches of science, including the social sciences, supports the probability that man created god.

The greatest "high" a scientist can get is showing that accepted science is wrong. So, how can proponents of religion, alternative medicine and pseudoscience say that scientists are closed-minded and dogmatic?

Why are only 7% of members of elite scientific organizations like the Royal Society and the United States National Academy of Sciences religious?

The difference between philosophy and science:  Science is 'provable' and philosophy is speculation and assertion without evidence.  In addition, the following statement summarizes the problem with philosophy:  "There is, in fact, a total lack of consensus on the nature and purpose of philosophy."

Philosophy and logic are important foundations for the methods of determining reality we call science. However, they do not substitute for evidence. If there is poor or no evidence for something, there is no reason to believe it is real, no matter what philosophy or logic say on the matter. The booster rockets of philosophy and logic have launched science for best determining reality. 

"Formal logic alone doesn’t prove anything. It often leads to false conclusions about the real universe. If we relied on formal logic we would not have science. We need to let the universe tell us how it behaves." ~Lawrence Krauss

You ask "Why is there something instead of nothing?" Why should we believe there ever was, or could be, "nothing?"  What is an example of "nothing?" 
   
What is the immaterial?  Has it ever been seen?  How is it different than the theist concept of nothing?

You ask "How could something come from nothing?"  Causation is applicable to the point of the Big Bang.  What is "before" that instant is only speculation.  To posit a god as the "cause" of the Big Bang is just making stuff up.  Physics and mathematics present some interesting ideas suggesting a "multiverse" as the cause of our universe.  The concept of an infinite "multiverse" is at least as reasonable as a god and makes a god unnecessary. 

If reality is designed and purposeful, what would a reality that is random and meaningless look like?

Living and non-living structures change from simple to complex in nature and can give the appearance of design.  

"It's natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer.  But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth.  Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity's highest callings" ~Steven Pinker

"Nature --- provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. We are able to infer the presence of design only to the extent that the characteristics of an object differ from natural characteristics. Therefore, to claim that nature as a whole was designed is to destroy the basis by which we differentiate between artifacts and natural objects." ~George H. Smith

You state that the universe is "fine tuned" for humans because the probability is very low that it occurred randomly.  One cannot talk about probability of anything in our universe happening until we know what all of the possibilities are. If our universe is larger that we think now, if our universe is infinite, if there are many multiverses and/or there are an infinite number of universes, then the chances of our world and everything in it increase significantly. Thus, presently, this argument of probability should not be used. 

Why is god so hidden?  After all, as recorded in the New Testament,  the contemporaries of Jesus believed in him via evidence, not faith.  Why should the rest of us believe via faith without evidence?

What is more likely?
a) 2000 years ago, god sent his son to save us from the original sin of the first two humans, even though science shows that humanity did not begin from one couple but from a group and that human behavior is not unlike that of other social animals. This savior supposedly performed miracles, died and was resurrected. However, there is no independent contemporaneous verification from sources outside of the New Testament for any of this story and the New Testament itself was written several decades after the time that these events would have occurred by people who did not witness any of the events.
b) Christianity began like several other myths circulating before and at the same time in the middle east and had the subsequent fortune of benefiting from a variety of circumstances to evolve into a major presence in society. 

    You have the right to disagree with my worldview, but you do not have the right to criticize me as being immoral because of it, or otherwise unworthy of being accepted as a respected member of society.  Your beliefs stop at my face.  I expect you to respect the full Constitution of the USA, especially the separation of church and state, and to argue your political opinions based on evidence and not dogma.  You may be assured that I will treat you the way I wish to be treated.

    If you want further insight into the background of my worldview and how it contrasts with yours, please click on the first post on the top right of this blog (or here) and continue with the subsequent links suggested.  

    To conclude, I understand your position.  I was there.

    Tom Rafferty

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