“Cassandra”:http://www.jesseandjeremy.com/the_mama/ and “franky”:http://franksatheisticramblings.blogspot.com/ “point”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/31#comment-29 “out”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/31#comment-31 a couple of good questions, ones that have been asked by people for centuries. The questions, as I see them in this discussion, are:
- How do I know that God even exists?
- If God exists how do I know which religion(s) has it right?
_Pascal’s Wager._ franky refers to “Pascal’s”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascals_wager “Wager”:http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/, in which “Blaise Pascal”:http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Pascal.html posits that a rational analysis should lead one to, at the least, wager on the existence of God, supposing that it would be safer to gamble on His existence than on His non-existence. Several criticisms have been levelled at the Wager, and I will mention those that pertain directly to Cassandra and franky’s comments.
The whole of Pascal’s Wager is founded upon a simple matrix, the columns of which are God Exists and God Doesn’t Exist. One criticism of the Wager is that there should be more columns, specifically that the God Exists column should be subdivided into smaller columns, one for every other theistic hypothesis. Pascal’s Wager seems biased toward the Christian God, and critics of the Wager question how it accounts for other religious belief systems.
Another criticism of Pascal’s Wager that is particularly pertinent here is the atheist belief of the zero probability of God. Because atheists believe that God does not exist, it is just as advantageous to disbelieve in God as it is to believe in Him. This effectively renders the Wager moot for this belief system.
Note that Pascal’s Wager is not an argument for the _existence_ of God so much as it is an argument for _belief_ in God. Likewise, the flaws of the argument do not prove that God does not exist, merely that the argument itself has flaws.
_The Flying Spaghetti Monster._ Cassandra mentions the FSM(Flying Spaghetti Monster), a “satirical”:http://www.venganza.org/ “parody”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster religion started in 2005 by OSU(Oregon State University) graduate and physicist Bobby Henderson to protest a decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to allow the teaching of alleged problems with evolution as well as the teaching of intelligent design in science classes. The FSM(Flying Spaghetti Monster) ‘doctrine’ uses much of the same type of verbiage found in Christian doctrine, pairing it with silliness in an attempt to show the ridiculous nature of teaching ID alongside evolution.
Both Pascal’s Wager and the FSM(Flying Spaghetti Monster) ‘doctrine’ relate directly to question 1 above — How do I know that God even exists? Atheists believe that we cannot know that God exists because He _doesn’t_ exist. By pointing to a noodly monster, as well as flaws in a mathematical proof, the idea is point out logical fallacies and inconsistencies that should debunk the idea of the existence of God, thus rendering religion impotent and unnecessary.
Personally, all the evidence I need for God’s existence surrounds me. I find it extremely hard to believe that all this could have come about by mere blind chance. I was reminded recently of the “irreducible complexity”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreducible_complexity argument, which states that certain systems in nature cannot be broken down any further without the system failing to function in its constituent parts, i.e. the systems must have been designed and assembled by intent, rather than by chance. What I find most interesting about this argument is that evolutionists seems to have no scientific counter-argument, only theory and conjecture, the very things that they accuse creationists of using to support their own theories.
The trouble in science, even with the best-designed experiments, is that it is impossible to competely remove personal bias from the design. The experimenter starts with a question from a certain point of view and approaches the question from a given direction that is, to at least some extent, predetermined by his view. Essentially, his presuppositions inform his agenda and influence it, whether he realizes it or not. This can be said for both evolutionists and creationists alike. Both can start with the same data and the same materials and arrive at very different conclusions, depending upon what presuppositions inform their test design and influence from what direction they approach the question (and even what questions get asked). Both then cite ‘irrefutable’ evidence for their conclusion.
I do believe that science is important. But I do believe that the place it runs into snags, for everyone, is in providing proof as to the origins of the universe and the origins of man. For the evolutionist, the universe has existed for billions of years and finding evidence from so long ago to support their hypotheses now is problematic. Similarly, for the creationist, the universe has existed for only 6,000 to 10,000 years, but providing evidence as to why a Creator would have created the universe with age is likewise problematic. It would seem, at least to me, that the best use for science is to find solutions to current problems. The origins problem will probably always be shrouded in theory and questions, rather than tangible evidence for any argument.
How we do know God exists? For me the answer is simple — I exist, the universe exists, and both are incredibly complex with systems that work so intricately together that they can’t be anything but designed. For the atheist, the answer also seems simple — it doesn’t make sense that there could be a Creator or Designer (though the actual philosophical reasoning for that decision eludes me at this point). There are other evidences that I can cite, as well, for my belief. The Christian faith is a beautiful blend of faith, knowledge, and experience. I have faith that God exists because I can see this world around me and I see a creative design in it. I have faith that God exists because His Word, in the Bible, tells me so, and that Word has been rigorously tested, both by myself and many others, and everything written therein has been shown to be true and accurate (or at least enough to assure me that it is a trustworthy source for truth). My knowledge comes from my interaction with the world, from studies done by Christian organizations who have been able to provide answers that both counter those of evolution and are consistent with the teachings of the Bible. And my experience comes from my relationship with God through His Son Jesus, through the peace in my heart and the hope and the joy I experience every day because I know I live for Someone and something beyond myself, through the compendium of events that come together on a regular basis that are the result of more than mere chance. These things together convince me daily beyond shadow of a doubt that God exists, and more than that — that He is a personal God Who interacts with me each and every day. It is a personal decision, and the things that I see as proof will not convince anyone not ready to believe or anyone who does not wish to be convinced. No one has ever been argued into Heaven, and I do not hope to do so now. But this is what I believe and just a little part of why I believe it.
How do I know that Christianity is the one, true faith, that Jehovah God is the only God, and that Jesus Christ is God-made-man and our intermediary? Part of this is experiential, as I mentioned above, but that alone is not enough, even for me, since people of all faiths can say the same. The biggest part of what convinces me is that the Christian God is so completely unique, compared against all the gods of all other religions. Only Jehovah has a perfect balance of love and righteous anger, of peace and justice, of sacrifice and giving. Only Jehovah God grants all the privileges of Heaven, of an inheritance equal to Jesus Christ, to those who accept it — as a **free gift**! Only Jehovah God gives us everything and expects nothing from us in return. Only Jehovah God sent a part of Himself in human form to do what no man could do so that all men could live with Him in peace. You won’t find that in any other religion in the world. It is unique to the Christian God, and it is so perfect and wonderful that I am compelled to believe and to strive every day to live in a way that is pleasing to a God that would and could be so bountiful and gracious in His love. And I find that even His judgment is fair and loving, when He seeks to discipline me and bring me back to a right relationship with Him.