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Sep 28

Intention in Eden

I recently claimed that Adam and Eve were not morally culpable for disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. I’d like to explain why I think this a bit more.

Imagine you are getting a soda from a dispensing machine. You put your money in, press the button for Pepsi, and retrieve your soda. Unknown to you, an evil scientist has rigged the Pepsi button to an electric chair. By purchasing that soda, you also killed a man strapped into the chair. Are you morally culpable for his death?

It doesn’t seem like you should be since we are generally only concerned with intentional action. In the case above, we have an intentional action–purchasing a soda–and an unintended (perhaps even unpredictable) consequence–electrocuting a man. While pressing the button technically does both things, we certainly did not intend both. This seems to parallel nicely with an example used by Anscombe. A man is sawing a plank that happens to belong to Smith. He can be sawing a plank intentionally without sawing Smith’s plank intentionally.

With that understanding, let’s take a second look at Adam and Eve while in Eden. God commanded them not to eat of the tree of knowledge. They did not, however, have moral knowledge (since that didn’t come until after they ate from the tree). So, they disobeyed God’s command intentionally and they ate from the tree intentionally. But they did not do something wrong intentionally. The moral wrongdoing was clearly unintentional. They could not know that either of the properly intentional actions were also describable as wrong without moral knowledge, just as you did not know that your action of releasing a soda was also describable as an execution.

Thus, God’s punishment of them was unjust.

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49 comments

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  1. Dawn Hughes

    After reading your post titled, “Intention in Eden”, I had to wonder what drug you took to come up with such a ridiculous claim, “God’s punishment of them was unjust”. How do you know then when to punish your small child? When he does something wrong? NO. The answer is, when he does something wrong after you told him directly not to do it and what would happen if he does do it. So simple even a child can understand this logic. You may reason, “well the child disobeyed because he didnt understand the punishment because he has never been punished before.” Does this justify the child? The child may think, I know mommy told me not to eat the cookie before dinner or else I could’nt play outside but I don’t even know whats out there to do. So the child eats the cookie, then realizes all her little friends were out there. She knows better not to disobey mom next time but that didn’t change the original punishment. The child was still punished even though she didn’t fully understand the repercussions. Notice also a child CAN reason things out even though they are inexperienced with life. She knew what she was doing was wrong but decided to do it anyway for lack of fear and desire for pleasure more than desire to please her mom. If a child can understand what disobedience means then certainly the first man and woman that God created would have this type of intelligence. After all, they were created perfect in Gods image and had the wisdom to name every animal. Even though they were innocent and free of sin, not knowing what sin was, God still gave them the wisdom to know not to doubt him and his ONE comandment. If you don’t believe this, just examine the conversation between Eve and the snake. God told them not to eat of the fruit of one tree. He gave them all the other fruits imaginable. He didn’t deprive them one bit. And in his mercy and justice, he even gave them a heads up on what would happen if they did eat the forbiden fruit. Something he did’nt have to do. We serve a just God. The problem is some people simply don’t want to listen to him. They want to do things their own way.

  2. Mike

    Dawn,

    After reading your comment I had to wonder what drug you took to claim that a woman had a conversation with a talking snake or that there is such a thing as forbidden fruit.

    As for everything else, it’s very hard to follow and kind of rambling, but I think this should be sufficent to respond. When you punish a child, either the chiild understands that some action is wrong or the child does not.

    If the child does not understand, then any just punishment will merely be as a means of guiding future action through conditioning and trying to teach that something is wrong. A severe punishment would not be appropriate in such a case. As a side note, for the child to ever be able to grasp this and start reasoning about what it means for something to be wrong, they must first have moral knowledge so this can’t possibly describe what God was doing in Eden.

    If the child does understand that an action is wrong, then, yes, in some sense your punishment is justified. However, this does not accurately describe Adam and Eve as presented in the Bible. So, your analogy fails under either interpretation.

  3. Mike

    I’ll also just point out that you failed to interact with the post. Is the person buying the soda morally culpable for the unintentional action?

  4. Dawn

    stay there, I just had an awsome responce but lost it because I dint put my email address. I have to redo it

  5. Dawn

    Mike,
    I’m so glad you responded to my blog, even though you disagreed. After all I didnt expect to meet other christians on this website. But in response to you, I must say I now understand the point (reason why you believe this way on this specific topic)
    when you reiterated from the original post that Adam and Eve didn’t have moral knowledge. According to Webster, moral means this-conforming to accepted or established principles of right conduct or capable of recognizing and conforming to the rules of right conduct. Did Adam and Eve know to do right? Of course they did? Eve told the snake, “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it (the forbidden fruit) neither shall ye touch it lest ye die.” this scripture proves she knew what death was. Remember disobedience is also sin. She may not have know what me and you know today, like what curse words are or murder, but she did know what God wanted her to know. The reason she disobeyed God was because the devil tempted her.

  6. dawn

    dont mind my grammatical errors. I just got off night shift 🙂

  7. Mike

    Eve could not have properly understood words like “shall” without moral knowledge. So, even if she used the word in a sentence it doesn’t mean she understood it. You also have still not interacted with the content of the post.

    Now, even if you are correct that Eve had moral knowledge prior to eating the fruit, then that doesn’t actually get you out of trouble. You could then say that God was not unjust, but you would have to say that the Bible story is false. I’m happy with either conclusion.

  8. dawn

    I hope you are a person who sincerly is seeking truth, not just an argument.

  9. dawn

    The bible says that people would not be won to him through argument but through them seeing his goodness.

  10. dawn

    and that wont get you out of trouble either and your conclusion wont end happy. The bible is still real and so is a burning hell. Dont make the mistake of going there when someone is trying to show you the way out.

  11. Mike

    Dawn,

    There is no reliable way of coming to truth except through argument (by argument, I mean some mode of reasoning through premises to a conclusion). Here, you might think, “But I’ve got a way to get truth without argument. I can read the Bible.”

    This is a mistake. You are still using something like this:

    1. God exists.
    2. He has revealed himself in the Bible.
    3. Therefore, I can learn truth from the Bible.

    I’ve skipped over some supporting points there, but you get the idea. We all use reasoning to come to any conclusions of truth. I’m simply making us go through it explicitly to recognize any false premises. So, it is not correct to claim that by engaging in arguments like this, I am not seeking the truth. I am in fact doing a more rigorous job of seeking it than people who do not engage in such arguments that take their premises for granted.

    By the way, threatening Hell will gain no traction here. That is a fool’s concern.

    Thank you.

  12. dawn

    After reading your background, I can guess where things went wrong for you. Most of Christianity has gone south reminding me of what Revered Ernest Angley preached in his famous sermon titled, “I blame christianity.” If it wasnt for his ministry I would surley be on the same boat as you, maybe not as far down the river though. Most of the christians I know are lukewarm and will probably never make it to heaven, sad to say. however, there is a small remnant that has emerged from a called out people who came from a called out people. The bible refers to this group as the bride of christ. Not everyone claiming to be part of this group is. Ther are extreme conditions that first must be met. this bride will be eligable for the one flight out, known to most as the rapture. this group is so small most people dont hardly recognize them, even mainstream christians ( in the united states that is). They possess the true power of God and are living completely free of all sin. The bible refers to a highway paved by Jesus that reaches heaven and nothing unclean shall pass over it. If you want more information of living free of sin I will give you references to Angley’s books that discussed this and he backs it up with hundereds of scripture. Christians in the United States simple dont belivieve this, and that is why the church has lost its effectiveness and power. The bible says the soul that sinneth will surley die. If you recieve salvation, then willfully sin, you will then have lost your salvation until you repent of that sin. There is no such thing as once saved always saved. The true bride speaks in tongues not at will but as the spirit gives them utterance. This means they dont control the language whatsover and its not mumbling like what you hear in most churches. They lay hands on the sick, and they do recover. The pentacostal churches (including assemblies of God) have forsaken many of the truths they once held dear. In fact you probably never learned correctly most truths. For example, God did not know Adam and Eve would sin. Why? Because he had the power not to look into their future. he had to trust them just as much as he wanted them to trust him. And that meant he did not trust them if he looked into their future. The scripture proves this when God said years later that it repented him that he ever made man because of how evil they became (before the flood). Its no wonder things never made complete sense to you. The mainstream christians also paint their idea of creation as the earth being only 6000 years old but the Earth is indeed more than 6,000 years old. The bible does not teach otherwise. People just dont know how to disern this. Anyway, please don’t give up on God. there is another side to him that I’m sure you’ve never encounterd. dont be fooled by vain philosophies or discouraged by lukewarm christians that are in worse trouble than you – as the bible warns. God wants to show you his love and power. its far better that the eye could ever see, So thats why he gave us the eye of faith.

  13. Mike

    Yes, here is a classic example of the problem. You say I must have gone astray in my background. Of course, my argument has nothing to do with my background. It only has to do with the stated premises. Your comment is irrelevant.

    It can’t be that I’m just right, could it? I must just not have access to the same special truth as you. It is because of people like you that Poe’s Law exists.

  14. Ryan

    Mike,

    I would still argue that the Christian has a way out: Adam and Eve may have always had the potential for knowledge of good and evil. The actual knowledge they received from the fruit (they covered their naked bodies up, for example) was equivalent to commands from God itself, just without the middleman. They no longer needed God to teach them right from wrong.

    I don’t think that this reading interprets the passages loosely, but perhaps you can find that it conflicts with some other elements of Christian theology. If that is the case, then you can strengthen your argument.

    Dawn,

    You may want to read the other posts on this blog rather than base your opinion of Mike and even atheism in general on his background and this single entry. You don’t appear to have had much interaction with intellectual atheists, given what you wrote about how mainstream Christianity does not conform to Biblical teachings. First of all, it doesn’t really matter because the belief system itself has not been (and cannot be) proven true through use of the Bible alone, so you won’t be changing anyone’s mind that way. Second, we don’t appear to have any more reason to accept your interpretation of the Bible than that of anyone else. I guarantee that you can find Biblical scholars and apologists who would disagree with you and make just as good (if not better) a case than you.

    What you need to understand above all is that we are not atheists because we are, in your words, “discouraged by lukewarm Christians” or simply “want to do things [our] own way.” It might be easier and convenient for you to believe that, but it is not the case. And if you think our “philosophies” (whatever you mean by that) are vain, then you might as well stick to your own anti-intellectual crowd, because you will get nowhere with us. If there is any hope for you to change our minds, it is through rigorous logic and/or compelling empirical data. If you cannot or will not go to these lengths, then save everyone some time by either staying silent or leaving.

  15. Mike

    Ryan, that would do it but I don’t think it is the clear choice for interpretation (of course we’re talking about Genesis so there is something ironic about the whole discussion anyway). My argument depends on saying that moral knowledge was not had until eating the fruit. I feel like that fits the text best. The only thing represented by God’s command is the notion of cause and effect. “If you eat it, then you will surely die.” This does not denote anything about wrongness unless we bring something into the text. Eve later repeats this same thing only indicating she understands that eating of the fruit will cause death.

  16. Mike

    Just to add to that – Based on this discussion, we might add that they chose knowledge and death over their prior existence intentionally, but they still did not choose something wrong intentionally. Yet, we have the idea that god is punishing them for doing something wrong. They didn’t just die. It wasn’t just a simple bringing about of the effect.

  17. Ryan

    What about Gen. 3:17?

    “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”…'”

    This suggests that there was either more to the exchange at the time or we are reading 2:17 too strictly. In that verse, God says,

    “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

    God appears to give a reason for the command that is pragmatic rather than moral, but perhaps the “must not” has a moral weight on its own as a command from God.

  18. Mike

    I agree that is how you and I read “must not” but how can we give such a reading to Adam without blatantly bringing something into the story? I think it’s a better explanation to recognize that the author(s) of Genesis were not exactly capable writers in terms of putting together a coherent story. Just a short while later, for example, it mentions Cain’s wife, but the only people who have existed so far are Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able. Who is the wife? Now, it’s possible to come up with a story – God used more magic to make more people – but how is that justified over simply rejecting the story as giving a correct description of a literal event? This practice of bringing outside things in to make a story work threatens literalism a great deal. Sure they can bring in their own stuff to try and resolve problems, but then you cannot justify stopping at any point short of contradicting yourself. It’s a slippery slope.

  19. Ryan

    You might recall this from my exchange with George some time ago:

    According to Genesis 1, God creates vegetation on the third day and mankind on the sixth day. According to Genesis 2:5-7, God creates Adam before plants exist.

    We could read this as an error or we could infer that God created more people after Adam.

    I prefer to give the Bible/Christian the benefit of the doubt in these cases. I happen to think that neither this account of mankind’s creation nor my explanation for the punishment of Adam and Eve genuinely reaches outside the text. Just because these solutions don’t appear in the text as stated doesn’t mean that they clash with it or assume too much. They are simply reasonable possibilities. Is God obligated to explain everything through the Bible?

    Now, if a Christian were to argue that the meaning of “death” in God’s warning actually referred to separation from God, literalism would have to be thrown out. That is nothing more than working backwards from an assumption to a justification, which could explain away just about anything. If God declared in one verse that 2+2=4 and in another verse that 2+2=5, you can be sure that many Christians would develop some creative reading to avoid the problem. I just don’t put my specific attempt to play Devil’s (God’s?) advocate here in the same category as such loose interpretation.

    If our goal is to change theists’ minds, we should make sure that our primary arguments are our best arguments in that they leave no room for the readings I’ve offered. Everything else may seem reasonable to us, but is not really convincing to them. Or maybe I’m just more lenient on these matters.

  20. Naumadd

    You could as easily say that eating from the tree drove Adam and Eve insane rather than giving them knowledge of right and wrong. They became ashamed of their bodies, their nakedness, i.e., self-loathing. Such a mindset is characteristic of an unhealthy mind, not a healthy one. If you believe this particular origin story, the species has been insane ever since. The continued “war on sex” by today’s conservatives is evidence enough of that.

    At any rate, science has shown it is impossible for today’s population of humans to have originated from a single male and female. In fact, as I understand it, they’re unable to reduce the “origin” population down to anything less than 10,000 people. In other words, no Adam, no Eve, no “Garden of Eden”, no punishment – nothing really to learn from Genesis, and no need of the so-called Christ’s redemption which is most likely pure invention or political purposes.

    If nothing else, the one important, no, indispensable lesson to take from the Genesis story is that self-loathing has no place in a human life. It’s the psychological equivalent of cutting off one’s own arm and eating it to keep from starving.

  21. Mike

    Naumadd,

    I completely agree that we are justified in rejecting Genesis based on science alone.

    I don’t know why, but inerrancy really bugs me. So, I’ve tried to go about attacking it on numerous fronts. It can be attacked based on science. It can be attacked based on biblical scholarship. It can be attacked based on just its internal coherence. And it can be attacked based on philosophy (like if God is good, then we have a pretty tough time explaining why he killed all the children in Egypt). I’ve also attacked it just on the basis of its improbability. If I can successfully cover all fronts, then I’d say there is nowhere left to hide.

    Of course,even if I provide a really good argument they may, as Ryan has often pointed out, just retreat to irrational justifications at that point and not care. Dawn’s comments on this post provide a pretty good example of that. 🙂

  22. Naumadd

    I suppose the important thing to understand is any discussion with a mystic – i.e., anyone who believes in a supernatural, spirits, gods, goddesses, fairies, blah blah blah – can only be pseudo intellectual.

    We are all born with the tools to judge what is right and what is wrong – eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, a nervous system and brain. It takes little time to discover and decide that pleasure is preferable to pain. We begin to form values from day one. As I understand it, in the story, Adam and Eve are born “perfect”. This means they had the necessary tools for value formation without having ever even heard of or seen or eaten from a silly tree. Once created, they didn’t actually need a god to tell them right from wrong – they were fully capable of learning that for themselves. As I understand also from the mythology, this “god” is the creator of everything. In all likelihood, the snake was intentional so the whole story is what might be called “The First Mind Fuck”. If it were true, it’d also be the first sound reason to turn away from this mean-spirited and untrustworthy “god”.

    At any rate, without the existence of such a thing, that just leaves mean-spirited and untrustworthy people to ignore. For the most part, that’s easy.

  23. Dawn

    Mike, or anyone else,
    Have you checked out crossexamined.org or read their book, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” by Norman Geisler or Frank Turek? I haven’t read it but I have watched their T.V. show, (titled same as the book). quite compelling and interesting. They’ve shown debates against some pretty high ranking atheists.

  24. Mike

    I know of the book, but I have not read it. I tried to read ‘If God, why evil?’ by Geisler and it wasn’t very good. I’m familiar with Turek, too. I’m not particularly impressed by either of them. I also don’t know what you mean by high ranking atheists. Popular, maybe? You probably mean people like Dawkins and Hitchens. I respect them for bringing atheism into a popular arena and all atheists really owe them some amount of gratitude, but I don’t think many points brought against them in debate would apply to me. Our styles and content are quite different.

  25. Dawn

    What do you mean by that last sentence.

  26. Mike

    For style, I mean they use things like derision and certain rhetorical tools to make points. While I sometimes do those things, most of my arguments are presented in the style of analytic philosophy.

    For content, I mean we have different arguments. One of Dawkins favorite arguments, for example, is to say that a creator would probably be more complex than its creation, so ID only serves to push the problem back one level. It doesn’t solve anything.

    Now, I agree with that argument against a specific claim but it doesn’t cover what philosophers are saying. That’s what I try to do, among other things.

  27. Ryan

    Dawn,

    I also haven’t read that particular book, but we do address theists and their arguments. We’re not just tossing our own arguments out there and patting ourselves on the back for a good job. I happen to prefer a medium like this blog, since books don’t allow for interaction. It’s all too easy to read one and walk away, content with the belief that you now have the truth. Now, I would be happy to address the book’s arguments here if you would present the best of them, but you should at least scan Mike’s other posts to see if he already has. Alternatively, you could just look up old or existing discussions on the subject on the rest of the internet.

    On another note…

    One point I always raise with those who argue against atheism is that, even if atheism were proven false, the theist would still have a lot of work to do to prove his own religion. I don’t particularly care whether some Creator exists or not; what matters is how that being’s existence affects my life. If you can’t prove that this being wants me to follow a particular set of rules or even cares about us in the first place, then I see no reason to make it a part of my life. Even science would be unaffected unless you could pinpoint where we must concede a divine rather than natural cause.

    The bulk of atheistic arguments, then, is directed towards particular deities. You theists have your apologists to attempt to reconcile apparent textual inconsistencies or respond to atheistic criticism, but this is largely defensive. Even if I accepted that apologists could explain every problem with Christianity away without reducing the Bible to a pile of loosely interpreted mush, I would still have no reason to believe. It is not enough to establish that something could be true; one must establish that it is. I maintain that this is the biggest weakness of every religion and that theists have done a remarkably poor job of addressing it.

  28. Ryan

    Naumadd,

    You said,

    “We are all born with the tools to judge what is right and what is wrong – eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, a nervous system and brain. It takes little time to discover and decide that pleasure is preferable to pain. We begin to form values from day one. As I understand it, in the story, Adam and Eve are born “perfect”. This means they had the necessary tools for value formation without having ever even heard of or seen or eaten from a silly tree. Once created, they didn’t actually need a god to tell them right from wrong – they were fully capable of learning that for themselves.”

    Although it is ridiculous to us, the typical Christian literalist believes (or thinks he believes) that morality is independent of reason and the senses, that it is instead defined purely by God in one way or another. This is at the root of their rejection of secular ethics. It’s also one of the more frustrating tenets of their belief system, since it renders questions like “Why?” irrelevant. Why is it wrong for humans to murder? Why is it okay for God to murder? Because God said so. That’s all you need to know!

  29. Randy Everist

    I don’t know if this has already been addressed, but it has not been the church’s traditional position that Adam and Eve possessed no moral knowledge. In fact, it has been the traditional position that possessing moral knowledge is what it means to be in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27 with Ephesians 4:24 and John 4:22-24 I believe). It’s telling that something created after the image of God, biblically, is in righteousness and holiness. Yet that entails goodness, not mere neutrality, and surely they knew themselves (to a certain degree). Further, the textual language used indicates the composite state of affairs; that of “good and evil.” It doesn’t follow that if “Randy does not do A &B” that Randy does neither A nor B. It really is a negation of both states of affairs. There was no evil. This is consistent with the point of the narrative–that is, the point of how evil was introduced into the world. Now if the Hebrew construction demanded the negation be applied both to good and evil in an explicit way (and not the confusing mess that was my English sentence above), one may have a point. But it does not.

    So we see that this is against the traditional position of the church, is against the theological interpretation of what a person created in the image of God is, is not textually required, and does not comport with the context.

  30. Mike

    Ryan brought up that a Christian might reject my reading of the passage. I am admittedly at the mercy of the accepted interpretation for this to work.

  31. Dawn

    Ryan,

    I assume you might have been raised in some church denomination or have had christians try to reason or witness Jesus to you. That being said, I wonder what knowlege you really have about the christian faith. You said even if athiesm was proven false, then there would still be a problem with proving God as wanting to be personally involved in each life (I summarized). My question is this- If “you” are right (there is no God) then I have absolutly nothing to worry about. However if “I” am right, you will be left with only eternal regret. Which is worse? By the way, anyone can respond to my question here.

  32. Ryan

    Dawn,

    My mother is the daughter of a Baptist minister, my father comes from a somewhat charismatic branch, and, because neither of them was happy with any church in our area, I was exposed to non-denominational, Lutheran, Methodist, and other churches over time. My wife has a Catholic background. I have read the Bible as well as the writings of some apologists, historians, religious philosophers, and archaeologists. At what point does one “know” the Christian faith? Is it when I know your interpretation of the Bible? Why not these ten others I just read about? It has become a frustrating game to me, an exercise in moving the goalposts and the No True Scotsman fallacy and much more. It is like facing the Hydra: eliminate one head from consideration only to find that two more spring up. In fact, the problem of interpretation has become one of my primary arguments against religion in general.

    As for your question: we call that Pascal’s Wager. There are two main criticisms of the argument:

    1.) It assumes that God conforms to your understanding of it. Suppose instead that the real God rewards those who do not accept Christianity. Suddenly the wager seems silly, right? There is no guarantee that God’s existence means anything good for any given theist nor anything bad for any given atheist.

    2.) The wager cannot compel faith in the first place. It might compel the semblance of faith, as in the case of one who fearfully goes through the motions of some religion in order to save himself, but that is inauthentic. Surely an omniscient God would see right through the ruse anyway.

  33. Dawn

    Ryan,
    It truly melts my heart to read your thoughts and personal struggle to find what is truth. I am not out to criticise or judge anybody. In fact I just got the internet in August and found this website browsing the other day. I thought it would be interesting to see how athiests reason their beliefs or what motivates them to keep the debate going. I may not be very educated on world religions or have the right vocabulary to express my views, but I do have one thing going for me. That is my love for souls. Whether you except God or not, I know that your soul still came from him. That means you will live forever. Either in heaven or hell.
    Your response to Pascal’s Wager (I just learned a new term)- made complete sense. And you are absolutley right, I just never thought of it that way. Fear will not cause convicition, only condemnation. Thats probably why Jesus never used it to inflluence others. The bible said perfect love casteth out all fear.
    Jesus (I think) said, “He that sayeth there is a God does well, for even the devil believes.”
    You asked, “At what point does one “know” the Christian faith? Is it when I know your interpretation of the Bible?”
    No. One “knows” the christian faith when one comes into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ after realizing he is a sinner in need of a savior and asks him to forgive his sins come into his heart. This is strictly experience based. No one can take away my personal experience of salvation. Not all the logic in the world could take away what I recieved. It gave me a higher high than any drug and a love so deep I could have died right then to save my worst enemy. In fact it was then I realized people were not my true enemies. All the anger and rage I had against people, I learned to direct right on the devil, the enemy of my soul. My interpretation of the bible won’t help you. And it’s not my job to convict or convince you. That is strictly the job of the holy spirit, even though he will use people lead you to the knowledge of him. If you are truly SINCERE (I greatly stress that word) in your search for truth, ask God tonight, “God if you are real, reveal yourself to me in a way I cannot doubt.” Mean this from your heart, not your logic. See what He will do for you. my prayers are with you

  34. Mike

    Dawn,

    I understand why you find the wager appealing. I can tell you from many conversations with atheists, though, that I’ve never met one of us that finds it compelling. Whether that’s right or wrong of us, it’s just not an effective argument. So, if your hope is to provide compelling reasons to atheists, then the wager probably will not be very helpful to you.

  35. Ryan

    Dawn,

    You said: “If you are truly SINCERE (I greatly stress that word) in your search for truth, ask God tonight, ‘God if you are real, reveal yourself to me in a way I cannot doubt.’ Mean this from your heart, not your logic.”

    This is the part where I tell you that I’ve done this before, but got no response. Then you tell me that I wasn’t actually sincere.

    By branding everyone who searches for but never finds God as insincere, claiming that a seemingly unanswered prayer was actually answered in a way we do not understand, and so on, you make your faith impossible to falsify (nothing anyone could claim about the above could ever disprove your belief) and leave yourself vulnerable to cognitive biases. If you’re not sure what I mean by cognitive biases, check out Wikipedia’s list of them (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases) and spend some time reading. Confirmation bias is particularly appropriate here.

    No one is trying to take away your “personal experience of salvation.” But I would like to point out that how you interpret that experience very likely says more about you and your preconceptions than the experience itself. There may be great appeal in associating it with a particular religion, but if you really want to be intellectually honest, you have to ask and be able to answer questions like:

    Do people of other faiths have such experiences?
    Do people of no faith ever have such experiences?
    Could there be a natural explanation for this experience?
    Am I making too big a leap from my experience to the belief that my entire interpretation of the Bible is accurate?
    If I weren’t already Christian or predisposed to Christian beliefs, how would I interpret my experience?

    The list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start.

    I’m glad that, after gaining access to the internet, you chose to interact with atheists on their own turf, so to speak, rather than assume you knew all you needed to know about us. That curiosity is a good sign.

  36. Dawn

    Ryan,
    I did not ask you, “have you done this before?”, I said “ask God tonight”. There is a difference you know. I also did not say you weren’t sincere because I didn’t even know you ever asked God that question. It’s ok though. I know if what you said was true, that you are sincere to find truth, God will not give up on you, even though you think you gave up on him (possibly). I draw that conclusion from you write not what’s in your soul. Only God knows that.
    Also read my initial response to interview with pasor Allen. thanks

  37. Ryan

    Dawn,

    What is the significant difference between asking in the past for God to reveal itself and asking it now to do the same? God should have done so when I still thought that the Bible could be true. I can’t spend my life holding on to every single dubious (or apparently false) claim I encounter just because it could end up being true. At this point, I would be incapable of asking with sincerity. I could change my mind about God, but consider me a Doubting Thomas: I would need direct contact with divinity. It is also not enough to “know in my heart” that it is true, since that sort of “knowledge” is routinely among the most deceptive.

    And suppose I did have such an experience. How, then, do I make the leap from bare theism to Christianity? Why not to Islam or Buddhism or some pagan faith or no religion at all? This is partly why I brought up the cognitive biases. I am predisposed to the Christian religion because I was raised as one and live in the US. Had I been raised a Muslim in the Middle East or a Buddhist in the East, I would interpret my experiences quite differently. In fact, from one perspective, I might have merely met one of many deities! So this divine experience would also have to include some strong evidence (or proof, if it’s not too much to ask) for a particular religion.

    Even then, I might retain some doubts, depending on the nature of the experience. It would not be intellectually honest of me to accept that experience as a basis for knowledge if I would not accept a similar experience as a basis for other knowledge. People do hallucinate, after all, and those hallucinations are experiences as well. I suppose that I could insist that I am not crazy, but I wouldn’t be the first crazy person to do so.

    The point is: God has a veritable gauntlet to pass through if it wants to prove itself to me.

  38. Dawn

    Ryan,
    You made statements like, “when I still thought that the Bible could be true” and, “At this point, I would be incapable of asking with sincerity”.

    Don’t ever let go. Everyone is capable of asking with sincerity. Search your heart. What’s in there that puts up such a resistance? I know you are full of doubts but if God did not exist, neither would we. We are a part of him. Athiests try to use science to prove there is no God, which I can see why. Science won’t find him (although the evidence does point to a supreme being). He lives outside this natural world we see. If he was part of this world, we would all be designed as robots. But just because he resides in a superior dimension does not mean he cannot not communicate himself to us.
    Don’t assume God does not exist based on there being more that one religion. If God exists, only one has to be true. Most are man made with the help of the devil. It seems like this whole blog attacks christianity more than any other religion. That should be a red flag. Why not treat them equally. The devil for sure knows which one is true.
    So to conclude, the question should not be “Is there a God”, but rather “What religion teaches the truth of him?”
    “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by undertanding hath he established the heavens.” Proverbs 3:19
    “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5.

  39. Mike

    Dawn,

    I just want to point out that there is a very simple explanation why I mostly discuss Christianity, and it has nothing to do with me secretly being drawn to it or me considering it the most legitimate of world religions. I was raised a Christian. Almost everyone I know is Christian. Part of my academic training was in New Testament Studies. Quite frankly, I know about Christianity in a way that I don’t know about other religions. There isn’t anything mystical behind it.

    As far as your views on the devil, etc., I think someone has been feeding you a load of rubbish.

  40. Ryan

    Dawn,

    You didn’t really address the problems I raised in the last two posts. Anyone who is intellectually honest should be living a life according to his ability to address those concerns.

    I don’t assume that God doesn’t exist because there are multiple religions. I brought those up because there is definitely a problem with jumping from a basic belief in a deity to the acceptance of a particular religion. It would be dishonest of me to assume Christianity is true simply because I have a predisposition towards it due to my culture and upbringing.

    You claim that other religions are manmade with help from evil forces, but they could say the same about yours!

    You claim that atheists try to disprove God with science, but I’m not sure how we would do that. If God is, by definition, outside the realm of science, then we cannot use science to disprove it. You say this yourself, and we recognize it. At best, science combats theism indirectly by showing that God is not necessary to explain our world. For example: we no longer believe that the Sun is a god or that the rain has a divine source. Or we might uncover more cognitive biases, locate areas of the brain whose size or activity correlate in some way to religious belief, etc. Again, these are all indirect; no reasonable atheist is saying that science actually, definitively disproves God.

    You claim: “if God did not exist, neither would we.” But what you don’t see is that such an argument is only convincing to someone who already believes in God. So much of common religious (not just Christian) belief is circular and self-fulfilling. We’re seeing it right here.

    You ask me: “What’s in there that puts up such a resistance?” But there is no “resistance.” There is only a reasonable, well-informed skepticism that I would apply to any other life-changing philosophy. Furthermore, how can I be resisting if there is no force pressuring me? If I ever have an apparently divine experience, I may struggle to reconcile it with my existing worldview. Until then, however, there is no struggle. I won’t be holding my breath.

    And, like Mike, I focus on Christianity precisely because it is the religion with which I am most familiar, that has had the most influence in my life, and that continues to be the dominant force in this country. The only other religion that seems worth addressing right now is Islam, but Christians seem to be leading the attack on that faith just fine all by themselves.

  41. Dawn

    Ryan states, ” If I ever have an apparently divine experience, I may struggle to reconcile it with my existing worldview. Until then, however, there is no struggle. I won’t be holding my breath.”
    Of course you would struggle to reconcile with it. You would have to give it up completely and go a whole different direction. Could this be why you don’t seek after such an experience? The idea of starting at ground zero would certainly sound frustrating. I say “sound” because it would be opposite of a bad thing.
    Anyway If there’s really no struggle where your at now, why keep going. You’ve decided there is no God, or at least a personal God, thus there is no religion, but your past statement conflicts with you saying there is no struggle.

    ” It has become a frustrating game to me, an exercise in moving the goalposts and the No True Scotsman fallacy and much more. It is like facing the Hydra:”

    May I just point out that this “game” your in is not going to end nor will it ever become less frustrating. People will never stop talking about Jesus, or God or an afterlife. Even the Native American Indians believed there was a supreme being, this being without the help of outside forces. They may not have known Jesus’s name but it was inherient in them to know they had a creator. And although knowledge has increased, there are still as many people of faith today as there’s ever been.
    The definition of hallucination is this: a sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind, caused by various physical and mental disorders or by reaction to certain toxic substances, and usually manifested as visual or auditory images
    So the likelyhood of you having a hallucination during prayer is highly unlikey when ruling out drugs or mental disorders. And my experience did not involve any visual or auditory images though some may have this happen. I have had hallucinations in the past but have never correlated that with being a divine experience. (I woke up from a dream with my eyes open and saw an insect crawling on the wall, then realized my mind was playing tricks on me) Most people that have had real hallucinations know its nothing special. An experience with God is completely different. Of course the devil can couterfeit himself and give false experiences but I won’t discuss that here.

    I’m not sure what else I can say. If you don’t want a divine experience (by this I really mean salvation or an experience leading to it), then that is not what you’ll get, but nothing else will ever change your mind. This I agree with you. If it wasn’t for my experiences, I simply wouldn’t care about God, whether he was real or not. I did not persue God, he persued me. I remember being so miserable. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t think clearly. I would bang my head against the wall. ‘God, leave me alone! I don’t want you right now! Go away!” I wasn’t going to church, nor was I around other christians. Deep down I knew this was my time to surrender. If I didn’t act soon, God may never deal with me again. Scripture says, “My spirit will not always strive with man” When I finally did, it felt like a thousands pounds lifted off me. I was free!. “Who the son sets free is free indeed.” Everything looked different. The grass was greener, the sky was bluer, my eyes shined brighter. My thought life changed. I wasn’t thinking negative thoughts all the time. Its like heavens thoughts were being poured right into me. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Without this experience nothing else will persuade you. I could talk all day about this issue, that issue, this grey area, that grey area and so on. It won’t bring you peace. I know where peace comes from and its not in intellectualism. If that were the case you would be the most peaceful character on God’s green earth.

    Mike,
    You said “As far as your views on the devil, etc., I think someone has been feeding you a load of rubbish.”
    It’s better than the load your feeding people. And may I add also, If your trying to make a case against christianity, don’t interview pastors that have never even witnessed a miracle. Like Gideon I have to ask, “If God be here, where are the miracles”. In other words I would never go to a church like that. Why don’t you and Ryan take a trip to Ohio and visit Ernest Angley’s Grace Cathedral. Every friday night they have a miracle/ healing line. From what I’ve heard and read in the past, there have been people like youselves trying to disprove God and went up to get a “fake miracle” but dropped to the floor before even getting on the stage. Wouldn’t that be an experience to remember!

  42. Mike

    As soon as he heals an amputee by regenerating a limb, please let me know.

  43. Dawn

    many body parts have been regenerated and any good investigator or scientist would want to be at the scene. It won’t kill you to go.

  44. Mike

    Oh? Do tell. Whose body parts have been regenerated? What were their names? What were the body parts? What is the source of your information?

  45. Mike

    Here is one person’s recap of an Ernest Angley heal-a-thon. http://wakanaka.blogspot.com/2007/03/ernest-angley-sad-shadow-of-miracle-man.html

    Still waiting on those regeneration of body parts details.

  46. Dawn

    Wow, did you read the commentaries at the end. Many were in stong favor of Ernest Angley and defended his ministry. God does the healing, not him. That was one person’s experience, why not go so you can write your own??

  47. Mike

    I already told you what I’m seeking as evidence. Where are the amputee regenerations? From Gid’s perspective it’s no different than any other miracle. You claimed that many body parts have been regenerated. Why are the details? No distractions. No nonsense. Just answer the questions I asked above. Thanks.

  48. Dawn

    ok mike, you win. I dont have any of this specific information. But don’t you still want to go and see for yourself what may take place?

  49. Naumadd

    I’m quite certain if it was actually taking place, it would swiftly or eventually be headline news. Scientists especially would be falling over themselves to examine what evidence there is to verify or invalidate the claims. Usually, when individuals place a lot of faith in a god or goddess or what have you, they place very little if any faith in their fellow man. I have faith that human beings will discover the truth or falsehood of any particlar claim and pass their findings along to others. I also trust that there are many who will continue to believe outlandish claims because they want to believe them even without rational reason for doing so. I am not one of them. There are many like me. Perhaps we do not have the psychological need to believe things simply to believe in something. I am not that spiritually empty and never have been. The meat of my spirituality doesn’t require anyone to just simply take my word for it. It comes from what is real. To me, if it isn’t easily identifed as real, easily identified as genuine by anyone taking the time to look at it, it isn’t part of my spirituality. Like you, it isn’t dependent on their believing as I do, but I know what I believe is absolutely open to challenge and undefeatable. Why undefeatable? Because of what Francis Bacon once said – “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” Sure, you can challenge what is real, but the real always wins. That’s why we call it “real”. You cannot “sin” against the real because, ultimately, you cannot break its rules. There is free will only to a point. U do a thing only because nature allows it.

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