Monday, December 06, 2010

Apologist Interview: Holly Ordway

Today's interview is with Holly Ordway, professor of English and literature and author of Not God's Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. She talks about her background as an atheist, her encounters with Christians in the past, the influence of literature and poetry, personal influences from others, looking at arguments for the existence of God, counter-arguments against God, psychological explanations, her encounter with Christ, her advice to skeptics and her advice to Christian apologists.

Full Interview MP3 Audio here. (42 min)

Check out Holly's blog here, her podcast here, and her book Not God's Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. Also check out this audio which includes Holly's testimony.

Enjoy.

47 comments :

info said...

'seek truth, really ask the tough questions and what preconceptions am i bringing to the table. Do i want or not want it to be true and how do these desires affect my willingness to look at the evidence'

I love talking to people that take this stance on the big questions. I disagreed with a lot of what was said but this was right on!! I will post some of my disagreements later but this sets the tone. thanks for the interview Brian and Holly.

Russell said...

I really enjoyed this interview Brian. I have now heard Holly's story on three separate podcasts and have enjoyed it each time.

Hi Info,

I wanted to say that I have really enjoyed the discussions you have had with others who regularly post on this blog. I hope you'll stick around as it's always nice to have someone with different views who conducts themselves in such a friendly manner.

Dante said...

hi,

haven't listened to this interview yet, but i've been to her blog since last week and i really love what i found there.

is she the only apologist who deals specifically with literature in light of the christian worldview? she's such a blessing to the christian fold, being a literature professor. i think literature and apologetics are so fascinating when studied together.

Davitor said...

Yes, I truly enjoyed this interview most especially at the end when Holly brought up the issue of children with down syndrome and their inability to accept a belief that literally save them or condemned them. Its questions likes these that are thoroughly discuss at our Unity Church.

Brian Auten said...

Yes, Davitor, that was good.
It went well with the other points she made about Christianity having evidence on its side, that there are strong arguments for the existence of God and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. As Christians we don't require these evidences to believe and have faith, but they do help to show that Christianity is true and doesn't require a blind leap.

Davitor said...

One of saddest aspects I find in apologetics it's dependency on Literal interpretation on the bodily resurrection where I see it as symbolic. It's sad to think that if the bones of a man called Yeshua were ever found that you would change your belief in God, or am I wrong with this assumption?

Luke Nix said...

Great interview!

Thanks, Brian and Holly!

Brian Auten said...

Davitor,
It isn't sad to look at the evidence and rightly conclude that the original writers took this as a physical resurrection. You can see it as symbolic if you like, but that would be going against the evidence.

Yes, you are wrong in that assumption.

emmzee said...

Davitor, I concur with Brian's assessment. I wrote a paper on the topic for one of my classes, it's available here:

http://whyfaith.com/docs/THEO%200524%20-%20Research%20Essay.doc

Davitor said...

I'm happy to note that your belief in God is not dependent on a bodily resurrection. Just as I have noted many apologist don't believe on a literal interpretation of the many tombs that were open as described in Matthews 27:52.

Brian Auten said...

Davitor,
It's great that Christianity has evidence and arguments that are strong in favor of the existence of God.
It's also great that Christianity has evidence and arguments that are strong in favor of the resurrection of Jesus, a real, physical man. And that evidence points to something physical - not symbolic (or just an idea). These are the core of the Christian faith - and the hope of salvation.

The other scriptural reference you point to is an interesting discussion, but a distraction from this - which I think you should realize.

Davitor said...

How can this be a distraction when it deals directly with what was recorded as to what happened at the time Jesus died?

Brian Auten said...

Davitor,
I think the burden is on you to show how it makes any different to the arguments for the existence of God or the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

What I suggest is that you spend your time focusing on the primary issues regarding the truth of Christianity - not peripheral discussions.

It seems to me that if we are really looking for truth we have to begin with the existence of God and the evidence for Jesus' resurrection.

Davitor said...

Brian, it totally makes a difference because the evidence that you are relying on is based on Gospel claim one of which also makes the claim of the resurrecting Saints. If it’s logical to make a claim based on the Gospel then its logical to adhere to all it claims as evidence. Now you either agree that this is symbolic or also include them as part of your evidence of the resurrection. To evade from this shows that the burden of proof in on you.
And as for me all I need to show an atheists proof of the resurrection is to pick up the deadest soil of the earth and show how life springs forth from it.

Jason Engwer said...

Davitor,

How would a rejection of the Matthew 27 passage or a less literal interpretation justify a similar dismissal of every other early source that comments on Jesus' resurrection? What's the connection between reading Matthew 27 the way you're suggesting and reading the creed of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Clement of Rome, Papias, etc. in the same manner?

Regarding the Matthew 27 passage, see here for a defense of its historicity.

Regarding the historical genre of the resurrection narratives, see here.

Both the earliest Christian interpreters of the New Testament and the earliest non-Christian interpreters viewed the documents as referring to a historical, physical resurrection of Jesus. As early as the time of Papias and some church leaders Clement of Alexandria refers to as "the earliest elders", the gospels were being interpreted in a historical manner, as coming from a historical genre. Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho and Origen's Against Celsus involve both Christians and their opponents arguing on the basis of the assumption of a historical, physical resurrection as the mainstream Christian position on the issue. Celsus attributes to Christians in general the belief that Jesus rose from the dead in the same body that was in the tomb (in Origen, Against Celsus, 3:43, 8:49). Celsus is aware of exceptions (5:14), but he seems to think that a resurrection of the body that died is the mainstream Christian view (as opposed to a non-physical resurrection or one involving an exchange of bodies rather than a transformation of the body that died).

Davitor said...

emmzee, I read most of your paper but you did not mention at all about the resurrecting saints which leads me to conclude that you rather evade the subject since it weakens the bases of your evidence.

Jan said...

Hey Davitor,

I cannot really follow your logic. Why is the mentioning of the many tombs opening in Matthew relevant to the evidence for the resurrection?

There is not much in favour of that event simply because of absence of evidence, but there also no evidence to the contrary.

I would take another viewpoint on that. Because the evidence for the resurrection is so strong I would suggest that is makes a good case that other events (which cannot be tested very well based on evidence) are more likely also to be true.

I really have not looked into the Matthew 27 passage, so I really cannot comment in which way it was meant to be understood, but certainly all the writing about the resurrection make a very good case that the resurrection was not to be understood symbolical but physical.

Jason Engwer said...

Davitor wrote:

"If it’s logical to make a claim based on the Gospel then its logical to adhere to all it claims as evidence."

You've given us no reason to reject the Matthew 27 passage as an accurate description of a historical event. But let's temporarily assume, for the sake of argument, that you had done so.

Do you reject everything the Jewish historian Josephus reported about the destruction of Jerusalem, simply because he makes some other claims in his writings that are false? The historian Paul Maier writes:

"Josephus‘s accuracy and reliability as a historian have been challenged repeatedly. His free interpretation of his sources and his embellishments of the biblical record have al-ready been cited. That he had a habit of overstating for dramatic purposes is also clear. The reader must discount such hyperboles as his claim, for example, that so much blood was shed in Jerusalem during its conquest that streams of gore extinguished the fires burning there. Like most ancient historians, Josephus also had trouble with numbers...That Josephus also had a lofty opinion of himself has already been noted, and his various heroic exploits were doubtless embroidered to enhance his image. At times he is inconsistent in statements made in The Jewish War when compared with those in Antiquities, even if many of these may be understood as corrections in the latter writing on the basis of better knowledge. The discrepancies between The Jewish War and his Vita, however, are more serious. They include irreconcilable versions of a brutal incident involving Josephus‘s activities at Taricheae (Magdala) in Galilee, when enemies tried to attack him in his lodging. The accounts of his escape not only strain credibility but show a streak in his character that is more cruel than crafty. Josephus also shows a credulity in reporting that a ball fired from a Roman ballista hit a pregnant woman in Jerusalem, tearing a fetus out of her womb and projecting it a hundred yards. Besides such horrors were the presumed portents he reported during Jerusalem‘s last days: a cow supposedly gave birth to a lamb in the Jerusalem temple, visions of horses and chariots gave battle in the heavens, and the like." (The New Complete Works Of Josephus [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999], p. 14)

Yet, historians reach hundreds of conclusions about what happened in ancient history based on Josephus' testimony. His errors or alleged errors on some issues don't prevent us from trusting him on other issues. Much the same could be said of Herodotus, Tacitus, Suetonius, etc.

Furthermore, if the Matthew 27 passage is to be taken as an account written in some sort of non-historical genre, how does it follow that everything in Matthew's gospel or everything in every early source that comments on Jesus' resurrection is from that same genre? Historical narratives sometimes include poetry or other elements of a different genre within them. How would interpreting the Matthew 27 passage as metaphorical, for example, lead us to the conclusion that every relevant passage on Jesus' resurrection in every early source is likewise metaphorical?

The idea that Jesus historically taught the moral precepts of the Sermon on the Mount come from the gospels. Do you conclude, on the basis of the Matthew 27 passage, that Jesus didn't actually teach those moral precepts?

Jason Engwer said...

Davitor wrote:

"And as for me all I need to show an atheists proof of the resurrection is to pick up the deadest soil of the earth and show how life springs forth from it."

You would be proving something that wasn't under dispute. But the early Christian claim was disputed. And the early Christians didn't respond to the objections by merely "picking up the deadest soil of the earth and showing how life springs forth from it". Rather, they responded by pointing to the empty tomb, the testimony of eyewitnesses who had seen the risen Jesus, etc. The early Christians didn't argue the way you're arguing.

Davitor said...
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Davitor said...

Thank you all Gentlemen, I really do appreciate the time and effort that you have taken in order to provide what you know is proof enough for your belief of a literal resurrection. May you find peace with your understanding.

info said...

Here are a few notes on this interview from my perspective and I am an atheists.

Minute 4:37: 'Bailed on the atheist cause':

my response: this may just be a getting to much into details on the word atheist but the term most used by people I know that study religion is referring to a person that has not found enough evidence for a reason to believe in a god . This does not mean they know that no god exists. The same way I do not know fairies do not exist and have not seen the evidence. I just want to make out the point that most atheists do not have a cause or anything in common to believe in but just have one thing in common and that is that they have not found enough evidence for belief in God or gods.
----------

Minute 22:20 'Atheism offers an explanation for how the world is, Christianity offers and explanation'

my response: atheism does NOT offer an explanation. I want to be clear on this .. it does not offer an explanation on anything. It simply says it does not have sufficient evidence to believe in a god!! Please do not think atheism is an explanation for anything. Many atheists are looking for explanations (and so am I) but it is not an explanation even if many atheists come to the same conclusions.
--------------

Minute 23:00: holly talking about moral and first cause arguments and saying Christianity has a better explanation.

my response: Having an answer is not what makes something true. I personally disagree with the apologetic arguments on these. I may be wrong
--------------

Minute 23:57 'people mistake the existence of counter arguments with the disproving of arguments.'

my response: I agree. And I also think sometime people make the mistake having an explanation (even if it is not true) as being better to not having an explanation.

Minute 26 'once I set aside my preconceptions that all claims about god are false'

my response: a good skeptic should not make the preconceptions that all claims about all gods, anything supernatural or other beliefs are false.

Minute 27: 00 'Psychological explanations for god. The only time we search for a psychological explanation is after we already concluded the belief is false.'

my response: Psychologists noticed that many different religions exist, have started and stopped, all over the world. All can not be 100% correct. (they could be all about the same God but some claim they are the only path to God so they can not all be 100% true). A few explanations are possible.
- one is correct, the rest are false
- the are all partly correct
- some are correct and some are false
- they are all incorrect
(maybe other possibilities exist but I can not think of them off hand)

no matter what we decide, at minimum some aspects of some religions are false, possibly all are false. So lets try and understand them. Something is wrong about some of them and yest people really believe. Lets try and understand this.

I have a number of other disagreements with other ideas expressed of the interview but I will leave it here for now unless someone else has questions about these. I am not trying to be disrespectful to Holly, and hope I do not come of that way. I am well aware that I could be wrong and have my own bias and maybe missing some aspects or sides of the story. I am trying to learn and grow just like everyone else. I just wanted to point out some areas that just did not follow with my way of seeing the world. – I believe every person deserves equal respect but not every idea deserves equal respect.

Ex N1hilo said...

If an atheist is defined as "a person that has not found enough evidence for a reason to believe in a god;" or as "one who lacks belief in any god;" then, according to the Word of God, there are no atheists. God has made himself known to all as Creator and Judge.

If, however, we define an atheist as "a person who is actively engaged in the attempt to convince him or herself of the truth of the proposition, 'I lack belief in any god;'" then there are many such persons.

This is the cause that atheism promotes. Atheism does make a positive claim. It has its teachings and explanations and effects.

info said...
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info said...

here is the definition i use and the one on Wikipedia. "Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities."

It is not the rejections of the existence of a deity, just the belief.

I disagree with the statement atheists make a positive claim. the way it was explained to me was: imagine a person holding a quarter in their hand. you can not see it but by the way they are holding it you know that one side is facing up and one facing down. What do you believe, heads or tails. One is true, one is false. it is heads or tails is a true statement and their is a god or not a god is a true statement. that said, the atheist does not see enough evidence for a god, an observer of the hand would not see enough evidence for heads or for tails to make a definitive statement even if they do know one of them is correct. They reject the Belief, not the god. The theist does find reason and accepts the belief. The term atheist is often unfairly refereed to as a person that believes no god exists and this is a different point of view. One that is a lot harder to defend and i am not about to try and defend this. I think my definition is the definition most people that spend time thinking about Atheism agree on but I do understand that some people think it is the belief god does not exist. I tried to make that clear in my last post but must not have.

"according to the Word of God, there are no atheists" I am not sure how to go about talking about this and i may come off as offensive but i do not take the word of god as truth.

if you believe the statement "according to the Word of God, there are no atheists" and i say i am an atheist i have found a point of contention that will be hard for us to get over.

I am a truth seeker that happens to not have found evidence for God. (and yes i went to a church and youth group growing up and have a sister that was a missionary and read bible versus and had great parents that loved me) But we will have to disagree on why i believe what i believe. This i can not prove to you any more than you can prove to me you do believe in God because he is real and not because of the same reason people through out history have believed in the thousands of gods they have.

i hope i was not offensive and apologize if i was. I deleted the last post i put up as it was not clear n one part put this is the same post with the added clarification.

Stephen said...

Hello again Info. Thankfully, I only had a 24 hour bug, so I am back in action and online more than necessary. I would like to comment on your definition of atheism, because I do not believe that it adequately draws the line between atheism and agnosticism. None of my arguments for the coin being one way or the other in this analogy correspond to any argument for or against theism.

If I may, I will go back to your analogy with the hand and the coin. In this case, the whether the coin is heads or tails is masked from the view of both the holder and the non-holder of the coin. The holder (who I will use to represent a theist) may claim something to the effect of, "I think this is heads because I've flipped it five times and it has been heads each time." So, they have made a clear claim.

It seems as though the non-holder in your analogy looks at the hand and says, "You may be right, you may be wrong. I don't know." This not knowing is agnosticism. The agnostic says that they don't know whether or not God exists, and some (hard-agnostics) may even claim that man cannot know God exists. The claim here rejects theism, but does not necessarily contradict it.

Most often, the atheist will make claims that combat or contradict the claims of theism. So, the atheist will see the hand and say, "I don't believe that you can flip it the same way six times in a row, the odds are too great against you. I will call it tails." This clearly contradicts the claim made by the coin holder (theist).

Atheists began using the "lack a belief" or "reject the belief" because theists began to point out that it was impossible to prove atheism because there is no positive proof for it. There could be no atheism without a proposed God.

If you reject my view, may I ask what you consider the difference between agnosticism and atheism?

I will back my definitions up with these links:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheist
http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/a9.htm#athe
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#3

info said...

Stephen, glad you are feeling better. I will get back with a full reply as soon as i can but i definitely agree that the word atheism is a bit confusing and i may have come on to strong assuming everyone would agree with my definition. thanks for pointing that out. thanks, Paul

Ex N1hilo said...

info,

I understand that atheists (most of them) do not make the positive claim that no god exists. However, I have had discussions with a number of people who hold that there is no positive claim whatsoever which is common to atheists--that atheism is merely the lack of something--namely belief in a god or gods.

My point is simply that there is a claim that is common to all atheists, one which only atheists make. It can be stated as, "I lack belief in a god." And, I understand, atheists would not agree, but the Bible calls such a statement a lie and describes those who make it as fools.

Nothing you have written was offensive to me. And I hope I have not offended you either. I seek to express what I believe the Word of God teaches. And I'll tell you, the Word can be brutally honest. I has made me see things about myself that were rough and hard to take. But its wisdom proves itself time and time again.

info said...

Stephen, this is my source (or one of them) for info on the subject but it may not be a source that you agree with. I could rewrite it but linking is much easier :)

http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Atheist_vs._agnostic

I also understand the confusion with the word as i have held the same definition of the word for years (until very recently) and would have called my self an agnostic.

I also understand that this may not be a source you trust as it is run by atheists.

And when discussing these things it is important to have the same definitions.

I am aware that i may be using the wrong definitions altogether, or even if i am not, what people commonly think the definition is can be what is important.

In the future i will try and make it clear what i mean. My guess is that the world has very few people that believe no god could possibly exist but i could be wrong.

I was definitely not clear with my coin analogy. No one person is the coin holder. In fact we can not look at the coin. we could say lets stand at the top of the grand canyon and flip it. when it hits the bottom we would ask what side do you believe is up. Standing at the top and assuming we have no way of seeing the coin we have no idea.

I understand that the theist has reason, at least in their mind, to believe one way or the other. The atheist does not have reason, at least in their mind, to believe one way or the other.

To me (and i do not speak for all atheist) the burden of proof is on the person that believes in Rama, Thor, Shiva, The god of Abraham or any of the other 1000s of Gods people have believed in.

All of this said, even if a person believes no god exists that does not mean they have any idea how the world started, how morals are put in place or how life began.

Thanks for the great discussion Stephen. I enjoy this because with so many views (in all areas of life) people want the same thing but go about looking at the evidence and come to different conclusions. We both want the truth, agree in most areas but one aspect can get us to come to completely different conclusions. Ex N1hilo, who posted above, differs from me because he believes a person can not think like me because the bible says I can not think this way. "according to the Word of God, there are no atheists. God has made himself known to all as Creator and Judge." That is our point of disagreement. I think he believes the bible says more about what my mind has the capability to think then i do. That ends the discussion with us or is at least something we would have to overcome before we could discuss this more. I do not believe his source (the bible) or at least his interpretation of his source and he does not believe my source (my mind in the case of discussing what i believe in terms of atheism)or at least my interpretation of my source.

I am interested in finding that out when discussing these issues with a person as that is where we will find the area we split off and how we end up with diffident conclusions.

info said...
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info said...
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Stephen said...

Hello info. I checked out the site, and while I don't dismiss it because it is run by atheists, I found its premise to be logically inconsistent. They say that there are two possible claims when talking about the existence of God: He exists or He doesn't exist. Assuming we run with this false dichotomy (there are other possible claims), they say that the atheist will not believe the first, but he can either believe or not believe the second.

In a dichotomy, by not choosing one, you accept the other: The sky is red or blue. The sky is not red. So, the sky is blue. Using their logic (and the logic behind this statment) the atheist can say: A God either exists or does not exist. A God does not exist. God does not not exist. When they say the second, they use a double negative and contradict themselves on the second premise (A God does not exist). This is inconsistent logic. They are saying either A or B. Not A. Not B.

I mentioned that this was also a false dichotomy. There are other possible ways to approach God's existence. Others will say that God probably doesn't exist or they don't believe we can know he exists. These options are not in their dichotomy.

We also see that this is a somewhat disingenuous view in light of the actions of most people making this claim. If they simply lack convincing evidence for or against the belief in God, why aren't they also critiquing the beliefs of atheism with evidences of God's existence? For all practical intents, they do not believe in a God.

I found a site where an atheist (quite vehemently and vitriolically) disagrees with your definition. I will not link to it, as he was quite unnecessarily nasty in his critique, but I do believe he made some good points. So I credit my source, I will say the site was Evil Bible. He began with a very clear thesis, which I will quote:

"A “lack of belief” definition is a bad definition for many reasons. It is not commonly used. It is not defined that way in any reputable dictionary. It is too broad because most agnostics and babies don’t consider themselves atheists. And it makes no sense for an “-ism” to be a based on a lack of belief."

The phrase "lack of belief" is believe is roughly consistent with what you are saying. Please correct me if I am wrong.

He goes on to say the statements "Tom does not believe in the existence of God" and "Tom does not believe God exists" state the same thing. Compare this to someone saying "I do not believe the mail has come." It is more grammatically correct to say, "I believe the mail has not come" but the meaning is consistent.

The word atheism comes from the Greek atheos, which means Godless. So the word atheism essentially means Godless belief.

The definitions found in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Columbia Encyclopedia, and the Oxford English dictionary point to atheism as the refutation of theism.

Definitions are not absolutes, but they are determined by common useage. The common useage and historical consensus is that atheism believe there probably is no God or that it can be proved there is no God. Agnoticism is a firm stance that the person doesn't know if there is or is not a God.

I really enjoy these discussions as well. They get me thinking and interest me. I am glad to meet someone that does not abuse the anonymity of the internet, but is instead friendly and thoughtful. Thank you for the engaging discussion.

info said...

Ex N1hilo and Stephen, I will look these over in detail and get back. I have a bit to much work to do at the moment to write back full responses but will get to them. thanks, Paul

info said...

Stephen, i still have not had time to go over everything but you are correct in your second last paragraph. I should not have expected everyone to use my definition and may have been getting my info from a false or bias source.

I may not go into detail on the rest of it (even after reviewing more carefully) but really appreciate the perspective you have given me. I need to be more careful. thanks!

I still hold strong to my overall points for myself but saying what other atheists believe is not wise as i can only say what i believe.

I do believe that belief in gods (all gods not just God)are probably psychologically explained. (Here I am referring to the comments at the 27 minute of the interview). I came to this conclusion while i was a Christian as I realized that other religions have just as strong or stronger faiths and do all sorts of things that people that do not believe would not do. Stephen, Do you have any comments on this as I may need to hear another perspective or reason why one religion is correct and the rest are wrong. (or some combination of some wrong some correct)

Ex N1hilo, I can not really go much farther with you on this topic because i do not believe the bible is the word of God and can not accept something i do not believe as evidence. Again, no disrespect to you but we just can not get further in the discussion unless i find a reason to believe the bible is the word of God or you change your mind on some aspects. thanks for your comments.

Stephen said...

Hello again info (Paul?). Although we disagree on our definitions, I will try and remember what you mean when you say atheist when we discuss these things.

Because I don't want to misrepresent your view, I want to ask you this before I begin. The question you ask is one that I asked myself before I committed myself to Christ and Christianity, so I recognize it is a hard one, but not unanswerable. So, my questions:

What is the psychological explanation? (delusion, mental disorder, personality disorder, meeting a deep need)
How does a psychological explanation for God solve the problems of many faiths with many different views and many different hopes?
From what I know, psychological norms are based on just that, the norms. Globally and historically, atheism is not the norm. So, how do you know atheism isn't explained psychologically?

Okay, a few questions, but I think they are relevant to my response.

paulcorrado said...

Stephen, I am admitting I was wrong, or at least wrong in the area that matters (how people use the definition) with the definition of atheism. I will have to do more research on the rest of the definitions aspects but what i am really interested is ideas and beliefs about life, god and so on so (and how we cane to these beliefs) so this is will concentrate on. I should not have been so harsh in my first response to the interview in regards to the atheism comments and i was wrong to do that. I may or may not be wrong about my ideas but i was wrong about assuming others had the same definition of atheism.

the questions you asked are good questions and get at the heart of my thinking. thanks for asking them. I will have to put down on paper how i came to my current understanding. I say current because my ideas on the world change all the time and i think this is healthy. I have very few ideas that i can think of that are not worth questioning at least to some point.

And one more comment. Unlike some non believers I do see the potential benefits in religion. It may be a good thing for society even if it is not true. I still have not made my mind up on this. I can see many benefits but i also see many negatives.

-- and i am trying to log in under a different account as my last was going into the spam filter. -- I will be back with the answers (or the best answerers i have) to your questions.

paulcorrado said...

Stephen, here is my answer for number two. I am starting with this one as i find it the easiest to answer.

I also want to point out i may be wrong with my explication but that does not mean my outcome is incorrect. I have no formal training in psychology but i do enjoy reading/learning about it.

Question: How does a psychological explanation for God solve the problems of many faiths with many different views and many different hopes?

My answer: I see this as a much bigger problem for religion and not a problem at all for the nonreligious. I would flip that around and just say what is the chance that we have one correct God with so many faiths that have many different views and many different hopes. I am guessing religions developed and evolved as the cultures evolved and changed. We still have new religions starting today, others dieing off and lots of evidence of religion changing beliefs and even three of the main religion all starting with the same God of Abraham and many other offshoots of these three. I would be much more inclined to believe in a god if every one believed in the same god and interpreted the god in the same way. I see many aspets of the Christian religion changing views on slavery, evolution and the question of the earth being the center of the universe as sceince comes up with better explinations or norms change.

paulcorrado said...

Stephen, here is my answer for number two. I am starting with this one as i find it the easiest to answer.

I also want to point out i may be wrong with my explication but that does not mean my outcome is incorrect. I have no formal training in psychology but i do enjoy reading/learning about it.

Question: How does a psychological explanation for God solve the problems of many faiths with many different views and many different hopes?

My answer: I see this as a much bigger problem for religion and not a problem at all for the nonreligious. I would flip that around and just say what is the chance that we have one correct God with so many faiths that have many different views and many different hopes. I am guessing religions developed and evolved as the cultures evolved and changed. We still have new religions starting today, others dieing off and lots of evidence of religion changing beliefs and even three of the main religion all starting with the same God of Abraham and many other offshoots of these three. I would be much more inclined to believe in a god if every one believed in the same god and interpreted the god in the same way. I see many aspets of the Christian religion changing views on slavery, evolution and the question of the earth being the center of the universe as sceince comes up with better explinations or norms change.

paulcorrado said...

Question: From what I know, psychological norms are based on just that, the norms. Globally and historically, atheism is not the norm. So, how do you know atheism isn't explained psychologically?

My answer: I am not sure I follow the questions but I will do my best.

If we are going on the definition that we do not have enough evidence to believe in a god (and that is the only definition I am willing to defend even if it is not the real definition and the word agnostic is what we should be using) I am only making a claim that I do not see enough evidence to believe in a god. I do see lots of evidence that people believe all sorts of contradictory things regarding the supernatural world and religions. I see lots of evidence people all over the world have tried to come up with supernatural answerer to the big questions that religion can answer but science has not or may never answer. Many different cultures have many different myths about many different supernatural things, things we would think are crazy in this time period. People had myths about the sun, about diseases, about how crops grow, about afterlife experiences and so on. I do not see clear evidence that one particular god is real but I do see evidence that people make up all sorts of things, all over the world. I also see evidence that these people really belie these things. I see scientific and personal experience evidence that people find personal meaning in things even when no meaning is not really in it (see the Forer effect).

Can the belief that we do not have enough evidence for one particular god be explained psychologically? (that is how I interpret the questions)

I think we can see historically that people have made up lots of gods and really believe in them and I think we can explain with science that people can find personal meaning in something that has no actual personal meaning such as astrology, fortune telling and cold readings. (yes people really believe this as much as you believe in god.)

So yes to answer the question. yes it could be but I belie my evidence is stronger and I have science on my side... but as always ... I could be wrong :)

Stephen said...

Thank you for clearing these up, Paul. I would still like to get your response to the first question, "Which psychological explanation explains religion," before I go on. I believe that Freud's explanation for Christianity was wish fulfillment, but I don't want to assume that you have the same view until I know that you do. Thanks so much.

paulcorrado said...

Stephen,

Which psychological explanation explains religion?

To start out i am not sure. I have not studied enough on the subject. Most of my reasoning for thinking the best explanation is psychological is stated in the answers above. I do understand that people believe in all sorts of supernatural things that are contradictory including different religion.

I will take this time to ask you a questions.
What makes you think that your religion is the correct one out of all the possible religions (I am guessing your are a christian of some sort)?

We know many religions exist, people have had profound experiences with many of them as well as many other supernatural experiences and we can see people being tricked all the time by odd beliefs.

Once i understood that other religions had people that believed as much as my religion did I could step outside the world view that my religion or world view is the only correct one.

People all around the world have all sorts of different ways of looking at the world and beliefs about it. If you honestly think people are nice, in general you think people are good, you will view a complete stranger differently than if you believe people are in general selfish, mean and only care about themselves. These are two different world views that have a huge impact on our day to day interactions with other people. We can explain each persons actions in the leans that we see the world. One person may offer to help on something and the person with the 'people are selfish' world view believes they want to take advantage while another person with a different world view see this as a person that has love for humanity and just wants to help. To different world views can explain things that are going on.

My point in this is that a person can explain the world they live in with the leans of a God or they can explain it with the leans of no God or at least not enough proof of a God or gods.

Right now when i see the world it is best explained with the leans of no god (or not enoguh proof of a god) and that all of the thousands of gods people have believed in over recorded history are probably made up but do help people explain the world around them even if they not real. I understand that to many Christians the idea of life without God is not worth living, makes no sense and that they have experienced the love of Jesus (as others have experienced the love of their gods). God gives a lot of answers and reassurance of an afterlife, gives us morals to live by and we can understand where these morals came from and so on. I have lived life using this leans and to me the leans that religion is a natural phenomenon but is not based on truth of a particulate god is much closer to the truth as we look at the world from outside the leans.

C. S. Lewis has a great quote that sums it up:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Christianity is his leans to see the world. But so is the belief in so many other gods that people have believed in or the belief that no gods have been demonstrated to exist.

paulcorrado said...

Stephen,

Which psychological explanation explains religion?

To start out i am not sure. I have not studied enough on the subject. Most of my reasoning for thinking the best explanation is psychological is stated in the answers above. I do understand that people believe in all sorts of supernatural things that are contradictory including different religion.

I will take this time to ask you a questions.
What makes you think that your religion is the correct one out of all the possible religions (I am guessing your are a christian of some sort)?

We know many religions exist, people have had profound experiences with many of them as well as many other supernatural experiences and we can see people being tricked all the time by odd beliefs.

Once i understood that other religions had people that believed as much as my religion did I could step outside the world view that my religion or world view is the only correct one.

People all around the world have all sorts of different ways of looking at the world and beliefs about it. If you honestly think people are nice, in general you think people are good, you will view a complete stranger differently than if you believe people are in general selfish, mean and only care about themselves. These are two different world views that have a huge impact on our day to day interactions with other people. We can explain each persons actions in the leans that we see the world. One person may offer to help on something and the person with the 'people are selfish' world view believes they want to take advantage while another person with a different world view see this as a person that has love for humanity and just wants to help. To different world views can explain things that are going on.

My point in this is that a person can explain the world they live in with the leans of a God or they can explain it with the leans of no God or at least not enough proof of a God or gods.

Right now when i see the world it is best explained with the leans of no god (or not enoguh proof of a god) and that all of the thousands of gods people have believed in over recorded history are probably made up but do help people explain the world around them even if they not real. I understand that to many Christians the idea of life without God is not worth living, makes no sense and that they have experienced the love of Jesus (as others have experienced the love of their gods). God gives a lot of answers and reassurance of an afterlife, gives us morals to live by and we can understand where these morals came from and so on. I have lived life using this leans and to me the leans that religion is a natural phenomenon but is not based on truth of a particulate god is much closer to the truth as we look at the world from outside the leans.

C. S. Lewis has a great quote that sums it up:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Christianity is his leans to see the world. But so is the belief in so many other gods that people have believed in or the belief that no gods have been demonstrated to exist.

Stephen said...

Thank you, Paul. I hope you had a great weekend. A few thoughts before I answer you question.

Because you do not actually have a specific psychological explanation that applies to all religion, it seems as though you are putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. You are starting with your conclusion, but there is no specific way to support it.

I also wouldn't say that science is on your side only. Science is (at least should be) uncovering truths that one side or the other can use for support of their arguments, but I don't think it has much to say directly on the question of God's existence. Christian's believe that the big bang is evidence for God's existence. Hawking thinks science backs up his view. Both are using science to put forth their arguments.

Now for my answer.

I believe that Christianity is the one true religion because I have looked into its beliefs and truth claims and see that the beliefs and claims of Christianity best match the reality before us.

Essentially, religions must pass two tests. They must be internally consistent, make sense within themselves, and be externally consistent, make sense with the world around us. After looking at the claims of many of the world's largest religions, I came to the conclusion that Christianity met both tests better than any other religion, so I am a Christian.

For further reading on this, I suggest a book by Ravi Zacharias called "Jesus Among Other Gods."

paulcorrado said...

Stephen, my idea that religion has a psychological explication comes from the fact we know that all sorts of other beliefs that are not true have psychological explication. I just do not know the right term to use. That is not saying that all religions are not true because some are not true but we see lots of religions exist (and all are not 100 percent true even if they have people that believe as strongly as you do) and my best guess is that the reason we see so many religions that have different origins all over the world is that we as humans have a psychological desire for religion or a desire make sense out of the world and religion help. This aspect (desire to make sense out of the world) is a guess but the idea that all sorts of other beliefs that are not true (and we can probably agree that some religions are not true) have psychological explications is what i am getting at.

I also want to make clear i am not saying Christianity is not true and I am not starting from this idea. I am starting from the idea that lots of religions exist and some or all parts of them are not true. How do we explain these variations.

As far as the science, I am saying that the scientific method of figuring out what is probably true about the world is the best we we have come up with to understand the world and its conclusions could easily coincide with religion. Or religion could evolve to coincide with science as i know it has in the catholic religion but may not in your version of Christianity.

If you have looked at your version of Christianity (I am not saying your version to be insulting but i know that a number of version contradict each other) using the scientific method and came to the conclusion it is correct over other possibilities I see where we differ as i have not come to that conclusion. That said my mind may change as I learn more. It seems to do that.

I will comment on the second part in another post. And for the record I know my spelling is bad. :) sorry about that, i hope it does not make my communication to difficult. thanks for the great discussion Stephen.

paulcorrado said...

Stephen, ok for part two.

Religions must pass two tests. As far as Christianity making sense within itself, well, we disagree here. Admittedly this has to do with my way of viewing it and your view has to do with your way of viewing it. I see the bible full of contradictions, odd ideas and full of things i would find immoral but understand that believers see the same book using a different lens of the world. It is hard for me to see it this way.

Externally Christianity is the lens Christians see the world through. But i have my own lens and my own way of seeing the world so I am also bias. i hope to be more open minded about the world but ... who knows .. maybe that is just what i think

If the Christian tries to explain the world they see evidence of God all over the place. It is so evident. I understand this. And the same is true with so many other religions. And the same is true with the way i see the world.

We believe basically the same thing. you believe all of the 1000's upon 1000's of gods history has been shown to have are wrong except one. I just take it one god further than you.

As far as the book I admit i will probably not get around to reading it. I have listened to many debates between Christians as well as going to church for many years and looking at it from my perspective it seems obvious that it is not true. As mentioned i was a Christian growing up.

I would be happy to continue this discussion but i am not sure how much further we will get.

We could discuss what aspects of Christianity do not makes sense in my view and why they do in yours but I am sure we have both gone over these before.

All i can ask is that you keep an open mind and I will too.

One of the main things I would like the believer to understand about non believers is that we can be moral, love others, and strive to be good people just like you. I find it sad when people think non believers can not be moral or good people. I do not think this is your view Stephen. i also want people to know the world is still a wonderful and magnificent place without a belief in a god.

not that this last statement really means anything but ... I can easily think of evidence that could come forward to convince a non belier that God exists but i am not sure what evidence could come forward to make the believer stop believing if that believer has 100 percent belief in their God.

Stephen said...

I think I agree with you that it may be time to end our discussion for now. I'm sure there are some issues you could raise, and there are others I thought about questioning, but perhaps we will just let them arise naturally, if you stay with this site. Oh, and the spelling didn't bother. I could tell what you meant, and you aren't one of my students.

I will say, as you seem to implicitly ask a question in your last paragraph about what could make a believer not believe anymore. Actually, scripture tells us. Paul says that if the resurrection can be proven to have not taken place, Christianity is for naught. I find myself in that camp. If the miracle that defines Christianity is false, then I will give up my faith.

I have admired your humility throughout this discussion. Keep searching and testing the truth. It's the best thing you can do. I had a great time discussing these thing with you. Until we met again.
-Stephen

paulcorrado said...

Stephen, yes i am sure we will talk again. I still have more ideas i would like to discuss as i am sure you do too. And one of the great things about this (and this is my first time having a discussion over a blog) is that it forced me to be clear about my ideas and really think them over instead of having a general idea about them. It is different discussing this topic with a believer, a non believer and a person that does not care or think about it. Most of the believers i have discussed it with either did not think about it much and just believed because it was how they were raised or explained it as the way they see the world, similar to the C.S. Luise quote of it being the light we see the world with.

The next questions i would have for you is why belief in a religion and not a belief in no religion. You looked at the other religions of the world and came to the conclusion Christianity was the best but did you look at non belief? To me it is so clear for the reasons i have stated in the past posts but i am sure it is also so clear to you for many reasons and is the lens you see the world with as my non belief is my lens. We can get into these and other questions in the context of another bit of media.

I also want to make the comment that growing up I had such great people in my church that clearly loved me and cared about others. I do have to say that it had a positive impact on me in that regard and did provide a loving community to belong too.

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