Steve found me on YouTube and claimed that he’d met God. Every time I asked him how he knew what he claimed to know, he either dodged the question or ignored it. Then he wrote me directly. Here’s what we had to say. I’m in italics. Steve’s in bold.
Sorry for the delay.
>you exist. where did you come from? a blob of jelly?
I know this isn’t what you mean, but from my parents. My immediate origins are explained and yes, my distant origins haven’t been yet. If by “blob of jelly” you mean ultimately descended from an ancient soup of organic chemicals, I don’t know. But the thing is, my not knowing doesn’t automatically mean that any explanation you come up with, no matter how attractive it may seem, is automatically the correct one. How is that not a false dichotomy? How is it not also an argument from ignorance? And no, “ignorant” doesn’t mean “stupid.” It only means “not knowing.”
>that’s like saying the Mona Lisa painted itself and yet your own mind that is writing and spewing all this gobble-de-gook is infinitely more complex than the Mona Lisa
I’m guessing you’re paraphrasing Ray Comfort. The first problem with Comfort’s argument is that it’s a misrepresentation of evolution. No one claims that I created myself as you suggest with your Mona Lisa analogy. The second problem with Comfort’s argument is that we have seen paintings, the process of painting, and painters demonstrated.
>and you just happened by random chance? the vast complexity of the Universe provides enough evidence even for the greatest skeptic of an intelligent designer.
The problem with the intelligent design hypothesis is that it is entirely built on assumption. It’s true that the universe is complex, but to say that that must mean that it was designed is to assert an argument from ignorance (the universe seems designed, therefore it must have been) in an unfalsifiable hypothesis. How do you test it?
Your phrasing, too, is problematic. “…by random chance…” seems to suggest that there was absolutely nothing leading up to my existence. But just because we can’t prove a “designer” doesn’t mean that my existence happened by random chance. How is that not another false dichotomy? We know enough about natural selection in biology to know that my existence isn’t random at all. It’s the result of genetic replication and mutation over multiple generations. It’s only the human desire for intrinsic purpose to the process that leads us to seek a designer.
Additionally, I find it fascinating that theists insist that complexity necessarily arises from design when 1. the near entirety of the universe is uninhabitable and too far away 2. the part we do inhabit is almost entirely hostile toward our survival and 3. the only way we have survived as long as we have is through the grueling process of adaptation over time. This last point is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of humans who ever existed died of all kinds of things, in child-birth, as undernourished children, as diseased, frozen, killed, eaten adults. The list goes on. It’s only the very lucky few who’ve survived to die well into their 100s. So to assert that the universe must have been designed leads me to question the wisdom of a designer who couldn’t be bothered to do a better job.
>secondly you have a conscience. it is empirically known to you because you have experienced the sensation of knowing right from wrong even without someone telling you.
It’s true that I have a conscience, but since you say “empirically”, I’ll point out that not only do humans have certain instincts, but many behaviors are taught. As has been observed, chimpanzees and vampire bats demonstrate what we would call “compassion.” They help each other with nothing personally to gain. They have no language, let alone any holy book telling them to be compassionate. It’s simply advantageous in group dynamics to show traits like compassion. The existence of what we call a conscience occurs through natural selection and taught behavior, so there’s no reason to suggest anything supernatural is involved. To do so would be to introduce an undemonstrated premise.
>humanity has a moral code that transcends cultures. its wrong to kill. its wrong to lie. its wrong to steal. this moral law and your own concience point to a law and conscience giver. this provides evidence that points to the existence of God.
I agree that there tend to be moral codes throughout human cultures. Another example would be incest tends to be forbidden. But the problem is, as I’m sure you’ll agree, that each of these supposed absolute “moral codes” is not absolute at all. It’s not always wrong to kill. I cite self-defense, capital punishment, and war. In each of those circumstances, it’s considered completely acceptable to kill. It’s not always wrong to lie. Per the social contract, people often lie to each other to protect each other’s feelings. Per politics, politicians lie all the time to their constituents and yet we re-elect them time and time again. Given the fact that we have a justice system and that cases are often overturned, there clearly is often room for practical reality and situational ethics. Beyond that, if you had never read the Ten Commandments, you would have been aware of your suggested moral codes through society teaching them to you. And besides that, even if it were true that there are moral absolutes, you’d have to prove how that necessarily points to your interpretation of Yahweh and not any other god. In addition to that, there are plenty of places in the Bible which demonstrate Yahweh either directly committing atrocities or endorsing them to at least make one wonder how much concern He felt for His own commandments.
>i question whether you understand the word hearsay.
And you have every right to do so.
>Hearsay is second hand information that the person has no first hand information about. i have first hand information about God. I have met Him.
I sit corrected on whatever I said about hearsay. How did you meet Him? What was that like? How do you know that your experience is what you believe it was? Why should I believe you?
>He changed my life.
How so and how do you know?
>no amount of quasi intellectual rantings are going to change that. i was an alchoholic chain smoker who also smoked marijuana and played up all nights playing computer games like a complete loser.
What’s wrong with that? Seriously, if you enjoy smoking, drinking, marijuana, and computer games, then where’s the problem? Any one of those could potentially interrupt your life, yes, but not necessarily. There are thousands, if not millions, of people who do any or all of what you mention and they continue to maintain positive, healthy relationships and hold down jobs. Thus, where’s the harm? Yes, two of the things you mentioned have demonstrable, detrimental health effects, but so does breathing the air of any major city. So does eating too much.
If your story is that 1. you did bad things 2. you found Jesus and so 3. you don’t do bad things anymore, I have to ask 1. how do you know the change had anything to do with Jesus and 2. how come I’ve drunk, occasionally smoked pot, and definitely stayed up all night playing games and my life hasn’t suffered one bit as a result? If you claim that my life has suffered, you’d have to prove that.
>i was an adulterer trapped in gross sexual darkness. i was completely full of myself thinking that i knew everything and was arrogant beyond compare.
No offense, but it sounds like you were a dick. I’m not. So there we are.
>then i had an encounter with God and one by one, empirical evidence of the reality of God began to surface in my life.
>delivered from a desire to drink alchohol and smoke instantly. smoking gone 6 months later. sexual immorality gone after a year.
So how do you explain someone like me who never took up chain smoking, never became an alcoholic, and never dove into sexual darkness with no help at all from Jesus?
>pride continually (even now) being destroyed.
How is something continually destroyed?
>total life transformation. no self help book. no other explanation but God.
I get that you had a total life transformation, but how do you know that the only explanation is God?
>i am empirical evidence. that is not hearsay. that is first hand testimony.
Yes, except that you’re employing a non-sequitur in that you claim that 1. you did bad things, but 2. God ended all that, and you haven’t demonstrated that God necessarily did. Why could it not simply have been you doing it for yourself?
>that is not emotional appeal. that is truth. that is not fallacy, that is fact. that is not anectdote that is reality.
Well yes and no. It may be fact, but since 1. I don’t know you and 2. I have no means of comparison, it is possible that you’re making the whole thing up or exaggerating, but I have no reason to doubt you, so fine, I believe you, but it still doesn’t take care of the
non-sequitur I pointed out above.
>if you are going to use these words you need to understand what they mean and use them in a real and honest way. not just as quick gimmicks to try to shut people down.
To suggest that I “try to shut people down” is to presume to be able to read my mind, which you can’t. I use terms that seem to apply to a situation. If I’m wrong, I admit it. So far, you have employed at least three fallacies, the non-sequitur, the argument from ignorance, and the false dichotomy, so it was warranted for me to point them out. It’s not necessarily an emotional appeal quite, so I’ll grant you that one. It is anecdote because I have nothing but your word to go on. You keep saying that you “met” God, and yet there’s no way for me to test that claim. Since it’s an extraordinary claim–people don’t meet deities on a daily basis–it requires extraordinary evidence, which you’ve not provided.
>I don’t think you honestly believe that you could prove that God isn’t real or that you don’t believe He is real.
You’re absolutely right about the first one. I fully admit that I can’t prove that God isn’t real. I also fully admit that I can’t prove that Zeus isn’t real. But since there’s no evidence to support the existence of either, I don’t believe in them. Your positive claim is that God is real. I don’t believe your claim because, beyond your additional extraordinary claims, I have no reason to. Can you prove that Zeus doesn’t exist? If not, do you consider it valid to believe in Him?
>if you are really honest i think you don’t want God to be real because it means that you are going to answer to Him.
In this case, I have no other evidence but my word to offer that no, that’s not the issue. First, it has to be proven that God exists and second that the theology said of Him is true. But even if we somehow proved the first, there are so many people who claim to know God’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and intentions who disagree with each other, and no evidence at all to back up any of their claims, I have no reason to trust any one of them over any other.
>unfortunately, that line of reasoning isn’t going to carry the day for you Anton.
How do you know? What makes you right and the millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other faiths wrong? What makes your
interpretation of Christianity right and the millions who disagree with you wrong?
>If you insist on continuing to put your hands over your ears and yell “la la la . . . i can’t hear you” and spew your canned atheistic rhetoric about “anectodal evidence, emotional appeals, falacy and hearsay” then you will be lost,
You say, “…canned atheistic rhetoric…”, but can you prove that accusation? What have I specifically said so far that is “canned atheistic rhetoric”? How have I been wrong on my accusations of “anecdotal evidence, emotional appeals, fallacy and hearsay”? How do you know I’ll be lost?
>you won’t know God until you encounter Him the instant you come before the judgment seat of Christ where you will receive perfect justice for your blasphemy and for pushing the truth of God away.
How do you know? And why would an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God care about my “blasphemy”? Why won’t He just appear before me right now as I write this to at least attempt to prove His existence? Surely an omniscient God knows the problems inherent in the Bible as a means of communication. Surely an omniscient God is aware of the discrepancies between those who claim to be His followers. And yet my room is void of any deities.
Additionally, why does an atemporal god use my mortality as the cut-off point for salvation? If my soul is immortal and God is timeless, why does it matter at all when I choose to repent? Because honestly, if I die and appear before Jesus, then, well, that’d be pretty good evidence of His existence. I’d still have a ton of questions for Him, but I could at least see first-hand that He’s real. Of course this, too, brings up a whole host of other issues like why He never appeared before me during life, or even if my experience would be verifiable as death or rather a coma or dream, but I won’t get into that now.
>I don’t know you and i don’t have God’s love for you but i know that God loves you enough to send someone to speak truth to you.
If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, why would He send someone He knows isn’t going to convince me? Why would He send someone using the exact same fallacies and threats as everyone who came before? If, by your reasoning, God loves me enough to send you, why doesn’t He love me enough to directly appear? Per your reasoning, he wants to convince me enough to send you, but not enough to just appear? If He’s omnipotent, why not? It’s not like it’s an inconvenience.
>stop spewing and start thinking about things Anton.
I have since I was 16 and de-converted at 19.
>do you really believe that you are not going to answer for your rebellion against God and defiance?
Yes I really do because your claim otherwise has never been proved.
>something inside of you knows that it would be much better to receive God’s perfect love by accepting Christ then to accept His righteous wrath and judgment outside of Christ.
Again, you presume to be able to read my mind and again, you’re wrong. Prove that any of your last sentence is true and I’ll consider it. Also, why would a god who knows that we’re all going to do bad things punish us for what He knows we’re going to do? Why even have the system of punishment and reward in the first place? Why not just let everyone into Heaven without having to go through the rigamerol of life to begin with? If the desire is to have us with Him in Heaven, why not just have us with Him in Heaven? What’s the point of all the rest?
>don’t be a fool. turn to God. If you drop the atheist marketing and truly seek Him you will find Him.
First, it’s funny you say “atheist marketing” because I think I’ve actually done a piss-poor job of such. Second, for your information, when I was a teenager, I did truly seek Him and I obviously did not find Him. I didn’t even have the benefit of being a chain-smoking, alcoholic adulterer.