Abandoning Faith

What if all you have ever taught or believed was wrong?  If you were following the argument wherever it lead you then would you be willing to admit that you had been wrong for much of your life?

Many Christians are repelled by this line of questioning.  “Of course not!” they cry.  Being a Christian is a matter of faith in God, submission of the human will to the Divine will, the grace of God which forgives people and justifies them and the work of the Holy Spirit leading people to the truth about God.  All of this would seem to be difficult to reverse away from.

Still, there is scope in the Bible for exactly this kind of thing.  The Apostle Paul, writing about the Resurrection, said:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

1 Corinthians 15:13-14

Clearly, there are some things which are required to be true in order for a Christian to remain a Christian.  If Christ was not raised from the dead then the Christian faith is useless.  So if someone were to demonstrate for me, in some kind of logical way, that Christ was not resurrected then I would be correct in abandoning my belief in Christianity.

What about when the case is put to the opponents of Christianity?  If they follow the argument where it leads them, would they change their minds if the evidence demanded it?

At least one of them has done so.

Anthony Flew was a committed atheist and philosopher.  He wrote several books from an atheistic standpoint and was considered one of the world’s leading atheists.  Later in life, after considering the evidence even more, he converted to deism – a belief in the existence of a god who created the universe but who is no longer involved in it.  Here is what Flew said:

“Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature. But it is not science alone that guided me. I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments.”
― Antony FlewThere Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind

In Just the Facts, Nothing Without A Cause and Horses, Donkeys and Mules I have written about how the use of reason and logic can lead us to a very profitable conversation about God’s existence.  So far we have concluded a few things:

  • The most reasonable position is that this universe requires a cause.
  • The cause of the universe is spaceless, timeless, all-powerful and eternal.
  • Because of the existence of people and time, the cause of the universe must be personal.

I will carry these thoughts on a bit further in later posts.  What may be helpful for the reader to know now is that others have walked this same path.  Anthony Flew was not a friend to Christianity (although with a Methodist minister as a father he was at least respectful) yet he considered these arguments and came to believe exactly what I have said.

Belief in God is reasonable.

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9 thoughts on “Abandoning Faith

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  1. Well this is a piece of ol new you’ve picked up in.

    And strange that Christians have been so excited about a declaration of deism, the very same system of thought used to refute Christianity in Paine’s ‘Age of Reason’.

    Nevertheless, it has excited you, however – you statement above about the observation tat nature obeys laws is an understandable anthropomorphic mistake. You mistake agency and suppose.governance & laws when you’re really experiencing is the observation of pattern.

    As for your other 2 supposed ‘conclusions’ – for the cause of the universe you’ll need to catch up with quantum physics, once again you’re reading anthropomorphic agency back into cosmic patterns. And the personal nature of human existence is a result of ccontinuing evolutionary patterns, not evidence if investment by personal agency.

    Your started conclusions are anything but – they are human-centred projections into an existence much bigger than ourselves, an existence more exciting than we’ll be able to grasp if we simply read ourselves back into all things everywhere.

    1. Apparently you have not bothered to read any of the three posts I linked to in my post. Pity.

      I am not excited about a declaration of deism. Rather, I understand it for what it is – short of what is required for salvation but still valuable for its contribution. Here is a man who had no reason for abandoning atheism other than reason. Yet that is precisely what he did. Amazing.

      I think you will find I am not so easily mistaken as you suppose.

      You said, “You mistake agency and suppose governance.” Hardly. Rather, the bigger question being asked by learned people is why the laws which govern the universe look like they do. Why are they calibrated so precisely so that they look as if they have been designed to support life? The observation of pattern should cause one to ask about the origin of the pattern. Some patterns could have a random, unintelligent cause. Other patterns cannot exist without an intelligent cause. Consider language for example. The English language could not exist without an intelligent cause. Yet the English language is a pattern (a strange one perhaps!).

      Once again, concerning your next point, I am afraid you find it easy to throw accusations. Are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe? If so, then which mechanism of quantum physics is not contingent? Which particle could spring into existence in the total absence of everything else? Furthermore, are you suggesting that the universe is eternal? If not then how could an impersonal cause which is timeless create an effect which occurs at a specific time?

      If evolution could be demonstrated then your argument might be valid. Yet please give full consideration to Flew’s words. It was his consideration of DNA which led, ultimately, to his rejection of atheism. DNA is an incredibly sophisticated form of communication and replication. Not only does communication require intelligence but the sheer amount of information involved demands the rejection of chance as an explanation. Can you show the process by which useful information is added to the genome of any creature? Can you show how it is possible for DNA to evolve in complexity by such a huge scale?

      The excitement in my worldview is not that I read myself or humanity back into all things. Rather, I see God at work in the whole universe and also in my life. That is genuinely exciting!

      1. I’ll just respond briefly to your main points:

        You claim that the laws of nature “look like” they are designed to support life. And there is your issue, you are accepting the appearance of how things look from where you’re sitting without further investigation or contemplation. Kind of like thinking the horizon is the edge if the world because it looks that way from where you’re sitting on the shore. It is no surprise that life should arise exactly where thw variants happen to be perfect for the existence if life (and no surprise that life does not exist where the variants are not perfect). This links to the laws (for the layman who possibly doesn’t grasp the meaning of ‘law’ in a scientific context ‘pattern’ is probably a better word) of probability – with the vastness of the universe these variants were going to be conducive to life somewhere. No intelligent designer required. They are not “calibrated” for your existence as you suppose. You exist because thay is effect of this particular mix of variants.

        You ask “are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe” – am, no. Science does not cause anything, it’s a method of investigation and the use of symbols (words) to create a communicable body of knowledge. However, when we start to talk about beginnings-particles (which we call quantum particles due to their size) we move from the Theory of General Relativity to the realm of Quantum Mechanics. In the quantum sphere GTR no longer applies and so it no longer makes sense to talk about a beginning of the universe as time no longer applies. Just as we cannot talk about what’s south of the South Pole (south is a position/ direction on the planet, to go any further ‘below’ south we are no longer on the planet’ and so no longer any further south) in the same sense, once we go beyond TGR (and therefore time) we can no longer talk about beginnings because we are in the quantum sphere. Hawking writes well on this, and there gaps we can’t yet fill, but I’m certainly not going to fill my gaps in understanding by inventing supernatural concepts, I think humanity for the most part has learned from making that mistake before. The ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ get’s only smaller & smaller.

        As for your point on evolution – I always find it hard to believe that anyone should still be doubting that one. Even your own Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project (DNA – that’s why I’m bringing him up) not only acknowledges evolution but rejects ID. (He’s an Evangelical Christian) You’re still talking about evolution working via ‘chance’, but it doesn’t, it’s by natural selection’ your basic understanding of evolution is fundamentally flawed, and I fear it is so by choice, I think you possibly intentionally choose to talk about chance. Also, If you refuse to accept the information that’s already there for the support of evolution there’s nothing I can do here, I can’t overcome your intellectual prejudices, I say prejudices because the rejection of evidences for evolution is entirely illogical. Creation v Evolution is.a fantastical debate.

      2. Again, I am afraid you find it easier to make accusations of my incompetence rather than actually read, understand and reply to what I am actually saying.

        Why should the variables required for life all be amenable to life in this universe? There is no reason, inherent to themselves, why they should be like this. This is the essence of the point I am making. The universe does not have to be hospitable to life and yet it is. Why should this be so? It is too simplistic to say that life exists simply because the variables happen to be correct. Not only is this a simplistic view but it also ignores the fact that the variables themselves do not cause life.

        Again, your refuge in quantum mechanics has ignored my set of questions. Allow me to simply repeat them:

        Are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe?

        If so, then which mechanism of quantum physics is not contingent? Which particle could spring into existence in the total absence of everything else?

        Furthermore, are you suggesting that the universe is eternal? If not then how could an impersonal cause which is timeless create an effect which occurs at a specific time?

        These are the real questions you should be trying to answer rather than giving me a lame explanation of what quantum mechanics seems like to you.

        Why, if I am meant to question everything (at least according to some atheist’s definition of the Ten Commandments), am I not allowed to question evolution? And again, you have simply written demeaning comments without actually answering the questions put to you. If evolution is so capable of proof then just answer the questions. Simple.

        Can you show the process by which useful information is added to the genome of any creature?

        Can you show how it is possible for DNA to evolve in complexity by such a huge scale?

        These are not positions help by prejudice or by faith. They are well thought out, reasonable positions. If you can even begin to answer some of the questions then I will be very interested.

  2. On the 1st 2 points I’ve already answered you, you’re repeating questions I’ve already addressed. You’ve left me feeling that I’ve wasted my time as you’ve clearly missed the answers to your questions. (Is it because my answers are not worded how you would like?)

    On evolution – it’s like arguing whether the earth is flat or spherical – I wouldn’t argue with a flat earther, I’m starting to feel the same way about arguing with evolutionary doubters.

    I’m sorry that you’ve accused me of being demeaning for attempting to point out what I consider to be flaws in your system of approach.

    1. Please allow me to quote you to show you exactly where the problem lies. You wrote:

      On the 1st 2 points I’ve already answered you, you’re repeating questions I’ve already addressed. You’ve left me feeling that I’ve wasted my time as you’ve clearly missed the answers to your questions. (Is it because my answers are not worded how you would like?)

      You have quite clearly not answered my questions. Regarding the beginning of the universe, you appealed to quantum physics and then suggested that the concept of a beginning of a universe no longer applies. Yet this is the opposite of what is being put forward now by both philosophers and scientists. So again, can you decide whether you think the universe is eternal or if it had a beginning. Quantum mechanics/physics does not provide an explanation for either of these options.

      I have not ignored your responses at all. Rather, you have dodged the question by insinuating my lack of intelligence. For example, to claim that evolution is an accepted scientific fact is not true. To take it a step further and place any debate about evolution on the same plane as a debate about the sphere of the earth is disingenuous at best and insulting at worst. Instead of actually dealing with the problem you have ignored it.

      You said that evolution does not proceed by chance but instead works by natural selection. I maintain that natural selection is just a veneer for what is actually random chance. If natural selection is not a random, blind process then can you explain to me how an abstract concept (natural selection) can have causal properties?

      DNA is a brilliant example of how you have not answered the question. Your argument from incredulity is nonsense. Looking at the information in DNA puts the lie to the theory. Even if we granted the 96% similarity between the DNA sequences of apes and humans which some people claim (and there are valid reasons why this is probably way too high) the difference is still too vast for evolution to account for. Humans have an amount of information in their genome equivalent to about 1000 books that are each 500 pages long. So the information content difference between a human and an ape is about forty 500-page long books. Random mutations and natural selection would thus be expected to generate the information equivalent of about 12 million words all arranged in a meaningful sentence. Population genetics shows that animals with a human generation of about 20 years could make roughly 1,700 substitutions in the time period given by scientists (about 10 million years). On only one case, evolution falls flat as an explanation for how DNA could acquire so much more information. This is not the odd case, it is the rule.

      Can you contradict this kind of data? Can you point to the process by which DNA could gain so much information and thus account for these changes?

      These are not spurious examples or attempts to dodge the questions. They are substantial answers. No more arguments from your own shock at finding someone who disagrees with you. As we say where I come from, either put up or shut up.

  3. “you’re repeating questions I’ve already addressed. You’ve left me feeling that I’ve wasted my time as you’ve clearly missed the answers to your questions.”

    Welcome to the club! I have frequently found myself banging my head against the wall being faced with the same rebuttals you are experiencing such as ‘not reading the posts properly’ or ‘not answering questions’ when it’s quite clear that this has been done. It baffles me to read jcordray write in his latest response

    “Again, your refuge in quantum mechanics has ignored my set of questions. Allow me to simply repeat them:

    Are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe?”

    when in the post he’s replying to you clearly state

    “You ask “are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe” – am, no. Science does not cause anything, it’s a method of investigation and the use of symbols (words) to create a communicable body of knowledge.”

    Truly mind-boggling to see this sort of thing occur time and time again.

  4. “You have quite clearly not answered my questions. ”

    “Again, your refuge in quantum mechanics has ignored my set of questions. Allow me to simply repeat them:

    Are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe?”

    a couple of posts prior to this…

    “You ask “are you suggesting that quantum physics caused the universe” – am, no. Science does not cause anything, it’s a method of investigation and the use of symbols (words) to create a communicable body of knowledge.”

    like many others before him, he is directly responding to you and being met with the same insanity and petulance which makes any form of reasonable discussion with you impossible.

    1. Insanity? Petulance? Hardly.

      His reply to the point about the cause of the universe was to point to quantum mechanics. He did not specifically claim that they caused the universe, I grant that, but in appealing to quantum mechanics he avoided the question of cause. The question cannot be avoided. Thus I had to ask – again – if there is some explanation for the cause of the universe in quantum mechanics.

      Again, to reply merely that science is a method of investigation and use of symbols to create a communicable body of knowledge is just so much talking. The point I made was about the cause of the universe. To appeal to science (against my appeal to an Uncaused Cause) is to make the claim that science can explain the cause of the universe. Am I incorrect in this understanding? I do not think so. Thus the questions remain. How does science explain the cause of the universe?

      This is not a repetition of questions for the sake of being tedious. It is the repetition of questions which have simply not been answered properly.

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