Civil Debates on Christianity and Religions

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Jagella
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2019 7:20 pm  The Christian's Grasp on Reality Reply with quote

I think that the debate between Christian apologists and skeptics might boil down to the following exchange:

Apologist: We know that Yahweh and Jesus are a real god, and we know that they have performed miracles like parting seas and raising dead people back to life.
Skeptic: You are mistaking natural phenomenon for the supernatural.

Keeping this exchange in mind as a basic template, consider the real-life exchange I had with a Christian friend of mine earlier today (1/1/2019). Ginger (her real name) has told me for a month or so that she's been having trouble with fluid on her brain. She testified today that her head-trouble was miraculously healed by God. She is experiencing no more pain. Soon after she told me of this miracle she left my apartment using her walker.

Although I want Ginger to be in good health, and I hope she has no more problems with her head, I'm very skeptical that any miracle has happened to cure her head problem. First, aside from her improved mood, I cannot tell by seeing her that any change has occurred to her. There is no visible evidence that she is any better physically speaking. Second, Ginger is overlooking her body's ability to heal itself naturally, and that no miracle is needed to explain the apparent improvement in her health. And third, Ginger doesn't seem to understand that if God went to all the trouble to cure her head problem, then he would have went all the way and cured her need to use a walker!

In all probability Ginger is mistaking a natural improvement in her health for a miracle. These kinds of mistakes are extremely common among Christians. Consider, for example, how many Christians flock to see faith healers like Peter Popoff. Despite his being conclusively exposed as a fraudster by atheist James Randi, Christians still go to see Popoff expecting a miracle from God.

I could post many other examples of the Christian inability to see that supposed miracles done by the Bible god are merely natural events or outright hoaxes, but for now let me ask the...

Questions for Debate: If Christians today routinely mistake the natural for the supernatural with not one known case of their seeing any real miracle, then why believe Christians ever did see a real god performing real miracles? Are Christians even able to recognize the difference between the real and what they hope is real?
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 21: Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:12 pm
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Re: The Christian's Grasp on Reality

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[Replying to Jagella]

Jag; the whole universe is a miracle. Science is trying to figure out. Birth is a miracle , nature is a miracle, human beings are a miracle , walking on water and parting the sea are a metaphor. I read you saying metaphors are not miracles and you are right they're not miracles. Believe it or not you are the miracle.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 22: Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:28 pm
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The Tanager wrote:
Right now your standard seems to be a vague 'it must pass my personal baloney detector that detects slick talk' which isn't very helpful.


My "standard" is show us all a miracle. Stories about miracles are not miracles unless you consider that people actually believe them!

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No one says to waste your time on outlandish claims.


Aside from Moses, Jesus, Paul, and Peter among many others!

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The question is what qualifies as outlandish and what impact the issue has on us.


By "outlandish" I mean that which is completely foreign to what we know to be true.

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Above, your thought simply assumes Christian claims are outlandish.


Christian claims are for the most part completely foreign to what we know to be true and therefore fit my definition of "outlandish." We have no knowledge of seas parting at a man's instigation or dead people rising from their graves. These are outlandish claims.

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Some people believe in Bigfoot and alien landings.


Right, and those claims are outlandish too.

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But there is nowhere near the level of historical and philosophical discussion as there is with Christian claims.


You are correct that there is a lot more talk about Christianity than most other outlandish claims, but I don't know what that proves.

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If you want to make arguments for any of the other three and why I should care, go for it.


What good are arguments when you don't have a shred of evidence to link those arguments to reality?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 23: Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:58 pm
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Peds nurse wrote:

RedEye wrote:
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Who is to say they are not one in the same? Can God not use natural means to heal someone? In the case of your friend Ginger, God could have very well healed her head, or caused the pain to cease. If I have a headache and take an analgesic and my pain is relieved, I would say the medicine helped, but it is not to say that God doesn't work through such things.

If God worked through those things then he would be detectable in laboratory experiments. He isn't detectable.

Hello RedEye! I hope this finds you fabulous!

God can be detected in laboratory experiments? Can you explain this to me? I appreciate scientific studies/research, but I have never known an experiment that detects God.


Neither have I. That's what I said.

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RedEye wrote:
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God can be subtle and work among the pharmacists, physicians, and nurses. It doesn't have to be all or none.

Or there could be no God and it's all just the result of human actions. How could you distinguish between these two scenarios? If you can't, why posit something which offers absolutely no explanatory power?

I understand your point, and I appreciate it! While I cannot prove that God healed Ginger's headache, I certainly cannot be ruled out as a possibility. If Ginger is of sound mind and body, why would she claim such a thing anyway?


Um, superstitious ignorance?

The problem with "we can't rule it out" is that it is demonstrably false. We can rule it out since God apparently never heals those whose problem is above a molecular/cellular level (where a natural self-repair can often be achieved by the body itself). If he did then we would have stories of amputees growing back limbs and heart patients growing back new valves (for example). So does God discriminate on the level of injury that he chooses to heal? If so, does that make any sense?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 24: Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:43 am
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Jagella wrote:
My "standard" is show us all a miracle. Stories about miracles are not miracles unless you consider that people actually believe them!


That's still not telling me the level of certainty that you think is required. Are you saying that when you see a miracle there could be absolutely no possibility of doubt? Or that you would allow the possibility of alternatives as long as the miraculous was the most plausible explanation?

And why do you discount historical and philosophical argument as a sound way to one's beliefs about reality?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 25: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:01 am
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Overcomer wrote:

Jagella wrote:

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No miracle claim has ever been verified under circumstances that can eliminate fraud. Not one.


You could only make that claim if you had personally investigated every miracle claim that has ever been made in the last 2,000 years.


No, I make that claim because I know flim-flam when I hear it. But if you want to prove me wrong, then go right ahead and show us all a miracle. I'm all eyes!

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Here is one of my own...


What? No miracle? You're just posting a miracle story. Miracle stories are not miracles. If you had a good grasp on reality, you would understand that.

But if you like such stories, my own story is that I got suckered into the faith-healing scam when I was a Christian. I lost hundreds of dollars to hucksters like Oral Roberts, but I never saw one miracle--not one. Oh sure, I heard a lot of stories like yours, but at that time I was conditioned to believe all the talk without question.

What's really sinister about all these false claims of miracles is that people get hurt and even die believing the lies of the faith healers. The victims of faith may forego vital medical treatment as an act of faith only to face disastrous consequences.

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Keener's sister-in-law was raised from the dead as a child.


You seriously believe Keener? Based on what? His word?

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If you read David Hume's diatribe against miracles, you can see that one of his arguments is simply this: I haven't seen any. My friends haven't seen any. Therefore, they don't happen.


Obviously no apologist succeeded in showing Hume a miracle!

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 26: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:29 am
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The Tanager wrote:
That's still not telling me the level of certainty that you think is required.


It would help if you explained what you mean by "level of certainty." Are you asking for a probability that miracles might happen?

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Are you saying that when you see a miracle there could be absolutely no possibility of doubt? Or that you would allow the possibility of alternatives as long as the miraculous was the most plausible explanation?


Well, you Christians are advocating miracles, so how to be sure about them is your own problem. It seems as though it may be impossible to know if they happen. Even if I saw an apparent miracle, alternate interpretations are arguably more plausible. For example, if I was knocked off of my horse onto the road by a vision of Jesus in the sky, what is the more plausible explanation? Was it really Jesus in the sky, or was I hallucinating? I'd probably opt for the hallucination interpretation of that event because I know that people hallucinate, but I don't know that Jesus appears in the sky to knock people off their horses.

So what would you do if a vision of the Hindu god Krishna in the sky knocked you down? Would you believe it was Krishna?

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And why do you discount historical and philosophical argument as a sound way to one's beliefs about reality?


History might be OK to base some truths on as long as the evidence is good. I consider "good" evidence to be something tangible like the pistol that was used to assassinate Lincoln.

Philosophical arguments are good to determine ethics, but such arguments are insufficient to make discoveries about "reality" because philosophical arguments can be made for things that don't exist.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 27: Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:22 am
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Jagella wrote:
It would help if you explained what you mean by "level of certainty." Are you asking for a probability that miracles might happen?

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Are you saying that when you see a miracle there could be absolutely no possibility of doubt? Or that you would allow the possibility of alternatives as long as the miraculous was the most plausible explanation?


Well, you Christians are advocating miracles, so how to be sure about them is your own problem. It seems as though it may be impossible to know if they happen. Even if I saw an apparent miracle, alternate interpretations are arguably more plausible. For example, if I was knocked off of my horse onto the road by a vision of Jesus in the sky, what is the more plausible explanation? Was it really Jesus in the sky, or was I hallucinating? I'd probably opt for the hallucination interpretation of that event because I know that people hallucinate, but I don't know that Jesus appears in the sky to knock people off their horses.


That's what I was talking about with the 100% or >50% stuff. When you say that you need to be shown a miracle to believe they can occur, would you need for there to be no other possible explanations, whatsoever, or just that the miraculous explanation was a more plausible explanation, given the facts, than its natural alternatives?

Jagella wrote:
So what would you do if a vision of the Hindu god Krishna in the sky knocked you down? Would you believe it was Krishna?


I would look at the various evidences and ask various questions. Am I completely changed by this encounter? Do I start believing things that were not a part of my previous worldview or cultural encounters? Did other people see the same thing? Is there other evidence that I've got something wrong with my brain? What was the message given? Does it cohere with what other evidences say of Krishna? Are there philosophical arguments pointing to the existence of whatever particular form of Hindu thought the message took? And other questions, I'm sure. I would ultimately be asking what is the most plausible explanation for the facts. I wouldn't just discount it because of my previous worldview.

Jagella wrote:
History might be OK to base some truths on as long as the evidence is good. I consider "good" evidence to be something tangible like the pistol that was used to assassinate Lincoln.


How could you know that's the actual pistol? And, if it wasn't, you wouldn't believe Lincoln was assassinated?

Jagella wrote:
Philosophical arguments are good to determine ethics, but such arguments are insufficient to make discoveries about "reality" because philosophical arguments can be made for things that don't exist.


You are making a philosophical claim by saying that miracles do not exist. You are taking what you deem evidence and then going beyond the evidence through other principles and logic to make your conclusion.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 28: Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:18 pm
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The Tanager wrote:
When you say that you need to be shown a miracle to believe they can occur, would you need for there to be no other possible explanations, whatsoever, or just that the miraculous explanation was a more plausible explanation, given the facts, than its natural alternatives?


I really don't know of any explanations that would be less plausible than to say an event is genuinely miraculous. So in order for me to believe a miracle really happened, there would need to be no other explanations.

But there are almost always other explanations for alleged miracles. Hallucinations, hoaxes, and misinterpretations are but some of the other explanations available.

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So what would you do if a vision of the Hindu god Krishna in the sky knocked you down? Would you believe it was Krishna?


I would look at the various evidences and ask various questions. Am I completely changed by this encounter? Do I start believing things that were not a part of my previous worldview or cultural encounters? Did other people see the same thing? Is there other evidence that I've got something wrong with my brain? What was the message given? Does it cohere with what other evidences say of Krishna? Are there philosophical arguments pointing to the existence of whatever particular form of Hindu thought the message took? And other questions, I'm sure. I would ultimately be asking what is the most plausible explanation for the facts. I wouldn't just discount it because of my previous worldview.


Why not just conclude that the vision of Krishna was a hallucination rather than go through all that? Aren't you aware that people hallucinate?

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History might be OK to base some truths on as long as the evidence is good. I consider "good" evidence to be something tangible like the pistol that was used to assassinate Lincoln.


How could you know that's the actual pistol? And, if it wasn't, you wouldn't believe Lincoln was assassinated?


I really don't know if any pistol was used to assassinate Lincoln, or if he was assassinated at all. I do know that there are no reasons to doubt his assassination, so I accept Lincoln as an assassinated president.

I cannot say the same for Christian claims. I'm aware of a lot of problems with the veracity of the truth claims in the New Testament. If all we had as evidence for Lincoln was the word of often anonymous members of a religious sect, then I would doubt the story of Lincoln too.

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You are making a philosophical claim by saying that miracles do not exist. You are taking what you deem evidence and then going beyond the evidence through other principles and logic to make your conclusion.


If I think that the claims about Bigfoot are baloney, then is my skepticism philosophical? I suppose it may be, but note that I said that philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about what I think is reality. Philosophy can be very handy to sniff out false claims, however.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 29: Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:14 am
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Jagella wrote:
I really don't know of any explanations that would be less plausible than to say an event is genuinely miraculous. So in order for me to believe a miracle really happened, there would need to be no other explanations.


By saying the miraculous is less plausible, are you referring to something like the general probability of such an act? That this general probability is the factor which makes it so that 100% certainty is needed, where it need not be that high in looking at, say, scientific theories?

Jagella wrote:
Why not just conclude that the vision of Krishna was a hallucination rather than go through all that? Aren't you aware that people hallucinate?


I am aware people hallucinate. I'm also aware that people don't hallucinate and that hallucination is a bad explanation for some events. The way I think you tell is by looking at the specific data in each case.

Jagella wrote:
I really don't know if any pistol was used to assassinate Lincoln, or if he was assassinated at all. I do know that there are no reasons to doubt his assassination, so I accept Lincoln as an assassinated president.

I cannot say the same for Christian claims. I'm aware of a lot of problems with the veracity of the truth claims in the New Testament. If all we had as evidence for Lincoln was the word of often anonymous members of a religious sect, then I would doubt the story of Lincoln too.


I think that is a more reasonable approach (than requiring tangible evidence like a pistol), although I disagree with the assessment of the evidence.

Jagella wrote:
If I think that the claims about Bigfoot are baloney, then is my skepticism philosophical? I suppose it may be, but note that I said that philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about what I think is reality. Philosophy can be very handy to sniff out false claims, however.


Thanks for that helpful clarification of what you meant. So, you seem to be arguing something like this (but correct me if I misunderstand):

P1: If a certain kind of argument can be made for things that don't exist, then that certain kind of argument is inadequate for making a discovery about reality.

P2: Philosophical arguments are a kind of argument that can be made for things that don't exist.

C: Therefore, philosophical arguments are inadequate for making a discovery about reality.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 30: Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:29 am
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The Tanager wrote:
By saying the miraculous is less plausible, are you referring to something like the general probability of such an act? That this general probability is the factor which makes it so that 100% certainty is needed, where it need not be that high in looking at, say, scientific theories?


Your questions here a vague. What is a "general probability," and what "act" are you asking about? Certainty needed for what?

But if we get back to what I said earlier, logically if I consider the probability of a miracle as less than the probability of any other available explanation, then if any other explanation is available, I opt for that explanation as more probable. For example, if a skeptic explains the resurrection story as resulting from the apostles seeing Jesus' identical twin brother mistaking that brother of Jesus for Jesus, then I'd conclude that it's more probable the apostles saw this brother of Jesus mistaking him for Jesus than that Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, it's more probable that Jesus had an identical twin brother that the apostles thought was the risen Jesus than that Jesus rose from the dead.

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I am aware people hallucinate. I'm also aware that people don't hallucinate and that hallucination is a bad explanation for some events. The way I think you tell is by looking at the specific data in each case.


Well, if an event leaves behind physical evidence, then hallucinations may not fully explain the event. If the Krishna-in-the-sky event left a huge crater behind, then we can safely conclude that hallucinations cannot account for the crater. However, it's possible that an asteroid created the crater and that onlookers, traumatized by the event, hallucinated the visions of Krishna.

So what physical evidence do you have for Christian miracle claims?

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...I disagree with the assessment of the evidence.


And that's exactly why basing claims on historical events is tricky. People can easily assess the evidence differently. Often the best you can do is make your case for what you think is historical and then hope people agree with you.

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...you seem to be arguing something like this (but correct me if I misunderstand):

P1: If a certain kind of argument can be made for things that don't exist, then that certain kind of argument is inadequate for making a discovery about reality.

P2: Philosophical arguments are a kind of argument that can be made for things that don't exist.

C: Therefore, philosophical arguments are inadequate for making a discovery about reality.


No, I don't generally argue like that. Apologists have popularized these formal arguments without letting people know that all these words may have little to do with reality. Logic can't make any gods real.

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