that last comment was just plain mean, and any intellegant person would know that if you spontaniously combusted from bieng to serious it couldn't be anything but Gods will, besides it is probobly a good thing to be serious, after all this is worse than life and death, this is eternal torture of rapture! and religion is nothing more complex than loving God and bieng his child.
i completely understand your point, and i am not going to insult it at all, in fact i think you have touched apon a very important yet contrevershal subject (excuse my spelling) i suppose the only way i can explain it is that people always fight to defend their loved ones, and thats what religious people do when talking about God. (even though speaking for myself, i don't always do much good!!!)
"Science is the unbiased pursuit of the understanding of the universe, but unfortunately for religion, the word "unbiased" can never be used. All religions, by definition, have their own agenda, and hence impartiality (in the scientific sense) is impossible from a religious perspective."
I would like to completely disagree with this point. This is because you are seemingly discussing the difference between science and religious people, not religion. There is the subtle implication that Religion is (unlike science) not a truth claim, but a only a belief that has no relation to an external truth (showing your bias). You imply that Religion itself is biased, which is only true if you say that one can be biased towards the truth (in which case, science is just as biased as Religion). Your statement also implies that Scientists are unbiased with regards to religion, which is a crazy view to hold. It is obvious that everyone has their own bias, based upon what kind of individual (or perhaps 'person') they are, where they grow up, etc, and this bias is most obviously shown when people are discussing the issues which matter most, for instance Religion. For instance, Dawkins will always be biased against religion, whereas the Pope will always be biased for it. In short, there are not unbiased 'world views' that one can take (for instance, Scepticism is biased towards doubt, Christianity towards trust, etc). Thomas Nagel wrote a very good book on exactly this, called the view from Nowhere.
Thanks for your input. I agree with you, but you are arguing against points I never made. I never said scientists were unbiased, just that science is.
Of course science is the product of scientists (who all have biases), but at least scientific theories are falsifiable, so bias can be tested and exposed. If lots of different people (with different biases) try, unsuccessfully to falsify a scientific theory, then we can be more confident that it is the unbiased truth. Conversely if someone provides evidence that undermines even the most fundamental of scientific beliefs, then it is considered to be false.
This is why I think that science is unbiased. My understanding of religions is that many of their central tenets (ie the origins of humans, the origins of the universe, the existence of life after death, the existence of god(s), virgin births, resurrections etc.) are not falsifiable. This engineers permanent bias into religions that cannot be removed.
I hope this clarifies my position in a manner consistent with your point.
Firstly, it seems that you are still talking about our understanding of truths (which is indeed biased) rather than the truth itself. For instance, saying the there was a Virgin Birth is only biased in so far as the person stating it is. However, the fact that there was or wasn't one is not a biased fact. If you consider Religions to be purely man made things, not discussing facts of the Universe, but simply people's opinions then they are clearly biased. However, if you say that they are discussing facts about the Universe, then the facts themselves (falsifiable or not) are not intrinsically biased.
However, I still think that science has an intrinsic bias, which is towards empirical truth. For instance, Science could never show how the world 'ought' to be, that is to say what one should do, as it can only say how the world is (or perhaps was as well). Another thing is that Science cannot prove historical truths, for instance Elizabeth I did not marry or Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. This is not to say that science has no use, for it does what it does very well.
Another thing is that Science cannot answer the question 'why this instead of nothing', the answer to which is clearly not falsifiable and the only reasonable answer (God [I say only, for the alternative is to say that it is brute fact is not really an answer, it is merely refusing to respond to the question] and also note that I did not say necessarily true), has no inherent bias (other than towards itself, that is to say its 'truth claim').
OK you're right, on a technical level clearly Science is biased towards truth, but in a debate about the usefulness of science and religion towards understanding truth, this seems a bit pedantic and contributes little to the discussion.
I do not agree with you that `god' is the only reasonable answer to the question "why this instead of nothing?" Firstly, if god created the universe, then the obvious next question is who or what created god? Secondly, different religions claim that it is their particular god that created the universe, and not yours. So how can your particular flavour of god be a reasonable answer, while theirs is not?
In my opinion the only reasonable answer to your question is `we just don't know yet'. It could be `god', it could be that we are one of an infinite number of parallel universes, etc etc. Maybe we will never know for sure. However, the admission of ignorance is the true virtue of science over religion. Science will probably never answer all the most fundamental questions, but is it always reasonable to inject god into our ignorance? Remember religions have a very poor history of explaining the (apparently) inexplicable. We only have to look at the Old Testament description of creation to see how religion has been used to (try to) fill in the gaps in our knowledge. The Genesis account of creation was largely believed as literal truth until science enlightened us, so religion had to retreat further back into our ignorance.
I also disagree that science can NEVER tell us what `one should do'. For example if you asked "should I smoke if I want to live a long and healthy life?", science can answer that question. Of course it doesn't have all the answers, but clearly many "What should I do?" questions are scientifically tractable.
From the Christian understanding of God, who or what created God is a meaningless (and 'incorrect') question, due to the fact that God always existed (a technical term is 'necessary being') whereas the Universe did not always exist, for everything in the Universe is contingent it must have not existed at some time (I'm using the word time, as I can think of no useful alternative for time is intrinsically linked to space).
Another point is that Religion is at least as Humble (if not more) as science, due to the fact that Religion claims that it can never know the whole truth, for the Truth is something that is infinite, and cannot be grasped by a finite mind (which is why St Thomas never created a whole system, and in the end said his Theology was "all straw" when compared with what he was writing about [God]), whereas Science does often claim to be capable of understanding the Universe, even if it is honest enough to admit that it does not do so yet.
Also, Genesis may have been interpreted as a Literal truth for many people, but most scholarly research suggests that it was not written to be a literal account of how the Universe was created, to go back to St Thomas, he envisaged a God that was always creating which clearly is not how Genesis portrays Creation, and his view was accepted by the Church. Also, another Thomist idea is that 'Truth is one', which means that Faith and Reason can never be contradictory, thus Science and Religion should live together very happily (which is why you do not [or should not] get any Catholic Creationist,s for example).
You also said that different religions claim that it is their particular god that created the universe, and not yours. This is one of the things that I have always found slightly problematic, but recently I have decided that there are three main reasons. Firstly, Christ's Revelation, particularly the Resurrection. Christianity is the only religion in which its saviour is the way himself, comparing it to Islam, Muhammed is pointing the way to God, whereas Jesus is the way himself and his teachings are often the most profound things that have every been said, and his Crucifixion shows us how man responds to the completely innocent, and his resurrection shows God's triumph over Sin and Death. However if it was simply that the Bible said that Jesus was resurrected and that was that, then this would not be a particularly compelling reason. However, the fact that nearly all of his disciples had abandoned Christ on the Cross, then suddenly started preaching his word, which could have (and indeed did) lead to them being tortured and killed shows that something miraculous and incredible happened that was enough to change these men from people who had left Christ to people who were actively preaching the Gospel wherever they went. Secondly, Christianity does give the most consistent world view, for example, my understanding of lots of Islam is that everything is the will of Allah, which is something I could not accept, and Christian Theology is the thought that is both the most Beautiful and Compelling. Finally, the fact that without Christianity, Love is not the Ultimate truth (for "God is Love") (and thus love is not the most important thing) is something that I feel is something that I could not live with. The concept of God being Love is something that seperates Christianity from most other religions.
Finally, Science still is not really telling you what to do, you are telling science what you would like to do, and it responds by saying how you should do it. To cite your example, science does not say that you should try to live a long and healthy life, that is your assertion, and science tells you that smoking is not part of that life, so the Original Precept of Live a long and Healthy life is not something that science can every say is right or wrong. It all comes back to Hume's Naturalistic Fallacy (that an ought can never be derived from an is).
Why is it OK to say that god just exists, but it's not OK (according to you) to just say that the universe just exists? Seems a bit double standards to me.
Also, you seem to be saying that your god must be the right one because christianity makes the most sense to you. But people of other faiths are just as convinced as you that they are right, and, as you have, quote from their religious texts to support their position.
I'm glad you were honest enough to concede that this was a problem for you, but if I can be so bold, I'd say your explanation smacks of someone trying to reconcile a serious logical problem to the confines of their chosen religion. As I said, the same discussion with believers of different faiths would no doubt elicit a similar response. If anything it argues strongly in favour of deism rather then of any of the organised religions. If all religious people on earth believed in the same god, then rejection would be intellectually more difficult. But when we find that collectively humans follow thousands of different religions, it makes one suspicious that they could all simply be inventions to satisfy a common psychology, with some being more popular than others.
I hope my amateur analysis has not stepped over the line.
Its ok to say that God 'just' exists, as he is necessary (i.e. could not not exist) and the grounding in which everything exists, whereas everything in the universe is contingent, and could not exist. It is perfectly possible to conceive the Universe without the computer that I am typing on, as it is possible to consider the Universe without all other things in it. Thus it is fair to say that it is possible for nothing to exist. And, as nothing can come from nothing, it must have come from somewhere. The traditional (and current) idea of God is that he created Everything, thus God is not a thing (thus he is not contingent).
I am not simply saying that Christianity makes the most sense to me, but that it is the most coherent view that anyone could take. However, I also know that I am biased towards Christianity in a way that I could not be towards any other view, but this does not detract from my conviction that (given all the religious and secular views) Christianity is the most coherent.
Finally, it does not point towards a deist god, from many reasons. Firstly, there is no difference between a Deist god and no god at all, for the Deist God would never reveal himself, or do anything other than sustain the Universe. The Deist god could not be good, for with Deism, the Problem of Evil is far more prominent than with Christianity (for it is normally asserted that the Deist god created the world as it is, whereas Christian thinking argues that the world is not in the state that God intended it to be). Even though all religions worship different 'gods', it does not mean that they were all invented to satisfy a common psychology. In fact, it points to the fact that our lives are not grounded in anything without God, and if you think of it the other way round, would God have created man in a way that was receptive or unreceptive to the idea of God? Even if everyone worshipped the same God, then it (obviously) could still point towards a common psychology.
Of course god is 'necessary' by the definition of religious believers, but that's for the very reason I have pointed out. If god required a creator then one can just keep asking the question "Yeah, but who created the creator of the creator of the creator......?". Of course the creators of religions are not stupid, and so have realised that they have to maintain that god has always existed because without that notion their philosophy clearly falls flat (...it's turtles all the way down). Isn't this just a classic example of a circular argument:
Person 1. "There is a god" Person 2. "How do you know?" Person 1. "Because someone had to create our universe. It can't just have appeared out of nothing." Person 2. "But who created the person that created the universe?" Person 1. "No-one. He has always existed. If he didn't always exist then who would have created the universe? He couldn't not exist".
To me it is still double standards to expect someone to accept that god has always existed, but that the universe could not have appeared from nothing. They both seem to be as remote as each other and should be treated with equal skepticism. As I said, for me the most reasonable perspective is to say 'we just don't know yet'. As an aside, I doubt if even we had the true naturalistic explanation of the origins of the universe, anyone could understand it. Our understanding of the world as experienced by our unaided senses is pretty logical and comprehensible. But when it comes to sub-atomic particles and quantum physics, even those that dedicate their lives to the study of them, claim that they don't understand them. So what chance have you or I of understanding how matter behaves when the entire mass/energy of the universe was concentrated into a tiny space? I suspect that the notion of god will always exist as the birth of the universe is such a complex issue that no human will be able to comprehend it and so the religious will claim that it required a creator. Also we will never be able to provide a satisfactory answer to the question "What happens after we die?", because people are reluctant to believe that they can simply no longer exist.
"I am not simply saying that Christianity makes the most sense to me, but that it is the most coherent view that anyone could take.". You cannot possibly have studied all religions so how can you assert that Christianity is the most coherent? This again smacks of one who has adopted a particular religion and is attempting to justify it to themselves. You are still just saying that it makes the most sense to you. How do you answer a Hindu who claims that after studying many religions their beliefs are the most coherent?
"Even if everyone worshipped the same God, then it (obviously) could still point towards a common psychology.". Yes, but at least it could be less likely that god was invented by humans because all the believers seem to be getting a consistent message from (their) god. What we have now is hundreds of different mutually exclusive religions, where (mostly) each god punishes the followers of others by an eternity of damnation. Christianity is no exception to this.
That may be true in terms of conversions (not that anyone expects that), but I find the whole subject very intriguing and the only way to uncover one's own potential delusions is to discuss them with others of differing opinion with as open mind as possible. I've generally learned a great deal from these dialogues although like all who are involved, find that my own personal beliefs remain largely unchanged.
Thank you, for realising that the questions, such as these, really do matter.
"What we have now is hundreds of different mutually exclusive religions, where (mostly) each god punishes the followers of others by an eternity of damnation. Christianity is no exception to this."
I just need to correct you on this detail, most Christians do not believe this, for example the Catholic Church has not said that anyone has ever been damned (some [relatively] small Protestant Churches unfortunately do). It seems ridiculous for anyone to say that God (who is Love) sends millions of people to be damned purely because they were born at the 'wrong' time.
It seems we are going round in circles with the other argument, pretty much the cosmological. Remember that the cosmological argument was not a 'proof' for God's existence, only a way of understanding its nature. My original point was (and still is) that the only reasonable answer (not answering is, in a sense, reasonable) to why this instead of nothing, is God. Sorry if this sounds like I am back tracking, if it does, then in my defence, when I was an atheist/agnostic, I never found the Cosmological argument convincing, it only seemingly is from a Theistic Perspective. However, I still hold that nothing can come from nothing, and if the Universe is contingent (which is implied by the nature of everything in it) then what conclusion can you come to?
The main reason that Christianity is the most coherent of all religions is the huge importance of Love in it. This can be easily illustrated by saying 'who matters most to you in your life' and it is (almost always) those who you love. Asking a very similar question 'what matters most in your life' and again I would say that Love is the most common, and always truest, response.
Finally, Just wondering, but what is your 'world view' (I really dislike that term)? What do you believe in?
I'm a bit confused now. My own understanding of Christianity was that unless you accepted Jesus as your savior then you spent eternity in hell. All the Christians I have had discussions with claim that this is a central tenet of Christianity. In fact my own mother (a born-again Christian) believes I will spend the afterlife in hell unless I say a prayer accepting Jesus as my savior. She believes this so strongly that it is a great source of torment for her. It doesn't surprise me that religions would move to reject this idea as I agree with you that this is incompatible with the notion of a loving god. As the goal-posts seem to be shifting, maybe you could clarify for me the criteria over which one is accepted into the kingdom of (Christian) heaven.
In terms of nothing can come from nothing; you may be interested in the theory of vacuum fluctuation (if you haven't explored it already).
I'm not using it to justify the beginning of the universe (some do), but it does contradict your (apparently reasonable) idea that nothing comes from nothing. As I said, when it comes to sub-atomic particles and quantum physics, the world is a very different place from that we experience with our unaided senses alone. Hence ignorance over such matter should never be used to support the idea of the supernatural.
You still seem to be claiming that Christianity is the 'most coherent' religion, but you haven't studied all the religions humans currently follow (never mind those that have ceased to be). You are making the assumption that by studying the most popular, you have made an exhaustive comparison (which you clearly haven't). Had you been born 5000 years ago in Egypt you'd be claiming similar things about completely different God(s). What you are doing is a bit like reading only the current top 10 best-selling novels and claiming that the one that you like the most is the best book in the world. Argumentum ad populum is one of the basic fallacies of argument.
Personally I am a skeptic. This applies not only to things like the existence of gods, but to everything. Of course the energy I invest in applying this is not proportional to all issues, but those with the greatest implications get the greatest effort. For example whether or not a skin cream will banish the seven signs of aging can be treated with cursory skepticism, but if a belief system which has a massive power over the shaping of my society makes specific claims, then this deserves a far greater effort. Even before I read any atheist writings I had my suspicions about the existence of god, and this is in spite of being raised in a Christian society in schools where belief in god was unquestioned. It is also in spite of the fact that belief in god would be a very comforting thing. Like Carl Sagan I believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Many beliefs commonly held do not stand up to scrutiny. I include in this list such things as the existence of ghosts, magic, telekinesis, telepathy, prophecy, alien visitations of earth etc etc. The existence of god(s) is just another member of this list. I'm not saying that none of these things are real, just that I have yet to see evidence strong enough to support belief.
I'm sorry to hear about your misfortune with meeting many people who are convinced your going to Hell. There have been two 'traditional' views, which both can be divided in two again. Firstly there is if you are saved by 'faith' or 'work', which both can be divided into 'God chooses' or 'Man chooses'. Obviously faith, and God's choice have naturally been associated, this was, most notably, Calvin's view (often called [sometimes double, if you say that both who is damned and saved is chosen] Predestination, I hasten to add that Calvin's God was not Love, but he was Sovereign) which was heavily influenced by St Augustine, under his criteria I think that there were three categories, the Saints, the Baptised and the Unbaptised, who could only be saved if they had either not heard the good news, or heard it in such a way that there was almost no truth in it. Then, the Augustinian view moved on, and in the last century came a really incredible (Protestant) Theologian called Karl Barth, Pope Pius XII said he was"the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas" and Pius XII was a conservative Catholic. Barth said that it is completely God's choice, but God chooses EVERYONE to be saved. I do quite like this view, it is definitely competing for my opinion, but what are its implications for freedom and morality? However, saying that Man on his own saves is a Heresy as it would require man to choose God and Salvation without any Divine Aid. Finally, my opinion (that I may have got from someone else), is that God does choose everyone, and it is our response to that choice that determines our salvation. This does not mean that when we die (or during our lives) God comes to us and says 'heaven or hell', but more that God is always choosing everyone, and it is our response to that choice that really matters, to use a Bible quote "For he who knows love, knows God" (1 John 4), and I recognise at least the possibility of Hell, for man is free to utterly reject God in every way, and I don't simply mean rejecting the Church.
Just wondering, but are you sceptical about other things, such as Morality, or simply religion? Do you believe in a (or any) Morality?
Also, in many ways a belief in God is not a comforting thing, for it means that there are such incredible demands upon a Christian that one can never fulfil alone, and one has to totally give themselves to God, and renounce many of the values that most of the world (particularly in Britain) takes for granted.
Thanks for the detailed explanation. It seems to me that you are saying that this is a very grey area without clear detail. It seems that many people have different opinions, and it has required the effort of many respected theologians to (attempt to) create sense from it. Even you seem to be unsure ("competing for my opinion"). To me it is surprising that the Christian God has been so ambiguous over what is (potentially) a very important point, and just as surprising that you accept such vagueness.
To be honest with you Jack I can accept some degree of ambiguity in an ancient text, but over something of this absolutely unparalleled significance your god really should have done a better job in inspiring the authors.
If I may be honest, it sounds an awful lot like a logical impasse in Christian philosophy that no number of great minds has succeeded in resolving clearly. I believe that this is because the concept of heaven and hell are incompatible with a loving and fair god.
Do I believe in morality? In what sense? That there is a moral code for humans? In that sense I do. Our societies have defined moral codes. But it is a subject about which I know little. I suspect that the derivation of human morality is based upon natural selection within the framework of extreme sociality. Meaning, not only survival of the fittest, but also the most social. I've not really dedicated much thought to it though.
By the way what did you think about the vacuum fluctuation theory of something from nothing? Has this changed your view? Sometimes it seems that physics needs as much faith as religion!
I didn't necessarily mean the Christian god would be a comfort to me, but that some supernatural being who has a plan behind all the bad things that happen to me, who will reunite me with my dead loved ones, and who will preserve me after I die ....... would be comforting.
It seems it is both a very grey area (in that there are lots of opinions) and yet a very black and white one (as many opinions are far more detailed than I quickly wrote, and the detail makes them all far stronger arguments). Most of the views have some coherence, and some truth, yet some make more sense than others. Sadly, the Ancient texts are brutally clear, follow Christ, or risk everything (for it seems, form a Christian view, to be the only really guaranteed way to reach salvation). Firstly, following Christ is not as simple as saying I'm going to believe in the Triune God, for actually following him means giving everything up for him, and living in God's Love. This is where all the views come from, because it is open to so much interpretation as what happens to those who don't follow Him, whether they are saved or not, or if God actually could send a 'non-believer', to Hell. Secondly, if one is capable of following God, but rejects Him, does he understand what he is rejecting? If he is truly rejecting God, then is he sending himself to Hell? Or will Grace save him? Maybe Purgatory is the answer... I can fully understand why you would say Hell is incompatible, but why Heaven? Could God not save us? But if Heaven is there, then surely (if man is free) then Hell must be too?
Please read up upon Morality, as the more you read, the crazier the world seems today! Alistair MacIntyre's After Virtue is a really incredible book on the subject of Modern Moral Philosophy, and I found it quite accessible. He basically compares the world of Morality to the world of Science, if we lost most of the books that have ever been written, in the first chapter. This is not literal, but he uses it to show how we have forgotten the way of living a 'Good Life' that was accepted throughout History until the 18th/19th century, and replaced firstly by attempts at Morality that were meant to be purely rational (such as Kantian Morality) and then replaced by Libertarianism/Existentialism, which has no substance whatsoever, and is (pretty much) as incoherent theory as one would ever hear, yet it is very convenient for the Individual, for it permits anything.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you are), vacuum fluctuation theory didn't change my view... I felt that even if it could create the Universe, which is seemingly open to much debate, then there is still the energy to come from somewhere, as did the 'law' itself. Also, do you think the laws of nature are prescriptive or descriptive? For if they are prescriptive then where did they come from? But if they are descriptive, then where did the things that they describe originally come from? The more physics discovers, the crazier it seems! It is hard to believe that scientists, only 100-150 years ago, thought that they were very close to discovering everything!
Finally, the sad thing is that the Christian God does not say that there is a plan behind all the bad things that happen to me (or anyone else). He would be far more detached from existence if he did. As many Theologians have said before me (Augustine, Dostoevsky, David Bentley Hart [who, incidentally, wrote an incredible book on the topic of Evil, and Salvation], to name a few) 'A God that Justifies Evil is not worthy of Worship'. Saying it will all be ok in the end is not a real comfort, as it is clearly not all ok now, and (when Evil does happen to one) it does not really help to say that it will be all ok in the end.
The world is already crazy enough to me without reading anything else! The solution to it is another matter entirely.....
As I said, I wasn't expecting vacuum fluctuation to change your view on the origins of the universe, but on your view that "nothing can come from nothing". Has that changed?
I love your point about our egotism over knowledge. We have such a clear history of arrogance in the belief that we are reaching the peak of our understanding of everything, when in fact anyone who is focused on any branch of research will likely tell you there is still much more to learn than we already have. As a molecular biologist I'd say we are probably only a few percent towards a complete understanding of the subject, with the vast vast majority still awaiting discovery. You'd think that history would teach us to be more humble.
I still think heaven and hell are incompatible with a fair and loving god. I am clearly not alone in this (believers or otherwise), and over years of trying I have not heard a coherent explanation of how the Christian god judges we humans after death in a fair manner and while still showing love. For me this totally undermines Christianity and therefore, bearing in mind this is likely to be my only life, I am not going to spend it trying to satisfy something that could well be non-existent. Just as you are skeptical about all gods other than your own, I am skeptical about one more.
The thing is, Morality is (generally) very easy to read about, yet I agree, there is far too much insanity within the topic, although in many ways it represents one of the biggest attacks upon a Dawkinsesque view of the world (a view which is seemingly that ONLY science can tell us about truths). By the way, I'm not saying that you hold this nonsensical view...
The thing about Vacuum Fluctuation was that (from my understanding) something wasn't coming from nothing, it was something coming from energy, although I hasten to add that I am not much of a Quantum Physicist!
As you may guess, I still disagree with your view that Heaven and Hell are incompatible with a Loving God. The thing is, there is no definite view of 'how' God judges, hence the Church never making any official statements as to who is in Hell, there are simply theories, and the test, unfortunately, is an eschatological one. However, the interesting point about you having one life is that you seem to be arguing the opposite of Pascal with his 'Wager'. Although it is seemingly a very unconvincing reason to believe in God (rightly), it does show everyone an important truth, that if you think there is a God, then Bet everything on it, for if there is not then it (ultimately) does not matter if you are wrong.
Finally, if you have some time, then read about Karl Barth, particularily on 'Election' and the Trinity. Here is a consice (but generally good) description of his Theology, but don't attempt to read anything written by Barth, to illustrate this, his brother told him he was going to translate his (Karl's) work, Karl asked into what language and his brother replied 'Into German' (*Barth wrote in [and was] German). http://www.theopedia.com/Theology_of_Karl_Barth
Please don't think I am closed minded about morality, it's just that it's not a subject about which I am very interested. It's one of those things that is very difficult to penetrate (in terms of origins), and so is open to conjecture. I'm happy to believe that morality just exists and that we (humans) do what we think is best to promote it. Where this compulsion comes from is one of those things that (as you pointed out), is more difficult for science to take a hold of because it is a historical question. Although I disagree that science cannot have some say on historical matters. Maybe one day I will be suitably curious to venture there, but at the moment other things interest me more. I'll keep Karl Barth on my 'to do' list.
You are right in my position over Pascal's wager. And I'm surprised you think it a reasonable philosophy because it has one fundamental flaw which can be summarised into a response to the wager: Which god?
You see Pascal's wager only makes sense when there is only one god that everyone of faith believes in. For me to fulfill Pascal's wager then I have to commit to all the gods that currently exist, because of course I don't know which is right. Even if amongst all those I chose to commit to I happen to pick the right one, then He'd have to be a bit shallow to judge me favourably over an agnostic who morally lived by the same values as me but didn't commit to him. If that god exists, then he does not deserve my worship. This also links in with what I said earlier about mutual exclusivity of monotheism. In both Exodus and Deuteronomy your god forbids the worship of other gods. So putting that together with Pascal's wager can you see that it is a complete folly to me?
What do I have to lose? Well let me quote you on that "in many ways a belief in God is not a comforting thing, for it means that there are such incredible demands upon a Christian that one can never fulfil alone, and one has to totally give themselves to God". That doesn't sound like nothing to me.
I don't doubt that you are open minded about morality, or maybe you're simply biased towards the only morality you know... But if you do have some time, then read something short and readable, for it is such an interesting subject, and one that has (obvious) importance with regards to each and every one of our lives.
You must have misunderstood me, I said that Pascal's Wager was "a very unconvincing reason to believe in God", although I did say some things that could be interpreted as for it, but I do think that it shows us something about how important our answers to questions regarding religion.
I agree, a god would be shallow if he chose someone to be saved over a seemingly arbitrary decision, but two things. Firstly, perhaps the decision is not an arbitrary one, where you have two 'world views' of equal coherence, but the Christian view is the one that is most convincing (perhaps). Secondly, the Church recognises that there is truth in all forms of Christianity, and in all religions, but it says (correctly, definitely with regards to Christianity) that the Catholic view is the closest view to the Truth. This does give some ability for salvation for other religions...
The thing is, even though it seems like the demands are so incredible, (at the risk of sounding evangelical) you will never have to do them alone. The one theme within Christian Mysticism, from Augustine to Merton, is that giving it all up actually makes the people far happier, but at the risk of everything that they thought that they knew beforehand.
Well maybe that's the difference between you and I. I have never felt the presence of a supernatural being in my life, and so commitment to him is nonsensical. Maybe you do have such a thing (I note that almost all believers do), but in that case, as always, I wait with an open mind for the supernatural to reveal itself. As yet it/he has been sadly absent, even during my 'believing years' as a child.
your first paragraph reads as though you actually know what god wants! how can you possibly know this and make such assertive statements? Do you really believe the bible is the word of god? You think your god who created the whole universe, picked one galaxy out of around 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, having chosen one particular galaxy, he chose one particular star out of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy, he then chose the one planet near that star able to support life, he then chose one particular area and one particluar tribe and gave them loads of rules about who to kill, who to enslave what to eat, who to have sex with etc then later he sent his son down here to be killed! why did he create such a vast universe and then only concentrate on a few people and set "escape routes" and tests etc why doesnt he just stick his face in the sky and say "hi everyone im god you'all be cool to each other or else" Last paragraph, i looked at all the references and there is still no evidence, because you base everything on the fact that the bible is the word of god, when it is obvious that the bible was written by man. Do you honestly think that the creator of the universe couldnt write something a bit better than the bible? Now if the bible said "sometime in the 21st century, my followers will find a cure for a disease i created called cancer" and that happended, then i would have a different worldview. Just get over yourself, you are lucky to be here, we evolved by chance, enjoy your life and stop wasting your one life in preparation for another one, because you are going to be dissapointed...correction...you wont know you know longer exist!
Which last paragraph did you read that expressed this opinion? How many times have I said that the Bible is the word of God? The rest of your arguments are so ingenious, I don't think anyone could ever respond to them. And yes, prophecies about when disease will be cured, are the most important thing for God to reveal for us, not the existence of God, and Him being Love. Can you not see that God put his Son on the ground, Who said 'Hi everyone, you all be good to each other or risk everything'. Also, which reference are you talking about?