Sunday, August 23, 2015

An interesting question

Here. On a cool Autumn night, you are gazing up at the sky when a being suddenly appears and asks, "What can I do to make you believe that I am God?" What is your answer?

I once asked that question to atheist philosopher Keith Parsons. He told me that if the galaxies in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn Or Burn This Means You Parsons," that the would turn.


Edward T. Babinski said...

Believers in all sorts of things don't simply give up on their beliefs. Not even snake-handling Christians after they see their pastor die from snakebite.

What keeps an exclusivist damnation believing, inspiration believing, Christian going? There seems to me too many mixed messages when it comes to holy writings and miracle stories from all the world's religions. Even sheer coincidence stories of all sorts of amazing kinds are part of the whole mixed bag of evidence. As well as NDEs that do not all portray heaven the same way and hence do not point in the direction of one religion in particular being true.

But one religion after another damns all other religions, or a sub-set of them, as either demonic or on the slippery slope away from "the" truth--that particular religion's set of truths.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Natural Selections from Uncle Ed's Holy Book

John Moore said...

I would say, "Give me a detailed explanation for dark matter."

Gyan said...

Is it possible to have an iron-clad proof of God's existence? How did Abraham reply to Dives?
After all, one can choose to disbelieve in one's senses.
Question: the miracle of the sun at Fatima was seen by 70,000 people. Why is it not sufficient for Parsons? Did he investigate it though?
At the cures at Lourdes? Did he investigate those?

Indeed, how come Protestants not convinced by specifically Catholic miracles of Fatima and Lourdes? Have they investigated the matter and convinced themselves that the miracles were fake?

Victor Reppert said...

Some Protestants don't think they have to consider it fake.

Ilíon said...

the above, as a link

jdhuey said...

The first thing I would say is that convincing just me is worth squat - a hypnotist once convince me I was a chicken.

The second is that the letters "GOD" are just a label and not really important - what is important is what exactly are you and exactly what have you done and can do. So, here is the proposal, manifest a small blue orb (or a small burning bush) in each and every science laboratory and in each and every Philosophy department and in each and every place of worship (regardless of religion) around the world. Have the orb communicate with anyone that is there providing a one on one converstion with you. You answer honestly to any and all questions. All of these converstions will be recorded and available on-line.

I'm sure that over the course of, say a year, that enough data will be collected and tests performed that some sort of consensus will begin to form. (Many, no doubt, will just cherry pick the information to support their preconceived notions.)

I have no idea what that consensus would say, but I'm pretty sure it would be completely different from anything any religion has to say today.

Ilíon said...

^ someone doesn't know the meaning of 'convince'

But then, would it really be all that hard to "convince" a chickenshit that he is a chicken?

jdhuey said...


You may want to try again, your comment came across as just meaningless gibberish.

B. Prokop said...

These atheists who are forever asking for "a sign from Heaven" as proof of God's existence really don't have a clue as to what they are asking for. The surest indication that such a revelation was genuine would be that it bring nothing but suffering and trials to the recipient. Name me a single person in history who was happy to have been chosen by God for special revelation. Quite the contrary, Peter pleaded with the Lord, "Leave me". Isaiah said "Woe unto me!" when he saw the Lord enthroned upon the Cherubs. Jeremiah repeatedly begged God to leave him alone. So did Ezekiel. Jonah went so far as to try to run away from God!

And the lives of Catholic saints who received private revelations from Our Lady or from Jesus Himself were no bed of roses!

I guarantee you, if ever Babinski, jdhuey, or Parsons actually witnessed a no-shit 100% verifiable Sign from Heaven, they would run screaming in the other direction.

Jezu ufam tobie!

jdhuey said...

B. Prokop,

And that is exactly the reason that I proposed to make the "Revelations" public. It allows for cross checking so that if someone interprets or just makes up shit, it can be checked and corrected. If the revelation is hopelessly ambiguous then we could always go back to the source and get clarification. Think about it, for the first time in the history of the world theology would actually have a subject to study.

Now here is question for you True Believers, what if this God informed you that your most cherished beliefs were simply not true? There is no Heaven, there is no Jesus, there is no afterlife, etc. Would you reject this manifest entity as a false god or would you be convinced? If the former what would it take to convince you that you are wrong and the Blue Orb God is the Genuine article. What type of Turing Test questions would you ask to Orb to settle the issue?

B. Prokop said...

"what would it take?

I've answered this question before, on this very website.

Show me the body of an unresurrected Jesus and I would drop Christianity like a hot potato. Or in some other manner prove to me that the Resurrection did not happen, and would instantly confess my error and move along.

Bad news for the atheist, however, is that the last thing in the world I would then become would be yet another atheist. Materialism simply doesn't make any sense. I would most likely embrace either Hinduism or Daoism. But atheism would only become a viable option once every last alternative to Christianity were first proven wanting.

jdhuey said...

"Show me the body..."

So, even if in all other respects you are convinced that the orb entity is indeed God, you would still reject Him as God, unless you were shown the Body?

Crude said...

I have no idea what that consensus would say, but I'm pretty sure it would be completely different from anything any religion has to say today.

Yet more evidence that modern atheism is where the absurd and irrational go to roost.

jdhuey said...


As usual, you misunderstand the point. In the above counterfactual I am rejecting atheism and positing that the Blue Orb entity has passed the 'I am God' Turing test. All that I'm saying is that if such a god exists then I strongly suspect it would disavow any current religion. Just a suspicion on my part.

On the other hand, it could be that the Blue Orb entity states that it is exactly like Catholic dogma maintains. I'm sure that would be one of the first questions put to it. But then I would be curious what Jewish, Muslim and Hindu theologians would have to say.

Just how far away from current religious dogma would the entity have to be to not be considered 'God'?

Crude said...

In the above counterfactual I am rejecting atheism and positing that the Blue Orb entity has passed the 'I am God' Turing test. All that I'm saying is that if such a god exists then I strongly suspect it would disavow any current religion. Just a suspicion on my part.

Thank you. That means there's absolutely no misunderstanding to speak of. You said something freaking irrational. From talking about the 'I am God' Turing test to speculating about the actions of a being you don't believe exist but have literally and knowingly conjured entirely from the realm of your imagination, based on nothing but feels.

Just how far away from current religious dogma would the entity have to be to not be considered 'God'?


DougJC said...

> "What can I do to make you believe that I am God?"

Interesting; so this "God" being is approaching me as a person, not as an omnipotent being who can effortlessly imprint a trillion years in the life of God in my neural circuits without harm or even the slightest moral discomfort on my part, instantly granting itself recognition and admiration freely given.

Well, in all my relationships with people one thing is clear: you can't get to know someone at all in just a few days, let alone a few months. That's partly because everyone wears some sort of disguise and partly because getting to know someone requires learning, and learning anything really well takes time.

So I think I'd ask this "God" being to commit to a year of spending time with me day in and day out. If that being was God, I don't think I would need to answer the question after a year, I'd simply believe.

John Moore said...

This discussion just reinforces the idea that it's meaningless to have God say, "I am God" in whatever form. A better idea would be for God to tell us something truly useful that no human yet knows. That's why I suggested the dark matter explanation.

God certainly knows the answer. He could present us with a detailed, scientifically verifiable explanation for dark matter, and it would revolutionize astrophysics. We would know God was telling the truth, because we could verify it scientifically. It would be awesome and really overwhelming.

Of course, some super-smart aliens might also know that explanation for dark matter. They might be posing as God to fool us. On the other hand, I don't really mind being fooled this way. I'd be glad to call such aliens "God" for as long as they kept telling us great scientific tips.

The real question, of course, is why God hasn't told us anything like this before. That's the real theological conundrum.

B. Prokop said...

"That's the real theological conundrum."

Only in your mind. I fail to see why He would want to play such games. Just to satisfy your curiosity? No, the only answer you'd get is the one He gave to Martha. ("Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one is needful.")

Jezu ufam tobie!

Jim S. said...

Parsons said something like that in his debate with Craig. Craig responded, "Wouldn't you think you were just hallucinating?" Parsons tried to say that if everyone saw a specific address to him (Parsons) in the sky, then it would convince him. I don't question whether he believes this, but I do question whether this would actually be his response. Wouldn't he think he was just suffering a nervous breakdown? That nervous breakdowns take place can be accepted by an atheist. So since he has an explanation for the phenomenon that already fits into his worldview, how would the phenomenon push him to abandon his worldview?

Gyan said...

The link is inconclusive.
" I must say my logic is painting me into a corner here. Bible says, “pray to God alone” but a Spirit being from heaven says pray the Rosary. Is it possible that praying the rosary is not praying to Mary?

It is obvious to me I need to do more thinking on this final point but I think it is also obvious that it would be silly to disregard Fatima out of hand."

Perhaps there exist more through Protestant appraisals of Catholic miracles. What about all those saints whose bodies have been miraculously preserved? Why don't the atheists investigate those?

Gyan said...

"And that is exactly the reason that I proposed to make the "Revelations" public"

Miracles of the Sun at Fatima on 13 October 1917 was public enough with 70,000 witnesses.
Have you investigated the matter?

Legion of Logic said...

"The real question, of course, is why God hasn't told us anything like this before. That's the real theological conundrum."

Science did not tell me how to procreate or love my children, therefore science is useless. Am I doing it right?

B. Prokop said...

"Is it possible that praying the rosary is not praying to Mary?"

It is most definitely not. Despite the rather sloppy terminology commonly used (even by me), no Catholic prays "to" Mary (in the same sense that one prays to God). We ask her to pray for us. ("Ora pro nobis.")

The Rosary is a meditative prayer centered on 20 episodes in the life of Christ (e.g., His Nativity, Baptism, Crucifixion, Ascension, etc.), using the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Doxology (the "Glory be") as aids to clearing one's head of distractions and focusing one's attention. Praying the Rosary is actually the last thing I do every day, just prior to going to bed.

The Hail Mary includes the explicit line "Pray for us sinners". It is no different than me asking you to pray for me.

Appeals to the saints, and to Mary specifically, for their prayers are as old as Christianity itself. They are not some "Medieval" aberration. In fact, the oldest known Christian prayer outside of the New Testament is the Sub tuum praesidium, which dates to the late 2nd Century (that we know of - it is possibly even older).

Jezu ufam tobie!

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

I am not going that far in asking God to write something on the sky, I'd just ask for theists to back up with evidence and proof their claim about the existence of God.

B. Prokop said...


That's fine. But first you have to understand that if you mean by "evidence", you mean empirical observation, you're never going to get it! Anything that is observable, testable, pin-downable, is by definition going to belong to the created world, what we call the universe. But the Creator (God) is obviously not part of creation. So asking for that sort of evidence is like trying to see the back of your head without a mirror.

But fortunately, we do have mirrors. They're called beauty, joy, art, meaning, purpose, good, evil, holiness, sin, the liturgy, music, philosophy, reason, history, personal experience, literature... I could go on, but you get the idea. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his Narnia books, "Aslan is not a tame lion." You can't stick Him in a test tube or hold a thermometer up to Him. But not to worry on that account. As Paul wrote, "Ever since the creation of the world God's invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceivable in the things that have been made."

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

Vasile Aciobanitei: "... I'd just ask for theists to back up with evidence and proof their claim about the existence of God."

That sounds so reasonable. But, every "theist" who comments (or just lurks) here has good reason, based on multiple previous experience, to expect that no matter what we say, you will wave you hands and declare that what we presented doesn't count as evidence.

Then, if we were to ask you, "Well, what sort of evidence *would* count as evidence that you will accept as being real evidence", experience teaches us that you have have no answer to that.

So, perhaps we can save some time here and just skip to the question: "What sort of evidence of the reality of God can we possibly present that you *would* accept as being real evidence?"

I mean, surely you're not one of those fellows who couldn't identify evidence if it bit him in the ass, are you?

B. Prokop said...

Oh, Ilion. You know he's going to respond with some stupid nonsense about the stars spelling out this or that - something, anything, that safely shields him from actually thinking about what's involved here.

Edgestow said...

"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39)

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "Oh, Ilion. You know he's going to respond with some stupid nonsense about ..."

Just in case both B.Prokop and I are wrong -- for, after all, the whole point of my post is that I *do* expect that you are someone who cannot, or will not, recognize "evidence" if it bit him in the ass -- will you not understand that you, yourself, being an embodied rational being, are the proof positive, and not merely "evidence", that God is?

For, if God is not, then certainly there might be an embodied being that someone (were there any someones) might call "Vasile Aciobanitei". But, this being would not be (and could not be) a rational being.

Victor Reppert said...

John: Surely, though, this could certainly be achieved by a scientifically advanced alien. Kirk can show Bela Oxmyx how to use a phaser, but that doesn't make him God.

John Moore said...

Indeed that's true, although Kirk would not claim to be God. Star Trek does present some powerful hucksters who claim to be God, but how likely is such a thing in reality? You could argue that a people vastly more advanced than us would also have figured out that it's dumb/bad/useless to pretend to be God.

B. Prokop said...

It's time to once again re-post this quotation from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov:

Miracles will never confound a naturalist. It is not miracles that bring a naturalist to faith. A true naturalist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles. And if a miracle stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him.

Dave Duffy said...

Your question reminds me of shepherds in the Christmas story.

Gyan said...

Show me the body of an unresurrected Jesus
How will it work? It is not as if we could run a DNA test.
The truth of Christianity needs to be judged by historical method and not empirical.

David Brightly said...

Here is the paragraph surrounding Bob's quote.

SOME of my readers may imagine that my young man was a sickly, ecstatic, poorly developed creature, a pale, consumptive dreamer. On the contrary, Alyosha was at this time a well-grown, red-cheeked, clear-eyed lad of nineteen, radiant with health. He was very handsome, too, graceful, moderately tall, with hair of a dark brown, with a regular, rather long, oval-shaped face, and wide-set dark grey, shining eyes; he was very thoughtful, and apparently very serene. I shall be told, perhaps, that red cheeks are not incompatible with fanaticism and mysticism; but I fancy that Alyosha was more of a realist than anyone. Oh! no doubt, in the monastery he fully believed in miracles, but, to my thinking, miracles are never a stumbling-block to the realist. It is not miracles that dispose realists to belief. The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognised by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith. If the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to admit the miraculous also. The Apostle Thomas said that he would not believe till he saw, but when he did see he said, “My Lord and my God!” Was it the miracle forced him to believe? Most likely not, but he believed solely because he desired to believe and possibly he fully believed in his secret heart even when he said, “I do not believe till I see.”

Here. First para of Chapter 5 of Book I.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

I see now, theists got a "reasonable" excuse: "My evidence for the existence of a God is not taken seriously, so I'll continue to pee on atheists foot and "philosophically" argue that there's a good reason that it actually rains" :)

Victor Reppert said...

Well, how about the fine-tuning of the universe for starters. Anything wrong with that evidence?

Mr. Green said...

JDHuey: what if this God informed you that your most cherished beliefs were simply not true?

So God tells me 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2? Is that supposed to make sense?

Anyway, if I were an advanced extraterrestrial, I couldn’t resist the chance to play a practical jokes on chaps like Parsons. Maybe that’s proof that aliens don’t exist?

As for what I would ask God to do, no alien-impersonation tricks. I’d ask Him to do something they never could — such as create the whole universe (multi-universes included, if any), the whole shebang, out of nothing at all. Better than that, I’d ask Him to do it without any miracles: go by itself from an infinitesimal speck, and unfold in a perfectly orderly way, generating stars, planets, life-forms, even people — all on auto-pilot. Now wouldn’t you like to see that?!

David Brightly said...

It's a bit of a schoolboy question, isn't it? My schoolboy answer, which I'm ashamed to say I still rather like, is this. All the being has to do to make me believe it is God is . . . make me believe it is God.

Why is it a schoolboy question? Because it presupposes that we understand how our beliefs come about, and we don't. Of course, I believe there is beer in the fridge because there was when I last looked (and my wife doesn't like beer). But God, by most accounts, isn't at all like bottles of beer. This lack of understanding makes a nonsense of the atheist's demand for 'evidence' (see last thread but one). This is really asking the theist to explain why he believes. But the theist doesn't know why he believes and so his response is likely to be quite incoherent to the atheist. Equally vain is the theist's demand that the atheist state in advance what will have him believe. The atheist doesn't know. If he does come to believe then the best he will be able to say is that he underwent certain experiences and now it seems he believes. He just grew into his belief. Can any more be said?

Ilíon said...

Vasile Aciobanitei: "I see now, ..."

What we see is that 'Vasile Aciobanitei' is as intellectually dishonest as most village atheists with ethernet cables.

Victor Reppert: "Well, how about the fine-tuning of the universe for starters. Anything wrong with that evidence?"

You just waved the white flag in the little intellectually dishonest game he's playing.

Edgestow said...

You believe that God is one; you do well. But even the demons believe - and shudder.
(James 2:19)

B. Prokop said...

In one respect, Ilion is dead-on right. Judging from the interactions I've had with them, for the overwhelming majority of contemporary atheists, nothing will convince them. Because when you get right down to it, they simply do not want to believe. Their atheism is an act of will, not of conviction.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

"In one respect, Ilion is dead-on right."

Quibble: Ilíon is *always" "dead-on" right.

David Brightly said...

Bob, how does that explain anything? As each of us gets older the chances increase that there is some personal tragedy in our life that we would rather not believe. Yet we have to believe it nevertheless.

B. Prokop said...

"how does that explain anything?"

It doesn't. It's just a statement of fact. You can use it as part of an explanation as to why why so many atheists are to all appearances impervious to rational argument. But in and of itself, it is not an explanation of anything.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

To Vic and Ilion.

"The fine tuning argument states that values occurring in such a precise state by mere chance is highly improbable, and that there must have been a creator to fine tune these values in order for our universe to exist as it does and for life to exist on Earth."

Is that how you have a proof of a "God"? You call it "argument" but it is just an assertion without evidence. Humans *created* the notions of "light speed", "Plank constant", etc. Humans can even create a God, but that doesn't mean it has any scientific measurable feature. You know... just to be intellectually honest.

What kind of argument is it: "If it was not "fine tuned" it won't be like this, therefore there's a God"... The hell you say :)

Ilíon said...

^ It is *impossible* to reason with people like this.

There are only two options for dealing with this sort:
1) ignore their behavior, hoping they eventually get bored and go try to find whatever it is that they're looking for somewhere else;
2) mock their behavior, hoping to shame them either into rationality or into leaving;

B. Prokop said...

"mock their behavior, hoping to shame them either into rationality or into leaving"

You mean The Dawkins Option™?

I'm beginning to believe that your first option is the only viable one. Experience has taught me that no imaginable mockery can approach the incoherence of actual atheism.

B. Prokop said...

"you are gazing up at the sky"

Just came back inside from a very rewarding lunar observing session. Set up my telescope right at the waters edge of Baltimore Harbor. The almost full Moon was gorgeous over the water, and its reflection in the harbor worth looking at all by itself. (There's a spot not 200 feet from my apartment building's front door where the streetlight is out, so by inner city standards it's pleasantly dark.)

I had gone out for the express purpose of observing the rarely seen crater Bially. It was perfectly positioned tonight (just off the terminator) for the shadows to bring out fine detail. I could clearly make out what Charles Wood (one of the world's premier lunar experts) calls the "hint of an inner ring". The libration must have been just right for me to see it so well. And as so often happens, something not on my observing plan stole the show. In this case, it was a really bizarre looking mountain between Bially and the neighboring crater Pingré. The chance shadowing made it look distinctly rectangular, even cubical - almost artificial.

And as always, my observing session was an act of worship. I simply cannot look up without realizing

The Heavens declare the glory of God
And the firmament His handiwork.
(Psalm 19:1)

Jezu ufam tobie!

UberGenius said...

In the book of James, in the NT, there is a description of demons who "believe" that Jesus is God, but they do not follow hm and are certainly not Christians. Evidence can increase the reasonableness that a claim is true. But evidence has nothing to do with trusting. Faith is not a way of knowing, but rather the trust you put in someone or something. Demons in James know,with a high degree of certainty that the claims about Jesus are true. But refuse to worship him.

The two-stage model suggests evidence is accumulated over time, both propositional and experiential, followed by a decision stage to trust and act on that evidence. So too it seems many atheists have knowledge enough to believe claims but refuse to act on that knowledge due to the requirements of humility and submission. It is however impossible for us to judge when someone has reached the knowledge tipping-point where they have enough evidence.

Jesus and the disciples and early church missionaries went out and made evidentiary claims. They presented their case for Christianity in synogogues, philosophical schools, and open-air arenas. Once someone thought their argument for the gospel more reasonably true than not, they were asked to act.

Now if an individual calibrates their knowledge at the level of, "Humian skeptic" guess what, that level destroys all knowledge claims by setting the bar for what counts for knowledge off the charts. Your debating partner must start denying not just scientific claims, but claims about the existence of other minds, the external world, and the reality of the past! Opps! So we of tens find skeptics reaching for the epistemic dials when entering these discussions of God's existence, only to turn the dials back to normal (requiring orders of magnitude less justification), when it comes to other claims (I.e. Larry Krauss' Universe from Nothing proposal where "nothing" includes space, time, and the 4 laws of nature, now that is a lot of attributes for something called nothing)!

B. Prokop said...

It seems worthwhile at this point to re-post my definition of Faith.

jdhuey said...

Mr. Green,

Assuming that God exists and that He is answering all the questions truthfully, then He simply would not say that 1 + 1 does not equal 2. Unless, in some greater context that it is the case. But I wasn't thinking about simple things like math, I was thinking of the articles of faith that the different religions hold that are mutally contradictory. They can't all be true. For example, God might say that the concept of the Trinity is pure balderdash. That declaration, coming from God, might cause some consternation.

But that is just a side issue to the primary issue that if God existed and God didn't want to remain hidden and if he cared about what we think at all, then He could easily demostrate it.

Of course, accepting that God does indeed exist and worshipping said God are two very different things.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

Prokop said: "Experience has taught me that no imaginable mockery can approach the incoherence of actual atheism."

I have to admit, there are atheists who are incoherent, what kind of reply do you expect to get from incoherent claim about a God existence?
Theists and apologists never said anything coherent about what a "God" is, maybe if there would be a day when theists and apologists will say something coherent about what is a "God" they claim to exists, then maybe you'll get a coherent answer.