Things I Can’t Not See

Here’s a gorgeous wonder:

No photo description available.
The most detailed model of ONE human cell to date, obtained using x-rays, nuclear magnetic resonance, and cryoelectron microscopy data sets.
Most recent estimates put the number of cells in one body at around 30 trillion. Written out, that’s 30,000,000,000,000.
Source and Credit: Transformation of the Cellular Landscape through a Eukaryotic Cell, by Evan Ingersoll Ingersoll Gael McGill ~ Digizyme’s Custom Maya Molecular Software
Biología Al Instante

I have never had sufficient faith to be an atheist. I think it takes titanic amounts of faith and will power to look at this world and say, “That was lucky!” I have always been a theist, even when I was not a Christian, because it has always seemed much simpler to intuit that Something or Someone was at work behind the world moving toward some unfathomable end than to see it as the biggest, luckiest car crash ever. It has always felt more like a story or a work of art than radio static that happened to come out as Beethoven’s Ninth. I can’t not intuit that.

Some people will tell me that’s just my evolved brain detecting patterns where none exist. I answer that my evolved brain is another obvious sign and sacrament of the order and love behind the whole beautiful thing. I can’t not intuit that either. And since the entirety of the work of Science is detecting the fact that patterns do exist, I don’t see what’s wrong with concluding that the existence of Laws implies the existence of a Lawgiver–or more precisely, an Artist.

One friend complained that I “rely on the science which does assume it is essentially a chance-driven universe to explain the Covid virus mutating and to design safe vaccines against it.”

That’s because I have no problem with methodological atheism in science, nor with the idea that chance is part of God’s design, since chance is just the word we use to denote We Know Not What. 1 Kings 22 tells the story of a king confronted by a prophet who warns him that if he goes into battle he will be killed. The king ignores the prophet like a pig-headed fool and goes into battle in disguise. An enemy archer draws his bow “at random” and kills the king as prophesied. This interplay between what we call “chance” and what we call “divine providence” is something the Christian tradition takes for granted and something I’ve never understood as being in conflict. Nor do casino designers, whose entire job is design places where chance favors the House and random events are ordered to achieve the end the House wants.

Intelligent Design guys demand to know why seeming exceptions to the laws of nature such as specified complexity happen. This is basically a God of the Gaps argument, rather like an appeal to miracles. ID arguments rely on the notion that non-living things are “mere nature” but living things like the cell above are inexplicable-apart-from-God things. Mere nature, in this view, is the outworking of natural laws, but living things are the result of exceptions to natural laws. And those exceptions prove God. No exceptions, no God.

St. Thomas never does this. He (and Augustine) both start their arguments for the existence of God, not with appeals to exceptions to the laws of nature but with the laws themselves. Thomas never asks for an explanation to exceptions to the laws of nature or demands “If there is no God, then explain this inexplicable thing!”

Instead, he begins with the Rules and sees all of nature, both living and non-living, as the grand unfolding of those rules. That is, he begins where natural science begins and affirms the axioms upon which natural science is founded. To attack his argument, you have to attack the axioms that make science work at all. You have to deny that we can know the world around us through our senses, that the three pound piece of meat behind our eyes can understand that world, and that the world operates according to knowable rules which describe the relations between the creatures Time, Space, Matter, and Energy.

Science can’t prove those axioms. It simply has to assume them to be true or it can’t function at all. In short, although its methodology is rightly atheistic, its foundational axioms rest on Faith that knowable laws exist, that what philosophy calls “secondary causes” are real causes, and that we can “intellect” them (that is, “read between the lines”) of what our senses report to us and figure out the causal relationships between creatures.

Without the axiomatic faith in rational laws governing creatures (coming from Faith in the Logos) and (just as important) the faith that creatures act as secondary causes (attempted but ultimately killed by Islamic piety that insisted God alone could be the cause of all natural activity) you don’t get the natural sciences, which is why they were born in medieval Christian Europe, though false starts and precursors happened elsewhere and in other times.

I think one of the great tragedies of history is the loss of the sacramental perception of Nature that occurred with the Reformation. Ironically, Terry Pratchett, perhaps the most Catholic atheist of our time, captured the Thomistic and Catholic view of science’s penetration of natural phenomena when he said, “It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.”

In this, he comes surprisingly close to Chesterton, who remarks in his Orthodoxy,

The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. The sun shines because it is bewitched.

You may think this flippant. I only note that when I talk about the fact that Thomas appeals to the existence of the Rules as implying the existence of a Rulegiver, the reply of the dogged atheist sooner or later comes down to “Just because!” when one asks “Why is there anything? And why does it behave according to these Rules?” If the Christian answer is deemed “magical’, I reply that “Because!” is just as magical, but lacks the rather sensible inference that magic is usually done by Magicians and not by Nothing.

This sums up why I’ve always thought the whole “Science explains why God is unnecessary” argument has always seemed tone deaf to Catholic sacramentalism and the entire Catholic understanding of creation. For Thomas:

Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

So he writes:

Nothing entirely new was afterwards made by God, but all things subsequently made had in a sense been made before in the work of the six days. …. Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I.73.i, ad. 3 et resp. 3

Forget the wrong science about “putrefaction”. Medievals, unable to see the eggs laid in rotting meat by insects, guessed that the process of rotting was what created the maggots.  It was a reasonable but wrong guess owing to the lack of microscopes. Thomas simply took the word of contemporary science for granted to illustrate his point just as an ordinary person today takes the word of “consensus science” for granted about climate change, plate tectonics, or relativity without knowing much about those disciplines beyond something he saw on the Discovery Channel.

The main point is this: Thomas believes, just like a modern evolutionist, that new species (should any turn up) would be brought forth by purely natural powers. In his day the best guess of science was that stars and the elements causing putrefaction were the natural agents of change.  These days it is cosmic rays or “environmental agents” causing a mutation in a genome. But the point is, Thomas grasped that new species arose from natural causes, not because of a violation or suspension of natural causes. He saw creation as the unfolding of powers and potentialties put into nature by God and had no problem with the idea that this unfolding over time was simply the way creation happens. He likewise had no trouble with the idea that as the author of Proverbs put it, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. It is the glory of kings to search a matter out”. The idea that searching a matter out emptied the matter of glory or showed that God had not concealed the matter was untelligible to him for the very good reason that such a claim makes no sense.

So I continue to look in wonder at the Creation as fundamentally sacramental: as charged with Meaning, not Meaninglessness. That I don’t understand most of the meaning is irrelevant, just as a book in a language I don’t understand does not imply the non-existence of the Author, but challenges me to find a translator or, better still, try to learn the language or find out if, perhaps, the Author speaks my language and has written anything I might read.

That, in a word–or more precisely, in a Word–is what happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago when the Word was made flesh. Or, as Hebrews put it:

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

All the signs and hints in nature were pointing somewhere, or more precisely, at Someone. Nothing in the Sciences has–or can–done a thing to disprove that.

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57 Responses

      1. Possibly. But it’s far more likely because your writing has the same flaws as C. S. Lewis’ writing: you’re advancing arguments that sound convincing only to people who already believe. I know this because I’ve been on both sides. I read Mere Christianity 20 years ago as a believer and thought it was powerful. I read it again last year and felt embarrassed both for my former self and for Lewis.

        Next time you are preparing to publish something that advances an argument for God, don’t just show it to your (Christian) editor, and your (Christian) wife, and your (Christian) friends. Track down a nonbeliever to review it and give her honest opinion. It will likely improve your work.

      2. Mkay. But your ad populum argument, combined with your argument from personal incredulity doesn’t really give me a lot to go on in terms of what is wrong with what I wrote here. As to showing what I wrote to an editor, you get that this a blog, right? What editor?

    1. They rarely contemplate the dictum ‘the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible’. That could be it.

  1. Not much time to write today.

    “I have never had sufficient faith to be an atheist. I think it takes titanic amounts of faith and will power to look at this world and say, “That was lucky!”

    It takes no faith whatsoever to be an atheist. That is rather the point. It doesn’t take any faith to think the sun is going to rise tomorrow. The wealth of human experience over millennia tells me that it’s extremely likely. If it doesn’t rise tomorrow, I’m going to be very surprised. The evidence against that happening is rather overwhelming. You can argue “It’s faith”, but its like homeopathy— the smallest possible atom of faith in a large sea of evidence.

    Whenever you describe your faith, And its place in your life, you were constantly saying “that was lucky” — lucky that you discovered the one true faith, and that all of the rest of the people who are not Christians were not lucky enough to discover it. “WOW! That was lucky!“ Of all of the thousands and thousands of religions, and the thousands and thousands of the gods of men, you were lucky enough to discover the one true one. You’ve always criticized me for making the obvious comment on this: I am a poly – atheist myself, I don’t believe in any of the thousands and thousands of religions, or the thousands and thousands of the gods and men, either. I just believe in one less than you do.

    “ Intelligent Design guys demand to know why seeming exceptions to the laws of nature such as specified complexity happen. This is basically a God of the Gaps argument, rather like an appeal to miracles.” but that is exactly what you were doing with your assumption that Christianity, specifically, the Catholic brand, is the one true faith, the one exception to the rule about the gods of men.

    Atheism isn’t a statement about God, not for me, not for most of the thoughtful atheists I know. It’s a statement about religion. That’s just the sociologist in me speaking. Religion is a social construct.

    Your casino example just falls apart, because it is also based upon experience. The laws of probability don’t care whether or not there is a God. Flipping a coin, for the simplest example, will give you overtime an equal number of heads and tails. It is possible that you will get a sequence of 1000 heads and one tail, or vice versa, but that is extremely unlikely. It doesn’t require faith to say this, but simply experience. Consider Christianity to be tails, and all of the other religions of men to be heads.

    But the biggest problem, as far as I can tell, is that you want “evidence” to “prove“ your “faith“. But that’s the problem with faith: it requires very little evidence. In fact, faith is the opposite of evidence. Just like believing the evidence requires very little faith. You may be a member a former reader by the name of JD Saint George. He claimed that the Eucharistic miracles “proved“ the truth value of his “faith“. It stopped being faith the moment he started insisting that the evidence, which was ridiculously poor, proved that his faith was true.

    But just so you don’t accuse me of being a mean atheist, a scoffer, or whatever it is that you think of me when we get onto the subject, As I have said many times, on these very pages in fact, you are entitled to believe whatever you want to believe. I don’t care. We all of us need our metaphors, and if it makes your life better, and you a better person, Well, i’m all for it. What I care about is what you do with your faith.

    You are a good man and thoughtful man, Mark, which is why I’ve hung around here for a few years. If that could be laid at the feet of your faith, I’m all for it. that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case for a lot of religious people, as we both know. You’re a good man who happens to be a Christian, and not a Christian who happens to be a good man.

    1. Sorry. but it is not your place to divorce me from my faith. Without the Blessed Trinity and my relationship with him, I would be a wreck or more likely, dead long ago.

      1. @ mark

        It is neither my desire, nor within my ability, nor, as you note, my place to divorce you from your faith. Why would you think I even want to, especially when I clearly said just the opposite?

    2. To say “You’re a good man who happens to be a Christian, and not a Christian who happens to be a good man” is to give me the glory for something that is entirely due to God. He made me. I did not make him. He reveals himself. i do not create him. What appears to you to be my chance encounter with Christ due to the circumstances of time, place, and culture is revealed by Him to be part of the unfolding of his act of creation and redemption. That’s the whole point of what I am saying here. We are the clay, he is the Potter. We are the working of his hands.

      1. Bens – “You’re a good man who happens to be a Christian, and not a Christian who happens to be a good man”

        Mark – “Sorry. but it is not your place to divorce me from my faith. Without the Blessed Trinity and my relationship with him, I would be a wreck or more likely, dead long ago.”

        Oh, you’re still a faithful Christian, and you seem nice. Much nicer than the pro/antagonist in the holey books of Abraham. Lots and lots of Christians hew more closely to the behaviour of The Great Celestial Bully as revealed to them by the same, sole book anyone can read… Also, all kinds of Christians somewhere between the KKK, Trumpistas and those falling into your subset.

        Zo, that one book reveals Him to them & to you. Like they, you will quote verses & refer to natural phenomena as reasons for hymns to their One True God. Very often, terrible analogies will be presented as further reasoning. They all fail miserably simply because the comparisons all involve something over there – stars, ships, human emotions/behaviour,…n – with an ineffable, unknowable, invisible being.

        To an outsider, it’s their interpretation vs yours vs the Bible.

        Since you’ve created your interpretation, show how it is any closer to this deity working in mysterious ways.

        If you’ve turned your life around, many kudos to you. You deserve the credit. There are lots of Christians, as nice as you, that the most powerful and loving being in existence has left burning in the wreckage, despite a faith perhaps even greater than yours.

    3. “But that’s the problem with faith: it requires very little evidence. In fact, faith is the opposite of evidence.”

      And that’s the crazy thing. It’s in vogue today for Christians to deny this and say that “faith” is pretty much the same thing as “trust”–belief firmly grounded in evidence (and which would change if the evidence changed).

      But this is precisely the opposite of “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”! Here, “faith” has returned to its old “belief in spite of evidence” definition.

      I wish they’d make up their minds.

      1. No. Faith is an extrapolation from evidence, as a general rule. Most human relationships are an amalgam of faith and evidence. I have enough evidence about my wife to have faith that she is not a serial killer and that she loves me. I can’t prove that to you with mathematical certainty. But I still believe it and I am sane to do so. Religious faith is the same. Every apologetics book in the world is predicated on the knowledge that people don’t have faith in Christ for no reason.

  2. You say that atheists look at the world and say, “That was lucky!”, except that isn’t our position at all. While it may be fortuitous for a drop of water to fall on a very specific and narrow area, its not so remarkable for it to happen in the middle of a massive rainstorm; in fact, it may be inevitable.

    Atheists don’t object to the idea of the seeming regularity of our universe, what we take issue with, is with the idea that a person, however loosely defined, is behind it all. I’m sorry but there are quite a few steps missing between finding order in the universe and concluding that its all the product of a deliberate and meticulous plan though out by a conscious and intelligent entity.

    And that’s without even going into the specific, self-serving claims of authority being made by specific religions.

    1. I didn’t say atheists object to the regularity of nature, so I’m not sure what that’s about. I’m curious what you imagine the missing steps are in the general idea that rules imply a rulegiver and that design suggests a designer.

      On the other hand, it *is* stealing a lot of bases to suddenly leap from Thomas’s argument from design to “I protest the authoritative claims of the Council ot Trent!” Stick to the subject.

      1. Maybe “regularity of nature” might’ve not been the most precise term, but I’m talking about the implication behind this “I am so lucky!” sentiment you attribute to atheists. The idea is that we must believe that we owe our existence, and that of everything around us, to a highly improbable combination of highly improbable events; that its all up to chance, as opposed to a guiding steady hand that pre-determines how these things will turn out. Hence my response with the raindrop analogy.

        Someone winning the lottery might seem remarkable, but when you have millions of people playing every single day for an extended period of time, somebody somewhere hitting the jackpot is just a matter of time.

        A cursory knowledge of evolution and astronomy will quickly dissuade from the idea that “its all random”, but its also the furthest thing from being “planned”. Why should perfect order and complete chaos be the only two options?

        As for the idea that “rules imply a rulegiver”, you’re conflating two different usages of the word “rule”. When we’re talking about different types of social constructs used to govern human activity, like codes of conduct, games, legal systems and systems of government, then sure, these rules clearly come from people who craft, revise and implement them as they see fit.

        But in the context of talking about nature, that’s not what the term “rules” means at all; for one thing, they are descriptive, not prescriptive. And just because, as it has always been the case throughout history, we project human behavior and human agency onto nature, does not make it so.

        Look, I didn’t want to get into all this, because the WordPress commenting system is not very comfortable to use for long discussions and it takes me too much effort to unpack a lot of these things which I think are side-issues anyway.

        The point is this: I don’t take issue with the idea of there being some primal, fundamental force being at the root of everything that exists. But what I do take issue with, is with all the stuff people add on to that: that its a person, that it has thoughts, that it has goals and desires, that it has feelings, and last but not least, that it speaks directly to people and imbues them with unquestionable authority and issues them orders for everybody else to follow.

        And yes, the last part is outside the scope of the current discussion, but its all tied in with the others, and the way I see it, the motivating reason behind it all.

        Anyways, putting all this amateur theology-talk aside, I just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas season, and I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. Cheers!

  3. I can’t wait to read this to my 14-year-old son when he comes home from school!

    Yesterday we were sitting in the redwood forest after threading our way beside a little river. It was the first time that I’d ever noticed that *every* *single* mother tree was missing. At first it’s not so noticeable because the offspring of the mother are so huge now. They form circles with a gaping hole in the center, (in Muir Woods you can still see the mothers!) My kids and I tried to visualize the giant girth of the trees that are no longer there by stretching our arms out wide. They were *immense*, thousands and thousands of years old when the loggers got to them. The relic of an old mill, only a stone’s throw away testify to their fate. There is a huge old house down the road that looks solid as the day it was built with a placard over the front gate which reads: This house was built in 1890. We sat there in the woods just looking up and breathing in the forest.

    On the way home in the car, my son let out a wearied sigh, his words heavy with pain. “Why are atheists so sarcastic?” he asked me. It’s not like he wanted to talk much about it, but I got it out of him that the snark *never* ends in his classes. The little know-it-alls never stop vying to be the most atheisty athiests of all the atheists *in the know*. It’s the secret sauce on the other side. I reminded my kid of the sneering, skinny side-kick of Jack Black in Nacho Libre (we watched it again on Thanksgiving) who disparages the monk, rolls his eyes, and declares triumphantly “I believe in science”.

    “They’re like that guy” I told my kid. “Just as embarrassing as the fat monk and intellectually lazy.”

    So blah blah blah –with only five minutes on the freeway I got in a little bit for the theistic side by reminding him WHO invented the scientific method, the first universities, first hospitals, the monks who saved the great books during the dark ages, a bit on Jacques Le Maitre…

    “don’t let the insufferably mentally lazy, show boaters get you down.” was my last piece of advice before we were on to the next thing.

    The little twerps don’t even understand what the scientific method IS as they quote their smug, bald, tech-bot Dad in his Patagonia vest and biker shorts. (I just thought that part and didn’t say it out loud.)

    1. I would drop entirely the argument that natural laws point towards a deity who must have designed them. They don’t. It is in the eye of the beholder.

  4. @John Thayer Jensen:

    The best we can do is offer an honest critique of any argument’s flaws and misconceptions. It would be up to Mark to take those things into account and make improvements. I actually linked to the article in another forum and someone had a similar reaction to joel: not impressed.

  5. @joel:

    OK – but that means you’re not sure his argument can be improved. Passing it by atheists etc might not result in any improvement.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I think that either the argument is excellent or else that no argument is – but, to be sure, I believed before I heard any arguments one way or another for Christianity – indeed, for theism.

    1. “I believed before I heard any arguments one way or another for Christianity”

      Exactly. Believers believe because they want to. Apologetics is theater.

    2. I love the story that our Deacon at St. Marks (UCSB) in Isla Vista told me at my father’s funeral reception, I have told it here, but it’s worth repeating: A professor from the physics department at UCSB came to Deacon Chris (who is head of RCIA) She wanted to know about Christianity (she grew up in China.) She had met another Phd physicist from India and they had fallen in love. He, a Catholic asked her to marry him and told her it would mean the world to him to raise their children Catholic. She was at a loss and took the first step to try to understand. After her first class, Deacon Chris gave her the homework assignment to go back to the physics department and ask as many of her colleagues as she could to kindly explain to her what the first mover of all things was. She was very thorough in completing the assignment. She came back to Deacon Chris and reported simply that every. single. one. of. them. was at a loss, and very honestly told her “I don’t know.”

      At least they didn’t throw the usual debris into the road that most run of the mill atheists like to hedge behind.

      1. So what’s this “usual debris”? Are you talking about atheists saying “there’s zip point zero evidence for any gods” or “the only reason why Christians have faith is because they have no evidence to support their beliefs” and the obvious rebuttal to Mark’s “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” being “no faith is needed to not believe in gods”?

  6. @Joel:

    I would drop entirely the argument that natural laws point towards a deity who must have designed them. They don’t. It is in the eye of the beholder.

    Unless I have misunderstood the argument, it seems to me that the argument isn’t about ‘designing’ natural laws – whatever that might mean – but that their existence is otherwised unexplained.

    jj

    1. “Lewis, St Thomas, Newman, Ronald Knox have all greatly strengthened my faith.”

      Of course they have, because that is their only goal. They pretend to be trying to convince nonbelievers, but in fact their purpose is to make believers feel better. That, and only that, is apologetics.

      1. Yes, naturally that is their purpose. You don’t attempt to convince someone of something that you yourself do not believe. My point in saying this was because, contrary to you, apologetics is not ‘just theatre.’ It was their arguments that helped to strengthen my faith. It was not just showing off. All apologetics – Christian, atheist, whatever – is more than ‘just theatre.’

      2. You appear to be trying to claim that there are not such things as converts. As a convert, I think that is an absurd claim. The fact that I converted from vague paganism first to Evangelical and then Catholic faith does not mean there are not converts from atheism. Lewis was, himself, such a convert. Unless you are next going to hubristically declare he was not since you know his interior life better than he himself did.

  7. @ambidexter, “Multiverse!”

    I have no problem considering a multiverse theory, but am tired of atheists using the idea to obfuscate.

    1. The multiverse argument just pushes the question back. It doesn’t do a damn thing to get rid of the question. “Why is there anything?”: is not a answered by saying “There is an infinite amount of that Anything! Far more than you ever imagined!” So what? Big deal. Creation is bigger than we previously imagined, if the multiverse is real (which, by the way, we don’t know). Why is there anything? Why does it behave in an ordered way? “Just Because” is just as magical as “Because God created it”, but not nearly as satisfying.

      1. I think just the word “God” gives them a rash, because they have a form of PTSD. I’m satisfied if anyone says, “I believe in love” and orders their life to that one goal.

        Yes, I’m with you on the almost crazy “magic” of this stupendously magnificent, ordered universe. I can’t wrap my brain around it. Saying “nothing” produced it, or reverting to the “see no, hear no, speak no” monkey about what produced it is simply THE most lame-ass thing I’ve ever heard in my life. That’s how toddlers act. You can’t convince a stubborn toddler that you are trying to help them when they dig their heels in and start screaming. Case -in-point: every single one of my eight kids fought me tooth and nail at some point when I wanted to change their poopy diapers. I had to bribe them with toys just to lie still. A lot of 40-year-olds haven’t moved past that stage.

      2. Um, you sound like a Creationist asking accusing the Theory of Evolution of not answering the question: “where did life come from?”. Its not supposed to; evolution is about explaining the diversity of life on Earth, not about its origin.

        So, in a similar fashion, the multiverse hypothesis is just a proposed model for the origins of the Universe as we know it, and other hypothetical universes we know nothing about, Its not supposed to be about where “everything” came from in the first place. It is not, has never been and was never meant to be a replacement for God.

        A simpler way to look at the proposed hypothesis is that the Big Bang is just one of many. So if the Big Bang is not a competitor to God, then why should the Multiverse be? We’re talking about apples and oranges here.

        Also, you should keep in mind that the idea of a multiverse is a science thing, not an atheist thing, so don’t make it into one. Science is not supposed to be your enemy, remember?

    2. I don’t think the term “multiverse” is very well understood or defined. It would seem to me one of the possibilities in a “multi” verse is the possibility that nothing exists. It would seem to me then that this possibility would predominate, because, how would existence of *anything* then come about? ie. Existence has to come from something. With one exception. Existence itself, or being itself, that what we call “God.”

  8. @ mark

    We have no idea about the answer as to “why is there anything“. We may never have an answer to that. In fact, I think it is extremely unlikely that we will ever have an answer to that, because that is not the kind of “why“ that science tries to answer. So far, all we can say is, there is a world, A universe. Cogito, ergo sum, And all that.

    I look at that question the same way I look at the question of whether there is a God. The answer is so immense, and so unknowable, that it simply does not matter. The Bible itself, among its many contradictions, acknowledges that question when it says that not a sparrow falls but that God knows about it. Yet the sparrow still falls, so Of what point is God, or god knowing about it, except for the people that believe in him? With or without your God, the world is what it is. Other people believe in a different God, with as much reason for that as you have.

    Sungenis makes much of the same points in one of his idiotic geocentric films, but for entirely the wrong reason. He says that if certain universal laws buried but even the slightest bit, then everything would be vastly, vastly different. He’s right about that. To him that proves that there is a God, specifically, the Christian God. but it doesn’t prove the christian God. What it does prove is the necessity for laws in the universe for it to exist at all. (Of course, doesn’t actually prove that either, but that’s a different matter).

    Your own argument about the fidelity of your wife is a case in point. If I told you that I was sleeping with your wife – excluding of course, Our mutual certain knowledge that it’s the last thing I would be doing — you would be demanding a mountain of evidence to contradict what you know would be true. But let me tell you that the secret and the key to the entire universe is contained in the book that was written 2000 years ago, and that “evidence” is sufficient for you. It certainly is not sufficient evidence for me, especially given the evidence of every faith “X“ that every faith “not X“ is false.

    But again, I don’t care whether your faith or the other faith is the one true faith. What I care about is what you do with it.

    I am not an atheist because I pretend to “know” that there is no god. I simply have no belief in any god, and I also don’t think that the question means very much, especially when it comes to an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. My entire life experience tells me that the ultimate answers to ultimate questions ultimately don’t matter, at least not to me. If you have some evidence, accessible to me, apart from your own faith and your own book that your faith represents reality, I’d be happy to look at it. But as I pointed out above, if you had that kind of evidence, it would cease to be faith at all, but certainty. I think Paul said, “faith is the evidence of things not seen.“

    You objected when I said that you are a good man Who happens to be a Christian. Yet there are plenty of bad man who also happen to be Christians, and they will tell you so, and if you don’t believe it, they’ll hurt you. You may say that they are not true Christians. They might say the same thing about you, given that you did not support their orange Messiah.

    I’m not trying to convince you that your faith is wrong. I don’t care about that, as I have said repeatedly. I care about what you do with it. to me, THAT determines your goodness or badness, not your faith.

    1. “We have no idea about the answer as to “why is there anything“.

      Mkay. So you are going with “Just Because” because you don’t like Thomas’ answer and therefore prefer to assert that “we” have no answer. You are free to do that, but I remain unable to buy that as anything but inadequate.

      1. I arrogantly submit I don’t know why we’re here

        You humbly claim with infinite certainty ’twas your version of a deity responsible for everything… just because

      2. In the lack of knowledge as to why we’re here, existentialist philosophy calls us to make our own purpose.

        We can make many purposes, small to large, from indulging our inner Saddam Husseins to following our inner Mother Teresas.

        Belief in God, following Jesus, both his teachings and example, is a *proposed* purpose to life. It is an invitation. In any case, thanks to self awareness of the limitations of our lives, we are all called to examine our lives and its meaning.

    2. The Bible is not the “key to the entire universe”. Fundamentalists believe the Bible is the Big Book of Everything. Catholics believe nosuch thing. The Bible is that collection of documents, inspired by God, containing the written aspect of the Tradition revealed by God so that we may know and enter into relationship with him through Jesus Christ. It does not exist to tell us the weight of the Lithium atom or how to achieve supersonic velocity. These matters are to be searched out by us.

  9. @Ben, we don’t believe that a book written 2k years ago contains all the answers. That would be bibleolatry, We aren’t fundamentalists.

    When I was in the third grade, they showed us that Malcolm Muggeridge film, “Something Beautiful for God”. Mother Teresa told several stories that have stayed with me all of these years and decades. Even at that young age I knew that she was closer to the truth than anybody I had ever heard speak about the Catholic faith. (No, I don’t care what the haters say about her, they’re just jealous and guilty about themselves and are projecting.)

    She described two large families, one Muslim, one Hindu, both without food. Before the Muslim would feed her children the rice that had been brought to her by Mother Teresa, the Muslim rushed out the door to bring half of the bag to her Hindu neighbor. That is the spirit of God.

    She cradled a man who was dying in her arms. Though he was dying, he was smiling up at her with the radiance of an angel. She poured water from the river Ganges on his forehead which is sacred to those of the Hindu faith. They were both on fire with the Spirit of God. She stated adamantly, “He goes to God!” That is the spirit of God.

    She visited a rest home for the elderly in England and was visibly distressed. Despite having the comforts of western wealth and medicine, the elderly were ravished by loneliness and sorrow. She said it was the greatest poverty she had ever witnessed. Their children and grandchildren didn’t make time for them.

    Every human being on the planet is like God. When we revert and behave like animals our likeness to God is obscured–only we can’t regain the innocence of animals –it is impossible. When we behave savagely, our soul becomes deformed–frighteningly so. Christ was the perfect man, sinless in every way. He is our model. When we are most like him, we are the most human and the most our authentic selves. When we are the least like him, we are antichrist, and the least human. In every culture, there are those who are the most like Christ. A Hindu can be more like Christ than a “christian”. A Muslim, a Zora Astrian, a Buddhist…an Aztec…The spirit of God has been with us always. It is the spirit of tenderness. All of us are faced with that basic question, “Will I be a protector or a predator?”

    Those that choose to be the protectors are like God. They have souls that are so radiant that the saints have accidentally bowed down before them thinking they were in the presence of The God.

    So why be Christian? It makes total sense to want to be a follower of his. I find all of the answers to the struggles of this life in his example of total self giving.

    I have a feeling that you and I have more in common than you think. The same stuff about “religion” triggers us. But I don’t throw the baby with the bathwater when it comes the the practice of Christianity I’m not saying that to behave superior–no, I don’t walk in your shoes, you don’t walk in mine, and I still have a ways to go to be the most authentic version of myself that I can be–but I have a lot of hope that it will happen! –and like I said–the history of man is filled with examples of people who followed the Spirit of God by braille. I think you are one of those people. You are not a predator. You desire to protect the innocent and the wounded. This is the spirit of Christ–the spirit of God, and the distilled practice of the faith. when we love, we have already accepted it.

    1. @ taco

      I intend to answer these later when I have time. Right now I have a husband nagging me to get something else done. By the way, I finished my piece on the election, and I will send it to Mark to forward to you. Mark is of course free to read it as well, if he wants to. I even quote him in it.

    2. u -we don’t believe that a book written 2k years ago contains all the answers.

      slightly later u – I find all of the answers to the struggles of this life in his example of total self giving.

      iirc, Jesus mentions in Luke, twice, you gotta give it all to the poor, everything you have. All of it. Done that yet?

      1. Who is poor? Who is rich? Can you envision a scenario where people might be rich in some things but poor in others?

        We make a gift of our lives, and what we good receive in our lives is a gift from those around us.

        FWIW even nonprofits need funding for operating expenses.

      2. Lol I have 8 kids. Drive a 20 y.o. car. Still paying off student loans. Hubby makes good $$ but Uncle Sam is merciless. Just merciless. In fact he says we owe even more and added penalties. Ruh roh.

  10. An atheist looks at the picture of the human cell you posted and marvels at how humans progressed to be able to make this image.
    A theist looks at it and marvels at the creation and at the Creator.

    Take a painting or a sculpture by Leonardo da Vinci od by Michelangelo. Modern science gives us a glimpse into their workshop and techniques which they understood, but their contemporaries didn’t appreciate enough.
    That’s the difference. Some people marvel at how Michelangelo or Leonardo were geniuses to have used such and such technique, but completely miss the bigger picture (pun totally intended). Instead of appreciating the wonderful works of art, they marvel at how they were made, though that is completely secondary to the work they did.

    Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

    1. maybe you should care to engage real people rather than pontificate from your fetid imagination

      no deities are required to appreciate beauty of any knid

    2. You’re right, his comment is not one that is conductive to a friendly conversation.

      Although to be fair, your characterization of atheists as either childish simpletons or emotional cripples is pretty offensive, even if that was not your intention. But what makes it even worse, is that its woefully inaccurate, so the only function that cartoonish and stereotypical depiction does serve, is to prop yourself up by putting atheists down.

      Not exactly a good way to start a friendly conversation. Just saying.

  11. @taco

    I am sorry that it has taken me longer than I thought to get back to you. I really wanted to, but I haven’t had much time for the last five days or so. I have spent so much time dismantling the life of one of my two best friends in the world, as he has had to enter a home due to senile dementia. This is taking so much out of me. There has been a lot going on, and other than an occasional small comment, I haven’t been posting much. There just wasn’t enough time to give you the response that you deserve.

    First, I do want to thank you for the compliment you paid me. As a gay man, out now for 50 years, I have seen and felt at firsthand the harm done to others, especially under the guise of “sincere religious beliefs“. That has given me the perspective not only about not being a “predator“, as you put it, but to stand up as much as I can for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I would not trade that perspective for anything. I have written before about how I was constantly picked on when I was a boy for being the obviously gay kid, the obviously weird kid, the obviously different kid, being called a “faggot“ long before I knew what the word meant. Those memories have stayed with me, motivating me to be a better person than I might have been. And that has made my life better. Hopefully, my efforts have made the lives of other people better as well.

    At the most basic level, I don’t disagree with a thing you wrote in this post. I agree with you: we should always try to be the best people we can. Where we disagree is at the most superficial level, the level of religious beliefs. I don’t believe any of it, as you know, although there was a time when I was young that I really wanted to believe it. I agree with you that we have a great deal in common. But as I have often said, I don’t care what people believe; what I care about is what they do with it. As I said to Mark a few days ago, He (and you) is good people, and if you are willing to lay that at the feet of your religious beliefs, I’m all for it. As he is constantly complaining about, and with good reason, there is a whole pile of people who are not good people, and who cite their religious belief as justification for it. (If you got my election piece from Mark, I went into that at some length).

    Thanks again.

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