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Proofs of God

Evidence for a Personal God's Existence

Here are updated versions of six Unification News opinion columns I wrote over a seven year period from 1999 through 2006. Because of printing limitations, these first appeared as two-part monthly articles.


Initially I was only 'preaching to the choir,' but in this web version I've expanded the text and links with a wider readership in mind. (The total word count is about 12,800.)
I'm making occasional updates, plus adding more links. In cases where there is more than one embedded link about any certain topic, I've tried to find a variety of sites.
(Each embedded link automatically opens a new window. This is for convenient reading, but don't overload your browser!)

Index

Notes to an Atheist, Part One

Got Proof?
Objections to Belief
Horrors!
Darwin and Aquinas
Science and Religion
Spiritual Realm
Revelation
Problems with Science

Notes to an Atheist, Part Two

Having Fun
Getting Philosophical
Clarke's Law
Majorities
Conclusion

Hello Humanists, Part One

The Divide
Limits
The Bible
Straw Men
Suggestions




Hello Humanists, Part Two

Something New
Human Nature
Politics
Knowledge
Conclusion

Doubters, Part One

Atheists
Agnostics
Soulmates
Judgment
Afterlife
Societies
No Problem

Doubters, Part Two

Traditional Proofs
History
Ignorance
Sociology
Culture
Morality
Heaven
Final Conclusion


(Additional note: If you're already familiar with this sort of discussion, while I've repeated very little throughout, the more 'solid' points-and-counterpoints are made in the sixth and final section.)


NOTES TO AN ATHEIST

Part One

    My first Unification News article on this topic (here presented as this essay's first two main sections) was inspired by two rather intense online discussions. One was with a minister I know. A friend of his had just been murdered, in a crime so terrible I'd seen it on the national news. We discussed God's grace, and the spiritual world.
    The other was with three members of my online writer's group: an atheist technician, an agnostic scientist, and a struggling Catholic musician. It was about Science and Religion, and whether either is based in reality, and if they can really help us.
    The subject has already filled entire libraries with centuries' worth of hard-thought-out tomes. In this incarnation, it's just long enough to fill an online essay.
    There are saints who proclaim they see the glory of God everywhere, during every waking moment. For them, a heartfelt proof of God is more than enough, and they have compassion for those who lack this spiritual foundation. There are also scientists who tell us, flatly, that they see no evidence of God whatsoever. Cool rationality prevails, and they're content, even proud, to rely upon their own practical understanding. (For the purposes of this discussion, a stated adamant disbelief is considered definitive of atheism.)
    Overall, there are so many reasons to doubt, and not enough reasons to believe.
    Let's begin by framing the discussion.
    The most fundamental question has always been: Is there a God? This might be rephrased in this scientific era as: Is there a supernatural? (Things that have not been, and perhaps cannot be, measured by science.)
    I won't ask anyone to attempt to 'prove a negative,' only to remain open minded. Many things once unsuspected, even in theory, are now accepted as routine.
    Are there forces that current science cannot measure? There is little agreement about what such forces might be like. Many Pagans believe in an amorphous 'life force' or many-named 'divinity' which imbues the cosmos. There are several very old, as well as some modern New Age, versions of this belief.
    If that is true, then monotheists such as myself would say that this force is but one aspect of a vast, personal God.
    Let's look at the monotheist's descriptions of God. Religious liberals believe in an all-forgiving, milquetoast sort of God. Fundamentalists see a demanding, judgmental God. One version sends nearly everyone to Heaven; the other, to Hell. Deists see an indifferent God, who 'wound up' a big cosmic clock, then went away and did something else.
    I would say the truth encompasses, and is larger than, any of those ideas. God created us in His image, with both a mind and a heart. Let's use them both, like God does. I will use 'His' for God, while accepting that God is big enough to embrace both genders.

GOT PROOF?

    Atheists don't want to take things on faith -- especially not on blind faith. Some have asked, "I can't see any clear evidence for God, so would you please show me some?" Assuming, I suppose, that I won't have any.
    Before we get into that, let's take another look at the underlying assumptions. Folks boldly ask for dramatic and incontrovertible evidence, in order to make such a major decision about their worldview.
    In response, Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb has presented a brilliant analysis of our 'criteria for responsible decision.' Briefly: in the ongoing conduct of their lives, few people demand this kind of absolutely-solid evidence †, even while making very serious decisions.
    What do I mean? Okay, who eats at restaurants? Any idea how many people die each year from food poisoning, and related contamination? (Hint: many.) So, do you inspect the kitchen before eating? Ask to see the Health Inspection certificate? Do you know the inspector, and regard him as both competent and not corrupt?
    What about airliners? Squeaking automobile brakes? In reality, people go with the best probabilities. Most reasonable folks will take the great convenience over the slight risk.
    What about intimate personal matters? Dear reader, have you tested your DNA, and compared it with your parent's DNA? In other words, are you certain they are your father and mother? Your probable answer is, no and no. I would venture to say that you would not demand this evidence, or even be comfortable asking for it.
    What about your children? How many men have tested the DNA of their children, to ensure they are the real father? Again, relatively few. In truth, a lot of men don't really want to have that much 'evidence' in hand.
    What is so very different about a belief in God, our heavenly parent?
    {† The best counter-argument I've heard to this is: "I could obtain the needed physical evidence, and for various personal reasons, usually choose not to. However, I cannot obtain comparable 'spiritual' evidence."
    To this I would add: "Yes, obtain evidence that satisfies you personally, by the very standards you yourself (along with many like-minded people) have set." Meanwhile, readers of mystery and conspiracy-thriller novels realize how thoroughly some elaborate plot can fool a targeted individual (even a very smart one), about what's really happening.}
    Billions of people have indeed found adequate spiritual verification, perhaps not readily summoned in a laboratory setting, but more than satisfactory nonetheless.
    All this being said, there is plenty of evidence, and counters to the usual objections.

OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF

    I would like to address some common objections to belief in God. By now, I suppose I've heard them all. Fortunately, they can be answered. (Here's a great review of the traditional evidence, plus a blog that keeps updated on these issues.)
    Doubters ask, "Why evil?" The old lament goes: "Why do the wicked prosper, oh Lord, while your own people suffer?"
    Many who have suffered personal tragedy tend to blame, and then to doubt God. "A good God would not have allowed such a thing to happen," is their heartfelt cry.
    God does not treat with this fallen world, directly. With the rarest of exceptions, He only works through the minds of people, especially those He has called to lead His Providence.
    In other words, God does not micro-manage the physical world. He might keep His eye on the sparrows, but He usually doesn't prevent the hawk from swooping down on their nests. He might number your hairs, but He may not intervene if they begin to fall out.
    An example: when a tornado passes through their town, the people whose house is spared ought to thank Chaos Theory -- and not God alone -- when the fickle wind veers around their home, and wrecks the neighbor's place instead. God was not taking the side of the "winners," in this. Nor is He against the losers, in sports contests and most other venues.
    Some wonder why evil exists at all; and how it could have emerged in a cosmos that should have been entirely good. This question occurs to every perceptive child, and is formally known as theodicy. The answers vary between religions, and most have in fact reconciled the idea of a Good God with the existence of Worldly Evil.
    Roman Catholic Cardinal Schonborn offers some brilliant insights on this and related topics.
    An unusual response, once controversial, now subject to serious theological discussion, can be found in the Divine   Principle. (The links are to text pages and to a YouTube channel.)
    Based upon a clear grasp of its overall framework, it explains three specific reasons, near the end of its second chapter. For now, I'll try to summarize them here.
    God always maintains His original standards and blueprint. For web readers: in an online context, His dealing with (directly engaging, and thus formally acknowledging) evil forces would be like a human discussion forum administrator getting into a big argument with a cynical troll. This would "feed the troll," tarnish and distract the person in charge, and drag everything down. God prefers to honor our dignity and free will, and at the same time, maintain the purity of the ultimate Ideal.
    Hence, He does not stay the hands of the evil, except when good people arise to do it, whether in crime or war. Several years ago, over in Scotland, there was a terrible massacre of school children. During the memorial service, the town's Pastor said a very wise thing: "God's heart was the first to break." We make Him suffer, but we can also bring Him great joy.
    Without a crystal clear understanding of these issues, Christianity has often been challenged by compelling heresies and competing beliefs; such as Mithraism, which teaches that Good and Evil have always existed, and that the best we can hope for is to keep the two "in balance." Today this is the darker variety of New Age belief. This is also the basis of The Force, to the extent it's ever explained, in the Star Wars franchise.
    There are other tragedies also, with 'neutral' causes. We need water, but could drown. Gravity is quite handy, yet falls cause numerous deaths. Common sense and good technology mitigate these dangers tremendously, as does medical science. With time, this will only improve. Science can provide safety, and religion a healthy lifestyle. (Folks could be so much more sensible, but then we've have to do without the Darwin Awards.) It's strange, but Darwin and the Bible do agree on one thing: our mortal bodies are but temporary vessels.

HORRORS!

    By now, any conscientious atheist must be itching to tell me all about the horrors promulgated by 'organized religion,' such as the Inquisition and Crusades. Those are mentioned constantly, despite having happened many centuries ago. (They've already been apologized for.) The historical reality is complex, and frequently misunderstood. For instance, the Inquisition is one of history's first examples of a formal, deliberative court of law. Bad as it surely was, the alternatives were much worse. As for the Crusades, they were preceded by centuries of invasion and rule by peoples from another land. (Lots of small tribal principalities, back then.) Some have termed them a counterattack, brought on by the harassment of pilgrims to the Holy Land, plus incursions on Byzantine territory.
    Here is a different take: what the Church authorities could not overcome by virtue of their own weak doctrines, they sometimes crushed by brute force. For example, a medieval incarnation of Mithraism, called the Cathar heresy, was exterminated by one of the bloodiest massacres in French history. (Here's a sympathetic essay on Catharism. Others claim they provoked violence.)
    Many wonder why a good God would condemn so many to an eternal Hell. Or how a powerful God could lose so many of His creations to ruinous perdition. If Heaven and Hell's populations were sports scores, then (according to mainstream doctrine) God is losing badly.
    Simply put, God condemns no one -- people do this to themselves, in this life and the next. Also, though Hell is a terrible place, there are ways out. Difficult roads that anyone can follow to Heaven.
    Long ago, Dante Alighieri (in his Divine Comedy), and C.S. Lewis (in his The Great Divorce) both hinted at possible escape routes. (Dante in only the rarest of special cases, Lewis more generally--and generously.)
    Believe it or not (heh, heh), Hollywood has managed to illustrate this well. In my opinion, at least three movies give fairly accurate depictions of physical death, and life the spiritual realm. These are Ghost, What Dreams May Come, and The Sixth Sense. Yes it's "just" pop-culture, but you must admit how influential it is!

DARWIN & AQUINAS

    Most people have great respect for science, and atheists have told me they think religion has mostly opposed it. Therefore, that religion has been a roadblock to the advancement of humanity.
    Evolution is an obvious example. Science seems to have won, hands down, on this point. Even the Pope has admitted that evolution must be true.
    Believers in Creationist theology (a fairly new 'reactionary' doctrine) have consistently invoked a so-called "God of the gaps." Everything science could not explain, they attribute to God. But as more is discovered, God is then (supposedly) shoved out of one more perch. Eventually, atheists gloat, God will have no possible role. (Rabbi Moshe Averick answers this, along with several other common objections, via an essay and book.)
    Darwinians like to claim that Evolution eliminates God's role by 'multiplying' species in a natural, apparently random, way. Unfortunately, certain Young Earth Creationists actually play into their hands, by proclaiming that the Earth and universe are less than ten thousand years old, and that all extant species existed from the beginning. (In order to maintain this ultra-narrow worldview, YEC believers conjure up all sorts of intellectual gymnastics, such as the speed of light slowing drastically, and baby dinosaurs hibernating aboard Noah's Ark.)
    In fact, traditional Christian theology is much more observant and profound. Way back around the year 1260, Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa contra gentiles II. 45:

    "The goodness of the species transcends the goodness of the individual. Therefore the multiplication of species is a greater addition to the good of the universe than the multiplication of individuals of one species."

    Thus, Aquinas was comfortable with the 'origin of species' a good 600 years before Darwin. It was left to Darwin to figure out the scientific details, and how divergence could arise, when it seems obvious that offspring tend to resemble their parents. In doing so, Darwin actually supports Aquinas's reasoning!
    On the flip side, believers can comfortably embrace science, and learn the big picture, about how the two have almost always supported each other. Journalist-scholar Margaret Wertheim, scientist Francisco Ayala, and Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, have guided countless students into this greater understanding. (They don't agree on every detail, however their basic worldview is most important.)

SCIENCE & RELIGION

    Regarding one familiar discussion, drawing a correspondence between the 'Days' of the Bible's Book of Genesis and the 'Eras' of the Earth is a sure way to annoy almost everyone. Note that the "Sun and Moon appearing" (in Genesis 1:16) could refer to the clarity of the Earth's atmosphere, after impact events and volcanism have diminished. Also, Genesis 1:3 and John 1:1 sure remind a modern thinker of the Big Bang!
    Most believers in God point to the existence of miracles. By their very nature, no one thinks that such things can be reproduced in a laboratory. There are people who are famous for their alleged psychic abilities, though the majority of them have been proven as fakes. A vast reward fund remains unclaimed.
    However, scholars are making a serious attempt to research miracles. Also, the CIA and others have taken a long-term interest in human abilities beyond the ordinary five senses. Millions of people can recount striking 'paranormal' experiences, but almost by definition, such are difficult for science to verify. (Heck, after a few beers, even hardened skeptics have been known to share some hair-raising tales.)
    I look for God's hand at the time of the Big Bang, and at the genesis of life, and at the time the first fully human beings were born on this world. (Probably over one hundred thousand years ago.) I would look for it in holy places, though usually, well away from the glare of publicity.
    We can also look for God on the largest conceivable cosmological scales. Science has recently given us the Cosmological Anthropic Principle. As in, if any one of numerous physical constants (such as gravity and the 'strong force') were very slightly different, our universe of stars and planets could not exist. If the laws which affect chemistry varied even a tiny bit, then complex molecules, and life as we know it, could not exist.
    As for familiar earthly life, forget "billions of years for things to happen," many scholars say the improbabilities are so great, hundreds of trillions of years wouldn't have been enough for life to begin! There are several excellent books which explain these issues in detail.
    Overall, religion has been a great boon to humanity. Sure, there have been abuses, as there are in every walk of life. Such violent "religious" people, past and present, have not been following the clear teachings of their own Faiths. (There are certain exceptions, but in each case, genuine splits developed over such things.)
    Even while denying there is anything supernatural, a scientific-minded skeptic must still deal with Plato's (and then Aristotle's) concept of Forms. That philosophical premise has defied refutation for millennia, and is entirely relevant today. It asserts there is an entire realm, beyond the material or the mental, of eternal and unchanging (yet often familiar) realities.
    Suffice it to say that ancient philosophy and the latest scientific theories have not eliminated, but rather, given us a probable role for an intelligent Creator.

SPIRITUAL REALM

    A common doubt, shared by virtually all atheists, regards the afterlife, and the unseen spirit world. Do these exist? Science has, almost inadvertently, given us some new answers. Apparently the Multiverse theory was developed, in large part, to counter the Anthropic Principle. It claims that, instead of a universe that's improbably helpful to stars and life and intelligence, we're just randomly born into a favorable one. Out of how many? According to String Theory, there could be as many as 10500 distinct, and often very different, universes! According to the Multiverse Theory, to arrive at ours, there would have to be a gazillion others where little if anything happens. Some other universes are said to be virtually identical to ours, like a handful would have another 'you' living there, while others are purported to be so strange that even the rules of mathematics, and axioms of logic, would differ! (Max Tegmark offers an excellent explanation of this mind-bending topic.)
    This bends key secular assumptions back around on themselves, in a vast and all-encompassing circle, since it undermines the atheist's vaunted supremacy of mortal-human-style reasoning. (And the Bible was already there, 2000 years ago. See 1 Corinthians 3:19.)
    Atheist skeptics will eagerly embrace this new Multiverse/Landscape hypothesis, even without any evidence. And yet, if I describe just two kinds of alternate cosmos, called Heaven and Hell, they will bristle with scorn! (Respected biologist Robert Lanza explains this in precise terms.)
    Please understand, I'm not saying there are a vast number of alternate universes, when just a handful seem like enough for humanity, body and soul. (The Hubble telescope can observe hundreds of billions of galaxies, many composed of hundreds of billions of stars! And the spiritual realm is potentially larger still.)
    Also note: any 'spiritual' realm will surely have different qualities than our more-familiar physical one; with varying inherent laws, different physical constants, and possibly a fourth spatial axis, etc. Such otherworldly realms might well be less subject to rigorous expectations and quick repeatability, instead functioning under more subtle, gradually acting, principles such as grace and karma. In other words, such manifestations probably wouldn't jump through a conventional scientist's experimental hoops; and may not want to cooperate, because they're profoundly different.
    Please don't be too quick to dismiss these essay sections as a "right back atcha" petito principi type arguments. This is not goofball stuff -- much of it has been covered in Scientific American and elsewhere.

REVELATION

    One major difference between religion and science is their source(s) of information, and of authority. Religion is founded largely upon revelation, and believe it or not, in practice this is not so different from science.
    All human traditions have some rational basis, else the tribes, societies, and nations which uphold them will fail. For example, scholars now recognize a couple of reasons why pigs (and pork) were abhorred by Middle Eastern people, including disease and a pig's habit of contaminating small and precious water sources.
    New knowledge and standards will arise, and adaptable societies will change with them. This might be due to a new religion, as with Moses specifying a measured "an eye for an eye," instead of the ultra-barbaric "kill him and all his sons, and take the women for my own" type practice that preceded it. It might be due to science and technology, as with "mix potassium nitrate and sulfur and charcoal--very carefully." (Here's a great essay on the tremendous conceptual and social revolution brought about by the divine Ten Commandments.)
    Religion claims an invisible source of knowledge: divine revelation, and atheists shudder at the very idea. But is this really a bad thing? Scientists hatch up new concepts all the time, and apply math and observation and experiment to confirm them.
    In most cases religion develops more slowly, but in the end it's also tested thoroughly, and in several ways. Anyone can say they've heard from God, but to be accepted by a variety of people, and then believed over a wide region, is a whole different thing. For such proclamations to outlast their proclaimer, and then stand the test of time, is rare indeed! When that does happen, the store of wisdom, and overall attainments, of humanity are vastly uplifted.
    Almost all religions see the Divine as a source of truth, and not just any truth but a comprehensive and fulfilling worldview. (See John 14:6) It's a bold claim, and history backs it up!
    Meanwhile, in practice, science rests upon the authority of its elders--even when those elders are wrong. Max Planck lamented how difficult it is for new concepts to be accepted, at least within the lifetime of the guardians of the previous reigning theory. Also, certain Asian societies so emphasize 'respect for elders' that doubting a senior professor or scientist is tantamount to blasphemy. Perhaps in consequence, the number of Nobel Prizes awarded to scholars in those nations is proportionately much smaller.
    Strict logic can apply to science and to religion. Here's a very simple, interactive, web site that 'walks you through' several traditional proofs of God.
    Their focus and style might be different, yet in both religion and science (and similarly, with political ideologies), the greater truth will ultimately prevail. (Also, here's a Huffington Post essay that explores what those major proofs themselves can show us about humanity's changing views, over the millennia.)

PROBLEMS WITH SCIENCE

    For scientists, accusing religion of violence is like the pot calling the kettle black. Historically, when people have ruled by non-religious 'rational principles,' they've seldom managed to improve their societies. Quite the contrary, some of them produced the most horrific dictatorships in all history. In the USA, scientists have carried out atrocities such as the Tuskegee Experiment. Worse yet, Smellie and Hunter, the British founders of Obstetrics, may have been serial killers! Despite the great mental brilliance of its practitioners, science has tremendous shortcomings.
    The great laws, the foundation of civilization, all have religious underpinnings. From the Code of the ancient God-King Hammurabi, to Moses, to the Magna Carta and the American Founders, we see the hand of the Divine. One striking example is North America's first written constitution, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. This was enacted in 1639 -- based directly upon a powerful sermon given by the Rev. Thomas Hooker a year earlier.
    A common thread is, God grants us our inalienable rights, with an understanding that people are not mere cogs in some domineering social machine. This is ironic, considering that modern American secular leftists often complain that they "live in a theocracy" run by a horrid "religious right," yet by their own definition, they're about 370 years too late.
    Rulers with the best of intentions, be they Kings or bureaucrats, have a terrible time guiding their nations. Specific programs, much less whole economies, seldom end up as planned. Even professional futurists, and the finest science fiction writers, have a hard time envisioning the future accurately.
    This leads us to the realm of politics, and the creation of laws. A relative handful of health and safety regulations have a genuine basis in science. Once you get past those, the creation, enforcement, and effects of human legislation are so utterly unscientific as to give one fits.
    Human rights activists, and the scholars who study that important topic, are worried that atheism provides no clear basis for outlaw nations to behave, in their treatment of citizens (and prisoners), the launching of terror (or even nuclear) strikes, and more. The best John Finnis and his associates can do is, present a complicated argument that such leaders "be reasonable," because the no-rights alternative is surely much worse.
    The bottom line? In guiding humanity, religion had done better then science.


Top of Page



Notes to an Atheist, Part Two

    Let us continue our discussion about the reality of God, and the legitimacy of religion. I have mentioned how Science has been unable to guide either politics or the economy, on any scale. You see, certain matters are 'internal' to human nature, and thus, extremely difficult to quantify.
    This will be clearer if we look at our own personal lives. Science has tried very hard to understand human nature. Studies of both Mind and Brain have, so far, fallen far short of expectations. Science cannot grasp emotions, much less our dreams, in any detail; though dreams are intimately familiar to all humans, including scientists.
    Recent MRI studies have run brain scans on people while they are wrestling with stark moral dilemmas, such as, whether to 'pull the switch' to divert a runaway trolley car. (In real life, such are exceedingly rare situations, with no clear assurance of the actual outcome. Still, insights can be gained.)
    In any event, two competing tendencies are depicted, with a morally difficult choice requiring an additional (and now, specifically known) mental effort. I would say that it's expected our brains would show both an 'animal' (selfish and impulsive) and a 'moral' (considerate and balanced) natures. If the Bible's account is anywhere near correct, humans were sundered from God a long time ago, and we've had long millennia for this struggle, borne of a 'divided internal nature,' to show up in our physical brains.
    Jeff Corkern has strongly demonstrated the reality of human souls, by showing their universal impact upon our moral choices. His Nine Point Five Theses present several vivid examples. In sum: without respect for everyone's immortal souls, and the tremendous value these impart upon every individual, technologically sophisticated psychopaths and terrorists will soon be making attempts to wipe out large portions of humanity. (And they will lack any "coldly rational" reasons not to!)
    Let me sum this up, and bluntly. Despite centuries of steady advance, science has not given humanity peace of mind. It has not provided anyone with a secure or satisfying relationship. (Think of Coldplay's popular song "The Scientist.")
    Science has not engendered world peace. Nor will it, until its vision is greatly expanded. Only religion can do this, with any consistency. If an atheistic reader has found these good things in some other way, then congratulations: you are unusual, and fortunate.

HAVING FUN

    This leads us to another objection to Faith. One that most atheists are personally too polite to mention. In my native San Francisco, however, they can and do mention it--quite loudly! (As with the self-named Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.)
    Anti-religious people assume that America's colonists were a dour folk, who wore black and never smiled. That the Puritans never had fun, and worse, never allowed others to do so. Free thinkers were, it is claimed, put in the stocks, or burned at the stake.
    Historically speaking, this was rare. Roger Williams was exiled, not killed. If such dour Puritans exist (then or now), they are few in number--and in great need of therapy.
    Let me spin this another way. The folks who hold it against religion are themselves going about it all wrong. At the extreme, 'swingers' are desperately seeking pleasure, but seldom do they achieve it, in any lasting sense. (While providing fodder for numerous CSI TV-show plots!)
    Those who practice 'polyamory' need tremendous effort to maintain that lifestyle, with a sort of ultramodern (emotionally and legally complicated) panoply of shifting arrangements. Meanwhile, ordinary 'plain vanilla' marriages have numerous benefits, especially when there's an extended family around. (In this regard, some common lore about divorce is incorrect. Seriously faithful religious couples divorce at a considerably lower rate.)
    Look at any contemporary 'grownup' publication, in pretty much any field of interest. You will find dozens of ads for self-help books, therapy sessions, sex-enhancing techniques, and much more. It seems that a lot of folks are coming up short in the 'fun' category.
    Research indicates that the faithful, and the long-time married, are far healthier, and more satisfied, than singles or even newlyweds. This includes everything from life expectancy to sexual satisfaction.
    My point is: those Puritans are having all the fun!

GETTING PHILOSOPHICAL

    Let's look at a philosophical objection used by both Humanists and liberal believers. I've heard it phrased best by a popular radio host*: "Fundamentalists do good because they're afraid of being sent to Hell. Humanists do good because it's the right thing to do." He concluded that humanism is better; a way of life based in reason, not fear.
    However, the above quote is wrong on several counts. For one thing, as an online buddy of mine puts it, that is 'Kindergarten ethics.' As I mentioned earlier, God does not condemn you. Your own words and deeds†, as rooted in your inmost mind and heart, are what bless or condemn you. Even so, fear is not always bad. It is perfectly legitimate to fear a fall from a lofty cliff--or a spiritual fall into a terribly dark place.
    On the other hand, the humanist's "right thing to do" has turned out to be an amazingly flexible concept. Elastic enough to justify all sorts of things, including actions which defy common sense, much less anyone's sense of justice. One need only look at the history of 'social engineering' to see this.
    The American Founders knew this well. If you have no soul, then what is your value, compared with that of the 'whole people,' as embodied by the State? The Constitution that Americans respect is designed to be a restraint on State power. Only God-given rights are beyond the State's reach. (Here are two web sites which explain this important topic.)
    [* With terrible irony, this same radio host ended up in a federal prison. His usual signoff phrase was, "Remember, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission," but the prosecutor was not in a forgiving mood . . . ]
    {† For strict Christian readers: there's no need to get upset about issue of 'salvation by works.' In this context, my term 'deeds' can include seeking personal salvation by the blood of the risen Christ.}

CLARKE'S LAW

    Let's go back to the beginning of this discussion. We wondered if there was, or could be, such a thing as the 'supernatural.' Take a look at the history of technology. Many invisible forces, in common use today, were unexpected discoveries. For example, X-rays and microwaves were found quite by accident.
    A famous science fiction author coined the precept now known as Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Perhaps certain spiritual phenomena will, in future years, be as routine in our lives as microwaves are today.
    Where in the universe are these forces, you ask? Any good Physics textbook will have a scale of 'size and force,' ranging from the smallest quanta to the largest galactic cluster. (Powers of Ten and Scale of the Universe are some wonderful basic illustrations.) Shown near the bottom of these scales is a 'particle desert,' a vast area still mysterious to science. This region is between the Quarks and the Planck   Limit -- much smaller than anything displayed in that 'Power of Ten' link.
    That is only one place where new forces might be found. We already suspect that, within outer space's Black Hole singularities, the known laws of the universe have broken down. This might not affect us directly. (Frank Tipler thinks otherwise.)
    The Superstring cosmological theory posits that there are more than the three (or four) spatial dimensions we are all familiar with. Eleven or more, though they are said to be 'tightly wrapped.' Still, this opens up a wide field of speculation.
    Perhaps, in addition to the four known main forces (gravity, electromagnetism, etc.) there are other, as yet undiscovered ones. Several competing Theories of Consciousness are trying to quantify one of these. Heim Theory has enjoyed a revival, and one of Heim's unpublished concepts was a Dimension of Consciousness.
    It could even be that God is beyond the very grasp of Nature-based science, and rationally comprehensible only via Supernaturalism.

MAJORITIES

    As most atheists are keenly aware, they are in the minority. Sometimes open discrimination is claimed, but that's hard to demonstrate. It's true that polls have shown that a 'declared atheist' candidate would often receive fewer votes. Hard as this may be for an ardent nonbeliever to accept, that is not because the public is prejudiced, ignorant, or stupid. There are several valid reasons, such as the fact that most atheists lean to the political Left. Some people regard atheists as rebellious at heart, and wonder (fairly or not) if there might be psychological reasons for their rejection of belief. Also, sorry to say, the most vocal atheists are openly disdainful of believers, and use all sorts of pejoratives. 'Freethinking' sounds nice on paper, but in real life they've managed to (really or potentially) alienate most of the American population. (More than 90% of adults believe in God, or a Higher Power.)
    As vocal atheists love to point out, the situation in parts of Europe (plus Japan) is different. Darwin is widely accepted, and there are fewer Believers. Church attendance is low. Be honest: how idyllic is that situation?
    It's a mixed bag. Those same regions suffer from a much higher suicide rate. Also, they have an ongoing population decline, and within decades may be dominated by newcomers who'd impose sharia law. From a Darwinian perspective, that is worth careful reflection.
    Some atheists, pointing to Evolutionary Psychology, have responded by asserting that religion itself, along with any formal attention to the Divine, came later in human evolution. Theorizing, based on archaeology, that priests and their organized religions developed after the introduction of agriculture, as a method of harmonizing the new (more densely populated and longer lasting) settlements. However, archaeologists are now overturning that view, with ongoing excavations at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. It appears that Neolithic people built a massive stone complex, clearly a temple for animal sacrifices and priestly worship, about 11,000 years ago. No villages have been found, yet it seems these hunter-gatherers were deeply religious.
    On a wider note, Thomas Nagel continues to question the most fundamental assumptions of reductionistic Darwinism. (He's not doubting the age of the Earth, or the origin of life and the development of species, but wondering how any of this could actually unfold.)
    In sum: modern scholarship once appeared to cast religious belief and practice as a handy social construct. Now, it seems the faithful majority has a long and much deeper heritage.

CONCLUSION

    More than 90% of Americans are not unenlightened fools. People (including respected scientists) really can examine all the evidence, and reach a different conclusion than many atheists have.
    Let me conclude by assuring nonbelievers that God did design this universe, and that He endowed us all with an invisible soul. Within our soul can be found the key to human aspirations, as well as our relationships.
    Also, there is still plenty for science to discover, and more technology yet to develop. Things that exceed today's technology like my little Macintosh computer does a cave man's stone tools.
    I think we'll find that, sooner or later, Believers and Scientists are going to end up on the same side of the fence. Then things will really fly!


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HELLO HUMANISTS


Part One

    Here we begin a two-part article about the beliefs and practices of Secular Humanism. (To be precise, as opposed to the older Renaissance Humanism.)
    In my view, the differences between Christian denominations are relatively minor. The clash between Christianity and Islam is more serious, yet the two faiths have more in common than many people care to admit.
    Even the yawning chasm between monotheism and paganism pales in comparison with one other cultural divide. In the future, the crucial debate will be between those who believe in God and those who oppose that belief.

THE DIVIDE

    Marxism may have failed (except on university campuses), but that was just one version of atheistic thought. In my previous article "Notes to an Atheist," I have appealed to them, and mentioned Humanism. This article is an appeal to card-carrying Humanists, plus information for believers who have encountered them, or soon will.
    Why the concern? Humanists don't just privately doubt, or simply not believe. They actively   denigrate the beliefs of others. They claim the universe is entirely material, and that any belief in the spiritual or supernatural is at best a pleasant delusion, and at worst a dangerous fanaticism.
    Conscientious modern atheists are quick to point out the diversity within their own ranks, in style and substance. Terms such as 'antitheist' have been used to describe Dawkins, Sam Harris, and their more-aggressive fellows. (Believers have countered by deeming them 'Evangelical Atheists,' and drawing comparisons to the rhetoric of traditional religious-conversion type conversations.)
    Some atheists prefer 'nontheist' and various other terms. In any event, none of those terms have a precise or widely-recognized meaning. Suffice it to say, each and every individual has developed a set of distinct beliefs -- while an adamant disbelief in God remains definitive for the sake of this Proofs of God essay. (Folks who've not pondered their own beliefs much, aren't likely to be reading essays such as this one!)
    Some atheists have dubbed themselves Brights, a term derived from Europe's historical Enlightenment period. They will joke about it, but realistically, this appellation cannot make a good impression on the vast majority of the populace. (The word's antonyms, which implicitly append to non-Brights, would be dull, dim, stupid, etc.)
    Also note: believers who call themselves 'saints' (and similar terms), and strive to behave in such a fashion, are also taught that personal pride is a sin. Not to mention, they've publicly assigned themselves a very high standard. Knowing that aggressive humanists will cheer every instance of a believer's falling short, even while exempting themselves from traditional morality. (The intellectual atheist's concept of "to reduce suffering" is a pale substitute, better than nothing.)
    In practice, Humanist opposition to belief ranges from clear, logical arguments to childish, ignorant mockery. Increasingly, they are launching headline-making laws, new institutional policies, and significant court battles.
    At times the clash has become quite personal. After the tragedies of 9/11/01, a famous Humanist publicly complained of "all this talk about God and prayer." In recent years, Humanist leader Paul Kurtz and Christian author Timothy LaHaye have been slamming each other in their books, and by name.

LIMITS

    In the past, when faced with a big challenge, traditional leaders often responded by ignoring, or even trying to silence, their rivals. It's a cowardly and ultimately ineffective strategy. (Think: Galileo vs. the Church, in the simplest version* of that history.)
    First, let's address the basic difference in worldviews. The two sides cannot even agree on what they can fairly discuss. Humanists always 'state their case' as a fundamental contrast between belief (blind faith) and reason (scientific evidence). The more charitable among them will say, "It's fine if you want to believe that," but with a pitying tone.
    They will bristle, and go on the attack, if any believer speaks of having evidence or logic to back him up. Believers know that's silly, since God made everything, including the world, our intelligent selves, and the scientific rules we study things by.
    [* The reality was a complicated mess. Galileo had scholarly rivals who discovered even more, while he pushed allies to 'paper over' his own scientific errors. Jesuit astronomers rapidly verified the man's basic assertions. Meanwhile, it was never about the Bible being only-and-entirely the description of everything.]
    Back around 400 AD, Augustine wrote in his Contra Faustum Manichaeum, 10:1,

    "In the Gospel we do not read that the Lord said: 'I send you the Holy Spirit so that He might teach you all about the course of the sun and the moon.' The Lord wanted to make Christians, not astronomers. You learn at school all the useful things you need to know about nature."

    As the centuries passed, Augustine's successors did indeed develop modern astronomy!
    Modern humanists proclaim their complete confidence in 'reason' and 'science.' In most areas of life, this boils down to relying on themselves. But if we take them at their word, we should note: science itself has well-known limits.
    For example, one cannot do experiments upon stars and galaxies, nor observe the multi-million year process of macroevolution. In both cases we can only see the results, and that from a considerable distance. Scientists are unable to create life, much less intelligence. (All these things may yet occur.)
    There are basic limits inherent in the scientific method. Godel's Theorem states that mathematics cannot prove itself true; that one must always seek another, larger framework of truth.
    This concept was expanded by computing pioneer Alan Turing, with his famous Halting Problem. In essence, it's impossible for a computer to always know whether a given problem is unsolvable, or when to stop trying to figure it out. A popular example involves a donkey caught between two identical piles of hay. Unable to decide which pile to approach, a literal-minded donkey would starve!
    As with the Vulcans of popular fiction, logic cannot really give motive, much less meaning, to one's life. (The crucial role of emotions is explained in marvelous detail by Jonah Lehrer, in his book How We Decide. Very informative, and Lehrer seems to be an atheist.)

THE BIBLE

    Humanists rarely attack such beliefs as the Buddha's Eightfold Path. They reserve their ire for Christianity, and do their best to shred the Bible and popular American/western beliefs. (As Voltaire stated his own urgent cause: "Écrasez l' infâme." Meaning, roughly, "Let us destroy the infamous thing.")
    The Bible is often derided as a collection of myths, further debased by centuries of mistranslation. Critics will list numerous alleged flaws and contradictions in its text, and supposed weaknesses in its accounts and doctrines. Worse, they'll tell you the whole thing was dreamed up by ambitious churchmen, to overawe the credulous peasants, as a specific instrument of power and exploitation. That these 'messy text' and 'cannily crafted' views contradict each other does not seem to occur to skeptics.
    In reality, around 1100 AD, theologian Peter Abelard greatly developed logical analysis and debate; i.e., he helped pioneer 'critical thinking.'
    Skeptics will also proclaim that Biblical miracles could never have taken place, then go on to bash modern-day ones, such as at Lourdes. (Knowing this full well, Catholic authorities are cautious when recognizing miracles.)
    In plain fact, there are many more extant (and original language) copies of the Bible than any other historical document. These documents are closer in provenance to the recounted events than any other group of ancient accounts, by far. The Biblical Archaeological Society is constantly announcing new discoveries, from Egypt and the Middle East, that verify the Bible's accuracy. Many critics, working from 'anti' pamphlets, and now from deeply flawed Internet lists, are unaware of this.
    Author David Limbaugh has analyzed the Bible from a rigorous legal perspective, and his book Jesus on Trial demonstrates how (despite any minor doctrinal quibbles), it's self-evidently accurate.
    Simply put, anyone who relies upon that Jesus Never Existed web site, or similar ones, may find themselves on thin ice. In its earliest centuries, when Christianity was new and weak, even its vehement opponents did not question the man's historical existence. That is a modern conceit. (Revealingly, western-world Humanists rarely bother with anything like a "Buddha Never Existed" campaign. But if they did, archaeology may well show them wrong on that claim.)
    Another fascinating area of study concerns the ancient Shroud/Mandelion and 'Christ Pantocrator' images. (Here again, many skeptics leaped into "dost protest too much" mode . . . )

STRAW MEN

    There are endless arguments for and against the existence of God, which alone would fill an entire bookshelf. However, few are convincing. (Here's a concise list of the most common pro-and-con arguments.) In my opinion, no one has ever done it better than C.S. Lewis (in his Mere Christianity) and the Unificationist's Principle of Creation.
    Many Humanists display a basic ignorance of theology. Most of their essays poke at concepts such as 'predetermination' and the 'existence of evil' (theodicy), which theologians have already tackled. But if mainstream Christian doctrines are lacking, chances are the Divine Principle has already provided a decisive answer. (These video lessons help to grasp its concepts by steps, and in order.)
    One (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) attack on the Biblical Noah's rainbow story, published in The Humanist magazine, was especially silly. It presumed that rainbows would not have existed before that time.
    Rather than join in a rich and challenging discussion, aggressive Humanists are too often content to set up and knock down straw men. (Aristotelian philosopher Edward Feser's book The Last Superstition recounts such interactions vividly.)

SUGGESTIONS

    I'd like to offer the Humanists a few helpful suggestions. You see, despite some impressive scholarship, their organizations have a relatively small membership. Dare I say, a lack of converts?
    Surveys reveal that there are millions of non-religious Americans, and Humanists wonder aloud why those people aren't flocking to their banner. With their vast self-assurance, and air of superiority, it puzzles them to no end . . .
    There may be several reasons for this lack. For starters, Humanists preach a flexible ethics, carefully divorced from the Ten Commandments. They state that "morality was hijacked by religion" at some point in ancient history. Who had it before is not exactly made clear.
    Better not to take the easy route, beating on straw men. People will see themselves as being lampooned by Humanist caricatures, and feel quite insulted.
    It's dangerous to relay on shoddy pamphlets and web sites to attack the Bible. If activists use them as 'evidence,' any person with a solid historical grounding (or who knows such a person, to consult), will soon take that activist, and cause, much less seriously.
    Some prominent Humanists are homosexual activists who, not satisfied with modern-day tolerance, openly seek (in the pages of The Humanist magazine and elsewhere) to weaken and defeat traditional morality; up to and including the very concept of right and wrong. This matters to people, and to parents especially.
    Normally, vigorous internal discussion is healthy for organizations. The Humanists have Nat Hentoff, an atheistic leftist, who makes some profound arguments in favor of prenatal life, and against abortion. (Read his columns on the subject.)
    However, they also honor Peter A.D. Singer, who advocates the infanticide of "low quality" babies up to a month old -- though lately he's expanded that range. Even for treatable conditions such as hemophilia!
    But who draws the line? That part might look good on paper, but fallible humans will always be making those decisions. Without a universal morality in effect, people understand that this 'line' would get pushed all over the place. (Finish off some babies who lived through a 'botched' abortion? Kill off a mother while you're at it? Oops!)
    Seeing themselves as consisting only of bodies, Humanists seem to focus on theirs to excess. Who else, when holding scholarly conferences on varied subjects, always include workshops about sex? Apparently that's the utmost--if not the only--happiness they can find in life. Most people find that a pity.
    Humanists, like most Americans, have strong opinions about politics. Because they're viscerally opposed to the so-called Religious Right, they've wed themselves to the political Left. Despite their brain power, they illogically support sympathetic politicians, including venal and demagogic ones. They back Al Gore, who (according to his own book and policy record) is of the anti-development 'green' mold. (Not-very-extreme Greens, and essentially all Vegans, oppose any animal use in medical research, and have powerful fears about nuclear energy and genetic engineering.)



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Hello Humanists, Part Two


    This is the second half of a two part article about Humanism. With the discrediting of Marxism, it is now the most aggressive form of atheism. I see this as a major challenge, and this article is addressed to Humanists and the Believers who encounter them.

SOMETHING NEW

    The ranks of Humanism include many brilliant, even groundbreaking, scholars and scientists. Even so, they sometimes come across as modern-day Luddites. In their eagerness to debunk America's (all too numerous) quacks, frauds, and harebrained notions, they also stomp on a number of genuine, cutting-edge theories.
    For example, they do not posit that the mind is seated in the brain, but assert there is no Mind at all! Just a cascade of physical impulses racing around those soggy neurons. Therefore the 'sense of self,' morality, personal goals, etc., are all illusions*, little fancier than the inchoate yearnings of animals.
    These ideas are controversial, and not accepted by most mind/brain researchers. Philosophers can blow it out of the water, because no scholar can even propose that theory without somehow stating, "I think it is true."
    (*Not stopping to wonder 'who' the individual is, who's contemplating all of these complex findings and theories, and jealously guarding an immaterial supposition.)
    Here's an excellent column on this topic, by philosopher Mary Midgley.
    The ideas of quantum physics and superstring theory are discomfiting to Humanists, because they depict all existence as energy. As intricate, multidimensional 'fields' poised in swift harmonic vibration. Reductionism finds itself in a similar bind. Consider: the famous Two Slit Experiment is affected by the presence of an Observer, but if that person is merely a chunk of chemicals with neural impulses, how does the Cosmos "know" to respond predictably?
    Some (but by no means all) New Agers love to parrot multisyllabic scientific terminology, but the reality is even more amazing. (Here's a great essay on this topic.)
    Why do Humanists like to imply we're nearing the boundaries of the known? Science made that mistake a hundred years ago, and may again. It's risky to name names, but why not take Rupert Sheldrake's theory of Morphic Resonance seriously? It doesn't fit the reining paradigm, and faced with such anomalies, most scientists just throw up their hands. (Yes he makes controversial claims, probably some spurious ones, but in this context, I'm speaking of his rigorous-yet-oddball experimental results.)
    In reality, tens of millions of educated, perceptive animal lovers will tell you that, without a doubt, their pets have some type of ESP.
    But you may have a hard time getting them to say so! Why? Professional skeptics have so browbeaten the public that most people know very well when to shut up. Who wants to get called a nut case, or an ignorant fool? Folks will even argue themselves into disbelief, whenever they have a paranormal experience.
    Ever witnessed a really strange, truly inexplicable occurrence? Between the (more harshly skeptical) Humanists and the (more scatterbrained among) New Age people, good luck getting a fair hearing these days!
    Following the tragic events of 9/11/2001, I read an account by a respected magazine editor. He lives alone, and on the morning of Sept. 11th he slept in. And had a very disturbing dream, about a tall skyscraper in flames after a terrorist explosion. Humanists won't call him a liar, at least not to his face. Instead they'll say that he always has strange dreams; that this vision of terror was a mere coincidence. Or maybe the neighbor had the news playing really loud, just before he woke up. All I can say to that is: "Yeah, right."
    Similarly, psychic frauds are a dime a dozen. No one has won the skeptic's million dollar reward. But a genuine psychic would be nuts to trade that money for the deluge of meddling, if not the dire peril, that would arise from claiming it. Could this prize be claimed with some guarantee of anonymity? No, because applicants have now been limited (with good reason, based upon experience) to people with an existing reputation/media presence.

HUMAN NATURE

    Humanists think they've relegated every human experience to the test tube. Our noblest impulses, they say, are mere chemistry. For example, the hormone oxytocin can stimulate motherly love and, in animals, can erase it when blocked. However, objective experts say it's not really that simple, or easily predictable, and doubly so with humans. (The hormone's actual effects can be unpredictable, sometimes even the opposite of normal.)
    The chemical MDMA (Ecstasy) can make almost anyone feel loving. It will give people a high, but then it wears off, leading to a miserable "crash." Overall: if it's imposed by a pill, then it isn't really you. If the stuff really changed you, you'd only have to take it once.
    Humanists tell how an 'experience of oneness' and the 'presence of holiness' can be generated by applying electrical fields directly to the brain. They also promote the fascinating idea that humans are 'hard wired' us to experience a divine presence. But, as with the pills described above, if you switch off the device, the experience goes away.
    Religion and family are the genuine article.
    Note that the experience of satiety (of having just eaten), and of sexual excitement, can be mimicked in similar ways. But if you relied on that, you'd starve! And in the long run, cease reproducing. Humanists would probably retort that anorexics and narcissists have similar problems. And I, in turn, would call them spiritual anorexics, and worse. (A clever neuroscientist might evoke in a subject the savoring of a favorite Thanksgiving meal--while seated in a plain, otherwise empty room--but such an experiment isn't a reason to shun your family, much less, proof that 'food does not exist.')
    Reportedly, Richard Dawkins once tried out a 'holiness stimulator' device, and came away disappointed. In your essayist's opinion, either he's got the most advanced brain on the planet, or he's detoured far onto a side track. (Here's an Oxford debate between Prof. Dawkins and Sir Anthony Kenny.)
    Professional skeptics demand hard proofs for everything. I would ask them, "Do you love your spouse? Is that person very special to you, even exclusively so?" Could they prove that objectively, or demonstrate it for me in a lab? I'd like to see them try. Or will they assure their spouse that their love is only an illusion†; an effect of oxytocin and social conditioning?
    Humanists are human, too. No matter their stated convictions, they're also people with undescribed beliefs, higher passions, and profound desires. They too have priests and prophets, they just call them something else.
    {† This raises an important and deeper point. If a materialist does admit that his-or-her love (as opposed to simple animal lust) is an illusion, or even bristles at the suggestion that it might be, then what is the genuine item the "illusion" just poorly imitates? Further, how could we humans have originated, much less contemplate, such universal ideals, all around the world, if they're based upon nothing?}
    Consider: what if an Angel of God appeared to a disbelieving skeptic, while they were at the bathroom mirror one morning? And explained that the author of an essay called "Hello Humanists" prayed for the doubter so hard that God answered, by sending along this visitation? The minute the angel departed, that person would probably dismiss the experience as the result of "that anchovy-laden pizza I ate last night." Then, if the angel came back, would they consult a Priest or a Psychiatrist? Never mind that angels are real -- a stubborn enough skeptic might end up in a mental hospital.
    What if the returning Christ appeared as a guest on the David Letterman Show? The skeptic would cry, "Fraud!" And if drifting clouds began to spell out Bible verses? They'd look high and low for some clandestine technological explanation.
    People can be too committed to a certain mindset, including the very people who condemn 'fixed' mindsets the loudest.

POLITICS

    As noted above, with rare exceptions, Humanists gravitate toward the political Left. Thus, even while denigrating religious beliefs, they buy into a whole different set -- the political kind. Humans do seek a meaningful context for their lives, and some purpose larger than themselves. Without a positive religion, all sorts of fancy-sounding belief systems will take its place. (Theologian Paul Tillich explained this well.)
    Are religions just myths? Fragile reeds upon which to base our lives? Let's compare.
    Consider political beliefs, and the actions, individual and collective, based upon them. (School policies? New taxes? Defense budget? All these and more.) In practice, what are those actions based upon? A party platform? A campaign speech? A blog or magazine article? All these are so fleeting, so fragile, it's astonishing!
    Those Humanists who study up on formal political ideologies have a slightly more solid foundation. However, recent history, not to mention 'real world' outcomes, show deep flaws in every ideology. Hard-core leftists (especially those who believe in Dialectical Materialism) will seldom admit this, but some ideologies and track records -- such as their own -- are more flawed than others.
    Meanwhile, God gave the Jews such a solid foundation they've endured, and indeed flourished, for millennia. Better, they've given humanity great wisdom; plus scientists, scholars, entertainers, philanthropists, and so much more. (Very few of the other ancient, Biblical tribes still exist.)

KNOWLEDGE

    After Darwin, Humanists assumed that God had been banished; that the Bible was only a fairy tale. Now, geneticists have discovered that all humans now alive are descended from a single Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa tens of thousands of years ago. At the same time, archaeologists continue to verify the Scriptures.
    When Copernicus discovered that the Earth is not the center of the universe, Humanists rejoiced. But then Hubble found out that the entire universe flashed into existence in one instant, which his rival Hoyle soon dubbed the Big Bang. Not only that, but its underlying physical laws were so precisely 'tuned' that stars, chemistry, and intelligent life would later emerge.
    Humanists believe that nothing could be as powerful or pervasive as God is supposed to be. Yet physics is now positing the existence of quantum singularities, Higgs fields, Hilbert space, and more. Weird and subtle infinities all over the place!
    Even basic mathematics contains stunning beauty, and concise equations which seem to embody a harmonious cosmos. One such equation is known as Euler's Identity, and it links several fields of math into one elegant statement.
    How might modern science illuminate the nature of God? Anything that moves at an infinite speed is effectively omnipresent. Since that something also underlies the entire cosmos, it would by definition be omnipotent. Having made the rules in the first place, its only limits would be the ones it placed upon itself. (The Church Fathers stated this a lot more eloquently.)
    But how could God comprehend everything, all at once? Without a speed-of-light limit, computability is also unrestricted. You've heard of the Pentium computer chip, so how about a new Pentium Infinity?

CONCLUSION

    Here's a challenge to Humanists. One of their greatest bugbears is the idea of Life After Death, and especially communication those who have passed on. Most people think it happens, even while doubting seances held for thrills, or for money. The real point is, do we humans have a component other than physical, or not?
    What if that special component is separated from observation by a fourth spatial dimension?
    What if it's something enmeshed with the exotic 'dark energy' that now confounds astronomers?
    What if tachyons turn out to be real? (That could explain things like precognition.)
    Or, as Roger Penrose says, our brain's neurons have a direct quantum component? (Many scientists are skeptical, even while quantum physics has been linked to ordinary photosynthesis in plants.)
    It might even be possible to discover and study the immortal human soul--and remain an atheist! But that's not likely. Whatever our spirits are made of has a source, and that Source will be as obvious as the Sun is to its companions here on this Earth.
    Genuine wisdom includes knowing the limits of reason and belief. When desire is informed by belief and reason, with sincere humility, then success and happiness can follow. One popular, real-life example is depicted in Homer Hickam's book The Rocket Boys, and its movie version October Sky. The hagiographies of the saints, both Catholic and Buddhist, offer countless other examples.
    I'll meet you back here in ten thousand years, and we'll talk.

    by Paul Carlson


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DOUBTERS


Part One

    This two part article is about the reality and goodness of God. Not so much as an emotional experience, but about coming to an intellectual understanding. Your author has enjoyed some lively online exchanges on this subject, and from these I've drawn several key points.
    In this first half we'll talk about the internal, subjective evidence for a good God. Next time, we'll look at objective proofs.


ATHEISTS


    Surveys indicate that over 90% of Americans believe in God, or at least, some type of Higher Spirit. Normally this is a comforting enhancement to one's life, but sometimes it can foster an abrasive fundamentalism. Either way, that belief is often based upon emotions, or childhood faith, as much as intellectual conviction.
    Militant atheists are busy crusading against belief. In defiance of logic, they've concluded that no type of God exists. (One cannot always 'prove a negative,' especially about something intangible.) However, this anti-believing minority of Americans may not be as certain of their position as they sound. In fact, their convictions often mirror those of the people they mock.
    Many atheists have a rebellious attitude toward Authority Figures, usually stemming from their own childhood. Others are cynical deconstructionists, with a mind set to challenge any and all beliefs, the more popular the better. For certain people, since God is omniscient, the idea that "someone can see what I've been up to" is cause enough for alarm, and thus for denial.
    Unfortunately, some atheists have experienced a senseless tragedy, and concluded that "a loving God would never allow such a thing to happen." For them, I recommend Rabbi Harold Kushner's excellent book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. There are numerous faith-based memoirs, and one of the best is A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Jerry Sittser.

AGNOSTICS

    A more rational position, one taken by a huge number of intellectuals, is Agnosticism. Simply put, they are doubters, admitting they do not know for sure.
    Often they'll point out the sheer diversity of human beliefs, with all their apparent contradictions, and then question how anyone could settle upon the correct one. In this regard, please recall the famous parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant. The Divinity is vast, and has many aspects! (A snarky addition might be: that certain famous antitheists have their heads stuck way up that metaphorical elephant's rear end, and they're busy sending back email messages: "No God here.")
    We humans are very unusual, in holding such profound doubts. Primitive amoebas appear to act with deliberation, and will move toward food and shy away from a pinpoint. Pet owners realize that, while not deep philosophers, most animals do have strong willpower and personality.
    It's we humans who so overthink everything, that we can actually doubt our very selves! Yet we do indeed have individual discernment, free will, and choice -- a divine gift. It's beyond some genetic preference, or emotional compulsion, or fanciful imaginings. Besides, if our free will was only imaginary, whence the source of this universal (and uniquely human) philosophical ideal?
    One very simple illustration of stubborn agnosticism is the brand-new Parable of the Unbelieving Baby. Imagine twin babies in the womb, one who believes in Life After Birth (and their unseen creator Mommy), while the pragmatic twin remains skeptical of anything beyond their familiar (if rather limited) surroundings. I've summarized this in a separate (and easily shareable) essay.
    I am addressing this article to agnostics, and to the people who love them. Decades ago, in his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis also spoke to doubters, in a plain and lucid fashion I can only hope to emulate.

SOULMATES

    Is there too much evil in the world? Yes! But that's no reason to doubt God. Humanity has done well, despite all those destructive tendencies.
    Not only that, but we all seek goodness, and good people. In growing up, no matter how awful their surroundings, young people dream about finding a soulmate. Even folks who've pretty much given up on that, for themselves, will enjoy books and movies in which the protagonist does find a soulmate. To acknowledge this yearning for true love, and still deny God, is like saying, "We all get thirsty, but water does not exist."
    Where do people keep all this love, or for that matter, evil? (The dreams, the influences, and everything.) Not just inside a material brain, that's for sure. We also have an invisible soul.
    One example would be a TV set. You can mess up the image on its screen, or turn it off, and even unplug or damage the thing. But that does not affect the 'immaterial' TV signal, which you otherwise cannot perceive. Nor does altering the physical set shut down the broadcasting station, which is the enduring Source of the TV's special character and value.
    Another metaphor would be candles, as in, the relationship between candle and flame. The flame cannot 'come to life' without its material support. An unlit candle is not 'dead,' however, it has no fulfillment. Can either reach fulfillment without the other? No! Flame is only colored plasma, but if you unstructure your mind a little, it makes a lot of sense.
    Atheist scholars, such as Sam Harris, claim our lives and loves are biologically determined, powerfully steered by the wiring of our material brains, with no actual love or even free will. However, that's been refuted by rigorous studies of 'adult brain plasticity,' in which a little counseling and a lot of will power can bring about major (and readily measurable) changes in the brain itself.
    Agnostics have a soul, too, and its core is good.

JUDGMENT

    Many agnostics know all about the bloody history of religion, and worry that belief in God (especially, any self-proclaimed Only True Faith versions) might increase such tendencies. They also worry that a strict moral standard could make people more judgmental, and less tolerant. Never mind that humans have been violent and prejudiced all along, and for many reasons -- or that self-proclaimed 'scientific atheist' Marxist-Leninists killed over one hundred million victims during the 20th century. (Vastly more than any religious Inquisition or pogrom.)
    Jesus, along with almost every saint and major religious figure, told us "not to judge others." Jesus said that only God can see into our souls, so He alone will decide who goes to Heaven. The Divine Principle (in its Chapter 5) takes this a step further, explaining that people choose their own spiritual realm, based upon their actual life on Earth. (Not that this eliminates the need for police and courts, much less individual discernment. Concerned people have a role as well.)
    We can even see that scientific views are becoming more accurate: nature and its ecosystems are profoundly harmonious, while the inherent conflict found in Marxist dialectics is ruinous. Leftists were happy with Darwin's original theories, which depict an endless deadly competition, as in Tennyson's phrase, "Nature, red in tooth and claw." Now, modern biology is experiencing a tremendous revision, as experts like Lynn Margulis and Martin Nowak teach that mutually beneficial cooperation, and widespread altruism, are the way nature functions best, and individuals can succeed. (Please note: these scholars are not especially religious, my point being that their ideas fit much better with basic spiritual precepts.)
    The agnostic need not fear. Genuine religions are about peace and harmony.

AFTERLIFE

    In order to worry about the destiny of our souls, we have to accept that we each have one, and that it goes somewhere after our physical death. Agnostics see no scientific evidence for this, even while admitting that science keeps revealing all kinds of amazing (and previously invisible) things.
    Some believers worry about having doubt and questions, saying people ought not seek proof; that the act itself implies a weakness of faith. They assert that faith and science are separate realms, with an unbridgeable gap.
    Both atheists and fundamentalists will deem such worriers mildly insane, for trying to "compartmentalize their minds" and "maintain two contradictory beliefs" about the spiritual and the scientific. Happily, other believers will respond that, in a larger context, it's not a problem at all. Not personally or in theory, because God created both realms!
    Such discussions usually bring up Near Death Experiences (NDEs), which are well-known yet much derided. Many survivors proclaim that such an experience has transformed their entire life and worldview.
    Opposite this, skeptics claim that NDEs are a common process caused by oxygen deprivation, and the brain's predictable response to trauma. However, many NDE testimonies are startling and detailed, such as remembering specific events that the individual couldn't have known about, even if they'd been lying there wide awake. Experts such as anesthesiologists and neurosurgeons have described their own NDEs, while clarifying that their brain (frontal cortex) had shut down, and wasn't in any condition to process thoughts or memories. (While, despite the supposed brain damage, such individuals enjoyed a full recovery.)
    Actually, there's nothing inexplicable about believing in an afterlife. The truth survives Occam's Razor far better than hazy brain theories or contradictory 'psychological fear' speculations. To wit: The spiritual reality is there. It exists.
    In fact, almost everyone perceives the spirit world to some degree, even though it's mostly evaded science. Certain people perceive it unusually well (historically and anecdotally a perilous blessing), and from the best of those people, humanity's lore, wisdom, and religions arise.
    Agnostics can discern this basic truth, and embrace it safely, even joyfully. (A wonderful depiction can be found in Bahai scholar William Sears' book God Loves Laughter.)

SOCIETIES

    Doubters have been told that Religion opposes Science, and that through all of history, it has been so. Actually, for monotheists the reverse is true. Vague and capricious Pagan beliefs often stultified human societies. Cyclical beliefs (re-creation, a flourishing, then inevitable destruction) can produce much inner wisdom, but on a larger scale they're ultimately futile, producing societies that tend to be resigned to an impersonal Fate. It was the Jewish concept of a rational, consistent, purposeful God that freed us from those mental bonds. (Read Thomas Cahill's excellent book The Gifts of the Jews.)
    What about modern times? A doubter will sometimes point to Yokelville, the mythical Buckle of the Bible Belt. A place where the woman practice Kinder, Kirche, Kuchen* or else; where everyone believes Pat Robertson's every utterance, and parents beat their children for not obeying each silly rule. In this town, a simple reference to Evolution will get you ostracized, and Intelligent Design is Jesus' last hope for entering the public schools.
    [* Children, Church, Kitchen; or in the modern American expression: "Barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen." Mind you, there's nothing inherently wrong with any of these, at various stages in life; it's the implicit enforced limits that grate.]
    So, does such a backwards place really exist?
    Depends on who you ask. Atheists use it for condescending mockery, but an agnostic is genuinely worried about the influence of uncritical religious traditions. There really are a few isolated communities like this, but they are rare in the developed world. Meanwhile, whether it's a union member, political party loyalist, naive coed, or military recruit: anyone who prefers, or is required, to place themselves under the authority of another is at risk of exploitation.
    Critical thinking will help avoid such violations of trust, and medieval scholars actually developed that intellectual tradition. (Though it took modern democracy to allow a wide swath of people to effectively apply it.)
    Please understand that people who consider themselves bastions of Traditional Morality do have valid worries. Modern travel and economics have resulted in the scattering of families, the demise of noble traditions, and the weakening of morality. Loneliness and despair often result.
    Third World, and especially Muslim, people look with horror upon this result, even as some of their own people embrace it. Their extremists become retrotopian, seeking a return to an idealized past.
    Must progress and technology always cause this mess? A few scholars are saying it's the wrong argument, and perhaps a false dichotomy. Technology can also unite families, as Facebook has shown. Many contemporary ministries, such as Hillsong, are harnessing modern pop-culture to spread God's Way.
    Either way, agnostics can stop blaming belief.

NO PROBLEM

    No living person has any actual problem with God, and (at least since the Old Testament) nobody ever has. Their only worries are over some imagined version of God, presented by their own darkest fears, or by some human preacher who is ignorant, angry, or worse. (As well illustrated by Karl Malden's ferocious preacher Rev. Ford, in this video clip from Pollyanna. Assuming Disney hasn't crushed yet another clip.)
    Sometimes a wise pastor will ask a doubting congregant, "Please tell me about the God you don't believe in." And then, hearing a litany of awful nastiness, will respond, "For sure, I don't believe in such a God either!"
    God's real Heart and concern are all for the good, and always have been. Doubting and questions are okay, and accepting the correct answers is better still.
    This article continues with Part Two.


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Doubters, Part Two


    This is the second half of an article about doubters, also known as Agnostics. For their sake, and those who love them, we're discussing the evidence in favor of God. In this part, we'll look at several objective proofs. (By 'objective,' I mean evidence based upon accepted fact, if perhaps interpreted in a new light.)

TRADITIONAL PROOFS

    Hundreds of books have been written about various Proofs of God's Existence. A standard philosophical one speaks of 'creation ex nihilo', a doctrine that squares with Big Bang theory. (Here is a Muslim interpretation; apparently the Koran squares with it as well or better.)
    Another major proof avoids an infinite series of regresses with the necessity of an   Uncaused   Cause, or kalam.
    The ancient 'ontological' argument, by Johannes Scotus Eriugena, Anselm, and others, speaks of "a Being greater than any other that can be conceived, and Whose nonexistence cannot be imagined."
    Others, such as Bishop Berkeley, held that our universe could only remain in existence because of Someone continually observing thus upholding it. As he phrased it, Esse est Percipi--to Be is to Be Observed. (Physicist Amit Goswami has updated this concept, based upon quantum mechanics.)
    Intelligent Design advocates write of 'irreducible complexity' and speak of 'special intervention.' ('ID' became extremely controversial, but its 'debunking' was not well done, and the discussion continues.)
    The Anthropic Principle describes the sheer improbability of our cosmos, while scholar Paul Davies explains the scientific difficulty surrounding the origin of life itself. (Read his thought provoking book The Fifth Miracle.) Further, plenty of doctors are questioning the tenets of Darwinian evolution.
    Perry Marshall has updated a classic argument, now based upon Information Theory. He demonstrates that DNA is an actual information code, and that there is no example whatsoever of a language or code occurring via natural processes -- these always and only originate from a conscious mind -- a Designer.
    Another simple example, easy enough a child to grasp, is the Skeptical Barber. "There must be no God," that barber tells a customer. "I hear about too much misery and conflict each day." The customer leaves that barber shop, and soon encounters a shabby, long-haired homeless man. The customer rushes back inside and proclaims, "Barbers do not exist!" "But I am right here, scissors in hand," counters the barber. "I took care of your haircut, didn't I?" They conclude that, just as the homeless man did not seek out the barber, neither do many struggling people turn to an ever-awaiting God.
    I invite readers to research these issues further.

HISTORY

    Agnostics worry about the bloody history of religion. In response, others will point out that (for example) a formal Inquisition was better than raging lynch mobs. Not all heretics were nice people . . .
    In cases of injustice or atrocity, of which there have been plenty, note that ruthless men have always gravitated to centers of power and wealth. Today it might be Wall Street, or even a nonprofit activist group. Back then, it was some majestic cathedral, if not a baronial castle. In other words, you can blame those men, and not the church.
    Each of the great world religions offer valuable insights and traditions and practices. Even so, not all religions are the same, and this essay concentrates on certain among them. The monotheistic* faiths have a different foundation, and have affected civilization in a specific way. (Dinesh D'Souza provides a wide-ranging look in an Imprimis essay, and in his book What's So Great About Christianity.)
    {*Obviously, among these, there are countless offshoots and variations. Technically speaking, LDS/Mormon theology is 'henotheist,' somewhat in-between.}
    Some major theologies describe endless cycles of building and destruction. In ancient times, various religions promoted some inaccurate and unworkable concepts of the universe. Many are now regarded as quaint myths, and still, they contain profound insights about human psychology and relationships.
    In modern times, some major faiths have fared better than others. For example, under the sway of al-Ghazali, early Islam short-circuited its great scientific advances. He renounced the then-new concept of 'secondary causation,' which had been embraced by the medieval Church Fathers. This concept allowed for a genuine Scientific Method to emerge, and become widely accepted. (However, many Islamic nations slowed down, and were eventually colonized.)
    That is, science was advanced by more than an occasional lone genius. (Early Islamic scholar ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) was perhaps the first truly modern, systematic, scientist.)
    In fact, the special Christian mindset of orthodoxy (as opposed to orthopraxy, in a 'distilled' sense) allowed them to question their own core beliefs, and root assumptions about the world. In very simple terms, this philosophical orthodoxy leads to a sincere and deep, "What was I thinking?"
    In contrast, orthopraxy would be, "Hey folks, are we doing this right?" The resulting mindset, just incuriously going after familiar results, hampered ancient Rome, and Imperial China more so, for centuries on end.
    These insights prompted another profound shift. The original monotheistic thinking was that all natural phenomena are simply "habits of God," and thus, "God willed it" is always a sufficient explanation. A relevant blog quotes National Geographic with a stark illustration of that older mindset, as maintained by some Muslims despite an ancient heritage of brilliant scholarship. (Scroll down to the section about the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.)
    On the other side of Asia, the Chinese court adopted Taoism, which (with its quirky deities and philosophical mysticism) ran directly counter to research and progress. Admiral Zheng's mighty fleet, which could've explored then influenced the entire populated globe, was brought home and scuttled.
    Other religions and cultures have gone through similar phases--and there are modern scholars (both ultraliberal and reactionary) who'd hamper us in the same way now! Not to mention radical environmentalists who decry figures such as Sir Francis Bacon, and his helping usher in the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, which finally allowed humans to dominate nature.
    These remain difficult and controversial issues, and your author invites further input.

IGNORANCE?

    Misinformed agnostics will say that Christianity is to blame for medieval ignorance. In fact, established Christian scholars kept reason and knowledge alive throughout the Dark Ages. Jean Buridan, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Nicolas Oresme, and dozens of others realized that God works through the natural world, and sought to understand both.
    Thus, new theories and inventions could -- and did -- rapidly occur, and built upon one another. Unlike with numerous early, but then lost   inventions, whole societies began to eagerly accept and benefit from those developments, for example when European towns* proudly displayed large mechanical clocks. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, MezoAmericans, and Chinese, etc. did some awesome engineering, but with almost no understanding of physics or chemistry to back it up. (While Karl Benz and Henry Ford realized that people would appreciate something beyond 'a faster horse.')
    [* I should note that the Mexica/Aztecs, with their fierce ambition and budding intellectual schools, might have equaled such achievements. (In the 1500s and onward, as depicted in fiction by Aliette de Bodard and others.) Would their blood-soaked rituals and resigned-to-fate cosmology hamper such advances? Ah well, due to conquest and disease, humanity never did find out . . . ]
    In essence, and everywhere in the world, truth has built upon truth. Past thinkers knew God, and formed doctrines, as well as their times allowed. With a few retrotopian exceptions, each new Divine revelation, supplemented by new scientific discoveries, has made beliefs more accurate, and religions more beneficial.

SOCIOLOGY

    One discussion concerning belief in God, more complex than its commonly-known "I'd rather bet on God" version, is called Pascal's Wager. Basically, when uncertain about such a crucial issue, it's better to make the more wise and logical choice.
    As it happens, one can also choose to believe in God based upon solid and reliable data -- which doesn't require dying to verify anything!
    Census and actuarial data show Americans in fine detail. Among this large and diverse population, one group stands head and shoulders above the rest.

    * They have the most property and wealth, manage and share it better, and continue this for longer periods. They recover best and soonest from 'external' disasters.
    * They enjoy the finest health, and live by far the longest. They recover from accidents and illness faster and more completely.
    * They enjoy sex a lot, in both frequency and intensity.
    * They're the least likely to commit, or to become victims of, violent crime.
    * They report the greatest level of happiness and satisfaction in their own lives, and with the people who share it.

    I could go on, but this covers the basics pretty well. What young person, while growing up, wouldn't desire to experience all these?
    Here's the kicker. Taken together, the above traits describe one particular group: long-time married, church-going people. This is true regardless of all other common factors.
    Here are several  relevant   online   overviews.
    A sincere and traditional religious belief also helps with self-control and goal-oriented success, while humanists struggle to find some effective substitute. Further, Ben Sherwood's exhaustively-researched book The Survivor's Club reveals there is a common, indeed nearly universal, factor among those who survive many types of disaster situations: a firm belief in God. (It's not simple optimism. In some cases, the opposite!)
    Hearing this, an agnostic may tell you all this is merely tradition, and the obvious result of a specific lifestyle encouraged by one's peer group. I'd say they have it backward; that God made us, and wise people choose to live according to His blueprint.
    Here's a parallel situation: After discovering its efficacy against scurvy, British sailors began to carry lemon juice on long voyages. These 'Limeys' used it with confidence, and well before learning about vitamin C, much less its exact metabolic function.
    A common analogy is: think of road signs and stop lights as the 'standard guidelines' for the Road to Your Personal Goal. You can declare your "total liberation" from such "oppressive and uptight social restrictions," and proceed much faster. But for how long?
    Every lifestyle has direct, and pretty obvious, consequences. For example, rock musicians and standup comedians often die prematurely.
    Agnostics are usually quite intelligent, but they can also be very stubborn. Would it not be the wisest course to pick the best lifestyle, gain its obvious benefits, and then develop a fuller understanding as you go along?

CULTURE

    In my own family, for bedtime stories, we bought several collections of Native American legends. From these, and other sources, we noticed the universality of Past Paradise, Mistaken Fall, and Ongoing Redemption themes. These have been found in every human culture, including ones never in contact with Judaism or Christianity. (For example, in the ancient Greek legend of Pandora's Box, the "box" represents something a lot more enticing than a wooden container.)
    In history, religious people stood behind nearly all the great social advances. The very concept and practice of organized charity, and the first medical hospital, were pioneered by the Roman Catholic church. (A key point is that these institutions were -- and remain -- open to all people, including non-Catholics.)
    On the other hand, science has produced medicine and weaponry.
    Clergy people spearheaded the emancipation of slaves, and the Civil Rights movement; while Social Darwinians advocated formal racial eugenics, and Marxists plotted tragic revolutions.
    Of course, some clergymen did try to preserve an awful past. But, for every such counter-example an agnostic will produce, there are a dozen retrograde (or outright destructive) actions by ideological firebrands, most of whom are vehemently anti-Christian. The VHEMT and Deep Ecology movements wave the banner of science. Not to mention racial zealots, Marxists, Earth and Animal Liberationists, Anarchists, and their allies.
    Good intentions alone are never enough. An American author once said (in simplified form): "The ends do not justify the means. Rather, the means build the ends."

MORALITY

    In his famous writings, C.S. Lewis points out the unshakable primacy of morals in human awareness. Even strict atheists use terms such as good/better and evil/worse, 'ought to' and 'ought not,' and crime versus the public interest. (Given their stated philosophy: why?) Further, those who act without any awareness of morality are judged criminally insane.
    Humanists speak of "rising above our animal natures," and of "going beyond what Nature gave us." Rather than saying we "dodged around," or "should sink beneath" that nature. Much less, using neutral terms such as "become different than." Seems our old friend Morality keeps popping up everywhere!
    Agnostics should pay close attention to honored practices such as infant (and more so, older child) adoption, especially by couples who already have biological children. Darwinians are at a total loss to explain this, while loving Believers understand perfectly.
    In biology there are carnivores, parasites, egg-laying paralyzer wasps, and worse. "So then," a doubter will ask, "is the whole creation evil, or is human evil merely an aspect of nature?"
    To which I respond, "No to both!"
    Certain animals have rather disgusting habits. Those are natural behaviors, done by instinct and with little or no choice, much less full comprehension, on the part of that creature. We humans tend to view and judge them by our own standards. Standards that we, as moral (and usually, educated) beings do possess -- while animals don't. (Although basic inter-and-intraspecies cooperation is a widespread aspect of the ecosystem.)
    Meanwhile, we humans have used our free will to achieve extremes of goodness and evil that no animal could hope to match. In a backhanded way, evil itself is evidence for God. (Here's a great essay on this topic.)
    As for me, I'd use the example of Mother Teresa versus a Death Camp commander, but then I'd be invoking Godwin's Law, and somehow I've gotten all the way through these essays without doing so.

HEAVEN

    The largest reason that people fail to believe in God is simple, even obvious, yet it's seldom discussed in this context. That is, our distance from the Ideal. Our lack of a clear vision of Heaven. (Some people imagine it would be a boring place!)
    Each and every person; ever born, now alive, or arriving in the future; is eternal, has a unique character, and is of the highest value. (Even if there are plenty of people who do not know this, about themselves much less others, yet anyway.)
    The purpose of the Creation, and of our lives, is joy. To experience it, and to share it with each other, and with God. To freely exchange pure and genuine Love and Beauty, and multiply it endlessly. To have secure, supportive, and fulfilling eternal relationships; as a couple, family, and in wider circles. To unencumber our mind and willpower, thus to achieve vastly more than has been done in all of history. Plus so very much more, that we can scarcely imagine it.

FINAL CONCLUSION

    Humans are experts at arguing, and no amount of evidence or persuasion will convince a person who doesn't want to be. A brain-scan study has shown how people respond to political facts. Anything unfavorable to their usual viewpoint or affiliation gets a different mental treatment, and meets with emotional denial rather than intellectual engagement.
    Anyone who's discussed religion (or politics) with strongly opinionated people doesn't need a fancy study to inform them about this reaction. If a person actually does change their mind, most likely they won't admit it, at least not right away.
    It's always worthwhile to speak the truth. Best if it's put nicely, and in terms familiar to your specific audience. The most worried doubter may yet come around. Whatever your field, please think about how you can accomplish this. The world will be a better place for it.

© 2014 by Paul Carlson


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Proofs of God



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