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← God and logic: help with theist conversations

God and logic: help with theist conversations - Comments

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 1 by Premiseless

Maybe about "God character". How do you move from the suspicion of god to "Who god is."? Now those replies should give room for logical fallacy.

Mon, 07 May 2012 19:30:26 UTC | #940373

Jay G's Avatar Comment 2 by Jay G

Change the subject.

Why are YOU starting these conversations?

Mon, 07 May 2012 19:31:04 UTC | #940374

sheepcat's Avatar Comment 3 by sheepcat

Simply put you are on a complete loser here. There is no logic to a belief in God.

Faith is the mental component that renders any logical dismisal of God by many impossible.

God refuses to prove his existence because with obvious proof of his existence we would ALL believe and no one would require faith. Put simply if God stood at the end of your street hurling lightning bolts at passing sinners you would believe in him too which would make the entire enterprise pointless.

I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing." "But," say Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED." "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't though of that" and promply vanishes in a puff of logic.

Douglas Adams

If you don't know the Babel fish is a creature so useful it is clearly proof of intelligent design, it is the irreducable complexity often mentioned by creationists looking to denounce natural selection. The above quote from "the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy" compulsory reading for any atheist.

A significant number of people prefer faith or gut feelings to other more scientific ways of understanding the world. One of the best logical tools to deploy against them is the matter of the irreducible complexity of God himself, if they propose a God as a way of explaining the universe simply ask who created God. Many people can't believe that you can get a whole universe out of nothing but are happy to believe that an entity more complex than the whole universe is possible. Point out the obvious contradiction in this thinking

I wouldn't get your hopes up though, many people relish the idea that they are believeing in something that makes no sense, this is the genius of the idea of faith.

Mon, 07 May 2012 20:00:33 UTC | #940378

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 4 by Alan4discussion

I have made them admit that god is not made out of matter.

Once they retreat into the "metaphysical", they can make up any magic rules they like, and deny any rational or scientific arguments you make. That is the nature of the abstracted "god delusion".

If you want a more interesting discussion as an atheist who does not find evidence for existence of gods, you could ask them why they think a particular god has more validity than all the other gods people past and present have believed in?

This will at least produce an argument with some substance, where YOU can keep asking, "How do you know this?"! "Why are they wrong?" etc. They will probably indulge in "bible wafting". That is claiming the bible tells them so - even if it says nothing about the subject, or has to be "reinterpreted" to mean what they want it to mean.

Mon, 07 May 2012 20:57:45 UTC | #940408

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 5 by VrijVlinder

I think these people should be asked to test their belief by not going to the doctor when sick, or to walk off a cliff so we can see if they go to heaven or hell.

Most reasonable people will say that would be silly. That god does not work that way(only mysteriously) . But it is just as silly as their defending something that is not real. It is only a matter of how far faith will take the individual.

There is a christian cult in the USA that use poisonous snakes to test the faith of the believers. Now that is the kind of evidence of faith I like to see. If it does not indicate evidence for god at least they go the extra distance to try.

When you approach a theist the first thing you should do is yell very loud "May god strike me dead at once!!!" Then wait a few seconds and act disappointed.

Mon, 07 May 2012 21:22:43 UTC | #940420

Sample's Avatar Comment 6 by Sample

I can offer an approach I use whenever I'm in a talk either on forums or in person. Hope it helps, if you don't already know these things.

I try to remember the saying, "attacks against people are features of barbarism; attacks against ideas are feature of civilization. (Anonymous)." That usually keeps you in compliance with the TOU! Secondly, I point out that emotions, while they can be used to persuade people, never in and of themselves add to the truthfulness or falseness of a claim as that depends on evidence/plausibility. Lastly, when you find yourself "swimming against the tide" simply ask the faithful person to look over your personal statements and address any factual errors. If you are careful, you won't have any. When you proceed to look at their claims, however, they will inevitably reduce to ambiguity or outright error. I think that's a powerful picture to paint with stubborn people of faith: the difference in the overall picture at the end of a conversation.


Mon, 07 May 2012 21:37:02 UTC | #940425

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 7 by Mr DArcy

From the OP:

As I try to converse with theists (classmates, relatives and professors - I am 16) I often find myself at the point where through logic and reason I have made them admit that god is not made out of matter, but they always find refuge in the metaphysical and supernatural realms where logic does not exist, and thus I am unable to make them arrive at the logical conclusion that he does not exist.

Well, assuming Christianity, their God was a MAN! I.e. made of atoms, molecules, etc. so He must have been made of matter! Plus of course the claim that He was born of a virgin, and was also executed! How do you get born of a virgin and get executed unless you are made of matter, - ordinary stuff? (Doh, I forgot magic!)

Anyway assuming their God is not made of matter, (complete cop-out), how does this mysterious being apparently intervene in the material world? He parted the Red Sea for Moses, stopped the sun for Joshua, allowed Jonah to live in the belly of a "great fish" for 3 days and survive. Minor miracles indeed compared with the creation of the universe in 6 days! (After which He rested!) If the "immaterial" God can intervene in the material world, then there should be a way of proving His existence. But of course theists want it both ways: He's both detectable and undetectable depending upon the circumstances! They can't lose, can they? And don't forget, He's watching what you think and what you do, especially with your naughty bits.

You will never prove that God doesn't exist anymore than you will prove that Harry Potter doesn't ride on a broomstick or that there isn't a Martian sports stadium in my back garden. The onus must always be on the believers to back up their claims with evidence. "My granny told me" is not considered as evidence!

Good luck!

Mon, 07 May 2012 22:03:24 UTC | #940435's Avatar Comment 8 by

There is a history which is useful to study before you can undertake what you have.

At 16 you would not have had sufficient time to undertake this historical study.

You need to understand and appreciate the works of Augustine, Ambrose, Aquinas, Jerome and Origen just for starters.

Why is this important? Because no matter how clever you are, the gentlemen mentioned above were intellectual geniuses of their time. It is on their foundation stones that the great edifices of mainstream Christianity are built. The same is true for the other great religions.

Do your adversaries know this? Probably not, but it surely underpins the certainty that motivates the ones that you engage with. They consider that you are deluded and that they have a great tradition to fall back on. The "faith" part of their existence is immune to logic. You make as well talk to the walls.

However if you spoke to them, for example, about the concept of original sin and about what Augustine proposed as it links to concupiscence you might get them to agree that Augustine was drawing a very long bow. At the very least you might get them to admit that they know nothing about the theological underpinnings of their own belief. Then you could get them to look at why their church believes that what Augustine wrote was crucially important and why they, as educated, thinking beings, are content to operate in ignorance of their own spiritual legacy.

If they disown Augustine then don't waste your time any further because you are talking to intellectual pygmies.

Tue, 08 May 2012 05:38:44 UTC | #940488

YXalr's Avatar Comment 9 by YXalr

I try to make them see when they are using double standards. For example: if something as wonderful as God doesn't need any explanation, why do the less wonderful things theists explain with God do need an explanation.

A hypothetical discussion:

Theist: A friend of a friend was paralyzed. He prayed from God he would be healed. The next morning he woke up and was able to move again. It must have been God.

Me: You're explaining something wonderful with something even more wonderful. What is the explanation for God?

Theist: God doesn't need an explanation. God just is the way he is.

Me: So if by your admission there are truly wonderful and baffling things that don't need explanation, why doesn't this apply to the miraculous event that happened to the friend of your friend? Why can't we say "it just happened" and doesn't need any explanation?

If they see the double standard here, their argument will have been destroyed.

Tue, 08 May 2012 09:02:44 UTC | #940502

YXalr's Avatar Comment 10 by YXalr

Comment Removed by Author

Tue, 08 May 2012 09:03:09 UTC | #940503

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 11 by SaganTheCat

i agree with the comments suggesting you're onto a looser trying to have these discussions but here's my 2 penneth...

you could try pointing out that the metaphysical or supernatural or whatever has no bearing on the natural, therefore if this god exists she is unable to influence nature in any way. if nature can be influenced then the source is by definition; natural.

or you could cut to the chase; i'm guessing we're talking about xtians so sorry if i'm wrong. many people, myself included, slipped from religious belief into something inbetween theism and athesim like pantheism or deism so you you could take the humble option of saying "yes you're right, maybe all this has some higher meaning" or whatever then cut right to qurestioning their belifs. not the belief in god but the particular god they subscribe to. if it's jesus then whay they accept the authority of a single book written about a legendary character with a very common name written after his death by a number of authors who's accounts fail to match up with each other but do manage to match up with various pagan myths that were common at the time of the particular empire that subscribed to it and decided to impose it on its subjects.

ask them to explain their beliefs to you on all these subjects. which bits they are certian are true and which bits are not then use these answers to go deeper into why they believe what they do. you don't have to go round deconverting people just like you don't have to be converted. if people don't see things the way you do you have to get used to it but if you're going to have these discussions your best bet is to provide the questions, not the answers

Tue, 08 May 2012 11:22:13 UTC | #940518

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 12 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

I have made them admit that god is not made out of matter, but they always find refuge in the metaphysical and supernatural realms

Then ask them if god is not made of matter, what exactly is god and by what method or mechanism is god capable of creating and manipulating matter?

Either they will have no idea, in which case you can claim they are not in a position to make any assertions about god, or they will provide a very illuminating answer!

Tue, 08 May 2012 14:40:41 UTC | #940541

marycat's Avatar Comment 13 by marycat

You cannot win this argument. At 16, I wouldn't try. I know you would like stimulating conversations, but this can only make you frustrated. Live in the present moment and enjoy your life. Don't get bogged down trying to persuade anyone of anything. Love Grandma

Tue, 08 May 2012 15:44:25 UTC | #940548

Emmeline's Avatar Comment 14 by Emmeline

I doubt the people you speak to believe in Thor or Zeus or the hundreds of other gods (past and present) around the world. You might remind them that they are "atheist" about lots of gods and ask them how they reason and then conclude that those gods don't exist.

You could then challenge them with their own arguments about why their god exists but everybody else's doesn't.

I'd love to know how you get on and I think it's a worthy topic of discussion for you to have with believers. I don't subscribe to the view that it's not worth pursuing as it will sharpen your own debating skills and crystalise your thinking. It will also enable you to have more insight into how believers use logic to dismiss other gods while taking refuge in supernatural nonsense to verify their own.

Tue, 08 May 2012 17:35:01 UTC | #940572

Emmeline's Avatar Comment 15 by Emmeline

Comment 13 by marycat :

You cannot win this argument. At 16, I wouldn't try. I know you would like stimulating conversations, but this can only make you frustrated. Live in the present moment and enjoy your life. Don't get bogged down trying to persuade anyone of anything. Love Grandma

At 16, you might not try but that's no reason to discourage someone else.

Tue, 08 May 2012 17:44:05 UTC | #940576

SomeDude's Avatar Comment 16 by SomeDude

I think you are fighting the wrong battle. You can't prove God does not exist, IMHO. They are making the claim for something (there is a God, probably a very specific Christian God) for which there is no evidence. And they are claiming that other equally unprovable beliefs/Gods are "false." The onus is on them to prove that they are right.

One tactic is you can ask them to prove that Muslims are wrong, that Hindus are wrong, and the Buddhists, the Taoist, the Huna, Wicca, New Thought, etc... They all have books that say they are right. They all believe in their heart of hearts that they are right. They all have faith. Or if this sort of exercise is fun for you, then you can become a Bible scholar and ask people to justify following "some of it", or point out all the contradictions, or the convoluted history of the Bible, or how many of the stories are from previous times and other cultures. Frankly, that is way too much work for me, but some people really enjoy that. :)

So, if this is fun for you, great, but I would not expect to "deconvert" anybody. I know some really smart people that believe some really crazy stuff.

Tue, 08 May 2012 22:12:23 UTC | #940621

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 17 by QuestioningKat

Comment 2 by Jay G :

Change the subject.

Why are YOU starting these conversations?

I have to say I agree. Find a better audience that welcomes the challenge. People want to have fun and enjoy being around you. There are plenty of places on line that you'd enjoy and the practice will help you with your ability to compose your thoughts.

Wed, 09 May 2012 00:20:55 UTC | #940644

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 18 by ZenDruid

Hardcore theists have built their worldview on the foundation of wishful thinking. I don't really see any point there where logic can apply. However, I'm not a salesman.

Wed, 09 May 2012 01:13:10 UTC | #940649

zengardener's Avatar Comment 19 by zengardener

Metaphysical, supernatural, places where logic does not exist aren't worth talking about.

If they claim that their God affects the real world, they should provide evidence or sound reasoning.

If they cannot, then it is silly to believe. Change the subject.

Wed, 09 May 2012 04:05:47 UTC | #940664

Quine's Avatar Comment 20 by Quine

This is a subject of interest to me. See what I, and others wrote on the thread:

More specifically to you I would advise continuing to ask why people believe what they believe, and if there is any objective evidence that they know about. Many people think they a good foundation for their beliefs, until they have to really look. People may never say it to your face, but when they walk away, if they have not been able to produce objective evidence, that lack may continue to bother them and possibly lead to a change.

Wed, 09 May 2012 04:33:08 UTC | #940666

vvlugdkd's Avatar Comment 21 by vvlugdkd

link textA thinker is not a believer and a believer is not a thinker.One need intelligence to know natural things,feelings and emotions,but to believe in god ,heaven and hell,man needs just faith only.To explain the unknown by known is logical procedure;to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy.

Wed, 09 May 2012 16:13:01 UTC | #940739

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 22 by Bobwundaye


Do any of you have advice on how I should proceed in such a situation (please take into consideration that almost every time it is me who starts the conversation)?

LIke others have already said, this metaphysical state is a wonderful place with all sorts of wiggle room. I used to be an ardent believer, and it would be no difficulty getting me to admit that God was not made of matter. In fact, that may have been my opening line. And yes, at this point logic is trumped by faith: God exists, therefore everything makes sense. And when we can't understand God, it is because we lack the faculty to, or just don't know enough yet, or don't see the big picture.

However, what really got me thinking and one of the lines of thought that brought me to an atheistic worldview is the nature of this other God and how he interacts with the natural world.

Also, I didn't go from being a believer to being an atheist in a day. It was a slow process of chipping away at the idea of God, until finally there was nothing left. You might try not to discredit the idea of God, but their specific views of God. Eventually, like me, they'll end up believing in a thing called God, devoid of any God like abilities, at which time the whole hypothesis will soon be discarded.

Keep on plugging away at them, with respect. I was a teacher, while being a Christian heavily involved in ministry, including to the children I taught, and sometimes some of the most innocent questions had the biggest impact.

Wed, 09 May 2012 16:13:22 UTC | #940740

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 23 by Nordic11

If I were writing this, I would be blasted as a proselytizer. Let us believe in our “fairytales” and be done with it. If there is nothing but this material universe, then ultimately what we believe does not matter, as long as we’re not using our beliefs for evil.

Wed, 09 May 2012 23:27:57 UTC | #940799

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 24 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 23 by Nordic11

If I were writing this, I would be blasted as a proselytizer. Let us believe in our “fairytales” and be done with it. If there is nothing but this material universe, then ultimately what we believe does not matter, as long as we’re not using our beliefs for evil.

Ahhhh, if only that were the case.....the world would be vastly improved.

I've an overheating meter here that is about to explode.

Thu, 10 May 2012 02:44:02 UTC | #940814

iPother's Avatar Comment 25 by iPother

The fact of the matter is the universe doesn't need us, the thought of our existence/importance is that of our own insecurity we need to believe that we are special that we have meaning... We want this afterlife because the ecstasy of this one is overwhelming the thought of nothingness is "scary" we shouldn't exacerbate something that is so natural to us. I think of us (Humans) as energy, relative to Stephen Hawking theories on energy, we begin life as positive energy towards the end a former recollection of our consummate self existence as we get older our usefulness is limited, physically and mentally. Did Jesus exist? Possibly, at-least on paper he does, no physical evidence at all to favor god.

Thu, 10 May 2012 15:08:58 UTC | #940865

bodleian's Avatar Comment 26 by bodleian

O.C. Your tenacity is to be admired keep at it ,you never know how many doubtful seeds that you sow,the clergy project featured on this very site is is an example of the persistence by committed rational people to overcome the supernatural claptrap that bedevils this world..There is great deal of material given to you on this thread that will stand you in good stead in your arguments with theists and in addition to them I suggest that you (if you are not already doing so) learn about evolutionary biology which renders God impotent as regards life on earth, Jesus is obsolete,original sin is a con, and a lot besides.Of course you will encounter the attempted religious hijacking concepts of creationism and intelligent design but if you have done your homework properly these should not trouble you very much.My second point you may consider using is concerning theodicy whereby you seek justifiable answers for all of the terrible happenings on this planet plus the ills traumas that befalls all living creatures created by this supposedly wonderful caring thing called god.Good luck in your endeavours.

Thu, 10 May 2012 15:53:03 UTC | #940869

Sinister Weasel's Avatar Comment 27 by Sinister Weasel

I agree that most theists are experts at ignoring logical argument and don't mind resorting to the 'God is timeless and can do anything' so-called argument. What I have learnt to do is to discuss specific points in the Bible, not in a manner that implies they are completely wrong but to plant seeds of doubt. If they accept there is a problem, no matter how small then you have opened the door to a more rational, logical debate. The alternative being to give up unfortunately. My favourite topic is to discuss heaven, as I think this is the crux of why people have faith, due to fear of death and the search for meaning in life. So as an example I would start by asking the usual questions regarding the reasons for evil and free will on Earth, before asking if there is evil in heaven. They will say no heaven is perfect, so you can then ask how this can be possible whilst the billions of souls there have the free will to sin. They may say that no-one wants to as they are perfectly happy to be with God, in which case you can question as to how and why Satan rebelled, as this seems a glaring contradiction, not to mention that if it is possible to be sin-free why God insists it is necessary on Earth. You can go further and question how anyone can be eternally happy without any notion of a negative, as it is only relative and the idea of eternal happiness sounds more like a drug-induced stupor than anything with real meaning. So that is all I tend to do and I have succeeded in stumping many hardcore theists who want to have an answer ready for everything, although the vast majority just say heaven is being with God and that is all they care about. But I would suggest to not make it a ‘win or lose’ conversation and save most retorts with more genuine questions that make them think for themselves, then you might find they start asking you more instead of you approaching them. Although I would stress that trying to preach your beliefs is annoying, I personally avoid any debates unless someone has specifically asked me a question and I give them an honest answer.

Thu, 10 May 2012 16:36:03 UTC | #940882

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 28 by Alan4discussion

Comment 23 by Nordic11

If I were writing this, I would be blasted as a proselytizer. Let us believe in our “fairytales” and be done with it. If there is nothing but this material universe, then ultimately what we believe does not matter, as long as we’re not using our beliefs for evil.

I'm not sure why you think science and reasoning says "what people believe does not matter"! I thought it said people accepting views supported by material evidence was of prime importance, while the discarding of falsified ones, should be standard procedure. Treating unevidenced material critically with scepticism is also good practice.

As there is nothing but this material universe, what knowledge and values we pass on to future generations is of prime importance, as I am sure you are aware with regard to the accumulated scientific knowledge and methods accumulated in the run-up to modern times.

as we’re not using our beliefs for evil.

Humanism is about consideration of the effects of actions on others, without reference to gods. ("Evil" is essentially a theist term, but negative effects on people could be considered as such.)

Thu, 10 May 2012 22:20:30 UTC | #940937

ronnieharper's Avatar Comment 29 by ronnieharper

Hey at 16, you enjoy your life and experience all the things that come your way. Read some of the literature recommended in these responses in your free time. You said you started these conversations and I can tell you that as an adult, that isn't something non-religious people do. The idea is to patiently plug your disbelief when appropriate and to otherwise avoid the religious, because as many others in these posts have said, once they are old enough, people are loathe to change their minds. Go enjoy your young life and don't worry (too much at all) about these matters - just use your vote when you are 18 to make your voice heard, and be proud of your rational world view; use it to make a full life for yourself.

Fri, 11 May 2012 06:01:04 UTC | #940967

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 30 by Mr DArcy

Nordic 11:

If I were writing this, I would be blasted as a proselytizer. Let us believe in our “fairytales” and be done with it. If there is nothing but this material universe, then ultimately what we believe does not matter, as long as we’re not using our beliefs for evil.

But Nordic, you're forgetting all the fun we have whilst deconstructng your "fairy tales"!

Thinkiing the Earth is only 6000 years old is definitely "harmful" to knowledge. Whilst humans are around, we need knowledge to deal with that cold, uncaring, heartless and material universe out there. We might as well have fun if we can!

Fri, 11 May 2012 13:36:29 UTC | #941018