Why We Believe

Excerpts and photo from “God: A Human History” by Reza Aslan

Belief is a very ancient byproduct of evolution.

“Beyond the myths and rituals, the temples and cathedrals, the dos and don’ts that have, for millennia, separated humanity into different and often competing camps of belief, religion is little more than a “language” made up of symbols and metaphors that allows believers to communicate, to one another and to themselves, the unexplainable experience of faith.”

“If the propensity for religious belief is inherent in our species, then it must be a product of human evolution. There must be some adaptive advantage to it. Otherwise there would be no reason for religion to exist.”

“Even those contemporary Jews, Christians, and Muslims who strive so hard to profess theologically “correct” beliefs about a sole, singular God who is incorporeal or infallible, ever-present or all-knowing, seem compelled to envision God in human form and to speak of God in human terms. Studies performed by a range of psychologists and cognitive scientists have shown that the most devout believers, when forced to communicate their thoughts about God, overwhelmingly treat God as though they were talking about some person they might have met on the street.” — God: A Human History by Reza Aslan

Cueva de las Manos, Santa Cruz, Argentina (15,000 to 11,000 B.C.E.)

Somewhere in time, sentient beings developed language to communicate feeling—and then ability to propagate the almighty question. “What do you believe?” is quite possibly the greatest hurdle. If we are ever to overcome evolution it will be on this point alone. Or belief is solely necessary because the illusion isn’t real. Why else would you have to believe it?

It is rather obvious man has created god in his own image, taking the best and worst traits of society and projecting himself on a path to transcend nature.

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs escaping the faith trap.

113 thoughts on “Why We Believe”

    1. You may be guessing correctly my dear. But where does that lack of confidence come from?
      I remember Daniel Everett and his mission to some indigenous people, and he was having a heck of a time converting them. He finally tried fear, and presented a death scenario to some of the men. What happens when you die? They laughed at him. They had no anxiety whatsoever about these things. Death was their natural state. I wonder if anyone ever got to them, but we’ve all been dead way longer than we’ll ever be alive. And a dreamless sleep is always the most pleasant one there is.

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  1. Cabrogal, maybe I am ignorant, because I still don’t understand.
    What about the assembly of complex animals from simple cells?
    Did the DNA coding for all manner of complex features like vision, reproduction, and scores of other things, all happen in the big bang?
    Does naturalism not teach survival of the fittest, in which all life-saving features got better and better? How does that fit in with entropy unavoidably increasing?

    Now if you think of entropy as energy getting less and less over time, in billions and billions of years the universe would be quite dead. Correct? Can nothing explode with such fury that enough energy was created that even with the entropy on a steady increase the universe is still plenty alive and active after all those billions of years? Does it really take less faith to believe that than it does to believe in supernatural beings? Or is it pretty much a matter of what you want to believe?
    By the way, am I not correct that you absolutely do not want a supernatural being to exist that you would need to be accountable to? So you find it easier to just believe in a miraculous big bang instead… And is it not correct that the vast majority of humanity feels that same way about as you do?….

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    1. Cabrogal, maybe I am ignorant, because I still don’t understand.
      What about the assembly of complex animals from simple cells?

      The key is in your original comment. The universe is a closed system, animals and cells are not.

      Plants use the energy from sunlight to order complex molecules from simpler ones. The sunlight is produced at the cost of greater disorder produced by atomic fusion in the sun. So even though the local entropy of molecules making up the plant is decreased the total entropy of the universe is increased. Likewise, animals that eat plants to obtain the energy for greater ordering of their own biological systems do so at an even greater cost in order of the biological material of the plants.

      Did the DNA coding for all manner of complex features like vision, reproduction, and scores of other things, all happen in the big bang?

      Nope, though the potential for it existed then.

      Life – like air-conditioning – is an entropy pump. It creates more order in a specific region by shifting even more disorder outside that region – typically through a cell membrane or skin for the former, through vents and power outlets in the walls of your house for the latter.

      In order to construct DNA to pass on attributes to offspring living organisms must create a lot of disorder in their environment. Fortunately the sun provides energy for reordering it.

      Does naturalism not teach survival of the fittest, in which all life-saving features got better and better?

      Only better at surviving and having offspring, which might not necessarily correspond with greater order. If we trash the environment sufficiently the organisms which survive and reproduce will probably be considerably simpler and less ordered than ourselves.

      Now if you think of entropy as energy getting less and less over time, in billions and billions of years the universe would be quite dead. Correct?

      More or less correct.

      The heat death of the universe isn’t due to an overall decrease in energy but rather due to it being evenly distributed everywhere (i.e. thermodynamic equilibrium). As there will be no ‘gradient’ whereby energy can flow from one place to another (as when heat energy passes from a hot to a cold body until it’s equalised across both) there will be no potential for the work biological organisms need to order their systems; hence no life.

      Can nothing explode with such fury that enough energy was created that even with the entropy on a steady increase the universe is still plenty alive and active after all those billions of years?

      That’s the best theory going at the moment.

      Of course it’s possible further energy has been poured into the universe since the Big Bang – say by ‘white holes’ or by gods or by the computers simulating the matrix – but there’s no compelling evidence for it so Occam’s Razor suggests we’d best discard it for now.

      Of course 100 or so years ago there was no compelling evidence for quantum or relativistic events – just a few minor unexplained details physics hadn’t yet cleared up – so it would be very hubristic to insist it’s the only viable theory. Perhaps in order to explain irregularities now veiled in quantum randomness or explained with vast amounts of undetectable ‘dark matter’ it will be necessary to come up with new paradigms that are currently beyond our wildest dreams.

      I used to work in IT. One thing I learned is that you eventually reach a point where it’s no longer viable to keep patching the system you’ve got and you’re better off rewriting it from scratch.

      Does it really take less faith to believe that than it does to believe in supernatural beings? Or is it pretty much a matter of what you want to believe?

      It’s a matter of using a belief system as a framework whereby you can integrate new knowledge and insights into the system you’ve adopted in a way that synergises the outcomes you’re after. If those outcomes are primarily predictable outcomes and technological gadgets you’re currently better off with something like the natural sciences. If it’s meaning, purpose and community you’re probably better off with some sort of religion, philosophy or political doctrine.

      Personally I have no problems with maintaining several incompatible belief systems and switching between them as it suits me. I’m not so maniacally egotistical that I imagine anything I could think, believe or understand would provide anything approaching a comprehensive explanation or description of reality, so I do the best I can with the tools I have.

      A relative of mine who was a heterodox Anglican lay preacher once said, “In my opinion true Science and true Religion neither are nor could be opposed”. He also won a Nobel prize for physics. When I see science fundamentalists and religious fundamentalists trying to overrule each other from within the bastions of their own limited doctrines I find it both funny and sad. Even sadder is when they venture into each others’ territory and imagine they’ve ‘proved’ the superiority of their own belief system with their failure to comprehend someone else’s.

      By the way, am I not correct that you absolutely do not want a supernatural being to exist that you would need to be accountable to?

      A supernatural being is the centerpiece of my universe. Whether She exists or has meaning for anyone except me is something I’m agnostic about. I have no need to try to impose belief in Her upon others, much less try to make others comply with what I might imagine Her desires to be. I’m pretty sure She can look after Herself.

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      1. Thank you, Cabrogal, I appreciate your patient explanations. I have to admit I like your thought, “Even sadder is when they venture into each others’ territory and imagine they’ve ‘proved’ the superiority of their own belief system with their failure to comprehend someone else’s.”

        Would you say the truth about the creation of our universe is unknowable, or is what every you want to think it is? Or do you perhaps feel naturalism is the undeniable cause of everything?
        For myself, I am an Christian, though I admit that there is many things about modern Christianity that is very incorrect. I almost feel ashamed to identify under the same religion, but what can I do? (Just so you know there is hundreds of strains of Christianity, which is something we Christians really should be ashamed of. My strain of Christianity identifies as Weaverland Conference Mennonites, which comes under the Anabaptist, and ultimately Protestant umbrella.)

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          1. Sorry if my word choice was offensive. You are right, considering my audience, “existence” would have been a more appropriate choice.
            Thank you for picking me apart like that. The word certainly needs a share of critics to balance things out. (I’d love to have you critique my apologetics manuscript if you want… I don’t doubt it could use it.)

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            1. Any time. I wasn’t being critical at all but sometimes the obvious choice is really the incorrect word. Creation implies intent. Actually creation has no intent or idea about anything—the the way you grow your hair, or repair a cut. You do that, but you don’t know how.
              If I read your manuscript I will not provide standard atheist criticisms since I’ve never really read them. I will simply correct word choices and present what is really going on, right out in the open. A lot of eastern philosophy and religion mirrors my own conclusions. You are free to disagree, but I find much more plausible answers to everything if we resist the writings and influences that came before us. The mind is easily hijacked. For instance; if you were to stop believing and reveal the real you? I’m pretty certain you’d change 80-90% of your opinions. It’s that pervasive. But not believing is only a step, if you’re a really curious sort, which it seems like you are. I don’t even mind helping you hone your apologetics. Most Christian’s miss some key arguments that would really help them.

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            2. If you contact me through my website, at http://www.marcushurstauthor.com, and provide an email I can send you a copy of my manuscript. And I’ll gladly pay you for your time…
              To tell you the truth, I am set on believing the truth, no matter how scary, obnoxious, and contrary to my formal beliefs it might be…

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            3. Truth and words don’t seem to mix that well. I’ll do my best. Are they your formal beliefs, or someone else’s interpretation of a distant mystical experience of the past? I honestly don’t think you can believe and answer that question objectively, so we’ll leave it rhetorical 😁

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            4. To tell you the truth, I am set on believing the truth, no matter how scary, obnoxious, and contrary to my formal beliefs it might be…

              Now that sounds like a very good start.

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            5. In response to your question, Jim, I’m the type of fellow that will end up starting a new religion if I have sufficient evidence that that is what it takes to secure the truth.
              In fact, over the last year I have developed a stand that contradicts what most, if not all, other Anabaptists believe. (That is, I haven’t found anyone yet that sides with me.)

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            6. But Marcus, when you find the truth you won’t want a religion. Religion and truth oppose each other. When you discover the truth you will see the game is not serious at all. And belief has nothing to do with truth—it is the barrier that hides it in plain sight.

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            7. –Now that sounds like a very good start.–
              Is there were you stand? Are you dedicated to accepting the truth no matter how scary, obnoxious, and contrary to your formal thinking it might be?

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            8. I place a very high value on truth as an ideal and truthfulness as a practice.

              I’m not sure I can ever fully grasp – much less express – the truth of anything, but yes, I’m dedicated to trying to perceive and acknowledge it inasmuch as I’m able even if it causes me much emotional, personal and epistemological distress.

              However I’m not sure I’d go as far as Kant in raising truthfulness to a categorical imperative that trumps all other forms of virtue. I’m prepared to sacrifice myself in my quest for truth, but there’s limits to what I’ll impose on others towards those ends. And of course the degree to which I’m able to define myself and my own fate as something separate to others is another big question on the path to truth.

              Everyone here would die for the sake of truth. Everyone here lies constantly for the tiniest chance of personal gain. This is what it means to be a scientist.” from “The Demon’s Passage” by Greg Egan.

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            9. So Jim, you obviously feel you have truth figured out. Whether it is religious or not, tell me about it. I want to discover the truth, but the tricky part will likely be getting my mind wrapped around what you present as the truth; for I shall refuse to accept something as truth that is not logical to me…
              (Feel free to email me at marcus@marcushurstauthor.com if you would rather not discuss it here…)

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            10. I don’t feel I have the market on any truth, but there is a way of thinking that does not contradict science and religious reality. If you can run a religious theme from beginning to end on existence, without contradiction I will be super impressed. There is only one right answer, so how hard can that be? Accepting the way things are is the trick. It’s counterintuitive to tradition but there is no hocus pocus magic code or or handshake. It’s all right out in the open so obvious you’re swimming in it.
              I am not going to argue with your believing logic because believing-in something is illogical. Why do you suppose everything must be believed in?
              Sure I’ll email you. I left mine on a post of yours but it looked so lonely there. Not sure if you check it.
              I don’t want you to believe anything I say. I do want you to imagine for a moment—can you suspend your beliefs for a time to look at them objectively? That is the trick. It is super easy to analyze everyone else’s, and they yours. Why do you suppose that is?

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            11. Maybe one of us could start a new blog, on this topic, where we can hash through it….

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            12. Sent you an email. I have enough blogs already. Let me think on that. I may post some of our exchanges though.

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        1. Would you say the truth about the creation of our universe is unknowable, or is what every you want to think it is?

          I’d say any comprehensive truth about the existence of our universe is unknowable, yes. Seems to me that in order to fully understand our universe you would have to be, at least in part, something not of our universe. Given the meaning of the term ‘universe’ that seems a bit oxymoronic to me. Basically, you can’t properly see the box from the inside.

          Or do you perhaps feel naturalism is the undeniable cause of everything?

          Naturalism is an explanatory framework, not a cause. There’s some things it’s very good at explaining, other things it isn’t. For example it seems pretty good at dealing with things that are objectifiable, reducible and repeatable. But not all things are like that. In fact when you get down to the fine detail it’s hard to see anything is truly like that. Nonetheless naturalism has a lot of utility in explaining and predicting things within carefully restrained conditions. Some people go beyond that and turn naturalism into a form of metaphysics. They are treating it as a religion, which I think is a serious category error.

          But I think a lot of religious people are also committing an error in imagining the stories of naturalism and those of longstanding religious traditions are similar enough to set them against each other – as with creationism vs Darwinism.

          I think our distant ancestors had very different priorities as to what was important about ‘reality’ and so used stories in different ways in order to elucidate those priorities. As rationalist and Enlightenment thinking swept the West religious people too started seeing stories such as Genesis as rational, (super)naturalist accounts which put them at odds with stories in which the universe wasn’t a one week act of divine creation that happened less than 10,000 years ago.

          I think a lot of those stories sought to explain what we’d now consider social realities rather than natural ones (not that I think those who first told them made any such distinction). Societies are built with languages and were initially maintained with oral traditions (hence ‘the Word’). Their coherence as a people and their collective relationship with their deity/deities would have been of far greater importance to them than what we would now call ‘objective’ and ‘factual’ details about planetary formation or the chemistry of living organisms, so those were the truths they sought to capture in their scriptures. It was a different way of knowing with a different emphasis on what is knowable.

          I think there’s still plenty of things relevant to contemporary people that can be illuminated with the wisdom of ancient belief systems. Indeed, I think Enlightenment thinking has incorporated a lot of unexamined assumptions from the Abrahamic traditions. But to remove that wisdom from its context and try to apply it as a universal framework for understanding things those who first elucidated it probably never even considered is, I think, to abuse it and confuse yourself.

          For myself, I am an Christian, though I admit that there is many things about modern Christianity that is very incorrect

          That makes you a Christian alright ;).

          Christians have devoted a lot of time and effort to telling other Christians what they’re doing wrong ever since the concept of Christianity emerged. Even the apostles seemed enthusiastic about it.

          I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Anabaptist Christians in that they usually try harder to walk the talk than many of their notional co-religionists, especially on points I consider important such as pacifism. But I have more personal affinity for mystical Christianity than biblical revelation, so I find more in common with Quakers – especially in their often misconceived but nonetheless well-intentioned engagement with social justice and reform.

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    1. The matrix? Haha. Well, the explanations come up of course. That is the essence of poetry, to say what cannot be said. But really that is not reserved for the spiritual. The regular world around us is just as hard. Try fully explaining a blade of grass–or the instructions for your new appliances…

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  2. What I believe is who I am; I’m living proof of my belief. Jeremiah wrote, ‘Worship on the hills and mountains is a deception.’ And David wrote, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills for help.’
    We’re unique animals- I believe we’re stamped with the image of God.

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    1. God is stamped with the image of man. All cultures (even the 40,000 year old cave paintings) depict god in the image of the believer. From skin color to stature, an exalted image of themselves. That is god.

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      1. i disagree. they are all symbols of god. in Islam it’s prohibited to represent any image of god, that’s why they resort to beautiful mosaics😀
        how else are we gonna represent the unrepresentable? the wole point is to take the individual beyond one’s self. so in worshiping, the ACT of worship becames the path for trancendence, not the statue.

        representations are tools to assist the mind. once the mind matures, you drop these tools. any figure can work, as long as you have love for it.

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          1. if god is the totality of things, and this world is its direct manifestation, are not our attributes, His attributes?? are not the attributes of a drop of ocean, the same like all the ocean?? quantity is greatly different, but quality is same.

            take a diamond. if we say god is a diamond, because of his purity, he shines a million reflections (ie all variety we see)
            a piece of carbon also has the potential to be a diamond, so in this way, man is god.
            but a piece of carbon has to undergo quite a few transformations before it shines like a diamond, agree?
            so, the man who drinks and beats his wife… how can we call him ‘god’???

            total purification brings us to the essence of being, pure being. only then we are god.

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            1. @Monica.

              Do you have evidence to demonstrate the veracity of your god?
              Also, do you know the name of your god?

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            2. all names are ‘my god’s name 😁😁

              how’s that, you ask?? well… all things come from one essence. as simple as that.

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            3. no. I grew up in a communist country. until her later 30s, my mother thought Christmas was a winter holiday! both parents scientists. i knew nothing about religion.
              in my early teens, I started doing yoga. and then things began to open.

              i thank god for the lack of religion in my life! 😄

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            4. what term should i use?? if i said ‘It’, That, the universe, the source, the Tao, Shiva, the Great One, would it mean something else to you?? the name will not tell you anything, and any name would just limit something that is unlimited. why that famous chinese book the Tao Te Ching starts with the line “The name that can be named is not the eternal name”

              i find ex-christians are stuck on words and put too much energy just fighting it. so, whether you follow somethign blindly or you dismiss it completely from beginning, are really the same thing.

              but trust me, the ‘god’ you don’t believe in, i don’t believe in either! 😄

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            5. i find ex-christians are stuck on words and put too much energy just fighting it.

              Yeah, even atheists from Christian cultures – indeed, Enlightenment culture itself – seems to fetishise words and symbols as something magical or of the essence of reality itself.

              So you get people who only conceive of thoughts as the internal subvocal monologue and fail to recognise much of their own thinking. You get people who think mathematics or physics formulae are somehow encoded in the very nature of existence. You get people who are totally caught up in interrogating words and symbols for meaning while missing the things they are pointing to. And you get people who equate ‘uneffable’ with ‘untrue’ or ‘imaginary’.

              You could argue the creation of human social reality begins with the ‘Word’, but even among atheists there seems to be many who think the universe has been spoken into existence.

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            6. @ Cabrogal.
              I note that on your profile you list as personal traits; obnoxious and insane.
              Would you prefer I reply bearing with these two qualities in mind?

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            7. I list no traits. Your list covers arrogant and stupid simply by its contents.
              So … you didn’t answer my question?
              Were there certain words you didn’t understand?

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            8. I think you confuse arrogance and stupidity with my self-confidence and your own insecurity which you mask by childish self- deprecation.

              if someone has to ask what is the name of ”your” universe then it is indicative of someone whose primary aim is to live up to the rather silly description on their profile.

              I am not qualified to diagnose your claim of insanity but your claim of being obnoxious requires no such qualifications.

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            9. Your question as to the name of someone’s god display’s a flippant ignorance of what a god might mean to someone – as does your question as to whether monica is Christian, which she clearly isn’t. Your self-confidence is beyond doubt, but lacks any discernible humility, empathy or appreciation of perspectives beyond your own. Hence, arrogance. Your implicit assumption that the universe and those in it divide themselves to fit your simplistic means of classifying them and therefore appropriate manner of responding to them speaks of your stupidity.

              Unless someone is polytheistic their god (or lack thereof) obviously needs no name. Hence your question was a stupid one, which I illuminated by asking you to name your universe. However that was clearly too subtle for you so you brought the discussion down to ad-hom. I’m happy to oblige.

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            10. Unless someone is polytheistic their god (or lack thereof) obviously needs no name.

              Really? Then perhaps you could supply the answer to what such a god is?
              And why would a monotheistic approach to negate the need for a name for the god one believes in?

              And why / how would I know that Monica is not a Christian?

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            11. And why would a monotheistic approach to negate the need for a name for the god one believes in?

              I’m typing this slowly to make it easier for you to understand Ark.
              How many universes do you have?
              If there is only one, do you need a name for it?

              If there is nothing but your universe, what is there to distinguish it from?
              Why would you divide it from other things with a name?

              And why / how would I know that Monica is not a Christian?

              Even if you’re too lazy to simply click on her name and read her blog it’s pretty easy to see from her comments on this one that’s she’s not a Christian. Unless of course you’re too ignorant of the belief systems of others to be able to distinguish one theist from another.

              Would a Christian say “any figure can work, as long as you have love for it” or would she say “Jesus is the one path to salvation”?

              Would a Christian say “total purification brings us to the essence of being, pure being. only then we are god” or would she say “we must seek God’s forgiveness for our sins”?

              Or do you know nothing of the religious traditions you presume to make pronouncements about?

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            12. Why would one need to even use the term god

              Firstly, the term god is a heavy lifter. It goes way beyond the monotheist/polytheist dichotomy you implicitly assume in your earlier comment to incorporate pantheism, panentheism, deism, autodeism and probably others I’m ignorant of. So to eschew a term like ‘god’ is to cripple your ability to communicate about belief systems.

              But to get closer to what ‘god’ means to me personally, it acts as a grammatical/linguistic placeholder when trying to allude to something so all-encompassing it can’t be expressed with something dualistic such as language. There are ‘concepts’ for which even ‘god’ is insufficient, but it’s the closest word we’ve got. At least if you have sufficient humility and abstract intelligence to appreciate there are things beyond your capacity to comprehend or express.

              ‘God’ is a concept mankind has long used to allude to something completely beyond itself. It has linguistic aspects of personhood even in religious traditions such as Advaita Vedanta which explicitly reject its personhood, but that reflects limitations in our abilities to conceptualise and communicate, not limitations of ‘god’.

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            13. Yes, ‘god’ … a supernatural placeholder that has so many odious implications.

              Methinks it is time for a different word that more accurately describes the (currently) unknown without including the negative connotations that the word god traditionally inspires.

              Maybe you could strike the obnoxious from your personal list for a few moments, put on your Mister Reasonable hat and come up with a better word Monica could use?

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            14. Or maybe you could take off your arrogance undies long enough to acknowledge that ‘god’ has and does mean something very different to many millions of people than the ‘odious implications’ and ‘negative connotations’ embraced by anti-religious bigots and start accepting how people choose to speak about their own beliefs instead of trying to police their language for your own benefit.

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            15. If it means something different then use a different word.

              It is a much more elegant solution than trying to dance around semantics.

              If I decided to call you a Dickhead but insisted it meant something different than the popular meaning you would be well within your rights to not only ask exactly what I meant but probably ask me to use a different word.

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            16. It might mean something different to you but why should the rest of the English speaking world adopt a linguistic convention proposed by someone with a very negative attitude to a word?

              Perhaps if you find it so offensive you can start using “the g-word” instead, while acknowledging those who embrace it as part of their identity (or language) can continue to use it as they see fit.

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            17. but it’s the closest word we’ve got … Not necessarily. Some years back, I came up with Universal Presence. For me, it encompasses more –much more– than any qualities and/or characteristics that one might attribute to a god or gods.

              To be VERY clear, this is NOT a religious title. (I explain how I came up with it in my book, if anyone is interested.)

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            18. Yeah, I can see the pros of your terminology, but I don’t think it really captures the feelings of respect, devotion or humility a lot of people seek to convey when they use the word ‘god’.

              Let’s face it, it could apply to anything from space-time to Foucault’s panopticon to the experience of suffering to an all-permeating cosmic fart.

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            19. Yeah, if I ever e-publish anything it will probably be on Smashwords.

              Apart from the union busting and working conditions at its fulfillment centers Amazon gouges Australian authors and readers as well as anyone whose work is ordered from Australia (i.e. they halve the royalty). It’s an attempt to enlist Australian voters in lobbying the government to give Amazon special tax breaks. Bezos sucks.

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            20. Amazon has gotten too big for its britches, no doubt about it. It’s too bad more people don’t know about or use Smashwords as they have quite a large distribution center.

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            21. I would have to disagree. The totality of things has no agenda, like or dislikes. It just is. When the universe brings life into existence it has nothing to do with the behavior or traits of any kind that develop through processes of evolution.

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            22. then how can you talk about it?? a thing that has no quality, no form, no name, is beyond time and space. yet you want to discuss it on wordpress. furthermore, you want people to present you evidence for it!!

              boss…😅 “non ci va”

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            23. Are you saying there is something beyond yourself with these qualities? What you seek you already have. Peel away the layers and there you are. Nothing changes.

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            24. Of course many have said it’s impossible to say, then go on to write a book about it. Maybe we should draw dancing stick figures? _/°\_

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            25. I think the difficulty is, to borrow an old Chinese saying, “When the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way”. In other words there is something wrong with the way we think and while that is there everything we do will be a mess.

              Now what is it that’s wrong?

              As far as I can see the basic mistake is that we’ve invented this wonderful system of language and calculation and it is at once too simple to deal with the complexity of the world and we are liable to confuse that system of symbols with the world itself, just as we confuse money with wealth.” – Alan Watts

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            26. yes, and Alan Watts should know all about making a mess. he said all the right words, while being an alcoholic who slept with most of his women students.

              ahh, that we should all aspire to be so “liberated” 😄

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            27. hehe! i didn’t know zen monks drank whiskey 😉

              and from Ikkyu, the ‘not-so-zen’ Zen Master

              Rinzai’s disciples never got the Zen message,
              But I, the Blind Donkey, know the truth:
              Love play can make you immortal.
              The autumn breeze of a single night of love is better than a hundred thousand years of sterile sitting meditation. . .

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  3. Belief does not have to involve religion. It can, of course, but it does nt have to. Most of the time, when I use the word “belief” or any of its derivstives, I use it to mean “that which I know but cannot prove beyond any doubt that I know it.” I believe in evolution. I can trace the development of life from a one-celled being through to quadrillion-celled beings, yet I cannot for the life of me say that evolution is a “real fact!” To do that I would have to run an experiment taking a one-celled being and turning it into a quadrillion-celled being. Then I could know evolution as fact. But I cannot know this, so I can only believe it. Socrates said, through Plato, that “I know nothing.” But really,, he could not say even that, because “nothing” might be “something” after all.
    By assigning belief a connection to religion, you are clising it withĺin a theoretical box. There is no readon to put it in that box, though it is convenient at times. Convenience belies reality, in my mind.

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    1. In essence religion is a language used to communicate beliefs. They typically become corrupt when they become institutions. In our current situation affiliation equates to religion where like-minded people use a language to communicate similar experience. Then there are beliefs within religion without experience. This is where the zealots come from. Religions recruiting people to belief without offering anything genuine like experience, are fraudulent institutions whose bottom line is, what the believer can do for them, not the other way around.

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      1. All that is true. But you didn’t differentiate that other forms of belirf are essential to human society.
        Lestwise religious belief could not be questoned by the few, because the many would outshout them. As it is they try to outshout us, but once that form of belief is rejected, it generally stays rejected.
        This answer feels inadequate somehow, compared to your belief on belief, but it’s all I got for now.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Obviously we use the tools we’ve got. But we don’t pretend they can do what they can’t. Don’t let the tool define the goal.

        Using the tool of language to dismiss that which can’t be expressed in language is a tildebism.

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        1. As you wish. What do you recommend? Should I just post blank pages then, or am I allowed to enjoy a conversation?
          How else will those entrenched in beliefs know there is an alternative if I can’t spread the love?

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  4. If we are ever to overcome evolution it will be on this point alone.

    WTF?
    Overcome evolution?
    With what? Reason?
    I think I’d rather take my chances with the finely honed edge of several billion years of vicious natural selection than use the mind it evolved to try to carve an escape hatch from itself.

    Or belief is solely necessary because the illusion isn’t real. Why else would you have to believe it?

    Epistemological necessity.

    The reason Descartes stripped his self-assumptions back to cogito, ergo sum is because he was looking for a non-faith-based foundation upon which to build a solid Tower of Babylon of knowledge. He failed. He begins with the faith assumption that he exists and hooks into it another one that he is the author of his own thoughts. So it’s all built on clouds.

    So asking if God exists is a pretty irrelevant question if you don’t know whether you exist.
    Do any of us?

    All knowledge ultimately rests on belief. On faith. Even Advaitists believe something is real; even if it’s nothing.

    “Even those contemporary Jews, Christians, and Muslims who strive so hard to profess theologically “correct” beliefs about a sole, singular God who is incorporeal or infallible, ever-present or all-knowing, seem compelled to envision God in human form and to speak of God in human terms.

    The operative word there is “speak”.

    Speech is a profoundly human construct that begins with the assumption there’s at least one human attempting to communicate with another human. So yeah, it’s done in human terms. We’re the only metaphor we have for being, so of course all our discourse about it is infected with ‘human’.

    There’s plenty of things that can’t be spoken. God is just one of them. But we do the best we can with the tools we have.

    From The big idea: do we still need religion? by Robin Dunbar.

    There are at least two reasons, however, why religions persist. One is the fact that, on average, religious people are generally happier, healthier and live longer. For better or for worse, they also have easier deaths when the time comes. The other is that religious people are more likely to feel that they belong to a community. In a survey I ran, those who reported attending religious services were depressed less frequently, felt their lives were more worthwhile, were more engaged with their local community, and felt greater trust towards others. These enormous benefits mean not only that religion has enduring appeal, but that religious practices make you “fit” in the evolutionary sense – and thus they tend to stick around.

    So both evolution and religion are about your capacity to exist. Your being.
    What exactly are you trying to transcend here?

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    1. Since none of it is true, I would think a fine step to transcending belief mode would be to apply a little honesty about those beliefs, turning them into likes or preferences, knowing full well not one of them is supreme or remotely special. There are a lot of philosophies that I like and appreciate, but I know better than to apply the current standards of belief—then division which holds us at odds with each other.

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    2. And yet Northern Europe has been in the process of ditching religion – Christianity at least – and seems none the worse off.
      Maybe Dunbar still had a few issues with Jesus he hadn’t yet sorted out when he wrote his book?

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      1. And yet Northern Europe has been in the process of ditching religion – Christianity at least – and seems none the worse off.

        Well, Western countries have been recording steadily decreasing measures of happiness, increasing depression and despair and a reversal of the post WWII decline in suicide rates for about 30 years now. Of course there’s plenty of factors other than decline of religion that could account for that, but it seems to me without Marx’s opium of the people they’re doing it increasingly tough and turning more to the opioids of the drug companies for relief.

        But one thing I’ve found pretty stark over the past 30-40 years is the increasing inability people have to come to terms with their own deaths. Perhaps it’s clearest in the popular rush towards legalised euthanasia among the educated middle classes. OK, a lot of Christians seem to be hiding from their own deaths too, seeking a saviour to protect them from it. But the secular equivalent is to seek absolution and anesthesia in the arms of medical professionals as if that somehow reasserts the sense of control over their own ending that was lost when they turned away from the altars.

        I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen

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          1. Yeah.

            TBH, I reckon the increased suicide rate is probably due to how it’s being treated. It’s been known for over 20 years that antidepressants increase suicidality – especially in young people – but they’re still the most common first line treatment if someone rocks up at a doctor saying they’re suicidal. Also those who receive psychiatric help for suicidality are more likely to kill themselves than those who don’t, even after accounting for baseline severity and other risk factors.

            Here in Australia youth suicide rates have been closely tracking youth SSRI/SNRI prescription rates since the early 2000s.

            But I think the widespread moral panic over being unable to control their deaths that’s driven the legalised euthanasia debate across the west is probably linked to loss of religious conviction, particularly the loss of socially designated ritual gatekeepers between life and death.

            Not long ago retirement was seen as a time someone could free themselves from their secular concerns as a householder and begin focusing on spiritual matters, often to do with their impending death. Now it’s about shallow hedonism if you’re lucky – finally taking the holiday or buying the fishing boat that are only going to provide fleeting satisfaction and little meaning. If you’re unlucky it’ll be full of fears about poverty and failing health. So people are more concerned about keeping the exit door handy than finding a meaningful end of life. The only thing that can overcome their fear of death is their fear of life.

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    3. WTF? Overcome evolution?” Isn’t that what science and religion are trying to accomplish? I think it’s mighty arrogant and ridiculous. Can we outsmart our own brain? Some people try with tricks and gimmicks and special wording and pleading, but it ain’t goi g to play out the way they want.

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      1. Isn’t that what science and religion are trying to accomplish?

        Might be what some people are trying to accomplish with science or religion (e.g. transhumanists, creationists) and I think a lot of human morality (whatever its source) is, in a sense, an attempt to overcome the amoral ruthlessness of natural selection, but I think most sensible people would see both science and religion as expressions of evolution which feed back into the process of evolution itself (in the same way the evolution of tougher hides feed back into the evolution of sharper teeth).

        In just a couple of years we’ve seen Covid noticeably pushing the evolution of vaccine science and vaccine science pushing the evolution of Covid. Not much overcoming happening there. (Doubtless Archon’s Den would be ‘entertained’ by the notion vaccine science evolves as it doesn’t have genetic material he can imagine are lines).

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  5. Man has not made even one thing that:
    1) is alive,
    2) can reproduce instinctively,
    3) or can heal its injuries with no outside assistance and instruction.
    The first two qualities are essential to any form of life, and we find the third one in many life forms as well. This makes life more complicated than anything man has designed. Consider, can chance really produce things of greater complexity than intelligent beings can develop? Did coincidences actually father precision, complexity, beauty, and all intelligence?
    If an evolutionist found a basic, wooden pencil in the desert, he would instantly recognize that someone must have made it. Yet, if the same person saw a live fish, he would promptly recognize it as a random product of chance.
    My friend, does logic not insist that if a pencil could not have evolved without intelligent design, then neither could a fish? Do folks not use flawed reasoning like this because that is how secular propaganda has trained them to think?

    Has the existing higher power not concealed His reality in such a way that if we are not open to the idea of His existence, we will not find Him? And rather than openly punishing us as soon as we step out of line, has He not given us the privilege of believing what we want to believe and living the way we choose to live?
    Dallas Willard said, “It’s the person who wants to know God that God reveals himself to. And if a person doesn’t want to know God—well, God has created the world and the human mind in such a way that he doesn’t have to.” He went on to say, “God ordained that people should be governed in the end by what they want.” 2 Thessalonians states, “Because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (2:9–11).

    There are scores of logical facts that point to the evidence of a young earth and a supernatural creator. But they are not popular, for it is not what folks desire to hear; and when it comes down to it, these truths can only be understood by those who are wholly dedicated to the truth, no matter how scary it is. In this modern age, does one not need a measure of humility to grasp the ins and outs of submitting to the creation story and still believe it? And it is no secret that any amount of humility is unintentional for much of the human population. It is no wonder that the self-centered society of today chooses the supposed freedom of atheism over the supposed bondage of having to submit to a higher power.

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    1. So, welcome aboard. First time comment so I really don’t know how much of this blog you have followed.
      Your claiming an artifact made is incomparable to a fish, yet you are claiming to be an artifact made, only from a god, which in fact would make you an artificial, not natural occurrence. There is an easier and less contradictory explanation if you’re interested.
      Has the existing higher power not concealed His reality in such a way that if we are not open to the idea of His existence, we will not find Him” This is a nonsensical way to leap to conclusion. It isn’t that it’s hard to find—it is just so obvious you fail to see what actually is going on. Have you any idea what other religions have taught on this, or do you just go with this high level myopia?
      And by the way, how do you heal yourself or grow your own hair? Could you explain it if you knew it?

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    2. The pencil did not evolve! We can not look back in time, and see an unsharpened pencil, and a pencil with no eraser, and a shorter pencil, and a crayon, and a burned twig with an ashy end.
      We can look back it time and see examples of simpler and simpler things which progressed to finally produce a fish. And we can provide a possible naturalistic process by which that may have happened. Complexity does not demand an intelligent creator.

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        1. Interesting. Now can you provide any evidence that these separate items in any way, linearly changed from one form to another as can be shown by genetic evidence of the development of fish?

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          1. Interesting. Now can you provide any evidence that these separate items in any way, linearly changed from one form to another as can be shown by genetic evidence of the development of fish?

            When you say ‘linearly’ you’re drawing imaginary lines between the dots of individual organisms in the same way as someone who sees a fish in the constellation Pisces. The sharing of molecular patterns at a cellular level is no more or less a connection than the sharing of form between successive iterations of what we call ‘pencils’.

            Pencils, like fish, evolved to suit their environment. One through natural selection, the other through ‘intelligent design’, if you like. The development of their forms – whether encoded in the genes of the organism or the memes of writers – was determined by their fitness for purpose. The less fit variations were discarded and supplanted by more fit ones, which in turn provided the templates for future adaptations.

            Evolution in action.

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          2. A display of evidence will never convince those who are unwilling to believe it? As Barry Levefall pointed out, “There are none who are as deaf as those who do not want to hear. “ Blaise Pascal also noted, “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”

            With that, I think I will not post any more. For the Bible says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Matthew 7:6.
            (Wow, The Bible must be true; at least on this one. Is that not exactly what is happening? When I put a tidbit of truth before atheists they go right to mocking it belittling the one that posted it, just like the Bible says they will do…. You-all didn’t know you were helping to fulfill the Bible’s prophecies, did you?)

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            1. Set yourself up to get stripes for Jesus. Nice work! You haven’t really said anything to clarify anything. Evolution didn’t do what your imagination prescribed. Enjoy that.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I heard Jerry Coyne say in an interview that after a presentation he made on a book tour he was confronted by a Christian who told him that he had made the most cogent argument he had ever heard and he simply could not fault it. However, he couldn’t accept it because his pastor had told him evolution was a lie!

              Sounds familiar, doesn’t it!
              Smh.

              Liked by 2 people

    3. You a flat earther too? Intelligent design is nothing more than post hoc rationalizations and wishful thinking. There’s as much evidence for ID as there is a flat earth. Morons.

      Next!

      Oh, I almost forgot, as to items 1,2, and 3 above: Ever seen a baby, that grew into an adult, that manufactured another baby? I suppose not.

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      1. I wasn’t going to post another comment, but I want to let you know I forgive you for your mockery.
        I wish you well as you enjoy the worldview of your choice.

        Oh, I do have a question though:
        What is it that makes atheists naturally respond with mockery, when addressed by a theist, versus compassion or patience, or some other commendable virtue?
        This is a serious question. Are atheists just not virtuous people?

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        1. By far the most vile and abusive comments ever on this blog have been from Christians. We mock each other at times as well. I’ve taken a beating or two from other atheists and that’s just how things are ironed out sometimes.

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        2. It is difficult to respond with compassion or patience when the believer does not demonstrate the same. And trust me. This happens more frequently than you might want to believe or accept.

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          1. That’s understandable. I have to rely on God to help me respond virtually. (Although I sometimes I forget.) So that is understandable that you atheists generally don’t get that managed. It is just part of a Godless society.
            Thank you for the explanation.

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        3. I don’t think the problem is atheists Marcus. It’s atheist converts.

          Like religious converts they’re generally more fanatical than those born to it. Perhaps they’re insecure in their new (non-)religion and so try to convince themselves other worldviews as too ridiculous to consider, so they don’t have to consider them.

          But I think it’s more likely to be caught up with the progress myth and self-talk about attainment.

          They believe they’ve achieved atheism, so look down on those who haven’t achieved it. They tell themselves they’ve reasoned their way into atheism, so think those who haven’t are inferior at reasoning.

          As with many people who know they’re religious, born again atheists feel their faith makes them part of a superior in-group and so must denigrate those outside it to maintain the brittle self-esteem they gain from it. And unlike those who believe in a greater power there’s no in-built ceiling to limit their hubris.

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          1. I like this line of thinking: The enlightened often share a sense of supremacy.

            Enlightened Supremacy!

            And it can work in both camps. Formerly religious folk straying into atheism (often after stints as agnostics and then New Agers – not that I would know anything about that. Oh hell, ok, yeah, that was my “journey” as New Agers say) – where was I? Oh yeah, so on embracing atheism and “science” and “facts” an enlightened attitude of intellectual superiority can inflate the ego. What arrogant cunts, eh?

            While it’s the same for those who stumble into any cult belief system, embrace all of it’s teachings, pity the non-believers and murder the staff employed at abortion clinics.

            There is no monopoly on this superiority complex with the related mental tumor holding the delusion that “everyone else is wrong”.

            Yet didn’t both evolve in the same manner?

            Once humans could think, when faced with a concept that they could not understand, they did what scientists and anthropologists call; make shit up.

            Before the workings of the solar system were understood, the sun rose in the morning because Really Big Strong Flying Sun God pulled it up from beyond the edge of the flat Earth.

            As science provided less imaginative peer-reviewed explanations, Sun God was retired, to be replaced by bits of reality, except in places where access to Wikipedia isn’t happening.

            The vacuum scenario: the knowledge is missing, causing a knowledge vacuum, the vacuum is filled with bullshit so the clan elder doesn’t appear to be a dote.

            When “facts” replace the poop, only the clan elders who fear loss of the clan’s social network and somehow can’t manage to utter the words, “Well, I guess we were wrong about that Sun God super person” ignore the science and cling to the fables.

            I had hoped that Daniel Dennet’s book Breaking The Spell would live up to it’s advertising and explained how religions evolved, but two thirds into it all I got out of it was the message that Dennet really would like to see the evolution of religions studied. Personally, I don’t see a pressing need, there’s been plenty written on the subject already. Perhaps a study that possesses a greater need of urgency could look at how contemporary education has failed to achieve the result of causing all religions to become extinct.

            This might just prove that God works in mysterious ways, or not.

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            1. Good, if you believe naturalism is scientific than maybe you can help my little brain understand how the laws of thermodynamics fits in there.
              I understand that naturalism directly contradict some undisputed laws of science, including the second law of thermodynamics.
              For example, the second law of thermodynamics states that in a closed system, entropy unavoidably increases. This means, in the big picture, within a closed system, all things move in the direction of complexity to decay and order to disorder. Is the universe not a closed system, in the evolutionary view, in that it receives nothing from an outside source? Does not naturalism, in the big picture, describe the current complex state of thousands of different things as coming from chaos, from disorder to order?
              Will you please inform me how you atheist typically explain this?
              Then there is the first law of thermodynamics, and the law of biogenesis…

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            2. Does not naturalism, in the big picture, describe the current complex state of thousands of different things as coming from chaos, from disorder to order?

              Err, no.

              When everything was at a single point at the instant of the Big Bang it was as ordered as it could get. It’s all been downhill from there.

              I find that when religiously oriented people criticise science they get similar results as when scientifically oriented people criticise religion. A display of embarrassing ignorance.

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        4. We just don’t care for the morally superior asshats that can’t logic their way out of a wet paper bag, given complete instructions on how to do it. I give what I get bubba.

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