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On communication with God

Today I am not addressing any particular Bible verse or any particular argument for the existence of God but I do wanna challenge the testimonies of people I think we are all familiar with. There is a not too small group of people out there who aren’t merely Christians or Muslims or whatever because they happen to believe in the claims their particular holy book makes bt who are claiming to have personally experienced God or even heard God’s voice. In principle you would think that these testimonies should be compelling seeing that a multitude of people claim to have knowledge and in fact communicated with a person it would be reasonable to assume that said person really exists, right?

Well today I want to elaborate on the reasons why that doesn’t convince me.

First of all I think we all have been in a position before where we were sure to perceive something with our eyes or ears only to find out later that what we perceived most likely had no basis in reality whatsoever. Let me give you an example from my personal life:

When I was about 12 years old me and a few friends of mine went into a small forrest within my village. When we went in their we saw something which we perceived to be a demon. We quickly walked away and when we talked we all pretty much saw the same thing: A sort of black entity with sharp teeth and red glowing eyes.

Now in retrospective I don’t believe that this really happened but at that time we all were convinced. Add to that the element of conformity namely that I wasn’t the only who saw it and I came to believe that really easily.

Upon reflection though I came to reject what I think I saw for 2 reasons: Except for the red eyes this thing looked really similar to the symbiote within Spider-man 3 a movie which came out just 2 years earlier before my experience. I think it is therefore much more reasonable to assume that my brain concucted a frightening beast based on these familiar patterns rather than that what I saw indeed existed. The second reason is that this thing made no efforts at all to have anything but visual impact: It didn’t make sounds, it didn’t attack us when it saw us, it didn’t follow us it had no manifestation except a visual one. The other people seeing what I saw (or at least claiming that they did) also played a role in influencing me and may very well have shaped my memories of what I saw.

Another experience of mine happened when I was 8 and I was on holiday with my parents. In the middle of the night I saw a stranger inside our room who after 4-5 seconds left it. Now I know that I didn’t dream that because I immediately woke up my parents. It turned out though that nothing was stolen and no one within the hotel be it employees or guests fit the description of the person I saw.

What I am saying is that on occasion at least we think that we perceive things that actually aren’t there. I am sure many of you have had one or two similar experiences.

Likewise the same can be said for hearing voices: I have lost count on the times where I heard a voice calling my name and it turned out that it didn’t happen. Now you might be tempted to say that this was God calling me but suffice it to say that this voice isn’t always the same and isn’t always male.

Now I get it why believers might be inclined to believe it when “God” tells them that he loves them but for me as an outsider it is much more likely that the person in question is hallucinating. Especially since this voice never seems to convey any useful information:

He doesn’t reveal to us how quantum mechanics works he doesn’t tell us what happened before the Big Bang he reveals none of that to us. It’s always information that believers could’ve easily found for themselves.

In the end there are and have been various believers throughout history who claim to have communicated with a god and this god is not always the same. These anecdotes aren’t convincing when we consider the fact that our brain quite frequently tricks us.

Last but not least (and this is kinda embarrassing) I have taken the steps that believers asked me to take in order to arrive at the result they arrived at namely God speaking to them. I ended up empty handed every single time. When I still held to a belief in a god and when I prayed, though I didn’t pray often I never felt the presence of anything but the air surrounding me.

If hearing God’s voice is strong empirical proof for you that he exists, then getting no results from praying and even praying in a way that believers tell me I should is strong empirical evidence that there is nothing there to which can be prayed. Maybe just maybe the reason why I felt nothing when I prayed (even at the time when I needed it to work the most) and why different believers experience different deities has nothing to do with an actual deity and everything to do with your brain playing tricks on you, which of course are reinforced by taking certain actions.

 

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Noah‘s Flood: A legal report

Today I will do something completely different. I will write a legal report and I will show that God committed Homicide (or specifically Genocide) within chapter 7 of the book of Genesis. Theoretically one could also test whether it wouldn’t even qualify as murder but  murder is a complicated crime which requires many qualifications and I only learn it in my next semester. In case you wanna read along Here is the relevant chapter. I will try and hopefully succeed in showing that God is guilty of committing homicide according to §212 StGB (Strafgesetzbuch) . Therein it basically says that anyone who kills another human without having met the legal criteria of murder will face imprisonment for at least 5 years. In some cases one might also be looking towards life imprisonment. So I guess it would be urgent for God that we find out if he‘s in fact guilty or not. Be forewarned: The language I’ll be using will be kinda strange. That’s how legal reports typically are.

Therefore I give to you my assessment:

A.

By Flooding the planet, God could have made himself guilty of commiting homicide in accordance with §212 StGB.

I                                                elements of the offence

For God to be guilty of homicide he must’ve realized each element of the offence. This includes the phyiscal as well as the subjective elements.

1                                         Physical elements of the offence

For him to be guilty of homicide God must’ve  realized each of the physical elements of the offence

a) action

God must’ve commited an action. God flooding the Earth does constitute an action.

b) Success of the offence

God must’ve completed his offence successfully. After the Flood a number of humans were dead. His offence was succesful.

c) Causality

God’s actions must’ve been causal for the success of the offence. An action is causal, if imagining that the action didn’t happen would lead the success of the offence not being realized. If we are to imagine that God didn’t flood the planet, the humans would not have been killed. Therefore the Flood was causal for their death.

d) Objective Attribution

The success of the offence must be objectively attributable to God. The success of the offence is attributable to someone, if he created a danger which is legally disapproved of and if that exact danger was realized in the success of the offence. By Flooding the planet God created the danger of humans being drowned which constitutes a legally disapproved danger and this exact danger was then realized when the humans drowned to death.

e) intermediate results

God realized each of the physical elements of the offence.

2.                                       mental elements of the offence

Furthermore God must’ve had intent concerning each of the elements of the offence. Intend is the knowledge as well as the will of realizing each element of the offence according to §15 .

a) dolus directus of the first degree

God could’ve had intent in form of the dolus directus of the first degree. This would require him that he both knew of the concrete and immediate danger of the realization of the elements of the offence and that he had the will to realize them because realizing them was the goal of his actions. It could however be problematic that he had intent concerning an entire group of people rather than just one individual. This could ba a case of the dolus cumulativus which means that he wanted to commit multiple offences or multiple successes of one offence simultaneously. In the present case God wanted to kill multiple people simultaneously and he knew that sending a Flood would be a danger to the lives of humans and it was his chosen goal that this danger would be realized. Therefore God killed the humans intentionally.

b) intermediate results:

God realized both all physical elements of the offence as well the subjective ones.

II                                                       Illegality

God’s actions must’ve been illegal. In general the elements of the offence indicate its illegality, unless there is a relevant justifying reason for his actions.

1. Defence of another person

It could be the case that God defended another person in accordance with §32 passage 2 alternative 2 .

a) Emergency situation

There must’ve been a presently occuring illegal attack on somebody else’s protected rights.

aa) attack

There must’ve been an attack. An attack is every threat caused by a human towards another person’s protected rights. According to Genesis 6 there was violence in the world. This in principal constitutes an attack on the integrity of the human body. It is however unclear whose rights God protected. In the present case his actions constitute a protection of humans who were the victims of violence in general.

bb) presently occuring

An attack is presently occuring if it is either imminent, happening at the moment or still persisting. In the case of Genesis 6 the attack was presently occuring.

cc) illegal

The attack must also have been illegal. This is the case if the attacker has justifying reasons for his attack so that he has a right to intervene. There is no indication whatsoever that the attackers had justifying reasons for their actions.

b) emergency action

God must’ve also taken an action during the emergency. This action must’ve gone directly against the protected rights of the attacker. This was indeed the case.

aa) necessity

The action must’ve been necessary to protect the rights of another person. An action is necessary if it is both adequate and the mildest medium to end the attack immediately and definitively. An action is adequate if it is capable to end the attack. the mildest medium is the one which among other equally adequate mediums, spares the protected rights of the attacker most effectively. Presently killing the violent humans constitutes an adequate medium to end the attack. However God could’ve sent the violent people a sign or have forewarned them off a possible coming attack or he could’ve stopped the violence by prohibiting the humans from hurting others. Therefore God didn’t use the mildest medium and therefore his action was not necessary.

intermediate results:

Therefore God’s actions were illegal

III Blameworthiness

God also must’ve been blameworthy. This is the case in Genesis 7 since God was not in error about his actions nor can he be exculpated for his actions according to §35 StGB since as is already established his actions were not necessary to stop the situation.

Result: God is guilty of commiting homicide in accordance with §212 StGB

 

There you have it. God is a criminal.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

 

 

 

 

 

With us in mind

Today I am planning to take on a specific argument for God with which I think many of you will be familiar. It is one of the favorite arguments made by Christians, because they think that with this argument they’ve beaten the nonbelievers at their own game. It is one of the arguments in which Theists want to derive God from the field of science of all places, which is one of the major things which has put Theism into doubt to begin with. I am talking about the fine tuning argument.

Now for reference of the argument please click on this link which will send you to the Video version of the argument from Dr William Lane Craig’s YouTube channel. I hope this will be faithful enough to you. Before I begin tackling it I have to say this though: I do not claim any expertise in the fields relating to the “fine tuning” of the Universe. I will not bother with the technicalities (which I would most likely get wrong anyways) but instead outline where the argument fails (at least in the presented form) and what would need to be established. On another note I also have to say that I do not necessarily endorse all the ideas which I will outline. They merely serve to illustrate why the argument isn’t sound.

With that out of the way:

At 26 seconds into the video the person presenting the argument claims that certain values fall into an exceedingly narrow life permitting range. He further claims that if anyone of these numbers were altered by even a hairspread no life of any kind could exist.

Right of the bat I gotta ask: How does he know?

For one thing how does he know what the life permitting range is if we only have one example of life namely the carbon based human life? This person neglects to define what exact conditions life requires and not just our life mind you but all possible life including the life which may or may not exist, which we have not examined yet and likely will never examine. If we do not know what life forms besides ours are physically possible, then we do not have a firm grasp on what life is and therefore we do not know what conditions are required for it. Which would render the entire argument moot.

Now it may be the case that I’m wrong and that we do know what conditions are required for all possible life forms but that is an extraordinary claim which needs some evidence to back it up. At the very least a peer reviewed paper.

Continuing with the video he asserts that there would be no stars and therefore no life and no chemistry.

Besides him just asserting it blank the footage of the video seems to suggest that there is a causal chain involved:

There would be no stars, therefore no planets, life or chemistry. It is clarified later that this is the case. The problem I see with that is that it assumes that stellar nucleosynthesis is the only way we could get heavier elements.

Don’t get me wrong it IS the way heavier elements were produced within our Universe but who is to say that the only way heavier elements in all Universes could form is via stars? How could one possibly know that when we have only one Universe to go by? If there are other possible unknown methods then we don’t have a problem with our chemistry for one thing. Needless to say that this argument also assumes that planets are a necessary precondition for all possible life forms which is also something that needs to be established.

At 1:30 in the narrator asserts that if the gravitational force had been “out of tune” ever so slightly then life couldn’t exist.

Of course this assumes that the gravitational force is subject to vary. Who says that it is and what is the evidence? I have the same objections to the expansion rate as well as the mass and energy distribution.

Without clearing the first few hurdles I see no reason to buy into the fine tuning argument.

However there’s still more to get into when the narrator presents his trichotomy at the 3 minute mark:

  • the first option presented is phyiscal necessity: In other words the Universe must be life permitting. He asserts that this option fails because the “constants and quantities are not determined by the laws of nature” . Once again he just asserts this without any evidence at all. He also says that a life prohibiting Universe is far more likely than a life permitting one. But wait a minute if the constants are not subject to change as this option suggests then there is no such thing as probability concerning our Universe. After all it couldn’t have been otherwise. In that case the odds would be 1. Even if there is no reason or evidence to suggest it he has still failed to knock this pillar down.
  • As far as chance goes I have nothing more to say other than that his “can’t be so” assertion is based on his incredulity. As for the Multiverse talked about at the 4:10 mark he suggests that there is no evidence for the multiverse. While it is true that we cannot detect it, the claim of a multiverse is not entirely baseless. As for the claim of the “Multiverse generator having to be fine tuned” this of course would be the case if we were talking about a machine. But we are not. As for the “Boltzmann brain problem” I find this to be entirely besides the point. Conceding that the single observer in a small Universe is more likely does nothing to invalidate the chances of 1 Universe in a gazillion being such as we find it while the other ones containing just one observer.

 

Now we come to the last option namely “design” at the 5 minute mark and behold we have just proven God’s existence because the other 2 options are just so unlikely that only this option remains… which kinda begs the question: Is design via an Omnipotent God possible let alone plausible? As far as I’m concerned the mere possibility is not yet established. Even if it were shown that it is possible (and I have no idea how one could do it) we would also have to calculate whether option 3 is plausible. If it is less plausible than the other 2 implausible ones then God still loses. In other words: Even if everything else I said in my post was wrong, I need not accept God’s existence based on this argument as long as it isn’t established that “Goddidit” is even a possible option let alone a more plausible than the other 2.

 

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

 

 

Lions, Psalms and a Strange Messiah

I don’t write on this blog regularly anymore and this has two reasons: First, I simply lack inspiration. I feel like I have covered so many things already and I don’t intend on writing the same thing 5 times just using a different wording.

Second and this shouldn’t be news to anyone of you who follows me on Twitter (which is probably the majority of my readers) I simply don’t have much time.

But today is Saturday (at least for me) and I actually do have some time right now and a topic so I feel like addressing it.

It never ceases to amaze me how badly Christians can distort their own holy book in order to meet their agenda of preserving Biblical inerrancy.

I have observed this in many instances and the following is no exception:

Let’s talk about Psalm 22 and the crucifixion of Jesus. Christians claim that this Psalm prophecises Jesus fate on the cross namely his crucifixion.

Now whether it actually does (spoiler alert: it doesn’t) is not a trivial issue for the Christian. After all at the beginning of this Psalm the first person narrator asks “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words appear again in Matthew 27: 46 :

About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,e lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

If Psalm 22 isn’t actually Jesus speaking then not only does this mean that Jesus crucifixion is not prophecised in Psalm 22 it also means that the author of Matthew is deliberately deceitful for drawing a parallel between the Psalm 22 and Jesus.

Needless to say then, that the stakes are high so I suggest we dig right into the reasons why I don’t think that Psalm 22 refers to Jesus.

When we move on from the first sentence of the Psalm we get to this particular assertion:

” Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.”

Now the person saying this is Jesus. The Jesus who (supposedly) healed the blind, the man who walked on water, the man who fed thousands of people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Yet Christian would have us believe, that this same Jesus who “cries by day” (the word cries in Hebrew can be translated to call ) receives no answer but whatsoever by his father. He worked miracle after miracle after miracle yet God doesn’t listen to him?

Besides that, this stands in direct contradiction to John 11: 41-42:

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

If I as a Skeptic am to be convinced that we are indeed dealing with a messianic Prophecy here, this needs to be accounted for.

Moving on from this in my view problematic verse, right onto the next. Psalm 22: 6 :

“But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me”

Again this is Jesus speaking. The man whom (most) Christians not only believe to be the son of God but literally God incarnate. Most Christians claim that Jesus believed himself to be God. Yet this same Jesus who thought so highly of himself now references to himself as a worm? In what world do these two things fit together?

Now for the record it is true that Jesus did have one or two enemies (he wouldn’t have been crucified if he didn’t) but he also had a lot of supporters. Do the 12 disciples ring a bell? I am also not persuaded to believe that all the people whom he healed and for whom he worked miracles were in direct opposition to him.

The asserion that Jesus was “scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” is not just a little bit of a stretch it is outright false!

Now, after having shown my positive reasons why Psalm 22 cannot possibly refer to Jesus I think it may be worthwhile to address the elephant in the room:

Where do Christians get the idea from, that Psalm 22 prophecises the crucifixion?

The answer lies within the verses 12 to 21.

“Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet I can count all my bones they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!”

It seems strange right from the get-go that there were “Bulls of Bashan” present at the crucifixion. The same thing goes for the dogs, the lion as well as the wild oxen. Now of course one may argue that these animals are just symbols for the people who crucified Christ but what animal stands for whom or what exactly? Are these 4 animals representative of 4 people groups. As far as I know the only people present at the Crucifixion were the Jews and the Romans. Are these 4 animals merely representatives of 4 individuals? If so which animal stands for which person and why? How does one account for the “evildoers” who are presumably humans, if the animals are just symbols for other humans? If the animals are not symbols but real animals then why are the gospels silent on the fact, that there were wild and dangerous animals present for this incident?

For all intends and purposes the setting of the event doesn’t sound like a crucifixion at all. It sounds more like a person who is being eaten up in a Roman Arena (but maybe that’s just me).

So it all comes down to what the author means when he says that the evildoers have “pierced my hands and feet” . Long story short the word in question “pierced” ( כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י ) can be translated in many different ways (Yeah I know Wikipedia isn’t exactly scholarly) but as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter anyways due to the discrepancies surrounding it.

Besides this one word there is nothing which hints on this being a messianic Prophecy and as I hope to have shown there is a a lot which goes against that Hypothesis.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

 

Possible Greatness

Today I want to take the time to discuss the first premise of a very popular argument for the existence of God namely the onto(il)logical argument for the existence of God or to be more precise the modal version of it.

The first premise within the argument as I want to discuss it is the following ( there are of course many versions of the argument in general):

“There is a possible world in which there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness.”

Now, for an argument to be sound only one premise needs to be invalid and I reject the premise that a being with maximal greatness can exist. And here’s why:

When we consider the term “greatness” what do we mean by that? It means that an entity has certain properties which make it great. There are properties which make people great. Among them I would say are Intelligence, Courage, knowledgability, honesty, fearlessness (at least to a certain degree in our case), generosity, strength and many others.

If there were a maximally great being, this being would have to possess all these qualities and of course many more to a maximal degree. As I will try to argue this is not possible and even if it were, we would have to conclude that this being cannot be the Abrahamic God.

Let’s for example look at being knowledgeable and being intelligent: If you have maximal knowledge then one would say you’re omniscient i.e. you know everything. However if we differentiate between what I call propositional knowledge like me knowing that the Bible has 66 books and experiental knowledge e.g. I know what love feels like because I have experienced it then omniscience itself becomes self refuting at least if that being has always been omniscient. A being that has always known everything doesn’t know what it’s like to learn, it lacks experiental knowledge of the learning experience. Additionally many Christians will say that God is unable to lie so he lacks this experiental knowledge too.

Now, it’s of course possible to escape what I outlined by defining omniscience such, that it escapes my problems. But if we hold it to be true, that an omniscient being has all propositional knowledge, then it follows that this being is unable to learn new facts and make new discoveries.

Yet intelligence requires a being to not be omniscient. Intelligence is after all our application of our limited knowledge to reason towards new conclusions to discover new facts and to apply it to get new and better results. This means necessarily that a being can only be intelligent if it is able to learn and if it doesn’t have all facts.

In other words omniscience cancels out intelligence.

Let’s look at Courage and fearlessness: If God has no fears whatsoever ( as many Christians will argue ) then he doesn’t have courage. A being can only be courageous if it stands up to its fears and looks them in the eye and hopefully overcomes them. Yet God doesn’t fear anything so his actions do never require any courage at all.

If we talk about honesty then the Christian will tell you, that God can’t lie. I think it’s not a big secret, that some lies can be virtuous. Think about parents lying to their child about Santa’s existence, because the child will be more excited that way. Yet if you have maximal honesty then any virtuous lie is impossible for you to tell. It is not good or great to always say the truth in every situation. Yes honesty is a virtue but it doesn’t remain one, when it’s applied in a maximal degree.

As far as generosity goes let me ask this: How can a being that possesses everything there is to possess be possibly generous? If God gives me a Ferrari then he isn’t generous because he owns an infinite amount of them.

I think as I established it is not possible for a being to be maximally knowledgeable, maximally intelligent, maximally courageous and maximally fearless. Furthermore maximal honesty diminishes greatness.

However one may argue, that perhaps it isn’t true that a being can possess all those properties to a maximal degree simultaneously but maybe a being can have the “perfect balance” e.g. being as knowledgeable and intelligent as it is possible to be without the two cancelling each other out.

Now if you define maximal greatness in this way, then this is a legitimate way out of contradictions but it is not without consequences. It would thereby follow that a maximally great being is not omniscient and is not all honest as for example in cases where lying is virtuous. Thereby a maximally great Being may be a god but this deity is not the God believed in by most Monotheists.

 

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation