Blog

How deities die…

I’m sure many who of you who are reading this will be familiar with the god-awful (pun intended) movie “God’s not Dead” and it’s sequel. I’m not going into detail of why I hate the movie and I’d even hate it as a deist (One word: #Strawman ) but the title of the movie raises an issue: What does it mean for God to die or for God to be dead?

The Man of course who first talked about God being dead was Friedrich Nietzsche. He however meant something completely different than the film producers of the movie when he talked about God’s death. While the producers wanted to address the issue of whether he exists, God being dead has a completely different meaning to Nietzsche.

What Nietzsche really meant when he said that “God is dead” is that people live in a post-religious society, they live in a society where a particular God and the doctrine for which he stands is no longer believed in. Neither is his moral standard binding for a society that has killed God. In short the death of deities is nonbelief in them.

We do in fact thousands of dead Gods that may or may not exist (like Zeus or Thor) but the fact that our behavior is no longer informed by belief in those deities, the fact that no one truly believes in them and considers it likely that they may exist has buried those deities into the ground.

But what is it exactly that killed all those deities? Well first and foremost it’s cultural change which can of course be reached many different ways. One way would be the start of a new popular religion that utterly replaces the old one. It may be the case that a war broke out and after a state was conquered, the religion of the victors was declared the state religion that everyone should believe in. Subsequently the old deity was no more.

However the best and most effective way to put the final nail in the coffin of any deity is one thing: Knowledge!

Just think about how many gods have been killed because their existence became redundant to us. We now know that it isn’t Ra who makes the sun rise, it is in fact the case that the Earth rotates around the sun and day and night are an inevitable result.

We now know that we weren’t created by a deity we evolved by a process which may or may not have been guided by a deity but which functions without one.

We live in a world today, where science is our best method of explaining things. Science is our tool to discover the Universe. Knowledge is no longer gained by divine revelation, at least some divine revelations are debunked by the knowledge gained through science. Morality nowadays isn’t extrapolated from the Bible, it’s imposed upon it. We live in a society, where we solve moral issues by talking about it and trying to reason to the moral positions rather than taking the Pastor’s word for it.

Whether we realize it or not, the framework is shifting. the developed world is becoming more and more secular be it in the UK, be it in the rest of Europe be it in the USA as well.

Is God dead? No he isn’t but if the trend of science being the new way towards truth continues and if the world becomes more secular, then the death of a few more deities is inevitable.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Faith, Evidence and time machines

Yesterday I watched a video by a person who I’m friends with on Twitter. He happens to be a Christian and he made this video as a kind of critique on Scott Clifton’s stance on the divine hiddenness of God. What I aim to do here is not offering my own personal critique on the video or a rebuttal my goal here is to use it as an opening to address something, where I think me and some Christians or Theists in general will never see eye to eye.

I fully expect that the producer of this video will read my blog post, so one thing right of the bat: I can respect that. I can respect your stance, that this personal revelation of God (at least that’s how you see it; I of course wouldn’t attribute it to God) is evidence for you. For yourself the problem of Divine Hiddenness is fully solved with this revelation. I however didn’t have that revelation so it isn’t evidence for me at all. But I do have one question to you in general and to Theists and Atheists who will read this as well:

How unshakeable is unshakeable and how closed is this case truly for you?

Again, before you get mad I do accept that this revelation is evidence for you, very powerful evidence in fact. I do respect that. But at what point does outside evidence have a chance to put that revelation into question?

To my knowledge the producer’s views are in accordance with the scientific evidence etc. that we observe in our Universe. In that sense his beliefs do not go against things that we can demonstrate to be true. However there are people out there who have had a personal revelation from God that flat out goes against everything we can observe in the world, goes against every field of life science, goes against any and all reason.

My favorite example is of course the Creationist Ken Ham. He’s a perfect example of a person, whose faith whose revelation is blatantly absurd. This man believes that the Earth is 6000 years old that evolution is a lie as is the Big Bang and any and all evidence that contradict his absurdly narrow views on scripture.

Most Christians and Atheists agree that this man is irrational. But why? Well because the Earth and the Universe is demonstrably older than 6000 years. Yet his faith persists despite distant starlight, despite tree rings, despite the clearly transitional Creatures in the fossil record.

And he’s not the only one. I’ve heard it said from Theists whether directly or indirectly that they would still hold to their views even if their own eyes and senses tell them otherwise.

At that point such a Faith becomes self defeating to me. Because at that point you have to believe in a deity who is deceitful.

Imagine we had a time travelling machine and we could go back 2000 years to the day Jesus was crucified. We even saw him one day earlier eating with all of his disciples. We see him being beaten, we see him wearing a crown of thorns, we see him being crucified and we have a translator who translates Jesus words exactly as described in the Bible. But he isn’t taken down from the cross. We wait 2,3,4,7 days and he isn’t taken down by anybody.

Would you still believe?

On the other hand to the Atheists would you become a believer (not necessarily a worshipper) if you saw Jesus being raised and if you have certainty that it was God who raised him?

I know I would.

So that’s my question to believers and other Atheists: How persistent are you? What does it take?

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Ignorance isn’t evidence

One common tactic I have frequently observed among believers is that some of them seem to be in the mindset, that if I as an Atheist can’t account for something, then their explanation somehow gets to win by default. Just a few days I found myself in an argument with a believer who insisted, that the Big Bang being false means that an Intelligent agent (God) must’ve done it. He presented the following trichotomy: “we have three options available: Either the Universe created itself or it came out of nothing or an Intelligent agent created it.” now the first 2 options are impossible meaning that “Goddidit”.

Now aside from the fact that this was clearly a false trichotomy, as I don’t hold either of these 3 positions, that person was blatantly and shamelessly arguing from ignorance.

“If option one and two are negated then my option number three gets to win.”

Except of course, that I see no reason why his proposed option is to be considered an option at all. There’s no reason to assume that God did it is a viable alternative. Truth be told, the Universe causing itself is illogical, as is the alternative that it came from nothing (under certain definitions of nothing at least) but I don’t see how a timeless, spaceless immaterial mind is a better alternative than “nothing”. We have no experience with either one and as far we know, everything that exists is bound by time space and matter. Unless one can demonstrate that a being can exist without these requirements, any argument for such a being is moot. There are many alternatives for our Universe: One option that wasn’t brought up at all was an eternal Universe. Despite the Protests of countless Apologists an eternal Universe is still viable. As would be that the Universe came out of something but we don’t know what this something exactly is.

But of course we all know, that the three most hated words by Theists (and by people in general) are the words: “We don’t know”. We humans hate mystery and nothing makes this more apparent, then arguments for the existence of God or arguments for Christianity.

This can also be observed in arguments for the resurrection: They challenge us, that we need to account for Jesus being crucified, the empty tomb, post mortem appearances and the spreading of Christianity. A common tactic is the attempt to shoot down alternative explanations:

Christians have no problem rejecting the option that Jesus survived crucifixion, claiming that he was so injured, that he couldn’t possibly have survived it. They then happily go on, that it’s more probable that he was raised from the dead. They also reject every other explanation and for very good reason as they are all improbable if not impossible. However they fail to apply that criticism to Jesus being raised and then say that it is the most viable alternative in spite of the fact, that it’s as impossible as a man surviving crucifixion.

I’m sorry Christians but your explanation is not better then mine and it’s not better then saying that we have an unexplained phenomenon here. If we accept that the sources we have are reliable enough to establish the 4 facts above (they’re not) then we have at best, an unexplained phenomenon. An unexplained phenonemon is not evidence for God it’s an unexplained phenomenon.

God does not get to win by default. Your proposed alternative isn’t any more viable than mine, if it is viable at all.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

My road to Atheism

My story of how I became an Atheist is probably not amongst one of the most spectacular ones you’ll ever hear but I still want to tell my story of how I became an Atheist.

My Dad was a Catholic on paper (though I now know that he’s a deist) and my mother was a Protestant on paper as well, though in retrospective I don’t know if she believed in Jesus, as we never really talked about religion at all. The first time I heard of Jesus, was if I remember correcly, in my first visit of church as a little boy on Christmas. Christmas along with Easter was pretty much the only time we went to church and we did it for cultural reasons because everybody else went as well. All in all I was raised deistically with a sense of apathy towards the subject of God.We just lived and enjoyed life (as we do now as well) and that was it.

I was taught about the world religions in school, with an emphasis on Christianity of course but we also learned about Islam and the other world religions and what other people believe. I’m glad that we learned about the different belief systems in the world, because this gave me the first bit of perspective that I needed: There’s much disagreement among religions and who has the right God and who doesn’t.

By the age of about 12 I completely rejected the notion, that Jesus was raised from the dead because at that time I came to know that the gospels borrowed from each other heavily and that we only got copies of copies of accounts written decades after the fact (I still can’t believe that my Catholic teacher told us that, yet she still believed it happened).

So Jesus was done for me at that point, but I still held on to some version of a deity. At that stage of my life I didn’t think about the topic at all and I didn’t really care all that much about the issue to be honest. I just figured if everybody believes it, then they must have some kind of justification.

At age 18 then we learned about supposed evidences for God in school. These “evidences” included¬† the 5 ways of Thomas Aquinas. Though we weren’t given any rebuttals to these arguments, I intuitively knew, that there was something wrong with them. Later the same year we also learned about theodicy which culminated in an answer that I found quite frankly outrageous: God works in mysterious ways and we can’t always understand his reasoning for doing what he does.

However I still didn’t reflect upon the issue too much. I was intellectually unsatisfied with the supposed evidence and the solution to theodicy that was offered but I didn’t let go of my “prime mover” yet.

Then I discovered some famous YouTubers like Jaclyn Glenn and The Amazing Atheist (at that point I didn’t know what an Atheist was; I did know that there are people who don’t believe in God but didn’t know the term). Watching some of their content also including some of their videos on Christianity and Islam, which I largely agreed with must’ve programmed the YouTube algorithm somehow because then I came across Hemant Mehta the Founder of FriendlyAtheist.com and I watched some of his videos which I again largely agreed with.

At that point I decided to investigate whether my belief in a deity was warranted. I found myself empty handed. After watching some debates including William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, David Silverman and Christopher Hitchens (wish you were still among us) as well as rebuttals from other YouTubers it only confirmed to me, that I really had no reason to believe. At that point I became an Atheist but didn’t want to be outspoken about it (and frankly I’m not an “in your face” Atheist in the real world though my Dad and a friend of mine who asked me knows) but then I watched the Nye vs Ham debate. I wanted to teach the bewildered followers of Ken Ham on Twitter how evolution works, however as I soon discovered, they weren’t basing their beliefs on reason and evidence but on faith alone.¬† I then found myself having fun in these discussions about science and God as well as Philosophy and after I saw what religion can do to people (like Ken’s ilk, but others as well) I decided to follow other Atheist accounts which led me to where I’m at today.

My road to Atheism was probably easier than for most former believers in deities and is probably not that interesting but that was how it happened.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Wind, Love and God’s existence

On Twitter, there are pretty much two types of Theists: The Apologists who frequently debate on God’s existence and evolution and have ready made arguments which I think we’re all familiar with and then there are the ones who generally don’t challenge themselves too much and don’t tend to interact with Atheists normally. While I am always up to joining in on a good debate, I generally like the second group better, since genuine conversation is much better reached with them. With these people it’s not about throwing out WLC type apologetics, it’s about reaching mutual understanding for each other. It’s about explaining where you’re coming from and why you hold the positions you hold.

While they don’t really debate, they do bring up one argument that I have heard way too often. Normally I wouldn’t bother criticizing it, since it’s fallaciousness is so intuitively obvious but since it comes up quite often (to me anyways) it warrants a response.

The one argument that they usually make is this:

“You see, neither of us can see wind and neither of us can see love but we both believe in it. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s the same thing with God.”

Now it is true, that we all believe in wind and love despite not seeing it (or at least not directly seeing it).

The belief in these things however is completely justified despite the fact, that we can’t observe them. Why? Because we can observe the effects that wind has on the environment. We can see what wind does to trees. We can measure how heavy the wind is blowing and we can objectively confirm that wind exists.

It’s the same with love: We can’t directly observe it (at least not without scanning the brain) but we can see the effects of love. We can see when people show a great amount of affection towards one another, we can see the love a mother has for her child through her actions. And if we you’re not on board at this point than we still have a scientific explanation for love.

One might say that we also can observe the effects of God in our daily lives. You might think that God works in such fantastic ways in your life. He answers prayers, he build you up when you’re depressed he has healed your addiction or even your disease etc.

These incidences however are purely anecdotal in nature and not objectively measurable. You might have a very strong feeling that it was God, I might have the feeling that it was just luck or my own willpower.

Now it is true, that during a disease prayer may help your healing process. I don’t dispute that at all. This however is easily attributable to the placebo effect. If you’re fully convinced that it works, then it just might work.

I have yet to see any non-trivial measurement of God in the same way, that love and wind can be measured. All we have for God are anecdotes and subjective effects that may or may not be attributable to God or our biases or something else entirely.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation