61. Are we allowed to test God?

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We all know we’re not supposed to test God, but why not? Without evidence, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to tell the difference between a real god and a fake one.

Most Christians contend that God does not allow for testing because he desires faith, and he prefers to reveal himself only to the faithful.

Skeptics contend that the real reason we’re forbidden to test God is because God would fail the test. Moreover, faith spawns confirmation bias; instead of letting the evidence drive the conclusion, we draw a conclusion, and then seek out evidence to support it. Faith can also lead us to interpret random coincidences as signs from God.

But what does the Bible really say about testing God, and how has testing been dealt with in the past? Let’s take a quick look at the Biblical history of testing God.

Enter Jesus

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
— John 4:48

While Jesus may have preferred that people just accept him on faith, it’s said that he performed many signs and wonders to prove that he was the Messiah. These signs were necessary to foster belief (if they were not necessary in some way, Jesus would not have performed them).

Interestingly, when Jesus was specifically asked for a sign, he rebuked those who asked, saying, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!” (Matt. 12:39).

So while signs were necessary, Jesus preferred to do them for people who already had faith. (This, to me, seems like preaching to the choir. Like Jesus said, it is the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy (Mark 2:17). It is the nonbeliever who needs a sign, not the believer.)

When Jesus himself was tempted by Satan, Jesus utters the now famous line, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test'” (Luke 4:12). This was in reference to Deuteronomy 6:16, which says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.” And this verse, in turn, was a reference to a time when the Israelites were wondering around the desert, and asked God for water.

Quote1By asking for water, the Israelites were testing God to see if he would provide for them, but if there was ever a group that didn’t need another sign, it was this one. These men had witnessed the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from heaven, and God leading them day and night by smoke and fire. Strangely, even after all they had witnessed, they were still asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7).

Regardless of why they remained unconvinced, God felt they were pressing their luck by asking for another sign. But in telling them to not ask for a sign, was God placing a permanent ban on all testing?

Enter Gideon

The miracles that took place in Egypt and in the desert are cited ad nauseam throughout the Old Testament as a reason to believe. But to future generations of Israelites, these stories were nothing but hearsay. If the Jews who had witnessed these events firsthand still questioned whether or not God was with them, how much hope was there for future generations who did not witness these events?

It’s no surprise that when future generations began running into trouble, they too questioned if God was with them.

Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.
— Judges 6:3-7

When an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, Gideon expresses why the Jews had lost faith:

 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
— Judges 6:13

God blamed their misfortune on their lack of faith (and the worship of Baal), but notice that Gideon says he is unable to believe because he and his people had not witnessed miracles from God. Sure, they had all heard the stories, but they had not seen these things for themselves.

gideon-tests-godSo Gideon puts God on trial, and tests him several times. God first consumes an offering that Gideon places upon a rock (Judges 6:17-22); later, God fills some fleece with dew while leaving the surrounding area dry (Judges 6:36-38), and then does the opposite (Judges 6:39-40).

But God never rebukes Gideon for testing him; God never says, “I said no testing, damn it!” God gives Gideon all the evidence he needs to believe.

Enter Elijah

Fast forward a few centuries, and the Israelites were back to worshiping Baal. And, once again, God seemed to recognize that the people needed another sign, so they could distinguish between a real god and a fake (or inferior) one.

God prompts Elijah to summon people from all over Israel to witness a test between God and Baal (1 Kings 18:19). Elijah reasons with the people saying, “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). God wasn’t trying to run from a fight, he was saying, “Come, let us put this matter to a test!”

God had no objection to being tested against another god, in fact, it was his idea!

God then rains fire upon his sacrifice, while Baal does nothing (perhaps Baal felt his people were pressing their luck, after all they had already seen, and that they should now believe on faith alone). This demonstration was great for those who witnessed it (except for the priests of Baal, of course), but the proof of this miracle did not last, and to the next generation, it was just more hearsay.

Enter Testing with Tithes

A few centuries later, the Israelites were still questioning the benefits of serving God.

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?'”
— Malachi 3:14

And, once again, God volunteers another test to confirm that serving him does make a difference:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.
— Malachi 3:10

On multiple occasions, God recognizes that evidence is the cure for doubt, and he would often show signs, or volunteer to show signs, to confirm his messages. But nowhere is the need for testing more apparent than when God is forced to deal with belief in idols.

Enter the idols

“Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; whoever chooses you is detestable.”
— Isaiah 41:21-24

In this passage, competition from other gods forces God to deal with the inherent problem of faith: no evidence. And how does God recommend dealing with this problem? Surprisingly, God advocates for a healthy dose of skepticism! God demands evidence!

Baal_Ugarit_Louvre_AO17330In an ironic twist, God now plays the role of the atheist. God does not believe in these gods, and recommends that you don’t either, not unless they can provide some pretty extraordinary evidence. God says, “If idols cannot present respectable evidence, then they are not to be believed. Let these gods predict the future, or tell us about the past, or do something amazing that fills us with fear and awe, that we may know they are real. If they can not do these things, then they are worthless, and those who believe in them are idiots.”

But when it comes to testing God, a double standard emerges.

When these idols failed to deliver (as they surely did), we do not hear them offering the kinds of excuses we hear coming from God. The idols do not say, “You should not test the idols!” (see Luke 4:12), or “A wicked and adulterous generation asks the idols for a sign!” (see Matt. 12:38-39), or “When you seek the idols with all your heart, only then will you find them” (see Jeremiah 29:13), or “If we idols show you a sign, it will destroy freewill!” and so on. 

When it comes to belief in other gods, God demands evidence before faith, but when it comes to belief in God, God demands faith before evidence.

It seems only fair that we place the same demands on God that he has placed on the idols, and demand evidence before faith, and so this is my response to this passage:

God of Abraham, present your case! Set forth your arguments! Tell us, what is going to happen, and this time, be specific! Tell us exactly when an extremely unlikely event is going to happen, or give us unambiguous information about your creation that we have yet to discover, so that we may know that you are God.

I have examined your prophecies and (thus far) I have found them to be little more than subjective vagaries that are heavily reinterpreted in hindsight; such tricks have been faked by many others.

I have also examined your historical insights and found them lacking. Mankind has discovered no clear evidence for a historical global flood and extinction, but we have found evidence for five separate mass extinctions (none by flood) that you fail to mention. There is also evidence that there were times when much of the earth was covered by ice; and that there were long periods of time when different types of animals were present (sans-humans); and times when giant meteors impacted the earth, but you make no clear mention of any of these historical events. Your genealogies also lead us to believe that the earth is much younger than the evidence suggests.

I have also examined your knowledge of your creation and found it lacking, with no mention of how everything is built from atoms, or how the earth is covered with living things invisible to the naked eye; there are no “divinely inspired” maps of the lands you created, no mention of the land or the Indians living across the sea, no mention of how our planet is but one of many orbiting other stars; no description of how the earth and planets orbit the sun, and no mention of other galaxies. You do not describe natural laws, though you are credited with creating them; the Bible contains no revolutionary description of physics, or relativity, or quantum physics — nor any explanatory “theory of everything.” From the biggest to the smallest, your knowledge is limited to the observable.

Failing all these things, I feel I have no choice but to ask for a sign like the kind you demanded of the idols, like the signs you offered the Israelites in Egypt and in the desert, or the signs you gave to Gideon, or Hezekiah, or Thomas. Do something — right now (so I don’t later mistake a coincidence for a sign) — whether good or bad, so that I will be dismayed and filled with fear. Send down fire from heaven as you did for Elijah, or write upon that wall as you did for King Belshazzar, or turn my glass of water into wine, or appear before me as you did Paul, or flip that light switch, or levitate this coin — do something that I may have evidence that you are less imaginary than Baal and the idols.

If you cannot do the things you challenged the idols to do, then I can only conclude that you too must be man-made, the product of myth and legend; an antiquated superstition invented to try and explain the unexplainable, control the uncontrollable, and console the inconsolable.

Conclusion

Like the Isrealites, our generation is left asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?” “Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about?” and “What do we gain by carrying out his requirements?”

Out of desperation, we test God, but instead of receiving a clear sign that he is not imaginary, we are fed excuses. We are told, “You are wicked for asking for a sign!” Really? Why? God himself demanded a sign from the idols before believing in them. Or we are told, “You will be blessed for believing what you have not seen!” (John 20:29). But any imaginary god can offer imaginary blessings! I don’t need a promise of future blessings, I need evidence, and would gladly forego all the imaginary blessings offered by all the imaginary gods in exchange for proof from one of them.

As a Christian for over 30 years, I accepted the claims of the Bible on faith alone, and met God on his terms. I’ve spent countless hours listening for God’s “still small voice,” I’ve heard many claims of miracles, I’ve been “slain in the spirit,” and I’ve spoken in tongues, but these are also evidences that must be accepted on faith, or there are alternative explanations for these things, and none would convince me more than God responding to a very simple test.

So just as the Isrealites in the desert demanded evidence, just as Gideon demanded evidence, just as the later generations of Israelites demanded evidence, just as Thomas demanded evidence, and just as the Lord God Almighty himself demanded evidence from Baal and the idols, I too feel it is not unreasonable to request a demonstration before believing the extraordinary claims of God and Christianity.

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46 Responses to 61. Are we allowed to test God?

  1. Rob says:

    I take no pleasure in agreeing with your conclusion, but it is the same as mine, especially in view of all the up to date scientific discoveries.
    The only thing I cannot dismiss is Jesus. He is the only teacher who declared he is the son of God, and his life story is so bizarre that it could not have been made up especially when he is the coming hero who became an embarrassment to many including his parents (when they found him at 12 years old preaching to church elders).

    • Rob,

      Respectfully Sir, you are presuming that the canonical Scriptures are valid or infallable. With each passing year and decade, the canonical stories of Yeshua become more flawed and actually the modified residuals of Constantine’s bishops. Look further into unbiased, or non-Christian sources, for a comprehensive consensus. And getting into or mentioning the clear Hillel education and Hasmonean influences on Saul (of Tarsus) and those groups being favored by Rome, further show the dicotomy of Judeo-Christians in 1st century CE Jerusalem (Yeshua and James the Brrother of Yeshua, to name two) and that of Rome, Constantine, his bishops, and their favored (Asia Minor) Jews. The fulll life of Jesus/Yeshua is by no means clearly known today.

      Happy New Year to you Sir.

  2. Anonymous says:

    a little disappointed…this is simply a repeat of question 7

    • The two are closely related, but I felt it was far too easy for believers to write off question #7 (as some did) by saying, “Matthew 4:7 tells us not to put the Lord God to the test!” So I wanted to delve deeper into this objection to testing, and show that not only does God favor demonstrations, but he also demands them of other gods.

      500Q

  3. Patrick says:

    Was gonna leave a detailed response but then I happened to click on the index and read your post on I.D. The astoundingly poor arguments both there and here have pretty much convinced me that you are quite content just to keep erecting these numerous straw men, for the sole purpose of shooting them down gleefully. While this may serve to reinforce your own position and those of others who may think like you, (and I certainly do not wish to encroach on the fun), it does nothing for rational discourse. At the very least, one should make an effort to accurately represent the Christian position if you are going to question (attack) it; more so for someone who had been in the Church for 30 years. I will just make two points – one from each article.

    1. ID does not posit that “a very complex being” who may / may not exist and requires no explanation for his existence, is responsible for the universe. Rather, that INFORMATION, found in the genetic code, and which constitutes the building blocks of life, cannot arise by random chance. That an Intelligent agent is always responsible for information. In other words, a monkey banging away at a typewriter for a million years is incapable of producing the complete works of Shakespeare, especially if you factor in the proof-reading nature of DNA replication. This is a self-evident assertion which is only being debated either by those who do not understand the premise of the ID argument, or those who cannot deal with its implication. Thus, multiverses, aliens, and other fantastical theories have been propounded by scientists to attempt to solve this problem. The question of who designed the designer is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to this point whether the designer was aliens, another universe, or God. Information simply requires an intelligent agent. period.

    2. If I told you I asked God to do something for me and he did, you would claim (as politely and nicely as possible), that it is my personal subjective experience and therefore not enough to satisfy you. It would then appear that you need something personal and specific like lifting a coin. I find that to be extremely amusing for the simple reason that I personally, would not even respond to such a challenge as a human being. If I was an infinite supreme God, I wonder how insulted I would feel. The existence of God can be supported by logical evidence, historical evidence, and even cosmological evidence. It is either you are not aware of these, or you have chosen to disregard them in favor of your coin. Your tone however, makes it appear you are rather convinced that God does NOT exist and as such, you are not really asking question, but rather, indoctrinating your readers with your OPINIONS cleverly couched as questions. Were God to answer your silly challenge, how would you ever convince anyone? Think about that. There are numerous accounts of miracles worldwide but none can convince you except you personally experienced them. You are using empiricism to attempt to box an infinite God into a corner, and demand he must do something your way. No, he mustn’t. I feel so sad because you will NEVER get God to respond to you with your arrogant challenges. None of those you cited in the Bible ever did. They asked humbly and God answered because he chose to, not that he was compelled to.

    This is already too long. Happy new year and God bless.

    • Hi Patrick,

      For the sake of uniformity, I’m going to respond to the second question since it’s more on topic.

      “If I told you I asked God to do something for me and he did, you would claim (as politely and nicely as possible), that it is my personal subjective experience and therefore not enough to satisfy you.”

      Correct. I’ve heard Mormons tell me that God placed a burning in their bosom when they asked if the Book of Mormon was true, and I don’t believe them, either. As long as there are competing subjective personal experiences, we can’t claim that all of them are real.

      “The existence of God can be supported by logical evidence, historical evidence, and even cosmological evidence. It is either you are not aware of these, or you have chosen to disregard them in favor of your coin.”

      If the evidence was obvious, then everyone would agree. I used these same arguments as a Christian and, upon hearing the counter-arguments and gathering more information, I was forced to change my mind. I’m willing to explore your arguments as long as they’re good ones, but you’ll have to list them specifically. But at this point, I do not find the arguments convincing, and so I would require more evidence.

      “Your tone however, makes it appear you are rather convinced that God does NOT exist and as such, you are not really asking question, but rather, indoctrinating your readers with your OPINIONS cleverly couched as questions.”

      My tone is skeptical, because I am! But I am well aware of personal bias, so I’m always asking myself, “What if I’m wrong?” and “What does the opposition say, and is it convincing?” I consult as many Christian sources as skeptical ones (you’ll find some quotes and links above). But you shouldn’t just believe me, you should do your own homework and draw your own conclusions, either way.

      “Were God to answer your silly challenge, how would you ever convince anyone? Think about that.”

      The challenge is for me, not anyone else. Though if it did happen, I would gladly retract everything I’ve said here and tell others what happened. But as always, God continues to fail to answer my “silly” requests.

      “There are numerous accounts of miracles worldwide but none can convince you except you personally experienced them.”

      Miracles are a fascinating subject, and I plan to explore this area in the future. But if someone I knew regrew a limb after praying for one, I would be convinced. But would YOU be convinced about Islam if they could show you a “miracle”? I imagine you too would be skeptical.

      “You are using empiricism to attempt to box an infinite God into a corner, and demand he must do something your way. “

      Not at all, I’m open to any form of convincing evidence (such as the regrown limb, or God demonstrating impossible knowledge, etc.). But I would place restrictions on what I consider convincing, and those restrictions would be the same for all gods and religions.

      500Q

      • Patrick says:

        Hi 500Q, let me attempt a response”

        “Correct. I’ve heard Mormons tell me that God placed a burning in their bosom when they asked if the Book of Mormon was true, and I don’t believe them, either. As long as there are competing subjective personal experiences, we can’t claim that all of them are real.”

        This is a really ridiculous argument if you were to think deeply about it. …and again, it is a straw man.
        1. No one said ALL experiences were real. That’s the straw man.
        2. What you are actually saying is that conflicting experiences mean NONE are real. There is no way you could possibly arrive at that conclusion logically. Give it your best shot.

        “If the evidence was obvious, then everyone would agree. I used these same arguments as a Christian and, upon hearing the counter-arguments and gathering more information, I was forced to change my mind. I’m willing to explore your arguments as long as they’re good ones, but you’ll have to list them specifically. But at this point, I do not find the arguments convincing, and so I would require more evidence.”

        This is another false claim. There are so many things with “obvious evidence” that “everyone” does not agree with. Think about this for a moment.
        1. Evidence is always subject to the bias of the person interpreting it.
        2. There are also different types of evidence and not all are empirical. Otherwise, we would throw out evolution for our inability to recreate it experimentally. Evolutionary “evidence” is basically historical (archeological), not empirical.
        3. I will put it to you that the arguments for the existence of God have far higher PROBABILITY than those that attempt to deny him – logically I mean of course. The problem is that while most atheists think they understand the arguments, they really do not – as evidenced by their constant misrepresentation. The few atheists I know who have REALLY understood the arguments have ended up with a statement like: “well, your argument shows that theism is indeed LIKELY, but I do not have enough faith to say categorically that God DEFINITELY exists.” I respect this. I have listened as well to the best atheistic arguments against the moral, cosmological, and transcendental ones, and they are logically inept.

        “The challenge is for me, not anyone else. Though if it did happen, I would gladly retract everything I’ve said here and tell others what happened. But as always, God continues to fail to answer my “silly” requests.”

        The point is that it would just be your personal subjective experience as well, and it could not possibly be true going by your earlier position. What makes you so special that it is your own personal experience that finally answers the age long question of the existence of God? If the compelling theistic arguments cannot convince you, I’m afraid nothing will.

        “Miracles are a fascinating subject, and I plan to explore this area in the future. But if someone I knew regrew a limb after praying for one, I would be convinced. But would YOU be convinced about Islam if they could show you a “miracle”? I imagine you too would be skeptical.”

        1. A muslim showing me a miracle will not convince me that Islam’s god is the TRUE one, because there are LOGICAL reasons (stemming from my studying of the Quran), why I do not believe in Islam’s god, and it has nothing to do with miracles, any more than my belief in the Christian God has to do with his miracles. It will also have no bearing on whether or not a miracle REALLY occurred. Miracles are not the sole preserve of God and that is why they are a very poor yard stick in “proving” his existence.
        2. Ditto my earlier response about you and your subjective experience. Let me give you an illustration: A man from some remote village insists that president Obama does not exist / he “does not believe” in Obama. He is shown LOGICAL evidence that makes it PROBABLE that Obama exists, and which more importantly, renders the counter-arguments absurd. Yet he refuses. When shown Obama on TV, he maintains that it is an impostor since he has never PERSONALLY seen him. When asked what it will take to convince him, he says, if Obama came to his hut and specifically shook his hands. That will never happen and this fellow will die believing Obama does not exist. There are laid out procedures for meeting Obama and this fellow will have to follow them, no matter how important he believes his own personal experience to be. The Christian God, a being quite higher than the president, says you will have to acknowledge him before you can make requests of him. You have two options at this point: dismiss it as nonsense and forget about him or approach him on HIS terms.

        “Not at all, I’m open to any form of convincing evidence (such as the regrown limb, or God demonstrating impossible knowledge, etc.). But I would place restrictions on what I consider convincing, and those restrictions would be the same for all gods and religions.”

        In order words, you determine the kind of evidence that can convince you and you don’t think this is biased in any way?? You have also contradicted your earlier position that once there is evidence, everyone will be convinced. Now, it appears evidence needs to tailored for each individual as well as subsequently interpreted. Another atheist (either Matt Dillahunty or Aaron Ra I forget which), said even if he saw someone rise from the dead, he would not believe. He does not know what it will take to convince him but he is sure God knows and presumably, he should get off his ass and get to work convincing him. I’m sorry to say this, but most atheists appear consumed with their own self-importance and vaunted “knowledge.” God is still resisting the proud to this day. The irony of course, is that an atheist cannot even begin to explain the origin of the laws of logic which he claims to rely upon for his refusal to believe in God. Would a rock still be a rock if there was no mind to say it was, or is there a conceivable universe where a rock is the same as a flower (law of identity)? Can a rock both exist and not exist at the same time – even without a mind to conceptualize it (law of noncontradiction)?? If these laws are clearly transcendent to our minds and are not physical properties of the universe, where do they come from??

        There is evidence for the existence of God, and logical arguments to support it as well. That you find them not compelling is of course, your undeniable right, but is totally different from the position that no evidence exists.

        Cheers and sorry for the length again.

        • Leighton Taylor says:

          @Patrick,

          The mere fact that YOU have to be arguing and presenting information on behalf of GOD is enough evidence to convince me that the article is correct.

          • Ya… that really is the whole point.

            There’s no shortage of representatives willing to defend various gods, but like the Bible says, these gods are worthless if they can’t show up and defend themselves.

            500Q

          • Patrick says:

            Wow! How astute! This has really wrecked my entire arguments and rendered them invalid. I feel so ashamed of myself right now… And yes, I am aware that this is the level at which atheists love to engage: zingers, wisecracks, sideswipes etc. God forbid they ever have to think LOGICALLY about anything. Like I said earlier, carry on boys! Don’t let me interfere with the fun. Cheers!

            • Leighton Taylor says:

              Logical thinking can never be applied to religion, especially christianity. I find it very hyprocritical that persons like yourself try to use science to prove GOD and the bible.

              • Patrick says:

                Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was up to you to determine where logical thinking can be applied. I must then apologize for having the temerity to be a scientist, a former agnostic, and now a Christian. Also accept my apologies on behalf of logical, Christian scientists all over the world. We did not mean to offend you …burst your blissful bubble. Do forgive us. Don’t hesitate to let me know if there are other things you don’t “personally” like…

                • Leighton Taylor says:

                  Thre is no logical christian scientists, that term is so ridiculous I dont even know where to begin. Lets just say none of your peer would be willing to examine the bible for irrefutable evidence before insisting it is true..That is the basis of what science is about…

                  • Leighton Taylor says:

                    Christianity is a delusion that should be rejected. More specifically, Christianity makes a very large truth claim that cannot be reasonably defended on the basis of the available evidence. In addition, I describe why I am an atheist and what it means to live life without God. My entire case is a fairly comprehensive one, a complete case, from start to finish, from a former insider to the Christian faith.

                    It is my view that everyone should approach religion in general, and Christianity in particular, from the default position of skepticism. Anyone who subsequently moves away from that default position has the burden of proof, for to accept a religious set of beliefs is to accept a positive truth claim. This best expresses my set of control beliefs, from which I derive two others:

                    1.There is a strong probability that every event is a natural one to be explained by natural forces alone.
                    2.The scientific method is the most reliable (and probably the only) guide we have for determining the truth about the world.

    • BIGFOOT says:

      Enough said. I wont add a point!! And thanks Patrick

    • johnkutensky says:

      Regarding one, doesn’t it eventually require some sort of supernatural agent in the end? Let’s say aliens created us. Who created them? Let’s say someone from another universe created us. Who created her? You say that some sort of intelligence is necessary for information, but whence did their information come, then? Sure, *our* designer could be anyone, but the First Designer, under this theory, must logically be special in some way and excluded from the usual requirements, which implies something supernatural.

      As for two, every religion has tales of miracles. If such tales satisfy one person that the Bible is correct, why don’t similar tales convince them that Jupiter is optimus et maximus? If myriad options all have similar levels of evidence (which are, let’s face it, low), is it really so odd that we ask for further evidence? The scientific process has produced the computer you typed that on and the internet that sent it to this blog, so you clearly use its products. It’s a bit odd to suddenly claim it can’t work. James Randi does an amazing job of showing the sort of simple tests that can be conducted for supernatural phenomenon, and that, so far, no one has passed.

      As for the simplicity of the test, well, let God perform a grand miracle. Let limbs regenerate with Bible verses tattooed upon them, that change from day to day. Let a giant cross come down from the heavens, orbit the earth, and vaporize the most evil of men. If we ask for something small, you say it’s beneath God. If we ask for something large, what’s your excuse?

      • Patrick says:

        Thanks a lot for posting this. It proves EVERYTHING I said earlier about atheists misrepresenting Christian arguments because they have not taken the time to understand them.

        “Regarding one, doesn’t it eventually require some sort of supernatural agent in the end? Let’s say aliens created us. Who created them? Let’s say someone from another universe created us. Who created her?”

        If that is where the evidence leads, why are you as a supposed evidentialist so afraid to even entertain the possibility of a supernatural? This is usually the point where the atheist replies with “because there is no EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE for the existence of the supernatural”; ironically failing to see that he has just committed a category error by demanding natural evidence for the SUPERnatural…. akin to going fishing with a metal detector.

        “You say that some sort of intelligence is necessary for information, but whence did their information come, then?”

        I did not say this. It is self-evident to anyone who bothers to think about it. It is also fundamental to Information Theory. Information is ALWAYS the result of intelligent agency and not random chance. This is even more pertinent in the case of DNA replication which has a very stringent proofreading mechanism that does not allow for the trial and error method proposed by those who claim the genetic information (building blocks) necessary for life, arose randomly.

        The later part of your comment is actually full of red herrings totally unrelated to my point. Interesting though that you think the regenerated tattooed limb / flying cross is “something large” for a God who supposedly created the entire universe. The request is not insulting because it is just a coin. It is insulting because you are asking for a God who if he exists, is orders of magnitude greater than anything you can ever comprehend, to do a task to prove his existence to you. You will only be able to achieve this if you are indeed greater than this god and can order him around. Just goes to show that you are not really responding to my comment even though you think you are.

        • johnkutensky says:

          Well for the first part, I don’t think your argument is correct, so the “evidence” doesn’t lead me there. There is absolutely no evidence that life requires an intelligent creator. So the evidence doesn’t lead me there. If there were something about life that I thought required intelligence, then yes, I admit, I would be forced to conclude that there’s a supernatural creator. But, as I’ve said, there is no reason for me to accept that. Even if I were forced to accept a supernatural creator, that still tells me nothing about the creator, although I for one want nothing to do with a creator that would invent the various parasites and pathogens that live on earth.

          What exactly do you consider information to consist of? Is birdsong information? If so, do you consider birds intelligent? If not, why not? What about layers of sediment? Is that not information? If it isn’t, how can geologists use it to determine so much about earth’s history? Is a meteor crater information? If so, was the meteor intelligent? If not, why can so much be learnt by studying them? I can go on ad infinitum, but I think it’s clear that either information can be produced by unintelligent, and indeed, nonliving sources, or you have a very stringent definition of information that was chosen to support your pet theory. If, in every case you’ve seen, information was produced by intelligence, how do you prove that that is always the case? There’s more to information than information theory, Horatio, despite its name.

          You say that it’s insulting that I ask God to prove himself, yet God’s the one who first inserted himself into human affairs. If an ant asked me for evidence of myself, I probably would just keep walking, but if I first got down into the dirt with them, started commanding them to chop off their antennae, told them that eating certain grasses aren’t kosher, &c., and they asked why they should do that, I shouldn’t suddenly act as though they have no reason to do so. Isn’t it convenient that the god you describe acts exactly as we would expect nothingness to act? If god doesn’t answer prayers, doesn’t perform miracles, and refuses to answer our questions at all, what good is he? You can talk about the afterlife, but there’s no evidence it exists, and there’s no evidence your god tells the truth about it. Wouldn’t even asking about it be verboten by your standards?

          Even Saint Odhran told us, after having returned from the dead, that, “There is no Hell as you suppose, nor Heaven that people talk about.” Now, if this Christian legend is correct, how do you know anything is knowable about Christian mythology? If this legend is incorrect, how do you prove it is wrong and those you follow are right?

          So, to recap. For my first objection, you pretty much immediately conceded that a supernatural agent is required, and aliens or other universes don’t logically fly. You then proceeded to assume that your argument is correct without evidence or proof. For my second objection, you state information requires intelligence, without evidence or proof. You then state that God is simply above testing, with very nicely makes your position unable to be falsified to your satisfaction. Very well, then. The ghost of Sargon of Akkad watches over all of us, and when we die, everyone who ever argued for Christianity on the internet is tossed into a lake of flaming feces. He is so far above you as to reply to every attempt at testing or communication with silent indifference, and he refuses to sway outcomes in a way that is distinguishable from random chance at a statistically significant level. Refute me.

          • Patrick says:

            Thanks again for continuing to make my point Let me try and itemize:

            1. “There is absolutely no evidence that life requires an intelligent creator.”

            This is not the argument. You are responding to a straw man here. Information (just like that contained in the genetic CODE), always requires intelligent agency. Try and respond to this argument. If you do not know anything about this, research it.

            2. “Even if I were forced to accept a supernatural creator, that still tells me nothing about the creator, although I for one want nothing to do with a creator that would invent the various parasites and pathogens that live on earth.”

            No one is forcing you to accept anything. You should be open to examine evidence logically. Your affection for a creator (if one exists) is really irrelevant. Atheists usually find it extremely difficult to stay on topic.

            3. I thought theists were the “lazy” ones. You will have to go and read up on what information is, and while you’re at it, try and understand the proofreading that goes on during DNA replication. It practically throws “random chance” out of the window – which has been my point all along; ergo the aliens, multiverse theories etc. proposed as alternatives by other scientists. To help you out a bit, birdsong is indeed information by intelligent birds as exemplified by the fact that it is used to transmit a message, either a mating call, territorial aggression, etc. Other birds hear it and can understand the message it is transmitting. If humans could understand birdsong, we would get the message as well as INTENDED from one bird to another. After all, we can already study the patterns and in some cases, attempt to deduce their meaning. Imagine if we could understand birdsong and the message it conveyed, and someone came out tomorrow to say that this very coherent piece of information (calling for a mate for example), is not being produced by an intelligent agent but occurs just randomly for no reason. We would of course protest that this is erroneous. Extrapolate that to DNA. We are able to “understand” the information being conveyed by it to facilitate protein synthesis and all life processes. Information that is extremely specific in detail. We are therefore not out of order to insist that our common experience indicates that information is always produced by intelligent agency and not random chance. Rock formations and meteor craters are not transmitting information. There was no intention by either the rocks or the meteors to communicate with anything or anyone. They are studied and the data gathered from them is INTERPRETED by an intelligent agent who coalesces it into the INFORMATION you read in the scientific journal.

            4. “If god doesn’t answer prayers, doesn’t perform miracles, and refuses to answer our questions at all, what good is he?” This claim is another straw man (you seem to be a specialist in them). You are the one living in abject denial of God’s existence and then questioning why he does not reveal himself to you… like he owes you something Amazing really. I enjoy quite an interesting relationship with God after so many years of agnostic atheism, and you can too if you wish.

            Cheers!

            • johnkutensky says:

              Who’s DNA trying to communicate with, then?

              • Patrick says:

                This question is as silly as asking “who is birdsong trying to communicate with.” …or who is a book (media for CONVEYING information) trying to communicate with. What is clear is that you really have no clue what information is. Read it again:

                Extrapolate that to DNA. We are able to “understand” the information being conveyed by it to facilitate protein synthesis and all life processes. Information that is extremely specific in detail.

                • johnkutensky says:

                  “Rock formations and meteor craters are not transmitting information. There was no intention by either the rocks or the meteors to communicate with anything or anyone.”

                  • Patrick says:

                    Sigh. I simply will not do your reading for you. In any case, that is correct. A meteor randomly lands on earth and leaves a crater. A CRATER! This may / may not be studied to gather DATA. Data that can be compiled by an intelligent agent into coherent information. At no point in this process was there any intention on the part of the meteor to inform anyone of anything.

                    From the very first link on googling DNA function: “Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic INSTRUCTIONS for the development and function of living things. All known cellular life and some viruses contain DNA. The main role of DNA in the cell is the long-term storage of INFORMATION.”
                    —sciencedaily(DOT)com/articles/d/dna(DOT)htm

            • BIGFOOT says:

              Hey Patrick, I’d like to read more of your insightful arguments. Can you direct me to your sight? Thanks

              • Patrick says:

                Sorry, I don’t have one 😦 You can search online for any topic that interests you though, or ask me specific questions and I’ll try to direct you to resources on that.

  4. 500Q,

    You bring up some of the most compelling questions for all Abrahamic faith-followers. Well done. Excellent!

    The question I feel you’ve more significantly raised is the validity of the biblical authors, or more to the point, the biblical authors’ use of circular reasoning. In other words, the premises of the biblical passages, as well as the whole canonical Xian bible, are just as much in need of proof or evidence as their conclusions. And in order to defend their “divine-selected” position, biblical apologists typically rely on more faith or “divine revelation” (which in itself is or should be based on experience or data of) the transcribed words, passages, and their interpolations from the highest authority. Hence, one MUST go outside the Holy Scriptures to prove the validity of its author(s)!

    Naturally, going there opens a large can-of-worms and rabbit trails that are beyond the scope of this fine post and my comment here. Suffice it to say, that any person with an above-average intellect (that his/her Creator gave — hehe) should use their gift of reasoning, if for no other reason than to conclude (at least temporarily until further data can be accumulated?) that a conclusion or conclusions cannot be reached sufficiently until a later date. But of course, faith-believers cannot STAND to be left in limbo (fear)! In their eyes and minds, existence and the after-life MUST be black or white and urgently quickly answered. There is no other possibility! They have chosen to and want to live in a strictly binary system; no exceptions — therefore they create and preach/promote a binary God and a binary (good vs. evil) world.

    Footnote: fortunately or unfortunately, depending on individual preference, most know that in a scientific macrocosm, to the atomic and sub-atomic microcosms, the biological, genetic, quantum mechanics, etc, et al, in all secular fields, we now know our planet, solar system, and Universe/Multiverse simply does NOT operate in that fashion.

    Aside from an apologist’s or faith-follower’s circular logic, I am personally fine with (and embrace) unknowns or inconclusives once human experience, human limitations, human comprehension (fear?) are reached. All that means is agnosticism; or more precisely temporary agnosticism. It’s all good. Indeed, I am earnestly trying to use my God-given intelligence to figure out as much as I can or cannot. LOL

    But for the record, I am a freethinking humanist. 😉 In hindsight, I’ve recognized just how much fear lies in the undercurrent of Abrahamic religions. It is astounding! If you took away all fear in our existence, especially the high levels inside the Abrahamic faiths, what need would we have to concern ourselves, no… horrify ourselves with the future!?

    In closing, I too am like you 500Q. I begged God (the Xian God?) to show me His wonders, His power, His grace, all of his personality… in return for my 110% effort (in Seminary) and “faith.” After almost 10 years of that commitment, when confronted by cynics and other world faiths non-stop, I found myself frequently committing intellectual suicide, or swallowing more and more “faith” in the face of mounting data/evidence and improved science demonstrating my fallacies. And then one day, the final nail into my Xian coffin. I am very happy to say that I am now the happiest I’ve ever been! More importantly, I have so much LESS fear in my life, so much LESS anxiety about others and this beautiful, violent, fragile, life-giving world, that ironically I now have MORE love, patience, and determination for mankind and our cosmic home! It is a very good place to be in.

    Another fantastic post and questions 500. Thank you for your hard work and homework on these subjects! Many people (most people?) are too lazy to do the necessary work. “Faith” is the much easier more convenient path for the lazy. Much applause for you Sir.

  5. johnkutensky says:

    Great post! Thanks for writing it up. It’s great to have so many examples all in one place.

  6. Daniel says:

    Wow! I just want to tell you that I love reading these blogs! I discovered them yesterday but have already spent a lot of time reading them as they are incredibly interesting 😀 As a ‘weak’ Christian (or a de-converting one) myself, I find it very healthy for my psyche to be analyzing such important questions about my worldview as opposed to blindly holding onto a single position out of “faith.” Feels good being a free thinker! Once again, thank you.

    • Socrates once stated: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. It’s true because otherwise by not examining nature, systems, or ourselves, existence becomes like that of an animal: simply hunting, surviving, repeat. Wasting that opportunity is utterly foolish. As a Freethinking Humanist myself, I echo your sentiment and praise for 500Q’s blog. 🙂

      • BIGFOOT says:

        If we exclude God from our humanity, I really do not see what Man becomes but a glorified animal. If God does not exists, we are nothing but animals. Good and evil ceases to exists, and the world ends up being just one monolithic Jungle. Its a fearful thing to even imagine

        • I understand your concern (fear?) Bigfoot. It seems at the moment we have two different levels and categories of “fear/concern” about our existence. However, with that said, we do see in numerous animal species how superbly well they care and protect their own to survive and flourish. The love and teamwork they exhibit is remarkable in many ways. Several species with this behavior and/or DNA wiring come to mind. Perhaps I do not carry the same view of animals as you do. 🙂

          Best wishes to you.

          • BIGFOOT says:

            “The love and teamwork they exhibit is remarkable in many ways.”

            That exactly why I take back my claim that without God, man ends up being a “glorified animal” A man without God, is far worse than an animal. Animals are basically subjective to the creative law that fashion them. So, they cannot help being what they are. I cannot blame a hyena for being a hyena. Nor a vulture for being a vulture. To the extent that Man is an Intelligently Self-controlling being, a rational being with a free will, he can be better. When he refused to acknowledge his maker he can not be compare with animals. He becomes worse than any animal. He becomes a Demon.

        • Alpha says:

          The best reply for this is in the words of Terry Practhett. Short, sweet, and encompassing all there is to say: “I’d rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.”

          In longer words:
          “I got quite annoyed after the Haiti earthquake. A baby was taken from the wreckage and people said it was a miracle. It would have been a miracle had God stopped the earthquake. More wonderful was that a load of evolved monkeys got together to save the life of a child that wasn’t theirs.”
          (RIP Sir Terry Pratchett 😥 The world has lost one of its most brilliant minds.)

          One more. “You don’t need to know good from evil if you know right from wrong.” Put frankly, I do what is right because I believe it’s right, not because a god told me to. I would take a life without God any day – I don’t appreciate being threatened to be sent to hell for eternity because I didn’t worship him.

          Nice job btw 500Q 🙂

  7. Bigfoot,

    I will not refute that in many ways the human species, by comparison, appears to be the “superior” species to other species on Earth. But as you also allude, that same species has the ability — or actually has already exhibited its “demonic” behavior throughout humanity’s entire recorded history — to be the scourge of the planet, recklessly plundering this planet’s resources and commiting vast genocide upon its own kind. There are thousands of examples & illustrations of both good and bad.

    What I was attempting to point out was my personal view of humanity, of Earth’s animals, and this planet’s provisions for our birth, survival or prosperity, and our death; they are all equal in scope. All organic species on this planet, including us, are utterly sustained and terminated by this atomic & sub-atomic microsystem of Earth, as well as its solar system within this vast cosmos: the macro-systems. How much “free-will” do we really have inside systems that enormous? Yes, due to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution & genetic permutations we now have more influence upon the smaller (tinier?) systems around us, ironically similiar to animal’s evolution but on bigger scales. Hopefully, this will continue improving! Yet if a massive earthquake then the following tsunami, or a volcanic eruption the magnitude & size of Mt. Krakatoa in 1883 which caused the “Little Ice Age” over half the planet… were to befall humanity, we most CERTAINLY “cannot help being what [we] are“… part of the same unfortunate ‘kingdom’ as our inferior species. 😉

    Again, I see our personal fears/concerns about this existence being quite different. The “acknowledgment” you reference (or lack of) is very, very different than mine. Mine is rooted in the recognition of my place in these multiple systems understood through never-ending examination, testings, re-examinations and re-testings, followed by acceptance… no, probaby more like EMBRACING the prominance and subordinance. What we cannot control (or understand) at the moment does not have to nor should it induce paralyzing fear. Nor should it induce fantastical myths that reduce us into de-evolution. Because of man’s scientific brilliance in determining events after death, for example the Law of Conservation of Energy/Mass, I have no crippling fear of what will happen when my organic body ceases. The last century’s science — particularly in Quantum Physics & meta-physics — is emassing sufficient data to show that “life” never ends. It merely changes form. For me, that is not only exciting, but utterly freeing to live THIS LIFE to the fullest without crippling fear or judgments. And I’m excited to share that same thrill with others, if they’re open-minded, courageous, and adament enough to always examine it?

    Best wishes to you Sir.

    • BIGFOOT says:

      Well, I guess if I can summarize your point, basically, you come out as a “free-thinker” who accepts that “life is the beginning and the end of it” so, “let eat, drink, and be merry” so that if a Mt. Krakatoa explodes tomorrow, or some other global catastrophe happens, we will be decimated like every other creature” I have a problem with this reasoning. There; Reasoning. My perplexity with human being is “why reason?” Why Logic? Why Judgment? Why discernment? why curiosity? Why Consciousness?” As a “free-thinker” I am amazed that these attributes of human being have not provoked a curiosity in you. “How much “free-will” do we really have inside systems that enormous?”

      I admit that until recently, I have been a victim of “group thinking” Group-think require conformity. And conformity require emulation of group character traits, and systems. It’s a kind of “Matrix” As long as you want to “belong” to a group, you accept to surrender your “free-will” and put on the “behavioral jacket” of the group. So, to answer your question, your free-will is dependent on the extent to which you have allowed yourself to the autosuggestion of the group thought matrix. Its called, entangled consciousness.
      But that does not do away with the free-will. One can still recover it, if he adopts your methodology of testing, and accepting what makes sense, and rejecting what does not make sense-individually. But “sense” here, may also be relative because all you will ever know of the reality ends up being a subjective opinion. So, if you are wrong, and maybe the “group” is right, well, you will suffer the consequences personally.

      This exposure to the entangled mind matrix of the group, is what makes human being capricious, and therefore dangerous. Its what enslaves many. Its what unfortunately, brings the worst in us, especially if we are so naive as to believe the bests of everybody. This is where we come to Judgment. Our capacity to discern, sturdy, investigate, evaluate, analyze, compare etc. All this infer choices. And choices infer preference. No other animal is judgmental-except Man. This capacity to judge in itself is a proof of “free-will” And Free-will and judgment shows that Man, is an “Intelligently Self-controlling” being-not subjective to biophysical impulses unless he surrender consciously to control from without. Why then-Intelligence? How is it, we are Intelligent, and we are the only species which endangers the planet? Does not that appear to you absurd? If this does not provoke your curiosity you are missing something.

      As I told you, I have been a victim of group thought, until circumstances drove me away from the group. In fact, its like I was chased away, for one reason or another. Of cause I was bitter. I now know why members of cults, are afraid to free. Now, after years of solitude, I started questioning about life, and its meaning. I wanted to be back to the “High-way” of materialism chasing stuff, and belonging to the “group” But, after reading books of people much wiser than me, I had a double0-take so-to-speak. What was I chasing anyway? What was I missing from the group-anyway? I found my rejection by the “group” was my opportunity to seek my own freedom. And my loneliness was an opportunity to seek my inner peace. Since them, I have unraveled things I could never have learned as a member of the group. Of cause, some of the things you learn are painful. But it’s a truth the gives you freedom.

      It is an experience that introduced me to the world of Spiritualism, and its connection with what we really are. You may no buy this, because after all, its my subjective opinion. But I have no doubts anymore that we human beings, have in us, a duality. We are Human Being experiencing Spirituality, and also Spirit Beings, experiencing Humanity. This explains our nature as Logos. Beings that Judge. Being that Reason. Being that are Self-Controlling. We are a paradox. The reason for Good, and Evil. That’s my two pence-reasoning.
      Good Talking to you-Sir

      • To conclude our brief discussion here (perhaps to be rekindled at a later time), I will offer this reply to your above reply.

        Eat, drink, and be merry” is not at all what I subscribe to, nor was I inferring that world-view; as mankind (hopefully) becomes more educated, more evolved via examination, re-examination, etc, over the millenia, RESPONSIBILITY, sensibility, yes sound reasoning (based on findings) must always couple our duty to others and this planet. Eat, drink, and be merry carries the connotation of recklessness, or at least little-to-no forethought. No, not at all what I’m saying.

        Entangled conciousness is an interesting term. Inside the framework of quantum physics and unified field theory, I believe you could be correct (partially?) of where I might belong. Where all of us belong. On atomic and sub-atomic levels, much of it unseen or immediately perceived, yes we are all entangled and are influenced by our environs and others on microscopic and macroscopic dimensions. We are only just now breaking through these levels of function and existence. Exciting! I believe in your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs we are stating the same things in slightly different form. My use of free-will was indeed prominent, but limited (of course) in the enormous macrosystems. “Suffering the consequences due to innocent ignorance is indeed the “risk” all exploreres accept. It is the price of higher knowledge that often outweighs the risks, sometimes with huge benefits!

        Your 4th paragraph, if I fully understand its meaning(s), would not describe me accurately. I think I understand what you are proporting, however, for the sake of time and length within 500Q’s comment section, I will simply say…I enjoyed reading your many questions, or rather initial-steps into further examination with hopes of obtaining sound answers. 😉

        Now for my lengthy reply. HAH! Sorry 500Q. *chuckling*

        Your 5th paragraph, and I say this in complete seriousness & genuinely, is very inspiring! Your final sentences: “Since then, I have unraveled things I could never have learned as a member of the group. Of cause, some of the things you learn are painful. But it’s a truth the gives you freedom. are evidence of good recognition, reasoning, with a bit of humbleness. I like. Truth(s) can certainly be discovered, even when it wasn’t a truth two, three, or four millenia earlier. This Universe/Multiverse is in constant flux, therefore truth must also have an element of flexibility, for: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man. — Heraclitus, c. 465 CE

        The concept of “duality” is certainly intriguing. Given the fact that many humans choose wrongly, devilishly, without consideration for the greater good, has certainly always strengthened the argument of Evil in that duality. We see the exact same behavior in much of the ape/mammal kingdoms as well—fortunately though, not in all of them. There are two ape species that do not behave selfishly and angerily: Bonobos, (pan paniscus) to name one. Naturally, there are many, many humans that behave with unimaginable patience, empathy, and non-violence toward their own kind as well. Fabulous examples of the Greater Good. Mahatma Gandhi has always been my all-time favorite contemporary example for non-violent social change!

        And thank you Bigfoot for the brief discussion. Until another time Sir, best wishes for you.

  8. I Thess. 5:21, says, “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.” I presume “all things” would include Yahweh’s existence. You might want to check out 15 Questions that I posted on my blog, isitgodsword.blogspot.com., on January 4, 2015, concerning the alleged omni God of the Bible and his eternal hell.

  9. Leighton Taylor says:

    I would sum up a reply to “Bigfoot” by this:
    Remember you are unigue, also remember so is everyone else. If everyone is unique and special then unfortunately…no one is.

    • BIGFOOT says:

      Our uniqueness is as a result of our interpretation of reality. So, since each one views reality subjectively, your world, will never be any other person’s world. We all are kind of paradoxical. We are all the same. Yet, how we relate to reality makes us different. So, in a way, we are all like gains of sand in the sea show. Single, yet part of the whole. We are like a single drops of water. When we fall in the sea, we lose individuality and we became one with the whole. So, the drops of rainwater are as important as the seas they fall in. We have subjectivity, but this subjectivity should not let us sea the big picture of Wholeness. We are all One……….

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