What If History Was Wrong? Jesus, Scientology, Churchill

There are serious challenges to the Christian claims about what happened to a man they call Jesus, the one they think is Christ, son of God. The same sorts of challenges can be made about Mohammed, and many other religious prophets and deities, particularly if they happened in the distant past, where there are few if any contemporary documents or artefacts.

The claims tend to fall into two categories: the historicity of the person (Jesus, Mohammed); and the supernatural claims made about them (miracles performed, revelations revealed). I’ll refer to then as the Natural claims and the Supernatural claims.

For Jesus, we find now that we have a religion built around him: Christianity. The main sources of information come from the Bible’s Gospels, with all other sources being references to Jesus and Christianity made by non-Christians and Christians some time after the time for which the claims are made (his birth, life, death, resurrection). These claims are a mix of both Natural and Supernatural.

I am an atheist and I see no evidence to support any of the Supernatural claims about Jesus – his own claim to be the son of God, his reported miracles, and his resurrection.

Those theists that do think there is evidence of these are really saying some version of the following: “We have Natural historic evidence of Jesus, and of the Natural events that happened in his life, and we have witnesses to all that, AND to the miracles, the Supernatural events.”

This must be essentially what they are claiming, because they clearly have no direct evidence of miracles actually happening. For example, take the healing of the blind man’s sight. How do we know that happened? Is there some test we could do now, to say, “Look, there’s the evidence of that miracle!”

Well, there were no videos then, so we can’t look at those. And, of course, even if there were it could be that the blind man was faking blindness, in league with Jesus and his crew. “Ah, but other people knew he’d genuinely been blind.” Really? Which people? The people that the narrator of the story told us about? Where did that narrator get the story? Was he there? If he was, was he in league with the fraud? If he wasn’t there himself, the narrator has no evidence that any of it happened, let alone who was there to testify that it was genuine. In other words, the parable of the blind man is at best hearsay, about a story, that has no more evidence for its truth than any other myth.

And so it is will all claims about the Supernatural … AND the Natural claims about Jesus. And behind these objections to the stories about Jesus we have the obvious suspicion that those that started the religious movement early on were either inventing it completely, or elaborating on stories about one of the many ‘prophets’ that wandered the world making claims about their access to various gods. It wasn’t a new pastime even then. Do you believe all of them? If you think some were false prophets, then why not yours?

A common follow up claim made by Christians is that some other party reported on these events, someone that wasn’t committed to promoting Christianity, someone that even disapproved of Christianity, someone with no skin in the game, so they must be credible, right? For example, Tacitus and Josephus.

Tacitus and Josephus

Tacitus was a Roman historian. He referred to Christ and Christianity in his final book, Annals, written in AD 116. This is long after the death of Jesus, so clearly nothing in his account amounts to his memory of events in Palestine. He wasn’t there.

And yet, we hear that scholars consider it to be an “authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source.” What does that mean? Does it mean it’s an authentic record of what happened to Jesus? No it does not. It means merely that the scholars think there really was a guy called Tacitus, and that he really did report the story in his book. What it does not say is where he got the story from.

If you read the words of Tacitus it amounts to nothing more than the following: “Nero persecuted the Christians. The Christians took their name from the guy know as Christ. And, here’s what Christians say happened to Christ at the hands of his executioners.”

Tacitus is obviously no more than a report of what Christians believed. Tacitus does not, for example, refer to some other Roman document signed by Pilate, or one signed by the Captain of the guard that saw Jesus die.

So, no wonder it is similar to what was written in the Gospels, because both the Gospel authors and Tacitus got the information from what Christians claimed to be the case. This is no more than reporting hearsay.

If you claim you have half a dozen sources, and all those sources trace back to one source, then you have one source, not six. We don’t know where the current sources got their sources from. It’s a dead end. And as such amounts to a myth.

Josephus is no better. He was a Jewish historian. His references were written around 93–94 AD, 60 years after the supposed death of Jesus, so clearly he too was writing about what others were telling him. While some scholars think the texts have been changed, they think the core is ‘authentic’. Again, the authenticity in question is about whether Josephus wrote them, and that what he wrote is largely what he was told. Who told him? Christians, or someone else reporting on what Christians claimed.

While the claims by scholars to the authenticity of Tacitus and Josephus are about whether Tacitus and Josephus wrote what is in their purported works, the authenticity is NOT about the truth of what they wrote about Jesus.

An Accidental Religion

How do religions arise? One way is accidentally.

Imagine we had a world wide apocalypse, another pandemic that wiped out all but a few human groups dotted around the world. In one group, in Europe, for each Christmas after that event, parents would tell the tales of Santa Claus to their children. One Christmas, a visitor from another colony is passing through and hears the stories of Santa Claus, how he used to visit each Christmas. The stranger mistakenly takes the stories seriously, and repeats them elsewhere on his travels. Further more, he finds that the more he repeats them, the more people want to know about Santa, so he elaborates, invents miracles and all sorts of new events, the healing of blind men, for example. And some of those that heard these elaborated stories go on to expand on them themselves. All of a sudden you have a religion out of nothing more than a children’s Christmas fantasy.

Of course the stories now circulating will differ with different elaborations. They will be inconsistent. Eventually, a new emperor of Europe calls all the bishops of Santa Claus religion together.

“Look lads, this Santa Claus religion is getting out of hand. We need a consistent story if we’re going to get the less gullible on board. Everyone has to be on-message. We’re having a lock-in.”

Does that make those people appear too stupid? You think that couldn’t happen? If you think this is far fetched compared to evidence to support Christianity, think about the following.

Creating a Religion

So another way of creating a religion is with the intention of fooling people. Perhaps Joseph Smith, the man of Golden Tablets. Smith published the Book of Mormon. “By the time of his death, 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion that continues to the present with millions of global adherents.

Wow! That was in the 1800s, the time of developing ‘Enlightenment’.

But that was nothing.

In the 1950s, a time of radio and television, a second rate science fiction author decided he would create a religion. Obviously, nobody would be dumb enough to pay attention, right? Wrong. Scientology.

The 21st Century celebrities that follow Scientology can look online and read all about this bogus origin, and yet they still believe it. So what makes you think that it would be so difficult to start a religion back in the time purported to be around the life of Jesus? If these Christians are reporting to Tacitus on what they think happened to Jesus, who is Tacitus to say, “Sorry, never happened.” Why would he? He’s only reporting on what they themselves claim.

Of course we don’t even know that Tacitus got the report from Christians directly. It could have been his mate down the brothel, “Hey, Tacitus, that book you’re writing, Have you heard the one about a guy in Palestine seventy years ago?”

This is how poor the information is that’s presented as evidence for Jesus. Even if we have a piece of what Tacitus himself wrote, it says nothing about the truth or falsity of what he wrote about, other than to say that, “Some Christians believed blah, blah, blah.”

If a religion like Scientology can be created in the mid 20th Century, why not one in the time of Pilate in Palestine?

My Alternative Gospel

Imagine, if you will, this scenario (not one I’m claiming happened, but not out of the question).

A man Jesus started making false claims about his access to God’s thoughts. Perhaps he’s a bright fellow, but a little mad. Most people make fun of him. But a few gullible people actually believe what he’s saying.

A couple of other smart guys currently out of work, let’s call then Eric and Ernie, tag along, and while they don’t entirely disbelieve Jesus, they certainly take advantage of him, hype him up, and start to tell others all about him. Maybe slip in the odd story about the occasional ‘miracle’.

Eventually they have raised a bit of a crowed and started to become a real nuisance. The priests want to get rid of Jesus, so make up even more stories about his blasphemous claims, “He actually thinks he’s the son of God!” They succeed and bump him off with the help of one of Pilate’s men, and a little bribe to smooth things over. Jesus is indeed crucified, and dies.

What happens to his followers? This is a bit inconvenient. They were going around with Jesus, being housed and fed wherever they went.

Eric, “I know, let’s tell people he’s coming back in a few days! That will sustain the religion. AND, even better, what if he vanishes … to heaven … by rising up. We can continue telling stories abut him and he’s not here to dispute them. Do you think the other followers will buy it?

Ernie, “Well they’ve been easily fooled so far. Nobody has to actually witness this resurrection. We only have to SAY that someone witnessed it, us. And, we have to go an steal the body, of course. AND, the more fake witnesses we can add, besides ourselves, the better. AND, with Jesus now resurrected out of the way, in body and ‘spirit’, there’s no way that anyone can disprove any of this junk. AND, we get to live off the tale for the rest of our lives!

And so, the resurrection story emerges.

Eric, “What if if some of the other followers go back and start asking questions. Everyone will deny witnessing the resurrection. We’ll be caught out.

Ernie, “No problem. We’ll say it’s a cover-up instigated by the priests that have warned witnesses that they’ll go the same way as Jesus if they say anything.

Eric, “Brilliant! The greater the conspiracy against OUR conspiracy, the less people will notice ours.

Welcome to Christianity – my version – which is just as well evidenced as any other … that is, there is no evidence for any of it.

“Whoa, there! It’s not as simple as that. What about the Virgin Birth?”

A Christian

Didn’t happen. Eric and Ernie made up that story too, to add a bit more mystique to the religion. Mary was actually fooling around with Joseph’s mate. Stoning adulterers was common back then, so what would people rather believe about ‘Christ’? The truth or another myth? Which myth, mine or the Christian myth?

But if Jesus is who he says, that changes everything! Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH & the life…” The number of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus’ life including things he had no control over (eg: place of birth & specific details regarding his death). That would be mind blowing!”

A Christian

No, Jesus did not say “I am the way…” Eric and Ernie made that up to. And what if he HAD said it? It was false, because he was just some ordinary mad man.

But you can’t do that! You can’t mess around with history that way. What if we did that to Churchill, or any other historical figure? Many historical stories have very little evidence.”

A Christian

Why not? How do YOU know YOUR myth is true, and not mine, or some other perfectly simple explanation as to why the religion arose out of a lie?

I didn’t meet Winston Churchill but I have no doubt he wrote his, ‘Fight them on the Beaches’ speech! There are many eyewitness accounts of the life, death & resurrection of Jesus. The apostles were willing to die for the Gospel. I don’t think they would have died for a lie.

A Christian

Well, if you’re a Christian, I assume you disbelieve in the Islamic faith. Yet, many Muslims have martyred themselves for what they believe in.

If you die for a lie, but you don’t think it’s a lie, you don’t know you’re dying for a lie, but it’s still a lie.

What About Churchill?

Let’s take seriously the possibility that Churchill’s “Fight them on the beaches” speech didn’t happen. Let’s suppose the recordings we hear today were fake, created after the war to make Churchill seem even more of a hero. What about all those people still alive today that heard the speech on the radio? Let’s pretend they have false memories, instilled in them be playing the later recordings.

I know, I’m stretching your credulity here, imagining such a famous speech was faked, that false memories implanted, that old news papers reporting it were fake too, … including the treasured notebooks, the government materials … all fake, all a WWII conspiracy.

Nevertheless, let’s suppose that somehow it was actually fake. What would that matter now? Sure, some historians would want to re-write some text books, and we would probably get a few more History Channel documentaries out of it. But what would it really change to our lives now? Would it make you give up on your studies, or convince you to quit work, to go an live in France? Would it change the Brexit deal? Would it stop the COVID pandemic?

I doubt very much would happen at all.

And the same goes for most historic events. Historians and archaeologists are learning more about he past all the time, and when something new crops up, a new piece of evidence that changes a story, what happens? Outside academia, the world carries on.

But, as our Christian friend asked, what if the story of Jesus is true, and could seriously shown to be true? Even if it was only the Natural history of Jesus that was proved to be true, that would be amazing. What if the Supernatural claims could be proved to be true? As our friend said, “That would be mind blowing!

Yes, but what if it isn’t true?

Unlike the histories of Churchill or any other historic figure, if some evidence was found that Jesus did not exist, some evidence, a scroll or two, that showed that the story of Jesus was totally made up in 30 AD, what would THAT mean for Christians, for the Roman Catholic Church, for every Evangelical preacher getting rich off the proceeds of his church? Well, that would indeed be mind blowingly interesting. Christianity would be destroyed! Wouldn’t it?

We have to be honest with ourselves. To most Christians it wouldn’t make a jot of difference. They don’t believe based on reason and evidence. When they claim to provide evidence, such as Tacitus and Josephus, that’s not for their benefit. That’s for our benefit, to shut us up. NOTHING will stop a true believer believing, no matter how great the fantasy the religion is built on. How do we know this? Because of the number of totally incompatible religions that exist.

Nobody that values reason above faith could possibly believe that their religion is the one true religion while all the others were false, given the lack of evidence for all of them. But if you hold faith above reason, you can be convinced to believe any one rubbish.

All you Christians know this, when you look at Muslims. All you Muslims know this when you look at Christians. You just can’t look at yourselves in the same light.

Faith to Faithless

Now and again, the reality of how ridiculous the stories of Jesus and Mohammed hit home. That can be quite a shock.

If it happens to you, you might find yourself in conflict with family and friends. You might be bullied into returning to the religion. You might be ostracised once they realise you are really leaving. In some cases there might be the threat of death.

If you need help, contact Faith to Faithless, and find a group of people with similar experiences that will help you deal with this dramatic change in your life, which I hope will be a good one.

What do I believe ‘in’? Nothing.

I had a conversation with an atheist friend recently and I think we surprised each other.

Though an atheist she still felt she needed to believe in ‘something’, though she didn’t quite know in what; and to some extent she envied religious believers in that they had something to turn to, some belief. This surprised me, because though I know of some atheists who feel this way this was my first opportunity to hear it first hand. What surprised me more was her surprise at the nature my atheism. Continue reading “What do I believe ‘in’? Nothing.”

Stephen Law’s "Sleight of Hand With Faith" blog

See Sleight of Hand With Faith

Another good blog from Stephen Law. One of the pleasures of his blog is the level of interaction he permits. Some good stuff and good responses. I don’t entirely agree with his points of view on some aspects – particularly the use of the ‘problem of evil’. It’s quite a long post, so my comments here are a bit lengthy too. I’ve stuck pretty much to Stephen’s headings.

Reasonable belief
The tree, Japan, 1066 examples are particularly useful, in that they show there are varying degrees of reasonableness to believe something. The whole of Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious faith is based on ancient scriptures, but these old documents should be considered less reliable than more recent beliefs, such as the existence of a visible tree, the existence of Japan, and the historic records of 1066. And even if we accept that some original ancient document is genuine, there’s no reason to give the same weight to its content as to the authenticity of the document itself.

Getting back to the ‘faith’ position, it’s possible that some atheists believe god doesn’t exist from a ‘faith’ position – they have the same degree and quality of faith that the ‘stong faith’ theist has, the atheist just believes the opposite.

But this isn’t the ‘science based atheism’, or ’empirical atheism’, or ‘rational atheism’ that most proponents of atheism argue for. It may be a position that is strongly believed, but it is borne out of reason and evidence, not pure blind faith. See Problem With Faith for more detail on my point of view on this.

And while we’re on the subject of blind faith, I haven’t yet been convinced by those theists who say their faith isn’t blind faith. The argument goes like this:
A: You have no evidence and reason to suppose God exists.
T: No, we don’t need it, we have faith.
A: Ah! Blind faith!
T: No, it’s not blind faith. We believe based on scripture, etc.
A: So, you do need evidence. Let’s examine that evidence…(atheist examines this evidence and concludes it’s very flimsy and lacks any reason)…and so the scriptures aren’t very good evidence and so don’t provide good reason to believe in god.
T: No, we don’t need it, we have faith….

A similar point is made by Stephen, where theists switch meanings of ‘faith’.

Arguments for the existence of God
I think Stephen is here far too generous on the reasons for believing God might exist. The arguments are fatally flawed, but then he says…

“By saying that the arguments are fatally flawed, I mean not that, while the arguments do provide good grounds for believing in God, these grounds fall short of being conclusive. Rather, I mean that these arguments actually provide us with very little, if any, reason to suppose that God exists”

The first five points provide no good reason at all, they are so poor: (i) childishly poor; (ii)delusion – no there aren’t any miracles – show me some; (iv)Jesus – he is qualified and reliable why?; (v)it only appears to be designed, but that doesn’t mean it is.

Only the sixth is reasonable, to the extent that we have no knowledge of why the universe exists at all, and the proposition that there might be a god that created it is one possibility. But then it’s a far cry from that basic proposition to conclude that this god has all the religious baggage attached to him, particularly that he has any interest in us, that he occasionally allows or causes miracles, that he allows or has any interest in what we call evil.

This ‘source of the universe’ proposition could suggest nothing more than some entity, which we might call god, created the universe. One might as well suppose that this god consist of some phenomenon of super-physics, outside our understanding of physics as it applies in our universe. But, again, there is no reason to suppose any of the religious trappings.

The reasonableness of the belief in god is often compared to the reasonableness of the belief in fairies. Pretty convincing to atheists, but apparently not to thesists.

Perhaps another comparison might be more realistic. An entity ‘god’ as a source of the universe is a reasonable proposition. But then so are many other cosmological theories, such as the cyclical universe, the multiverse, and so on. But how do these other theories impact on our daily lives? I don’t worship a multiverse, or expect it to judge me on my death. And all these theories still suffer from the same ‘first cause’ problem. And, we have no reason to suppose any one of them is a more likely candidate than another. This is the level of reasonableness upon which the existence of god should be assessed. It doesn’t provide much ground for religion does it?

The problem of evil
If the theist can conjure up god based on the flimsy reasons already given, then it’s not too difficult to rationalise away evil.

If god is so all knowing and we understand him so little, who are we to dispute his reasons for including evil in his plans. This is where faith comes to the rescue again. If as a theist I believe evil exists, then my faith would tell me to accept that and deal with it. As an atheist, if I can’t successfully refute or give good reason against the existence of god in his religious form, then I won’t be able to refute the existence of evil. Stephen’s final paragraph on evil beginning “It seems that, if the universe does have a creator …” isn’t then so powerful an argument.

Direct religious experience of God
Consider Stephen’s comment, “…an orange on the table in front of me…” and then “I don’t infer that there orange is there on the basis of evidence”.

Of course that’s evidence. What does evidence consist of if not human responses via the senses – isn’t that empiricism in a nutshell? And so one does infer it exists from that evidence. If I told you there was an orange there but you couldn’t see it, you’d certainly ask for evidence that it is there, because the evidence you are receiving through your eyes says it isn’t.

“We also have powerful evidence – in the form of the problem of evil …” No we don’t. This is a circular argument: that god does not exist because of the problem of evil, so revelatory evidence doesn’t exist, therefore god does not exist.

In fact my preferred argument is as follows.
a) – God doesn’t exist because there is no good reason to suppose he does (with the possible exception of some indeterminate god as a consequence of the source of the universe problem).
b) – Without god this leaves evil as a purely human interpretation of events: natural disasters, illnesses, human actions.
c) – Even if you allow for a ‘source of the universe’ god, that’s not sufficient to then propose evil exists.

When a rotting tree in a forest falls and lands on some plants and animals, is that evil? When a rotting tree in a street falls in a storm and kills a driver in a car, is that evil, is the devil at work there, or is god at work? If that driver had recently knocked down and killed a child while drunk driving, is that evil, and is his later death divine retribution? Or is it all coincidence? How may drunk driving killers don’t suffer subsequently? Shit happens, and sometimes we cause it ourselves. Dressing it up, as some theists do, in a separation of [disasters = acts of god], and [human inflicted suffering = evil], doesn’t work for me. There is no good reason to conclude evil, as portrayed by thesists, exists as a phenomenon.

Direct religious experience of God
My response here is the same as to the problem of evil. If the argument for a religious god is strong enough, then revelation can follow. The significant points are that, first, there is no good reason to suppose god exists, since in our universe natural laws of physics apply; and, second, that any other phenomenon such as ‘revelationary experiences’, can also be explained by natural physical laws.

A better approach is to simply say there is no evidence that these revelatory experiences are real. In all human experience, and certainly in scientific matters, there have to be multiple repeatable and falsifiable evidence for an phenomenon to be taken seriously. We cannot prove these experiences didn’t happen. We can only tar them with the same brush as we do the whole religious god hypothesis.

When an atheist asks for evidence and a theist responds that god doesn’t work that way, the correct response is that without evidence it simply isn’t worth pursuing; and with the contrary and substantial evidence that we know that some people suffer psychotic delusions and some people lie, there are far more good reasons not to accept the revelatory experiences as being real.

“How, then, can it be reasonable for someone in possession of both…” A theist could argue god and evil do exist, and if he occasionally reveals himself, who are we to argue with that. They are perfectly consistent once you accept a ‘religous’ god exists.

The theist/atheist belief/disbelief in evil and revelation are consequences of the belief/disbelief in god. An atheist using any one point to support any other is performing the same circular argument as a theist, but for the opposite position.

Attempts to solve the problem of evil
Stephen’s points here don’t improve the argument either way. Basically, as explained above, if you can accept that god exists with very little evidence, then you can use that alone to propose evil, revelation, or any other flimsy reason to support your original supported god hypothesis.

Some of these attributes of a religious god have strong historical and cultural backing. Suppose historically other poorly evidenced phenomena had been supported. Atheists often use the ‘fairies’ comparison to illustrate how ridiculous is a belief in god. But things could have been very different.

Suppose that all the historical and cultural religious junk had backed fairies instead of angels: fairies do exist; they are small tokens of godliness put on earth to help children believe in god. It’s not too difficult to imagine a whole history of fairy belief as part of a god belief system – all supported by scripture. Then atheists would be arguing the ‘problem of fairies’.

To some extent this type of thing has happened. The big three religions differ significantly. A Muslim could argue with a Christian about the ‘problem of Jesus’ – that he wasn’t god but a mere prophet.

As another example, suppose it was discovered in some obscure scripture that the requirement to worship was a test put down by god, and only those who follow his guidance out of free will and without fear and worship were the truly blessed. We would still be left with the real question – does god exist in the first place?

So, it’s one thing to point out how ridiculous are phenomena like evil and revelation, but you can’t use them as arguments for the non-existence of god. If the weird religious god of scripture exists, then so could these phenomena.

Used as independent points of view they can all provide supportive reasons as to why it’s not reasonable to belive any or all of them. But you can’t use them in a deductive chain to conclude god does not exist.

Where the onus lies
I agree that “..the onus is on you to provide some decent arguments …” and that “It’s down there near belief in fairies.”

And that’s all that is required – to show this through reason.

An extreme form of ‘faith’ and A more common sort of ‘faith’

If faith is absolute and doesn’t require reason, that’s fine, but then an atheist doesn’t require reason to not accept belief in god (though it is generally preferred). But that leads simply to a stand-off: “Is!”, “Isn’t!”, “Is!”, “Isn’t!”,…

Now you might say this is nonsense, and of course that’s right. It is a ‘none’-‘sense’ position. It isn’t an argument, because an argument requires reason.

It’s funny that theists of this kind can glorify god’s creation – man, his consciousness, his free-will, his superior intellect above all other beasts, his power of reason; and yet on this one point we are expected to throw all that reasoning capability away. The position is childish, and worthy of derision – as are the church signs posted elsewhere on Stephen’s blog which also promote the abandonment of reason:

Sliding between these two senses of ‘faith’

I agree with this section. Theists use reason, until their arguments are destroyed, when they then revert to ‘faith’. And they don’t always wait until you leave the room. The Dawkins-McGrath debate follows this line: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6609671681098320091

The arguments behind ‘faith’

“Arguments (v) and (vi) in particular are extremely seductive.” I disagree, as stated earlier, but more specifically:

(iv) – “Jesus tells us that God exists, and we know Jesus to be a reliable source of information. Therefore it’s likely that God exists.”

No. If Jesus existed (I’m not disputing that), and if he said the things he is reported to have said, there is still absolutely no reason to suppose he is a reliable source. In fact, based on current knowledge there’s every reason to suppose he was one or more of the following: deluded, a megalomaniac, a very savvy political motivator.

(v) – “The universe shows signs of having been designed. So God must exist as its designer.”

No. It only appears to be designed. That doesn’t mean it is, and so it is useless as a reason for belief in god. Degrees of reasonableness again.

Having faith in other people

The type of faith discussed here is a mere intuitive assessment of probabilities based on experience. The human mind can perform some amazing feats – that’s why artificial intelligence is such a difficult problem. One thing it can do is assess, apparently instantly, from experience, the likelihood of a particular outcome, which is expressed in this type of ‘faith’.

This type of faith can work quite well. If you have been able to rely on a friend in the past, you could infer it would be reasonable to have ‘faith’ in him/her the next time you need their help. Comrades in arms rely on this type of faith, and it is this faith that makes this type of bond so strong.

However, it can go wrong. As a counter to Stephen’s Beckham example, Beckham has missed a significant penalty when everyone thought he would score. Admittedly there were extenuating circumstances – the turf beneath his standing foot gave way. More incredulously, for those of us who are lucky or careful enough to avoid them, there are plenty of more serious examples: a repeatedly cheated-on spouse thinks that ‘this time’ the offender will change, or a gambler thinks ‘this time’ the long-shot will come in.

In this way I think theists are the inveterate gamblers in belief systems. Despite the complete lack of evidence for the case, and in spite of the very strong evidence against, they still have faith in this long shot – that when they die they will be shown to have backed the winner.

The Problem with Faith

Following on from my previous blog, I think the crutial point is faith.

I think Stephen is right in that any point of view can be a faith (http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/ – Faith topic), and that’s certainly the case for most, if not all, religions. And I personally know at least one person for whom atheism is a faith. She has no interest in any arguments one way or the other, and certainly has no interest in science, but believes herself to be endowed with ultra reliable common sense, to the extent that she believes the whole God business is nonsense. It’s as if this faith of hers has grown out of some dissatisfaction with religion and all its trappings, a discomfort in the presence of religious people and proceedings. Continue reading “The Problem with Faith”