Atheists - is there anything about faith that appeals to you, would you like to believe?

(411 Posts)

Hi, I've been reading a few threads and I've heard atheists say stuff in the past about belief in God. Stuff like they don't believe in God but they would like to or they can see why it would maybe give peace or would be nice etc. I am just curious how atheists feel a bout this and if they want to talk about it?

I am a Christian, I hope I am an open and tolerant person and I would not want to cause offence. I am just curious, as we come into Easter if anyone wants to chat about this.

If not, may I wish you a peaceful and happy Easter, even if all it means to you is some chocolate eggs.

TOSN I am so sorry for your loss and the loss of a family of the husband and dad. I do believe in God but I do not believe he makes people die at a certain time. I know dome people, including some Christians, will get comfort from feeling that there is a set time for death etc but I do not. Death is terrible and sad. I am not trying to convince you or take advantage of your sadness but just to show that believing in God does not necessarily mean we believe he is personally responsible for each person's death.

Tuffle thank you, that's a very kind thing thing to say.

seeker Fri 05-Apr-13 08:27:14

Sadly, yessad.

So sorry to hear that, TOSN.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 04-Apr-13 22:52:07

I wish I could suspend disbelief and sense, and believe. Having spent this afternoon at the funeral of one of the nicest men I knew, at the church he devoted time and money to, with his wife and four children and a church full of crying people at his sudden and tragic death. I wish I could believe he's in the next room and will be reunited with those children, even though he won't be there at their weddings and graduations. I wish I could think that if there is a god who decided it was his time to go and that was for the best, then that god isn't utterly malign. But it's bullshit, really,isn't it?

tuffie Thu 04-Apr-13 21:35:41

Italiangreyhound - Just want to say I have been reading some of your posts and admire your honesty and humility. You sound like a lovely person. Enjoy the Festival !

Thanks Ellie I am away at a 6 day Christian festival. All best wishes and thank you. (Wink)

EllieArroway Thu 04-Apr-13 14:11:11

But I have sensed in you in particular a respect which I feels deserves the best answers which O can offer. Im a funny way I may have literally misread the respect since you not believe in God and may therefore think I am some sort of nut! I am not a liberal

I respect you, Italian but not the beliefs you hold. I think I've been very clear about that.

I don't think you're a "nutter" - I've treated you as an intellectual equal and haven't patronised you by patting your head and saying "There, there, dear...it's true for you and that's all that matters". (And that goes for all the atheists on this board, not just me).

You and I both know this hasn't been about changing each other's minds but I still think there's value in debate. Important subjects should be talked about - even when it might be personally difficult.

Thank you for not shouting at me and going off in a huff! It's much appreciated.

Enjoy your day out - and I'm glad that we were able to change your mind a little about the atheist position, and that we don't hate all Christians!

smile

Hi Ellie thank you for your long reply. I am typing on my iPhone and heading off for a week away. I will try and answer a few of your points to the best of my ability. If I miss off any points please do not assume I am being evasive. There are many things I simply cannot answer so if I do not answer them you can assume my answer is I don't know. I am not pretending to be any kind if expert and as so have repeated said I do not expect my answers to convince you or others. In some ways thus feels like an exercise in futility! But I have sensed in you in particular a respect which I feels deserves the best answers which O can offer. Im a funny way I may have literally misread the respect since you not believe in God and may therefore think I am some sort of nut! I am not a liberal. I guess I am making sense of my Christian faith. I'm trying to work out how my Christian faith impacts my life. My passion is for human rights and justice. I raise money for charity and write protest letters. I try and be the best person. I can be and for me my Christian faith feeds these good desires. If a situation arises were the church in general does not seem ti be doing the right thing I want tjp be.on the side of good. So I can't defend the church for all the many mistakes in the past or present. I cannot speak for God or why he acts the way he does. For me worship of God is not simply for God's benefit. I experience joy on worshipping God. The evil on the world, I can't explain, I 'm sorry if that sounds like a cop out. My phone is not letting me click on mistakes to remove so odd garbled words appear! t. tpit. I do not see my 'role' as a poster on mumsnet To convince. Typing whiley husband drives is making me freely sick mainframe me so I will stop

EllieArroway Thu 04-Apr-13 11:27:26

Backonbriefly That is really, really well said. I've tried to make the same point before - that Christians don't ever actually ask for or expect miracles to happen either, but nowhere near as coherently as you've done.

Italian

So, when all is said and done, your "evidence" amounts to "I feel Jesus loves me" and "I can't personally see how the universe can exist without a creator".

I know you've acknowledged that it's not "proof" - but it's not actually evidence either, I'm afraid. Not by a long, long shot.

For a start, is there no part of you that finds it curious that the top level physicists & cosmologists in the world, the ones best able to explain the origins of the universe, don't share your doubts? Even the few who are Christians?

So your personal incredulity is not evidence of anything whatsoever.

There's not much I can say about you feeling Jesus' love. I wonder what you would say to a Hindu who "feels" that Brahman or Shiva love them? Who have personal experience of this love? If you are right and Jesus is the only game in town, then they are mistaken. You can be as respectful as you like about their religion - you must still think they are wrong.

So, how exactly do you square that circle? That ALL religious people feel the love of their God and spend their lives worshipping because of it. You can't all be right, that's not possible - but you can all be wrong.

I also think you've misunderstood just what an important question "Why doesn't God heal amputees?" is.

God appears to never do anything which would unambiguously demonstrate his existence - there's ALWAYS another natural, and therefore more plausible explanation. Is this coincidence?

Is he doing that on purpose? If so - why? According to you, he wants us to know him....and the best way to achieve that is to hide? Really?

Oh but - he wants us to know him through faith and not evidence. If he proved himself it would violate our free will......it goes something like that, doesn't it?

Well, first of all this assumes that to know God is to love him. If I knew him, I would automatically love him - and he wants me to find my own way there, yes?

But it doesn't work like that, does it? Satan and his minions are in no doubt of God's existence, but still manage not to love him. (And if you have dispensed with the idea of Satan & Hell like most other liberal Christians, then how do you explain the unbearable horrors that happen in our world? Evil is everywhere and your God must bear full responsibility for it).

And if this "free will" issue is such a big deal - big enough that our creator is hiding himself deliberately so he doesn't violate it, then why didn't he create genuine free will in the first place? If "to know him is to love him" then this alone violates free will because it seems we have no choice in the matter. He must have set things up that way.

If your God wants us to know him, he's going about it in the oddest possible way.

The only thing that separates us from the animal kingdom is our intelligence. We are amazingly intelligent - and intelligence is the ability to reason. If this is a gift from God, then it's the greatest one (the only one) he gave us. Look what we've done with it. Look at the world around you - look what science (the greatest expression of our intelligence) has given the world.

There's a thread running on Chat at the moment - "Without modern medicine would you still be alive?" - a great question. The answer, for most of us, is no. I, for one, would have died of an ectopic pregnancy at 21 - if I survived the serious bouts of tonsillitis in my childhood, that is. I am very grateful to science - God wanted me dead wink.

Now, I'm assuming that you think our ability to do all this is the reason God gave us such intelligence, yes?

Well OK - so our intelligence & ability to reason is a good thing. And yet, with the most important question of all, with our immortal souls resting on the answer, we have to abandon our reason completely? Ignore the lack of evidence and close our ears to any evidence that strongly suggests God doesn't exist?

For goodness sake - why? Have you ever truly contemplated this?

It just doesn't work, I'm afraid, no matter how much you try to pretend it does. If your God existed, atheism would be impossible. His existence would be blindingly obvious to everyone. The fact is that it is not and this is contradictory to your assertion that he wants us to know him.

Oh - and the God as a parent analogy is another bad one. Of course I want my child to love me - but not blindly. And if he didn't, I'd be sad - but I sure as heck wouldn't threaten to lock him in the basement and torture him for eternity. My son doesn't exist merely to make me feel good about myself with him worshipping at my feet (which is apparently all your God cares about) - and if he did I'd have faced care proceedings a long time ago.

I am a better parent than your God. I am a more moral being than your God. And so are you.

seeker Thu 04-Apr-13 08:15:33

"Seeker in answer to your question, I am afraid I don’t know. I mean that I have heard of miracles and I am sure some people have been convinced by them, but I don’t know why you have not seen any. If this answer doesn’t satisfy you I am sorry but I don’t have all the answers. And I expect some would say I don't have any answers."

It's not just me that's never seen a miracle. It's nobody. Ever.

Does this really not make you stop and think? Even for a second?

PigletJohn Thu 04-Apr-13 03:23:06

Power of prayer?

If ten million people are rounded up into concentration camps, and exterminated, is that because they didn't pray?

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Thu 04-Apr-13 03:05:16

The issue I take with how much prayer works is that it works exactly the amount you would expect it to if it didn't work.

You say you would always seek medical attention which is great, but not everyone does, which is not so good. In fact I seem to remember a news story (within the last couple of years) about a couple who's child died because they needed urgent medical attention but it was decided simply to pray for them. I have a feeling the parents were sentenced to jail, but they genuinely didn't think they'd done anything wrong.

Now I know cases like this are isolated in the Western world, but in developing countries it happens all the time and it saddens me that people really think it works.

Solidgoldbrass I don't think I said much about the word 'secular'. I've tried to talk about evidence as I see it, as it has satisfied me and many other people but have acknowledged that this is not proof and I understand it will not satifsy many of the people who have been posting on this thread.

It is not my intention to try and convert anyone here but simply to talk and understand the thoughts of people who are athiests and respond to any questions anyone may wish to ask me.

I am sorry if you do not think I have used the words in the way you would use them but I can only say that I have tried to be honest and express myself as honestly as I can.

Italiangreyhound: Well, you seem to have a different definition of the words 'secular', 'evidence' and 'proof' to many other posters on this thread, and I would have been prepared to believe that your first language was one with a different set of idioms or something.

Seeker in answer to your question, I am afraid I don’t know. I mean that I have heard of miracles and I am sure some people have been convinced by them, but I don’t know why you have not seen any. If this answer doesn’t satisfy you I am sorry but I don’t have all the answers. And I expect some would say I don't have any answers. wink

Ellie do I expect miracles? Sometimes. I don't live day by day by them in the sense if someone is ill I will just as much expect a medical answer as a miraculous one. I would never not seek medical help as well as praying. If that makes sense.

I do not think miracles are the norm in the Christian life. Maybe they should be!

backonlybriefly99 sorry by tales of legs growing back what I meant was that nowadays if anyone says they read something on the internet or have a photo of something or whatever then probably many people would rightly be quite suspicious. Well, let's say I would be, I would think airbrushing, I would think mocked up photos etc. So something would have to happen in front of my face for me to see it as proof or evidence etc. But because I am a Christian who does not need proof of God (speaking completely on behalf of myself) the lack of my seeing a leg grow back on doesn't bother me in terms of faith.

I personally do believe healing from prayer does happen, but not all the time. I don't think that that is the kind of 'evidence' that would convince atheists. I mean I am happy to be proved wrong! Also, I am aware that many times prayer is offered for people and they are not healed. That can cause a lot of pain. That can lead to a lot of additional pain because them people wonder why their prayer was not answered. I believe God answers prayers but I also believe that prayer is about more than just getting things done. Prayer for me is a kind of entering into discussion with God. Someone else on Mumsnet put it so well and I can't remember who it was, they said that God changes the person who is praying. So one might pray about problems in the world and then feel moved to make a difference. Yes, I know people can make a difference without praying!

I also think that praying for those who are in need is a way of connecting. Of entering into the problem with the person. Again this is not meant as evidence of anything, I am just saying what I think in response to backonlybriefly99.

I am off to Spring Harvest tomorrow and I am not sure I will get to log in much. I just wanted to say this in case anyone wants to ask me any tough theological questions for which I can provide my stock non-flippant ‘I don’t know’ reply!

I am genuinely grateful to those who have taken the time to ask questions or reply to my questions.

seeker Wed 03-Apr-13 23:45:19

"Seeker in answer to your question about why God has not done something that will prove to you or anyone else in particular beyond doubt his existance, my non-flippant answer would be I don't know. The Bible seems to suggest that we live by faith not by proof but aside from that I don't know. "

That wasn't my question. My question was, why has he never done anything that has the unintended consequence of providing evidence. Like curing somebody under conditions where the cure could be unequivocally proved- somebody who had no chance or recovery at all without divine intervention. Like growing a leg back. Or mending a severed spinal cord. Why dos he only ever cure things that might very well have got better anyway?

Ellie you said You express yourself very well - thank you, right back at your Ellie.

Selfconfessed Hope you are enjoying half term.

Seeker in answer to your question about why God has not done something that will prove to you or anyone else in particular beyond doubt his existance, my non-flippant answer would be I don't know. The Bible seems to suggest that we live by faith not by proof but aside from that I don't know.

Sorry, that was my mistake, when I said what evidence if there for the world existing without being created? I think I meant the entire universe coming into existance.

Mrshoarder I've no idea why so many barren planets.

Solidgoldbrass I am English and English is my first language. Can you tell me which bits sound confusing and I will explain. Not sure why I said world ealier on I am pretty sure I was thinking universe! Oh and yes, I have an English degree and I have taught English as a foreighn language but I am afraid my spelling is appalling!

No that actions of love are an expression of love and that my faith is built on receiving that love, well Ellie what I mean is that as a Christian I believe Jesus lived a loving life, healed people and died for me. Those are the living actions and I believe I have a relationship with Jesus now because in my teens I made a decision to become a follower of Jesus. It was because I felt that love that I chose to follow him. I am not sure if that makes sense, I mean I know you will not agree with it or believe it but does it makes sense?

It's not really about "concrete scientific proof" - - I'll take anything. To me it makes sense that God made the world, it doesn't make sense that there is no creator, if there is a creator I think he/she would want to be known, as a parent does with a child. I have learnt a bit about other religions and what I see as different about Christianity is that it starts with God reaching out to people not people trying to reach God. I spent a while going to church and being involved in Christian things before I made a committment but my commitment felt for me like the response to God's love, as I was told about it. Over the last 30 years I think I have never doubted my faith to the point of leaving it but I have certainly thought through many issues. I think I am hogging the thread and have said enough for now!

backonlybriefly99 Wed 03-Apr-13 20:57:29

"I don't think tales of legs growing back would confirm it for some"

Not 'tales' no. There seems to be an automatic assumption there that it would be a tale and I think we all know why.

Someone could post on MN that their second cousin knows a lady whose friend's brother grew a leg back, but why shouldn't it be something that happens to someone in plain view of a crowd of people, on an operating table or perhaps on CCTV?

There are a lot of Christians out there who claim that prayer works and specifically works for healing people. Many even offer it as proof that god exists. Therefore healing from prayer must happen all the time.

Now God isn't restricted on how he does it so if you are walking down the road and see a child with a missing leg you could pray and there'd be a good chance god would replace it there and then in the street. It wouldn't have to get gradually better. The child could go from a wheelchair to turning cartwheels in seconds.

Except that Christians know that won't happen. When a Christian hears that Auntie Sally has lost a leg they are upset. They don't say "Hey, that's a shame, but god will fix it" because the vast majority of Christians knows full well that there is no healing.

When there's a serious car crash you don't see scores of Christians kneeling in the road to put the drivers back together. They may kneel in church later. Usually to pray that the victims families get over it and understand that it was all in a good cause.

Christians pretend to believe it and the rest of us pretend that we believe the Christians believe it.

Someone will say that I shouldn't speak for Christians, but I'm not reading their minds. I'm pointing out that the actions of the vast majority demonstrate that they don't really believe in prayer/healing.

EllieArroway Wed 03-Apr-13 16:56:05

What about shifting the burden of proof or evidence, what evidence if there for the world existing without being created?

Well, BB theory, cosmology and evolution, for a start.

But you can't do that, I'm afraid. We can't look for negative evidence (that the world wasn't created) only for positive evidence. In other words - what evidence is there that is was.

A big fat zero thus far.

EllieArroway Wed 03-Apr-13 16:48:23

I don't think tales of legs growing back would confirm it for some

You're right, we'd be investigating possible natural explanations first. Limbs can grow back elsewhere in the animal kingdom. But that's not the point.

Let's say someone is diagnosed with a potentially fatal cancer. The doctor gives them a reasonable chance of recovery and schedules the necessary surgery and chemotherapy etc. The person is a Christian so prays night and day for God's help.

The person recovers completely - and thanks God. (And probably his doctors too since he is a polite person).

Was that God or was it the chemotherapy? There's no way to know - and God appears to do that a lot. He cures people (if he does at all) in such a way that it's impossible to know whether it was him or the treatment. Why?

And his cure rate, by the way, has risen in line with advances in modern medicine - and his success rate conforms with the same rate we'd expect to see if he didn't exist to help people at all.

So the question is rather more important than just about missing limbs - it's that why does God only ever answer prayers in a completely ambiguous way?

A spontaneously regenerating limb in response to prayer would impress me, I have to admit. But it never happens - and no one thinks it will. Even Christians. So you don't actually expect your God to perform real miracles any more than we sceptics do.

EllieArroway Wed 03-Apr-13 16:30:37

No that actions of love are an expression of love and that my faith is built on receiving that love Well, I have no idea what you're talking about then. And behaviour motivated by an emotion is an expression of that emotion. I think that equating love with any kind of faith position is a big mistake who ever says it, or why.

You implied that atheists were more moral because they did things out of the good of their heart where as Christians/people of faith did it for a pat on the head from God That would be the case if they were only doing it because they were Christians. People have lots of different motivations for doing anything, some noble, some not. I was matching like for like. I've also said that I think for most Christians their motivation lies more in them being decent people than anything else. It's also worth mentioning that traditionally Christianity has gone abroad to help the less fortunate as a way of "spreading the word". While this isn't as overt anymore, it's not gone away entirely.

I apologise if what I said about you speaking for all atheists was offensive Not offensive in the slightest, I was just pointing out that we were doing the same thing - generalising. This is a general conversation, we're both going to end up doing that to some degree.

I have evidence of God’s love for me And therein lies the rub - I don't think you do.

BUT...having said that.....

It's not impossible that actually you do, really, truly have evidence for God....that he spoke to you & revealed himself in a way that left little room for doubt.

But I highly doubt it - for logical reasons and not as a personal judgement about you. In any event, the miraculous/supernatural MUST and IS the least likely explanation for anything and any possible natural explanations must be considered before we start attributing something to the supernatural.

I know that it's enough for you, whatever it is, but since it's not verifiable or checkable and you can't demonstrate the truth of it to me, then I am justified in dismissing it from a conversation about evidence for God. I have no choice in that. I am not just being bolshy or closed minded. If we accepted revelatory experiences as evidence of anything, then we'd be in the unfortunate position of having to accept an awful lot of unlikely sounding stories as "evidence" that they really happened.

Extraordinary claims (as a visit from God is) require extraordinary evidence. No evidence at all will simply not do.

I think there is evidence for the Christian faith but I would agree with you that I can't produce concrete scientific proof, Ellie What evidence do you think there is? It's not really about "concrete scientific proof" - - I'll take anything.

You express yourself very well smile

Seeker "We're all talking about "proof" and "evidence". I can quite understand that a Christian might accept evidence for the existence of God that I, as a rationalist, can't. And I understand that God doesn't actually have to prove his existence"

We have to have some standards of evidence, though - and wanting to believe something should not be a reason to lower those standards. Of course, that's something we all do - my standard of evidence for proving that my son is a genius is rather lower than if I was making that assessment about someone else's son*. It's called confirmation bias.

*(He's not, in case anyone thinks that's a stealth boast).

Green says she has an English degree, which is why I find it odd that she doesn't know the difference between the words secular and anti-religious.

Italian and Green: a little late in wondering this (and apologies if it's been addressed already) are either/both of you people who don't have English as a first language? I am beginning to wonder if there may be a translation issue with some of the points raised here.

seeker Wed 03-Apr-13 15:50:27

There are "leg growing stories" - that's why I chose that as an example. Derren Brown describes exactly how it's done.

Italiangreyhound- is there a non flippant answer to my question?

And yes,but here is loads of evidence for how the world came into existence- or at least the current theory of how it did. The crucial thing is that if more evidence comes to light, the theory changes to fit the evidence. That's what science does.

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