A discussion donated by a site visitor
An Atheist and a Christian
a theological discussion. Part 2
Letter 4: Ben's answers:
What is the nature of God?
I used to believe, as I was growing up a Methodist, that the nature of God was where people put their faith, in order to get them through things. Faith, the belief in God, and religion is a powerful, motivator for people. Tim Tebow, for example, professes all of his talent is "God given" and owes all to Him. Unfortunately, taking this road to profess a nature of God, as I would always say as Grace "God is good, God is great..." leaves out all of the bad. One, in my opinion cannot say all of the good in the world is due to God while dismissing the bad. Ray Comfort says:
"Tsunamis, terrible diseases, agonizing cancers, massive earthquakes, devastating tornados, killer hurricanes, awful suffering, and death itself are very real and violent storms that should be enough to convince any thinking person that our warning is true."
Which fails to convince people to believe in God and all of the bad things are His plan, His nature, and His warning. Nope. IF there is a God, I honestly don't think he meddles in everyday life. IF there is a God, his nature was to start the car and see what happens...
2. What is the origin of the world?
What is the origin of God? The evidence of how the universe is constructed, and continually expanding points to an explosion. The "Big Bang" as it were. Compared to an omniscient, omnipotent, creator who is three things in one (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost), who's actual son was born of a virgin, the "Big Bang" theory is simpler. Ockham's Razor in my opinion favors the "Big Bang" theory. Especially when Christians claim "Creationism." To look at evolution over 3.5 billion years it is easier to comprehend the small steps which led to man. To look at the age of the earth at 10,000 years, you are left with a creator, as there is no way evolution could take place over that short of a time period and lead to the earth as we know it. But this dismisses the present day evolution of viruses, fungi, and humans.
3. What is the nature of reality?
For this I have two answers. If you can touch it, feel it , smell it, see it, or otherwise experience with your senses, it is real. On the more supernatural side of things:
"If you can prove to me beyond the shadow of a doubt we are all not caterpillars sitting on a leaf dreaming this whole thing, I will give you an "A"; and you don't have to do any homework." -Mark Emory, my biology teacher in HS.
4. What is human nature?
Every last bit of it is genetic. Every last bit. We have genes for hair color, alcoholism, height, weight, cravings, sexual orientation, everything. And we share 98% of them with Chimpanzees and 18% with a common weed. Survival of the fittest, natural selection.
5. What is the source of human knowledge?
The human brain. Over the last 3.5 billion years the brain has evolved from "breath, eat, poop, repeat" to something more powerful than even we humans can imagine. We are not alone in tool making, social skills, killing for stature/property/territory/mating. Birds use tools to get insects, apes kill to expand/defend their territory, even octopus learn how to open a bottle to get to food by watching. Knowledge is based in our evolutionary heritage. Human's ability to be "self aware" is also not exclusive as we once thought. Elephants know who they are. As do the majority of ape species.
6. What happens to humans after they die?
Nothing. Same as every other species on the planet. To be the exclusive species on earth to have an afterlife is conceited at best. Is there a dog heaven? Cat? Amoeba? HIV? To profess we are the elite being on the planet as the bible claims we have domain over all the animals, things that creep, and birds so we get an afterlife but the deer, bear, coyote, and everything else on the planet doesn't is pretty lame. The three dogs I have known in my life have given me more joy than 90% of the humans I have met, but they don't get a doggy heaven because we have domain over them? Really?
7. What is the origin of ethics?
Humans are not the only species on the planet with ethics. Apes, dogs, dolphins, deer, lions, and countless other species have a hierarchy. Hierarchy's lead to ethics. The evolution of man into a social animal led to pack, tribal, and societal mores, taboos, and norms. One would not kill one's member of one's pack, but killing a rival pack member to gain territory was OK. To claim religion, or God for that matter, is the source for ethics forgets the calamities of the Bible. To read the Bible, every verse, is to realize ethics did not, and should not, come from the Bible. Or the Koran. Or the Torah.
8. What is your understanding of the flow of history?
From the beginning? This may take a while, but I will try and keep it short: Big Bang, formation of the moon by a gigantic meteorite collision with earth, formation of the earth through the cooling/protection/gravity of the moon and sun along with the formation of the oceans. This leads to a primordial ooze, formed through the combination of all the metals, acids, proteins, and everything else which slammed into the earth for the last billion years.. out of this primordial ooze comes the building blocks of life leading to the sea life then birds, then dinosaurs, a meteorite strike causing mass extinction of cold blooded animals and leading to the rise of mammals (who, at the time were small, mole/rat like creatures) and the subsequent evolution of earth as we know it.
Regarding the history of the bible: I discredit the Bible as "historical document". Writing a book, especially one which is supposed to be the unwavering, unyielding, unerring, word of God should not be written by "eyewitnesses", "people with first hand knowledge", or (depending on who you believe) anywhere from 25-300 years after the death of Christ. Every major society in the world has had some explanation for the creation of the universe. Native Americans have their Gods, the Greeks had their Gods, the Incas theirs, and so on and so on through out recorded history. In no way is the Christian God, the Muslim God, the Jewish God, the Buddhist God(s), the Hindu God(s), the Native American God(s) any more "real" or "provable" than any others.