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Old 07-31-2003, 12:30 PM
Mottpot Mottpot is offline
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How to make an Athiest believe

I was having a conversation with my friend the other night about religion. My friend is a Christian and I am an atheist. Over the years we have been friends he has repeatedly told me that he feels bad for me because I am a good person, but I will be going to hell because I have not accepted Christ into my heart. It makes him very upset.
I would like to think that I have an open mind. I am totally willing to listen to other peopleís beliefs and take them into consideration. I have chosen my atheist beliefs because it makes the most sense to me and I have been unable to find any evidence that would make me believe in a God or anything associated with that God.
Over the course of our conversation I realized that I donít know what it would take for me to accept that this being created us, that He rules our lives, that there is a heaven and a hell.
I tried to explain this to my friend and I donít think he really understands. He is 100% sure that there is a God. I have to say that I am not 100% sure that there is not a God, but pretty darn close. I am willing to accept that there is a God, but what will it take for me?

I ask him why he has faith, why he is 100% sure and he canít really explain that to me.
Since joining these boards I have really enjoyed reading all the religious debates and a common thing I see with devoted Christians (or Catholics or I guess any religion) is that they made a choice to believe in God, or something happened to them to make them believe. They tell me to make this choice.

My question is how can I make that choice? What do I have to do to accept Jesus into my heart? I have an open mind and I will listen but as I explained to my friend, the total devotion that he has canít be there for me because I have a lot of doubt in my heart. I canít just say ďOk I believe in God nowĒ and live my life that way.

To you believers, what would you propose I do to come closer to believing in God?
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:02 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
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Are you asking for a logical method to take a leap of faith?

My personal opinion is that you should stop discussing religion with your friend, since it only upsets both of you.
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:25 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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My advice is that you stop measuring things in percents. You don't have to be any % sure that God does or doesn't exist. You can simply say, honestly, that you don't see any reason to think that he does, or that you feel that he does.

If you want to believe in God, you can start by believing that there is a God. I guarantee: this is a sure-fire path to the belief that there is a God.
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:29 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Something I was thinking about earlier today.

Next time he tells you that you've chosen not to believe in God, fish a quarter out of your pocket and hold it up. "If I flip this in the air, do you believe it'll land on its edge?"

He'll say no, natch. To which you follow up: "I want you to choose to believe that it will land on its edge. This is a much more trivial belief than whether God exists; if I can choose to not believe in God, surely you can choose to believe the quarter will land on its edge."

He may get the point, or he may come up with some argument I've not thought of, or he may say Sure, he now believes the quarter will land on its edge.

I can only help you out in the last case. Say, "Cool. I betcha fifty dollars it'll land on heads or tails. In fact, I'll give you three to one odds. Do you really believe it'll land on its edge, or are you just pretending to believe?"

HOpefully he'll get the point. If he doesn't, go through with the flip. Now he's confronted with an experience suggesting to him that the belief is incorrect. Tell him that, despite that experience, you still want him to choose to believe the coin will land on its edge.

Your next bet is winner-take-all. Tell him that if, as he believes, the coin will land on its edge, you'll accept that as evidence of divine intercession and will do your damnedest to accept Jesus.

But if he's wrong in his belief, all he's got to do is spit on a crucifix and repeat three times, "I reject you, God!"

Naturally, if he's certain in his chosen belief, he recognizes that it doesn't risk his claiming to reject God.

****************

The point of all this is to show him that you're not choosing your belief in the absence of God: it's a conclusion you inevitably came to, given your experiences of the world. If he can't choose to change his belief in something as trivial as how coins fall when flipped, how can he possibly think you can choose to change your belief in something as important as whether God exists?

He might be right about god. He might be wrong. But neither of you chose your beliefs.

**************

As for me, God has infinite opportunities to prove His existence to me. If my computer monitor changes into a rabbit, tapdances across my desk, and begins preaching to me about God's existence, I'll call my coworkers over for confirmation; once it's clear they're seeing what I'm seeing, I'll be pretty damned inclined to believe whatever the rabbit tells me. Tapdancing is optional.

Daniel
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:53 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
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If the quarter does land on edge, though, you may as well resign yourself to a nice toasty afterlife.
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:53 PM
Mottpot Mottpot is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bryan Ekers
Are you asking for a logical method to take a leap of faith?

My personal opinion is that you should stop discussing religion with your friend, since it only upsets both of you.
It does not upset either of us to have a discussion about religion. We have conversations comparing beliefs about all facets of life in relation to religion and I very much enjoy that. He is not trying to convert me.
I am not really asking for a logical method. I really asking people that do believe in God what they feel it takes from a person to gain faith after having none. It really comes down to me hearing time and time again that God has given us a choice. I don't feel he has given me a choice because I don't feel that there is anything that I can do to believe.

Quote:
Originally posted by Apos
My advice is that you stop measuring things in percents. You don't have to be any % sure that God does or doesn't exist. You can simply say, honestly, that you don't see any reason to think that he does, or that you feel that he does.

If you want to believe in God, you can start by believing that there is a God. I guarantee: this is a sure-fire path to the belief that there is a God.
How can you just all of the sudden believe in something? How does that work?
I am not saying that I even want to believe in God. If I wanted to it would probably be a lot easier. Like I said above, I don't feel I have been given a choice as many Christians say. Is this choice something that I have already discounted, not even really being aware of it?
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Old 07-31-2003, 01:59 PM
FisherQueen FisherQueen is offline
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If you really are interested in figuring out how to believe, I would suggest praying. Even if your prayer is something along the lines of "God, I'm pretty sure you aren't there, but if you are, I'd really like to know..." I'd also suggest trying it more than once. Say, every day for a week or two. And then you can see if ways or reasons to believe present themselves.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:03 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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Tell him, "Well, I don't feel that I DO have a choice-I cannot make myself believe what I do not believe."
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:12 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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You might ask him what it would take him to believe in Allah, or Krishna, or any number of other gods. Ask him if he thinks he would be Christian if he grew up in the middle of Saudi Arabia?

People come to believe either because their society believes, or because of some irrational reason - and they often reject those who believe in other things for the same reasons. Why do you not believe? I don't for logical and rational reasons, but some people stop believing for irrational reasons. If the former, you might ask why he thinks rational disbelief is worse than irrational belief. If the latter, then you're in the same boat, and you can wonder what it would take him not to believe.

I must say though that I like Daniel's exercise.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:14 PM
Stonebow Stonebow is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mottpot
How can you just all of the sudden believe in something? How does that work?
Well, barring being indoctrinated from an early age, in my experience, some sort of severe physical/ emotional trauma can cause someone that otherwise has no use for religion/God to embrace both.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:20 PM
moejuck moejuck is offline
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Mottpot,

If you don't believe in God, and don't see that you have the capacity to do so at this time, then I don't think you can simply change what you accept as the truth. Something down the road might cause you to change you mind. As long as you are open to any possibility, then God will make himself known to you at some point in time.

It seems to me that you do believe in God, and maybe you just aren't completely sure what that means for your own life. If you are comfortable in doing so, I suggest talking to a minister. Maybe your friend could recommend someone to talk with.

If I can ask, do you feel guilty about your disbelief? Are you questioning what you believe is true? Do you have any sort of religious background? These answers might help get to the bottom of a few things.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:26 PM
rjung rjung is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mottpot
I have chosen my atheist beliefs because it makes the most sense to me and I have been unable to find any evidence that would make me believe in a God or anything associated with that God.
Quote:
To you believers, what would you propose I do to come closer to believing in God?
Given your first point there, I think you'd need one of the following:
  • Severe head trauma
  • A frontal lobotomy
  • A horrifically terrible drinking problem
  • Having your brain inverted by space aliens
Not to be facetious or insulting, but you've already told us that you came to your atheist views because you looked at the matter rationally and drew a logical conclusion based on the (lack of) evidence. Ergo, it seems to me that the only way for you to "come closer to believing in God" is either (a) more convincing evidence, or (b) the removal or curtailing of your rational self.

Since (a) doesn't seem very likely IMO, that leaves (b).
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:27 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Why on earth are you trying to believe in something that you don't believe in? If someone told you there are little green men hopping around on pogo sticks on the moon, would you believe it? Would you feel bad about not believing it - bad enough to try to believe it? And how would you go about believing in these little green men? The only way is to separate your brain from reality, like billions of people, including your friend, have already done. Any psychotic can claim "certainty." That doesn't make him right.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:31 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mottpot
To you believers, what would you propose I do to come closer to believing in God?
Right now, I'm imagining one of those "I want to believe" T-shirts that UFO afficionados wear.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:36 PM
PatriotX PatriotX is offline
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Re: How to make an Athiest believe

Mottpot,
Welcome to the SDMBGD.

Quote:
Originally posted by Mottpot

Since joining these boards I have really enjoyed reading all the religious debates and a common thing I see with devoted Christians (or Catholics or I guess any religion) is that they made a choice to believe in God, or something happened to them to make them believe. They tell me to make this choice.
Christians OR Catholics??

The only people who I've ever seen make a distinction betweenCatholics and other Christians are fundamentalists. I"ve never in all of my days ever seen an atheist regard Catholics as anything other than Christians.
I question your truthfulness.
FYI, Catholics ARE Christians.


But, that being said, I think it's a good question.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:56 PM
CarnalK CarnalK is offline
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Mottpot, you can at least rest easy knowing that your friend would have just as much trouble coming up with a way to turn himself into an atheist.
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Old 07-31-2003, 02:57 PM
lekatt lekatt is offline
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Give him a near death experience.
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:00 PM
lekatt lekatt is offline
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Give him a near death experience. Works every time.

Love
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:03 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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Quote:
How can you just all of the sudden believe in something? How does that work?
Just try it. As was suggested, start talking to God. When you doub that there is no God, ignore that doubt, and hope that there is. Envision whatever God you want to believe in. Form an internal relationship with him, as if he was a real person that listens to your concerns and helps you out. Pretty soon, the belief will stick. The important part is to work God into those parts of your life that are emotionally important to you so that God and those experiences seem inseperable. That's what really makes a belief stick.

That's also why the coin/edge is much HARDER to believe in: because it's very hard to work THAT belief into anything you can get deeply emotionally invested in.
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:11 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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There's an oldie but a goodie:

"I put it to you that we are both atheists. I just happen to believe in one less god than you do."
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:20 PM
Avalonian Avalonian is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by lekatt
Give him a near death experience. Works every time.

Love
There are rules here about threatening people, lekatt. Better tone it down.
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:29 PM
X~Slayer(ALE) X~Slayer(ALE) is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bryan Ekers
If the quarter does land on edge, though, you may as well resign yourself to a nice toasty afterlife.
He's gonna have to. I flipped a quarter and watched it land very carefully. It almost always lands on its edge.

...it doesnt stay on its edge, but first contact to the surface is the edge. Theres nothing in DanielWithrow's bet that said anything about staying up on edge.

But as a catholic, I would never bet on the existance of God based on the probability of a coin toss because the "possibility" that the coin lands on its edge (and stays up) does exist. That i cannot produce that possibility in real life is immaterial. It is possible for the coin to land on its edge and stay up. I believe that and thats enuf for me.
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:32 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Considering that you can replicate a near-death experience with certain drugs that temporarily starve the brain of oxygen, I wonder why anyone would consider a near-death experience to be any kind of evidence for what happens to you after you die.
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:46 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Good catch, slayer -- Change it to "come to rest on its edge"? At any rate, I'd mock any believer of a non-trickster God who resorted to such trickery in order to get my soul. Mock, mock, mock!

Apos, what you're describing sounds to me like brainwashing and intentional self-delusion. My doubts are part of my mental process: if I ignore them, then I'm ignoring part of my internal dialogue, and I'm ignring evidence.

I'm not sure I'd be capable of doing that: my brain doesn't shut up on command, and if I tried to ignore my doubts about God, I'd stop trusting myself to form coherent conclusions.

So if I understand you correctly, you're suggesting that you can brainwash yourself into believing in God, but not into believing the coin will come to rest on its edge?

Daniel
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:47 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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Re: How to make an Athiest believe

Quote:
Originally posted by Mottpot
My question is how can I make that choice? What do I have to do to accept Jesus into my heart? I have an open mind and I will listen but as I explained to my friend, the total devotion that he has canít be there for me because I have a lot of doubt in my heart. I canít just say ďOk I believe in God nowĒ and live my life that way.

To you believers, what would you propose I do to come closer to believing in God?
I'm not a believer, but I can tell you from experience that you aren't going to get a satisfying answer to that question. It has been my observation that belief precedes the reason for the belief. It's a Catch-22: if you already believe, you will interpret events as supporting your belief. If you don't already believe, you won't see any evidence for belief. Believers are either indoctrinated when they are young, or develop an emotional attachment to religion later in life, or experience a catharsis that triggers belief. You'll notice that many, many "born-again" people will point out that they hit rock-bottom in their life before they were born again. That's the emotional cathartic event that triggered them to say "O.K., I'm going to try believing". (Or in Lekatt's case, the cathartic event was a near-death experience.) If their life gets better, or even if they just feel better, they will tend to attribute it to the belief, which reinforces it. But how often do you hear "I was a non-believer, and my life was wonderful, then I decided to start believing". Almost never, right?

Nobody can explain to you how to reason your way to belief, because nobody got there that way.
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Old 07-31-2003, 03:56 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Re: Re: How to make an Athiest believe

Quote:
Originally posted by blowero
Nobody can explain to you how to reason your way to belief, because nobody got there that way.
Didn't Bertrand Russell go from atheism back to Catholicism towards the end of his life?
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Old 07-31-2003, 04:19 PM
dangermom dangermom is offline
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Nobody can make you believe in God. Except, perhaps, God himself, and usually he gives you the option; that's what free will is for. If you want to put some effort into finding to your own satisfation whether or not there is a God, you can try:

Studying scripture. Put some effort into it. Ask people questions. Possibly find someone whose job it is to help you find answers. You may want to study different sects, since they often have different opinions.

Being willing to change your life for this issue. God can ask a lot, and if you aren't willing to listen and do what he asks of you, why should he tell you anything in the first place?

Praying (Hey, God, are you there? I'd like to know, please. Is the Bible/Koran/Book of Mormon true? All of it, or just bits?) Answers can come in a lot of different ways. Give yourself the opportunity to hear them.

Acting as if you want to obey the commandments. Be kind, be loving, be truthful, share your possessions. And so on. See what comes of it.

Some people seem to get answers more easily than others. I don't know why that is. I've known people who suddenly clicked, and others who spent months searching.
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Old 07-31-2003, 04:34 PM
Mottpot Mottpot is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by moejuck
It seems to me that you do believe in God, and maybe you just aren't completely sure what that means for your own life. If you are comfortable in doing so, I suggest talking to a minister. Maybe your friend could recommend someone to talk with.

If I can ask, do you feel guilty about your disbelief? Are you questioning what you believe is true? Do you have any sort of religious background? These answers might help get to the bottom of a few things.
I do not believe in God. Unless there is something I am missing I have no belief of a higher power.
I do not feel guilty about my disbelief, but at the same time I would feel guilty if I did not explore all of my options when it came to religion. If all I ever believed, experienced, or learned about was athiesm, then I would consider myself ignorant. I'mma growing up right now and trying to learn about the world and the people in it and this is something that I have a lot of interest in.
I guess because of that, in a way I am questioning if what I believe is true. I believe it is true, but I am open and I want to learn.
I do not really have a religious background. My parents raised me to make decisions about religion for myself so I came to this reasonging by myself.

[QUOTE] Originally posted by panache45
Why on earth are you trying to believe in something that you don't believe in? If someone told you there are little green men hopping around on pogo sticks on the moon, would you believe it? Would you feel bad about not believing it - bad enough to try to believe it? And how would you go about believing in these little green men? The only way is to separate your brain from reality, like billions of people, including your friend, have already done. Any psychotic can claim "certainty." That doesn't make him right.

I am not trying to make myself believe. I do not necessarily want to believe. I want to learn and explore like I said before. Right now God is equivalent to those little green men you are talking about. I don't feel bad about not believing in God because there is no God so why would I?

[QUOTE] Originally posted by blowero
[B] I'm not a believer, but I can tell you from experience that you aren't going to get a satisfying answer to that question. It has been my observation that belief precedes the reason for the belief. It's a Catch-22: if you already believe, you will interpret events as supporting your belief. If you don't already believe, you won't see any evidence for belief. Believers are either indoctrinated when they are young, or develop an emotional attachment to religion later in life, or experience a catharsis that triggers belief. [B]

I agree with everything you & Voyager said. I didn't expect that I would really get a satisfying answer because I don't think there is one. Thats why I thought I would bring this question here and I am glad I did.

[QUOTE] Originally posted by SimonX
Christians OR Catholics?? I question your truthfulness.

My deepest apologies for that. I definitely am still learning and will make mistakes. Thank You for pointing that out, seriously.
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Old 07-31-2003, 04:35 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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Re: Re: Re: How to make an Athiest believe

Quote:
Originally posted by jjimm
Didn't Bertrand Russell go from atheism back to Catholicism towards the end of his life?
I don't know that much about his life. Can you provide more detail? I wasn't able to find any reference to it on the internet. Wasn't he raised as a Catholic, though?

Ugh - denied by hamsters. Hope this isn't a double or triple-post. [crosses fingers]
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Old 07-31-2003, 05:18 PM
SparrowHawk SparrowHawk is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by lekatt
Give him a near death experience. Works every time.
No, it doesn't. I have a friend who had a NDE and she doesn't believe in god. She experienced what you might call a "sense of place," but no personal entities.

As to the OP, isn't faith supposed to be a gift? You can tell your friend that it seems God hasn't seen fit to give you that particular gift. If God wants you to believe, the ball is in his/her/its court.
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Old 07-31-2003, 05:23 PM
SparrowHawk SparrowHawk is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by lekatt
Give him a near death experience. Works every time.
No, it doesn't. I have a friend who had a NDE and she doesn't believe in god. She experienced what you might call a "sense of place," but no personal entities.

As to the OP, isn't faith supposed to be a gift? You can tell your friend that it seems God hasn't seen fit to give you that particular gift. If God wants you to believe, the ball is in his/her/its court.
  #32  
Old 07-31-2003, 05:40 PM
X~Slayer(ALE) X~Slayer(ALE) is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by lekatt
Give him a near death experience. Works every time.
Tell me something. How do you know that most of the Gold in the USA is in Fort knox? People tell you but how do they know? It might just all be a great big lie. Some saw pictures but not all of the gold is in those pictures and how do you even know thats real gold?

If they let you in as far as the lobby in Fort Knox, will that work?


Quote:
Originally posted by Mottpot
My question is how can I make that choice? What do I have to do to accept Jesus into my heart? I have an open mind and I will listen but as I explained to my friend, the total devotion that he has canít be there for me because I have a lot of doubt in my heart. I canít just say ďOk I believe in God nowĒ and live my life that way.

To you believers, what would you propose I do to come closer to believing in God?
God, Almighty in Heaven, I am just full of metaphors today. Thy will be done.

Suppose You go on to a basketball court and yell loudly and repeatedly, "I'm Open! I'm Open! Gimme the ball!!" What are the chances you will get the ball?

none I would say. First of all, youre the only one on the court and there is no ball. Does the game exist? Of course it does, thats why theres a court. Come to the court when where others are playing. Watch how they play, get into the game, enjoy the feeling of being in the game, then ask to join. They ask you, do you know how to play. You say no. The good ones will let you join anyway and teach you as you play. The better ones will ask all those who want to learn how to play to come with them and they will teach them the basics.

You cannot be open to God and not actively seek God. To accept Jesus in your heart you must first listen to his teachings, believe in what he has to say, know that what he says is the truth and it is good. If you believe that what Jesus says is true and good, then believeing in God would not be so hard a step. Being open minded doesnt mean being gullible. Question everything until you are satisfied. If you cannot find the answers that you seek, then find better people to question. Seek and ye shall find.
  #33  
Old 07-31-2003, 05:55 PM
Svt4Him Svt4Him is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by jjimm
There's an oldie but a goodie:

"I put it to you that we are both atheists. I just happen to believe in one less god than you do."
I like that one as much as I like:

God doesn't believe in atheists.

Mottpot- that is a great questioin.

A two-year-old boy was once staring at a heater, fascinated by its bright orange glow. His father saw him and warned, "Donít touch that heater, son. It may look pretty, but itís hot." The little boy believed him, and moved away from the heater. Some time later, after his father had left the room, the boy thought, "I wonder if it really is hot." He then reached out to touch it and see for himself. The second his flesh burned, he stopped believing it was hot; he now knew it was hot! He had moved out of the realm of belief into the realm of experience. Christians believed in Godís existence before their conversion. However, when they obeyed the Word of God, turned from their sins, and embraced Jesus Christ, they stopped merely believing. The moment they reached out and touched the heater bar of Godís mercy, they moved out of belief into the realm of experience. This experience is so radical, Jesus referred to it as being "born again." The Bible says that those who donít know God are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; 4:18). We are born with physical life, but not spiritual life. Picture unbelievers as corpses walking around who, by repenting and placing their faith in Christ, receive His very life. There is a radical difference between a corpse and a living, breathing human, just as there is when sinners pass from spiritual death to life. The apostle Paul said if you are "in Christ," you are a brand new creature. Those who now have Godís Spirit living in them will love what He loves and desire to do His will; they will have a hunger for His Word, a love for other believers, and a burden for the lost. The Holy Spirit also confirms in their spirit that they are now children of God. Those who believe on the name of the Son of God can know that they have eternal life. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "My speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of manís wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" . What Paul was saying was, "I deliberately didnít talk you into your faith, but I let Godís power transform you." He didnít reach them through an intellectual assent, but through the realm of personal experience. Suppose two peopleóa heater manufacturer and a skin specialistówalked into the room just after that child had burned his hand on the heater. Both assured the boy that he couldnít possibly have been burned. But all the experts, theories, and arguments in the world will not dissuade that boy, because of his experience. Those who have been transformed by Godís power need never fear arguments, because the man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument. "For our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance . . ."
  #34  
Old 07-31-2003, 05:56 PM
scotandrsn scotandrsn is offline
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How to make an atheist believe?

My Christian high school girlfriend asked me to read the New Testament to understand her beliefs. I did, and found that they seemed to be written from the same semi-euphoric mindset I had experienced once before, but had attributed to depression.

Right there, after years of atheist upbringing by ex-Mormon and ex-Christian Scientist parents, who taught me to treat anyone who believed in God as an idiot (including my devout friends and relatives), I convinced myself I believed, especially since my version of the Bible had a footnote at the end of each gospel saying the sections where Jesus comes back to life were from less ancient and less reliable sources of translation. My new Christian friends convinced me that was the whole point, but I felt like I had taken important things from the Bible without the resurrection stuff.

A year and a half later, I formally quit the Christians. Just too many unanswered questions, with a lot of mystical crap confusing the issue of how to live a good life. I just couldn't bring myself to the level of willful ignorance that belief seemed to require.

Religion is one of those things that you are usually exposed to at a very young age, and becomes a part of your unquestioned view of the world. When you get exposed to reality, and people who believe differently, it's extremely difficult to observe the situation dispassionately.

Your friend will probably never accept your atheism, so sure is he in his beliefs. You may wish to ask yourself if you wish to continue to associate with someone so intolerant, who claims to know proofless answers to the great questions of life.
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Old 07-31-2003, 06:17 PM
Svt4Him Svt4Him is offline
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Originally posted by scotandrsn
How to make an atheist believe?


Right there, after years of atheist upbringing by ex-Mormon and ex-Christian Scientist parents, who taught me to treat anyone who believed in God as an idiot (including my devout friends and relatives), I convinced myself I believed, especially since my version of the Bible had a footnote at the end of each gospel saying the sections where Jesus comes back to life were from less ancient and less reliable sources of translation. My new Christian friends convinced me that was the whole point, but I felt like I had taken important things from the Bible without the resurrection stuff.

A year and a half later, I formally quit the Christians. Just too many unanswered questions, with a lot of mystical crap confusing the issue of how to live a good life. I just couldn't bring myself to the level of willful ignorance that belief seemed to require.
So let me understand. You were religious, but didn't believe in Jesus. So did you call yourself "Christian"? I think people misuse the term "religion" as much as they misuse "Christian".

Quote:
Religion is one of those things that you are usually exposed to at a very young age, and becomes a part of your unquestioned view of the world. When you get exposed to reality, and people who believe differently, it's extremely difficult to observe the situation dispassionately.
Wow, that's a load. But I guess you have the disclaimer when you say usually. Sorry, I spent most my life as an unbeliever.

Quote:
You may wish to ask yourself if you wish to continue to associate with someone so intolerant, who claims to know proofless answers to the great questions of life.
Yes, it's always best to show tolerance by being intolerant of anyone who doesn't agree with you.
  #36  
Old 07-31-2003, 06:19 PM
Svt4Him Svt4Him is offline
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I wish I could go back and change my tone. Sorry about it. I shouldn't have said it's a load, and if I could change it I would. I think I need to go have a nap.
  #37  
Old 07-31-2003, 06:25 PM
Mottpot Mottpot is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by scotandrsn
Your friend will probably never accept your atheism, so sure is he in his beliefs. You may wish to ask yourself if you wish to continue to associate with someone so intolerant, who claims to know proofless answers to the great questions of life.
I am curious about that statement. Never in my mind have I considered not associating with this person because of his beliefs. I am almost positive he will never accept athiesm, but he accepts me as a friend and accepts that I am an athiest. How could he accept anything different? I wouldn't go so far as to call him intolerant. If he was, I don't believe we would be having these conversations. When I think of some one who is intolerant, I certainly don't think about having an educated discussion about my beliefs with them. He is willing to listen to me and my beliefs and I honestly think he sees why I feel the way I do, but can't find a way to make me believe.
I have a friend who I believe is an intolerant athiest. She is also good friends with this person, but you will never see them having a conversation about religion. This is because she will always offer the same argument. "You are an idiot to believe what you do. I am right and you are wrong." Thats intolerance.
I am actually very happy to have this person in my life so that I can learn about his views and marvel at how different they are from mine.
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Old 07-31-2003, 06:51 PM
X~Slayer(ALE) X~Slayer(ALE) is offline
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I must say, Mottpot that from the OP to this last one, I truly believe that God is already in you. You just dont believe yet. I hope and pray you find the answers you seek.
  #39  
Old 07-31-2003, 07:01 PM
photopat photopat is offline
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Mottpot, an atheist checking in here. Maybe what you should do is read up on the history of religious beliefs, not just christian, but a variety of them, and look at what people on all sides have said. You may decide there's something there and you may decide it's all just a big hot water bottle. Either way, you might want to try to get "unbiased" books on religion. I realize it's difficult, that's why I used the quotes.
  #40  
Old 07-31-2003, 07:05 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Svt4Him
I like that one as much as I like:

God doesn't believe in atheists.
In which case, God doesn't believe in something for which there is a lot more evidence than there is for God. Hmph! Some omniscient deity.
  #41  
Old 07-31-2003, 07:14 PM
photopat photopat is offline
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Oh, and don't mind lekatt. He's a one trick pony with a Near Death Experience" jones.
  #42  
Old 07-31-2003, 08:25 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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Well, I don't witness often...

You will occasionally hear from true-believing theistic folks (Christians especially) that, without the sense that God exists (and is running the universe wisely and can be appealed to), you feel an emptiness.

I'll vouch for that. I prayed to a God I did not know to exist, saying "Are you out there? If you're not, then you ought to be..."

I could never bring myself to believe something farfetched that I had no reason to believe. I could not even bring myself to believe something farfetched when the sole reason I had to believe was that I wasn't comfortable with a not-very-nice world of power-struggling and vapid emptiness unless there was a God who was both responsible for and responsive to the part of ourselves that wants life to revolve around caring and sharing and being kind and not controlling other people.

I don't guess I was an atheist but I was pretty much of an agnostic. In fact, as I grew older and learned more about what the religion (Christian) in which I was raised actually believed and held (historically and currently) to be true, I found it weirder and weirder and less and less comprehendable. So I said things like "They tell me to 'invite Jesus into my heart and accept him as my Lord and Savior'. I don't even know what that means! Either explain this to me so I can understand it or cause me to understand why and how I can believe something that makes no sense to me".

And I said "Look, I'm not going to go through this exercise and then say that 'I have prayed' and then see some tree trunk that looks like the Virgin Mary or something and convince myself that it is a sign from God. I'm staying out here until I get an answer or I pass out, and I want some bloody answers. I need some understanding here. This 'Jesus' thing...you were supposed to send him back again, or come back as him again, whatever, and finish saving the world. What are you waiting for, better hotel accomodations? Look around: this is not a 'saved world'. Why are things like this and if you are God why haven't you made them as they should be?"

And after hours of repeating all that with significant fervor and intensity, I felt a presence/message that said/felt like "Go inside, go to your room and get some sleep. You have been heard." And I did. As I said, though, answers were necessary.

Over the course of the next six months, + or -, I would wake up in the middle of the night with some huge chunk of STUFF that suddenly made sense to me, and which was on topic for the things I'd demanded answers about, and I wrote them down wondering if they'd still make sense in the morning or if they'd be like "higgamous hoggamous" or other silly shit. And I'd wake up in the morning and read them and they'd still make sense. So I'd remind myself that I had been very desperate for answers and could most definitely be deluding myself into thinking I had them, you know what I mean? So I said to myself, I might be wrong, this could be bullshit, I could be embracing some crap just to have some notions to embrace.

Unfortunately for the traditions of the Christian world of Born Again people and folks who have been Saved and whatnot, the answers that came to me did not tend to overlap the truths they had been touting.

Regarding the "why the hell haven't you come back as Jesus or sent him again or however you do it?" thing -- "We take volunteers my child. Would you do that for me?"

Regarding "Jesus into heart as Lord and Savior" -- "We take volunteers my child...he did good works did he not? He was one of you. He was trying to lead you folks here. "

Regarding God, versus Desperately Needing Answers and Inventing Some -- "This is prayer, and it is obviously real and functional. It does feel like speaking with another entity, doesn't it? I am not separate from you. You are more than an individual you, though. This is an experience. You are having this experience. Do you understand that it is because others have done what you did and sought answers with such determination and intensity that there are religions to speak of it? The experience was described. And it does feel like getting answers back from another entity after posing questions to it, doesn't it? But you did not 'invent' these answers. This is not 'imagination'. This is not 'merely in your head'. Merely? This is beyond who you are as a mere individual. Is God separate from who you are? Is God you talking to yourself? More the latter, because I am not separate from you so I am not separate from who you are. I am in you and you are in me. So in a sense you are talking to yourself. But there is no 'merely' about it.
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  #43  
Old 07-31-2003, 09:00 PM
Svt4Him Svt4Him is offline
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You will occasionally hear from true-believing theistic folks (Christians especially) that, without the sense that God exists (and is running the universe wisely and can be appealed to), you feel an emptiness.
You may hear that, but I don't think it's true..I believe people use that as a drawing card, as Iwasn't terribly empty before I became a Christian, although I'd like to know from those who did become Christians if this was true for them. It was only after that I realized what I was missing, not before.
  #44  
Old 07-31-2003, 09:25 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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As you are clearly a person of intellectual bent, Mottpot, I advise you to read a book, and not the Bible, either. Read Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner -- published in 1980 or '81, out of print, but available in many libraries.

Martin Gardner is a famous skeptic, who is a founding member of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). He is also a well-known essayist, and amateur philosopher and mathematician (for years he wrote a "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American.

Whys deals with a wide range of philosophical areas -- ethics, esthetics, epistemology, politics. Most of the chapter titles follow the form of Russell's Why I am not a Christian -- e.g., "Why I am not an anarchist," "Why I am not a Marxist," etc. It also includes chapters titled "Why I am not an atheist," "Why I am not a polytheist," "Why I am not a pantheist," "Prayer: Why I do not think it foolish," and "Immortality: Why I am not resigned."

Gardner is a skeptic who rejects the reality of all purported paranormal or supernatural phenomena. He is utterly familiar with all the arguments for atheism, and he admits they are far more compelling than any arguments to the contrary, and he knows perfectly well that God's existence cannot be logically or scientifically proven. In scientific fashion, he does not accept the authority of any religious tradition or purported divine revelation. Nevertheless, Gardner believes in, and prays to, a personal God. The main reason Gardner has made this leap of faith is that he wants to live forever after death, and he believes only a personal God can provide a personal afterlife. He explains it all in his book. He explains it all thoroughly and brilliantly.

Now, Gardner is not in any sense a Christian. He characterizes himself as a "philosophical theist." Jesus has no place in his conception of God. If you read his book and come around to his way of thinking, that will not make you a Christian. And if your Christian friend is right about the way the universe is set up, just believing in God, in the way Gardner believes, will still not be enough to save your soul from eternal torment in Hell. But it's a start. Maybe if you can make yourself into a philosophical theist in Gardner's fashion, that will put you in a position to reconsider the merits of Christian doctrine.

I should add that I've read the book and remain an atheist. I too would like an afterlife, but I am not convinced God is strictly necessary to provide such a thing. More importantly, I see no reason to believe that, if there is an afterlife, my place in it should be affected by what I believed while I was alive, or what kind of personal relationship I had with God or Christ. The very idea of salvation through faith is morally and spiritually abhorrent to me. But it's obviously very important to your Christian friend, and you are trying to teach yourself to see things from his point of view -- so you could do worse than to start with Martin Gardner.
  #45  
Old 07-31-2003, 09:38 PM
GodlessSkeptic GodlessSkeptic is offline
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Well, I was(like everyone on the planet who ever existed) born and atheist.As I grew up I was taught right and left about christianity, but I did not by it.I believe I first described myself as an atheist at the ripe old age of 8 or 9 years old.

I DID hold to a lot of irrational beliefs throughout my life(Sasquatch, ufos, conspiracy theories, psychics and even NDEs) but no gods.WHen I turned around 18 or 19 I had some kind of emotional episode where I thought I was talking to God and he was telling me "everything will be Ok"(God, like psychics never seems to tell you "You are screwed" or "Your mother doesn't love you").For a while I came a completely irrational christian conspiracy theorist, ufologist until I was introduce to critical thinking/skepticism.Since then I have come to realize that when we think we are talking to God, we are actually talking to ourselves and answering "as God"(which is why he always seems to tell us "Everything's gonna be alright").

Bottom line is that, thinking rationally it is extremely difficult to buy what theists are selling but thinking emotionally, it is hard to escape.

Several well meaning christians here have suggested using brainwashing techniques to "make yourself believe".Take note of this adn always remember it.If something requires willful ignorance, mindless repetition and presupposition/circular reasoning then it is to be considered not bloody likely to exist.

No one has to make such effort to convince themselves of gravity's existence.
  #46  
Old 07-31-2003, 11:09 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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Apos, what you're describing sounds to me like brainwashing and intentional self-delusion. My doubts are part of my mental process: if I ignore them, then I'm ignoring part of my internal dialogue, and I'm ignring evidence.
What evidence are you ignoring? Let's hypothesize for a second that there is no God. What evidence of non-existense would a non-existing being leave for you to evaluate?

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I'm not sure I'd be capable of doing that: my brain doesn't shut up on command, and if I tried to ignore my doubts about God, I'd stop trusting myself to form coherent conclusions.
You'll never come to believe in God thinking like that.

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So if I understand you correctly, you're suggesting that you can brainwash yourself into believing in God, but not into believing the coin will come to rest on its edge?
I'm not sure why it should be characterized as brainwashing. You are trying to reproduce conciously something which normally happens unconciously.

And yes, I am suggesting that distinction. A coin landing on its side is something that is physically observable in a very simplistic, factual way. The existence and communications of a being who is supposed to be beyond any physical experience is not anything like a coin. And, as I pointed out, you can't get emotionally invested in a coin. You can in the belief in God, and you aren't going to find contradictory evidence or experience regardless of whether God exists or not.
  #47  
Old 08-01-2003, 01:24 AM
rjung rjung is offline
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Originally posted by X~Slayer(ALE)
I must say, Mottpot that from the OP to this last one, I truly believe that God is already in you. You just dont believe yet.
Okay, I have to ask about this -- what are you trying to imply here, X~Slayer? Because it seems to me you're veering verrrrrrrrrrrry close to opening the can of worms that reads "only religious people can be good citizens"...
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  #48  
Old 08-01-2003, 01:27 AM
Upham Upham is offline
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Burn 'em
  #49  
Old 08-01-2003, 03:10 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Svt4Him, your parable really doesn't say much to me.

Please tell me why you don't believe in Vishnu (you are not allowed to use the Bible as justification, since that would be circular logic).
  #50  
Old 08-01-2003, 04:48 AM
Latro Latro is offline
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Also SvtHim,

You say you became a christian.
May I ask what you were before, or did I miss that somewhere?
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