Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Beyond reason

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8

One of the many features of faith is that no matter how ridiculous a story or an idea may be, it is possible through faith and therefore doesn't require a rational explanation. As a believer I often came across nonbelievers who posed the question "if God made man then who made God?" I would often refer to the above texts or others that were similar to it. My defense was that God was not created that he just is. I could not think beyond God nor did it ever occur to me delve into the origins of God's existence.  

At the time I knew nothing of logical reasoning or philosophy and was completely unaware that by using the Bible and its contents as evidence was nothing more than circular reasoning. It never occurred to me to question the origins of the Bible, who wrote it, how was it composed, compiled, and edited etc. I simply believed that it was the inerrant and wholly inspired word of God. The Bible itself was a witness of itself and the many claims made within its pages. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

When people questioned the Bible I thought of their lack of understanding as being due to the influence of demons clouding their minds making them incapable of grasping what I thought then was 'the truth.' The bible says that they desired the things of this world and of the flesh more than the things that are of God. 

A true fundamentalist as I once was is not moved by logic or reason and sees these things as inferior to the things of the Lord. 

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible had an answer for philosophy and other such things that were put in place by the devil to lead mankind astray and keep them from ever obtaining knowledge of the truth that would lead to their eternal salvation. 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

I was amazed as a believer when I saw these texts and thought to myself back then that God through his word had an answer for everything. This combined with my "supernatural" subjective experiences were enough to confirm my beliefs and the surety of my faith. It never occurred to me at the time that the authors of the Bible were promoting an ideology and that the scriptures themselves were nothing more than propagandist writings used to propound yet another ridiculous mythical set of beliefs. 

Even apologists who claim to be using logic and reason to confirm their beliefs are completely unaware of their utter and complete condition of confirmation bias. Unlike the scientific method they never try to falsify their beliefs. They begin with the presupposition that what they believe is true; and then they look for "evidence" to support what they already have convinced themselves is true ( circular reasoning). 

A theist does not reason beyond his/her faith. They go to the edge of enquiry and when they reach that point they turn around. I remember how when I was stuck and did not have an answer to certain questions made to me I would refer to the scriptures and remind myself that there are mysteries that the Lord in all his wisdom has chosen to remain hidden from us. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 

As Christian apologist William Lane Craig once pointed out:
"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa." Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Revised ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 1994. ISBN 0-89107-764-2.

Note: All biblical citations comes from the New International Version of the scriptures. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

God's eternal grudge

grudge: a strong feeling of anger toward someone that lasts for a long time

 5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.Genesis 6:5-6

According to the Christian church as humans we are all born with an imaginary affliction called a sinful nature. The verse quoted above comes from just before the Lord decided to flood the earth and destroy mankind. It states that mans heart is always inclined towards evil.

What is sin?

:  transgression of the law of God
:  an offense against religious or moral law 

Both definitions cited above apply equally, but for our purpose here it is the first one that I'm most interested in. Because the second follows from the first. According to believers our morals come from God. Sin in its simplest definition is nothing more than living against the laws of god as outlined in the scriptures and dictated by the church. 

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned-- Romans 5:12

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23

The man that is being referred to is Adam; and it was his disobedience of God's direct command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that brought sin (disobedience) into the world. Because of Adam's sin we have all inherited the propensity to sin and rebel against the dictatorial guy in the sky who wants nothing more than your total submission to his will. 

Basically, if someone offends me I have the choice to either forgive them or to remain angry at them for the rest of my life. But anyone who knows anything about life will know that holding grudges is not a healthy thing to do. There are people in my life that have done things that have been cause for me to hate and despise them to the death. But I believe that life is too short to bother with holding grudges. You can forgive and remember those offences for future reference but it is not healthy to hold on to the feelings associated with those offences when they first occurred. 

For instance my older brother is what we have termed the black sheep of the family. He is always mixed up in something negative like heavy addictions to alcohol and illegal drugs. Because of his chosen lifestyle he has been banned from the entire family. They do not accept him in their homes nor is he trusted by my other siblings. He has stolen from me personally on numerous occasions and yet I still talk to him from time to time, but I keep him at arms length. I don't hate or despise him but I am wary around him and don't trust him. I have forgiven him for all the things he has done to me personally but I keep a close watch on him and when he visits me (rarely) I keep him on a very short leash. 

Unlike the all powerful guy in the sky I can choose to forgive those that offend me. I don't require torture and a blood sacrifice ending with the death of the offering. I guess this is one of those many things that the omnipotent deity of the Bible can't do. He had to become flesh, dwell amongst us, suffer torment and torture at the hands of the Romans, and finally be crucified and die so that he could find it in his heart to forgive me for the sins of Adam. 

Unlike God I don't hold grudges, I just separate myself from the poisonous influences in my life. I have a live and let live policy and unlike the biblical deity I could care less what anyone does with their lives as long as it doesn't affect me or harm anyone in any way. God demands that you believe in his son (himself) and his sacrifice in order to be saved from his wrath which includes eternal separation from him and the tormenting of your soul which is yet another unproven religious concept. 

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. John 3:18

I don't believe in him (Jesus) or his so called message, nor do I believe without evidence in the existence of the biblical deity or any god for that matter. I guess God's grudge towards my person as well as other atheists, agnostics, and other believers in other deities is bound to last forever. 

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version and the word definitions are from the Merriam Webster online dictionary which I have linked to throughout the text itself.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The confirmation bias fallacy

As we all know we each have certain biases that influence how we think and feel about certain matters we encounter in our lives. This is nowhere more prominent and clearly demonstrated than it is in religious belief. Many refer to their religion of choice and it doctrines as the absolute "truth" about mans origins, life, and his purpose in general. Some go as far as stating that there are mysteries which science can never hope to discover but that are only explainable through the acceptance and belief in faith based religious explanations.

That being said, I would like to focus on the informal logical fallacy known as confirmation bias and how it is used and expressed in the lives of fundamentalist believers. As a former fundamentalist Pentecostal evangelist myself; I can attest to the power of faith and its ability to stifle the search for knowledge and it's rejection of reason over the acceptance of unprovable and irrational beliefs.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias: The tendency to look for information that confirms our existing preconceptions, making it more likely to ignore or neglect data that disconfirms our beliefs. For example, when we compare ourselves with others we are more likely to remember other people's mistakes and less likely to think of our own.

The Bible has many examples where the knowledge of men and faith in God are compared and defined. Of course the knowledge of men is often represented as imperfect and of course inferior to the knowledge of God who according to the scriptures is the giver of said knowledge.

 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 1 Timothy 6:20

As you can see it is not prudent to question what one has received by faith. It is referred to as evil and an evil snare to lead believers into a rejection of belief. Ever since I can remember I was and still am today a very inquisitive individual. When I was an evangelist I often questioned to myself the many what at the time I believed to be divine spiritual experiences I had. I "felt" the presence of God every minute of every day and it often gave me goose bumps and was accompanied by a warm tingling sensation all around me. The air felt electric and I felt like I walked inside a shield of divine protection. I often held entire conversations in my head with the Lord which were usually one way but I liked telling him how grateful I was to have found his grace and have been saved by his sacrifice of himself. 

It was these subjective feelings coupled with other everyday experiences that at one time held me captive to the faith. There was no way back then that you could convince me that my God wasn't real. I would reply that I knew he was real because I felt his presence and believed he guided my every action. I spoke in tongues, prophesied, cast out devils, others claimed to have been healed through my ministry. I often cried like a baby when I was overcome with the presence of God and felt what I believed to be his love for me. I had recurring dreams where I often saw myself floating in the air and every dream brought me higher and closer to God. I would often wake up from these dreams and find myself speaking in tongues and overcome by the power of the Holy Ghost. 

As a believer I looked for signs everywhere. If I was about to preach and had a bad experience on the way to the church I took that as a sign that the devils minions were out to stop me from winning souls for Christ or hinder his powers from using me as a vessel through disrupting my focus on the Lord himself. If thing went well I thanked God for the blessings being bestowed upon me although I thought I was never deserving of such favor. I aspired to be a modern day apostle like Peter or even Paul. I wanted God to use me to the fullest potential. I wanted to do greater things than even He did in my ministry as he promised I would. 

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12  

Confirmation bias became my friend and at the same time my worse enemy. I didn't care what so called arguments or evidence  you may have have that refuted my claims about the inerrancy of the Bible. My experiences told me otherwise. The only evidence I cared about was the testimony of a fellow believer who claimed to have been benefited in some way by my ministry. My evidence for my beliefs was the Bible and any and everything else were snares of Satan to deceive and lead me astray. If you did not believe in the scriptures as I did that was your problem and I could only help you if you humbled yourself and let Jesus into your heart to reveal to you as he did to me the truth of his gospel. 

Confirmation bias is the culprit in Christianity or Islam or any other religious beliefs that makes it seem like you are talking to the wall when dealing with believers. Their faith and subjective experiences trump whatever evidence you may have to the contrary. Prominent apologist William Lane Craig said it best: 

"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa."

It takes determination and an open mind to break free from this cycle of ignorance that one succumbs to in the name of faith. It took me six years to completely overcome the effects that my faith and deep indoctrination had on me. But I can say that it felt like a great weight had been literally lifted off of my shoulders.

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.

 Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Revised ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 1994. ISBN 0-89107-764-2.