The Unbelievers – Richard Dawkins’ new film makes me want to believe in God

Unbelievers Dawkins KraussI have a guilty secret – I actually quite like Richard Dawkins. It’s always good entertainment watching someone who is so eminent in his scientific field, continually putting his credibility on the line by taking on religion despite his limited knowledge of the subject. Through his attempts to dismiss all things religious he has ended up acting more and more along the lines of a High Priest of atheism, creating his own irreligious dogma in order to counter the religious dogmas he despises so much. Through his books, which include The God Delusion, he has gained worldwide fame and now we get to experience a taste of this superstardom in his own docufilm, The Unbelievers.

This film which was originally premiered at Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto in April 2013, is officially released today in the UK on DVD. The film follows Dawkins and his close friend, the renowned American physicist Lawrence Krauss as they travel around the globe attending book signings and speaking engagements culminating in the 2013 Rally for Reason on the Capitol Lawn in Washington D.C. which was billed as the largest secularist gathering in history with an attendance of 30,000 people.

Anyone who is expecting illuminating discourses from Dawkins and Krauss unpacking their thinking behind their great dislike of all things God-related will be sadly disappointed. Dawkins and Krauss do make for easy viewing, especially Krauss whose charisma nicely offsets Dawkins dry and erudite persona. The whole film though, is little more than a superficial atheist love-in. The director, Gus Holwerda is clearly enamoured by his subjects but appears to have decided that getting to go behind the scenes with the two of them will make more interesting viewing than watching them engage in meaningful debate with those they oppose as they speed from country to country.

Instead, the film goes out of its way to build Dawkins and Krauss up as modern-day messiahs who have come to save us all from the shackles of religion, presenting a one-sided proclamation that science has defeated religion without providing any suggestion that they may not be 100 per cent correct on this assumption. In order to reinforce this message a number of well-known celebrities have been brought in to provide a few soundbites during a prologue and over the closing credits . Ricky Gervais, Stephen Hawking, Tim Minchin, Cameron Diaz and other high-profile atheists happily add their thoughts on why science is king and religion is only for extremists and the deluded.

The closest we get to an opposing point of view is the painfully cringe worthy discussion between Dawkins and the Catholic Cardinal of Sydney on Australian TV. Of the brief clips shown, Dawkins wins hands down, not because of his great mind, but rather because the Cardinal struggles to make any coherent arguments. It’s designed to illustrate just how clueless religious people are in the face of scientific reason. As Ricky Gervais states in his interview, “That’s the point about beliefs: they don’t change the facts. Facts, if you’re rational, should change your beliefs.”

Unbelievers DawkinsThe film’s arrogant cockiness might please loyal Dawkinites, but it is its biggest flaw. By presenting science as the great hope for mankind and Dawkins and Krauss as overflowing fountains of rational wisdom, it offers little to persuade those who are not fully signed up to the cause to reconsider their ways. The most obviously unsound assumption is that science and religion cannot coexist. For Dawkins in particular, this is a black-and-white issue, but of course it isn’t. There are enough eminent scientists who quite happily believe in God. This is conveniently ignored as are questions about life that science, by its very nature cannot answer. It only takes one miraculous occurrence to blow Dawkins’ whole ‘science tells us everything we need to know’ approach out of the water. I’ve seen too much with my own eyes to know that you dismiss miracles at your peril. Ricky Gervais is right. Facts should change your beliefs. What this film fails to explain is that this can work both ways. In my case hard facts have reinforced my Christian faith, not destroyed it.

Richard Dawkins is very good at finding the worst aspects of some beliefs and holding them up as a reason to discredit religion as a whole, which ironically is both irrational and unscientific. He and Krauss are right to say that religions should be questioned and challenged and sometimes ridiculed. If believers are not willing to question their own beliefs or decide to pick and choose which bits of their religion to believe, then it is perfectly acceptable for those on the outside to be dismissive. If a religion has inherent worth then it should be able to stand up to close scrutiny.

Sadly Dawkins and Krauss don’t appear to be willing to apply such a level of scrutiny to religious belief or choose to make any distinctions between different religions. It’s more a case of, ‘This is all nonsense because it doesn’t fit with my scientific approach to life.’ Their brand of atheism, at least as the documentary portrays it, leaves me cold. It relies on an intellectual snobbery that confidently believes it has a monopoly on the truth to put down and belittle those who think differently.

If that is the best Dawkins’ atheism has to offer, I’d rather give religion a go first, just in case he might actually, possibly be wrong on this.



Categories: Atheism, Reviews

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151 replies

  1. Always good for entertainment is Dickie Dorkins. Happy to say that I don’t believe in the god he doesn’t believe in either; in truth, I don’t know anyone who does: Dorkins’ deity is nothing more than a figment of his own imagination, a “straw man” as they say (unless you’re a raving fundy, of course: I gather they really do believe in flying teapots).

  2. “There are enough eminent scientists who quite happily believe in God. This is conveniently ignored as are questions about life that science, by its very nature cannot answer.”

    This misses on vital word at the end- ‘yet’.

    As for “I’d rather give religion a go first, just in case he might actually, possibly be wrong on this”, there is a major problem. There are so many different religions, and so many variations within those religions, which one to go for? I could choose Christianity, but suppose I go for Catholicism over Anglicanism, and both are wrong and the Muslims are right? Suppose I opt for Judaism (the religion of Jesus Christ), and it turns out the Vikings had been right all along and Odin’s not very happy that I’ve rejected him? At least with atheism there is only one consistent view: There is no evidence for the existence of gods, so there’s no point believing in any of them.

    • I don’t mind if you go for either Catholicism or Protestantism, as long as you become a Christian one day Dave. I think Catholics may get a worse press these days and suffer more prejudice than many other Christian denominations, but you could do a lot worse than become a Catholic. Just as long as you know Christ, that’s the main thing.

      I think it’s lovely that you are growing in this way and considering this. I have to say that even though, in good conscience I can’t promise that becoming a Christian will make everything wonderful – it sometimes makes things better for people (they say it does anyway). Also, don’t worry about past mistakes – we’ve all made mistakes, but Christ is there for anyone who is willing to admit that he or she is not a ‘good person’ (like that ‘respectable’ Dawkins fellow).

      God bless you Dave!

      • And if i choose not to become a Christian (of any stripe)? Would you be upset if I plumped for Jainism or Scientology instead?

      • Oh – I see! You think Tom Cruise is cooler – hmmm, hmmm?!

        I’d be a tad offended, but I would try to hope that you came to your senses one day.

      • I came to my senses long ago. The day I decided that religion is bunkum.

        • “I came to my senses long ago. The day I decided that religion is bunkum.”

          There is a certain arrogance in that, the same utilised by Dawkins. I find that to be wholly opposed to the scientific method that I learned, many years ago. (It hasn’t changed!) Our understanding of the universe has evolved and continues to evolve, what we believe today may prove to be wrong tomorrow. For example, serious questions have been raised about the absolute nature of the speed of light as a physical constant and the unified theory seems as far away as ever. Yet we make daily decisions on faith and base that faith on our own personal observations: that is the defence that you gave in response to my earlier comment. How, then, does that differ from the evidence seen by Christians or by members of other religious faiths? For some people it is the blinding light on the road to Damascus, though, on investigation, that sudden light is the coming together of a long gathering of evidence; for others it is an accretion of experience.

          You seem to be pouring scorn on faith, simply because you have not had that experience. Because it hasn’t happened to you, it doesn’t exist? Wow!

          Experiences can be written or spoken about, they cannot be readily transferred, I can only ask you to have an open mind as a closed one is a denial of intelligence. You trust your experience on the basis of continuity but that is not proof, except that it has held true, thus far …….. So with Christians. What’s the difference?

      • Oh, and i like Tom Cruise as an actor. But if he came round to my house and tried to sell me a copy of L. Ron’s book I’d tell him to clear off.

      • And as some people can see, I cannot promise the victorious Christian life either.

        I still don’t see how Dawkins differs from the religious leaders who fleece their congregations though. With both it seems to be a merchandising thing in which ‘followers’ are prompted to buy merchandise or make donations to the cause (did you know you can download Dawkins’ new film on Amazon? (and I’ll hazard a guess that he comes out of it looking really good – kind of sophisticated yet amiable and possibly a little intellectual all at the same time?)).

        Part of what he does to make himself look good is to make Christians look bad. But he’s not the only one doing that…

      • Roytindle – “There is a certain arrogance in that…” It is not arrogance to know your own mind, it is sanity.

    • Dave, you say ““There are enough eminent scientists who quite happily believe in God. This is conveniently ignored as are questions about life that science, by its very nature cannot answer.” This misses on vital word at the end- ‘yet’.”

      Adding the word yet onto the end of the sentence would seem to imply that you think the very nature of science will change. Could you possibly expand on that point?

      • 150 odd years ago, science said man would never fly. Of course science changes, that is the nature of science. Science cannot yet say exactly how life, or even the universe, came to be, and may never do so. But unlike religion, it doesn’t presume to know the answers. That is also the nature of science.

    • ‘This misses on vital word at the end- ‘yet’.’ That is unscientific – that is faith.

  3. In the absence of scientific proof it is an open question and all viewpoints become a matter of faith. What went bang and where did it come from ? There is no evidence for origins either.Science may never discover the unified theory of everything and we have to hold that as a possibility also. We are all free to weigh it up and follow our own analysis and instincts. We are not required to be right about everything but for Christians its about an enhanced and transformed life and the person of Jesus Christ is central to this quest for many of us.. The business of science does not give you the resources to deal with the problems and challenges of everyday life and seems to creates just as many problems as it solves.

    • “The business of science does not give you the resources to deal with the problems and challenges of everyday life…”

      Are you sure about that? Personally I find that the products of science (medicine, technology, communications etc) provide very adequate resources for dealing with the challenges of everyday life. Faith I can (and do) live without.

      • Dave, you live your entire life on faith. Do you demand evidence that the bus you catch is really going to the destination indicated, that those around you value you, that the medication/operation that you are given is correct, or do you take all this on faith?

        As a student chemist I set out to check a lot of standard physical chemistry teaching methods and found several of them fatally flawed. They didn’t work. But we cannot test everything we have to rely on, have faith in the abilities and honesty of others.

        Religious faith, for most people of faith, I suspect, starts with the coming together of personally observed evidence and then progresses into a wider faith, a trust in an extension of those principles and communications that have worked.

      • Hi roytindle

        I quite agree, there has to be a certain amount of faith in life. But I’ll put my faith in the things that have at least some credible evidence. If i catch a bus, there is some evidence that the bus will take me where I want to go. There’s a timetable; the bus has a number and a destination board; quite often I’ve taken that same bus before and it arrived at the promised destination. Armed with that evidence, I’ll get on the bus.

        With my medication, I have to trust that my consultant has some expert knowledge of the drugs he is prescribing; that he has been employed because of that knowledge; that the drugs I’m taking don’t contain strychnine. Given I’ve been taking these drugs for several years and haven’t been poisoned yet, I’ll continue to put my faith in those drugs.

        But faith in something that can only be truly known after my death? I’ll wait until I see some evidence.

      • Dave – ‘can only be truly known after my death?’ Not so. But all too many believers think they have to wait for what they think’s in heaven, but why wait when others have found it can be known now.

        ‘I’d rather give religion a go first,’ – may I suggest, don’t bother! That won’t do it, only a relationship will prove it. What’s more, it’s far from delusional. Ask Him and see…

      • Richard

        If you personal experience of what happens after death, I sincerely hope that you have recovered from whatever sent you there.

        If Jesus pays me a visit, I’ll be sure to to have a long, serious discussion with him. I have lots of questions.

      • Thanks for your kind thought Dave. I was, however, being a tad heretical regarding religion! Some churches stipulate one can experience heaven only after death. This is mistaken, because we can do that now by going through Jesus as the doorway and finding out what it’s like.

        Yes, I did have a life-changing pre-death personal experience but needed much more than ‘recovery’ from what caused it. I needed spiritual cleansing, and the One who rescued me provided that too.

        It’s probably too mind-blowing but if you’re up to it, you may read at http://wp.me/P1Y1yB-i0 I was told not to tell it at my baptism, but why ever should I?

        Be sure to ask whatever you want. After all He died for you too, so you’re very special to Him. The Lord told prophet Isaiah, “Come now and let us reason together”.

      • ‘Faith I can (and do) live without.’

        No you don’t. For example, you do not believe the Sun will ‘rise’ every morning – as it would breach the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  4. Behind contemporary militant atheism lies a degree of arrogance; I have not seen this therefore it doesn’t exist. Equally there is a lot of intellectual dishonesty, using data to prove their belief system rather than extrapolating from data to the belief – and using only that data that fits their argument.

    There have been two significant instances of the latter, recently, on the BBC. The first was a history of botany in which the narrator persistently used visual images of the Christian Church persecuting scientists and then observed how enlightenment came with science sweeping away the unreason of faith. This was led by John Ray, he claimed: the Rev John Ray, that is! An important point that was entirely missed was that Church of England clergy have played a major role in the development of English botany. Back in the days when there was a priest in every parish, clergy, generally, would have obtained a university degree that educated on a broad front. Many, so qualified, would take up quiet rural parishes and several started observing the natural world. It was often said that we could learn about God by reading the scriptures and studying his creation. In my church, St Olave’s on Tower Hill, is buried the “father of English botany”, William Turner, also an ornithologist, physician and reformation priest.

    The second was an account of the development of the big bang theory by Professor Jim Al-Khalili. Most of the programme was spent discussing Fred Hoyle’s alternative and now discredited theory, steady state. The steady state theory is based on there being no creation moment, of the universe always existing and of new matter being created as old is lost. The absence of creation is the kernel for Al-Khalili: no creation, no Creator. Eventually he got onto the big bang theory but entirely omitted mention of the Belgian scientist who developed the concept, Georges Lemaître. Lemaître was an astronomer and professor of physics – and also a Roman Catholic priest.

    It’s only in your final comments that I take a little issue, Gillan. Don’t fall into the science/religion polarisation that some atheists try to manufacture. We should regard science as one aspect of understanding God. Look up at the night sky and find Messier 31, the Great Nebular in Andromeda. That is another galaxy like ours, the Milky Way and, together with the Magellanic clouds, form a local cluster of galaxies. This local cluster is combined with others into a supercluster – and there are a lot of them. That is the scale of Creation; God created the laws of physics and chemistry whereby this vast, beautiful, all but incomprehensible universe came into being. By studying it we do learn more of his magnificence and his love, for he came into his Creation and denied himself those great powers in order to sacrifice himself for us. It adds a new dimension to that concept.

    I would also suggest that science does not create problems but the use to which we put this knowledge; something there in Genesis, I think!

    Have a look at the Faraday Institute of Science and Religion at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge:

    https://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/index.php

    And at the Test of Faith material that they have produced:

    http://www.testoffaith.com/

  5. Sorry, Gillan, my final comments should have been addressed to the writer of another comment.

  6. Someone once said “the greatest enemy of religion is education”, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as we in the West become more educated, christianity declines and that the places in the world where it thrives are some of the least educated.

    • China, for instance? Arrogance is usually a mask for educational deprivation, not faith.

      Why do you hide behind a non de plume?

      • Wow Roy, a tad confrontational aren’t we???
        Is it not you showing arrogance by assuming those of us without faith are ‘educationally deprived’???? As for the non de plume, I prefer to remain an internet ghost!!!!

    • Do you not read that which you have written?

      “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as we in the West become more educated, christianity declines and that the places in the world where it thrives are some of the least educated.”

      Does that not suggest that Christians are ignorant? I also noted that Christianity is growing faster in China than probably in any other country: at the same time, China’s educational standards are outcompeting those of many Western countries. Your comment, thus, appears to prove my point, that those who deny the beliefs of others are, themselves, guilty of ignorance.

      Confrontational? Probably, seem to recall Jesus doing that from time to time.

      • Roy, thought you might be interested in this from the Christian post:-

        Researchers noted that although the church had grown, Christian communities are still marginalised in society. 

        The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said on its website that Christianity mainly attracts people with low social status, including the poor, the women and older people. 

        It said that while 50% of Christians had completed their primary education, only 2.6% of them attained college education or higher. 

        All apologies humbly accepted!!!!

        • The Chinese government and its institutions are frightened of the growth of religion, giving support only to those churches accredited by the state. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is a prominent organ of that government and is responsible for, among other activities, anti US propaganda and the promotion of what China laughingly continues to call Marxism. Not exactly a reliable source on the subject. Please do check before you quote!

          My wife is Chinese and, surrounded by most of her family, I’ve been reasonably aware of Chinese politics for 3 decades.

    • ‘Someone once said “the greatest enemy of religion is education”.

      Is that Communist or Nazi education?

      • No, just good old standard education.

        • Sorry, been busy all day; have returned to this blog and see that a little silliness has crept in. I find no accord with fundamentalists of any ilk, they are people who have given up the greatest of God’s gifts, intelligence. Clearly there are laws of physics which control the universe: apart from anything else, they give us cause for faith in our daily lives. Things dropped, for example, always fall, were that not so life, it it existed, would be difficult! So, if there be a creator, is it likely that he would put together a world – or a universe – in a week and then construct the laws by which everything operates? Then, why would he need to tinker – intelligent design – surely it would have been right from the outset.

          I also have a problem with exclusivity, only believers are saved. That suggests that salvation depends on accidents of birth; what happens in North Korea, for example? From a Christian perspective, it limits the sacrifice of Jesus. So, no fence, all are equal.

          Since I’m not a fundamentalist, I take the first five books of the Old Testament as fairly typical Jewish allegory and not an historical record so the flooding of the planet may explain a significant flood but not a total one. There is no geological evidence for a complete covering by water. There have been disasters, of course, but the nature of the universe, of creation, appears to be based on processes that include some violence. The plate tectonics that shaped this world and helped to enable life also gives rise to destruction, similarly free will entails abilities to do things that are wrong, cruel, stupid. With all that in mind, I still believe my faith is important to me; it gives me a reference point to deal with the bad and accept the good. It has been a constant in an inconstant world. Thus I wish it for others not because they are otherwise doomed, or God requires it but because it has given me meaning and joy – and the ability to achieve things that I don’t believe I could have done on my own.

  7. Roy thats piceless especially considering the evidence/ faith context of the blog, oh the irony! !!!!

    • The Christian Post is, as you are no doubt aware, US based and is largely a voice for the Southern Baptists. This is a peculiarly American group and one with whom many European Christians would take issue. Many are anti-science Creationists, regard women as subservient to men, are homophobic and are the largest US protestant denomination. Those beliefs do not enjoy that degree of support among British Christians.

      The Christian Post is not known for accuracy of reporting.

      The growth of Chinese Christianity is primarily outside of the state approved churches, that is a problem for the Chinese government as it’s growth beyond their control. And beyond their counting.

      I think that there is a clear danger that many people accept that which they read on the Internet as being correct. Unfortunately that is not so; one needs some understanding of the specific publication and its track record. Maybe, in China, there are people who believe the Daily Mail to be a publisher of factual accuracy. Perish the thought!

      • Roy, although I agree with you that there has been an explosion of Christianity in china over the last 30 years, the increase in numbers hasn’t changed the demographic. I still maintain my point that religion (mainly christianity and islam) continues to thrive amongst the poorest and less educated, or are you going to argue that africa has an educational system on a par with the West? ??

        • You are cherry picking, Sarky. I point you to Test of Faith, a project of the Faraday Institute of Scvience and Religion, based at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge: http://www.testoffaith.com/

          If you read through the material you will find a fair number of active, prominent scientists commenting on their faith. Dave Godfrey may care to look at this too. Religious faith has incorporated some of the most highly educated people and inquiring minds, throughout recorded history. It still does. Rather than William Lane Craig, I would refer to someone nearer home, as it were, Rev Dr John Polkinghorne, a theoretical physicist and ordained Anglican priest – look him up on Google, I don’t want to limit what you find. A couple of years ago, I had the delight of having dinner at St Edmund’s College and of listening to John.

  8. Dave -It is true that many people do not feel the need for God but others are significantly transformed for better by faith through prayer,reading scripture and being part of the Christian community. The people that invented weapons of mass destruction for example were no doubt rational but have they enhanced humanity? Medicine, technology and communications can all be abused. Science for all its benefits has to be applied morally. Knowing the nature of atomic particles is not much help if you have a relationship problem.

  9. Stephen Gray wrote: “This is conveniently ignored as are questions about life that science, by its very nature cannot answer.

    Absolutely right. For all those interested in this perennial question still under discussion today I do not think a better answer has been given than that of William Lane Craig, possibly the greatest contemporary apologist for Christianity, speaking as he does to student gatherings all over the world.
    His paper on ‘What is the relation between science and religion?’ is an example of his superb logic and coherence of thought. IMO it is unanswerable, and the likes of Dawkins et al are by comparison intellectual pygmies.
    See his website : reasonable faith.org

  10. Roy, I fully appreciate that there are many eminent scientists who have faith, but they are in the minority amongst the scientific community. I also think your last post deflects from the fact that you havnt been able to provide evidence that the point I made is incorrect. If I am wrong then please provide me with evidence of revival in the West and not the decline that has been so well documented and also evidence that christianity is not thriving amongst the poor and less educated.

    • I would suggest that the number of atheists/humanist, in the West, remains much smaller than the number of faith members – that is certainly evidenced in Britain. Also, many denominations are claiming a new, slow increase in membership. My own church, in the City of London, has a primarily young, professional and growing congregation. The decline of the past may well be ending.

      Of course Christianity flourishes among the poor and disadvantaged, that is where it evolved and, theologically, belongs. You will note that Islam is growing in Britain.

      The collapse of organised religion, promised since the ‘Enlightenment’ hasn’t happened, and please don’t insult the intelligence of others by adding ‘yet’. Faith has proven remarkably persistent and will, I believe, continue to do so.

      I commented, earlier, that belief is not transferable, neither is disbelief. My experience began in my late teens, I was not brought up within a church, and my Christian belief evolved at the same time as my love of science, chemistry in particular. That has been followed by what I suppose most atheists would term a series of most amazingly remarkable coincidences. My involvement with the new Viet Namese community, in Britain, came through a ten day sequence of disconnected events that led me to successfully persuade the Government to properly fund resettlement and to my becoming the media spokesperson for the community. I mention this because I cannot accept this complex series of events, and others that led to similar opportunities – getting the Government to increase funding on training and British and multinational companies to act on preserving biodiversity – to be the result of simple coincidence. As a scientist, I would suggest that long chains of coincidence, over a period, are remarkably rare. They don’t accord with the physical laws of the universe.

      • Roy – fascinating to learn of your ‘coincidences’ as so many significant ones happened to me (even like a string or trail) that I often blog about them. Do you know of any mathematicians who’ve addressed these occurrences as being more than random events?

    • ‘ but they are in the minority amongst the scientific community’. Are you saying that a majority holds the Truth and a minority, therefore, does not hold the Truth? If so, by what objective standards?

      Is majority right, because it is a majority?

  11. I would suggest that the number of atheisthets/humanist, in the West, remains much smaller than the number of faith members – that is certainly evidenced in Britain. 

    Wow that is a bold statement, especially considering that study after study has shown that once you take out cultural christians you are in a very small minority!!!!!

    Of course Christianity flourishes amongst the poor and disadvantaged, that is where it evolved and, theologically, belongs. You will note that Islam is growing in britain.

    Have you not just proved my point????

    I commented earlier, that belief is not transferable, neither is disbelief.

    Have to agree with you on that one, I was bought up in a christian family!!!!!

    As for chains of coincidence, I would suggest they are just that

    • Sarky, I have been involved, elsewhere, in an argument about banks controlling the world. Thus, I use the same argument as I used there: “study after study” – where is the evidence, show me peer review.

      The Church of England point to some 900,000 people being in active membership, the Roman Catholic Church states its membership at about the same level. Add the other denominations and, yes, a minority but a substantial one. In fact, the Office for National Statistics gave the following figures in 2011:

      Declared Christians 33.2 million
      Declared atheists: 14.1 million

      I’m sorry but unless you have something useful to add, I don’t include further negation of faith simply because you don’t have one, I have work to do.

    • Sarky – ‘As for chains of coincidence, I would suggest they are just that’. If you’re still reading, may I stretch those of your grey cells that are open-minded? (Won’t try frying your brain; that’s for those near the cutting edge.)

      Surely the claim deserves investigation, does it not? Trouble is, coincidence doesn’t lend itself to empirical science. It can’t be tested and its events are non-reproducible.

      But they can observed and analysed. In doing so I’ve found a number of coincidences are not simply random or arise as serendipity (fortuitous happen-chance) alone. They display a theme or rationale when more three or more occur closely in time. In 2012 a string of well-over a dozen directly related, separate events all centring on one major national event produced a branch or another string, just like a flow diagram. In sheer amazement at its existence and growth and contemplating its mathematical wonder, a musical description came to mind.

      But what you couldn’t conceive is that this was itself soon confirmed in precisely the same terms by a visitor who was teaching upon coincidences, and he explained its source.

      What you will also find hard to credit is that certain theological principles have been taught me by ‘coincidence’, That is, I’d note a particular scripture but someone else would very soon quote the same or a related verse. The first instance I recall was when 3 individuals in a service were led to read a certain verse out aloud without realising someone else would be doing likewise. Their three verses came out in sequential order!! (I know it wasn’t pre-arranged because I was one of the three.)

      The most frequent occurrence of such ‘coincidences’ are when the same verse or a theme crops us from divergent sources on three sequential days. I concluded long ago that God was trying to get my attention and stress the topic is important for one reason or another. Such coincidences unequivocally display an intelligence rather than randomness – hence, the term ‘God-incidences’.

  12. 2007, Tearfund published the following results of their comprehensive review of British Christian religion in 2006:

    “One in four of the UK adult population say they go to church at least once a year. […] 59% never or practically never go to church.”

    Tearfund (2007)6

    10% of the UK adult population go to church at least weekly.15% attend church at least monthly.26% attend church at least yearly.59% never or practically never go to church.

    Self-disclosure polls of church attendance are generally twice as high as reality. Actual measures of church attendance have shown that Church attendance in 1999 was 7.5%, down from 10% in 1989 and 12% in 1979 (declining by about an absolute 2% per decade). This trend predicts that in 2007, the rate will be close to 6% who attend, not the 10% who think they do according to Tearfund. This estimate was backed up by the English Church Census 2004.

    Obviously this is seven years out of date and I think it is safe to say that further decline will have happened.

    • The above would suggest Roys figures are out by about 30 million, hence my comment on cultural christians.

      please note I am not trying to be facetious, I just like to deal in facts.

      • I quoted Government produced figures. The other, more recent piece of evidence, from the same source, is that the decline tailed off and ended in the late 90s.

        But let us take a step back. You try to assert that Christianity survives only among the poorly educated. I would entirely agree that there are, mainly American, Creationist, fundamentalist websites that would appear to support this. However, they represent only part of the Christian spectrum; moreover, their ignorance is matched by many trolling atheists who simply repeat the same statements with more than a little futile anger and childish glee. Note, I didn’t write ‘all’.

        I find little toleration for the distortion of history and of evidence in general by the more loud mouthed militant atheists. Altering or ignoring evidence is not the mark of a good scientist. In the first instance, science is not about absolute proof, it is about observation, recording, testing, and extrapolation into theory. Slowly, over time, evidence collected supports that theory or denies it. A good scientist, thus, keeps an open mind for experience shows him that widely accepted theories can suddenly fail.Unfortunately, the rise of narrow scientific specialisation, coupled with egotism, has led to some scientists exhibiting rather more certainty than the evidence provides. Some of them claim expertise in fields wholly outside their specialisation and make fools of themselves.

        Science is the study of the universe, of the observable universe, that is. Looking beyond, say, the big bang, has to be counted as pure speculation; it is not something that we can test and observe. The argument that science disproves the existence of a creator is unscientific: it is gobbledegook. We exist in and are constrained by this universe.

        In passing, I’m amused by the atheists who try to deny the anthropic principle. This is the unlikely combination of universal constants that combine to permit life and evolution. Recently a new one has been conjectured, that is that modelling the big bang suggests that it should have been followed by a big crunch and not by expansion. There, by the way, is another one: the speed of light is a limiting constant but, during expansion, it was greatly exceeded – constants are not inviolate! Of equal interest, equal quantities of matter and anti matter should have been created and these would have reacted destructively so that no matter remained. Nearer to our home, water exhibits anomalous expansion at 4C. Without this, the oceans would have entirely frozen during the ice ages. There are many others!

        So, in answer to the unprovable existence of a creator, some cosmologists have posited a multiverse, an infinity of universes in which this one, the one with life, is accidental. Strangely that cannot be proven, either! This also seems, to me at least, to be a denial of Occam’s Razor, a philosophical principle attributed to William of Occam (A Franciscan friar). The principle can be expressed as:

        “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

        The multiverse is not the simpler.

        Back to science and closed minds. Of course I cannot speak for all of Christendom but I have found many Christians that share my experience of periods of doubt. Through recollection, observation and logical examination most return to the fold. Doubt and questioning are part of the human condition, they are essential attributes of an open mind and of science. Why, then, do I see closed minded denial among so many atheists who insist that what they have not experienced cannot exist?

        Sarky, you base your case on numbers: was not Hitler widely supported in Germany, before and during the second world war? Did that make him correct? Numbers are significant in the democratic process but even that is flawed.

        I observe a world and a wider universe that is incredibly beautiful, amazingly complex and which depends on a whole range of physical constants being ‘just right’ for matter to form, for stars and planets to evolve within galaxies and then, stranger than all the rest, for intelligent life to evolve. If you believe that this is all a matter of accident, of coincidence than your faith is much greater than mine for you believe in complete improbability.

        Please don’t waste your time with more figures, Jesus referred to his followers as the salt of the earth. That is what we were and what we remain.

  13. Roy, thank you for posting. Believe me when I say that I loathe millitant atheists just as much as I loathe fundamentalist christians. Its funny but it seems that when we both look at the world and the wider universe, we both observe the same beauty its just that we disagree on how it got there. On that note I think we should tie this up, I am sure other readers are bored by now!!! Thank you for debating with me, it’s been interesting!!!!!!

    P.s. I thought the higgs bosun solved the matter/anti matter problem????

    • How odd.

      ‘observe the same beauty’. In order to judge ‘beauty’ – where did you get your idea of what is beautiful?

      Does Roy ‘observe the same beauty’ as you?

      Was Sartre correct when he said: ‘Hell is other people’?

  14. Roy – I tend to agree with much of what you say in your last posting, but I’m afraid none of it makes a case for the existence of your God. If something is currently unexplained or even beyond the reach of science, I’m afraid that resorting to superstitions and myths as the only possible alternative just doesn’t cut it with me.

    And in a sense, I am closed minded about your god, in that I find him so abhorrent that I do not want him to exist. I certainly cannot worship him.

    To echo sarky, thanks, it’s been fun.

  15. Roy Tindle @ 7.43. Good post and full of interesting comment. I like particularly:
    “I observe a world and a wider universe that is incredibly beautiful, amazingly complex and which depends on a whole range of physical constants being ‘just right’ for matter to form, for stars and planets to evolve within galaxies and then, stranger than all the rest, for intelligent life to evolve”

    Two brief comments: former agnostic physicist Paul Davies noted: Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. Also Fred Hoyle:
    “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics.

    “Lane Craig: “Our discovery of the fine-tuning of the big bang for intelligent life is like someone trudging through the Gobi desert and, rounding a sand dune, suddenly being confronted with a sky scraper the size of the Empire State Building. We would rightly dismiss as mad the suggestion that it just happened to come together there by chance. And we would find equally insane the idea that any arrangement of sand particles at that place is improbable and so there is nothing to be explained. Why is this? Because the skyscraper exhibits a complexity which is absent from random arrangements of sand. But why should the complexity of the skyscraper strike us as special? Because there is an apparent explanation of the complex skyscraper that is not suggested by just such a random arrangement of sand grains, namely, intelligent design.
    In the same way, the fine tuning of the initial conditions of the universe for life points to the apparent explanation of intelligent design.

  16. Have been following this conversation with some fascination. Seems to me that arguments about the existence/non-existence of God are all ultimately futile: the simple fact is that God does not exist in any physical sense of the word; it is rather we and the entire universe that exist in God, who is the ground of all being, the source of existence. I expanded upon these thoughts on my blog back in 2009, if anyone’s curious enough to be interested: God Does Not Exist: Get Over It.

    The question therefore (again, so it seems to me) is not, “Does God exist?” but rather, “Can God be known?” — and for those who are genuinely willing to explore that question with an open mind, I think the answer will almost always return an affirmative.

  17. The arguments for and against the existence of god are futile, as neither can be proven. All we can do is look at the evidence and decide on which side of the fence we are going to fall.

    • When you say ‘neither can be proven’ can you tell me what standard of belief you are exercising?

      For example, the scientific standard; the criminal law standard of beyond reasonable doubt; the county court standard of belief on the balance of probabilities; your personal opinion?

  18. Phil Groom and Sarky: “All we can do is look at the evidence and decide on which side of the fence we are going to fall.”

    Here is some more evidence for you concerning intelligent design. But where has ‘intelligence’ come from? How is it that it is manifested everywhere in nature and not least in humans?
    How is it that the non intelligent blind force of “evolution” can be responsible for the emergence of intelligence, human thought, beauty, and thousands of other cognitive processes we use and take for granted every day? After all, it can only be a wholly unscientific theory which believe that “non-intelligence can somehow produce a “mind” which rationalises and thinks.

    Scientists are stunned by the discovery of how complex and sensitive a balance of initial conditions must be given in the Big Bang in order for the universe to permit the origin of evolution of intelligent life in the cosmos.
    In the various fields of physics, astrophysics, classical cosmology, quantum mechanics, and biochemistry, discoveries have repeatedly disclosed that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a delicate balance of physical constants and quantities. If any one of these were to be slightly altered, the balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.

    The Christian answer? “In Him (God) we live and move and have our being.”
    Incidentally, you need to be on the right side of the fence – so much of eternal significance depends on that.

    • Grahamwood32, I would refer you to Dave Godfreys last post!! Sentiments with which I would agree.

    • Agree totally Graham. If one can’t grasp the intelligence within/behind creation then I have to question – nay seriously doubt – any semblance of intelligence in such a person. So I have to say, “You don’t know what you’re missing. Why miss out?”

      • Richard, im a getting a bit fed up of christians labelling athiests unintelligent (when we clearly are not) just because we hold a different view. This adds nothing to the debate and is quite honestly a bit disappointing.
        With regards to your last comment, I wondered how long it would before ‘Pascals wager’ made an appearance! !!

      • Sarky – ‘getting a bit fed up with Christians labelling atheists unintelligence.’ Hah, that’s a tad OTT for an ‘internet ghost’ that writes half-dozen posts banging on about poor education and which display a supercilious disdain for anyone who believes in God.

        Be honest now – were you to name and describe your closest relative and reveal your affection for them, and then find others react in sheer disbelief with “Don’t be silly, no such person or thing like that exists, or can even exist, because I surely know better!”; wouldn’t you be grossly offended? Doubtless, you’d regard them as ‘off the planet’ or use some other derogatory term.

        That’s precisely how you’ve insulted the intelligence of those who experience a close relationship with our heavenly father.

        Pascal’s wager re ‘missing out’ is, imho, a non-starter. That’s because Pascal was personally immersed in a baptism of fire in a 2-hour encounter with the living God on the night of 23 Nov 1654. Doubtless, you believe this genius must have been brainwashed in childhood (am being a tad sarcy).

      • Sarky – re. “the thing about my closest relative is that I know and can prove they exist!!!!”

        For the sake of debate: why should I (underlined) believe anything you say? I could argue along your lines: that’s only your opinion for I don’t think that relative really exists. And that’s because I don’t know them. So how do you propose to convince me?

        We both agree on the importance of evidence, so you may produce the relative’s driving licence but I could counter, “It’s forged!”. To convince me I’d have to meet them in person. So vice versa, for you to be convinced of God’s existence you need an encounter – and Blaise Pascal is not the only one to have done so. But evidence is more accessible…

        For my case, you’re obviously not giving any credence to over 1,000 years of extensive records. But my documentary evidence is straightforward, and basic – medical records. These show the reasons my wife was officially registered as permanently disabled.

        The fact she subsequently got out of her wheelchair, received prayer, responded and could then dance is indisputable evidence that God does exist. Being able to walk again meant she could cancel her disabled living allowance, for which there was no mechanism to do so because they are for life (being permanent)! For full details and to examine evidence click http://wp.me/P1Y1yB-LF

        Also, had God not unequivocally healed her I would still be her 24/7 carer eight years later! So we’re immensely pleased not to have ‘missed out’ receiving a significant blessing from His ‘invisible hand’, for which we have the incontestable physical evidence of a miraculous change.

        The truly sad thing is that when I tell atheists they refuse to consider the evidence and dismiss it out of hand. Two were not only churlish but also intellectually dishonest! Their ‘intelligence’ couldn’t handle it; or maybe needs the crutch of an Atheist’s Wager? Hence my earlier remark about intelligence.

  19. “Incidentally, you need to be on the right side of the fence – so much of eternal significance depends on that.”

    But how can I know for certain which is the right side of the fence until I reach the fence? I have no wish for any eternal significance.

    • Let’s all hope the fence is a long, long way off.

      And not electrified.

    • ‘I have no wish for any eternal significance.’

      That’s too bad; you’re going to get it anyway – and your desires (‘have no wish’ -unscientific) have got nothing to do with it.

  20. A God who through the life of Jesus points us to Love and meaning does not strike me as being an abhorant figure at all.

    • Whereas I consider a god that can casually condemn 99.99% of all life on Earth to a slow death by drowning utterly vile.

  21. Reblogged this on Richard's Watch and commented:
    The excellent debate on science and faith ensuing from Gillan Scott’s film review is well-worth reading – thank you everyone. More may be found on Dr Ruth Bancewicz’ blog Science and Belief and in works of physicist-theologian Rev Dr John Polkinghorne, as at BioLogos.

  22. Could anyone elaborate further as to why Dawkins posits that Aliens could have ‘created’ us?

    • Bit surprised if Dawkins has gone down this route. Anyway there is plenty on the net, just look up ‘ancient aliens’.

  23. Just that I thought Dawkins had nothing but disdain for anything supernatural!!!!

  24. Dave Godfrey
    July 2, 2014 • 9:48 pm

    How do you know that? Or is it just a wish?

    At the moment – the first question is valid and the second irrelevant: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3810&context=fss_papers

    But let me go a little further; if the premise of your questions are correct – then all is relative. If that be the case – your first question would be non-sensical. It all depends on your ‘Grand Premise’.

  25. Richard Barker
    July 2, 2014 • 6:12 pm

    And outside time…yet can enter space-time.

    Very well. I accept. That would be in accord with his status as infinite (given that space and time are inferior to infinity). Further, it would imply that your God has decision-making capability; that would further imply personality – and if personality – then he is capabale of speaking to Man – and Man speaking to him since personality has the quality of the personal.

    • Thanks for replying, and ‘yes’ on all 5 counts – and more, lots more!

      • Hi Richard, the thing about my closest relative is that I know and can prove they exist!!!!

      • Mr Barker

        Given the gravity of the subject matter, one is startled by the profundity and yet simplicity of your response.

        It seems to me that if one mere man, Richard Barker, can contact him then it is possible for another man to do the same.

        May I ask how you met him?

      • Hi Delta Singh (and sarky, if you’re still reading), re. your July 4th “May I ask how you met him?” Thank you for asking and as promised.:

        As a teenager I rejected Christianity because of the rank hypocrisy across churches and was attracted by Eastern metaphysical and new age ideas and got involved in the occult. A couple of decades later a guy half my age tried explaining why they were wrong.

        I rejected what the guy said about Jesus Christ and showed him the door. But a few hours later JC himself turns up, shows me the entrance to my post-mortem abode and I find I’m on the wrong side of the ‘fence’ (as in this thread) – help! This was not caused by an over-active imagination, or childhood indoctrination lodged in my deep unconscious, as proven afterwards by three different validations. The finer details may be read at http://wp.me/P1Y1yB-i0

        Re. Blaise Pascal’s encounter to which I refer in my July 3rd reply to sarky, details are at http://pascalianawakenings.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/on-this-day-pascals-night-offire_23.html)

      • Hi Delta Singh (and sarky, per yesterday), re. your July 4th “May I ask how you met him?” My reply of early evening appeared on-screen but somehow disappeared from the thread, so here it is again: But no! This time I got apology that my comments couldn’t be posted, so must be a WordPress login issue. (Maybe the gremlins don’t like it?) Try again…

        Thank you for asking and as promised.:

        As a teenager I rejected Christianity because of the rank hypocrisy across churches and was attracted to Eastern metaphysical and new age ideas and got involved in the occult. A couple of decades later a guy half my age tried explaining why they were wrong.

        I rejected what he said about Jesus Christ and showed him the door. But a few hours later JC himself turns up, shows me the entrance to my post-mortem abode and I find I’m on the wrong side of the ‘fence’ (as in this thread) – help! That this was not caused by an over-active imagination or childhood indoctrination buried in my subconscious, was proven afterwards by three different validations. What actually happened may be read at http://wp.me/P1Y1yB-i0

        Please, please do not take this as anything to do with me whatsoever but for God’s glory alone and as evidence of His grace and mercy toward us all. Many have been blessed with deeper encounters with the Lord and if you wish to check the one mentioned on July 3rd to sarky, then search for ‘Blaise Pascal Night of Fire’. I trust the account will bless and encourage you.

  26. sarky
    July 3, 2014 • 10:20 pm

    ‘Hi Richard, the thing about my closest relative is that I know and can prove they exist!!!!’

    So can we all using the senses in space and time.

    But can you prove an ancestor of yours lived in 1895?

    • Funny you should say that. I’ve been working on my family tree and have plenty of evidence that a number of my relatives lived in 1895. Although I didnt know them personally, I have absolute evidence they existed!!

      • ‘Although I didnt know them personally, I have absolute evidence they existed!!’

        On the basis of your world-view (‘scientific’ – and science apprehended through the senses) – the following part of your statement is oxymoronic: ‘I have absolute evidence they existed!!’.

        For you to prove, given that in the scientific method it is expected that experiments should be repeated for verification of a truth, which you cannot do with your ancestors: can you tell us to which standard of belief you have switched to in order to state: ‘I have absolute evidence they existed!!’.

        Are you the type of person who would say that there was a massacre at Drogheda?

  27. Delta, apologies but for evidence read proof or just drop the absolute. Birth, marriage and death certificates, census records, employment records, photographs etc etc etc

  28. “I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood and that it will tend to prevent the effusion [shedding] of blood for the future, which are satisfactory grounds for such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret.”

    Oliver Cromwells words to parliment following Drogheda, just another massacre in the name of your loving god.

    • Very dangerous ground, Sarky. Done in the name of doesn’t mean sanctioned by – and those were violent times. Perhaps you should look at the great works of Hitler, Stalin and Mao, three atheists, who set almost impossible to beat records for genocide. So ,humankind consistently falls short, what does that prove? Jesus was quite clear that God’s intervention was one of forgiveness, not punishment. Unfortunately we always manage to produce politicians and so many of those are good at trying to prove that their destruction of people was justified. Sometimes on the basis of religion but now, often on the basis of security or other base political cant.

      Many atheists have used this argument whilst preaching religious decline yet atrocities continue ans usually about political power. Use a little logic, please!

      • Fair point Roy, however, the old testament is littered with massacres that were sanctioned by god!!!

        P.s I thought hitler was a catholic????

        • Sarky, I would draw your attention to Jesus’comments on responding to violence; something about turning the other cheek? So, sanctioned by God? I think not. Again, politicians always have excuses, someone else to blame. It’s also important to remember that Israel lay in the path of very many invading armies because of it’s geographical location. When the Jews won they tended towards celebratory exaggeration c.f Tony Blair.

          Hitler’s mother was a Roman Catholic and he was brought up in that church but withdrew, as an adult. Historians are mixed about the degree of separation but Goebbels is quoted as writing Hitler “hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity.” I think, perhaps, that Goebbels knew Hitler better than many of those historians.

    • Sarky

      I can see that you have not studied 17th century military law.

      Cromwell offerred quarter.

      The commanders of Drogheda refused.

      Both sets of commanders knew the consequences: no quarter would be given.

      The reason for no quarter in a siege situation in the 17th century (and probably up until the 20th century) was that a prolonged siege would cost the besiegers the risk of disease – medical facilities were virtually non-existent.

      Hence, once the seige was broken: no quarter was given.

      You ought to read Geoffery Robertson Q.C.’s ‘The Tyrannicide Brief’ (he a left-liberal lawyer).

  29. Roy, was the great flood not the greatest massacre mankind has ever known?? Making Stalin, Mao and Hitler look like rank amateurs?? My bible knowledge may be a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure god had a little bit to do with that one.

    • Absolutely right – for a fundamentalist, and, as I have written, I’m not one!

      When I studied theology, admittedly a long time ago, I accepted that the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, or Pentateuch, in Christian terminology, is a body of allegorical teaching that resulted from generations of storytelling. It is a teaching about the relationship between Jews and God and not a chronological history. Remember, Jesus repeatedly used parables to explain his teaching: this method was used because his Jewish audience were well aware of the process. So Creation in a matter of days? No. Similarly no world flood.

      Christian fundamentalism is relatively new and is not part of the teaching of any major UK denomination. It does seem to prevail in the US and our American cousins have tried hard to export their rather limited and limiting beliefs. There are different ways of making a model aircraft, buying a kit and sticking it together, another is designing and cutting out the balsa and covering with tissue. There are, similarly, differing approaches to creation, the Biblical allegory and a whole lot of later tinkering – intelligent design – or framing the laws of physics and fine tuning them – then leaving the universe and life to evolve. The latter is far more satisfying and, of course, complex.

      The next question, I’m sure, will be about what is different in the New Testament. The answer is fairly simple, the Gospel writers and the authors of the letters (and, of course, Acts of the Apostles) use various methods to place the life of Jesus in a recognisable historical context – these things happened when …… Luke begins by writing that he has personally checked out the stories from eyewitnesses, people who were there. It’s a different approach to indicate that this is not allegory but an historical account of God making one more intervention, a critical one, to show forgiveness not punishment, love not control.

    • Sarky

      It seesm to me that the God of the Judaeo-Christians – must be sovereign.

      There is to be more, probably final, justice:

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2760565/posts
      http://www.markbeast.com/70jubilees/70Sevens.pdf
      http://www.vriendenvanisrael.nl/?p=1600

      • Delata Singh,

        Judaism, Christianity and Islam are Abrahamic religions, they share common origins but their teachings are, in some areas, very different. You seem to confuse the two, relying, again and again, on Old Testament theology to make your point. Your comments on punishment ignore the very clear message of Jesus that God loves and forgives us. You then support your arguments with bizare posts that are unnaceptable to ‘mainstream’ Christianity. Their theology, if theology it be, is confused and lacks support in Jesus’ teachings.

        Here, as in so many other fields, the Internet gives voice to disturbed people who only have a very limited comprehension of their subject matter. As I have written earlier, punishment is a very human concept and we are not good at accepting that those who have practised greed, murder and so one are equally loved by God. The parable of the prodigal son makes a very strong point, here.

        If you wish to argue from a point of historic Judaism, then I cannot argue with you, but you seem to entirely miss the point of Jesus’ teaching of forgiveness.

      • Why?? Why would you create something, knowing exactly how it would behave and then punish it for behaving in that way??

    • Massacre?

      Yes.

      Genesis 4:26: ‘Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.’

      ‘Jesus Christ!’

      ‘For Fuck’s sake!’

      ‘Christ Almighty!’

      ‘For Christ’s sake!’

      ‘Jesus fucking Christ!’

      In the 21st century: ‘Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.’

      It seems to me that the God of the Judaeo-Christians is long-sufferring and patient – but when he strikes – he strikes hard. That is morally consistent with a deity to whom is imputed omnipotence: how can it it be else?

      • I dont think the punishment fitted the crime, did it?????

      • Delta Singh, you have pointed to the lack of understanding of others but appear blind to your own mistakes. The Old Testament, Jewish teaching, speaks of the rainbow as God’s covenant that he will not punish entire humanity again. In the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples, at the Last Supper, that his sacrifice is the new covenant, a “new covenant in my blood”! Similarly with the women taken in the act of adultery: the accepted punishment is death by stoning but, when Jesus has shamed those ready to kill her, he asks, “where are they that condemn you? Neither do I, go and sin no more.” Forgiveness not punishment, that’s the key. The idea of vengeance has gone. Now, I don’t imagine that God suddenly changed his mind, his intervention, through the life death and resurrection of Jesus is to get across the concept of mercy and loving forgiveness because,it hadn’t been fully understood.

        I admit that there have been Christians unwilling to accept this but that has largely been based on their inability to comprehend a loving God. Wanting vengeance is a human weakness.

  30. Roy, I understand that you are trying to make square pegs fit round holes. However, I have a real problem with your pick and mix version of christianity. Either the bible is the unedited word of god, or it is not. If the flood wasnt a world wide flood, what next?? The feeding of the five thousand only fed five?? Water never got turned to wine?? We got here by evolution not creation?? Jesus never rose from the dead??? If these stories are allegories then christianity has no foundation and certainly no (questionable) moral authority!!!

    As for your view that the new testament must be true because its based on eyewitness accounts, again I have trouble with this. I think most theologeans agree that the gospels were written at least 60 years after the death of jesus. As the life expectancy of someone in judea at that time was around 29 years I find it highly unlikely that any direct eyewitnesses were spoken to as they would have to be about 90!!!! I think we all agree that time distorts truth and that as stories are told and retold embellishments are added. I think that maybe there was a jewish teacher called jesus, just that all rest is just the stuff of legends.

    • Sarky, you are the one demanding an inerrant Bible, a position supported by fundamentalists and not by mainstream denominations. There are many translations of the Bible and they differ, similarly there are several source documents. Do I believe that God has controlled the minds of all that have been engaged in those translation? No, of course not.

      I explained the cultural and historical differences between the Pentateuch and the Gospels, or tried to, but you want to limit me to a specific fundamentalist viewpoint, one to which you don’t ascribe, so why do I need to?

      The idea that ‘most theologians agree’ is somewhat inaccurate. There are many theories that provide for the similarities within the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, some of which refer to earlier source material. Whatever the writing date, however, we are discussing a relatively generational short period during a time when written records were commonly made. That was not the case with the Pentateuch so why am I required to give both the same historical credulity? Furthermore you omit the writings of Paul (and others), the Epistles that were much closer in time and which support the underlying concepts of the Gospels.

      You accuse me of pick and mix Christianity and then ask about the veracity of a worldwide flood. Tell me, Sarky, how on Earth a relatively small group of Jews, living in a small area of land at the northern end of Africa, could have been aware of total flood? Satellite technology?

      Where the breakdown in your argument occurs is in the rapid growth of Christianity. The death of Jesus was ignominious, deliberately so and performed by a Roman army of occupation. His followers must have been disappointed, to put it mildly. Disappointed and very afraid that they could be next; they were part of this great challenge to the establishment, both that of Israel and of Rome. So, did they pack up their bags, muttering about all that wasted time and loss of earnings? No, rather they delivered a message that, logically, nobody would believe and then went, mostly, to equally violent and messy deaths. A ‘delusion’which overtook the world? Must have been some powerful ganja around in those days.

      • And it was such an outrageously stupid, ‘delusion’ thing. Crazy to want to be murdered for it, especially by the religious leaders and their heresy hunter on a crusade to catch them all. Then he met the one they’d murdered. (Like pastor ‘Francis’ who told Mozambique police he didn’t want to press charges against those who’d killed him!)

        That converted Jew later wrote this to Corinthians, which is so apposite to our debate – as well as teh nature of that ‘ganja’!:

        “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

        “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

        Apostle Paul explained, “… For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…

        And this on wisdom AND that cruel murder: “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

        “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”

      • PS quotes courtesy Biblegateway.com and apologies for numbers shown

  31. Roy, if written records were commonly made, why were they not made at the time?? Why did it take so long to put pen to paper??? jerusalem at the time must have been full of scribes, yet they remained silent?? As for the spread of christianity, this is a complex issue, but answer me this, would christianity be around now if the romans had not of adopted it and forced belief???

    p.s. powerful ganja would explain the talking donkey!!!!

    • They were made at the time, c.f. the Pauline letters. The Gospels were written later from the earliest accounts. An old and not entirely discredited theory is about a list of sayings of Jesus and simple accounts of his actions. The Gospels only account for a relatively small part of the period of ministry so it appears likely that the writers had some written resources. Don’t forget that most of the then inhabitants of Jerusalem were not literate and writing materials – presumably papyrus – would have been expensive. Papyrus was easily degraded, too, so one would not expect a vast collection of documents to have survived from the early, small number of followers.

      The conversion of Rome was timely but it was brought about because Christianity had already become a powerful force within the empire, even a threat. It seems probable that the belief had already extended outside the Roman Empire so it’s not Rome that made Christianity, it helped. Even with Constantine’s conversion (?) earlier Roman religions continued to be followed.

      Getting back to the stuff of legends comment, the historical truth of Jesus existence is confirmed by other writers, Josephus and Tacitus, for example. The two facts about which there is the greatest certainty are the baptism by John the Baptist and the crucifiction.

  32. Roy, as mentioned previously, I dont think I doubt there was a historical jesus (or someone similar) as there are records of many mystics and teachers at that time. For me,what it boils down to is was he who he says he was and did all the supernatural stuff happen. For me at this present time, the answer is no and i cant see this changing anytime soon (dont have a religious bone in my body!!). I respect your pragmatic view of the bible, its rare amongst christians I know and have known. Anyway, gonna sign offnow as we seem to have reached a natural conclusion.

    Regards

    Sarky

    • You may just want to hold horses Sarky and peruse my imminent reply to Delta Singh?

      • Mr Barker

        That is a most extra-ordinary account.

        It seems to me now that your Prof CS Lewis is correct. This man Jesus makes the most extra-odinary of claims.

        I accept that before he can be dismissed an honest man, in the privacy of his Study, must examine his claims.

        Thank you, sir.

  33. Richard, ive been waiting all weekend on tenterhooks, so thank you. Please believe me that I am genuine when I say that I am pleased for you and your wife following her recovery.
    With regards to evidence of my relatives, I think that the documentary evidence from multiple sources kind of covers it. A forgery would be picked up pretty quickly as the details wouldnt tie in with the other documents, unless you suggest that every facet of my history is forged??? Like I said, I never met my relatives but the evidence I have makes it pretty certain they existed.

    As for healing as evidence of god, this is a difficult one. I could bang on about the medical research that pretty much debunks it, but I understand that due to your personal story, this wont cut it. I will therefore give you my own personal stories. As ive previously mentioned I grew up in the church. My youth group leader, who had a young family, was diagnosed with a brain tumour, despite all the prayers and services for healing, he died. Not long after that a church deacon was again diagnosed with cancer and died. Fast forward 30 years and my friend, who is the biggest atheist ever, again got cancer and got as close to dying as you can, but survived and is now 5 years in remission.

    Sometimes people do defy the odds. This isnt evidence forgod but evidence that we live in a random world where random things happen.

    I hope I havnt been churlish or dishonest, and that you can understand my thinking based on my own experiences

    • Hi sarky – you haven’t and I certainly understand. Thanks for your interesting reply and an intriguing ‘colour’ is now showing itself in the whole thread’s debate.

      Please don’t be concerned over records. My reference to relatives was purely for the sake of a homely illustration and trying to put you in my place and see from another perspective. Hopefully, it may help you do a ‘quantum’ leap from a purely scientific/intellectual aspect to a human/relational consideration of God, which is what it is in reality – but not on a religious/Churchianity level; on the spiritual/Christianity level. That’s where we can start getting a grasp of that supra-natural reality. That is, the first aspect doesn’t produce satisfactory results, whereas the second does but that’s where it gets into the personal and mystical; the realm of experiencing what and who God truly is. Hope that’s not sounding too complicated or far-fetched?

      So I grinned upon reading your ‘funnily enough’ remark about your family history in reply to Delta Singh on Fri 4th. This was because I’d already explained about strings of coincidences to Dave Godfrey when he gave his opinion to my replying to Roy on Monday. And then 4 days later you refer ‘innocently’ to family records. Maybe it’s a gentle way of God trying to get your deeper thought and attention?

      Healing, and lack of, is definitely not easy to comprehend but there are many variables and factors involved, plus that of God’s sovereignty and purposes for each of us. And yes, things happen. That’s the trouble with being who we are, yet He does provide a way for us to hold on and move forward in all trials.

      My previous reply was all around actual ‘evidence’, but what’s within my reply posted a few hours ago to Delta Singh (awaiting Gillan’s ok ‘cos of links) is my encounter with and learning who Jesus is, as well as the supernatural stuff, per your closing reply to Roy. None of us have a religious bone in our flesh – it’s all about our spirits, and not our souls (or middleman or go-between). Be blessed sarky.

  34. roytindle
    July 10, 2014 • 7:36 pm

    You are right – he will not punish ‘entire humanity again’.

    “Thus I establish My covenant with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy all the earth.”

    Genesis 9:11

    Sarky

    You are not in a position to judge him.

    This is an interesting British generation: they appear to have arrested the God of their fathers and put him in the dock and ask: how does the prisoner at the bar plead?

    • Surely if I am to be judged, I have every right to question the motives and authority of that judge.

      • Sarky

        Go ahead – exercise that ‘right’ – I’m doing so by interrogating the Bible. It’s quite an extra-ordinary book. There’s nothing like it in any other ideology or religion.

        There are statements in it which I didn’t expect. For example, how can one be born again?

        Why do I have to die first in order to live?

        It seems to place the ‘invisible’ world at a higher status than our material world-view.

        Here is another extra-ordinary situation I’ve found. This man Jesus was tried by this evil spirit called Satan in the desert. The evil spirit said to Jesus turn these stones into bread.

        At first I was stunned that Jesus did not turn the boulders into bread – I mean he could have solved the world food crisis problem in an instant (that would be good socialism). He didn’t.

        I have suddenly realised that there is to be no heaven on earth – there can never be. All these UN food programs – food banks – welfare states – foreign aid have not solved the problems.

        I am not saying there shouldn’t be welfare support for the poor – but it seems to me that he is right: man cannot live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

        You know, I think he is ‘the bread of life’.

        • Exactly so DS, ,that’s why we’ve just ‘eaten and drunk’ of him. And unless we do then we cannot be part of him. Seems repulsive and weird but nevertheless true and so we can be ‘IN Christ’. And In means just that, ie. not outside!

      • Then you really do need to get to know him personally sarky. He’s at your ‘door’ knocking! Open it my friend, invite him in to ‘sup’, chat and get to know one another…

  35. Sorry Richard, that door was nailed shut along time ago and im not really one for uninvited guests!!!!!

    • Hi sarky, regret delay but it’s been v busy. Re your, “that door was nailed shut along time ago and im not really one for uninvited guests!”

      DITTO 4 me 2! Trouble was, the door didn’t get kicked down but Jesus himself walked right though it (as when he stunned his disciples when in hiding) – well it was through a glass window or wall for me, but I was too frightened to watch!

      Although vehemently anti-christian my attention was grabbed, especially as i was on the point of death! So it was make up my mind time ‘cos I find I’m on the wrong side of the ‘fence’! What happened may be read at http://wp.me/P1Y1yB-i0 (in case you want to check but missed it buried in preceding verbiage).

      That was 25 years ago and it’s since been a never boring but exciting adventure, which is why I suggest it’s so much better not to miss out…

  36. sarky
    July 12, 2014 • 7:11 am

    ‘Why?? Why would you create something, knowing exactly how it would behave and then punish it for behaving in that way??’

    Sarky

    I’ve never been to Bible college or anything like that; but, I’ve thought about that question too.

    It seems to me that this God must have a personality and having a personality he must be able to communicate with his creatures (as we too have personalities). Further, he must have attributes such as love, justice, forgiveness and anger (if my reading of the Christian Bible is correct – it appears we can wound him (that’s another odd thing I did not expect to find)).

    It seems to me that this God loves to create and he goes further and creates creatures with free-will – that means I am able to love or reject anyone.

    One of his attributes must be that he is all-knowing – and he must have known that when he created us and gave us free-will – the created the possibility of spitting in his face.

    We did so.

    I wonder that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (that is exercised their free-will) – the text says he killed an animal to use its skin to cover their nakedness – if he killed a lamb (that must have been horrific).

    I wonder that when the Jews, centuries later, were about to leave Egypt and they slaughtered lots of innocent little lambs – dipped into their blood and smeared it on their lintels and doorposts (so that the Angel of Death might pass by) – I wonder in the midst of all that killing and screaming and mourning? What?

    Sarky – what if God was saying the lamb of God is going to come in the future to save you – he will hang on the lintel and doorposts – its as if there is only one real door through which we must enter.

    • Delta,

      Imagine I offered to buy you a drink, you politely decline and we part ways with no consequences.

      however, now imagine I offer to buy you a drink, you again politely decline, but this time I pull out a gun and threaten to put a bullet in your skull if you decline.

      In both examples you have a choice (free will) except the second is gods idea of free will. i.e god offers us the drink (salvation???) But doesnt allow us to just walk away, if we do, we get to burn in hell for eternity.

      Doesn’t sound like a loving god to me, but a jealous vain god who just wants us to bow down before him without any thought as to why.

  37. Richard Barker
    July 12, 2014 • 9:00 am

    ‘that’s why we’ve just ‘eaten and drunk’ of him. And unless we do then we cannot be part of him’.

    That’s an extra-ordinary statement, Mr Barker.

    And something odd happened a few weeks ago. I was watching the movie Black Beauty (the Sean Bean version). After all the cruelties inflicted upon that poor beast – the movie ends with Balck Beauty rescued by his childhood friend (Joe) sitting down and munching grass in a beautiful garden.

    I cannot recall the exact words of Black Beauty but they went something like this:

    ‘Joe says I’ll never be sold again, it’s so beautiful here – and I remember by friends in Birtwick Park – standing underneath the apple trees.’

    When I heard that a most peculiar thing happened to me – there was great streaming tearful joy in my heart – as if God was speaking to me in my situation.

    And I thought ‘Joe’? Isn’t that short for ‘Joseph’? A proto-type of Jesus?

    Was God saying he is coming to redeem me, too?

    It is possible that this God of yours uses the physical things of this world to transmit his power (Moses’ rod parted the Red Sea) – could it be that this God of yours transmits blessing through this ‘cup of peace’?

  38. Roytindle

    ‘The idea of vengeance has gone. Now, I don’t imagine that God suddenly changed his mind’.

    The Book of Acts Chapter 5:

    1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.

    2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

    3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?

    4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

    5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

    6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

    • Delta Singh,

      I really don’t need to ignore the teaching that I had, it was developed over a long period by some extremely intelligent and well educated theologians. At the same time, I was taught the nature of biblical critical appraisal: understanding the way in which the Bible was written and then translated. I admit that my New Testament Greek has all but gone but you need to be aware that translations differ.

      It is also important to look at what was written in the context of the time in which it was written; some of the parables, for example, provide a different teaching when this is done. So, please do not give me fundamentalist teaching, I’m not a fundamentalist; several times Jesus answered questions by turning them back on the questioner. Intelligence is an attribute of God given to man for man to use. To me, fundamentalism is a negation of this, a denial of God’s great gift.

      I have spent over 50 years trying to refine my understanding of the message of Jesus and there is still a very long way to go. Arrogant assurance is not a virtue, the universe is vast, complex and beautiful so comprehension is only partial. Now, I look through a glass darkly, as St Paul wrote.

      Over 30 years ago, I gave up a well paid job to work in and with and to live with disadvantaged community groups; I don’t have great wealth or possessions to give to the poor. I gave my life, instead.

  39. Roy

    You need to crucify the bad teaching of your old theology lectures – before it’s too late – your days are numbered:

    ‘And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’

  40. Roy – the treasure of your knowledge is great – he wants you – the time has come to surrender – if you must – he will apply the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of ‘Prisoners’ of War.

    Think man.

    Think.

    Matthew Chapter 19:

    16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

    17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

    18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,

    19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”

    21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

    22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

  41. Mr Gillan Scott

    I do not know what your motives were to post my message at July 10, 2014 • 4:42 pm.

    Anyway, thank you.

    You and your family need to ‘clear up and clear out’ (not to New Zealand nor Australia).

    Within 48 months there is to be a short, devastating, nuclear exchange between the East (‘First Strike Policy’) and the West (‘Second Strike Policy’).

    My mission here is almost accomplished.

    ‘Best of British luck’ to you and your family.

  42. Gillan, this may not be offensive, but surely you have a responsibility to anyone vunerable reading this who may actually believe it. This sort of stuff really scares some people.

    • Interesting opinion sarky. Moderation is something of an art. I do let quite a bit go that I personally find offensive mostly because it insults my beliefs. Any thoughts on where lines should be drawn will be gratefully received.

      • Gillan, I totally appreciate that you walk a constant tightrope with this blog. To have a meaningful debate you need two sides and that sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading (for both sides). I appreciate some people may find my posts offensive, but they come from genuine questions and problems I have with christianity and not from a malicious place.
        The problem with deltas comment is that it is standalone, out of context and may cause genuine fear (not offence).

        • I think the chances of most people wading through these comments to get to this particular on by Delta are slim! I would hope most people have the sense to read it for what it is, without it upsetting them unnecessarily (I have no plans to move by the way).

          As an aside thank you Sarky for your intelligent comments. We don’t agree with each other on everything, but you do add a great deal to the conversations on here.

      • Gillan, I want to add factual observations taking sarky’s valid concerns into mind but have been delayed by taking advantage of fine weather to do exterior repainting.

        As Delta’s points are on record, my in-depth knowledge of prophetic material may be useful. (An intro to Christian prophecy may be found at http://wp.me/P1Y1yB-2My)

    • Gillan, sarky, Delta (if you’re still with us!), as earlier I offer the following and will try to be ‘user-friendly’…

      Re. ‘nuclear exchange’ – As Gillan and Delta’s 1st link state, all prophecies are for spiritual discernment, which can get clouded by ‘soulish’ (ie fleshly) opinion. So, it’s vital to check prophecy against holy scripture. Thus, non-acceptance of holy writ, ipso facto, can disable comprehension. For anyone not yet ‘twice born’ all that may seem incomprehensible – and not all believers have been baptised in the Holy Spirit and ‘walk’ in his giftings!

      As to Jesus’ physical return, no-one’s to set dates as that’s in Father’s remit alone. Recall embarrassment of the late Harold Camping who announced a date, and ‘thuh-thuh’: nothing happened! And recall those who left N America for a land safely far away from eventual nuclear war – they found themselves in the Falklands war!! Delta’s alarm is unwise and unnecessary, and Christians don’t have any fear of death. Sorry it freaked you somewhat sarky.

      Also, those Norwegian words, accurate as they have since proved, could have been influenced by prevalent fear of the H-bomb in 1950-60s, especially after the Cuba crisis. (Altho’ that nearly ‘blew up’ I know intercessors actively prevented escalation.)

      That said, however, I want to thank you Delta for the links, especially the third in its useful consideration of cycles. (A good deal of this is used in economic forecasts; my http://wp.me/p1Y1yB-ni refers) Also, it has a very sound introduction on how revelation works as well as connecting it into 20th century history. But I’d extend the remarks on 1917 to include what Jesus foretold about WW1 re Jerusalem’s liberation.

      But enough said…hope it may help.

      As for moderating, comments are becoming exceptionally offensive in insulting not only one’s intellect but also one’s integrity. They’re just very sad souls, especially those who blaspheme. It proves they don’t know what and who they’re talking about.

      • Thank you Richard for providing a sensible perspective on this.

        I am getting frustrated with some of the recent comments on here – far too many altogether to reply to. Sadly too many people have closed minds to the possibilities of understanding beyond the physical and immediate. All any of us can do is give our side of the story and engage as much as we feel able to and as we want to. I think as much can be said by the tone of a commenter as the content of their writing.

  43. Gillan/Richard, I understand your frustration with some recent posts. However, and I may be wrong, but reading between the lines I think that some of these people may have been hurt by the church or someone in the chuch and are using the blog as a way of venting.

    Not my place, but just a thought.

    • Thanks Sarky. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case. Most high profile atheists appear to have had a bad experience of the Church in the past. Sadly churches have a lot to answer for. Too much ‘religion’ turns people away from God. If you read the New Testament you’ll see Jesus had the same problem with the religious leaders and had very few good words to say about them.

    • You’ve probably hit the nail on the head there sarky! When wronged by injustices we’re naturally aggrieved and angry. And if done by those who claim to know better then we can get bitter. But bitter roots defile many others. I know as I was an angry anti-Christian.

      If churchgoers did that to you I sincerely apologise on Jesus’ behalf and ask your forgiveness.

      Fifty years ago rank hypocrisy turned me away from churches and drove me into the wrong camp. Then 25 yrs later, others’ secret prayers and an unforgettable personal encounter rescued me – for which I’m forever grateful.

      In 1950-60s it badly affected my schooling (as at http://wp.me/p1Y1yB-42R) However, nowadays most churches are far better in following and doing what Jesus does – not a religiosity but a real, empowered spirituality (ie. the difference between ‘Churchianity’ and Christianity).

      • Thanks Richard, I actually had a great childhood and great time in the church (on the whole) and made lots of friends. However I have been blessed/cursed with an extremely questioning mind and could never reconcile the bible with what I learned from science and other free thinkers. The more I learned the less sense it made. I would just like to point out I never lost faith, I never had any to start with!!!

  44. ‘As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ.’

    Luke 3:15

    In other words, they must’ve based their expectation on? What? The Scriptures.

    ‘But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’

    Mark 13:32

    Lads

    Why would they be expecting? They knew the Hebrew scriptures.

    True, no one knows the day nor the hour – but I suggest – men know the season.

    Mr Scott: this is my last warning: clear up and get out with your family.

    • Hi Delta – A word is to be tested and weighed by brethren gifted in prophecy, so I wonder why the many folk I know with an accredited prophetic anointing are not saying anything on this score? Let’s wait on the Lord and see…

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