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Personal Testimony January 3, 2010

Posted by jetson in Personal.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

There are no good arguments in support of any god as far as I can tell. But there is one argument that is very difficult to refute, namely, personal testimony. When a person declares they know that a god is real because they believe it is real, what possible refutation can be used against an argument like that? How can anyone refute personal testimony? So, one believes in God, and so God is real, the end. To be fair, if God is real, then these personal testimonies may be real, who knows but the one who experienced it! Let’s put the personal testimony argument under the bright light of reason and logic.

Theist “I believe, therefore God is real.”
Atheist “Really? Prove it.”
Theist “I have seen Jesus”, “I have felt the spirit of God”, “I have spoken to God”, “God has spoken to me”, “I prayed, and God answered my prayer”, “God is everywhere”, “I have accepted Jesus”, ad nauseum…

Sure, your god is real. His god is real, and her god is real, according to each of them. With the number of people that claim God is real, you would think at least one of them might start to doubt it after so many years of nothing. Well, good news!

There are plenty of people who changed their mind after the deafening silence of their god became too much cognitive dissonance for them to ignore. If an adult walks up to you and says “I was abducted by aliens last night”, what is the first thing that passes through your mind? When a person tells me that they saw their dead grandmother at the foot of their bed, I pretend like I’m intrigued, but inside I’m hoping the conversation ends sooner, rather than later. When a child goes to school and overhears other children laughing about the younger kids who still believe in Santa, the child suddenly stops admitting, at least publicly, that they still believe in Santa.

Personal testimony has long been considered the weakest evidence of an event, or a belief. It’s just not considered good evidence, even if millions of people have the same belief! Imagine believing, as most humans once did, that the sun revolves around the earth, or that the earth was flat. Popularity doesn’t make a thing more true, or even more reliable. We must use the faculty of the scientific method to remove as much bias, and open the floor to critical thinking, testing, validation, and falsification, and continue to test the observations before we conclude, with any certainty, that a thing is true, or real. We cannot falter under the weight of personal testimony, no matter how many people believe. Besides, how many more centuries are we going to have to hear the claims of a real god before it stops?

Am I alone in wondering when the proof will arrive? Really, what is so damn difficult about proving a God that is supposed to be literally true and real, according to believers? Why has there been no evidence to support any god, ever? And when will anyone, no matter what god they follow, ever just admit that God is not provable beyond their personal belief? Are they waiting for the rapture in order to prove to everyone that God is real? It’s too late by then, since God will supposedly collect the “chosen ones” and dispense the rest of the humans to Satan’s house. I’ll bring the steaks if you bring the chips and dip! Something tells me we won’t need lighter fluid for the pit 🙂



1. befuddled2 - January 3, 2010

In a book I read in the long ago days of my rather boring youth, called Faith of a Heretic by Walter Kaufmann, Mr. Kaufmann makes the point that if God exists and if it is importent to him/her/it that people believe in him/her/it then why does he/she/it make it so difficult to prove his/her/its existence?

It was one of several reasons that he was an atheist.

2. Adam - January 3, 2010

Although I disagree with your ultimate conclusion, you are essentially right: Personal testimony may be real, but can’t convince anyone other than the one who experienced it.

I think people bring it up to explain why they believe in a god or why their belief in a god is justified. They don’t (or at least shouldn’t) bring it up to try and get you to believe in a god.

jetson - January 3, 2010

That is the point of the post! And I will not deny a person their personal beliefs, because they may well be right!

It would be nice though, if there is a god, that he make it easier for those that seemingly can’t believe without evidence.

3. grovechurch - January 4, 2010

I think proofthatGodexists.org is good at making the case.

jetson - January 4, 2010

Never heard of it! Thanks for the link.

4. grovechurch - January 6, 2010

No problem.

jetson - January 6, 2010

OK – that site was bizarre, and tough on the brain. I felt like I was trapped in some inescapable paradox!

Do you want to share your thoughts on it?

5. Justin - January 6, 2010

Hey jetson, I have been accidentally posting on the account of the church I work for (grovechurch). This is my personal account.

You said the site was an “inescapeable paradox”. That leads me to believe at some point you weren’t happy with the choice you would have to eventually make and the conclusion it inevitably leads to. Unfortuanately, the truth does lead to the conclusion. Was there any step that you felt was unfair in the site?

jetson - January 6, 2010

I’m not sure I would say unfair. I think I will go back when I have more time and see what I think of the logic. I tried different scenarios to see where they would lead. I’ll see if I can give some more detailed feedback.

6. Justin - January 8, 2010

look forward to it!

jetson - January 9, 2010

OK – the first choice I made was “I don’t Care if Truth Exists” which left me with an exit button, which was a direct link to a Disney website. My first thought was thus “I mus think I live in Disney land, where happiness abounds.” Did I get that right?

Now, after going back and trying the other scenarios, I have concluded that the entire exercise is dishonest. It tries to force me into a binary decision matrix, where it gets to determine that I selected an incorrect response by forcing me to either exit or go back.

To me, things don’t work that way in the real world of humans! Of course, I could be wrong, but that exercise did not compel me at all to want to “play the game”, so to speak, because I would much rather discuss these matters as opposed to following a predetermined path where, according to the programmer, answers that the programmer determined are wrong.

7. Justin - January 10, 2010

I see your frustration with the format, but do you have any reason why any of the premises are incorrect, because if not, they do lead to the inevitable conclusion of God.

Jetson - January 10, 2010

I think they lead to a logical possibility, as opposed to an inevitable conclusion. I won’t say God is logically impossible, although, there are models that show where a god with certain attributes is logically impossible.

Perhaps I will send some of my friends to the site to see what they think. I’ll see what others think.

8. befuddled2 - January 10, 2010

The premises are way too simplistic and do not account for the full variety of possibilities. To take just two of many possible examples:

1) Do the Laws of Logic Exist. They do but they are human constructs meant to deal with the world that we are most familiar with. On other levels our empirical and inductive based sciences have shown that matter and the universe can behave in ways that do not seem logical.

This section uses a car being in a parking lot and not being in a parking lot as illustrating the law of non-contradiction. However this is a very similar to an atomic particle, such as an electron being both a wave and a particle. Further there are other atomic behaviors which violate our “Laws of Logic”.

The problem with using pure logic is that it can lead anywhere dependent upon the assumptions used. That is why our in depth knowledge of how the universe works did not take off until science – which is based on empiricism and induction instead of pure logic – came along.

2) Absolute Moral Laws Exist. This is dependent upon what you mean by absolute moral laws. The site uses an extreme example that the vast majority of people will answer in the manner the site wants. However what about some counterexamples such as lying.

Is lying always immoral? If so then were those people who lied to the Nazi’s when hiding Jews immoral people committing an immoral act?

Further it assumes that the only possible explanation for moral laws is God. In fact at the very end this site assumes that the only possible explanation for the laws of everything – Logic, Mathematics, Science, Morals – is God. Yet this is just an assumption. I saw no logical links that proved that these “laws” could not come from a material universe. This link has not been shown either logically, empirically, or inductively.

As an example lets use Moral Laws again. I believe that moral laws exist but they are not necessarily absolute. I believe that they are the result of what our evolutionary history made us – a highly intelligent and highly social species. I won’t go into details here as it would be way too long but this is a perfectly defensible position with a great deal of empirical evidence for it.

In summary the evidence is badly flawed in that it uses simplistic definitions, does not examine alternative explanations (in other words is dualistic when reality is not), and in the end makes an unfounded assumption.

9. Justin - January 11, 2010

When you say “morals are situational and therefore not absolute”, can’t you see how each individual situation has an absolute moral standard?

10. befuddled2 - January 11, 2010

Justin, let us first define our terms. To my mind an absolute moral rule would statements such as “Lying is immoral”.

However I believe that most people, myself included, believe that lying to protect someone from unjustified punishment, persecution, and murder is moral. Definitely more moral than telling the truth in this instance.

Now I do believe that there are some general guidelines that indicate what is moral and what is not. However how they are realized depends on the specific situation. And this is what I mean by situational.

Situational is NOT just whatever someone feels like. Rather it is the realization of general moral principles in specific situations. I prefer the term principles to rules and standards because I believe the latter terms imply that morality is much more black and white than it actually is.

fWere all moral problems composed of clear and sharp answers then there would be no disagreements between moral people on what the proper answer would be. However there are disagreements.

Finally let me say that even if there were clear and unambigious moral absolutes that hold true no matter the situation that would still not necessarily imply a God. As I indicated in my previous post there are other alternative explanations.

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