Mit Sister Smith, die bei beiden Treffen immer dabei war, habe ich ebenfalls ein paar Mal hin- und her geschrieben. Im Folgenden nun dieser Email Austausch:
Sonntag, 4. August 2013 23:47
Hi Sister Smith,
thank you for the very interesting discussions. And thank you for the invitation to the church service.
I was thinking about this and this were my thoughts:
I really think, it would be a waste of my and your time, if I joined the Sunday church service. Why? Because it is impossible to give me any answer worth considering gods existence, or tell me what she wants from me (I know, you believe it’s a “he”, but how do you know? So I prefer a “she”). Your feelings and even my own feelings will not tell me the truth in this case. I’ll never trust my feelings, when it comes to extraordinary claims, and I have very good reasons not to trust them, because I know of the ways I can be mistaken and deceived by them.
I was thinking about three things you said:
First, that you had doubts and didn’t need god. I think you changed your mind to soon.
Second, that you think you’re not a fundamentalist, because if someone “proves”, that “your” god can’t exist, you will change your mind. I think this demand is far too high, because the claimant always has the burden of proof and an existence-claim is “almost” impossible to disproof. But never mind, lets see if you keep your word.
I’ll “proof” to you now, that your god can’t exist: You think your god is omnipotent, say “all powerful”, right? He can do anything he likes to, right? If you are honest, you have to say yes. But an omnipotent god can’t exist, because the very concept of omnipotence is self-contradictory, self-defeating and fundamentally flawed. You ask why? Can your omnipotent god create a stone, that is too heavy for him to lift? If you answer no, your god is not omnipotent, because there is something he can not do. If you answer yes, your god is not omnipotent, because he can not lift the stone, so there is something he can not do. QED
Third, you said, that you’re not perfect teachers and still have to learn a lot. This implies, that the older, wiser and more sophisticated members of your church have better answers to my bunch of questions. I can tell you, they have not. Their answers are often even worse, than yours or your friend ones. You give them too much credit, really. You should have much more self-esteem, because I think you are a clever and smart woman.
I tried to challenge my own believes and opinions, by inviting you and have a discussion about that issue. I was begging for you to give me a good reason, argument or evidence to reconsider my stance. I was begging the Elder from Holland to give me his top 3 or top 1 reason or argument, for why there is a god. His answer was just experience, the leap of faith, reading the book of Mormon, praying but not a single good argument. Of course, this is not him to blame, nobody else did better. And it is not any stubbornness from my side, really I am willing to consider a good argument, but I never heard anyone. I just heard the same bad arguments, I already have heard 59 times. And after all the time, the reading, the talking, I wonder, if there is any good argument or evidence, that is convincing or even just worth thinking about.
See, faith is no virtue. Faith is the last resort, where to go, if you want to keep any believe, which you are unable to explain and justify. Faith is the excuse, people give, when they don’t have good reasons for believing anything. Faith means accepting any result/opinion/belief, before checking, where the evidence would guide you to. So faith is not a virtue, it is a vice.
I liked your very clever question, when you asked me, if I’m only searching for things to disagree with or not. You know, we all (including me) have a “confirmation bias”, we often do not weigh the facts before making judgments, but rather we believe in things based on our predispositions and influences. We then maintain these beliefs by ignoring and rationalizing away evidence, that contradicts our preexisting conclusions. We believe in things for reasons other than logical reasoning and empirical evidence. And that is a huge problem in many parts of our lives.
I would love to talk with you about morality or the question, if religion is a good or bad force in the world. Unfortunately I’m very busy the next weeks.
I really wonder, and I would like to ask you, why you seem to like meeting again? Isn’t it, that I’m quite direct, hard and rude? So you really enjoyed the talk and didn’t just say so to be kind? Am I not a hopeless case, a lost soul destined to nonexistence?
If you have any question, you can write me or call me, and I will try to answer or help you.
You know, if your back in Canada and continue your biology studies or become a doctor, trying to heal animals or humans, you do that with reason and evidence or at least should do. Waving your hands or saying a prayer will not heal anybody, reason is much more powerful.
If your faith in gods existence is true, you should fear no analysis or scrutiny of that faith or believe. So my advice to you is to read books, that challenge that. A good start would be reading “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God” from Guy P. Harrison, which is a wonderful written book. It’s up to you, what you do with my advice, but if you’re really interested in the truth and not only in what makes you feel comfortable and good, you should read it. It doesn’t hurt.
I can give you a list of another 30-40 books, which are very good, if you want to.
For now, I will end, giving you my Top Ten List of reasons, why I do not believe in a god, and it’s from the ”Greta Christina Blog” and I agree with her, you can read in full detail there:
1: The consistent replacement of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones.
2: The inconsistency of world religions.
3: The weakness of religious arguments, explanations, and apologetics.
4: The increasing diminishment of God.
5: The fact that religion runs in families.
6: The physical causes of everything we think of as the soul.
7: The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing.
8: The slipperiness of religious and spiritual beliefs.
9: The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.
10: The complete and utter lack of solid evidence for God’s existence.
Sonntag, 11. August 2013 18:57
we were not lying when we said we wanted to meet again. You are not neccessarily the easiest person to have a conversation with but you seem to have a real desire to know. But I am not honestly sure that you have real desire to change.. but that is simply your choice. We do not find you rude or hard and being direct is a wonderful thing. And I do not believe in hopeless cases or lost souls destined to nonexistence.
So when you have time again we would love to meet and discuss your questions and concerns. Part of what we do as missionaries involves talking with people and answering questions. But most of what we do has to do with inviting people to try things and see what the results are- hence Elder Hall’s invitation to church. Which I also do not think would be a waste of time. How can you say that if you have never tried it? So if you are open to keep meeting so are we. But next time I have a proposition for you.
I also wanted to share that I have a different perspective than you when it comes to proving. I think you can look at the situation either way. In my studies I have been taught that it is the job of scientists or whomever to falsify theories not prove them right. Actually I have been taught that it is impossible to PROVE that something is correct- we can only test it and assume that it is correct until it no longer is through experimentation. As to your example with the dragon in your garage and saying that you were responsible for proving that it was there- I look at it more as if I do not want to believe that there is no dragon I should prove that it is not there.. it is kind of like the two perspectives guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty. So I guess I disagree with you on that point. I do not think it is possible for one human to prove to another that God is or is not there. But I do believe it is possible for someone to personally discover if faith leads them to something better or not. I also disagree with what you said about faith being accepting any result or opinion or belief before checking. I believe that faith is a hope in or for something but it is not necessarily an acceptance of something without rational thought.
My belief in God did not come to me through the explanation of the rational world. There are many biological reasons that one can argue- but these things alone are also no proof and never convinced me to have faith. Two of them being how the probability of everything in our world occuring by chance being near to impossible (because there is still a chance of it being possible) or the study of behaviour in creatures vs. humans- I believe in God because everything around me and in me tells me it is true. I believe in God because I have trusted in Him and I have seen results. And I could have just as easily ignored these results or rationalized them away perhaps like you may have as a child, and sometimes I have- but there are some experiences that I have had that I cannot rationalize away.
And I am quite aware that I cannot be a doctor without using reason and evidence. I am not crazy.
Let us know when you have time if you are still interested.
I am still curious as to WHY you wanted to meet with missionaries again- and out of all the missionaries you have talked with in your life why us?
Montag, 12. August 2013 22:20
Dear Sister Smith,
thank you for your mail. I didn’t think you were lying, but maybe you just said that in case of being polite. That’s why I asked.
This will get a long mail, so sorry for this, but shorter is impossible for me. If you don’t want to read it, I’ll understand.
I have desire to change, if reason, the arguments and evidence guides me to another conclusion and opinion, and only when this is the case. You are right, that I will not change my opinion arbitrarily and for me changing ones opinion is no choice. And that counts for every endeavor and issue of my life.
Which proposition do you have for me?
“But most of what we do has to do with inviting people to try things and see what the results are- hence Elder Hall’s invitation to church. Which I also do not think would be a waste of time. How can you say that if you have never tried it?”
This is a great question, and I’ll try to answer it as follows:
If I ask myself, what the result of 234643*894 is, I will not go to a “art exhibition”, in the opera or play tennis with my friends. If I ask myself, if unicorns, BigFoot or gremlins really do exist, I will not search for an answer to that question at a dancing club, in an ice hockey stadium or in the next bar. Why not? Because the method to get a good and the right answer must be appropriate to my question.
You might throw in, that this is exactly the reason, why I should search for the answer to the question “Is there a god or not?” in churches, in religion(s) and with theology. But this is a bad advice, because religions and theology already assumes, that there is a god. They do not really search for an answer to this question, they only pretend to treat this question open minded, but are not really open to an answer they don’t like.
What really tries to find an answer are philosophy, epistemology and science.
If you want to find out, if Mercedes-Benz builds good cars, you shouldn’t ask Mercedes-Benz, because they are biased and are prejudiced. You should ask consumer organisations, check the malfunction statistics and so on.
The second reason, why I think it is a waste of time, even if I have never tried (by the way, I tried 19 Years in the catholic church, but never mind) is as follows:
Even if I had the greatest and best experiences in the Mormon church, at best those experiences will be irrelevant to the question “Is there a god or not?” at worst those experiences will deceive me. Why? Because experiences are the worst conceivable evidence (maybe even worse than no evidence at all), because they are completely subjective.
You also agree with that statement, because you do not accept the experienced evidence of a 5 year old, that he feels in his heart that santa claus is real. And you do not accept the evidence from experience of a catholic, a protestant, a hindu, a buddist, a moslem, a jew and so on, that their book and their god is the right and real one. And all those people in these other religions do not accept your experience, that the bible and the book of Mormon are right and your religion and god is the right and real one. And you and all those people are completely right, to not accept this subjective “evidence”, because it is unbelievably weak, if it were even counted as evidence.
And I reject all this out of hand, because I know, that experience is very weak evidence. And if you think about it honestly, you know, that this is true.
So I didn’t say, that this is a waste of my time, in order to displease or offend you. I am sure, we would have fun and a great time. But this is completely irrelevant to my question “if god exists or not”.
Relating to your perspective of Proof, I have to say this:
“In my studies I have been taught that it is the job of scientists or whomever to falsify theories not prove them right. Actually I have been taught that it is impossible to PROVE that something is correct- we can only test it and assume that it is correct until it no longer is through experimentation.”
Absolutely correct, I agree 100%, your university did teach you that point rightly. But I think you misunderstood or didn’t get one or two points right:
THEORIES can never be “proved” to be right or true, that’s correct. But entities, of whom is claimed, that they do exist, can ONLY be proven to exist, NEVER be proven to non-exist. If I claim, that unicorns exist, I can easily “prove” (not only making it likely or probable or plausible), that unicorns exist, when I show you the unicorns. You could then examine the unicorns, if they really fit the definition of “unicorn” or other things you would like to check. I mean, how easy is this? For you it is almost impossible to falsify my claim, because you have to search the whole universe at all times. And even if you could do this, I can adjust my claim by saying, that my unicorns exist outside the universe. This unbalance of “proving” this claim even reinforces the burden of proof on an existence-claim.
And by the way, a claim or theory which can never, under no circumstances, be falsified, is considered and called an unscientific claim. As you can remember, that is why I asked you, if you are really open minded, and under what circumstances you would consider your opinion (and claim and hypothesis) to be wrong.
That is why I told you the story of the dragon in my garage. I claim to have a dragon in my garage. I have the burden of proof, because I am the one making an existence-claim. If I can’t prove it, or at least make it likely or probable, then you shouldn’t believe this claim to be true. You do not have to show me or others, that I don’t have a dragon in my garage. You can’t because as you can remember our conversation, I can always immunize and adjust my claim, by saying, that it is an invisible, an intangible and so on dragon.
“it is kind of like the two perspectives guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty”
This is a great analogy, and here is why: A court doesn’t vote guilty or innocent, a court votes guilty or not-guilty. And if you would be accused of murder, the court makes the claim, that “Sister Smith killed Person X”. The court is the one making the claim, and if the court can’t “prove” or make it at least probable (beyond any reasonable doubt), that their claim “Sister Smith killed Person X” is true, they have to vote not-guilty. It is not you, who has to “prove” your innocence!
It is always this way, that the one making a claim has the burden of proof, and has to give reasons, arguments and evidence for his case and claim. If he can’t provide these, we have to give the gift of doubt to him and his claim. Everything else is gullibility. So it was completely right for you, not to believe my claim being true, that I have a dragon in my garage. But your reason for that conclusion was wrong or not good, because you said, that you don’t believe this claim, because you don’t know me good enough. Even if I would be your father, brother, husband or son, so even if you know me damned well, you shouldn’t consider my claim being true, because I offered no evidence whatsoever!
And the more extraordinary a claim is, the more extraordinary strong the arguments and evidence have to be.
“I do not think it is possible for one human to prove to another that God is or is not there.”
But last time, on my question, what could possibly change your opinion, you said, “disproving god existence” would do it for you, to change your mind. I wrote to you: “I think this demand is far too high, because the claimant always has the burden of proof and an existence-claim is “almost” impossible to disproof”.
So now you changed your mind, and say, that you think it is impossible to “prove” that god doesn’t exist? Well, how come?
I think you are wrong here, because we can really disprove certain things, namely self-contradictions. If something is self-contradictory, then it CAN NOT exist. This is simple logic. If I say: “Sister Smith is pregnant and non-pregnant at the same time”, then this is not possible. Or if I say: “2+3=5 AND 2+3=8”, this claim is impossible of being true, because it is self-contradictory! A “married bachelor” is also an example for a self-contradiction, because the very definition of a “bachelor” is, that he is NOT MARRIED.
So things, which are inherently self-contradictory are impossible to exist.
Unfortunately you didn’t comment or answer my question regarding this topic. I asked you, if you think that god is omnipotent, say he can do WHATEVER he wants to do? What is you answer to this?
And then I wrote: “But an omnipotent god can’t exist, because the very concept of omnipotence is self-contradictory, self-defeating and fundamentally flawed. You ask why? Can your omnipotent god create a stone, that is too heavy for him to lift? If you answer no, your god is not omnipotent, because there is something he can not do. If you answer yes, your god is not omnipotent, because he can not lift the stone, so there is something he can not do.”
Any comments from you on this? Do you agree? Do you disagree, and if so, why?
“Two of them being how the probability of everything in our world occuring by chance being near to impossible (because there is still a chance of it being possible)”
Who says, that “everything in our world occurred by chance”? What exactly do you think of occurred by chance?
“I believe in God because everything around me and in me tells me it is true”
Ok, what exactly around you tells you, that god exists and why? And if you have thought of something around you, that tells you god exists, could you think of another explanation, why this is around you?
“or the study of behaviour in creatures vs. humans”
Why does the study of behavior in creatures vs. humans convince you of there being a god? Can you explain this in more detail to me?
“And I am quite aware that I cannot be a doctor without using reason and evidence. I am not crazy.”
Of course, I didn’t intend to offend you. Sorry, if it sounds like that to you. I just wanted to express the notion, that we use reason in almost every part of our lives and that this is good.
“I am still curious as to WHY you wanted to meet with missionaries again- and out of all the missionaries you have talked with in your life why us?”
I already told you. If I am wrong, I can only find out by confronting myself with “the other side”, with people who disagree as completely as possible with my view. I am trying to falsify my own position, I am searching for good arguments and evidence that speak against my position. This is THE ONLY chance I have, to find out, if what I believe is true. I am justified to keep my opinion as long as I have reasons, arguments and evidence for it. But how can I find out, if there is any better arguments or evidence against my view? Only by discovering the other side.
This is the case with every opinion on every issue, problem or claim in everyones life. If one is really interested in the truth (most people are not, but I am), and not in what feels good or one wishes to be true, one has to check the opposite about their arguments for their opinion and make an evaluation, which side has the better arguments and evidence.
Why you? Because you Mormons are nice and friendly people. I disliked the Jehovas Wittnesses, because they were partly rude and hurt people with their “no blood donation doctrine”. And there are no more missionaries from any other religions I can talk to or are willing to have a debate or discussion. I would have invited any religious Group, if they stay friendly and don’t turn aggressive. But there are simply no Muslim, Jews or other religious people, willing to talk about their faith. At least here in Germany.
“And I could have just as easily ignored these results or rationalized them away perhaps like you may have as a child, and sometimes I have- but there are some experiences that I have had that I cannot rationalize away.”
Well, I think you still ignore the arguments, I have presented to you. You didn’t say a word about the arguments I sent you the links for:
Are you afraid of reading such thoughts? Are you not allowed to read such thoughts?
And the story of my childhood, with the pain, that left, after I prayed to god: This doesn’t mean I am ignoring it, as you obviously can see, because I am talking about. And I am also not “rationalizing” it away. The only difference is, that I do not make stuff up or invent any wild story or interpret this event in a way, that is not justified by this weak experience-evidence. Because, what would you conclude, if I would have prayed to “Allah”, the Hindu god “Visnu” or, let’s say the flying spaghetti-Monster, and my pain would have vanished too? That they do also exist? Is that the reasonable conclusion, which should be drawn?
Montag, 19. August 2013 08:41
I just want to tell you that I cannot possible answer all of your questions. Especially through email. As a missionary I have limited email use and I prefer to use that time to write to my family. It would take me far to long to address all of your concerns via email.
If you would still like to meet to discuss God and such matters then we would be happy to, Thanks,
- Sister Smith
Mittwoch, 4. September 2013 14:11
I just wanted to say that I am leaving Nürnberg. Ich bin versetzt geworden- nach Bamberg. I really enjoyed the conversations we did have and would have really enjoyed talking some more. I am sorry that you felt like we were unable to help you. Please don’t give up on your search. I know He is there, I know that He answers our prayers. You once said that God knows how we can accept answers from Him- I think you are right. He tells us over and over again in the scriptures how we can recognize His hand in our lives. Please do not be too proud to accept the way that God communicates with us all.
Best of Luck,
PS- if you still want to meet, Sister Jackson will still be in Nürnberg and would be happy to continue discussing these topics with you.
Donnerstag, 12. September 2013 21:46
I enjoyed it too, and I am happy you did enjoy the conversations. I do not feel, that you were unable to help me. You really helped me. If you ask “How come?” I would answer it like this:
You are one of the “groups” (for lack of a better word), that I would call and consider “EXPERTS or PROFESSIONALS” on the subject of religion. I have my own opinion about the questions whether religion(s) is/are true and whether religion(s) are a force of good or bad in the world. You can guess, what my answers to those questions might be. And as I said, I might be wrong, so I “confront” my own opinions with the exact opposite ones. This is the only way, to be as sure as possible.
If you would have had valid, good and sound arguments or evidence, I would have had to change my views, if I don’t want to be irrational (and you can be damned sure, that I don’t want to be irrational!) and live in reality. But you had no good arguments at all, only the kind and type of arguments I already heard/read 73-times. Sure, you disagree with this statement, but I really took serious, whatever you said. Not a single argument, anyone of you said, holds water to even soft scrutiny and well-reasoned thought. I do not mean this in an offensive way, I just want to state this as a matter of fact.
And I don’t blame you for this, I just want to tell you that simple truth. It is not your fault, that you had no better arguments. It is also just a matter of fact, that no expert has ever told any better argument(s). So for the moment, I am faced with the fact, that there probably are no better arguments for the truth of religions or for the truth of any particular religion.
So you helped me. You helped me, by NOT proving my position wrong. You helped me, by NOT falsifying my opinion. You strengthened my opinions, because my opinions still hold water, even faced with the best arguments of experts, that think I am wrong. My position still stands in spite of the arguments of experts against it.
That is the nearest, I can get to the truth. So you were really very helpful.
And I will never give up my search for the truth. I am open for every new argument to come in, in the future.
“I know He is there, I know that He answers our prayers”
You don’t “know” that he/she is there and you don’t “know” that he/she answers your prayers. Why do I say, that you “don’t know” this? Because you can not justify this belief.
Knowledge = justified, true belief
You belief this, but you don’t know this.
„You once said that God knows how we can accept answers from Him- I think you are right.“
Really? Did I say that? I think, I said, that god, if defined as omnipotent and omniscient, should know, how he can proof/show his existence to me. Obviously he failed. Why? Two possibilities: He either is too stupid to make me know, that he exists, or he doesn’t care and give a shit, letting me know. (The third possibility of course would be, that he doesn’t exist, which would easily explain the whole situation!)
An omniscient god can obviously not be stupid, you agree, I guess.
And why would I want to get in contact with a being, which/who doesn’t give a shit for me?
Oh, I can hear you say: “god moves in mysterious ways, he doesn’t show his existence straight and in an easy or clear way.”
Well, why not? Why does it have to be so complicated? Why does he play hide and seek? This is a really bad argument.
“He tells us over and over again in the scriptures how we can recognize His hand in our lives.”
You mean in the Koran? The Tora? The indish Veda?
Yes, of course. Scripture…written by men, who claimed writing down “Allahs” words. How dare I, to doubt the reliability of the “holy” scriptures, which reflect reality 1:1?
“Please do not be too proud to accept the way that God communicates with us all.”
Proud? I am not proud of anything. Pride has nothing to do with my acceptance or non-acceptance of “the claimed communication-way, a claimed transcendental, supernatural Ghost” shares with us.
What has to do everything with my non-acceptance is reason, arguments and evidence.
I always go wherever the (good and best) arguments, evidence and my reasoning leads me to. And I always will! Amen.
When you are back in Canada, and when you have again free access to email or phone, and if you want to talk, I will be here.
If not, I say “good-by” and wish you all the Best.