By Tom Quiner

Atheists believe nobody designed your brain. It just happened.

C.S. Lewis

Human thought is just an accidental by-product.

Former atheist, C.S. Lewis, suggests this presents a challenge to atheists:

‎”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.”

Here’s the zinger, according to Mr. Lewis. If this is your belief, you cannot trust your own thoughts:

“But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

27 Comments

  1. MB on July 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    😉

  2. Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Bob: If I told you I had to run my neighbor out to the ER last night, you would probably ask why. If I told he had broken his arm while getting a Frisbee off the roof, you would probably be satisfied with that answer.

    Now, if I had to explain the same thing to my 3 year old grand-daughter, it would probably be a whole different conversation. Some possible questions that may arise: “What is a Frisbee? How did it get on the roof? Why did he need to get it down? How did he get up there? Why do ladders fall? What is an ER? Did he get a shot? Did he cry? Did he get a sucker?”

    Anyone who has ever talked with a three year old knows one answered question can lead to many, many more, until finally, they are satisfied with your answer and they go on their merry way. My point here is that it comes down to our reference point on the subject. Either we believe the experts who have devoted their lives to discover how our world works or we don’t.

    • Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      Can you explain why you don’t believe in Zeus (aka Jupiter) to be the true God and why he would not fit into Mr. Lewis’ belief shown above?

      • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm

        Lack of evidence. On the other hand, the case for Christ is compelling.

      • J on July 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm

        “Either we believe the experts who have devoted their lives to discover how our world works or we don’t.” It’s hard to tell, but judging from the immediate follow-up post to this statement, I’m guessing that’s supposed to be some kind of refutation of religion? If so, I’m not too impressed, because knowing how the world works (science) and why there’s a world at all (religion) have very little to do with each other, though they can inform each other to a limited extent. By the way, there are a lot of Christian scientists who are very well-respected in their fields.

        “Can you explain why you don’t believe in Zeus (aka Jupiter) to be the true God and why he would not fit into Mr. Lewis’ belief shown above?” Is this a variation of the common New Atheist argument, “Explain why you don’t believe in Zeus and most atheists will tell you they don’t believe in your God for the same reasons”? If so, it’s one of the most myopic arguments I’ve heard to come out of New Atheism. All it does is betray complete ignorance of what the concept of the Christian God is about. Zeus is an overgrown bully with immortality and the ability to throw thunderbolts around. The Christian God is a transcendent being, the omnipotent Mind responsible for authoring the universe and all its physical laws. God is not a physical being; He is something that exists apart from and “above” (in a metaphysical sense) physical reality. There are many good arguments, both from a logical standpoint and evidence in the very order of the cosmos itself, for why there’s a good probability that such a being exists. Contrary to juvenile depictions of God as a “man in the sky with a beard,” He is far more than that — and, funnily enough, science has been an extremely potent force in strengthening, not weakening, my belief in God. I’m hardly alone in that, either.

        I actually have a bit of an agnostic streak myself. My faith isn’t a 100% certain faith. I’ve heard arguments against God’s existence with a bit of force behind them. But arguments like “science has disproven God” (simply false) or arguments that equate Zeus to God (the latter is so much more sophisticated as a philosophical concept that the comparison is laughable) are not compelling.

  3. Bob Zimmerman on July 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I believe the experts who have devoted (and sometimes sacrificed) their lives for their faith in God. Show me one scientist who was martyred for his theory on dark matter…?

    • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Good point. Thanks for the astute observation.

    • J on July 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      When people pull science out of their pocket to attack religion, we shouldn’t run from it. We should embrace it. Science can make a very compelling case for the existence of God — and unlike, say, the Bible or Church history, it’s a case that can speak (and has spoken) to stubborn unbelievers. That science is so often used as a bludgeon against religion isn’t a defect of science, it’s a defect of our culture.

      • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm

        I agree. By the same token, a compelling case can be made for God and Christ from the bible and Church history. Put them all together and it takes more faith to believe in nothing than everything, everything being defined as an Intelligent Designer of the universe.

      • J on July 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm

        (Can’t seem to reply to the right comment for some reason so I’ll quote it real quick) “I agree. By the same token, a compelling case can be made for God and Christ from the bible and Church history.”

        True. I didn’t mean to imply that these are worthless for argumentation (obviously that’s very far from true), but they are too often used to try to persuade atheists who already consider them to lack credibility. But then, in my environment, I tend to be more heavily exposed to people with very scientific mindsets, so my experience is a bit skewed. I suppose the trick is to find the right argument for the right audience.

        • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

          I hear you. Some people are drawn to faith by reason, others by revelation. Some by a little (or a lot) of both. It is the most thrilling mystery in creation. Most people enjoy a good mystery. This one provides a lifetime of thrills for those who pursue it with a sincere heart. Thanks for your cogent insights.

  4. Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I have read “The Case for Christ” and I did not see where it would stand up in today’s court – lots of hearsay. At best, the first Gospel wasn’t written down until 65 years after the death of Christ. Religious scholars agree that the others came several decades later. It has been argued that two, maybe all three) of the Gospels were merely later versions of the first. Who were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? There are many theories on who they were but no one knows for sure.

    Imagine the game of telephone you played as a child. The stories changed with each person retelling of the tale and before long you have many version of the same story floating around. One of the main reasons St. Augustine wanted to canonize the early Christian books was to give authority to a single version of each gospel and to unite all the various factions under one system. Prior to coming up with an official Bible, the gospels were passed on orally and eventually written down. The New Testament was canonized by a small group of men who decided what books would and would not meet the cut. Recent history has shown other Gospels managed to not be destroyed such as The Book of Thomas and The Book of Mary. I could add that history has shown that those who created the King James version of the Bible had a set agenda.

    As for Zeus, there is actually much more literature on the Greek / Roman gods than there is of Christ. From an archeology standpoint, Homer’s works have been found to be much more historically accurate than that of the Bible.

    • J on July 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      My understanding from reading the works of cultural anthropologists is that it takes a lot longer than 65 years for oral tradition to become corrupted. The fact that the first Gospel was written down only 65 years after the death of Christ is a point in the Gospels’ favor, not a demerit.

      That there were fake or unreliable holy texts based on the teachings of Christ should not come as a surprise, and neither should the fact that early Church authorities wanted to pin down which ones were official.

      Lastly, I’ve read a great many historians (mostly secular in stripe) who are quick to criticize the reliability of archaeology for reconstructing history, so that’s not much to go on. Written texts are much firmer ground than archaeological findings.

      Which isn’t to say there’s no merit in your points, but the overall case, if meant as a criticism against Christianity, is pretty weak.

      • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm

        Do you believe the historical record for Alexander the Great? The first history of this giant figure from history was written nearly 600 years after his death. The historical record for Christ is compelling by comparison.

      • Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm

        “My understanding from reading the works of cultural anthropologists is that it takes a lot longer than 65 years for oral tradition to become corrupted”.

        I would like to see where you read this. Even in the audio / video world we live in today, look at how information can be spun to meet a given agenda.

        “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

    • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      Lee Strobel wrote a follow up book called The Case for the Real Jesus. He interviews religious scholars that address your concerns. It’s worth the read. Thanks for writing.

      • Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm

        I have read it. 🙂 Like I said before, I read most anything I can get my hands on regarding religion, especially Christianity.

        • quinersdiner on July 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm

          There are two books with similar names by Strobel: The Case for Christ and the follow up The Case for the Real Jesus. In addition, he wrote The Case for a Creator and The Case for Faith. I recommend them all. The Case for a Creator deals with a lot of science. I think you’d enjoy the read.

      • Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm

        Have you ever read “Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew”, by Bart D. Ehrman?

  5. Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    “I believe the experts who have devoted (and sometimes sacrificed) their lives for their faith in God. Show me one scientist who was martyred for his theory on dark matter…?”

    From everything I have read, many more died at the hands of Christians for being heretics than those who died at the hands of the Romans. Also, to die for one’s religion has existed through-out history. Just look at the 911 Suicide Bombers.

    • J on July 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      “From everything I have read, many more died at the hands of Christians for being heretics than those who died at the hands of the Romans.” Pretty outrageous statement and very contrary to what I’ve read. Far as I can tell, Catholicism has nurtured science throughout most of the history of modern science. Catalog important scientific discoveries and you’ll get a laundry list of devout Christians. Here’s just a couple of many possible examples: Georges Lemaître, Big Bang Theory, Catholic priest; Gregor Johann Mendel, discoverer of genetics, Augustinian friar. Go do a bit of research and you’ll find many more names.

      The fact that Galileo is atheists’ go-to boy for proving supposed Christian suppression of science shows just how weak their case is. Horror of horrors, Galileo was placed under house arrest — and it wasn’t for his scientific theories, it was because he overstepped his bounds and insisted on making himself an authority on theological issues. Sure, the Church was in the wrong, but if that’s their ultimate crime against science, well, color me underwhelmed. Where are these supposed piles of dead scientists who were killed for being heretics?

      • J on July 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm

        Ah. Looking at context, it seems you were referring to Christians being killed as heretics, not scientists.

        In that case, your statement is probably accurate. I retract my rebuttal.

  6. Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    “If so, I’m not too impressed, because knowing how the world works (science) and why there’s a world at all (religion) have very little to do with each other, though they can inform each other to a limited extent.”

    My reference referred back to the Lewis quote. I believe the brain has developed through evolution and can have thought without the need for an Intelligent Designer. Referring back to my original comment, at one point are you satisfied with the answer given to you.

    • J on July 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      In that case, fair enough.

  7. Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    There seems to be a limit to how many layers of Replies possible. I apologize if my comments seem to be jumbled around.

  8. Bob Vance on July 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    o The media has manuipulated history throughout time. Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone were cold-blooded killers, yet look how they are portrayed today.
    An Essay by Jack Weatherford
    “Christopher Columbus’ reputation has not survived the scrutiny of history, and today we know that he was no more the discoverer of America than Pocahontas was the discoverer of Great Britain. Native Americans had built great civilizations with many millions of people long before Columbus wandered lost into the Caribbean.
    Columbus’ voyage has even less meaning for North Americans than for South Americans because Columbus never set foot on our continent, nor did he open it to European trade. Scandinavian Vikings already had settlements here in the eleventh century, and British fisherman probably fished the shores of Canada for decades before Columbus. The first European explorer to thoroughly document his visit to North America was the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, who sailed for England’s King Henry VII and became known by his anglicized name, John Cabot. Caboto arrived in 1497 and claimed North America for the English sovereign while Columbus was still searching for India in the Caribbean. After three voyages to America and more than a decade of study, Columbus still believed that Cuba was a part of Asia, South America was only an island, and the coast of Central America was near the Ganges River.
    Unable to celebrate Columbus’ exploration as a great discovery, some apologists now want to commemorate it as a great “cultural encounter.” Under this interpretation, Columbus becomes a sensitive genius thinking beyond his time in the passionate pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The historical record refutes this, too.
    Contrary to popular legend, Columbus did not prove that the world was round; educated people had known that for centuries. The Egyptian-Greek scientist Erastosthenes, working for Alexandria and Aswan, already had measured the circumference and diameter of the world in the third century B.C. Arab scientists had developed a whole discipline of geography and measurement, and in the tenth century A.D., Al Maqdisi described the earth with 360 degrees of longitude and 180 degrees of latitude. The Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai still has an icon — painted 500 years before Columbus — which shows Jesus ruling over a spherical earth. Nevertheless, Americans have embroidered many such legends around Columbus, and he has become part of a secular mythology for schoolchildren. Autumn would hardly be complete in U.S. elementary schools without construction-paper replicas of the three ships that Columbus sailed to America, or without drawings of Queen Isabella pawning her jewels to finance Columbus’ trip.
    This myth of the pawned jewels obscures the true and more sinister story of how Columbus financed his trip. The Spanish monarch invested in his excursion, but only on the condition that Columbus would repay this investment with profit by bringing back gold, spices, and other tribute from Asia. This pressing need to repay his debt underlies the frantic tone of Columbus’ diaries as he raced from one Caribbean island to the next, stealing anything of value.
    After he failed to contact the emperor of China, the traders of India, or the merchants of Japan, Columbus decided to pay for his voyage in the one important commodity he had found in ample supply — human lives. He seized 1,200 Taino Indians from the island of Hispaniola, crammed as many onto his ships as would fit, and sent them to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495. Columbus tore children from their parents, husbands from wives. On board Columbus’ slave ships, hundreds died; the sailors tossed the Indian bodies into the Atlantic.
    Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family, and followers created throughout the Caribbean. His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit — beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.
    This was the great cultural encounter initiated by Christopher Columbus. This is the event celebrated each year on Columbus Day. The United States honors only two men with federal holidays bearing their names. In January we commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., who struggled to lift the blinders of racial prejudice and to cut the remaining bonds of slavery in America. In October, we honor Christopher Columbus, who opened the Atlantic slave trade and launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history. “

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