Answering Scotto on the Existence of God

Scotto’s response in the comment thread of yesterday’s Brent Wahl article was sufficiently thought-provoking to merit a response from me in a separate post.

Herewith is his comment (corrected for grammar and punctuation):

These days a lot of scientists and other very smart people are atheists. I’m wondering: if our Founding Fathers had the same knowledge of how the universe works and science that we have today, would they still have been men of great faith? Who knows?

Herewith is my response:

These days a lot of scientists and other very smart people are atheists.

A lot of stupid people are atheists as well. Conversely, a lot of scientists and other smart people are firm believers in the existence of God. The roster of believers drawn from the ranks the of greatest scientific minds since the Renaissance staggers the mind because it includes the likes of Nicholas Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, William Thomson Kelvin, Louis Pasteur, Max Planck and, yes, even Albert Einstein.

In my humble opinion, a scientist who declares that he is an atheist does no justice to empirical science and, in fact, displays the very parochialism and closed-mindedness of 19th century scientists who rejected the Germ Theory proposed by Ignaz Semmelweis.

In its pure form, empirical science is a process for quantifying the tangible, material universe and the so-called “scientific method” evolved over time into a reliable metric – but one that has application only to the natural world. It is utterly incapable of measuring in any way, shape or form the supernatural. Simply stated, empirical science can neither confirm nor deny the existence of supernatural phenomena, including the existence of God.

The prudent scientist will therefore neither accept the existence of God nor reject it because empirical science simply isn’t designed for this kind of investigation. It follows that an honest person of science is not an atheist but, rather, an agnostic.

I’m wondering: if our Founding Fathers had the same knowledge of how the universe works and science that we have today, would they still have been men of great faith? Who knows?

I know. And the answer is: Yes, of course they would. Faith is a peculiar and utterly illogical human attribute that reflects our ability to transcend logical empiricism and accept the existence of God based on evidence that cannot be verified empirically. It came as easily to them as it is incomprehensible to the contemporary atheist.

Dr. Ben Franklin was a man of towering intellect who, in my humble opinion, was a true scientific genius. Nevertheless, he had no doubt that God existed – and were he to be teleported to this day and age, I suspect the revealed wonders of this universe – from sub-atomic particles to Hubble photos of distant galaxies – would only confirm his faith.

Scotto, you might want to consider pondering Pascal’s Wager. Here’s to hoping you place your wager to win – or at least break even.

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29 Responses to Answering Scotto on the Existence of God

  1. Scotto says:

    ….Thank you for correcting my grammar! haha. Anyways, your probably right with some of our founding fathers, but im going to leave some quotes here from Thomas Jefferson, and I would def assume that if he were alive today, he prob wouldn’t be an atheist, but would at least be agnostic and not christian, actually i would assume he prob was more agnostic even back then….

    “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

    “Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.”

    “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

    “I never told my religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have judged others’ religions by their lives, for it is from our lives and not our words that our religions must be read.”

    • Gene Hoyas says:

      Thomas Jefferson also wrote this:

      Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do… (The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom)

      If you take some time to study the life of Thomas Jefferson, the onion you begin to peel will have many, many layers. He was a complicated individual who was reluctant to share his own religious perspective in any appreciable detail with others.

      Suffice it to say that while Jefferson was not fan of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, he nevertheless believed in the existence of God.

  2. Scotto says:

    ….I just read the pascals wager, for me the reward is simply being alive, right here right now. I’d be just as happy with eternal nothingness as i would be with heaven. Religion is a fun thing to ponder but even if i placed my bet on there being a god, changed my life around, and there wound up actually being a god….and my reward was heaven, i don’t need that. What happens after i die i could care less about, and i don’t want to think about it. The reward is life, not heaven. I feel i was nothing for billions of years before i was alive and was content, i’ll be just as content the next billion.

    • Scotto says:

      ….people think im nuts for rather having eternal nothingness than heaven, but why think about if i live this way…..after i die i can have everything every man ever wanted…. All i have to do is sacrifice a bunch of things in this life that im living right now, and i’ll be rewarded in the next phase (that may or may not exist). Why not just live this life that were in right now….exactly how you want to (as long as its not hurting any1 else of course) reach as many goals and live as many dreams so that when your on your death bed you can think….well, my life has been everything i’ve ever dreamed of….actually being something, alive, anything, was rewarding, now i can go peacefully into the forever nothingness, and be totally fine with that. If you hold back on doing things in this life which right now is the only thing we all have, because your faith tells you its immoral, and there winds up being no god, well you wasted your only chance. But if there is a god, and you ignored his ways….but still lived out your dreams fully in this life, you didnt waste anything. Heaven…..who cares? i still lived my dreams.

      • Scotto says:

        …wow your gonna hate me im commenting so much and i have horrible grammar and punctuation but now i cant stop thinking!! That sounded kinda ungreatful, the “heaven…who cares? i still lived my dreams. BUT, thats what happens with a god who never actually tells anyone whether they really exist or not, and like i said….live out your dreams as long as your not harming anyone and having good virtues. That being said….you still should get into heaven. And if you get turned away at the gates simply for not believing in gods existance….even though you lived your entire life as kind loving and everything as you could, then i wouldn’t want to be in god heaven. God would in that case be nothing but a spiteful little kid.

  3. I am Sparticus says:

    were two begin? There’s so much hear too comment on… Scotto, were you not the guy “insulted” a week or to passed at such judgement being past on you’re “lack of faith?”

    Now your quoting jefferson: “I never told my religion, nor scrutinized that of another.” and doing just that.

    And a litany of egregious comments: “What happens after i die i could care less about, and i don’t want to think about it.” …after i die i can have everything every man ever wanted… “If you hold back on doing things in this life which right now is the only thing we all have, because your faith tells you its immoral, and there winds up being no god, well you wasted your only chance.” “Heaven…..who cares?” ” God would in that case be nothing but a spiteful little kid.”

    First, the last line: The actual spiteful little kid is the liberal arts major still living in his mom’s basement collecting his dole for the last three years espousing the causes of Marx and the Marx brothers. You apparently don’t have a clue what faith is, and have used up what little quarter you’ve garnered by way of your wandering solillquy on the apparent merits of narcissism and pitfalls of a power greater than oneself.

    As for the rest of it, well…. Oh my. Ciao.

    • Scotto says:

      I know what faith is i just have none. I wasn’t saying anything bad about people of faith if you have it and believe in heaven im happy for you, thats fine, i just don’t. What do you care if i could care less what happens after i die? The god being a spiteful little kid line is just me thinking about how in christianity a person can be an absolute saint here on earth…..but if they simply don’t believe in and except jesus there either going to hell or at least not getting into heaven. Jesus is saying “well thats great that when you were alive you were saintly, but none of that matters, because u didnt believe in me, now you must burn.”

  4. Gene Hoyas says:

    I just read the pascals wager, for me the reward is simply being alive, right here right now. I’d be just as happy with eternal nothingness as i would be with heaven.

    Perhaps you ought to re-read it: the non-believer stands to lose much more than the believer. And while you might sincerely believe that the reward is “simply being alive,” I can assure you that, as you approach middle age, you will be seriously reevaluating that assessment.

    Why not just live this life that were in right now….exactly how you want to (as long as its not hurting any1 else of course)

    Why should I not hurt anyone else in the course of living my life and pursuing my happiness? If there is no God (who is the source of what is good and moral as well as the ultimate authority on goodness and morality), then why should I refrain from using, abusing and destroying others to achieve my desideratum?

    …thats what happens with a god who never actually tells anyone whether they really exist or not, and like i said….live out your dreams as long as your not harming anyone and having good virtues. That being said….you still should get into heaven. And if you get turned away at the gates simply for not believing in gods existance….even though you lived your entire life as kind loving and everything as you could, then i wouldn’t want to be in god heaven. God would in that case be nothing but a spiteful little kid.

    With all due respect, Scotto, your knowledge of theology in general and Christianity in particular is sorely lacking. Here’s a stripped-down, bare bones answer:

    1. There is a God who created the visible and invisible universe;
    2. God created humanity as a fusion of the material world and the spiritual world;
    3. God endowed humans with free will: they are free to believe in and serve him or believe in and serve themselves;
    4. God will never directly interfere with or alter the free will of humans and will respect their decision to believe in him or not believe;
    5. After death, a person is not so much “judged” by God as he is permitted to continue the trajectory established by his free will when he was while alive;
    6. Those who chose to serve God will spend eternity in his company while those who chose to serve themselves will spend eternity outside the company of God.

    By way of analogy, Heaven is a mansion at the top of a hill where the front door opens only from the outside. If you want to go to Heaven, you’ll have to climb the hill and open the door yourself. If you have no desire to go to Heaven, God will never force you…he does respect your free will, after all.

    In that case, since you chose yourself over God, your desire will be fulfilled and you will get to spend all of eternity by yourself – a form of spiritual solitary confinement that Christians call “Hell.”

  5. Scotto says:

    I wouldnt call nothingness hell. But ive always heard theres heaven, purgatory, or hell which is burning and torture forever, nothing about nothingness. Anyways…

    “Why should I not hurt anyone else in the course of living my life and pursuing my happiness? If there is no God (who is the source of what is good and moral as well as the ultimate authority on goodness and morality), then why should I refrain from using, abusing and destroying others to achieve my desideratum?”

    …..Because god is not the source of all that. Every human should know right from wrong, i don’t know how else to explane it except the fact that i dont believe in god, and i know just as much as any religous person the differnce between right wrong good evil and whatnot, and i certainly am not special or smarter than anyone. If i know these things, im certain other humans would too.

  6. Scotto says:

    6. Those who chose to serve God will spend eternity in his company while those who chose to serve themselves will spend eternity outside the company of God.

    …..Now by outside the company of god, do you mean hell?

    • Gene Hoyas says:

      Now by outside the company of god, do you mean hell?

      That is what Christians call it. As for the fire, brimstone and tormenting demons, consider those concepts to be literal embellishments that most ordinary folk can understand and to which they can relate.

      The kind of hell I’m talking about is infinitely more horrifying.

      • Scotto says:

        Well than this is why i say in that case god is a spiteful little kid. You can live your life absolutely free of sin (i know this doesn’t happen but lets just say it did) and even though you’ve never hurt a single person in your life, and mabey you’ve givin to charities, saved a few babies, fed the hungry, and so on, God would still send you to hell, because none of that is good enough for him. The only thing that matters to god is that you did not believe in his existence, and now you can not spend eternity with him, and must suffer whatever consequences there are being outside the company of god forever.

        • Gene Hoyas says:

          The only thing that matters to god is that you did not believe in his existence, and now you can not spend eternity with him, and must suffer whatever consequences there are being outside the company of god forever.

          What you don’t seem to understand, Scotto, is the fact that God does not put you into hell…you make that decision. As I explained earlier, all humans have free will and God respects that freedom.

          If you choose God over yourself, then eternity in his presence is your reward (Christians call this “Heaven”).

          If you choose yourself over God, then eternity by yourself is your reward.

          • Scotto says:

            But why would god want you to choose him over yourself? Why would a supreme being need that? That doesn’t sound like a supreme being it sounds like an evil dictator. And you could live your life a horrible person, but if at the end of each the day you pray and ask for forgiveness and believe in god your with him for eternity. You can also be a great loving person, but if at the end of the day you don’t pray and don’t believe in god, your in hell. This is why to me christianity makes no sense and I will never wanna be a part of it.

  7. Dana Pearson says:

    There are a lot of “proofs” for the existence of God. I don’t think they are true. God exists, but in my view that fact is not provable from other axioms — except perhaps the proof that says: 1. All that the Bible says is true. 2. God’s existence is stated in the Bible. 3. Therefore God exists.

    Of course that syllogism just leads to questioning the major premise.

    I don’t just believe in the God of the Bible. I know that God exists and predestinates all things.

    Why? The Holy Spirit testified to my soul that the Bible is true. The Spirit does this for some and not for others.

    Scotto, there is something to Pascal’s wager. If you haven’t yet, read the Bible a few times over cover to cover. If there is no God, which there is, then you just wasted a small portion of your life. If there is a God, which there is, then maybe the Spirit will convict you that God’s Word is true.

    • Gene Hoyas says:

      I don’t just believe in the God of the Bible. I know that God exists and predestinates all things.

      Why? The Holy Spirit testified to my soul that the Bible is true. The Spirit does this for some and not for others.

      This makes absolutely ZERO sense, Dana. Unless, of course, you forgot to add the /sarc tag.

      • Dana Pearson says:

        Gene,

        Does this make sense?

        “V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture.[10] And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

        That is from Chapter 1 par. V of the Westminster Confession — and that Chapter and paragraph are not controversial to Presbyterians (and probably not most Baptists, Episcopalians and Methodists either) and most other Reformed Christians.

        The Bible is true. It can’t be proved. It is instead the underlying set of axioms that can prove other things. If the Bible is true and can’t be proved, then how does one know it is true? Simple, the Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts. Why do some then not believe? The Spirit did not bear witness to them.

        This may sound senseless to you, but it has been codified in the Westminster Confession for 300 plus years. And in fact it does make sense. The Bible can’t be proved — it is self-evident, to those who believe.

        Heck, how do you know even the most basic things? Like how do you know you exist? You can’t prove it. You just know it. It is self-evident to you.

        • Gene Hoyas says:

          The Bible is true. It can’t be proved.

          Then, by any empirical definition, it can’t be declared true.

          It is instead the underlying set of axioms that can prove other things. If the Bible is true and can’t be proved, then how does one know it is true? Simple, the Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts.

          Since it is the Bible that informs us of the existence of the Holy Spirit, your argument makes ZERO sense.

          Please get some sleep and come back in the morning.

          • Dana Pearson says:

            There are lots of true things that can’t be proved.

            Let’s take the famous syllogism:

            All men are mortal.
            Socrates is a man.
            Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

            Valid. But true only if the major and minor premises are both true. So then one must then prove Socrates is a man and men are mortal. The chain goes on infinitely, unless you are willing to accept something as self-evident.

            Either the Bible is true or false. If true it can be proved or not. It is true but can’t be proved.

            If you think I am wrong, then at least tell me your view. Do you think the Bible is false? Or do you think it is true and can prove it?

            The Holy Spirit testifies to the heart of a believer that the Bible is true. Just because the Bible discusses the Spirit does not mean that the Spirit can’t testify to the truth of the Bible.

  8. Scotto says:

    How did I just waste a small portion of my life? And you don’t know that there is a god any more than i know there’s not. Neither of us know for sure. That’s a fact. You might have 100% faith that there is, but you still can’t possibly know for sure. And if you think you do you very well might belong in the mental house.

    • Gene Hoyas says:

      And you don’t know that there is a god any more than i know there’s not. Neither of us know for sure. That’s a fact.

      In that case, how can you claim there is no God? You might have 100% faith that God does not exist, but you don’t know with any empirical certainty. And if you think you do know…heh heh heh…you very well might belong in the mental house.

      • Scotto says:

        haha i know man. I don’t know 100% for sure, I don’t believe there is a god but i can never say i absolutely know for sure.

        • Scotto says:

          I may have worded it wrong to Dana…..i meant she does not know for sure that there is a god any more than i know for sure that there is not a god. Neither of us know those two opposite things for sure. We both believe what we believe, but she seems to be convinced that she knows for sure, and that’s impossible.

  9. Gene Hoyas says:

    But why would god want you to choose him over yourself? Why would a supreme being need that?

    For the same reason a loving parent wants the children home and not lost in a desert. If you ever become a parent one day, you will understand what I mean.

    That doesn’t sound like a supreme being it sounds like an evil dictator.

    Then you must have some profound parent issues.

    And you could live your life a horrible person, but if at the end of each the day you pray and ask for forgiveness and believe in god your with him for eternity. You can also be a great loving person, but if at the end of the day you don’t pray and don’t believe in god, your in hell.

    It doesn’t quite work that way, Scotto. A tree tends to fall in the direction it leans. Those who believe in God and sincerely seek him will eventually find him – and that attitude will manifest itself in their everyday lives. Ditto for those who have no use for God.

    This is why to me christianity makes no sense and I will never wanna be a part of it.

    I’m willing to wager that (a) you’ve never read the New Testament and (b) you’ve never made a sincere effort to understand Christian theology.

    • Scotto says:

      Those who believe in God and sincerely seek him will eventually find him – and that attitude will manifest itself in their everyday lives. Ditto for those who have no use for God.

      No man. Unless i’m misunderstanding, your saying since i’m leaning in the direction of there not being a god, that kind of attitude will manifest itself into my life….and im assuming that godless attitude is somehow a less altruistic one than a person of faith. Your wrong. For some reason you and most religious people assume there can’t be a person who is a non believer, and can live basically a christian life without being christian. Meaning simply leading a kind gentle caring altruistic life having all the same virtues of a christian, yet not feeling the need to have faith in a god. I can assure you this can happen, those people are out there. And what happens to them after they die? According to christians, they go to hell, simply for not believing. It doesnt matter that they basically lived the same life as any christian just without the church going and praying. Two people….same lives lived….one prays and goes to heaven, the other doesn’t and goes to hell.

      • Gene Hoyas says:

        There is much for you to learn, Scotto. You confuse a declaration of belief with actual faith: the former is a matter of words while the latter is the essence of one’s existence.

        Bottom line: if you have no desire to seek God, to know God or to love God and choose to live as though he does not exist, that’s your decision – and God respects that decision even as he continues to love you no less dearly than he loves one who fervently and ardently loves him.

        But decisions have consequences and if you choose to live as though God does not exist and hold to that belief when you die, that decision will be honored and, regardless of all the good things you may have done, you will have all of eternity to yourself – no hellfire or clouds of sulfurous smoke. No demons with pitchforks. Just you and you alone, forever in a universe of infinite darkness and absolute silence.

        If God does not exist then, at best, you can look forward to an oblivion in which you likewise no longer exist.

        On the other hand, if God does exist you can look forward to eternity in solitude.

        It’s as simple as that.

        • Scotto says:

          That is very simple but does not change my mind about god. To exist forever in solitude is just as bad as an eternity of burning. If there is a god and all souls that don’t believe in him exist together somewhere just without gods presence or just cease to exist and become nothing is ok, but he might as well let us burn if it’s an eternity of solitude. That just goes back to him being spiteful. And i think it’s easy for people like us to say god loves us all and continues to whether we love him back or not, but ask a girl who’s been locked in a basement by a man that continually rapes her beats her tortures her for years and years, and she might have a differnt opinion on if how much god loves her.

  10. Scotto says:

    But why would god want you to choose him over yourself? Why would a supreme being need that?

    For the same reason a loving parent wants the children home and not lost in a desert. If you ever become a parent one day, you will understand what I mean.

    A loving parent isn’t telling his kids “either come home before 9 o’clock or burn in hell for eternity.” That doesn’t sound like a very loving parent to me.