I, too, agree that this is a most interesting thread, one that (finally!) gets to the essence of the subject matter we're all interested in here. And your posts here, in particular, are very fine.
A few comments & queries from my corner...
Would you mind summarizing what it was in particular you found so persuasive about NT Wright's book on the resurrection? Yes, I know it was a really long book, but if it really knocked you out, I'd imagine you'd readily recall the points that really got your attention, no? Were Wright's arguments based primarily or solely on the NT (not to make a joke) accounts? Also, have you read much, and possibly with equal care, of the criticism of the gospels as historical documents, in the interim since you became persuaded that the resurrection of Jesus was an historical event? Say, for example, have you read much of Bart Ehrman's work (or listened to some of his debates on the subject, such as those with Mike Licona)?
If you have done so, I'd really like to know how you can still be persuaded beyond your own "reasonable doubt" that the resurrection of Jesus (or Lazarus or anybody else) was likely an actual, physical, occurrence. To me, the basic standards of historical research argue very much against belief in the resurrection of Jesus based on the gospel accounts.
BTW, I used to belong to Mensa, too!
I quit because the mere sharing of similar intellectual abilities didn't seem adequate to assure much in common otherwise, which gets me to this:
JustJim wrote: Not every believer believes blindly and irrationally, but it seems some atheists around here surely think so. They just can't imagine how an intelligent, rational person could possibly believe in such nonsense as gods and other supernatural beings. So do they consider believers to be unintelligent and irrational? Probably only when it comes to their religious beliefs, huh?
Good point. Yes, we would all do well, myself certainly included, to bear in mind our own blind spots, and to contemplate the blind spots of all sorts of really intelligent people (think of any number of politicians around the world, current or historical). Over in the atheist section, recently I linked - twice, I think - a really fine blog post by Dale McGowan about this very subject.
Of course you are absolutely correct, too, that there are lots of highly intelligent god believers. No doubt many of us non-believers who tap away on forums like this should make a greater effort to bear that in mind.
And yes, I think most atheists who recognize that believers can be quite intelligent folk believe that some major compartmentalization, as its known, plays a big role when it comes to the persistence of god beliefs in the minds of intelligent folk. As you mentioned in a couple of your posts above, we are all the products of all our previous nature and nurture and experiences, and reason doesn't necessarily trump things like supportive if not loving friends, family, and community. That's because, as someone else noted, people are people, no?
Or in other words, compartmentalization can be a form of "reason," too.
Still, don't you
find it at least a bit stunning that some people who seem generally intelligent buy into very literal and rather fundamentalist religious ideas?Mohamed Atta
just came to mind, for instance. We people who are people are sometimes too malleable and gullible, are we not?
Finally, like some of the other atheist posters here, I have a hard time avoiding the impression that some of the Christian posters here are disingenuous in their replies, if they are indeed intelligent people. For example, it seems to me that a reasonably intelligent person would be able to recognize, and have the integrity to acknowledge, very clear circularity in their thinking and to then make a different
argument if they still feel they're assertions are correct. Has that been the case here, or is humanguy's mocking of circularity (and mine in another recent thread) accurate, would you say?
Separately, when it comes to general obnoxiousness and self-righteousness, I'd be surprised if one "side" or the other has the upper hand.
As an aside, since the quite intelligent and well-traveled Mr. Atta very likely used a box cutter to cut the throat of one of my very favorite people before incinerating himself and many others on behalf of his god-beliefs, I feel less abashed about strongly criticizing beliefs that I feel are equivalent in their improbability than some other folk might. I try not to be obnoxious, but I know sometimes that description probably fits...
If you consider what Christianity claims, for example, is there anything more important to think about?
I get your point, Jim. But I don't really buy it for the same reason that I don't spend a lot of time sweating over Joseph Smith's claims or L Ron Hubbard's claims or Muhammed's claimed dictation, or imagining that the FSM may be the real God after all, although I'd love
to have a driver's license with a pasta strainer on my head.
I would look mahhhvelous!
I spend (too much) time here and elsewhere arguing about religion not because of the likelihood of religious claims, but because like an increasing number of other people, I'm convinced - far beyond my own
reasonable doubt - that the likelihood of any god is extraordinarily low and that the net result of god beliefs is a terrible scourge to mankind.
Last, here's my 2 pesos on the argument about what constitutes evidence:
Don't we all accept personal testimony and experience as "evidence" for some things? If someone whose taste buds I know to be similar to mine tells me verbally or in writing he or she has "seen the light"
at a particular restaurant, I take that as good "evidence."
Courts, too, accept both testimony about personal experience and direct written statements as evidence, do they not?
So the question isn't really about what constitutes
evidence, is it, but rather what ought to be considered, taken as a whole, sufficient
evidence, for a particular
I agree with the other non-believing writers above that personal experiences alone or combined with tales handed down (hearsay) from bronze age writers who wrote decades after the key events, and whose accounts differ with one another, and which have undeniably been altered significantly over many centuries, are insufficient to support the otherwise improbable claim that God / Yawweh / Jehovah, or any god, exists.
And I would reach the same conclusion even if there were not vast history and current examples of human beings deluding themselves about all manner of things that bring them psychological comfort, foremost among them being the notion that a very nice deity exists in the clouds or "everywhere" or in their shoe, and who will take them to "heaven" after they're dead.
Those who know the most of nature believe the least about theology. - Robert Ingersoll