Emails from believers: “I know God exists the same way I know my wife loves me”

August 10, 2022 • 12:00 pm

Does your wife love you? If you believe she does, then you’re justified in believing in God and Jesus. Or so says a befuddled believer, whose words I reproduce here.

A comment came in from one “Brad Thorp” (you’ll read it here only) addressing my post “Stephen Meyer in Newsweek: Three scientific discoveries point to God. As usual, his claims are misleading.

If you recall, I addressed Meyer’s ID-generated claims that science couldn’t explain the Big Bang, the “fine tuning” of the laws of physics that permit life, and the “irreducible complexity” of some features of animals and plants. These, he argued, refute pure naturalistic evolution and physics.  After I presented his arguments, I said this:

I’ll give alternative naturalistic explanations for each of the three “proofs of God”. We don’t know the materialistic answers for sure, but at least the scientific explanations are in principle testable, and there is some evidence behind them.

Apparently to some believers, like Mr. Thorp, if science can’t understand something, that counts as evidence for God. One would think that the history of science, which successively replaced divine explanations with naturalistic ones (e.g., lightning, disease, evolution), would make people more cautious about using “The Argument for God from Ignorance.”

But not Mr. Thorp. In fact, his email below suggests that science must bow to religion in its wisdom, for the “evidence for God” seejs stronger than the evidence for many claims that scientists take as provisionally true.

Thorp:

“… we still don’t know…” we still don’t know, we still don’t know…. Ad infinitum…

The only solution is an address where one can go, poke god in the belly, pull his beard… and decide we are smarter than He is!

The issue is not one of evidence. It is wanting absolutely conclusive evidence that forces one to believe, taking away any alternative. This creates a heinous caricature of a masochistic tyrant that anyone in their right mind finds repulsive. It denies the role “choice” plays in all our decision making.

I am an atheist of this misrepresention of the God portrayed in the Bible and revealed through the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I for one am not looking for overwhelming conclusive proof that destroys my freedom to choose. I cannot objectively prove my wife loves me. But evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt gives me reason to support that conclusion. The same standard of evidence/proof is what we all use daily.

So in the never ending discussion about God and maintaining atheism re Christianity, let’s keep the standard of evidence artificially high and inconsistent with daily life: “ I won’t believe in god unless I can poke Him in the belly! “

The issue of God, including presumably whether God exists or not, “is not one of evidence”.  But then it does become one of evidence. It’s just that we petulant atheists keep the standard of evidence “artificially high”. I’m not sure what “artificially high” means, but the God hypothesis doesn’t even surmount a bar so low that an earthworm could limbo under it. Science deals in likelihood, not absolute certainty, and it’s telling that, beyond revelation and scripture, we don’t have even a scintilla of scientific evidence for God, even though such evidence could exist. As Victor Stenger used to say, “Absence of evidence is evidence of absence. . . if the evidence should be there.” For God it isn’t.

In fact, I’m not sure what Thorp is saying. I don’t think he does, either. First he says he doesn’t need no stinking evidence because that would “destroy his freedom to choose” (i.e., evidence of God would make him uncomfortable about being a believer). But then he mentions the value of empirical evidence, even if it’s not absolutely conclusive: “I cannot objectively prove my wife loves me. But evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt gives me reason to support that conclusion.”  Presumably he means empirical evidence that his wife acts as if she loves him, like treating him well, being affectionate, not having affairs, and so on.

Does Thorp not realize that the evidence that his wife loves him is a gazillion times stronger than the evidence that God existed and Jesus was his son, a son whose life and Resurrection offers us all a path of salvation? You can hire a private detective to check up on your wife, but you can’t hire one to look for God.

42 thoughts on “Emails from believers: “I know God exists the same way I know my wife loves me”

  1. If my wife had the power to stop it, but allowed billions of people to suffer and die, then I would doubt that she loved any person, let alone me.

  2. How many times a day does Mr. Thorp fall over due to his spinning around to refute his own weak arguments? A bowl of cooked spaghetti is better organized than his sentences.

    1. I am confident that it is well within the grace of HIM to forgive this insult and you will, nonetheless, be touched by his noodly appendage. May sauce be upon him. Ramen.

    2. He clearly isn’t very well educated and most likely started writing large portions of prose only with the emergence of social media comment sections. The petulance of his writing is glaring.

    1. hehheh. Good ‘ne, DrBrydon. ¡ Indeed, let’s hope for that !

      Blue

  3. My thought experiment is: What if all the Bibles were somehow lost, and we could somehow erase all memory of Christianity (or whatever one’s preferred faith might happen to be) for a generation? Would we ever rediscover it? Oh, sure, some kind of religion might arise — especially among the intellectually impoverished who craved some kind of final reward for earthly suffering, or just any firm (if fallacious) answer to unexplained questions — but would it be anything like Christianity? Of course not. A religion is just words. If we could only stop talking about it, it would vanish!

    Now as for “does my wife love me” — well, I guess I can’t be sure, but then again, I don’t see why Mr. Thorp could prove that his god loves him. But I am quite certain that my wife exists, and that I could demonstrate that to any neutral observer. Evidently, the existence of God doesn’t rise to that level!

    1. I think it was in The God Delusion that Richard Dawkins made a similar comparison. There, he imagined what would happen if everyone woke up one day with total amnesia. Humanity would gradually rebuild, but we would invent different languages, different political and national affiliations, and different religions. But we would rebuild science and scientific knowledge pretty much the way it is now, because that is the one thing we do that is most proximate to what is really real.

    2. My thought experiment is: What if all the Bibles were somehow lost, and we could somehow erase all memory of Christianity […] Would we ever rediscover it? Oh, sure, some kind of religion might arise — […] — but would it be anything like Christianity?

      Hasn’t this experiment already been carried out several times. The RCC effectively hid the contents of the Bible from the non-Latin-reading population for a number of centuries (about Nicea to Luther) resulting in the schism between the myriad Protestant churches and the RCC. So that’s one “natural experiment to look at.
      The origin myth of the Mormon church, with it’s secret tablets handed to Joe Smith from a burning bedroom (I may have got some details wrong ; so schism me!) constitutes a second “natural” experiment.

  4. Well, no, I’m not sure “love” exists, either. There are chemical reactions and experiences we call love, and it suits me to have faith that it is love because it feels like it and it gives me pleasure and meaning. That same process might lead me further than atheism but not as far as gnostic theism with respect to a particular entity or entities.

    1. I get where you are coming from here. We end up down a rabbit hole. Sure love might not exist, but does the concept of love exist? Do concepts exist? Concepts seem to be written in matter. Light from a monitor, smudges of ink on paper, vibrating air molecules, and of course arrangements of molecules in the brain.

      You carefully said that you are not sure, and I agree … agnosticism is the way forward, I think.

      For me the difference between belief and faith, is the former is based on corroborating evidence; and, faith is based on its lack or even despite contradictory evidence. Faith seems to stem from arguments from incredulity and sometimes ignorance.

    2. There are chemical reactions and experiences we call love, and it suits me to have faith that it is love because it feels like it and it gives me pleasure and meaning.

      Jeremy, have you been huffing the oxytocin again?
      Ha-ha, but serious – someone somewhere is going to try connecting up the [part of oxytocin that binds to wherever it binds] to [something which tickles the pleasure pathways more strongly than heroin] – then market it as a drug. Licit or illicit. “Oxytocyatyl”, perhaps. Would it be effective at, say, getting smack-head mothers to actually notice their children? Or just giving people nice dreams – creating a new variant of “opium dens”.
      Most likely, the cost and complexity of the oxytocin end would probably make it more expensive to manufacture than straight heroin.

  5. This kind of “evidence” for God’s existence crumbles as soon as we get to the specifics. If Mr. Thorp is a Christian, his “faith” informs him that the Bible was written/inspired by God, but the Koran or the Book of Mormon were not.

    Yet, a Mormon or Muslim would “know” that their book is a product of God.

    So we have three claims which are mutually contradictory, with each party making the claim using “faith” as evidence for the truth of the claim. Yet how does the Mormon, Muslim, or Christian demonstrate that their faith is the correct one?

    And this gets to the fundamental disingenuous nature of faith. Anyone making the claim that faith tells them about reality knows (or should know) about the existence of other faiths that make contradictory claims. Yet they avoid this fundamental problem and/or are often hostile to those who bring it up.

  6. Invoking god to explain the existence anything has always been a head scratcher. It so obviously begs the question. “God created it.” Ok, so, where did god come from?

  7. The time and energy he put into formulating his dissonant reasoning, writing it down and sending to you is evidence of his own uneasy need to justify his leap of faith. If you have to keep proclaiming that your wife loves you, that is probably indicative that you have your doubts.

  8. “I am an atheist of this misrepresentation of the God portrayed in the Bible and revealed through the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    Here’s where Mr. Thorp’s argument goes off the rails. Up to this point he was merely making a case for trusting his subjective experience of God, much as he trusts his subjective experience of his wife’s love. Not much to argue with there. But when he brings in the Bible, Jesus Christ, the resurrection, etc., he’s undercutting his own argument that subjective experience trumps other evidence, whether revelational or empirical. He wants to have his faith and eat it too.

    1. You and I disagree, of course, as to whether subjective experience alone can ever provide reliable evidence for things unseen. (After all, the empirically undetectable and the nonexistent are asymptotically equivalent.)

      But you stuck the landing on that comment, Gary; I’ll give you that. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Ken. I’m not concerned about our epistemological points of contention, but I do worry that my political perversities might undermine what I consider a beautiful friendship. I’ll try to avoid using the word “trump” in sticking subsequent landings. 😊

    2. Here’s where Mr. Thorp’s argument goes off the rails. Up to this point he was merely making a case for trusting his subjective experience of God, much as he trusts his subjective experience of his wife’s love. Not much to argue with there.

      I think that needs further clarification. What does ‘experience of God’ mean? Is he merely attaching a label ‘God’ to some experience? Or is he saying that an entity ‘God’ exists for him to perceive and experience? If it is the former, then it is a trivial labelling of a sensation. I might as well relabel the feeling of happiness as ‘God’ and say God exists. Some people do a similar thing — they attach the label ‘God’ to what they consider spiritual experiences; they experience God through music and rituals. In that sense, God exists in the same way that joy exists.

  9. His god has a beard ergo is just a super human. How quaintly primitive.

    For a resurrection of some godling budded off from what the writer obviously sees as a male deity, you require magic & the suspension of physical laws.

    It is beyond absurd.

    1. “Excuse me, why does God need a spaceship?”

      Kirk to a duplicitous, devious entity in “Star Trek: The Final Frontier,” 1989.

  10. Mr. Thorp seems to imply that scientists are being unfair by requiring strong evidence for empirical claims about the world. This is one of the places religionists and scientists differ. Scientists have methodological standards—evidentiary standards—that they apply to all knowledge. To scientists, no empirical claim of any sort passes muster without strong evidence. Scientists are not being mean or unfair. They are simply adhering to their methodological standards. And they adhere to them across all phenomena. There are no special categories of knowledge where scientists will not apply the same standards.

    When scientists don’t have a good explanation for something, they do not give up and invoke God. Lack of understanding is not evidence for God. Scientists have good reason to expect that the something in question will *eventually* be understood—if they applying the methods of science consistently. Scientists have that confidence because scientific methods have led to so many successes in the past. We have television, vaccines, Webb telescopes, GPS systems, and long, healthy lives because of science. That’s where I put my confidence.

    1. In addition, all conclusions are provisional. When new evidence is uncovered, conclusions can be buttressed, revised, or dumped altogether.

      Ask the goddies if there is ANY piece of evidence that would cause them to reconsider their conclusion. There is not. Therefore, what they are doing is not science.

      L

  11. “I’m not really sure what Thorp is saying”. Yes, it makes it hard to figure out what exactly you are responding to.

    If believers want to use evidence to back up their beliefs they should learn to follow the logic and present their evidence coherently. That would make for a useful conversation.

    But what I see in Brad Thorps letter seems to amount to “I believe because I want to believe and I want to believe I can back it up with evidence but I don’t really want to look to closely at it because I’m afraid of what I might find.”

    You’ve got to be able to evaluate your own beliefs rigorously or what you think and say about them won’t mean anything. If your beliefs are true, what is there to be afraid of?

  12. If my wife doesn’t exist, then I have been having intense hallucinations for 20 years; the piece of paper dated 11 August 2002 with signatures of other people I’ve known for up to 50 years is forged, as are the photos from then and since; my memories of the specific place and people at the wedding must all be false; and the special dinner planned for tonight makes no sense.

    If my wife doesn’t love me, she’s done a very impressive and persuasive deception job for 20 years.

    If God exists and loves me, s/he’s done an extremely unconvincing job of demonstrating it.

  13. You can hire a private detective to check up on your wife, but you can’t hire one to look for God.

    LOL!

    1. You could, and if I were an unscrupulous PI I’d love a gig like that, but it would be a waste of money.

  14. My wife loves me, god exists. My ex-wife hates me, satan exist? That sounds about right for a “faithful” eh, full if it.
    There is nowhere else to go when ignorance is bliss… or wilful suppression of reality.

  15. Mister Thorp appears to be saying he feels that enough evidence exists already, when he uses a reasonable standard. He cannot objectively prove his wife’s love. Whar he sees is good enough to conclude that she does, in fact, love him. I congratulate to a happy marriage. As I understand this, he means that whatever his wife does to “appear” loving would never satisfy the “artificially high” standard atheists apply to God. The atheist would question every smile, every embrace, everytime she says and does something nice, and say that the wife only ever appears to be loving. But how could we ultimately know this isn’t an act? After all, we do not really know her thoughts.

    To make this example work, we are invited to think of our circumstances as loving, caring, smiling upon us. But is that so? Once again, I congratulate Mister Thorp for his amazing luck, that he really thinks that way. Of course it doesn’t hold up a simple sniffing test. Most members of our, or any, species for most of the time lived out quite miserable lives. Each of our individual trajectories is conclusive, too. We cannot agree whether it’s preferable to drop dead at 27, or live long enough and through ever-thickening glasses see our faculties slowly replaced with backpain and knee surgeries.

    A problem with this “artificially high” standard is that God really is always touted as perfect, eternal, all-knowing, and above all, absolute good. That sets the bar rather high as far as expectations go, and yet also very low to assess our world. You know perfect when you see it, or conversely, you’ll see imperfection. I can imagine a world with one mosquito bite less. This is already a better world than God’s. Religious people have no answer but sweaty apologetics of “mysterious ways”. How can I possibly understand the role of every mosquito, tick and eye-boring parasite worm? That’s not how it works! How about God revealing himself just so that tenthousands of cults sprung up, each with a rival interpretation, each with a self-serving agenda? What’s more, God knew all along that would happen. He knew that Christians and Muslims would be at each other’s throats, and Hindi and Muslims, and Catholics and Evangelicals, and different Evangelial sects versus each other, and so on. Slowly, layer by layer, the entire religious project looks first implausible, then preposterous and eventually outright ridiculous. Eventually, the best explabation, and easiest one arrives at religious groups with shared beliefs to serve various psychological and social needs: hence why religious claims are always simultaneous grandiose (the creator of universes speaks to his creation) and comically inadequate (speaks to heat-dazed loners straying in deserts or someone who got lost on mountains, minds befogged by low oxygen, heatstroked or under the influence of substances and rituals). We could find an ancient stone with a message on it. God could reveal himself to thousands of mobile phone cameras etcetera.

    A revelation a few thousand years earlier or later wouldn‘t matter, but the the chosen timeframe and method is — again — striking in its inadequacy. There will never be a world religion. Period. Earnest searchers for God will never know which one to follow, which version to worship and so on. And the problem is, religious people cannot truly and honestly say it would not matter, as long as the believer is sincere: the entire project of every religion would look like a superstition — like the arkward movement of a pigeon trapped in a skinner box, who “believes” that its neck motion is essential to get the reward, but what matters is actually just hitting a button.

  16. The issue is not one of evidence. It is wanting absolutely conclusive evidence that forces one to believe, taking away any alternative.

    Both this assertion and the analogy to “believing my wife loves me” are the result of equivocating between existence claims and social niceties. There’s an underlying assumption that the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable person — but couldn’t be enough for an unreasonable person looking for an excuse because of their personal flaws. The “choice to believe” is framed and treated like a “choice to obey.” A stubborn, hateful person won’t want to. And as for the wife, the stubborn hateful person isn’t just refusing to acknowledge tokens of affection, but is standing there looking over her head saying “‘Wife’ you say? But nobody’s there.”

    At the center of most views which vilify the nonbeliever lies an implicit assumption: nonbelief is an act. The evidence convinced ME — and I’m a good standard of reasonableness. Therefore they’re only feigning doubt, putting on skeptical airs when they know damned well what’s true. What’s true is the claim AND the fact that they’re bigots, haters, sadists, self-absorbed, emotionally stunted, or a combination thereof.

Leave a Reply