Thursday, February 26, 2009

Defending Our Religion Before a Godless World-Pt 3

Part 3
Arguments and Answers. Sorry this is so long, but it is interesting and powerful.

Argument: There is no proof that God exists.
Answer: First, let’s call it evidence, not proof. Unless you have personally seen God, you cannot have ‘proof’. However, there is plenty of evidence. You simply must be willing to look outside your own boundaries to see it. You do not get to choose what is or is not evidence. That evidence either does or does not exist, with or without your opinion.

The fact that ancient scripture even exists, especially in so many different languages, and in different forms (book, scroll, stone tablets, metal plates, papyrus, etc.) which provide first-hand accounts of people who witnessed miracles performed by Jesus Christ, is solid evidence. Many of these people were there and personally saw Him, and personally witnessed these miracles. Most of these writings have been authenticated by scholars even in our day. Their evidence of His existence, and the miraculous power he possessed, far outweigh the so-called evidence, or doubts, of our time that attempt to contradict these original testimonies. If you reject the testimonies of those who personally witnessed Christ and His miracles, you simply reject evidence, having presented nothing to ‘prove’ otherwise.

Further, the fact that our calendar year is based on the birth of Christ, approximately 2009 years ago at this writing, is evidence of the powerful influence He had in the world.

There is evidence of the flood in Noah’s day. Sedimentary rings exist on mountains high above sea level. Fossilized sea life has been found in some of these mountains. I refer to modern species, not fossils of prehistoric creatures.

The fact that our solar system is in perfect equilibrium, and that our planet is in the perfect position to support life is evidence to me that ‘something or someone’ created it just that way (see Alma 30:44). If our planet was even slightly closer to or further from the sun than it is, we would not be able to survive. The atmosphere has just the right combination of gases to breathe and survive. Plants and animals provide just the right nutrients for our health. The evidence that this was planned outweighs the notion that such a perfect, stable situation just happened by chance.

There is far more evidence to support the existence of God than there is to deny it. To deny it is to reject the evidence in favor of one’s personal agenda instead of what is most likely true.

Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest scientist of modern times, believed in the existence of God. If fact he stated that the more he learned about space, energy and nature, the more he believed that there was a God who created it all for our discovery. To reject Einstein’s conclusion about the existence of God would be to discredit much of his work.

Argument: Religious people believe that God created man out of dust, but there is proof that man evolved from primitive life forms.
Answer: There is no ‘proof’ that man evolved, only theory. Scientists have arrived at their conclusions by creating a timeline of skeletal remains based on carbon-dating, size, posture, and skeletal development. This is not ‘proof’. The theory of evolution cannot be proven, because none of us were in existence during the times when these primitive beings were said to exist. It may be convincing ‘evidence’ based on interpolation of fossilized remains, but that is all it is. Carbon dating is susceptible to environmental influences and is not perfectly accurate. The fact that scientists consider evolution ‘proof’ instead of theory is a contradiction of their own self-proclaimed scientific integrity.

We base the belief that God created man in his image, as stated in the bible. We do not believe there is a direct link between some of the primitive ‘caveman’ beings and humans. Science has not found such a link, but assumes it to be so and then calls it fact. This again is a corruption of their otherwise purely scientific approach. We cannot offer any more evidence of this version of creationism than what is available through the scriptures and through spiritual revelation, but that is one of the forms of evidence available to all – personal spiritual revelation. Without it, nothing in this entire debate will go beyond simple argument. The form of evidence called personal revelation will be discussed hereafter.

Regarding making man out of ‘dust’, we know from our own scientific studies that the human body is composed of existing elements, not some other mysterious substance. The term ‘dust’ simply refers to the natural elements. That is not inconsistent with evolution or common sense.

Argument: Religious people believe that God actually created the earth in six days. That is absurd.
Answer: Agreed, it does sound absurd. The answer to that concern is in what your perception of a ‘day’ is, and what God’s day is in this context. We must remember that God did not live on the earth at the time of its creation. The concept of a 24-hour day is unique to our planet. A day on another planet, or any other celestial body, depends on its own rotational characteristics. It is therefore erroneous to automatically assume that God meant a 24-hour day when referring to the creation. Further, the term ‘day’ has been used by many, even God himself, to mean an era or period of time, not just one complete revolution around a planetary axis. To limit your perception of a day being a 24-hour period is your own limitation, not ours, or God’s.

Argument: Religious people believe that God created the universe. Science shows that the universe began with the Big Bang.
Answer: Science shows that stars and galaxies appear to be traveling away from a singular area in space, with the rate of travel being greater for the objects that are farthest away from that point of singularity. Much like the concept of evolution, the big bang is a theory based on interpolated, incomplete scientific findings. The big bang theory has little more than Doppler imaging to support it.

For those of us who believe God to be more than just a mysterious, magical being, the big bang theory is a viable theory. It in no way refutes the belief in God’s existence. Latter-Day Saints in particular believe that God works within the bounds of natural law, and works with natural elements to create. Even God cannot violate natural laws. The definition of God or godhood does not necessarily mean that He created everything including the elements or the natural laws of physics, and that they operate or exist haphazardly at his will and pleasure. Rather, God has a perfect knowledge of these laws and elements, and using that perfect knowledge he works with and within them to create. It could be a viable theory to believe that God initiated the big bang to begin creation in this part of the universe. Such a theory does not discredit either the existence of God, creationism, or the big bang theory.

Argument: Religion is obsolete; people who believe in God are unenlightened.
Answer: Obsolescence by definition means outdated and incapable of providing continued service or value. Religion could only be obsolete if it did not offer value to people in our present day. This assumption is clearly false. Even for people of casual faith, who may attend church or pray only occasionally, their religious beliefs set a standard of conduct by which they govern their lives. Religious people do not tend to fall into the social traps of liberalism. They rely more on tradition, which is based on proven success in societies and families before ours. If such traditions were to prove unprofitable or unproductive in some meaningful way, than the claim of obsolescence would have some merit. However, history proves that such a claim has no merit at all. Just like in science, we can measure the causes and effects of religious belief compared to a lack thereof. Here are some characteristics of religious people compared to the non-religious:

1) Less likely to commit violent crime
2) Less likely to become addicted to harmful drugs
3) Less likely to acquire sexually transmitted diseases
4) Less prone to teenage pregnancy
5) More likely to maintain marital fidelity and stability
6) Less likely to promote pornography or other forms of immodesty
7) Less likely to divorce
8) Statistically live longer
9) Statistically healthier
10) Less likely to have body piercing and/or tattoos
11) More likely to obtain higher education
12) More likely to be a contributor to society rather than a burden

Based on these findings, it is clear that the assumption that religion is obsolete is absurd. Further, it is clear that the unenlightened portion of our population are those who reject religion.

Argument: Religious people are bigots and are hateful toward people who are not just like them.
Answer: There is some truth to this statement, but the cases where this does exist can largely be isolated demographically and by religious denomination. Beyond that, this is a misperception and often an attempt at reverse-hatred or discrimination. First, the true side of the argument. There indeed are those who assume the self-exalted position of claiming superiority through their religious beliefs. They believe that any who do not embrace their narrow perspective are inferior, or even condemned. Further, they cannot accept opposing opinions from these ‘different’ groups, and often ostracize or persecute them. If such a group claims to be ‘Christian’, I must question the quality of their ‘discipleship’ as it is laden with hypocrisy and is diametrically opposed to how Christ did or would treat such people with differing views.

Regarding the rest, there is typically a misperception of hatred by religious people. This occurs when religious people are required to defend their beliefs, principles, or standards of conduct when subject to public scrutiny or criticism. This defense often leads people to the false assumption of hatred. For example, when religions united in defense of the same-sex marriage propositions in several states, those in favor of gay marriage assumed, wrongfully, that those who voted against it were showing hatred toward gays. This is not only a wrong assumption, but a failure to honestly and openly communicate by the gay rights community. Religious people were simply trying to defend their existing rights to teach their children according to their own principles and not those imposed by state law. They were trying to protect their religious institutions from the inevitable invasion of privacy by gay rights activists who have already attempted to overthrow private religion-based institutions. Most religious people, myself included, have no interest in regulating the lives of other people, regardless of the issue. If gay rights activists were interested in the facts, they could get them, rather than make false assertions about the religions and their followers, and engaging in hate speech of their own.

In Matthew chapter 9 of the New Testament, Christ dines with publicans and sinners, and is criticized for it. He said that the ‘whole need no physician, but they that are sick’. In John chapter 8, he forgave the woman caught in adultery, then told her to ‘go and sin no more’. This clearly indicates that Christ loved the sinners but not their sins. For those who act as if they ‘hate the sinner’ rather than the sin, then yes, I agree that there is an attitude of bigotry or hate. But these cases are isolated to those who, in my opinion, are not true followers of Christ. These are people who profess to be Christians in word but are not in their actions.

Argument: God’s commandments are just a bunch of scare tactics designed to keep people ‘in line’.
Answer: Not true. That is the perception of people who do not understand God or His commandments. First, a person must be willing to accept a belief in God before His commandments will have any weight or meaning. The claim that God’s commandments are scare tactics typically come from those who have no desire to live by them in the first place. God’s commandments are natural laws, with unavoidable results. They are based on God’s perfect knowledge of human nature, psychological or spiritual cause and effect, and His eternal plan for us, His children, to live with him and become like him.
The limits of these laws cannot be violated, just like natural laws. For example, we cannot escape the influence of gravity. If a person jumps from a tall building, they will fall at the maximum sustainable velocity. Without external interference such as a parachute, this is a certainty. This law cannot be violated. Likewise, if one of God’s laws is tested (broken), a consequence is certain. It may be that the consequence is a loss of spiritual strength, loss of trust, or some other result that takes us further away from our ultimate goal of eternal salvation. Whatever the consequence may be, it is certain to occur. We may not see its effects immediately, but it will inevitably surface. To understand this further or to believe in the cause-and-effect of God’s commandments or laws requires a belief in God Himself. In summary, God’s laws, for those who correctly understand them, are not laws of restriction, but rather are guidelines which lead to self-esteem, liberty through mutual respect, social harmony, and peace and happiness.

Argument: There is no way to prove that God exists or that religion is correct.
Answer: There most definitely is a way to prove it. We can even take a scientific approach to this. The way is very much like a scientific laboratory experiment.

One thing to keep in mind about scientific experiments is that, in order to achieve the desired result, the laboratory setting must always be conducive to the desired result. A successful experiment is not conducted at the convenience of the scientist or the facility, but these must adapt to the environment or nature of the experiment itself. For example, if we want to conduct an experiment regarding ozone levels at high altitude, we must be at that altitude, such as with a hot air balloon, and not in a surface-level laboratory. If we want to conduct experiments involving deep ocean environments, we must go to the deep ocean. When scientists have conducted high-speed atom splitting experiments or time-warp experiments, they were required to build the large, multi-billion dollar circular underground centrifuges, that would use magnetic levitation to accelerate a single atom to near light speed. In order to achieve success in their experiment, they were required to create the right environment. So it is with our experiment of proving that God and His church exist (see Alma 32).

The correct laboratory environment requires a relatively clean human body. Not just any human body, but one that has a genuine desire to know – a willing mind. Christ taught in the bible that signs were not for unbelievers. An attitude of unbelief or lack of genuine desire will pollute the environment of our experiment so as to render it ineffective. In the same way that a scientist will be eager to conduct an experiment properly to obtain accurate results, we must likewise be eager to conduct this experiment properly to have a chance to obtain the desired accurate result.

If we have the right person (clean body and willing mind), we are ready to proceed. By clean body I mean one that is free from impairment or addiction that would prevent it from receiving the very sensitive spiritual messages of truth that come from God.

The next step is to begin studying the word of God, the scriptures. Attend church meetings to learn more about everyday life for those who follow God. Study other forms of information, such as videos, books, informational facilities such as visitor centers, etc. Any successful experiment requires some level of research. This is your research phase for this experiment.

Once you have done a substantial amount of research (substantial amount, not an inadequate sampling), you should feel a desire to know if the information you have collected is indeed true. With this desire, you are invited to pray to God and get His personal confirmation of its truthfulness. Pray many times over several days, continuing to study the material you have collected. He has promised all of us that we will receive this witness from him, as a feeling of calm assurance in our hearts, or a ‘burning in the bosom’ as it is often referred to. With this personal witness, you will know for yourself of the existence of God and the truth of His teachings to us.

Learning that God is real is just as empirical an approach as physical science, in that there is a cause and effect that is consistent. If you honestly desire to know the truth, it will be revealed to you. The failure of most people in believing this or trying it is that they reject the laboratory setting we have described.

If you do not believe this is to be true, it is not because God does not exist, or that it cannot be proven. Millions of people throughout time have successfully employed this experiment and have successfully received their answers. Your doubts cannot invalidate their findings. The problem is simply that you reject the laboratory environment required to achieve the desired result. It is similar to expecting to learn about deep sea creatures without being willing to get wet. You are wasting your time arguing with those who already know what you refuse to learn.

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