George Locke

I totally agree. Faith is based on spiritual evidence. Since spiritual evidence can’t really be demonstrated, we need to understand that one person’s evidence doesn’t hold currency with someone who doesn’t share their convictions.

You may have absolute conviction but, again, since the foundation of your conviction can’t be demonstrated to people who don’t already agree with you, you can’t demand that others adhere to your convictions.

I’m not at all enthusiastic about faith, but I don’t really see it as so huge a problem until people start imposing their religious vision on others.

Posted: July 25th 2007

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brian thomson www

I suppose a simple answer to that would be something like: it’s not clear what “spiritual evidence” is, but if it’s along the lines of a “personal testimony,” that means it is visible only to the person having the vision. It’s not visible to anyone else, so how can it be evaluated at all, by them?

An evangelist trying to convert an atheist is asking a lot: the atheist is being asked to re-wire his (or her) head, to lower or discard his normal intellectual standards, for the promise of intangible rewards. When you are accustomed to scientific standards of evidence – such as repeated observations and double-blind trials – it’s a major step down to demand belief on the basis of someone else’s “faith.”

Even when the evidence seems strong enough for you to draw a conclusion, it’s never final; your conclusion could be turned on its head by new evidence. Which brings us back to the original questions: you haven’t specified what “spiritual evidence” is, but if it comes from an individual person’s experiences, it’s just not reliable enough to be called “evidence” in the scientific sense.

Copernicus was a fallible person, but Galileo and others could look at the same sky after Copernicus died, and come to the same conclusions. Seismographs on different continents can measure the effects of the same earthquake, and pinpoint its location and magnitude to a startling degree of accuracy. None of this relies on faith, or the personal testimony of individuals. So how can we accept one person’s “spiritual evidence” as reliable?

Posted: July 9th 2007

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bitbutter www

Even if we accept the legitimacy of the term 'spiritual evidence’ (I don’t), we should always ignore this kind of 'evidence’ because we know for a fact that it points in the wrong direction far more often that it points in the right one.

In the world there are about 10,000 distinct, mutually exclusive religions (not counting sub denominations), all of them with members who are of very strong faith. Members of these religions rely on what they might call spiritual evidence to be sure that they are following the correct doctrine.

We know that the members of at least 9,999 of these religions have reached the wrong conclusion from their spiritual evidence. If we’re optimistic we can assign spiritual evidence a 1 in 10,000 chance of being reliable; in other words we know that spiritual evidence, if it can ever be trusted, is vastly more often misleading that it’s ever reliable.

Even if we assume that one of the religions is true, if you follow a religion the chances are overwhelmingly high that your religion belongs to that massive group of 9,999 that are false—and your deep conviction that you are on the right team does nothing to change those odds.

Posted: July 9th 2007

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