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3 days ago
Well, I stopped reading halfway through, when my count of faulty assumptions abo
ut atheists reached a baker's dozen.
Might I suggest that if you have so many questions about atheists, and so few an
swers, you just ask. This highly-conservative atheist, in a long-term relationsh
ip with a devout Catholic (so I'm pretty comfortable respecting those with faith
), will answer as many questions as you can offer.
Allow me to start with one ... your incorrect supposition that atheists believe
"there is no god". While there are a few (a scant few) who do believe that, your
supposition (a commonly-held one among people of faith) is broadly and outrageo
usly incorrect. Atheists have no faith in god, or any other similar entity -- be
cause they haven't encountered any compelling reason to. It would be preposterou
sly irrational to "not believe (have faith in) in god", while, through an act of
faith as well, believe "there is no god". Relying on empiricism and basic logic
, it is likely impossible to prove there is no god.
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cantenucci04 Sparafucile
2 days ago
I think you're conflating atheists with agnostics, who believe in the possibilit
y of God's existence, they say we just can't know one way or the other. The dict
ionary definition of an atheist is someone who doesn't believe in God.
Two of my best friends in college were and still are atheists, so the things you
believe I assumed about atheists weren't assumptions but rather things that ath
eists I've interacted with have told me directly, including my friends.
In fact what I was doing with this post was indeed asking atheists these questio
ns, and since I've never gotten an answer before (or at least a good one), I att
empted to answer them myself based on things they've said and on logic. But that
doesn't prevent any atheist from answering them now, I'd be more than happy to
hear your answers to my questions.
But regarding your statement that it's not true that atheists believe there is n
o God, every atheist I've asked will say "no" when asked if God exists. There's
no evidence to prove God does or doesn't exist directly, therefore answering no
to that question is in fact a belief that God doesn't exist, just like answering
yes is a belief that He does.
You go on to talk about atheists not having faith in God but that's an entirely
separate question from belief. One can believe that God exists without having fa
ith in Him, in fact that's precisely the case for many nominal Catholics in this
country who don't practice their religion at all but still believe God exists.
Just cause one doesn't have any perceived compelling reason to believe in someth
ing, that doesn't prevent one from believing in that thing, it just makes it har
der to believe in it.
You say it would take an act of faith to believe there is no God, but that's exa
ctly what atheists are doing. That's where I believe the lack of sincerity or at
least understanding among atheists comes into play, because both believers and
atheists have faith in something that can't be proven. Christians believe God ex
ists even though we'll never be able to directly prove it, and atheists believe
He doesn't exist even though they can't prove that either. What is faith if not
choosing to believe something in the absence of evidence, and trusting that that
belief will always hold true and guide you through life? I submit to you that's
exactly what both Christians and atheists have, it's just that Christians gladl
y admit it, whereas atheists try to convince themselves and believers that their

position is based on pure logic and evidence, when in fact belief in the scient
ific theories that provide that evidence is an act of faith since those theories
can be and often have been wrong as we learn more and more about the universe w
e inhabit.
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Sparafucile cantenucci04
a day ago
You're still making one of those fundamental errors.
An atheist, not believing in god, is not the same as a person who believes there
is no god. Though you may find a number of atheists who articulately state "the
re is no god", they're very few in number, compared to those who merely don't se
e evidence for god, but would be open to the idea if believable evidence were sh
And you're trying to parse "belief" and "faith". In this context, they are the s
ame thing, even though "faith" can go further to include expectations and a "per
sonal relationship". In your example of "nominal catholics" whom you say have be
lief but not faith, I'd point out that "belief" itself is "faith", since it's no
t relying on anything that meets the basic criteria for scientific proof (observ
ation, testability, repeatability, etc), just like AGW models.
We agree that "it takes an act of faith to believe there is no god" (odd -- you'
re using "faith" instead of "belief" here). It happens to be for precisely the s
ame reason, though -- there is no evidence that there is no god (though there's
lots of evidence that evidence previously purporting to prove the existence of g
od is not supernatural). It is universally difficult, bordering on impossible, t
o prove the negative. (eg: Prove that I'm not a pedophile. Just because there's
no evidence that I am a pedophile doesn't mean that there's proof I am not one.)
Those atheists (I'm not one) who believe "there is no god" should be hones with
themselves, that they take this view on faith. And religious people should do li
kewise, and not try to put forth bogus science as "proof" there is god.
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cantenucci04 Sparafucile
19 hours ago
If what you're saying is true about the number of atheists who would be open to
the existence of God if shown evidence (which God would never allow to happen, o
therwise we'd have no need for faith), which I have no way of verifying, then we
're working from different definitions rather than me making an error as you say
. I'm just going by the dictionary definitions of atheist and agnostic, and your
description falls exactly under the definition of an agnostic. For example, Pen
n Jillette is one of the most prominent atheists in the country, and he clearly
states his belief that God doesn't exist . . .
557.... You're saying he's the exception not the rule, and again, I can't verify
that, but if I assume that's true then we're just having a debate about semanti
cs, which really doesn't touch the substance of the issue, so let's get past tha
t. The same thing goes for faith and belief. You're right that when I said an ac
t of faith it wasn't the most accurate word I could've used and doesn't fit the
broader definition of faith I used before, I merely used it there as a common te
rm for lack of a better phrase.
So now that we've laid out our terms and definitions, the questions I asked of a
theists in this diary still remain. I agree that creationism shouldn't be taught
as science, but rather as part of a religion class. I myself am a practicing Ca
tholic who believes in evolution, which is in line with Catholic dogma as the po
pe has said.

Christians like myself aren't saying that just because it's nearly impossible to
prove a negative, that that's enough of a reason to believe that God exists. I'
m not asking atheists why they choose to believe what they believe, I'm asking t
hat given your belief, how do you answer the questions I mentioned in this diary
about suffering, morality, and helping strangers?
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Sparafucile cantenucci04
4 hours ago
"we're working from different definitions rather than me making an error as you
Sorry, but it is an error you are making. Try to look at it this way ... the def
inition I gave you is not only the one that most atheists give themselves, it is
even the one that American Atheists uses. You would think it weird and presumpt
uous, and likely erroneous for a non-Christian to define what it means to be Chr
istian, right? Let atheists define what it means to be an atheist, and try not t
o ascribe alternate definitions based on a world-view that's yours.
I take Barack Obama's at his word with his statement that he considers himself t
o be a Christian -- even though he's offered no demonstration whatsoever of his
faith. ISIS calls itself Islamic, and who am I (or BHO) to say they aren't? Amer
ican Atheists, I, and most I know and have know, consider atheism to be an absen
ce of faith/belief in the supernatural.
Interestingly, and somewhat confusingly, it is theists who have the strongest op
inion that atheism means "certain there is no god". Online, you will find that o
bservation common.
Do me a favor -- if you pose those questions in a succinct and numbered form, I
will answer all of them, the best that I can.
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cantenucci04 Sparafucile
5 minutes ago
I'm totally fine with letting atheists define their own beliefs, I just wasn't a
ware that that's how it's being defined by them these days. As I alluded to with
the article on Penn Jiilette, clearly that's not how all atheists are defining
atheism. I was just going by the dictionary definition. Based on the description
of your belief that you provided above, wouldn't you say that falls under the d
efinition of being an agnostic? If not then it seems that definition needs to be
changed too.
I think I got caught up on the definitions because even though you say you aren'
t certain God doesn't exist, you still live your life as if He doesn't, right? S
o for all practical purposes it's the same as if you're 100% certain He doesn't
exist, the only difference being a philosophical one that has no bearing on how
you live your life compared to an atheist who truly is 100% certain God doesn't
But in any case I take your point and for the purposes of this discussion will a
ssume that most atheists are open to believing in God if they were ever presente
d with evidence that proved His existence.
As for my questions, I'll take the ones I expanded on from this diary and shorte
n them here:
1) It all boils down to a fundamental choice for both atheists and believers ali
ke: do we persevere through any kind of suffering, no matter how bad it is, or d

o we have a limit for pain and suffering whereby we say life isn t worth it anymor
e, and we commit suicide? This could get into the assisted suicide debate, which
I've written about and researched in the past, but it's a broader philosophical
question about values.
2)You're presented with a hypothetical situation where an atheist has a chronic
disease that causes them lots of pain on a daily basis and they know there's no
cure, it can only be managed with drugs for the rest of their life and gets wors
e as they get older. They live alone and aren't close to any family so they can'
t say they wanna keep on living for their family. Why should they keep perseveri
ng through the suffering if that suffering has no redeeming value since they're
not convinced there's a God or an afterlife? What's their reason for believing t
hat their life is still worth living?
3)In another hypothetical situation, an atheist is being tortured as a prisoner
of war, say in Japan, or is a prisoner in the former USSR. As I wrote about, it'
s well documented that many soviet prisoners either became Christians or became
stronger in their faith through their time in prison, and that it helped them su
rvive horrible conditions and even torture. In fact there are many stories of me
n who were imprisoned and tortured and got through it due to their faith in God,
such as this one . . .
In fact the new movie Unbroken is the true story of a man who survived as a pow
in Japan because of his faith.
But if you're that prisoner of war who's being tortured, as an atheist, where wo
uld you find the courage to go on? What would motivate or inspire you to take th
e daily beatings and degradation and to never give up? Again, for the sake of ar
gument let's assume you don't have any close family members to come back to if y
ou survive.
4)Why are we here on this planet? What is our purpose, if we have one at all?
5)As an atheist, why should you do good things for others or make any sacrifices
? Why give to charities? Again, let s take away the initial response many atheists
give, which is that it makes the world a better place for their children, and a
ssume that the atheist we re talking about in this hypothetical situation is an ad
ult who doesn t have any children and doesn t plan to. What s the reason then? An athe
ist might say, cause it s the right thing to do . But that leads to the next logical
question, which is, Where do you get your sense of right and wrong from ?

Sparafucile cantenucci04 3 days ago

1) The question you're asking is basically the same one you pose in #2 -- so I'l
l address it there.
2) It's impossible for me to offer a solid comparative analysis (just letting yo
u know, since that's not really what you're seeking), since I can only describe
one side of the picture. For example, I have absolutely no idea how the belief i
n god or an afterlife has any bearing on how relentlessly one might struggle for
his own life -- and I won't pretend to know. But as an atheist, I live for a nu
mber of things -- to satisfy the intellectual curiosity that only humans have, t
o offer meaningful contributions for my contemporaries and posterity, and to enj
oy the other pleasures and satisfaction that life offers. I jumped out of a plan
e today, for the first time -- so it's clear I don't have a paranoid fear of dea
th. But I value life and consciousness immensely (so much that I oppose the deat
h penalty, apart for practical reasons, because the chance for error is irredeem
able) precisely because I see this life as the only one we've got. If I were 110
% convinced that life were over, but for neverending pain & misery, and all thos

e things I value about life were impossible to ever obtain again, I suppose suic
ide would be a strong consideration. But as an atheist, I'm an optimist -- I'm a
lways looking for answers. And so long as there's hope, reaching for utter nothi
ngness is never an attractive alternative.
3) It seems as though you're trying to describe circumstances in which people so
ught to give meaning to their own lives, when all conceivable meaning had been s
tripped away by others. Never underestimate the power of denial or self-delusion
-- people will often convince themselves of anything to make their circumstance
s seem better. And I'm not just talking about some "divine meaning", either. How
would an atheist react in similar circumstances? It's hard to know without havi
ng been through it, but my best guess would go in one of two directions. The fir
st: convincing myself that despite my own personal powerlessness, there are men
of good will who would strive to ensure that justice be done and wrongs be right
ed, and hopefully in time to be meaningful, and second: devolving into a pit of
despair, focusing on minutia and self-generated games, puzzles, and contests, wi
th death being a desirable option only when the thought of eternal nothingness e
xceeds that of foreseeable circumstance.
4) Your question presupposes some kind of foresight. Not adopting such a presupp
osition, I can only answer a restated question of "Why is human life worthwhile?
" Well, hedonistic pleasures aside (and don't underestimate them), I view our va
lue as being able to achieve great things for those around us, right up to and i
ncluding the species as a whole. "Echoes in eternity", if you will. Funny thing
is that even theists I know (including a Catholic priest I've known since we wer
e both in high school) cannot describe what the "plan" is for humanity, apart fr
om extending earthly pleasures into eternity (which hardly seems like a plan for
me), or providing "glory to god" (huh? that's no plan!).
5) Let's just jump to your root question at the end. You're making another presu
pposition lots of religious people make, that without religion there would be no
morality. I reject that notion entirely (which I'm sure doesn't surprise you).
Let's start with the "golden rule". Unless you're a spectacularly effective liar
and cheat, most people get (or would get) a pretty clear sense of the personal,
as well as societal, benefit of adopting such a principle. Most other elements
of widely-accepted morality offer similar selfish benefits. If you understand th
at man, like all animals, acts frequently in his own selfish interest (with many
exceptions, I fully recognize), and that motivated self-interest is a great thi
ng for society, you can draw much of common morality rather directly -- from pro
scriptions on murder and thievery and dishonesty to the personal rewards that ac
crue from sharing, charity, and doing public good. It doesn't take a religious t
heme to recognize evil -- evil is obvious without any other context. (And if you
've ever encountered it, as I have, you'd know precisely what I mean.)
Last, even that "dictionary definition" of atheism you mentioned doesn't seem to
offer a "belief in no god" as a primary definition, in nearly all cases. Most o
ften, that is offered as a secondary definition. As to "agnosticism", I find tha
t to be a somewhat meaningless term. If you consider "degrees of faith" to be on
a spectrum (even a lumpy one), "agnostic" falls somewhere, undefinably, in the
middle, and therefore has as little meaning as being a political "moderate".
I'm just gonna randomly answer your points in no particular order.
While I may have made some assumptions about the beliefs of atheists, you also h
ave made some assumptions about my beliefs.
Lemme jump to #5 where you say I assume there'd be no morality without religion.
I don't assume that at all, I was simply asking what atheists base that moralit
y on, what's the foundation for it, or what's it rooted in?

Catholic morality is rooted in the teachings of the Bible and the church fathers
, which is very different from a morality that doesn't share those dogmas.
But there are good atheists and bad atheists just like there are good Christians
and bad Christians, so just cause one has a certain set of beliefs, doesn't aut
omatically make them a good person.
I strongly disagree with your statement that recognizing evil is obvious. If you
're referring to obvious cases where people do horrible acts then sure, but ther
e are many situations where something evil is done that isn't so obvious. The de
gree to which something is evil lies on a spectrum, with grave sins like murder
and rape on one end and trivial sins like telling a small lie of omission on the
other end. There are many shades of grey in many different situations, that's w
hy there's so much debate about issues like assisted suicide, the use of embryon
ic stem cells, and abortion.
Because of these moral grey areas one doesn't necessarily need a "religious them
e" but rather, moral guidance to discern right from wrong, and that's where reli
gion comes in. Theologians spend their lives studying these grey areas and the p
ope and bishops do as well, and guide us lay people on how to differentiate betw
een what's evil and what's morally neutral. Anyone who claims to know what's evi
l and what's not on every subject or in every situation is just arrogant and nai
If you based your morality on common interests of humanity, what happens when th
ose common interests are sharply at odds and a society is severely divided, much
like the US is right now? Both sides of the country have their own selfish inte
rests, but it doesn't seem to be creating a good moral framework for figuring ou
t what's right and wrong since the two sides can hardly agree on anything.
Furthermore, what about those examples of when people do things that aren't in t
heir best interest? Secular humanists never seem to have an answer for that othe
r than some elitist version of "religion makes stupid people do crazy things tha
t don't benefit them".
In the examples you mentioned of common morality it seems to refute your own poi
nt. For example, we can't even agree on what murder is. In the case of abortion
conservatives say it's murder, whereas liberals say it isn't. In the case of cha
rity and the public good, again, both sides disagree on that, with liberals beli
eving we should give our money to the gov't who will then spread it around as it
sees fit, whereas conservatives believe the private sector should do most of th
Back in the days of the founding fathers there wasn't this sharp divide in the c
ountry. Most people back then believed we should help each other without relying
on the gov't, and I would argue that's precisely because they shared a moral fo
undation that came from their religious backgrounds. Not just the founders, but
the masses.
I would also argue that once that religious background began to fall apart with
the advent of more advanced technologies and the sexual/feminist revolution, we
started seeing this sharp divide emerge in the country because we no longer shar
ed a common moral framework that was rooted in the teachings of Jesus and Christ
ianity as a whole.
In point #4 you say you believe our value as humans comes from our ability to do
great things that will echo in eternity, but where does this leave disabled or
chronically sick people? They simply can't do "great things", although as St. Th
eresa said, the best way to live life is to do many small things with great love

instead of a few great things without love.

If they can't do those great things, do they then have no value as humans? That'
s certainly what many secular humanists who advocate for euthanasia and assisted
suicide, like Peter Singer and Ezekiel Emmanuel believe.
Their logic is that once we can no longer be productive members of society and c
ontribute to the greater good, we lose our value as humans and have no reason to
go on living. Christianity firmly rejects this idea because Christians believe
each person has innate dignity and worth due to the fact that we're all created
in God's image and have souls. Do atheists reject this idea? Clearly not all of
them do.
Also, isn't it kind of contradictory that you use the phrase "echo in eternity"
if you don't believe in an afterlife? What's the point of doing great things her
e on Earth if you're just gonna turn into dirt after you die and will never know
the results of your works or how they may have helped others?
I dunno where that priest you mentioned is getting his theology from but it's no
t the Catholic Church (unfortunately this is the case with a lot of older priest
s, but the younger ones are awesome, books have been written on this), which cle
arly states that we were created to know, love, and serve God and our fellow man
so that we can be with God in Heaven for all eternity. There are many ways in w
hich each one of us can do these things individually, but in no way is it unclea
r within the Catholic church what the meaning of life is and why we're here. Tha
t is what we believe to be God's plan for humanity.
For point #3, I wouldn't say people sought to give meaning to their lives at all
, they were merely trying to survive. In the case of the soviet prisoners, they
were trying to help each other survive as much as themselves.
You believe their spiritual experiences and conversions are delusions or the wor
kings of their subconscious minds just trying to find meaning in hopeless situat
I believe God reached out to them in response to them reaching out to God becaus
e as it says throughout the New Testament in various forms, "knock and the door
will be opened for you".
So this is just a case where neither of us have proof that God was working in th
eir lives at that time, and we choose to believe one thing or another based on o
ur worldviews.
Regarding the part about what you'd do if you were being tortured, I can assure
you that in the cases I mentioned, it reached the point real fast of "death bei
ng a desirable option only when the thought of eternal nothingness exceeds that
of foreseeable circumstance." But they chose not to give into despair or commit
suicide even after they reached that point, they chose to believe in God. Are
you saying death would be a better option than surviving by believing in God? I
know atheists like Bill Maher would certainly agree with that, but I would thin
k other atheists might think it's always better to be alive than dead regardless
of what one believes.
In point #2, I respect your reasons for living, but they're all temporary. What
happens when they're put to the test in some extreme conditions? Are they stil
l worth living for?
I would argue it's much harder to survive intense suffering without having a bel
ief in something greater than oneself, a higher calling so to speak. Without a
belief in a vertical dimension to life, we're forced to focus only on ourselves
and the people in our lives, but what if our life is miserable due to some suffe
ring or the people around us aren't nice people? Then we have no escape, we're

trapped in the horizontal dimension of life and have no means of dealing with th
e intense situation we're in.
That seems to be the reason why Brittany Maynard killed herself. She clearly di
dn't believe in God and therefore didn't believe in miracles, so when her cancer
and the pain it brought her got so bad, she just had no reason to keep on fight
ing and living despite having a loving husband and family around her. I'm not j
udging her, I'm just saying as a Christian I'd at least have more of a reason or
incentive to keep fighting through the pain 1)because I believe that suffering
itself has redemptive value just like Jesus' suffering on the Cross did and 2)be
cause I believe that everything happens for a reason and God always brings a gre
ater good out of a bad situation, and therefore He can always heal someone, and
therefore there's always hope and thus no reason to commit suicide. There's cou
ntless examples of miracles healings from all sorts of incurable diseases includ
ing cancer, where an inoperable tumor just shrinks and disappears or something s
imilar. In fact there's a great book coming out now by Eric Metaxas on just thi
s subject, I think it's called Miracles.
It's good that you're an optimist and I respect the fact that you're always look
ing for answers, but when you say there's always hope, as an atheist who or what
do you put your hope in? For me I can't even comprehend the idea of hope unles
s it involves God and eternity, where else does hope come from other than the di
vine? I certainly don't get my hope from humans, who are imperfect and even the
best of us hurt each other and let each other down.
To me hope is a meaningless abstract idea unless it's rooted in some concrete th
ing or being. How else can we put our hope "in" something unless there's an exi
sting being or thing we can put it into?
One thing we can agree on is the death penalty, I too am against it because I va
lue life a great deal. Not only is it wrong because there's a chance that an in
nocent man could be put to death, but because we're putting people's lives in th
e hands of the state, which should never be something a conservative supports.
Plus, we're playing God and taking people's lives, and since we didn't create th
ose lives it's not our role to destroy them either. The Catholic Church has alw
ays been against the death penalty except in extreme cases of protecting victims
or society at large from the killer(s).
Despite our differences I appreciate you answering my questions in an honest and
respectful way, it's not too often that's done on the internet, especially in t
he comments section of articles lol. So thanks for that, you've represented ath
eists well.

Sparafucile cantenucci04
6 days ago
I'm rather puzzled about a few elements of your reply.
For example, we seem to *agree*
u state the opposite. We agree,
, and "slight" evil is far less
't doubt that most things I see
se nuances or agree on details.

that recognizing evil is obvious, even though yo

that like most things, evil exists on a spectrum
obvious than genuine sociopathic evil. But I don
as evil, you would, too -- without having to par

Next -- "common interests" are not nearly the same thing as "political interests
". you appear to be conflating the concepts.

Your "secular humanist" reference is a multi-way non-sequitur, with no apparent

relevance to anything I wrote.
As for "agreeing what murder is", I don't think you'd find as much dispute as yo
u think. Going further into that paragraph of yours, I don't see what your multi
ple references to "liberals" have to do with anything. We were talking about ath
eism, not liberalism. The two are as far apart, cognitively, as you could imagin
e. Just ask Charles C.W. Cooke if you doubt me.
Next, you claimed I was making assumptions about your faith. Well, I may have. B
ut you then confirmed those assumptions with your strong statements (two paragra
phs worth) that morality requires religion. If you've never personally known oth
erwise, I wouldn't expect you to appreciate that morality (with a very high degr
ee of overlap) can exist in the complete absence of religion, too.
Regarding "doing great things". We can do great things as individuals, as groups
, and as a whole society. Just because the contribution somebody makes is less t
han another's, doesn't divorce him from his humanity or his right to participate
As for eternity -- you do realize that eternity, the notion of time beyond human
contemplation, exists in the physical universe?
To the priest I mentioned, he is under 50, Roman Catholic, and was ordained in t
he last 10 years. But now I think I see where the disconnect it. What you descri
be isn't a "plan", in my view, but an endpoint and goal.
Jumping ahead, past some writing where we have some agreement, to reach your "Ar
e you saying death would be a better option than surviving by believing in God?"
... I cannot fathom this as an either/or choice, or any kind of a causal relati
onship. As for "life being better than death" (sorry for quoting uber-liberal Ma
rio Cuomo), most atheists (myself included) believe that to be nearly-universall
y true. I'm sure we can both can cherry-pick anomalies in which it isn't, though
To your "point #2 reply" -- life IS temporary. We both agree on that premise. Bu
t "tests" are temporary, too, and almost universally, more transitory than life
As for Brittany Maynard -- if she didn't see that her suffering had value (redem
ptive or otherwise), that's her call. As for "miracles" -- this scientist has ne
ver seen one, or seen reliable, thorough, and credible documentation of one. Yes
, there are many things in this universe we cannot (yet?) explain -- but our own
ignorance doesn't make anything a miracle. I buy not the slightest bit of a "Go
d in the gaps" argument. It's logical fallacy of the purest sort.
You really cannot imagine "hope" without god or eternity?? So if you hope to
favorably evaluated by an interview panel, or if you hope that the next card
're dealt is an ace, or if you hope it's cold enough to snow tomorrow, or if
hope that parachute opens, you cannot fathom doing so without including god
eternity??? To me, that's incomprehensible.


In the end, we seem to agree on more things that either you or I initially imagi
ned. But there still seem to be some concepts that are difficult for you to unde
rstand, as there are some I've already indicated are incomprehensible to me. Tha
nks for the discussion!

cantenucci04 Sparafucile
3 minutes ago
A few last points in response to your last post:
I don't see how you can so easily separate common interests from political inter
ests because in a democracy how else are the common interests of society express
ed, represented, and implemented if not through the political system we have?
Political interests can often be different than genuine common interests, but at
the same time, once those common interests are taken into the political arena t
hey tend to become political interests, that's just the nature of politics, alwa
ys has been.
My reference to liberals in talking about abortion was just an example to show h
ow big the gulf is between two groups (conservatives and liberals) on something
that is so fundamental and that we as a country all used to agree was clearly mu
I never claimed one has to belong to a religion to have any kind of morality, I
simply said that I believe that's the ideal foundation for morality as was the c
ase with the founding fathers because it gives us a common set of fundamental pr
inciples and beliefs to base our morality off of. That's why I was asking what t
he unifying fundamental beliefs of atheists are that give them their moral code,
if there are any. But that's very different than saying atheists don't have any
morality at all, which is clearly not the case.
Regarding eternity, we must have a different definition or idea of it, because t
he definition I use is the Catholic Church's, which defines eternity as that whi
ch exists outside of the physical universe where God has always existed. In eter
nity there is no time and space, those were just physical laws created to govern
our universe, but God Himself exists outside those laws (that would necessarily
be the case, otherwise how else would the laws come into existence, by themselv
es?), and as a Catholic I believe we will too after we die, either in heaven or
There's some really fascinating books and debates on the issue or concept of ete
rnity that I've read and watched, but for the most part I'll say it's above my p
ay grade as someone once said.
As for the whole "God of the gaps" argument put forth by scientists like Stephen
Hawking, there have been other scientists and professors who have eloquently re
futed that, particularly the mathematician John Lennox and the physicist sir Rog
er Penrose, who recently wrote a book on the subject. http://www.christianpost.c
Regarding miracles, it's kind of the point that you don't see em, otherwise they
wouldn't be miracles, they'd be phenomenon that are able to be observed and exp
lained by science, and if that were the case then there'd be no point in God wor
king them because they wouldn't require us to have faith in His power and wonder
at things we can't see and understand. Of course the belief in miracles itself
is based on the assumption one already believes in God, so I guess my previous e
xplanation is beside the point for atheists, but I thought I'd explain anyway ju
st for the sake of the topic at hand.
Miracles are rarely seen by others (although there are more than enough examples
of this- many throughout the Bible like Jesus turning water into wine or the mi
racle of the loaves and fishes, or the miracle in Fatima, Spain, where the multi

tudes of believers there saw the sun do things nobody has ever seen before http:
// ) rather, they're witnessed or experienced by the p
erson who the miracle was intended for.
As Christians we believe this is God's way of turning someone into a believer or
strengthening the faith of someone who already believes but has strayed in thei
r relationship with God. But as I mentioned previously, the recent book Miracles
by Eric Metaxas not only explains their purpose, but gives many examples of the
m, both personal ones and many others from interviews he's done of other people.
Finally, when you talked about hope, that's not the kind of hope I was talking a
bout. Your version of hope was short-term and temporary, a hope for things of th
is world. What I was referring to was the theological virtue of hope, which as C
atholics we believe to be one of three main virtues along with faith and love. T
his Hope is about believing that no matter what happens, God will take care of u
s and bring good out of evil, and that we'll be with Him in the next life for al
l eternity, all other things are secondary to that.
But to answer your question and even using your definition of hope, which seems
to be more of an instinct or desire (you could replace the word hope in all your
examples with the word desire, right?), even in those examples of temporary wor
ldly situations, I couldn't imagine hoping for good outcomes in any of them if I
didn't believe in God because what would be the point of getting the desired ou
If in the end it's all meaningless and there's no bigger picture or higher calli
ng, then life in general just wouldn't matter as much to me, because my belief i
n the existence of God affects and influences every aspect of my life and how I
think and act, so without that belief, I'd be lost, and therefore have no reason
to hope even for smaller successes and joys.
I'd give into despair pretty quickly because everything in life is passing, for
some people much quicker than others, and therefore if there's no God or afterli
fe, why try to hold onto good things in this life when it's like trying to hold
onto a pile of sand with your hands, it just passes right through them. That's j
ust my perspective, but I can see how we view this question very differently bas
ed on our unique worldviews.
It's clear from our discussion here that even though we see the world in a funda
mentally different way and disagree on many things, we both think in a logical w
ay, which is to be expected since we both have backgrounds in science. I'm not a
scientist but I've spent my short adult life so far in scientific fields (biolo
gy, cognitive science, and medicine), so we have that in common.

Sparafucile cantenucci04
17 hours ago
"I'd give into despair pretty quickly because everything in life is passing, for
some people much quicker than others, and therefore if there's no God or afterl
ife, why try to hold onto good things in this life when it's like trying to hold
onto a pile of sand with your hands, it just passes right through them. "
That's where your misconception about atheists started.
The reality is that we view life as especially valuable, since this is the only
one we've got -- bookended by nonexistence. Even when you look down at that last
amazing morsel on your plate at that Michelin 3-star restaurant, you're decidin

g how much to slowly savor, and how much to share with your companion, while kno
wing that there probably isn't any more to come.

cantenucci04 Sparafucile
2 minutes ago
I guess it depends on how you define the term valuable. Some define it as just t
rying to enjoy earthly pleasures as much as possible, and live for the moment. T
hat's one way to live life, but I find that to be a selfish way to live it and u
ltimately unsatisfying because there are only so many things one can enjoy befor
e one develops a need and desire for more meaning in their life.
I've never said atheists don't view life as valuable, just that I personally cou
ldn't view it as valuable without believing in God because I don't see value in
temporary things that are gone in an instant and I don't see value in people unl
ess they have eternal souls. Cause without souls we're just smart animals, which
is very different than beings made in the image and likeness of an all-powerful
and all-loving God who have inherent dignity and value for that reason.
To me, if you see this life as the only one you'll have and that's why it's valu
able, then you're completely defined by the circumstances you find yourself in i
n life. In other words, for such a person there's no broader context, no common
purpose or higher calling that transcends whatever harsh and/or limiting circums
tances they find themselves in in this life and unites them with fellow humans w
ho believe the same thing. That's what belief in God and Christianity in particu
lar does and the context it provides.
The way I see it, without it, you're trapped, stuck in the circumstances that ar
en't of your choosing. Now some have been gifted with great health, genes, ambit
ion, and the wealth to escape any circumstances that are less than ideal, but re
lative to the entire population of the world, that's probably about 1% of the po
pulation. The other 99% are born with bad genes, no money, bad health, and lack
ambition for a variety of reasons, so they can't change their circumstances to a
large extent. But that's ok because they can still find meaning and purpose for
their life, if there's more to this life than just those circumstances.
For example, if one is born with a rare genetic disease like bubble boy syndrome
, where a person can't go out of the house or basically be exposed to anything b
ecause their immune system is severely dysfunctional, how can that person find v
alue in this life without a belief in something existing beyond this life? If th
ey just wanna live for the moment and enjoy every moment cause they believe ther
e's no afterlife, that's not really possible because for them every moment is qu
ite literally filled with fear and suffering.
So implicit in your point is the assumption that one is living under circumstanc
es that allow them to enjoy or appreciate life, but again, most people, if you l
ook around the world, aren't living in those kinds of circumstances.
Or other examples, let's say you're born with cerebral palsy and have to spend y
our entire life in a wheelchair, or you're born into a concentration camp in N.
Korea (side note, there's an amazing story about this
s/an.... Some people have lived their entire lives in those conditions, and if t
hey believed that would be the only life they ever live, that would really suck.
There's nothing to savor when one is living in complete social isolation and ex
periences brutal beatings and starvation every day in a N. Korean camp.
So again this is just me personally, but I wouldn't be strong enough to survive

that without a belief that there's more to life, that this unfathomably horrible
situation I'm currently experiencing is just part of this earthly life of mine,
but that there's a life after this one with no more pain, no more suffering, an
d no more sorrow. All I have to do is survive this current situation as long as
it lasts, even if it lasts my entire life (which it does for most of the people
in those camps), and then it'll all be over and an infinitely (literally) better
life will begin for me.
Christianity and a belief in God in general makes any person's life greater than
the sum of its parts or moments. But if life truly is only a collection of thos
e moments or the sum of them, as atheists believe, what does that mean for the p
eople who only have bad moments, or at least mostly bad ones?
Don't get me wrong, I understand where you're coming from, I just find that pers
pective incredibly sad, not in a patronizing way, but literally it makes me sad
just imagining it.

Sparafucile cantenucci04
9 days ago
There's a certain irony in everything you write.
When people (usually atheists) claim that others reach to the supernatural to pr
ovide comfort, meaning, and explanations for all the gaps in their own lives and
understanding, and conclude such is how religion developed, they are roundly pu
mmeled with invective -- being called bigots and intolerant.
Yet everything you've written makes it abundantly clear that (at least for you)
you suspect you'd be lost without filling those gaps with something. No?

cantenucci04 Sparafucile a few seconds ago

The short answer to your question is no, but let me put it another way. The God
I believe in isn't a God of the gaps, He is a God of everything. The apparent (y
ou'll see why I use that word later) gaps in our knowledge are merely the things
in this universe that our finite and limited minds can't comprehend, not now, a
nd in my cases not ever.
But even with the things we think we currently understand in science, we only pa
rtially understand, and we'll never have a full understanding of everything, oth
erwise we'd be living in a utopia and would be gods ourselves, and of course tha
t's not possible with our many limitations and imperfections as a species.
Furthermore, many of the things we thought we knew in science were dead wrong an
d almost every day it seems some old theory or idea is overturned because eviden
ce came out that proved it wrong. I've spent my short adult life studying evolut
ion, biology, and nutrition and have come across many examples of this.
So maybe it seems like Christians might be using religion and a belief in God to
fill the gaps in their understanding of the world, but in reality the gaps them

selves are an illusion. As humans we just have isolated pieces of the puzzle, an
d without being connected they don't make much sense. As a Christian I believe t
hat God created the puzzle, which is the universe and all the truths in it, most
of which are unknown to us.
Gaps imply a broken line or broken continuity of something, and that's where tha
t analogy fails, because as humans we don't even have a solid grasp on the thing
s in science we think we have a solid grasp of. I forget who said this, but the
bottom line is we're finding out that the more we discover, the more we realize
we don't know about the universe and the life and forces in it.
So there are no gaps because that assumes we have solid blocks of knowledge abou
t the universe interspersed with gaps of knowledge that can be filled by us thro
ugh the use of science in the future. But those seemingly solid blocks of knowle
dge are really just fragmented pieces of truth, or isolated puzzle pieces.
To have gaps, we'd actually have to have strings of puzzle pieces put together,
and we don't, that's why we're continually learning we're wrong about one thing
after another. Even the things we all agree about that we assume are 100% correc
t like the laws of physics, gravity, thermodynamics, etc, we don't fully underst
and because our brains are made up of physical matter, and therefore aren't capa
ble of fully comprehending anything in the universe to perfection.
I've actually written about this myself and answered this question in my writing
, if you're interested . . .Ignore the title on the first one, it answers your q
uestion from a Christian perspective . . .
In your last paragraph you conflate gaps in our understanding of the universe (t
he how) with gaps in our understanding of the meaning of life, the question of s
uffering, why things happen the way they do, etc (the why).
That's the difference between science and religion and why they always exist in
separate, but not mutually exclusive spheres.
Religion didn't come into existence to help us make sense of anything, humans di
dn't invent it, at least not in the case of Christianity. It came into existence
when God brought it into existence over 2000 years ago when His Son came down t
o Earth and created the Church and taught us what to believe and why. However, o
ur belief in the existence of God does help us explain the "gaps" in our underst
anding of life and our purpose in this world, but that's not how the belief came
into existence, so that's an important distinction to make.
So if I didn't believe in God, I wouldn't be lost because I had no way of unders
tanding the universe (cause that's not what a belief in God does for me now, tha
t's the role of science), I would be lost because I would have no way of making
sense of my life, my purpose, and where to turn for direction and inspiration in
times of suffering and desperation.
I don't criticize atheists for making the argument you described, instead I simp
ly say that they've come to the wrong conclusion and have it exactly upside down
Christianity didn't come into existence to help us explain the mysteries in our
lives and the universe, it exists independent of that, and it came into existenc
e because God exists and our belief is merely a reflection of that reality.
Christianity fills those gaps in terms of the why, not the how, but it does so b
y itself, naturally. Now some of us come to this conclusion and realize that we
can use Christianity to help us navigate the moral oceans of this life, but Chri

stianity isn't just the means that enables us to do that, it's also, and primari
ly, and end in itself.
Once we become adults and are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually matur
e and can think for ourselves, many of us come to the realization that Christian
ity can answer many unanswered questions in our lives. But Christianity existed
before we came to this realization, therefore it isn't some kind of utilitarian
system that came into being just to fill gaps, but rather, it explains everythin
g about morality, spirituality, and how we're supposed to live in this world.
The perceived gaps Christians have that they appear to use Christianity to fill
in reality are just our incomplete understanding of Christianity itself and Jesu
s' teaching, because as Christians we believe Christianity can explain everythin
g, but we'll never be able to use it to do so because of our flawed natures and
limited intellectual capacity, and the fact that God only revealed a limited amo
unt of knowledge in the Bible because He wanted us to rely on Him for the rest.
Otherwise, if we had a lot more knowledge and a much greater understanding of mo
rality and how to be saints, we wouldn't need Him as much, our egos would get al
l puffed up, and we'd think we're good enough to be gods ourselves, which is the
trap Satan himself fell into.
"Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term big bang, said that his atheism wa
s greatly shaken at these developments. He later wrote that a common-sense interpre
tation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physic
s, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from
the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond qu
Flip this around and see if it works. Has there ever been a christian w
ho studied the big bang whose faith was shaken into thinking that the improbable
odds of everything happening exactly as it did proved that it all happened rand
omly? No, because that wouldn't be logical or make sense.
I would turn your
point around and use it in the reverse. You say Christians such as myself use G
od to fill the gaps in science, but as an atheist do you not fill those gaps in
science with faith in better science? I can't speak for you, but the atheists I
've known have always believed anything we don't know now, we'll be able to know
at some point in the future through science, that's why they don't believe in G
od, they don't think He's necessary since we will eventually know everything our
selves through science. But there is no evidence that this is possible, so it r
equires faith, just a faith in man's ability rather than a faith in God.