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> We come up with further models to explain away why people believe things that to us seem so obviously false - "it helps them feel superior to others", and so on.

No, someone does not believe in the Christian religion because it doesn't make sense. It is self-contradictory, it has so many contradictions that it's impossible to accept it without feeling like an idiot. You could probably find zillions of contradictions, here are some of my favorites:

If god is almighty and sees the future, how come he didn't think of that on damn tree in the middle of paradise?

If god is perfect, how come he failed at making man perfect too?

If god is almighty and the enemy of Satan, how come he doesn't just kill Satan?

If god is good and almighty how come there are so much innocents suffering in the world? Probable answer: because he tests people. But if he sees the future it's needless.

And so on, you get the picture, when the clerics are done sorting these questions out drop me a note.


The answers to those questions are actually quite simple. Christians believe that there's an epic battle for mankind going on between God and Lucifer which started when God created Men, because God loves Men more than the angels (and Lucifer).

The tree was a test for mankind which Satan made Adam and Eve fail. God had to stick to his rules and the consequences ensued. The tree was neccessary because Men are to have free will. God wants them to love him and that's not possible when there's no alternative.

There's a whole set of rules, that's why he won't kill Satan just now. Christians believe mankind isn't innocent per definition since they were cast out of Eden. All the bad we see in this world is because of that and because Men has free will and Satan keeps pulling strings to keep them away from God. In this sense, Satan tempts People and makes them sin which in turn can't make them come to God.

God's final answer is Jesus who presents Men with a solution to escape Satan's grip and position themself with God.

That's what christians who want to make sense of it all believe anyway ;-)

The only real contradiction I see is that God says he's perfect but still created mankind and wants people to love him.


> Christians believe that there's an epic battle for mankind going on between God and Lucifer which started when God created Men, because God loves Men more than the angels (and Lucifer).

Here is another plot hole, if god is indeed almighty he could simple strike down all foes instantly. And what are the other angels doing? don't they have free will are they just robots? If Satan is indeed a fallen angel than God, really screwed up, which is again a problem because he is almighty and all knowing.

> The tree was a test for mankind which Satan made Adam and Eve fail.

If god is almighty and all knowing and have created man, and even sees the future, he would have known the outcome in advance, so basically there would have been no reason to do it.

> There's a whole set of rules, that's why he won't kill Satan just now.

Then God is probably not that almighty if he has to stick to rules, instead of hurling a lighting bolt or a ball of fire at Satan.

I am not saying that God can't exist, I am saying that the Christian definition is impossible, a god can't be all of these at once:

- almighty

- all knowing(could see even the future)

- be good/nice whatever

- be perfect

- have free will

And I don't even want to get into Jesus, that would be a huge topic by itself.


Those questions have been answered many times over the years. Do a bit of searching and I bet you find some answers that are better than my take. But here's my take anyway. :D

>If god is almighty and sees the future, how come he didn't think of that on damn tree in the middle of paradise?

He made that tree. So, I'd say He thought of it. He made it for the precise purpose of giving mankind the ability to choose. If we didn't have the ability ability to choose God, then our serving Him would be pointless, since we'd essentially be mindless drones. God wanted people to have the ability to love Him of their own free will.

>If god is perfect, how come he failed at making man perfect too?

Adam and Eve were perfect. Then they chose not to be perfect.

>If god is almighty and the enemy of Satan, how come he doesn't just kill Satan?

Because Satan still serves a purpose. I'm not entirely sure of all of it, but the main purpose seems to be to provide an obvious choice for us. God or Satan, who do you want to serve?

>If god is good and almighty how come there are so much innocents suffering in the world? Probable answer: because he tests people. But if he sees the future it's needless.

Testing is part of it. But testing is for our benefit, not His. Like you said, He knows the future, so He already knows what we will do.

The larger part is that humans can make choices, see my first answer. And thus, humans make choices that hurt others. The airplane mechanic who missed the problem that cause random flight to crash made the choice not to be thorough. The criminal chose to rob that bank and shoot the teller.

So, bad things happen to good people because good and bad people make bad choices.

As for natural disasters, they happen because humanities choices effect more than just humanity. The entire world was perfect before Adam sinned. When he sinned, the entire world broke.


> Those questions have been answered many times over the years. Do a bit of searching and I bet you find some answers that are better than my take. But here's my take anyway. :D

You can always find something that is not right.

> Adam and Eve were perfect. Then they chose not to be perfect.

According to the bible, they didn't know exactly what will happen if they eat from the tree, hence they didn't chose, they were tricked. If they were perfect they should have asked God before they tasted it. The story kind of makes me feel that humans were created to be fools according to the bible.

The story condemns curiosity which is one of the best human traits, without it, we'd be still in the stone age. And of course a hood 'nerd' has to be curious.

> God wanted people to have the ability to love Him of their own free will.

Why not just create love, it would save a lot of time, I know love is not a substance to us... but someone almighty could surely create it.

> Because Satan still serves a purpose. I'm not entirely sure of all of it, but the main purpose seems to be to provide an obvious choice for us. God or Satan, who do you want to serve?

This sounds like God is playing a game with Satan, a very cruel game if you ask me and pointless too, because God knows how it will end anyway. And it also seems that he doesn't kill Satan because then he'd be bored.

About the free will thing:

Let's say you create robots and program them slightly differently. And let then interact with each other. In their view they have free will, in your context however you know exactly what they gonna do, you could calculate it all in advance. So in the end we may not even have free will, we are just complicated.

Se my other comments here, I am not saying that God does not exist, I am saying that the Christian religion is probably wrong about it, it can't be that way.


Perhaps programmers tend to be the sort of people that don't believe something simply because someone asserted it, wrote it down, repeated it many, many times, and threatened you with eternal torture if you don't accept it.


While some Christians might subscribe to the sort of faith you describe, there are a great many whose picture of God is perhaps a bit more nuanced.

There's an enormous, detailed, thoughtful tradition of systems thinking in Christianity. That tradition began with Paul, whose letter to the Romans is a systematic attempt to understand the relationship of Jesus of Nazareth to the established Jewish beliefs of the time. It continues (notably; these are my favorites) with Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Barth, Bonhoeffer, and von Batlhasar.

Far from uncritical belief in a threatening assertion, the theological tradition has produced several (some mutually exclusive!) systems of belief that appeal to reason as well as faith.


Right. Nuanced is the precise word. It appears that what the author actually encountering is resistance to off-topic proselytizing.

Donald Knuth and Larry Wall, to name two, make no secret of their Christianity and it doesn't seem to have harmed their reputations to any significant degree. :-)


yes, people can be logical in some areas and not in others. just because some one is religious doesn't mean they can't use their minds and do great work


yeah, there are many complex ways of talking people into things


and just because people have nuanced explanations now doesn't they didn't start believing in the first place due to all the hellfire and repetition. A lot of this takes place when we are kids. Conditioning is often around for a long time.


To paraphrase: When you understand why you don't believe in Zeus, you'll understand why I don't believe in your god. This author uses such loaded words about programmers: nerd rage, fear, panic. He just doesn't understand that his belief system doesn't hold up to basic logic. The level of thinking that accepts a religion as truth would not serve to get us across a busy street safely.


I don't believe in Zeus because Zeus doesn't have a falsifiable historical event like the resurrection of Jesus to back up his existence.


I see a lot of reasons for why programmers may not want the universe to be as presented by Christianity (or other religions), but the article doesn't really address why programmers don't believe that presentation to be true. Unless the author is going with the tacit assumption that people believe things because they want them to be true. I always chuckle a bit when I see a Christian say that someone else doesn't follow Christianity because that other person doesn't want the religion to be true. I've encountered many Christians, both online and in person, who never got used to the idea that a person may genuinely not believe in God.


Yeah, I guess I was thinking more about what is specific to programmers / nerds that makes it extra hard to embrace Christianity.

Ultimately the thing that makes me believe Christianity is because it's the one religion rooted in history - either Jesus did rise from the dead or he didn't. It makes it the easiest religion to disprove: all the Roman/Jewish authorities at the time would have had to have done was produce the body and they could have squashed the whole movement there and then. The fact that they couldn't, I find pretty compelling.


I'm curious how you respond to the idea that Jesus didn't exist as a historical figure. The argument for this idea typically points to the lack of a first hand account of Jesus, with the first accounts appearing decades after his alleged death. That would make it a little difficult for the Roman authorities to provide evidence that Jesus was not supernatural.

Wikipedia has a decent overview of this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory


The idea that Jesus didn't exist as a historical figure is laughable and people who defend that idea normally end up tying themselves in knots. We have four independent eyewitness accounts, sometimes using the same sources, sometimes not, mentions by a Jewish historian, Roman historians and prominent sceptics - who by the way mock the nature of the resurrection, not the existence of the person. I guess it's kind of stupid to deny the existence of someone so close to the time they were around.

One of the "biased" sources - Luke - is widely regarded by people who know what they're talking about (like Sir William Ramsay who spent a lifetime digging up the Middle East) as the finest, most accurate historian who ever lived.

The fact that the first written accounts of Jesus appeared only decades after his execution is extraordinary to scholars of ancient literature who are used to dealing with gaps of many _centuries_, sometimes even a millenium. I can't remember offhand what the earliest copy we have of Tacitus is for example but I think it's a good 800 years after he wrote it.

When I apply the same methods of the Jesus mythers to Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Tacitus, Mohammed and even Abraham Lincoln, guess what? None of them ever existed either.

You need a great deal of hand-waving, special pleading and outright dishonesty to be a myther. Robin Lane Fox, who is certainly no Christian, is at least honest when he reads the account of John and concludes that it's an eyewitness account. Would that Dawkins and Price had the same integrity.


I have heard similar arguments before. There is no need to invoke supernatural causes. Maybe the authorities at the time made a mistake. Current authorities & governments make mistakes all the time.


It does seem like basing your view of the Universe on 2000-year-old bureaucracy is a recipe for disappointment.


It is not that they couldn't -- although the priests may not have been able to -- it's that there was no reason to. It's not like there were millions of Christians in the year 1. The Jews were very busy dealing with the Romans and not too worried about the ongoing impact of a dead Jesus Christ.

Keep in mind, too, that many Jews believe the rising again/son of God story in the bible was a myth, a parobal, and that it was not intended to be an actual rising from the dead.


Yeah, they seem to often say there must be some emotional reason for resisting. And perhaps that is because there are emotional reasons people accept religion and stick with it. And they think it works both ways. Deciding abstract question using logical criteria seems foreign to them.


I am an atheist. I have been since college. That said, I never attempt to convert people because of course since there's no god, there's no heaven or hell to worry about. I don't care what religion you ascribe to, as long as you respect my choice I'll respect yours.


Interestingly, from what I understand, heaven nor hell are never explicitly mentioned in the bible (old testament).


"Programmers absolutely hate it if you ever say "I don't have all the answers to this theological conundrum but I trust that God is good and so I'm content to believe his word on it" because it allows God to have a "get out of jail free" card that lets him bend the rules of the system whenever he pleases."

Well said.


Out of interest, what would be wrong with God doing that, other than the fact that it would be really annoying?


It's basically a full stop. Saying 'this is inconsistent, but I trust that it's fine' is basically akin to saying 'I don't want to analyse this any further'. Which, to the non-Christian, is akin to saying 'I think it might fall to pieces if I try to critically analyse it'.


Let me offer an analogy that (perhaps) paints Christian belief in a more charitable light. Indeed, there are many places where I, as a Christian, say, "I don't want to analyze this further".

There are many places too, as a programmer, where I say the same thing. I do most of my work in the application stack, and have only the vaguest understanding of what goes on in the guts of the operating system and kernel. I trust, though, that someone has spent time and energy thinking about how the operating system and its API work. I also suspect that if a fey mood ever took me, I could work my way through the kernel code of linux and understand what's going on. The reason I haven't is that I spend most of my time at a different level of abstraction.

The system of beliefs that underly Christian faith are similar. Many people work at a level of abstraction, if you will, that doesn't involve the sort of careful analysis that is, nevertheless, possible. Other Christian thinkers have explored the interplay of reason and faith with extraordinary detail. When someone says, "I'm happy to stop my analysis here", it might not mean that what underlies their belief is irrational, it might mean that they haven't had the time or the inclination to examine the layers of abstraction beneath it.


But science and the acquisition of knowledge is all about pushing deeper into the implementation. We can't look at something like gravity and say, 'yep, that seems to work fine, adheres to its interface, we don't really need to know how it works, just that it passes its tests (apples fall, helium balloons float above oxygen, etc)'. We can't leave it there, because we have to know the implementation. We'll never improve if we don't. And we still haven't nailed it, but that's no excuse to stop.

It's like a beginning programmer looking at a hash table object and hitting 'view source'. What kind of programmer would he be if he didn't want to see behind the curtain at least once? How could he be expected to excel?


I'd disagree that science is about "pushing deeper into the implementation". It turns out that Newtonian gravity doesn't adhere to the interface that Newton proposed (and Newton knew that it didn't; Mercury!). As a result, Einstein developed a mew interface, which supplanted Newton's interface. Neither of them speaks to, or even claims to speak to[1], something like implementation. To be sure, we do refine out conceptions of that interface, and I'd agree with you that that's a very valuable project.

Your example about a programmer peeking into the hash table is germane, because the hash table's "implementation" is, itself, composed of interfaces. Following your argument, how could a programmer be expected to excel if he didn't understand those interfaces? And it's turtles all the way down until you hit Feynman diagrams.

That's doesn't seem to be how people actually work. At some point, a layer of abstraction is leak-proof enough to satisfy curiosity and allow meaningful work to be built upon it. Where that point is will vary from person to person. Much as some people are content to work with a vague notion of Newtonian gravity, some Christians are content to live with a fairly abstract and vague understanding of theology. There's nothing wrong with that. We call people who wrestle with abstractions surrounding the natural world scientists, and we call people who wrestle with abstractions surrounding God and faith theologians.

[1] Well, Newton explicitly disclaims this. I haven't read Einstein recently enough to remember whether he disclaims it explicitly, but I think he certainly is no Aristotelian.


I liked the article until the final section where his religious bias seemed to be showing.

"We like to think we've arrived at a level of understanding inaccessible to lesser mortals [...] I believe that's why it's easier either to dismiss organised religion as unnecessary or deride it as being motivated by factors less worthy than the pure quest for truth."

I don't think like that at all, and I definitely wouldn't like to think that. I solve problems that are interesting to me. I have a voracious appetite for learning new things because learning is interesting to me too, perhaps the most interesting thing in the world. I don't dismiss religion as unnecessary, I dismiss it because there's no scientific proof of God, and religion without a God seems pretty silly.


I probably wasn't as clear as I could have been that I was meaning "organised" religion there as opposed to general belief in God. So it was more a point about embracing somebody else's entire set of beliefs ("becoming a Christian"?), rather than arriving at my own personal set of beliefs in God that I've worked out for myself based on my observation of the world.


I wish I lived another 2000 years to see future humanity finding the remnants of our rules of AD&D and having whole new religions growing out of it.


P == NP

What's that? Proof? No, I don't have it. But I have faith! That's enough, right?


It might be enough to make you go on searching for the proof


Knuth's book "Thinks a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About" (http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~uno/things.html) gets in to this topic. I found it to be a great read.



I find it perfectly compatible. But then I happen to know that the word "faith" in the new testament means "assurance based on a track record" or "forensic evidence." It does not mean "blind belief in nonsense" or ignoring evidence. See here: http://www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html


I have met plenty of religious programmers and computer folks over the years, they just don't generally talk about their faith.




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