Spotlighting an individual: Interview with a Christian cognitive scientist about science, why I’m not an atheist, religion being logical, and more

I am starting a new series spotlighting an individual about pretty much anything whether it is about religion, politics, science, philosophy, etc. Pretty much anything! I hope this will be very interesting for you and it will be a learning process for all of us. Again, these individuals are interviewed on Reddit. For security reasons, the username and name of these people will not be named.

Make sure you read The Purpose of the Blog to fully understand this.

For the first post of this series and I’m so excited to interview a Cognitive scientist because I want to do that for a living. I will be studying that soon.

Tell me a bit about yourself? Age, what country you live in, what you do for a living (just for the readers sake)?

I am 22 years old and I live in America. I also just got married. I just finished my undergraduate level and got a degree in Cognitive Science. Over the past several summers, I have been working at an internship and now I have a full-time position with them. They are also paying for part of my Ph.D. research and schooling. Cognitive science is essentially the study of the mind. Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. I focus on the psychology and neuroscience part in my work mostly.

cognitive science

photo by www.ncku.edu.tw

What’s your favorite thing about science in general and/or cognitive science?

My favorite thing about science would be discovering something new. I absolutely love researching because it is a passion of mine to improve many lives! Science has provided many ways to help people and specifically the study of the mind has provided a way for us to figure out how humans function, how we can improve ourselves, and keep from harming ourselves. This is a great thing for me to be part of.

Who’s your 3 favorite scientists?

Hmm…that is really tough. Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and James Clerk Maxwell.

Interesting! None of those are cognitive scientists or psychologists? Who are your favorite scientists in those fields?

My favorites are: Alan Turing, Sigmund Freud, Steven Pinker, and Carl Jung. I work with a lot of computer scientists (this is what Alan Turing focused on) and psychologists.

Now, I know you mentioned that you are Christian. Were you raised that way?

Actually, I wasn’t Christian or religious at all. My dad was and is still an atheist. My mom was an agnostic bordering on atheism for some time but then she converted to Christianity – specifically to Catholicism. Most of my family are quite anti-religious. I  took after my atheist dad and started reading (at a really early age) into Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, Carl Sagan,  and Friedrich Nietzsche, etc.  As I like to call them, “the hardcore intellectual atheists.”

So what changed your mind? Do you have a story? Any details?

Well, I used to really get into debating Christians and theists in general and sometimes would mock them. My mom would sometimes when I was younger to go to mass with her and not to name any details on this blog, I mocked and yelled at the priest for saying something. My dad heard about this and even though he is an atheist, he doesn’t believe in mocking others.  So his punishment for me was to read the entire Bible and write a 50-page essay on it. Of course this was real punishment for me and he knew this so he was hoping that I would read it and realize how dumb it was and write a couple of pages but then drop it. I didn’t stop researching and read many books about this topic.

What books did you read?

I read many books but these 4 are my top.

Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence? by Henry F. Schaefer III.

There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Antony Flew

Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship by John Polkinghorne.

The Language of God by Francis Collins

I also read many historical books on Jesus and the Resurrection and believed it to be very powerful. The Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf is a great book from one of the most critical skeptics of Jesus who thought he (Jesus) was a myth and mocked everyone who believed he was real or was a Christian. He and others who have written about this topic came to believe it because they were led my logic, evidence that is available, and intuition that the most common explanation was that he was raised from the dead. Until otherwise, I see no reason to not believe. The more I read about Jesus, the more I believed.

Religion is always said to be anti-religious, what is your response to this? Most of the top scientists today seem to be atheists…what do you think about that?

It really depends on the claim of the religion, really? If it says that the world was created in 6 days or that evolution is wrong. Things like that we can certainty say are completely false 100%. Religion is not the enemy of science though. If you look at history, militant atheists from the Soviet Union did more to damage and suppress science and kill scientists who advocated the ” The Big Bang”, which scientists even well known atheist scientists today say that has theological  implications. Thus, some atheist scientists have tried to deny it (The Big Bang) such as Fred Holyle, Thomas Gold, Hermann Bondi, and others. They even tried to come up with a new theory ( Steady state theory) but it failed to be scientifically valid.  The very fine-turning is something that atheist scientists have trouble with. The idea of time as well is something that is on theists side. Stephen Hawking (atheist scientist) said, “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.”

One of the main things that turned me off my atheism was the “New Atheism” which is basically a bit of “odd atheism” (if you will), a small slice of intellectual arguments for atheism, with a huge slab of mockery, arrogance, historically and biblical incorrect information, and fallacies. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett (although I do like him since he’s a cognitive scientist) have done very little to nothing to make atheism the most logical position.

What you’re talking about with a lot of the top scientists being atheists is used by atheists a lot – thus atheism is the most logical position. That is considered a fallacy call argument from authority. Back in history, most scientists believed there to be a God. Most of the Nobel science winners have been Christians, deists, or theists in general. Nothing big has changed since then that could swing people from theism to atheism. So that means absolutely nothing.

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Different people with various perspectives – the atheist, ordained pastor, and satanist:Part 1

This is my first post on this blog and series of “Different people with various perspectives” and I hope you enjoy it! I enjoyed interviewing these various folks who have different stories and thoughts on the world we live in. Perhaps you (my audience) might learn something new that you didn’t know or just find these people’s thoughts interesting. I can’t give up these people’s username on Reddit, which is where I interviewed them (read The Purpose of the Blog)  for security reasons .  I’ll copy the conversation.

I’ll start with the atheist who I had a very good conversation with.

Tell me a bit about yourself? Age, what country you live in, what you do for a living.

I am a 25 year old engineer living in the United States.

What are your current views? Religious or not. Are you a strong atheist?

While I don’t outright reject the notion of gods existing entirely, as I don’t believe we can know anything for certain, I am a strong atheist with regards to all of the proposed god concepts I have heard. To paraphrase Laplace, I have no need for said hypothesis.

Since you’re an atheist, what is your atheist philosophy? Naturalism, Absurdism, Nihilism, Materialism, etc

It seems odd to me to call it my “atheist philosophy.” For me atheism only deals with one portion of my world view, i.e. the rejection of the existence of any proposed god concepts. With that out of the way my philosophy is an amalgamation of those examples you’ve proposed and more. Too many to name off the top of my head.

With respect to naturalism, I’ve yet to come across anything that falls outside its purview and thus have no reason to posit otherwise. I would say I am slowly phasing absurdism out of my views as I find it more a result of the vein attempt of others looking for meaning, influencing my pursuits, rather than being an innate tendency of my own. This realization being brought about my nihilism, seeing meaning as a meaningless concept outside of the meanings we assign ourselves. Materialism works into my views in the same way as naturalism.

How confident are you that you are correct?

Correct with respect to what? That the Christian god does not exist? I am 100% confident. That no gods exist? Let’s say 99.9%.

What books, articles, etc made the most difference in your difference to believe in whatever you believe?

With regards to Christianity, the book that had the biggest influence in causing me to reject it was the Bible. It paints a picture I find not only incompatible with reality as I perceive it, but incompatible with itself.

As for my world view, it has been shaped greatly by my incessant curiosity. From a young age I couldn’t get ask enough questions nor accumulate enough data. I’ve always seen myself as being an observer first and a participant second in this world. I would spend my days taking in as much as I could of the world around me, be it writings in all fields of academia, with a heavy leaning towards math, science, and history, or listening to my father and sister describe the various plants and animals we’d encounter on our family vacations to the various state and national parks of the US. By night I would have the hardest time falling asleep, which allotted me plenty of time to process all the data I had accumulated. I’ve always taken great joy in working things out in my mind, creating dialogues between myself to consider as many sides of a concept as I could.

What are your views on how the world is today? Is it bad, good, etc? What needs to improve?

I see the world today as quite bad, and yet, it is better than it’s ever been. For me the biggest thing that needs to improve is a cessation of the imposition of one’s beliefs on others, without justification. People need to spend more time critically examining themselves and refine their own beliefs before releasing them unto the world.


The ordained minister was great from a Christian perspective.

Tell me a bit about yourself? Age, what country you live in, what you do for a living. Remember: Nothing specific or long!

I’m 36 years old, and live in the United States. I am a full-time Pastor of a family sized congregation.

What are your current views? Religious or not. Are you protestant, Catholic, etc? How long have you been that way? Were you raised that way?

I am a religious person. My faith is very important to me and it colors the way I see the world. I am a Protestant, and have been a Christian since I was about 12 years old. I was raised in the church on and off in many different traditions (Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Charismatic, Quaker, etc…)

Are you more of a liberal or conservative kind of Christian theologically and politically?

I am theologically orthodox for the most part. That means that while I can affirm the classic creeds of the Christian faith. While this is the case, I believe that God is more concerned about how we live our lives than whether or not we can check all of the “correct” theological boxes. Are we showing love, compassion and empathy to others? Are we living out our devotion to God in concrete ways (e.g.: by caring for the earth that God gave us to manage; by advocating for justice, freedom and peace; by caring for the poor, the outcast, the orphan, widow and stranger; by compassionately providing help to the ones our society considers “the least of these”).

How confident are you that you are correct?

Any theological answer I have come to is one I find to be both provisional and intellectually satisfying. My answers are provisional because I know that I could always be wrong, and because all of the answers theology provides must be scrutinized in light of what other disciplines (science, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc…) tell us to be true. I find my answers to be intellectually satisfying (otherwise I wouldn’t hold them) in that they are consistent with my experience and my understanding of the larger world.

What books, articles, etc made the most difference in your difference to believe in whatever you believe?

Well, first I would say the Bible, but that feels like a cop out. I have also enjoyed the works of Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Jurgen Moltmann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, John of the Cross, John Polkinghorne (Particularly “Faith, Science, and Understanding” and “Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity”), Stanley Grenz, Dorothy Soellee, Daniel Miglore, and Katie Cannon.

What are your views on how the world is today? Is it bad, good, etc? What needs to improve?

It could always be better (though historically speaking it is in an amazing place in terms of scientific discovery, global peace [fewer people dying violent deaths per capita than at any other time in known history] etc…). I see income inequality, access to resources (medicine, food, water, sanitation, and technology), treatment of the environment, and global human rights to be our largest looming issues at the moment.


 

Here is the interview I had with the Theist Satanist and it was very interesting as well. Warning: There is some language.

Tell me a little about yourself? Age, country, what you do for a living? Remember, nothing long or specific.

I am 19 years and live in Germany.  I am a a college student as well. I am a theistic Satanist and have been that way for 2 years. I  was raised Protestant.

Hmm…so why do you believe it. Why do you believe it to be correct? How certain are you that you are correct compared to other people?

 

Because in my mind it just makes sense. If there is a god, then there must be another being of immense power. In this case, HaSatan (The Adversary). I have done satanic rituals and prayers before and found them to geniunely improve my body both physically and mentally.

Because unlike other religions, we have had no strays from the practice nor teachings of our religion. We do not restrict sin, but instead welcome it in healthy way. We do not harm unless we’re needed to, and at no point has there been murders commited in the name of Satan. “If a religion is true, those who follow it need not concern themselves with slander.”

The fact that I do not need to harm anyone to prove it. Every single religion has commited violence as a response to offensive drawings and statements. If their religion is true, why do they need to worry? I have no doubt, nor do I inflixt pain in order to prove anything.

There is a lot of bad stigma about satanism but many of us might not be too knowledgeable about what it really is? So give me some details and do you really worship the devil?

Bad stigma. Yes, satanism has a great deal of bad stigma since (Ha)Satan has been the “evil” counterpart to almost every god. It isn’t true though. We do not sacrifice people or animals in rituals, but instead use certain types of what other religions would call sinful energies for our practises. We do not have constant orgies, but instead satanism encourages monogamy or atleast sticking to the amount of partners you are comfortable with.

Do I worship the Devil? Yes. I do. I believe he is a powerful entity, outmatching even the Abrahamic god in terms of power. Even in the christian bible, he is able to challenge and even remove himself from god’s rule. I believe that of the two, the devil is the better man. He embraces humanity and its flaws, and carries no punishment for those who do not believe strongly enough. Nor has he commited genocide, started wars in his name, and countless other crimes that god has commited.

Have you ever read the Bible and saw how negative it is about him? What do you think about that?

I have read the bible from cover to cover several times back when i was foolish enough to believe fully. With every read, I found myself agreeing and feeling sympathy for Satan. When I did finally convert, I read through the bible again incase anyone challenged me in my faith, then I would challenge theirs.

What is said in the bible about the devil is simply lies. Hell, it is even outright stated that he encourages sin, not crimes. He tempts with basic human needs, and if you believe in Adam and Eve, he gave us knowledge and free will. He dares challenge god and then scrub his hands off of the pathetic god.

What are your views of how today is? Is it bad, good, or what? How do we improve it? A Christian might say that you have no sense of right or wrong, so you can’t answer this question…how do you silence the critics?

What do I think of it? It is one sided of an argument. The devil has no works that is said to be directly written by him, and nor does he slander god. He is the better man, no matter what the biased bible says. And it has been done for everyone who seems evil. We make up shit to make them look bad.

The world today? We’re fucked. We got a virgin telling others how to live their lives both in and outside of the bedroom. We have religious fanatics trying to prove they are better by force while a silent majority of the “moderate” believers agree, to a certain extent. There is too much war and religious idiocy. How do we improve the world? Demand payment from the countries in debt, or do what Britain and France did with the colonies. Split them up and take it from there. We need to bring down harder on those who commit crime, and we need to take more extreme measures to kill off those in the middle east who are literally a extremist death trap.

I have a sense of right or wrong by heart. I do not need a book written 1700 years ago by ignoramuses who lived in desert caves. If you need a book to tell you what is right or wrong, you are the one who is unable to answer this question.

 


Well, there you go! Very interesting and insightful answers from those people. I’m glad for the three folks who took the time to answer my questions and if you have any questions about this interview, please leave a comment on what you thought! There will be a part 2 coming up soon with other people answering the questions.

Please like, share, comment, and follow if you want to see more content like this!

Steve