I thank everyone for a lively debate on this matter. I just had to retype my entire reply, as I have been busy at work all week, and thus, this will be my last comment on this thread. I have observed a couple of points that I think argue against faith. I said at the beginning....
I look forward to a lively debate on this. I think about it often. Please note that it is not my intention to attack believers, but rather, to ask believers to defend their beliefs. I hope that it will not be taken personally.
Here is a quote from the first post on this thread, with questions that I asked, that were often ignored, danced around, but never addressed directly or answered directly:
I highlight FAITH because frankly, what other reason is there to belive that Muhammed flew away to heaven on the back of a horse, or that Jesus was born of a virgin, died for our sins, was resurrected, and will return to judge the earth? People believe in such things for a variety of reasons, but why? Isn't it a fact that we all assimilate the faith and culture of our land of birth? We have to be honest and say that if we were born in the middle east, we would likely be Muslim, and many of us would probably in all sincerity think Islam was THE way, and that Christians were pagan, desrving of death through Jihad. Those of middle eastern descent who are born here in the west and absorb western culture, values, and religous beliefs, so they too believe in the cause of the USA against terrorism...... Other then the accident of ones birth, how can one quantify claims to faith and truth? Look at the damage it causes.
Some of you in response tried to argue that it is wrong to even question faith, or people of faith. Of course, I asked in the very first post for the reasons for your faith. In this PC world that we live in, some religionists would have you believe that to suggest god doesn't exist is the highest insult, that to ask for actual evidence for belief is not necesarry at all. It is a happy accident that we don't live 500 years ago, where the same question I posed would no doubt have resulted in my being tied to a stake and set on fire.
Others, notably Little Toe, tried to change the question or suggest that I was asking the wrong ones. (with respect, if you want to change the questions, feel free to start your own thread. My questions were perfectly legit) Changing the subject is a tactic when you can't answer the question in the first place. At least it created that impression with me. For that matter, to claim that "god" or someone similar communicated personally doesn't answer the question and must be met with extreme skeptisicm. I offer two excellent pieces of reasoning on the reliability of "personal messages from god". This first one is by Richard Dawkins from "The God Delusion":
You say you have experienced God directly? Well, some people have experienced a pink elephant, but that probably doesn't impress you. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, distinctly heard the voice of Jesus telling him to kill women, and he was locked up for life. George W. Bush says that God told him to invade Iraq (a pity God didn't vouchsafe him a revelation that there were no weapons of mass destruction). Individuals in asylums think they are Napoleon or Charlie Chaplin, or that the entire world is conspiring against them, or that they can broadcast their thoughts into other people's heads. We humour them but don't take their internally revealed beliefs seriously, mostly because not many people share them. Religious experiences are different only in that the people who claim them are numerous.
This is from Sam Harris in The End of Faith
We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad', 'psychotic' or 'delusional' . . . Clearly there is sanity in numbers. And yet, it is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window. And so, while religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are.
While I have noted a wide variety of opinion, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the sheer lack of evidence brought forth to say,"I know god exists because of facts A,B, or C." Instead, people gave emotional arguements ('faith helps people get through tough times') but not reasons. It seems that Christians for example are more then happy to accept the couple of verses that says Jesus is our saviour and that we need faith, without being able to tell anyone much at all as to why the source material is itself trustworthy and accurate. The sheer amount of contradictions in both the Old and New Testament are staggering. But a believer expresses "faith" that what he believes is the accurate, unerring 100% truthful word of god. That is quite a claim, quite a belief to have, without really knowing why you believe it, or where you got your beliefs from..... Or being unable to answer the questions that were posed at the beginning....
I say this as a commentary. It does disagree with many of you, but I mean no harm by these words. I hope that a request for evidence and fact as a basis for faith doesn't cause upset. I do think it demonstrates that faith is dangerous because it in fact cannot be proven with evidence. You either believe what you are taught and/or read in ancient scrolls, or you have no faith. You either need to hear or see something no one else can see, or else you have no faith.
I end with the quote from Mr Harris that I put in my first post on this thread. I think this is the quote that scares believers the most, with respect.
"It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: Either people have good reasons for what they believe, or they do not. When they have good reasons, their beliefs contribute to our growing understanding of the world. We need not distinguish between "hard" and "soft" sciences here, or between science and other evidence-based disciplines, like history. There happen to be very good reasons to believe that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Consequently, the idea that the Egyptians actually did it lacks credibility. Every sane human being recognizes that to rely merely on "faith" to decide specific questions of historical fact would be both idiotic and grotesque-that is, until the conversation turns to the origin of books like the Bible and the Koran, to the resurrection of Jesus, to Muhammad's conversation with the angel Gabriel, or to any of the other hallowed travesties that still crowd the altar of human ignorance.
Science, in the broadest sense, includes all reasonable claims to knowledge about ourselves and the world. If there were good reasons to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that Muhammad flew to Heaven on a winged horse, these beliefs would necessarily form part of our rational description of the universe. Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments and a passionate unwillingness to do so. The distinction could not be more obvious, or more consequential, and yet it is everywhere elided, even in the ivory tower."
From here on out, I will stick to commenting on JW issues on this board, although those of you who have read this now know how I feel on the matter. Thanks!