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Introduction: How to reason

Section 6: Don't jump to conclusions

Examine all the evidence before coming to any conclusion. Proof of part of theory is not proof of the whole.

fall of Jericho: pic origin to be confirmed

The sixth chapter of Joshua in the Old Testament tells us how the city of Jericho, which was occupied by Canaanites, fell to the Israelites.

0.6a So far, so true...

Under God's instructions, the Israelite priests and army marched round the city every day for seven days, blowing their trumpets. On the seventh day "When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed." (Joshua 6:20, New International Version)

Archaeologists have found the site of ancient Jericho. It really existed and there is evidence that it was destroyed around 1400 or 1500 BC. A Creationism website points out that according to the Old Testament the event occurred in the springtime or harvest season and one team found buried bushels of grain. The fact that the food was uneaten, the site argues, is proof that the population had no chance to escape, as described in Joshua 6:21. (The Israelite army "devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys" - how pleased God must have been by this wholesale slaughter and murder...)

Doesn't such evidence prove that the Bible is true - and if it's true it must be the Word of God? Most Christians are persuaded by such an argument and many others, who have no strong feeling about religion, feel that such an argument makes sense.

How good is your reasoning?

Can you distinguish lies from truth? Or a good argument from a false one? Can you when tell someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes?

We keep physically fit by exercising regularly and eating healthy
food. The same is true of our minds - we need regular mental exercise and a good diet of solid facts and logic.

This chapter offers basic reasoning skills to help you understand the contradictions that lie at the heart of all religion.

0.1: Basic principles
Start at the beginning

0.2: What do we know?
Separate fact from fiction

0.3: Start with the question ...
... not with the answer

0.4: All the evidence ...
... not just some of it

0.5: Cause, correlation and no connection
What's the difference?

0.6: Don't jump to conclusions ...
... or you could land in the ...

0.7: No way
Proving a negative

0.8: Occam's Razor
The simplest solution

0.9: Facts, knowledge and science
What we know and how we know it

0.10: Know or believe?
The impossibility of God

0.11: Reason and faith
Understanding the difference

0.12: Summary

Finished the introduction? Move on to

Chapter 1
Defining God

Does God exist? Before we try to answer that question we need to have a clear idea of who or what God is. How do we describe God? What versions of God are on offer?

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0.6b ...or false

The problem is, that while the facts may be true - a city was destroyed; the populace could not escape - the interpretation is almost certainly false. Jericho lies in an area that is prone to earthquake. Whether or not an army marched round the city blowing trumpets and shouting - and there is no evidence that one did - the city almost certainly collapsed from natural causes. (An alternate explanation is that such an army did march and the repeated thumping of feet weakened fortifications to the extent that they eventually collapsed.)

Not only is there no evidence that God caused the walls to collapse, a review of the Biblical text confirms that the deity's only role in this story was to suggest the circumambulation of the city under attack. And that is something that was probably added by storytellers after the event.

0.6c Who said what, when, how and to whom?

When we read that the LORD told the Israelites to do something, we ask ourselves, how did God do this? Did he bring them all together in a public meeting, or did he tell one or two priests that these were his orders? If he spoke to priests, how can we prove that their word does indeed come from God and is not merely their own invention? And given that the Old Testament was written down several centuries after the events it records, how much can we trust it as a record of actual events...?

Take another, non-Biblical example. In Section 3 we compared two detectives examining a murder scene. The first detective was convinced that the murderer was the victim's rival in love and looked for evidence to confirm that theory. The second detective was open-minded. The first detective jumped to his conclusion and then interpreted the evidence he found (rationalisation) to justify his assumption. And while he arrests the wrong man, the real criminal escapes...

Here's a third example - the appearance of design. Believers - particularly Creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design - observe that elements of the universe and life on earth appear to have been designed. From "appear", they jump to the conclusion that those elements must have been designed. But in order to reach that conclusion, they ignore other evidence, as we will see in Chapter Three: God the creator? - evidence which confirms that a designer is unnecessary.

There's a simple lesson to be learnt here: don't jump to conclusions. Examine all the evidence before coming to any conclusion. And remember that proof of part of theory (ancient Jericho collapsed) is not proof that the whole theory (the Bible confirms that God exists) is true.

Next: Introduction: Section 7
No way

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

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