October 22, 2020

Klasie Kraalogies: As Mist Before the Sun: The Slow Relief of Unbelief (3)

Wanderer in the Storm, von Leypold

By Klasie Kraalogies

Part 3

“Think of mathematical symbols as mere labels without intrinsic meaning. It doesn’t matter whether you write, “Two plus two equals four,” “2 + 2 = 4,” or “Dos más dos es igual a cuatro.” The notation used to denote the entities and the relations is irrelevant; the only properties of integers are those embodied by the relations between them. That is, we don’t invent mathematical structures—we discover them, and invent only the notation for describing them.”

• Max Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

• • •

The year of crisis.

By 2012 I had settled down into a comfortable understanding – I was Lutheran, I was a Theistic Evolutionist, having finally managed to shake off all the cognitive dissonance of my YEC youth – I thought things had finally calmed down. But of course I could never stop thinking. And the final dominoes began to tumble – in a Geostatistics class, in mid-May at the University of Alberta. Geostatistics is that branch of stats that focuses on spatial statistics – i.e. data in 2d or 3d space. Like gold grade in a gold deposit. Things like that. But the thing that struck me was something in the theoretical background we were covering. Bayes’ Theorem. Bayes theorem, named after a good old Anglican priest, The Reverend Thomas Bayes, describes, in Wikipedian terms:

“the probability of an event, based on prior knowledge of conditions that might be related to the event”. Basically, you can also think of it as a feedback loop, with knowledge added, tested, feedback examined, new knowledge added etc.….”

But here was I sitting, and the thought struck me – in every thing in my life, in which direction has the feedback loop of reality been pointing me, insofar as this whole “God thing” is concerned. The thought made me very uncomfortable. I knew that I could not prove God from nature, or the material world. By then I had started talking of God as the Prime Mover, the Grand Initiator of Creation. I had realised that I needed to be some sort of Fideist if I wanted to continue being a Christian.

I resolved not to act out of emotion. Not to reject anything based on how other people behave. But to try and act only because of something being true or not true. I had gradually discovered that a clear majority of my theological premises held no water, based on the very Scriptures I claimed, and especially based on the prime characteristics which are commonly held as attributes of the Christian Deity. The whole majority of people going to eternal damnation unless they say some magic words thing fell away. A God that is love cannot be a monster. And the whole counter-argument that God’s ways are mysterious are just a lazy cop-out. But these things brought me peace with the God that I still worshipped. I brought me closer. Not further. The other thing, the question of the truth, the reality of the whole enterprise contrasted with all of this. Emotions were calm. Reason was stormy.

Then one day, in an interaction on a comment thread on The Atlantic, I wondered aloud about the evolution of religious practices. A friendly commenter suggested I get Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, which had appeared in 2011. And lo and behold, the book was stocked at Saskatoon’s excellent McNally Robinson bookstore, one of the last great independent bookstores around here.

Robert Bellah, who died in 2013, was an eminent sociologist who made the study of religion his life. The book itself is a readable, but academic tome. And it began shaking me even more – he traced a story of how religious thought began. And unfortunately for me, it mirrored my own imaginings on the subject.

I must emphasize that all through this time, I kept a guard on my self so-to-speak that I am not being swayed one way or another by emotional reaction to scandal or that kind of thing – my concern was never the depravity with which we humans can corrupt even the best of ideas, but what is real, what is true, and what is not.

Unfortunately, I began to see he is right. And then – I tried to hearken back to my old argument of the Deity as the Prime Mover. In some aspects, I was almost a Deist by now. I also got my self an overview of Western philosophy from the Greeks till the early 20th Century (The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant, 1926). And I discovered that most of the “God Squad”, as well as the philosophers favoured by them, from Plato to Aquinas to Kant etc just missed the plot completely for me. The ones that made sense were, surprising the atheist or the atheist-friendly ones – from Democritus and Epicurus to Spinoza to Santayana.

And then I so happened to be listening to James Gleick’s “The Information” – and he brought back my old friend Gödel, but in new ways, and added Turing, and Shannon, and the rise of information (Side note: Surprise, surprise, the creationists clearly misused Shannon when they tried to martial his laws for their use. Maximum Entropy carries maximum Shannon information….). And it made me think. I couldn’t escape the fact that there are structures in reality (if those are the right words), and that reality does not reflect a super-naturalist world view, but is very much naturalist, or materialist if you wish.

So, in that last week of 2012, after Christmas, I was painting the lounge. When I started it, I was still a Christian of sorts. But somewhere, I strongly suspect it was round about there where my front door is, It all evaporated. I grabbed for it, but my hands came back empty. Emotionally I still wanted it. But like CS Lewis, I was dragged, but in the opposite direction. Kicking and steaming, and paint be-splotched, I arrived and destination Unbelief.

This arrival had no fanfare. And at first, it was cold. Scary. And lonely. Very lonely…

Next Time: So What Now? How do I think about things? From morality to causality to the man with the scythe.

• • •

Earlier posts in the series:


  1. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > from Plato to Aquinas to Kant etc just missed the plot completely for me

    Ditto; very much shared that experience. I am convinced those who quote them [just to add gravitas to their arguments?] have not read them. Setting aside his metaphysical word salad, because … whatever …., Plato reads like the self-impressed Libertarian in freshman civics (different ideas yes, but same kind of huge construct of principles resting on bowling balls of pure assumption).

    When you first start to be very dissatisfied by the platitudes people often try to use the Greeks to hold the perimeter. I honestly don’t know why.

    • Even as culturally decayed as we are, there is still a strong memory of Greek philosophy being foundational to our civilization’s thought. It’s that odd bit of furniture we inherited from Great-Grandfather that sits gathering dust in the corner because we can’t figure out what to do with it.

      • It is foundational historically but certainly not to be accepted as is; a better metaphor is they built a house but we’ve changed most of the furniture and added on some rooms since.

        The Epicureans are interesting though admittedly much of what we know of them comes from a philosophical poem (De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things] by Lucretius).

        The Epicureans had a jaundiced view of ‘religion’, as one translation has it.

        I fear perhaps thou deemest that we fare
        An impious road to realms of thought profane;
        But ’tis that same religion oftener far
        Hath bred the foul impieties of men:
        As once at Aulis, the elected chiefs,
        Foremost of heroes, Danaan counsellors,
        Defiled Diana’s altar, virgin queen,
        With Agamemnon’s daughter, foully slain.

        Note that ‘religion’ would have a somewhat different meaning then than now.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Much of this must relate to the “Older = Truthier” meme. If you can find it in an **Ancient** text then…. shrug.

        • flatrocker says

          With the exception of course, of Tobit, Judith, 1st & 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach & Baruch.
          They are to be avoided at all costs for the obvious heretical Romish scourge that they are 🙂

    • The importance of the Greeks was not that they had the right answers but that they asked the right questions. From them we inherit that skeptical hard-headed way of looking at things that can save us from the wrong answers even if we’re the ones who are wrong.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Problem is, during the Middle Ages and Renassiance, the Greeks’ questions were ignaored and their answers became Dogma Ex Cathedra, preserved and obeyed because they were part of the (now mythologized) Ancient World.

    • Be careful with what you say about Plato.

      Read the surviving fragments of the Poem of Papa Parmenides – fragment B8 contains an argument to the conclusion that fundamental beings need to be immortal, indivisible into anything unlike themselves (wholly of a single kind), internally changeless, and completely what they are.

      Next, read Plato’s Phaedo 100b-102a and Symposium 210e-212b. Plato practically quotes Parmenides in characterizing the Forms. My point is that he’s not just making this stuff up out of thin air or relying on empty assumptions. He’s trying to solve serious problems in metaphysics and to deal with an actual *argument* (from Parmenides).

  2. At the risk of sounding like Mr./Ms, McGoatface, and with all due respect to Klasie (the author), the notation for the structure that came into my mind while reading part 3 is Ecclesiastes 12:12

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Ha! No offense taken. Unfortunately, unlike the wise old man from Jerusalem, I never had the capacity to piously hide from reality (my cynical interpretation of his words – ironically this used to be a favourite verse of mine).

      For me, I experienced Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of God” in reverse – Reason and Evidence hounded me as I try to flee into piety, religious-justification and such.

      • Klasie, Thank you for sharing with us your bio of — struggling how to name it, but I’ll use “faith journey” so I can get on and just say something…

        Two questions;


        “I discovered that most of the “God Squad”, as well as the philosophers favoured by them, from Plato to Aquinas to Kant etc just missed the plot completely for me.”

        I think I get what your saying–that their basic assumption is that there is “God” and can be “known/recognized/intuited” by what exist. However, what do YOU mean by “plot”?


        For me, I experienced Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of God” in reverse – Reason and Evidence hounded me as I try to flee into piety, religious-justification and such.

        Ahh, such a perfect way of describing something of my own journey! I am still troubled–not overly so, but a bit– by my present disregard of “piety…and such”. I’m not an atheist (well, maybe I’m a functional atheist about half the time ;o) ) but I’m finding religious expression tedious at best and often disgusting. I suspect that in your next installment you’ll discuss something about this, but in the meantime, how are you dealing with the “religious” in your life? Is it a vestigial thing like our appendix–usually benign though occasionally troublesome?

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Missed the plot- missed the boat, couldn’t see what is front of their eyes etc. Basically, they are hiding from reality.

          Second question – yes, that is to be dealt with next tine round. Patience…. 😉

  3. Another good post. Very interesting to hear the back story to many of the comments over the (years?). Of course we could go back and forth for hours/days about the direction you took (Godel in new ways?? might be a place to start). I prefer face to face conversations so if you ever vacation in Florida perhaps we can do so.

    I would like to ask you a more mundane question I have been mildly curious about for awhile now. I read several “evangelical”- very broadly speaking- blogs and I find there are a handful of commentators who hang out on these blogs who have left the “faith”. They have not become the fundamentalist atheists types just looking for an argument but are more or less “regulars”, who were former fundamentalists/evangelicals, just making various points about the postings. I guess my question is; what’s the motivation for maintaining this interaction/relationship with the old family?

    Obviously I place you in this category. I know you can answer only for yourself. I HOPE you do not read any negativity into this question. I’m genuinely interested in the general motivations behind this maintenance and your reasons in particular. I think it is both healthy and intellectually/spiritually stimulating.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      I hang out here because it is an interesting, and comfortable place to hang out, with friendly faces and good conversation. Much like a favourite pub.

      • Rick Ro. says


        The inverse question would be just as valid for some of us: why do we “believers” hang with non-believers at their places? Because we’re comfortable there, and with them, and it’s friendly, and interesting, and some people are just dang fun to interact with regardless of beliefs.

        True story. This weekend I found myself in an unfamiliar town with several hours to kill. As I drove through Main Street (literally), I spotted a tavern and thought, “What the heck! Haven’t done that in a while!”

        I parked nearby and entered the place. A couple of younger guys were playing pool, a couple of grizzled guys were at a table in the center of the room, another older guy was at the bar, and a woman about my age was sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender. Everyone turned and looked at me as I entered, and I thought, “Uh, oh…they prefer locals.”

        But the bartender was quite friendly and immediately asked what I wanted. When I asked if he had any food, he laughed and said, “I do, but it’s grease on grease. If you want food, try…” and he proceeded to name several places nearby. The woman chimed in with her thoughts, too. So I had this moment of “What do I do next? Do I just leave, or do I plop down for a while?”

        Well, the place had several big screen TVs going, most dialed in on sports, but the most prominent one, right there in front of the register at the bar staring at me in the face, was locked in on the El Rey network (love that network!). El Rey was doing a Arnold Schwarzenegger marathon that day and currently near the end of the mediocre “The 6th Day.” So I decided to stay for a bit. I sat at the bar and ordered a Red Hook and began to chat with the bartender and the woman, and then we began to make sarcastic comments about the movie and Arnie and some of the other cheesy elements of the plot.

        I ended up staying for about two hours, watching the end of one movie and the beginning of another (“The Last Action Hero”, another groaner). Had a good time just hanging with strangers. Reminded me of why some taverns and pubs are good places to just “be.”

      • Reminds me of the old gang of cigar smokers I hung out with once a week for many years. Cheerful pagans all, but you could *always* count on an interesting and keen-witted conversation every week.

      • Christiane says

        Yes! the folks here are varied and interesting and make you think . . . . . and laugh sometimes, and sometimes they write things that break your heart

        Imonk is kept as a wonderful tribute to Michael Spencer and I am very appreciative for it.

      • That’s why I’m here. The trolls looking to pick a fight who drift by now and then invariably get bored when no one takes the bait and eventually wander off. This is a testimony to the gentle but firm guidance of Chaplain Mike. I can’t think of another site with such varied opinions that hasn’t succumbed to vitriol and snark. A pearl of great price.

        • Ditto, Stephen. Kudos to Chaplain Mike.

          When I first began to read here at iMonk and to listen to Michael’s podcast I realized my trajectory was much the same as Michael’s–just a few years behind.

          Then something totally unexpected occurred; Jeff Dunn introduced me to Robert Capon. Amazing, a lover of Augustine who gets the plot and tells a beautiful story!


    Klasie, thanks for sharing your journey. I have a feeling that in a few years, four to eight, there will be many evangelicals crashing to the ground, or looking for a place to land. Illusions will need to give way to “reality,” and reality to a quest for truth that will bear good fruit. Not in this order necessarily, but most likely chaotically. The evangelical world has created for itself a quagmire. Hopefully this will result in some honesty and examination.

  5. senecagriggs says

    “So, in that last week of 2012, after Christmas, I was painting the lounge. When I started it, I was still a Christian of sorts. But somewhere, I strongly suspect it was round about there where my front door is, It all evaporated. I grabbed for it, but my hands came back empty. Emotionally I still wanted it. But like CS Lewis, I was dragged, but in the opposite direction. Kicking and steaming, and paint be-splotched, I arrived and destination Unbelief.”

    Is this the track followed by the majority of commenters on I-monk?

    “The post Evangelical Wilderness” would indeed appear to apply. – sadly.

    Is their joy in unbelief?

    • seneca, I think Klasie’s series is rather unique, at least during my term here at IM. We are giving someone the opportunity to tell his journey from faith to unbelief. Obviously, this is not because I endorse that this is the end to which we should all be going, but because I think it is absolutely essential for Christians to hear this narrative. It should not be simply dismissed. Nor should we be afraid. If we want to learn to love our neighbors, we must understand journeys like this and learn to include friends like Klasie in the conversations we have.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Some pushback…

      –> “Is this the track followed by the majority of commenters on I-monk?”

      If you’ve actually read the comments of iMonkers, you’d know that to NOT be the case.

      –> “Is their (sic) joy in unbelief?”

      A believer would say No, but if you actually tracked what Klasie wrote and put yourself in his shoes for a moment, you’d realize that there was no joy for him in “belief.” His “relief” came in distancing himself from religious belief. Argue all you want about how “that can’t be”, but it’s his testimony. Show some respect, dude!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        –> “Is their (sic) joy in unbelief?”

        In Klaasie’s case, their (sic) was relief from oppression.

        Argue all you want about how “that can’t be”, but it’s his testimony. Show some respect, dude!

        If Klassie’s testimony was towards the Altar Call instead of away, there wouldn’t be any argument, just “A-MEN”s.

      • senecagriggs says

        Rick I actually have read most of the comments over the last couple of years; it appears that there are a lot of “Nones” and “Dones” that interact here – certainly I as a conservative Evangelical appear to have very few co-conservative Evangelicals.

        A simple measure of being a conservative Evangelicalism; Is belief that Adam and Eve were very much real people, directly created by God, not evolved.

        I think if you don’t believe that, you’re probably not on board with the overwhelming number of people who would identify themselves as conservative Evangelicals.

        Finally, please do not accuse me of disrespecting Klassy. I didn’t do that, don’t accuse me of it.
        Show some respect Rick – it cuts both ways bro.

        • Rick Ro. says

          –> “…please do not accuse me of disrespecting Klassy. I didn’t do that, don’t accuse me of it.”

          At least spell his name right then!

          Regarding the “Nones” and “Dones”, I’m not sure there are a lot of “Nones” here, and the “Dones” aren’t necessarily “Done” with Jesus, just done with Americanized Religion aka Churchianity. I’m not either of those, but I do see the problems and unhealthiness of conservative Evangelicalism, especially if it’s based upon a real Adam and Eve. I base my Christianity on Christ alone.

          • Patriciamc says

            “I base my Christianity on Christ alone.” Amen, and not some obsession with Adam and Eve (and forgetting how the purpose of Genesis 1 was never to be a factual account of how God created the world, but to encourage the Hebrews in exile).

            Sometime, we Christians just need to be silent, listen to others, and seek to understand where they’re coming from.

            • Indeed. And comments like this says it all about the fall of Evangelicalism:

              “A simple measure of being a conservative Evangelicalism; Is belief that Adam and Eve were very much real people, directly created by God, not evolved.”

              Oh? Nothing about Jesus being savior and the way and the light and the hope?

        • seneca, you need toughness to hang with this crowd. Gentleness be damned.

        • Senecagriggs, this site was created by a man who referred to himself a “post-Evangelical” and coined the phrase “Evangelical Circus.”

          For my own, I’m more than done with Evangelicalism. I’m not done with Christ Jesus.

          • “A simple measure of being a conservative Evangelicalism; Is belief that Adam and Eve were very much real people, directly created by God, not evolved.”

            I very much doubt that Michael Spencer would have pass your test of faith. I certain don’t pass.

    • There is joy in LIFE. And many of us only find that in unbelief, since belief was the opposite of joy.

  6. I think all people, whether naturalists or super-naturalists have to eventually take a step of faith in answering the question ” How did we get here?” Where did the stuff that forms this universe come from? Either impersonal matter has just always existed and some turned in to what we see today, or there is something or someone behind it all. Personally I have an easier time believing someone is behind it. I can’t prove in the scientific sense, but neither can naturalists really prove how everything all began. So either way there is a step of faith

    • Rick Ro. says

      –> “I can’t prove in the scientific sense, but neither can naturalists really prove how everything all began. So either way there is a step of faith.”

      +1. I tend to see it this way, too. Let’s face it, everyone has their own “magic wand” of how we came to be. For the believer, God is the magic wand. For the non-believer, it is “time” (i.e., over the span of a bazillion years, “all this” came to be).

      Both are magic wands requiring a step of faith.

    • I don’t remeber when it came out, but there was a Bloom County cartoon with Binkley and Oliver Jones looking up at the night sky, and one of them is reading from Huckleberry Finn about how Finn and Jim were also looking up at the night sky, and debating whether it was “made, or just happened.” After a pause, Binkley said “Made”, with flowing cursive in the text ballon. Oliver Jones said “Just Happened”, with computeresque font in his text balloon.

      Pretty much sums it up.

    • Well it’s a bit different. The “faith” of the naturalist is not in any one particular explanation but in the fundamental idea that reality itself is amenable to understanding. It is not obvious why it should be so. The beasts of the field seem to thrive without understanding. But we are blessed with the burden of sentience and the gift of nescience is not ours, however much we may long for it.

      • It may not be tied to any one explanation, but it does seem to be tied to one particular denial, and that is the denial that a higher being or beings has anything to do with it. That denial cannot be proven, even if it can be reasoned, thus it is a step of faith

        • But the burden of proof is on the one affirming a position not the one denying it. Atheism is not an affirmation, it is a denial. Faith is not required for lack of belief when that belief is conditioned on evidence. The atheist says, “I don’t believe in a god because I don’t see any evidence that a god exists. When I am presented with such evidence then and only then will I believe.” This is not a faith position.

          • Isn’t atheism just an affirmation that without a deity expressly making himself known, that therefore this is all there is and thus no deity?

            ALL beliefs in a deity come back to one point: either a deity made themselves known, or someone made up the deity. I’m still new to Karen Armstrong but I think it was she who pointed out how we have gone from poly to mono to a-theism over the course of humankind. Everything, then a few, then one, now none.

            So, how did it all originate? I don’t know. That seems a faith statement. But an atheism will look around and affirm that there doesn’t seem to be anything.

      • Robert F says

        Is it really true that non-human animals thrive without any understanding, or is it only that their understanding is less and/or other than our own? Can we really be so sure that animals do not wonder at the universe that they exist in, and try to find answers to questions about things that trouble them? Sometimes our cat cocks her head at an angle, and looks intensely at some object in my hand that is strange to her, for all the world appearing to me to be studying it. I think that she is studying it, trying to learn something about it; can you be sure that she’s not?

        • Well there is a sense in which you are correct of course. Animals have the consciousness appropriate to their existence. They are aware of their environment and respond to it. If evolutionary biology has taught us anything it is that the radical discontinuity between humans and animals so beloved of evolution deniers simply doesn’t exist. And yet there is a difference. No cat has ever written a sonnet nor a bonobo built a museum of natural history to house the bones of homo sapiens.

          There is a great mystery here. I think it is the most profound philosophical question of all. Not where did we come from? Not where are we going? But why is the universe amenable to our understanding? How come we can figure it out? As I said it is not obvious that this needs to be the case.

          • Robert F says

            That accurate understanding of our world, and ourselves, exists at all is the main pointer to transcendence for me. The structure and function of consciousness itself, that it is able to grasp the flow of events around and in it, and to arrive at truths about the world and itself on the basis of experience and observation, that it is able to self-reflect as if from a point outside the circle of immanence, seems to me to deny that all that we are and know is exhausted by physical processes, or can be explained within the framework of scientific materialism.

          • Robert F says

            That consciousness can yield true knowledge of the world at all, and that I can trust the operation of consciousness to accurately describe the world when proper discipline in focusing and sifting its observations has been employed, is itself a “signal of transcendence”.

          • Burro [Mule] says

            For me, it is language. I cannot for the life of me figure out how it ‘evolved’, as it whatever made it possible to understand language would have to have co-developed along with the ability to produce it, and they would have to have emerged simultaneously. Apparently, bird genes have something to do with it. This does not mean that I deny the broad evolutionary narrative, just that it doesn’t explain this particular phenomenon adequately.

            Language is the only evidence we have of the existence of other minds. Whatever our minds are, and the Archdruid is sponsoring an interesting series discussing just what our ‘minds’ might be, language is an integral part of it.

            And language is not, strictly, logical or algorithmic. It cannot be programmed, as any brief encounter with Google Translate will verify, although it can be produced by some very clever heuristics. And it appears that it ‘evolved’ as much to conceal as to communicate.

      • Rick Ro. says

        –> “But we are blessed with the burden of sentience…”

        I led a study on Psalm 23 based upon Phillip Keller’s book “A Shepherd Looks at Pslam 23.” One of the things I picked up on was this: when things get bad for sheep (floods, heat, cold, journeys in dark valleys), I don’t think they huddle together and blame the shepherd. They weren’t burdened with brains that end up asking tough questions about “did our shepherd screw us over” or “given the crap we’re in, does he even exist?”

        We are both blessed and cursed with brains, and thus our thoughts can turn to blaming our Heavenly Shepherd, or doubting his existence because things suck.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      That was my last hold out as well. The “Original Initiator” argument. Except that it’s just the last holdout of the God-of-the-gaps.

      But it turns out that in Physics, a universe should come from nothing: See “A Universe from Nothing”, Lawrence M Krauss.

      • I won’t pretend to have covered all the bases in that debate, but I have read several physics-based and philosophical critiques of Krauss – none of them, as far as I am aware, by Christians. But that is a question best handled another time.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Sure. The maths is complicated. To be honest, I think it hints at probabilities. I am not hanging final arguments by it. I certainly do think that it is a better attempt than the rather facile “God-of-the-gaps ” answer. That approach has a rather bad track record, and if one were to subject it to a Bayesian analysis, it doesn’t look so good…

          • Gaps *within* the flow of cosmic history after the Big Bang is one thing. The question of the *origin* of the cosmos, which is by definition beyond testability from a scientific perspective, is another. That’s the biggest problem I have with “scientific” proclamations that something *can* come out of nothing – it’s a category error. 😉

          • It’s been a few years since I read Krauss’s book. While Krauss is having a go at the cosmologically relevant math/maths, there’s also the more general uber-point concerning the unavoidable nature of structure. It’s found in that somewhat-but-not-particularly-arcane field of Ramsey Theory.

            THE classic question in Ramsey Theory is sometimes phrased like this: “If you’ve got six people at a party, what is the probability that either three people know each other or that three people are perfect strangers (or possibly that both cases happen)?” It’s actually a trick question: the answer is 100% — it’s not a probability problem at all.

            To convince yourself, just put six dots (one for each person) on a piece of paper and between each dot draw either a solid line if two people know each other and a dotted line if they don’t. The question then is whether you can avoid drawing both a solid triangle and a dotted-line triangle. You can’t.

            With five people you can — six is the threshold, and is given the honor of being called the Ramsey number K_(3,3) – the smallest number that guarantees three mutual acquaintances or three perfect strangers. It’s actually much harder to calculate higher values like K_(7,10), but they’re known to exist.

            All of which is to say, that you can’t avoid “structure” in certain technical settings. Put in the language of randomness, it says that you can just choose people willy-nilly and, if you’ve got enough people, you’ll get your 17 mutual acquaintances or 12 perfect strangers.

            Sometimes there’s just no gap for a god to fill.

            (By the bye, “God O’ the Gap” must surely be the best name ever for a bluegrass band that rests heavily on its Irish roots)

          • MamaBear says

            I am newish here, although I have been lurking. I cannot imagine how different my life would be if I had been metaphorically beaten about the head and shoulders with a nasty and angry ‘god’ as a child and teen. I do not wonder that you ran in the opposite direction…..

            I have tested the faith of my younger days, and as I push 60, I stay happily in the RC Church….. only because I believe it is the most ‘true and accurate’ description of reality.

            I hope that you continue to learn and are led to peace. Thank you for sharing this personal account of your life and beliefs.

  7. Christiane says

    That painting under the title is magnificent.

  8. Not sure where I am re: evangelicalism.

    Visited a church yesterday and heard some interesting testimonies of faith and healings.

    The sermon on the Nephilim was also interesting, presenting the opposing case for last week’s argument (I wasn’t there) for the sex-between-humans-and-fallen-angels view. FWIW, Dr. Michael S. Heiser says this paper by Amar Annus renders all pre-2010 commentaries on Genesis 6:1-4 & the Nephilim obsolete, and deals a death-blow to the anti-supernatural view, but I’m not sure how many are willing to accept Genesis 6 being a deliberate Jewish inversion of the apkallus:


    There was a promotional note telling people to see the March 7 encore showing of Is Genesis History?

    And then in the sermon/teaching he said that you can soon expect to see “P” added to LGBT – “P” meaning “Pedophiles.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > you can soon expect to see “P” added to LGBT

      Yes, the Slippery Slope Scare Tactic – once you pull out the prop where does it stop. A bit of Rhetoric so overused it has nearly transitioned from Rhetoric to Cliche.

      Slippery Slopes often have a very natural bottom.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      you can soon expect to see “P” added to LGBT – “P” meaning “Pedophiles.”

      Don’t forget “Z” meaning “Zoophiles” (bestiality), “F” for Therians (I’m really an animal spirit trapped in a human body and T’s already taken) and “O” meaning “Otherkin” (like Therians, except reincarnations of mythical creatures like Dragons and Faeries).

      There’s a reason I just call them “The Unpronounceables” and leave it at that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I’m not sure how many are willing to accept Genesis 6 being a deliberate Jewish inversion of the apkallus:

      It would fit with Genesis being structured as a parody of Mesopotamian creation myths.

    • “The sermon on the Nephilim”? Wow interesting what people get obsessed with these days. (Perhaps many christians have this almost wholly but not entirely sublimated desire to “know” the angels.)

      I am not a tenured academic but after having been fascinated by and studying Ancient Near Eastern mythology for 30 years I can tell you that each and every image from the early part of Genesis has a counterpart in that mythology. The snake, the Trees, etc etc. My own rule of thumb is this: If you read the story in a book of Greek or Hindu mythology would you think it was real? For all his scholarship Dr Heiser still thinks that giants walked the earth and angels had sex with human women. But these same stories in other mythologies are fake of course.

      If I was a minister I think I would be a bit hesitant to toss around the accusation of “pedophilia”.

      • But reading similar stories in Greek or Hindu mythology simply supports the Genesis stories as being based on things that really happened. And where the Greek, Hindu, etc., stories differ from the Hebrew ones, we know that the Genesis stories are the correct ones.

        • Eric, I don’t follow your logic. Care to explain?

          • I’m being sarcastic. People have said those things re: the flood stories in various cultures in support of the historicity and accuracy of the Noah story.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Nephilim

        Ditto. What pastor would find that relevant… To anything? It belongs in Bible Trivia.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Enter “nephilim today” into a search engine and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

          I’ve always had an interest in Weird Stuff, but some of what came up on that search… never mind what planet, what GALAXY were they uploading from?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And even more High Weirdness from my really old email archives:

          Back in December 2002, my writing partner came across an AOL site called “Nephilim Resistance Task Force”. Apparently a dead serious site claiming the Nephilim — four meters tall, Homosexual, with double rows of teeth — are not only real, but walk among us and must be stopped by any means necessary.

          Here’s an excerpt of the complaint my informant filed with AQL hometown (note all links are dead):

          From the site:

          We also believe (through historical accounts) that there may be a time when physical warfare may be necessary to repel these spawns of evil.

          To resist evil *at all cost,* it seems, is the only way to change the face of our evil filled world. (emphasis mine)

          [dead URL] also contains inflamatory comments and promotion of “sabotage, terrorism, guerrilla warfare and paramilitary operations.”

          My request that a disclaimer be put on the web site either promoting it as a parody or role-play site has been ignored.

          My legitimate concern is that through promoting violence and murder against those they deem “evil” and promoting such statements through their message board at [dead link] somebody is going to be hurt or worse.

    • Believe me, I wish the angels and humans having sex thing was real. Mythology is a lot of fun and I wish it were true, in a fantastic kind of way.

      I’m also glad it’s probably not.

    • Reasonable.

  9. I love that art at the top.

  10. Klasie Kraalogies says

    Reading through the comment thread largely proves why this is a joyous place to come to. It really went ALL kinds of places!

  11. Clay Crouch says

    Many thanks for your fascinating series. Your candor is inspiring. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how this fleshes out in your marriage and family.

  12. This makes for very uncomfortable reading for me.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Care to elaborate, Ben?

      • Because I’m acutely aware that my faith is often maintained through habit, fear and sheer will-power, more than through rational conviction.

        God’s spectacular non-intervention in my life (or maybe his non-spectacular intervention, if you like) may be the condition sine-qua-non of my free will, but it could also become the cause of my deconversion.

        Reality is like fluffy clouds: depending on who looks at them, and when, you see rabbits or you see turtles.

        I don’t want there to just be clouds.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          I know exactly whereof you speak.

          I am not here to change anyone’s mind. For myself I just realized that I couldn’t keep on hiding from reality, from the truth. The Relentless Hounds of Reason and Reality caught me.

          • Maybe you could elaborate on being caught and how it applies to paranormal and research behind such things and how to you in belief of such might be unbelievable to you because they don’t fit your parameters

            • Klasie Kraalogies says

              Paranormal research is BS. All of it. It is contrived nonsense. Every. Single. Time. They dress up reports of it to sell TV shows and books and concert tickets.

              That’s all it is. Sorry. It has nothing to do with my parameters. It has to do with charlatans and liars and people making money of people who are desperate for meaning in a confusing world. A pox be on them and their houses, as the saying goes.

              • No and it’s okay. You have just shown me the same as you refute. The exact same thing that hurt you. Only from another side. Certainly some of the comment is true about paranormal. Just as so much is about religion. I have seen things I can’t explain with my own eyes. I was being honest. Good luck to you

                • Klasie Kraalogies says

                  No W. Stop it. Just because you like something, or want to believe it, doesn’t make it true. Things ought to be examined. What people say ought to be examined ought to be examined.

                  Just because you are hurting doesn’t give you the right to hurt others.

            • Apologetically I am not trying to change your mind or pick a fight. I am interested in a mind amazing to me in ways. How it could be locked in on any certain thing without being free to look at it all. Sorry to bring Hawkins into it about demenensions we can’t see into but surely according to Paul. How does a testimony last so long?. 4 of them. What does math or physics have to do with it? Where are those addressed in the great book.? Sarcasm on great book sorry. Honestly asking a great thinker is how do you ignore questions I have asked. People get hurt and I am sure of that. My mind can believe math and physics but it is free to except more than. I cross over bridges and go into tall buildings. Have been building many things all my life because someone figure it out.

  13. I really want to be in a state of humility especially after the way I reacted to a word. I wonder though how mathematics could explain paranormal? I once saw flowers pick straight up out of a vase and drop on the floor. Without names someone said oh that’s grandma. I didn’t asked and really I didn’t want to know. I just picked them up and put them back. I wonder how animals do what they do instinctively without being taught. Also there are no animals that cannot be domesticated by man.

    Someone above said about language. My thoughts were there was the word and the word was with God. Your belief in the unbelief as being rest seems thoughtful and somehow I understand how certain things could have brought you to such an understanding. Certainly I am not the image of Christ in anyway shape or form. Lord have mercy being my most expressed prayer. I have learned a lot and just maybe getting in is my best hope at least to this point.

    Solomon is said to be the wisest man and you seem to like that. I’m just expressing and not attacking but I think he was just spoiled. Actually like most of us, I’m sorry for having said that but it is what I see. Common sense should be wisdom something that eludes me at times. If thousands of years ago we could follow pro verbs then handed down it does make sense. My exceptions would be crack mom and dad who work everything. Mostly one could point to many things in such sayings and say that doesn’t work. Ecclesiastes makes me wonder and I wonder does it you?

    You told me to pick up my loins and do it. Hey my earthly father said the same things. I puked in five gallon buckets while grouting tile floors. Slept on sheets of drywall through break and lunch. Sat on a five gallon bucket while laying stone, Worked in the pits of foundations in one hundred degrees days for twelve hours. Been down with heat stroke where I wasn’t sure if I would live. Can’t get out of the truck anymore without groans as I can hardly move at the end of a day. Really, I get to the mountain and feed mamma cat and her son and now drop off. Can hardly bend down to get the food out and then standing up….oh my ….Yeah I’m crazy that way but I won’t stop because she gave me the little calico and trapper whose leg was removed because of a fur takers trap. Two thousand dollars later because of a promise I made God. He does pretty good with my mom. He taught me a lot actually because I’m just like him and would probably chew my leg off too to get out of this trap. Yep he tried to chew his leg off. Things like that have me never liking this place and things like that have me learning things I probably would never understand. How is that that a negative becomes a positive at the same time?

    Really I was hoping no one was going to see this comment. Just don’t want to be caught into it all. You see I have tried to break away from this forum many times and it has become addictive to me which isn’t actually what I want. So many times I have tried and yet I fail. Gets back to just maybe squeaking by. So grouchy says I quit listening to him after the fourth time. Okay……What do you say to that? I never felt a need to explain myself and I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t matter. Never wanted to be mean but sometimes I am almost certain it could go further then I would ever want. That’s why I never fought except my sister was almost rape and I almost killed him. So I just have always taken the sucker punch and smiled and it has always been enough to keep me from really hurting someone. I just want to leave here without killing anyone. If I had to go to war I would be the first one killed if I could. Just doesn’t matter to me that much I guess.

    Hope you find your way…..Really I do…. Hope we never speak again to each other here….Really I do… Don’t want to be addicted to what is actually hurting me.

    • It’s ok W.

      You’re real. You’re human–and humane.

      I’ve done plenty of work in those 100 degree days. Had to hold onto the truck door to be sure my shaky legs would hold me up. I’m 62 and still doing physical work for my living and my lower back pain makes my right leg numb.

      We, you and I are allowed to relax.

      • Thanks for commenting. Later now in last quarter of life I see differently. I wonder on paradox. I think from moment of first life I started dying. I wonder from the last breath I could start living. Seems I have a hard time with so much rudeness from others. Can’t remember a time when it wasn’t. Something like if we all did the speed limit there would be hardly any accidents, no need for expensive law enforcement and fuel economy would be better. We can’t seem to do it
        Yet going to Mars is important. …..it’s a wow for me. On phone so I am having problems with format. Seems something so simple eludes us. I see a to where cameras force it. What always has bothered me is in above thread and where what is stated is so easily applied in a paradox. I need to be forgiven not pronouncing curses. Maybe we can relax someday. ………..not to far-off

  14. I want to read Kierkegaard and Barth, but I know that if I do that I should also read Nietzsche and all the other philosophers whose teachings lead against faith. But most nights I can barely get enough of a grip on my existence in order to read a few posts on the Internet or to crawl forward in any of my paltry personal goals.

    And I think we should consider our own individual natures as the agents constructing our own worldviews. You can’t help but ask, “is it true, is it logical, is it reasonable” while making the hard choice to reject projecting emotional wishes onto the reasoning process. At least, that it how I judge your internal process based on your testimony here. I think in a vague way I sort of understand this logic-versus-emotion process (though obviously not perfectly and from a distance), and I admire it emotionally, because to me it seems like authentically doing the only thing that matters, sacrificing all for the most important thing. And here I betray my own internal process. The question of whether something and/or everything is logically sustainable is sometimes important to me, but even then it is only supports what to me is the primary question that I can’t stop asking and that I read into all things — “Does it really matter, is it authentically meaningful, what does it really mean, how does it relate to ultimate meaning?”

    That’s how my internal head noise evolved over the course of my life. I never deliberately chose to have a meaning-based mentality, but that is how I am, and I can’t help but make my deepest existential decisions that way. I’m certainly not immune to encroaching unbelief, and I’m terrified of the prospect of losing my faith — losing my meaning, the only reason to exist. But my value-based internal reasoning does give me a ready “out” from the onslaught of mechanistically logical atheism, and though such a defense may be criticized as “emotional” (an accusation that may or may not be justified — that’s another rabbit hole), I can be completely authentic and fully honest with myself while taking such an escape. (No, it doesn’t hold up as an intellectual argument even accounting for it being value-based, but it totally holds up for me as a personal argument, and all arguments and existential questions are determined within the personal agent.)

    (Okay, I’m not 100% percent sure how “ready” my ready out is, but maybe I’ll find some inadequate words to try to put it down, if it comes to that…)



    The fact that Klaise lost faith after such an intense search for truth is probably a MUCH stronger argument against God’s existence for me than any of the logical problems that lead Klaise down that path in the first place. The fact that Klaise lost faith calls in to question the meaning of searching for God at all and the value of pursuing whole truth in the deepest way.

    • Very astute and insightful, that PS..

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Thanks for that. One thing that really got me was when I realized that I also needed my reason to hold on to the things that gave me emotional support. Without reason, there is no knowledge – and thus though knowledge even of this God Ibwas claiming to follow. The man who says “Bible, not Reason” is not left alone with his Bible, but is left alone completely, with meaningless blobs of black carbon on white carbon.

      It is that wonderful old papist; one of my favourite authors, Chesterton that wrote in “Father Brown”:

      “”But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren’t a priest.”

      ‘What?’, asked the thief, almost gaping’.

      ‘You attacked reason, ‘ said Father Brown. ‘It’s bad theology'”

      – The Blue Cross, from The Innocence of Father Brown, 1911

    • Some deep stuff there, Paul, stuff worth mulling on.