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On 1st March around lunchtime - I don't have lunch, instead around that time I just maybe grab an orange and get out of the house for a few hours - but on Sunday 1st March as I was about to leave the house, the door-chimes sounded. At the door were two Jehovah's Witness guys. The younger one, Brendon, had called a week or so previously and after a brief chat had left a leaflet, which I took only out of politeness.

The fact is, I believe those people who get involved with outfits like the Jehovah's Witnesses and similar organisations are usually very decent well-meaning individuals who've become a bit lost in life, have sought some kind of support that promises to give meaning and purpose to their lives - and have then fallen victim to whatever delusional outfit happens to present itself at a crucial time and which appears to offer a chance of rescue and solace.

Anyhow, although not really curious, for some reason I lazily speed-read the leaflet - so I was slightly prepared when my visitors on that Sunday unexpectedly re-appeared. Since I was in no particular hurry to get out, and am always a mug for a philosophical discussion, I invited them in. We soon developed a good rapport and were soon engaged in a quite comprehensive and agreeable discussion that lasted about an hour, ending with me being given an email address. We'd covered various issues around those we subsequently addressed in the email exchange below. See - if you have the patience - what you think:




Hello Brendan,

An interesting chat Sunday.... and I read through your 'The Origin of Life' leaflet. It's a remarkably clear and concise account of cell biology - not my subject at all, but easy to follow. It strikes me that given the first cell, all the processes that follow fall into place in the same way that a robot would function once it has been constructed and programmed. Like the cell, a robot would perform according to environmental conditions: energy supply, stimulus and so on, and always (without any 'conscious' choice) obey the 'Laws of Physics' - or of biology, some of which we may not know yet, or don't know the full details of. 

So the question remains what gave rise to the first cell.... as though, like the robot, some creator was behind it? 

Incidentally, in a wildlife TV show yesterday about frogs, one had evolved large flaps of skin because the skin absorbs oxygen and the lake was in a high altitude so the water was low in oxygen. Obviously, frogs with the greater skin area would have an advantage over other frogs, so would predominate.... in the same way humans vary in height, say, due to small genetic differences, so the frogs would vary. In another lake a different characteristic would predominate... just as people's skin colour has evolved optimally according to climate, etc. These evolving qualities can be wide, but as you mentioned not wide enough for one species to change to another. I suppose a donkey mating with a horse to produce a mule is about the limit?  All three look kind-of similar, at any rate. 

I was interested to see Richard Feynman mentioned: 'What I cannot create, I do not understand." I have a couple of his books, and he was someone who certainly understood a lot more than most people, esp physics. We are all subject to laws of physics. 

There's no doubt that the phenomenon of life as we know and experience it is so amazing that if we weren't part of it and witnessing it we'd probably never believe such a thing was possible. 

If someone had proposed to me back in the 1960 that within 50-years ordinary people could speak with and see one another anywhere in the world using a device scarcely bigger than a credit card, I would have believed them, though most people would not. However, if someone had proposed to me the creation of google-maps, I'd have said something like that would be another 50-years because it would just seem too technically difficult. Yet there it is, already here. And in another 50-years cars and delivery lorries will probably be electric, driver-less and free...? Who knows?

But the whole issue behind the Origin of anything is that of a creator. The problem for someone like me is that when there's no evidence for some phenomenon and I wish for an explanation, I'll be inclined to go for the most plausible one. 

I don't think it's as simple as having the kind of scientific background I happen to have because a colleague with a physics PhD who was a dedicated Christian said to me one beautiful morning around 1970 when he gave me a lift to the lab: "How can anyone be an atheist on a sensational morning like this?"

I replied that it certainly gave me something to think about. But all these wonderful things - as you mentioned with the aurora caused by sub-atomic particles in the upper atmosphere reacting with Earth's magnetic field - are like the robot: they have no choice but to obey the Laws of Physics. A beautiful sunrise likewise. The fact that humans find things beautiful is another issue, I suppose. We're made of the same matter, are subject to same laws of biology, physics, etc., and share an affinity with the environment that like the frogs we've become well adapted to.

Another aspect is that however amazing life is, and however hard it is to imagine it coming into existence spontaneously as well as - so far as we know - uniquely on Earth, to imagine a creator of that life, a consciousness of some kind - ie, God - is a much bigger leap for the imagination. One can - cheating a bit perhaps - consider, at least provisionally and despite the lack of evidence as noted in the leaflet, the possibility that a primitive species evolved into a more advanced one and so on up to, so far, Man. It kind-of makes reasonable sense. Yet to speculate that a creator such as what we call God appeared from nowhere and magicked all this life and everything else into existence is a much bigger order.. and is quite hard to make sense of. It just seems so much less plausible than other theories of existence that don't involve a God - which seems to me is an entity that's far more fantastic and unlikely than just about anything else I can conceive of. 

No-one would be more contented than me to think that God was true and that somehow my existence would continue in a place we call 'heaven' after I'm dead. Alas, the way my reasoning works it's too far-fetched.

I sometimes wonder, also, if people are born with certain predispositions... for instance, some are born gay, it seems, and some straight... and people's politics can seem like that too. They have an opinion first then search for rational justification afterwards. maybe there's elements in upbringing that influence these things? And I think having faith in something as invisible and elusive and as incredible as God (as he is portrayed), is I think something a person's brain is either geared for or isn't. I know believers wouldn't accept he's invisible and elusive, but I'm not sure that I have any more choice in believing in God than in changing sexual orientation or political allegiance: which side of the line does a person fall when on one side is socialism and on the other capitalism? I know, for instance, on reflection I was a socialist when my age was in single digits, long before I heard of politics or anything associated with it. I knew my sexual orientation too, and whether I believed in God. The only one of those three things I was explicitly conscious of before my teens was God, and I really didn't see how it could be true. I remember being a bit amazed and perplexed at how all these adults who were no way stupid and all these remarkable buildings could be all about God. As you mentioned though, God and the church are not the same. I realised years ago that the bigger the fraud, the more elaborate the lie is to trick people. Hence some of the most impressive architecture in the world. 

In addition to all that, one has to accept that we've hardly evolved over several millennia, at least. Reading texts from people like Seneca, for instance, you'd think they were written yesterday. We're still relatively primitive. We might understand DNA as so well described in your leaflet but that's only the basics. As you mentioned about why people age... when, if ever, will we learn to extend life expectancy to several hundred years; to eliminate ailments; make everyone contented without turning them into zombies? A lot has been achieved in recent times, but these are technical issues. We're probably still as mixed-up in social and personal ways on average as in Seneca's time. We can still learn, I guess, from the ancient Chinese or Indian gurus from millennia ago. Still, it's all essentially technical - even a doctor is basically a kind of technician. 

But it's always interesting weighing these things. I have many books and subjects I regret having not yet read or investigated. Life is too short. The more I learn the more I realise how ignorant I am. Anyhow, I hope my failure to share your angle on God is OK... and I'm sorry to write such a long email. 




Hi Phil,

Firstly, I must comment how refreshing it is to meet someone who has an active mind & gives thought to the deeper issues surrounding life. I certainly respect your views & observations even if we view them from a different angle.

As discussed Sunday, we must seek out the facts or else opinions are just theories, unproven ideas or inaccuracies. From your comments it seems we agree Laws exist which govern life on this planet & beyond. Why & where did they come into existence? Which order did they take? Order is evident in all life forms and we see no evidence of order resulting from disorder, i.e an explosion disperses matter in a chaotic way and does not 'create' order.

We have no evidence of life spontaneously starting from nothing, all we see is life forming from existing life, even if in simple form. Then life remains according to it's kind or species, sometimes adapting to new environments like the frogs or Darwins finches, but always remaining within its species. DNA governs this. So what came first, RNA, DNA or proteins? All 3 are needed to form a basic cell, yet RNA cannot exist without proteins, so can it have formed spontaneously by chance? The facts state no.

Laws require inteligent input, they do not just appear, the same way an inanimate object can operated through code input by an inteligent human, what it will lack is conscience though. My opinion is that it takes more faith to accept the theory of evolution than the idea of a creator - this is why I make that statement;

Revelation 4:11 - our Creator deserves the praise and respect due for the phenomenon of life. As you say it's amazing & we are still learning which I believe will never cease. Our capacity to grow in knowledge & expand our understanding is evidence in itself we were not meant to die.

Isaiah 48:17,18 - speaks about our Creator teaching us to benefit ourselves & guiding us to peace. I see this first hand on many levels, undeniable evidence that living by bible principles can overcome racial, tribal, social & cultural divides leading to a measure of peace now which any political system can only dream of achieving.

Ecclesiastes 1:4 - states the earth remains forever. Our creators purpose for this planet has not changed, Isaiah 65:21,22 gives detail of what we can look forward to. 

Religion may teach of an after life or life in heaven, the bible does not. Mankind was designed to live happily on this jewel of a planet. The bible is clear at Genesis 2:7; 3:19, Psalm 103:14, Ecclesiasties 3:20; 9:5 when we die we cease to exist, no heaven, no afterlife no punishment; the Apostle Paul made this clear at Roman's 6:23. What we do have is the opportunity to develop a healthy respect for our creator, come to understand Him through a study of His word & then make the conscious decision to live life by His principles - the result is the prospect of everlasting life on this earth as originally intended. Malachi 3:16 speaks of a book of remembrance written by our creator so even if we die before His intervention we are not forgotten and the resurrection back to life on this earth Jesus spoke about at John 5:29 is our reward.

Why can we have confidence in the bible?
3 key reasons;
Scientific Accuracy before it's time. (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7 & Ecclesiasties 1:7).
Prophecy. Not only foretelling future events in great detail but also recording its fulfillment. (Daniel 2:31-45 the rise of world powers starting with ancient Babylon. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 attitudes in society leading up to Gods intervention. Matthew 24:3-14 a composite sign of events, v.14 now being fulfilled as the good news is now preached in every known land by unpaid volunteers!)
Moral Laws. Only the Creator knows what is best for mankind. (Deuteronomy 22:1-4; 23:12,13; 25:13-16).

Psalm 145:3 states our Creators greatness is unreachable & like you the more I read & come to understand the more ignorant I feel! We have discussed only this planet, there is a whole universe and other dimensions which we can but imagine.

There is no such person who is a lost cause Phil, all I would add is keep an open mind to the concept of a Creator without the fear of acknowledging accountability to Him. 

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the 'assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen'.  What requires more faith - the theory which is unable to be replicated and the facts state as impossible or accepting a higher intelligence who is the originator & sustained of life with a purpose?

I hope we get to chat more and please do not be offended by anything I have said, my intention is not to convert or dismiss any of your views, merely to reason on the facts. 

Enjoy the sunshine Phil, take care and apologies for the long reply! 




Hi Brandon,

Thanks for your email. I guess most of us who like to think about and try to understand existential issues are seeking facts and hoping that what we perceive as ‘reality' is neither delusion nor misinterpretation. And despite what I write below, as an atheist I’ve often - when it seemed appropriate -translated the word God to mean ‘nature’ or ‘the universe’, or even inside my (everyone’s) right-brain as part of what Jung called ‘The Collective Unconscious’ that we all share, or as the author Colin Wilson suggested in his book ‘Frankenstein’s Castle’ – we listen to our right brain and think it’s God talking to us. However…

I remember even as a kid in single digits being immensely puzzled by all these esteemed adults: teachers at school, vicars, archbishops, the pope, and many ‘lesser’ people, etc., believing so confidently in something that to me wasn’t just invisible and undetectable, but was impossible to prove or disprove, and at the same time seemed to me far more fantastic and improbable than the wizards and dragons etc., in the story books I read and which I knew to be invention, fiction.

Regardless of what these religious people said, whether from the bible or elsewhere, however assertively or meekly they conducted ‘services' or 'prayer', to me there remained not a smidgen of evidence that God was anything but myth, in spite of its popularity. I had the impression that ‘believers’ were either deluded or had some agenda for conspiring to convince us kids, at least, that unlike Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy God, in contrast, was somehow real.

I’ve no idea why I, unlike most people so it seemed, questioned and failed to accept the 'reality' of God. I wondered for quite a few years what could be the reason, the motivation, for inventing such an entity? This was most poignant considering that belief in some kind of supernatural being was fairly universal, and that religion had inspired some of the most outstanding, impressive and beautiful art and architecture in the world, and at enormous effort and expense over millennia too…. So the whole phenomenon struck me as an enormous mystery. What, precisely, could be behind it? How and why does it appear so unreal only to me? (I didn't know then that other people didn't believe in God, and wasn't yet articulate enough to be able to discuss it with other people, not even my peers).

Did I, and most of my friends so far as I could tell, lack some sense required for ‘seeing’ God? I remember thinking, after reading Hans Anderson’s famous story of the same title, that it was the most perfect example of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ one could imagine. And judging by all kinds of other manipulative activities adults employed for controlling us kids, I came to assume there were underhand elements involved: if people were brought-up to fear an all-seeing God then they can be easily dominated. Only those who are not hoodwinked remain free.

As a teenager I stumbled on sci-fi and read Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ books. One of these described a scenario where priests were agents of a ruling power-structure on a nearby planet and the population of Earth was being subtly controlled through them. I loved that idea – except in reality there were no nearby habitable planets.

The bible is interpreted by different people in different ways – and I imagine likewise for other ancient texts such as the Koran, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads and various Buddhist texts….  etc., etc. People are inclined to see what they choose to see, interpret what are often ambiguous texts in ways that suit their underlying beliefs and dispositions.

Another thing I remember well was when I was 12 or 13 I built a cheap transistor radio from a kit and on an independent channel heard an American guy called Garner Ted Armstrong in his super-confident deep compelling voice asking 'Does God Exist?'. He'd talk for maybe 15 or 20 minutes and end on a cliff-hanger that promised next week would reveal the answer. Curious of how he'd do this, I made sure to tune-in for the next episode. Somehow I really thought (or hoped?) he might come-up with something new. Alas, once again he'd waffle compellingly on until another cliff-hanger and again the promise that the great secret would be revealed next time. And so it went on… until I realised it never would be revealed because there was actually nothing to reveal. He was promoting a magazine called 'The Plain Truth'. I also reflected that whatever he’d have said, it wouldn’t have been at all convincing because it would be only words - and anyone clever can string words into anything they like.

Anyhow, to address your email: first, as I see it, the laws of nature/physics are ultimately dependent on how sub-atomic particles interact, which affects how atoms and then molecules interact and then higher orders of things like complex structures for life. Whatever process - evolution or God - gave rise to everything, particularly life and its development, a lot of processes are predictable - that is, put this thing with that thing and you get so and so as a result. And it always happens the same. That's science (a word derived from 'truth', I believe). If you can't predict or repeat something, then you have a mystery or an error.

You might ask how something came into existence - life - and this can be investigated, though maybe not solved. What you can't ask science is why... or if you do then science will reply: it happened because first this (the Big Bang – or the first cell), which caused that, which ended with what you see. And you'll say: but why the Big Bang/first cell? And science will dish out a series of speculative theories – guesses that probably won’t be any less or more fantastic than the notion of God.

You say we see no order from disorder, but I’ve seen for instance someone pulling a continuous string of nylon from a flask containing a mixture of chemicals. There's the example of crystals forming. There’s also the solar-system that formed, it seems due to gravity, from a chaotic spread of swirling dust and rocks, then comets from elsewhere randomly smashing into the forming planets bringing other elements and water. Evidence appears to show that the sun has existed for maybe 5-billion years and is about half-way through its life. I’ve no idea whether these kinds of understandings of our physical circumstances conflict with what’s written in the bible or in other equivalent texts.

There may be, as you’ve said, no evidence for the spontaneous forming of life, or evolution as it’s portrayed, but that doesn’t mean people won’t someday find evidence. We are really still very primitive - in how we investigate various phenomenon or fail to investigate it, and how we are victim to base instincts that were essential for survival in a stone-age setting but are now a liability and could cause our extinction. Characteristics like greed, selfishness, our predilection for war and asserting our ego, the way we, like spoiled ignorant children, are destroying our environment. Apart from technology, we seem to have advanced, if at all, only marginally in many thousands of years. Even our technology is primitive if we compare it with what it could be in the future – ie, compare now with a century ago.

Attributing, though, the processes that led to life and our current situation to a God because we have found no other convincing explanation, seems to me that we are doing precisely what people did millennia ago to explain what we now understand well, phenomenon such as lightning. How easy it is to say that anything I can’t unearth an explanation for I will ascribe to God, then sit back and relax: mystery solved. If people hadn’t in the past been curious for a rational explanation for a phenomenon rather than just saying it’s God then we’d still be quite ignorant about many things.

I don’t wish to be stubborn or abrasive, but I can see no more evidence for God than for unproven evolution. Which of them is easier to have faith in is probably subjective. But ease for faith, or less effort for the imagination, seems to me dubious grounds for deciding which to accept or have faith in and which to discard. Darwin explains how a species changes and adapts (rather than becomes a new species, perhaps), while the bible explains God. They are both texts, nothing but texts, brilliant texts perhaps, but mere texts. True, the bible is solid with insights, exposing and examining a myriad of underlying aspects of the human psyche and moral questions in the form of fables and stories and so on. And this is all fine for me when I read the word God in many of the stories as nature or human conscience.

When you suggest laws require intelligent input – what about the laws that govern the intelligence or gave rise to it? Even if we know only a few laws, such as about electricity and magnetism that governs the way much of our technology operates, why should other, or all, laws not operate in a similar way that we don't yet understand within its particular realm: law of the jungle, nuclear forces…?

Isn’t our capacity to expand understanding down to social/cultural evolution, learning from experience, building a body of knowledge and applying it – as we do with technology: ie, medicine, biology, mechanisation, psychology, spiritual issues, meditation and Zen?

I think there are many errors in our observations of existence, though we get many things right too…. Like we land a rover on Mars and measure the sun’s energy, we trace the Earth’s path and calculate its wobbles and so on over millions of revolutions around the sun that impact changes of climate, which life has adapted to or perished. When you say the bible tells us the world will last forever… I suppose it’s correct from all practical considerations, even though the sun has only so much energy and when that’s gone Earth will go too. And if an asteroid like one that was thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs hit again then we could be wiped out in the same way.

I hadn’t realised the bible said we cease to exist. This to me seems obvious. Although I’ve only ever read bits here and there of the bible, I have great respect for it as a body of understanding, advice, etc., as I do for nature and so on. Accurate prophesies or other truisms suggests to me a very good understanding of human psychology, statistics, probability, knowledge of the natural world, insight, luck… Richard Feynman made some astute observations for coincidence and prediction, for instance, basing his explanations on a full understanding of the broad perspective of what you’re actually assessing together with probabilities. He would easily explain events like someone receiving a phone-call to tell them of a death that they foresaw a few hours earlier. Or that every few hundred years there's an 80% chance that so-and-so will happen… 

I think it was Derren Brown who did an experiment where he interviewed several students and a week later gave them a printout of his assessment of them with all kinds of details about them and their ‘inner' lives that astonished them and they wondered how he could have known. What turned out to be most astonishing, though, was that the printouts were all identical. Brown is not a magician, but merely had a good understanding of student psychology, I suppose, and knowledge of things that were common to everyone but were thought to be unique by individual people.  

The question is: how does one apprehend what can’t be seen or otherwise detected… faith to me is based on palpable experience. My faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, that I will one day die… they’re easy to have faith in, but faith in a God is something else.

Even so everyone has their own experience and way of thinking and assessing these things together with thousands of other aspects of life and the culture we live in as well as other cultures both real and imagined (ie, in fiction stories). If I were to say I had faith there was a God as portrayed in any of the scriptures or religions then I’d be lying. If someone held a gun to my head – was it Copernicus who had to pretend he hadn’t observed that the Earth moved around the sun to save his life? - then I think I’d say what I was told to say. In fact I used to often do that as kid: pretend I believed in God to make life easy, such as when talking to the local vicar – my mum always went to church Sundays.

So that’s my side of the story - so far.

I don’t discuss religion with other email friends because it never comes-up, I think they're all atheists except one maybe who I don't have any wish to argue with…. as I say, we all have different experience, though it isn’t only experience that shapes our thought and perceptions, of course.

So today it looks as though spring has finally arrived. Let’s hope so.




Hi Phil, good to hear from you again and interesting observations. 

Like so many, your early introduction to the bible seemed to have left more questions than anwsers, this due to religion teaching what it thinks as opposed to what the bible says. When you trace the history of religion it leads to ancient Babylon with common threads of doctrine such as the Trinity, eternal torment & immortality of the soul. All of this has been used to control & dominate people, yet has no roots in scripture. (Ecclesiaties 8:9 & 2 Peter 1:20,21).

When the bible is studied as a whole and we look to see what evidence supports it, answers can be found. Like any subject we must investigate the detail and not just focus on sweeping generalisation. 

Mens ability to make general predictions as you quote, based upon probability is unable to compare to the accuracy of bible prophecy, however to appreciate this we have to make the effort to examine the facts. Having visited the British Museum on several occasions, the detailed evidence for the accuracy of bible prophecy is overwhelming.

Solomon made interesting observations in Ecclesisties 1:16-18; 12:12. We can go through life gaining knowledge yet never being close to gaining wisdom. The idea that believing in a God is the easy option and requires no exploration of thought is a little narrow minded in my opinion. Attributing life to a theory, unproven and lacking in evidence, whilst releasing its followers from accountability for their actions seems a far easier if not self destructive path to me. Epicurus had such ideas in 341-270 BCE which did little to improve society in his day. 

I must admit I find email a little 'sterile' as a means of communication when discussing such emotive subject matter. Hopefully we will have opportunity to discuss further in person soon. 

I hope you enjoy the start of Spring, let's hope it stays for more than a few hours! 




Hi Brandon,

It looks as if your implied observation about spring staying for a mere few hours yesterday is correct, alas.

I take your point, though, that it is indeed a lot easier to believe in some unproven theory of how life originated and evolved - such as proposed by Darwin, perhaps - than to believe in a god. When I suggested that God was an easy option for explaining something, it was with the understanding that the seeker for that explanation was a believer. For an atheist, God can never be the explanation for anything - so for me, when someone says God did this or that, then I regard it as kind-of cheating - and instead we should accept we just don't know and should therefore continue to investigate whatever the mystery is if indeed we are really interested in a genuine answer. 

So I agree that to believe in God is very difficult - at least, I can't do it. The concept for me is impossible because even though I realise there are aspects of existence I'm unaware of, and can never detect (I don't just mean things like radiation for which i'd need a Geiger-counter), there's nothing in my experience to suggest such a phenomenon as God actually exists except in the minds of people who believe it... I was about to write 'choose to believe it' but I'm sure it's not a matter of choice. Maybe it's something some people 'feel'? 

I've been through 'the system', gone to church, spoken with people who believe in God, including non-Christian 'Gods'....  ~ 3 decades ago I spent a while travelling in several parts of the world and met all kinds of people who believed all kinds of things according to what they were brought-up to believe. I was brought-up with Christianity and Jesus, the depiction of whose life struck me as eminently admirable and a great example. And Buddhism, for instance, teaches that when we follow that kind of example of Jesus we benefit from 'good' karma, and when we deviate from it we experience 'bad' karma. None of this requires a belief in any god... nor did the ten commandments need God to invent them. Intelligent decent people are quite capable of developing these ideas and rules for a worthwhile, rewarding culture, civilisation, life.  

There are many things I don't understand that other people do. I know little about medicine or chemistry or biology or rocket science or carpentry (though I can work-out enough, perhaps, to make a table, say), and there's many things that no-one knows - such as how to create a fusion reactor and how to oppose gravity or whether there's water on the moon (maybe they found some?). And I'm fine with not knowing these and many other things - otherwise I'd be in perpetual torment. So I'm quite OK not knowing how life originated or evolved... maybe someone will find out some day, maybe not... I assume those who are interested enough make such investigations part of their work and career. If someone discovers evidence that God actually exists and can present their findings so we can all see for ourselves using our normal senses that we use in our normal everyday lives, then that would really be something. But no-one's been able to do that in the many thousands of years since we humans came-up with the idea of God because, as I see it, that's what it is - an idea, a notion, maybe a really wonderful and amazing notion, but a notion nonetheless. And that notion can take the form of Mohammed or the Norse God Thor or the Great Ju-Ju... not being an anthropologist or theologian I really know nothing about these religions. 

The difference, as you suggest from Solomon, between knowledge and wisdom is one of many observations from the bible that we should all understand - and I think most people do. What one does with knowledge is crucial and depends on our level of wisdom. I'd imagine these kinds of observations and understandings are to be found in other religious texts too, as well as integrated in cultures from even many thousands of years ago. I can't see, though, what the concept of God has to do with it. 

Anyhow... one can discuss the various merits of God or no God - believing or not believing in God - ad nauseam. For some reason I don't have the psychological facility that makes possible belief in a god or to have faith in the existence of an entity I've never experienced. Some people, apparently, have it, some don't. I don't think there's anything I can say to you, or any text I could direct you to - such as from Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' or 'Outgrowing God' - that could persuade you that God is as I perceive it: a creation of the human mind. And likewise, I don't think there's anything you can say to me, or texts like the bible that can change how I regard the concept. But it's always good to discuss things - even if we can only do so from an intellectual angle.

.... and today, once again, no sun - spring has retreated again. Global warming doesn't seem to be operating in our favour just now. 





Hi Phil,

Yes it seems my prediction of spring not lasting (based upon probability I might add) was sadly correct, another wet & windy day. 

As you state belief in God comes down to choice, we thankfully are not forced into it! As we have discussed, the tangible evidence we witness around us indicates intelligent design, life coming from life & order as opposed to life starting randomly by chance from nothing. Based on this we make our choice and choices have consequences.  We can spend our lifetime gaining knowledge yet when it ends we realise we know very little and at the same time powerless to stop our degeneration. 

Man takes great strides in technology medicine & science, yet also achieves little in improving quality of life or eradicating illness & old age. In fact many technological advancements are heralded as contributing to the improvement of life, yet after a few years we realise they are in fact damaging - splitting of the atom and carbon fuels for example.  Because we live such short lives our perspective is naturally very limited and therefore we are unable to fully understand the consequences of our actions. 

I agree man has the capacity to understand a great deal more than we do now; I would say we have been designed to never stop learning, yet we are not designed to govern or rule each other, hence why we have a greed driven society where the majority just want to seek pleasures and accumulate material wealth. Jeremiah summed it up in Jer 10:23.

There are millions of people spread over every known country who by choosing to live by bible principles are living evidence that there is a Creator. These people achieve a variety of work which any government can only dream of achieving and they do it unpaid - many governments have gone on record to testify to this fact. Despite vicious opposition this people have grown and continue to grow. The spread of bible truth has reached a peak never seen in man's history, fulfilling further bible prophecy. Micah 4:1 & Matthew 24:14.

Atheism & evolution have failed to convince me that God does not exist as much as the bible and tangible evidence has failed to convince you that he does. I am sure we are both content with the consequences of our decisions. 

Enjoy the wind & rain, I am sure it will be Spring soon. 



Hi Brandon,

You certainly raise many interesting points - and I can't disagree with most of what you say, except I'm not sure that you're entirely right when you say belief in a god is by choice. Maybe for some people it is, but for me it isn't. I can lie to myself (and others) and believe that monsters still exist in remote parts of South America, or yeti or whatever mythical creature or indeed God, but inside I know I'm lying and if someone hypnotised me, assuming that gets to what a person is genuinely thinking, then the hypnotist would find I was lying.

True, I can lie to anyone and say they're good-looking when I think otherwise - just to make them happy - but I KNOW I'm lying and perhaps smoothing social relationships. I can lie - or more precisely pretend - to be confident and tell someone I can fix their car, say, when I know little but want to help and maybe perchance it might be simple to fix. But I KNOW I'm lying. 

Developing the faith that something exists when you kind-of really know or believe it doesn't, or all the experience of your life tells you it doesn't, is self-delusion. There's nothing wrong with that when the consequences are benign or marginal. It can give people who's early upbringing precluded the establishing of a full sense of self a great sense of security. I believe it's to my good fortune (either due to good parenting or luck) that as a kid I did somehow develop a strong sense of self, so I've always felt secure in myself and even if there have been times when I've welcomed (or would have welcomed) a shoulder to lean on, as it were, I've never felt the need for anything beyond myself, or that another person couldn't provide, certainly not anything like a god or guardian angle.

Sadly, many people don't have this and need emotional/spiritual support of a kind not easily found from other people, something that offers unconditional solace or even rescue from 'themselves' or from suffering whatever travails life has thrown at them. I understand that - from reading psychologists such as Ronald Laing, for instance, among others, I know that kind of support is extremely rare for those who need it most. But I do realise that religion can provide for some what is lacking from other people. And I know religion inspires great positive outcomes such as from amazing people like Desmond Tutu, or the Dalai Lama and other great spiritual people. But millions too are hoodwinked by versions of religion or 'fake' spiritual bodies that actually cause harm in a variety of ways both to themselves and others. Perhaps not in your particular religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but millions of young people are scarred victims of, for instance, the US bible belt Fascists who shove what to me seems a very unpleasant version of God down their throats and turns them into 'blinded and blinkered' imbeciles.

Then there's many millions who's faith is so solid that a few of them (though most, of course, are sane and gentle) somehow get twisted ideas and become suicide bombers in the secure understanding that they will enter paradise when they die. You can hardly get a more embedded faith than that. Perhaps they do enter paradise somehow, but I'd be pretty certain they just die like any other animal or crushed insect and that's the end of them. How so many get indoctrinated so successfully with such humbug, at least humbug as I see it, when they're otherwise as intelligent, sometimes much more intelligent, than me is indeed baffling. It indicates the immense power of indoctrination - I hesitate to quote Darwin to you, but the quote strikes me as eminently appropriate:

"It is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, whilst the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason."  - Charles Darwin    

How is it, though, I ask, these 'fanatics' don't reflect on the nonsensical nature they've been programmed with, or the possibly that their God is pure myth, which they've been brought-up to believe in even though it's nowhere apparent to their normal senses, and that death is the same for them as for any other life-form: the end kaput. Paradise, they should be taught, if there is such a thing, can only exist in this life or in a person's head.

Another question one might ask is where precisely does God reside? Is there such a place as heaven and if so where in space is it? These might be what could be termed 'juvenile' questions, but to anyone with an open mind, an agnostic, say, they are surely poignant and relevant. 

It is of great merit, true, that millions of people live 'good' lives - as you say, according to bible principles, if by that you mean, for example: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.  The fact is, I'm not sure what 'bible principles' are because they are often ambiguous, but if you mean the principles Jesus reputedly taught, the examples he set in how he lived, then I couldn't agree more with what you say. Even so, to do that doesn't require belief in a god. There's no shortage of people who live, or aspire to live, in a way Jesus would have approved of and who are atheists.  

I don't think I've addressed all of your points, but now the sun is out.... wonderful.

I have no doubt whatever, though, that those who are attracted to and respond to organisations like the Jehovah's Witnesses are almost always very decent well meaning people, much more so than average, who find in it social relationships and ideals and so on that we all need and benefit from, but are so generous they give time and energy and take great trouble to tell and welcome others to join in. 





Hi Phil,

Likewise interesting comments by way of return. I would challenge the idea that to believe or not in God is no way a choice; you have weighed up the evidence and made your choice not to accept belief in God. I agree religion has deceived and misled many in its quest for control of the masses much like political and ruling entities of society throughout history.  We all choose who we support or not as the case maybe.

It's interesting to consider the role conscience plays in this process. What determines right from wrong?  Perhaps this is what Darwin is actually commenting on in the quote you make. Paul makes a similar reference in Romans 2:13-15.  Animals act instinctively, as governed by their DNA, which is why we do not see evidence of one species evolving into another. Humans, whilst defined by our DNA, also possess conscience which we are able to train - Hebrews 5:14. Where did conscience evolve from & what evidence is there?

Jesus life & teachings certainly provide a record of bible principles, however to take just his teachings in isolation would be no better than what most religions practice which is why there are so many differing beliefs.  To understand the roots of these principles we have to study the bible as a whole then we get to understand the 'Truth' Jesus mentioned at John 8:32. 

Hope you have been able to enjoy the brief glimmers of sunshine, if the forecast is right tomorrow will be better.



Hi Brandon,

Your last email is comprehensive yet answers some key questions very clearly and concisely.

If most religions are based on the morality and conduct demonstrated by Jesus, then I suppose it makes little difference which God one chooses to believe in. Most people seem deprived of a choice, though, because they're indoctrinated when very young to follow the Muslim or the Christian or whatever of many religious faiths. In Iran huge numbers of people bow to their god in Friday prayers because they've had to accept the ritual from when very young and I imagine it would be a taboo to detract from that - maybe at the risk social isolation or worse. Perhaps it's likewise in the US bible belt with their particular interpretation of what God is? 

I believe no-one should be even encouraged to engage with a religion before the age of about 12 or even 15.... the same as when they might be introduced to and begin thinking about political issues, perhaps, and sex and other aspects of life that involve 'conscious' engagement. That would present everyone with the opportunity to examine a range of religions before they make a conscious choice of which to believe in or none or even create a private version of God that suits them best. 

If, though, believing in God or a god is a choice, then I suppose I could equally well decide to believe in The Great Sage of Saturn and mesmerise myself into imagining I'm receiving messages from that planet - something like David Icke, perhaps.... we regard such eccentric people with scepticism, but if many millions latched-on and 'immersed' their children in it as most religions do from an early age, then I guess it would be highly respected, as the Christian and Muslim faiths are now. In fact, I think there have been several religions existing thousands of years ago but became extinct. 

For whatever reason, though, I find all these interpretations of what God is fail to relate to the real world that I experience... including moments or periods of 'peak experience' or 'joyful wonder' or whatever kind of spiritual delight one can feel from an amazing location or piece of music etc. The complexity of our brains gives rise to all kinds of weird inner experiences, some of which lead to the invention of gods. If we were brought-up in a world where no-one believed in a god or even mentioned the idea of a god then would we soon create one? Maybe we would. It's as if this planet is 'contaminated' like the planet in Dostoyevsky's 'A Strange Man's Dream' became 'contaminated' by the visiting protagonist.

If most religions are based on trying to emulate  the example of Jesus (or similar) in how we live and treat others then I'm all for it - and subscribe myself... I just don't relate to the supernatural aspect. Nor do I approve of what I think Jesus would disapprove of - even if I am a hypocrite and fail to adhere to his teaching myself. It's an ideal worth aiming for, I think. Whether Jesus actually existed or is an elaborate fiction is irrelevant - it's a great story either way and shouldn't be dependent on belief in the supernatural. I imagine, though, that side of the story was thought necessary if it was to catch-on and really influence how people conducted themselves... it creates an aura of mystery, like the resurrection. Atheists like me, I suppose, don't believe these things actually happened, but are metaphor containing meanings that present the opportunity for creative interpretation.

That's great - John 8.32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

The truth, though, is different things to different people. And the kind of thing I mean by interpretation is like John 8.15 - which is what I think a few people believe is somehow the literal truth - I guess what they call 'heaven', since they can't deny the reality of death as we so palpably witness it. 



Well it's certainly been interesting swapping thoughts and beliefs with you. Our discussion has certainly helped convince me further of what I feel is the 'Truth' and no doubt you feel the same toward your views.  I hope we get to meet in person sometime soon. Take care and enjoy the sunshine. 



Hi Brandon,

Thanks for your very tolerant, good-natured and interesting responses to my persistent questioning of faith in a god. I appreciate your effort and will keep the emails. I have tried to understand the issues we discussed on a couple of occasions in the recent past when those friendly young American Mormon guys from Utah have called - like with you I've invited them in and we've discussed the same things. And I remember likewise only once before when I was about 12 trying to fathom God by asking the local vicar of the church my mum attended Sundays. But I won't waste any more of your time so please don't feel obliged to respond again. Finally, though, I'd just like to explain myself.

There are several aspects of mind that for me are like a default condition that when I reflect on my early childhood I realise were present then. It's a bit like but not quite the same as what I think Buddhists call the 'I' that kind-of stands unaffected above me the person so if I choose to focus from that position I can watch my mind and body and its actions, experiencing joy, anger, indifference... all the processes that make-up my everyday life. But that 'default' (not the 'I') concerns how I 'think' (or perhaps 'don't think' would be more accurate) with the least effort... that is, 'authentically', with no forcing in any particular direction. When I do this my mind is at peace, as it were. I learned the academic aspects of this from studying a little theosophy - nearly 30-years ago. But it was really enlightening because it explained how people become stressed when they deviate from their authentic self, they engage in what the theosophists call 'inappropriate' action or thinking. If my default condition happened to lean towards Fascism then I'd be comfortable to step over beggars in the street, and even despise them. As it is, and as was/is my particular default, I feel sad when I see beggars and if I fail to give them money I get a twinge of guilt - because, presumably, I'm failing to conform to my authentic self.

This 'self' operates best without conscious intellectual input, which can interfere. The intellect should, ideally, respond to the authentic self - not the other way around as is nearly always how most people operate, and which is why the world, at least the West, is so much in turmoil: millions of people on anti-depressants, millions slaving at useless activity, constant argument about wealth and poverty, capitalism and socialism, failure to act on preventing destruction of the environment... 

I have faked belief in a god, when I was a kid, but I knew I didn't really believe it because it left me with the same unsettled feeling that goes with any kind of self-deception - such as stepping around tramps and trying to pretend not to care. Either one does care or doesn't care. I, for one, have no control over whether I care or not. I have total control over what I do about it, but no control over how I feel. True, I can become hardened, I can become so familiar that I numb to it - which might be the only way to survive in some circumstances. But then I'm out-of-touch with my authentic self. And to live freely and authentically is so much better - one experiences more closely the benefits of being human and not just an animal or automaton.

No-one can be 100% authentic - except Jesus, and Buddha (after his great search)... but to be more at peace with oneself it helps to move towards it. To do this one should be conscious of one's authentic self. Interestingly, go around most of the world and you'll find the most generous friendly people of all are the poorest. They haven't spent their lives trying to get rich or powerful, they haven't made an effort to swindle or mistreat others. It's far preferable to be poor and authentic than rich and inauthentic. 

Another aspect I realised once when discussing the merits of vegetarianism with a colleague was that issues are not always as clear-cut as they appear on the surface. I've eaten no meat since 1981, though I do eat eggs and fish and drink cows milk - so I'm a bit of a hypocrite there, I confess - but my reason was originally purely due to seeing a TV documentary on the meat industry, the brutality and cruelty and so on. Subsequently, health and environmental issues have also come to light. But in reply to me saying that people shouldn't be allowed to breed animals for food, this colleague said: "What about all the little lambs skipping in the sunshine every springtime, all that joy in the world wouldn't happen?" My reply to that was, "Does that outbalance the horror of their death?" And he responded, "The life lasts several years, the death is just one day."

I realise this is an intellectual examination, but it does present an angle that hadn't occurred to me. And that's the kind of eye-opening I guess I've been hoping for from discussing God with people like you who's authentic condition, unlike mine, seems to include a recognition of a particular version of God.

I can discuss these issues on and on... how dull other people would be if we all agreed and saw things in the same way. 

Today really does feel like spring.... there's optimism for you!

Thanks again Brandon... and Very Best Wishes




Good morning Phil,

Apologies for taking so long to reply, amazing how quickly society has changed due to the latest pandemic.  Thank you for continuing to express your beliefs, I am glad we are able to have such respectful conversation despite not necessarily agreeing on key issues.

It interests me how you explain the 'authentic' self, almost like a default setting we are born with.  The bible defines this as 'sin', our default position due to our first human parents choosing independence from our Creator - Genesis 2:17.  Man tries desperately to fight our in born degeneration, to prolong life beyond 80-90yrs but to no avail, even if we do get an extension of time then what quality of life is it?  Paul referred to the struggle with the default self in Romans 7:21-24.  I agree that nobody should 'fake a belief in God' this would be hypocritical, yet we can transform our thinking if we desire as Romans 12:2 states.  

At 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Paul makes an interesting statement.  No one is forced to believe in God and rightly so, yet when God acts to restore His Sovereignty there will be no justifiable reason for anyone to say 'we didn't know'.  That's why the prophecy at Matthew 24:14 is so important and why Jehovah's Witnesses preach in every known country, to fulfill Isaiah 65:1,2; 21-25.  We are now seeing fulfillment of Revelation 6:7-8 another prophecy pointing to the time we are living in.  Again, we need to weigh up the evidence and make our choice, much like choosing to be a vegetarian - some choose this because they feel there is evidence that it has health benefits, others because it is a moral issue, some because they feel it helps the planet.

I hope you are able to keep well and free from the virus.  It is always good to share views with you and as much as I would not wish to waste my time I would not wish to waste yours either, so likewise please do not feel obliged to respond further.  Take care Phil and enjoy Spring.  



Hello Brandon,

This concept of the 'authentic' self has interested me ever since I read about the ideas of Ronnie Laing some years ago.... I'll attach a photo of a double page in a biography I just happen to be reading, which I found for 75p in the Oxfam shop a couple of weeks ago. The book being referred to in the excerpt is Laing's 'The Divided Self'.

S​o​ ​from the description of how we can develop two selves (perhaps more than two, as Luigi Pirandello observed), ​​one might wonder​​ ​what precisely the 'real' self is​? ​W​e are all brought-up imperfectly to differing degree​, after all​. The notion of 'original sin' ​as you say​​ is based on ​our original choice to be independent of God - our failure to obey God. But if to me God is actually what I regard as my 'authentic' self rather than some mysterious all-seeing all-powerful creator, then I can see how it relates to ​this​ 'Divided Self'​ that Laing recognised​​.

I imagine stable, decent, contented people probably are hardly divided at all, and people like Jesus were not even slightly divided, while the most disturbed unhappy or cruel people are very divided although many are not schizophrenic in the usual clinical sense and are able to function in western society and prosper - perhaps it's mostly they who prosper in terms of finance and power.

So perhaps the more attuned to our authentic self, the closer we are to what you call God, and 'original sin' is actually integral to the human condition and unavoidable. As Laing demonstrated, in his books and even some youtubes, it's usually possible to overcome the worst effects of this division of 'selves' - reduce the extent of the 'sin' - though I believe his work only involved those who struggled to function in society because of it. Even so, he wrote an outstanding book called 'The Politics of Experience' where he proposes that in most cases it isn't the individual who is 'mad' but the society they are being forced against their will to conform to and which most people have been coerced into believing is sane and desirable - they have been programmed, as are we all to varying degree: ie,

"Modern society clamps a straightjacket of conformity on every child that's born. In the process Man's potentialities are devastated and the terms 'sanity' and 'madness' become ambiguous..."

So there's a range of perspectives around this idea of self. But another aspect is how we experience something and then failing any obvious cause for that experience we search for an explanation. I have a cousin who believes in water divining and even told me that he knows someone who works for the water company who caries in their van a twig for detecting water. They have more reliable other techniques, of course, too. And survival books consistently advise against it because, they say, it's a waste of valuable time. Also, controlled experiments have failed to prove it works. So the twig is like God.... an explanation that in our lack of a full understanding we find acceptable.  My own explanation for the twig is that some people - though we all probably have the potential for it - unconsciously perceive various signs that water might be or has been present or likely to be in a particular location. They are not conscious of this perception, yet some mechanism allows the unconscious to cause their wrists to flex. Who knows?

When I read the bible excerpts you cite, they are kind-of what I might expect an intelligent and perceptive person might write. Why they should be ascribed to have a supernatural origin because they are wise or insightful or even prophetic strikes me as inappropriate or unjustified. There are ideas from people like Emerson, Hermann Hesse, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky and even Ronnie Laing that are at least as perceptive, eye-opening, original or innovative as anything in the bible I've seen. True the bible is a remarkable achievement - but I think an entirely human one, like many other almost inconceivably marvellous human creations. No-one thinks God built St Peter's basilica in Rome, for instance.

There have been, when easy travel around the world was impossible, many people who would never have heard of the bible or God.... most had, interestingly, invented some kind of god for themselves... like to worship the sun, for instance, which kind-of makes sense, though the sun, of course, would be entirely indifferent to whether or not anyone worshipped it. I wonder if there's anyone who if they made a fantastically advanced robot, they'd want it to worship them - or even, assuming they gave it autonomy, to refuse the offer and instead be entirely obedient to them?

However, with this virus spreading and the sunny weather - and the mud dried now making the cliffs good for walking again - there are a few conflicts of what to do. I have to deliver a prescription for a friend, and while keeping distant from other people as far as possible I still aim to get to the cliffs and enjoy this day, this life, if I can without causing any kind of problem for anyone else. 

I hope you can too... because I guess you won't be allowed to call on people as before the virus outbreak.