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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mailvox: atheism and the motte-and-bailey analogy

BJ, an atheist, didn't feel the topic that was debated in On the Existence of Gods was entirely fair.
As an atheist, I agree that Vox won the debate. His arguments were more persuasive and coherent. Dominic was a good sport, but he was attacking a castle with no cannons, no towers, no ram, not even a ladder. I don't think it is a fair debate topic, though that is not Vox's fault. It's what Myers originally claimed and what Dominic agreed to. But it's not a fair view on the subject.

This is the standard motte and bailey for defending theism. You replace 'proof of god' with 'doubt of science' and hope no one calls you on it (Dominic didn't). Then you push the atheist into admitting they can't rule out the possibility of the existence of something which may resemble a god or gods. Most people consider that a win.

The problem I have with that is no priest suggests the possibility of a god or gods, they talk about very specific gods with very specific rules, demand very specific obedience, and ask for very real money. None of them can prove their god is real but that is the bailey position; when they are under attack they retreat to the motte position, which is just "you can't prove god(s) DON'T exist." Kinda weak basis for tithing 10% of my income.
On the one hand, this is an entirely reasonable point with which I agree entirely. In fact, I repeatedly point out, in both On the Existence of Gods and in The Irrational Atheist, that the argument for the existence of the supernatural, the arguement for the existence of Gods, and the argument for the existence of the Creator God as described in the Bible are three entirely different arguments.

One could further observe, with equal justice, that none of these three arguments suffice to establish the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth or the existence of the Holy Trinity as described in the Constantinian revision of the original Nicene Creed.

The problem, however, is that BJ reverses the motte-and-bailey analogy as it is actually observed in the ongoing atheism-Christianity debate. For example, even in the debate he criticizes, Dominic's sallies were initially directed at all forms of supernaturalism before being knocked back by my response which observed that the supernatural is a set of which gods are merely a subset.

More importantly, there was never any retreat to the Christian bailey. It simply wasn't the subject at hand; the purpose of the debate was to challenge the atheist claim to the motte claimed by PZ Myers. And as for Dominic supposedly failing to call me on the very rational and substantive grounds to doubt the legitimacy of science, particularly as it relates to science's ability to address the subject of gods, that was an intelligent tactical move on his part, because I would have easily demolished any attempt to rely upon science in that manner.

As readers of this blog know, I don't regard science as being even remotely reliable in its own right, I consider its domain to be limited, and there is considerable documentary, logical, and even scientific evidence to support that position. It is certainly an effective tool, when utilized properly, but it is not a plausible arbiter of reality.

In any event, those interested in the subject appear to find On the Existence of Gods to be a worthy addition to the historical discussion, as it is currently #2 in the Atheism category, sandwiched between a pair of books by Richard Dawkins. If you haven't posted a review yet, I would encourage you to do so.

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105 Comments:

Anonymous BGKB March 30, 2016 11:13 AM  

and there is considerable documentary, logical, and even scientific evidence to support that position

Just checked http://retractionwatch.com/ they said the "raw data were lost in a flood in Sri Lanka."


Blogger tweell March 30, 2016 11:18 AM  

But, but science (the 'science' we believe in, like global warmening) is G_d and may not be questioned! /sarc

Blogger James Dixon March 30, 2016 11:22 AM  

> The problem I have with that is no priest suggests the possibility of a god or gods, they talk about very specific gods with very specific rules, demand very specific obedience...

Of course they do. They're priests of a specific god or gods. That has nothing to do with the general argument.

> Kinda weak basis for tithing 10% of my income.

There are some churches which request that, yes. However, no church I've ever attended has ever ever even requested any specific amount of money, much less demanded it.

Blogger Dominic Saltarelli March 30, 2016 11:24 AM  

I'm honestly expecting to receive more hateful reviews than Vox from the atheist camp. Only thing worse than an infidel is a heretic, after all.

Blogger Moor March 30, 2016 11:29 AM  

Atheism is, everywhere and always, the result of psychic and/or emotional distress. The Atheist who believes he has chosen their Atheism for purely intellectual reasons has deluded himself. Any genuinely intellectual pursuit of the topic that isn't gifted the faith to believe will end up in the morass of Agnosticism, which is, more often than not, merely a religious-sounding substitute for Enlightenment-style Humanism.

Blogger VD March 30, 2016 11:30 AM  

Only thing worse than an infidel is a heretic, after all.

To say nothing of the fact that a new hatred is ever so much more satisfying than a tediously familiar old one.

Blogger Dominic Saltarelli March 30, 2016 11:34 AM  

To say nothing of the fact that a new hatred is ever so much more satisfying than a tediously familiar old one.

I aim to please.

Blogger Chent March 30, 2016 11:36 AM  

A strawman fallacy. The debate was never intended to prove a specific kind of god.

There are other debates for this and a lot of them are available on books and Youtube.

In science, the question that there are other galaxies is different and previous to the question that galaxies are getting away from each other.

The debate about the existence of gods is previous to the existence of a Creator God or a Christian God.

The tithing thing was incredibly dishonest. A red herring to distract from the weakness of the comment.

Blogger VD March 30, 2016 11:39 AM  

I don't think it was dishonest, to be fair. I think it was rather indicative of the general sloppiness of thought that we see from many atheists from Sam Harris on down.

Which is not to say that most Christians are any better. But they're usually not announcing to the world how rational, logical, and intelligent they are.

Blogger Rye Bread March 30, 2016 11:58 AM  

Which is not to say that most Christians are any better.

Having a couple of friends who are atheist has forced me to read multiple apologetic's on the existence of the divine, which then lead me to an understanding of why the Christian faith is different from all the other religions.

I for one am glad that I have been challenged by atheists. It forced me to stop being so lazy about the intellectually underpinnings of the Christian faith, and it also made me realize just how shallow most American's are on matters of existence, faith, and the inherent wisdom the scripture provides.

Anonymous VFM #6306 March 30, 2016 12:00 PM  

Scientific consensus is that science is self-deleting.

Anonymous DissidentRight March 30, 2016 12:00 PM  

The problem, however, is that BJ reverses the motte-and-bailey analogy as it is actually observed in the ongoing atheism-Christianity debate. For example, even in the debate he criticizes, Dominic's sallies were initially directed at all forms of supernaturalism before being knocked back by my response which observed that the supernatural is a set of which gods are merely a subset.

This has been my universal experience as well... how am I supposed to have a conversation with someone about Jesus Christ if they believe they can rule out the principle of a god?

Any doubt on that topic has to be squashed first.

Blogger Jeff Wood March 30, 2016 12:09 PM  

On the subject of Science, it was a scientist whose name I forget who said that all scientists are always wrong.

He meant that scientific knowledge is always advancing, and from time to time a settled scientific position is overturned by grater knowledge, or it can be shown that the current view cannot be supported by new knowledge.

And then, of course, there is Global Warming, which is neither science nor religion; more superstition and politics.

Anonymous Paul Sacramento March 30, 2016 12:24 PM  

A scientists' view on the supernatural ( in specififc the resurrection):
http://www.veritas.org/can-scientist-believe-resurrection-three-hypotheses/

Excerpt:
To be sure, while science can’t logically rule miracles in or out of consideration, it can be a helpful tool for investigating contemporary miraculous claims. It may be able to reveal self-deception, trickery, or misperception. If someone has been seen levitating on a supposed flying carpet in their living room, then the discovery of powerful electromagnets in their basement might well render such claims implausible. But if science fails to find defeating evidence then it is unable to say one way or the other whether some reported inexplicable event happened, or to prove that it is miraculous. Science functions by reproducible experiments and observations. Miracles are, by definition, abnormal and non-reproducible, so they cannot be proved by science’s methods.

Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact. What’s more, the doctrine that the laws of nature are “inviolable” is not necessary for science to function. Science offers natural explanations of natural events. It has no power or need to assert that only natural events happen.

Blogger Jew613 March 30, 2016 12:28 PM  

I've met 2 types of Atheists. Those who say they dont believe in G-d but actually hate Him, or a particular religion, this is the majority, and the rare atheist who truly believes there is nothing divine. The second category seems to be rare.

Blogger kmbr March 30, 2016 12:46 PM  

I am largely agnostic. Open to the idea of a creator but not really even sure that means anything.

I have always said I'd rather have faith and be wrong that not have had faith and be right and have always been a bit envious of those who have something to hold on to in that department. Not the goof ball go to the mega church on Sunday types but people with a deep quiet sort of faith.

It is always heartening to me when someone who's thinking I respect as much as VD is a believer.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar March 30, 2016 12:56 PM  

The problem with Atheists is they refuse to acknowledge any superior intelligence and recognise that they may have too little knowledge and intellect to actually fully understand these Meta Physical issues which are not just Supernatural but not really understood at all principles that can only be approached by puny human minds on a philosophical level since their properties cannot be discerned by present day science. These Atheists even ridiculously claim that humans are the only intelligence in the universe and thus the only reliable authority for these opinions when in fact present day science has not sufficiently explained most of the Atheist viewpoints with scientific evidence to prove their rationalist claims. I find their Blind Faith in scientists amusing, especially as more frauds are revealed in this shady community funded almost entirely by corporate and governmental grants that seem to convenient get the results desired by the donors far too often to be random chance.

Blogger Durandel Almiras March 30, 2016 1:05 PM  

Psychopaths are gonna psychopath.

Anonymous HoosierHillbilly March 30, 2016 1:10 PM  

The reviewer seems to have the same sort of base reason that has been seen before: "There is something I don't like about Christianity! How dare a God demand X? It is beyond the pale!"

The interesting follow up to this pattern is: what is the difference between the two people that leads one to actively reject the Church and the other to stick around, but undermine the Church from within?

What drives the atheist who "Doesn't want to Tithe!" vs. the feminist church lady who "Doesn't want male clergy!"

Blogger praetorian March 30, 2016 1:10 PM  

Kinda weak basis for tithing 10% of my income.

(kek) Can't help but go to vulgar materialism, can they?

Blogger CM March 30, 2016 1:11 PM  

OT:
Never Apologize

Blogger CM March 30, 2016 1:13 PM  

What drives the atheist who "Doesn't want to Tithe!" vs. the feminist church lady who "Doesn't want male clergy!"

Sin.

OpenID denektenorsk March 30, 2016 1:20 PM  

they said the "raw data were lost in a flood in Sri Lanka."

My dog ate my homework.

As for humans predicting the future we are incredibly bad at it. WRT climate change I am reliably informed by Al Gore that the Artic is ice free right now. He said it would be in 2008.

Anonymous Headcannon March 30, 2016 1:26 PM  

"Kinda weak basis for tithing 10% of my income."

"my income."

"my"

There it is. It always comes back to "me".

Blogger Eric Castle March 30, 2016 1:32 PM  

@19

Unfortunately in my experience the reaction of "Would God seriously expect X" or a variation thereof comes not from Athiests or various "disbelievers" but from those claiming belief or some form of Christianity (Gospel-lite, etc.).

I find a lot of this to be a sliding scale of acceptance of Divine Authority. There are far too many emotional hedonists worshipping goodfeels in the name of Christ who will walk away into the agnostic morass with just one sermon that upsets their sensibilities.

A life lesson I have come across in the last 10 years is when I preach, if the Truth has caused someone offense, it is 5x more likely to be a member (possibly of many years) than a visitor. I did not expect that to be the case.

Blogger tz March 30, 2016 1:41 PM  

Which is not to say that most Christians are any better. But they're usually not announcing to the world how rational, logical, and intelligent they are.

Which is annoying when they press it, but worse, they, like Mao and Stalin will use as much force as needed to impose their rational, logical, and intelligent ideas on how society must be structured and how to run your life.

Most just want to have sex outside of the norms that for 4000 years have been shown to preserve civilization, and when breached destroy it. Sodom and Gomorrah might not be accepted as history, but are then still quite true as allegory. Even Milo knows where it leads and pulls back on the stick to avert a crash.

Christians at least are easily persuaded that taxation is theft, waterboarding and other torture is murder light, and fiat money is a lie - bearing false witness, deceitful scales. It only requires a few minutes to start pushing a Christian into becoming a Gary North or Tom Woods. There was a reason the 13 colonies and early USA was minarchist, and even suspected the minarchy.

There is almost nothing I can think of to convince the "New Atheists" that their "humanism" is actually tyranny and merely Mao/Stalin light to start and will inexorably end in the atrocities because of their very reason and logic and error as to what "Man" is. Rational cattle can be castrated and culled because they are just another herd to be managed by the smarter cowboys. The first sin is Pride, and from it comes all the other evils, but Pride is uniquely considered as the original and gravest evil in Christendom, and only acknowledged in others - Greek "hubris", and I haven't seen a Hebrew/OT/Jewish strong condemnation.

Anonymous Seneca March 30, 2016 1:45 PM  

The old joke goes about a guy in Northern Ireland who's stopped by some paramilitaries who ask "Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?" He replies, "I'm an atheist." "But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant Atheist?" Apparently it matters a lot what god it is you disbelieve.

Take his claim that "priests" are asking for 10% of your income. BJ is clearly a Christian atheist because the tithe is a Christian thing (and not even all Christians--a lot are kinda wishy washy about how much is appropriate). I had a friend who decided to explore her heritage by attending jewish synagogues for a while and the one she attended had a very formal list of membership costs progressively indexed based on how much income you reported on your tax return. World Religions class says Islam expects 2% to go to "charity"(or jihad). Pre-conquistadore Mexico appears to have provided some form of state-provided income (and a steady supply of sacrifices and sexual access to young boys) to their priestly caste and if the sagas are to be believed, ancient Norse religion may not have had a priestly caste separate from rulers or magicians who were expected to make the usual sacrifices (rams for Thor, men for Odin, etc). I've got no idea how Bhuddism, Shinto, or Hinduism handle it.

Blogger tz March 30, 2016 1:47 PM  

To return to Science for a minute, to build on my earlier analogy of a deaf person

Prove music exists.

Music is something inside the mind. The ghost and not the machine. Maybe even more spirit than matter.

I think a Turing test will always fail when the AI is tasked with sorting musical passages and generic sounds into gradations of beauty.

At best you might be able to do a brain scan of some type, but it begs the question - is the Brain the implementation of the mind, or is it merely the interface to the mind.

Blogger wrf3 March 30, 2016 1:57 PM  

Headcannon @24: There it is. It always comes back to "me".

To be fair, in my experience, the number of Christians who complain about paying taxes because it's their money is far greater than the number of atheists who complain about tithing.

Blogger tz March 30, 2016 2:00 PM  

Science only pertains to that which is both observable and repeatable.

A fair amount of the paleo-whatever, astrophysical objects like black holes, neutron stars, and quasars are neither. History, especially the creation of historical prehistoric mythology is not science. There's data, but the picture presented is an air-brushed artist's conception.

Not unlike "global warming", and I like this so much I'm going to repeat it:
Nebraska Man, Piltdown Man, and Michael Mann.

But we see where the madness of worshiping science leads - from Atheism to Atheism-plus. I've noted the limits on medicine in altering the facade known as "gender reassignment surgery". We can't turn men into women nor vice versa. We can't turn testicles into ovaries, nor can we create a creature born to sire into one that can carry a fetus, or vice versa. But because the facade can be created, we all must "rationally" accept that Bradley and Bruce are now Chelsea and Caitlyn. Where is the rationality, science, intelligence, or the rest of the claimed allegiance to the truth here? The atheists should be far more transphobic than any Christian (who simply wants restrooms to be safe spaces for excretion).

Blogger tz March 30, 2016 2:03 PM  

To be fair, in my experience, the number of Christians who complain about paying taxes because it's their money is far greater than the number of atheists who complain about tithing. @29
Tithing is still voluntary, just don't lie about it (See Ananias and Saphira in Acts). Taxation is anything but. You might be offended that others are asked to tithe, but you should be far more offended at the theft and robbery and kidnapping associated with being taxed to do what the Atheists can't convince people to do voluntarily.

Blogger kh123 March 30, 2016 2:03 PM  

"they said the 'raw data were lost in a flood in Sri Lanka.'

My dog ate my homework"


Grater knowledge. Data has a history of getting shredded when it comes to Climate Change.

Blogger tz March 30, 2016 2:06 PM  

@32 - If the data isn't shredded, the results surely would be.

Anonymous Zerop March 30, 2016 2:13 PM  

My intellectual bone to pick with Christianity was always its historicity. All religions save the Judaic-derived ones were centered around universal patterns, not some historical happenings. Sure, stuff happened trough which God was revealed, but whatever happened could happen again.God is eternity. Nothing new under the sun. Then came the jews with their fixation on particular peoples and particular prophets, always elevated to unicity ("better than everything else ever") . That worked for a while ... until we figured out that we weren't actually at the center of the universe. Each star is a sun, and there are innumerable worlds .Giordano Bruno, I believe was the first who saw the implications. Long story short ... it's possible to imagine around some planet in the Andromeda galaxy Buddhist aliens. Also various "folk religions" , one for each folk. It's impossible to imagine them Christian tough, what would an alien religion care about some humanoid millions of light years away. Interestingly enough, imagine some group of aliens consider themselves "the one and only chosen people". Should they ever meet our "chosenites" , mutual dismissal would result. No one can think there is such a thing as "God's chosen people, whom all others are meant to serve" without thinking he's one of them.

Blogger kh123 March 30, 2016 2:14 PM  

"This is the standard motte and bailey for defending theism. You replace 'proof of god' with 'doubt of science' and hope no one calls you on it "

Nevermind the fact that since Huxley - since Lyell - the formula's been explicitly "proof of science" with "doubt of God," or more specifically "doubt of Bible." And now because of that rhetorical push by Science, the reverse has put them in the former position. They have no one to blame for that but the founding fathers of paleo I think.

Blogger wrf3 March 30, 2016 2:17 PM  

tz @31: Taxation is anything but.

The money with which taxes are paid is no more your money than is the money with which tithes are paid. Your money belongs to Caesar and God. Not you. They just let you use it.

Blogger John Regan March 30, 2016 2:21 PM  

Natural reason tells you that there is a reality beyond sensory observation. The early Greek thinkers, such as Parmenides, subscribed to this centuries before Christianity. From there the existence of a single god, as Parmenides also more or less deduced, is a reasonable extrapolation. And from there a number of different qualities of such a god, "love" properly defined being just one example, are also reasonably arrived at.

Atheism, on the other hand, is not rationally justifiable because it denies what natural reason tells you.

But that doesn't make atheism wrong, because what is not rationally justifiable can also be true. Reason, as employed by human beings, is not a perfect interpreter of reality.

But it says something important that at least the way our minds function atheism is repugnant.

Blogger kh123 March 30, 2016 2:31 PM  

@19 "The interesting follow up to this pattern is: what is the difference between the two people that leads one to actively reject the Church and the other to stick around, but undermine the Church from within?"

Sense of belonging, or nostalgia from having grown up in church for the latter. They just take the Burger King route and want it done their way. Or, they take the Lenin route and set on fire that world that's done them some sort of personal wrong.

Blogger tz March 30, 2016 2:35 PM  

@36 - Jesus maybe. Caesar has been dead for 2000 years.

Blogger Ingot9455 March 30, 2016 2:35 PM  

@27 On the topic of "But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant Atheist?"

My friend of a friend story comes from a young Californian Wiccan lass who got a chance to go to Ireland and meet her extended family there. She was ready and waiting for someone to 'pop the question' and finally it happened - while she was helping with the laundry her grandmother asked, "So, are you a Catholic or a Protestant?"

She answered. "Neither. I'm a pagan!"

Her grandmother tsked and said, "Look, dearie, we're all pagan here. What I'm asking is, are you a Catholic pagan or a Protestant pagan?"

Anonymous BGKB March 30, 2016 2:40 PM  

jewish synagogues... formal list of membership costs progressively indexed based on how much income you reported on your tax return

You would think the rabbis would know better. Israel might be safe from being jewed by jews but I guess individual temples are not.

Blogger wrf3 March 30, 2016 2:54 PM  

tz @39: @36 - Jesus maybe. Caesar has been dead for 2000 years.

Ah. A hyper-literalist. Substitute "government" for "Caesar".

Anonymous patrick kelly March 30, 2016 3:01 PM  

" the number of Christians who complain about paying taxes because it's their money is far greater than the number of atheists who complain about tithing."

One of these things is not like the other....

Anonymous patrick kelly March 30, 2016 3:04 PM  

Most of the Christians complaining about taxes still pay them.

The atheists tithing? Not so much.

Anonymous VFM #6306 March 30, 2016 3:06 PM  

Zerop, your thinking is a mess, historically. Jews did not write the Pentateuch and in fact appear very late in any scriptures. Reset.

OpenID denektenorsk March 30, 2016 3:07 PM  

I think a Turing test will always fail when the AI is tasked with sorting musical passages and generic sounds into gradations of beauty.

Any AI smart enough to pass the Turing test will be smart enough to realize that it shouldn't.

Blogger The Rev March 30, 2016 3:10 PM  

A world where the government only takes a flat 10% of gross? Sign me up.

Blogger Rye Bread March 30, 2016 3:13 PM  

@Zerop

My intellectual bone to pick with Christianity was always its historicity. All religions save the Judaic-derived ones were centered around universal patterns, not some historical happenings.

Thats kinda the point inst it? If all the prior religions are following the same pattern then it stands to reason then they came from the same source (Man).

Also Judaic-derived is an oxymoron, there is no such thing as Judaic derived. There is scripture and fulfillment of scripture. Period full stop. Islam is not Judaic derived, as it has completely different underpinnings as to the nature of the relationship between God and Man.

Blogger Nick S March 30, 2016 3:56 PM  

John Regan wrote:Natural reason tells you that there is a reality beyond sensory observation. The early Greek thinkers, such as Parmenides, subscribed to this centuries before Christianity. From there the existence of a single god, as Parmenides also more or less deduced, is a reasonable extrapolation. And from there a number of different qualities of such a god, "love" properly defined being just one example, are also reasonably arrived at.

Atheism, on the other hand, is not rationally justifiable because it denies what natural reason tells you.

But that doesn't make atheism wrong, because what is not rationally justifiable can also be true. Reason, as employed by human beings, is not a perfect interpreter of reality.

But it says something important that at least the way our minds function atheism is repugnant.


Yes. While the existence of the God of Christianity cannot be definitively proven in a scientifically acceptable way. It can easily be proven that atheism is not necessarily the intellectually superior position.

Anyway, screw this. I'm going back to binge watching season 10 of Trailer Park Boys.

Blogger dadofhomeschoolers March 30, 2016 4:03 PM  

Im not smart enough to know what kind of argument this is.
To me, if there wasn't a God, would we be even having this argument?
In effect, "How can you deny the existence of something that doesn't exist? Even if there is no "god", in order to deny the existence of "god" you would have to invent something to say that it doesn't exist.
I could deny the existence of unicorns I guess, but the consequences aren't as dire.
I've met very few atheists, lots of God haters, but very few atheists.

Blogger bw March 30, 2016 4:15 PM  

47. The Rev March 30, 2016 3:10 PM
A world where the government only takes a flat 10% of gross? Sign me up.


Why not 1912 - before it enacted a plank of the Communist Manifesto - where it took 0% ?
You know, when America was Great.

Blogger Rye Bread March 30, 2016 4:25 PM  

@ Nick S

It can easily be proven that atheism is not necessarily the intellectually superior position.

The criminally insane prove this point empirically in less then a paragraph. If morality is not a divine gift, but a construct of man then its a short trip to the individual constructing his own morality. Base desires once the bane of mankinds existence, now become the individuals central tenants.

Blogger Doom March 30, 2016 4:47 PM  

What we have here, is an atheist who proves what I have always thought of them. They say they follow logic. And yet, here, he shows that he follows logic until it is inconvenient, then he wets his panties crying about what is not including in a debate not being included in the debate.

If we go shooting targets with a shotgun, and you suggest that your rifle would be better, are we to change to rules? Just for you or for everyone? Etc. He has no valid point, if that was excluded. I give him nothing for nothing is more than he deserves. I shouldn't even have written this, did it for you. You are fucking welcome.

Blogger B.J. March 30, 2016 4:48 PM  

Oh look I made the front page. I swear, if you guys rip on me thirteen or fourteen more times, I am out of here!

Vox, how often do people psychoanalyze you in the comments? I've probably done it, so I suppose I deserve it.

Some people are on the money though; my atheism is not about some special insight into the true nature of the world or the Almighty, but rather a rejection of my catholic upbringing. Its nothing that traumatic; my mother was in the church choir and sang in all three masses every Sunday. So I spent from 6 AM to 12 PM at church, hearing the same lecture three times and the same three rounds of mindless chitchat afterwards. That and she threw my Magic:TG cards away because she ran over a dog the day I bought them. "Devil Cards" my ass. Those cost me $40, Mom!

At some point I had to admit that if I wasn't going to follow any of the rules or dogma of a religion then I had no business claiming membership (though once you are baptized catholic you are catholic for life, so I'm an apostate). It is actually out of respect for religion that I call myself an atheist. You can say that is a frivolous reason for rejecting faith, but take it as valuable customer feedback. Don't torture kids with boredom if you don't want to drive them away.

I do think that the atheist worldview is perfectly rational even in light of the very real possibility that gods exist. I can explain my reasoning when I have more time.

Also, Dominic is not a traitor to anything. Modern populist secularism has devolved into the exact sort of tribal mentality it claims to abhor. PZ Myers is a noxious blowhard and Atheism+ is a cesspool of brain-damaged retards. I'll take church ladies, baptisms, and bake sales over Free Thought Blogs any day.

Blogger Arthur Isaac March 30, 2016 4:52 PM  

Supernatural? What is that? Electricity or magnetism to a bronze age backwoodsman? I think God is every bit natural, we just lack the knowledge and science to describe Him. It's a function of our ignorance NOT His fantastic irrationality. He makes sense, we don't.

Blogger VD March 30, 2016 5:19 PM  

Vox, how often do people psychoanalyze you in the comments? I've probably done it, so I suppose I deserve it.

I should be so lucky. It's when they do it on TWITTER, of all places, that I roll my eyes.

Blogger Rye Bread March 30, 2016 5:31 PM  

@ BJ

my mother was in the church choir and sang in all three masses every Sunday. So I spent from 6 AM to 12 PM at church, hearing the same lecture three times and the same three rounds of mindless chitchat afterwards. That and she threw my Magic:TG cards away because she ran over a dog the day I bought them. "Devil Cards" my ass. Those cost me $40, Mom!

This is funny because my circumstances are very similar. Btw if you want I can send you several boxes of MTG:TG from the 90s if it will make up for the incident.

Anyhow, my grandmother was the legalistic terror in the family. Take a grizzly bear, put an apron on it, and arm it with a a bible in each hand and you had her to a T. When I think back to those years an image of Dave Chappelle saying "Ah bitch! All these rules!" always pops up.

Blogger Steampunk Koala March 30, 2016 6:41 PM  

B.J. wrote:
Some people are on the money though; my atheism is not about some special insight into the true nature of the world or the Almighty, but rather a rejection of my catholic upbringing. Its nothing that traumatic; my mother was in the church choir and sang in all three masses every Sunday. So I spent from 6 AM to 12 PM at church, hearing the same lecture three times and the same three rounds of mindless chitchat afterwards. That and she threw my Magic:TG cards away because she ran over a dog the day I bought them. "Devil Cards" my ass. Those cost me $40, Mom!


I am a converted Christian, and I still play D&D, video games, etc. The takeaway isn't 'religion is bad, therefore I am an Atheist', the takeaway is 'the church practices/preferences of authority figures are not the faith'. I spend at least twice as much time chewing on Christians about that point as I do debating the merits of faith with Atheists and Agnostics.

I have a tremendous issue with modern church culture (which happily has a name now, Churchian), but that is not a reflection on the value of the Bible. That's short-sighted egocentric people taking the parts they like and rejecting the parts they don't, while pontificating on why that's the only true way and imposing that judgment on others.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar March 30, 2016 6:51 PM  

Atheism and secularism leaves a vacuum of spiritualism that will be filled by something. Whether its magic, or Karma, or astrology or even Islam, it ignores the normal human need to explain and control the unexplainable. Those things that scare you that you cannot see or understand. Something to hold on to when rational explanations fail to calm your nerves.

Blogger Doom March 30, 2016 8:00 PM  

Steampunk,

Yes indeed. While some cry over me pointing out their flaws, they have no idea how hard I can really be. I am much harder on Christians, for they should know. Especially the ones who take sitting in the pew every Sunday as their out-of-jail free card. They had best know. And I expect them to walk on water or relent and actually listen. I don't know about others, but if going to church doesn't hurt, pinch, just a bit... I don't feel like I am doing it right. I'm not there, when I can go, for confirmation, I am there for correction. Tall order for priests in this world where even men have gone soft, and feel the need to have their feelings pampered. Bastards.

Blogger Giuseppe The Kurgan March 30, 2016 8:15 PM  

Vox,
I think it depends on how you define science. Science as done today is basically bread and circuses, as done up until maybe 30 years ago it was a subset of philosophy, but as done in the 1800s or so it included logic and philosophy. THAT science, is a pretty good arbitrer of reality.

Blogger Steampunk Koala March 30, 2016 8:40 PM  

@60: It seems a natural consequence of the shift in purpose of the church service from correction of believers to conviction of unbelievers, and as a result rarely rises above the theological depth of milk. If everything a church does is to the end of evangelism, there's nowhere to go once you've been evangelized.

Blogger John Wright March 30, 2016 11:59 PM  

"You replace 'proof of god' with 'doubt of science' and hope no one calls you on it (Dominic didn't). Then you push the atheist into admitting they can't rule out the possibility of the existence of something which may resemble a god or gods. Most people consider that a win."

With all due respect, this does not sound like any argument I have ever had nor heard on this topic either as an apologist for atheism nor as an apologist for Christianity.

While the atheist can be asked whether he can "prove a negative" by proving God does not exist, the answer he is wisest to give is that he need only prove a positive: he seeks to prove the statement that, given the current state of his wisdom, knowledge and experience, the theory that this world was created and is governed by a benevolent omnipotent an omniscient being does not fit the observed facts, therefore such a belief is untenable.

This no more 'rules out the possibility' of God than it rules out the possibility of Santa Claus, but on balance most adults do not believe in Santa Claus not because the concept is impossible, only because on balance the theory that Santa Claus does not exist is a more robust and elegant explanation of the facts on the ground than the theory that he does.

So in arguments of that kind, which are arguments about the nature of the proposition and the nature of the evidence needed to form a rational conviction, do not allow for the motte and bailey tactic either from the atheist or from the Christian.

Arguments to show that the concept of a benevolent omnipotent omniscience who permits evil are a priori argument attempting to show the concept itself is self-contradictory, and such arguments as those are set on a different foundation.

Here, again, the Christian apologist must respond to that argument by showing (if he can) that a benevolent omnipotence could allow for natural and human evil; and the atheist to show what flaws or unwarranted assumptions are behind that counterargument; and so on.

Again, no motte and bailey argument is needed on either side, since here both sides are talking about the nature of certain abstract concepts, like benevolence, omniscience, omnipotence.

Continued

Blogger John Wright March 30, 2016 11:59 PM  

continued from previous

Again, arguments that God, being omniscience and omnipotent, could not act, on the ground that action presupposes a prior state of want, lack, discontent or desire that the omniscient omnipotence could not feel, are a priori arguments, arguments about abstraction concepts and their logical implications. And likewise for arguments attempting to show a contradiction between a Christian belief in God's foreknowledge and belief in free will.

Arguments concerning the specifics of the Christian faith, unlike other religions, are grounded on the reliability of the evidence for certain historical events. These are usually the least fruitful, because if it is assumed as an axiom beforehand that miracles cannot happen, reports of miracles appearing in otherwise reliable documents must be dismissed out of hand: in such cases, the discussion must be postponed until the reasons for accepting or rejecting this axiom are debated.

Once that is done, and the atheist allows that there is no a priori reason to dismiss all such reports as false, than a legal-style argument concerning the reliability of the witnessing documents, and the reliability of their uncorrupted transmission, can be debated.

But if I understand you, this is not the argument BJ means when he speaks of the proofs of God and the doubts of science.

All I can say to BJ is this: as someone who has argued many times over many years in favor of first one position, and then the other, that if you run into ANYONE on either side of the argument who uses this stupid tactic of shifting the ground of the argument, or if you overhear anyone so dull as not to notice the trick and call his honorable opposition on it, all I can say is you need to find a better class of better trained philosophers, apologists, and logicians to argue with.

Both sides have better arguments they could give than the sloppy tactic you are describing.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:03 AM  

"However, no church I've ever attended has ever ever even requested any specific amount of money, much less demanded it."

Well, I know you are from one of these new-fangled post-Tenth Century denominations, I guess. We tithe.

The rule is that if you have any doubts or reservations about whether you want to give your money to the Church, God does not accept the gift, does not want it, and go away.

Not exactly the kind of attitude people who mock charitable giving expect to see in an allegedly con artist church, is it?

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:13 AM  

"The Atheist who believes he has chosen their Atheism for purely intellectual reasons has deluded himself."

Humbug. As an atheist who chose his atheism for purely intellectual reasons, I can testify from personal experience that this statement is not universally true.

I will say that I see far fewer intellectual atheists these days than I used to see.

Most modern atheists are atheists for emotional and neurotic reasons, their arguments weak and silly and easily refuted, and their number is growing.

In the last ten years, I have not had one single argument with an atheist that was a satisfying match with an intellectual equal.

Even the one time I was paid money to debate a man allegedly able to defend his side, his debate tactic simply consisted of pretending I said and believed something other than what I said and believed, and arguing against a strawman.

After the second round of articles, I simply stopped reading his rebuttals or answering them, because he steadfastly refused either to address any questions I raised, nor tell me why he would not address them.

He kept insisting that *I* said and believed theism was based on irrational willingness-to-believe after I stated that the position I was prepared to argue was otherwise: http://www.everyjoe.com/tag/theist-vs-atheist/

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:32 AM  

"My intellectual bone to pick with Christianity was always its historicity. All religions save the Judaic-derived ones were centered around universal patterns, not some historical happenings. Sure, stuff happened trough which God was revealed, but whatever happened could happen again.God is eternity. Nothing new under the sun. Then came the jews with their fixation on particular peoples and particular prophets, always elevated to unicity. That worked for a while ... until we figured out that we weren't actually at the center of the universe."

With respect, this is simply a nonsequitur. There is no logical connection between a claim of uniqueness and the existence of multiple worlds.

"Giordano Bruno, I believe was the first who saw the implications."

Your belief is not historical. Bruno when he spoke of many worlds, he meant an infinity of cosmoses. His theory had more to do with his pantheism (the belief that god is all the universe and one with it) than with Copernicus.

This did not drive him to the conclusion you reach, that Christianity is false, for Bruno still believed in Christ. He did not believe in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Divinity of Christ, or the Real Presence.

"It's impossible to imagine them Christian tough, what would an alien religion care about some humanoid millions of light years away"

Only for the unimaginative. First, the inhabitants of such spheres may or may not be fallen, as we are in this one, and therefore have easy communion with angels, but no need of salvation. Second, those that are fallen, may not have fallen as far nor in the same way, and Christ may have saved them by some other means, or in a less drastic fashion.

Third, your same objection could be raised with equal validity to a man living in Ireland, which was outside the reach of the known world at the time when Christ died in Jerusalem.

To this day, there are man on North Sentinel Island with whom no outsider is known ever to have spoken. They know nothing of Christ. You need not invoke far galaxies to make your argument: it is no stronger and no weaker than the argument that since North Sentinel Island exists, Christ cannot be imagined to be divine.

In sum, you are not offering a logical argument. You are stating an aesthetic preference. You wish God were not a person, but an abstract force without personality who acted in a way you rather arbitrarily think would be prettier.

I do not see why you think anyone cares about your personal aesthetic preferences in God. We are talking about what is real or not real. We are not furniture shopping.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 12:33 AM  

I haven't yet read OTEOG, though it's on my queue, and sitting on my ereader. I don't believe in one or more gods, though I wish I did. It would be a comfort to believe there's some reason for it all, and something new after we kak it. But I don't. You can't 'logic' your way into belief, it has to come from observation (*and* maybe logic). But in a world where we can explain things that a millennia ago would have been heralded as proof of one or another god, I've not observed anything that convinces me.

That said, I find much of the 10 commandments admirably sensible and worth following, 1-4, not so much, but 5-10 are good rules to live by, and I do, or at least, try hard. (10 is a bit tougher than the rest) But honestly, I'd probably be cool with the Buddhist equivalents, but I was raised in a Christian nation, and that is what I am most familiar with.
The observer's paradox is sufficient to remove the requirement for gods as far as I can see. I don't claim they *can't* exist, any more than I claim ghosts can't. Or vampires, sparkly or otherwise. But lacking proof (or at least, convincing evidence) for any of the above, I'll continue to not believe in them.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:36 AM  

"No one can think there is such a thing as "God's chosen people, whom all others are meant to serve" without thinking he's one of them."

I am a non-Jew who believes God chose the Jews who are the chosen people.

Seriously...? Can no one make an argument that does not consist of simply making up shit about someone else's motives?

This is the second bullshit argument I have read just in this comments thread.

Ad hominem is an informal logical error. Even if the first man who made up the idea that the Jews were the Chosen People, let us call him GOD for the sake of argument, were motivated by a desire to aggrandize himself and his people, anyone else who is convinced for other reasons aside from a self aggrandizing motive will not be convince that the Jews are not the chosen people when you, flabbermouth, accuse him of having this and only this as his motive.

He will look inside his own mind, which he knows better than you, and, if he does not find the motive there you have said is there, you have lost the argument, and your credibility with him.

It is counterproductive.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:40 AM  

"A hyper-literalist. Substitute "government" for "Caesar"."

Not just a hyper-literalist, but an historically uninformed one.

The last Caesar of the Holy Roman Empire, Francis II, lived in Napoleon's time. There were many Kaisers and Czars and other Caesars before that, leading all the way back to Augustus.

After Julius, it was a title, not a name.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:43 AM  

"How can you deny the existence of something that doesn't exist?"

You correctly answered your own question. If you believed in unicorns and I did not, you could tell me the reasons why you believed them to be real, and I could tell you my reasons to the contrary, and we would have a discussion like gentlemen.

Atheists don't think the word 'god' is a null set. They (I used to be one) think that the object to which the word refers does not exist, or, at least, not in the fashion described.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:55 AM  

"It is actually out of respect for religion that I call myself an atheist. You can say that is a frivolous reason for rejecting faith, but take it as valuable customer feedback. Don't torture kids with boredom if you don't want to drive them away."

I salute you for your honesty, but, please, if I said I did not believe in the heliocentric theory of the solar system because Newton was a boring writer (he is) whereas Ptolemy is a better and clearer writer (he is) would you think I occupied an intellectually sound position?

May I suggest, as one Catholic to another (as you correctly point out, there is no escape from the body of Christ) that it was your mother, and not you, who was apostate?

Nowhere in any papal bull, verdict of the canon law, or finding of any general Church synod or counsel all the way back to Nicaea does the Magisterium teach that card games cause dog deaths.

This was a profound theological error on your mother's part.

Leave your mother's Church and come to mine. We play D&D.

Besides, my Protestant friends say we are all magicians and pagans and apostates anyway, but at least we get to drink and gamble (in moderation) unlike the Puritans, Marxists, and Mormons, and all those harsh new fangled sects.

If you think sitting in a pew was boring, wait until you see the Outer Darkness. Maybe your child brain should have weighed other factors before basing the truth on entertainment value.

Anonymous Zerop March 31, 2016 2:53 AM  

@67:

John Wright wrote:Third, your same objection could be raised with equal validity to a man living in Ireland, which was outside the reach of the known world at the time when Christ died in Jerusalem.

You are correct that this was the core of my argument. If someone doesn't know Christ, or can't know him (either he's in another galaxy, or Ireland, or 3000 years in the past) then what is the path to salvation?
Distant life would, if intelligent enough, develop mathematics. And it would be the same as our mathematics, whatever results they reach will agree with ours. They may develop
philosophy, morality, theology even, but not "our" Christianity, because they can't know "our" Christ.

The path towards virtue, "the Good", salvation, like a mathematical statement, ought not change based upon where and when you are in space-time. Even if your capacity to follow and understand it does change in time.

"I am a non-Jew who believes God chose the Jews who are the chosen people." Then I stand refuted. The point I was trying to make is that no two groups can think of themselves as "better than everyone else" and both be correct. I concede that this is a misrepresentation of how "chosen people" are defined, but some do think like that.

What makes someone virtuous and good is not how good they declare themselves to be or whatever other prior label might come attached to them, but their actions. You don't say "well I'm already part of the saved/elect so I can just do whatever".

Blogger Blastman March 31, 2016 8:44 AM  

B.J. ... Some people are on the money though; my atheism is not about some special insight into the true nature of the world or the Almighty, but rather a rejection of my catholic upbringing.

Religious instruction at Catholic schools has generally been a farce since the 1960's. It is so lacking any semblance of reason or logic as to the why, it is no wonder that the vast majority of young students reject Christianity as something for dimwits or the simple minded.

The first time I encountered any reason and logic applied to Christian theology was by a priest when I was 20 years old. You mean rationality and reason can be applied to Christianity? It was a revelation.

For a take on how a Christian uses reason to approach the issues of God, science, atheism, and theology, read the first few pages of...



Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism: Surprising Differences, Conflicting Visions, and Worldview ... by Jonas E. Alexis

Introduction:
The Nature and Implications of Truth
An Appeal to Reason and Evidence

Chapter 0.1 Truth Matters
Chapter 0.2 Treason of the Intellectuals: Dissecting Scientific Truth

Blogger B.J. March 31, 2016 10:05 AM  

Blastman wrote:Religious instruction at Catholic schools has generally been a farce since the 1960's. It is so lacking any semblance of reason or logic as to the why, it is no wonder that the vast majority of young students reject Christianity as something for dimwits or the simple minded.

When I studied the bible on my own later in life, I found a lot more wisdom than I had learned in my classes. They stories I had been taught were heavily edited and dumbed down, often losing all of the deeper meaning. I think it's because all of the teachers were women.

However I do agree with Vox in that I may just not be capable of accepting God. I probably would have rejected it eventually.

Blogger James Dixon March 31, 2016 10:25 AM  

> Well, I know you are from one of these new-fangled post-Tenth Century denominations, I guess. We tithe.

Guilty as charged.

> If someone doesn't know Christ, or can't know him (either he's in another galaxy, or Ireland, or 3000 years in the past) then what is the path to salvation?

We don't know. God has not chosen to reveal that to us. All we can know is that, based on the nature of God as revealed to us, a path will be provided for those fallen.

> The point I was trying to make is that no two groups can think of themselves as "better than everyone else" and both be correct.

Better than everyone else in a generic sense? True. But both groups can be better at the things they consider important. Simply because, as groups, we tend to place importance on the things we're good at. It's a self fulfilling feedback loop.

> You don't say "well I'm already part of the saved/elect so I can just do whatever".

A non-charitable view of Calvinism would result in exactly that. :)

Anonymous DiscipleofSheiko March 31, 2016 10:52 AM  

As an agnostic, the debate BJ proposes seems the more interesting one. I have difficulty imaging a persuasive argument against the supernatural and theism. But theism, full stop, doesn't tell you much. Why this God over the other? Which I imagine comes down to - why this prophet over the other? Why Paul over Muhammad or Joseph Smith or Boris Sheiko(pbuh).

>but rather a rejection of my catholic upbringing.

Ha. My Protestantism was so light growing up there wasn't much to reject. Though a healthy dislike of vile papists was instilled in me. Lots of Orange Order family.

>You are stating an aesthetic preference

I'll certainly admit to wholly emotional/illogical discomfort with religion that was not created by my people.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 11:26 AM  

BJ asks: "If someone doesn't know Christ, or can't know him then what is the path to salvation?"

It is an excellent question, and one not lightly dismissed.

The Catholic answer, as all Catholic answers, is subtle and legalistic: we make a distinction between the natural law of morality, also called the covenant of Noah, which is placed in the hearts of all men (all men everywhere know the basic moral truths of right and wrong) and the later covenants of Moses and Christ, which gave, first, the Law to the Jews and then the Spirit to the Church.

We hold that every intelligent being has a natural and innate desire for unity with the divine, and that no one who seeks Christ, even if he does not know who or what he is seeking, will be denied.

We hold that no fallen being is reconciled to God save through the intermediate action of Christ, but we do not hold that virtuous pagans need to know of Christ to be saved by this action.

Tradition, for example, says Trajan is in heaven. Tradition also says Christ took Adam and other patriarchs and virtuous ancients out of hell.

In similar vein, we hold no one is saved without baptism, but we also hold that there are other baptisms aside from the baptism with water. These are called 'baptism of desire' and other names, and they reach to certain exceptions outside the visible reach of the Church.

We moreover know from scripture that God desires the damnation and death of no man, but that He permits such things. God's desires cannot be thwarted. If He wishes to save you, He will find a way.

Now, when speaking of men, all sons of Adam, we speak of creatures we know to be fallen.

If we one day discover that the worlds orbiting Tau Ceti are filled with intelligent beings who walk around naked, give birth without pain and eat without toiling to grow food, who know no crime and no disease, and who do not age or die, the question of theodicy drops out of the equation.

If we find other beings who have some of these properties, but not others, the equation changes. They may not be fallen beings, nor, if they are fallen, fallen as far, nor fallen in the same way, nor would I presume to guess what the pre-incarnate Christ did in those worlds to work their salvation.

You may ask: why did Christ appear on Earth, if Earth is not the center of the universe?

I ask, why did Christ appear in a stable in Palestine, if Palestine was not the center of the Roman Empire?

Believing a Supreme Being does not exist on the grounds that He is not reported to have acted in the fashion a nonsupreme being approves or favored is not logical.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 11:35 AM  

BJ asks: "The path towards virtue, "the Good", salvation, like a mathematical statement, ought not change based upon where and when you are in space-time."

We were not discussing the good, nor the path toward virtue. We were discussing salvation from the curse of Adam. If you conflate two separate concepts, you will be confused.

Goodness and virtue are of course universal. Every man knows the Golden Rule. It appears in all religions. We were not discussing that. Pay attention to what you are saying.

When you baldly state salvation "ought" to be impersonal and universal rather than personal, you are making a gratuitous statements.

In logic, a gratuitous statement can be gratuitously denied.

Adam committed a specific sin at a specific time under specific circumstances; nothing in logic suggest that the undoing of the results of that sin likewise should not be as specific.

You are are expressing an preference of taste, not a logical argument.

It would be the same as if I were to argue that no one can be married, because I married a specific woman in a specific place and time, and the path to true love OUGHT to be universal like a rule of mathematics.

In any case, we Catholics hold as a matter of dogmatic principle that any philosopher situated anywhere i the universe can deduce the existence of God through natural reason, unaided by revelation. In this sense, God is as universal and mathematical as you wish.

Did you not know that? It seems to me that you dropped out the Church before finding out what the Church actually teaches and believes.

We also hold that God became a Jewish rabbi born in a shit filled stable in the backwater province on the edge of the Empire on a specific day and hour of a specific year. And if that proposition does not shock and appall you, I have not explained it clearly.

So your comment that salvation is not abstract and universal as it should be is partly true and partly not: you are confusing two distinct concepts.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 11:46 AM  

"It would be a comfort to believe there's some reason for it all, and something new after we kak it."

Um. Maybe. The eternal life and infinite joy part is comforting, but the 'love your enemies' stuff and Judgement Day and being flung screaming into a lake of eternal fire there to burn forever with the devil and all his angels is less so.

One should believe in the teachings of the Church because they are true, not because they are useful or pretty or whatever. As I said above, we are not furniture shopping.

If you want just a comforting belief system, become a damned Theosophist or New-Age guy. Their beliefs are simply marshmallow softness and nonjudgmental mush all the way to the core.

"You can't 'logic' your way into belief, it has to come from observation"

Agreed. You cannot use logic to fall in love.

But -- and this is a big but -- Logic can serve to eliminate false objections to Christ. Sincere doubts about why God permits evil, permits other religions to exist, permits free will, and so, raise insuperable blocks to faith and trust.

In this sincere atheist with sincere intellectual doubts, these must be answered before he will even look for observable evidence.

(Were it not for these objections, and for emotional objections that are far less valid, one could look at the evidence of the miracle cures of Lourdes and the surrounding scientific findings, for example. There are more evidence of miracles than there is for global warming: but atheists cannot see the evidence. Their eyes are held.)

The God in which most atheists disbelieve is simply NOT the God the Church preaches and teaches.

He is like Strawman-Larry. If my God were that guy, I would hate Him too.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 11:51 AM  

" The point I was trying to make is that no two groups can think of themselves as "better than everyone else" and both be correct."

HAHAHAHAH!! Do you actually think the Jews think of themselves as better than other races, rather than the most sinful, stiffnecked, wretched and oppressed people on Earth?

Maybe some Jews talk this way. The prophets in the Old Testament don't.

The Old Testament says explicitly that God chose them to be His instrument because they were weak and small, so that none of them could boast.

I do not have the chapter and verse at my fingertips, because I am not a Protestant. (Whatever else one says about them, those dudes know their Bible.)

Blogger B.J. March 31, 2016 12:10 PM  

John Wright wrote:I salute you for your honesty, but, please, if I said I did not believe in the heliocentric theory of the solar system because Newton was a boring writer (he is) whereas Ptolemy is a better and clearer writer (he is) would you think I occupied an intellectually sound position?

You're right, such mundane events are not reasonable to discount an entire belief system, but they are what lead me towards questioning my faith. I suppose the counter question would be, if everyone who read Newton acted so irrationally, would you start to question the validity of his ideas?

Here's another funny example for you: My sister wanted to make me Godfather to her son. I told her that, while I would be happy to fulfill that role for my nephew, as an apostate, I would not be permitted to participate in a holy sacrament. Her and my mother's response was "Oh who cares" and they accused me of being selfish. They pretty much badgered their priest into allowing it. So now I've made a solemn oath to raise my nephew in the teachings of Jesus. He hasn't reached that level of intellectual curiosity yet but I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 12:14 PM  

"The God in which most atheists disbelieve is simply NOT the God the Church preaches and teaches. "
Except I don't disbelieve in *a* god, I disbelieve in the whole set.

"one could look at the evidence of the miracle cures of Lourdes and the surrounding scientific findings, for example. "
I am not too familiar with the specific findings you mention, however, here you stray into 'natural' vs 'supernatural' Or simply, things we think we (mostly) understand, vs things we don't. The sets change from time to time, and seeing something we don't understand isn't proof of God or gods.

It wasn't until we began digging into the atom that we 'understood' how the sun works (mostly) We could be pretty sure it wasn't a big ball of burning coal or the like. But not knowing how the process worked, doesn't prove, or even provide evidence of, the existence of a divine being. Let alone the creator of the universe.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 12:58 PM  

"However I do agree with Vox in that I may just not be capable of accepting God."

No such thing. Do you accept the law of gravity? Perhaps a skeptic about gravity could point at the moon and say that if there were a law of gravity, the moon would fall.

In both cases, the thing acts on you whether you admit it or not, so you might as well admit it.

Pretending you are incapable of admitting it is merely a bolt hole to duck out of the conversation.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 1:05 PM  

"here you stray into 'natural' vs 'supernatural' "

And here you are simply playing with words.

You may define the supernatural to be a subset of the natural if you wish, but only if you then define the difference between that part of nature which acts by the direct will of the supreme being and that part which operates by secondary causes without direct divine intervention.

For clarity of speech, I suggest calling the first part of nature 'supernatural' and the second part 'natural.'

The court of law can condemn a man who breaks a law the legislature passed and the police enforced; and yet the Governor can pardon.

Both the condemnation and the pardon are acts of law, but one comes directly from the Governor's office and the other does not.

Now, if you are making the bolder statement that no supreme being does or can exist, or that such a being if He did exist cannot act, that is an argument worthy of being addressed: but merely defining the subject matter into or out of existence is an ontological argument and a logical fallacy.

Blogger John Wright March 31, 2016 1:23 PM  

"The sets change from time to time, and seeing something we don't understand isn't proof of God or gods."

And a strawman argument is not an argument. I did not say 'if you see something you do not understand, therefore God.' I said, 'Look at the evidence, if you have eyes in your head, and draw the rational conclusions that follow rationally.'

Come now. If I were to point to the telescope of Galileo, and I said, "Look into the spyglass and see the satellites of Jupiter. This is evidence of the theory that not all heavenly bodies revolve around the Earth.' It would be less than honest of you to say in reply, 'Every time we do not understand something, it does not prove that the heliocentric theory is correct!'

It is an error, specifically argumentum ad ignorantum, to argue that if one cannot prove a strangely moving light seen by a farmer in the sky is not a saucer ship from Mars, then it is.

Likewise it is the same error in reverse, to claim that whenever miracles displaying the Hand of God at work occur, these cannot be interpreted as evidence of the existence of God, on the grounds that the event cannot be a miracle by definition, therefore must be a non-God-related effect of an unknown cause.

The first argues that if you do not know what caused the strange moving light in the sky, that proves it is Martians. The second argues that you cannot have seen a Martian because no one knows what causes that strange moving light seen in the sky. In both cases, the conclusion simply does not follow from the axioms.

The mere fact that you misunderstood what I said so dramatically is itself proof that atheism is based on a mental blindness, not a mental conviction.

Whenever an atheist makes a stump stupid error in logic, as you have done here, the claim that atheist represents the advent of science and reason and the triumph of logic grows more risible and absurd.

Look in the stinking spyglass, Cardinal Bellarmine. Then tell me which theory of planetary motion better fits the evidence.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 1:26 PM  

"You may define the supernatural to be a subset of the natural if you wish, but only if you then define the difference between that part of nature which acts by the direct will of the supreme being and that part which operates by secondary causes without direct divine intervention."

The discussion was about the existence, or not, of god(s). Which is why I was dismissive of your invocation of the natural vs supernatural argument. I maintain that there is no such thing as 'supernatural'. Anything that happens, is natural. Whether we understand it, or not.

"Now, if you are making the bolder statement that no supreme being does or can exist, or that such a being if He did exist cannot act, that is an argument worthy of being addressed: but merely defining the subject matter into or out of existence is an ontological argument and a logical fallacy."

I do not believe in such a being or beings, in exactly the same way I do not believe in flying horses, or unicorns. I have not seen convincing proof of such, and thus, do not believe. I do not state they *cannot* exist, merely that I have not been shown that they do.

And unless I am entirely mistaken, discussing that belief or lack of, is exactly what the book is about.

In knowledge, I am agnostic, I do not *know* there are, or are not, gods. In belief, I do not believe there are, and thus, am atheist.

As I believe Vox has pointed out, science can neither prove, nor disprove, the existence of god(s) since by definition, they exist outside the realm of science. It's a reworking of Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorems. There is simply no way to *disprove* an omnipotent creator being, from within it's creation. Deus Vult is enough to escape any attempt at such.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 1:39 PM  

"Come now. If I were to point to the telescope of Galileo, and I said, "Look into the spyglass and see the satellites of Jupiter. This is evidence of the theory that not all heavenly bodies revolve around the Earth.' It would be less than honest of you to say in reply, 'Every time we do not understand something, it does not prove that the heliocentric theory is correct!' "

And I would not say that. I would say, you have a theory, and have produced evidence that your theory is accurate. Following the scientific method of observation, theory, prediction, repeat.

Pointing to the "miracles of lourdes" and saying "See! God!" is far from the same thing.

"It is an error, specifically argumentum ad ignorantum, to argue that if one cannot prove a strangely moving light seen by a farmer in the sky is not a saucer ship from Mars, then it is. "

yes, and claiming that for example, that we cannot explain the shroud of turin *proves* the existence of god, is exactly the same thing.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 1:43 PM  

"It is an error, specifically argumentum ad ignorantum, to argue that if one cannot prove a strangely moving light seen by a farmer in the sky is not a saucer ship from Mars, then it is. "

One could say "I think that is a saucer ship from Mars" and then could gather evidence to *disprove* it (since that is how the scientific method works) and upon obtaining such evidence, would then say, but it cannot be, because

As I have said above, you can't *disprove* an omnipotent creator being from within it's creation. If instead of saying the light was a saucer ship from Mars, the farmer said, it's God! there's no way to disprove it, "Deus Vult" will always overcome. Thus, it's a poor analogy, and not worth exploring further Sr Gallileo.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 1:51 PM  

"Whenever an atheist makes a stump stupid error in logic, as you have done here, the claim that atheist represents the advent of science and reason and the triumph of logic grows more risible and absurd. "

Except I have made no such claim. I have merely stated that I do not believe in god(s). I do not say such cannot exist. I do not say your belief in one or more is false.
Merely that I do not believe.

Blogger B.J. March 31, 2016 2:18 PM  

Steampunk Koala wrote:I have a tremendous issue with modern church culture (which happily has a name now, Churchian), but that is not a reflection on the value of the Bible. That's short-sighted egocentric people taking the parts they like and rejecting the parts they don't, while pontificating on why that's the only true way and imposing that judgment on others.

This is a valid point. I actually like the bible, and think it contains a lot of wisdom. But my question is: If you reject the authority of organized religion, if you assemble your own personal truth from scripture, then how are you any different from those selfish people you criticize? If religion is so prone to corruption by man, if we must study and develop our own moral and righteous path, how is that different from atheism?

Blogger James Dixon March 31, 2016 3:35 PM  

> I do not believe in such a being or beings, in exactly the same way I do not believe in flying horses, or unicorns. I have not seen convincing proof of such, and thus, do not believe. I do not state they *cannot* exist, merely that I have not been shown that they do.

That makes you an agnostic, not an atheist.

> If religion is so prone to corruption by man, if we must study and develop our own moral and righteous path, how is that different from atheism?

Religion gives you a framework to start from. The only framework atheism gives you is might makes right.

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 3:58 PM  

@92 James Dixon
'That makes you an agnostic, not an atheist.'

I'm both, it depends on if the question is "do you know god(s) do or do not exist" and "do you believe god(s) exist"

I do not know that god or gods exist, or not. a-gnostic, without knowledge
I do not believe they do. a-theist, without belief in god/s

Blogger JimR March 31, 2016 4:00 PM  

@92 James Dixon
Religion gives you a framework to start from. The only framework atheism gives you is might makes right.

Atheism gives no framework at all. I certainly do not believe that "might makes right"
My framework (moral and other) came from how I was raised. I cannot speak for yours of course.

Blogger wrf3 March 31, 2016 11:28 PM  

JCW @85 wrote: You may define the supernatural to be a subset of the natural if you wish, but only if you then define the difference between that part of nature which acts by the direct will of the supreme being and that part which operates by secondary causes without direct divine intervention.

Nothing operates without direct divine intervention.

Blogger Steampunk Koala April 01, 2016 1:22 AM  

B.J. wrote:This is a valid point. I actually like the bible, and think it contains a lot of wisdom. But my question is: If you reject the authority of organized religion, if you assemble your own personal truth from scripture, then how are you any different from those selfish people you criticize? If religion is so prone to corruption by man, if we must study and develop our own moral and righteous path, how is that different from atheism?

Others have addressed it, but if you have a system that's 85% functional, and was as much as 95% functional in the past, there is no reason to throw everything away and start from whole cloth. All authority derives from Scripture, and ideally we only reject what is not in concert with it. It's not quite the same as coming up with my own truth, rather it is attempting to clarify my understanding.

Blogger James Dixon April 01, 2016 11:56 AM  

> I'm both, it depends on if the question is "do you know god(s) do or do not exist" and "do you believe god(s) exist"

You don't believe gods don't exist, by your own statements. You believe there is insufficient proof to believe that they do. That's an agnostic, not an atheist.

> Atheism gives no framework at all. I certainly do not believe that "might makes right"

The fact that you haven't thought through the atheist position carefully enough to understand it's implications is your problem, not ours.

Blogger JimR April 01, 2016 3:43 PM  

@97 James Dixon
"You don't believe gods don't exist, by your own statements. You believe there is insufficient proof to believe that they do. That's an agnostic, not an atheist."

You are free to believe that.

"The fact that you haven't thought through the atheist position carefully enough to understand it's implications is your problem, not ours."

Assertion as fact, so noted. As above, you are of course free to believe so.

Blogger James Dixon April 01, 2016 5:01 PM  

> You are free to believe that. ... As above, you are of course free to believe so.

Of course I am. And you are free to believe whatever you want. Which bears any relationship to reality will be decided in due time.

Blogger Blastman April 01, 2016 11:04 PM  

JimR ...

" ... The discussion was about the existence, or not, of god(s). Which is why I was dismissive of your invocation of the natural vs supernatural argument. I maintain that there is no such thing as 'supernatural'. Anything that happens, is natural. Whether we understand it, or not. ..."


The idea that everything in the universe is natural (physical) and can be explained by an appeal to science is not a scientific position -- it's a philosophical one. There is no science experiment that is going to tell you that either science can, or will, be able to explain everything we observe or that exists in the universe. The materialistic, or atheistic/humanist evolutionists favor only one explanation for everything -- material causes + chance. Again, this is a philosophical position, not one based on science.

I don’t think you understand the nature of the problem that observations of the real world around us present here, as there are some things and phenomena that exist in the world that will never be explained by only appealing to a purely materialistic forces paradigm -- laws of physics + chemistry + chance. An example here should help illustrate the nature of the problem and why this is the case.

Take a squash court and some rubber ball. Fire the rubber ball into the court at some velocity V and some angle. Theoretically, where the rubber ball goes and ends up in the court is completely deterministic and describable by the laws of motion (F=MA) and all the interactions of air, gravity, rubber, friction … and so on. Science can deal with this problem and provide an answer.

Now put a man on a bicycle in the squash court and give the bicycle a push. Where does the bicycle go? If the human body is controlled by a rational metaphysical (immaterial) soul with freewill, then no scientific materialistic framework (laws of physics + chemistry) will ever be adequate to describe where the bicycle goes. It's not that science doesn't understand it now, but will in the future. There is never going to be some understanding that comes forth from science -- it's an impossible task from the POV of science.

There is something operating in and influencing the environment that can't be described only on materialistic terms or laws. Further, if these IA's (intelligent agents = human beings) with these freewill souls interact with their environment, they will produce things in that environment that cannot be accounted for purely on materialistic terms. How do you predict what an object that is controlled by an IA with freewill is going to do? You can't -- and this is why accounting for what we observe in the world makes ID (Intelligent Design) necessary. If one believes humans have freewill, then one must believe in ID.

How do you explain the existence of the Brooklyn Bridge solely from a materialist perspective? Did the bridge just happen to coalesce thorough the material forces of chemistry + physics + chance? From the atheistic/evolutionist perspective, that's what we have to believe if that is all there is in the universe, after all, they're the ones proceeding under the assumption that we are confronted by only material causes and phenomena in nature.

Blogger Blastman April 01, 2016 11:05 PM  

... continued ...

But to proceed under the assumption that we are confronted by only material causes and phenomena in nature, means that when one is confronted by an object that was not a result of just natural material causes (laws chemistry + physics + chance), no answer will ever be forthcoming about why that object exists the way it does. It’s a futile search to look for just purely material/physical causes for an object where a immaterial agent had a hand in its formation. You either come up with no answer, or the wrong answer. That's why evolutionists have to slip in unknowable events like random mutations in an attempt to make it look like they have a real answer for things that show design. These random events are their "mutations of the gaps", that they suggest are of no real concern to the theory as they will eventually be explained, or, can be explained by purely materialistic forces. No -- these gaps will never be explained, just as a purely materialist explanation does not suffice to explain the existence of the Brooklyn Bridge or where the bicycle goes.

If only material processes cannot account for a design we see in nature, then we have to postulate a metaphysical cause. A rational explanation of what we see in the universe requires more than just physics/chemistry + chance. The archeologist doesn’t try to explain artifacts by only appealing to physics/chemistry + chance. He separates the ID components produced by IA's from those relating to the natural forces of nature. Of course, in biology, evolutionists want all existential questions only directed towards physics/chemistry + chance. This is because of ideology, not because rationality demands it.

Christians who believe in a creation, are open to both types of causes in the universe -- material and metaphysical (immaterial). It's the scientific materialists supporting evolution that favor only one type of cause -- material -- to explain everything we observe in the universe, despite abundance evidence to the contrary.

Blogger wrf3 April 02, 2016 3:05 PM  

Blastman @100, @101: Now put a man on a bicycle in the squash court and give the bicycle a push.

In order to understand this, you have to understand the behavior of a photon hitting a pane of glass. The photon may go through the glass; it may not. What an individual photon will do is completely random. But science can describe how the photon behaves using equations containing probability amplitudes. In fact, QED (Quantum Electro Dynamics), which explains the interaction between photons and electrons, is one of the most successful physical theories there is.

The same laws that govern the interaction between a photon and an electron are the same laws that describe the behavior of a bicycle in a squash court. But there are so many components that can move in so many ways that effectively describing how all of the possible states interact is computationally intractable. Telling a story about an intractable problem doesn't make the story true.

There is something operating in and influencing the environment that can't be described only on materialistic terms or laws.

This is typically due to equivocation on the term "materialistic". Consider the case of a photon hitting the water in an indoor swimming pool. The photon may be absorbed by the water, or it may be reflected and hit the ceiling. This is what causes the the rippling shadows on the ceilings of indoor swimming pools. Is the random absorption or reflection of the photon material or immaterial? Why?

Next question. Random things follow the law of large numbers. That is, while an individual event cannot be predicted, systems with large numbers of these events, nevertheless tend to the expected value. A single coin flip will be heads or tails. But, over time, millions and billions of coin flips will result in 50% heads, 50% tails.

Is this law of large numbers material, or immaterial? Where does the law of large numbers come from? Why?

... no answer will ever be forthcoming about why that object exists the way it does.

Of course. There are two basic questions that admit to no provable answers. Only "just so stories" that are consistent with a particular framework. The first is, "Why does something exist, instead of nothing?" And, "why do things exist this way and not that?"

The only two possible answers are "because" and "because God". The atheist can rightly level the charge that the theist is simply anthropomorphizing existence; and the theist can rightly reply that the atheist is ignoring what his senses are telling him.

Reason cannot break this stalemate.

Blogger JimR April 02, 2016 9:35 PM  

@100 Blastman

"The idea that everything in the universe is natural (physical) and can be explained by an appeal to science is not a scientific position"

It's also not a position I took. Making the rest of your wall o text moot.

At no point have I claimed that science can (or will) explain everything. I stated that just because it couldn't now, didn't mean it couldn't later, and assigning everything you can't currently explain to god(s) doesn't actually mean god or gods exist.

Blogger Blastman April 04, 2016 10:21 AM  

"In order to understand this, you have to understand the behavior of a photon hitting a pane of glass. The photon may go through the glass; it may not. What an individual photon will do is completely random. But science can describe how the photon behaves using equations containing probability amplitudes. In fact, QED (Quantum Electro Dynamics), which explains the interaction between photons and electrons, is one of the most successful physical theories there is."

What do you mean by random? There are 2 possibilities here ...

1) We don't have the tools and means to follow individual photons, so we can only use statistical methods to describe their overall behavior. The photons follow a random statistical behavior in this sense, but still follow the laws of physics (F=MA and conservation of energy) based on a metaphysical position of strict causality.

2) The photons follow a random behavior in the sense that strict causality is not adhered too. Thus, the photons are random in the sense that we could never follow them even if we had the tools and means. A metaphysical position where strict causality is not adhered too.

Depending on the position you take about what random means here, the individual photon behaviors may or may not be strictly determinable by the laws of physics. I philosophically take the position of a strict causality, so I take position 1.


"The same laws that govern the interaction between a photon and an electron are the same laws that describe the behavior of a bicycle in a squash court. "

That's an assumption -- and it is wrong. It is based on your philosophical position about the reality of what is interacting in your environment. Again, if a freewill metaphysical soul is controlling the human, and therefore the bicycle, there are no physical laws that will suffice here to describe its behavior, whether or not they are statistical quantum based or not.

"Telling a story about an intractable problem doesn't make the story true."

The point was to illustrate that the initial metaphysical positions one takes on reality, and what that reality consists of, will determine what answer is like to be forthcoming about some observations in the world. One has to take philosophical positions about the nature of reality to even do science and form an opinion about what the results of an experiment mean.

"The only two possible answers are "because" and "because God". The atheist can rightly level the charge that the theist is simply anthropomorphizing existence; and the theist can rightly reply that the atheist is ignoring what his senses are telling him.

Reason cannot break this stalemate."


No. One has to take a metaphysical (philosophical) position based on logic, that of observed reality, and what is and is not possible. A consistent and realist metaphysical position on reality will determine how things are interpreted. Without that proper ground floor philosophy, you will end up making the wrong conclusions about the observed world around you. That's why I noted that the materialist will either give the wrong answer or no answer at all to certain problems, based on and within the philosophical paradigm he adheres too.

Blogger wrf3 April 05, 2016 12:35 PM  

Blastman @104: What do you mean by random?

Choice #2 is the correct choice. See, for example, Conway's "Free Will Theorem", which shows that the behavior of quantum objects is not determined by any history within its light cone. This isn't a metaphysical position. It's based on 3 well established principles of physics. The metaphysical position is that the universe is constantly undergoing acts of creation on the quantum level.

... so I take position 1.

Why do you hate science? (Sorry. This is the de rigueur response here). You haven't kept up with the times.

Again, if a freewill metaphysical soul is controlling the human,...

The problem with your position is that it contradicts both science and Scripture. If it contradicted just one or the other, then you might have grounds upon which to stand. You think you have free will because a) you are effectively a Turing machine with no fixed goal (which is what makes you think you're free -- you aren't pre-programmed toward any particular choice) but b) your brain still runs according to physical law -- and you don't control the laws of physics (or God). (see, e.g. here).

The point was to illustrate that the initial metaphysical positions one takes on reality, and what that reality consists of, will determine what answer is like to be forthcoming about some observations in the world.

Which I have said many times. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, for example. You make your choice and go from there. However -- and this is a big however -- there are some things which are invariant under worldview. 1+1=2. Quantum randomness is what you call "type 2" randomness.

One has to take a metaphysical (philosophical) position based on logic

Logic requires axioms, which are not subject to proof. "God" and "No god" are two such axioms.

That's why I noted that the materialist will either give the wrong answer or no answer at all to certain problems

Assuming that the observations and reasoning are correct, the materialist gives an answer consistent within his framework. It is only wrong in your framework. But you don't get to judge the quality of his answers against your framework. That's begging the question. (The preceding applies equally to the theist, btw). It is a terrible sin to judge the answer given in one framework by a different framework.




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