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Thursday, December 12, 2019

A choice of method

I was asked to provide the quote from TS Eliot's introduction to Blaise Pascal's Pensées, to which referred in a recent Darkstream. I thought was intriguing in light of how perfectly it foreshadowed my own approach to The Irrational Atheist as well as the arguments presented by the New Atheists themselves.

To understand the method which Pascal employs, the reader must be prepared to follow the process of the mind of the intelligent believer. The Christian thinker—and I mean the man who is trying consciously and conscientiously to explain to himself the sequence which culminated in faith, rather than the public apologist—proceeds by rejection and elimination. He finds the world to be so and so; he finds its character inexplicable by any non-religious theory; among religions he finds Christianity, and Catholic Christianity, to account most satisfactorily for the world and especially for the moral world within; and thus, by what Newman calls "powerful and concurrent" reasons, he finds himself inexorably committed to the dogma of the Incarnation.

To the unbeliever, this method seems disingenuous and perverse; for the unbeliever is, as a rule, not so greatly troubled to explain the world to himself, nor so greatly distressed by its disorder; nor is he generally concerned (in modern terms) to "preserve values." He does not consider that if certain emotional states, certain developments of character, and what in the highest sense can be called "saintliness" are inherently and by inspection known to be good, then the satisfactory explanation of the world must be an explanation which will admit the "reality" of these values. Nor does he consider such reasoning admissible; he would, so to speak, trim his values according to his cloth, because to him such values are of no great value. The unbeliever starts from the other end, and as likely as not with the question: Is a case of human parthenogenesis credible? and this he would call going straight to the heart of the matter.

Now Pascal's method is, on the whole, the method natural and right for the Christian; and the opposite method is that taken by Voltaire. It is worthwhile to remember that Voltaire, in his attempt to refute Pascal, has given once and for all the type of such refutation; and that later opponents of Pascal's Apology for the Christian Faith have contributed little beyond psychological irrelevancies. For Voltaire has presented, better than any one since, what is the unbelieving point of view; and in the end we must all choose for ourselves between one point of view and another.

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40 Comments:

Blogger PJW Gent December 12, 2019 6:53 AM  

It has always been a binary choice, which can also be cast as God or not God, since these are the aprioris of the two points of view.

Blogger FrankNorman December 12, 2019 6:53 AM  

Unbelievers come in more than one flavor - Voltaire being representative of just one kind.

The sort of unbeliever who picks out one aspect of Christian belief - in this example, that of Jesus having no biological father - and proclaims its incompatibility with his own worldview is annoyingly common in the West (annoying because he is really begging the question entirely!) but not as common, I think, as the more obnoxious sort who doesn't really care about what's true or not, but simply rejects any moral restrictions on his or her sexuality.

Blogger Vaughan Williams December 12, 2019 7:06 AM  

Great quote. Much food for thought. Your religion will reflect what you value.

Blogger Gettimothy December 12, 2019 7:12 AM  

I will study this. From the excerpt, it does not appear to start from the examination of presuppositions and a different dialectic technique will undoubtedly prove useful

Blogger Vaughan Williams December 12, 2019 7:24 AM  

Elliot implies that if Pascal had been a Hebrew, with Hebraic values, he would have arrived at the Hebrew religion, rather than Catholicism. Perhaps similarly for the Aztecs. There was an archaeological find of a prophecy of Balaam (who was mentioned in the Bible) where he bemoaned peoples lack of piety, because they had stopped frequenting the temple prostitutes.

Blogger Robert Browning December 12, 2019 7:24 AM  

There are two ways to get people to do what you want. The first is by force. The second is by convincing people they should do what you want. Religion is the second way. Now Judaism is the first one God religion, what do they want? What are the goals and ambitions of the Jews? They want to hold dominion over the non-Jew. Chosen means to hold dominion over the non-Jew. Christianity and Islam rose in opposition to Jew wants and desires. Did God make men free or did God make men to be slaves for Jews? The question should be put to every atheist, but by in large atheists are Jews under cover who seek to turn people away from God or are fools to stupid to see the truth in Christ.

Blogger YehudaL December 12, 2019 8:00 AM  

Chosen means to hold dominion over the non-Jew.

Nope. Isaiah 43:21 covers it. We're really not that into you, though several of us are. Deal with them, the rest of us are quite happy to be far away.

Blogger VD December 12, 2019 8:07 AM  

We're really not that into you.

The staunch refusal of the majority of your nation to return to its homeland and the determination of many of those who have to collect handouts from the rest of the world indefinitely tends to demonstrate otherwise.

This is not the place for weak rhetoric. You should know that by now.

Blogger Silent Draco December 12, 2019 8:08 AM  

Next I'll need to read Voltaire's argument in detail. First I want time to enjoy Pensees, which is reading like an annotated outline for a more ambitious work.

The introduction by itself is a formidable essay, the kind which will melt any modern English department on contact.

Blogger TRS December 12, 2019 8:12 AM  

and the rest

22 But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.

23 Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.

24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.

25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.

27 Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.

28 Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.

Blogger YehudaL December 12, 2019 8:16 AM  

@Vd
True enough, though getting towards a majority, god willing.

the Isaiah quote in this context of "dominion" is the main point of my reply to RB.
My apologies for the rhetoric

Blogger maatto. December 12, 2019 8:21 AM  

I speak therefore only to the truths within our reach; and it is of them that I say that the mind and the heart are as doors by which they are received into the soul, but that very few enter by the mind, whilst they are brought in in crowds by the rash caprices of the will, without the counsel of the reason.

Pascal, the art of persuasion

Just love the guy, thanks for bringing him up Vox!

Blogger YehudaL December 12, 2019 8:21 AM  

Yes.
The rest also includes the next chapter. So?

There are over 20 remaining. Shall we go over the entire book?

Blogger VD December 12, 2019 8:28 AM  

True enough, though getting towards a majority, god willing.

I wish you the best of fortune in those efforts, for the sake of everyone.

Blogger jmg December 12, 2019 8:33 AM  

wonderful,, thank you

Blogger Robert Browning December 12, 2019 8:50 AM  

YehudaL wrote:Chosen means to hold dominion over the non-Jew.

Nope. Isaiah 43:21 covers it. We're really not that into you, though several of us are. Deal with them, the rest of us are quite happy to be far away.


Professor, every religion offers a benefit as away to draw people to the religion, it is the nature of all religions, so what benefit does Judaism offer Jews? As example Christianity offers the after life, life after death. What benefit does Judaism offer Jews? Please enlighten us all professor.

Blogger Dos Voltz December 12, 2019 8:51 AM  

Robert Browning, that was an interesting insight.

And if one reads the chapters 52 and 53, he might recognize the historical subject foretold.

Blogger Jay Will December 12, 2019 9:01 AM  

"for the unbeliever is, as a rule, not so greatly troubled to explain the world to himself, nor so greatly distressed by its disorder"

Joy should not be able to come out of suffering, it is an error. The happy smiling face of a boy on Christmas day is also an error. His face does not belong in this world.

If your an atheist and consistent with your beliefs that your greatest of grandfathers was a banana then you should be forging your life off the back off the wild. Not the fake no skin in the game of "nature" viewed from safe places. The consistent position for the atheist and son of banana is to see the modern human as some kind of perverse abomination, that the happy smiling face of a boy on Christmas day is an abomination.

That is the end game to get rid of that little boy and his happiness on Christmas day. To rewild. Sweethearts don't belong in a Darwinian world. Its not the whiteness they go after its the sweetness. The orc is the truth. And that makes misery of me/these people, we are not meant for this world and there is no hope. Look away from the truth and fill your head with noises and images, hide under the bedsheets.

Blogger Shane Bradman December 12, 2019 9:03 AM  

It's a great excerpt. Unbelievers are stuck in false binaries, linear thinking and schoolboy questions. I can to the conclusion that the Christian worldviews, specifically the Catholic one, best describes what I have learned and provides more than enough compelling evidence why it is true. We must believe, even when we're unsure. We will never have the answers and we will never crack the code, but we've been given as good an explanation as we can possibly understand. Our best is all we can do.

Blogger Shane Bradman December 12, 2019 9:22 AM  

Orcs were more godly and noble than the atheist degenerate in inner cities.

Blogger MidnightSun December 12, 2019 9:32 AM  

Hence the importance of communicating our Christian faith orally or by other means. In Pascal's time not many people had the opportunity to read such arguments as were presented by the great thinkers of the day. One can easily see how the refutation of Pascal would certainly lead to communism and the misery seen throughout the world today. One of the most vile superficial quotes in the history of religion has to be from (Karl Marx) who stated "Religion is an opiate of the masses." A statement that was repeated ad nauseum throughout the centuries and is still used today in the indoctrination of the young and ignorant. Whereas the Christian will reject what is evil because we have objectivity through faith in a higher supernatural power; the non-believer believing in nothing eventually becomes his own god (and being human and certainly born with imperfections) answers to no one for the insatiable desires that lead to the destruction of ones soul and eventually civilization.
Onward Christian Soldiers!

Blogger YehudaL December 12, 2019 9:35 AM  

@Robert Browning
What benefit?

God doesn't work in marketing. Nor does he entice us to be born to the most beneficial family. That's just ridiculous.

Also, Christianity is not original in offering life after death, dunno if Judaism is either.

And by the end of next semester you may refer to me as Bachelor.

Blogger Dos Voltz December 12, 2019 10:01 AM  

Yehudal, but shouldn't you know?

Blogger Robert Browning December 12, 2019 10:04 AM  

YehudaL wrote:@Robert Browning

What benefit?

God doesn't work in marketing. Nor does he entice us to be born to the most beneficial family. That's just ridiculous.

Also, Christianity is not original in offering life after death, dunno if Judaism is either.

And by the end of next semester you may refer to me as Bachelor.


You didn't answer me. No Jew ever has and I have been asking for years and years. What is the promise of The Jew religion to the Jew people? Why did you kill Christ? Was it because Christ refused to meet the demands and expectations the Jews had for their messiah. Was it because Christ refused to enslave human kind for the Jews as the Jews had demanded and expected? What other reason could there be to kill the only perfect man ever born, the only man to never have sinned or done anyone one wrong in his life? What reason? You held the son of God as hostage to black mail God almighty and when God did not deliver. You killed your hostage.

Blogger Crush Limbraw December 12, 2019 10:31 AM  

Augustine wrote that faith comes from hearing, but understanding comes from knowledge - and knowledge comes by sight! I posted a study on this in my library - https://crushlimbraw.blogspot.com/2016/03/christian-action-project-notes-and.html?m=0 - taken from a book on Augustine. It confirms the process as described by Vox.
Furthermore, the failure of the modern church to raise Christians to maturity is why it lost the culture - literally inviting the secular forces of OldDevilScratch to conquer and prevail.
Go to the average American church nowadays - the pulpits dispense pabulum and the pews are full of infants!

Blogger sumdudesfrysauce December 12, 2019 11:03 AM  

Robert Browning wrote:

"Professor, every religion offers a benefit as away to draw people to the religion, it is the nature of all religions, so what benefit does Judaism offer Jews? As example Christianity offers the after life, life after death. What benefit does Judaism offer Jews? Please enlighten us all professor."

Didn't they believe they were gods? And then there's the whole Abrahamic covenant.

Blogger Jay Will December 12, 2019 11:13 AM  

@Shane Bradman

Orcs never knew god and never could know god. Atheist degenerates are the sons and daughters of believers, they couldn't exist without what came before. To degenerate requires something to degenerate from. They have been abandoned and are now floundering around in untruth, spitting and snarling and having no clue how anything of this happened.

They see what I see, they sense the softness in themselves and want to be saved, I just fill my head with distraction so I don't see it too much, but you can't ever escape it. The socialist true believer thinks if he just votes hard enough that the anointed ones will save them from all the misery of their lives. They show us "nature" and violence and death to scare us (all that stuff is true though, just not that scale) so we will fall into their one world arms and be saved.

I thought that life was just horrible and that I'm just too cowardly to live through it, to grin and bear it, day to dayness is all horrible and there's nothing you can do. The others are just better at lying to themselves. I have no kids and I would not want kids because I would see his little face and know that I could never guarantee him safety, I could try my hardest and know that this world is miles more powerful than me and can take him whenever it wants. This world I see all the time and it really is like that. The others just pretend its not there, they hide behind material things and when the doctor suggests not looking at the dead body you agree and let the state deal with it. Please Mr State when I am sad will you kill me so I don't suffer anymore.

If you don't have god and you see the world as it really is, it is horrible horrible horrible. And the only way you can go is nihilism, that's where its logic takes you. It is only with the belief that there is another world that can give you the strength to face the horribleness of this world. That you can walk around it and state what it is. I can't even say "sorry" out loud. Imagine your kid dies, what words can an atheist find for that? If you love your children and they die, and this is all there is, it will wrench you for as long as you live.

I am in error. But how do you look at the face of it and see it for what it is without it breaking your heart.

I'm sorry for wall of texts, I think I'm on the right track though.

Blogger Aziz P. December 12, 2019 12:15 PM  

What a beautiful passage. Thank you for posting this. I am sharing in my own Muslim circles

Blogger God Emperor Memes December 12, 2019 12:30 PM  

Or, possibly, you will be a reflection of the values of your religion. "By their fruits..."

Blogger YehudaL December 12, 2019 12:34 PM  

@Robert Browning
I did answer you. It's not about benefits but obligations to obey God's commandments.

Any 'benefits' are to be found written in the pentateuch and subsequent prophets. No secrets, all open source material.

As per all your challenges re jesus, we simply disagree on all your premises about him, so the questions are complete nonstarter.

@Dos Voltz
Know what? Ancient civilizations and their beliefs? For trivia but nothing else.

Blogger Ingot9455 December 12, 2019 12:42 PM  

Canonical Judaism says almost nothing about life after death.

Blogger VD December 12, 2019 12:46 PM  

But how do you look at the face of it and see it for what it is without it breaking your heart.

Because Jesus Christ assures us that it is just the first level and he gives us a way to beat it.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia December 12, 2019 1:16 PM  

This strikes me as the "money" idea from Eliot:

[The unbeliever]does not consider that if certain emotional states, certain developments of character, and what in the highest sense can be called "saintliness" are inherently and by inspection known to be good, then the satisfactory explanation of the world must be an explanation which will admit the "reality" of these values.

If you are an atheist materialist, you MUST account for those values, and, without some spiritual foundation, you can only do so by tautology. They are "real" because they are "real."

And round and round you go in circle, a gerbil on a wheel, moving, but getting nowhere.

Blogger Dire Badger December 12, 2019 1:59 PM  

I just wish I could have discovered Pascal's arguments at the BEGINNING of questioning Atheism, rather than at the end after I laboriously beat out the same path to faith that so many men have before.

Seriously though... who is the best arguer for Atheism? Not Dawkins, his arguments have more holes than a screen door convention. Not Neitsche, as his utter lack of sanity casts a pall over every argument that departs speciously from human nature... Neitsche was brilliant, but like Galileo, his insights were only a pebble in the stream of his false assumptions.

Nope, I think Douglas Adams is about it. And his basic flaw was hanging his atheism on the assumption that God said "Without Faith I am Nothing" when it could be more appropriately argued that "Without Faith YOU are nothing."

Blogger Dire Badger December 12, 2019 2:02 PM  

The world isn't funny enough without God to share the joke with.

Blogger Dire Badger December 12, 2019 2:10 PM  

YehudaL wrote:Chosen means to hold dominion over the non-Jew.

Nope. Isaiah 43:21 covers it. We're really not that into you, though several of us are. Deal with them, the rest of us are quite happy to be far away.


Nonsense. Without us, you have no one to feel superior to.
Judaism cannot exist without an outsider to snub.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine December 12, 2019 9:03 PM  

They don't have to feel superior. They just have to feel that we are not human beings in the same way that they are, and being chosen can allow for nothing else if it is to be true.

Blogger W Molders December 13, 2019 10:49 AM  

"Elliot implies that if Pascal had been a Hebrew, with Hebraic values, he would have arrived at the Hebrew religion, rather than Catholicism. Perhaps similarly for the Aztecs."

This is not true. His statement about finding Catholic Christianity is a declaration of Catholic Christianity being the one true religion, and those looking for truth will find it. Thus, his reference to Newman (I believe it is Cardinal Newman to whom he refers), who addressed this himself.

Blogger RMH in StL December 13, 2019 9:17 PM  

While trying to express Pascal's reasoning with my atheist sister, she just kept saying, "Pascal was merely hedging his bet." Nope. It more like he was demonstrating what is worth betting on. But no matter how I tried to explain it, she just couldn't grasp it. I do believe something miraculous is involved. How can even fairly simple minded believers understand so easily when explained, while the brightest unbelievers cannot even begin to understand? And yet they are convinced they do understand it and understand it completely.

Blogger Andrew Brown December 15, 2019 2:48 PM  

Do you also disagree with the Prophet Daniel that the Messiah will come before the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem? Or is Dan 9:26 yet another scripture you stumble on, then twist or reject?

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