Friday, 26 December 2008

Responses to Canadian Pragmatist and Anonymous

I tried to respond to the comments on my, 'Bill Maher - Religulous' post, but the comments section would not accept the link to another site, so I will post them here.

Pragmatist, thanks for your thoughtful replies.

You are correct in saying we cannot comprehend the beginning of the universe. But still, we must either explain or imagine how something we might call ‘stuff’ came to be, either from nothing at all, or from some kind of ‘non-stuff.’ However, saying we will never know it, is a bit of a leap of pessimism that cannot with certainty be made.

The plurality of worlds explanation is certainly no less fantastic than the theistic one, and actually compounds the question by requiring how the many universes began as opposed to just the one we know.

The difference with the, ‘god hypothesis’ is that although God cannot be ‘proven’ to the satisfaction of one who will not acknowledge Him, He is ‘knowable’, and has made Himself known to millions of people throughout history in every part of the world. Not acknowledging Him does not disprove Him.

Regarding free will, it is naturalism that truly denies free will. If all our thought processes are merely random pulses of electrical energy, following paths in our brains according to merely natural laws, then how can we explain consciousness and the ability to make free decisions. By what mechanism are we to control these purely natural impulses? Regarding Gods foreknowledge as it impacts our free will, this is a debate to which there seems to be no answer satisfactory to all. In my own opinion, I see foreknowledge as separate from fore-ordainment. God can know what our future decisions will be and still give us the ability to make them. It’s a matter of seeing time panoramically rather than chronologically, if I can put it that way.

I don’t know if you are the same anonymous that left the comment I deleted from another post. I hadn’t seen anything so clever since junior high, and I say that not wanting to insult anyone in junior high. But perhaps I’m being too generous. Maybe you’re not there yet. If it was not you, I do apologize.

Your point about Christianity being founded on various other mystery religions is itself a well-worn myth, based on ‘research’ completely out-dated/ People propagating such nonsense should be embarrassed. Here is a link that answers most of their arguments.

On your second comment, these are the types of objections that I consider secondary because any answer I give will be contingent on my theistic worldview and probably unacceptable a priori to anyone unwilling or unable to comprehend a sovereign God. But, so as not to leave you feeling ignored, here goes.
1. Oral history perhaps?
2. What archaeological evidence would you expect? They did not build stone buildings and tents and clothing do not preserve well.
3. Irrelevant.
4. Not quite sure of your meaning and/or it’s significance.

Take Care


Canadian Pragmatist said...

Stuff from Non-Stuff (even if sensical) still does not assume a personal God. That God has made himself known to people all around the world is a great non-sequitor. The image of our father projected unto the sky made itself known to people all around the world.

This is a similar argument a theist gave me in my philoophy of religion class. He said "o how come there are no atheists in fox-holes" and I replied "you're right, there are no atheists in fox-holes. Now, do you think that's because of the strength of god or the weakness of the human mind?" He turned back around in his chair with no response.

Also, the god hypothesis is not sensical in that you, nor does anyone else know what/who/how, etc... god exists. We might as well replace god with any other mythical, immaterial being.

Also, the story of Jesus may or may not be original (problably not), the 3500 year old religion Zoroastrianism came up with ideas like Hell/Heaven, Good/Evil, Conscience, and a load of other things later adopted by Christianity (e.g. the bible) in fact early Christians (at least St.Augustine) used to follow a religion that was a combination of Zoroastrianism and Christianity, the religions are so similar. This is not contentious at all. It's on wikipedia if you want to look it up. I don't remember the name, but it's in Augustine's "Confessions".

I believe your faith is genuine, and I don't want to take it away from you, especially since you seem like an older person, but to say that it is reasonable is really a stretch.

Free will, consciousness, etc... arose from a natural world through a multitude of naturally evolving mechanisms. That we are agents of them and have in a sense, 'control' over them is no more strange or mysterious than that an animal has control over her hind legs. This is not a mystery, I'm just not a scientist, and don't want to pretend to be one, and try and explain it. John Searle, and Dan Dennett however, give world-class explanation of how this happens in a natural world.

The historical questions, I'll leave you alone about, I just want you to understand that there is a difference between seeking truth, and following religion. Following religion can make you happy, content, etc... but if you want to be a disciple of truth (rather than jesus) you must SEARCH!

Canadian Pragmatist said...

There are no two ways about it. No one is born into a family that already follows the truth and knows everything there is to know.

The difference between you and I is nothing more than, I am contented with knowing less than you.

Scott said...

The story of Jesus is “probably not” original? You mean the New Testament was written centuries before he was born?

early Christians (at least St.Augustine) used to follow a religion that was a combination of Zoroastrianism and Christianity, the religions are so similar.

St Augustine never followed Zoroastrianism, and Wikipedia does not say he did. He did not follow any religion combined with Christianity. Perhaps you’re thinking of Manichaeism, which he did follow for a time as a young man. However, he rejected Manichaeism well before he accepted Christ. It’s in Wikipedia. Check it out. Better yet, read the Confessions before making a fool of yourself again.

Name some ”early Christians” who followed a combination of Zoroastrianism and Christianity.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

"Manichaeism" is exactly what I was talking about. I never said he was a Zoroastrian, or that he didn't later reject it for Catholicism.

The Jesus story is unoriginal because it was told earlier refering to other messiahs.

You need to do a better job with your reading comprehension.

Well, now that that's cleared up I'll wait for someone with half a brain to reply to my criticisms.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

I don't think the Jesus character ever existed as he was written about (i.e. the bible is not a true story or based on a true story).

Also, I heave read the confessions, and I'm still an atheist, surprise surprise.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

Unless you claim that Christianity outdates Zoroastrianism, I don't know how you can get away with the whole stealing of ideas thing.

You guys really are just 'apologizing' for a lack of historicity or truth, aren't you?

Scott said...

early Christians (at least St.Augustine) used to follow a religion that was a combination of Zoroastrianism and Christianity.

When challenged, you said:

"Manichaeism" is exactly what I was talking about. I never said he was a Zoroastrian,

Let me try to be as clear as I can: St Augustine never followed Zoroastrianism; nor did he follow a combination of Christianity and some other religion. Your statement that he did so is simply incorrect.

Unless you claim that Christianity outdates Zoroastrianism, I don't know how you can get away with the whole stealing of ideas thing.

That is an example of one of the most basic logical fallacies: post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Because Christianity arose after Zoroastrianism, it must have copied its ideas from Zoroastrianism. It takes rather more than that to establish a causal relationship. You need evidence that Jesus (or whoever you believe thought up Christianity) knew of and was influenced by Zoroastrianism.

Do you believe that Mormonism stole its ideas from Islam?

Christianity is quite original with respect to its most basic theological insight: God has done everything necessary to reconcile his people to himself. Every other religion teaches that individuals who desire a right relationship with God must do some kind of good work---ritual observances, charitable deeds, etc.---in order to enter or stay in God’s good books. Only Christianity teaches that no good deed can earn acceptance with God. Only Christianity teaches that good deeds are ultimately irrelevant in salvation. The death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished it all. The believer only has to believe.

Christianity does teach that good deeds are expected of believers, but as a matter of gratitude to God for the salvation he has provided, not as a matter of deserving salvation. Unlike every other major religion, Christianity teaches that salvation cannot be earned.

Scott said...

You still haven't named any ”early Christians” who followed a combination of Zoroastrianism and Christianity.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

I never said I could or would do that Scott. What I said (and please try to follow me here) is that Manichaeism is a combo of christianity and zoroastrianism. I think it's actually not, but that a group of people followed a combination of Manichaeism and Christianity.

Also, although I can't prove a causal relationship (a lot to prove considering the proof your giving me for your claims) between Zoroastrianism (predates christianity by over 1000 years) and Christianity, I can tell about a number of rather odd coincidences suggesting plagirism.

Conscience, the world as a struggle between good and evil, heaven and hell, etc... these are all originally Zoroastrian ideas adopted by Christianity.

If you just considr this coincidence and still believe in god, that's fine, but I consider it plagirism. Jews in Palestine at that time knew about Zoroastrianism. Also, who do you think the three wise men were? They were Zoroastrian!


You're asking for a lot of proof and strict logic from my side when you provide none of that from your own.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

You're a statistician Scott. What are the chances there is a god? Better yet, what are the chance you're following the right god? As you admit there are a lot of possible deities you could be praising.

Why the jew from Palestine?

Canadian Pragmatist said...

Also yes; Mormonism did steal most of its religious ideas from past religions. Is that even arguable?

If someone else came up with something, wrote it down, and then published the writings, and you've written basically the same thing with minor differences, that's plagirism, and I am accusing christianity of plagirizing from zoroastrianism. I can't prove it, but how could I? If anyone should have to prove anything here...

Canadian Pragmatist said...

That you only have to believe, and not necessarily do any good deeds to get into heaven seems unjust, and not just untrue.

John K said...

OK, let's try to address some of these points, A-Z

A is for arrogance, of which you accused me, but in fact I believe it is you who must bear that label. You claim on the other thread that I am arrogant for claiming to know there is a God and it that I have a personal relationship with Him. Well, either I am right or I am wrong. If right, how can I be accused of arrogance for saying what is true. There are two possibilities here; either I am right or I am wrong. If I am right (and I believe I am) it is rather a cause for great humility, and rather than being arrogant about it, I invite you or anyone else to share that same relationship.

If I am wrong, then I am deluded, not arrogant. You, on the other hand, are declaring confidently something you cannot possibly know or prove, that is, the non-existence of God, "... that you, nor does anyone else know what/who/how, etc... god exists." You cannot make that accusation unless you posess infinite knowledge. By accusing me of arrogance, you are in fact betraying your own.

S is for stuff from non-stuff.
"Stuff from Non-Stuff (even if sensical) still does not assume a personal God."
I was not arguing for a personal God in this argument. I was merely trying to say that "stuff from non-stuff" was more compatible with some sort of theistic worldview, whether you call it "God" or "Bill-Maher's-belly-button-lint."

Z is for Zoroaster. Where in Zoriastrianiam do you find God becoming a man, dying a sacrificial atoning death for the forgiveness of sins, being buried, then rising to life and ascending to Heaven. Please don't bring up things like conscience, good and evil, right and wrong as any proofs. Practically all religions have these concepts. It is one of my arguments for the existence of God -- that He has revealed to all people everywhere a sense of Himself. In fact I will go as far as to say that all people, religious or not, have a sense of good and evil, right and wrong -- even atheists (although atheists have no objective, rational or logical reason for them).

The closest religion I have seen to Christianity is North American Native spirituality. Do you say that they copied Zoroastrianism as well? As I said, I believe that God has given all people everywhere a common and fairly consistent sense of right and wrong, and almost every religion, even people of no religion, reflect these independently -- even if they have no possible connection.

John K said...

"That you only have to believe, and not necessarily do any good deeds to get into heaven seems unjust, and not just untrue."

I agree, and if it were true, it would indeed be unjust. But Christians believe that if we are indeed saved, we will do good works as a result of our relationship with our Saviour. He tells us to do so.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

So, you're accusing me of arrogance for not believing in the particular sort of mysticism you believe in? I could say the same of you for not being Hindu or Buddhist.

I know you're wrong the same way I know that someone who thinks Zeus is their god is wrong. Knowledge is not the same as certainty, and although I can't be certain that you are wrong, I know you're wrong. Also, I can't prove a negative (e.g. there are no pink unicorns). I't is on you to prove the positive claim that there is a god. If you can't... well you can still believe, but it's not a scientific belief because you've shrugged off the burden of proof.

Whether it is actually true that you share a relationship with god is still contentious, and of course if you're right, it's fine, but that's the whole argument! Lets start at "the next question" if you want to. I don't think it's fair for you to posite god as evidence for god.

Also, although Maher uses belly-button lint to combat the god hypothesis, has just as easily could have used a non-material substitute.

Correction: the god of Zoroastrianism was the first monotheistic god, the first god who believes the world is a struggle between good and evil, the first god who gives people a conscience, etc...

I think it's far more likely that the subsequent religions stole the ideas, and did not just come up with them on their own, and that they happen to match because they're so basic. Before Zoroastrianism these ideas did not exist in the world. After it, most religions adopted them. This is not god revealing himself in slightly different way to different people. This is plagirism. The story of Zarathustra (the one that is historically agreed upon) id very similar to that of Jesus too. Not identical, but similar.

Of course the BBC did a special on it:

John K said...

"So, you're accusing me of arrogance for not believing in the particular sort of mysticism you believe in?"
No, but for your declaration that you somehow possess some knowledge that the vast majority of the world's population, who are theists of one kind or another, do not; an assertion you cannot make with certainty, but which you make anyway.

"...the god of Zoroastrianism was the first monotheistic god,"
"Before Zoroastrianism these ideas did not exist in the world"(????)
How do you know that? How do you know what people believed before recorded history, or in other parts of the world? You can't, because it wasn't recorded.
This is another example of what I call, 'cultural arrogance' (not directed at you personally) or 'chronological arrogance'. It is the tendency of we 'modern' people to think that nothing that happened in other cultures or in other times matters. Native North Americans came here 12-15 thousand years ago -- way before any 'known' religion of which we have records,yet they are (and I'm sure were) monotheistic. And just because we have no record, we cannot assume that people had no spirituality before the, 'first' religion that we know about.

Your video link was not particularly helpful. All it showed me was how different our two religions are.
There also seems to be some dispute about the beginning of Zoroastrianism, but many would place it later than Judaism, which is what Christianity grew out of. Do you have sources to clarify this? In and case, Judaism is much better documented.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

That most people believe in god is not an argument for gods existence. Most people believed the earth was flat not too long ago. Concensus is hardly evidence, and I'm not arrogant for saying that.

Also, zoroastrianism was the first monotheistic religion. I never said there had been no spirituality (superstition) before than, all I said was that people never believed in a single-god. We know about a lot of native american religions. They're all polytheistic.

Judaism does not predate Zoroastrianism. I think that's what historians agree upon, since no one ever talks about how judaism influenced zoroastrianism, but only the other way around.

I can't prove you're wrong, I can only say that you're being unreasonable believing in what 'most' people believe in, and believing that the bible validates itself. I'm not trying to prove anything here. I'm just discussing this with you, and if you don't want to hear from a different perspective, I'll stop.

You can just keep your head down ignoring all the evidence like an ostrich if you'd like.

John K said...

Believing the earth is flat is categorically different from having a spiritual consciousness, an inner sense of God.

I don't know if you're still here, but I wouldn't mind some definitive links. One to document that Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism. "Historians agree..." is no better than, "dentists recommend...". Another link to document the polytheism of Native Spirituality. Admittedly my experience is only anecdotal, but from my work with natives in prisons, they believe in only one Creator, Manitou. Other spirits perhaps, but only one God.

Beyond that, I think we can both see we are on totally opposite sides of the fence. But one thing I know -- God is real. A Christian can be as confident of that as he can be about anything else. Certainly more confident in his position than an atheist can be in his.

Take Care

Canadian Pragmatist said...

How are they categorically different? They are not. They are both beliefs about the nature of reality, and both are ridiculous. The only difference is that one is falsifiable, and the other is not.

I'm sure you are more confident, but that just means you're a little touched in the head. I certainly have more to stand on than you in regards to evidence, etc... Afterall, you're affirming something that you have no proof of, and I'm only denying it. You're position is about as strong as if you said "there are elves or space unicorns." You have no more evidence for your claim than people who believe in parapsychological phenomena.

Here are the links you asked for:

There are many more. I could fetch them all for you to read if you'd like.

Native spirituality may be monotheistic, but I would bet that their origins are later than that of zoroastrianism. You could look it up (does it matter?). They were both monotheistic b4 Christianity though.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

One more thing. The universe could be a constant, that is, non-contingent entity. This is just as plausible, and likely as god as creator. Also, god is no more incomprehensible an explanation than a universe that has one or more of gods characteristics.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

What happened? Are you taking another vacation? If you're wondering what to respond to, if I were you'd I'd just respond to the last comment I left. You suggested that everything leads logically to god, and I disputed that. I said that you could just as easily asign one or more of gods characteristics to the universe. There is no good reason to think god rather than any one of the other many possible explanations of 'how it all began', but you must have some sort of response to this?

John K said...

OK, where to begin, and without posting an entire treatise.
First, thank you for the links. However they were far from impartial. Every one had either a bias, a conspiracy theory or some kind of axe to grind. We could both provide scholars to support our respective positions, just like the tobacco companies 50 years ago could find doctors to recommend their particular brand of cigarette.
You said, "Native spirituality may be monotheistic, but I would bet that their origins are later than that of zoroastrianism. You could look it up (does it matter?). They were both monotheistic b4 Christianity though."

First of all, the original Native North Americans came across the land bridge 12-15000 years ago. How could they have been influenced by Zoroastrianism, unless there were trans-Pacific missionaries involved?

Second, you continue to commit the logical fallacy of assuming that because there are two (or more)groups of monotheists, that one copied from the other. It does not follow at all. It is entirely possible that, if there is a God, He has revealed Himself to various people and cultures at various times. Even your Zoroastrian links do not make the claim you are making. They talk of influence, not copying. The link to the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies even accuses the early Jews of polytheism based on the commandment,"...have no other gods before me." That's ridiculous. Paul even acknowledges that there are many gods (1 Cor 8:5) In the same way, Hindus have millions of gods. The monotheistic religions claim is that there is only one Supreme God, worthy of worship.

A non-contingent universe? But where did it come from? Something must be eternal and non-contingent; either matter or whatever brought matter into existence. You pick. But common sense and science tell us that matter (stuff) must have come from somewhere. So you must explain how stuff came from nothing, or we enter the realm of metaphysics -- and posit some kind of non-material being. You pick. An eternal universe and the fact that our univers is expanding are self-contradictory concepts. If the universe began an infinity ago, it could not still be expanding; it would already have expanded to infinity. This contradiction leads then to the idea of an expanding and contracting universe that begins and ends over and over again. Just another unfounded theory attempting to eliminate God from the picture.

As for assigning God's characteristics to the universe, you'll have to explain. Which characteristics? Personal ones?

My home conputer is down, so I am diong this from work, between jobs.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

The links I provided you, I didn't even look at myself. They were the first few that came up on google when I looked up 'zoroastrian influence on judaism'.

I didn't find one that contradicted them, and you didn't ask for anything more than the links, and yet when I provided them your were dissatisfied (next time don't even ask, or ask for something that will satisfy you. It's altogether rude to waste my time looking up links when you're not even going to be happy when I find them).

I NEVER said that this proves that one religion copied the other. Also, it's not just monotheism. It's a whole litany of ideas that were all around the middle-east at that time, and this only suggests that Judaism and Christianity picked up on them. If this doesn't SUGEEST (not prove) a worldly origin to your religion, I don't know what does.

As to all the logical fallacies you suggest, they are all wrong.

If the universe is non-contingent then it does not require a further explanation just as god does not require a further explanation. If an eternal/non-contingent universe requires further explanation, so does an eternal/non-contingent god. Neither have further explanations, and I would suggest that both are very empty concepts which you seem to admit about an e/non-c universe, but not about an e/non-c god. Why is this? Both are plausible, but not likely. God is more likely and I defy you to coherently explain why god is any more likely than to transpose some of the characteristics of god upon the universe (N.B. I've already explained this. Thinking of the universe as eternal/non-contingent would be assigning gods supposed characteristics to it. What further explanation do you need? And no, not personal characteristics. Those would be completely superfluous to god or the universe, and I can explain why.).

Also, there needn't be anything non-contingent and eternal "either matter of whatever brought matter into existence" as you've suggested. It's altogether possible that nothing had to be eternal or non-contingent. What we know of the universe is so limited, not even spanning outside of our own galaxy that doubt of our knowledge of origin is the only reasonable position to take. I could suggest a long list of possibilities, but you're the one that claims to know the particular possibility that is an actuality (actual explanation of the universe) not me. The burden of proof is on you. So far you've done nothing to shake it off or dissolve it be proving something.

Common sense (your and my puny mind) may tell us that matter had to come from somewhere or out of something, but this is altogether no reason to consider this a more likely reality. Science is silent on the issue of metaphysical (as opposed to physical) origins of the universe.

The universe expanding and being eternal are not self-contradictory. An all good, all powerful god that permits evil is self-contradictory. Something may be eternal but still growing. If numbers are eternal that doesn't mean that we have to start counting at 1000000000000000...

I'm sorry your computer is down. I hate when that happens. I'll be as patient as I can be awaiting your response.

Bye for now.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

*"God is more likely and I defy you..." I meant to write "God is 'no' more likely."


Canadian Pragmatist said...

Shit, there are a few more typos I just read. I hope you notice them and correct them while you're reading. Sorry again. When I quote you, you're meant to say 'or' "whatever brought matter..." and not 'of'.

I hate when I click to post something before I get all the little mistakes out of it.

John K said...

*"God is more likely and I defy you..." I meant to write "God is 'no' more likely."

Damn... I thought you'd been converted there for a moment.

My opinion of your links was nothing personal. I just happen to think they fell short in one of a number of areas, relevance, accuracy, impartiality, or conclusivity.

I think we are both butting our heads against a wall. I am offering nothing I claim to be proof. I have no burden of proof -- only a burden of suggestion. You yourself have agreed that neither side is provable, and there we agree. One can only look at both sides and perhaps make a decision based on their assessment of them. No argument, no matter how sound, will convince everyone, otherwise there would be no disagreement.

But as Jesus said, (unless he copied it from someone else) :>) "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

As for a good God permitting evil, that has also been debated ad infinitum with no complete resolution. Just for starters, one would have to ask, is there such a thing as evil. Then one would have to come up with some rational basis for defining it. One would have to admit that God, by eliminating evil, would also be eliminating free will. Then one would have to ponder whether God (whose thoughts and ways, if He exists), are much higher than we humans can possibly understand, can use all circumstances (whether good or evil, according to our definition) to the end of some ultimate good. Christians, and other religions, of course, believe that to be the case. there will be a time when all things will be resolved; all evil ever will be judged and eliminated. But I see no point in discussing along that line, because you have eliminated, a priori any acknowledgment of the supernatural.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

I'm not saying that you have to prove that god exists (although the burden of proof is with you since, just I cannot prove there is no god, I can neither prove there are no elves; but if the believer suggests that there is such a thing as an elf (supernatural dwarf) without any further evidence, I would have to say to him/her "I can't prove you wrong (there will always be left a stone unturned) but I would think that you should prove the positive claim (that is provable) rather than I proving the negative claim "there are no elves" which is unprovable.

All I'm trying to say is that your positive assertion of god is provable. Mine is not. Everything else being the same, scientifically, one should reasonably doubt god, and not think he/she/it exists.

So, you do have burden of proof. I accept that neither of us WILL prove our positions, but this is not as neutral in our dialectic as you suggest. This very fact of burden of proof suggests that my position is stronger (since the possibility of you proving your position exists). But I disgress.

As for evil and free will, I would first like you to tell me why you believe human beings have free will (what is your evidence), and, if that explains human suffering (evil) how do you explain the evil/suffering done to animals?

I hope you don't believe my dog has free will. So, why would god allow him to become ill? Couldn't god have made animals whom did not feel pain? Afterall, this was what Descartes believed god had done (Descartes made sense of animals suffering by denying it), and this is what led him to pick out stray cats and dogs off his street, nail them to boards, cut open their chests (whilst they were still alive), and try to figure out which way the blood circulates in their bodies.

Also, I suggest you take a look at this once your computer starts working again:

Canadian Pragmatist said...

I understand divine justice. I understand that all suffering, etc... will be redeemed by god. This still doesn't explain why he makes it so hard for reasonable people to believe in him e.g. when looking at animal suffering.

I'm not denying god a priori, but I think it is reasonable to start off, at least agnostic, and then look at the evidence (N.B. I did exactly that when I enrolled in my catholic highschool, S.T.A. [Saint Thomas Aquinas] here in North Vancouver on Keith road).

So, assuming that we are both unsure of Gods existence and looked on to the suffering of animals, and then the explanation you've given for suffering, I think we'd have to reasonably deny god. If you disagree, you'll have to show me why. If you assume god exists as your premise, then you could make sense of anything in this world. I can't argue that god definately doesn't exist (e.g. prove it to you), but I think that needless animal suffering should suggest to you that god does not exist.

I mean, if aliens came to our planet tomarrow and put us all in cages that would usually only fit small or medium sized dogs, god could still exist. If Muhammed came down tomarrow, performed some miracles, stopped traffic, etc... and told us he existed and was god, you could still claim that Jesus is testing us.

John K said...

Again, I claim no proof of God – only evidence to those who can see it. As I have tried to show, I believe reason alone is enough to lead one to consider a theistic viewpoint, and I think we have each said all we can on that point, agree or not. I have meant to have you click on my label, ‘philosophy’ and see how an ancient Greek philosopher named Xenophanes arrived by pure reason at a monotheistic conclusion.

But someone said, “God is more known than proven,” and that really says it all. Christians believe that God has revealed Himself to those who know Him. Please don’t think me arrogant (I am very conscious that the accusation might be made) but the Bible says that the person without the (Holy) Spirit really cannot understand things that come from God – they are foolishness to him (1 Cor 2:14). But the Christian faith is not an exclusive club, because anyone is welcome to it. In fact, Christians are compelled to invite all to come. The Bible also promises that all who seek will find, and God will give His same Spirit to anyone who asks for it (Luke 11:13). That is my hope for any who stumble across this blog; that they will keep thinking and investigating.

Just to address your point about the suffering of animals, how does one quantify suffering? I wonder if the killing of a deer by a pack of wolves, biting its legs until it can no longer run, then ripping off pieces of its flesh, is any crueller, in a strictly objective sense, than what Descartes did? Not to excuse him – one would think he should have known better, but what may seem dastardly in our culture may have been acceptable in another time, as we see in many cases.

There is much more to be said. An entire theological system cannot be presented so quickly, and I almost hesitate to say anything at all lest it not be done justice, but Christians believe that all evil and suffering, human and animal alike, are the result of our fallen world, and that all will be eliminated and resolved some time in the future when God brings renewal and reconciliation.


Canadian Pragmatist said...

A deer having its legs bitten off by a wolf is nothing other than god's will. Niether wolves nor deer have free will. I know you believe that god will reconcile and renew, but I hardly think it's something that can be reasonably believed. Also, how much pleasure in the after life will make up for all the pain that animals and people suffer here one earth? Also, isn't that a complete cop-out a pseudo-justifer of all the cruelty in the world, that is "don't worry about Hitler. He'll get his."

Don't tell me about certain philosophers of ancient times (without science/logic, etc... to the extent that we have today) believed in god through reason (Which is not some sort of settled idea. Reason doesn't lead people anywhere necessarily. It's a tool like any other.). Aside from that, why don't you show me the reason! I've read Kant's, Descartes', Aquinas', etc... so-called reason, and it's nothing other than dispicable non-reason. I've demonstrated how demonstrably Descartes reconciles reason with god. I think Aquinas does it in an even more dispicable way.

Also, I really can't believe you would even in a little way stick up for Descartes' cruel and vile actions (carried out from a strictly Christian point of view). It's sickening how much Christianity can blind people. It's not much different than being a die hard republican. You stick up for your party no matter what. It's just sickening.

I have searched for god openly. Guess what? Haven't found him, and you're not doing a good job pointing me in his direction. Also, don't quote me scripture as if it's necessarily true. Show me the evidence!

Once you can appeal to something other than unknown/fake garbage reasoning to justify real senseless/meaningless cruelty here on earth, maybe I'll be able to take you more seriously, but until then...

Canadian Pragmatist said...

Also, the pain endured by those animals at the hands of the Christian philosopher Renee Descartes was likely much more than that they would endure in the wild, and also don't tell me he was a product of his time.

Only backwards Christians thought the way he did. The atheist philosohpers Thomas Hobbes wrote him letters begging him to stop doing what he was doing to the animals. I don't know if there is any good thing a atheist can't do that a Christian can, but I knoe of many awful things Christians do that atheists would never think of doing.

John K said...

Wow. I'm afraid this conversation is going nowhere. You seem to be all over the place.
I was hardly aware of Descartes, had never thought of whether he was a Christian or not (if indeed he was any more than anyone else was as a member of his culture in his time). I couldn't really find anything about him torturing animals and I was certainly, in no way, defending his doing so. But I do tend to shake my head at what I might call anachronistic arrogance by which people of today self-righteously will say, for instance, "Oh if I were alive 150 years ago, I would have fought slavery!" Yeah? How do you know, you weren't there.

In any case, I'm not one who thinks much of trying to discredit a philosophical viewpoint by condemning some of its adherents, just as I'm not a fan of trying to associate all atheists with Stalin.

I just don't particularly care.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

That makes sense because Stalin didn't do what he did because he was an atheist; however, Descartes did do what he did in light of the fact that he was a Christian. Furthermore, he would have never thought of torturing animals if he did not think that god put them here as machine for our enjoyment that couldn't feel pain. That any crys or yelps that seemed like pain responses were just humans anthropomorphizing the animals. Why did he think this? When he thought about the suffering of innocent animals it was the only sensical way he could justify it.

I actually think he's one of the great philosophers of all time. I just think that Christianity corrupted him. But, how would you justify animal suffering? You haven't given a reasonable answer to that yet (Descartes did. If animals don't feel pain, there suffering isn't real.). All you've said is that it'll be reconciled. That's funny because I didn't know animals had souls, even by your view?

Also, Hobbes was from his time. He wrote correspondent letters to him. I never said I would have known better. But atheistic philosophers obviously did.

I don't blame the religion for individual adherents. When the top philosophers and theologians tell their followers that Christianity is alright with this or that, I do blame the religion. If for nothing else the fact that it can be manipulated in so many ways.

Another Christian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas thought that the earth was the center of the universe. All this is, in spite of contradictory evidence. Since during his time the church controlled science, he made this claim a scientific claim.

Why? Well, why wouldn't god have his creation at the center? The way the universe is actually set out, it would seem that we are just another part of it with no particular location within it; or even within our galacy for that matter.

These are just two of many crazy ideas Christians have had to adopt to justify their gods 'seemingly' arbitrary actions. Why do I bring them up? Because whatever absurd argument you use today will just be the latest in a long line of garbage arguments that blur our understanding of reality to justify your imaginary friend.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

You want history:

John K said...

So What? Just because a guy has gray hair, a beard and waves his hands in an authorative looking manner does not mean he is an expert. These things have been refuted time and time again (there is a link just to the right of the video to a talk by William Lane Craig, who discusses these issues in an intelligent manner) In any case, I don't feel like getting into a, "my expert is bigger than your expert" pissing match. The first guy even self-refutes by claiming that there are all kinds of, "empty tomb" events in 'second century' novels. Well, guess what. Even non-Christian scholars agree and admit that the new testament was written in the first century. So who's copying who? This guy is an expert? Then he mentionsAppolonius of Tyana, who was allegedly a contemporary of Jesus, but nothing was written about him until after 217 AD. Who's copying who?

As for your previous comments, I'm afraid they were becoming more like personal rants, and it's hard to discuss anything in a reasonable manner when anger seems to taint one side.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

They were actual arguments, but when you don't respond to them (or argue around them)... it does get frustrating.

Don't be such a fucking bitch though.

John K said...

"Don't be such a f*****g bitch though."

It's just so difficult to compete with such debating skill as this.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

It's true! Get over yourself. I don't want to win a debate; I want to get at the truth. Why won't you engage? I've raised very serious criticisms of the entire concept of an omnipotent, whilst benevolent god. I've stated (backed by argument) that god is in essence, not possible by definition. You've sort of, tongue and cheek address human suffering, completely snuffing animals. What can I say?

Would you please engage in this? Pretty please...! The loser of an arugment isn't necessarily the one that resorts to character attacks. I resorted to that because you're pissing me off. Either admit defeat, or lets keep going.

This sort of withdrawl is not helping your cause. Your god may be a personal one, but you're claiming his existence as objective.

John K said...

OK, here goes. I have had many discussions with atheists on various sites, and generally speaking, when the discussion comes down to the other sarcastically referring to, "our imaginary friend in the sky," or something similar, I pretty much consider rational, reasoned and civil debate to have come to an end.

You bring up the areaa, among others, of animal suffering, and that falls, in my opinion, into the area of secondary matters, just as I began this whole thread by referring to Bill maher's objections as secondary points. In other words, none of these things can be duscussed profitably until we are on the same page, acceptiong the same premises. The first premise, without agreement on which we will never see eye to eye, is the existence of a sovereign omnipotent being of some sort; one whom I refer to as God.

My whole initial point was to attempt to show that belief in such a One is not an unreasonable one. You obviously did not agree, offering all sorts of alternatives such as an eternally existent universe, or a universe which was itself, in effect (having one or more of God's attributes), God, or even many possible universes. Well, I'm not sure how any of those suggestion make any more sense than mine, but to you, apparently, they may. So that's it then. As I said in one of my comments, "You pick 'em."

But in any case, we are not on the same page from the start, and much of what I believe starts with the first premise of a sovereign God.

You asked me not to quote the Bible, but again, much of what I believe is contingent on my belief that it is God's word and again, without agreement on that, we are speaking of diagonally opposite directions. And again, talking theology with one who does not accept certain 'givens' will probably accomplish little, but here goes, on the matter of suffering, whether animal or human.

Christians believe that all sin and suffering entered the world with the 'fall,' the disobedience and rebellion of our first ancestors, known in the Bible as Adam and Eve. And again, this belief is entirely contingent on the first premise, that of an all powerful Creator, so that without it, these word will be pointless. But I am trying to explain certain things within the context of Christian beliefs. If you don't share those beliefs, then you will not obviously agree with my reasoning.

But so that you don't think me trying to avoid the issue, here goes. We believe that in the beginning there was no suffering, human or animal. Carnivorism(?) did not enter the world until later. And at the end, at the reconciliation of all things, it will again disappear. Isaiah says that in that day the wolf will lie down with the lamb. (Isaiah 11:6)

In the meantime, God gave human beings free will, and therefore the ability to choose evil. So evil and suffering, for now, flourish. But He has also given us the ability (and I would say the desire) to seek for some kind of spiritual fulfillment, of which He is the only true and complete answer.

I believe that we humans are the only beings so endowed (the only ones made in His image). Animals do not have free will, so animals cannot sin. Animals, then, if one pursues the point to it's logical end, will not be consigned to hell, as will humans who have made the freewill decision to reject God and His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

So there we go. Doubtless I have done a rather poor job in explaining my position. You may not accept it, but don't ridicule it unless you can prove it inconsistent with what I have already called my first premise.
Or you may dispute my first premise on some new ground, but I think we have covered that ground pretty well. I cannot accept animal suffering as an argument against God's existence, because I have attempted to explain my beliefs in that regard in light of His actuality.

I have meant to say, as someone has, that God is not so much proven asn known. In the end, God cannot be known by anyone unless He Himself reveals Himself to them. So any 'proofs' offered are not really 'proofs' at all, but merely affirmations to those to whom He has revealed Himself, and 'evidences' to anyone who is interested that His existence is not an unreasonable concept.

Thanks again for your interest in this thread and your contributions to it.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

Okay, lets start with your given, or first, crucial premise. God exists (as in the Christian context).

It seems to me that based upon this premise, the afterlife, supernatural realm of existence, etc... are pretty well taken care of, and they're attributed whatever characteristics are required in order to make this world sensical in light of god's existence to rational people.

My problem is everything non-supernatural, and everything in this world (not in the other, 'better' world that slanders and bisbatter this world). Saying that everything will be reconciled in the end is quite an empty answer to the problem of animal suffering (a little bit fuller when addressing human suffering, but only because of a false belief in free will [that is not consistent with the reality of our material world, whether there is another world or not. I think it would be a great stretch to suppose that god gave us a freedom which we will never be able to realize through material observation].). That is, animals have not sinned, and are incapable of sin by your own admission. Therefore, they aren't going to either heaven or hell after they die (again, by your own admission). So, HOW will their suffering be reconciled? It is not enough to say that it will be.

Even if we accept the FACT that god exists in the form you imply he does, this still does not explain needless animal suffering (which encompasses all animal suffering if they do not have free will). By your definition of god, animal suffering must somehow be need'ful' or necessary. My claim is that even in light of the existence of your god, this suffering is still needless, and you have yet to explain how it could possibly be reconciled.

If you except my premise that this world is but matter, and we are a sophisticated part of it, animal suffering is a reality we ourselves must reconcile (with no help from god). I
admit that we will never reconcile suffering to godly perfection, but I believe that what we would do for the world (which we are responsible for and we will have no escape from) will be far more humanitarian and justified if we believe that god does not exist.

If you want to believe he exists, that's okay with me, so long as you don't use stories from the bible, original sin, etc... to escape from your responsibilities to THIS world.

I would prefer that you didn't slander this world by saying that the only way to justify it would be by creatin/having another world which this world is a sad case in comparison to, but I think I could live with your slander so long as it allowed you to understand human solidarity and environmental stewardship.

As for the beginning of the universe. I don't think your alternative is less likely that any of mine, and have never written anything to that extent. All I claim is that god is not a satsifactory explanation in that his characteristics are incomprehensible and therefore the god explanation is rendered a non-explanation, or an empty explanation by human reason.

We don't believe in infinity for the same reason we don't believe in god. Both are incomprehensible. God more so than infinity (although you could argue that there are no different levels of incomprehensibility. That is, once something is incomprehensible it cannot be more lor less incomprehensible, but only incomprehensible.) just because god has an infinite characteristic along with a non-contingent, benevolent and omnipotent characteristic, all of which are equally incomprehensible.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

Also, just because we are psychologically prone to a belief in the supernatural doesn't mean that god is offering himself to us; it means that our minds are weak. That is, that your mind is weak (and I don't mean that disrespectfully).

John K said...

I'm afraid your comments are becoming quite disjointed and incomprensible -- sort of all over the place (BTW, what does, 'bisbatter' mean?)

You also seem to be quite preoccupied with animal suffering. I have tried to explain
the Christian take on it, but if, according to your worldview, all is natural, the mere consequence of the movement of atoms and molecules, then suffering cannot be described as either right or wrong -- it just is -- completely natural and therefore morally neutral.

You keep declaring there is no such thing as free will, but never back up your statement. Again, if naturalism is true, you are correct, because every single nano-event since the beginning of time is a strict result of the directions that all atoms and molecules took at the initial, 'big bang,' if you accept that theory of the bveginning of the universe. (BTW, most scientist do affirm that the universe had a beginning, don't they) So if naturalism is all there is, the electrons travelling the paths in our brains have no more choice than a billiard ball can choose where to go after being struck by the cueball. Hence, no freewill. It would then follow that a murderer could claim as his defence that he had no choice, no freewill, and you, as a juror, would have to vote for acquittal, wouldn't you?

In closing, you say, "Also, just because we are psychologically prone to a belief in the supernatural doesn't mean that god is offering himself to us; it means that our minds are weak."

To which I append another of your comments,

"How do you conscience demeaning all the great people of the earth to such an extent?"

Take Care

Canadian Pragmatist said...

'Bespatter' is what I meant to write. 'Bisbatter' is an incorrect spelling. It means to soil, or slander.

Free will is fine. I said that if there is a god, which was our first premise, it is real. What, even you admit is that either way, animals do not have free will.

My off-hand comment about free will (which was in brackets) is not the crux of my argument, and does not render morality neutral either way. The American penal system is based upon penalizing criminals to such a harsh extent that the risk they would run by committing, x, y and/or z crime would not make sense by a purely utilitarian measurment of risk vs. reward.

Free will is a metaphysical question, and has, and will never have any relevance to the courts, except perhaps symbolic.

The crux of my argument is animal suffering. You have the internet, books, and every other means at your disposal, and yet your best explanation for animal suffering has been that it will be reconciled.

I'm sorry, but that's not nearly good enough an answer.

Also, how are my comments disjointing or incomprehensible? English is not even my first language, but I would implore you to find a grammatical/stylistic/etc... fault that would render my comments incomprehensible.

Also, quoting me without explaining the significance is quite a cheap strategy. People trying to argue that 9/11 was a gov't conspiracy often quote people without explaining the significance and assuming the audience will draw the 'right' conclusions.

Suffering is not right or wrong in my naturalistic world? Most people happen to think that suffering is a bad thing when it happens to them, and hence try to avoid it for themselves. This, along with the empathetic ability to imagine the suffering of others to such an extent that it hurt you (despite the fact that no visible hardship is being inflicted upon your body) is the basis of morality in a completely natural world.

So, why do I think animals suffering is wrong, and should therefore be minimized? I have a dog.

If these are not good enough answers or foundations for morality for you, I can't change your mind, (though I try) just like you can't change peoples minds to accept the Christian basis for morality. We'll just have to learn to get along; for the most part.

But to say that there is no morality in a completely materialistic understanding of the world is more a comment on your own moral sentiments (or lack thereof) than my claim to morality.

John K said...

We'll just have to learn to get along; for the most part.
I agree. We've both made our cases and I'm not sure there is any profit in continued repetition. I would just like to mention one more thing to avoid any misunderstanding on animal suffering.

I neither discount, deny or diminish it. I just don't see it as all that relevant as a proof or disproof of God. I have given the Christian explanation of why suffering entered the world, and "innocents", both human and animal do suffer. That's just a plain fact of existence. When I say there will come a day when suffering will be over forever, it is not in any way meant to excuse or justify it today. The two are separate and unconnected issues. It's just that some may find it a comfort.

Take Care

Canadian Pragmatist said...

That it provides comfort to some people does not make it true.

Animal suffering is relevant to the existence or non-existence of a perfectly benevolent god by definition.

The fact that needless, unexplainable, irredeemable suffering to innocent animals without the capacity for free will, and therefore moral desert is taking place on the watch of an all-good god is good enough reason to discount the existence of such a being.

The world of animal suffering is contradictory to the existence of a perfectly benevolent, and omnipotent god.

Case closed. Believe waht you will, but you no longer have the right to honestly call it 'reasonable'.