About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And you call this an argument??

I have suggested several times in the past that Alvin Plantinga's reputation as a “serious” theologian-philosopher is richly undeserved. It's not that the guy isn't smart: obviously, anybody capable of the sort of mental gymnastics that he routinely engages in is indeed smart. But that doesn't mean he is a good philosopher, or has anything relevant to say to humankind.

One simple way to justify my criticism is a Dawkins-like attack: since theology is all about make-believe, there is no such thing as a good theological argument, no matter how convoluted such argument may be. In a similar fashion, it doesn't matter how complicated the mathematical computations and diagrams of astrologers are, they are still nonsense on stilts. I actually agree with Dawkins here, but I will not take that easy way out.

Instead, I will briefly discuss Plantinga's own version of the (in)famous “ontological argument” for the existence of god, which he rather immodestly calls the “victorious” argument. As is well known, Anselm of Canterbury wrote up his logical proof of the existence of god in his “Proslogion” back in the 11th century. It is remarkable how much traction such an inane idea has had throughout the centuries (of course, not as much traction as the even more inane idea of god's existence). Anselm started out by defining god as that of which “no greater can be conceived.” He reckoned that every fool (his words) clearly understands this concept of an entity of which no greater can be conceived (I have to admit to being a fool here, since the very idea makes no sense to me: no greater than what? By what measure?). Now, continues Anselm, surely such thing of which no greater can be conceived cannot exist only in understanding (i.e., in theory), but it must exist in reality as well (because being real is a necessary property of that of which no greater can be conceived). QED, god (the thing we've been talking about) does exist.

Wow. Besides the obvious problem that Anselm does not provide us with any criterion for establishing “greatness” here, it is also seriously disputable that existence is a “greater” quality than non-existence. In fact, fictional heroes (say, Spiderman) are obviously “greater” than any real human being, so god doesn't exist because that way he is even greater than if he existed. QED. You can call this the Pigliucci proof of the nonexistence of god.

Well, then, Plantinga, back in 1974 (in his “The Nature of Necessity,” published by Oxford University Press) took it upon himself to improve on Anselm's clumsy attempt. Here is our hero's “argument”:

1. An entity possesses maximal excellence if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. [Can you smell not just any god, here, but the particular Judeo-Christian-Muslim version?]

2. An entity possesses maximal greatness if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world.

3. There is a possible world in which there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness.

4. Therefore, there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness.

What? First off, the concept of maximal excellence is fuzzy and unquantifiable, and – many have argued – internally inconsistent, which means it is as useless as Anselm's original idea of “greatness”. Second, although the argument is technically valid (i.e., if one accepts the premises, the conclusion necessarily follows) it shows absolutely nothing about existence. This is because it can be rephrased as “it is possible that it is necessary that X (n. 3 above); therefore it is necessary that X (n. 4 above).” But this is a jump from logical possibility to factual existence. There is a long tradition in philosophy of attempting to gain knowledge about the physical world by sheer force of logic. It goes back to Plato, and it got to an abrupt halt with Descartes' utter failure to derive anything relevant from his famous “I think therefore I am” (he immediately had to invoke out of nowhere the existence of a god who would guarantee the truth of his intuitions -- something philosophers refer to as Descartes' vicious circle). Plantinga, if one wishes to be charitable, is at least four centuries late (if one opts instead for being uncharitable, then he is ten centuries late, and in fact even Anselm's “argument” would have probably been laughed at by real philosophers like Aristotle or Epicurus).

Perhaps surprisingly, Plantinga does in fact recognize that his argument doesn't prove anything, and considers it “victorious” simply because it establishes that it is rational to accept its conclusion, since it is rational to accept the premise. Some Pyhrric victory this one is. And besides, my dear Alvin, no, it ain't rational at all to even accept the premise of your argument, because the concept of maximal excellence is hopelessly confused (not to mention the deceptively intuitive idea of “all possible worlds”: how, exactly, is one suppose to go about enumerating them?).

It is sad to see smart people use their complex evolved brains to salvage a fairy tale invented millennia ago by their naive ancestors. And it is doubly sad when so many others take the words of such “philosophers” as if they contained deep truths about fundamental questions, while they are no better than Deepak Chopra's nonsense about quantum mechanical elixirs for perennial youth. Hope does indeed spring eternal, unfortunately.

54 comments:

  1. People who see 'mind' as a god-given gift seem to put a great deal of faith in their thought processes, while those who see epiphenomenal minds arising from brains shaped via evolution have no faith in a priori reasoning. Even the very *obviously* true axioms of Euclidean geometry were in some sense stamped into our thinking by an evolutionary process - they work well enough to survive, but are only an approximation. So when it comes to philosophic word-play, we need to be doubly cautious, for the words themselves are very slippery, and the assumptions literally wired into our brains (eg, social hierarchies, territory, agression, ...) are difficult to see.
    Every time I see an interesting argument that talks about 'evil', 'good', 'greatness', 'god', etc, I look for an operational definition of the term, but rarely do I find one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 2. An entity possesses maximal greatness if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world.

    3. There is a possible world in which there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness.


    These two statements, rather than leading towards a proof, lead towards a reductio ad absurdum, because (3.) ends up saying "There is a possible world in which there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness in every possible world". Actually that sounds impossible.

    Would the argument not be refuted if there was a possible world in which there was no entity that possessed maximal greatness? Because then you could not pass from the one possible world of 3, to every possible world.

    ***

    Another thing: I think 3 is mis-stated, anyway. It is really an instruction. "posit a possible world, etc." But positing does not establish the existence of anything. AP would have to prove the existence of God before the argument even got off the ground.

    One of the writers on the Secular Web mentioned the difference between intensional and extensional meanings of all these "perfect being" formulations.
    Perhaps that was what I was saying above, I am not that well-versed in the theory of meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  3. M,

    I have heard the ontological argument many times now and I keep waiting for it dawn on me as to why it is at all profound. How did it ever convince anyone in the modern era (once it became popularly apparent that evidence trumps pure logic) about the existence of god? And why have many great philosophers, e.g. Bertrand Russell, spent more than a couple minutes refuting it?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, and another thing, speaking of arguments for the existence of god. Has anyone read Francis Collins' The Language of God? His only argument is that god must exist because he cannot otherwise account for the ubiquity of Moral Law other than through god (and by god, he of course means the god of the bible, duh!). Not only is this a horrible argument (from personal incredulity), but he only gives a paragraph to alternative evolutionary natural explanations, and never says anything about how social scientists and philosophers might explain morality. How do people like Collins and whoever M was talking about not realize they are grasping at straws?

    Sorry, I just finished this book and had to vent.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Like Chris Muir, I have always scratched my head in confusion as to why this argument is considered one of theologies best. It immediately strikes me as circular.

    Regarding this premise:

    "1. An entity possesses maximal excellence if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent."

    The argument can be demolished based on this premise. As a far as I am concerned "omnibenevolence" would require a God to end the suffering of children in famine and disease stricken places like Africa.

    I think Bono and others like him are the closest thing we have to this so-called God. To bad he is not omnipotent! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  6. I want to take a bit of exception here. You make reference to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God. Aside from the fact that the probability of a god or gods existing is extremely low, the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God definitely does not exist. Perhaps there is an argument for a Judeo-Muslim God but sa soon as one throws Christian polytheism into the mix what one is really dealing with is a Christian desire to misread both Jewish and Muslim traditions. While I know this is a minor point, I suggest that one must be careful how one associates mythologies with respect to other mythologies. It is not good enough to simply dismiss the hegemonic triumphilist language of Christianity, especially now the American version of Christianity that places so much truck in the Holy Spirit, as nonsensical. Atheists have an obligation, it seems to me, to really get the mythologies straight. So please, don't get caught in the trap of lumping these three traditions together as if they come out of the same traditions. They do not, and because they do not, they must be addressed in different ways.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Now, continues Anselm, surely such thing of which no greater can be conceived cannot exist only in understanding (i.e., in theory), but it must exist in reality as well (because being real is a necessary property of that of which no greater can be conceived). QED, god (the thing we've been talking about) does exist.

    No. If you read Proslogion Part III, not just part I or II, it turns out that what Anselm is actually saying is God is either noncontingent or nonexistent.

    For what it's worth, you'll find Hartshorne much more interesting to read on this subject, IMHO, than Plantinga.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Other than the ones stated here, I could never get beyond the point that the "possible worlds" can simply exist in the head. Can Plantiga show evidence for the existence of such possible worlds? How about we discuss "Probable Worlds"?

    Sure, for arguments sake, I could accept that it is 'possible', but without evidence that these possible worlds exist as anything but ideas, then any conclusion seems (to me) to stay in the same realm - the mind (or maybe "fantasy" as opposed to "reality" is a better form).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think all the ontological arguments work by eliminating mere contingent existence from the picture, thus leaving us with either impossibility or necessity. they look especially impressive when expressed in symbolic logic, where subtle equivocations are lost in the formalism of the arguments. If you can manipulate symbols till you land on "If God exists necessarily, he exists" then you're home free. But it still only means that "I think of God existing necessarily, therefore I must think of God as existing". I believe this is where the distinction between intensional and extensional meanings comes in.

    Also it seems that one is committed to defining God in a purely negative way, as not contingent (although this is masked by the use on Xian terminology). But essentially God defined in this way is hard to ditinguish from nothingness.

    At the same time, what about the little phrase exists? Is the very concept tied to contingency? If God is not contingent, does he exist?

    Then the definition of God itself. Are there not a range of meanings for the "being greater than which, etc.?". Just as you can have bare infinity, and infinity + 1, so you can have a bare concept of maximal greatness, say, "the pure act of being"(Aquinas) or Being-itself (Tillich). In a formal argument these would serve quite well for eliminating contingency. What then would be the justification for piling on all the Biblical attributes you can think of. Again, exactly how does Being-itself differ from Nothingness?

    Is there enough here for a board game?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Massimo,

    Great read. I love the philosophical stuff. Have you read Michael Tooley's "Alvin Plantinga and the argument from evil" Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 58:4, 360 - 376.

    A question I've always wondered: is it fair to say that any (modern) philosopher that believes in god is a bad philosopher in some sense? Obviously he/she may be a good philosopher when it comes to other things but those things are usually tainted by their belief in god as well.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Philosophical explanations and arguments, even if ultimately wrong, are nevertheless worthwhile. The problem is that Plantinga’s argument seems to be nothing but pure sophistry; he dresses up an invalid argument with controversial assumptions and some technical terms from modal logic.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'd say this argument is considered one of theologies best because all the rest is even worse junk. Oh well, what can you expect of specialists on the non-existing?

    Now, that "logic"...

    1. An entity possesses maximal excellence if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

    Well, I would buy the first two, since a "maximally excellent" (stupid expression, innit?) entity worth its salt would probably be all powerful and all knowing. Not so bad. It reeks when we get to the third one. Why is "maximal excellence" related to being all good? There's no connection between the two that I can see, right? Specially because it imposes internal contradiction: if you are all good and therefore can do no evil, it means you are not all powerful (because there's something you can't do). Or not? Can do but want not to, would that solve it? Anyway, no connection of goodness and excellence.

    2. An entity possesses maximal greatness if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world.

    OK, I think.

    3. There is a possible world in which there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness.

    As Suffenus said first with more elegance, this is pure and unadulterated BS. Who said there is such a world? How can some idiot get away with printing such thing?

    4. Therefore, there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness.

    No needs for commenting THIS one given the previous ones, eh?

    Cheers
    J

    ReplyDelete
  13. Re: Francis Collins book.

    I commented on this in another thread, but let me quickly recapitulate it here. I haven't read the book, but I've seen his talk here at VCU about a month ago. Great speaker, but I pity him. He is visibly struggling with himself, kinda schizophrenic there if you will. His (great) scientific mind desperately wants to rationalize his choice to be irrational in other, non-scientific matters. One minute he says he sees god in his work, the next he says science has nothing to say for or against god. Rinse, repeat, etc.

    And yes, the only thing he presented was the supposed "moral law" (which I don't buy). Deep down, all he says is "I don't know so I chose to believe". And obviously, even if you do buy the "moral" thing, it does not give any reason to choose the Christian variety and full package that comes with it, instead of, say, the Jewish, or Shintoist, or some Native American one, etc. Even a colleague who is a quite religious Southern Baptist was disappointed in the book (she read it), she says she got no useful argument from it. No need to read it if you haven't yet, IMHO.

    Cheers
    J

    ReplyDelete
  14. j said:

    "No need to read it if you haven't yet, IMHO."

    As someone who has read it, I agree. Didn't see your previous post on Collins' speech, but agree that he does come off as schizophrenic. For example, I thought he did a pretty good job at giving an interesting and of course logical explanation of evidence that humans are evolved from other species.

    In any case, I fully anticipated my frustration with the book, and it was tough to get through when much greater works were sitting on my desk unread, but I forced myself to, so that when some theist argues that I don't understand why faith is compatible with modern science, I can say that I've given honest consideration to that opinion and found it wanting. So yeah, Collins book is a waste of time, but hopefully it gives you some rhetorical leverage.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I confess to not being able to see how 4 follows from 3. There is a possible world in which X exists therefore X does exist? Doesn't that boil down to "X is possible therefore X is"?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ridger

    As far as I understand...

    It's because it's already been declared in the definition of maximally great that such a being could only be maximally great in ALL worlds. So if there's just one possible world it leads to all worlds, including this world.

    But to me it still makes a difference if you're merely positing, or declaring that you actually know of an instance. I think the "success" of the argument depends on slipping and sliding between the two.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Charles Hartshorne puts it at the center of a whole philosophy, as someone mentioned. He also does a good job explaining it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I fail to see how someone who send people to eternal torture for refusing to worship them could be described as omnibenevolent.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "1. An entity possesses maximal excellence if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. [Can you smell not just any god, here, but the particular Judeo-Christian-Muslim version?]

    2. An entity possesses maximal greatness if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world.

    3. There is a possible world in which there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness.

    4. Therefore, there is an entity that possesses maximal greatness."

    I hardly see how this argument makes bridges "possible worlds" and "actual world". As well, the entire argument is undermined by asserting that there is not entity which possesses "maximal greatness".

    ReplyDelete
  20. Perhaps a being could be maximally great in Possible World A, but not Possible World B (e.g., if one had fallen angels and the other didn't). So on ehas to question the transition from the one possible world of 3, to all possible worlds.

    Also what about lifeless worlds? No opportunity for omnibenevolence?

    ReplyDelete
  21. correction: one has to qestion

    ReplyDelete
  22. Knowing little to nothing about philosophy, I always thought a better argument for the existance of God was scientific rather than theological. Given the simple fact that if any law of physics or quantum mechanics was only slightly different, then life could not exist. i.e. if gravity was 7/8 as powerful as it actually is, all life would not be possible. Or if gravity was 8/7 as powerfull, the same result would occur. This same example could be used for any law in science. Showing either one of two possiblilties. There is a creator or designer of physical law or there is an infinate amount of universes that contain every possible combination of physical laws and we are in the one that works for life. I realize this means nothing twards a Christian God or any other religion.
    If there is only one (or eleven) universes, the chances of its rules of physics or quantum mechanics being just right to bring about life are non-existant. So to eliminate the need for a creator, do we not need an infinate amount of universes?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 24, 2007 10:23 AM

    Jim:

    No, we don't. Declaring "we don't know, therefore aCreatordidit" is not a particularly scientific argument, no more than it was back when people declared "we don't know how lightning occurs, therefore Zeusdidit".

    We have no idea how much variability those parameters might really have. Saying "if gravity [I assume you mean the Gravitational Constant, as gravity varies according to mass distribution] was 7/8 of what it is" begs the question: how do we know it could?

    Life (as we know it, and we only know one kind of life) is an emergent property of this universe, regardless of how many (or even IF) other universes exist.

    The argument you present is just another rehash of the unscientific human need to feel special. Why should this universe be "special"? It certainly seems special to US, but unless you assume teleology, life is not peculiarly more special than non-life.

    If this universe wasn't conducive to intelligent life, there would be nobody here to discuss the matter.

    Look at it this way: how unlikely is it that, FOR EVERY ONE of the six billion plus human beings on the planet - nay, for EVERY ONE of the countless billion living beings on this planet - an uninterrupted lineage of ancestors stretches back for billions of years? And yet it is true, and with no need of a supernatural "savior" [pun intended] preventing the untimely demise of any one of those ancestors.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The argument you present is just another rehash of the unscientific human need to feel special. Why should this universe be "special"? It certainly seems special to US, but unless you assume teleology, life is not peculiarly more special than non-life.

    Its got nothing to do with my needs of feeling special or not. It is a question of is it actually special (the universe)? If it is not special, there are infinate amounts of them.

    If this universe wasn't conducive to intelligent life, there would be nobody here to discuss the matter.

    Thats the point, there is life, that required specific laws of nature to aquire it. This is different then your ancestrial lineage example. Yes a specific ancestrial events led up to my being, but if they changed in any way, yes I may not be here but someone would.

    The strongest point you make in my view is your idea that laws of our universe could vary and life would still exist. I will have to ponder that for a bit. I thought I read that if the gravitiational constant were not exactly as it is, then solar systems and galaxies could not exsist at all. I guess the question is could there be some other configuration of matter to support life. I would say no, but obviously I can not prove that.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 24, 2007 11:59 AM

    Jim:

    The question "is this universe special" is invalid if we don't even know what "being special" means. As far as we know, there is one universe, and it is as it is.
    How would a "non-special" universe be? Can we even imagine such a beast?

    Second, "there is life that required specific laws of nature..." is also hardly meaningful. You seem to conceive of the universe as akin to a device where someone, turning some kind of cosmic knob and dial, can change natural laws at will. But natural laws are merely descriptions of regularities, and as I said, we have no idea whether these regularities even COULD be different.

    As to my reference to the ancestry; it is highly pertinent, because it exemplifies "observer bias".
    You wrote: "If things had been different, I wouldn't be here, but someone else [probably] would"; this is exactly like saying "if things were different, this universe wouldn't be here, but another [probably] would".

    Maybe there would be a different "life". Maybe there wouldn't be life, but so what? Why has life to be so special that it requires some kind of reason?

    Imagine tossing a bunch of raw spaghetti on a table. They end up in one of a myriad possible configurations. Your argument about the universe requiring either an intelligent creator or an infinite number of replicas NEEDS this universe to be special; otherwise, it may well be just "the way the spaghetti fell."

    That's why I mentioned the NEED to feel special, and it's a feeling I share (who doesn't?), but it has nothing to do with science.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Aureola Nominee, FCD

    I see your point. I guess my view is more philosophical than I had predicted. In that, the simple fact there is a universe with a set of natural laws, to me implys a creator.why is there not just NOTHING? The fact that its laws happen to lead to life that has intelligence (and the ability to design, which is what the origional entity did), to me is not just a cosmic accident.
    Can natural explainations explain the existance of a universe reguardless of how much we learn?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 24, 2007 3:26 PM

    Jim:

    Can positing a supernatural creator explain anything at all? How is that superior to saying "for the moment, we don't know; but we sure are having fun trying to find out!"?

    Remember, "natural laws" are mere descriptions of how things appear to be. They do not require a "lawgiver"; thinking this is naively anthropomorphic.

    I find the question you pose - "why this and not anything else, or nothing at all?" - rather meaningless, much like "what happened before the beginning of time?"

    There's no "before" to inquire about; similarly, I think there's no "why" either.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Can positing a supernatural creator explain anything at all? How is that superior to saying "for the moment, we don't know; but we sure are having fun trying to find out!"?

    I find the question you pose - "why this and not anything else, or nothing at all?" - rather meaningless, much like "what happened before the beginning of time?"

    These two statements kind of contradict each other, but thats kind of how these conversations usually end up. Unless in your first statementment your not talking about why the laws are and existance is such as it is and your just talking about everyday science.

    There's no "before" to inquire about; similarly, I think there's no "why" either.

    Yes I do prefer supernatural to nothing

    ReplyDelete
  29. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 24, 2007 4:45 PM

    Jim:

    The contradiction stems by your assumption that there simply MUST be a reason.

    I am content with trying to learn HOW, because WHY seems like the wrong question to ask.

    As to your closing remark... I'm afraid that you've simply taken a big nothing and labeled it supernatural.

    I don't doubt for a minute that thinking that some grand master plan (and some Grand Master Planner) simply MUST exist can be a comfortable idea; but I learned as a child that reality does not care one whit for our comfort or preference.

    Try stripping your belief of its comfort value, and what are you left with? No evidence of any kind.

    Asking why, searching for meaning, is a purely human activity; the universe does not seem to have the same enthusiasm for it. I admit this and try to give meaning to my own life, without waiting for angels and demons, fairies and demigods to hand it to me on a silver platter - or on a pair of stone tablets.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Its funny how naturalist always assume religious belief comes from a desire for comfort. I spent most of my life as a naturalist, and I found life and my belief system much more comfortable then than I do now. I am far less comfortable now, but it is what it is. Its kind of like John Lennons "Imagine", when you can think like that, life is far more comfortable. So please, say what you will about my belief system, but don't just write it off as my desire to be comfortable. Its got nothing to do with it.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 25, 2007 8:17 AM

    Jim:

    It may seem funny to you, but it is generally recognized that believing in supernaturalism, without having to cough up any actual evidence for it, is much easier than painstakingly assembling the scraps of evidence we can obtain by our inegnuity, and piecing together the puzzle of nature.

    Waving our hands in the air and saying "there MUST be something more, so there!" is the EASY way out.

    Reading lists of dos and don'ts from a holy books is EASY; recognizing that ethical decisions require hard work and painful and careful balancing of conflicting interests is HARD.

    And so on, ad nauseam; I would really like to see what you think is so comfortable about facing hard, cold facts, and so uncomfortable about imagining the reassuring presence of "someOne else up there".

    Your uneasiness with the lack of an overarching grand purpose for the universe seems to directly imply that you've chosen a belief system that indeed makes you more comfortable.

    Since you think otherwise, I'd like to know why.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Aureola Nominee, FCD,

    Waving our hands in the air and saying "there MUST be something more, so there!" is the EASY way out.

    You yourself said you would rather think about the "how" than "why" for the origions of the universe. aside from a big bang, science does not really offer any meaningful how or why for the universe being present. And when we move backwards in time twards the big bang, all physical laws breakdown. The supernatural is an explaination, not one you like due to your lack of ability to detect it.
    I am not just thowing my hands up, I do believe the four gospels are an historical account. An event so powerful that 2007 years later most of the whole world keeps its calender by its events, to me is not just a matter of humans trying to be comfortable.

    And so on, ad nauseam; I would really like to see what you think is so comfortable about facing hard, cold facts, and so uncomfortable about imagining the reassuring presence of "someOne else up there".

    You are way over simplifying the impact of my belief system on the human mind. Its not just like believing that everythings gonna be OK since there is a God. The idea that there are further consiquenses to what we do than what is here and now does not just lead to comfort. The idea that there is someone that knows every single one of your sins does not just lead to extra comfort.

    What makes anything a "hard, cold fact"? Just because I believe in a creator doesn't mean I do not believe in science. So you must mean the belief that someone dies and becomes just like before they were born is somehow a "hard cold fact". Thats what I believed for quite some time and it wasn't any less comfortable than I am now. In fact its quite the opposite.I live in the North East (far from the bible belt) where most people are athiest, or at least diest. So socially my beliefs are much less comfortable than yours in this situation (especially with my peticular crowd). This notion that religion brings comfort to the simple minded, is an idea created by liberals to achieve superiority. It makes it sound like you have the courage to believe in the truth, and us theist can't face our own demise so we clutch at foolish tales that will bring us immortality, and ease our pain of facing death. Fact is most people fear public speaking more than they fear death. this whole idea of comfort is rubbish.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 25, 2007 3:52 PM

    Jim:

    The supernatural is no explanation at all. What does it explain? "Some supernatural being did something with supernatural means for supernatural reasons, and left no evidence behind" does not explain anything at all, despite your insistence to the contrary.

    The gospels have zero evidence behind them, and your arguing that their influence is somehow evidence of their truthfulness is logically invalid (a fallacy called "appeal to popularity").

    What is "so powerful" is the alliance between the Roman Empire and the Christian cult struck in the early 4th century CE; militarily-enforced theocracy, under pain of death for anyone not believing the "Good News", imprinting every single human activity in Europe. Not exactly a "battle of ideas", was it?

    As to the idea that the notion of an afterlife and of a supreme judge somehow is not comforting, I fear you have it backwards; it is EXTREMELY comforting. It gives desperate people something to hope for, and shifts most of the burden of trying to do your best HERE and NOW.

    As to whether is makes things easier or harder, I have a question for you to ponder: do you think it is easier to be honest when you believe that a SuperCop is looking at you in every single instant, or when you think nobody's watching?

    Despite what many theists believe, being honest when watched is much, much easier than when alone. This is the whole basis, for instance, of Straussian theories on the usefulness of religion for keeping order, let alone Marxian ideas about religion as the opiate of the masses.

    I find your opinion about the NE US very interesting, but completely mistaken. The percentage of atheists and deists (please, note the correct spelling) there is not very high at all. The State with the highest percentage of atheists and agnostics is actually Oregon (with about 16%), and even there, the numbers pale in comparison with Canada and even more with Europe.

    Even in Oregon, you would find yourself in an overwhelming majority of about 5/6ths; how you can see this as being "uncomfortable" is mystifying.

    Your theory of the comfort of religion being a "liberal" myth is similarly mystifying, as we constantly hear endless tirades about the "comfort of faith". Were you around after 9/11, or even now, after the VT shootings?
    You can't have it both ways, I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Despite what many theists believe, being honest when watched is much, much easier than when alone. This is the whole basis, for instance, of Straussian theories on the usefulness of religion for keeping order, let alone Marxian ideas about religion as the opiate of the masses.

    So its easier for a theist to be honest? Agreed. I am not sure if that translates exactly to being comfortable. As we all know being honest is often more difficult than being dishonest. Other wise why would I need anything to keep me honest, I would just do it anyway. So your idea that honesty somehow translates into comfort doesn't really make sense.

    Even in Oregon, you would find yourself in an overwhelming majority of about 5/6ths; how you can see this as being "uncomfortable" is mystifying.

    Admittedly, many people here (Boston)are not complete athiest, but very few call themselves Christians. When you ask people here their religious views, you will rarely get the same answer from two people, and very few are all out Christians. So I am not sure how the stats are done, with the immense variety of viewpoints. I will say this, most people I know do not go to church. The Patriots are far more popular than God here on any given Sunday. But of course I myself do not go to church.

    our theory of the comfort of religion being a "liberal" myth is similarly mystifying, as we constantly hear endless tirades about the "comfort of faith". Were you around after 9/11, or even now, after the VT shootings?
    You can't have it both ways, I'm afraid.


    Now your just talking about a religious saying. Do you actually think that the religious were more comfortable than you during 9/11. they were just as terrified as you were. Some of the religoius wacko that say things like 9/11 is Gods way of leading up to the end of days. Do you think that is more comforting if someone really believed that. If you do , then you need to read Revelations. I'm not taking any comfort in the idea. The issue of personal beliefs is far more complex than comfort. I stick to my origional statement. By you saying comfort is why I am a theist, then your just dumming me down. Just like when you said "note the spelling of deists", did you want to make sure I knew how to spell the word? of course not, you could correct my spelling all day long and I'll still suck at spelling. Dumming down your opponent is a great way making sure your argument holds more ground.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 25, 2007 6:30 PM

    Jim:

    please be careful, you're going perilously close to putting words in my mouth.

    I did not say that "honesty translates to comfort"; what I DID say was that "being honest when watched is easier than being honest when not watched", and you agreed. This implies that theists feel they have an easier time being honest (please note that this is NOT equivalent to "being more honest"; actually, the opposite is true, if one checks statistics on religiosity among inmates*) than non-theists. How you can fail to see that this makes the theist position perceived as easier, and therefore more comfortable, is beyond me.

    * "In "The New Criminology," Max D. Schlapp and Edward E. Smith say that two generations of statisticians found that the ratio of convicts without religious training is about one-tenth of one percent. W.T. Root, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, examined 1,916 prisoners and said, "Indifference to religion, due to thought, strengthens character," adding that Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers were absent from penitentiaries, or nearly so." - Dale Clark, July 1997


    Statistics about religiosity among the general population are made like any other statistics on self-definition: by ASKING PEOPLE. Now, you can read the results in two ways.

    1) People are saying the truth.

    This implies that the lowest percentage of religious people - of course, mostly Christian - in a State is still 5 in 6.

    2) People are overstating their religiosity.

    This implies that they think that declaring religiosity brings them some advantage or avoids them some disadvantage.

    There is simply no way to read these results to mean that Christians, of all people, have a harder time in the USA than non-Christians. I suggest you admit it and move on. Whining about being uncomfortable while being in a large majority is unbecoming.

    Finally, as to the "religious saying", it may be very convenient to dismiss one of the most widely used justifications for theistic faith - and actually, one frequently mentioned by born-again Christians themselves as the main reason behind their (re)conversion, following some personal or familial catastrophe - as a mere saying; but actually I agree that it is only a saying, with just a kernel of truth (as G.B.Shaw famously put it: "The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."); yet it is a delusion widely believed by theists, and religiously repeated at every tragedy!

    Once again, theists perceive their position as easier and more comfortable.

    I HAVE read Revelations, and whatever St. John the Divine was smoking, I wish I could try it at least once. That delirious fantasy of destruction lacks even the small mitigating qualities of other parts of the Bible.

    As to your spelling: I suppose that if I were calling you an "Amurkin" or a "Xtian" you would probably feel offended. Your discussing positions and ideas without even taking the elementary courtesy of learning their correct names is at the very least disrespectful.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hmmm, That must be the reason why Boston is such a nice place, methinks...

    This notion that religion brings comfort to the simple minded, is an idea created by liberals to achieve superiority.

    Ai, ai, the old "we're persecuted by the liberals" whine. No, Jim, it's not "an idea"; it's the result of research. Have you read "How we believe", by Michael Schermer? He describes several studies about people's beliefs (or lack thereof). Like why people think THEY believe (they always lean to some "rational" explanation, just like you), or why OTHER people believe (then they say other people believe because they need comfort, were brought up that way, etc.), and other interesting stuff like that. And he points to the original studies, so you can check those out if interested.

    Now, back to the stupid anthropic principle or something like that. I think it's about the same thing Aureola was saying, but with different words, or emphasis.

    Let's see, if I remember correctly you are an engineer or something similar, right? So you must know at least some statistics. Sure much more that I, poor biologist, do. Now a question: what do you call a statistical analysis that has only one data point? Without without using ugly words, please?

    So, how many universes do you know? How many "lifes"? How many sets of natural laws? What can you generalize from a set of ONE? As Aureola said, how can we know if this was probable, or not, or maybe the only way possible, if:

    1) there are NO other examples of life/universe/laws to compare with;
    2) we don't know the underlying processes responsible for making things the way they are, so we can't derive conclusions about how things could be.

    And last, but not least: who created your creator? And who created your creator's creator? And... You've heard this before.

    J

    ReplyDelete
  37. The correct name of the book is "Revelation", not "Revelations".

    ReplyDelete
  38. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 26, 2007 11:07 AM

    Anonymous:

    Indeed, in English the book is called Revelation. (I know it under its original Latin title of Apocalypsis). My bad: I should have double-checked.
    Thank you for the correction.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Don't beat yourself up, it's a common mistake.

    My neighbors and I here in the Bible Belt are still struggling with the question of why the author of this book chose to call himself "St. John the Divine" when he had plainly used the simpler title "St. John" when he wrote the Fourth Gospel.

    I guess some things are just meant to remain a mystery.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 26, 2007 10:34 PM

    Anonymous:

    I found this on Snopes.com, and hope it sheds some light on the authorship of those two books.

    "The Revelation is often called the Revelation of Saint John. Tradition says this is the same as the author of the fourth gospel, but that seems implausible. The style of the Greek is different, and while the gospel author avoids mentioning his own name in order to focus attention on Jesus, the author of Revelation mentions his own name repeatedly. He doesn't call himself an apostle, as would be his right, but merely a prophet. Exactly who the author was is open to conjecture. There is no real consensus, except that he was apparently a Jewish writer, writing in Greek to the Jewish believers after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Most critics put the date at about 95 - 100 AD."

    Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  41. I did not say that "honesty translates to comfort";

    We were discussing whether or not comfort played a role in my religious beliefs and for some reason you went on about honesty, so I assumed it was because it meant honesty made Theism is more comfortable. The same paragraph that started with the above statement ends with

    How you can fail to see that this makes the theist position perceived as easier, and therefore more comfortable, is beyond me.

    So again you have contradicted yourself.

    Am I putting words in your mouth again? You insist I must just admit this is why I am theistic. Its just garbage. I was a 100% naturalist for most of my life, and constantly debated with my extremely religious brother (who moved to KS to be in the bible belt, he has a blog called "SALT & Light" so you don't think I am full of crap, you can discuss our many debates with him), I hated the idea that my beliefs were changing to be more like his (even though we still differ on much). Trust me this did not bring me comfort, nor was I any less comfortable before. Because of how talented I was trouble shooting very high tech robotics and machinery, I always fancied myself as this kind of amature scientist. I really liked the idea of evolution. I remember reading Origin of the Species for the first time a thinking how cool it was, that there was flow to life and reason for everything, from the shape of my teeth to the mechanics of my ankle. My change in beliefs brought me less comfort at first. I felt as if I was swallowing ugly truths. But I should just admit to you comfort is the reason.

    Your discussing positions and ideas without even taking the elementary courtesy of learning their correct names is at the very least disrespectful.

    Well La-Ti-Da, did not mean to be so disrespectful. Man, you are full of yourself. When someone writes you a friendly Email with a spelling mistake. in your response do you point them out? of course not. Why? because you would sound like your trying to degrade the person, which was your exact intent here. As well as the old comfort argument.

    J,
    No I am not an engineer, just a lowly blue collar worker. I am a Group leader for a shift of technicians, But because part of my job involves statistical process control, I was fortunate enough to be required to take several statistic classes at UMASS. If you read through the thread J, I conceded that statistical end of my argument did not really hold ground. When I originally thought about this, I was thinking in the lines of intelligent life being a goal (or something unique and special)rather than a random result. I am already assuming a creator, and intelligent life having the ability to design resembles a quality of the creator making it seem a intent rather then random result. This is the reason I sited the statistical probability of natural laws being as they are. I realize this thought is circular and does not hold ground. So no need to refute it. I admitted that my belief was more philosophical in nature. To me it makes sense that universes just don't snap into existence. There has to be a creator. As far as your last question. Since you say I have been asked it before, I am sure you can predict my answer. You are asking for the creator of the supernatural. If the creator is supernatural, it created and defined our logic and natural law, so those ideas, such as creation, time, energy, do not have to apply to it. I realize this gives me an unfair advantage in discussions of this nature. When I can just say things like "our logic doesn't apply to God", but thats just the way it is.

    I am not sure about the point your trying to make about Michael Schermers' book? No I did not read it. If i understand you correctly, when asked why people believe they give logical explainations, but when asked why other people believe they give reasons like comfort? isn't that what I am trying to speak out against. People saying that other people are only religious for comfort.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 27, 2007 1:04 AM

    Jim:

    you seem to have no idea what a "contradiction" is, and in addition to have some reading comprehension problem.

    It is not honesty that translates to comfort - indeed theists are not particularly more honest that non-theists - but the perception that honesty is easier for theists.

    It's a trick of the mind, not correlated to reality, of course; but it is comfortable (comfort is a state of mind, after all).

    A theist and a non-theist are both "cosmic orphans", but the theist thinks he has a "father"; don't tell me this is uncomfortable.

    Another commenter has also pointed out that the "silly idea" that belief is perceived by believers to give them comfort is supported by many sociological studies on religions and faiths. And you have misunderstood once again: Shermer's book shows that every believer thinks he/she is "special" and "rational" in his/her faith, but when the "me" factor is removed, they admit without difficulty that "the other believers" believe because that makes them comfortable.

    Again and again, this urge to feel special, whether because "Jesus loves me" or because "our universe was created with us (me) in mind."

    There's a lot of egocentrism in that, but no doubt you will dismiss this, too, as "bullshit".

    If you have something pertinent to say, instead of simply claiming "is not!", I'd like to hear it.


    As to spelling mistakes, you continue to think that you are allowed to 1) disrespect other people by calling them the wrong names; but at the same time 2) claim the mantle of victimhood because you are being "dummed". This is, believe it or not, a standard debating tactic of Christian fundamentalists; and it simply doesn't work. I pointed out errors in logic, invalid reasoning, contrary data, and one spelling mistake (believe me, not the only one you made), simply because it is a most irritating spelling mistake, as I explained. Now stop whining about your spelling mistake, and make a coherent argument resolving your errors in logic and data, if you can.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Aureola

    Thanks for your reply to the question of Revelation's author.

    As I'm sure you suspected, I'm aware of the probable circumstances concerning Revelation's origin mentioned in your post and agree with the premise.

    My purpose in bringing the subject up was to illustrate the power of tradition in the minds of true believers. I could no more make the neighbors that I mentioned believe that Revelation and the fourth gospel were not penned by the Apostle John than I could catch myself by the seat of the pants and lift my feet off the floor.

    And how do we move on to the subject of veracity when we can't even get past authorship?

    But at least you're still trying. Good luck in that halo competition.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Aureola Nominee, FCD ,

    So honesty is easier for theist, but we are actually less honest than atheist. This proves your point about theism being more comfortable how?

    If you have something pertinent to say, instead of simply claiming "is not!", I'd like to hear it.

    I have painstakenly cited many reasons why theism is not more comfortable for me, and you claim I am just saying "is not", It is as if I am not even talking and hardly fair.

    I pointed out errors in logic, invalid reasoning, contrary data,

    I am not sure how logical it is to say all people become theistic due to comfort. As you said, it is a state of mind, like overall "happiness". How are going to prove one person is more comfortable than another. But you insist somehow that you have scientifically proven theisms comfort level is higher. For Atheist to take something as unscientific as "comfort level" and use it as a logical reason for people becomming theistic is absurd. It goes beyond data and arguing the facts and using logic to prove a point, its just simple slander. Instead of just saying you should be atheist because of such and such fact, you say - "the only reason your an atheist is because its more comfortable for you, and your not smart enough to see past your own comfort." When you write off people like that, do you consider yourself open minded? A key ingredient to being open minded, is to look for oportunity to find yourself wrong. This is something I try to practice in my own life. As you saw how quickly I conceded that you were right about my statistical argument about physical laws, and this is something I have saying for a while, just never really thought about it correctly. You should perhaps be open to the idea that maybe some people can turn to theism from personal experience and thought process that do not just involve comfort. My own conversion was very long (and still hardly complete), perhaps over the last 6 or 7 years. If it were my need for comfort, this would not be the case. It is pointless to continue this debate if you feel I am just trhowing my hands up and saying "is to", so I will leave you the last word.

    BTW, I am a huge Halo 2 online player. Only my memebership just ran out, but that will soon be resolved. Perhaps we can settle our differnces in a sniper or rocket match. I am about a level 20, so my skill is somewhere in the middle of the pack. my old tag was "edgedamage5" but I think it will change when I renew. If you want to leave your tag, and you can blow my comfortable ass up when I am back online. We also have a Thursday night get together thats always looking for new players if your interested. You'll fit in. I am the only conservative of the bunch.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 27, 2007 3:52 PM

    Jim:

    thank you for proving, beyond any doubt, that you either don't understand or willfully misrepresent what I say.

    For the last time: being honest is easier when you think you are being watched; theists think they are being watched; therefore they believe that honesty is easier for them. (You said so yourself, remember?)

    I realize that you seem to miss the difference between "belief" and "reality", but there is one, and I find it quite important, thank you very much.

    You have argued that theism does not make you comfortable because you live in NE USA, where... no fewer than 10% of people are atheists or agnostics? I called you on that, and you hinted at the standard "No True Christian" fallacy, although you stopped short of committing it.

    Then you argued that theism does not make you comfortable because you believe in the historical reality of the Gospels. This does not even make sense (as stated; perhaps you implied something else that is unfortunately unclear to me), so I did not feel the need to respond.

    Then you said that believing in an afterlife with a system of rewards and punishments does not just make you comfortable. I responded by reminding you that invariably theists (not atheists) claim that faith is a comfort in times of tragedy. You tried to dismiss that as a mere religious saying. Well, duh. Somehow I doubt you think all those theists are lying; therefore, they truly believe that "saying".

    Then you really went berserk, and claimed that "many people fear talking in public more than they fear death"! This really boggles the imagination.

    The other commenter, "j" pointed you to a book that lists several studies that confirm that comfort is a major justification of religious faith.

    You also tossed in Revelation, which had nothing to do with what I said (I wasn't mentioning the wackos who saw 9/11 as an act of Divine Retribution, but the countless theists who sincerely tried to ease the pain by appealing to comforting faith).

    By the way: when I was gently corrected on the real title of Revelation, I responded by acknowledging my mistake. I don't think I need to remind you that, when I did the same with your misspelling of "atheist", you flew off the rails and accused me of trying to "dum" you. You should try practicing what you preach, as regards admitting error.

    As to Halo 2: sorry, my nick has nothing to do with online games, at which I would probably suck.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Aureola Nominee,
    I apologize for this comment since I know I said I'd give you the last word.

    For the last time: being honest is easier when you think you are being watched; theists think they are being watched; therefore they believe that honesty is easier for them. (You said so yourself, remember?)

    I guess I am so stupid you'll have to talk to me like I am two years old. So your saying it is easier for us to be more honest, which I believe is implying that this reinforces your argument that this makes theism more comfortable. Although you said that is not true. So what does that fact that it is easier for the theist to be honest have to do with comfort, since you insist that one has nothing to do with the other, but then insist on using it for your argument. So what does this have to do with your point of increased comfort for theism? especially since we are actually less honest (according to prisioners)?.

    I guess perhaps you mean that even though we are less honest, since we percieve our position to be easier to be more honest (even though we are not) this makes theism more comfortable. So is it percieved easier honesty that translates to comfort, or am I putting words in your mouth? Either way its bunk.

    Then you argued that theism does not make you comfortable because you believe in the historical reality of the Gospels.

    Here is my origional statement

    I am not just thowing my hands up, I do believe the four gospels are an historical account. An event so powerful that 2007 years later most of the whole world keeps its calender by its events, to me is not just a matter of humans trying to be comfortable.

    So I was saying the reason I am theist is because of four different historical accounts that just happen to be identicle showing a historical account of events, I said this to show that there are legitimate reasons to believe in Jesus other than comfort. I figured this was implyed, perhaps I should have been clearer

    Then you really went berserk, and claimed that "many people fear talking in public more than they fear death"! This really boggles the imagination.

    This is a true fact when people are polled on their top ten fears, public speaking is #1 (I had to take a class on public apeaking for work). So my point is that people worry more about speaking and public then they do about their own death. Yet you think they are going to change their whole belief system based on their fear of death (i am assuming that fear of death is why you claim we are more comfortable). So yeah, I was just going berserk on that one. BTW, Death was # three on the list. I will dig up the data if you wish

    As far as the spelling thing. Its simple, if I was a atheist conversating with you, you would not have corrected me, and you know it. So its one of two things, either you would correct a fellow athiest or you had additional motivation to correct me. So what was your motivation. Yes it really was not that big a deal. In any other topic I would have let it slide, but in this topic it was more relevent since it coincided with your motivation for saying I am only a theist for the extra comfort. It attemts to dumb me down to try to give advantage. I wonder how often you comment on M's blog, how many times have you posted back and forth with spelling mistakes and felt the need to correct them? I am sure you'll say you do it all the time. As far as it being my lack of respect (which you claimed as my reason for makeing the spelling mistake), That is just a load of crap. In fact I think it was just a typo where I missed an "S", but it certainly has nothing to do my my lack of respsect. I am actually a very respectful person. When people try to make me look stupid for the sake of debate, I tend to loose respect. So if you were talking with Massimo and he made the same mistake would you correct him? Lets see how easy it is for you to be honest now. You wouldn't, So its your lack of respect for the lowly theist that led to the need to correct

    ReplyDelete
  47. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 27, 2007 8:11 PM

    Jim:

    Finally, you managed to summarize my position correctly: theists indeed believe their position to be easier (for instance, in honesty), which gives them comfort. It is false, but the comfort they derive from this delusion is real.

    You claim this is bunk, yet do not explain why; do I detect a pattern of evasion here?

    As to the Gospels, since two of them derive from the oldest one and the fourth tells very different stories, your argument finally makes sense but is promptly falsified. Got it.

    As to the spelling mistake: I corrected exactly one of your spelling mistakes, because it denoted disrespect. I would correct anyone, even an atheist; except for the fact that atheists do NOT, in general, misspell "atheist"; while fundies, in general, DO.

    Do you really think, after showing every commenter and lurker that you did not know what you were talking about regarding religious affiliation in the US, statistics, physics, cosmology, Biblical literary criticism, ancient history, and who knows what else, I needed to pick a spelling mistake to try and make you appear ignorant?

    By the way, since we are at it: I must have missed where you acknowledged, e.g., that Christians enjoy a comfortable majority in every single State; that our universe is neither likely nor unlikely, being the only one we know about; that "how" the universe began and "why" it began are two very different questions; that Revelation is considered by major Christian theologians to be nothing else than a veiled invective against the Roman Empire that had just squashed yet another Jewish rebellion, this time razing Jerusalem for good; that the Gospels have no evidentiary support from any contemporary historical document; and so on and so forth.

    Yes, you are a theist in sore need of correction; but the spelling mistake is the least of your problems.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Aureola Nominee,

    You claim this is bunk, yet do not explain why; do I detect a pattern of evasion here?

    I guess I figured it was self evident how stupid this arguement is. I am going to believe in God becuase I think it will be easier to be honest? (even though it will really be more difficult). Do you really believe that goes through someones mind when deciding on their belief system.
    Man, I am really having such a tough time being a honest person, but perhaps if I believe in God, I will feel I am being watched more closely. Then maybe I can be a more honest person. Yeah, I bet that happens all the time?
    It is obvious this is not a reasonalbe thought process, and I think you know that. But I am sure you feel us theist are capable of such a rediculous thought process.
    I am not sure why you think having a supercop (as you put it) translates into comfort. Couldn't I say that removing that supercop from your belief system, translates into more comfort. Not believing that your actions have any consiquenses except for the here and now could translate into increased comfort, couldn't it?
    If you do something wrong and do not get caught. which belief system would be more comfortable? The one where thats it and your all set. Or the one where someone believes he will still have to answer for it at some point.

    And as you put it, theist are more dishonest than atheist. So if someone is actually more dishonest, wouldn't your belief system be more comfortable since there are less consiquences for that dishonesty? That is an explaination of why bunk. But I am sure you will just ignore it as if I just wrote "is to"

    ReplyDelete
  49. As to the Gospels, since two of them derive from the oldest one and the fourth tells very different stories, your argument finally makes sense but is promptly falsified. Got it.

    Yeah, got it. That one sentence just proved beyond a doubt that the four Gospels are nonsense. This seems to be your basic thought process, that becuase you say something so uniforming, that its just fact. You write one sentence on a subject like the four gospels and think you have dubunked it just like that. No historical facts to back up what you've said. Its not that I don't think you have much more to what you've said. And I understand not wanting to get into it since it would open a whole new can of worms for debate, and I think were both getting tired of this one. But don't just think you can say 16 words about the four gospels than go "got it", then I am supposed to go "wow that one sentence did totally disprove the 4 gospels"

    ReplyDelete
  50. BTW, If you want to debate the validity of the gospels, I am all for it. I don't want you to get the impression that I don't want to go there, I would love to, but perhaps on your blog or mine. Does not matter to me. spitting off a one sentence summary of wikipedia and saying "got it" aint gonna cut it though.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 28, 2007 9:30 AM

    Jim:

    I gave you a one-sentence summary of the results of decades of Biblical literary criticism. Anyone can check for him/herself what the current state of the art is, the chronology of when the four Gospel - chosen by the Catholic Church as the only "real" Gospels - were written, both in absolute terms and relative to one another, the analysis of how many verses have been bodily lifted from Mark into Matthew and how many from Mark into Luke, the discrepancies that point to those three being narratives written down by rival communities of believers (to say nothing of the Hellenistic Gospel of John), the obvious editing that was carried out to make the narratives "fit" the beliefs of the day, and so on.

    You also said one line ("I do believe the four gospels are an historical account") that, however, betrayed your ignorance (or willful avoidance) of these results.

    Tell me again, who's handwaving here?

    There's nothing to "disprove" about the Gospels; you think they are truthful accounts, you explain why. It's called burden of proof, a little thingy that many Christians mistakenly think they can shift onto nonbelievers' shoulders. But I agree with you in one thing: this is probably not the best venue. So, go on listening to your delusions; I'll go on reading scholarly research, for instance the books by the late, great Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby.

    Nobody can debunk the silly claims of a religion like a believer in a different religion!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Nobody can debunk the silly claims of a religion like a believer in a different religion!

    How fitting you would close with that statement. So Maccoby is not just one of the comforted. He actually has something logical to say? Perhaps it is just Christians that get comfort and the Jews are just as brave as the atheists.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Aureola Nominee, FCDApril 28, 2007 5:37 PM

    Perhaps it is just Christians that get comfort and the Jews are just as brave as the atheists.

    Oh, no; the mechanism of belief is common to all major religions and their subsects. I would not rule out the possibility that even Mr. Maccoby was very comfortable with his Jewish beliefs.

    But when the delusion to be debunked is somebody else's, believers can be very logical and effective in pointing it out.

    It's only when discussing their own beliefs that they say monumentally stupid things.

    ReplyDelete
  54. The ontological argument proves that you can only think of God as existing. You must first prove I can think another way before it goes away. When you combine it with the fact that you cannot think of “nothing” (as soon as you define what “nothing” is, it becomes something), it works as a proof. The arguments are out there (http://www.amazon.com/Classical-Apologetics-Dr-R-C-Sproul/dp/0310449510). There is no doubt.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.