The Most Popular Logical Fallacy in Christian Discourse

I wade through many Christians’ comments and blog posts in which the point boils down to something like, “I sense God’s presence; therefore, God exists.” Or, “I got that job after I prayed for it; therefore, God exists.” Or, “I just know that Grandpa is in heaven; therefore, God exists.”

These Christians imagine a situation like this:

where the arrow indicates causation. That is, God exists, and this causes my sense of God’s presence.

The argument can be expressed more formally:

  1. If God existed, I would sense his presence
  2. I sense God’s presence
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Formally, the structure of this argument is:

  1. If P then Q
  2. Q
  3. Therefore, P

But any argument of this form is a logical fallacy. Specifically, this is the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

It’s easy to see that this is a fallacy. Here’s another argument using this form:

  1. If it’s raining, then I have my umbrella
  2. I have my umbrella
  3. Therefore, it’s raining.

The conclusion in step 3 doesn’t follow because I could have lots of other reasons for having my umbrella. Maybe it completes my outfit. Maybe I want to fly like Mary Poppins. Maybe I need it to act out a Monty Python silly walk or Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain.” Maybe it’s a weapon. Maybe I always carry it, just in case.

The same is true in the original “I sense God’s presence” case. Here, too, there could be more than just the one cause. The beginning of a more complete map of causes might look something like this:

where HAAD = Hyperactive Agency Detector, a brain trait that natural selection could have favored in early humans. Those timid ones who imagined agency (intelligence) behind a rustling in the bushes would run away and live, while those who thought, “Not to worry—probably just the wind” might pay for an error with their lives. A sound might be only the wind or a squirrel . . . or it might be a leopard. Those who survived (our ancestors) would be the ones with a strong hyperactive agency detector, which occasionally saw agency where there wasn’t any. For example, this HAAD might assign agency to thunder, drought, and illness.

In this diagram, two possibilities are shown that could create the Christian’s sense of God’s presence, and there might be many more.

Learning correct logical inferences and the long list logical fallacies won’t hurt anyone eager to think more rationally, but if you only learn one, this might be a good one to understand and avoid.

This crime called blasphemy
was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines
not able to take care of themselves.
― Robert G. Ingersoll

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/23/14.)

Image via Tim Green, CC license

 

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  • JP415

    “I sense God’s presence.” I suppose that if I went into an unlighted, abandoned house at midnight and sat alone in the dark for two hours, I would probably start “sensing” a presence of some kind. Or if I went into a deserted forest full of wild animals, every snapping twig or rustle in the bushes would turn into a mountain lion. If your imagination is suitably primed, you’ll start hearing and seeing all kinds of things that aren’t there.

    • epicurus

      There was a tv show about 10 years ago about some ghost hunters who would go to abandoned buildings and old ships and claim they felt presences and the camera would whip around but you would never see anything. I guy I worked with thought it had to be real and I said to him well if you believe in ghosts based on that kind of evidence then you would pretty much have to believe every religion in the world because they’ll give you the same kind of evidence.

      • JP415

        I remember that show. They definitely made mountains out of molehills!

    • TheMountainHumanist

      It’s the whole sweat lodge effect.,

  • TheMountainHumanist

    The argument can be expressed more formally:

    If The Force existed, I would sense Its presence
    I sense The Force’s presence
    Therefore, The Force exists.

    • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

      I am one with The Force, and The Force is with me.

      • Greg G.

        It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed, the hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

        • Greg G.

          I like that. I don’t know why I was so nervous about telling you that.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          You need to learn to work through your fear.

          You must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. You will face your fear. You will permit it to pass over you and through you. And when it has gone past you will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only you will remain.

      • Michael Neville

        Duct tape is like The Force. It has a light side, it has a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

        • TheNuszAbides

          most duct tape i’ve seen doesn’t have a dark side, but all gaff tape i’ve seen does. the difficulty is that (afaik) fewer people have ever heard of gaff tape, and one-liners lose that ‘oomph’ when it takes more lines to set them up.

          i also learned it as “gaff tape is The Force: …”

        • Michael Neville

          Around here, in Southeastern Connecticut, the most common form of duct tape found is called EB Green (EB stands for Electric Boat, a submarine builder) which is dark green on one side and off-white on the other.

        • TheNuszAbides

          there is more in this world than is dreamt of in my philosophy.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        I am one with the Force and the Force is with…ZAP…dead…

  • Sandra Craft

    I knew a woman who believed in unicorns because she felt it just must be true. Still I remain an a-unicornist.

    • Cozmo the Magician

      My invisible imaginary pet dragon ‘Fluffy’ says Unicorns don’t exist (anymore), they were very tasty with maple syrup and honey.

      • Greg G.

        Now you are making me hungry for unicorn bacon.

        • Cozmo the Magician
        • Greg G.

          What will they think of next?

        • Chuck Johnson

          Don’t ask.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Yeah, but it has to be baby unicorn bacon. Bacon made from unicorns more than six months old is too chewy.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Pro tip: just cook it longer and it turns nice and crispy. We can’t all afford the good unicorn meat.

    • Otto

      You just want to be your own Unicorn.

    • RichardSRussell

      Why do you hate unicorns?

      • jamesparson

        When I was a child, an invisible pink unicorn ran over my parents and killed them

        • RichardSRussell

          What an amazing coincidence! That’s exactly why I hate God!

    • jamesparson

      A unicorn died for you so that you could live forever.

    • Ficino

      Are you a-unicornist because:
      1 you are mad at unicorns?
      2 unicorns were mean to you at your old church?
      3 you never really understood unicorns?
      4 you fail to understand St. Thomas Aquinas?
      or maybe–
      5 because you just want to sin?

      • Sandra Craft

        #3

    • Chuck Johnson

      That’s the same reason that so many voters just felt that Trump would make America great again.

  • The best argument against people who claim to feel God’s presence:

    All those others with non-compatible beliefs who are equally certain that they feel His presence.

    They cannot all be right, but they can all easily be wrong. And since, by their own definition, most of them must be wrong, there is zero reason to take any such claims more seriously than those of a schizophrenic or tweaker.

    • epicurus

      That’s easy, just claim your feeling of God’s presence is self authenticating!

      • Ficino

        Alan Plantinga makes hay by claiming that.

        • Greg G.

          Nit: Alvin.

          I’m sure that all of the Alan Plantinga’s of the world have enough problems with the confusion.

        • JP415

          Alan Platinga is Alvin in another possible world.

        • epeeist

          Alan Platinga is Alvin in another possible world.

          https://yteamblr.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/80rs1u.jpg?w=300&h=169

        • Pofarmer

          Also William Lane Craig. It’s a big part of his schtick.

        • Greg G.

          WLC has a crush on AP.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        As with other self-signed certificates, such a method is worthless

        🙂

        • epicurus

          Kind of like Catholic saints who are said to have received the stigmata. You read the story abit further and find out it was an invisible stigmata, only visible to the person who supposedly received it. Reading some medieval history last Christmas I happend upon that with either Catherine of Siena or Clare of Assisi, can’t remember which. But Francis of Assisi also claimed it, and I’m sure it was the same deal.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Crap! Invisible stigmata! I wish I’d thought of that one.

          Is there any horseshit so egregious that no one will believe it?

        • The Jehovah’s Witnesses kept predicting the end of the world, and they kept being wrong. So when 1914 (another date for the End) came and went, they declared that the end had come! It was just an invisible end, that’s all! (I guess they don’t make Ends like they used to.)

          So, to answer your question, I’m guessing no, nothing is too crazy to believe.

          (That bit about JWs and 1914 was from memory, so please feel free to correct as necessary.)

        • Glad2BGodless

          Never accept corrections! Insist that the other person refuses to see the truth because they want to keep sinning!

          Also, point to a tree or a rainbow or a flower or a newborn baby. Any of those automatically win.

        • Kodie

          Those are just cheap facsimiles, symbols of lust, and trappings of a finite life and incentive to sin.

        • Kodie

          If the invisible end of the world already happened, what’s the point?

        • epicurus

          I’m guessing that had to be a few doubters whose work, if they bothered to write about it, never survived.

        • Greg G.

          The more the horseshit stinks, the more faith is required, the greater faith results in greater admiration in the church.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I wonder if these folks who believe in invisible stigmata would let me pay them using invisible currency?

        • epicurus

          Like paying indulgences with invisible currency.

  • RichardSRussell

    Feelings of transcendence can be induced in the human brain thru hallucinogenic drugs or a Persinger helmet. If you were raised in a Christian-dominated culture, you’d probably chalk them up to the presence of God, but Buddhists would call it nirvana, Hindus would say dharma, and dopers would say “magic trip, man”.

    • Chuck Johnson

      I would expect that a proper study of the Persinger helmet would show that its magnetic fields do not affect the brain or the mind in a measurable way,

      • Greg G.
        • Chuck Johnson

          So they say.
          Your links show me me that Persinger and others are very motivated to convince. He even has some novel global warming theories.
          He says that CO2 content of the atmosphere plays a minor role in the increasing temperature of the Earth.

          He strikes me as being a boastful and scientifically dishonest man.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Update:
          Persinger is a quack.

          I don’t know to what extent he has been able to fool himself, but he is not fooling me.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucYUBC4KyFo&list=PLC8741A834FAA91E0&index=21

        • Greg G.

          That is what I suspected. I only looked at the one link because it was time for lunch.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Persinger’s mind is out to lunch.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it looks like Koren came up with a somewhat interesting device, and Persinger ran with it beyond reason &or appropriated it for his pet “theories”.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Notice the tricks and fallacies that Persinger uses.
          It’s pseudoscience apologetics. It’s similar to religious apologetics.

          One scientific tool that he misuses is extrapolation.
          Extrapolation is useful in science and engineering to make guesses which can then be verified or disproved.

          Persinger tries to use his extrapolations to prove that his scientific assertions are true. This is a mistake, it’s a false proof.

          It may look like real science but it’s Cargo Cult science.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Koren, the original inventor, seems legit, but Persinger’s subsequent pursuits don’t.

      • RichardSRussell

        It’s good to be skeptical of unusual claims, and Persinger’s certainly qualifies. Frankly, I would’ve expected many efforts to replicate his findings by now, but there don’t seem to have been many attempts. Not sure why.

        FWIW, while we can measure effects on the brain, I’m not sure that it’s even possible to do so for the mind, and that seems to be where the most interesting part of the action is occurring, even if it’s nothing more than suggestibility or a placebo effect.

        As a whole lot of ground-breaking research papers conclude, “further study is indicated.”

        • Chuck Johnson

          A brief check of Persinger’s way of thinking shows him to be a quack who’s looking to make headlines.
          See my replies to Greg G.

          As fast as scientists can invent safeguards like double-blind studies, dishonest folks can incorporate bogus versions of the safeguards into their pseudoscience.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      I once had a flashback while going for a walk that involved melting into a flower… then the landscape… then the planet… and ultimately, the entire universe.

      I know it wasn’t real, but it was pretty fucking cool.

      • Kodie

        Sounds fucking cool.

    • Kodie

      There was this thing called “Harmonic Convergence” in 1987 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_Convergence) and I kept a journal at the time. I’m sure I don’t have it anymore, but I remember by a couple days, the first recorded event of myself where I felt something you might say was transcendence. It was like a few days later. I don’t believe I credited the alignment of planets or the hype, it was something that just sort of happened. I am not bipolar, but I think it feels a little like mania – energy, happiness, clarity. No drugs or particular experiences were involved, including any music. Religious people would maybe say that was god trying to get through, or that my own feelings deceived me, somewhat like how they reserve sex for married couples unless they are gay, which invalidates the pleasure they get from sex. They are so worried that people can feel good or positive or charitable or be a nice person or a good parent who is not following strict religious protocol, that anyone who manages to achieve whatever they claim religion is exclusive channels to is deceived by the devil.

      I consider religion (at its least harmful) to be like being on a diet. There are a lot of methods and plans to lose weight, but you see someone try to lose weight finally hit a diet that works for them, and they will swear it’s the only way and preach it just like a religion. There are similarly a lot of ways to live a life you feel to be successful and fulfilled. Christianity doesn’t own the rights, and things that aren’t Christianity or Christian-approved can be perfectly valid ways of being a successful human, plus, religion can make someone have dangerous and damaging attitudes toward others. I like the Buddhist kind of way, zen, whatever. Christian “forgiveness” or whatever, I mean, they can’t avoid how many ways they keep fucking up, but require external validation by Jesus to forgive them instead of being able to forgive themselves for not being flawless in interpersonal or otherwise interactions. There’s a lot of effort spent regarding righting wrongs against a person directly at the person, but that’s not always an available option, or doesn’t always get you off the hook. What are you supposed to do if you apologize to someone, feel like you’re generally a nice person, made a mistake, and that person pretends it’s cool, but you can tell it isn’t. I messed up last summer, I bounced off a joke with an acquaintance and didn’t land well, couldn’t explain my direction, apologized to an icy acceptance, and pretended to myself that it was up to them now. I can’t clear the air, but I still think it wasn’t a hostile situation. It felt wrong as soon as it left my mouth, I didn’t need this person to react to know I shouldn’t have said it. I am not like someone should just accept your apology, but she did, but in practice, she really didn’t. She felt compelled to accept it, but her behavior thereafter was like a brick wall. Christians would blame her for being such a sensitive asshole about it, while I don’t. When a Christian fucks up, I get more that they rationalize their shitty jokes, as in, you should lighten up. They don’t even bother to ask Jesus, they don’t feel that bad if their offense was so minor and the reaction surprised them, because to them, it was funny.

  • sandy

    Isn’t it time to just say, “enough of your fucking mind games and show yourself or just fuck off” sorry for the swearing but that’s really what it has become to for any rational person.

    • Not relevant except that it also turns on the use of a naughty word:

      I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night. — Tony Campolo

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        See also Tim Minchin’s “Pope Song”

      • TheMountainHumanist

        Although he’s still off with some of his fundy beliefs…I always admired Campolo’s urging people to act like the “caring/kind” version of Jesus. He seems really sincere. His son is now a secular humanist.

  • axially/tilted

    The most popular logical fallacy in Christian discourse has been proven to be the Christian doctrine itself.

  • Ficino

    I think all they’ve got is some variation of the arguments, “If some contingent thing exists, then some necessary thing exists,” and “If we know some things, some mind must know everything.” Then identify the necessary thing and the mind that knows everything.

  • Greg G.
  • Tommy

    1. If there’s no god, then there’s no god.
    2. There’s no god.
    3. Therefore, there’s no god.

    Checkmate, theists!

    • JP415

      You are the William Lane Craig of Hades!

  • Michael Neville

    I should apologize to a bunch of Christian apologists. For years I’ve said the most popular Christian fallacy was No True Scotsman.

    • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

      Anyone who would use that fallacy isn’t a real Christian, anyway.

    • Glad2BGodless

      In fairness to you, the competition for the number one position is fierce. Flawed apologetics logic is the roller derby of philosophy.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I always carry an umbrella so that IT WON’T RAIN. Works 99% of the time on sunny days.

    • Greg G.

      If it does rain, you just have to stay inside so you don’t have to dry your umbrella.

    • Max Doubt

      “I always carry an umbrella so that IT WON’T RAIN. Works 99% of the time on sunny days.”

      Hunters wear blaze orange vests and hats and stuff so they can be seen more easily to avoid getting shot by other hunters. I have some blaze orange socks. Every time I wear those socks I don’t get shot in the ankle. Blaze orange socks work. Every. Single. Time.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      “Sex Panther Cologne: 60% of the time..it works every time.”

    • Kodie

      I never carry an umbrella and I don’t care if it rains.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    I thought this might be about how every apologetic is, at its core, an argument from ignorance. I was thinking about it the other day and, as far as I can tell, the only type that doesn’t fit that description are Ontological arguments.

    • JP415

      The ontological arguments are based on verbal ambiguity and vague definitions, IMHO.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Absolutely. Amusingly, if you take WLC’s version and replace “exists” with “doesn’t exist”, leaving the rest identical (which should be fair. If it is possible god exists it is possible he doesn’t exist), it ends up generating the exact opposite conclusion.

        A better demonstration of the argument’s fallacious is hard to find, yet I’ve never seen anyone respond as such to Craig.

        • Using a similar argument from symmetry, replace the Ontological Argument’s quest for a perfectly good being with a perfectly bad being. Voila–such a being exists. QED.

        • Greg G.

          The initial premise, that it is possible that a MGB exists, is equivocation. It does not mean that it is actually possible that the MGB exists, it only means we do not know whether it is possible or impossible. If the premise is not true, the conclusion cannot be reached logically.

          If we assume it for the purpose of the argument, we come to the Problem of Suffering. The Morally Perfect Being would prevent all unnecessary suffering. For suffering to be necessary, it must achieve some purpose, which must also be logically possible to do. But an omnipotent being must be able to do the logically possible thing, so the suffering is not necessary for the purpose. That means that all suffering is unnecessary which means it is impossible for a being that is both omnipotent and morally perfect to exist in this world, which leads to the refutation of the premise by reductio absurdum.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Yes, P1 should say, “it is not logically impossible for a MGB to exist”.

          Of course, this proper formatting leads to a tepid conclusion of, it is not logically impossible that god exists which isn’t something you’ll get much of an argument over (depending on the definition in question), and makes it useless as an argument. Like all apologetics. ☺️

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Absolutely, though a subject change can muddy the waters, making it harder to see where the issues are and easier for theists to dismiss the rebuttal as being flawed somehow.

          I find “doesn’t exist” more compelling because the only change is ostensibly an equally apt formatting of the first premise; it’s otherwise identical. This makes it much harder for a theist to handwave off the alteration, and shines a spotlight on the smuggled conclusion in P1.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    This video seems appropriate for the subject matter.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2C3ynKaferg

  • Chuck Johnson

    Bob, your formally stated logic (1,2,3) is a bit illogical. Here it is more logically stated:

    (1) If people (including myself) would sense God’s presence, that would prove (or at least be strong evidence for) the existence of God.
    (2) I (and lots of other folks) sense God’s presence.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    This is a logical argument that I happen to agree with.
    But the God that I sense the presence of is a fictional character, a star of stage, screen, scripture and pulpit.

    • Eric Sotnak

      Your 2nd premise here assumes the existence of God. I think you need, instead, something more like:

      “I experience a sensation that I take to be that of God’s presence.”

      But now, correspondingly, you need to modify premise 1 to be something like:

      “If I experience a sensation that I take to be that of God’s presence, then, probably, God exists.”

      But premise 1 here is extremely suspect. What is needed are reasons to think experiences of the type in question reliably indicate a particular type of cause in preference to other possible causes.

      I would recommend a different kind of response to Bob’s charge of fallacious reasoning, which is that the logic is analogous to what goes on in inferences to the best explanation. This absolves the theist of the charge of committing a simple fallacy, while still leaving the theist with the burden of explaining why God is a superior explanation, given all information available, to alternative possible explanations.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Your 2nd premise here assumes the existence of God.-Eric

        To religionists, God exists as a supernatural being.
        To me, God exists as a fictional character.
        Either way, he exists.

        Assuming the existence of God is quite justified.
        Then the controversy turns to the question of “What exactly does God consist of?”

        • Eric Sotnak

          Except I don’t agree that existing as a fictional character is a way of existing at all. So I would also say that one cannot have an experience of a fictional character. “experience of” is putatively referential — it implies the existence of that which is experienced. I know there are ways of speaking that don’t work this way, but I would say they are confusions. That’s why in the reconstruction I proposed I suggested a locution such as ‘experience that I take to be of’; an implicit inference is being made as to the cause of that experience.

        • Chuck Johnson

          “Except I don’t agree that existing as a fictional character is a way of existing at all.”

          Once you specify that God exists as a fictional character, then you have shown that God exists.

          Being specific clears up any confusion.
          The word “exists”, all by itself is not sufficiently specific to avoid that confusion.

          The teapot in orbit around Mars exists as hypothetical object suitable for philosophical discussions.

          But does it exist in the form of a fabricated metal kitchen utensil ?
          Not likely.

          Proper use of the English language and word definitions can prevent unproductive debates from materializing.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          If “exist” includes merely being conceived, then the exercise is useless because simply formulating the premises already demonstrates this.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Not useless.
          There is a big difference between existing as merely an idea and existing in the way that theists would have us believe.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          It most certainly is useless if “existence” is demonstrated merely by espousing the thought. It could be wrapped in a wholly fallacious and unsound argument and the proof would still be satisfied.

          Given this, what is the point of formulating an argument at all? As soon as you describe god you’ve proven his existence, no more work is required.

        • Chuck Johnson

          “As soon as you describe god you’ve proven his existence, no more work is required.”

          Because there is a big difference between existing as merely an idea and having a physical referent to that idea.

          The details of what God you are talking about are relevant.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Because there is a big difference between existing as merely an idea and having a physical referent to that idea.

          Where do you get the idea that this is lost on me? Aren’t you the on who said being a mere concept satisfied “existence”?

          The details of what God you are talking about are relevant.

          Which god is claimed to be nothing more than conceptual by its followers?

        • Chuck Johnson

          “Where do you get the idea that this is lost on me? Aren’t you the on who said being a mere concept satisfied “existence”?”

          It’s still lost on you.
          Agreeing that something exists is insufficient if there is no agreement as to the character of that thing.
          Specifically, I am talking about God.

        • Eric Sotnak

          “Once you specify that God exists as a fictional character, then you have shown that God exists.”

          Except neither theists nor atheists care whether God exists merely as an idea, or a fictional character. If I say “Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist” and you say, “Yes he does! He exists as a fictional character!” I will say you have misunderstood the point of my claim. But more to the point, I would say you have made a mistake. There aren’t different kinds of existence here: real and fictional. Fictional things don’t exist at all. Maybe the idea of Sherlock Holmes exists, but that’s not the same as saying that Sherlock Holmes, himself, exists, but only as an idea. Sherlock Holmes, after all, is supposed to be a detective, and no idea is a detective. Therefore, Sherlock Holmes is not an idea.

        • Chuck Johnson

          “Except neither theists nor atheists care whether God exists merely as an idea, or a fictional character.”

          I’m an atheist, and I care.
          Speak for yourself.

        • Chuck Johnson

          “Maybe the idea of Sherlock Holmes exists, but that’s not the same as
          saying that Sherlock Holmes, himself, exists, but only as an idea.”

          Yes, the idea of Sherlock Holmes exists.
          That’s easy enough.

          Saying that Sherlock Holmes exists as a fictional character is also clear.

          Changing “fictional character” to “idea” makes the assertion less clear.

          Adding the word “himself” makes the assertion even less clear.

          Words and clarifications should be added to increase, not to decrease clarity. You have constructed a sentence which is self-contradictory and therefore, unclear.

          So if the idea that “God only exists as a fictional character” bothers you, then stick with “God is a fictional character”.

        • Ficino

          One approach to fictional entities is to say that facts about them are “institutional facts.” The entities are artifacts of culture, and facts about them are facts about culture. No culture, no fictional character – just as no game players, no “technical fouls.” An interesting take on the problem of the way that fictional entities exist is that of Aloysius Martinich and Avrum Stroll.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Thanks.
          This about Thomas Hobbes:

          “For example, he argued repeatedly that there are no incorporeal substances, and that all things, including human thoughts, and even God, heaven, and hell are corporeal, matter in motion.”

          Which is the way that I see things, too.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          What about a red Tesla roadster running around the Solar System?

          😉

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes, that also should be regarded as merely imaginary until some credible evidence is provided.
          Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
          Or something.
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/64a185f818798178a33ddb46502787f4a338b2b778e444b0d4928572687ea0ac.jpg

        • eric

          He does seem to be switching back and forth between different notions of ‘exist’ in a fallacious manner to justify his argument. For sure, Sherlock Holmes exists as a fictional character, and in those stories he is a great detective. But if you say “Sherlock Holmes came to my house and found my keys…and you can’t say he didn’t because you admit he exists as a fictional character”, people are going to think you’re crazy, Admitting he’s a fictional character is quite different from agreeing he came to your house and found your keys. Likewise, saying God exists as a fictional character doesn’t defend, justify, or argue that God caused that feeling in your head.

        • Kodie

          I always think it’s weird if I’m watching a show (I liked Elementary until I forgot to watch it for a long time) and these characters live in a world without a fictional Sherlock Holmes. I mean, you meet a man called Sherlock Holmes and it should ring a bell, you’d say “like the detective in the stories”?, so that’s weird.

        • Greg G.

          I saw a movie a while ago called Code Name: The Cleaner, with Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu. The best part of the movie was one of the outtakes at the end where Lucy’s character approaches a security guard who says, “Ain’t you that girl from Charlie’s Angels?”

      • Chuck Johnson

        What is needed are reasons to think experiences of the type in question reliably indicate a particular type of cause in preference to other possible causes.-Eric

        Not in the simple if-then logical form.
        Also, you seem to have not read my comments.

    • Lark62

      (1) If people (including myself) would sense God’s presence, that would prove (or at least be strong evidence for) the existence of god human imagination.
      (2) I (and lots of other folks) sense God’s presence.
      (3) Therefore, God human imagination exists.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Atheists and theists will agree that such a thing as human imagination exists.
        That is not the point.
        Whether God is a product of human imaginations or humans are products of God’s imagination is the point.

        The best tool to examine this question is scientific thinking, not ancient superstitions.

        • Lark62

          Duh

      • Chuck Johnson

        When you quote me, quote me in full to avoid writing strawman arguments.

        • Lark62

          Did you bother to notice I said the exact same thing as you?

          And I don’t need your permission to use the
          1. If P then Q
          2. Q
          3.Therefore, P
          argument structure.

        • Chuck Johnson

          You’re lying.

        • Lark62

          “But the God that I sense the presence of is a fictional character,”

          =

          “Human imagination”

          Duh

        • Chuck Johnson

          You don’t need to pretend that you are stupid.
          There is sufficient evidence for that.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      Thus.. Yoda…

    • Phil

      If people (including myself) would sense God’s presence, that would prove (or at least be strong evidence for) the existence of shrooms.

  • RichardSRussell

    Apropos of nothing, just tickled my fancy:

  • Joe

    That’s why God can never get his followers a surprise gift:

    They sense his presents.

    • Otto

      Chip Chipperson…?

      • Joe

        I don’t know who that is.

        • Otto

          A character that makes really bad jokes…;)

        • Joe

          Then that’s obviously not me.

    • Michael Neville

      Oy gevalt!

      • al kimeea

        AHYaaaaaa

    • Herald Newman

      Star Wars version but with a rim shot drummer!

  • Kevin K

    Why would we “sense the presence” of a deity? What possible benefit could that be to the deity? None.

    The only thing sensing the presence does is interfere with free will. You can’t really claim this and claim that humans have unfettered free will.

    • dluch

      my free will is nilly willy free, unless Jesus objects

    • eric

      Why would we “sense the presence” of a deity?

      Well, you know, some Fridays God is home alone. Has a bit too much to drink. Reaches for his spiritual cell phone when he probably shouldn’t and does some drunk presencing.

      That’s why the feeling is so hard to understand. 🙂

      • Susan

        Reaches for his spiritual cell phone when he probably shouldn’t and does some drunk presencing.

        Yikes. Never drink and presence.

        Especially if you’re an omnibeing.

        • Phil

          That is how the ‘god inspired’ bible was written doncha think? Based on text messages from a drunken deity? Bit like Terry Pratchetts god of hangovers.

  • dluch

    figmental machinations of imaginary things are somehow satisfying & relieve the boredom – hence religion’s success

  • TheMountainHumanist

    The Greatest Fallacy….

    ‘All wood burns,’ states Sir Bedevere. ‘Therefore,’ he concludes, ‘all that burns is wood.’ This is, of course, pure bullshit. Universal affirmatives can only be partially converted: all of Alma Cogan is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are Alma Cogan. ‘Oh yes,’ one would think. However, my wife does not understand this necessary limitation of the conversion of a proposition; consequently, she does not understand me, for how can a woman expect to appreciate a professor of logic, if the simplest cloth-eared syllogism causes her to flounder?

    For example, given the premise, ‘all fish live underwater’ and ‘all mackerel are fish’, my wife will conclude, not that ‘all mackerel live underwater’, but that ‘if she buys kippers it will not rain’, or that ‘trout live in trees’, or even that ‘I do not love her any more.’ This she calls ‘using her intuition’. I call it ‘crap’, and it gets me very irritated because it is not logical.

    ‘There will be no supper tonight,’ she will sometimes cry upon my return home. ‘Why not?’ I will ask. ‘Because I have been screwing the milkman all day,’ she will say, quite oblivious of the howling error she has made. ‘But,’ I will wearily point out, ‘even given that the activities of screwing the milkman and getting supper are mutually exclusive, now that the screwing is over, surely then, supper may now, logically, be got.’

    ‘You don’t love me any more,’ she will now often postulate. ‘If you did, you would give me one now and again, so that I would not have to rely on that rancid Pakistani for my orgasms.’ ‘I will give you one after you have got me my supper,’ I now usually scream, ‘but not before’– as you understand, making her bang contingent on the arrival of my supper. ‘God, you turn me on when you’re angry, you ancient brute!’ she now mysteriously deduces, forcing her sweetly throbbing tongue down my throat. ‘Fuck supper!’ I now invariably conclude, throwing logic somewhat joyously to the four winds, and so we thrash about on our milk-stained floor, transported by animal passion, until we sink back, exhausted, onto the cartons of yogurt.

    I’m afraid I seem to have strayed somewhat from my original brief. But in a nutshell: sex is more fun than logic. One cannot prove this, but it ‘is’ in the same sense that Mount Everest ‘is’, or that Alma Cogan ‘isn’t’.