Little-Known Bible Verses X: Don't Trust Your Heart

I first came across today’s little-known Bible verse while reading The Pilgrim’s Progress, and it was so amazing to me that I had to set the book aside and look it up on the spot. Search on the internet, and you’ll find volumes of Christian apologetics seeking to justify the author’s belief in God by claiming that they just know he exists because they can feel his presence in their heart:

The imagination knows God and the heart knows God, but the conscience silences the whole person because of a mysterious presence—total depravity. (source)

I feel God in my heart and I know is is always there.I read my Bible everyday and I pray amd meditate everyday, I have a heart of gold, I give to the uttermost(even when I dont have it to give)I pay my tithes and I have a lot of faith. (source)

If you are a person of faith who has always known in your heart that Darwin was wrong, the revelations on this website will help you to know with certainty that you were right all along, and that Darwin was wrong all along. (source)

I feel God in my heart, and I love the Lord so much. And when I feel him in my heart and when he’s touching me, I just — it just rolls over. (source)

The heart feels God, not the reason. This is what constitutes faith: God experienced by the heart, not by the reason. (source)

All these professions of faith, especially the last one by Blaise Pascal, express the belief that God’s existence is not a matter of empirical knowledge, but is felt intuitively through a different and more profound inward knowing. This faith is often summed up by the statement “I feel God in my heart”. And that’s why it’s so shocking that the Bible says this:

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”

—Proverbs 28:26

Since the book of Proverbs is just a collection of pithy sayings, it doesn’t offer any context by which we could decide the meaning of this quote. It could mean, if you’re feeling charitable, that we should not walk by faith and blind belief in our own infallibility, but should rely on facts and evidence to back up our decisions. This interpretation is remarkably similar to the secular humanist view.

However, it could also mean, and I suspect it was intended to mean, that religious faith is only acceptable insofar as it agrees with the Bible. The text is assumed to be infallible, and our religious beliefs are judged by how closely they agree with it. (This is how it was used in the Pilgrim’s Progress, where this text is cited to justify condemning a character to eternal torture because he, though he claimed to be a Christian, did not believe that human beings are completely evil and depraved.)

In either case, however, it offers a ready counterargument to theists who claim to “just know” that God exists, or any other religious claim supported solely by personal intuition. The Bible itself states that the human heart is unreliable and that such claims are not to be believed. This verse is unlikely to set any believer on the road to atheism by itself, but it may help lead them to the realization that there are other, better ways of knowing by which we can learn about the world.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Virginia

    Infallible Bible thing.
    This is a dialogue on the web I saw:
    Guy A: Noah’s Ark, great story. OK, after the flood kangaroos swim all the way back to down under. Makes perfect sense.
    Guy B: No, the kangaroos jump on the ocean! Kangaroos don’t swim!!
    Guy C: Even a greater miracle than Jesus. Jesus managed to walk on water for several tens of meters, the kangaroo can jump thousands of miles on the sea!!

  • http://sites.google.com/site/cgranade/ Chris Granade

    Whenever I see the “argument” that someone knows that God exists, because “I feel Him in my heart,” I feel like responding that I feel Cthulu in mine (substitute for whichever other god will have the most impact). The argument has always bothered me for how incredibly subjective it is.

  • MS (Quixote)

    EM, congratulations and best wishes, BTW…

    A comparison with a different translation may help with sorting this verse out:

    Pr 28:26 He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. NIV

  • http://realevang.wordpress.com/ Deacon Duncan

    I think the verse in Proverbs is actually a more secular bit of wisdom–”If you just do what you feel like doing, you lose, but if you learn to be wise, you win.” The main point of Proverbs (IMHO) was to impress the people with how smart their king was.

    You should look up Jeremiah 17:9 if you want a real resounding Biblical condemnation of the heart. Jeremiah made it quite plain: the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Only God (he sez) can really know it, and cut through all the deceits. So if your heart tells you the Bible is true, then according to the Bible, you’re listening to the most wicked and deceitful thing there is.

  • velkyn

    always rather amazing on how many “hearts” disagree. A very similar claims is that the “holy spirit” told the Christians what is “true”. It seems that ol’ “holy spirit” does either a lot of lying since so few Christians can agree what it has told them or that golly, it isn’t a “spirit” at all and is only people making God into their own image.

  • goyo

    The whole “feeling in my heart” thing is one of the most re-occurring testimonies I hear from different believers while talking to them about proof of god. They just “know” god exists, because they “feel” his presence.
    It doesn’t matter what denomination, or belief system.
    It’s really hard to argue against people’s feelings, because it’s like the concept of “love”. Everyone has a different opinion, and they all feel theirs is valid.
    I like Chris’ comment above. I feel Chac, the corn god in my heart. Especially when I’m wolfing down some good enchiladas at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

  • Polly

    “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ”
    -Jeremiah 17:9

    Emotional thinking is an oxymoron.

    …OH, Deacon Duncan beat me to it. Oh well, I’ll still post this.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info EKM

    I don’t have a problem with people saying they feel God in their heart. It is when they think I am supposed to believe in God for that reason that there is a problem.

    On July 18, 2008, 9:44 am, MS (Quixote) said

    A comparison with a different translation may help with sorting this verse out:

    Pr 28:26 He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. NIV

    If by “walking in wisdom” you mean relying on objective evidence, then I agree with this verse.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    So in other words, you should only listen to your heart when your heart tells you to obey the Bible.

    Huh.

    You know, you actually do see this idea in many religious writings and teachings. When someone is having doubts or asking difficult questions about their religion, they’ll often be told that those doubts and questions come from the Devil. So the question is: How do you know which feelings in your heart come from God, and which come from the Devil? And the answer, of course, is: The Bible will tell you. And your religious teachers and authorities will tell you the right way to interpret the Bible.

    In other words: When debating with a non-believer, you should shut out reason and listen to your heart. But when you have questions or doubts of your own, you should ignore your heart and listen to religious texts and authorities.

    In other other words: Ultimately, you should trust in religious texts and authorities. And you should do so on the word of those texts and authorities. You should ignore, not only evidence, not only reason, but the promptings of your own heart, when they contradict the texts and authorities. And you should do so because the texts and authorities tell you to.

    My brain hurts. It will have to come out.

  • Mathew Wilder

    I don’t think the proverb could be mean that the wise man should just trust the Bible, because when the Proverbs were written there was no Bible, nor really even the idea of the Bible.

  • http://atheistthinktank.net L6

    That verse could be interpreted as, “You don’t need to trust your heart, because this Bible tells you so, anyway, and it doesn’t matter how you feel about it.”

  • Christopher

    Replace a religion’s teachings with the “law” and you essentially have the foundations of government: don’t listen to your best interests, reason or your own feelings – obey the “law” because those who wrote it know what’s best.

    This type of arrogance permiates society – not just religion (which is merely a symptom of a much larger disease).

  • bestonnet

    So that’s what they were talking about when they said that those who say in their heart there’s no god are fools.

    Still, would have been better if they’d been a bit more general in their statement.

  • MisterDomino

    Replace a religion’s teachings with the “law” and you essentially have the foundations of government: don’t listen to your best interests, reason or your own feelings – obey the “law” because those who wrote it know what’s best.

    I disagree. Civil law is arrived at by common consent of the governed, and that law can be altered if found to be in error. With religion, laws are handed down by a god/gods and are often literally set in stone, as is the case with the Ten Commandments. There is little room for dissent, review or correction with religious law. Ebon touched on this when comparing the Bible to the U.S. Constitution in an effort to prove that America is not a “Christian” nation.

    Back on topic, I once knew an apologist who was an outdoorsman/hunter type. He claimed that the beauty and serenity of nature was proof positive of God’s existence, once again citing the “feelings” in his heart. He asserted that nature had been created by a loving, higher power purely for his enjoyment. He never stopped to consider that “enjoyment” of nature is a fairly contemporary concept, and one usually unique to first world countries.

    Perhaps he should ask someone who still lives a life largely bereft of technological advantages and modern medicine – one who struggles daily to survive and hasn’t much of a chance to live past age thirty – if they think that “enjoyment of nature” is proof of a loving God.

  • Polly

    @MisterDomino,

    Perhaps he should ask the fur-bearing mammals and hapless birds that he’s eviscerating with a projectile weapon if they, too, feel god’s love.

  • RollingStone

    I find it interesting that people use statements like “I feel it in my heart” and “my heart tells me so” as an argument to try to convert other people. Because if the theist can know that there is a god by listening to his own heart, then why can’t the atheist do the same and argue that his own heart tells him that there ISN’T a god?

    This argument only seems to apply to the person who is making it. If that person really believed that EVERYONE can know what is true by listening to their hearts, he would leave other people alone instead of trying to convert them. So what this argument is really saying is “My heart is better than yours.” How incredibly arrogant.

  • Arch

    St. Thomas Aquinas explained that the three theological virtues–faith, hope, and charity, are infused virtues. They are ultimately graces that God grants to us. But God does not force them on anyone, so faith, for example, entails both a grace and a human act. The human act element of faith is the assent of one’s mind, heart, and will to God. In faith, one trusts God and entrusts themself to God. This initial post seems to be attacking the joy that many people know in recognizing God’s presence and in accepting God’s love and grace. It is not something irrational but rather a fruit of the theological virtues.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    This initial post seems to be attacking the joy that many people know in recognizing God’s presence and in accepting God’s love and grace.

    No, it’s pointing out that the Bible (supposedly god’s word) seems to speak against knowing in your heart that god exists, or IOW, not having evidence to back up the claim. Why am I not surprised that you didn’t get it?

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “St. Thomas Aquinas explained that the three theological virtues–faith, hope, and charity, are infused virtues.”

    That’s my #1 problem with religion: it views these things as somehow being values, I see them as detriments – vices to be avoided.

    Since your whole arguement is predicate for these “values” I can safely say it’s full of shit – it falls apart as it’s based on nothing of any considerable substance.

  • Arch

    OMFG,
    Unless you recognize that your method of scriptural interpretation is different from the Church’s, our conversation will go nowhere. Until you want to understand more about the Church and scriptural interpretation, stop making comments by hearsay or your own interpretation. Go to the Catechism and Church documents themselves. The Vatican II Constitution, Dei Verbum, is a good start.

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    Christopher,
    You consider hope and charity to be vices??? Do you not hope for health if you are sick? Do you not hope goodness for places in the world where there is destruction? Do you not hope the good for those you care about?
    Charity is synonymous with love. Do you reject that love is a good and truly hold it to be a vice? I doubt that you do.

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “You consider hope and charity to be vices???”

    Yes.

    Also Arch,

    “Do you not hope for health if you are sick? Do you not hope goodness for places in the world where there is destruction? Do you not hope the good for those you care about?”

    1. No, I go get healthy – hoping for it to happen will do me no good.

    2. Does it matter whether or I hope for the situations of people I don’t know to improve or not? The fact of the matter is that those people will find a way to make their lives more bearable or they won’t – and me sitting around hoping that they do it won’t make a damn difference.

    3. I don’t hope that my own are well off – I make sure to it by any means within my power. To just hope that it happens accomplishes nothing.

    Also Arch,

    “Charity is synonymous with love. Do you reject that love is a good and truly hold it to be a vice?”

    I won’t say that I reject the idea of love altogether, but I sure as hell reject what our society tends to call “love” – this idea of pure altruism and self-sacrifice often touted as “love” I regard as a myth designed to make the people within society feel more connected than they really are; it’s just an attempt to absorb the individual into the herd, and I want nothing to do with that.

    To me, love has more to do with value ascribed by the individual: whenever I tell my family that I love them, I’m telling them that they have considerable value to me as they have been a large part of my life (I’d even say that they are as much a part of me as my right arm) – I love and value them because I love and value myself! Without that value of myself, I would have no reference with which to love anything else. Thus, when I do anything for those I love I’m actually doing it for me as well – not engaging in some frivolous work of “charity” motivated by some misguided sense of altruism.

    I believe Rand said it best: “One can’t even say ‘I love you’ without first saying ‘I.’” And religion tends to take the focus away from “I” and onto an external power: perhaps its most glaring detriment as this shifts our focus away from the one place we can gain any meaningful values – ourselves. We will make our own values or else be damned to living out some one else’s – a fate I want no part in…

  • http://www.BlueNine.info/index.php EKM

    On July 20, 2008, 5:34 pm, Arch said:

    OMFG,
    Unless you recognize that your method of scriptural interpretation is different from the Church’s, our conversation will go nowhere. Until you want to understand more about the Church and scriptural interpretation, stop making comments by hearsay or your own interpretation. Go to the Catechism and Church documents themselves. The Vatican II Constitution, Dei Verbum, is a good start.

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    You seem to be proving Greta Christina’s point above: That we should just let the church authorities tell us what to think.

    If the church can judge me, then I will judge the church. No Christian or “church” has any more authority than I do. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • Arch

    EKM,

    You only have authority to declare truth because you believe it yourself. A person who assents to the Church’s teaching is assenting of their own will to faith in God working through the Church. This is something very different from your individualism.

    Arch

  • Arch

    Christopher,

    I think your examples are in some way still examples of hope or charity–unless you have a truly utilitarian attitude toward your family, in which you would not be loving them at all but selfishly using them. From your writing my assumption is that you do love your family and that you do hope what is good for others. If you did not hope for the good you would find no meaning in your actions (and therefore have no reason to take particular actions) leading you toward the good you desire for yourself or others.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info/index.php EKM

    On July 21, 2008, 12:16 am, Arch said

    You only have authority to declare truth because you believe it yourself. A person who assents to the Church’s teaching is assenting of their own will to faith in God working through the Church. This is something very different from your individualism.

    In other words, you are better than me because you are humble. Of course you are, how silly of me. Haven’t you heard? Humility is the new arrogance.

    Define “assenting to the Church’s teaching.”

    And what is wrong with some individualism now and then? I am sure there are institutions that you would not want telling you what to do. Who are you to tell me that I should acquiesce to your religion? You keep going back to what the Catholic Church says. Why would anybody listen to them?

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “I think your examples are in some way still examples of hope or charity–unless you have a truly utilitarian attitude toward your family, in which you would not be loving them at all but selfishly using them.”

    I see no reason why the two actions should be mutually exclusive – one can love and simultaniously use something so long as he perceives said thing as a valued portion of his own nature. You can’t see that because you have been conditioned to think that love can’t be selfish, but love is a selfish act just like any other.

    Also Arch,

    “If you did not hope for the good you would find no meaning in your actions (and therefore have no reason to take particular actions) leading you toward the good you desire for yourself or others.”

    I do not hope for “good” as “good” is just a matter of perspective – what I do is strive to ensure that the best interests of me and mine are met (note: I don’t say hope as this is just a waste of time that could be spent acting) and that may be perceived as “good” on the part of some or “bad” on the part of others. I really don’t care which, only that it’s done.

    As for meaning – I don’t find meaning anywhere, I make it myself. I ascribe any meaning to my actions that I see fit to ascribe to them rather than look to something else to give them meaning.

  • Arch

    EKM,

    In other words, you are better than me because you are humble. Of course you are, how silly of me. Haven’t you heard? Humility is the new arrogance.

    Please do not put words in my mouth, but rather go back and look at my point.

    Define “assenting to the Church’s teaching.”

    One assents to the Church’s teaching when they live with faith in the Church as a sacrament of Christ on earth–a sign of God’s presence and love. One recognizes that the Church is not just a human institution like a civil government, but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is with the Church and its definitive teachings in a special way.

    And what is wrong with some individualism now and then?

    Individualism, as a philosophy of life, can lead one to relativism in which they have no base other than their own opinion as to what is true. If everyone believes they are correct but are proclaiming different things, it is impossible that they are all correct. Individualism also (though it may look different if you are talking about a Kantian individualism with its categorical imperative vs utilitarianism with its emphasis on usefulness) pushes one away from building community and the common good because it fails to take others or objective truths into account. Individualism is a spiral into oneself that clearly makes using other people a grave possibility, because use is the opposite of love.

    Christopher,

    I see no reason why the two actions should be mutually exclusive – one can love and simultaniously use something so long as he perceives said thing as a valued portion of his own nature. You can’t see that because you have been conditioned to think that love can’t be selfish, but love is a selfish act just like any other.

    You seem to be recognizing that one who loves can feel a sense of joy or peace, but that is not selfishness. It is a natural fruit of virtue and is not use. When someone is using a person it is not love because the person has their own interests in mind and not the good of another. When one uses another it may bring them temporary pleasure but it will fail to bring them lasting joy.

    I do not hope for “good” as “good” is just a matter of perspective… As for meaning – I don’t find meaning anywhere, I make it myself. I ascribe any meaning to my actions that I see fit to ascribe to them rather than look to something else to give them meaning.

    It seems that you have declared yourself to be the leader of your own one man crew. I question why your decisions about what is good or true have authority, however. Do you not consider the presence of objective truth in your statements? Can you decide that 2+2=5 or that Aristotle didn’t exist? Won’t we simply arrive at chaos with countless disagreements if everyone takes your position? Do you consider the possibility that your personal conclusions may be false? Do you not take the good of others into consideration when making decisions?

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “Individualism, as a philosophy of life, can lead one to relativism in which they have no base other than their own opinion as to what is true.”

    And how is this a “bad” thing? In the end all we have are our perspectives of what we believe is “truth” anyways…

    Also Arch,

    “You seem to be recognizing that one who loves can feel a sense of joy or peace, but that is not selfishness.”

    To the contrary, it’s very selfish: I selfishly cling to those I care about because I stand much to lose (in more ways than one) should something happen to them – as all that is required for an action to be selfish is to act on an interest related to the well-being of self. Of course, your religion calls selfishness “evil” so you try to disguise the fact that you are acting on self-interest by claiming love as some sort of intrinsic value that must exist outside of self, but this is impossible as all value comes from the self – not some Platonic realm of incorruptable ideals.

    Also Arch,

    “It seems that you have declared yourself to be the leader of your own one man crew.”

    So what?

    Also Arch,

    “Do you not consider the presence of objective truth in your statements? Can you decide that 2+2=5 or that Aristotle didn’t exist?”

    You seem to be confusing fact with “truth” – facts can be independently verified apart from one’s self, but “truth” is ultimately subjective as it is but the end product of our interpretations of fact: two people may look at the same facts yet hold a very different “truth” about those facts as they are filtered through their own personal predispositions.

    Thus there is no “truth” – only interpretations of “truth.” Until you grasp that nothing I say will make any sense to you…

  • bestonnet

    Arch:

    Unless you recognize that your method of scriptural interpretation is different from the Church’s, our conversation will go nowhere.

    The fact that it even has different interpretations is a pretty good indicator that it’s nonsense.

  • heliobates

    St. Thomas Aquinas explained that the three theological virtues–faith, hope, and charity, are infused virtues.

    You’ve responded to a charge of question begging and special pleading with… question begging and special pleading.

    It is not something irrational but rather a fruit of the theological virtues.

    Logic: ur doin it rong.

    It’s safe to say that no atheists, nor non-Catholics, grant your suppressed premises, putting you firmly back in the “Superman could beat up Captain America” school of empirical validation.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info/index.php EKM

    Arch: It still sounds like you are proving Greta Christina’s point: that we should just shut up and let the all-knowing Church make our decisions for us.

    Plus, I still say there is nothing wrong with individualism. I can be an individualist without committing random acts of violence. I can live with the idea of restraining myself. I do not think that doing my own thing will lead us to a Mad Max society. Christians like to pile on a lot more rules than are really necessary.

    Also: “building community”, “the common good” and “objective truths” are frequently excuses for exerting control. That is all the Catholic Church really cares about.

    And I am not putting words into your mouth. I am just telling you that you have no business telling other people how to live their lives. If you still can’t comprehend that, I’ll bribe a priest to tell you. You seem to swallow everything they shovel down your throat.

  • Arch

    If one denies the existence of objective truth or one is a relativist, they ought not make any statements because anything they say will be a contradiction. Even the statement “truth does not exist” is contradictory because it is a statement of objective truth itself. If one thinks truth is subjective then what they are speaking about is not truth at all.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info/index.php EKM

    Arch:

    I never denied the existence of objective truth. Please do not put words into my mouth. I said that people (and institutions) use “objective truth” as a means of control. To be more precise, they use what they say is “objective truth” as a means of control.

    Besides, how do you know what is and is not “objective truth”? Who are you to tell me what is and is not “objective truth”? Who is the Church to tell me what is and is not “objective truth”?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Arch,

    Unless you recognize that your method of scriptural interpretation is different from the Church’s, our conversation will go nowhere.

    Actually, what gets us nowhere is that you either don’t understand the initial argument or you won’t argue to it, but instead want to throw around useless directives at me.

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “If one denies the existence of objective truth or one is a relativist, they ought not make any statements because anything they say will be a contradiction. Even the statement “truth does not exist” is contradictory because it is a statement of objective truth itself. If one thinks truth is subjective then what they are speaking about is not truth at all.”

    You have much to learn about this thing called “truth” – just because there is no objective “truth” doesn’t mean that “truth” is non-existent, only that it’s open to interpretation rather than set in stone. This statement you made makes as much sense as saying “if there is no objective taste, then any comment about the taste of food is a contradiction” – as taste is equally open to interpretation as “truth:” just as two people eat the same food experience a different taste, two people examining the same facts may arrive at different conclusions about the “truth” of said facts.

    Now do you begin to understand where I am coming from?

  • Arch

    Christopher,

    as taste is equally open to interpretation as “truth”

    When I am speaking about statements of objective truth, I am speaking about something different. People do have differences in perception (like your example of taste… or what size city someone considers to be a large city… or what degree of weather someone considers to be warm) But statements of objective truth are not statements about a preference or a consideration. They are statements like “Sam is in this room.” “Aristotle lived.” “2+2=4″ “Stars are light-years away”. No matter what one believes or perceives about these statements, there is an objective truth about them that we cannot personally create.

  • heliobates

    No matter what one believes or perceives about these statements, there is an objective truth about them that we cannot personally create.

    “Sam is in this room” depends entirely on the meanings of “Sam”, “is”, “in” and “room” and those will change according to context. If “Sam” “is” “dead”*, you mean something completely different when you say “Sam is in the room”, particularly if you presuppose some kind of dualism and the existence of the soul.

    If Sam has been alive for 21 years, during which “Sam”‘s body has molecularly recycled itself more than 3 times and he’s had several “life-changing events” which have, in his words, “made him a completely different person than when I was three!”, in what sense does “Sam” even exist? Or more properly, “in which senses can the entity ‘Sam’ be said to exist and to what extent is each of those senses independent of any observer?”

    It’s safe to say that when you typed “Sam is in the room” you meant something other than “the living human being (DNA printout attached) legally referred to as ‘Samuel Public’ under current cultural naming conventions and referred to as ‘Sam’ by friends, relatives and acquaintances, according to contemporary, generally-accepted meanings of those terms…” Most of the “other” that you probably meant is in no way independent of the neuro-linguistic evaluations of any observer.

    “2+2=4″ is “true” only in our culturally standard systems of counting and arithmetic. If you program computers at all, you’ve probably had to realize that “2+2=4″ only for sufficiently large values of “2″ and sufficiently small values of “4″. The idea of “one of something” depends on context. For example, I was repairing my deck the other day and I pulled 4 screws out of my tool pouch. Unfortunately, the galvanizing process had welded 2 of the screws together so I only had 3 distinct objects in my hand. For me to count those 3 distinct objects as “4 screws”, meant that I had to rely on past experience and cultural context to recognize a “screw”.

    “Aristotle lived” depends on an entire chain of assumptions about the validity of extant documents and artifacts, and their meaning within our present understanding of historical contexts. If new evidence comes to light to “prove” that “Aristotle” did not in fact “live” but may have been the pseudonym of several unknown authors, then in what sense is “Aristotle lived” true? I don’t say this is likely to occur, but it has happened with other historical figures (*cough* Paul *cough*). That two or more people can examine historical “facts” and ascertain the same “truth” does not automatically privilege that “truth” as objective, except in the minds of people for whom special pleading is a habitual pattern of thought.

    So far, every statement you’ve offered as “proof” of some “objective reality” has in fact rested on suppressed and arbitrary premises.

    Logic: ur still doin it rong.

    * “dead” in the sense of not displaying any of the metabolic processes associated with “life”

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “When I am speaking about statements of objective truth, I am speaking about something different. People do have differences in perception (like your example of taste… or what size city someone considers to be a large city… or what degree of weather someone considers to be warm) But statements of objective truth are not statements about a preference or a consideration. They are statements like “Sam is in this room.” “Aristotle lived.” “2+2=4″ “Stars are light-years away”. No matter what one believes or perceives about these statements, there is an objective truth about them that we cannot personally create.”

    One again, you confuse fact with “truth” – a fact can be objectively varified (Aristotle existed, stars are many light years away, etc…), but can it be said that these things are true?

    Are you familiar with the works of Descartes (himself a Catholic – like you)? He proposed the possibility that all that we think of as being fact may be simply an illusion – that those things which can be objectively varified are only such because the illusion leads one to believe that what he sees is indeed reality. The most frightening part of this is that there’s no way to know for sure if the illusion he speaks of is real or just an idea.

    Of course, for the sake of functioning in our known reality, we assume that which is objectively varifiable is indeed real – but Truth(TM) continues to elude us as we can never be 100% certain that fact=Truth(TM). Thus we must settle for “truth” – our own intepretations of fact in our known reality.

  • Arch

    Christopher,

    Based on your points, I question what you consider to be objectively verifiable. Your argument still sounds like an attempt to justify relativism again.

  • Christopher

    Arch,

    “Based on your points, I question what you consider to be objectively verifiable. Your argument still sounds like an attempt to justify relativism again.”

    First off, I’m a Nihilist – not a relativist (at least not as traditionally defined).

    Secondly, to be objectively varifiable is merely the condition under which something can be found valid by outside parties and/or repeatedly tested for results. For example, I can place an exposed eletrified wired in direct contact with a metal surface to cause that surface to become electrified as well – if I touch the surface without protection I become electricuted, as would anyone else who touches the metal surface without protection. This is repeatable by anyone, anywhere and will yield these results evey time it is attempted – thus it is fact.

    This observation is a verified fact, but what is the “truth?” For all I know, the eletrified wire – as well as the metal surface – may be just illusions conjured by my mind: essentially, only the concepts of the wire and the surface may exist but I percieve them as real. And my sensation of electricution – and the sight of others being electricuted – may also be mere concepts as well.

    However, the difference between illusion and reality is moot to the one who experiences them: so I operate under the assumption that what I perceive to be reality – I’m not 100% certain that this reality is indeed THE reality, but I have no reason to believe that it’s not and thus accept that it is indeed reality.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Arch,

    The interpretations of what is “truth” by officials of the Catholic Church has not been consistent through the ages, is not consistent now and is unlikely to be consistent in the future. If you add in the huge variety of contradictory “truths” perceived by the laity then your arguments are revealed for what they are: specious nonsense.

    Actions should speak louder than words. Consider the “truth” that Catholic clergy have been involved in raping children or covering it up for a long time. How does that square with the words of St. Thomas Aquinos? In fact, how does the reported behaviour of St. Thomas Aquinos square with his words? He was not a nice person, by today’s civilized standards.

  • Sarah

    .
    Hey! I just want you to know that you’re right about this verse. And also that I’m a steadfast Christian. You’re absolutely right by putting this verse up, although I may disagree with your intent to transform me into an atheist… First I just want to say that honestly the “i feel it in my heart” answer is mostly just an easy way out. And absolutely foolish. I can tell you that I wouldn’t bother if that was all i had to go on. If I was going to dedicate my life to Christ on nothing more than a warm fuzzy feeling, i might as well go risk my college fund on a game of roulette. That would be called… stupid. If you have read John 20 you’ll know the story of Thomas, who refused to believe that Christ was risen, saying that he would have to touch the wounds of Christ himself before he would ever believe the other disciples. Now did Christ come up screaming “You idiot. Get real. Didn’t your heart tell you I was coming? You defect.”
    No, actually, he didn’t. it was more like “Here you go, poke away. What you were kidding? I don’t think so. Too late now buddy.” Well, ok, maybe that’s paraphrased a little. Regardless Christ didn’t get angry with Thomas for asking for proof. Rather, he provided it. And then you’ll say “Well, look at John 20:29″ And try to turn it around to the bible wanting us to walk blindly after Christ, regardless of sense. Nope. Wrong. It’s simply saying, “Thomas, you were lucky. This is pretty blatant. And most people aren’t going to get the chance to poke the gaping holes in my side.” He’s not saying be blind. He’s saying that for the rest of us we’re going to have to look closer and have faith in those things that are not so simply seen or explained. Thomas could have said, look mom, I know you think I’m crazy but look at this, he’s obviously pretty important. See! See his flesh? I have to say, look mom, I know you don’t understand but look what He’s done with my life! Look how He has changed and transformed ME! Look what He has done for those around me! Look how He has answered my prayers! And so it’s not without proof that we follow him. It is simply subtle, and easily overlooked when you don’t know what you’re looking at. And so, rather than explain people say, “I just know.” Same as when a five year old asks you why the sky is blue you say “It just is.” Rather than going into the way particles reflect light. I apologize that so often we are unwilling to sit down and explain what we know and mean and think. I’m sorry that we are not more like Christ in His willingness to sit patiently, face probable rejection and give you the credit that you will try to understand. That you are actually asking us a question and are willing to listen to an answer.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Sarah,

    He’s saying that for the rest of us we’re going to have to look closer and have faith in those things that are not so simply seen or explained.

    How is this different from “I feel it in my heart?” Isn’t “having faith” the same thing?

    Same as when a five year old asks you why the sky is blue you say “It just is.” Rather than going into the way particles reflect light.

    What a shame. You should tell the child why the sky is blue (scattering, not reflection BTW) instead of just saying “It just is.” It’s a chance to educate the child instead of indoctrinating her into the idea of simply accepting authority, (i.e. the “It just is” of religious thinking).

  • Brian

    Sarah, it’s not about convincing you to be an atheist (you need to convince yourself to do that). Asking questions like these are supposed to make you think.

    The only one who can really embrace atheism is you, and that’s the beauty of it! Atheists don’t have a god with vague definitions and requests—we have evidence, reason and logic. By forcing our way of thinking on someone we are being just as bad as the theists; thus, it’s mindless to convince you to do anything but look at the holes and gaps in your thinking and point to the evidence.

    Theists have very little evidence. You will have to search hard for atheists who say that the reason god can’t exist is because they just “feel it to be so.”

  • MS (Quixote)

    Theists have very little evidence. You will have to search hard for atheists who say that the reason god can’t exist is because they just “feel it to be so.”

    Brian,

    I encounter what I call “when you’re dead, you’re dead” atheists regularly. They’re a very different sort from the typical atheist that frequents this site.

  • bipolar2

    ** the indescribably divine makes for the ineffable Nothing **

    Dealing with those mystically inclined, the *I-feel-god-in-my-heart* crowd, and in general all irrationalist believers requires a different approach from dealing with rationalists.

    Their usual spiel: I know that my god exists — but he/she/it cannot be described, or is beyond human understanding.

    The philosopher Wittgenstein, in one seemingly cryptic utterance announced, “A nothing would be as good as a something about which nothing could be said.”

    Spelled out: you claim that something exists, but no property (like, being blue) could ever be ascribed to it. This is the famous Western “via negativa” – negative path to god – also the “neti, neti” not-this, not-this of Hindu mystics. God is not blue, is not evil, is not good . . . .

    Logically, however, a claim that something exists does not ascribe a property to it — or, as you ought to have learned in logic class — existence is not a predicate. (Non-existence is not a predicate either.) Nobody can talk about Nothing. True.

    Nobody can talk about Nothing? Who’s doing the talking here? (Nobody?) And what’s being talked about? (Nothing?) And what did Nobody say about Nothing? Zen Buddhism figured all this out long ago — hence, koans if you’re lucky or a hard slap in the face when you’re persistently obtuse.

    ‘A god exists’ seems to be saying something, but the sentence is meaningless. You might as well be saying bar-bar or saying nothing at all. The Viennese novelist, Robert Musil wrote “The Man without Qualities.” The man who can’t be there. A nobody. Nothing.

    If a god “is a something about which nothing can be said,” then this putative something is equivalent to “a nothing.”

    So-called mystics in India, China, Japan, and even Europe apprehended that any *god* without qualities was nothing.

    And, they said so. And, they were right.

    bipolar2
    © 2008

  • bipolar2

    ** There are no moral facts, only a moral interpretation of facts. — Nietzsche **

    People responding to this thread are floundering. Philosophy gets maligned as a useless subject — but, the level of discourse indicates that sound argument, knowledge of major philosophical theories and ways of life would help a great deal. Absent a decent understanding of philosophy, the fundies with their crude arguments and moral absolutism will continue to dictate the terms of confrontation with non-theists.

    The so-called problem of evil sticks in the throat of xianity (judaism and islam) like a fish bone. Religions which claim that there is only one god — one all powerful, all knowing, and wholly good — choke on Epicurus’ argument:

    Is god willing to help but unable? Then he is not all powerful.
    Is he able to help but unwilling? Then he is not good.
    Is he able and willing? Then why is there evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him ‘god’?

    Note that Epicurus (341-270 BCE) devised his argument 300 years before xian myth even exists.

    Xians have spent 2,000 years trying to find a workaround — they’ve failed. Ditto for Judaism and Islam. Supreme power and supreme goodness, nonsensical in themselves, taken together establish that the so-called one ‘god’ of the big-3 near eastern monotheisms cannot logically exist. (Which shows that you can indeed prove that “God” does not exist — as long as your theist wants “him” omni-sized.)

    Once this gas bag God collapses into a heap of shiny mylar — the moral law giver has also disappeared with a hiss. Ditto metaphysical Good and Evil (capital E,G). But, of course, there is still evil (lower case e), shrunk to human-all-too-human dimensions.

    Nietzsche devoted an entire book to understanding what happens when a worldview (xianity ) ceases, but almost no one notices. That volume is Beyond Good and Evil. It explicates what “God is dead” means.

    N went on to amplify and sharpen his insights in The Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of the Idols, and The Antichrist.

    bipolar2
    © 2008

  • http://feralboy12.com feralboy12

    “St. Thomas Aquinas explained that the three theological virtues–faith, hope, and charity, are infused virtues.”

    Faith and hope, at least, are morally neutral concepts. One can have faith in bad people and bad ideas, and one can hope for the suffering of good people. These are not virtues.

  • Jennifer Fryer

    Thank you for posting this. It is just what I have been looking for. It just feels right, the way you interpreted it. ;).

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. But in all seriousness, it is a very wise verse.