A Dialogue with Quixote, Part II

[Editor's Note: Yesterday, I posted the first in a series of letters exchanged between myself and Quixote, as part of a discussion of the most important reasons why people become theists or atheists. This is Quixote's first reply.]

Most analytic varieties of atheism seem committed to experience, science, and reason as foundations of rational belief. Consider John Shook’s definition of Naturalism, as published on Naturalisms.org:

Naturalism is usually defined most briefly as the philosophical conclusion that the only reality is nature, as gradually discovered by our intelligence using the tools of experience, reason, and science.

As a Christian theist, I’m happily inclined to agree with experience, science, and reason as foundations of rationality, and as fundamentals of belief; ironically, were I an atheist, I might not so eagerly consent. Continental philosophy beckons from her paradoxical twin towers of being and nothingness.

Fundamentally, however, I comprehend the commonplace, everyman approach to atheism — any who wish to maintain that atheism does not posit positive beliefs may substitute naturalism as defined above — and theism as occurring without substantive personal discourse, without ponderous reflection, without consistent dark nights of the soul. For the theist, the natural and logical consequence is a simple, generic fideism, but first to the atheist.

Most elite atheists, those characterized by education, and say, a working knowledge of the Euthyphro dilemma (ED), seem blissfully unaware that the seemingly overwhelming majority of their fellows engage in afideism. I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. This subset of atheism requires absolutely no rationale for a rejection of God belief, no finely tuned argumentation against God’s existence, no consideration of theistic thought on the matter. One non-believer I questioned in this regard today said “It’s a waste of time to think about that.” In fact, the epistemological challenges frequently raised by elite atheists against theists apply with full force to the elite atheists’ philosophically unsophisticated bedfellows.

The resemblance of most theists to when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists is strikingly noteworthy. This very day I queried a very close Christian believer, in order to flesh out Ebon’s question. “Why do you believe in God?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she said. “I never thought about it. I just always have. I can’t not believe. It’s impossible.” To further complicate matters, though she was raised to believe in God, so was her sister. Her sister never believed.

Hence, what are the most fundamental reasons why people become atheists or theists? I conclude that whatever the primary answer to the question is, no answer without sufficient motivational imbrication over the two groups seems plausible. But primarily, be it theistic or atheistic, most people appear to approach this question with simple faith, or simple non-faith. The assertion that the realm of fideism is inhabited solely by theists is false.

Then there’s the rest of us on opposite sides who pore over arcane texts, cruise blogs, enroll in Philosophy of Religion classes, wrestle with pedantic points, and yes, even work once more through the ontological argument for God’s existence. We’re the strange ones, my fellow travelers. And I’m glad to share the road with you. I encourage you to follow me at the fork — it’s a road less traveled, but as Frost wrote, it’s made all the difference to me.

Ebon has submitted two initial reasons he’s an atheist. I’d like to respond directly, and will, but first I owe him some positive assertions from my side of the Maginot line. With that image in mind, I’d also like to reaffirm at the outset some ground rules I intend to honor as this discussion matures:

  • My allusion to the Maginot line is the nearest I will approach Godwin’s law. Atheists are not National Socialists, nor were National Socialists atheists.
  • In whatever manner morality is discussed, it will never be suggested or intimated that atheists are immoral, amoral, or incapable of developing sophisticated, fully functioning ethical systems.
  • It’s possible for people to disagree honestly and respectfully, and remain friends even with profound differences in thought.

The following, then, are personal reasons for my faith, not intricate arguments. Let’s begin with experience, and I desire to be transparent about my faith in God. Awareness of God presents itself immediately to most, if not all, theists. I’m no different, and I make no apology for this sense of the divine. I’ve admitted such previously on Daylight Atheism: I can’t remember a time I did not believe in God. I’m like the lady quoted above: I can’t not believe. I am able to imagine a world without God for limited stretches, but it requires effort and vigilance. In essence, it’s unnatural for me.

Nor do I think I need to apologize. If such a thing as properly basicality obtains, belief in God is certainly properly basic in the classic foundational sense. It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun.

Moreover, a Kierkegaardian leap of faith — not that I claim this for myself in an absolute sense — is no less justified than any naturalistic existential philosophy. If existence does in fact precede essence, and my actions determine meaning in my life, then how does the choice to believe in God differ from any other choice, Sartre’s wish to be unobserved notwithstanding?

Secondly, most Christians find the Bible persuasive, and found their faith on Scripture. I’m no different in this regard. Unlike many, I’m intimately aware of the counterarguments to this claim. Nevertheless, I embrace Christianity in its full supernatural rigor. And, I concur; considering the Bible and Christianity without a prior God belief is meaningless. There’s a reason Christ told Nicodemus you must be born again before you can see the kingdom. The Bible and Christianity will appear particularly foolish to any naturalist, and I don’t hold this against any particular naturalist in the least. Conversely, I predict it.

This immediate sense of God is supported, then, by a great nexus of reason and observation. Reason undergirds theism, in my estimation. While there may or may not be one ironclad argument that demonstrates the existence of God beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are a host of valid, and I think sound, deductive arguments for God’s existence. To these are added inductive arguments based on observation. Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist. The existence of these arguments and observation, taken together with the direct experience of God, and in the case of Christians through Scripture as well, presents a formidable web of supporting evidence for faith in God.

Is there a confirmation bias, or some other form of bias operating within the theist in considering this question? Does the theist’s sense of God influence her thought with regard to argument’s for God’s existence, her experience, her observations? There’s no question in my mind… of course, there’s bias. I’m biased toward belief in God. I freely admit it, and guard against it to the best of my ability. Nonetheless, bias is a shared failing of humanity. Naturalists are as biased to the question as anyone else. Realizing this is the starter’s pistol for reason, not the finish line.

On the negative side, non-theism, as an alternative to theism, lacks, in my estimation, sufficient explanatory power to entail the whole of my experience, reason, and observation. A methodological naturalism is highly successful in determining the temperature at which water boils, and in this sense it is the best solution to the way the world works. Mr. Shook points to this phenomenon as evidence for Naturalism, since theism is invoked increasingly at the boundaries of what is known.

I reject this notion, however. My most intimate observations and intuitions argue against Naturalism — consciousness, the soul, good and evil, a sense of God, personality — and, likewise, the very borders of the universe, its beginning, the great sub-atomic realm, and the existence of abstract objects and properties, by definition are at the fringes of what can be known or tested scientifically; yet, they are crucial to a systematic consideration of faith or non-faith. Perhaps the naturalist is correct in his confidence that these questions will be resolved naturalistically, but from our historical vantage point, which is the only one we have to go by, this appears a fantastic claim given the present state of knowledge, and our shared notions of science’s capabilities and the manner in which it functions.

Furthermore, I have asserted above a program of natural theology, which I consider to be successful taken as a whole. In this, then, I detect in Naturalism an arbitrary walling-off of what can be known. Lastly, it does not appear clear to me, both logically and intuitively, that Naturalism could ever demonstrate its own claims. This is the great irony of the theism/non-theism debate.

I have run a bit long, and for that I apologize. To remain faithful to the question, I have attempted to provide fundamental reasons why theists believe in God, not specific justifications for those reasons. In this, I will make myself available to address any specific questions to the issues raised.

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.

  • Sam

    Do Christian theists just completely reject the fact that their intellectual goal in all this is to find “good” reasons for beliefs they have always held for bad reasons?

    “I was circumcised 30 years ago by my Jewish parents but the REAL reason I’m circumcised NOW is because of this recent study that says it’s good!”

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. This subset of atheism requires absolutely no rationale for a rejection of God belief, no finely tuned argumentation against God’s existence, no consideration of theistic thought on the matter. One non-believer I questioned in this regard today said “It’s a waste of time to think about that.” In fact, the epistemological challenges frequently raised by elite atheists against theists apply with full force to the elite atheists’ philosophically unsophisticated bedfellows.

    I disagree with this for a couple reasons. First, saying that it’s a waste of time to think about god or whether god is real could be an indicator that one simply doesn’t wish to spend time on something, not that one has not considered the evidence and the arguments. Apatheism is not the same as ignorance on the subject.

    Second, even if the person is philosophically unsophisticated, they would have happened to stumble upon the position that requires no proof, or the default position as it were. It may have been unintentional, but they do not need a reason to not believe in god, whereas one should not believe in god sans reasons to do so. So, the challenges raised do not apply equally, as the relationship is asymmetrical.

    This immediate sense of God is supported, then, by a great nexus of reason and observation.

    I hope that subsequent posts will expand on this, as I’ve not encountered any logical or reasonable arguments for god – and yes, I’ve heard many arguments.

    On the negative side, non-theism, as an alternative to theism, lacks, in my estimation, sufficient explanatory power to entail the whole of my experience, reason, and observation.

    This veers dangerously close to god of the gaps theology…

  • TJ

    First, I’d like to recommend that you bring the level of philosophical background needed to understand the fine points of your writing down a notch for this audience, or provide in-line definitions or links to Wikipedia. I’m reasonably well-read and I’ve even taken a few philosophy classes (though with more of a psychological rather than religious bent). I had to look up Euthyphro dilemma (is something moral because God commands it, or does God command it because it is inherently moral) and fideism (the theory that faith is independent of reason). It’s hard to keep up interest in a counter argument when you have to look something up in every sentence.

    Now, on to the parts I do think I understand.

    I’d very much like to know your response to a situation like my own. I was raised to believe in God. I was raised Christian. I was raised to expect to feel the holy spirit inside me. As a child, I spent many dark nights of the soul crying myself to sleep, wishing for God to make his presence known to me. My friends talked about how they could feel the spirit welling up in them. I went to church every week. I went to a religious school for 5 years and had chapel services every day. I spent the summers at the same school, again with regular chapel services, and vacation bible school at least once a year. I learned a lot of songs and memorized a lot of bible verses, but I never felt anything, no matter how much I wanted it. By your reasoning, should I not conclude that either God does not exist, or that he has no interest in, or love for, me? Both were unacceptable at the time, so I lapsed into what has been called apatheism.. I stopped caring about religion at all.

    As for fideism, in general it seems like a self-protecting complex of ideas. By declaring your faith and intuitions to have special properties, you protect them from the scrutiny of rationality. Away from matters of religion, intuitions and self-evident “facts” have lead people to conclude that the earth is flat and that the sun goes around the earth. Intuition also made people doubt x-rays. Faith also made Blondlot believe in N-rays (which he still saw even when several crucial components were removed from the experimental apparatus). I’m sure before Einstein no one would have believed that putting a super accurate clock into orbit around the earth would be enough to cause noticeable time dilation, but it is true.

    Given that these beliefs have all proved false in the face of evidence, why are spiritual feelings of the presence of God off limits for such explanation. The active ingredient in magic mushrooms has been able to produced on command a more profound spiritual experience than most people (who I know, at least) have ever experienced

    More than 60 per cent had a mystical experience when given psilocybin. More than two-thirds rated it in the top five most meaningful and spiritual experiences in their lives, likening it to the birth of a child or the death of a parent. One in three said it was their single most spiritually significant experience.

    If you are “happily inclined to agree with experience, science, and reason as foundations of rationality”, why should your belief or experience of the divine not also be subject to rationality? Especially given that there is quite reasonable evidence to support the hypothesis that it is indeed nothing more than a mental state induced under certain conditions. Not proof, of course; but we do have an experiment that shows the way toward an understanding of how purely physical phenomena could explain your feelings (and probably my lack of feelings).

    Fideism is a very strong argument from inside (“I do not have to think rationally about this because faith is more important/valuable/true”), but very weak from outside (“You refuse to discuss this rationally”).

    Looking forward to reading your response.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    And, I concur; considering the Bible and Christianity without a prior God belief is meaningless.

    If your position is correct, Muslims don’t consider the Bible and Christianity without a prior God belief. They just have the wrong one. What is your explanation for people who have a prior God belief but somehow can’t tell that the Bible is divinely inspired when they are exposed to it?

    I know that this isn’t necesarily the point of the exercise, but I’d like to hear your rationale as to why Christianity is unpersuasive to other theists. I believe that if you can address that successfully, you can successfully address why it is unpersuasive to many atheists, just as much as you could be successful by addressing naturalism.

    Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist.

    How is positing the existence of the Judeo-Christian the best explanation for say, Hammurabi’s Code? I use that example to demonstrate how humanity can be said to have been laboring over the notions of justice for thousands of years. This understanding has evolved. If justice were a product of societies, and we were building from the ground up, this gradual development is what I would expect.

    As for love, yes, humanity does seem loving at times. But we also seem quite violent at times. Why is humanity so relatively aggressive and violent? Would say that a benevolent god made us this way? Or would you say that we are this way because of our evolutionary environment?

    I will try and hold onto my other questions for now. Thank you for agreeing to do this! I appreciate your courtesy and your willingness to have this exchange. I hope it will be productive.

  • Mark

    I definitely prefer Ebon’s “commonplace, everyman approach to atheism” and direct writing style to Quixote’s esoteric and verbose style that doesn’t really seem to answer the question.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Do Christian theists just completely reject the fact that their intellectual goal in all this is to find “good” reasons for beliefs they have always held for bad reasons?

    Hey Sam,

    Yes, many of them do, in fact, and most of those unconsciously. I’m not one of those, however, and as noted in my post, this phenomenon is equally spread along both sides of the theist/atheist divide.

    This question you’ve raised interests me deeply, and I’d be happy to read what it is exactly that registers as a “bad reason” in your mind. Within the normative internet squabble, this phrase is generally translatable as “doesn’t agree with what I think.”

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    “I feel God within me and thanks to where I grew up I am a Christian” sorry, I was paraphrasing and threw in the ‘where I grew up’ chide.

    You sense god, using one of your 6 senses no doubt, as I cannot sense any such thing.

    “I am able to imagine a world without God for limited stretches, but it requires effort and vigilance. In essence, it’s unnatural for me.”

    Can you see the irony in that statement? I hope you meant it :)

    To summarize, your argument boils down to: some mystical sense of god; Scripture; morality/justice; consciousness.

    If I may take Scripture. Tell me ONE thing that Jesus tells us that was not already available at that time? One moral. One piece of wisdom. There is nothing that the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Romans or Chinese had not already come up with, not necessarily practiced but thought of.

  • Ric

    To summarize Quixote’s very eloquent reply:

    “People believe or not believe for irrational reasons. I personally believe for irrational reasons. Starting with belief, I then find certain arguments compelling.”

    Alas, this is still rationalization.

  • Chet

    If such a thing as properly basicality obtains, belief in God is certainly properly basic in the classic foundational sense. It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun.

    And yet atheists have a sense that there is no god; indeed, other theists have the completely basic and self-evident sense that their God, and not yours, is the one as “evident as the sun.”

    Why do you dismiss the evident-as-pain sensations of these people? If such a sense is insufficient to convince you of atheism (or Buddhism, or Islam) when it occurs in other people, why do you allow it to convince you when it occurs in you?

    Why do you privilege yourself to that degree?

    Fundamentally, I perceive that you haven’t really answered Ebon’s question, which is basically “what is the good evidence for God.” Rather, you seem to have replied “these are the reasons that I do not need good evidence, but just intuition and feeling.” You’ve gone on to present philosophical reasons to explain belief in the absence of evidence, but that’s really just an argument against using philosophy, not an argument in favor of belief on the basis of no good evidence.

  • MS (Quixote)

    So, the challenges raised do not apply equally, as the relationship is asymmetrical.

    OMGF,

    I can envision cases where this is true, my friend. Yet by and large the atheists I’m referring to maintain a positive God disbelief stance, which would seem to require more than a simple afideism, if we’re to adopt your standards as our rule of judgment in these matters. Furthermore, the great majority of the remainder of this subset is not aware of the presumption of atheism as you are. It seems to me that you’re arguing for a state of affairs whereby they’ve stumbled unknowingly upon a principle that you accept intimately. In this, I think you should consistently apply your epistemological standards to them.

    hope that subsequent posts will expand on this, as I’ve not encountered any logical or reasonable arguments for god – and yes, I’ve heard many arguments.

    The exercise was supposed to contemplate commonplace reasons why people are either theists or atheists, without resorting to more technical arguments for or against God belief. I’ve attempted to be faithful to that question in my initial response, but I’m sure as time goes on, we’ll get around to it. Besides, you know most of these :) So, with that in mind, I’ll try to give you one you may not be aware of before this exercise is through.

    This veers dangerously close to god of the gaps theology…

    Well, this is not science we’re dealing with here, so I don’t feel constrained by this.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Looking forward to reading your response.

    Great, great comment, TJ. I’ll need a little time to respond to this, but I defintely will.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Quixote
    Please ignore calls to dumb down your excellent writing, I too find the vocabulary challenging but I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my own.

    Awareness of God presents itself immediately to most, if not all, theists. I’m no different, and I make no apology for this sense of the divine.

    If so why hang this sense of the divine on one particular theology. Why are you a christian rather than a muslim, a wiccan or a hindu?

  • MS (Quixote)

    If your position is correct, Muslims don’t consider the Bible and Christianity without a prior God belief. They just have the wrong one. What is your explanation for people who have a prior God belief but somehow can’t tell that the Bible is divinely inspired when they are exposed to it?

    Great catch, Teleprompter. You’re right: I mistakenly wrote God belief when I had in mind Christian God belief.

    I know that this isn’t necesarily the point of the exercise, but I’d like to hear your rationale as to why Christianity is unpersuasive to other theists. I believe that if you can address that successfully, you can successfully address why it is unpersuasive to many atheists, just as much as you could be successful by addressing naturalism.

    I’d enjoy that very much. That’s an exercise for this evening, though, & I’ll tie it in with your other questions and comments which appear related.

    Thank you for agreeing to do this! I appreciate your courtesy and your willingness to have this exchange. I hope it will be productive.

    No, thank you. Great comment.

  • MS (Quixote)

    I definitely prefer Ebon’s “commonplace, everyman approach to atheism” and direct writing style to Quixote’s esoteric and verbose style that doesn’t really seem to answer the question.

    Ouch. This is the second reference to this. I apologize, but I am what I am. I’ll try to do better, and the odd thing is that I’m the earthy type! Thick Texas drawl, slow to speak, say ain’t, y’all, fixin’, and uh constantly :)

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    MS Quixote,

    I look forward to your responses, and I just want to add, please don’t change your writing style. Yes, it is more difficult to understand, but I feel that one must understand these things at some point, and what better place to start than now? I like Ebon’s style *and* your style. I wouldn’t want either of you to change.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Quixote, I understood that you were laying a groundwork in this first response of yours, and I anticipate that you’ll color it in just fine. I like how you noted that atheism entails positive claims; this is something most thinkers on both sides of the debate miss. I’m curious – Ebon’s original statement framed the question in the context of the Question of Suffering and also what I usually just refer to as the religious dissonance argument. How do you respond to those ideas? I immediately thought up my responses, but see little use in posting them. Still, I’m as curious as Ebon to hear yours.

    TJ,

    Away from matters of religion, intuitions and self-evident “facts” have lead people to conclude that the earth is flat and that the sun goes around the earth.

    I’m not sure I’d say we can strain those from religion. Those ideas were directly related to misreading of scripture and arrogant, blind faith that denied reality.

  • velkyn

    “Most elite atheists, those characterized by education, and say, a working knowledge of the Euthyphro dilemma (ED), seem blissfully unaware that the seemingly overwhelming majority of their fellows engage in afideism. I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. ”

    Gee, basless claims from a Christian, what a non-suprise. Combine this with the usual arguments from ignorance and wow, nothing new at all.

  • MS (Quixote)

    You sense god, using one of your 6 senses no doubt, as I cannot sense any such thing.

    Well stated, keddaw, I think.

    Can you see the irony in that statement? I hope you meant it :)

    Absoultely I meant it, and you take the prize for noticing it. Nice work. It’s rewarding when you embed something you’ve written with allusions and someone notices. Thanks…much appreciated.

    To summarize, your argument boils down to: some mystical sense of god; Scripture; morality/justice; consciousness.

    If I may take Scripture. Tell me ONE thing that Jesus tells us that was not already available at that time? One moral. One piece of wisdom. There is nothing that the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Romans or Chinese had not already come up with, not necessarily practiced but thought of.

    I think you left out natural theology and philosophy, plus an estimation that there is currently insufficient evidence to consider Naturalism true.

    For your question, why in the world would I want to do that? In my view, the fact that morality is a universal phenomena supports Christianity. The unsettling thing for me would be if it weren’t :)

    I’m certain before we’re done, someone will be explaining to me how it’s not…

  • MS (Quixote)

    To summarize Quixote’s very eloquent reply:

    “People believe or not believe for irrational reasons. I personally believe for irrational reasons. Starting with belief, I then find certain arguments compelling.”

    Alas, this is still rationalization.

    Ric,

    I think you missed the paragraph regarding proper basicality in your paraphrse. If my belief is properly basic under classical foundationalism (or any other system) as incorrigible–and I believe it is–then it’s not irrational by definition.

    But, I’ve attempted to be honest and upfront with this, rather than hiding it as some theists are wont to do. Question is, are you willing to acknoweldge your biases that influence wether you find an argument compelling or not?

  • Justin

    My most intimate observations and intuitions argue against Naturalism — consciousness, the soul, good and evil, a sense of God, personality — and, likewise, the very borders of the universe, its beginning, the great sub-atomic realm, and the existence of abstract objects and properties, by definition are at the fringes of what can be known or tested scientifically; yet, they are crucial to a systematic consideration of faith or non-faith.

    The first set (consciousness – personality) do not imply the existence of God. I don’t know where consciousness comes from, but I don’t see evidence for the soul anywhere. Good and evil are terms used in relation to human interactions and values. A sense of God is exactly that: just a sense, but how does personality prove God?

    The second set (borders of the universe – existence of abstract objects and properties) is known to us because science applies methodological naturalism in its search for evidence.

  • MS (Quixote)

    And yet atheists have a sense that there is no god; indeed, other theists have the completely basic and self-evident sense that their God, and not yours, is the one as “evident as the sun.”

    Why do you dismiss the evident-as-pain sensations of these people?

    Why do you immediately assume that I do? I don’t, actually. It seems to me that this question devolves to de facto considerations, and that the de jure objections such as this are insufficient to establish what is true.

    Fundamentally, I perceive that you haven’t really answered Ebon’s question, which is basically “what is the good evidence for God.” Rather, you seem to have replied “these are the reasons that I do not need good evidence, but just intuition and feeling.”

    The question as I understood it was “what are commonplace reasons for belief or non-belief.” I certain I’ll get around to defending my particular belief set. BTW-what an unsupportable assumption you have there in your characterization of my reply. How in the world would you know what evidence I have?

  • Chet

    Let’s not treat bias as the be-all and end-all of this discussion. In fact one criteria you could use as part of a definition of “good evidence” is, in fact, whether it could be convincing to someone biased against it.

    There are some things that bias simply can’t overcome; if there is good evidence for God then it will surely have that quality. Simply saying “well, there’s good evidence if you’re already predisposed to believe it” is nonsense. I was convinced, after all, by the evidence for atheism even as I was biased against it by being a Christian. I suspect most atheists here could say the same thing. If belief in God is reasonable, then such evidence for God will surely exist. For some reason, theists would rather redefine unsupported belief as rational – or, at least, not that irrational – than provide the good evidence that atheists are asking for.

    That, I think, it’s indicative of the truth value of theism. It really seems like your best attempt to offer an argument for the existence of God is an argument that looks so desperately like self-deception. If you’ve been asked for evidence, and what you’re providing instead is an argument why evidence is unnecessary – why just even asking for it is “bias” – what you’re doing is nonsense.

    Everybody is biased. The proper response to this is to provide arguments that are compelling in spite of bias, not to insist that everyone look at it from the same bias.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Quixote
    Please ignore calls to dumb down your excellent writing, I too find the vocabulary challenging but I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my own.

    Steve Bowen! How’s it goin!

    This comment illustrates one precise reason I love atheists, generally. I really love folk who will speak their mind, call it like they see it, and attempt to use Reason as much as possible.

    Steve, I’d like to address your question specifically. Don’t let me forget.

  • Chet

    Why do you immediately assume that I do?

    Because you’re a Christian, not an atheist or a Muslim or a Buddhist. You’ve chosen the position most consistent with your own feelings, but completely inconsistent with the atheists’, the Muslims’, and the Buddists’. And you’ve said that you’ve done that because of your feelings.

    I’m not an atheist because I have a “feeling” that there is no God. I’m aware that “feelings” on this matter are fairly unreliable, since so many people have so many different feelings. I’m an atheist because that is the position on God which is best supported by the evidence that I’m aware of. If there’s good evidence for theism I’m unaware of it. I’ve asked many, many theists to inform me if there is some.

    For some reason, every single one has told me that there is such evidence, but that they weren’t going to share it with me; or that there was such evidence, but I wouldn’t believe it because I had the wrong bias; or that such evidence simply wasn’t necessary in the first place to have a reasonable belief in the existence of God. Nobody seems to cough up the good evidence. Maybe you could be the first?

    How in the world would you know what evidence I have?

    If you have some, it seems like you would lead with that. That would be the strongest, most unimpeachable case for the reasonableness of your belief – much stronger than your “I just have a feeling” argument. Why not lead with your strengths?

    Or – maybe you did?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    “For your question, why in the world would I want to do that? In my view, the fact that morality is a universal phenomena supports Christianity. The unsettling thing for me would be if it weren’t :) ”

    If you like…. :)

    Some people consider homosexuality immoral. Some do not.
    Some people consider the death penalty immoral. Some do not.
    etc. etc.

    Or do you mean the existence of morality rather than the existence of one universal absolute morality?

    Well biology/evolution does a great job of explaining the most basic forms of morality – as can be evidenced in primates and even dogs!
    More complicated morality can be best explained by antropologists describing types of behavior that would lead to the best chances of breeding and surviving within small tribes, or the best chances of your genes surviving in harsh times when you are in an extended family unit. Once genes aiding this behavior are successful they tend to spread rather well throughout the population. So co-operation, heroism, altruistic behavior etc. can be seen to have primitive roots.

    Besides which, even if it had no biological basis how, in the name of all that is not Holy, does it even approach supporting Christianity? many Eastern religions/philosophies were preaching much of the same morality (love thy neighbor etc) as the Christian faith. One Greek (name escapes me, something to do with dog) lived in complete poverty and eschewed any material possessions. There are numerous examples of places where the so-called Christian values had already been discovered.

  • Chet

    Sorry, one more thing:

    The question as I understood it was “what are commonplace reasons for belief or non-belief.”

    Right, exactly. That’s a request for evidence. Like “why are commonplace reasons for belief in plate tectonics”, the answer is “interlocking shape of continents, explanatory power for earthquakes and mountains, and experimental verification of continental drift.” Not “well, some people believe in it because they saw it in a museum, some because they were taught it in school, and some because they’ve never believed anything but plate tectonics. Some people just have a feeling that it is true.”

    That’s really not what we’re asking at all. We’re asking for evidence – what are the good reasons to believe in God? We already know when beliefs are reasonable – it’s when there is good evidence for those beliefs, and not when there is no such evidence. So we’re asking for the good evidence. Bias really has nothing to do with it.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Quixote, I understood that you were laying a groundwork in this first response of yours, and I anticipate that you’ll color it in just fine. I like how you noted that atheism entails positive claims; this is something most thinkers on both sides of the debate miss. I’m curious – Ebon’s original statement framed the question in the context of the Question of Suffering and also what I usually just refer to as the religious dissonance argument. How do you respond to those ideas? I immediately thought up my responses, but see little use in posting them. Still, I’m as curious as Ebon to hear yours.

    Hey, cl. As usual, you can be relied upon to read and comprehend first, then comment. THIS DOES NOT IMPLY IN ANY CONCEIVABLE MANNER THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS OR DOES–SO DON’T GIVE ME A HARD TIME. THERE’S ALREADY BEEN A HOST OF EXCELLENT RESPONSES! But cl’s exactly right: my post represents an analytic framework from which to proceed, both on the general question of commonplace reasosn for belief and unbelief, and for my personal beliefs.

    Support for the presumption of atheism has waned recently in favor of the hiddeness of God question. I don’t want to argue presumption much–that’s why I included the Naturalism definition.

    My repsponse to Ebon’s article will be published after his response to mine, I presume. Look for it then…

  • Shnakepup

    The assertion that the realm of fideism is inhabited solely by theists is false.

    As I understand it, fideism is essentially the position that faith is better than reason, and they they are mutually exclusive. You assertion that not all fideists are theists doesn’t make sense to me, because wouldn’t all fideists have faith? And if you have faith you are a theist?

    Keep in mind, “faith” in the above context means more “religious belief”. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what fideism means…could you define how you’re using it here?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Quixote,

    Yet by and large the atheists I’m referring to maintain a positive God disbelief stance, which would seem to require more than a simple afideism, if we’re to adopt your standards as our rule of judgment in these matters. Furthermore, the great majority of the remainder of this subset is not aware of the presumption of atheism as you are. It seems to me that you’re arguing for a state of affairs whereby they’ve stumbled unknowingly upon a principle that you accept intimately. In this, I think you should consistently apply your epistemological standards to them.

    The only time the relationship is not asymmetrical is when a strong atheist holds that some or all gods are disproven. Now, some have been, so it’s not wrong to state so. It is, however, to state all gods are disproven, unless there’s a disproof that I’m unaware of.

    Still, for those who simply hold that there’s no reason to believe in god, even if they stumbled upon it by accident, they still hold no burden of proof, since there is no positive assertion being put forth. Those who hold that god exists, even if they stumbled upon it by accident still hold the burden of proof for their positive assertion.

    It might seem like nit-picking, but it’s an important issue.

    The exercise was supposed to contemplate commonplace reasons why people are either theists or atheists, without resorting to more technical arguments for or against God belief.

    My jedi mind trick powers don’t work on you I guess.

    Well, this is not science we’re dealing with here, so I don’t feel constrained by this.

    You should. Attributing any unknown to “magic” or “goddidit” or anything else due to the absence of a natural explanation is logically fallacious. You can’t build a rational argument on the back of a logical fallacy, for it will end up being one straw too many.

    I’ll refrain from touching on the points of others, especially since I see someone else already brought up the evolutionary aspect of morality (although I wonder how a shared moral system points specifically to Xianity instead of any other religion).

  • mikespeir

    A well written post. I always admire that. Still, I was left with no compelling reason for me to believe in God. Perhaps, the closest I saw to a real presentation of evidence is this:

    This immediate sense of God is supported, then, by a great nexus of reason and observation. Reason undergirds theism, in my estimation. While there may or may not be one ironclad argument that demonstrates the existence of God beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are a host of valid, and I think sound, deductive arguments for God’s existence. To these are added inductive arguments based on observation. Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist. The existence of these arguments and observation, taken together with the direct experience of God, and in the case of Christians through Scripture as well, presents a formidable web of supporting evidence for faith in God.

    What I see here is a believer asserting that his belief makes more sense than non-belief. I would expect that. I was a believer myself until I was 48. I said similar things all the time. I said them because that was the way I had learned to interpret…well, everything. I couldn’t see–or, at least, chose not to see–that this wasn’t the only way–or even the best way–to interpret everything.

    Quixote, I don’t see this “formidable web of supporting evidence for faith in God,” although at one time I would have claimed to. I respect your right to believe in accordance with what makes sense to you. But what you’ve said here, however eloquently, does nothing to even make me wonder whether you might, in fact, be right.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Gee, basless claims from a Christian, what a non-suprise.

    Really, Velkyn? Are you honestly suggesting that there’s no such people as “when you’re dead, your dead” atheists engaging in afideism?

  • Paul S.

    Hence, what are the most fundamental reasons why people become atheists or theists? I conclude that whatever the primary answer to the question is, no answer without sufficient motivational imbrication over the two groups seems plausible. But primarily, be it theistic or atheistic, most people appear to approach this question with simple faith, or simple non-faith. The assertion that the realm of fideism is inhabited solely by theists is false.

    I would argue that absolutely every person born is an atheist (my definition of atheism = a lack of belief in god/s). Atheism, in my opinion, is the default beginning position. I wish it were possible to gather newborns from Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, etc. parents and expose them to absolutely no religious teachings whatsoever. What would their religious leanings be after say, 15 years? Would the child of Christian parents be a Christian? Do we think any of the children would have any “god concept” at all? I think not.

    To answer your question as to what are the most fundamental reasons why people become atheists or theists? My answer is that people are born atheists until they are exposed/indoctrinated to their particular culture’s religion. It’s when the believer examines the evidence and realizes that (to that particular believer) the evidence just doesn’t support continuing to believe in god/s. That person will then revert to the default position of atheism.

  • Hank Bones

    No time to add much to the discussion, except that I don’t think you should “dumb down” the discussion. Rather, as TJ (I think) suggested, add Wikipedia links to concepts that we may not all be familiar with, but that you don’t feel necessary to explain in your posts.

    Thanks for the civil debate. Always nice to hear from a Christian who doesn’t equate atheism to the Third Reich!

  • Leum

    Thanks for the post, Quixote. Really, there’s no need to dumb it down, a few linkys to relevant sites will be fine.

    Then there’s the rest of us on opposite sides who pore over arcane texts, cruise blogs, enroll in Philosophy of Religion classes, wrestle with pedantic points, and yes, even work once more through the ontological argument for God’s existence. We’re the strange ones, my fellow travelers. And I’m glad to share the road with you. I encourage you to follow me at the fork — it’s a road less traveled, but as Frost wrote, it’s made all the difference to me.

    I’m finding this to be true. Religion, like science, philosophy, history, and art is a subject few people geek out to. God’s nature and existence just isn’t that important to most people. Atheists are, perhaps, more inclined to research the question, but I suspect that’s true of most converts.

    On the negative side, non-theism, as an alternative to theism, lacks, in my estimation, sufficient explanatory power to entail the whole of my experience, reason, and observation….

    I reject this notion, however. My most intimate observations and intuitions argue against Naturalism — consciousness, the soul, good and evil, a sense of God, personality — and, likewise, the very borders of the universe, its beginning, the great sub-atomic realm, and the existence of abstract objects and properties, by definition are at the fringes of what can be known or tested scientifically; yet, they are crucial to a systematic consideration of faith or non-faith. Perhaps the naturalist is correct in his confidence that these questions will be resolved naturalistically, but from our historical vantage point, which is the only one we have to go by, this appears a fantastic claim given the present state of knowledge, and our shared notions of science’s capabilities and the manner in which it functions.

    I’m inclined to disagree. You’ve already read Ebon’s Ghost in the Machine so I won’t bore you with restating his arguments, just say that I feel neuroscience is proving adequate to this issue. More importantly, it seems to me that the march of science has done little else but close the gaps. Slowly, but inexorably. Having confidence that our questions will, in the end, be answered by naturalistic science is nothing more than confidence based on the evidence that every challenge that science has answered, it has answered with a naturalistic explanation.

  • Dave

    Tangential to Paul S’s observation

    My answer is that people are born atheists until they are exposed/indoctrinated to their particular culture’s religion.

    is recent (2008) research on fear of snakes. Historically, it has been suggested that people have evolved a fear of snakes and spiders (2001):

    The research shows that mammals developed the perceptive ability to focus on things seen as threatening, such as snakes and spiders, and to respond emotionally with a feeling of fear.

    However, the 2008 research succeeded in separating the enhanced perception of snakes and spiders from the fear:

    The researchers concluded that the tendency to pay close attention to spiders and snakes may be an evolutionary survival trait. However, the tendency to fear those animals is not automatic….the results seem to support the theory that phobias are learned rather than evolved.

    Following Paul’s observation, one might suggest that our enhanced attention to beauty, marvellous things (from Quixote’s list “love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill”) is an evolved trait, but that transferring this attention to the god and religion of one’s culture is a learned response.

    In the absence of being taught the “correct” response to all of these enhanced perceptions, attention to snakes does not induce fear, and attention to beauty does not induce belief.

  • tdd

    Naturalism isn’t an arbritrary walling off what can be known. It is a perfectly practical and useful distinction point. Once you step away from naturalism, then things cannot be known, but they can be asserted, argued, philosophized, but the certainty associated with the knowledge should be on par with the evidentiary basis for the claim.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Quixote, I like reading your posts, but the whole “poring over arcane texts, etc.” paragraph seems awfully close to the Courtier’s Reply. I mean, I enjoy debating atheism vs. theism, but to me, it’s almost like a game.

    When it comes down to it, I think this sums up my point of view: “The atheist does not say ‘There is no God’ but says ‘I know not what you mean by God; I am without idea of God; the word God is to me a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation. I do not deny God, because I cannot deny that of which I have no conception, especially when even those who believe in the thing cannot even define it” (Charles Bradlaugh).

    Although it might seem contradictory, I don’t know that I really think arguing about god’s existence, or the truth of religion, is really worth it. I’m not sure how many people are ever actually convinced by arguments. It’s more like, you see it or you don’t. Maybe this is “afideism.” Mencken just strikes a chord with me: “Of a piece with the absurd pedagogical demand for so-called constructive criticism is the doctrine that an iconoclast is a hollow and evil fellow unless he can prove his case. Why, indeed, should he prove it? Is he judge, jury, prosecuting officer, hangman? He proves enough, indeed, when he proves by his blasphemy that this or that idol is defectively convincing — that at least one visitor to the shrine is left full of doubts. The fact is enormously significant; it indicates that instinct has somehow risen superior to the shallowness of logic, the refuge of fools. The pedant and the priest have always been the most expert of logicians — and the most diligent disseminators of nonsense and worse. The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by such learned dunderheads; it has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe — that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power, and hence a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.”

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Is there *anything* in this dose of unremarkable apologetics that has not been said before? Proof-burden shifting. I believe because I do, because I’m incapable of not believing. God is self-evident. It takes as much faith to be an atheist as a theist. Naturalism is not supported by the evidence. Atheists don’t engage effectively with theology. Science can’t/won’t ever explain everything.

    Is it too much to ask to get even one original argument? One argument that poses some sort of remotely substantive intellectual dilemma for atheists? Nothing to see here.

    I suggest Quixote listen to the Yale philosophy course on death (26 hrs.) and see if he still thinks he’s on solid intellectual ground to challenge the premise “When you’re dead, you’re dead.”

    http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/content/downloads

  • Ric

    I think you missed the paragraph regarding proper basicality in your paraphrse. If my belief is properly basic under classical foundationalism (or any other system) as incorrigible–and I believe it is–then it’s not irrational by definition.

    Hmmm. I’m no intellectual slouch, but you’ve made me strain, sir. Thank you.

    What I meant by “irrational” was not having been arrived at through a reasonable consideration of evidence. Essentially, your eloquent references to classical foundationalism aside, you simply mean that you intuit god’s existence, and that is the starting point of your theism.

    But, I’ve attempted to be honest and upfront with this, rather than hiding it as some theists are wont to do. Question is, are you willing to acknoweldge your biases that influence wether you find an argument compelling or not?

    And I appreciate your honesty. But one thing you overlook about many atheists is that they start out as theists. I know I did. It was through reasonable consideration of arguments and evidence qua theist that I came to the conclusion that there is no god. So arguably I had a bias toward theism, and though perhaps lacking some foundational intuition of god’s existence, I certainly had no intuition of his non-existence. This seems a point with which you need to contend. Perhaps I need to account for my own biases now, but being as your post was about how people acquire their beliefs, I can say that my process was rational; yours was not.

    On an unrelated note, you have my respect. I appeciate your style, and I am amazed by your willingness to take the time to address all comments.

  • Lynet

    Hey Quixote,

    Nice to have your viewpoint here as always. A few specific points:

    Consider John Shook’s definition of Naturalism, as published on Naturalisms.org:

    Naturalism is usually defined most briefly as the philosophical conclusion that the only reality is nature, as gradually discovered by our intelligence using the tools of experience, reason, and science.

    Kudos for taking a definition as given by an actual naturalist, but I’m going to nitpick it anyway. At the risk of being yet more philosophical and esoteric, I’d prefer to argue that the only knowable reality is “nature, as gradually discovered by our intelligence using the tools of experience, reason, and science”. If you say that leaves room for theism, all I can say is that “room” isn’t enough. There’s room for a lot of absurd things.

    Most elite atheists, those characterized by education, and say, a working knowledge of the Euthyphro dilemma (ED), seem blissfully unaware that the seemingly overwhelming majority of their fellows engage in afideism. I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. This subset of atheism requires absolutely no rationale for a rejection of God belief, no finely tuned argumentation against God’s existence, no consideration of theistic thought on the matter.

    I worked for a year doing mechanical paperwork, surrounded by people with no education beyond high school. One day, when the old-guy-who-was-about-to-retire (and who was religious enough that he might have been offended) was out of the office, the conversation turned to religion. Atheism was the general consensus, for reasons such as:

    “Yeah, well, you know, I just don’t see any reason to believe.”

    and

    “Look, there are people all over the world who believe all sorts of stuff. I mean, somebody’s gotta be wrong. Know what I’m saying?”

    I might note that, while the first point could be apathetic atheism (although it has been argued by plenty of more philosophical atheists), the second is almost exactly one of the points Ebonmuse made in his first post to you. Reasons for atheism are perhaps not uncommon, even among the less educated. This could be because reasons for atheism are easier to find :-P

    Regarding consciousness, I’ve got a friend who is very excited by this, which, if true, would be a far more precise description of consciousness than any of those who distinguish between ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ problems of consciousness would have expected. I’d call it testable if applied to such cases as split-brain patients. It’s entirely possible that science will grapple with consciousness and succeed beautifully.

    Atheists have differing ideas on the source of morality. So not everyone here agrees with this, and in fact a majority may not. Still, I can remember reading an article (sorry for not being able to find it) in some secular humanist publication which suggested re-working the idea of “non-overlapping magisteria” so that science would deal with reality, but morality would be a separate subject, untouchable by science (or, indeed, by naturalistic reasoning?). This raises an interesting issue. I have to say, I do view my position on morality as a choice — not something I am forced to by reason, but something that I choose, based on my own motivations such as care for others, desire to live in a stable society, and so forth. Would you consider this a weak form of fideism? I’m genuinely curious.

    I myself would distinguish (morally, if nothing else) between choosing to behave a certain way (based on reasons that are to some extent not ‘naturalistic’), and choosing to believe a certain thing (based on reasons that are to some extent not ‘naturalistic’). I regard the latter as much more egregious than the former, since it seems to me to necessarily involve a wanton disregard for truth (which is, firstly, valuable to me in its own right, and, secondly, at times crucially relevant to moral decisions).

    Apologies for length; I have endeavoured somewhat unsuccessfully to be concise!

  • MS (Quixote)

    What I see here is a believer asserting that his belief makes more sense than non-belief.

    And you’re dead on it Mike. Good to engage with you again!

    I said them because that was the way I had learned to interpret…well, everything. I couldn’t see–or, at least, chose not to see–that this wasn’t the only way–or even the best way–to interpret everything.

    I get it. And if you’re correct as an atheist, you almost have to develop some theory along these lines for those of faith. No worries. I don’t think I have this problem, though, at least not to the degree that most do. I came to the faith post-childhood, and I’m quite acquainted with multiple interpretive philosophies. So, try me out: why is your interpretation of our shared observation more rational? What reasons do have that I should consider Naturalism true?

  • MS (Quixote)

    The second set (borders of the universe – existence of abstract objects and properties) is known to us because science applies methodological naturalism in its search for evidence.

    Hey Justin,

    I’m quite certain that science has little or nothing to say with regard to abstract objects. I’m not aware of a scientific intrument capable of measuring the number three, for instance. Abstracts objects, as we may discuss later, argue in general for theism, if they exist, that is.

    but how does personality prove God?

    It doesn’t. Just keep it in mind as we (if we) work through the whole case for theism. As the case for theism grows, our intuitions regarding personality support the case, and in the theist’s opinion, fit better with our observations.

  • MS (Quixote)

    If you’ve been asked for evidence, and what you’re providing instead is an argument why evidence is unnecessary – why just even asking for it is “bias” – what you’re doing is nonsense.

    I reject this statement. Reason requires that we acknowledge biases, presuppoitions, assumptions, and the like before we argue. The bias section was an ancillary paragraph that I thought was important, and it is to the question asked, which was not “provide evidence to convince an atheist,” but rather, “what are commonplace reasons that people believe, or not?” If you’re suggesting bias is not applicable to this question, even perhaps central at times, then I think you’re bviously the non-sensically acting agent at this juncture.

    BTW-I haven’t even begun to argue for Christian Theism, and, it seems, you’ve already determined I have no evidence. Not rational, as I see it. Reeks of bias, or perhaps question begging :)

  • MS (Quixote)

    I would argue that absolutely every person born is an atheist (my definition of atheism = a lack of belief in god/s).

    I disagree, though, unless you’re equating atherism with a lack of thought :) **Please everyone remember my disclaimer from the last thread**

    I am not able to square any belief or non-belief system with infancy. there’s simply nothing going on there with repsect to this question.

    Atheism, in my opinion, is the default beginning position. I wish it were possible to gather newborns from Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, etc. parents and expose them to absolutely no religious teachings whatsoever. What would their religious leanings be after say, 15 years?

    Depending on one’s definition of atheism, I could see this claim succeeding, although for the Christian, an acceptance of original sin and the spiritual aspects of man preclude this. Ah, the old de facto issue raise its head yet again…

    But, I agree: your comment is a fascinating study. It would definitely be instructive to see what happens in this situation, and I’d probably bet your intuitions are correct. Another interesting way to look at this is through feral children, an issue my friend OMGF and I stumbled upon one day…

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    I can’t help but wonder if this dichotomy drawn between theism and naturalism isn’t a misapprehension of the facts. It seems to me that the roots of naturalism are grounded in the basic relationship between the mind and the world. We observe reality as presented to the senses, derive objects and relationships within that reality, and extrapolate from there. Everybody does it, all the time. Theism, on the other hand, seems to be an anthropomorphic overlay based on a need to explain things in human terms and sensibilities, including the injection of those terms into the gaps in our knowledge. Interestingly, as we’ve learned to be more methodical in our approach to studying nature, theistic explanations are being shown to be more and more erroneous, superfluous, and utterly beside the point. Theism is an answer to questions which keep receding before the rationalists’ blitzkrieg.

    As far as the moral aspects of the debate are concerned, I’d say a quick look at the way nature actually operates within the so-called ‘moral sphere’ is a strike against the existence of a divine moral lawgiver; unless you want to posit one who is demonstrably capricious, that is. Rather than go into the details which speak against any form of universal moral structure operating in the world, I’d just point out that the whole concept of ‘fallen mankind’ and the need for redemption is a rather obvious, after-the-fact rationalization of the awareness that nature, including human nature, isn’t always what we’d like it to be, nor does it line up with the idea of an omnipowerful, omnibenevolent god lording it over us. Then again, apologetics IS the art of trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, isn’t it?

  • Erika

    No substance now, but another vote for a little “dumbing down”. While I theoretically would love to take the time to learn about all of the unfamiliar concepts that could be presented in a dialog like this, in reality, I am a busy person, and I won’t have time to do so.

    Don’t leave out the unfamiliar topics… but maybe limit yourself to 1 jargon term a day (with appropriate Wikipedia linking).

    Thanks for the post.

  • Chet

    I reject this statement.

    Then, frankly, no dialog will be possible between us. If you don’t see good evidence for God as the necessary starting place for a discussion of whether it’s reasonable to believe in God or not, then I won’t be able to take anything you say as the product of a reasonable person trying to argue in good faith.

    Sorry, but the need for evidence isn’t a point I can negotiate on. That’s where the debate both begins and ends. “Bias”, “assumptions”, “presuppositions” – these are distractions, ancillary points, philosophical logic-chopping used more to conceal bad argumentation than buttress good.

    Your theology, frankly, would be improved by the loss of your philosophy. But, best of luck.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    Lynet:

    Thanks for the link on consciousness. Whether or not we’ll ever have a fully fleshed out theory of the mind as purely a function of the brain remains open in my book. But the pieces keep falling into place, don’t they?

  • MS (Quixote)

    Then, frankly, no dialog will be possible between us. If you don’t see good evidence for God as the necessary starting place for a discussion of whether it’s reasonable to believe in God or no

    Perhaps not, but certainly not from a failing on my end. Let me take your statement above as an example. You’ve already built in to your demand a presupposition that we may not agree on. What in the world do you mean by good evidence. I don’t see how any reasonable discussion can occur about evidence–which I require as well despite your non-evidentiary based claims to the contrary–until we agree what constitutes evidence. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t agree with your definition.

  • MS (Quixote)

    This could be because reasons for atheism are easier to find :-P

    Or that skepticism is inherently facile :)

    I love your comments, Lynet. I’d like to respond later, away from work, in detail.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Is it too much to ask to get even one original argument? One argument that poses some sort of remotely substantive intellectual dilemma for atheists? Nothing to see here.

    Yep, BlackSun, pretty routine stuff, I agree, but I’d ask you to answer your own question, first. I’ve yet to be presented with a novel claim from your side as well. Not even one original argument, which is not to speak poorly about any of the comments; we’re just on well-trodden ground. Maybe your original assertion is buried somewhere within that 26 hours worth of material from Yale?

  • Chet

    You’ve already built in to your demand a presupposition that we may not agree on. What in the world do you mean by good evidence.

    These are the sorts of dictionary games that I’m not particularly interested in playing. “Good” and “evidence” are perfectly intelligible words in the English language.

    I think it’s pretty clear that you rely on philosophy to avoid the need to present evidence for your position. I wish you better luck in your discussions with other people but it simply won’t be possible between us.

  • Justin

    Hey Justin,
    I’m quite certain that science has little or nothing to say with regard to abstract objects. I’m not aware of a scientific intrument capable of measuring the number three, for instance. Abstracts objects, as we may discuss later, argue in general for theism, if they exist, that is.

    Abstract objects, (more accurately concepts) are how we understand the universe. I don’t see how they argue for theism. I suppose you could ask where abstract concepts come from, but that would be a rather meaningless question.

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

    Sorry, I’m poaching, but…

    What reasons do have that I should consider Naturalism true?

    It is all we happen to have evidence for.

    I’m quite certain that science has little or nothing to say with regard to abstract objects. I’m not aware of a scientific intrument capable of measuring the number three, for instance. Abstracts objects, as we may discuss later, argue in general for theism, if they exist, that is.

    Abstractions are tools that we use. How will you demonstrate that the concept of “three” is some real thing?

  • Zirrad

    Quixote, thanks for wading into this discussion. I understand that you’re first post merely outlines you position, so I wonder if you could at some point address the problem that the god hypothesis seems to have no explanitory power whatsoever. (It may be consistent with your experience, but “god did it” or “because I say so” explains nothing)

    You posit that we do not have “a scientific intrument capable of measuring the number three”. however we use the number 3 and a bunch of other stuff to build bridges that don’t fall down. In fact a whole bunch of people use 3 as a pretty important construct and that bridges built by people who don’t use 3 are unlikely to remain standing for very long.

    I’d like to see a similar derivation for a concept derived from your understanding of the nature of god.

    So something like:

    God is/does/has X (the hypothesis).

    Because of X, then Y should happen out in the real world today (the hypothesis is falsifiable and we can go out an examine the implications).

    If Y does occur, then we can explore if that original hypothesis lets us do something with it. (I was going to say that we can compare competing hypothesis to see which is “best”, but opted instead to propose a concrete measurement of “best”).

    I don’t believe you can do this, and will retreat to some attack on the tenents of naturalism. Please avoid doing so! This exercise is very illustrative of the differences between theists and atheists.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    Justin:

    I tend to equate terms like ‘abstract object’ with terms like ‘movement’. Take away the moving object, and what happens to movement? A noun isn’t necessarily synonymous with an actual entity. I don’t know if that helps, but…my two cents.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    A general commentary (lengthy so I apologise in advance):

    Since when did a requirement for evidence become a presupposition in the same vein as the presupposed existence of God? People (especially people involved in debates or logical discourse) understandably require evidence because evidence supports arguments and positive claims. However through many discussions of this nature, I’ve noticed if some of those people are theologically inclined, ‘evidence’ is frequently considered to be optional, ‘biased’ or irrelevant to the question.

    Atheism, for me, contains no presuppositions. Like most non-religious people I’ve encountered and read the words of, I was raised a Christian child. I ate it all up. I loved Jesus and wished to emulate him and I wished him into my heart. This was not because of my parents, who never made any faith claims, but because of religious instruction classes at my first primary school (it was at school, I was a child, I accepted it as fact just as I accepted maths). Upon reaching high school, my faith lapsed the more my exposure to Christianity decreased (not through any conscious decision or rejection). The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that the supposedly unique lessons & morality of the Bible seemed curiously common to most of humanity (most interestingly to societies which predated Moses’ and Christ’s timeframe by long periods) and not Christian gifts to the world at all. Simultaneously, the miraculous claims of the Bible diminished from absolute impervious facts and came to sit beside the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories & Greek epic poems & stories from the Ulster Cycle on my bookshelf: products of the culture of their time, designed to instill wonder & awe, offer explanations for the as-yet unexplained and perpetuate or institute laws, social contracts, heirarchies and/or the positions of the already privileged. At the same time, the more I learned about other faiths, the more I realised that many of Christianity’s claims (virgin births, resurrections, signs in the sky, etc) were not unique and were co-opted from elsewhere, often in a very political fashion (the misappropriation of the Pagan winter & spring solstices as Jesus’ birth & crucifixion are two examples).

    Eventually, through further reflection and analysis, I came to a position that I eventually learned was called “atheism”. Not a positive assertion of God’s non-existence; rather an inability to accept the positive claims of any theist, regardless of stripe, robe or logo, due to a lack of evidence. I do not claim that gods do not exist; I claim that the evidence provided by believers to support their beliefs is simply unconvincing. I’ve been active online in this arena for several years now and, whether from the loftiest theologian or the most backward young-Earth creationist, I am yet to hear compelling arguments which justify any theist position, let alone those of a specific faith.

    Regards
    Hank

  • Wayne Essel

    I still think that we often believe first, and then attempt to defend our position. We also filter our experience through our beliefs.

    A story… I have two friends who had a falling out a couple years ago. One of them is male, J_____, one of a group of carpenters who built the addition on my house. The other is a close female friend of my wife. The carpenter was at the house finishing up some trim work. While working, he got rather pensive and said to my wife, “You know I really should apologize to C______. The misunderstanding has gone way to far.” Not two minutes later guess who comes to the door? C______. The wife says to carpenter J______, “Well here’s your chance.” Now C______ comes over once in awhile, but never in the middle of the day on Tuesday.

    J_____ was big enough to start the dialog. The relationship was joyfully repaired.

    To add to this… I had gone to the grocery store on Sunday. I intended to get flowers for wife but got distracted and forgot. So guess which day I remembered to get the flowers? Tuesday. I knew nothing of what was going on. But between the J_____ and C_____ reconciliation, the flowers and another incident the same day with Mom (wife’s mom and dad live with us), wife felt strongly that there was a force at work beyond the natural.

    How would an atheist interpret the events? Pure coincidence? Would a theist agree with my wife, that God or Holy Spirit played a part? Did your predisposition to either world-view affect your determination, given what you allow or do not allow as evidence?

  • Brad

    If such a thing as properly basicality obtains, belief in God is certainly properly basic in the classic foundational sense. It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun.

    I’d like to hear how it is certainly a properly basic belief. My impression is that so-called properly basic beliefs are simply ones that are allowed to run free in our minds without any cognitive dissonance. If I were born centuries ago I might have simply thought it obvious the sun goes around the Earth, and would have been incapable of grasping that “around” is relative. I might have thought the Earth was flat, and would only be capable of imagining a spherical-approximate Earth for “limited stretches.” Belief in God has proven itself to be corrigible in many people. Unless one believes so many atheists are liars.

    … there are a host of valid, and I think sound, deductive arguments for God’s existence. To these are added inductive arguments based on observation.

    And here is whence cometh the fun stuff…

    If existence does in fact precede essence, and my actions determine meaning in my life, then how does the choice to believe in God differ from any other choice, Sartre’s wish to be unobserved notwithstanding?

    Action =/= belief; you have to establish the connection further to have a valid point there. Second, what kind of “difference” are you looking for between beliefs? You can’t be oblivious to the obvious ones, can you? Third, how does this question relate to the purposes of the dialogue here? You can believe whatever you want, or whatever the functions of your mind allow you to anyway, but is this part of the discussion?

    Nonetheless, bias is a shared failing of humanity.

    Bias is a double-edged sword. Intelligence and the mental act of parsing the world together coherently must be based off of biases, or else no picture would form. Given limited, cross-sectional data about the world, no agent is able to extend its understanding beyond itself without utilizing basic assumptions and biases as a method to fill in the gaps and put the pieces together. Our minds are in a constant balancing act, weighing different variables against each other, so when a bias is “punished” it is altered in order to have a balancing function more prone to being “rewarded.”

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    I don’t believe you can do this, and will retreat to some attack on the tenents of naturalism. Please avoid doing so! This exercise is very illustrative of the differences between theists and atheists.

    Zirrad,

    Thanks for understanding the question and the intent of the original post. Your subsequent comment is excellent, and I agree that this exercise has already been illustrative of these differences. I’m intent on not attacking naturalism in response, as you fear I might. I do not think I am, but let me know differently if applicable. Here are three examples: one theological, and two scientific, all inserted into your suggested format.


    The Christian God is a particularist, given Molinism or Calvinism.

    If the Christian God is a particularist, He will make himself known to some, but not all, in the real world. This hypothesis is falsifiable by the existence of no believers in the Christian God, or universal Christian God belief at any time throughout history, both including the past and future.

    Particularism has occurred in the past, obtains today, but is still falsifiable in the future.

    Since particularism occurs, we can use it to make sense of the Hiddeness of God objection to Christianity.


    God is a creator.

    Because God is a creator, the beginning of the universe should be detectable in the real world. This hypothesis is falsifiable by eternal universe models, including oscillatory universe models and multiverse models. The falsification of creation, eternal universes, was the predominant view of Greek Philosophy and many, if not all, strands of atheism for millennia, even into the 20th century.

    20th century cosmology discovered that the universe had a beginning.

    Since the current scientific evidence indicates that the universe had a beginning, we can utilize this information to develop physical theories regarding matter and energy near the moment of creation.

    I realize, of course, that there are competing views, and honest argumentation about first causes, if any. But given the background knowledge of the scientific climate leading up to and into the 20th century, this remains an astounding development in the real world.


    God is a creator.

    Because God is a creator, we should predict evidence of fine tuning. This hypothesis is falsifiable by the discovery that a wide range of physical laws or constants could provide circumstances for complex life to evolve.

    Modern physics has discovered that the physical constants required to allow complex life to evolve are outlandishly incomprehensible, for practical purposes zero, not only for this universe, but for any conceivable universe.

    We should be able to transfer this hypothesis to a number of scientific disciplines, we do, and it holds for a wide range of scientific endeavors.

    I realize, of course, that there are competing views, and honest argumentation about many worlds hypotheses, etc. But given the background knowledge of the scientific climate leading up to and into the 20th century, this remains an astounding development in the real world.


    A few closing comments, which are not meant as attacks on naturalism:

    (It may be consistent with your experience, but “god did it” or “because I say so” explains nothing)

    I don’t really think you mean “nothing” here. What seems reasonable is that you mean it explains nothing to the world at large in a format that is verifiable scientifically, or that it means nothing to you. But you would agree it can mean something to me, right?

    Because of X, then Y should happen out in the real world today

    The phrase “real world” might beg the question in favor of naturalism as applied here. Take the number three, for instance. I believe it exists in the real world, as an abstract object. If this is the case, the real world is more than the physical realm. You may not be doing this, I don’t know for sure…

    The inclusion of the word “should” also seems to entail knowledge, or a prediction, on your part of what God should do in what you consider the real world. I don’t think this would stand up to rigorous critique if you used it in a deductive argument.

    Great comment, Z. Loved it.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    I’d like to hear how it is certainly a properly basic belief.

    That’s a good catch, Brad. I can’t possibly prove it’s certain. I should have weakened the claim. Thanks.

    Belief in God has proven itself to be corrigible in many people. Unless one believes so many atheists are liars.

    No, I don’t think atheists are liars. Obviously, if someone loses an immediate sense or awareness of God, the belief would no longer be incorrigible. This is common with other incorrigibles…I don’t see why that would be a problem here. Am I understanding you correctly?

    Action =/= belief; you have to establish the connection further to have a valid point there.

    Under existentialism, action=belief is the basic formula.

    Third, how does this question relate to the purposes of the dialogue here? You can believe whatever you want, or whatever the functions of your mind allow you to anyway, but is this part of the discussion?

    It’s directly applicable, I think. Theism and atheism both have strands that create meaning through existential action. I think it’s an interesting parallel, but maybe I’m the weird one since I no one else seems to be interested :)

    Given limited, cross-sectional data about the world, no agent is able to extend its understanding beyond itself without utilizing basic assumptions and biases as a method to fill in the gaps and put the pieces together.

    Mostly agree. Nice quote. I’m glad you showed up here, Brad. Hadn’t seen you around lately.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    At the risk of being yet more philosophical and esoteric, I’d prefer to argue that the only knowable reality is “nature, as gradually discovered by our intelligence using the tools of experience, reason, and science”.

    Hey Lynet,

    I’m actually OK with this portion of the statement. It’s the first portion that I take exception to. My induction has been countered consistently with “Yeah, but there’s really no evidence for that” and the like. There’s evidence for the natural world, naturally. But there’s no evidence that the natural world is all there is. Nor can there be, in my estimation. We simply can never know that this statement is true.

    Yet, I understand an honest atheist’s conclusion that the natural world is all that there is, especially the nuanced version that keeps an open mind to any sudden appearance or evidence of a supernatural realm. Rational enough for me: since all crows I’ve ever observed are black, all crows are black; since the natural is all I’ve ever observed, the natural is all there is, especially given science’s increasing ability to explain previously unknown phenomena via natural causes.

    All fine and good, but when you say there’s room for lots of absurd things, how exactly do you arrive at the logical conclusion that theism is absurd, or is this simply a rhetorical jab?

    I have to say, I do view my position on morality as a choice — not something I am forced to by reason, but something that I choose, based on my own motivations such as care for others, desire to live in a stable society, and so forth. Would you consider this a weak form of fideism? I’m genuinely curious.

    I honestly don’t think so, given my limited experience with you, although I note, as usual, that you have an open mind about things. Weak Fideist? No. Do you want to know what my guess is? I think it’s that you have a strong humanities strain in you. It creates a different type atheist than the purely scientific mindset. just a hypothesis, so to speak.

    I regard the latter as much more egregious than the former, since it seems to me to necessarily involve a wanton disregard for truth (which is, firstly, valuable to me in its own right, and, secondly, at times crucially relevant to moral decisions).

    Well, don’t. Even those who strive for rationality act irrationaly. It’s only human.

    I’m running out of gas folks. I think I have one last response I can post for TJ.

    I didn’t do Lynet’s comment justice, so that’s going to about do it for me tonight. Thanks for a great day. I’m positive I got more out of this than you did, so thanks for having me, and thanks for the fair and gracious treatment. I apologize if I left someone’s comment hanging…

  • Doug

    Nor do I think I need to apologize. If such a thing as properly basicality obtains, belief in God is certainly properly basic in the classic foundational sense. It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain. No wonder most theists do think God is as evident as the sun.

    Quick background: I hold a philosophy degree, and did take a class in philosophy of religion. I read the first half of your article and did fairly well, but then got to those two key words “properly basic.” At that point I knew I was pretty much in over my head. Of course I remember reading some article at some point dealing with the term, but I had to pull out my old philosophy of religion text to remember. (A quick read through Alvin Plantiga’s ‘Is Belief in God Properly Basic’ will aquaint you with the issues. Here is a link to the article, but is gated. I couldn’t find a free version; if you access to a university library you can quickly pull it up there to read…)

    I guess the point of this comment is that I think you are speaking over many peoples heads here (others have of course noted this too.) Your post isn’t so much a response to Ebon as an opening statement, which is certainly fine, but it’s an opening statement aimed only to those with pretty specific philosophical knowledge. In order to use a term like properly basic, I think you need to explain in your own words what that is, and how that applies to your belief.

    It’s like this. You go to a debate, with the topic being ‘Who was the better player, Mickey Mantle or Jackie Robinson.’ It’s advertised around town, and you go. The first debater opens up with some great Mickey moments and his key stats. THe other debater follows by making a complicated sabermetric analysis of both players utilizing OPS, EQA, and VORP (without even defining these terms) and concludes that Jackie Robinson was the better player. The second person has lost 95% of the audience: they can’t even follow the argument.

    Now this is a little bit different situation in that the information is fairly easy to find because we have the internet. But the second debater should have educated his followers on what VORP was before using it in an argument. I argue the same should be done here with complicated terms like ‘properly basic.’

  • Eric

    Quixote said:

    ” I am able to imagine a world without God for limited stretches, but it requires effort and vigilance. In essence, it’s unnatural for me.”

    Dude, you’re halfway there. Just imagine a little longer. Be vigilant. You might it gets easier with time, and even quite enjoyable as it provides such a good match with how the world really works.

    I’m interested to see your takes on the various ontological arguments. Do you have them on the web somewhere?

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    Doug:

    I found this blurb concerning your ‘properly basic’ remark. If I’m reading it right, it seems to be saying that belief in God is properly basic ONLY if that God actually exists, and conversely that if God doesn’t exist, the belief isn’t properly basic. Is this begging the question, or perhaps just a lot of words that say absolutely nothing? Or, am I missing something?

  • exrelayman

    I guess those people who could not see the emperor’s new clothes were limiting themselves to the ‘natural world’. Same with fairies. Sheesh!

  • Dave

    With regard to evidence, “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

    So far, that is Quixote’s argument.

  • ildi

    Your post isn’t so much a response to Ebon as an opening statement, which is certainly fine, but it’s an opening statement aimed only to those with pretty specific philosophical knowledge.

    Right on, Doug! First rule of public speaking is know your audience. I googled “fideism” before I realized the whole damn thing was written this way. I’m with Chet, in that I suspect that this much buildup means I may have been promised that pony for my birthday, but I’m not going to get it after all.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    Quixote: You made these two statements within the same paragraph-

    “…most Christians find the Bible persuasive, and found their faith on Scripture. I’m no different in this regard.”

    and…

    “…considering the Bible and Christianity without a prior God belief is meaningless.”

    Are you saying that scripture can only be used as an after-the-fact justification for belief in God, but that God belief cannot emerge through knowledge gleaned from scripture, or is there some implied context I’m missing? Also, if I’m interpreting you correctly, does the non-efficacy of the bible sans ‘spiritual rebirth’ extend to other modes of communication such as preaching, personal testimony, etc.?

    One more thing- You cite Jesus’ admonition to Nicodemus that he must be ‘born again’ before he can ‘see the kingdom’. I’m having a little trouble with this concept. On the one hand, if ‘seeing the kingdom’ means understanding God’s message, then won’t Jesus’ ‘message’ be lost on him? On the other hand, if Jesus is saying that Nicodemus must be spiritually transformed in order to be ‘born again’, isn’t this like saying,’You must be born again, to be born again’?

  • Lynet

    Thanks for the response on the fideism question, Quixote. I ask in part because I’ve heard apologists say “even atheists must have faith in something [unless they're nihilists]“. The usual atheist response is to deny this as vociferously as if we had been accused of systemic cowardice or gluttony, but, being me, I end up musing on whether or not there could be a way in which this is correct.

    All fine and good, but when you say there’s room for lots of absurd things, how exactly do you arrive at the logical conclusion that theism is absurd, or is this simply a rhetorical jab?

    Did I say theism was absurd? I think I was merely trying to very obviously leave the door open to the possibility of its absurdity, to sharply highlight that the fact that there is ‘room’ for theism does not, of itself, mean that theism is not absurd. You’ve done some work already to argue against the absurdity of theism, however, so perhaps such highlighting (and indeed, such sharpness) is unnecessary. My apologies if I sounded harsh.

    I regard the latter as much more egregious than the former . . .

    Well, don’t.

    I have to chuckle. That’s the cheekiest suggestion I’ve heard in a while — actually, now I think of it, no, it isn’t. Ahem. Anyway . . .

    Even those who strive for rationality act irrationaly. It’s only human.

    Now, here I must agree that you have not done my comment justice. This is barely an argument at all. Of course I forgive irrationality (in myself and in others), but saying I shouldn’t expect people to aim for rationality, purely because none of us will ever be perfect? You really must be tired. You need a better argument than that!

    Your argumentative fan,

    Lynet.

  • exrelayman

    Perhaps the tone of my previous comment was not in the spirit of the dialogue Ebon and MS Quixote intended. I extend my apologies if so, and will now trust Ebon to make a more reasoned response.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Maybe your original assertion is buried somewhere within that 26 hours worth of material from Yale?

    Well, Professor Kagan spends about 9 hours reciting the arguments for the immaterial soul, and proceeds to explain in tortuous and excruciating detail why they don’t work philosophically–not to mention from the standpoint of evidence. The rest of the course is taught from the physicalist point of view, and gaining a greater philosophical, ethical and humanistic understanding of the finality of death. He doesn’t tackle the existence of God per se, but without souls or immortality, you’re left with something distinctly different from the Judeo-Christian God.

    If you want to argue with the premise “when you’re dead, you’re dead,” you can take it up with Prof. Kagan. I’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to enter a discussion with a theist who hasn’t done their homework. Especially when the arguments are so well layed out in a Yale freshman philosophy class of which transcripts, audio and video files are freely available.

  • Doug

    Jim-

    This is a bit of a primer of what are properly basic beliefs. There is a philosophical school called evidentualism. Basically, it states that a person must have evidence to hold some belief, and a belief is rationally justified if there is sufficient evidence for it. Many theists and atheists are evidentualists: theists argue that there is evidence for God and atheists argue that there is not.

    Plantiga is not an evidentualist: he argues that it is “entirely right, rational, reasonable and proper to believe in God without any evidence or argument at all.” The reasoning goes like this:

    Surely not every belief can be justified with a belief that has good evidence. This is obviously true (and it is) because you get into a ‘turtles all the way down’ type situaton. If belief A is justified by belief B, and B by C, and so on, sooner or later this has to end. There must be some beliefs that are rational to hold and need no evidence. An example of such beliefs in the belief that as I look at the wall in front of me, I see a picture frame. I need no other beliefs to justify this belief. Plantiga calls this a basic belief. A properly basic belief then is a basic belief that is rational to hold. I might believe that the world is going to end tomarrow, and believe it without evidence (it is basic,) but it is not rational because I have no evidence. I have evidence that I am looking at a picture frame, namely my experience. It is properly basic.

    Plantiga then, of course, argues that beleif in God is properly basic. Say a theist has a religious experience. This experience gives him or her evidence that there is a God, and needs no other beliefs to justify it. (The article you referenced is about whether belief in God s properly basic. In essence, belief in God is propley basic only if God exists: prove one and you can prove the other, they go hand in hand.)

    So back to Quixote’s statement. What he is saying is that if there are such things as properly basic beliefs, then certainly belief in God is properly basic. And religious experience for Quixote is as obvious as pain, so he is rationally justified in believing in God without evidence. The only evidence he needs is experience. As obvious as I am looking at a picture on the wall, God exists. Of course the experience of God may be misleading, but so may be the experience that I am looking at a picture on the wall (i.e. The Matrix.)

    I’ve tried to be as charitable as possible both to Plantiga and Quixote while not writing an essay, I apologize for any errors. Like I said, this is shaking out cobwebs for me. Hopefully next time Quixote will define his own terms…

  • Doug

    Blacksun-

    There may be many criticisms of Quixote, but that he hasn’t done his homework because he hasn’t listened to some specific lecture series is certainly not a valid one. I would argue he’s done too much homework :P.

  • MS (Quixote)

    I’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to enter a discussion with a theist who hasn’t done their homework.

    IOW, no original assertion as you asked for. Excellent non-answer.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Perhaps the tone of my previous comment was not in the spirit of the dialogue Ebon and MS Quixote intended. I extend my apologies if so, and will now trust Ebon to make a more reasoned response.

    I thought it was fine, relay.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Doug,

    I apologize for exapserating you. I feel it all the way on this end of the line. I just did not anticipate the problem. The commenters at this site (not you necessarily) advertise themselves as fluent with epistemological terms by constantly using them: justified, warranted, irrational, etc.

    Again, I apologize, but good work in your research. You may be the resident expert before long, and, in the end, you may thank me for irritating you into the study :)

    That’s what we’re all here for, right?

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

    Wayne Essel,
    That’s what’s usually called counting the hits and ignoring the misses. How many days have things not gone right for you and the people you know? Yet, somehow those days never seem to count as evidence for god or not god?

    Quixote,
    Mind if I disabuse you of your proofs?

    The first one is rather circular, don’t you think?

    The second is making assumptions that we can’t make. The universe, as we know it, started at a specific time, but we don’t know that the energy/matter that was present was created at that time.

    The third relies on assuming that the universe was fine tuned, which has not been shown. We know that certain variables seem to have to be in some range in order to support life like ours, but that still leaves us with infinite values to choose from. Further, that the universe is the way it is doesn’t mean that god had to make it that way. It’s actually a non sequitor. If we found that the variables of the universe couldn’t support life, but we were here anyway, that would actually be a better indicator that god existed, IMO, than what we have now.

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

    Doug and Quixote,
    I’m wondering how one can come to the conclusion that a god believe is properly basic based on a supposed religious experience. Doesn’t one have to first believe in religious experiences and the particular god that supposedly gave the experience in order to believe that one had a religious experience given by that god? IOW, it sounds like a circular argument and begging the question.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Having confidence that our questions will, in the end, be answered by naturalistic science is nothing more than confidence based on the evidence that every challenge that science has answered, it has answered with a naturalistic explanation.

    Hey Leum,

    Always great to have your views on things. I think I owe you a response, and I failed yesterday. I agree with you that science has great explanatory power for the natural world, no question. I’m also of the mind that science and religion are friends, rather than competitors. So far, so good.

    However, I’m not convinced that science can answer all questions. Actually, I think it’s obvious that it cannot. Here’s how the game seems to work from your side, then: science can’t determine that Naturalism is true, but it might be able to narrow things down so much that there’s nothing left to really discuss. That’s the idea I get from reading Dr. Shook, and I think that’s what you’re getting at here. Fair enough?

  • TJ

    I wrote:

    It’s hard to keep up interest in a counter argument when you have to look something up in every sentence.

    There have been several more comments along this line.. I just want to clarify my purpose in mentioning this: some people won’t bother to keep up with the discussion or to understand your points if they have to do too much research to do so, and that unnecessarily limits your audience. I probably will try to keep up, as long as the discussion continues to be so interesting. Seeing the number of comments and the difficulty you’ve had replying to everyone, Quixote, maybe you should double the number and esotericity of your philosophical terms and allusions to limit the comments next time. :)

    I appreciate your willingness to engage in this discussion, especially in this forum where you are severely outnumbered–even if the natives aren’t too hostile, politely answering each and every one thoughtfully will wear you out, no doubt.

  • Mark

    Quixote, I think I may have been too hasty in my one-line criticism. You’re right. You are who you are and your style is your style and you should never dumb it down (actually I didn’t really suggest you do that, but I can see where some might infer that). Maybe the issue is that I had to read it more than once and look up some of your references. But, there is nothing wrong with a little book learnin’ (said in my best version of a Texas drawl).

  • Leum

    Thanks for the response, Quixote.

    However, I’m not convinced that science can answer all questions. Actually, I think it’s obvious that it cannot. Here’s how the game seems to work from your side, then: science can’t determine that Naturalism is true, but it might be able to narrow things down so much that there’s nothing left to really discuss. That’s the idea I get from reading Dr. Shook, and I think that’s what you’re getting at here. Fair enough?

    It’s true that naturalism, like most philosophies, cannot prove itself true. But it can prove itself consistent. I suppose that may have to do for now. It could be disproved, I suppose, via pure reason or empirically demonstrable evidence of something supernatural (if such a thing is even possible. I know your god prefers to conceal Himself). But the thing is, reason doesn’t disprove naturalism (afaik) and from the outside it isn’t so much that God conceals Himself as God pretends He doesn’t exist.

    Oh, and because it’ll be important when you get to Christian theology: how to you interpret the Bible? Fred Clarke at slacktivist uses a quadrangle of faith, reason, experience, and tradition; fundamentalist Protestants seem to use nothing but faith; and I use reason, tradition, and literary theory. What’s your grounding?

  • MS (Quixote)

    What’s your grounding?

    Hey Leum,

    In some sense, it has to be understood by the same rules as any other book, right? I think so, content-wise anyway. I prefer reason & logic, the historical/grammatical method (taking care to ground the text within history or its historical context and minding the grammatical construction of the text), the sensus literalis (literal sense–not woodenly literal, but understanding it in the sense it was written), and several hermeneutical principles (interpretive rules) I won’t bore you with. In short, as an atheist, you should have no problem discussing it with me.

  • MS (Quixote)

    But, there is nothing wrong with a little book learnin’ (said in my best version of a Texas drawl).

    :)

  • MS (Quixote)

    I appreciate your willingness to engage in this discussion, especially in this forum where you are severely outnumbered–even if the natives aren’t too hostile, politely answering each and every one thoughtfully will wear you out, no doubt.

    But TJ, I’m getting the most out of this, so thanks for participating. I don;t mind the criticism a bit, because I get to criticize the criticism, or agree with it, right? I’m wore out a bit, though. That’s for sure, but it’s worth it. I actually have a response for you earlier comment I’ll post later.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Quixote,
    Mind if I disabuse you of your proofs?

    The first one is rather circular, don’t you think?

    OMGF, If it is circular, please give me a hand and point out why, so it doesn’t stay posted there like that forever :)

    As for the proofs, I think you’re missing the point of Zarrid’s challenge. He asked, as I understood it, for a hypothesis whereby God could be detected in what he perceives as the real world. And, he provided his desiored structure for the data. I simply filled it in.

    As you can see from my responses, I anticipated your critique and acknowledged it upfront. We can argue about first cause implications, etc., if you want, but that wasn’t Zarrid’s desire. He granted me God’s existence (God is X), so the point was never to demonstrate God’s existence, instead: (If X, then Y), and is Y useful as a hypothesis, if indeed it exists.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Doesn’t one have to first believe in religious experiences and the particular god that supposedly gave the experience in order to believe that one had a religious experience given by that god?IOW, it sounds like a circular argument and begging the question.

    OMGF, When I am talking about an immediate sense of God, it’s not an argument for the existence of God, nor does it prove anything, only that belief is justified. Thanks for clarifying this important point. If I’ve said otherwise, please point it out in order that I may retract it.

  • ex machina

    Is there a confirmation bias, or some other form of bias operating within the theist in considering this question? Does the theist’s sense of God influence her thought with regard to argument’s for God’s existence, her experience, her observations? There’s no question in my mind… of course, there’s bias. I’m biased toward belief in God. I freely admit it, and guard against it to the best of my ability. Nonetheless, bias is a shared failing of humanity. Naturalists are as biased to the question as anyone else.

    I’m not sure where you base the idea that Naturalists and Theists are equally biased on, but it seems to be a major sticking point in many debates. I’m curious, if you were to die and then proceed to heaven to meet Jesus and all that, your beliefs would be justified, right? And you would be able to say to yourself, “well it looks like I was right about that.” Would you still classify yourself as ‘biased’ in that case? In short, does correctly identifying a fact constitute bias? Whatever motivates us to seek one particular answer ahead of another might be called bias, but once we’ve arrived at an answer, don’t we cease to be ‘biased’ and then become ‘correct’, at least in that small regard?

    “Furthermore, I have asserted above a program of natural theology, which I consider to be successful taken as a whole. In this, then, I detect in Naturalism an arbitrary walling-off of what can be known. Lastly, it does not appear clear to me, both logically and intuitively, that Naturalism could ever demonstrate its own claims. This is the great irony of the theism/non-theism debate.”

    I’ve brought this up before, but if Naturalism is unable to demonstrate it’s own claims, what makes theism better at the task? It’s a fair question to ask the naturalist why he feels his observations are so accurate, so I ask you the same thing: Why do you feel your internal observations about God are not equally prone to error as the naturalists external observations?

  • Archimedez

    Quixote,

    Thanks for entering this discussion with Ebonmuse and his readers. I have two questions.

    1. You write:

    “Nevertheless, I embrace Christianity in its full supernatural rigor.”

    Question: Does this include the belief that non-believers will be punished by being burned and tortured in hell-fire?

    2. You write:

    “While there may or may not be one ironclad argument that demonstrates the existence of God beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are a host of valid, and I think sound, deductive arguments for God’s existence. To these are added inductive arguments based on observation. Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist. The existence of these arguments and observation, taken together with the direct experience of God, and in the case of Christians through Scripture as well, presents a formidable web of supporting evidence for faith in God.”

    Question: Can you provide for us the empirical evidence that your God exists?

  • Zirrad

    Quixote, thank you for addressing my questions. Too bad this forum lacks threading, it would make following specific lines of argument sooo much easier.

    To simulate threads, I’ll use a convention of headers… this one is

    God is a particularist

    If the Christian God is a particularist, He will make himself known to some, but not all, in the real world. This hypothesis is falsifiable by the existence of no believers in the Christian God…

    Since particularism occurs, we can use it to make sense of the Hiddeness of God objection to Christianity

    This seems reversed from a more typical process.

    Step 1: Real world observation: that there are non-believers
    Step 2: Form a hypothesis: God is a particularist
    Step 3: Test the hypothesis.

    Please elucidate how we will test this hypothesis.

    How do you distinguish between a god that is capricious and a god that is a mythological construct – both of which lead to the existence of non-believers in the world.

    Can you say something like: God will make himself known to people that exhibit qualities X, Y and Z and then have him appear – probably not otherwise people would be doing this all the time.

    To relate this to another part of your response: this is an example of a “because I say so” argument that “explains nothing”.

    “Nothing” means that, as it stands, the hypothesis appears untestable and we can’t use it to make sense of anything until we do. (in particular the validity of accepting particularism as “not falsified” and thus a valid component in making sense of the hiddeness of god)

    I appreciate your sincere engagement in this process as I think that your impression of what a falsifiable hypothesis entails is key in understanding our differences.

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

    Quixote,

    OMGF, If it is circular, please give me a hand and point out why, so it doesn’t stay posted there like that forever :)

    “Circular” may not have been the correct fallacy. Post hoc is probably a better one.

    As you can see from my responses, I anticipated your critique and acknowledged it upfront. We can argue about first cause implications, etc., if you want, but that wasn’t Zarrid’s desire. He granted me God’s existence (God is X), so the point was never to demonstrate God’s existence, instead: (If X, then Y), and is Y useful as a hypothesis, if indeed it exists.

    The point was, however, that you are relying on assumptions that are probably not true and using them as if they are true. Take the “creation” of the universe for example. There’s no reason to believe the universe was “created” ex nihilo or in any other fashion. On top of that, you’re relying on the false dichotomy of creation or eternal universe.

    OMGF, When I am talking about an immediate sense of God, it’s not an argument for the existence of God, nor does it prove anything, only that belief is justified.

    That was my point, that it isn’t justified. How is something properly basic or justified if it relies on logical fallacy?

  • Zirrad

    God is a creator

    Quixote: Because God is a creator, the beginning of the universe should be detectable in the real world.

    Again this seems to be post hoc.

    Observation: The universe has a beginning (maybe… we still really haven’t concluded this one way or another)
    Hypothesis: God did it.
    Test: ???

    How do you test this? What are the ramifications in the world today?

    Physicists are making these hypothesis about the beginnings of the universe (and fine tuning) and then testing them by looking at the ramification of each hypothesis in universe as it is right now.

    BTW: String theory, while the focus of much investigation, remains unaccepted (actually a hypothesis, not a scientific theory) because of the lack of testable ramifications.

    Your fine-tuning argument has the same issues.

    What are the ramifications of the god hypothesis (beginnings or fine tuning) on our understanding of physics right now?

    I don’t actually expect an answer to this since neither of us are physicists, (and I’ll address your questions about naturalism in another post), but isn’t this indicative of the paucity and impoverished ability of the god hypothesis provide a mechanism or test of any statement about the world?

    If god doesn’t make a difference in how reality works (if it does then it should be testable), then he/she/it seems superfluous.

  • MS (Quixote)

    In short, does correctly identifying a fact constitute bias? Whatever motivates us to seek one particular answer ahead of another might be called bias, but once we’ve arrived at an answer, don’t we cease to be ‘biased’ and then become ‘correct’, at least in that small regard?

    EX,

    This is a well-reasoned response, and I feel better for having read it. You’ve reached my intent fairly well, and enhanced it in a manner that I think is acceptable. You’re right, bias doesn’t mean everyone’s wrong, or that there are no truths. We just need to be aware, because they are major factors that influence our belief, which I think was the original question.

    And, as you indicate, bias has no particular effect on a known fact, or a fact that has been demonstrated. Where I attempt to guard against it is in my inferences drawn from facts. I freely admit I’m not always successful, and I think it raises the level of discourse for eveyone to do so in advance.

    I’ve brought this up before, but if Naturalism is unable to demonstrate it’s own claims, what makes theism better at the task? It’s a fair question to ask the naturalist why he feels his observations are so accurate, so I ask you the same thing: Why do you feel your internal observations about God are not equally prone to error as the naturalists external observations?

    Let’s be clear. The falsification of Naturalism does not entail the truth of theism, Christian or otherwise. And, I readily admit that my internal observations are more prone to error than naturalistic external observations that are emirically verifiable. (Keep in mind though that epistemologically speaking, certain types of knowledge do not have to be true to be justified. I can be mistaken that I have a headache, but my internal sense of headacheyness is justified.)

    But, it’s the internal processing of naturalists that I’m questioning, not the empirical observation that Mars is the fourth planet in the solar system. By what rationale do you move from external observation to the conclusion that this external observation is the whole of reality? I think this is the question Ebon’s asking with regard to atheism. Some do it because of well thought out inductions. Some do it because they want to drink beer on Saturday night and the current popular religion meets on Sunday morning. Some never think about it. Some despair over the problem of evil when they lose a loved one and retract their faith in God.

    Yes, I agree your questions are fair, and I intimately understand the implications, and embrace the weight of your contentions. Thanks for moving the conversation forward.

  • Zirrad

    Naturalism

    Zirrad: Because of X, then Y should happen out in the real world today

    Quixote: The phrase “real world” might beg the question in favor of naturalism as applied here. Take the number three, for instance. I believe it exists in the real world, as an abstract object. If this is the case, the real world is more than the physical realm. You may not be doing this, I don’t know for sure

    Before we can continue with this, we need to agree on a definition of the “real world” (which I’ll probably regret defining as everything that exists – but will accept your definition over mine) and I’ll need your definition of what is outside the real world and how they are connected (if at all).

    Going back to the number 3, this abstract entity is connected with the real world in that it provides enough of a correspondence with reality that it allows us to build bridges that don’t fall down. I can test the quality of the correspondence. New methods and components (like zero or calculus) can be created that use 3 and are compatible with 3 to make more predictions about the world – predictions which we can test.

    For example – we can hypothesis that god, as a myth, provides a mechanism for organizing and controlling groups of humans. And we can go out and not only see how a wide variety of different god myths have been used to do this, and perform an experiment to see if it works by going out and starting a new religion. And we have done so – Scientology supposedly started out as a bet.

    Tell us how your god, as a real (or unreal or however you define it – I don’t want to posit a straw man) affects the world in a testable way.

    If he/she/it cannot affect reality – what use is it?

  • MS (Quixote)

    Question: Does this include the belief that non-believers will be punished by being burned and tortured in hell-fire?

    It includes the belief that:

    The only inhabitants of hell are those who deserve to be there. Hell is worse for some than it is for others. Punishment in hell perfectly fits–it’s not any more or less than it ought to be.

    Question: Can you provide for us the empirical evidence that your God exists?

    No, if I’m understanding your question correctly.

  • MS (Quixote)

    This seems reversed from a more typical process.

    C’mon now Zarrid. I plugged my data into your exact form. I’ll do another exercise if you wish, but I’d like to hear it from you first that my first examples were successful based on what you presented me.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Zirrad, sorry…

  • http://www.asktheatheists.com bitbutter

    @Quixote: Interesting first post. I particularly appreciated the items you mention in your ‘ground rules’ list. Thanks for taking part in this.

  • MS (Quixote)

    @Quixote: Interesting first post. I particularly appreciated the items you mention in your ‘ground rules’ list. Thanks for taking part in this.

    No, thank you. I don’t want to turn this into a love fest, but the pleasure’s all mine in this activity, and I owe Ebon for the opportunity.

  • Zirrad

    On the Nature of God

    Zirrad:
    Because of X, then Y should happen out in the real world today

    Quixote:
    The phrase “real world” might beg the question in favor of naturalism as applied here.

    The inclusion of the word “should” also seems to entail knowledge, or a prediction, on your part of what God should do in what you consider the real world. I don’t think this would stand up to rigorous critique if you used it in a deductive argument

    I’m not trying to say anything about what god should do. I’m asking you what effect you think your god has based on your understanding of its nature. I’m asking about “what is” not “what should be”. I probably should have phrased it as: Because of X, then Y will happen out in the real world today.

    I’m asking for your definitions of god and reality because I don’t want to deal with a straw man.

    Are you objecting to basing a critique on the assumption that god will have an effect on reality? Or that he/she/it has a nature that is knowable?

  • MS (Quixote)

    The point was, however, that you are relying on assumptions that are probably not true and using them as if they are true. Take the “creation” of the universe for example. There’s no reason to believe the universe was “created” ex nihilo or in any other fashion. On top of that, you’re relying on the false dichotomy of creation or eternal universe.

    If/then logic is pretty standard, my friend. I’m not understanding the gripe. For instance, I might counter a first cause argument by saying “If the metaverse exists, then…” you’re also failing to comprehend the point of Zirrad’s exercise, and the facct that I simply dumped my data into his formula. Oh yeah, and the fact that I alluded to your objection in my answer before you responded with your objection.

    That was my point, that it isn’t justified. How is something properly basic or justified if it relies on logical fallacy?

    To BE properly basic, a belief cannot rely on anything: it’s self-evident, incorrigible, or readily apparent to the senses, depending on the particular system you’re dealing with. The immediate sense of God is just that, immediate (as in without mediation). It’s not an argument, it has no premisses that lead to it, there’s no assumptions. To conceptualize this, attempt to prove to me that you have a headache, or that there’s a keyboard in front of you, or that a bachelor is an unmarried man, or whatever it was that you thought specifically at 3:28 PM yesterday.

  • Zirrad

    Zirrad: This seems reversed from a more typical process.

    Quixote: C’mon now Zarrid. I plugged my data into your exact form. I’ll do another exercise if you wish, but I’d like to hear it from you first that my first examples were successful based on what you presented me.

    Damn, I lost a sentence while revising the post specifically stating that this was a good start. My apologies, you fulfilled the request perfectly.

    BTW: Why can’t you spell Zirrad? Is this a subtle poke at my lack of capitalization of the word god? :-)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Hi folks,

    I’m putting the finishing touches on my first reply, but I wanted to drop in and say a few things.

    First, I want to thank Quixote again for agreeing to participate and especially to answer comments. For theists, this place is like a lion’s den, and not only is he spending the time to answer just about every comment, he’s done it with grace, civility and good humor. That deserves our respect, however we may disagree with him. I’m also generally pleased with the comments from us he’s received, although I think a few were slightly more pointed than was strictly necessary.

    Without passing judgment on anyone, I confess myself amused to see that some people thought Quixote’s first reply was too academic and technical, and others thought he hadn’t done enough homework. Personally, I think he’s struck just the right balance, and I’d be happy to see him continue along these lines. And if you’re not familiar with some of the terms he’s used, look them up! Most of these ideas aren’t all that complicated.

    I wanted to remark on comment #26 by Chet:

    We’re asking for evidence – what are the good reasons to believe in God?

    With respect, I disagree: that’s not what Quixote and I had planned to discuss here. I don’t doubt that we’ll cover some of that ground eventually, but my intention was to discuss something different. A debate over the reasons to believe (or not believe) in God tends to come down to those philosophical issues and apologetics that most of us on both sides have heard ad nauseam. I had wanted to discuss something different: the reasons why most people really are atheists or theists, rather than the reasons we tend to present to the other side. There is some overlap there, but I think there’s also a lot of ground that isn’t often covered.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Quixote,

    You don’t have to listen to that Yale course, though I know it would help you. Any good modern undergraduate philosophy text will do. You can go ahead and bluster, but you still haven’t made a decent argument challenging “when you’re dead, you’re dead.” I don’t have to defend that premise, it’s already well defended. The more you study the problem, the better defended it gets. And that includes the latest consciousness and brain research. That was my point. This territory has been well marked. If you have evidence to the contrary that’s not smoke and mirrors, bring it on. I’m certain you don’t. Far better thinkers than you have fallen on their swords trying.

    Proof-burden shifting is not going to save you. Your tactics are similar to evolution or climate-change deniers. It’s tu quoque, basically second-graders who say “I know you are, but what am I?” “Nyah, Nyah, Naturalism takes faith, too.” Projecting your intellectual failings onto your opponent.

    How about making the positive case for dualism and actually providing evidence, instead of pretending to undermine the physicalist/materialist approach? (It’s one thing to raise an objection, an entirely different matter to prove your case.) You think you can do better than Plato? Are you actually going to have the hubris to think you will succeed where all other apologists have failed? That you are breaking new ground?

    Your asking for “fine-tuned” arguments is, like Eagleton, Haught and others just a variation on the courtier’s reply. It’s demanding the debate be conducted on theological terms, when theology is known (by everyone except theologians, it seems) to be a castle in the air. Any discussion involving reliance on faith or scripture, by definition, is.

    As a side note, I thank you. It’s distinctly pleasurable to add a new oxymoron to my growing list: “Supernatural rigor.” Priceless. Got another one yesterday, too, claimed for religion: “Explain the unexplainable.” It was a good day.

    I don’t really get the point of this whole exercise. It’s not like any of these arguments were going to hold a drop of water. I guess it’s a spectacle to watch someone make the effort. But atheists are just not going to have a “dark night of the soul” to try to maintain their beliefs. When you have science and evidence on your side, there is no need for such gyrations. Show me the counterexample, and we’re done. No struggle, no strife.

    Indeed, why would anyone wish that kind of mind-numbing inner anguish of constantly battling doubts (due to lack of evidence) on their worst enemy? Is that supposed to make us pine for the ‘spiritual life?’

    Naturalism is not a walling off of what can be known, it is rather a walling off of what *is* known. And the holding of some kind of discipline about what gets allowed into that circle of knowledge. It is this single distinction that seems to be lost (or simply denied) by those who wish to maintain some control over the outcome. That’s what separates theists from naturalists. Naturalists/atheists realize they have nothing to say about what exists, how it functions, and why. We only have the ability to make an effort to understand it. That’s a humility unknown to the stubborn subjectivism of believers.

  • MS (Quixote)

    BTW: Why can’t you spell Zirrad? Is this a subtle poke at my lack of capitalization of the word god? :-)

    1000 times, no. I almost did it a second time, too. I hope you saw my apology. I’m a bad speller to begin with, but names = respect, and you’ve proven yourself to me with your last post, for what it’s worth.

  • Callandor

    My response to this is the general feeling I’ve gotten from the brief comments I saw while skimming: it’s a lot of words that don’t amount to anything substantive.

    You say you have sound deductive arguments for god’s existence, yet none are given. Why not? The point is if you can deductively prove god’s existence, this discussion is moot. Don’t claim you can do this at any time you wish, and then fail to do it.

    Someone already summarized what this all is. It takes more faith to be an atheist than a theist (largely the same with, we’re all biased, so my biases are somehow justified); I believe in god because I feel god’s presence/being, even though there isn’t any way for me to prove 100% he exists; I’ve experienced god; the Bible is persuasive and that’s that (come on!); shifting the burden of proof.

    It’s all rationalization without any evidence. It comes down to exactly what you said: you believe in god because you were raised to believe in god. You continue to believe in belief, rather than have any solid factual reason for believing in god. You said:

    Awareness of God presents itself immediately to most, if not all, theists.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to prove then. If it’s so obvious, so tangible, in a “it’s just THERE!” quality, how is it that there cannot be one single ironclad argument for god’s existence? How is we cannot test this? If you can prove that photography exists to a blind person, it should be possible to prove that god exists to anyone. Else it’s like saying the Sun is so obvious, but I can’t prove it exists at all — a definite nonsensical position.

    Call this crude or not, whatever makes no difference. You’ve got a terrific vocabulary, so kudos, but it’s all air there and no meat of actual evidence.

  • MS (Quixote)

    I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. This subset of atheism requires absolutely no rationale for a rejection of God belief, no finely tuned argumentation against God’s existence, no consideration of theistic thought on the matter. One non-believer I questioned in this regard today said “It’s a waste of time to think about that.”

    My Post.

    You can go ahead and bluster, but you still haven’t made a decent argument challenging “when you’re dead, you’re dead.” I don’t have to defend that premise, it’s already well defended.

    Your response.

    Take a real close look. I’ll give you one more chance, Blacksun…

  • Archimedez

    Quixote,

    Thanks for being a good sport and fielding all those questions. I’ll try to limit myself to one more (see below).

    I asked: “Question: Does this include the belief that non-believers will be punished by being burned and tortured in hell-fire?”

    You replied:
    “It includes the belief that:
    The only inhabitants of hell are those who deserve to be there. Hell is worse for some than it is for others. Punishment in hell perfectly fits–it’s not any more or less than it ought to be.”

    I should have been more precise. In your view, for the person who lives and dies as a disbeliever, is mere disbelief in your God grounds for any punishment in hell?

  • MS (Quixote)

    I should have been more precise. In your view, for the person who lives and dies as a disbeliever, is mere disbelief in your God grounds for any punishment in hell?

    No. And this is representative of the Christian view, despite its constant misrepresentation by Christians. Feel free to quote me to any Christian who tells you differently.

    Ask all the questions you want. That’s what we’re here for. If I can get to them, I will. I’ll have some of my own for y’all later I’m certain.

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

    Quixote,

    I’m not understanding the gripe.

    Pointing out holes in the logic is the gripe.

    To BE properly basic, a belief cannot rely on anything: it’s self-evident, incorrigible, or readily apparent to the senses, depending on the particular system you’re dealing with.

    And, herein lies the problem with Plantinga. In his zeal to defend theistic belief as rational, he has let in every single possible belief that one can have. Believe in leprechauns? Rational. Believe in invisible pink unicorns? Rational. Believe in ice cream stands on the largest moon of Jupiter? Rational. I think we can all see the problem with this.

    The immediate sense of God is just that, immediate (as in without mediation). It’s not an argument, it has no premisses that lead to it, there’s no assumptions.

    That’s false, and that’s what I’m pointing out. One has some experience and attributes it to some god that one has heard of and believes in. Without first assuming that this god exists and gives out experiences and is willing to give an experience to you, the belief in this god having given an experience does not happen. Take Wayne Essel’s earlier post as an example. His contractor makes up with his wife’s friend, he decides to pick up flowers for his wife, and his mother has a nice day. He thinks this is evidence of god, because of some religious experience, yet that’s begging the question by first believing that this god exists and does these types of things, and then searching for patterns that one can then attribute to this god in order to rationalize one’s belief, and then call it properly basic (I know Wayne didn’t use these terms).

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    MS Quixote,

    I am impressed. Thanks for sticking around and trying to answer our questions. I know you are busy, but I would appreciate it if you could address my questions from up thread at some point (Comment #4).

    Also, there are a couple of questions which have come up from the comments section which I wanted your input on.

    OMGF, When I am talking about an immediate sense of God, it’s not an argument for the existence of God, nor does it prove anything, only that belief is justified.

    If people of other religious persuasions claim to have had an immediate experience of God, albeit not of the Christian variety, are their beliefs also justified?

    I should have been more precise. In your view, for the person who lives and dies as a disbeliever, is mere disbelief in your God grounds for any punishment in hell?

    No. And this is representative of the Christian view, despite its constant misrepresentation by Christians. Feel free to quote me to any Christian who tells you differently.

    What is your rationale for believing this? What aspects of Christianity have convinced you that disbelief is not grounds for punishment in hell? I am curious.

  • Dave

    Quixote:

    The immediate sense of God is just that, immediate (as in without mediation). It’s not an argument, it has no premisses that lead to it, there’s no assumptions.

    I notice you use certain words in this construction: “immediate”, “sense”, and “God”.

    Where did you learn the meaning of these words? And where did you learn to make the construction in the form you did?

    Meanings are learned, as are constructions.

    Given genetic variation and evoloutionary time, it makes sense that one would observe differences in intensities of response to different stimuli. Some of these responses may be sufficiently intense that they demand an explanation. After all, we are a story telling animal and project ourselves on the world, seeking patterns where there aren’t any.

    Myself, I have a fairly low intensity of response to most stimuli. Certain music and song can make me weep. Other than that, I have had HR folks (following a personality profile questionnaire) ask if I had ever been diagnosed as clinically depressed. I had to reassure them that I had not. But the episode did reconfirm to me my general low level response to things.

    Combining all of these points suggest to me that folks with intense responses may have a greater need to explain in story form what is going on, and if educated in a religious tradition, become theists.

    I was raised in the Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian traditions. It never took. The stories didn’t seem to explain anything to me about me. Fifty years later, the stories that methodological naturalism tells still resonate with me.

    I think this is what ebon meant at #104:

    I had wanted to discuss something different: the reasons why most people really are atheists or theists

  • Leum

    What is your rationale for believing this? What aspects of Christianity have convinced you that disbelief is not grounds for punishment in hell? I am curious.

    Christian theology, technically speaking, says we would all be damned for our sins (lying, stealing, killing, adultery, wanting to lie, coveting the possessions of others, being angry, feeling lust, etc). Because Christ died for our sins, we don’t have to be damned if we accept Him. So while from an outside perspective it looks like everyone’s being damned for rejecting Christ, from an inside perceptive people are being damned for their sins and an elect few are mercifully saved from their just desserts.

    There’s some wiggle room. Universalists believe everyone will be saved, many Catholics (and a few other denominations) believe that good works and confession are also necessary, some believe that virtuous nonbelievers (especially those who died before Jesus) can also be saved (CS Lewis was one such), and so on.

    Did I get that right, Quixote?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Ebon props on the comment numbering, I was wondering why you never did that before. I see that it’s already been beneficial in helping people clarify previous statements.

    Quixote, you’ve been busy! In my original comment, I said,

    I’m curious – Ebon’s original statement framed the question in the context of the Question of Suffering and also what I usually just refer to as the religious dissonance argument. How do you respond to those ideas? I immediately thought up my responses, but see little use in posting them. Still, I’m as curious as Ebon to hear yours. (cl, comment #16)

    Perhaps you have already gotten to that and it’s upcoming? If not, perhaps you could?

    Blacksun said,

    Any good modern undergraduate philosophy text will do. You can go ahead and bluster, but you still haven’t made a decent argument challenging “when you’re dead, you’re dead.” I don’t have to defend that premise, it’s already well defended. The more you study the problem, the better defended it gets. And that includes the latest consciousness and brain research. That was my point. This territory has been well marked. If you have evidence to the contrary that’s not smoke and mirrors, bring it on. I’m certain you don’t. Far better thinkers than you have fallen on their swords trying.

    From what’s been offered I’m unsure the confidence is justified. The “latest consciousness and brain research” means nothing post mortem. What happens to us after death is currently beyond our scientific and epistemological purview, and your argument here is based entirely on presupposition.

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

    Quixote,
    Something was tugging at me with your “god is a particularist” idea (which I read as god is an a-hole that likes not revealing himself to people so that he can torture them, but to go on…) Something didn’t seem right, and I know what it is, besides that I still think it’s a post hoc rationalization.

    Even if we were to find zero belief or 100% belief in god, it would not falsify your tenet as stated. god can still be a capricious deity, that picks and chooses to reveal himself to some, and we can still have both of those conditions occur (not at the same time obviously). So, I believe that this example definitely did not meet the criteria put forth.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Dave, man, outstanding, not that you need my approval. I’m following you clearly. Great comment.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Did I get that right, Quixote?

    As usual, Leum.

  • bassmanpete

    There are two reasons people are theists imho. The first is ego; they can’t accept that they will one day cease to exist, therefore they have to believe in (a) god for there to be any hope of an afterlife. The second is fear that they will one day cease to exist, therefore they have to believe in (a) god for there to be any hope of an afterlife and thus they keep the fear at bay.

  • shemaromans

    bassmanpete, I’m a theist–but not due to either of the two reasons that you offer in Comment #119.

    (Sorry, quixote! :) I’ll return to lurking…)

  • http://www.bellatorus.com Petrucio

    I thought language should be a tool we use to ease our communication. Some people may call it eloquence, but to me, it sounded like Quixote used eloquence and literary references as a diversion from his less then compelling arguments and lack of objectivity.

    Sorta like a theism version of a breed between the Technobabble and the Gish Gallup. Pseudo-philosophy?

  • bassmanpete

    Well shemaromans, why are you a theist? That is supposedly the purpose of this discussion, and even if MS Quixote can’t get to the point about why he is one, that doesn’t stop others weighing in with their own reasons.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Quixote,

    Sometimes I just don’t think people understand English. This is about burden of proof. Theists are making the claim that something happens after death. That there is a soul. It is not up to me to disprove that claim.

    Scientists have discovered the neural correlates of consciousness. When you damage someone’s physical brain, they lose corresponding function. The more scientists investigate the brain, the closer it becomes linked with the mind, personality, and identity, and the closer neuroscientists come to the conclusion that the identity of a person ceases–permanently–when they die.

    Life after the cessation of metabolic activity would require a dualistic separation of body and soul. It’s like asking, “is there food left on your plate after you finish your plate?” “Is there a supernatural second helping on the plate that we can’t see?” Hmmph. Can’t see it, can’t eat it, can’t test for it with instruments, can’t make it magically appear, what good is it? How is that different from no food on the plate at all?

    Hell, in that world, I might live in an imaginary $50 million penthouse on the 110th floor of a supernatural World Trade center II. What a view! But if I asked you to come and visit me there, you might look at me funny.

    Absent air-tight evidence of continuity of identity, e.g. that a soul exists, we are safe to conclude for all practical purposes it does not. Nor any imaginary food or expensive apartments. Lacking evidence for a God, we are safe to basically conclude one does not exist, leaving infinitesimal room for the possibility we have overlooked something. That’s how science is done. But we look at probabilities of success of a given area of research, and we don’t need to examine every blind alley to know that it is blind.

    We don’t assume the existence of Zeus, or FSM, or any other invisible being. If I told you I was ABSOLUTELY SURE those two beings existed, because I “felt it, and it was as natural to me as pain, or the sun,” you would absolutely not take me seriously. You would ask me for proof. So now I’m asking you. Simple. Am I really repeating this one more time? We don’t prove negatives. So it is remotely possible we live in a dualistic universe. It is remotely possible we have souls. But no one has ever found empirical evidence of either. And it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

    Bring one person back from the dead–testably, or provide incontrovertible proof of a person who has reincarnated into another body, and you’ll be taken a lot more seriously. It just doesn’t f-ing happen.

    Even Platonic arguments for the soul fall flat. So all that’s left is your personal experience, confirmation bias–and your personal desire to believe. Both in the existence of an immortal soul, and the existence of a God. That I clearly understand.

    Take a real close look. I’ll give you one more chance, Blacksun…

    OK dude, I see I’m on thin ice. Just one more chance. Hope I don’t blow it…

    The reason it’s a waste of time is because the finality of death is already known on all available evidence. If you want to declare otherwise, you carry the burden of proof. Just as you would if you wanted to disprove evolution, or gravity, or anthropogenic climate change. I’m not a professional scientist (engineer, actually). But I know enough to know what represents credible scientific positions vs. hokum.

    You want to shift the terms of the debate to where you are comfortable–making theological arguments. But as Dawkins said, “what makes anyone think theology is a subject at all?”

    In the real world, you, sir, are empty handed. You’ve provided a fairly detailed explanation about why you personally believe. But nothing more. If that’s what you came here to do, then kudos, you’ve succeeded.

  • Dave

    BlackSun:

    In the real world, you, sir, are empty handed. You’ve provided a fairly detailed explanation about why you personally believe. But nothing more. If that’s what you came here to do, then kudos, you’ve succeeded.

    As noted in #113 above, the discussion engaged between ebon and Quixote is the real reason why an atheist and a theist “believe” what they believe.

    All else is posturing.

    The best we can do is agree to disagree. If one is inclined to friendship, then fear is not an issue here.

    Unfortunately, as Sam Harris points out, not all disagreements are friendly in the theological world. Some are deadly. One needs only to revisit the 10th century crusades, or the 15th century conflict in the Balkans to realize that religion can be more concerned with death than life.

    Here, within ebon’s friendly confines (baseball allusion taken), one does not expect death and dismemberment.

    But that is not the real world. Both within the “US of A” and the Islamic world, there are absolutists who would rather see death to all, than life for all.

    My suspicion is that many atheists and many theists have more in common than they wish to admit. Note my modifier “many”.

    We have now arrived at economics, wherein a-theists and theists have decided that comfort, safety, family, friends, arts, zoological parks, botanical gardens, music, organic gardening, and a thousand other aspects of a robust human culture are more important than (sorry, I had to let my cat “Smoky” out to roll around in the gravel outside our bedroom) a perceptual difference between low sensitives and high sensitives.

    I thereby declare that ebon and Quixote have made their best efforts, and declare their points well taken. Further, I find they represent the best of our peculiar animal’s best nature. Anyone who says otherwise is “itchin’” for a fight.

    Cheers.

  • http://zeroanaphora.blogspot.com/ Abbie

    Life after the cessation of metabolic activity would require a dualistic separation of body and soul.

    And I agree with you that modern science has effectively solved this problem. I’m constantly baffled as to why dualism is still being discussed… by anyone. Dudes, we figured it out! Descartes might have been a smart guy, but he lived 400 years ago and he didn’t know about a little theory called Evolution. We know the human brain evolved. It’s not much different than a fish brain.

    That right there settles the debate for me. Any a priori philosophical arguments are trumped by the biological reality.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    It’s like asking, “is there food left on your plate after you finish your plate?” “Is there a supernatural second helping on the plate that we can’t see?” Hmmph. Can’t see it, can’t eat it, can’t test for it with instruments, can’t make it magically appear, what good is it? How is that different from no food on the plate at all?

    Great analogy! I am going to steal that one. Works well for homeopathy too.

  • LindaJoy

    Since Ebon would like for us to concentrate on why people are atheists or theists, maybe looking at a journey from being one into being the other will give a clue or two. For me, the first step was asking a question about my Christianity and finding the answer very unsatisfactory. The question was “If the only way to be saved is to believe in Jesus and accept him as your savior, what then happens to those who, through no fault of their own, never hear about him or were born before him?” My reaction to the answer (which I won’t go into here in detail, but involved some sort of cosmic waiting room) was two-fold- 1) I need to know more about the Christian explanation for the world if I’m going to continue to be a part of it. 2) That doesn’t sound like the God I believe in. So I studied the Christian story and found that it had no evidence to support it, and it was most likely a new version of old pagan beliefs. So I let go of that, and went searching for God in other places.
    I immersed myself in native american ideas, then new age ideas, and then quantum science (much like the journey of Julia Sweeney, who I didn’t know about until after I became an atheist). It suddenly dawned on me that “God” was nothing more than an imaginary concept. If Quixote was put into a room with other god believers and told that they would all have to come to a concensus on the characteristics of “God”, they would not be able to do it.
    So it seems to me that this discussion is centered around the various philosophical views of an imaginary concept. While that might be good brain exercise and a lot of fun, I am hoping that we don’t take it too seriously :) !

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Sometimes I just don’t think people understand English.

    What a felicitous delphic oracle that was :)

    With that in mind, consider my statement:

    Most elite atheists, those characterized by education, and say, a working knowledge of the Euthyphro dilemma (ED), seem blissfully unaware that the seemingly overwhelming majority of their fellows engage in afideism. I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. This subset of atheism requires absolutely no rationale for a rejection of God belief, no finely tuned argumentation against God’s existence, no consideration of theistic thought on the matter. One non-believer I questioned in this regard today said “It’s a waste of time to think about that.” In fact, the epistemological challenges frequently raised by elite atheists against theists apply with full force to the elite atheists’ philosophically unsophisticated bedfellows.

    To this, you’ve extracted one phrase out of context “When you’re dead, you’re dead,” and proceeded on a three or four comment crusade, beginning with this:

    I suggest Quixote listen to the Yale philosophy course on death (26 hrs.) and see if he still thinks he’s on solid intellectual ground to challenge the premise “When you’re dead, you’re dead.”

    I think you’ve demonstrated clearly that you possess the intellectual capability to realize what you’ve done here, Blacksun, if you’ll slow down for a moment and consider it. So, think about it for a moment and then address what I actually said: Do you believe, or not, that a subset of your fellow atheists engage in afideism? Do there exist at least some atheists who do not believe in God simply because they don’t want to, on an opposite, yet parallel path to theists who believe for no reason? That’s the question that’s being posed through the “when you’re dead, you’re dead” phrasing.

    As for the rest of your comments, they’re singularly un-enlightening. Do I believe in a soul? Of course. Do you think I’m stupid for that belief. Of course. Do you think there are good reasons for the non-existence of a soul. Of course. Do you think that all my arguments for the existence of a soul are incorrect? Of course.

    What, if anything, have you conveyed to me through this brief exchange? That you are a skilled writer, that you can convey accurate thoughts, and that you place a great deal of value in a least one Yale professor. That’s about it for the positive side.

    On the negative side, you’ve reinforced my past observation that some atheists have trouble with pre-thought and pre-response comprehension, just like many theists, or perhaps that they just don’t care. You’ve reinforced the notion that some atheists are unable to suspend their certainty with regard to some subjects, just like many theists. You’ve cemented the notion in my mind through several references in your comments that “the burden of proof” is shield from behind which many atheists love to hide, just like many theists. And, you’ve reinforced the notion that many atheists think that attacking = thinking, just like many theists.

    Now for the worst part: are you really of a mind that I’m not already acutely cognizant of your arguments? Are you suggesting that this is news to me? From the evidence you have of me, would you genuinely conclude this? Have you paused for even a moment to consider that I might actually be better equipped to argue for naturalism than you yourself are? You’re the one who mentioned hubris in a previous comment, I think. I suggest that you do some “soul” searching.

    Now for the better part: I actually enjoy your tenacity, and your zeal for what you believe to be true. I’m fine with that. Frankly, I don’t care if you believe there’s no life after death, and it’s not my duty or mission here to attempt to argue against it. This is an exercise directed at why people believe what they believe, and I think your involvement has provided us all with much to chew over.

    I also would like you to remember the irony that started all this:

    Is it too much to ask to get even one original argument?

    I’m still waiting…

    Your call in response. I prefer people that have your sort of passion, if that helps any.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    I’d like to acknowledge two excellent comments that I missed the first go-around in all the excitement. Here’s the first from tdd:

    Naturalism isn’t an arbritrary walling off what can be known. It is a perfectly practical and useful distinction point. Once you step away from naturalism, then things cannot be known, but they can be asserted, argued, philosophized, but the certainty associated with the knowledge should be on par with the evidentiary basis for the claim.

    This, IMO, is fairly reasonable, and I’d be willing to proceed with this as a general guideline.

    Although it might seem contradictory, I don’t know that I really think arguing about god’s existence, or the truth of religion, is really worth it. I’m not sure how many people are ever actually convinced by arguments. It’s more like, you see it or you don’t. Maybe this is “afideism.”

    Matthew, I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your freinds, so I’ll say this very quietly: You and I see the world in very similar ways. BTW-I don’t at all think what you’ve suggested is afideism. Afideism to me is more like “the current popular religion meets on Sunday morning, and I want to drink beer on Saturday night” as a complete and final rationale for the rejection of God. And, I agree, faith and non-faith are usually caught, not taught.

    I want to pick up on your Camus comment as well. We have a weird alchemy, as you suggest. I encountered Camus as already a theist, and loved both The Stranger & The Plague. Camus didn’t drive me toward theism, I’ve just never been able to “open myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” When I consider the great evils of the world, I somehow think they’re real…that our shared feelings of them are somehow true in a way that’s not simply a human convention.

    And, I realize that everyone’s not willing to take this plunge with me. That’s fine. I don’t think any less of you. I actually have great respect for those who encounter this evil, feel its weight, and make the choice to oppose it for no other reason than it needs to be opposed. That’s what I see in Camus, briefly. Your parallel account of your experience with Dostoevsky was much appreciated, so thanks for sharing.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    TJ, sorry to take so long in responding:

    I’d very much like to know your response to a situation like my own… By your reasoning, should I not conclude that either God does not exist, or that he has no interest in, or love for, me?

    My response is twofold. First, your experience as relayed saddens me. I take everyone who claims this at their word. I remember Greta commenting on this same subject, in effect relating that Christians are frequently insensitive toward those who make this claim. If memory serves, she mentioned folk who’ve cried over the same thing, and such. Considering Greta’s comments, I made the conscious choice never to dispute anyone’s testimony in this regard.

    I understand the dillema you’re presenting me, but I won’t answer it through an anonymous blog comment. If this seems like a cop out to you, TJ, I apologize, but it’s meant sincerely. If you genuinely desire an answer to this question, you ought to seek out someone reputable in your local vicinity.

    Secondly, though real, feelings are not what I had in mind in my post. I don’t often “feel the Spirit.” It was more of an immediate awareness of the presence of God I had in mind. I know this answer will not be satisfying to you. I feel bad about that, but I can’t do better than that here.

    As for fideism, in general it seems like a self-protecting complex of ideas. By declaring your faith and intuitions to have special properties, you protect them from the scrutiny of rationality.

    In the main, I agree. But keep in mind, I’m not a fideist, nor was I claiming this for myself. An honest answer to Ebon’s question must be, however, that this is commonplace among Christians.

    The interesting point for me is that, outside of the God question, there’s no discernable difference in my mind between theistic fideism and an atheistic or agnostic existentialism, which we might predict given that Kierkegaard is the recognized father of Existentialism. Another commenter here, Matthew Wilder I think, mentioned Camus: the choices made are strikingly similar between, say, Meursault and Kierkgegaard’s knight of faith. They choose just to choose, and subsequently the choice creates meaning. What does this tell us about some, not all, choices of faith and non-faith?

    Given that these beliefs have all proved false in the face of evidence, why are spiritual feelings of the presence of God off limits for such explanation.

    I don’t at all think they are off limits. Apply the full rigor of science to the exploration of all beliefs, I say. Rational minds of the world unite; we’ve got nothing to lose but our ignorance. I’m open to further developments, and with regard to something else you mentioned, all I have to say is Trumpets and violins, I hear in the distance. I think they’re calling our name. Maybe now, you can’t hear them, but you will, if you just take hold of my hand. Let he who has ears to hear, hear…

    If you are “happily inclined to agree with experience, science, and reason as foundations of rationality”, why should your belief or experience of the divine not also be subject to rationality? Especially given that there is quite reasonable evidence to support the hypothesis that it is indeed nothing more than a mental state induced under certain conditions.

    Again, they’re not. And I don’t think the object of this exercise is for me to launch into a full defense of property and substance dualism, although if that’s what everyone wants to do, I have no problem doing it.

    Now, here’s one problem I see with the whole atheist/theist argument in this regard, and I believe it goes to the heart of Ebon’s question: well-meaning, rational folk from both sides remain convinced of their arguments, and suspicious of the other side, though they should not be. What we have is a stalemate, which hinges in some measure upon the de facto consideration of whether God exists, or not. We’re right back where we started, but what are some factors that influence these decisions?

  • LindaJoy

    Perhaps, Quixote, you have not responded to my observation because it is too basic, and not given to affording you the opportunity of dancing around the core question with complicated and/or convoluted arguments? Is it possible that your god, the one you say you simply feel is there, is simply a figment of your imagination? Maybe you could test that theory by interviewing other believers in the Christian god on that god’s characteristics and see if you all can come to a complete portrait that everyone agrees upon. Or is that too simple? As long as you continue to add layers and layers of “philosophical” thought around the concept of a god, it allows you to avoid the possibility that there is simply nothing at the core.

  • http://www.bellatorus.com Petrucio

    Sometimes I just don’t think people understand English.

    English is not my first language. I’ve never even been to a country where English was spoken. I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t have the patience to google every term I was not familiar with.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Perhaps, Quixote, you have not responded to my observation because it is too basic, and not given to affording you the opportunity of dancing around the core question with complicated and/or convoluted arguments? Is it possible that your god, the one you say you simply feel is there, is simply a figment of your imagination? Maybe you could test that theory by interviewing other believers in the Christian god on that god’s characteristics and see if you all can come to a complete portrait that everyone agrees upon. Or is that too simple? As long as you continue to add layers and layers of “philosophical” thought around the concept of a god, it allows you to avoid the possibility that there is simply nothing at the core.

    No Ma’am, just hadn’t gotten to it yet.

    I think you’re precisely correct, and our observation bears witness to your statement, doesn’t it? Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, there’s an argument and a dispute about the nature of God.

    Let me give you some insight from the inside on how bad it actually gets. I know of a church that split because one half of the congregation thought you should walk to church with your head lifted to contemplate God. The other half thought you should wlak to church looking at the ground to acknowledge your unworthiness. True story.

    Your question is: “Is it possible that your god, the one you say you simply feel is there, is simply a figment of your imagination?”

    My answer is: of course!

    What now?

  • Scotlyn

    This is an interesting dialogue. What are the “real” reasons people believe what they believe? A challenge to honesty, eh? How novel! I have, like many here, journeyed away from my fundamentalist Christian upbringing – and over the years, further and further I get, so that fundamentalist Christians now seem to me to inhabit another planet, breathe a different air, speak a different language. How did I get here?

    It started with a lot of doubts – moral doubts, more so than the factual ones which came later – for example, the moral objectionability of the biblical depiction of a jealous, whimsical, violent, controlling, dysfunctional God. But the real reason that I heeded those doubts and took the final step of leaving my faith? It comes down to judgment.

    As a Christian I had to judge both myself and all others as inherently fallen, sinful and evil. Once I left my faith, I was free to judge people, including myself, in accordance with their actual words and behaviour, and to find that, on the whole, we’re not really so bad most of the time. Also, as a Christian, I was forced to see every other person not of the faith, as somehow lacking something and as needing my witness to address that lack. Once I left the faith, I was free to have more natural relationships with others, to take people on their own terms, and to discover that, quite often, people are elegantly sufficient unto themselves, and not lacking in any fundamental that would be addressed by faith.

    Both these changes in outlook that were immediately available once I left my faith, were liberating and transformative. I am not certain that I am an atheist, in that the question of whether there is or isn’t a god, is no longer of much relevance to me. I have dissented from a belief in the biblical god, with all it entails, and its effects on my human relationships, and my appreciation of this world (now that it is not simply a stopping place to “somewhere else”) are priceless. I never want to go back!

    Ps – I am quite aware that this is not by any means a rational argument. But it is, as best as I can give it, a description of “the real reason” why this person no longer believes.

  • ildi

    I prefer to call them when you’re dead, you’re dead atheists. This subset of atheism requires absolutely no rationale for a rejection of God belief alien abduction, no finely tuned argumentation against God’s aliens’ existence, no consideration of theistic abduction theory thought on the matter.

    Awareness of God aliens presents itself immediately to most, if not all, theists abductees.

    Therefore, you believe that aliens are visiting our planet and performing experiments on our hapless citizens. Why or why not?

    I can’t remember a time I did not believe in God.

    When did you start hearing about this god? As an infant? Did it feel any different from believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy? How did you lose belief in one set of “supernaturals” and not the others?

    It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain.

    The alien abductees feel the same way.

    So, anyway, I have to agree with you that a core difference between atheists and theists is whether they feel the presence of God. Actually, I would argue that I’ve felt what you’re calling the presence of God, but I was dropping acid at the time. It was very cool; I can see why you cherish that feeling. The closest I came to that feeling when I was a child was walking toward our living room on Christmas Eve, and seeing the tree that the angels had left in our living room reflecting its lights off the hallway wall. Also very cool, and still one of my favorite childhood memories. Unfortunately, just because something makes you feel good doesn’t make it true.

    This immediate sense of God is supported, then, by a great nexus of reason and observation. Reason undergirds theism, in my estimation.

    Lastly, it does not appear clear to me, both logically and intuitively, that Naturalism could ever demonstrate its own claims.

    I look forward to your expansion on these two statements.

  • shemaromans

    bassmanpete,

    There are two reasons people are theists imho. The first is ego; they can’t accept that they will one day cease to exist, therefore they have to believe in (a) god for there to be any hope of an afterlife. The second is fear that they will one day cease to exist, therefore they have to believe in (a) god for there to be any hope of an afterlife and thus they keep the fear at bay.

    I responded to your initial post quoted above because ego and fear did not lead me to my faith. For me, the promise of an afterlife wasn’t a factor.

    Some people take the leap. Some people don’t. Regarding intelligent, thoughtful participants on either side, I don’t think that character judgment should factor into this discussion. Numerous reasonable individuals have faith just as numerous reasonable individuals do not have faith.

    From what I’ve read on this site and according to some comments in this thread, the basics arguments for and against the Christian faith–as well as atheism–have been covered and exhausted. Therefore, I’ll refrain from delving into them. With that said, weighing the evidence proffered in those arguments, in part, makes me a theist. In my estimation, reasoning through the evidence/arguments (cosmological, historical, ontological, etc) supports theism. Don’t worry, though. I won’t pull a Geisler and say that it takes more faith to be an atheist. :) There’s additional experiential evidence (prior to, during, and following my profession of faith) that I could provide, but sharing those experiences probably wouldn’t satisfy the majority of readers and posters on this site.

  • TommyP

    “This immediate sense of God is supported, then, by a great nexus of reason and observation.”

    If this is actually explained in a way that does not do violence to the meanings of “reason” and “observation”, I will be one very happy and surprised man. I have yet to see anyone make a similar statement and return to it with anything approaching evidence or intellectual honesty.

    Maybe this time, at last! Please, Quixote, return to this and explain it in detail. It would be very interesting if it’s true.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Awareness of God aliens presents itself immediately to most, if not all, theists abductees.

    Therefore, you believe that aliens are visiting our planet and performing experiments on our hapless citizens. Why or why not?

    Because I spent years in the space program, but I can’t share that evidence with you either.

    ildi,

    I’m glad you presented this the manner you did. For many of these folks, this sense of abduction is incorrigible, just as if they were having a headache. In that manner, the belief is justified.

    But, it’s not the same to say that it’s true, nor is it an argument that it’s true. The two are altogether different. One’s a question of when something is rational, justified, warranted; the other is a question of whether something corresponds to what’s actually out there.

    Now, I have my doubts about anything being a properly basic belief. But, since it’s out there, it’s a good working model. So, let me rearrange your comment a bit to send the thought back to you:

    Awareness of an eerie feeling presented itself immediately to ildi when s/he was in the backyard yesterday.

    Therefore, ildi believed s/he had an eerie feeling in the backyard yesterday.

    You’ll never be able to demonstrate this empirically, or offer any proof whatsoever. But the belief’s incorrigible for you when you had it. It’s justified. There were no aliens out back, no T rex, no nothing, perhaps. Doesn’t need to tie back to reality in any way, except that you experienced it. That’s all that’s being said. I’m not arguing that God exists because I feel something. But I am being upfront that this is a contributing factor, sometimes The factor, with people who believe in God.

    It’s incorrigible, presenting itself as clearly as pain.

    The alien abductees feel the same way.

    Exactly.

    So, anyway, I have to agree with you that a core difference between atheists and theists is whether they feel the presence of God. Actually, I would argue that I’ve felt what you’re calling the presence of God, but I was dropping acid at the time. It was very cool; I can see why you cherish that feeling. The closest I came to that feeling when I was a child was walking toward our living room on Christmas Eve, and seeing the tree that the angels had left in our living room reflecting its lights off the hallway wall. Also very cool, and still one of my favorite childhood memories.

    I’m beginning to think I’m the only person here that truly knows the difference.

    Unfortunately, just because something makes you feel good doesn’t make it true.

    I agree.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Ps – I am quite aware that this is not by any means a rational argument.

    Don’t sell yourself short. You got it perfectly, Scotlyn.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Maybe this time, at last! Please, Quixote, return to this and explain it in detail. It would be very interesting if it’s true.

    Making me laugh, Tommy :)

    I can do it with intellectual honesty, and with reason that is compelling to me, even deductive reasoning. That doesn’t mean it will be compelling for anyone else, here, and the evidentiary standard y’all will require is too high for me to meet. I’ve admitted as much to archimedez already. In fact, we both already know good and well it won’t…that’s why I’m laughing with you :)

    What I’ll be looking for, if we go that direction, is not to convince someone that God exists. That’s not what we’re doing here. I’ll be interested to get a general feel of intellectually honesty from y’all’s side, and how it factors into the belief question Ebon’s posed. Everyone here realizes that I’m not the only one under the microscope, right?

    BTW, Archimedez, I’m curious as to the intent of your three questions. I have my suspicions as to why they were asked, but I’d like to hear your reason for asking those particular questions.

  • ildi

    I’m beginning to think I’m the only person here that truly knows the difference.

    Care to ‘splain what you mean by that?

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Ildi, I had an original rock band through the mid to late eighties and into the early nineties. Smoking hot Les Paul studio with pearl hardware and stock Gibson locking heads with a stock whammy bar, with a stack that would shake the walls. There’s nothing quite like bending the G string at the seventh fret, except maybe blistering pentatonic runs. So, in that context it’s easy to imagine that I might know the difference between a sense of God, and other types of sensory experiences that are mentioned from time to time around here. In that, I may be alone. Maybe not.

    Take a close look at comment 130. If our age difference is not too severe, something may leap out at you.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Scotlyn: I agree – don’t sell yourself short. I think we have a lot in common, and I would wager many others have similar experiences, too.

    Quixote: It seems to me belief that I had an eerie feeling and belief that I had an experience to god are two different types of belief. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that your experience of god is anything other than just an experience, but not so with the belief that you had an eerie experience.
    What I mean is, you can’t doubt you had the experience, but you can doubt that it was caused by anything outside your own mind. Perhaps you were slipped some acid and didn’t realize it. The eerie experience, however, even if THAT was caused by acid unbeknownst to you, is still an eerie experience. I think you might be conceptually equivocating here. I don’t think I’m just repeating what others have said, bit maybe I’m just being dense.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Great exercise for me, Zirrad. Thanks.

    This seems reversed from a more typical process.

    Step 1: Real world observation: that there are non-believers
    Step 2: Form a hypothesis: God is a particularist
    Step 3: Test the hypothesis.

    Please elucidate how we will test this hypothesis.

    Scientific testing of hypotheses involving God is not the high ground of theology. But you’ve proven to be an extremely honest person intellectually thus far, and I feel you deserve an answer from my end. I freely admit that theology will not be overly successful in the scientific testing arena, and want to get this out front and center before I do what I am about to do. I want to make this statement first to ensure that it’s not assumed that I think the following is normative for science, nor that it should be, nor that we should somehow incorporate it into our scientific method. Hopefully that’s clear.

    When you say “please elucidate how we will test this hypothesis,” I sense that you feel we can’t. This may be the great irony of the entire question:

    Step 1: Real world observation: that there are some believers and some non-believers
    Step 2: Form a hypothesis: God is a particularist.
    Step 3: Test the hypothesis: die, which we will probably all do.

    So the experiment might hopefully take a while, but at least we have plenty of time to set up the test conditions properly:) This is one that actually possesses the potential for empirical verification. Let’s try the same thing with yours:

    Step 1: Real world observation: the natural realm exists.
    Step 2: Form a hypothesis: the natural realm is all that exists.
    Step 3: Test the hypothesis: ???

    Naturalism’s falsifiable, I grant you that happily, and agree that it has a great and wonderful power to aid in scientific discovery of how the natural world works. We agree on that I’m sure. But can it be empirically verified like theism? probably not. Perhaps we may be able to think up a scenario. I’ve got a couple I’m working on, but nothing I feel confident with yet.

    What are the ramifications of the god hypothesis (beginnings or fine tuning) on our understanding of physics right now?

    I’m no physicist, as you allude to, so I don’t need to overstep my bounds here. Someone, however, may be able to pick up the ball and run here, though. I’ve understood in layman’s terms that there’s an open debate concerning relativity with regard to ultimate observership of the universe. It seems reasonable to conclude that the God hypothesis would weigh heavily in one’s understanding of this physics question if factored in. And, no, I’m not referring to the “God does not play dice with the universe” quotation. At least I don’t think I am…

    I don’t actually expect an answer to this since neither of us are physicists, (and I’ll address your questions about naturalism in another post), but isn’t this indicative of the paucity and impoverished ability of the god hypothesis provide a mechanism or test of any statement about the world?

    Paucity and impoverished are pejoratives in this case. Why couldn’t we just agree that scientific testing does not require God?

    If god doesn’t make a difference in how reality works (if it does then it should be testable), then he/she/it seems superfluous.

    So you are saying should after all? If this is meant as a conclusion following the other portions of your post as premisses, it simply doesn’t follow to me that scientific testing entails the whole of “how reality works.” I think it’s obvious that the God hypothesis has real world effects for billions of people, for both good and ill. I’m not anti-science; I’m not arguing for non-overlapping magisteria; I’m not arguing that science is the enemy of religion. I rather enjoy the deliverances of science, am intimately involved with it everyday, and I’m pleased to know that the earth is not the center of the universe, at least in a spatio-temporal sense.

    But, I see in this, one possible answer to Ebon’s question: many become atheists because they are convinced that only science can deliver the knowable, or that science will eventually disprove crucial tenets of theism to the extent that theism is no longer a valid option, or that only the empirically validated can be known, etc.

    Conversely, many theists remain theists through a distrust of science as if it were the devil’s machinations, through alternate methods of scientific endeavor–what you would probably term psuedoscience–or through a host of other science/empirically related beliefs or activities, including ignoring the subject altogether. I’m not one of these.

    I prefer to let science do its thing unimpeded, so to speak. And my position strikes me as the much more balanced approach to reality. I feel as though I can potentially add to your understanding of the world outside of science, whereas you have nothing to add to mine that I don’t already possess through the very science you’re advocating, except the restrictive proposition that science is the only path to knowledge of the real world.

  • ildi

    Ok, to recap: I took a lot of philosophy courses and I am an educated theist, therefore God exists.

    Reality is subjective and what is reality, anyway; therefore God exists.

    I have a special experience that I call an immediate awareness of the presence of God but it’s not a feeling, and it’s nothing like what I felt when I believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, therefore God exists.

    Any comparison an atheist tries to make to my special thing I have with God is totally lame because this is a special thing that no one gets unless their experience is also God-engendered, then it counts as evidence; therefore God exists.

    Hendrix was an awesome musician, therefore God exists.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    What I mean is, you can’t doubt you had the experience, but you can doubt that it was caused by anything outside your own mind.

    You’ve got it exactly right here, Matthew.

  • ildi

    Your pithy non-responses are very sweet, but unhelpful. I think you’re pulling a Paul Harvey and you’ll tell us in the next installment why you’re sure that your god experience is caused by an actual god that exists outside of your mind?

  • Mathew Wilder

    #145 ildi: Thanks for making me laugh! Priceless…

  • Wayne Essel

    Very hard to stay involved, and this is late but here goes:

    From OMGF:

    He thinks this is evidence of god, because of some religious experience, yet that’s begging the question by first believing that this god exists and does these types of things, and then searching for patterns that one can then attribute to this god in order to rationalize one’s belief, and then call it properly basic

    Correction: He thinks God might be involved because 1.) he belives God exists (whether or not this event had occurred, and 2.) this is an extraordinary combination of events.

    OMGF, regarding your comment before that this is counting a hit and ignoring misses doesn’t seem exactly right either. This was an extraordinary event as opposed to an ordinary one. The ordinary ones are not misses. I could also have an extraordinary event that was a miss. I might deduce metaphysical involvement there also.

    To me, I don’t just believe in God. I hope for God’s existence as well.

    Blacksun said:

    Scientists have discovered the neural correlates of consciousness. When you damage someone’s physical brain, they lose corresponding function. The more scientists investigate the brain, the closer it becomes linked with the mind, personality, and identity, and the closer neuroscientists come to the conclusion that the identity of a person ceases–permanently–when they die.

    What has been proven here is correlation, not causality. It is very possible that the brain is a conduit for consciousness, not the source. Again, this might be an example of interpreting science in the light of one’s beliefs. Beliefs come first, then come interpretations. Belief, a beloved idea to the holder, is a powerful force, and not necessarily logical.

  • Dave

    Quixote:

    I think it’s obvious that the God hypothesis has real world effects for billions of people, for both good and ill.

    The statement stands as made. It is true. What puzzles me is that the gods that effect the real world are affects of our mind. Antonio Damasio corrects Descartes for his statement “I think, therefore I am” by noting that in fact “I feel, therefore I am”. So far, Quixote has returned again and again to the emotional affect.

    While I share affect pleasure of the world, the effect fails to lead me to god.

    We agree to disagree.

  • Doug

    Quixote @77 – I wasn’t necessarily exasperated, just a little annoyed, perhaps… and maybe moreso now, just because after reading all your responses and understanding what you were trying to do, I think you could have written an outstanding reply if you had elucidated everything. As it stands, I still think it is kind of a confusing and muddled response that doesn’t truly convey your thoughts on the issues. Next time perhaps :P

    Im quite familiar with the terms “justified, warranted, irrational.” They are terms used in philosophy as a whole. It is the philosophy of religion stuff, like properly basic, are terms most of us are unfamiliar with or haven’t seen much of. Again, I took a philosophy of religion class and I had to hit the books to recall. These are the types of things that I think should be explained when using them.

    One of my research interests in philosophy was/is the clear and accurate representation and explanation of science, and while you are not trying to represent science, you are representing your views and perhaps my background is also why your response ‘annoyed me’! Anyways, enough of this…

    OMGF, Quixote @79, 87, 88, 92, 102, 111

    First of all, just because I was trying to charitably represent the position doesn’t mean that I hold that belief in God is properly basic. I don’t have enough knowledge to hold forth on that subject, but I would probably be characterized as an ‘evidentualist’ if I looked more into it. W.K Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief remains one of my all time favorite essays, and from what I can tell that is pretty much the standard bearer for evidentualism.

    Now to this particular exchange. I think, OMGF, that you’re putting too much emphasis on this one argument about whether belief in God is properly basic. I have not read Plantiga’s ‘Warranted Christian Belief,’ but I imagine that the properly basic argument is a small part of it. It is about whether a Christian can feel rationally justified in believing in God using different arguments from different angles. Now obviously, the assumption remains that the ‘God feeling’ is the God of the christian bible and so forth. That assumption is based on a combination of many things, including historical evidence, testimonials, and of course most important, faith.

    I doubt many atheists are going to grant the properly basic argument or the assumption just mentioned to Plantiga, but that is not the point. It is certainly not meant to convert atheists. It is meant to give christians another way, another straw on the camel’s back, by which they might feel rationally justified in believing in God.

    I’m going to quote a slightly extended passage from William Rowe (who is an atheist philosopher.) Rowe sums up Plantiga’s argument:

    Plantiga’s defense of the proper basicality of the theistic belief in God must also explain why so many otherwise rational people never manage to acheive a properly basic belief in God. One would initially think that if God exists and has created us with the tendency to form theistic belief in various circumstances, more of us would do so, with the result that there would be many fewer atheists and agnostics, as well as believers-such as many Hindus and Buddhists, for example-whose view of the divine is radically different from the God of clasical theism. Plantiga’s response to this objection is to suggest that human sin may distort the proper functioning of the cognitive facility, our sense of the divine, which under proper conditions occasions belief in the God of theism. So his defense of the view of the proper basicality of theistic beliefs relies in part on the claims of orthodox theism concerning God and human sin being true.Although this view is not likely to win freinds and influence people among atheists and agnostics, that fact doesn’t bear much on whether the view is true. Clearly, this carefully worked theory provides a new approach to the question of the rational justification of theistic belief. (From ‘Philosophy of Religion,’ 4th ed. by William Rowe.)

    A quick aside; yes, I’m doing that favorite tactic of students, quoting at length in order to avoid making my own arguments. :P But I think it is a nice summary of the issues brought up here. Yes, it relies on pre-existing theistic notions, and no, it is not meant to make atheists into theists. I myself am nowhere near convinced by it, but from what I’ve seen of it it cannot be dismissed out of hand. At any rate the forums of Daylight Atheism are not going to decide the issue either.

    For Quixote, the question was ‘why do you believe?’ From what I gather, properly basicality may be a part of it. But it certainly is not going to be all of it. The point is that, as you add up argument and argument and observation and reason, and yes, faith, it might add up to justified belief for theists. It is not going to convince anyone here that God exists. But that isn’t the question. The question was why do you believe, Quixote. And I finally think I understand your reply.

    I apologize for length.

    Doug

  • Doug

    @144

    What are the ramifications of the god hypothesis (beginnings or fine tuning) on our understanding of physics right now?

    I’m no physicist, as you allude to, so I don’t need to overstep my bounds here. Someone, however, may be able to pick up the ball and run here, though. I’ve understood in layman’s terms that there’s an open debate concerning relativity with regard to ultimate observership of the universe. It seems reasonable to conclude that the God hypothesis would weigh heavily in one’s understanding of this physics question if factored in. And, no, I’m not referring to the “God does not play dice with the universe” quotation. At least I don’t think I am…

    I suppose there is somewhat of an open debate, but the physical evidence all lies on one side of the debate. William Craig, who I assume many are familiar with, published four books in a series early this decade that argued for a particular theory of time. The books are called The Tensed Theory of Time: A Critical Examination; The Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination; Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity; and God Time, and Eternity.

    Essentially he provides a broad (and massive) overview of all the theories of time, and argues for a specific tensed theory of time. Quick overview: under a tensed view of time, me snapping my fingers can occur at the same time as something that occurs on Saturn. Under a tenseless view of time, this makes no sense. The Special Theory of Relativity (STR) supports the second view. Craig argues for a tensed view of time because “it is incompatible with a preferred frame of reference which, he claims, is a neccesary condition for the existence of God.”

    The quote is from a very good ‘philosophical takedown’ of Craig’s claims about relativity by Yuri Bashalov and Michel Janssen titled Presentism and Relativity. It is worth a read.

    In essense, STR posits that there are no preferred reference frames. To argue against this I think is somewhat foolish, but I’m not a physics guy either. Either way, relativity doesn’t say that there is no God, but simply that there are no preferred reference frames. Whether this does eliminate the possibility of God is the real open debate, not about whether STR is correct.

    Doug

  • Pi Guy

    I’ve definitely got my own “how I came to be and atheist” story but it seems that everyone’s already jumped in with both feet and mine won’t give us any new ideas to debate. The bottom line is this:

    Scientific testing of hypotheses involving God is not the high ground of theology.

    Simply put, I don’t find enough evidence to justify belief in the gods. Nor through any application of logic can I take what is observed in the world and overlook the fact that every argument that purports to justify belief rests on at least one false premise or one poor assumption. It isn’t about theology or teleology or ontology or any other -ology. There simply is no valid or even cogent argument which doesn’t require overlooking some gaping hole in order to arrive at its conclusion.

    That is why I don’t believe.

  • Scotlyn

    Ms Quixote (#139) and Matthew Wilder (#143) both told me not to “sell myself short” in relation to my last (#134):

    Ps – I am quite aware that this is not by any means a rational argument.

    Thanks to both of you. I was not (I think) selling my argument short – I did not mean to say it was irrational. Rather that, in this case, I was making an argument from the heart, rather than the head – perhaps what I should have said was that it was an a-rational argument. I do absolutely love the sense of freedom I now feel in all my relationships – to take them as I find them, with no presumptions based on sin, need for God, etc. I cannot imagine going back to adopt any set of beliefs that would entail seeing everyone I meet through that frame. Likewise, my awareness that my believing relatives still do see me through that frame makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes for conversations that are careful and stilted and not natural.

    Nevertheless, I am as capable as the next person of finding and delivering a rational (as in one that appeals to the head rather than the heart) argument for why I am no longer a believer. But to be honest, this heart reason is probably the “real” reason for me personally.

  • Dave

    #149 Wayne Essel

    What has been proven here is correlation, not causality. It is very possible that the brain is a conduit for consciousness, not the source. Again, this might be an example of interpreting science in the light of one’s beliefs. Beliefs come first, then come interpretations. Belief, a beloved idea to the holder, is a powerful force, and not necessarily logical.

    The notion of brain as conduit for consciousness is an ad hoc assumption designed to save the god hypothesis.

    The default hypothesis of naturalism is, as Steven Pinker puts it, that “the mind is what the brain does”.

    To go down Wayne’s road, you need a lot of ad hocs. First, you need need the god hypothesis. Then you need a mechanism for the conduit. Then you need a mechanism for what flows in the conduit. Then you need a mechanism for the flow to affect the brain. Then you need a mechanism for the affect inducing consciousness.

    This gets messy very fast. That’s not to say, however, that these things might not be real. If they are real, they should be measurable. We just haven’t been able to measure them yet with the tools at our disposal. Then again, we might invoke another ad hoc and claim that these mechanisms are based on principles we have not yet discovered. Perhaps they are known only to god.

    Finally, the notion that “Belief comes first” is alien to science. Not that we humans don’t look at stuff, make a wag, and then go off searching for confirmation. Ask any scientist. It happens all the time (note: the classic “scientific method” is an artifact relating to how papers are written and published. The real process is “jump to a conclusion” and then see if you are right). But the corrective comes when we don’t find confirmation. A lot of the time, we find something else. Which allows us to jump to a better conclusion and start searching again.

    “Belief comes first” means that we will only accept “confirming” events. In which case, anything is possible. If I say its true, then its true. Under these conditions, nothing can be known. And that is a very dismal state of affairs. Indeed, it makes this whole discussion pointless.

  • Scotlyn

    MS Quixote, it occurs that I could turn what I’ve said into a question for you – since you seem to be in question-answering mode.

    Do you believe in the fallenness of humanity, and in the resulting necessity for a saviour?

  • LindaJoy

    ildi- your recap of what Quixote has been offering here was spot-on and really gave my brain a great break from the headache producing convolution of arguments he has been offering. Thanks!

    Since Quixote’s response to my question was that he agreed that his god was his own imaginary construct, then we are just having a long discussion about the products of Quixote’s brain- not about something that exists. As for the basic question of why he is a theist, the answer is “because he thinks he is”. How I do love that Occam’s Razor thing!

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Typical. I stumble in late, write an omnibus reply, then read the comments only to find that the world is ful of people who are both faster and smarter than me. Oh, well. I’ll leave you with this:

    “Our shared observation of the universe — love, morality, justice, consciousness, justice, you know the drill — screams God as the best explanation for the theist.”
    Do chimpanzees/bonobos/great apes, some species of dolphin and Indian elephants all then have their own gods? (“Blessed are the ooo ooo, ooo ah, ah eep eep eep!…” ~ Bonobo Jesus)
    Do chimps gather around the fire that they haven’t yet discovered and argue chimp-centric theodicy (like the always problematic and prickly Argument from Mushy Banana)?

    “Ouch. This is the second reference to this. I apologize, but I am what I am. I’ll try to do better, and the odd thing is that I’m the earthy type!”
    If the word is appropriate, use it. Euthyphro and fidoism are both apropriate. I’m pretty sure that you didn’t type “fidoism”, but I just mistyped it and it amuses me terribly, so I’m keeping it. When in doubt, I say, go with the version of history that’s funnier.
    To expand; there’s a difference between illumination using correct terminology and obfuscation through obscure bafflegab. Stick to the former.

    “I’ve yet to be presented with a novel claim from your side as well. Not even one original argument, which is not to speak poorly about any of the comments; we’re just on well-trodden ground.”
    As long as the universe behaves as though there’s no one at the switch, holy texts appear to be products of their time it (throwing lots to determine God’s will? Putting demons into pigs? Chicks should shut up in church? Really?) with little that trancends it (“Don’t be a dink” is a good strategy for a social species lacking tooth and claw to both avoid being eaten by lions and hunt the deadly groundhog, and as such being collective non-dickitude remains a good idea) and the gods continue to reveal themselves in anecdotal, conflicting, culturally primed, um, anecdotes, the well-trodden ground appears to be well-trodden by no gods (or, at most, incompetent, uncaring, and/or unRevealed ones). While “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, until there is it’s a perfectly good reason for disbelief (take that, leprechauns!).

    keddaw “You sense god, using one of your 6 senses no doubt, as I cannot sense any such thing.”
    What’s the sixth? Spidey?

    cl “Those ideas (flat earth, geocentricism) were directly related to misreading of scripture…”
    Theology must be fun. It’s the only science where it’s always the other guy who is wrong. I love a good schism. It’s even fun to say. “Skiz, em”.

    OMFG “(although I wonder how a shared moral system points specifically to Xianity instead of any other religion).”
    Because the other religions are all wrong. Obviously. That Hindus worship a blue guy with too many arms should’ve been a clue.

    Wayne Essel “How would an atheist interpret the events?”
    Have you ever noticed how the phone always rings when you’re in the tub? Have you noticed how it rains when you forget your umbrella? Have you ever noticed how good the mind is at filling in puzzles (like the “blind spot” in your eye that you never notice), even when there isn’t enough data (or the data conflicts, as in optical/auditory illusions) to come to a good conclusion?
    Have you ever noticed that when someone refers to an uncommon event as God’s handiwork, the story never ends with “…and then I got hit by a bus”?

    And, finally, ending with a joke:
    MS Quixote “And I don’t think the object of this exercise is for me to launch into a full defense of property and substance dualism…”
    It’s all greek to me.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    From MS Quixote:

    “I feel as though I can potentially add to your understanding of the world outside of science, whereas you have nothing to add to mine that I don’t already possess through the very science you’re advocating, except the restrictive proposition that science is the only path to knowledge of the real world.”

    You must admit that sounds somewhat arrogant, however charitably you’d like to interpret it :) It could be rephrased as “I am able to enlighten you with my knowledge but you can’t tell me anything I don’t already know.”

    It also overlooks the majority of non-believers (those that blog & write books & talk to me anyway, as far as I’m aware – which is a lot :)) who came to non-belief after being raised (and often spending most of their lives, well into adulthood) as believers. What is this crucial knowledge that they missed during their time as believers that you can now provide? And what exactly defines ‘outside of science?’ Is it just those things contained in the specific theology of the Bible (the handful of gospels the Council of Nicea chose to include, anyway) or does it include things contained also, for example, in the Baghavad Gita or Koran or Aboriginal Dreamtime? If not, how can it be known that the Nicean Bible (a completely human construct regardless of the alleged origins of the source material and undertaken largely to unite an empire under a state religion rather than spread the good word) is the particular religious text to place one’s faith (unjustified belief) in?

    Placing justified belief in things that can be confirmed or convincingly supported in an impartial manner while leaving one’s mind open to have those confirmations debunked or disproven, leading to further inquiry (i.e. the scientific method) is really nothing but common sense for a naturalist. For most, it’s not even a debating point. The fact is that science, although far from being foolproof (it is itself a human construct, though it is plastic and constantly evolves toward eliminating human bias & reducing error rather than remaining a static authoritative doctrine), has consistently and thoroughly answered the questions of humanity far better than its proposed alternatives, be they organised religion, paganism, druidism, animism, new-age spirituality, astrology or any other ‘ways of knowing’ put forward by supernaturalists over the ages. As I said it’s not foolproof and no scientist, naturalist or mere cheerleader of science (i.e. me) would ever claim that science does or can know everything. It is, however the best tool we have if we wish to discover anything approaching fact.

    Now, the obvious question (to me) when considering which ‘special knowledge’ to use in addition to science is ‘which special knowledge?’ The most popular supernatural belief systems contradict each other and, apart from common generalisations about being decent & charitable to one another (usually with caveats on such niceties, esp. within the Old Testament) there’s really no way to reconcile them without some impressive mental gymnastics (not to mention the contortions often needed to accomodate conflicting or contradictory ideas within just one system). Basically, if knowledge of the supernatural exists, which proponents of it are correct and how can that be confirmed or even supported?

    The point is this: I believe peoples’ reasons for their faith are personal and usually are nobody’s business. However, when someone claims, on the basis of their faith, that they are able to enlighten others with some special knowledge/revelation/what-have-you outside of the recognised body of scientific knowledge of the entire human race, that enters the territory of being a positive claim, which therefore places on the claimant the onus of providing support for that claim.

    I don’t seek proof of God, I want to hear why it should be the Christian god (and attendant wisdom/revelations/knowledge) over all the other gods that existed before and have existed since.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    The point is this: I believe peoples’ reasons for their faith are personal and usually are nobody’s business. However, when someone claims, on the basis of their faith, that they are able to enlighten others with some special knowledge/revelation/what-have-you outside of the recognised body of scientific knowledge of the entire human race, that enters the territory of being a positive claim, which therefore places on the claimant the onus of providing support for that claim.

    Hey Hank,

    I’ve enjoyed the blog on your link in the past. If that’s yours, congratualations.

    The way you’ve framed my comment, I can see why you’d think it might be arrogant. But it’s a reaction to what I think is in actuality both an arrogant claim and a positive assertion: science is the only path to knowledge.

    My response is simply an ad absurdum, and if it struck you as arrogant, I apologize. But the absurdity of the science is the only path to knowledge crowd is obvious to me as one who fully accepts science as a valuable method for arriving at truth. Since I accept science, what am I missing from the science only crowd? Only their positive claim that science is the only path to knowledge.

    My reaction could be a request for them to prove thier positive claim, but I really don’t think that’s necessary. I think it’s painfully obvious that every religion adds knowledge that is valuable to the human race, as do photographers, William Shakespeare, poets, musicians, artists, dancers, philosophers, and the three year old kid that points out how beautiful the stars are, to name a few.

    I’m just asking why I should restrict my mind with the regulation that only science produces knowledge.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I’m just asking why I should restrict my mind with the regulation that only science produces knowledge.

    So how about…Only science produces knowledge that is objectively demonstrable to everyone else and produces predictable and repeatable results when applied?

  • LindaJoy

    Poetry, music, dance, philosophy, religion, etc. provide knowledge about the human imagination. They do not provide the answers about the substance and the mechanisms (forces) that make up the universe that we can observe. A child’s imaginations about stars, Shakespeare, music, dance and religion evoke emotions, but not factual information. I really don’t like it when people try to tie religion to science in any way. You can tie art to math because artists often use it to express their imaginations, but there is no such tie between religion and hard science.

    modusoperandi- thanks for the laughs and for cutting through the STUFF presented here. :)

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Doug,
    I don’t think I’m placing too much emphasis on this. As I understand it, the end result is for Plantinga to be able to declare that god belief is rational. And, as I understand it, if something is properly basic, it is rational to believe it.

    The problem, however, is what I pointed out. A belief doesn’t become rational simply because I ardently believe in it, or think I can feel it. This is especially true when that belief is founded on logical fallacy. This whole exercise is one in which circular reasoning is employed and then claimed rational. It is, however, the antithesis of rational thinking – you can’t get to rationality by employing irrational means.

    Wayne Essel,
    I like Modus’s response to you. You are engaged in counting the hits and ignoring the misses. You may feel it is extraordinary, but weird things happen all the time. I once watched a show about how Brandon Lee died. It took a series of incidents and days for all the events to happen that led up to his death while filming “The Crow.” How extraordinary – much more than three seemingly random events in your life happening on the same day. Can we conclude that god was acting to kill Brandon Lee?

  • Zirrad

    Quixote:

    Scientific testing of hypotheses involving God is not the high ground of theology… I freely admit that theology will not be overly successful in the scientific testing arena…

    When you say “please elucidate how we will test this hypothesis,” I sense that
    you feel we can’t. This may be the great irony of the entire question:

    You seem to be avoiding answering the question. Instead of questioning why I might not think you can, just answer the questions. Let’s keep it simple

    Does your god affect the real world? If so how?
    If your god does not affect the world in any way that is testable, how do you determine the truth of any statement made about god or action claimed to be the result of god?
    If there is something beyond reality (still awaiting your definition) what is it and how does it connect with reality?

  • Zirrad

    On the Nature of God

    Quixote:
    Step 1: Real world observation: that there are some believers and some non-believers
    Step 2: Form a hypothesis: God is a particularist.
    Step 3: Test the hypothesis: die, which we will probably all do.

    That is not a test that produces empirical results, nor does it test if he/she/it is a particularist – perhaps he/she/it can’t communicate with the vast majority of humans because those individuals don’t have souls. And those people without souls won’t get to meet god to ask the question in any case.

    How do we access the “god chooses arbitrarily” vs. “god can’t talk to people without souls” hypotheses without running into something else that is empirically untestable?

  • Zirrad

    Quixote:
    Step 1: Real world observation: the natural realm exists.
    Step 2: Form a hypothesis: the natural realm is all that exists.
    Step 3: Test the hypothesis: ???

    Naturalism’s falsifiable, I grant you that happily… But can it be empirically verified like theism? probably not. Perhaps we may be able to think up a scenario. I’ve got a couple I’m working on, but nothing I feel confident with yet.

    You didn’t actual mean to imply that theism is verifiable did you? If so, I look forward to that verification!

    This is what you believe is ironic? That naturalism ultimately can’t test anything beyond reality? But I’m not asking you to test anything beyond reality. I’m not asking you to prove the existence of god. I’m asking you to describe the effect of your god on reality.

    If something exists beyond reality (and you have yet to define what you mean by natural realm), and has no effect on reality then we can’t reason about it.

    If it does have an effect, then we will have an unexplained effect.

    If we have an unexplained effect then we can at least describe the characteristics and extent of that effect – when and where and under what conditions it occurs etc – and postulate about the nature of the cause of those effects – even if those causes are beyond our reality.

    What are the unexplained effects of your god? When and where and under what conditions do they occur? What can we infer about the nature of your god from an analysis of those characteristics?

    To pull this back to the original question. The atheist simply views the theists position of “god did it” or “because I (or some authority) says so” as simply a starting position for more questions.

  • Zirrad

    Quixote: Paucity and impoverished are pejoratives in this case. Why couldn’t we just agree that scientific testing does not require God?

    Zirrad: If god doesn’t make a difference in how reality works (if it does then it should be testable), then he/she/it seems superfluous.

    Quixote: So you are saying should after all? If this is meant as a conclusion following the other portions of your post as premises, it simply doesn’t follow to me that scientific testing entails the whole of “how reality works.”

    No, I’m asking you to say something, anything concrete about how your god (not the god hypothesis – which works just as well for thor) works in the world.

    Quixote: But, I see in this, one possible answer to Ebon’s question: many become atheists because they are convinced that only science can deliver the knowable, or that science will eventually disprove crucial tenets of theism to the extent that theism is no longer a valid option, or that only the empirically validated can be known, etc.

    Many become atheists because they’ve been lied to by theists. Even worse, we have no way to determine when they’re being lied to because there seems to be no way to determine the validity of any statement made by a theist about their god, that in fact, they deliver nothing “knowable”. We await an example.

    When the priest tells me god is/wants me to do/implies X (something knowable about reality), how do we know that knowledge is true?

    Or more crudley, when a voice in my head says it’s god and wants me to take the head off the guy sitting next to me in the bus (which happened in Canada last year), what questions do I ask of this voice to determine if it is god?

  • Scotlyn

    Modusoperandi – Thanks so much for “fidoism” !!! Especially in the context of bonobo/chimp/dolphin/elephant philosophical discussions. LOL!!!

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Hank

    Thanks Quixote! I’m a contributor at Dangerous Intersection but not the kahuna (that’s Erich Veith).

    “My reaction could be a request for them to prove thier positive claim, but I really don’t think that’s necessary. I think it’s painfully obvious that every religion adds knowledge that is valuable to the human race, as do photographers, William Shakespeare, poets, musicians, artists, dancers, philosophers, and the three year old kid that points out how beautiful the stars are, to name a few.

    I’m just asking why I should restrict my mind with the regulation that only science produces knowledge.”

    Well, there’s the thing. I don’t think it’s a regulation or restriction at all. I just think it’s a fact of life that if you want to confirm or explain something about the world we live in, you employ the scientific method, but to explore invisible, intangible or imperceptible dimensions, realities or entities is not the job of science. Similarly, to explain the world we live in is not and can not be the job of supernaturalism – by definition it does not even concern our world (except when it makes a claim to affect it, in which case support must be furnished). Put simply: we should use the best tool for the job. To wonder about the mind of a god one consults scripture (or one’s own mind). To wonder about how the universe behaves – and why it does so – one consults science. It’s not that I think science is infallible and we should trust only science; it’s just that the record of science through history is consistent. It has regularly answered questions we long thought were unanswerable and debunked innumerable incorrect answers put in place by people who knew no better.

    As for everyone from religions to Shakespeare to the starry-eyed child gazing upward in wonder making contributions to humanity, I agree entirely that their contributions to our world and our enjoyment of it are invaluable. Religious music & architecture blows me away and I find some churches very peaceful and aiding of reflection (on the rare occasions I enter them). I also take great pleasure from my own various artistic pursuits & mindlessly joyous activities, done just for their own sake. But is all that purely subjective personal experience actually knowledge? Can you really ‘know’ that Shakespeare’s words are timelessly beautiful, that the stars in their majesty and scale are beyond comprehension, that the Ottoman mosques designed by Sinan are incomparably gorgeous? I don’t think you can know those things, but you can think them. You can only hold them as strong, even unshakeable personal beliefs, but those beliefs are justified only by your own bias. But it won’t matter how many people agree with you on Shakespeare or the Milky Way or Sinan, it won’t make your belief ‘true’ in any way. Truth and knowledge aren’t democratic.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Well said, Hank.

    I’m in agreement with everything down to your last paragraph, and our differences in the last paragraph are so small we don’t need to argue about them. Thank you for your comments.

  • Doug

    @63 OMGF-

    I don’t want to spend too much time defending an argument I myself don’t find convincing, but Plantiga might argue that the the belief “I believe I see a picture frame on the wall’ is also then irrational.

    Though like I said before, this line of argument is not going to convince anyone outside the grip of dogma.

    Also, like you noted, this is based upon the (ad-hoc?) assumption that the mystical experience is in fact the Christian God. But Plantiga may argue this assumption is based upon other evidences and arguments, however flimsy they may be, and has nothing to do with the properly basic argument.

    So while I agree with you that going from ‘I feel something’ to ‘I feel the Christian God’ is a large leap, I’m leery about completely dismissing the properly basic argument out of hand until I have good reason to do so.

    Doug

  • Danikajaye

    Thanks Quixote- I have to admit I love new words and I have found a few reading this blog. I do not find that it detracts from my understanding of text through use of jargon, rather it enhances my understanding of the atheistic/theistic debate as a whole. Besides, in a blog with some often lengthy discussions it is helpful to know one word to use in place of a drawn out explanation of a more complex idea.

    “But primarily, be it theistic or atheistic, most people appear to approach this question with simple faith, or simple non-faith. The assertion that the realm of fideism is inhabited solely by theists is false.” – I tried to use block quote but then…. I couldn’t stop it. (Help?Someone?)

    I think that I do agree with that statement on some level. For example (and I in NO WAY mean this as a derogatory comparison or with any condescension), I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was 4. Now this is quite young for most children (or so I believe). My parents went to great lengths to make the “Santa Claus” experience very real to me. There were hay bales on the roof for the reindeers and meals left out for Santa, letters to the North Pole, setting traps with flour to get Santas boot prints and the list goes on. Now when I was 4 I got a doll house and my grandmother made a slip-up with a comment about the doll house coming from my mum & dad. It was easy for my parents to cover this up with a plausible explanation (which they did) but at four years old this was enough for me to stop believing in Santa Clause. This is was the only evidence I needed to stop believing despite the hundreds of pieces of evidence my parents offered me (I know they were manufactured pieces of evidence but I think it is as good as science when you are four). On one hand I had boot prints in the kitchen, half eaten hay bales on the roof, gifts under the tree, half eaten cookies, rustling in the night and on the other hand I had one small easily explained away comment from my grandmother and the latter carried greater weight for me. Now if I was a purely rational human being it would seem that the greater weight of evidence was on the side of Santa Clause.

    I do believe, as you have said, that individuals are maybe predisposed to believe or not to believe. As is evident from this blog, atheists and theists cannot come to any agreement as to if atheism or theism is the default position. It seems to be highly individual. I guess I was on the non-beleiver side of things.(I also found Wayne Essels example interesting- to find any type of meaning or even prove them as random you have to start with a presupposition- approached with neutrality I don’t think you can say anything meaningful about those sequence of events- see comment #58).

    One final thing- just because something can be explained by chemistry or physics or any other branch of science does that make the world any less amazing? For me, no.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Danikayjaye: have you considered the possibility that your parents were “lying” to you because you were bad? I say this because of “half eaten cookies” comment. True Santaists know that the most he ever leaves is crumbs. Sometimes he even washes the dishes.

  • Scotlyn

    Danikajaye:

    On one hand I had boot prints in the kitchen, half eaten hay bales on the roof, gifts under the tree, half eaten cookies, rustling in the night and on the other hand I had one small easily explained away comment from my grandmother and the latter carried greater weight for me. Now if I was a purely rational human being it would seem that the greater weight of evidence was on the side of Santa Clause.

    (To do this put “blockquote” between the triangular brackets at the start and “/blockquote” between the triangular brackets at the end – don’t use quote marks.)

    Anyway, insofar as I understand the scientific process, no, you did make the rational choice. Science never “proves”, the weight of evidence only accumulates so long as nothing “disproves” – one piece of evidence that doesn’t fit is sufficient to demand that the hypothesis be reviewed, and if necessary, abandoned, even if the one hundred that went before all “fit”.

    So fair dues to you – you got the rationality habit early!

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Doug,
    I don’t know that I’m throwing out the idea of properly basic, just simply pointing out that Plantinga’s use of it allows for belief in leprechauns, IPU, FSM, faeries, etc. to also be properly basic and therefore rational. It also allows for paranoids to claim that they are completely rational in claiming that, “They really are out to get me.”

  • Doug

    OMGF-

    Plantiga has answered this objection as well. We are getting into fairly dense philosophy/theology here, but I will attempt to decipher it.

    Say we have definition of what is properly basic:

    For any proposition A and person S, A is proiperly basic for S if and only if A is incorrigible for S or self-evident to S.

    And from this, we deductively attempt to define what is properly basic. But first, how did we come to this statement? It isn’t itself incorrigible or self-evident. Secondly, we can think of counter-examples. Take my original example: ‘I see a picture frame on the wall.’ It itself isn’t self-evident: I need sensory evidence to know that it is there. But we take ‘I see a picture frame on the wall’ to be properly basic. So trying to reason deductively from the above statement will not work, because we can’t seem to define whether something is properly basic deductively.

    Instead, Plantiga argues that we might define what is properly basic inductively, from the bottom up. For example, statements of the type ‘I see a picture frame on the wall’ are properly basic. If we find enough statements of the sort, we get an idea of what is properly basic. Now gather a community of 2 billion Christians, and begin collecting statements about God. After 2 billion Christians say, for example, they see God’s hand in nature, Plantiga argues (more or less) that a person who sees God’s hand in nature would be rationally justified in believing so. And from that, it is a simple step to ‘God exists’, as it is a simple step from my example to ‘picture frames exist.’

    So to answer your objection, his thesis does not allow one person to claim a properly basic belief in leprechauns. If you can find 2 billion people who see pots of gold at the end of rainbows, perhaps then they would be rationally justified in believing so.

    Now, this line of reasoning is only as strong as inductive reasoning, and of course because 2 billion believe they see God’s hand in nature does not mean it is true, and it certainly doesn’t prove to an atheist that God exists. But based upon inductive reasoning (and again his argument is only as strong as induction reasoning,) Plantiga would argue that believers are rationally justified in believing that they see God’s hand in nature (or whatever.)

    So his argument, in my estimation, does not allow “belief in leprechauns, IPU, FSM, faeries, etc. to also be properly basic and therefore rational.”

    This was more or less adapted from Plantiga’s original article I cited earlier.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Doug “So his argument, in my estimation, does not allow “belief in leprechauns, IPU, FSM, faeries, etc. to also be properly basic and therefore rational.”
    That’s because he’s not Shinto, or any of the other religions with “faeries”. Holy Spirit = rational. Holy Spirits = silly superstition.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Problem is, for Plantinga, that he’s relying on an argument from popularity. Once again (to add to the circular reasoning and begging the question) he’s relying on logical fallacy in order to claim that something is rational. It doesn’t work that way. Oh, and I almost forgot, he’s also now guilty of special pleading.

    I would wonder, what’s the magic number? How many people have to believe in something before it is rational? And, how many Xians actually believe in the same god? I don’t see his answer as successfully defeating the objection, because he simply introduces more problems.

    Let’s face it. Plantinga is falling flat on his face here.

  • Nes

    Danikajaye:

    Scotlyn already mentioned it, but I personally find an example more helpful than a description when I’m learning something new:

    <blockquote>Quoted text here</blockquote>

    Comes out like this:

    Quoted text here

    Hope that helps.

  • http://www.superhappyjen.blogspot.com SuperHappyJen

    Ms Quixote you are obviously taking time to read and respond to all comments. Awesome. I regret that I didn’t join the discussion sooner.

    I can’t believe in the same way you “can’t not believe” so I find this part of your response, while not very persuasive, at least understandable. The point of the exercise, after all, is to see across the chasm (I believe that’s how Ebonmuse put it).

    I’ve observed that most atheist/theist debates involve such different ways of thinking that no one’s questions are answered. Using Christian philiosphy to respond to atheist arguments is a bit like trying to hammer a nail with a fish. The atheist is frustrated that the Christian doesn’t just use a hammer, while the Christian keeps saying how full and satisfied and blissfully happy he is after eating the fish.

  • Scotlyn

    MS Quixote – I wonder if you will get around to my question (comment #156) – do you believe in the essential fallenness of humanity, and our essential need for a saviour?

    If you have already, just mention the comment number – I seem to have missed it. Thanks.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    MS Quixote – I wonder if you will get around to my question (comment #156) – do you believe in the essential fallenness of humanity, and our essential need for a saviour?

    I apologize, Scotlyn. The oversight was not intentional on my part. Actually, I was enjoying following your comments, and had meant to answer you. Yes, I do believe that. Why do you ask?

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Ms Quixote you are obviously taking time to read and respond to all comments. Awesome. I regret that I didn’t join the discussion sooner.

    But you’re here now, and we’re all the better because of it. 180 was a great comment, I thought, and I noticed I wasn’t the only one who thought you presented an excellent metaphor.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Besides, in a blog with some often lengthy discussions it is helpful to know one word to use in place of a drawn out explanation of a more complex idea.

    Amen, Danikajaye.

    and I in NO WAY mean this as a derogatory comparison or with any condescension

    Thank you.

    I do believe, as you have said, that individuals are maybe predisposed to believe or not to believe.

    Siding with the dread Christian when it seems appropriate to you? You’re a freethinker. I like that. Great Santa story, BTW.

    One final thing- just because something can be explained by chemistry or physics or any other branch of science does that make the world any less amazing? For me, no.

    Neither does it for me. But the truly amazing thing would be if we could explain everything through chemistry or physics. :)

  • Mathew Wilder

    So Quixote, (sorry to beat a dead horse) if you can’t be wrong that you had an experience, but you can be wrong about what caused it, why do you place so much trust in the seeming incorrigiblity of your beliefs based upon that exprience? Doesn’t knowing that acid could have caused a similar experience to one which you had mean that you should be skeptical of what seems to you to be the only explanation? I’m sure Muslims or Hindus have similar experiences – are their beliefs justified too?

    Knowing that I could be wrong about my beliefs leads me to be skeptical of those same beliefs. It seems to me that such skepticality is a good thing.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Hey Mathew,

    Please keep beating the dead horse until incorrigibility and belief in God are no longer conflated here, at least in my case.

    My belief in God is not incorrigible. That I have an awareness of something is. Many believers make the jump directly from one to the other. I don’t.

    Knowing that I could be wrong about my beliefs leads me to be skeptical of those same beliefs. It seems to me that such skepticality is a good thing.

    I don’t believe that you walk around all day skeptical of things that are readily apparent to your senses, self-evident, or incorrigible.

  • Dave

    Quixote @ 186

    I don’t believe that you walk around all day skeptical of things that are readily apparent to your senses, self-evident, or incorrigible.

    Perhaps some of us do? When people ask me what I believe, my response is that I don’t believe anything. When pressed, I will admit that “I believe I’d like another glass of wine”. Its a distinction I use between belief and trust. Trust can be betrayed.

    Most of the time, I do trust my senses. As for self-evident, hmmm. And incorrigible, as in impossible to be mistaken or uncertain about its truth, unable to be corrected, I find that statements of personal state might be incorrigible, but lack trust that statement about the world we inhabit can be incorrigible.

    Approximations, current best guesses and tentative conclusions I find useful. People tend to die when certainty is invoked.

  • Scotlyn

    Ms Quixote – I asked

    MS Quixote – I wonder if you will get around to my question (comment #156) – do you believe in the essential fallenness of humanity, and our essential need for a saviour?

    and you answered – for which, thanks…

    I apologize, Scotlyn. The oversight was not intentional on my part. Actually, I was enjoying following your comments, and had meant to answer you. Yes, I do believe that. Why do you ask?

    The reason I asked is that, as I explained, this doctrine is at the core of my decision to leave my faith (although it remains part of a larger process and set of questions). I found this doctrine utterly skewed all my relationships, such that I could not have a normal friendship with someone not of my faith, and my friendships within the faith were likewise skewed by a continual intrusive vigilance as to the state of one another’s “relationship” to our saviour. In otherwords, this intrusive third party seemed to stand in the way of really getting to know, appreciate, cherish, and relate to every other human being.

    When I relinquished this doctrine all of that went away. I could now relate to others for themselves, and present myself to the world for what I am. It felt exactly like a liberation – I, and the people I know and love, are NOT fallen!

    Quixote you also said

    I don’t believe that you walk around all day skeptical of things that are readily apparent to your senses, self-evident, or incorrigible.

    Strangely, I am probably one of the people who do. I am aware of the fact that my perceptions and internal reconstruction of what the world is like are based on my brain’s active interpretation of, for example, a selection of wavelengths of light and sound. Although I believe my perceptions probably correspond well enough with what is around me for most practical purposes, I also am aware that my brain can “fill in” blind spots so they are not noticeable, I am aware that my brain constantly searches for patterns and can sometimes come up with one that is not necessarily a good fit for what is being looked at. I know that my beliefs and prior experiences and current mood can all affect what I perceive, and that there are lots of other possible “slips twixt the cup and the lip”. (The cup being the world around me and the lip being its representation in my brain).

    This is not a solipsistic disbelief in the reality of the world, but simply an awareness that my perception may only be an approximate fit with that world reality. Although, as I said, a good enough fit for most practical purposes.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Indeed, the sun does not travel around the Earth, as our senses would have us believe.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    I found this doctrine utterly skewed all my relationships, such that I could not have a normal friendship with someone not of my faith

    I remember you saying this, but it’s not that way for me. If anything, this belief helps me to be more forgiving of folks, knowing first that I’m no better, and second that there’s a reason people do what they do from time to time. Perhaps you were taught that fallens implied an utter depravity? I wouldn’t agree with that either, so maybe that’s the difference.

    I am aware of the fact that my perceptions and internal reconstruction of what the world is like are based on my brain’s active interpretation

    Excellent. You’ve got the makings of a fine continental philosopher. These analytics around here could use some more of that balance :) Still, there’s still the lingering tendency here to confuse a basic belief with one that’s necessarily true. There’s a difference….

    This is not a solipsistic disbelief in the reality of the world,

    I agree, there’s often an urge to insist on an analytic/solipsistic either/or dichotomy that doesn’t exist.

  • Scotlyn

    Quixote – thanks for coming back to me…

    I remember you saying this, but it’s not that way for me. If anything, this belief helps me to be more forgiving of folks, knowing first that I’m no better, and second that there’s a reason people do what they do from time to time. Perhaps you were taught that fallens implied an utter depravity? I wouldn’t agree with that either, so maybe that’s the difference.

    Quixote, I realise that you are far too well-mannered to say so, and if the following question is rude, please forgive and ignore…but here goes..
    Does your belief in our essential fallen-ness and need for a saviour mean that you pray for me (and the others here)?

    You see, the requirement I felt within my former faith, was to regard others who did not know Jesus as having a “god-shaped” hole in their lives – in other words that, at least in this respect, I knew something about them that they either didn’t know or refused to recognise. The fact that I also knew that I was no better than them, (just more fortunate in having found out where to find the right filling for my own “god-shaped” hole) didn’t change the fact that I was forced to project this belief onto my relationship with every non-believer I met, no matter how much I liked them, and no matter how little they seemed to be lacking in this vital fundamental. The intolerable burdensomeness of this only became evident to me when I stopped.

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Quixote, I realise that you are far too well-mannered to say so, and if the following question is rude, please forgive and ignore…but here goes..
    Does your belief in our essential fallen-ness and need for a saviour mean that you pray for me (and the others here)?

    Hey Scotlyn,

    It’s a great question, and not rude in the least. I can’t think of a “too rude” question, actually, and if someone asked one, it might be fun to see the “other” Quixote come out :)

    The folks here have requested specifically in the past that I not pray for them, perhaps not me specifically, but they’ve said it’s offensive, so I honor that. You’ll also notice that I leave my Christianity at the door of this place for the most part, unless asked to bring it in. This puts in me the awkward position of being criticized sharply by some of my Christian brethren, but, that’s their problem.

    The intolerable burdensomeness of this only became evident to me when I stopped.

    I understand, and have witnessed firsthand what you’re referring to. I’m out of a reformed background, though, and this burden is not as prevalent in that tradition for theological reasons. May I ask what Christian tradition you left? I’m guessing that will prove the difference between us in this. At any rate, please know I don’t project this onto you or anyone else here.

  • Scotlyn

    Hey, Quixote, whatever else, you are definitely a sweet-mannered individual.

    To answer your question, I was brought up in the fundamentalist evangelical “born-again” tradition, by missionaries, in a country I will not name, because there weren’t that many of us. We had no specific denominational affiliation, and went to many churches over the years, including some reformed ones, but always affiliating ourselves to the “born-again” movements within each church. Books like “Poisonwood Bible” and ” Don’t Sleep, there are Snakes,” while not entirely true to my own experience, certainly ring lots of bells. My parents are good people, as it happens, much better than their own Bible.

    My leaving process took place about 25-30 years ago, during my college years – but I have to say, my decision appears more right to me as the years go by, and as I look back, the faith I left is more and more like a suit of clothes that didn’t fit right even when I was small enough to get into it – with all the places I’ve grown into since, there would be no hope of putting it back on, without cutting important bits off of myself.

    Still, I love my family, and remain as close to them as is possible, given the circumstances – including the fact that they feel so compelled to pray for my salvation – which, although I can totally understand why, still feels like an outright rejection of who I’ve become. Perhaps who I’ve become, by definition, feels to them like an outright rejection too, so I retain some sympathy.

  • Dave

    scotlyn @ 193

    Your story reads like so many “born again” leavings. It requires effort to leave, and the effects are often traumatic to families and friends.

    My own experience was one with no sturm und drang. Merely the recognition that it all made no sense. I was born an atheist, raised in the mostly moderate Presbyterian tradition and reclaimed my atheism at 16. At 65, I am very comfortably married, with children. My wife is a radical Catholic lady, condemning her church quite frequently, but comfortable with the wide community it provides her. We both agree with each other on almost everything.

    Cheers.

  • Scotlyn

    @Dave – yes, “Sturm und Drang” – definitely!

    Fortunately, I too am comfortably married to an ex-Catholic atheist farmer who walked out of confession at 11, having struggled to invent a few sins so as to let the priest get on with his job, and, as he says, “kept on walking.” He doesn’t argue with anyone, but just says if asked, “no gods, no devils, just us.” As you say, we agree on most things, and so, at least within my marriage, there is a minimum of “sturm” and only the odd “drang”… Cheers back to you.


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