7 Quick Takes (12/31/10)

Happy New Year’s Eve!  I’ll still have a couple of posts going up this weekend, and, on Monday, I’ll be debuting the guest bloggers who will be fleshing out their disagreement on the prospect of discerning purpose in nature.

I started this blog over the summer as a way to try to clarify my thoughts on religion and morality, especially after I started reading Christian apologetics and attending Mass with my Catholic boyfriend.  One hundred and fifty posts later, we’re still surprised by the amount we agree on, even though we still can’t see eye to eye on the Big Question.  While I’ve been trying to thrash it all out, I’ve been grateful for the thoughtful comments, questions, and links you’ve shared with me through this blog.

For today’s Quick Takes (the last of 2010) I’m listing a potporri of things I’ve changed my mind on, posts I’ve promised that I’ll actually write in the New Year, and questions that bother me:

–1–

The first apologetic work I read was C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and, although I wasn’t converted, it did make a big impression.  Reading Lewis’s writings about morality has helped me try to be better in my day to day life and understand ways in which I was failing others.  My perspective on morality used to be extremely Kantian:

I followed the Golden Rule and anything else that seemed to fall under the purview of the Categorical Imperative in an attitude of pure duty. The primary satisfaction I got from behaving rightly was like the quiet click of a Rubik’s cube sliding through its final sequence or the sound of a pencil being laid down at the end of a proof.

My mistake when I was younger was: in my utter detachment from the people affected by my actions, I was still treating people as things. Instead of ‘ends in themselves’ I treated them as means to an abstracted kind of righteousness for myself, their needs as tasks to be completed.

I’m trying (and frequently failing) to try to approach other people in a spirit of love and charity, rather than duty.  Mere Christianity turned out to be a big help making this change, as well as pointing me towards it.  If I more frequently feel like I’m falling short (especially over this holiday, sadly), at least I’m aware of my mistakes and can make a fumbling attempt at correcting them and mitigating their harm.

–2–

If revising my attitude towards morality is the biggest achievement this year, explaining the foundation of morality is definitely my biggest failure.  The biggest point on which my Catholic boyfriend and I disagree (besides the obvious one) is whether absolute morality is possible in an atheistic universe–and that argument tends to undergird our a/theist disputes.

I took a crack at explaining how I think about absolute morality using metaphors about mathematics and vision.  It didn’t convince my boyfriend or many of you, so I’ll have to figure out a better explanation for next year.

–3–

In the new year, I’m most looking forward to finally writing my defense of covenant marriage.  I haven’t consolidated what I’ve written so far into an index post, so here are quick links to parts one through four which cover my thoughts on what marriage is not, an annotated list of interesting writing on marriage, why I think covenant marriage is a poor fit for Christians, and some remarks on ‘the woman problem.’

I can’t wait to get cracking on this topic after the holidays.

–4–

Although I’m most grateful to Mere Christianity on philosophy questions, Christianity: The First 3000 Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch has been invaluable to be as a history reference.  Among the incorrectbeliefs I had about Christianity and other religions:

  • Mass, in approximately its current form, was instituted around 33AD.  As was the Papacy.
  • The Temple that the Jews hope to one day rebuild never existed and is fictional or metaphorical

Oy.  Thank you Diarmaid!

–5–

The most troubling consequence for me, if Christianity were true, would be the extraordinary number of people who would miss out on any communion with God because atheism is so plausible.  After all, most people haven’t got the leisure time to mount serious philosophical and historical inquiries into other people’s religious beliefs.  I’d be frightened by the prospect of a God that made no provision for the conversion of non-Christians who didn’t study theology.

–6–

The most attractive part of Christianity for me is the possibility of redemption after severe transgressions.  I’ve written before (in the context of the dehumanizing nature of war and combat training) about how immoral actions are like bad habits.  They can make it more difficult to cultivate the kind of open attitude required to treat other people kindly and with charity.  Without the possibility of redemption, people can wound themselves past the point of recovery through their immoral actions.  The damage we inflict upon ourselves could be beyond our own ability or the ability of our friends to mend.

Currently, I don’t think there always is a path back from the abyss, and that fact is the most depressing and upsetting part of my philosophy.  If Christianity were true, I could be relieved on this point..

–7–

And don’t forget, if you want to help dictate my New Year’s Resolutions, there’s still time to contribute suggestions for books I should read, experiences I should seek out, etc at the open thread I put up earlier this week.

Thanks so much.

[Seven Quick Takes is a blog carnival run by Jen of Conversion Diary]

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10019240793982424774 Christian H

    "I'd be frightened by the prospect of a God that made no provision for the conversion of non-Christians who didn't study theology."Ah, but there are forms of Christianity which allow for salvation outside of the church. I know you have Experimental Theology on your sidebar; I suggest you look into what he says about universalism. That's not the only solution, either. There's about called (I think), "By No Other Name?", which describes assorted Christian positions on truth and salvation in non-Christian religions. And Pope John Paul said that the Catholic Church has never said that all non-Catholics necessarily go to hell; they only said that other paths are uncertain. (I'm not Catholic but I did like that particular Pope.)Incidentally, this question has been one of the biggest theological problems that I have had (the other being genocidal passages in the OT).

  • David

    Hi, there -I linked here from Mark Shea's blog. I write as a Roman Catholic who returned to the Church about four years ago after about a decade of searching – or, I should say, floundering. I am a twenty five year-old college student (yes, *still* getting my bachelor's degree – this goes back to that floundering I mentioned – but I'm getting there).The first thing I want to say is that I'm deeply impressed by your intellectual honesty, love for the truth, and dedication to finding the answers. If you don't mind my saying so, God bless you. As for me, I can learn from you. I look forward to reading more about your journey – your quest for the truth.Second, may I recommend a book to add to your pile of literature? You might consider a volume called "Introduction to Christianity," written by the former Cardinal Ratzinger. If nothing else, try reading the first two or three chapters and decide whether you find it helpful. I'm telling you, this is a fascinating read, whatever conclusions you reach along the way.Third, I wanted to offer just two or three brief thoughts in response to your post here. (Sorry, I don't have any earth-shattering insights to share – just some minor points – mere dust in the wind considering how deep you are going in your search.) In particular I want to address your point #3, wherein you state: "The most troubling consequence for me, if Christianity were true, would be the extraordinary number of people who would miss out on any communion with God because atheism is so plausible."Whoa! Hold on a second, there! You are presenting a problem that must be approached with great care and reverence. The truth of the matter is that we don't know whether God has thus deprived *any* atheist. We really don't. Scripture provides reasons to be concerned for those who actively and knowingly reject faith, but in the end, we simply do *not* know who makes it, and who doesn't. That question belongs to God, and God alone.Many people today are functionally, if not explicitly, atheist or agnostic. Is this really because they, like you, have done the requisite research and arrived at an intelligent, informed position? Fat chance! Most atheists are as blindly atheist as most believers are blindly believing. What, then, accounts for belief? In my view, the answer is culture. Our present culture is profoundly inhospitable to Christianity. To be Christian today is to feel forever without a cultural home; a Christian always senses the subtle but persistent tug of the surrounding society to leave his convictions behind. This plays out for him in many subtle – and sometimes not-so-subtle – ways each day.God is all-knowing and perfectly just. This means He will not fail to take into consideration the many things that influence the decisions we make. I suspect those who reject the faith today are much less culpable than were those who rejected the faith, say, seventy years ago, when Christianity was a much stronger force in culture and only a small minority of people chose atheism. All this is a long way to make a small point: when it comes to the fate of atheists on the other side of this life, there is at least as much reason to hope for their well-being as there is reason to be concerned for them. St. Faustyna said that God's greatest attribute was His Mercy. All a soul has to do is give God the smallest opening, the most uncertain "maybe" – everything afterward is joy. In this way you can see it is the state of the soul that is decisive; souls do not enter Heaven only because they refuse to be happy. Sadly, many people refuse to be happy. Unforgiveness, bitterness, and hatred all reflect this most foolish of all decisions. This is why Jesus taught us to love and forgive *no matter what the cost*.(To be continued…)

  • David

    Finally, I would like to question your view that atheism is plausible. I question whether atheism is plausible because it is not adequate to the whole man. It fails to satisfy. Man has deep and urgent questions, questions that concern the totality of his being, and as atheism provides only trite, feeble answers to these questions, it is finally unimpressive, no matter how well defended on its own terms. The chief reason atheism is a dissatisfying philosophy is that it fails to answer many of the questions man justly demands of reality: Who am I? How did we get here? What is life? Is life worth living – in the face of so much suffering, why should I not end my life? If life is worth living, what is its purpose, and how do I attain to that end? What is love? Is human love ever substantive? What answers the most powerful and pressing needs of my heart – the need for love, truth, justice, beauty, honor, decency, rectitude – and can I ever really be satisfied? And, perhaps most important – why on earth do I have these needs at all? I challenge any materialist to answer this last question persuasively, for a mere sophisticated animal is satisfied with sex organs and raw fish; he has no need for truth that is love or for love that is truth.I realize that atheism does not purport to answer these questions on its own. However, when we realize how important these questions are to us, we demand that they be answered, and answered very well; and I have yet to meet any philosophy flowing from atheism that answers these questions convincingly, that is, with a real respect for the hunger in the question being asked. Instead we normally get some trite answer, an answer that is rational only in the sense of providing reasons, but not rational in the sense of addressing reality in its entirety. For philosophy to matter it must, as I said earlier, be adequate to the whole man. Man wants to know why life is worth living, and he demands a very good answer to this question, one on which he can bet all the struggles of his life. Men much wiser than myself have said that philosophy starts from wonder, but I think it starts from the wound, from the absolute, existential *need to know*. That's where it starts for me, anyway.So it is for these reasons that I believe that the only proven atheist is the suicide. The rest do not take themselves seriously as human beings in need of satisfactory answers.

  • David

    P.S. – Try reading "The Religious Sense" by Msgr. Luigi Giussani. It's available at Amazon.com. Okay – I promise I will leave you alone now! Best wishes to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03543293341085230171 Eli

    "Finally, I would like to question your view that atheism is plausible. I question whether atheism is plausible because it is not adequate to the whole man. It fails to satisfy…"David, two things:1. Atheism fails to satisfy you. Similarly, theism fails to satisfy me. As far as standards go, this one is not helpful.2. Why would our theory of religion necessarily have to satisfy in order to be true? We can have lots of theories about the world – scientific ones, religious ones, ethical ones, aesthetic ones, etc. – so it seems a little silly to just arbitrarily single out one kind of those.

  • David

    Hey, Eli,Thanks for responding. I assume from your remarks and our context that you are writing as an atheist. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Now my responses to each of your points:1.) I think you narrowly missed the point I was making. So let me try spinning your point around this way: you say theism does not satisfy you. Fine. My question for you, however, is this: does your worldview satisfy you? Please bear in mind that I'm not merely asking whether you like atheism. Sometimes I don't like Christianity – but that doesn't really matter. Like you said, what matters is what's true. I'll roll this point forward through your next objection.2.) You ask, "Why would our theory of religion necessarily have to satisfy in order to be true?" Good question. I will begin by answering your question based on my faith as a Catholic, but will attempt from there to present some ideas you might be willing to accept or at least seriously consider as an atheist. I will ask that you suspend the assumption, if you hold it, that the only acceptable evidence is that which is empirically verifiable – for there are many things we come to know without the aid of the scientific method. I'll make a case for this point later if you wish. For now, the argument I probably should have presented earlier. Here goes:

  • David

    You know that in the Christian view one God, infinitely perfect in every conceivable way, created all human beings – and destined them for eternal union with Himself. In other words, God designed us such that our consummate satisfaction would be found in Him – which is to say, in the perfection of beauty, truth, justice, love, and so forth – and did so, of course, so that we would come to realize that the material world is not satisfactory and look beyond it – to Him. These desires are meant to be engines that drive us to our destiny. You, of course, will not agree that our desires serve this purpose. That's fine with me.But at this point I have something I can test. This is where I hope to draw you into the conversation, even though you do not share my outlook. It's important to realize that only I can perform this test – no one else can do it for me because *I* am now the subject of examination. Here is the test: Are there desires within myself this world simply cannot satisfy? And if there are, well – why?I hope I've managed to interest you because I've not yet reached my conclusion. Needless to say, it is not enough to know my question. I must also consider the method by which I will conduct my investigation. Here we come to a pivotal point: the method of inquiry is *always* imposed by the object of study. This is key and we need to pay careful attention to what this means for us here; otherwise everything I'm saying gets lost. So for example, if I want to know something about a microorganism, I will need to use a microscope. If I want to know a certain value in a linear equation, I must apply the appropriate mathematical rules. If I want to know the color of the ball you're holding, I will need to look at the ball rather than your nose. This is obvious, no? The method of inquiry is always imposed by the object of study.

  • David

    The object of study in this case is precisely *me* – and you, if you take up my challenge. How can I study myself? The only real way to do this is by observing myself *in action*. It is not enough to investigate myself in a merely abstract way, sitting here at my computer *imagining* how I might respond in any particular circumstance. No, the investigation must be concrete. It must take place in the context of real, lived events, and not just one time, but many times, through many different circumstances. Only in this way can we begin to gather the information we need to answer our question. The method is imposed by the object of study – in this case me, and I am a living, breathing, temporal creature – not an abstraction I can easily conure in my mind.In the beginning of our investigation, it is not the banal circumstances of our lives that reveal to us the full depths of our desire. If what I have said to you so far seems unlikely or even silly, then I submit to you that the reason may be that we inhabit a culture that is, quite frankly, burgeois. We pass our lives in relative contentment. We are unfamiliar with desire that is not transitory or easily satisfied. I tell you, in a hard world, there are few atheists, and this is not just because people are scared: it is because our desire itself becomes knowledge: in wanting permanence we understand there is permanence. The only way to understand this point is to experience it. Otherwise it sounds like nonsense. I know because I once thought so myself.So we can't begin with, say, our experience of the day at the office. We have to turn to extremes, to those situations that push us to the limit, to those situations that stretch our humanity and tear our hearts wide open. That's where real desire shows up, and that's where we have to start looking. Let me give you a small example of this in my own life. Here my heart was indeed ripped open, wide open, and I felt the immensity of my need for justice and my utter incapacity to satisfy it.

  • David

    One day, I watched a video an acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook. I wasn't prepared for what I was about to see: a group of Middle Eastern men and women gathered around a young woman who had been found sleeping with a man from another tribe. Her own mother had lured her back to her village, promising to protect her; but when she returned, she turned on her. Now the villagers – the people she had known growing up – held up cell phones around her, recording her darkest hour. The cruelty was unbearable. I watched them throw rocks at her, watched the rocks hit her body and head – could almost feel the pain of the blows myself. She crumpled to the ground, falling into a fetal position, and the rocks flew mercilessly. Eventually, she was still and a pool of blood grew around her. She was dead. All this – on Facebook, the most trivial and banal of all places! I thought of my close friend's young daughters, whom I love dearly; I would eagerly die rather than raise a rock to either of those precious, eminently lovable young women. I wish I could have been there with that woman so that she at least would not have died alone, abandoned by the entire world. But the fact is that she had no one. That was the reality. Are there crimes that "cry out to heaven for vengeance"?Every time I remember this video, I feel the need for justice – the need to do something, to make it better, to vindicate this woman who did not deserve to die this way. The fact is that I can do nothing. If I campaign to end stoning in the Middle East – even if I succeed, for all the good that would do, the injustice of that moment continues to exist. If I find and punish every man and woman involved in that scene – even if I succeed, what can remedy the injustice of that moment? Can anything atone for the fact that it happened at all? Is there any punishment adequate to the crime? Even if I could kill them all, what good would it do? None! No, she was stoned by her loved ones, and she is dead – and as for me, thousands of miles away, I demand more than this world can provide. There is a level of evil that stretches our need for justice to infinity.

  • David

    We can try to explain away the rioting demand for justice by calling it an evolved instinct to protect the group. How sterile. I consider this a dehumanizing intellectualism that seeks to distance itself, as much as possible, from the hardest realities life presents us, and in just this way shows itself cowardly and inadequate to the real problem at hand. If we pay attention to the need itself and stop trying to explain it away, it should be clear there is something more at play than some Darwinian trick. And if not, consider: if we are only sophisticated apes, why are we conscious at all? We are we not soulless automatons? An organic robot who cannot *feel* the need for justice as I can would be able to reproduce and fight and eat as well as I. So why am I aware? And, moreover, if I have evolved, I have evolved to suit my environment; why, then, do I experience a desire my environment can never satisfy? How is that adaptive? Keep in mind this is not some bizarre mutation I alone suffer! No, the theory has not explained all the factors we can observe. It's just that we prefer to ignore that which we cannot put under a microscope. We leave out the evidence that does not correspond to the worldview we have accepted. It is not only the believer who can be myopic and self-insulating; the atheist is the same way when he considers it beneath his dignity to examine, and attempt to explain, very real elements of his existence.So in the end I am trying to point to desires whose object lies past the boundary of the natural world. I have a desire for a perfect justice that cannot be repealed, for example. In short, I want perfect, permanent justice – a desire that can never see consummation in this world. Why do I have such a desire if there is nothing more than this world? How does this make sense?Finally, in the beginning of my (now quite long) response I asked whether atheism satisfied you. This is the same as asking whether you consider life worth living. You may very well say atheism is true and it is unsatisfying and that there is no reason life has to be any other way. That's fine. But in that case – why live? It is for this reason that I said earlier: "The only proven atheist is the suicide." I'm not asking you to kill yourself – certainly not. And I'm not using this to prove atheism wrong. I'm trying to point to the fact that the atheist, as long as he takes himself seriously, as long as he takes his deepest questions seriously, cannot possibly stop at the determination that he is an atheist. His search necessarily continues, because he still needs to know why his life is worth living. I merely present this point for your consideration – what you make of it is up to you.

  • David

    Meaning – the man who decides he does not believe in God cannot stop with this decision. His search for meaning necessarily continues, because he has not yet found out whether life is worth living. Again, I am not advancing this as evidence that atheism is false. I am pointing to the need to continue to take ourselves seriously as human beings in search of meaning. Whether this point means anything to you is up to you. I cannot prove to you that you need meaning – you either agree or disagree. But I would propose that only a fool is satisfied with meaninglessness.If you've read this far, thank you for your patience. I'm sorry I was so verbose. From here I will try to be more succinct.Best wishes,David

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    David:> You know that in the Christian view one God, infinitely perfect in every conceivable way,How do we know this? He told us? F*** me, infinitely humble too.> created all human beings – and destined them for eternal union with Himself. In other words, God designed us such that our consummate satisfaction would be found in Him – which is to say, in the perfection of beauty, truth, justice, love, and so forth – and did so, of course, so that we would come to realize that the material world is not satisfactory and look beyond it – to Him.And yet He created us imperfect and thus condemns the vast majority of us to eternal damnation. What happened to omnibenevolent? A truly omnibenevolent creature would find forgiveness for even the worst of us.> if we are only sophisticated apes, why are we conscious at all?Well, that's just ignorant on 2 levels:1. The Catholic church fully accepts evolution.2. Apes are also conscious. AND feel the need for justice (as do virtually all social animals to a degree.)> I asked whether atheism satisfied youNot the same as whether something is true. Of course we'd all like to think that our consciousness transcends life, but wishful thinking doesn't make it so. In fact, anyone thinking of the concept of 'I' will realise how false it is, but that's way too deep for this comment.

  • David

    March Hare, what is striking about your comment is that even while it positively drips with sarcasm and contempt, it fails completely to respond to anything I said. Did you actually read my remarks and try to understand them, or did you scan them quickly, looking for things to attack? This shows me that you're not actually interested in a discussion but only in proving that you're right. That's always a dumb position to take, especially when you're discussing the ultimate nature of reality. I am glad that you mentioned humility in your comment; it is a perfectly appropriate thing to bear in mind here. Given the reactionary style of your comment, I will be foolish to continue the discussion with you at length, but I am a sucker, and I will take the bait and respond to some things you said. In the meanwhile I hope you will go back and actually read my first remarks so that we can carry on the conversation from that point.You asked, "How do we know [that God is infinitely perfect in every conceivable way]? He told us? F*** me, infinitely humble, too." For my answer to your first question, please go back to my comments and start reading from the paragraph that begins thus: "But at this point I have something I can test." Since you did not read my comment, it's easy to understand how you missed the way I already tried to answer precisely this question. Can we start again from the answer I already provided?

  • David

    Your second question: Incidentally, yes. We Christians believe God took it upon Himself to reveal these things – first to Israel, and then to the whole world. There is much to say in this regard, but for now I would just like to point out that I did not ask you to accept Christianity on the basis of revelation. I asked you to consider it on different grounds. Again, please read what I said.Third, there is nothing arrogant about admitting what you are. It would not be arrogant to say to a squirrel, "I have the capacity for rational thought. You do not." No, of course not. This is a matter of telling the truth. Moreover, in the Christian view, it makes perfect sense that God would tell us that He is infinitely perfect – for it is in this way that we know he can satisfy our every desire. It's important that we know these things about Him, if He is really God, and He can really do what He promises. But speaking of humility, March Hare, you know, it is not only the believer who is prone to doubt. You speak very confidently – in fact, to be quite blunt, you speak rudely, arrogantly, and with excessive confidence, as if you somehow were able to directly apprehend reality and thus gain knowledge the rest of stupid folk don't have. In fact, you speak the way I once did to my mother when I was a teenager. What if you are wrong? Has this possibility seriously occurred to you? Maybe it is not wise to take the tone you do about this subject. Reality, whatever it is, is much bigger than you and me. We are only two people doing our best to find out what's underneath it. If God is not infinitely humble, maybe you at least could attempt to be finitely humble.Now, your second point: "And yet He created us imperfect and thus condemns the vast majority of us to eternal damnation."

  • David

    First, it is not Christian doctrine, or at least Catholic doctrine, that God created us imperfect, or that He punishes us for imperfection. Not at all. In the Genesis account, Adam and Eve deliberately disobeyed their Creator. This is called Original Sin, and this is when the possibility of losing God forever first became real for us. The real issue at stake, here, is not what God does with us, but what we do with Him. There is a saying: God cares more for our freedom than our salvation. Our freedom is what creates problems for us – God simply asks, "What would you like to do?" In Christian revelation, God's purpose was to create beings with whom He could share a loving relationship for all eternity. This was sheer gratuity on His part, since He is already infinitely perfect in Himself. The point is that you cannot really share a loving relationship with someone who is not free. This is not love – at best, it is coercion; at worst there is simply no "one" there to love – like trying to love a robot. So in order for God to achieve His goal, He had to create beings who were free. This means they would be free to love Him – and free not to love Him, as well. This is why there is Hell. C.S. Lewis wrote, "The door to hell is locked from the inside." If you do not understand how this makes sense, then you do not understand how it is that people choose unhappiness for themselves. Yet it is happening all around us all the time. It happens, for example, when I choose not to love someone who makes me angry."What happened to omnibenevolent? A truly omnibenevolent creature would find forgiveness for even the worst of us."Yes – but we have to be willing to turn to Him. Have you no familiarity at all with Christian teaching? I'm starting to feel like a missionary!

  • David

    With respect to my question, "If we are only sophisticated apes, why are we conscious at all?" You said, "The Catholic Church fully accepts evolution" and "Apes are also conscious." Neither of your points answer my question. They are a perfect miss. Yes, the Church accepts evolution – though I question your use of the word "fully"; from what I understand she accepts evolution in a necessarily qualified fashion – but the Church does not say that consciousness emerged through evolutionary processes. She says it is the preternatural order – not the natural order – that is the basis for human awareness, even though consciousness may rely on the mechanisms of the natural order (e.g., the brain) to express its functionality. So again I ask you or any materialist – why is there consciousness at all? What purpose does it serve? How does this "fit" a Darwinian worldview? Why are we not automatons?You also pointed out – tiresomely – that asking whether something is satisfying is not the same as asking whether it is true. I cannot go through the trouble to rewrite everything I have already said on this topic, especially when it is all right there for you to read. If you want to continue the conversation, please, please go back to my initial remarks, *read them*, and *respond to them* – rather than cherrypicking ancillary points I made that had little or no bearing on my actual argument, which is what you've done here.And for my favorite point: "… but that's way too deep for this comment."No problem, Joe Camel. One question, though: Do you mean to imply that there was any depth to your comment at all? ;-D

  • David

    *** Obviously, some comboxes are too complex for the use of a simple believer like myself. Please start reading from here and then go back to the remaining comments. Thanks. ***March Hare, what is striking about your comment is that even while it positively drips with sarcasm and contempt, it fails completely to respond to anything I said. Did you actually read my remarks and try to understand them, or did you scan them quickly, looking for things to attack? This shows me that you're not actually interested in a discussion but only in proving that you're right. That's always a dumb position to take, especially when you're discussing the ultimate nature of reality. I am glad that you mentioned humility in your comment; it is a perfectly appropriate thing to bear in mind here. Given the reactionary style of your comment, I will be foolish to continue the discussion with you at length, but I am a sucker, and I will take the bait and respond to some things you said. In the meanwhile I hope you will go back and actually read my first remarks so that we can carry on the conversation from that point.You asked, "How do we know [that God is infinitely perfect in every conceivable way]? He told us? F*** me, infinitely humble, too." For my answer to your first question, please go back to my comments and start reading from the paragraph that begins thus: "But at this point I have something I can test." Since you did not read my comment, it's easy to understand how you missed the way I already tried to answer precisely this question. Can we start again from the answer I already provided?

  • David

    *** Frig! I am making a COMPLETE mess out of my comments here. Alright. Look, here's the order in which to read these comments: The comment immediately preceding this one is the first one. The first comment is the second one to read. The second one is the third. And this one below is the final one: ***With respect to my question, "If we are only sophisticated apes, why are we conscious at all?" You said, "The Catholic Church fully accepts evolution" and "Apes are also conscious." Neither of your points answer my question. They are a perfect miss. Yes, the Church accepts evolution – though I question your use of the word "fully"; from what I understand she accepts evolution in a necessarily qualified fashion – but the Church does not say that consciousness emerged through evolutionary processes. She says it is the preternatural order – not the natural order – that is the basis for human awareness, even though consciousness may rely on the mechanisms of the natural order (e.g., the brain) to express its functionality. So again I ask you or any materialist – why is there consciousness at all? What purpose does it serve? How does this "fit" a Darwinian worldview? Why are we not automatons?You also pointed out – tiresomely – that asking whether something is satisfying is not the same as asking whether it is true. I cannot go through the trouble to rewrite everything I have already said on this topic, especially when it is all right there for you to read. If you want to continue the conversation, please, please go back to my initial remarks, *read them*, and *respond to them* – rather than cherrypicking ancillary points I made that had little or no bearing on my actual argument, which is what you've done here.And for my favorite point: "… but that's way too deep for this comment."No problem, Joe Camel. One question, though: Do you mean to imply that there was any depth to your comment at all? ;-D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    David, it's not your fault. Blogger's new spam filter catches a lot that isn't, and I have to log on and approve each one. You had the bad luck to post while I was offline. If you have this problem again, I will put your messages through when I next get online, which is several times a day.Delete any that are repeats yourself, and then I'll remove them permanently.–Leah

  • David

    March Hare, the bottom line of everything I am saying is this: Is life worth living? We may as well forget everything else we're arguing until we address this point, because this is the most important question we can possibly ask. It is more important than knowing why consciousness makes sense in an evolutionary framework, more important than quibbling over the details of Christian doctrine, more important than proving who is right. The question is – Is life worth living? And answering this question is not solely a matter of tracing out correct philosophy, though this is a necessary step. Fundamentally we cannot answer this question unless we engage with reality. It is not only asking, "What is life?" but also, "Is it enough for me?" I have to be honest with you, March Hare: I could not care less whether you give me your answer to this question. I really couldn't. Only I can ask this question of myself, and only I can know whether my answer is finally satisfying. Only you can ask this question of yourself, and only you can know whether your answer is finally satisfying.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05333871014217027441 red_horizon0127

    Okay, Leah. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05333871014217027441 red_horizon0127

    Look, I don't want to carry on a tiresome debate about every conceivable issue related to atheism and Christianity. We could spend our lives debating such matters and ultimately wind up nowhere. In fact, as I see it, if we spend a lot of time quibbling about these matters, we really wind up missing the point altogether. I have presented my thoughts – what you do with them is entirely in your hands.So, March Hare and other possible contenders, thank you, but from here I will respectfully bow out of the discussion. Sincerest best wishes,David Casson

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