Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Arguments for the existence of God

posted by Rod Dreher

I’ve just started a novel called “36 Arguments for the Existence of God,” by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. It will be released next week. Here’s what the author says on Amazon about her book:

Dinner party hostesses used to be warned to steer the conversation away from politics and religion. I used to wonder why, but I don’t anymore. There are some differences that reveal rifts so deep that dialogue breaks down. Among these are the current debates that have been raging between God-believers and the so-called new atheists. It often seems that people on one side can’t begin to grasp what the world is like, what it feels like, for those on the other side. When the person with whom one is conversing appears utterly opaque, then mistrust and contempt are easily aroused: How can he be saying that when the opposite seems so obvious to me? Is he stupid, dishonest, maybe just a touch evil? These are not the sort of suspicions that the gracious hostess wants intruding at her candle-lit dinner table.

But for me, as a novelist, it’s differences like these, indicating entirely different orientations toward the world, which are the most tantalizing to explore. Arguments alone can’t capture all that is at stake for people when they argue about issues of reason and faith. In the end, I place my faith in fiction, in its power to make vividly present how different the world feels to each of us and how these differences are sometimes what is really being expressed in the great debates of our day on the existence of God.

The novel’s protagonist, Cass Seltzer, is a psychologist and a rising academic superstar who has achieved notoriety for a popular book advocating atheism. His book purports to explain religion and religious experience as psychological phenomena. He has been called an “atheist with a soul” because he seems to understand so well the religious sensibility, even though he doesn’t share it. Or doesn’t he? I’m only 150 pages into the book, and it’s emerging that even though Cass, a secular Jew descended from a revered Hasidic family, has no formal religion, his religious sense seems to be inborn. “36 Arguments” is a philosophical novel, and I’m dying to see where it’s going to end up.

The title made me reflect on how I’ve never been able to take arguments for God’s existence seriously. As an undergraduate philosophy minor, I ought to have mastered at least the basic arguments enough to know why I didn’t believe in them. What happened to me was that I read Kierkegaard, who convinced me that trying to demonstrate God’s existence logically was pointless. Even if you could construct an airtight logical proof of His existence, if someone was determined not to believe, he could always find a way out of it. Besides which, if you prove at 3:00 in the afternoon that God exists, what do you do with yourself at 3:30?

As I see it, trying to prove that God exists is about like trying to prove that my wife loves me. It really can’t be done. Granted, I can point to all the various things she’s done for me that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that yes, she loves me. But one could always claim that what I call evidence of her love is not evidence of “love,” as I conceive of it, but rather what she does — perhaps unknowingly — out of selfish motives. Yet I know that my wife loves me because I have felt the presence of her love many times — so many times that I can’t doubt it. And her love for me has caused me to deepen my love for her, in a bond of mutual communion. There is no algorithm for this, no syllogism. But there it is. Perhaps we are mutually deluded, trapped in our subjectivity. Or perhaps scientistic sorts who believe love is an illusion are like explorers who, speaking only their native tongue, land in China and conclude that the people there are obvious clods because they only speak gibberish.

I think religion is like that too. If I hadn’t had numerous experiences of God — or rather, what I am certain are experiences of the divine presence — I don’t think I would be a believer. And yet, there are people who are far more eager to experience the numinous than I, who wait in vain. Why does this happen? I think of my sister, a regular churchgoer who, as far as I know, has never doubted God for one minute of her life, and who is as solid as a rock in her Methodism. I, raised in the same household, have had a volatile religious life, one marked by periods of passion, and profound mystical experiences that I haven’t sought, but which … just happened. I would not claim that one of us is more faithful than the other, but rather that we are very different in our orientations toward faith, especially in our spiritual and emotional templates. What’s interesting to me, and mysterious, is how some people seem to be born with a religious sense imprinted on their characters, and others simply don’t have that same openness. To what extent is the religious sense a matter of nature, or nurture? In “36 Arguments,” Rebecca Newburger Goldstein has created a protagonist who has been raised by parents that rejected religion, and who lives and thrives in an intellectual world that rejects religion. And yet, there is something about him that is so naturally religious.

Again, I’m eager to see where Cass goes. Early in the book, we learn that his work involves the exploration of the religious sense permeating most human endeavors. Yet the reader, at least nearing the halfway point of the novel, is given to understand that Cass’s skepticism amid his enduring interest in the religious sense has to do with his intense relationship to an academic guru who was either a true spiritual sage, or a bona fide egomanical nut. It’s not clear which. 

What do you think? Are there any arguments for the existence of God that convince you? Is it pointless to construct such arguments? To what extent is the religious sense a matter of nature, or nurture?  

<b>UPDATE:</b> Here is a link to an excerpt from the novel’s first chapter.  It also includes the lengthy appendix, which lists 36 actual arguments for God’s existence, and what Goldstein identifies as flaws with them. Great reading. Thanks to reader MEH for the link.

<b>UPDATE.2:</b> Here’s a must-read interview with Goldstein and her partner, the Harvard scientist Steven Pinker. Both, by the way, are atheists, but Goldstein is notably more sympathetic to the religious sense than Pinker. Excerpt:

Virtually all religious believers think the mind cannot be reduced to the physical mechanics of the brain. Of course, many believe the mind is what communicates with God. Would you agree that the mind-brain question is one of the key issues in the “science and religion” debate?

PINKER: I think so. It’s a very deep intuition that people are more than their bodies and their brains, that when someone dies, their consciousness doesn’t go out of existence, that some part of us can be up and about in the world while our body stays in one place, that we can’t just be a bunch of molecules in motion. It’s one that naturally taps into religious beliefs. And the challenge to that deep-seated belief from neuroscience, evolutionary biology and cognitive science has put religion and science on the public stage. I think it’s one of the reasons you have a renewed assault on religious beliefs from people like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.

The neuroscientific worldview — the idea that the mind is what the brain does — has kicked away one of the intuitive supports of religion. So even if you accepted all of the previous scientific challenges to religion — the earth revolving around the sun, animals evolving and so on — the immaterial soul was always one last thing that you could keep as being in the province of religion. With the advance of neuroscience, that idea has been challenged.

Some prominent scholars of the mind have not adopted the strict materialist position. The atheist Sam Harris, who’s a neuroscientist by training, says he’s not at all sure that consciousness can be reduced to brain function. He told me he’s had various uncanny — what some would call telepathic — experiences. And there’s David Chalmers, the philosopher, who’s also critical of the materialist view of the mind. He has argued that the physical laws of science will never explain consciousness.

GOLDSTEIN: It’s interesting. Actually, my doctoral dissertation was on the irreducibility of the mind to the physical. We have not been able to derive what it’s like to be a mind from the physical description of the brain. So if you were to look at my brain right now, I would have to tell you what it is that I’m experiencing. You can’t simply get it out of the physical description. So where does that leave us? It might mean that we’re not our brain. It might mean that we have an incomplete description of the brain. Our science is not sufficient to explain how this extraordinary thing happens — that a lump of matter becomes an entire world. But the irreducibility doesn’t in itself show immaterialism. And you can turn it around and say, look, all the neurophysiology that we have so far shows there is a correlation between certain physical states and mental states. And even a dualist like Descartes said there’s a one-to-one correlation between the physical and the mental. So I’m not sure that we’ve settled this question once and for all.

PINKER: I’m also sympathetic to Chalmers’ view. It might not be the actual stuff of the brain that makes us conscious so much as it is the information processing. I don’t think Chalmers’ view would give much support to a traditional religious view about the existence of a soul. He says that consciousness resides in information. So a computer could be conscious and a thermostat could have a teensy bit of consciousness as well. Still, the information content requires some kind of physical medium to support the distinctions that make up the information. And the Cartesian idea that there are two kinds of stuff in the universe — mind and matter — doesn’t find a comfortable home in current views of consciousness, even those of Chalmers.

I know neither of you believes in paranormal experiences like telepathy or clairvoyant dreams or contact with the dead. But hypothetically, suppose even one of these experiences were proven beyond a doubt to be real. Would the materialist position on the mind-brain question collapse in a single stroke?

PINKER: Yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, if there was no other explanation. We’d need to have such clear evidence. I have to tell you, I’ve had some uncanny experiences. Once, in fact, I had a very strange experience where I seemed to be getting information from a dead person. I racked my brain trying to figure out how this could be happening. I did come up with an explanation for how I could reason this away. But it was a very powerful experience. If it could truly be demonstrated that there was more to a human being than the physical body, this would have tremendous implications.

  

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Houghton

posted January 4, 2010 at 2:03 am


It takes a special kind of hubris for anyone to suggest they can definitively argue for proof of God. On the other hand, Christians should be willing to engage in philosophy and apologetics, so they can be vigorous defenders of their faith from an intellectual as well as spiritual standpoint. I highly recommend the work of Peter Kreeft or William Lane Craig.
Congrats on the new blog.



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Jacob

posted January 4, 2010 at 3:42 am


“As I see it, trying to prove that God exists is about like trying to prove that my wife loves me. It really can’t be done. Granted, I can point to all the various things she’s done for me that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that yes, she loves me. But one could always claim that what I call evidence of her love is not evidence of “love,” as I conceive of it, but rather what she does — perhaps unknowingly — out of selfish motives. Yet I know that my wife loves me because I have felt the presence of her love many times — so many times that I can’t doubt it.”
Is this really analogous? Parsimony suggests that your wife loves you, because it’s a more plausible and simpler explanation of how she acts than her putting on a charade for some nefarious purpose. But (and of course people will disagree with me here) that doesn’t seem to apply to God. I don’t think there’s anything that makes “God exists” a more reasonable or simpler hypothesis than the opposite. The classic arguments that try to show that that possibility of God is reasonable, like the argument from design, don’t seem to be taken very seriously either by you or by philosophers.



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meh

posted January 4, 2010 at 6:15 am

John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 6:16 am


To what extent is the religious sense a matter of nature, or nurture?
I would not be surprised if it were demonstrated that the brain structure and/or chemistry of True Believers differed in measurable ways from those of nominal believers and skeptics.
Are there any arguments for the existence of God that convince you?
As I see it, trying to prove that God exists is about like trying to prove that my wife loves me.
I’ve seen this sort of comparison before and I don’t get it since it seems to compare two different qualities – Existence and Love. Try comparing the existence of God to the existence of ones spouse.
I believe in the existence of my wife because it is demonstrated every morning when I wake up next to her.
If God exists and loves us and wants a relationship with us, what possible sense would it make that God would not make His Presence known to us at least as clearly as my wife makes hers known to me?
Or, to look at it from another angle, if someone told you that a woman existed who was your wife and you owed your loyalty to her – but that it was literally impossible for you to see her or have a two – way conversation with her, but if you were fortunate you might be granted a sense of her presence and you could talk to her at any time by speaking out loud and she would hear you – – well, would you believe that was true in any meaningful way?



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Rod Dreher

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:44 am


Jacob: The classic arguments that try to show that that possibility of God is reasonable, like the argument from design, don’t seem to be taken very seriously either by you or by philosophers.
Well, I do admit in this blog entry that I probably ought to take them more seriously. Still, I do wonder if it is possible for anyone to be argued intellectually into believing God exists. For whatever reason, God — in Whom I believe, obviously — has chosen to disclose Himself indirectly, at least to most of His creatures. I don’t know why He has chosen this method, but because it is mysterious to me — that is, because if I were God, I wouldn’t have done it that way –doesn’t make it untrue.
Someone — I think Marshall McLuhan, but I could be wrong — once said that everyone he knew who had lost his faith had begun by ceasing to pray. From an Orthodox Christian point of view, there is a direct connection between activating one’s nous — the part of the human being that is receptive to God’s presence, and the spiritual — and one’s openness to God. In other words, God did not create us to know Him primarily through the brain, i.e., through the organ of ordinary cognition. This is not to say we aren’t to think about God, but only to say that it’s a fundamental mistake to think that one can know God through cognition. In classic Orthodoxy, the title “theologian” is applied not to someone who knows God through study, but someone who “knows” Him through intense prayer and fasting. The difference here is that suggested by the two German words for “to know” — “kennen,” meaning “to know” in the sense that you know another person, and “wissen,” meaning “to know” in the sense that you know a fact.



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Jeff

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:44 am


I believe this is the same Rebecca Goldstein who wrote “The Mind-Body Problem” back in the early 1980s, which has a marvelous precis of modern philosophers along with a not uninteresting plot. And if i recall on this cold and groggy morning, was if not is married to Stephen Pinker, he of “The Blank Slate,” a neuroscientist of no small reknown.



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Hector

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:59 am


Rod,
I disagree with you about logical arguments for the existence of God- I think there are lots of people who have been convinced by them. For myself, while there were certainly personal experiences and intuitive reasons why I became a believer, some of those logical arguments certainly helped me from sliding back into atheism by persuading me that the existence of God was, at least, as reasonable as the alternative. Reason can, and should, be an ally of revelation.
Personally I like the ontological proof of St. Anselm, at least in the updated twentieth-century versions put forth by Hartshorne and Plantinga. Hartshorne was, of course, a liberal Unitarian and thus out to lunch on many theological issues, but on the basic question of God’s existence he provided solid and sound arguments against atheism. It seems to me to be the strongest, partly because it proves more than the others- not just that God exists but that He must be perfect. The argument from design, of course, has some glaring flaws and I don’t really care for it, but the cosmological proof is strong as well. I’ve been also told that St. Augustine’s argument from degrees of perfection is a good one.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:06 am


In classic Orthodoxy, the title “theologian” is applied not to someone who knows God through study, but someone who “knows” Him through intense prayer and fasting.
The problem I see there is that intense prayer and fasting are related to what are commonly known as ‘brainwashing’ techniques.
Although Tradition claims that this method of knowing is not through cognition, the techniques used alter the organ of cognition.
It is also worth noting that several other religious traditions use this sort of meditative technique for the purpose of centering the devotees thoughts on their object of worship. This suggests a general brain function and not a demonstration of the existence of a specific Deity.
The mental states created by LSD, marijuana, and psilocybin are also instructive in this context.



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billh

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:20 am


I think there are reasonable arguments for faith in God. I think they are made ably by GK Chesterton and CS Lewis classically. I also commend current authors like Craig and Kreeft, as well as Ravi Zacharias.
Still, your point about being convinced is a good one, I think. I believe that there is a reasonable basis for belief and one should be prepared to make that defense, as noted by Peter in
<< 1 Peter 3:15 New International Version
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
If Christians took both parts of this more seriously: Be Prepared and Gentleness and Respect, we wouldn’t be giving reasons against believing.
My own faith, is bolstered by intellectual and rational arguments, but that only gets you so far, there is still that gap of logic and that’s where faith lies.



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mdavid

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:28 am


Rod, Besides which, if you prove at 3:00 in the afternoon that God exists, what do you do with yourself at 3:30?
I would look at it the other way around. If you prove at 3:00 that God doesn’t exist, what the heck do you do with yourself at 3:30? Slit your wrists? There certainly isn’t any reason to do anything at all; life has zero meaning and humans have no value at that point. Any future action makes no sense at all.
John, I would not be surprised if it were demonstrated that the brain structure and/or chemistry of True Believers differed in measurable ways from those of nominal believers and skeptics.
Sure. But this wouldn’t prove anything except evolution is real in humans (which we already know). In fact, we should expect to see differences between true believers & others, since they tend not to breed much together. Hence any pre-existing brain differences will become more pronounced. Since traits follow each other merely through genetic linage, cause and effect are impossible to glean any meaning from. Intelligent believers and non-believers both have long come to grips with how humans evolve; it doesn’t prove anything except God has a long time horizon and loves diversity. Which we already knew.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:50 am


mdavid – it would be interesting to artificially induce the effects of the believer’s brain chemistry/structure in the unbeliever and vice versa to see if that changed their outlook.



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meh

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:09 am


mdavid: ” If you prove at 3:00 that God doesn’t exist, what the heck do you do with yourself at 3:30? Slit your wrists? There certainly isn’t any reason to do anything at all; life has zero meaning and humans have no value at that point. Any future action makes no sense at all.”
Lot’s of people know that smoking is bad for them and still smoke anyway. We don’t always act on what we know.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:14 am


I know neither of you believes in paranormal experiences like telepathy or clairvoyant dreams or contact with the dead. But hypothetically, suppose even one of these experiences were proven beyond a doubt to be real. Would the materialist position on the mind-brain question collapse in a single stroke?
I’m not sure if telepathy collapses the materialist position – there could be an explanation analogous to the way radio waves induce a similar signal in a radio. Not that telepathy has been shown to exist.
Survival of the personality after death would, of course, collapse the materialist position.



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mdavid

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:20 am


meh, Lot’s of people know that smoking is bad for them and still smoke anyway. We don’t always act on what we know.
My argument is that there are no atheists. If they did really not believe, their actions would be very different.
That is very different from a person doing dangerous things like smoking. He knows he will die eventually; it’s perfectly rational.



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meh

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:32 am


mdavid, surely there are some atheists. Some people do slit their wrists. ;-)



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TTT

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:33 am


mdavid:
If you prove at 3:00 that God doesn’t exist, what the heck do you do with yourself at 3:30? Slit your wrists? There certainly isn’t any reason to do anything at all; life has zero meaning and humans have no value at that point.
Since atheists very much can and do value their own lives, it is rather ghoulish to suggest that they actually don’t and might as well be dead.
If human life has no intrinsic value, then borrowing some from an invisible alien wouldn’t make it any more intrinsically valuable–especially since the same “loan” could just as easily have been made to a rock–and the believers should be no more eager to cling to this still-worthless life than your hypothetical atheists. Indeed, if we’re going to open the door to these ghoulish hypotheticals, one could wonder why a life sparked by perfect magic, and with an immediate replacement available after expiration, would be truly valuable at all.



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Saint Andeol

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:38 am


wow, the second post on the new blog and it’s already “Is there a God?” this is gonna be a good blog :) i guess i should respond to something . . .
mdavid: “My argument is that there are no atheists. If they did really not believe, their actions would be very different.”
wow, talk about wide reaching assumptions. atheism = nihilism??? it’s arguements like this that give the whole debate a bad name.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:49 am


mdavid – even religious people sometimes do things that have no Intrinsic Ultimate Meaning.
Why is it so hard to believe that a person might choose to live an entire life that has no Intrinsic Ultimate Meaning?
mdavid: “My argument is that there are no atheists. If they did really not believe, their actions would be very different.”
Perhaps mdavid is projecting his world view onto others and assuming that everyone must believe what they do has Ultimate Meaning, otherwise they wouldn’t do anything.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:07 am


I’ve long held that matters of the spirit are “non-rationl”. Connotations for “irrationl” are stipulated, though having tried to engage in discussin using the latter term have proven a waste of time.
For me, the dichotomy is between objective and subjective. One can, I submit, reduce every “rationl” argument about deity to at least on subjective premise. That, I assert, is why faith remains a non-rational topic.
billh put it best, above (emphasis added): My own faith, is bolstered by intellectual and rational arguments, but that only gets you so far, there is still that gap of logic and that’s where faith lies.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:11 am


Good golly gsh (ahem), my typing is terrible this morning. Please fill in the missing letters in my first post. ;-)
I would add that “arguments” — or, rather, attempts to convince — are really efforts to share one’s subjective view with another. The success or failure of those efforts rests on the ability (and willingness) of the listener to partake of one’s subjective view and make it his or her own subjective view.



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MH

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:12 am


Personally I am less interested in arguments for the existence of God than I am about evidence for the existence of God. Such evidence would need to be of a kind that couldn’t be explained by a simpler hypothesis. Some examples: messages encoded into fundamental constants of the Universe, holy books containing knowledge beyond human capability to generate, digitally signed holy books using God’s private key and finding the public key encoded into physical constants. I’m not sure I would trust a personal experience of God as that would be subjective and I might be crazy.
I also agree with John E that people are wired up differently. I was a science major and went into engineering because of interest and temperament. So I suspect my religious skepticism is linked to that.



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Crustacean

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:37 am


However shaky the strictly logical grounds for theism may be, the logical grounds for atheism are at least as shaky as those, if not more so.
The belief that there is no God is open to all the same modes of attempted rebuttal as is the belief that God exists.
Atheism is open to the same charges of wishful thinking, self-delusion, and self-service as theism is.
It can easily be argued that atheists merely wish that there was no God, that they delude themselves into believing there is not, because the absence of a God would be far more convenient for the furthering of atheists’ personal ends and certain larger social ends frequently desired by atheists than is the presence of God.
Neither Goldstein — let alone Pinker — is any more “objective” an assessor of the various arguments for the presence or the absence of God than is Rod Dreher or anyone else.
The irrational belief that we really ought to be addressing here is the belief that human logic alone can arrive at any really objective and certain knowledge of the universe in which finite and fallible humans exist.
Nothing did more to breathe new life and fresh vigor into theistic argument than the purported “death” of God in the nineteenth century.
Perhaps a similar “death” of logic or reason or science or enlightenment would breathe the same kind of new life, the same kind of fresh vigor, into atheistic argument.
It would be a refreshing change of pace from Ditchkins, et al, who are analogous in the realm of philosophy and theology to Young Earth Creationists in the realm of physical science.



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billh

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:48 am


I admire the way Paschal puts it:
One must know when it is right to doubt, to affirm, to submit. Anyone who does otherwise does not understand the force of reason. Some men run counter to these three principles, either affirming that everything can be proved because they know nothing about proof, or doubting everything because they do not know when to submit, or always submitting, because they do not know when judgment is called for.
If we submit everything to reason, our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.
Pensees, 171 and 173



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Saint Andeol

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:50 am


i think a big problem with this whole debate is the word “God”. are we talking about arguments for the existence of a divine presence, a conscious creator, or are we arguing for the existence of the God of Abraham, for the right to say “The Bible is true”?



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:19 am


i think a big problem with this whole debate is the word “God”.
Yep…
are we talking about arguments for the existence of a divine presence, a conscious creator…
For that matter, why not an unconscious creator?



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MH

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:33 am


John E, by an unconscious creator do you mean impersonal natural forces, or a conscious being that creates our universe as a by product of some other activity and is unaware of their creation?
Also, I see a parallel for arguments about the existence of God with the parallel postulate in geometry. For centuries no one could prove parallel lines don’t converge or diverge, but it seemed non-nonsensical to assume otherwise. It wasn’t until modern mathematics that people started asking what if it wasn’t true? The result was three separate geometries were developed which dealt separate with these three cases. While these geometries are all internally consistent and useful, only one of them could describe the universe we inhabit. Only a measurement could answer that question, as it turns out we live in a flat universe, so the parallel postulate is true.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm


MH
January 4, 2010 11:33 AM
John E, by an unconscious creator do you mean impersonal natural forces, or a conscious being that creates our universe as a by product of some other activity and is unaware of their creation?
The latter. Also, perhaps not unaware, but merely indifferent.



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Geoff G.

posted January 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm


Crustacean
Atheism is open to the same charges of wishful thinking, self-delusion, and self-service as theism is.
I think this is largely true. Both atheism and theism make claims about the existence of God in the absence of evidence one way or the other. Both are positive statements made without any reference to facts, although I suppose atheists can make an argument that the existence of a thing should be presumed to be false until proven otherwise.
This is generally our default assumption. After all, I’ve never seen a unicorn and have no evidence that unicorns exist, so my default assumption is that they don’t in fact exist.
Still, the logical arguments are generally enough to move me from a default position of atheism to a position of agnosticism.
***
On the general topic of proofs for God’s existence, I think that the heavy lifting isn’t actually evidence that God exists or created the universe. Both of those propositions seem quite plausible to me.
The stumbling point is the further assumption that that God takes an active interest interest in human affairs and moreover demands worship according to the dictates of one (and only one) religious faith.
This is the problem that arguments like Pascal’s Wager fail to address. How do I know that God wishes me to worship in one particular way? And even if I take that question as a given, how do I know whether He wishes me to be a Muslim or Catholic or Baptist or Hindu or Buddhist?
The answer to this question is (for most people) a question of accident of birth and heritage and (for the rest), I imagine, a question of intuition. Chance and intuition strike me as rather shaky foundations to build a theology on.



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Geoff G.

posted January 4, 2010 at 1:50 pm


John E.
The latter. Also, perhaps not unaware, but merely indifferent.
There have been interesting articles about the possibility of human beings creating artificial universes (although we would not have the ability to actually observe what has happening inside of them).
It is entirely possible (by which I mean the probability that it is true is non-zero; I make no claims about whether such a claim is likely or not) that we inhabit such an artificial universe and that our creator is actually someone rather like us and is entirely unaware of what is happening within his creation.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm


Geoff G. – Yikes! Can you point me towards links to some of these articles?



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Franklin Evans

posted January 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm


John, there a NPR article linked under the word “articles” in Geoff’s post. The general topic derives from “M-theory” and the alternate search strings are “membrane” “brane” and (I kid you not) “p-brane”. The Wiki page for Membrane theory is flagged, so may not be a good starting point.



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Andy

posted January 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm


In the interview, Peter Singer seems to equate the religious view with dualism, with the idea that spirit and matter are two separate and opposed substances. But Christianity, at least, is not dualist. It’s anti-dualist–it regards dualism as the “gnostic heresy”. The doctrine of the trinity is about reconciling these opposites. Christians don’t regard soul as an “immaterial substance” distinct from the body–if we did, we wouldn’t confess that we believe in “the resurrection of the dead” every week.



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Rick

posted January 4, 2010 at 3:19 pm


Christians don’t regard soul as an “immaterial substance” distinct from the body-
Hmmm. But don’t almost all Christians hold that the dead are alive and conscious even before the resurrection of the body at the end of time?



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Steve

posted January 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm


Rod wrote: “I think religion is like that too. If I hadn’t had numerous experiences of God — or rather, what I am certain are experiences of the divine presence — I don’t think I would be a believer.”
What experiences are you referring to? I’m an atheist. I haven’t experienced anything remotely similar to an intelligent being capable of contributing to the existence of the known universe.



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hlvanburen

posted January 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm


“The irrational belief that we really ought to be addressing here is the belief that human logic alone can arrive at any really objective and certain knowledge of the universe in which finite and fallible humans exist.”
But is it not the same human reasoning/logic that brings one to the point of accepting the existence of God? The very act of accepting that existence is an act of the human will, is it not? Therefore is it not also a cognitive act predicated upon some form of human reasoning?
If one accepts the notion that belief in God is encoded in our psyche through some form of biological mechanism, then the huge variety of expressions of that belief would also speak to some form of cognitive function/human reasoning attached to that biological mechanism, would it not?
I have a difficult time accepting the notion that human reasoning can be excluded from, or even minimized within, this process.



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Larry

posted January 4, 2010 at 4:28 pm


Well, I looked at her 36 reasons, and she made a huge blunder in the first one, which pretty much eviscerates her critique of it. I don’t have time to look at the rest of them right now, but that is not a good start.



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Andy

posted January 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm


“Hmmm. But don’t almost all Christians hold that the dead are alive and conscious even before the resurrection of the body at the end of time?”
I think a lot of modern Christians do, in an unthinking sort of way. I think the doctrine of soul as an immaterial substance is an artifact of this scientific era. When only measurable, quantifiable things can be said to have existence, then the soul must be redefined as a measurable thing distinct from the body. It’s no coincidence that Spiritualism, with its silliness about “ectoplasm” and “astral projection” and all, thrived in the late 19th century, the high-water point for scientific materialism.
Aquinas, and other pre-modern doctors of the Church, see the soul more simply as the faculty of free will, rather than as some sort of substance.



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Roland de Chanson

posted January 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm


Rod: Besides which, if you prove at 3:00 in the afternoon that God exists, what do you do with yourself at 3:30?
I don’t know. Fly a plane into a skyscraper?
36 arguments? Sounds a bit pleonastic. Aquinas whittled it down to five.
I am not theologically very sophisticated. I’ve never had a mystical experience. Well, maybe once in college. I actually did see a unicorn and it was smiling. It later turned out that someone spiked the grass with angel dust. But it did convince me that St. Paul and Mohammed really did see something that no one else could. Mind you, that’s no reason to credit their phantasmagorias.
Xenophanes always seemed to me to have his head screwed on right. He skewered the Theogony but good. He’d have done the same to Yahweh and Elohim if he’d heard of them.
Despite Xenophanes, I may actually still be an atheist. But I’m a Catholic atheist. I don’t believe in Heaven but I’m scared to death of Hell.
I will now go read the 36 reasons. I am not hopeful. I think I have proved that my wife exists. She has a much bigger mouth than God.



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Jillian

posted January 4, 2010 at 5:51 pm


I would look at it the other way around. If you prove at 3:00 that God doesn’t exist, what the heck do you do with yourself at 3:30? Slit your wrists? There certainly isn’t any reason to do anything at all; life has zero meaning and humans have no value at that point. Any future action makes no sense at all.
Didn’t you argue for absolute value to a form of social relations- family- on this blog just yesterday?
Btw, there’s an interesting spat on Front Porch Republic at the moment. A fellow has beautifully jammed up grand poobah John Willson about whether family or Church is the ultimate social institution for conservatives.
(That place was ideologically fatally wounded the day someone pointed out that localism has no serious corrective for bigotry and narcissism- a thing the natives denied unconvincingly and laughed off, but it’s been ailing ever since.)
Sure. But this wouldn’t prove anything except evolution is real in humans (which we already know). In fact, we should expect to see differences between true believers & others, since they tend not to breed much together. Hence any pre-existing brain differences will become more pronounced. Since traits follow each other merely through genetic linage, cause and effect are impossible to glean any meaning from. Intelligent believers and non-believers both have long come to grips with how humans evolve; it doesn’t prove anything except God has a long time horizon and loves diversity. Which we already knew.
Well, take the hypothetical case of a person with an undiagnosed, or unadmitted, mild form of bipolar disorder. This person has a variety of experiences he terms mystical and also has the sensory hallucinations and drives that bipolar people do at times. The evidence from his life over the course of years is that he remains essentially bipolar and he makes at best minor advances in his real psychological makeup. He doesn’t test his experiences, he uses them to verify beliefs already held ideologically. He asserts his experiences are basis for a strong religious faith.
In this case, is this person’s bipolar disorder a form of human evolution? Is it living by truth? Is it religiosity or pose? Should we admire him or pity him?



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted January 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm


I would offer first that scientific proof of the existence of God is impossible, as is scientific proof that God does not exist. This is the fundamental weakness of the rather reductionist debate between creationists and evolutionary atheists. (They are really only arguing about one limited aspect of God, but the error is the same).
There is no experiment which can be performed which will test for the hypothesis “There is a God.” No set of results from any experiment could demonstrate a higher or lower likelihood that God exists. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, a prayer granted can be logically employed to prove that prayer does not work: there is always a chain of physical circumstances which are the result of the prayer being granted. A cynic can say “See, it would have happened anyway.”
In fact, if there is a God, then the infinite metaphysical realm in which God has its being lies, by definition, outside of the created material realm in which science can study and identify predictable laws.
Abraham, assuming there was such a person, and assuming his life experiences are as recorded in Genesis, did not think deep thoughts about God. God spoke to him and said “I am El-Shaddai.” Abraham believed him. God spoke to Moses and said “I AM.” Moses believed him. It is credibly recorded that receiving such communications is a terrifying experience, so they may have been afraid to express the slightest doubt. Most of us are not blessed with such fright.
There are ways in which the observations of science appear to be congruent with what we have been told about God. In particular, of all the creation myths in the world, only one says that everything began with a great burst of light. As it happens, this coincides with the universally accepted theory of what the stray background radiation picked up by certain satellites tells us about the beginning of the universe, ex nihilo, some thirteen billion years ago. How did Moses know that, without telescopes, radio telescopes, satellites? Maybe someone who watched it all happen told him. Who would that be?
But in the end, “We walk be faith, not by sight.” Perhaps there is a reason people walk by faith, perhaps there is a sense of purpose or belonging, but it is certainly not based on proof. After all, generations of believers accepted God without any knowledge of what the Hubble Telescope would reveal.



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Crustacean

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm


Geoff G.,
In *strictly* logical terms — which, please note, I don’t think are the terms in which we *ever* come to any understanding of the world — agnosticism is closer to the notional “default position” than theism, which in turn is closer than atheism is.
Being human and therefore fallible, finite, and — dare I say it — fallen, we can never *know* with any absolute and objective logical certainty that there is or is not a God.
So, in a strictly logical sense, agnosticism would be the best stance for us to take.
Or, rather, it would be (a) if we were strictly logical .. which we are manifestly not; or (b) if human logic, human reason, were things that we have any more grounds for confidence in than we have grounds for confidence in our intuition that there either is or is not a God.
As I said before, the notion that human logic or human reason can yield objectively certain knowledge about the universe is every bit as open to debate as the notion that there is a God.
So even agnosticism — while the most strictly logical stance we could take — is itself built on the same shifting sand as are theistic and atheistic belief.
An agnostic can claim no more firm a foundation for his or her logically scrupulous agnostic stance than theists or atheists can claim for their own stances.
In some sense logical scrupulosity taken to a certain extreme becomes a fool’s errand, since logic itself, reason itself, is made of the same sort of holy or unholy fool’s gold of which both theism and atheism are made.
Rod Dreher’s stance and Ditchkins’s stance and John E. Agnostic Stoic’s stance can none of them claim any higher strictly logical ground than either or the other two competing stances can.
I would, of course, give the laurel to Rod’s stance as being the only one of the three with intellectual rigor enough to admit any skepticism at all about its own basis.
Would that atheism and agnosticism could find their own Kierkegaards … and therefore their own Rod Dreher’s.



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Jon

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:14 pm


Survival of the personality after death would, of course, collapse the materialist position.
Not necessarily, but it would require an admission that our current understanding of physics and biology are profoundly incomplete. Too many modern day materialists however speak as if science has learned all the Big Things (except maybe some odd stuff at the far fringes of physics) and there’s nothing left but to fill in the smaller blanks.



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MH

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:27 pm


Siarlys Jenkins, I am in complete disagreement, I think scientific proof of God is possible, but only if God is cooperative. As I said above God would need to leave information in a place where only he could put it. Once conscious beings evolved they could find that information, which would hopefully say something more profound than “I exists” or “pardon the inconvenience.”
Proving the non-existence of God is obviously impossible and a waste of time.



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P Brain or Dancing Around the Jesus Question

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm


(Thus ends my homage to Fractured Fairy Tales.)
The thing that always galls me about human nature as recorded in the Gospels is how one day, we see the King of Kings riding into town on a donkey – even as eye witnesses to his miracles laid down their coats before him – only to see that same crowd, not seven days later, yell, “Crucify him!”



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Hector

posted January 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm


Larry,
It gets worse. Like many materialists, she cites the silly ‘perfect unicorn’ counterargument to Anselm as if it was dispositive. And she cites Hume’s refutation of the Argument from Miracles as if it was the last word. And, of course, fails to mention that Alfred Russell Wallace had in turn provided a counterargument to Hume’s skeptical views on miracles. Given that Wallace was a stellar zoologist and the co-discoverer of Evolution by Natural Selection, one would think that people like Dawkins and this Newbergh woman would give him the time of day. But for some people, atheism is more important then good biology. Come to think of it, I didn’t see Wallace’s argument for the existence of God (that evolution is a ‘stingy’ and economizing process, that the human mind is too extravagant a capacity to have evolved purely by natural selection, and that therefore a divine intelligence must have been involved) on the list. It’s a pretty compelling one, in my view, and one that lends itself to the Catholic point of view that while evolution accounts for man’s body, divine intervention accounts for his soul. Andy, I don’t think you’re being fair to the church fathers, and in my view scripture and tradition (as well as, in fact, reason) compel us to some kind of mind-body dualism. How the hell are the holy angels, or the poor Lazarus, or the saints in glory, supposed to be currently conscious if consciousness in the strict sense requires a body? The angels never had bodies, and Lazarus and the saints won’t until the Last Day.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm


ON THEISM: Until I come across matter that creates/designs itself out of nothing by random chance, I’m sticking with the view that a non-material intelligence “outside of the machine” created and designed the temporal physical universe. Nothing else makes rational sense, given what we see/feel/touch in the present world.
ON CHRISTIANITY: I like the following historical argument, which demonstrates the prophetic and divine origin of Christianity (though it requires understanding first-century history and Judaism). Here ’tis:
Basically, Christ and his poor disenfranchised followers make a bizarre radical break from their national and religious heritage because they have a prescient and startling vision that the 1500-year-old Hebrew dynasty of Temple, religion, priesthood, and nation must end in their lifetimes. Arriving on the scene at about AD 27-31, they begin to preach that the old dynasty is to be replaced with some “New Covenant form” of Judaism which does not rely upon any of the former dynastic institutions. Shockingly, these fringe straggling kooks turn out to be right, as history destroys the Hebrew national dynasty at AD 70, leaving this new Christian Judaism on the permanent ascendency, down to this very day.
That’s iron clad. People can’t know the future history, and they can’t control its outcomes either. Jesus somehow did both. As a result, I’m a believer.



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mdavid

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm


To all who commented on my post:
There is nothing complex (or even debatable) about my point. If one believes there is no first cause, no creator, then nothing can have any logical meaning at all, and all argument having “meaning” fails. A person is now no different than rock, just a bunch of chemicals.
What is funny is how self-described atheists (and lots of liberal nihilist apologists who give lip service to religion) perceive this as some sort of an insult. It’s absolutely not. Rather, it’s giving real credit and respect to the atheist position, not blowing them off as sloppy thinkers are most are wont to do. The atheist, accepting that humans have no meaning and purpose outside of personal fantasy, stands aloft and above the vast bulk of humanity, who simply cannot imagine being human without a creator. Truth be told, the vast, vast majority of “atheists” are really agnostics who just happen to dislike outward religious folk for whatever reason.



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Lord Karth

posted January 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm


This universe is too big, and too complex, and FAR too intricately designed, to be the product of random chance.
We simple Humans just don’t know enough about the Universe to make much in the way of sweeping claims. For all I know, we were created by God to enjoy and admire and play in His creation, and when we die, we simply report back and tell Him what we did, for the amusement of Him and His angels.
I sometimes think that that is the major purpose of Human existence: to experience Being and then tell God stories about what we did with His creation. Shoot, it makes more sense than some theologians I’ve read.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Roland de Chanson

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:35 pm


Lord Karth,
The Universe continually recreates itself by random chance. Not even an electron knows where it is going to pop up next nor does a proton know when it’s time has come. If it has a time. You’re not a closet determinist are you? ;-)
P Brain,
What makes you think it was the same blokes who exclaimed “Hosanna” as shouted “Crucify Him”?
Crystal Knight,
I don’t know about that. I think I’ve met the devil once or twice. At any rate, I swear I’m married to his sister.
MH,
You should take up the study of Gematria. Not only are there secret messages from God, there are hedge strategies for a bear market rally.
Crustacean,
You make a good point. Spencer in First Principles agrees. He who says, “I believe” really says “I don’t know.” St. “touching is believing” Thomas is the patron of agnostics. A sceptic but not a denier.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm


Franklin – thanks for pointing out the html. My eyes aren’t what they used to be and the blue link on my browser didn’t stand out all that well.
As I said before, the notion that human logic or human reason can yield objectively certain knowledge about the universe is every bit as open to debate as the notion that there is a God.
Crustacean – are you including in that assessment such observable and replicable facts such as – for example – a feather and a cannonball will fall in a vacuum with the same acceleration?
And – if I may take a point of personal privilege for a moment – I will note that our interchanges at Rod’s previous blog had often been acrimonious. I apologize for my part in that and will not let that pattern repeat here at Rod’s new blog.
Jon
January 4, 2010 7:14 PM
Survival of the personality after death would, of course, collapse the materialist position.
Not necessarily, but it would require an admission that our current understanding of physics and biology are profoundly incomplete.
Interesting point. Perhaps it would be safe to say that survival of the personality after death would collapse the materialist position that the mind is strictly a function of the workings of the brain?
The thing that always galls me about human nature as recorded in the Gospels is how one day, we see the King of Kings riding into town on a donkey – even as eye witnesses to his miracles laid down their coats before him – only to see that same crowd, not seven days later, yell, “Crucify him!”
Hector, why is the ‘perfect unicorn’ counterargument silly?
P Brain – wasn’t the Messianic King supposed to throw out the enemies of Israel and set the Jewish Nation up as supreme over all the other nations of the Earth? Perhaps the failure of that scenario to take place was what led to the crowd’s change in attitude.
Shockingly, these fringe straggling kooks turn out to be right, as history destroys the Hebrew national dynasty at AD 70, leaving this new Christian Judaism on the permanent ascendency, down to this very day.
With enough kooks making enough shocking predictions, at least some of them will be correct eventually.
The atheist, accepting that humans have no meaning and purpose outside of personal fantasy, stands aloft and above the vast bulk of humanity, who simply cannot imagine being human without a creator.
Sure, as I said above, no Ultimate Intrinsic Meaning. But that’s nothing to slit ones wrists over.
Lord Karth, are you familiar with Conway’s Game of Life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conways_Life



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Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm


There is a point that never seems to be fully appreciated when this business of the mind being simply “what the brain does” comes up. If it is all ultimately just neurochemistry, then on what basis does neurochemistry lay claim to any kind of epistemic privilege over an alternate understanding of the mind? Neurochemistry itself would just be “something the brain does”, or, at any rate, what some brains do. Other brains do something else. The question of truth here never really comes into the picture all. Of all the challenges to religious belief about the soul, this actually seems the most sterile and ineffectual. Neuroscience may have many interesting things to tell us but this certainly isn’t one of them. It is really a (rather dubious) philosophical assumption masquerading as a scientific finding.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm


I agree, mdavid, that atheists seem offended to learn that their view ends in nihilism. It nevertheless is true. One wonders why atheists aren’t smart enough philosophers to figure that out.
Atheists think they arrived at atheism through the hard sciences, and they fail to examine other disciplines that are affected by the atheist thesis.
A great example is social darwinism, which is the inevitable logical social consequence of the atheist creation mythology. If man is just another rock or animal, he can do whatever he feels his evolved impulses desire, whether rape and murder or cannibalism and theft—just like other animals. Once the atheistic premise is accepted, all those naturally occurring acts common to the animal kingdom *must by logical necessity* be accepted as legitimate prescriptions for human behavior.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm


Once the atheistic premise is accepted, all those naturally occurring acts common to the animal kingdom *must by logical necessity* be accepted as legitimate prescriptions for human behavior.
Except that those who object to being raped, murdered, cannibalized and stolen from insist upon as legitimate the naturally occurring act of resisting – by lethal force if necessary – those who would perform these acts. Sometimes those who object go so far as to band together with others who hold similar objections.
Then everything gets a bit messy for a while until various social rules are enforced by those who claim the exclusive right to inflict violence.
Once that is taken care of, some folks set about growing grain, others are drafted to build pyramids, and eventually the Internet gets constructed.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:14 pm


JohnE,
The messianic king was to make the Jewish religion universal, which Jesus did via a new religious contract. No longer was the faith of Abraham limited to his family descendants and their geographical existence.
Next, your “some kooks will be correct eventually” statement is without historical validity. The shocking predictions and mission of Jesus and the apostles turned out to be prescient, and prescience is not a human quality—it is supernatural.
Finally, since atheism is a system of No Ultimate Intrinsic Meaning, I may slit *your* wrists, your toes, and your earlobes and be a perfectly fine, normal human being. I’m just following my naturally evolved impulses as they exist *in nature*, and as such am a good animal.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm


The messianic king was to make the Jewish religion universal, which Jesus did via a new religious contract. No longer was the faith of Abraham limited to his family descendants and their geographical existence.
Was that the understanding of the Jewish people of the time or did they – at that time – expect a King who would free them from Rome?
Finally, since atheism is a system of No Ultimate Intrinsic Meaning, I may slit *your* wrists, your toes, and your earlobes and be a perfectly fine, normal human being. I’m just following my naturally evolved impulses as they exist *in nature*, and as such am a good animal.
Well, you might try. I am generally armed.
In any event, humans, as social animals, develop rules that limit what you may do in that society without fear of reprisals from The State.
Such social rules of behavior are said to be observed in the primates and other pack groups.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm


(How does one do italics here at this blog? Anyone.)
But JohnE, surely you see how atheism must accommodate the new darwinian social state, where murder and theft are as natural and normative as having sex or taking a dump. There’s simply nothing wrong or immoral about those acts under the atheist presuppositions. They are natural, normal impulses.
A consistent atheist future society must, of course, be constructed around that jungle reality. Instead of progress, the social rules will regress to the most brutal survival of the fittest. It’s only logical. All others will perennially have the normative right to steal your grain, destroy your pyramids, and ravage your mates.
In consistent atheism, there can be no good or bad, no moral or immoral, no right or wrong. Things just are.



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TTT

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm


Hector: it doesn’t matter what Alfred Russell Wallace thought about the existence of God. He isn’t some oracle, followed by scientists just on strength of personal authority. He is only relevant because of what he pointed out about island biogeography–and modern scientists understand it better than he did. Despite creationist fantasies, it would be no more relevant for Darwin to have had a deathbed conversion than a similar statement by Leo Szilard would forevermore put an end to nuclear fission.
MDavid: Even within your own worldview, humans are “just a bunch of chemicals” unless you disbelieve in carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and so on. You are the one who sees human life as worthless and that all people might as well be dead, to be saved from the noose only because of the quite morally weightless intervention of an uncategorizable invisible alien who could just as well have proclaimed rocks to be superior to mankind and it would have been so, “thy will be done.” Now THAT is nihilism.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm


One italicizes by preceding with and ending with , minus the spaces, of course.
In consistent atheism, there can be no good or bad, no moral or immoral, no right or wrong. Things just are.
And one of the things that just are is that individuals will band together for their own safety to repel murderers and brigands.
Those outside this band may try to steal, murder, and rape, while those inside the band may kill or otherwise repel with violence those who make those attempts.



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TTT

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:42 pm


Eusebius,
I humbly suggest you abandon “Argument From Sociopathy,” as it is quite off-putting to anyone who hasn’t already drunk the kool-aid.
In the past I’ve joked that some of Rod’s readers act like the only thing keeping them from blowing up a daycare center is that they happened to be carrying their Blessed Magic Thimble that day, and that no matter how much they might really really wanna blow up that daycare center, the Blessed Magic Thimble will keep them from doing it. But as is so often the case with Poe’s Law, the satire can be uncomfortably close to reality.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:43 pm


Hmm, that italicizing description didn’t work.
Begin the italicized passage with the characters “” and end with “” – disregarding the ” character, of course.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:43 pm


JohnE,
The ruling classes were hoping for a glorious national dynasty under their present system of Temple, priesthood, and religion. But Christ and his followers taught that just the opposite was to happen in their day, and they began making religious and personal provisions for the comprehensive extinction of the commonwealth. That move was prescient, as was proved to all observers at AD 70.
Next, it’s great that you’re armed. So am I, since this is the jungle under the atheist enlightenment, and all individuals may battle as their impulses tell them — all behaviors are normal and natural.
Finally, humans will develop rules around the new atheist enlightenment that all behaviors are normal and natural. Human law will logically and necessarily devolve to the laws of the jungle. For example, it’s illogical to say that any person ought not kill for this reason or that, since the person feels so inclined and believes it is in his own best interest.
“Do what thou wilt” shall be the whole of the law. There is no logical basis for it to be otherwise.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm


Well that didn’t work either. let’s try this.
begin the passage to be italicized with these three characters:
less – than character (shift-comma)
the letter i
greater – than character (shift – period)
end the passage with these four characters:
less – than character (shift-comma)
the forward slash – the one associated with the ? key
the letter i
greater – than character (shift – period)



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TTT

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm


I would also point out that humans evolved as SOCIAL animals, each depending for their survival on group stability, cohesion, and protection. An intolerance for violence, theft, and dishonesty within the social group has been well-observed throughout the primate order and in just about every human society.
If we’d evolved as, say, sentient saltwater crocodiles–loners that kill everything they see, including their own kind–the more apocalyptic, atheism-will-kill-you handwringing here would actually make a bit of sense. But then it wouldn’t be handwringing, instead claw-wringing, and probably none of us would have lived long enough to be able to read these messages. It is self-disproving, so you can stop being terrified of it. You’re welcome!



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm


Hey TTT,
There is no such thing as sociopathy in animals. All impulses of all kinds are natural and normal, and so it is logical that our laws must be revised to reflect our true animal natures, not our religious notions of “right and wrong” and “good and bad” with regard to behaviors.



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TTT

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm


Eusebius,
Your fanfic is not biology.



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MH

posted January 4, 2010 at 10:55 pm


Eusebius, logic and consistency are not what guide human beings. Pragmatism and muddling through seem more often used.
Roland de Chanson, while hedge strategies for a bear market rally sound really useful, and secret messages from God would be cool. But after looking up Gematria I found it wasn’t quite what I had in mind.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm


But Christ and his followers taught that just the opposite was to happen in their day, and they began making religious and personal provisions for the comprehensive extinction of the commonwealth.
Ah, but what where the masses expecting and hoping for – which was the original point about why the masses turned on the man who did not fulfill their expectations.
I would suggest that the masses crying Hosanna were not cheering for the establishment of a new Universal covenant, but were cheering because the miracle-working guy was going to kick the Romans out of Jerusalem.
There is no logical basis for it to be otherwise.
As MH points out, there is a pragmatic basis for it to be otherwise- the property owners want to secure their lives and property against those who would destroy their property and otherwise commit mayhem and murder.
These property owners will finance armed individuals to see to it that it is not in the best interest of others to commit theft and murder because those armed individuals will hunt down and exact retribution.
This changes the dynamic in such a way that theft and murder is not in anyone’s best interest.



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Hector

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:02 pm


TTT,
I’m a grad student in plant biology, so I know very well who Wallace was, thanks. My point is that the statement ‘evolution implies atheism and materialism’ is rather stupid when you take into account that one of the co-discoverers of evolution was neither a materialist nor an atheist. In regard to the existence of God, Wallace pointed out (in refutation of Hume’s argument about miracles), that if we were all as skeptical as Hume, we would never have believed in the existence of the platypus or the flying fish, either. After all, previous experience tells us that fish neither can nor do fly, nor make any approximation to flying.
Wallace’s religious beliefs weren’t a deathbed conversion, either: he arrived at them through his understanding of the curiosities of both the natural world and the human mind, and his understanding that there were ‘more things in heaven and on earth’ then could be accounted for by Hume and his intellectual disciples.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:04 pm


Thanks, John E. Let me try it out on TTT, who said:
An intolerance for violence, theft, and dishonesty within the social group has been well-observed throughout the primate order and in just about every human society
Actually, most primates have theft, killing, rape, and cannibalism as normative, as do most other species. I propose that we atheists should, too, since we humans have all these same instincts and impulses.
But historically, humans have used THEISM to urge that we ought to resist our natural impulses. That is we have the theologically posited concept of “rights” (i.e., the right to life, to property, to a unique spouse, etc.). But “rights” are a theological abstract, and not an objective law of nature. Given atheist assumptions, there is no logical basis for “human rights.”



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Hector

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:07 pm


Eusebius,
Your comments are….spacey, to say the least, and I can’t really make head or tail out of them. They also seem to imply Adoptionism. Jesus wasn’t just a wise teacher or a nice guy: he was the Incarnate Word, and he didn’t come to teach us a new and improved form of Judaism, he came to shed his blood for our transgressions that all might be saved in him. He didn’t preach a new covenant: he IS the new covenant.



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elizabeth

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm


How do the commentators here who insist that atheism necessarily leads to nihilism and a brutal life explain Buddhism? This is a non-theistic faith which holds very much to moral rules and cultivation of a loving heart. The virtues that Buddhists promote as necessary for a spiritual life are virtually identical with those of Christianity, yet no deity is required to explain why this is necessary.



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John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm


Given atheist assumptions, there is no logical basis for “human rights.”
Again with the ‘logical’ – why the obsession with that?
Human rights and the rule of law are pragmatic constructs that need no justification beyond keeping a society stable.
I’m off to bed – see you all in the morning – God willing ;-)



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Hector

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:22 pm


John E,
The ‘perfect unicorn’ argument is silly for two reasons.
1) A thoroughgoing Christian Platonist could, if he liked, simply go the full monty and postulate that perfect unicorns, perfect islands, etc. do exist in the mind of God.
2) I am pretty Platonistic, but not that far gone, so i won’t go the full monty. Instead I claim that Newberger (and Gaunilon, whom she is paraphrasing) make the mistake of thinking that ‘perfect unicorn’ is a meaningful concept in the same sense as ‘perfect being’ (by which we are to understand, ‘perfect personal being’).
What do we mean by a perfect unicorn? A unicorn could be optimally designed/evolved/whatever to be excellent in many different regards, but it can’t be maximally excellent in all regards, because the design requirements of being an excellent fighter, say, versus being an excellent runner, versus being an excellent survivor, all contradict one another. It’s questionable whether a unicorn, or any other animal, could even be ‘perfect’ in any one of these regards. What would it mean to be a perfect runner? Infinitely fast? But that would be a contradiction- any physical being must have a finite speed, which makes it not ‘perfect’ by definition.
In sum, any time we define something using a set of physical characteristics- a unicorn, a lion, an island, an apple pie- it becomes not perfect by definition, because to specificy certain characteristics is to rule out others. If you like vanilla but hate cinammon and I like cinnamon but hate vanilla, we won’t even be able to agree on what a perfect apple pie is. Any created (or evolved) thing can simply not be perfect in the strict sense. To postulate a perfect being, or a perfect person, is quite different, however. A personal being is defined as an intelligence that has reason and conscience. As long as we can show that perfect reason and perfect virtue are not contradictory, it is reasonably to conclude (as per Anselm, Hartshorne and Plantinga) that a being both perfectly wise and perfectly good exists. “And this all men call God.”



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm


JohnE,
The rulers and masses were following their nationalistic zeitgeist while Jesus Christ and his minority sect proved prescient for predicting the end of the Hebrew dynasty and subsequent ascendency of their new universal Judaism. Against all odds, history vindicated Jesus’ radically wild visions and followers, and Jesus became the No. 1 human of all history. You can’t top that.
Next, property owners have no basis for “owning property,” and consistent atheists know it and will not tolerate property claims that cannot be maintained by brute force. The law of the jungle will be the law for ALL animals, and humans will not be exempted.
I fully agree with you that the atheist future will be one of “armed individuals” who “hunt down and exact retribution.” That brutality will be true for all as normative. Civilization will fully collapse and devolve into animalistic brutality and incivility.
Murder and theft (and rape and cannibalism) are in the interest of anyone who feels so inclined. These are natural and normal behaviors, given atheist presuppositions.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:35 pm


To Elizabeth, atheism reveals that all humans are merely evolved animals and that “The Universe” has no prescriptions for how any being *ought* to behave, other than to follow natural impulses. Buddhism is thus radically wrong for suggesting that The Universe has any care for “cultivation of a loving heart.” What animal care to seek “cultivation of a loving heart”? If an animal has the impulse to rape or kill, they have done nothing “wrong” or “bad” or “evil.” They are just being themselves. Same goes for human animals, for all acts are equal in a world without an objective “rule book” for “good behavior.”
To Hector, Jesus did come to give a universal New Covenant form of Judaism. (We commonly call it christianity today.) And he succeeded against all odds, having correctly foreseen the doom of the Hebrew dynasty, tribes, priesthood, temple, and nation in his generation.



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Eusebius

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:46 pm


JohnE says: Human rights and the rule of law are pragmatic constructs that need no justification beyond keeping a society stable.
Human rights are an abstract theological construct, as Thomas Jefferson rightly noted. They don’t actually exist like a rock exists. They are inferred mental imaginations based on the following fairy tale sentiment: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
That is a theological abstract throughout. No God = No human rights.



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Crustacean

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:57 pm


John E.,
No rancor was intended by my earlier post. I merely referred to you as an in-house example conveniently to hand of an agnostic, just as I referred to Rod as an in-house example conveniently to hand of a theist.
Elizabeth,
While Buddhism is an infinitely more commendable mode of nihilism than either the old or the purportedly “new” forms of atheism fashionable of late in certain quarters of the West, Buddhism is nihilist nonetheless.
And while the virtues it promotes as necessary to a spiritual life are more commendable than some on offer — especially in the modern West — they are manifestly *not* “virtually identical” to their Christian counterparts.
In any case, from a Christian point of view, Buddhism is only right — to the admittedly commendable degree that it is right — to the extent that it intuits, in refracted and distorted form, the presence of the God whose existence it denies.
Buddhism is no less but also no more than a set of among the wisest words that humanity said *before* the Word Himself became Flesh and walked among us, saying things far wiser than any Buddha or anyone else before or since has ever said or ever will say.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:40 am


Hector – well, okay, especially your point number one. Still, the whole argument by ontology seems a bit slippery to me because it appears to presuppose that just because one can define the characteristics of a Perfect Being, such a being must exist.
No rancor was intended by my earlier post. I merely referred to you as an in-house example conveniently to hand of an agnostic, just as I referred to Rod as an in-house example conveniently to hand of a theist.
Oh, I suspected that – I just wanted to start off fresh with you for the New Year and new blog.
Also, I would like to know what you think about the usefulness of observable, repeatable experiments as a tool for using human reason to understand the universe.
Would you make the argument that just because a set of experiments have given the same results consistently in the past, that is not a reason to assume they will give the same results the next time the experiment is performed and, so, not a reason to be sure that your general understanding is correct?
I’m actually sympathetic to such an argument and can only appeal to pragmatism as a reason to assume that the next experiment would likely give the same results for a simple phenomena and also the idea that if such a change in results occurred, it would present an opportunity to discover more about how the universe ‘really works’.
Eusebius, how then do you account for the historical observation that the Soviet Union and Communist China – both atheistic societies – did not devolve into rape, murder, and cannibalism.
And, yes, all property rights are ultimately backed by the threat of force. Also, just because Jefferson used the rhetoric of individuals being endowed with human rights by a Creator, this does not mean that an atheistic society could not – as a matter of pragmatism, define a set of rules for that society under which the individuals would live – such rules to be enforced by the power of that State.



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everettf

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:48 am


If you want to convince an atheist,This atheist that a gog exists, it’s very simple. Sow evidence that is not hearsay. Every thing you think about any of the gods including the Abrahamic god is nothing more then indoctrination almost brainwashing.



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Hector

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:51 am


For what it’s worth, Jefferson was a deist and a Unitarian (if I recall correctly) who openly mocked Jesus and the Mother of God, believed Jesus was just a man, and denied biblical miracles. On top of, of course, being a defender of slavery who raped his slaves. He was no friend of Christianity- at least, my Christianity- and to act as though he was is historically false in the extreme.
I also think- and I think Rod agrees with me here- that to call the nation that Jefferson helped create a tribute to Christianity, or even a Christian nation in any meaningful sense, is also a gross historical falsehood. Our social, economic and political systems have little in common with what any of the great Christian natural-law theorists of the medieval and early modern periods advocated.



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Hector

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:54 am


Everett F,
If you ever want to convince a theist that God doesn’t exist, you may want to brush up on your spelling first.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:01 am


Money in any form does not really exist and has no ultimate value. Yet human beings are quite capable of behaving as if it has real value. Oddly enough many people are quite aware of the non reality of money, but they are pragmatists. This pragmatic assumption allows economies to function and for each of us to have more than if we didn’t cooperate in this manner.
You can make a similar observation about something like the rule of law. Essentially the reality of a thing is less important than people acting as if it is real, even if they know it is not.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:04 am


Excellent discussion here. I’ve enjoyed the interchanges.
From my personal POV on logic, scientific discipline and the “natural law” argument, I respectfully point out the ubiquitous projection of human uniqueness on the objects of the analogies given. Just for example, the human referents of “rape, theft” etc. have no validity when applied to non-human animals. The behaviors that resemble those labels are easily shown to be normal responses to environment consistent with the general behavior patterns of the animals being used in the analogy.
There is a permanent obstacle in drawing conclusions about humans when using animals: Humans are the only known* species that can consciously override natural behaviors. There are parallels in some animals to human cognition (problem solving, the use of objects as tools), but they are superficial at best and offer no evidence of human-like cognition.
* We still don’t know cetaceans very well, so I stipulate the possibility that they are an exception to that obstacle.Excellent discussion here. I’ve enjoyed the interchanges.
From my personal POV on logic, scientific discipline and the “natural law” argument, I respectfully point out the ubiquitous projection of human uniqueness on the objects of the analogies given. Just for example, the human referents of “rape, theft” etc. have no validity when applied to non-human animals. The behaviors that resemble those labels are easily shown to be normal responses to environment consistent with the general behavior patterns of the animals being used in the analogy.
There is a permanent obstacle in drawing conclusions about humans when using animals: Humans are the only known* species that can consciously override natural behaviors. There are parallels in some animals to human cognition (problem solving, the use of objects as tools), but they are superficial at best and offer no evidence of human-like cognition.
* We still don’t know cetaceans very well, so I stipulate the possibility that they are an exception to that obstacle.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:50 am


To JohnE,
Atheist communism is predictably totalitarian. It is a true survival of the fittest, and the rulers are the fittest humans in the society, and they subjugate the powerless and disenfranchised by enslaving them and taking away their power and arms.
Also, rape, murder, and cannibalism are naturally occurring behaviors and impulses among most animals, including humans. From the atheist perspective, we should change our laws so that they don’t punish us for following our naturally evolved bodily and personal impulses. As consistent atheists, we must remove the negative stigmas and religious dogmas constructed against things like homosexuality, incest, rape, theft, murder, etc. These are not objectively “wrong” or “bad” behaviors. They are simply natural behaviors. Humans are animals, and our new atheist laws must reflect the reality that there is no “good or bad,” no “right or wrong,” no “moral or immoral.” Our atheist laws must be revised to reflect true reality.
Finally, John, “rights” are a theoretical concept based on theological reasoning. They aren’t material things like rocks and bones. We infer them based on the inference of a Creator who has a specific purpose and intent for human behavior that *ought to be followed and respected.
Atheism can never produce objective human rights, for animals do not have objective rights, nor can an atheist claim that theft, rape, cannibalism, etc. are “wrong” behaviors.
But you are correct that the fittest can gather and impose upon the masses whatever they wish to be the “set of rules,” whether that code be the slavery system adopted by the Greeks, the genocide of the Nazis, or the sterilization policy of the Chinese. In the atheist system, might makes right, and the ultimate might is the totalitarian military state.
That’s the rough justice of atheism. It’s social darwinism. It’s the law of the jungle. Theism alone produces objective human rights that even the state and the fittest must honor and not violate.



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TTT

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:55 am


Eusebius, you’re attempting to make an argument from biology while totally ignoring real biology. Political rhetoric about biology–“law of the jungle,” “survival of the fittest”–does not count.
Kindly show me a troupe of bonobos or gorillas where every individual constantly steals and rapes and kills everything they see, and I’ll show you a figment of your imagination.
You have been repeatedly pointed to evidence of social organisms, including humans and our close relatives, all of whom depend on stable social structures, protection of mutual interests, and behavior codes that emphasize coexistence in order to survive. The roots of compassion are in our nature–just look at how quickly people, especially children, anthropomorphize and sympathize with animals and even unliving objects in the world around them. Within that context there is also an undeniable history of aggression and cruelty–just like within the context of birds being able to fly, there is an undeniable history of many of them failing to fly and crashing to their deaths. The human tendency to criminalize and punish cruel or dishonest behavior is at least as natural as the behavior itself–you have no grounds whatsoever for your contention that man’s natural state must be rape and murder and at the same time that man’s revulsion against rape and murder, and behavior codes and punishments against same, must be artificial, recent, God-spawned inventions. I get that you perceive humans as “fallen,” but you’re taking it too far, and trying to rubbish basic anthropology in the process.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:02 am


To Everett,
Your standard of evaluation is wrong. To be consistent, you must reject nearly all history, for history is based on witnesses and testimonies about events that you yourself can’t verify personally, or through the tools of science.
You’re going to have to rethink your tools of evaluation, and I would suggest that you start by studying the validity of the discipline known as history. That is, learn what makes the study of history trustworthy, and what things historians use as evidences and such.
The discipline of History, when conducted properly, provides for us a valid source of mostly trustworthy information.



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TTT

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:05 am


And religion bestows no universal advantage in caring for people or establishing their rights. This is just a stereotypical liberal utopian “perfectability of man” argument used by conservatives. People are people, and those who feel like killing have amply shown that invoking supernatural authority makes a convenient justification, when it’s not an actual popular mandate. I invite you to visit any death row in any maximum-security prison in the world and poll the residents on their religious affiliations or the lack thereof.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:09 am


Eusebius, my oddly doubled post above is explicitly rebutting your assertions. You fall into the trap of all analogies: Applying principles without considering mitigating factors.
Humans amongst all the animals are unique. We are capable of consciously overriding our instincts. That is the underpinning of this entire discussion, and to deny it amongst human atheists is as fallacious as insisting that animals are the same as humans.
And, respectfully, that conscious override works in both directions: Humans demonstrate the conscious ability to ignore someone else’s conscious override of instinct. Reasoning is the double-edged sword with the blood of the ages on it (speaking of history).



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:25 am


Hey Triple T,
Do you believe animals are bad or wrong for stealing, raping, cannibalizing, thieving, etc? Of course you don’t, and neither should you suggest that humans are “wrong” or “bad” for acting upon these same evolved natural instincts. We should revise our laws around OUR EVOLVED REALITY, and the reality that atheism uncovers is that our natural instincts are the only rule book provided by the universe—and that rule book includes the instincts to steal, rape, kill, cannibalize, commit genocide, etc. etc. These are natural behaviors.
Next, I never said all animals do these things 24/7. The point is that they do them naturally as part of natural living, and there is no basis for suggesting that humans ought to resist those same naturally evolved desires and impulses. We have the same impulses as the animals and ought not be made to feel dirty or guilty by society for acting upon nature.
Atheism simply has no objective good or bad, right or wrong. It can’t ever say that humans ought to resist their natural impulses. Logical people will always demand a reason for behavioral prescriptions, and atheists can only point a gun at them as the ultimate answer, as JohnE also keeps admitting. You see, “Might makes right” is the only logical outcome of atheism, and if the Nazis are the ones with the Might, then their code is Right (at least until they are toppled by someone mightier with a different code, and so on and so forth.)
In reality, the premise of your recent comment to me is that some behaviors are “wrong” or “bad.” But that’s religious mythology. You must use atheism to prove that theft, rape, cannibalization, etc. are bad or wrong instincts, but you can’t. Prove to me why animals are bad for raping, stealing, killing, etc., and then explain to me why we don’t imprison them or punish them. Humans are merely animals, and you atheists are going to have to live with the harsh jungle reality atheism exposes.
(P.S. So-called “revulsions” against rape, incest, slavery, homosexuality, or killings are a mere social construct, and not universal in any way. Different individuals and different societies have differing contradictory views on these matters, further proving that there is no objective right or wrong in such matters, if one assumes atheism to be true.)



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:32 am


Mr. Frankin Evans,
Of course we are capable of overriding instincts. But why ought we? That’s the question. Why should the homosexual override his instincts? Why should the thief override his instincts? Why should the adulterer override his instincts? Why should the rapist override his instincts? There is nothing wrong with those behaviors! They are natural, and all animals do them. We are animals, and those instincts are fine because they are naturally occurring, and there is no God and no Universal Rule Book to say they aren’t.
Atheists are horrible philosophers and sociologists.



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Mark

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:39 am


I’ve always taken apologetics or arguments for God to be one of a variety of tools of justifying what is in itself an irrational choice.
The Bible, Hebrew and Greek portions, is pretty clear about that choice. Choose for youself who you will serve – Joshua. I set before you life and death, choose life – Moses. Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles, but the power of salvation for those that believe – Paul. I come not to bring peace, but a sword – Jesus. God or nothing is the choice.
At the same time it is not really a choice. Some seed falls on hard ground while some seed falls good soil. The soil is already there. God chose his people from before the beginning. Who is the pot to talk back to the potter?
God is a self-proclamation. He is a take Him or leave Him proposition. Arguments like these help bolster and sustain the fundamental choice one has made – it is not irrational to have chosen God even though they all have flaws.
That is the Kierkegaard mugging. Make your choice.



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hlvanburen

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:42 am


“This universe is too big, and too complex, and FAR too intricately designed, to be the product of random chance.”
Lord Karth, the presumption in that statement is overwhelming. By making such a statement you presume an understanding of events that far exceeds the historical bounds of human knowledge. Given how little we truly know about the universe and its complexity, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that random chance did bring it about.
If, in fact, it had any beginning at all…which is still open to discussion and investigation.



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TTT

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:47 am


Eusebius,
Again you pick and choose which parts of nature you consider to be “natural,” in order to blame people different from yourself for everything bad. I have pointed out to you about 4 times why, within a human social structure that depends on mutual coexistence, in-group violence and dishonesty are met by revulsion and attempts at prevention and punishment, behaviors that are amply shown in the living world today; you have no answer for them, I suspect because you never heard of them before and aren’t really concerned by their existence. You might as well say that only rain is natural and that it only ever fell on unbelievers, whereas sunny days were invented the day before yesterday by God as a special gift to you.
And again, you mix up the natural world and human evolutionary history with 200+-year-old political cliches. “Might makes right” is just as much an unserious fortune cookie as was “law of the jungle.”
It’s perfectly easy to just come out and say you think some minority group is evil, immoral, and icky, without having to resort to some pop-culture melange of pseudoscience to try to justify your own biases. Ironic, given your haste to accuse others of Nazi-like tactics.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:53 am


hlvanburen,
When I begin seeing things create themselves out of nothing by random accidents, I’ll consider the possibility that universes create themselves in such fashion.
Until then, I’m sticking with what we see in reality. Atheists are in a war with “design” itself, which is something that clearly exists and, by definition, includes the qualities of intelligence and purpose.
Atheists must try to convince us that design is mere illusion. That’s an impossible sell to rational beings.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:06 am


Dear Triple T,
There is nothing wrong with “dishonesty” in nature. It just is.
You are correct that revulsions exist, but so do NON-revulsions, and different individuals and groups routinely contradictory and differing sets of “revulsions.” Some groups have a revulsion to the natural instinct of homosexuality and incest, but others do not. Some groups have a revulsion to slavery (and child sex slavery, too), but other groups do not.
See, there is no objective bad or wrong or evil, and the atheist can’t find a basis for saying otherwise. The Nazi code is just as viable as any other, provided the group has the might to install it.
Next, rape and theft are very effective means of survival. Rape propagates the species, and theft ensures ones daily sustenance. This dynamic is true for both individuals and groups. Whole groups can thrive by exterminating or subjugating other groups.
Prove that the Nazis were wrong or bad. You can’t. Atheism can’t find any rule book in the universe except brute natural evolution, which includes the natural instinct to dominate others.
Prove that “all men are created equal.” You can’t. Atheism can’t find any rule book in the universe except brute natural evolution, which includes the natural instinct to dominate others.
Enjoy the future of atheism. Be sure you’re armed! The fittest humans are coming to eat you.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:12 am


We should revise our laws around OUR EVOLVED REALITY
You keep saying that, but never explain why. Our current system gives sufficient social stability that there is no obvious need to make the changes you suggest.
Logical people will always demand a reason for behavioral prescriptions, and atheists can only point a gun at them as the ultimate answer, as JohnE also keeps admitting.
You say that like it is a problem.



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Hector

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:29 am


John E,
Just to clarify, I don’t share Eusebius’ views on the origin of morality. I think, as did Aquinas, that the basic outlines of the moral law are evident on the basis of conscience and intuition whether or not you believe in God. It isn’t necessary to postulate a God in order to believe in moral truths.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:52 am


Hector,
It is absolutely necessary that a God exist for moral absolutes to exist. Evolution itself, without any outside Designer, does not and cannot give moral absolutes other than the natural impulses that happened to evolve in animals. For humans and other animals, natural impulses include the impulses to rape, steal, cannibalize, deceive etc. etc. These behaviors are simply natural from the non-Theist line of reasoning. I’m sure you can see this.
We do not punish animals for any of those behaviors, nor do we say that animals are behaving badly or wrongly—they are instead following natural instincts. Same goes for human animals, and there is no reason why human animals ought to go against their evolved natural desires. And in atheism, there is no “users manual” outside of ourselves to suggest otherwise. The users manual inside of ourselves often says, “I feel like adulterating,” or “I feel like killing,” or “I feel like lying,” or “I feel like stealing.” That’s the only “rule book” the atheist can point to, for he does not infer an outside Designer with any purpose for the cosmos and its creatures.
And so the consistent atheist cannot justifiably argue that acts like rape and cannibalism are wrong or bad, but only natural. And laws should reflect reality. Why should they do otherwise?
This is not hard to understand.



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TTT

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:53 am


Rome: “Error has no rights.”
London: “We have a navy that says otherwise.”
Welcome to humanity.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:56 am


Hector brings us back from the brink and to the original topic, which I tangentialize thus: Does humanity having a moral sense prove the existence of God, or does the existence of [a] God prove that only religion posits a moral sense?
I find it fascinating that early polytheisms had members of their pantheons who failed (miserably!) to uphold some of the human virtues those cultures extolled. Monotheism removed that “dualistic” distinction, giving opportunity to believers to commit heinous crimes against each other in the name of their single God.



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Dennis Larkin

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:04 pm


Ever since Anselm’s Ontological Argument, it has been impossible to coherently argue that God does not exist.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm


Eusebius, I remember vividly from my childhood an incident that suggests that you have a very narrow view of human nature. A couple were having severe difficulties, and one afternoon the man beat his wife outside their home. Within a couple of minutes, 4 men from nearby homes showed up and restrained the man, and one was heard to remark “Do that again and I’ll make sure it’s the last time you do it.”
You can argue about non-theisms, atheisms and theisms until the cows come home, but you won’t find a line in Scripture requiring neighbors to come to the aid of a woman being beaten by her husband.
As a side note: I’ve also witnessed urban violence that went unrestrained until the police showed up, with up to dozens of witnesses visibly failing in their Christian duty to help someone in distress. My own, personal view based only on the anecdotal evidence I’ve witnessed suggests that while Christian morality looks very good on paper, it has very little power.



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PDGM

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Elizabeth asks, far up above:
How do the commentators here who insist that atheism necessarily leads to nihilism and a brutal life explain Buddhism? This is a non-theistic faith which holds very much to moral rules and cultivation of a loving heart.
To which I reply, Buddhism is non-theistic, not atheistic; and perhaps there’s a big difference between the two when it comes towards the basis for moral action.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm


Franklin,
There was nothing wrong with the man beating his wife, for he was simply following his natural instinct as an animal. Aggression is natural and part of evolution. He was not being “bad” or “evil” — remember, evolution makes no such judgments about behaviors and instincts, other than to provide them by accident.
I’d like to see you prove otherwise. Feel free to argue with me when you begin arresting animals for rape, killing, cannibalism, and other natural behaviors.
Finally, Christian morality has tremendous power in terms of law formulation and enforcement, the theological concept of human rights, and personal motivations of love and fear towards the Creator (i.e., cosmic punishment and rewards).



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm


Ever since Anselm’s Ontological Argument, it has been impossible to coherently argue that God does not exist.
Was it ever coherently possible to prove a negative assertion?
Just to clarify, I don’t share Eusebius’ views on the origin of morality. I think, as did Aquinas, that the basic outlines of the moral law are evident on the basis of conscience and intuition whether or not you believe in God. It isn’t necessary to postulate a God in order to believe in moral truths.
Hector brings us back from the brink and to the original topic, which I tangentialize thus: Does humanity having a moral sense prove the existence of God, or does the existence of [a] God prove that only religion posits a moral sense?
Oh, fine then…
Hector, do you think it is reasonable to very generally equate – say to a first approximation – what you are calling moral truths with what I would call socially stabilizing best practices worked out through human reasoning and experience?
Just the basic ones – don’t steal, murder, lie, rape, or injure others.
I’d argue that it is within the ability of human reason to take note that forbidding those four leads to a more stable social order and that for this reason alone it is useful to make them normative.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm


Eusebius, is it fair (desiring to avoid putting words in your mouth) to summarize your position thus?
Humans are incapable of moral action or moral restraint without “cosmic punishment and rewards”.
How you respond (with any embellishment or clarification you desire) will determine how I respond to your last post. Thanks.



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Max Schadenfreude

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm


John E – Agn Stoic
January 5, 2010 12:39 PM
“Ever since Anselm’s Ontological Argument, it has been impossible to coherently argue that God does not exist.”
Was it ever coherently possible to prove a negative assertion?
****
Aquinas discounted Anselm’s argument rather tersely as I recall.
Prove a negative assertion? How about the “reductio ad absurdum”?



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hlvanburen

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm


“Until then, I’m sticking with what we see in reality. Atheists are in a war with “design” itself, which is something that clearly exists and, by definition, includes the qualities of intelligence and purpose.”
But the problem is that, from our vantage point, we do not see all of reality. Again, your presumption that what you do not see does not exist is every bit as indefensible as that of the most ardent atheist. If we accept the notion that our comprehension and perception as humans is limited and incapable of fully comprehending God/deity/higher power as many theists argue, then the converse must also be true that we are incapable of fully comprehending the notion that God/deity/higher power may, in fact, not exist anywhere save in our own minds.



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hlvanburen

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm


“My own, personal view based only on the anecdotal evidence I’ve witnessed suggests that while Christian morality looks very good on paper, it has very little power.”
I would agree, and having raised a similar point myself in other discussions with both Christian and non-Christian theists, I am invariably told that in such cases the people standing by and watching were not “real” adherents of the faith.
If that is the case then the determining factor does not seem to be belief in a higher power but a willingness to act on the beliefs you claim to hold. In short, the human will and not the existence of a deity drives the behavior. That human will can be motivated by any kind of belief, whether it is theistic or non-theistic in nature.



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TTT

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:34 pm


Design does not “clearly exist” any more than a chameleon has “clearly” turned into a tree branch.
And I’ll never understand how some of the faithful–pooh-poohing the mechanisms of scientific observation of the universe and quoting the “more things in heaven” cliche–can be so obliviously self-confident in their on-the-face interpretation of things they happen to have already seen. As long as something seems to make sense, there’s no need to learn more about it, and anything you learn, uhh, well, that’s less reliable than what they already “knew” (felt).



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Eusebius, since money has no objective reality outside of a pragmatic social construct I assume you intend to stop using it?
Also have you read any game theory like the iterated prisoners dilemma, or stag hunt or rabbit hunt?
Also, most animals are not part of human society and their behaviors don’t impact us. For those animals that are (ex dogs) we most certainly do punish and reward them to get them to conform to our standards.



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Max Schadenfreude

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm


John E. – Agn. Stoic
January 4, 2010 10:46 PM
Well that didn’t work either. let’s try this.
begin the passage to be italicized with these three characters:
less – than character (shift-comma)
the letter i
greater – than character (shift – period)
end the passage with these four characters:
less – than character (shift-comma)
the forward slash – the one associated with the ? key
the letter i
greater – than character (shift – period)
*****
Like this?



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm


To JohnE, socially stabilizing best practices in the animal world include rape, incest, killing, deceiving, stealing, etc. etc. Animals have been doing these things for millions of years. They are very stabilizing, not that there is any “thou shalt stabilize” law anywhere in the universe which anyone is obligated to obey.
To Franklin, in order to discuss the human capacity for moral action, atheists must *first* prove that some actions are objectively moral or immoral. Atheism cannot accomplish this task for the reasons I keep providing — namely, evolution’s only “rule book” for how humans ought to behave is found in our natural animal impulses and desires (which include adulteries, deceit, greed, murder, dominations, ostracism, rapes, etc.) There is simply no basis in evolution to say those behaviors are bad or wrong in any way. Evolution could care less how we behave, or even if anything survives at all. It simply doesn’t care either way. If we obliterate the planet with nukes, Evolution’s cool with that.
To hlvanburen, You are now arguing atheism based on blind faith. How? Well, I told you that I’m bound to infer there is an Intelligence responsible for designing creation because we don’t know of any matter creating/designing itself out of nothing by random accidents. But you respond by saying that I should instead just shut up and believe in self-creating universes by blind faith. Sorry, but I lack the faith for that.
That fact is that I observe design and function in nature, and “designs” by definition include the concept of a designing intelligence and intentional purpose. As I said before, atheists are in a war with the concept of design itself. They have to say design is an illusion, for if design is real, then so is the inferred Designer of those designs.



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Socrates

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm


No doubt everyone knows this, but “Eusebius” is just making things up about atheists. Maybe that’s why his (or her) ridiculous assertions are being mostly ignored.
Atheists aren’t required to be nihilists, they’re not required to live without moral values, they don’t subscribe to the “law of the jungle” and they don’t live like wild animals. Atheists do not condone lawlessness.
Atheists are every bit as moral and civilized as are Christians (actually, more so, at least in my opinion. And I am not an atheist. But definitely not a Christian!)
Really. Your assertions about atheists are patently ridiculous. Do ANY of the prominent atheists, for example Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, fit your nonsensical caricature?
No.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm


To MH,
My argument is not that an all-atheist world would cease carrying out behaviors (i.e., “cease using arbitrary money” in your analogy). My argument is that it doesn’t matter what the code of accepted behaviors would be, whether rape and genocide or deceit and adultery. Atheism can’t argue that any of those behaviors are anything but natural. They are certainly not “bad” or “evil,” as the atheist has no basis for making such judgments about naturally occurring behaviors.
Finally, you made another tangential point about punishing animals to get them to conform to our standards, and my response is that I agree the moral codes of atheism will necessarily be determined by the aggressive use of brute force. Might will determine what is right.
Atheism cannot find a basis for moral codes, since nature itself hasn’t determined one for us via evolution, other than our natural impulses.
So…if we personally believe that objective right and wrong exists, we are forced to believe in a Supreme Rule Giver. The two concepts are inseparable.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm


Wrong, Socrates.
The argument is *not* that atheists can’t follow the Western Judeo-Christian morality as codified in our present social and legal systems.
The argument is that atheists can’t find a basis for the entire concept of morality at all. They can’t find any valid reason to label certain natural instincts as “bad” or “evil” or “wrong.” Atheists can find no reason to say that the natural behaviors and desires for rape, theft, cannibalism, killing, etc. are anything but, well, natural. We have these impulses given us by the blind luck of evolution. They just are, and labeling some “bad” and some “good” is hopelessly arbitrary.
And so atheists have to borrow our Theistic system of law and morality, which is based in all manner of theological musings such as “human rights.”



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hlvanburen

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm


“To hlvanburen, You are now arguing atheism based on blind faith. How? Well, I told you that I’m bound to infer there is an Intelligence responsible for designing creation because we don’t know of any matter creating/designing itself out of nothing by random accidents. But you respond by saying that I should instead just shut up and believe in self-creating universes by blind faith. Sorry, but I lack the faith for that.”
No…you simply exercise your faith in a different direction based on what you have seen and how you choose to interpret it. Neither you nor I have a full picture of what the universe contains or how it came into being. You, upon examining it from your perspective, conclude that there must be a creator, and (if I interpret your posts correctly) that the creator must be the one identified in the Christian scriptures.
Yet your understanding fails to answer a very important underlying question: why must the universe have a beginning?
“That fact is that I observe design and function in nature, and “designs” by definition include the concept of a designing intelligence and intentional purpose.”
Indeed, that is a fact. It is also a fact that you share the human limitation of being incapable of fully comprehending the entirety of the universe. Therefore your conclusion is limited and faulty…as is mine. We all make educated guesses based on our limited experience and understanding.
“As I said before, atheists are in a war with the concept of design itself. They have to say design is an illusion, for if design is real, then so is the inferred Designer of those designs.”
Actually, with a few rather vocal exceptions, most atheists I know are simply asking those who insist that the deity they worship is the only ultimate designer of the universe to provide proof of the claim.



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hlvanburen

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm


“Atheism cannot find a basis for moral codes, since nature itself hasn’t determined one for us via evolution, other than our natural impulses.”
And how is this meaningful? Given that there exist hundreds, maybe even thousands of theistic belief systems, many with contradictory moral codes, it would seem that theism has been every bit as unsuccessful at creating a basis for a moral code as atheism.
You walk on very thin ice here, Eusebius, in making your claim. For you invite references to the use of theistic belief to support moral codes that permitted terrible atrocities.
The fault, once again, does not seem to be in the choice of religious belief but, instead, in the human will to either adhere to or defy the moral code of any given society.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm


Eusebius, you didn’t comment on my question if you had read any game theory. Game theory provides an insight into how moral behaviors would be chosen over amoral ones. Basically all parties have more to gain through cooperation than through conflict, so cooperation is selected for and reinforced.
The tangential point was in response to your question to Franklin that humans don’t arrest animals for when they behave badly. My point was that in general we don’t interact with them, but those we do interact with we expect to conform.
It’s quite sad that you equate the word punish with brutality and that you missed my statement about reward. Indeed anyone who works with animals will tell you they respond better to kindness and reward and that punishment should not be brutal and used sparingly.



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TTT

posted January 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm


Actually, Eusebius, the argument for atheist moral groundings has been plainly laid out in every single book by those (*gasp*) awful new atheists whom you hate and fear so much but have never learned anything about. Dawkins goes on for at least two lengthy chapters in “The God Delusion,” which you would know if you had read up on your subject matter before condemning it. At least then you would have been able to respond on the points, instead of obliviously missing them all.
The same goes for your every comment on animal social behavior and anthropology.
When would Jesus lie?



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elizabeth

posted January 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Buddhism is not nihilistic, but that probably the most common of the incorrect accusations leveled against it by those who do not grasp the nature of the teachings.
There is no teaching (that I can find) in Buddhism that says “The Universe” requires moral behavior. Peace of the heart and peace in society require it. If you behave like a jerk, you live with the consequences of that.
Nor does Buddhism argue against the existence of a supreme deity (thanks for that correction, someone above). It does not address the question at all. The Buddha refused to answer speculative questions that detracted from the search for liberation from a suffering heart.
As to the virtues, a class taught to me by a Catholic nun who studies St. John of the Cross compared the virtues as taught by St. John to those listed as necessary preconditions for the spiritual life by Buddhists. They matched up pretty perfectly.
Eusebius, your arguments layer a type of social Darwinism over actual evolutionary theory. That must be why you keep coming up with psychopathology as the primary human nature.
Buddhism starts with a very different view – that our primary nature is innocent and pure, but delusion about a self (which we believe we much protect at all costs) interferes with our awareness of this. The practitioner who learns to see that the nature of existence includes an utter interrelatedness of all things, cannot cause harm without immediately hurting herself. It is a strong motive against causing harm and for opening the heart.



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Socrates

posted January 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm


‘The argument is that atheists can’t find a basis for the entire concept of morality at all. They can’t find any valid reason to label certain natural instincts as “bad” or “evil” or “wrong.”‘
Your argument is nonsense.
Atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and all sorts of other non-Christians are able to find plenty of reasons to behave morally. There is an abundance of non-Christian philosophy that discusses how to behave admirably. Ever heard of Plato, Socrates, Lao Tzu, or Kant?
As I see it, non-Christian philosophy is a much richer source for thinking about right and wrong than your simple “because my God says so.”
And then there is the simple fact that there are millions of atheists and other doubters and non-Christians living moral, ethical lives.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm


Eusebius, others have addressed some of your specific points, so I’ll offer a more general rebuttal: There are two proofs. One is the abstract (do I dare write “theoretical”?) proof implied in the many citations in this and other threads to philosophers, apologists and the like.
The other proof is experiential. It is covered by the Latin q.e.d., quad erat demonstrandum, and it is the direct rebuttal to your citation of “atheistic” evolution and humanities’ grounding in the animal world. It is implied by John’s citation of social stability. It also includes the many theologies we’ve spawned in our history, and the practical results under each one: They have value, but they permit failure.
It is altogether proper to question the “humanistic” approach used by atheists. The thing you don’t seem to get is that it is just as proper to question the “theistic” approach, starting with Christianity and extending to all contemporary theologies.



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Franklin Evans

posted January 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm


I’ll finish with a personal (to me) comment: I reject the notion of sin because I don’t need to point to a deity to label the injury done to a person, animal or object of property as wrong. If we permit the use of the term “sin”, then I use it in the sense of “sin against one’s fellow” while rejecting “sin against God”.



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R Hampton

posted January 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm


In the interest of fairness and honesty – there is more to the belief in God that just God’s existence. There are actually several associated assumptions, none of which can be proven:
1. God exists
2. God is singular
3. God is good
4. God is all knowing
5. God is all powerful
6. God is perfect
7. God is responsible for the existence of the Universe
8. God is (directly) responsible for the existence of Life
9. God is present in all things and at all times
10. God grants afterlife to those of his choosing
etc., etc.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm


I re-read all of today comments and I missed this gem earlier:
Eusebius said “Finally, Christian morality has tremendous power in terms of law formulation and enforcement, the theological concept of human rights, and personal motivations of love and fear towards the Creator (i.e., cosmic punishment and rewards).”
Wow! Rewards and punishments work when they’re applied as soon as possible after the misdeed. The problem with this system of cosmic punishment and rewards is that they are unverifiable and applied after death, long after the misdeed occurred. As such they have no power in this world and in the mean time leave pragmatic humans to establish viable systems of enforceable morality.



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Dennis Larkin

posted January 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm


“I heard an old religious man” ask a questioner, “If I prove to you that God exists, what are you willing to do about it?” He said he’d rarely heard a commitment to change one’s life from an interlocutor. So he just went about his business: if the questioner wasn’t interested in changing his life, what’s the point.
Aquinas dismissed Anselm, but Scotus did not: just one instance where Scotus got it right but Aquinas did not.



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Dennis Larkin

posted January 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm


As for pragmatism, there’s nothing as pragmatic, as survivable as Catholicism, with it’s moral order.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm


Dennis Larkin, I’m sure an Imam would say the same thing about Islam.



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Hector

posted January 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm


Boy, this thread has turned into a trainwreck.
Eusebius,
No one can ‘prove’ the existence of moral truths in the strict, knock-down sense that you are demanding, neither the theist nor the atheist. Ultimately, all moral systems, atheist and religious alike, come down to unprovable axioms, like “Love is better than hatred” which either have to be accepted or denied, but can’t be proven in terms of other postulates. Postulating a Supreme Designer doesn’t really solve the problem, because it leaves open the question, “Why are we to obey the Designer”?
The basic problem with identifying moral goodness with divine commands is the one Plato pointed out in the Euthyphro. Either goodness has a definition independent of God, or else it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then the statement that God is supremely good becomes a meaningless tautology, equivalent to saying “A = A”. If it doesn’t, then your whole argument that goodness has no meaning in the absence of a designer, falls down.
Now I would agree with you, as a Christian, that while we can _know_ what goodness is independent of God, we can’t actually _be_ good in the absence of divine grace (whether we choose to acknowledge the source of that grace or not). To argue otherwise would be Pelagianism. But if the statement that God is perfectly good has any meaning, then good has to have a definition that is in some way separable from God. n



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm


hlvanburen says: “No…you simply exercise your faith in a different direction based on what you have seen and how you choose to interpret it.”
Eusebius: Wrong. It is infinitely more reasonable to look at a universe filled with intricate designs and infer a Designer than to look at that same universe and NOT infer a Designer. Your inference is illogical and relies upon blind faith, whereas the Theist inference is logical and reasonable.
Next, I do identify the Creator with the Christian God, and for the historical reason I listed in my first post. In sum: Jesus and a bunch of disenfranchised Hebrew kooks go around predicting the imminent, cataclysmic end of their cherished 1500-year dynasty and claim to be the true upcoming successors, preaching some “new covenant” form of Judaism. They hurriedly begin 40 years of preparations for the said downfall of their civilization, at great personal peril and death, and then the event actually happens as predicted, while Jesus and his straggler kooks go on to become the No. 1 most influential humans of all time. Unprecedented. Please allow me to bow a knee a moment and pay homage…there, done. Jesus Christ is MORE LIKELY than any other historic personage to be God. There simply isn’t a serious contender anywhere.
Next, the concept of a steady state universe (a universe with no beginning) isn’t remotely serious in the present scientific review, but I’m open to hearing your evidences.
Moving along…your insistence that I should believe in self-creating universes because of “human limitations in fully comprehending the entirety of the universe” is unserious. It’s a blind faith claim, and you should know better than that.
Peace to you.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm


To MH, I haven’t read game theory, but the animal kingdom has done quite well with rape, killing, incest, thieving, and cannibalism. And in fact, no animals seem to have any problem with these natural behaviors after millions of years (so neither should we). Next, we do NOT expect the animal kingdom to conform, nor do we say the animals are bad or wrong or immoral for their acts of killing, rape, incest, and the like. In fact, we often marvel over the ways in which those behaviors may help them survive and thrive! So, again, same with humans. Poof, there goes morality. Finally, animals are the most brutal to each other—they’re used to it, and there’s no reason to think things ought to be otherwise than evolution has already decreed via random chance. Finally, punishments and rewards are to be applied both to this life and the afterlife, according to Christian teaching. Christians believe in civil law and order.
To Triple T, I’m not here to talk to Dawkins. You’ll have to sit in for him.
To Elizabeth, a million years of animals “behaving like jerks” has led to this consequence: continued existence and the thwarting of extinction. (BTW, I’m *not* knocking Buddhism. Rather, I’m looking at the logical consequences of a randomly evolved universe that has no purpose or design, and nihilism is the proper conclusion. That is, all acts are morally equal and relative, whether the act is genocide or helping old ladies cross the street. Social darwinism is the logical conclusion of atheist presuppositions. Evolution simply gave us desires to kill and steal and rape etc, and we ought to be more free about such things like the rest of the animals.)
To Socrates, please tell me: What makes any behaviors moral/ethical, on what basis is this determined, and who gets to decide? You? The Nazis?



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm


Franklin,
I’m fine with your quite biblical definition of sin as “wronging one’s fellow” (via violating various of their God-given rights). However, I would again point out that the notion that people have “rights” has to be questioned, proved, and justified. Where do these “rights” come from? What are they? Why? Atheism has no answer to these questions, and so the concept goes poof. Furthermore, atheism can’t on the one hand allow the animal kingdom to trample life and territory but then say humans are the exception and ought NOT follow those same evolved instincts. That’s totally contradictory. We’re all evolved animals, and there’s no cosmic rule book to say humans ought not fulfill their natural desires and instincts just like other animals.
I don’t buy any “stability” argument. My personal and family stability may just require that I steal and lie and take your spouse. And if my instincts make me inclined to such behaviors, just blame evolution if you don’t like it. I’m just doing what my evolved instincts tell me.
Peace and happy new year to you, Franklin.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:28 pm


Hector,
Who defines how a thing ought to function, act, or be? A designer does. That is, things receive their intended functionality and purpose from the designers that make them. Our instructions come from our designer.
In the absence of a Designer who creates and intends the purpose for some invention or creation, the thing has no intended purpose, function, or activity. None. Zero. Zilch. So it is with humans. If there is no Designer as atheists believe, then humans receive their prescribed “function” exclusively from the dumb luck of unguided evolution, which has left us, like all animals, with natural impulses to rape, kill, deceive, steal, and much more. And we have no basis to say such things are “bad” or “wrong.” So, if there is no Designer, the human’s purpose by nature is to follow whatever his/her instincts have determined. It’s not good or bad, it just is.
No Designer = no intended function for a thing. Likewise, no God = no right or wrong behaviors intended for the thing. Plain and simple.
You see, Hector, postulating the Designer solves the problem. For, again, a thing’s purpose is derived from—and determined by—its designer. That’s the reality for all designed things.



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R Hampton

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm


However, I would again point out that the notion that people have “rights” has to be questioned, proved, and justified. Where do these “rights” come from? What are they? Why? Atheism has no answer to these questions, and so the concept goes poof.
So you don’t believe that a man named Immanuel Kant lived or that he wrote of a purely reasoned natural law. Why is that?



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R Hampton

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:43 pm


Eusebius,
As any carefully worded ID website will tell you, the “Designer” need not be God, it could be an alien (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).



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Mark

posted January 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Since I’m a scientist, believers who care about me will sometimes try to convince me of the existence of God by using some logical argument. There are two problems: First, attempting a logical proof of something that is a matter of faith just seems to be a waste of time. More subjectively, the gift that religion brings a person seems to be Belief. What good is Belief if there are proofs?



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm


Eusebius, then maybe you should read some game theory. You keep asking how someone who’s not religious could base a system of morality in something other than the law of the jungle and I told you. At this point you are repeating yourself.
Also in your system of morality all I see are other humans enforcing the laws. I don’t see any lighting bolts from on high smiting people like Bernie Madoff, so from the outside it looks exactly like my system of morality.
However, as Hector points out this thread has become a train wreck. Instead of arguments for God, it has become atheists can’t have a system of morality without God.



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Martin Snigg

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:21 pm


No one has explicitly mentioned Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics yet. I think most problems here and in contemporary analytical philosophy would be resolved with it. (‘mind-body’ problem, immortality of the soul, foundation of science, morality and religion).
“It is almost insuperably difficult to become critically conscious of one’s own habitual assumptions; ‘doctrines felt as facts’ can only be seen to be doctrines, and not facts, after great efforts of thought, and usually only with the aid of a first-rate metaphysician.”
And they don’t come better than Aristotle and Aquinas. (after the God-Man of course)
The yellow brick road. :)
http://vereloqui.blogspot.com/2009/08/politically-incorrect-guide-to-reality.html



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Hector

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm


MH,
It’s especially a train wreck because as Plato observed, knowing that a Designer exists doesn’t get you towards knowing whether of not the designer is Good, or whether the designer has a claim on our obedience.
The only clear-cut example of living things that are undoubtedly ‘designed’, are domesticated plants and animals, which have been selected by humans for certain purposes. A pit bull terrier, for example, has been ‘designed’ by generations of clever and unscrupulous dog breeders for the purpose of tearing other dogs (and rats, and other wildlife) apart. On one level, a relatively peaceful and gentle pit-bull is not fulfilling the purpose of its designers. But that doesn’t mean that a pit-bull is acting _wrongly_ when it acts peacefully instead of violently, because in the case of the pit bull’s designers, those designers were nasty people who have no claim to moral goodness, and therefore no claim on the pit bull’s obedience.
Now in the case of God, since he is in fact perfectly good, his commands are also good and do in fact demand our obedience. But that isn’t true _by definition_, it just happens to be true. If we had been designed by Baal or Molech, or by the cosmic equivalent of Michael Vick instead of God, that would not therefore mean that whatever Baal or Molech decreed was therefore moral.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm


After listening to a couple of long-dead Greeks engaged in a tournament with each other, I am ready to believe in reincarnation, with or without a god. But, “Tis Greek to me.”
MH, if God intervened to leave conclusive evidence of his own existence, that would not be scientific proof. There is no experiment to test it, it would have to be self-evident. And where, pray tell, could only God put such a message, where mere corporal humans could find it? In any event, until we find such a transmission, is remains impossible to PROVE that there is a God. I accept that among those who, being scared to death by some phenomena they encountered, proclaimed a direct revelation from God, at least some really did have direct contact with the Creator — which must have been terrifying.
Hector, thanks for the explanation of Wallace’s faith. I get so tired of hearing people talk about evolution, and faith, as if they are mutually exclusive.



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Lord Karth

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm


hlvanburen @ 10:42 AM writes:
“”This universe is too big, and too complex, and FAR too intricately designed, to be the product of random chance.”
Lord Karth, the presumption in that statement is overwhelming. By making such a statement you presume an understanding of events that far exceeds the historical bounds of human knowledge. Given how little we truly know about the universe and its complexity, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that random chance did bring it about.”
With all due respect, sir, your lack of knowledge of modern physics is rather overwhelming. I am no physicist, nor do I play one on TV, but I do know something of physics, and I can tell you this: there are a great many constants and basic laws that have to interact JUST SO, simply to have something as basic as the hydrogen atom come into existence. Disrupt or change one of those laws/constants (gravity, for example), and matter as we know it (or even as we suspect it) is literally NOT POSSIBLE. I seem to recall someone calculating the odds that all those laws could be aligned just so by chance, and it came out to several trillion trillion trillion (or more) to one against.
Given those odds, I’d be inclined to bet on the existence of a Creator. What sort of Creator, whether He is anything like us and what His intentions are for His creation are topics for a later time (but being Catholic, I must postulate that we are created in His image), but as to whether or not He exists, I have to go where the odds tell me to.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm


Siarlys Jenkins, there many places and ways that it could easily be done. Here are three, but I can think of many many others:
The CMBR is uniform and nearly completely smooth, but it does have ripples. The creator could put a pattern in those ripples which contained a message. Again this non-natural pattern would be self evident and only the creator could put it there.
The creator could tweak the rates of radio active decay of elements. The rate of change in the decay rate could contain a message. This requires altering the strong and weak nuclear forces and would require a God to do it. This would be subtle wouldn’t effect things much, but be very obviously unnatural. Such a message would be heard across the entire universe too.
There’s an open question in computer science of whether p is equal or not equal to np. In plain language if p is not equal to np then it means that it is possible to understand knowledge that you are incapable of creating. I would assume that God would have access to such knowledge and could tell someone to write it down. We would understand that it was true and yet also understand we could never have generated such information. It would obviously have to come from a non human source and be a form of proof.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm


Lord Karth, I like the fine tuned universe argument, but in it current for it has some problems. As evidence it is somewhat ambiguous and the evidence is open to rebuttal.
One is the sum over histories argument. This means that when the universe was very small quantum effects predominated and objects at the quantum scale can have more than one history. So the history that made us possible is the one that we see. This is Stephen Hawking’s response BTW.
Now if God really wanted to prove his existence he wouldn’t stop with fine tuned constants. The digits of those constants expressed in Planck units could have a pattern which was really obvious, or have information in them.



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Socrates

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm


“but I do know something of physics, and I can tell you this: there are a great many constants and basic laws that have to interact JUST SO, simply to have something as basic as the hydrogen atom come into existence. Disrupt or change one of those laws/constants (gravity, for example), and matter as we know it (or even as we suspect it) is literally NOT POSSIBLE. I seem to recall someone calculating the odds that all those laws could be aligned just so by chance, and it came out to several trillion trillion trillion (or more) to one against.”
Again, I’m not an atheist but the argument that everything has to be “exactly so” in order for everything to exist as it is, is just a nonsense argument.
Yes, change some important constant and “matter as we know it is literally NOT POSSIBLE.”
No kidding! Make something about the universe different and matter will be – different. Not like it is. LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE!
Wow. Who could have imagined this amazing thing???
Next.



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Socrates

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm


“but as to whether or not He exists, I have to go where the odds tell me to.”
So – the odds that a very particular omnipotent creator exists (not just any god, mind you, but the Christian God!) are BETTER than the odds that the universe is perfectly tuned without a designer?
Please explain!



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm


To Mark,
In Christianity, the word “faith” is not generally used as the opposite of proof or evidence. It is typically used as “trust” in something, someone, or some promise given. It is also used as a proper noun as a synonym for the Christian Religion — i.e., “The Faith.”
There are many evidences upon which the validity of the Christian Faith rests: some from first-century history, some from the eyewitness testimony, some from the unique longevity of the Judeo-Christian dynasty, some from archeology, some from the inspirational life and teachings of Jesus himself, etc. etc.
Having said that, science is a different discipline than law, history, sociology, archeology, or philosophy, and a scientist will not be able to put Christianity in any kind of test tube. (Though certain miracle claims of Christianity can undergo rigorous scrutiny from medical scientists and such, which is always welcomed—at least among Catholics.)



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:12 pm


To MH,
I’d enjoy reading up on game theory. So I hope to find time to do so. But my argument is not that people/atheists are incapable of fabricating a system of laws—I fully agree they can.
Rather, my point is that the system atheists come up with will be arbitrary, a tool of the ruler, and ever-self-refuting. The only moral system given by evolution is this: humans and all other animals have evolved the natural impulses to kill and steal and rape and lie, and evolution itself makes no negative judgments upon such evolutionary traits. They just exist and are totally natural. That’s the morality given by evolution itself.
As to the arbitrary nature of moral systems…remember, we see that the Nazis had their moral code of genocide, and the Greeks had their moral code of predestined slave classes. And the Chinese have their moral code of government-run sterilization and abortion. Who is to say any of these codes is immoral or bad?
So, I think atheists are forced to accept that might makes right, and that Nazi genocide was morally right for the Germans at that time period. Who has any authority to say otherwise? And on what basis?



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm


If we had been designed by Baal or Molech, or by the cosmic equivalent of Michael Vick instead of God, that would not therefore mean that whatever Baal or Molech decreed was therefore moral.
Sure it would. An Omnipotent Creator is the measure of all things, and if some other almighty deity had created a universe where dog fighting was a virtue, then dog fighting would necessarily be a virtue.
He who makes the game up determines the rules.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm


Eusebius said, “Sure it would. An Omnipotent Creator is the measure of all things, and if some other almighty deity had created a universe where dog fighting was a virtue, then dog fighting would necessarily be a virtue. He who makes the game up determines the rules”
That sounds an awful lot like might makes right to me.



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MH

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm


Its late and I have to go to bed. But the point of game theory is that people would independently derive the same system of morality using it. They would also find genocide abhorrent because they would be focused on non-zero sum outcomes where both sides would win.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm


Hector,
Natural evolution alone does not allow or provide for the concept of “moral vs. immoral acts.” It provides only for the concept of acts, ones carried out based on evolved natural impulses. Evolution makes no distinctions between impulses to cannibalize or to feed the poor. Evolution simply makes no judgments on any behaviors but has given all behaviors. Animals are not bad for killing, for stealing, for cannibalizing, for raping, and so neither are humans.
But many humans are not comfortable with that evolved darwinian code and *wish* that murder and rape and theft and lying were objectively wrong and immoral. They want to believe that these acts violate some universal law that exists somewhere in The Universe, even though they profess there is no moral “rule book” in the world.
This forces the atheist to make a tough choice: either embrace the final moral nihilism of evolution or else embrace God as the true-but-nonmaterial source of objective moral knowledge.



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Eusebius

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:52 pm


MH,
I’m not suggesting that the Creator of *our universe* has decreed dog fighting as virtue. We have the Ten Commandments, love neighbor as self, the Golden Rule, human rights, help for the needy, etc. etc.
But, theoretically, the concept of one almighty omnipotent deity (monotheism) precludes the notion of anyone else setting the rules. It’s just a fact that physical reality must obey the rules set by the Creator of physical reality. In monotheism, there’s no other Source available to create anything or any rules.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:20 am


So, I think atheists are forced to accept that might makes right, and that Nazi genocide was morally right for the Germans at that time period. Who has any authority to say otherwise? And on what basis?
Hang on there a second Eusebius – you’ve been saying all along that in the atheistic world view, it is necessarily true that no human behaviors are moral or immoral – they just are.
So why are you now requiring atheists to accept that the Nazi genocide was morally right?
You are not being logically consistent…



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Quiddity

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:26 am


Why are we wasting our time arguing about a logical proof of God? Why not an empirical one like that performed by Elijah on Mt. Carmel?
Believers today should set up a test, like praying over a glass of water. If it freezes (the goal here), then that’s a data point in favor of their argument.
Empiricism is how we know about the universe. Why is God’s existence exempt from such an analytic procedure?



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:29 am


No kidding! Make something about the universe different and matter will be – different. Not like it is. LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE!
Socrates, I too don’t get why anyone is impressed by the Argument from Finely Tuned Constants.
It leads me to the fanciful notion that had the physical constants been different, there might have been a universe where race of energy-based beings who saw the fact that if the set of constants weren’t just so, the electromagnetic waves that formed their beings would expand forever into the cosmos instead of cohering around a focal point as definitive proof of a Creator.



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Hector

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:56 am


Just a quick note to clarify for the people in this thread.
The Euthyphro dialogue which I referenced above, has Plato posing the question, “Is something good because God commands it, or does God command things because they are good?”
This is a thorny question, and not easy to answer (like I said, it’s not easy for _anyone_, atheist or believer, to define what ‘good’ is). Christians have, it’s true, in the past come down on both sides of this question. Calvin, if I recall correctly, and some of his followers held that things are good because God command them, and that if he had commanded us to murder children then child murder would be good. Eusebius seems to agree (if I’m misconstruing your position, Eusebius, let me know.) In his brilliant Regensburg address of a few years ago, Pope Benedict said this was also true of most Islamic schools of thought.
Calvin was of course wrong on that, as he was wrong on most things. I am very much a believer in the opposite contention, that God commands things because they are intrinsically good, and because God is perfectly good. If it were not so, to say that ‘God is perfectly good’, or ‘God is love’ would be a tautology. I think that the majority of Christian theologicans, and thoughtful and sensitive Christians throughout history, would probably agree with me here. Certainly it seems to me- from scripture, tradition, and reason- that we need to define goodness independently from God, in order for the claim of God being perfectly good to have meaning. The idea that if Molech had created us, we would be bound to obey Molech, strikes me as horrid.
Eusebius, you’re not a Catholic are you? Because Pope Benedict very strongly disagrees with you on this question.
Again, I’m sorry this thread has turned into a discussion of the pros and cons of divine command ethical theory, which I find much more boring than a discussion of the pros and cons of, say, the Ontological Argument.



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Hector

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:02 am


John E,
With all due respect, that doesn’t make any sense. There are not a whole smorgasbord of POSSIBLE ways life could have developed. Life is a very tricky thing, and could only have developed in a very small range of different environments. I don’t think, for example, that life could ever have developed that was NOT based on carbon polymers for its basic building blocks and water as its basic solvent, which already quite limits the kind of environments where life could originate. Same with temperature ranges- there is a quite small range of temperatures where higher life forms can exist.
The Argument from Fine Tuning doesn’t work as a strictly scientific proof, because you can’t draw conclusions about probabilities after the fact. It does, however, have a lot of intuitive power.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:28 am


To JohnE, I stand corrected. I argue that consistent atheists cannot logically suggest that any action—including Nazi genocide—is morally right or wrong. It is only natural. Atheists are stuck accepting that all acts are natural, and the atheist legal code should therefore not penalize any being for any activity, whether rape and incest or cannibalism and theft. Evolution in and of itself has no “good acts” or “bad acts.”
To Quiddity, empirical proofs in Catholicism center around science-defying healings and inexplicable paranormal phenomena, such as the mysterious image of Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Shroud. Healings and images are constantly undergoing scientific and medical tests to figure out how they happened. In Catholicism, an event must defy all known scientific explanation before being a possible candidate for an objective miracle. There are thousands of such events — every person who is determined to be a saint must have two such science-defying phenomena associated with them, as determined by teams of scientists.



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sigaliris

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:40 am


Late to the party here–partly because arguing about “proof” of the existence of God is something I recall doing long ago in the Paleolithic when Mr. Sig first discovered St. Anselm, and it’s kind of old hat to me now. It was then, I believe, that I was first accused of being a Nominalist . . . . But I do have a couple of thoughts, stimulated by Eusebius’ limited and erroneous understanding of animal behavior.
If you insist on arguing that animals commit “murder, theft, cannibalism and rape” (a formulation I find highly problematic), how does that fit with their having been created not through natural selection over time, but by an all-wise designer God? Adam ate the apple, and all of a sudden, Vampiroteuthis infernalis switched from harmless vegetarian to predator? Even if you fantasize that in Eden, the tiger was a vegetarian, it’s hard to see how our Vampiroteuthis friends could have been, given that they live in the utter darkness of the deep ocean, where there is no plant life because there is no sun for photosynthesis. Are you going to argue that entire ecosystems are the result of the Fall? I believe this poses some difficulties for which your reading has not prepared you.
More importantly, in humans as in the rest of the animal world, healthy adult behavior begins not with the reading of the Law, but in our mothers’ arms. We learn what it means to be human by imprinting on those who gave us life–not gods, but our mothers. Those who grow up unmothered, or with care that is inadequate to their needs, have trouble learning to love and to receive love, no matter how many sermons and penalties are bestowed on them. Morality doesn’t come from above. It comes from within, as a a result of how we are treated when we are young. Philosophy and abstraction can provide refinement, but it’s very hard to change a person’s basic orientation, created in infancy and childhood. And the care of a mother for her offspring, whether human or animal, far predates Christianity and was not mandated by the Christian God.
I have to say, it’s nice to see a 100+ comment thread that doesn’t involve g*y m*rr**ge. ; ) May there be many such.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:50 am


Eusebius, how do you know that the creator of our universe and not humans wrote “the Ten Commandments, love neighbor as self, the Golden Rule, human rights, help for the needy, etc.” You don’t have any evidence for that assertion, only your personal preference that these claims are true. The evidence you have been accumulating in your posts implies that God seems pretty comfortable with moral evil since there is so much of it in the natural world. Why would God want humans to behave differently from the rest of the natural world?
Hector, I’m glad you’re arguing the Euthyphro dilemma from a theist viewpoint. I think it’s probably the strongest counter argument to the argument from morality. Also I find the book of Job and the story of Abraham and Isaac really troubling, because both seem to imply that evil isn’t evil when God does or commands it.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:56 am


Hector,
I haven’t read Pope Benedict’s musings on this specific narrow topic, but if you have any links, feel free to post.
I can’t see that this is a thorny issue. God is the only possible maker of all the rules, definitions, and values that exist in our present world. Logically, if One Omnipotent Creator is the source of all creation, then that Creator sets the guidelines that all the creation must play by. I don’t see any controversy in that.
Next, of course you think it’s horrid that some different universe could, **theoretically speaking**, be governed by different values and definitions as set by a Molech-type god. But we think it’s horrid because we are citizens of the universe created and governed by Christ, and our ideals are defined via the teachings of the 10 Commandments, the Golden Rule, honoring human rights to life/property, and service to other humans as to self. That’s our *religiously received* framework for life and action, and it differs dramatically from that which evolution determined.
I think it’s evident that the singular being who creates a universe sets the rules of the game. There’s no one else around to do it. So, whatever is “intrinsically good” or “intrinsically bad” is defined by God Himself at the outset, and we simply live and function within the environment established by the deity.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:58 am


Hector, John E is making the sentient puddle argument. Basically a sentient puddle would claim design in the ditch that contains it. Yet in fact it is the puddle that molds itself to the ditch, not the other way around. There are many possible ditch puddle configurations, while we are completely ignorant about what configurations of constants would work for life of some sort.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:29 am


To MH, you asked why I think the contents of the Christian faith are of divine origin.
The contents of the Christian faith (the Ten Commandments, love neighbor as self, human rights to life and property, forgiveness/pardon for human failings, etc.) are believed to be of divine origin because they came to us through a single 5000-year-old historical dynastic tradition kept miraculously intact and led by influential figures like Jesus, the Apostles, David, Abraham, the Prophets, and the Church. There’s just no comparable tradition/dynasty existing upon earth. It’s concrete, unique, and a source of constant wonder and mystery.
As to the problem of good and evil, it’s my *personal view* that God intentionally created a moral universe in which human beings, as unique among God’s created beings, would personally encounter good and evil and have opportunity to use their full faculties to choose between them. The humans that pursue after good (as defined by the above moral laws of love) are said to be like God and receive just rewards, but the ones that cling to evil (defined as violating all the moral laws of love) and perpetuate it willingly receive just consequences. That’s the meaning of the universe as I understand it, and I believe it is practically self-evident. We are here to love and to do good, but we must willfully cooperate with that vision for humanity—it’s not automatic. We all feel tempted by the “glamour of evil,” and a great many people fall fully in love with it and become drunk with it. People who willingly cooperate with evil receive just consequences.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:59 am


Sigaliris asks: If you insist on arguing that animals commit “murder, theft, cannibalism and rape” (a formulation I find highly problematic), how does that fit with their having been created not through natural selection over time, but by an all-wise designer God?
Eusebius replies: I’m not seeing the problem here. Unlike the animals, humans have been provided both the impulses of animals *and also the faculties of conscience/reason,* so that we can actually choose whether we will act as animals (murder, rape, theft, etc.) or act as God. It’s intentional that God created our moral universe within which mankind is placed and called upon to to pursue good by choice.
By the way, I tend to believe in theistic evolution as the origin of life, though no one has any real way of knowing what happened or how it transpired. Catholics believe Genesis makes use of poetics and allegory to explain the origin and purpose of life. We do believe in a historical first set of human parents from which all humans descend, but the story to explain the Creation isn’t trying to provide science, but rather moral and existential teaching on meaning and purpose.
I disagree with you that only people with good moms have the capacity for making moral choices in life. I do agree that human consciences undergo formation and training from parents/society (some good, some bad), but people make choices along the way for which they are culpable. And don’t forget that many people from caring, solidly moral homes end up in prison for all kinds of crimes. People do have faculties to make meaningful choices.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:00 am


To JohnE, I stand corrected. I argue that consistent atheists cannot logically suggest that any action—including Nazi genocide—is morally right or wrong. It is only natural. Atheists are stuck accepting that all acts are natural, and the atheist legal code should therefore not penalize any being for any activity, whether rape and incest or cannibalism and theft.
From whence comes the “should therefore” part of your argument?
Since you claim atheists have no moral imperatives, why must an atheist society accept that all acts are natural?
With no moral imperatives, why must that society organize itself in the way you claim?
What drives the should not in your assessment?
I put forward the assessment that your claims of ‘shoulds’, ‘should nots’, and ‘musts’ are irrelevant in the face of ‘no moral imperatives’.
What is the imperative that drives, “the atheist legal code should therefore not penalize any being for any activity”?
You make an appeal to biological evolution. What is the imperative that drives your claim that an atheistic society must model biological evolution?
If an atheistic society chooses to organize in a way that preserves social stability, they are under no obligation to reconsider simply because you think they are not being logically consistent.
MH, I had not heard of the sentient puddle argument before – thank you, it explains what I meant better than I probably would have done.



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Hector

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:29 am


MH,
Ironically, Eusebius is making the equivalent of the ‘sentient puddle’ argument in the moral sphere. If I understand him correctly, he argues that we think that love and kindness are ‘good’ and ‘natural’ because the god who rules over us happens to think those things are good. If we had been designed by Baal, Nisroch, Molech, or any number of other deities, then we would presumibly think child sacrifice, cannibalism and sacred prostitution were good, and with quite as much reason.
I think the sentient puddle argument is quite as silly coming from Eusebius as from John E.. Well, actually, more so, because Eusebius, being a Christian, should know better.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:43 am


JohnE,
Atheists can certainly make up any mythology they like to justify whatever moral code they want. The only objective scientific reality we have on this topic is that all animals have the impulses and desires to kill, rape, steal, and such, and there is no objective/scientific/real basis for suggesting there’s anything wrong or bad about such acts, since evolution has no meaning or purpose to anything (assuming no external designer). There’s just no basis for saying a natural act is good or bad. We are consistent on this in the way we apply it to all animals. We need only include ourselves among the animals, as atheistic insights demand.
I think we can agree, John, that it would be ironic if atheists aggressively oppose morality based on religion-oriented mythology then proceed to establish moral codes based on their own mythology. Wouldn’t that be a delicious irony? I think so. Atheists like to think themselves rooted in reality and science, but they don’t really have the courage to accept the true, logical implications of their atheism with regard to law and morality.
Biological evolution is the only “rule book” the universe has provided atheists, and when we open it and observe it, we note that all animals were given the impulses to kill, rape, deceive, steal, etc.
So, let nature be free to express itself, and don’t imprison people for doing what evolution determined creatures to do. Why blame someone for doing an act that evolution has equipped us for naturally? Rape isn’t good or bad, but only natural.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:58 am


So, let nature be free to express itself, and don’t imprison people for doing what evolution determined creatures to do. Why blame someone for doing an act that evolution has equipped us for naturally?
Evolution has equipped humans with the ability to think rationally.
Humans organizing stable societies is a natural use of that capacity.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm


Hector, you said: If I understand him correctly, he argues that we think that love and kindness are ‘good’ and ‘natural’ because the god who rules over us happens to think those things are good. If we had been designed by Baal, Nisroch, Molech, or any number of other deities, then we would presumibly think child sacrifice, cannibalism and sacred prostitution were good, and with quite as much reason.
Eusebius: That’s just the nature of things when you have one supreme creator as the source of all created things. The Creator calls the shots, makes the rules, makes the definitions, and there is no one else to do so.
But, Hector, the fact is that Christ has made the rules, the definitions, the fundamental principles, and so we have a moral universe in which humans are given to choose between good and evil, and to follow the way of Jesus Christ, our creator and brother, whose way is love and service to others. I think that’s a a fitting drama for humanity, though one filled with perils, pain, joys, and triumphs. It’s horrible and joyful, but following the way of goodness has great reward, both here and in the hereafter.
I don’t know why you say I should “know better,” as I’m in no way accusing our creator of being a Molech. Instead, I am insisting that the Creator alone sets up the rules of the game, for there is none other but the Creator to establish the foundational principles. Do you know of other competing gods out there that I don’t know about? Do you know of rules and principles that create themselves and exist independently from God?



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:11 pm


Eusebius, actually the universe has also provided humans with reason. Which humans can use to develop strategies for maximizing their well being and that of others at the same time. They might even derive mathematics which can be thought of as another rule book of the universe. Using it their reason can inform them that their moral strategies are actually grounded in some kind of objective reality and not just their personal preference.
While your belief that your religion is true is an admitted personal preference. A Zoroastrian or Philistine might argue that the Jews got their ideas from them, and that their religions are true, not yours.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm


JohnE says: Evolution has equipped humans with the ability to think rationally
Do you believe it’s rational to blame or punish a shark for the violent rape of its females? Is it rational to blame or punish a magpie for theft? Is it rational to blame or punish a black widow for sometimes eating a mate? Of course not, for they are just following their evolved instincts, and evolution doesn’t say these acts are wrong in any way. So it is when human animals do the same things.
What’s so hard to grasp here?
And again, animals have “stable societies” even though they don’t blame or punish for rape, incest, cannibalism, deceit, and much more. So, I don’t believe we humans would be hurting our survival by allowing human animals to likewise act freely as nature has determined.
But if that’s unacceptable to you, perhaps you should view your internal wish for moral absolutes as evidence of a Creator and His unique plan for humanity, and for you. Evolution has equipped all beings to live according to the code of animals. But the Creator has provided a spiritual and higher divine order for which man is capable, if he will but recognize it and pursue it. God has called us not to live as mere animals, but to live as God. That’s for you, for me, for anyone who will.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm


MH says: Eusebius, actually the universe has also provided humans with reason. Which humans can use to develop strategies for maximizing their well being and that of others at the same time.
Eusebius: Where did you get this idea that we ought to “maximize the well being of ourselves and others”? You just made it up out of thin air. Is that command in some cosmic rule book somewhere? Where is this manual?
Fact is, evolution has provided the instincts to rape and kill and lie to others, as the animals do for their robust well being and survival.
You really must stop suggesting here that murder and rape are bad or wrong. It’s not becoming of a consistent atheist to get bothered about the natural behaviors that unguided evolution has decreed. Just accept natural biology as is. It is what it is. You are an animal.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm


Do you believe it’s rational to blame or punish a shark for the violent rape of its females? Is it rational to blame or punish a magpie for theft? Is it rational to blame or punish a black widow for sometimes eating a mate?
It is rational to kill a lion that is killing member of your tribe.
It is rational to kill rats that are eating your grain.
It is rational to kill a black widow spider that you find in your bed.
Additionally, we can train an animal to not engage in behaviors we don’t want them to engage in and to engage in those we do.
In the same way, we imprison or execute humans who engage in behavior that we would prefer that they not do and train them to do or not do the actions we prefer from them.
You seem to have and idea that the only reason to punish rape and murder is because they are wrong.
It is a perfectly rational reason to punish this behavior because it is not desired by members of the social order.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:54 pm


Eusebius, actually most animals don’t live in stable societies. A society is a very different thing from a herd, pod, or pack as the individuals must cooperate for their joint survival.
Humans, naked mole rats, and the social insects are the exception, not the rule. So it’s way off base to use animals as models of human behavior. Also by mass humans and ants make up most animal life on Earth with ants being the bulk of it. So societies are an amazingly successful invention of evolution who’s individuals must work together because it is in their nature.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 1:21 pm


All this reminds me.
A sentient beetle would use their predominance as the life form with the most species as evidence that they are in fact God’s chosen ones.
While ants would point out that their 110 million year track record means they must be God’s chosen ones.
So if we ever find a message from God encoded somewhere in the fabric of the universe it might not be directed at us. More likely it would read:
“Dear Humans, thanks for finding this as you can now do the task for which I created you using the impersonal mechanism of evolution. Your task is to get the ants and the beetles off the Earth and safely to a new star system before the Sun goes nova. Here are the plans for a star drive. Thanks, and sorry for the problem of evil.
Dear Ants and Beetles, love what you’ve done with the primitive nervous systems, compound eyes, and six legs. Pretty amazing adaptation for something with no sense of balance. Love, your creator.
PS Humans I forgot to mention, take the dogs too. I have a soft spot for them because dog is god backwards and they are nicer than you are.”



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Your Name

posted January 6, 2010 at 1:31 pm


We needn’t wonder what sorts of societies atheists would create. Look upon the moral carnage of Mao, or Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Kim Il
Sung, Enver Hoxha. The repugnant moral codes of atheists is plain to see. No need for speculation.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm


Your Name invoked Godwin’s law at 1:31 pm. Tell him what he’s won Don Pardo!



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sigaliris

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm


Eusebius, you persist in using value-laden words like “rape” and “murder” for the behavior of animals. The accepted conventional use of such terms, among humans, requires that the participants in such acts have self-awareness and free will before moral value can attach to their actions. So, are you saying that you believe animals are moral agents on the same scale as humans? If it is rape for a bull to copulate with an unwilling cow, then presumably humans are guilty of colluding in the rape of cows and other domesticated animals when we breed them. And if it is murder for a predator to kill prey, then certainly we humans are murderers on a genocidal scale. Please clarify your views on this.
I agree with John E. that it is not necessary to demonstrate the existence of absolute good and evil as defined by an omnipotent being for humans, in groups, to decide that certain actions are not beneficial to most group members, and therefore will be discouraged. Most humans as far back as we have any records, have had religious beliefs, and have made group agreements that rape, murder, etc. are to be discouraged, at least within the group. And yet, in spite of religion, rape and murder thrive, even to this day. If religion is the only source of ethical behavior, how do you explain the fact that it does such a very bad job of creating it? Shouldn’t there be at least one Christian society in which rape, for instance, has been virtually extinguished and is committed only rarely, by freakish individuals? How do you explain this?
If you review my earlier comment carefully, you will see that I did not in fact say that “only people with good moms have the capacity for making moral choices in life.” But, let’s assume for the sake of argument that your careless reading was correct. I think this absurd statement would still be less absurd than your apparent belief that only people with good theology have the capacity for making moral choices in life. In fact, I think this would make a great experiment. Compare two groups: those with plenty of catechetical instruction, but no mothers, and those with loving mothers but no religious instruction. Which of the two groups would contain more ethical, compassionate and stable personalities? I wish there were an ethical way to conduct this study. ; )



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm


To JohnE:
The correct answer is that it is not rational to blame or punish any animal (including human animals) for simply acting upon desires to kill, to cannibalize, to rape, to adulterate, etc. etc. So quit acting hypocritically. Either construct a justice system to prosecute lions and sharks or dissolve the justice system used to hold humans in cages for simply doing what comes naturally.
It’s irrational to say there are “behaviors that we would not prefer” when in fact plenty of humans prefer those same behaviors and do them! If you don’t want to steal and rape, then follow your instincts. But if your neighbor does, then let him follow his instincts. Quit trying to imprison others based on your personal preferences.
And if what’s desired by members of the social order is to be the law, then the members of the social order known as Nazis were acting in a rational reasonable manner. You have to accept this logical conclusion of your own belief system, John.
If we are to retain any objective morality at all, we must find it from our Creator who has instructed humanity to live according to a spiritual order higher than that offered through biological evolution. You know full well that animals are not immoral for killing, cannibalizing and raping, and you know that, according to atheism, humans are animals with the same common actions (just watch the nightly news). We don’t imprison lions, and we ought not imprison people either, if we are to have a consistent atheist code.
This is not hard to understand.



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PHG

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm


Someone needs to get these people a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “Miracles” and highlight the Preface and all of Chapter 3.
Then they will be able to figure out what the difference is between a burb and a thought — there being no meaningful material difference, and materialism not being able to conjure a difference between them that doesn’t beg the question.



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MargaretE

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm


As I read Eusebius (which I’ve quite enjoyed, by the way!), he doesn’t seem to be claiming that only people with “good theology” have the capacity for making moral choices… or that only “Christian societies” do… or even that only “religious” societies do. I think he’s saying that we as HUMANS tend to agree on basic principles of right and wrong because the entire world we inhabit – and each of us in it – was created by a God who set the rules and perameters… whether we recognize that fact or not. In other words, an atheist and a professed Christian share the same basic ideas about morality because they are made by the same creator… even if one of them doesn’t acknowledge that fact. Am I getting that right, E? I don’t have your gift of expression…



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Sigaliris,
I don’t care what words you use, but if a black widow eats her mate, and if serial killer Jeff Dahmer eats his mate, don’t say one is bad or evil and not the other. Be consistent. Both are just doing what they feel made to do. Explain why it would be wrong for any being to act upon his natural evolved desires given through evolution.
I don’t deny that groups make collective decisions on what codes that wish to have. But if that is what determines moral and immoral behavior, then the Nazis were moral agents, and you have to grant them that. Who are you to say otherwise?
Obviously, I don’t think Theism does a bad job of helping construct an objective morality. Human rights, for example, is a theological construct from top to bottom. Human rights aren’t objectively real, but they are a powerful idea that we construct laws around. The theory of human rights is based on the inferred premise that some Creator of mankind has granted all individual humans the right to life and property, so that no State, no mob, and no majority has grounds to violate those aspects of a person. That person then has a sort of immunity from animal brutality, and all are to supposed to respect this.
This is all just theological fantasy, however. The mental-theological construct of “rights” is arrived at via the assumption that a Creator has this opinion about human behavior despite our evolved animal instincts which compel us by nature to steal and kill and slander and adulterate. So, human rights theology, plus a system to enforce that theological concept, equates to a concrete justice system that works pretty well.
Next, you said: “I think this absurd statement would still be less absurd than your apparent belief that only people with good theology have the capacity for making moral choices in life.”
But that’s not my argument. My argument is that atheists can’t find any objective basis for why our evolved instincts to murder, rape, deceive, etc. are wrong to begin with. Again, humans are just evolved animals, and it’s nutty to suggest animals are bad or evil for acting upon their instincts.



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hlvanburen

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm


“In other words, an atheist and a professed Christian share the same basic ideas about morality because they are made by the same creator… even if one of them doesn’t acknowledge that fact. Am I getting that right, E?”
But is it not also equally probable that the two individuals in this scenario share the same basic ideas about morality because, in doing so, they further their own self-interest in survival within the society? Also, hasn’t history shown us many, many times over that both are equally likely to abandon those principles when, for whatever reason, they run counter to that self-interest?



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm


Margaret. You got it.
Thanks!
E.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm


hlvanburen writes: is it not also equally probable that the two individuals in this scenario share the same basic ideas about morality because, in doing so, they further their own self-interest in survival within the society?
Eusebius: Almost all animals have furthered their self-interest and survival through murder and rape and theft for millions of years. It works quite effectively. Watch Animal Planet.
But we could even ask this harder question: Why survive? Who says we ought to survive at all? Certainly evolution doesn’t have a dog in that fight.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm


It’s irrational to say there are “behaviors that we would not prefer” when in fact plenty of humans prefer those same behaviors and do them! If you don’t want to steal and rape, then follow your instincts. But if your neighbor does, then let him follow his instincts. Quit trying to imprison others based on your personal preferences.
And if what’s desired by members of the social order is to be the law, then the members of the social order known as Nazis were acting in a rational reasonable manner. You have to accept this logical conclusion of your own belief system, John.
I’m surprised you haven’t surmised earlier – when I say “behaviors that we would not prefer” I am using the ‘royal we’.
I have no trouble at all with the idea of imprisoning others based on my personal preferences – you see, I do accept the logical conclusion of my own belief system.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Eusebius, actually your argument is hard to understand because you keep harping on arresting lions, raping sharks and so on. All the while ignoring points specifically refuting your points, or stating why they aren’t relevant.
Morality is a system of rules to allow humans to live in large groups called societies with out the system running off the rails. Humans live in these large groups because it is an effective scheme at making more humans. Basically humans really aren’t good at most things, but our numbers, brains, and organization make up for it. As social organisms, it’s what we evolved to do and we don’t really need a reason beyond that.
Sugar cane makes sugar, but I’m not a plant and can’t photosynthesize. Should you now start saying that my ideology is inconsistent because I can’t make sugar?



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R Hampton

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm


Examining the roots of the Hebrew people, it’s evident that Jewish culture is an extension of the Zoroastrian religion – the oldest (and continuous) monotheistic tradition – and Mesopotamian culture. For example, the Epic of Gilgamesh easily predates the Jews and Biblical records. Even Answers in Genesis has to admit:
“Comparing the flood stories in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis, one is impressed with the numerous similarities between the two accounts … he most widely accepted explanation today is the second, namely, that the biblical account is based on Babylonian material.”
Which brings me to my next point, the Judeo-Christian God is the God of Humanity, not the God of the Universe. The strongest evidence, of course, comes from the Bible:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
But if we accept astronomical odds as evidence of an intelligently fined-tuned universe, then we must also accept the astronomical odds that life exists outside our solar system. Life not made in the image of God. Life that by the definition given in Genesis must reside in Heaven:
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
Because we now know there is frozen water on the Moon and Mars, we can now say we know that Heaven is just another name for Space — which only makes sense if you are a pre-scientific band of humans who naturally view themselves to be the center of the universe.



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R Hampton

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:29 pm


Eusebius,
It’s one thing to say that design implies a supernatural creator, but how can you infer that God is truly omnipotent? Perhaps God created the Universe, but in God’s supernatural realm, he is limited in power and knowledge and subject to the supernatural laws of his supernatural realm.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm


R Hampton, I’ve mention the Zoroastrian religion previously in this thread and in Rod’s prior blog. In Crunchy Con I pointed out that in the epic of Gilgamesh he was described as 2/3 God and 1/3 man which would require either an infinite number of ancestors or a miraculous birth.



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R Hampton

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm


As I said, the Hebrew culture is an extension of both Zoroastrian religion and Mesopotamian culture. If God could make himself both Man and God in the form of Jesus, then why couldn’t Ahura Mazda – the uncreated creator God of Zoroastrianism – do the same in the form of Gilgamesh?



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Hector

posted January 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm


MH and R Hampton,
Zoroaster isn’t described in the book of Gilgamesh. Persian and Babylonian religion were very, very different. Zoroastrianism is quite an advanced religion, and one that has had a lot of influence on Judaism and, even more, on Christianity. The Jews of the Mosaic period, as I understand it, didn’t place a lot of emphasis on heaven and hell, the devil, or angelology: these were concepts that developed under Persian influence. Interestingly, the Persians are pretty much the only non-Jewish culture and religion spoken of somewhat favorably in the Old Testament (see for example the description of Cyrus as ‘the Lord’s anointed’ in the later chapters of Isaiah).
It’s worth remembering that today, at least for Western Christians, commemmorates the day that Our Lord was first given divine honours, and that he was given such honour by a group of Persian Zoroastrian priests from the east.



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hlvanburen

posted January 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm


hlvanburen writes: is it not also equally probable that the two individuals in this scenario share the same basic ideas about morality because, in doing so, they further their own self-interest in survival within the society?
Eusebius: Almost all animals have furthered their self-interest and survival through murder and rape and theft for millions of years. It works quite effectively. Watch Animal Planet.
And in watching the History Channel we can see instances where humans of a variety of religious beliefs have emulated the actions of these animals perfectly while coating their actions in the justification of their various religious/non-religious moral systems.
Your point?



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm


To R. Hampton — a Creator would have to be at least as intelligent and powerful than everything in the creation combined. That’s pretty powerful and intelligent.
To MH, morality is not just “a system of rules.” Morality has to do with the distinction between “right” and “wrong.” Do you really think the Nazis were moral just because their system allowed them to live in large groups? Would a child sex trade be moral so long as the dictator or majority made it legal?
Morality is the concept that some acts are right/good while others are wrong/evil, and there has to be some basis for thinking this. Try this simple series of questions:
(1) If a shark rapes his fellow shark, does atheism teach he has committed an immoral act. Why or why not?
(2) If a human rapes his fellow human, does atheism say he has committed an immoral act. Why or why not?
(3) Did you get the same answer for question one as for question two? Why or why not?



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Eusebius, I have empathy for my fellow man and would work to prevent what you mentioned because that is the tit for tat game theory strategy. It helps ensure my own survival and reproduction, by helping others ensure their own. It isn’t a matter of laws, logic, reason, dictators, voting, philosophy, or value judgments. It’s an instinctive behavior although one that is imperfectly wired into us.
I’m not going to answer questions about anthropomorphic behavior for animals, end of story. They are non-sense questions.



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MargaretE

posted January 6, 2010 at 5:03 pm


Damn, Eusebius, you’re good! Because, of course, they aren’t nonsense questions at all.



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MargaretE

posted January 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm


Having said that, you’re never going to convince anyone who’s so determined NOT to be convinced. But it’s been fun watching you try! I’ve pretty much given up on these types of arguments. Now I just follow the love and good will… which tends to lead to the same place. Keep the faith.



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Saint Andeol

posted January 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm


wow, 200 comments and it’s not even a gay marriage post!
it seems a little unfair to say that atheists can’t have any real basis for morality without a Source. Christians don’t know that God is real, they “believe”. they have faith. they make a choice to follow this certain set of ancient religious beliefs over the other choices.
Jesus doesn’t have his own half-hour on Fox to tell us what’s really going on. We just have a bunch of stuff written a really long time ago that tells a different story from some of the other stuff written a really long time ago.
saying atheists should be ok with rape and murder is ignorant. since the “validation” for believing in God’s rules of morality is an internal process, a choice made by an individual based solely on their personal thinking, it’s essentially the same choice an atheist makes when they say, “Rape is wrong because it’s harmful and i don’t like it.”



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 5:47 pm


We don’t imprison lions, and we ought not imprison people either, if we are to have a consistent atheist code.
But Eusebius, we do imprison lions – most major cities in the US have a contingent of imprisoned lions – in zoos.
One of the things I don’t understand why Eusebius keeps saying is that I can’t stop someone who is intent on murdering me because that person is just following his animal instincts.
But, in fact, I can.
Look, there’s the fellow who wants to murder me.
Look, here is the loaded gun in my hand.
Aim for the center of mass. Pull trigger.
Look, I’ve stopped the person who wanted to murder me.
So why, Eusebius, do you persist in this assertion that I cannot do something that I quite obviously can do?
I prefer not to be murdered and, as I said earlier, I have no problems imposing my own personal set of preferences onto other people.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:14 pm


In my view, MargaretE, debates are always for the honest seekers, the lurkers, the people hiding in the shadows who have an open-minded agnosticism but want to see a decent case made for either side. So the idea is to take on the most stubborn atheists one can find, and the honest seekers get something to think on more deeply as they go on their way afterwards.
But love and service to others is even more powerful attractant between God and man. Mankind deeply wishes that he is genuinely loved and cared for by God and others. God is love.
Our friend, MH, said that he’s “not going to answer questions about anthropomorphic behavior for animals,” and that’s because he knows he can’t answer. Plus, he keeps forgetting he is an animal. I’m not comparing martians to animals, I’m comparing **animals to animals** and insisting that the atheist be consistent in his evaluation of behaviors like rape, theft, incest, cannibalism, and more.
But they can’t do it, for they know there’s nothing wrong when animals do these things yet something is deeply wrong/evil when humans rape and murder and cannibalize and such—but they can’t find the reason for it.
The reason is God. God has made man utterly different from the animals, not in his biological impulses, which regularly commit natural animal acts like murder and rape, but rather in his God-given spiritual intuition, which tells him humans are made in God’s image—they are different from animals and ought not commit many animal acts.
Acts which are perfectly natural for animals *feel* unnatural to humans, who are made in God’s image as distinct from animals in purpose and design. We intuit that we are designed as children of God, though our fallen nature makes us “mere animal.”



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:31 pm


yet something is deeply wrong/evil when humans rape and murder and cannibalize and such—but they can’t find the reason for it.
Sure we can.
We would rather not be raped, murdered, or cannibalized and – generally speaking – the only other type of animal we are likely to encounter that could do these things would be one of our fellow humans.
And – humans who do things things are likely to be dangerous to oneself.
You are waaay overthinking this…



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:35 pm


St. Andy: Christians don’t know that God is real, they “believe”. they have faith.
Eusebius: Theism is a logical inference, and one supported by a confluence of historical, moral, and empirical evidences.
St. Andy: saying atheists should be ok with rape and murder is ignorant.
Eusebius: Not hardly, not if the atheistic versions of evolution are true. It’s natural and biological for animals to rape and kill, and man is an animal.
St. Andy: since the “validation” for believing in God’s rules of morality is an internal process, a choice made by an individual based solely on their personal thinking…
Eusebius: If that’s true, then murder and even genocide is not an objectively wrong act. It is right or wrong based on whether an individual or group says so. And so the Nazis were morally right, because they thought so in their internal process and choices.
But since you’re late to the party and I’m leaving, you’ll have to take up the God question with others, perhaps along other lines than the “does objective morality exist?” dilemma of atheism.
Cheers,
E



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm


And – humans who do things things are likely to be dangerous to oneself.
And – individuals perceive that humans who do these things to other people are likely to be dangerous to them too. Hence, the unease felt about people who do those sorts of things.



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Jon

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm


Re: I pointed out that in the epic of Gilgamesh he was described as 2/3 God and 1/3 man which would require either an infinite number of ancestors or a miraculous birth.
Or a poet using numbers imprecisely either because “one third” might have had the idiomatic meaning “some minor small fractional part” or else because the word scanned better with the meter of his verse.
Or there may even have been a notion that Gil-gamesh’s mother was impregnated by both a mortal father and a god so that he had three parents. Stuff like that is possible is mythology and fantasy.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:51 pm


JohnE says: We would rather not be raped, murdered, or cannibalized…
Eusebius: I assume that no creature enjoys being raped, murdered, cannibalized, etc. Yet all animals engage in such activities anyway, and the fittest benefit off of the weak. It’s natural, whether you like it or don’t like it. We shouldn’t criminalize nature.
Finally, humans who rape and murder are not “dangerous to themselves.” They are only dangerous to others in the way animals are dangerous to other animals. It’s the way of the jungle, and animals have survived fine with rape, murder, cannibalization, etc. being natural and common.
Gotta go now, JohnE. It’s been nice talking with you. All the best.



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R Hampton

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Eusebius: To R. Hampton — a Creator would have to be at least as intelligent and powerful than everything in the creation combined. That’s pretty powerful and intelligent.
Pretty powerful and intelligent is not the same thing and limitless knowledge and power. Do you concede that God may not be Omnipotent, Omniscient, or Perfect and/or that an inference of Design is not an inference of Infinite ability?
Hector: The Ahura Mazda begetting Gilgamesh comment was sarcastic. But don’t forget that the Persian Cyrus (and devout believer of Ahura-Mazda) conquered Babylon, introduced Zoroastrianism to its peoples, and freed the Jews. Hence the Zoroastrian influence upon Hebrew culture/religion.



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sigaliris

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:11 pm


Eusebius, I was waiting to hear if you would approve MargaretE’s summary of your views. I’m rather surprised that you did. Doesn’t this undermine your argument? If atheists and Christians both have an innate moral sense, doesn’t this open the way for atheists to claim that they can base their moral claims on the fact that morality is inherent in their humanity, and thus no appeal to a supernatural being is necessary to support their claims?
As to your oft-repeated accusations of “shark rape,” yes, this is a nonsense statement, based on a seriously deficient understanding of animal behavior. Sorry, “Animal Planet” doesn’t qualify as research. Having no knowledge of how sharks feel about shark sex, if indeed they feel anything, we have no basis for characterizing it as “rape.” You haven’t answered my question, which I think is far more pertinent: if we are not animals, why is it that rape continues to flourish as an epidemic evil in societies organized around religious principles? Why has Christianity failed to eradicate sexual violence against women? And, again, if you characterize one animal eating another as “murder,” then are not most Christians genocidal murderers of other animals? Rape and murder are not, as you assert, animal actions. Those words only have meaning in a human context. And please do NOT say “I don’t care what words you use.” Words are extremely important, as is their correct usage. One would expect a Christian polemicist to know that.
Your comparison of a spider to Jeffrey Dahmer is, indeed, nonsense by most people’s standards. Few of us would be upset if we saw a man crush a spider with his boot. If he did that to a puppy, most of us would be appalled. If he did the same thing to a child, we would arrest him. Are you trying to claim that, unless one is a Christian, one cannot make any distinctions between an insect and a human being, or between actions that inflict pain and suffering on sentient creatures, and those that do not? Do you think that one must be a Christian to make distinctions between plants and animals? Or between plants and inorganic matter? I think that’s a bit of a stretch.
I think you’ll do better in future to find arguments that don’t involve Hitler–but since you brought him up, yes, it’s true that anti-Nazi moral strictures would be somewhat irrelevant if we’d lost the war. Luckily, we had more men and materiel, and it could also be argued that Hitler made some strategic mistakes, so we won and we get to make moral judgments on the losers. On the other hand, the Christian nations did their best to exterminate the indigenous Americans, pretty much without opposition from their God, and they continue to possess the stolen land with impunity. Where is the hand of a divine being in any of this?
Like MargaretE, I am amused by and admiring of your gyrations. I picture you as a talented tennis amateur flailing away at the balls fired in your direction from all corners of the court. Unlike her, though, I’m not so sure your returns are all clearing the net. ; )



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm


We shouldn’t criminalize nature.
Again with the shoulds and shouldn’ts?
Sig:
Eusebius, I was waiting to hear if you would approve MargaretE’s summary of your views. I’m rather surprised that you did. Doesn’t this undermine your argument?
I’m not surprised – he doesn’t respond to anything that undermines his argument.
Poor form, that.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:33 pm


MargetE and Eusebius, here’s why the questions are nonsense:
(1) If a shark rapes his fellow shark, does atheism teach he has committed an immoral act. Why or why not?
Rape is a crime defined by humans against humans. By definition rape can only be committed by humans, so the question is nonsense.
(2) If a human rapes his fellow human, does atheism say he has committed an immoral act. Why or why not?
Technically question is also nonsense because atheism is a position about the existence of God. It’s not a system of morality and has no teachings.
But if you ask me I would personally say it is immoral. I think that’s because I have a hard wired empathy for my fellow humans.
(3) Did you get the same answer for question one as for question two? Why or why not?
Technically I got the same answer for both because both questions were nonsense. I did inject my personal opinion into the second one, but that’s just my opinion.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm


Jon said “Or there may even have been a notion that Gil-gamesh’s mother was impregnated by both a mortal father and a god so that he had three parents. Stuff like that is possible is mythology and fantasy.”
So is having a virgin mom and god for a father. The question is how do you know any of this is true? They all seem pretty much alike to me. It strikes me that the only thing we know the Sumerian’s got right was their mathematics, the invention of glue, and beer.
The ironic thing about this thread is that I’m not an atheist. Sure I think the Christian God is a myth like all other religions. But I’m a conditional agnostic on the question of a God’s existence. I just want evidence of the kind I outlined earlier in the thread. Logical arguments strike me as BS because logic doesn’t rule the universe. If it did quantum mechanism would have definitely been disallowed.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm


That should be quantum mechanics would have definitely been disallowed.
You know some blogs have an edit function which would come in handy right now.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm


Finally, humans who rape and murder are not “dangerous to themselves.” They are only dangerous to others in the way animals are dangerous to other animals.
I’ve been phrasing that badly.
Individuals perceive that humans who do these things to other people are likely to be dangerous. Hence, the unease felt about people who do those sorts of things.
Gotta go now, JohnE. It’s been nice talking with you. All the best.
And I’ve enjoyed it also.



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Jon

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:17 pm


Re: So is having a virgin mom and god for a father.
How? That’s still two parents (and Mom isn’t a virgin if a god has been snuggling up to her, even in very odd ways; no one thought Danae was a virgin even if she somehow made whopee with a shower of gold).
Re: question is how do you know any of this is true?
I don’t know what the Sumerian poet meant about Gilgamesh’s 1/3 deity status. However (to quote Neal Stevenson) Sumerian mythology resembles a five year old’s fever dream with sex thrown in. Secondly, we have only limited understanding of the language so we ought be carefully putting too much freight on any throw-away verse in a poem. But even the ever-rationalist Greek had some pretty out-there notions about human reproduction; one widespread idea that survived into early modern times was that the mother provided nothing but a womb to grow in; the child was wholly the father’s seed.
Re: It strikes me that the only thing we know the Sumerian’s got right was their mathematics
Sumerian bureaucrats usually got basic arithmetic right: they had to if they wanted to keep their jobs. Sumerian poets had no such incentive, and I think you are just putting way too much freight on poetic verse. I’ve seen something similar done with Homer, with folks speculating how it was that the Aegean could turn “wine-dark” back then since it doesn’t do so today– some sort of algae-bloom maybe? But in reality “wine dark sea” just works with the meter and sounds kind of dramatic; no need to speculate about the Bronze Age flora of the Aegean.
By contrast, Christian theology very specifically and blatantly proclaims Mary’s virginity, and not in some throwaway poetic terms. If you can point to something that does that in Gilgamesh’s epic then I will consider it, but otherwise there’s no there there.
Re: But don’t forget that the Persian Cyrus (and devout believer of Ahura-Mazda) conquered Babylon, introduced Zoroastrianism to its peoples, and freed the Jews.
The first and third part of this is corect. The middle clause is not. The Zoroastrians did not proselytize; their religion was the ethnic faith of the Persians and they did not seek converts from Babylon or elsewhere. And in fact the Babylonians went right on worshipping Bel Marduk, Ishtar and the rest of their gods. When Alexander got there he ended up giving them money to repair their temples.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:25 pm


I don’t know JohnE I found Eusebius pretty frustrating. I’m not sure why I wasted so much time debating him when:
He ignored both Hector and my point about the Euthyphro dilemma.
He was inconsistent when he said might make right is bad and then used God’s omnipotentce as a justification for listening to him!
He ignored my point that as social animals humans are different from nearly all other animals. So humans and sharks are apples and oranges.
He continued to ask why humans don’t enforce laws against animals when we pointed out that animals are not part of human society. Those animals that are we do enforce codes of behavior on.
He continued to focus on the aspects of the natural world which matched his argument and completely ignored that cooperation is a huge part of the natural world. Actually it’s probably the major behavior when you consider that all organisms are really colonies of cooperating organisms. Not to mention ecosystems as a whole.
He continued to ignore that pragmatism and a desire for the non-zero outcomes demonstrated by game theory could lead a rational person to cooperation even if they didn’t have instincts to do so.
The thread has its moments. My favorite post of the thread was my post about God’s note to the ants and beetles. So I saved that one for the future.



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Eusebius

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:30 pm


To sigaliris, we’re at 200+ posts and I don’t think I can spend more time re-explaining my morality argument against atheism. Sorry, sigaliris, but you’re trying to figure out my argument and failing as I exit this party.
To MH, why do you say that only humans can commit rape? Humans are part of the animal kingdom, and we have the same phenomenon of forced violent sex as other animals. We’re all committing forced sex upon unwilling others, so why do you say rape is right for animals and wrong for human animals??? You have no basis for that glaring inconsistency. You say that rape is “immoral” in your opinion, but the rapist down the street is out raping and does not agree with you. Which of you is right, and why?
Alright, MH, gotta leave. But I’ve given you the answer, and it’s found not in biology but in theology. Namely, you are not an animal but a child of a God. Secular evolutionists have it wrong in that you are merely another animal, and the code of animals makes this clear—for you yourself accept the code of animals as natural but will not allow yourself to be included in that same code, even though humans are supposedly animals and they exhibit the same rapes, murders, thefts, and deceits.
Put plainly, the Designer has not designed you as an animal, but as more similar to Himself. You are distinct from the animals, as Christianity teaches.



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R Hampton

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm


Jon,
Yes, the Zoroastrians did not proselytize and Cyrus did help re-establish Jewish cultural traditions and religious practices. However, so highly was Cyrus thought of, and so respected was his government’s religious tolerance, that many Jews chose to stay in Bablyon and – through their own free will – incorporated Zoroastrian beliefs out of a deep and sincere respect (who they referred to as the “Lord’s anonited”).



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:48 pm


My favorite post of the thread was my post about God’s note to the ants and beetles. So I saved that one for the future.
I liked that one too.
I’d be happy with a message like that from God – especially if it led to me getting a starship. I’d ferry beetles all over the Universe if I got to keep the starship.



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R Hampton

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:50 pm


Eusebius,
Wers Neanderthals animals or made in the image of God? What of the more “primitive” Homo Erectus?



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm


you yourself accept the code of animals as natural but will not allow yourself to be included in that same code, even though humans are supposedly animals and they exhibit the same rapes, murders, thefts, and deceits.
Speaking of the code of animals – animals practice self-defense by attempting to kill other animals that attack them.
It seems to me that this refutes your point about atheists being inconsistent when they attempt to keep a murderer from following his natural inclinations.



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MH

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:41 pm


Jon, I’ll cry uncle as I’m a science and math geek and tend to take things way too literally.



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sigaliris

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:42 pm


Hey, John E., can I come on your starship when God gives you one?? I’ll be happy to serve as a beetle wrangler. It would be a nice vacation from arguing about morality with people who think there’s an “animal code.” And that “we’re all committing forced sex upon unwilling others. . . . ” Er–what? Speak for yourself, buddy. I’ll be over here finding some more beetles for God. And I promise not to have sex with them unless they ask me nicely. ; )



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Hector

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm


R Hampton,
Yes. The story of Cyrus says a lot to me, including that God can work through people of many faiths, and that we err when we try to put God in a box (and that includes the box called Christianity). I also think the account of the fall of Babylon to Persia, in the book of Daniel, is a haunting narrative and I keep coming back to it. No idea how historical it is, but it’s powerful as myth nonetheless.
I’m not sure how true it is that Zoroastrianism was always ‘non proselytizing’. Zoroastrians in India and Persia during the Middle Ages refrained from proselytizing and embraced their ethnic exclusivity in part, I think, to avoid running afoul of their Hindu and Muslim overlords. But I’m not sure that the refusal to proselytize was also true of the pre-Islamic era.



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Hector

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:09 pm


By the way, since it’s easy to fall into partisan bickering and forget the greater and more lasting issues: Happy Epiphany, everyone. I pray that as God revealed himself on this day to the Magi, he will likewise reveal himself to everyone who is searching, in good faith, for the truth.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:44 am


Sigaliris, there will always be a place for you on my starship!
Happy Epiphany, everyone. I pray that as God revealed himself on this day to the Magi, he will likewise reveal himself to everyone who is searching, in good faith, for the truth.
Something devoutly to be wished.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:45 am


Sigaliris, there will always be a place for you on my starship!
Happy Epiphany, everyone. I pray that as God revealed himself on this day to the Magi, he will likewise reveal himself to everyone who is searching, in good faith, for the truth.
Something devoutly to be wished.



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MargaretE

posted January 7, 2010 at 6:37 am


“Happy Epiphany, everyone. I pray that as God revealed himself on this day to the Magi, he will likewise reveal himself to everyone who is searching, in good faith, for the truth.”
I second that emotion, Hector. And the “in good faith” part is key. When intelligent people willfully misrepresent (and maybe even misunderstand) the compelling arguments of other intelligent people, and do so with barely disguised scorn, I’m hard pressed to see much good faith… or genuine searching. I truly believe that God only reveals himself to the open heart. I believe this, because I’ve experienced it. From both sides, now.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:33 am


Well here’s an interesting coincidence – HuffPo is running a NYT review of a book relevant to this topic and there is a paragraph that seems to summarize much of the recent postings here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/06/can-science-explain-relig_n_413273.html
H. Allen Orr
The New York Review of Books
The Evolution of God
by Robert Wright
According to Wright’s theory, although religion may seem otherworldly–a realm of revelation and spirituality–its history has, like that of much else, been driven by mundane “facts on the ground.” Religion, that is, changes through time primarily because it responds to changing circumstances in the real world: economics, politics, and war. Wright thus offers what he emphasizes is a materialist account of religion. As he further emphasizes, the ways in which religion responds to the world make sense. Like organisms, religions respond adaptively to the world.
More formally, Wright argues that religious responses to reality are generally explained by game theory and evolutionary psychology, the subjects of his previous books. Subtle aspects of the human mind, he claims, were shaped by Darwinian natural selection to allow us to recognize and take advantage of certain social situations. The most important of these–and the centerpiece of Wright’s theory–are what game theorists call non-zero-sum interactions. Unlike zero-sum games, wherein one player’s gain is another player’s loss, in some games both players can win; hence “non-zero-sum.” The classic example is economic trade. In a free market, trade occurs when both parties benefit from exchange (otherwise they wouldn’t engage in it).



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:35 am


That final paragraph should also be block-quoted as it is part of the quoted article.
Would it be cheeky of me to associate this review with the Holy-Day of Epiphany? ;-)



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MH

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:18 am


Eusebius is gone, but I’ll answer his final question anyway.
Only humans can commit rape because humans are only cross fertile with humans. So only humans can be players in the game of society in which the rules are called morality. Animals are not players in the game because they can’t reproduce with humans.



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MH

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:40 am


MargaretE said ‘And the “in good faith” part is key. When intelligent people willfully misrepresent (and maybe even misunderstand) the compelling arguments of other intelligent people, and do so with barely disguised scorn, I’m hard pressed to see much good faith… or genuine searching.’
If you are saying that I was speaking with barely disguised scorn, then please remember that the tone in written text can be hard to discern. Scorn and frustration might sound a lot alike.
I was frustrated with Eusebius because I felt he was ignoring my counter points and repeating a question I felt I had already answered.



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MH

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:00 am


John E – Agn Stoic, I’ll have to take a look at the linked article. It sounds interesting because of the game theory connection.



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Saint Andeol

posted January 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm


I’ve got to hand it to the regulars for their patience in dealing with Eusebius. i didn’t bother responding to his mangling of my points, but you all are better commentors than I.
i think the new focus of this blog will make for some very interesting topics, i will miss Rod’s food-related posts, though.



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meh

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm


i will miss Rod’s food-related posts, though
Food is non-sectarian. Rod can write about food as much as he wants to.



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David J. White

posted January 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm


Only humans can commit rape because humans are only cross fertile with humans.
So, if a man forcibly penetrates another man it can’t be called rape, because a man can’t reproduce with another man?



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MH

posted January 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm


David J. White, obviously it would still be rape. It doesn’t matter if two particular individuals are fertile with each other, only that they are members of the human species. I was using the definition of species to declare the scope of human laws and morality. Eusebius was nitpicking at my use of the world animal and human by saying that humans are animals.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted January 9, 2010 at 7:43 pm


Catholicism has survived pragmatically because it has, however reluctantly, changed its moral order to suit the changing times. Who would have thought that the church which sponsored the Inquisition and taught for centuries that heretics must be stretched on the rack and burned at the stake would opposed the death penalty AND decree torture to be always and everywhere unacceptable? Not to mention letting Catholic kids join the YMCA.



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DavidTC

posted January 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm


I know neither of you believes in paranormal experiences like telepathy or clairvoyant dreams or contact with the dead. But hypothetically, suppose even one of these experiences were proven beyond a doubt to be real. Would the materialist position on the mind-brain question collapse in a single stroke?
And I will address the one that of those that John E – Agn Stoic didn’t:
Clairvoyant dreams would just prove our concept of causality is somewhat out of wack. We already have dreams about the past, having dreams about the future would just indicate ‘what has happened’ and ‘what will happen’ aren’t as distinct as we like to think.
In fact, I’m having trouble figuring out how it says anything at all about the mind/brain divide that dreams in general don’t say. If I dreamed tonight about a car accident I’m in next week, well, somehow I remember the future, which only requires that time is weirder than we think, not that my mind is anything at all.
Now, dreams of things we’ve never known about, not even ‘known about’ in the future, would be indicative dreams aren’t just memories and creations of our brains, and could indicate that our minds can ‘roam’ in dreams…but I’m having trouble figuring out how we could learn such dreams exist.
Paradoxically, if I dream about an accident next week that’s going to happen to someone across the country, that I’ve never heard of…either I’m never going to learn it was ‘real’, and hence I’ll never report it, or I will learn it was real, and report it…but I could have been just dreaming based off said future knowledge. To prove it wasn’t ‘merely’ knowledge transmitted from the future, I’d have to never learn it happened.
I’m suddenly reminded of a sci-fi story set in a mental institution where one of the patients sits and recites the NYSE stock ticker…exactly 24 hours behind. This is regarded, by the rather crazy staff, as much less weird than if she’d been doing it the other way around, or even right on time, even though, as the protagonist pointed out, it’s just as inexplicable, as there is no possible way she could have that information.
In fact, the delay made it weirder…that either requires astonishing memory, or someone is feeding her delayed info on purpose.
The story is isn’t about that person, it’s about a patient that forced to simultaneously echo anything a certain other person says. It’s a weird story, about strangely noncategorization psychics, if anyone can think of the name, I would be grateful.



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DavidTC

posted January 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm


As for the ultimate existence of God, I think what we need to acknowledge is that a ‘singularity’ exist, and always will exist, in our explanation of the universe. There’s something that simply cannot be explained at all: Everything.
Nothing is ever going to be able to explain why anything exists at all. No, even God doesn’t explain it, at least not our concept of God, as then the obvious question is ‘Well, then, why does God exist?’.
There’s a certain point that we run out of any sort of logic. ‘If X, then Y’, doesn’t work if ‘Y’ is ‘the very first thing’, be that God, or a tiny ball of energy that explodes.
People keep acting like this is a failure of knowledge, but I don’t think it is. There is no possible answer to the question of ‘What caused the first thing?’. It is not an unanswered question, it is an unanswerable question. Not via science, not via religion, not via philosophy. We can say ‘This thing caused the thing we used to think was the first thing.’, but that just move the question backwards to what caused that thing.
Our very concept of how things works, and I don’t mean modern ‘scientific’ concepts, I mean the idea that is the entire basis of human behavior, that ‘things cause things’, cannot explain anything existing at all.
Honest people have to admit there is something we not only don’t understand, but cannot understand. Not ‘cannot’ because it is undiscovered, but ‘cannot’ because it cannot possibly make sense. Everyone should agree with everything I said to this point, if they actually think about it.
Now, and this is where people differ, assuming that there is some sort of intelligence behind this isn’t that hard. If thinks don’t cause things, well, maybe ‘wants’ cause things. Although ‘wants’ are also ‘things’, but this is about as logically as we can think about pre-universe.
As a Christian, I think that Jesus was really an attempt to bridge the gap, for God to have a consciousness that was fully on this side. Which also explains why we’ve had debates about what, exactly, Jesus was, and what ‘powers’ he had. I think he had all the power and knowledge of the part of God in this universe, but probably no concept of the rest of the God, which is extending outside the logic understandable in this universe.
The Bible says it was for God to understand ‘Man’, but I believe that’s an oversimplification. It was for God to better understand ‘things that happen’.



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TravisG

posted January 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm


What if people’s belief in God is why the world isn’t at peace? Might sound crazy, but it actually makes sense:
http://www.reliefjournal.com/2010/01/21/world-peace-all-figured-out/



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dnarb

posted January 26, 2010 at 7:18 am


Is it rape to fertilize a woman without her consent? I was thinking of the virgin Mary.
About omnipotence:
Is God powerful enough to make a stone so big that he cannot move it?
Try to answer this and think what it means for his omnipotence.



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Your Name

posted January 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm


You cannot take concepts literally and expect to make sense of the stories told through the Bible and other spirtual scriptures from the past.
#1. Mary was not a Virgin physically but spiritually. She had a Virgin consciousness that enabled her to teach a young Jesus the truth without focusing on the horrors of that time period. In order to reunite with their divine ego, Jesus and Mary both had to overcome the gravitational pull of their human egos.
#2. Jesus referred to himself as the “Son of Man” and the “Son of God”, which was meant to reveal mankinds true nature. What secret lies within the word man itself? MANifest. We are the individualization of God made manifest in physical matter. We are not creatures outside of the CREATOR. We carry the flame of the Creator into these physical matter planes in order to take dominion over matter. “Man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.” Locked in our hearts is a divine memory that we can not deny, nor do we feel whole (Holy) until we take our consciousness back to the heart of God where it feels its home really is. Deep down we know that the Earth is our temporary schoolroom for gaining mastery and experiencing the game of life from a dense perspective.



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New_Ideas

posted February 4, 2010 at 11:02 am


Aristotle, the father of logic, explained that an argument consists of inferring a conclusion from antecedent knowledge itself derived from sense data. Thomas Aquinas properly applied that concept when he argued for God based on the premises of existence and creation. Although the discovery of the law of conservation of energy later proved him wrong, he implicitly recognized reason as man’s means of knowledge. On the other hand, when you say that no argument is possible for entities or for their actions (e.g. to love), you abandon reason and make yourself unable to live on earth. See “Atlas Shrugged” for more details.



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Gary

posted February 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm


The is God real question has been being asked for as long as life itself. You are, so God is. It’s as simple as that. Whether you like it, except it, are not care either way. God is, and in saying God is, also allows for the devil, which gives you a choise. So I guess it all boils down to who and where you want to spend your after life with. Besides when we die what do you want to happen to your being (spirit). You don’t have one you say. then why do you try so hard to get others to come over to your way of thinking. Just leave those that do believe alone. In demanding and saying there is no God is to spend way too much of your time on what you precieve as a non-issue and a worthless waste of your being and thoughts. excuse yourself politely and join others that care for the things you care about. Life is way too short as it is. Good luck, God bless, Take care.



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Gary

posted February 21, 2010 at 7:53 pm


Rod, Earlene and I are going to go see Ruthie Mike and the girls before She gets too into the healing process. I’d like to see Ray and Dot anyway. What ever happens Ruthie is on and in our preys daily. Hope all goes well on your new digs(Job)up in Philly. Ruthie is our niece and we wish her the best which ever way God leads her.Take care God bless you and yours.
Gary and Earlene Brown
Mineola, Texas



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