• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Debunking the “One God Further” Objection

Greek gods

Philosopher Bill Vallicella recently replied to what might be called the “one god further” objection to theism.  Bill sums up the objection as follows:

"The idea, I take it, is that all gods are on a par, and so, given that everyone is an atheist with respect to some gods, one may as well make a clean sweep and be an atheist with respect to all gods. You don't believe in Zeus or in a celestial teapot. Then why do you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob?"

Or as the Common Sense Atheism blog used to proclaim proudly on its masthead:

"When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

I see that that blog has now removed this one-liner, which is a sign of progress.  Because while your average atheists may regard the “one god further” objection as devastatingly clever, it is in fact embarrassingly inept.

Suppose someone skeptical about Euclidean geometry said:

"When you understand why you regard all the particular triangles you’ve observed as having sides that are less than perfectly straight, you will understand why I regard Euclidean plane triangles as such to have sides that are less than perfectly straight."

Or suppose a critic of Platonism said:

"When you understand why you regard the things of ordinary experience as in various ways imperfect or less than fully good instances of their kinds, you will understand why I regard Plato’s Form of the Good as being less than fully good."

Would these count as devastating objections to Euclidean geometry and Platonism?  Would they serve as fitting mottos for blogs devoted to “Common Sense Anti-Euclideanism” or “Common Sense Anti-Platonism”?  Obviously not.  They would demonstrate only that the speaker didn’t know what he was talking about.

The “one god further” objection is no better than these “objections” would be.  The “Common Sense Anti-Euclidean” objection supposes that the concept of a triangle as defined in textbooks of Euclidean geometry is merely one triangle alongside all the others that one comes across in traffic signs, dinner bells, and the like, only invisible and better drawn.  But of course, that is not what it is at all.  What the textbooks describe is not a triangle, not even an especially well-drawn one, but rather (Euclidean) triangularity itself, and the triangles one comes across in everyday experience are defective precisely because they fail to conform to the standard it represents.  The “Common Sense Anti-Platonism” objection supposes that the Form of the Good is merely one more or less perfect or imperfect instance of some class or category alongside the other instances, albeit an especially impressive one.  But of course, that is not what it is at all.  The Form of the Good doesn’t have goodness in some more or less incomplete way; rather, it just is goodness, participation in which determines the degree of goodness had by things which do have goodness only in some more or less incomplete way.

Similarly, the “Common Sense Atheist” or “one god further” objection supposes that the God of classical theism is merely one further superhuman being alongside others who have found worshippers – Thor, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, and so forth – only a superhuman being of even greater power, knowledge, and goodness than these other deities have.  But of course, that is not what God is at all.  He is not “a being” alongside other beings, not even an especially impressive one, but rather Being Itself or Pure Actuality, that from which all mere “beings” (including Thor, Zeus, and Quetzalcoatl, if they existed) derive the limited actuality or existence they possess.  Neither does He “have” power, knowledge, goodness, and the like; rather, He is power, knowledge, and goodness (where the “participation” relation in Plato’s theory of Forms is transformed by the classical theist into a relation between created things and their uncaused cause, in light of the doctrine of divine simplicity – and also thereby transformed, by Thomists anyway, into a kind of efficient-causal relation).

Note that the “Common Sense Anti-Platonist” objection is a silly objection whether or not one accepts Platonism, and that the “Common Sense Anti-Euclidean” objection would be a silly objection whether or not one accepted Euclidean geometry.  In the same way, the “Common Sense Atheist” or “one god further” objection would be a silly objection even if one had other grounds for rejecting classical theism.  In all three cases, the objections represent a failure to understand even the fundamentals of the position one is attacking.

It is no good replying that lots of ordinary religious people conceive of God in all sorts of crude ways at odds with the sophisticated philosophical theology developed by classical theists – ways that make of God something like a glorified Thor or Zeus.  The “man on the street” also believes all sorts of silly things about science – that Darwinism claims that monkeys gave birth to human beings, say, or that molecules are made up of little balls and sticks.  But it would be preposterous for someone to pretend he had landed a blow against Darwinism or modern chemistry by attacking these silly straw men.  Similarly, what matters in evaluating classical theism is not what your Grandpa or your Pastor Bob have to say about it, but rather what serious thinkers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, and countless others have to say.

Nor would it be any good to insist that the “one god further” objection is significant at least as a reply to the more anthropomorphic “theistic personalist” conception of God that has replaced the classical theist conception in the thinking of many modern theologians and philosophers of religion.  For one thing, most theistic personalists, though they depart in significant (and in my view disastrous) ways from classical theism, are still committed to a far more sophisticated conception of God than purveyors of the “one god further” objection take as their preferred target.  (Comparing God to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a serious reply to a theistic personalist like Alvin Plantinga or Richard Swinburne.)  More importantly, purveyors of this objection take themselves to be presenting a serious criticism of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and philosophical theism as such – not merely of this or that modern representative of these views – and the historically mainstream tradition in these religions and in philosophical theology is classical theist, not theistic personalist.  Hence to fail to address the classical theist conception of God is ipso facto to fail seriously to address the claims of these traditions.  In particular, unless one has made a serious study of philosophical theology as it has been developed within the Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomistic, and other Scholastic traditions, one’s understanding of traditional Christian, Jewish, and Islamic theology, not to mention philosophical theism, is simply infantile.

Here’s another way to look at the problem with the "one god further" objection.  Suppose I go along with the gag.  Why do I dismiss all other gods?

Well, in part because there is ample reason to think they do not exist.  But also – and far more importantly – because even if they did exist, they would all in various respects be less than ultimate and thus would not be truly divine and worthy of worship.  So, for example, if the gods of Olympus existed, we would expect to find them living atop Mount Olympus, and they don’t.  But even if they did exist – suppose they return to Olympus when no one is looking, or reside in some other dimension as in the Marvel Comics version of the Olympian gods – they would all in various respects manifest limitations and defects that show them to be mere creatures like us, even if more grand creatures than we are.  Hence, as we know from mythology, they are all supposed to suffer myriad limitations on their power, and to be motivated by various petty concerns.  They also come into existence, just as we do.

In short, the gods of Olympus, or of any of the other pantheons for that matter, are all essentially finite, contingent beings like us, about as impressive as extraterrestrials – which might be very impressive indeed, of course, but still within the order of creation.  In particular (and to be more philosophically precise) they would all be mixtures of actuality and potentiality and compounds of essence and existence; they would all be governed by principles outside themselves; and they would all be less than absolutely necessary in their existence and imperfect in their natures.  And that means that, no less than we do, they would depend for their being on that which is Pure Actuality, that which is Being Itself (i.e. in which essence and existence are identical), that which exists in an absolutely necessary and independent way and in which all the diverse, derivative, and finite perfections manifest in the world of our experience exist in a united, underived, and infinite way.  That is to say, they, no less than we, would depend for their being on the God of classical theism.

Therefore, in response to the “one god further” objection, nothing further need be said but this:

"When you understand why I dismiss all other gods, you’ll understand why I dismiss your “one god further” objection."

 
 
NOTE: Dr. Feser's contributions at Strange Notions were originally posted on his own blog, and therefore lose some of their context when reprinted here. Dr. Feser explains why that matters.
 
(Image credit: Playbuzz)

Dr. Edward Feser

Written by

Dr. Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton. He is author of numerous books including The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustines Press, 2010); Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009); and Philosophy of Mind (Oneworld, 2007). Follow Dr. Feser on his blog and his website, EdwardFeser.com.

Enjoy this article? Receive future posts free by email:

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • workforlivn

    I can provide evidence of triangles.
    If Plato or Socrates never existed it doesn't change the philosophy at all.
    If Jesus was not God then my leg has swept you to the floor.

    Where is your evidence?

    • Scott Fahle

      This is an argument in defense of a classic theism, which is a belief shared by Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. As such whether or not Christ was God has nothing to do with it.

      Perhaps you should try to understand an argument before accusing it of sophism.

      • workforlivn

        Being Itself or Pure Actuality - and - He is power, knowledge, and goodness. Says who? Was this covered by the angel Moroni? You're right, I don't understand. What evidence is there that this being created the universe? Maybe there is someone up the ladder from him. Maybe he is evil. Maybe maybe.

        This isn't falsifiable and there is zero evidence. Why don't we discuss how many angels fit on a pinhead?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't think the three-sided figures we draw are emperical evidence for triangularity. Triangularity is something we apprehend in our minds. We understand it through reason not our senses.

          If you want to understand Dr. Feser's rational arguments for classical theism, read Chapters 2 ("Metaphysics") and 3 ("Natural Theology") in his book AQUINAS.

          • workforlivn

            Confucians and Taoists can have the same discussions. They don't believe in the god of Abraham either.

            You're not getting any closer to proving the existence of/defining the characteristics of god. Dr. Feser has no knowledge of god that is not available to me.

            Concepts of triangularity, color, love all occur on the level of the brain. That this informs you about a creator is an illusion, also occurring in that lump of meat at the end of your spine.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So what occurs in the lump of meat at the end of your spine is reality and what occurs in the lump of meat at the end of my spine is illusion?

          • workforlivn

            My lump of meat hasn't extrapolated the concepts of Being Itself, Pure Actuality, power, knowledge, and goodness into a living, breathing personal savior that loves me and rose from the dead.. Quite a stretch, quite a claim on such sparse evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "You're right, I don't understand."

          • workforlivn

            Keep searching, Grasshopper.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            All Dr. Feser did in his OP is talk about the philosophical conception of God. He did claim to or try to go any further, so you should not fault him for that.

          • Jeff Hinkle

            I'm not you, so it doesn't matter anyway. I guess it'll be sorted out after death. I would rather keep my dignity and go to hell than spend one second with Yahweh and his masochistic, power-tripping son.

          • SJH

            Who is trying to prove God's existence? Dr. Feser is simply pointing out that the "one god further" argument is flawed reasoning. You are trying to change the discussion into something regarding the provability of the existence of God.
            As Kevin suggested you can read up on the rational arguments for God. This does not prove God's existence. It only points out that believing in God is not irrational. Once you take that step then you might want to take the next step to determine if you believe that God does actually exist. In order for you to take this step you will have to be comfortable with the idea that a person can believe in something that is not provable. If you take that step then the next step would be to determine who God is and how does he relate to us if at all.

          • Jeff Hinkle

            I don't care. If there IS a god, he should be ignored.

          • SJH

            That statement is nonsense. You are speaking out of emotion and not reason when you say such things. If the Christian God is real then reason and logic would dictate that the wise and intelligent decision would be to follow him.

          • Jeff Hinkle

            Of course I'm speaking out of emotion. I don't regard reason as valid when it comes to most of actual living. Anyway, the "Christian God" is the Jewish God, presumably, and the Jewish God is a tribal deity named Yahweh, so when the heck did that become this unfalsifiable "classical" source of being? The father of Jesus is not a philosopher's god; that was just political maneuvering to persuade some "pagans" that the new Christian religion wasn't some Palestinian backwater offshoot, which is what it actually was. There is nothing in common between Greek and Roman philosophical thought concerning the divine, and the god of the bible. Just to be inclusive, Allah is also a tribal Arab god singled out by Mohammed. Nothing special or universal about him either. It's all a great trick that monotheists have pulled off and gullible people buy it.

          • SJH

            What is your point? Your analysis of history is filled with assumption. Also, emotion and reason go hand-in-hand. you need both to live a successful life and be a productive member of society.

          • Jeff Hinkle

            This society is finished, soon to be run by Muslims unfortunately. Way to not address my points, which are reality. Whatever, you are part of the machine. You have nothing to gain by understanding the truth. Come put me in a gulag if you don't like it.

          • David Nickol

            This society is finished, soon to be run by Muslims unfortunately.

            Let us pray, then—to the Old Gods and the New—that our society hangs on long enough to wrap up Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory, and Homeland, and also that it lasts long enough to give us at least one or two more seasons of Mr. Robot.

            The night is dark, and full of terrors.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            And Shankara was a Hindu. But that people in other traditions also come to similar conclusions about the ground of being, regardless what name they apply to it ought to have some persuasiveness.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          You see? That's why you need to understand the arguments before flailing against the straw. Says who? Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, ibn Rushd, Maimonides, Aquinas, and a bunch of others. More importantly, they explained their reasons in considerable detail.

          It's like supposing that because you have drawn a variety of imperfect triangular shapes that you have proof of the existence of Euclidean triangularity.

          • workforlivn

            Not so fast. The idea of a triangle, or the color red for that matter, exists only as a concept within the mind of man. The idea of a triangle is non existent for zebras, turtles and men with certain head injuries. Actual triangles of varying perfections abound.

            Euclid's axioms are falsifiable when comparing real triangles to ideals.

            When someone questions the existence of Zeus or Yahweh this is no concept. Zeus threw down thunderbolts and Yahweh parted the day from the night if they did anything at all.

            Plato's proof for the existence of god is flawed and non-falsifiable. Plato's is more a proof of what god is not, if at all.

            If your position is that he is a concept of man's mind that 'could' exist then we have no argument.

            Further it is disingenuous to say the argument is about whether it is rational to believe in god. You're playing 'Three Card Monte' when an atheist asks if you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob and you show this vernier acuity regarding something with no evidence.

            When the atheist asked the author why not 'one more god', he's asking about Yahweh specifically. When you answer that it's possible for Plato's god to exist you have said nothing.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The idea of a triangle, or the color red, for that matter exists only as a concept within the mind of man.

            No, it doesn't. Conceptualism guts science more cleanly than any creationist dream. If triangularity existed only in the mind, then your triangles would differ from other people's triangles. Yet. the internal angles of a plane triangle would add up to 180° even if there were no people to think about it or no roughly triangular objects in the world.

            The idea of a triangle is non existent for zebras, turtles and men with certain head injuries.

            You are confusing epistemology with ontology.

            Euclid's axioms are falsifiable when comparing real triangles to ideals.

            Bad news for surveyors.

            When someone qu estions the existence of Zeus or Yahweh this is no concept. Zeus threw down thunderbolts and Yahweh parted the day from the night if they did anything at all.

            Not sure what this even means.

            Plato's proof for the existence of god is flawed and non-falsifiable. Plato is more a proof of what god is not, if at all.

            Tell us what the flaws are. Were these flaws addressed by Neoplatonism?

            You're playing 'Three Card Monte' when an atheist asks if you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob and you show this vernier acuity regarding something with no evidence.

            Show me a "vernier acuity." I'm not sure what one looks like. Do you have "evidence" of such a thing?

            When the atheist asked the author why not 'one more god', he's asking about Yahweh specifically. When you answer that it's possible for Plato's god to exist you have said nothing.

            Yes, atheists are all fundamentalists at heart, and generally work from a pagan imagination regarding God. But this also demonstrates what Bob Drury wondered about: namely that people objecting to traditional theology often are unacquainted with it. So you thought you'd pick on some kids, and one of them brought his big brother, and you think that's Not Fair.

          • workforlivn

            Let me have another go at it.

            The laws of a triangle or a circle are human descriptions of things we have observed in reality. The concept is peculiar to man. Even if there were no triangles, there could still be a concept of a triangle as long as someone could think of it.

            Euclid's axioms are falsifiable - not false. They can be tested even by surveyors.

            The idea of Zeus or Yahweh is presented as an existing power/being/god with agency, not merely a concept. It is claimed that he/they performed acts the results of which are observable.

            Plato said that something must have created the world and it must have been God. He didn't tell us who created God.
            He also said that we should believe in gods because everyone else did. Appeal to popularity. Plotinus was just one more regression to a simple, ineffable, unknowable subsistence.

            As nothing they claimed can be tested it is not falsifiable.

            It is an error to compare triangles with deities with agency.

            Vernier acuity in this case is an affected, pseudo precision when discussing the Pantheon as lesser gods compared to Pure Actuality. This is a leap from a myth to a conjecture. You're up a rickety ladder from here on out. And the virgin birth is way on up ahead.

            I spent 17 years in Catholic schools, 8 under Jesuits. I have a passing familiarity with the subject but it is not my profession.

            Your last paragraph speaks to someone else. I don't know what you mean by fundamentalist in this case, what a pagan imagination is, who Bob Drury is.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The laws of a triangle or a circle are human descriptions of things we have observed in reality.

            When have humans observed the irrationality of pi? It is impossible to measure the circumference and diameter of a round object and form a ratio that is not ratio-nal. The theorems of mathematics are not discovered by accumulating empirical evidence. (What is the empirical evidence that a function space topology that is both conjoining and splitting is minimal conjoining and maximal splitting?)

            Even if there were no triangles, there could still be a concept of a triangle as long as someone could think of it.

            Suppose there were no minds left to think of it. Would the interior angles of a plane triangle suddenly cease to sum to 180°?

            Euclid's axioms are falsifiable - not false. They can be tested even by surveyors.

            Actually, they cannot. They can be discarded and other axioms used in their place; but then you would no longer be doing Euclidean geometry. It would be interesting to speculate how the five axioms might be falsified in reality rather than in your mind.

            1. Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another.
            2. If equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal.
            3. If equals be subtracted from equals, the remainders are equal.
            4. Things which coincide with one another are equal to one another.
            5. The whole is greater than the part.

            This may illustrate the fact that not everything imaginable is possible. There is a difference between imagination and intellect.

            The same is true of the five postulates -- and it is here that we find one whose alternatives have given rise to non-Euclidean geometries: viz., Euclid's fifth postulate (usually in Playfair's version).
            +++++
            The idea of Zeus or Yahweh is presented as an existing power/being/god with agency, not merely a concept. It is claimed that he/they performed acts the results of which are observable.

            I don't think you understand Zeus as conceived by the ancient Greeks (versus as imagined by them).

            Let's see... If God, as understood by classical theology, created the world, we would expect to see the following evidences:
            1) a creation (If "in the beginning, God created," there must be a creation.)
            2) an ordered world (kosmos) (since God is a rational spirit)
            3) a world ordered "by number, weight, and measure." (Wis. 11:20)
            4) a world whose order is consistent (Psalm 33:4; 1 Cor. 1:9; et al.)
            5) a world whose order is at least to some extent accessible to human reason (Wis. 7:17 et seq.) esp. as using number, weight, and measure.
            6) a world that had a beginning in time ("In the beginning, God created...")
            7) a world whose natures are capable of acting directly upon one another (Gen. 1:11, 24; Aug.De gen., Book V Ch. 4:11)

            So then, broadly speaking, we would expect to see an actual universe, rationally organized according to consistent natural laws accessible to human reason, by which natural bodies would act immediately on other natural bodies. Further, there would be some evidence of a "big bang" of some sort of which "light" would be the first (primary) form. By Carnap's rules of logical positivism, the truth of the hypothesis is probable to the ratio of the number of these effect that have been verified to the number of these effects. Check them out and let us know.
            ++++++
            Plato said that something must have created the world and it must have been God. He didn't tell us who created God.

            I think you may have confused Plato with something Hume wrote critical of an incorrect version of Aristotle's argument. As far as I know, no serious thinker has ever made the argument you have described -- only Hume, Russell, and others who are simply repeating the error of their predecessors. It would be helpful if you could cite the dialogue in which Plato made the argument you describe.

            If it refers instead to Aristotle's argument, you are claiming "He didn't tell us who caused the uncaused cause," which does not sound like a coherent objection.

            Plotinus was just one more regression to a simple, ineffable, unknowable subsistence.

            In what way is this a regression? What was the correlation coefficient?

            As nothing they claimed can be tested it is not falsifiable.

            So what? The Pythagorean Theorem isn't falsifiable, either. Neither is Galileo's conclusion that there are mountains on the moon. Modus tollens was well known to Aristotle and the medievals and is used frequently in mathematics as a reductio. But it is only since the collapse of the Modern Ages that Popper's efforts to deconstruct science have been successful.

            It is an error to compare triangles with deities with agency.

            What is the error? Do electrical engineers make a similar error when they compare circuits to waterways? Or is it only that since the College Boards dropped analogic from their tests that no one is taught to grasp analogies any more?

            Vernier acuity in this case is an affected, pseudo precision ....

            Such as the use of the pseudo term "vernier acuity"?

            ...when discussing the Pantheon as lesser gods compared to Pure Actuality.

            There is no comparison. You are making a category error.

            I spent 17 years in Catholic schools, 8 under Jesuits. I have a passing familiarity with the subject but it is not my profession.

            What is not your profession? Science? Mathematics? Logic? That Jesuit business may explain something. In what decade did these things come to pass?

            My only Jesuit instructor was in mathematics grad school. I did take the usual four semesters of religion and four semesters of philosophy required for the bachelor's degree. But for most people their instruction in such subjects ceases at the grade school level and their college classes (esp. nowadays) tend to be narrowly focused on their vocational training.

            Your last paragraph speaks to someone else. I don't know what you mean by fundamentalist in this case, what a pagan imagination is, who Bob Drury is.

            Oh, that was simply a droll observation. Mr. Drury had objected to being told that his objections showed that he did not understand the arguments. Then you came along and provided examples! The objections always seem aimed at a naive, grade-school understanding of the matter, which is why fundamentalists and atheists are so much alike.

          • workforlivn

            I went to school in the sixties. My field is mechanical engineering. You apparently are in academia. Vernier acuity is something used with calipers, slide rules etc. nothing pseudo about it. My hands and eyes have many hours using it. I was using it mockingly to describe the false precision of the writer's language.

            The rest of your post seems verbose. A manual written in this fashion goes in the trash around here.

            http://stevenpinker.com/files/pinker/files/why_academics_stink_at_writing.pdf

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            My field is mechanical engineering.

            Then you ought to be more precise.

            You apparently are in academia.

            Nope. Business and industry. I was a quality engineer for a time, then a consultant in statistical methods and quality management.

            Vernier acuity is something used with calipers, slide rules etc. nothing pseudo about it.

            I was using it mockingly to describe the false precision of the writer's language.

            Might help if you first established that precision is false.

            A manual written in this fashion goes in the trash around here.

            Fortunate, I am, that I was not writing a manual.

          • workforlivn

            You are a pedant and your writing is terrible. Garbanzo Bean made the point of the article very clear to me in two or three sentences.

            I missed the point as I thought there was some larger point Dr. Fesler was making. I was astonished when I realized that this entire article was about a debating point.

            No Jesus, no Trinity, nothing about God at all. All this for a silly quibble over a minor argument. Are people paid to do this? Is all this the underpinning of Catholicism?

            If it is you guys may really be in the end times.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You are a pedant and your writing is terrible.

            Oh, dear. That proves the thesis, I'm sure. A reader once did complain that my books spent too much time on character development. All he wanted was something he called "content." Perhaps he too was accustomed to following instruction manuals.

            I was astonished when I realized that this entire article

            was about a debating point.

            No, it was about an argument which some people seemed to feel was a devastating attack on theism. It showed that the "argument" was more like a whoopee cushion than coherent reasoning.

            No Jesus, no Trinity, nothing about God at all.

            People always seem disappointed when they don't find God.

            Are people paid to do this?

            No. It's from an unpaid blog; although Feser is a professional philosopher. I understand he is paid to teach classes.

            Is all this the underpinning of Catholicism?

            Of course not. Nor is it the underpinning of Judaism, Islam, Vedanta Hinduism, or Zoroastrianism. It is simply an expose of a shoddy argument put forward by people who claim to be rationalists.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is simply an expose of a shoddy argument put forward by people who claim to be rationalists.

            I disagree. Fesser constructs a straw man. The point of the argument is that the reasons given for belief in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are remarkably similar and yet the belief systems are contradictory. This combined with the possibility that geographical location along with time period is the best predictor of what religious belief system a person will follow suggest that everyone should closely scrutinize their belief system and perhaps reject the parts that have minimal evidence.

            Although, I will say that I enjoy your writing.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The point of the argument is that the reasons given for belief in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are remarkably similar and yet the belief systems are contradictory.

            Insofar as a belief in God is concerned, they (as well as the Jews and others) do have similar beliefs. "Street Hinduism" of course is old-school polytheism; but the philosophers of Hinduism, like Shankara, came to similar conclusions about what we might call the Godhead; and Judaism, Christianity, Neoplatonism, and Islam explicitly used the same arguments. So it's not really a matter of "different gods" as it is of different perceptions of God. Even the Hindu polytheists acknowledge that most of the gods are simply manifestations of the central, triune God: Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva.

            Regarding details and practices, of course there are differences. But that multiple witnesses to a crime often differ in the details does not mean that no crime was committed; and that the nine blind men came up with different versions of the elephant doesn't mean there was no elephant.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I do not know enough about comparative religions to comment on the above. I was just clarify what I think the "one god further" argument is actually about.

            Regarding details and practices, of course there are differences. But that multiple witnesses to a crime often differ in the details does not mean that no crime was committed; and that the nine blind men came up with different versions of the elephant doesn't mean there was no elephant.

            But certainly there could be certain inconsistencies that would be serious contradictions. Say one witness said the criminal was very tall and the other very short, we would have to question whether the event they are reporting actually happened.

          • workforlivn

            You're obviously an intelligent man. But if the intent of your writing is to convey information it falls short and resembles obscurantism. Unless someone's interest is in religious philosophy, what you present as a priori arguments leave the reader to do too much research for this type forum.

            I completely understand the feeling of assaults on your position by atheists using logic. I guess my logical skills aren't sufficient for this sort of debate.

            But if your attempt is to persuade the fence sitters (I'm not a fence sitter), Garbanzo Beans tack explained the position in few words.

            To paraphrase Max Planck, beliefs are advanced one funeral at a time. You may have logically defended the position of a theist regarding 'one god further'. But 'OGF' remains an effective argument to someone making up their mind.

            Anyway, the weakness of the atheist's position doesn't lie in science and logic. Their weakness lies around the grave, when you need an orphanage, when you're celebrating life's events. Its an argument from utility but the Church's traditions have, by whatever method, filled in life's niches in a way that is not easily replaced.

            Theism is 'flying up a box canyon' every time it defends itself in areas where science can potentially provide an answer.

            Life is difficult for most of the people on the planet that live with half a days provender at any time. Religions do provide answers to these people. For people not in extremis in a modern society, religion has its appeal in its rules and laws.

            In conclusion, I apologize for interject myself into this apparently long running 'inside baseball' debate on god.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            This fellow workforlivn has complimented me a couple times, I believe he is referring to this comment:

            http://strangenotions.com/debunking-the-one-god-further-objection/#comment-1615107947

            I dont read science fiction. But based on how much I have enjoyed your writing online, I read Into the Lion's Mouth. I enjoyed it very much. LOL "too much time on characterization" vs "content".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That was the 3rd book in a 4 book series. It's relatively independent of the first two, but #4 follows on the same story.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Yes, I realize... I chose to read that one first because my wife could find it in the local library (sorry, that doesnt help your revenues much!) I particularly enjoyed the fellow whose mind had been "split". But perhaps I overlike characterization. I will move on to #4 when I get a chance.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            But Garbanzo Bean enjoys reading YOS! Whatever the case, I am glad to hear I did you some good.

    • Phil

      Hey workforlivn,

      While there are many ways to come to God's existence through experience--the ways that best fit our modern mindset seem to be cosmological ones.

      In the end, they all say that when we look around at the physical cosmos around us, it could not exist in the way it does if this "entity" that we call "God" does not actually exist.

      That is the best evidence one could have even if there are challenges and many have a hard time letting go of a belief that one really wants to be true (i.e., that the entire physical cosmos and, finally, the human person are ultimately necessary self-sufficient beings).

      • workforlivn

        You haven't said anything though. All people that look at the night sky hold the view in wonder. All religions point to something unknown/unknowable. Man has always lived in ignorance of something and this ignorance is pushed back by science.

        Claims to know the will of this creator are pushed back along with this ignorance.

        Does god exist? Maybe. It explains many things. Thor explained many things. Quetzalcoatl explained many things.

        If I believed in the Easter Bunny I could devote my life's work to the study. As you believe in Abraham's God I'm sure you've given it a lot more thought than I have or will.

        But as I look back over this article again I retreat to my first comment - a dictionary example of Sophism. Honestly, what practical application could the knowledge in this article lend to one's daily or spiritual life?

        • Phil

          But as I look back over this article again I retreat to my first comment
          - a dictionary example of Sophism. Honestly, what practical application
          could the knowledge in this article lend to one's daily or spiritual
          life?

          You might be surprised, but there have been many intellectual conversions to Christianity over several thousand years. Now this only gets you part of the way, since Christianity is about a person and relationship, and not merely a philosophy or ideology.

          But the fact that one's belief in God can be backed by good rational reasons is not a bad thing at all. In fact, this is good! Faith cannot be separated by reason. (Or you end up with something like ISIS.) It must be faith and reason in complementarity, with the recognition that all things are not knowable through reason alone.

    • Garbanzo Bean

      Do you mean empirical evidence? What evidence do you have of triangles?

      • workforlivn

        As the answer seems to me obvious, you must mean something else. I'm not employed in the field of philosophy. You will have to spell it out without the jargon for me to answer you.

        • Garbanzo Bean

          If you mean something like a drawing of a triangle, or a block of metal shaped like a triangle, then you need to realize that those are not actually triangles. Their sides are not perfectly straight or smooth, nor are their vertices actually points.
          I will try not to get over-philosophical.

          • workforlivn

            If you're pointing out an error in my reasoning let me see if I can help.

            If I want to build something using the idea of a triangle (trigonometry), and if my understanding is correct of the idea, my building won't fall down. I have confirmed that my idea is correct in practice.

            If I have an idea that all of these wonderful flowers, bugs, stars must have been made by someone (watchmaker), I can come up with myriad religions that explain it. I can sacrifice the townfolk by cutting their hearts out on a pyramid to make the sun come up. When the sun comes up I think I have confirmed my idea.

            I have more confidence in my idea of trigonometry than the idea of making the sun come up.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            We use mathmatical concepts in a myriad ways, applying them to the physical world. Ask yourself why it is that the physical world, which knows nothing of Pi, makes such marvelous, but only approximate, use of it.

          • workforlivn

            Tell me please.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "Tell me please."
            I was hoping you might put in a little effort...

          • workforlivn

            Our number system based on ten doesn't map well onto Pi or most logarithmic tables. The deficiency is in our math.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes if we had 8 fingers on each hand some things might be easier to compute

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailey–Borwein–Plouffe_formula

          • workforlivn

            And some games would be easier to play

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knife_game

          • Michael Murray

            Nice !

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "Our number system based on ten doesn't map well onto Pi or most logarithmic tables. The deficiency is in our math."

            Thanks for the effort. I think our math is fine. I perhaps am not making the point of the question clearly. Consider these two statements by some notable figures:

            "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." - Einstein
            "The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics." - Galileo

            My question would be: why is the universe comprehensible? Why does it seem to be "written in the language of mathematics"?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are you saying that the fact that Pi appears in various physics equations, somehow implies that there is a designer god?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "Are you saying that the fact that Pi appears in various physics equations, somehow implies that there is a designer god?"

            Well, I just asked a question; I suppose it could be answered with "Because a mathematical demiurge did it." But I would be more interested in your thoughts on the question. Forget about Pi. The issue is not that Pi appears in physics equations, the issue is that there can be physics equations.

            Consider these two statements:

            "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." - Einstein
            "The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics." - Galileo

            My original question could be restated: why is the universe comprehensible? Why does it seem to be "written in the language of mathematics"?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The universe is comprehensible only so far as we can find patterns in it. Certainly the universe is not completely comprehensible - at the quantum level it becomes more difficult to visualize what is going on and our intuition fails. It is to our evolutionary advantage to be able to recognize patterns in the universe and we so happened to evolve to be able to do it better than the rest of the animal kingdom.

            As much as it pains me to say this, we invented mathematics to understand our universe. For instance, we invented arithmetic to count our possessions and make transactions. Most of mathematics has roots in empirical observations that are then abstracted. While it's tempting to think of Number Theory as living in some platonic universe (until cryptographers sullied it with application), it still has it's roots in common arithmetic.

            Mathematics was "invented" for its descriptive powers, so I am not surprised that it describes the universe. However, while mathematics may also exist outside of the universe, I am not exactly sure what that means. I would like to think that mathematics would exist even if the universe did not exist, but I prefer mathematics to other endeavors, so I am biased.

            I would love to believe that God exists and that he is one helluva mathematician, but I do not find the Catholic God very appealing.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "The universe is comprehensible only so far as we can find patterns in it. Certainly the universe is not completely comprehensible"
            Aristotle and Plato said as much, but they had a different word for "pattern".

            "at the quantum level it becomes more difficult to visualize what is going on and our intuition fails."
            Is there something incomprehensible about quantum physics? Using terms like "visualize" would indicate you are confusing imagination with intellection.

            "Most of mathematics has roots in empirical observations that are then abstracted."
            You sound like a very confused Thomist.

            "Mathematics was "invented" for its descriptive powers, so I am not surprised that it describes the universe."

            The earliest mathematical proof I have seen is that regarding the fact that the square root of two is not a number. We call it an "irrational" now. There is nothing descriptive or empirical or observed about it, nor can the result be empirically observed or demonstrated. The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus is not based on any observables nor is it "descriptive" of anything, nor is the incommensurability of the diagonal of a square with its side, nor is the transcendental nature of Pi. There is no proof or theorem in mathematics which is empirical. You are confusing mathematics with the empircal sciences.

            Have you personally suffered some form of spiritual abuse in your past? I am not being facetious or dismissive in asking.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Is there something incomprehensible about quantum physics? Using terms like "visualize" would indicate you are confusing imagination with intellection.

            I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

            - Richard Feynman

            I think you are confusing description with comprehension.

            You sound like a very confused Thomist.

            Ye Olde Statistician made a similar remark to me last week - I'm starting to get worried. :-)

            There is no proof or theorem in mathematics which is empirical. You are confusing mathematics with the empircal sciences.

            We are talking about two different things. I agree that the method of mathematics is different from the method of science. However, I was talking about the origin of mathematics. You can prove the existence of a irrational number, but from where comes the idea of a number? I think a very good case can be made that it is empirical. My point is that if mathematics has empirical foundations, it is not surprising that it is also the language of the universe. Although we would probably be more correct if we said that mathematics was the language we use to describe the universe.

            Have you personally suffered some form of spiritual abuse in your past?

            I consider Catholicism to have had a very negative impact on my life. I'm not sure what you mean by spiritual abuse - I do think teaching certain doctrines of Catholicism to children can be a form of abuse.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Folks who have suffered harm, particularly as children, are often oblivious to the fact that they have suffered abuse. They tend to hate those who inflicted the harm, but not realize they have suffered harm which needs to be addressed. This happens with adults though as well: I have worked with mature and competent people in their 30's who have gone to the washroom crying because of a bullying manager, but when HR investigated that manager the victim did not remember that anything had happened. But she did say she hated him, and later realized she had forgotten about the incident.
            I think spiritual abuse could be defined as abuse in the context of religion, whereby a person's religious convictions are used against them. Substitute "spiritual" if a broader context than "religion" is needed.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In my honest opinion, religions institutions spiritually abuse their participants all of the time - it is in the nature of such things. I once saw a mother tell her child that disobeying his parents would send that child to hell.

          • Michael Murray

            Because thinking of the physical world as a flat Euclidean 3 dimensional space is an approximate mathematical model. Pi occurs in the mathematical model not in the real physical world. A better approximate model is a curved 4 dimensional space-time. But even that we know is wrong because at very short distances quantum effects probably destroy the whole idea of space and time as something that can be modelled by four real numbers.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If pi appears in an equation, it would seem to be logical to look for spherical symmetry before concluding that God put pi everywhere.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            I should not have bothered specifying the "approximate" part of the question. The question is really "why does the physical world, which knows nothing of mathematics, make such abundant use of it?"

            Alternatively, consider these two statements:
            "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." - Einstein
            "The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics." - Galileo
            My question could be restated: why is the universe comprehensible? Why does it seem to be "written in the language of mathematics"?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't have answers to these questions. I'm not even sure they have answers. I'm pretty sure the answer is not "the Catholic God". But that aside this turned up in my email this morning which you might like

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/10/03/ten-questions-for-the-philosophy-of-cosmology/

          • Garbanzo Bean

            I thought Catholics believed in the Jewish God, didn't realize they made their own. But "Cuz God diddit" would certainly be one answer to the questions, and I think it would be a popular one. Why do you dismiss it out of hand?

            Thanks for the link. Nice shot of Hawkings there, unable to get away because he is charging his chair. I started reading some of the PDF's, but the reasoning is way too muddled.

          • David Nickol

            I thought Catholics believed in the Jewish God, didn't realize they made their own.

            It seems to me that Christianity (including Catholicism) began with the "Jewish God" but modified the understanding of the concept in ways that Jews certainly can't accept. The Christian understanding of God as a Trinity would seem to me to definitively rule out an agreement between Christians and Jews on "who God is." This disagreement is frequently glossed over in the interest of Christian-Jewish relations, but I can't categorize it as anything other than profound.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            There are certainly doctrinal differences between Judaism and Catholicism regarding God. But both groups believe they are talking about the same being. This can be the case and there still be disagreements about specific points of doctrine regarding that being.

  • Sure, if what you consider to be "god" is an abstraction like Pure Actuality, this objection is inapplicable. I see no reason for such a concept, or for labelling it "god".

    However, if you define God as a being who loves me, is/has a mind, is capable of having a meaningful relationship with me, existed as a fully human, literally died and literally reconstituted his own body, it is applicable. But, as I understand it, the latter is not what Catholics believe.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Unless I am not following you, Catholic believe both the former and the latter.

      • Then we apply the objection to the latter with respect to Catholicism. I reject the resurrection, and many other aspects of Catholic belief for similar reasons that I reject claims of Hinduism, Paganism, Judaism and so on.

        It is not a real argument for atheism or a defeater of theist claims. It is used to show theists that the reasons they attribute for rejecting other religious claims seem to be the very same we do not accept Christian or Catholic claims.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Then you accept the former, that the philosophical arguments of classical theism are not defeatable by the "one god more" argument?

          • Yes, the defeater for Classical Theism, so framed, is that this is not a "theism" at all. It is simply using the label "god" for a human concept.

            If I were to show you my left shoe and say "this is what I mean when I use the word 'God'", the "one god more" argument would be equally inapplicable. No one would deny the existence of the shoe, we take the position that using the word "God" for this is silly and misleading.

            Pure Actuality is an abstract concept, but the same applies.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Huh?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Do you think that pure actuality is only a human concept? Or do you perceive a referent of that expression that exists independent of humans?

          • Only a concept, held by humans. That is not to say that other entities could not hold it if they exist. I also find it vague and not representative of anything that "exists" as I understand existence.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Interesting. Fair enough.

            If you only understand it as a concept held by humans, with no objective referent, then it probably is unlikely to work for you as a pointer to God.

            Never was my favorite expression either!

          • I'm not fond of this one god more objection either. It is raised by people like Dawkins and Krauss, who are great popularized of atheism and rather poor arguments for atheism.

          • Phil

            Well, if it is only a concept then you cannot be sitting/standing with a computer device typing these comments...well wait... :)

            (See comment(s) below on the necessity of the actual existence of pure actuality.)

          • I'm not saying everything is just a concept. I am not an idealist. But some concepts like the force, karma,and pure actuality do not represent anything in reality.

          • Phil

            I hear ya; The thing I'm pointing out is that this concept "pure actuality" must apply to actually existing entity. It cannot simply be a concept or you could have not just typed out that last comment. In that way it is very different from the force, karma, etc.

          • No, all that needs to exist is some kind of reality. On my ontology reality is matter, it is Uncaused or the nature of its causation is unknown. Or it may be meaningless to speak of causation in this context. I don't know.

          • Phil

            On my ontology reality is matter, it is Uncaused or the nature of its causation is unknown.

            If this is the case, how do you account for the physical sciences?

            If you truly believe that matter, as such, is uncaused or that the nature of causation is unknowable, then what the physical sciences are doing is reduced to utter pointlessness and absurdity.

          • I don't "account" for the physical sciences. I don't even know what you are asking. I don't consider the physical sciences pointless or absurd and neither would I suggest do you.

            I don't have beliefs about whether matter is caused or uncaused and I see no need to take a position on it.

            Supporters of Thomas Aquinas seem to think this issue is terribly important and the only reason it is ever raised is in a proof for something that they will label "God". It is interesting to discuss and see if we can reason it out, but it always seems harder than trying to determine the shape of an ice sculpture from the puddle of water it leaves.

          • Phil

            I apologize if it wasn't clear what I was getting at.
            In the previous comment you had said:

            On my ontology reality is matter, it is Uncaused or the nature of its causation is unknown

            If one holds that matter is truly uncaused or causality is unknowable, one is making a deep claim about the casual nature and ability of matter. The physical sciences rely on the fact that matter has inherent casual capabilities, or "powers", and that things do not happen utterly and completely uncaused.

            So one cannot rationally hold what you said above and also hold that the physical science are valid and doing anything at all.

          • Phil

            Hey Brian,

            Pure Actuality is an abstract concept, but the same applies.

            This is actually not the case and can be known through pure reason. Through reason alone we can know that pure actuality is an actual entity. If it was only an abstract concept it could not be the "entity" that accounts for all entities that are not pure actuality (which is everything we have experienced in reality).

            An abstract concept cannot bring about what reason says a purely actual being can bring about and must be doing right now in this very moment.

            You are exactly correct to say that there is some work to be done to work out some of the personal nature of God, but through reason alone we can know that this "entity" we call God is not merely an abstract concept. It is an entity that must actually exist in a real way, or the world would not exist as it actually does right now.

          • I would like to see the reasoning that leads to an entity you refer to a Pure Actuality.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I would like to see the reasoning that leads to an entity you refer to a Pure Actuality.
            See here:
            http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm

            But you need first to understand Aristotle's potency/act rebuttal to Zeno and Parmenides regarding the impossibility of change. Many of the English-translated terms have come to have different or more specialized meaning than they had in the original Latin (let alone in Aristotle's Greek).

          • Indeed. It is at this point my eyes glaze over and I just ask god to reveal himself, to enter my heart and enjoin a relationship with me. ( I literally just did this as honestly as I could as I ride the bus home. Nothing yet, I guess I am stuck with Aristotle.)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yup. We gave up on the Age of Reason a muckle long time ago. Jacques Barzun noted in the 1950s that the expression "I feel that...." was replacing "I think that...." in common speech.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "I just ask god to reveal himself, to enter my heart and enjoin a relationship with me. ( I literally just did this as honestly as I could as I ride the bus home. Nothing yet, I guess I am stuck with Aristotle.)"

            So your predicament is that you want to believe, but for some reason cannot? Or that you do believe (this is suggested by your prayer) but that your experience of belief does not meet with your expectations ("nothing yet")?

          • Phil

            Hey Brian,

            I would like to see the reasoning that leads to an entity you refer to a Pure Actuality.

            I can give you the overview, but realize you will have to take some time to read and reflect on it. (This nothing new either and I take no credit for the work.) It will be up to you to read further into it to truly come to know what it being shown.

            1) Any sort of change/motion involves a move from potentiality to actuality. (E.g., the ball is potentially the color green, the ball is potentially rolling, the dust and debris has the potential to be a planet)

            2) This potential is just that, pure potential. Something that is merely potential cannot bring itself in actuality. (E.g., the ball can't make itself green, the ball cannot roll itself, the dust and debris can't form themself into a planet unless acted upon by an outside force)

            2a) All potentials of an entity must be actualized from outside of the entity.

            3) In the world there exists essentially ordered series. These are a series of causes that must be happening simultaneously or the final product we observe would not be happening.

            For example: You pushing a rock with a stick requires--the stick pushing the rock, the hand holding the stick, the hand pushing the stick, the neurons firing in the hand, which depends on the other firing neurons back to the brain, the proper state of the whole nervous system, the current and proper state of the molecular structure, the atomic basis of the molecular structure, current electromagnetism, gravitation, weak/strong forces, which the forces require things outside themself to be what they are right now. This goes on and on.

            If any one of those things above stopped for even a split second, the rock would stop being pushed/changed. The whole series would fall apart. That is happening each and every moment.

            4) This essentially ordered series must have a first member of the series.

            If there was no first member the series itself would not exist at all. (Infinite regressing series would be saying that there is always one more member that has a potential that needs to be actuated. If that's the case the last thing in the series, i.e., the pushing of the rock, couldn't exist.) Neither could there be a finite series that just ended with a entity that had a potential to be fulfilled, because it cannot do it itself, the whole series would fall apart again, and the rock couldn't be pushed.

            5This instantaneous series can only be rationally completed and end with an entity that is pure actuality, i.e., has no potentialities within itself that need to be brought to actuality.

            If this entity itself had potentialities that had been actualized then it must have come from a prior object in the series, and it actually isn't the beginning of the series.

            If this entity still have a potentiality that hasn't been actualized, then the whole series, again, falls apart and the rock can't be pushed.

            Conclusion We then must rationally conclude that if I am in fact pushing/capable of pushing this rock, then there exists an entity which is pure actuality that actually exists and is acting every single moment of every single day.

            (Note: We are not talking about accidentally ordered series above. This kind of series is one that doesn't rely on the continued existence and actualization of a prior cause. For example, a father is a direct cause of his son, but the father does not need to keep existing for the son to exist. Now, if the father is "talking" with the son, that talking action of the father is essentially order--like the above examples.)

            -----

            Please let me know of any clarifications or questions you may desire, I have never claimed to be a great writer ; )

          • George

            why did you call all that simultaneous? your example is limited by the speed of light.

            and if there is no end to the "series" than there's no problem that the end does not exist. why assume the moved rock is the end?

          • Phil

            Hey George,

            why did you call all that simultaneous?

            If the neural system is not firing at the same exact moment as your hand is pushing the stick, then it is impossible for your hand to be pushing the stick at that very moment.

            Part of this may be the confusion that a cause and effect are not two separate events. A cause and effect happen at the same moment. For example, the ball hitting the window and the window breaking are not two separate lose events. Rather at the exact moment that the ball is hitting the window, the window is breaking; and each moment after that as the ball continues to hit the window, the window continues to break. Cause and effect are simply looking at the same event from two different POV's. (The Humean problem with cause/effect being two separate events are well-known.)

            and if there is no end to the "series" than there's no problem that the
            end does not exist. why assume the moved rock is the end?

            If the rock is actually being moved then there must be a rational and full explanation for why/how it is being moved. That is what the example looks to explain.

          • Phil

            Hey George,

            After some thought last night, I realized I didn't answer your question very well. So here is another go at it!

            why did you call all that simultaneous?

            In the example above, everything must necessarily be in actuality at the same moment, which is what I am referencing when I say simultaneous. This does not mean that it couldn't take some time for everything to come to be in actuality because of the speed of light.

            The key point is, at the moment that the rock is actually being pushed, the stick must actually be pushing the rock, the hand actually be holding the stick, the hand must actually be pushing
            the stick, the neurons must actually be firing in the hand, which depends on the other
            firing neurons back to the brain, the whole nervous
            system must actually be in the proper state, the molecular structure must actually be in the proper state, etc.

            Nothing can only be in potentiality in the above chain.

            And this all must be happening at the same time for the rock to actually be pushed. (Again, that doesn't mean that it didn't take time for everything in the series to become actualized, even if only microseconds.)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You are confusing the actuality of the kinesis with an observer's knowledge of it. A better word that "simultaneous" that doesn't carry the same Late Modern baggage is "concurrent."

          • It always comes down to the argument you've related above. I've read it before, and my conclusion is what I started this thread with. The argument just labels a concept Pure Act, god. See my blog post titled "Pure Act Forum".

          • Phil

            You are not understanding the argument then. If "pure act" is just a concept then you cannot be sitting at a computer typing a response. Concepts themself cannot do anything.

            We come to the conclusion that there must be an actually existing entity with is pure actuality, (or you sitting at a computer would not be possible) and this is what people mean when they say "God".

            (Though of course we can know a lot more about God than just that God is pure actuality--but it is still true to say God is "pure act".)

          • workforlivn

            Doesn't your argument mean that there is no free will? Don't all of our actions regress to a time before we were born?

          • Phil

            Doesn't your argument mean that there is no free will? Don't all of our actions regress to a time before we were born?

            I might have not made it clear, but we are not going back in time here. We are talking about one single "snapshot of a moment" in the above argument.

            That's what makes Aquinas' arguments so powerful and still discussed to this day. Aquinas was so intellectually honest that he didn't believe he could show that the cosmos has a beginning, so he found other ways--by using arguments that don't go back in time, but rather stick to a single moment in time and simply dig to "deeper levels of reality" before we ultimately come to a "reality" that must support all the other realities that are taking place around us. This is the purely actual entity, which is what people mean when they say "God". (Of course other arguments get to other "properties" of God.)

          • workforlivn

            I'm stupid so you'll have to type slower.

            All of your listed points above involve events in time. Even 'instantaneous series' would only apply in a math problem where time isn't involved. Nothing about a series makes sense without time.

            If you're talking about a series of events, a start and a finish, there must be time.

            Please don't quote an author because I'm probably not familiar with them. I'm the unwashed. Tell me one point at a time and in your own words.

          • Phil

            I apologize, I'll do my best to explain.

            Yes, In a sense there is a time element, but we are not worried about the time element. It is possible that the language of "simultaneous" was confusing. We are not worried about how long it takes for something to become actualized or fall back into only potentiality--maybe that's part of the confusion?

            Example 1:
            For example--I'll use the first and last of the series. The actualization of the rock being pushed can only happen if at the very same moment the weak/strong, electromagnetic, and gravitational forces are also being actualized. If the latter is not actualized, then the rock will not be pushed (i.e., fall into potentiality).

            Example 2:
            I'll try and paint a picture as well:
            Imagine taking a single picture of reality at the moment you are pushing the rock with the stick. You then can look at that snapshot picture, which is completely frozen. What we see is all these elements in my original post of the argument being actualized at the same time.

            If we imagine taking one of these elements, say the nervous system firing, and it is not possible for the rock to be pushed.

            --------

            So we could definitely say that it would take time for all those elements to become actualized, even if it is only fractions of a microsecond, or for them to fall from actualization to only potentiality (e.g., the rock going from being pushed to only potentially pushed).

            In summary, if any one of those things in the series from the example above falls from actualization to potentiality, then everything that comes after it in the series also falls into potentiality. (Or worse, as in the case of the weak/strong/gravitational/electromagnetic forces ceasing to be as they are.)

            Comments, Questions?

          • Phil

            The crux of your question:

            Now, if I am understanding correctly, I believe the key question at bottom is; is it possible for something further "back" in the series to stop being actualized before the final outcome happens, but the final outcome still happens because of "time delay"?

            For example, your nervous system become actualized but before the rock is pushed, it drops back into potentiality, but the rock is then pushed.

            Does that sound right? If so, I'd love to hear your thought and reflection on how we could get this to work, or another situation this would be possible. I'll reflect as well, because its a great question.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You misunderstand what Aquinas meant when he tagged that teaser to the end of his various proofs. He ought to have written, "And this all men call God. Details to follow."

            You see, there are several hundred further theorems that follow after Question 2 in the Summa theologica (which itself is simply a summary for graduate students in the schools of theology and omits a great deal which the student was already supposed to know from his undergraduate and masters studies.) For example:
            3. On the Simplicity of God

            4. The Perfection of God

            5. Of Goodness in General

            6. The Goodness of God

            7. The Infinity of God

            8. The Existence of God in Things

            9. The Immutability of God

            10. The Eternity of God

            11. The Unity of God

            12. How God Is Known by Us

            13. The Names of God

            14. Of God's Knowledge

            15. Of Ideas

            16. Of Truth

            17. Concerning Falsity

            18. The Life of God

            19. The Will of God

            20. God's Love

            21. The Justice and Mercy of God

            22. The Providence of God

            23. Of Predestination

            24. The Book of Life

            25. The Power of God

            26. Of the Divine Beatitude

            27. The Procession of the Divine Persons

            28. The Divine Relations

            29. The Divine Persons

            30. The Plurality of Persons in God

            31. Of What Belongs to the Unity or Plurality in God

            32. The Knowledge of the Divine Persons

            and so on and so forth. Each Question is divided into several Articles.

            IOW, if all you know is Russell's misstatement of the first way, you will no doubt conclude that the Being of Pure Act is an abstraction having nothing to do with the loving personal God proposed by Hindus, muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians.

        • "I reject the resurrection, and many other aspects of Catholic belief for similar reasons that I reject claims of Hinduism, Paganism, Judaism and so on."

          I'd be curious to hear these similar reasons. The Resurrection is based on a historical claim, rooted in history, unlike any claims made by Hinduisim or Paganism.

          It's true Judaism and Christianity share similar views about God, but the Resurrection differs in kind, not just degree, from core Judaistic beliefs.

          • The reasons are that these are extraordinary claims unjustified by the evidence, historical or otherwise. You are right to be careful in your choice of words, "based on a historical claim" is very different than established by historical sources to historical standards. It is not established by historical sources or accepted by mainstream historians. Many historians who are Christian may accept it as fact, but would never say it is established historically. Again see Dale Martin, Bart Ehrman on this. I put it to you that zero non-Christian historians would accept it as fact in any sense.

            It would now appear that even the stories of an empty tomb, or even any tomb at all, is no longer considered historical, much less the inference that the only explanation for it is that beingness itself was a fully human person who died and then was physically resurrected.

          • Phil

            Hey Brian,

            Not only are there historical reasons (though people are free to reject them) to believe that the Resurrection actually occurred, but that fact that 1000's have actually experienced and encountered Jesus in their life throughout 2000 years, including myself--it points towards the fact we are dealing with something quite unique.

            Read through the experience of 100's of saints and persons over the centuries and even today. In our rationalistic scientific mindset, for so many people to still have this religious encounter and rationally believe and proclaim it is incredible. This is not some psychological fairy-tale we are dealing with.

          • The fact that I and, I believe, many others are non-resistant non-believers is better evidence for the non-existence of the mainstream western version of the Christian god. I know I am a non-resistant unbeliever.

          • Phil

            Can you explain what a non-resistant non-believer is?

          • Someone who lacks a belief in God, but is in no way resisting a relationship with him, but has no experience of this God. In my case, I actively ask for this to occur.

          • Phil

            That's fantastic to hear!

            You know what--I highly encourage, and even challenge, you to find a nearby Catholic Church to you (preferably one with a small adoration chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is held 24 hours a day).

            Go there every day, as much as this is possible, for at least 30 days and for about 15 minutes sitting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. And simply ask and reflect on the deeper questions you have, including the question even of God's very existence.

            Dig down deep to what is truly causing you restlessness in your life (could be family, people at work, insecurities, fears etc) and just sit with them. Dig for the great joys as well.

            The big thing is stay completely open, as you say you are, to any movements of your deepest being. It could be a thought that makes you smile, either physically, or even lifts just your spirit. Note the thoughts that bring about negative feelings or restlessness. (I highly recommend keeping a basic journal of this time and any of these subtle movements of your person.) And know you'll be in my thoughts and prayers!

          • Sorry, it is not quite clear to me what you are asking me to look for when I do this. How will I know when God is communicating with me? How will I distinguish God from just well, feelings I have?

          • Phil

            How will I know when God is communicating with me? How will I distinguish God from just well, feelings I have?

            Right now, it is simply important for you to be open, and be physically and consciously present each day. And let nothing deter you for those 30 days. Only after those 30 days do I recommend looking back over everything as a whole. (Hence my journal recommendation.)

            Right now, it would not be a good idea for me to go to in-depth as I don't want to influence your experiences. I hope it makes sense why. It is also something that can only be experienced from the 1st person POV. So my experiences right now, may help--or they may severely harm you (I am not a trained/experienced spiritual director as well.)

          • Phil

            My only piece of advice is don't underestimate how powerful asking and reflecting on the same one question for a single month can be--that is, be persistent.

            Simply asking; I don't even know if God exists, in fact I don't even think God does exist. But if you do exist, God, help me to somehow know that you do exist; is fantastic!

          • David Nickol

            The problem here, as I see it, is that you have recommended doing this exercise in a Catholic Church surrounded by Catholic symbolism and things that Catholics hold most sacred. It would be no surprise at all if some people who engaged in this exercise found themselves more sympathetic to Catholic thought after a month or so.

            Now, in museum near me there is a truly amazing Tibetan Museum Shrine Room which is one of the most peaceful and "spiritual" spaces I have ever entered. I would not be surprised if I carried out your exercise in the Shrine Room, I would find myself drawn to Buddhism. Or if I tried it in the synagogue down the street from me, I might feel drawn to Judaism.

            The problem is, then, how does one act as a "seeker" and at the same time avoid self-indoctrination?

          • Phil

            Hey David,

            The God that I am recommending all to search out is not simply the "God of Catholicism"--he is the God of all creation! God is not Catholic, God is God. But that does not mean that he dwells in each church to the same degree. God would want everyone to be united in peace.

            The Church holds that God, as the second person of the Trinity (Jesus) dwells in the Holy Eucharist; body, blood, soul, and divinity. And this is, in fact, the truth of the matter.

            But for someone searching and who is truly open, to close yourself off to the fact that this (the Blessed Sacrament) is true is to be close-minded and shut oneself right away. If one is truly open-minded, go to the Blessed Sacrament with an open heart and just reflect, sit in silence, and pray (in simple language, to pray is simply to have a conversation).

            I don't promise anything, only God can do that, I simply say wouldn't it be a shame if God is ultimately what we were searching for our whole life and we never even gave it a shot?

            Now, in museum near me there is a truly amazing Tibetan Museum Shrine Room which is one of the most peaceful and "spiritual" spaces I have ever entered. I would not be surprised if I carried out your exercise in the Shrine Room, I would find myself drawn to Buddhism. Or if I tried it in the synagogue down the street from me, I might feel drawn to Judaism.

            It is very much possible to encounter God there, in fact God is there, if one is truly searching for the God of all creation. (Now there are some issues with the spiritual exercises of the East, but no need to get into that now.)

            But if one was going to lay it all out on the table, which we should do because we only get to do this once, I would go to the place that actually seriously claims that the God of the universe is physically present under the appearance of bread and wine.

            And this is no matter how crazy this seems at first. But to say right away, I'm not doing it when one is actually searching is to be close-minded.

          • David Nickol

            There is something almost charmingly naive about thinking it is closed-minded not to go to a Catholic Church every day for at least 30 days and pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to find God.

            You made no guarantees. What about people who try this and get nothing out of it? What should they do next? Should they move on to a Buddhist Temple, a Mosque, or a Synagogue?

          • Phil

            You made no guarantee

            Here's my guarantee:

            If one goes in with a truly open and honest heart to be with the Blessed Sacrament for a basic daily commitment of time, I have no doubt that God will make himself known to that person in some way. That is actually a guarantee, not because it has anything to do with me, but because of our Lord. :)

            (I encourage you as well, seek the Blessed Sacrament with open heart and you never know!)

          • Michael Murray

            I have no doubt that God will make himself known to that person in some way.

            Does "some way" include not at all ? Like the old adage "God always answers your prayers but sometimes the answer is no."

          • Phil

            Does "some way" include not at all ? Like the old adage "God always answers your prayers but sometimes the answer is no."

            It does not include not at all.

            I'd highly recommend it Michael, seek the Blessed Sacrament and open your heart!

          • Michael Murray

            I'd highly recommend it Michael, seek the Blessed Sacrament and open your heart!

            1957 -- 1974 been there, done that. Stopped at age 17.

          • Phil

            Well, as has become common these days, you are always welcome back home, the door is always open :)

          • Michael Murray

            Common? Not where I live. But why on earth would I bother? I've been on this website since the beginning when it was being touted as the great site that was going to explain Catholicism to the atheists. As an ex-Catholic I was interested to see how that would go. All I've seen is bad apologetics, bad logic, lack of definitions, crap arguments, ignorance of science, ignorance of atheism, straw men demolished and an enthusiasm for banning atheists who ask difficult questions and present strong arguments.

            I'm supposed to be converted by this ?

          • Phil

            I'm supposed to be converted by this?

            In a sense, actually no! I can't convert you, in fact no one here can convert you. Only you can convert you. A person has to convert themself. And if one isn't actually open to conversion, it isn't going to happen (I don't have perfect knowledge as to if someone is actually open or not. Brian told me her was, so hence this discussion above.)

            That is why there is no use getting angry or frustrated in discussions such as these on here because that means that we are trying to change someone's mind--when in the end that is not possible. They have to change their own mind.

            Our job is to witness to truth. We witness to the truth of reality as best as we can and stay at peace! If someone doesn't agree or doesn't like the truth of reality, that doesn't make it untrue.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It does not include not at all.

            Really? How do you come to this knowledge?

            Phil, I can see that you have a good heart, but in these two preceding comments I think you have begun to say things in a very dangerous way. As you have acknowledged elsewhere, you are not in a position to make guarantees on God's behalf. I can see from your other comments that you understand this, but your words are not consistently reflecting this understanding.

            You might justifiably claim that God will "be present", even while acknowledging that this presence may or may not be perceptible. I think that would be a more biblically grounded guarantee, and one that is perhaps less likely to lead sincere people down the road of self-hatred and/or cynicism. As David Nickol just noted very poignantly, it is essential to remember that even Jesus was unable to detect the presence of God the Father at the nadir of the crucifixion.

          • Phil

            Hey Jim,

            You might justifiably claim that God will "be present", even while acknowledging that this presence may or may not be perceptible.

            You are exactly correct! That is why I had no problem making the claim that God's presence would be made known, whether we are open and able to perceive it is a whole 'nuther side of it. But that is on the side of the person, not God.

            But I will say, that if a person if truly open and searching, (as Brian above seemed to hint at) then God will have a very hard time staying away from that soul and not manifesting himself in some way that can be pretty obvious sometimes. Again, we can't control God, but a person honestly and openly searching for God should not have too hard a time finding him. ;)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't mean to nit-pick on words, but there is a very important difference between "being present" and "making oneself known". God will be present to the person whether they are open or not, whether they are searching or not, whether they go to Eucharistic adoration or not. However, none of those conditions guarantee that God will "make himself known".

            a person honestly and openly searching for God should not have too hard a time finding him.

            This is just not true. There is an underlying sentiment that I could agree with, but this is potentially a very harmful way of saying it.

            Imagine your friend is searching for the mayonnaise jar at the back of the refrigerator. You tell him to just be open and keep searching. He opens his eyes wider and searches deeper into the recesses of the refrigerator. If the mayonnaise jar is actually front and center on the top shelf, your quasi-Pelagian advice really has not helped matters any, and will lead only to frustration. Sometimes the better advice is: "Forget about the damn mayonnaise. Make the best sandwich you can with the ingredients you've got. Take a break. Go rake the leaves for a while. Watch a movie. Then come back and look for the mayonnaise."

          • Phil

            "Forget about the damn mayonnaise. Make the best sandwich you can with
            the ingredients you've got. Take a break. Go rake the leaves for a
            while. Watch a movie. Then come back and look for the mayonnaise."

            Actually that's exactly what I'm recommending! That is why I recommended to start with a specific time period. You make yourself present in mind, body, and soul but don't become frustrated if you don't think you "experience" anything. Spend your committed time in prayer, and move on with your day. But make sure to keep your commitment as best as you can each day.

            Thank you for pointing that out!

            I don't mean to nit-pick on words, but there is a very important difference between "being present" and "making oneself known".

            I apologize, in reference to God these ultimately can be used interchangeably. If God is present, he is also making himself known and vice versa.

            But God can sometimes make himself known in unique ways, but at every single moment he is present which also means he is making himself known. So it may be that someone is searching for a "special revelation" of God's presence where all that they have at there disposable is God's "standard" presence.

            (The special revelation of God in a persons' life may be what got confusing.)

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Those who seek a deeper understanding of this argument can obtain it by putting these principles to the test. If you are afraid that you might, in this Christian environment, fall into taking the Christian Science mantra too seriously, try instead the following simple experiment. For forty days and forty nights, begin each day by invoking and praising the world in itself as an expression of the Egyptian deities. Recite at dawn:

            I bless Ra, the fierce sun burning bright
            I bless Isis-Luna in the night
            I bless the air, the Horus-Hawk
            I bless the earth on which I walk

            Repeat at moonrise. Continue for the full forty days and forty nights.

            At a minimum, you will feel happier and more at home in this part of the galaxy. At maximum, you may find rewards beyond your expectations, and will be converted to using this mantra for the rest of your life. (If the results are exceptionally good, you just might start believing in ancient Egyptian gods.)

            All this, of course, is programming your own trip by manipulating appropriate clusters of word, sound, image, and emotional (prana) energy.

            - Robert Anton Wilson, Illuminatus Trilogy, vol. 3

          • Phil

            Hey Victor,

            Great to meet you. The difference is there is no rational supprt for Egyptians gods, and we have 2000 years of rational support for the God of Christianity. Again, it must always be faith and reason together.

          • Michael Murray

            I think you are forgetting the sword. Faith, reason and the sword has been the historical approach to supporting Christianity. That and handy little devices like this

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heretic%27s_fork

          • Michael Murray

            Or they could try a Year Without God

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/

            some people seem to find it invigorating.

            From a purely materialist perspective I've often wondered about this "try it and see" approach. Is it a type of self-hypnosis ? If it works does it last or is it like stopping a bad habit or going on a diet -- easy at the beginning but hard to sustain ?

          • Phil

            I love the amusing nature of "A year without God", due the fact that the moment that we went a single instant without God we would cease to exist anymore. We would "pop" out of existence.

          • David Nickol

            I love the amusing nature of "A year without God", due the fact that the moment that we went a single instant without God we would cease to exist anymore.

            And how do you feel about the decades-long periods in which Mother Teresa experienced the absence of God? Or about Jesus, immediately before he died (according to Mark) crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

          • Phil

            I'd highly recommend on doing some spiritual reading on Mother Teresa, it is fantastic. This can be common as one advances in the spiritual life. As God makes himself known to the soul, there are times where He draws back so that we can move closer to him. That is what "faith" really means. It has absolutely nothing to do with "blind submission". In fact, faith means using reason to believe what is true even when we don't feel it (we don't follow our feelings).

            So for example, a soul has had deep communion with and awareness of the presence of God for many years. There comes a time where there is dryness of prayer and God just does not seem as near or present as he has been. This does not mean that God is suddenly gone. Rather it means that He wants us to draw closer to him--but he withholds "good feelings" so that our trust (i.e., faith) in what we know to be true, his great love for each person, can grow. God is also able to grant great tribulation so as to refine and purify a person's soul, like what Mother Teresa probably went through. And the proper response is exactly what she did--keep loving God and others in extraordinary manners even when it is hard!

          • Michael Murray

            I love the amusing nature of "A year without God", due the fact that the moment that we went a single instant without God we would cease to exist anymore.

            So I take it you are a member of the Church of the Ground of All Being ?

          • Phil

            So I take it you are a member of the Church of the Ground of All Being?

            It's where rational discourse and argument take us, (as well as God's self-revelation) so the Catholic Church would hold this, and I would as well. ;)

          • "The fact that I and, I believe, many others are non-resistant non-believers..."

            Is that a fact? If so, how would we know and prove it? What evidence do you have to support this bold claim?

            From my interactions with you, I wouldn't necessarily describe you as "non-resistant." In fact, I would probably say just the opposite. But that's just my subjective impression.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I have to voice my disagreement here. That is not my impression.

            I think we must accept BGA as the ultimate worldly authority for judging his own interior stance of non-resistance.

            A discerning heart is not the same as a resisting heart. I see honest efforts at discernment, not intransigence.

          • I know it is a fact for myself, of course I cannot prove it to you, any more than I can prove I actually exist. I can only do my best to convince you. Of course the same goes for anyone's personal experience of God.

            But the problem of non-resistant unbelievers goes further than that. Like the evidential problem of evil and gratuitous suffering, if even one exists the god as described by Christians would not. Such a God would always communicate with a believer with an honest openness to him. So this means that all of the former Christians, who fervently believed and lost their belief must be lying when they say they desperately asked for God to reveal himself and were left with silence.

            If you don't believe me, have a read of this ex-Catholic's story. Carolyn was so devout that she would drive an hour to church every single day and arrive an hour early to pray. She enrolled in higher education to learn ancient languages to better understand the Bible. She was converted originally to Catholicism when she thought she literally experienced Jesus. But this faded, never came back and is still absent in her life.

            http://www.amazon.com/Still-Small-Voices-Testimony-Born-Again/dp/1497511267

            Brandon, I am not a "seeker" and I see a great deal of harm that I believe is associated with religion. But I always give you the benefit of the doubt. When theists on this site ask me to try things to engage in a relationship with God, I really do try it.

          • "[The Resurrection] is not established by historical sources or accepted by mainstream historians. "

            I'd first be curious how you define something that is "established by historical sources."

            But that said, the Resurrection is a hypothesis that attempts to explain historical evidence that almost all historians agree on--like Jesus' existence and death by crucifixion, his honorable burial, his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the sudden and sincere transformation of his disciples. (I and other Christians think the Resurrection is the most plausible explanation of these widely-accepted historical facts.)

            It's not clear you understand how historians work. They don't "establish" theories. They establish historical evidence and then determine which theory best explains that evidence.

            "Many historians who are Christian may accept it as fact, but would never say it is established historically."

            I'm not sure I agree, and I challenge you to defend this claim. Please provide statistical evidence of this group of "many."

            "I put it to you that zero non-Christian historians would accept it as fact in any sense."

            Of course! If you believe in the Resurrection, you would naturally become a Christian. If not, you'd remain a non-Christian. Saying "zero non-Christian historians [believe in the Resurrection]" is a borderline tautology.

            But almost every mainstream, non-Christian historian who is familiar with this period agrees with the facts I cited above (see Gary Habermas' comprehensive survey of the published, peer-reviewed literature pertaining to the topic.) They simply differ as to what theory best explains those facts, which is an altogether different question.

            "It would now appear that even the stories of an empty tomb, or even any tomb at all, is no longer considered historical..."

            It may appear that way to you--for what reasons, I don't know--but not to mainstream historical scholars. Again, I refer you to Habermas' comprehensive survey and N.T. Wright's definitive study of the Resurrection of God. He cites the top historians on the empty tomb and finds a remarkable consensus.

          • You might want to reflect on the use of the word hypothesis, this is a term generally used for an idea that is testable and could explain observation, but that has not been established. We use the word theory, to refer to hypotheses that have supporting evidence.

            Lets look at the facts you note as being explained by the resurrection:

            Jesus' existence and death by crucifixion - the resurrection hypothesis does nothing to explain these.

            his honorable burial, his empty tomb - Bart Erhman has recently cast considerable doubt on this in his latest book "How Jesus Became God"

            his post-mortem appearances - we don't have good evidence of this, we have evidence that people claim to have seen him. Well, we have such people today too, we don't generally take them at their word, particularly if they claim they really saw him talked to him in the flesh and he told them to do things. When people start talking like this we suggest they see a mental health professional.

            Generally on the historicity I defer to the consensus view of reputable historians, not theologians, not philosophers, not the "Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University" (Habermas).

            As I have suggested many times probably the best resource for us non-experts is an introduction to New Testament Studies in a History Department at a reputable university. I say this because we can trust such authority and also be assured that we are not getting non-mainstream hypotheses or religious instruction, but a survey of what historians generally and reputably are comfortable saying is established by historical inquiry.

            This is why I have pointed your readers on many occasions to Dale Martin's class at Yale, which can be viewed for free on YouTube. Specifically his class on the historicity of Jesus. The reason I think this is such a great resource is that Martin is, himself a Christian, but goes to great lengths to distinguish what we can glean historically from the New Testament, as opposed to theologically. He does this time and again.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_dOhg-Fpu0&list=PL279CFA55C51E75E0&index=13

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Most historians agree on this:

            Jesus' existence and death by crucifixion

            But do not agree on this:

            his honorable burial, his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the sudden and sincere transformation of his disciples.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I put it to you that zero non-Christian historians would accept it as fact in any sense.

            D'uh? If they did, would they be non-Christians for much longer? Perhaps. Many Roman pagans had objections to the new religio but "it never happened" doesn't seem to be one of them.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Very interesting comment about the nature of the Roman objections. This seems very important.

            Just to re-hash what I think you are saying, the fact of the resurrection could be accepted, but interpreted (by an ancient Roman, perhaps) as nothing more than neat-o divine pyrotechnics, or (by a modern, perhaps) as a statistical anomaly. One who accepted the fact without perceiving any deeper theological significance would not be a Christian.

            Perhaps it is exactly the opposite phenomenon that we see today, where plenty of folks seem to essentially have Resurrection faith and act in conformity with it, even while remaining doubtful or unaware that their faith is grounded in a historical event.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Actually, they are often very different reasons. For example, one may reject Zeus for different reasons than one rejects Ahura Mazda.

    • Tpr1976

      Yes, what Kevin said.
      Catholics believe both the former and the latter.
      If the question is merely about the nature of God, then we talk about God being existence itself, love itself, truth itself and not "a being" among many.

      BUT the beauty of the Christian story is that the TRUTH, the LOGOS, the WORD became flesh and lived as 1 of us for the purpose of our salvation.

      • So God's nature in not in any sense human? Jesus was not a being?

        Words do not become flesh. Matter becomes flesh.

        I do not see the Christian story as beautiful, I find it horrific. Unless I am getting it wrong it is the story of a Pure Actuality working with only a single tribe for thousands of years to "prepare" all of humanity for salvation. This involved destroying almost all life of Earth, asking a prophet to slaughter his son, killing the first born of all Egyptian males and so on. Genocide is committed repeatedly in his name and sometimes at his command. It also involved the development of rules and laws requiring such things as the stoning to death of disobedient children. The culmination of this was the blood sacrifice of the God himself. What follows is millennia more of genocide, torture, disease and rape on Earth with most of us not being saved. Maybe. Who knows? Not the Pope.

        You drink the blood and eat the body of the concept of Pure Actuality? I find it all nonsensical.

        • Tpr1976

          Jesus was a being.
          God the Son is eternal.
          Genocide, torture, disease and rape is something the human race is guilty of. All Christians are members of the human race, but not all Christians are the purveyors of those evils.
          All of the death and violence in the Old Testament is meant to be understood through the lens of Jesus Christ, the Word made into flesh who commanded love of enemies and forgiveness. In other words, violence and war happens in human history....does God stop it? No because then we would not have free will. He instead permits evil for the sake of our freedom and bringing good out of evil. We as humans cannot fully comprehend or even see all of this Providence because then we would be God.
          As for pure actuality working for a single tribe....
          Jesus tells the apostles in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations. Even Old Testament prophetic writings speak of ALL nations (not just Israel) being brought into God's graces and His plan.

          Personally, I wouldn't trust the books of the Bible if there was no violence, war, death and rape in it. Then it would truly be a work of fiction because it would be denying the evil that is really present in the world.

          • I am not talking about there being some violence and death and rape in the Old Testament. The OT has god demanding genocide, even of small children. Humans did not drown every baby alive, God did. In terms of not violating free will, if I forcefully stop you from torturing a baby for fun, not violating your free will, I am taking practical steps to avoid a harm. I can see no possible moral reason for not intervening in such a situation. Such an act is labelled by theists as absolutely objectively immoral. Yet, they believe in a God who would never make such an intervention. Although they cannot imagine what reasons he would have, they assume he has perfectly moral reasons to do so. None of this, particularly the torturous murder of god himself, and its vivid portrayal in Catholic Churches around the world seems beautiful to me. Though certainly several things attributed to Jesus and their interpretations are. But many are not. For instance the mandamus to give up all your possessions, take no heed for the future, that he is not here to change one bit of the "law" seem specifically awful to me. As does the idea of eternal conscious torture for failing to love him.

          • Tpr1976

            "eternal councious torture for failing to love him"?????
            What is that exactly?
            Also....it's this whole idea of "God has to make absolute sense to me and if he doesn't then he doesn't exist."
            That attitude is prideful and arrogant. The Greek gods......now they made sense.
            They were prideful, arrogant, selfish and basically like human beings with super powers. We "get" that.
            God is not this primitive projection of human nature on supernatural beings, but the source and summit of all being itself.

          • The first quote you provide is mine. It is my understanding that most Christians believe in a hell which involves being tortured forever and that they go there if they reject gods love, fail to enter a loving relationship. If you don't accept this I applaud you, but many do accept this as a central belief of Christianity.

            The second quote is not mine. I do not need to understand something completely to accept its existence. I don't understand the phone I'm using right now, but I firmly believe it exists. It is observable.

            If gods exist, they should manifest somehow. If I'm expected to enter a loving relationship, the other needs to be detectable to me. Really detectable, not just vague feelings of love, sometimes. Maybe.

          • George

            "No because then we would not have free will."

            Why do you think that?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Words do not become flesh. Matter becomes flesh.

          You realize that "flesh" in this usage means "matter"? Matter doesn't "become" matter. Matter, in fact, is one principle of being, not of becoming. The other principle is Form, since every material thing must be some thing; that is, some form of matter. It is the form that makes a thing what it is, as three-sidedness makes a plane figure specifically a "triangle." If you detect some relationship between conception, idea, word, and form, then you are on the right track.

          • Words are matter, they do not become matter. I'm a materialist so much of what you said will not get too far with me. You would need first to establish there is a non-material existence at all to go there. But that is a discussion for another day.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Words are matter

            Are they made up of vibrations in the air or of ink spots on a page? Do not confuse the instantiation of the word with the word itself.

            I thought materialists were calling themselves physicalists these days, after Heisenberg trashed the whole idea.

            “[T]he smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.”
            -- Werner Heisenberg

            He considered this as having restored Platonism; but of course Aristotelian forms are more coherent than Plato's.

            “[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.”
            --Werner Heisenberg

          • Mike

            Please expand on this sometime on your blog if you so feel inclined...it's intriguing and i haven't come across it before; namely that the smallest units of matter are "not" matter.

          • Michael Murray

            namely that the smallest units of matter are "not" matter.

            You might be interested in the link below which discusses quantum field theories. The most fundamental aspect of matter isn't really matter it is quantum fields:

            http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/physics/2013/08/the-good-vibrations-of-quantum-field-theories/

          • Mike

            thanks for this...fascinating stuff, how physical reality seems to "boil down" to some "fields" or whatever that can best be described via math/abstract reasoning...i'll check out the link, thx.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Heisenberg's the guy to ask; except he's dead. But in quantum mechanics, everything is "fields". Physicists for example speak of the Higgs field, not so much the Higgs "boson." Fields are very much like forms -- not themselves material, but constraining and "forming" matter.

          • Mike

            Thanks for this; it's fascinating how the farther down that we go the less "material" in some sense things get; btw i recommend this article to everyone as it seems to flip the traditional paradigm of the lower you go the simpler things get on its head so to speak:
            http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/10/fearful-symmetries

          • Indeed, vibrations, arrangements of Ink and so on are words. Words often act as labels for concepts, which are brain states. And so on.

            I believe I am best described as a monist materialist, also naturalismist.

            Not sure what physicalist refers to, but I think we are talking about the same thing.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            vibrations, arrangements of Ink and so on are words.

            Take something simple: what sound is the sign H.

            Would it have the same meaning if it were carved by dripping runoff into the rock face of a cliff?

            "Physicalist" was a term coined after it became obvious that matter alone was insufficient to explain even matter (cf. Heisenberg). Inter alia, the number and arrangement of the material parts is indispensable. But an arrangement is not itself a material thing.

          • No an "H" carved by natural forces would not have the same meaning to me as one carved by a human. But the distinction has nothing to do with the shape, it has to do with the context of the shape.

            Okay on physicalist, when I use the term "material" I mean all matter and energy and all unknown new things that are in any way observable by humans, directly and indirectly, and all arrangements thereof. When I use the term "materialist" I mean it to be a position that "material" as defined is all there is to the cosmos.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            [A]n "H" carved by natural forces would not have the same meaning to me
            as one carved by a human. But the distinction has nothing to do with
            the shape, it has to do with the context of the shape.

            IOW, the meaning is not in the material thing itself. "Semantics does not arise from syntax."

            Does the sign represent the sound "aitch" or the sound "en"? Or does it represent a nearby hospital? Or an I-beam?

          • To me the sign could represent any number of those things or none. It depends on the context.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            To me the sign could represent any number of those things to me or none. It depends on the context.

            Exactly. It does not reside in any of the material properties of the sign, not in its length, mass, duration, candlepower, current, temperature, or moles of substance.

          • But all of to is still material. The "h" in the rock, my brain states about it, the vibrations. Everything we are discussing is still "flesh" in my world view.

            This all boils down to whether one is materialist or not. As a materialist I do not accept there is any existence of any aspect of a word beyond the physical manifestations of the word, such as printed on ink, air vibrations, binary code, brain states.

            I think when Aristotle and Aquinas were writing, so much was hidden from them, none of the forces of nature were understood and I think it made more sense to postulate an unseen immaterial aspect of reality involving forms. Today I just don't.

          • The meaning comes from the observer and the context, I don't know what else to tell you.

      • mcarey

        I have to ask you, does this really make sense to you?
        God created humans in its image. (There is no way we can reasonably refer to this "existence, love, truth" as a He, is there?) God was perfect and it created us in its image but then soon we weren't perfect anymore. Because we were curious and disobeyed we became evil beings who practiced hatred, murder, heresy, jealousy. So then God had to destroy humanity (including innocent animals and babies) several times by various means. But every time humanity came right back evil again. Then IT decides to become a Jewish rabbi, son of a young Jewish virgin and ITself, (just as many Roman emperors claimed to be the sons of human mothers and Gods) and to suffer a horrible death of pain and humiliation (blood sacrifice) to save humanity from death. And the evil and wars and hatred and murder continue; nothing changed. And this God knew everything and knew from the beginning that this would be so.
        I really would like to understand how this makes sense to you.

    • Mike

      we believe both.

  • “Similarly, the ‘Common Sense Atheist’ or ‘one god further’
    objection supposes that the God of classical theism is merely one further
    superhuman being alongside others”.
    What if the atheist judges the God of classical theism to be a word that
    not only corresponds to nothing existent like the words, Zeus and Thor, but also
    is completely meaningless? Just because everyone accepts the definitions of
    Euclidian geometry, does not force him to acknowledge that the terms of
    Platonic or Aristotelean philosophy have any meaning.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Do you judge a concept like "being" as completely meaningless? That is the kind of concept that metaphysics delves into.

      • Loreen Lee

        The concept without the percept is empty. The percept without the concept is blind. Immanuel Kant.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          What is a "percept"?

          • Loreen Lee

            Percept is to perception (i.e. empirical evidence) as concept is to conception (or the idea/theory/dogma, whatever!

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I Kant follow you. Does he mean we could not form a concept of triangularity if we did not see imperfect instances of them? Or if we saw an elephant without having the idea of elephent we would not know what we were looking at?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          But Kant thought that all human knowledge was only of our own thoughts, and not about the world about us, hence a radical form of conceptualism.

          OTOH, Aristotle and Aquinas said, "Nothing is in the intellect unless it is first in the senses." They just didn't think it stopped in the senses. That's why Aquinas rejected various Platonic arguments for God in favor of those that originated in sense experience: there is change in the world, the world is ordered by rational laws, there is an order of efficient causes, and so forth. You don't have to see a neutrino to know it is there, since you can reason your way to its existence through its effects on other things, which you can see. Similarly, Aquinas said, you can reason your way to God through his effects on the world: for example, that there are scientific "laws" of nature.

          (And the whole schema of the percepts of the inner senses and concepts of the intellect is derived from Thomistic psychology.)

          • Loreen Lee

            I agree with all you say, except for the first paragraph. Kant was both an empirical realist and a transcendental idealist. One of the few philosophers who definitely had his feet in both camps. Perhaps Cartesian thought is closer to your 'radical form of conceptualism. (Like your comment about Thomistic psychology. Very 'Kantian'.......!!)

      • Feser’s argument acknowledges common agreement in mathematics and thereby demands agreement with classical philosophy, but that is the bone of contention.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Can you illustrate how one of the terms Feser uses is meaningless?

          • David Nickol

            Can you illustrate how one of the terms Feser uses is meaningless?

            I think you were the one who brought the term "meaningless" into the discussion.

            What seems to be the case to me is that Feser writes as if his own brand of Aristotelianism, Thomism, etc. is universally agreed upon by all philosophers. You say, "That is the kind of concept that metaphysics delves into." But metaphysics is like physics. There are various schools of thought, and radically different opinions about basic concepts within what we call metaphysics.

            I remember taking my first philosophy course in ethics, and one of the first things we were told was that taking an ethics course would not teach us right from wrong. Similarly, metaphysics is not a set of answers to questions. It's a set of questions with no universally agreed-upon answers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Bob wrote at the beginning of this thread: "What if the atheist judges the God of classical theism to be a word that not only corresponds to nothing existent like the words, Zeus and Thor, but also is completely meaningless?"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are correct that Feser is a thorough Thomist, but from my reading of him, he takes every contrary view into account and critiques it, so he is not assuming any universal metaphysical or philosophical view to be true.

          • Feser sites two examples, noting that the quality which identifies a set cannot be an element within the set.
            First, within the context of mathematics, the postulated logical ideal of straightness cannot be an element in the set of straight things. Second, within the context of Plantonism, the abstracted and therefore logical ideal of Goodness or the Good, cannot be an element in the set of good things. He argues that likewise the God of classical theism cannot be an element in the set of superior things. However, whereas straightness and goodness are qualities, superiority is a relationship between things, i.e. between the ordered elements of the same set. It is true that Feser identifies the God of classical theism as pure Being and not Supremeness. That renders his argument illogical. God as Pure Being is meaningless in the context of Feser’s argument, which is that of logical sets. Just because Feser is typically on the side of the angels doesn’t mean every argument he constructs is valid.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In my understanding, Feser is saying Euclidian triangularity is of a different order than any material triangle; the ideal of goodness is of a different order than any instance of goodness here; and that the God of classical theism is of a different order than any of the gods of mythology.

            The third set is being. The being of a musical triangle is to triangularity as Zeus is to the God of classical theism.

            That seems pretty logical and meaningful to me.

          • If Feser intended to argue that being is posited of both God and a creature, but only analogically, he could have done so and in your judgment he did. In my judgment, he argued that the identifying quality of a set cannot be an element in the set.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, while Feser didn't use the word analogy in his OP, he used two analogies as examples and it is commonly understood among metaphysicians that the concept "being" is always used analogiously when it is applied to creatures and God.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I agree with you about what Feser is saying.

            However, any atheist (or any deist or agnostic) would challenge the implication that "the God of classical theism = Jehovah, the God of the Bible".

            Feser steers well clear of saying this, and I do not think that's an accident.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      What if the atheist judges the God of classical theism to be a word that
      not only corresponds to nothing existent like the words, Zeus and Thor

      Then we would have to conclude that the "atheist" knows nothing about Zeus or Thor, let alone the God of classical theism. Zeus and Thor, for example, are by no means equivalent, and neither one plays a role in any way similar to that played by the God of classical theism.

      • Mike

        ;).

      • That is a good restatement of Feser’s argument: If you don’t agree with me, you don’t understand classical theism.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Actually, an easier explanation may be that you do not in fact understand classical theism. And as the comparison indicates,not Zeus or Thor, either.

          Otherwise, explain how Zeus and Thor are equivalent to each other or how either of them is equivalent to God/Allah/Brahma/etc.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I think the Euclidean geometry analogy is a good one to work with, but I see the implication of that analogy as being slightly different as far as what it says about the relationship between the god of classical theism and all of the other gods of the world.

    There is no book of Euclidean geometry that contains a perfect triangle. There is no interpretive tradition surrounding a book of Euclidean geometry that can, in a completely satisfying and exhaustive manner, explain what a perfect triangle is.

    Similarly, neither classical theistic philosophy nor the Christian canon can completely reveal the essence of God. The Bible, as the Word of God, is a partial revelation of God, just as our own words are partial revelations of who we are. The Church on earth also doesn't contain God. The Church on earth can only partially reveal the living voice of God. We believe that Christ was "the fullness of revelation", but the Bible and the Church on earth can only reveal Christ imperfectly. All philosophical discussions of "pure actuality" and the "the ground of all being" are likewise very incomplete in revealing the essence of God.

    In this sense, the RCC is like many great religious traditions. It is an imperfect triangle that points to, and partakes in, a perfect triangle. Like those other traditions, we constantly run the risk of worshiping the pointer rather than worshiping that which it is pointing to.

  • Mike

    Again, clear, concise and interesting; thanks.

    Every time i engage an atheist they set up some straw man god of their child hood fears or of their worst biases against christians and proceed to try to convince me of that god's non-existence and also that if that god does exists he is evil and i should reject him; and every time i respond that i don't believe in that god either, to which they "throw up their arms" and tell me about the no true scotsman fallacy; it's really quite repetitive sometimes.

    I suppose that atheists, the materialists or physicalists, just exchange "god" for "the universe" in which case i don't really see the big whoop in that they still believe in some kind of "ultimate" explanation it's just that imho they fail to see (or do see it?) the biggest implication of that view: that in that concept of reality we become Gods ourselves.

    But some atheists also seem to object to us being gods if there is no God; which sometimes makes me wonder if their objections have more to do with psychological implications of God than with actual logical evidence.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      try to convince me of that god's non-existence and also that if that god does exists he is evil and i should reject him

      Every time you engage an atheist, this happens?

      You've never met an atheist who had no problem with your keeping your faith, as long as you did not try to impose its doctrines on others? Or an atheist who simply wanted a society in which atheists could feel free to declare themselves as such??

      Allow me to introduce myself, then. I'm Vicq.

      • Mike

        I meant the atheists i've met in real life not on blogs; in real life they've been a nasty bunch.

    • Michael Murray

      it's really quite repetitive sometimes.

      I know how you feel. If I hear the argument from contingency one more time I'm likely to scream and don't start me on the ground of all being.

      • Mike

        That's funny bc to me those 2 are by far the strongest arguments i know for a neo-platonic god.

  • The objection can be resurrected by making a simple change to the formula:

    "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible religions, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      My response to that would be that I do not dismiss other religions. To varying degrees I believe in most of the major religions that I am aware of, insofar as I understand them.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        That is an interesting point. There is something to agree with in all the major religions (not so much in Islam, though) and even things to agree with in secularism and atheism.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I wouldn't exclude Islam either. I have known truly saintly people whose lives were shaped by Islam, and some Sufi poetry is so beautiful and true that it can only have come from people whose lives were deeply touched by God. Also Peter Kreeft, whose opinion I highly respect (even though I don't always agree with him), has said (paraphrasing) that if Mohammed didn't truly receive revelations from God, he must be the greatest philosopher who has ever lived. Pretty strong statement, coming from a guy like that.

          I would of course reject the Islamic teaching that denies the Incarnation, and I certainly am frightened by political interpretations of Islam that seem so prevalent today.

          And yes, I also find much to agree with when talking to secularists and atheists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Kreeft said what?!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I remember correctly, that remark came as part of an hour-or-so long moderated dialogue between Kreeft and an Islamic scholar that has been posted on YouTube. I listened to it about a year ago while painting some new trim in my house. (It's possible my memory had been corrupted in the meantime, but I really don't think so.)

            This may or may not be the video that includes that remark (I'm pretty sure I remember at least two dialogues on YouTube between Kreeft and Muslims), but in any event this one includes some very admiring remarks that Kreeft makes regarding Islam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdTQNh5CQOM

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Ahh, there it is: go to 57:40 in the YouTube link I provided.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Wow. Expert lip-syncing?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Ha! I think people on both sides of the atheist / theist debates may fail to appreciate just how subtle Kreeft's thinking is :-)

      • Mike

        Yeah i'd agree: i don't dimiss Mormonism bc it worships a fake god or islam bc it does too.

      • That's a great response. There are indeed many useful and beautiful aspects of religion that can be accepted without adopting the supernatural morally objectionable elements (depending on the religion).

    • "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible religions, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

      I guess I don't understand.

      Jim provides a great response to this objection below.

      But my response would be, "Why do you think it logically follows that my religion is false simply because you believe other religions are false?" That doesn't follow.

      Do you think the prevalence of counterfeit bills means there are no real forms of currency? Just the opposite seems to be true. Counterfeit bills, which are nearly legitimate but contain some fatal flaws, point to the existence of real forms of currency. If there was no real currency, there would be no counterfeits--no forms of currency that almost hit the mark but miss, because there would be no mark.

      • Mike

        I've never understood the objection either: if there really weren't ANY real religions why would there be so many fake ones? or at least ones trying/striving for something like the abstract real. If anything the existence of so MANY creation myths moral systems religions points to something real.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        "Why do you think it logically follows that my religion is false simply because you believe other religions are false?" That doesn't follow.

        Logic is not a strong suit among those who follow the Cult of the Cerebral. Strangely so, when you think on't.

      • I think that there is a difference between understanding and agreeing. But you are right, it's not really an objection; I shouldn't have called it that. It's more an observation.

        The reasons you reject Islam will probably have something in common with the reasons I reject Catholicism. To take your example about currency, if there was only one genuine $20 bill, and all other $20 bills were counterfeit, then you might understand why I suspect your $20 bill is one of the counterfeits, at least until there's convincing evidence to the contrary. Also, the reasons you reject other bills as counterfeit probably overlap with the reason I think your bill is counterfeit too.

        You claim all religions are false but your own. I just go one religion more. It's not an argument. It's just an observation, Catholics and non-Catholics aren't so different after all.

        • Mike

          So you just haven't found that true 20 yet have you but you acknowledge it may exist and that it is even likely it does since so many copy it and therefore implicitly acknowledge its existence?

          • That was just an example, but sure, taking the example seriously, maybe someone has the real 20, or maybe the real 20 was lost or destroyed. Maybe the real 20 doesn't exist at all, but is inspired by what people think it should be like.

            Maybe God is a counterfeit of us, God made in our image, instead of the other way around.

          • Mike

            Maybe if that's true then God is like some platonic form of the god or gods we keep creating; either way it seems to me that the very concept of a god is something that seem built into humanity itself; humanity it seems to me "senses" there OUGHT to be more goodness than there is.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        "Counterfeit bills" is probably not the analogy I would choose, because the counterfeiter desires his product to be effectively indistinguishable from the real thing, while the adherents of other faiths certainly do not intend to pass as exact simulacra of Christians.

        A better analogy would be the United States banking system in the early to mid nineteenth century, when local governments and even corporations issued their own "currencies". Each of them was perfectly legal and not a counterfeit of any other, but their values were not consistent, rising and falling with the fortunes of their issuers. Every man could assemble his own portfolio of currency, or settle on the one he found most trustworthy, or instead rely on hard coinage buried in that jar under the barn floor......

  • BrianKillian

    "When you understand why you don't believe in all the other fairy tales, you will understand why I don't believe in yours."

    Restated in all its question begging stupidity.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    What I think most atheists mean when they talk about "disbelief in one more god" is not disbelief in the generic

    "that which is Pure Actuality, that which is Being Itself"

    but rather disbelief in the particular, semi-anthropomorphic personage known as "Jehovah" with all his well-known quirks of temperament.

    It is the latter which is often compared (and I think not unfairly) with Zeus, Odin, and Tezcatlipoca, not the former.

    • David Nickol

      I think this is exactly right. And I think if the average person who didn't believe in Zeus were asked to undertake a long program of complex study of philosophical arguments that justified belief in the existence of Zeus, he or she would respond, "You expect me to get a PhD in Zeusology before I can legitimately claim that Zeus doesn't exist?!?!?"

      I have often argued that there are two very distinct concepts of God that it is difficult to reconcile—the God of philosophy and the God of "everyday piety." One of the reasons for that became clear to me recently while reading Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. The God of Philosophy comes from Greek thought, not from the God of Judaism, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Trying to reconcile the ideas of the "Judeo-Christian" God of the Bible and of "everyday piety" with concepts like pure actuality, being itself, existence outside of time, immutability, and so on is an extraordinarily difficult (if not impossible) task.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        Very well said, David, and the biggest misconception I see among the apologists here is that belief in in the God of philosophy is the really big, really meaningful barrier to cross, while the belief in the God of everyday piety is an almost trivial challenge by comparison.

        With me and with a number of other atheists and agnostics I've talked with, exactly the opposite is true.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I think you are partly right, but I would hesitate to make claims about "most atheists". It's heterogeneous. For example, in the comboxes above, Brian Green Adams does indeed disavow "pure actuality" as an objectively meaningful term.

          Some folks, probably generally those of a more abstract philosophical persuasion, hear the talk about "pure actuality" and develop some sense of the objective reality that that refers to. If someone were to tell me that "pure actuality" was a meaningful concept to them, I would then be anxious to talk about how I think the Christian tradition reveals the nature of pure actuality.

          But for other folks, "pure actuality" is just nonsense, at best a desiccated toy in some abstract mind game. They may need to instead start with a more intuitive sense of the sacred, correlate that sense of the sacred with what is related in the Christian tradition, and only then (if ever) go on to realize that the source of that sacredness can be sensibly referred to as "pure actuality". This is probably the more natural course for most of the general population, though not necessarily for the population of SN readers.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Oh, I quite agree that not all skeptics think as I do.

            Many of them sincerely and completely reject pure actuality and a caused cosmos....I don't have an argument with that point of view although I am not totally sold upon it.

            From where I stand, as one attributes more and more "human" characteristics to "Being Itself" - the more that Being is said to be loving, jealous, forgiving, wrathful, the more that Being takes sides in the affairs of men - then Being more and more begins to look like Odin, or Zeus, or Osiris, and becomes comparable to them.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Although it may seem otherwise, I think it is fair to say that the Christian perspective fundamentally disavows the notion that God has human characteristics. We reverse it entirely and say instead that humans have God-like characteristics. This is the essence of what it means to be made "in the image of God" (as opposed to making God in our image).

            It may seem like a silly distinction, but I think it is important because it takes the essence of reality (or "pure actuality") and puts it forever beyond our ability to control or fully understand.

            So, for example:

            1. Our imperfect acts of creative self-giving are imperfect metaphors for the perfect act of giving that actualizes creation.
            2. Our imperfect jealousy is an imperfect metaphor for the perfect jealousy with which pure actuality demands that creation actualize itself, or fully participate in being.
            3. Our imperfect anger is a pale reflection of the perfect anger that desires to set things right, i.e. to take that which "is not, but should be" and actualize it into that which "is".

            ... and so forth ...

            I can't say this with authority, but I believe this absolutely fundamental "Imago Dei" insight is a unique contribution of Judaism to the world.

          • David Nickol

            Although it may seem otherwise, I think it is fair to say that the Christian perspective fundamentally disavows the notion that God has human characteristics.

            In the entry for Image in Dictionary of the Bible, McKenzie gives many possible interpretations for the meaning of man being made in God's image and likeness, and he concludes with the following:

            W. Eichrodt places the likeness in the spiritual qualities of man, his capacity of self-consciousness and self-determination—in a word, his personality. It seems most probable that the likeness lies in this area. In the OT Yahweh is distinguished from the other gods by the designation "living;" He is an extremely vigorous and sharply defined personality who plans, desires, achieves, and responds personally to the words and deeds of men. In this "living" quality man resembles Him.

            In this respect, God and human beings are very much alike. But I am not sure it even makes any sense to say that the God of Philosophy plans, desires, or achieves. How can a being outside of time "respond personally to the words and deeds of men"?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            There are a number of different concepts that come into play in your comment, and maybe I will just try to field what I see as the easiest one for now. It seems clear to me that pure actuality is indeed responsive to what I do. I will that I throw a ball, and whoosh, there it goes. The potential motion of the ball is actualized. The physical world, which reveals pure actuality, seems to respond to my personal intentions, and so it seems sensible to me to say that pure actuality itself is responding to my personal intentions.

            Perhaps it is less obvious that pure actuality responds to our thoughts, but here I think Gandhi said it very well:

            Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.

            That, to me, is a very well-stated synopsis of how prayer, or at least a certain type of prayer, works. Or to say it another way, it summarizes one of the very personal ways that we relate to pure actuality.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            It seems reasonable to me to assume that the ancient Hebrews started out with the concept of a Big Guy In The Sky. Most of the Torah fits that concept very nicely.

            But as the Jews' thinking became more Hellenized, and the Greek background of many early Christians was added to the mix, the Big Guy was greatly abstracted, at least among academics and theologians.

            It sounds as if the MacCulloch book would shed a lot of light on this. Do you recommend it?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Is it desirable that humans attempt to approach (to the extent that we can) the characteristics of God, to act in our lives as we believe God would act?

            If so, I fear we may be off on yet another trip down the theodicy trail, to which almost every combox on SN seems to connect sooner or later.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, I do think it is desirable that humans act in their lives as they believe God would act.

            This includes a humble giving away of control. I also don't want to initiate another theodicy thread, but if we just take it as a blunt fact that evil arises from God giving away true freedom to his creation (a "giving away" that was mirrored by Jesus's kenosis and acceptance of death on a cross), then the implication for humans is that we also should humbly accept some loss of control over the way things are.

            I believe that Pope John XXIII claimed that when he went to bed he would sometimes say, "It's in your hands now God", or something like that. In other words, you can't control everything.

            Pope Francis also has some great remarks about this, where he talks about God working through time, rather than controlling space. You start with some small mustard seed. Some small pure gesture of kindness, let's say. You patiently let it grow over time. Bad things will happen along the way. You do your best but you have to let some of those bad things happen, because you are not completely in control. Even God lets go of his control to some extent, so we should too.

  • a_theist

    Besides

    When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    being not so much an argument as a witticism it raises an interesting question about the nature of whatever god someone believes in.

    If we get beyond the silliness of the argument as applied to flying spag monsters etc and look at mainstream religions we see that the implicit assumption in this argument that theists do in fact reject all but one God. This confuses the concept of multiple gods with the multiple characterisations of one God.

    Of course religions promote a belief that their characterisation of God is the right one. Be a surprise if they did not; acknowledging that they were wrong and others were right would not secure many followers. So one has very muddy water where religious groups contest the validity of their characterisation of God.
    What their pettiness does not preclude is the observation that there can be many different but valid characterisations of the same God.
    There is logic in the argument that if there is only one God then revelations of that God to communities in different geo-political and socio-economic contexts and cultural environments would be different and hence their religions would develop a different characterisation of God.

    Most monotheistic religions acknowledge that the god they recognise is, among other things, not fully known to humanity and therefore to them God surpasses human understanding". Given this acknowledged shortfall in the completeness of their characterisation of God they cannot argue that there may be some other attributes or characterisations that are valid but not included in their model.
    Equally, from their self-professed ignorance they must acknowledge that there is the possibility that some the attributes they ascribe to god may in fact be only partially correct or perhaps even flawed. They should concede that this lack of certainty may extend to confusion in the way some so called polytheist religions characterise members of the supernatural community as gods when they may appear little different in their role to say the saints or angels of Christianity.

    Does this mean that all religions have validity, yes it might mean that. But it does not preclude us applying J W Loftus’ so called outsider test of faith to assess the possible validity of other religious characterisations of God given the context of the revelations they spring from.
    A good starting point would be the common factors in the teachings ascribed to the characterisation of God. Then perhaps we may look at the nature of the revelation, were there witnesses? Was it exclusive to one individual or spread over time? Did the receiver of the revelations benefit materially/politically/whatever from the revelations? Did the receiver use the revelations to exalt themselves etc .. etc ..

    If we can satisfy ourselves that we have applied our judgement fairly and broadly, considering the same wide range of points for the different religious characterisations of God then perhaps we can settle down to acknowledge that whilst we prefer a particular characterisation we recognise the validity to others of the characterisations of God that they hold dear. At this point we have then risen above the superficial

    When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    And can then ask atheists why they don’t accept any characterisation of God.

  • Peter

    Building block of life found in interstellar space; water vapour found in atmosphere of distant planet (Dawkins website). This is more evidence that the universe is designed to create life.

    God is not just the necessary Being of philosophy, over and above all the contingent gods of mythology but, thanks to science, is also emerging as the necessary Designer of a universe uniquely preconfigured for life.

    What sets God apart from the other gods is that it is reason and not mythology upon which his existence is based: reason through philosophy as the necessary Being and reason through science as the necessary Designer.

    • Peter

      Also on Dawkins' site, water on earth comes from interstellar space. Even more evidence of a universe configured for widespread life and of its need to have been designed as such. God as the necessary Designer of a naturalistic universe trumps all mythological gods.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        As reiterated again and again on this site, any scientific evidence for design, "proven" or not, evidences nothing whatever about the designer being the personality generally known as Jehovah.

        • Peter

          When you combine the necessary Designer from science and the necessary Being from philosophy you have the notion of God the Creator. This notion is arrived at not through faith alone but through the light of human reason.

          Certain knowledge of God the Creator through reason is the bedrock upon which faith in the Church and her teachings will flourish while, reciprocally, it is faith which enlightens human reason to acquire this knowledge.

  • Garbanzo Bean

    I believe in one fewer President of the United States than you do. Therefore there is no Obama.

    • workforlivn
      • Garbanzo Bean

        Thus, the argument in general fails.

        • workforlivn

          Where is your God?

          • workforlivn

            The light is coming on for me and that was an excellent example. Isn't this a philosophical 'gotcha'? Isn't this article like this joke:

            An enthusiastic door-to-door vacuum salesman goes to the first house in his new territory. He knocks, a real mean and tough looking lady opens the door, and before she has a chance to say anything, he runs inside and dumps cow patties all over the carpet.

            He says, "Lady, if this vacuum cleaner doesn't do wonders cleaning this up, I'll eat every chunk of it."

            She turns to him with a smirk and says, "You want ketchup on that?"

            The salesman says, "Why do you ask?"

            She says, "We just moved in and we haven't got the electricity turned on yet."

          • Garbanzo Bean

            You replied to yourself as follows:

            "The light is coming on for me and that was an excellent example.
            I see the point where I didn't before. I will admit ignorance on the point of the article and defeat on the point."

            so I am not sure it was meant for me?

          • workforlivn

            Yes. I understand now the point of the article. Thought I was answering to you. Thanks for the example.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            ok cool

    • Ignatius Reilly

      If we were to follow the reasoning used in the argument, we would conclude that you are incorrect and that there is a president obama.

      • Garbanzo Bean

        No, the "one god further" argument indicates that it is silly to abandon a thousand gods like Zeus and Athena, but then still stick with one god. My example extends the same logic to POTUS. This is a reductio ad absurdem, therefore the reasoning behind the "one god further" argument is false.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Atheists don't hold that the argument is one of deductive logic. It is an argument of induction and an argument of similarity.

          The point is that we all reject the god claims of Hinduism for similar reasons. They are a) absurd, b) they do not fit in with our metaphysical assumptions (Catholicism or atheism), and c) we have not experienced any of the Hindu supernatural claims.

          It forces theists to inspect their beliefs and to be wary of cognitive dissonance. If the basis for belief in Hinduism is similar to the basis of belief for Catholicism, we are right to consider the basis of belief to be faulty and reject both religions.

          The argument does not disprove the existence of God, but it does call into question religion. I don't think Fesser properly stated the point of the argument and instead destroyed a strawman.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "I don't think Fesser properly stated the point of the argument and instead destroyed a strawman."
            Feser states the argument quite well, with references to the Common Sense Atheism site for example. The argument attempts to discredit one person's belief in one god, because that person has rejected other gods. The argument is silly, and Feser does a fine job of showing that.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Again, it is not an argument that disproves God. It is an argument that shows that the most common reasons for believing in God have led to contradictory God beliefs, and thus the reasoning should be questioned and is perhaps flawed.

            If I give you three reasons for believing in Hinduism and you give me three reasons for believing in Catholicism, and those three reasons are very similar, we should consider that we may have made a mistake in our reasoning, especially if Hinduism and Catholicism are contradictory.

            That is the thrust of the argument. To claim that it disproves God and to refute it as such is to erect a straw man.

          • Doug Shaver

            The argument attempts to discredit one person's belief in one god, because that person has rejected other gods. The argument is silly, and Feser does a fine job of showing that.

            And the counterargument boils down to: Oh, no, my God is not anything like those other gods.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The Christian God has the potential to become man. Therefore the Christian God is not a being of pure actuality.

    • Garbanzo Bean

      This is a good point, a criticism Islam has levelled historically at Christianity. Christians are not without a response; Thomas Aquinas for example: "When it is said, 'God was made man,' we understand no change on the part of God, but only on the part of the human nature. Similarly, if we see the sun, it undergoes no change, but is only the object of our vision."

  • Decadent Sympozium

    I'll save myself this article. It shows everything wrong with theism and the belonging logic of argumentation. It doesn't just possess the attribute of silliness, it simply - is - silly and silliness. It's perfect in its pretentious cockiness and I'll worship it dearly. If it made any more philosophical sense in the fundamental manner of speaking in regard to serious studying, I'd be forced to neglect it. Thanks!

  • Doug Shaver

    He is not “a being” alongside other beings, not even an especially impressive one, but rather Being Itself or Pure Actuality, that from which all mere “beings” (including Thor, Zeus, and Quetzalcoatl, if they existed) derive the limited actuality or existence they possess.

    Fine. Pure being, or pure actuality, is an abstraction. I don't believe in the real existence of abstracta, either.

  • D Rieder

    Where do Euclidean plane triangles exist?

  • Alejandro Goldschmidt Moro

    "In short, the gods of Olympus, or of any of the other pantheons for that matter, are all essentially finite, contingent beings like us, about as impressive as extraterrestrials – which might be very impressive indeed, of course, but still within the order of creation. In particular (and to be more philosophically precise) they would all be mixtures of actuality and potentiality and compounds of essence and existence; they would all be governed by principles outside themselves; and they would all be less than absolutely necessary in their existence and imperfect in their natures." "Hence, as we know from mythology, they are all supposed to suffer myriad limitations on their power, and to be motivated by various petty concerns."

    Well, then we all have to admit that the Jehovah from the Hebrew mythology as described in their writings is a member of this club, since he does not meet the specifications that were designed by the Classical Thinkers when they were creating their own version of an übergod in their philosophical effort to create a god that is more powerful than all the others to the infinity times infinity. As we know from this mythology, he suffers limitations, and he is motivated by petty concerns.

    And coming to think of it, this übergod himself suffers from a particular limitation that is common to all the others: he is a construct of the mind. While the other gods were created by the Greek, the Nords, the Mayans, the Hebrews, the Incas, the Arabs, the Sumerians, the übergod was created by the Classical Thinkers.

  • DarkGarison

    Ummm. Any "real" triangle (one that exists in reality and not as a thought) does not have straight sides. It is not a matter of geometry, it is a matter of physics. To have a perfectly straight triangle you would need perfect straight edges down to fundamental particles. No such fundamental particle exists (or has been found at least). A triangle with perfect sides cannot, therefore, exist in reality. You seem to have presented an extremely poor example of why you think the "one god further" analogy is inept. By this analogy, I was right to dismiss "perfect triangles" and "Gods" as incompatible with reality since no examples can be provided for either.

  • Jeff Hinkle

    Here's the thing: If the god we're talking about is the sophisticated classical God, then fine, I'll grant you that that may well exist, and so what? It is a completely separate, intellectual, non-reality-impacting airy-fairy concept. I couldn't care less whether such non-entities "exist" or not. "Being Itself", you say? That's just noises, not an intelligible statement at all. The only gods that would matter are the earthy, ancient gods of various pantheons, and they clearly don't exist.

  • Jeff Hinkle

    By the way, nobody cares about this stuff. They care about the lives and the health of their loved ones, and they want to know or believe that their lives have a meaning and a direction from above, with a relatable being who you can talk to about things. The philosophical is simply mental indulgence from people who have no real concerns in life.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Your comment sound a lot like philosophy.

      • Jeff Hinkle

        You know exactly what I mean, egghead.

      • Jeff Hinkle

        What real people call "philosophy" is the mental masturbation of theologians and secular academics as well, paid to write long books about nothing.

      • Jeff Hinkle

        You know what we (they) are doing while pretentious flatulence-sniffers are scribbling their nonsense? Praying for a kid with leukemia to get well. Or, if not nearly as dire as that, working and paying for food, gas, etc... It's how the other half, the real religious (and I'm an atheist but we basically live the same way) lives.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I personally know three Scholastic philosophers. They are all married, have families, and experience all the problems that everyone else faces. And they don't make much money on their books.

          • Jeff Hinkle

            I'd love to know what relatable faith issues they write about. I'm sure their tomes are very sophisticated, unlike the faith of the "rubes" who are the real believers.