• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Philosophy in the Eyes of Theologians: Friend or Foe? (Part 1 of 3)

SchoolAthens

NOTE: Today we begin a three part series from Tamer Nashef on the relationship between philosophy and theology. Tamer's previous piece at Strange Notions, titled "I’m a Muslim But Here’s Why I Admire the Catholic Church", remains one of our all-time most popular posts.
 


 
This three-part essay sets out to explore the complex yet fascinating relation between Christianity (particularly Catholicism) and faith on the one hand and reason and philosophy on the other. It is commonplace to view this relation as adversarial or even bellicose. According to conventional wisdom, Christianity and Catholic theology are founded on irrational superstition, blind faith, rigid dogmatism, and unreason. It is also a widely held view that Christian theology is devoid of reasoned argumentation and that the Catholic Church, especially during the “Dark Ages,” sought to stamp out Classical knowledge and to curb the use of reason.

However, contrary to these grossly inaccurate conceptions, many Catholic theologians, including in Late Antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages, exalted the powers of reason and stressed that reason and revelation are in harmony rather than in conflict. They also advocated the use of Greek philosophy and philosophical methods to enhance understanding of the Bible and defend the articles of faith. The first part of the essay will focus on the views of the Church Fathers of Late Antiquity.

There are several reasons why Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular adopted a favorable and accommodating view of Greek philosophy. First, Edward Grant, the highly acclaimed historian of science, has pointed out that a “notable feature of the spread of Christianity was the slowness of its dissemination” (Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages 2). Christianity became a legal religion only in A.D 313 when Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, and towards the end of the fourth century, namely in A.D 392, Emperor Theodosius banned pagan worship, turning Christianity into the only legal faith. In other words, it took Christianity almost four centuries to become the dominant and exclusive religion in the Roman Empire. The slow and gradual process by which Christianity was propagated enabled the faith to adjust to its pagan surroundings, come to terms with Greek/pagan philosophy, and incorporate some of its elements into theology.

Second, Toby Huff, another distinguished historian of science, has noted that unlike the other two Abrahamic religions (Judaism and Islam), Christianity had emerged in a Greco-Roman environment and as a result it was infused with Greek philosophical concepts and notions from its inception (“Science and Metaphysics in the Three Religions of the Book” 179-81). We should keep in mind that the Gospels were written in Greek and that the New Testament contains Greek philosophical terms, such as Logos. St Paul was influenced by the Stoic concept of Synderesis, a term referring to man’s innate capacity to make moral judgements, reach moral truths, and distinguish between good and evil without the aid of revelation (Rise of Early Modern Science 105-8). In addition, Christian theologians endorsed the Platonic view (expounded in a treatise entitled Timaeus) that the universe is the purposeful creation of a divine intelligence or Demiurge. This creation is rationally designed and governed by “necessity,” “causation,” reason, but also chance (the “Errant Cause”). The Demiurge conferred sight and reason on man and thus human beings possess the capacity to observe the workings of nature, including the movement of the planets and celestial bodies, and ultimately to unveil its secrets. The investigation of nature led human beings to come to know the concept of time and numbers, as well as philosophy, “than which no greater boon has ever come or shall come to mortal man as a gift from heaven” (Huff’s “Science and Metaphysics in the Three Religions of the Book” 176-7).

Third, Christianity in its initial phases appealed mainly to the poor and underprivileged classes of society, but as time passed on, members of the higher and educated classes started converting to the faith as well. Many of those converts had received pagan education and had been steeped in the classical tradition. Therefore, they were able to tap into their pagan background to defend the Christian faith and to devise philosophically sophisticated arguments to prove the tenets of their new religion.

Fourth, the nature of the Christian faith may have played a role in encouraging Christian scholars to have recourse to Greek philosophy. These scholars found Greek philosophical concepts useful tools to explicate the complex articles of faith, such as the Eucharist, Trinity, or Incarnation. In this regard, Grant says: “Certain aspects of their religion may also have drawn Christians to Greek philosophy. One example is the problem of the Eucharist, with its difficulties about the nature of substances and their attributes. Adoption of a Trinitarian position placed enormous metaphysical burdens on Christianity. Once Jesus was perceived as the Son of God, the problems of expounding the nature of the Godhead were formidable indeed. To help explain theological difficulties, scholars deemed the concepts and terminology of Greek metaphysics essential. Logic was also considered important” (Foundations 183).

Surely, despite all of the above, some Christian theologians and Church Fathers viewed secular literature and Greek philosophy with suspicion and as potentially dangerous and subversive to the faith. Tertullian (155–240), for example, a Christian author from Carthage, found Christianity and Greek philosophy to be diametrically opposed and irreconcilable, wondering: “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians?” (Grant’s Science and Religion 104). John Chrysostom (349–407), Archbishop of Constantinople and an early Church Father, urged believers to "[r]estrain our own reasoning, and empty our mind of secular learning, in order to provide a mind swept clear for the reception of divine words” (Watson 244).

However, these views were the exception rather than the norm. Many Church Fathers saw philosophy and science as “handmaidens to theology” (Grant’s Foundations 3). In other words, the study of secular disciplines was legitimate insofar as they threw light on the Biblical text and led to conclusions in agreement with Christian truths. Anti-Catholic critics might respond that the theologians’ attitude toward the philosophical heritage of the pagans was selective, as they accepted philosophy only to the extent that it served their faith. Even if true, such a particular and selective approach is a far cry from outright rejection of philosophy and wholesale reliance on faith– an allegation often hurled at the Catholic Church. Rather than view pagan philosophy as a cancer that needed to be excised from Christian theology, theologians sought to benefit from philosophy and utilize its tools for the advancement of Christian studies. They were also confident that there were no necessary contradictions between many of the truths of philosophy and those of Christianity.

Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (150-219), whom Pope Benedict XVI has hailed as “one of the pioneers of the dialogue between faith and reason in the Christian tradition” (16), deemed the study and use of Greek philosophy not only permissible but necessary. He advanced the interesting argument that the Greek philosophers had been divinely inspired to ensure that humanity had reached a state of intellectual maturity by the time of Christ’s arrival (Kenny 95). In fact, these philosophers had arrived at many truths because they had been inspired and guided by the divine logos (Grant’s Science and Religion 107). Clement went as far as saying that the philosophers had borrowed many of their ideas from the Old Testament – hence the harmony between Scripture and Greek philosophy (107).

On the role of philosophy, Clement wrote: “…before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration” (107). He continued: “Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ” (107). Against those suspicious of philosophical ideas, Clement stressed: “Philosophy is not, then, the product of vice, since it makes men virtuous; it follows, then, that it is the work of God, whose work it is solely to do good. And all things given by God are given and received well” (107). On whether the study of philosophy was legitimate or not, his conclusions were unequivocal: “…if we are not to philosophize, what then? (For no one can condemn a thing without first knowing it): the consequence, even in that case, is that we must philosophize” (107-8).

Church Father, philosopher, and apologist Justin Martyr (100–165) regarded Christianity as the best philosophical system. At the same time, he had a positive attitude toward Greek philosophy, viewing Socrates as a Christian before Christ. He also believed that Greek philosophy and Christianity were compatible and suggested that the philosophers had been influenced by the Old Testament (106). In his view, the divine Logos had revealed itself to the Hebrews and “in seeds of truth” to the Greek philosophers. In other words, both the Old Testament and Greek philosophy (or at least many of its truths) were two paths leading to Christ. Therefore, Justin encouraged Christians to learn from other traditions, arguing that “whatever things were rightly said among all men are the property of us Christians” (Pope Benedict 9).

Rather than turn his back on Classical heritage and cut himself off from his pagan surroundings, Justin employed the terminology of Greek philosophy to make the tenets of Christianity palatable and sensible to pagans, especially those with a philosophical bent. Scholar Diarmaid MacCulloch states that Justin “was concerned to explain his newly acquired Christian faith to those outside its boundaries in terms that they would understand; he was chief among a series of ‘Apologists’ who, in the second century, opened a dialogue with the culture around them in order to show that Christianity was superior to the elite wisdom of the age. In particular, he was happy to explain the mysterious relationship of Jesus Christ to God the Father in terms which would make sense to intelligent Greeks puzzled by Christian claims. He deployed one of the commonplace terms used alike by Platonists, Stoics and Hellenized Jews…: Word (Logos)” (142).

Scholar and theologian Origen of Alexandria (184-254) was fully aware of the points of disagreement between Christianity and certain aspects of philosophy, but saw the latter as a preparation for the study of theology, particularly “those parts of the philosophy of the Greeks which are fit, as it were, to serve as general or preparatory studies for Christianity” (Grant’s Science and Religion 108-9). Origen saw astronomy and geometry as “helpful for the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures” and philosophy as “ancillary to Christianity” (109).

Influenced by the way learned Greeks had read Homer and Hellenized Jewish scholars like Philo of Alexandra had read the Old Testament, Origen believed that the main significance of the Bible did not lie in its literal meaning (MacCulloch 151-2). Commenting on the Book of Genesis, he wondered: “[W]ho is so silly as to believe that God, after the manner of a farmer, planted a paradise eastward in Eden, and set in it a visible and palpable tree of life, of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life?” (151). Certainly, Origen accepted the scriptures in their entirety as the divinely inspired truth, but believed they had multiple layers of meaning and put forward allegorical interpretations of the Biblical text.

The philosophy of St Augustine (354-430) had exerted a tremendous influence on Western civilization and Latin Christendom for approximately a thousand years. His attitude toward the relation between reason and faith has been described as "very difficult to interpret, especially because his views apparently evolved over the years" (Craig 29). It is true that on the one hand he subordinated reason to faith, viewing the former as the “servant” of the latter (Stokes 45). It is equally true that he saw faith as superior to reason in the pursuit of truth. He also proclaimed the superiority of divine or inspired knowledge to philosophical or human learning, arguing that “all the knowledge derived from the books of the heathen, which is indeed useful, becomes little enough if it is compared with the knowledge of the divine scriptures” (Grant’s Science and Religion 113). He even feared that philosophy might foment heresy (Lindberg’s Beginnings of Western Science 149).

On the other hand, it should be made clear that Augustine did not call for abandoning reason or discarding its tools. On the contrary, he acknowledged that reason coupled with faith are "the two forces that lead us to knowledge" (Pope Benedict 109). Nor did he reject philosophy, as he urged Christians to embrace the findings of its practitioners: “If those…who are called philosophers happen to have said anything that is true, and agreeable to our faith, the Platonists above all, not only should we not be afraid of them, but we should even claim back for our own use what they have said, as from its unjust possessors” (113). Indeed, St. Augustine was heavily influenced by Platonic and neo-Platonic thought and was well-versed in pagan learning. He also used logic to resolve theological problems (Grant’s Foundations 183-4) and believed that scientific knowledge would contribute to the interpretation of the Bible and the development of Christian doctrine (Lindberg’s Beginnings 150).

 


 

Works Cited

Craig, Lane William. Reasonable Faith. 3rd edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway. 2008. Print.

Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Print.

____________. Science and Religion 400 BC- AD 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2004. Print.

Huff, Toby. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. 2nd edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

_________. 2000. “Science and Metaphysics in the Three Religions of the Book.” Intellectual Discourse 8, no. 2: 173-98. Print.
Kenny, Anthony. A Brief History of Western Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998. Print.

Lindberg, C. David. The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. 2nd edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007. Print.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. A History of Christianity. London: Penguin Books, 2010. Print.

Pope Benedict XIV. Great Christian Thinkers: From The Early Church Through The Middle Ages. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011. Print.
Stokes, Phillip. Philosophy: 100 Essential Thinkers. New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2005. Print.

Watson, Peter. Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Print.

Tamer Nashef

Written by

Tamer Nashef is an Arab freelance researcher and translator from Israel. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the University of Haifa. Nashef is interested in a broad range of topics, especially Western philosophy, intellectual history of civilizations, Christian and Islamic theology with particular emphasis on the relation between science/reason and faith, and English literature. He is planning to write a book on the intellectual, scientific, and legal developments in the Middle Ages that led to the scientific Revolution and the rise of the modern world, and on the status of reason in the Catholic tradition. Nashef speaks three languages: Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

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.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Thanks Tamer. I'm very glad that you are writing here.

    At some point it would be really cool to see an analogous post from you addressing the relationship between Islamic theology (or some identifiable strain of it) and philosophical traditions (specifically the Western philosophical tradition, as referred to in this post). Even on a site oriented toward Catholic-atheist dialogue, I think this would be very relevant, since a common concern of critics of religion is that those in different religious traditions have insufficient basis for dialogue. To the extent that two different religious traditions embrace natural reason, they have a basis for respectful mutual critique as well mutual enlightenment.

    I understand this would be too much to address in a combox (or in an OP, for that matter), but perhaps there are some high level remarks on this point that you'd be willing to make for now.

  • David Nickol

    According to conventional wisdom, Christianity and Catholic theology are
    founded on irrational superstition, blind faith, rigid dogmatism, and
    unreason.

    Having been raised Catholic and gone to Catholic elementary school and high school, this was never my view. I was taught that Catholicism was based on reason, and indeed was so reasonable and logical that those who did not accept it were either in some kind of denial (for which they would eventually pay dearly) or for some inexplicable reason had not been given "the gift of faith" (and were apparently not at fault). To a large degree, my current problems with Catholicism stem from considering it—in a strange sort of way—too "reasonable." If there is a God, and maybe there is, then he can do anything. But explanations like "transubstantiation" or "hypostatic union" or even "original sin" just don't seem convincing to me. I could do with less reason and more mystery. I think I would make a good mystic—or would have been a good one if I had been raised that way.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I have a similar sentiment, but I would phrase my own view differently. I don't think anything can ever by "too reasonable", but it is certainly possible (and, I would agree, too common) to "prove too much".

      I think a very reasonable case can be made, arguing from the fundamentals of trinitarian theology, that to use reason in a coercive fashion is itself unreasonable. This is why I personally have a distaste for "proofs" of God's existence. I would much rather see those things advertised as "reasonable (non-forcing) arguments for God's existence".

      Tangentially related: I think it is interesting that the Isaiah 1:18 translation used in the SN footer is sometimes (e.g. on usccb.org) translated as "let us set things right".

    • ClayJames

      I could do with less reason and more mystery.

      I am sorry to hear about many of your expriences at Catholic School that you have shared on this forum. Even though my wife and I have opted to put our children in Catholic Schools, we actually decided against a particular one because we thought that their view of religion and the Church was somewhat ignorant. Many of these schools do more harm than good.

      • David Nickol

        I am sorry to hear about many of your expriences at Catholic School that you have shared on this forum.

        Thanks for your kind words, but in all honesty, I would have to say that I went to three very good Catholic schools—two elementary schools (we moved when I was in the fifth grade) and a Catholic high school run by the Christian Brothers (FSC, not CFC). I think my time in Catholic school (early 1950s to middle 1960s) is looked back on as a kind of golden age of Catholic education. More liberal Catholics nowadays are rather horrified by many things that were in the Baltimore Catechisms, but more conservative Catholics—who currently lament how "poorly catechized" younger Catholics are—would, I think, consider the kind of Catholic education I received as exemplary.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          The BC is still used in some schools. I used it. I would imagine that the largest difference in catechesis is that less Catholics attend Catholic schools where they receive would daily instruction.

    • Quote: "I could do with less reason and more mystery" (or do you mean' life' experience (faith?) rather than 'logic' or reason....or perhaps 'attempting to see the relationship between different points of view', -without becoming as 'incoherent'!! as my examples (or efforts to do so) often are!!). "I think I would make a good mystic" (Would you consider Buddhism a possible candidate for mystical experience - or as in the 'link' developing a 'secular' application of these principles within one's life?) "or would have been a good one if I had been raised that way". (The example in the 'link' is of someone who didn't let that stop him from discovering different interpretations (perspectives-perspectivism-Nietzsche!!) The speaker in this audio has things to say about Aristotle as well, and other 'points of view'.... Just in case you might enjoy!! Perhaps 'life' if lived within Kierkegaard's world of paradox/faith, could also perhaps be considered 'mystical'??? (Edit: Hopefully for more 'coherence'??? or rather in the hope for 'more' incoherence!!!! Cause actually I'm a 'fan' of Walt Whitman, although with less 'scope' as I cannot always 'contain' (i.e. control?)-the- 'multitudes'.). http://learn.wisdompubs.org/podcast/stephen-batchelor/

  • David Nickol

    One of the big questions for Christianity, it seems to me, is why—if Jesus was sent to the Jews—Christianity did not flourish among those steeped in Jewish/Hebrew thought, but did flourish with those under the influence of Greek thought. We have virtually nothing about Jesus recorded in Hebrew or Aramaic. I was in a discussion about whether the Magnificat, recorded in the Gospel of Luke, reflected the actual words of Mary. But of course Jesus and Mary did not speak Greek, so if the words of Mary upon her visit to Elizabeth did in some way survive to be included in Luke's Gospel, what we have is a Greek translation of them. If they were important enough to preserve, why do we not have them (or any teachings of Jesus) in Hebrew/Aramaic?

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      It would be interesting to get @Thiudareiks:disqus take on that question.

      Until such time as Tim or some other qualified expert shows up, I will speculate freely :-) I mean, the Bellum Judaicum is, at the very least, a confounding factor, right? The Gospels were all written after most Jews (including Jewish Christians) had scattered from Jerusalem and fled to areas where (I presume) many people didn't speak their language (I am just guessing on this point and I welcome correction). At that point I could imagine why it might have made more sense to set things down in Greek, even if some of the gospel writers were writing on behalf of communities that still included many Aramaic / Hebrew speakers?

      I'm not competent to put forward a theory. I am just questioning how much the language in which the Gospels were written actually tells us about the composition of the communities they were written for.

      • David Nickol

        I think it is very difficult (and perhaps impossible) for us to imagine ourselves in the place of 1st-century Christians. But people do it all the time. For example, in the discussion I was having about Magnificat, there were some who strongly objected to the idea that it was a Jewish-Christian hymn inserted (and slightly modified) by Luke. The idea seems to be that Mary's very words from decades previously were so important that she remembered them and somehow preserved them in a form that was available to Luke. Heaven forbid that Luke would have presumed to put words into the mouth of Mary. But to me that seems to be imagining ourselves in Luke's place and saying to ourselves, "Of course I have to get Mary's exact words. I'm writing a document that will be relied on for the next 2000 years! I'm writing one of the four Gospels. I have to get all the facts!" But one of the things I think we can say with a certain amount of confidence is that Luke had a specific audience in mind in composing his Gospel, and I think it is a mistake to imagine he was writing for the ages. We can't get inside Luke's head, but I think we have to leave open the possibility that he did indeed (obviously) feel free not only to rely on Mark and other sources, but to incorporate an existing hymn into his Gospel without a source note!

        I think I am rambling here, but my point is that I don't think we can know the minds of the evangelists and say, "Oh, I know he would never do that, because it is not what I would have done if I had been writing a gospel."

        However, it we do allow ourselves to think, "What would I have done were I a first-generation Christian?" one question we might ask ourselves is, given that we believed Jesus was God incarnate, would we not want to record as many of his teachings in the language in which he said them? Is there any other historical figure coming anywhere near the importance of Jesus who taught in a specific language and whose teachings were not preserved in that language? Even Paul, who had to have understood both Greek and Aramaic/Hebrew, never quotes Jesus in anything but Greek (and rarely quotes him at all).

        If some ancient document were to be discovered—say a copy of the hypothesized sayings document Q—that was a transcript of the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic/Hebrew from which the Greek version was translated, it would be one of the most sensational finds ever. So we can ask the question why no one who actually heard and followed Jesus preserved his teachings in their original language.

        • The idea seems to be that Mary's very words from decades previously were so important that she remembered them and somehow preserved them in a form that was available to Luke.

          This certainly seems unreasonable in a culture such as ours, when one can fact-check via the internet in seconds. Is it unreasonable in a primarily oral culture? I'm led to believe that the human brain can operate in ways where memories are much better preserved.

          I think I am rambling here, but my point is that I don't think we can know the minds of the evangelists and say, "Oh, I know he would never do that, because it is not what I would have done if I had been writing a gospel."

          Have you come across Peter Enns? He likes to criticize the mode of thinking you are also criticizing. Have you investigated how you might be doing this thing?

          If some ancient document were to be discovered—say a copy of the hypothesized sayings document Q—that was a transcript of the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic/​Hebrew from which the Greek version was translated, it would be one of the most sensational finds ever.

          You're probably right. Now, can you imagine Q, in the original Aramaic/​Hebrew, not actually mattering in a doctrinal or practical fashion?

          • David Nickol

            Now, can you imagine Q, in the original Aramaic/​Hebrew, not actually mattering in a doctrinal or practical fashion?

            I think it would have to be the position of the Catholic Church that only the biblical texts were divinely inspired, and any Catholic doctrines based on material from Q could not be undermined even if a great deal had been lost or misunderstood in translating Q material from Aramaic to Greek.

            I see a fine plot for a thriller here in which an archaeologist gets his hands on a copy of Aramaic-Q, it clearly undermines important Catholic doctrine, and members of an organization that is suspiciously similar to Opus Dei (but of course not Opus Dei) do their best to hunt him down and kill him to suppress the document. I can think of a number of thrillers that it would be compared to, the best being Robert Ludlum's The Gemini Contenders.

          • David Nickol

            I remember reading an article or book in which someone attempted to translate parables back into Aramaic to see if they could gain a deeper insight into them. Of course, I suppose anything in the Gospels that does not go back to Jesus himself (and many scholars would say the amount of material is considerable) might not have originated in Aramaic/Hebrew, in which case translating them from the Greek might very well be translating them into a foreign language rather than trying to reconstruct the originals.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I see a fine plot for a thriller here in which an archaeologist gets his hands on a copy of Aramaic-Q, it clearly undermines important Catholic doctrine, and members of an organization that is suspiciously similar to Opus Dei (but of course not Opus Dei) do their best to hunt him down and kill him to suppress the document.

            You worked in publishing, right? I always find it interesting which novels end up becoming best sellers. Usually, given the basic plot summary I'm surprised that the latest best seller is a best seller at all.

          • David Nickol

            Unfortunately, my entire publishing career was in textbook publishing. The closest I ever got to working with a bestselling author was when I handled the production of the paperback edition of The New Journalism, an anthology edited by Tom Wolfe. I never met him or talked to him on the phone. Although I never worked with him, I did meet Isaac Asimov several times, since my company published some of his books, and he came and gave talks on a few occasions. I was once with a small group at a book signing with Frank Herbert (Dune). The first Star Wars movie had just come out, and Herbert said, "You know, it's not science fiction." We all agreed with him.

          • Rob Abney

            Have you read this short story from Asimov, http://multivax.com/last_question.html
            I read it recently and thought it was good theology but then I learned that Asimov was an atheist and probably didn't intend it to be read the way I read it.

          • Well, we have The Da Vinci Code as one way to imagine this. I must say, it was a thriller book until the end, where it just failed to deliver in my estimation.

            What would the other film look like, where Aramaic-Q turns out to violate no interesting doctrine? You'd have all these claims about how the game of telephone has corrupted the originals; those claims are made as if they are not only necessary conditions for the Gospels being unreliable, but also sufficient conditions. Would much change if Aramaic-Q turns out to undergird the Gospels just fine? Would it be worth a conspiracy, or would other reasons for the illegitimacy of the Gospels pop up as a substitute?

          • David Nickol

            Aren't you being a little overly defensive? I was suggesting a plot for a thriller, not attacking the Gospels. I suppose one could have a thriller in which Aramaic-Q lends great historical credibility to Matthew and Luke, and a group of mythicists systematically kill off the archaeologists who uncovered it and are trying to validate it. But in order to have a thriller, something major must be at stake. And a document that seriously undermines Christianity is a much bigger deal than one that confirms what Christians already believe.

          • Well, is it a big deal if the belief that the Gospels couldn't plausibly be reliable, turns out to be dead wrong? For the Christian it would be expected, but for the atheist would it would be unexpected?

            P.S. I don't get the 'defensive' question, and am not sure it would be profitable to pursue it.

          • David Nickol

            P.S. I don't get the 'defensive' question, and am not sure it would be profitable to pursue it.

            I meant nothing of great importance. Q itself is a hypothetical document (although there are good reasons to believe something like it existed). The finding of "Aramaic Q" is purely a flight of fantasy on my part. I don't believe I have ever read any suggestion that Q would have existed in Aramaic rather than Greek. While no doubt the discovery of "Aramaic Q" would be a stupendous archaeological discovery, there is no way to know how it would impact New Testament scholarship (and religious belief) since it is a purely imaginary document. While it does not come as a surprise at all that you would defend the truth of the Gospels, it just seemed to me that something as trivial as the suggestion by me of a thriller plot based on purely imaginary circumstances following from a purely imaginary discovery of a purely imaginary document did not constitute an attack on the truth of the Gospels.

            Well, is it a big deal if the belief that the Gospels couldn't plausibly be reliable, turns out to be dead wrong?

            While, as I have said, the discovery of "Aramaic Q" would be an unparalleled archaeological discovery, I don't think it would prove anything at all about the historical reliability of the Gospels. It would lend a great deal of weight to the "two source hypothesis," but most New Testament scholars already accept that anyway.

            In my opinion, we already know a great deal about the nature of the Gospels—Markan priority, Matthew and Luke using Mark and Q, oral tradition, adaptation of material for intended audiences, and so on. I know many here reject modern biblical scholarship, and I am perfectly willing to discuss that. But nobody should take my ideas for blockbuster novels seriously, especially because my motivation to write them (money!) will vanish when I win the $1.4-billion Powerball Jackpot this Wednesday.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Just don't forget us little folks at SN when you win the big bucks. If I may suggest, I think I'd make an excellent docent at the David Nickol Museum of Higher Ex-Catholicism. Steady employment and a living wage for a family of five is all I require.

          • I see; I misunderstood. I was thinking that there would be a hypothetical way for Jesus being whom Christians say he is to be empirically corroborated. But perhaps the only real option on the table was for that Jesus being empirically falsified. Perhaps there was never a real chance for atheists to be embarrassed; perhaps the only party which would potentially be embarrassed was the Catholics, all along.

            Probably I am oversensitive to discussions where the Christian's faith is being potentially undermined, where the atheist's position is staying nicely secure. Such perceived asymmetry is a red flag to me, because it's easier to criticize a position than defend one. One way to test whether there's real asymmetry is to playfully turn the tables around, but clearly that does not always work!

          • David Nickol

            It is interesting that you seem (from my perspective, and I could be way off-base here) to look upon Christianity (and theism) as fragile and vulnerable. I see it (in the United States, in any case) as secure and dominant. I think at the moment there are still no professed atheists in the House or Senate. From my point of view, a thriller about 2000-year-old events that either bolstered or undermined Christianity would have no impact at all on religion in the United States. I think, were I a devout Christian, I could read something like The Gemini Contenders (which totally undermined Christian beliefs) as pure entertainment. I think I am still quite good at the "willing suspension of disbelief" while I am reading a book or watching a move or television show. But when I put the work of fiction aside, I return totally to reality. (Although I did see someone on the street last night when I went out shopping that might have been a zombie.)

          • Perhaps my taking criticisms seriously appears as fragility and vulnerability? I mean to try to make my interlocutor's criticism as robust as possible, to even contribute to it if I can.

            I don't see what a dominant belief in Christianity among the masses in the United States has to do with anything. According to sociologist Christian Smith, 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US believe in the conflict thesis. That doesn't make it true.

          • David Nickol

            Perhaps my taking criticisms seriously appears as fragility and vulnerability?

            The point I was trying to make is that my suggestion of a plot for a thriller was not intended as a criticism of anything. I am sure we have very different ideas about the Gospels and could argue about them endlessly. Perhaps the points you are making are too subtle for me to grasp, but I am not at all sure what this exchange is about. I am pleased to know that you take my criticisms seriously, but I am not aware of having made any criticisms in the messages you are responding to.

            I don't believe Mary uttered the words of the Magnificat. I don't believe Jesus said many of the things attributed to him in the Gospels (especially the discourses in John). If you would like to discuss that, I am more than willing. But I am really not sure how this current exchange started or what it is about.

          • Perhaps you're right; perhaps there is no way to make a thriller out of finding an Aramaic Q dated very near to Jesus' ministry, which corroborates what one finds in all four Gospels. I was just thinking that it ought to be acceptable to turn the tables on the hypothetical thriller, but apparently doing that qualifies me as appearing "a little overly defensive". :-/

          • David Nickol

            Since the theory is that Matthew and Luke used the Gospel of Mark plus a source of sayings of Jesus called Q to write their own Gospels, the discovery of "Aramaic Q" would not corroborate "what one finds in all four Gospels." Q is thought to have been a Greek (not Aramaic) document, since Q material in Matthew and Luke is so similar that it is not believed that Matthew and Luke translated it from another language independently. Aramaic Q would be a sensational find, but in and of itself, it wouldn't prove anything.

            I apologize for asking, "Aren't you being a little overly defensive?" Please note that I said "a little" and put it in the form of a question. But in any case, I apologize. I did not intend it to be insulting or hurtful.

    • If they were important enough to preserve, why do we not have them (or any teachings of Jesus) in Hebrew/Aramaic?

      Many more people could read them if they were in Greek, than Hebrew or Aramaic. Do we have evidence that folks in Palestine in the first century cared as much about getting every word correct, in the original language, as we do? It seems to me that needing to care about the details in this way results in a very brittle kind of epistemology. It makes me think of computer programs which barf if the input isn't in precisely the right format.

      • David Nickol

        Do we have evidence that folks in Palestine in the first century cared
        as much about getting every word correct, in the original language, as
        we do?

        I was speculating elsewhere that we can't know what went on in the heads of the evangelists or other early followers of Jesus. Perhaps that is too pessimistic. I think this is probably a matter to be addressed by the historical-critical method. Otherwise, it seems we make different assumptions at different times that best suit our religious (or anti-religious) purposes in whatever argument we are having. At the one extreme, we picture the evangelists as investigative journalists, with fact-checkers looking over their shoulders, conducting long interviews with all the living principals (including the Blessed Virgin) to get an account correct in every detail. Or at the other extreme, we get the evangelists writing fiction "inspired by true events" and taking whatever liberties seem appropriate to evoke the desired response in readers.

        This does not really touch on the main question I raised, however:

        One of the big questions for Christianity, it seems to me, is why—if
        Jesus was sent to the Jews—Christianity did not flourish among those
        steeped in Jewish/Hebrew thought, but did flourish with those under the
        influence of Greek thought.

        Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” How, then, did it come to be that it was Greek thought, not Hebrew thought, that interpreted him for the world?

        • I was speculating elsewhere that we can't know what went on in the heads of the evangelists or other early followers of Jesus.

          We cannot deductively know for sure the precise contents of their heads, but neither can I deductively know the precise contents of my wife's head. :-p It does seem like we can narrow down the possibilities with greater and greater understanding of how to reverse the evolution of culture from here back to the first century. Ostensibly this is what church tradition is supposed to do, but such historical knowledge is quite out of vogue, today.

          The two extremes you mention of what was going on in their heads seems to obscure a middle ground which is closer to how humans generally operate. We realize that there are many possible configurations of life which are "essentially the same", just like the noise from a scientist's microscope camera can take on many possible configurations. It's actually important to avoid trying to obtain data from pure noise—or you get Einstein from noise. The result is not investigative journalism, but neither is it using words to manipulate (instead of seek the truth). It is simply that the truth is not the world known by Laplace's demon.

          Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” How, then, did it come to be that it was Greek thought, not Hebrew thought, that interpreted him for the world?

          The Jews, by and large, rejected Jesus. Who spoke Hebrew aside from the Jews? It's not even clear how many of them did; wasn't the Septuagint in heavy use when Jesus was alive? WP: Septuagint § Use is of some help, here.

  • GCBill

    "There are several reasons why Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular adopted a favorable and accommodating view of Greek philosophy. First, Edward Grant, the highly acclaimed historian of science, has pointed out that a “notable feature of the spread of Christianity was the slowness of its dissemination” (Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages 2). Christianity became a legal religion only in A.D 313 when Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, and towards the end of the fourth century, namely in A.D 392, Emperor Theodosius banned pagan worship, turning Christianity into the only legal faith. In other words, it took Christianity almost four centuries to become the dominant and exclusive religion in the Roman Empire. The slow and gradual process by which Christianity was propagated enabled the faith to adjust to its pagan surroundings, come to terms with Greek/pagan philosophy, and incorporate some of its elements into theology."

    This claim, more than anything else in this article, surprised me. Several Catholics I've conversed with have cited the rapid spread of Christianity in the face of persecution as part of the cumulative evidence for the resurrection. And my own readings suggest that the truth lies somewhere in between the "rapid" and "slow" accounts. IOW, Christianity grew rapidly, but not at as-yet-unmatched rates, especially when considering the other sociological factors that made conversion appealing for some groups of people. So I guess this is yet another issue on which scholars do not agree.

    EDIT: wording.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      ?Rodney Stark? makes a comparison with Mormonism in America.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        That would be a great topic for a post here.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    According to conventional wisdom, Christianity and Catholic theology are founded on irrational superstition, blind faith, rigid dogmatism, and unreason. It is also a widely held view that Christian theology is devoid of reasoned argumentation and that the Catholic Church, especially during the “Dark Ages,” sought to stamp out Classical knowledge and to curb the use of reason

    Who is spouting this conventional wisdom? Youtube commenters? This is a strawman. Catholic theology is founded on an amalgamation of things.

    However, contrary to these grossly inaccurate conceptions, many Catholic theologians, including in Late Antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages, exalted the powers of reason and stressed that reason and revelation are in harmony rather than in conflict.

    Exalting the power of reason and claiming that it is in harmony with faith does not make it actually so. Reason brings up all sorts of faith dilemmas, as the many former Catholics and many current Catholics on this site will attest to. If I believed that the earth was created in six days, could I still say that reason and faith are in perfect harmony? If, in order to get around this objection, you are going to posit that right faith and right reason are always in harmony then you have made a tautological statement which adds no new information. It is a useless statement.

    Christianity became a legal religion only in A.D 313 when Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, and towards the end of the fourth century, namely in A.D 392, Emperor Theodosius banned pagan worship, turning Christianity into the only legal faith. In other words, it took Christianity almost four centuries to become the dominant and exclusive religion in the Roman Empire. The slow and gradual process by which Christianity was propagated enabled the faith to adjust to its pagan surroundings, come to terms with Greek/pagan philosophy, and incorporate some of its elements into theology.

    As Pofarmer (at the other place), rightly points out this statement on the legality of Christianity is largely incorrect. Throughout the first 300 years of the religion's existence, Christians were largely left in peace. They held offices in the empire and persecution was sporadic and provincial. The largest persecution was under Diocletian and Galerius at the turn of the 3rd century. The Roman were largely tolerant of their citizens religious proclivities. Something not to be said about Christian Europe.

    Now I am curious, if Catholics on the site have a problem with Tamer's characterization of the growth of Christianity. Basically, it starts as a small cult, like Mormonism in America and grows into something bigger.

    Anti-Catholic critics might respond that the theologians’ attitude toward the philosophical heritage of the pagans was selective, as they accepted philosophy only to the extent that it served their faith. Even if true, such a particular and selective approach is a far cry from outright rejection of philosophy and wholesale reliance on faith– an allegation often hurled at the Catholic Church.

    Such a selective approach would be a rejection of the philosophical spirit. Rationalizations are different from philosophy. Bertrand Russell says the following about Aquinas:

    He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the
    argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is
    impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already
    knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently
    rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he
    cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a
    conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot,
    therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers
    either of Greece or of modern times.

    The philosophy of St Augustine (354-430) had exerted a tremendous influence on Western civilization and Latin Christendom for approximately a thousand years. His attitude toward the relation between reason and faith has been described as "very difficult to interpret, especially because his views apparently evolved over the years" (Craig 29). It is true that on the one hand he subordinated reason to faith, viewing the former as the “servant” of the latter (Stokes 45). It is equally true that he saw faith as superior to reason in the pursuit of truth.

    So now we get to an argument that an atheists would actually make, instead of the earlier strawman. The atheist argument would be that Christianity subordinates reason to faith. And as we can see the most influential of the Church fathers and perhaps the most influential Christian writer of all time agrees with us atheists.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Lots in there to respond to, but I'll just pick out one thing for now:

      I agree that when we say that "truth as revealed by natural reason" and "truth as revealed by special revelation" must agree, we are basically giving voice to a tautology, along the lines of "true things are true" or something like that.

      I don't know that I would take such a dim view of tautologies though. It is true that tautologies add no new information, but they do reveal the structure of things. The tautology 0 + 1 = 1 reveals something about the "structure" of 1 and the "structure" of zero and how they inter-relate (the "structure" of "+"). It turns out to be a very fruitful tautology that gives rise to a lot of useful mathematics.

      Somewhat similarly, a theological tautology, such as 1 John 4:8, doesn't really add any new information, in the way that finding a new place on a map adds new information, but (to the extent we accept this tautology) it reveals something about the structure of God and the structure of charity. Because the tautology creates tension between our understanding of God and our understanding of charity (the tauter the tautology, the more tension it may create), it becomes a point of departure for understanding better both what God is and what charity is.

      I think similar things can be said in regard to the truth revealed through faith / truth revealed though reason tautology, but I've already rambled on enough for one comment. I'm going to respond to a slightly different aspect of this in a separate comment.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I don't think I have an overly dim view of tautologies. What I do have a dim view of is the apologist tactic of weaseling out of a difficult question with a tautology. Checkmate atheist!

        Although I may in principle be against the ideas of right faith and right reason, I am willing to posit such a thing for the sake of discussion. I suppose we would need to decide what we mean by faith and what we mean by reason. Let me give an example from my personal experience of Catholicism. I took on faith that contraception was immoral. However, my ethical reasoning told me that contraception was not only moral but ignoring family planning altogether was probably immoral. For starters, it is odd that God would want us to be prudent in nearly everything, but reproduction. So what does one do here? Faith or reason?

        I know in Catholicism there is an idea of primacy of the conscience, but I find that it is more of a theoretical thing than a practical thing. After all, it is hubris to disagree with the millenniums of wisdom and teachings of a Church guided by God. Also, there is also the possibility that what you are reasoning about is actually just a rationalization of your base desires. So, in the end, primacy of conscience is a hollow teaching. The Catholic Church is very adept at giving caveats and pulling them away.

        I realize that contraception is perhaps a quibble compared to the many things to have faith about. But straws can break camels backs if there are enough of them.

        • David Nickol

          I know in Catholicism there is an idea of primacy of the conscience, but I find that it is more of a theoretical thing than a practical thing.

          A problem with the notion of primacy of conscience is that the Catholic Church maintain that a conscience must be "well formed." Exactly what a "well formed conscience" would be is open to interpretation, and the more conservative interpretation would be—as I understand it—a conscience that is in conformity with the Church. So on an issue like contraception, the more liberal view would be that it is permissible to follow one's own conscience in deciding whether or not to use contraceptives. However, the more conservative view would be that someone with a well formed conscience would obey Church teaching whether or not he or she understood it. The more conservative the interpretation, the less liberty to act according to one's own conscience.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            From the CCC (to highlight your point):

            1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

            1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (1704)

            1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I come at this question from at least two different angles. I don't want to set this up as "the faith approach" versus "the reason approach", because both approaches leverage both faith (in the generic sense of "trust") and reason. However, only the latter approach leverages faith in the more restricted sense of trust in specific interpretations of "special revelation", which is probably closer to what you are trying to get at when you use the word. So, if you prefer, I'm OK with referring to the second approach as "the faith approach".

          These two approaches, for me, lead to different conclusions:

          Approach number 1: I trust my moral intuitions (especially since they seem to be in accord with the moral intuitions of a great many other people, whom I trust), and I trust my ability to reason from those moral intuitions to valid moral conclusions (especially since I note that others' reasoning seems to proceed in the same way), and from that I arrive at the conclusion that contraception is permissible in certain cases. So, there's that.

          Approach number 2 (the "faith approach"): [skipping numerous movements of the mind and heart that explain why I have come to trust "the Church" ... ] I trust the Church (expressed primarily in my sense of the indefectibility of the Catholic Church as a whole), and I reason that that general trust implies a more specific trust in the teaching office of the Catholic Church (albeit I only believe in infallibility in a fairly heavily caveated sense), and I can discern without any subtle application of textual analysis that the teaching office has declared contraception to be intrinsically wrong. So, there's that.

          So, there I have a conflict. Which approach do I trust more? Per my other comment below, I don't let one approach trump the other. I live with the tension to some extent, but (again, per my other comment) "tension" is not a wholly bad thing: the tension between the information from my right eye and the information from my left eye is what gives me depth perception, after all. I assume again that the truth lies somewhere "in between".

          I haven't let this line of thinking fully play itself out, but I hate to make super-super-long posts, so maybe I should stop here and see what you agree and disagree with so far.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I know don't know Augustine's thought in depth, but I would imagine that when Augustine says that faith is superior to reason, he is not saying that faith trumps reason and you can disregard reason if they disagree. He is just saying that faith (rightly understood) will get you to essential truths more quickly and in a more fruitful way.

      As an analogy, it is possible (so I am told) to prove De Moivre's theorem: cos n theta = Re[ (cos theta + i sin theta)^n ] without using imaginary numbers, and I imagine it is very insightful to prove it that way, but most of us can get to the result more easily if we rid ourselves of any dogmatic opposition to imaginary numbers.

      This hearkens back to some of our causality discussions as well. One can get along pretty well predicting a lot of things without thinking at all about causality, even without assuming causality is real. A lot of black box learning algorithms use only statistical associations without formally invoking causal reasoning, and that actually works pretty well as long as you don't try to extrapolate too far beyond the domain of the training set. All that notwithstanding, it is undeniably can be convincingly argued that it is more fruitful to allow for the (unprovable) existence of causal relationships when engaging in scientific reasoning, and many of the thought leaders in machine learning have realized that they will be better off if they formalize causal reasoning in their learning systems. Causal thinking is not strictly necessary, but it is more fruitful way of thinking that gets you to the "right answers" more quickly.

      Credit where it is due: Some key points in this post are borrowed from things that Judea Pearl has written or said.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        What right answers are received by faith? When we compare faith and reason do we use reason or faith or something else?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          So, briefly, my answer to your second question is: as with any complex problem, one needs to triangulate the truth, by considering things from multiple perspectives, assuming no one perspective is perfect, but trusting that an integration of multiple perspectives can get you close to the truth. I don't think it is ever as simple as "faith perspective trumps reason perspective" or vice versa. To me it is not fundamentally any different than the situation where multiple people give you conflicting accounts of the same event. I think the key is to commit to working with the totality of the data, always assuming that the truth lies somewhere "in between".

          I will try to respond to your first question in the context of your other comment.

          • I think the key is to commit to working with the totality of the data, always assuming that the truth lies somewhere "in between".

            It's interesting you say this. Many seem to think the outliers can simply be discarded. Outlier data points, outlier people, same thing. For the data points version, see what Karl Popper had to say:

            Every experimental physicist knows those surprising and inexplicable apparent 'effects' which in his laboratory can perhaps even be reproduced for some time, but which finally disappear without trace. Of course, no physicist would say that in such a case that he had made a scientific discovery (though he might try to rearrange his experiments so as to make the effect reproducible). Indeed the scientifically significant physical effect may be defined as that which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment in the way prescribed. No serious physicist would offer for publication, as a scientific discovery, any such 'occult effect', as I propose to call it – one for whose reproduction he could give no instructions. The 'discovery' would be only too soon rejected as chimerical, simply because attempts to test it would lead to negative results. (It follows that any controversy over the question whether events which are in principle unrepeatable and unique ever do occur cannot be decided by science: it would be a metaphysical controversy.) (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 23-24)

            In a sense you have to start by ignoring outliers, or at least tabling them for investigation later after you've gained enough understanding. But there is the question of whether you forget them, downplay them, or merely defer them out of necessity (vs. laziness, prejudice, etc.).

          • Perhaps Popper can consider such data to be but an "occult effect" because they don't fit into the current 'scientific' paradigm. For example, even 'evidence' of what we now 'know' to be indications of a 'virus', could have been, at some point, perhaps even as late as the 19th century, excluded from medical theories, and such possibilities would not now be considered 'occult' in any meaning of that term. You are after all not going to find what you are not looking for. As an example, may we imagine that what you are presently reading is but an 'occult effect' of a seeming 'addiction' of someone to post unwanted comments. You may ignore, but without a 'cure', the 'addictive virus', as is often the case with outliers, may still 'show up again'..., you never know.

  • David Hardy

    According to conventional wisdom, Christianity and Catholic theology are
    founded on irrational superstition, blind faith, rigid dogmatism, and
    unreason.

    I do not have extensive knowledge of the works of Catholic philosophers, but my impression has always been that there are a number of well-reasoned, in-depth philosophical works arising from and addressing Catholicism. Any position, if held without reflection, might be considered a form of blind faith or dogmatism, but it would be unfair to characterize Catholicism, or any other large religious position of which I am aware, as depending upon these things. In my experience, one can find a wealth of detailed philosophical considerations of any of the major belief systems.

    My concern has less to do with reason than premises. A well reasoned position draws solid conclusions given certain premises. Where those premises are wrong, a well reasoned position will generally come to a wrong conclusion as well. That a belief system has well reasoned, in-depth philosophical inquiry indicates conclusions and expansions upon that belief system assuming the premises drawn from the belief system are true.

    Religions begin with premises about the nature of the universe. If I do not believe those premises are established to be true, then I may grant that the reasoning is sound, but still hold the conclusions to be uncertain. In the same way, a person can be perfectly reasonable and yet hold a wrong belief if they begin from false assumptions. That a religion has many reasonable people who accept it (and all of the major world religions can claim this), does not indicate that it is true, since reasonable inquiry and religious premises are not antithetical.

    • You don't seem to be significantly disagreeing with the quoted text. There's the possibility from the quoted text that religion is internally contradictory, but if we preclude that, your comment seems to be quite consistent with the quoted text. Is this correct or incorrect?

      As to the rest, what happens when you add in the fact that actions can make prophecies self-fulfilling? For example, if I believe that some system can never be understood scientifically, I will never study it scientifically, and thus the belief will appear to be true, as judged by the evidence. One might consider this the active form of stacking the deck, while picking bad premises could be thought as the passive form. Action adds a new dimension to perception.

      • David Hardy

        You don't seem to be significantly disagreeing with the quoted text . . . Is this correct or incorrect?

        That would be correct. I generally agree with the position of this OP.

        As to the rest, what happens when you add in the fact that actions can make prophecies self-fulfilling?

        I think it is valuable to keep in mind that premises can lead to bias, in both action and perception. If you believe that a system cannot be understood scientifically, to use your example, not only are you likely to not study it, you are also likely to ignore and dismiss evidence from others that it can be understood scientifically, and even might look for an alternative interpretation that seems to discredit the information. Assumptions often guide where both reason and investigation take us.

        • If you believe that a system cannot be understood scientifically, to use your example, not only are you likely to not study it, you are also likely to ignore and dismiss evidence from others that it can be understood scientifically, and even might look for an alternative interpretation that seems to discredit the information.

          Sure! And what currently passes for 'scientifically' may well change. We might also ask whether there is any domain of life where there aren't enough data points for "understood scientifically", but enough to gain nonzero understanding. It strikes me that if this middle domain exists, denying its existence could have very bad consequences.

      • Will

        Hi Luke, I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to move on from these kinds of conversations. I hope you find peace, and find what you are looking for, and I also hope that the dialogue on both sides improves. I think my personal emotional scars are too deep, and I simply cannot respect Christianity or Christian ideas. Thus, it becomes a real problem for me to respect the person who believes those ideas, and causes me to hurt these people, often accidentally. I abandoned Christianity because it was a harmful and immoral belief system, and I don't want to be causing harm to people in my "war" against Christianity. It is also time for me to abandon that war, and quit reliving my childhood nightmare. I apologize for any disrespect directed towards you (and I have been concerned about you, but that may very well be misplaced, you assure me you are fine, and I should take you at your word), and hope you do well in life.
        I also hope you back off thinking you are going to get very far in discuss world. As a friend, I hope you pursue that Ph.D of yours, and don't let these discussions get in your way. You are very bright, I mean that, even if I have some concern about other things going on, and may, or may not be right about the root cause. I wish you luck, and do feel a bit sorry for you and other Christians as you lose the intellectual war over whether Christianity is true (I'm convinced the war is already lost, it just takes a long time for people to realize some things). I know you don't think so, of course, so I'd rather not argue about that. In fact, I'm going to take a very long break from arguing period :)

        • William, I'm sorry that we won't be chatting with each other. I experienced a lot less friction and got further with you than I have with most atheists. It was almost always downright pleasant, even if I didn't choose the right words to indicate that. You are of course forgiven for whatever you really did which was bad; I don't think it was very much, as judged by internet standards. :-p

          Don't worry about my expectations being too high for discussions on Disqus. In fact, I think I myself might need to step back and consider a different kind of engagement with laypeople than the current status quo. A different discussion system and a different way of establishing desirable community norms seems required. Instead of moderation, I'm thinking of a system where people naturally navigate towards one or a few strata best suited to what they want to get out of discussion. Hopefully, popularizing academic material could somehow be rewarded.

          I hope you are able to do more building and less demolition, as time marches on. I already had you pegged as being such a person. :-)

          • Will

            You are of course forgiven for whatever you really did which was bad

            Thank you very much Luke.

            A different discussion system and a different way of establishing desirable community norms seems required. Instead of moderation, I'm thinking of a system where people naturally navigate towards one or a few strata best suited to what they want to get out of discussion.

            William, I'm sorry that we won't be chatting with each other. I experienced a lot less friction and got further with you than I have with most atheists.

            Thanks, same with you, especially once we got past some initial hurdles. Conversations with you and Lazarus have caused me to reevaluate and change some of my positions and approaches. I have gained some benefit from these discussions, but I've come to sort of debunk some of my own mythology about the productiveness of these types of conversations, at least at the combox level. I may be overly devaluing them right now (some times I swing back and forth on a subject so I can see it from various perspectives and this must occur over time so my mind has to ruminate in that perspective) but I do think, at the least, I've hit some serious diminishing returns. There has also been a pattern of very low participation here at SN, and all of the positions are fairly entrenched and unshifting (except for Lazarus, of course). The theist/atheist infinite loop you speak of seems to be sort of a reality. I would like to back up and say that I don't intend to ever drop by again, but a very long break is in order, at the least.

            I noticed Lazarus's post, and his problems with Christianity mirror my own, and many atheists. The problem of evil is the core reason I don't believe in a personal God. This problem is not some abstract thing we just philosophize about, it's something that affects real people every minute of every day. If the compassionate Jesus of the gospels really were God, surely he would do something. Currently 21,000 children die every single day, if God were omniscient and had any compassion/empathy how could he stand that (I know I couldn't) and not do something about it? It seems to me that the whole thing is about inspiring people to help each other, an admirable goal, but the inspiration comes with so much baggage that demolishing it seems to leave little left, at least to me. I think the false expectation that God will intervene creates some real problems, but that's a long story by itself. I will say, where I live, God seems to be used as an excuse to not do what we need to be doing, the belief that God will intervene takes any wind out of the urgency of climate change and other things we may be doing to cause our own extinction. They, of course, believe the end times are already revealed with prophecy, and climate change isn't part of the prophecy, so it can't be an issue. I can't help but think that these are deeply dangerous thoughts, but I don't think most here believe them, so my efforts should be focused on those who do believe that. Causing our own extinction seems to be a very real risk that we aren't taking serious enough (I know that mirrors some of your own concern), though that seems to be changing, albeit too slowly for my tastes.

            I also wanted to add that one major reason that we can't shift each others views is that most of our beliefs don't seem to be personal, but some type of shared belief. For example, I can't change a Catholics position on anything, but a Catholic's position is dictate, in general by the position of the Church. The Church is simply not listening to anything I have to say here, and thus, those who subscribe wholeheartedly to the Church's teachings will never really listen to what I have to say. It doesn't matter what I say, the Church is the "fullness of truth" after all. Talk about a conversation and change crippler. I can't help but see this as something completely antithetical to what philosophy is supposed to be about, but I realize Catholics don't agree...so we are stuck again.

            To be fair, I engage in a certain amount of this, though to a lesser degree. My atheistic/humanistic beliefs are greatly strengthened by the brilliant atheists who also believed them. If I were a single lone atheist in a sea of Christians, I would be a heck of a lot less certain about my positions. Of course, unlike some, I am more than welcoming of having these positions criticized constructively (with the hope of this improving them) but the fact that they are embraced by so many very intelligent people that I admire makes a very big difference, a difference that I think some aren't willing to admit. I does seem quite difficult to account for that biasing effect, and accounting for biases is obviously important.

            Sorry, didn't mean to ramble that much, but I do want to recommend a book I've started reading (Lazarus said elsewhere that it represents his views, which is why I started it) called Philosophers without Gods. I made it through the first article, written by a Jewish philosopher, and it was fascinating to see many of my own thoughts about the Torah (especially concern over the concept of the "Chosen", and praise of Abraham over his willingness to sacrifice Isaac) mirrored by a Jew. I also recommend anything written about Bart Ehrman. The problems in the NT are deep, in my opinion, and the presence of forged letters seems to blow the concept of divine inspiration right out of the water. God would allow liars into the canon? I simply can't buy that. I'm quite sensitive about credibility, and that seems to be incredibly destructive to credibility, in my opinion. I also agree with Ehrman that very early Christians claims Jesus promised to return in their generation (Mark 9:1 and Mark 13:30 for example). Paul seemed to think it would be in his lifetime. I've heard other attempted interpretations of this, but they don't seem to fit, imho, and seem like posthoc rationalization. In fact Bart makes a good case that heaven and hell are actually posthoc rationalizations of what was supposed to be a physical resurrection of the dead, and Jesus was supposed to be the "first fruits" of the general resurrection (Paul says this specifically 1 Cor 15:23), thus the significant of the resurrection of Jesus was that it was the beginning of the second coming that Paul expected to see. Here we are, 2000 year later, and the silence from heaven is deafening, at least to me.

            Anyway, thought I'd throw in my 2 cents along with Lazarus. His change did catch me off guard and has me curious. One thing that does pull me back here is that I do consider many here friends, and I do think I have a tendency to get too personal which causes some problems of it's own in this setting. I suppose that's just part of my personality that's a very good thing in real life, but creates issues in this limited environment. For free to respond, though, I don't necessarily have to rush off, just announcing a new behavior pattern (but my curiosity is peaked by the fact that a position actually shifted for once, lol). Sorry for typos, will have to proofread later.

          • Sadly, I have also seen many Christians fail to act because they believe God will. Ezekiel 34 was written to people like them. Mk 12:1–12 as well. I agree with you that there's a lot of nonsense in Christianity. I liken it to the following story.

            On day, an Irishman captured a Leprechaun and forced him to point out where his pot of gold was hidden, in a corn field. The guy told the Leprechaun to swear he wouldn't remove the handkerchief which he had tied on the appropriate corn stalk, and then went off to get a shovel. When he returned, his particular kind of handkerchief was tied to all of the corn stalks.

            Now, after-the-fact, you can always say that none of the corn stalks actually has a pot of gold buried by it. The dominant thought-system of the time will always be twisted and contorted to suit people's goals. The question is, what's at the core, when one gets past all the perversions? I'm willing to ask that question for a while longer when it comes to Christianity. I'm willing to look for that one stalk.

            P.S. I hear you on the problem of evil, but it doesn't seem to me that there is a better solution out there, other than de facto "Randomness!". I'm currently placing my bet on us wanting things these days which are so antithetical to God's desires for creation, that he is letting major swaths of the world (those which are wealthiest) experience life without divine action, to see if they can do what they say God ought to do. Here, we can compare the evil which must be permitted due to humans having finite resources, to the evil which God is said to permit for his own reasons.

            P.P.S. Thanks for the book recommendation. I wonder if there is any chance of SN folks working through it.

          • Will

            Thanks, good luck in your search, Leprechaun's can be quite nasty this time of year ;P

          • Will

            I hope you are able to do more building and less demolition, as time marches on. I already had you pegged as being such a person. :-)

            Thanks, I hope I am that kind of person. Heck, that's why I'm an engineer, I like to construct :)
            Considering most of my other comment was demolition (backing up Laz since you seemed interested) I do think humans can really use inspiration for doing good (something that has been the role of religion), and I hope that we can build on humanism. Just for fun, I'd like to present naturalistic reasons to propose that human beings should be at the top of our value system.
            1) Even though evolution has no goal (as far as we can tell) it is reasonable to regard humans as the pinnacle of evolution. The following could be regarded as backup for this idea

            2) Humans are the only known thing that can create new knowledge. How one deals with this creation, philosophically is still a matter of debate, but the evidence for our creative abilities is pretty clear. Perhaps this alone, should motivate us to try to build more than we destroy. Plenty of mammals are good at destroying (not as good as us, though, because of our creations called weapons of war) but not creating. Sure a beaver can build a damn, but that's all that impressive comparatively.

            3) As far as we know, the human brain is the most complex system in the known universe. Consider this a quasi-mathematical reason to value it.

            4) Humans are generally hardwired to value other humans, as long as we aren't in direct competition for survival. In group vs out-group problems exist, thanks (in the view of many) to our evolution in hunter-gatherer tribes.

            I agree with you that human nature does have some problems. Sometimes these comboxes have a tendency to make me less humanistic out of frustration, thus one reason I should back off. In spite of all that, I still think we are the greatest thing of value known to exist. I realize this may not be inspiring to many, but it's enough for me at least. I know that I will die someday, the self is fleeting, but if I can leave the human race a little bit better off than it was when I got here, my life will be of some value. Even if God doesn't exist and there is no afterlife, we really don't have to regard life as vain and pointless. Solving the problem of nihilism does seem to be atheism's greatest challenge. I think this is known to philosophers, in general.

            Anyway, just trying to better explain some of my views, after some introspection, hopefully it is helpful to you :)

          • So by this measure, Aquinas' Summa Theologica ought to be valued? After all, it is quite complex. :-p I respond with this joke in lieu of starting up another interminable argument involving Fitch's Paradox and such. Maybe in a few months.

          • Will

            Lol, you joke but yes, Aquinas's creation should be valued in ways, it's just mixed in with a bunch of contention. I thought this paper was quite good on using his philosophy of mind, if you are interested

            http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CR%20FreemanAquinas.pdf

            Maybe in a few months.

            Agreed, until then.

          • Thanks; I think you mentioned that paper before, but it's even more interesting given what I've encountered between then and now. I happen to know one of the key scientists who ensured that computers would be good at helping us with nonlinear dynamics!

          • Was attempting to 'understand' this treatise on Aquinas -http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CR%20FreemanAquinas.pdf. - indeed I enjoy the post - Just Thomism - and am aware of his relevance to Post-Modernism. It concerns what I have spoken of before - my awareness of my 'non-linear' thinking, etc. etc. in relation to logic, per se, etc. etc. So could possibly this treatise be considered 'incoherent' in an analogous way that my 'intentional' analysis, if I may call it that, is 'discerned' to be? Please know that since I began these Buddhist 'experiments' of being aware of thought not only within an individual but within a social context, I have found that I am not alone in this pursuit, or extension of what 'we' have learned regarding meditation. But Yes, I have argued for the legitimacy of 'circularity' as spoken about in this treatise, for instance. I understand that even the spiral configurations of constellations are the result of both circular and line motion?!!! I'm not afraid of taking chances - but as with the 'positive' goal of 'deconstruction' there are perhaps ways of thinking possible, that we have yet to become conscious of....and my understanding is that Aquinas makes that point in this treatise.

            Whether you found this coherent or incoherent I guess will remain a 'mystery' to me, but I must continue for I have long 'been aware' that individuals 'speaking to one another' are not really doing what they think they are doing. In essence, each is in conversation, with but his/her own self....(Again as in the article.....) Incoherence? I once took a course in philosophy on that!!!!! It is possible that we are 'unaware' of how 'incoherent' -we- really are!!! with love.....

          • I just would like, before attempting to make a final break, to share this (unfortunately another long one) conversation I had with the Overlord with someone. My thanks to my favorite Hillclimber, for his comment that he tries to avoid long posts, which really had impact on me. Besides this, fact, it also pointed out to me that yes, I do attempt to work out philosophic problems that are simply too much to take on here. So perhaps I can abandon my need for 'people' since I don't get responses in any case. Anyway, I'm not going to come to any personal conclusions here. I just merely want to make this dialogue public. Thanks. P.S. Congratulations for taking the proper therapeutic measures, recognized even for PTSD, in your revaluation of your relationship with 'Christianity'. Yes. I have also just learned that one can be a Christian Agnostic. But - well, who needs a label?
            The question is - can I forgo any testing as to whether I am actually banned or not???? You've been a great friend. Not to worry about my uncle, the non-hang-able one. It was the 'fact' I was conveying, not any personal tie with this 'historic event' and yes, it is generally 'agreed' today that he was innocent'.... Stranger than fiction!!!
            Here's the 'dialogue':
            The Moderation Actions Thread
            loreenlee
            29 minutes ago
            Removed
            Just reviewing my previous comments: The one that included the
            reference to Descartes, was copied from a comment made on SN as i said in the first paragraph. also I said theocracy or something instead of theodicy. Hope this did not create any incoherence.
            Anyway, if you truly want to get out of any paradox my comments may cause you, you are of course perfectly free to simply place a full fledged ban on my comments. This would be one way to prevent me reporting on the perplexity I feel whenever I attempt to post.. Have I been feeding into your 'insecurities' (what word to use here?) as well as you feeding into mine? If you don't wish to confront this, issue, or cannot, you have the final choice of what to do.
            I had wanted to follow you because I found I was able to learn from a conversation you had with Luke, as well as comments you made on 'Catholic Agnostic', again which I found through Luke. But as you banned Luke despite his intelligence being far superior to my own, as I acknowledged to him, I will merely close this conversation with an acknowledgement despite the fact that I
            have made no mention of vaginas, whatever (I have purposely forgotten all that conversation by now). that my 'incoherence' is not such a tragic flaw. I regret however, that you possibly saw no possibility of the development of fresh insight within my comments, and did not direct me to at least attempt to clarify. Because of this, I expect that even now, you will what? take the line of least resistance? call it what you will. After all, the analytic philosophers 'condemned' Heidegger's - "the nothing nothings" - as they were unable to see both the brilliance and the humor in that statement.....Merely more 'incoherence' after all, wouldn't you say? I won't pretend to understand mathematics, but I am at least capable of observing from comments that you have made, that perhaps with respect to your 'reading of Plato'. there could be what? some 'incoherence' or lack of 'fit'???? Perhaps even there is the possibility that my comments do make more sense than either you or Geena are able to appreciate. I just tend to fall into people's traps very often, and indeed even now, as I don't believe in 'arguing my case', as did Luke. So at least you can be 'grateful' for that, whether or not you consider such 'behavior' exhibits a superior or inferior intelligence. Take care.

            loreenlee
            4 hours ago
            Removed
            I should merely like to ask: are your moderation selections based on subjective preference or an objective basis, in all and every case? This actually is a question that hopefully need not 'necessarily' be taken personally, within the 'empirical' context of this conversation. is it not also 'the metaphysical issue' - indeed the God issue. In summary then, please let me assert that I am 'not afraid of contradictions' or of going through periods of incoherence in an attempt to understand such issues. Indeed, I feel, just as within the life experience of adverse conditions rejected within various theocracies, (edit: theodicy!!) that they are the means of developing transcendence, if only over ourselves. Indeed, in reading Nietzsche yesterday, he didn't wish good on someone but actually the opposite, as he insisted, himself, as even an atheist, that this is how we learn to 'persevere'. But I am beginning to come to some clarification, that although those on SN often repeat over and over again the same argument, this might be a better means of gaining clarification on these 'murky waters', than simply rejecting the possibilities of contradiction and incoherence that I beieve 'necessarily' come with these questions, as perhaps you may or may not agree is the general tactic taken on this site. Indeed you are the Overlord, but please don't misunderstand my position as believing in any way that you are 'God'. The best to you.... Andre G(od)!!!

            loreenlee
            Andrew G.
            5 hours ago
            Removed

            Just posted this comment to PF on SN. This essentially is the
            problematic of my continual searching. My comments could alternatively be considered people pleasing, going by rule of authority, etc. etc. etc. But I do think I'm attempting to find insight for this other 'dialectic'. Can I express these thoughts to you as an Overlord, or do I have to have a 'communion' with a g/God? Perhaps you will even discount this as a viable problematic!!! But I have learned, now that I'm on Grade II in algebra on Brilliant, that there are indeed 'contradiction' in mathematics as well as philosophy!!! How can I develop a clear and distinct idea of this problematic??? Or would it be a mere self-projection to ask you such a question?
            The comment to PF
            That I understand is the 'crux' of Descartes' Cogito, the reason for producing the circular argument from his clear and distinct idea to a 'universal' or 'God'. Without such a projection, his philosophy can legitimately be thought of as mere 'solipsism'. But of course, you understand that the dilemna today is with respect to the Godel theorems,lack of the 'certainty' sought for by Descartes, and considerations of self-referential contradictions within these attempt to reach for such 'absolutes'.....(Afterthought to you WD. If either Descartes or the Overlord attempted to talk to me rather than to God, would the conversation have produced more or less 'incoherence'. Please people, get my irony!!).

            loreenlee
            Andrew G.
            6 hours ago
            Removed

            Please 'take' this posting as just an attempt to understand my
            situation. You found this comment directed to WD during the LB dialogue for instance, to be what? offensive to you? Why? Do you think this 'self-reflection' actually becomes 'self-referential' in this context? Or perhaps it implicitly involves you within a context which is contradictory yet somehow could even be thought of by you, as 'manipulative'? Do you have a scientific explanation as to how, why such things happen? Is this comment coherent enough for you? If not, is the incoherence you find indeed really a product of such self-reflection, alone? Am I asking you or me this question?
            Guest
            Removed
            I found him on line; sent him a message with my e-mail. Doubt if
            this will be posted!!! thanks anyway OVL!! Just looking for the logical thing to do in this crazy world called 'Life'!!!

            loreenlee
            Andrew G.
            6 hours ago

            Removed

            I went in trust- you will have to remove me as a follower.

          • Will

            Sorry, I'm having a little trouble understanding you, but I'm thinking most of this should be directed at Andrew G? If I understand correctly, he has you on partial comment moderation, which means he must individually approve every comment. I hope that helps, and hope you are doing well :)

          • These comments are not an example of 'incoherence' then. Thank you. I shall carry on....

          • Glad about the introspection- although it often does produce my 'incoherence' but that is the 'beginning of philosophy perhaps' of an individual rather than merely repeating what another philosopher said!!!

            Yes, as in a comment made on these sites EN and SN- perhaps they are set up in such a way that 'competition' (because of the inherent tendency of such argument to be in some way 'coercive' - even if only perceived as such), is perhaps extended beyond a physical to a psychological survival - as per your fourth point.

            So I did dare! if you are or are not interested. Really, will this be 'my concluding argument, position, what not?' and hey! if you had not had all that trouble with the church in your early years, would you have done the remarkable research into religious origins that you have indeed accomplished. Thanks for sharing this. I've truly benefited from it.

            ending
            I'm not sure whether this is going to work. I will still feel like I'm 'in the pews' wondering whether the 'priest' will allow me to say what I want to say...Maybe I can really get back to my book -on paradox-because it at least attempts to place philosophy, etc. within a 'lived context'. (As an alternative even to Post-modernism!!!!).....

            loreenlee
            19 minutes ago
            Pending
            Wow! Unbelievable. I'm glad I 'dared to post'. I've got some studying to do.

            loreenlee
            19 minutes ago
            Pending
            A final? self-referential inquiry?

            Perhaps I really do fine this 'moderation' worse than an outright ban!!! Have you ever heard of Pyrrhic Doubt?

          • Will

            FWIW I understood this much better than the last comment :)

            Yes, as in a comment I made on these sites EN and SN perhaps they are set up in such a way that 'competition' (because of the inherent tendency of such argument to be in some way 'coercive' - even if only perceived as such), is perhaps extended beyond a physical to a psychological survival - as per your fourth point.

            Yes, these two sites represent competition between two major belief systems. Both sides tend to be a bit coercive at times, often out of frustration as to why the other side doesn't agree with them.

            Perhaps I really do fine this 'moderation' worse than an outright ban!!!

            Having to wait, then not know if a post will go through can be pretty annoying, I imagine.

          • Silence is perhaps better than 'coercion' of any form. But since your comment I have related to Wittgenstein's - there is no private language. Indeed the expression of the 'self' - that is one's thought continuity- could perhaps necessarily be incoherent to another. As it is indeed thought to be in cases of 'madness'. But this is 'exactly' what the post-moderns are onto. I shall therefore continue in the expression of the interior thought processes, of which, may I suggest many have not even the slightest awareness. Do you possibly understand now what for instance, Finnegan's Wake is about, etc. etc. Try reading it. And yet it is recognized as 'genius'..... Have you ever truly tried to understand some of these post-moderns. That for instance - 'schizophrenia' is the answer to the dilemna of Capitalism. A needed appreciation perhaps for the 'divine madness'
            or the opposite - a cancellation of all universals, the logos, etc. etc. - which I guess would be the opposite direction to what they hope to find with that computer....
            Did you or did you not find this incoherent. Just testing. yes. or no????? Do I have to monitor my thoughts when I speak with 'others'...In any case. I have enjoyed your company.....

          • William. I now understand what it means to be 'in the flow'.....here is where my thought hooked up - https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/831/items/1.0097499
            Yes. This is 'my territory' and when I went on my last vacation to read Heidegger the first words I ran into is the necessity to go back and study the tradition, which is how I got to this site in the first place. And yet this Europe which has produced this..?? from Charlie Hebdo to deconstruction - now is hosting the resurgence of Islam.....The concerns of these sites for me, pale in comparison to what 'is happening'. Perhaps everyone on these sites is more into 'themselves' in an egotist way than I am!!! (Irony?? - Ah take it for what you will - that's not my problem....) The deconstruction even of logic - think of it..... let the computer do it? Or what?????? (P.S. the Irony of Finnegan's Wake is that it tells the tale of his awakening as he recounts the travails of humanity as a Corpse....... I hope you're laughing?????)

          • Solving the 'problem' of nihilism. Nihilism - to have no value? to be empty? etc. etc. What would be considered nihilistic- the idea that the lack of value, happiness, etc we find in this 'life'. has to be supplemented by an abstract, or real 'nothingness' of Being that exists even beyond space and time? or that it is( the lack) (edit: the very existence) of such a direction towards absolute value that 'ought' (meaning a nothingness) to be considered as an expression of 'nihilism'. Is this thought coherent to you??????
            Edit: Explanation. I now see how I get into these dilemma's that others observe as 'incoherence'. It is non intentional on my part. Perhaps it is age, but I miss some sort of transition that happens between my 'idea' and its expression. This example above, in which I have upon a rereading noted the error, demonstrates this tendency. Very interesting for me to find evidence of this thought process.

          • William. I hope you take this as 'sharing' and not 'using' you as a tool. But all of you respected the difficulties Luke found himself in, so...I continue. Here is what I just posted on EN.

            Quote: Moderation actions (other than those done with the permission of affected users) will be recorded here.

            Has this indeed been the criteria with respect to the deleted posts? And also: would you consider my comments to be that of a naturalist, a theist, an atheist? what? If you don't wish to reply to any of the above, I would appreciate you putting into effect a ban, because it would be much easier for me to deal with than the present situation. I do, however, assure you that I have my own 'opinion' of these matters.
            But really do you expect that any of this 'matters' in the long run?

            I will check to see you have indeed put a ban into effect, which would include I would expect a publication of this comment? But if not, perhaps I can have the same 'respect' for your perspective as you 'seem' to have for mine?

            May the 'force' be with you....

            Actually, William. It 'feel's like a form of gas-lighting???? it is also interesting that Brandon has never questioned or deleted any of my comments. Possibly I'm more christian than I sometimes really expect others will agree with --- changes in the tradition, etc. etc. and of course, Christianity, despite what any of you think, does still constitutes the 'substance' of all Western philosophy, - in case you haven't 'really' acknowledged this..... It's pretty difficult to escape.the influence of Aristotle and Plato....(You might ask at this point what deconstruction is all about????!!!! Well maybe that's the explanation of my 'incoherence'....)

          • William. May I make a 'closing' request, that you read once again the corrected explanation of the problem of nihilism. It is possible that this has something to do with my interest in the attempts to -depolarize- language. Thanks. Take care.

          • Will

            I read it, but I can't help but believe that values are a human invention, though an extremely important invention. The non-existence of objective values is the reason why they are all over the map in various cultures, though we are hardwired to value the lives of tribe members (psychopaths aside), so there is some convergence there and on things like monogamy. Even though I believe nihilism is true, objectively speaking; I also believe that a value system is THE most important mental construct there is. The world of human beings is built on value systems, thus they are fundamental not only to mental health (true nihilism can cause serious depression) but also the functioning of society. Imagine if we all suddenly believed that money had no value (without the belief that fiat currency has value, it wouldn't actually have any value). I'm sure there is a paradox in there somewhere, paradoxes can definitely lead to the appearance of incoherence ;)

            Edit to add: I do think we can say objective things about value systems, typically via a utilitarian or systems approach, but that, of course, doesn't make the value system itself objective.

          • I just found it interesting that I couldn't get around this expression of incoherence without including the word 'existence' to refer to - non-existing absolute - beyond space and time - values. That's it in a/the 'nutty-shell' of my own madness, even as they may be expressed in a 'koan'. Will the post-moderns be able to successfully 'deconstruct'? That was the 'problematic' which as Heidegger suggested, required a thorough understanding of 'the past' (edit: and language) and thus brought me here to this site. I said I was 'bored' with the debate. This, unfortunately, is a misnomer but I didn't want to offend by saying that I didn't feel that 'debate' (alone?) was a 'solution'. But I am fully aware within my own experience of the need to work out one's personal issues, even according to the 'spirit of the times'. Literature, as per the example of Elliot, may allow more 'freedom' for this continued attempt on my part to examine the 'workings' of 'language', particularly as expression of these thought experiments towards 'intentional awareness' .....I am going to re-allow access to my Disquis account, after I post this comment, and then????? If anyone can learn from the errors of 'my way', they are perfectly welcome to examine my 'incoherence'.

          • Quote: I do think we can say objective things about value systems, typically via a utilitarian or systems approach, but that, of course, doesn't make the value system itself objective.

            The basis of my Post-Modern 'Structuralism'. Was also reviewing the work of John McCumber - Poetic Interaction and other works. You may be interested in researching these? On hopefully my last visit to EN, I believe it would not be possible to have pro-structuralist accounts posted on that site, let alone any Catholic or Christian, or even religious expression posted. No. I believe now, quite definitely, that the exclusion was multi-faceted, but that the deepening personal character of my posts has had the same effect on this site as well. Thus, with respect to your comment on self-doubt regarding possible motivations for what is posted on each site, I'm sure you realize that the mind engages not only within its own dynamics but within the framework of 'externals'. Our ability to adapt is 'phenomenal'. And I believe this is now confirmed 'scientifically', particularly with respect to the major portion of our thinking which is sub-or-un-conscious. I aware that I am not alone with respect to attempts to expand Buddhist mindfulness techniques, because of this. But, yes, if you wish confirmation, I have noticed this, as well as other observations that I would not publish. Indeed, (another comment not published by the OV-L)) I intend to join a mental-health group as a facilitator 'in recovery' , particularly with respect to my now confirmed 'opinion' that participation in what the 'unavoidable conflict' between SN-EN generates for me, is not beneficial, especially as exacerbated by the forms of dialogue engaged in. It will be far more 'healthy' for me to be among those who are aware that such internal conflicts cannot be overcome through the politicization of any form of spiritual distress, be that an individual or cultural Jihad!....As Father Barron expressed on his latest Word on Fire video, there is a real problem with the 'revenge motive' at this particular time in history. Interestingly, a thought that I too had come to shortly before I had the opportunity to hear what he had to say about a film on this subject. It's OK. William. No one here has to be my friend, let alone my enemy: a subject within itself, I believe, which could benefit from critical/Buddhist intentional self-analysis. Take care.

          • So. William. I raise the question of 'struggle' and immediately run into the following video. Judaism: struggle Christianity: following Islam: submission????? God defined for the purpose of this video: complete awareness of all that unconscious/subconscious thought - complete control as freedom: Hegel: freedom is the recognition of 'necessity' even. (Some remarks on child-raising, and I found comparisons with Jesus as always being tempted, and even the Eucharist, but am especially interested in the way they analyze, interpret the OT. I shall be with Judaic thought for some time - Derrida was a structuralist I believe. And there is structure in language that is not within our 'control'.... You may or may not be interested: Jewish terminology was also difficult as well as the structures of the Kabbalah...But I shall continue this study. http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/3184491/jewish/The-Greatness-of-the-Struggle.htm

          • Just ran across this by accident? I find it interesting, (more left brain/right brain stuff) but it doesn't quite fit into the 'axial age' theory which speculates? that this development of consciousness took place over a longer period of time, being concurrent with the respective developments of philosophy and religion. (Interesting that even today Catholicism and Buddhism, for instance are in disagreement as to which element within reflective consciousness should be emphasized?) Note what Dennet and Hitchens? say about these theories. I would also speculate that there may not be an absolute left-right brain division. I also believe that science will be better able to provide help in such 'discoveries' hopefully sooner than not. Anyway I now have another lead, and it's nice to feel that these interests do have a common focus. So this would suggest just another approach to the question raised in this OP. The mental health groups I'm interested in, and I'm not the only 'philosopher' there, also hold firmly to the belief that such 'phenomena' as hearing voices and hallucinations are far more common than is acknowledged. Indeed that some current characteristics of phenomena labeled as schizophrenia, etc. are failed attempts within the progression towards another 'axial age'!!!! Isn't philosophy 'fun'..... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism_%28psychology%29

          • Well, I posted for Lazarus, this same name given as a title song from Bowie's last album. I questioned the meaning as usual, (another Finnegan's Wake?) and yes, according to his 'occult' beliefs, !!! (or luck??) my 'research' has paid off. I'm just kind of amused at the moment, at any supposition made by Scientism??? whatever, that beliefs in religion, occultism, etc. etc. etc. are in any way going to 'go away' as easily as I imagine they think is possible, at least as far as these observations of mine will allow me to believe. Yet, there's this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/how-the-internet-is-killing-american-christianity/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Pan%20Patheos%20011315%20%281%29&utm_content=&spMailingID=50456911&spUserID=NjM1MDAxMjE3ODES1&spJobID=841756386&spReportId=ODQxNzU2Mzg2S0
            Yet, what a world this is? For is there not even a kind of 'magical' hope, illusion, or what? perhaps to be found in the kind of expectation within 'Scientism'. that such 'imaginative' - thought can be 'silenced'???....No Bowie was certainly not a linear thinker. Artistic creative thought at least finds correlations that 'logical' thought as it is defined, would not expect. And I believe this is why even Einstein had such respect for 'imagination'... I really am L0L. I really must remember to celebrate my madness, and hopefully learn how particular sequences of thoughts or juxtapositions arise (even from the life experiences that produce psychosis, etc. etc.) Again I leave you with a song. Enjoy a bit of Bowie's 'magic'.....http://www.patheos.com/blogs/themediawitches/2016/01/david-bowie-mystic-magician-wizard-shaman-shape-shifter-pagan-god/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Pan%20Patheos%20011315%20%281%29&utm_content=&spMailingID=50456911&spUserID=NjM1MDAxMjE3ODES1&spJobID=841756386&spReportId=ODQxNzU2Mzg2S0

          • Just posted the following on EN. Do you think that such a 'critique' (hopefully it will not be thought of as 'criticism') will be accepted?

  • Lazarus

    I personally believe that theism uses philosophy where it can do so to support any of its tenets, but that it ultimately still does so using philosophy as a "handmaiden", a tool to be used or discarded as circumstances require.

    I have been on holiday these last three weeks, and I have managed to do a lot of reading in that time, amongst others a lot of philosophy old and new. In this time I also realized that I have in fact lost my faith, that I am trying to hang on to remnants of what was. My reasons are the usual suspects, and philosophy played a big role in arriving at this decision. I am not going to bore you with the details. Some of my friends who could be bothered to read religious blogs tell me that my decision can be seen, anticipated, in some of my posts over the last few weeks.

    So, assuming that I am allowed to do so, and assuming that I actually remain interested in posting at all, I will in future be posting for the other team. The discussion, the topic, remains fascinating and of great importance for me.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Hi Lazarus,

      I can only admit to chagrin, as this represents the loss of another very intelligent and compassionate voice within the Church. Nonetheless, I will take it as a silver lining that this also entails an increase in voices of intelligence and compassion outside of the Church walls, and I am sure that that, in itself, is a good thing.

      I hope you do continue to participate here.

      --Jim

      • Will

        You were right about a certain previous situation, I see that now. My goal was to help, but the kind of help I have been wanted to accomplish can't be done in this kind of setting.
        After some soul searching, I have found that I simply cannot respect Christianity intellectually. Since belief systems are so often melding into a persons sense of sense, this prevents me from properly respecting Christians in conversation, thus I will no longer be participating in these kinds of discussions. I also think it is better for me to completely move past Christianity because of my background.

        Just fyi, I've been considering deleting my old disqus account for a while. I've grown a lot since I created it many years ago, and it contains a record of a past self who said a great number of ugly and disrespectful things, thankfully disqus has a "nuke" button, as manually removing such things would have taken...forever.

        Thanks for taking your time to try to show me your point of view, and I do hope the Catholics who frequent this site realize that it's is functionally an counterproductive to your evangelizing goals. Why? Because Christianity isn't true, sorry. I know of 3 people, personally who have lost faith from conversations on this site (heard of more), and no one who has gained it. That's a serious losing streak.
        I also agree with Lazarus that religion exploits philosophy as a tool, and I have expressed my frustration about that more than once. I retain an interest in philosophy, and one day I might try to find a site where "real" philosophy (sorry, but I consider Catholic philosophy to be polluted and abused as a tool for mind control) is discussed. Otherwise than our serious disagreement about Christianity, it has been very nice to have met you, and I hope you have a pleasant life.

      • Lazarus

        Thank you, Jim. I will most probably continue to participate here. My only reservation really lies with the very concept of these combox discussions, not with this site. Do we really make a difference, are we deriving or imparting any benefit? Could an hour spent doing this not be better spent elsewhere? These are just my own cranky reflections, and I'm sure that moderation and balance will prove to be the key.

        • Will

          Do we really make a difference, are we deriving or imparting any benefit? Could an hour spent doing this not be better spent elsewhere? These are just my own cranky reflections, and I'm sure that moderation and balance will prove to be the key.

          It is currently my belief that the hours will be better spent elsewhere, take that for whatever it is worth to you.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Don't leave Laz! Especially now that you have fallen to the dark side.

          I don't regret the time I spend online (I do cut back on occasion). I meet interesting people, get book recommendations that I wouldn't otherwise have read, learn things, get alcohol recommendations, and usually have a good time. So, at the very least I am deriving a benefit. Edit: As to anyone else deriving a benefit from my rambling - who knows?

          I don't look at internet conversations as a way to change people's minds - I think that sort of change happened imperceptibly for the most part.

          • Lazarus

            It's not a whine from my side, I just wonder why we do it.
            But you're right, all in the right perspective.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It would definitely be a loss for all sides to lose a guy that uses Nucky Thompson as his avatar.

            Maybe we need a post on the moral landscape of Boardwalk Empire.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is true. Great show.

        • Rob Abney

          Lord, behold, he whom thou loves is sick.
          And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.

          • Lazarus

            Thank you, Rob.
            I know you mean well, and I take your words in that context, but to call my carefully considered decision and refer to it as "sickness" is ill-considered and unhelpful. It also shows that you have absolutely no idea what I am saying. But thanks anyway.

          • Rob Abney

            That is from the Gospel of John, when Lazarus is raised from the dead, demonstrating Jesus' power over all problems including death. You must have (or had) some affinity to the story since you chose that as your internet name?

          • Lazarus

            I have great affinity with the story, despite some of the more obvious moral difficulties one may have with it. I understood your allusion, but it still very pertinently refers to me being sick. I repeat that I do not think that it is a helpful reference. Non-believers are not ill.

            How would you react to a Muslim calling you sick because you do not believe in the one true God?

            Again, I am not arguing with you, but we need to be cautious in using some of the metaphors and allusions that we do.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe I don't understand what you are saying, what are the moral difficulties one could have with the Lazarus story?

          • Lazarus

            There are many potential difficulties, often only resolved by one's preconceptions.

            Let's look at a few of those difficulties, leaving the story intact and without any amendment.

            Why does Jesus delay the healing? Is it morally acceptable to do so in order to create a stage to showcase God's power? Is it morally acceptable for Jesus to put people that he knew and loved through such orchestrated pain? What would we think of a doctor that delays curing her patient for such a reason?

            What is the point that Jesus seeks to make through this event? Why does he show his powers to resurrect the dead, or revive then, if you will, in the broad light of day in front of a crowd, but his own resurrection (the acceptance or rejection of which decides our eternal destinies) happens under cover of darkness, a secret, unwitnessed event?

            Why does Jesus limit his powers to this one event (or three, if you count the other reported events)? Why are other deaths, or even some of them, during the last 2000 years not regarded as worthy of similar attention? Why do those onlookers get a show of such power, but for the next 2000 years we have nothing.

            Why is such resurrection / revival dependent upon "believing" in Jesus, whatever that means? If Jesus has these powers, why not make these available to all people? Or at least to all "good"people? Why is it a trade-off?

            I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

          • Rob Abney

            Why does Jesus delay the healing? Is it morally acceptable to do so in order to create a stage to showcase God's power? Is it morally acceptable for Jesus to put people that he knew and loved through such orchestrated pain? What would we think of a doctor that delays curing her patient for such a reason?

            Those objections are univocal, judging God by our own standards. Many of the jews who were with him had similar concerns but they were judging him as a man. If you judge him only as a man then you can choose your own standards such as moral standards.

            So, I do have preconceptions, we've been told that he is God, so I think that we should judge him by standards other than human standards.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            So, I do have preconceptions, we've been told that he is God, so I think that we should judge him by standards other than human standards.

            Since we are on the topic of reasons for deconversions: this was one of the reasons that Kant was so very damaging to my own Faith. _If_ we are to judge Good as something that is Objective, something Universal (as Kant would, and as I was taught it should be), then we find ourselves in a difficult place. Clearly God, even the rather more approachable NT Jesus, is not Good, not Good like you or I would judge Good. Yet God is defined as Good, so defining Good for God as different than Good for you or I, where then is the Objectivity?

            C. S. Lewis was very aware of the problem when he penned his Problem of Pain (emphasis mine):

            "IF God were good, He would wish to make His creatures
            perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both." This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form. The possibility of answering it depends on showing that the terms "good" and "almighty"; and perhaps also
            the term "happy" are equivocal: for it must he admitted from the outset that if the popular meanings attached to these words are the best, or the only possible, meanings, then the argument is unanswerable.
            In this chapter I shall make some comments on the idea of Omnipotence, and, in the following, some on the idea of Goodness."

          • Rob Abney

            Darren, that sounds like an interesting read from CS Lewis, I'd be happy to hear how he resolved the problem for himself.
            Maybe the difference is that God is goodness not that God is good. If God is not goodness itself then we have to compare him to some other standard of goodness, what standard is it?

          • Darren

            The whole piece from Lewis. Enjoy.

            As to how Lewis resolves the issue? IMO he ignores every consideration or facet that doesn’t support the answer he already wanted to get*, but YMMV.

            * - such as, if God’s Omniscience/Omnipotence is limited by the laws of Metaphysics, which is what we say when we say he cannot, for whatever reason, create a world with no, or even less, Evil, or that he simply acts according to his Nature, or pick your preferred excuse, then from whence came these laws of Metaphysics?

          • David Nickol

            Why does Jesus delay the healing? Is it morally acceptable to do so in order to create a stage to showcase God's power?

            A very similar question arises when God "hardens Pharaoh's heart" so that he (Pharaoh) does not give in to the demands of Moses, which hardness of heart is punished by plagues as a means for God to display his power.

            It seems to me you have a dilemma with the story of Lazarus (and a great many other stories about God and Jesus). If you take the story as a faithful account of actual events, then you can raise all kinds of questions about it. But if you take it as a faithful account of actual events, you also have a man (Jesus) who can raise the dead and will eventually rise from the dead himself.

            It seems to me that the only possible position is to give up the idea that the Gospels are faithful accounts of actual events. This is what modern biblical scholarship is really all about, and there is no shortage of intelligent, faithful Christians who accept modern biblical scholarship without rejecting Christianity. Of course, on the other hand, I think modern biblical scholarship can be a great source of disillusionment, and I would imagine there are also many who have lost their faith due to it. I am very much a fence sitter on just about every important question, but I am fully convinced of the value of modern biblical scholarship, so if there is to be any Christian faith for me, it has to be compatible with modern biblical scholarship.

          • David Nickol

            I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was very impressed with the handling of Buffy's "resurrection." Willow and the gang bring Buffy back to life, and to make a very long story short, it is clear that Buffy is hiding something, and we eventually find out a devastating truth. Buffy was at peace in the afterlife, and her friends have unthinkingly brought her back to life without ever considering the consequences for Buffy. They have definitely not done Buffy a favor.

            Accepting for a moment that the Gospels are true, Lazarus had to die again, and all the people Jesus brought back to life or cured of various illnesses nevertheless had to die.

          • Rob Abney

            The main point of all the gospels, (if I can be so bold), is that they have to die a physical death again but no longer an eternal death.

          • David Nickol

            But nobody ever died an eternal death or had to die an eternal death. Adam and Eve (as I understand it) were created with immortal souls. It seems unlikely (based on Genesis) that they were immune from physical death, otherwise why would God worry that they would eat from the tree of life and live forever?

          • Rob Abney

            You always confound me with this one.

            Here's my answer, humans have always had immaterial, eternal souls but with Baptism the soul is changed so that our final cause (purpose) is now the Kingdom of God.

            CCC 1726: ...the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom, the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God

          • Lazarus

            Indeed. That scholarship has watered down the Gospels to such an extent that to base your life on the content thereof becomes an act of willful selectivity, in my view a wish to believe regardless of the evidence. John P. Meier, who I greatly admire, concludes in the latest volume of his "Marginal Jew" series that (iirc) there are something like four or five of the parables of Jesus that we can accept with confidence as being historical events.

            Sure, there are respected modern Christian scholars that find an authentic faith in the NT, but even then anything like a wholesale acceptance of the NT seems unwarranted. I am no longer prepared to, or able, to go through that effort.

          • Rob Abney

            What is the level of evidence required in the court system where you practice?Beyond a reasonable doubt or something less?
            What degree of evidence do you require for making your own judgements?
            I only ask because it seems to have changed, if only by a small degree but enough to tip the scales.

          • Lazarus

            The evidentiary burden is the standard English / US ones of reasonable doubt in criminal matters and balance of probabilities in civil / commercial matters.

            In my personal life I most certainly do not have a set, rigid formula whereby I make judgments, and I doubt whether anyone does. If you recommend a new ice cream to me I may try that on no other evidence than my love of ice cream. I will need better and more reliable evidence when I buy a car, a house, or consult a medical specialist.

            My requirements for keeping my faith have not changed. If anything, those standards were lowered over time as I tried to hang on. I'm not sure that I have addressed your question adequately?

          • Rob Abney

            You are correct that we usually don't decide on the amount of evidence we need for daily decisions, although I would guess that most people require probable cause or preponderance of evidence and most people rarely require clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt levels of evidence.
            I like jimhillclimbers responses to you regarding the new testament because that sort of evidence is less legalistic and more phenomenological. Did you finish the book on Phenomenology before your deconversion?

          • Lazarus

            No, I'm still busy with all three of those.
            And remember that I have also read Newman's "Grammar of Assent".

          • Rob Abney

            Do you recommend Newman to help find the truth?

          • Lazarus

            GoA is a wonderful apologetic work. I would think that it states the case for the acceptance of faith as well as I've ever seen. To that extent, yes, I would certainly recommend GoA. Newman in general - still yes, but of course he can be rather dreary and plodding.

            The problem with Newman, or any apologetic work, is of course that it still leaves that final leap up to faith, that assent that has to be given. To what extent then Newman manages to lead one to the truth would vary widely, and I will leave that to the individual reader to judge.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm a bit surprised to see you write this. In what sense does Meier's scholarship (or similar) "water down" the Gospels? It's one thing to acknowledge that there is very little in the Gospels that can be historically proven, and quite another to suggest that the Gospels should be reduced to the elements that can be historically proven. I accept that the details of Jesus's life are mostly unknown to history, available to us only to the extent that we accept the testimony from a community of believers. But, so what?

            That community went on to generate some supremely compelling theology, to say nothing of their more direct practical impact on the world. So what I want to know is, how did the experience of Jesus's life and death and ... whatever else, how did that experience shape the lives of that early community of believers. How did they understand it? How did it affect the way that they looked at the world, and so forth. It seems that there is no better way to understand their experience of Jesus (leaving aside the historically unresolvable question of whether they were experiencing something "real" in the Resurrection) than to read everything that they, as a community, affirmed about that experience, whether it is historically confirmable or not.

            Maybe you could expand on what you mean by "wholesale acceptance of the NT" ?

          • Lazarus

            My problem is one of authenticity, not probability.
            As historians we can assess two or more propositions and come to a most probable conclusion. When however I build my entire life around those texts, when it is a message from the creator of the universe, when it lays the foundation for my personal relationship with Jesus, then I want more than a bleak "this is probable". I want to accept, albeit on faith, that most of what I believe, most of what I accept as accurate to the point where I dedicate my life to that person, that religion, is indeed accurate and reliable.

            Given NT scholarship I no longer can give my assent at that level.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not sure if you and I simply have different requirements, or if we are talking about two different things. If you require something that is accurate and reliable in the sense that it would allow you to reconstruct some "objective" account of "what actually happened", then I respect that (and I agree that it is not possible), but that is heading off in a different direction from what interests me. All I require (I'm easy) is that the accounts accurately convey the experience of Jesus's disciples and of the early Church. I do need to make a decision as to whether I can trust the competence and the integrity of that community, but I don't require that I be able to disentangle their interior experience of Jesus from "what objectively happened". I'm not sure if that sort of disentanglement is ever possible when we are talking about so-called "transcendent" experiences, and if it is, I don't think it is especially desirable. I think our orientation to truth is properly relational and participatory, as opposed to something where we put truth on the table and examine it as would-be detached observers. In my view the latter type of epistemology is problematic.

            All that is to ask: are you doubting that the texts are authentic representations of the experience of a community, or are you merely doubting whether one can reconstruct some objective account of what happened?

          • Lazarus

            I doubt whether we can reconstruct enough of what happened there, what was said there, to be able to authentically devote our lives to what we read there.

            I'm not sure that I am making myself clear. Maybe an example will help. We read an NT passage at Mass, a homily is delivered based on that, and normally I would have reflected on that passage (sometimes for days) and most certainly I would have applied that parable or that lesson to my own life, or at least try to.

            When the deconstruction of the NT however takes place, when we see what even Catholic scholars say about the probability of some of these events ever having happened, when we see what Ehrman tells us about how those sausages were made - what remains? The texts are not authentic representations of historical events, certainly not according to NT scholarship in general.

            Am I applying a true and accurate saying of Jesus to my life, or am I living some interpolation, some literary creation that simply suited a community's agenda at the time? How can we tell the difference? Why should that burden be placed on the follower of Jesus at all in any event?

            I just made it even murkier, haven't I?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That actually clarifies your position, thanks.

            My epistemology does have a very different flavor from yours, but no need to resolve this all today.

            Thanks for the dialogue.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Of course I can't shut up once I get going ... maybe I will just offer this for now ...

            I look at the gospels much in the same way that I look at this painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner:

            http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/AfricanAmerican/artwork/87643

            I can crane my neck all I want and I will never be able to peer into the tomb in that painting. In a similar way, I don't go to the NT expecting to be able to "look into the empty tomb". I read the NT and what I see is a very peculiar and distinctive light reflecting off of people -- sometimes dimly, as with Peter in the painting, other times more brightly, as with John in the painting. I want to know more about the source of the light and I want to get closer to it, but I guess I find the reflected light to be "good enough for now". Again, maybe I am just too easy :-)

          • Lazarus

            I don't think you're "easy" in a negative sense. I think that maybe you want to see certain things. Would you bring that same willingness to scrounge up your eyes and turn your head just so in order to see Mohamed's light? Or Krishna's?

            Or maybe you see something that I no longer can see. Maybe my light detectors have grown faulty.

            Please understand that I have been, and remain, perfectly willing to accept and live a mystery religion. I do not expect, or even want all my questions answered. I would find that most suspicious. But, for me at least, once you see too many piano wires and duct tape, the mystery disappears.

          • David Nickol

            All that is to ask: are you doubting that the texts are authentic representations of the experience of a community, or are you merely doubting whether one can reconstruct some objective account of what happened?

            It is not as if—when it comes to modern biblical scholarship—there are no reasonable approaches to the New Testament (and the Bible in general) which serve to support Christian faith. It is that many of us who received a Catholic education and later discovered modern biblical scholarship feel not just disillusioned but feel (quite rightly, in my opinion) that we were taught something false. And furthermore, to speak in very Catholic terms, those who taught us falsely were guilty of "vincible ignorance." They should have known better. In his introduction to Raymond F. Collins's Introduction to the New Testament, John P. Meier says,

            If Catholic biblicists today are able to pursue their studies in complete freedom and integrity, it is due largely to the sometimes unknown, often persecuted scholars who preceded them. . . .

            In particular, it must be admitted that Catholic biblical scholars of the fifties still worked under the cloud of possible reprisals. Let us not forget that such threats became realities for a short period toward the end of the reign of Pope Pius XII (died 1958) and during the tenure of Pope John XXIII (1958–63). For all his many fine qualities, John XXIII was not overly fond of critical biblical research. It was only the accession of Pope Paul VI (1963) and the acceptance of the revised schema of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (1965) which truly set Catholic biblicists free. Considering the insecure position of the pioneers, we need not be surprised that the Catholic introductions of the fifties now strike us as apologetic or even polemical in tone. There is a great desire to defend traditional attributions of authorship, and a somewhat uncritical appeal to the opinions of the early Fathers of the Church. Granted, some of these tomes from the fifties have since been revised. Still perhaps what Catholic biblical scholarship needs is the fresh start Fr. Collins offers in the present volume.

            There is, of course, widespread disapproval today among "conservative" Catholics for the works of most renowned Catholic biblical scholars (Raymond E. Brown being the most notable example) and among ultraconservatives, even Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) is accused of heresy!

            One can hardly blame those who were educated in the 1950s and before (or later than that, but in the manner of the 1950s) for reacting to modern biblical scholarship (if they take it seriously) by feeling they have had the rug pulled out from under them. They have!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No disagreement from me on any of those points.

          • Will

            I found your calling Lazarus "sick" offensive as well. To think I feel guilty about pleading for compassion over what I believed to be someone else's psychological differences...
            It's precisely this kind of stuff that makes me think these combox discussions are largely a pointless exercise in frustration.

          • Rob Abney

            Consider it in context, it's not a declarative statement about the internet poster named Lazarus, its a biblical text about the event from which he chose his internet name. It's about Jesus in both situations it's not about Lazarus in either situation.

            Regarding the OP and the relevance to these issues: philosophy and reason are man's way of searching for God but revelation and faith are God's way of searching for us.

          • Will

            Consider it in context, it's not a declarative statement about the internet poster named Lazarus, its a biblical text about the event from which he chose his internet name. It's about Jesus in both situations it's not about Lazarus in either situation.

            I know, it's an insinuation, not a declarative statement.

            Regarding the OP and the relevance to these issues: philosophy and reason are man's way of searching for God but revelation and faith are God's way of searching for us.

            I suspect you know I don't agree with that, but no point in beating that dead horse :)

            I'll take you at your word that you weren't trying to be offensive, but it is difficult for me to imagine what else you had on your mind, other than Laz being sick, when you wrote it.

    • Will

      Hi Laz. I left you a post at the "other" place that is awaiting moderation, so I don't want to repeat myself. Just in case, I just wanted to let you know that I'm moving on from these kinds of conversations for a variety of reason, some of which I have listed with this new, fresh account. I want to reiterate that it was very nice meeting you, and I do intend to stop by the "other" place from time to time, just to say high. If you are still around here I will do the same. I wish you all the best :)

      • Lazarus

        Hi William

        Thank you, and all the best to you, old friend.
        We will talk more later.

    • Rob Abney

      Sorry to hear that you've had a change of heart, unfortunately you seem to be saying that you don't agree with the reasoning behind theism so all that was left was your heart. Hearts can be fickle, especially when the path is narrow. If you've been reading Lonergan then you are familiar with the idea that our longing for perfect truth is one way of providing evidence for transmateriality, and St Augustine's well known paraphrased exclamation that our hearts will be restless until they find that perfect intelligibility (truth).

      • Lazarus

        Yes, and the problem arises when that "truth" is no longer perceived and experienced as truth. When trying to convince yourself that it is the truth becomes an impossible and deceitful task. That's when you have a problem.

        • Rob Abney

          Neither the Lonergan quote nor the Augustine quote alluded to the "truth", instead it was a matter of the fact that even if we don't find it we universally long for the perfect truth.
          I think that is in line with your seeking.

    • I suspect there are multiple people for whom the details would not be a bore. I have no need to argue about your reasons, but I am curious as to what the most important reasons were. You are a thoughtful person, and I like hearing what thoughtful persons think, even if I disagree with them.

      • Lazarus

        Hi Luke

        I don't want to derail the thread with something as off-topic as this, that is my only concern. If SN had an open thread I would have posted it there.

        I suppose my deconversion is a death by a thousand cuts. The problem of evil features large in that, as you can imagine, with particular focus on natural evil, animal predation and so forth. John Loftus wrote a devastating essay on it in one of his anthologies. This is a problem not clearly understood by many theists. The so-called solutions to the PoE are simply no longer convincing. And regardless of the old chestnuts, why is all this suffering allowed to continue, day after day? For the glory of God? To make us better people? Mysterious ways? And yes, I have read the reasons, from Plantinga to Craig to Murray. No cigar, no more.

        But there are many many other reasons. I have started struggling with the entire concept of Jesus. A relationship with someone who I have never seen, who I am no longer particularly convinced even existed. Have a look at NT scholarship. What can still be believed with any integrity as far as the life and words of Jesus? The entire process of trying to keep the NT afloat is just becoming too much, for me, to be a part of.

        Prayer is another big problem. Read up on the real moral and ethical problems of petitionary prayer, over and above the issues with the efficacy thereof. This is not a "dry" spell, this is a lack of confidence, this is a lack of faith. For me, the heavens are silent, empty, when I pray. For months now I have been fooling myself that my prayers can simply be the silent, contemplative ones. It is a farce.

        Even with Christianity on its own version I have serious problems. Why would the resurrection, upon which the salvation of the entire human race depends, be such a secret affair? Why is the NT such a cobbled together, copied, derivative mess? Why did the vast majority of Jews in Jesus's time reject him? Why do we have to be so acrobatic to try and make sense of Original Sin? How hard should we try, how long should we try to make excuses for, or ignore, the atrocities of the OT? Why is faith so necessary, such a virtue? I can go on for an hour. Or two. I am tired of trying to keep those balls in the air. I continue to understand why so many people can rationally arrive at a place where they accept Christianity, and I will never be an evangelical atheist. I understand and respect both sides too well.

        Christianity has many beautiful, even powerful aspects to it, and I will always be grateful for the guidance and lessons I have received from it. I can however no longer with any integrity call myself a Christian.

        • Thanks, Lazarus. Maybe a few months down the line, I will ask you about whether you've discovered better answers to questions Christianity attempts to answer, vs. figured out that those questions simply don't have answers. I'm sure it'll be some of each. For now, my guess is that you have enough to think about!

          • Lazarus

            Thank you Luke. I look forward to that.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Well said, Laz.

          The so-called solutions to the PoE are simply no longer convincing. And regardless of the old chestnuts, why is all this suffering allowed to continue, day after day? For the glory of God? To make us better people? Mysterious ways? And yes, I have read the reasons, from Plantinga to Craig to Murray

          This. I'm not sure to what extent the PoE deconverted me, but I will say it will prevent me from going back. The theodicies are just not convincing.

          It seems to me that within Catholicism, the free will of the angels contradicts the free will theodicy. They didn't need to suffer in order to exercise free will.

          • Lazarus

            I am quite prepared to unconditionally grant free will, as perceived by classical theism, for purposes of debate. Even then there remains an unacceptable level of suffering in evidence.

            I sometimes listen to theodicies and wonder if some people are not theists simply because they do not adequately understand suffering : the extent, prevalence and instances thereof.

          • Rob Abney

            Have you read the Problem of Pain by CS Lewis, Darren linked to it below.
            "At every stage
            of religious development man may rebel, if not without violence to
            his own nature, yet without absurdity. He can close his spiritual
            eyes against the Numinous, if he is prepared to part company with
            half the great poets and prophets of his race, with his own
            childhood, with the richness and depth of uninhibited experience.
            He can regard the moral law as an illusion, and so cut himself off
            from the common ground of humanity. He can refuse to identify the
            Numinous with the righteous, and remain a barbarian, worshipping
            sexuality, or the dead, or the life-force, or the future. But the cost is
            heavy. And when we come to the last step of all, the historical
            Incarnation, the assurance is strongest of all. The story is strangely
            like many myths which have haunted religion from the first, and yet
            it is not like them. It is not transparent to the reason: we could not
            have invented it ourselves. It has not the suspicious a priori lucidity
            of Pantheism or of Newtonian physics. It has the seemingly
            arbitrary and idiosyncratic character which modern science is
            slowly teaching us to put up with in this wilful universe, where
            energy is made up in little parcels of a quantity no one could
            predict, where speed is not unlimited, where irreversible entropy
            gives time a real direction and the cosmos, no longer static or cyclic,
            moves like a drama from a real beginning to a real end. If any
            message from the core of reality ever were to reach us, we should
            expect to find in it just that unexpectedness, that wilful, dramatic
            anfractuosity which we find in the Christian faith. It has the master
            touch - the rough, male taste of reality, not made by us, or, indeed,
            for us, but hitting us in the face."

          • Lazarus

            I've read nearly all of Lewis, including the PoP. He arrives at a place where the God concept has huge problems, but he views the alternatives as being even more unacceptable. He is also completely unaware of the full extent of the problem of suffering, and hardly deals with the problem other than a few sweet anecdotes.

        • Darren

          The months leading up to and following my own sudden de-conversion. _That_ was not the most enjoyable time. The years upon years of hard questions unanswered, each diligently stacked up behind the dike of “trust not in your
          own understanding” and “God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise”. Till one day, a crack, and then in a span of hours one goes from Believer to Apostate. Where once was certainty, I now found myself suspended, Wylie Coyote style, above a metaphysical abyss of horrifying uncertainty.

          For me, the mental belief fell first, but the gut-level belief took weeks to unravel. To conclude that Hell is unjust, and unnecessary, and any God resorting to it was no God worthy of worship is not _quite_ the same thing as shedding the emotional conviction that such a malevolent entity actually existed and was casting a vengeful eye at one’s now apostate soul.

          That part gets better.

          The loss of continuity of identity that came hard on the
          heels of the departure of the soul was harder to accommodate. This will take you to the place that took me almost two years on my own to reach, take what comfort you will from it.

          After that, ponder the loss of The Future as a real place,
          and wonder that your previous Theistic model was actually a completely deterministic universe (if the Future is real, then how can the Present be anything but completely determined), and only now do you have actual Free Will.

          Best of luck and do not hesitate to ask if there is anything
          that I may do to assist.

          • Lazarus

            Thank you, Darren, that is very helpful. The Wil E. Coyote reference however is just absolutely hilarious, thanks for the laugh.

        • There are as well, I believe, as many contradictions within the philosophy of Nietzsche, for instance as their are in the NT. This includes statements that are ironical, poetic, and the expression perhaps of various emotions, etc. What it says to me however, is that the reason to study philosophy, philosophies of religion, etc. etc. is not to find out what is 'wrong with them', but to understand in what way we as 'humans' need to change, develop, transcend our condition, accept the contradictions and adversities, even of this world, (although the word 'accept' is a difficult one), etc. etc. If you can improve upon any of these solutions offered in face of the contradictions entailed with our life experience, please let us all know. i shall be waiting to read your work, or listen to your 'interpretation'....'truth', call it what you will. The best Lazarus. (P.S. I believe Nietzsche can be regarded as a true, or real, or genuine atheist, because as in what I believe to be the case of many New Atheists, he did not disallow, ignore, or run away from these 'issues') And even with the therapy required to 'overcome' PTSD and other traumas, it is imperative to 'confront' and 'overcome' the cause, which 'ironically' could be said, if you will allow a religious term, to involve a little forgiveness....or at least the development of a Buddhist or Stoic detachment, equanimity, and what do they call it - loving kindness....

          • Lazarus

            Yes indeed, our friend Nietzsche was often full of it. The difference however is that his work can guide us, if we so wish, or we can ignore it. It does not entail the acceptance of a personal deity, with whom one should have a personal relationship. I do not have to make internal and external excuses for Nietzsche for the pain and suffering I see around me every day.

            Thanks for your thoughts.

          • Ah! That's where you 'hit' upon it. Every since my childhood - fighting against being controlled by others, and yet still fighting to overcome my tendency to be a people pleaser, which can be traced to these early years of 'indoctrination'. But you can't simply protest - you have to understand, as with my attempt to trace the development of 'authority' among the 'priests', from even the OT. and of course, divine right of kings. same tradition. But also met an atheist, who I believe perhaps subconsciously insisted that a child would have to be told, emphatically, like, coercively, how to cross the street- that they could not, as per my argument, do such on their own - does this indicate a lack of intelligence or observation of others??? So this need to dominate others, is deeply ingrained, but perhaps is not the Will to Power over oneself- as now I interpret the meaning of Nietzsche. P.S. Am in the middle of such a clarification with the EN overlord, who doesn't want me to post that I 'await' his moderation even , or he will not publish, so l know its that and my incoherence. I'll have to keep my thoughts to myself - if he is indeed 'God'... Will I never find anyone who 'understands' me!! (This my irony again, if you will). Take care. Remember - nothing need be 'conclusive' - Oh Oh - even 'death'!!!!! Did I just 'utter' an absolute - a conclusion???? Paradox - self-reference- see how the God thing works???? I haven't found Nietzsche's answer to the death paradox...yet! Who needs 'fiction'!!!!

          • May I make a suggestion with respect to what you are speaking of regarding 'freedom': is it not possible that the idea that "ANY WORK or indeed person, whatever, can guide us, if we so wish,' and indeed it is even possible to 'ignore it'.... Yes, indeed, as I continue to experience. Learning 'how to be free' can be a life-time project!!!!
            Edit: Just made it a little less like a Sunday sermon, whatever, if you will allow that expression. Hope you understand this shift in 'power' relations!!! Lazarus. Oh! that will to power can be so 'subtle'...yes?

        • neil_pogi

          quote: ' I have started struggling with the entire concept of Jesus. A relationship with someone who I have never seen, who I am no longer particularly convinced even existed.' -- how come that you believe that Lucy, Luca, prebiotic soup, exist?

          Jesus' documents were faithfully recorded..2,000 years ago and yet you believe that those lucy,luca, prebiotic soup, existed billions of years ago, according to your timescale!! you've got a lot of blind faith to believe those things (never observed)!!

    • Lazarus! This must have been very difficult and I think your courage to follow the evidence and reason is to be applauded.

      I don't know how its going for you, but if you are struggling know that you are by no means alone. But I can assure you that a lack of beleif in a god, by no means leads one to feel a lack of purpose or love or appreciation of beauty, or a road to immorality.

      Rather, these things open up as real and right before you. I have found the more I engage as an atheist, the more I appreciate the world.

      Keep engaging, keep an open mind.

      Once you've had a chance to reflect on it a bit more I would love to hear your story, perhaps Brandon would accept a post.

      • Lazarus

        Thank you so much, Brian.

        I really do not experience any of the standard feelings or problems, at least so far. I have a few family members who are afraid of my "eternal destiny" but there seems to be no harm done. I have no doubt, no sense of dislocation or disorientation, maybe that just tells me that it's been over longer than what I realized it to be.

        I have no intention of causing any unease or controversy here at SN, and I simply recorded my deconversion to explain why my future participation would seem somewhat different from what it used to be ;) A deconversion story here may be regarded as inappropriate. I will however gladly share my experience where it is not regarded as out of place, but I will leave that for others to decide.

        • neil_pogi

          are you now ex-christian? pls clarify?

          • Lazarus

            Yes I am, see my earlier post on this thread.

          • neil_pogi

            so you believe now that:
            1. the 'self-replicating molecule' as the 'Creator' of the atheists?
            2. 'living things' evolve from 'non-living things'?
            3. 'unconscious' elements or matter, such as a rock, or earth, 'evolved' into different forms of life?
            4. life just arose 'naturally'?
            5. chaos evolved into order?

            1. was your 'self-replicating molecule' the idea of atheists before it was discovered in the 1950s?
            2. can you demonstrate in laboratory how the non-living things become living things?
            3. can you demonstrate in reality how 'unconscious' elements/things/matter become 'conscious'?
            4. can you provide evidence that life just arose 'naturally'?
            5. can you make experiment/s how a chaos is evolving into order?

            i hope those basic questions will be answered. pls, no 'just-so' and 'make-believe' stories.

          • Darren

            neil_pogi wrote,

            5. can you make experiment/s how a chaos is evolving into order?

            1. Take one 4 quart saucepan
            2. Add four cups rice
            3. Add two cups black beans
            4. Mix well
            Admire the homogeneous, non-ordered, chaotic distribution of said beans with said rice
            5. Shake, gently, back and forth on stovetop for five minutes.
            6. Report results back here.

            Or, even better since it more closely models biological systems:

            1. Cut a 1" strip of paper from an 8.5" x 11" sheet
            2. Near the bottom edge, draw a happy little face with a washable marker
            Admire your artwork, keeping in mind that the uniform color you observe is actually a mixture of multiple pigments, suspended in a homogeneous, non-ordered state
            4. Place bottom edge of strip into bowl of water
            5. Wait five minutes
            6. Congratulations, you have brought order from Chaos (and invented chromatography)

            ;)

          • neil_pogi

            then who's mixing those ingredients?

          • neil_pogi

            i wonder why you have ignored the first 4 questions i made?

          • neil_pogi

            quote: '1. Take one 4 quart saucepan2. Add four cups rice
            3. Add two cups black beans
            4. Mix well
            Admire the homogeneous, non-ordered, chaotic distribution of said beans with said rice
            5. Shake, gently, back and forth...... THEN WHO MIXED THOSE INGREDIENTS??

          • neil_pogi

            now that you have denounced your faith (christian), maybe i suggest you change your 'name' into something unbiblical.

    • Just finished writing my last comment to you. Yes. Please know that I will continue to hold in abeyance even belief in Jesus Christ, and I have read much as to the reasons why Judaism rejected this 'idea'. And so it goes. It could be said of me, perhaps, that it is just as difficult to believe any of the following thesis: a. that there is no truth. b. that there is only one truth. c. that everything is 'the truth'. Which position I take can vary according, very often to the moment, and how a particular philosophy is fitting into my quest for understanding at the time it 'comes along'. In any case, you might at least consider the possibility that it at least can be sound advice, as it suggests that it can be 'best' to avoid' coming to any definite conclusions in life ---- which actually could be the ultimate definition of a non-religious perspective!!!??? even regarding the thesis of having no religion!!!! We need to become individuals. We need to learn 'how' we think'. How we fall into (as with me) moments of incoherence. We must overcome our 'fear' of madness- even to the point of agreeing with the Post-moderns who suggest that 'schizophrenia' is the 'answer'.....(But do keep this new 'religion' to yourself...after all, with religion, as with any form of madness, - comes 'stigma'....)

      • Lazarus

        I believe that truth is relative, relational, situational. If truth was absolute and objective all earnest seekers would arrive at the same conclusion. Faith would be unnecessary.

        • Ah! There's another dilemna. Kierkegaard came to the opposite, contradictory conclusion: that just because there is no absolute and objective character to be found within life as we live it, The Knight of Faith, learns to live within such paradox. The absolute and objective that your comment addresses, to my understanding, is precisely that 'out of world' context - called God. But what is - an 'out of world' context? For instance, I am learning, as I suspected, and have been living, that I am 'not the only one' who has found evidence?? that the Buddhist Nirvana, and Kierkegaard's faith, can be lived within my life, within the context of my experience, and indeed allows me to have some 'distance' or 'perspective' regarding events, people, etc.. (am I making sense to you here?) How do most atheists feel about this? In other words, could it be possible that this within another context would be described as the 'impossible to achieve without religion'- heaven on earth! or in this world but not of it. etc. etc. Of course my life isn't over. But hopefully I have learned enough from past 'struggles' that I will be able to endure any future 'hells'....Take care. P.S. You might like the poem Invictus....Is the dilemna about argument and impossible 'proofs' or about interpretation and life experience?

          • Hope that William Davis gets to see this. I raised the 'reality' of Finnegan's Wake with him. - the awakened one - and the Irish Wake---yes- this is beyond irony, etc. etc. And then, I saw this a few days ago...just released before his death....Would those on EN be interested, do you think? and William....Like.....!! youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8&feature=share

          • Lazarus: Please see the video below....I'm past my time...here...not connecting....maybe - shall I try again? ---Please may you see this - a Living In memoriam from one who indeed made life, and death an Art
            Edit: Just found the lyrics. What is being said? Not so sure...not so sure....

        • neil_pogi

          if truth is just relative, then how do you know that some beliefs fall into absolute and relative categories?

          if killing is wrong, then it falls into absolute category that it is really, really wrong (evil)

          • Lazarus

            Those are old apologetic ploys. And they are not even correctly stated.

          • Yes. The problem is what? -how to ask the questions? What question to ask? etc. etc. But my belief is that it is very difficult for even the individual 'not to be' either an apologist, or to 'assume' in some way the 'divine'.. Oh this will surely ban me from this site as well. Or would some apologists actually agree with that. Whoops.. I'm going to go into a 'non-coherence' mode again....because that is where, I believe these problems inevitably lead, if you really do attempt to approach them in language. What- do I take the Zen Koan as an alternative????? Wittgenstein: The Limits of my language are the limits of my 'world'..etc. etc. etc. Adieu. Trust your perspective will be appreciated on EN. Take care..

        • Nietzsche: There is no truth (some put the word fact in here!) - only interpretation. (However, you might interpret that statement???) Do take care Lazarus. and May you Outshine the Sun....

    • Paul Brandon Rimmer

      It is a courageous and humble thing for someone to admit that they've changed their mind. I'm always happy to hear that someone comes closer to what I believe to be true. Someday I would like for you to bore me with the details.

      One piece of advice from someone who has left the Church. Take a break from posting things online. I started getting involved in chatrooms and forums right after I left the Catholic Church, when my beliefs were in flux and when I was angry at having been part of the Catholic Church as long as I was; it felt like wasted time. I said and did things I now regret. You are a better person than I am, but for myself, taking a break was a wonderful necessary thing for me to do, and I only wish I'd done it right away, instead of venting online for a couple months first.

      • Lazarus

        Thank you, Paul.

        I fully agree with your advice on taking a break, to the point where it may even be a permanent break from posting. I am really giving a lot of thought to my time spent posting. Surely I can derive the same intellectual benefit from simply reading the two or three websites that I currently post on. I am not complaining, I am simply re-assessing an activity which I am spending a lot of time on. But yes, either a complete halt or at least a less busy posting life.

    • Peter

      That philosophy played a big role in causing you to lose your faith is the reason why I steer clear of philosophy when it comes to upholding my faith.

      I find that science, and ongoing scientific discovery, is a far greater and more reliable supporter of my belief in God than philosophy alone, for reasons I have quoted many times in the past.

      Without science and its gradual revelation of the unfolding plan of reality, I would certainly, like you, be far more sceptical about belief.

      • Lazarus

        What is the unfolding plan of reality?

        • Peter

          The growing realisation that the universe is from its inception uniquely configured with latent processes for the widespread creation of life and, ultimately, consciousness.

          • Lazarus

            So that goal has now been reached. Can the entire project now be cancelled, now that the goal has been reached? What does the worldwide suffering generated by the next 24 hours add to the project?

          • How much of that suffering do you think is (a) caused by humans; (b) preventable by humans?

          • Lazarus

            I think that a lot of complaints filed under the PoE by atheists simply do not belong there. Those horrendous photos of children starving in Africa, the Holocaust, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Rwandan genocide - all man made. While I could build some sort of an argument against the God concept from that (for example, why not end the entire show right now), I am prepared to remove those items from the list of charges without any further need for the theist to explain them.

            Add to this the hundreds of thousands of millions of animals we slaughter every day for our McDonalds. All of those examples of suffering we can (theoretically at least) avoid or minimize.

            It is however what remains after that part of the exercise that I cannot make peace with.

            Of course, one of the deficiencies apparent in even that generous approach of mine is the argument that even where we concede that a lot of suffering is created by ourselves, this does not really explain the position from the victim's side (part of the old free will debate). It is there where my question arises as to why God does not implement the end times. Even after I have conceded everything - from the need to create to sharing God's love, to being created in his image, creating a consciousness capable of love, to mankind creating most of the suffering we see - after all of that - why have more of it? Why have one more day?

          • There is indeed a big unknown about the suffering which does not seem caused/​permitted by human action/​inaction. I'm inclined to say that when it comes to stuff like the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, we in the West were negligent in providing technology we had which could have provided early warning. One could even say that the 2010 Haiti earthquake was predictable. But even if one tries to exclude all such events, there do seem to be others—plenty of others.

            You may be aware of C.S. Lewis' idea, expressed in his space trilogy, that there are other parts of creation with wills which have also sinned. That's speculation of course, but there is so much about reality which we don't understand that we're speculating to even say that there is a problem of evil which is ontological instead of epistemological.

            One might say that a big part of Christianity is learning to play a part in a narrative bigger than one's ability to comprehend. Even Jesus didn't know when his second return would be; he himself trusted God. A big problem if you're going to plug yourself (and/or be plugged) into a plan bigger than yourself is how you deal with the unknown. Perhaps it will be an unknown which is increasingly known (so the trust turns into justified belief; faith leads to sight)—the Bible certainly portrays God as wanting to become increasingly known.

            It seems to me that the only reason to continue is hope of something better arising. What if that hope can only be realized via voluntarily suffering, yourself, so that the lives of others (maybe yours, maybe not) are blessed?

          • Lazarus

            I no longer believe that our natural, understandable sense of wonder and mystery should be transferred to Christianity. Your questions are good ones and are part of what makes us human. Not knowing does not give us warrant to posit answers that, in my view, do not fit the evidence. Then, it is more honest to simply stare open eyed at those questions and try to answer them without resorting to a 2 000 year old philosophy that may never have been designed to carry such a load.

            That goes for a hope for something better arising also. We should be careful to necessarily equate that hope with Christian hope. But, even if we do use the Christian template to view your question, what do we find? Does personal suffering cause something better to arise? Of course it does - in some instances. We find some such benefit in the suffering of Jesus and many others. All religions extol such personal sacrifice, as do forms of humanism and several other philosophies.

            Now let's step back and ask ourselves why the entire game is designed that way in the first place? Christianity, and several other religions, give us roadmap so to deal with life as we find it, to transcend our lives, our suffering. But what does Christianity offer as a foundation for that? Why must we realize that hope through suffering, especially our own? Because of original sin?

            And what about the massive, obscene amounts of suffering that cannot be described as voluntary suffering? What has any amount of our voluntary suffering, including that of Jesus, brought about these last 2 000 years?

          • Why must we realize that hope through suffering, especially our own?

            It is the only way to non-coercively fight evil I can think of, in our world. In a world where nobody decided to force himself on another, suffering would not seem to be required. Sadly, we do not live in that world. In our world, we can cooperate with others but also force ourselves on others. If we force ourselves on others, what does that do but reinforce the idea that forcing ourselves on others is acceptable? "If you fight evil with evil, evil wins."

            Because of original sin?

            Well, I don't know what you mean by the term, but if we say that 'sin' is at its root broken relationship, then we can ask whether it was acceptable for God to design reality to break down, to disintegrate into pain and suffering, when relationships are broken and especially allowed to stay broken.

            And what about the massive, obscene amounts of suffering that cannot be described as voluntary suffering?

            First, I would want to understand the kind of world to which you are contrasting this one, in saying what you say. Can we think of a world where love (that is, building others up) is permitted, but harming others [against their will] is not? To throw a potential wrench into those works, note that if one of four fathers does a slightly worse job parenting than the others, his children may involuntarily suffer as a result, given the aspects of suffering which are comparative.

            What has any amount of our voluntary suffering, including that of Jesus, brought about these last 2 000 years?

            A better approximation to egalitarianism than existed back then.

          • Lazarus

            It's past 11pm here, and I'm going to get some sleep. Just the following brief comments.

            I fully agree with you that selfless compassion, sacrifice even, is the most rewarding and positive way to live, at least for me. But that is again a reaction, a forced reaction, to what is, to the world as we find it. Why do we find it like this? Just as if there is no loving God guiding it.

            I do not accept the onus to provide a detailed or even plausible other world in contradistinction to this one. A world with less gratuitous suffering, at the very least, can easily be imagined. There is simply too much suffering which is not comparative, not redemptive. And it has been going on for thousands of years.

            As to whether egalitarianism has been tamed, I simply do not agree. We still have our modern day Roman occupiers and despots, our cruelty.

            And now, goodnight ;)

          • I hope you slept well! Let's see if I can gain further understanding of your thoughts about suffering. Generally, I haven't been able to progress beyond the following, with atheists. Perhaps the discussion was perceived as too antagonistic or it took too long to get to the point we're already at. Generally, what I'm trying to understand is how you move from "I don't like X" to "God wouldn't permit X".

            Why do we find it like this? Just as if there is no loving God guiding it.

            It seems that there are two unsatisfactory answers to your "why" question: (1) "Randomness." This really isn't an answer. (2) "For some reason, evil was allowed to originate and accumulate." This also isn't really an answer, although it asserts more specific structure than (1).

            Your second sentence begs the question: what would a world where a loving God was guiding it, look like? It is, of course, important to separate "how I would do it" and "how God would do it". In a world without God, it seems problematic to talk about what he would do with any epistemological confidence whatsoever. But perhaps there is an error in this reasoning?

            I do not accept the onus to provide a detailed or even plausible other world in contradistinction to this one. A world with less gratuitous suffering, at the very least, can easily be imagined.

            As a software developer, I have seen many people imagine up what they thought were logical possibilities, but which weren't. A result from this and other experience in life is that untested imagination is unreliable imagination. You seem to disagree with this, and I'd like to understand why.

            There is simply too much suffering which is not comparative, not redemptive.

            What confuses me is how you know this. I can certainly understand thinking that there is a lot of suffering which I cannot see as redemptive. But to go from here to asserting the sufficiency of my imagination, such that I can move from "cannot see as" ⇒ "know cannot be", seems to be something which requires justification.

            As to whether egalitarianism has been tamed, I simply do not agree. We still have our modern day Roman occupiers and despots, our cruelty.

            I very carefully said that we seem to have a better approximation of egalitarianism today, than we did 2000 years ago. That statement can be qualified to pertain to certain parts of the world. Would you accept it, with that qualification? Now of course, that qualification could render the good thing not worth the cost—or perhaps you think that it is not worth the cost even if it didn't need that qualification.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            I had a similar conversation to this with another person here, but I think your perspective would be interesting.

            Generally, what I'm trying to understand is how you move from "I don't like X" to "God wouldn't permit X". . . What confuses me is how you know this. I can certainly understand thinking that there is a lot of suffering which I cannot see as redemptive.

            Flip these statements the opposite way. How do you get from "I like X" (or, better, "I believe X") to "God permits X" (Or maybe, "God wills X")? Alternatively, how can you know that what you see as redemptive suffering is actually redemptive?

            It confuses me when people take this tact in response to the problem of evil. The problem of evil only exists if you believe in a good God. In order to believe in a good God, you have to believe it is possible to discern if God exists and is good. Arguments like the one above discredit the ability to judge evidence that seems to challenge the goodness or existence of God. However, that seems to support agnosticism, since it equally applies to any evidence presented that supports the goodness of God. How can you know whatever you point to that seems to support existence/goodness really does, if you can't know if something really doesn't?

          • How do you get from "I like X" (or, better, "I believe X") to "God permits X" (Or maybe, "God wills X")?

            You've got the entailment flipped. God acts and speaks and from those beliefs are formed. Now there can be levels of indirection, distance from historical context of past actions, etc. But we work with smaller amounts of such indirection and distance all the time.

            Alternatively, how can you know that what you see as redemptive suffering is actually redemptive?

            I can be most confident about it when it occurs in my own life. I'm pretty inclined to let people speak for themselves on this matter. It is, of course, much easier to assert that some instance of suffering is redemptive than to say that it will never be redeemed. One is a claim of existence, while another is a claim of eternal (in the +∞ direction) nonexistence.

            How can you know whatever you point to that seems to support existence/​goodness really does, if you can't know if something really doesn't?

            There is a confusion here between ontology and epistemology. I can think that ontologically, all of reality is rationally understandable, even if given limited knowledge, some of it seems irrational. This is a metaphysical position: even though appearances point toward irrationality, the belief is that one can drill below them to bedrock.

            Similarly, the appearances can be that there is gratuitous evil, now. What I can suspect, however, is that further perceiving and further acting will show the reality underneath to not actually sustain gratuitous evil.

            My wife and I just watched the Star Trek TOS episode Wolf in the Fold. In it, all the appearances point to Montgomery Scott being guilty of multiple murders. There's no doubt that this is where the appearances point. However, Captain Kirk believed that there was something behind the appearances, and ended up exonerating Mr. Scott.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            God acts and speaks and from those beliefs are formed.

            To me, this is an assumption, and one I do not share. I flipped the question because, unless one assumes that a good God exists, the challenge you offered to the problem of evil does not make sense. If one does assume God exists and is the maximally good being, then there can, by definition, be no problem of evil. The problem of evil is, in reality, a challenge to whether such a God exists, so any defense that depends on assuming a good God will fail for those who do not begin from such an assumption.

            I can be most confident about it when it occurs in my own life. I'm
            pretty inclined to let people speak for themselves on this matter.

            That is curious to me. If I see suffering that does not appear redemptive, challenging this defense to the problem of evil and suggesting a maximally good God does not exist, will you trust my judgment that this is the case, or will you reply with the following?

            Similarly, the appearances can be that there is gratuitous evil, now. What I can suspect, however, is that further perceiving and further acting will show the reality underneath to not actually sustain gratuitous evil.

            Thus, your judgement, which supports the existence of a good God, is assumed to be true, and mine, which supports the lack of existence of a good God is treated as a surface view that does not see the true reality?

          • To me, this is an assumption, and one I do not share.

            The goodness of God and his omnipotence and omniscience do not need to be assumed, I don't think. One can start with "power/​understanding/​wisdom unlike that possessed by humans". The key is to get the direction of causation correct. Just like our thoughts about reality are caused by 'reality', so I maintain that my thoughts about God are caused by 'God'. Both of the terms here are fuzzy: 'reality' as well as 'God'. Note that in both cases, my thoughts can be in error.

            Now, if you want to deny that we can properly reason to 'reality' existing independent of our minds, then I may choose to cede the argument to you—neither can we properly reason to 'God' existing independent of our minds. I suspect that there is some 'assumption' in getting to the existence of mind-independent reality. It is a tentative assumption which, when believed and acted upon, leads to good places.

            If I see suffering that does not appear redemptive, challenging this defense to the problem of evil and suggesting a maximally good God does not exist, will you trust my judgment that this is the case, or will you reply with the following?

            Can you see a relevant asymmetry between:

                 (1) I judge this suffering to have been redeemed.
                 (2) I judge this suffering to never possibly be redeemable.

            ?

            Thus, your judgement, which supports the existence of a good God, is assumed to be true, and mine, which supports the lack of existence of a good God is treated as a surface view that does not see the true reality?

            Your "assumed to be true" is too strong. Tentative assumptions can be borne out as well as be thrown into question. Religious adherents can lose their faith when they perceive their tentative assumption of God's goodness to be too severely questioned for too long, with no promise of resolution.

            My biggest objection to your view is that it is predicated upon a lack of imagination, which almost certainly leads to less effort to see if maybe the reason that some particular bit of suffering hasn't been redeemed is that humans have not taken the appropriate actions. If I stop trying imagine how some aspect of reality may actually be rational even though it seems irrational, isn't that antithetical to discovering potential rationality? And if I try to bite off more than I can chew—like try to predict the climate before establishing that F = ma—I may improperly declare something 'impossible', which is simply 'extremely difficult'.

            Now, it does seem to be that each of us thinks the other is operating off of a false appearance. My appearance can be revealed to be false, from within my system of thought, due to my failure to make progress (see Thagard's #1 and #2). Your appearance would seem to tend to be reinforced by your actions, regardless of its truth or falsity. Then again, if there is no land flowing with milk and honey outside of Ur, it is prudent to stay in Ur.

          • David Hardy

            The goodness of God and his omnipotence and omniscience do not need to be assumed, I don't think.

            I think you would need to take another step back here -- as I said, the problem of evil is a challenge to whether a good God exists, not whether God is good.

            Can you see a relevant asymmetry between:

            (1) I judge this suffering to have been redeemed.
            (2) I judge this suffering to never possibly be redeemable.

            The symmetry would be this:

            (1) I judge this suffering to have redemptive qualities (I could be wrong)

            (1) I judge this suffering to not have redemptive qualities (I could be wrong)

            My biggest objection to your view is that it is predicated upon a lack of imagination

            I would suggest that, if you think this is what my view is predicated upon, you do not understand my view. I would suggest you consider how a person with significant imagination and effort could come to my position, if you wish to alter this misunderstanding. However, I appreciate your thoughtful reply, I believe I have a clear understanding of how you have approached this issue.

            Your appearance would seem to tend to be reinforced by your actions, regardless of its truth or falsity.

            I can only refer you back to my prior statement, that this is a misunderstanding of my position, and again suggest you consider how someone who has significant critical thinking skills, and regularly evaluated if his position can be falsified and tested it for truth, could come to my position, if you truly wish to understand it.

          • I think you would need to take another step back here -- as I said, the problem of evil is a challenge to whether a good God exists, not whether God is good.

            Ok? You essentially said I need to start with very powerful assumptions, which basically hand me my position on a silver platter. I'm arguing that this is not so.

            The symmetry would be this:

            I asked for a relevant asymmetry.

            LB: My biggest objection to your view is that it is predicated upon a lack of imagination [...]

            DH: I would suggest you consider how a person with significant imagination and effort could come to my position, if you wish to alter this misunderstanding.

            But the very assertion that an evil cannot be redeemed is an appeal to ignorance: "I cannot imagine how this evil could possibly be redeemed, no matter how far into the future one goes." That an evil has not yet been redeemed is an entirely different ball of wax. It is the difference between pr-'gratuitous evil' and pf-'gratuitous evil':

            Figure 1
                                  past   present   future
            pf-'gratuitous evil':  |------------------|
            pr-'gratuitous evil':  |--------|

            Now, you could argue that the confidence that an evil is gratuitous can converge over finite time; consider 1 to be 'least confident' and 9 to be 'most confident':

            Figure 2
                                  past   present   future
            pf-'gratuitous evil':  |------------------|
            pr-'gratuitous evil':  |1123467899|

            Perhaps you claim this?

            I can only refer you back to my prior statement, that this is a misunderstanding of my position, and again suggest you consider how someone who has significant critical thinking skills, and regularly evaluated if his position can be falsified and tested it for truth, could come to my position, if you truly wish to understand it.

            Are you asking me to make your argument for you? I'm confused.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            Are you asking me to make your argument for you? I'm confused.

            I am going to bypass the rest of this post, as it seems to be a continuation of the prior misunderstanding, to focus entirely on this. I am saying that I have found that a person must put a certain level of thought into understanding a position and, until they do, it will appear to lack thought itself, no matter how it is presented or explained. While it appears to lack thought, it will be easy for that person to misunderstand and misapply that idea in challenging or supporting it, and conversations doing so will have little benefit to either person involved. Due to this, if my position appears to lack imagination, effort or critical thinking to you, I would suggest you re-consider it and look for how it may be supported by someone applying all of these things, if you want to move past that misunderstanding. However, I will also not be offended if you decide my ideas are not worth that effort.

          • Believe it or not, but I really am trying to make sense of your position. Following is an attempt of mine to understand just what it is you are even arguing:

            DH: If I see suffering that does not appear redemptive [...]

            There are at least two possible meanings of your "does not appear redemptive"; the following helps tease that out:

            LB: Figure 1
                                  past   present   future
            pf-'gratuitous evil':  |------------------|
            pr-'gratuitous evil':  |--------|

            The point of this graphic is to indicate what interval of time is being spoken of. Are you making an assertion that an evil which happened in the past has not been redeemed by now, the present (pr-'gratuitous evil'), or that an evil which happened in the past will not have been redeemed by the future (pf-'gratuitous evil'), even as t → ∞?

            It doesn't really take imagination to deal with pr-'gratuitous evil'. All the evidence is in (see Figure 2). In contrast, it does take imagination to deal with pf-'gratuitous evil'. There, one has to imagine what could and could not happen between now, the present, and the future.

            If the above doesn't help elucidate what you mean by "does not appear redemptive", perhaps you could try, yourself? I think it's actually a bit ridiculous that you are characterizing my efforts so far as failing to "put a certain level of thought into understanding a position". My suspicion is that I've put a lot more understanding into what the various versions of 'gratuitous evil' could possibly be than most of your interlocutors on the internet. If you can show me to be wrong here, I would be deeply appreciative—I think the matter of 'gratuitous evil' is an incredibly important one. After all, once a human perceives that another has done him/her a gratuitous evil, this creates an easy-to-grasp justification for doing a gratuitous evil back—and ensuring it is 'gratuitous'.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            I absolutely believe you are trying, and I apologize if the way I framed my last post indicated otherwise. I do not believe not understanding someone's position indicates a lack of effort, but I do believe that different ways of trying to understand can be more or less effective. In my own experience, beginning from the view that the other person has a well thought out position can help in this regard.

            I am concerned because, in the past, when I have told you that you misunderstood my position and try to explain it, you take my explanation and make a case for how it also supports your prior understanding. Further, your prior understanding has often been that my view lacks depth. This prevents the dialogue from really moving past that point. I will make one more attempt to provide my position on this. If it appears to you that it still depends upon a lack of imagination, effort, and so forth, I will respectfully disengage from this conversation. Please consider the following points:

            1) I see evil that appears redemptive at this point, but I may be mistaken in my perception.

            2) I see evil that does not appear to be redemptive at this point, but I may be mistaken in my perception.

            3) Evil that appeared to have redemptive qualities may, in the future, have an overall effect that is not in fact redemptive.

            4) Evil that appeared to not have redemptive qualities may, in the future, have an overall effect that is, in fact, redemptive.

            5) If one believes that the possibility of failing to perceive redemptive qualities is an answer to the problem of evil, then this possibility of failing to perceive that evil is not redemptive is equally applicable.

            6) If one believes that the fact that future outcomes may make a currently gratuitous form of evil redemptive is an answer to the problem of evil, then this possibility of future change equally applies to currently redemptive effects from evil.

            7) If all evidence of evil and good for God can be thrown into doubt and these challenges are valid, it supports agnosticism, at least as to any divine being asserted to be good.

            8) The problem of evil does not apply to any purported God who is not also believed to be good.

            9) Therefore, this defense does not seem to actually defend against the problem of evil, since it still supports doubting whether we can believe a specifically good God exists.

            Of course, 7) is open to challenge by efforts to prove God's existence and goodness outside of the evidence (such as the Ontological Argument). However, I find such arguments problematic because they are, by their nature, a priori. As I said before, the problem of evil challenges whether a good God exists. A priori arguments are not valid in demonstrating whether something exists. At best, an a priori argument can validly hold that, if God as understood in Christianity exists, then God is good.

          • Would you believe that I actually have had 1)–6) in mind this whole time? My argument relies on an asymmetry among the following:

            A. Confidence I understand phenomenon p.
            B. Confidence I will never understand phenomenon p.
            C. Confidence I only thought I understood phenomenon p.

            Science relies on A. being greater than B. or C., in order to build up a knowledge base. It is predicated upon the belief that heretofore inexplicable things will ultimately be rendered explicable. (Witness the growing animosity towards the 'supernatural', which represents causal happenings impenetrable to scientific understanding.) It also relies on its knowledge surviving refinements, at least in part, such that progress results with continued work, such that a total accumulation of knowledge occurs.

            As far as I can tell, your argument requires equal confidence of A.–C. It either eschews the idea of humans getting more and more competent at playing their part in redeeming evil, or there being evil which is impenetrable to this learning process, kind of like new mysterianism claims that aspects of consciousness will always be impenetrable to science. Indeed, perhaps my reaction to your advancing of gratuitous evil is comparable to the person who balks at the New Mysterians.

          • David Hardy

            Would you believe that I actually have had 1)–6) in mind this whole time?

            Excellent. Would you be willing to address 7) - 9)? Keep in mind, we are talking about the ability to judge from 1) - 6) that there is any evidence the could validly support the existence of a good God while also addressing the presence of apparently gratuitous evil. Also keep in mind that my points 1) - 6) were specifically designed to capture your argument, so I am glad that you had them in mind. 7) - 9) were presented as logical conclusions based on 1) - 6). I am suggesting that 1) - 6) does not actually address whether gratuitous evil exists, but tries to respond to apparently gratuitous evil by invalidating our ability to judge evil. I do not hold that this is true, but it does appear to be the logical implication of this line of thinking. My position is that you proposed something akin to 1) - 6), and 1) - 6) logically supports the following (taken from your post), not that I agree with it:

            As far as I can tell, your argument requires equal confidence of A.–C.

            Aside from that, this argument has everything to do with our ability to validly perceive and judge evil, and nothing to do with new mysterianism, and only a little to do with the ability to effectively respond to evil (insofar as it affects outcomes and so could validate or invalidate our perception and judgment). If we can validly perceive and judge evidence from a moral framework, then we can put faith in evil that those observing agree was gratuitous, which supports the problem of evil and throws the existence of a specifically good God into doubt. If we cannot validly perceive and judge evidence from a moral framework, then all evidence for the goodness of a God is equally open to doubt, which also throws the existence of a specifically good God into doubt.

          • The reason I stopped before 7) is the A.–C. asymmetry I claim exists. Compare:

            DH: 7) If all evidence of evil and good for God can be thrown into doubt and these challenges are valid, it supports agnosticism, at least as to any divine being asserted to be good.

            LB: My argument relies on an asymmetry among the following:

            A. Confidence I understand phenomenon p.
            B. Confidence I will never understand phenomenon p.
            C. Confidence I only thought I understood phenomenon p.

            Science relies on A. being greater than B. or C., in order to build up a knowledge base. It is predicated upon the belief that heretofore inexplicable things will ultimately be rendered explicable. [...] It also relies on its knowledge surviving refinements, at least in part, such that progress results with continued work, such that a total accumulation of knowledge occurs.

            Your skepticism about rationality in the moral/​ethical domain (that is, evil being redeemable, or not) has, I claim, a direct analogy with skepticism about rationality in the empirical domain. Is reality ultimately rational, or is that just a fancy of my brain? Is reality ultimately moral, or is that just a fancy of my brain?

            The way this skepticism is resisted is through progress in the research program. For the moral/​ethical, that includes redeeming more and more evil which heretofore seemed pr-gratuitous. For the empirical, that includes gaining increased ability to bend reality to our will.

            Once there is progress, then currently-intractable conundrums may well turn out to be tractable with better thinking and perhaps better technology. Why should any area of perceived intractability stay that way? And yet, in the empirical domain, some quite-respectable people think there is an area of permanent intractability: the New Mysterians. In the moral/​ethical domain, many quite-respectable people think that there is an area of permanent intractability: gratuitous evil.

            But you have strongly implied that this analogy breaks down. Why? And why did you effectively dismiss my claim of asymmetry, with "Aside from that"?

          • David Hardy

            The reason I stopped before 7) is the A.–C. asymmetry I claim exists.

            My point has really been that 1) - 6) logically supports a lack of asymmetry. I understand you are claiming the asymmetry exists. I agree it exists. I do not believe that 1) - 6) are valid challenges to moral judgements. I have made a case that holding 1) - 6) as though they are valid responses to the evidential problem of evil logically supports A) - C) being symmetrical, not asymmetrical. I am suggesting that you used aspects of 1) - 6) to respond to apparently gratuitous evil and the problem of evil in your original post, but that 1) - 6), taken to their logical conclusions, can be equally challenging to any evidence that could support a belief in a specifically good God, and so actually also supports a different form of the problem of evil in the process of trying to address it.

            Your skepticism about rationality in the moral/​ethical domain

            Please re-read my last post. I specifically stated I am not skeptical in this domain. I am highlighting how 1) - 6) do support such skepticism, and why this is problematic in using them as an answer to apparently gratuitous evil and the evidential problem of evil in general.

          • I have made a case that holding 1) - 6) as though they are valid responses to the evidential problem of evil logically supports A) - C) being symmetrical, not asymmetrical.

            But how does that argument work, and why doesn't it work against the claim that we are accumulating empirical knowledge? Compare:

            I. There are empirical phenomena we cannot explain. We will never be able to explain them.
            II. There are evils which have not been redeemed. They will never be redeemed.

            The way one rejects I. is via asserting an asymmetry of A.–C. and appealing to continual progress in understanding more and more empirical phenomena. Why can one not do the same with II.?

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            One can do the same with II. I am saying that the same logic can then extend to rejecting other claims necessary to defend against the problem of evil in this fashion. I will offer one below:

            Compare:

            I. There are empirical phenomena we cannot explain. We will never be able to explain them.
            II. There are evils which have not been redeemed. They will never be redeemed.

            III. There are evils which have been redeemed. They will never have those redeeming qualities prove transient or without value.

            In III., one can use the same logic to challenge claims that apparently non-gratuitous evil is, in fact, non-gratuitous. In support of this, there are cases where apparent good coming out of tragedy does not last (e.g., positive change in those involved that only lasts a short period before they return to prior negative behaviors and thinking, which is not uncommon). In such cases, it is plausible to say that the ultimate, true understanding of the phenomena will be that it had no net redemptive qualities. There is nothing in the argument guaranteeing that evil must resolve in a redemptive way.

          • III. There are evils which have been redeemed. They will never have those redeeming qualities prove transient or without value.

            Ok? The probabilistic version of this claim is made about scientific knowledge; it must be claimed in order for a body of knowledge to be continually accumulated.

            In support of this, there are cases where apparent good coming out of tragedy does not last (e.g., positive change in those involved that only lasts a short period before they return to prior negative behaviors and thinking, which is not uncommon).

            Sure. Scientists also sometimes think they've figured something out when in actuality, they haven't. But this doesn't pose a problem for arguing that scientific knowledge really does accumulate. The reason is that you don't have to be perfectly right every single time; it merely has to be that on average, the boundaries of knowledge are expanded. It might take several scientists, perhaps even several generations, to figure something out.

            In such cases, it is plausible to say that the ultimate, true understanding of the phenomena will be that it had no net redemptive qualities. There is nothing in the argument guaranteeing that evil must resolve in a redemptive way.

            Sure, and it is possible there are empirical aspects of reality which are permanently impenetrable to us humans. This is why I brought up new mysterianism. This is why I said:

            LB: This is a metaphysical position: even though appearances point toward irrationality, the belief is that one can drill below them to bedrock.

            I never argued that we can know, with perfect confidence, that every evil is guaranteed to be redeemed. Instead, I argued that the idea that we can be highly confident that there are gratuitous evils is iffy, at least for those who reject new mysterianism and other tokens of its type. I argued that we must take an attitude opposite of these people—

            In 1590, skeptics still doubted whether humans can find universal regularities in nature; by 1640, nature was in irremediable decay: but, by 1700, the changeover to the "law-governed" picture of a stable cosmos was complete. (Cosmopolis, 110)

            —in the moral domain, on pain of never finding order that is actually there. Now, surely there are possible worlds where those 1590 skeptics are correct, worlds where science was impossible (perhaps due to the brain being unable of sophisticated abstract reasoning). But I am also confident that had everyone believed those skeptics in our world, they would have appeared to be correct. Only those willing to disbelieve them and wager heavily on that disbelief were in a position to overturn their truth-claims.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            It is clear from this answer that we are understanding this issue in very different ways, and the conflict I see is not one that you see. I am not sure how to link our perspectives on this issue. However, your response has answered my initial question. One cannot have input on how to address a conflict that one does not see as being present. Therefore, I think it is best to thank you for your time and thoughts, and end the conversation here.

          • You don't have to answer, but I'm curious: do you simply reject the analogy between:

                 (A) inexplicable thing in science
                 (B) gratuitous evil

            ? It seems to me that if we can be justified in thinking that (A) will be overturned, we can use similar justification to say that (B) will be overturned. The asymmetries in 1)–6) which allow (A) to be overturned seem to symmetrically apply to allowing (B) to be overturned.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Luke,

            You have put significant thought in answering my questions, of course I will answer yours.

            You don't have to answer, but I'm curious: do you simply reject the analogy

            I do reject the analogy, because I do not think that they are analogous. An inexplicable thing is just that -- inexplicable. It has no bearing on what the nature of the thing may be, it is rather the state of not knowing the answer of what that nature is. Gratuitous evil is evil with no value or benefit. It is a possible explanation which may describe part of the nature of a particular event. Therefore, (A) is a statement about our ability to understand something. (B) is a statement about the ultimate nature of something we might understand. They are in different categories. An act of gratuitous evil may be inexplicable to us: we do not recognize, for example, the harm done or see apparent value where there is none. Redeemed evil may be inexplicable, where the harm is seen but any real value is missed. In the first example, it is both (A) and (B), while in the second, it is only (A), because (A) has little to no bearing on whether (B) applies.

          • Lazarus

            Hi Luke

            After sleep there's work (it's own form of extreme suffering ;). ), so briefly the following :

            Most of your questions amount to pretty standard theodicy fare. How we do we know, by what standard do we compare, how could it be different. Those arguments really no longer work, and several thoughtful Christian apologists have conceded this, to the point where the best advice is to simply point out that we do not know why there is so much suffering.

            As you have hopefully noticed, I am very generous when it comes to suffering caused by mankind, and I do not require any explanation for that, other than maybe an enquiry as to why it is allowed to continue, regardless of any original motives. I notice that you do not really address this.

            And, as to the old chestnut as to how we would do it otherwise, as one simple example I would remove animal predation from the equation. I would remove the cruel fact that species eat each other from the earth.

            If you can, get hold of John Loftus's essay on natural suffering. I think it is available online. While I have several issues with Loftus I would recommend this essay as essential reading for all theists. I sometimes think that some people (maybe even yourself) accept the theodicies simply because they don't fully understand the extent of the problem of suffering.

            And now, the salt mines beckon. I will try to spend more time on this tonight.

          • Will

            Conversations about the problem of evil were the most frustrating I had here. I brought up natural disasters, like the great Chinese flood that killed millions, and I was reassured that God worked some greater good out of that horrible tragedy, though now one had a clue what that was. I couldn't help regard this as callous and cruel, preferring to defend one's ideas about reality than respect the horrible suffering of those who died not only of drowning, but the famine and disease that followed. No greater good comes from those kinds of events, I'm sorry but to even say that is foolish to me.

            It gets worse that many believe that God intentionally brings floods as judgement. So, in order to judge evil people, God kills all the good people too, and all of the innocent women and children (like the flood story in genesis). I can't help but think these people worship a monster, and I suppose my conscience will not allow me to worship a monstrous tyrant who would do such things.

            If you haven't seen it, I thought they did a good job with the recent movie "Exodus". Both Moses and Pharaoh rightly call Yahweh a monster after he ruthlessly murders the firstborn in Egypt. This is exactly the kind of thing that monsters do, of course. Anyway, I suppose Epicurus, got it right a long time ago, at least in my mind:

            Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
            Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
            Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
            Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

          • Darren

            Lazarus wrote,

            And, as to the old chestnut as to how we would do it otherwise, as one simple example I would remove animal predation from the equation. I would remove the cruel fact that species eat each other from the earth.

            Ah, the old "solar powered lion" ploy, nicely chosen.

            I can tell from your example that you have keyed into a weakness of most theodicies - they seek to justify the current state of affairs given a universe with the same physical and metaphysical rules with which they are familiar.

            Worse, when we consider that even the base metaphysical(*) concepts, Evil, Suffering, Cruelty, required invention by the creator of our ex nihilo cosmos.

            * - If there even are such things, but assuming, as the Theist would, that there are.

          • Lazarus

            I see that you understand the problems.

            I am completely comfortable with someone who comprehensively understands the parameters of the PoE, including the areas not covered by free will, and who then chooses theism. If that basic premise is however not common cause between the parties, it's difficult to make much progress from there.

          • Rob Abney

            Worse, when we consider that even the base metaphysical(*) concepts, Evil, Suffering, Cruelty, required invention by the creator of our ex nihilo cosmos.

            * - If there even are such things, but assuming, as the Theist would, that there are.

            Darren, do you mind elaborating here? (Assuming that metaphysical assumptions are valid). Are you saying that the creator created evil, suffering, and cruelty?

          • David Nickol

            Are you saying that the creator created evil, suffering, and cruelty?

            Surely God created suffering. Animal suffering predates "original sin" and cannot be attributed to free will. If God did not create suffering, where did it come from? How can one claim that God did not intend for there to be predators and prey in the animal kingdom?

          • Rob Abney

            Can you define animal suffering other than to say "we know it when we see it"?
            We can't discuss it without some definitions or it'll just appear that I am promoting animal cruelty.
            Human suffering is present when we desire something that isn't present to us, we only desire what we perceive to be good. So suffering is not a creation but a privation.

          • David Nickol

            Can you define animal suffering other than to say "we know it when we see it"?

            How about when a lion kills a zebra? There are some pretty graphic videos on Youtube. Would you like me to link to a few of them? Or would you acknowledge that when a lion captures a zebra, claws it, bites its throat, and so on, the zebra suffers?

            Human suffering is present when we desire something that isn't present to us, we only desire what we perceive to be good. So suffering is not a creation but a privation.

            If I understand things correctly (and I admit I don't always), I believe you are mixing up suffering with moral evil. Moral evil is believed by some to be a privation of good. I don't think suffering is considered to be a privation of good. If I am mauled by a lion, I don't see how that is a privation of good.

          • Rob Abney

            I think a you tube video will definitely fall into the category of we know it when we see it.

          • David Nickol

            I think a you tube video will definitely fall into the category of we know it when we see it.

            If you have something to say about animal suffering, why not just come out and say it? Do you believe animals don't suffer?

            I don't have the patience to keep answering questions until you elicit from me whatever it is you think you can then answer to your satisfaction. If you think animals don't suffer, then say so. If you think animals do suffer, then explain how that is consistent with God's "omnibenevolence."

          • Rob Abney

            The initial subject we were trying to get explained better was does God exist if evil, suffering, and cruelty exist.
            I'm in agreement with the privation definition, but at what point does something become suffering? Is there suffering when the lion is in the vicinity, or when he gives chase, or when he gets close enough to breathe on the zebra, when he scratches the zebra, when he takes the first bite, when he kills the zebra? When does it change from good to evil?
            How different is the suffering if it is a human rather than a zebra?
            The main point I'm trying to elicit is a definition of suffering.
            (EDIT: to apologize for and remove my testy comments)

          • David Nickol

            It's okay to be testy. I think I often sound testy or even angry when I am not at all. Of course, we hold you theists to a higher standard. ;-)

            According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (online) suffering is

            1: the state or experience of one who suffers : the endurance of or submission to affliction, pain, loss
            2 : a pain endured or a distress, loss, or injury incurred

            For the zebra, I would say being chased by a lion is a kind of suffering (since intense fear of being killed is distress), and being clawed and bitten would be pain. I am not sure what you want as a general definition of "animal suffering," but it seems obvious that many "higher" animals (e.g., mammals) experience distress, loss, or injury in a manner that constitutes suffering. Whether or not an earthworm suffers I would not venture an opinion, but zebras, dogs, cats, mice, and so on show every sign of suffering. So my definition of "animal suffering" is "pain endured or a distress, loos, or injury incurred by an animal or animals."

            I'm in agreement with the privation definition . . .

            Once again, I believe it is moral evil, not suffering, that is considered (in some theories) to be privation of good. Not all suffering is evil, and although privation in some cases can result in suffering (as in the case of starvation, for example), I don't see what the theory of evil as privation has to do with animal suffering.

            It seems to me you are unwilling or hesitant to admit animals suffer. One reason I brought up Youtube is that all involved in this discussion can see actual instances of what I would identify as animals suffering, and for those who believe that animals don't suffer, they can explain how, for example, a zebra being chased by a lion, caught by the lion, clawed and bitten by the lion, struggling desperately to get away, and finally dying and being eaten, does not constitute suffering on the part of the zebra. It seems to me I have run across people who believe that animals are merely biological automita that merely appear to struggle and suffer when attacked and ripped apart, but as automata have no internal experience. I certainly don't believe that myself, and were it true, there would be no need to treat animals humanely and, in fact, no reason not to submit them to "torture," since it is impossible to torture something incapable of feeling.

          • Rob Abney

            Not all suffering is evil

            OK, that helps, and that's probably my main issue, it seems that the Problem of Evil is often presented as the Problem of Suffering.
            So how is it part of the problem of evil when one animal eats another? Is it because we don't like the thought of it or is it something else. If it is because we don't like the thought of it then that points to our desire for goodness and makes it more of a privation problem.
            (for my own reputation I must say that I do love animals!)

          • Darren

            David Nickol wrote,

            If I am mauled by a lion, I don't see how that is a privation of good.

            Phaw, that's an easy one. Not being mauled by a lion is clearly a Good, and since Evil has no Ontological existence, what those uneducated nobs without a proper understanding of the Great-and-Powerful-Aquinas mistakenly think of as "being mauled by a lion" is actually just "not not being mauled by a Lion".
            ;)

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            Can you define animal suffering other than to say "we know it when we see it"?

            Schopenhaur to the rescue:

            "Whoever wants summarily to test the assertion that the pleasure in the world outweighs the pain, or at any rate that the two balance each other, should compare the feelings of an animal that is devouring another with those of that other."

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            Darren, do you mind
            elaborating here? (Assuming that metaphysical assumptions are valid). Are you saying that the creator created evil, suffering, and cruelty?

            If we posit a creator deity calling forth all of reality from utter and complete Nothing, what does that mean?

            Did the Nothing contain anything when it was still Nothing? Certainly not matter or energy. Neither the rules under which matter and energy operate. Nor space, time, or their corresponding rules. How about (for lack of a better word) metaphysics? Does the non-existent Nothing contain the metaphysical principles of non-existence or Nothingness? Perhaps Plato’s forms? The Rules of Logic? Is there such a thing as “2” in the Nothing, and if so would two of them make “4”? Is there Good or Evil in our Nothing? True, False, Blue, Essence, Nature, Freedom, Bondage?

            Nope. Nada. Zip.

            When our favorite Omni-deity cried “Let there be Light”, he
            was also saying let there be Evil, and Loss, and Privation, and Suffering, and Sin (and lots of other things, some good, but that is beside the point). If he created physics (matter and energy and space and time and the rules governing them), so too did he create Metaphysics (Ontologies and Forms and Essences and Natures and the rules governing them).

            Saying that such a God creating this or that natural evil or
            this or that instance of suffering seems rather small potatoes when we consider that this God invented the very existence of Evil and Suffering and that without his carefully fitting them into the fabric of reality they would not even exist.

          • Rob Abney

            "God invented the very existence of Evil and Suffering and that without his carefully fitting them into the fabric of reality they would not even exist."
            Here is my understanding, God is goodness and all he created is good. Evil is an accidental aspect (accidental = nonessential attribute), it results from imperfection. Goodness and evil are not equal qualities, if they were there would be an even greater entity to measure each by. Evil doesn't disprove God, it proves a higher being.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            when we consider that this God invented the very existence of Evil and Suffering and that without his carefully fitting them into the fabric of reality they would not even exist.

            I don't think you have to imagine it in that way though. We can also imagine that true charity, intrinsically, cannot be itself without allowing for chasms "in between" that must be crossed, voids that must be filled, etc. Perhaps (and this is what I imagine), if charity were to be revealed in a way that didn't conform to that chasm-filled topology, it wouldn't be a revelation of charity at all. It would be like trying to make a pretzel without twisting it around to create gaps within it: you would just end up with a bread stick that by its very nature would not be a pretzel.

            That said, I do embrace an eschatological vision in which all the chasms are ultimately crossed and all the gaps are ultimately filled. What I imagine in this regard is that there could be no true participation in that eschaton if we did not grow towards it in time, just as there can be no true participation in the finish line if you don't actually run the race. Time, which allows us to grow out of a state is incompleteness, is perhaps essential to participation.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            How much of that suffering do you think is (a) caused by humans; (b) preventable by humans?

            This is the wrong question. The question isn't how much humans with limited foresight are able to act to prevent suffering. The question is how much suffering is an omniscient and all-powerful God able to prevent given the theodicy we are operating under.

            The follow up question is to what extent is the distinction between cause and prevent blurred for a traditional God,, creator of the universe.

          • Peter

            Perhaps the goal hasn't quite been reached. Perhaps we have not reached our state of evolutionary perfection. We may be in an intermediate evolutionary state where we have only recently acquired consciousness and yet we are still brutish.

            Perhaps we are in an intermediate state where we have not yet cast off our brutishness and where we stupidly and selfishly cause, allow or are unable to prevent most of the suffering around us.

            There may be planets out there where civilisations have advanced to the point of casting off their brutishness and eliminating their suffering. This would coincide with their acquisition of spacefaring technology and would explain why we have not been visited or invaded, since any species advanced enough to do so would also be benign.

            Perhaps our future evolution has to take on an whole new form, no longer relying on the blind natural forces of the past but on the opening up of our minds, hearts and wills. Perhaps that's why the Creator visited us 2000 years ago, to set us firmly on that path.

          • Will

            This would explain why we have not been visited or invaded, since any species advanced enough to do so would also be benign.

            FWIW I think assuming this is a big mistake. Natural selection rewards the strong, and the strong typically conquer. They also multiply. Besides, let's say you are right, there is no reason that they wouldn't colonize or make use of lifeless planets. Wouldn't it be a benevolent goal to turn lifeless planets into something that supports consciousness? If we survive our infancy, I'm confident it will be an important goal of ours to spread our cosmic gifts to the dead parts of the universe, we can easily leave inhabited planets alone...the universe is a really, really, big place.

            Of course, a benign species could also analyze us and decide we are too dangerous to allow us to continue development. With our alpha male instincts and our propensity to destroy and make war, they might not be completely wrong. Let's just hope we don't destroy ourselves because of those propensities, nuclear holocaust is still a disturbingly real possibility.

            President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will put more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service this year.

            http://www.bbc.com/news/world-33151125

            Imagine if we invent something worse than Nuke's. Many people have no idea how powerful these modern hydrogen bombs are. They make Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like fire crackers. For reference, Fat Man was 20 kilotons. USSRs Tsar Bomba was 50,000 kilotons. You do the math. Many ICBM missiles contain multiple warheads...

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNYe_UaWZ3U

          • Lazarus

            Your ability to sincerely draft a post like that, and my inability to do so (any more), is one of the reasons why you have faith and I do not.

          • Peter

            Faith without reason is fideism. Fideism is the oxygen of new atheism because it is falsifiable. Faith is not nor can ever be falsifiable because it is accompanied by reason.

            I can understand, and even agree with you, if you say that you are abandoning fideism. However, if you say you are abandoning faith then you are also abandoning reason, and that I don't agree with.

            New atheism claims to be the voice of reason, and indeed it is with respect to fideism. But with respect to faith, new atheism is no longer the voice of reason.

            Reason cannot contradict reason, so new atheism cannot contradict faith. All it can do is offer an alternative interpretation of reality equally as unfalsifiable as that offered by faith.

            When it boils down to it you have simply switched one faith for another, both accompanied by reason and both equally unfalsifiable.

          • Rob Abney

            I like your synopsis, I suppose you are referring to "blind" faith. The difficulty is going deep into the details to show that the tenets of our faith do not contradict reason. Unfortunately the internet is full of sophistry, every declaration given equal weight, Wikipedia is the most prevalent example.
            I'm not sure I understand your last sentence though, that he is switching one faith for another. It seems more like such a person is switching faith and reason for reason alone.

          • Peter

            To declare an absence of belief in a Creator is to declare belief in naturalism as the source and origin of reality.

            Although a reasonable hypothesis, there is no evidence that naturalism is the source and origin of reality. To believe in it involves a position of faith. Therefore to declare an absence of belief in a Creator is a position of faith.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are you Roman Catholic?

          • Peter

            Yes.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That's the plan? Could have fooled me.

            Hobbes:

            In such condition [State of Nature], there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't understand this, does it mean that none of those inventions of man will exist in a state of nature. Is it excluding man and his inventions from nature?

          • George

            I'm going to start sounding like a theistic apologist, because I have to ask you where you got your standard from. :P What context, what standard of comparison, can you or anyone have, to come to these kinds of conclusions/realizations about the universe itself?

            Blue has meaning for me, for instance, because I don't claim the entire universe is blue.

        • Darren

          Speaking of the unfolding plan of reality, another silly
          thing you now get to recognize as silly, Leibniz’s
          Pre-Established Harmony solution to the mind-body problem
          .

          • Lazarus

            It sounds like a make-over scam sold on morning tv.

  • Craig Roberts

    Philosophical apologetics creates atheists. Every time some Christian tries to apply the strict rules of logic to the Bible (e.g. "God cannot contradict himself.") anybody with an ounce of sense and knowledge of the Bible thinks, "Not sure which 'god' you're talking about but the Bible is full of contradictions!" To deny it is to lose all credibility and convert listeners to atheism.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Perhaps the link between philosophy and litererature needs to be better explained. I would hope that no one is trying to create direct isomorphisms between "what the bible says" and philosophical propositions, as if biblical literature were just a roman a clef. It has to be understood that there is a very complex "middle layer" of literary analysis, whereby one asks things like: "What is the biblical author really trying to get at?", "What is the experience of life that the biblical author is trying to convey (whether consciously or subsconsciously)?", "How is he trying to situate his experience in the broader cultural tradition in which he finds himself?", etc. Only after that literary excavation harvest has occurred can we begin to map the abstracted concepts into philosophical propositions.

      I am not sure if this is what you were getting at, but I think the philosophical layer is often unnecessary, and it suffices for many practical purposes to simply do the literary analysis and correlate the findings from the literary analysis with one's own life experiences.

      The philosophical approach that I think you are criticizing reminds me a bit of an elementary math curriculum that was used in older (hopefully now defunct) French educational systems (it was still in use in West Africa in the 90s, unfortunately). They started by teaching that addition was commutative, associative, and distributive, without first trying to correlate the concept of addition to anything in the young students' experience (e.g. "suppose you have two apples, ...") !!

      • Craig Roberts

        You make good points. I just think it would be better to state up front that explaining the Bible is like explaining poetry. It will never yield to the type of nuts and bolts examination that atheists demand. So when someone says, "I don't get it" in regards to revelation it's better to admit that there are deep and mysterious things that are being put forth and most people (Christian or not) feel the same way at some point. The apologist that says, "Don't worry, Thomist meta-physics can help you understand God without revelation!" is just setting people up for more frustration and disappointment.

  • I really have no objection to anything stated in this piece other than the assertion that it is conventional wisdom Christianity and Catholicism are devoid of reason and based on blind faith. Just what convention supports this, I do not know.

    Certainly many atheists will take this position but not all nor would I suggest most.

    That Catholics have supported and contributed enormously to philosophy is clear. So have atheists, polytheistic, pantheists and others.

    The interesting questions for me are whether the distinctive fundamental elements of theism, and specific religions are fallacious? Do they apply reason properly?

  • Perhaps I still need to learn more about Thomistic philosophy, vs. the early Platonic l000 years of Catholicism!!! Anyway, I believe that this post from Just Thomism, defines the issue addressed in this OP. And to get out of my difficulty with respect to the EN/SN contradictions, and how they affect me personally, fortunately I feel this person to be a/the most qualified philosopher I have yet found on these questions.....Hopefully I will find some answers there...
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/the-logic-of-the-problem-of-universals/#respond

    • Yes. Perhaps I do not understand what these meditative experiments of mine are 'really' all about? I've only got a Specialty in Philosophy, and I find that I have abandoned 'logic' in order to search for meaning, perhaps.. or categories, and relationships. So I'll never be up to these contests. I am merely trying to go 'at my own pace', without drawing any 'conclusions'....My life-time personal interest in philosophy has indeed brought me into the grips of 'that which is beyond me'. I will never have the genius of an Aristotle, an Aquinas, and down through the ages. And yet I have always believed in spending time reading these philosophers over what? 40 years that I have 'understood them'. Sometimes passively, I have been aware, but I knew even at the time I made this self-judgment, that there was such a distinction!! And yes, some philosophies, really did stump me - like Wittgenstein's Tractatus, and others that I simply could not read....But now....I guess I shall just have to accept that I am as sane as I can hope to be and leave this argument between SN-EN to you, you perhaps who believe, like I once did, that ..but yes, I surely do still have some understanding?...But my study has mainly centered on 'modernism' .Still- these posts remain so interesting to me...But I can no longer 'take' the conflict..that has developed between my interest in world religions - and this????
      https://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/08/08/the-comment-that-turned-into-a-post/

      • Perhaps I actually 'might have something to 'confess' - I can't help but 'feel' that this whole enterprise has become kind of 'frightening' to me.....

        • And now checking into EN and finding some interesting lack of correspondence.. and I am suddenly bored, bored, bored, right out of my mind. Of course that could be called the norm!!! Anyway, perhaps - It all really is not worth the time and effort....and it's better to just continue within my own continuity of mind, my own karma, my own 'stream of consciousness' whether or not it ends in any kind of 'Wake'......Blessings to you and your family, Brandon.....

  • Lazarus

    My father passed away this morning, so I am going to be offline for a few days. I will reply to outstanding posts then.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Very sorry to hear that Lazarus. We all thank your dad for creating a creating a great man that we have come to know and appreciate.

    • Rob Abney

      Prayers for your family and may your father rest in peace.

      • Lazarus

        Thank you very much, Jim and Rob, for your kind words. They are much appreciated.