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Atheists Who Want Atheism to be True

The existence of God is a topic that tends to elicit strong passions. People have their beliefs about whether God exists or not, but they also have their hopes. Many people hope God does exist, but some prominent voices express a hope quite to the contrary.

This idea that one might hope God doesn’t exist appears deeply perplexing from a Christian perspective, so it is perhaps understandable why a Christian might be inclined to assume such a hope is automatically indicative of sinful rebellion. But is that necessarily the case? Or might there be other reasons why a person might hope God doesn’t exist?

Before going any further, we should take a moment to define the topic under debate. As the saying goes, tell me about the god you don’t believe in because I probably don’t believe in that god either. The same point applies to hope: if you hope God doesn’t exist, there is a good chance that I  also hope God (as defined) doesn’t exist. So it is critically important that we start by defining God so as not to talk past one another.

With that in mind, we can define God as a necessary being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good and who created everything other than God. If that is what we mean by God, is it possible that a person might reasonably hope God doesn’t exist?

You might think that the place to begin is with the new atheists, for they have surely been among the most vocal in expressing their opposition to the very idea of God. But I will turn instead to a much-discussed passage from Thomas Nagel’s 1997 book The Last Word. Nagel’s testimony is particularly relevant here because while the new atheists are populists with an iconoclastic ax to grind, Nagel is a deeply respected and sober philosopher, a professor at New York University and the author of such critically acclaimed books as The View From Nowhere and Mortal Questions. What is more, while the new atheists are unabashedly partisan in their critiques of God and religion, Nagel is measured and very fair. One can find evidence of Nagel’s objectivity in the fact that he has occasionally angered many in the broader atheist community, and endured substantial derision as a result, by endorsing positions or making arguments at odds with majority atheist opinion.1

With that in mind, Nagel’s candid observations about atheism in The Last Word have attracted a lot of attention from theists. He wrote:

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
 
My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.”2

It’s not surprising that this quote should have caught the attention of Christians committed to the Rebellion Thesis. After all, as already noted, Nagel is a leading philosopher and an independent thinker so his testimony immediately carries far more weight than your typical new atheist polemicist, Nagel speaks the truth as he sees it without lens-distorting party-line commitments. Moreover, after beginning with a reflection on his own state of unbelief, he then opines that many atheists share the same “cosmic authority problem.” Now that’s starting to sound promising. In the accompanying footnote, Nagel refuses to speculate on which sources, Oedipal or otherwise, might explain the genesis of this aversion. This, in turn, leaves it open for the Christian to attribute that opposition to sin, just as the Rebellion Thesis supposes.

Given the aura of this quote, it shouldn’t surprise us that several Christians have appealed to it as support for the Rebellion Thesis. Steven Cowan and James S. Spiegel draw attention to the passage in their book The Love of Wisdom: “Nagel, like others, has a problem with ‘cosmic authority.’ He doesn’t want there to be an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good deity to hold him accountable.”3 Even more significant, in his commentary on the quote, Douglas Groothuis opines that Nagel’s words harken back to Paul’s description of cosmic rebellion: “Nagel’s visceral disclosure resembles the apostle Paul’s description of those who, in opposition to the divine knowledge of which they have access, suppress the truth of God’s existence, fail to give God thanks, and thus become darkened in their understanding (see Rom 1:18-21).”4

Perhaps Cowan, Spiegel and Groothuis are on to something. It is true that the Rebellion Thesis doesn’t look quite as outrageous after considering Nagel’s quote. Add to this the self-described antitheist Hitchens as he gripes about “the prospect of serfdom” under God and you just might see a pattern emerging. So could it be that Nagel is demonstrating that this cosmic authority problem really does bring us to the heart of atheism? To put it another way, did Nagel inadvertently produce his own “47 percent” quote, one which lays bare the intransigent spirit of atheism?

As we consider whether Nagel’s quote supports the Rebellion Thesis, let’s start by noting that Nagel himself nowhere suggests that all atheism can be attributed to a “cosmic authority problem.” He merely speculates that many instances could be. He also suggests that there is nobody neutral about the existence of God.5 But one simply can’t support the Rebellion Thesis based on those comparatively meager results.

What is more, a careful reading of The Last Word suggests that Nagel provides at least one explanation for this aversion toward God which is not, in fact, driven by antitheistic hostility. In the following passage, Nagel offers a fascinating speculation on the ultimate source of this aversion and this source is not tied to any problem with cosmic authority per se:

“there is really no reason to assume that the only alternative to an evolutionary explanation of everything is a religious one. However, this may not be comforting enough, because the feeling that I have called the fear of religion may extend far beyond the existence of a personal god, to include any cosmic order of which mind is an irreducible and nonaccidental part. I suspect that there is a deep-seated aversion in the modern ‘disenchanted’ Weltanschauung to any ultimate principles that are not dead—that is, devoid of any reference to the possibility of life or consciousness.”6

Note that in this passage Nagel suggests that the aversion to God may, in fact, be sourced in a more fundamental aversion to, or even fear of, ultimate explanatory principles that are personal in nature. If Nagel is right about this then his problem, and that of other atheists like him, may not be that they are against God but rather that they have an aversion to unknowable or mysterious personal explanations.

Perhaps you’re not exactly clear about what Nagel is referring to here, so let me try an illustration to unpack his speculation a bit further. Imagine that there is an indigenous tribe living beside some sweeping sand dunes. Day after day there is a low, mysterious hum emitting from the sand dunes and the indigenous people attribute that hum to a supernatural cause, i.e., mysterious spirits that live in the dunes. Many western visitors to this community would not only be inclined to think there is a natural explanation, but they also might prefer there to be a natural explanation. Why? This could be for at least two reasons. To begin with, the westerners would prefer the parsimony (that is, the simplicity) and familiarity of a picture of the world in which novel phenomena can ultimately be attributable to natural causes. In addition, those westerners might simply find the notion of spiritual agencies wandering the dunes to be unsettling.

And why exactly is this unsettling? Well, consider another illustration closer to home. Indeed, it could be in your home. When I hear a strange bump in the night, I could attribute it to a ghost, but I’d certainly prefer to think it was the dog! The prospect of unknown (and perhaps unknowable) nonphysical personal agencies interacting in our world is indeed unsettling. It isn’t that the westerners are necessarily hostile to spirit beings humming in the dunes. But they hope such beings don’t exist just the same. In a very interesting passage in The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis locates this fear, this aversion with respect to Rudolf Otto’s conception of the numinous:

“Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told ‘There is a ghost in the next room,’ and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is ‘uncanny’ rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply ‘There is a mighty spirit in the room,’ and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking—a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it—an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare’s words ‘Under it my genius is rebuked.’ This feeling may be described as awe and the object which excites it as the Numinous.”7

As Lewis points out, the fear of the ghost is quite different from the fear of the tiger. It is a fear that appears to overlap significantly with Nagel’s aversion to “ultimate principles that are not dead.” The key to recognize is that this aversion (which, in its purest form, Otto referred to as the mysterium tremendum) is not necessarily indicative of hatred or hostility. Instead, it is closer to that uncanny fear of the unknown, like Lewis’ ghost in the next room, or mysterious entities wandering the sand dunes.8

Speaking of those entities in the sand dunes, let’s return to that illustration for a moment. The indigenous people in the illustration represent a perspective that we can call the “enchanters” while the westerners represent the “disenchanters” position. Enchanters tend to be drawn to magic and mystery and mental agencies. Consequently, they seem to find ultimate personal explanations and the numinous to be appealing. By contrast, the disenchanters prefer natural and scientific explanations that appeal to matter, energy and forces. In their sociological study of atheism in America, sociologists Williamson and Yancey effectively contrast the two perspectives:

“For many believers [i.e., enchanters], this may seem a dismal thought — that there is no mystery, that there is no ‘other,’ and that there is no eternal father to protect and comfort them. For many nonbelievers [i.e., disenchanters], though, the idea is liberating: no fear of death and no fear of judgment, just a marvelous universe to experience and explore — empirically.”9

To be sure, the disenchanter’s perspective is consistent with some degree of active rebellion against God. The desire to avoid divine judgment, for example, could reinforce a predisposition to the disenchanter’s position. But the key for us is that we simply don’t know to what extent Nagel’s aversion toward God is generated by antitheistic impulses versus a more general aversion to the Uncanny side of life. It could be that Nagel maintains a preference for a simpler, predictable and familiar world which is reducible to certain fundamental material principles. And thus it is for that reason that he hopes atheism is true. Consequently, we simply don’t have enough information to count Nagel’s comment as evidence for the Rebellion Thesis.

Nagel gives us a bit more on what I’m calling the disenchanter position elsewhere in The Last Word when he ties this drive for disenchantment to the laudable desire to have explanations that we can understand. As he puts it, “the idea of God serves as a placeholder for an explanation where something seems to demand explanation and none is available . . . .”10 Further, he adds, “I have never been able to understand the idea of God well enough to see such a theory as truly explanatory: It seems rather to stand for a still unspecified purposiveness that itself remains unexplained.”11 From this perspective Nagel’s aversion to God is an aversion to giving up the quest for further understanding. Once again, we see that we need not attribute his words to any divine rebellion.

When we draw all these points together we find that Nagel’s initial comment offers very little to support a robust Rebellion Thesis. It is true that Nagel speculates that many atheists may have a cosmic authority problem, but he never suggests that all do. Moreover, he also offers another plausible explanation for the desire that God not exist, one which is rooted not in an aversion to divine authority, but rather in the disenchanter’s drive for simplicity, predictability, and explanations that can be grasped by the human mind. And as Lewis illustrates, every one of us can sympathize with this impulse, at least to some degree. (I sure hope that thump in the next room wasn’t caused by a ghost.) To cap it off, Nagel also warns atheists about allowing preferences to color their reasoning. At one point he cautions, “it is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist.”12

To sum up, while Nagel’s quote allows for the possibility that an indeterminate number of atheists may be in rebellion against God, it simply does not provide good evidence for the Rebellion Thesis. If I may be blunt, it seems to me that Christians who attempt to play isolated quotes like that of Nagel as a “47 percent trump card” to support of the Rebellion Thesis are engaged in little more than quote-mining. (And yes, quote-mining is as bad as it sounds.)

 

NOTE: This article is adapted from a section of my book titled Is the Atheist My Neighbor?: Rethinking Christian Attitudes toward Atheism.

Notes:

  1. In his book Mind and Cosmos, Nagel argues that the reigning philosophical paradigm among contemporary atheists—a position called naturalism—is a failure and should be replaced with another philosophical theory. This thesis rankled many atheists who believed the attack on naturalism was unjustified. Equally controversial was Nagel’s high profile endorsement in the Times Literary Supplement of Christian intelligent design theorist Stephen Meyer’s monograph Signature in the Cell as one of the best books of 2009. Whether you agree with him or not, Nagel speaks the truth as he sees it without lens-distorting party-line commitments.
  2. Nagel, The Last Word, 130, emphasis added.
  3. Cowan and Spiegel, The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy, 256.
  4. Groothuis, “Why Truth Matters Most: An Apologetic for Truth-Seeking in Postmodern Times,” 444. See also Moreland and Issler, In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God, 59. Other Christian apologists are more nuanced in their appeal to Nagel’s quote. See, for example, Copan, That’s Just Your Interpretation: Responding to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith, 21.
  5. Nagel, The Last Word, 130, n.
  6. Nagel, The Last Word, 133, emphasis added.
  7. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 17.
  8. In 1974 Canadian singer Burton Cummings walked into St. Thomas Church in New York and was suddenly overcome with the sense of a presence he could not understand, a presence very much like Lewis’s Uncanny and Otto’s mysterium tremendum. After this unsettling experience Cummings wrote a song about it that became a big hit. He called the song “I’m Scared.”
  9. Williamson and Yancey, There is No God: Atheists in America, 12.
  10. Nagel, The Last Word, 132–3.
  11. Nagel, The Last Word, 75–6.
  12. Nagel, The Last Word, 131.
Dr. Randal Rauser

Written by

Dr. Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of many books including What on Earth do we Know About Heaven? (Baker, 2013); The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (InterVarsity, 2012); Is the Atheist My Neighbor? (Cascade, 2015); An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything (Prometheus Books, 2016); and his most recent book, What's So Confusing About Grace? (Two Cup Press, 2017)"Randal also blogs and podcasts at RandalRauser.com and lectures widely on Christian worldview and apologetics.

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  • Jim (hillclimber)

    The irony, according to Charles Taylor in A Secular Age, is that disenchantment seems to have deeply Christian roots. The sense that God is in the world (as expressed most fully in the Incarnation) and is moreover sovereign in the world (as expressed most fully in the Resurrection) seems to have combined to produce a sense that one needn't worry about evil spirits in the woods, magic spells, the inherent power of sacralized objects, etc.

    Based on Christian intellectual history so far, it is apparently not easy to strike the correct balance, even within a theistic framework. Too much emphasis on [a particular conception of] God's sovereignty in the world leads to voluntaristic theologies and ultimately to conceptions of creation wherein things don't have natures and teloi of their own, but are dumbly and mechanically pushed around as if on auto-pilot. On the other hand, too little emphasis on God's sovereignty seems to lead to religiosity that, in the tradition Protestant critique at least, is "excessively Catholic", with all the emphasis on the power of saints, angels, sacraments ... and secondary causality.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    In support of the OP, I would add that the Rebellion Thesis is additionally problematic because atheism is often adopted precisely because of its association with a way of life that appears to be more morally rigorous and compelling than the Christian path. Especially, it is seen as more noble to give of oneself quasi-Stoically, without any expectation of eternal reward, than it is to do so "for the denarius of salvation" that Christians seem to seek. (And FWIW, as far as that goes, I think that moral assessment is in some sense correct; nonetheless I think that unilateral moral heroism can miss the mark by closing one off to the relational depths of reality.)

    • Rob Abney

      Jim. You have mis-represented the Christian path, you represent it as doing good so that you may be rewarded but from the beginning of Christianity the reason for doing good is for love of neighbor. Atheists also do good for love of neighbors but they almost always come up short because the highest good is for you and your neighbor to know God.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Please note first of all that I was trying to characterize the way the choice appears to (some) atheists. I am saying that atheism appears to them to be a more moral choice, not a less moral one. Whether their assessment on this point is correct or incorrect, in either case it invalidates the Rebellion Thesis, because at the end of the day they are doing what they think they should do, as opposed to doing what they want to do and rebelling against what they should do. (Obviously I don't actually think atheism is the more moral choice, otherwise I would be one myself. But again, my primary intent was to characterize their position, not to stake out my own.)

        As far as what the Christian path consists of, I would say it this way. Love of neighbor is a participation in agape, and that is a participation in the undying reality of God. Thus, even if love of neighbor entails pain or even death, it is understood that that participation will fulfill our deepest longing in an eternal way. That IS an eternal reward. By contrast, some atheists seem intent on doing good for their neighbor while ostensibly not acknowledging the reality of any attendant eternal reward. And I am saying that I can understand how that seems more noble.

        • Rob Abney

          Jim, if you perform an act of love for an external reward then it is not an act of love even if that reward is the fulfillment of our deepest longing. As you’ve told me before, you cannot earn salvation.

          some atheists seem intent on doing good for their neighbor while ostensibly not acknowledging the reality of any attendant eternal reward

          That does sound noble, do you mind giving me an example?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, I agree that "reward" was not a good word for me to use, insofar as that implies something transactional or something earned. "Reward" is a crude Sunday-school approximation to the more subtle concept of unearned grace that is made efficacious through participation in faith and good works. So, I accept that correction.

            Nonetheless, I emphasize again that I was making a point about decisions made in light of perceptions of morality. It is certainly a widespread perception (even among Christians) that Christians "do good things so that they get to go to heaven". And it is also (in some circles, at least) a widespread perception that atheists just "do good things because that's just the right thing to do". Whether these perceptions are right or wrong is beside the point. The point is that a person who perceives the moral landscape in this way and chooses atheism because of its perceived moral superiority is not a person with a cosmic authority problem. Such a person may be wrong for other reasons, but "cosmic authority problem" is not the right diagnosis in such cases.

          • Milton Platt

            The broader discussion of morality aside, I think it is still reasonable,to say that Christians have to do a percieved good to get into heaven, that percieved good being faith in a concept that cannot be demonstrated to exist, ie: a god.
            They “earn” the right to go to heaven by being gullible about the god proposition.
            Also, what happens to a hypothetical Christian who believes in god, Jesus, etc. but does a preponderance of evil during his lifetime? Does he go to heaven while a non-believer goes to hell even though he lived a more moral life?
            If one would say that if you really believe in a god, you cannot live such a life, then what of Satan, who supposedly rebeled against a god he knew more directly than any Christian possibly could? Surely Satan believes god exists, and yet his life is by Christian measure wholly evil.

        • BA

          "because at the end of the day they are doing what they think they should do"

          Jim,

          I think this view misses perhaps the more important part. In rigorous atheism, there is no "Should", only the silence of "Is".
          As Lewis put it, you can't get "Ought" from "Is".... that is to say one cannot look at a stone and conclude he should feed the hungry. He can so feed if he wishes and many atheists do but there is no more "merit" in feeding than in not feeding. Both are mere actions in a directionless world.

          I think Sartre saw this when he emphasized "authenticity" .....that is to be authentic, a man must choose. The choice didn't matter but the act of choosing does. It mattered not whether you pick up a stranger on the side of the road or mow him down......as long as you made a willful choice.

          Once you eliminate the Lawgiver, there is NO Law....only opinion.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    [Re-post after spam-detector denied me.]

    The irony, according to Charles Taylor in A Secular Age, is that disenchantment seems to have deeply Christian roots. The sense that God is in the world (as expressed most fully in the Incarnation) and is moreover sovereign in the world (as expressed most fully in the Resurrection) seems to have combined to produce a sense that one needn't worry about evil spirits in the woods, magic spells, the inherent power of sacralized objects, etc.

    Based on Christian intellectual history so far, it is apparently not easy to strike the correct balance, even within a theistic framework. Too much emphasis on [a particular conception of] God's sovereignty in the world leads to voluntaristic theologies and ultimately to conceptions of creation wherein things don't have natures and teloi of their own, but are dumbly and mechanically pushed around as if on auto-pilot. On the other hand, too little emphasis on God's sovereignty seems to lead to religiosity that, in the tradition Protestant critique at least, is "excessively Catholic", with all the emphasis on the power of saints, angels, sacraments ... and secondary causality.

  • I don't hope there is no god. Nor do I hope there is. I hope there is an afterlife, that I nor anyone else is ever anihilated.

    I hope that if there is a god it is not required to hold discriminatory views of women, homosexuals, or the transgendered. I hope that god does not require those who lack a belief or relationship with him to be killed or deprived of a not unpleasant afterlife. I hope any gods that might exist are sex positive and don't want me to take dangerous positions in contraception.

    I hope that any god that exists would recognize that a person is good if one values other conscious beings as valuable in themselves and not ends, and would frown on any kind of worship.

    I hope that any god that exists would be able to forgive based on repentance alone and not need to instantiate a system of belief around a good being being tortured to death, one that would view substantitutional atonement as wrong.

    I would hope that any god that exists that is all powerful and good would intervene to mostly alleviate or prevent human suffering, or explain why she doesn't.

    I'd hope that any god that exists and for some reason felt a need to communicate a message to humans would simply do so directly to each of us to avoid the kind of massive religious divisions strife and slaughter that has plagued humans for centuries.

    • Rob Abney

      Wow, all your "hopes" will be fulfilled. All of your desires are met by the God of classical theism, who is the God that catholics worship! If only hou can accept the "authority" of God.

      • James

        That’s not the God I remember from Catholic school.

        • Rob Abney

          We describe God in different terms depending on whether we are discussing with adults or teaching school children.

          • James

            Gotta keep the kids in line.

          • Rob Abney

            I don’t know how old you are, but most adults agree that that is the right thing to do. Would you have preferred that Catholic school kids be taught about another god?

          • James

            You’re missing the point.

            The God you describe as the one Catholics worship doesn’t resemble the God I was taught about in Catholic school or, for that matter, have heard about from other Catholic sources.

            For starters, I have never heard God be described as “sex positive”. Certainly the Catholic God doesn’t frown upon worship either.

          • Rob Abney

            I agree, I'm missing your points, please explain.

          • James

            You claimed the God Brian Green Adams is looking for upthread is the God Catholics worship. Yet Brian Green Adams description bears little resemblance to the Catholic idea of God.

            Either you didn’t understand Brian Green Adams or you don’t understand the God Catholics worship.

      • All of your desires are met by the God of classical theism, who is the God that catholics worship! If only hou can accept the "authority" of God.

        Don't you mean: If only you will accept what Catholics say about God?

        • Rob Abney

          No, I mean that bga described many situations that he is hopeful for and the Catholic position is in agreement.

          • So your remark about accepting God's authority was irrelevant to the point you wanted to make?

          • Rob Abney

            No, it’s relevant unless there is an anti-Catholic lens used to view the remarks.

          • If I don't agree up front that Catholics represent God's authority in this world, am I being anti-Catholic?

          • Rob Abney

            No, but you also can't deny it up front either.

          • I am not giving Catholics any special treatment, favorable or unfavorable. Whatever moral and intellectual authority I deny up front to every other human institution, I will deny to the church until it can show me compelling and irrefutable evidence that I should grant it an exception.

          • Rob Abney

            You can’t do anything about having 46 chromosomes but you can replace presuppositions with an open mind.

          • An open mind is not a mind without presuppositions. An open mind is willing to change its presuppositions.

          • Rob Abney

            Sure, I agree, but I've read enough of your comments to know that you don't change your presuppositions especially concerning Catholicism or Aristotle!

          • I don't expect you to credit me with any intellectual virtues. For the lurkers, though: In my time on this forum, no one has shown me a good reason to change my presuppositions. A mind that changes without good reasons is not an open mind. It's a credulous mind.

          • Rob Abney

            I thought we were having a dialogue, I didn't realize that you were concerned about how lurkers might view your answers and make judgements about you.
            Here is some commentary on Aristotle's thoughts about virtues: There are several ways in which Aristotle approaches the question of what happiness consists in. First, he notes that flourishing for plants and animals consists in their functioning well according to their natures. So one question we should ask is this: What is the proper or peculiar function of a human being? Aristotle thinks it obvious that our proper function consists in reasoning and in acting in accord with reason. This is the heart of the doctrine of virtue, both moral and intellectual. So on this line of reasoning we are led to the conclusion that the possession and exercise of moral and intellectual virtue is the essential element in our living well.

            A second approach is to survey the goods which we find ourself desiring, since happiness presumably consists in the attainment of some good or set of goods such that to have them in the right way is to be living well. One division of goods is into (i) external goods (wealth, fame, honor, power, friends), (ii) goods of the body (life, health, good looks, physical strength, athletic ability, dexterity, etc.), and goods of the soul (virtue, life-projects, knowledge and education, artistic creativity and appreciation, recreation, friendship, etc.). The problem then is to delineate the ways in which such goods are related to happiness. Aristotle's view is that (a) certain goods (e.g., life and health) are necessary preconditions for happiness and that (b) others (wealth, friends, fame, honor) are embellishments that promote or fill out a good life for a virtuous person, but that (c) it is the possession and exercise of virtue which is the core constitutive element of happiness. The virtuous person alone can attain happiness and the virtuous person can never be miserable in the deepest sense, even in the face of misfortune which keeps him from being happy or blessed. So happiness combines an element over which we have greater control (virtue) with elements over which we have lesser control (health, wealth, friends, etc.).
            https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/180/nicomach.htm

          • I thought we were having a dialogue

            We are, but it’s happening in a public venue. I have no reason to pretend that nobody else is paying any attention to what we say to each other.

            So on this line of reasoning we are led to the conclusion that the possession and exercise of moral and intellectual virtue is the essential element in our living well.

            I don’t accept Aristotle’s reasoning, but I partly agree with his conclusion in this instance. I agree that the proper exercise of moral and intellectual virtue is an essential element in our living well.

            The virtuous person alone can attain happiness and the virtuous person can never be miserable in the deepest sense, even in the face of misfortune which keeps him from being happy or blessed. So happiness combines an element over which we have greater control (virtue) with elements over which we have lesser control (health, wealth, friends, etc.).

            I’m tempted to say I agree, but I’m not assuming that I would agree with everything Aristotle had to say about virtue.

          • Rob Abney

            Here's another recommendation, watch Bishop Barron's talk at Google about the opening up of the mind. https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/lecture/religion-and-the-opening-up-of-the-mind-google-talk/5770/

          • Thank you. I enjoyed watching it. He's good. I'll post some comments after I've had time to get my thoughts organized.

          • A couple of preliminary comments . . . .

            Barron says, “Religion authentically construed is meant to open up the mind and the will.”

            That's nice to hear, but it's really difficult for us non-religious folks to take seriously anyone's claim that their own religion is more authentic than someone else's. That is perhaps especially so of us who are familiar with the arguments between Catholics and Protestants about which of them represents authentic Christianity.

            Next: According to Barron, channeling Aquinas, the mind wants to know all unconditioned truths, and the will seeks an unconditioned happiness that Aquinas called beatitudo. But as Barron notes, Aquinas’s own argument rests on Aristotle’s notion of final causation. Now, Barron says that regardless of what we think about final causation in nature, we cannot deny it when talking about our own lives as human beings. But there is a problem with this line of thinking. At least, it's a problem for us non-Aristotelians.

            I agree that we cannot reasonably deny that we, as conscious agents, act with purpose. We do what we do in order to accomplish certain ends. We have goals toward which we direct our behaviors. But it is reasonable, I would argue, to deny that we must assume the existence of any purpose beyond the immediate. We are products of natural selection. I get it that this is consistent with Catholic doctrine as far as it goes, but Catholic doctrine insists on going farther. Appealing to scripture and to Aristotle, it says we each have a purpose that exists independently of our own minds. Barron calls it the “first mover” of our wills and says it “cannot be any good in this world.” But the existence of any such mind-independent purpose presupposes Aristotle's metaphysics or some similar ontology. In other words, it presupposes the falseness of philosophical naturalism and therefore, as a defense of Christianity, just begs the question.

          • Rob Abney

            Religion is the consideration of the highest things and ideals; neither you nor anyone else can claim to be non-religious. It may be relative, as in the fact that some people can ponder great mysteries whereas others ponder simple things as great mysteries.

            You reject formal and final causes in general but you haven't made a case for your reasoning, you've just followed your previous way of thinking, that is contrary to the term "open-minded". Give one example of an immediate purpose and I will give you another larger, encompassing purpose, just as the Bishop did in his commentary.

          • Religion is the consideration of the highest things and ideals

            That is not what most people usually mean when they talk about religion. I was using the word in its conventional sense.

            neither you nor anyone else can claim to be non-religious.

            And therefore, what?

            I am not arguing “This is a religious belief, therefore it is wrong.” I am arguing that a particular philosophical belief that has been endorsed by a particular religion can reasonably be denied. Whether I myself happen to have any religion is beside the point.

            You reject formal and final causes in general but you haven't made a case for your reasoning

            Making a case is not the same thing as persuading. I haven’t changed your mind. That could mean I didn’t make my case very well. It doesn’t mean I haven’t made it.

            you've just followed your previous way of thinking, that is contrary to the term "open-minded".

            You have a troubling notion of what it means to be open-minded.

            Give one example of an immediate purpose and I will give you another larger, encompassing purpose, just as the Bishop did in his commentary.

            I expressed no disagreement with his observation about nested purposes.

          • Rob Abney

            From memory, the talk was to an assumedly secular crowd, who are wealthy and intelligent, they need someone to boldly say to them that despite all that they have there is more. He had to persuade them to open their minds to the possibility. He did a great job of demonstrating that there is always more because the great ideals are only known when you understand that they exist, when you step beyond your presuppositions that hold you back.

          • I have no problem with anybody encouraging open-mindedness. I have a problem with the assumption that whenever a mind doesn't change, it's because the mind is closed.

          • Rob Abney

            Your mind may not be closed but you have roadblocks in the form of presuppositions as you admitted.

          • I have admitting nothing except being like all other humans. We all have presuppositions. Unlike some people, I will admit that any of mine could possibly be in error.

            The church claims to have identified one or more particular presuppositions of mine that are in error, but the church's argument to that conclusion depends on certain of its own presuppositions. I am no more obliged to change any of my presuppositions just because the church says they're wrong than the church is obliged to change any of its presuppositions just because I say they're wrong.

          • Rob Abney

            The church claims to have identified one or more particular presuppositions of mine that are in error, but the church's argument to that conclusion depends on certain of its own presuppositions

            What presuppositions are you referring to? Which ones has the church said you have and which ones does the church rely on to make that claim? That should facilitate a good discussion!

          • Rob Abney

            Here's an interesting article that explains teleology since one of your presuppositions is that final causes are not real.
            https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/evolution-and-the-purposes-of-life

          • A complete response would far exceed the length appropriate for posting here. These are some of my thoughts.

            Talbott says, “Dawkins’s formulation has the virtue of making explicit the idea that the organism is a designed artifact, or machine.” That interpretation is disingenuous, to put it as charitably as possible. What Dawkins explicitly says - - so explicitly as to make it hard to see how Talbott could have misunderstood him - - is that organisms are not designed except in a strictly metaphorical sense. It is an apt metaphor, so apt that biologists can use it comfortably, but that doesn't make it literally true that organisms are designed.

            He says the question is whether the design had a purpose. This is semantic legerdemain. There is no useful concept of agentless design. The term “intelligent design” is a redundancy. Design implies a designer, with a mind and with a purpose.

            Talbott says, “If the results are in fact the same as if they were intended, then perhaps we should be open to the possibility that they simply were intended.” Sure, let us be open. But let us not be intimidated into thinking that being open an idea entails an obligation to accept the idea.

            He tries to disparage the claim that purpose is an illusion by inquiring about its agency, as if to ask, “If we're being fooled, then who or what is trying to fool us?” But we might as well ask who is trying to trick us when we see a mirage. Illusion per se does not require agency. It requires only that that we be mistaken about what we are perceiving. If any agent must be involved, it is the perceiving agent.

            Talbott asks, “If, as Ernst Mayr wrote in 1964, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection ‘solved the problem of teleology,’ what, exactly, needed solving?” The problem to be solved was the apparent difficulty of explaining the earth’s biological history without teleology. Talbott suggests that teleology bothers no one but “those who long for a purely mechanistic understanding of the world.” But can we all admit that nature seems resolutely indifferent to our longings? Teleology exists in nature or it doesn't. If it does, then it makes no difference how many naturalists wish it didn't. But if it doesn't, then it also makes no difference how much our adversaries want it to. And the only way to make a reasoned judgment as to which is more likely the case is to examine the relevant evidence with as much impartiality as we are capable of mustering.

            Talbott, uniquely in my experience with naturalism’s adversaries, identifies the problem with teleology in something he calls its “inwardness.”

            It occurs wherever a conscious, purposive designer, traditionally taken to be God, is assumed to have created organisms, and again wherever the organism itself, once created, becomes a locus of end-directed functioning. Resolving the issue of teleology has meant, for the biologist, eliminating inwardness on both fronts, and the argument often makes little distinction between them.

            If biologists seem not to distinguish the two hypotheses, it's because the same objection applies to both. Neither of them is needed to explain anything.

            The process of evolution, he says, “is universally presented to us as a tinkering with programs and executive machinery.” Universally? I don't think so. I have been reading what scientists have to say about evolution for many decades, and I have never before now seen it so presented. Of course the presentations can be restated in terms of programs and executive machinery, but a lot of vital details would get lost in the translation.

            Talbott says,

            Everyone agrees that natural selection cannot work unless the organisms available to it are capable of carrying out all the activities necessary to their life and survival, while also reproducing and preparing an inheritance for their offspring. But these are the very activities that presented us with the problem of teleology in the first place. If natural selection must assume them in order to do its work, then to say it solves the problem of teleological origins looks very much like question-begging.

            Who is begging the question here? It is Talbot and his allies who are claiming that “all the activities necessary to their life and survival, while also reproducing and preparing an inheritance for their offspring” are inexplicable without teleology. Now that the scientific community has responded with a non-teleological explanation, he accuses them of assuming teleological origins. That is just incoherent, unless he has redefined teleology to mean “all the activities necessary to their life and survival, while also reproducing and preparing an inheritance for their offspring.”

            Then he tries to link purpose with a definition of life. It has been famously difficult for biologists to reach a consensus definition of their subject. Some of the characteristics usually listed as definitive of life can be described in terms of purposive activity, but none of them has to be. The fact that a certain process has a certain outcome does not make that outcome the purpose of that process. Water flowing in a river erodes whatever land it flows through, but land erosion is not the purpose of rivers.

            Natural selection, he says, “does not account for the fact of end-directed behavior, which is inseparable from the fact of life itself.” But it does account for behavior that enhances the survival prospects of organisms that engage in that behavior, without having to assume the existence any entity that has any interest in the organisms’ survival, indeed without assuming even that the organisms themselves care whether they live or die. To explain life, purpose is a hypothesis that we just don't need.

            He devotes a section of the essay to “Natural Selection as Agent.” It is not entirely clear what his problem is here unless it is an odd literalism. Sure, in most contexts, selection presupposes agency, which presupposes intelligence and purpose. But Darwin’s point in calling it natural selection was that it was just like artificial selection in every relevant respect except for its requiring no agency. To call natural selection itself an agent of anything is to speak metaphorically.

            Talbott says,

            I referred above to an entrenched dualism. Having inherited mind and matter as the incommensurable products of Descartes’s cleaving stroke, the scientist today rightly concludes that something is badly awry. But, rather than going back and undoing that fateful stroke in order to find a different way forward, he meekly accepts both mind and matter from Descartes’s hand, and then decides he can be rid of the contradiction between them only by throwing away one of them.

            That is one way to describe what happened. Here is another. Descartes was intellectually committed to both his science and to his Catholic faith. He believed he had found a way, without presupposing either, to prove that his and every other human mind existed independently of any material substance. Mind-body dualism necessarily followed, more or less by definition. It was not clearly inconsistent with any scientific principle, and it was obviously supportive of what Christianity had to say about the soul. But the non-Christian portion of the scientific community was not obliged to go along with Descartes. Some accepted his dualism and some did not, but denying mind-body dualism is not denying the mind. It is saying that the body is sufficient to account for the mind. Nothing is being thrown away except for the prospect of personal survival beyond physical death.

            And as Talbott himself remarks, this is one reason for the popular disacceptance of evolution. The other reasons, he says, are its atheism, amorality, and nihilism. The claim that any of these is a logical consequence of evolution has been addressed in too many other places to need repeating here.

            This much is true, though: If anyone studies naturalistic evolution looking for answers to questions about God’s existence, or the difference between right and wrong, or the meaning of life, they won't find any - - not wrong answers, but no answers at all. This is not a problem for either evolution or naturalism. It is a problem for the assumption that these questions ought to have scientific answers.

            He concludes the essay with a remark about the “value of a little humility on our part in the face of profound and unanswered questions.” Very well, but no one is denying that there are many such questions. We are denying that some of the questions Talbott wants us to ask are among them. And as long as he misrepresents so much of what we say, we are not the ones lacking humility.

    • Mandla Vilakazi

      Unfortunately Brian Green Adams, no such God exists. As much as I would like a God of another nature to exist, that fits my needs right now. God is an entity upon himself and your ideologies mean very little to Him. What you are hoping for is to be a god yourself and make a world that is to your liking. Your views on sex and gender issues and oppression and so forth, are your own (and the group that you belong to, I assume) And however you may dress your attack on the God that already exists, there has been many, with very different reasons. The God you are looking for is called man and his nature. This God cannot save you, but he'll allow you pleasure, indulgence and all that you request. Just vote him in. God is all good, as per His own definition, because we are not all good enough to know the measure. So, your sense of right may be a far cry from what He considers goodness and you may sound downright evil to Him, right now; even with the ideas that you find righteous and good, in your own sight.

      • >What you are hoping for is to be a god yourself...

        No I'm not.

        >and make a world that is to your liking.

        I'd like to improve the world. I don't hope for that.

        >Your views on sex and gender issues and oppression and so forth, are your own (and the group that you belong to, I assume)

        My views are my own, not a group's.

        >And however you may dress your attack on the God that already exists, there has been many, with very different reasons.

        I don't attack any gods. I don't believe any gods exist. I have discussions with people about there are good reasons to believe any god exists.

        >The God you are looking for is called man and his nature.

        Man is not gods, they are people. I'm not looking for men, they are abundant.

        You have smugly preached, good for you!

        If you think you have convincing reasons to belubel a god exists I suggest you post at the debate an atheist sub Reddit. I will be happy to discuss any arguments you'd care to advance .

      • David Cromie

        No supposed 'gods' exist, not even your favourite model, unless you can provide the irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that I am wrong. Can you manage that?

        • Mark

          A positivist expecting irrefutable, falsifiable evidence for the existence of gods is much the same as expecting a metal detector to find a gemstone. It doesn't matter how many metal detectors you've shown can't find a gemstone, what matters is that you've limited your ability to find gemstones to only metal detectors.

          • Sample1

            The reverse is true. It is the believer limiting gem discovery to faith detectors.

            Mike

          • Mark

            I appreciate the absurd humor approach :)

            Provide me with irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that aesthetics, infinite numeric sets, or human rights exist. You might need to get out your faith detector.

          • Sample1

            The real finger in the pie here is the detector. A faith detector leads to contradictory world views: multiple beliefs about origins and destinations. A metal detector reliably detects metal.

            Aesthetics is claimed to be subjective and objectively true by David Deutsch, kind of a neat guy:https://www.nature.com/articles/526S16a.pdf?origin=ppub

            I’m agnostic about the nature of numbers. Of course they exist, at a minimum, conceptually. And again, there is one math detector that reliably works, universally.

            Human rights are codified by humans. Unlike early followers of Jesus and other cultures, modern society does not accept owning people as property.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            modern society does not accept owning people as property.

            Are you sure about that assertion? There are 400,000 slaves in the modern U.S.
            https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/19/us-modern-slavery-report-global-slavery-index

          • Sample1

            Think about it again.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Good point. The supply chain for products we buy is enslaving more people than at anytime in human history.
            http://slaveryfootprint.org

          • Rob Abney

            Nature can only get so beautiful, but humans can paint something that is more beautiful than any scene.

            I agree that there is objective beauty, but Deutsch makes the mistake of confusing a concept, beauty, with an image. A painter can never paint his true concept of beauty although he can paint an image that tries to represent that concept.
            He does frequently refer to the immaterial although he will not admit that immateriality is a real thing.

          • Sample1

            Glad you’re reading Deutsch!

            Mike

  • David Nickol

    I am not sure it makes sense to hope there is a God or to hope that there isn't. I am reminded of a Zen saying that goes as follows: "If you believe, things are such as they are. If you don't believe, things are such as they are." (Caution: I am no expert in Zen, so I may be interpreting the saying all wrong!) In any case, it seems pointless to me to hope there is or isn't a God when hoping can have no effect whatsoever on what is actually the case.

    What I can say is that I would be relieved if there were a convincing proof that there was no God. On the other hand, I would be ecstatic for a proof that there was an all-good, all-powerful God. However, the God of "official" Christianity (including Catholicism) does not seem to me to be all-good or all-merciful.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      The point isn't that our hopes will have an effect on what is actually the case. The point is that certain types of hope may distort our understanding of what is actually the case.

      • David Nickol

        I get that. And it of course applies to people who may believe in God because they hope there is a God.

    • OMG

      Our perspective of God may need some correction. Perhaps He seems to be no good and without mercy, but I wonder whether you've really come to know Him.

      The Council of Chalcedon posits the theology of Christology--how God may 'become' man--perhaps you'd find it of interest. Some people seem to struggle with the notion that a Supreme being could perform a miracle. So an Incarnation seems beyond our ability to comprehend. Jesus attests that miracles often follow faith.

      Augustine embodied a philosopher's training as well as a devout Christian perspective. He wrote at length on 'mystical' theology and the Church today accepts much of his wisdom without major revision. His prime idea is that a person must desire to know God. This desire to know is called 'eros' in Pope Benedict's encyclical "God is Love." This eros is a passionate movement toward, a wanting to 'know.'

      Knowledge of Him is hidden from many. Mastery of Him as object of study is achieved by contemplative union with Him. How is that done? Catholicism teaches and holds the keys to that kingdom.

      In another OP commentary, you noted with gratitude that the opinions of JPII's Theology of the Body are not Church Teaching. I could not respond then but today have time to suggest that Church Teaching is ALL about Theology of the Body. Ours becoming His, and He gifting us through His.

      • David Nickol

        Our perspective of God may need some correction. Perhaps He seems to be no good and without mercy, but I wonder whether you've really come to know Him.

        Let me say without hesitation and without reservation that I have no criticisms of God. He does not seem to me to be "no good and without mercy." If I have ever said such a thing—and I don't think I have—I formally retract it now. I think God is omniscient, omnipotent, all-good, and all merciful. I don't have a single criticism of God . . . if he exists. The thought of a God of any less perfections than Dr. Bonnette describes in his philosophizing is too frightening to even contemplate.

      • David Nickol

        The Council of Chalcedon posits the theology of Christology--how God may 'become' man--perhaps you'd find it of interest.

        Do I really come across as someone who has never heard about the Council of Chalcedon?

        Some people seem to struggle with the notion that a Supreme being could perform a miracle. So an Incarnation seems beyond our ability to comprehend. Jesus attests that miracles often follow faith.

        I have no problem at all believing an omnipotent God can perform miracles. I have no real problem with the idea the Incarnation. However, I think if such a thing happened, it is a profound mystery, and what I do have a problem with is people who feel they can explain it, and particularly people who feel superior because they believe they understand it and look down their noses at people who doubt. (This is not directed at Dr. Bonnette, by the way.)

        I have often thought how fortunate the Apostles and early followers of Jesus were, since there did not exist two-thousand years of accumulated dogma that they were required (under pain of sin) to assent to. Peter and Paul would not have had the slightest idea what you were talking about if you tried to explain the hypostatic union or transubstantiation or sacramental marriage.

        In another OP commentary, you noted with gratitude that the opinions of JPII's Theology of the Body are not Church Teaching.

        Because you noted with gratitude that the opinions of Pope Francis are not Church teachings. And of course his personal opinions are not Church teachings. But he is the legitimate pope, and you apparently disapprove of him. Where is your faith in the Holy Spirit?

        • OMG

          DN, You ask: "Where is your faith in the Holy Spirit?"

          My faith in the Holy Spirit resides in my understanding of the Trinity as taught in the Catholic Church.

  • Rob Abney

    Jesus Christ gave us a church with a visible heirarchy so that all men can know God, love God, and serve Him. There is certainly a rebellion against cosmic authority and it was the unintended consequence of the protestant rebellion against that heirarchy, when they tried to replace the church with the bible alone that led to the atheistic rebellion.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I think one has to distinguish between cosmic authority per se and purported representatives and mediators of that cosmic authority. One can object to the latter precisely as a matter of obedience to the former. This seems to be what Luther was doing: however misguided he may have been, he surely understood his actions as acts of obedience to, and not rebellion from, the authority of God. Moreover, I would even say that the same can be said of most atheists. Most atheists I have conversed with here seem to understand their objections to religion as objections made in the name of truth. And of course, classically, "the truth" and "God" are just two ways of referring to the same grounding of reality. To the extent that that is true, far from rebelling against the authority of truth, they are rebelling against purported purveyors of truth, which is quite different. Those who have a true Nietzschean rebellion against the truth itself seem few and far between, and frequent obscure places like the Oval Office.

      • Rob Abney

        I don't expect atheists to accept the authority of the Catholic church but I would expect the Christian author to explain why he doesn't. Atheists don't accept objective truth, they are searching for a relative truth. And the author is asking them why they don't accept his relative truth. I think that you agree that the Catholic church teaches the objective truth, right?
        I don't think I agree with your last sentence but it seems purposefully vague.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          In the context of the OP, Dr. Rauser is not explicitly promoting Christianity at all, much less his own understanding of Christianity. As such I don't see why his opinions about the authority of the Catholic Magisterium are at all relevant.

          The OP is focused on evaluating the plausibility of the "Rebellion Thesis". In the course of arguing that the Rebellion Thesis per se is not well-supported, the OP also invites us to consider whether something related to the Rebellion Thesis may be true, namely that some people have a psychological (or perhaps aesthetic?) aversion to understandings of reality involving “ultimate principles that are not dead.”

          I think it's a very interesting line of inquiry to open up, one that can be pursued without getting into theistic / atheistic polemics, and without getting into Catholic / Protestant polemics.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I might add:

            It's interesting (to me) not primarily as an inquiry into human psychology, but as an inquiry into the historically anomalous nature of the modern "anti-vitalist" worldview. As John Haught has pointed out in some of his talks and papers, some sort of "panvitalism" -- the view that everything was in some sense "alive" -- seems to have characterized most ancient worldviews. And now here we are in a world where some question whether, at a fundamental level, there is even such a thing as "life".

            It's worth pondering how we got to this point.

          • And now here we are in a world where some question whether, at a fundamental level, there is even such a thing as "life".

            It's worth pondering how we got to this point.

            One place to look is Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary. Via amassing a tremendous amount of scientific data about what happens when one brain hemisphere is somehow disabled or separated from the other, McGilchrist concludes that the two hemispheres approach reality very differently. The left decontextualizes and understands according to machines (I think: formal systems), while the right remains sensitive to ever-changing context and thus is more ambiguous. McGilchrist thinks that modernity in some sense a story of the left hemisphere becoming ascendant, to our detriment.

            Another place to look is Robert Rosen's Life Itself; Rosen rigorously formalizes the term 'machine', explaining how it is actually an exceedingly limited mathematical structure which doesn't allow a great deal of possibilities to happen, and kinda-sorta, to even be thought about. He suggests category theory as a superior mathematical formalism to model more ways that causality can happen and more ways that parts can be deeply related. It is only through this more expansive formalism that Rosen thinks "life itself" can even be defined.

            I would of course welcome additional resources; I completely agree with your "worth pondering"!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks Luke. Life Itself looks especially interesting to me.

          • Rob Abney

            I reread the article to be sure we were understanding it similarly. It is an excerpt so some information is missing and I’m not sure what 47% refers to.
            From a quick look at Rausers webpage it appears that he considers this approach to be a rational explanation for unbelief whereas he says conservative Christians are more comfortable referring to unbelief simply as sinful behavior. That is not the approach that most of us take here at SN though.
            If he is saying that atheists rebel against cosmic authority then I agree. If he is saying that atheists want atheism to be true so that they can feel confident that they understand the universe fully then I agree also.
            But his rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church and his rejection of Catholic understanding of how the world works (such as the need for sacraments) is pertinent because it demonstrates relativism. He accepts a higher percentage of the truth than atheists do but not all of it.
            I’m not boasting about myself being Catholic, I could potentially revert, I pray that doesn’t happen, but I’m saying that there are 3 general levels of objective truth, God, Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But his rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church ... is pertinent because it demonstrates relativism.

            No, it does not. Again, this is really an entirely separate conversation, but briefly: even within Catholicism, we speak of both "the earthly Church" and the Church as "mystical body of Christ". The earthly Church points toward and has essential continuity with the mystical body of Christ, but the earthly Church exists "as a pilgrim", which is to say it is still in a state of imperfection. That the earthly Church is imperfect does not imply relativism, because that which is imperfect and subjectively tainted can still point toward that which is perfect and objectively true. If Dr. Rauser accepts, as you say, "a high percentage of the truth", then he is not in a qualitatively different position than those of us in the Roman communion, who also, so long as we are journeying in this world, do not yet possess the fullness of truth.

          • Rob Abney

            I prefer the interpretation of the CCC.

            770 The Church is in history, but at the same time she transcends it. It is only "with the eyes of faith"183 that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life.
            The Church - both visible and spiritual
            771 "The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men."184 The Church is at the same time:

            - a "society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;

            - the visible society and the spiritual community;

            - the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches."185

            These dimensions together constitute "one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element":186

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Prefer it to what? That’s what I quoted from??

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            As your excerpt makes clear, the Church distinguishes two aspects of the Church's (unified) identity: "one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality"

            This is further clarified in the section of 771 that follows your excerpt:

            "The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible , action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest."

            What this should clarify is that the Church understands her existing-now-in-the-world "visible reality" to be directed toward not-yet-fully-present-in-the-world "invisible reality". Thus, the "visible reality" is seen as an entity directed toward the fullness of truth, and not as a repository of the fullness of truth.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the discussion Jim.
            If I am facing east then I am directed toward the east but when would you say that I’ve arrived at the “east”?
            My point is that our teleos is part of the here and now not just the destination. I would speculate that the difference between the visible and the invisible Church is that we can still stray from the visible Church. So our position toward atheists, protestants, and Catholics should be that conversion is needed everyday. But the protestant position is that those who are reborn are already part of the only church, the invisible one and they cannot stray from it, so their approach is that we all need one conversion not daily conversion.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't object at all to engaging in argument with Protestants (or with fellow Catholics, or with atheists, or whomever), and I don't object at all to prodding others toward conversion.

            I'm just saying, firstly, that Protestantism does not imply relativism. Working with the metaphor you provided: a relativist would be akin to a person who denies that there is any single objective "East". Protestants and Catholics have various disagreements about exactly "which way East is", but they generally have a common understanding that there is a real "true East", even if no one knows with absolute precision which way that is.

            And then secondly, especially in light of the above, I can't see how the discussion space for this OP is a sensible place to engage in Catholic-Protestant polemics (as valid as it might be to engage in those polemics in other contexts). The central point for discussion in the OP is whether some people have an aversion to “ultimate principles that are not dead.” It seems that Catholics and Protestants, all of whom ostensibly agree that there are "ultimate principles that are not dead" (most notably our "living God"), wouldn't have any obvious reason to split along confessional lines on this issue.

          • David Nickol

            One of the best responses I have ever seen on Strange Notions. Bravo!

          • Rob Abney

            You don't have to discuss in this space if you feel it is out of place and not sensible, but it is a space for dialogue.
            My point about heading east was to bolster my interpretation of the meaning of the visible Church not to say anything more about relativism. You and I don't see it the same.
            If you consider that to be polemical then you could just as easily say that you and I, both as Catholics, are engaging in polemics.

          • VicqRuiz

            (resubmitted thanks to the increasingly irritating Disqus spam filter)

            Dr. Rauser has raised this issue recently on his own blog as follows:

            ....if God wants to convey important doctrinal and ethical information to people, why does he allow for reasonable disagreement on the truth of the matter?

            And that basic problem arises with countless important ethical and doctrinal topics. For example, Christians disagree on important ethical issues including normative theories of ethics (e.g. deontology;virtue theory) and various applied ethical topics (e.g. just war vs.pacifism; abortion; meat-eating; divorce and remarriage; immigration; gender relations);

            important doctrinal issues including the boundaries of the canon, the nature of biblical inspiration, authority, and interpretation; the doctrines of the Trinity, atonement, salvation, election, the sacraments, the millennium, final judgment, and so on.

            In all these cases we find Christians disagreeing on topics that are important, topics about which God presumably wants us to have the right answer.

            This is something which continues to confirm me in my agnosticism, even more so than does the problem of natural evil. Every time I hear Catholics and Protestants (or Protestants and Protestants) going at it hammer and tongs over core elements of the faith (often using the term "heresy" and occasionally even "satanic"), it maintains my conviction that if there is an tri-omni God who desires a loving relationship with humanity, the God of the Christian scriptures can't be him.

            I'm nearing the conclusion that the best possible approach for me as a skeptic is to contemplate the sort of God whom I think should exist, and then to live my life as if he did.

          • David Nickol

            I suppose many Catholics would answer that the only place to go for answers about Christianity is the Catholic Church. Of course Catholics and Protestants disagree: The Protestants are wrong! But it is not as if there is unanimity even within Catholicism. Many "conservative" Catholics seem to think Pope Francis is a danger to the Catholic Church. I suppose that makes some of us relative outsiders wonder why these "conservative" Catholics believe themselves to be more Catholic than the pope!

          • Rob Abney

            I'm nearing the conclusion that the best possible approach for me as a skeptic is to contemplate the sort of God whom I think should exist, and then to live my life as if he did

            Amen! I sincerely believe that that approach will work.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree in one sense. All of us finite mortals are groping a bit in the dark, trying to navigate as best we can in a world where the truth of things is at least partly hidden.

            On the other hand, I wonder if you are overcomplicating things a bit by emphasizing the differences. It's true that there is no end to Christian doctrinal disputes (this is true even within Catholicism), but almost all Christians would agree that the Resurrection is the fundamental keystone for understanding and participating in reality, and few would disagree with the "Cliff Notes" summary of the Gospel message provided by the Nicene Creed. And yes, Protestants and Catholics disagree about the status of the so-called "Apocrypha", but almost all Christians would agree on the centrality of texts like Genesis, Isaiah, 1 Corinthians, Romans, the Gospels and would (informally) relegate many other books of the Bible to a somewhat lesser status. (In other words, there is a bit of a vague gradation anyway, even within an accepted canon.) And then ethically and morally, sure, there are serious disputes to be had around various thorny issues, but that shouldn't occlude the broad agreement on fundamentals, as reflected, say, in the decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount.

            Don't get me wrong, I also get distracted and even depressed by Christian (and specifically Catholic) "in-fighting" which often seems to me to make mountains out of mole-hills. (To quote Pope Francis: "It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.") But I think it is possible to pull back to a broader perspective and see that there is, after all, a real mountain, a real "deposit of faith" (and not just in the technical, specifically Catholic, sense), even if its boundaries are only vaguely perceptible.

            This seems important, because if we convince ourselves that our religious traditions are mere cacophony, then we will have convinced ourselves that there are no serious external challenges to our own religious intuitions. And while I think it is good to "contemplate the sort of God whom I think should exist", I also think there is a serious risk that if I do only that, I will end up contemplating a God who is just a projection of my own desires.

        • I don't expect atheists to accept the authority of the Catholic church

          Why should we? We have only the church's say-so that it has any authority.

          • Rob Abney

            Like I said, I don’t expect you to, your ladder is missing some important rungs that would get you there.

          • your ladder is missing some important rungs that would get you there.

            You say so. Can you do better than that? Like, for instance, tell me specifically what those rungs are?

          • Rob Abney

            I borrowed that from a Peter Kreeft book https://www.amazon.com/Jacobs-Ladder-Ten-Steps-Truth/dp/158617732X
            Here are some of the 10 rings that he explains.
            Do you have the passion to know?
            Does truth exist?
            What is the meaning of life?
            What is love, and why is it so important for our lives?
            If there is a God, what proof is there for his existence?
            Has God revealed himself to us in a personal way?

          • Google Books has excerpted the first two chapters and part of the third. I'll get back to you after I've had a chance to digest them.

          • The book is subtitled Ten Steps to Truth. That is unobjectionable. Unless we’re postmodernists, we should all want to know the steps to truth, though we may differ about how many steps there are. But Kreeft has a problem. From the chapter titles, it is apparent that he intends to show the reader not a path to truth in general, but the truth of certain Christian doctrines. That doesn’t have to be a problem, but it is fraught with risk – in particular, the risk of circularity.

            It is not wrong per se to argue “If you really cared about knowing the truth, then you would accept conclusion X,” provided that X is the conclusion of a sound argument. But if X happens to be false, then no argument with X as a conclusion can be a sound argument. It must either be invalid or depend on at least one false premise. I will not here critique the validity of Kreeft’s argument. I don’t need to, because I think I can reasonably doubt some of his premises, and if it’s reasonable to doubt his premises, then it’s reasonable to doubt his conclusion.

            On to it, then.

            First rung: passion for truth.

            That sounds good, and I’m not going to disparage passion. But I will reject the notion that a passion for truth facilitates one’s ability to perceive it. There are particular attitudes that will facilitate it, and it’s OK to hold those attitudes with some passion, but it is the attitudes that work, not the feelings with which they are held. Our passion must be for the methods by which we discover truth, not the particular truths that those methods lead us to find. Otherwise we succumb to the universal human tendency to conflate passion for truth with passion for particular beliefs that we assume to be true.

            I have a passionate belief in the truth of biological evolution, but only because I have a prior passionate belief in the epistemological efficacy of the scientific method. It would be contrary to the scientific method itself to argue that the method must be correct because it leads us to accept evolution. For all we know at this time in our history, future discoveries could lead us to conclude, using the scientific method, that evolution is not true. We have to be prepared to accept that possibility, because the scientific method is not justified in terms of its current conclusions. It is justified in terms of the means it employs to compensate as much as possible for ineliminable errors in the way we humans perceive reality. It works by accepting human fallibility, not by trying to deny it. To the scientific mind, there is nothing we cannot be wrong about, but there are measures we can take to reduce the likelihood that we are wrong about some things.

            To me, a passionate desire to know the truth is a desire to know the truth no matter what it is, and it means you will change your mind about what the truth is, regardless of your feelings, if confronted with a good enough reason to change your mind. If you are passionate about a belief because you think it is true and important, that’s fine. But if you think it is true and important because you are passionate about it, that is not so fine.

            Second rung: truth.

            It is not quite clear to me what Kreeft intends this rung to comprise. The whole book is supposed to be about finding the truth, so if truth is to be a rung, it can only be the final rung. From the chapter’s opening, it looks like it might be an admonition to discard skepticism, or at least a certain kind of skepticism. Mother says, “So let’s take on skepticism today. Let’s look at the reasons for it.” OK, but how about first we get clear on what we mean by skepticism?

            Skepticism, according to Mother, “contradicts itself. It says, ‘The truth is that there is no truth’, or ‘I know that I don’t know’, or ‘I’m certain that there is no certainty.’” Very well. There are people who say those things, and they call themselves skeptics. But as a critique of skepticism, it is about as relevant as the observation that there are people who handle snakes during church services and they call themselves Christians.

            For many of us who are not religious, our skepticism amounts to nothing more than a persistent demanding of “Show me why” when we’re told we should believe something. We do not deny that there are truths, and we do not deny that we can and actually do know some of those truths. What we do deny, though, is that (with exceptions irrelevant to this discussion) we human beings can know anything infallibly. We do not define knowledge in terms of perfect, incorrigible certainty. We can justifiably claim to know something if our reasons for believing it are good enough. It may happen, notwithstanding our justification, not to be true, and in that case our claim to know it is mistaken. But it’s OK (within a slew of ceteris paribus parameters) to be wrong. What is not OK is thinking it’s impossible for you to be wrong.

            Mother then goes on to criticize relativism, the notion that “Truth becomes ‘my truth’ or ‘your truth’”. That is not skepticism, or at least not a kind of skepticism that I was ever attracted to. And so on for the rest of the chapter: Kant, Nietzsche, etc. Skepticism is not just any of them, and it certainly is not all of them. When someone says, “I don’t believe what you say because I’m a skeptic,” your next question has to be, “What do you mean when you call yourself a skeptic?”

            Third rung: meaning.

            Kreeft quickly explains that he is talking here about the meaning of life. And, through Mother, he elaborates:

            When we say ‘meaning’ here, we mean ‘purpose’, don’t we? Everything we do has a purpose, right? . . . So if each particular thing in life has a purpose, does life as a whole have a purpose or not? That’s the first question about the meaning of life: Is there one?”

            I get it that meaning is related to purpose, but no, when I say ‘meaning,’ I don’t mean ‘purpose,’ and neither do people in general, so far as I can tell. To treat them as the same thing presupposes, I suspect, certain ideas from Aristotle’s metaphysics that I don’t accept.

            And one of those ideas is that everything in the universe must have a purpose. But as I understand reality, purpose is a function of minds. We have no compelling reason to believe it can have any other source. And so whatever is produced by a mindless process has no purpose. This doesn’t mean it cannot be used for a purpose, but that purpose must originate in a creature that has a mind. I can pick up a rock and use it to crack open a walnut or kill an enemy. It is my purpose, not the rock’s purpose, to feed myself or defend myself. Likewise, I can choose a purpose for my life, or I can let others tell me what its purpose is, but in either case, the purpose is my choice. I don’t avoid the responsibility of choosing just by letting other people make the decision.

            That was as far as I could read without either buying or borrowing the book, but it’s as far as I need to go to make my point. The first three rungs of the ladder won’t get me off the ground, so it doesn’t matter where the other seven could take me.

          • I have attempted twice to post a response. Either the software or a moderator rejected it both times.

          • Rob Abney

            Looking forward to your response. Im guessing that either you didn't finish it because you don't like the dialogue style or you got stuck on the self-refuting argument in chapter 3 (?).

          • I did finish it. As I said, either the website software or somebody in charge of the website is not allowing me to post it.

          • I had to put it on my website. Here it is:
            http://dougshaver.net/religion/kreefts_ladder.html

          • Rob Abney

            You can keep climbing. Rung 1 is that you need passion, you need to care enough to pursue the truth. You have that even though you misrepresented the issue. Rung 2 is that truth exists, no one is a full skeptic including you based on your statement that you “know” that man cannot be infallible, that’s not skepticism that’s a truth statement. Rung 3 you agree with by stating that a rock has a purpose if someone like you uses it for a purpose.
            I’ll send you my copy if you want to finish it.

          • You can keep climbing.

            Yes, I could, if I wanted badly enough to become a Catholic.

            Rung 1 is that you need passion, you need to care enough to pursue the truth.

            I believe I have cared very much for most of my life about pursuing the truth, but without presupposing what the truth must be.

            Rung 2 is that truth exists

            If that was all Kreeft was saying, then I agree, but it was not all he said.

            no one is a full skeptic

            I'm not saying that anybody is.

            Rung 3 you agree with by stating that a rock has a purpose if someone like you uses it for a purpose.

            I stated some points, which I thought Kreeft was advocating, that I disagreed with. Are you saying that I misunderstood him? Does his argument, or does it not, depend on the premise that everything in the universe must have a purpose? That premise is in no way implied by my saying that a rock has a purpose if someone uses it for a purpose.

          • Rob Abney

            You make presuppositions throughout your commentary, especially about the first chapter. You need someone like mother to guide you, you have badly misunderstood the premise of each chapter so far, maybe purposefully because you presuppose where the argument is headed.
            Chapter 3 was that there is purpose in the universe, not that you should be able to know the purpose of everything.

          • You need someone like mother to guide you, you have badly misunderstood the premise of each chapter

            That is like saying I would need Jean Valjean to guide me if I misunderstood Victor Hugo's message in Les Miserables. Kreeft is the one who needs to set me straight about his premises in Jacob's Ladder.

            Kreeft would not be the first apologist I misunderstood, if I did misunderstand him. But whenever any reader misunderstands any author, it can be the author's fault as much as the reader's if not more so.

            You make presuppositions throughout your commentary, especially about the first chapter.

            My presuppositions are based on what I have been hearing for many years from Catholic and other Christian apologists. If he is really so different from them that I should just forget everything else I've been told until now, then he needs to stop sounding so much like all the others.

            Chapter 3 was that there is purpose in the universe, not that you should be able to know the purpose of everything.

            I said nothing about what we should be able to know. I am disputing the Aristotelian assumption that a purpose exists for everything, never minding whether or how we can know what that purpose is.

          • Rob Abney

            I said you need someone"like" mother not a fictional character.
            Since you admit to having ingrained presuppositions then I don't think this simple book will help you.

          • you admit to having ingrained presuppositions

            Nobody is without presuppositions. You might as well say that I admit to having 46 chromosomes.

    • Jesus Christ gave us a church with a visible heirarchy so that all men can know God, love God, and serve Him.

      That's what the church says.

      There is certainly a rebellion against cosmic authority

      The rebellion is against some people who claim to represent cosmic authority.

      • Rob Abney

        The rebellion is against some people who claim to represent cosmic authority.

        That’s not a good hill to die on.

        • What you will have to do to take that hill will be our vindication.

  • It is not possible to initiate a philosophical inquiry into the existence of God, with a definition of God. Each conclusion of St. Thomas’ five ways, is not: therefore God exists. It a variant of: therefore a being exists, beyond direct human experience, whom all men refer to as God. A philosophical inquiry can only start with a definition of a being, if that being is within direct human experience. Also, there is no necessary being or all-powerful being within our direct experience, so such expressions are meaningless at the initiation of a philosophical inquiry.

    • Rob Abney

      What would qualify as direct experience in your opinion? It sounds as if you require sensory/material experience. I thought that you billed yourself as a philosopher.

      • Philosophy is the determination of what principles must be true, given the fact that the human experience of reality is by means of material sensation.

        • Rob Abney

          Are you sure that human experience doesn’t include the immaterial?

          • Isn’t human knowledge of the immaterial, an abstraction, by the individual knower, from his material experience?

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I don't disagree with your point, but the definition of God provided in the OP was clearly intended merely to clarify usage, and not to provide a point of departure for an argument for God's existence.

  • Ben

    “Nagel is a leading philosopher and an independent thinker…Nagel speaks the truth as he sees it without lens-distorting party-line commitments.”

    Is anyone truly an independent thinker? Don’t we all have a lens through which we see intangible things like the good, the beautiful and the true? We all believe things we can’t prove, and these things help to form our lens, and then guess what happens…we get a “worldview”.

    If I believe God (if he exists) is some sort of competitor, then “the prospect of serfdom” is what I see through my lens. If I believe God is Goodness itself, then I see the prospect of true freedom.

    As far as an aversion to “ultimate principles that are not dead” what I find most profound is comparing the thinking of the past, which suggested a highly-ordered and intelligible universe must ultimately have an intelligence behind it, to today’s “progressive” thinking that suggests a highly-ordered and intelligible universe must ultimately come from mindlessness. I’d call this having an irrational
    "faith" in mindlessness.

  • As the saying goes, tell me about the god you don’t believe in because I probably don’t believe in that god either.

    The god that I don't believe in is all the ones I've heard about so far. If the one you believe in is different from any of those, you'll have my attention.

    • SpokenMind

      Out of curiosity, do you have any fear that there may be a higher power “out there” that you are somehow unable to identify?

      • Out of curiosity, do you have any fear that there may be a higher power “out there” that you are somehow unable to identify?

        I am open to the possibility that there is. I can think of no reason to be afraid of it.

        • SpokenMind

          For what it’s worth, I think you have the proper approach.

          If you are open to the possibility that a higher power exists, would that make you agnostic?

          • In my lexicon I'm both an atheist and an agnostic. Given the question "Does a higher power exist?" I am an atheist because, notwithstanding my thinking that it possibly could, I do not believe it does, and I am an agnostic because I make no claim to know whether it does.

          • SpokenMind

            Thanks for clarifying. No “final answer” but an atheist for now.

          • How final does any answer need to be? Between now and tomorrow I could change my mind about anything, depending on what I learn over the next 24 hours.

          • SpokenMind

            Amen to that.

  • Christopher

    Check out this 11 y/o genius explain why there is a God! Interesting indeed! However, If one can't agree on God then one can agree on love because love overcomes all difficulties. We know real truth is discovered as time goes forward. And Christian’s truth is all about love and that is something atheist do believe in. They believe in love because they have experienced it. We do have something in common! Let’s forget about religion for one minute. When love thy neighbor is preached if people forget about the source of that thinking they just may agree. So, if we can’t agree on religion or God can we agree on love? I think so!

    https://catholic-link.org/this-11-year-old-thinks-he-can-prove-hawkings-theory-wrong-and-much-of-the-internet-agrees/

    • I don't care how smart he is. "Hawking was wrong, therefore God exists" is not a valid argument.

      • Christopher

        That's a mischaracterization of what he said. And dismissal of the facts he presented is clearly my way bias. But hey, no big deal. He just explained why Hawkins was wrong in his view, of course. Now, I can't argue the validity of astrophysics and neither can you unless you are astrophysicist or plan to be so your judgements are fair. The only point I was making is that what he said, which was explained in lay people terms, was interesting. Also, while the right and wrong of it is an endless debate we do agree that love is something to agree on! Right?

        • That's a mischaracterization of what he said.

          I intended no characterization of what he said. I was characterizing what the web page's author said about the video.

          He just explained why Hawkins was wrong in his view, of course.

          His view about Hawking could be entirely correct, for all I care in this context. According to the website, Hawking "claimed that his theory proved there was no God." If Hawking was wrong to say that, then he failed to actually prove the nonexistence of God. Fine, but that is nothing like a proof that God does exist.

          • Christopher

            You like to copy and the paste your answers. However, you did not copy and paste with an answer to my question,

            "Also, while the right and wrong of it is an endless debate we do agree that love is something to agree on! Right?" Any answer? Hint I am pulling for you to say yes! (Smile).

          • It depends. Without any elaboration, I'm never quite sure what Christians mean by love, considering what so many of them think is consistent with love.

          • Christopher

            True, some people think love means being abused or being mean. I am not speaking about the crazy or fanatical mind's operations. I am speaking about normal people so it is not a trap question which requires elaboration. You as an atheist have experience true love. I know you have experienced it. So the christians view of love is the same as atheist. We love our parents, our children, our spouses and friends just like you love them. Compassion is a form of love too that allows us not to pretend we do not see a stranger's hunger, clothings or shelter needs. It means you have a heart. Love has no religion! Do you agree? Because if you agree then that agreement becomes the basis of making the world a better place. As the old says goes, "Love is the answer who cares what the question is?".

          • I am speaking about normal people so it is not a trap question which requires elaboration. You as an atheist have experience true love. I know you have experienced it. So the christians view of love is the same as atheist.

            I as a human being have experienced love on a few occasions. On at least one of those occasions, when I was much younger, with some hindsight I'm not at all sure how true it was. It seemed true enough at the time, but we humans can be very good at self-deception.

            The Christian view of love is said to be consistent with allowing people to suffer in hell for eternity, and whatever hell is supposed to be, a lake of fire is said to be at least an appropriate metaphor. Most atheists don't agree with that love is consistent with hell, so understood.

            "we do agree that love is something to agree on! Right?" It is something we ought to agree on. It is unfortunate that we apparently don't.

          • Christopher

            I was not speaking of all you we speaking of that view you explained. I get that disagreement of love.
            "I as a human being have experienced love on a few occasions". I bet more than you admit! We do agree!

          • Christopher

            Looks like you answered the question you wanted to answer rather then the question that I asked. You have been debating too long on line and you want to win your point. I get it. But, I did not ask about what you disagreed about Christian love. I asked if you ever loved yourself and I wanted to point out to you that “atheist love”. Is the same a Christian love. I know about theological differences. You see it is my position that without true love in your life one just exist and life has no meaning. Maybe if you told me what atheist view of love Is, not what it’s not or why Christian love is bad in your eyes, We can get to an agreement. But if atheist don’t love then you are right and we don’t have anything in common.

          • Looks like you answered the question you wanted to answer rather then the question that I asked.

            It was a question you asked. I copied and pasted it from your post to me.

            Maybe if you told me what atheist view of love Is

            There is an atheist view about God's existence. There is no atheist view about anything else.

            In my personal view of love, I love someone if their happiness is essential to my own.

          • Christopher

            Interesting view. So your love has the condition of someone being important to you first. Then you recepicate your feelings.You don’t initiate your feelings to someone or a stranger based on compassion or kindness? Of course I cannot argue with your prerogative.
            Christ view was different. In about a 150 word story of the Good Samaratin he described the three great philosophies of life. 1 what’s yours is mine and I am going to take it. 2. What’s mine is mine and I and am going to keep it. 3. What’s mine is yours and I am going to share it. So by your definition you are number two. Do you ever practice number 3?

          • This is a forum for dialogue between atheists and Catholics. I am here to defend my disagreement with Catholic teachings, mainly by defending a particular alternative worldview on which I base that disagreement. The consistency or inconsistency of my personal behavior with that worldview is, I believe, not relevant to that defense.

          • Christopher

            You must be a lawyer because I see you are taking the 5th on my questions(smile). Questions, by the way, that are very much relevant to the dialogue between atheists belief systems and Catholics. This web site’s purpose is to learn about differences and not judge the other for those differences.
            So what I have learned from you, from the atheist world view, is that since atheist do not believe in God, what follows is a belief system that makes helping others optional, and in your case, if it is not to your benefit you will not help. Accordingly, when the atheist dies that’s it. There is “no skin in the game” to love people if it is not to their advantage. But to a Catholic since he believes in God and believes he has a soul then Catholics believe that when their soul leaves their body the informational gaps during this life will be given. At that point the soul will have a life review, as reported by people who have near death experiences. And at that point what is not currently understood about life will be explained. Interestingly, Catholics, unlike other Christian religions, believe atheist’s information gaps and gripes they have with God and how he runs His business will be explained to them to give them a fair chance to get to heaven. Then they will have to choose. We do not judge you! Catholics believe God sends no one to hell, but rather souls chooses hell rather the. accepting God’s life program. I am sure in your life you have experienced a change of thinking once more information was given to you. For example, do you fully understand space time? I know I don’t, but maybe the comos laws would be more understandable if it was explained clearly. Back to my other point, not being nice and not helping people that could have been helped by a person in their life will be subject to God’s judgement. What I was hoping for from your answers was to see if their was common ground on that “helping people issue”. Apparently, from your responds there is not. What is yours is yours and you are going to keep it. With that there is no more debate. Thank you for your responses.

          • You must be a lawyer

            I’ve worked and socialized with a few lawyers, and I learned a thing or two from them.

            Questions, by the way, that are very much relevant to the dialogue between atheists belief systems and Catholics.

            Not just any question. Whether a question (or a declarative statement) is relevant depends on its subject.

            This web site’s purpose is to learn about differences

            Differences in beliefs, yes.

            So what I have learned from you, from the atheist world view, is that since atheist do not believe in God, what follows is a belief system that makes helping others optional

            One, you did not learn that from me, because I neither said it nor implied it.

            Two, I did say that there is no atheist view except a view about God’s existence, and so I must doubt your claim to have learned anything at all from me.

            Interestingly, Catholics, unlike other Christian religions, believe atheist’s information gaps and gripes they have with God and how he runs His business will be explained to them to give them a fair chance to get to heaven.

            Interestingly, many of those other Christian religions are in total agreement with Catholics on that particular issue. I know that the noisiest ones would have you think otherwise, but as you might have heard, Protestants don’t all think alike.

            I am sure in your life you have experienced a change of thinking once more information was given to you.

            That’s very true. For just one example, I used to be a Christian until I got more information.

            What I was hoping for from your answers was to see if their was common ground on that “helping people issue”. Apparently, from your responds there is not. What is yours is yours and you are going to keep it.

            I did not say that. You are putting words in my mouth.

            With that there is no more debate.

            More debate? There wasn’t any to start with, considering that you are telling me what I think while ignoring what I say.

          • Christopher

            Well, I have learned from you already is to get your thoughts on an issue just put words in your mouth (Smile)! Your lawyer friends must have shared with you that if you don't answer a statement then you allow people to assume their thoughts on an issue is correct. You answer everything else with dissecting detail line from line. So tell me strait up then, so I won't have to put words in your mouth, what is your position on helping strangers in need?
            Also, I like your "I use to be a Christian "until I got more information" line. Great, funny line for your side! Wrong in my opinion, of course, but another long story. By the way, in my opinion it is more intellectually honest to be an agnostic than an atheist because you don't have ALL the information! Like, what was life like before the Big Bang? How did the Big bang happen? Do you have that information? Please share it with me. And what frustrates me about atheist is only their information is correct and any information that contradicts their position is wrong. For example, a line or a square is possible, but a three dimensional cube is impossible no matter what proof is presented. So you can teach me something. What does an atheist accept as proof of fact? Is it eyewitness testimony, miracles accepted by other atheists, videos, photos, historical events, newspaper articles with pictures. Does a cut off leg have to grow back? What is accepted?

          • what is your position on helping strangers in need?

            It depends on the situation. I have no algorithm that would tell me what to do in every imaginable situation.

            By the way, in my opinion it is more intellectually honest to be an agnostic than an atheist because you don't have ALL the information!

            The other people following this discussion can make their own judgments, based on everything I actually say, about my intellectual integrity.

            And what frustrates me about atheist is only their information is correct and any information that contradicts their position is wrong.

            Some atheists are like that. So are some Christians, in my experience.

            For example, a line or a square is possible, but a three dimensional cube is impossible no matter what proof is presented.

            That is some interesting literature you must have been reading. I have never seen anybody deny the possibility of a three-dimensional cube.

            What does an atheist accept as proof of fact?

            It depends on the atheist. We don’t all think alike.

          • Christopher

            I see you choose to be vague in your answers, choose not to answer some questions leaving it to "other people" and choose not understand abstract comparisons. So thank you for the responses you have given to me.

          • By the way, in my opinion it is more intellectually honest to be an agnostic than an atheist because you don't have ALL the information!

            The fact that I don't know everything doesn't mean I can't come to a reasonable position on the question of whether any gods exist. Is it likely that aliens have visited Earth, and started abducting people? I think the answer to that is a strong no!

            Regarding atheism, and agnosticism, it's important to understand that these are not mutually exclusive positions. Being a theist means that one believes that at least one god exists, and atheists do not believe that any gods exist. Gnosticism addresses what you claim you know. This means that one can be an agnostic theist, a gnostic theist, an agnostic atheist, or a gnostic atheist.

            Depending on how you define God, I may be an agnostic or gnostic atheist, because incoherent definitions of God are assumed not to be describing things that can exist.

            Further, I'll admit that my atheism is partly an assumed position, because all existential propositions should be assumed false until we can show that it's true. This does not imply that I'm being intellectually dishonest!

          • SpokenMind

            [The Christian view of love is said to be consistent with allowing people to suffer in hell for eternity, and whatever hell is supposed to be, a lake of fire is said to be at least an appropriate metaphor. Most atheists don't agree with that love is consistent with hell, so understood.]

            This comment stirred my interest.

            What should a loving God do with someone who completely rejects him? Honor his free will choice to be completely separated or override his free will and force him to stay?

            In my opinion, God honors people’s free will choice to completely reject him. Anyone who completely rejects him with their dying breath, end up in a love-less place completely devoid of God, also known as hell.

          • Anyone who completely rejects him with their dying breath, end up in a love-less place completely devoid of God

            Three questions: What is that place like? Who made it that way? And how do you know?

          • SpokenMind

            Thanks for hearing me out on this one. My answers are largely faith based, which I’m guessing will be unsatisfying for you – nothing you can really sink your mind into.

            [What is that place like?]

            I don’t personally know what it’s like, but my belief is, it’s an extremely unpleasant place. There have been mystics and people with near death experiences who claimed to have gotten a glimpse of the “place” and were horrified to the core.

            [Who made it that way?]

            Good question. I don’t know how to answer that. I would defer to theologians on this one. My guess is, when you completely remove God (who is love) from “something” what is left over is hell. Maybe it’s more an absence of, rather than something made.

            [And how do you know?]

            My “knowing” is faith based.

            If I’m understanding you correctly, you are specifically rejecting the Christian understanding of God. I think I get the subtlety.

            So from your perspective, in my hypothetical scenario, what should a "higher power" do when confronted with the free willed person who completely rejects him to the end? (I'm assuming you believe in free will, which may be incorrect.)

            Peace.

          • I'm assuming you believe in free will, which may be incorrect.

            As far as my actions are concerned, I will stipulate that I have it. If I thought God was real, I could choose to do or not do whatever I believed he was telling me to do.

            I do not believe in doxastic voluntarism, though. I cannot believe anything by a mere act of will.

          • SpokenMind

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

            I’ve never heard of the term doxastic voluntarism. Are you saying, you don’t have control over what you believe? If so, that is interesting and I wouldn't agree.

            Back to my original thoughts. Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding, but you seem to be saying that a loving God would not allow one of his creations to suffer apart from him (hell), which is why you disagree with God as Christians understand him.

            The point I am trying to make is, what should God do with someone who completely rejects him? Force him against his will to exist with his enemy (God)? Give him what he wants and let him exist apart from God? Some other option?

            What is the most loving thing to do in that situation?

            Is it possible that what God is doing with the people who completely reject him, the most loving thing he can do?

            I understand this is a hypothetical situation for you, so it may be difficult to imagine. Also, I'm not very knowledgeable with philosophy, so I may be a little slow understanding what it is you are trying to say. Please bear with me.

            All the best!

          • I’ve never heard of the term doxastic voluntarism.

            Don’t feel bad. It’s not in widespread usage outside of philosophical circles.

            Are you saying, you don’t have control over what you believe?

            No, I’m not saying I have no control. I’m saying I don’t have the kind of control that would justify anybody saying that I can acquire a belief merely by an act of will. Just wanting to believe something is not enough to cause me to actually believe it.

            Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding, but you seem to be saying that a loving God would not allow one of his creations to suffer apart from him (hell),

            You’re misunderstanding. I didn’t say that. I said that I don’t believe a loving God would allow one of his creations to suffer, period, for eternity. That is an ethical issue. Whether separation from God would cause a creature to suffer is a theological issue.

            what should God do with someone who completely rejects him?

            It depends. What do you mean by “rejects”?

            Is it possible that what God is doing with the people who completely reject him, the most loving thing he can do?

            I don’t claim to know what, if he is real, he is doing with anybody. That’s what you Christians claim to know. All I’m saying that what you say you know is not credible, and neither is the method by which you claim to have gotten that knowledge.

            I understand this is a hypothetical situation for you, so it may be difficult to imagine.

            I’m giving it my best shot.

            Also, I'm not very knowledgeable with philosophy, so I may be a little slow understanding what it is you are trying to say. Please bear with me.

            Not a problem. I’m always glad to share stuff that I think I know and clarify as needed.

          • SpokenMind

            [No, I’m not saying I have no control. I’m saying I don’t have the kind of control that would justify anybody saying that I can acquire a belief merely by an act of will. Just wanting to believe something is not enough to cause me to actually believe it.]

            Ok, I think I understand. Wanting (or willing) to believe something is not enough to actually believe something. I would agree with that.

            [You’re misunderstanding. I didn’t say that. I said that I don’t believe a loving God would allow one of his creations to suffer, period, for eternity. That is an ethical issue. Whether separation from God would cause a creature to suffer is a theological issue.]

            Are you saying God wouldn’t allow suffering at all, for eternity or both? I can understand why you would disagree with the Christian notion of a loving God, because suffering exists – but does the existence of suffering absolutely rule out a loving God?

            I’m not a theologian (big surprise) but if God is love, then separation from God would be loveless, in the theological world.

            [What do you mean by “rejects”?]

            Wants nothing to do with, no interaction with.

            [All I’m saying that what you say you know is not credible, and neither is the method by which you claim to have gotten that knowledge.]

            I should probably have elaborated more on my “knowing” comment. It’s difficult for me to put an encounter with God into words, but based on those experiences, I believe God is real.

            Thanks for taking the time to share some of your knowledge with me. I’m always interested in learning more.

            And if you are a father, Happy Father’s Day!

          • What should a loving God do with someone who completely rejects him?

            I am not rejecting God. I am rejecting what Christians say about God. You may assume that they are the same thing. I don't.

  • Ashwin

    Atheists may not identify what Christians call as Rebellion in negative terms. They would more probably define it in terms of freedom to determine one's belief's/ moral actions according to one's own will.
    Self determination would be a good word to describe this attitude.
    This would definitely make them averse to any definition of a God who commands personal obedience.
    So Atheists tend to be more friendly/sympathetic towards deist or pantheistic views of God as opposed to a monotheistic view of God.
    Hence, the vehemence shown against Abrahamic faiths by New atheists is indicative of their rebellious attitude towards God.

    • Sample1

      Hence, the vehemence shown against Abrahamic faiths by New atheists is indicative of their rebellious attitude towards God.

      Tone is always tricky to decipher online but are you saying that’s a negative?

      I don’t believe gods/God exist so like most atheists, I suspect, we aren’t rebelling against that. You might disagree but at least you can understand the logic behind “our” lack of rebellion, per se.

      Mike

      • Ashwin

        Of course, whether one percieves an action as rebellion depends on one's world view.
        Which is why I started out saying atheists need not view their motivations as rebellious per se . While from a Christian perspective, it would be perceived as rebellion..
        Hence, there will be situations where atheists don't "get it" and vice versa.

        • Sample1

          Yep, I liked your post hence the upvote.

          Mike

    • Atheists may not identify what Christians call as Rebellion in negative terms. They would more probably define it in terms of freedom to determine one's belief's/ moral actions according to one's own will.

      If the issue is what atheists are thinking, you could just ask them and assume they're answering honestly unless they manifest evidence to the contrary.

      Or, you could just let your dogma tell you what they're thinking. Sort of like some Protestants let their dogma tell them what Catholics are thinking.

      • Ashwin

        I have spoken to many atheists.. been one myself for some time..
        The comment was based on dialogue with athiests.

  • David Nickol

    Reading for today—Luke 18:9-14:

    He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.

    “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

    The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.

    I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

    But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

    I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    • OMG

      Today's official Gospel reading in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is John 19:31-37. It begins and ends thus:

      Since it was preparation day,....
      They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

  • Michael Murray

    With that in mind, we can define God as a necessary being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good and who created everything other than God.

    I'm reminded of the apocryphal story popular amongst mathematics graduate students of the student who defined a particular kind of new complicated mathematical object and wrote a detailed PhD thesis of 100 pages plus deriving all the remarkable properties of such objects. At their viva the first question asked by the external examiner was: "are you aware that nothing satisfying this definition exists" ?

    • Rob Abney

      I recently heard Joe Rogan lambast a guest on his show after she said that although she knows very little about climate change she doesn't believe it. He insisted that she should say "I don't know" rather than "I don't believe". Another option which applies also to the existence of God is " I don't understand"

    • Craig Roberts

      I don't get it. Mathematical expressions represent material world phenomenon but do not "exist" in the material world. The number 3 does not "exist" in any way like a material object but we still acknowledge it's usefulness as a concept.

      • Michael Murray

        I mean exist in the sense that mathematical things exist. The student had done something like defined "special" numbers to be numbers that are both even and odd. There aren't any. Making such a definition is OK if you are aiming to explore the existence or non-existence of "special" numbers. The problem comes when you just assume they exist and go on to explore their other properties.

        • Craig Roberts

          Interesting. Thanks.

          BTW, wouldn't irrational numbers be properly considered neither even or odd and be included in both subsets of numbers? I know you were just making up an example but it made think.

          • Michael Murray

            No I'd avoid that by defining a number to be even if it is a whole number (i.e 1, 2, 3, 4, ... ) and after dividing by two you still have a whole number and odd if it is a whole number and after subtracting one it is even. Irrational numbers then are neither because they aren't whole numbers.

          • David Nickol

            As I understood it, you defined a "special number" as one that is both odd and even. The fact that an irrational number is neither odd nor even would be irrelevant, wouldn't it?

          • Michael Murray

            Ah yes. True. They are neither odd nor even so included in neither set.

  • "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n".

    The words of that supreme narcissist encapsulate atheism perfectly.

    • Ficino

      Not really. Atheists I know don't want to reign over people. They do see no reason to follow what preachers say must be done, esp when preachers want their taboos enacted as laws over everyone.

      • Yes, I suppose that is a valid point. They would not even be rulers in hell, just servants.

    • The words of that supreme narcissist encapsulate atheism perfectly.

      It has nothing to do with my atheism. And according to the source of that quotation, it was not spoken by an atheist.

  • we can define God as a necessary being who is all-knowing, all-powerful,
    and all-good and who created everything other than God

    It's clear since the Euthyphro that this style of definition can be immediately rejected unless caveats are attached to the "all-" terms. But there isn't much agreement on which caveats are the best ones to use. Also it doesn't match how the word is ordinarily used. I think that we should instead use a definition of "god" that leaves its existence open as a possibility, and that also matches how people have historically used the word. So a god is better defined as:

    "a personification of natural phenomena or of ethical, social, or philosophical concepts, and/or an entity with supernatural origin that has the power to control those things by supernatural means"

    And that definition fits with every religion I'm aware of. It fits how ordinary pious people talk about gods, and it also fits how mystics and philosophers speculate about gods. For a traditional Catholic capital-G God, it fits because they talk about their God as if it were a personification of the philosophical concepts of existence, power, and goodness, with the power to supernaturally control everything that exists.

  • Pueblo Southwest

    Seldom mentioned, and never by atheists, is that the ultimate destination of atheism is oblivion upon death. This seems a concept, like nothing (total absence), that the human mind has trouble grasping. The usually counter with a vague statement about living in someone's memory but beyond that; a total blank. All in all, a philosophical concept impossible to explain and even difficult to posit for the sake of argument.

    • David Nickol

      This is obvious, and has been said before, but the oblivion after death seems no harder to conceive of than the "oblivion" prior to conception. Contemplating one's own nonexistence may be a bit mind boggling, but that is no reason to conclude that there must be life after death. It is difficult to contemplate the oblivion after death, because we won't be there to experience it! But it is difficult to contemplate the oblivion prior to conception, and yet no one concludes we all must have pre-existed.

    • Michael Murray

      The ultimate destination of not believing in gods doesn't have to be oblivion on death. There could be an afterlife but not organised by a god. There could be reincarnation.

      Many atheists however do think it is oblivion and they do talk about this. Imagine a general anaesthetic but you don't wake up. Hardly a difficult concept.

      A quick google finds you the late Stephen Hawking discussing what death means to him as an atheist.

      “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he told the Guardian. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

  • James

    That makes sense.

    If there is no God (or an absent God), then the universe is fair in the sense that it is governed by universally applicable laws. There is no special pleading for favors from a higher power.

    The dilemma is that subjectively the universe will never be fair on a human level because some people have advantages others do not. The greatest act of human morality, therefore, is to lessen one’s privilege to make a subjectively fairer game, in the sense of good sportsmanship.

    The theist idea that there can be special pleading is deeply troubling because it makes the universe more arbitrary and dependent on the whims of a higher power.

    • Rob Abney

      Are you referring to prayer as special pleading? Do you know that prayer doesn't change God's providence, but it does change the one who is praying.

      • James

        Then what’s the point?

        • Rob Abney

          Just what I wrote, you need to change.

      • David Nickol

        Do you know that prayer doesn't change God's providence, but it does change the one who is praying.

        If I understand the thought of Thomas Aquinas, this is a bit misleading. Prayer cannot change God's mind, but that does not mean it makes no difference to the outcome of events whether or not one prays. The changes prayer may bring about are not limited to changes in the person who prayed. If I pray for my grandfather to recover from his heart attack, that prayer may indeed be responsible for his recovery if God so chooses. But (as I understand the argument), God wills "from all eternity" that my grandfather recover because of my prayers. It is a matter of God's providence "from all eternity" that my grandfather will recover because I pray.

        I find it a difficult concept to accept, and I don't endorse it myself, but you seemed to be saying that prayer doesn't have any effect except upon the person who prays, and that is not classical theism (as I understand it).

        • Rob Abney

          Yes thsts a good explanation, that's why I referred to it as God's providence, I think we mean the same thing.
          You should take the advice of Chris Pratt from the MTV awards show, learn to pray.
          Don't be selfish, you probably have friends and relatives who need your prayers.

          • David Nickol

            I didn't say whether or not I personally pray. I said I found it difficult to accept Thomas Aquinas's theory about how prayers can be efficacious given his theories about God's nature.

            Don't be selfish, you probably have friends and relatives who need your prayers.

            I will ignore your implication that I am selfish. Are you saying God will not look after the welfare of my friends and relatives if I don't pray for them?

            If I don't pray for my grandfather to recover from his heart attack, and he dies, would I be held responsible for his death because God might have healed him if I had prayed?

          • Rob Abney

            Fortunately your friends and relatives have other friends and relatives who do gladly pray for them everyday. You are not held responsible but you may be asked one day why you neglected to help.

            "How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God follow him, if Baal is God follow him." Elijah.

  • James

    The key question I believe is “Is God good?”

    Most believers see God as synonymous with goodness and are comforted by the idea that a benevolent higher power is in charge.

    Some believers see God as “good” in the sense that “The King can do no wrong” and that it is not our place to question God’s goodness. Whether we find this comforting or not is irrelevant.

    Non believers are skeptical of the goodness of God (or if God is good, then they are skeptical of His ability to carry out His Will). If God is arbitrary, incompetent, or malevolent, then the presence of God is not comforting, but terrifying.

    • Rob Abney

      You ask the wrong question. You should ask and try to refute this: Is God goodness?
      Did you study St Thomas' Summa in catholic school? Here's his answer, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1006.htm#article4

      • James

        You just restated my first paragraph.

  • Gandolf

    I'd seriously like to believe there might be a God.I wish i felt able to.Because right now i can see that the world is sitting in dire straight,and in great need of one right now.What with fires that are burning fiercely and killing loads of people.Not really so much within my own country NZ,hardly any deathly fires happen around these parts as yet, but do rather constantly now happen within some other countries.Even so i feel empathy.I feel so sad to see the amount of suffering and death.The loss of loved ones.I imagine the immense pain being suffered by loads and loads of animals and insects and birds and so on.Plus all the social disharmony and wars that still loom

    I cannot help but feel deeply worried.Worried that there may not be a God after all.Even though the majority of the world population,still remains fairly deeply convinced that a God must surely exist

    The majority of our worlds population still lives according, as if a God exist.Perhaps even recklessly so.Lives constantly as if there is always this safety net,hanging in the background, of what can be relied on, to protect and provide help

  • Karun Sagar

    If you haven't realized athieism isn't the same as believing there is no god, you aren't qualified to write articles regarding athiesists

    Also "hope" is not congruent to "belief", so again, athiesim is utterly irreleavant here.

  • Ruben Villasenor

    Why do theist always conflate the anti-theist position (God does not exist) with the atheist position (I don't believe your claim that god exist)? The default position is to not believe X exist until it has been demonstrated to exist.

    • Rob Abney

      How do you conclude that unbelief is the default position?

      • Ruben Villasenor

        The null hypothesis. It basically says X is not related to Y until it is demonstrated to be connected. That and if you set the default position to believing everything until it is demonstrated to not exist you run into problems. Eventually you may come to believe mutually exclusive claims.

        • Rob Abney

          My default position would not be based upon a statistical theory. I would not take an indifference approach either because I would assign higher levels of value to the historical reality of the beginning of the Church and to the many great thinkers who have used their reasoning to demonstrate the existence of God.
          Even more fundamental, I have received a gift of faith at baptism (as an infant) that makes my default position to believe.

          • Ruben Villasenor

            So your default position is to believe first and eliminate things as they are disproven? How did you eliminate Ganesha, Brahma or Allah? What method/mechanism did you use?

          • Rob Abney

            Again, my default position is to believe those things that have high value. My upbringing as a citizen of the west exposed me to Catholicism. As I considered the others I eliminated them on the principle of non-contradiction, but I didn't just consider them false initially.

          • Ruben Villasenor

            We have a misunderstanding. The default position is to not believe X is true/correct which is different from saying X is false. It is similar to the default position in a court of law. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to convince the jury of guilt. The jury considers guilty vs not guilty, they do not consider guilty vs innocent.

          • Rob Abney

            I'll respond more tomorrow, bur for clarity, are you identifying yourself as an atheist or an agnostic or something else? Thanks.

          • Ruben Villasenor

            I am an agnostic atheist.

          • Rob Abney

            Most defendants in court proceedings are there because the police caught them engaged in illegal activity, so the prosecutor already has an advantage as he relies on the legal authority of the police.
            I rely on 2000 years of Christianity, and great thinkers with credibility. In other words the case is already tilted strongly toward belief.
            An atheist may say that he needs to see the evidence but in reality he has rejected the good evidence that is all around him.

          • Ruben Villasenor

            Yes most defendants do not go to trial but not all. In the case of claiming god (specifically the Christian god) exist I find god "not guilty" of existing. The burden of proof is on those claiming he does. Just because Christianity is old or X number of people believe is not evidence for the truth of a claim. A claim must stand on its own with its own evidence to back it up.

          • Rob Abney

            I wasn't appealing to the truth of Christianity because it is old but rather because it has been credible to a large number of people consistently for a long time as well as to a large number of humanity's best thinkers consistently for a long time.
            In addition, the claim does stand on its own. Which demonstrations for the existence of God have you rejected specifically? Also, have you ever been baptized?

          • Ruben Villasenor

            Yes I have been baptized and confirmed. I have not been presented with a demonstration of god's existence which is why I am an atheist. I have been presented with arguments, assertions and claims but no evidence connecting X to Y.

          • Rob Abney

            Thomas Aquinas presented the best arguments for God's existence, he wrote in the 12th century, are you familiar with these? What premises or conclusions of his do you reject?
            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm

          • Ruben Villasenor

            Yes I am familiar with Aquinas five ways. Aquinas has 5 arguments but an argument is not evidence it is an argument but here is my answer.
            1. The Argument from Motion is a special pleading fallacy.
            2. The Argument from Efficient Causality no evidence for this premise
            3. The Argument from Contingency of Being Again special pleading
            4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection uses outdated Aristotelian physics
            5. The Argument from Final Causality this is a human concept not an actual thing in reality. There is no evidence X has an intrinsic purpose

            All these so called argument do not get you to a deistic god much less the Christian god.

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you accept the null hypothesis, it is an argument not evidence.

            Please give a little more specific detail on any of your objections.

          • Ruben Villasenor

            The null hypothesis is similar to the axioms of logic it continually demonstrates its reliability. You can not prove the null hypothesis you falsify it just like in science. My main objection is a lack of demonstration of the premises. Basically claims keep being made X is true without any demonstration that X is in fact true/correct. There must be an uncaused cause? Why and how did you determine this fact? If everything must have a cause but you make a special exception for your God that is special pleading. If you say everything we observe has a cause how did X start? That is the argument from ignorance which is a fallacy. Even if you grant the uncaused cause how is that God, it just means X has a cause.

          • Rob Abney

            It is special pleading If everything must have a cause, but the argument says that everything that is caused must have a cause not that everything must have a cause.

            “So, too, the intellect knows immediately, from the concept of being (which it forms from its very first experience of anything at all), the metaphysical first principles that (1) contradictions are impossible, (2) things must have reasons, and (3) failing to have reasons of themselves, things need extrinsic reasons or causes to explain themselves. These self-evident metaphysical first principles are necessarily employed even by those who deny their existence, and most certainly, validly apply to the Five Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas as well as to other legitimate metaphysical proofs for God’s existence and to any and all aspects of the real world.”
            From:
            https://strangenotions.com/are-metaphysical-first-principles-universally-true/

          • Ruben Villasenor

            If God does not require a cause then then same can be said of the cosmos which our universe is part of. Even if I grant that the universe must have a cause the best we can say is the universe had a cause period. We have no information on what that cause is or can be. No where in the cosmological argument of first cause is God mentioned much less the Christian God. You can not have a proof for God in which God is not in any of the premises.

          • Meepestos

            I find Hermit’s take on the Kalam Cosmological Argument astute. What do you think?

            “First the Kalam Cosmological Argument is not based on any evidence at all, meaning it doesn't qualify as science, but as woo. It is a logical and ontological argument based on the faulty premise that everything has a cause, when the evidence is that at the quantum level underlaying all reality, if a cause were present and known, quantum indeterminacy would cause evaporation of the particles whose attributes are so exposed. So the fact that the Universe exists is compelling evidence that no such cause exists.

            Further disproof of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is the solid mathematical proof that no significant system can be both complete and prove itself true in finite time, requiring an actual infinity (despite the odd properties of infinity) to prove any theory dependent on anything as or more complex than the natural numbers, including all science, raising a contradiction with the Kalam Cosmological Argument which depends on there being no infinities.

            Then there is the fact that the Kalam Cosmological Argument depends on a cause prior to and independent of our Universe, but if such a force existed, it would not be part of our Universe, and could not affect our Universe without becoming part of it, because our Universe is, by definition, everything real and imaginary which can be experienced.

            Finally there are many alternative choices possible, rather than those made by the proponents of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and many of the choices made by its proponents are blatantly made on the basis of their delusions about god thingies. For example, we know that a micro fluctuation in the quantum flux could trigger the instantiation of any possible Universe, yet most KLA proponents specify that the instigator is necessarily enormously powerful. Most proponents also attempt to argue for a single instigator and take recourse to Ockham's razor (another logical argument, often contradicted, which is why it is a razor, not a law), yet nothing in nature is a singleton, so Ockham's razor would equally suggest that the cause is one of many, and so on.

            In other words, even though the Kalam Cosmological Argument is arguably the best argument that the christers have come up with, it isn't a very good argument, being holier than well made Gruyère cheese or arguments about angels dancing on the head of pins, and remains neither persuasive not scientific; suggesting that the argument is based on faulty ideas propagated by ill-educated people of limited outlook. Nothing new there.”

          • Ruben Villasenor

            Well put.

          • Meepestos

            She certainly has.

          • Rob Abney

            In other words, even though the Kalam Cosmological Argument is arguably the best argument that the christers have come up with, it isn't a very good argument

            You should do your homework, it's not the best argument and its not scientific.

          • Meepestos

            Take it up with Hermit Disqus, it is her assertion, that it is arguably the best argument that Christians can come up with. Where does she mention it is Scientific?

          • Meepestos

            For some reason my reply disappeared so I'll try again.

            Take it up with Hermit on Disqus, as she is the one asserting it is arguably the best argument that Christians have come up with. Where does she mention it is scientific?

          • Rob Abney

            “First the Kalam Cosmological Argument is not based on any evidence at all, meaning it doesn't qualify as science, but as woo

            I read that as implied that it was intended to be scientific but that it was not. I won't take it up with Hermit, but with you since you commented here not her.
            I understand that it is exciting to see someone hurl insults but you have to get past that if you want to find the truth.

          • David Cromie

            "I read that as implied(sic) that it was intended to be scientific but that it was not".

            Your English comprehension is abysmal, if that is what you thought.

          • Rob Abney

            Respectfully, I don't think that you have studied this with much attention to detail.

            If God does not require a cause then then same can be said of the cosmos which our universe is part of.

            How do you come to that conclusion?! The cosmos is is changeable/contingent, one day it might not exist.

            We have no information on what that cause is or can be. No where in the cosmological argument of first cause is God mentioned much less the Christian God

            If you grant that there is a cause then you should agree that such a cause is what all men call God. That is not an argument for the Christian God but it leads to Him.

          • Ruben Villasenor

            Our universe has time and may be contingent but we have no idea if the cosmos has the same limitations. This entire conversation began because I am skeptical of the theistic claim that god exist and no one has demonstrated it. Your argument boils down to the assertion "God exist and the evidence for this is that god exist". I tried to help by granting that our universe had a cause and you jumped to that cause is god without any evidence to connect the two. If the universe has a cause it is unknown at this time. If you have an idea or hypothesis of what that cause can be great throw it into the pile of possible explanations. The time to believe you have the correct explanation is when there is evidence not before. Thanks

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the discussion. You seem to be of above average intelligence so I think that if you study the arguments closer then you'll form different opinions than you have now. If you want to find the truth you can but you cannot find it if you cling to full skepticism.

          • David Cromie

            Metaphysics is argument about mere suppositions/beliefs that are without evidenced foundation, and their claimed consequences for the world.

          • it has been credible to a large number of people consistently for a long time

            Yes, but a larger number of people have found it not credible. Do you think that datum has any relevance to your argument?

            as well as to a large number of humanity's best thinkers consistently for a long time.

            Would that large number constitute more or less than half of all of humanity's best thinkers?

            In addition, the claim does stand on its own.

            This seems, in your mind, to be something of an afterthought, as if it were not the most important consideration.

            What do you think it means for a claim to stand on its own? Do you mean that there is sufficient evidence for it that it would be reasonable to believe it even if most of humanity, and most of the world's best thinkers, did not believe it? And if you do think so, why even bring up any other reason to believe it?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, but a larger number of people have found it not credible. Do you think that datum has any relevance to your argument?

            That's not true. Most of the ones who find it not credible do not address the actual arguments. Even you with a lot of philosophical background admit to having "read very little" of Aquinas.

            That is not an afterthought, it is the most important aspect and I have been trying to show why there is value in considering who understands it. Not all thinkers have the same abilities.

          • Most of the ones who find it not credible do not address the actual arguments.

            Do you have any statistics to back that claim up with?

            Besides, you did not say, "it has been credible to a large number of people who have studied and addressed the arguments." All you said was that lots of people do believe it -- as if, in your judgment, it does not matter whether they have studied the arguments.

            Even you with a lot of philosophical background admit to having "read very little" of Aquinas.

            That doesn't mean I am unfamiliar with the best arguments for Christianity. I have also read hardly any of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, but I know exactly why the scientific community believes biological evolution to be a fact. I can defend evolution against any creationist without once quoting Darwin or any other biologist who has written on the subject since him.

          • Rob Abney

            Do you have any statistics to back that claim up with?

            Anecdotal evidence from reading comments on the internet.

            Those with the gift of faith, have faith in Aquinas's reasoning even if it is beyond their ability because the Church recommends him.

            That doesn't mean I am unfamiliar with the best arguments for Christianity.

            It means you are unfamiliar with Aquinas' best arguments; especially you, who do not take others' interpretations without closely examining them yourself.

          • It means you are unfamiliar with Aquinas' best arguments;

            No, it does not, assuming that the scholars whose commentaries I have been reading are actually familiar with them and have correctly represented them in their own writings. Those commentators have included Dennis Bonnette, who posts frequently to this forum, and Edward Feser, whose book The Last Superstition I have read and who has also contributed occasionally to this forum.

          • Not all thinkers have the same abilities.

            Their abilities are manifest in their arguments, not in their academic or historical fame.

          • Rob Abney

            True.

          • David Cromie

            Any Argumentum ad Populum is fallacious.
            As for 'consistency', how do you account for the myriad versions of religion that have existed over the centuries (some few very new to the table, it must be admitted) and the rancour between them, often descending into extreme violence?

          • David Cromie
          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for supporting my position.

          • David Cromie

            Do you not understand English?

          • Rob Abney

            Are you referring to your infancy atheism or your elementary school cartoon?

          • David Cromie

            I leave you with that superficial quandary, to work it out for yourself, if your superstition-addled brain is up to it.

          • Robert

            Thanks! I'm 'stealing' that one!

          • David Cromie

            Please demonstrate the real existence of your favourite 'god' for the rest of us.

          • Rob Abney

            There is something rather than nothing.

          • David Cromie

            Your point is???

          • Rob Abney

            This is a good indication of why you have not progressed from your infancy of atheism, you have to have everything spelled out for you. (Just kidding!)
            Why is there something rather than nothing? Do you have a theory?

          • David Cromie

            You are the one who seems to have the hypothesis/theory, so defend it.

            'Something rather than nothing' does not imply a 'god'.

            'Something' from' nothing' occurs all the time, as your posts abundantly illustrate.

          • Rob Abney

            You keep evading, I'm not implying I am stating that there is something rather than nothing because of God.
            You either believe that something came from nothing or that there was always something. Which?
            If there was always something what was it.
            Do you want to discuss or do you already have all your answers.

      • David Cromie

        We are all born as atheists!

        • Rob Abney

          And then the majority of us learn better!

          • David Cromie

            No! The majority are brainwashed into some religion or cult. Thankfully, many also see through the religiot scam when they mature into adulthood.

        • Jim the Scott

          We are born mute so by that reasoning not talking is our default? We are born with undeveloped cognitive faculties. So not thinking is our default? We have no bladder control when we are born...nuff said.

          Do ye not realize even if there are no gods that is just a really, really, really, really, lame argument?

          • David Cromie

            We are not all born mute, if healthy. The first cries of the neonate are a sign that it has a voice. What are the first signs indicating that a neonate believes in a 'god', and at what stage of cognitive development?

          • Jim the Scott

            >We are not all born mute, if healthy. The first cries of the neonate are a sign that it has a voice.

            Perhaps "mute" was in incorrect use of terms on my part? But my point was we don't speak. We have no language and thus according to your goofy analogy not speaking is our default state. We are born not believing in Evolution. Therefore denial of evolution is our natural state by this silly bit of "reasoning" on your part. Do you really not see this analogy is goofy? One need not believe in any gods to see that.

            >What are the first signs indicating that a neonate believes in a 'god', and at what stage of cognitive development?

            What does that matter? Again one could say what are the first signs indicating that a neonate believes in evolution, and at what stage of cognitive development? Because according too this goofy invalid analogy none belief in evolution is our default state.

            It is a silly analogy and argument. Regardless of the existence or non-existence of God or gods. Bizarre that you can't see that.

          • David Cromie

            All healthy neonates have the ability to acquire a language when they reach the required mental development (see Noam Chomsky on language, and educate yourself).

            You are right, neonates do not believe in evolution, either, but when they are old enough to understand, a liberal education will help them to grasp the basics, a least, even if they never become scientists.

            This is not indoctrination, unlike being taught that there are supernatural entities, for which no evidence-based rational argument is forthcoming, or possible.

          • Jim the Scott

            >All healthy neonates have the ability to acquire a language when they reach the required mental development (see Noam Chomsky on language, and educate yourself).

            What does that have to do with your goofy claim just because new born children lack belief in God due too their lack of cognitive development that therefore non-belief is their default state? Nothing, your statement was still silly regardless if gods exist or not. Obviously you lack the education and self possession to simply admit that. I don't know why? You don't have to change any of your fundamental beliefs you just have to own the fact that was a foolish statement. But if you have this deep need to deathlessly defend silly arguments I can't help ya mate.

            >You are right, neonates do not believe in evolution, either, but when they are old enough to understand, a liberal education will help them to grasp the basics, a least, even if they never become scientists.

            But they don't believe in it till they are indoctrinated into it. Of course I am using the archaic meaning of indoctrinate meaning to teach or instruct. Anyway by your initial standards disbelief in it is the default. Or you can just admit what a baby does or does not believe really is not significant in the scheme of things.

            >This is not indoctrination,

            Given the archaic definition it pretty much is indoctrination. As for the modern definition it is unremarkable some people have a better quality of education then others. Also there is no reason why when they are old enough to understand, a liberal education in philosophy will help them to grasp the basics of metaphysics and logic, a least, even if they never become philosophers. It is perfectly moral to teach my young son God exists and it is perfectly moral to tell him the Earth revolves around the Sun even when he is to young to grasp orbital mechanics.

            > unlike being taught that there are supernatural entities, for which no evidence-based rational argument is forthcoming, or possible.

            Ah positivism! The most intellectually bankrupt philosophical view of modern Gnu Atheist types! No wonder you think "babies lack belief" is a clever statement. You are the non-believer equivalent to the guy who thinks "the 2nd law of thermal dynamics "refutes" evolution" argument is clever and you are twice as silly.

            I am a Classic Theist. I strongly believe God's existence is something we can only know via Philosophical argument not scientific experimentation. The view that only what can be known by scientific investigation is valid knowledge cannot itself be known to be true by scientific investigation. The later you would have to argue philosophically which refutes itself since even if you are successful then this bit of knowledge you would know by philosophy not science. Therefore you would know something to be true apart from science.

            I am not an ID supporter. I don't believe in Theistic Personalism. So unless you have some good philosophical defeaters you want to share by definition all your "objections" are non-starters. Try it on the ID fundies I am not interested.

            Saying there is no scientific evidence for God is like saying a Higg boson must not exist unless I can dig it up from a fossil record. It's called a category mistake.

          • David Cromie

            Where were you dragged up, and so cruelly brain-damaged?

          • Jim the Scott

            That is the best ye can do laddie?

            I guess your "Atheism" will never be anything more sophisticated then "Blah! Blah! Brainwashed! Cult!" or "Blah! Blah! Science!" or "Blah! Blah! Babies are Atheists!" or "Blah! Blah! Philosophy what now?"

            Bye.

          • David Cromie

            Not a very sophisticated post, so I take it that that is the best you can do, with your religion-addled brain, and superstition- induced idiocy.

            No irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence for the real existence of your favourite supposed'god', then?

            Goodbye!

          • Jim the Scott

            I guess that is the best you can do.

            BTW the 1950's called they want their positivism back.

            Good day.

          • David Cromie

            ???

            No irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence for the real existence of your favourite supposed'god', then?

          • Jim the Scott

            Still stuck in Positivist mode I see?

          • David Cromie

            Still unable to answer my question, I see!

          • Jim the Scott

            Now you are just repeating yourself. It is kind of sad.

            It's a "do you still beat your wife type question" so why should I waste my time? God is not a scientific question. God is a philosophical one. Live with it. Since you clearly lack the intelligence and education to address God philosophically what would be the point in us having a conversation?
            You are like the Young Earth Creationist who stamps his foot demanding the Evolutionist produce an "Ape who gives birth to a human" & touts he "won" the argument because the Evolutionist cannot answer his foolish question.

            Well I don't have to waste my time on your foolish question. The existence of God is a philosophical question not a scientific one. Live with it. Propose a philosophical defeater for some philosophical argument or go home.

  • Rob Abney

    Do you consider extramental reality to be natural or supernatural?

  • Rob Abney

    Apparently it is something you've rejected without even understanding it, similar to most of your provocative statements you've made on this site.

  • Rob Abney

    You don't have very good google skills, the first definition that came up for me was "existing outside the mind", how does that make it physical?
    I prefer this definition from Dr Bonnette:
    "all of science presupposes that we can classify things, and that these classifications exist in extramental reality as well as in our minds. Otherwise, science exists only in the mind and has no basis in reality."

  • Rob Abney

    I'm sure that is as far as your concerned.

  • Albion

    I think that one of the reasons that many atheists hope and wish that God does not exist is because they very often have too much of a good thing going in this life, and thus see God as getting in their way, reminding them that they are not as omnipotent and invincible as they would like to think they are. To sum it up, they are all too often motivated by pride.

    • Ficino

      And you are not?

      • Albion

        Don't worry. I also have moments when I feel that many of my assumptions about God do not add up.
        The problem with pride is that it is a very subtle kind of sin: we (including myself) don't know how proud we are unless we are truly tested. I admit that it is easier to see it in others than in ourselves. This is why we should be vigilant and regularly examine our conscience.

        • Ficino

          When I was transitioning from Calvinism to Catholicism, my Calvinist mentor told me that my growing doubts about the truth of Calvinism were the fruit of my sin of pride.

          Since pretty much anyone can be called prideful, I don't think that accusations that the interlocutor is prideful do much to establish the falsity of that interlocutor's views, as they do not establish the truth of the "accuser's" views. From what you replied above, though, I gather that you'd agree.

          • Albion

            It could well be that your Calvinist mentor lost the argument against your conversion to Catholicism, so he resorted to the accusation of the sin of pride. All too often, getting personal instead of putting forward a good argument is an admission that one has lost the argument. Of course, this is no indication as to who is right and who is wrong: we are not all good communicators and debaters.

    • Rob Abney

      I think that you've taken an almost universal motivation and applied it specifically to one group.

      • Albion

        I specifically have in mind those atheists who wish and hope that God does not exist, not those who disbelieve in God because of lack of exposure to the Christian/Catholic worldview.
        If Richard Dawkins is so convinced of his atheism and can take comfort that most British people are functional atheists, why would he need to bang on about it unless deep inside of him a silent voice is telling him that there is a God, but he is working hard to rationalise Him out of existence?

        • David Cromie

          I do so love those 'silent voices'!

          • Albion

            Either Richard Dawkins is wrestling with a phantom that he claims does not exist, or he is trying dispel this 'silent voice.'

          • David Cromie

            Dawkins is wrestling with religiots, such as you, who are trying hard to establish a theocracy comfortable to their own religious beliefs, so as to impose same on everyone else.

            The problem is that there are so many versions and sects of religious belief that they would end up killing each other for the privilege (my religion is the one true religion syndrome).

            Where is the irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that your favourite supposed 'one true god' actually exists?

          • Albion

            No, I certainly do not want a theocracy; there's enough of that in the Islamic world. By the way, why not take comfort in the fact that here in the Western world people like me are in a minority and in no position to impose some kind of theocracy? I for one am reconciled to the fact that we live in a post-Christian society. Otherwise people like you and Dawkins are tilting at windmills. If you REALLY want to take on religious bigotry, how about taking on Islam? I bet you wouldn't dare; you prefer easy targets like Christianity that is fading out of view. Richard Dawkins, to be fare, is prepared to give the same kicking to Islam as he gives to Christianity. But not what happened? He was dis-invited to Berkeley University by FELLOW-ATHEISTS precisely because they did not want him to attack Islam. Why? What are they afraid of?

        • rationalobservations?

          As an atheist I do not contend that the originally Canaanite and now Judaeo-christian god "Yahweh" does not exist. I observe that there is no evidence of the existence of any and all the many millions of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men and merely include the unremarkable and evidence devoid "Yahweh" and "Jesus" among them.
          Non belief in ALL the undetectable gods is not another form of belief.

          Christians may possibly suggest that they believe in one of the imaginary gods without evidence because evidence of it's nonexistence is not available? That appears irrational since evidence of the nonexistence of none of the millions of gods is available and therefore logic appears to demand belief in all without evidence or belief in none until evidence of one (or some, or all) becomes apparent.

          Of course: Evidence of the nonexistence of the nonexistent is nonexistent because the nonexistent is nonexistent. (Read that again until the meaning sinks in?)

          You are not alone in your confusion, Albion. Christians are often baffled how atheists could deny the existence of their particular undetectable and originally Canaanite god, "Yahweh". But they shouldn’t be. Christians deny many thousands of the same gods that atheists deny. Atheists just deny one more god than Christians do (or is that three, maybe?).

          Some of my favorites fictional gods include: Aakuluujjusi, inuit creator goddess, Abora, polynesian supreme god, Pratibhanapratisamvit, Buddhist goddess of context analysis, Adamas, gnostic christian creator god and Acat, Mayan god of tattoo artists, Agu’gux, aleut creator god, not forgetting Tsa’qamae, north american god of salmon migration and too many more to begin to list.

          The concept that atheists are "in rebellion" against any of the gods is ridiculous unless christians consider themselves to be in rebellion against Odin or Zeus and all the other gods dreamed up by men?

          It's as childish to imagine that those who do not believe in all the millions of gods are rebelling against them as it would appear to be to believe in any/all of them.

          https://monicksunleashed.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/99-percent-atheist.jpg
          https://godless.no/wp-content/uploads/Atheist.jpg

          • Albion

            Trying to use scientific criteria to prove God's existence is like using a metal detector to detect plastic, and then to conclude that because you could not detect plastic using a metal detector - that there is no such thing as plastic.
            So you are baffled that we believers believe in a God whose existence we cannot prove? Well. I am equally baffled that many of you atheists believe in the principles of Marxism/Communism/Socialism despite the fact that it failed spectacularly in the Soviet Union, eastern European countries, China, Cuba and Venezuela as an economic and social experiment that cost up to 100 million innocent lives in the last century. Your faith in this dreadful atheistic ideology remains nevertheless undiminished. How's that for blind faith in the face of reality?

          • rationalobservations?

            You fail to demonstrate the existence of any of the undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men and also display that you have little grasp on the concept of logic.

            I am not baffled by anything and fully understand the 1600 years of propaganda and threat that is behind belief in the fraudulent 4th century founded Roman "Jesus" cult.

            I am opposed to the totalitarianism of Marxism, communism and communism-lite socialism. I am equally against political tyranny and religious tyranny.
            The antidote to that poison has proved to be education and free, secular democracy.

            http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/files/2016/05/StalinPig.jpg

          • Albion

            Of course I cannot demonstrate God's existence - I accept Him on faith on the basis of revelations and insights by Biblical personalities, saints and mystics of the Church. However, God is like a dim light at a distance; dim enough to ignore it if that is what you want to do, but just bright enough to attract attention of the curious who desires to look into the source of the light. As you get nearer to the light, it gets brighter and all-encompassing. If you think that such beliefs are manifestations of wishful thinking, I can tell you that even I wished that many of the Christian claims were not true. But I now accept them, and would not wish to go back.

          • rationalobservations?

            You describe the result of your imagination being stimulated by fantasy, wishful thinking, fear and indoctrination.

            Your faith is based exclusively upon indoctrination with belief and your belief relies exclusively upon being brainwashed into blind and unquestioning faith.

            Having blind faith that something for (which no evidence exists) is "true" has no influence upon the possibility/impossibility that it is true.

            You describe your delusion but present nothing that would cause any of us to share it or those who are rejecting it to return to it.

          • Albion

            Am I brainwashed? I came to the faith by searching the truth for myself. NOBODY brainwashed me. In fact I am surrounded by non-believers.
            Wishful thinking? How I wish there was no Hell! It's a vile doctrine, and yet justice cries out for its existence, especially when you come to know about the evil that men do.
            Blind faith? My faith does not exclude perplexities. I also have moments of doubt.
            So I present nothing that would cause anybody to share my faith? Supposing you have no desire to look deeper into the faith because it is considered "uncool" within your social set and because if you come to the conclusion that it is the truth, you would have to change the way you live and be prepared to lose friends.

          • rationalobservations?

            Your condition of blanket unqualified denial is noted once again.
            Self delusion is also a form of brainwashing and you confirm your condition of fear.

            Your pathetic assumptions and presumptions about me are wrong in every detail.

            A long, happy and very fulfilled life has included detailed research into the origin and nature of the lies you have sold to yourself and bought into but cannot validate, justify or excuse.

            Your ignorance remains only exceeded by your egotism and arrogance.

          • Albion

            You have demonstrated a closed mind eager to be confirmed in its narrowness. Your tendency to get personal with me is an indication that you have exhausted all your arguments, reiterating words like arrogance, ignorance, egotism, etc. In psychology there is a phenomenon known as 'psychological projection' - a tendency to project the vices and moral failings of oneself onto another person because of the unwillingness to come to terms with them in oneself. This is what you militant atheists do: you project your arrogance, narrow-mindedness and wilful ignorance onto people who don't share your worldview because of your reluctance to look at yourselves in the mirror.
            I don't see any point in continuing this debate with you because we are going in circles. To continue to put my case forward to you is like casting pearls before the swine. I now draw this argument to a close.

          • rationalobservations?

            You have demonstrated that you mind is locked to reality by the indoctrination and terror to which you have succumbed.

            I find it hilarious that those who have nothing to offer but propaganda, opinion and ad hominem have the naivete to suggest that those who expose their shortcomings "get personal".

            You have yet to offer any evidence supported arguments so it could be a very limited period before you exhaust demonstrating the fact that you have nothing to offer that validates, justifies, excuses or defends your enthrallment to superstition and lies.

            I am delighted to note that you have grown tired of being humiliated and are now cutting and running from further exposure to logic and reason. You will save us both some time although I must thank you for providing a platform for the exposure and rebuttal of the garbage of one of the many fraudulent and dishonest religions that are in decline all around the educated and free, secular western democracies and further afield.

            Many thanks and farewell - but please remember that religious mania is a recognised psychological condition and ignorance is merely the absence of knowledge. Both are treatable.

          • David Cromie

            Perhaps, before you go, you could adduce the irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that your favourite supposed 'god' actually exists? That would settle any argument about the rationality of your beliefs/world view.

          • Albion

            The Universe is not a product of chance or accident in the same way that a car in its form and functions is not a product of an accident. There is a will and an intelligence that willed the existence of the car; so it is with the Universe which is also sustained by fixed laws ordained by this will and intelligence. This intelligence and will is the personal God as revealed in the Bible, Accept Him or reject Him; but I guess that you made your choice, although it is not too late to change your mind. There are consequences for the wilful rejection which will be faced in the afterlife. I guess that you'll assert that with death there will be a cessation of conscience, but there are people alive who were clinically dead for a while and came back to tell us of their out-of the-body-experience. What they claim is generally consistent and repetitive; they simply could not have made them up.

            Here for the last time I conclude my communication with you.

          • David Cromie

            The cosmos is not a motorcar, nor anything like one (unless you are a Cartesian). There is no deus ex machina!

          • Ficino

            Albion, the grounds that justify belief in the God of the Bible, in your view, are provided by an intelligent design argument? OK, unless you've fleshed it out elsewhere, i don't see an argument above - only an analogy, the aptness of which is questionable. I'm wondering whether some of your premises will beg the question, e.g. about laws of nature.

            Thomists often say that the Fifth Way is not an argument from design like the watchmaker argument, since Aquinas was not a deist. Do you have a design argument, perhaps the Fifth Way or one like it, that gets farther than deism?

          • David Cromie

            "I came to the faith by searching the truth for myself".

            So you brainwashed yourself. That is your problem, arising from the lack of the faculty for critical thinking, and a need to believe in something that would allow you to join a herd of like-minded superstitious sheeple.

  • rationalobservations?

    The very first sentence of this almost meaningless diatribe if fatally flawed:
    "The existence of God is a topic that tends to elicit strong passions. People have their beliefs about whether God exists or not, but they also have their hopes. Many people hope God does exist, but some prominent voices express a hope quite to the contrary."

    This is as ridiculous as the binary "god vs no god" Pascal's wager when considering the millions of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men dreamed up by humans among which the far from unique and original Yahweh and Jesus merely feature.

    Pascal's wager reveals the odds of millions to one against any particular deity. But
    that's an aside.

    As an atheist I do not contend that the originally Canaanite and now Judaeo-christian god "Yahweh" does not exist. I observe that there is no evidence of the existence of any and all the many millions of undetected and undetectable gods, goddesses and god-men and merely include the unremarkable and evidence devoid "Yahweh" and "Jesus" among them.
    Non belief in ALL the undetectable gods is not another form of belief.

    Christians may possibly suggest that they believe in one of the imaginary gods without evidence because evidence of it's nonexistence is not available? That appears irrational since evidence of the nonexistence of none of the millions of gods is available and therefore logic appears to demand belief in all without evidence or belief in none until evidence of one (or some, or all) becomes apparent.

    Of course: Evidence of the nonexistence of the nonexistent is nonexistent because the nonexistent is nonexistent. (Read that again until the meaning sinks in?)

    You are not alone in your confusion, Randal. Christians are often baffled how atheists could deny the existence of their particular originally Canaanite god, "Yahweh". But they shouldn’t be. Christians deny many thousands of the same gods that atheists deny. Atheists just deny one more god than Christians do (or is that three, maybe?).

    Some of my favorites fictional gods include: Aakuluujjusi, inuit creator goddess, Abora, polynesian supreme god, Pratibhanapratisamvit, Buddhist goddess of context analysis, Adamas, gnostic christian creator god and Acat, Mayan god of tattoo artists, Agu’gux, aleut creator god, not forgetting Tsa’qamae, north american god of salmon migration and too many more to begin to list.

    The concept that atheists are "in rebellion" against any of the gods is ridiculous unless christians consider themselves to be in rebellion against Odin or Zeus and all the other gods dreamed up by men?

    It's as childish to imagine that those who do not believe in all the millions of gods are rebelling against them as it would appear to be to believe in any/all of them.

    https://monicksunleashed.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/99-percent-atheist.jpg
    https://godless.no/wp-content/uploads/Atheist.jpg

  • 9.8m/ss

    What a load of sophistry. Both positions, the evangelical deity advocate and the militant atheist are illogical.

    Let me define miracles. A miracle is a local exception to the laws of physics which otherwise appear to apply uniformly to everything in the universe, which can only be explained by direct intervention in the processes of the universe by the same entity that wrote the laws of physics, or an entity of similar supernatural power. We have no direct evidence of miracles. We have no direct evidence of the existence of the deity. All we have is the creation itself, which may be evidence of a creation event or which may simply have always existed.

    Without any evidence either way, there is no way to know. The question of the existence of the deity is moot. The answer is not knowable, and it wouldn't matter if we knew.

    • Phil Tanny

      Without any evidence either way, there is no way to know.

      Agreed, and not only do we not have compelling evidence for any position within the God debate, we don't even know if the processes of human reason (such as a request for evidence) are relevant to issues of such enormous scale. Let us please recall how incredibly small human beings are in comparison to the realm claims and counter claims are being made about, all of reality.

      So, we've conducted a 500 year long investigation led by some of the brightest minds among us on all sides, and at least some of us have concluded from that investigation that we don't know, and maybe even can't know.

      The investigation is not a failure. It has revealed useful information. We are ignorant (in regards to questions of this scale).

      The investigation need not be over. We've discovered useful (if unwelcome) information and we have the option to now put this information to work for our benefit. There is no requirement that we remain locked inside simplistic assumptions such as knowledge=good, ignorance=bad.

      Imagine that we dig a deep mine in search of diamonds, but find only coal. What shall we do? Whine and complain, give up and quit and go home? No, we can start a coal company.

      We dug the God debate mine in the hope of finding huge answers, but found only ignorance instead. Ok, let's be rational, what shall we do with this asset that we have discovered?

      As the God debate door closes, a new door opens.

  • Did you perhaps drop out of high school?

  • Chump Trump

    Probably that fart-you just cut.

  • Chump Trump

    Are you still complaining about religion Habib?

  • Chump Trump

    I thought your parents were muslims.

  • Chump Trump

    Sure Jeffry. Mental Case.

  • Chump Trump

    Jeffry are you sodomizing farm animals again.

  • Chump Trump

    You were a disciple of the teachings of Moe, Larry, and Curly.

  • Rob Abney

    I'll assume that you are not one of the deeper thinkers.

  • Sample1

    You don’t want to watch Sacrifice on Netflix. Just released. Or maybe you do. Not sure what you’re in to. Sacrifice/Netflix.

    Mike

  • Albion

    Your pride might be a deadly liability if you display it before such atheistic pin-ups, like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Robespierre. They are atheistic substitutes for God - they demanded devotion and the sacrifice of millions of innocent people. If you were living in Islamic-dominated Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, you would keep your atheistic dribbles in the closet; alternatively, you will try to conform with the rest because, as we know, most people just want to fit in with the crowd.

  • Albion

    I agree with that.
    So does Communism/ Socialism, i.e. applied atheism that produced a holocaust of 100 million innocent lives in the last century.

  • Chump Trump

    Jeffry you’re a gayboy.

  • Jim the Scott

    Simplistic.....

  • Jim the Scott

    Nerds are awesome ya dumb jock.

    So basically you are admitting you have no intelligent response? You just disbelieve because you prayed for a pony at Christmas and didn't get it so concluded there is no God.

    You are simple minded.

  • Jim the Scott

    I'd love to know how you intend to challenge Theism intectually without knowing any philosophy? It is like being a Young Earth Creationist with a 4th graders knowledge of biology trying to challenge Evolution.

    But it is clear you are simple minded.

  • Jim the Scott

    Whatever......go back to watching Star Trek.

  • Jim the Scott

    Kay....

  • Jim the Scott

    You are saying it all.

  • Jim the Scott

    or Barney which seems more your level.

  • Jim the Scott

    I think you are holding back? Tell us how you really feel?

  • SpokenMind

    Hi Jeff,
    I was wondering if you would be willing to explain further why in your view, the act of creating is not loving.
    I know you're not buying this "god" thing for a second, but if by some one in infinity chance, a "higher power" did create you, you seem to be suggesting that your existence is pretty good.
    Peace.

  • SpokenMind

    Hi Jeff,

    I don’t see the act of creating as not loving. Most people when they create something here on earth do so out of love. A child is usually produced out of an act of love, for example, even though that child is mortal.

  • SpokenMind

    Hi Jeff,

    I think we have at least a little common ground. I think we can agree there are some cases where the act of creating can be loving. I'm not here to say what's the best way to relate to one's wife/girlfriend, but I wouldn't try the line let's go make impulse ;)

    Have a great evening!

  • Sample1

    Ah, a GG Allin fan? Yikes!

    Mike

  • Phil Tanny

    Perhaps the explanation is far simpler, and applies to all of us, theist and atheist.

    We make our living on this Earth by knowing things. It's who we are, it's what we do. Birds fly, fish swim, we know. And so it feels unsettling not to have answers to the very largest of questions, or even have any way of moving towards an answer.

    So we make stuff up. We invent knowings out of nothing. Some of us say they know there is a God, some say they know there isn't a God, and some say they aren't sure but they'll probably figure it out eventually. Each party finds a way to convert the troubling reality of ignorance in to a fantasy knowing, and feels better for it. It's an experience we all share, only the fantasy knowing we choose varies. I'm doing it too, right here and now, crafting a story to fill the void.

    When somebody tries to poke holes in our fantasy knowings we'll likely resist, perhaps with great enthusiasm, because we just don't wish to stare our incredible smallness in the face.

    But what if we could? What if we were brave enough, and logical enough, to make peace with not having answers to the very largest of questions, or any way to move towards an answer?

    What if we turned and faced our ignorance, accepted it, made peace with it, turned it in to a friend, and put our intelligence to work mining it's great value?

    Might such a project at least be more interesting than continuing to ride the children's merry-go-round to nowhere of the God debate for another 500 years? Round and round and round we go, always returning to right where we began.

    • David Cromie

      The way out of the revolving door is for believers in a supposed 'god' to adduce the irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that supports their belief. No believer has yet achieved that, so the uncorroborated arguments for existence of any supposed supernatural entity are sterile and pointless, since believers have only obdurate 'faith' that they are justified in their chosen world view.

      • Phil Tanny

        If you should apply that same methodology to your own beliefs you would see the God debate, all sides of it, collapse under it's own weight.

        I applaud your methodology, but not your apparent (as best I can tell) unwillingness to apply it to all claims by all parties. Such an unwillingness by any of us is not reason, but rather mere ideology.

        And if your goal should be to have an ideological battle, ok, go for it, but you stand no chance of beating the theists at that game for they are masters of the ideological medium.

        • David Cromie

          "...apply that same methodology to your own beliefs...".

          I do not have any religious beliefs to which I could apply the methodology of seeing both sides.

          All I ask of believers is that they provide the irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that would show that their favourite supposed 'god' actually exists. Is that too much to ask?

          In the ordinary course of events it would not matter to me one iota what religious people believe. But when 'believers' try to force their superstitious delusions as a blueprint for my lifestyle, by resorting to theocratic means, then I oppose them, and ask all such parties for justification of their actions, whatever their religious sect/denomination.

          • Phil Tanny

            I do not have any religious beliefs to which I could apply the methodology of seeing both sides.

            Yes, your comment made that clear. I have no problem with you not having religious beliefs.

            I was speaking about your atheist beliefs. And, please do think carefully before trying to tell us there are no atheist beliefs.

            All I ask of believers is that they provide the irrefutable,falsifiable, evidence that would show that their favourite supposed 'god' actually exists. Is that too much to ask?

            And all I'm asking of you is that you provide irrefutable evidence that human reason is qualified to do a meaningful credible analysis of the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere, the scope of god claims.

            That is, I'm asking you to be loyal to your own chosen methodology, and apply your challenge equally to all parties and all their chosen authorities. This is what is required of a person of reason.

            If you are making no claim to being a person of reason, if you should admit your position is faith based, then I withdraw all complaints and will respect your right to your preferred ideology.

            And of course, you can simply ignore me if this is too inconvenient of a challenge, no complaint with that either.

          • David Cromie

            Please give examples of 'atheist beliefs'.

          • Phil Tanny

            The belief that human reason is qualified to generate meaningful credible statements about any subject, no matter how large or outside of our experience. Put another way, the belief that reason is a God, capable of anything.

          • David Cromie

            If humans were not capable of reasoning we would not be known as homo sapiens, and the technology we both are using would not exist, and this exchange would be impossible. Even more serious, language, at its best, would be nothing more than a few grunts among members of primitive tribes people.