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Does the Bible Say All Atheists are Intellectually Dishonest?

AtheistDishonest

We’ve been discussing the thesis that human beings have a natural inclination toward theism, and that atheism, accordingly, involves a suppression of this inclination. Greg Koukl takes the inclination to be so powerful that resisting it is like “trying to hold a beach ball underwater,” and appears to think that every single atheist is engaged in an intellectually dishonest exercise in “denying the obvious, aggressively pushing down the evidence, to turn his head the other way.” (Randal Rauser, who has also been critical of Koukl, calls this the “Rebellion Thesis.”)  In response to Koukl, I argued that the inclination is weaker than that, that the natural knowledge of God of which most people are capable is only “general and confused” (as Aquinas put it), and that not all atheism stems from intellectual dishonesty. Koukl has now replied, defending his position as more “faithful to Paul’s words” in Romans 1:18-20 than mine is. However, I don’t think this claim can survive a careful reading of that passage.

St. Paul’s intent in chapters 1 and 2 of Romans is, in part, to argue that Gentiles are just as much in need of salvation as Jews are. It might seem otherwise because the Gentiles did not have the Mosaic Law or, more generally, any special divine revelation like the one embodied in the Old Testament. Hence one might suppose that their moral failures and theological errors can be excused on grounds of ignorance. But Paul argues that the Gentiles do have available to them knowledge of God’s existence and nature of the sort enshrined in natural theology (1: 19-20), and the moral knowledge embodied in the natural law (2:14-15). Hence, though they lacked the Old Testament, they nevertheless had at least some significant knowledge of moral and theological truth, and are therefore culpable for failing to conform themselves to it.

The example St. Paul gives of the sort of theological error the Gentiles were guilty of is idolatry. He criticizes them for conceiving of God on the model of “mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles” (1:23), even though they should have known that in fact the creator must have attributes of “eternal power” (1:20) and immortality (1:23) and thus cannot properly be compared to such creatures. St. Paul’s chief example of the immorality the Gentiles fell into is homosexual behavior (1:26-27), and he also says that they are guilty of envy, murder, treachery, gossip, disobedience to parents, and many other sins (1:29-31).

Now, there are several things about these chapters that should give pause to anyone hoping to read off the “Rebellion Thesis” from them. The first is that the “Rebellion Thesis” is not even what is in view in the passage. For one thing, St. Paul is not talking about atheism here in the first place, but rather idolatry. For another, his emphasis is not on psychological repression per se but rather on what can be known via natural theology. That is not to deny that what he says is relevant to the issues of whether atheism can be known to be false apart from special divine revelation, and of whether some kind of repression plays a role in atheism. Of course it is relevant. The point is that the psychology of atheism is simply not the topic he is addressing. Again, his topic was rather whether the Gentiles had sufficient moral and theological knowledge available to them to be culpable for their sins, and thus to be as in need of salvation as were those who had the Mosaic Law. To treat Romans 1 as a straightforward statement of the Rebellion Thesis is therefore anachronistic. You might try to argue for the Rebellion Thesis on the basis of the principles St. Paul sets out there, but he is not himself addressing that particular topic.

A second problem is that even where his criticism of idolatry is concerned, what St. Paul gives us is very far from a comprehensive list of which lines of argument demonstrate the existence of God and exactly which of the divine attributes can be known by way of such arguments. He tells us that from “the things that are made” by God, we can know of his power, eternity, and immortality, and therefore can know that he isn’t comparable to a mere man or an animal. And that’s pretty much it. Does God have all power or only a high degree of power? Is he omniscient? Is he perfectly good? Is he timeless, or merely everlasting? Is he simple or composite? Is he immutable? Is he best known by way of an Aristotelian argument from motion? A Neo-Platonic argument from composite things to a non-composite cause? A Leibnizian argument for a Necessary Being? A moral argument? A Fifth Way style teleological argument? A Paley style design argument?

Paul doesn’t address these issues in the passage and, more to the point, he doesn’t say that the Gentiles in general should be expected to know the answers. Indeed, his emphasis isn’t on how much we can know about God by natural means, but rather merely on how we can know at least enough to be able to see how stupid it is to think of God on the model of a man or an animal.

To be sure, we Thomists certainly think that all of these particular questions, and many others, can be answered via purely philosophical arguments. Our claims about natural theology are if anything much more bold than those of most Christian apologists. But the issue here is not what fancy-pants philosophers and theologians can know about God apart from special divine revelation. The issue is what the average person can be expected to know apart from special divine revelation. And contrary to what Koukl implies, what St. Paul actually says in Romans 1 is perfectly compatible with Aquinas’s position that most people are capable of only a “general and confused” knowledge of God apart from special divine revelation.

Then there’s a third problem. Proponents of the “Rebellion Thesis” maintain that each and every single atheist is engaged in an intellectually dishonest, culpable suppression of what he knows deep down to be true. I have argued that that isn’t the case, and that what is true of atheism as a mass phenomenon isn’t true of each and every atheist in particular. Koukl claims that it is the Rebellion Thesis rather than my position that is actually supported by Romans 1:

"[T]hough many atheists are not consciously aware of their rebellion (some are, of course) and may feel they have intellectual integrity in their atheism (some demonstrate a measure of integrity in their reasoned rejection of God), still, when all the cards are on the table in the final judgment, when men’s deepest and truest motives are fully revealed (Lk. 12:2), rebellion will be at the core.  This rebellion-at-the-core, I think, is what Paul had in mind in Rom. 1—a fairly ordinary, run of the mill biblical point, it seems."

Leave aside the point that St. Paul isn’t even addressing atheism, specifically, in the first place. The problem for Koukl is what St. Paul does say. Again, speaking of the Gentiles in general, Romans says that “they… changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (1:22-23), that “their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature” and that their men did likewise (1:26-27), and that they are also guilty of sins such as murder and inventing evil things (1:29-30).

Now, if the defender of the Rebellion Thesis is going to appeal to Romans 1 in support of the claim that each and every single atheist is guilty of an intellectual dishonest, culpable suppression of what he knows to be true, then to be consistent, he will also have to regard Romans 1 as establishing the claim that each and every Gentile, or at least those who had lived up to St. Paul’s time, was guilty of thinking of God on the model of “birds and four-footed animals and creeping things,” of homosexual behavior, and of murder and of inventing evil things.  And there are two problems with such a claim.

First, we know that it is false. We know that not every single Gentile conceived of God in this crude and idolatrous way. (For example, Xenophanes and Aristotle did not.) We know that not every single Gentile engaged in or even approved of homosexual behavior. And obviously, not every Gentile committed murder or invented some evil thing.

Second, the claim would simply not be a plausible reading of Romans 1 in any case, even apart from this empirical point. For to infer from what St. Paul says about Gentiles in general to the conclusion that each and every single Gentile was guilty of all of the sins he describes is to commit a fallacy of division (as some readers have pointed out in the combox).

But it is no less fallacious to infer from what he says about “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” to the conclusion that each and every single atheist is engaged in a culpable act of intellectual dishonesty. Nor, I would say, is this much less empirically dubious than the claim that each and every Gentile is guilty of murder. Even Koukl implicitly admits this when he tells us that the rebellious suppression he attributes to atheists is often “sub-conscious” -- thus making his position immune to empirical testing. And some of Koukl’s defenders appear to think that if it seems empirically false to say that every single atheist is being intellectually dishonest, then this empirical evidence is trumped by (their interpretation of) Romans 1. But that is like saying: “Each and every one of the Gentiles must have been guilty of murder, because the Bible says so!” If the text can naturally be read in a way that comports with the actual empirical evidence, then that is a good reason to read it that way -- in the case of atheists who are to all appearances intellectually honest no less than in the case of Gentiles who are to all appearances innocent of murder.

Here is another consideration. When someone calls himself an “atheist,” we need to get clear about exactly what he means by that, exactly what he is denying, before we conclude that he is engaged in some sort of intellectually dishonest suppression. Many religious people themselves have a very crude understanding of God’s nature, and of other theological matters as well. When an atheist who is simply unfamiliar with more sophisticated accounts rightly rejects these vulgar accounts, he may well believe -- mistakenly but sincerely -- that this entails rejecting theism as such. And if so, it doesn’t follow from the fact that he calls himself an “atheist” that he is engaged in any sort of intellectual dishonesty or suppression of the truth. Rather, he may be simply following the limited evidence he has to where he honestly thinks it leads, and rejecting what is in fact false. If presented with a better understanding of theism, be might change his mind. Of course, he might not change his mind even then, and it might turn out that intellectual dishonesty is what prevents him from doing so. But the point is that the fact that someone at some stage of his life calls himself an “atheist” simply doesn’t entail by itself that he is engaged in intellectual dishonesty.

Thus does the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while affirming that “atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion,” also go on to say:

The imputability of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion.” (2125)

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

Dr. Edward Feser

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

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  • Lazarus

    I remain uncomfortable with this entire topic. It is trivially true that some people come to faith conclusions based on incorrect assessments, incomplete facts, misunderstandings, laziness, lack of intelligence and a long list of motivations and causes. This however goes for the theist as well as the atheist.

    Would us theists here be offended if we read a piece discussing whether we hold our theistic views due to dishonesty, moral failing or other deficiency? If it is debated whether we are theists because of our infantile development and search for a father figure, our fear of death, our stupidity, our rejection of science? Most of us would draw the swords immediately.

    How, in such an open-ended, unprovable maze like the God debate can one ever accuse the other side of intellectual dishonesty? This is a charge that can only be leveled with any integrity in a situation where an objective, provable fact can be shown to exist, or if the probabilities are so overwhelming that to reject them leads one to the inescapable conclusion that to do so must imply dishonesty. Who here will argue that Catholicism / Christianity has established such a position?

    It is highly objectionable to accuse an opponent of dishonesty unless one's case is clear. Now I assume that Dr. Feser would point out that he is in fact arguing that some atheists are not dishonest. This in my view is but a very small step away from arguing like Koukl is doing. The implication is still there, the presumption is still argued about. Let's argue, without warrant, whether Lazarus still beats his wife. Oh no, I'm sure he doesn't. It doesn't make it better at all.

    Theism is awarding itself far too much credibility if it poses like this. I suggest that the humble and realistic position would be to distance oneself from this type of thinly veiled insult. I certainly do, in the strongest terms.

    For those who are still convinced of the unassailable effect and accuracy of traditional apologetics, have a look at Myron Penner's "The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context".

    • ClayJames

      It is highly objectionable to accuse an opponent of dishonesty unless
      one's case is clear. Now I assume that Dr. Feser would point out that he
      is in fact arguing that some atheists are not dishonest. This in my
      view is but a very small step away from arguing like Koukl is doing.

      I think that Dr. Feser´s point is drastically different from Koukl´s which is probably the reason he is writting this. There is a huge difference between saying that everyone that holds X is dishonest to saying that this simply applies to some people. There are absolutely many atheists (and theists) that hold their positions because of intellectual dishonesty.

      If you flipped the question around (talking about theistic intellectual dishonesty) I would be offended at Koukl´s stance on this, but I don´t see any reason to be offended at Dr. Feser´s.

      I am having a hard time understanding your outrage.

      • Lazarus

        Firstly, "outrage" is your word, not mine. If you want a word, let's rather use the fact that I cringe when I read arguments like this. Read the title of the piece slowly, let it sink in. It is offensive. It is premised on us theists assuming that we have the truth and all that remains is to assess whether those who disagree with us are intellectually dishonest or not.

        Intellectual dishonesty is a very serious charge. It can only be a culpable and reasonable charge to even consider once a truth has been established. What is that truth? That theism has been proven to such an extent that any deviation therefrom is intellectually dishonest. I have dealt with the fact that Dr. Feser argues against Koukl's position. Did you see that?

        It is arrogance and unfounded hubris. How would most of us feel about a topic debating "Are most Catholic priests frauds?" or "Is the Vatican a dishonest organization?"

        You have clearly not understood my central and very simple point : without the truth of a particular debate having been established objectively and beyond reasonable doubt, there can not be any allegations of dishonesty. This goes for both sides. The debate should not happen, regardless of the conclusion.

        Additionally, we are exhorted to evangelize and spread our faith. Anyone who reads that title and regards it as evangelical material richly deserves to fail in such efforts.

        • ClayJames

          Read the title of the piece slowly, let it sink in. It is offensive. It
          is premised on us theists assuming that we have the truth and all that
          remains is to assess whether those who disagree with us are
          intellectually dishonest or not.

          No, its not. It is premised on a statement that Greg Koukl tried to argue and that Dr. Feser disagreed with.

          I have dealt with the fact that Dr. Feser argues against Koukl's position. Did you see that?

          I saw that, which is why I made the point that your inferences from this piece do not follow.

          How would most of us feel about a
          topic debating "Are most Catholic priests frauds?" or "Is the Vatican a
          dishonest organization?"

          How about ¨Are all people who believe in God delusional?¨ or ¨Are you abusing your child if you bring him up religious?¨. I see no reason to be offended, especially when the answer is NO, like it is in this piece. This is just a way to question an ignorant conclusion, whether we are questioning Dawkins or Koukl. I see no problem with using a very common literary device.

          You have clearly not understood my central and very simple point :
          without the truth of a particular debate having been established
          objectively and beyond reasonable doubt, there can not be any
          allegations of dishonesty. This goes for both sides.

          This does not follow and it is also irrelevant. I don´t need absolute certainty in order to claim someone is being intellectually dishonest. I just need to show that what they claim is not what they believe or that they are failing to be objective when it is evident that they are wrong.

          But it is also irrelevant because even if what you say is true, it applies to Koukl, not Dr. Feser. This is why I say that your comments about what Feser is doing here (debunking Koukl) make no sense in light of the accusations you are targeting at this piece.

          Additionally, we are exhorted to evangelize and spread our faith. Anyone
          who reads that title and regards it as evangelical material richly
          deserves to fail in such efforts.

          Just because we should evangelize our faith, it doesnt mean we can´t do anything else, especially when that thing is questioning our fellow Christian´s ignorant remarks.

          You are trying to turn this into something its not.

          • Lazarus

            We are worlds apart on this.

            I accept that people like Dr. Feser, and you, and others who continue to use discussions like this as apologetic tools mean well. It is however strategically very naive and it does more damage than any arguable good. If Koukl argues in the way that he does, why do we add to the embarrassment by getting involved in the debacle at all?

            What is an atheist to make of the title, the topic, or the conclusion?
            Should they do introspection as to whether their conclusions are intellectually dishonest, should they feel relief that we have concluded that the charge is unfounded?

            This is not the way forward for the Church.

          • ClayJames

            We are worlds apart, and the problem is that I don´t see why.

            If Koukl argues in the way that he does, why do we add to the embarrassment by getting involved in the debacle at all?

            Because telling atheists that Koukl is wrong in saying that all atheist are intellectually dishonest is not only the truth, but it also shows that not all Christians believe his ignorant conclusion.

            What is an atheist to make of the title, the topic, or the conclusion?

            I´ll let them speak for themselves, but if the tables were turned I would take the title as nothing more than questioning someone else´s claims, the topic as something that should be discussed and corrected considering protestants like Koukl are very influential and the conclusion as a very welcoming one that debunks the claim that all atheists are dishonest.

            Should they do introspection as to whether their conclusions are
            intellectually dishonest, should they feel relief that we have concluded
            that the charge is unfounded?

            This is something that everyone should do with everything that they believe, so because of just that, it was a worthwhile read, for everyone.

            Also, if you found the title so offensive, were you as offended by Father Baron´s title ¨Does Religion Really Have a “Smart-People Problem”?¨?

          • Lazarus

            I don't want to derail the thread, I think I have made my point. Our first hurdle is whether the debate should be had. At all. We got stuck there. You believe it's justified, harmless and necessary . I believe it's patronizing, insulting, damaging and potentially hurtful to atheists.

            It also helps us nothing at all to point to instances where atheists or others used the same klutzy approach. I have made it clear in this thread that this type of hubris is unacceptable for any group.

            And speaking of Bishop Barron - I have the highest respect for him, he's one of the reasons why I am a Catholic. I think that in the context of the Church and evangelization he is a master strategist. It is because of those goals that I speak out against what, in my view, is an outdated and unskillful strategy.

          • Our first hurdle is whether the debate should be had. At all. We got stuck there. You believe it's justified, harmless and necessary . I believe it's patronizing, insulting, damaging and potentially hurtful to atheists.

            For what it's worth, I believe that evil must be brought to the light and destroyed, via spiritual warfare (because our war is not a war of flesh and blood):

            For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor 10:4–6)

            Your proposed strategy of shunning and ostracizing and excommunicating those who are mean/​nasty/​offensive/​<insert word here> reminds me of Kenneth Hagin's Love: The Way to Victory. Hagin also suggests that one does not rebuke, in a way in which I disagree, as well as [I claim] the author of the following proverbs:

            Better is open rebuke    than hidden love.Faithful are the wounds of a friend;    profuse are the kisses of an enemy.(Proverbs 27:5–6)

            Evil doesn't get destroyed by ignoring it. Indeed, I think it festers and grows when allowed to remain in darkness. Evil is destroyed when one follows the pattern of Jesus, absorbing the evil into oneself, sharing in Jesus' sufferings (Rom 8:16–17, Col 1:24), and becoming an ambassador of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11–20). Part of the reconciliation process is to become part of the κακός → καλός process (Heb 5:14). St. Augustine's privation theory of evil is helpful here: evil is a lack, which has to be corrected/​filled with grace, via agápē. There is 'medicinal grace', but also 'creative grace'. (To explore this dichotomy, see Louis Dupré's Passage to Modernity, chapter "The Fateful Separation", as well as John Milbank's The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate Concerning the Supernatural.)

          • Lazarus

            "Evil must be brought to the light". I see. What evil would that be, Luke?

          • The below is not 'evil':

            L: I believe it's patronizing, insulting, damaging and potentially hurtful to atheists.

            ? Indeed, you were trying to bring whatever that is, to light, with your very comment. :-p

          • Lazarus

            I have no idea at all what your answer is seeking to convey, especially given your original comment and my question.

          • You said:

            L: Our first hurdle is whether the debate should be had.

            The obvious rhetorical answer is 'no'. I said that "evil must be brought to the light and destroyed". You asked, "What evil...?" I responded with things you said which seem to be 'evil':

            L: I believe it's patronizing, insulting, damaging and potentially hurtful to atheists.

            You seem to think that the above is evil, and that the way to deal with it is to send it back into the darkness, instead of bring it into the light. At least, that is how I read what you said, according to the most coherent 'filter' I could use, so that I didn't interpret your words as incoherent or downright unintelligible.

          • Lazarus

            Your "most coherent filter" is broken. I contrasted the two options, you assumed I was talking about "evil". That's where the discussion became "unintelligible ".

          • What were you talking about, if not 'evil'? What word would you use, instead of 'evil'?

          • Lazarus

            Please do not mischaracterize my perfectly simple sentence and then ask me to explain it. It makes discussion tedious.

            I clearly described my view that having this debate can be experienced as patronizing, insulting etc. I did not mention or imply any "evil", you dragged it into the discussion with your bizarre comment.

          • I'm at a loss as to the clear offense you have taken by me characterizing [unnecessary] patronizing and insulting as being 'evil'. It is as if you want there to be a category that isn't 'good', isn't 'neutral', and isn't 'evil'; it is as if you want a category that is 'bad', which is none of these other things. I personally don't think such a category exists!

          • Michael Murray

            Because telling atheists that Koukl is wrong in saying that all atheist are intellectually dishonest is not only the truth, but it also shows that not all Christians believe his ignorant conclusion.

            Good to know that a site which has banned nearly every atheist that has posted on it in the last couple of years is so keen to stand up for us.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            How many atheists are left? There's you, and, I think, VicqRuiz and Doug Shaver. And who else?

          • Doug Shaver

            Me makes three.

          • Michael Murray

            Interesting question. Ignatius? I'm not always sure if people are atheist or agnostic. William Davis is agnostic I think.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm an atheist. I occasionally consider the possibility that I am wrong and should be a deist or Spinozian, but don't believe in any Abrahamic type deity.

            Other non-believers include Brian Greene Adams and GCBill. I feel like we are missing somebody.

          • Michael Murray

            I know. There must be more. cminca ? SattaMassagana ?

            There are a couple of other people whose names I don't recall exactly who have been here occasionally but not recently.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I am ashamed to have left you off the list. I greatly enjoy your comments. Brian Adams and GCBill too.

          • Lazarus

            A formidable team.

          • Michael Murray

            Should be called the A-Team :-)

          • Lazarus

            Yuck

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    As far as I understand Biblical exegesis, I think Ed Feser makes a good argument. The conclusion aligns with my own experience. Most atheists and theists I know are either intellectually honest or at least strive for intellectual honesty.

    Thanks for the article.

    I'm curious about the picture for the article. What is it supposed to signify?

    • Michael Murray

      I was wondering the same. It's a free stock photo

      https://www.pexels.com/photo/restaurant-hands-people-coffee-5362/

      I guess the idea is they are evil, lying, tattooed, espresso drinking hipster atheists? Sodom and Gomorrah were probably full of hipster espresso bars.

      OK you're right I've got no idea at all.

  • If a little 'irony-satire', is excusable here: Sometimes I think that as intellectuals continue to become more and more clever in the 'use' of argument vs counter argument, that it soon will not be possible, not to be dishonest. (Please, of course you will note the double negative -- just for something to think about here, in relation to how language can be interpreted!)
    Edit: In order to assist in any possible argument: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_negative

    • Your thought seems supportable by:

      “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Mt 5:33–37)

      • Well, thank you Luke. I've been attempting to make the point for some time now. I 'know' I read in the bible the 'saying of Jesus', even, not to 'argue'. But it was not this verse, and I couldn't locate it for you. I can think of some possible examples of his general perspective, like shaking the sand off one's feet when leaving a place that is non-accepting, comes first to mind etc. In any case, Paul is certainly not Jesus, who I don't believe ever 'judged' as is the case in the dialogues with the gentiles. Indeed, I don't believe that anything other than 'do not judge, that you be not judged' was given: whether this be with respect to homosexual, prostitute, money-changer.....etc. etc. etc.
        In any case, I changed the above comment, to make it, hopefully more accurate with the words "argument counter argument". This is the kind of argument that perhaps can be 'dramatized" by citing the example of a mother-father 'argument', or any other kind of domestic feud, (from my experience!!) or perhaps an argument in a pub, the current political debates, sometimes? etc. etc. The point here, is that although both literature and philosophy have arguments, in the first case this refers to rhetorical patterns of organizing thought, and in the last case, the setting forth of the 'reasons' or the 'justification' of one's position. I have never seen or read of philosophers 'going after another' philosopher in their works, as the very idea whether an argument is honest, implies 'for me'.. They are too busy, (and perhaps too confident or something) simply composing, structuring, call it what you may, their 'argument', not against another's, but merely as exposition of their own perspective.(Am I talking about goals here perhaps, or a specific form of 'objectivity', or 'detachment'???? )

        Even within the works of Plato, the general dialectical presentation of oppositions, are not placed within any 'moral context' between believers and 'non' believers, but are rather 'merely' a method of examining various positions, with the 'shared' purpose of searching for the 'truth'. The emphasis is on 'what' is said, rather than to 'whom it is said'. And since it is always necessary from the beginning to define the words used, would it indeed be possible to be 'dishonest'? Socratic dialectics are focused on finding the truth, not defeating the 'enemy': indeed, there is no 'enemy' --neither a non-philosopher king or the 'devil'. -- no one, not even Socrates is 'assumed' to be the 'holder' of 'absolute truth', even with respect to the irony!!!! That for me could be the only definition of what could 'honestly' be entailed in 'being honest'!!!! I believe even the Thomistic arguments, with their dialectically oppositions, remain within this model- Thus, the seeker of truth can be distinguished from those with the assumption that one 'has' the necessarily correct interpretation, or that further insight cannot be found.

        I am associating this term argument with the term 'evangelization', on both sides and sites of the ongoing debate, and I 'call that new' because never before in my experience, have I run into such explicit 'attack?' arguments, not even in the seminars at university. Yes, in most cases, even here, the argument is truly about the argument, but I do insist I am speaking directly about a 'real distinction' here, that surely can be avoided. I thought that 'conversion' (to any cause) was usually accomplished through argument that was composed of discussion, explanation, description, even 'evidence' from one's own 'experience', without some kind of expectation regarding who was hearing the argument, etc. etc. that necessarily they would convert, one way or another, and certainly there is some distinction that needs to be made between 'doubt' 'objection', 'some kind of psychological avoidance of the issue, perhaps', and "intellectual" 'dishonesty'. Who is going to be the competent diagnostician?

        Also to assume that another 'has to be convinced' of one's point of view', for me, implies denying even implicitly another's 'freedom'. How can I, for instance, be dishonest, when I don't 'know precisely' what myself or others are talking about, as can be the case when an argument is 'beyond' one's experience, whether in a metaphysical or empirical sense.. You cannot convince a Hindu non-believer that the eye of Brahman can be seen in the sun, (to exaggerate this point), any more than one can convince by argument alone, what is to be regarded as a proper perspective on the Eucharist, or that (by analogy?) Jesus is in the bread and wine!.. As in Buddhism, it generally has been respected that people are only able to 'understand' matters of faith, when they are up to that level that would be required,, and to make the case that the world 'is' the evidence, certainly could demand for many, greater insight, indeed a whole new leap of vision or 'reason', whatnot, in order to understand what is 'being said'. This hopefully suggests the person in interpreting any response as merely 'negative' would demonstrate his/her own incapability of 'understanding' the difficulty. (A similar or parallel case could be made regarding my attempts to incorporate, and indeed be able to comprehend, certain scientific techniques with respect to possibilities even within internal self-analysis). The Buddhist guru can usually tell 'when someone is ready'. we are assured..I have greater 'problems' 'assessing' my sub/un/conscious thought within my attempts at 'experiment' in this realm. Also, the patience needed, would not seem to be compatible with argument, that, I suggest, is based solely or emphatically on any kind of 'power' or 'authority' relationship. and consequently may be devoid of such characteristics as compassion..

        My major point has to do with language, however, and 'interpretation', which put simply, implies what often happens here, thankfully, when people actually attempt to explain again what another has not understood. I am fully in accord with the reality that there is a lot of good discussion/argument. I have learned so much. But 'honestly', honesty can be a very difficult word to 'interpret'! (It may be merely a lack of a scientific education!!) So the example of the double negative, or even Hegel's negation of the negation, hopefully suggests there are many possibilities to consider....

        In any case, as 'faith' is above reason, (in the same way that possibly our 'knowledge or access to our own personal 'subconscious' is) and yet is supposed to be a 'gift', what is the 'logic' with respect to trying through argument alone to bring someone into 'belief? Does this assume that belief is prior to 'faith'? Does one then benefit solely from the 'gift of debate/argument'???? I will leave it to others to make their case regarding this....Oh, but does that 'not' imply that the lawyer-evangelists will once again, come out of the 'wood-work' or onto the Greek square!! :) Well perhaps I have 'not' gone against the general purpose of this blog!!! (and of course, I don't want to 'offend' ''anyone'!!!!). (Love your links, but I'm not as 'bright' as you guys)...(But maybe? I'm 'smarter'????!!!!) (Or at least older, if that makes me any 'wiser???') :) Hopefully I haven't been too redundant with respect to comments already made by others. Take care. Thanks for letting me have a 'say',and the opportunity to find out for myself what I 'think', at this time, about my ability or perhaps non-ability to be intellectually honest...

  • Doug Shaver

    If you want to know whether someone is honest, you obviously can't just ask them. But if your worldview entails that my disagreeing with you is, in and of itself, sufficient evidence of a grave moral failing on my part, then we're going to have serious difficulty trying to communicate with each other.

  • VicqRuiz

    Many religious people themselves have a very crude understanding of God’s nature, and of other theological matters as well. When an atheist who is simply unfamiliar with more sophisticated accounts rightly rejects these vulgar accounts,

    It's interesting that it seems perfectly okay for someone to be an unlettered, cookbook Christian (in the Catholic example, a person who simply takes the sacraments, confesses, and tells the beads, with no background whatever in the intellectual history of his faith), and other Christians will gladly accept him as a co-religionist.

    But it's most definitely NOT okay to be an unlettered atheist, one who, as Pascal
    describes, is simply "made so as not to believe". The atheist must read and wrestle with the theistic philosophical bookshelf in its entirety before Christians will accept him as an "intelligent atheist".

    I've never questioned the intelligence or sincerity of my Christian friends, even though I know with reasonable certainty that none of them have ever provided a detailed refutation of the works of Hume, Spinoza, Ingersoll, or Popper, to name just a few.

    • But it's most definitely NOT okay to be an unlettered atheist, one who, as Pascal describes, is simply "made so as not to believe". The atheist must read and wrestle with the theistic philosophical bookshelf in its entirety before Christians will accept him as an "intelligent atheist".

      Are you sure this higher standard you describe does not merely apply to those atheists who decide to attack Christianity as immoral, intellectually embarrassing, or something like that?

      • Michael Murray

        So if I just attack Christianity by saying it's God is non existent and it's founder just another Jewish preacher who died and stayed dead then I don't have to read any theistic books? Praise the Lord !

        • Doug Shaver

          Doesn't work that way. No matter how many books you've read defending Christianity, if you aren't convinced yet, there's another book you've gotta read before you can have any reasonable doubt.

          I'm actually hoping to read Feser's Last Superstition one of these days, but it's just on GP. As many times as I've been told "This one will answer all your questions/objections," I just can't muster up any sense of urgency about it.

          • You could try arguing internally, within Christianity itself. Charles Taylor argues that the internal, 'ad hominem' approach is much more effective than many realize, in Explanation and Practical Reason. For example, take a look at Mt 5:43–48, Jn 13:34–35, Jn 17:20–23, perhaps with Francis Schaeffer's The Mark of the Christian as exegesis. Do you think these verses describe what goes by 'Christianity' these days? I'm not so sure! Another great bit is 2 Tim 3:1–5. Or, notice that in Rom 1:18–2:24, the true smackdown is laid on those who claim to know God and be his priests (that is, they have the ability to teach others about God): "For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”"

            For more, I heartily suggest Jacques Ellul's The Subversion of Christianity and Peter Berger's A Far Glory. Sociologist is precisely the right way to analyze Christianity, because it is supposed to enable unity and diversity. How power is used, or abused, will determine what happens in the "unity-in-diversity" realm. Will unity squash diversity? Will diversity shatter unity? Or will there be a proper tension? I suggest that an excellent way to slice what goes by 'Christianity' up into natural kinds is to look at how power is viewed and used (words do not always match up with deeds). For a more intense, theological but also cultural view of the matter, see Colin E. Gunton's The One, the Three and the Many; for a non-theological view, see Alain Finkielkraut's The Defeat of the Mind (referenced by Gunton).

          • VicqRuiz

            Doug -

            I notice that in reply to your comment "there's another book you've gotta read...."

            Luke suggests "You could try arguing internally, within Christianity itself......"

            and then gives you five more books to read.

          • Doug Shaver

            I noticed that, too, Vic. I was wondering if anybody else would.

        • How is that not 'intellectually embarrassing' to the likes of Francis Collins?

          • Michael Murray

            I wasn't say it wasn't. I was asking a question in reply to your question. Which you have replied to with a question.

          • I thought you were trying to present a scenario which:

                 (1) exemplifies @VicqRuiz:disqus's "NOT ok"
                 (2) avoid my "merely apply to"

            After all, the general pattern of Vic's comment is that the apologist or Christian holds the atheist to too high of a standard. My response was to say that the apologist only requires this if the atheist chooses to tread in a certain domain. Such a restriction makes it more reasonable to hold the atheist to a high standard. I thought you were trying to provide a good counterexample, but it seems that you were doing something else—like uttering a joke I did not get.

            Edit: my (1) "avoids" should have been "exemplifies"; fixed.

      • VicqRuiz

        Are you sure this higher standard you describe does not merely apply

        Oh, absolutely it does not apply.

        I find the idea of a universe created by a supernatural "something", and subject to the control of warring supernatural powers, to be as alien to my mind as the idea of a universe in which addition is not commutative.

        This doesn't mean that religious people are stupid, or unlearned, or immoral. It just means that their synapses are connected differently from mine. Not better, or worse --- just differently.

        And many times, when I have explained it to Christian proselytizers in this manner, they insist that I'm getting it wrong. That I can't just not believe, that I either have to "prove God does not exist" or that I have to read the books they recommend, answer the arguments they pose, or be forced to accept the reality of the Christian God.

        • I find the idea of a universe created by a supernatural "something", and subject to the control of warring supernatural powers, to be as alien to my mind as the idea of a universe in which addition is not commutative.

          Is 'truth' also alien to your mind? See my attempt at naturalistic reasoning, which ended at: "(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable." Are abstract ideas alien to your mind? On naturalism, I think that is necessarily true.

          • VicqRuiz

            I've come back to this post of yours -

            Is 'truth' also alien to your mind?

            - a couple of times, trying to compose a reply. But I just can't quite figure out how what you are saying is a response to what I said. Can you try and reword??

          • Did you click the (5) link? I set up an argument, there.

  • St. Paul’s chief example of the immorality the Gentiles fell into is homosexual behavior (1:26-27), and he also says that they are guilty of envy, murder, treachery, gossip, disobedience to parents, and many other sins (1:29-31).

    Is there a place where this claim of "chief example" is examined? For example, I would love to see how emphasis was established:

         (a) in the ANE
         (b) in Jerusalem
         (c) in Greece
         (d) in Rome
         (e) by Biblical writers other than Paul
         (f) by Paul
         (g) by various traditions after the fact

    From such a corpus (or some approximation thereof), we could then see arguments pro and con, against said "chief example". Three possible (but noisy) counterexamples:

    1. In 1 Cor 5:1–5, Paul targets someone engaged in the one taboo sexual act at the time: sleeping with your mother (Oedipus). He doesn't target homosexuality as the "chief example". However, we cannot be guaranteed that the Corinthians were engaged in homosexuality. Hence the 'noisy'.

    2. In Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, we find that cultures with fewer material possessions than is common in the West tend to weight sins differently. For example, they will see ostentation in the wealth domain to be the most egregious sin. This is because wealth is a zero-sum game in those socioeconomic regions: for one to have more is for others to have less. Ostentation in the wealth domain would tend to mean starvation in the health domain.

    3. In Ezek 16:48–50, we see Sodom excoriated for three things: (i) refusing to aid the poor and needy with their wealth; (ii) being haughty; and (iii) committing an 'abomination'. It is not clear whether the 'abomination' most strongly targets: (1) inhospitality; (2) rape; (3) homosexuality. Anyhow, this is OT, but here, homosexuality (if (3)) is the last thing mentioned; in Rom 1:18–31, homosexuality is neither the first nor last thing.

    Now, I'm not trying to argue that homosexuality is not a sin. Instead, I am questioning the use of "chief example". I would like to know what the best scholarly opinions are on this matter, and which data and reasoning were used to come to those opinions.

  • Peter

    "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion.”

    Most creationists and proponents of intelligent design live exemplary lives. They generally excel in their religious, moral and social life and are an example to all other Christians. They are also very meticulous and diligent about their instruction of the faith. Nor do they present its teaching falsely inasmuch as they, in line with other Christians, justly proclaim the good news of the Gospel.

    However, there is one aspect of creationism that new atheists have latched onto and, like a bulldog, have never let go. It is the literal fideism, or fideistic literalism, of creationists. It is this that has fuelled the fire and fanned the flames of new atheism more than anything else.

    It is ironic that those who are among the most devout of Christians should become the scapegoats of new atheism, that they should be the ones to unwittingly provide the movement with the oxygen necessary for its survival.

    • Lazarus

      Can Christians who get their conclusions wrong ever be rightfully accused of "intellectual dishonesty"?

      • Peter

        If by intellectual dishonesty you mean rebelliousness against God, creationists can never be accused of that. Fideism may be an error but it is an not an error borne out of rebelliousness. On the contrary, it is borne out of the very opposite of rebelliousness which is unquestioning fidelity to the written word of God.

        What makes it all the more poignant is that new atheists are able seize upon this unquestioning loyalty in order to justify their own rebelliousness which they then proclaim to the wider world.

        • Doug Shaver

          You think whoever is not for God is against God. That's what this discussion is really about, isn't it?

          • Peter

            In my opinion, this applies more to new atheism that to the traditional academic atheism of philosophers.

            New atheism has seized upon the falsifiability of creationism by scientific means. It has used this to push an anti-religion, anti-God, agenda where science is glorified as the victor against religious belief.

          • Doug Shaver

            In my opinion, this applies more to new atheism that to the traditional academic atheism of philosophers.

            Those people who are, in the current intellectual climate, most famous for being atheists are against belief in God. That is true. It is also irrelevant to my question, which was about the attitude a theist properly should take toward all atheists.

          • Peter

            Atheists are not an homogeneous group but range from the silently respectful to the vociferously disrespectful. There is no proper attitude towards all atheists. Different groups of atheists give rise to different attitudes among theists.

            Likewise, theists themselves are not homogeneous. Their attitudes towards a particular group of atheists may differ significantly.

          • Doug Shaver

            There is no proper attitude towards all atheists.

            So then it is not proper to say that whoever is not for God is against God?

          • Peter

            I don't think it's proper to say that about respectful former atheists like Anthony Flew, whose atheism was of an intellectual rather than ideological nature. He was among the most prominent atheists in the years before Dawkins and the new atheist movement.

            It was the intellectuality of his atheism which led him to eventually abandon it and adopt theism, something an ideological atheist would never do.

          • VicqRuiz

            led him to eventually abandon it and adopt theism

            Flew adopted not theism but deism, characterized by an impersonal God. He probably would have agreed with many of the articles here on SN which purport to "prove the existence of God" but conclude with just the sort of abstract deity which Spinoza or Paine could have readily accepted.

          • George

            There's also the loudly respectful corner, in which one says " I respect you, but I don't respect that belief of yours".

          • Peter

            However much you dislike the belief of Christians, you must respect their right to hold it. When you announce to a Christian your disrespect for their belief, you are questioning their right to hold that belief on the grounds that such a belief is not worthy of respect.

            This applies also to beliefs that are falsfiable by science. Where a Christian holds a particular belief which is contradicted by evidence, there is no reason to publicly ridicule that belief unless you are also questioning the right of that Christian to hold it.

          • Doug Shaver

            However much you dislike the belief of Christians, you must respect their right to hold it.

            Agreed.

            When you announce to a Christian your disrespect for their belief, you are questioning their right to hold that belief on the grounds that such a belief is not worthy of respect.

            No, I'm not. If I say you have a right to something, I'm not saying anything about how much it might be worth.

          • Peter

            If you openly ridicule someone's belief, you are telling them that their belief is worthy of ridicule.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you openly ridicule someone's belief, you are telling them that their belief is worthy of ridicule.

            Sure, but to tell them that is not to tell them they have no right to hold such a belief. I think astrology is worthy of ridicule, but I would never tell anyone they have no right to believe in astrology.

            Unless, of course, we're having a philosophical discussion about epistemic rights. But I don't think that most people who construe ridicule as a denial of their rights are thinking in epistemological terms.

          • Peter

            Thinking astrology is ridiculous is one thing. Publicly ridiculing it in someone's face is another. In the former case you demean no-one. In the latter, you demean the person who holds that belief.

          • Doug Shaver

            In the latter, you demean the person who holds that belief.

            To demean an idea is not to demean people who accept the idea. If some people measure their own worth by the ideas they accept, and therefore take it as a personal attack when I criticize those ideas, that is their problem, not mine.

          • Peter

            Where that idea largely identifies the person who holds it, as in the case of religion, to publicly ridicule the idea to the person's face is to publicly demean the person.

          • VicqRuiz

            Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are "largely identified" as atheists. Is it acceptable to so demean them in person? In a book, as Feser has? In an internet combox??

          • Doug Shaver

            If you publicly identify yourself with any idea that you know is publicly ridiculed by some people, you have no right to complain when that idea gets ridiculed in public. The appropriate response, when it happens, is to publicly prove the unreasonableness of that ridicule.

    • Doug Shaver

      It is ironic that those who are among the most devout of Christians should become the scapegoats of new atheism, that they should be the ones to unwittingly provide the movement with the oxygen necessary for its survival.

      Really, "necessary for its survival"? Like there wouldn't be any atheists if it weren't for creationists?

      • "atheists" ≠ "new atheism"

        • Doug Shaver

          There is nothing really new about the new atheism. The people called new atheists are saying nothing that some atheists have not always said.

          • True, in that they're saying a lot of things less competently, more loudly, and more arrogantly. Generally, I find that they about match their interlocutors—there might be some mismatch, but it isn't too large.

      • Peter

        If there were no new earth creationists or proponents of intelligent design, for example, there would be no evolutionary biologists such as Richard Dawkins trying to prove them wrong.

        • Doug Shaver

          there would be no evolutionary biologists such as Richard Dawkins trying to prove them wrong.

          Obviously, but do you think atheists have no other objection to theism than that some of its proponents deny evolution?

          • Peter

            Traditional atheism has always been respectful. It is not the vitriolic anti-religionism of new atheists. The latter have been emboldened by their darwinist ideology to purge the world of creationism and, by association, religion.

            A world of no creationism, where religious belief could not be falsified, would steal the thunder from new atheists.
            No longer could they justify maintaining such an outspoken role. Atheism would retreat into a little intellectual corner away from the mainstream.

          • Michael Murray

            Traditional atheism has always been respectful. It is not the vitriolic anti-religionism of new atheists.

            Seriously. You must be reading the wrong ones. Try Diderot:

            Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

            Or Jefferson

            Priests...dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live.

            Or Russell

            One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.

          • Peter

            Well, mostly respectful then. You'll always have a few historical exceptions.

          • Michael Murray

            I can keep finding them if you really want.

            But the real point is that the Church ignores all but the respectful ones. That is their definition of "good atheist".

          • Doug Shaver

            Traditional atheism has always been respectful.

            Respect has always been irrelevant to traditional atheism. If, until recently, the very few people who dared to publicly proclaim their atheism were also respectful toward religious people, it was because they were respectful people who happened to be atheists, not because their atheism had made them respectful.

            A world of no creationism, where religious belief could not be falsified, would steal the thunder from new atheists.

            9/11 had nothing to do with creationism, and it gave Richard Dawkins all the thunder he thought he needed: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/15/september11.politicsphilosophyandsociety1.

          • Peter

            The difference between traditional atheists and new atheists is that the former remained respectful of religion despite their atheism, while the latter became disrespectful of religion because of it.

            As far as the 9/11 tragedy is concerned, I don't hear many new atheists citing it.

          • Doug Shaver

            The difference between traditional atheists and new atheists is that the former remained respectful of religion despite their atheism

            You mean most of them, right? Not all of them?

            As far as the 9/11 tragedy is concerned, I don't hear many new atheists citing it.

            If any of them do, that falsifies your assertion about creationism being the sole motivator of the new atheism.

          • Peter

            I never claimed that creationism is the sole motivator of new atheism, but that the fideistic literalism of creationists is the major motivator. From my post above "It is this that has fuelled the fire and fanned the flames of new atheism more than anything else."

            New atheists do not attack creationists because they do not like them as individuals, but because they reject their fideistic literalism on the grounds that it is falsifiable.

            Since fideistic literalism is falsifiable and therefore deemed false in the case of creationists, the new atheists are emboldened to proclaim that all fideistic literalism is false, including the belief that martyrs who kill go to paradise.

          • Doug Shaver

            I never claimed that creationism is the sole motivator of new atheism

            No, not in so many words, but you did say:

            A world of no creationism, where religious belief could not be falsified, would steal the thunder from new atheists.

            Was it unreasonable of me to construe that as a claim that there would be no new atheism without creationism?

            the new atheists are emboldened to proclaim that all fideistic literalism is false, including the belief that martyrs go to paradise.

            Like, traditional atheists never thought it was silly to believe that martyrs go to paradise?

          • Peter

            Without the falsifiability of creationism, new atheists would be unable to appeal to science to justify their position. And a new atheism without science is hardly a new atheism at all. Atheism would retreat back to its little corner whilst retaining a few elements of new atheism.

            Second, to think and to proclaim are two different things.

          • Doug Shaver

            Without the falsifiability of creationism, new atheists would be unable to appeal to science to justify their position.

            OK, we're just starting to repeat ourselves now. You and I either are not reading the same atheist literature, or else you're construing it rather differently than how I construe it.

            Second, to think and to proclaim are two different things.

            Well, then, maybe the only new thing going on is that some atheists who, in every century before this one, would have felt obliged to keep their mouths shut now think it's finally safe to speak their minds.

          • Peter

            Just as I understand creationists to be those theists whose beliefs are falsifiable by science, so too do I understand new atheists to be those atheists whose beliefs are supported by science. And of course, it's safe for them to speak their minds when they have science backing them up!

          • Doug Shaver

            so too do I understand new atheists to be those atheists whose beliefs are supported by science.

            Then you don't understand that which is called new atheism.

          • Peter

            I would be very interested to learn about new atheism that is not supported by science unless, of course, it's simply a rehash of the old atheism.

          • Doug Shaver

            unless, of course, it's simply a rehash of the old atheism.

            That's what I've been saying. It is the old atheism, just without the old deference. We all used to think that whenever we were in public, we had to be nice to you folks. We couldn't insult you except when we were by ourselves behind your backs. That, and nothing else, has changed.

          • Peter

            Respect and deference are two different things. Nobody expects anyone to be deferential. And, conversely, why is there a need to insult anyone?

            Apart from that, a lot has changed. One of the main pillars of old atheism was the eternity and immutability of the universe. Since then we have discovered that the universe has a beginning and is changing/expanding. New atheism is a reaction to that body blow by using science to fight science.

            How does old atheism cope with it, especially since prominent old atheist Anthony Flew was sufficiently convinced by it to consider becoming a theist and eventually become one?

          • Doug Shaver

            Nobody expects anyone to be deferential.

            Expected or unexpected, it was the norm for atheists to defer to theists.

            And, conversely, why is there a need to insult anyone?

            I didn't say there was a need. I just said it happens.

            One of the main pillars of old atheism was the eternity and immutability of the universe.

            No, it was not.

          • Doug Shaver

            By the way, most creationists I've talked to deny being fideists. Am I making a mistake if I take their word for that?

          • Peter

            It depends what you mean by creationists. The creationists I am talking about are those whose creationist beliefs are falsifiable by science.

          • Doug Shaver

            It depends what you mean by creationists.

            I'm talking primarily about Christian biblical inerrantists who think the theory of evolution, as represented by the consensus of scientists, is contrary to scripture.

            The creationists I am talking about are those whose creationist beliefs are falsifiable by science.

            And if they deny being fideists?

          • Peter

            How can they avoid being fideists if they claim that evolution, despite the evidence, is wrong and that what is written in the Bible, such as Adam's rib to make Eve, is right?

          • Doug Shaver

            . . . if they claim that evolution, despite the evidence, is wrong . . . .

            That is not what they claim. That is what their adversaries claim. What they claim does not include the phrase "despite the evidence." It may be a fact, but what they get to call themselves depends solely on what they say, not on whether the facts are consistent with what they say.

          • Peter

            How can they avoid being fideists if, despite the evidence, they claim that evolution is wrong and that what is written in the Bible, such as Adam's rib to make Eve, is right?

          • Doug Shaver

            How can they avoid being fideists . . . .?

            By finding reasons for what they believe. Whether those reasons make any sense to anyone but themselves is beside the point.

          • George

            What do you think it means to be respectful of religion?

          • Peter

            Not to be disrespectful for a start.

  • Doug Shaver

    While I appreciate any Christian's attempt to argue that "not all atheists are X," in this case I must object to the claim that any of us are. No one can rebel against someone whose existence they deny. The idea that somewhere deep within our minds is a realization that what we deny is actually real doesn't have a shred of evidence to support it, unless dogma counts as evidence.

    Besides, how are we supposed to delude ourselves into thinking that we might actually get away with rebelling against someone who has all power and knows everything? Anyone who actually believed they could win a fight against God would have to be so certifiably insane as to be absolutely unaccountable for their behavior.

    And please don't bother telling me about fallen angels. First, I know the story. Second, although I could possibly come to believe (again) that there is a god, and could barely possibly come to believe (again) that there is also a devil, I will never be able to believe (again) that the latter used to be an ally of the former.

    • No one can rebel against someone whose existence they deny.

      How is this the case? You seem to be confusing epistemology with ontology. In active rebellion, you are actually being partially defined by the person against whom you are rebelling. This means that person has some amount of control over you. That is generally disliked, for one is trying to release oneself from that person's control. Thus, the next step is to eliminate causal contact. That means that the other person can no longer exert any control over you—at least, further control. This seems like the final stage in rebellion. Now, if the person in this final stage starts forgetting about the person rebelled against, does this mean he/she is no longer 'in rebellion'? If you say "yes", then perhaps you are using language different from those to whom you are responding.

      • Doug Shaver

        You seem to be confusing epistemology with ontology.

        I am concerned with neither. Rebellion is a state of mind as well as a kind of activity. In order to be in that state of mind, I must believe that its object exists.

        In active rebellion, you are actually being partially defined by the person against whom you are rebelling.

        That depends on who is doing the defining and why they're doing it. You could define me as nonhuman if you were of a mind to, but that wouldn't make me nonhuman, would it?

        This means that person has some amount of control over you. That is generally disliked, for one is trying to release oneself from that person's control.

        I can freely choose to submit to someone's control or freely choose not to, but I don't need to deny their existence in order to do the latter. I've known plenty of theists who, according to some other theists, are not submitting to God's control. If they can do it, what's stopping me?

        That is generally disliked, for one is trying to release oneself from that person's control.

        I don't like taking orders any more than the next guy if I cannot respect the authority giving those orders. But if I do respect them, I don't have a problem with it. I actually enjoyed my time in military service, and when I did believe in God, I never felt the least bit of disrespect for him. I didn't stop believing so that I could do something I believed he was telling me not to do. When I became an atheist, I did not change my mind about the rightness or wrongness of a single thing that was doing or had any intention of ever doing.

        perhaps you are using language different from those to whom you are responding.

        I have noticed, when talking with apologists, that they sometimes use words to mean things that nobody else means when they use those words. I have never known anyone to claim that a child is rebelling against Santa Claus when they stop believing in him.

        • LB: In active rebellion, you are actually being partially defined by the person against whom you are rebelling.

          DS: That depends on who is doing the defining and why they're doing it.

          Actually, I think the very act of rebellion will include elements analogous to Newton's "every force produces an equal and opposite reaction". The fact that you are rebelling means you are distancing yourself from, and yet this means you are in essence becoming the negative image of whatever it is you're rebelling against. The act of rebellion means that you're strongly rejecting something, and the strength requires significant psychological force.

          I can freely choose to submit to someone's control or freely choose not to, but I don't need to deny their existence in order to do the latter.

          First, you're jumping ahead in my argument; the next stage to the text to which you're responding is: "Thus, the next step is to eliminate causal contact." This does not presuppose "deny their existence", but I think it may significantly aid in entailing "deny their existence". I think the phrase "He is dead to me." fits into this system of thought I'm trying to articulate.

          Second, it's not clear to me that you [always] have this freedom. Who says you're even conscious of [all] the various ways you are being controlled? Indeed, Christians hold that sin puts you in bondage, and that the "noetic effects of sin" blind you to that bondage—at least, to the part of the iceberg below the surface.

          I've known plenty of theists who, according to some other theists, are not submitting to God's control. If they can do it, what's stopping me?

          I'm not sure how this point + question fits in. God's agápē does not control! Now, there is a sense in which God controls those who operate via control. A great example is how God uses the Chaldeans in Habakkuk; the general pattern is summed up in Rom 9:22–24, according to my interpretation.

          When I became an atheist, I did not change my mind about the rightness or wrongness of a single thing that was doing or had any intention of ever doing.

          One way to think of spiritual deadness is that what changes is that growth stops. After all, growth in knowledge sans an omniscient being seems problematic, per Fitch's Paradox of Knowability, especially in the moral domain. (Indeed, many deny that there is 'knowledge' in the moral domain at all, which seems to logically result in emotivism.)

          I have noticed, when talking with apologists, that they sometimes use words to mean things that nobody else means when they use those words. I have never known anyone to claim that a child is rebelling against Santa Claus when they stop believing in him.

          Santa Claus tends not to ask much of you. Indeed, Santa Claus is an instance of works righteousness: be a good little boy/girl and you get gifts; be a bad little boy/girl and you get coal. Santa Claus is extremely anti-Christian, for he is anti-grace. But it doesn't seem to me that children rebel against Santa Claus because they are rebelling against works righteousness. So it seems to me that Santa Claus is not a helpful analogy for the topic being discussed.

          • Doug Shaver

            Actually, I think the very act of rebellion will include elements analogous to Newton's "every force produces an equal and opposite reaction". The fact that you are rebelling means you are distancing yourself from, and yet this means you are in essence becoming the negative image of whatever it is you're rebelling against.

            You may think so. I see no reason to. That all sounds pretty new-agey to me.

            The act of rebellion means that you're strongly rejecting something

            Maybe so, but the converse doesn't hold. Rejecting something does not mean I'm in rebellion.

            Second, it's not clear to me that you [always] have this freedom.

            Most Christians say I have it, and this is a Christian forum. I don't actually believe in libertarian free will, but I usually assume its existence for the sake of discussion.

            Indeed, Christians hold that sin puts you in bondage, and that the "noetic effects of sin" blind you to that bondage

            They also say I can unblind myself by an act of will.

            I've known plenty of theists who, according to some other theists, are not submitting to God's control. If they can do it, what's stopping me?

            I'm not sure how this point + question fits in.

            It goes to the implied claim that I cannot evade God's control unless I deny his existence.

            When I became an atheist, I did not change my mind about the rightness or wrongness of a single thing that was doing or had any intention of ever doing.

            One way to think of spiritual deadness is that what changes is that growth stops.

            Is that supposed to be a rebuttal? It assumes your conclusion.

            Santa Claus tends not to ask much of you.

            He asks the only thing relevant to this discussion: Be good. You're saying I don't believe in God because I am rebelling against him, and I'm rebelling because I don't want to be good.

            But it doesn't seem to me that children rebel against Santa Claus because they are rebelling against works righteousness.

            So, you think they actually are rebelling?

          • You may think so. I see no reason to. That all sounds pretty new-agey to me.

            Could you explain how it "sounds pretty new-agey"? Perhaps it would help if you would describe what your conception is, of rebelling against person X, group Y, or idea Z.

            Maybe so, but the converse doesn't hold. Rejecting something does not mean I'm in rebellion.

            Well, it depends on one's conception of "established authority" or perhaps, "legitimate authority". That's a huge conversation in and of itself!

            Most Christians say I have it, and this is a Christian forum. I don't actually believe in libertarian free will, but I usually assume its existence for the sake of discussion.

            Libertarian free will does not entail Voluntarism, nor does it entail Doxastic Voluntarism. So I don't think your claim holds against orthodox Christianity. Indeed, it is generally said that God rescued the Israelites from captivity, and that Jesus rescues us from captivity. A key verse would probably be: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor 3:17) The Spirit of the Lord is not everywhere in this way (e.g. 2 Thess 2:1–12).

            They also say I can unblind myself by an act of will.

            Where is this said?

            It goes to the implied claim that I cannot evade God's control unless I deny his existence.

            But that's not my point. My point is that to evade God's control requires severing causal contact with him.

            Is that supposed to be a rebuttal? It assumes your conclusion.

            No, it's supposed to say that it is, in a sense, uninteresting that no beliefs of yours changed when you stopped believing in God.

            You're saying I don't believe in God because I am rebelling against him, and I'm rebelling because I don't want to be good.

            Am I saying that? I don't seem to have said or implied it in my initial response, and I don't know where I have said or implied it, since.

            So, you think they actually are rebelling?

            That goes back to the definition of 'rebel'; I was trying to work with Santa Claus as an analogy to God, and my conclusion was that the situation is disanalogous. So I think we can simply dispose of Santa Claus, unless you want to disagree with my 'disanalogous' claim.

          • Doug Shaver

            Could you explain how it "sounds pretty new-agey"?

            I'd rather not, because it would take us way too far off the topic of this discussion. No point I'm trying to make depends on the correctness of that particular comment.

            Perhaps it would help if you would describe what your conception is, of rebelling against person X, group Y, or idea Z.

            In my conception of rebellion against a person, group, or idea, it is opposition to that person, group, or idea, especially (but not only) if it is alleged that I have some obligation to submit to the authority of that person, group, or idea. Insofar as God is an idea, I oppose that idea. But it makes no sense to say I oppose any person or group that I believe to be nonexistent.

            Libertarian free will does not entail Voluntarism, nor does it entail Doxastic Voluntarism.

            That is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make.

            They also say I can unblind myself by an act of will.

            Where is this said?

            In numerous apologetic forums that I have visited over many years. I was not keeping any records of those discussions, though, so I can't give you any links to them.

            My point is that to evade God's control requires severing causal contact with him.

            If I thought God was real, I would think it was entirely up to him whether he had any causal contact with me. Even if I wished to sever such contact, it would be his decision whether to grant me that wish.

            You're saying I don't believe in God because I am rebelling against him, and I'm rebelling because I don't want to be good.

            I don't seem to have said or implied it in my initial response, and I don't know where I have said or implied it, since.

            OK, then I've misunderstood you. But in that case, I haven't the foggiest idea what you're trying to tell me about the connection between disbelief and rebellion.

          • In my conception of rebellion against a person, group, or idea, it is opposition to that person, group, or idea, especially (but not only) if it is alleged that I have some obligation to submit to the authority of that person, group, or idea. Insofar as God is an idea, I oppose that idea. But it makes no sense to say I oppose any person or group that I believe to be nonexistent.

            Do 'ideas' exist? Suppose that you say 'yes', and that ideas are simply neural states. Well, one would then seem to be able to oppose an idea, regardless of whether that idea matches up to something in reality. Except, you are saying that existence is important. Perhaps the correct modification is that [some] atheists are opposed to the idea that God exists.

            DG: I can freely choose to submit to someone's control or freely choose not to, but I don't need to deny their existence in order to do the latter.

            LB: Second, it's not clear to me that you [always] have this freedom.

            DG: Most Christians say I have it, and this is a Christian forum. I don't actually believe in libertarian free will, but I usually assume its existence for the sake of discussion.

            LB: Libertarian free will does not entail Voluntarism, nor does it entail Doxastic Voluntarism. So I don't think your claim holds against orthodox Christianity.

            DG: That is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make.

            Well, your point asserts a grand amount of freedom; I'm saying that the amount of freedom can actually be arbitrarily small, such that you are arbitrarily enslaved.

            In numerous apologetic forums that I have visited over many years. I was not keeping any records of those discussions, though, so I can't give you any links to them.

            Well, I suggest that perhaps the view you heard in "apologetic forums" does not necessarily well-match that of orthodox Christianity, and I'm most interested in defending orthodox Christianity and views which deviate from it some amount, but no further. For example, both Calvinism and Arminianism hold that God must either cause you to be healed of your blindness (Calvinism with irresistible grace) or give you the opportunity to be healed (Arminianism with prevenient grace). I know less about Catholicism in this area.

            If I thought God was real, I would think it was entirely up to him whether he had any causal contact with me. Even if I wished to sever such contact, it would be his decision whether to grant me that wish.

            This entirely depends on God's character. If he's the kind of person to impose himself on you, then your reasoning is correct. However, I think that Jesus, whom Hebrews 1:3 asserts is "the exact representation of [God's] nature" ("χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ"), shows that God is not like this. When Israel rejected God in the OT, God was willing—not happy, but willing—to let them discover the consequences of their choices. James 4:8a has, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." For God to act in any other way would seem tantamount to mind-rape.

            But in that case, I haven't the foggiest idea what you're trying to tell me about the connection between disbelief and rebellion.

            I'm not certain that what you said—

            DG: No one can rebel against someone whose existence they deny.

            —is true. Or, if it is true, then perhaps some remarkably small modification can be made which would make it true, a modification that the person advancing the argument about 'rebellion' would be happy to accept. We may be getting close to that, with the "rebelling against an idea" bit, above.

          • Doug Shaver

            Do 'ideas' exist?

            Lose the scare quotes, and I'll say yes. With the scare quotes, I don't know what your question means.

            Perhaps the correct modification is that [some] atheists are opposed to the idea that God exists.

            It seems to me that every one of us, in some sense and to some degree, opposes any idea that we regard as untrue, even if we think it not worth the bother to express our opposition. I am, and always have been, opposed to the idea that Michael Jackson was a great musician, but this is probably the first time in my life that I have ever said so.

            I'm saying that the amount of freedom can actually be arbitrarily small, such that you are arbitrarily enslaved.

            Just some of us? Or do you think that statement applies to all human beings, including Christians?

            I suggest that perhaps the view you heard in "apologetic forums" does not necessarily well-match that of orthodox Christianity

            The Christians I heard it from considered themselves orthodox. I get it that you consider yourself orthodox. I have no interest in adjudicating your dispute with any other Christians over which of you represents the real orthodoxy. If I say "Christians have told me X" and you don't believe X, then all you have to say is "I don't believe X," and thereafter you and I can confine our discussion to what you believe.

            If I thought God was real, I would think it was entirely up to him whether he had any causal contact with me. Even if I wished to sever such contact, it would be his decision whether to grant me that wish.

            This entirely depends on God's character

            I don't presume to know anything about his character. All I have to go on is what people who think he is real tell me about his character. And since anything one of them says is contradicted by another of them, I can't go wrong, considering ex contradictione quodlibet.

            I'm not certain that what you said—

            DG: No one can rebel against someone whose existence they deny.

            —is true.

            It is true as I define rebellion, existence, and denial. If you define any of those terms differently, then you can say it ain't so. But if you do that, then you're not denying the same thing I am affirming.

          • Just some of us? Or do you think that statement applies to all human beings, including Christians?

            Grace and mercy free a person from bondage. The Christian is ostensibly more open to grace and mercy than the atheist.

            The Christians I heard it from considered themselves orthodox. I get it that you consider yourself orthodox. I have no interest in adjudicating your dispute with any other Christians over which of you represents the real orthodoxy. If I say "Christians have told me X" and you don't believe X, then all you have to say is "I don't believe X," and thereafter you and I can confine our discussion to what you believe.

            The purpose of mentioning orthodoxy is merely to be able to trace a line of thinking arbitrarily far back in history. Such ideas tend to be better tested than some new idea an apologist came up with. Furthermore, such ideas can be more easily explored; it is likely that some person tried very hard to develop a consistent system with that idea, and much can be learned from even failed attempts to build consistent systems. It is much harder to work with some random idea some person just came up with out of the blue.

            I don't presume to know anything about his character. All I have to go on is what people who think he is real tell me about his character. And since anything one of them says is contradicted by another of them, I can't go wrong, considering ex contradictione quodlibet.

            But you did presuppose something about God's character, when you said:

            DS: If I thought God was real, I would think it was entirely up to him whether he had any causal contact with me. Even if I wished to sever such contact, it would be his decision whether to grant me that wish.

            We can call this an "as-if theological belief".

            It is true as I define rebellion, existence, and denial. If you define any of those terms differently, then you can say it ain't so. But if you do that, then you're not denying the same thing I am affirming.

            Given that you are attempting to match your argument to what the theist is claiming, you are not at liberty to define your terms however you wish. Hence what I said immediately after you ended your quote of me:

            LB: Or, if it is true, then perhaps some remarkably small modification can be made which would make it true, a modification that the person advancing the argument about 'rebellion' would be happy to accept. We may be getting close to that, with the "rebelling against an idea" bit, above.

          • Doug Shaver

            Grace and mercy free a person from bondage. The Christian is ostensibly more open to grace and mercy than the atheist.

            You're telling me I'm in bondage, but you're not giving any reason to believe it aside from your say-so.

            But you did presuppose something about God's character

            I presupposed nothing except that Christians believe what they say about God. That their sayings are contradictory is not a presupposition. It is an observation.

            Given that you are attempting to match your argument to what the theist is claiming, you are not at liberty to define your terms however you wish

            I am as free to use my definitions as you are to use yours. Granted, I cannot rebut what you say by using definitions that differ from yours. That would be the fallacy of equivocation. But I can justify my disagreement with what you say by noting that your words don't mean to me what they mean to you.

          • You're telling me I'm in bondage, but you're not giving any reason to believe it aside from your say-so.

            Well, your very reticence to give significant power to choice in belief is a sign of bondage, and not only bondage, but hopeless bondage. I am led to believe that some slaves are so hopeless about becoming free that they no longer think that freedom is even a possibility.

            I presupposed nothing except that Christians believe what they say about God. That their sayings are contradictory is not a presupposition. It is an observation.

            You nevertheless picked one of those views instead of (i) another view; (ii) remaining agnostic on the matter.

            But I can justify my disagreement with what you say by noting that your words don't mean to me what they mean to you.

            Your disagreement with whom? It's not clear that you're disagreeing with the OP. If you were, you would be careful to match your definitions to the OP, instead of talk about how you get to define the words that you use.

          • Doug Shaver

            Well, your very reticence to give significant power to choice in belief is a sign of bondage

            Choice in belief? That sounds like doxastic voluntarism. Do you believe in that?

          •      (1) Doxastic Voluntarism ⇒ choice in belief
                 (2) choice in belief ⇏ Doxastic Voluntarism

            Strictly speaking, I'm talking about "direct voluntary control":

            Philosophers in the debate about doxastic voluntarism distinguish between two kinds of voluntary control. The first is known as direct voluntary control and refers to acts which are such that if a person chooses to perform them, they happen immediately. For instance, a person has direct voluntary control over whether he or she is thinking about his or her favorite song at a given moment. The second is known as indirect voluntary control and refers to acts which are such that although a person lacks direct voluntary control over them, he or she can cause them to happen if he or she chooses to perform some number of other, intermediate actions. For instance, a person untrained in music has indirect voluntary control over whether he or she will play a melody on a violin.

            It seems patently obvious that I cannot just choose to believe the right things about playing the violin. One can contrast this to Trinity's ability to choose to believe the right things about flying a helicopter (The Matrix). The idea of simply choosing to believe in God, instantaneously, would seem to be an instance of "direct voluntary control".

            I think that we have "indirect voluntary control". That is precisely what I meant to argue in terms of infinitesimal forces critically 'choosing' trajectories at unstable Lagrangian points. A spacecraft cannot instantaneously choose to have some arbitrary trajectory in space, at least sans infinite fuel. A spacecraft does not have "direct voluntary control".

            Applied to the endeavor of science, we can think of a scientist having two competing hypotheses to test. Suppose that both seem equally probable. Well, the scientist is free to choose which one to try first. The scientist can act as if she believes A, or act as if she believes B. The results can become more consistent with the tentative belief chosen, or less consistent. (The scientist can also fool herself.)

          • Doug Shaver

            The idea of simply choosing to believe in God, instantaneously, would seem to be an instance of "direct voluntary control".

            So can we do that, or can't we, in your opinion?

          • My guess is that belief or disbelief in God—at least to a level where we can self-reflectively call it that—is the sum of a great number of small decisions.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't consider belief to be a kind of decision, and so it cannot be the sum of any number of decisions. However, any decision or number of decisions may have, as a consequence of actions based on those decisions, the formation of some belief.

  • cminca

    "... “denying the obvious, aggressively pushing down the evidence, to turn his head the other way.” "

    Given the fact that there is no obvious, and there is no evidence, there is actually nothing to deny.

    Therefore no dishonesty--intellectual or otherwise.

    • ben

      intellectually dishonest - to dismiss the eye witness testimonies concerning the life of Jesus recorded in the Bible as mere fantasies and stories to be brushed off as so much dandruff from a shoulder. Yet to quote from (atheist) philosophers such as:

      Baruch Spinoza, November 24, 1632 - February 21, 1677
      David Hume, May 7, 1711 - August 25, 1776
      Robert Green Ingersoll, August 11, 1833 - July 21, 1899
      Karl Popper, July 28, 1902 - September 17, 1994

      intellectually dishonest:

      Given the fact that there is no obvious, and there is no evidence, there is actually nothing to deny.

      intellectually dishonest - to ignore or deliberately misconstrue the conclusions based on the verified and measured expansion of the universe that therefore, this universe must have a temporal beginning which implies a cause other than, and outside the universe

      intellectually dishonest - to propose that this universe is some kind of region or "bubble" in the socalled multiverse; a creature which can never be investigated, measured or verified scientifically.

      intellectually dishonest - to hold that something in the universe created the universe

      intellectually dishonest - to hold that the universe created itself

      intellectually dishonest - to assert that the emergence of living creatures on earth was purely the result of natural and inevitable processes, without evidence since biologists have no idea how the first living creatures came to exist.

      intellectually dishonest - to propose that Darwinian evolution is factual by mere declaration or assertion.

      Thanks to Karl Popper we have:
      "...Falsifiability: A statement is called falsifiable if it is possible to conceive an observation or an argument which proves the statement in question to be false. ..."
      Popper stresses the problem of demarcation, i.e., vis.,
      distinguishing the scientific from the unscientific, and makes falsifiability the demarcation criterion, such that what is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific, and [that] the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientifically true is pseudoscience.

      This must be applied to all the tangential excursions from the "multiverse", vis., quantum foams, oscillating universes, bouncing universes, et. al. It also applies to Darwinian Evolution By Chance, since it is really no more than a theory of past history and cannot be proven; neither has anyone observed it in action (not withstanding micro evolution of germs), nor can it, nor has it, ever been used to predict any future changes in pointing to the emergence new species.

      • Michael Murray

        intellectually dishonest - to ignore or deliberately misconstrue the conclusions based on the verified and measured expansion of the universe that therefore, this universe must have a temporal beginning which implies a cause other than, and outside the universe

        I'm not quite sure what you are trying to say here. But you seem to misunderstand what the Big Bang is about. Let me just quote the wikipedia page on the Planck Epoch for you

        As there presently exists no widely accepted framework for how to combine quantum mechanics with relativistic gravity, science is not currently able to make predictions about events occurring over intervals shorter than the Planck time or distances shorter than one Planck length, the distance light travels in one Planck time—about 1.616 × 10−35 meters. Without an understanding of quantum gravity, a theory unifying quantum mechanics and relativistic gravity, the physics of the Planck epoch are unclear, and the exact manner in which the fundamental forces were unified, and how they came to be separate entities, is still poorly understood. Three of the four forces have been successfully integrated in a common framework, but gravity remains problematic. If quantum effects are ignored, the universe starts from a singularity with an infinite density. This conclusion could change when quantum gravity is taken into account. [My emphasis]

        One expected change when gravity and quantum theory are merged is that space and time will no longer be sensible notions to apply to reality. So the notion of "temporal beginning" will make no sense.

        • Peter

          The timelessness you describe, from which the universe emerges, was said by St Augustine 1600 years ago to be the eternity out of which spacetime was created:

          "Who shall hold it and fix it, that it may rest a little, and by degrees catch the glory of that ever standing eternity, and compare it with the times which never stand, and see that it is incomparable; and that a long time cannot become long, save from the many motions that pass by, which cannot at the same instant be prolonged; but that in the Eternal nothing passes away, but that the whole is present; but no time is wholly present; and let him see that all time past is forced on by the future, and that all the future follows from the past, and that all, both past and future, is created and issues from that which is always present? Who will hold the heart of man, that it may stand still, and see how the still-standing eternity, itself neither future nor past, utters the times future and past? Can my hand accomplish this, or the hand of my mouth by persuasion bring about a thing so great?" (Confessions book 11, chapter 11)

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not describing timelessness. I'm just pointing out that time is a concept that we might not be able to define in all of reality. So it may not be a fundamental aspect of reality. However important it appears to be to us.

            It's a shame St Augustine hadn't at least written down some field equations and quantised them to give us something to go on.

          • Peter

            It appears from what you've quoted that St Augustine's eternity is a pretty good description of the planck epoch, despite living one and a half millennia before the first field equations.

            What is astonishing, though, is not the uncanny way that St. Augustine predicted it, since that to me is no surprise, but your instant out-of-hand rejection of any association between the two.

          • Michael Murray

            I reject it out of hand because we don't know what the Planck Epoch is. That is the point. So how can you possible draw any comparison between that and what St Augustine said ? You might as well say

            The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao

            Speaking of time. For me it is bedtime.

          • Peter

            You know enough about the planck epoque to claim that time is not a sensible notion to apply where the creation of the universe is concerned. Isn't that what St Augustine is claiming as well, an absence of time at the creation of the world?

          • Michael Murray

            Epoch.

            St Augustine seems closer to the idea of a space-time singularity if he is talking about the absence of time at the creation of the world. But seriously who knows what he is saying. It's poetry not mathematics.

            I'm talking about time not making sense in a part of reality. Space-time breaking down but there still being reality. I'm not talking about time springing into existence at creation. Without time it's not clear to me that creation makes any sense anyway.

            Now it really, really is bedtime.

          • Peter

            St Augustine has predicted both a spacetime singularity where time springs into existence from no time, and a quantum state where spacetime breaks down but where reality still exists.

            This quantum reality you refer to is St Augustine's all-standing eternity where time has no meaning since there is no past and no future.

      • cminca

        "intellectually dishonest - to hold that the universe created itself"

        So you think it is impossible for something to exist which wasn't actively created?

        In that case--who created God?

        (BTW--for atheists the answer to that question is "Man")

  • Over a decade ago, I bought three (very expensive!) books on Deception/Self Deception: Self-Deception Unmasked, by Alfred R. Mele (my favorite),Deception by Ziyad Marar, (The Art of Living), and Seeing Through Self-Deception by Annette Barnes. Indeed it was these I (yes consciously) had in mind when referring to that term -devil- in another comment. Yet, although I find it difficult to relate to such abstractions, even within the context of responses within these OPs, I guess my technique of testing ideas out 'personally' can indeed produce unnecessary incoherence. In any case, if anyone is interested in exploring, philosophically, possible interpretations of the 'meaning' of 'intellectually dishonest', perhaps these books will be helpful. As well, perhaps a reading of this article will take less of your valuable time. Thanks. (I really am attempting to 'leave' these 'arguments'!! Thanks for your patience!) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-deception/

    Edit: With respect to the quandries, involved in any conception of 'faith' none of these articles express to my understanding, the thoroughness within the description I found valuable, in the writings by Kierkegaard. However, I do not 'believe' the 'paradox' involved within the 'being' of the 'knight of faith', is held to be a form of self-deception. Does this assume 'faith' should be taken to refer -also- to some 'level of consciousness' that 'transcends' the general understanding of what constitutes religion"???'. How aware does one have to be of one's 'beliefs'? To what 'extent' would I need to be 'aware of the many possibilities and levels within own self deception?' Interesting.

    • OK. I've thought it over again: another attempt to really understand the OP in relation to my own 'mind'- (yes sometimes I think it really is 'concrete'!). . Hopefully I didn't become too incoherent in the process. .Although no one has brought me up on incoherence, I did suspect, however, that these recent thoughts were leading or could lead to a kind of 'self-reference'. (possible alternatives?: a projection of my thought to God? would that 'eliminate' the self reference?. Would alternatively a Buddhist emphasis on awareness, alone? Or perhaps 'merely' a relation of self to others, which however seems a difficulty within 'reflection', except maybe as a writer of what? fiction?) If only the scientists could provide a methodology!!!!

      In any case, as it remains unclear *for me?" (i.e. based on my 'own' experience) whether there can indeed be 'unconscious' 'intellectual dishonesty', but because I cannot believe I have had 'divine intervention or revelation' in this matter, nor a direct critique by others, I simply cannot come to any 'conclusion', on any of these issues, except perhaps that there can be various 'levels' of self-deception, from the unconscious to what is referred to as 'enlightenment', (as is possible the case of some interpretations of Descartes' cogito?)..
      If I have understood correctly what was meant for instance, (in irony?) of the possibility of a Second Philosophy, I do at least feel that such 'self-reflection' will never be considered to be 'a Queen of Sciences'. at least with reference to having the ability to make a 'sufficient analysis' of my own thoughts, as necessary, sufficient, etc. etc. Yet, within my experience I still have two alternatives: such intellectualizations as are given in The Five Ways. and/or Buddhist meditation. In the first case, this experiment, has at least clarified for me the importance of 'community', although I can also understand the preference for the meditative solitude adapted even by some 'mystic monks'.

      Although my conclusions are indeed 'vague': my questions are at least 'meaningful' to me. If only all of the 'answers' given in these blogs, did not lead to a questioning of my 'intellectual' ability, my ability to understand, and my ability to engage in dialogue: and yet is there a need to question whether it is possible to meet any criteria of 'honesty'. put forward by another without being dishonest to one's self!!!-- Is the alternative a possible 'blind faith in either 'religion' or 'science'!!! In any case, I would hesitate to 'reveal' some of my thoughts within the prospect that any 'honest thought' I might have could be considered a form of 'insanity' by either party.. Yet many comments on these blogs, themselves 'reveal' to me a certain 'indulgence', (well at least on my part) which demonstrate for me there can indeed be a reality behind the term - intellectual dishonesty. I still believe, for instance that there is truth in Kant's saying: The concept without the percept/precept? is empty, the (intuition of the empirical or observation of one's thought? -another term for 'percept') without the concept is blind. That would seem to be the best criteria for establishing credibility.
      "I" am neither God; nor 'Buddha'. nor......(obviously?) a scientist" That's all I 'know' -within my experience, i.e.-within the realms of truth, beauty and goodness, terms which have poetic significance for me. Yet, I repeat, I believe it can be misleading to use such terms that define 'me', 'epistemically' as a-gnostic, a-theist, even theist....etc. etc. etc......I remain, ontologically,i.e. within my 'experience', then, where?: I guess I'm still somewhere 'between' naturalism and that other 'vague' term, 'religion', or 'between' reason and faith, or 'between' the empirical and the rational: all once again 'epistemic' terms which however, as simple 'dualities' hopefully will allow a comfortable distance with respect to the more complicated 'arguments' I have met with on these sites, and thus allow me a little 'honesty within dishonesty.'... Honestly!!!!
      This as my last 'confession': is made in order to transcend any appropriation of the term dishonest, a mere necessary or hopefully logical means of avoiding such a term directed to, or descriptive of my thought. Hopefully also it is a 'true' acknowledgement, and a possible demonstration, that I have become more and more aware of my conceptual limitations, something I didn't experience before coming to these sites. (Yet I also admit, yes- it did take me three readings of Kant to 'feel' I had grasped its language style, let alone it's 'substance'). Also, I have become more and more aware that somehow the comprehension of 'words' do not entail either knowledge or understanding, or an absorption of the implications of any 'philosophy' into one's being or life, that understanding is a process that occurs over time, and that the development of critical thought with respect not only to pure reason, but practical reason and judgment, is necessary, not only with respect to 'others' but of also of one's 'self'. Thankfully, I am perhaps at least more aware of what, at least 'I mean' to say. -- and for that may I express my gratitude to all of you. May there be, for all, now and in the days ahead, justice and mercy.....good will, and peace!!!

    • Over a decade ago, I bought three (very expensive!) books on Deception/Self Deception: Self-Deception Unmasked, by Alfred R. Mele (my favorite),Deception by Ziyad Marar, (The Art of Living), and Seeing Through Self-Deception by Annette Barnes.

      I suggest a look at Eric Schwitzgebel's 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection and Aquinas on Human Self-Knowledge (excerpt); Schwitzgebel was not aware of how extensively Aquinas had treated the matter.

      How aware does one have to be of one's 'beliefs'?

      Have you looked up "the noetic effects of sin"? You might also want to explore the concept of an unarticulated background and especially the related idea of tacit knowledge. I find those especially interesting when combined with Josef Pieper's The Concept of Sin:

      In the following essay, we shall therefore be operating under two assumptions. First, we shall presuppose that there is in general a believed truth beyond the realm of known truth ("known" truth is defined here as truth gained through scientific research and in philosophical reflection), in which a dimension accessible in no other way becomes perceptible and shows itself, a dimension of the one visible reality of world and man [vor Augen liegenden Realität von Welt und Mensch]. This presupposition will naturally include the clear admission that there can be theological information about what ultimately happens when a person fails morally.    But that shall not be our only presupposition. We shall also be reckoning with the possibility that this object to be discussed from various perspectives can also be made more deeply and clearly accessible to the efforts of a philosophical questioner from the light of that transhuman truth. Such "reckoning with a possibility" might seem at first glance to some to be not especially promising, but this is by no means so. In certain cases a great deal can depend on whether someone considers something "possible" or "excluded" from the outset. (13)

      • Thanks - as usual I appreciate your links Luke, although I do not and cannot follow through on all of them. I related the concept of self-deception to what I found specifically interesting, from as usual a personal perspective on this OP, that is what I found of interest, i.e. the concept of whether others, or myself could identify with or indeed identify or define the concept of 'intellectual dishonesty'. It was with this concept primarily, as is usually the case with these articles, i.e. the exploration of a single aspect, which led to an examination of it's extension/intention to the concept of self-deception. These OPs, then may be regarded as 'taking off points'. I perhaps very selfishly explore in relation to the continuum of my particular development, hopefully, of both mind and spirit- or is this a possible 'deception': lol or grin grin whatever is allowed. Thanks again. Hopefully this does not place me (or my soul???? in jeopardy) Glad you are not 'giving up or giving in' with respect to this 'dialogue'.....Take care.!

      • Luke: I want to thank you especially for this link: http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/14319/what-is-an-unarticulated-background

        I am 'wondering' within this present exploration, and indeed what I call my 'thought experiments' which according to others - as the evil overlord, have conveyed to me, that my thought has and continues to be incoherent. Indeed, I am constantly returning to comments in order to make the thought more 'explicit'. I am finding that indeed there are levels of thought that are not always articulated all at once, which is something I have learned within a different context within the creative non-fictional writing process.

        What this article speaks of is what I have referred to as my understanding of connotation as distinct from denotation. Another distinction is that between a socially understood significance and personal individual 'meaning'. (Perhaps I should have reversed these definitions)..

        I believe I understand what I also used to 'abuse' myself of as having a passive understanding may not actually be as lacking in some consciousness as I imagined. I have read a great deal from the works of these philosophers, years and years of reading, a lot of which I was fully aware of not consciously understanding. Now I am beginning to wonder that even then, that at some level I have 'absorbed' the thought, which at least, within the transitions and hopefully transcendence of experience, produces a possible ability to find access even to 'these' unconscious or perhaps sub-conscious thinking processes that do not directly occur at a level of conscious acquisition. This of course, should be critiqued as possibly even unwarranted speculation. But Heidegger's challenge that we have to 'learn' how to think is possibly directed towards how we understand and put together disparate thoughts and understandings. Again, challenge me as you must, that my thoughts may be incoherent etc. etc. etc. I accept same, perhaps even with the backing of what I cannot understand with the process reality....and all of the other mathematical concepts of these philosophers. May I simply qualify then, as a limitation of my ability to what I can discern even about my own consciousness, whether that be determined to be sin even as defined as ignorance- or not!!!! Let's keep a little humor in our search??? lol or grin grin, whatever is allowed. Thanks again.P.S. what is more difficult to understand? how you, as a self thinks or to understand, if only in conversation (or argument), the 'meaning' of another????

        • You are welcome! I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I may post an 'answer' to that Philosophy.SE question which references discussion in Charles Taylor's Philosophical Arguments. Of any book I've read, that one digs into just what an "unarticulated background" is. Taylor is quite intense in that book; some of the chapters I've head to read a number of times.

          As to writing more coherently, I can only suggest more practice. Crucially, I have worked very hard to write so that other people, with significantly different views, can comment and critique what I've written. If I go too crazy, such people simply can't find enough points to latch onto, and thus generally don't try to engage what I say. This precludes the kind of feedback which helps me write more succinctly and coherently.

          What this article speaks of is what I have referred to a my understanding of connotation as distinct from denotation. Another distinction is that between a social understood significance and personal individual 'meaning'. (Perhaps I should have reversed these annotations.

          These are two extremely important dimensions. Francis Schaeffer helped me quite a bit in understanding the interplay between connotation and denotation, via arguing that these days, most religion-words have approximately zero denotation, with extant-but-disintegrating connotation. Of course, he attempted to restore denotation to words and make clear the connection between connotation and denotation, which links to his 'upper story' and 'lower story' ideas.

          The dichotomy of "social understood significance" and "personal individual 'meaning'" is something Charles Taylor explores extensively in the aforementioned book, as well as in his 1971 Interpretation and the Sciences of Man. A dogma of the Enlightenment is that there really is no true entity that is "social[ly] understood significance", no entity there that is other than a simple sum over personal interpretations, personal 'meanings'. Taylor argues strongly against this, noting that language itself presumes a communal context and communal activity. One might even say that language arises out of a communal unarticulated background. :-)

          I believe I also understand what I also used to 'abuse' myself of as having a passive understanding may not actually be as lacking in some consciousness as I imagined. I have read a great deal from the works of these philosophers, years and years of reading, a lot of which I was fully aware of not consciously understanding. Now I am beginning to wonder that even then, that at some level I have 'absorbed' the thought, which at least, within the transitions and hopefully transcendence of experience, produces a possible ability to find access even to 'these' unconscious or perhaps sub-conscious thinking process that do not directly occur at a level of conscious acquisition.

          That makes some sense to me. I think the mind can store things that don't currently make sense, but which may make sense given further thinking (some of it unconscious, perhaps much of it unconscious) and/or further information. One way to characterize people is how much they're willing to tolerate gaps and apparent contradictions, when trying to gain understanding in some domain. It sounds like you are quite tolerant! Now, a weakness of this tolerance is that it's tempting to write to others in the same way; most people seem to have a pretty low tolerance in this domain, and thus dislike such a communication style. And so, I find it helpful to 'firm up' the things I say, when talking to most people. A select few can take the noisier, more-error-prone style.

          • Thanks again, Luke for your response. Firstly, although very respectful of Charles Taylor, after all I'm a Canadian, the only work of his that I have found time? to read, was his analysis and explanation of Hegel. At the moment, there are so many books I want to read as possibly for the first time, I am seeking to confirm or disconfirm questions that are arising, or have been left unattended for these oh! so many years. I haven't checked out your links yet. but will definitely follow up on your suggestion regarding Taylor. (I have another couple dozen e-mails waiting!!)

            On 'tolerance' with respect to what may or may not be coherent- I follow the precept/definition of Kierkegaard, that faith is the 'ability' to live within 'paradox'. I have not been really personally offended as when, for instance, the evil overlord has disallowed access to his blog because my thoughts are 'incoherent' and 'off topic'

            Indeed, these issues are central to my questioning of some of the relationships between words, thoughts, ideas, which are generally found within communications, and the possibility that such are far less consciously structured even, than many assume them to be. You may be able to relate this, as I do to what I believe? to be Wittgenstein's understanding of the 'nominal' aspect of language. Specifically, within communication: what I would associate with the 'denotative' or even the 'social significance' of words used within the assumed context of understanding, which may or may not be considered 'superficial' in some ways, by some, depending on experience and context.
            Is there still a 'cogent' "relationship" between the different parameters of our 'language use'????
            What produces the incoherence is the questioning, is the self-reflection, that gets me 'behind' these issues. I could give an historical summary of the various philosophers that have publically advocated such since Kant, if you are interested. However, even in the 'sensing' of the different possible levels and relationships, getting back to the 'norm' requires a transposition of thought to words. I have just reflected on the almost humorous 'fact', for instance, that I have always considered the word 'thought' merely to refer to the 'words' within my 'head', 'hearing those voices' not within the external world, but within my conscious or unconscious reproduction of them as echoes perhaps, to some unfortunately within a dissociative context, but explainable generally by the use of such terms as memory and imagination, which however, fail to even 'describe' 'how' such relationships are.constructed,..philosophically, let alone scientifically.. The question then is how thought becomes word, which paradoxically may be related to some prime Catholic commentary, - I will not risk further comment!!!
            In any case, I hope this comment suggests that I am aware of 'the difficulty'.you describe. Often in the past I have prefaced my posts with the comment- no one needs to read this. Perhaps I should begin to post, (this is a comment in process, please come back later, after I feel I have made the 'necessary' revisions)......!!! With hopefully, great humor, yours, Loreen.

      • Seek and ye shall find? Immediately after writing my last comment to you, I found in my in-box the following:

        Immortal Che Guevara
        There are no levels in reality. In other words, part of truth is not truer
        than the rest. Because of our own split minds and perceptions, we still
        believe there is an opposite to everything ... everything -v- nothing is
        the conflict that never existed. We can believe in nothing but we can
        never make it true. So the real challenge becomes unifying our thought
        system to eliminate all conflict and the belief in separation. When a
        mind is whole, it sees only truth, which is totally loving and totally
        at peace. Let's put this into our peace pipe and smoke it!!

        Comment: I believe there are 'levels' but that is could be possible to understand reality within a more temporal or horizontal context. It seems now, more and more that life is an experiment, and on-going process, a work in progress, a novel that can never be finished, the saying goes, but only 'abandoned', which hopefully I will not be 'tempted' to do... Thanks again. I did like Che's conclusion. That is the important thought I wanted to convey....

        • One thing I like about that "Immortal Che Guevara" comment is that it seems to eschew thinking that one can call one part of reality 'fundamental' and derive all the rest from that 'fundamental' bit. This is basically reductionism, and I think it has caused a great amount of damage to all areas of human endeavor and thought. Reductionism as a model which works in some domains is fine, but not as an ontological view.

          The bit about unification and wholeness is interesting; one of the big characteristics of modernity is the fragmentation. A common belief of sociologists is that the mind tends to reflect society, such that there is also fragmentation of the mind, of the consciousness. I find this to be a generally useful model. Theologian Emil Brunner wrote a book, which has the English title Man in Revolt; the German is better: Der Mensch im Widerspruch. The German includes aspect of revolt as well as contradiction.

          I do worry that the "Immortal Che Guevara" comment on having a whole mind might be dangerous, in the sense of thinking that I can be whole without being in relationship with other beings. It's just vague on this point, so it's not like one must sever or properly 'demote' one's relationships with other beings. It's just a danger I see. Some separation is not evil (e.g. I am a different person than my wife), but some is.

          • Well when it comes to 'reductionism' is that not the 'general problem' with respect to both sides of the empirical vs. rational 'p;positions''? At least Kant did place the two perspectives within some sort of 'congruent' relationship. After that - pragmaticism instead of morality as 'defined by Kant' as duty governed by the regulative principles of necessity and the universal was the major focus of philosophy. We would seek to become 'whole' within the external associations of individuals based on common self=interest,.But there's the 'whole problem' even on that level- How can the individual become whole within the social context? . .
            With respect to the sense' at least of wholeness, within the person,I believe that Buddhist meditation, gives some support and a method through which a person can be least 'feel' whole. But when it comes to the metaphysical account, I have already somewhere in these comments suggested why I decided at some point, that I had to get back to 'samsara' and attempt to find integrity of self within the relationships encountered within the world.
            Putting all of the 'parts' together, with respect to one/s personal history is one 'problem'. The search for coherence, is I suggest, a problem that everyone faces. But= Dare I ask: is it possible to make the world 'whole'? even within a Christian theology of faith? Perhaps to add to your last sentence, some 'separation' can even be 'necessary'!!! Do you intuit all of the possible 'interpretations' that could be given to this dialogue. We are in agreement however, on what? the 'essentials',? - that which can be defined? . When it comes to 'wholeness' the difficulty is perhaps whether we can be 'substantially' 'One???' a metaphysic which I understand cannot be achieved through the quantitative!!!!! So Hegel's priority of development over time, within his dialectical logic, can perhaps be understood to make some sense!!!! at least on the level of 'speculative philosophy' if that is not a contradiction. But am I able to make another attempt at understanding an alternative metaphysic entailed by the 'unprovable?' or possible 'inconclusive evidence' offered by physics or cosmology? And then there is the search for 'God'. It is acknowledged, that in the attempt to find some coherence in all of these positions, my understanding is indeed limited, ...even when it ends up in my own 'verbal'? incoherence. Not much success for me in achieving the 'whole' there!
            What again do you consider to be the one, whole, and holy truth? What God do you worship? Who is He - not She? What is your philosophy? Are there indeed contradictions between such things as Science and Philosophy. Is your perspective 'whole', complete, without contradiction, incoherence? Or are you more like me, - that is, merely looking for some questions to ask, before it is possible even to find the answers?
            Edit: Luke. If you ever run across this please, note I made some 'qualifying' changes. However, despite all of the possible psychological difficulties that are inevitable with these issues, I do believe we can look at the many ways in which we are at least 'on the same page'....Thanks.

      • I had to correct a previous comment on that post to Che Guevara: Is it possible to have all or nothing? Edit: the having however, is not the giving, in any case. Yet math, I understand, has benefited from the concept of 'zero'. There still remains unlimited possibilities that I do not understand. I can only attempt to make 'whole' what I do....

  • David Hennessey

    I don't think atheists are the least offended although the premise is outrageously offensive on it's face. Atheists often have previously held these prejudicial views of atheism themselves before rejecting religion. I always wonder why Christians have such uncharitable views of non-believers when they were once sincere non-believers themselves, some are condemning everyone when only months before, they were exactly the same.

    The only Bible verse they know is John 3:16 but they tell an atheist who has studied scripture for a lifetime that they are going to hell for not wanting to punish women or their doctors for aborting a fetus. I don't even know what he means by "intellectual dishonesty or suppression of the truth", we believe what we believe.

    I don't see how an atheist or agnostic could choose to believe something else or why they would want to. Theists have hell, church authorities and peer pressure to give them incentive for self-deception, atheists have no encouragement to obfuscate, no apologies to make, no need to persuade others. If you feel better thinking all atheists, agnostics, hindus, buddhists and pagans are secretly longing to fill their suppressed god vaccuum, go ahead, it's your own sincere search for truth you need to worry about, atheists can ignore your condescension while you struggle with your beliefs.

    In atheism, the good news is better, you can stay a Catholic all your life, you can damn all atheists to hell, you can even burn them at the stake and atheism still won't judge you or condemn you to endless torture. No matter what you do, atheists expect you to have everything in the afterlife that they do, if there is one.

    That's love and forgiveness.