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On Those Circular Proofs of God

Stacy

I remember the first time I read St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs of God’s existence. Although I was already a believer and although I found them a wonderful adventure in Catholic theology, I thought they were circular. Sure, I thought, if you believe in God and you expect the proofs to prove the existence of God, then the Unmoved Mover, the First Cause, the Argument from Contingency, the Argument from Degree, and the Argument from Design all convincingly follow from postulates to conclusion. But if you are not a believer, they might sound like constructs to support a predetermined conclusion.

The conclusion: “ . . . and this we call God.”

Well of course. Were the proofs supposed to surprisingly disprove God?

I have continued to study these proofs as well as the other arguments and writings of St. Aquinas. I still find them intellectually satisfying exercises that help me understand my faith. What I am about to say has nothing to do with the arguments, but with how they might be perceived:

To a non-believer, I can totally see how they seem like the reasoning begins with the conclusion in sight and is therefore contrived.

A circular argument is logically valid if the premises are true, so again, I am not referring to the integrity of the proofs but rather to their ability to persuade a non-believer. I want to be clear about that.

Maybe I am projecting my personal struggles. In that case, suffice it to say those arguments would have fallen flat on my faithless ears when I was not ready to believe. The language of St. Thomas, or any other densely theological discourse, would have sounded as strange to me as an unbeliever as a pretend language I had no desire to grasp. Even now, I feel a twinge of guilt in admitting that I remain somewhat diffident about these grand arguments as evangelization tools, especially when I see how enthusiastic other Catholics are about using them. But when I read comments from atheists who call these arguments circular, I feel a twinge of guilt too. I want to interject into the discussion and say, “Hey, Christian apologist, the atheist has a point. They can seem circular.”

Undoubtedly there are believers and converts who were compelled to faith by the force of persuasion in these arguments and proofs, and I do not discredit any of those pathways to faith. But if a non-believer tells an evangelizing believer that the arguments for the proofs of God’s existence sound circular, the point ought to be graciously conceded (or at least respectfully engaged). It is unreasonable to expect a non-believer to see arguments and proofs through a believer’s eyes, and I think such a dismissal on the non-believer’s part is a clue to move on rather than continue arguing.

I will always relate to the materialist because I remain an incurable reductionist. I cannot help it. I was trained to see the world as a meticulous sort of materialist. Chemistry taught me to see all matter as a symphony of interacting atoms and molecules carrying out their deterministically orchestrated routine. And let me tell you, it is magnificent! If you find that reading essays and friending friends on computer screens has enriched your life, you can thank materialism for the materials to do so. Same goes for liking your jeans and shirt.

My reductionism has consequences though. I struggle not to think of the human person as a soul driving the body-machine and meat-brain because I think of the body and brain as animated matter, but I cannot put my finger on what “animate” actually means since it is a concept that cannot be measured. I therefore relegate it to some metaphysical arena I am untrained to deal with and call it “life.” But that takes me no farther in comprehension, even as I sit on the porch with my coffee, watching my organic-inorganic multicomposite assemblies (aka my children) run laughing across the yard. I know the body and soul are united in the person. I just do not have the mental files to sort it out yet, but I am trying because this is the very foundation of our human dignity.

I also struggle with what to make of dogs. For all we know, they are automata governed by biological instinct, but I cannot reconcile such machinistic dog-existence with the way our hound, Rufus, held his head on his last day. Suffering and deteriorated from bone cancer though he was, that noble dog lay sprawled and waiting to die until the whole family was home. He took his last breath with his head still up ten minutes after my husband got home from work, and then he laid his head down and died. He never once whimpered. Our family witnessed superhuman loyalty in Rufus.

I also struggle to get my head around the afterlife. Every day is a march reeling toward the inescapable end of our life on earth, and I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to die. Nothing in chemistry can confirm whether the soul actually does live on. I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting completely in faith, “the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My profession is my proof. When I profess what I believe, I am no longer afraid of death, even though I am utterly perplexed by the idea of a glorified body.

I also struggle with miracles. I accept they happen, but nevertheless I still think of them in material terms because whatever happens in the material world is still material, carrying out some orchestrated routine, even if it is the Hand of God overriding the whole created order for the sake of communicating His love to searching souls. This is a quibble, but St. Thomas thought that angels can do something which is outside the order of corporeal nature, yet they cannot do anything outside the whole created order. So if angels have a comprehension of matter beyond human comprehension (which means scientists ought to befriend them), how do we humans know whether something that appears to be a miracle is indeed a miracle and not an angel doing something outside the order of corporeal nature and beyond human comprehension? I have witnessed what might be considered miracles, but I have no idea how to talk about these experiences, which probably explains why I get hung up on quibbles.

And I struggle with how to evangelize. I did not convert because people preached to me. I thought to seek out the Catholic Church because the Catholics I had known during the span of my life all had something solid I admired. I also do not like debates as tools for evangelization because if any of the atheists I have encountered online were actually sitting in my kitchen, I would not want to talk about evidence and proofs. I would want to get to know them as people, cook something good for us to eat together, and if appropriate, pour us some of that heavenly substance that geniuses (or perhaps angels) produce from vineyards.

Because of my reductionist outlook rather than in spite of it, I do not think the hard logic of theological proofs of God could have sparked the flame of conversion in my heart. Perhaps that is why they do not resonate with me. People sometimes assume that a scientist convert must have been swayed by the logic, but honestly, I had enough logic. I needed something more. I needed faith, hope, and love. My metanoia had to be a desire to lead a different life, a holier life for the sake of my loved ones, a willingness to peer beyond the material world for the sake of understanding something bigger, an assent to the truths of faith and the fullness of the Divine Revelation, which I discovered are guarded by the Catholic Church. That discovery was when I truly appreciated the proofs of God's existence because they greatly aided me in grasping my faith, but my conversion was not a matter of sifting through logic puzzle pieces until I saw the picture. It was a reaching up to a light. I needed Christ.

It was a choice. I remember making the choice to accept that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, a most circular argument in my head, something like this: “I believe. This is what I believe. This is why I believe. And this I call the Body and Blood of Christ.”

Sure, at times I wondered if I was deluding myself. When I prayed the long and memorized prayers, I knew I was training my brain. I struggled, but only until I realized something about faith, something I knew as a child but had never realized.

When I learned chemistry, I had faith in the chemists and physicists who came before me and whose work filled my text books. I had faith in my instructors. I had faith in the data listed in the manuals. I had faith in the peer-reviewed journals I absorbed to remain current in my field and faith in the reviewers who granted me publication. I knew I could not do every experiment or procedure myself to prove to myself everything I read or learned. I accepted authority of my own volition. I learned what was to be taught. I memorized what was to be memorized. I repeated certain facts until I appropriated them. And my knowledge of chemistry became part of who I am, through circular logic.

Although I have never seen an electron, I believe they exist. I accepted that they exist before I learned what they are and what they do. My rationale went something like this: “I believe. This is what I believe. This is why I believe. And this I call an electron.” Every proof I find convincing is a proof I am willing to believe. Believing that the universe is orchestrated by God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth was probably the most satisfying intellectual assent I have ever made as a scientist. In the light of faith, I finally understood why I love science.

So, to the atheists, I am not really sure what to do except offer a blanket apology to all those I have interacted with in the past. Looking back, I admit that there were periods along my journey where I had the idea that—even though the proofs were not what convinced me—I needed to wield Aquinas to convince you to have faith because I thought that was how to effectively evangelize, and surely it is for some. But I am sorry for treating you the way I would not want to be treated.

I know what it feels like to take the leap of faith, and for me anyway, it was and still is terrifying. I did not know what faith would demand of me, and I still do not know what it will demand of me tomorrow. I had to face up to some horrible things about myself, and I had to make changes unsure of how they would affect me. I consented to becoming the mother of seven children, but the thought of seeing one of my children die fills me with so much dread I sometimes wonder if my life would have been objectively less painful without them, and then I banish that thought because I know it would have been painfully empty too, immeasurably so.

I did not and do not know if I could or can do what faith might demand, which sets me up for failure, which sets me up for fear, which plunges me into anxiety. But my faith continues to grow stronger. Do you want to know why? My faith grows stronger because I agree to accept the grace offered to me, almost as if I were placing my hand on a glass of water handed down by God Himself and drinking it in. (Alas, I need material props to envision grace.) When I drink the grace in, something happens that is like a charge running straight through my blood and neurons straight to my heart and mind, and I am infused with a courage I cannot describe, except to call it the purest, most brilliant lovelight. And it is thrilling.

Life does not get easier with faith. Mine got harder in a lot of ways, but I can soar above anxiety, suffering, and pain because I have a confidence, peace, and joy that lifts me.

Faith comes as a gift only when you are willing to accept it. Faith requires the courage to do something radical—to leap out of the entrapment of circularity. Faith is kind of like flinging yourself into an unknown abyss only to realize you can fly, which yeah, defies all logic.

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy online homeschool program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She teaches Reading Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.

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  • Ivan Diaz

    Thank you, This is made my day brighter.

  • Very well said...

  • Guest

    Very nice. I think the saying,

  • Jeff Hammack

    Very nice read. I can relate on many levels

  • Andre Vlok

    Beautifully put together. Your best work around here, so far.

    • Joey JoJo

      On a related note, I just saw the world's tallest midget.

  • William Davis

    In general, this was a great article. I'm a non-Christian who accepts the proofs of God's existence (though I look at God in a different way), so no argument from me there.

    I also struggle with what to make of dogs. For all we know, they are automata governed by biological instinct, but I cannot reconcile such machinistic dog-existence with the way our hound, Rufus, held his head on his last day. Suffering and deteriorated from bone cancer though he was, that noble dog lay sprawled and waiting to die until the whole family was home. He took his last breath with his head still up ten minutes after my husband got home from work, and then he laid his head down and died. He never once whimpered. Our family witnessed superhuman loyalty in Rufus.

    Thanks for this, I've been accused on here repeatedly of "reading my own inner life into the thinking of my dog" but I'm not a fool, dogs are not unthinking automata (the brighter ones at least), although they fall far short of human intellect. The idea that dogs are robots seems to be a side effect of problem with philosophy of mind from the middle ages. It's only popular with people who aren't dog owners, I bet. ;)

    I'm more than willing to defend this from a biological standpoint.

    • Luc Regis

      In general, this was a great article. I'm a non-Christian who accepts
      the proofs of God's existence (though I look at God in a different way.

      What proofs in particular are you referring to? Or are you simply stating in a circular vague sort of way that you believe that there is a god entity or that the universe, reality or existence itself is God. Inquiring minds would like to know;-)

      http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

      • William Davis

        You've probably never seen this one from a Christian, monism is a problem for them. I'm a Spinozist to be specific, and it is pretty close to reality itself being God. We can think of things like gravity and natural selection being the intentions of God, but God never changes his mind. To me, accept this is a far cry from accepting Christianity, but to each his own :) I'll copy and paste from Stanford, if you find any problem with the proof, feel free to comment:

        In propositions one through fifteen of Part One, Spinoza presents the basic elements of his picture of God. God is the infinite, necessarily existing (that is, uncaused), unique substance of the universe. There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God.

        Proposition 1: A substance is prior in nature to its affections.

        Proposition 2: Two substances having different attributes have nothing in common with one another. (In other words, if two substances differ in nature, then they have nothing in common).

        Proposition 3: If things have nothing in common with one another, one of them cannot be the cause of the other.

        Proposition 4: Two or more distinct things are distinguished from one another, either by a difference in the attributes [i.e., the natures or essences] of the substances or by a difference in their affections [i.e., their accidental properties].

        Proposition 5: In nature, there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.

        Proposition 6: One substance cannot be produced by another substance.

        Proposition 7: It pertains to the nature of a substance to exist.

        Proposition 8: Every substance is necessarily infinite.

        Proposition 9: The more reality or being each thing has, the more attributes belong to it.

        Proposition 10: Each attribute of a substance must be conceived through itself.

        Proposition 11: God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists. (The proof of this proposition consists simply in the classic “ontological proof for God's existence”. Spinoza writes that “if you deny this, conceive, if you can, that God does not exist. Therefore, by axiom 7 [‘If a thing can be conceived as not existing, its essence does not involve existence’], his essence does not involve existence. But this, by proposition 7, is absurd. Therefore, God necessarily exists, q.e.d.”)

        Proposition 12: No attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided.

        Proposition 13: A substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible.

        Proposition 14: Except God, no substance can be or be conceived.

        This proof that God—an infinite, necessary and uncaused, indivisible being—is the only substance of the universe proceeds in three simple steps. First, establish that no two substances can share an attribute or essence (Ip5). Then, prove that there is a substance with infinite attributes (i.e., God) (Ip11). It follows, in conclusion, that the existence of that infinite substance precludes the existence of any other substance. For if there were to be a second substance, it would have to have someattribute or essence. But since God has all possible attributes, then the attribute to be possessed by this second substance would be one of the attributes already possessed by God. But it has already been established that no two substances can have the same attribute. Therefore, there can be, besides God, no such second substance.

        If God is the only substance, and (by axiom 1) whatever is, is either a substance or in a substance, then everything else must be in God. “Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God” (Ip15). Those things that are “in” God (or, more precisely, in God's attributes) are what Spinoza calls modes.

        As soon as this preliminary conclusion has been established, Spinoza immediately reveals the objective of his attack. His definition of God—condemned since his excommunication from the Jewish community as a “God existing in only a philosophical sense”—is meant to preclude any anthropomorphizing of the divine being. In the scholium to proposition fifteen, he writes against “those who feign a God, like man, consisting of a body and a mind, and subject to passions. But how far they wander from the true knowledge of God, is sufficiently established by what has already been demonstrated.” Besides being false, such an anthropomorphic conception of God can have only deleterious effects on human freedom and activity, insofar as it fosters a life enslaved to hope and fear and the superstitions to which such emotions give rise.

        http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/

        • Luc Regis

          I'm a Spinozist to be specific, and it is pretty close to reality itself being God.
          Ok....I think I get it. god is only a philosophical concept more or less and not an entity outside of the universe and is not personal creator god, but actually is the impersonal indifferent universe, ie: creation itself.

          Interesting.... It may be an oversimplification if I say Spinoza sounds like a pantheist. I don't think that you and Stacy are talking about the same God or even the same general concept of God. Personally I have no problem with pantheism in general. I will think more on this matter.Thank you.

          • William Davis

            It's a lot like pantheism, yes. I don't have much time to go into detail now, but to me it is fascinating that matter and energy are of the same substance, i.e. interchangeable. Even space and time have substance-like qualities and empty space isn't empty, it is filled with a the "quantum-foam". The one substance of God is far stranger than we imagined, and the more we unravel it, the stranger it gets.

        • Daniel G. Fink

          William,

          Do you hope all would agree with you, in order to overcome the deleterious effects on human freedom and activity?

          • William Davis

            I don't understand the question, sorry.

  • Bravo!

    This article is so insightful and gracious. It captures what seems to be the general trajectory of formative spirituality in most of our great religious traditions. Ordinarily, belonging precedes desiring which engenders behaving after which believing, more explicitly appropriated, then ensues. Of course, due to diverse personality typologies (nature) and formative (sadly even deformative) influences, people come to faith and then practice it in many ways with a unity of mission but diversity of ministry. Such is the genius of our diverse Catholic spiritualities. I authored a poem for my children, years ago, to reflect how such dynamics even play out in our religious orders. All that said, I do suspect a good many that show up for dialogue in this forum do lean toward a philosophic bent. And I further appreciate philosophical theology because it can, properly approached, demonstrate how eminently reasonable faith can be, how existentially actionable it truly is --- all without suggesting that other existential orientations and evaluative dispositions must necessarily be irrational or immoral.

    For My Little Jung Catholics
    (or how to lick your sacred wounds)

    It was your extroversion
    T'was the reason
    I've been told
    That set you on the path, my friend
    To become a Maryknoll

    And your introversion gifted you
    As anyone could predict
    With your inclination following
    The Rule of Benedict

    You set out as a Thomist
    And time and time again
    In the manner of your thinking
    You were Dominican

    Always guided by some values
    A sense of social justice feeling
    Is the likely explanation
    Your were Jesuit in your dealing

    Sacred coming through your senses
    A recreation every dawn
    Like the little friars minor
    Your favorite feast
    Was Christmas morn

    Where you approached
    The Incarnation
    With a Zen-like intuition
    In your cloistered monastery
    Fully Trappist in tradition

    How keenly in the Dark Night
    His Presence there perceiving
    Fired by urgent longings
    On Carmel's heights
    Love's wound receiving

    Though you would not rush to closure
    Your judgment never was retired
    For where nothing's been forbidden
    Truly nothing's been required
    In a life that's truly centered
    On this one can depend
    You can proceed in perfect joy
    No boundaries to defend

    • Let me further suggest that traditionalists and progressives needn't be conceived as necessarily over against but as differently gifted, respectively, related as settlers and homesteaders would be to pilgrims and frontiersmen.

      Hygienically, traditionalists would conserve essentials, ensuring they aren't treated as accidentals, while progressives would creatively employ accidentals, ensuring they aren't elevated to essentials.

      Even atheological critiques can be hygienic, for who among believers has never encountered a god not worthy of belief, often not believing in the very same gods whom this or that nonbeliever didn't believe in, too?

      • Breezeyguy

        Johnboy, I can't believe I caught you in an error. It's "brava". :)

        • In English, adjectives don't inflect for gender but take only the masculine form from the Italian.

          • @Breezeguy I didn't know doodley squat about opera etiquette, until you made that distinction for me, and I sure in the heck didn't know nuffin 'bout adjective inflections, until I looked it up 2 minutes ago. LOL! I was just being a knucklehead and messing with ya ;)

          • Breezeyguy

            Ha! Your first reply scared me - I thought you were going to auger in. I even checked Merriam Webster, and while it has "brava" as "used interjectionally in applauding a woman", it doesn't exclude the use of "bravo".

            But I'd rather discuss the Quinque Via, specifically the "can't proceed to an infinity of causes" thing. A man once said to me "Butter is good. But too much butter is bad. Therefore there is no such thing as good or bad." It didn't seem to bother him that his conclusion contradicted both his premises. But anyway, it got me thinking. What's missing in his argument is the "why" of the goodness or badness of butter. It seems to me that "health" is the cause of goodness or badness in butter. It is hierarchical. And health is not the highest good. Taking causes in this hierarchical (or vertical) sense, one certainly cannot proceed to an infinity of causes, because you simply run out of superior governing (unifying?) principles, and end up at the "One" (Good and True and Beautiful). Otherwise stated, beginning with a finite number of objects to be "judged" as it were, you cannot have an infinity of judging principles.

          • Hence the classical distinction between higher and lesser goods, the latter enjoyable in moderation and extrinsically rewarding, the former without limit and intrinsically rewarding, all consistent with my evolutionary account of intrinsic reward mechanisms.

            BTW, I had to look up auger in in the urban dictionary.

          • Breezeyguy

            Do you think this higher/lesser goods direction could yield a more convincing "quinque viae" type proof than the classical "unmoved mover"? I think most people imagine moving movers in sort of a chronological fashion, without beginning. (Which is perhaps why atheists hate the big bang theory so much.)

          • That evolutionary account that I provided would/should be more convincing because it's probabilistically modeling proximate realities not plausibilistically interpreting ultimate realities. These two accounts could represent different explanatory layers, though, hence needn't necessarily be considered incompatible or mutually exclusive.

          • Breezeyguy

            Yes, I read it. A probabilistic approach would probably (sorry) sound better in atheist ears.

          • For example, the Standard Model would sound better than the various quantum interpretations?
            I can appreciate that.

  • Like you said “It was a choice”.
    Even after all the physical, metaphysical and philosophical data has been separated and clarified, one who tries to be only an observer experiences nothing. Only by entering the faith experiment can one actually have an experience; only by cooperating does one ask at all; …..and only he who asks shall receive.
    And by the way...
    “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”
    - Rush (Freewill)

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Only by entering the faith experiment can one actually have an
      experience; only by cooperating does one ask at all; …..and only he who
      asks shall receive.

      This sounds like self-indoctrination.

      “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”
      - Rush (Freewill)

      You are taking that song completely out of context. The song is promoting choosing yourself and not letting other things (including religion) choose for you.

      Let us put that quote in context.

      You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.

      If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

      You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;

      I will choose a path that's clear-

      I will choose Free Will.

      Why is that you think God cares so much about the content of our choices rather than the honesty with which we held them? Why do you think God wants us to willingly indoctrinate ourselves rather than following the truth as best as we see fit?

      • "Why is that you think God cares so much about the content of our choices rather than the honesty with which we hold them?"
        - Because God would care about how well we deal with reality. Are you a parent? Think about your question in terms of parenting.
        "Why do you think God wants us to willingly indoctrinate ourselves rather than following the truth as best as we see fit?"
        - I hear the croakings of Relativism. I'm not going there on this post.
        Don't get too hung up on song lyrics.
        Just trying to have a little fun here.
        "I don't need to fight to prove I'm right."
        The Who ;-)

        • Ignatius Reilly

          - Because God would care about how well we deal with reality. Are you a parent? Think about your question in terms of parenting.

          Exactly what does believing or not believing in Catholicism have to do with dealing with reality? I see many Catholics who deal with reality rather poorly. You seem to think that God prefers someone to believe in him without evidence and self-indoctrinate then someone who honestly disbelieves and seeks the truth as best as they are able.

          .No, I am not a parent. Parenting is a poor analogy. Personally, I would be proud of my child if he thought independently and came to his own conclusions.

          - I hear the croakings of Relativism. I'm not going there on this post.

          Seriously?!?!? This has absolutely nothing to do with my point. The question at hand is: What does God want us to do with out lives, if anything? You seem to think you have an answer to that question. I am asking for evidence. My point is that if God wanted me to believe in him, I think he would have provided more evidence.

          Don't get too hung up on song lyrics.
          Just trying to have a little fun here.

          It seemed like well poisoning to me.

          "I don't need to fight to prove I'm right."
          The Who ;-)

          I have some lyrics that are more apropos to this article:


          Don't cut yourself
          On your words against
          Dreams made of steel
          Stronger than any faith
          That inflicts pain and fear,
          Is that how it's done?
          Twisting your eyes to perceive
          All that you want
          To assume from ignorance
          Inflicting wounds with your
          Cross-turned dagger

          • ScienceJoe

            These lyrics are really relevant but in support of Ben and against your argument.

            To crooked eyes, truth may wear a wry face. - Tolkien

            As a parent, one wants her daughter to know truth, not just what can be proved. If you have hold of a truth, you want her to apprehend it, regardless of the steps taken to get there. Once apprehended, the truth can then be fully appreciated. This is what the article is about.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            These lyrics are really relevant but in support of Ben and against your argument.

            How so?

            What exactly is my argument?

            As a parent, one wants her daughter to know truth, not just what can be
            proved. If you have hold of a truth, you want her to apprehend it,
            regardless of the steps taken to get there. Once apprehended, the truth
            can then be fully appreciated. This is what the article is about.

            No, I do not want someone to believe a truth for incorrect reasoning. It is better to be agnostic till the reasoning is correct. How do you know that you are passing on to your child the truth?

            “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in
            the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full
            of doubt.”-Bertrand Russell

          • ScienceJoe

            I believe your point had to do with seeing what one wants to see or wants to believe. Did I get it right?

            I am astonished that you would really rather your child NOT believe actual truth with incorrect reasoning? I hope you would not want her to believe a falsehood with correct reasoning.

            To be clear, I am talking about truth/reality/something-as-it-is, not truth as I myself think it is. I cannot imagine wanting anything other than truth for my child because truth is always the best thing to teach. If I have truth and my child has not been able to or does not have the facts/experience to arrive independently at that truth, I think that giving her that truth is, in general, a good thing.

            Bertrand Russell is referring to whether one can be sure one knows the truth. His comment is more on the problems with people in society, rather than whether one can know truth. In any case, that is not my point.

            As to the article, your initial comment to Ben was "sounds like indoctrination" and in the article she says that it does indeed sound like it. Her point was to take the leap and see.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I believe your point had to do with seeing what one wants to see or wants to believe. Did I get it right?

            My main point was that Catholics claim to know what God wants/desires on the basis of faith, but fail to provide any evidence for God's wants and desires.

            The song was meant as a commentary on Stacy's admission that Religion brings fear as well as comfort and is based on minimal evidence.

            I am astonished that you would really rather your child NOT believe
            actual truth with incorrect reasoning? I hope you would not want her to
            believe a falsehood with correct reasoning.

            If the reasoning is incorrect, you cannot know that you have the truth. I would prefer that my child withheld judgment on things that she has not reasoned properly about.

            To be clear, I am talking about truth/reality/something-as-it-is, not
            truth as I myself think it is. I cannot imagine wanting anything other
            than truth for my child because truth is always the best thing to teach.

            How do you know you are passing down the truth?

            Besides, if I become aware of the truths of Christianity and don't accept them, I risk hell, so in that case it is better to be ignorant.

            If I have truth and my child has not been able to or does not have the
            facts/experience to arrive independently at that truth, I think that
            giving her that truth is, in general, a good thing.

            Sure, when they are young, it is good to teach them the truth about pragmatic things. The things that keep them alive, like looking both ways when crossing the street. It is also good to teach them history, science, math, etc, but the eventual goal should be for them to be able to reason about these things themselves.

            The parenting analogy fails, because God is all-powerful, while parents are only finite beings and must use finite resources.

            Bertrand Russell is referring to whether one can be sure one knows the
            truth. His comment is more on the problems with people in society,
            rather than whether one can know truth. In any case, that is not my
            point.

            The point is that the religious method of coming to knowledge, which is faith is a necessary ingredient for fanaticism. Stacy advocates a bad method to come to truths.

            As to the article, your initial comment to Ben was "sounds like
            indoctrination" and in the article she says that it does indeed sound
            like it. Her point was to take the leap and see.

            It is self-indoctrination. So the only way that I can know God is by just trying it out? That seems like a design fail on God's part.

          • ScienceJoe

            The only thing I can offer is an analogy, Belief is like falling in love. Someone in love cannot really explain it to someone who is not in love. I fully understand how unsatisfying that sounds because I was on the outside myself once. The only way to understand being in love is to let yourself fall in love. From the outside, one can find a million reasons why I shouldn't HAVE to enter into it in order to understand something. Observation and clinical examination should be sufficient, but that just isn't how it works.

            You demonstrate the "outside" position in that you state that "Stacy advocates a bad method to come to truths." On the contrary, she actually shows the only way to apprehend the truth. For some reason, God makes this truth accessible only in this way. One must enter into it in order to "get" it.

            Again, I understand how very offensive this sounds. When I don't understand something, the last thing I want to do is listen to someone who gets it talk about it. Please understand that no offense is meant.

          • William Davis

            I like what you are saying, but I think you are talking about faith, not belief as such (I believe the sun will rise, but I don't get much out of that). I found that if I have faith in reality itself (think about it as leaving everything in God's hands, and not needing to KNOW anything about his plans for sure) that I get the love without the need for any unnecessary dogma. See my other posts on this thread if you are interested, but rest assured, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about, but I'm not a Christian. To me, this gives me major benefits when it comes to approaching philosophy, history, science, and other people (I've had some great conversations with Hindus about Hinduism recently). I also get the benefits of faith, trust God will judge justly, assuming he judges and there is an afterlife (I doubt there is one in the Christian sense, but whatever God wills will be, so why worry about it, doesn't help anything). I can look at the sky and a sunset and marvel at what God has wrought. As for my kids, they can become Christian if they want to, but they will probably end up like me. Children usually follow in their parents footsteps, and my parents are Christian, but my honest pursuit of science, philosophy, and history has lead me in a different direction. I say all this to ask you to have an open mind if you kids do decide to go a different direction (mine finally have a "sort of" open mind, thanks primarily to their realization that I know vastly more about all things relevant to a world view then they do). If they stay Catholic and live a good life, than that's great too :)

          • ScienceJoe

            William,

            Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I can only say that I appreciate you and the way you think.

            One comment on your statement "I get the love without the need for any unnecessary dogma.":

            One need not know the laws of physics to appreciate a sunset nor the likelihood of the of the right conditions for a star to form in order to appreciate the night sky. Those laws and probabilities ARE faith's dogma. They are the things we CAN state about the way things are. I would say that, for me, knowing them makes the sunset and the night sky that much more amazing. The same for dogma.

            God bless you!
            Joe

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The only thing I can offer is an analogy, Belief is like falling in love.

            So it is the foundation of many bad decisions. :-)

            The problem with all of this is that I once had faith, but no longer possess it. I understand what faith is like, and I realized that it was illusion.

            Also, there are many people who try the faith experiment and never gain faith. Why? If this is how God wants us to know him, then why doesn't he give faith to those who honestly seek it?

          • William Davis

            Once apprehended, the truth can then be fully appreciated.

            It sounds like you are describing seeing a face in a cloud. Once I see the face someone else is describing, I can't unsee it, but that doesn't mean the face is actually there.

            Personally, I want my children to learn that truth comes with error bars around it. Some things have error bars so small they can be ignored, others not so much. Most truth isn't binary, completely true or false, it occurs in degrees. I also want my children to be skilled at thinking for themselves, and to be free to look at the world in a manner they chose. If you really are "ScienceJoe" I would hope you understand this from understanding the scientific method (a subset of methodological naturalism) and epistemology.

          • ScienceJoe

            Hi William, read my reply to Ignatius Reilly above. In short, not everything can be a target of scientific inquiry.

          • William Davis

            Of course, the rest is the subject of philosophical inquiry (sadly most Catholics think philosophy ended with Thomas Aquinas, sad really).

          • Pofarmer

            Richard Feynmans first principle. "We must ne careful not to fool ourselves, and we are the easiest person to fool." I think applies ti anyone who thinks they have "truth."

          • ScienceJoe

            Feynman's statement is a claim to truth. Ironic.

          • Pofarmer

            Most scientists, I think including Feynman, don't claim "truth".

          • ScienceJoe

            Even with truth (no quotes), one can even fool themselves. However, radical skepticism dismisses too many truths, IMHO.

          • Pofarmer

            I'm not sure what radical skepticism entails. Skepticism says we should be wary of the evidence for claims, and should be very wary of unevidenced claims. Not sure what "truths" you'll miss out on using that approach.

    • William Davis

      I would just like to point out that it is completely unnecessary to be a Christian to enter the "faith experiment".

      • Luc Regis

        Stacy:

        the truths of faith and the fullness of the Divine Revelation, which I discovered are guarded by the Catholic Church.

        I do think many persons enter the faith experiment as you say William, who are not Christians or not adherents of particular religion, and are just being open to the possibility that there may be an overall or underlying metaphysical aspect to reality that we are unable as yet to understand or comprehend as individuals or as a species, that is still evolving. What I find difficult to get past is the fact that some religious adherents profess adamantly to possess the truth and "fullness of Divine Revelation". I can understand that individuals take refuge in some particular ism, do so because they crave answers to the big questions, and they derive a certain comfort and meaning for their lives when they believe that a particular organization or religion has the answers. For some, uncertainty is too just too uncomfortable.

        • William Davis

          For some, uncertainty is too just too uncomfortable.

          I agree, but a smart person can use faith to overcome their discomfort with uncertainty. To me, uncertainty and mystery are what make life interesting :)

        • Andre Vlok

          That's all too simplistic. Both believers and non-believers ultimately take refuge in a worldview, in certain accepted "facts", whether consciously understood or not, without all of the pieces of that puzzle having been proven. All worldviews rest to a greater or lesser degree on unproven assumptions, hopes and leaps into the dark. In our own ways we are all proclaiming to have the truth, even if that truth is to suspend belief until some other truth comes along. Please read your comment again, and note that it speaks with the same confidence as the believer who proclaims her different truth.

          And can we really reject any reasonable truth claim if we ourselves admit that we do not have all the answers ourselves?

          I also do not believe that too many Catholics will claim to have an absolute lock on the truth. As such it's not a placebo truth to hide behind, but an admittedly provisional truth arrived at in order to live a full life. Would you not claim the same for yourself?

          Certainly both approaches are valid and rationally justifiable, but to see the one side as hiding behind comfortable lies while the other bravely strides into the unknown is really bordering on misplaced arrogance.

    • VicqRuiz

      Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.

      Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.

      But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.

      I think I'll just let the mystery be.

      - Iris DeMent

  • Mila

    Life does not get easier with faith. Mine got harder in a lot of ways, but I can soar above anxiety, suffering, and pain because I have a confidence, peace, and joy that lifts me.

    I'm often told that faith is really conformity. A form of masquerading anxieties, fears, and inquiries. A way to escape what seem to be a cruel and unknown reality. I was told many times that my faith was just a way to cope with death.
    I never understood that, since having faith has made me realize that I am in danger of dying forever. For me faith has made it harder in a lot of ways but simultaneously easier in other ways. It's easier to cope with certain mundane realities but harder to live by my faith as my faith grows. It's a daily struggle, I guess.
    I particularly like how you came to terms with your reductionist ways. That's admirable!

    • Ignatius Reilly

      I never understood that, since having faith has made me realize that I
      am in danger of dying forever. For me faith has made it harder in a lot
      of ways but simultaneously easier in other ways. It's easier to cope
      with certain mundane realities but harder to live by my faith as my
      faith grows.

      Of course! Some people stay in religion because they are scared that if they leave the religion God will punish them. Faith plays on our emotions. Some people may believe because they want to believe, while others believe because they are scared not to.

      • Mila

        Then you would agree that to have faith is not a comforting feeling or an escape from reality since, as you put it, religion plays on our emotions particularly that of fear.
        I was told many times that I was religious precisely because I was fearful of death and religion somehow gets rid of that.
        Not necessarily true though. We are all, religious and non-religious fearful of death. A relationship with God, ie religion, only gives it meaning but it doesn't take away the fear.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Religion can catalyze both positive and negative emotions. I wouldn't tell someone that they believe, because it makes them happy. I do think a significant amount of people stay religious out of fear. Anecdotally, I would say it is the majority.

          • Mila

            Ironically I think it is the opposite, many non-believers and believers who walk out of the faith do just that precisely because their emotions get in the way.
            I do also believe that the majority of people who oppose religion are doing it based on emotion.
            To single out religion as a cause for positive or negative emotions is quite drastic in my opinion.
            I also see many who oppose religion doing it out of fear. A fear to change their lives, a fear to loose human affection, a fear to confront certain things of their past, a fear of mockery, etc...
            Not all are like that, of course, but as you feel the majority of religious people are religious based out of fear, I too feel the majority of people who oppose religion (not those who disbelieve), but those who oppose religion are doing it out of fear and cowardice.
            I do agree that fear is a component of religion though. However, I do think the vast majority of non-religious folks have exactly the same fears.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Ironically I think it is the opposite, many non-believers and believers who walk out of the faith do just that precisely because their emotions get in the way

            How so? I confess to being an angry atheist at times, but I that stems mainly from the fact that I believe that the Catholic Church horribly abused the trust I placed in the Church. I occasionally get upset when I see the Church doing this to other people.

            I do also believe that the majority of people who oppose religion are doing it based on emotion.

            As in getting upset about bad things happening to good people? Or do you mean something else?

            To single out religion as a cause for positive or negative emotions is quite drastic in my opinion.

            I don't mean to single religion out - I am simply trying to get at some of the causes for religious belief. I would argue that fear plays are part as does wishful thinking. It depends on the person.

            I also see many who oppose religion doing it out of fear. A fear to change their lives, a fear to loose human affection, a fear to confront certain things of their past, a fear of mockery, etc...

            This is not something that I have experienced, but it would not surprise me.

            Not all are like that, of course, but as you feel the majority of religious people are religious based out of fear, I too feel the majority of people who oppose religion (not those who disbelieve), but those who oppose religion are doing it out of fear and cowardice

            Fear of what?

            I oppose Catholicism, because I think being raised Catholic was a bad thing for me, I think Catholicism has had a negative effect on the well-being of many people that I am close to, and I think it generally has negative utility. I don't think it is all bad, and I do believe that some people are helped by religious inclinations, but there are many many people who would be better off without religion.

            I do agree that fear is a component of religion though. However, I do think the vast majority of non-religious folks have exactly the same fears.

            Why would an all-Good God want us to fear him?
            Are non-religious folks afraid of eternal punishment? I was very afraid of it when I was religious. I don't think on it much anymore.

          • Mila

            Well, being raised Catholic myself I can't relate to your experience as mine was incredible. I now realize how growing up with it has helped me tremendously. I have people in my family who left the Church and have blamed her for all of their bad choices and still they can't seem to be happy.
            I will be eternally grateful for being given Catholicism. I am in love with it and it helps me tremendously. It's not easy, especially today but I would much rather go against this world than to be a coward and deny what I know to be true.

            Why would an all-Good God want us to fear him?

            I don't think it's the fear one feels when watching a horror movie. There is an Irish folklore saying that when a deluge happens everyone fears their lands would end up as a mud pit, however if the lands were fertile then the deluge would cause the lands to flourish. The only fear here is that something so potent can either destroy or be a blessing. It all depends on how equipped we are.
            It's more like a respect and awe of something so potent.
            And I do think that deep down in people's minds there is a seed of doubt in many non-believers. The doubt of "what if?" And I think that doubt is worse than any fear if you ask me.

          • Doug Shaver

            I have people in my family who left the Church and have blamed her for all of their bad choices and still they can't seem to be happy.

            I certainly can't blame Christianity for all the bad choices I have made. Not even for most of them. But a few of the worst choices I made were entirely due to Christian beliefs I held at the time I made them.

          • Mila

            All of this is very subjective. Your experience is so different than mine. During the years when I was away from the faith is when I made some of the worst decisions of my life. I don't blame anyone but myself though. I don't even blame my lack of faith.
            I do think though that every decision we make is our own responsibility. Always!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And I do think that deep down in people's hearts there is a seed of doubt in many non-believers. The doubt of "what if?" And I think that doubt is worse than any fear if you ask me

            Why is that doubt so bad? Suppose I am wrong about God, so what? I've been wrong before and I will be wrong again. I do not think I am wrong about God, but why is doubt bad?

          • Mila

            One of my favorite quotes from Peter Kreeft goes "Heaven is Truth embraced, hell is Truth refused. So heaven and hell are the same objective reality experienced in opposite subjective ways. Metaphorically heaven and hell are the same place, what is hell to one is heaven to the other. So the very fires of hell may consists of the eternal truth and goodness and love of God; that is ultimate reality. This eternal truth that simultaneously blesses the blessed and damns the damned is not something abstract. It is the face of God."
            Though I believe that someone who honestly has doubts, but seeks for truth is perhaps even more righteous than a nominal Christian who was given truth but rejects it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't understand what Kreeft is getting at here? If someone rejects God will he be unhappy in this life or is Kreeft talking about the next?

            Or is he talking about something else entirely?

            Suppose we have two people who both live equally righteously? Person one is an atheist and does not believe his good actions will be rewarded in the next life. Person two believes that God will reward him for his actions and if he does not do them he will be punished. Who is more righteous?

          • Mila

            It's not a matter of reward for one's actions here. It's a matter of grace. Obviously that grace will result in deeds. There have been times in my life when I thought I was righteous, but looking back I'm not so sure now. Only God knows what's in the heart of men and why people do the things they do.
            Someone can donate an incredible amount of money to save kids from starvation in Africa while another person can just be sweeping the floor of the house of an old lady across the street.
            The one who donated the money did an spectacular and huge deed, however maybe he did it for selfish reasons, while the person merely sweeping the floor of his neighbor's house did it out of love for his neighbor. So despite the fact that the person who donated a huge amount of money is probably seen as more righteous than the average person, it is the simple person sweeping the floor of his neighbor who was the real righteous one.
            My point is that we never know the motives so it's hard to say who is more righteous than the other.

            What don't you understand about Kreeft's quote? He is talking about heaven and hell.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Heaven and earth metaphorically, while we are still living, or is he talking about the afterlife?

          • Mila

            Oh...It begins here but he is talking about the ultimate destination, the afterlife....

        • William Davis

          Then you would agree that to have faith is not a comforting feeling or an escape from reality since, as you put it, religion plays on our emotions particularly that of fear.

          For me, faith is the ultimate comforting feeling, and that is because I embrace all of reality, and I trust it completely. When I meditate on this trust, I do not impose any thoughts or rationalizations onto the universe, I just experience it, and on many levels there are no words that can be put to this experience, it is nothing short of beautiful.

          I found my way to this kind of faith through mindfulness meditation, and I wish other could experience such a pure sense of faith/trust. This faith empowers my mind, and makes each day a unique experience. It makes every moment precious, and keeps my mind open to the constant influx of new experience.

          We are all, religious and non-religious, fearful of death.

          To a certain extent this is true, but many of us do not live in fear of death, because that is no way to live at all. I think it is important to accept death as a critical part of life, after all, you were dead not that long ago (before you were born). We must die to make room on this planet for our children, so consider it a necessary altruistic sacrifice for them. The only thing I truly fear is to outlive my children. That is the greatest curse a person can ever have.

    • Doug Shaver

      having faith has made me realize that I am in danger of dying forever.

      I fail to see why anyone would need faith to realize that. Most of us unbelievers have no doubt that when we die, it will be forever.

      • Mila

        I'm not talking about bodily death.

        • Papalinton

          There is another kind of death?

          • Andre Vlok

            Watching football?

          • Papalinton

            Tee Hee.

        • Doug Shaver

          There was no way for me to know that. And I'm not about to start asking everyone who talks about death, "Do you mean bodily death or some other kind of death?"

          • I think Adam and God had a similar (unreported) discussion just before humans were exiled from Paradise.

          • Papalinton

            In fact I asked Mila a serious question, "Is there another kind of death?" If she is referring to a 'spiritual' death then she contravenes the whole religious fabric of an eternal soul. Why? Because by their very own theological reasoning the soul cannot die. It can be muddied about but it can never be killed off. Once a person has been ensouled, according to Catholic rhetoric, that soul lives in perpetuity with no prospect of dying, ever. According to Catholic rationalising, when people bodily die, their souls have two choices; either they reside in heaven or they reside in Hell, forever, no ifs and/or buts. That is: " ...[it] is either rewarded with eternal heaven or condemned to an eternal hell" Wiki

            If Mila is imagining 'living in Hell' is spiritual death, then her use of the phrase has no doctrinal meaning or substance, as the soul continues to eternally exist in Hell, regardless.
            There is no instance in Catholic theology where souls can die.
            So Mila is dead wrong if she is referring to a 'spiritual death'.

  • teomatteo

    "...cook something good for us to eat together, "...
    For me that would be 'humble pie".
    My movement to faith (from scientism/materialism) was really about pride. My pride was on the line. I had to let go and let the Savior do sum save'n. (but i do (still) love science soooo much!)
    Nicely written by the way... i enjoyed it.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    I really enjoyed this article. A couple of things that I disagree with:

    A circular argument is logically valid if the premises are true, so
    again, I am not referring to the integrity of the proofs but rather to
    their ability to persuade a non-believer.

    A circular argument may be valid, but it gives us no reason to believe that the conclusion is true. If the arguments are indeed circular, then they are useless.

    But when I read comments from atheists who call these arguments
    circular, I feel a twinge of guilt too. I want to interject into the
    discussion and say, “Hey, Christian apologist, the atheist has a point.
    They can seem circular.”

    Not just atheists, but also Theists like Kant. If the arguments are sound and non-circular, why don't atheists accept them?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      If the arguments are sound and non-circular, why don't atheists accept them?

      Emotional resistance?

      • David Nickol

        Emotional resistance?

        Of course, it could also be that theists deem the "proofs" convincing because they are already emotionally committed to the conclusions.

        Also, not all theists find the "proofs" convincing.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The question was why atheists don't find them convincing. Knowing ahead of time where the argument is heading they experience a visceral reaction against them and end up denying even obvious things, like Newton's first law.

          Of course, recall Luther's condemnation of "that whore, Reason." (He was a little miffed at getting his head handed to him by Johnny Eyk in a formal disputation, much as a man bested in a duel may thereafter disparage the epee.) So another reason is unfamiliarity with the methods of forensic logic and reason.

          A third possibility is unfamiliarity specifically with the terms and categories in which the arguments are framed. Very few people would find convincing the proof that a closed and bounded Hausdorff space is compact for pretty much the same reason. One has never seen a "refutation" of Aquinas' Fab Five that did not utterly miss the point.

          A fourth reason is that Aquinas never intended his determinations to be "proofs" in the sense of a mathematical proof. Such proofs do not even occur in natural science, let alone in metaphysics. They are intended to show that belief in God is not unreasonable. But they are otherwise no more "convincing" than a logical argument that one should or should not fall in love with some particular person.

          But people who reject the Fab Five generally do not settle for "I am unconvinced I should fall in love with X". Instead, they try to insist that the arguments are circular. (Nor do they "implicitly assume the ontological argument." Aquinas does not do so and in fact explicitly rejects that argument.)

          • David Nickol

            The question was why atheists don't find them convincing.

            Well, the simple reason is that if atheists found the proofs for the existence of God convincing, they would no longer be atheists. Presumably some atheists have been won over, although apparently the number is very small.

            Knowing ahead of time where the argument is heading they experience a visceral reaction against them and end up denying even obvious things, like Newton's first law.

            Or it could be that theists, knowing where the arguments are headed, are more than willing to accept them as convincing without doing the real work of scrutinizing them with the same rigor they would bring if someone gave them proofs against God's existence.

            It seems to me inappropriate (and especially on Strange Notions) to suggest that atheists are intellectually dishonest or willfully blind or operating out of "vincible ignorance."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Actually, most "theists" are just as unacquainted with the arguments as anyone else in these times. Some indeed are willing enough to be convinced that they are convinced by false versions of these arguments.

            Not all atheists are intellectually dishonest or willfully blind. Kenny, for example, advances respectable arguments against the first way, which Oderberg has answered. However, one seldom finds it in comm boxes. It remains the case that I have never seen any objections by the usual suspects that correctly framed the nature of the arguments or the categories with which they are framed. Although I have seen the strange response when the matter is clarified that these were simply efforts to shore up the argument against their objections! This, when they predate their objections by three quarters of a millennium or more.

          • Papalinton

            ... without doing the real work of scrutinizing them with the same rigor they would bring if someone gave them proofs against God's existence.

            Or the effortless manner in which they [Christians] can summarily dismiss Allah, Ganesha, Vishnu as wrongheaded belief while concurrently promulgating the same level and standard of belief but of a different variety of supernatural superstition.

            While ever there are religions rather than religion the argument for which is the one, true and only religion is moot. The visceral nature of the competing claims as to which supernatural paradigm is the right one renders any such claim a stupidity of the intellect.

          • the effortless manner in which they [Christians] can summarily dismiss

            Word up. It's like some folk jes never heard of religious pluralism, the perennial philosophy, theological polydoxy, soteriological inclusivism and LSU baseball, huh? Oh well!

          • Papalinton

            I'm with you there Johnboy, religious pluralism, perennial philosophy etc etc. And in that sense it concedes that Christianity can only be but one of a myriad of narratives, confined by and constrained within its particular and peculiar socio-cultural imperatives rather than a universal explanatory tool and certainly not in the way, say, science transcends all socio-cultural boundaries as an explanatory tool about us, the environment, the world, the universe.
            Cheers

          • I'm with you there Johnboy

            (emphasis added for phone screenshot)

            religious pluralism, perennial philosophy etc etc. And in that sense it concedes that Christianity can only be but one of a myriad of narratives, confined by and constrained within its particular and peculiar socio-cultural imperatives

            Well, not exactly, for a Christocentric inclusivism is the regnant pluralistic paradigm for many, such as Karl Rahner, Thomas Merton and Hans Urs von Balthasar, and is further reflected in many concilar documents of the Second Vatican Council.

            rather than be claimed a universal explanatory tool

            Yes, I would definitely deemphasize the explanatory nature of religion. It's not that that it has no propositional elements, only that those aspects require serious critical-historical- literary analysis and exegesis and offer an interpretive, existential orientation to reality as a whole and humanity's more ultimate concerns, not otherwise engaged in descriptive, evidential modeling. I would emphasize, instead, the orthocommunal (right belonging), orthopathic (right desiring) and orthopraxic (right behaving) elements.

            and certainly not in the way, say, science transcends all socio-cultural boundaries as an explanatory tool about us, the environment, the world

            Right. And philosophy, too, serves as a type of transcendent lingua franca.

            the universe

            As for any deliverance by science of that explanation, it remains a confident assurance of something hoped for, a conviction of things unseen. That particular epistemic promissory note cashes out less pragmatic value, presently, than a Greek bond. This is not to suggest that methodological naturalism's not an indispensable metaphysical stipulation, only to say that its elevation to an ontological conclusion, at most, best be considered provisional, you know, like the principle of sufficient reason (you wouldn't similarly elevate that!?).

            EDIT: That NYT article was good. Thanks.

          • Papalinton

            Well, not exactly, for a Christocentric inclusivism is the regnant pluralistic paradigm for many, such as Karl Rahner, Thomas Merton and Hans Urs von Balthasar, and is further reflected in many concilar documents of the Second Vatican Council.

            It seems rather a truism that Christocentric inclusivism would indeed be viewed the regnant paradigm for Rahner, Merton, von Balthasar and the vatican council. I cannot imagine any of them ever including Islam, or Hinduism or Buddhism or Wiccan in equal standing of the truth with Christianity into their definition of pluralism. Christocentric inclusivism has a deep sense of tribalism about it, don't you think?

            Yes, I would definitely deemphasize the explanatory nature of religion.

            I think that is a well founded and good first step going forward.

            It's not that that it has no propositional elements, only that those aspects require serious critical-historical- literary analysis and exegesis and offer an interpretive, existential orientation to reality as a whole and humanity's more ultimate concerns, not otherwise engaged in descriptive, evidential modeling [sic].

            Although your have eschewed NOMA on a number of occasions here, this statement has the distinct flavour of NOMA about it. Any critical-historical-literary analysis of humanity's more ultimate concerns must of necessity be cognisant of ALL sources of evidence, proofs, facts available for informed decision making if it is to claim 'serious' for itself. To characterise science [I assume that is what you refer. What else could it be?] as merely descriptive, evidential modelling, something that one would otherwise alternately engage in, apart from the 'serious' stuff, is a foolhardy and muddleheaded conception. Science, or more broadly methodological naturalism has perhaps demonstrated to be the singularly most successful explanatory paradigm we have available.

            I would emphasize, instead, the orthocommunal (right belonging), orthopathic (right desiring) and orthopraxic (right behaving) elements.

            Interesting. But 'right' in whose eyes?

            Right. And philosophy, too, serves as a type of transcendent lingua franca.

            But only if it is informed by the widest available sources. I do think scientifically-informed philosophy has a fuller and more rounded explicative pedigree than scientifically-uninformed philosophy. Otherwise philosophy, in my view would be indistinguishable from theology or apologetics.

            That particular epistemic promissory note cashes out less pragmatic value, presently, than a Greek bond.

            I can understand your deep concern about the extensive incursions science has made into what were once unchallenged religious claims of 'reality'. And the hard yards to determining what is and what isn't 'reality, vis-a-vis religion and science has largely only been contested in any serious fashion over the last century.

            And you are right, methodological naturalism can "at most, best be considered provisional". If memory serves it has only ever made that modest claim. But I think there is more than a perceptible swing today towards intellectual and philosophical activities that engage methodological naturalism as a means by which one edges closer to 'reality' than via supernaturalism.

          • To characterise science [I assume that is what you refer. What else could it be?] as merely descriptive, evidential modelling, something that one would otherwise alternately engage in

            Science remains indispensable to all human value-realizations.

          • And you are right, methodological naturalism can "at most, best be considered provisional". If memory serves it has only ever made that modest claim.

            Methodological naturalism claims only to be methodological. Grasp of the obvious, n'est pas?

            Of course many elevate it to philosophical naturalism. Some do so ideologically, explicitly and in principle. Others do so implicitly and for all practical purposes. In either case, that's fine until they prescribe it as a universally binding norm, as if competing interpretations necessarily operate outside their epistemic rights and could not be normatively justified.

          • Papalinton

            I would say, on first principles, metaphysical naturalism [philosophical naturalism] supervenes on methodological naturalism. The process scripted in its most properly basic sense is best characterised as scientifically-informed philosophy.

            In most ways metaphysical naturalism seems to be making inroads into the deepest of challenges facing humanity a deal more successfully than metaphysical supernaturalism. Johnboy, I know and I'm pretty well sure you know, that when religious believers make faith claims, they are unexpurgated knowledge claims. It would be disingenuous in the extreme to pretend that they are not. Faith claims of religious believers are statements of fact about the world. The big challenge for metaphysical supernaturalists [religious believers] is how are they going to hold the line, as they were once able, on the claims they make going forward against the torrent of knowledge and understanding from sources outside religion and religious philosophy that are clearly counterfactual to the religious claims made. How are they gong to hold the line on their claims apart from entreaties to tradition, to convention, to Magisterial dictum, or to faith? These no longer carry sufficient import as explanatory stand-alones as they so powerfully once did.

          • One can speak too broadly about believers and too generally about the nature of their claims. Just because people have long committed category errors and might continue to do so doesn't mean that I am obliged to perpetuate such nonsense. People erroneously describing facts about the world are engaged in bad science.

          • I can understand your deep concern about the extensive incursions science has made into what were once unchallenged religious claims

            Any previous claims that didn't survive scientific challenges were necessarily scientific claims.

          • But I think there is more than a perceptible swing today towards intellectual and philosophical activities that engage methodological naturalism as a means by which one edges closer to 'reality' than via supernaturalism.

            Methodological naturalism is a descriptive method. Supernaturalism is an interpretive stance. Most supernaturalists are methodological naturalists.

          • Papalinton

            I agree pretty much with all that you say here. There is no doubt supernaturalists must of necessity live their lives as naturalists and must do as if their lives truly depended on it. Because they do. There is no alternative. As you say, supernaturalism is an interpretive stance; as is metaphysical naturalism an interpretive stance. It is arguably, in the contemporary culture war of ideas about which, metaphysical supernaturalism or metaphysical naturalism, not only
            represents but encompasses reality. I don't think a punt to supernaturalism has anywhere near the authoritative and persuasive explanatory rationale as it once commanded, and even less so today, to that of metaphysical naturalism.

          • GK Chesterton once said something along the lines that it's all extraordinary, reflecting a joy-filled evaluative disposition in his celebration of life's simplest things. In my view, it's all supernatural!

          • As you say, supernaturalism is an interpretive stance; as is metaphysical naturalism an interpretive stance. It is arguably, in the contemporary culture war of ideas about which, metaphysical supernaturalism or metaphysical naturalism, not only
            represents but encompasses reality.

            One takes an interpretive stance toward a descriptive model. A methodological stipulation, like methodological naturalism, functions as a norm, which guides probes of reality. A theological supernaturalism or philosophical naturalism functions as an interpretive stance, which represents a fallible metaphysical conclusion about reality.

            We can further differentiate between interpretive stances taken toward a descriptive model's outputs pertaining to reality's facts (de facto, like its primitives and forces) and those regarding its rules (de jure, like its uniformities and laws). These stances mark our explanatory attempts. We can realize a good degree, albeit fallible, of explanatory adequacy for our models' outputs regarding facts. Regarding reality's rules or laws or axioms, we only realize descriptive accuracy, because, while we can model the rules, we cannot explain them.. Speculative cosmology and natural theology concern themselves moreso with our descriptive models' de jure outputs, where godelian constraints apply, much less so with their factual deliverances.

          • I do think scientifically-informed philosophy has a fuller and more rounded explicative pedigree than scientifically-uninformed philosophy.

            Science and philosophy are integrally related, each necessary, neither alone sufficient, for every human value-realization. (As I set forth the hermeneutical spiral previously in this thread: We describe, evaluate, norm & interpret reality.)

          • Papalinton

            Science and philosophy yes - must be integrally related.

            Religion and God? No so much.

          • Actually, the spiral works like this:
            The normative mediates between the descriptive and the interpretive to effect the evaluative. So, interpretive stances are similarly integrated.

          • Papalinton

            Problematic. The degree of integration of the interpretive stance is entirely dependent on its congruity with the normative and descriptive.

          • The degree of integration of the interpretive stance is entirely dependent on its congruity with the normative and descriptive.

            YES!

          • To quote one of my favorite authors:

            Our cosmology would thus represent what we would consider to be Everybody’s Story, one that we
            all share, a story that is not really up for grabs. That is to recognize that we cannot go around making this stuff up ...

            Hence, descriptive adequacy and external congruence were listed, earlier in this thread, as indispensable epistemic virtues.

          • I wrote: I would emphasize, instead, the orthocommunal (right belonging), orthopathic (right desiring) and orthopraxic (right behaving) elements.
            Interesting. And you asked: But 'right' in whose eyes?

            We negotiate these values, more and less, successfully, enjoying broad consensus on general precepts but much less so on thornier biomedical issues. More generally, the practices, disciplines and asceticisms of our great traditions converge in their transformative efficacies, what Bernard Lonergan explicated in terms of human authenticity and secular conversions.

          • Papalinton

            These negotiations are probably best reflected in Roe v Wade, the abolition of slavery, the right to same-sex marriage, separation of church and state, etc etc.

          • Right. Also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Catholic Social Justice teachings, the Parliament of World Religions and so on, regarding moral realities. Regarding the manifold and multiform efficacies of the disciplines, practices and asceticisms of the great traditions, those are being recognized via interreligious dialogue and comparative theology.

            Regarding sex and gender issues,
            natural law methodologies not informed by more robustly personalist approaches remain seriously impoverished, hence they provide an example of unsuccessful negotiation both among the faithful and in the public square.

          • Christocentric inclusivism seems to convey a deep sense of tribalism about it, don't you think?

            No, rather, it would be on the shallow end of that meme pool to the extent that might truly explain this or that person's stance, which would have to be demonstrated not facilely asserted. Exclusivism would swim in the diving well, but only to the extent that might truly explain this or that person's stance, which would have to be demonstrated not facilely asserted.

          • Papalinton

            I'm unclear as to what you mean here, Johnboy.

          • Tribalism may be a valid explanation for any given apologetic, but would seem much more likely (and deep) in exclusivistic cohorts. In any event and in either case, inclusivism or exclusivism, you have a burden of proof to establish such a claim for any given theologian.

          • RE: an interpretive, existential orientation to reality as a whole and humanity's more ultimate concerns, not otherwise engaged in descriptive, evidential modeling. <<<<

            You wrote: Although your have eschewed NOMA on a number of occasions here, this statement has the distinct flavour of NOMA about it. <<<<

            It is nothing less and nothing more than methodological naturalism, science integrally related to philosophy, that delivers the live options, the competing interpretive stances, i.e. our various cosmogonies and natural theologies.

            That interpretive stances do not engage in descriptive modeling is an analytic statement, the latter delivering facts, the former
            interpreting them. So, while interpretation doesn't engage in description, it definitely engages description. Natural theology and cosmogony converge.

            By pointing out some of the subtleties in the relationship between scientific cosmology and theology, we do not intend to claim that the two are nonoverlapping magisteria (to borrow a phrase from Stephen Jay Gould). To the contrary, contemporary cosmology is fascinating precisely because it has such intricate logical relations with traditional metaphysical and theological issues.

          • Papalinton

            I think the most salient point to be taken from this entry Johnboy is this:
            "From an epistemological point of view, there are numerous obstacles to claiming that the big bang confirms the hypothesis that God exists. And from a metaphysical point of view, God's hand is not manifest even in big bang models: these models have no first state for God to create, and these models have no time for God to exist in before the big bang."

            And in the paragraph you cite, the word that best encapsulates the sentiment of the Stanford piece is, 'fascinating'. I think to draw any conclusion to suggest that, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", as confirmation of the Big Bang is simply a stretch too far.

            All religions have propounded their peculiar origins narrative about how the universe began, including Christianity. But to retroactively read the 20thC's cosmic expansion theory back into these two-millennia old origin stories is fanciful at best despite Bill Craig's valiant ecumenical attempt at resurrecting the 1,200year-old Islamic Kalam argument in support. While there might be valuable literary or cultural content here, there is little ontological or epistemic substance to underpin the religious conception.

          • Those arguments do not interest me. Godel's theorems and the Godel-like implications for cosmogony are more salient.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But people who reject the Fab Five generally do not settle for "I am unconvinced I should fall in love with X". Instead, they try to insist that the arguments are circular. (Nor do they "implicitly assume the ontological argument." Aquinas does not do so and in fact explicitly rejects that argument.)

            Firstly, we also dispute premises. I do not think that it is established that things cannot self-actualize. I find infinite regress unintuitive, but I have never seen a good argument for its impossibility, so I withhold judgment.

            Secondly, while I think a good case can be made for a first mover (or movers), every attempt I have seen to reason from that to God has failed.

            Thirdly, it is Immanuel Kant who argues that the cosmological arguments assume the ontological. One would think that that is a charge to be taken seriously, especially since it is argued by one of the most influential and important philosophers who have ever lived. Strange Feser has never tried to refute Kant on his points - Kant is a serious philosopher after all.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I do not think that it is established that things cannot self-actualize.

            If X is not yet actual, it does not exist except in potency. Something that does not exist cannot do diddly-squat, let alone "self-actualize." What "self" is there to actualize?

            I find infinite regress unintuitive, but I have never seen a good argument for its impossibility.

            An infinite regress is logically possible for a series of accidental actualizers. For example: an e-mail may in principle be forwarded an infinite number of times. The problem is that the act[uality] of forwarding does not create content, even if forwarded indefinitely. A sequence of instrumental actualizers cannot even in principle regress indefinitely, since an instrumental cause has no causal power unless actualized by another. One gear may turn another, but has no power to turn unless there is a motor of some sort involved.

            while I think a good case can be made for a first mover (or movers), every attempt I have seen to reason from that to God has failed.

            In what way? What did you think all the other quaestiones that followed the Fab Five were for? "And this all men call God." Details to follow.

            There are some thoughts on the matter here:
            https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/the-which-all-call-deus-clause-in-the-five-ways/

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If X is not yet actual, it does not exist except in potency. Something
            that does not exist cannot do diddly-squat, let alone "self-actualize."
            What "self" is there to actualize?

            Suppose I have an object that spontaneously and without cause changes color. Suppose I also know that nothing outside this object actualizes its potential to change color. Why is this impossible?

            A sequence of instrumental actualizers cannot even in principle regress
            indefinitely, since an instrumental cause has no causal power unless
            actualized by another. One gear may turn another, but has no power to
            turn unless there is a motor of some sort involved.

            The gears always had the power to turn.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Suppose I have an object that spontaneously and without cause changes
            color.

            In other words, suppose that your conclusion is true? It is much easier to come to a conclusion if you assume it up front.

            Suppose I also know that nothing outside this object actualizes
            its potential to change color. Why is this impossible?

            It's not impossible. It's well known that a change in a body as a whole may be brought about by a change in one of its parts. Thus, a kitten may move across a room because it is moved by its legs. But in order for the kitten to be actually moved, the legs must actually move.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In other words, suppose that your conclusion is true? It is much easier to come to a conclusion if you assume it up front.

            No, I am not assuming my conclusion. I am asking if there is a proof by contradiction that makes it so I cannot assume that statement. Is that statement metaphysically impossible? If so, why?

            It's not impossible. It's well known that a change in a body as a whole may be brought about by a change in one of its parts. Thus, a kitten may move across a room because it is moved by its legs. But in order for the kitten to be actually moved, the legs must actually move.

            I mean completely uncaused. There is no reason why the square changed from blue to green. It just did.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I mean completely uncaused. There is no reason why the square changed from blue to green. It just did.

            I'm not that ready to throw natural science under the bus.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Is causation necessary to natural science? One could argue that natural science only needs to elucidate descriptions and not causes. If science elucidates a cause then that is a bonus.

            Secondly, what if there are plenty of other things that are caused? I am only positing the existence of one uncaused thing. We could still do natural science on everything else.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Is causation necessary to natural science?

            Certainly if one wishes to produce physical theories like that of gravitation or natural selection.

            One could argue that natural science only needs to elucidate descriptions and not causes.

            This was the error that al-Ghazali and Hume made, and which killed natural science in the House of Submission. Technology needs only to know "if you do this, then that happens," but science seeks for understanding. See China for an example in which a high technology was achieved without any natural science.
            Juan Yuan wrote regarding Western theories of heliocentrism: “Our ancients sought phenomena and ignored theoretical explanation... It does not seem to me the least inconvenient to ignore Western theoretical explanations and simply to consider facts.”

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Certainly if one wishes to produce physical theories like that of gravitation or natural selection.

            I think Newton was successful, because he didn't worry to much about causes. He didn't worry about the source of gravity just its law.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Newton was a mathematician at heart. His book recall was Principia mathematica. He was trying to get at the middle layer: the mathematical laws, not at the top layer: the physical theories.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            He seemed to also have a lot of scientist in his heart as well. He did prick his eyes with needles to better understand optics.

          • Daniel G. Fink

            It would seem Feser addresses Kant's objections to cosmological arguments in his work, "Aquinas"...

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/11/chastek-and-coffey-contra-kant.html

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Perhaps. Judging by his previous work, I am not very optimistic that it is a very serious critique.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I did not accept the arguments when I was a theist, so I don't think that explains it.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          I'm not sure why not. A great many theists of the fideist bent are also impatient with logic and reason.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Perhaps. I find the supposed proofs lack the rigor of mathematics. I also find that the premises are argued circularly or from example. Then when an example is presented that calls a premise into question - the defender of the 5 ways shifts the burden of proof.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Of course they lack the rigor of mathematics. They are metaphysical determinations, not mathematical proofs. Theories in natural science also lack the rigor.

            I also find that the premises are argued circularly

            It would be so much more convincing if you could actually show where the arguments are circular.

            I also find that the premises are argued ... from example.

            It would be so much more convincing if you could actually show where an example was the premise of an argument rather than an illustration.

            when an example is presented that calls a premise into question - the defender of the 5 ways shifts the burden of proof.

            An example of such an example and of such a shifting would bolster your position.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Of course they lack the rigor of mathematics. They are metaphysical determinations, not mathematical proofs. Theories in natural science also lack the rigor.

            My point was that one could love reason and even be a competent reasoned and not accept the five ways.

            It would be so much more convincing if you could actually show where the arguments are circular.

            Karlo Broussard's first piece when he assumes that only finite regresses are possible to disprove infinite regresses.

            Indeed any disproof of infinite regress that I have seem assumes the negation.

            It would be so much more convincing if you could actually show where an example was the premise of an argument rather than an illustration.

            The Kreeft piece that appeared on this site: The Efficient Causality Argument

            Honestly, in most conversations about cosmological arguments the examples do the heavy lifting.

            An example of such an example and of such a shifting would bolster your position.

            Anything by Feser. ;-) In particular, I am thinking of his pieces on radioactive decay that appeared on this website.
            I apologize for not providing links - disqus keeps deleting every link that I post.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            An infinite regress is not possible in a series of instrumental causes. It is at least possible in concept in the case of accidental causes.

            That is, you do not prove that infinite regress is impossible. You prove that a particular series must terminate because infinite regress of instrumental causes is impossible.

            You keep referring to other postings, but you do not tell us what it was in those postings that was circular.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            From the article by Karlo:

            The second line of reasoning for disproving Hypothesis ~F shows that if the series of conditioned realities regresses ad infinitum without an unconditioned reality the series itself would be equivalent to nothing. Take for example, as we did before, the cells that the cat is dependent upon. The cells cannot be existing conditions for the cat without the existence of amino acids and proteins. But amino acids and proteins cannot exist as conditions for the cell unless molecules exist. Similarly, molecules cannot be existing conditions for the amino acids and proteins unless atoms exist and the atoms cannot exist as fulfilled conditions for molecules unless protons exist.

            Now, if the series regresses infinitely to more and more fundamental conditions that have the same existential status as the aforementioned conditions, then the search for the fulfillment of conditions would go on endlessly. But if the search for the fulfillment of conditions would go on endlessly, then every hypothetical conditioned reality in the series would never have its conditions fulfilled and thus would never come into existence. No matter where we’re at in the series we’ll always come to a conditioned reality that is nonexistent because it is existentially dependent upon other nonexistent conditioned realities

            To restate precisely:
            Definition: X is a condition for Y iff Y can only exist if X exists. We write Y->X

            Suppose there exists an X that has infinitely many conditioned realities. We write X->X1->X2->X3->X4....Xk.....

            Karlo's proof is as such. Consider Xk. Xk cannot exist unless X(k+1) exists, which cannot exist unless X(k+2) exists, and so on. Therefore Xk does not exist, therefore X does not exist. This argument is circular, because it assumes Xk can exist with a finite number of conditions.

            It also uses induction improperly, similarly to the cigar thought experiment in Hilbert's Grand Hotel.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You could offer proof that a particular series much terminate.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Certainly. An instrumental cause cannot act unless it is concurrently acted upon. For example, a golf club cannot drive the ball unless it is concurrently being swung by a golfer. If there is no non-instrumental cause in the series, then none of the instrumental causes have any causal power and there would be no effect. But we have observed the effect. Therefore, there must be a non-instrumental cause. (Modus tollens)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What if the golfer let go of the club, and the club luckily managed to hit the golf ball?
            What is the non-instrumental cause with regard to the golfer?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a) It is not an argument for a physical theory of golf balls.
            b) The example is simply an example. What you are proposing is a different example.
            c) In which case, we have to ask how the golf club managed to whack a drive on a golf ball without having been swung by a golfer. (A club, if dropped, is more likely to simply knock the ball off the tee than to drive it.)

  • This piece is titled the "Circular Proofs of God" but in fact none of the arguments identified are circular. The Ontological argument is circular, so is the Moral Argument, depending on how one defines morality.

    The the Unmoved Mover, the First Cause, the Argument from Contingency, and the Argument from Design are not circular, the problem they have is that they are arguments from ignorance. (I am not familiar with the Argument from Degree.) This fallacy comes from using a lack of knowledge to prove a conclusion. e.g. I don't know what caused the Universe, or even if had a cause, therefore I know what caused the Universe, God did.

    But she does not attempt to defend the arguments, and seems to concede that they are weak. She then identifies a number of theological positions she holds, which she also seems to concede she cannot defend: souls, the afterlife, miracles. She seems to imply that it is not things like empirical observation and reason which allows us to arrive at these conclusions, but other means: desire, willingness, choice.

    If Dr Transocos were to stop here I would congratulate her and say I respect that position. If theists were clear that their theological conclusions are not logical, reasonable, or empirical, but based on a desire for it to be true and choosing to believe it, rather than being convinced by defensible reasons, I would have little to discuss on sites like this.

    But she goes on to suggest that the faith she has in these conclusions is similar to the "faith" she was required to have in chemistry. This is absurd. Not all trust and "faith" and respect for authority are the same.

    There are enormously important distinctions between the reasons scientists say an electron exists versus the reasons theists accept Jesus' resurrection, for example. While no single person can do all the experiments, every chemist will do many, and ALL the experiments CAN be conducted by humans. She portrays scientific education as if students are just told the results of experiments and ask to trust that it is true. Any high school student knows this is not the case, but that science students perform experiments. Electrons cannot be seen, but they can certainly be detected and understood.

    By contrast, there are no experiments we can do to detect God. All we can go on is ancient scriptures and tradition as well as a desire and willingness and choice to believe. How do I know if I have had an experience of God? Just about anything seems to qualify, from appreciating beauty, to accepting that there is "existence" to literally meeting a physically resurrected Jesus and putting your finger in his wounds. This is not in any sense comparable to how science reaches conclusions. This is why it is called "theology" not science. It just not the case that both Chemists belief in electrons and Catholics believe in souls, both on the same kind of trust on thingg written in books and appeals to authority, because there is no way to check. Come on!

    If you accept that the apologetics for theism fall short, I applaud you. But don't then suggest that science falls short in its conclusions and evidence in anything like a similar way.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Well said.

      The the Unmoved Mover, the First Cause, the Argument from Contingency

      It is argued by some that these arguments are circular, because they implicitly assume the ontological argument.

      Edit: Wrong Word

    • William Davis

      To me, this article is simply about the power of faith, and is a personal testimony of it. Faith IS extremely powerful, but it is not necessary to embrace a specific belief system to have it. Unlike normal belief, simple faith is a childlike trust, but like anything powerful this trust can be easily abused and/or misused if one is not careful. My faith is in reality itself, not that it will do anything for me, but I just accept it and trust it however it is, wherever it ends up. Some argue that trust in reality is unwarranted without God, but I disagree, reality could simply BE God, so that's like saying trust in God is unwarranted without God.

      I did not and do not know if I could or can do what faith might demand, which sets me up for failure, which sets me up for fear, which plunges me into anxiety.

      Quotes like these concern me sometimes because it reminds me of "Pilgrim's Progress". If faith ever convinces you to abandon your family; I'm sorry, there is something wrong with your faith. If your faith encourages you to be dishonest with yourself and/or others, there is something wrong with your faith. The progression should be to a better faith, as opposed to no faith.

      • Doug Shaver

        Unlike normal belief, simple faith is a childlike trust

        Trust in what?

        • William Davis

          In reality itself. It doesn't require any logic on top of it, it's a state of mind.

          • Doug Shaver

            Trust in what?

            In reality itself.

            What does that mean? How would we act differently if we didn't trust reality?

          • William Davis

            When I was younger I had problems with anxiety and depression. What I just tried (and probably failed) to explain is what cured me, and made my life so much richer. Paranoid people don't trust reality. We can try to subdivided and put words on top of it, but I think, at it's very core, it's a mental state. I founded through meditation, but this guy does a way better job of explaining it (using different words, but it's the general idea):

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Kabat-Zinn

            Probably his best book is:

            http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-Go-There-Are/dp/1401307787

            but there are others. I think he gets to the heart of what people need from religion, but that is just my opinion. I know it has done a world of good for me, my family, and everyone I know. What I do, my attitude, and what I think affects everyone around me. Both good and bad attitudes are contagious.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not the sort of atheist who says religion has never done anyone any good. I do believe that whatever real benefits religion provides can be provided by other means, but I'm not interested in trying to persuade those who are getting those benefits now that they should try another way to get them.

          • William Davis

            When I got here, everyone was testifying about how their faith has helped them, and I did the same, though it isn't Christian faith. If someone has a problem with that, there is something wrong with them, not me.
            I've learned a lot from this site, and find the conversations interesting, but I do hope to be able to influence Christianity for the better. I hope to influence the entire world for the better within my very limited means. I have no desire to "deconvert" anyone, after all, I'm not an atheist, but I do hope to open the minds of some Christians. I think it will improve their life, I know it has improved mine. I also think certain specific elements of the Christian faith contribute to psychological problems in some people, and I'm more than happy to point that out, there is no reason to consider Christianity an all or nothing proposal (though many Christians look at it this way).
            Out of curiosity, if you have no desire to influence anyone else, why do you comment on the site? I assume you don't mind my asking. Have you put much thought into what motivates you? I think understanding motivation is critical to making the world better. I hope to motivate my children to be as interested in learning as I am, and I hope understanding motivation itself better can help me do that :)

          • Daniel G. Fink

            William, this was my point about the question you "didn't understand" yesterday.

            But I thought devotees of Spinozism aimed at eliminating the emotions if at all possible? "Where there is hope, there is fear", etc.

          • William Davis

            That's the opposite of the truth:

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/emotions-17th18th/LD5Spinoza.html

            In fact, it was Descarte that wanted to get rid of emotions, Spinoza thought this completely off base, and it looks like he is right from our understandings from the cognitive sciences. I'll quote from a short article that is a great read (much more direct than all the stuff from stanford)

            As for Descartes' view of the mind as a reasoning machine, Spinoza thought that was dead wrong. Reason, he insisted, is shot through with emotion. More radical still, he claimed that thoughts and feelings are not primarily reactions to external events but first and foremost about the body. In fact, he suggested, the mind exists purely for the body's sake, to ensure its survival.

            http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/hsts412/doel/dvs.htm

            I'd urge you to examine someone's philosophy before you dismiss it out of hand. Whoever told you Spinoza wanted to get rid of emotions told you a straight up lie.

          • Doug Shaver

            I didn't say I don't want to influence anyone. I was admitting the existence of some people who might possibly not derive any benefit from my influence.

          • William Davis

            Ok, sorry if I misunderstood you. You are definitely correct there, no one can influence someone who does not want to be influenced, or at least allow themselves to be influenced.

          • Doug Shaver

            no one can influence someone who does not want to be influenced, or at least allow themselves to be influenced.

            True enough, but not exactly my point. My point was to admit that, for all I know, some religious people might be better off without my influence.

          • William Davis

            I guess you are right about that. I don't typically go around to Christian sites messing with Christians who do not invite it. I do defend liberal Christians from fundies when I get the chance. All bets are off on a sight like this though, come here, you see what you see :)

          • Doug Shaver

            All bets are off on a sight like this though, come here, you see what you see :)

            Yep. When they say, "Tell me why you disagree," I'm ready to go.

          • William Davis

            I'll try to approach this another way right quick.
            Christians believe that the universe is tainted with sin, therefore they do not trust anything physical ( in general) only God who is of a separate substance than the universe.
            I'm a monist, so in a strong sense the universe is a part of God (if you think God is ONLY the universe then you are an atheist, but I think there is to it than that, but I obviously can't prove it). Therefore when I have faith in God, I have faith in everything, including the universe.
            Sin is just a human concept developed for human purposes. To condemn the entire universe because a few people behave badly makes absolutely no sense to me.

          • Doug Shaver

            Christians believe that the universe is tainted with sin,

            I never heard that when I was a Christian. All I ever heard was that this world we live on is tainted with sin, not any other part of the universe.

          • William Davis

            That's because Christianity was built upon a bronze age cosmology where the "universe" was the flat earth, sheol or hades was below the earth, and the heavens were above the earth. They even thought stars were angels, or "heavenly bodies" (I can quote Bible verses to demonstrate).
            Think about it for a second, if only this world were tainted with sin, then we should magically become immortal when we escape the earth. Sin is what causes death right? If sin were really the cause of death, then the fact that we can die anywhere in the universe would imply the the entire universe is tainted. I doubt many Christians have put this much thought into though, lol.

          • Daniel G. Fink

            There's a reason Catholic, Orthodox, and many mainstream Christians "haven't put much thought into it". The inherent presence of sacramentality, i.e., God conveys his grace through the senses, his creation. Or, God-as-Sanctifier doesn't ignore what God-as-Creator has done. God meets man right where he created him.

          • William Davis

            Huh?

          • Doug Shaver

            If I want to know what Christians believe, I'm going to ask a Christian.

            Sin is what causes death right? If sin were really the cause of death, then the fact that we can die anywhere in the universe would imply the the entire universe is tainted.

            I think your argument depends on an equivocation about causation.

          • William Davis

            I can just use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, since we are on a Catholic site, it makes what I said completely clear. I have done my homework (not to mention being raised by fundamentalists and my Dad is a preacher):

            400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.286

            402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned."289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p7.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            (not to mention being raised by fundamentalists and my Dad is a preacher)

            You say you were raised by them. You don't say you were ever one of them. When I became a Christian, it wasn't because my parents wanted me to, because they didn't. At least, they didn't want me to become the kind of Christian I became. But, being the adolescent that I was, I didn't care a lot whether they approved of what I was doing.

            I can just use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, since we are on a Catholic site, it makes what I said completely clear.

            I can read, too, and I don't see it confirming everything you said. Specifically, it doesn't get from your premise to your conclusion. It says that we sinned, and that because we sinned, we die. It also says that because we sinned, everything else living on this world dies. Death is therefore a consequence of our behavior, not of something that happened to the entire universe. We and the rest of life on this world became out of harmony with "visible creation." Nothing happened to creation. It all happened to us.

          • William Davis

            I can read, too, and I don't see it confirming everything you said.

            I hope you don't think I implied you can't read, far from it, I think you are very bright :)

            It also says that because we sinned, everything else living on this world dies

            Perhaps our problem is our interpretation of "creation". If I'm right, you are interpreting creation as just our world, but I'm interpreting creation as the whole universe. Way back, we did think that just our world was all of creation (as I mentioned earlier) but that is not what the word creation means, creation would have to now include the universe. Here is a good article, and it goes into detail as to why Catholics reject Spinoza's monism. If I'm wrong here let me know, I'd like to figure out why we are interpreting this differently if I can :)

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04470a.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            I hope you don't think I implied you can't read

            Sorry about the snark, but you said in effect, "Here's something that confirms what I'm saying," and I didn't see the confirmation.

            I'm a little pressed for time at the moment, so I'll address the rest of your post later.

          • Doug Shaver

            you are interpreting creation as just our world, but I'm interpreting creation as the whole universe.

            If the question is, What do Christians believe? then the only relevant interpretation is their interpretation. You said, "Christians believe that the universe is tainted with sin." If they don't admit to believing that, then in this context they're not interpreting "creation" to mean "the whole universe." Or, they could be thinking that there is a sense in which one could say, in reference to some entity, that the whole entity is tainted even though the taint actually affects only a particular part of it.

          • William Davis

            I see. The Christians I was brought up around thought Original sin contaminated the whole universe, and so do a couple I've talked to on the net. This doesn't mean every Christian does of course, but I'm so used to it having that meaning, I take it for granted. I'm guessing you've been talking to people on the net longer than I have, so you are saying I'm using a minority opinion on the subject? I can believe that, I've never polled many Christians on the topic.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Christians I was brought up around thought Original sin contaminated the whole universe, and so do a couple I've talked to on the net. This doesn't mean every Christian does of course, but I'm so used to it having that meaning, I take it for granted.

            OK, I can understand that.

            I'm guessing you've been talking to people on the net longer than I have, so you are saying I'm using a minority opinion on the subject?

            I'm going more by what I remember hearing when I was a Christian myself than what I've heard on the Internet. When the subject has arisen in the forums where I've been hanging out, the Christians' comments seemed generally to confirm what I remembered.

            That noted, I can't justifiably claim to have been exposed to a representative sample of Christian thinking on this particular subject. When I first heard the Genesis story as a believer, it never occurred to me to think that the Fall affected anything but this particular world. It is possible that everything I've heard about it since that time has been filtered through that supposition. And, that being so, it's possible that your interpretation is more common than I suspect it is.

    • If theists were clear that their theological conclusions are not logical, reasonable, or empirical, but based on a desire for it to be true and choosing to believe it, rather than being convinced by defensible reasons, I would have little to discuss on sites like this.

      Well, I look forward to seeing you around because there's going to be a lot to discuss!

      I reject NOMA (non-over-lapping magisteria) and read nothing into what Dr. Trasancos wrote that would be necessarily inconsistent with my own epistemology.

      I fully expect theological arguments, like all other arguments, to be logical and reasonable. From an empirical perspective, I expect descriptive adequacy of all arguments. Many arguments, theological and otherwise, will not enjoy explanatory adequacy, due solely to the nature of what they're aspiring to explain. The nature of what's at stake in any given argument can vary in existential import, evaluative meaning, performative significance and normative impetus, leaving us to choose among several live, often vital, options. Many arguments, then, may not be evidentially conclusive but certainly can be metaphysically suggestive, may not be existentially decisive but certainly can be eminently actionable.

      Of course any interpretive move from descriptive to explanatory adequacy aspires to overcome ignorance, but the tautological nature otherwise often results from our employing concepts that may or may not successfully refer, whether we're talking about time using imaginary numbers (square root of negative one) or putative primal causes (efficient, material, formal, final, moral, etc). The use of such concepts can embed conclusions in one's premises, such that, if those concepts did refer, the arguments would be --- not only valid, but --- sound.

      Finally, I didn't take what Dr. Trasancos wrote about intellectual assent to be her exhaustive description of scientific methodology (I suppose because that would seem rather absurd). I took it merely as an example of the efficacious role assent can play throughout our lives, now and then, here and there.

      Now, I may have been projecting and reading my own stances into her article, so, I don't offer this as a definitive clarification.

      • I don't accept NOMA either nor do I think I suggested this.

        Most theological arguments, rather, religious apologetics, are logically valid, but they suffer from fallacies or speculative premises, rendering them extremely weak.

        Frankly, I think we can and should be rather dismissive of proofs that can rise only to the level of "metaphysically suggestive". Anything can be metaphysically suggestive.

        As I said in my comment, I took her to strongly suggest that the trust and respect for authority students of chemistry must have is similar to that required to accept miracles and the existence if the soul, if this is the case she is talking nonsense.

        • William Davis

          As I said in my comment, I took her to strongly suggest that the trust and respect for authority students of chemistry must have is similar to that required to accept miracles and the existence if the soul, if this is the case she is talking nonsense.

          I agree with you complete. We use chemistry to work miracles every minute of every day. What proof of chemistry (and the methods of science in general)? Start your car, take medicine, put on super comfortable state of the art cloths....

          • The distinction we need to keep in mind is that between the rules of evidence and burdens of proof, the former establishing one's epistemic rights, the latter establishing the normative impetus for oneself and/or others.

            In avoiding NOMA, we recognize that intellectual assent operates the same way in all probes of reality. So, she's right in that regard. The normative impetus is not the same for the deliverances of long-established theoretic chemistry versus various metaphysical conceptions because the former are robustly probabilistic, the latter weakly plausibilistic. Various quantum interpretations of the Standard Model could fall somewhere in between those.

            Now, I didn't take her to be suggesting that the normative impetus is the same, because that would entail her believing that intellectual assent is an exhaustive account of the methods of chemistry, which also include empirical measurements, probabilistic models, hypothetical falsification, etc. That would not be a generous interpretation.

          • William Davis

            I would rather imagine that something was said inartfully rather than to believe she's a pseudo-chemist.

            Oh, I like the article overall, and definitely don't think she is a pseudo-chemist. I just make a much bigger distinction in my confidence in chemistry compared to my confidence in my interpretation of reality as a whole.

          • Well put. I keep forgetting, but am now reminded in the context of another reference to dogs (your earlier response to the OP). Did you hear about the agnostic dyslexic insomniac? She stayed up all night wondering if there really is a dog.

          • William Davis

            Lol, at least have dna evidence now to prove "dog" isn't just all in our heads. Here's a kangaroo that with an identity crises, while we're on the subject. I got this one from Michael Murray:

            http://abcnews.go.com/International/meet-dusty-australian-pet-kangaroo-thinks-dog/story?id=30557833

        • I don't accept NOMA either nor do I think I suggested this.

          I assumed that you reject NOMA. My point was, rather, that I could not see where anything in the article necessarily differed from my own axiological epistemology, which rejects NOMA.

          Most theological arguments, rather, religious apologetics, are logically valid, but they suffer from fallacies or speculative premises, rendering them extremely weak.

          Thus natural theology and speculative cosmology converge. As I pointed out, many arguments, theological and otherwise, will not enjoy explanatory adequacy, due solely to the nature of what they're aspiring to explain.

          Frankly, I think we can and should be rather dismissive of proofs that can rise only to the level of "metaphysically suggestive". Anything can be metaphysically suggestive.

          In your anxiety to annihilate metaphysics, you will get rid of natural science.

          I set out criteria for what I meant by metaphysically suggestive: I fully expect theological arguments, like all other arguments, to be logical and reasonable. From an empirical perspective, I expect descriptive adequacy of all arguments.

          Now, in each competing interpretation that aspires to explanatory adequacy, whether in philosophy of mind, quantum mechanics or pre-planck era cosmogony, the putative account will go beyond descriptive adequacy in an ontologically suggestive way, which is to say suggesting where we might next turn our attention and deploy our methods. Only a logical positivism (radical empiricism) would be a priori dismissive of such arguments and a theological ignosticism cannot be nonarbitrarily differentiated from same.

          As I said in my comment, I took her to strongly suggest that the trust and respect for authority students of chemistry must have is similar to that required to accept miracles and the existence if the soul, if this is the case she is talking nonsense.

          Intellectual assent is but one furnishing in our epistemic suite. It, along with various rules of evidence, inferential processes and pragmatic justifications, works the same for all types of speculative reasoning, whatever the nature of the reality under consideration. I took her to suggest that such epistemic warrants work the same in all spheres of human concern and not at all to suggest that intellectual assent exhausts her approach to science and theology.

          Now, to your point, that surely there must be some way to differentiate the deliverances of science from those of faith, which will have entailed an existential leap (with additional, novel priors. They are not differentiated in terms of epistemic warrant, epistemic virtue or rules of evidence, for epistemology is epistemology is epistemology. Rather, they are differentiated in terms of normative justification, existential actionability or burdens of proof. When competing interpretations enjoy only descriptive and not also explanatory adequacy, they enjoy less normative impetus. One can reasonably remain within one's epistemic rights while either accepting or rejecting one interpretation or another. One would manifestly not be within one's epistemic rights, would have no normative justification, when rejecting the standard theoretic interpretations of chemistry but would enjoy some latitude in choosing a quantum interpretation. Similar latitude presents for worldviews vis a vis humanity's ultimate concerns.

          • "They are not differentiated in terms of epistemic warrant, epistemic virtue or rules of evidence, for epistemology is epistemology is epistemology."

            I disagree, I think they are differentiated by standards of proof and degree of skepticism. Scientific inquiry judges

          • What I was identifying is what I saw to be a virtually meaningless standard of proof in "metaphysically suggestive". It would be meaningless if one applied this standard by which to accept something as being true.

            It's a normative justification, an equiprobability principle, which
            prescribes a living as if thus and such is the case when we are otherwise confronted with competing interpretations and no other way to adjudicate them.

            What's at stake is moreso what one intends to do, performatively, less so whether one has acquired explanatory adequacy, informatively. Identical jurors could find one innocent, criminally, but liable, civilly, without being irrational or incoherent.

            You have not demonstrated that my criteria for metaphysically suggestive are meaningless, but only continue to assert same. I contend that, if you reject my criteria, you will do away with philosophy of mind, quantum interpretations and speculative cosmogony, not just philosophical theology.

          • Maybe I have you wrong, but it seems to me that by metaphysically suggestive, you mean something that has not been proven impossible.

            The standard is so low that all claims except those logically incoherent are included. Atheism and theism, for example are both not proven impossible.

          • I also wrote:

            The dyadic cycling, nevertheless, plays an indispensable role in discovery, although it can vary in degrees of epistemic virtue and normative impetus.

            The metaphysically suggestive, while not achieving explanatory adequacy must demonstrate descriptive adequacy and that entails a litany of epistemic virtues, such as external congruence (empirically), internal coherence, logical consistency, hypothetical fecundity, pragmatic utility, interdisciplinary consilience, existential actionability, ontological parsimony, abductive facility, and many other such truth-indicative criteria as are often factored into a bayesian-like calculus, in addition to one's priors.

            Now, it does recognize that one might reasonably hold a theological, atheological or nontheological perspective, that epistemic rights pertaining to putative primal and/or ultimate realities, at this stage of humankind's journey, transist across worldviews. This is not a weakness but, rather, a strength. It does, for example, eliminate many versions of those otherwise divergent accounts, approaches that would, for example, pretend to cursorily dismiss others' worldviews or that might arrogantly imagine that others' epistemic rights could be rather facilely disestablished. It includes, for example, only those approaches that would conform to the truth-indicative, pragmatic criteria of Lonergan's account of human authenticity, including intellectual, affective, moral and social conversions, as well as orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic transformative dynamics and axiological efficacies.

            Per this approach, the burden of proof for the normative justification of existential stances toward ultimate reality allows one free exercise of one's evaluative dispositions and interpretive practices, disciplines and asceticisms. This accords with universally established norms as are codified in the 1st Amendment (re: US Constitution) as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other world polities. Are you proposing changes to such norms?

            Per this approach, the burden of proof for the normative justification of moral and practical stances toward proximate realities (self, others and our planet) requires robustly probabilistic analyses, because these realities are transparent to human reason in a way that putative primal and ultimate realities are not. One might recognize, then, that an essentially religious argument will lack normative impetus when reasoning with others in the public square about moral and political realities.

          • Sorry, I guess I just can't discuss in this lingo. You will have to use plain language. You are using far to many obscure or technical terms for me.

            For example, I don't understand what you mean by "normative". This just doesn't work in a comment section with lay people.

          • Think of it this way, perhaps. Humans realize values (the axiological) in a methodological spiral where we encounter a reality and ask 1) what is that? so, descriptively, we describe it; 2) what's that to me? or us (since we are radically social animals)? so, evaluatively, we evaluate it; 3) how might we best acquire/avoid that? so, normatively, we norm it, which means that we establish both practical and moral rules or principles or norms for realizing values or avoiding their frustration; and 4) how do we tie this all together (or re-ligate, tie back together)? in an actual response to or engagement of reality? so, interpretively, we interpret reality, which, from a pragmatic perspective is no idle speculation but a lived response, a living as if.

          • But to accept something as true, I think we should at least have a standard of "a balance of probabilities". I am not sure theologians do this. Certainly natural theology seems to me to apply a lower standard.

            Sometimes we act when evidentially challenged. St. Alphonsus Ligouri developed a moral doctrine called equiprobabilism, but it's principles certainly can be extrapolated to other normative justifications, for all practical purposes.

            Now, when it comes to primal and/or ultimate realities, with only
            logical consistency and evidential plausibility available, presently at least, interpretations thus compete. And because plausibility and abductive inference are so weak probabilistically, even the best interpretations will be merely equiprobable. People can thus be within their epistemic rights to live as if (existential disjunction) a given interpretation is true, provisionally, even though the evidence isn't clear and convincing, even though the evidence hasn't been established beyond a reasonable doubt, even if other competent jurors disagree regarding the preponderance of the evidence, for, as the philosophical consensus maintains, a Scottish verdict has thus far been returned --- neither proved nor disproved, but --- not proved.

          • Again, you are moving the conversation. We were not discussing the standard for when to act at all, but when to accept something as true.

            "Now, when it comes to primal and/or ultimate realities, with only logical consistency and evidential plausibility" - I do not see why that would have to be the case. Not sure what you mean by these terms. I think for any argument we can discuss its logical coherency (a lack of inconsistency) and validity. No idea what you mean by 'evidential plausibility". If there is evidence, we can discuss whether it is relevant and what it implies.

            Of course someone can accept something is true where reason says only that it is possible. It depends on the claim and the action they are going to take.

            I think a reasonable standard of proof in discussions like these is the balance of probabilities, not beyond a reasonable doubt or a scientific standard.

          • Again, you are moving the conversation. We were not discussing the standard for when to act at all, but when to accept something as true.

            Moving the conversation? We are in a forum discussing faith and reason, in general, and an article about one person's faith experiences, in particular.

            Unless one narrowly and inaptly misconstrues faith in evidential terms, excluding its existential nature, the normative justifications matter immensely!

            Furthermore, haven't you and I already reached a modest consensus on the evidential aspect --- that the arguments are weak? If so, I reckon our discussion has played out and thank you for your time and thoughtful engagement. Otherwise, the normative implications loom large, for many question the reasonableness of faith? Perhaps you do not?

          • I think a reasonable standard of proof in discussions like these is the balance of probabilities, not beyond a reasonable doubt or a scientific standard.

            Probability, robustly conceived, doesn't come into play unless we're talking about interpretations that are hypothetically falsifiable, empirically measurable, inductively accessible, etc That's exactly why discussions of this nature only traffic in terms of logical consistency and evidential plausibility, trading intuitions and counterintuitions and resolving little thereby.

          • No idea what you mean by 'evidential plausibility".

            In the olden days, they employed what was called scholastic notation. In one's notes, for this or that proposition, one would indicate whether it was presented as possible, plausible, probable, certain, uncertain, implausible, improbable or impossible.

            What I mean is not unrelated to that but moreso grounded in Peirce's account of inference, in general, abduction, in particular.
            I'm sure you are familiar with the semantic logic of deduction and induction, respectively reasoning from the general to the specific and vice versa. Deduction is strong, induction weak and abduction weaker still. Abduction sometimes involves transduction, reasoning from analogy, sometimes what is called retroduction, which is like what we often call inference to the best explanation.

            Sometimes, we reason backwards from known effects or properties to unknown causes or actualities. We infer things like the Higgs boson or dark energy or even imaginary time and, eventually, enjoy some methodological success, even if via indirect confirmations, because our tools improve, such as particle accelerators! Our inference to the best explanation then enjoys probabilistic inductive testing rather than mere plausibilistic interpretation.

          • I am familiar with some of that, but you still haven't explained what you mean by evidential plausibility.

          • It means an interpretation of available evidence is, more or less, plausible. The discussion addressed why we might say more, in this case, less in that.

    • Mike

      If no one has ever actually seen an electron how can we be so sure they exist? If they are only some "logical necessity" of a bunch of "fancy" math maybe we only think they're there because we've "baked" them into the fabric of our universe via the math we've chosen to describe nature in the first place!

      • They are detected by other means. After all, when you "see" something all you are doing is detecting the effect photons have had by reflecting off its surface, with your eyes.

        Electrons are detected in a number of ways, in cloud chambers for example. We see the streaks they leave.

        They are absolutely not concluded to exist based on logical necessity or math, but by numerous empirical observations.

        • Mike

          So we work our way back from the streaks back to electrons - we use inductive reasoning to conclude electrons must exist but we've never actually seen one?

          • You got it, along with legions of other empirical evidence. That is what science does.

            It actually starts with observations of charge being transferred from materials and speculating that there are charged particles moving about. In involves particle and atomic theory, chemistry, and Quantum Electro-Dynamics. Then there are these cloud and bubble chamber observations. Numerous models are advanced to explain such observations. The Standard Model of particle physics is the one that the most consistent with observation and so scientist accept it as true. I believe it is the most well-established theory in science, upon which, ultimately, all other disciplines rely.

            No scientific theory has ever been proven deductively. All use induction.

          • Mike

            "most consistent with observation and so scientist accept it as true."

            "Most consistent" is the standard for "true"? Hmm...if it works for science maybe it can work/apply in other disciplines too...thanks.

          • It is not a standard for truth, truth is irrelevant to science. What science is doing is suggesting models to explain observation. These models result in things that make predictions that are often useful.

          • No scientific theory has ever been proven deductively. All use induction.

            Inferential processes are irreducibly and integrally triadic. Unless and until a given dyadic cycling of abductive hypothesizing and deductive clarifying gets interrupted by inductive testing, all we can go on is logical consistency and evidential plausibility, which is very weak. The dyadic cycling, nevertheless, plays an indispensable role in discovery, although it can vary in degrees of epistemic virtue and normative impetus.

          • I am sorry Johnboy, you are going to have to use plain language I am not familiar with the terminology you are employing.

            Perhaps you could suggest something that scientists have demonstrated that in no way relies on induction?

          • No, rather, I was recognizing that we draw distinctions between generating and testing hypotheses, also between descriptive models (e.g. Standard Model) and interpretive heuristics (e.g. various Quantum Interpretations).

            So, on the leading edge of inquiry, in any field of study, our interpretations often remain hypothetically unfalsifiable, empirically unmeasurable, in other words, scientifically indemonstrable, and we cannot a priori say whether that's due to temporary methodological constraints or some, in principle, ontological occulting, although, for the sake of inquiry, we assume the former.

          • I don't agree that in "the leading edge of inquiry, in any field of study, our interpretations often remain hypothetically unfalsifiable"

            We generally know in advance whether our speculation is falsifiable, empirically testable or not. It is not a matter of "a priori" it is a matter of whether our speculation allows us to make predictions.

            I do not think Quantum "interpretations" are heuristics. I think both Quantum Mechanics and the Standard Model are descriptive models that explain observations. I am not a physicist, but I think that Quantum Mechanics is an element of the standard model.

          • I didn't say we can't know when we indeed have a falsifiable hypothesis. Rather, I said that, when an interpretation is not falsifiable, we don't necessarily know why.

            QM is an element of the Standard Model. The interpretations of QM, however, presently diverge.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Stacy did not say that the five ways are circular arguments but that she thinks they seem circular to atheists because they felt and feel circular to her.

      The five ways (and lots of other) are not arguments from ignorance. They start from things we know and then reason to something that must be the case: that there is an unmoved mover or a non contingent being, etc.

      • What is the think we know that entails an unmoved mover?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The arguments from Feser (and others) that have been hashed and rehashed on SN for about a year. Basically the impossibility of infinite regress of things that move from potency to act.

          • Right. I disagree that an infinite regress is necessarily possible.

      • Papalinton

        Stacy did not say that the five ways are circular arguments but that she thinks they seem circular to atheists because they felt and feel circular to her.

        If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck ,,,,,,,,,

  • Doug Shaver

    A circular argument is logically valid if the premises are true,

    No. No argument is made valid by true premises.

    A circular argument is valid because of how validity is defined. An argument is valid if, and only if, it is not possible to deny the conclusion without contradicting at least one premise. Since a circular argument includes its conclusion in its premises, denying the conclusion obviously contradicts whichever premise assumes the conclusion. Whether any premise is actually true is irrelevant to determining validity. Any valid argument can have true premises or false premises. It makes no difference.

    What we get, if an argument is valid and has true premises, is a sound argument. If we're unsure whether the premises are all true, then we can still determine whether the argument is valid, but we cannot know whether it is sound or unsound.

  • VicqRuiz

    Stacy:

    In my opinion, this is far and away the best thing you've written here.

    You have precisely hit the nail on the head as to why the dusty bones of Thomist scholasticism fail to move the skeptic (or at least this skeptic)

    The only thing I feel compelled to add in response: Our understanding of the nature of the electron in 2015 is quite different from what it was in 1915, and doubtless in 2115 it will be different still. Because we have learned more about it.

    Only if you can contemplate your Church's understanding of God changing in the same way can your "beliefs" in the electron and in God be really comparable.

    • William Davis

      Only if you can contemplate your Church's understanding of God changing in the same way can your "beliefs" in the electron and in God be really comparable.

      I think that is the core problem with Christianity in general. It doesn't have a solid mechanism to allow it to evolve it's understanding of God with our evolving understanding of the universe. I think it is trying to grow a mechanism, we call this "liberal Christianity" :)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Only if you can contemplate your Church's understanding of God changing in the same way can your "beliefs" in the electron and in God be really comparable.

      I don't understand what you mean. Can you explain? Are you saying that our understanding of the natural world requires our understanding of God to change? If so, why?

  • William Davis

    I accept they happen, but nevertheless I still think of them in material terms because whatever happens in the material world is still material, carrying out some orchestrated routine, even if it is the Hand of God overriding the whole created order for the sake of communicating His love to searching souls.

    Isn't it simpler if God just let the miracles be written into a story to get the point across. What is more efficient, overriding the who created order, or just letting it be written. The effect was the same, so there was never a need for ACTUAL miracles, only the belief that they occurred. I think the Christian message was worth the embellishment, and I think the early gospel writers thought so too.

    I've been listening to some lectures on the History of Rome, and was struck by the similarity between the story of Romulus and Remus (founders of Rome) and the story of Jesus in the gospels. It is my belief that the early Christians wanted to supplant Roman religion with Christianity and they succeeded, but the Roman Catholic Church kept a lot from the original Roman religion. The Pontifex Maximus was the High Priest of the Roman religion, and he still exists, we call him the Pope. I suppose, in a very real sense, the Roman Catholic Church is the incarnation of ancient Rome that survives to this very day. Fascinating stuff :)

    When I read the story of Romulus and Remus, I don't sit and think, "oh that stuff is impossible". I enjoy the story and imagine how it would have been to live in ancient Rome and to believe that I am the descendant of a god/man who was a mighty warrior and founder of the greatest (at the time) city on earth. These stories are meant to be inspirational, and can be fully appreciated without believing the miracles actually happened. I think prioritizing one groups miracles over the other destroys one's ability to appreciate these ancient stories fully, and that is a shame. I can't see how believing miracles actually happened helps anything, and they definitely are not required to have faith.

    Here is a quick overview of Romulus and Remus for anyone interested:

    http://serene-musings.blogspot.com/2007/01/romulus-remus-lesson-for-christianity.html

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      the similarity between the story of Romulus and Remus (founders of Rome) and the story of Jesus in the gospels.

      You mean Jesus and his brother were raised by a she-wolf, and then Jesus killed his brothers and built a city by running a plow around its future circumference? Yes, I can see the similarities now!

      • William Davis

        You made my point about being unable to appreciate other myths, but I'll make my comparison clear, since it seems to be lost on you.

        Their mother (Rhea Silvia) was consigned to be a virgin, but gave birth when she was raped by the God Mars. (Just a step short of a virgin birth)

        Amulius (evil ruler, similar to Herod) attempted to have them killed, but they were saved by divine intervention (very similar to the "slaughter of the innocents" by Herod, but in this case it is actually believable. The Jews would have revolted if Herod ever tried such a thing). I thought the she-wolf was a nice touch, it reminds me of Tarzan.

        Romulus and Remus overthrew the evil ruler Amulius, something the Jews clearly wanted to do, but failed (Jesus was likely crucified because he called himself "King of the Jews", it was on the cross after all).

        Romulus becomes ruler (after having to kill his brother of course), and creates a council of 100 men. The Romans were big on 3, 7, and 100. The Jews were big on 12 (for the 12 tribes). Think of this council as Romulus's disciples.

        During a powerful storm that darkened the whole city, Romulus ascended into heaven. A temple was built, and he was worshiped as a god by later men.

        If you can't see the similarity, I don't know how I can help. Jesus provided a different type example for behavior (one of the important aspects of all stories of this type), but the overall structure of the story was the same. This story was around a long time before the gospels, and was first written by Livy. Livy died 15 years before Jesus was crucified (approximately), so I'm sure this story was well circulated by the time the gospels were written ;)

        • Andre Vlok

          I think the Romulus / Jesus comparison falls flat where it counts most - the resurrection of the dead. Romulus just ascended into heaven. Then look at eg N.T. Wright's arguments about the rarity and unexpectedness of true resurrection in Jewish expectations and there is suddenly a lot of daylight between Romulus and Jesus.

          • William Davis

            YOS and I are familiar with one another, so I left out some background info.

            I think Jesus was born and lived in Nazareth, was a disciple of John the Baptist (thus baptized by him), was a great moral teacher, had a following, and was crucified by Pilate. I also go with Mark being the first gospel that inspired the later synoptics. I think the only historicity is in Mark, and even there it is quite muddled.
            If you take Mark, and add the Romulus and Remus story, you get Matthew and Luke. This story is where the added literary structure came from, and it is what the Greeks and Romans expected from a "son of God."
            What the Jews expected from a son of God was completely different. David and Solomon were sons of God, so was everyone of David's line. To a Jew, a son of God was completely human.
            There is a TON of evidence that the Pharisees and other Jews expected a general resurrection of the dead. When Jesus died, I have no doubt that the disciples expected him to rise, but only as part of the general resurrection of the dead. Paul calls him the "first fruits" of the harvest, with the rest of the harvest coming soon.
            In general, you are right, however, that people aren't fond of zombies, and I'm definitely not a mythicist. Christian is an important part of western history, and I think it is very informative to understand how it came into being :)

          • Lucretius

            Dear Mr. Davis:

            It's nice seeing you on this side of the Internet :-)

            If you take Mark, and add the Romulus and Remus story, you get Matthew and Luke. This story is where the added literary structure came from, and it is what the Greeks and Romans expected from a "son of God."

            Let me introduce to you my theory on how Kennedy is just a rip off of Lincoln:

            Both presidents were elected to the House of Representatives in '46.
            Both presidents were elected to the presidency in '60, after a series of debates with their opponent.
            Lincoln defeated incumbent Vice President John C. Breckenridge for the presidency in 1860; Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard M. Nixon for the presidency in 1960.
            Both their predecessors left office in their seventies and retired to Pennsylvania. James Buchanan, whom Lincoln succeeded, retired to Lancaster Township; Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom Kennedy succeeded, retired to Gettysburg.
            Both their Vice Presidents and successors were Southern Democrats named Johnson (Andrew Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson) who were born in '08.
            Both presidents were concerned with the problems of black Americans and made their views strongly known in '63. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, which took effect in 1863. In 1963, Kennedy presented his reports to Congress on Civil Rights, and the same year was the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
            Both presidents were shot in the head on a Friday seated beside their wives. Both Fridays preceded a major holiday observed within the week.
            Both presidents were accompanied by another couple.
            The male companion of the other couple was wounded by the assassin.
            Both presidents had a son die during their presidency.
            Both presidents fathered four children, only one of whom survived into the next century and who served other presidents by political appointment.
            Both presidents' wives died in their sixties after an untimely decline in health, during the administration of a president who had seen their husbands in Washington, D.C. the same year as the assassination.
            Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre; Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in a Lincoln automobile, made by Ford.
            Both presidents' last names have 7 letters.
            There are 6 letters in each Johnson's first name.
            After shooting Lincoln, Booth ran from a theatre to a warehouse; after shooting Kennedy, Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theatre.
            Both Johnsons were succeeded as President in '69 by Republicans whose administrations were considered failures and whose mothers were named Hannah.
            Both assassins died in the same month as their victim in a state adjacent to the state of their birth.
            Both assassins were Southern white males born in the late '30s, who were in their mid-20s.
            Both assassins were killed before being tried, by men who were reared in the North, changed their name as adults, and were bachelors.
            Both assassins had 15 letters in their name
            Both assassins shot the fatal bullet while in a building where they worked on a floor above ground level.
            Both assassins suffered injuries during escape.
            Both assassins sympathized with a government that was adversarial to the interests of the United States.

            Your deepest problem though seems to be that you are rejecting the historacy of Matthew and Luke. Luke is written as a Greek History text, so the author intended it to be taken historically. Matthew was either written by the Apostle or his words written down by his immediate disciples. We have late first century sources that support this (I explained this on Estranged Notions).

            One of the problem with the modern historical method in this instance is that it ignores external, contemporary evidence in favor of a theory that was never proposed until 1800 years after the texts were written. Those contemporaries who contradict modern scholarship as were far, far, closer to the events, had access to sources that you can't even imagine (including eyewitness reports: Papias knew Philip's daughters at least, and John the Elder, who might just be the Apostle, among others), they spoke the language the text were written in, lived in the cultural context the texts were written in, and they carried on oral traditions in a very conservative oral tradition based culture. Meanwhile, modern scholars don't have many resources, are far from the events, live in an entirely different culture (the lack of Jewish cultural understanding within popular biblical criticism is finally changing due to N. T. Wright and others), and only understand common Greek through text: they don't speak it, not understand the language as fully as a speaker would. These scholars of popular criticism have no right to dismiss external contemporary information unless to give a good reason: they don't though, as they simply dismiss them for not fitting with their own theories, which is completely unreasonable.

            And this is just one of the problems with the modern historical critical method!

            What the Jews expected from a son of God was completely different. David and Solomon were sons of God, so was everyone of David's line. To a Jew, a son of God was completely human.

            This is a complex issue, and when "Son of God" is used by Christians, there is references to certain Old Testament prophecies. Furthermore, the Divinity of Messiah was a revelation by Messiah Himself. There were hints, and in retrospect it was necessary for Messiah to be Divine, but the Jews didn't look over certain things and forget that the Messiah was suppose to be God.

            There is a TON of evidence that the Pharisees and other Jews expected a general resurrection of the dead.

            They still do today. So do Christians.

            I have no doubt that the disciples expected him to rise, but only as part of the general resurrection of the dead.

            But you don't have evidence for this notion from the first century! You do have evidence of people claiming that Jesus of Nazareth raising from the dead, but none of what you are proposing. In fact, the evidence contradicts your proposition! Let's look at your one piece of "evidence":

            Paul calls him the "first fruits" of the harvest, with the rest of the harvest coming soon.

            First of all, let's look at context:

            12 If what we preach about Christ, then, is that he rose from the dead, how is it that some of you say the dead do not rise again? 13 If the dead do not rise, then Christ has not risen either; 14 and if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is groundless, and your faith, too, is groundless. 15 Worse still, we are convicted of giving false testimony about God; we bore God witness that he had raised Christ up from the dead, and he has not raised him up, if it is true that the dead do not rise again. 16 If the dead, I say, do not rise, then Christ has not risen either; 17 and if Christ has not risen, all your faith is a delusion; you are back in your sins. 18 It follows, too, that those who have gone to their rest in Christ have been lost. 19 If the hope we have learned to repose in Christ belongs to this world only, then we are unhappy beyond all other men. 20 But no, Christ has risen from the dead, the first-fruits of all those who have fallen asleep; 21 a man had brought us death, and a man should bring us resurrection from the dead; 22 just as all have died with Adam, so with Christ all will be brought to life. 23 But each must rise in his own rank; Christ is the first-fruits, and after him follow those who belong to him, those who have put their trust in his return.[3] 24 Full completion comes after that, when he places his kingship in the hands of God, his Father, having first dispossessed every other sort of rule, authority, and power; 25 his reign, as we know, must continue until he has put all his enemies under his feet, 26 and the last of those enemies to be dispossessed is death.[4] God has put all things in subjection under his feet; that is, 27 all things have been made subject to him, except indeed that power which made them his subjects. 28 And when that subjection is complete, then the Son himself will become subject to the power which made all things his subjects, so that God may be all in all.

            As you can read, St. Paul specifically writes that if Jesus did not raise from the dead, Christianity is worthless. Notice the past tense: he is claiming it already happened. As you can read from the entire paragraph, St. Paul is specifically claiming that Jesus rose from the dead, and that those who die with Christ will also do so, following Jesus. He then says that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then no one will. Earlier in the same chapter of that letter, we find Paul writing this:

            The chief message I handed on to you, as it was handed on to me, was that Christ, as the scriptures had foretold, died for our sins; 4 that he was buried, and then, as the scriptures had foretold, rose again on the third day

            "After the third day." Paul wrote this letter far after that day. As you can see, Paul himself contradicts your theory from Paul's letter. Paul believed what Christians have always believed, that Jesus rose after the third day, just like he said he would.

            In general, you are right, however, that people aren't fond of zombies, and I'm definitely not a mythicist. Christian is an important part of western history, and I think it is very informative to understand how it came into being :)

            And here's another problem with your method: it presupposes naturalism, which in turn presupposes the falsity of Christianity. Which makes it an useless and anti-scientific method in evaluating whether Christianity is true. This mindset is probably the biggest reason to reject the modern historical critical method: all it doesn't is basically beg the question against the Christian, if the conclusion from such methods are used to reject Christianity.

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            Notice the fact that John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were not gods, nor did they work miracles. These are examples of modern history.

            If you go back to ancient times when the gospels were written, miracles and gods were in nearly in every writing. It was just how things were written. I don't doubt Jesus was some sort of faith healer (that's basically what Mark describes).

            The chief message I handed on to you, as it was handed on to me, was that Christ, as the scriptures had foretold, died for our sins; 4 that he was buried, and then, as the scriptures had foretold, rose again on the third day

            What scriptures is Paul talking about? No one thinks the New Testament was written, so I'm guessing something from the Hebrew Bible? I've never seen anyone answer that question. Respond, and I might describe further why most scholars are confident all the early Christians expected Christ to return and the dead to rise in their lifetime.

            And here's another problem with your method: it presupposes naturalism, which in turn presupposes the falsity of Christianity. Which makes it an useless and anti-scientific method in evaluating whether Christianity is true.

            First, with this attitude, you'd better not become a historian, you'll never get a job. Second, science is based on a philosophy called methodological naturalism, so calling naturalism anti-scientific is an oxymoron. You really need to work on your philosophy.

            History isn't science, however, it is more of an art. Modern history has a certain methodology which I'm sure you've seen, but I'll link it again. You can reject naturalism, history, and science, you aren't even coming close to convincing me to do so.

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

          • Lucretius

            Dear Mr. Davis:

            If you go back to ancient times when the gospels were written, miracles and gods were in nearly in every writing. It was just how things were written. I don't doubt Jesus was some sort of faith healer (that's basically what Mark describes).

            And this is where we disagree: you believe in naturalism, and I do not. It is a philosophical disagreement, and it flows into a historical one.

            What scriptures is Paul talking about? No one thinks the New Testament was written, so I'm guessing something from the Hebrew Bible? I've never seen anyone answer that question.

            He was definitely talking about the Old Testament, and I would guess specifically the Septuagint. I highly doubt, to my knowledge, that he is talking about the New Testament.

            Respond, and I might describe further why most scholars are confident all the early Christians expected Christ to return and the dead to rise in their lifetime.

            I do think that many early Christians thought Jesus would return in their lifetime, although I do think the belief is exaggerated, especially since Jesus himself said that you "don't know the day nor the hour," which would indicate that we have no idea. I do think the "generation" quote could be used to support this hypothesis, but coupled with the fact that Jesus says that you don't know the time he will return, I find it safe to say that literally "that generation" of Paul, Peter, etc. was not what he had in mind. I do agree that this is an interesting and important question, and was one of the obstacles of my faith (along with Genesis). I might ask for Mark Shea's thoughts on this. Could you provide some textual evidence that you find supports this view please?

            Second, science is based on a philosophy called methodological naturalism

            Actually, that is reading materialism into science. Natural Science only works with material bodies, and so science has nothing to say about immaterial ones, nor about miracles that are one time events, for they are not repeatable. Don't mix your philosophy into my science :-p

            Furthermore, scientists have actually been redefining matter since Newton. To put it another way, the biggest problem with materialism is matter. What is matter?

            In C.S. Lewis's book The Abolition of Man, he points out that matter has actually been defined as whatever quantitative science can analysis. I highly recommend reading the whole book: http://www.basicincome.com/bp/files/The_Abolition_of_Man-C_S_Lewis.pdf

            YOS would be a good source to explain this in more detail. You can check out his website if you want.

            You can reject naturalism, history, and science, you aren't even coming close to convincing me to do so.

            History and science per se do not have to be rejected when one rejects naturalism.

            I find that the biggest problem with naturalism is that it is dogmatic: you can't prove that miracles do not happen, as that is a negative. You have to assume so, dogmatically, or otherwise remain agnostic. The materialist is not free to believe in miracles, but only to doubt them on dogma, while a Christian is free to believe in them or doubt them.

            And if you remain agnostic, and are honestly look for evidence for miracles, I then present evidence of the miraculous:

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Zeitoun

            Our Lady of Zeitoun was a public miracle, which Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Non-Believers could all see. The Miracle lasted so long (weeks) that the Pope was able to send a representative to see it, and that the president of Egypt could go and experience it. There are many photographs of it.

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_Lanciano

            This miracle is miraculous if only because the tissue and blood both survive to this day!

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            He was definitely talking about the Old Testament, and I would guess specifically the Septuagint. I highly doubt, to my knowledge, that he is talking about the New Testament.

            I was asking what scriptures? If no one knows, maybe Paul made that up. If he made that up, what else did he make up? Here is a similar example from Matthew:

            https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/573-was-matthew-mistaken-in-the-nazarene-prophecy

            Something else made up is the slaughter of the innocents by Herod. No way in hell the Jews would have let that happen. The Maccabean revolt was over MUCH less than that

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

            They revolted again in 70 A.D mainly over taxes

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish%E2%80%93Roman_War

            Actually, that is reading materialism into science. Natural Science only works with material bodies, and so science has nothing to say about immaterial ones, nor about miracles that are one time events, for they are not repeatable. Don't mix your philosophy into my science

            You are confusing naturalism with METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM these are not the same. Try to pay attention. You don't have to be a naturalist to do science, but methodological naturalism puts miracles outside the bounds of science...which is what you just said.

            Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific "dead ends" and God of the gaps-type hypotheses. To avoid these traps scientists assume that all causes are empirical and naturalistic; which means they can be measured, quantified and studied methodically.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Methodological_naturalism

            Furthermore, scientists have actually been redefining matter since Newton. To put it another way, the biggest problem with materialism is matter. What is matter?

            I think God is the single substance that exists, so what you describe fits my view of God perfectly. Matter is simply one manifestation of God. I can give you philosophical proofs of monism if you are interested.

            As far as your miracles

            This article does a great job dismantling the apparition, I thank the evangelicals for assistance :)

            Who knows what Mary ACTUALLY looked like. Isn't it funny that these "apparitions" look like pictures of Mary you see in Catholic churches? Lol, are you really that gullible?

            http://blog.evangelicalrealism.com/2009/02/09/investigating-the-marian-apparition-at-zeitoun/

            The Miracle of Lanciano is nasty. I'd like to see some genetic testing on the tissue. If it is really Jesus, we would be able to tell that the tissue is human, and that it is from semetic lineage. When is the church going to submit a sample for that? Cannibalism is disgusting, what kind of god do you believe in?

          • Lucretius

            Hello,

            I was asking what scriptures? If no one knows, maybe Paul made that up. If he made that up, what else did he make up? Here is a similar example from Matthew:

            I'm lost. I specifically stated which Scriptures he meant.

            Who knows what Mary ACTUALLY looked like. Isn't it funny that these "apparitions" look like pictures of Mary you see in Catholic churches? Lol, are you really that gullible?

            Apparitions take a form that is familiar to the intended audience. How would someone recognize her otherwise? BTW, the person in the combox of that website pretty much debunks the author.

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            I'm lost. I specifically stated which Scriptures he meant.

            You never said what Hebrew Bible scriptures said the messiah would rise in 3 days after dying.

            Have you ever studied the pseudoscience of ghost huntings? They can blow your Mary stuff out of the water. Believe in ghosts if you want, but count me out. Ask YOS and other smarter Catholics on here if they believe that mess. I can already tell you they don't.

          • Lucretius

            Ok, that's what you meant: The idea that Messiah had to raise from the dead. Now we can get somewhere!

            I don't see what ghost hunts have to do with Marian Apparations, since the Apparations in question were public and well documented (Light and Fatima).

            Personally, because of the similarities between the ghost phenomenon theoughout the world, I do think there is something behind the phenomenon. Now, it being supernatural is another story.

            Christi pax.

          • Michael Murray

            Personally, because of the similarities between the ghost phenomenon theoughout the world, I do think there is something behind the phenomenon.

            Yes the common denominator is that they all involve a human brain. Have a read of Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks.

          • Pofarmer

            My guess is that it's actually a piece of pigs heart.

          • William Davis

            I was thinking some kind of animal myself. If it was human, and there was no miracle, then we are entering into a seriously wicked situation.

          • Kraker Jak

            Your god may be too small.

          • Pofarmer

            There is all kinds of dead people being ressurected in the OT. The resurection of Jesus is just a combination of OT miracles and Greek literary techniques. Then credulous people accepted a religious tract as real, and voila.

  • Mike

    Excellent; the choice part resonated as it had alot to do with my "return" to the Church; i figured well i know for a fact what naturalism/materialism entails and so why not try something which at the very least fills me up with hope and love and a chance no matter how small of putting all things right in the end.

  • Daniel G. Fink

    Thank you, Stacy.

    I feel similarly towards the light Frank Sheed provided regarding the inner life of the Trinity in "Theology and Sanity". Once he handed on the language which I had never quite been exposed to before, (eg., "God, knowing Himself with infinite knowledge, thinking of Himself with infinite power, conceives an idea of Himself"...[Jn 1:1...We think in words]), it provided delightful explanatory power to contemplate the Trinity.

    Yet, it's grounded in faith, not logic.

    • Doug Shaver

      Is there any way to distinguish true faith from erroneous faith? If I believe, not by logic but by faith, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God revealed to Joseph Smith, am I making a mistake? If so, what is that mistake?

      • Daniel G. Fink

        Hi, Doug.

        I didn't exclude logic. To cite your specific example, there are immense problems with the Book of Mormon regarding archaeology, geography, language, plagiarisms incompatible with the time period described, significant Old Testament observances (Passover) omitted, no new revelation regarding Christ and the New Testament, etc.

        These issues are detailed in Isaiah Bennett's "When Mormons Call". My overall, subjective view is that Joseph Smith lacked the scholarship necessary for proper exegesis of the anthropomorphism often found in the Hebrew and Christian testaments.

        • Daniel G. Fink

          Of course, after reading my own response, I ought to have incorporated my first post. How can a God who occupies "space" and possesses "parts" be infinite?

        • Andre Vlok

          But the magic underwear is true, right......right?

        • Doug Shaver

          I didn't exclude logic.

          You made a point of saying "not logic." Why?

          • Daniel G. Fink

            I was referring specifically to the Trinity, which man could have only accessed through revelation. Once I accept the revelation, the degree of light Sheed, et.al., provides helps me connect thoughts, statements, doctrines, why John used "The Word" in Jn 1:1, etc.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm talking with (or reading books written by) two men who both say they have had a revelation from God, but they are not telling me the same thing about God. Without using logic, how do I know whether to believe both of them, only one of them, or neither?

          • Daniel G. Fink

            Morning, Doug.

            You would necessarily have to employ logic and reason, else you would rely solely on, I suppose, emotion?

            I would certainly have to make use of reason to discern the claims, measured against my own beliefs about the Trinity. As mentioned, I can't get to the Trinity by reason, but now I can measure everything by my point of reference, the Trinity.

          • Doug Shaver

            Given that some people claim to have had a revelation that the Trinity is a falsehood, I don't see how I could get to it except by using reason to tell me which people had the genuine revelation.

          • Daniel G. Fink

            I totally agree. Allow me to cite the Catholic Catechism (CCC 237).

            " The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the "mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God". To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit".

            My perhaps clumsy statement that "it is grounded in faith, not logic" was meant to reflect the paragraph above ("Grounded in faith", i.e., "can never be known unless revealed by God"). Since Christ has revealed it, in order that man pursue and receive some light from it ("It is the surest mark of love to want to be known"--Sheed), I utilize reason to allow something of the "mystery of faith" to be apprehended, and comparatively discern things like the claims that it is a falsehood.

            Just as with persons, the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.

          • Doug Shaver

            OK. Reason can't get us to whatever comes only by revelation. But, unless God reveals something directly to me, I still have to deal with competing claims of revelation. If one man tells me that he believes in the Trinity because of revelation, and another tells me that he denies the Trinity because of revelation, I'm at a loss for knowing whom to believe if I can't use logic to figure out who got the real revelation.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I think for a person to assent to some proposition as true (which is what faith is), he must have good reasons to do so. How good reasons are can be assessed by reason.

        • Doug Shaver

          to assent to some proposition as true (which is what faith is),

          Do you think that is consistent with what the author of Hebrews said about it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It would be good if you were more specific.

            Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb 11:1)

            The hope and confidence are based on something NOT irrational. For Jews, Paul (or whoever wrote Hebrews) gives a plethora of evidence from Jewish history.

          • Doug Shaver

            It would be good if you were more specific.

            I didn't want to appear to be proof-texting. Chapter 11 of Hebrews doesn't just suggest a definition. The author also offers several examples of what he was talking about. In so doing, he makes it pretty clear that he was talking not just about assenting to a proposition, but assenting to a certain kind of proposition in a certain specific situation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would say there is a continuity between natural and supernatural acts of faith.

            Natural faith is assent to something which at least in theory could be known by reason but is accepted on some kind of authority, like a student believing what his teacher says about astronomy.

            Supernatural faith is assent to something which (1) could be known by reason (like the Ten Commandments) or which could not (like the Trinity) but is accepted by some kind of authority, like a Catholic believing something taught by the Magisterium.

            But even with supernatural faith, a person needs good reasons to believe the authority has the authority to teach. That is where for Catholics the preambles of faith come in.

            Finally, in an act of supernatural faith (as Catholics understand it) God also provides grace to dispose a person to make the assent. With the case of natural faith, no grace is necessary. It is natural for us to believe what (seemingly) trustworthy persons tell us.

          • Doug Shaver

            An interesting taxonomy.

            Over the years that I've been having these discussions, I have seen Christians offer an amazing diversity of construals of faith. The standard dictionaries don't begin to do justice to the variety of meanings Christians have given to the word. If I'd been keeping a list, I'd have added yours to it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is straightforward, common, basic vanilla-flavored Catholic thinking.

          • Doug Shaver

            It does seem consistent with the Cathechism and Catholic Encyclopedia. So, another difference between Catholics and Protestants of which I had been unaware.

    • Yes, Theology & Sanity. Basically, my favorite book.
      Many "Frank Sheed" tags on our blog.
      http://2catholicmen.blogspot.com/
      Peace

  • Stacy, I enjoyed the article and can definitely relate. My difficulties with Christianity are much the same as yours. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Boris

    Faith is a character flaw, not a virtue.

    • William Davis

      I disagree, but it does need to be the right kind of faith (I'm not implying there is only one right kind of faith). Misplaced faith can be disastrous.

      • Boris

        Yeah like faith in someone who never existed like Jesus, Moses, Buddha or Muhammad can be very harmful.

        • William Davis

          You think Buddha and Muhammad didn't exist? Wow. Who wrote the Qu'ran then?

          • Boris

            Islam evolved from Arabic moon worshiping cults just as Christianity and Judaism evolved from ancient Near Eastern sun worshiping cults. Look at the top of any Mosque. Who wrote the Koran? Muslims just as Christians wrote the New Testament. The gospels are solar myths and Jesus is an allegory for the sun. Now it cost my parents a lot of money to send me to school to learn about this. You learned it for free. You're welcome.

          • William Davis

            Pretty much all scholars believe Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha all existed (pretty sure Moses didn't exist). Not sure what school you went to, but your parents wasted their money. Might not want to tell them that, no point in disappointing them ;)

          • Boris

            Ha ha ha ha... Pretty much all scholars? Scholars of what? Fairy magic and magical beings that don't exist. Other people BELIEVE they really really BELIEVE! That's your best evidence? That other people, who you trust without any doubts believe they existed? My parents didn't waste their money but yours never should never of had children. we already have enough people who never learned to think for themselves. Tell me William, do you always let other people do your thinking for you? or do you even think at all?

          • William Davis

            Oh whatever. For the record, I'm not a Christian, and don't believe in miracles. Other than that, I see no point in wasting any more time with you, any scholarship I throw at you will be "pearls before swine." Have a nice life :)

          • Boris

            I'm being called swine by someone who is pig-headed. Do you always duck and run when you are losing a debate? You already lost anyway.

          • William Davis

            What debate?

          • Doug Shaver

            That's your best evidence?

            In my experience, people who resort to ridicule at the beginning of a discussion don't have a good evidential argument.

          • Boris

            You're right. William Davis has no evidence that Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha or Moses ever existed. Neither do you and neither does anyone else. Stories with dialog in them are fictive narratives.

          • Doug Shaver

            William Davis has no evidence that Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha or Moses ever existed. Neither do you and neither does anyone else.

            That depends entirely on your definition of evidence. The way some people define it, it's impossible for anyone who disagrees with them to ever have any evidence. That seems to be the favored definition among many who deny Jesus' historicity.

          • Boris

            It's not the same. Evidence for evolution is in the fossil record for one example of what we call evidence. What evidence is there for any of the supposed founders of religions that I mentioned outside of the holy books of those religions? Using only contemporary extra-biblical sources that mention Jesus Christ by name, construct me a biography, as best you can, of the life of Jesus Christ. Or Moses. Outside of the Koran what can you tell me about Mohammad? That he flew away to heaven on a chariot of fire? See what I mean?

          • Doug Shaver

            It's not the same

            It is the same as far as I can tell, until you show me that you define evidence differently from how they define evidence.

            What evidence is there for any of the supposed founders of religions that I mentioned outside of the holy books of those religions?

            Why do you rule out holy books as evidence? How does your definition of evidence exclude them? What is your definition?

          • Boris

            The holy books contain dialog, people all speaking to each other in complete sentences. Can you show me an historical narrative that is written in this style, with all kinds of dialog there was no way to record? You can look for the rest of your life and you won't find a single one. That's because all narratives that contain this kind of dialog between people, not to mention dialog between various bogey entities and people, are fictive narratives. You should have learned that when your fifth grade teacher read you the Iliad and the Odessey. Perhaps you, like apparently every Christian in the world, didn't learn that fact about literary criticism. So to answer your question, when we hold the holy books up to standard literary criticism they fail every test there is for historicity and pass all the tests for fiction with flying colors. Fiction almost always mentions real people and real places and is set in a certain era. This is what dupes believers into believing their books are historical. The believers have to demand that their books aren't held up to standard literary criticism because, well.... er..., they're special books because the magical wizard wrote or at least inspired them. No dice.

            Doug, the holy books are not evidence that the holy books are true. Evidence is something. anything that could confirm some claim made in the holy books. Again, you could look for the rest of your life and you'll never find that either. I hope that clarifies things for you.

          • Doug Shaver

            Can you show me an historical narrative that is written in this style, with all kinds of dialog there was no way to record?

            What does that have to do with whether they can be evidence?

            You should have learned that when your fifth grade teacher read you the Iliad and the Odessey. Perhaps you, like apparently every Christian in the world, didn't learn that fact about literary criticism.

            I've read quite a lot of literary criticism over the years, and some of it was criticizing books that discussed the Bible. None of the authors denied that the Bible was evidence for some things.

            And are you under the impression that I'm a Christian? What gave you that idea?

            So to answer your question, when we hold the holy books up to standard literary criticism they fail every test there is for historicity and pass all the tests for fiction with flying colors.

            My question was in three parts. Here they are again: "Why do you rule out holy books as evidence? How does your definition of evidence exclude them? What is your definition?" You have not yet told me what you mean by evidence.

            Evidence is something. anything that could confirm some claim made in the holy books.

            That would be corroborating evidence. My question was not so specific, and anyway you're still evading the question. What is it about confirmation that makes it evidence for whatever it confirms?

          • Boris

            Anything can be used as evidence. However whether it is good evidence depends on if it corresponds to reality. So when I ask Christians what evidence they have from outside the Bible that Jesus Christ actually existed they always respond by mentioning what we critics call the Big Four, Pliny Tacitus, Josephus and Suetonius. They tell me that these second century writers all mentioned Jesus Christ in their second century writings. However none of these men lived during the time Jesus supposedly lived so anything they wrote was only hearsay and not even first or second hand hearsay. Hearsay is not accepted in a court of law and should not be accepted by anyone else either. But when people are fearing for salvation because they let other people frighten them with superstitions about what might happen to them after they die they're willing to accept just about anything as evidence.

            One final note, we know none of these writers ever mentioned Jesus and that all of these mentions of "Chrestus" are Christian forgeries anyway. What are you doing? trying to make excuses for why you used to believe?

          • Andre V.

            Do you understand that your mythicist position is a fringe position? That it embarrasses even other hardcore atheists? "We critics" is a small band of extremists, followed by a torch-waving gang of Wikipedia informed internet warriors. The case for the historical Jesus does not depend on your "Big Four".

          • David

            It's fringe position now but it won't be forever. As Christianity loses it's insane grip on the culture, people will look at this issue with greater objectivity. Jesus didn't exist and it's only a matter of time until this becomes accepted by most.

          • Andre V.

            The hopeful have been saying that for decades. Even now most atheists, even the scholars, still reject the idea. You have Carrier and Price, a handful of bloggers and self-publicized pretenders and then .... no-one of any academic acumen or interest. If you prove to be right in time it will be through sheer willpower, not any reasonably argued dismantling of the historicist position. I recently read Carrier and Price, and to their credit I will say that they have pitched the argument as high as it can go.

          • Doug Shaver

            Jesus didn't exist

            Do you think the evidence currently known to exist makes that a certainty?

          • Boris

            Okay, then what exactly does the case for the historical Jesus depend on? The Bible? The fact that supposed scholars believe the Bible? Precisely what are you talking about? Name it and claim it.

          • Andre V.

            If you really wanted to know, and it's not a one-line argument, I would ask you to read entry-level popular books by agnostics/atheists like Ehrman, Loftus, Barker. It amounts to a cumulative approach, ultimately reaching a point where the existence of hJ is simply the best explanation for the minimally assumed facts. You could, in doing so, even provisionally leave aside the Bible and still find hJ. If you are however set in your rejection of the argument then no amount of debate will help you.

          • Boris

            Oh great. People who think they can talk something into existence like that "professor" from Notre Dame. The gospels are solar myths. Jesus is an allegory for the sun. Case closed - discussion over.

          • Andre V.

            Will you turn down the drama? I am most certainly not trying to convince you of anything. Once you believe that Jesus is an allegory for the sun there really is very little that can be done for you. We do however agree that the "discussion" (if ever it started) is over. Wow, the Internet smh.

          • Boris

            Entry-level popular books. "If you'll just read what so and so has to say..." is some kind of logical fallacy. I forgot exactly what it's called but it's a popular one so you could look it up. Probably a condescending request as well. But it's the same thing any skeptic gets when they ask for one thing religionists and those who accommodate them like Ehrman never have which would be evidence, evidence for their claims.

          • Doug Shaver

            But it's the same thing any skeptic gets when they ask for one thing religionists and those who accommodate them like Ehrman never have which would be evidence, evidence for their claims.

            Some of us skeptics reject the assumption that a claim has to be true in order to there to be any evidence for it.

          • Boris

            And some of you skeptics aren't really that skeptical.

          • Doug Shaver

            some of you skeptics aren't really that skeptical.

            You say so. Until you have a way to defend your opinion with something besides insults for anyone having a different opinion, your judgment is worthless.

          • Boris

            It's not my opinion that you have no evidence to back up your belief in Jesus. It is a fact. And like most people you are a fact denier. You opinions mean more to you than facts or the truth.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's not my opinion that you have no evidence to back up your belief in Jesus. It is a fact.

            It is a fact that you are misrepresenting my position. I have no belief in Jesus.

          • Boris

            I misunderstood you. I thought you said you believed Jesus was a real person.

          • Doug Shaver

            I thought you said you believed Jesus was a real person.

            I have neither said it nor believed it for many years. However, I do not agree with the assertion that there is no evidence for his having been a real person.

          • Boris

            Yes but the "evidence" you mentioned were the gospels. These are the only stories or writings that mention Jesus Christ by that name. How are they evidence that Jesus actually existed? They are written in the style of fiction. Historical narratives don't contain dialog - people all speaking to each other in complete sentences. Real people don't perform miracle and these kinds of stories weren't written about real people. There's no evidence for things like the massacre of innocent children by Herod or the zombie invasion described only in Matthew not the mention the trial, crucifixion resurrection or anything else described in the gospels. Fictive narratives almost always mention some real people and real places and this fools a lot of people into thinking that there must be some truth to the stories. There isn't.

          • Doug Shaver

            How are they evidence that Jesus actually existed?

            His existence is a possible explanation for their existence. That is what I take evidence to be: If a hypothesis is a possible explanation for some observed fact, then the fact is evidence for that hypothesis.

            Historical narratives don't contain dialog

            I've read some that do. I even wrote a few myself when I was a newspaper reporter.

            Real people don't perform miracle and these kinds of stories weren't written about real people.

            Oh? So, whenever we read a narrative about a person who performs a miracle, we know that that person never really existed? I'd be mighty careful with that logic, if I were you.

          • Boris

            Yes we know miracle workers do not exist. Well some of us do anyway.

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes we know miracle workers do not exist.

            That is logically irrelevant to the question of whether any real person was ever said to have worked miracles.

          • Boris

            Okay, name one.

          • Doug Shaver

            You understand what "said to have" means, right? If I name one, you're not going to say it doesn't count unless the miracle actually happened?

          • Doug Shaver

            In my opinion Bart Ehrman is a dope.

            And we should give your opinion how much weight?

          • Boris

            Listen to Ehrman try to make the case for a historical Jesus on the Infidel Guy's show. Then you tell me.

          • Doug Shaver

            Listen to Ehrman try to make the case for a historical Jesus on the Infidel Guy's show.

            Any opinion I had after doing that would be my own opinion.

          • Doug Shaver

            Okay, then what exactly does the case for the historical Jesus depend on?

            An open mind, for starters. You have to think it possible that reasonable people could disagree with you.

          • Boris

            Yes but so-called "reasonable people" can be unreasonable. When people make claims without evidence to support them that isn't being reasonable. People think they can just argue Jesus into existence. That's not being reasonable. I think there's this Western arrogance even among non-believing scholars that, "At least OUR religion is based on actual people and stuff." So it's supposedly not as nutty as those other religions and all their made up stories and characters. But it is and like most religions, a gross and silly misinterpretation of mythology.

          • Doug Shaver

            but so-called "reasonable people" can be unreasonable.

            Yep. And you know that's happening when they disagree with you, right?

          • Doug Shaver

            Anything can be used as evidence.

            That doesn't tell me what it means for something to be evidence.

            However whether it is good evidence depends on if it corresponds to reality.

            You didn't say there was no good evidence for Jesus. You said there was no evidence, period.

            we know none of these writers ever mentioned Jesus and that all of these mentions of "Chrestus" are Christian forgeries anyway.

            No, we don't know that. You are convinced, obviously, but nothing is known just because you don't doubt it.

            Hearsay is not accepted in a court of law and should not be accepted by anyone else either.

            I respect the law as much as the next man, but it's not a good source of epistemological principles.

            What are you doing? trying to make excuses for why you used to believe?

            I need no apologetic for the way I used to think. I'm defending the way I think now, and that way tries very hard to avoid the assumption that anybody who thinks differently is an ignorant fool.

          • Boris

            Evidence is just something that verifies or confirms a claim or argument or whatever. Yeah, there's no evidence that Jesus Christ ever existed. Period. I'll stick with that. If there is, please tell me what it is. If there's a reason to believe the mentions of this Chrestus in the writings of second century writers are NOT forgeries share that with me. While you're at it even if they were authentic how would know who they are supposedly talking about? Now I answered your questions. I'd like to see your answers to mine including this one: What makes you believe Jesus Christ actually existed? Moses? Muhammad? Buddha? Where's the evidence?

          • Doug Shaver

            Evidence is just something that verifies or confirms a claim or argument or whatever.

            So, does the claim have to actually be true in order for it to have any evidence? Does your definition allow for the possibility that a false claim could have evidence for it?

            What makes you believe Jesus Christ actually existed? Moses? Muhammad? Buddha? Where's the evidence?

            I don't believe any of them existed, but it isn't because I think there is no evidence. It's because I think the evidence isn't good enough.

            Yeah, there's no evidence that Jesus Christ ever existed. Period. I'll stick with that. If there is, please tell me what it is.

            I think the canonical gospels are evidence that he existed.

            If there's a reason to believe the mentions of this Chrestus in the writings of second century writers are NOT forgeries share that with me.

            I don't need evidence to think they're not forgeries. I would need evidence, and good enough evidence, to believe they are forgeries.

            By the way, you did say "second century." I believe, on the basis of what I regard as sufficient evidence, that the first-century Josephan references to Jesus are forgeries.

          • Boris

            "I think the canonical gospels are evidence that he existed."

            You do? Okay then Superman comic books are evidence that Superman is real right? How is a solar myth evidence for anything? Explain that to me. There's plenty of proof that the other mentions of Chrestus are forgeries as well. As Casey Stengel used to say, you can look it up.

          • Doug Shaver

            Okay then Superman comic books are evidence that Superman is real right?

            Wrong. That would be an invalid inference.

            I asked you how you define evidence. I have my own definition. I never told you that I would accept yours.

          • Boris

            I think they are banning my posts for telling the truth.

  • Pofarmer

    You do realize that the very same "argument" can be made for Islam, or Buddhism, or Mormonism, or Scientology?

  • How are Aquinas' arguments circular? I see how one could disagree with them because they have different metaphysical suppositions, but I'm not aware of any legitimate reading that would make the arguments circular.

  • Rufus Dsouza

    FAITH does NOT defy logic, it challenges it !!

  • MariusDejess

    God from concept to existence: How to argue to the objective existence of God from working together to concur on the concept of God, and then to go forth in objective reality to look for God as described in the concurred on concept of God.

    Is that circular proof of God existing?

    For example, we are going to prove the existence of a flying spaghetti monster, and I am the proponent of the existence of a flying spaghetti in objective reality, so I ask my opponents to first we together work to concur on the concept of the flying spaghetti monster; when we have come to concurrence on the concept of the flying spaghetti monster, then we all I the proponent and you my opponents all proceed to look for a flying spaghetti monster in objective reality, using our concurred on concept of the flying spaghetti monster as our guide in the search.

    Is that a circular argument to come to the proof of the existence of the flying spaghetti monster?

    So also with God, proponents of God existing and opponents must first work together to concur on the concept of God, then both proponents and opponents will go forth in objective reality to search for God existing in objective reality, using the concurred on concept of God as the guide for the search.

    Is that a circular argument or procedure for proving the existence of God?

    Here I go: Asking atheists, what do you think about my concept of God, namely, God in concept is the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning; do you accept for the purpose of argument this concept of God? If not what or how would you like to change it, so that I would see if I could accept your modified concept of my concept of God: for when we have reached concurrence on the concept of God, then we will both I the proponent and you atheists the opponent proceed to search for God existing in objective reality, using for our guide in the search, our concurred on concept of God?

  • MariusDejess

    The principle of burden of proof must be collated with the principle of evidence is to be specified in regard to the time frame and locality frame where evidence must be delimited.

    Then also both parties in an argument must concur on the concept of the object being disputed in regard to its existence in objective reality.

    What is the concept of God concurred on by atheists and theist, Whose existence is being disputed?

    Ultimately, theists claim that God is first and foremost the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning.

    What about atheists, what is your concept of God Who to you does not exist?

    Logically, since theists are the ones claiming God exists, they are the ones to define what is the concept of God Who to them does exist.

    And first and foremost for theists God is the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning; if God is not first and foremost in concept the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning, then theists who are rational and experienced with thinking on facts and logic, theists will tell you that any God not in concept the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning, that is not the God Who for them exists in objective reality.

    Now, at this point atheists can bring in the principle of burden of proof binding theists, because theists make the claim; and atheists will insist on evidence for God.

    Do theists have evidence for God existing?

    Yes, theists have evidence for the existence of God in concept as the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning.

    And the evidence is the existence itself of the universe and of everything with a beginning, starting with the nose in our face.

    So, at this point, theists can invite atheists to go with theists to search for all instances of things with a beginning, starting of course with the universe itself, which science tells us has a beginning some 13.8 billion years ago, and also everything in the universe has a beginning, as also the whole universe itself has a beginning.

    You will notice, atheists, that you are always insisting on trivializing the concept of God, with ridiculous analogies like flying spaghetti monster, etc.

    If you want to insist that God in concept is an invalid concept, then show how this concept of God, first and foremost God is the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning, that concept is an invalid concept, and how it is invalid, without resorting to ridiculous analogies to God.

    So, I said that the principle of burden of proof must be collated with the principle that evidence is to be specified in regard to the time frame and locality frame where evidence is delimited.

    Do you now see that theists do have proof in term of evidence which evidence is delimited in regard to the time frame and the locality frame, namely, there is evidence of God existing in the time frame and locality frame of the whole span history of the universe (13.8 billion years), and in regard to everything in the universe which everything in the universe has a beginning in time and in space; indeed the universe had its beginning with the beginning of time and space themselves: they started together, the universe and the time and the space it is delimited to, from since their beginning some 13.8 billion years ago.

    Which universe? The one where man is existing in and a part of.

  • Tertium Quid

    I do believe that apologists are too often desensitized to people's honest issues with arguments--they even at times expect things that can't be expected of themselves. I appreciate when believers acknowledge this. It seems to me that people seem to be convinced of reductionism due to its utility ("success") in the sciences, which I think is somewhat exaggerated. It also seems to me that if the world is meant to be rationally understood (to a degree) than some, but not all, aspects should be approachable by breaking into distinct parts. I've found that even in something as "mechanical" or "logical" as a computer system, a reductionist approach only goes so far, even though it is an essential tool in troubleshooting and in making the system comprehensible to begin with. That said, it is not a given that everything about the universe, even in the low-hanging fruit of its physical dimensions, is knowable to a mind restricted to reductionism and algorithmic methods. Strong reductionism, as I understand the term, is a kind of grand claim that is at odds with what Huston Smith called the religious/perennial view of reality, including that of the New Testament. Roger Penrose has been critical of reductionism in science for some time. I recommend the anthology 'Nature's Imagination' for some thought-provoking writing on the subject.

  • Elizabeth Brasile

    you are very intelligent and an amazing writer. Let me preface by saying I am not an atheist. But what strikes me odd is that you are the first articulate, intelligent Christian I have come across. But missing in your writings is a huge chunk of materialism. I have studied religions all , minored in college and continue to research. Have you really started from the beginning? Meaning the beginning of all religions? All religions are rooted in paganism and astrotheology (Solar mythology) what is thought of as the son is just the SUN. Would take 100 books or so to even outline how the Abrahamic Religions morphed and evolved from older cultures, such as the Persian and Egyptian, being that the Hebrews were nomadic and had taken many belief systems , an amalgam and put it into their own. This is was so common to do in antiquity. we see now how religions are and have morphed and evolve by the man sects with in just one religion. This is the very nature of man to MAKE God in his image. BTW ELOHIM in Hebrew is plural for gods "let us make man in our image". Satan is synonymous with Saturn (Saturnday, the first Sabbath) Constantine a sun worshipper changed the day to SUNday. Satan in Hebrew just means adversary as Lucifer means VENUS the morning star. This is around the world add in the 1000s of symbols and rituals that all lead back to the worship of the sun. It just perplexes me that Christians and now one such as yourself who seems to analyze and dig deep would overlook this Knowledge. When you research this you then see it so clearly as I said in symbols, rituals, dogma, tenets etc. Just Constantine and the Roman Empire is enough to understand how a Powerful Man such as Constantine would not just roll over and worship some other God. back then they changed the name of the SUN like you change your underwear. It meant nothing to him when the army he defeated were Cult Christians(remember not many were) so just to appease them he changed the name of the SUN. He was into Mithra/Apollo (the myths of the Sun also) I could go on but you seem very bright and curious and I would venture to say you would research this as you claim to be a reductionist. One most have all the facts present to do any deductive reasoning. I say this to people I deal with who come into my FB group and want to have an intelligent debate based on one book that was; translated from Aramaic, Hebrew, to Latin, Greek, German and then English. Christianity was not introduced to Western world until the around 600 AD. So then you have that. You also have the oldest bible Sinai text in London Museum that has over 10,000 discrepancies as from the King James Version. who was a hoot , a pedophile , homosexual. Yeah research that. So much there is too cover and well as I said and you probably know when you research one subject (not one book) its just years it takes and you cannot possibly write all that in one post. the SON is the SUN and at least primitive man knew that. I hope you find the higher truths. I am a spiritual human being , not a new ager for that is the morphed new religion, just an amalgam of the old, and have no vested emotions in anything is the material world. just an observer passing through.