• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

The Myth of the Free-Thought Parent

Kids

Some years ago while I was delivering a lecture on faith and reason at a secular university, I informed my audience that I had taught the Apostles’ Creed to my daughter, who was four or five at the time. I then noted that as a family we recited the creed every day during our family devotions.

As I expected, the audience appeared to be disturbed by my revelation. One of the students spoke for many when she insisted that children should be raised without “religious dogma”. Instead, they should be free to “make up their own minds” about what to believe. Parents could certainly inform them of the various options, but they should not be partisans for a particular view. Instead, she opined, the conscientious parent should sit back and let their children make their own decisions unencumbered by undue parental influence.

One commonly encounters this ideal of the dispassionate, objective parent in the free thought movement. Consider, for example, this passage from Catie Wilkins’s essay “110 Love Street”:

“My dad, a supremely rational man, even when addressing four-year-olds, answered my question, ‘what happens when you die?’ logically and truthfully. He replied, ‘No one really knows, but we have lots of theories. Some people believe in heaven and hell, some people believe in reincarnation, and some people believe that nothing happens.’ The other four-year-olds were not privy to the open, balanced information that I had, leaving me the only four-year-old to suggest that heaven might not exist.” (“110 Love Street,” in ed. Ariane Sherine, There’s Probably No God: The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas (London: Friday, 2009), 21-22)

Wilkins believed her father’s pedagogical advice provided an empowering and non-dogmatic way to instruct a small child by dispassionately and objectively providing the range of views on a given issue and allowing the child to make her own decision. In short, Wilkins’s father provided a precise contrast with my dogmatizing bequeathal of the Apostles’ Creed to my unwitting progeny.

If Wilkins’s anecdote exemplifies the ideal of the free thought parent, it also exemplifies the inherent tensions , and even contradictions, with this ideal. We can begin to illumine those problems by changing up the scenario. Imagine that instead of posing a question about life after death, the child posed a question about the nature of the good and the right. After overhearing a disturbing murder story on the evening news, the child turns to her father and poses the question: “Daddy, is it always wrong to kill somebody just because you want their money?”

Questions about the good and the right, like questions about the afterlife, are beset with controversy. And so freethought dad gives his non-dogmatic and dispassionate reply in which he offers a survey of opinions so that the child may draw her own conclusions:

“No one really knows, but we have lots of theories. Some people believe it is absolutely wrong because it violates moral virtue or a moral law. But other people believe it could be right if doing so increased the overall happiness in society. Still others believe that each individual must decide what is right for them, and if money makes them happy then they can rightly kill for it.”

I suspect most people will find the father’s response in the second scenario to be problematic (to say the least). But what, exactly, is wrong with it? Let’s consider two problems.

To begin with, the father’s answer is wholly inappropriate for the cognitive level of a four year old. Granted, ethicists disagree over questions like whether it is always wrong to kill somebody for money, but it doesn’t follow that a four year old needs to hear about that entire controversy. At this age they need a simple answer. Complexity and nuance can (and should) be acquired over time, but you need a place to begin.

And what kind of simple answer should one give? Presumably, the answer that best approximates what the parent believes to be true adjusted for the cognitive capacity of the child. For example, if the father believes it is wrong to kill people just because you want their money, then that’s the answer: “Yes, it’s wrong to kill people just because you want their money.” (And if he doesn’t believe this, one hopes his daughter’s question might provide an occasion to reconsider his own view.)

The second problem with the response is that it is not nearly as free and uncommitted as one might think. Despite his alleged neutrality as regards the ethical question, the father is surprisingly committed and dogmatic when he prefaces his comment with the proviso, “No one really knows…” This is most certainly not a neutral statement. Instead, it is a robust epistemological claim. In short, while the father may not espouse any particular ethical view, he does commend to his child a strong agnosticism as regards all ethical views on the topic, and as I said that is not neutral.

So why does this freethought dad believe nobody knows the nature of right and wrong? One suspects that his strong agnosticism is based on an assumption like this: if experts disagree on a particular topic, then one cannot know what the right answer is on that topic. Thus, for example, if ethicists disagree about the wrongness of an action like killing for money, then we cannot know if that action is indeed wrong.

Alas, this assumption is self-defeating. While freethought dad’s belief that unanimity is required for belief is an epistemological claim, epistemologists do not all agree with it. Thus, if we accept that assumption then we ought to reject it.

In other words, unanimity among experts is not required before one can hold a reasonable belief, or make a knowledge claim, on a particular topic. And so the father is free to tell his daughter that it is always wrong to kill other people for money, even if he is aware of ethicists who disagree with him.

The same points that apply to ethics apply as well to the afterlife. If the father is a strong agnostic, that is, if he is persuaded that nobody really knows what happens after death, then he is free to tell his child that nobody really knows. But he should not delude himself into thinking that this perspective is somehow neutral, for it surely isn’t. He is commending a strong agnosticism to his child and if he is successful, she will grow up to hold the same view, just like Catie Wilkins did.

And what of the father whose beliefs about the afterlife are not agnostic but rather Christian, and thus which include convictions about the general resurrection, heaven, and hell? If the strong agnostic is permitted to raise up his child in the belief that nobody knows what happens when you die, then why isn’t the Christian parent permitted to raise up his child in the belief that Christians do know?

The fact is that there is no neutral way for a parent to raise a child … or field their questions.  Every answer is sourced in particular beliefs, value judgments, and a broader view of the world. As a result, it is best that we all recognize that parenting involves, among other things, the desire to inculcate in one’s children that set of beliefs and values that one holds to be true.

To be sure, those of us who value fairness and objectivity and a healthy recognition of one’s own cognitive biases will hope that all parents will include those same values in their education. But we hope for that not because that hope is neutral or value free. Rather, we hope for it because it is in this bequeathal of self-awareness of one’s own limitations and generosity toward others that true free-thought is found. It is most certainly not found in the delusion that a dogmatic agnosticism or skepticism toward a particular subject matter is somehow neutral or objective or value free.
 
 
(Image credit: Flickr)

Dr. Randal Rauser

Written by

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

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

  • Doug Shaver

    "The other four-year-olds were not privy to the open, balanced information that I had, leaving me the only four-year-old to suggest that heaven might not exist.”

    I would not have intentionally led my children, at any age, to believe that they were uniquely privy to open, balanced information.

    I cannot fault parents who think Christianity is the one and only true religion for teaching their children to think the same way. On this issue, I do part company with a great many other atheists.

    • Green_Scapular1

      That is incredibly honest of you, Doug! :) It also means you must not be the kind of atheist that thinks that teaching a child Christianity is "child abuse" ? These two thoughts tend to come in a package from the new atheist group, as of late.

      • Doug Shaver

        It's certainly not the same kind of abuse as the behavior normally labeled as such. I think everyone would agree, however, that parents are doing something bad to their children if they teach them to believe things they should not believe (or to disbelieve things they should believe). The disagreement is over what those things are.

    • Mike

      Plus what if you think that not telling your 4 year old what you honestly believe to be true is wrong and harms the child?

  • David Nickol

    I am largely out of sympathy with the idea that parents should (or even can) raise their children leaving all questions of religion and values up in the air so that the children can make their own decisions.

    I am, however, growing a little weary of arguments that depend on deriving self-referential statements from other people's positions and then declaring those positions self-contradictory. I think there are many instances in which we can reasonably say, "Nobody really knows," without the statement being paradoxical, although perhaps the statement should be strengthened to something like, "Nobody really knows, beyond any doubt whatsoever . . . ."

    I think answering "nobody really knows" to the question of what happens after we die is not particularly unreasonable, but I see nothing wrong in a parent saying, "Nobody really knows, but what I believe, and what many, may believe is . . . ." I think on the matter of killing people just to take their money, the appropriate answer is, "It is always wrong." A small child is not looking for a course in ethics that gives the same weight to every opinion, no matter how atypical, ever expressed. (I well remember when I took my first ethics course that on the first day of class, we were told bluntly that this course was not going to teach us right from wrong. It was going to teach us a number of theories of what right and wrong were.)

    Also, although I believe "value-free" parenting is impossible, it does seem to me that there is a difference between education, indoctrination, and "brainwashing," and religious education can often have elements of the latter two. I remember a story I read in a forum somewhat similar to this one years ago about a Catholic woman and her brother, who, when they were children, found a "Protestant" Bible (the Revised Standard Version) in a dumpster. They salvaged it, because they felt it had to be wrong for a Bible to be in a dumpster, but they couldn't figure out what to do with it, because Catholics back then were not allowed to read "Protestant" Bibles. So they both revered and feared this copy of the Bible. I would have to say that I was raised (during the 1950s and early 1960s) to regard Protestants in much the same way the Jews of the Old Testament regarded idol worshippers!

    • David Nickol

      I remember during my high school years that it was necessary to show a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) card to get into dances held at my high school and other Catholic high schools. Catholics only!

      • Mike

        i WISH that were the case today in some places...the reason i left my catholic high school was bc there was almost nothing catholic about it!

  • Here is how I would answer the child's question about death:

    "I don't know what happens when you die, as far as I can tell that is the end of you. Some people believe that you go on somehow. But I don't believe it."

    I am sure this would be distressing for a child. It was very distressing for me, though I wasn't told it, I figured it out. (I think, I was six or so, I cried for hours and I am still scared.)

    Here is how I would answer the question about murder:

    "I don't think it can ever be right. What do you think?"

    I don't really think that any child would ask such a question. If they did and they thought it was okay, I would appeal to their own sense of fairness. I would ask them if they thought it would be fair for people to act that way? What kind of world would we have if people thought it was okay to behave like that? Would you want to live in a world where people thought they should act that way? And so on.

    Sure, at very young ages we will all probably just tell them what is right and wrong, but to the extent we can, we try and not just instill rules, but help them understand why. There are good reasons for this. They need to behave in certain ways before they are old enough to understand why. Otherwise they will hurt themselves or get into trouble.

    When a kid steals from another kid, or hits another, I think it would be wrong to just tell them not to, because I said so, or because its "just wrong". I would tell them it is wrong and ask them how they would feel if someone did it to them. They likely won't really care until they get older. But the more you can explain the why to kids, I think the better it will work.

    But it is completely different with the apostles creed! Do you not have to actually understand and believe it for it to have meaning? You can't just say it. And if the child is too young to appreciate what she is saying aren't you encouraging dishonesty?

    Anyway, if I were a Christian, with respect to the death issue, I tell the kid what I believed and why and invite the child to learn and decide for herself.

    • Green_Scapular1

      You're not encouraging dishonesty in the slightest. Kids can understand very simple concepts at a young age - it's a parents job to explain the Creed to a child in their terms. It's not just dumped on them as is...

      I can always tell whether or not someone is an educator or not from this position. A child cannot grow in a vacuum. They inherently require guidance. Leaving them to figure out such complex things such as morality on their own is ridiculous.

      Furthermore, kids are incredibly empathetic if raised well, so the statement "they wont really care until they are older" isn't quite accurate. It's the parents job to instill empathy as early as possible. It will help them work through their actions earlier rather than later, not to mention it will be a very helpful tool to help them manage bullying in the future or any kind of personal attacks they may endure.

      • Fair enough, I think it is fine if you tell them what you believe and why and allow them to chose to believe in whatever god or gods they wish, or no gods at all.

    • Faustina11

      You aren't encouraging dishonesty, but trust. Children trust their parents. When they are old enough to ask what something means, then you give them the answers to their questions. As they grow in maturity, your answers grow as well. Of course, this requires learning on the part of the parents!

    • Sparrow Opal

      I think my dad was the same. When I first thought of it as a child, I considered that if it was the end of me then that would be great, I wouldn't have to waste any more of my time here, if there was a heaven though, then that raised the bar for how I should live my life right now as well as continue to stay, which was troublesome (I legit thought that) but if it was true then I should continue living to find out, I would have nothing to lose anyway. In that way, I never really feared or was negative to death. Anyway, a few years later I got my proof XD Which is why I still hang around today.

  • GCBill

    I absolutely agree that parents should impart their most cherished beliefs and values to their children. Per attachment theory, that's where they typically come from in emotionally-secure individuals. Furthermore, values such as honesty, curiosity, and intellectual charity are necessary even for the practice of open-minded rationality.

    But I wouldn't assume that someone who opposes the inculcation of religious dogma necessarily opposes all value transmission. I'm guessing they see it as an impairment to clear and rational thinking in other areas. I don't share their degree of pessimism, since I was raised religious and have had no problem whatsoever coming to my own conclusions. It's just that while your commentary is correct, I don't think it addresses the real concerns of many secular prospective parents.

  • ClayJames

    A parent should teach their children what they believe to be true and at the same time, teach them to question their own beliefs.

    However, on one side you have ignorant atheists who think that free-thinking is synonymous with atheism and therefore to teach children about religion is to teach them something false or worse, to commit child abuse. On the other hand, you have ignorant theists teaching their children to not question their religious beliefs unless they want to burn in hell. Both of these positions are equally stupid.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      However, on one side you have ignorant atheists who think that free-thinking is synonymous with atheism and therefore to teach children about religion is to teach them something false or worse, to commit child abuse.

      Man of straw.

      On the other hand, you have ignorant theists teaching their children to not question their religious beliefs unless they want to burn in hell.

      This is child abuse of the worst kind.

      • Green_Scapular1

        It wasn't a straw man. Most atheists I know, including one I'm related to, is this way.

        And no. That's offensive to survivors of child abuse.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          It wasn't a straw man. Most atheists I know, including one I'm related to, is this way.

          Perhaps you should get out more. Most atheists are more wary of dogmatism rather than religious instruction. The problem is that religious instruction is usually rather dogmatic.

          And no. That's offensive to survivors of child abuse.

          Claiming offense is a poor substitute for argument. I'm not going to say that it is better to be beat by a parent than taught that doubt is a sure path to hell. Certainly the later leads to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

          • I'm not going to say that it is better to be beat by a parent than taught that doubt is a sure path to hell. Certainly the later leads to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

            Do you have empirical evidence which shows that a significant number of children who are taught a fairly orthodox version of hell end up as you describe? The following from The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach (recommended to my by atheist James Lindsay) does not break religious instruction down by orthodoxy, but it does threaten to push in the opposite direction of your claim:

                Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people's sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.
                A central theme throughout this book is that religion "works" because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one's God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (476)

            I should also note that other mental malaise could substitute for consternation about hell; a sense of purposelessness can also be quite damaging. So, to really establish your point, you would have to show that ceteris paribus, those not taught a fairly orthodox version of hell do better. Can you show this?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Do you have empirical evidence which shows that a significant number of
            children who are taught a fairly orthodox version of hell end up as you
            describe? The following from The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach (recommended to my by atheist James Lindsay) does not break religious instruction down by orthodoxy, but it does threaten to push in the opposite direction of your claim:

            I haven't seen a study that actually tested my claim. If I was an academic psychologist I would research it. In my experience, an extremist upbringing leads to increased levels of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, children who are raised by authoritarian parents or have especially high levels of fear is correlated with anxiety an depression. So, we should expect that religious authoritarianism and creating an inordinate fear of hell will have a causal relationship with anxiety disorders and depression. We even have a special word for religious based obsessive-compulsive disorders.

            Your own citation admits that religion can lead to bad outcomes:

            though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences.

            The problem with studying religion is that it is a very complex phenomenon and most people who are religious are not teaching their children an orthodox version of hell. I am talking about a small percentage of the religious population, who is usually represented on sites like these. Honestly, I have met very few orthodox Catholics who I would not consider delusional. They see demons everywhere.

            I should also note that other mental malaise could substitute for
            consternation about hell; a sense of purposelessness can also be quite
            damaging. So, to really establish your point, you would have to show
            that ceteris paribus, those not taught a fairly orthodox version of hell do better. Can you show this?

            I cannot, but we can infer that it is likely from what we know about raising children in fear and authoritarian parental structures.

          • I haven't seen a study that actually tested my claim. [...] In my experience, an extremist upbringing leads to increased levels of anxiety and depression.

            So you are willing to say "Certainly the later leads to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues."—emphasis on the use of "Certainly"—without anything other than anecdotal evidence?

            Furthermore, children who are raised by authoritarian parents or have especially high levels of fear is correlated with anxiety an depression.

            Please cite the evidence, which will give an operational definition of "authoritarian". It is also interesting that you say "correlated"; can you not establish causation?

            Your own citation admits that religion can lead to bad outcomes:

            Sure; sharp knives can also lead to bad outcomes.

            Honestly, I have met very few orthodox Catholics who I would not consider delusional. They see demons everywhere.

            Perhaps your measure of how 'orthodox' a Catholic is, is the problem. It would be very convenient to measure 'orthodoxy' by level of delusion—convenient rhetorically, not in the truth-seeking sense.

            LB: I should also note that other mental malaise could substitute for consternation about hell; a sense of purposelessness can also be quite damaging. So, to really establish your point, you would have to show that ceteris paribus, those not taught a fairly orthodox version of hell do better. Can you show this?

            IR: I cannot, but we can infer that it is likely from what we know about raising children in fear and authoritarian parental structures.

            Color me skeptical of said "we can infer".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So you are willing to say "Certainly the later leads to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues."—emphasis on the use of "Certainly"—without anything other than anecdotal evidence?

            Should have said "Certainly can" or "Have reasons to believe." It is much more than anecdotal evidence though. It is based on what we know about authoritative and fear based parenting.

            Please cite the evidence, which will give an operational definition of
            "authoritarian". It is also interesting that you say "correlated"; can
            you not establish causation?

            Let's start here:

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thinking-about-kids/201409/authoritative-vs-authoritarian-parenting-style

            uthoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature,
            strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher
            authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their
            primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority -
            the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root
            of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

            ....

            Authoritative parents are also
            strict, consistent, and loving, but their values and beliefs about
            parenting and children are markedly different. Authoritative parents are
            issue-oriented and pragmatic, rather than motivated by an external,
            absolute standard. They tend to adjust their expectations to the needs
            of the child. They listen to children's arguments, although they may not
            change their minds. They persuade and explain, as well as punish. Most importantly, they try to balance the responsibility of the child to conform to the needs and demands of others with the rights of the child to be respected and have their own needs met (see page 891, above). 1

            .....

            Authoritarian parents, however, exert control through power and
            coercion. They have power because they exert their will over their
            children.

            Interestingly, authoritative parents tend to be MORE strict and MORE
            consistent than authoritarian parents. They set fewer rules, but are
            better at enforcing them. The children of authorative and authoritarian
            parents tend to be equally well-behaved and high achieving. The children
            of authoritarian parents, however, tend to be somewhat more depressed
            and have lower self-esteem than those of authoritative parents.

            See the emphasis. My understanding is that this is pretty well accepted in the psychological community.

            Sure; sharp knives can also lead to bad outcomes.

            Yes, but nobody actually thinks that one should use sharp knives in a manner likely to cause injury. However, many parents believe in strict authoritarian religious parenting and see it as a good.

            Perhaps your measure of how 'orthodox' a Catholic is, is the problem. It
            would be very convenient to measure 'orthodoxy' by level of
            delusion—convenient rhetorically, not in the truth-seeking sense.

            Exactly what truth are we seeking here?

            By orthodox, I mean those who hold to a certain interpretation of Catholicism, which is also espoused by the hierarchy, but ignored by most Catholics.

            Color me skeptical of said "we can infer".

            I don't think you realize how many anxiety inducing rituals there are within Catholicism.

            Do you think it is healthy for children to fear hell? Do you think it is healthy for them to think they will go to hell, if they say, masturbate, unless they confess their sins to a priest?

          • Let's start here:

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thinking-about-kids/201409/authoritative-vs-authoritarian-parenting-style

            That isn't a peer-reviewed work; I would prefer a peer-reviewed study which operationalizes "authoritarian parent", so I can see how the term is used in actual research. Then I can compare that definition to the various ways a sufficiently orthodox version of hell is taught. I'm not convinced that "teach a sufficiently orthodox version of hell" ⇒ "authoritarian parent", of the kind where "authoritarian parent" statistically increases children's depression and decreases their self-esteem.

            Yes, but nobody actually thinks that one should use sharp knives in a manner likely to cause injury. However, many parents believe in strict authoritarian religious parenting and see it as a good.

            I don't dispute that some parents parent badly.

            Exactly what truth are we seeking here?

            Really, any truth, vs. insinuating that the more seriously Catholic one is, the more delusional one is. (Note that I'm a Protestant, not a Catholic.)

            I don't think you realize how many anxiety inducing rituals there are within Catholicism.

            You may well be right. But there is a difference between these rituals, and teaching a sufficiently orthodox version of hell. For example:

            Do you think it is healthy for children to fear hell? Do you think it is healthy for them to think they will go to hell, if they say, masturbate, unless they confess their sins to a priest?

            Whether or not it is healthy for children to fear hell depends on whether hell exists, of course. Whether you believe it exists will depend on your epistemology. As to masturbation qualifying one for hell, I disagree with that on grounds I could support with scripture. What qualifies one for hell is repudiation of God. The Apostle Paul says that those who blaspheme the name of God among the nations aren't the masturbaters, nor the atheists, nor the heretics, but the hypocrites who claim to know God: Rom 2:1–24 (esp v24).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That isn't a peer-reviewed work; I would prefer a peer-reviewed study which operationalizes "authoritarian parent", so I can see how the term is used in actual research. Then I can compare that definition to the various ways a sufficiently orthodox version of hell is taught. I'm not convinced that "teach a sufficiently orthodox version of hell" ⇒ "authoritarian parent", of the kind where "authoritarian parent" statistically increases children's depression and decreases their self-esteem.

            http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/jcogp/2010/00000024/00000003/art00001

            http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01857770

            Teaching an orthodox version of hell, usually comes with plenty of rules and restrictions to avoid such a place. This is what authoritarian parents do. It also has the bonus of inducing anxiety about being eternally tortured forever.

            Whether or not it is healthy for children to fear hell depends on whether hell exists, of course. Whether you believe it exists will depend on your epistemology.

            Since it is logically inconsistent for God to be both all-just and create hell Christians who believe in both have an inconsistent belief system. Are you sure it is healthy to believe true things? I think that is quite disputable.

            As to masturbation qualifying one for hell, I disagree with that on grounds I could support with scripture. What qualifies one for hell is repudiation of God. The Apostle Paul says that those who blaspheme the name of God among the nations aren't the masturbaters, nor the atheists, nor the heretics, but the hypocrites who claim to know God: Rom 2:1–24 (esp v24).

            Too bad the various Churches have missed out on this message and instead have made him out to be an immoral monster.

          • Thanks; from Parenting and Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms: Implications of Authoritarian Parenting:

            The third style, authoritarian, represents parenting that is rigid and values strict adherence to rules with lower levels of nurturing. (abstract, 151)

            MeasuresParental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ). The PAQ (Buri, 1991) is a 30-item questionnaire designed to assess three distinct parental authority styles (permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative), which are based on Baumrind’s (1971) work. (method, 154)

            We can then consult Buri, 1991, which includes bits like:

            7. As I was growing up my father did not allow me to question any decision that he had made.

            This can be contrasted with the three times that the most humble man, Moses, questioned YHWH's decisions: Ex 32:9–14, Num 14:11–20, and Num 16:19–23. If anyone is the ultimate authority figure, it's YHWH. And yet Moses is happy to question him. So this conception of "authoritarian" that Buri has constructed doesn't seem to match up with a biblical model. Or consider this:

            16. As I was growing up my father would get very upset if I tried to disagree with him.

            This is antithetical to the "stand in the breach" of Ezek 22:30. So, this idea of "authoritarian parent" seems at odds with the Old Testament. I could find bits in the new (e.g. of Jesus treating children as persons instead of nuisances), but perhaps I have made my point? Teaching an orthodox version of hell is neither entailed by, nor entails, being an "authoritarian parent".

            Since it is logically inconsistent for God to be both all-just and create hell Christians who believe in both have an inconsistent belief system. Are you sure it is healthy to believe true things? I think that is quite disputable.

            Please explain this logical inconsistency. Perhaps you're referencing eternal conscious torment and it being a punishment which doesn't fit the crime? If so, I will point out that there exist infinite series of numbers which converge to finite numbers. One would get annihilationism as t → ∞.

            Yes, I believe that health is optimized by believing true things and disbelieving false things. The only disputes I see are short-term ones, where one is trying to optimize short-term health at the expense of long-term health. That would be like those who have optimized short-term cheap productivity at the expense of long-term ecological health. Maybe they won't suffer—maybe only their great-grandchildren will appreciably suffer. Lies, deception, and falsehood bear ill fruit, eventually.

            Too bad the various Churches have missed out on this message and instead have made him out to be an immoral monster.

            The reigning ideology is always perverted by some, perhaps many, hopefully not but still perhaps most.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This can be contrasted with the three times that the most humble man, Moses, questioned YHWH's decisions: Ex 32:9–14, Num 14:11–20, and Num 16:19–23. If anyone is the ultimate authority figure, it's YHWH. And yet Moses is happy to question him. So this conception of "authoritarian" that Buri has constructed doesn't seem to match up with a biblical model.

            The bible is a large collection of books written by various men. It has all sorts of messages and I would say contradictions. Christian Churches choose to interpret the bible in certain ways and elucidate a larger meaning to the whole text. I am not convinced that they use good methods to do this, but you cannot point to three bible verses and say therefore, Christianity is not authoritarian. Otherwise, we have no choice but to accept that God is a genocidal maniac of the worst kind. Christianity can be very authoritarian. "Sinners in the hand of an angry God" for instance. It seems that authoritarian Christianity is paired with an orthodox description of hell.

            Please explain this logical inconsistency. Perhaps you're referencing eternal conscious torment and it being a punishment which doesn't fit the crime? If so, I will point out that there exist infinite series of numbers which converge to finite numbers. One would get annihilationism as t → ∞.

            Yes. Finite beings cannot deserve infinite punishment. I am not sure what you are getting at with infinite series example. Convergent series really don't seem to apply.

            Yes, I believe that health is optimized by believing true things and disbelieving false things.

            Let us suppose that Christianity is false. Many people however use a universalist Christianity to give their lives purpose. Are they healthier as a result?

            The reigning ideology is always perverted by some, perhaps many, hopefully not but still perhaps most.

            Problem is those who you say are perverting the ideology would also say that it is you who are perverting the ideology.

          • [...] you cannot point to three bible verses and say therefore, Christianity is not authoritarian.

            I can show how central bits in the Bible militates strongly against the operationalized definition of "authoritarian parent" defined in Bury, 1991. Moses is the central character in the OT. The idea of "standing in the breach" is also central; the final failure of humans to fill this role was arguably the lynch pin for Jesus' arrival on the scene: Is 59:14–19.

            I don't need to argue that no interpretation of the Bible leads to said "authoritarian parent". Instead, I merely need to point out that there are extremely valid interpretations which do not do away with an orthodox version of hell, and which do seem to exclude said "authoritarian parent".

            Yes. Finite beings cannot deserve infinite punishment. I am not sure what you are getting at with infinite series example. Convergent series really don't seem to apply.

            I provided a rigorous means for obtaining eternal time spent in hell with finite punishment.

            Let us suppose that Christianity is false. Many people however use a universalist Christianity to give their lives purpose. Are they healthier as a result?

            See Paul's comments on "if Jesus is not raised" in 1 Cor 15; I agree with him. Comfort not based on truth is of the Mt 7:24–27-kind. It is liable to collapse and turn into totalitarian rule.

            Problem is those who you say are perverting the ideology would also say that it is you who are perverting the ideology.

            So? There is no neutral ground. There never was. There never will be.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't need to argue that no interpretation of the Bible leads to said "authoritarian parent". Instead, I merely need to point out that there are extremely valid interpretations which do not do away with an orthodox version of hell, and which do seem to exclude said "authoritarian parent".

            Not really. You showed that it is permissible to question God or argue with God. Not that it is permissible to disobey God without him getting very angry.

            I provided a rigorous means for obtaining eternal time spent in hell with finite punishment.

            That is not the orthodox definition of hell. Usually we are told that hell is outside of time, so I am not sure if using a time in our conversation is particularly accurate.

            So? There is no neutral ground. There never was. There never will be.

            How do you know that version A of Christianity is correct while version B is incorrect?

          • Not really. You showed that it is permissible to question God or argue with God. Not that it is permissible to disobey God without him getting very angry.

            And yet, from Buri, 1991, the following is used to determine whether a parent is "authoritarian":

            7. As I was growing up my father did not allow me to question any decision that he had made.

            (I already quoted this.) As to disobeying God not always making him angry, we can examine when David ate the show bread, which was prohibited by Torah.

            That is not the orthodox definition of hell.

            You are welcome to make the case that the orthodox definition of hell necessarily entails infinite pain/punishment.

            How do you know that version A of Christianity is correct while version B is incorrect?

            When it comes to the value domain (which cannot be entirely divorced from the fact domain), perhaps I cannot "know". That depends on your epistemology. I could ask the same about values used in the scientific domain; in the words of Richard J. Bernstein:

                Even more important, Kuhn never squarely answers the question, What is the epistemological status of the values that he isolates? Echoing the type of question that Socrates asks of Euthythro, we can ask Kuhn, Are the criteria or values accepted by scientific communities rational because these are the values accepted by scientific communities, or are they accepted by scientific communities because they are the criteria of rationality? (Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, 58)

            The word "know" received quite the drubbing in the twentieth century. Perhaps I should say that I "believe", or that I confess allegiance to a particular person. Indeed, I would argue that "goodness" itself is inextricably "the character and actions of a particular person", not an abstract formal system (e.g. definable by a Turing machine).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And yet, from Buri, 1991, the following is used to determine whether a parent is "authoritarian":

            7. As I was growing up my father did not allow me to question any decision that he had made.

            There is a difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition.

            (I already quoted this.) As to disobeying God not always making him angry, we can examine when David ate the show bread, which was prohibited by Torah.

            Except all the other times in makes him especially angry. Uzzah simply tried to prevent the ark from falling and God struck him down. David grows angry and afraid. It is interesting that all of God's servants are also afraid of him. Perhaps because he is a capricious authoritarian maniac.

            I think if we made a list of all the times God allowed someone to disobey his laws without punishment verses the many times he punished we would see a trend of punishment.

            You are welcome to make the case that the orthodox definition of hellnecessarily entails infinite pain/punishment.

            The Roman Church has held that position, as have the Eastern Catholic Churches, early protestant reformers like Luther and Calvin believed it, and important thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, and Chrysotom believed it. It is the traditional belief.

            When it comes to the value domain (which cannot be entirely divorced from the fact domain), perhaps I cannot "know". That depends on your epistemology. I could ask the same about values used in the scientific domain; in the words of Richard J. Bernstein:

            How do you decide is better wording than how do you know. So how do you decide Christianity A is preferable to Christianity B?

          • There is a difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition.

            I do not see how this addresses my point in any way. Should I continue to show where the operationalized definition of "authoritarian parent" is easily at odds with a sufficiently orthodox reading of the Bible? Actually, it really seems like the burden of proof is on you for showing that it is consonant with a sufficiently orthodox reading of the Bible.

            Except all the other times in makes him especially angry.

            Yes, some kind of disagreements do merit anger. The abolitionists were morally right to be angry at slave-holders.

            It is interesting that all of God's servants are also afraid of him. Perhaps because he is a capricious authoritarian maniac.

            That certainly is one option. Another is that we ought to fear God more than a skier properly fears a triple black diamond trail, a rock climber properly fears a more-than-vertical climb, or a stunt performer fears paralysis due to error. All of these fears are rational.

            I will note that fear cannot be merely eliminated. One will fear God or fear man. I would prefer to fear God.

            I think if we made a list of all the times God allowed someone to disobey his laws without punishment verses the many times he punished we would see a trend of punishment.

            That means nothing without an analysis of which situations are examined. A number of instances where God is challenged and it seems just fine can be found in Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

            The Roman Church has held that position, as have the Eastern Catholic Churches, early protestant reformers like Luther and Calvin believed it, and important thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, and Chrysotom believed it. It is the traditional belief.

            Are you specifically picking out "infinite suffering" as "that position"? For a long time, the soul was assumed to be immortal, based on Platonic metaphysics. So you did have an infinite time dimension for quite some time. What would be important to ask is whether people saw a contradiction between finite crime and infinite punishment, and looked for ways to resolve that. I do not know the history of "a finite crime against an infinite being merits an infinite punishment", but I'm pretty sure it doesn't stretch back to the Patristic Fathers.

            How do you decide is better wording than how do you know. So how do you decide Christianity A is preferable to Christianity B?

            Rejecting the term "preferable" as the kind of word which frequently denies truth-status, I employ something like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. For example, James 3:17 says that "wisdom from above is... open to reason". Well, if I find a Christianity which does not seem open to reason, I reject it on that basis, unless my interlocutors can convince me that I have misunderstood what "open to reason" means.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I do not see how this addresses my point in any way. Should I continue
            to show where the operationalized definition of "authoritarian parent"
            is easily at odds with a sufficiently orthodox reading of the Bible?

            You claim that an attitude which is sufficient for being an authoritarian parent is also necessary to be an authoritarian parent. Authoritarian parenting can manifest itself in multiple ways.

            Actually, it really seems like the burden of proof is on you for showing that it is consonant with a sufficiently orthodox reading of the Bible.

            What the bible says and what Christians teach are not one and the same. I said that an orthodox teaching of hell is a type of authoritarian parenting.

            That certainly is one option. Another is that we ought to fear God more
            than a skier properly fears a triple black diamond trail, a rock
            climber properly fears a more-than-vertical climb, or a stunt performer
            fears paralysis due to error. All of these fears are rational.

            I don't fear my earthly father more than I fear a difficult skiing trail. At least he wouldn't try to kill me after sending my on a mission to Egypt, because I was uncircumcised:

            24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses[a] and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[b] “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

            God is the all-powerful being who created the arbitrary rules and then gets upset if we violate them, or even worse sends you to hell forever. God should be held accountable for the rules he chose as well. It seems that if Christianity is largely true, God is a monster greater than any earthly tyrant.

            Are you specifically picking out "infinite suffering" as "that position"?

            Yes. Luther, for instance, was rather animated by a profound fear of hell.

            I do not know the history of "a finite crime against an infinite being merits an infinite punishment",

            That is because it is a crass apologetic.

            For example, James 3:17
            says that "wisdom from above is... open to reason". Well, if I find a
            Christianity which does not seem open to reason, I reject it on that
            basis, unless my interlocutors can convince me that I have misunderstood
            what "open to reason" means.

            So you think reason is important because revelation says so?

          • You claim that an attitude which is sufficient for being an authoritarian parent is also necessary to be an authoritarian parent. Authoritarian parenting can manifest itself in multiple ways.

            Nope, I did not make the sufficient/​necessary claim you impute to me. What I did is question your application of psychology research on a Bury, 1991-type "authoritarian parent", to the teaching of a sufficiently orthodox version of hell.

            I don't fear my earthly father more than I fear a difficult skiing trail. At least he wouldn't try to kill me after sending my on a mission to Egypt, because I was uncircumcised:

            The difference between an uncircumcised and circumcised son is the difference between Moses being an Egyptian vs. an Israelite, in the eyes of the people he was supposed to help set free. If you think this is a small thing—if you think the Israelites, already wary of Moses, would happily abide his son being uncircumcised, then go for it. We will have to agree to disagree on that matter.

            God is the all-powerful being who created the arbitrary rules [...]

            Hmmm, what would be a non-arbitrary rule? What is it that distinguishes between rules being arbitrary and not arbitrary?

            God should be held accountable for the rules he chose as well.

            To what external standard—external to you and God—will you hold him accountable?

            It seems that if Christianity is largely true, God is a monster greater than any earthly tyrant.

            It sounds like you have imbibed of the New Atheist Kool-Aid.

            Yes. Luther, for instance, was rather animated by a profound fear of hell.

            It's easy to be animated by a profound fear of a sizable, but finite, chunk of suffering.

            So you think reason is important because revelation says so?

            No, I picked that verse because you've been on quite the kick about how important forms of Christianity aren't "open to reason".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Nope, I did not make the sufficient/​necessary claim you impute to me.
            What I did is question your application of psychology research on a Bury, 1991-type "authoritarian parent", to the teaching of a sufficiently orthodox version of hell.

            You are isolating one question in a survey meant to be taken as a whole.

            The difference between an uncircumcised and circumcised son is the
            difference between Moses being an Egyptian vs. an Israelite, in the eyes
            of the people he was supposed to help set free. If you think this is a
            small thing—if you think the Israelites, already wary of Moses, would
            happily abide his son being uncircumcised, then go for it. We will have
            to agree to disagree on that matter.

            My understanding is that Moses wasn't circumcised either, than again, I don't think Moses was historical. Why not just tell Moses to circumcise his son. Getting angry and killing seems a little overboard.

            Hmmm, what would be a non-arbitrary rule? What is it that distinguishes between rules being arbitrary and not arbitrary?

            A prohibition against killing. A rule without utility is arbitrary.

            To what external standard—external to you and God—will you hold him accountable?

            Utility.

            It sounds like you have imbibed of the New Atheist Kool-Aid.

            Not really. I have actually never read a new atheist besides Hitchens and some Dawkins on evolution. The criticisms are older than them. I notice you don't try to resolve the situation.

            It's easy to be animated by a profound fear of a sizable, but finite, chunk of suffering.

            Right, but he didn't believe in finite suffering.

            No, I picked that verse because you've been on quite the kick about how important forms of Christianity aren't "open to reason".

            Not about their dogmas and doctrines. You can't reason with a conservative Christian on abortion or gay marriage, because their positions are not based on reason.

          • You are isolating one question in a survey meant to be taken as a whole.

            Actually, I picked out two. Do I need to deal with more points in order to make my point? What's the criterion of success for me to convince you that the operationalized definition of "authoritarian parent" just doesn't well-match what is required to teach a sufficiently orthodox version of hell?

            My understanding is that Moses wasn't circumcised either, than again, I don't think Moses was historical. Why not just tell Moses to circumcise his son. Getting angry and killing seems a little overboard.

            The story is extremely sparse, probably because parchment was very expensive and scribe-time in high demand. You are welcome to consult the Jewish oral tradition on this matter. Barring that, you can take the "certainly this is ridiculous" approach—based on your model of reality being imprinted upon a text from 2200+ years ago in a radically different culture than your own—or you can employ a charitable reading. It's really up to you.

            A rule without utility is arbitrary.

            No, that's not quite right. You have to be able to see the utility. And whose 'utility' is this, anyway? What was useful to a 10th century BC Israelite doesn't necessarily match up well with what is useful to a 21st century AD Westerner. Where this gets really interesting is if a rule is only useful five centuries later, in the sense of people sowing the seeds for something "better", but only perceptibly "better" well down the line. The instant we only do things based on what is useful in our judgment, it seems we risk limiting where humanity may ever go.

            I notice you don't try to resolve the situation.

            You just made a bald assertion. What was there to resolve? You're welcome to establish that, given the standards of the time (not 21st-century standards!), YHWH was antithetical, or even neutral, to moral and social progress. Otherwise, were I to derogate human precursors to modern science on the basis that their 'science' is pitiful, I am in danger of despising that which allowed modern science to exist in the first place.

            Right, but he didn't believe in finite suffering.

            You are welcome to provide evidence that he believed in infinite suffering awaiting him. It might also be interesting to try and differentiate between the psychologically motivating impact of 1e20 units of pain vs. ∞ units of pain. (Yes, ∞ is not a number, but perhaps I can be sloppy, here.)

            Not about their dogmas and doctrines. You can't reason with a conservative Christian on abortion or gay marriage, because their positions are not based on reason.

            Is 'utility' "based on reason"? It strikes me that you have to allow an "I want" or "I need" into 'reason'. And so I suspect you're just playing with terms, whereby you smuggle in values while refusing to let others introduce values. I just doubt you're really not doing things that religionists are doing. Maybe you're doing them differently, but I question the relevance of the differences.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Actually, I picked out two.
            Do I need to deal with more points in order to make my point? What's
            the criterion of success for me to convince you that the operationalized
            definition of "authoritarian parent" just doesn't well-match what is required to teach a sufficiently orthodox version of hell?

            It was probably unfortunate that I chose the word orthodox to describe the view of hell. I have in mind the following:

            1) Hell is a place of very great torment. Worse than any torment you could possibly suffer on earth. (In a religious text I used when I was in elementary school, it was explained that 1 second of hell is worse than a lifetime of every possible earthly pain.)

            2) You can go to hell for individual actions, many of which are arguably moral. For instance, I may believe that I could go to hell for eating meat on a Friday in Lent.

            3) You can go to hell for being in the wrong state when you die. You do not know the hour of death, so if you happen to unfortunately die when you are in a bad state, you are damned.

            4) You can be damned for believing in false faiths. You are especially culpable if you once had the true faith.

            This maps very well to authoritarian parenting structures.

            The story is extremely sparse, probably because parchment was very
            expensive and scribe-time in high demand. You are welcome to consult the
            Jewish oral tradition on this matter. Barring that, you can take the
            "certainly this is ridiculous" approach—based on your model of reality
            being imprinted upon a text from 2200+ years ago in a radically
            different culture than your own—or you can employ a charitable reading.
            It's really up to you.

            In general, I would employ a charitable reading. However, the book is said to be inspired by God, so I ask, why does God portray himself as being capricious?

            You just made a bald assertion. What was there to resolve? You're
            welcome to establish that, given the standards of the time (not
            21st-century standards!), YHWH was antithetical, or even neutral, to
            moral and social progress.

            So as long as God's laws are slightly better than whatever laws are currently in vogue, he gets a free pass? Somehow I would expect a little better from a tri-omni being. I certainly would expect him to be just at least. He commands and does all sorts of injustice though.

            Otherwise, were I to derogate human precursors to modern science on the
            basis that their 'science' is pitiful, I am in danger of despising that
            which allowed modern science to exist in the first place.

            In this case, I would commend the Israelites for making social progress, but I am ascribing it to man not to God. If God is in charge of the social progress, I would expect something more.

            You are welcome to provide evidence that he believed in infinite
            suffering awaiting him. It might also be interesting to try and
            differentiate between the psychologically motivating impact of 1e20
            units of pain vs. ∞ units of pain. (Yes, ∞ is not a number, but perhaps I
            can be sloppy, here.)

            I agree. Although the eternal part seems to be extra motivating.

            Is 'utility' "based on reason"? It strikes me that you have to allow an "I want" or "I need" into 'reason'.

            Yes and know. I am convinced that utilitarianism is the best ethical system. I could be convinced that gay marriage is immoral by convincing me that it has negative utility or that utility is not the best measure of ethics. No amount of reasoning will convince a dogmatist that they are incorrect.

            And so I suspect you're just playing with terms, whereby you smuggle in
            values while refusing to let others introduce values. I just doubt
            you're really not doing things that religionists are doing. Maybe you're
            doing them differently, but I question the relevance of the
            differences.

            I am explicit in my value statements. I try to keep my belief system consistent and I am open to changing my mind. I use principles that can be debated and rejected.

            Conservative Christians on the other hand do hold consistency in a very high regard (as their application of natural law theory is inconsistent) and place unmerited value on a very old text. I will admit to the possibility of error as my knowledge comes from man, while they will not admit to the possibility of error, because they think their knowledge comes from God. This may be the crux of the issue. Christians who believe that their knowledge is of Divine origin and thus infallible.You cannot argue with such people. They are immune to reason.

          • It was probably unfortunate that I chose the word orthodox to describe the view of hell. I have in mind the following:

            Here, you've picked out a particularly Catholic version of hell; I'm not even sure it is true to e.g. what Augustine believed, not to mention Luther or Calvin. What you've described here does seem closer to the Buri, 1991-type "authoritarian parent" than my understanding of hell, which I'm pretty sure is "sufficiently orthodox". BTW, I'm not sure that you picked the word 'orthodox'; I may have done that.

            In general, I would employ a charitable reading. However, the book is said to be inspired by God, so I ask, why does God portray himself as being capricious?

            Many things seem nonsensical when you have too much distance from them and haven't worked hard to bridge that distance. Indeed, this is probably one of the things that is contributing to the increasing polarization in American politics. That which cannot be easily and immediately understood is portrayed as capricious, evil, stupid, etc.

            So as long as God's laws are slightly better than whatever laws are currently in vogue, he gets a free pass? Somehow I would expect a little better from a tri-omni being. I certainly would expect him to be just at least. He commands and does all sorts of injustice though.

            Can God be perfectly just with fallen humans in the way you request? It's not clear what you're asking for. I imagine that 2200 years from now, Newtonian mechanics will seem pathetic. And yet, it seems that it was all we could handle, at that stage in development. I take arguments like yours here to entail a positive claim: "God could have gone about things in a better way." Such historical–counterfactual claims cannot be tested directly, but surely there are indirect tests which can be carried out. Can you defend such a positive claim in this way?

            In this case, I would commend the Israelites for making social progress, but I am ascribing it to man not to God. If God is in charge of the social progress, I would expect something more.

            Where's the line of demarcation, between "man did it himself" vs. "man got assistance from God"? How can I explore this line?

            I am convinced that utilitarianism is the best ethical system.

            But don't you judge "best" via utilitarianism? This would make your being convinced viciously circular.

            Conservative Christians on the other hand do hold consistency in a very high regard (as their application of natural law theory is inconsistent) and place unmerited value on a very old text. I will admit to the possibility of error as my knowledge comes from man, while they will not admit to the possibility of error, because they think their knowledge comes from God. This may be the crux of the issue. Christians who believe that their knowledge is of Divine origin and thus infallible.You cannot argue with such people. They are immune to reason.

            Honestly, I've run across to plenty of self-described atheists who are also "immune to reason". So it's not clear that this problem is unique to Christianity, to treating the Bible as inspired, etc. In ages past, the analogical method of understanding God and the faith has fallibilism built into it. Throughout the Bible, God consistently hates on pride and arrogance. In Job 40:6–14, God seems to be telling Job that if he can accomplish the one task of putting the proud in their place, he would consider Job a god.

            As I've said in other discussions with you, the idea that anything you believe is open to falsification is deeply problematic, unless you want to admit to holding to coherentism, which has its own problems. That Christians put the Bible, or perhaps something closer to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, in the place of 'axiom' in Agrippa's trilemma, doesn't strike me as immediately problematic. Feel free to mount a philosophical argument against this which doesn't merely presuppose its conclusion. What you're picking out with your label "conservative Christians" seems like a failure mode, of an instance where sharp knives are used to harm instead of help.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Here, you've picked out a particularly Catholic version of hell; I'm not
            even sure it is true to e.g. what Augustine believed, not to mention
            Luther or Calvin.

            I think it can be found outside of Catholicism as well. Years ago, I read some of the things that Calvin and Luther thought about hell, I remember it being quite frightening.

            Many things seem nonsensical when you have too much distance from them
            and haven't worked hard to bridge that distance. Indeed, this is
            probably one of the things that is contributing to the increasing
            polarization in American politics. That which cannot be easily and
            immediately understood is portrayed as capricious, evil, stupid, etc.

            I spent a great deal of time trying to understand the bible as the inspired word of God. Perhaps I read the wrong theologians, but they did not convince me that the bible can be read consistently as a biblical text, without stripping away its status as an inspired text.

            Can God be perfectly just with fallen humans in the way you request? It's not clear what you're asking for.

            If he is all-powerful than yes. He made the rules that we play by.

            "God could have gone about things in a better way." Such
            historical–counterfactual claims cannot be tested directly, but surely
            there are indirect tests which can be carried out. Can you defend such a
            positive claim in this way?

            Yes. Although some of this depends on how much of the bible we take to be historical.

            Where's the line of demarcation, between "man did it himself" vs. "man got assistance from God"? How can I explore this line?

            I don't think there is a personal God, so I think man does everything himself. This is why I would praise some of the accomplishments of ancient peoples, even if their laws seem backwards today, because they were working towards a better future. However, I expect more from an all-powerful being.

            Telling the works of God from the works of man depends on your theology. I let believers tell me how they distinguish.

            But don't you judge "best" via utilitarianism? This would make your being convinced viciously circular.

            It is either circular or foundational. It is however consistent and I explicitly say how I think ethical decisions should be made.

          • I think it can be found outside of Catholicism as well. Years ago, I read some of the things that Calvin and Luther thought about hell, I remember it being quite frightening.

            Many things are quite frightening. Climate change is a good example; the threat of global thermonuclear war is probably a better example. I don't see how "level of frightening" is relevant to truth, though. Note also that global thermonuclear war isn't anywhere near infinite suffering. Can you empirically demonstrate that the threat of it generated less fear than the threat of hell? Given that it's mostly a historical worry (for most), feel free to pick the closest example which is real for enough people to run the empirical test.

            I spent a great deal of time trying to understand the bible as the inspired word of God. Perhaps I read the wrong theologians, but they did not convince me that the bible can be read consistently as a biblical text, without stripping away its status as an inspired text.

            How did you develop your conception of what "an inspired text" must look like? I suggest a read of Peter Enns' recent blog post, Christian, don't expect more from the Bible than you would of Jesus. I'm inclined to say that your conception of what "an inspired text" must look like is a pre-theoretical religious belief not formed based on the evidence. :-p

            If he is all-powerful than yes. He made the rules that we play by.

            When I said "in the way you request", I meant giving the Israelites perfect moral commands, which would be recognized as 'perfect' for all time. Contrast this to F = ma, which will probably be seen as 'quaint' at some point in the future.

            Yes. Although some of this depends on how much of the bible we take to be historical.

            Can we merely take the OT to be 'truth-like', instead of also requiring it to be 'historical'? That is, can we, for the sake of conversation, treat it as accurate "what-if" simulations?

            However, I expect more from an all-powerful being.

            Do you see any epistemological problems with an imperfect being trying to imagine how a perfect being would do things?

            It is either circular or foundational. It is however consistent and I explicitly say how I think ethical decisions should be made.

            But surely you wouldn't allow the powerless to be executed so we can use their organs to help the powerful? I question whether you actually employ utilitarianism. Add enough qualifications to it, and the thing you are left with oughtn't be called by that name.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            How did you develop your conception of what "an inspired text" must look like? I suggest a read of Peter Enns' recent blog post, Christian, don't expect more from the Bible than you would of Jesus. I'm inclined to say that your conception of what "an inspired text" must look like is a pre-theoretical religious belief not formed based on the evidence. :-p

            I am not completely sure how an inspired text should look. I am waiting for someone who believes in them to explain it to me. On one hand, theologians will obsess over minute details of the bible, trying to tease out the inspired author's reasoning for putting those details there, or will draw out significant meditations (some are quite beautiful) out of the smallest details. But then, theologians will apply a totally different line of reasoning to more unsavory parts of the bible. It lacks consistency.

            When I said "in the way you request", I meant giving the Israelites perfect moral commands, which would be recognized as 'perfect' for all time. Contrast this to F = ma, which will probably be seen as 'quaint' at some point in the future.

            Could God give perfect moral commands?

            Can we merely take the OT to be 'truth-like', instead of also requiring it to be 'historical'? That is, can we, for the sake of conversation, treat it as accurate "what-if" simulations?

            Of course. I am interested on how you think the bible should be read or viewed.

            It occurred to me that one could read the bible as inspired in the sense that it was purely humans writing about their understanding of God. Not privileged over later post biblical writings, but representing what men at the time thought about God, and valued for the sake of tradition as well as its keen insights. I don't know if any Christians hold such a view.

            Do you see any epistemological problems with an imperfect being trying to imagine how a perfect being would do things?

            Yes, although I am not sure this objection always applies.

            But surely you wouldn't allow the powerless to be executed so we can use their organs to help the powerful? I question whether you actually employ utilitarianism. Add enough qualifications to it, and the thing you are left with oughtn't be called by that name.

            I agree with John Stuart Mill when he argues that type of action does not have utility.

      • ClayJames

        Man of straw.

        How is that a strawman? Are you saying that there are no atheists that believe that? Or are you erroneously interpreting my words to mean that all atheists believe that? Because if you are, you must also interpret that all theists believe what I attribute to some theists.

        Don´t turn this into something its not.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Are you saying that there are no atheists that believe that?

          I think it is safe to say that very few atheists believe it. It would be like holding the Westboro Church as mainstream Christianity.

          Maybe it is more of an equivocation. Theists are always seeking some sort of parity with atheists, by claiming whatever bad theists do, the atheists must also do in equal measure. This is not true. All sorts of Christians indoctrinate their children. Atheists are correct to point out that this is immoral.

          • ClayJames

            Theists are always seeking some sort of parity with atheists, by claiming whatever bad theists do, the atheists must also do in equal measure. This is not true.

            So the way to counter this, as an atheist, is to change what someone is actually trying to say into what you think theists are always seeking to do? Oh, the irony.

            I mean what I say, nothing more, nothing less.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            into what you think theists are always seeking to do?

            I think if you look through the article history here, you will see that that is a common tactic.

      • CJ: However, on one side you have ignorant atheists who think that free-thinking is synonymous with atheism and therefore to teach children about religion is to teach them something false or worse, to commit child abuse.

        IR: Man of straw.

        Peter Boghossian, in A Manual for Creating Atheists, defines 'atheist' these ways (as reported by Randal):

        ‘Atheist,’ as I use the term, means, ‘There’s insufficient evidence to warrant belief in a divine, supernatural creator of the universe. However, if I were shown sufficient evidence to warrant belief in such an entity, then I would believe.’ (27)

        An alternative definition of ‘atheist’ is: a person who doesn’t pretend to know things he doesn’t know with regard to the creation of the universe. (37)

        Let's look at 'freethinker':

        dictionary.com: freethinker: a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.

        It seems to me that Boghossian's definitions of 'atheist' contain the notion of being a freethinker. I think it's pretty clear that @ClayJames:disqus is talking about teaching one's children one's religious beliefs, not "about religion" in the sense of a World Religions class. After all, the context is Randal Rauser's article.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          It seems to me that Boghossian's definitions of 'atheist' contain the
          notion of being a freethinker. I think it's pretty clear that ClayJames
          is talking about teaching one's children one's religious beliefs, not
          "about religion" in the sense of a World Religions class.

          Most atheists do not think it is child abuse to teach one's children religion, unless that teaching is dogmatic and backed with the threat of hell. Therefore, yes it is a strawman, because very few atheists think teaching children any form of religion is child abuse.

          I am not of the opinion that all atheists are free thinkers. Certainly there are many theists who are also free thinkers.

          • Therefore, yes it is a strawman, because very few atheists think teaching children any form of religion is child abuse.

            I doubt that @ClayJames:disqus meant to indicate "any form of religion" under the label of "child abuse"—that's a very, very large category.

            I am not of the opinion that all atheists are free thinkers. Certainly there are many theists who are also free thinkers.

            Your opinion on this matter is irrelevant to your accusation of "Man of straw."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I doubt that ClayJames meant to indicate "any form of religion" under the label of "child abuse"—that's a very, very large category.

            CJ says:

            therefore to teach children about religion is to teach them something false or worse, to commit child abuse.

            Looks like a universal claim to me.

            Your opinion on this matter is irrelevant to your accusation of "Man of straw."

            Sure, but in general, atheists call themselves atheists, because they lack belief in deities. This has nothing to do with whether or not we are also free thinkers.

          • CJ says:[...]Looks like a universal claim to me.

            In my experience, such claims tend to be parochially inspired, and thus true in certain domains, not universally. To immediately assume that someone meant something universally is often a cheap tactic to launch a "straw man" accusation.

            Sure, but in general, atheists call themselves atheists, because they lack belief in deities.

            I provided an example of an atheist, popular with quite a number of atheists, who gets close to if not arrives at 'atheist' ⇒ 'freethinker'. Surely you know that the definition of 'atheist' is widely contended, by theists and atheists, including atheists among each other?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In my experience, such claims tend to be parochially inspired, and thus true in certain domains, not universally. To immediately assume that someone meant something universally is often a cheap tactic to launch a "straw man" accusation

            This is how I understood his statement. There exists a significant number of atheists who believe all religious instruction is akin to child abuse. The bolded is the universal claim I am speaking of. This is a strawman, because very few atheists believe this. Now, there are atheists who believe that some types of religious instruction is akin to child abuse, which is a very reasonable thing to believe, which many theists will agree with. So, he is either constructing a strawman or calling atheists ignorant for believing a very reasonable thing.

            I provided an example of an atheist, popular with quite a number of atheists, who gets close to if not arrives at 'atheist' ⇒ 'freethinker'. Surely you know that the definition of 'atheist' is widely contended, by theists and atheists, including atheists among each other?

            I have never read Peter Boghossian and do not plan on doing so anytime soon. I am not however going to trust Randal's portray Boghossian, which could quite possibly (and from what I have seen likely) be a caricature.
            Atheism is the negation of theism. Most atheists hold to something similar to the idea that atheism entails a lack of belief in gods. This is what all atheists have in common.
            Atheism is the negation of theism.

          • This is how I understood his statement. There exists a significant number of atheists who believe all religious instruction is akin to child abuse.

            But that wasn't the statement; you missed a crucial "or":

            CJ: However, on one side you have ignorant atheists who think that free-thinking is synonymous with atheism and therefore to teach children about religion is to teach them something false or worse, to commit child abuse.

            I'm quite sure that many atheists think that teaching religion to children is to teach them something false. A smaller contingent will use the term 'child abuse'. They will probably vary as to whether they say that all religious instruction is 'child abuse', or only some.

            Now, there are atheists who believe that some types of religious instruction is akin to child abuse, which is a very reasonable thing to believe, which many theists will agree with.

            I suspect you are equivocating on "some types of religious instruction", between what "many atheists" think and what "many theists" think.

            I have never read Peter Boghossian and do not plan on doing so anytime soon. I am not however going to trust Randal's portray Boghossian, which could quite possibly (and from what I have seen likely) be a caricature.

            Hey, you're welcome to put the quotations in more context. There were plenty of atheists who contested Randal's portrayals of Boghossian, but nobody I recall claims that the quotes were taken out of context. You could also consult the Unbelievable episode Peter Boghossian vs Tim McGrew, where Boghossian's definitions were criticized to his face (Randal reviewed that episode).

            What you're not welcome to do is dismiss Boghossian as not representative of a significant number of atheists, unless you also want to include Michael Shermer and Jerry Coyne as also not being representative.

            Atheism is the negation of theism. Most atheists hold to something similar to the idea that atheism entails a lack of belief in gods. This is what all atheists have in common.
            Atheism is the negation of theism.

            Is this an implicit denial that atheists disagree on how to define 'atheism'?

  • LaDolceVipera

    He is commending a strong agnosticism to his child and if he is successful, she will grow up to hold the same view, just like Catie Wilkins did.

    I know from personal experience that this is very true. Until the age of four, I never heard anything about God or Jesus. Then I went to a Catholic kindergarten and every evening I returned home with all kinds of stories about little Jesus etc. My father listened without contradicting these stories but I could feel that he did not share my enthusiasm. One day, during a thunderstorm, I said "That's Jesus being angry and wagging his finger at us". My father then explained the phenomenon of thunder and lightning in a way I could understand and I found his explanation so much more interesting. I remember distinctly that was my first doubt about faith. I listened very critically to the stories I was told at school and many other doubts followed. When I was seven we were getting ready to receive Holy Communion and we were told not to chew on the wafer because it was the body of Christ and it would bleed... Once again my father looked very doubtful. I desperately wanted to know who was right: my teachers or my father. So although I was really very frightened I chewed on the wafer as hard as I could and nothing happened. This was the end of my faith.
    Since then I have of course thought a lot about religion, but faith never came back. Although my father had never explicitly said that religion is not true his agnosticism has had an enormous influence on what I (do not) believe.

    • GFPchicken

      I'm sorry you were taught something incorrect which contributed to losing your faith. You probably know now, bit just in case, the Church actually teaches that a consecrated host continues to have all the physical properties of bread, and would not bleed if chewed.

      My childhood experience was actually very similar to yours: went to Catholic school but my parents were at best lukewarm about it, did not reinforce it at home at all, so grew up vaguely deist, I suppose. I found my way back to the Church at 16 and have been a very happy practicing Catholic since. A lot of pain and sorrow in my life could have been avoided if I were raised with a strong understanding of the faith to begin with. This is why I'm so convinced that ultimately it's only the parents who can instill faith, not schools or once a week CCD programs.

      • LaDolceVipera

        I am very happy with my father's approach of matters of faith. He taught me to think for myself. I would have lost my faith anyway. There are far too many things I cannot accept.
        I had plenty of opportunity to recreate the link with Catholicism as I have many bright and broadminded Catholic friends. It is impossible to think that they are either naive or indoctrinated. So we agree to disagree. I see myself as a humanist with a great affinity with christian values.
        For me christianity is a superb intellectual system, but it is only a symbolic reference to a transcendent reality (if any...). There are many such systems.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    I think before we comment and write articles on the best way to educate and raise one's children, some background work needs to be done on the goal of education. To my mind, the goal of education is learning how to reliably acquire new knowledge and reject false knowledge claims. The goal when raising children, seems to me to be raising happy functioning adults, who can flourish as best as they are able.

    On the other hand, the goal of a Catholic education is to create more Catholics. Catholic parents want to raise their children to go to heaven, and they think their children have the best shot at that by being Catholics. The parents often go to great lengths to achieve this, by sending their kids to Catholic schools or homeschooling, isolating their children in Catholic peer groups, and even sending them to traditional Catholic college, so their minds are not spoiled by secular professors. This seems more like indoctrination than education, but it is effective at raising Catholics.

    My view on education (which is the mainstream view) and the Catholic view are not compatible though Dr. Rouser attempts to equivocate the two. Acquiring knowledge via faith and arguments of Catholic thinkers is a poor way of learning, especially when the opposing view is not taught and the Catholic view is considered sacrosanct. One can readily see this, by looking at all of the contradictory positions that the faith based systems have generated, and yet they all think that they have the truth. Furthermore, most theological positions are met with widespread disagreement, so it seems necessary to engage the opposing points of view to even have the slightest surety that you possess knowledge.

    There is also this disturbing tendency in Catholicism to view the encouragement of doubt as something that one would be very culpable for and quite possibly lead to eternal damnation. Any educational system that puts up a such a strong barrier to doubt cannot be considered educational in any meaningful sense.

    Now on to human flourishing. There is a strong current of thought in Catholicism and most of Christianity that the world will be set against them and that in some ways they will be isolated or apart from the world. This is cult like on many levels and often results in raising children who are undeveloped socially. It is a rather awful thing to tell a child.

    To begin with, the father’s answer is wholly inappropriate for the cognitive level of a four year old. Granted, ethicists disagree over questions like whether it is always wrong to kill somebody for money, but it doesn’t follow that a four year old needs to hear about that entire controversy. At this age they need a simple answer. Complexity and nuance can (and should) be acquired over time, but you need a place to begin.

    Not at all. In order to flourish as a human being, it is best to avoid killing other human beings. This isn't so much an educational issue as much as a human flourishing issue. It is silly to compare this with teaching your child religious truths.

    The second problem with the response is that it is not nearly as free and uncommitted as one might think. Despite his alleged neutrality as regards the ethical question, the father is surprisingly committed and dogmatic when he prefaces his comment with the proviso, “No one really knows…” This is most certainly not a neutral statement. Instead, it is a robust epistemological claim. In short, while the father may not espouse any particular ethical view, he does commend to his child a strong agnosticism as regards all ethical views on the topic, and as I said that is not neutral.

    Please. On most of these religious issues one cannot even muster a majority of the population. However, when it comes to murder being wrong, nearly every ethical system agrees. There is a huge difference between scientific, ethical, and mathematical maters that nearly everyone agrees on and foisting a religious system on your children that most of the world thinks is incorrect. The former truths will be reinforced by a proper education, because there are very good reasons for believing that it is wrong to murder or that earth revolves around the sun. Dogmatic religious truths, on the other hand, will only seem less certain with education. Which is why religious instruction often seems more like indoctrination than education.

    • Mike B

      "On the other hand, the goal of a Catholic education is to create more Catholics. Catholic parents want to raise their children to go to heaven, and they think their children have the best shot at that by being Catholics. The parents often go to great lengths to achieve this, by sending their kids to Catholic schools or homeschooling, isolating their children in Catholic peer groups, and even sending them to traditional Catholic college, so their minds are not spoiled by secular professors. This seems more like indoctrination than education, but it is effective at raising Catholics" and "There is also this disturbing tendency in Catholicism to view the encouragement of doubt as something that one would be very culpable for and quite possibly lead to eternal damnation. Any educational system that puts up a such a strong barrier to doubt cannot be considered educational in any meaningful sense." sound like personal experiences to me. What evidence supports these claims?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        sound like personal experiences to me.

        Of course, I was well catechized.

        What evidence supports these claims?

        From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

        Religion should be an essential part of education; it should form not merely an adjunct to instruction in other subjects, but the centre about which these are grouped and the spirit by which they are permeated. The study of nature without any reference to God, or of human ideal with no mention of Jesus Christ, or of human legislation without Divine law is at best a one-sided education. The fact that religious truth finds no place in the curriculum is, of itself, and apart from any open negation of that truth, sufficient to warp the pupil's mind in such a way and to such an extent that he will feel little concern in his school-days or later for religion in any form; and this result is the more likely to ensue when the curriculum is made to include everything that is worth knowing except the one subject which is of chief importance.

        Sound moral instruction is impossible apart from religious education. The child may be drilled in certain desirable habits, such as neatness, courtesy, and punctuality; he may be imbued with a spirit of honour, industry, and truthfulness — and none of this should be neglected; but if these duties towards self and neighbour are sacred, the duty towards God is immeasurably, more sacred. When it is faithfully performed, it includes and raises to a higher plane the discharge of every other obligation. Training in religion, moreover, furnishes the best motives for conduct and the noblest ideals for imitation, while it sets before the mind an adequate sanction in the holiness and justice of God. Religious education, it should be noted, is more than instruction in the dogmas of faith or the precepts of the Divine law; it is essentially a practical training in the exercises of religion, such as prayer, attendance at Divine worship, and reception of the sacraments. By these means conscience is purified, the will to do right is strengthened, and the mind is fortified to resist those temptations which, especially in the period of adolescence, threaten the gravest danger to the moral life.

        ......

        Catholic parents are bound in conscience to provide for the education of their children, either at home or in schools of the right sort. As the bodily life of the child must be cared for, so, for still graver reasons, must the mental and moral faculties be developed. Parents, therefore, cannot take an attitude of indifference toward this essential duty
        nor transfer it wholly to others. They are responsible for those
        earliest impressions which the child receives passively, before he
        exercises any conscious selective imitation; and as the intellectual powers develop, the parents example is the lesson that sinks most deeply into the child's mind. They are also obliged to instruct the child according to his capacity, in the truths of religion and in the practice of religious duties, thus co-operating with the work of the Church and the school. The virtues, especially of obedience, self-control, and purity, can nowhere be inculcated so thoroughly as in the home;
        and without such moral education by the parents, the task of forming upright men and women and worthy citizens is difficult, and if not impossible.

        It is all there. The bolded is advocating for indoctrination.

        From the CCC on doubt:

        The first commandment requires us to nourish and
        protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything
        that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

        Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt
        refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections
        connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If
        deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

    • To my mind, the goal of education is learning how to reliably acquire new knowledge and reject false knowledge claims.

      Has the removal of religion and its obnoxious 'authority' and 'tradition' aided in this goal? Jacques Ellul, an eminent sociologist in France, had this to say:

          Modern man is impervious to the preaching of the Gospel. That is connected with a number of sociological causes which I shall not recapitulate here. I shall emphasize one factor only. Man is said to have acquired a critical intellect, and for that reason he can no longer accept the simplistic message of the Bible as it had been proclaimed two thousand years ago. That is indeed one aspect of the diagnostic error, for we have in no way progressed to the stage of the critical intellect. Western man is still as naïve, as much a dupe, as ready to believe all the yarns as ever. Never has man gone along, to such a degree, with every propaganda. Never has he applied so little rational criticism to what is fed him by the mass media. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 75)

      Peter Berger, an eminent sociologist in the United States, had this to say:

          Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

      Judge Richard Posner notes two related things in Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline: (i) public intellectuals tend not to get punished for being terribly wrong—e.g. about Communism; (ii) public intellectuals seem to act more as entertainment than as sources of information. Note that intellectuals are those least likely to be religious; part of the reason secularization theory was held on to so long (including by Peter Berger) is that among the international elite, it was largely true. Indeed, there is documented bias against conservative Christians in academia, bias which has nothing to do with the academic's job-related performance. If folks were to say "So many Jews, so few ovens!", one would be legitimately outraged. But folks can say "So many Christians, so few lions!", and that's acceptable. But my real point is that intellectuals have allegedly done the best to rid themselves of the allegedly truth-poison of Christianity; has it had the results you would predict? Not clear!

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Has the removal of religion and its obnoxious 'authority' and
        'tradition' aided in this goal? Jacques Ellul, an eminent sociologist in
        France, had this to say:

        I don't think we have removed religion and its authority. If we did, at least the entire population would know the correct age of the universe and the facts of evolution, and perhaps more would use their reason for something other than "rationalizing their assumptions."

        But my real point is that intellectuals have allegedly done the best to
        rid themselves of the allegedly truth-poison of Christianity; has it had
        the results you would predict? Not clear!

        Problem is, you are faulting public intellectuals for getting facts wrong in disciplines like economics, sociology, and political philosophy, while the religious are wrong about basic science. In a subject like economics the facts are not as clear as they often are in the hard sciences. Furthermore, the public intellectual does not necessarily have a world-view in need of justification, while the religious thinker usually does. Christians often justify beliefs based on faith, while the intellectual can only justify his beliefs on reason and empirical evidence. I listed to a religious right-leaning political pundit for three hours this morning. I cannot think of one thing that he said that was remotely intellectual, but plenty of false dichotomies and folksy wisdom.

        • I don't think we have removed religion and its authority. If we did, at least the entire population would know the correct age of the universe and the facts of evolution, and perhaps more would use their reason for something other than "rationalizing their assumptions."

          You realize that France has done a great job of "remov[ing] religion and its authority", and yet Jacques Ellul said what he said about France, right?

          Problem is, you are faulting public intellectuals for getting facts wrong in disciplines like economics, sociology, and political philosophy, while the religious are wrong about basic science.

          I'm not sure this is relevant; errors in thinking about economics, sociology, and political philosophy can be much more damaging to human thriving than the specific errors that some religious folks make about basic science. Doing a comparison would be quite interesting on this matter, actually. It seems like it would be terrifically hard.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You realize that France has done a great job of "remov[ing] religion and
            its authority", and yet Jacques Ellul said what he said about France, right?

            I really do not know enough about modern France to comment. Education is not about removing religion. It is about being willing to cast aside old truths when new evidence or a new train of thought becomes available.

            The problem I have with religious education is that it doesn't encourage children to doubt the religious assumptions, but rather proclaims them as true. And in some cases, even threatens hell to those who nurture doubt.

            I'm not sure this is relevant; errors in thinking about economics,
            sociology, and political philosophy can be much more damaging to human
            thriving than the specific errors that some religious folks make about
            basic science.

            Problem here is that the religious right is often completely wrong or right for the wrong reasons.

          • I really do not know enough about modern France to comment. Education is not about removing religion. It is about being willing to cast aside old truths when new evidence or a new train of thought becomes available.

            Well, the evidence from an extremely secularized country, one which helped give birth to the Enlightenment, is that the removal of religion doesn't clearly enhance your version of 'education'.

            Incidentally, it has been held that all humans are equal before the law. Do you think new evidence or a new train of thought could become available which would render this truth-claim obsolete? I ask because a number of truth-claims of Christianity are of this kind, and not the "the mass of the electron is thus and so" kind.

            The problem I have with religious education is that it doesn't encourage children to doubt the religious assumptions, but rather proclaims them as true.

            If you know anything about sociology of knowledge, you'll know that it isn't just religious parents and religious education which fails to encourage the questioning of all assumptions. There is a remarkable amount of taken-for-grantendness, even today. In fact, a benefit of religion is that it puts words to many of its assumptions. For example, religious institutions of higher education will have explicit statements of faith with which you must agree. Secular institutions still have standards like this, but frequently they are implicit, even subconscious. Which is better? I like the explicit kind.

            Problem here is that the religious right is often completely wrong or right for the wrong reasons.

            I'm not a huge fan of the religious right, so we might agree. But the religious right does not represent all Christians, not by a long shot. They do not represent all or even most of the more orthodox Christians.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Well, the evidence from an extremely secularized country, one which helped give birth to the Enlightenment, is that the removal of religion doesn't clearly enhance your version of 'education'

            We have one man's opinion to that effect. I am not going to accept one man's opinion to that effect. When countries are ranked by academic performance, it is the secular countries that top the lists.

            Incidentally, it has been held that all humans are equal before the law. Do you think new evidence or a new train of thought could become available which would render this truth-claim obsolete? I ask because a number of truth-claims of Christianity are of this kind, and not the "the mass of the electron is thus and so" kind.

            We now believe that all human are equal before the law, but we did not always believe such a thing. In our own country, many Christians used the bible to justify slavery. In more modern times, Christians use the bible to deny homosexuals equality before the law.

            It is always possible that new evidence makes a truth claim incorrect. We think it is highly unlikely for that to happen to certain truth claims, because those claims have a lot of evidence in their favor.

            If you know anything about sociology of knowledge, you'll know that it isn't just religious parents and religious education which fails to encourage the questioning of all assumptions. There is a remarkable amount of taken-for-grantendness, even today.

            Perhaps, but it seems religious groups are especially responsible for it. The Catholic Church banned authors like Descartes and Hume. A secularist would at least think it is a good idea to question all ideas and assumptions. Christianity holds certain assumptions sacrosanct.

            In fact, a benefit of religion is that it puts words to many of its assumptions. For example, religious institutions of higher education will have explicit statements of faith with which you must agree.

            Disagree. There is nothing quite so vague and ambiguous as religious assumptions and poofs, especially when they are being examined by skeptics.

            What is the value of being forced to agree to certain statements of faith? Whatever happened to questioning assumptions and free thinking?

            Secular institutions still have standards like this, but frequently they are implicit, even subconscious.

            Such as?

            Which is better? I like the explicit kind.

            Depends on the content of said assumptions.

            I'm not a huge fan of the religious right, so we might agree. But the religious right does not represent all Christians, not by a long shot. They do not represent all or even most of the more orthodox Christians.

            That is certainly the impression I get in the States. Rarely will I hear Christians talk about social justice. Usually it is all about abortion, homosexuals, and God's coming wrath.

          • We have one man's opinion to that effect. I am not going to accept one man's opinion to that effect. When countries are ranked by academic performance, it is the secular countries that top the lists.

            What do you require? As to the measures you talk about, what exactly are they? Perhaps you are aware of how Chinese students tend to be better at mathematical disciplines which can be taught by rote, while their creativity is often well-competed-against by American students? As was the case with "authoritarian parent", your measure is very important. Focus too much on mere technical aptitude and you get the kind of consequences articulated in Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?, written by a long-time Harvard professor who was also dean for a time.

            We now believe that all human are equal before the law, but we did not always believe such a thing.

            You did not answer my question. Can you conceive of what evidence would disprove that truth-claim? If you cannot, then you hold the kinds of beliefs that cannot be disproved by evidence which are allegedly a liability for Christianity.

            Perhaps, but it seems religious groups are especially responsible for it.

            I have zero reason to believe this. In fact, at least religious groups write their creeds out. They will be prejudiced due to explicated reasons, reasons which can be discussed head-on. In contrast, bias such as Jonathan Haidt discussed among social scientists cannot be rationally discussed so easily.

            Disagree. There is nothing quite so vague and ambiguous as religious assumptions and poofs, especially when they are being examined by skeptics.

            As far as I can tell, "religious assumptions and poofs [sic]" ≠ "explicit statements of faith". In particular, "explicit statements of faith" rarely include copious proofs. That is not their purpose.

            What is the value of being forced to agree to certain statements of faith? Whatever happened to questioning assumptions and free thinking?

            I suggest you read Randal Rauser's The delusion of the non-creedal atheist, if you think that you can question all assumptions. For example, do you think that American Atheists would tolerate a leader who is getting close to converting to Christianity? No. They have a de facto creed, regardless of whether it is de jure.

            Such as?

            In The Sacred Project of American Sociology, Christian Smith lays out the ideology which is virtually required to be a sociologist in America. He notes that it is largely unarticulated, and that this is a severe problem for the very health of sociology.

            That is certainly the impression I get in the States. Rarely will I hear Christians talk about social justice. Usually it is all about abortion, homosexuals, and God's coming wrath.

            What is your sampling method for learning what Christians in America talk about?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What do you require?

            It is not really something I would be prepared to make a judgment on without more knowledge on modern France. I suppose if you had a study of some kind that showed French students were poorer critical thinkers than their religious counterparts that would be more convincing.

            As to the measures you talk about, what exactly are they? Perhaps you are aware of how Chinese students tend to be better at mathematical disciplines which can be taught by rote, while their creativity is often well-competed-against by American students?

            I was thinking of mathematics and science. Although I am more interested in critical thinking than creativity for the purposes of this conversation.

            You did not answer my question. Can you conceive of what evidence would disprove that truth-claim?

            It depends on why we believe that all men are equal before the law. Usually there is philosophy that grounds the statement. Perhaps societies that give women more rights than men are happier, wealthier, more productive, and peaceful. Our evidence would be any society that tried such an experiment. So, yes, I can conceive of such evidence.

            I have zero reason to believe this. In fact, at least religious groups write their creeds out. They will be prejudiced due to explicated reasons, reasons which can be discussed head-on. In contrast, bias such as Jonathan Haidt discussed among social scientists cannot be rationally discussed so easily.

            Religious groups have historically banned texts that disagree with them. The Catholic Church teaches that deliberately cultivating doubt puts you in danger of losing your soul.

            It is possible that research has basically shown that the liberal position is largely correct.

            As far as I can tell, "religious assumptions and poofs [sic]" ≠ "explicit statements of faith". In particular, "explicit statements of faith" rarely include copious proofs. That is not their purpose

            Religious assumptions = statements of faith. I threw in proofs for good measure.

            I suggest you read Randal Rauser's The delusion of the non-creedal atheist, if you think that you can question all assumptions.

            And Rauser lights another strawman on fire.

            For example, do you think that American Atheists would tolerate a leader who is getting close to converting to Christianity? No. They have a de facto creed, regardless of whether it is de jure.

            Of course not. The American Atheists want an atheist as a leader, because the organization is a group of atheists. This has nothing to do with whether or not atheists question assumptions or indoctrinate assumptions into children.

            In The Sacred Project of American Sociology, Christian Smith lays out the ideology which is virtually required to be a sociologist in America. He notes that it is largely unarticulated, and that this is a severe problem for the very health of sociology.

            It is difficult to discuss a book that I have not read.

            What is your sampling method for learning what Christians in America talk about?

            Purely anecdotal. A sizeable percentage of Americans do identify as members of the religious right. There is not a similar voting block on the left.

          • I suppose if you had a study of some kind that showed French students were poorer critical thinkers than their religious counterparts that would be more convincing.

            I have an example of United States students accepting false dogma: a recent study (N = 3000) reveals that 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US believe in the conflict thesis, despite it being rejected by scholars. Suppose I multiplied examples like this. Would you find such a list compelling? (We could also examine intellectuals who lusted after Communism, well after reputable death toll numbers became available.)

            Let us also note that you have a positive burden of proof to support, if you choose to assert that people are better educated now than they were, before. We could define "better educated" in something along the lines of, "has a higher ratio of true to false beliefs", convolved with number of relevant things known.

            Although I am more interested in critical thinking than creativity for the purposes of this conversation.

            Well, you are welcome to lay out measures for measuring "level of critical thinking". I presume this will exclude the mere rote memorization of facts and mechanical application of rules?

            It depends on why we believe that all men are equal before the law. Usually there is philosophy that grounds the statement. Perhaps societies that give women more rights than men are happier, wealthier, more productive, and peaceful. Our evidence would be any society that tried such an experiment. So, yes, I can conceive of such evidence.

            This reminds me of my wife's visit to some nobility in France, who said that their ancestors' serfs were happy. Color me surprised that you're willing to admit such a thing, although you did wonder in the politically correct dimension. (Telegraph 2014: Are men obsolete in the modern world?, TIME 2014: Men Are Obsolete) What is curious is that your example has to be tried—people have to believe in it strongly enough to take the risk and do it—in order for it to be known whether it is good. You might say that folks would need to act on faith in order to bring it about to even know whether it is a good idea. Traditional skeptics would have a field day with such faith.

            The Catholic Church teaches that deliberately cultivating doubt puts you in danger of losing your soul.

            I would need to see what is meant by "deliberately cultivating doubt". I will note that strong doubt needs a strong foundation, which means that you aren't universally cultivating doubt. Perhaps they are objecting to the foundation chosen.

            It is possible that research has basically shown that the liberal position is largely correct.

            What does a good skeptic say about things which are merely asserted to be "possible"?

            And Rauser lights another strawman on fire.

            You're welcome to explain. You seem to dislike religious statements of faith, even though they are explicit creeds instead of the harder-to-pin-down, harder-to-critique implicit creeds.

            Of course not. The American Atheists want an atheist as a leader, because the organization is a group of atheists. This has nothing to do with whether or not atheists question assumptions or indoctrinate assumptions into children.

            Everyone indoctrinates their children; there is no neutral ground. The only real choice you have is whether you are explicit about the assumptions you teach your children, or implicit. I claim that the former is better.

            It is difficult to discuss a book that I have not read.

            I can excerpt from it. You wanted an example; I gave you one. That dealing with specific examples requires additional effort should not surprise you.

            Purely anecdotal.

            I am skeptical of any and all generalized claims you make off of purely anecdotal evidence.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I have an example of United States students accepting false dogma: a recent study (N = 3000) reveals that 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US believe in the conflict thesis, despite it being rejected by scholars.

            I would not describe that as dogma, but rather a false belief. It also really depends on what you mean by conflict thesis. If you mean that all religion and all science are in conflict, than yes, the conflict thesis is incorrect. However, it is true that some science is in conflict with some religion.

            Suppose I multiplied examples like this. Would you find such a list compelling?

            I wouldn't be particularly shocked. American education has all sorts of inadequacies. Adding silly beliefs about evolution just makes matters worse.

            Let us also note that you have a positive burden of proof to support, if you choose to assert that people are better educated now than they were, before.

            But I haven't asserted such a thing. I have asserted that there is a type of Catholic education, that has the goal of creating more Catholics. I then backed this claim up with passages from New Advent. This is not only found in the Catholic Church, not is it universal among all Catholic institutions of learning, in fact, the vast majority of American Catholic Universities are not trying to create Catholics. However, the conservative catholic community has a great deal of mistrust for those institutions.

            We could define "better educated" in something along the lines of, "has a
            higher ratio of true to false beliefs", convolved with number of
            relevant things known.

            Seems like an impossible task. I think the mark of someone who is educated is their ability to understand and articulate all of the positions on a given issue, understand the objections to the different positions, and have some understanding on a wide range of subjects. I would also add to this the ability to change one's opinion when new information is presented and the ability to critically examine information from fields they are not particularly well acquainted with. Dogmatism stands directly in the way of this. It is tautological.

            Well, you are welcome to lay out measures for measuring "level of
            critical thinking". I presume this will exclude the mere rote
            memorization of facts and mechanical application of rules?

            This is one of those things that you know when you see. I am not aware of any studies that tested the critical thinking capabilities of believers vs non-believers.

            However, religious belief does require you to suspend critical thinking, in some areas, in order to accept the Christian worldview. There are far more questions than answers and even the answers are questionable. At some point, I think one either lapses into agnosticism or atheism, takes a Kierkegaardian, or maybe a pragmatic approach. One should look at all of the available evidence and make a tentative decision on what philosophy they think best maps to reality, while knowing that their belief is tentative. I can't say I ever saw much of this in religion.

            Color me surprised that you're willing to admit such a thing, although you did wonder in the politically correct dimension. (Telegraph 2014: Are men obsolete in the modern world?, TIME 2014: Men Are Obsolete) What is curious is that your example has to be tried—people
            have to believe in it strongly enough to take the risk and do it—in
            order for it to be known whether it is good. You might say that folks
            would need to act on faith in order to bring it about to even know whether it is a good idea. Traditional skeptics would have a field day with such faith.

            Most things have to be tried by somebody. Although we should try to limit our social experiments to things that we think are sound philosophically. There are very good utilitarian reasons to give equal rights to everyone. There were reasons, some of them historical and others philosophical as to why the founders thought liberal democracy is the best form of government.

            History has limited the types of social experiments that we want to try. We would not want to try fascism for example.I am especially skeptical of any social experiment that takes away autonomy from the individual.

            I don't have a problem with faith provided it is not dogmatic. I think apologists have sullied the "leap of faith" with manipulative techniques and their own dogmatism. Experiments do not require an act of faith, but a social experiment should only be taken with extreme caution and with reasons to believe the brought about society would actually be better.

            I would need to see what is meant by "deliberately cultivating doubt". I
            will note that strong doubt needs a strong foundation, which means that
            you aren't universally cultivating doubt. Perhaps they are objecting to
            the foundation chosen.

            From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            The first commandment requires us to nourish and
            protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything
            that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

            Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt
            refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections
            connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If
            deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

            What does a good skeptic say about things which are merely asserted to be "possible"?

            We would need a way of telling whether sociologists were liberal because sociological truths line up with liberalism, or if sociologists are finding false truths because of their liberal bias. I'm not sure how to we would be able to tell. A good skeptic would also be skeptical of the idea that sociology has found liberal results, because the sociologists are liberal. After all, one way an academic can gain fame is by overturning previous results.

            Do climate scientists believe in global warming because they are all liberals? I believe around 6% of all scientists are conservative.

            As an aside, if we were worried about things asserted to be possible, I would think theists would be quite worried about their theodicies.

            You're welcome to explain. You seem to dislike religious statements of
            faith, even though they are explicit creeds instead of the
            harder-to-pin-down, harder-to-critique implicit creeds.

            They really aren't very explicit. Christians hold that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. This does not make sense mathematically. The Trinity is inexplicable. I think to have explicit creeds, you need to also have precise statements of said creeds.

            As for Rauser, he needs to learn the difference between a mission statement and a dogmatic creed.

            Everyone indoctrinates their children; there is no neutral ground. The only real choice you have is whether you are explicit about the assumptions you teach your children, or implicit. I claim that the former is better.

            Or, I could allow my children to form their own opinions.

            I can excerpt from it. You wanted an example; I gave you one. That
            dealing with specific examples requires additional effort should not
            surprise you.

            Fair enough. It looks interesting, but my stack of books to read is already rather large.

            I am skeptical of any and all generalized claims you make off of purely anecdotal evidence.

            It is not anecdotal in the sense that the Christians I know are on the right. Most of them are, but I know a few on the left. The Christian right is very vocal about their beliefs, they are active in politics, active in the news cycle, and have certainly co-opted Christianity to fit their agenda. On the other hand, their is not a religious left. Indeed, left leaning politicians are often threatened with reprisals from those in their own community. The loudest religious voice in America is the conservative one.

          • I would not describe that as dogma, but rather a false belief. It also really depends on what you mean by conflict thesis. If you mean that all religion and all science are in conflict, than yes, the conflict thesis is incorrect. However, it is true that some science is in conflict with some religion.

            I would describe it as a dogma, because it was based on Enlightenment mythology and serves a very specific agenda: that of secularization, as discussed by Christian Smith in The Secular Revolution. As to how the idea of a conflict between science and religion was operationalized, you are welcome to consult the study I linked. The fact that "some science is in conflict with some religion" seems rather banal, without interesting definitions of "which 'some'".

            I wouldn't be particularly shocked. American education has all sorts of inadequacies. Adding silly beliefs about evolution just makes matters worse.

            I wasn't going for "shocking", I was going for "compelling". Recall that your original fact-claim is this:

            IR: I don't think we have removed religion and its authority. If we did, at least the entire population would know the correct age of the universe and the facts of evolution, and perhaps more would use their reason for something other than "rationalizing their assumptions."

            Your "If we did..." is a fact claim which can be falsified. It's not really interesting if more of the population accepts the scientific consensus on the age of the universe and evolution, if they're not overall better citizens, better scientists, etc. Of course, you guarded against those more interesting forms of "better" with a "perhaps". That's kind of weak sauce; perhaps it is because you cannot support that "perhaps" with sufficient evidence, evidence which shows causation and not just correlation?

            I have asserted that there is a type of Catholic education, that has the goal of creating more Catholics.

            Every education seeks to reproduce a certain kind of person. Political liberalism is as much an ideological position as conservative Catholicism. Don't let the wool be pulled over your eyes: the person who is truly tolerant is intolerant of the intolerant, which means [s]he either is intolerant of nobody, or is intolerant of himself/​herself (the option excluded by "truly tolerant" is that of hypocrisy).

            I think the mark of someone who is educated is their ability to understand and articulate all of the positions on a given issue, understand the objections to the different positions, and have some understanding on a wide range of subjects.

            Heh, what country do you live in? What percentage of the faculty in the top tier universities there do you think are "educated" in this sense, outside of their sub-sub-sub-fields?

            This is one of those things that you know when you see. I am not aware of any studies that tested the critical thinking capabilities of believers vs non-believers.

            And yet you make assertions about critical thinking, such as:

            However, religious belief does require you to suspend critical thinking, in some areas, in order to accept the Christian worldview.

            Empirically, it doesn't seem that this is, in any way, necessarily true. Alternatively, perhaps everyone must "suspend critical thinking, in some areas". Unless you're a coherentist? There is Agrippa's trilemma to deal with.

            Although we should try to limit our social experiments to things that we think are sound philosophically.

            And how do we know what is "sound philosophically"? I was just reading about Scottish Common Sense Realism, which is one way to conceive of "sound philosophically". Some claim that it was merely a way to maintain what is currently "sound philosophically", as what will always be "sound philosophically".

            Experiments do not require an act of faith, but a social experiment should only be taken with extreme caution and with reasons to believe the brought about society would actually be better.

            You realize that Marx thought he had good reasons, that Hitler thought he had good reasons, and that they were both really convincing to enough people, right? Likewise, the American revolutionaries thought they had good reasons. Mao thought he had good reasons for the Cultural Revolution. There were lots of allegedly good reasons floating around during the French Enlightenment.

            From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            Hmmm, it sounds like biological faculty had better not try doubting evolution too hard, physics faculty better not start thinking God intervenes in human affairs in ways we can detect, etc. etc.

            A good skeptic would also be skeptical of the idea that sociology has found liberal results, because the sociologists are liberal.

            Hmmm, you didn't lead with that. In your comment, you were (i) harsh on "religious groups"; (ii) lightly apologetic on a liberal bias in social psychology.

            As an aside, if we were worried about things asserted to be possible, I would think theists would be quite worried about their theodicies.

            The only kind of theodicy I'm down with is one predicated upon a growing knowledge base of how to turn evil to greater good; this satisfies the conditions set out by Thagard to distinguish between science and pseudo-science.

            They really aren't very explicit. Christians hold that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. This does not make sense mathematically. The Trinity is inexplicable. I think to have explicit creeds, you need to also have precise statements of said creeds.

            Wave-particle duality originally didn't make sense, neither did the measurement problem in QM, etc. As to the Trinity, I would argue that it reconciles The Problem of the Many; given that there is no well-accepted solution to this problem, the fact that the Trinity is hard and seemingly contradictory is not really a problem. Only the skeptic refusing to defend any sort of position here can have the semblance of a superior position.

            As for Rauser, he needs to learn the difference between a mission statement and a dogmatic creed.

            For some purposes they are similar enough; whether for his, I haven't investigated carefully.

            Or, I could allow my children to form their own opinions.

            Yep, and you will give them methods for obtaining knowledge, systems for being skeptical, etc. You cannot avoid teaching them to approach reality in some ways and not others. For example, I highly doubt you would raise your children such that there is any appreciable chance that they doubt the theory research paradigm of evolution for very long.

            The Christian right is very vocal about their beliefs, they are active in politics, active in the news cycle, and have certainly co-opted Christianity to fit their agenda.

            No disagreement there. However, "loudest" and "most active" do not entail "represent all Christians", nor "represent most Christians":

            LB: I'm not a huge fan of the religious right, so we might agree. But the religious right does not represent all Christians, not by a long shot. They do not represent all or even most of the more orthodox Christians.

            IR: That is certainly the impression I get in the States. Rarely will I hear Christians talk about social justice. Usually it is all about abortion, homosexuals, and God's coming wrath.

            Going back, the root claim was this:

            IR: Problem is, you are faulting public intellectuals for getting facts wrong in disciplines like economics, sociology, and political philosophy, while the religious are wrong about basic science.

            Now we have that "religious" = "the religious right". That's fine; my experience is that the loudest people frequently aren't the most educated. If Posner is sufficiently correct, the US simply doesn't care a whole lot about truth, when it comes to the process of instituting law and governing the nation.

            Don't get me wrong, I am well aware of the Enlightenment mythology that has "religious thinking" as identical with "thinking stupidly". You appear to believe in an ameliorated version of this, but are simultaneously unable (as far as I've seen) to demonstrate that religion causes one, on average, to be less intelligent, less of a critical thinker, etc. I think this is because the Enlightenment thinkers were just plain wrong.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would describe it as a dogma, because it was based on Enlightenment mythology and serves a very specific agenda: that of secularization, as discussed by Christian Smith in The Secular Revolution

            Is argued by one man in one book. This is not the academic consensus. Furthermore it is not a dogma. Some atheists may believe in a conflict thesis and others do not. Neither one is any less of an atheist. However, I cannot deny Jesus's humanity and still be Catholic. That is a dogma.

            The fact that "some science is in conflict with some religion" seems rather banal, without interesting definitions of "which 'some'".

            Depends on which religion you are talking about. Based on science it is likely that there was no fall and the earth always a hostile place, seizures are a medical condition and not demonic possession, we evolved from a population instead of descending from one man and one woman, and the universe is over 13 billion years old.

            We then have the myriad of ways religious doctrines are substituted for doctrines derived from rationally from evidence and first principles. A bible verse is not an argument against homosexuality. A bible verse is not a substitute for a moral argument. Revelation and doctrines are not substitutes for argument.

            Of course, you guarded against those more interesting forms of "better" with a "perhaps". That's kind of weak sauce; perhaps it is because you cannot support that "perhaps" with sufficient evidence, evidence which shows causation and not just correlation?

            Or I try to avoid overly dogmatic statements of fact, in a world where few such facts are available.

            It would not surprise me if religious beliefs were replaced by other beliefs that are equally unexamined. Religion is just a significant source of unexamined beliefs.

            I have four main issues with religious belief systems vis a vis critical thinking.

            Firstly, a religious system replaces good methods of searching for knowledge with faith.

            Secondly, a religious system can stifle the critical thinking of its adherents in certain domains. For example, take Roman Catholicism. There are a number of doctrines that Catholics are required to assent to. I think nearly anyone who is thinking critically for themselves, will disagree with at least one of those propositions. Such a person could either leave Catholicism or accept the Catholic point of view. I may believe that Jesus was fully divine and you may believe that he was fully divine and fully human and we could both be using our reason admirably well. There is always a great deal of unknowns in philosophical and theological inquiry, and to think you have the answer to all theological questions is the height of hubris. I have a problem with any religion that frowns to heavily on individual believers picking and choosing some aspects of what they believe and do not believe.

            Thirdly, many religious philosophers have seemed more bent on trying to prove Christian doctrines correct than actually searching for the truth.

            Fourthly, there is a tendency to suppress those who disagree or who say uncomfortable things.

            Every education seeks to reproduce a certain kind of person. Political liberalism is as much an ideological position as conservative Catholicism.

            Yes and no. It is an equivocation though to suggest that their educational goals are very similar. The goal of secular education is to create people who are able to discern truth as best as they are able.

            Heh, what country do you live in? What percentage of the faculty in the top tier universities there do you think are "educated" in this sense,outside of their sub-sub-sub-fields?

            My experience in college and graduate school was that many professors were knowledgeable in fields outside of their specialty. They may have not been experts, but they certainly knew a lot about other fields.

            Empirically, it doesn't seem that this is, in any way, necessarily true. Alternatively, perhaps everyone must "suspend critical thinking, in some areas". Unless you're a coherentist? There is Agrippa's trilemmato deal with.

            I think of coherentism as a worst case scenario. Philosophy at a minimum can test for coherence of a belief system.

            You realize that Marx thought he had good reasons, that Hitler thought he had good reasons, and that they were both really convincing to enough people, right? Likewise, the American revolutionaries thought they had good reasons. Mao thought he had good reasons for the Cultural Revolution. There were lots of allegedly good reasons floating around during the French Enlightenment.

            Thinking you have good reasons does not mean that you have good reasons. What exactly was wrong with the enlightenment?

            Hmmm, it sounds like biological faculty had better not try doubting evolution too hard, physics faculty better not start thinking God intervenes in human affairs in ways we can detect, etc. etc.

            They can doubt and think all they want. They will need to produce extraordinary evidence thought to counter the well-evidenced consensus evidence that we have on evolution. How would we differentiate God intervening in human affairs with chance?

            Hmmm, you didn't lead with that. In your comment, you were (i) harsh on "religious groups"; (ii) lightly apologetic on a liberal bias in social psychology.

            Or you could have read what I wrote charitably.

            Wave-particle duality originally didn't make sense, neither did the measurement problem in QM, etc.

            When your theories can be expressed precisely via mathematics, they make sense. This isn't even on the same level as the Trinity.

            As to the Trinity, I would argue that it reconciles The Problem of the Many; given that there is no well-accepted solution to this problem, the fact that the Trinity is hard and seemingly contradictory is not really a problem.

            How so?

            Yep, and you will give them methods for obtaining knowledge, systems for being skeptical, etc. You cannot avoid teaching them to approach reality in some ways and not others. For example, I highly doubt you would raise your children such that there is any appreciable chance that they doubt the theory research paradigm of evolution for very long.

            I would prefer it if they doubted it. That way they will explore the issue fully. Then again I don't have kids, so this is a thought experiment. I have a feeling that the practicality of raising kids overrules the theory in very short order.

            Now we have that "religious" = "the religious right". That's fine; my experience is that the loudest people frequently aren't the most educated. If Posner is sufficiently correct, the US simply doesn't care a whole lot about truth, when it comes to the process of instituting law and governing the nation.

            I should have said some religious, especially those who identify with the religious right are often wrong about basic science. Curiously, it is very rare to see Christian correcting their brethern about basic science and usually leave it up to the atheists.

            Don't get me wrong, I am well aware of the Enlightenment mythology that has "religious thinking" as identical with "thinking stupidly". You appear to believe in an ameliorated version of this, but are simultaneously unable (as far as I've seen) to demonstrate that religion causes one, on average, to be less intelligent, less of a critical thinker, etc. I think this is because the Enlightenment thinkers were just plainwrong.

            I think many religious arguments are stupid. I also think that religious thinking often gives an answer to questions that we do not know an answer to. I also think that faith is a poor method of obtaining knowledge.

          • Is argued by one man in one book. This is not the academic consensus.

            Make it worth my time to demonstrate to you that it is more than just "argued by one man in one book". You could start at the fact that Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity has 2600 'citations'. But seriously: if you're going to be so uber-skeptical, then (i) put your money where your mouth is; (ii) demonstrate that you are at least as uber-skeptical about every single fact you assert.

            Furthermore it is not a dogma. Some atheists may believe in a conflict thesis and others do not. Neither one is any less of an atheist.

            I did not claim that it is an atheist dogma. I implied that it is an Enlightenment dogma.

            A bible verse is not a substitute for a moral argument.

            If you know anything about Jews, then you will laugh at this statement. Yes, the Westboro Baptist Church folks are an example of your claim, but they constitute a banal "some" for purposes of this argument. I can find crazy atheists, too.

            Or I try to avoid overly dogmatic statements of fact, in a world where few such facts are available.

            But you aren't necessarily saying much of anything, as a result. Saying that things are merely logically possible is frequently of not much use. IIRC that's one of the reason the medieval scholastics are mocked so often: focus on logical possibilities.

            It would not surprise me if religious beliefs were replaced by other beliefs that are equally unexamined. Religion is just a significant source of unexamined beliefs.

            B does not follow from A. Not all religion is composed of "unexamined beliefs".

            Firstly, a religious system replaces good methods of searching for knowledge with faith.

            This is an outrageous caricature. Furthermore, unless you choose the "circular argument" or "infinite regress" options of Agrippa's trilemma, you are stuck with axioms which are not justified. And so what you really have are good axioms or bad axioms, good faith or bad faith, as Randal Rauser recently argued.

            Secondly, a religious system can stifle the critical thinking of its adherents in certain domains.

            Your "can" makes this banal. There is evidence that critical thinking has been stifled in social psychology and in sociology. Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics could be construed as a breakdown of critical thinking among physicists. Kenneth Gergen's Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge is a diatribe against the failure of critical thinking in the social sciences. Paul Feyerabend's Against Method was a diatribe against close-mindedness among philosophers of science, for which he was excommunicated for a time, although he has been [largely] vindicated, now. Max Planck did not say [paraphrased], "Science advances one funeral at a time." for no reason at all.

            I have a problem with any religion that frowns to heavily on individual believers picking and choosing some aspects of what they believe and do not believe.

            And yet you would frown on an average layman picking and choosing what [s]he believes about evolution.

            Thirdly, many religious philosophers have seemed more bent on trying to prove Christian doctrines correct than actually searching for the truth.

            Two words: logical positivism.

            Fourthly, there is a tendency to suppress those who disagree or who say uncomfortable things.

            If you don't believe this happens in science, you are deluded.

            The goal of secular education is to create people who are able to discern truth as best as they are able.

            According to the secularist's notion of 'truth', yes.

            My experience in college and graduate school was that many professors were knowledgeable in fields outside of their specialty.

            Your definition was not just 'knowledgeable'; it included "articulate all of the positions on a given issue". Does your statement remain the same, with this clarification?

            Thinking you have good reasons does not mean that you have good reasons. What exactly was wrong with the enlightenment?

            But all we have are people who think they have good reasons, unless some omniscient, trustworthy being deigns to give us more clarity. As to what was wrong with the Enlightenment, plenty of things. A smattering: (1) Their failure to understand how persons are powerfully shaped by their environment, such that major uses of "autonomous individual" are just plain wrong. (2) Their rejection of final causation and teleology, which impoverished moral vocabulary, de facto reducing to emotivism, veiled behind the ethical theory of your choice. (3) Their acceptance of mechanism and reductionism as not merely good models for some situations, but fundamentally true. (4) Their stifling conception of what 'rationality' is. (5) Their unbridled optimism about how 'Reason' would unify. (6) Their trust in nation-states to be less evil than religion. (7) Their animus toward mediating structures.

            How would we differentiate God intervening in human affairs with chance?

            There is an extensive literature on this matter. You could start with Evan Fales' Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles.

            Or you could have read what I wrote charitably.

            Please explain how the following—

            IR: Religious groups have historically banned texts that disagree with them. The Catholic Church teaches that deliberately cultivating doubt puts you in danger of losing your soul.

            It is possible that research has basically shown that the liberal position is largely correct.

            —doesn't constitute "(i) harsh on "religious groups"; (ii) lightly apologetic on a liberal bias in social psychology".

            When your theories can be expressed precisely via mathematics, they make sense. This isn't even on the same level as the Trinity.

            Please express this claim of yours, "precisely via mathematics". Until then, I will claim that it does not "make sense".

            How so?

            That is a massive discussion in its own right.

            I would prefer it if they doubted [evolution].

            Oh c'mon, a Catholic can say precisely the same thing about Catholicism, with the "doubt" in each case having approximately zero chance of resulting in rejection.

            Curiously, it is very rare to see Christian correcting their brethern about basic science and usually leave it up to the atheists.

            Again I would ask you of your sampling method, which resulted in "very rare".

            I also think that faith is a poor method of obtaining knowledge.

            Do you think your definition of 'faith' matches up with the best definitions of pistis and pisteuō, as used in the NT?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Make it worth my time to demonstrate to you that it is more than just "argued by one man in one book". You could start at the fact that Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity has 2600 'citations'.

            First you we would need to identify what you think are the enlightenment dogmas or goals. Enlightenment thinkers disagreed amongst each other. You could be an enlightenment thinker and also be a Christian. Kant for instance. To say that the conflict thesis is an enlightenment mythology does not make sense, as some enlightenment thinkers were also Christians.

            But seriously: if you're going to be so uber-skeptical, then (i) put
            your money where your mouth is; (ii) demonstrate that you are at least as uber-skeptical about every single fact you assert.

            I'm uber-skeptical of claims that sound more like conspiracy theories than anything else.

            I did not claim that it is an atheist dogma. I implied that it is an Enlightenment dogma.</blockquote.

            Than why were their enlightenment thinkers that did not advocate a conflict thesis?

            If you know anything about Jews, then you will laugh at this
            statement. Yes, the Westboro Baptist Church folks are an example of your
            claim, but they constitute a banal "some" for purposes of this
            argument. I can find crazy atheists, too.

            An interpretation of a religious text is not a substitute for an argument either.

            But you aren't necessarily saying much of anything, as a result.
            Saying that things are merely logically possible is frequently of not
            much use. IIRC that's one of the reason the medieval scholastics are
            mocked so often: focus on logical possibilities.

            Which is not what I have done. I have pointed out the ways that religious beliefs lead to false beliefs. It is not merely a logical possibility.

            B does not follow from A. Not all religion is composed of "unexamined beliefs".

            Some of religion is, which is what I said. I did not make a universal claim. More interestingly though, we would get rid of a source of weakly evidenced beliefs.

            This is an outrageous caricature. Furthermore, unless you choose the "circular argument" or "infinite regress" options of Agrippa's trilemma, you are stuck with axioms which are not justified. And so what you really have are good axioms or bad axioms, good faith or bad faith, as Randal Rauser recently argued.

            I really can't take Rauser's equivocations seriously.

            Deductive logic can test for coherence and we can use it to deduce new truth statements from statements that we already hold to be true. In order to proceed, we need to have some starting propositions that we hold to be true. We can base these starting propositions on empirical evidence, and we can identify statements that seem self-evident.

            These foundational statements cannot be characterized as faith based. Certainly not without equivocating wildly on the word faith. I do not have faith that a line segment can be drawn for any two points.

            Faith on the other hand, creates knowledge statements that are not self-evident and is not a method of preserving truth like deductive logic. On the basis of faith, two contradictory propositions are often believed. This is a poor method of knowledge.

            Your "can" makes this banal.

            I only make universal claims when I have proof that the universal claim is true or that I have very good evidence.

            There is evidence that critical thinking has been stifled in social psychology and in sociology. Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics could be construed as a breakdown of critical thinking among physicists. Kenneth Gergen's Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge is a diatribe against the failure of critical thinking in the social sciences. Paul Feyerabend's Against Method was a diatribe against close-mindedness among philosophers of science, for which he was excommunicated
            for a time, although he has been [largely] vindicated, now. Max Planck
            did not say [paraphrased], "Science advances one funeral at a time." for
            no reason at all.

            At best this is simply a tu quque, but at worst it is wrong an equivocation. Religion stifles critical thinking by asserting as facts things that it has no business asserting as fact. No one asserts string theory as fact.

            And yet you would frown on an average layman picking and choosing what [s]he believes about evolution.

            Another equivocation. Name one religious truth and how do you know it is true. Is your evidence so good that everyone should accept it as true Most of the religious world does not believe that Jesus is God. I can name quite a few scientific ones. I don't frown on the average layman who disbelieves in evolution, I just think they need to educate themselves.

            Two words: logical positivism.

            Not sure who logical positivism relates to what I said. There is a difference between someone who searches for truth and someone who tries to prove Christianity true.

            If you don't believe this happens in science, you are deluded.

            Another tu quoque and an equivocation. If you overturn the scientific consensus you get a prize. If you argue with the religious conses you become a heretic.

            Name one scientific idea that you think is being suppressed.

            According to the secularist's notion of 'truth', yes.

            There isn't one secular notion of truth, so no.

            Your definition was not just 'knowledgeable'; it included "articulate all of the positions on a given issue". Does your statement remain the same, with this clarification?

            Yes. They are not experts, but they can often identify and articulate the main lines of thought on a given subject.

            (1) Their failure to understand how persons are powerfully shaped by
            their environment, such that major uses of "autonomous individual" are
            just plain wrong.

            Spinoza was a determinist and belongs to the enlightenment.

            However, just because many enlightenment philosophers were incorrect on something, does not mean that the general spirit of the enlightenment was incorrect.

            Their rejection of final causation and teleology, which impoverished moral vocabulary, de facto reducing to emotivism, veiled behind the ethical theory of your choice.

            And we can have a conversation to whether or not they were correct to reject teleology. I'm not sure how this is a stain on the enlightenment.

            Their acceptance of mechanism and reductionism as not merely good models for some situations, but fundamentally true.

            Same as above

            (4) Their stifling conception of what 'rationality' is.

            Meaning?

            Their trust in nation-states to be less evil than religion.

            Liberal democracy is much better than religion....

            There is an extensive literature on this matter. You could start with Evan Fales' Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles.

            That doesn't seem like a particularly insightful book.

            —doesn't constitute "(i) harsh on "religious groups"; (ii) lightly apologetic on a liberal bias in social psychology".

            If the liberal position is correct, than it is non-factual to call it bias.

            Please express this claim of yours, "precisely via mathematics". Until then, I will claim that it does not "make sense".

            Equations that predict the evolution of a system. For instance, Navier-Stokes describes the motion of fluids.

            Oh c'mon, a Catholic can say precisely the same thing about Catholicism,
            with the "doubt" in each case having approximately zero chance of
            resulting in rejection.

            Difference being that the evidence is weighted in evolution's favor. The evidence is not on the Catholic side. They don't want you to voluntarily doubt anyway.

            Again I would ask you of your sampling method, which resulted in "very rare".

            I was thinking of this forum.

            Do you think your definition of 'faith' matches up with the best definitions of pistis and pisteuō, as used in the NT?

            I think it matches quite well with what Christians tell me they mean by faith.

          • First you we would need to identify what you think are the enlightenment dogmas or goals. Enlightenment thinkers disagreed amongst each other. You could be an enlightenment thinker and also be a Christian. Kant for instance. To say that the conflict thesis is an enlightenment mythology does not make sense, as some enlightenment thinkers were also Christians.

            That there is disagreement does not mean that there are no prevailing beliefs. Enlightenment thinkers did not believe just anything. As to the conflict thesis clashing with Christian Enlightenment thinkers, I'm not sure there is an actual contradiction. Both Descartes and Leibniz tried to find ways deeper than particularistic religion to unify people (see, for example, Leibniz's characteristica universalis). The background for them, after all, was the destruction of the Thirty Years' War. Whether or not it was a primarily religious war (arguably, strong currents of nationalistic, break-from-Rome motivations were at play). You know what happens when you strip Christianity of its particularities and adopt a mechanistic view of reality, right?

            I'm not sure what kind of burden of proof you require for establishing general dogmas of Enlightenment thinkers. I'm not a layman, but if I rely on a well-cited scholar, you say "Is argued by one man in one book. This is not the academic consensus." Demonstrating an academic consensus—if there even is one—is an arduous task. Note that consensus doesn't have the same character in history and sociology as it does in physics.

            I'm uber-skeptical of claims that sound more like conspiracy theories than anything else.

            But what sounds like a conspiracy theory is an artifact of your particular plausibility structure, which is contingent on your accident of birth. The attitude you're espousing here is the kind of thing that would reinforce what you already believe and be antithetical to the unifying effect of Reason that was one of the dogmas of the Enlightenment.

            An interpretation of a religious text is not a substitute for an argument either.

            Hey, if you have atoms and energy fields you can point to that support ethical values and the bulk of the kinds of things you find in religious texts, then I'll grant you your point. The idea that you can escape the necessity of interpreting expressed viewpoints—whether in a religious text or a secular text—seems absurd to me. My point with referencing Jews is that the not-entirely-undeserved stereotype of them is that they produce arguments ad infinitum.

            Which is not what I have done. I have pointed out the ways that religious beliefs lead to false beliefs. It is not merely a logical possibility.

            And I can point out ways that sharp knives cause harm. That doesn't mean all sharp knives are used poorly.

            More interestingly though, we would get rid of a source of weakly evidenced beliefs.

            The idea that all people ought to be treated equally before the law seems like a "weakly evidenced belief". Should we rid ourselves of it?

            We can base these starting propositions on empirical evidence, and we can identify statements that seem self-evident.

            Find me a serious philosopher who thinks it's this simple—who thinks that empirical evidence leads to axioms of the type discussed in Agrippa's trilemma, sans a process of interpretation which is inherently tendentious.

            As to what is self-evident, how much of that is based on your plausibility structure, such that what seems self-evident to you is very different than what seemed self-evident to your typical medieval scholastic?

            At best this is simply a tu quque, but at worst it is wrong an equivocation. Religion stifles critical thinking by asserting as facts things that it has no business asserting as fact. No one asserts string theory as fact.

            Its quality as a tu quoque is entirely valid if you are proposing something ostensibly better than whatever it is that religionists do. It doesn't matter if the particular way that religion stifles critical thinking is different from the particular way that critical thinking is stifled in e.g. sociology. At least, I'm not in pursuit of the optimal system for critical thinking, I'm in pursuit of the best one available.

            Another equivocation. Name one religious truth and how do you know it is true.

            Why is it an equivocation? Perhaps you could define "religious" for me, in a way that the word picks out a natural kind. Perhaps, for example a good chunk of "religious" belief can be viewed via the idea of Underdetermination of Scientific Theory. But we first need to examine whether those axioms you hold to really are so uncontroversial as you claim. I suspect that what I might call your "interpretive take" on reality has truth-value, but isn't judged in the same way as you judge claims within some "interpretive take". Another term for this might be "research paradigm", of the Kuhnian kind.

            As a tentative answer to your question despite the word "religious" being terribly vague, I think that Jesus doing what he said he did and being who he said he was better explains my understanding of history, my personal experience, and my observations of reality, than any competing explanation. Whether or not this rises to the level of your "know it is true", I do not know.

            Not sure who logical positivism relates to what I said. There is a difference between someone who searches for truth and someone who tries to prove Christianity true.

            My point was simple: Christians who rejected logical positivism on the grounds that it undermines Christianity would have been right to reject logical positivism, even though the reason they did so smells like conclusion-first thinking. As to your alleged difference, it merely seems like a difference between loyalty to means vs. loyalty to ends. Why is one necessarily better than the other? (I'd say they need to be balanced against each other.)

            Another tu quoque and an equivocation. If you overturn the scientific consensus you get a prize. If you argue with the religious conses you become a heretic.

            Yes, Martin Luther was declared a heretic. Actually, Jesus Christ was declared that, too. They were successful. Those who aren't, of course, suffer worse fates. But the same happens in science, pace your "equivocation" criticism. As to your tu quoque criticism, again we are comparing systems for pursuing truth, in which case the mere existence of "the bad thing" in one system only matters if it is less prevalent in a competing system.

            Name one scientific idea that you think is being suppressed.

            Take a look at Heterodox Academy, which has contributors including Jonathan Hadit and Steven Pinker. If you want a hard science, I can list quite a few such ideas from Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin's A Different Universe, and probably some from Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine's The End of Certainty. But if you want me to do the work, given the skepticism you've already expressed of stuff I've presented, I think it is fair for me to ask (i) what your standards are for acceptance; (ii) how it will matter if I establish this point.

            There isn't one secular notion of truth, so no.

            What I said does not entail "one secular notion of truth", unless all secular notions of truth put together exclude no possible state of affairs. Do you assert this?

            Meaning?

            Take a glance at Against Method, the Wikipedia page for Paul Feyerabend's work of the same name. He was criticizing what was taken as "the scientific method", aka "scientific rationality".

            Equations that predict the evolution of a system. For instance, Navier-Stokes describes the motion of fluids.

            That isn't an answer to my question. What is actually true is that some human knowledge can be phrased "precisely via mathematics", while some cannot.

            They don't want you to voluntarily doubt anyway.

            I will not take your word on this. Find me a Jesuit who is interested in joining the conversation and then we can continue.

            I think it matches quite well with what Christians tell me they mean by faith.

            Christians are not monolithic. Just like secularists.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That there is disagreement does not mean that there are no prevailing
            beliefs. Enlightenment thinkers did not believe just anything. As to the
            conflict thesis clashing with Christian Enlightenment thinkers, I'm not
            sure there is an actual contradiction. Both Descartes and Leibniz tried
            to find ways deeper than particularistic religion to unify people (see,
            for example, Leibniz's characteristica universalis).

            Would you agree that the fundamental unifying principles of enlightenment thinking are that reason is the best method for discerning truth, an optimism regarding the effectiveness of reason in discerning truth, individualism, and skepticism of traditional authority?

            Now, regardless of whether or not these beliefs are true, I would really hesitate to call any of these beliefs dogma.

            I do not see how the conflict thesis is built into these unifying principles.

            You know what happens when you strip Christianity of its particularities and adopt a mechanistic view of reality, right?

            No.

            I'm not sure what kind of burden of proof you require for establishing general dogmas of Enlightenment thinkers.

            You would have to show that whatever statement you are labeling as dogmatic is held to be unquestionably true (i.e. nearly no argument could overturn it) and one could not be considered an enlightenment philosopher without holding the statement to be true. Honestly, I have trouble thinking that dogmas are possible without some authority figure or authority group.

            I'm not a layman,

            What are you?

            but if I rely on a well-cited scholar, you say "Is argued by one man in one book. This is not the academic consensus."
            Demonstrating an academic consensus—if there even is one—is an arduous
            task. Note that consensus doesn't have the same character in history and
            sociology as it does in physics.

            I'm very skeptical about books with "Hidden Agenda" in their title. I'm sure I could marshal all sorts of scholars that would take up a position contrary to Toulmin's thesis. Besides, according to Amazon Toulmin believes that the modern thesis is that

            In the seventeenth century, a vision arose which was to captivate the
            Western imagination for the next three hundred years: the vision of
            Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of
            nature. While fueling extraordinary advances in all fields of human
            endeavor, this vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda: the
            delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precise and
            manageable rational categories.

            I really don't think this is the modern western view.

            But what sounds like a conspiracy theory is an artifact of your particular plausibility structure,
            which is contingent on your accident of birth.

            No, it literally sounds like a conspiracy theory. Hidden agendas and all....

            The attitude you're
            espousing here is the kind of thing that would reinforce what you
            already believe and be antithetical to the unifying effect of Reason
            that was one of the dogmas of the Enlightenment.

            What is it that I already believe? And why is it opposed to the belief that reason is unifying?

            Hey, if you have atoms and energy fields you can point to that support
            ethical values and the bulk of the kinds of things you find in religious
            texts, then I'll grant you your point.

            Or, we can use study ethics via philosophical and perhaps soft scientific inquiry.

            The idea that you can escape the necessity of interpreting expressed
            viewpoints—whether in a religious text or a secular text—seems absurd to
            me. My point with referencing Jews is that the not-entirely-undeserved
            stereotype of them is that they produce arguments ad infinitum.

            Why should a religious text and its interpretations be valued over other texts and their interpretations? I can tell you why I think it is moral for homosexuals to be allowed marriage. I would give a utilitarian argument. This is preferable to an argument based on an interpretation of a very old book, because my argument allows all sources of information a say on the issue, while the opponent only argues from one book and debatable interpretation of that book.

            I would propose (explicitly) that arguments that use all relevant information are better than arguments that only rely one a few information sources. I would also propose that inspired texts are not privileged sources of knowledge.

            With regard to the second proposition, I have a few different problems with inspired texts. Firstly, the texts that are considered inspired gain that distinction via special pleading. Why is Genesis inspired but the Iliad is not? How do I know that book A is inspired? Secondly, every inspired text has a myriad of interpretations, which are often contradictory. This provides very little certainty that my interpretation is actually correct.

            And I can point out ways that sharp knives cause harm. That doesn't mean all sharp knives are used poorly.

            Again, we condemn people when they use sharp knives poorly. Those who are abusing religion think they are doing good.

            As to what is self-evident, how much of that is based on your plausibility structure, such that what seems self-evident to you is very different than what seemed self-evident to your typical medieval scholastic?

            Besides my own existence, I don't think there are any non mathematical self-evidence propositions. I would pragmatically accept that the world that we perceive is real and that our senses are somewhat accurate. I also accept various logical axioms.

            Its quality as a tu quoque is entirely valid if you are proposing something ostensibly better
            than whatever it is that religionists do. It doesn't matter if the
            particular way that religion stifles critical thinking is different from
            the particular way that critical thinking is stifled in e.g. sociology.
            At least, I'm not in pursuit of the optimal system for critical
            thinking, I'm in pursuit of the best one available.

            And the best one available is one that values questioning your deeply held assumptions. While some religions advocate this, there are many who advocate the opposite. The latter are what this discussion is all about.

            Why is it an equivocation? Perhaps you could define "religious" for me, in a way that the word picks out a natural kind. Perhaps, for example a good chunk of "religious" belief can be viewed via the idea of Underdetermination of Scientific Theory.

            Because I can name all sorts of provisional scientific truths, which will most likely never be completely overturned. For instance, even thought Newton does not adequately capture of reality, he does a very good job with big masses moving slow.

            Religious truths deal with humankinds relationship with transcendent entities or forces and the properties of said entities and forces.

            But we first need to examine whether those axioms you hold to really are
            so uncontroversial as you claim. I suspect that what I might call your
            "interpretive take" on reality has truth-value, but isn't judged in the
            same way as you judge claims within some "interpretive take". Another term for this might be "research paradigm", of the Kuhnian kind.

            I listed a few above.

            I think that Jesus doing what he said he did and being who he said he
            was better explains my understanding of history, my personal experience,
            and my observations of reality, than any competing explanation.

            I don't really have a problem with this, but it is completely subjective. What are the fundamentals about reality that you observe?

            Whether or not this rises to the level of your "know it is true", I do not know.

            It doesn't, but it may be the best we have in these types of inquiries.

            As to your alleged difference, it merely seems like a difference between loyalty to means vs. loyalty to ends. Why is one necessarily better than the other? (I'd say they need to be balanced against each other.)

            Because I am most justified believing things that I have discovered via good means.

            Take a look at Heterodox Academy, which has contributors including Jonathan Hadit and Steven Pinker.

            The sorts of things they complain about can be quite problematic. I have always been somewhat alarmed and amused at the general dismissiveness of conservative ideas found on college campuses and the lack of conservative speakers on campus. When I was an undergrad, we had a well known conservative author speak on campus, there was so much heckling that she was unable to speak. I do think there is a fair amount of group think prevalent on college campuses.

            I also don't think dissent is necessarily shut down, but is often softly discouraged via smug and dismissive attitudes. Unfortunately, these attitudes are often only evidenced with mere platitudes. At least though, these sorts of things are contrary to the theoretical goal of secular education.

            But if you want me to do the work, given the skepticism you've already
            expressed of stuff I've presented, I think it is fair for me to ask (i)
            what your standards are for acceptance; (ii) how it will matter if I
            establish this point.

            A single counterexample will do. Give me an evidenced scientific theory that is being suppressed and evidence for the truthfulness of the scientific theory.

            But if you want me to do the work, given the skepticism you've already
            expressed of stuff I've presented, I think it is fair for me to ask (i)
            what your standards are for acceptance; (ii) how it will matter if I
            establish this point.

            What I said does not entail "one secular notion of truth", unless all
            secular notions of truth put together exclude no possible state of
            affairs. Do you assert this?

            No. But going back to the discussion at hand, the goal of education should be to learn to discern the truth and the nature of truth. Agree or disagree?

            That isn't an answer to my question. What is actually true is that some
            human knowledge can be phrased "precisely via mathematics", while some
            cannot.

            But if it is phased precisely via mathematics and true, it is a subset of knowledge.

            I will not take your word on this. Find me a Jesuit who is interested in joining the conversation and then we can continue.

            It is in the catechism....

            Christians are not monolithic. Just like secularists.

            If you change the definition of faith to one that is hardly used, the objections against standard views of faith may evaporate.

          • Would you agree that the fundamental unifying principles of enlightenment thinking are that reason is the best method for discerning truth, an optimism regarding the effectiveness of reason in discerning truth, individualism, and skepticism of traditional authority?

            I would object to these being the only fundamental principles, but they certainly are some of them. I might quibble with the idea that the skepticism was just targeted toward "traditional authority", vs. all tradition whatsoever.

            Now, regardless of whether or not these beliefs are true, I would really hesitate to call any of these beliefs dogma.

            When I think of the term 'dogma', I try and understand it as a natural kind. So for example, when dogma is challenged, there is a range of behavior that this provokes. It is my understanding that challenging those "fundamental unifying principles" could result in a very similar range of behavior. Now, a possible exception is that ridicule, mockery, and excommunication were used more than outright physical violence. I don't see this as violating the natural kind; if one can neuter ideas without physical violence, that is a more convenient of accomplishing the same goal: the suppression of heresy.

            I do not see how the conflict thesis is built into these unifying principles.

            You don't see how religion generally has revelation in addition to religion, a strong focus on community, and a respect for authority?

            No.

            Then I suggest a study of Christian rationalism and deism, which are radically different from anything you will see in the Bible. These two lead naturally to atheism.

            You would have to show that whatever statement you are labeling as dogmatic is held to be unquestionably true (i.e. nearly no argument could overturn it) and one could not be considered an enlightenment philosopher without holding the statement to be true. Honestly, I have trouble thinking that dogmas are possible without some authority figure or authority group.

            This standard is too high; it is possible to establish an ideology without anything like what you describe. Want evidence? Visit Heterodox Academy, which wouldn't even exist if there weren't dogma in the human sciences. And if you think there are no authority figures in science, or that there were none in the Enlightenment, then I think you're deluded about how humans in society function.

            What are you?

            Sorry, I meant to say that I'm not a scholar. I am a layman when it comes to this stuff.

            I'm very skeptical about books with "Hidden Agenda" in their title.

            No, it literally sounds like a conspiracy theory. Hidden agendas and all....

            So now you're judging books by their titles alone?

            I really don't think this is the modern western view.

            I can excerpt from prominent sociologists Peter Berger and Jacques Ellul on this matter, as well as economics Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek. Now, within the last fifty years, there has been a breakdown in the hope of a full rationalized, planned society. Where sociologists once had cosmic hopes for what their discipline could do, there is a deep acknowledgment that sociology can do no such thing—at least not on anything like its current foundation. Or you could read a little further on the dust cover: "Under the weight of the passions and predicaments of the 20th century, these wishful intellectual structures have collapsed."

            What is it that I already believe? And why is it opposed to the belief that reason is unifying?

            What I said is independent of the particulars of what you already believe. Your attitude is conservative of whatever your current plausibility structure happens to be. Such conservatism and resistance to other plausibility structures is opposed to the unification that the Enlightenment conception of 'Reason' promised to bring—unless you just happen to be closest to the truth of all humans.

            Or, we can use study ethics via philosophical and perhaps soft scientific inquiry.

            Tell me the process whereby you get an 'ought' from an 'is' and we can start jamming.

            Why should a religious text and its interpretations be valued over other texts and their interpretations?

            I wasn't arguing that point.

            With regard to the second proposition, I have a few different problems with inspired texts. Firstly, the texts that are considered inspired gain that distinction via special pleading. Why is Genesis inspired but the Iliad is not? How do I know that book A is inspired? Secondly, every inspired text has a myriad of interpretations, which are often contradictory. This provides very little certainty that my interpretation is actually correct.

            Special pleading indicates that there is no merit to prefer A over B except something idiosyncratic to the person doing the preferring. You haven't established this. As to having a myriad of interpretations, take a look at WP: Interpretations of quantum mechanics. Your reasoning would have that none of those interpretations is on the right track; I reject this.

            Those who are abusing religion think they are doing good.

            Yes, and Hitler thought he was "doing good" as well.

            Besides my own existence, I don't think there are any non mathematical self-evidence propositions. I would pragmatically accept that the world that we perceive is real and that our senses are somewhat accurate. I also accept various logical axioms.

            Ok; the way you used "self-evident" seemed more expansive than Descartes Cogito, the acceptance of an external reality, and mathematics/​logic.

            And the best one available is one that values questioning your deeply held assumptions. While some religions advocate this, there are many who advocate the opposite. The latter are what this discussion is all about.

            Here, I would criticize the idea that one can expose all of one's assumptions to deep questioning, without lapsing into coherentism which has its bundle of problems. It's not even clear that we are conscious of enough of our assumptions; see the idea of an unarticulated background, and especially the conception put forth by scientist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi, of tacit knowledge.

            Religious truths deal with humankinds relationship with transcendent entities or forces and the properties of said entities and forces.

            What is a "transcendent entity"? Christians didn't even carve up reality into the 'natural' and 'supernatural' until the sixteenth century (Passage to Modernity, 171). Is 'beauty' a transcendent thing? How about 'simplicity'? I could pull out some quotations of Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg talking about how important simplicity and beauty are in evaluating scientific theory. We could investigate whether that sense of simplicity and beauty changes as science advances. Perhaps it has a sort of transcendental status, whereby we can only ever approximate what it really is. Were this the case, then scientists would be in relationship with a transcendent entity which constantly makes them more than they were before, which is a very god-like thing to do, at least when your god is like YHWH.

            I don't really have a problem with this, but it is completely subjective. What are the fundamentals about reality that you observe?

            What do you mean by "completely subjective"? See for example the numerous non-identical definitions at dictionary.com: subjective. As to fundamentals, I don't really know what you mean, as I reject foundationalism. Perhaps you mean the 'axiom' option of Agrippa's trilemma?

            Because I am most justified believing things that I have discovered via good means.

            This is but a bare assertion. It also begs the question of how you know a given means is 'good'. How you probably do is that it has delivered in the past. But this is judging it via an end, not a means!

            I also don't think dissent is necessarily shut down, but is often softly discouraged via smug and dismissive attitudes. Unfortunately, these attitudes are often only evidenced with mere platitudes. At least though, these sorts of things are contrary to the theoretical goal of secular education.

            If you want to see an example of dissent being shut down, read about Mark Regnerus' New Family Structures Study in Christian Smith's book, The Sacred Project of American Sociology, which is listed at Heterodox Academy § Publications. The short version is that massive pressure was applied to Regnerus' paper solely because it violated the prevalent ideology in sociology. All the other ostensible reasons obtained of many other papers which were not exposed to much of any scrutiny. Furthermore, the lead investigator appointed to review the peer-review process said at the end that he might have also approved of that paper, but then went on to argue in the public (non-scholarly sphere) that the paper should never have been accepted. The result of the persecution targeted at Regnerus is that nobody else would want to publish something which so violates the reigning ideology.

            No, your "softly discouraged" does not in any way capture what can happen. As to this "theoretical goal of secular education", I'm not sure I care if practice isn't increasingly matching theory. Some theories simply don't match reality.

            A single counterexample will do. Give me an evidenced scientific theory that is being suppressed and evidence for the truthfulness of the scientific theory.

            The Regnerus paper doesn't rise to the level of 'theory', but it's certainly an example of suppression of empirical results by the scientific community (and extra-scientific community). Here's the official audit report, as reported by Christian Smith:

            The Chronicle of Higher Education thus reported the following about the audit:

            [The auditor] did not find that the journal’s normal procedures had been disregarded, or that the Regnerus paper had been inappropriately expedited to publication, as some critics have charged. He also vigorously defended … the editor. “If I were in [the editor’s] shoes,” he writes, “I may well have made the same decisions.” Because the reviewers were unanimously positive, [the editor] had little choice but to go ahead with publication, according to [the auditor]. He goes on: “My review of the editorial processing of the Regnerus … paper … revealed that there were no gross violations of editorial procedures— the papers were peer-reviewed, and the ‘peers’ for papers on this topic were similar to what you would expect at Social Science Research.”

            That was the official report.[22] (Kindle Locations 2572–2580)

            [22] See Darren Sherkat, 2012, “The Editorial Process and Politicized Scholarship: Monday Morning Editorial Quarterbacking and a Call for Scientific Vigilance,” Social Science Research, 41:1346–1349.

            If you want to see the kind of person Sherkat is (he's the one who audited the peer-review process), feel free to peruse his Wonkette article, Let’s All Laugh At The Christianist ‘Sociologists’ With An Actual Sociologist Who Is Not Dumb!

            No. But going back to the discussion at hand, the goal of education should be to learn to discern the truth and the nature of truth. Agree or disagree?

            I agree. The problem, of course, is that we will disagree on the means and/or the ends—probably both. This doesn't mean that we cannot in any way get along, but it does open up the danger that one or both of us will try to undermine the other, perhaps by attempting to frame everything the other says not in his own framework, but transplanted into one's own framework.

            But if it is phased precisely via mathematics and true, it is a subset of knowledge.

            Ok...? I seem to have undermined the implication of:

            IR: When your theories can be expressed precisely via mathematics, they make sense. This isn't even on the same level as the Trinity.

            To clarify, my failure to explicate the Trinity "precisely via mathematics" does not preclude it from qualifying as possible knowledge.

            It is in the catechism....

            Yep, and you said in this very comment that "every inspired text has a myriad of interpretations". Surely the same goes for non-inspired texts, as well.

            If you change the definition of faith to one that is hardly used, the objections against standard views of faith may evaporate.

            What do you mean by "hardly used"? The definition of 'evolution' used by the vast majority of humans who use the term probably doesn't well-match what scientists specializing in it mean by the term. Most people will be sloppy, get things wrong, and generally not have a very good conception except in rough outlines. Texts such as The Changing Role of the Public Intellectual and Between Understanding and Trust: The Public, Science and Technology open up the question of how accurate the average layman's knowledge will ever get about science. However, all is not lost. These inaccuracies aren't necessarily harmful. One just has to be careful about whether one is criticizing quantum physics because of what Deepak Chopra is saying, or because of what John Preskill is saying.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is my understanding that challenging those "fundamental unifying
            principles" could result in a very similar range of behavior. Now, a
            possible exception is that ridicule, mockery, and excommunication were
            used more than outright physical violence. I don't see this as violating
            the natural kind; if one can neuter ideas without physical violence,
            that is a more convenient of accomplishing the same goal: the
            suppression of heresy.

            I think we should make a distinction between well-evidenced propositions that are held to be true by most experts and theological dogmas.

            You don't see how religion generally has revelation in addition to
            religion, a strong focus on community, and a respect for authority?

            Sure, enlightenment figures will largely agree that the religious body of knowledge is largely wrong. However, this has nothing to with whether or not religion is in full blown conflict with science. I think enlightenment thinkers would all argue that if a reasoned truth conflicts with a religious truth, we should believe the reasoned truth true.

            Then I suggest a study of Christian rationalism and deism, which are
            radically different from anything you will see in the Bible. These two
            lead naturally to atheism

            Rationalism does lead to at least a soft atheism.

            Edit: Accidentally hit the post button:

            So now you're judging books by their titles alone?

            And the amazon reviews.

            I can excerpt from prominent sociologists Peter Berger and Jacques Ellul on this matter, as well as economics Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek. Now, within the last fifty years, there has been a breakdown in the hope of a full rationalized, planned society. Where sociologists once had cosmic hopes for what their discipline could do, there is a deep acknowledgment that sociology can do no such thing—at least not on anything like its current foundation.

            I've read quite a bit of Hayek. I really don't think planned societies are in vogue anymore. Not in academic circles, policy circles, or in the minds of the masses.

            Here, I would criticize the idea that one can expose all of one's assumptions to deep questioning, without lapsing into coherentism which has its bundle of problems. It's not even clear that we are conscious of enough of our assumptions; see the idea of an unarticulated background, and especially the conception put forth by scientist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi, of tacit knowledge.

            Perhaps it is a possible task, but it is still a good undertaking.

            What is a "transcendent entity"?

            Exists independent of the physical universe and could not be described as emerging from the material universe.

            As to fundamentals, I don't really know what you mean, as I reject foundationalism. Perhaps you mean the 'axiom' option of Agrippa's trilemma?

            What are the key observations that you make or hold to be true that make you think Christianity is the best explanation? For instance, one of the fundamental observations that I make is that I think that the universe is too uncaring to be sustained or monitored by a personal God.

            If you want to see an example of dissent being shut down, read about Mark Regnerus' New Family Structures Study in Christian Smith's book, The Sacred Project of American Sociology, which is listed at Heterodox Academy § Publications. The short version is that massive pressure was applied to Regnerus' paper solely because it violated the prevalent ideology in sociology.

            This study had numerous issues.

            No, your "softly discouraged" does not in any way capture what can happen. As to this "theoretical goal of secular education", I'm not sure I care if practice isn't increasingly matching theory. Some theories simply don't match reality.

            You may be correct. I would have to look into it more. With regard to the study itself, we have good reasons to reject its conclusions. I don't remember the academic shut down - I just remember thinking the study was flawed. If you don't have a theoretical way in which you think education should work, you have no basis for objecting to the behavior that happened during the Regnerus controversy.

            The Regnerus paper doesn't rise to the level of 'theory', but it's certainly an example of suppression of empirical results by the scientific community (and extra-scientific community). Here's the official audit report, as reported by Christian Smith:

            If Regnerus' results were being suppressed than yes, I think that is very bad behavior by the academic community. However, I do think part of the backlash was due to the fact that his paper simply does not show what he claims it shows. This could be a false impression on my part.

            I agree. The problem, of course, is that we will disagree on the means and/or the ends—probably both. This doesn't mean that we cannot in any way get along, but it does open up the danger that one or both of us will try to undermine the other, perhaps by attempting to frame everything the other says not in his own framework, but transplanted into one's own framework.

            What do you think the best means are for discovering truth?

            IR But if it is phased precisely via mathematics and true, it is a subset of knowledge.

            LB:Ok...? I seem to have undermined the implication of:

            IR: When your theories can be expressed precisely via mathematics, they make sense. This isn't even on the same level as the Trinity.

            LB:To clarify, my failure to explicate the Trinity "precisely via mathematics" does not preclude it from qualifying as possible knowledge.

            I agree. My point was that if something can be described precisely via mathematics than it counts as knowledge. That is what I claimed. I did not claim that all knowledge is mathematical.

            However, I do not think the Trinity can be precisely described.

            What do you mean by "hardly used"? The definition of 'evolution' used by the vast majority of humans who use the term probably doesn't well-match what scientists specializing in it mean by the term. Most people will be sloppy, get things wrong, and generally not have a very good conception except in rough outlines.

            When I read theologians, I do not get the understanding of faith that you claim is the correct one according to scriptures.

          • I think we should make a distinction between well-evidenced propositions that are held to be true by most experts and theological dogmas.

            If you can show me how causation is exclusively derived from the evidence, instead of presupposed to even construct the idea 'evidence', then I'll grant you your claim. But if what is presupposed—see "theory-ladenness of observation"—is actually much bigger than you imply, then much more importance needs to be given to that, and "well-evidenced propositions" need to be knocked down a few notches in relative importance.

            Sure, enlightenment figures will largely agree that the religious body of knowledge is largely wrong. However, this has nothing to with whether or not religion is in full blown conflict with science.

            Perhaps you could sketch out which parts of "the religious body of knowledge" Enlightenment thinkers do not think "is largely wrong". It's not clear what you mean by "full blown conflict"; it seems like you mean it to only obtain if nothing in religion survives the full acceptance of science. But then this begs the question of what you mean by 'religion'. For example, I could see the only aspects surviving—of what frequently goes by 'religion'—being the psychological parts and the fictional parts. And yet, I think many religious folks would refuse to acknowledge the residue as 'religion'.

            And the amazon reviews.

            Stephen Toulmin's Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity has 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 17 reviews. There is one 1-star review, one 3-star review, with the rest being 4- or 5-stars. Perhaps you could be more precise in how you got the impression you did from those reviews. I would also appreciate your thoughts on whether these reviews are written by experts; supposing there's no guarantee they are, I'd like to know how that meshes with the first thing of you which I quoted, which seems to care about the experts.

            I've read quite a bit of Hayek. I really don't think planned societies are in vogue anymore. Not in academic circles, policy circles, or in the minds of the masses.

            Toulmin would likely agree that planned societies are no longer in vogue. Your criticism which sparked this tangent is "I really don't think this is the modern western view."; perhaps this was a mistake, as a result of only partially understanding the argument in Cosmopolis?

            Perhaps it is a possible task, but it is still a good undertaking.

            I think you meant "not a possible task", and I disagree that it is a good idea to undertake impossible tasks. If indeed you depend on some truths which are less-justified, or even not-justified, then you ought not immediately criticize others who do the same. I think it is intellectually dishonest (if known) and/or intellectually incompetent (if not known) to claim that you are doing something that you are not in fact doing.

            Exists independent of the physical universe and could not be described as emerging from the material universe.

            This would seem to make out the multiverse as a "transcendent entity"; are you ok with this? Some scientists seriously think that our universe came out of something 'other'; see for example Lawrence Krauss' A Universe from Nothing.

            What are the key observations that you make or hold to be true that make you think Christianity is the best explanation? For instance, one of the fundamental observations that I make is that I think that the universe is too uncaring to be sustained or monitored by a personal God.

            That's not how I employ Christianity; it is not a hypothesis which best fits my observations. Likewise, one does not pick a model of causation based on the evidence, one presupposes a model and interprets the evidence in light of it. Now, this does not mean that the evidence cannot alter presuppositions, but it means that presuppositions do not supervene on the evidence. I will still try to give you something of an answer to your question, but my refusal of how I think you're framing might render my attempt futile.

            A philosophical reason is that in order for there to be an ontological distinction between truth and falsity, it has to be something other than "adaptation to the environment". And yet, it makes no sense that (1) the laws of nature are responsible for all time-evolution of state; (2) there is some law or set of laws which promotes the time-evolution towards 'true' states. And so, something other than the laws of nature must be involved with a robust notion of truth: I call that 'mind', and assert that it cannot ontologically supervene on non-mind. Now, I am convinced that there really is a robust notion of truth, and so there is at least one mind. I also believe that humans are not the only minds, which means there is at least one other mind in addition. But this reason only gets one to an a-moral (not immoral) deism.

            I am also convinced that there must be a "genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations", to use a term from Alasdair MacIntyre's famous book, After Virtue (23). By 'genuine', I take him to mean ontological. This seems to presuppose that there is something in addition to unilateral causation, that there is also (maybe only) cooperative causation. Multiple persons, acting in concert, where none is taking advantage of another. If this isn't possible, all is Machiavellian/​Nietzschean, whether we are conscious of it or suppress this knowledge and construct pretend worlds, underwritten by heinous acts, the likes of which happen all the time in our reality. The Trinity seems to be the kind of ontological undergirding for what I am calling 'cooperative causation'. More at Alistair McFadyen's The Call to Personhood.

            An odd reason I have not seen anywhere else, lies in Fitch's Paradox of Knowability, which can be understood as a proof that if we accept a few axioms which most people would probably want to accept, then it is necessarily true that "all knowable truths are already known". I am inclined to believe that there are is an infinity of truth that can be known (Gödel's incompleteness theorems help, here) and the only way this can be, again given Fitch's axioms, is if all of these truths are already known. By whom? Well, God of course. :-) Note that an alternative to this is to limit what can be known, like those of new mysterianism. The progress of human knowledge could slow, even stop, perhaps even whether there being priests who tend to the mysteries. This would be a valid logical alternative to God existing.

            There are almost certainly a number of other things I could say, but I think this is enough for now. I'm not ready to write a full "Why I am a Christian" essay, and that's essentially what you asked for.

            This study had numerous issues.

            However, I do think part of the backlash was due to the fact that his paper simply does not show what he claims it shows. This could be a false impression on my part.

            That is not the question, though. All studies have issues. The question is whether that study was given more scrutiny than other studies, with similar issues. Christian Smith, a long-time sociologist with good reputation, argues that it was given more scrutiny, ceteris paribus. This is a hallmark of discrimination, of prejudice.

            You realize that the peer-review process, when the audit finished, resulted in "it was ok that this article was published when judged by the most rigorous sociological standards", right? See my excerpt starting "The Chronicle of Higher Education". The auditor who said that turned around and said, in non-peer-reviewed places, that the article should not have been published. I leave it up to you to determine whether or not this is flagrant intellectual dishonesty.

            If you don't have a theoretical way in which you think education should work, you have no basis for objecting to the behavior that happened during the Regnerus controversy.

            I would likely draw my theory from Paul Feyerabend, who studied not mythologies of how science ought to work, but how it actually works. I would also note the importance of developing character, perhaps keying off of Harry Lewis' Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? and James Davison Hunter's The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil. But I don't have a well-developed theory of education, and I doubt you do, either.

            What do you think the best means are for discovering truth?

            You've just asked me for a full-fledged epistemology; that seems kind of crazy. So I will give you a snippet: I think charitable interpretation of points of view different than oneself is absolutely critical, as is a proper analysis of what beliefs ontologically supervene on observation, and which ones don't.

            My point was that if something can be described precisely via mathematics than it counts as knowledge.

            I think I might disagree. Reality itself is not guaranteed to be mathematical. Unless you follow the Pythagorean religion or a new version of it? Knowledge of logic is very different from knowledge of reality, IMO.

            However, I do not think the Trinity can be precisely described.

            I agree. Neither do I think reality can be precisely described.

            When I read theologians, I do not get the understanding of faith that you claim is the correct one according to scriptures.

            Examples, please.

          • Christians hold that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. This does not make sense mathematically.

            Incidentally, I just came across the following in Charles Taylor's magnum opus, A Secular Age:

                So it is not altogether surprising that this attempt to bring Christ to the world, the lay world, the previously unhallowed world, should inspire a new focus on this world. On one side, this involved a new vision of nature, as we see in the rich Franciscan spirituality of the life of God in the animate and inanimate things which surround us; on another it brought ordinary people into focus.
                And we might add, ordinary people in their individuality. Because another important facet of Franciscan spirituality was its intense focus on the person of Jesus Christ. This devotion, as Louis Dupré argues, ends up opening “a new perspective on the unique particularity of the person.” On the intellectual level, this takes time to work its way out, in the writings of the great Franciscan thinkers, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Occam, but it ends up giving a new status to the particular, as something more than a mere instantiation of the universal. Perfect knowledge will mean now grasping the “individual form”, the haecceitas, in Scotus’ language.[12]
                Though it couldn’t be clear at the time, we with hindsight can recognize this as a major turning point in the history of Western civilization, an important step towards that primacy of the individual which defines our culture. But of course, it could only have this significance because it was more than a mere intellectual shift, reflected in the invention of new unpronounceable scholastic terms. It was primarily a revolution in devotion, in the focus of prayer and love: the paradigm human individual, the God-Man, in relation to whom alone the humanity of all the others can be truly known, begins to emerge more into the light. (94)

            In my other response to this comment, I mentioned The Problem of the Many with reference to the Trinity, but here we see it show up in the idea that the particular is not "just" an instantiation of a Form. One can find out more about this 'haecceitas' at 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/​Scholasticism. It turns out to be very important; for example, one is not just "a carpenter", but also a unique person. And thus you get the idea of a Christian name, to distinguish between members of a family. The names "Smith", "Brewer", etc. are all occupations. Christians, especially Protestants, argued that you are more than just your role in society.

            In so doing, these Christians used a doctrine that you claim "does not make sense mathematically" to do so. Perhaps Hamlet's aphorism applies: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." To use William James' categories in Pragmatism, perhaps you are more of a rationalistic bent while I have deep sympathies for the empiricist bent (search the online text for "going by 'principles'"). For example, I accept QFT and GR, even though they contradict near black holes. I'm ok with that; I'm ok with reality seeming contradictory, as long as both sides of the contradiction are compelling, and as long as they don't allow double standards in treatment of people.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And thus you get the idea of a Christian name,
            to distinguish between members of a family. The names "Smith",
            "Brewer", etc. are all occupations. Christians, especially Protestants,
            argued that you are more than just your role in society.In so doing, these Christians used a doctrine that you claim "does not make sense mathematically" to do so

            I think one can say that a person is both a brewer and a indvidual with free will and sentience without also allowing that a beings nature can have both 100% God nature and 100% human nature. Such a thought certainly seems incoherent in a Aristotelian or Thomistic framework.

            Does it make sense to say that person X is 100% a brewer? What would 50% brewer look like?

            Perhaps Hamlet's aphorism applies: "There are more things in heaven and
            earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

            I am sure there are. But I prefer not to substitute unknowables with false beliefs.

            To use William James' categories in Pragmatism,
            perhaps you are more of a rationalistic bent while I have deep
            sympathies for the empiricist bent (search the online text for "going by
            'principles'"). For example, I accept QFT and GR, even though they
            contradict near black holes.

            I had a rationalist phase in college. I wouldn't still call myself a rationalist though. I probably want rationalism to be true, but I don't think that it is.

          • I think one can say that a person is both a brewer and a indvidual with free will and sentience without also allowing that a beings nature can have both 100% God nature and 100% human nature. Such a thought certainly seems incoherent in a Aristotelian or Thomistic framework.

            I'm just working off of what actually happened in history, at least as reported by a reputable historian. Incidentally, Brad S. Gregory argues in The Unintended Reformation that it is "univocity of being" which results in the actual contradiction between 100% God and 100% human. Prior to the nominalists (from Duns Scotus onward), and in pockets thereafter, theologians believed that even God's existence is of a different order than ours. He is not "a being" of the same kind we are, nor is he "being itself" in some pantheistic or panentheistic way. Therefore, for God to exist simultaneously with a human is not a contradiction, for they are two different orders of existence, or two different 'levels', perhaps of the sort Bernard d'Espagnat discusses on pp410–411 of his On Physics and Philosophy.

            Does it make sense to say that person X is 100% a brewer? What would 50% brewer look like?

            A 50% brewer would be someone who is not completely identified with the role of 'brewer' in society.

            But I prefer not to substitute unknowables with false beliefs.

            I don't think Hamlet was referring to 'unknowables'.

            I wouldn't still call myself a rationalist though.

            As long as you say stuff like this:

            LB: When your theories can be expressed precisely via mathematics, they make sense.

            —you sound like quite the rationalist.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The problem is that when we say that Jesus has both 100% God nature and 100% human nature there are attributes which are contradictory that he must also have.

            For instance, a God nature is all-knowing. A human nature is not all-knowing. Jesus cannot be both all-knowing and not all-knowing. Therefore, Jesus does not have 100% god nature or 100% human nature.

          • This is but a denial that kenosis is possible for God. Perhaps it is here where we will fundamentally disagree.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is special pleading.

          • Care to explain?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Kenosis is something that is only possible with Divine natures. Other natures cannot do it.

          • That's an interesting claim; I'm not sure it is true. But suppose that it is. How does this lead to special pleading?

  • David Hardy

    I largely agree with much of this article. One cannot not take a position when raising children. Whether implicitly or explicitly, a position will be taken. Current research does not suggest a religious or non-religious upbringing is correlated to better or worse outcomes. The more important thing is that a child experiences empathy, unconditional love and honesty from a parent, and that includes what the parent honestly believes. I would also add the importance of teaching critical thinking, ethical behavior and, as the child grows older, responsibility and autonomy appropriate to his or her development. In many ways, better outcomes have more to do with process than content: not what is taught, but rather that it is taught in a loving and understanding way, both when encouraging good behavior and correcting bad behavior.

  • neil_pogi

    when i was just 4 years old, i ask my mother: 'mommy, why butterflies have so many wonderful colors? who made that?'

    even a child can know unconsciously that a personal creator exists

    • Mike

      of course all ppl instinctively think/feel that "all of this" was created/is ordered looks designed - the great atheistic revelation is that that is all a GIANT ILLUSION and that there is exactly ZILCH meaning/purpose in all of reality.

      now tell THAT to your 8 year old child or 17 year old depressed teenager!

      • neil_pogi

        again, atheists are saying that design is just illusion, just apparent. would you please explain in detail why you claim that design is just ;apparent'? the eye is designed perfectly for vision. atheists said the eye isn't designed.. so tell me why? claims are still claims.

        the human body is perfectly designed. the main culprit why diseases and disorders are caused mainly by MUTATIONS. that's why, for example, if the eye's anatomy and physiology are affected by mutations, the results are debilitating: blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, etc. mutations are harmful to the organism and yet atheists credit it as one participating factors of evolution.

        if there are disturbance in chemical imbalances in the brain, the results are: depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, etc: all these are affiliated with mutations.

        anyway, biblically speaking, since man was cursed, he was sentence to DIE. all harmful factors such as mutations follow.

        • Michael Murray

          Examples of poor "design" in humans

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_poor_design#In_humans

          It includes a couple of sentences about why the human eye is badly designed. More here

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_eye#Evolutionary_baggage

          It seems God got the octopus eye correct after he had practiced on the human eye. Or maybe there is no God and it's all just a result of natural selection.

        • Mike

          Nature is in the process of refining us and everything else, it "rewards" life via useful adaptations and "punishes" an inability to adapt.

          But Nature can not have "purpose" so some of them now say Nature doesn't actually exist...it's a VERY tangled web they weave.

          • neil_pogi

            a single-celled organism is designed already. it doesn't need to evolve, if it needs to evolve, does it mean that it still needs 'refinement', according to you..

            but single-celled organisms, such as amoeba, micro-organism, still exist today..they are complete and needs no liability..

            therefore, no evolution occured on them.. even if mutations occur

    • Michael Murray

      when i was just 4 years old, i ask my mother: 'mommy, why butterflies have so many wonderful colors? who made that?'

      It's such a shame she didn't explain evolution by natural selection to you.

      even a child can know unconsciously that a personal creator exists

      Not a surprise you would come to the wrong conclusion if nobody explained the correct mechanism to you.

      • neil_pogi

        is natural selection responsible for development of 'wonderful colors' of the butterfly? or is it the design mechanism that made butterfly a wonderful insect?

        so can you explain to me in detail how this 'mechanism' of evolution is?

        • Michael Murray

          Natural selection is responsible for the development of the wonderful colors. Of course if you like you can assume that God designed natural selection. I think that is basically the Catholic position.

          so can you explain to me in detail how this 'mechanism' of evolution is?

          I could. Although not in detail here as there isn't room. But people here, including me, have pointed you at links over and over again and you show no sign of reading them. So I would need some convincing before I could be bothered.

          • neil_pogi

            same tactics again?

            'i am referring you to search google how the mechanism of evolution is'

          • Michael Murray

            It's not a tactic. You show no sign of genuine interest in learning just in parroting incorrect things you have read elsewhere. You seem happy with your ignorance. So I would need some convincing before I could be bothered.

          • neil_pogi

            anybody can write scientific papers on evolution.

            but nobody from those authors can't verify thru observations, tests, and experimentations about the papers they have written.

            they are just 'just-so' and 'make-believe' stories.

            maybe you can invite hanna barbera to write also the 'evolution series'

            you have on TV, 'cosmos'... why not have 'evolution'... for the sake of science fiction?

          • Michael Murray

            they are just 'just-so' and 'make-believe' stories.

            Yes. Just like I thought. More parroting. Ignorance is bliss isn't it. Pity not even the Catholic Church agrees with you.

            Students should be able to leave their biology classes, and their courses in religious instruction, with an integrated understanding of the means God chose to make us who we are. "[5]

            The he says:

            why not have 'evolution'.

            You've not watched anything by David Attenborough ? You really should. They are brilliant. You could turn the sound off so you wouldn't be corrupted by any actual knowledge.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Attenborough

          • neil_pogi

            if (macro) evolution occurs, why? does it have goals to achieve? i thought it is blind, and purposeless?

            micro-evolution is a fact. is observed in a matter of few years.. it's even predicted by Scriptures ('according to its kind')

          • Michael Murray

            Ah yes. The old micro/macro manoeuvre. More ignorance.

          • neil_pogi

            'more ignorance' - then why are you so comfortable with that statement?

            why not elaborate more?

            you might say that macro-evolution is not observable because it needs vast time (million years)..(excuse) but nobody can prove that the universe is billion years! how's that?

          • Michael Murray

            You might like this from wikipedia

            Catholic schools in the United States and other countries teach evolution as part of their science curriculum. They teach the fact that evolution occurs and the modern evolutionary synthesis, which is the scientific theory that explains how evolution proceeds. This is the same evolution curriculum that secular schools teach. Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, chair of the Committee on Science and Human Values, wrote in a letter sent to all U.S. bishops in December 2004: "... Catholic schools should continue teaching evolution as a scientific theory backed by convincing evidence. At the same time, Catholic parents whose children are in public schools should ensure that their children are also receiving appropriate catechesis at home and in the parish on God as Creator. Students should be able to leave their biology classes, and their courses in religious instruction, with an integrated understanding of the means God chose to make us who we are. "[5]

            (My emphasis.)

            Do Catholic schools in the Philippines follow this approach ?

          • neil_pogi

            evolution can be taught everywhere, in schools and universities. but they are just being taught and nothing more. of course, so that students will have some glimpse about sciences, be it factual science or not.

            i am not a catholic, but some friends of mine says evolution is being taught in a catholic university (university of santo tomas).. even if it is being taught, the catholic church believe in evolution that is guided by God, and not by/thru 'naturalistic' process.

            i quoted: 'Catholic schools should continue teaching evolution as a scientific theory backed by convincing evidence. At the same time, Catholic parents whose children are in public schools should ensure that their children are also receiving appropriate catechesis at home and in the parish on GOD AS CREATOR. (emphasis mine)

            so are you telling me that evolution is true because it is being taught in classes?

            why some ardent evolutionists published books with title: 'why evolution is true'? is it an appeal?

          • Michael Murray

            Am I meant to be shocked by the capital letters. I understand the Catholic position on evolution. It is more informed than yours.

            You problem is you don't even understand evolution. How can you criticise it if you don't understand it ? Everything you write about evolution is so ill informed as to be laughable.

            What religion are you by the way ?

          • neil_pogi

            if you really understand its mechanism, at least, you can explain some of it to me.. but you just can't

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not a catholic,

            So you do know you will burn in hell for all eternity ?

          • neil_pogi

            how many times did i tell in this SN that hell is an 'annihilation' place, and not eternal torment!

            so you can't explain evolution, then why you believe in it?

          • Michael Murray

            Why should I believe your opinion on hell ? You aren't even a Catholic so not a member of the one true faith. Of course you don't want to believe hell is torment. Otherwise you would convert to Catholicism.

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            Notice that chief punishment is separation from God. So there are other punishments like the "eternal fire" tickling around your bones. Still at least we will have all eternity to chat together while the Catholics all play their harps upstairs.

          • neil_pogi

            why would i believe in some doctrines of catholic church if they are not supported fully by the scriptures?

            some of them: worship of mary and the saints, infallibility of the pope, indulgences, save thru works, sunday and other feasts observances, eternal torment in hell, beatitudes of mary, crusades...

  • Rob Abney

    Here's how I would answer my daughter's inquiry: "I will tell you the truth as I've been able to discern it. And we will always seek the truth together because it's not easy and we can always discuss it together at any time whether you are a small child or a teenager or an adult. And you should discern information from other people that you trust also. I trust the church because the church has dedicated 2000 years of thought to this subject. But you will have to study church teachings to discern the truth also. I do recommend the great thinkers from the past especially Thomas Aquinas although he is very difficult to read even for adults, but I'll try to help you. Remember, there is no easy answer, always look deep into the details."

    And then I will discuss the subject freely at every opportunity with her.

  • Mike

    In my city the best schools and ESPECIALLY in poor areas are catholic and they beat their secular counter parts every year...i wonder why if the kids are from the same exact economic background.

    • VicqRuiz

      When matched against public schools, or against secular private schools?

      • Mike

        both i think as the secular private don't have many poor kids in their schools as they are most ly for rich folks.

    • Doljonijiarnimorinar

      I don't doubt your claims about the schools in your city, but can you share the information to support it?

      • Mike

        it was a big article in our paper about how schools serving the same poor area differ based on whether they are catholic. one example featured 2 schools one catholic one not that were literally across the street and yet the kids in the catholic did way way better. they graduate more there less fights etc.

        of course the article didn't dare mention that traditional values had anything to do with it bc it's a hard left city but the truth was obvious.

        • Doljonijiarnimorinar

          Doesn't seem that obvious at all. Traditional values (whatever that means) doesn't have anything to do with Catholicism. Also, you're referring to a public school which clearly doesn't have the same funding as a Catholic institution. Nor are public schools prolific for good marks. Seems like a completely empty comparison the way your 'article' or you describe it.

          • Mike

            traditional values emphasis chastity and dignity not promiscuity in the name of an empty radical left wing ideology.

            ciao.

            edit: the public schools have as much for poor kids as the catholic yet the catholic still do way better...if you don't believe me go to a poor area in your city and check out the catholic school serving it and see what it's like - you'll immediately notice how dignified and noble everything is compared to the emptiness of the public schools.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            Did you attend a Catholic school? Have you any idea what kids are like? If you think your first statement is true, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you can buy. This is just first rate nonsense, or your biased opinion - possibly both. I can tell you from my experience that "chastity and dignity not promiscuity" doesn't bond with reality so well, when acquaintances from either ended up the same. If you think Catholic students aren't getting high, having sex, partying and doing the same things public school students are, I will give you a discount on that bridge. It's shocking how naive you are. Perhaps it's all the empty radical right wing ideology you swallow?

            You mean I'll notice how much funding they have compared to the public educational institutions, doubly-so for poor areas.. If nothing else, you just buttressed what I stated in prior reply. Lol, dignified and noble? It's a private school, Mike. Appearances are everything to you apparently. Like I said, this seems like the emptiest comparison you could try to make.

            Curious, who was the author of the article you read in the paper?

          • Mike

            Lol, dignified and noble?

            ok you folks keep doing what you're doing and we'll teach our kids the path to success AND holiness...we'll see where everyone ends up in the end.

            take care.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            Oh noes, is this a veiled threat of damnation? Or are you implying that getting a job as a snake-oil salesman is something to aspire to?

            You didn't turn out dignified and noble, nor are you holy or your views sacred. Looks like you're doing a real bang-up job there. Keep up the good work, and take care of yourself.

          • Mike

            thanks you too.

  • VicqRuiz

    If the strong agnostic is permitted to raise up his child in the belief that nobody knows what happens when you die, then why isn’t the Christian parent permitted to raise up his child in the belief that Christians do know?

    I see no reason why both are not permissible.

    As for me, when I asked my dad if there is a God, he did not answer "No one knows." He answered "I don't know." And I have followed his example.