• God cannot act contrary to his own predictions and cannot know that he knows everything

    I am reposting this one again because it came up in a comment by Shatterface here.

    )

     

    This was a segment I did for the Skepticule podcast which I also recorded as a video. Check it out!

    Category: EpistemologyFeaturedFree Will and DeterminismGod's Characteristics

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Faraz Samavat

      Beautiful thinking; however, you were mistaken by one small fact, which is the idea of God being a slave to time; therefore, having to “predict” the future and having “foreknowledge” of all that is going to happen. Try to present your ideology without using the concept of time, and tell me how it will come out by contacting me with an email:
      Faraz.Samavat@yahoo.com

      • Time is a big problem, and doesn’t help theists. Bot least because most scientists now understand time as part of space such that the B Theory of time holds. This means we live in a block universe (see here: http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/24/time-free-will-and-the-block-universe/) where free will is impossible. If God enters into interacting with humanity, he enters into time.

        Which is why apologists like Craig believe that an atemporal God enters time at creation. No other reading makes sense of this idea, but then it creates as many problems as it solves.

        An intercessory God must play victim to the vagaries of time, I’m afraid. Otherwise there is no way it could know how and when to interact since all of time would be an instant to an atemporal being.

        etc

        • NAL

          That URL should be:

          http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/24/time-free-will-and-the-block-universe/

          without the close parenthesis at the end. Maybe a space between the backslash and the close parenthesis will do the trick. Looks like an interesting site you link to.

        • kraut2

          “If God enters into interacting with humanity, he enters into time.”

          Which would change the “character” of god, who being eternal, (past and future infinite) having no concept of time suddenly experiences it.

          Would that point when god “enters” time not actually be the point when god was created?

          • I suppose you would have to define creation and existence. But in the sense of having any kind of consequence on any other given entity, then perhaps so.

            • kraut2

              An eternal god – past and future infinite – is timeless.
              If time does not exist, space does not.
              If space and time do not exist, god is in the state of the universe beyond the limits of Planck’s dimensions/time, just before what is called the big bang.
              God can therefore only start his existence co evolving with the expanding universe.
              To simplify – if both have begun their existence at the same time – who created whom?
              We know that the Universe exists (at least lets agree on that for the sake of the argument), but have no indication that god(s) exists having come into existence through quantum fluctuation.
              We can therefore eliminate god as a hypothesis.

      • Sorry, have now edited my first link which was incorrectly formatted.

        • Faraz Samavat

          very fascinating. I’ll have to read it again in order to truly understand the entire concept presented in it. That being said, I have to ask you about your belief regarding free-will; do you consider yourself as a Hard Determinist or a Compatabilist.

          • I wrote my first book on this subject (available from the sidebar…). I would label myself a hard determinist but only on account of semantics since both positions deny the existence of contra-causal free will. Compatibilists redefine free will to mean something else, but it is not strictly the free will as commonly understood, and so the label should reflect that.

            • Mohammad Faraz Samavat

              As a hard determinist, do you consider yourself as a Nihilist or an Existentialist? If you are the latter please state the philosophy that keeps you from becoming a nihilist from a hard determinist point of view.
              About the books you mentioned; due to the fact that I live in Iran, there is no possible way for me to gain access to them. Is it possible for you to send some sort of abstract or summary of them through my email, if so, please send a pdf format version instead of the regular doc format files.Thank you in advance.

            • Hi there. Good questions. Is this a false dichotomy, and what do you define these terms as (the approach of a philosopher there – always define terms!). Nihilist about what? I sometimes consider moral nihilism through some kind of error theory. It depends what you define as existing, such that can mere mental concepts have a definite ontology, since this is really what morality is. I can’t see that some Platonic realm where moral ideas and obligations float about in some supposed real reality is at all likely, or coherent. Which leaves concepts in our minds. Now, using neuro-typical people with sound logic and rationality, and with equal access to good knowledge, everybody would agree on the same morality. Does this make it objective? I like the idea of universal subjectivism which could be a mix of the two, or even non-existent in strict objective terms. Does that make me nihilistic, morally speaking? Well, it depends on your definitions…

              If you want, as a question brother from across the world, and given your context, you want me to send you the pdf of my book, I will. As long as you promise not to put it on the internet etc.

            • As ever, thanks for commenting.

    • Considering you don’t believe there is God, you think you know a lot about Him. God only knows how much you don’t know about Him.

      :)

      • Aaah, but these are logical statements and conclusions which follow deductively from axioms claimed of God. Thus I need know nothing of God, per se, to make such claims…!

    • dadsa

      reading the heading made me think of a chanced visit between apologist Sye ten bruggencate and god having and argument.

      God: I am god… blah… blah!

      Sye: How do you know that?

      God: I am god asshole!

      Sye: How do you know that everything you think you know is in fact false? Is it possible that you may be wrong, if so that you are wrong about everything. Can you use your reason to justify your reasoning? Could you be wrong about being god?
      God: …

    • Luke Breuer

      Have you considered that your definition of ‘omniscience’ might be bad? We can restrict omnipotence to having “all of the powers [that can be had]”, and we can restrict omniscience to having “all of the knowledge [that can be known]”. What is problematic with doing this? Podcasts likes this do not really promote deeper exploration [alone]; can you provide a bibliography and references to peer-reviewed works on the matter?

      Can God create a first-cause, moral agent whose choices he does not determine, and thus does not know at the moment of creation? Pick bad definitions of omniscience and omnipotence, and this is a paradox. Pick good definitions, and there is no problem.

      You might like Thomas Breuer’s The Impossibility of Accurate State Self-Measurements (no relation).

      • Isn’t that just ‘science?

        • Luke Breuer

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about, here. The paper I referenced?

          • Just my little joke. Omniscience without the omni- (taking bits away until it makes sense to you) isn’t omni-. Therefore, it’s just ‘science.

      • “Can God create a first-cause, moral agent whose choices he does not determine, and thus does not know at the moment of creation? Pick bad definitions of omniscience and omnipotence, and this is a paradox. Pick good definitions, and there is no problem”

        Wrong. Pick one definition, get problems. Pick another definition and solve that problem but CREATE OTHERS whilst getting accuse of moving God around like a pea in the conman’s shell game.

        • Luke Breuer

          It is not clear that you are correct, or if you are, it is not clear that matters, per my comment on How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?

          A key aspect of said research when it comes to science is that we don’t talk about the ‘end goal’—what reality is truly like—or at least we don’t spend too much time on that. Instead, most of the time is spent on the next step forward.

          Indeed, there exists a website called LessWrong, with the subtitle: “A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.” What I propose is that thinking about (3) and (8) is valid when we do it ‘only a little bit’. That is, we only go a little ahead of our current knowledge of the state of things. It is in this kind of environment that (3) has proven to work toward the end of (1). Likewise, I claim that (8) can aid (2).

          If you try and imagine immediately what God is like, you will likely fail. Why? Well, Christians have long held that he is not finitely describable. See apophatic theology for an extreme case, one which is almost Popperian: describe God by what he is not, instead of what he is.

          I explained an example to The Thinker a while ago: consider the alternating harmonic series. If you try to sum all the positive terms = P, sum all the negative terms = N, and then attempt to compute P + N, you’ll get nonsense. You might declare, “the sum cannot be done!” You would be wrong. Instead, if you add the terms alternatively, or even finitely close to each other, you can get a convergent sum.

          Now consider attempting to add ‘omnipotence’ to ‘omniscience’ by defining each by itself, and then adding them together. If you get nonsense, is that because they cannot be added, or because you’re doing it wrongly? I claim the latter is a distinct possibility, and I am aware of nobody who has really investigated this problem. What if, instead, we were to do this:

              lim (P(i) + K(i) + B(i))
              as i → ∞

          Where P is power, K is knowledge, and B is benevolence. We can think of larger values of i as imposing fewer limits on P, K, and B, per Pearce & Pruss Understanding omnipotence.

          Would the result be “nonsense”? I don’t think we know, and I think that if we fail to think about issues like the above, we’ll falsely make ourselves think that we tried really hard, failed to get an answer, and thus there is no answer.

          • The key is in the term you used. “What God is like”. Not exactly what God is, every characteristic and so on.

            If something is so ufathomable, how the hell am I supposed to love it relationally?

            • Luke Breuer

              Science doesn’t talk about what reality is, but only what it is like. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. Fortunately, we do fantastically well with successive approximations, a la Ockham’s methodological razor. If this works with science, why can’t this work with understanding God? Hell, we understand other people via successive approximations. That just seems to be how comprehension works!

              /italics/

            • Andy_Schueler

              Fortunately, we do fantastically well with successive approximations, a la Ockham’s methodological razor. If this works with science, why can’t this work with understanding God?

              Because coming up with a better approximation requires a method to compare two approximations. Science has a method, theology does not.

            • Luke Breuer

              According to this reasoning philosophy doesn’t have a method either, and yet it came up with Atomism which helped prime scientists for the discovery of atomic theory. It’s almost as if theological thought can trickle into particle-and-field reality…

            • Andy_Schueler

              Here is my “successive approximation” to “understanding God”:
              There are three gods, Tom, Dick and Harry, who are brothers. Tom is a nice guy who loves creating stuff and helping people. Dick is a complete dick who loves destroying stuff and hurting people. Harry doesn´t give a fuck about creating or destroying stuff but loves fucking up the plans of his brothers.
              Demonstrate that my “successive approximation” to “understanding God” is worse than yours.

              yet it came up with Atomism which helped prime scientists for the discovery of atomic theory

              No. The earliest inspirations of atomic theory were observations by chemists, Lavoisier and Proust, late 18th century.

            • The atomists of ancient Greece were pretty much all atheists. It’s better to have said, “It’s almost as if materialistic thought can trickle into particle-and-field reality…”

            • Luke Breuer

              Relevance?

            • It’s better to have said, “It’s almost as if materialistic thought can trickle into particle-and-field reality…”

            • kraut2

              “If this works with science, why can’t this work with understanding God?”

              Maybe the reason is that he does not exist? Science creates testable/falsifiable models of the world, and the test either confirm the accuracy of the model or reject it.
              Science has so far no need to hypothesize a supernatural being to explain/model anything in physical reality.

              It is as easy as that – no god is needed to explain anything in the physical world, and no evidence for anything “supernatural” has been found.

              Theology is the most useless endeavor that mankind has ever engaged in – chasing and explaining thought by pre-scientific peoples who had no other way to explain natural phenomena but by premising the supernatural.
              The supernatural explanations were then all rejected by utilizing the scientific process and god has left the building.

            • Luke Breuer

              Science has so far no need to hypothesize a supernatural being to explain/model anything in physical reality.

              Can science distinguish between a person and a non-person, on any basis other than human judgment of something like the Turing test? If it cannot, then we can say that science may study the habits of people, or the predictable parts of human nature, but not that spark, or ‘secret sauce’, that differentiates humans from non-humans. Mortimer Adler wrote The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes; while I have not read this, I did read his Ten Philosophical Mistakes, in which he references Difference, and talks about how it is the potential of humans which makes them different from anything else. But can science really grasp this potential? Not clear!

              Consider those who say that the brain is ‘just’ neurons. Is this a reductionist claim? If so, such people will have to grapple with e.g. Massimo Pigliucci’s Essays on emergence, part I. For a preview, note that phase changes in matter don’t always depend on the microstructure, making a more solid level of abstraction than was previously assumed by reductionists. Or we can look at Turing machines, and see how they can be implemented on silicon, with Lego, biologically, mentally, etc. But is the brain ‘just’ a Turing machine? Not clear!

              We generally say that science has completely described a system when it captures all the “degrees of freedom”, as it were. A system no longer surprises the scientist who has done this, because the scientists knows all the different ways the system can act. Compare this to scientists who study humans. Maybe this will change one day, but currently humans can game any description of them that is produced. Asimov plays on this idea with his psychohistory: one can predict the behavior of quadrillions of humans mathematically, but only if the masses of people aren’t told about the predictions. What is the scientific description of such a being, a being who cannot be fully described by science?

              What I have attempted to do here is to show that it is not clear science can fully describe humans, beings the Bible claims are created “in the image of God”. You may believe that science will someday fully describe the human being, but this is by no means a given. Here’s the kicker: does science need this “full description” in order to understand humans more and more? Perhaps not. This means that science does not need access to all truths, in order to discover more truths.

              And yet, treating a human as less than a human is abhorrent to many. It objectifies, and it often enslaves. Why do we believe this? Is it just due to our emotions, those things evolution evolved in us? It seems to me that we predicate morality on explicitly non-scientific facts. It is as if we need more than science to navigate reality. Put succinctly, scientism fails, just like logical positivism. Even naturalism has problems; see Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism.

              So, it’s not clear what import your sentence has.

              Theology is the most useless endeavor that mankind has ever engaged in – chasing and explaining thought by pre-scientific peoples who had no other way to explain natural phenomena but by premising the supernatural.

              You believe in mythology. See what someone who examined the evidence had to say:

              One immediate result of such an inquiry [figuring out how modern religious adherents would describe ‘religion’] would surely be to suggest that people are not primarily interested in trying to explain why events happen, and their practice is not primarily intended to make things happen as they wish. The contemporary Christian does not go to church to find out how televisions or transistors work, or to make sure that she gets a good job. Appeal to God is so far from explaining anything that it is more often a puzzle than a clarification. The query, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ never explains it; it intensifies the problem. So it seems very odd to suggest that the motivation for belief in God is a desire for explanation. Similarly, Christians are usually castigated by preachers for trying to use religion as a means to worldly success. Abandonment to the divine will is more often recommended than attempts to get God to do what one wants. Of course, in prayer people often do ask God to do what they would like to see. But it again seems very odd to suggest that this is the primary reason for their practice, when it is so frequently and vehemently criticized by most Christian teachers as mislocating the primary importance of the adoration of God as being of supreme value. (The Case for Religion, 46)

            • Andy_Schueler

              Can science distinguish between a person and a non-person, on any basis other than human judgment of something like the Turing test? If it cannot, then we can say that science may study the habitsof people, or the predictable parts of human nature, but not that spark, or ‘secret sauce’, that differentiates humans from non-humans. Mortimer Adler wroteThe Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes; while I have not read this, I did read his Ten Philosophical Mistakes, in which he references Difference, and talks about how it is the potential of humans which makes them different from anything else. But can science really grasp this potential? Not clear!

              Consider those who say that the brain is ‘just’ neurons. Is this a reductionist claim? If so, such people will have to grapple with e.g. Massimo Pigliucci’s Essays on emergence, part I. For a preview, note that phase changes in matter don’t always depend on the microstructure, making a more solid level of abstraction than was previously assumed by reductionists. Or we can look at Turing machines, and see how they can be implemented on silicon, with Lego, biologically, mentally, etc. But is the brain ‘just’ a Turing machine? Not clear!

              We generally say that science has completely described a system when it captures all the “degrees of freedom”, as it were. A system no longer surprises the scientist who has done this, because the scientists knows all the different ways the system can act. Compare this to scientists who study humans. Maybe this will change one day, but currently humans can game any description of them that is produced. Asimov plays on this idea with his psychohistory: one can predict the behavior of quadrillions of humans mathematically, but only if the masses of people aren’t told about the predictions. What is the scientific description of such a being, a being who cannot be fully described by science?

              What I have attempted to do here is to show that it is not clear science can fully describe humans, beings the Bible claims are created “in the image of God”. You may believe that science will someday fully describe the human being, but this is by no means a given. Here’s the kicker: does science need this “full description” in order to understand humans more and more? Perhaps not. This means that science does not need access to all truths, in order to discover more truths.

              And yet, treating a human as less than a human is abhorrent to many. It objectifies, and it often enslaves. Why do we believe this? Is it just due to our emotions, those things evolution evolved in us? It seems to me that we predicate morality on explicitlynon-scientific facts. It is as if we need more than science to navigate reality. Put succinctly, scientism fails, just like logical positivism. Even naturalism has problems; see Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism.

              So, it’s not clear what import your sentence has.

              What you wrote here is a 508 words mini-essay. You wrote it as a reply to someone simply pointing out that postulating some supernatural being has never solved anything and never helped to explain or model anything. Instead of simply acknowledging that this is true – which it undeniably is, you start to question whether there might be things that will stay out of the reach of science, in your usual hyper-verbose way. Here´s the thing – you can ramble about this all you want, you ain´t fooling anyone, there could be legions of problems for which science is utterly inadequate or even complete useless but that will never translate into an argument for why theology is NOT absolutely useless.

            • Luke Breuer

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but the clear implication from,

              Science has so far no need to hypothesize a supernatural being to explain/model anything in physical reality.

              , was that if science has no need for something, then nobody has a need for that thing. Was this an incorrect inference on my part? If it was incorrect, then why would kraut2 utter it?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Don´t tell us what science can´t, tell us what theology can.

            • Luke Breuer

              Theology seems irrelevant unless the god or gods it talks about exist. One is better off with philosophy if there is no supernatural.

              I believe that God does exist; I’ve described one answer to your “can“. Another here. I believe things like this are helpful to talk about. Perhaps you disagree. I think properly establishing ‘identity’ is important. I think the Bible’s discussion of “letter of the law” vs. “spirit of the law” is still relevant today; many people still think “letter of the law” is the way to solve problems—including @disqus_The_Thinker:disqus’s A Case For Secular Morality. The claim of the true possibility of freedom of the will is extremely important if the will can be ‘free’—for example, ‘free’ enough to break historical cycles; this ‘enough’ has not always been believed—see cyclic history.

              Somehow, I get the feeling you’ll find none of the above relevant. If so, I suggest sitting back and watching. Maybe there’s a way to build a utopia that (i) is heterogeneous; (ii) interacts with the outside world; (iii) is long-lasting. If theology could help make that happen, would you say theology “can“?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Theology seems irrelevant unless the god or gods it talks about exist.

              No. It doesn´t seem irrelevant, it is irrelevant. If the three God-brothers – Tom, Dick and Harry – that I talked about here would actually exist, then my theological ramblings about them would still be maximally useless because I have no method to evaluate claims about Tom, Dick and Harry. This doesn´t change if you substitute “Tom, Dick and Harry” by “Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva” or “God, Jesus and Holy Spirit”.

              I believe that God does exist; I’ve described one answer to your “can”.

              No, you didn´t describe a “can” you described a “could”. You believe theology could contribute to “researching objective morality” – so is there anything we do know about objective morality thanks to theology or isn´t there? If there is – WHAT is it, if there isn´t, what is the justification of your claim that theology has anything to contribute here?

              The claim of the true possibility of freedom of the will is extremely important

              And theology helps in evaluating whether there is free will or not HOW?

              If theology could

              After thousands of years of theological “inquiry”, there still isn´t a single “can” – only “coulds”. Amazing, isn´t it?

            • Luke Breuer

              Your ignoring of much of what I said makes it clear that you have no interest in truly engaging my answers. Your pattern of interaction is becoming clear, Andy. You’ve made up your mind on what is true.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Luke, all this hyper-verbose rambling of yours is nothing but hot air, there never is any substance.
              “Is there anything theology can do?” – it´s a simple question and you understand it just fine, and you have no answer. So you try to write and write and write and you seem to genuinely believe that if only you write enough about what theology could do, people won´t notice that you haven´t addressed the actual question what theology can do, not even with a single word.

              You’ve made up your mind on what is true.

              No, I have not. I´m not swayed by your words because I can´t be impressed with smoke and mirrors, and like every sophisticated theologian™, smoke and mirrors is all you have.

            • Luke Breuer

              Yep, there’s absolutely no importance in using theology to help reason from “I am a pedophile” → “I have pedophilia”, like I described. None whatsoever. The difference there is 100% irrelevant. Yep.

            • Andy_Schueler

              More smoke and mirrors, you say stuff like “It redeems. I believe some sort of redemption is possible for people who have pedophilia. What it looks like I do not know
              => you are not actually claiming anything here.

              You say “…using theology to help reason….” – what do you know about pedophilia thanks to theology? “They can be “redeemed”, but I have no idea what “redeemed” would mean and what it would look like” is just as helpful as saying “pedophilia could be vu4g79vnwevbwie4, but I have no idea what vu4g79vnwevbwie4 means”. Define your terms, what have you learned about pedophelia thanks to theology?

            • Luke Breuer

              I have learned that you need not be “screwed” if you have it. Because if you have it, you have it, you are not a pedophile. Here I am using theology to directly combat claims you made in that thread. And yeah, I do not know this stuff with certainty. Such is life. You apparently know that you’re screwed if you are a pedophile, that there’s no hope. And yet I saw with my own eyes, autistic kids interacting more than doctors ever told their mothers that they would, due to someone questioning “the established scientific/medical opinion”. If this can be done with autism, why not pedophilia?

            • Andy_Schueler

              I have learned that you need not be “screwed” if you have it.

              Right. Because romantic love and physical intimacy are totally overrated anyway, that you have to live your life without romantic love and physical intimacy thus doesn´t mean you are “screwed”. Makes total sense.

              Because if you have it, you have it, you are not a pedophile.

              And if you have cancer, you have it, you are not a person with cancer. No wait…

              And yeah, I do not know this stuff with certainty.

              What stuff? You are not claiming anything – you are merely playing word games and disagree with the way I use the word “screwed”.

              And yet I saw with my own eyes, autistic kids interacting more than doctors ever told their mothers that they would, due to someone questioning “the established scientific/medical opinion”. If this can be done with autism, why not pedophilia?

              Oh for fucks sake, the autism spectrum is incredibly wide and even just diagnosing it has virtually always been controversial, the way autism expresses itself in kids and how their behavioral patterns develop over time is also incredibly diverse with plenty of exceptions for every rule of thumb doctors ever came up with. There are no exceptions for pedophilia – no pedophile ever stopped being a pedophile, based on everything that is known about the development of human sexual preferences, this has never happened and cannot possibly happen.

            • Luke Breuer

              Right. Because romantic love and physical intimacy are totally overrated anyway.

              If without this you consider life not worth living, then I can do nothing to change that. I do, however, have two friends who are both single and in their 60’s, who still manage to have full lives. There is sadness that they do not have romantic partners, but it is not a crushing sadness.

              Just out of curiosity, if you had to pick one of the following, which one would it be:
              a) lose both of your legs in an accident
              b) lose your eyesight in an accident
              c) be sexually and romantically attracted exclusively to prebubescent children
              which one would it be?

              Certaintly not b); in terms of a) vs. c), I’d want to do research. I don’t know all the relevant facts.

              something shitty that you´d rather avoid but can´t – that´s what people usually mean with the word “screwed”.

              Oh pretty much every person in existence has had something shitty that he or she would rather avoid. The grass is greener on the other side perpetually. Is this really a big complaint that “God would not have made people with pedophilia”?

              And if you have cancer, you have cancer, but you are not a person who has cancer.

              I made my case clear over here, replete with diagrams. If you want to twist my words, have at it.

              What stuff? You are not claiming anything – you are merely playing word games and disagree with the way I use the word “screwed”.

              It just so happens that how you use that word is one of the most important things in life. How people view their lot in life is one of the most important things about them. It affects everything.

              There are no exceptions for pedophilia – no pedophile ever stopped being a pedophile

              And if I found you one that did, what then? Would you just find a way to dismiss it? You seem awfully set on “there is no out”. I’m sensing an incredible amount of bitterness from you.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If without this you consider life not worth living…

              Right, because that´s what “screwed” means. If I get diagnosed with stage IV liver cancer tomorrow, then I would certainly consider myself to be “screwed”, I also certainly would NOT consider the remaining life I have to be “not worth living”.
              This is your mother tongue for fucks sake, and in the comment you replied to, I explicitly said that I don´t mean “screwed” in that sense (not that I have EVER seen ANYONE using the word “screwed” in that sense).

              Oh pretty much every person in existence has had something shitty that he or she would rather avoid. The grass is greener on the other side perpetually.

              Ah, there´s that famous christian compassion at work. Why stop at mocking pedophiles, why don´t you visit a children´s hospice and tell them to stop whining because “every person in existence has had something shitty that he or she would rather avoid”?

              How people view their lot in life is one of the most important things about them.

              And I guess I can ask you as often as I want how theology has any knowledge to contribute here that can inform your view about your lot in life, and will still not get an answer. Making stuff up out of thin air is not knowledge, it is not a way of “successively approximating” anything. Until you have a method with which you can demonstrate that your Father-Son-HolySpirit theology is any better than my Tom-Dick-Harry theology or anything else that I could pull out of my nether regions and call “theology”, this is nothing but an exercise in making stuff up.

              And if I…

              More ifs and coulds, boring.

              You seem awfully set on “there is no out”.

              Translation: just because x has never been observed and is not possible according to all relevant experts doesn´t mean that x could not happen.
              Strictly speaking, this is of course true – it could happen, everything that is logically possible could happen. It could be the case that tomorrow, there will finally be one guy who miraculously turns from being gay to being straight after asking his invisible buddy Jeebus to “cure him”. But that is a “could” in the same sense that all particles you are composed of “could” simultaneously tunnel to the planet Venus in a way that preserves your bodily integrity (giving you a second or so to enjoy the view on Venus before you die from heat shock), the probability of that happening is not 0, only virtually infinitely close to 0, so technically, it´s still a “could”.
              You have nothing, no evidence whatsoever, that contradicts the scientific consensus on the development of human sexual preferences. That you genuinely expect that your position, which is based on magical thinking and on ignoring all the evidence there is, should be taken seriously, is comically absurd.

              I’m sensing an incredible amount of bitterness from you.

              I´m sensing an incredible amount of bullshit from you.

            • Luke Breuer

              I´m sensing an incredible amount of bullshit from you.

              Because that is the case, I suggest we stop conversing. I don’t see how I am making your life any better except giving you a person to feel better than, and I certainly am getting virtually no benefit from you with the way you are talking down to me. I enjoyed your pressing me to articulate what a relationship with Jesus would need to be like in order to not be a Christianese-relationship, but you’ve gotten extremely abrasive and I choose to spend my time elsewhere, than deal with it. Sometimes I choose to just deal with such treatment—sometimes it’s the only way to hone beliefs, given the circle-jerk effect—but sometimes it’s just a bit much. No human really wants to be treated the way you’re treating me, Andy.

            • Andy_Schueler

              …giving you a person to feel better than…
              …the way you are talking down to me…
              No human really wants to be treated the way you’re treating me…

              I´ve lost patience with you (and I explained to you why) and have become rather curt, that is certainly true. But talking down to you? You are the one who is constantly insinuating that people who disagree with you must be closed-minded. Also, you are constantly moving the goal-posts and apply double-standards, and when people point them out, it´s obviously just “flawed communication” – right… You are actually being incredibly rude, you don´t use insults and you don´t use harsh language, sure, but holding others to different standards than yourself and constantly changing the rules of a debate is rude, no matter how polite your choice of words is while you are applying double standards and changing the rules.

              I enjoyed your pressing me to articulate what a relationship with Jesus would need to be like in order to not be a Christianese-relationship, but you’ve gotten extremely abrasive
              ….
              Sometimes I choose to just deal with such treatment—sometimes it’s the only way to hone beliefs

              That is a perfect example of you being incredibly rude. It is completely obvious that your “relationship” with Jesus being categorically different from an actual relationship, is not an acceptable conclusion for you. That´s fine – in principle, there is nothing wrong with some beliefs being non-negotiable. However, you insisting on misrepresenting this discussion is simply rude. You ran out of ways to defend your position and to dismantle my objections, and so you started to simply lie about my case against your position. You stated that I simply reject your case for a priori reasons by presupposing that Jesus is not real – although I granted you that Jesus is real for the sake of the argument, MANY times. You stated that I require a very narrow evidentialist standard – that you have to be able to introduce me to Jesus like you could introduce me to your wife, although I also granted you that this is not required, again, MANY times. And you simply repeat these accusations, no matter how often I point out that I did and do grant you all this for the sake of the argument. It would have been perfectly fine for you to say that you believe that your “relationship” with Jesus is like an actual relationship but you are currently unable to rationally justify this belief, but no, just like this belief simply being false, this possibility is also not acceptable for you. Misrepresenting others is rude, and choosing polite words while doing it doesn´t make it any less rude.

            • Luke Breuer

              I take issue with the idea that you, Andy, and you alone, get to decide whether any misrepresentation has happened. If I claim you have misrepresented me, it is a false claim. If you claim I have misrepresented you, it is a true claim. I choose to not operate under these conditions.

              I do not dispute that I have misrepresented you. I dispute that it is due to anything other than my best attempts to communicate. You have impugned my intellectual honesty. Once you do this, you grant yourself authority to cherry-pick what I have said. Once you do this, I have no idea which statements of mine I have uttered you are ignoring. This makes it terribly hard to have a good conversation with you.

              I understand that you have, e.g. “granted you that Jesus is real for the sake of the argument, MANY times“. This doesn’t mean I can immediately ‘snap’ to a way to model your argument that doesn’t assume you hold that position. You view this inability as moral or intellectual failure. Have at it, but I choose not to continue communicating with you if you have decided thusly.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I understand that you have, e.g. “granted you that Jesus is real for the sake of the argument, MANY times”. This doesn’t mean I can immediately ‘snap’ to a way to model your argument that doesn’t assume you hold that position. You view this inability as moral or intellectual failure.

              I´ve read and re-read this five times now and I´m still in awe… This is just amazing, absolutely amazing. I´d love to mock this…. well… lets call it “response”, but I find myself utterly unable to do so – you already have become a parody of yourself.

            • Right, gents. I don’t want to have to police matters – we’re all capable individuals. I do want to foster a rigorous yet friendly atmosphere. Perhaps it might be worth bullet pointing 3 bones of contention each, or just getting back to the point.

              You’ve got a lot to say to each other, it’s just a case of triple filtering for the best strength and quality.

            • Luke Breuer

              I have lost Andy’s respect and have given zero hope of regaining it, except via letting him set the terms of all discussions, something I do not enjoy and thus will not participate in. I see no option which preserves each of our conceptions of our own dignities, other than to call it quits. I do not like being treated like trash, and if the other person feels I am doing the same to him/her and if he/she chooses to extend zero grace to help me change, what other option is there? The blame has been laid 100% at my feet, and I take it as a sign discussion should cease.

            • Luke Breuer

              Luke, all this hyper-verbose rambling of yours is nothing but hot air, there never is any substance.

              If you believe this, why do you spend time responding to me? I’m honestly curious.

            • Andy_Schueler

              For very similar reasons to the ones that Sir Peter Medawar had for writing this review .
              My favourite part: “… its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself”.

            • Luke Breuer

              This is a non-answer. You’ve spent a terrific amount of time responding to me. If all I am is hot air, why spend all that time? Surely you have better things to do?

            • Andy_Schueler

              This is the old “if you spent time criticizing it, it must mean that it cannot be total crap” gambit. Christians are extremely busy writing about Boghossian´s Manual, Randal alone already devoted over a dozen posts to Boghossian, does that mean that Boghossian´s book cannot possibly be total crap?

            • Luke Breuer

              Another non-answer. Care to answer my question, directly?

            • kraut2

              Having never had a strong belief, and loosing my virg…belief at about the age of 14 – 16, I have found that those belief in god who have a need to believe. Belief in a being that guides the universe, their personal life, the entrance to the afterlife.
              God(s) is/are for those who feel uncomfortable in the knowledge that we are – so far – alone in this Universe, that all we can do is to take care of each other in the face of an utterly uncaring universe, that there is nothing once we are dead, that this life is all we have got.

              To avoid this discomfort (there is always some residual doubt even in the most ardent believer if all he beliefs is really true) one believes in a supernatural creator, who has your back – but only partly so, because then there is the concept of a hell – or something similar to this concept – that you will enter if not following all his rules, edicts, commands etc. It is a tension between the knowledge that we are fallible and doomed, and the hope that this god in the face of our “sinfulness” will show mercy. This tension however is apparently more comforting – because daddy cares – than the knowledge: we are alone, this is all there is, suck it up and live.

            • Luke Breuer

              My belief does not give me this “comfort” you describe.

            • Void L. Walker

              Luke, I’m sorry, but I have to say it. You cannot tell me that NOTHING about your belief grants you comfort. I simply do not see that as even remotely tenable.

            • Luke Breuer

              Luke, I’m sorry, but I have to say it. You cannot tell me that NOTHING about your belief grants you comfort. I simply do not see that as even remotely tenable.

              Then I’ll just say the same to you. :-p In other words, the real criticism against the religious person is that his/her beliefs gives him/her more comfort than the person who is bravely facing reality as it is. I reject this ‘more‘, at least in my circumstance. I have not been afforded this increase in comfort, in life.

              You mean to tell me that a belief in LFW (or DWF, whatever you wanna call what you subscribe to) is NOT comforting?

              Belief in some true freedom of the will imputes incredible responsibility. The statement “ignorance is not an excuse” can be a terrifying one! True responsibility is often not a comforting thing, my friend.

              Knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the author of the universe cares about you and has reserved a spot in eternal paradise somehow isn’t cathartic?

              But I don’t know this “beyond the shadow of a doubt”. And what does it mean for “the author of the universe” to care about me? In my own ways, I have had quite the hard life. I had no true friends for the first 21 years of my life. I’ve walked very dark paths. The only “comfort” I can really say I have is that God has given me tasks to do in life that will ultimately be worth the effort, pain and suffering involved. And I often doubt that sufficient reason exists to push forward. I often doubt that anyone will care, that what I build will be of any value to anyone but me. So what is this of “eternal paradise”? I’ve not had paradise on earth; how am I to imagine it in heaven? Heaven is more of a place where other people will be happy, even in my imagination now. If I play any part, it’ll be like lights & sound in theater: a mostly unappreciated job, that people only notice when something goes wrong. Perfection is expected, and is often not even acknowledged when attained sufficiently well.

              If not, why?

              Does the above explain? I feel like for most of my life, I have been used for the benefit of others. Much of the time, when nice things were done for me, it was an onerous task. I didn’t live up to expectations when I dropped out of university. My wife and parents tell me they are proud of me these days, but I question whether they would if they saw what was inside of me. Sometimes I think I will only ever be respected if I am massively successful like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, and yet if I just follow in their footsteps, I feel like I will have sold my soul, for I’m not sure either of them has really made the world a better place, when one compares the benefits they wrought to the costs they incurred. Much of this, by the way, comes from David Levy; see his excellent Google Tech Talk, No Time to Think.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Then I’ll just say the same to you. :-p”

              Yes, what could be MORE comforting than my view. :-/ No free will, no afterlife, no loving God watching my back. I’m simply ecstatic!

              “Belief in some true freedom of the will imputes incredibleresponsibility. The statement “ignorance is not an excuse” can be a terrifying one! True responsibility is often not a comforting thing, my friend.”

              What’s worse: the ability to deliberate between several possible outcomes FREELY, or believing that you have no say in the matter? That you are determined by many prior causes and are a prisoner to your genes /environment, or that none of the former apply? Again, I’ve been there. I’ve believed in LFW. I’d take that, ANY day of the week.

              “But I don’t know this “beyond the shadow of a doubt”. And what does it mean for “the author of the universe” to care about me?”

              First off, you struck me as a person who was very well convinced of Gods existence and loving nature. Perhaps I overstated a bit, but it seemed applicable.

              Second, what ELSE would I mean? God made the cosmos and all within it, God loves you. I did not mean to convolute the matter, I stated it in simplest terms for a reason. You strongly believe this, but I’m aware that you do not think Yahweh is the only creative force (which still confuses me tbh).

              This is unrelated, but do you believe we will have free will in heaven? If so, how could it be truly free without the presence of evil, or choices that could eventuate such a thing?

            • Luke Breuer

              Yes, what could be MORE comforting than my view. :-/ No free will, no afterlife, no loving God watching my back. I’m simply ecstatic!

              Much of the time, I have severe troubles understanding what it means that God ‘loves’ me. Mostly, I see responsibility to try and make the world a better place, with none of it guaranteed to benefit me. When I cannot find it within myself to be properly motivated, I am tempted to self-hate. Thoughts of the afterlife are little more than thin, largely contentless chimeras. So infrequently do I have the kind of full, excellent interaction with people which would make me hopeful for an eternity of that. Mostly, I make mistakes which end up insulting people, or I say things that others do not understand. This seems to be my lot in life.

              It would appear that your ideas of the afterlife and God’s love, when you were a Christian, was very different from my ideas!

              What’s worse: the ability to deliberate between several possible outcomes FREELY, or believing that you have no say in the matter?

              It depends. If people are constantly telling you that you chose wrong and could have chosen better, free will can easily become a curse.

              First off, you struck me as a person who was very well convinced of Gods existence and loving nature. Perhaps I overstated a bit, but it seemed applicable.

              I am more convinced that God loves other people, than that he loves me. Oftentimes, I feel mostly like an impersonal tool. Much of my confidence comes from seeing many people being in denial of clear truths which the Bible describes, but which are in theory discoverable by secular folk. This is knowledge that comes largely from pain and suffering, not from warm, fuzzy feelings.

              Second, what ELSE would I mean? God made the cosmos and all within it, God loves you. I did not mean to convolute the matter, I stated it in simplest terms for a reason. You strongly believe this, but I’m aware that you do not think Yahweh is the only creative force (which still confuses me tbh).

              One’s conception of ‘love’ is largely formed by how one has been ‘loved’ in life. Imagine a life full of The Thinkers. People who seem almost solely intent on pointing out ugliness and wrongness. People who think that if you’re different from them, you’re made wrong and need to become like them.

              As to Yahweh not being the only creative force, I wouldn’t really call Satan a creative force. I think he rips things apart. He accuses. Going off of Augustine’s privation theory of evil, I’d say that Satan destroys and inserts lies that tear apart. He doesn’t ‘create’, per se.

              This is unrelated, but do you believe we will have free will in heaven? If so, how could it be truly free without the presence of evil, or choices that could eventuate such a thing?

              I have such a poor conception of heaven that I don’t have a good answer. I have a few friends who make the mistakes I make around them seem like nothing; forgiveness is free because they believe my attempts to repent. If there were more people like this, I can see the amount of actual evil quickly approach zero. But many do not wish to forgive others, or accept forgiveness and repent, themselves. Instead, they wish to be gods, deciding what is good and what is evil, what is beautiful and what is ugly, instead of discovering it.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Much of the time, I have severe troubles understanding what it means that God ‘loves’ me. ”

              So knocking up a 14 year old girl with himself (?), then slowly dying for your sins on a couple slabs of wood does not constitute love? The bible repeatedly calling God loving, giving tons of examples of this, does not count? Luke, are you dropping acid or something? Please send me some. Seriously. I’ll give you my address!

              “It depends.”

              Not really. I’ve believed in LFW (actually I was a dualist for some time). I’d much, MUCH rather deal with the accusations of people who think I’ve chosen wrong than believe that no choice exists.

              Perhaps you should try on determinism for a while? I’ve worn the free will hat, so this only seems fair.

              “One’s conception of ‘love’ is largely formed by how one has been ‘loved’ in life.”

              So how exactly have you been loved? How has this impacted your opinion of Gods love?

              “I have such a poor conception of heaven that I don’t have a good answer.”

              You seem to have missed my point (which I blame on myself, by the way).

              Here’s the breakdown.

              God creates a perfect, eternal paradise that is divorced from evil and wrongness. We call this “heaven” for lack of a better term. God creates the Garden of Eden prior to this. A “perfect” creation, much like heaven.

              The key difference? The Garden of Eden had within it (please don’t tell me God was ignorant of this) the catalyst of death and suffering. Heaven? Not so much. In fact, you’d be DAMN hard pressed to find a christian who believed otherwise.

              So essentially, why did God not create his perfect heaven to begin with, instead of the glaringly imperfect garden? Free will! Yay! Well what about heaven? Am I to believe that we will not possess free will there? If you say yes, but claim that evil would not be an option, then I would say the same of the garden. Why could God have not placed heaven on earth to begin with? Instead, he allows suffering/death to prevail for generations upon generations, but hey! Heaven awaits those who believe that he came down as a man and experienced agony the likes of which we can seldom fathom.

              None of this makes even a sliver of sense.

            • Luke Breuer

              None of this makes even a sliver of sense.

              Void, when you say things like this, it is hard for me to believe that you did this:

              spends upwards of 30 hours a week doing research, discussing theology with a variety of people, etc.

              Let’s also look at this:

              “Easily: if the answers you were given were shite.”

              Firstly, how would you feel if I said the same of you?

              Second, to the very best of my ability/knowledge, the answers I’ve found are the most effective and clear I can conceive of.

              You don’t really make it clear that you’ve extensively researched possible answers to the questions that you (a) fail to give evidence of that research; (b) say things like:

              None of this makes even a sliver of sense.

              You felt “incredibly insult[ed]” when I suggested that maybe you’ve not explored some of the really good material out there; I don’t think we can keep discussing if you maintain that you really have covered the best there is. Because I am not a scholar, anything I say will almost certainly (i) at most be as good as the best there is; (ii) not be stated as eloquently, clearly, and concisely.

              I do not know how I can avoid being “incredibly insulting” to you. I would have to question whether you’ve really examined the best there is. For example, Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God was pretty terrible IMHO; he caricatured his opposition, which is shameful. The really good stuff is almost by definition unpopular; see Josef Pieper’s The Concept of Sin, for example. I can talk about that if you’d like, but I am again wary of coming off as insulting, as thinking that I have come across better material than you have.

              Given that you think there is no freedom of the will, why do you think that mere time spent is a guarantee that you’ll come across the best material there is? If you were to read Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, for example, you’d see that perhaps most moral philosophers from the Enlightenment on had royally screwed things up, making their work very suspect in some critical ways. Mortimer Adler’s Ten Philosophical Mistakes is another resource, although I have not vigorously tested his claims among people with the relevant expertise.

              Perhaps it would help if you were to display the best argument you can find for e.g. there being free will in heaven, before saying,

              None of this makes even a sliver of sense.

              ? Otherwise, this comes off as you perhaps not investigating the issue at all, just like a creationist who finds a set of criticisms against evolution and rockets them off, one by one. I’d rather not just be a research assistant. :-|

            • Void L. Walker

              “You don’t really make it clear that you’ve extensively researched possible answers to the questions that you (a) fail to give evidence of that research”

              So you want step by step evidence of my claims? You realize this would take me a very long time, right? You’re asking me for an intimate expose of over a decade of belief. These things take time.

              “I would have to question whether you’ve really examined the best there is.”

              To me, this comes off as slightly arrogant on your part (please correct me if I’m wrong).

              Because my views are at odds with yours, your immediate conclusion is that I did not do enough (proper) research. This is the issue here. As I noted above, I spent an extensive amount of time examining numerous apologetic arguments. I read much of C.S Lewis (Mere Christianity was a personal fave), WLC, Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, and the list goes on (and on, and on….).

              I know it seems very alien to you that a person could spend so very much time researching apologetic’s and not find themselves convinced, but that’s what happened with me. I had a theologist friend who spent half of every given week debating atheists online, and we would meet thrice a week to discuss issues of faith. We would often discuss the books I had been reading, dissect the arguments and share our views regarding the nature of Yahweh.

              Put simply, I devoted the majority of my later teen years to my faith. I know you are not satisfied with my answers here, but they are absolutely true.

              “You felt “incredibly insult[ed]”

              Again, you need to realize something about me. When I have a shitty day, I tend to react in a very impulsive, emotional manner. What you said, had you have typed so on ANY other day, would have done little to me. Seriously. I can be a VERY reactive, volatile person, emotionally. I wouldn’t read into it too much. I’m sorry if I made you question your method, when it was MY emotionally eruptive state that should have been addressed.

              “Otherwise, this comes off as you perhaps not investigating the issue at all, just like a creationist who finds a set of criticisms against evolution and rockets them off, one by one. I’d rather not just be a research assistant. :-|”

              As I’ve said a few times now, I am VERY convinced of the conclusions I have reached. They do NOT grant me comfort, catharsis, or joy, but they are the best I have yet to come up with.

              Clearly we are at odds here, so it is glaringly apparent that agreeing to disagree is the only tenable option we currently have.

              Also, did you just equate me with a creationist?! O_o AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!! (head explodes)

            • Luke Breuer

              So you want step by step evidence of my claims? You realize this would take me a very long time, right? You’re asking me for an intimate expose of over a decade of belief. These things take time.

              This is a false dichotomy. It isn’t either all or nothing. You don’t have to give a complete exposé to give evidence that you’ve done your homework on an issue. “I see this problem, and the best one or two attempts at a solution are X and Y; I don’t find them compelling for these reasons.” That doesn’t require an essay, does it?

              Because my views are at odds with yours, your immediate conclusion is that I did not do enough (proper) research.

              This just isn’t true. I hold my positions because I think they’re the best positions—isn’t this obviously what a rational person would do? I’ve judged your expertise by the best arguments you’ve put forth and the indications, or lack thereof, that you’ve engaged with the best positions out there on various issues.

              I read much of C.S Lewis (Mere Christianity was a personal fave), WLC, Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, and the list goes on (and on, and on….).

              Only CS Lewis is impressive on that list, and Lewis is very much non-technical, leaving a large gap in his repertoire. He also died 51 years ago, leaving his works dated—people have done more thinking since then!

              Lee Strobel is especially bad as far as I’ve seen; his The Case for Christ is advertised very differently from its actual contents. See Jeff Lowder’s review.

              William Lane Craig might be good in certain areas; I think his debate with Shelly Kagan was very engaging, and the fact that I had in-depth criticism of both Craig and Kagan is an indication that I think they said interesting things. Then again, if you watched the recent Craig vs. Carroll debate, Craig came out piss-poor.

              To me, this comes off as slightly arrogant on your part (please correct me if I’m wrong).

              I’ve wrestled long and hard with how to get access to the best that there is on a topic. I’ve been stuck in many local maxima in this realm. For example, I believe that most Christian apologetics these days are absolutely terrible. I think they’re a sign of the intellectual vapidity of the common population. They are mirrored by Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, and Dawkins’ The God Delusion. All of the super-popular stuff is ultra-crap.

              CS Lewis said to read more, older books, which I have started doing. And let me tell you, they are, in general, so much better than much of what is being published that it’s just amazing. On reflection, this shouldn’t be surprising: Pareto’s principle can be seen operating, where historically, only the 20% of good books survive and are on average even referenced. So the further I go back, the better the book is likely to be—statistically.

              How many Christian books on apologetics have you read which really seem to take the opposition seriously? I’m not sure I can point to a single one! Randal Rauser’s Theology in Search of Foundations and Faith Lacking Understanding: Theology ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’ look promising; I haven’t read enough of them to know. But they’re not really apologetics books. So, much of my apologetics knowledge comes from wrestling with issues online and taking real-life atheists and skeptics as seriously as I could.

              I also had the privilege of being part of a very rare kind of Christian college group, which was 100% student-led, with a mentor who was kind of like a historian, having mentored the group ever since he was a student at a neighboring college, ~38 years ago now. In this Christian group, the descriptions in the NT were fantastically better reified than I had ever seen before. Relational sin was taught as an extremely important sin to squash immediately; it shows up in one of the triads I routinely post: Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27. This is an experience of Christianity which is very rare. I hold a privileged position, entirely not of my own accord.

              I intend to start a blog with an absolutely fantastic commenting system, where citations will be fully academic and extremely easy to do. You’ll be able to see ‘heat maps’ of posts and comments, so you can see which bits have been vigorously discussed, and where. It will be possible to build reputations, not in a global karma sense, but in a “who trusts whom about what” sense, just like the real world (see my trust network). I hope to have discussions which are multi-level, with people generally discussing with those near their level of expertise, but with the occasional insightful comment rising several levels in the conversation. Ideally, expert philosophers could participate in the same “stream of comments” as newbies, but with filters in place so that each person can have a high confidence that his/her time will be well-spent: the result of the discussions will be easy for future people to see and analyze, in distinct contrast to the current method of having to trawl through long discussions (StackOverflow’s tour talks about some of the problems). The level of discussion online is often extremely crappy; I want to raise it, and I believe that better technology + fostering a good community can do this.

              You can call what I’ve stated ‘arrogance’, but I’m just trying to go off of the evidence, and I’ll radically change my positions, on a dime, if (a) they’re based on little to no evidence; and (b) solid evidence is provided. I am fully open to the possibility that you have come across radically better material than I have, as well as the reverse. I have very little confidence that mere time spent discussing is a guarantee that good material will be encountered. You, on the other hand, seem extremely reticent to accept the possibilities outlined here. I find that a kind of arrogance of its own, to be honest.

              I know it seems very alien to you that a person could spend so very much time researching apologetic’s and not find themselves convinced

              No, it doesn’t seem alien at all! Had I not attended the Christian group I described above, I probably would be an atheist or skeptic right now. I suggest reading On Being an Ex-Apologist (Hardman, part 1 of 3); all three parts. Apologetics is useless if it cannot connect to reality. See, for example, Romanticism and Existentialism as responses to the cold rationality in philosophy. If the whole person is not engaged, the endeavor will ultimately decay. Much of Christian apologetics does not engage the whole person; it engages the mind alone, despite Jesus’ describing the law as summed up by loving God with all of one’s (1a) heart, (1b) mind, (2) strength, (3) soul, noting that Deut 6:4-6‘s “heart” was (1a) + (1b).

              I can be a VERY reactive, volatile person, emotionally.

              To me, this indicates a lot of internal power, without much internal discipline. I recognize some of myself in what you say. One of the symptoms of the time is Absurdism, which is essentially a claim that the “inner life” has no definable structure; this demolishes the hope of inner discipline, except in some arbitrary way. Francis Schaeffer (have you read him?) talks about this as the “upper story” being divorced from the “lower story”. Religion ostensibly unifies the two, but only non-shitty religion. Shitty Christianity doesn’t unify the two, it makes a mockery of both.

              I likely have Cyclothymia; I have avoided the statistically likely kindling that comes with this and bipolar disorder by exerting tremendous mental discipline and in particular, coming to understand more and more of the Bible as being intricately connected to reality. For example, I can now explain how the following triads connect to particle-and-field (and mind) reality, in detail:

              Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
              Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
              Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5
              Mt 7:15-24, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46

              Most Christians, in my experience, cannot. They will answer you with Christianese, constructing a giant castle in the sky that reminds one of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

              As I’ve said a few times now, I am VERY convinced of the conclusions I have reached.

              This is problematic if you haven’t actually looked at a representative sampling of the evidence.

              Also, did you just equate me with a creationist?! O_o AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!! (head explodes)

              I was a creationist. The mindset behind creationism exists elsewhere—including in many atheists! Consider the atheists who love going around to various places, citing various “problems in the Bible” they found via some atheistic propaganda, be it book or internet site. This is precisely the behavior of creationists, who find various “problems with evolution” and do the same.

              There is an underlying attitude of the mindset I describe above: “I am right. I have found the truth. I merely need to show other people.” You’re displaying a bit of this, and The Thinker displays a lot of it:

              One of the reasons I like challenging theists, particularly Christians and Muslims is that I know they are full of shit. I just like to make that apparent because it makes me feel good when I utterly destroy a stupid theist who thinks the evidence falls in his favor. Why? Because I see religion as a bad thing and I’m using this as training to help me combat every version of it. I want religion gone and the world to be fully secularized, preferably naturalistic. There is no greater feeling as an atheist than showing a theist how their worldview is bullshit. This is how many theists become atheists.

              You are welcome to point me to evidence I am not properly respecting, arguments I have made which are illogical, or presuppositions I hold which you find questionable. Show me where I am being stubborn, which is importantly different from ‘arrogant’. Show me where:

                   (1) I am unwilling to reconsider my position.
                   (2) I am too confident in what I believe.

              If you merely assert these, I may not believe it due to not being able to understand your assertion. You must understand that I think I have a good case for my beliefs; the bare assertion that I do not will not faze me much. However, if you show me how to view my beliefs as ‘bad’, then I can start to reconsider. I just need help in doing so. I need access to:

                   (i) your differing evidential base
                   (ii) your differing presuppositions
                   (iii) my bad logic, properly exposed

              I need help seeing these. Intersubjectivity is Key. :-)

            • Void L. Walker

              Has anyone ever called you verbose? You seem to spend a staggering amount of time laying out your arguments, as long winded as possible, when condensing them would be the most cogent approach.

              “This just isn’t true. I hold my positions because I think they’re the best positions”

              You’ve made that abundantly clear, but have yet to condense, sharpen, and structure your arguments beyond the typical ambiguous, verbose rants that appear all too common with you. Being concise helps, when you can be.

              “Only CS Lewis is impressive on that list”

              what I gave was a sampling. Not a full fledged list. Want more?

              “I am right. I have found the truth. I merely need to show other people.” You’re displaying a bit of this”

              Ah, and you aren’t, naturally. Hmm. What I’ve seen from you is, in sum, “If you are no longer a christian, you just didn’t have the best answers! I did, though. Here’s 45 bible verses.”

              “This is problematic if you haven’t actually looked at a representative sampling of the evidence.”

              Which, in your mind, I haven’t. Why? At bottom because I’m not a christian. Anyone who isn’t, after all, is wrong. Right? After all, us Atheists just HATE evidence.

              Luke, please, please start condensing your arguments a bit. You’ll note that I am always concise. People tend to appreciate this. Now, go ahead and check out the links I gave you. Want more? i have plenty.

            • Luke Breuer

              Has anyone ever called you verbose? You seem to spend a staggering amount of time laying out your arguments, as long winded as possible, when condensing them would be the most cogent approach.

              The way I formulate more concise arguments is via practice. The more I’ve discussed a thing, the better I understand it, and the more clearly and concisely I can talk about/summarize it. If you’d rather not be the person who gets the longer, less polished versions, just say so. It will restrict what I will be able to talk about (to those things I have already extensively thought about).

              You’ve made that abundantly clear, but have yet to condense, sharpen, and structure your arguments beyond the typical ambiguous, verbose rants that appear all too common with you.

              This goes against a previous comment by you that I’m not actually all that vague, all that often. Which is it?

              what I gave was a sampling. Not a full fledged list. Want more?

              Yes, please! Specific books would be good, too.

              Ah, and you aren’t, naturally. Hmm. What I’ve seen from you is, in sum, “If you are no longer a christian, you just didn’t have the best answers! I did, though. Here’s 45 bible verses.”

              Actually, no; I never claimed that I wasn’t. There is a huge reason I love the triad Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5: it is true. Mt 7:3-5 very specifically talks about psychological projection. Gal 6:1-5 tells you how to fix the problem. Mt 23:1-4 talks about the wrong way to fix the problem.

              I never said, nor meant to imply, that the fact that you’re not a Christian means you “didn’t have the best answers”. Indeed, I have stated, very explicitly, to you, that the reason I am still a Christian has nothing to do with my answers, but instead an “existence proof” of a Christian fellowship which matched NT descriptions of excellent interpersonal behavior—something I had never seen before. The hardest problem in existence is excellent interpersonal behavior of people who are very different from each other, which is why I love the triad Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23. A critical way to ensure excellent interpersonal behavior is to deal with relational sin properly, which is why I love the triad Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27. Finally, I find most Christians do not properly respect the evidence and make too much of untested beliefs, which is why I love the triad Mt 7:15-24, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46. All four triads describe reality. If this is unclear, tell me and I will articulate.

              Which, in your mind, I haven’t. Why? At bottom because I’m not a christian. Anyone who isn’t, after all, is wrong. Right? After all, us Atheists just HATE evidence.

              What have I said which properly implies any of these? Please help me understand how I am making such implications, so that I can stop doing so.

              Luke, please, please start condensing your arguments a bit. You’ll note that I am always concise. People tend to appreciate this.

              Your conciseness makes your positions impenetrable. It’s just what you believe, with virtually no “why”. Citations help, and more would be better, especially when combined with claims that you make. This is how increased understanding happens, no?

            • Void L. Walker

              If you seriously, honestly (in our many discussions) have not found arguments from me, you’re the one to blame. All that I’ve been doing is pointing out problems with A: god being maximally loving, and B: free will existing to begin with. You’ve done little to aptly respond short of long winded rants, bible verse citations (really?), and metaphysical tangents that often have no bearing on the issues.

              Want some concise arguments from me? here you go (even though I’ve been doing this all along…)

              Claim 1: God is maximally loving.

              For a being to be maximally loving, one would think that A: they are incapable of anything BUT love for their creations, and B: the love in question is all encompassing and perfect; devoid of the many problems that fallible human love clearly has (an example being just how contingent our love for someone is upon their actions, demonstrations OF their love for us).

              The problems: Death, suffering, disease, natural disasters, etc. Your common (tiresome) retort is, universally, “free will”. there are several problems with this.

              Firstly, you have not even began to demonstrate how humans can violate chains of causation (genes, environment, culture). Until you do so (in a concise, clear manner with multiple citations for your argument), you cannot even be remotely certain that free will exists, in any capacity.

              Secondly, God granting humanity the power of first causation does not get you out of the water, in any way. As I’ve stated prior, God would know PROBABILITIES. He would possess some knowledge of potentialities, knowing both the good and bad among them. Granting this (which is inescapable), we are left with a God as culpable as we, blame wise. The fall was as much HIS fault as ours. Therefore, God cannot be maximally loving/good. He knew that evil/suffering was a probability, and did nothing to solve this; instead, waiting for events to transpire..

              Claim 2: Human beings possess free will (which you have not even began to define, properly), and can initiate first causation.

              This point is related to my first point under claim 1. When we are born, we are pretty much blank slates. We begin to form our conceptions of the world, and how to properly model it, around age 3. Up until this point, we are as malleable as wet clay. The language, customs, cultural norms we learn are imprinted onto us during our earliest, formative years.

              Our genes determine, and influence, many things. From sexual orientation, to temperament. From hair color, looks, dick size, height, eye color, and (most importantly) the manner in which our peers react to what these genes determine.

              The experiences we have with both our peers and family also play a major role. I will use myself as an example. I was severely isolated from a young age. I did not have peers (besides my brothers) to influence my cognitive development here, I had video games, movies, books. Because of these priori, I am still struggling socially, regularly talking to myself, acting erratically when intoxicated (due, in large part, to a combination of genes favoring alcoholism and little to no social interaction), and have been known to self mutilate with knives. All of the aforementioned behaviors and predilections are NOT of my choosing. In fact, I’ve needed medication and support for years. Little has been feted from either.

              I have laid out a few links in the chain of causation for you. It should be clear that we are CAUSED; determined by a mixture of social interactions, genes, culture.

              Demonstrate for me how we could POSSIBLY be first cause agents, in light of this. Give me an argument that allows us to be uncaused causers.

            • Luke Breuer

              Firstly, you have not even began to demonstrate how humans can violate chains of causation (genes, environment, culture). Until you do so (in a concise, clear manner with multiple citations for your argument), you cannot even be remotely certain that free will exists, in any capacity.

              Until you can show how God has freedom of the will, then even if he exists, he could not have done things otherwise. Thus, any and all anger directed at him is irrational and ought to be squashed. Under your stipulation here, we cannot think of God having freedom of the will, until freedom of the will is demonstrated as possible in a way that you find convincing.

              There is a possibility of showing you that Jesus caused a paradigm shift that cannot be explained by “(genes, environment, culture)”. I have just started reading Otto Borchert’s The Original Jesus, published in German (Der Goldgrund des Lebensbildes Jesu) in 1924, and first in English in 1933. From the introduction:

                  What did Rousseau really mean by his well-known words on the life-story of Jesus and its origin: “The man who invented it would be greater and more astonishing than its hero”? Surely what he chiefly means is this: the portrait given of Jesus towers above human conception and invention, it is too great, too pure, too perfect to have been conceived in the human brain. (13)

              For example, consider how antithetical it was for Jews to consider a human to be equal with Yahweh, a deity who was furious with any physical representation of himself. And consider how the Jews deeply believed Messiah would be political, rescuing the Jews just like happend with the Hasmonean dynasty.

              Jesus wasn’t any more predictable via Greek philosophy. From MacIntyre’s After Virtue:

              There is no word in the Greek of Aristotle’s age correctly translated ‘sin’, ‘repentance’ or ‘charity’.
              […]
              Charity is not, of course, from the biblical point of view, just one more virtue to be added to the list. Its inclusion alters the conception of the good for man in a radical way; for the community in which the good is achieved has to be one of reconciliation. (174)

              Arguably, Jesus caused a major paradigm shift! From whence did it come? What were its precursors? What determined it? Consider how Aristotle believed that some races were only fit for slavery. We’ve heard criticisms of slavery in the Bible aplenty. So from whence did the following come?

              Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:20-28)

              Where is the historical precedent for the last line? Where is the ethical precedent? Cultural precedent? The Greek and Roman gods did what they pleased, at the expense of humans. This Christian God portrays himself as serving humans! This is utterly antithetical to what a god would do!

              So, can you explain how Jesus was just a product of “(genes, environment, culture)”, or if you think he was invented in e.g. the 200’s AD, how the idea of him was just a product of “(genes, environment, culture)”? If not, this would appear to lend credence to his monumental claim:

              So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31-32)

              The truth brings freedom from slavery. Humans have shown that they can game—transcend—any system of rules. You must first identify them for what they are; something the Bible does fantastically well. The choices are fairly simple, when dealing with the wrongs that are done, by one human against another:

                   (1) scapegoat
                   (2) expiate your own sins
                   (3) let someone else voluntarily expiate your sins

              Jesus introduced (3); it was entirely unknown, as far as I know, beforehand. The fullest version of it might not even make sense without an afterlife (I’m still working on that one). But I see no precursors that would lead to (3), except possibly for some enigmatic statements in the OT. Do you? If not, perhaps you could consider that Jesus really did come to provide freedom: freedom of the will via freedom from sin.

              ———

              Demonstrate for me how we could POSSIBLY be first cause agents, in light of this. Give me an argument that allows us to be uncaused causers.

              I cannot. The best I can do is associate people’s identity with some first causes that appear to be wholly random. But I can find predictions that the negation of this statement of yours that can be falsified, as I tried to do, above. How freedom of the will works isn’t necessary for enjoying and using it, just like we don’t need to know how the self-interference of electrons happens in order to make use of it. In Feynman’s third volume of Lectures on Physics:

              One might still like to ask: “How does [interference in double-slit experiments] work? What is the machinery behind the law?” No one has found any machinery behind the law. No one can “explain” any more than we have just “explained.” No one will give you any deeper representation of the situation. We have no ideas about a more basic mechanism from which these results can be deduced. (1-10)

              Lack of “a more basic mechanism” is not required.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Until you can show how God has freedom of the will, then even if he exists, he could not have done things otherwise. Thus, any and all anger directed at him is irrational and ought to besquashed.”

              What anger, exactly? If I have any animosity at all, it is towards a continued belief in such a God; not at this God in general.

              “I cannot. The best I can do is associate people’s identity with some first causes that appear to be wholly random.”

              Randomness does not=free will in any way. Since you cannot, step by step, give me an example of humans violating causal chains, your argument rests upon a desire for free will to be true, not a fundamental reason for it to be true.

              I gave you an intricate causal chain. You have not demonstrated even ONE way that humans can violate it. How can you possibly consider us first cause agents? I mean, really. How?

              So very, very much of your argumentation rests upon the assumption that christ was the son of god, and raised from the dead. http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/ Here are but a few reasons why this belief is untenable.

            • Luke Breuer

              What anger, exactly? If I have any animosity at all, it is towards a continued belief in such a God; not at this God in general.

              I have seen many atheists get very angry at ‘God’, when discussing the problem of evil. In your case, what I find confusing is why you think expressed animosity or frustration is going to help push our discussions forward in any productive fashion. Aren’t we having a rational discussion? If anything, I should think you would distrust your emotions—I mean, what confidence do you have that they are truth-seeking?

              Randomness does not=free will in any way. Since you cannot, step by step, give me an example of humans violating causal chains, your argument rests upon a desire for free will to be true, not a fundamental reason for it to be true.

              We do not know whether it is pure randomness. You are preferencing your position over mine in what seems to be a purely special-pleading manner. If freedom of the will is logically impossible, then you aren’t asserting anything when you say that your model of the will explains our specific reality. For, claims which explain the world are meaningful by their very ruling out of logically possible alternatives. But you aren’t ruling out any logically possible alternatives! Instead, you are constructing a small world and claiming that we live in it.

              Return to my Feynman quotation and how I ended my comment: Lack of “a more basic mechanism” is not required. You really can posit that something happens, and work from there. It really is a valid way to go. Scientists do it all the time.

              So very, very much of your argumentation rests upon the assumption that christ was the son of god, and raised from the dead. http://infidels.org/library/mo… Here is but one of many reasons why this belief is untenable.

              None of that comment “rests upon the assumption that christ was the son of god”. None of it. The only thing it relies on is the concept of Jesus as portrayed in the NT, plus the historical (philosophical and cultural) precursors to Jesus’ alleged time on earth, plus the historical (philosophical and cultural) developments after Jesus’ alleged time on earth. We can treat Jesus as a constructed human being and still ask all the questions and examine all the issues I examined.

              I gave you an intricate causal chain. You have not demonstrated even ONE way that humans can violate it. How can you possibly consider us first cause agents? I mean, really. How?

              You trust way too much in: (a) very poor understanding of how ‘consciousness’ even works; (b) an understanding of causality which doesn’t even exist at the most fundamental levels of physics. By (a), I refer to humanity’s best understanding, not yours. To examine (b) more closely, is downward causation plausible? It is the reverse of standard reductionist causation, which has the ‘whole’ doing its thing solely due to the ‘parts’. Sean Carroll doesn’t like downward causation, FYI. His claim, unsurprisingly, rests on the physicalist assumption of causal closure. The Christian explicitly rejects causal closure, with Yahweh if nobody else. Yahweh is always ‘outside’ whatever system is drawn up. I believe that humans, being made in God’s image, also have some sort of ‘outside’ existence, likewise violating causal closure. A very new theory of free will is “A New Theory of Free Will” and the Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis; you might like it.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Aren’t we having arational discussion?”

              When one believes that a deity knocked up a 14 year old virgin child with holy semen, that the child in question grew to manhood (which isn’t even discussed in the gospels), magically turned water into wine, generated an all you can eat bread and fish buffet for thousands of people, and raised from the dead, yes. I would call this type of discussion the very antithesis of rational. But it amuses me. You amuse me, actually.

              “I have seen many atheists get very angry at ‘God’, when discussing the problem of evil. In your case, what I find confusing is why you think expressed animosity or frustration is going to help push our discussions forward in any productive fashion.”

              You misread many atheists, then. The one’s I’ve known are in the same boat as I am; we do not believe your God exists, but see the lengths that people go to in order to defend that belief, and how often poisonous to the mind this is in practice. Any evidence against your claims/beliefs are dismissed almost instantly, or never even acknowledged to begin with.

              Who said that I though my animosity would lead to more stimulating discussions? Pretty sure I never did.

              “None of that comment “rests upon the assumption that christ was the son of god”. None of it. The only thing it relies on is the concept of Jesus as portrayed in the NT, plus the historical (philosophical and cultural) precursors to Jesus’ alleged time on earth, plus the historical (philosophical and cultural) developments after Jesus’ alleged time on earth. We can treat Jesus as a constructed human being and still ask all the questions and examine all the issues I examined.”

              Sigh.

              Your entire belief rests upon the assumption. That was, and still is, my point. Your entire religion is couched upon the existence and divinity of christ. Or are you not really a CHRISTian? Do me a favor and read the link, when you can.

              “You trust way too much in: (a) very poor understanding of how ‘consciousness’ even works; (b) an understanding of causality which doesn’t even exist at the most fundamental levels of physics”

              A: our understanding of human consciousness is growing daily http://infidels.org/kiosk/article/julian-jaynes-theory-of-the-evolution-of-human-consciousness-813.html , http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-theory-of-consciousness/ , http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-higher/ to name a few. I’d harldy say our understanding of consciousness is as lacking as you insinuate. It is clearly rooted in the brain, and not in some mystical soul that floats about. It develops IN TANDEM with our brains, from infancy to adulthood. B: elaborate, a lot….vague.

            • Luke Breuer

              Your entire belief rests upon the assumption.

              We’re not talking about my “entire belief”, we’re talking about the argument I made, which explicated a real paradigm shift very close to the time that Jesus allegedly existed. We can talk about that entire argument using the term “Jesus-concept” instead of “Jesus”, if you’d like. It works either way.

              B: elaborate, a lot….vague.

              Seriously? After all those criticisms of being long-winded and vague and stuff? I write something short and you still complain? This is getting tired, having you yanking me around like this, Void! Nothing I do is good enough for you. :-(

            • Void L. Walker

              Then maybe we should cease discussions. We always butt heads, misunderstand each other, are BOTH guilty of being vague, and both fail to properly understand one another. At this point, little to nothing can be feted from these discussions, except for frustration and hurt feelings.

              I’ve enjoyed our exchanges, but we are not good at communicating with each other. I’m as guilty as you are in that regard.

              It’s been fun, though.

            • Void L. Walker

              “Your conciseness makes your positions impenetrable. It’s just what you believe, with virtually no “why”

              LMAO. I’ve given about as many “why’s” as one could muster. If you fail to see them, this is on you, not me.

              Your “evidence” is subjective, vague, bible verse laden (you use verses, such as those found in the synoptic gospels, that I’ve seen interpreted in dozens of different ways) and rant heavy. I (and several other people on this site, alone) have called you out on this many times. Perhaps you are at fault here, then? If so many people have the EXACT same complaints, shouldn’t you conclude that maybe, just maybe, they have a valid reason to do so?

            • Void L. Walker

              Also, I meant to add: I do not believe in free will because chains of causation, in my mind, cannot be broken. Certainly not by a 3.5 pound blob of grey matter. Prior causes are something I’m all too familiar with.

              An example: a lady friend of mine was abused as a child, and this abuse has sculpted her behavior is so many ways she’s had to seek professional help. Even after doing so, she is STILL impacted by the awful shit that was done to her.

              I’ve never, EVER seen a person arguing (effectively) against chains of causation, in favor of free will. You apparently do not think I’ve spent much time researching free will, also :-P This is false.

              Want “evidence” that I’ve been doing my homework? Clearly you don’t believe me here, so if you really want it THAT bad, I can give you about a dozen links. Of course, you will disagree with EVERY single thing that I provide. So part of my wonders: why even bother? If you really want it, though, I’d be pleased to provide.

            • Luke Breuer

              Also, I meant to add: I do not believe in free will because chains of causation, in my mind, cannot be broken. Certainly not by a 3.5 pound blob of grey matter. Prior causes are something I’m all too familiar with.

              This is extremely dehumanizing. On your view, all of your interaction with me is manipulation. You are free to rationally manipulate or emotionally manipulate. Coercive manipulation probably isn’t possible, due to our likely inability to cause each other actual physical harm. None of your actions can really be blamed on you, meaning that the only ‘punishment’ is society deciding that you had better not act in certain ways. Society determines what is right and what is wrong, which reduces to the mob deciding, or some small group of powerful people who impose their wills on the rest. This is a very depressing view of reality. And it doesn’t match up with much of common sense. Sometimes common sense is wrong, but oftentimes the person questioning it is wrong.

              Recall that I am not espousing complete Doxastic Voluntarism. I am saying that our wills could have arbitrarily large momentum p, with freedom able to apply only small ∆p. This means that freedom may be very hard to detect, except when integrated over sufficiently large time intervals. And even then, it will only show up in those who do not have ∆p‘s which are, on average, isotropic. Many people let society buffet them from here to there, like molecules in a gas. Such people have ∆p‘s which are indistinguishable from randomness, or at least indistinguishable from the average ∆p of the entire society; this is described by Ja 1:6 and Eph 4:14.

              Under your view, there is no ‘good’ or ‘evil’, there is merely ‘like’ and ‘dislike’. It collapses into a Nietzschean imposition of the will, by one person on the next. The only real question is whether the other person knows that you are manipulating them. Or, you are both manipulating each other and the question is: who is better at it? This is known as court intrigue. It is a terrible way to live, and it is precisely that which Jesus argued against:

              Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:20-28)

              Note that James’ and John’s mother was thinking in terms of the Nietzschean imposition of the will. Jesus is saying: there is another way to live. The way is freedom, instead of slavery. In slavery, you don’t have freedom of the will.

              An example: a lady friend of mine was abused as a child, and this abuse has sculpted her behavior is so many ways she’s had to seek professional help. Even after doing so, she is STILL impacted by the awful shit that was done to her.

              This doesn’t argue against anything I’ve said, to my knowledge. Your arguments seem to reduce to: either (a) Doxastic Voluntarism, or (b) no freedom of the will whatsoever. This is a false dichotomy!

              I’ve never, EVER seen a person arguing (effectively) against chains of causation, in favor of free will. You apparently do not think I’ve spent much time researching free will, also. This is false.

              If you won’t post the best arguments you’ve encountered, I have no evidence you’ve done said research. It’s not so much that I don’t trust you, but that I cannot learn anything from simple statements of opinion.

              Want “evidence” that I’ve been doing my homework? Clearly you don’t believe me here, so if you really want it THAT bad, I can give you about a dozen links. Of course, you will disagree with EVERY single thing that I provide. So part of me wonders: why even bother?

              This is a very dark way to view me. Consider this:

                   (1) You argue a point without citing anything or really articulating your argument.

                   (2) You argue a point, articulating it and providing citations.

              Under (1), I don’t really learn anything except for your binary position on a matter. Under (2), I have the opportunity to learn why you believe what you believe, and see whether I find it convincing. If you provide citations, I can see what kinds of materials you’ve been exposed to, and (i) find gaps in my own exposure; (ii) find gaps in your exposure.

              I will look at the sources you cite later.

            • Void L. Walker

              “If you won’t post the best arguments you’ve encountered”

              See one of my links. I have several, several others to provide as well.

            • Luke Breuer

              Thank you for posting them. But how was I supposed to model you, before you gave any evidence that you had done due diligence research? You seem to be very offended, and I’d like to understand why. Was it merely the assumption? If so, why have you made such a spate of terrible assumptions about me, just today? I can quote them if you’d like, but I think you could guess them, especially given my recent comments, disagreeing with them.

            • Void L. Walker

              Offended? No. Irritated by how presumptuous you can be? Yes.

            • Luke Breuer

              Do you admit or deny that you’ve been quite presumptuous of me, as well? For example:

              VLW: Which, in your mind, I haven’t. Why? At bottom because I’m not a christian. Anyone who isn’t, after all, is wrong. Right? After all, us Atheists just HATE evidence.

              I do not think this way. I do not understand what I said to imply that I think this way. As far as I know, you took a Christian stereotype in your head, and stuck it to my face, in an unwarranted fashion.

            • kraut2

              Then why bother with it at all? I have lived quite contently, taking care of my family, myself and whatever business I did for almost 65 years, 50 of those without any need for a belief in a deity.

            • Luke Breuer

              The more I investigate Christianity, the more I find there to be a true version, one which isn’t so much new as lost. For example, I can explain to you, in detail, how the following three triads connect to reality, intricately and in ways of which many people today are in denial:

              Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
              Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
              Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5

              Many seem to think that life as it is in this world is about the best that we’ll get, at least that the current rate of ‘progress’, if it can even be called that, is about the best we can have. I disbelieve this, increasingly strongly. I think that there are fantastically better ways to live, both individually and in community, which have largely been lost. I believe that God wants us to live life of considerably more thriving than we do now, and I think he has given clues as to how to get there. Part of this requires changes in belief, and part of this requires opening one up to God being right and me being wrong. And I think God actually is trying to pull us toward him, toward greater beauty, but in a way that does not compel. So many objections to God consist in him not compelling when they think he should. This betrays a very different way of looking at reality than I do—akin to these three paragraphs.

              I believe that we humans have fundamentally lost the idea that we could all be on the same team, achieving ever more fantastic goals on our route to understanding God and what he has created, better and better. The result of losing this understanding is the zero-sum mentality and the scapegoating mentality, one which Solzhenitsyn realized as bollocks. Few people truly want to admit the evil within, instead preferring to blame religion, or secularism, or Muslims, or capitalism, or something else. We set ourselves up as little autonomous gods who decide what is right and what is wrong, and then wonder why the world is such a shitty place. Go figure.

            • kraut2

              You are aware of course that for almost every quote that is positive about the NT there is at least one counterbalancing it with a negative. The sum is 0, the NT useless as a moral guide.

              “We set ourselves up as little autonomous gods who decide what is right and what is wrong, and then wonder why the world is such a shitty place”

              You really believe you can trust a book that is self contradicting on so many levels? If you follow that book, you have to pick the right answers, the right choices. If you choose wrong – you still have to live with the consequences, because the choice was yours. I rather think about a problem myself, consult if need be with others and then choose.

              Your view is ultimately one of despair and utter nihilism – you just do not realize it. Mankind needs god, if god is abandoned mankind is fucked. Man is incapable, man is worthless without god. You follow Utopian view like many of those who choose religion or a substitute thereof to achieve it. The result is usually an utter dystopia, with suffering just barely imaginable.

              All we can do is muddle through this life as best we can, try to do things a bit better at a time, try not to do harm and treat each other with decency.

            • Luke Breuer

              You are aware of course that for almost every quote that is positive about the NT there is at least one counterbalancing it with a negative. The sum is 0, the NT useless as a moral guide.

              Would you be willing to elaborate, with examples?

              You really believe you can trust a book that is self contradicting on so many levels?

              I do not believe this is an accurate description of the Bible. There are certainly multiple theologies, as humans understand Yahweh more and more. I see a ‘moral trajectory’ throughout it. I believe we are to continue this trajectory, ad infinitum.

              As an example, I think many people forget that a requirement for slavery is that some human beings consider themselves better than others. Jesus dashes this idea both when he washed his disciples’ feet, as well as in Mt 20:20-28. These are absolutely radical passages, and most Christians today do not integrate them into their lives. Instead, they adopt worldly versions of power, power used to dominate instead of enhance. Power to scapegoat instead of power to reach out to the most disadvantaged in life, after Jesus’ pattern.

              If you’re looking for contradictions, you’ll certainly find them. But I can find apparent contradictions in nature all over the place. The person who believes that is all nature is cannot do science. If all you see is ugliness, you cannot see beauty. Many people view the Bible this way; this is a shame, because such people also tend to view other people that way. This destroys souls and creates hells.

              I rather think about a problem myself, consult if need be with others and then choose.

              The idea that one cannot “think about a problem” oneself and be a Christian is insulting. The idea that a creature doesn’t get to choose what is true is perhaps insulting to you?

              Your view is ultimately one of despair and utter nihilism – you just do not realize it.

              LOL. Irony abounds.

              You follow Utopian view

              Evidence?

              The result is usually an utter dystopia, with suffering just barely imaginable.

              Evidence? Reasoning?

              All we can do is muddle through this life as best we can, try to do things a bit better at a time, try not to do harm and treat each other with decency.

              It sounds like you are very far from engaging in world-changing efforts like MLK Jr. and Gandhi. This is fine, as long as you admit that you are ok with the amount of change you will realistically effect. I, on the other hand, think that gaining more and more and more knowledge will allow for a more significant impact on reality. See, for example, the problems raised in David Levy’s Google Tech Talk No Time to Think. I hope to solve some of the problems he identifies, instead of just adding another technical gizmo or social networking game. Who knows if I’ll succeed. But I think it is possible to do more than “muddle through this life”. There is a lot of knowledge to be discovered.

            • Luke Breuer

              What do you think of the following, from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, quoted by Ralph C. Wood?

              It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains . . . an unuprooted small corner of evil.

              I would say that theology has much to say about the issues Solzhenitsyn raises, above. Perhaps you think that while this might be so, there exist expressly non-theological ways of addressing the above, ways which are categorically better than any theologizing?

            • Andy_Schueler

              I would say that theology has much to say about the issues Solzhenitsyn raises, above.

              Theology has much to say about everything. The question is whether what theology has to say is anything more than uninformed guesswork.

              Perhaps you think that while this might be so, there exist expressly non-theological ways of addressing the above, ways which are categorically better than any theologizing?

              Let me answer this with a question – do you have a method that you can use to demonstrate that your Father-Son-HolySpirit theology is better than someone else´s Father-Son-HolySpirit theology (e.g. better than a mainstream Mormon theology) or my Tom-Dick-Harry theology? If you can´t, then the answer to your question here is completely obvious.

            • Luke Breuer

              “better than”, or “as good as”?

            • Andy_Schueler

              “Better than”.
              You used the analogy to successive approximations in science. In this context, “successive” would mean that the approximations get better over time. In science, two approximations can be compared and it can be determined whether one is better than the other or not. So, where is the theological method to determine whether your Father-Son-HolySpirit theology is better than my Tom-Dick-Harry theology?

            • Luke Breuer

              I simply reject “better than” as a necessary property. If theology can be “as good as”, that is enough, for the only reason to pick one thing over a thing which is “as good as”, is personal preference. Universal application of Ockham’s methodological razor is one such personal preference. If someone, with theology, can navigate reality “as well as” the next guy, without theology, then it is personal preference to choose the “no theology” option.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I simply reject “better than” as a necessary property.

              Cool. Then you just have to stop using analogies to scientific progress and stop using phrases like “successive approximations”, because even if there would be anything “successive” or “progressive” about your theology, you could not possibly know that this is indeed the case.

              If theology can be “as good as”, that is enough…

              If “as good as” simply making stuff up – like my Tom-Dick-Harry theology – is good enough for you, then be my guest.

            • Luke Breuer

              You are distinguishing between your way of thinking about things now, and my way of thinking about things now. What if, instead, we were to each compare our way of thinking about things now, to how people thought of things 1000 years ago? Then progress would be seen, and successive approximations would be visible.

              I freely admit that Christian theology today is in pretty piss-poor shape. Its last great victory seems to be the Civil Rights movement, in which MLK Jr. used moving imagery from some of the prophets in the Bible. Being able to tell stories which can become true is no small feat; many stories told have no chance of becoming true.

              One way to revive Christian theology would be to talk about “what it means to be human”, connect that to Imago Dei, and, for example, talk about how we can encourage creativity in all human beings, so that each person can be given the tools, resources, time, and health in order to sing his/her poiēma, as it were. Good to Great, a 100% secular, empirically researched book, argues in chapter 6 that it isn’t really possible to motivate people, so much as to remove impediments to their inner motivations. I see no reason to arbitrarily pick one of these ways of thinking over the other, unless one is empirically demonstrated to be better than the other, in a causative sense, not a correlative one.

            • Andy_Schueler

              What if, instead, we were to each compare our way of thinking about things now, to how people thought of things 1000 years ago? Then progress would be seen, and successive approximations would be visible.

              Then demonstrate that your theology or any other contemporary theology is better than the earliest known versions of Hindu theology or better than the earliest known versions of hebrew theology or babylonian theology or egyptian theology or whatever other theology you can find that is older than 1000 years.

              One way to revive Christian theology would be to talk about “what it means to be human”, connect that to Imago Dei…

              It will never cease to be an exercise in making stuff up until you have a method.

            • Luke Breuer

              I don’t know what you mean by “a method”. For example, Christianity undoubtedly played a role in the abolition of slavery. Hinduism, on the other hand, didn’t seem, of its own accord, to be able to get rid of the “Untouchables” caste. But perhaps this is a caricature.

              Christianity inspired Lex, Rex, which was an important milestone in achieving rule by law instead of by man or woman. The Protestant Reformation itself was incredibly important, shattering the Roman Catholics’ stranglehold, for theological reasons. Martin Luther actually didn’t want to break away from the RCC, but he did object to various practices that the RCC was not willing to abolish.

              Or we could look at the impact that early Christianity had on the world. Surely you don’t deny that it was profound? We could look at Alasdair MacIntyre’s analysis of charity in After Virtue, a well-respected work of meta-ethics:

              There is no word in the Greek of Aristotle’s age correctly translated ‘sin’, ‘repentance’ or ‘charity’.
              […]

              Charity is not, of course, from the biblical point of view, just one more virtue to be added to the list. Its inclusion alters the conception of the good for man in a radical way; for the community in which the good is achieved has to be one of reconciliation. (174)

              Or I’m currently reading Otto Borchert’s The Original Jesus, which provides supporting evidence for Rousseau’s claim,

              The man who invented [Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels] would be more astonished than its hero.

              Starting off, Borchert demonstrates how Jesus was offensive to both Jew and Gentile. Why would either invent a character so repellant to his societal norms? It is a ridiculous assertion which is lacking in evidence, or so Borchert argues.

              But is there a method in all of this? I’m not sure. Is there a method in philosophizing? Perhaps not. There are certainly ways of applying philosophy to life. Even the scientific method has morphed significantly over time.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If it all boils down to making stuff up about Gods and discussing the stuff you made up about Gods with other people who like to make up stuff about Gods – cool, knock yourself out.
              But if you pretend that any of this made up stuff is actually true and / or better than any other made up stuff about gods – and you do pretend just that when you say that you are able to come up with “successive approximations of God” – then you need a method, a method with which you can determine that your theology is any better than my Tom-Dick-Harry theology or any other theology.

              Is there a method in philosophizing?

              You can “philosophize” about everything, you can “philosophize” about whether Aragorn from Lord of the Rings could beat Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones in a sword fight – and you can make up premises and apply logical reasoning to come up with a logically valid answer to such “profound” questions. However, if you lack a method to test and compare your premises, then your “philosophizing” is just as worthwhile as some nerd war over whether Kirk or Picard is the better Captain, it´s interesting for the people that like the story and completely irrelevant for everyone who doesn´t like the story – because it´s all about stuff that has been made up out of thin air.

            • Luke Breuer

              You’ve given me no idea of what you would accept as a method. If you refuse to do this, I cannot answer your question; I have run out of guesses. It seems like you want a more intricate cause & effect than I can provide at this time.

              What matters to me is ways to think that empower people to make the world a better place. It could be, like phase changes, that the microstructure behind that empowering can have many different forms. (see Pigliucci’s Essays on emergence, part I) I actually believe this is true, and have coined the term “metaphysical tyranny” to describe those who are in denial of this. There is even theological support for this, with (i) Jesus telling his disciples to judge a tree by its fruit; (ii) Jesus sorting the sheep and goats in Mt 25:31-46 by their actions, not their beliefs; (iii) Jesus exhorting his disciples to not remove the tares from among the wheat until they are full-grown; (iv) Jesus spurning some of those who have done miracles in his name, saying that is not enough.

              If your Tom-Dick-Harry theology blesses other people and helps them thrive, then go for it!

            • Andy_Schueler

              You’ve given me no idea of what you would accept as a method. If you refuse to do this, I cannot answer your question;

              I´m not aware of any method with which you could show that your Father-Son-HolySpirit theology is better than a different Father-Son-HolySpirit theology (e.g. a Mormon one) or my Tom-Dick-Harry theology. You are the one who is making the claim that you can come up with “successive approximations of God” and I call you out on that – you cannot do what you claim to be able to do.
              That you ask me now to develop a method for you is simply ridiculous.

              What matters to me is ways to think that empower people to make the world a better place.

              the·ol·o·gy [thee-ol-uh-jee]
              noun, plural the·ol·o·gies.
              “the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.”

            • Luke Breuer

              You are the one who is making the claim that you can come up with “successive approximations of God” and I call you out on that – you cannot do what you claim to be able to do.

              That you ask me now to develop a method for you is simply ridiculous.

              “Asking you what you would accept as a method” ≠ “ask me to develop a method”. What I’m asking you is analogous to, “What would you accept as evidence that God is trustworthy?” One reason this is a valid question is that I believe miracles are not good evidence of God’s trustworthiness; all they can do is give evidence that a more powerful being exists, and technological superiority ⇏ trustworthiness.

              Now, we could ask how one’s conception of God percolates into all of life. For example, AW Tozer thinks that what you think about God is the most important aspect of you. We could temporarily go Greek, and replace “God” with “the good”. Surely this is easily comprehensible to you—that people’s conception of “the good” would tell you a lot about them? Now, replace “the good” with “an excellent person”—that is, make “the good” personal. To what kind of person do you aspire to be? This is a very important question, I should think.

              Not all people’s ideas of God make them better people. In The Case for Religion, Keith Ward makes this very clear. On the other hand, some conceptions of God do encourage people to become better people. What is the method for this? I cannot give you a comprehensive, analytic answer, replete with a computer simulation. Instead, I can argue that one’s concept of “the good” surely influences what one strives for, and argue that one’s role models similarly influences one. And God can be a role model.

              Suppose Jesus is your role model. Does aspiring after him make you ‘better’? According to whose measure of ‘better’? The Bible itself argues that the world’s measure of ‘better’ is poisoned. But who really cares; we can relativize this appropriately and still ask the question. Ultimately, a way you can see whether one person’s conception of God is better than the next person’s conception is if the results, in the one person’s life, is better. And because of the vast amount of variation between one person and the next, one ought to make this a statistical comparison.

              Is this enough of a method for you? Some of this I already got at over on Jonathan’s How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?

              You can object to the claim that ‘better’ is a truth indicator, but you’ll be special-pleading if you do. For we have definitions of ‘better’ in science that we use, to measure scientific progress. In the end, you’re stuck either believing that there is an objective ‘better’, one which we will have to struggle to find and improve, or that there is no objective ‘better’. The latter is a denial of the ultimate rationality of mind-mind interaction, a denial of objective morality. You’re welcome to deny this, but if you do, then you virtually guarantee that you will be unable to find an objective morality that might exist. Just like those who did not believe in an objective, increasingly understandable reality were ill-equipped to do science. Some stories can be made to come true if they’re believed in hard enough. Others cannot.

            • Andy_Schueler

              What I’m asking you is analogous to, “What would you accept as evidence that God is trustworthy?” One reason this is a valid question is that I believe miracles arenot good evidence of God’s trustworthiness; all they can do is give evidence that a more powerful beingexists, and technological superiority ⇏ trustworthiness.

              1. The fact that you have to ask me what I would accept is a dead giveaway that whatever you have in mind here is subjective, not intersubjective.
              2. “What would you accept as evidence that God is trustworthy?” – a pattern of honesty and reliability, the exact same evidence I would require to consider anyone else to be trustworthy. Until some Gods or wannabe-Gods start conversing with us, that is kind of moot though.

              We could temporarily go Greek, and replace “God” with “the good”. Surely this is easily comprehensible to you—that people’s conception of “the good” would tell you a lot about them? Now, replace “the good” with “an excellent person”—that is, make “the good”personal. To what kind of person do you aspire to be? This is a very important question, I should think.

              So you think I should deify my aspirations. And why exactly should I do that?

              Suppose Jesus is your role model. Does aspiring after him make you ‘better’?

              No idea, I´ve never met the guy.

              Ultimately, a way you can see whether one person’s conception of God is better than the next person’s conception is if the results, in the one person’s life, is better. And because of the vast amount of variation between one person and the next, one ought to make this a statistical comparison.

              Is this enough of a method for you?

              If we took this method seriously, we´d just proven that there is no God, because the societies with the highest degrees of happiness, optimism etc. and the lowest degrees of social ills, from substance abuse to suicide, are societies that have largely given up the supernatural and that have a large proportion, sometimes majorities even, of citizens that don´t believe in gods. But somehow, I expect that you don´t actually take this method seriously at all (and I don´t really see any requirement to take it seriously to be honest, something doesn´t have to be true to make your life “better”).

              You can object to the claim that ‘better’ is a truth indicator, but you’ll be special-pleading if you do. For we have definitions of ‘better’ in science that we use, to measure scientific progress. In the end, you’re stuck either believing that there is an objective ‘better’, one which we will have to struggle to find and improve, or that there is no objective ‘better’.

              Substract “gods” from “objective better” and you still have “objective better”.
              You are simply calling what you deem to be “better” God – it´s a word game and nothing more.

            • Luke Breuer

              1. The fact that you have to ask me what I would accept is a dead giveaway that whatever you have in mind here is subjective, not intersubjective.

              Alternatively, you assume all people see the world much more similarly than they actually do, a fact which would not lead directly to subjectivity-sans-intersubjectivity. I cannot read your mind, Andy, and often I have trouble simulating your thoughts. You appear to have this preference to see this as a moral failing on my part, which perplexes me.

              2. “What would you accept as evidence that God is trustworthy?” – a pattern of honesty and reliability, the exact same evidence I would require to consider anyone else to be trustworthy. Until some Gods or wannabe-Gods start conversing with us, that is kind of moot though.

              And how do you know you’ve not set the bar wrong, for what you “would require”? I would actually claim that you already have a false belief, as I outlined above. Combine enough false beliefs, and your view of who is trustworthy will be contorted more and more. But anyhow, I think you are more reasonable viz. what would convince you than many people. I think you understand that merely believing God exists does not defeat the is–ought gap, and that God wants to be trusted, not just have his existence assented to. This is much further than most atheists get, in my experience.

              So you think I should deify my aspirations. And why exactly should I do that?

              I didn’t say that. I was making a connection between an impersonal “the good”, and a personal “the good”. Surely you understand the impersonal version as something, even if not ontic, is surely worth thinking about regardless?

              No idea, I´ve never met the guy.

              Ok, but surely you realize that many people aspire to be like someone they’ve never met, perhaps someone they ‘know’ solely via biography and history?

              If we took this method seriously, we´d just proven that there is no God, because the societies with the highest degrees of happiness, optimism etc. and the lowest degrees of social ills, from substance abuse to suicide, are societies that have largely given up the supernatural and that have a large proportion, sometimes majorities even, of citizens that don´t believe in gods. But somehow, I expect that you don´t actually take this method seriously at all (and I don´t really see any requirement to take it seriously to be honest, something doesn´t have to be true to make your life “better”).

              I would like to see how you’ve overcome the correlation ⇏ causation barrier, in these cases. Recall that I found some of my beliefs on passages which I can connect, intricately, to particle-and-field reality; the first three I have surely cited before to you:

              Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
              Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
              Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5
              Mt 7:15-24, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 25:31-46

              The more I expand my ability to intricately connect bits of the Bible with reality, the more confidence I gain that it describes reality accurately—including the bits I haven’t yet connected.

              Now, I already admitted to you:

              I freely admit that Christian theology today is in pretty piss-poor shape. Its last great victory seems to be the Civil Rights movement, in which MLK Jr. used moving imagery from some of the prophets in the Bible.

              I would also point you to the last three paragraphs of this comment to kraut2, where I point out non-religious properties that the US has which European countries do not, which matter intrinsically to the studies you are surely alluding to. Many atheists like to point to these studies and pretend that correlation ⇒ causation; perhaps you are a cut above?

              Substract “gods” from “objective better” and you still have “objective better”.
              You are simply calling what you deem to be “better” God – it´s a word game and nothing more.

              You’re welcome to think of it as a word game if you wish. In a sense, you’re arguing against an ontic universal and I’m arguing for an ontic universal; this debate has existed at least as long as Greek philosophy. I maintain that the only true evidence of Jesus still existing is established in the first triad above and specifically, Jn 17:20-23. If a variety of people, disconnected in spacetime, are all becoming like a single person in some ways, that can be construed as evidence that the person they are becoming like actually exists. You will probably disagree with this; I’m not sure I have a response to such disagreement beyond what I have already said.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Alternatively, you assume all people see the world much more similarly than they actually do, a fact which would not lead directly to subjectivity-sans-intersubjectivity. I cannot read your mind, Andy, and often I have trouble simulating your thoughts. You appear to have this preference to see this as a moral failing on my part, which perplexes me.

              If this perplexes you, I cannot explain it any better than with this hypothetical dialog between you and a hypothetical dude called Ahmed:
              “Ahmed: you ignore my argument and just presuppose that Muhammad (PBUH) cannot possibly have received a divine revelation.Luke: Erm, no, I grant you that this is the case for the sake of the argument.
              Ahmed: but you just presuppose that Muhammad (PBUH) cannot possibly have received a divine revelation.
              Luke: No I don´t, I GRANT you that this is the case for the sake of the argument.
              Ahmed: but you just presuppose that Muhammad (PBUH) cannot possibly have received a divine revelation.
              Luke: NO, how often do I have to repeat that I GRANT you this for the sake of the argument, you are being deliberately obtuse.
              Ahmed: I understand that you have, e.g. “granted that Muhammad inded received a divine revelation, MANY times”. This doesn’t mean I can immediately ‘snap’ to a way to model your argument that doesn’t assume that you presuppose that Muhammad could not have received a divine revelation. You view this inability as moral or intellectual failure.”

              => you have been doing exactly what Ahmed has been doing in this hypothetical dialog.
              I don´t assume that people “see the world too similarly” or any such BS, I assume that language is flawed but effective. When I tell you “My name is Andy and I was born in germany” – I assume that you or anyone else who is able to speak english can grasp the message that is conveyed in that sentence sufficiently. If someone is clearly able to use the english language, but unable to understand that sentence and keeps referring to me as Mei Ling from China, and keeps doing that no matter how often I correct him, then I will sooner or later ask myself the old question ist das nun Dummheit oder Niedertracht? – because the only alternative explanation would be that the language we use is so flawed that we cannot communicate even the very simplest of concepts there are, and both stupidity or malice are much more likely explanations than that.

              And how do you know you’ve not set the bar wrong, for what you “would require”?

              1. This question assumes that people freely decide how to set this bar. They don´t.
              2. Even granting you that where to set this bar is a decision people can make, this would still be completely irrelevant for the subject at hand. I could set the bar as low as conceivably possible and simply trust every person I know completely independent of what I know about them – and then I still would not trust your God just like I still would not trust Santa Claus. Even if I assumed that Santa and your God are real, I still wouldn´t know anything about them, there still wouldn´t be anything that I could trust in.

              I think you understand that merely believing God exists does not defeat the is–ought gap, and that God wants to be trusted, not just have his existence assented to.

              Been there before – if my biological mother would have given me up at birth, and wanted to have a relationship with me and wanted me to trust her, there are countless different way for how she could try to achieve that, involving countless ways that do not involve any form of coercion. But every conceivable way for how she could do this depends on me being aware of her existence and actually being able to interact with her in some way.
              And that blows your version of god right out of the water, many different kinds of gods could possibly exist, a god that is simultaneously very powerful + desiring a relationship with humans that involves trust + completely hidden from humans, is logically impossible.

              Recall that I found some of my beliefs on passages which I can connect, intricately, to particle-and-field reality; the first three I have surely cited before to you:

              So what? I can do the same with selected passages from the writings of Karl Marx. Still wouldn´t mean that Karl Marx is a divinely inspired prophet and that communism could work in practice and would also be a really good idea now, or would it?

              I would also point you to the last three paragraphs of this comment to kraut2, where I point out non-religious properties that the US has which European countries do not, which matter intrinsically to the studies you are surely alluding to. Many atheists like to point to these studies and pretend that correlation ⇒ causation

              Who does that? Afaict, the people who point to these studies are quite explicit about the high levels of atheism and agnosticism being an effect and not a cause, because that´s what the studies themselves say.
              Btw, this is what partial correlations are for, you can calculate the independent correlations of religiosity with other factors, while keeping possible confounding variables (like wealth or education) constant.

              I maintain that the only true evidence of Jesus still existing is established in the first triad above and specifically, Jn 17:20-23. If a variety of people, disconnected in spacetime, are all becoming like a single person in some ways, that can be construed as evidence that the person they are becoming like actually exists.

              And I already explained to you several times that this is in no way, shape or form evidence for Jesus being real, and that you would immediatly see that if you substituted “Jesus” by “Captain Kirk” or any other famous dead or fictional character. And after I explain that to you, you´ll try to argue that a “relationship” with Jesus is different than a “relationship” with a dead or fictional character because “there is potential for infinite growth / learning / whatever” or something like that. Then I´ll point out that this is actually not a difference at all because the exact same is true for any “relationship” with any other dead or fictional character. Then you give up, and start fresh over again a few days later with the exact same argument, as if nothing had happened.

            • Luke Breuer

              => you have been doing exactly what Ahmed has been doing in this hypothetical dialog.

              Furthermore, you assume that your perception of reality matches it, and that mine doesn’t. You reject all my attempts to explain why the pattern above happened. You have decided on what is true. There’s not much I can do with people who decide truth instead of discover it. Or perhaps you’ve just seen “sufficient evidence” such that nothing in the future can falsify your current conclusions.

              1. This question assumes that people freely decide how to set this bar. They don´t.

              We simply disagree. Furthermore, if you truly believe this, then surely you somehow rationally understand that your getting frustrated and attempting to use emotions to manipulate me won’t work? And yet you keep trying that… I have tried, very hard, in my thousands of hours discussing with people on the internet, to be exceedingly rational, and rebuff any and all attempts at emotional manipulation. And yet you keep trying. Maybe you cannot help yourself? This determinism stuff, this lack of freedom of the will, confuses me. It seems to go out the window whenever I’m doing something the other person doesn’t like.

              then I still would not trust your God just like I still would not trust Santa Claus.

              Ok.

              But every conceivable way for how she could do this depends on me being aware of her existence and actually being able to interact with her in some way.

              IIRC, you have completely discounted religious experiences as possibly counting in this category; is this correct or do I misremember? We argued about ‘hallucination’ and ‘brain noise’, and when I linked you to Hallucinatory Experience & Religion Formation, you did not respond. So I don’t have a good model of how you view religious experiences.

              And that blows your version of god right out of the water, all kinds of gods could possibly exist, a god that is simultaneously very powerful + desiring a relationship with humans that involves trust + completely hidden from humans, is logically impossible.

              I’m not yet convinced that your model of how such a god would not end up compelling. But perhaps fiction can help us, here. Can you think of any fictional situation where there was a being much more advanced than all around him/her/it, whose existence had the effect of promoting egalitarianism? The Prime Directive seems to argue against this possibility, in some domains. Alternatively, The Hunted comes into mind. There are a few other instances where a strict subset of a world attempts to get technologically advanced species to give it the upper hand.

              I’m trying to construct a realistic scenario where your demand is met and what you predict would happen, happens. Humans have this ability to judge whether a story is realistic or not, given their idea of human nature. (Hilarious criticism of BF Skinner’s novel-writing abilities.) Might this be a fruitful area to investigate? I’ve watched all of Babylon 5 multiple times, FYI.

              So what?

              Surely it is justification to spread tentative trust to ‘related’ passages, even if I don’t fully understand how they connect to particle-and-field reality? And if I can spread my understanding through enough of the Bible, that starts suggesting that maybe a pretty smart intelligence was behind it, especially if there is a lot of wisdom therein which society today rejects as false, which I can view as the result of a lot of problems that exist. Furthermore, if this wisdom ends up helping make the world a better place, then the being or beings who were involved in writing the Bible have given evidence that he/she/they care about human thriving. We could go even further, and find out if the more people accept this version of the wisdom, that their religious experiences show any convergence.

              Who does that?

              Not infrequently, I run across such people on the internet. Example. And your switching of ‘atheism’ from cause → effect still doesn’t demonstrate causation by itself; one still has to do the relevant scientific work to ensure that there aren’t other, hidden factors, which are really the cause. For example, cultural homogeneity and low rate of immigration are powerful ways to keep a lot of one’s statistics high. And yet, this is close to your conditions of a stable utopia: homogeneity and little to no interaction with the outside world.

              And I already explained to you several times that this is in no way, shape or form evidence for Jesus being real, and that you would immediatly see that if you substituted “Jesus” by “Captain Kirk” or any other famous dead or fictional character. […] Then you give up, and start fresh over again a few days later with the exact same argument, as if nothing had happened.

              Captain Kirk only has finite informational content about him. If said group of people all become increasingly like a person with vastly more informational content, then your examples lower in probability. The more this “becoming like” happens, the less likely there is any fictional character in history who is complex enough. And the probability that all these people are successfully mixing and matching the right set of characters goes down the more this “becoming like” process continues.

              I know you’ve argued against the above, but I don’t recall buying any of those arguments. It’s almost the reverse of the situation where I just couldn’t make sense of your argument without you accepting premises you repeatedly said you rejected. But surely you never do this bad thing to me—it’s only ever me doing it to you. :-|

            • Andy_Schueler

              I started writing up responses but I give up – you are just turning in circles with no sign of adapting your go-to responses. It´s a complete waste of time.

            • kraut2

              “but not that spark, or ‘secret sauce’, that differentiates humans from non-humans”

              Our recent studies of animals shows: they are not that different, just by degrees. They show self recognition, awareness of the other, complex learning, problem solving, social behaviors including interspecies altruism even.

              As to the latter, I have observed that a dog we once had could not reach the food dish. A crow who had come to visit, just staying outside the range of the chain but eventually getting to within that range over several days, reached into that bowl, placed a morsel of food in front of him and just stood there while he was eating. Just an anecdote of course.

              There is no secret spark. There is also potential in animals.

              What happens to that secret spark when chemical processes eliminate your mental capacities, including interference by bacterial toxins? That “spark” is a product of a highly complex neural network, that can gain self awareness – but can loose that rather fast as well. There is no dualism.

              The mind – what might be called you, your personality, is produced by electrochemical processes, the basis of all energy transfer in physiology.

            • Luke Breuer

              There is no dualism.

              Even Cartesian dualism threatens to collapse into monism if the interaction problem is solved. My argument did not need dualism in any form, whatsoever.

              There is no secret spark.

              This is quite the statement, given that humans can build particle accelerators and no other organisms can do anything close to that.

            • kraut2

              I call that intelligence, based on a neural network (called the brain) that processes sensory input and is able to build models of the environment around it.
              We do it to an extent that no other species has done so far, because we have the advantage that other big brained animals do not have: The tools to investigate those models by testing them, for which you need the other part of the equation: a hand that can build.
              Isn’t it astonishing that this “spark” of your is closely correlated to brain size AND tool use?
              Actually, maybe not just correlated to size but also to brain organization, when we see crows or ravens perform multilevel tasks faster than a two year old human child with only grams of brain, or see squid to some serious problem solving with a similar small brain.
              Ever see a squid/cuttle fish adapting – without colour vision – to its environs to camouflage?
              The processing power to do that is quite large, not only instructing the cells in the skin to change colour but also texture – and a lot of cells or groups of cells. It is a difference in brain and neural pathway organization that allow that animal to do what very few others can.

            • Luke Breuer

              Given what you have said here, why do humans have dignity? I make no assumptions as to your moral framework; I haven’t got a chance to have many conversations about this topic. Throughout history, mankind has found ways to arbitrarily declare some people worthy of the nicest things in life, and others as not worthy. I am particularly curious as to whether your reasons are powerful enough to e.g. survive being given the reins of power. Many moral theories sound nice on paper, but the people in power find convenient ways to exempt themselves.

              I am not claiming that atheists are necessarily moral monsters. If you cannot escape the idea that I am, despite my protests, please do not respond to this comment.

            • kraut2

              On its own, without a social context – what does dignity mean? I accord on first contact every human respect. I acknowledge it as a fellow being worthy to be treated as I expect to be treated. Subsequent action however might remove or enforce this respect accorded to the human I am interacting with or have political opinions about.
              My morality is simple: life is hard enough for most.
              My actions should at least not harm, at best make their lives easier or improve it.
              No, I have not always succeeded. Do better next time.

            • Luke Breuer

              Subsequent action however might remove or enforce this respect accorded to the human I am interacting with or have political opinions about.

              What does “remove” mean, here? What are some consequences of it?

              One way I like to think of this issue is: would my idea of a utopia contain a prison? Anyone who refuses to think of what their idea of a utopia would be like is refusing to take their ideas about society to a logical conclusion. This, I think, ends up giving the reins to other people who do have goals they are working toward, their own little utopias, which may exclude vast swaths of people.

            • kraut2

              “What does “remove” mean, here? What are some consequences of it”

              Refusing to have any further dealings with them, refusing to acknowledge them in social circumstances, agitating against them if I find their politics or behaviour dangerous to myself and others, report them to the authorities if they have wronged me or others and I had personal verifiable knowledge of that.
              I was a victim of fraud in the past by business partners and that was the extend of my actions. I gave the person too much credit – despite being a drug abuser – to being able to keep on the straight.

              “Anyone who refuses to think of what their idea of a utopia would be like
              is refusing to take their ideas about society to a logical conclusion.”

              This idea to take their Utopia to the logical conclusion was tried by Lenin, Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler and various religiously inspired dreamers who turned those dreams into nightmares.

              I avoid the idea of Utopia based on my political experience like the plague, I look for practical solutions for problem – i.e. the completely skewed wealth distribution which in the end creates an utterly undemocratic society, how can we solve this problem – which likely will play a part in the destruction of civilized society: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists.

              No, god will not help us there, we have to get ourselves out of the mess we are sliding into.

              I have nothing against a free market society where wealth is distributed more equally between the owners of the capital and the producers of that capital, where regulations ensure a level playing field, where education is available for everybody for free, where healthcare is universal accessible for everybody, where laws protect the weaker members from exploitation – nothing big, more equitable and permitting those who strive to succeed – or to fail and try again.
              I like where I live – in Canada, where I enjoy some or most of this.

              Why is it that societies like the ones in Northern Europe with strong social support systems have majority atheistic populations? Because god is the last refuge of those who are suffering and cannot fight against it. Remember Marx: Religion is the opiate of the masses. It was their relief from tremendous suffering through the industrialization periods in the western nations, and seems also prevalent in the US in those regions where inequity and poverty is highest.

            • Luke Breuer

              Refusing to have any further dealings with them, refusing to acknowledge them in social circumstances, agitating against them if I find their politics or behaviour dangerous to myself and others, report them to the authorities if they have wronged me or others and I had personal verifiable knowledge of that.

              This sounds remarkably like excommunication; did you intend it to? And depending on what you define as “agitating against”, you could be describing something worse than excommunication. The terms “dangerous” and “wronged me or others” have been very widely defined throughout history; you are aware of this, right?

              I avoid the idea of Utopia based on my political experience like the plague,

              There is a difference between pretending that you know enough to make a utopia (e.g. BF Skinner’s Walden Two), and being willing to take your current societal ideas to their logical conclusion, to see if the result is more like a utopia or a dystopia. In contrast, if all you do is:

              I look for practical solutions for problem

              Without a “point at infinity” to head toward, you can easily swerve to the left and to the right, like a newbie driver who tries to stay between the lines by looking at the lane markers very close to his/her vehicle. Now, this doesn’t have to be a “point at infinity”, but it has to be quite a ways beyond where you are, now. Otherwise, you have little to no idea whether the “practical solutions” you’re implementing are actually beneficial or harmful in the long term. Does this make sense?

              In Leisure: The Basis of Culture, which Josef Pieper wrote in Germany in 1948, he talks about the importance of not succumbing to 100% pragmatism, which can lead to a life of ‘total work’, where one accepts the system as-is and never seeks to challenge it toward “better”. He argues that it is important to be able to sit back and really analyze things, to see everything as a whole instead of just parts. Only from this perspective can one truly ensure that society is headed in a good, overall direction. Otherwise, it is too easy to get stuck inside a “philosophical dome”, a shard of reality that turns into a prison which can be neither tasted, touched, smelled, seen, or heard. Surely you’ve run into people who try and solve their problems on too “small” of a scale, which ends up being the equivalent of sweeping the dust under one run, then under the next, ad infinitum?

              No, god will not help us there, we have to get ourselves out of the mess we are sliding into.

              You seem to have an… interesting view of what it means for God to help us. See, for example, Ezekiel 34, where God is royally pissed at the leaders of Israel for exploiting their citizens instead of taking care of them. A rebuke + an adjuration to better behavior can be found in Isaiah 58, which can be seen almost as God’s “help” showing up via Israel doing enough right things that the pursuant benefits, which they were not necessarily thinking about, happening, as if God did them magically once Israel was obedient enough. We know that while this is a model of the system, what happens is that new emergent behaviors can arise when there is enough trust between human beings: capitalism and modern science are two examples of this.

              A different view of God’s helping us is his teaching us wisdom and knowledge which we are reticent to accept of our own accord (ex. Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27, ex. Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5), and unifying us (ex. Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23). Here, we are very much God’s coworkers, not just his slaves. The mutual servanthood model can be seen when Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, as well as Jesus’ redefinition of what merited “sitting at the right hand of the King”.

              It seems to me that most people either want God to do everything, or do nothing. This seems very silly to me, and yet it seems so prevalent. We either want complete autonomy, and the ability to decide what is good/beautiful vs. evil/ugly, or we want God to do everything for us so that we don’t have to grow up, gain the requisite knowledge, and learn how to fight evil ourselves, doing our part instead of being perpetually babysat by Sky Daddy.

              Why is it that societies like the ones in Northern Europe with strong social support systems have majority atheistic populations? Because god is the last refuge of those who are suffering and cannot fight against it. Remember Marx: Religion is the opiate of the masses. It was their relief from tremendous suffering through the industrialization periods in the western nations, and seems also prevalent in the US in those regions where inequity and poverty is highest.

              To what extent is this mythology which you have not tested against the evidence, and to what extent have you actually empirically tested this, noting that correlation ⇏ causation? For example, which metric for poverty one uses can vastly change the ordering of countries; have you explored this? Or, consider the melting pot that is America, vs. the much greater cultural homogeneity that is much of Europe. At least some European countries treat immigrants pretty poorly; contrast this to the US. Now, note that cultural heterogeneity will generally lead to more friction.

              Peace and equality amidst sameness is much easier than peace and equality amidst differentness. Christianity ostensibly has the tools and divine help to do the latter, to not insist on more unity than is necessary, and thus to allow greater diversity than other contemporary systems. To what extent this “ostensibly” has happened or not-happened is a matter I have only begun to investigate. For example, we could note that Muslims have a much better history with the Jews, than Christians do. One can compare Jewish life in Spain under Muslim rule, to what happened when that transitioned to Christian rule. That being said, oftentimes the success stories are more interesting than the failure stories, given how many ways there are to fail. More research, it seems to me, is required. Until then, the null hypothesis is “equally as good”, not “worse than”. Is it proper research that establishes “worse than”, or is it mythology, kraut2?

              How does Marx deal with the explosion of Christianity during the first few centuries AD, and the slave-buying-and-freeing habits of some of these Christians? It seems to me that he made the following error: “some religion is the opiate of the masses” ⇒ “all religion is the opiate of the masses”. It seems a little hard to justify this “opiate” thing when it comes to religious people being missionaries and also building hospitals, digging wells, establishing orphanages, etc.

    • Recently I thought of a possible dilemma for Jesus.

      Since he was a man, could he get sexually aroused and get an erection? If no, then he was sexually impotent, and so he’d be omnipotent and impotent at the same time. If yes, then he was capable of sinning and could not be considered morally perfect according to Christianity’s own standards.

      • kraut2

        So he is either an omnipotent impotent or an impotent omnipotent…say that ten times, fast…
        the resulting tangle is akin to theology…