Christopher Hitchens versus Alistair McGrath

I’d like to say a few things about two very prominent people in the modern debate over religion and anti-theism.  They are Christopher Hitchens and Alistair McGrath.

I’ve been meaning to write about Hitchens for a while now, but after watching his recent debate with McGrath on YouTube, I wanted to comment on both of them.  (This article will be more effective if you watch all 11 parts of the debate first.)

Christopher Hitchens is a true intellectual.  After reading God Is Not Great (twice) and watching almost of all his debates, I see a man who very much knows what he’s talking about.  He has a deep reservoir of literary, philosophical, cultural, and political knowledge to draw upon.  He speaks with authority, and import.  One of his fears is one that should never be realised: being boring.  Listening to him speak at length is almost mesmerising.  It is, for me, fascinating and intriguing.

The reason for this is actually quite simple: Hitchens is direct.  He doesn’t mince his words.  He doesn’t beat around the bush.  He answers the questions put to him.  You know where he is coming from.  Even if you don’t agree with him, you can never accuse him of shirking a question or challenge.  He doesn’t make unsupported or vacuous assertions.  He backs each and every statement up with logical reasons or a reference to a historical or modern event.  His cultural experience and familiarity with other peoples and cultures is matched only by his wit.  When you listen to him, you feel like he imparting real wisdom.  He communicates very effectively.

McGrath is an unusual character.  There is something almost appealing about McGrath, and I think I can best describe it as innocence.  He is probably a very nice person in everyday life.  I can imagine myself liking McGrath if I heard him talk about something other than religion.  Unfortunately, this is his chosen specialist subject, so it is this that I will judge him on.

I do not hear McGrath speak with authority.  He speaks as one giving a sermon, than a speech.  He does not argue, he preaches.  It is as though, for McGrath, just to be on stage with the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins is the victory in itself.  He is there because he claims to know the unknowable.  Whereas Hitchens and Dawkins are experts in their field, and do not waste a single word, most of McGrath’s words are a waste of time, and his expertise is in theology, a topic which should not be considered a field in its own right.

One of McGrath’s problems it that he simply doesn’t answer the questions; he doesn’t address the issues, he avoids them.  If he doesn’t know he’s doing it, he is deluded and mentally compartmentalised.  If he does know he’s doing it, his skills are wasted as a theologian: he should be a politician.

And this is when he avoids the issues and doesn’t give meaningful answers, (which is most of the time).  When he does attempt a proper answer it gets even worse.  He proceeds from the assumption that the bible is god’s word.  He talks about the authority of Jesus to speak and say the things he did.  He misses the rather glaring point that why should Jesus need any authority to speak good advice and brotherly love.  Are the egregiously factual and historical contradictions of the NT unknown to him?

I think McGrath sees public debate as a forum to preach his personal beliefs instead of answering the problems of his faith.

At one point he admits that he doesn’t recognise the charge of celestial dictator levelled at god by Hitchens, but can see where Hitchens is coming from.  I’m sorry, what?!  You can understand why somebody might believe god to be a celestial dictator, but not agree with them?  Is there that much confusion and doubt about god’s personality that McGrath can sympathise with those who think god is a cruel figurehead in the ultimate totalitarian regime?

McGrath acknowledges the truism that just because we might wish something to be true, doesn’t make it so.  He then adds the self-evident extraneous tautology that just because we wish something to be true, also doesn’t mean that it’s false.  Well, yes, Alistair, very true, but what’s your point?  McGrath not only wastes his time, he wastes everyone else’s too.

He suggests (for McGrath never says anything of certainty, but rather dilly-dallies and prefixes or suffixes every important statement with “perhaps”, “maybe”, “it seems to me”, “in some way” etc), that atheism is another form of wishful thinking.  Perhaps he forgets that the majority of people in the world don’t believe in his particular version of Skydaddy; perhaps he forgets that the burden of proof is on him?  If atheism requires faith, so does believing that Santa doesn’t exist.

McGrath admits that it’s strange that so many people haven’t heard the gospel.  He says this might be unfair, but in regions where the gospel hasn’t been heard, people will be judged on how they’ve acted to the best of their knowledge.  Well, isn’t that what good moral people do anyway?  So, what is the point of the gospel?  Why not judge people based on what they actually do, instead of what they believe, like we do in any enlightened modern secular society?

McGrath also makes the incredibly transparent faux pas of saying that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and the subsequent possibility of salvation by god is an OFFER, and god does not impose this on us. Did McGrath think Hitchens would not pick up on this??  Needless to say, Hitchens does.  Hitchens plainly points out the notion of hell; of infinite punishment for finite sins.  McGrath, in customary fashion, has nothing to say in reply.

When asked about the horror and cruelty in the Old Testament, McGrath again says he must see it through the eyes of his Christianity.  In other words, he says less than nothing.  His words are valueless.  McGrath waxes religiously about “progressive revelation” but I have no idea what this means and I suspect neither does he.  What matters is that once again he talks and talks and says nothing; what about the horror and cruelty in the OT?  How does McGrath reconcile that?  We are left to wonder, because McGrath doesn’t tell us what he thinks.

McGrath obfuscates and equivocates; he equates the search for god with a search for deeper answers, philosophical truths, and metaphysical questions.  He conveniently ignores the reality that religion does not start with questions or searches.  Religion starts with answers.  Religion starts with THE answer: ‘god did it’, and works backwards.

McGrath also admits that his beliefs are a matter of faith and he cannot prove them.  So why does he debate then?  What does he have to offer?  What expertise does he have?  How can he expect to be taken seriously, when the very thing he is supposed to be debating about, he believes even although there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it?  On what merit does he deserve to be on the same platform at a Hitchens or a Dawkins?

Hitchens argues that believing you are a messenger from god, a theist, a believer that there is an almighty being who favours you is the ultimate in selfish wishful thinking and solipsism.  He claims it is arrogant and absurd because you are claiming to know what you cannot possibly know.  What does McGrath have to say?  Only that he doesn’t claim to have any special knowledge.  But as usual with McGrath, this is just rhetorical irrelevant nonsense.  He forgets again, or ignores again, that his beliefs require that he pretend to know things that he cannot possibly know.

In short, McGrath is a huge disappointment.  He does not even compete with Hitchens.  He has no credentials to debate over the subject at hand, but perhaps I cannot be too critical with him for this: the alchemist flushes when the chemistry professor walks into the room; the astrologist is mysteriously quiet when the astronomer shows up.  The theologian huffs and puffs and excuses and preaches and blusters and whines, but anyone with an ounce of common sense can see him for what he is: an expert in the preposterous; one who pretends to know what he doesn’t have a clue about.

Nothing demonstrates the hollow falsity of religion better than that of the issue of morality.  In conclusion, I will reiterate the Hitchens Challenge: “name an ethical statement made by a believer, or an ethical action, that couldn’t have been made by a non-believer.”  The lack of an answer, or perhaps the inability to answer, by theists, speaks volumes.

With Hitchens you get clear, precise questions and clear, precise answers.  He even says that he would be prepared to stay and debate for longer because “I won’t go, if someone can claim I didn’t answer a question.”  And why shouldn’t he say this?  He isn’t the one trying to square the circle.  Another gem he quoted which I hadn’t heard before, from Einstein: “the miracle of the natural order is: there are no miracles.”  In other words, miracles just don’t happen.   There are no easy, lazy, stupid answers.  There’s an explanation for everything.  We don’t need to wrap our heads around supernatural beings.  (Incidentally, McGrath never does respond to the question of whether god intervenes or not in world events.)

The world and the universe is exactly what we would expect to find if religion was FALSE; if we were an averagely-evolved mammalian species, recently appeared on the scene and for the most part, largely under-developed mentally.  There is no mystery for the atheist.  This all makes sense.  There are no apologetics required.  It is the theologians, like McGrath, who must embarrass themselves by dodging and weaving and equivocating, and trying to make sense of ancient Jewish bronze-age myths in a modern world that has long since stopped needing or wanting these ridiculous explanations.

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79 Responses to “Christopher Hitchens versus Alistair McGrath”

  1. salient Says:

    Good summary of McGrath’s pitiful prolix versus Hitchens’ pithy pronouncements. I very much doubt that McGrath really ever was an atheist as he claims. Unless the man is mentally ill, how did he get from rationality to piffledom?

  2. scaryreasoner Says:

    For years, I thought theists must “not all be idiots.” But, after years, I realized I lost that argument to the theists. The theists won. They convinced me. It took years, but they finally did it. They convinced me that they really are idiots.

  3. salient Says:

    I certainly have encountered some irrational theists on the internet. Theists whom I know personally are not quite so bad as the religious wrong.

    I do know some atheists who have kooky ideas — one whom I know doesn’t believe in Christianity, but does believe in fairies and a Cosmic Consciousness.

  4. AV Says:

    Excellent summary, evanescent.

    McGrath claimed that the resurrection was an historical event, and I was disappointed that Hitchens did not ask him to substantiate this claim with solid evidence. I thought McGrath could also have been pressed more on why he finds Christianity more “intellectually satisfying” than atheism.

  5. Darren Says:

    I know it’s ad hominem and all that and I shouldn’t do it, but I find it really hard not to think of McGrath “this man is an idiot”. An intelligent idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

    Listening to McGrath speak is like watching a car crash in slow motion. It’s horrible, and I wish I could look away, but I want to see the next little bit gets mangled, and I come away with nothing of value been learned.

    Hitchens, as you say, is an engaging public speaker. Listening to him speak is an education and a pleasure, and something for which I would happily pay for, even though I know what he’s going to say for the most part.

  6. evanescent Says:

    @ Salient, thanks for the comments. McGrath is an excellent example of “I used to be an atheist, but…” His conversion is one of intellectual cowardice: everything made sense as an atheist but he likes the idea of Christianity more; it gives him hope, comfort, and he takes it on faith. Nothing could demonstrate the abandonment of reason better.

    @ Scaryreasoner: idiot is a subjective term. I prefer to say that people act idiotically at times. I’m sure I act like an idiot when drunk or in love, but rationally at other times. I think most christians are respectable fairly intelligent people, but they shut off the reasoning part of their minds and become idiots when faith is the subject. McGrath is an intelligent man, he is also an idiot. Such in the paradox of the faithful.

    @ AV: many thanks. I was also surprised that Hitchens didn’t challenge him on the historical evidence for Jesus, or the intellectual satisfaction of faith. Although, McGrath made so many vacuous and unsupported assertions, Hitchens would have been there all night debunking them!

    @ Darren: ad hominem is only a fallacy if you argue against one’s arguments based on some attribute of the person. McGrath’s beliefs cannot be attacked on the basis of his personality. There’s no need! He does a fine job shooting himself in the theological foot, when he isn’t filling up his long speeches with irrelevance, that is.

    I like your car crash analogy in a macabrely humorous way! I try to like McGrath and see a genuine friendly person. But then he opens his mouth and ruins it for me.

  7. freedomlineenterprises Says:

    I am looking forward to studying your works in depth. However, I am crunched for time at the moment. I recall the followers of the Way in the first century were called atheists because they wouldn’t give animal sacrifice to a diety…

    New to blogging as of this moment, I am afraid I won’t be able to find this site at a later date, being completely deficient in navigating this terrain. This entry is a request that if I can’t find you again that you will find me…

    All the best,
    Janet Wiebe

  8. tobe38 Says:

    Great post Evanescent, as always.

    Can I draw everyone’s attention to this parody of McGrath at Sexy Secularist, it’s hilarious!

  9. weemaryanne Says:

    I watched about 80% of the “debate,” until I couldn’t take any more of McGrath’s ungainly bob-and-weave. And I’ve been wondering about him ever since.

    Specifically: Didn’t he seem unnaturally unruffled for a guy who’s just had his posterior presented to him?

    He reminds me of certain school-board/PTA types who don’t much mind that most people call them idiots, because they happen to have the ear of the mayor (chief of police / country judge / superintendent of schools) and they know they’ll get their way in the end.

  10. DaVinci Says:

    Good summary, now I have to watch it. So here is one for you to watch as well, (actually several), google Bart Ehrman on google video and check out his New Testament series. I think the New Testament is a better place to challenge the Christian right wing, it is their foundation. Many flaws in that premise.
    Good day!

  11. freedomlineenterprises Says:

    Both Hitchens and McGrath are intellectuals of some merrit, Jewish anst and bobbing behaviour notwithstanding. I too have had my share of post-secondary education reaching to over ten years and considering the blog comments I will not take time on McGrath (although I have had three years of Master of Divinity training) since that is where others’ energies have focused.

    Christopher Hitchens comes off as a man who needs a therapist’s couch to excise his personal demons. He appeals to raw emotion with inflammatory language. He has heard truncated short-hand messages about what the Jews of the First Century wrote about–freedom from ritual sacrifices and a message of ongoing connectedness with the Creator in its stead.
    His argument about “compulsory love” and totalitarianism is quite clever. Cleverness in speech does not, however, speak to accuracy in and of itself. In a post-9/11 world these questions need to be asked to sharpen our thinking and expose the implications of what we say. for example, “Toss the salad” merely means to mix the salad dressing into the salad, not to throw the salad away into the garbage.
    Hitchens is the perfect model for why we need to keep dialogue going for the aggravation in a heart that he displays can misdirect itself into a self-righteous terrorism in and of itself. It is a testimony to how the condition of the heart and the true intent can taint a truly brilliant and useful presentation to keep us honest and free of terrorism in the heart from all quarters on all sides of a debate.
    Personal responsibility includes a choice to love, to be better than we can be on our own. Without love we die a little every moment. To continue without loving is its own consequence. It is convenient to Hitchens to vent his spleen in innacuracies so he doesn’t have to make any decisions other than to rant.

  12. evanescent Says:

    FOE said:

    Christopher Hitchens comes off as a man who needs a therapist’s couch to excise his personal demons. He appeals to raw emotion with inflammatory language.

    On the contrary, he appeals to reason and rationality with exact, precise, and well formulated language. That he is passionate about what he says is hardly a negative. I too feel passionate about the topics Hitchens addresses, because millions of lives have been, and are being, lost over it.

    He has heard truncated short-hand messages about what the Jews of the First Century wrote about–freedom from ritual sacrifices and a message of ongoing connectedness with the Creator in its stead.

    Given how widely travelled and researched Hitchens is, and how much effort he puts into his studies before saying anything, I doubt this.

    His argument about “compulsory love” and totalitarianism is quite clever. Cleverness in speech does not, however, speak to accuracy in and of itself. In a post-9/11 world these questions need to be asked to sharpen our thinking and expose the implications of what we say. for example, “Toss the salad” merely means to mix the salad dressing into the salad, not to throw the salad away into the garbage.

    This doesn’t actually address Hitchens’ arguments though. Why exactly is he wrong about the totalitarian regime of Christianity? Can you explain what he said wrong and why?

    Hitchens is the perfect model for why we need to keep dialogue going for the aggravation in a heart that he displays can misdirect itself into a self-righteous terrorism in and of itself.

    Hitchens is fighting against the rectitude of others; I don’t see any self-righteousness from him. You’re free to think whatever you want, but all you’ve offered so far is opinion with nothing to support it.

    It is a testimony to how the condition of the heart and the true intent can taint a truly brilliant and useful presentation to keep us honest and free of terrorism in the heart from all quarters on all sides of a debate. Personal responsibility includes a choice to love, to be better than we can be on our own. Without love we die a little every moment. To continue without loving is its own consequence. It is convenient to Hitchens to vent his spleen in innacuracies so he doesn’t have to make any decisions other than to rant.

    I’m not really sure what you mean FOE. I don’t know if you watched the entire debate all the way through, but if anyone has, I cannot see how they could possibly agree with your interpretation.
    Thanks for commenting all the same.

  13. DaVinci Says:

    I like Hitchens, he’s refreshingly non-politically correct. It is inevitable that some folks wont like the message simply because of this.

  14. phillychief Says:

    There’s a phrase used by Nietzsche (I don’t know if it’s his or he was just borrowing) that goes “shallow pools muddy their waters to appear deep”. McGrath, like many politicians, blather on at great length as if muddying their responses enough will make you think they’ve answered questions deeply and profoundly.

  15. evanescent Says:

    That about sums it up perfectly, phillychief.

  16. Elika Kohen Says:

    http://www.kohen.com/2007/11/christopher-hitchens-answered.html

    I thought I would answer Hitchens’ challenge. You know, do the whole logic thing. Sorry to have the audacity to bring logic into a religious debate. 😛

  17. evanescent Says:

    Kohen, the very fact that it took you paragraphs and paragraphs of evasive nonsense to answer the question just shows how convoluted the business of apologetics is. Your emperor has no clothes.

    Your answer was “to live by faith.” This is absolute rubbish. Living by faith isn’t a moral action. To live by faith is to reject reason, but reason is man’s primary means for survival, to it is deeply immoral to live by faith.

    The Hitchens’ challenge remains.

  18. Elika Kohen Says:

    Evanescent:

    First of all, the challenge was to state an ethical action, not a moral one. Unless we are now going to equate moral, ethical and pious.

    And absolutely, living a life of faith IS an ethical action because the only way to accomplish it is through ethical action. It is unreasonable to say that living by faith, (which literally means living according to the Word of God) is not an unethical action.

    Living by faith in no way contradicts reason. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. If you define faith as empty and vain wishing, then certainly you have a point. But this is simply not the case, (which point I made).

    Besides, you aren’t exactly qualified to say if a challenge has been satisfied or not. 😛

    Logic does that for us. Again, my appeal to logic. If living a life of faith, (or living according to what God says) is ethical, and it can be shown that no unbelieving person can do this, then this would satisfy the challenge. Even if you consider living by faith to be unreasonable, it is certainly not unethical. If living by faith is then ethical, then challenge is satisfied according to logic. 😛

  19. evanescent Says:

    First of all, the challenge was to state an ethical action, not a moral one.

    Can you explain what you understand as the difference between the two and how it is relevant to this challenge?

    And absolutely, living a life of faith IS an ethical action because the only way to accomplish it is through ethical action. It is unreasonable to say that living by faith, (which literally means living according to the Word of God) is not an unethical action.

    All you’ve done here is repeat what you said originally. You’ve not explained or proved anything.

    Additionally, you’ve compounded your earlier error about faith being ethical with a factual error about the nature of faith. Faith does not literally mean living according to the word of god. Faith is the believing of things hoped for; accepting as real that which you cannot prove. If you disagree with me on this, check out Hebrews 11:1.

    Faith is the acceptance of that which you cannot prove. If you could prove it, you wouldn’t call it faith. There is no point disputing this, and you’re going against your own religion by doing so.

    Faith is, by definition, irrational. But man as a volitional being must be rational in order to survive. To live on the basis of irrationality is to reject one’s primary means of survival. Inasmuch as man chooses to live, he must be rational. In as much as man is rational he needs a code of values to guide his actions. It is this code of values based on the necessity to live that is called morality. To attempt to live by faith, which is irrational, is immoral, because it is contrary to man’s nature as a rational being.

    Besides, you aren’t exactly qualified to say if a challenge has been satisfied or not.

    Yes I am, because I have a brain. You haven’t provided any rational answer to the challenge, therefore it remains.

    If living a life of faith, (or living according to what God says) is ethical, and it can be shown that no unbelieving person can do this, then this would satisfy the challenge.

    True. But 1. you haven’t proved that faith is ethical. 2. Why would living according to what “god” says be ethical? You’re begging the question.

    Even if you consider living by faith to be unreasonable, it is certainly not unethical.

    On the contrary: if faith is unreasonable, it is impossible to live life properly as a rational being because faith requires beliefs that contradict reality. Since reality is ignored only at the expense of man’s life, faith is mentally and physically destructive.

  20. Elika Kohen Says:

    Can you explain what you understand as the difference between the two and how it is relevant to this challenge?

    Neither definition addresses the point at hand: Is living faithfuly according to what God commanded ethical? If this is true, it would certainly fulfill Hitchens’ challenge.

    Additionally, you’ve compounded your earlier error about faith being ethical with a factual error about the nature of faith. Faith does not literally mean living according to the word of god. Faith is the believing of things hoped for; accepting as real that which you cannot prove. If you disagree with me on this, check out Hebrews 11:1.

    No, I didn’t compound my earlier error. First of all, Hebrews 11:1 does not mention the word “Faith”. In the greek, the word is “pistos” which means, to believe or trust. It is only the context of Hebrews 11:1 that allowed the translators to translate it as “Faith”. And if you look at the context, lo and behold you will find that they are all living lives of obedience after they come to believe that God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

    This again proves that true faith ALWAYS implies obedience.

    True. But 1. you haven’t proved that faith is ethical. 2. Why would living according to what “god” says be ethical? You’re begging the question.

    I don’t need to prove that faith is ethical to satisfy the requirements. I just need to prove that the commandments of God for Jews or Christians today are ethical. Because as I argued earlier, living by the commands of God is living by faith. What commands of God that are applicable to Jews or Christians today unethical?

    If they are not unethical, do they not have to be considered ethical?

    On the contrary: if faith is unreasonable, it is impossible to live life properly as a rational being because faith requires beliefs that contradict reality. Since reality is ignored only at the expense of man’s life, faith is mentally and physically destructive.

    You seem to argue that having faith is not ethical because its irrational. This implies that all irrational behavior is unethical. Wow. Is love, which is unrational, unethical? Come on. Just having faith doesn’t make anything unethical.

    Again, my answer is simple. One ethical action that an unbelieving person can not do is to faithfully obey the commandments of God. If you choose not to believe in God, there is know what you can obey His commandments. (This is primarily because most of His commandments bear the intent of drawing nearer to Him. Again, the philosophy of transcendence.)

    If a valid way of defining ethical is by establishing that something is not unethical, then the challenge goes back to you in showing how the commands of God that are applicable for Jews or Christians today are unethical.

  21. evanescent Says:

    Neither definition addresses the point at hand: Is living faithfuly according to what God commanded ethical? If this is true, it would certainly fulfill Hitchens’ challenge.

    So it doesn’t matter whether you use the term “moral” or “ethical”. Ok, fine. So why did you indicate that it made a difference which word we use, when according to you neither definition makes a difference?

    What you have failed to explain is what “living according to what god commands” means? What EXACTLY does god command that is ethical, and could not be said/done by a non-believer?

    And if you look at the context, lo and behold you will find that they are all living lives of obedience after they come to believe that God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

    Obedience does not equal morality. The burden is still on you to prove what is moral about this belief.

    This again proves that true faith ALWAYS implies obedience.

    Really? Why? Why does faith imply obedience? Why does belief without evidence imply obedience? Are you saying that faith is blind obedience to whatever command is issued? Whose command? God’s? Well, proving him is another matter altogether, one that I don’t think you can do. But all the same, what does blind obedience have to do with morality? As I explained earlier, man’s means of survival is his reason. To obey ANY command is a violation of reason and against man’s nature. It is therefore illogical to obey any order from any source without question.

    You seem to argue that having faith is not ethical because its irrational. This implies that all irrational behavior is unethical. Wow. Is love, which is unrational, unethical? Come on. Just having faith doesn’t make anything unethical.

    Your error arises from a misunderstanding of concepts. Would you value the words of someone who said “I love you” if that person was mentally incapable of understanding what that word meant? Love is a concept. Love can make people act irrationally, but it takes an intelligent conceptualising human being to understand what love is and appreciate it, and apply it. Love REQUIRES RATIONALITY.

    One ethical action that an unbelieving person can not do is to faithfully obey the commandments of God.

    Translation: one ethical action that an unbelieving person can not do is believe without any proof and act on the commands of another.

    You must explain why action on the basis of irrational belief is moral. I have already shown that it is immoral to act on faith.

    If a valid way of defining ethical is by establishing that something is not unethical, then the challenge goes back to you in showing how the commands of God that are applicable for Jews or Christians today are unethical.

    A challenge which I could indeed answer, but it’s irrelevant here. Having faith is believing when there is no evidence to support that belief. Ergo, faith is an irrational belief because it requires a contradiction with reality. Contradicting reality is hazardous to human life and therefore immoral.

    Even if you were right (which you’re not) having a belief would not answer the challenge. Acting based on faith, even if you’re right (which you’re not) would not answer the challenge. You have to provide an example of a moral or ethical action/statement that could NOT be permitted by a non-believer. “Living by faith” is not an answer, because it makes no sense; life is a series of life-affirming actions, not a single action in itself. So you must name at least one single life-affirming moral action that a non-believer cannot make.

  22. Elika Kohen Says:

    Again, the point is, even if there was a single ethical action that an unbeliever could not undertake, being unable to perform this one action would not make someone unethical. Logically, Hitchens’ challenge is Invalid, thereby illustrating the futility of the debate to prove that religion has offered no real value to our concepts of ethics. Even Snoopy contributed to our understanding of ethics, (is it ethical to have your dog sleep on the corner of a roof?) 😀

    So it doesn’t matter whether you use the term “moral” or “ethical”. Ok, fine. So why did you indicate that it made a difference which word we use, when according to you neither definition makes a difference?

    True, I do believe that ethics and morality are quite different. But, for the sake of argument and brevity, I am not trying to get into this here. We could perhaps do this in another thread. So, I would just like to use the word ethical as the challenge directly addressed ethics and not morality, (for consistency’s sake).

    Obedience does not equal morality. The burden is still on you to prove what is moral about this belief.

    I have no clue how you have inferred that I am claiming that obedience is ethical. People obey all the time and are not considered ethical, take Hitler’s goons for example. I am also not claiming that belief is ethical. Even the Christian’s claim that the “demons” believe; this doesn’t make them ethical.

    You still are not getting the point. You keep insisting that I am presenting obedience and faith as separate actions. This is simply a misrepresentation of my argument. One ethical action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “live faithfully in obedience to God”. This action is not simply “believing” or simply “obeying”, but obeying what God said. This is an ethical act because it is not unethical, (or is there some neutral state of action that is neither ethical or unethical?) And it is also true because an unbeliever could not do it because it requires belief.

    Your error arises from a misunderstanding of concepts. Would you value the words of someone who said “I love you” if that person was mentally incapable of understanding what that word meant? Love is a concept. Love can make people act irrationally, but it takes an intelligent conceptualising human being to understand what love is and appreciate it, and apply it. Love REQUIRES RATIONALITY.

    I suppose you might want to qualify your assertion that “love requires rationality”. How is love given by a mentally handicapped person any less rational than love expressed by a rational alcoholic? I hope you never find yourself in a position of having a child who is mentally handicapped and justifying your rejection of their love because they are “irrational”. Still, I think many people would stand up and say that on at least one occasion they experienced a love defied reason. But this topic is neither here nor there. So, I will move on to address how there is no such thing as “Blind Faith” in Scripture.

    Please give me an example of “Blind Faith” in the Jewish or Christian Scriptures, making the assumption that blind faith means that there is no evidence to support your believe. But, I am sure that everywhere you look, you will always find evidence to support what people choose to believe. And that evidence is simply this: God said so, and that’s evidence enough for me. Even your quote from Hebrews 11:1 inferred this, that the words of God are sufficient evidence in view of the lack of further evidence or even in the presence of contradictory evidence.

    To put your faith on an authority despite contradictory evidence is rational; sometime what we perceive as conclusive evidence is just a misperception on our part so we place our trust in someone who sees more clearly. Rational people do this all of the time, even apart from God. Again, your point as I understood it was that irrationality is unethical because it always leads to destruction. You also claim that faith is always irrational. Therfore, according to you, faith is unethical because its irrationality always leads to destruction. The only problem with this argument is that it could be shown that even though faith can lead to destruction, it can also lead to life. Since there is no consistency, the argument loses its validity.

    More on the rationality of faith:

    If that which is greater in wisdom, understanding and knowledge declares a truth in power, we can pretty much put our confidence in it. We see this rationally all of the time as parents teach their children, teachers their students, doctors their patients, etc. Is it irrational that a quantum physicist takes his doctor at his word? No, simply because they deem their physician credible. In the same way, those who rely on the evidence of God’s word have considered that which is claimed to be the creator of all credible. Biblical faith is neither blind or irrational. What we have distorted to today is certainly irrational. But, Biblical examples of faithfulness are neither of the two.

    Translation: one ethical action that an unbelieving person can not do is believe without any proof and act on the commands of another.

    According to your so-called translation, this implies that anyone that visits a doctor is unethical because they: 1, often believe what their doctors tell them without proof, and even the proof they are presented they don’t understand; 2, they are unethical because they follow the commands of that doctor. Again, another invalid argument.

    You must explain why action on the basis of irrational belief is moral. I have already shown that it is immoral to act on faith.

    Again, no I don’t. All I have to do, and have done is to name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever. I will do so again in a moment. Perhaps it is my fault that you are not understanding how “Living faithfully according to what God commanded” is an ethical act. I will address this again.

    But, you have not truly shown that it is unethical to act on faith. You could try that argument again compensating for the exceptions that I pointed out regarding credibility, but this still has nothing to do with the argument.

    Even if you did show that acting on faith is immoral, you certainly haven’t shown how living by the commands that are applicable to Jews or Christians today is immoral. Perhaps blindly following and trusting people is immoral. I certainly wouldn’t argue that point, but I certainly don’t see how that has to do with anything I am say because: 1, I am referring to God and not to people, 2, I still do no claim that “Blind Faith” has anything to do with religion.

    Even if you were right (which you’re not) having a belief would not answer the challenge. Acting based on faith, even if you’re right (which you’re not) would not answer the challenge.

    Build up the same straw man over and over again, you just might get a friend for life. Seriously. Of course I believe that simply having a belief is not ethical. Though, it would be hard to prove that believing in God is unethical. But even this is not may argument. We can go there given another opportunity. “Faithfully living according to the commands of God” is the action that I claimed as ethical that an unbeliever cannot undertake. Again, I will explain it further below.

    Remember, the challenge makes the concession to not question the validity of whether or not there is a God in order to make the argument that you can be considered ethical without God. I also agree with this, and I think any believer would also agree with this. Believers would argue that it is not possible to be “pious” without God. This is what I believe Hitchens should have addressed but decided to throw up this irrational smoke screen.

    If a valid way of defining ethical is by establishing that something is not unethical, then the challenge goes back to you in showing how the commands of God that are applicable for Jews or Christians today are unethical.

    A challenge which I could indeed answer, but it’s irrelevant here.

    Not relevant? This is my entire argument. Please show how living by the commands of God that are applicable to Jews or Christians today are unethical, and you win. Hands down. After all, it is argued that pious living is an extension of ethical living. If what is claimed to be pious is unethical, then piety by definition is unethical. So, again, it is VERY relevant to this argument as it is the core of the argument.

    What you have failed to explain is what “living according to what god commands” means? What EXACTLY does god command that is ethical, and could not be said/done by a non-believer?

    If I have failed to explain this, I apologize, not for the lack of effort, but lack of effectiveness.

    What does it mean to “Live according to the commands of God”? Simply? To do what God says and place hope in His promises.

    What EXACTLY does God command that is ethical, and could not be said/done by a non-believer?

    God commanded “to obey His voice”. An unbeliever cannot do this, because they reject His voice. God commanded to “Be Holy for I am Holy”. An unbeliever can also not do this because the conditions for holiness are also defined by God.

    I will give one easier and more tangible to argue. There are more, but again, for the sake of brevity, (you can read the rest in either the Jewish or Christian Scriptures). The Jews and the Christians believe in the “Oneness/Unity” of God, (not that God is a numerical one). And they are commanded to be like God, (being like God is also impossible for unbelievers because they reject God).

    The commandment of Unity among believers, (which they by majority forsake) is incredibly ethical and impossible for all of the unbelievers to perform. Again, by definition, unity requires a belief in something greater because otherwise there would be no power to bond. This “Higher” authority must be immutable as to ensure that this unity transcends time. What can an unbelieving society unify around that unifies them with unbelievers in the past and future as well other than the opposition of God? Human law or ethics? These are mutable and change over time.

    To clarify:
    Faithfully fulfilling the commandment to pursue unity and peace in God is an ethical action, (because it brings peace), that only a believer can undertake.

    Again, my appeal to logic:

    How is it that Hitchens’ argument is deemed credible? Any action, (ethical or not) of belief by definition can not be undertaken by a non-believer because of the requirement to believe.

    It is circular reasoning and totally irrelevant because even the believers don’t argue that unbelieving people cannot be ethical, they only argue that they cannot be pious.

  23. evanescent Says:

    Again, the point is, even if there was a single ethical action that an unbeliever could not undertake, being unable to perform this one action would not make someone unethical. Logically, Hitchens’ challenge is Invalid, thereby illustrating the futility of the debate to prove that religion has offered no real value to our concepts of ethics. Even Snoopy contributed to our understanding of ethics, (is it ethical to have your dog sleep on the corner of a roof?)

    So, from starting out saying that you have positively answered the challenge, you’re now saying that the challenge was invalid after all and requires no refutation?

    True, I do believe that ethics and morality are quite different. But, for the sake of argument and brevity, I am not trying to get into this here. We could perhaps do this in another thread. So, I would just like to use the word ethical as the challenge directly addressed ethics and not morality, (for consistency’s sake).

    Ok.

    I have no clue how you have inferred that I am claiming that obedience is ethical. People obey all the time and are not considered ethical, take Hitler’s goons for example. I am also not claiming that belief is ethical. Even the Christian’s claim that the “demons” believe; this doesn’t make them ethical.

    So obedience in itself isn’t ethical, whether you’re obeying god or not. And belief of any kind isn’t ethical in itself, whether you believe in god or not. I grant this. Therefore I have to ask you why would offered ‘living by faith’, which is by your definition ‘obedience to god’, as an example of an ethical action to answer the challenge. It seems you contradicted yourself.

    You still are not getting the point. You keep insisting that I am presenting obedience and faith as separate actions. This is simply a misrepresentation of my argument.

    Belief is a mental process. Obedience (an action) is a physical one. They are separate things.

    One ethical action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “live faithfully in obedience to God”. This action is not simply “believing” or simply “obeying”, but obeying what God said. This is an ethical act because it is not unethical, (or is there some neutral state of action that is neither ethical or unethical?) And it is also true because an unbeliever could not do it because it requires belief.

    You’re saying faithfully obeying god is an ethical action because “it is not unethical”. That’s a non-sequitor. First of all, actions can be amoral, which means morality doesn’t apply to them. Animals, for action, are neither ethical nor unethical. You have presented the fallacy of the excluded middle here, by saying that obeying god is ethical simply because it is not unethical.

    Second, even if your above answer was valid (which it isn’t), it would be positively immoral to live by faith, for the reasons I’ve explained above.

    I suppose you might want to qualify your assertion that “love requires rationality”.

    I did. I explained that love is a concept, and as such can only be experienced by a being that can conceptualise. Animals, for instance, can’t do this. Some mentally deranged people can’t do this. Conceptualisation requires rationality, therefore love requires rationality, regardless of how it can make people act.

    How is love given by a mentally handicapped person any less rational than love expressed by a rational alcoholic?

    Explained above.

    Please give me an example of “Blind Faith” in the Jewish or Christian Scriptures, making the assumption that blind faith means that there is no evidence to support your believe.

    Better than that, I’ll give you an example of Blind Faith in your own words below…

    And that evidence is simply this: God said so, and that’s evidence enough for me.

    There’s your blind faith right there. God didn’t say anything. A character in a book said something. And despite all the errors and inconsistencies and absurdities in that book, (which you may or may not be aware of), you believe. Your standard of evidence for believing in god is staggering lower than your standard of evidence for everyday beliefs such as the earth orbiting the sun.

    Even your quote from Hebrews 11:1 inferred this, that the words of God are sufficient evidence in view of the lack of further evidence or even in the presence of contradictory evidence.

    But to believe in the face of a contradiction makes no sense. If god said “the sky is green” when you can clearly see it’s blue, would you believe?

    Hebrews 11:1 says “the assured expectation of things hoped for; the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld” – translation may vary. It says nothing of taking god’s word for it. But even if it did, you wouldn’t be taking god’s word; you’d be taken the word of ancient Jews who wrote a collection of books, and then the word of Roman Catholics 1000 years ago who collated the bible together from various books based on their arbitrary person beliefs.

    To put your faith on an authority despite contradictory evidence is rational; sometime what we perceive as conclusive evidence is just a misperception on our part so we place our trust in someone who sees more clearly.

    This implies that we must reject reality as our guide for making decisions, but such a course of action is deeply irrational and very dangerous.

    Tell me, how is this any different to the justification for suicide bombers who have “faith” they are doing god’s will? How will you convince them they are wrong? By argument? By reason? Nope can do, because you’ve rejected such things.

    Rational people do this all of the time, even apart from God. Again, your point as I understood it was that irrationality is unethical because it always leads to destruction. You also claim that faith is always irrational. Therfore, according to you, faith is unethical because its irrationality always leads to destruction. The only problem with this argument is that it could be shown that even though faith can lead to destruction, it can also lead to life. Since there is no consistency, the argument loses its validity.

    The problem for you is that it can’t be shown that faith leads to life. It would require a leap of faith to believe that, and faith cannot be used as an argument to justify itself.

    In order to be moral, one must choose one’s actions based on rational values. A person who accidental killed someone, or accidentally saved someone’s life could be called neither moral nor immoral. Morality doesn’t apply to animals because they are not rational. Since faith is irrational, for a rational human being to live by faith is not only non-ethical but positively unethical and immoral.

    If that which is greater in wisdom, understanding and knowledge declares a truth in power, we can pretty much put our confidence in it. We see this rationally all of the time as parents teach their children, teachers their students, doctors their patients, etc. Is it irrational that a quantum physicist takes his doctor at his word? No, simply because they deem their physician credible. In the same way, those who rely on the evidence of God’s word have considered that which is claimed to be the creator of all credible. Biblical faith is neither blind or irrational. What we have distorted to today is certainly irrational. But, Biblical examples of faithfulness are neither of the two.

    I wonder if your analogies are deliberately disingenuous or accidentally flawed. The difference with experts in a field is that their claims do not contradict reality.

    If god actually existed, perhaps it would make sense to listen to him on many matters. This still wouldn’t justify abandoning your sense of reason though. The problem for you is that there is no evidence at all that god exists, but either way one cannot avoid the need for reason.

    According to your so-called translation, this implies that anyone that visits a doctor is unethical because they: 1, often believe what their doctors tell them without proof, and even the proof they are presented they don’t understand; 2, they are unethical because they follow the commands of that doctor. Again, another invalid argument.

    This analogy is again flawed on so many levels. Instead of pointing them all out, I’ll just say this: at least you know the doctor exists.

    Again, no I don’t. All I have to do, and have done is to name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever. I will do so again in a moment. Perhaps it is my fault that you are not understanding how “Living faithfully according to what God commanded” is an ethical act. I will address this again.

    I am understanding what you’re saying. But as I’ve explained, this isn’t an answer because 1. it’s not a valid answer because it doesn’t refer to any single action 2. living by faith is immoral.

    But, you have not truly shown that it is unethical to act on faith. You could try that argument again compensating for the exceptions that I pointed out regarding credibility, but this still has nothing to do with the argument.

    I have done. See above.

    Even if you did show that acting on faith is immoral, you certainly haven’t shown how living by the commands that are applicable to Jews or Christians today is immoral. Perhaps blindly following and trusting people is immoral. I certainly wouldn’t argue that point, but I certainly don’t see how that has to do with anything I am say because: 1, I am referring to God and not to people, 2, I still do no claim that “Blind Faith” has anything to do with religion.

    The commands that “are applicable to Jews or Christians today” are irrelevant. I didn’t claim that they were immoral, although I do think many of them are, but that’s a separate conversation. Which commandments to Jews or Christians today do you personally consider moral? The commandment to circumcise for example? How about not working on the Sabbath, or only eating certain foods?

    Build up the same straw man over and over again, you just might get a friend for life. Seriously. Of course I believe that simply having a belief is not ethical. Though, it would be hard to prove that believing in God is unethical. But even this is not my argument. We can go there given another opportunity. “Faithfully living according to the commands of God” is the action that I claimed as ethical that an unbeliever cannot undertake. Again, I will explain it further below.

    You must have missed the point I made towards the end of my last comment:

    “Faithfully living” is not an action. Living is not an action in itself. Living is a series of continual life-affirming actions, such as eating, sleeping, breathing, etc. Does one sleep faithfully, or eat faithfully, or walk down the road faithfully? No. ‘Living by faith’ is a meaningless expression. What actual specific action, which precise part of living, which single ACTION that one does faithfully is moral?

    Remember, the challenge makes the concession to not question the validity of whether or not there is a God in order to make the argument that you can be considered ethical without God.

    True. I didn’t say that you must prove god in order to answer the challenge. Faith is irrational whether god exists or not. If god existed and you had definite reliable evidence of this, it wouldn’t be “faith” anymore. If god spoke from the heavens at once all over the earth, there would be no need for faith anymore, for anyone.

    I also agree with this, and I think any believer would also agree with this. Believers would argue that it is not possible to be “pious” without God. This is what I believe Hitchens should have addressed but decided to throw up this irrational smoke screen.

    Why didn’t you say all this to begin with then, instead of pretending to have answered the challenge?

    If a valid way of defining ethical is by establishing that something is not unethical, then the challenge goes back to you in showing how the commands of God that are applicable for Jews or Christians today are unethical.

    Fortunately for me though, to claim that something is ethical simply because it is NOT unethical is a false dichotomy. If this is what your argument rests on, I would say it has been well and truly refuted.

    ”A challenge which I could indeed answer, but it’s irrelevant here.”

    Not relevant? This is my entire argument. Please show how living by the commands of God that are applicable to Jews or Christians today are unethical, and you win. Hands down. After all, it is argued that pious living is an extension of ethical living. If what is claimed to be pious is unethical, then piety by definition is unethical. So, again, it is VERY relevant to this argument as it is the core of the argument.

    Your claim is flawed to the core though. Even if could NOT name one UNETHICAL action that non-believers commit, that still wouldn’t mean you win the challenge. You have to name an ethical action that a non-believer COULD NOT perform.

    Moreover, I COULD name one example of an unethical action that some believers perform: genital mutilation of children. But it’s irrelevant.

    What does it mean to “Live according to the commands of God”? Simply? To do what God says and place hope in His promises.

    What particular action does god command that is ethical, that a non-believer couldn’t do?

    God commanded “to obey His voice”. An unbeliever cannot do this, because they reject His voice. God commanded to “Be Holy for I am Holy”. An unbeliever can also not do this because the conditions for holiness are also defined by God.

    What does it mean to be holy? What kind of action is this? What does it involve? Obey god in what respect? What particular action that god commands is ethical, and couldn’t be performed by a non-believer?

    I will give one easier and more tangible to argue. There are more, but again, for the sake of brevity, (you can read the rest in either the Jewish or Christian Scriptures). The Jews and the Christians believe in the “Oneness/Unity” of God, (not that God is a numerical one). And they are commanded to be like God, (being like God is also impossible for unbelievers because they reject God).

    The commandment of Unity among believers, (which they by majority forsake) is incredibly ethical and impossible for all of the unbelievers to perform. Again, by definition, unity requires a belief in something greater because otherwise there would be no power to bond.

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that being united in belief is an ethical action that non-believers can’t perform?

    What if a group of people are united in their belief that the Aryan race is superior to all others? Is this ethical? Apparently not. So, is the action of unity itself ethical, or does it depend on what is being believed? You cannot force a connection between unity and belief.

    If the action of unity is itself ethical then 1. unity of an evil belief would necessarily be ethical, and 2. non-believers can be just as united as believers; it all depends what they’re united over. What it is that unites them could be anything.

    This “Higher” authority must be immutable as to ensure that this unity transcends time. What can an unbelieving society unify around that unifies them with unbelievers in the past and future as well other than the opposition of God? Human law or ethics? These are mutable and change over time.

    Humanity can unite together for a variety of reasons. You are trying to bring the notion of belief into the notion of unity; they are different concepts. You cannot force belief in the backdoor to make it relevant to unity. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it.

    Is unity ethical or not? Is belief ethical or not? What you’re trying to do is say “unity is ethical if it’s in a certain belief” but this is a deliberate attempt to force two separate concepts together to form a new single “action” – but it isn’t an action.

    If you want to use either of these as an ethical action, pick one: unity or belief.

    Faithfully fulfilling the commandment to pursue unity and peace in God is an ethical action, (because it brings peace), that only a believer can undertake.

    Having ‘a belief to pursue an action and a consequence’ is not an action in itself. You have to break it down to an action: which part of what you said is ethical? Is it the faith? Is it obeying the command (and if so which specific action is commanded?) Is it the pursuing unity? Or is it achieving peace?

    Please pick one. But none of them are unique to believers.

    How is it that Hitchens’ argument is deemed credible? Any action, (ethical or not) of belief by definition can not be undertaken by a non-believer because of the requirement to believe.

    I’ve already addressed this.

    It is circular reasoning and totally irrelevant because even the believers don’t argue that unbelieving people cannot be ethical, they only argue that they cannot be pious.

    So you concede the challenge that there is nothing a believer can do that a non-believer can do? So there is no basis for morality in religion at all?

    Apart from being pious…why is that ethical? If you mean pious to mean clean and virtuous, anyone can do that. If you mean pious to mean religious, zealous, or servile, you have to explain why any of those things are ethical in themselves.

  24. Elika Kohen Says:

    Okay, for the sake of clarity and brevity, I would like to attempt to “reboot” this conversation, if its okay.

    I will start by stating my general argument:

    So, first, please validate the argument or not. If the form of the argument isn’t sound, there is no reason to get into the evidences.

    Argument:
    1: If being pious, “faithfully living according to the commands of God applicable to you”, can be considered an action, and
    2: If being pious is ethical, and
    3: If by definition, belief is required to be pious,
    4: Then the unbelieving can not perform this ethical act of piety because by defintion piety demands belief.
    5: However, even if there was one thing, (being pious for example), a non-believer could not do, that would not make them unethical simply because ethics is morality in view of men, and piety is morality in view of God. Believers don’t argue from their Scripture that people can not be considered ethical apart from God, they only argue that they cannot be pious before God.

    1. Is Piety, (living according to the will of God) an action?

    Hitchens couldn’t have reasonably expected any single action to be presented because what action is not logically composed of many other actions? Since we generally speak of life as an action, “he lived”, it is not unreasonable to consider “living” as an action. It is reasonable to consider living an “action”.

    3. Is Piety unethical because it is irrational? I would much prefer that you conceded that irrationality is not unethical and get onto the bigger issue of whether or not piety is unethical because of what it requires, (or commanded). This is the core of your argument. If I prove that piety is ethical, or you prove that piety is unethical because of its commands, would that resolve this debate? But to address the irrationality argument:

    In this argument, belief cannot be considered irrational since:

    3.1: We have already conceded that God and Religion exist and the belief in God is out of scope of this debate since it was a concession to begin with, or:

    3.2: That God gave instructions and these became religion; and

    3.3: If God (who is by definition wiser than us), taught us and instructed us, then it is reasonable to believe that He exists and to act upon that belief of His existence by considering and adhering to what He said. This logical form can be validated by substituting for God, doctors and teachers as a proof of validity. Therefore, obedience to a God we have already conceded exists, is not irrational.

    4. Is religion required for people to be considered ethical?

    Hitchens’ argument at its core concedes the “God” question arguing that even if there is a God, do believers claim that religion is required for people to be considered ethical? That’s an obvious answer. No. From their Scriptures, the Christians claim that many “good people” will go to hell, and Jews believe that righteousness, (or piety) was obtained before and apart of any law that defined ethical living by statue.

    5. Is pious obedience ethical?

    This is the core of the argument. We could, I suppose, point to a bunch of commands and standards defined by religion, or society, (modern or ancient). We could by reason and cleverness show how each of these instructions are either ethical or not. But due to the sheer magnitude of that undertaking, there is a logical way to short circuit this entire discussion and address a far more pertinent point.

    Is it ethical for a child to disobey their parents?

    The implication here is that a child being under the guardianship of their parents must submit and when they have matured, are given freedom from the authority of their parents. Though, many a man quakes in fear before his mother when he looks for approval for his would be bride. Okay then, moving on. 😀

    In the same way, is it ethical for a man to disobey God, who has by reason of evidence, come by an assured knowledge of God’s existence?

    Regardless of the revelation of God, as someone who commands us to do things that don’t make much sense or not, is it ethical to disobey the One that created you? Does it make sense for a pot to say to its maker, why did you make me this way?

    Regardless of the nature of the commands given by God, how can something descendent say to something transcendent, “you don’t see the truth?” How can something from a single dimension say to that from the second, you have no plane? How can the second say to the third, “You have no mass?” In the same way, how can that what “is” say to that which is within and above all things, “You have no freedom?”

    The point of the argument again is, if a man has been convinced rationally, with evidence that there is a God, how could they rationally second guess the infinite wisdom that they see through the process of enlightenment? How is that rational to forsake such a great revelation?

    But, this is the rub. And certainly for another conversation: Why do we put so much faith in the Bible or religion that has only been propogated through the intellect of man? If it is reasonable to obey God only after our belief has been established in His power, how can it be reasonable to believe in men who propogate their own revelations with no power and solely through heresay? That is certainly not rational.

  25. evanescent Says:

    that would not make them unethical simply because ethics is morality in view of men, and piety is morality in view of God.

    Are you a moral subjectivist?

    Argument:
    1: If being pious, “faithfully living according to the commands of God applicable to you”, can be considered an action,

    It can’t be considered an action.

    By ‘action’, we must here be fairly strict about what we mean: a single self-contained deed or statement, not a series of unrelated actions, and not a loose expression that captures a series of actions and beliefs.

    For example: “feed the poor”, “help people”, “make yourself happy, “love your family”, “don’t steal”, “don’t kill”, “respect people”, etc.

    By “faithfully living according to the commands of god”, I could assume you mean that it is ethical to obey god. But you must show why it is ethical to believe in god, or why morality can be applied to beliefs anyway? You’d already said that belief itself cannot be moral, so you cannot mean this. You must therefore mean that to do as god commands is ethical. But since you cannot mean “obey”, you must mean that there are actions that god COMMANDS that are ethical, that obviously a non-believer cannot perform. So the question remains: what are these actions that god commands that are ethical?

    Let me use one of your analogies to elucidate where you’re going wrong: is it moral for a child to obey their parents? It depends. ‘Obeying your parents’, is too vague to determine whether it is moral or not. It depends on WHAT THEY TELL YOU TO DO. Similarly, you cannot say “obey god faithfully”, because 1. you’re melding different concepts into a single action which makes no sense, and 2. which commandments of god are ethical? All of them? If so, you should have no trouble coming up with an example.

    The point of the argument again is, if a man has been convinced rationally, with evidence that there is a God, how could they rationally second guess the infinite wisdom that they see through the process of enlightenment? How is that rational to forsake such a great revelation?

    Rationality is not a process that one goes through to reach a conclusion, and then abandons it. Rationality is not a courting process before the final marriage comes along. Rationality is an ongoing life-perpetuating process. One can use reason to decide whether god exists or not, but the conclusion of that search is not the end of reason.

    Even if I believed god existed, I would not accept everything it said without question. Why not? Because I do not follow orders unquestioningly. I am not a soldier. I am not a slave, or an animal, or a pet. If god existed, and could prove it to me, I’d be happy to hear what it had to say. Hey I’d be fascinated! But, I am a man, which means I have a faculty of reason, and to surrender that faculty is irrational. There is a difference between putting trust in someone, and agreeing to follow ANY order without question, without THINKING. That is the difference between trust and FAITH.

    In answer to your question: it is not reasonable to invest belief in anything based on hearsay, power, or revelation. The only guide to determining knowledge is reason.

    So, here we reach the crux of the argument: “faithfully obeying the commandments of god.” Which commands? Please name one.

  26. Elika Kohen Says:

    By ‘action’, we must here be fairly strict about what we mean: a single self-contained deed or statement, not a series of unrelated actions, and not a loose expression that captures a series of actions and beliefs.

    For example: “feed the poor”, “help people”, “make yourself happy, “love your family”, “don’t steal”, “don’t kill”, “respect people”, etc.

    Is your only argument remaining the attempt to convince me that obedience is not an action? Let’s apply your so-called “strict rules” to your own examples of “true ethical actions”.

    According to your rules, an action must be, (by the way, please show me a dictionary that reaffirms your brutalization of this English word):
    1. a single self-contained deed: feeding the poor is out, because that is comprised of a whole bunch of other acts, even ethical: buying the food yourself, preparing the food, going, serving, etc.
    2. not a series of unrelated actions: “help people”. Helping one person and then another usually is completely unrelated such as a random act of kindness.
    3. not a loose expression that captures a series of actions and beliefs: “make yourself happy”: that isn’t a loose expression? Make myself happy how? Making myself happy could be eating which includes all kinds of series of actions.

    So, you see, it isn’t logical or reasonable to define the granularity of “action” in this context. No killing and no stealing is the abstaining of action. If we can argue that doing nothing is an action, then it is more than reasonable to argue that living obediently to God is an action.

    Is dying not an action? What about playing basketball? Typing on my keyboard? What is the smallest element of action are we talking about here? Its ridiculous and unreasonable to continue debating what an action is or not if for no other reason than Hitchens’ challenge didn’t place any emphasis on what an action is in the first place. Maybe The Hitchens’ challenge part II will be a bit more clear and relevant. One can only hope.

    But since you cannot mean “obey”, you must mean that there are actions that god COMMANDS that are ethical, that obviously a non-believer cannot perform. So the question remains: what are these actions that god commands that are ethical?

    So, here we reach the crux of the argument: “faithfully obeying the commandments of god.” Which commands? Please name one.

    I do mean “obey”. Specifically, I mean faithfully obey. God commanded us to obey. It was a commandment right along all of the others. Since you don’t seem to approve of the commandment that I chose, (which is the essence of religion), could you please tell me which positive commandments, (requiring action) in the Bible is not a series of other actions.

    I picked the most substantial action in all Judaism and Christianity. It is the ONLY thing that separates the pious from the non-pious. I have said this before, and I will say it again, every ethical action that a believer can perform that an unbeliever cannot carries with it the implication of obeying God. Simply “Sacrificing” is not good enough for God, but obedience. Simply feeding the poor is not good enough for God, but rather feeding the poor with the intent of obeying God.

    There is no commandment in Jewish or Christian Scripture that does not carry within itself the implication of obeying God. Therefore, there is no commandment in the Jewish or Christian Scriptures that can be performed wholly or completely by an unbeliever.

    Pick any commandment that you would concede as ethical. Feeding the hungry works. Christians claim that they are commanded to feed the hungry, (an ethical act, even moral) in view of serving God. Certainly an unbeliever can do the first part, but can they obey it completely? No.

    So, the answer remains, ethical acts that an unbeliever cannot perform that believers can are all those commands given to bring glory to God, (which is pretty much all of them as far as I can tell). More simply, an ethical act that an unbeliever cannot perform is faithfully living according to God’s commands.

  27. evanescent Says:

    So, you see, it isn’t logical or reasonable to define the granularity of “action” in this context. No killing and no stealing is the abstaining of action. If we can argue that doing nothing is an action, then it is more than reasonable to argue that living obediently to God is an action.

    Ah, you forget, the challenge was also to make a moral or ethical statement. “Do not kill” is a moral statement, isn’t it?

    In my purpose to try and explain the nature of your error better to you, it seems I inadvertently gave you another alley to retreat down. Although I did make one mistake: “make yourself happy” isn’t an action in itself although it could be considered an ethical statement. I thought you would understand what I was trying to do is break an overriding all-encompassing concept like “life” and “existence” into discreet actions. I thought this was obvious. Apparently not.

    Its ridiculous and unreasonable to continue debating what an action is or not if for no other reason than Hitchens’ challenge didn’t place any emphasis on what an action is in the first place. Maybe The Hitchens’ challenge part II will be a bit more clear and relevant. One can only hope.

    This is nonsensical evasion. We all know quite well what we’re talking about. You have to name an action of statement sooner or later, so all this meandering around is wasting time.

    I do mean “obey”. Specifically, I mean faithfully obey. God commanded us to obey. It was a commandment right along all of the others. Since you don’t seem to approve of the commandment that I chose, (which is the essence of religion), could you please tell me which positive commandments, (requiring action) in the Bible is not a series of other actions.

    God commands us to obey what? So…god commands us to obey commands. Which commands? The command to obey. So we must obey his commandments. Which commands? The command to obey. So we must obey his commandments. Which commands? The command to obey, etc etc ad infinitum…

    To say that it is ethical to obey, is to say that it is ethical to obey a command to obey the command to obey; a meaningless tautology. Did you really think I wouldn’t spot this?

    But WHICH commandments are ethical? WHICH commandments are moral? You say we must obey, but obedience on its own, whether faithful or not, cannot be moral. Otherwise I could faithfully obey the command to kill children. So the ethical or moral part must be carrying out of a moral or ethical action. Which action?

    It is the ONLY thing that separates the pious from the non-pious. I have said this before, and I will say it again, every ethical action that a believer can perform that an unbeliever cannot carries with it the implication of obeying God. Simply “Sacrificing” is not good enough for God, but obedience. Simply feeding the poor is not good enough for God, but rather feeding the poor with the intent of obeying God.

    Why? What does “obeying god” in that context even mean? What is the difference if I feed the poor because I care for them, or I feed the poor because god says? Why is it ethical to do something generous only if YOU’RE TOLD to do it? Explain this.

    What you are saying is that action is irrelevant; only the motive for the action determines its morality. If this were true, what is moral about doing the same action X only because you “believe”? If I believe in god and do not steal, what is the difference if I don’t believe in god and do not steal? And why?

    There is no commandment in Jewish or Christian Scripture that does not carry within itself the implication of obeying God. Therefore, there is no commandment in the Jewish or Christian Scriptures that can be performed wholly or completely by an unbeliever.

    Well, if this were true, then you wouldn’t be having so much trouble to give me an example of one action! Your continued inability to do so, and your continued evasion and dodging of real meaning, is apparent to all.

    Pick any commandment that you would concede as ethical. Feeding the hungry works. Christians claim that they are commanded to feed the hungry, (an ethical act, even moral) in view of serving God. Certainly an unbeliever can do the first part, but can they obey it completely? No.

    Thank you. You’ve cited an example of an action finally. Ok let’s look at this. Is feeding the hungry ethical? Let’s assume it is.

    If this action is ethical, there is no difference if one is commanded to do it, or if one chooses freely to do it. In fact, I could argue very strongly that it is MORE ethical to perform this action WITHOUT BEING COMMANDED TO.

    Why would feeding the hungry be ethical if done for god, but unethical if not done for god? You can’t proceed any further until you answer this.

    You’ve already conceded that feeding the hungry is an ethical action, in and of itself. A non-believer can do this. You will find this with any other action you can think of.

    Remember, the challenge called for an action or statement, not a belief. And not a certain type of motivated action either; an action is an action.

    No theist I know would offer this as a serious answer because they realise the hollow empty immorality of the it. To me, this seems lack an act of desperation Kohen.

  28. Elika Kohen Says:

    Ah, you forget, the challenge was also to make a moral or ethical statement. “Do not kill” is a moral statement, isn’t it?

    The challenge was an “Or” implying that it was sufficient to do just one. Saying “Do not kill” is arguably not necessarily ethical due to lack of context. But, just for grins, there is a statement that can be made by a believer that the unbelieving cannot make. It is the action of giving a true and faithful testimony. If a believer gives a true and faithful testimony of the truth they received, that would be an ethical action, to give a faithful testimony. However, I would prefer to focus on the action.

    In my purpose to try and explain the nature of your error better to you, it seems I inadvertently gave you another alley to retreat down.

    If you honestly think I am making an error of logic, I would certainly appreciate knowing about it. There are many methods of pointing out logical validity that I am familiar with. So, if you are serious, state the obvious error that I am making and illustrate it through a logical validation.

    Why? What does “obeying god” in that context even mean? What is the difference if I feed the poor because I care for them, or I feed the poor because god says? Why is it ethical to do something generous only if YOU’RE TOLD to do it? Explain this.

    If this action is ethical, there is no difference is one is commanded to do it, or if one chooses freely to do it. In fact, I could argue very strongly that it is MORE ethical to perform this action WITHOUT BEING COMMANDED TO.

    The reason why performing a good deed in view of eternity is more ethical than performing it because it is simply a “good thing to do” is twofold.

    1. Doing something simply because it is the right thing to do is arguably an appeal to your own conscience and an appeal to the standards of society. The reward of that action is fairly immediate. So are the consequences of not pursuing it. Therefore, any effect of this type of action is transient.

    2. Neglecting to do something in the context of eternity is unethical because which wise person who has perceived or contemplated the vastness of eternity would throw it all away just for some temporal satisfaction. Therefore, choosing not to neglect such a great hope, especially when all you have to do is acknowledge God, would certainly seem to be ethical. Investing into others with the intent to have a positive eternal impact, is far more ethical than choosing to not point others to the concept of eternity.

    If a person is convinced that there is a God, who could they consider themselves remotely ethical if they did not try to share a path to eternal life? This brings up the notion of relative ethics. Would definitely prefer not to go down this route. The intent here again is showing that ethics can be seen as relative.

    Therefore, one ethical act can be seen as greater than another. It is very ethical to do something without being commanded to. But, it can be considered more ethical to do that same thing but with an eternal consequence.

    What you are saying is that action is irrelevant; only the motive for the action determines its morality. If this were true, what is moral about doing the same action X only because you “believe”? If I believe in god and do not steal, what is the difference if I don’t believe in god and do not steal? And why?

    Why would feeding the hungry be ethical if done for god, but unethical if not done for god? You can’t proceed any further until you answer this.

    I am certainly saying that action is irrelevant. That is the foundation of my argument that Hitchens’ challenge was fallacious in the first place.

    However, I am NOT saying that the motive determines if it is ethical, but that motivation can make something more ethical. Not having the write motive does not make something unethical unless that motivation twists the action into destruction. There are all kinds of avenues to go down here… But to stay on topic for just a little bit more . . . .

    As for what difference motivation can make, it can determine if an action has a transient impact or eternal.

    No theist I know would offer this as a serious answer because they realise the hollow empty immorality of the it. To me, this seems lack an act of desperation Kohen.

    Actually, any theist that you know who claims that God desires “Obedience and not Sacrifice” will certainly agree that obedience to God is not empty. Again, just doing the right thing is not enough according to Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

  29. Elika Kohen Says:

    Sorry about the formatting woes… There doesn’t seem to be a way to preview. Oh well.

  30. evanescent Says:

    The reason why performing a good deed in view of eternity is more ethical than performing it because it is simply a “good thing to do” is twofold.

    1. Doing something simply because it is the right thing to do is arguably an appeal to your own conscience and an appeal to the standards of society. The reward of that action is fairly immediate. So are the consequences of not pursuing it. Therefore, any effect of this type of action is transient.

    You’re saying that doing something because you believe it is right is insufficient. I reject this. One does not need to appeal to standards of society or personal preference, morality has a standard: rationality.

    You’re also saying that doing something right or wrong depends on whether the reward or punishment is short-lived or not. I reject this. It is irrelevant.

    If an action is moral then the action is moral. There is absolutely no reason to add “but only if you’re getting an eternal reward” at the end.

    2. Neglecting to do something in the context of eternity is unethical because which wise person who has perceived or contemplated the vastness of eternity would throw it all away just for some temporal satisfaction. Therefore, choosing not to neglect such a great hope, especially when all you have to do is acknowledge God, would certainly seem to be ethical. Investing into others with the intent to have a positive eternal impact, is far more ethical than choosing to not point others to the concept of eternity.

    You have drawn no logical connection between an eternal hope and performing a moral action. If you help a dying man in pain and save his life, and consider this action “good”, the good is in saving his life here and now. Your future is irrelevant. There isn’t much else I can say to your comment because most of it was meaningless.

    If a person is convinced that there is a God, who could they consider themselves remotely ethical if they did not try to share a path to eternal life? This brings up the notion of relative ethics. Would definitely prefer not to go down this route. The intent here again is showing that ethics can be seen as relative.

    I don’t believe ethics or morality are relative. Morality is a code of values that guides man’s actions. Each man. Every man. Morality is objective.

    Therefore, one ethical act can be seen as greater than another. It is very ethical to do something without being commanded to. But, it can be considered more ethical to do that same thing but with an eternal consequence.

    And you have came nowhere near to explaining why. When you say “consequence” I think you mean reward.

    However, I am NOT saying that the motive determines if it is ethical, but that motivation can make something more ethical. Not having the right motive does not make something unethical unless that motivation twists the action into destruction. There are all kinds of avenues to go down here… But to stay on topic for just a little bit more . . . .

    Well, if you admit that the motive does not determine the morality of the action, then everything you said above is irrelevant. If it’s moral to feed the hungry then your motive is irrelevant. You also contradict yourself anyway by saying that the motive can “make something more ethical.” The latter implies that motive moves the morality of an action on a sliding scale, so motive can make something more and more ethical, or less and less ethical. But if this is true, then a wrong motive could make something less and less ethical to the point where the action WASN’T ethical anymore, in which case the motive DOES determine the morality of an action.

    You also said at various parts in your last comment that action is irrelevant, and motive is irrelevant. So what’s left to make something moral then? Nothing.

    So you either conceded the argument to me, or you contradicted yourself entirely.

  31. Elika Kohen Says:

    Definitions:
    —————-

    Okay, I think we are at the place where I need to define the difference between “ethics”, “morality” and “piety”. I am having a very hard time trying seeing any of these as synonyms.

    Ethics is that which is customarily or habitually accepted by society. Moral implies that which is right or good. Therefore, some societies may do things by custom or habit that are not necessarily right or good, (Moral). Therefore, not everything ethical is moral.

    Piety takes this one step further and says that an action may not necessarily be “accepted socially as Right or Good, (ethical)”, but that action may be considered pious–“accepted as pleasing to God”.

    Okay, I know these definitions might side track us a bit, but since I am a literalist and speak English, I ask that you take them as is. I would hate to get into an etymological debate on the meaning of these words and detract from the point too much. But pretty much any dictionary would concede these definitions.

    So, for now on, please understand that when I mention “ethics” I am implying a social standard-that which is socially acceptable. Morality implies “Good or Right”. And Pious implies “Pleasing to God”. I can’t try to convey all three thoughts with just two words. Sorry, but it is kinda late here. 😀 Not that clever at 1am. I will continue making the assumption that when you say “ethical” you mean “moral” until you state otherwise.

    You’re saying that doing something because you believe it is right is insufficient. I reject this. One does not need to appeal to standards of society or personal preference, morality has a standard: rationality.

    Rationality, simply put, is having a reason to justify a conclusion. Some people feel that certain reasons or premises justify a conclusion, while others do not. This is relative.

    An example of relative rationality demonstrating two perfectly reasonable conclusions and two perfectly reasonable objections.

    I ate because I was hungry. (Objection: Show more self control!)

    I ate because it was time too. (Objection: Don’t eat if you don’t have to!)

    Anything presented with the intellect of men, can always be debated with the intellect of men thereby making rationalism very relative.

    If you claim ethics are not relative, (though theists would claim morality is not relative), then you must define a reasonable manner in which to derive and test all ethical standards to prove your assertion. Let me know when you do this, I would love to read that. Theists claim they do have a source for how to prove that morality is not relative, (God). This is awfully convenient because if you just delegate your standards of morality to God, you don’t have to go write an entire code for yourself. Okay, so its a little lazy, but awfully efficient. 😀

    If an action is moral then the action is moral. There is absolutely no reason to add “but only if you’re getting an eternal reward” at the end.

    Eternal reward again is what makes something pious or not, because by belief that reward comes from God who is “pleased”. If there is no positive eternal consequence, then the action is not pious. And if this is the case, whether or not it is ethical doesn’t really matter any more since hypothetically, you have now moved beyond your transient life.

    I don’t believe ethics or morality are relative. Morality is a code of values that guides man’s actions. Each man. Every man. Morality is objective.

    You don’t believe? Please say you haven’t entered into the realm of “faith”. 😀 That would be really confusing. Don’t go get yourself irrational on me now. 😀

    I don’t believe morality is relative either, (ethics by nature is). I believe there is an “absolute truth” which constrains all things and guide in the understanding of morality and the definition of what is ethical. I do believe that our PERCEPTIONS of them seem to be relative though.

    Well, if you admit that the motive does not determine the morality of the action, then everything you said above is irrelevant. If it’s moral to feed the hungry then your motive is irrelevant. You also contradict yourself anyway by saying that the motive can “make something more ethical.” The latter implies that motive moves the morality of an action on a sliding scale, so motive can make something more and more ethical, or less and less ethical. But if this is true, then a wrong motive could make something less and less ethical to the point where the action WASN’T ethical anymore, in which case the motive DOES determine the morality of an action.

    Well, if I said it, and you concluded the same thing, it must be true. We agree. Woot! Motive does have an impact on whether or not an action is moral, (right or wrong).

    Though, this implies that what some people perceive as an ethical action, “Giving someone a recommendation for a job”, could really be immoral if your intent is to “replace that coworker you can’t stand because they have big nose hairs.”

    —————–

    Again, Religion has contributed a considerable amount to what we know as “ethics” because religion through “command” has made certain practices socially customary and acceptable. Although, some societies did not accept them, these practices were relatively “ethical”.

    BUT. Can we remove the influence of religion from what we perceive as ethics? It would be like trying to convince the world that the holocaust never took place. Religion has played a major role in the propogation of ethics especially in the dark ages. Yes, somehow despite the hypocrisy of the Church, certain good values were spread.

    I believe it is reasonable to understand Hitchens’ challenge as, “Is there anything MORAL, (good thing or right thing) that an unbelieving person cannot do that a believing person can?”

    It is obvious that having an eternal positive impact is a “good” and “moral” thing. Feeding the hungry is moral and even ethical. But feeding the hungry AND investing for good in an eternal future has with it a good that those who do not believe in an afterlife cannot obtain.

    So again, a good that a believer can do that an unbeliever cannot is to “faithfully obey all of the commandments of God” because each of these commandments carries a positive eternal impact if performed to testify of God.

  32. evanescent Says:

    Rationality, simply put, is having a reason to justify a conclusion. Some people feel that certain reasons or premises justify a conclusion, while others do not. This is relative.

    Rationality is not relative. To quote Ayn Rand: “Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.”

    Anything presented with the intellect of men, can always be debated with the intellect of men thereby making rationalism very relative.

    This is incorrect. Man integrates his experiences with logic and with relation to reality. Logic and reality are objective, therefore objective knowledge is possible, and only possible, with reason.

    If you claim ethics are not relative, (though theists would claim morality is not relative), then you must define a reasonable manner in which to derive and test all ethical standards to prove your assertion. Let me know when you do this, I would love to read that. Theists claim they do have a source for how to prove that morality is not relative, (God). This is awfully convenient because if you just delegate your standards of morality to God, you don’t have to go write an entire code for yourself.

    Yes I couldn’t agree with this last part more: religion saves you having to think for yourself. This is the height of intellectual and moral laziness. It tries to solves a rational problem by avoiding reason.

    As for an objective standard of morality, I will present one, but will not explain it here as it’s a subject for another thread. Morality is a code of values that guides one’s actions. Values are rational and based on the standard of one’s own life. Whatever benefits and sustains man’s life is good. Whatever is detrimental or harmful to man’s life is bad. There you go.

    Following a code of morality that reduces to “because god says so” is to sacrifice one’s reason and morality to the whims of another. As rational beings, our morality must be rationally accepted.

    Well, if I said it, and you concluded the same thing, it must be true. We agree. Woot! Motive does have an impact on whether or not an action is moral, (right or wrong).

    Well that’s all well and good, but you contradicted the part where you said the motive does NOT determine the morality of an action.

    Again, Religion has contributed a considerable amount to what we know as “ethics” because religion through “command” has made certain practices socially customary and acceptable. Although, some societies did not accept them, these practices were relatively “ethical”.

    Being socially customary or acceptable does not make an act moral or ethical. This is moral subjectivism. Doing whatever god says is not a valid moral basis, because it too is subjective. All moral subjectivism reduces to moral impossibility.

    Religion has played a major role in the propogation of ethics especially in the dark ages. Yes, somehow despite the hypocrisy of the Church, certain good values were spread.

    Religion has also played a major role in the propagation of disgusting practices and immoral teachings, and blatant lies. Which good values were spread by the church? And were they spread by command and force, or reason? Which values (such as life, honesty, intelligence etc) are dependent on religion? None, is the answer.

    But feeding the hungry AND investing for good in an eternal future has with it a good that those who do not believe in an afterlife cannot obtain.

    This isn’t a moral action. It’s an “investment” – your words, or a reward for an action. Non-believers may or may not get this reward, but that doesn’t stop them committing moral actions.

    Getting an eternal reward is an action that is bestowed on you. It is not an action you commit in yourself. It is only a mindset you hold whilst performing the SAME action. So this fails to answer the challenge.

    So again, a good that a believer can do that an unbeliever cannot is to “faithfully obey all of the commandments of God” because each of these commandments carries a positive eternal impact if performed to testify of God.

    You keep repeating yourself on this; I’ve already refuted it. You already concede that an action can be moral if you’re commanded to do it or not. It makes no sense to perform “an act faithfully”; you must be specific: which act? If it’s moral to take care of the ones you love, how does one do this “faithfully”? This is ambiguous at best and meaningless at worst.

    Finally, you avoided the part where I pointed out that you blatantly contradicted yourself. You said motive didn’t determine the morality of an action, then said that it did. You said that the action itself was irrelevant, whilst saying that an action could be moral in itself. You then said that the motive itself was irrelevant, whilst also saying that motive could make an action moral. You seem to think that neither component of any action is moral in itself, but combine motive with belief (despite your best efforts at contradicting yourself), and all of a sudden some morality mystically emerges?

    Unfortunately, I’m unable to refute most of what you said, because it is self-contradictory and illogical. What you have presented that is logical I believe I have logically refuted.

    You need to rid yourself of your moral and epistemological subjectivism, understand the difference between the words “belief” and “motive” and “action”, and realise that performing an action X with the particular mindset of “faith” is not a different action than performing X without faith; the mindset is different, the action is not.

  33. Elika Kohen Says:

    … realise that performing an action X with the particular mindset of “faith” is not a different action than performing X without faith; the mindset is different, the action is not.

    If I perform moral action X with the mindset of faith, (the intent to glorify God), it is different than performing the same moral action X without that mindset.

    Why? Because performing that action with the mindset of giving a true testimony of God is a “Good” thing to do. If my motive is to testify the truth of something, then I am in essence completing two moral actions.

    I am performing moral action X while performing moral action Y, (giving a true testimony).

    ——————–
    Please look at the logical form of this argument before you again claim that it is irrational. If it is a valid argument, then please examine the premise.

    It might be a logical argument with faulty premises. You have yet to explain which is the case.

    Rationality is not relative. To quote Ayn Rand: “Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.”

    This is incorrect. Man integrates his experiences with logic and with relation to reality. Logic and reality are objective, therefore objective knowledge is possible, and only possible, with reason.

    I love these quotes but they tend to support my point. Logic is not relative. Rationality is.

    Logic and Rationality are not the same thing. The process of coming to a conclusion based on certain reasons, is Rationalism BY DEFINITION. It doesn’t matter if the reasons are logical or not, it is still considered rationalism by definition.

    Faith in general is rational in that people give reasons to justify their faith. Again, this is rationalism by definition.

    Is it logical? You would have to prove that the logical form of that rationalization was invalid. Or alternatively, you would have to prove the premises false.

    This is the process of establishing if something is “Unreasonable” or “Illogical”. Simply calling something “irrational” doesn’t make it so.

    Values are rational and based on the standard of one’s own life. Whatever benefits and sustains man’s life is good. Whatever is detrimental or harmful to man’s life is bad. There you go.

    Awesome. Let’s test your code of Morality! I think we have tried this before, but here goes again.

    Whatever benefits and sustains a man’s life is good:

    So, euthenasia is bad. Life support is good. Denying people the right to die when they want is good. The “Matrix” is good because all of the “Copper Tops” were sustained, even in deception.

    Whatever is detrimental or harmful to man’s life is bad:

    Eating too much steak is immoral because it is bad for you; therefore, freedom to eat what you wish is immoral. Having the freedom to defend your country is unethical because that will result in detriment of another’s life. Boycotting the olympic games in China is good because they censure free speech, and harm people’s lives in the process; even though boycotting the olympic games in China may deny certain people income and have another detrimental effect.

    I am going to not think of all of the invalid issues with this, (logically invalid do to lack of consistency). I am going to assume that there are quite a few more details in your code that you cannot present here. This implies pretty significant complexity. Is it reasonable to accept one man’s code of ethics? How about 20? How about 300? A 1000? I think the overwhelming consensus of intellectuals in Iran currently support what the rest of the world deems unethical. And, it could be argued that their positions are “rational” even logical.

    Following a code of morality that reduces to “because god says so” is to sacrifice one’s reason and morality to the whims of another. As rational beings, our morality must be rationally accepted.

    I am not certain what history will ever say of my ability to reason, my knowledge, my understanding, or my sense of wisdom. But, I consider it pretty insignificant in view of eternity. There is so much that I don’t understand that the one true understanding that I have, is that there is no way I can come close to understanding anything revolutionarily significant.

    I have no problem throwing something away that even you consider worthless in exchange for ultimate knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

    The truth is this: A bunch of self proclaimed “Reasoning Rationalists” are trying to convince what they claim is an “irrational world” through the use of reason and logic. This is the most insanely irrational thing I have ever heard. A truly rational approach would be to evangelize the teaching of reason and logic in grade schools and for it to be a mandatory component of every phase of education. That would be the “Logical” first step. If atheists every want to convince a world to speak rationally, then they have to first start by teaching them the language.

    I am sorry, but I still don’t see any greater rationality or reasoning facility that “Atheists” have privy to that the believing don’t. Oh, unless of course you want to claim Einstein was illogical. People are not illogical or irrational because something they believe is unreasonable. People are irrational when they stop being rational.

    You can argue that a rational being can argue that we are mortal giving certain evidences. By defintion, you would be correct. As long as they give evidences or reasons, that would imply they are rational.

    But then again, a rational being can argue that we are immortal giving certain evidences. By definition, this would also be correct. As long as they give evidences or reasons, they are rational by definition.

    Being socially customary or acceptable does not make an act moral or ethical. This is moral subjectivism. Doing whatever god says is not a valid moral basis, because it too is subjective. All moral subjectivism reduces to moral impossibility.

    Actually, socially customary and acceptable is the TRUE defintion of the greek word ethikos and how we define “Ethics” today. I made this argument earlier. Check out a dictionary.

    But, absolutely, customary or acceptable has little to do with Morality. Just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it Moral. This would be the bandwagon fallacy.

    Doing whatever God says does not have to be subjective. If God comes down on top of a mountain, opens up the Earth to swallow those that rebel, heals the sick and then commands a nation what to do in all of their hearing, this could hardly be considered subjective because only one person isn’t impacted.

    Then again, subjectivism is not necessarily bad either. Sometimes we “feel” that something is the right thing to do contrary what everyone else thinks or reasons. We could get into all kinds of “Logical” and “Reasoning” debates if the subjective decision for Einstein to do what he did was “Moral” or not. He knew very well the consequences of nuclear power. And yet he did. I think you would agree that the morality of his decision can be debated logically from any point of view. Unfortunately, it will be very hard to come to a conclusion while being limited to perceiving such a fraction of time.

    This is where God comes in. Since God by definition sees every action in context of eternity, only He can determine what is truly moral or not. This is especially true if we concede that the true morality of something is heavily impacted on its results as well as its intent.

    Finally, you avoided the part where I pointed out that you blatantly contradicted yourself. You said motive didn’t determine the morality of an action, then said that it did. You said that the action itself was irrelevant, whilst saying that an action could be moral in itself. You then said that the motive itself was irrelevant, whilst also saying that motive could make an action moral. You seem to think that neither component of any action is moral in itself, but combine motive with belief (despite your best efforts at contradicting yourself), and all of a sudden some morality mystically emerges?

    Again, Motive determines piety. Motive also contributes to the determination if something is moral. However, it can still be argued that the actual fruit or effect of an action also contrinbutes to the determination of morality.

    Again, I so don’t follow your logic. I get that you perceive that I am contradicting myself. But, I am not.

    Motive and result by themselves are not enough to determine if something is moral. But my argument transcends morality and goes into piety. And again, according to piety, action, (or obedience, or moral behavior) is simply not enough to be considered pious. The motivation to glorify God must be present in obedience to please God. On the otherhand, simply stirring up “love” or “good will” in your heart to feed the hungry won’t impute piety without faithful action. So, it is impossible to separate “Obedience” from “Faith”.

    This leads me straight back to my original statement which of course I keep repeating because it is the core of my argument.

    A moral action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “Faithfully obey the commands of God.” This is true because:
    1. It is impossible to faithfully obey God without believing in Him.
    2. It is impossible to obey the commands of God and not give faithful testimony of God.
    3. It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act.

    This is a logical form, so to prove it as invalid, show an inconsistency. Otherwise, disprove its premises. If it is “Logical” then it is a reasonable response and we can move on to things far more significant.

    ————————————-
    To validate that this answer is a faithful representation of Jewish and Christian faiths, here is a verse to prove that the acknowledgement of God’s might, (fearing Him) and Obeying Him, are what truly distinguishes the pious from the unbelieving.

    Kohelet, (Eccl. 12:13 & 14, ESV)
    The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

  34. Elika Kohen Says:

    There as a major type-o in my last post… Sorry.

    I am sorry, but I still don’t see any greater rationality or reasoning facility that “Atheists” have privy to that the believing don’t. Oh, unless of course you want to claim Einstein was illogical. People are not illogical or irrational because something they believe is unreasonable. People are irrational when they stop being rational.

    Should read:

    I am sorry, but I still don’t see any greater rationality or reasoning facility that “Atheists” have privy to that the believing don’t. Oh, unless of course you want to claim Einstein was illogical. People are not considered irrational because something they believe in is illogical or unreasonable. People are irrational when they stop being rational. People are irrational only when they stop giving evidence for what they believe

    Not a very significant point, but I wanted to clarify.

  35. evanescent Says:

    If I perform moral action X with the mindset of faith, (the intent to glorify God), it is different than performing the same moral action X without that mindset.

    Why? Because performing that action with the mindset of giving a true testimony of God is a “Good” thing to do. If my motive is to testify the truth of something, then I am in essence completing two moral actions.

    No. You’re still trying to sneak motive in the back door as part of the action itself.

    You’ve already conceded that a moral action can be moral in and of itself. You’re talking in riddles and clouding the issues. Perhaps you think you can pass some ambiguous mystical words off as a valid reason? I don’t know. “Giving a true testimony of God” – what does this even mean?

    I save a dying man. A good thing. If I’m a believer and I save a man, how is that any different to being an unbeliever and saving a man?

    This is where you are logically going wrong: you are attempting to combine two actions into one action, and an action and a motive into one action. THIS is why your reasoning is illogical.

    Giving a true testimony to god is another action in itself. What does this even mean? What part of saving a man’s life is giving true testimony to god? And why?

    What would the “truth” of god have to do with performing a moral action anyway? You are trying to prove that any action is somehow less moral, or not moral, if not done out of belief in god. Not only is there absolutely NO reason to grant this, it reduces to moral subjectivism: an action is only truly moral if god says so.

    Please look at the logical form of this argument before you again claim that it is irrational. If it is a valid argument, then please examine the premise.

    It might be a logical argument with faulty premises. You have yet to explain which is the case.

    You haven’t presented a logical syllogism with premises, inferences, and conclusions for me to refute a premise. If you want to know where you’re going wrong logically, I’ve explained this above.

    You might also want to look at the multiple contradictions that I’ve exposed that you keep ignoring.

    I love these quotes but they tend to support my point. Logic is not relative. Rationality is.

    Logic and Rationality are not the same thing. The process of coming to a conclusion based on certain reasons, is Rationalism BY DEFINITION. It doesn’t matter if the reasons are logical or not, it is still considered rationalism by definition.

    If the reasons are not logical, then one isn’t being rational.

    Otherwise, I could rationally claim that the sky is blue because it’s 3 in the afternoon. This is illogical, and therefore irrational.

    I didn’t say logic and rationality are the same thing. I said that man reasons based on the fact of logic, which is the nature of existence itself.

    Faith in general is rational in that people give reasons to justify their faith. Again, this is rationalism by definition.

    No it’s not. Since there is no evidence or proof for god, there is nothing for man to integrate by logic into his knowledge. Therefore, it is impossible to know god. The man who says he knows god means he BELIEVES in god; this is not the same thing. It is an act of faith without justification, and therefore irrational.

    Is it logical? You would have to prove that the logical form of that rationalization was invalid. Or alternatively, you would have to prove the premises false.

    You’ve not presented a logical argument with premises for me to refute. As for your misgivings about rationality and logic, I’ve corrected you above.

    This is the process of establishing if something is “Unreasonable” or “Illogical”. Simply calling something “irrational” doesn’t make it so.

    That’s true. My word doesn’t make it so. The fact that it contradicts reality and logic makes it irrational.

    Awesome. Let’s test your code of Morality! I think we have tried this before, but here goes again.

    “Whatever benefits and sustains a man’s life is good”:

    So, euthenasia is bad. Life support is good. Denying people the right to die when they want is good. The “Matrix” is good because all of the “Copper Tops” were sustained, even in deception.

    If a man is on life support, he is not enjoying any quality of life and cannot even experience it.

    People have control over their own bodies.

    Whatever is detrimental or harmful to man’s life is bad:

    Eating too much steak is immoral because it is bad for you; therefore, freedom to eat what you wish is immoral.

    Wrong. That’s another non-sequitor. Man has freedom because of his nature as a rational being. A man will eat steak to sustain his life and because he enjoys it; it enriches his life and makes it more enjoyable and meaningful. If he is rational, he does not damage his body because this would be detrimental to his life. I did not say “do whatever makes you happy”.

    Having the freedom to defend your country is unethical because that will result in detriment of another’s life.

    If one’s life is threatened in times of emergency it would be unethical to sacrifice your own life (your own values) for those of a total stranger whom you don’t value.

    Boycotting the olympic games in China is good because they censure free speech, and harm people’s lives in the process; even though boycotting the olympic games in China may deny certain people income and have another detrimental effect.

    Actually, boycotting the Olympic games in China would be a good thing, because it is a fair and ethical way to protest at the way in which China violates human rights. The fact that certain people will have reduced or no income as a result of this is not a concern of morality; the moral code as stated above categorical REFUTES the notion that one has a duty to sustain the lives of others.

    I am going to not think of all of the invalid issues with this, (logically invalid do to lack of consistency). I am going to assume that there are quite a few more details in your code that you cannot present here. This implies pretty significant complexity. Is it reasonable to accept one man’s code of ethics? How about 20? How about 300? A 1000? I think the overwhelming consensus of intellectuals in Iran currently support what the rest of the world deems unethical. And, it could be argued that their positions are “rational” even logical.

    I really don’t know what you’re saying anymore. The moral code as stated above is objective and universal to all men. It is based on rational and necessary values that apply to all men.

    I am not certain what history will ever say of my ability to reason, my knowledge, my understanding, or my sense of wisdom. But, I consider it pretty insignificant in view of eternity. There is so much that I don’t understand that the one true understanding that I have, is that there is no way I can come close to understanding anything revolutionarily significant.

    If you cannot understand anything of significance then that understanding itself cannot be very significant because otherwise you wouldn’t understand it. So your understanding that you cannot understand is either false or insignificant.

    I have no problem throwing something away that even you consider worthless in exchange for ultimate knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

    Well, leaving aside for a minute that this ultimate knowledge etc that you seek is a false promise invented by ancient Jews, you must rationally choose to attain what you wish if it is of value to you. Rationality demands that these values be attainable however. The heaven you seek is not, because it doesn’t exist.

    The truth is this: A bunch of self proclaimed “Reasoning Rationalists” are trying to convince what they claim is an “irrational world” through the use of reason and logic. This is the most insanely irrational thing I have ever heard. A truly rational approach would be to evangelize the teaching of reason and logic in grade schools and for it to be a mandatory component of every phase of education. That would be the “Logical” first step. If atheists every want to convince a world to speak rationally, then they have to first start by teaching them the language.

    I would like to see critical thinking taught in school from a very early age. There’s no use for the word “evangelise”. If people were better at thinking rationally, nonsense like faith and religion would dry up even more than they already have.

    I am sorry, but I still don’t see any greater rationality or reasoning facility that “Atheists” have privy to that the believing don’t.

    I didn’t claim that atheists necessarily do. We all have the faculty. Atheists are just an example of people using that faculty better than theists in at least ONE area.

    You can argue that a rational being can argue that we are mortal giving certain evidences. By defintion, you would be correct. As long as they give evidences or reasons, that would imply they are rational.

    But then again, a rational being can argue that we are immortal giving certain evidences. By definition, this would also be correct. As long as they give evidences or reasons, they are rational by definition.

    Fine. But the evidences or reasons must not be arbitrary or subjective. They must be valid, logical, and objective. There are no such reasons or evidence for what you believe.

    Actually, socially customary and acceptable is the TRUE defintion of the greek word ethikos and how we define “Ethics” today. I made this argument earlier. Check out a dictionary.

    Yes, and the dictionary is symptomatic of our morally subjectivist culture. Moral subjectivism is self-contradictory and reduces to moral nihilism. It needs to be rejected.

    But, absolutely, customary or acceptable has little to do with Morality. Just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it Moral. This would be the bandwagon fallacy.

    For the purposes of this, I am using ethical and moral as the same thing.

    Doing whatever God says does not have to be subjective. If God comes down on top of a mountain, opens up the Earth to swallow those that rebel, heals the sick and then commands a nation what to do in all of their hearing, this could hardly be considered subjective because only one person isn’t impacted.

    What?? How many people are IMPACTED doesn’t make it subjective or not! If the source of morals is subjective then so is morality. In other words, killing is good or bad based on what god says. God could say rape is good and it would be.

    Morality is a code of values that guides actions. Values are that which one acts to keep and/or gain, which means one can value only that which one needs, wants, and can lose. God does not need anything and cannot lose anything. By definition, he cannot value anything, because he cannot act to keep or gain anything. Because he has no choice over what to value, and because he is necessarily the way he is, a choice of actions (morality) is irrelevant to him. The word moral cannot apply to god.

    Then again, subjectivism is not necessarily bad either. Sometimes we “feel” that something is the right thing to do contrary what everyone else thinks or reasons. We could get into all kinds of “Logical” and “Reasoning” debates if the subjective decision for Einstein to do what he did was “Moral” or not. He knew very well the consequences of nuclear power. And yet he did. I think you would agree that the morality of his decision can be debated logically from any point of view. Unfortunately, it will be very hard to come to a conclusion while being limited to perceiving such a fraction of time.

    Subjectivism IS a very bad thing. It is self-refuting and an impossible basis to form any moral opinion. What one “feels” at a point in time is irrelevant. The universal standard is man’s life, and amongst men: the right to exist; ergo individual rights. Emotions are a product of one’s mental state and actions, they should not be the rational determiner of action.

    This is where God comes in. Since God by definition sees every action in context of eternity, only He can determine what is truly moral or not. This is especially true if we concede that the true morality of something is heavily impacted on its results as well as its intent.

    As I’ve explained above, morality cannot apply to god. If god can invent a moral code that is objective and universal to all men, so can we. So we don’t need god to give us this morality, we can discover it for ourselves.

    Again, Motive determines piety. Motive also contributes to the determination if something is moral. However, it can still be argued that the actual fruit or effect of an action also contributes to the determination of morality.

    Again, I so don’t follow your logic. I get that you perceive that I am contradicting myself. But, I am not.

    Yes you are. I’ve already listed your contradictions above so I won’t do so again.

    Even if motive determines piety, being pious is not being moral.

    Morality is acting consistently with one’s rational values.

    The motivation to glorify God must be present in obedience to please God. On the otherhand, simply stirring up “love” or “good will” in your heart to feed the hungry won’t impute piety without faithful action. So, it is impossible to separate “Obedience” from “Faith”.

    You have offered no reason at all why obedience or faith or piety are necessarily moral, or why they magically make any action moral when it otherwise would not be, (even though you’ve already conceded that an action can be moral by itself).

    This leads me straight back to my original statement which of course I keep repeating because it is the core of my argument.

    A moral action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “Faithfully obey the commands of God.” This is true because:
    1. It is impossible to faithfully obey God without believing in Him.
    2. It is impossible to obey the commands of God and not give faithful testimony of God.
    3. It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act.

    This is a logical form, so to prove it as invalid, show an inconsistency. Otherwise, disprove its premises. If it is “Logical” then it is a reasonable response and we can move on to things far more significant.

    I don’t think you’re aware of what a proper logical argument looks like. The above isn’t one. It’s a set of 3 premises!

    Your assertion “Faithfully obeying the commands of God is moral”, does NOT flow from the premises. You haven’t even stated it as number 4.

    So I don’t need to disprove your (dubious) premises; the “argument” isn’t even in logical form anyway.

    To validate that this answer is a faithful representation of Jewish and Christian faiths, here is a verse to prove that the acknowledgement of God’s might, (fearing Him) and Obeying Him, are what truly distinguishes the pious from the unbelieving.

    I don’t care if I believe or not or if I’m pious or not.

    Here’s something that illustrates the madness of your position:

    1. God says “be nice to people” (for example)
    2. I am nice to people even though I’ve never heard god’s command.
    3. You are nice to people and have heard god’s command.
    4. I am not moral. You are.

    Totally illogical. It means that no action can be moral in and of itself (despite what you said earlier), but only being aware of an arbitrary command of god makes something moral. Not only is this ridiculous, it reduces to moral subjectivism.

    Kohen, I suggest you go away and read our discussion again and see where you’re going wrong. You’re fighting a lost battle and your comments are getting more and more desperate. All I can do is repeat myself and point out where you keep going wrong. I have explained it perfectly well. I’ll continue this debate if you correct your errors; present a properly-structured logical argument, reject moral subjectivism, and/or present something new.

  36. Elika Kohen Says:

    On Logic

    You’re fighting a lost battle and you comments are getting more and more desperate. All I can do is repeat myself and point out where you keep going wrong.

    You are calling me desperate. Dude. Ad Hominem? A believer has nothing to lose and eternity to gain. Even if you could convince me that Truthful testimony given by a witness on a witness stand cannot be considered moral, I still wouldn’t be desperate. I would simply point to yet another “moral action”.

    You haven’t presented a logical syllogism with premises, inferences, and conclusions for me to refute a premise. If you want to know where you’re going wrong logically, I’ve explained this above.

    You seriously got to get a grip on your definitions:

    A syllogism (συλλογισμός — “conclusion”, “inference”), In its most basic form, the syllogism consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.

    My earlier argument that my answer fulfills Hitchens’ challenge:

    A moral action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “Faithfully obey the commands of God.” This is true because:
    1. It is impossible to faithfully obey God without believing in Him.
    2. It is impossible to obey the commands of God and not give faithful testimony of God.
    3. It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act.

    You said:

    I don’t think you’re aware of what a proper logical argument looks like. The above isn’t one. It’s a set of 3 premises!

    Your assertion “Faithfully obeying the commands of God is moral”, does NOT flow from the premises. You haven’t even stated it as number 4.

    Its a set of three premises intended to prove the conclusion. That by definition is a syllogism. The “logic” keyword “Because” is the hint that it is a conclusion followed by premises. Oh looky. A Syllogism for you to disprove.

    I haven’t stated it as number 4? Good grief dude. Some people like to put the conclusions first, so if you agree, you can skip all the premises. Sorry, this IS truly desperate if you are refuting the form of my syllogism because it is upside down.

    But, to comply with your demands, I will present it again:

    Premises:
    1. It is impossible to faithfully obey God without believing in Him.
    2. It is impossible to obey the commands of God and not give faithful testimony of God.
    3. It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act.

    Therefore:

    Conclusion:
    A moral action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “Faithfully obey the commands of God.”

    ——————————–
    Summary of your Objections so far:
    ——————————–

    What does Testimony Mean?

    You’ve already conceded that a moral action can be moral in and of itself. You’re talking in riddles and clouding the issues. Perhaps you think you can pass some ambiguous mystical words off as a valid reason? I don’t know. “Giving a true testimony of God” – what does this even mean?

    Giving a true testimony to god is another action in itself. What does this even mean? What part of saving a man’s life is giving true testimony to god? And why?

    This is a valid objection challenging semantics.

    Ambigious and mystical? Hardly. Testimony. I guess this could be hard to understand if you haven’t heard of Martha, Clintin or O.J. So, here goes.

    Testimony
    A solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official

    Gee. Sounds pretty moral to me.

    Faithful Testimony of God
    A solemn and True declaration usually made orally by a witness of God under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official

    Yup. Doesn’t really seem ambigious. If someone sees God, percieves His acts, hears from Him, then they are legally considered as a “firsthand authenticator” of a fact.

    Is faithful obedience to God, (Piety) ethical?

    1: Obedience to God, literally and by defintion, is ethical, (socially acceptable) because a great number of people on our planet observe this. But we concede that Hitchens’ was truly implying Moral and not Ethical. So, I continued to address “Morality”.

    2: It has not been argued that there are any unethical commands of God given to either Jews or Christians today that are immoral.

    3: An example of a command of God that is ethical is to give faithful, (true) testimony of your walk with Him.

    Is giving a testimony of God ethical?
    1: Giving a faithful testimony is ethical.

    2: As long as you testify truthfully, your testimony doesn’t become less moral because of who you testify of.

    3: Giving a testimony of your walk with God is impossible for an unbeliever because they have no walk with God.

    Giving a Testimony of God through obedience is multiple acts
    1: This is irrelevant because Hitchen’s placed no focus on the granularity of an ethical action.
    2: There are no positive commands in Jewish or Christian Scripture that are not composed of multiple actions.
    3: If there are not positive commands in Scripture that are not composed of multiple actions, it would seem preposterous and unreasonable to interpret Hitchens’ challenge as “Give me a moral command that is not composed of two or more subactions that only believers can undertake.

    HOWEVER:

    I will simplify my answer just to make sure this dual “action” nonsense goes away:

    A moral action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to:

    “Faithfully give testimony concerning their walk with God.”

    You know, I think Atheists could see the value in conceding that this is a reasonable response.

    Because the an extremely logical response on the part of the Atheist would be:

    Great! Now, show me a believer who does this today and I will convert!

    On Logical Refutations

    I am asking you to be straight forward in your refutation of this. Go number by number. Be systematic or something. I am pretty certain that I would understand if you laid it out logically and point for point.

    Like this:

    Your premise #1:

    1. It is impossible to faithfully obey God without believing in Him.

    Say: Conceded or Objection: And give a reason if you object. Just saying you don’t agree isn’t rational unless you give a reason.

    I would like a rational refutation of the argument’s form or premises.

    For example, you could point out a premise error by making the following, reasonable, objection.

    Your premise states: “It is impossible to obey the commands of God and not give faithful testimony of God.” However, you give no evidence to support that faithful testimony falls into God’s “commandments”.

    At which point, I would be forced to defend a reasonable objection by pointing out commands in Scripture to this effect.

    So, again. Can you point out any false premises or validity errors in this argument without throwing out more Red Herrings? I would love to give a response for every question you have, but this is thread is not the place for it.

    Just for my own sanity, I am also sending this argument to logicians to validate it for me. If they find any errors, I will be sure to let you know.

  37. evanescent Says:

    This was the only part of your comment that needs addressing:

    Premises:
    1. It is impossible to faithfully obey God without believing in Him.
    2. It is impossible to obey the commands of God and not give faithful testimony of God.
    3. It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act.

    Therefore:

    Conclusion:
    A moral action that an unbeliever cannot undertake is to “Faithfully obey the commands of God.”

    No. No. No. All you did is move your assertion, which you’ve dubbed “conclusion” to the end of your three premises.

    Ok, I’ll do you a favour and tell you where you’re going wrong. In fact, I’ll compose the argument for you:

    P1: True and faithful testimony is a moral act.
    P2: True and faith testimony can only be performed by a believer.
    Conclusion: There are moral acts that only believers can perform.

    Assuming “true and faithful testimony” applies to god, we can grant Premise 2 as valid, even though god doesn’t exist.

    The flaw is with Premise 1: you define “true and faith testimony” as a series of actions based on obedience.

    1. You still haven’t named any single action. I therefore assume you mean ANY and EVERY action in which one obeys god. This makes the action arbitrary and amoral; what makes the action moral is whether one obeys god. If the action is amoral then morality cannot apply to it, in and of itself. Therefore you contradict the entire purpose of your argument which purports to present a MORAL action. To be consistent, you should say “no action can be moral unless one obeys god in performing it”.

    2. If ANY action is moral as long as one obeys god, then obeying any commandment of god is moral. This is flawed because then the moral action is the OBEDIENCE in itself, and any subsequent action is irrelevant. This is also flawed because you are reduced to moral subjectivism again. If god tells you to “kill a pregnant woman” that would be moral. If god said “kill yourself even though you want to live” that would be moral. Moral subjectivism is self-refuting, so your position is self-contradictory.

    3. All other contradictions aside, Premise 1 is wrong because there is no reason to grant it. It should really state “Obeying any command of god is moral”. But then if it did, it would require blind obedience to any command without the use of thought; without reason. Morality cannot apply to action without possibility of reason. To purposefully reject rationality when making a moral decision is immoral.

    So, not only have I pointed out exactly where you’re going wrong, I even formulated your argument properly for you and then refuted it. And before you say I destroyed a strawman, you should look at everything you’ve written, and see that I constructed a logical argument for you based on everything you said. Your counter-challenge has been refuted.

    Just for my own sanity, I am also sending this argument to logicians to validate it for me. If they find any errors, I will be sure to let you know.

    We don’t need logicians. Your own sense of reason based on logic should be good enough.

  38. Elika Kohen Says:

    A re-edit of my argument:

    Premises:

    1: It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act regardless of who is being testified of; giving testimony is a moral act.

    2: It is impossible for a true witness of God to give faithful, (true) testimony without believing that God is; this act excludes unbelievers.

    3: It is impossible for a witness to give faithful testimony of the true nature of God and not obey the commandments of God; this defines “follower” or “believer”.

    Therefore:
    A moral action that a believer can perform than an unbeliever cannot is to “Give faithful testimony of God through their word and through their obedience to His commands.”

    Explanation:

    A moral action that a believer can perform than an unbeliever cannot is to
    1. Give faithful testimony: a moral act, (faithful implying true and continual)
    2: of God: requires the observer to witness God thereby excluding unbelievers
    3: through their word and through their obedience to His commands: Establishes credibility that the witness has seen the true nature of God. All witnesses are required to be credible.

  39. evanescent Says:

    Your re-edit doesn’t help: it divorces an action from whether it is obedient or not (which funnily enough is what you’ve been trying NOT to do all along). You put the emphasis on obedience as the moral action. Therefore the subsequent action is irrelevant and “obedience” is the moral action you are searching for.

    Now that we’ve got your action that a non-believer cannot perform, we can safely reject it.

    1. There is no reason for obedience to ANYONE in and of itself to be moral.
    2. It once again reduces to moral subjectivism because one must abandon one’s own reason and sense of morality and act on any whim of god.

    Moral subjectivism is self-refuting, therefore your position is. I can’t see any escape for you on this.

  40. Elika Kohen Says:

    The flaw is with Premise 1: you define “true and faith testimony” as a series of actions based on obedience.

    Giving a witness of something, even one time can be considered moral. Fine, lop off the obedience portion if you like and reduce it to a spoken thing. It doesn’t matter.

    For the sake of simplicity, I am not arguing that obedience is moral, ethical, amoral or whatever. I am arguing the obedience is evidence of the testimony. We always establish the credibility of witnesses in court, why is it unreasonable to establish the credibility of a witness of God?

    My argument again:

    Premises:
    1: It is impossible to consider true and faithful testimony as an immoral act regardless of who is being testified of; giving testimony is a moral act.

    2: It is impossible for a true witness of God to give faithful, (true) testimony without believing that God is; this act excludes unbelievers.

    3: It is impossible for a witness to give faithful testimony of the true nature of God and not obey the commandments of God; this defines “follower” or “believer”.

    Therefore:

    A moral action that a believer can perform than an unbeliever cannot is to “Give faithful testimony of God through their word and through their obedience to His commands.”

    Notes:
    A moral action that a believer can perform than an unbeliever cannot is to
    1. Give faithful testimony: a moral act, (faithful implying true and consistent)
    2: of God: requires the observer to witness God thereby excluding unbelievers
    3: through their word and through their obedience to His commands: Establishes credibility that the witness has seen the true nature of God. All witnesses are required to be credible.

  41. evanescent Says:

    According to you, giving testimony to god requires obedience to him.

    You also say that obedience is “not…moral, ethical, amoral or whatever.”

    But how does one give testimony to god? According to you, by obeying his commands.

    So even though obedience is not moral or ethical or “whatever” in itself, it is only by obeying god that one gives testimony to him, and therefore commits a moral action.

    I think you just contradicted yourself again.

    PS: that argument you keep repeating isn’t an argument. It is invalid because the conclusion doesn’t flow from the premises. I don’t intend to keep repeating myself on this. And, with all due respect Kohen, every comment you post contains a new contradiction. Perhaps you should cut your losses and forget answering the Hitchens challenge.

  42. Elika Kohen Says:

    I am not in any way implying that giving testimony TO God is in anyway moral. I am arguing that giving faithful, (true and consistent) testimony OF God is moral.

    According to you, giving testimony to god requires obedience to him.

    Yes, the obedience is required to establish the credibility of the testimony. But the moral act that I am arguing fulfills Hitchens challenge, is faithful testimony.

    I still believe living faithfully is another act, but to stay out of the arguments of “compound actions” I have settled on this one. It does make the argument much simpler. Thanks!

    But rather here, I am simply arguing that:

    Obedience is simply what makes the testimony credible.

    You also say that obedience is “not…moral, ethical, amoral or whatever.”

    Okay.. Not sure where you get that from, but I believe that theists would argue that nothing is moral unless it was commanded. Furthermore, even obedience without the source is not considered moral. But let’s clarify that “faithful testimony” is the moral act that I am proposing.

    But how does one give testimony to god? According to you, by obeying his commands.

    I mentioned this earlier with my Martha, Clinton, O.J. example. You open your mouth. And unlike them, you give your testimony faithfully, (truthfully and consistently).

  43. evanescent Says:

    Kohen, there was nothing of note you presented in that last comment to respond to. You just changed a few words and ducked and weaved a bit more. My previous comment stands. I strongly suggest, in the most respectful way possible, that you call it a day on this topic.

  44. Elika Kohen Says:

    🙂 Done. I will let it rest. Thanks for your time! It was fun and I managed to refine the argument a lot with your help. If you ever care to peruse it, I posted my latest draft of my argument addressing your objections. Thanks again!

    http://www.kohen.com/2007/11/christopher-hitchens-answered.html

  45. evanescent Says:

    You were refreshingly open and pleasant to argue with Kohen. A noticeable difference to some other theists I have debated with. All the best.

  46. jesusis42 Says:

    it is always funny to hear you atheists apply a double standard. Anyone who agrees with you is brilliant and those who do not are ignorant. If McGrath seems to “bob and weave” it is because he understands that this is a question that cannot be answered definitively by either side. Why embarrass himself by claiming to know the answer for sure.

    If a grey goose flies overhead, it proves that there are grey geese. It does not prove that all geese are grey. This is why you foolish atheists have a burden of proof also, if you claim to know that there is no God.

    You should be honest and just claim to be agnostic. if not then show me the proof for your “knowledge”. Ohhhhh, that’s right, you don’t have any.

  47. evanescent Says:

    Jesuis, I do know that god doesn’t exist. I know with 100% certainty that he doesn’t exist. My proof? The entire concept of god is self-contradictory. For the same reason that I know square circles don’t exist, I know that God doesn’t exist. The entire myth of god is nonsensical and illogical – it contradicts reality.

    You have zero proof for your beliefs which is what would be expected of figments of your imagination.

    If you think I have been too harsh with my response, I’d remind you that you are calling atheists foolish and implying they have a burden of proof which is absurd. Anyway, I identify as an Objectivist primarily which makes me an atheist in principle and practice. This also means that I don’t agree with all atheists just because they’re atheists. Being an atheist says nothing about your personality, morality, or rationality.

  48. jesusis42 Says:

    i don’t think you are being harsh, you are just not applying the same standard to your own ideology that you are to mine. You claim that you can be 100% certain that my beliefs are wrong without having to prove it, but i have to prove that i’m right? That is a double standard. If you have no proof that means that we are in the same boat. You don’t have to believe in the existence of a Creator, but it is arrogant to claim that you are 100% certain that He is not there if you have no proof that He is not there.

    I am not one that thinks that if you don’t believe in God that you are evil. I know that there are good and bad people on both sides of the issue. I also know that both sides cannot be right. I hope that you are interested in knowing the truth and not in defending an ideology, because an idea that cannot stand up to scrutiny is not worth defending.

    I will have to read up on Objectivism. I confess i do not know enough about that philosophy to even have a response.

  49. jesusis42 Says:

    BTW, it wasn’t me calling you foolish. It was King David of Israel in Psalm 14:1

  50. evanescent Says:

    BTW, it wasn’t me calling you foolish. It was King David of Israel in Psalm 14:1

    I’m aware of the verse. Time was, I could look up any verse in the bible in 10 seconds 🙂

    i don’t think you are being harsh, you are just not applying the same standard to your own ideology that you are to mine. You claim that you can be 100% certain that my beliefs are wrong without having to prove it, but i have to prove that i’m right? That is a double standard.

    I don’t have to prove that your beliefs are wrong. Proof presupposes that we have the capacity for reason, reason being the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. However, the supernatural is a contradiction of the axiom that existence exists and that existence is identity; that we can be sure that A = A. In other words, the supernatural is a denial of existence. If we CAN KNOW anything, we can know the supernatural cannot exist.

    If you have no proof that means that we are in the same boat. You don’t have to believe in the existence of a Creator, but it is arrogant to claim that you are 100% certain that He is not there if you have no proof that He is not there.

    Is it arrogant to believe that square circles don’t exist?

    The difference between Objectivism and the usual empiricist atheists who deny god, is that I don’t have to give degrees of probability for the existence of god. I am not asking you to prove that god exists either – I know he doesn’t. The entire concept is antithetical to reason. The epistemological primary is existence, which means existence exists. IF god existed, It would be subject to this axiom, which means existence exists (including god) no matter what god wills or whims. Therefore, “god” cannot deny or change existence or identity; miracles are impossible; the supernatural is a contradiction. In fact, god’s entire personality is a contradiction (a being that should have no values of any kind, yet it does, but that’s another discussion).

    So it’s not arrogance, and it’s not a question of proof. Proof presupposes logic and reason, which presupposes that existence is our epistemological primary. Metaphysically, philosophically, god cannot exist.

    I am not one that thinks that if you don’t believe in God that you are evil. I know that there are good and bad people on both sides of the issue. I also know that both sides cannot be right. I hope that you are interested in knowing the truth and not in defending an ideology, because an idea that cannot stand up to scrutiny is not worth defending.

    I am indeed interested in truth; truth being the conscious identification of fact. Since fact is knowledge derived by a process of reason using data from man’s senses, and man’s senses CAN NEVER identify the supernatural, knowledge or “truth” about god is a contradiction in terms.

    But I totally agree that an idea that cannot stand up to scrutiny is not worth defending; unfortunately the concept of “god” fails at the first hurdle. If you have the same commitment to truth, I hope you stick around for a good discussion.

  51. jesusis42 Says:

    It seems that you have had this discussion many times before. I have not studied this as much as you obviously have. Please explain how the supernatural cannot exist. Aren’t there many things that cannot be perceived by man’s senses? Why do you say that God is like a square circle.

    If a supernatural being were able to reveal certain aspects of it’s identity, then would it exist?

    I have more questions, but i will wait on those so you don’t get a typing cramp 😉

    As far as truth is concerned, Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. I hope the scripture quotations don’t offend you. Feel free to throw in some Rand.

  52. evanescent Says:

    Please explain how the supernatural cannot exist. Aren’t there many things that cannot be perceived by man’s senses? Why do you say that God is like a square circle.

    You are still hanging onto the idea that god’s existence is a matter of empirical detection; as if someday we can learn for certain whether he exists or not via sense experience. But we have already established that even if god exists, he is not open to the possiblity of human knowledge. However, we will now go on to see that proof of god is irrelevant, because he actually CANNOT exist:

    Ultimately, everything knowable is transformed into knowledge via our senses and a process of reason. Whilst we cannot see atoms, we can study their structure with electron microscopes which communicate data via the senses. If we do not study atoms ourselves, we can read about science in books or hear lectures – which is sense experience. The denial of sense experience is the denial of knowledge, which is why, axiomatically, sense experience is taken as valid.

    The supernatural is a fantasy term used to sum of all sort of magical beings that cannot properly exist in “our” universe, (as if there were more than one). But existence exists, and ONLY existence exists. If a being exists, it is part of existence; it is part of the universe – the totality of existence. And if a being exists, it is that being (itself) and acts according to its nature. Cause and effect is a property of identity; all existents behave according to their nature and the result is effect. This cannot be denied without denying the nature of existence. Now, a supernatural being is one that contradicts this rule and the law of identity. To take one example: ghosts. This is a non-physical immaterial being that can: see, hear, speak, move, etc. This is a laughable flouting of reality: to see without eyes or the impact of light waves, to hear without ears and the affect of soundwaves. To speak, without vocal cords or the ability to transform air into noise. Etc etc.

    To take another example: god. God is a being that is supposedly outside of existence (in other words, it is non-existent), that can violate the law of existence at whim. He can make a pear an apple, or a planet a ball-bearing, at will. But miracles are, as David Hume quite rightly said, a violation of the very principles of sense experience. Our knowledge rests on the axioms that existence exists, and that we can experience it. If existence exists, then miracles are impossible, and any being that can contradict reality is impossible. If we presuppose that existence exists (which we must), EVERYTHING is subject to existence and the law of identity, including god. Which means god cannot have any sort of power to violate this law. (And this is without even getting into the contradictions inherent in god’s personality and nature!)

    Square circles cannot exist, because squares and circles are defined in such a way as to be mutually exclusive. What you are witnessing here is the law of identity at work. “God” and “existence” are mutually exclusive. They are both defined in such ways as to be mutually exclusive. You would have to significantly modify your definition of god to make it possible to exist, in which case it would not be your god anymore. We know that existence exists. Therefore god doesn’t.

  53. jesusis42 Says:

    Would it be fair to say that you believe that sensory experience and reason are the basis for existence? If so, would that mean that atoms had not existed before they were discovered?

    If i say that I believe that there are blue men that live on Pluto, then would it be possible for them to exist according to your philosophy?

  54. evanescent Says:

    Would it be fair to say that you believe that sensory experience and reason are the basis for existence? If so, would that mean that atoms had not existed before they were discovered?

    No. Sensory experience is an epistemological axiom not a metaphysical primary – the metaphysical primary is existence; existence exists. Everything is subject to existence, including consciousness, which means that existence exists independent of consciousness.

    Man had no knowledge of atoms before he was capable of knowing through experience, but atoms existed all along.

    If i say that I believe that there are blue men that live on Pluto, then would it be possible for them to exist according to your philosophy?

    If you’d understood what I’d said so far, you wouldn’t ask that question. Consciousness describes reality, it does not affect it. Reality cannot be affected by our thoughts, hopes, desires, or emotions. (Incidentally, that is why the Objectivist ethics recommends action based on reason, never emotion. To act on emotion is to reverse the order of cause and effect; it is trying to change the universe to your whim).

    Of course, in a religious worldview, consciousness has primacy over existence. To the religious, the idea of reality changing to suit our demands (or God’s) is accepted. Unfortunately, this contradicts any epistemological basis for reason, so faith must be used. It renders man’s mind impotent and useless at knowing anything or reaching any conclusion. It turns man into a thoughtful automaton that must obey “god” based on “faith”. But how does man “know” that god exists? Blank out. How does man “know” that what he’s being told is in fact “right”? Blank out. How does man “know” that his faith in one thing is accurate whilst faith in another thing is not? Blank out.

    How does the religious man “know” these things? He feels they are right; once again we see the attempt to translate emotion into reality. He “feels” God’s presence; he “just knows” his faith is true whilst everyone else’s faith is wrong. This is the cause of a Primacy of Consciousness worldview: emotionalism; the effect: self-destruction. Emotionalism is the placing of one’s feelings (regardless of rationality or source) over reality itself. Nothing is more deadly to man. Why? Because existence exists, whether we want it to or not.

    Emotions react to existence, not the other way around. A PoC worldview is fundamentally false, therefore god cannot exist.

  55. Alex Says:

    I think most christians are respectable fairly intelligent people, but they shut off the reasoning part of their minds and become idiots when faith is the subject.

    Well yeah, you should read that sentence again

  56. evanescent Says:

    Faith requires the shutting off of reason. The same applies to atheists. Atheists aren’t necessarily more intelligent than theists, they just believe in one fewer irrational proposition.

  57. Cheree Says:

    Great disection of the “debate”(if it could be called that). Unfortunatley, McGrath is perhaps the most equipped at debating theology. There really isn’t any other standpoint that a theist could make other than “it’s a matter of faith” and quoting from religious text.

    Although, I dont really see the point in anybody debating the existence of god.. Paticularly with Hitch or Dawkins. They (believers) only come out of it looking ignorant and naive.

    But as Hitchens says, the best part of being an atheist, is getting to argue.

  58. Elika Kohen Says:

    evanescent said
    ———————–
    Faith requires the shutting off of reason. The same applies to atheists. Atheists aren’t necessarily more intelligent than theists, they just believe in one fewer irrational proposition.

    Elika’s Response:
    ———————–
    Okay dude. I thought we were past this? How is that you claim that “Trust requires the shutting off of reason”?

    I use the term “Trust” here, because there is no such thing as “Blind Faith” in Scripture. But regardless of how you choose to define faith, (as belief or as trust), Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive.

    Your really unquantified claim that atheism presupposes fewer unreasonable premises is quite entertaining. 😛

    There are many reasonable, (rational) justifications for a person to “believe” and especially to trust.

    Now, perhaps you meant “belief in God”? It would be nice to figure out what you are talking about. Either way, both claims are evidently incorrect. I just want to know which you are talking about. 🙂

    http://www.kohen.com/2008/06/christopher-hitchens-answered.html

  59. evanescent Says:

    Elika,

    A strawman is a poor way to start a response. Nowhere have I claimed that “trust requires the shutting off of reason”. I do claim that FAITH requires the shutting off of reason. You appear to have deliberately replaced one word with another, thus distorting the meaning of my words.

    Here is what I originally said: “Faith requires the shutting off of reason.” It was TWO posts above yours.

    Of course, the reason for you doing this is obvious: the two have totally different philosophical and psychological meanings, a fact you clearly accept, otherwise you wouldn’t have felt the need to deliberately replace the words. So despite knowing the two words have different meanings in this discuss, you deliberately misrepresented me in order to make your case seem stronger. Interesting.

    If you wish to disagree with this definition you are twisting the meaning of your own beliefs and religion. If you want “faith” to mean “trust” then you’re distorting the true religious meaning of the word. If all the evidence and reason pointed towards Christianity and god, the word ‘faith’ would be meaningless. Nobody has “faith” that the sun will rise tomorrow, we simply know it. Nobody has “faith” that the heart pumps blood, we know it because it’s a proven scientific fact. Nobody has “faith” that they exist; their very ability to even think on the issue establishes the fact. However, nobody “knows” that gods exists. There is not a single fact of existence that points towards god. In fact the fact of existence is positive proof that the supernatural (and god) is a meaningless expression. The very fact of existence makes virgin births, weeping statues, resurrection, talking donkeys, burning bushes, arks, worldwide floods, disembodied “souls”, angels and demons, impossible. Nobody “knows” the first thing about such imaginary events/creatures, they have “faith” in them. Which I think says it all.

    Elika said: “Your really unquantified claim that atheism presupposes fewer unreasonable premises is quite entertaining.”

    Another example of you twisting my words. Let’s look at what I actually said:

    “Atheists aren’t necessarily more intelligent than theists, they just believe in one fewer irrational proposition”

    I didn’t say anything about presupposing premises. I only claimed that atheists BELIEVE in ONE FEWER irrational propositions. Which is true. I am not defending atheists in general and don’t identify myself with the same “crowd” as Hitchens and co; the New Atheists, if you will. I disagree with all of them on the most fundamental philosophical issues. The only thing I have in common with them is atheism. But atheism isn’t a primary or a worldview. Atheism is a philosophical statement drawn from an epistimological primary: existence exists, which means the supernatural doesn’t. The justification of this can be found in other articles of mine.

    Elika said: “There are many reasonable, (rational) justifications for a person to “believe” and especially to trust.”

    I don’t disagree. There are many reasonable rational justifications for a person to believe and trust. What does this have to do with anything? Oh, I see, you’re switching words again. According to you then, “trusting” then I can cross the road if I see no cars in either direction is the same as “trusting” that god sent a flood to murder every single living thing on the planet because “man is evil”, and then afterward promises never to do it again because…”man is evil.”

    Elika said: “Now, perhaps you meant “belief in God”?”

    There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. That is clearly what I meant, and you know it. But you spent 90% of your reply twisting words and only addressed what I actually meant at the very end.

    Elika said: “Either way, both claims are evidently incorrect.”

    Well one of those claims is one I never made; you just made up something and pretended I said it.

    As for the other, that “faith is irrational”, it is not “evidently” incorrect, as you have no evidence that faith is reliable. But if you had proof for any of the supernatural propositions you hold, you wouldn’t need faith, you would just say “Hey I know God exists, and here is the proof”. And if you did that you would become the most famous person in human history.

    But of course, you can’t. Not just because there is no evidence for god, but because the facts of existence preclude the supernatural.

    If I appear curt, it’s because I don’t take kindly to being misquoted and misrepresented. If you wish to continue this discussion I suggest you read my comments more carefully and argue what I actually said, not what you think or would like me to have said. Doing otherwise raises questions over your integrity.

  60. Tyler Says:

    What a horrible summary of the debate.

    You said:

    “What expertise does he have? How can he expect to be taken seriously, when the very thing he is supposed to be debating about, he believes even although there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it? On what merit does he deserve to be on the same platform at a Hitchens or a Dawkins?”

    The better question is what merit do Hitchens or Dawkins have discussing religion when neither of them have degrees or any kind of religious training. At least McGrath is professionally educated, and is an Oxford University professor of religion.

  61. HumppaJumala Says:

    Indeed…

    I mean freedom of speech is nice thing and all that but I mean seriously Dawkins, who is a biologist, talks about theology. As one theologian put it: “I have studied theology for twenty years and they haven’t even read one theology related book. But still they have audacity to call it irrational and foolish. They are telling me that I’m teaching magic!”… And it’s strange how atheist thinks he can define what faith means, usually it’s something like this: irrational and blind. Suuuuuuure.

    Why do I even get started when I have real things to do. I just say this: Read philosophy! After that start debating. We would have been saved from so much thrashtalk if Dawkins and Hitchens (Ditchens) had read even a little shred of philosophy but no.

    Now, good sirs, I have a life.

  62. evanescent Says:

    Tyler, like you need a professional qualification to talk about religion. I can understand qualifications on history, literature, archeology, philosophy, all related to religion, of course. But a qualification in religion, please, don’t even try to play that game.

    As for philosophy, I agree that neither Hitchens nor Dawkins impress me in this regard, not since I encountered Ayn Rand, who blows them all away, theists included. “God” has no more place in a legitimate self-consistent worldview than magic does. It’s one and the same. Either existence exists, or magical beings to. The former is axiomatic so the latter is negated from square one.

  63. Michael Says:

    Interesting points – I personally have found Alister McGrath more engaging in his writing than when debating.

    In reading the comments on your article I was struck that love to be ethical requires rationality and understanding. I realise you were debating with another person over several posts but felt that you missed the point they were making – that a mentally handicapped child can show immense love and yet not have a sense of understanding it – they just do. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to experience this, in particular through the l’Arche movement. When one experiences the pure love of some of the children and adults with mental handicap, it makes one think about how often we spend so much time making our love conditional and self serving. So, those with a mental handicap might not understand it but that love which they can give (and is very real) is profoundly beautiful and ethical.

    I would hope you wouldn’t dismiss such a thing lightly?

    All the best
    Michael

  64. evanescent Says:

    Hi Michael, I believe I can address your primary issue with just one question:

    Are you suggesting that love should NOT be conditional and self-serving??

    Please give your answer quite a lot of thought before responding.

  65. evanescent Says:

    Also, ethics only relates to actions freely chosen. To choose an action means to make a conscious decision in the face of alternatives. Actions that are not conscious or without alternatives are outside the province of ethical criticism.

    A thoughtless ethical action is a contradiction in terms, which is why ethics only relates to man – the only entity that can consciously choose. Animals are amoral, as are plants and rocks. To the extent of their incapacity, so are mental vegetables.

    A retarded human unable to comprehend its own behaviour or choices no more loves a person any more than a dog loves its owner. Note that this concept of love ennobles and exalts the human race; love is one of the most pleasurable and satisfying selfish values in human life; it is not a sacrificial state of dependency or blind affection.

  66. Ana R Kist Says:

    Interesting point I am curious as to what branch of ethics you use as a reference I think that is alone is what would be required to be establised and this may assist in answering the question that Michael proposed.

    Also who have you been influenced by to come to a conclusion I have found this aides in a more clear and concise reponse with little room for issues as it is then based with in some type of framework and has boundaries as opposed to abstract and then generalised terms.

    I am actually very interested in this area. I have worked with some severly disabled and I tend to agree with your last statement Evanescent. Mind you in a different way I have also found this fitting with many humans not those who are severly disbaled of course this is a different perspective and view point.

    Ayn Rand is one of my favourites there has been no one really that can even compare to her. A different league is Dawkins is just a showman and Hitchens similar mind you it is unfortunate about his illness. I realise they have other professions but all in all they are out and out showman.

    Also I am interested in how people define pure love as it is a emotion and would possibly relate to our experiences. Which are thus all different.

  67. evanescent Says:

    You mention Ayn Rand as one of your favourites, and her work is the single biggest influence of my life, which considering I was raised a fundamental Christian is quite a statement. I base my worldview on her philosophy which I have freely accepted to the best of my knowledge.

    It’s not just mentally incapacitated humans who are incapable of love in the real sense of the word. I think psychopaths and most sociopaths are also largely incapable. Love is not about using other people or being dependent on them. It commands the highest levels of admiration and respect. You cannot truly respect a parasite, and you cannot truly love someone who doesn’t feel the same way or even comprehend such a high level concept.

    In the issue of romantic love, to truly worship another human being in this regard requires that they reciprocate. And this must be a totally rational connection.

    The ones who say that love is blind or irrational also tend to believe the sex is just something to do with your body for fun. All views on the wrong side try to separate the body from the mind or the mind from the body. In any debate about any form of love, remember that man is an integrated being of mind, soul, and body.

    Love is not a product of emotion, but of the intellect. Emotion is the result.

  68. e.s. kohen Says:

    evanescent said:
    ——————————–

    As for the other, that “faith is irrational”, it is not “evidently” incorrect, as you have no evidence that faith is reliable. …. If I appear curt, it’s because I don’t take kindly to being misquoted and misrepresented.

    e.s. kohen response:
    ——————————–
    Wow, been a long time. I don’t want to rehash the source of your “curtness”, but when an individual says, “perhaps you meant”, etc, they are not claiming to quote you, but reflecting. … its a useful tool in communication to help folks ensure there is mutual understanding… But, that is neither here nor there, and I apologize that I offended you.

    You seem to still not recognize that the Biblical, Jewish, Christian, ancient historical, Greek Philosophy, notion of FAITH (pistos, in the Greek), is NOT the same thing as pop culture “wishful thinking”/”faith”.

    So, here is a fun challenge, (I ask lots of people this), “Please identify one example of “blind faith” in either Jewish or Christian Scripture. … In no context was someone ever approached by a preacher and asked to believe simply because they had a warm fuzzy feeling or some sort of inner conviction. Though, Mormon’s do have this belief, (very end of the book of Mormon). It is actually a commandment to NOT rely on this kind of conviction in Scripture. (lean not on your own understanding, … your heart is deceitful in all its ways, etc).

    The idea of blind faith is COMPLETELY contrary to both Christian and Jewish Scripture. For example, Paul, (1 Cor 2), said that he did not preach the gospel with intellectualism or wisdom, but the demonstration of spirit and power, (so that people’s faith would rest on the power of God, and not the wisdom of man). And sure, it seems modern self-proclaimed Christians don’t seem to take this to heart.

    Biblically, there is an appeal for trust to be established through IMPERICAL EVIDENCE! (To be specific, evidence that proved that the source of the event transcended both time and nature and not the cause of man: real prophecy, restoring life to dead corpses, etc). HOW IS THIS IRRATIONAL???? Is this kind of faith less reliable just because this belief is established on imperical evidence AND has to do with God? Is everyone that acknowledges this irrational simply because someone else has a chip on their shoulder? This does not follow reasonably, AT ALL.

    The closest examples I can think of “blind faith” are the folks that listened to Jonah, and perhaps Peter walking on the Water, but both the people that listened to Jonah, and Peter who stepped out, had plenty of previous knowledge and experience, (of Jonah, and Jesus).

    Don’t get me wrong, I totally don’t agree with the modern version of faith, but the Biblical appeal to faith based on imperical evidence is very reasonable. And theists who acknowledge this are reasonable too.

    evanescent said:
    ——————————–
    … Not just because there is no evidence for god, but because the facts of existence preclude the supernatural.

    e.s. response:
    ——————————–

    what facts preclude the supernatural? If it is conceded that Judaism, Christianity, the Republican Party, whatever, are all figments of our imagination, what impact does that have on the existence of God? Isn’t clear that “super natural” implies a “nature” that is “super” or above this nature? A higher/(more abstract?) more transcendent universe? How in the world do you get around causality and the laws of this universe without having to rely on the presence of another universe/nature that operates freely without concern with the laws that govern this nature?

    How in the world could you poke your head into quantum mechanics, the idea of parallel universes and not concede in the possibility, (let alone the probability), of a transcendent, super nature? ??

  69. evanescent Says:

    e.s. kohen response: Wow, been a long time. I don’t want to rehash the source of your “curtness”, but when an individual says, “perhaps you meant”, etc, they are not claiming to quote you, but reflecting. … its a useful tool in communication to help folks ensure there is mutual understanding… But, that is neither here nor there, and I apologize that I offended you.

    I wasn’t offended, just annoyed. As for the misquotes and misrepresentations, my post further up explains exactly what I meant and I think this stands.

    You seem to still not recognize that the Biblical, Jewish, Christian, ancient historical, Greek Philosophy, notion of FAITH (pistos, in the Greek), is NOT the same thing as pop culture “wishful thinking”/”faith”.

    You’re right – I don’t recognise any difference. You can pretend that your definition of “faith” is somehow more sophisticated and theologically complex than the average everyday run of the mill “faith” by people who believe in healing crystals and physic auras and chicken entrails, but I think you’re kidding yourself. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence or reason. If there was evidence to support your claims, or reason – there wouldn’t be any need to use the word “faith”. I find it incredible than any person of faith really denies this – as if there is something to hide. Well, of course there is something to hide, that there isn’t a lick of reason to support their beliefs, but usually they cling in faith precisely because of this, not apologise for it.

    “Faith” is wishful thinking.

    So, here is a fun challenge, (I ask lots of people this), “Please identify one example of “blind faith” in either Jewish or Christian Scripture. … In no context was someone ever approached by a preacher and asked to believe simply because they had a warm fuzzy feeling or some sort of inner conviction.

    This begs the question. In most examples of scripture, there was a physical rational evidential manifestation of the Divine Being, like the burning bush or Jesus performing miracles, or the voice of God from the sky or Joshua commanding the sun to stand still. Of course holy books are replete with myths and fantastic stories from a pre-scientific age. What does this prove?

    Interesting enough, the Old Testament doesn’t bother with faith too much – because the amazing acts of God supposedly happened right before everyone’s eye – like the flood, or the massacre of the Midianites etc. In the New Testament, surrounded by the empire of Rome, the small cult of people following the alleged teachings of one of many alleged prophets of god had to rely on something less substantial and more emotional. It was Paul who championed the idea of faith as “the belief in realities though not beheld.” Because after all, if they were beheld, what would be the point of faith?

    Though, Mormon’s do have this belief, (very end of the book of Mormon). It is actually a commandment to NOT rely on this kind of conviction in Scripture. (lean not on your own understanding, … your heart is deceitful in all its ways, etc).

    If we don’t lean on our own understanding, whose understanding do we lean on? God’s? Or those people who claimed to speak on behalf of god? Hang on, but isn’t forsaking our own judgement and leaning on god’s precisely what faith is all about? After all, if we could make sense of things ourselves and lean on our own understanding, we wouldn’t need faith would we? So it seems like you’re contradicting yourself. You seem to suggest that the bible commands us to accept blind conviction, yet tells us to accept whatever god says because we can’t rely on ourselves. And isn’t the “commandment to NOT rely on conviction” a contradiction in terms?

    The idea of blind faith is COMPLETELY contrary to both Christian and Jewish Scripture. For example, Paul, (1 Cor 2), said that he did not preach the gospel with intellectualism or wisdom, but the demonstration of spirit and power, (so that people’s faith would rest on the power of God, and not the wisdom of man). And sure, it seems modern self-proclaimed Christians don’t seem to take this to heart.

    Okay, well it’s one thing to use the stories in the bible as proof of…the bible. But it’s another to say that this proves “blind faith” was never a cornerstone of belief. To prove this, please demonstrate to me in physical observable terms the “spirit and power” of god. Or, show me an example of this in the world that can be readily observed, tested, and explained as nothing other than an act of god. If you can do this, I’ll reject my entire philosophy and you will become the most famous human being in history. Can you do what Paul did? If “blind faith” isn’t required for belief, show to the entire world God in action. The world awaits…

    Biblically, there is an appeal for trust to be established through IMPERICAL EVIDENCE! (To be specific, evidence that proved that the source of the event transcended both time and nature and not the cause of man: real prophecy, restoring life to dead corpses, etc). HOW IS THIS IRRATIONAL???? Is this kind of faith less reliable just because this belief is established on imperical evidence AND has to do with God? Is everyone that acknowledges this irrational simply because someone else has a chip on their shoulder? This does not follow reasonably, AT ALL.

    I’m sorry but you are totally kidding yourself. The made-up stories in the bible of empirical proofs of God don’t count as empirical proof of god. That’s what we call hearsay or bedtime stories.

    Almost everything in the bible is a rejection of the natural laws of the universe. You want to claim that a defiance of everything that makes knowledge possible in this universe is proof of the supernatural? You really want to use the biblical myths of resurrection as proof that in the here and now, the scientific age, faith isn’t blind? Please, resurrect someone from the dead before my eyes and then your point about “blind faith” will be valid. Before you object, yes – I do understand what you’re saying; I understand the point you’re making about Biblical events pointing openly to a god and people relying on physical manifestations of him instead of being called to have blind faith. My objection is that those events never happened because the bible was written by superstitious primitives around their mystical worldview. As superstition was replaced with reason and science in the Renaissance into the Information Age, the “demonstrations of spirit and power” curiously started to disappear, and now exist only in bible stories. Odd, don’t you think? Now, people *are* left with nothing but faith to support their mystical beliefs.

    The closest examples I can think of “blind faith” are the folks that listened to Jonah, and perhaps Peter walking on the Water, but both the people that listened to Jonah, and Peter who stepped out, had plenty of previous knowledge and experience, (of Jonah, and Jesus).

    And this would mean something if any of those events really happened. Your analogy is understood, but flawed: nobody has ever demonstrated the ability to walk on water because it defies the physics of the universe. You are welcome to demonstrate differently…

    Don’t get me wrong, I totally don’t agree with the modern version of faith, but the Biblical appeal to faith based on imperical evidence is very reasonable. And theists who acknowledge this are reasonable too.

    I understand what you’re saying and I appreciate your effort to make this point; in itself it is actually a valid point. In anything, I agree with you that demonstrations count, not blind faith. So then, why are there no demonstrations anymore? It is precisely because there are none that people must rely on blind faith. You can say they didn’t have to in the bible times, and if the bible is true – then ok I agree with you – but even if it is true, blind faith is still very much alive and rampant today – and all it would take to end it is a word from god.

    what facts preclude the supernatural?

    Existence exists. If we are to know anything, our most fundamental metaphysical axiom must be that existence exists. That is the basis of all knowledge. If existence exists, existence is identity – because anything that exists does so as itself and nothing else and behaves according to its nature and not otherwise. Or in the words of Ayn Rand: A is A. To claim to “know” that A is not A is a contradiction in terms; before one can know anything, one must exist in a universe where knowledge is possible, where logic obtains, and reason is valid. Therefore, existence, logic and reason are the foundation of knowledge; knowledge cannot precede the things that make it possible. The supernatural is a rejection of that most fundamental axiom: that existence exists; it requires that the universe be a different one than this – a universe where rules are broken on a whim, where beings exist and have extra-existential powers, but not in this existence. It makes no sense, and it cannot make sense.

    If it is conceded that Judaism, Christianity, the Republican Party, whatever, are all figments of our imagination, what impact does that have on the existence of God?

    None. The lack of existence of god is certain regardless of what religions exist.

    Isn’t clear that “super natural” implies a “nature” that is “super” or above this nature? A higher/(more abstract?) more transcendent universe?

    I don’t understand what this could mean. Existence exists, but only existence exists. How can there be an existence outside this existence? Everything that exists is subsumed under “existence”. So it either exists or it doesn’t. If it exists, it has a specific identify and nature and is limited in its nature; it a specific thing of specific dimensions. Now if you want to propose that there are forms of life or regions of the universe that are so bizarre and alien to us that we can’t relate to them, then ok. But they will still be entities of a physical order with space-time dimensions (including energy) with a specific and limited nature.

    How in the world do you get around causality and the laws of this universe without having to rely on the presence of another universe/nature that operates freely without concern with the laws that govern this nature?

    A universe outside this universe doesn’t make any sense, if by “universe” you mean the totality of everything that exists. The laws of this universe simply cannot be violated if one presupposes that existence exists. But before we can even think to object to this, we implicitly accept that existence, but only existence, exists.

    How in the world could you poke your head into quantum mechanics, the idea of parallel universes and not concede in the possibility, (let alone the probability), of a transcendent, super nature? ??

    My understanding of quantum mechanics is limited, I admit, but you’ll have to show me the part I missed which suggests that any quantum theory of this universe depends on, or alludes to, anything extra-universal. Isn’t this scientifically a contradiction in terms? I think “quantum” is a dangerous word to bandy about as it can be stretched to mean any number of quixotic or exotic notions that don’t mean what scientists really mean.

    Also, I’m not a physicist, but I reject the idea of parallel universes in actuality. Even if somehow such a thing could exist, which is counterintuitive to my mind, I don’t see how we could obtain knowledge of it in this universe, since anything to detect another universe is inherently *this*-universal orientated and doesn’t “exist” in another. So does it exist or doesn’t it? It makes no sense. I personally don’t think “parallel universes” is or ever will be a useful idea in science, except in purely hypothetical models. And certainly not as a straw to clutch for those whose “faith” in god isn’t enough.

  70. e.s. kohen Says:

    Evanescent said:
    If you can do this, I’ll reject my entire philosophy and you will become the most famous human being in history. Can you do what Paul did? If “blind faith” isn’t required for belief, show to the entire world God in action. The world awaits…

    Its not up for “me” to prove to you that God exists, (if you REALLY want to have THAT conversation, we should start a completely new blog and itemize the arguments and refute them one by one). However, It IS up to a Jew or Christian who presumes to defend any sort of BIBLICAL NOTION of their religion. MY point here, is that Hitchens is imploying irrational rhetoric, (strawman arguments to be specific), to prove a point that Scripture doesn’t even support! Its a bogus argument by him.

    Christopher Hitchens is equivocating. Your notion of Blind Faith, is what Hitchens calls “religion”, which is completely invalid and ignores any actual religious definition of it, (the Bible). He is equating “modern and medievil tradition” to any sort of valid religion. For example, a relgion that “feeds the hungry, clothes the naked,”, is not TOXIC. Irrational TRADITIONS based off of heresay are both ludicrous AND contradictory to what religion has been for thousands of years. To say that ALL Jews and Christians rely on wishful thinking, (on your part), is a hasty generalization. There are those whose belief in God is either through epistemis, (inferential knowledge), or gnosis, (experiential knowledge), or both! This is what the entire Christian book of JAMES is about. Any other form of “belief” in God is completely unbiblical. There is nothing “toxic” about relying on imperical proof for God. And this is the error of Hitchens’ argument: there is NO Biblical or historically religious idea that unbelievers cannot have access to this imperical evidence if they don’t have faith. Quite the contrary, it was this evidence that God relied on to to persuade the unbeliever, (and that’s all over Scripture).

    Religion and Tradition are two completely different things, (Jesus was very adamant about this when he condemned the pharisees as a synagogue of satan because they relied on tradition, and set aside the actual commandments of God.

    Evanescent said:
    I’m sorry but you are totally kidding yourself. The made-up stories in the bible of empirical proofs of God don’t count as empirical proof of god. That’s what we call hearsay or bedtime stories.

    WHOA. Misrepresenting my argument there. These are not evidences that should persuade YOU OR ME. Never claimed this. These accounts are EVIDENCE of a precedent, a Biblical one, that for hundreds+ of years folks acknowledged the necessity of imperical evidence for God. You cannot point to Scripture, or its definition of “true religion” and come to any other conclusion. Further, Scripture is explicit that it is expected for people to tell others about God and/or Jesus with evidence–and not hearsay.

    Evanescent said:

    Evanescent said:
    I don’t understand what this could mean. Existence exists, but only existence exists. How can there be an existence outside this existence?

    This argument is irrational, and does not follow. Unless of course it is true, “A is B, and only A is B, because its hard for me to wrap my mind around some abstract concept and my reasoning can’t prove it.” Ignorance and incomplete knowledge are not evidence towards the truth value of ANYTHING. The circularity of that argument is enough to dismiss is out of hand. Unless we REALLY want to get into defining existence. (Which honestly, I have no idea how this was brought into the conversation other than the meaning of “universe”.

    Evanescent said:

    A universe outside this universe doesn’t make any sense, if by “universe” you mean the totality of everything that exists.

    Woot. Let’s get into theoretical physics to try to prove or disprove the existence of God. Again, its like saying, “this massively complicated field somehow proves or disproves the existence of God. I have no idea how, but it does.” Again, this doesn’t follow.

    What DOES follow is: There is this massively complex set of theories, that defy classical physics, (quantum mechanics), and we have no idea what massive can of worms we will discover here. You cannot make an argument from silence. Our lack of knowledge one way or the other doesn’t prove ANYTHING except we lack any decent knowledge to make concrete inferences. Which is what I am arguing. You can’t point to this field, or our infantile knowledge of physics and say, “THEREFORE, GOD DOES NOT EXIST”. That takes on MASSIVE leap of faith, dependent on a WHOLE lot of hearsay and speculation–irrational propositions ALL OVER THE PLACE.

    Evanescent said:

    My understanding of quantum mechanics is limited, I admit, but you’ll have to show me the part I missed which suggests that any quantum theory of this universe depends on, or alludes to, anything extra-universal.

    This question, I love. 🙂 Its “exploratory”. Which is what I like to do best.
    Google:
    Nonlocality
    MWI (or Many Worlds Interpretation)
    Quantum Causal Domain
    Quantum Entanglement
    Quantum Spookiness

    So “extra-universal”. Whatever universe means now, right? Sigh. So many interpretations of that word. I have issues with parallel universes, but there are a lot of really smart people that seem to like it, and a lot more that don’t. So, that’s inconclusive. So, I make things simpler…

    THIS Causal DOMAIN, and THAT Causal Domain, and OTHER Causal Domains. As a computer scientist, the notion of causal domains and their boundaries, and that reality are deeply embedded to my thought processes that I don’t give it a second thought. In a sense, Causality is broken in the “Relative Reality” of a video game. You blow up something, but you don’t experience it in the causal domain that you and I share. What IS experienced is “heat”, “excess energy” from a processor. Because every action that occurs “virtually” gets reduced to some far more abstract concept, (electricity, binary, logic, etc).

    So, The level of “reality and abstraction”, this causal domain that both you and I share, I call “our universe”. Prolly should just go with “our causal domain”.

    The ability to think of some sort of universe that doesn’t operate on the laws of causality is something that comes naturally to me, (Right Brained for the Win!!!!). So, the idea of a universe, causal domain, or reality where existence and causality operates a little differently makes a lot of sense.

    There is a really good book that explains these ideas, (philosophies, metaphysics, logic, etc), is called Anathem, by Neil Stephenson. Granted, it doesn’t go into quantum proofs, but there are a lot of people noodling on those ideas.

    ………………
    Summary:
    1. Christopher Hitchens mispresents religion by not adequately distinguishing it from “tradition”, religion, (Scripturally, was quantifiable, real, tangible, imperical, and appealed to reason). Tradition demands the setting of side of reason to adhere to the immature intellectualism and traditions of men, (contrary to the commandments of Scripture).
    2. Christopher Hitchens makes a claim that believers insist only believers have access and the ability to do moral things. This is also a complete misrepresentation of Scripture, and the way it defines religion and is therefore invalid.
    3. Christopher Hitchens, (as well as you), seem to hastily generalize and insist that theists, (even computer scientists, computational linguists, artificial intelligence programmers, etc), like me, are irrational and believe that our faith should rely on some internal conviction, rather than imperical evidence. This is a MASSIVE misrepresentation which is only reinforced by sustaining the argument that if ignorant people cannot defend their belief, then the entire belief must be invalid, (ad hominem, blah blah).

    4. Side argument: The universe is a spooky place, (quantum spookiness pun intended). And everything we are now learning, quantum mechanics, the LHC at CERN, DNA, etc, lends itself to the credibility of transcendent, (metaphysical as well as causal domain implications). Its pretty cool stuff. The Jury is still out, concerning those evidences.

    And then lastly:
    5. There is absolutely no need for any believer to have to rely on a leap of faith to trust in God. If they are Christian, then evidentional signs will follow them, “these signs WILL follow those that believe”. And the list goes on. Any believer that believes otherwise, (No, this is not a no true scottsman fallacy), does not have a faith in God that is any way based on the same Scriptures they claim to believe in.

    Woot.

    p.s.
    Take that as ammo to use in the future, I do. 😉

    I know that as an atheist you probably naturally get defensive or offensive around a theolgian. My argument was never about the existence of God, or non-existence, but that Christopher Hitchens’ argument was irattional, illogical, unreasonable and a bunch of B.S. because he tries to expose a really stupid traditional non-argument that can never be proven. And Scripture doesn’t even come close to making the claims that Hitchens is trying to refute. And the theists who actually do acknowledge Scripture just shake their head at his … bullying — sure, pick on the people that are manipulated, untaught, and herded to stupidity through tradition. Wee. Hope he feels proud! 😉

  71. e.s. kohen Says:

    P.S. I count Alastair McGrath as one of those people that Hitchens bullies because he has been herded into the stupidity of tradition, and decided to defend a really retarded modern traditional idea, that us old classical theists loathe and hate. So don’t HASTY generalize all of us with HIM. 🙂

  72. evanescent Says:

    Its not up for “me” to prove to you that God exists, (if you REALLY want to have THAT conversation, we should start a completely new blog and itemize the arguments and refute them one by one). However, It IS up to a Jew or Christian who presumes to defend any sort of BIBLICAL NOTION of their religion. MY point here, is that Hitchens is imploying irrational rhetoric, (strawman arguments to be specific), to prove a point that Scripture doesn’t even support! Its a bogus argument by him.

    If Hitchens is saying that the bible preaches pure blind faith, then I’d tend to agree with you that it doesn’t totally, especially not in the OT. In the bible, except towards the Paul-sections of the NT, God’s works are demonstrated and taken for granted. Who needs faith when God parts the Red Sea in front of you or Christ walks on water? However, if Hitchens is saying that religions *today* demand blind faith, he is right.

    Christopher Hitchens is equivocating. Your notion of Blind Faith, is what Hitchens calls “religion”, which is completely invalid and ignores any actual religious definition of it, (the Bible).

    Hmm, I’m not sure this is true. Religion can mean a lot of things, usually the culture and tradition surrounding a belief, whereas faith is that personal concept of accepting a belief without evidence. They aren’t synonymous and I don’t think Hitchens implies otherwise.

    He is equating “modern and medievil tradition” to any sort of valid religion.

    Well, virtually all religions and certainly the major ones, are medieval and in fact predate that period. But Medieval is a valid description of Christianity since that is when it was at its peak of power of influence. (And we don’t call it the Dark Ages for nothing.)

    For example, a relgion that “feeds the hungry, clothes the naked,”, is not TOXIC.

    I think it’s slightly generous to say a religion does this as a matter of course. Many kind-hearted religious people have indeed done this, and I’m not denying that taking care of the poor is a biblical admonition (Jesus and Paul emphasis this) – but there are a great many other features of religion such as violence to non-believers, the rejection of science and the embracing of mentally-sick mystical notions. If you want to be picky, I’d say religion’s misses far outweigh its hit. You are compartmentalising to the extreme for Christianity to take credit for “feeding the hungry” and not acknowledge the blood on its hands. Some forms of disease actually fight cancer cells, but just because they have positive effects in some people doesn’t mean such diseases are not “toxic” and harmful to human life qua human life.

    Irrational TRADITIONS based off of heresay are both ludicrous AND contradictory to what religion has been for thousands of years. To say that ALL Jews and Christians rely on wishful thinking, (on your part), is a hasty generalization.

    I didn’t say ALL religious people to a man rely on wishful-thinking. I said that all believers qua believers are kidding themselves consciously or subconsciously since their god is a figment of their imaginations. What else can you call this but “wishful thinking”?

    Also, the first part of this sentence is so egregiously wrong, I can’t believe you didn’t think I wouldn’t pick you up on it. I can’t believe you actually said it. So, the genital mutilation of baby boys and girls stopped thousands of years ago? The “divine” directive to never use birth-control or contraception hasn’t happened any time soon? Confessing your “sins” to a self-appointed spokesman for god along with some prayer (and cash of course) so that he can forgive you on God’s behalf? These (to name but three) aren’t irrational traditions that persist right up to this day? I think you’ve shot yourself in the foot on this one.

    There are those whose belief in God is either through epistemis, (inferential knowledge)

    In the words of Leonard Peikoff, no chain of reasoning will get you from this world to another. The ancients (including the bible writers) believed the earth was flat. They *inferred* that from their limited observations. Doesn’t mean they were right.

    , or gnosis, (experiential knowledge), or both!

    Well, one can’t experience the unreal.

    This is what the entire Christian book of JAMES is about. Any other form of “belief” in God is completely unbiblical. There is nothing “toxic” about relying on imperical proof for God. And this is the error of Hitchens’ argument: there is NO Biblical or historically religious idea that unbelievers cannot have access to this imperical evidence if they don’t have faith. Quite the contrary, it was this evidence that God relied on to to persuade the unbeliever, (and that’s all over Scripture).

    Ok, I understand what you’re saying. And in this sense, I agree. But then I cannot see the use in the word “faith” at all then. If faith is just another word for belief, and belief is reasonable due to the evidence available – we shouldn’t need to use the word “faith” at all. Wouldn’t you agree? But many bible scholars and theists over the centuries *have* certainly advocated the concept of “faith” as belief in god in spite of and *because* evidence isn’t available/required.

    Religion and Tradition are two completely different things, (Jesus was very adamant about this when he condemned the pharisees as a synagogue of satan because they relied on tradition, and set aside the actual commandments of God.

    Indeed, but ironically the religious leaders after Christ became the Pharisees he so despised. But tradition, in itself, need not be a bad thing, unless it is used as the sole justification for a course of action, i.e. “because we’ve always done it that way.” But it’s disingenuous to say religion and tradition are two completely different things. You’re using hyperbole at best here. Religion, i.e. the practices, customs, culture and style surrounding a belief are very much a tradition! I think you’re equivocating on “belief” and “religion”. Belief is a personal matter (though often shared), and religion is that associated set of practices, customs and *traditions* surrounding it. (You might see the “traditions” of others as primitive and silly if you’re biased towards your own, but objectively there is no difference between your “religion” and a Pagan’s “tradition”). I’m not really sure why you’d even object to this as it seems a no-brainer. I’m not sure why you raised the issue.

    WHOA. Misrepresenting my argument there. These are not evidences that should persuade YOU OR ME. Never claimed this. These accounts are EVIDENCE of a precedent, a Biblical one, that for hundreds+ of years folks acknowledged the necessity of imperical evidence for God. You cannot point to Scripture, or its definition of “true religion” and come to any other conclusion. Further, Scripture is explicit that it is expected for people to tell others about God and/or Jesus with evidence–and not hearsay.

    If this is true, and I’m not saying it isn’t, then why the introduction of the “faith” concept in the latter half of the New Testament? As empirical evidence for god dried up, believers were introduced to this new idea, this new special form of belief which, in Paul’s word was “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) How else can one take this, except as the mental concretising of hopes? Taking something as self-evident, though not seen? I think you should be taking your claims up with the Apostle Paul and his followers.

    This argument is irrational, and does not follow. Unless of course it is true, “A is B, and only A is B, because its hard for me to wrap my mind around some abstract concept and my reasoning can’t prove it.” Ignorance and incomplete knowledge are not evidence towards the truth value of ANYTHING. The circularity of that argument is enough to dismiss is out of hand. Unless we REALLY want to get into defining existence. (Which honestly, I have no idea how this was brought into the conversation other than the meaning of “universe”.

    The universe is the totality of all that exists. I brought it into the conversation. You’ve also demonstrated the unassailable axiom in action in your attempt to reject it. You said: “this argument is irrational”; “does not follow”. But arguments, rationality and a process of logic presuppose that knowledge of truth and falsity are possible, which means a universe of identity and logic. But if that is the universe we live in, it necessarily cannot be a universe which allows for the supernatural. It’s not “circular”, it’s tautological. All axioms are necessarily true and precede “reason”; they cannot be proved.

    Woot. Let’s get into theoretical physics to try to prove or disprove the existence of God. Again, its like saying, “this massively complicated field somehow proves or disproves the existence of God. I have no idea how, but it does.” Again, this doesn’t follow.

    I didn’t use theoretical physics to disprove god. You brought physics into it. What I said is that if knowledge of *anything* is possible, the universe must be a certain way. The way precludes the existence of magical beings, therefore god cannot exist. You want to use sentences like “does not follow” whilst allowing for the possibility that, if god exists, things don’t have to follow; what you think is logical and necessary need not be, and the illogical may obtain and contradictions are permitted in reality; but that is not the reality we live in because contradictions don’t obtain in reality. But if they did, then my argument wouldn’t need to make sense anyway! For that matter, god could and couldn’t exist at the same time. So if indeed my argument has “to follow”, you concede that existence is identity (and the supernatural is unreal).

    What DOES follow is: There is this massively complex set of theories, that defy classical physics, (quantum mechanics), and we have no idea what massive can of worms we will discover here. You cannot make an argument from silence. Our lack of knowledge one way or the other doesn’t prove ANYTHING except we lack any decent knowledge to make concrete inferences. Which is what I am arguing. You can’t point to this field, or our infantile knowledge of physics and say, “THEREFORE, GOD DOES NOT EXIST”. That takes on MASSIVE leap of faith, dependent on a WHOLE lot of hearsay and speculation–irrational propositions ALL OVER THE PLACE.

    You’re attacking a strawman which means you missed what I really said. I never attempted to use science to disprove god. The non-existence of god is an axiom on which knowledge (including science) tacitly depends.

    Quantum mechanics may seem to defy classical physics, well gravity anyway – the other three forces have been theoretically integrated – but QM doesn’t deny the law of identity. By definition, nothing could.

    It rather seems that you’re using God of the Gaps reasoning and claiming that our ignorance is a good reason not to rule God out. I’m saying that our knowledge or ignorance is irrelevant to the issue; that is, if we can have *any* knowledge at all, such a metaphysical axiom precludes supernatural beings. Therefore god is eliminated right out the starting blocks before we get onto anything else.

    THIS Causal DOMAIN, and THAT Causal Domain, and OTHER Causal Domains. As a computer scientist, the notion of causal domains and their boundaries, and that reality are deeply embedded to my thought processes that I don’t give it a second thought. In a sense, Causality is broken in the “Relative Reality” of a video game. You blow up something, but you don’t experience it in the causal domain that you and I share. What IS experienced is “heat”, “excess energy” from a processor. Because every action that occurs “virtually” gets reduced to some far more abstract concept, (electricity, binary, logic, etc).

    This begs the question. Computer games are “unreal” which is precisely why events in them are irrelevant to our causality. This analogy is only valid is you’re proposing that *this* reality is also unreal, which seems a contradiction in terms. Or are you proposing the “brain in a jar” or “this all might just be a dream” notions? But as you quite rightly point out, even virtual processes in computers have physical effects in this world, because although the virtual world is “unreal” (or really “virtual” is the best word), the computer is real.

    The issue of reality is philosophical and one of metaphysical axioms. An axiom is a truth (or assumption) that is necessary in that all other statements are contingent on it, and it must be invoked even to be denied.

    So, The level of “reality and abstraction”, this causal domain that both you and I share, I call “our universe”. Prolly should just go with “our causal domain”.

    Well, something either exists or it doesn’t. If it exists, it’s part of existence. I don’t see how it makes any sense to allude to another existence that is somehow separate to “this” existence and in which different rules obtain. If something exists, then it exists, which means it is what it is and it acts according to its identity. The law of causality is just the law of identity applied to action. Some different “form” of existence where objects exist but lack identity or cause but don’t act or act but aren’t caused – doesn’t make any sense. And it doesn’t make sense, not because my imagination is limited, but because the axiom “existence exists” precludes it.

    If you want to assert that it doesn’t have to make sense, then you’ve stepped beyond the confines of reason and are onto faith again. On that basis, anything goes and it doesn’t matter if there is proof for anything or not.

    The ability to think of some sort of universe that doesn’t operate on the laws of causality is something that comes naturally to me, (Right Brained for the Win!!!!). So, the idea of a universe, causal domain, or reality where existence and causality operates a little differently makes a lot of sense.

    I admire your ambition to “think outside the box” and under normal circumstances would applaud your creativity – but even creativity must be grounded in reality, especially if there’s to be a practical application of one’s thoughts. For example, thinking of a new supercomputer versus flying elephants.

    Though, I suspect you aren’t being fully honest with yourself: by definition, existence can’t “make sense” if it behaves differently that it is. It’s possible that you mean a world or part of the universe that is very strange and almost counterintuitive to humans, but the appearance will be superficial; all entities that exist are that particular entity and behave as such an entity’s nature demands. So a world where “existence and causality” behave even “a little differently” makes absolutely no sense to me, and it can’t truly make any sense to you either. Again, this isn’t a problem of limited imagination but the law of identity.

    There is a really good book that explains these ideas, (philosophies, metaphysics, logic, etc), is called Anathem, by Neil Stephenson. Granted, it doesn’t go into quantum proofs, but there are a lot of people noodling on those ideas.

    I doubt I will read it. I have lots of books to get on with and prefer to keep my science fiction-free.

    Summary:
    1.Christopher Hitchens mispresents religion by not adequately distinguishing it from “tradition”, religion, (Scripturally, was quantifiable, real, tangible, imperical, and appealed to reason). Tradition demands the setting of side of reason to adhere to the immature intellectualism and traditions of men, (contrary to the commandments of Scripture).

    It’s funny: your definition of tradition is how I’d define faith. Either way, I addressed this above.

    Christopher Hitchens makes a claim that believers insist only believers have access and the ability to do moral things. This is also a complete misrepresentation of Scripture, and the way it defines religion and is therefore invalid.

    A verse in the OT says the difference between a wicked man and a good man is one who is or isn’t serving God. I can’t remember the verse; if you want I’ll dig it out, but let’s assume I’m right – what does this say about only believers being able to be moral?

    Also, if it’s true that the bible teaches that non-believers can be moral too, why are non-believers (men, women, children, babies, animals) regularly massacred by the god of both testaments?

    Finally, the emphasis on “belief” was only introduced later down the line. In the OT, belief in Yahweh was taken for granted; obedient was important. At the NT progresses, belief becomes more essential. Although, I believe James (or was it Paul? It’s been years since I read the bible) has one of the best lines when he says “you believe? You are doing well. Even the demons believe and shudder.” In other words, what point is sheer belief alone? Now if only the Christians who followed took this on board…

    Christopher Hitchens, (as well as you), seem to hastily generalize and insist that theists, (even computer scientists, computational linguists, artificial intelligence programmers, etc), like me, are irrational and believe that our faith should rely on some internal conviction, rather than imperical evidence.

    I don’t know you well enough to say if you’re irrational. If you’re a computer scientist, odds are you’re quite intelligent and rational in most aspects of your life (however some of your logic and sentence structure are dubious). However, since there is no evidence *today* or any reason to believe in god, your belief is most definitely irrational and “wishful thinking”. You can say that the bible doesn’t support blind faith, ok, let’s say I agree. But unless you’ve seen a sea parted or a man raised from the dead, you are kidding yourself if you think you have empirical evidence of god or that the bible days are relatable to these.

    This is a MASSIVE misrepresentation which is only reinforced by sustaining the argument that if ignorant people cannot defend their belief, then the entire belief must be invalid, (ad hominem, blah blah).

    Well, by definition, a true belief must be defensible – since that is the only thing that differentiates the true from the untrue – so please don’t play the victim here as if I’m asking you to move a mountain for me (though Jesus said you could if your faith was strong enough). If you cannot defend a belief that’s your business – but when you claim that I’m being unfair for pointing this out you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    Also, it’s not an ad hominem fallacy in any event. Since my rejection of your position is philosophical and not based on any personal assessment of you or your character, this fallacy doesn’t apply.

    Side argument: The universe is a spooky place, (quantum spookiness pun intended). And everything we are now learning, quantum mechanics, the LHC at CERN, DNA, etc, lends itself to the credibility of transcendent, (metaphysical as well as causal domain implications). Its pretty cool stuff. The Jury is still out, concerning those evidences.

    Well I can’t agree with this at all. There is absolutely nothing at the cutting edge of the physical sciences to point to the “transcendent”, whatever that means. This is more wishful thinking based on god of the gaps reasoning. I think you’re trying to have your cake and eat it. If the physical sciences are useful at all, it’s because we live in a universe that doesn’t permit divine fiat to contravene natural law. Even the suggestion of anything which “transcends” this universe makes science a pointless endeavour, because – hey, it might be graviton particles or fairies.

    5.There is absolutely no need for any believer to have to rely on a leap of faith to trust in God.

    Except of course that the Apostle Paul said you needed to.

    If they are Christian, then evidentional signs will follow them, “these signs WILL follow those that believe”. And the list goes on. Any believer that believes otherwise, (No, this is not a no true scottsman fallacy), does not have a faith in God that is any way based on the same Scriptures they claim to believe in.

    And which signs would they be? If there are signs, please don’t dodge the issue, backtrack and claim that “oh well it’s not my job to show you”. No, if *is* your job! If there are signs, present them, otherwise your words are hollow.

    I know that as an atheist you probably naturally get defensive or offensive around a theolgian.

    I’d like to think I apply the same level of rationality and objectivity whoever I’m talking to. I don’t care if you believe in god or communism, I will treat your arguments with the same level of criticism, and you, until I have reason to do otherwise, with an appropriate level of respect.

    And the theists who actually do acknowledge Scripture just shake their head at his … bullying — sure, pick on the people that are manipulated, untaught, and herded to stupidity through tradition. Wee. Hope he feels proud!

    I tend to agree that the New Atheists like Hitchens pick on easy targets (I was once like them). They attempt to appeal to the common man to hate religion as much as they do. Now there are many reasons to hate religion, but there are also reasons to hate the crap coming out of the New Atheist Left. I despise both.

    Incidentally, McGrath isn’t a particular good speaker, writer, or theologian. He is not a very good role-model for modern theists. And as I said in the OP, I don’t dislike him; he is probably on a day-to-day basis quite a nice guy. But he is completely out of his depth arguing with the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins. Similarly, Hitchens and Dawkins are out of their philosophical depth when it comes to Ayn Rand.

  73. e.s. kohen Says:

    I feel kinda weird commenting on your blog post now, since Hitchens just died. But since we have gotten through the reasons why Hitchens’ argument was not really that sound, maybe you could point me to a blog place holder of yours where we could talk about the irrationality/rationality of theism in general since it is quite off the topic here.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    Also, the first part of this sentence is so egregiously wrong, I can’t believe you didn’t think I wouldn’t pick you up on it. I can’t believe you actually said it. So, the genital mutilation of baby boys and girls stopped thousands of years ago? The “divine” directive to never use birth-control or contraception hasn’t happened any time soon? Confessing your “sins” to a self-appointed spokesman for god along with some prayer (and cash of course) so that he can forgive you on God’s behalf? These (to name but three) aren’t irrational traditions that persist right up to this day? I think you’ve shot yourself in the foot on this one.

    Ah. The genital mutilation line. I always get a kick out of that one. If you are making this argument, then it may be the case that you really don’t understand Jesus at the most basic “quantifiable” level. Forget the miracles, forget whether or not he actually existed. You are left with two unalterable facts: 1. An ancient document, and 2. Political assertions “personified” or “spoken” even if vicariously through said document.

    What does this imply? That folks in Israel, heavily influenced by Jewish religion and culture, rebelled against so-called Jewish religion and hypocrisy, and argued how irrational and stupid it was. That true religion should be sought rather than blindly following religious ideologies asserted through traditions and empty intellectualism.

    Funny note, “Jesus” himself said that circumcision was simply a tradition which the Jews had used to justify disobedience to the commandment of God. Consistently, Jesus argued that the so-called religuous were constantly using tradition to justify disobedience. If there is any one thing to “glean” at all from the story of “Jesus”, it is his argument AGAINST traditionalism, and its authority in true religion. He even went as far as calling them a synagogue of Satan and not even really “Jews”.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    Ok, I understand what you’re saying. And in this sense, I agree. But then I cannot see the use in the word “faith” at all then. If faith is just another word for belief, and belief is reasonable due to the evidence available – we shouldn’t need to use the word “faith” at all. Wouldn’t you agree? But many bible scholars and theists over the centuries *have* certainly advocated the concept of “faith” as belief in god in spite of and *because* evidence isn’t available/required.

    e.s. kohen response:
    ——————–
    ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. I agree up to the last sentence. Its not that the faith of God isn’t available, it is (according to Scripture, and my opinion as well), that this evidence has been avoided either because 1: it would challenge the authority of “tradition” and its “institutions” and/or 2: the “meaning” and “significance” of encountering this evidence is incredibly life altering and would cause a lot of “friction”, so much so that when this evidence is encountered, people run in the other direction.

    If you go back and research the etymology of faith, “fide”, etc. (Confidence), etc. Or words like “Baptism”, “Holy”, “Righteous”, etc… Their actual literal meanings have been substituted for traditional “monikers” of a sort in order to move independent confidence and relationship and/or experience with God to blind faith and trust in some traditional institution. –AND THIS WORKED. From the early “Holy Roman Empire”, to King Jimmy, to this day, people will still blindly put their faith in tradition and people. Even today, we argue what the definition of morality is, (some atheists too), because its evident meaning is not that convenient. So, we try to keep these ideas as abstract as possible to allow quite a bit of “wiggle room” when it comes to how we live our lives.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    The universe is the totality of all that exists. I brought it into the conversation. You’ve also demonstrated the unassailable axiom in action in your attempt to reject it. You said: “this argument is irrational”; “does not follow”. But arguments, rationality and a process of logic presuppose that knowledge of truth and falsity are possible, which means a universe of identity and logic. But if that is the universe we live in, it necessarily cannot be a universe which allows for the supernatural. It’s not “circular”, it’s tautological. All axioms are necessarily true and precede “reason”; they cannot be proved.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    This begs the question. Computer games are “unreal” which is precisely why events in them are irrelevant to our causality.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    Well, something either exists or it doesn’t. If it exists, it’s part of existence. I don’t see how it makes any sense to allude to another existence that is somehow separate to “this” existence and in which different rules obtain. If something exists, then it exists, which means it is what it is and it acts according to its identity.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    If you want to assert that it doesn’t have to make sense, then you’ve stepped beyond the confines of reason and are onto faith again. On that basis, anything goes and it doesn’t matter if there is proof for anything or not.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    A verse in the OT says the difference between a wicked man and a good man is one who is or isn’t serving God. I can’t remember the verse; if you want I’ll dig it out, but let’s assume I’m right – what does this say about only believers being able to be moral?

    Also, if it’s true that the bible teaches that non-believers can be moral too, why are non-believers (men, women, children, babies, animals) regularly massacred by the god of both testaments?

    However, since there is no evidence *today* or any reason to believe in god, your belief is most definitely irrational and “wishful thinking”. You can say that the bible doesn’t support blind faith, ok, let’s say I agree. But unless you’ve seen a sea parted or a man raised from the dead, you are kidding yourself if you think you have empirical evidence of god or that the bible days are relatable to these.

    e.s. response:
    ——————–
    Without asking you to dig it up, I think this argument would go in circles because I would argue that any “Scriptural” idea of morality is not the opposite of “wicked” (reishim) in the Bible. However, morality in the Greek sense of Dikaios or the Hebrew Tzedek, are both representative of the word “just”. I equate morality to what is “Just”. At the end of Proverbs it does imply that wisdom is to fear God and obey his commandments. In this sense, I can see what you are getting back. But, since wisdom (knowledge of what is just), doesn’t preclude someone acting unjustly, it still seems as though you can be “wicked”, while having “wisdom”, and living somewhat “just” life. These ideas do not seem mutually exclusive–at all–in Scripture. Again, the opposite is the case. Christian Scripture reaffirms that people without obedience to God, do by nature the things of his law. Then there is the whole Adam/Apple thing kinda cementing this whole idea in the fact that supposedly “Adam” or mankind, and knowledge of good and evil from that point on. So, no. There is no Scriptural idea that unbelievers cannot act justly.

    There is however this idea that believers can ALWAYS act justly, to walk above reproach, and never fall into sin again. (This is a really fun rabbit hole to go down because tradition directly contradicts Scripture over and over on this one).

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    Well I can’t agree with this at all. There is absolutely nothing at the cutting edge of the physical sciences to point to the “transcendent”, whatever that means. This is more wishful thinking based on god of the gaps reasoning. I think you’re trying to have your cake and eat it.

    e.s. response:
    ——————–
    Transcendent, whatever that means. Perhaps I equivocated a bit by redefining “transcendent”, but hey, at least I get points for trying to explain what /I/ think it means. I do believe that the essence of transcendence, (illustrated neatly in object oriented programming and inheritance), is the idea of an object “inheriting” the nature of another–but also, (probably/possibly), having properties of its own and completely different behavior. The two objects, may share some of the same nature, while having attributes of completely different natures.

    In this way, “laws” or “constraints” may apply to one, and not the other.

    We have a realm of reality, that we KNOW, (quantifiably and inferentially), conforms to the classical laws of physics. But the “higher”/”further” you go into the nature of matter, of protons, particles, etc, (the more of the superfluous “nature” you remove to get to the “core” or “bottom” of a “thing”, you find a completely different “nature” and behavior present. A separate “domain”, a separate form of causality. This is the distinction between classical and quantum physics.

    In this way, it can be seen that characteristics are inherited from one nature into another, but the process is not bi-directional. What happens at the quantum level, is not constrained by what happens at the “classical”, “material”, level.

    In this sense, what is “more” transcendent is the “quantum”, rather than the “material”.

    But this is SO way of topic and deserves a good quantum mechanic’s input, that I totally concede whatever I was trying to get at here. Oh wait, no… I was trying to point out that there was no way you could point to material or quantum evidence to prove there is no God, ESPECIALLY given the situation that we have in quantum mechanics–which only serves to reinforce the idea of transcendence. That, I think, is an okay argument.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    5.There is absolutely no need for any believer to have to rely on a leap of faith to trust in God.

    Except of course that the Apostle Paul said you needed to.

    e.s. response:
    ——————–
    I think you might be referring to another writer? Paul actually said the exact opposite, 1 Cor 2. (First few verses). I would SO buy you a happy meal if you could find ANY place in Scripture that gave an example of a “leap of faith”. So far, the closest I could think of was Ninevah’s response to Jonah, but even that would/could point to previous experience with Jonah, testing him quantifiability to ensure that he was a “prophet” the way that Scripture tells you how to.

    Other than that. Nothing even comes close. I did consider Peter walking on the water as the classic example, but for someone that had supposedly seen dead people rise again just at the words of Jesus, I don’t really suppose that would be a “blind” leap of faith, (his actions were based on previous quantifiable experience).

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————–

    If they are Christian, then evidentional signs will follow them, “these signs WILL follow those that believe”. And the list goes on. Any believer that believes otherwise, (No, this is not a no true scottsman fallacy), does not have a faith in God that is any way based on the same Scriptures they claim to believe in.

    And which signs would they be? If there are signs, please don’t dodge the issue, backtrack and claim that “oh well it’s not my job to show you”. No, if *is* your job! If there are signs, present them, otherwise your words are hollow.

    e.s. response:
    ——————–
    We are arguing many different topics at once here. This argument made by me was evidence that the “Scriptural” concept of faith was incredibly rational and relied on imperical evidence. I was not relying on Scripture to prove to YOU that God exists, nor would I ever try. Actually, I don’t think there is a single example of this at all in Scripture, where Scripture relied on itself to prove the validity of God. Rather, Scripture always seemed to point people to find quantifiable evidence.

    Saying it is “MY” job to prove to you the existence of God is as valid as saying it is “YOUR” job to prove to me that God doesn’t exist. These are both as valid as saying it is everyone’s job to prove to me that they actually woke up yesterday and didn’t just dream it.

    What IS more valid is for me to question that rationality of the evidences that /I/ have seen that would establish MY confidence.

    For example, if I discover a rare flower in the forest, should I question the validity of this experience if noone else experienced it? Especially if I take photographs of me holding it examining its roots, tasting its leaves? Anyone else could look at the evidence and find enough rival hypotheses to bring doubt on whether or not THEY should believe it.

    But, if the given premises are true, and I did examine the evidences that closely, and reasonably, isn’t MY confidence reasonable?

    But, to answer your question, “which signs”… I will give you a passage from Scripture, (which I think sheds light on the demand of rationality of that confidence in God in Scripture):
    New American Standard Bible

    ——————————————————————————–
    Mark 16:17 “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

    So, because this is an “and” “and” construction, we can safely throw out the demons thing, because all of the other stuff would still be applicable. We can get into how the demons thing would/could be quantifiable if you REALLY really want to and will bribe me with a happy meal.

    There are quite a few “quantifiable” evidences mentioned in the Bible that were expected to be presented to establish those who had been “annointed” or “ordained” by God in order to convince OTHERS and unbelievers of the validity of what they were saying. This is ALL over the Bible.

    However, asking someone to prove the validity of why they believe what they believe and somehow thinking that this kind of evidence should/could ever be used to persuade someone else is completely irrational. However, if you presume think that you could/should convince anyone ELSE, well, why would you think this should be done WITHOUT rational evidence since this was NEVER the case in Scripture?

  74. e.s. kohen Says:

    I can’t go back and delete that last post and fix it, so I will leave it as is. Those other points seem to be addressed in other places too. Sorry for the tag issues. I wish wordpress would allow us to go back and edit and delete. Sigh.

  75. e.s. kohen Says:

    No, I wasn’t trying to say that you were making an argument from quantum or classical physics to disprove the existence of God. You have never offered evidence, (that I am aware of), in this conversation, so I am really not trying to imply you are. But IF one should make such an argument, it wouldn’t hold together very well since it could so easily point in the other direction–reasonably. And this in itself lends “reasonability” to a general theistic worldview. Seriously, given that we are trying, (and being successful), at creating black holes, simulating events at the beginning of the universe, trying to add mass to stuff, cracking biological engineering, learning how to manipulate and construct quantum computers, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that /we/ are gods. Seriously, if we can create galaxies, black holes, add mass to things, genetically create and evolve life … How is the idea of “god” really that much of an “inferential leap”? (Ooh, that was witty.) 🙂

  76. evanescent Says:

    Ah. The genital mutilation line. I always get a kick out of that one

    Well my point was that religion in the here and now does affect people as a result of its traditions and beliefs. This is just one example. I assume you concede the point?

    If you are making this argument, then it may be the case that you really don’t understand Jesus at the most basic “quantifiable” level. Forget the miracles, forget whether or not he actually existed. You are left with two unalterable facts: 1. An ancient document, and 2. Political assertions “personified” or “spoken” even if vicariously through said document.

    What does this imply? That folks in Israel, heavily influenced by Jewish religion and culture, rebelled against so-called Jewish religion and hypocrisy, and argued how irrational and stupid it was. That true religion should be sought rather than blindly following religious ideologies asserted through traditions and empty intellectualism.

    But if you’re going to point to the Christian movement led by Paul of the NT as proof of this, why was the concept of “faith” introduced when it here thereto wasn’t required?

    If there is any one thing to “glean” at all from the story of “Jesus”, it is his argument AGAINST traditionalism, and its authority in true religion. He even went as far as calling them a synagogue of Satan and not even really “Jews”.

    Indeed, but if Jesus was so opposed to these silly traditions, you have to ask why Yahweh felt so strongly about them, making them compulsory by law under penalty of death. Given how much the God of the OT beat the Jewish people with his ridiculous law, you can hardly blame them for being meticulous and obsessive about it. This if anything is an indication of how the bible and its god are contradictory and quite simply don’t make sense.

    ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. I agree up to the last sentence. Its not that the faith of God isn’t available, it is (according to Scripture, and my opinion as well), that this evidence has been avoided either because 1: it would challenge the authority of “tradition” and its “institutions” and/or 2: the “meaning” and “significance” of encountering this evidence is incredibly life altering and would cause a lot of “friction”, so much so that when this evidence is encountered, people run in the other direction.

    Well this is your opinion and it may or may not be correct, but I don’t think it’s a very convincing. If there were undeniable evidence for god, it would be the single most important discovery in human history, and everyone would want to know, and the religious would jump on it in an instant. It may be that non-religious people are avoiding the evidence, but it’s as likely they simply aren’t convinced because the evidence is weak/non-existent, and it’s even more likely that religious people aren’t avoiding the evidence because there is none, and so they invoke “faith”.

    Without asking you to dig it up, I think this argument would go in circles because I would argue that any “Scriptural” idea of morality is not the opposite of “wicked” (reishim) in the Bible. However, morality in the Greek sense of Dikaios or the Hebrew Tzedek, are both representative of the word “just”. I equate morality to what is “Just”. At the end of Proverbs it does imply that wisdom is to fear God and obey his commandments. In this sense, I can see what you are getting back. But, since wisdom (knowledge of what is just), doesn’t preclude someone acting unjustly, it still seems as though you can be “wicked”, while having “wisdom”, and living somewhat “just” life. These ideas do not seem mutually exclusive–at all–in Scripture. Again, the opposite is the case. Christian Scripture reaffirms that people without obedience to God, do by nature the things of his law. Then there is the whole Adam/Apple thing kinda cementing this whole idea in the fact that supposedly “Adam” or mankind, and knowledge of good and evil from that point on. So, no. There is no Scriptural idea that unbelievers cannot act justly.

    I don’t think I can agree with this. It seems you’re equivocating. Whilst I’d agree 100% that justice is moral, and acting justly is an ethical thing to do, morality is a code of values applied against one’s life in totality; it is a series of principles that guide decision making and action. One of these principles is justice, the refusal to fake reality. Therefore, justice is pro-human and therefore moral. But morality is not synonymous with justice. To punish a criminal is just, and to poison oneself is (in the Objectivist sense) immoral, but whereas we’d call the release of a criminal unjust, we might condemn self-destruction yet not call it “unjust.” Despite whatever original word or meaning was used in a particular passage of scripture, this equation of the two doesn’t hold. It is also a strawman: I agree the bible doesn’t deny that “wicked” or non-believers can act justly. (Hell, even Pontius Pilate tried to do the right thing a few times before caving, and some “good” people like King David committed truly horrific and evil acts.) No, the message in the bible is that those who live a course of action, a lifestyle, in a particular way, are wicked sinners who will be killed. The likes of, for example: adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, liars, thieves. Any of these people might commit “just” acts, but that doesn’t make them moral people, in the eyes of the bible. The bible is full of damnations against those not living strictly according to god’s demands, undeniably so. I find it incredible for someone to claim otherwise. The message time and again in the bible is: do this or else.

    Transcendent, whatever that means. Perhaps I equivocated a bit by redefining “transcendent”, but hey, at least I get points for trying to explain what /I/ think it means. I do believe that the essence of transcendence, (illustrated neatly in object oriented programming and inheritance), is the idea of an object “inheriting” the nature of another–but also, (probably/possibly), having properties of its own and completely different behavior. The two objects, may share some of the same nature, while having attributes of completely different natures.

    And this is fine, because even OOP acts according to laws. An object might share some characteristics with another object (e.g. a command button versus a radio button, both are “clickable”), but have unique attributes. But both objects are themselves and not the other. A command button doesn’t have the *essential* characteristics of any other object, and no object lacks its own *essential* characteristics, by definition. If we see something tall with a branch and leaves sticking out of the ground, we don’t say it’s an apple which is missing some of its “appleness”, we call it a tree. Same for command buttons, forms and macros.

    In this way, “laws” or “constraints” may apply to one, and not the other.

    You’re equivocating again; if anything you are reinforcing the law of identity. If by laws or constraints, you mean the law of identity, this most certainly does apply to everything without exclusion, by definition. But if by “law” you mean the makeup of a particular entity, you’re equivocating. It’s not a “law” that says birds can fly but humans can’t. The law of identity isn’t applied to one and not the other. On the other hand, the law of identity demands that birds’ nature is different to humans. Both entities act according to their natures. This law is inviolable.

    We have a realm of reality, that we KNOW, (quantifiably and inferentially), conforms to the classical laws of physics. But the “higher”/”further” you go into the nature of matter, of protons, particles, etc, (the more of the superfluous “nature” you remove to get to the “core” or “bottom” of a “thing”, you find a completely different “nature” and behavior present. A separate “domain”, a separate form of causality. This is the distinction between classical and quantum physics.

    The distinction is in the theoretical models used to explain both. Scientists have had great success unifying both fields (with the exception of gravity) using additional theoretical models. It is a stretch at best and disingenuous at worst to say that as we move into quantum physics we are “transcending” the “known” world and entering a “completely different” nature. This is simply untrue and wishful-thinking. It is a scale of existence we aren’t used to thinking in terms of and which our “everyday” models appear to break down in. Rather than imply a fundamental divide between realities, this only suggests that theoretical models are only useful to some degree. Just because Newtonian physics break down in the face of Relativity, doesn’t mean we throw away Newton’s equations in the class room. Just because at 90% the speed of light, time for me would be moving incredibly slowly, doesn’t mean that on earth when I say I’ll meet you at 2pm you can’t understand what I mean. The point is that it’s still “existence” we’re talking about.

    And the only reason we can “know” anything is because existence is what it is. This is a *metaphysical* assumption that comes before science. Hell, if we didn’t make this assumption, there’d be no point talking about anything like quantum physics anyway; it is *implicit* in every statement or action we take.

    In this way, it can be seen that characteristics are inherited from one nature into another, but the process is not bi-directional. What happens at the quantum level, is not constrained by what happens at the “classical”, “material”, level.

    In this sense, what is “more” transcendent is the “quantum”, rather than the “material”.

    But this is SO way of topic and deserves a good quantum mechanic’s input, that I totally concede whatever I was trying to get at here. Oh wait, no… I was trying to point out that there was no way you could point to material or quantum evidence to prove there is no God, ESPECIALLY given the situation that we have in quantum mechanics–which only serves to reinforce the idea of transcendence. That, I think, is an okay argument.

    And as I kept saying, I never invoked a materialistic argument against God. Quantum mechanics only reinforces the idea of “transcendence” if one is dishonest with the word, if one tries to have their cake and eat it. Either “transcendent” means “alluding to or pertaining to the supernatural” in which case, no, quantum mechanics is NOT transcendent in any sense. Or it means “beyond our conventional theories of physics” in which case QM is transcendent in a very trivial sense, in the sense that Relativity and Evolution were transcendent when they appeared on the stage. In 50 years, no doubt QM will solve the problem of gravity and we’ll all be wondering why it took us so long. There’s nothing magical here, just trying to describe and explain reality.

    I would SO buy you a happy meal if you could find ANY place in Scripture that gave an example of a “leap of faith”.

    Wait a second, I did just that! I said:

    …in Paul’s word was “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) How else can one take this, except as the mental concretising of hopes? Taking something as self-evident, though not seen? I think you should be taking your claims up with the Apostle Paul and his followers.

    ‘The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’, is Paul’s definition of faith – and it lines up pretty well with the concept of faith popularised ever since. You might disagree with the interpretation, and we might both agree that this concept of faith runs contrary to earlier themes in the bible (but if anything this just might be another example of the bible contradicting itself), but if a true believer told me “blind faith” was justified by Hebrews 11:1, I wouldn’t argue with them.

    This argument made by me was evidence that the “Scriptural” concept of faith was incredibly rational and relied on imperical evidence. I was not relying on Scripture to prove to YOU that God exists, nor would I ever try. Actually, I don’t think there is a single example of this at all in Scripture, where Scripture relied on itself to prove the validity of God. Rather, Scripture always seemed to point people to find quantifiable evidence.

    Actually, by and large, I tend to agree: in the bible times there was no shortage of evidence for “god”. Believing is pretty easy when you see the Red Sea parted in front of you, or the dead brought back to life. Hell, anyone can believe under those circumstances. But that isn’t faith, is it?

    Although Paul in his letter to Timothy did say that “all scripture is inspired of God” etc etc. Now, if someone says *all* scripture is inspired that seems to me, (and is used by the more fundamental Christians) to suggest the infallibility of scripture. Those who, like yourself, deny this are being a little more honest, but still not going the whole way. And it seems rather convenient that you pick and dismiss the verses and interpretations you don’t like, whilst the other Christians do the same. Certainly, if the bible claims that all of itself is inspired of god, it’s hard to then also accept the possibility that god would inspire something erroneous or contradictory. And even if it’s acceptable to you, it’s not to other Christians. Who is right? How do you decide?

    Saying it is “MY” job to prove to you the existence of God is as valid as saying it is “YOUR” job to prove to me that God doesn’t exist. These are both as valid as saying it is everyone’s job to prove to me that they actually woke up yesterday and didn’t just dream it.

    Ah, but you have said consistently that faith isn’t “blind” because there is and always has been verifiable evidence of god’s existence. This was *your claim*. I am therefore demanding that you support it. In fact, it seems crucial to the issue at hand – since you claim that faith is not blind, I am asserting that it necessarily is so, since the very one making this claim, you, *does* have blind faith! This is my response to your *positive* assertion that “I don’t have *blind* faith in god, because there is direct verifiable evidence of his existence”. I therefore counter-assert that you must demonstrate this evidence. You’re left with two options: 1. Concede that there is no evidence for god, and therefore concede that you must have “blind” faith after all. 2. Claim there is evidence for god (and everything that goes with it). But option number 3: do nothing, isn’t acceptable.

    You’re the one who claims that faith need not be blind. It therefore seems *essential* to your position to demonstrate evidence of god in order to support this claim. You can say that the bible doesn’t demand “blind faith”, but even if I agree with you, your theism is a contradiction – since the bible is a work of fiction and there is zero evidence here and now to justify a belief in god.

    Finally, I have “proved” that God doesn’t exist. “Proof” presupposes a universe where the supernatural cannot obtain. I explained all this previously so won’t repeat myself except to summarise: proof is a concept that is dependent on the law of identity and man’s capacity to reason. If man can reason his senses must be valid and he must obtain knowledge of existence, and existence must be identifiable. If existence obtains and all entities inviolably act accordingly, the supernatural (a denial of identity) cannot exist. Therefore, if existence exists, God doesn’t.

    For example, if I discover a rare flower in the forest, should I question the validity of this experience if noone else experienced it? Especially if I take photographs of me holding it examining its roots, tasting its leaves? Anyone else could look at the evidence and find enough rival hypotheses to bring doubt on whether or not THEY should believe it.

    The difference here is that all knowledge reduces to sense experience of reality, even in theory. Eventually at the start of a chain someone can point to a flower and say “this is it”. Knowledge doesn’t require omniscience, but it must be integrated with one’s existing knowledge and the law of identity. If I “see” a ghost, I know I haven’t really seen a ghost, because my sum of knowledge and the law of identity forbid such entities. I therefore dismiss it as a hallucination, for example. That is quite different to pointing to undeniable evidence for a creator god, for example: 21st century animal remains in the fossil record a million years ago. Besides, it is precisely because we are fallible that we need a mental checkpoint when integrating knowledge. That checkpoint is logic. Otherwise we’d be forced to accept everything we see the latest magician perform, if taken at face value. Human emotions and “gut feelings” can be capricious and powerful if not trained, which is why it’s wise to not let ourselves be ruled by them. It is why a jury will not accept your “gut feeling” that Mr. Smith stole your wallet, as on par with CCTV footage.

    Besides, I might have no reason to doubt you if you say you found a rare flower. But when a billion people say they have felt the presence of the flower and believe *because of the evidence*, it’s only reasonable to ask at least *one* of them to demonstrate such evidence.

    “My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”… We can get into how the demons thing would/could be quantifiable if you REALLY really want to and will bribe me with a happy meal.

    I’ll buy you a MacDonalds restaurant if you can demonstrate such acts. But my promises would be as hollow as your claims. I assume from your citing the above that you do believe such acts of performed today.

    There are quite a few “quantifiable” evidences mentioned in the Bible that were expected to be presented to establish those who had been “annointed” or “ordained” by God in order to convince OTHERS and unbelievers of the validity of what they were saying. This is ALL over the Bible.

    Yes, but the bible is a work of fiction. Believing in the bible, regardless of what it says or what you think it claims, is itself an act of faith. You’re reasoning in circles. If you claim that *your* faith isn’t blind, you must point to something demonstrable in the here-and-now as proof, and not the bible itself, unless there is something particularly special or self-evidential with the bible in itself, which I would strongly deny; the bible is quite clearly a man-written historical/mythological text.

    However, asking someone to prove the validity of why they believe what they believe and somehow thinking that this kind of evidence should/could ever be used to persuade someone else is completely irrational.

    Err, no. Once again you’re attacking what you think I said and using that as a paper shield against the real attack. What I’ve said is: your assertions have essentially been: “faith” doesn’t mean “blind faith” and to substantiate this you’ve pointed to the bible to support your position. I said that even if you’re right (and the bible isn’t clearly on your side; Paul’s definition of faith and the entire NT notion of it as belief *despite* appearances the contrary), you apparently have some theistic belief yourself. It is therefore essential to your case to justify this belief with evidence, otherwise your assertion that faith isn’t necessarily blind is empty. Almost by definition, if you can’t prove it, it *is* blind belief. And for reasons that I’ve stated here, some subjective feeling you experienced doesn’t class as proof either. All knowledge must reduce to reality. Existence is the metaphysical primary, not consciousness.

    However, if you presume think that you could/should convince anyone ELSE, well, why would you think this should be done WITHOUT rational evidence since this was NEVER the case in Scripture?

    So what, this is just hypothetical wordplay? You want to make a case that in theory some hypothetical person could conceivable believe in “god” if such a being existed and there was theoretically some evidence, it would be theoretically rational to believe? Well, sure. I’d agree with that. But since you have claimed that there *is* a rational reason to believe in god, I am asking you to state it. If you are unable or unwilling, I can’t see that as anything other than a concession that this is all just fairy wordplay without substance.

    But IF one should make such an argument, it wouldn’t hold together very well since it could so easily point in the other direction–reasonably. And this in itself lends “reasonability” to a general theistic worldview.

    Well one wouldn’t need to make such an argument, because *if* the universe didn’t preclude god it would be a very different universe to the one we will live in. But we don’t live in that universe, we live in this one, the only one that makes any sense; the only one that would conceivably exist. Arguments for or against god are irrelevant if one concedes that he *could* exist in theory. If square circles can exist then all discussion is irrelevant.

    And your suggestion that if an argument could go one way, but also the other, which leads to a “reasonability” for a theistic worldview? Err, no it doesn’t. This is an argument to ignorance. Reasonability lies in the rational proof or reason in support of a proposition, not in the lack of evidence to a contrary position. If there’s equal or no reason to go either way, the logical position is to withhold belief. (http://www.skepdic.com/ignorance.html)

    Seriously, given that we are trying, (and being successful), at creating black holes, simulating events at the beginning of the universe, trying to add mass to stuff, cracking biological engineering, learning how to manipulate and construct quantum computers, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that /we/ are gods. Seriously, if we can create galaxies, black holes, add mass to things, genetically create and evolve life … How is the idea of “god” really that much of an “inferential leap”? (Ooh, that was witty.)

    You’re equivocating yet again. You’re trying to make a comparison between human scientists operating through natural means understanding the natural universe with natural models, to a supernatural transcendent immaterial non-natural extra-existential unbounded undefined indefinable unlimited omnimax being that operates in ways we can’t know. Everything you mentioned in this paragraph, science-wise, is an example of existence being studied by other beings in existence, on the implicit assumption that existence is understandable by natural means. But this is only valid (and indeed worthwhile) if existence is what it is and is limited and demarcated by the identity of all existents. The introduction of god throws all that out the window by contradicting identity itself. (A particular being with a particular nature with a particular identity is itself and therefore limited, finite, dimensional, quantifiable in theory etc. Not exactly the standard definition of “god”.)

    You’re still unconsciously clinging to “god of the gaps” reasoning: that because there are some mysterious elements of existence, surely god is hiding in some of them?! Again, this is wishful-thinking, and something you shouldn’t be doing if evidence for god is as clear and “rational” as you allege. You claim he exists and belief is rational. You can hardly claim I’m playing unfairly by asking for a little more than that.

  77. e.s. kohen Says:

    Summary:

    Trying to clear up some misconceptions. Again, may arguments appeal to the “written” historical precedence that “faith” was most accurately understood as trust based on experience–Jewish and Christian texts–and not an idea of wishful thinking. Again, making the assertion that “Traditions” injected this idea.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    But if you’re going to point to the Christian movement led by Paul of the NT as proof of this, why was the concept of “faith” introduced when it here thereto wasn’t required?

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    The idea of “faith” was not invented by Paul. The greek term “pistos” is translated inconcistently and at the convenience of the Biblical versions arbitrarily as “faith, believe, and trust”. So, pretty much anywhere in Scripture you find those words, you can pretty much assume, (in the Christian Texts), its all the same greek word “trust/pistos”. This is translated according to whatever tradition is influencing the translation, regardless of the context.

    It was because Abraham “trusted” God, that God considered Abraham “Just”. Setting the aside theistic argument, it is not unreasonable to assert that a child is “just” if they are “trusting” their parents–even when they do something wrong and do not understand.

    Oops, there it is again, the traditional translations say, “Abraham believed, (faithed), God, and it was imputed to him as righteousness.” Oddly enough, with that wonderfully abstracted word “righteousness”, we lose the actual meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words that literally translate as “Just”. And in this sense, again, Tradition has been proven to mask a very simplicistic idea, and fill it up with a lot of intellectual/philosophical baggage that removes a person from understanding what actually was being said.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    Indeed, but if Jesus was so opposed to these silly traditions, you have to ask why Yahweh felt so strongly about them, making them compulsory by law under penalty of death. Given how much the God of the OT beat the Jewish people with his ridiculous law, you can hardly blame them for being meticulous and obsessive about it.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    In one of those posts, I said that Jesus argued that even circucision was not a law, only a tradition. This is quite a claim by Jesus, (in light the O.T. scriptures kinda sorta allude to this).

    Heck, Jesus apparently misquoted the “greatest” commandment. And strangely enough, Jesus pointed to “Psalms” as the “law”, and not the first five books of Moses.

    Then you get into the whole “Rabbinical Rewrite” of the old testament, (documentary hypothesis, etc), the fight between the Pharisees and the Saducees, the textual “authority” of Aramaic vs. Hebrew vs. Greek manuscripts, BLAH BLAH.

    All of this gets you to one simple fact:
    Neither Jewish or Christian Scripture ever claim to be “required” or “needed”. Even the Apostles didn’t seem to write with the expectation that what they wrote would be copied and passed around the world. (They are ways they could have ensured accurate copying, etc). But, it was of little importance to them… WHY??

    Because noone in Scripture made the assumption that people encountered God through Scripture, but only through experience. All of Scripture is essentially a collection of stories that say, “These folks had a tangible experience with God, and you can too! And you can KNOW that God is!”

    Pointing to a document and saying it is invalid because it may have flaws, may work for the Constitution of the United States, or some legal contract. Because these documents are binding, and legal, and assert their own authority.

    This “rule” does not apply to either Jewish or Christian texts. They only presumed to point folks to “real” ‘tangible” experiences with God–through illustration of how it had happened before.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    And this is fine, because even OOP acts according to laws.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    I am dropping all OOP and transcendent discussion until we either sit down together and talk about, (preferably with a white board), or you complain about it. From my comments and yours, it appears that we have two completely different understanding of the concepts, and that is not going to help this conversation, nor is it really required.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    It is a stretch at best and disingenuous at worst to say that as we move into quantum physics we are “transcending” the “known” world and entering a “completely different” nature. This is simply untrue and wishful-thinking.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    Again, the only place I can go is point to ideas like entanglement, etc, that would illustrate this, but this is kinda useless since I know you could look it up for yourself.

    However, I have never, (not quite sure how I would even start), try to say that quantum mechanics “IS” transcendent, but rather /points/ to the /possibility/probability/ of a transcendent nature. It certainly doesn’t preclude one. In any event, this has to do with evidence that “Theism in General” can be shown to be reasonable by pointing to this. Though, as I have stated before…. Just because an argument is “reasonable” doesn’t make it accurate.

    If I can reasonably show that theism could be valid, or rather atheism, neither of these “proofs” cause God to pop into, or out of existence.

    What seems to me to be valuable is not whether someone is theist or atheist, but a reasonable thinker. Someone that can give a valid reason. This is noble. They could be completely wrong, but at least there is a chance for a productive discussion.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    no, quantum mechanics is NOT transcendent in any sense. Or it means “beyond our conventional theories of physics” in which case QM is transcendent in a very trivial sense, in the sense that Relativity and Evolution were transcendent when they appeared on the stage.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    Again, I am not claiming that quantum mechanics is “transcendent”. In a sense the theories of quantum mechanics transcend classical phsyics, yes. Could a unifying theory ever be presented? Sure! Many theories have been posited. Nothing proven. However, it doesn’t mean these theories are /wrong/ since they haven’t been proven. I am sure they are /reasonable/ theories. And this is what I look for.

    Given the possibility/probability that there is transcendence here, it is ludicrous to assert that transcendence cannot occur ANYWHERE else. It is very narrow minded thinking. Kind of like saying a one-dimensional line cannot be a “view” of a square, and a square could not be a “view” of a cube. Logically, we have evidence of transcendent things all around us. But how far “up” and “down” can “transcendence” and “derivation” go?

    This becomes spookily eery when you start trying to create artificial intelligence and virtual “universes”. It would be like creating a virtual world using a black hole as a quantum computing backbone, (this is actually a really cool theory). What kind of virtual world could you create with that kind of computing power? Would it, could it, obey completely different laws? Would that virtual world be any less “real” or any less “existent” than the one we are in? Could we transfer our own consciousness into that “Causal” domain, and out from this one? Yeah, theoretically, we could. And we would know then that transcendence was actually “real”. And if so, why couldn’t /this/ “reality” not be nested in another, and in another, and so on? These are /reasonable/ hypotheses. Maybe they are completely wrong, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are /unreasonable/.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    Wait a second, I did just that! I said:

    …in Paul’s word was “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) How else can one take this, except as the mental concretising of hopes? Taking something as self-evident, though not seen? I think you should be taking your claims up with the Apostle Paul and his followers.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    Ugh. I really don’t want to go here. But, other than completely mistranslating Hebrews 11:1, (which is terribly convenient for people who have a psychological NEED for wishful thinking), the entire chapter is about quantifiable “trust via experience” with God. Gideon, Sarah, whatever. The chapter points to seemingly “evident” relationships with God in order to distinguish it from the deception of wishful thinking.

    However, if you pursue a more “linguistic” rather than “traditional” translation, you get something more like, “Now trust is the foundation/reason of what we hope for …” DURH. This should be completely obvious. How could you hope in something, if there was no trust?

    And this is the anti-thesis for “Wishful thinking”. The one verse that people rely on to justify “wishful” thinking, actually condemns it. “Why would you hope in something, if you were never promised it? And why would you hope in something if the person who promised it is untrustworthy?”

    Kinda like people saying that God is “IN” them. This is ironic, because Christian Scripture says this is true /only/ if you DO the will of the father. OUCH. This is contrary to “faith only”. THough, faith only is far more convenient, but a whole lot less rational.

    Again, Jewish and Christian Scripture appeal to the rationality of evident faith, contrary to the traditional interpretations that assert otherwise.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    Although Paul in his letter to Timothy did say that “all scripture is inspired of God” etc etc. Now, if someone says *all* scripture is inspired that seems to me, (and is used by the more fundamental Christians) to suggest the infallibility of scripture.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    There are so many issues with this argument. What Scripture was Paul talking about? The “Scriptures” that the Jews said were “Scripture” 200 years later? Or the “Scripture” that the “councils” of the Catholic Church declared as Scripture?

    After all, the Jews AND the Christians decided the first book of Enoch was not part of the Cannon, even though both rely HEAVILY on this book. Still, what is Scripture? Who picks what is in, or out?

    Who cares?

    Paul goes on to immediately tell Timothy that people will turn away from truth, and sound “doctrine”. “Sound” in the logical/reasonable sense. But rather, they would want their ears tickled, and have their own desires catered too…

    In the end, the believer was supposed to strive to discern our modern day stupidity, by relying on an evidential relationship with God–so there would be no confusion.

    “I will write my law on their hearts, and they will no longer need a teacher …” It was always about an intimate, evidential knowledge of who God was.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    Ah, but you have said consistently that faith isn’t “blind” because there is and always has been verifiable evidence of god’s existence. This was *your claim*. I am therefore demanding that you support it. In fact, it seems crucial to the issue at hand – since you claim that faith is not blind

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    Hmm. I am not sure if you are doing this intentionally or not, but I will try to reclarify. Yes, tradition today says that “Faith” is blind. However, there is no “Biblical” precedent for this concept. Feel free to keep the Hebrews or Timothy conversation going.

    Now, are you asking whether or not “MY” faith is blind? No, my “Trust” in God is based off of experience, and certainly not wishful thinking.

    However, if I said to you I saw a boat sinking in the ocean, and you had absolutely no evidence of it, except my testimony, does it invalidate the reasonableness of my “testimony”. Am I irrational because I claim to have seen a tree fall in the woods.

    If I say my belief in God is because I saw God with my own eyes, (no I am not claiming this), isn’t that belief “reasonable”?

    What I think is a better way of tackling this is, “is it reasonable for someone to convince someone else that God ‘IS’ with personal evidence?” No, I do not think so. However, if it is intended as “inspiration”, to encourage someone that it is possible, and how they could try to find God, then maybe it has a place.

    HOWEVER. Every example of someone trying to convince someone else of this in Scripture is always with quantifiable evidence. No one says, “believe, because you feel it is right, and/or because I said so.” I looked, and the closes scenario I could come to was Jonah, but even that points indirectly to evidences given.

    Evanescent Said:
    ——————-
    You’re still unconsciously clinging to “god of the gaps” reasoning: that because there are some mysterious elements of existence, surely god is hiding in some of them?! Again, this is wishful-thinking, and something you shouldn’t be doing if evidence for god is as clear and “rational” as you allege. You claim he exists and belief is rational. You can hardly claim I’m playing unfairly by asking for a little more than that.

    e.s. response:
    ——————-
    Whoa. Again, I am not pointing to quantum mechanics as evidence of God, only the possibility/probability of transcendence. A transcendent “nature” or universe is /not/ existence that God “IS”. However, it does lend credence to the idea of a “heaven” of sorts, (no the one with grass, etc, but a higher realm of transcendent ideas, whatever. who knows?).

    Again, my theistic persuasion is not because there are inexplicable occurances that demand reason, (what, is God also responsible for my coffee continually disappearing in and out of existence???).

    So, no. This is a bad /accusation/ to make. It is quite a leap to make actually.

  78. John Says:

    I enjoyed this article, because although I’m at least a deist, possibly just a compromised theist, it was a non-biased and without acerbity.
    I agree very much with the criticisms raised, but rarely find them expressed without an emotional departure from graceful writing. It is not written solely to those who agree, or to belittle those that don’t.
    For once good points will reach the ears of those who disagree without cuffing them first.

  79. adrian Says:

    i just watched a little of the debate between the two. i cannot stand to hear to alister that much. really. he misses the point so much and he avoids to really answer the questions that he becomes really frustrating to me. i am sure that for a theist he is a very good debater, but..sorry..
    Very good article..


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